Note Number 48. . .New Year Writing. . .

happy new year

I thought for 2018 I would begin by reading my diary for 2017 and was shocked to see that the things I wrote in Jan last year, would pretty much be the same as I might write this year. So…nothing has changed! I have neither advanced nor retreated down the road to my goals. At least if I did advance at the beginning of the year I was retreating by March!

writing

I am still wanting to get fitter and with that, lose a few pounds. I haven’t got anywhere near finishing either of my novels and I hardly entered any writing competitions. Having told myself that I would do loads of writing, enter as many comps as I could and that I would definitely finish one novel.   I had such good intentions back in January 2017 and I meant every word. Ah well….

THIS MUST ALL CHANGE (I got the idea of caps from that chap in the White House).

I have already entered one competition,  The Mogford Short Story Prize (thanks Carolyn) I have a deadline on Sunday for  Little Red Writers and I’m scouring the Internet to see what other comps I can find. I have seen that there is a Fish Memoir Prize with a closing date of 31st January, it’s time to dig something out and polish it up. I don’t enter these things to win, (that would be a bonus) it’s the taking part that counts and the fact that it encourages me to finish short stories and poems and not leave them hanging about half written, unedited or lost in a maze of files on my computer. I attend a couple of writing groups and the other scribblers (I hope they don’t mind me calling them that) who attend are so encouraging and helpful. This year I’m determined not to let them down. It’s great to have writing buddies but if you don’t take up their advice then what’s the point?

write on

ONWARD AND UPWARD…(there’s those caps again). Getting fit will happen, stories and poems that have been started WILL be finished and new works created – and ONE OF THOSE NOVELS WILL BE COMPLETED! I’ve said it, now let’s see if I can carry it through.

Happy New Year to all. Happy writing and happy whatever else you enjoy doing!

fitness-clip-art-50 copy

Note Number 47. . .How I remember Christmas. . .1955-1960 (approx)

family

Family Songs Around the Piano

It’s easy to become nostalgic at this time of the year. . .it was all so different when I was a kid, but is that because I was a kid? Or were things really different? Less commercial I’m sure and our expectations were way lower. . . Whatever it’s all good fun. This poem is for my brother Tony, who was often away at Christmas because he was at a choir School and had to sing on Christmas day. Also for my sister Jean,  her birthday is on the 23rd December (the day I’m uploading this). I’ve always felt sorry for her having her birthday so close to Christmas as I’m sure people used to give her a joint present. I think she should celebrate in the summertime and have an official birthday too. I’m sure I know at least one person who does that . . .

As ever, press the play button to listen or scroll on down to read. . .

When I was a kid there was much less fuss
No starting in September to beat the Christmas rush
We never got excited before the twenty-fourth
Any early preparations were of the culinary sort

Mother made a pudding and we all gave it a stirchristmasput
She’d put a sixpence in it, and a spoonful of liqueur
Nowadays the sixpence is outlawed in every pud
As you might choke, or break a tooth and that would not be good

Father carved the turkey, mother drank the sherry
Brother played the piano and we sang, all warm and merry
Sister talked about her boyfriend, though I think she told me fibs
And I laughed out loud and ate so much until it hurt my ribs

Crackers and silly hats were the order of the day
You read the joke aloud before you threw it straight away
Mother kept all the bits of tinsel and crepe paper
She always said she would find a use for it, sooner or later

On Boxing day, we ventured up the M1 in our Ford
The journey took ages, as long as going abroad
We’d visit Auntie Florence in her big house with an Aga
Tea and cakes in the dining room – it was a huge palaver

The table was enormous, full-size for playing snooker
With mahogany cover, and fancy cloth – it was quite a looker
Heaving with meringues, coconut pyramids and scones
My aunt never had a problem keeping up with the Jones

Other aunts and cousins were all gathered with us there
The kids all liked each other, we didn’t really have a care
The grown ups used to send us in the garden for a run
‘Go and see the rabbits’ they’d say, ‘it will be so much fun’

The journey home to Ruislip was done well after dark
My dad driving recklessly, thinking it would be a lark
I vowed one day I’d have an Aga so that I could make and bake
Those mouth-watering meringues and other sumptuous cake

Ninette Hartley © December 2017

christmas tree

 

As an adult, I did manage to have an Aga for a while and it made the most wonderful meringues. . . meringue

 

