Saturday, 16 March 2019

An Empty Vessel

I didn't nominate it, but I thought this was a theme rich in promise. Unfortunately, it seems I'm blogging alone this week. Ah well.

The full quote (attributed to our friend Plato) runs thus: "An empty vessel makes the loudest sound, so they that have the least wit are the greatest babblers."  He was a very clever chap, old Plato, if a trifle supercilious. His aphorism is more commonly rendered in pithier form as "He who knows least speaks loudest" and while it's not a universal truth, I'm sure we all know friends, colleagues, presidents to whom it could be applied with some justification.

However, I'm going to steer clear of addressing issues raised by the second phrase in Plato's maxim - tempting though it would be go on the offensive against the vile bigotry that lay behind this week's atrocity in New Zealand - because I already had an idea in mind suggested by the first part - and it's this: if ever an empty vessel could have been said to resonate loudly in the popular imagination (down through nearly 150 years now), that vessel was the Mary Celeste, found deserted and drifting 500 miles east of the Azores in early December 1872 with no apparent clue as to why the crew had left their ship. None of them was ever heard of again.

The story of the Mary Celeste first gripped me as a schoolboy, as indeed it had gripped Victorian England and America, from where the vessel and its crew had originated. The mystery of a ship in perfect working order deserted seemingly on the spur of the moment for no discernible reason was the stuff that imagination could run away with - and run away it did, spinning a legend as it went.

the Mary Celeste, built in Canada, registered in America
Arthur Conan Doyle, never one to let cold fact get in the way of a hot yarn, wrote a short story about the mystery for Cornhill Magazine in 1884. He portrayed a tidy ship adrift, not a coil of rope or sail out of place, table set for breakfast and the crew entirely missing with no sign of violence or sudden departure - a riddle to be solved. Various newspapers and periodicals speculated on what had happened, disregarding or embellishing the known facts as they saw fit. The enduring legend of the Mary Celeste and its vanished crew was born.

Of course there was a spate of theories, some more plausible than others. Had the ship been boarded by pirates or subject to a mutiny by the crew? There were no signs of violence and nothing had been plundered. Could the crew have all eaten contaminated food (bad flour being the principal culprit), hallucinated and jumped overboard? Again no evidence was found. Had they feared the ship's cargo (1,700 barrels of poisonous 'denatured' alcohol) was about to explode and so abandoned ship? Once more there was no hard evidence to suggest this was the case. Had they been washed overboard by a sudden waterspout? Or abducted by an alien space-ship (a novel idea in the 1880s)? Or plucked from the safety of their craft by a mighty malevolent sea creature? This latter giant squid theory, though of course completely implausible, is my favourite bonkers solution to the enduring mystery of the disappearing crew.

Giant Squid Theory
Here are the hard facts. The Mary Celeste was found by another merchant ship plying the same route from New York to Europe some nine days after the last entry was made in the ship's log. The log itself gave no hint of any problems with the vessel, its cargo or its crew, The ship's company actually consisted of Captain Briggs, his wife and baby daughter and seven "peaceable and first class" sailors. For a reason still to be determined - and perhaps it never will be - the whole contingent appears to have abandoned ship in orderly fashion one morning just off the island of Santa Maria, for the boat's dinghy (which doubled as life-boat) was missing from the deck along with the captain's navigation equipment. In all other respects, the Mary Celeste appeared to be in good trim and was well-provisioned. It was subsequently sailed to Gibraltar where it was the subject of a rigorous examination and a formal salvage hearing. This latter proved inconclusive and the Mary Celeste was released back to its owner to belatedly complete its journey under fresh crew to Genoa in Italy.

Many hundreds of articles, several books and documentary and motion picture films have explored the intriguing phenomenon of this most famous of empty vessels. The riddle of the Mary Celeste endures as the stuff of legend.

Salvaged and Bound For Legend
You knew I wasn't going to leave it there, didn't you? Here, fresh from the imaginarium, is the apocryphal truth about the deserting of the Mary Celeste...

