Saturday, 11 August 2018

Einstein's Goldfish...

... that's right, Einstein's goldfish - he's my little star of the week. And what a week it's been in the jewel of the north; never a dull moment.

At the top end of town, 'The Play That Goes Wrong'  has been wooing audiences at the Opera House, inducing near-calamitous fits of laughter nightly at the accident-prone antics of the Cornley Polytechnic Drama Society ; while at the bottom end of town, the farce that is 'The Club That Goes Wrong' has been bemusing long-suffering fans of Blackpool FC because of the latest near-calamitous antics of the House of which we no longer know whether to laugh or cry. Actually both reactions seem appropriate in equal measure - though anger and frustration outweigh them in the end.

Why is Einstein's goldfish a star? Because with many a plucky flick of fin and swish of tail, he continues to evade the marauding clutches of Schrodinger's cat (of course).

There is a definition of insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results..." that is frequently attributed to Albert Einstein. Almost certainly he didn't say it at all. (Ditto Oscar Wilde, Mark Twain and other prominent quipsters of renown. It's origin probably lies in a novel by the mystery-writer Rita Mae Brown.)
One compelling reason that Einstein wouldn't have said it is that he was far too intelligent. If anything, he would probably have said "insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the same result" in the spirit of Herakleitos 2,500 years earlier who stated: "you could not step twice into the same river". Why? Because all is flux or change in space-time; put more simply: no two moments are the same no matter how similar they appear to be.
It is that thought principally which keeps Einstein's goldfish happy as he swims interminably round the universe of his little glass bowl; that and his musing about quantum super-positioning... and his confidence that he has the wherewithal to keep evading the claws and jaws of the shadowy cat.
To today's brief burst of contradictory poetics, then:

Long story short,
Round World Square
A great little gang
Rented to repair
Multiplying divisions
In the disparate whole
Sets up a chant
Like a heathen prayer,
Muttering: "Nothing is real,
Nothing is real."
Of course,
But a pyrrhic victory
For the weak force.

Thanks for reading. Keep swimming against the tide, S ;-)

Friday, 10 August 2018

Solitary Goldfish

      Ever so briefly this morning.....

            Cathedral Caves , Cumbria...

          There's a goldfish in the cave.
          Swimming freely in his own pond.
          In water that filters through the stone
          From the Fell above.

         There's a goldfish in the cave.
         He must love it there, alone.
         How does he survive the Lakeland winter
         That holds the land in an icy grip ?

         There's a goldfish in the cave.
         Where hundreds visit, say 'hello'.
         Who left him there, far from home ?
         Very lucky goldfish though !

       Thanks for reading my wee poem, Kath

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

Goldie - and Other Fish

15:05:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , 2 comments

 I’ll be honest with you; I’ve never had much interest in fish.  

Let me rephrase that (with apologies to pescatarians):  if the fish is before me on a plate with a crispy skin, a scattering of salt, a quarter of lemon and the promise of soft, fragrant flesh beneath the surface, then I’ll admit to feeling a frisson of excitement.  Other than that, fish, in my world, are neither here nor there.  Don’t get me wrong, if I actually think about fish I’m happy that they exist, and would never advocate cruelty to one, which, despite what the seasoned fisherman might say, includes catching one on the end of a hook.  I suppose there’s quite an element of hypocrisy there, and I know I would be shot down in flames by vegetarians, but in the interest of honesty, it has to be said: I find fish pretty boring.  

I’ve sat in waiting rooms with huge aquariums, and between bouts of anxiety about the appointment/interview ahead, I must admit I’ve admired the beauty and grace of some of the specimens. However, my over riding feeling is sorrow that these creatures are confined to a water filled glass box, however spacious it might be, and however well stocked with weeds and ornaments.  There are only so many circuits you can do and only so many dinky little bridges you can swim through before you want to get out, wrap yourself in a towel and get yourself a brew from the coffee machine.  Well, not quite, but you get the idea.

It was a different story with my first goldfish, whose name has sadly been confined to the depths of my diminishing sixty odd year old memory.  I loved that goldfish.  If I remember rightly, there were three, one each for my brothers and me.  I’m not sure we could tell which was which but that was no deterrent to our belief that we were the luckiest kids on earth.  Pets, apart from very small ones such as mice, fish or hamsters, or very slow ones such as tortoises, didn’t feature in our childhood.  My mum and dad had both had dogs as children but there were always tragic tales, and I don’t think either of them was prepared to go through years of  fights and loss, and the inevitable stress and sadness.  In these days of ipads and x-boxes and Macbooks and smartphones, it is probably incomprehensible to today’s youth that three tiny orange fish swimming round a glass bowl could hold such interest to 1950s children.  Granted, it was 1960 before we got a TV.

Everything changed when we went to stay with our cousins at the seaside.  We didn’t realise when we returned that it wasn’t Goldie who was happily swimming that tiny circuit in the bowl, occasionally bobbing to the surface for food, but a substitute, bought after a frantic dash round local pet shops by my dad who had been left behind to work, and was in charge of said pets.

