Tuesday, 15 January 2019

Clouds - When the Storm Clouds Gather


Living over a Blackpool Promenade pub in the mid-sixties was wonderful and the ever-changing views from the front windows never lost their fascination for any of us. My mother, when she wasn’t busy, sat in the bay window of our living room, often accompanied by my nanna, a frequent visitor.  My father kept a pair of binoculars on the window sill and liked to look at the horizon on a clear day.

I sat with my mother one sunny day, nothing special, just watching holiday-makers on the sands. It was full of deck-chairs, wind-breakers and families having fun.

“They will be coming off the beach in a minute.”  I remember my mother saying. She told me to look at the clouds coming in with the tide, how they were darkening. The horizon had vanished into the blur of grey and dusky pink that was moving closer until it covered the sun and what was left of blue sky. A rumble of thunder was followed by huge raindrops. People on the beach made haste to gather their belongings and make a run for shelter. Some dashed under South Pier, but they would have to move again as the tide came in. Mum and I watched the lightning fill the sky like electric charges breaking the clouds, and the rain, now heavy, sweeping across the promenade, not a soul in sight.

Many years later I recognised the same cloud formation. We were having a family holiday in Pembrokeshire, my husband and I with our two young children. Between Saundersfoot and Amroth there is a lovely stretch of beach and rock pools at Wiseman’s Bridge, so called because of the small, stone built bridge over the stream of fresh water filtering from the land to the sea. There were toilets nearby, a shop for ice creams and always somewhere to park. The only down-side was clambering over unstable rocks to get on to the beach or down the concrete path on the other side of the bridge carrying picnic, towels, fishing nets, buckets and spades and our beach tent. My husband and I would struggle to feed the flexible poles through the correct channels in the beach tent, especially if it was breezy, but when it was finished and anchored with rocks, it was perfect. I’m sure modern day versions are simpler, but those days are gone. We were all in or close to the tent, tucking into our picnic when I noticed the clouds on the horizon and wondered how long we had before the rain would arrive. Should we pack up and go to the car taking into account getting across the rocks again, or all four of us huddle together in the tent with the open side fully zipped up? I’ve got a feeling that we did both, on separate occasions. I’ll have to ask the kids.

It’s lovely to lie back on the ground and watch the sky on a summer’s day. Imagine being up there, floating on one of those fluffy, feathery, cotton-wool clouds, just resting.

Looking down on clouds is an enchanting sight, too. Natural beauty.
 
Two choices of poem,
 
Dylan Thomas
 
Shall gods be said to thump the clouds
When clouds are cursed by thunder,
Be said to weep when weather howls?
Shall rainbows be their tunics' colour?

When it is rain where are the gods?
Shall it be said they sprinkle water
From garden cans, or free the floods?

Shall it be said that, venuswise,
An old god's dugs are pressed and pricked,
The wet night scolds me like a nurse?

It shall be said that gods are stone.
Shall a dropped stone drum on the ground,
Flung gravel chime? Let the stones speak
With tongues that talk all tongues.
 
 
and Emily Dickinson
     The sky is low, the clouds are mean,
     A travelling flake of snow
     Across a barn or through a rut
     Debates if it will go.
 
    A narrow wind complains all day
    How some one treated him;
    Nature, like us, is sometimes caught
    Without her diadem.
 
 
Thanks for reading, Pam x
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

 

Saturday, 12 January 2019

What If...

Speculation is mounting over what might happen next in the twin dramas of BREXIT (you're all familiar with this national pantomime) and OXIT (the more parochial campaign by Blackpool fans to rid our football club of the odious Oystons). Appropriately, this week's blog theme is What If...

That being the case, I thought I'd recycle a piece that I wrote for the Blackpool Gazette last week. Regular and long-time readers of my Saturday Blogs might recall that Philip K Dick is one of my favourite novelists of the 20th century. He's not much read these days but some of his works have found widespread fame and appeal as films or TV series - Blade Runner, Minority Report, The Adjustment Bureau, The Man In The High Castle. This latter, among other things, posed the question: What if Germany and Japan had won World War II and divided the free world up between them, what might life under the evil axis regime have been like?

That imaginative leap set me thinking about a reverse scenario: What if Owen Oyston had not been allowed to buy Blackpool Football Club back in 1988, how might the fortunes of the club and the town have progressed differently over the last thirty years? What follows is a short story, my brief fictionalised account of what could have transpired in the jewel of the north if history had taken another, kinder course. I don't think it's necessary to be a fan of Blackpool FC or even football to enjoy the fantasy and to appreciate the moral:

‘The Man In The High Penthouse: an alternate history of Blackpool Football Club’
(with apologies to Philip K Dick)

From his vantage point on high, he gazed out across the magnificent bowl of the Bloomfield Road arena. For several days now he had been in reflective mood. A late December sky was turning tangerine as the sun sank below the level of the Billy Ayre Stand, casting a lengthening shadow across the hallowed turf. The wind began to stir a chill into the air and so he stepped back into the warm confines of his penthouse suite and pulled the sliding doors closed against the elements.