Note Number 46…Office Christmas Party…

party-time

My second Christmas poem is based around a party that many of us will have attended at least once…  It’s probably not very PC but then office parties often aren’t…

Click the play button to listen or see below to read the text: –

I should just mention before I go that I forgot to bring in the Mistletoe. . . But, maybe that will be for the best, for today, a kiss underneath it could lead to arrest. . .

mistletoe

Office Christmas Party

When the boss popped the cork on a bottle of pop
Freda from lettings was already half-shot.
that chap from accounts, mild-mannered Jim
has got something disgusting stuck on his chin
it could be an olive – whatever – it’s gross.
that secretary Jane is getting quite close
she picks off the green thing with certain aplomb
flicks it over her shoulder where it lands, splat on Tom
now he’s had a few drinks he’ll be telling wild tales
I’m surprised he fancies that girl from sales
I rather thought he would lean the other way
and grab the chance to get close to Ray
Alison Bartlett adjusts a plentiful bust
puckers her lips and oozes with lust
the music is on, getting louder and faster
she’s looking around – who will she be after?
not too steady on the high heel shoes
whoops! She’s made a beeline for the loos
a relief for them all except poor Bert
who’s longs for Alison every day at work
each Christmas party he waits to dive
for if there’s one thing Bert can do, it’s jive
he pounces when the song is right
they’re on the floor, he’s holding her tight
but the music changes to the Christmas conga
and Alison, as ever, is his no longer
red faces a’plenty, throughout the room
taxis are called, the party’s over, what gloom
regrets in the morning will come with hindsight
as couples slope off to continue the night
the boss is delighted – the party succeeded
some, wine, food and nibbles, all that were needed
he relaxes, sits back, gives a huge weary sigh
to his employees’ antics he has turned a blind eye
as he lifts the hanky from out of his pocket
along with it comes Alison Bartlett’s gold locket
at least, he had meant it to be for her neck
instead he’d given her a leaving cheque
now home to his wife he could go without fear
he’d resisted temptation, at least ‘til next year

© Ninette Hartley December 2017

partytime

Note Number 45…Christmas is Coming…

I decided back in September to write enough Christmas Poems to fill a small book…ho ho ho, ha ha ha, I didn’t manage it. But I did write a few, so I’ll post them here over the next couple of weeks both written and recorded. Herewith is Rudolph’s Rebellion. First performed in public at Apothecary Words in Bridport on the 13th December 2017.

Rudolf’s Rebellion

reindeer-clip-art-41 copy

You can hear me read the poem if you click on the link below – otherwise read on…

Rudolf’s had enough
he’s fed up, he’s resigned
he doesn’t want to pull that sleigh
another bloody mile

he’s over it
he’s done his bit
round the world and back
every year, forever, with Santa and his sack

now he’s sat down on his haunches
he’s refused to budge an inch
FC shouted, spat and stamped
the other reindeer flinched

Rudolf was having none of itRudolf Text
he’d worked without a break
time to retire! Go out to grass
his pension he would take

I’ve had to raise the limit
of retirement for my lads
I must inform you of your rights
or lack of them, I should add

if you were born before the 50’s
you would have been okay
but sorry to tell you Rudolf
you missed it by a day.

you’ll have to draw your horns in
work longer for your money
what? splattered Rudolf
if that’s a joke it isn’t funny!

I know that you’ve worked long and hard,
I understand you are upset
and frankly with your bright red nose
you’re more than just a pet

but times are hard, the money’s short
austerity means there’s less
you’ll have to give me one more year
and then we’ll re-assess

I’m getting old, my bones all ache
my flat feet all have corns
I get out of breath when in the clouds
and my antlers are all shorn

well, what do you think it’s like for me?
climbing chimneys and the like
delivering toys, of every kind,
every other one a bike

Dasher and Dancer looked forlorn
Vixen and Comet distraught
Cupid, Dunder and Donner were drunk
they’d finished last year’s port

don’t worry, I can sort it out
said Santa to the rest
I’ll talk to Rudolf, make him see
remaining with us is the best

Rudolf sighed, there seemed no choice,
but he wanted to leave while able
just talking about it made no sense
with no offers on the table

the leaders canvassed long and hard
should Rudolph leave or remain?
everyone had to take a vote
no-one could abstain

the outcome wasn’t decisive
with a split of fifty-fifty
vote rigging was suggested
the tellers all looked shifty

after one more round of talks –
more like shouting verbal abuse
no further progress could be made –
not in time for the evening news

they agreed to defer any action
until after this Christmas was done
but with his eye fixed securely on Rudolph
father Christmas began cleaning his gun. . .

santa-with-gun copy

HO HO HO….