The secret to the riddle lies in treasure and a map that had long been in the possession of the family of Captain Briggs' wife. At one time, the islands of the Azores had been on the bullion run from South America to Europe and Portuguese pirates had regularly operated in the region in the 16th and 17th centuries. Just off the east coast of Santa Maria (the eastern-most island in the chain) lies the tiny islet of Sao Lourenco - check any good seadog map for proof. On this islet there was buried a chest of treasure that the crew of the Mary Celeste aimed to claim as their own. The Captain, his wife and child were planning to start a new life in Europe with their share of the spoils; the rest of the crew had been hand-picked and were to be cut in on the reward. All of this was being accomplished under the innocent cover of a merchant voyage. On the eve of 25th November 1872, a fortnight after sailing from New York,  the vessel anchored offshore from Santa Maria and early the next morning everybody on board (wife and baby included) set out to row the half-mile to the islet of Sao Lourenco armed with treasure map, compass, telescope, spades and provisions for the day. The map was an accurate enough depiction and the hoard of bullion was easy to locate and dig up. Everyone was in high spirits as they loaded the chest into the dinghy and pulled off back towards the Mary Celeste - but no one had reckoned with the fearful Diabdomar (the devil of the sea). Just as the happy crew was nearing the mothership, up from the depths surged the giant avenging squid. In a thrashing minute it had seized the little dinghy, ensnaring all of the occupants in its various tentacles and dragged the whole lot of them down to their unpleasant deaths. The dinghy was matchwood, the treasure was safely settled in the sand fifteen fathoms deep and once the Diabdomar had loosened the Mary Celeste's anchor and set it drifting in deeper water towards Portugal, his duty was done. (The end.)

And that's not all. I leave you with this latest fabrication, a spectacularly tentacular new poem...

Bidding Of The Squid
Written in ancestral ink,
the covenant with bold Bartolomeu
ordains that there must ever be
a mindful devil of the sea,
Diabdomar, to guard
the hard-won treasure stowed
upon this rocky crop of Sao Lourenco
by the buccaneer who set our forebear
free of that mesh of sailors' nets
in which he had been snared.

It is a debt of gratitude,
a duty owed in perpetuity.
Thus constantly
at fifteen fathoms deep
with cold, mistrustful eye,
this watch Diabdomar have kept
nigh on three long centuries.

Perchance our liberator
may return to claim his silver hoard.
If that happens, we devils of the sea
shall surely know and be released;
but in the while
with fearsome beaks, tenacious
tentacles and hearts of ice
we lie low beneath concealing waves,
ready in a trice to foil the perfidy
of any brazen blackguard fool abroad
who dares to try and steal Bartolomeu's reals.

Safe sailing, hearties! Steer clear of squids, S ;-)

Sunday, 10 March 2019

All Colours, Especially Purple

15:57:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , , , 4 comments

My View as I Write this Post 

When I volunteered to do some more guest writing for the Dead Good Blog and received the list of topics, the first title that came up was ‘colour.’ I ticked it, confident that I could write about a subject that dominates my world. It was only when Steve responded that I realised it had to be done by the following day - and I had a pretty busy 24 hours ahead of me.  Luckily, my guest spot was quickly moved to Sunday, so here I am, back again.

My love of colour goes back a long way. I don’t know what sparked it, as our house, when I was little, was mainly magnolia with a splash of white, a neutral background to all the colourful goings on, perhaps.  I do remember one episode of redecorating that, with hindsight, was certainly rather odd. With three young children tearing about the house the magnolia in the front room began to get extremely grubby around the light switch and below, where sticky fingers would rest whilst the door was opened.  Dad (or was it mum? I think they were both involved in the end) decided to brush over the marks with some leftover paint, which unfortunately didn’t bear much resemblance to the original colour.  It started with a small area around the light switch.  Whoever was painting stood back and looked at the completed work.  And decided it wasn’t completed after all. It needed to cover the grubby fingerprints below.  Painting was continued, with frequent pauses to survey the handiwork.  After an hour or so it was decided that the job was done.
There was a large ovalish area, measuring approximately a metre from top to bottom. It became known as The Egg, and it soon fitted in beautifully with all the other slightly bizarre repairs in the house.  None of us really noticed it after a couple of days, and we were only reminded of it when visitors did a double take and silently mouthed, ‘What - ?’ as they entered the room. 

When Dave and I got our own first house in the 1970s we decided magnolia was the devil, and instantly set about decorating each room in the darkest colours we could find: deep brown, rich red, green, orange and purple. In our defence they were the ‘in’ colours at the time, but I don’t think the in-laws saw it that way.  My mother in law had already practically had a nervous breakdown when I’d requested bright red and royal blue bedding as wedding presents.  She might have been more impressed if she’d known then that we’d still be sleeping in them forty four years later. 

I’d like to say I’ve grown up a bit since then, and now enjoy a restful, magnolia house.  Somehow this hasn’t happened and we’re still wallowing in purple, yellow and bright red rooms.  In fact, when our children were little we always referred to the ‘Red Room’ and the ‘Blue Room,’ not ‘The Lounge,’ and the ‘Dining Room,’ like normal people. My clothes are arranged in the wardrobe in colour order, my shoes go from black to purple to blue to red, and my socks genuinely bring me joy when I open the drawer. Pretty sad when I think about it.