Apparently, poor Goldie had floated to the surface one morning and was still there when my dad got home that evening.  By the time we were told the devastating news, years later, we found it hard to feel much sympathy for a fish, true ownership unknown, that had been unceremoniously dumped down the lav in 1959 and no doubt ended up at the end of the sewer as fish food himself. 

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for fish (apart from a couple of months in 1958 when, mesmerised by their activities, I lavished love and attention on Goldie and his compatriots), I realised something rather odd yesterday, as I reluctantly lay back in the dentist’s chair.  On the wall was a print that I found quite beautiful.  It was a shoal of fish (they looked like goldfish but it was difficult to tell as the whole picture was overlaid with a soothing blue wash, for obvious reasons).  I stared at it as I suffered the horror of the drill, the sprayer and the sucker and two pairs of hands pulling my mouth into hideous shapes, whilst I desperately tried not to swallow or gag.  Strangely, I found the picture quite calming.

When I got home, nursing a sore and sagging mouth, I glanced in the mirror to ascertain the damage, and noticed that I was wearing fish earrings.  Reflected in the mirror was not only my lopsided face, fish dangling from my ears, but the fish wallpaper that I’d chosen a few weeks previously – and regarded with horror by the decorator, who seemed strangely reluctant to paste it to the walls.  In the kitchen was the pack of salmon that the husband had got out for tea….

It was all getting a bit Tales of the Unexpected…..

Goldie, I’m sorry I lost interest in you after a very short period of fascination.  I’m sorry your end was undignified, and that I wasn’t there to comfort you.  And I’m sorry you ended up as fish food.  Now, Goldie, can you please RIP, wherever you are?

 My Life as A Goldfish (as told to Jill Reidy)

And round
And round
And round
And round
Bob up
Back down
Turn around
And round
And round
And round
And round
And round
And round

Thanks for reading, and if you've enjoyed it, please leave me a comment or a like - Jill

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Goldfish - All the Fun at the Fair

I remember the goldfish. It probably had the shortest life of any pet. We already had the dog, the ever-pregnant cat, so we also had a couple of kittens; a budgie and now a goldfish. I was thrilled to win it at a fairground attraction though I’ve completely forgotten what skills won me the prize. I carried it tightly in the water-filled plastic bag and took extra care in the back of my friend’s father’s car where at least four of us were jammed in for the journey home. No restrictions in the good old days. It was the beginning of the summer holidays. Our primary education was over and the prospect of going to secondary school was a million light years away and certainly not worth mentioning.  We’d had a great day out. I’d eaten parched peas for the first time and we’d all had a hotdog and a toffee apple. We were hot, tired and squashed and we soon got bored of thinking of a name for my goldfish. It became Goldie. In spite of all the wriggling and shoving on the back seat, not a drop of water was spilt and I got Goldie home in one piece.

No, of course we don’t have a goldfish bowl or a fish tank, and no, Mummy, I hadn’t considered any of the points you’re making right now…and I was having a lovely day. Was.

Goldie was temporarily housed in a crystal punch bowl, which was part of a set and apparently my Nanna would go mad if she knew about it. Despite having such a posh home and the best food from the local pet shop, Goldie only lived for two days.

I thought it was just resting, I’d never seen a dead goldfish before. It was floating on its side at the top of the bowl. My mother was full of sympathy and explained that from her own experience, goldfish from fairs didn’t always last very long and that was why she had bought it food but not a proper container. I could have another one from the pet shop if I wanted. I didn’t bother.

 Goldie was a living memory of the wonderful day I’d spent at the fair with friends and the generosity of someone else’s parents. We were moving on into different schools, staying friends, but there would be changes ahead. Another goldfish wouldn’t mean the same.

The punch bowl was returned to the sideboard and as far as I know, Nanna never found out.

I couldn’t choose between these two poems, so here they both are.
 Oh you who are shy of the popular eye,
(Though most of us seek to survive it)
Just think of the goldfish who wanted to die
Because she could never be private.
There are pebbles and reeds for aquarium needs
Of eel and of pike who are bold fish;
But who gives a thought to a sheltering spot
For the sensitive soul of a goldfish?
So the poor little thing swam around in a ring,
In a globe of a crystalline crudity;
Swam round and swam round, but no refuge she found
From the public display of her nudity;
No weedy retreat for a cloister discreet,
From the eye of the mob to exempt her;
Can you wonder she paled, and her appetite failed,
Till even a fly couldn't tempt her?
I watched with dismay as she faded away;
Each day she grew slimmer and slimmer.
From an amber hat burned, to a silver she turned
Then swiftly was dimmer and dimmer.
No longer she gleamed, like a spectre she seemed,
One morning I anxiously sought her:
I only could stare - she no longer was there .
She'd simply dissolved in the water.

So when you behold bright fishes of gold,
In globes of immaculate purity;
Just think how they'd be more contented and free
If you gave them a little obscurity.
And you who make laws, get busy because
You can brighten the lives of untold fish,
If its sadness you note, and a measure promote
To Ensure Private Life For The Goldfish.
By Robert William Service
White Ash
 THERE is a woman on Michigan Boulevard keeps a parrot and goldfish and two white mice.

