The Bulging Wardrobe: part two

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So why is it so hard to discard clothes that a) no longer fit, b) no longer suit, c) are worn out?

After much debate with myself, I have decided that it is not that I am lazy, or even over dependent on my possessions. I can’t bring myself to get rid of clothes I no longer wear, because the clothes are part of my history. Each garment tells its own story and to get rid of it will be to lose that memory. The further back things go, the more precious the memory.

That green flowered skirt, I bought in the street market in the small town where we used to live. The stall holder made her living selling clothes, most probably seconds but I could never be sure, from shops like Monsoon and Phool. It was the time when full flowing, Indian cotton shirts and tops were very fashionable and hers were cheap and different.

I bought my skirt because I loved the colours and because my ex-mother-in-law had given me some money to spend on myself.

The skirt then, is inextricably linked with Kitty. My children’s nana and the best of all mothers-in-law. A lady who was always there to help out with the kids, who never criticised my child-rearing, or housekeeping and when my marriage broke down was there to support me, ringing me every week to see if I was all right.

A keen gymnast in her day, she would entertain us with photographs of her in the most amazing positions, bent over backwards, her foot touching her forehead, balanced on a triangle of other girls, all in twenties gymnastic outfits.

Her chips were brilliant, her oatcakes, a local Potteries delicacy and nothing to do with a cracker, were the best.

And her tea! Put on to brew the moment she knew you were coming, it would simmer gently in its metal teapot, on top of the cooker, until it was ready to be poured, thick and brown like water from a peatbog.

Not everyone’s favourite brew, opinions about Nana’s tea varied throughout the family, but a powerful memory nevertheless.

 

 

The Bulging Wardrobe: part one

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…and what to do about it, or, alternatively, how to declutter your life. That last statement might sound a little ambitious, in fact I’m not sure it’s entirely relevant, but if I start with my clothes, who knows where my new found resolution will end.

As you can see from the picture above, my wardrobe is bulging at the seams. Although everything has been ironed, because it has to be squeezed in between all the other hangers, it gets creased almost as soon as it is put away. Not only that, but once thrust into the darkest recesses clothes have a mysterious way of sliding off their hangers and hiding at the back of the cupboard and the only way to find what I’ve decided I’d like to wear, is to take everything out, bit by bit, lay it on the bed, until either the room resembles a jumble sale, or I find what I was looking for.

I’ve never believed in the adage that you buy one throw one out. I always think, and I’ve been proved right on numerous occasions, if you wait long enough the item will come back into fashion. Sometimes, admittedly, it’s not quite the same, but how many times have we seen bo-ho chic, or pencil skirts, or Capri pants as the must have piece for this year?

So, I have kept clothes dating at least a couple of decades back, and boots for longer than that. Which is fine, but most of the time, I either don’t know where they are, or I’ve forgotten I possess them.

A year or so back, I did a whole six months when I wore a different outfit every day. (I have the pictures to prove it.) The whole exercise took some thought and imagination, but, to be honest, I have so much stuff that I could have kept going for the rest of the year. What stopped me was the time and effort it took.

It’s so much easier to reach in take something off the rail, add a top, or trousers that complement it and get on with the rest of the day.

There’s also the question of whether something I wore in my thirties still looks good. It was this that finally tipped the balance. Trying on a shirt I used to wear, which still fitted, but no longer suited me, I knew it had to go.

This was the obvious solution, so too getting rid of faded T-shirts and worn jumpers. Why then is it so hard to do?

The answer comes in my next post.

Techno Babies

 

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Give a toddler a piece of technology and they seem instinctively to know what to do with it. They use i-pads and tablets as easily as we used to turn the pages of a board book and as soon as they can the nag their parents for a phone, which they will use, naturally, to access cartoons and photos. Once they learn to read and write messaging and googling will be added to their list of skills.

At school, using the computer almost goes without comment. Everyone does it. It’s both a way of learning and being assessed on what you have learned.

Two, or three generations back from this techno savvy tribe, it’s not so easy. Sure, I can use a computer, a lap top, and I do have a smart phone, though more on that in another blog. I google and e-mail and FB and tweet. I use websites to buy stuff. I’m a regular user of Amazon and I have, in the past, uploaded the e-book versions of my “Dragonfire Trilogy”.

The difference between my techno activity and that of my children and their children is that I have to think about it.

While they reach for their phones, access the information, add an app, or two, it takes me a long time to work out how to do it, to the point at which I sometimes wonder why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier, I think, to sit at my desk and just write?

Sure, but then I wouldn’t be doing this. I wouldn’t be communicating with my friends, or my readers, or engaging in the world of writing and publishing, all of which I enjoy.

So, I’ll post this and then I’ll dig my smart phone out of the bottom of my bag and put it on charge.

Give a toddler a piece of technology and they seem instinctively to know what to do with it. They use i-pads and tablets as easily as we used to turn the pages of a board book and as soon as they can the nag their parents for a phone, which they will use, naturally, to access cartoons and photos. Once they learn to read and write messaging and googling will be added to their list of skills.

At school, using the computer almost goes without comment. Everyone does it. It’s both a way of learning and being assessed on what you have learned.

Two, or three generations back from this techno savvy tribe, it’s not so easy. Sure, I can use a computer, a lap top, and I do have a smart phone, though more on that in another blog. I google and e-mail and FB and tweet. I use websites to buy stuff. I’m a regular user of Amazon and I have, in the past, uploaded the e-book versions of my “Dragonfire Trilogy”.