I can’t leave this post without mentioning  the colourful, ever changing palette upon my head - an ongoing experiment with style and colour for the past 53 years.  I was lucky to have a mum who was pretty liberal about these things, well ahead of her time, and didn’t think it odd when I appeared one morning, at the age of thirteen with a full head of grey hair. To be honest it was an experiment that had gone slightly wrong, but, undaunted, off I went to my rather staid Grammar School, only to be singled out in assembly and sent home to ‘sort it out.’ 

By the time I’d had a few more colours (always a reckless experiment) I think the school had given up on me, and apart from the odd, sarcastic comment most of the teachers inwardly sighed and turned a blind eye. Since then I’ve probably sported every colour of the rainbow. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Like the time I didn’t leave the bleach on long enough and ended up with bright orange hair (well before it was in fashion). I looked like Dick Emery in drag. My daughter (aged seven) sobbed and begged me to wear a hat when I picked her up from school the next day.  If I remember rightly, I found a hairdresser who had the skills to at least dumb down the brightness, although I still wore the hat as requested. 

Purple by Jill Reidy

It was the purple ink 
Siphoned carefully 
Into a new, expensive pen
I watched as it filled
The light cutting through the colour 
Wiped the nib on a rag 
Replaced the casing
Screwed back on the lid 
Felt it heavy in my hand 
It signified something
I wasn’t sure what
The end
Or the Beginning 
Purple was the colour
My colour 
From now on

Thanks for reading,   Jill 

Saturday, 9 March 2019

It's Not Orange...'s Tangerine.*  That has been the predominant colour in the jewel of the north on this glorious 9th March, dubbed 'Homecoming Saturday' for thousands of Blackpool fans who have been boycotting games for over four years in protest against the Oyston family's poor custodianship and 'illegitimate stripping' of our football club. The day on which the fans finally reclaimed their club and the club got its fans back will go down as another famous date in the annals of Blackpool FC.

If anyone ever doubted that the Oyston dynasty would eventually be toppled, last Sunday's Observer  put it quite succinctly: "And now, after perhaps the most brilliantly orchestrated and devoted fan protest there has been in English football, his time is up."

Finally, the odious ones are gone, removed from the board of the club earlier this month by a court-appointed receiver, and what a celebration we have enjoyed this afternoon, another magical day in the sun for 16,000 emotional Blackpool fans decked in tangerine who congregated opposite the tower and then marched in exuberant, carnival-style procession, banners, flags and scarves waving, all the way along the promenade and back into Bloomfield Road.

After a long campaign, waged on several fronts, this was a joyous return, one which many fans thought they might never see. As I wrote in yesterday's Blackpool Supporters' Trust column in the local Gazette: "... to the many thousands who over four seasons took a principled stand against seemingly unprincipled owners, thank you for your unwavering support in helping to bring this change about - and welcome home!"

If the parade was exhilarating, with jelly and ice-cream on sale outside the ground as fans arrived, the atmosphere inside a packed stadium was simply electrifying, spine-tingling; the game itself almost secondary to the spectacle unfolding in the stands and the wall of noise that was Bloomfield Road rocking in cathartic release. To be honest, the players were probably a bit fazed - they've been used to performing in a three-quarters empty ground - but they gave it their all and came away with a 2-2 draw against a workmanlike Southend team.

Some of you know I moved up to Blackpool in mid-2013 on taking early retirement, to save the 450-mile commute to Bloomfield Road every other Saturday (and some week nights too). It's ironic then that having bought a house within walking distance of the stadium, I've been boycotting it for the best part of five years. Today has felt like a double home-coming and a new beginning.

When Blackpool got promoted to the Premier League back in 2010, there was a huge opportunity for the owners of the football club to do something quite remarkable for the club and the town with all the multi-millions that came pouring in over two or three seasons. A well-run and buzzing community club could have been the springboard to rejuvenating one of the most deprived areas in the country - but it didn't happen. We saw that legacy squandered, as the owners chose to milk their cash cow and live off the cream, siphoning off football club money, suing fans who dared to accuse them of improper practices, triggering a massive downturn in the local economy as the team plummeted down the divisions due to under-investment and the fans stayed away in their thousands (home and visiting supporters alike).

I hope that as from today that has all changed. BST's Blackpool Are Back scarves that people have been wearing over the last few days have the sub-text 'The tangerine dream is back on track.' Now that we've surely got rid of the Oystons, and once new owners are in place, we will have a chance to go again at making the football club the beating heart of the community and an energising force for good in the town. It's what a football club should be and the associated feel good factor is something that Blackpool could well do with. The future is tangerine.

Here's something that I've been working on intermittently over four years. As with a few poems I've posted recently, it's still a work-in-progress (there is just too much else going on), but this week-end feels like the appropriate time to try and pull it together (warts and all) and put it out there...