She used to keep a houseful of girls in kimonos and three pushbuttons on the front door.
Now she is alone with a parrot and goldfish and two white mice … but these are some of her thoughts:
The love of a soldier on furlough or a sailor on shore leave burns with a bonfire red and saffron.

The love of an emigrant workman whose wife is a thousand miles away burns with a blue smoke.
The love of a young man whose sweetheart married an older man for money burns with a sputtering uncertain flame.
And there is a love … one in a thousand … burns clean and is gone leaving a white ash.
 And this is a thought she never explains to the parrot and goldfish and two white mice.
by Carl Sandburg
Thanks for reading, Pam x


Saturday, 4 August 2018


Last Saturday's blog was way too long. Apologies. This one will be more concise - and grounded!

I am slightly more excited about  floor  as a topic than I was about wallpaper a while back, curtains at Christmas time or masonry a couple of years ago.

As the renovations have progressed through the house above the strand, I've been ripping out carpets and sanding down floorboards. Sometimes I've encountered chipboard beneath underlay, so that's had to go as well, to be replaced by proper tongue and groove pine boards. I like the feel of natural wood underfoot. A couple of laminate floors have been dispatched to the dumper for the same reason; slow progress but I'm getting there.

However, I don't want to dwell on renovations. We're off to Rhodes in a few weeks time; (yes, another Greek holiday, where else? to extend the summer.) The island is renowned, among other things, for its tradition of beautiful mosaic floors.

Decorative mosaic floors have been a feature of Greek temples, civic buildings and luxurious private dwellings since the 5th century BC, sometimes ornamental (as above) and sometimes depicting floral or mythical themes (as below). We know this both from literature, historical records and surviving examples. The mosaics were originally composed of naturally coloured pebbles (called tesserae) but over time the art form evolved to include painted and glazed tesserae and stained glass pieces.

For centuries, because of its geographical position in the south-east Aegean, Rhodes was one of the most important trading centres in the Mediterranean, at a maritime crossroads between southern Europe, Asia minor and north Africa. From the 4th century BC, the island had one of the biggest merchant navies in the region and was a major exporter of wine, grain and olive-oil. In its five-hundred year golden age, Rhodian power and prosperity made its chief city states cultural centres as well as seats of commercial and political power.

In the 4th century BC, mainland Macedonia, where the art of mosaic-making had first flourished, was in decline and the artists and their workshops relocated eastwards to the Dodecanese islands of Kos and Rhodes, where wealthy patrons were happy to pay for their private houses to be embellished with beautiful and durable mosaic floors - many of which have since been uncovered, excavated, preserved and renovated and can be viewed at archaeological sites in Rhodes town and around the island.

That is an exciting enough legacy, as it provides an insight into both the evolution of the pebble mosaic as an art form and the chief artistic concerns of the era; but beyond that, the practice established a tradition of pebble mosaic flooring that has continued down through two millennia and still flourishes underfoot in Rhodes today - albeit at a slightly more prosaic level - as decorative floor-work in many cafes, doorways and courtyards. I'm looking forward to seeing both ancient and contemporary examples of mosaic floors. while on holiday.

All of the above led obliquely to the composition of today's little poem...

Mosaic Floors
Nothing cast aside, nor history wasted,
marvel at the past recycled underfoot.
Shards of old forts and temples,
households and utensils
shorn by time of their jags and snags,
smoothed, sampled, sorted,
have been artfully reassembled
in tessellated symmetry;
tiny fragments of antiquity
these pebbles,
only with the blood, sweat, tribulation
washed away.

Creatively reset and grouted fresh,
mosaic floors
serve testament to former glories,
sure - but more than that:
they demonstrate a continuity,
in celebration of mankind's longevity
upon these dusty shores.
Thus the classical commingles happily
with the prosaic;
the past survives, informs the present
in the pattern of our lives.

Thanks for reading. Tread thoughtfully, Steve ;-)

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Floor - get some wax on there please.

As a former competitive and more latterly professional ballroom dancer, I must confess to having a very keen interest in floors: More specifically ballroom floors.  A well waxed floor can make all the difference to glide, can affect how the choreography takes shape and more importantly in a marathon ten dance competition, whether a ballroom floor is sprung can greatly affect tiredness in the legs.

I have been privileged to dance on some of the best floors in the world, including The Tower Ballroom, The Hammersmith Palais and The Royal Albert Hall, which has an oval floor with high sides: A bit like dancing in a pit.  I have also danced on some of the most unusual floors. The floor at Matlock Bath is made of stone slabs and is merciless on the feet and legs. I was lucky when I competed there to have trained for over a year on a surface far worse. In 1968, my teacher Eric Lashbrooke, a former World Ballroom Champion, taught in an almost derelict church hall in Seacombe Ferry on The Wirral.  I complained bitterly to my father after the first lesson, that the floor had no polish, was grey in colour and was riddled with splinters. My wise Dad told me that if I learned to dance well on that floor, I would be able to dance well on Blackpool beach. He was right.