He stood there for some moments, looking out across the stadium, home of the Mighty, and cast his mind back thirty years. In 1988 a wind of change had been blowing straight off the Irish Sea and through the broken-down stands of Bloomfield Road, decrepit home of a famous football club whose luck had worn thin, whose very future was on the line. There had been an attempt by a local businessman to snap the club up for £1. The prospect of Blackpool FC being taken over by a single entrepreneur reputed to have an eye for the main chance was not an attractive one. That was the point at which the organisation known simply and affectionately as The Ten had stepped up as a consortium of wealthy international Blackpool fans and had tabled a successful counter-bid. He was proud to have been a part of that.

Bloomfield Road stadium in an alternate universe
Over the years, their vision and investment had both restored and transformed Blackpool into one of the finest and best-run football clubs in the English League. Working in conjunction with the local council they had rebuilt the Bloomfield Road site to comprise a 25,000 seat football ground, cinema complex, ten-pin bowling alley, Blackpool FC museum, club shop and live music venue with bars and restaurants. Working in partnership with the new University of the Fylde in South Shore they had redeveloped Squires Gate as a state of the art training complex for use by both football club, the university and the townspeople. They were rightly proud of their youth academy which not only provided a stream of talented players into the Blackpool squad but also generated significant revenues when players were sold on to their rivals in Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and London.

As good as the realisation of all these plans had been for the town and surrounding area, buoying it up as a resort when the appeal of foreign package holidays began to eat into Blackpool’s traditional trade, the real testament to the commitment of The Ten had been the gradual and then sustained success of the Mighty on the field culminating in Blackpool becoming English League Champions for the first time ever in 2011, which success earned the consortium the accolade of The Perfect Ten.

From a low point in Division Four in the late 1980s, Billy Ayre steered a team captained by Trevor Sinclair up through the divisions. The Seasiders were promoted to the Championship in 1993 and reached the League Cup Final in 1994 where they lost to Manchester United at Wembley (not for the first time). Jimmy Armfield was appointed Director of Football at Bloomfield Road and was instrumental in helping Ayre and his bright young Seasiders with free-scoring Scott Taylor clinch promotion to the Premier League before the end of the millennium. Ill health forced Ayre to retire but his successor Steve McMahon, backed by shrewd investment from The Ten, consolidated the team in tangerine as a vibrant force once more in the top flight of English football. A second FA Cup Final victory, this time over Portsmouth at the new Wembley in 2008, was no less than the Mighty deserved. Bloomfield Road was a footballing mecca, regularly full to capacity on match days and frequently a busy hub of activity during the rest of the week.

The pinnacle of success for the club came with victory at Old Trafford on the last day of the 2010/11 season, a result which saw Blackpool pip United for the league title that had so long eluded them, that they had last come close to winning as far back as 1956. It was an emotional day for McMahon, Armfield, their jubilant players, the dedicated members of The Ten, Blackpool’s vociferous tangerine army and all who had dared dream that with the right groundwork, shrewd investment and infectious spirit of ambition, almost anything was possible. It was an achievement that would sustain the club and the town for years to come.

He let out a nostalgic sigh as he closed the blinds, shuttering the darkened stadium from view. He had a New Year’s Eve dinner with representatives of The Ten to look forward to in a few hours and then a home fixture against fellow title-chasers Liverpool beckoned on the morrow, with the electric frontline trio of Barkhuizen, Miller and Vardy all vying to net Blackpool’s 50th goal of the season. There was still an hour or two to kill. He filled his tumbler with whisky, reached up and pulled a favourite album by the Ministry from the rack, a reminder of the year this amazing trip had begun. He slid the vinyl from its sleeve, placed it on the turntable, cued the record and settled back with his drink to enjoy The Land of Rape and Honey.

The end (or is it?)

For a poem on the week's theme of What If... I'm making a radical switch to the world of reincarnated souls - and of a cat's soul in particular - but I couldn't resist first sharing this photograph and caption with you. It cracks me up in a Cheshire smile whenever I look at it, so I hope it works for you too:

HIS COMING HAD BEEN FORETOLD IN ANCIENT MURALS
It's not a random image, by the way. The relevance will become clear. Okay, onto this latest poetic product of the imaginarium. I won't give any more of a preamble because the poem, if it's doing its job properly, should manage to convey all that's required; (or you can always Google some of the references). Here goes...

Cat As Trophe
What if I really am,
as hypnotherapy suggests,
the reincarnated soul of Sam,
the Farriners' rat-catching cat cremated
as my luck turned bad
in London's greatest conflagration
of which I was prime cause?