Jewel Of The North
This is the town, up on the gold coast
renowned through the land for fun in the sun.
More brassy than classy and bracingly breezy,
it boasts six miles of sand, a tower like Paris,
three piers to the sea, wears its heart on its sleeve
and will welcome you in to its mad happy family
wherever you come from, whoever you be.

But get in behind the rusty old cliché
of hen and stag parties who come pouring in
from January to December in search of a week-end
they'll never remember... and you'll find a richer truth.

Its easy streets are never so easy,
though its mean streets are not really mean
and it wears its proud claim
to be the happiest of places
much like the painted face of a clown.

For all of the dancers, prancers,
one night chancers,
boardwalk quickies and holiday romancers,
bawdy comics with earthy gags,
rock stalls, chippies, bingo shacks
and shops selling laughter and unicorn poo
there are solid northern souls
inhabiting the barrios, those red-brick terraces
behind the hotels and the B&B façade,
salt-of-the-earth types and flame-haired mermaids
taxed by the reality of years of austerity,
doing two jobs if needs must
just to keep their kids clothed and fed,
aspiring to give them a decent start.

They live for the team that plays in tangerine.
It's the zest in their days and their dreaming at night,
of Matthews and Mortensen, Armfield and Suddick
or Adam and Ormerod, the talk of the town,
heroes all but still ordinary men
whose skill with a ball on that pitch on a Saturday
lifts other ordinary folks when they're down.

Supporting the team is tradition and tie,
forging friendships from childhood on,
binding pals, workmates, families,
whole generations with love for the Seaside -
and to see those fans flow like a tide once again
up to Bloomfield Road decked in beanies and scarves,
holding forth on the luck of the draw
and the finer points of this game of two halves
thrills me and fills me with immense pride
both for their mighty tangerine passion
and plucky Blackpool, our jewel of the north.

Here's an aural bonus for those who couldn't be there today and those who were but want to relive the magic. Just click on the song title: Woke up this morning feeling fine...

*For anyone who was mystified by the blog's title, I should explain that Blackpool fans are very particular about the shade of our club's colours. When non-Seasiders make reference to our 'orange' kit, we have to advise them that it's not orange, it's tangerine. (Don't forget.)

Thanks for reading, S ;-)

Friday, 8 March 2019 it all the same ?

I've always been interested in colour from a young age. Colour as applied to dress and fashion.

For my last year's college specialisation I chose to do loom weaving. Part of the work entailed dyeing yarns and it was fascinating to collect dyestuffs and discover that their colours did not necessarily have anything in common with the resulting colour.  My topic title was "Inspiration for Weaving." So I photographed many sights of natural events, and places like snow covered peaks, moorland, streams, forests and the like. Then I chose colours from selected photos to incorporate in my weaving.

Being an outdoor person I am acutely aware of colours in the landscape and take endless photos.   But recently I've been perplexed in my idea as to what colours are, and do we all see them the same?
I know that animals and insects see colours in a different way to ourselves, and I know that some people are "colour blind" and that some people see no colours at all! However, what has entered my mind recently is 'do we all see colours the same?'

I'll try to explain.  Okay, from our baby days we are 'taught' mum might say "the balloon is red" etc. and we absorb that knowledge and associate a name to a colour, but what if we don't all see the actual same colour ? What if I look at grass and say "look how green that it is", but do I know that my colleague is seeing the same colour? What if his/ her 'green' isn't the same as mine?

Not that it really matters, but it just occurred to me, and it's rather a dark subject and a bit profound for late evening so I'll sign off on what has been a very busy, traumatic day and hopefully I'll have time tomorrow to write a bit more.

So here I am after a busy day, finally writing a quick piece...
Colour my life
Colour my childhood yellow-
When summer days were long and mellow.
Colour my teen years red-
When I danced long and late to bed.
Colour my college years gold-
When I matured and suddenly felt old.
Colour my twenties plum-
When I became a wife and a mum.
Colour my thirties midnight blue-
When I found my love wasn't true.
Colour my forties powder blue-
When with love true I started anew.
Colour my fifties fluorescent green-
When joy filled my days and tears unseen.
Colour my sixties dull grey-
As I lost my love one sad day.
Colour me now what you will,
As the years stretch before me still..

Thanks for reading my rather hurried piece, Kath.        

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Colours - The Future's Bright

The future is looking bright, tangerine and white.

I’m looking forward to Saturday’s football match. I’m looking forward to a fantastic cheerful atmosphere from a capacity crowd. The chanting, the singing, the drum roll, all will be there, at last.