Ninette Hartley© December 2017

Note Number 44…Fitter Not Fatter…

It’s been a funny old year with plenty of ups and downs healthwise. Back in April I was diagnosed with Temporal Arteritis...no, I hadn’t heard of it either but I had a lot of headaches which wouldn’t ease with the taking of a paracetamol and I felt generally exhausted and unwell. When I went to the doctor and said that I had a headache but that also my scalp was very sore and I didn’t want to touch it…the alarm bells rang…blood samples were taken for tests and the next day the doctor rang urging me to go straight to the surgery whereupon she told me that the level of CRP (C-reactive protein levels, whatever that is) in my blood, was sky-high and that there was a strong possibility that I had TA. I was immediately prescribed steroids (prednisolone)  60 mg a day and booked in for a Temporal Artery Biopsy (they take a little bit of your artery out of the side of your head – yikes!). It was all very scary.

doctor

The result of the biopsy was inconclusive but when I saw the rheumatologist he decided that we (him and me I guess) should err on the side of caution. He said that it was at least 85% certain that I had TA and it can cause blindness which  seemed pretty serious.  The steroids were to be continued and gradually reduced over a period of time. It is now December and I’m down to 3 mg a day. The reason I’m telling you all this is because steroids can increase your weight, well,in the words of my son who is a nurse, ‘steroids make you feel hungry all the time mum they don’t actually make you put on the pounds. You just have to be strong!’ Thanks a bunch.
They make you want to eat as they give you this weird sensation in your mouth making it salivate  and giving you the constant feeling of needing to stuff your face.  ‘Eat a carrot or some celery!’ shouts the do-gooder…

It was all rather annoying as I had actually just lost ten pounds in Jan/Feb of 2017, and I tried hard not to eat but I’m afraid I did manage to pile those naughty pounds back on. You will have seen that I’ve cut down drastically on my alcohol intake and have enjoyed only the occasional G&T since the end of October and have expanded my cellar of non-alcoholic or de-alcholised wine. I’m coping with it well and last weekend when I took a sip of Sancerre, I actually found it too strong. Now my mother would be amazed that any of her children were not imbibing in some way. She had heart problems and I don’t want those as well as my TA so now that I’m on a reduced steroid dosage and I’m beginning to feel a bit like my old self,  I’ve put my mind to getting fitter and eating sensibly. .

As you know I’ve started the Laban Dance Class and I walk the dog every day for at least 2k and now, now –  ladies and gentlemen, I have begun the Yoga class. I thought it would be a doddle but let me tell you right now, IT IS NO SUCH THING.  There’s lots of breathing, stretching, bending all at the same time AND I will have to learn another new language – yoga-speak. I will never remember the names of all the different moves, poses and positions. But I did love doing it. Especially the relaxing meditation at the end of the class. I’m sure all my children will be delighted that in my late 60’s I’m finally going to be cool, calm and collected.    And breathe. . .

 

PS:  The yoga might have been easier had I not tripped over during the second Laban Dance Class and now have a sore wrist and a rather large bruise on my right knee. I must learn not to show off…

Note Number 43…Does What you Read Affect your mood…?

Book

I was pondering this question this morning after reading for half an hour or so. I’m nearly at the end of a book by Edith Wharton, The Custom of the Country. I’m reading it because one of Sophie Duffy’s #100WomenNovelists focused on her and her book Summer. I tried to get that from Bridport library but it wasn’t in stock. They did have The Custom of the Country,  so I took that instead and I ordered Summer from Amazon and it’s here but sitting on the bookshelf yet to be opened.

The Custom of the Country is a wonderful piece of literature, beautiful words, interesting characters and a story long in its unfolding. However, the heroine Undine Spragg is an annoying specimen of an early 20th Century American, social-climbing, empty-headed, spoilt brat! Her husband is weak and he takes on the same attitude that her father had previously, allowing her to ‘spend, spend, spend’ for fear she might have a fit of the vapours and take to her bed for weeks on end. We are not supposed to like her I’m sure, but I detest her to the point where I want to smack her good and hard. It’s been a long read for me and I’ve tried hard not to skip pages, but I have found it somewhat unsatisfying that she hasn’t yet had her comeuppance, although the third husband, I think will provide this. I hope so anyway.