What does it say, this relegation
for my sins to human form,
about the great wheel of existence?
That cat is higher on the path
to perfect being than is man.

I must confess I ran from rats
in those mad final days;
avoid them like the plague
was the word in the Lane
for they brought a filthy,
creeping death across the city

That fateful night
saw me take flight from infestation,
a failed attempt,
for in my haste I overturned
a proving case before the open stove.
All was soon ablaze.
Crazed, I died in that inferno
which in three days
burned half of London to the ground -
a happy consequence
in one respect,
for fire purged the plague,
but not one I can hold to my account.

Then in atonement for my falling off
I'm bound to live as blameless as man can,
proprietor of this cattery in Battersea,
keeping my knowledge close,
tending my feline friends.
I hope by good deeds I will grow to good,
reverse the flow of fortune's wheel
and at some future date return,
restored felicitous again.

Thanks for reading, S ;-)

Thursday, 10 January 2019

What if?

Not much to say for this one but I have written a children's poem for a change.





What if?
 
What if I were a bird?
Would my fear of heights inhibit me?
Would I sit on a branch
In a trance
Until a cat climbed up and murdered me?
 
What if I were a mole?
Would my claustrophobia cause me stress?
And would the lack of Vitamin D
Have an adverse effect on me?
 
What if I was a chimpanzee?
Would my arthritic finger cripple me?
Would I swing through the trees
But tumble down
And break my back on the stony ground?
 
What if I was a chameleon?
Would my colour blindness be cause for concern?
Would my camouflage fail
Exposing me
To predators who’d make a meal of me?
 
What if I was a hippopotamus?
Would my hydrophobia be disastrous?
If I couldn’t wallow – down in the hollow
I doubt that a mate would follow me.
 
But I am a human being you see
And my defects have little effect on me.
I may not be perfect
But I’ll survive.
I am just grateful to be alive.
 
 Thanks for reading - Adele  

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

What If - Everything Vanishes

 

A Happy New Year to you.

One thing after another has prevented me from being an active blogger in recent weeks. I’m very happy to be back.

I over-think things. I worry. My head is full of the crazy imaginings of ‘worst case scenarios’ and if the thoughts were visible it might look like a flow chart of What Ifs. Actually no, because flow charts are organised and logical, and my mind is not.

The cruel What Ifs are currently busy. Recent health issues made me give in and reluctantly visit the doctor. Tests, then more tests and a hospital referral to reassure me, only it doesn’t  reassure, the prospect is something I find scary and full of What Ifs. These particular What Ifs, dormant during my busy day, line up and take turns to confront me when they are magnified by my tiredness.

A saying from childhood keeps coming back to me, ‘If ifs and ands were pots and pans there’d be no work for tinker’s hands’. I don’t know what it really means, feel free to enlighten me, but I think it’s telling me not to worry about things I can’t control.

Our fourth grandchild, a girl, is days away from being born. She could decide to arrive any time and we are excited to meet her. Our daughter and her partner want me to be there at the birth, as I was for their boys, and I hope I can be. This is another set of What Ifs, dearie me, but these are nice ones.

Here are a few of my worrying thoughts.
 

What if I lose the desire to write?

What if I don’t have the power to fight?

What if the words start refusing to rhyme?

What if I find I’m running out of time?

What if I go off Italian food?

What if my mood is forever subdued?

What if I can’t have Tia Maria?

What if I can’t feel my loved ones are near?

What if I can’t hear the music I choose?

What if there’s no Mozart or Moody Blues?

What if I forget all that I have known?

What if I forget all that I was shown?
 
  
Thanks for reading, Pam x

Saturday, 5 January 2019

Cliché

Although with us all the time, it's just particularly noticeable at New Year, rife in fact if you go looking for it, the cliché - ridden to exhaustion (just like Santa's reindeer) across the columns of myriad newspaper supplements, life-style magazines and online blogs, panting as it pours forth its well-worn platitudes:  'Out with the old, in with the new!', 'No time like the present', 'Make like starting over', 'New Year, New You!' and so forth. Brain disconnected from mouth, you can hardly see its lips move. Pitiful. Time to resolve to put the cliché out to pasture, methinks; (ho ho ho).

As I commented on another blog, I wonder at what point a fine phrase becomes a catch-phrase? By the time that happens, it's already sliding inexorably into overuse and cliché - and yet it started out as a pretty smart and original thing to say before becoming this victim of its own ubiquity. And what makes some fine phrases so wise and resonant that they get elevated to the status of proverbs rather than being bagged and tagged as clichés? It's fascinating the way language works. It's an ever-evolving medium and as the takt of communication speeds up, so the cycle from coining a phrase to mass-circulation to worn-out token becomes ever shorter. Simples; (ho ho ho again).