Bloomfield Road football ground is clean and tidy with colourful, tangerine seating. It’s a far cry from 1970 when my friends and I stood on the terrace to watch Blackpool, trying to avoid whatever skirmishes were happening around us. It was a male-dominated place in those days. I don’t think there were any facilities for ladies, but a few of us die-hards were not put off.  Blackpool F.C. were in the First Division at the time and I couldn’t wait to see George Best play when Manchester United came. Sadly, it was not meant to be. I was many miles away on a fortnight’s holiday in Majorca with my family when that match was taking place.

One of my close school friends was one of Bill Perry’s daughters. I knew he was a former player for Blackpool but I didn’t appreciate the significance at the time. He scored the winning goal for Blackpool in the 1953 FA Cup Final, but to me he was my friend’s dad and the man who fixed our vacuum cleaner in his electrical shop.

 In the early ‘70s I stopped going to matches. Time had moved on and my weekends were taken up with other things. I followed the fortunes of the team from a distance and that’s how it stayed for a long time.

A new era is about to commence. Colour the town tangerine and white.
My poem from 2010,
Sea Sea Seasiders  2010
Everything tangerine and white,
Fans all meet in great assembly.
Blackpool FC in the top flight,
They’ve beaten Cardiff at Wembley.
Open top bus in ’53,
Everything tangerine and white,
The FA cup for all to see,
Bill Perry’s goal, the town's delight.
It really was an awesome sight                                                            
With deafening applause and cheer;
Everything tangerine and white
With plenty of champagne and beer.
Open top bus like ’53,
Everything tangerine and white.
The play-off cup for all to see,
Ormerod’s goal, the town's delight.
Ollie’s team have got the power,
Premier League, a dizzy height.
Blackpool flag atop the tower,
Everything tangerine and white!
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Friday, 1 March 2019

Tit fr Tat

I like hats. I only wish I had a smaller head! You see they always seem too large for me, so I have to steam them or add a band inside so they fit. Why just on Wednesday I saw a remarkable hat in a vintage shop and was really tempted to buy it, but it came down round my ears plus I would have to have made an appropriate outfit to match it. This is Friday and I'm still craving the hat!

As  an older teenager I had two hats to match coats. One was a smart grey trilby to match a double breasted military style grey coat. The other was a cream felt fedora style creation to match a heavy wool coat in dark brown which was one of my final outfit tailor makes for college. How I wish I'd kept all those garments...but mind you they wouldn't have fitted any longer! Then in the late 60's I made caps... sort of jaunty and folkish to match trouser suits. Also winter snoods that covered the entire head and neck, very suitable for Aberdeen winters. I bought fur coats at jumble sales and trimmed garments, made muffs and always a stylish hat.

Now I satisfy my liking for hats by wearing a variety of styles taking me back to the 40's and 50's. So it is that I look in charity shops for likely contenders.

I have a couple of winter hats , furry, warm and over the ears, but they are difficult to keep on in high winds (as are the vintage hats). Speaking of the latter I try hat pins, inner hair bands and various other ploys to try and keep them on...usually it's my hand that does the best job!

Nowadays there are few occasions when hats seem acceptable to wear...just weddings, funerals and Royal garden parties! Anyway I now lead a less formal life and you're more likely to find me in a baseball cap or old straw hat walking in the mountains. Talking of which....I wanted a suitable
balaclava for winter treks and went into a shop in Cleveleys and I'm sure the shopkeeper thought I
was going to rob a bank, as I tried on all the styles. No it wasn't that ! I wanted to keep the hat on
whilst I drank and ate . I chose one with a zip down the front so that I didn't have to remove the hat and get cold!

It's rather sad the demise of hat wearing, but then our modern modes of dress and transport, and general casualness have seen to that.

My poem today was written on Wednesday evening when the hat I had seen was still on my mind.


Don your titfer , missus
We're going for a walk.
Link you arm through mine
And together we shall talk
About the years that fled so fast,
The children grown and gone.
One daughter with her own young 
And our eldest and only son.

Toss your head and show the world
Your best hat bedecked in flowers,
The ribbons entwined around the brim
Took painstaking sewing hours.
When we wed you wore that hat.
(It's seen many others too).
You've changed its look many times,
But it's seen these many years through.

It's faded now, your best hat- 
Well past its best by now-
Still you wear it well-
(I'm not too sure just how).
It's survived the children's dressing up,
The weekly trek to town,
Sometimes a trip to Blackpool,
Matched nicely to a gown.

Don your titfer, missus
We're going for a walk,
Link your arm through mine
And together we shall talk
About the years we've spent together 
In sunshine and in strife,
Our troubles and our blessings-
Put your best hat on, dearest wife.