Unfortunately, unlike the fabulous sprung floor at The Tower Ballroom, the dance floor in The Empress Ballroom at Blackpool's Winter Gardens has seen better days. Constant assault by the pressure of steel heeled stilettos has pitted it badly. When the British Open Championships are hosted there in May each year, a temporary replacement floor has to be laid over the top.

In 1969 I was selected to dance in Switzerland with my partner David. In preparation for the tour, we had a weekend rehearsal at The Midland Hotel, Morecambe. The ballroom floor was probably a quarter average size. It was almost impossible for  six young couples to dance on such a small surface. We had to work hard to adjust our routines but it paid off the end.  All the floors in the casinos that we performed in had similar sized ballroom floors.

The Royal Albert Hall 

On another note, I once stayed in a London Hotel in a room on the 100th floor. It had an amazing view of course and I was perfectly happy until a large jet flew past, level with my window. I am sure that I could see the faces of the passengers on board and was relieved to be fully clothed at the time. I didn't get much sleep.

I had another interesting floor encounter at Universal Studios in Florida. The Tower of Terror is like a hotel. A lift attendant straps you in and then you are taken to the top floor. The doors slide open to show you the view and when they close, the lift drops 26 floors. It was not for the faint-hearted and I was extremely nervous because I have a serious neck condition. I remember shaking for at least half an hour and vowed never to go on a roller coaster again. Scary stuff.

What else is there to say about floors? Well - a woman went to a psychiatrist and told him that she had a fear of the floor. He laughed and said, "Why can't you be afraid of something sensible, like heights?"  She replied, "It's not the height that kills you - it's the floor."

The poem this week is from my Dance series.

Strictly Dancing

Come dance with me,
Feel the flow,
Ride the rhythm to and fro,
Draw me close,
Hold me tight,
Let our passion's fire ignite.

Twist and turn,
Lunge and soar,
Grind your hips until they're sore,
Take me up,
Drop me down,
Spin my body round and round.

Breathing deeply,
Rise and fall,
Toe to toe,
Heel and ball,
Staccato steps on parquet floor,
Quicken tempo,
More and more.

Parrup, Parrup,
Your tango beat,
Envelopes me from head to feet,
Then last crescendo,
warm and wet.
Come dance with me and make me sweat.

Thank you for reading. Adele

Saturday, 28 July 2018

The Best Decade...Probably

This is so tricky, selecting and then writing about the  Best Decade . Where to start? Literally! How about 1140 - 1149 AD? You think I'm joking? The first complete decade in the reign of good King Stephen (the only English monarch to have shared my name). You're right, of course. I am joking. I know I'm supposed to pick the best decade from my own lifetime and there are six and a half to choose from - but what to leave out? Childhood in Africa? Student life? Getting married? Becoming father to two beautiful girls? Working in America? Writing for a music magazine? Playing in the Deadbeats? Supporting Blackpool FC in the Premier League? The here and now?

I was honestly tempted to go for the pick'n'mix angle and select ten top years from across a spread of decades, on the principle that no one decade can represent the best of times, because often as not it includes the worst of times as well.

However, that pick'n'mix approach has already been adopted by a couple of my fellow Dead Good Bloggers, so in the end I decided to stick to the given brief (more or less) and I've chosen a discrete run of ten consecutive years as representing probably the best decade ever. (If Carlsberg wrote history....)

That said, I'm still going to cheat slightly by having my chosen decade commence on 1st October 1962 and end exactly ten years later on 30th September 1972. For me (and for the western hemisphere) that was one hell of a ten years! It started in the week the Beatles released their first single, 'Love Me Do' (the beginning of a musical evolution that would change millions of lives) and it ended on the day my folks deposited me at university at the start of Freshers' Week and a four-year stretch of student life. 

Having established the co-ordinates, let's first come up the years on a whistle-stop tour from 'Before' (the straitened, plastic "adoration of the Tupperware" era - as pictured above) to 'Afterwards' (the liberated, organic "Self-aware and can realise anything" era - see the additional image further on), before getting on to philosophical musings about what it all meant. The fact is that in between those two dates, all changed utterly as we experienced a cold war, a big freeze, a white heat, a space race, winds of change, a world shading from grey to day-glo, a general unshackling both cultural and sexual, transistorisation, decimalisation and a great European adventure. To my mind it was a period that stood apart, almost a renaissance; ten intense years of phenomenal and rapid change that transformed the 20th century and helped shape the world as we know it today. It was also the decade in which I was fortunate enough to grow up.