Anything can become clichéd, a word, a phrase, a metaphor, an idea. It doesn't even have to be language (written or spoken). It can be musical - think Eurovision and those awful song-by-numbers concoctions, or formulaic pop tunes built on tired (sic) and tested riffs. It can also be visual - a lot of the constructs of the original Surrealists like Magritte have become standard fare nowadays (see below); or a fashion accessory such as a beauty-spot, thick, long lashes or bright red lips.

Cliches can be visual 2
Not that I'm dismissing cliché entirely. It serves function as a kind of short-hand in the exchange of ideas and opinions, but over-reliance can lead to a laziness of mind. Originality is a scarce commodity, appreciation of it therefore a curse as well as a blessing. "Imitative anarchy" (as Saul Bellow once described it) both flatters and debases and yet, on balance, "better to accept the inevitability of imitation and then to imitate good things" (from 'Mr. Sammler's Planet'). The moral, if there is one: choose your clichés with care.

Surely our bounden duty as wordsmiths is to challenge trite and lazy expression. Adele has already cleverly concocted a poem out of clichés this week, so I'm swerving, an oblique strategy which seeks to subvert a bunch of over-used lines and by misusing and juxtaposing them in unexpected ways, breath fresh life into flagging phrases. It's a bit of a rushed job (and might be subject to change when I've a chance to reflect) but I hope it works in its own weird way. I've not written a lipstick poem before and briefly toyed with the idea of handwriting it in lipstick and then scanning it in, but as I have neither lipstick nor time, here it is in standard format:

Not No. 7 (avoidance of cliché)
As they mill at the Feast of the Makeover,
anyone feeling like a fish out of lipstick
can splash out to cash in with Ruby Woo
by surely you-know-who...
(or other brands are viable too
like Hellbent, Cherry Lush,
Secret Escort and Slick),
in a wriggling carmine-rash fashion frenzy
of glossed-over puckered-up smackerel.

They giggle as they tinker,
suckers for that 'new look you'.
They dab and smear, they pout like trout,
they're hooked, line and sinker;
but collar-kissable darlings, to be fair,
gasping for air
with not much between the gills,
these mercurial beauties,
to get quite so giddy over bright red lippy.

Thanks for reading, S ;-)

Thursday, 3 January 2019

Cliches

11:20:00 Posted by Adele Robinson , , , 2 comments

cliché

noun


  • 1A phrase or opinion that is overused and betrays a lack of original thought.
    ‘that old cliché ‘a woman's place is in the home’’
    ‘the usual worn-out clichés about the English’
    mass noun ‘a mixture of good humour, innuendo, and cliché’
    1. 1.1 A very predictable or unoriginal thing or person.
      ‘each building is a mishmash of tired clichés’
      ‘you're a walking cliché’
    2. I thought that I would start with a definition today because I am struggling to find much to say on this topic, except that various writing tutors have advised me to steer clear of clichés in every genre of my work.
    1. The first thought I had was 'the face that launched a thousand ships', words uttered by playwright Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus regarding Helen of Troy. Naturally it would then be easy to continue in that vein and tell the story of the Trojan wars but of course - that is not what this blog is about. 
  • Considering clichés, it is easy to quote them, especially in the current times when our politicians and media constantly expose us to 'sound bites', and slogans. How many times during Theresa May's short tenure of the office of Prime Minister have we heard the phrase ' Strong and stable government.'  Margaret Thatcher famously coined the phrase, 'the lady's not for turning.' 
  • I could list a million clichés but I don't think it would make an interesting read, so I put on my thinking cap (please excuse the cliché) and thought about two people who were anything but average.  

Parker and Barrow

She was a blonde bombshell
With her eye on the prize
He was a man on a mission
With killer looks and a hot head.
It was love at first sight
And together they would paint the town red –
Set the world alight.
They went on a spree
Across the mid-west
Taking no prisoners.
They pillaged and killed
Anyone who stood in their way.
Then came the showdown
Their car was showered with bullets
A bloodbath.
Bonny and Clyde bit the dust
Their names are the stuff of legend
And a cliché for eternity.

Adele V Robinson



Saturday, 29 December 2018

Yuletide

It seemed appropriate for this 'betwixtmas' blog to cast a brief look back at the origins of the festive season we are currently enjoying, in all its layers of tradition. Here goes...

Prior to it being a Christian festival (literally Christ's Mass) celebrating the birth of baby Jesus - who was actually born in September if forensic analysis of the historical data is to be believed (and why not?) - it was a seasonal observance of profound significance marking the 'turning of the year' at the winter solstice, as the shortest day passed and the new year beckoned.