The difference between my techno activity and that of my children and their children is that I have to think about it.

While they reach for their phones, access the information, add an app, or two, it takes me a long time to work out how to do it, to the point at which I sometimes wonder why I bother.

Wouldn’t it be so much easier, I think, to sit at my desk and just write?

Sure, but then I wouldn’t be doing this. I wouldn’t be communicating with my friends, or my readers, or engaging in the world of writing and publishing, all of which I enjoy.

So, I’ll post this and then I’ll dig my smart phone out of the bottom of my bag and put it on charge.

 

The Best Intentions…

The best intentions don’t always come to fruition. Once this would have sent up stress and tension, now I take a more laid back view. There is, after all, something very artificial about making resolutions on a certain date, which you promise yourself you will keep to for the rest of the year, regardless of what life throws at you, good or bad.

So, 2017 no New Year’s Resolutions, just a determination to do more of the same. After all 2016 was not a bad year.

It began with the publication of “Picking up the Pieces.” During which process a great number of lessons, some painful, others not were learned.

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Most important of all being, a thorough proof-read is vital. A good editor even more so. Thank you Peter Coleborn and Jeanne Wood.

What worked really well was the tea party I gave to launch the book. I kept it small and local. Cake was baked and wine chilled, friends and neighbours came and books were sold. Best of all, it was an occasion that everyone enjoyed and out of it came a sense of community that we hadn’t had before. Also, for me, it was another validation of myself as a writer.

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The autobiography project was another boost. Being asked to ghost write the life story of a local person was challenging, although my subject Wilhelmina Slight, couldn’t have been better. Not only was her life story fascinating, but as time went on she recalled more and more, so there was an abundance of material to chose from. And cake. At every interview she produced the most delicious coffee and cake.

 

That was followed by the Hot Air Literary Festival. Where I was on a panel on how to get published, talking about the place of the Indie Press in the publishing world. Thank you Penkhull Press and Tristram Hunt.

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At the end of the summer came the Live Age festival and another panel with fellow local authors. Jan Edwards, Ralph Alcock, Susan Bolton and once again Peter Coleborn, whose live-age16Alchemy Press has won well deserved awards, provided the professional view of small press publishing.

In the autumn, I hosted the annual Reading Cafe at the Gladstone Pottery museum and later on took part in my first public performance, “Our Lives in Art” with the Ages and Stages Theatre Company at Keele University.

Following that came the Christmas show put on the other drama group I go to. It was a condensed reading, thank you Jenni Spangler, of “Christmas is Cancelled” a play I wrote for a cast of thousands, which Jenni reduced very successfully to seven voices.

In the meantime, Jan and I set up 6×6 Reading Cafe at the City Library in Hanley and made regular appearances on 6Towns Radio.

And I wrote 65,000 words of my new novel. Edited the second edition of “Clear Gold” and read and commented on ms from other writers.

To round off the year my story came out in “Weird Ales 2” and was launched at Sledge Lit. 51htiaesyzl-_ac_us218_

 

 

 

Unicorns:The Truth

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In the middle of my crib scene every Christmas there is a unicorn. There is no biblical evidence for including this creature, but for me it fits perfectly. Unicorns are magical, if not spiritual beasts and there is a long tradition of linking the unicorn with the Virgin Mary.

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In this picture of the annunciation, the unicorn is being held by the virgin herself and this link with unicorns and virgins is the one most people would know.

Why that should be so has always fascinated me. The unicorn is untameable and wild. It can only be captured by a young girl, going alone into a forest, sitting down and waiting for it to appear and put its head in her lap. So do the legends symbolise the power of virginity over lust, or perhaps over magic?  Both were feared as a threat by the Medieval Church, which seems to have turned the unicorn into a representation of love; it also stands for loyalty and love in marriage.

Softened the unicorn becomes harmless. Nowadays it’s a cuddly cute, sometimes winged creature who is far too plump to fly, or even canter at any great speed.

It is time then to reinstate the unicorn to its rightful place in the pantheon of mythical beasts. Unicorns are wild and unpredictable. They kill the knights who are sent to hunt them down. They don’t grant wishes, or give kids rides on their backs. And they can be evil.

Not all unicorns are white, in fact very few are, as white, outside the polar regions is an anomaly. The white unicorn, with the silver horn, is the albino, the outcast. The true unicorn is the black, one horned beast that roams the forests of your mind and whose eyes glow red through your nightmares.

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The Christmas Crib

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When I rang my mum this afternoon she was about to start setting up the crib ready for Christmas Eve. Every year the Nativity figures come out of their box, brown paper is crumpled up to make the cave and the wooden ornaments that stand on the living room shelves become part of the scene. It doesn’t matter that the original characters are made of plastic and are much smaller than the cotton wool sheep, or the wooden shepherds, or that a whole menagerie of zoo animals are pressed into service, this is how it has always been done.

Tomorrow, when her great-grand-children come over for their pre-Christmas visit, five year old Maddy will put the Christ child in the manger to mark the start of the celebrations.

Like Mum, I too set up the crib every year. Mine is in the dining room and is also made up of a disparate collection of figures and for me, too, it’s the start of Christmas. Because how can you have Christmas without a reference to the events that started it all?

Whether or not you believe, a story of a dispossessed family, helped by kindly strangers, is one that has and will continue to have relevance to the world we live in.

There is too, something comforting and life affirming about the passing down of  family traditions from one generation to the next.