Even before the month of October 1962 was out, we lived through the Cuba Missile Crisis, which came close to being the end of the world as we knew it. It was an experience that shaped my anti-military stance and long-term CND sympathies. Hard on its heels came the coldest, longest winter I have ever known... and so on into 1963 with ice on the insides of our windows (no central-heating in those days), cheered by nascent Beatlemania - 'Please, Please Me', 'From Me To You', 'She Loves You', all over the radio-waves and each song a step forward from the last. Pop culture was born. After the thaw, I attended my first league football match - watching Peterborough United (my home town at the time) beating Swindon 3-1 at London Road. Although I'm a lifelong Blackpool supporter (which is how come I ended up living here in the jewel of the north) it was unrealistic for a ten-year old from East Anglia to get to see the Seasiders play... that came later in the best decade. 1963 also saw my first serious girlfriend come and go. I wonder where you are now Gillian (nee) Jackson. My first pangs of love were for you. The year rounded out with the assassination of President Kennedy (I know exactly where I was at the time), the arrival of Doctor Who on the small screen and the complete ascendance of those afore-mentioned Beatles.

1964 brought our first foreign family holiday, in West Germany. It was almost exotic, a mind-expanding experience in terms of continental food and geography, even if Dusseldorf was the nearest we got to the fabled city of Hamburg, wherein the abilities of the Fab Four had been forged. My abiding love of yogurt and salami, unheard of in early Sixties East Anglia, traces back to that holiday, as does an unshakeable pro-European disposition; (I remain a Remainer). We moved house from Peterborough to Cambridge in late summer, so I got to watch 'A Hard Day's Night' at Peterborough Odeon in August and at Cambridge Odeon the following month. The move was in connection with my Dad's job but it also marked my transition from junior to secondary school in a beautiful and historic university city. I hope I knew how lucky I was - I think I did.

By 1965 my friends and I were lusting after girls in mini-skirts (the new craze - fashion, not lusting) who'd never think to give us a second look because they only had eyes for boys at least three years older than us. We consoled ourselves with girly magazines and sneaky cigarettes, played football in the park on weekends and holidays, watched Cambridge City on Saturday afternoons (they were rubbish but it didn't matter) and listened to pirate radio while doing our chemistry and Latin homework. Pirate radio (as I've blogged before) was a portal into another, more exciting world for us; it allowed callow schoolboys across the land to feel hip and connected to the zeitgeist. The Beatles still blazed the trail with 'Help' and 'Rubber Soul' but now they had the Byrds, Dylan, Kinks, Lovin' Spoonful, Rolling Stones, Small Faces and Who in the vanguard and an unstoppable youth revolution was on a roll. What else? Martin Luther King led a civil rights march as race riots erupted in America and the US military initiated operation Rolling Thunder in Vietnam.

My first teenage summer, that of 1966, will be forever fondly remembered for England winning the World Cup (our greatest ever sporting achievement?) and for the Beatles releasing 'Revolver', still the finest LP of all time (dispute this if you choose). Labour won a second successive General Election, the white heat of a technological revolution was going to ensure Britain's super-power status, the Sixties were in full swing and London was the cool capital of the world. What could possibly go wrong? Sure, girls were still playing hard-to-get but it was only a matter of time... Meanwhile, Mao Tse Tung gave his blessing to the Cultural Revolution in China and the number of US soldiers deployed in Vietnam hit the half-a-million mark. As if in response or recoil, American youths burned their draft cards, flower-power and making-love-not-war became the rallying call and psychedelia began emanating from San Francisco as Jefferson Airplane took off with the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service in close attendance.

Excuse me for skipping 1967, which was really 1966 part two, only not as good. 'Sergeant Pepper' was okay, but not as ground-breaking as its predecessor and the much-hyped Summer Of Love was pretty-much over before the airwaves were chiming with songs about flowers in our hair.

1968 however was seismic - in the East, a brave revolution in Czechoslovakia was crushed by mean Soviet tanks; elsewhere, student riots and anti-war demonstrations broke out in major cities around the world (Detroit, London, Paris especially, Tokyo). Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated. Biafra tried to break away from Nigeria and was starved into line. Black power activists declared war on the US state. So much for peace and love, it seemed. It felt as though the old order might just be crumbling, even in beautiful and historic Cambridge. However, I took to the pacifist, hippy ethic and decided that was for me. I started to grow my hair and tie-dyed my jeans.

By 1969 Nixon was in the White House, Vietnam was in flames and the Beatles were disintegrating, their last public performance being on the roof of the Apple building. Oh, but serious dating of girls was now a constant distraction, bringing my first proper sexual encounters and a going steady - and then there were O-levels to sit (the GCSEs of yesteryear). My Dad couldn't understand why I went punting on the River Cam with my girlfriend the night before a big exam when I could have been getting in some last-minute revision! That was about the time I put a bolt on my bedroom door and he smashed it in. That summer saw three men land on the moon and half a million hippies groove in the mud at Woodstock. It also saw the death penalty abolished in the UK. By the autumn I was a rebellious sixth-former (nick-named hippy Steve), my girlfriend was on the pill and recreational drugs were an occasional indulgence.

I think my parents were worried that I was going to throw everything away and end up some stoned wreck with a teenage mother and kid to support. The world was changing too quickly for them and they didn't know how to handle it as the Sixties morphed into the Seventies. In point of fact, I think that in 1970 I was relatively normal, focussed on getting good A-levels and going to university to study English - which is exactly what I did. Other notable events of the year included Germaine Greer (who would lecture me at Warwick) publishing 'The Female Eunuch' as women's lib began to have a social impact, Labour's six years of reforming political leadership coming to an end and me finally getting to see the mighty Blackpool FC play. It was in a 2-0 defeat at Oxford, last game of the season, but the Seasiders had already secured promotion back to division one after a three year absence. (Unfortunately they only survived in the top flight for a year with a mere four wins - and it was to be another forty years before they'd get back there again.)