This event was most acutely felt in the far north (from the Germanic tribes up through the Nordic lands) for winter there was particularly bleak and dark and the concept of yuletide derives from thence, jol or geol in Norse and Old English meaning feast and tide indicating a season or period of time. There is plenty of evidence that yuletide was a twelve-day festival (precursor of our Twelve Days of Christmas) with ritual observances and sacrifices to thank and appease the Gods (chief among them Odin), accompanied by lots of eating, drinking and making merry to lift the spirits of mere mortals at the lowest period of the year and a celebration of one more successful transition beyond the shortest, darkest days - light in our darkness as a symbol of hope and regeneration.


It was an event that was also marked in the slightly warmer and lighter winter of the Mediterranean lands, first in Greece in the Kronia, celebrating mighty Cronos and then in the Roman Empire where it morphed into the festival of Saturnalia in honour of the God Saturn (the Roman equivalent of Cronos). As well as generous libations to the God there was much feasting, carousing and the exchanging of gifts and poems (fore-runners of our presents and Christmas cards) over a seven day period from 17th to 23rd December. There was also a tradition of turning the tables, a day or days when roles became reversed and the masters would wait on their slaves in recognition of the service they gave throughout the rest of the year (as close to the original spirit of Boxing Day as you can get).

When Christianity began its pervasive progress north and westwards through Europe, it first of all lived beside and then shrewdly gradually co-opted the timetable and much of the symbolism of the older, pagan rituals - the Christmas tree with lights (originally candles pre-electricity) as a symbol of regeneration side by side with the nativity story; the exchanging of gifts latterly linked to the arrival of the shepherds and the magi presenting of lambs, gold, frankincense and myrrh to Jesus; the celebratory feasting and expression of goodwill to all men and so on.

Nowadays, with the influence of Christianity seemingly on the wane, significantly it is the older symbolism of our seasonal response to the cycle of the year that retains most power, if we did but know it, as we deck the halls with mistletoe and holly, put up our Christmas trees and strings of coloured lights and enjoy a holiday to cheer us through the darkest days and celebrate having turned the bleakest corner of the year one more time.


I didn't have the opportunity to write a new poem on theme this week, it's all been a bit of a manic scramble if I'm honest; but at least it's been fun and spending time with loved ones was the priority.

Given that's the case, here's something that has been gestating for a while, has a tenuous link (better than none) to the seasonal idea of gifting and - in the absence of anything more appropriate - has persuaded me against my better judgement that finally its moment has come. I have to stress that although it is rooted in a couple of true events, in the end it is as fictive as the best Christmas myths.

Thanks For The Marmalade
I want to find romance
With a partner
Who won't lead me a merry dance

You are decorative
And articulate
But there's not a chance you'll give
All your heart for love

When the grief
Outweighs the pleasure
Then I think we know
It's time to let you go
Take back your five gold rings

Though this dream was doomed to fade
I wish you nothing but good things
Thanks for the marmalade
Sorry I ironed your carpet
I go to seek another
So long, lover...

There you have it. I think we're done here. I have thank you letters to write.

Until 2019, enjoy the rest of the holiday and a Happy New Year to all, Steve ;-)

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Christmas..... I Remember..

08:34:00 Posted by Jill Reidy Red Snapper Photography , , , , , , , 3 comments

I can still feel the excitement from Christmases more than sixty years ago when I was a child. I can taste the satsumas from the bowl on the table at my granny’s; hear the crackle of a Quality Street wrapper as the chocolate was revealed - and quickly consumed; smell the cigars distributed to the men by my grandad just once a year. 

As 1950s children we rarely had such feasts as the ones my granny set out on that polished wooden table: dishes full of chocolates and sweets; bowls piled high with oranges and tangerines, grapes and bananas; Turkish Delight in a thin wooden box, icing sugar snowing down on the table as we sneaked out a sweet jelly cube; nuts with a special nutcracker that you had to squeeze as hard as your little hands could manage, before passing it to dad or uncle to do the job properly. If they were very clever they could produce a nut, perfectly whole and unscathed. 

At home, we were never allowed to help ourselves to food, we always had to ask. Here, at granny’s on Christmas Day we were encouraged to dip into the bowls and fill our glasses with fizzy pop (something else that only appeared on special occasions).  It was always a magical day. My cousins had travelled, with my aunt and uncle, the eighty miles from Margate (another world to us kids) and were already at granny’s when we arrived. 

Each year Father Christmas appeared at the back window, heavily bearded and hooded, a big black sack over his shoulder. There was great excitement while one of the adults went outside to let him in. Although we had our suspicions, it took us a few years to actually admit to ourselves and each other that Santa was our dad dressed up for the part. After all, it was strange how dad was never in the room when Father Christmas came in. 

One year the man in red appeared as usual, and knocked on the window to be let in. Sure enough, dad had left the room only minutes before. We children grinned at each other. “It’s only dad,” said my older brother cockily, watching for my younger brother’s reaction. “It’s not!” insisted John, close to tears, while Geoff continued to nod his head and grin. 