Thanks for reading, Kath

Tuesday, 26 February 2019

Hats - Not For Me, Thanks

My mother had a pill-box hat made of tiny pale blue feathers sweeping round the circular shape. She wore it for my aunt and uncle’s wedding. She didn’t like hats much. They were for church and special occasions. A headscarf would do for popping to the shop, a stroll on the windy promenade or for keeping her hair neat on the walk back from the hairdressers.

My granddad never went out without his signature tweed Trilby. He might have had more than one, I don’t know, but he didn’t object to me dressing up in it when I was little. The inside rim was shiny with his Brylcreem and it smelt sweet, like him.

I’ve recently been knitting cardigans and matching hats for my new baby granddaughter, Matilda. I love making children’s clothes and each item is a one-off, for a particular little person.

Crochet is not my speciality, I’m a bit hit and miss with it, apart from Afghan square blankets, but I managed to design and make Minion character hats for a local primary school Christmas Fayre. I’m not looking to give up my day job on the strength of it, not just yet.

I miss working with infants, especially literacy and reading. There is so much to learn from the four-to-sevens when looking at their world and listening to their stories.  The developing imagination of a child is fascinating.  I’m starting to introduce well-loved stories and poems to my grandchildren.  A current favourite is The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  Soon we’ll be on to Dr Seuss and Edward Lear. I don’t mind if they grow up thinking that I am completely bonkers as long as they remember having lots of fun. And that I always dressed ‘in character’ for the benefit of the children who knocked on my door at Hallowe’en.

Apart from my black, pointed, witchy thing with the illuminated spider on the side, I’m not really one for wearing hats. I have a couple of home-made knitted ones for very cold weather that also keep my hair off my face in the wind. I’ve got a wide-brimmed sun hat for sitting in the garden and a ‘posh’ hat that I wore for a wedding, once. Me and hats don’t get on. It’s really my hair. I’m burdened with very fine, flyaway hair that reacts badly when I take a hat off. Most of all, I hated my compulsory senior school hat.

Someone else must have hated my school hat, too, because the first thing she did when she got on the same bus home was to grab it off my head and kick it all over the dirty floor, encouraging her friends to join in. This was a slightly older girl from another school. I knew her by sight from being in the year above me at the same junior school. I would already be on the bus for a short time before it reached her stop and I would dread her arrival.  She snatched the hat out of my hand once, when I tried to stop her getting it and another time it was my satchel that got thrown all over the place. Eventually, I agreed that my mother should intervene and she telephoned a complaint to the bully-girl’s school. Whatever was said and how it was dealt with worked. There was no alternative, we had to share the same bus, but she never bothered me again.

Amongst my special keep-sakes is the beautiful hat my late mother-in-law chose to wear for our wedding. It’s a pretty, navy blue satin pill-box hat, trimmed with navy net and a bow of navy velvet. A memento of a lovely lady from a wonderful day.
I hope my choice of an Edward Lear poem raises a smile,

The Quangle Wangle's Hat


On the top of the Crumpetty Tree 

      The Quangle Wangle sat, 

But his face you could not see, 

      On account of his Beaver Hat. 

For his Hat was a hundred and two feet wide, 

With ribbons and bibbons on every side 

And bells, and buttons, and loops, and lace, 

So that nobody ever could see the face 

            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee. 



The Quangle Wangle said 

      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, — 

"Jam; and jelly; and bread; 

      "Are the best of food for me! 

"But the longer I live on this Crumpetty Tree 

"The plainer than ever it seems to me 

"That very few people come this way 

"And that life on the whole is far from gay!" 

            Said the Quangle Wangle Quee. 



But there came to the Crumpetty Tree, 

      Mr. and Mrs. Canary; 

And they said, — "Did every you see 

      "Any spot so charmingly airy? 

"May we build a nest on your lovely Hat? 

"Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that! 

"O please let us come and build a nest 

"Of whatever material suits you best, 

            "Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!" 



And besides, to the Crumpetty Tree 

      Came the Stork, the Duck, and the Owl; 

The Snail, and the Bumble-Bee, 

      The Frog, and the Fimble Fowl; 

(The Fimble Fowl, with a corkscrew leg;) 

And all of them said, — "We humbly beg, 

"We may build out homes on your lovely Hat, — 

"Mr. Quangle Wangle, grant us that! 

            "Mr. Quangle Wangle Quee!" 


And the Golden Grouse came there, 

      And the Pobble who has no toes, — 

And the small Olympian bear, — 

      And the Dong with a luminous nose. 

And the Blue Baboon, who played the Flute, — 

And the Orient Calf from the Land of Tute, — 

And the Attery Squash, and the Bisky Bat, — 

All came and built on the lovely Hat 

            Of the Quangle Wangle Quee. 