1971 was quite pivotal as well. As chairman of the School Council I went head-to-head with the Head over sixth-form students' rights to have long hair and beards if they wished. (I got kicked out but was allowed to go back to sit my A-levels.) I know, there are many issues more worthy than length of hair to take a stand on, but it was a symbolic gesture and I still don't regret it. My Mum's own hair seemed to turn white almost overnight, though she may just have stopped dyeing it. My Dad ordered her not to feed me until I came to my senses - and I cleared out. I got a job washing-up in a steak bar (remember Berni Inns?) lunchtimes and evenings. It paid the rent and just about covered my food bill - though I ate plenty of steak and my Mum used to drop by with additional provisions; (I don't know if my Dad ever knew). Having a pad of my own (with double bed and stereo) felt like the right move, self-determination and independence. After A-levels I decided to take a gap-year, got myself a better job working in a men's boutique (you know, Ben Sherman shirts, velvet loons et cetera), earned reasonable money, read lots of books (Heller, Hesse, Kerouac, Kesey, Nietzsche, Orwell, Steinbeck), bought LPs, wrote poetry and saw as much of my girlfriend - two years my junior and still at school - as possible.

My valve radio had died a death and I had no TV set (it would be the 1980s before I got one) so my links with the bigger world were mainly via the 'underground' press, International Times, Frendz, Oz, through Private Eye and the music weeklies Melody Maker and NME; it was a bit like being partly off-grid. Music was still key and I had a quite extensive LP collection but the major world events of 1972 passed me by except at the macro-level: the ongoing war in Vietnam, troubles brewing in Northern Ireland, negotiations to join the Common Market. After one last glorious summer in Cambridge, punting on the river, hanging out with friends, making headway on my university 'reading list' I made peace with my parents and prepared to head off to read English at Warwick.

I suppose that for many people, if they are lucky (as I was), their formative or teenage years will be  among the most significant in their lives - everything is new, one is relatively carefree and so on - which carries quite some weight when trying to identify the best decade.

On a personal level, other decades might have had equal claim, as I suggested at the outset - my first ten years of married life, for instance. What really nails it for my slightly skewed definition of the Swinging Sixties is the external things that were happening at the same time and which helped to make my formative years what they were.  Even if one were to remove the individual (and inevitably mythologised) view of developments that I've given on this whistle-stop tour, I still think the period I've chosen was special in a significant way for the sheer range and rapidity of the changes that took place.

Of course in this revolution of the heart and mind, matters didn't go from Tupperware to Self-aware for everybody, or not at the same rate anyway. There is always an avant-garde, followed by a media bow-wave and then a time lag until new expressions, freedoms, ideas become mainstream and accepted. London swung (or to be precise, parts of London) long before Swindon or Sunderland. Hippies were advocating an eco-friendly stance decades before legislation attempted to address global warming or the dangerous ubiquity of plastics. It has taken Ireland nearly half a century to become as liberal in matters of gender as Great Britain. And so on.

In addition to those great life-enhancing changes I've already touched on, think also of these: self-determination for many countries who were able to throw off the yoke of colonial status by peaceful negotiation; the breaking down of class, gender and race taboos; the trend towards liberalisation of legislation (regarding abortion, homosexuality, recreational drugs, religious freedoms, women's rights); deregulation of the airwaves; advances in medical science (especially transplant surgery); technological leaps like satellite communications, the internet (or Arpanet as it began) and data digitisation. These rights, freedoms and capabilities, no matter how long they took to make their mark or how widely they have become accepted, all had their origins in the best decade. I rest my case, exhausted.

Unfortunately, I've spent such a lot of time putting this mini-essay together (nearly a whole day) that I've not given a thought to writing a poem to suit. Let me leave you then with something appropriate by Adrian Mitchell, socialist, pacifist, dubbed the Shadow Poet Laureate and without a doubt my favourite poet of the last half-century...

The People Walking
Sometimes the people walk together
Down the streets of their own cities
With no weapons but the truth

Sometimes the soldiers and police
Turn their backs on their own officers
And walk with the people

As the people walk together
Down the streets of their own cities
With no weapons but the truth

Sometimes the people walk together
Brave and fearful and angry and joyful
With no weapons but the truth

                                         Adrian Mitchell (1932-2008)

I know that was a bit of a long read, but thanks for sticking with it. I feel unmasked. Have a cool week, S :-)

Friday, 27 July 2018

My Favourite Eras!