Just then, Father Christmas made his entrance and we gathered round the sack. Presents were distributed, and, with a lot of ho ho ho-ing Santa turned to go - just as the door opened and in walked dad. It was sometime later that we discovered my mum had persuaded her brother to call round and act the part. Such was our shock that I think we all had a couple more years of believing after that. 

Each Christmas my brothers and I would ‘do a turn.’ One year I persuaded my little brother to don a headscarf, apron and women’s slippers and act out a monologue (which became a duologue) with me. He told me recently he still remembers the words. The next Christmas it was Charlie Drake’s, ‘I Lost My Mummy,’ with lots of fake crying from the youngest actor, and another year we all mimed to Bernard Cribbins’ ‘Hole in the Ground.’  My older brother’s turn invariably ended with a squirting cigar or something flying through the air at the audience.  I can hear the family’s laughter as clearly as if it were yesterday. 

Sadly, although there will inevitably still be laughter this Christmas, it is one tinged with sadness. It’s the first in sixty six years without my dad (AKA Spamhead), who passed away three weeks ago, and although I’ve not seen him every one of those Christmas Days he’s always been around before or afterwards to receive his presents and accept thanks for the ones bought for us by mum. Over the years we all came to realise that dad didn’t really like presents unless they consisted of food, or vouchers to be exchanged for something edible.  He loved an outing to M&S Food where he would drive mum mad by filling a trolley with Spam (hence his nickname), cheese, ox tongue, prawns and his favourite lobsters.  

I hadn’t got round to buying the voucher before he died, but I had bought extra warm socks for his bad circulation, and an apron to catch the food that always ended up on his jumper. I’m wearing the socks as I type, and my mum tells me he would never have worn the apron: he didn’t believe he spilled a thing. My eldest son tells me he will wear it with pride.

My dad was ninety two, he had a great life, right up to the end, and that makes me happy. He was a lovely dad, granddad and great granddad and he was the best Father Christmas ever. 


I usually write a poem on the week’s theme but today I’d like to pay homage to my lovely dad and post part of the eulogy I read out at his funeral. This was something I wrote for Father’s Day a few years ago, and amended just recently. I’d based it on looking through old photos, which seems even more poignant today. 


Dear Dad,

You are the slim young man with the thick wavy hair, caught forever in the 1940s, strolling with mum along the prom at Margate; you are the proud father of one, two and – whoops – three babies, reluctantly posing against the1950s décor; you are the stressed looking thirty-something, sprung to life in a fading Polaroid, with three grinning teens in ‘60s shades; you are the pale, gaunt figure, with empty eyes, in the grip of a deep depression – knife poised above the Silver Wedding cake; you are the handsome dad, smiling self-consciously at your sons’ weddings, beaming at the congregation as you walk me proudly down the aisle;  you are the relaxed and happy grey-haired man in 70s sweater, gazing fondly at the first of eight grandchildren; you are the proud husband at the end of the century, fifty years married, squinting as the sun makes a sudden break through the clouds, and your family laughs around you; you are the octogenarian magician, mesmerising great-grandchildren; you are the slightly stooping, white haired man, serenading mum on your Diamond Wedding Anniversary, as I wipe away tears; you are the grinning 90 year old, looking down adoringly as you and mum cradle the long awaited twins, nearly but not quite, the last of your nine great grandchildren……

You were my 92 year old dad. I loved you dearly and I always will.  Your favourite daughter, JK xxx


Thanks for reading,  Jill


Saturday, 22 December 2018

Retronymy

At least one fellow blogger has stumbled (albeit most entertainingly) way off into the etymological weeds when getting to grips with this week's given subject. Subsequently, Adele berated me saying I should have provided a helpful definition up-front. Perhaps she's right. Belatedly, here it is.

Retronymy is the process of creating new words for an existing concept in recognition of the fact the concept has evolved and broadened sufficiently to make the original name imprecise.

Take the word guitar for example. A hundred years ago (and more) a guitar was just a guitar. I'm over-simplifying mightily, because actually the history of the guitar goes back approximately 4,000 years to Babylonia, then Persia (sihtar), Ancient Greece (kithara) and Moorish Spain (guittara), but for the sake of this explication there were only guitars - hollow bodied wooden instruments with a sound hole bridged by six taut strings of various thicknesses which produced music when plucked or strummed. That was before electricity.

Can you see where this is going? Once the first chords had rung out from the first electric guitar in the 1930s then that old hollow-bodied wooden instrument with a sound hole bridged by six taut strings et cetera was renamed the acoustic guitar - voila, retronymy in action.

Retronymously Acoustic - a vintage 1929 Martin Guitar
A similar technological increment has seen the original watch become the pocket-watch when wrist-watches were devised (and no one apart from Jacob Rees-Mogg sports a pocket-watch any more); then the wrist-watch in turn become the analog wrist-watch with the advent of digital time-pieces - more retronymy.