And the Quangle Wangle said 

      To himself on the Crumpetty Tree, — 

"When all these creatures move 

      "What a wonderful noise there'll be!" 

And at night by the light of the Mulberry moon 

They danced to the Flute of the Blue Baboon, 

On the broad green leaves of the Crumpetty Tree, 

And all were as happy as happy could be, 

            With the Quangle Wangle Quee.
by Edward Lear,  1812 - 1888

Thanks for reading, Pam x




Saturday, 23 February 2019

Oh, What A Night

 Oh, What A Night  is the sub-title of a famous 1976 disco hit for the Four Seasons - full title 'December 1963 (Oh, What A Night)', about a young man's first love-affair. I never got to grips with disco; went straight from psychedelia to punk and power-pop without the embarrassment of glitterballs and medallions.Therefore the most interesting thing for me about that song is that, as originally written, it was titled 'December 5th 1933' and had a set of lyrics celebrating the date on which Prohibition in the USA was repealed.

Bob Gaudio, the Four Seasons' keyboard player, wrote the song in 1975 and on presenting it to the group was persuaded by vocalists Frankie Valli and Gerry Polci to amend the lyrics to be a celebration of Gaudio's courtship of wife Judy Parker (who eventually shared a composing credit). Why the change was made, I don't know and I think it's quite a shame.

If there is anybody who doesn't know what Prohibition was, it was a nationwide constitutional ban on the production, importation, transportation and sale of alcoholic beverages in the USA, from 1920 to 1933. America was supposed to be 'dry', i.e. sober for 11 years! Just imagine that!

Of course, like most legislation intended to tackle the 'negative social impact' of recreational refreshments, it had unpredictable consequences. The most significant was the spawning of a huge black-market industry in bootleg distilling, distribution and illicit drinking establishments - bootleg socials; unwittingly the making of the country's organised criminal fraternities. The others were widespread corruption among law-enforcement agencies and a staggering level of hypocrisy in the population at large. The ban was repealed by the ratification of the 21st amendment to the constitution in December 1933. The night that Prohibition ended must have been some party!

For a shot at a poem this week, I thought I'd have a go at 'deconstructing' and rebuilding/renovating Gaudio and Parker's disco ditty in honour of its original purpose, a jubilant celebration of repeal day.

Before that though, I want to share with you another poem that came to mind when I first saw what the theme of the blog was. It's by one of my favourite American 'beat' poets, the Pulitzer Prize winning Gary Snyder, from his 1983 collection, 'Axe Handles':

Strategic Air Command
The hiss and flashing lights of a jet
Pass near Jupiter in Virgo.
He asks, how many satellites in the sky?
Does anyone know where they all are?
What are they doing, who watches them?

Frost settles on the sleeping bags.
The last embers of fire,
One more cup of tea,
At the edge of a high lake rimmed with snow.

These cliffs and the stars
Belong to the same universe.
This little air in between
Belongs to the twentieth century and its wars.

                                                        Gary Snyder, 1982

Good that, don't you think? A poem written by campfire light in the Sierra Nevada.

Okay, here's the latest smattering from the imaginarium, with a raised glass to Bob Gaudio of the Four Seasons and (funny how these things just happen) a discernible nod in the direction of Geoffrey Chaucer. Given the intense activity required on the Supporters' Trust front this week, the new poem is incomplete - yet another work-in-progress I'm afraid - but you'll get the idea I hope....

Oh, What A Night
Remember, remember the fifth of December!
Oh, what a night that was in thirty-three,
a very special time in the land of the parched
and home of the (not so) free; no irony there!

When glorious repeal pierced the drought
of Prohibition with such sweet liquor,
then men (and dames) who longed to go
on drinking sprees could do so with impunity;

and it was said now legal beer was back
and bourbon filled the racks again
that joie de vivre re-lit the bright parade -
though poor F. Scott Fitzgerald lost a whole decade.

Oh, what a night, why did it take so long
to see the light? We felt a rush like rolling thunder
spinning the room, taking our bodies under;
nothing could possibly be wrong with the world again...

(tbc - another verse or two in here at some point)

And of course those who claimed to remember
were either abstemious or liars.

Thanks for reading. Refresh in moderation, S ;-)

Friday, 22 February 2019

What a night that was! 1968...

Now I have a poem that I wrote, possibly, in 1968,  after attending a competition to choose a top pop group. This event took place over 3 or 4 Saturday evenings at Aberdeen Beach Ballroom. I think I attended each one, and therefore required a new outfit for each event.