I have chosen two. I was born in 1950, so I was a teenager and ardent follower of fashion in the the mid to end 60's. At school I did 'O' grade then 'H' Grade Dress and Design, followed by a 3 year Diploma in the same subject from 1968 to 1971. My mother had been a tailoress, so sewing and especially dressmaking was in my genes. It was not uncommon for me to purchase fabric and pattern on a Saturday morning and wear the garment the same evening ! Sometimes we sent away for swatches of the fabrics since our choice was somewhat limited in Aberdeen and we'd spend ages choosing the right fabrics. When 'Crimplene' appeared we had to send for some. It was so innovative. So new. So trendy. I sometimes think that it's demise was caused by it's hardwearing qualities, and I've become convinced that some dresses I've seen recently for sale in the high street are made from the self same fabric (except nobody calls it 'Crimplene'). So it's obviously been stashed away...after all it is virtually indestructible!

 Now I've also chosen the 50's. Obviously I was too young to be much interested in Rock 'n' roll (though I was very keen on the Beatles, and that's how they started). No, my interest was kindled when I met my second husband, and he, being older than myself, had been a Teddy Boy in his youth. In fact he still had a suit. So it was that I discovered 'Be Bop' and the joys of this rather slower "lazier" form of jive that he'd learned at the Hammersmith Palais as a young man. We delighted in doing this at the British Legion in Buckie on a Saturday night, and we won a competition - clinched when he threw me in the air and either side of him. Now this move was not really in the Be Bop, but we'd got it just right due to our being able to do 'lifts' at ice skating. Thus it was we brought the house down...or it might have been the stockings and suspenders I was wearing!!

When we moved  to this area we attended many 50's events but we couldn't find his Teddy boy jacket. So I used my tailoring skills and made him a new one , with velvet collar and cuffs. He was so chuffed as people remarked upon it.

He left instructions that on his death he didn't want people to wear black, he wanted his favourite 50's music played and he wanted us to have a Rock 'n' Roll dance at his wake. He was dressed in the jacket and all his 50's outfit, just as he wanted and we followed his instructions. Some mourners came dressed in 50's style also, and we danced.......

A few weeks later I was clearing out the loft and lo and behold I came across his original jacket and waistcoat. I altered the waistcoat and I have subsequently worn them both with my 1950's outfits, which I often wear when I go to tribute concerts. Sometimes I cry when they play the music he so loved. For that wasn't my era, but his, and we shared it together.

Thank you for reading, Kath.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

One Big Fat Decade of Happiness

18:29:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , 2 comments

Somebody asked me recently whether I liked 80s music.  It took me a few moments' contemplation before I realised I wouldn't recognise 80s music if it blasted out at me from one of next door's noisy barbecues.  "New Romantics?" I asked, tentatively, "Adam Ant?"  He nodded.  I changed the subject, feeling slightly vindicated.  It took me a minute, too, to realise why 80s music was - well, not music to my ears.  Anybody who has recently had a baby knows that music, like reading, conversation - and pretty much everything else - becomes irrelevant.  Never mind, 'All You Need is Love.'  Actually, all you need is sleep.  And lots of it. 

With not just a new baby, but also a toddler and a three year old, I spent the beginning of the eighties knee deep in nipple shields, pureed parsnips, endless terry nappies, cereal box monsters, Calpol, Paracetemol, wellies, tissues, wet flannels (pre proper wet-wipe era), swings, roundabouts, toddler groups, play school, nursery, school and desperate phone calls to my mum in London.  Oh, and anti-depressants.  This was far from my best decade.  It was the decade of tears where everything fell apart, when I should have been happy in my new role of motherhood, but somehow, everything that happened during that decade was tinged with worry, despair and the big black dog that would not let me go.  Music was well down on my list of priorities.  Keeping alive and relatively sane was at the top.  

If you're reading this, you'll see that I at least achieved the former.  

When I was invited back recently, after a couple of years' absence, to write a guest blog, I thought this would be one of the easier titles.  My first thought was the sixties, my teenage years, the Beatles, hot pants, mini skirts, thick black eyeliner, false lashes, off to Art College, the excitement.  Yes, that would be my best decade.  But, hang on, what about the awful teenage angst?  The boyfriends (or lack of them)?  The spots, the boredom at school, the waiting by the phone at night, the tears? How could that really be the best decade?

OK, so the best decade must have been the seventies, more Art College, meeting the future husband, more Beatles, marriage, a baby and another on the way.  But.....I'm forgetting the way reality often suffocated dreams: living together, arguments, mice in the basement flat, money, the stresses of finding jobs and keeping them, they all conspired to cause friction and anxiety.  Dickens was right, 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times'.

I've got sixty six years to look back on.  That's a fair few decades.  I realised, after some reflection, that it's difficult, if not impossible to choose the 'best decade'.  There are good parts and bad parts to each one. My eight years of the fifties are mainly filled with rose coloured images: playing out, endless hot summer days, the park, the freezing cold outdoor Lido on a Sunday morning with dad, seaside holidays with our cousins, my baby brother being born, and skirts and dresses appearing magically at the end of my bed after  mum had sat up into the early hours finishing a hem or threading elastic through a waist.  But there is also the smell of baked beans and meat pie as I enter school in the mornings, my stomach churning at the thought of another anguished lunchtime, there is the untimely death of a classmate, knocked down by a car, and the shock and confusion that follows, there is some bullying by the girls I thought were my friends.