The coining of a word to describe this act of retro-naming is credited to one Frank Mankiewicz, as recently as 1980. Mankiewicz was an American journalist, broadcaster and word-lover; (son, incidentally, of the man who wrote the screenplay for Orson Welles' 'Citizen Kane'). He is also believed to have come up with the phrase 'evergreening the language' (to describe the process of keeping it contemporary). The word retronymy was incorporated into standard English dictionaries around the millennium.

Here are some other examples of retronymys: the term Old World didn't exist before the New World was discovered; hand-written came into common usage once the typewriter had been invented, (for previously everything was just written); ice-skates became a term only after those with wheels had been devised (before that they were just skates); movies without sound started being referred to as silent movies with the advent of talkies; live music didn't acquire its adjective until recorded music became available...and so on. You can possibly call to mind other instances of retronymy; (push-bike, black & white photography, natural childbirth et cetera).

Returning to that first example of the guitar, shortly after the creation of the electric guitar, a four-string version with a lower register was devised, again in the 1930s. This was the bass guitar, my instrument of choice. In a curious inversion, the electric model of the bass came first and it was only when a hollow-bodied non-electric variant of the four-stringed instrument was pioneered in the 1950s that the bass guitar became known as the electric bass to differentiate it from the newer acoustic bass.

Retronymously Electric - your Saturday Blogger's 1960s Epiphone Bass
Now I'm suddenly troubled by a foolish worry that none of this may be of the slightest interest to anyone (please prove me wrong), so I'll hasten to a close by way of the week's new poem. Some of my more recent compositions have been a bit down-beat, mirroring the strange and troubling times we live in. I've tried to redress the balance a little with this more light-hearted (and interactive) tale, not perhaps one of my finest but hey, take it for what it is...

Permanence
Ouch!
Even as he lay braced
on the tattoo parlour couch
suffering pangs of love
for having undying devotion
to the amorous (insert girl's name)
emblazoned artfully
across his (choice of body part)
his clamorous mobile rang.
Damn!

A phone-call from (the same, see above);
he'd better take it, mate.
Hi babes...

The tattooist, pen laid aside
at ornamental RUTH & FRE
intending to step out for a break
was surprised by the sudden commotion:
a cry of angry despair,
Fred's mobile phone hurled at the wall
and such a torrent of swearing
(supply expletives to suit)
the studio air turned blue.
The upshot? That brazen (girl's name)
had just given his client the boot,
sadly not so besotted after all.

Half-inked and potted, poor Fred.
Such a predicament. Quick, think!
What to do with a semi-completed
but already seemingly redundant tattoo?
Fortune favours the clever
and that sharp-witted artist in ink
was inspired by a notion
to save the day - and his commission.

In just over an hour and at no extra cost
a painful but slightly mollified Fred
was able to walk away
loveless of course
but with  a timeless slogan which read:
TRUTH & FREEDOM 4 EVER
a maxim bound to stand him in good stead;
plus his phone was insured
so he felt (complete with appropriate emotion).

Thanks for reading. Merry Christmas to all 🎄 Stay true, stay tuned, Steve ;-)

Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Retronomy

“Vinyl is the real deal. I've always felt like, until you buy the vinyl record, you don't really own the album. And it's not just me or a little pet thing or some kind of retro romantic thing from the past. It is still alive”.
                                                                                                                                                                       Jack White (Singer, Songwriter)

Retronomy… although the word itself appears to be quite shy in ‘popular speak’, retronomy is generally used to signify newly developed concepts, that self-consciously refer to particular trends, music, modes, artefacts, products, fashions, or attitudes which are soaked in the essence of the recent past.

With reference to ‘all things retro’ the popularity of the phrase itself is relatively modern deriving from the 60s (but originally from the Latin prefix retro meaning backwards or in past times), which denoted new things which had strong characteristics of previous times.

This aspect of life has lead me to consider this question; ‘Why with all the advancements in modern life and technology do we still crave such archaic props or experiences to offer meaning to our lives?

The psychology of purchasing ‘vintage’ or ‘retro’ items is very much multi-layered. Often the impetus to buy retro is fuelled by the thrill of the chase, when searching for new items to swell an ever expanding collection. The internet has made it so much easier to obtain modern pieces online, which appears to be the new high street for shopping, but shopping for retro is very much an unparalleled treasure hunt. Therefore part of its allure is simply in the beauty of the process, where you will never know what you will find or learn when embarking on the journey.

Another reason for retro preference is a sense of participating in the history of the object itself. Modern items are ‘tabula rasas’ upon which we write a history, whereas more vintage pieces are already written on. The marks of age and time have already been branded and we want to add to it.