My choice at this period of time was an A-line mini  dress. I certainly remember two of those outfits.
One I made in a linen look cotton. It had bell sleeves. The fabric was psychedelic...huge flowers of various hues, in yellow, orange , pink and green. Under the lights of the ballroom some of the flowers completely changed colour and almost "glowed". Another dress I recall was made from a shiny bronze coloured fabric dotted with subtle flowers, but the reverse was brushed giving it a warm feel.

We danced from 8pm till gone 2 in the morning, then collecting our coats from the cloakroom, in a happy group we walked the six miles home to the suburbs.

Happy days...and still remembered...

The pattern above was found in a charity shop in 2014 and I've used it frequently.


Silhouetted figures on the background of blue moved 
to and fro with the rhythm from the group.
I felt myself slowly slipping 
into a trance and everything
moved with a frenzy of feelings 
and emotions.
Then I finally went under into
the swirl of rhythmic bodies.
Music pulsating to my brain.

Gardens where flowers bloomed
were all around me.
I plucked a rose from a tender bough,
And breathed in its sweet perfume.
Then I took a daisy from among
the deep, green grass.
And pulling out its petals, I cried..
" He loves me-- He loves me not,
  He loves me--He loves me not,
He loves me--He loves me !

Silhouetted figures on the background of blue wavered
to and fro with the rhythm 
of the group.
Hands reached out to help me to my feet ,
But I laughed and sang out above the music --
" He loves me !
                   He loves me !" 

Thanks for reading, Kath.

Tuesday, 19 February 2019

Oh, What A Night - The Best Times

Oh, what a night, what a theme! I've many to choose from, here's a few.

The first thing to spring to mind is all the Moody Blues concerts I’ve been to. I tried to count it up but it’s impossible.  On every UK tour for nearly twenty years, I have attended two or three concerts at least, out of a probable eight, depending on location. We’ve wrapped holidays and mini-breaks around concert dates. I longed to see them at the Royal Albert Hall, where I knew the acoustics would be perfect for their music. I was ecstatic to eventually make it in 2006 and went to two of their three concerts. The experience was everything I’d hoped for. On the second night, my daughter and I managed to place ourselves in front of the stage, with many others dancing and singing through the encore. It was worth having to stay in the grottiest of shabby back street hotels. We live and learn. A couple of years later we stayed in a lovely hotel in Blackheath when we went to see the Moodies at the 02. Not my favourite venue, but the hotel was great.

I like football. I grew up in a family devoted to Manchester United, so it was bound to rub off. My maternal grandfather, a licensee in Sale when I was small, had mates connected to the club. I remember the sadness in the family when the Munich air crash happened, though I was too young to fully understand. Years later we took our children on a tour of MUFC and I spent ages in the museum learning about the Busby Babes. In 2006 there was an opportunity to go to a match. Burton Albion were coming to Old Trafford for a mid-week, evening FA cup replay. Tickets went on open sale. I can’t remember how much it cost for our family of four to have the best seats possible, on the centre-line above the dugout, and pre-booked pre-paid disabled parking, but I know it was a very expensive family night out. It was worth every penny. Our son, who was about fifteen, had the time of his life. Our daughter amused everyone around us by asking me if it was ‘live’. It was a 5-0 win to United. It took hours to get out of the car park and start our journey home. A very late school night, but a great time was had by us all. Sometimes you need a treat.

Going to see John Cooper Clarke was a treat indeed. I’ve loved his poetry since he first came on the scene as a ‘punk poet’, so clever, so observant, telling it like it is with no words wasted. I bought tickets as soon as they went on sale at the Kendal Brewery Arts Centre. We had pizza in the Vats Bar then took our front row seats in the theatre. The first half of the event was my introduction to Manchester poet, Mike Garry, who held me spellbound and spoke my language, quite literally as he comes from the same part of Manchester as I do. Afterwards, I bought a copy of his book, which he signed for me as we chatted. John Cooper Clarke was amazing and kept going and going, despite not being fully recovered from a recent illness. It was just brilliant to hear the poems I knew and loved so well being performed live by the poet. Oh, what a night!

Oh, what a night at the Royal Albert Hall

On a wonderful Moody Blues tour,

When we danced and sang, right up close to the stage,

Joining in with their final encore.


Oh, what a night at Old Trafford Cricket Ground,

Simply Red in July, ’92.

‘Holding Back the Years’ always has me in tears.

Dreams of the future were coming true.


Oh, what a night at Old Trafford Football Ground,

Our fam’ly supporting United.

Fortunes for tickets, but the thrill of the match

And victory made us delighted.


Oh, what a night in Kendal, John Cooper Clarke,

The Bard of Salford, great to be heard,

And Manchester’s Mike Garry blew me away

As I hung on to his every word.


PMW 2019

Thanks for reading, Pam x