I was cross this morning with the fact that her second husband shoots himself because he can’t come up with enough money to ‘buy’ their son. A child she hasn’t bothered with for a few years and does not care for at all. She knows that she can win him in the courts without a problem and sees it as a way to fill her rather empty bank account. In the end of course, she gets the son, and by chance ends up getting a portion of the money left to him by his father. It’s a long story but the ex-husband gambled on the stock market and the money didn’t come through in the desired time, it did however, come to fruition some time after his death. Poor man. Undine’s status, meanwhile, goes from being a divorcee to a widow which is far more appealing to her ‘Paris Set’. She always comes out on top…until now I suspect/hope.

I closed the book this morning and found myself feeling fed up and in a grumpy mood. All because Undine Spragg is such an unpleasant character. I’ve only a few pages left to read…let’s hope it ends in a way which be satifying and put me in a great mood for the rest of the week. I’ll let you know.

How does reading affect your mood?

 

Note Number 42…List of Missing Blog Posts and Laban Dance…

It’s been a while since I blogged and it’s a pity because I have done many things in November and now the moment for writing about them has passed.

Here’s a quick list of activities…

French classes
Writing
Procrastinating (I’ve had great tips from The Man on how to do this)
London for the day (for lunch…as you do)
Bristol for two days
Writing meetings x 4
Writing workshop in Dorchester
Playing cards
World Cinema with the Bridport Film Society every other Tuesday
Meeting with friends for coffee
Meeting family for Sunday lunch
Meeting friends for Sunday lunch
Losing the dog (we found her again)
Poetry workshop (how to improve performance)
Halloween and Fireworks…with family
To Yeovil to see Steeleye Span…(I coveted Maddy Prior’s blue/silver velvet jacket…I want one!)All around my hat…etc.,
Washing, Ironing, Cooking and the rest…
Dog walking
Dieting
I’m still on the non alcoholic wines although I have had a couple of G&Ts.

If you would like to know more about any of the above, tough…Although some of them may raise their heads in the future…Now read on!

Group Best

Group Photo

Big day today…(Wednesday) I got up from my computer where I’d been sitting writing poems for Christmas and playing Lexulous, looking at Facebook and Internet shopping…(generally procrastinating as above) and I took myself along to the village hall in Salway Ash to join a Laban Dance class. I wasn’t sure what to expect so it was with slight trepidation that I donned my leggings and a baggy top, took a towel, a bottle of water, a basin full of courage and went off to the class. I was a dance teacher for over twenty-five years, ballet, tap, modern and creative dance…but I have had little experience with Contemporary dance. I LOVED it. It was liberating, energizing and so wonderful to get the old muscles and bones moving again. It’s all very well walking the dog each day but that’s not physically creative and you don’t stretch and move every part of your body. They say that swimming is good for you because you use all your muscles, well I don’t like swimming and for me dance is a far better option.

The other members of the class were welcoming and it was a pleasure to work with them all. We danced independently, in pairs or in small groups. We choreographed small pieces guided by the inspiring dance teacher, Wendy. She helped and improved on our ideas without being pushy or demanding. She brought out the best in all of us so we all felt proud of our achievements.

pointing

Group Photo with Me…(centre front) 

Being a ‘newby’ I was anxious to do everything correctly, but of course, there is no correct or incorrect way, you work to the best of your ability and importantly enjoy it. I couldn’t believe how much energy there was in the room. Three hours fairly flew by…we did stop for tea, biscuits and a natter, for about twenty minutes during the afternoon.

I’m thinking now that perhaps I can bring a bit of Laban into the dog walking. After all I hardly see anyone when I’m out and I could develop my walking, running and general movement. Not sure what the dog would make of it though…I might have to lengthen her lead. Work with me here…

Teacher (Wendy) is centre back in top photo… I don’t know the names of the others taking part, but they were all lovely people! 

I’m looking forward to next week’s class, in fact I can’t wait. Why don’t you try it? Find out if there is a dance class for the more mature person, close to you. It might not be Laban but any dance is good. It keeps your body and mind active stimulating the old endomorphines…know what I mean? The feel good factor!