Further to this our recognition of the modern being a throwaway society compared with the old adage of "They don't make things the way they used to." Does imply that the quality, including materials, embellishments, and craftsmanship, in older pieces makes it purchase worthy.

Additionally, in a world of mass production, seeing yourself "coming and going" is an inevitability. We can easily disappear into the world of the ordinary whereas retro ensures originality. That ‘one-of-a-kindness’ that you cannot find anywhere else.

Finally and most simply, for the love of nostalgia and sentiment which prompts us to buy into the representation of it, with the retro piece becoming the embodiment of a bygone era.

So with this in mind… why do we have such a bittersweet relationship with nostalgia?

In life, change is very much the default setting, not the exception; so we are constantly surrounded in transformation, from physical growth to scientific discovery. Novelty, meanwhile, appears to offer the antidote to boredom and stagnation.

Nonetheless, individuals long for a sense of stability. Constant change has been seen to threaten our psychological well-being, especially when we are required to develop a new skillset to meet the demands of our acquired knowledge. Stress inevitably accompanies unexpected or extreme change, since our ability to control situations depends upon a reasonable degree of predictability.

Nostalgia therefore, offers an almost bittersweet window into the past. It’s sweet because it allows us to momentarily relive perceived ‘good times’; whereas it’s bitter because we recognize that those times can never return, and we will eventually return to our hectic dystopia.

Although nostalgia is a universal phenomenon, research has hinted that our nostalgic yearnings are more focused during periods of transition, like maturing into adulthood or aging into retirement. Relocation (such as work or home), or technological progress can also elicit these feelings.

In the face of instability, our mind will reach for our positive memories of the past, which tend to be more crystallized, than negative or neutral ones. We search for those moments where we felt safe, secure and contented. Previously, theorists tended to think of nostalgia as a bad thing – a retreat in the face of uncertainty, stress or unhappiness. Roderick Peters a renowned psychoanalytical theorist in 1985, described extreme nostalgia as debilitative, something “that persists and profoundly interferes with the individual’s attempts to cope with his present circumstances.” More contemporary opinions such as myself would contradict this somewhat maladaptive viewpoint.

Having worked in dementia care for so many years, and having seen the benefits (firsthand) with nostalgic reminiscence therapy, I can see how it offers a stabilizing force, especially when individuals with dementia are surrounded by confusion and disorientation to place and time. It can strengthen our sense of personal continuity, whilst reminding us that we possess a store of powerful memories that are deeply intertwined with our identity. Nostalgic memories that tend to focus on our relationships, can often comfort us during stressful or difficult times. Although individuals have become independent and mature (perhaps even a bit jaded), they often focused on their accumulated life roles from children, sibling, adult, parent etc. In developing a retrospective analysis of our lifelong experiences, we tend to find remembering that we have experienced unconditional positive regard, love, empathy, compassion, strength, belonging, etc. as we have aged, can offer a reassuring outlook for our present – especially during trying times. These memories offers the insight into our personal resilience, providing the courage to confront our fears, take reasonable risks and tackle challenges. Rather than creating a metaphorical prison, trapping us in the past, nostalgia can liberate us from adversity by promoting personal growth. Other recent studies have also identified that individuals with a greater propensity for nostalgia, cope better with adversity and are more likely to seek emotional support, advice and practical help from others. Interestingly, they are also more likely to avoid distractions which prevent them from confronting the issue and generating solutions. A word of caution: for all its benefits, nostalgia can also seduce us into retreating into a romanticized past (being tempted by the dark side)!

The desire to escape into the imagined, idealized world of a prior era – even one you weren’t alive for – represents a different, independent type of nostalgia is referred to as historical nostalgia.

Historical nostalgia often sits concurrently with a deep dissatisfaction with the present and a preference for the way things were long ago. Unlike personal nostalgia, someone who experiences historical nostalgia might have a more cynical or stigmatized perspective of the world, one coloured by pain, trauma, regret or adverse life experiences. The most recent need for identity has led to an unhealthy desire for all things WW2. This maligned longing for these misinterpreted and misunderstood ‘halcyon days’ of war and remembrance. It serves only to create a false memory of what it was like during such horrific times in our world’s history, whilst providing the participants a false escape from real life, which they hope not to return to, which in reality is only going to provide disappointment.

Ultimately, when we focus on our own life experiences – falling back on our store of happy memories – ‘nostalgia’, ‘vintageness’ and ‘retronomy’ are useful tool. It can be seen as a way to harness the past internally to endure change – and create hope for the future.



Gone Not forgotten
Gone not forgotten, time is for healing.
Memories of who we were in the crowd.
Using senses to enhance these feelings.
Sharing the stories and laughing out loud.


Remembering times spent together.
We wanted them to last forever.
Gone not forgotten, this is true.
All the things that remind me of you.


Thanks for reading, Steve McCarthy-Grunwald, December 2018