I realise I haven't got a 'best decade'.  I haven't even got a best year, a best month, a best week or a best day.  What I have got is an awful lot of best moments: those moments that come at you, unbidden, with a wave of pride or happiness: my dad walking me down the aisle, the children's births,  driving over the Yorkshire Dales as the sun set in the distance, my eldest son's passing out from the RAF as the planes swooped in formation overhead, my daughter's from the Police, hats flying up in the air, my youngest son's graduation, finishing the Coast to Coast bike ride, learning new skills, numerous family celebrations - and the funerals, that, although inevitably sad, nevertheless gave us the opportunity to get together and celebrate a life.  

I'd love to have a best decade.  Maybe that is yet to come. Meanwhile, do you think I could have patchwork of all the best bits in my life up to now? 

All cobbled together in one big fat lump of happiness.  Now that really would be the best decade. 

How to make The Best Decade

Take one New Year's Eve kiss
And place it carefully in a bowl
Cover and leave overnight
Add a litre of laughter
And stir well
Sprinkle on the best love you can find 
Let it soak in
Whip up events of choice
Happy ones if available
And add to mixture
Whisk in a couple of adventures
And a challenge (any size)
Some Christmases and birthdays 
Add a large bundle of hugs 
More kisses (various types)
And a drop of tears 
Stir for about six months 
Leave the mixture to rise
This is the beginning of your decade
Check every two years
And adjust quantities if necessary
At the end of the decade
Check once more
The bowl should be empty

Repeat once every ten years on New Year's Eve 

Thanks for reading..... Jill 


Tuesday, 24 July 2018

The Best Decade - My 1960s

I like to write historical fiction. I get a lot of enjoyment from researching specific eras. There is so much to learn and I never tire of it. I’ve spent a long time, in fits and starts, on a project that begins in the early 1960s and I’d love to see it completed, though it may have to stay on the back burner until I am able to dedicate more of myself to it. I expected to be retired by now, me like many others, and I planned to treat my project like a full-time job and see if it went anywhere. Let’s wait and see if I’ve still got a functioning brain by the time I get my pension.

I’m choosing the 1960s as the best decade that I have known and I’ve chosen through personal experience and not my research. I was born in the mid-fifties into a wonderful, close family of strong minded women and hard working men. I appreciate how fortunate I am to have had the love, security and grounding of a decent up-bringing. I’ve always been mindful that not everyone is so lucky.

In the mid-sixties we moved to Blackpool. Life got even more exciting. My parents had their dream pub on the promenade and clearly loved it. South Shore beach became my playground, with my younger sister, buckets and spades and either our mother or our adored housekeeper, Auntie Kathy to look after us. We watched the whole world from our upstairs windows, holiday makers dashing off the beach as a storm came over the sea, silly hats, illuminated trams and gangs of what my dad called Beatniks. As soon as the illuminations ended, that was it, Blackpool prom died. The winter view was one of an empty, bleak wilderness, but it was fascinating watching the waves come over the sea wall and crash on to the tram lines during a fierce gale. If only I could see it all again, but thinking as an adult now, I would be worried about the rattling sash windows blowing in. The summer of 1968 is still my favourite, even though my mother embarrassed me by telling singer/songwriter/busker Don Partridge how much I adored him, as we were being introduced. He didn’t seem to mind but I certainly did. He was in the Central Pier show for the summer season and we, that is me and my mum, were front of house guests and back stage guests on separate occasions. I was enthralled to hear him sing ‘Rosie’ and ‘Blue Eyes’ live on stage and I still love those songs. We had a summer of shows and meeting people including Engelbert Humperdinck. He was headlining at the ABC theatre. I was speechless.

My poem is an old one of mine, written with love for those bygone days. It reminds me now of a late friend, Christo Heyworth. When he read the poem, he told me that the ‘grumpy deck chair man’ could have been him, though, as I said at the time, I couldn’t imagine Christo being grumpy.

This Was My Blackpool In ’68.

Taking a tram from North Pier to Starr Gate.
A summer of fun and staying up late.
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

Anne, Auntie Kath and me, all holding hands
Crossing the Prom to get on to the sands
Where the grumpy deck-chair man always stands.
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

We were young ladies with panache and style,
Playing the penny arcades for a while,
Frittering our spends on the Golden Mile.
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

Spinning the Waltzers three times in a row.
Make it go faster, we don’t like it slow,
And then the man said, “That’s it, off you go!”
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

Out to a summer show, straight after tea.
Engelbert tonight at the ABC,
A back-stage delight for my mum and me.
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

Got to get ready, there’s no time to lose!
My trendiest outfit is what I will choose…
A pink mini dress with bright orange shoes.
This was my Blackpool in ’68. 

A time of peace, love and Flower Power,
Charlie Cairoli and Blackpool Tower,
Seaside and sunshine for hour after hour.
This was my Blackpool in ’68.

Pamela Winning,   2013

Thanks for reading, Pam x