About Me

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On the bright side of the road
Lover of words. Usually found with a book or a pen in my hand.

Friday, 9 February 2018

WinterFest: to warm the cockles of your heart

Image courtesy of Natureflip
Just along the coast from me lies the little town of Brightlingsea. And last Sunday afternoon I attended a Spoken Work Open Mic event which is part of their WinterFest programme.

I found out about it through the power of social media and I dragged along Lovely Son and Lovely Writerly Friend. It was a freeeeezing day and the loft of the sailing club was quite chilly but we were entertained by some wonderfully talented writers and storytellers. I've never been to a spoken word event before but wow! I'm converted.

One of my favourite poets was Dorothy O'Grady whose silken words gently moved me. Lovely Writerly Friend gave a cheer at the end of her performance and afterwards, Dorothy came over to introduce herself and we had a lovely chat. It turns out she is also in a folk band called The Columbines and so I plan to try and catch them over the summer (https://www.columbinesmusic.com/).

I'd not heard of the Brightlingsea WinterFest before and so I did some Googling when I got home. And I was amazed that this little town by the water holds this cultural programme each year. This year events started on 27th January and run until 25th February and there really is something for everyone: various music events, a winter walk, comedy night, a wellbeing day....... And it's all in aid of the charity Mid & North Essex Mind.

Here's a quote from their website, explaining what it's all about:

'Since it began in 2015, WinterFest has been helping fight depression by raising spirits and developing a sense of community during the darkest time of the year. It's a serious subject, but we have a lot of fun with a host of music, arts and other events taking place throughout February.'

To find out more, do please take a look at their website: https://www.brightlingseawinterfest.co.uk/

What a wonderful way to lighten up February. The three of us all had a lovely time, and I've tentatively agreed to take part in the Spoken Word event next year......so I'd better start working on my piece!

Wednesday, 31 January 2018

The inevitable end

It's a difficult subject to talk about, death. I know that there are 'death cafes' here and there where people can talk openly about it. There is the Day of the Dead in Mexico where families celebrate their dead. But in our culture, we fear it. The inevitability of it. The end.

It's a topic I've been tussling with for a while. Last year we lost my mother-in-law who had suffered with Alzheimer's for many years, and my father who was fit and well but died shockingly in an awful accident. So we've been grieving on both sides of the family.

Dad and Me - my wedding day
Added to that, I've been researching my family's past for a story I want to write. It's an unusual story but hasn't been well documented. Through my research I met with a distant relative last week who has discovered much. It was lovely to meet him and to share our information and look at old photographs. The thing that got to me (and my relative) is that each of the people we were looking at had a life, a story. They were important to those around them, but now they have been forgotten.

My great-grandfather was one of fifteen children: eleven boys and three girls. Eight of the boys went off to fight in the Great War and three of them died in France. There are no graves, just their names are inscribed onto a memorial. We have some history of the men of the family - but nothing of the women. All we know is that the mother of this large family was illiterate. We can find no trace of the daughters.

My mum said something strange to me last night. She doesn't want my dad's name removed from any records: bills, statements, anything. She said that she doesn't want him to be forgotten. I proclaimed that he won't be forgotten: how could we forget him?

And yet, for the next generation he will be just a photograph with perhaps some marks on a family tree. A life that was so vital will be nothing more than scratchy stories passed down the line.

Helen Dunmore was awarded the Cost Awards Book of the Year for Inside the Wave, last night and the poem she wrote in her last days, 'Hold Out Your Arms' is one of the most moving pieces I have read:

'As you push back my hair
- Which could do with a comb
But never mind -
You murmur
'We're nearly there.'

I've thought that I write to help me understand myself and the world around me. But I now know, that I also write to leave something behind. That perhaps next generations will have a little idea of who I was and that maybe I will help them to understand the world I live in. I'm not a great person, I'm quite unremarkable. But I live with love and hope and surely that counts for something?

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

Family History

I'm working on a historical piece at the moment. It's not my usual thing but an event in our family's history got me thinking and after much cogitating and rumination, the story is beginning to come together. I've never really thought much about family history although I loved to listen to the stories my nan would tell me. Some of my favourite memories are of taking her out for a drive and stopping at her favourite viewpoint to look out over the Lincolnshire Wolds. She was a wonderful storyteller and she looked back with humour and love that lit up her face. My uncle (her son) has done much piecing together of the family tree and has traced my father's line back to 1066. It's fascinating, and I love to talk to him about old relatives and imagine how their lives must have been.

But it is about an incident on my mother's side of the family that has piqued my interest. And on this side of the family, no-one seemed interested in remembering or passing on tales of long ago. Grandma talked of hardship and sorrow, her emotions still attached and raw, so asking her to remember ran the risk of upsetting her and so it was easier not to. Although no great disaster or misery befell her, her memories were usually sad.

With no-one to tell me stories, and no diaries or journals, I've been piecing together the puzzle that leads back to the time of my story: 1913-1914.

I'd always thought we were a small family but I've discovered that my grandma's father was one of fifteen children! Fifteen! Can you imagine? Through my research, I've
discovered that eight of the sons fought in the Great War, but only five returned (a grandson was also killed in action). I also discovered that there is a war memorial outside the North Lincolnshire Museum in Scunthorpe and my great-great-grandmother was invited to attend the opening ceremony.

I wonder why these little gems were never passed on. I wonder what their lives were like. I wonder why we have forgotten them. But that's the nature of life: we forget the little things that make a life. Each generation has its own path to follow. But I hope that by writing my story, I can get to know my ancestors just a little - although it will be with a huge dose of imagination!

Monday, 25 December 2017

#12DaysofFiction2017 Day 12

Image courtesy of theBERRY
‘Here you are.’

Daniel sat down in the chair next to her. ‘Are you ready to go?’

Dorothy was confused, still in the land of dreams.

‘I must have dozed off. I was thinking and remembering.’ She smiled at Daniel.

‘And then I saw a partridge and I wished.’

Daniel picked up the CD case that was on the table in front of her: Christmas Carols from the WI. The Twelve Days of Christmas was her favourite and she would sing it over and over again. It used to be Blackbird. He was glad she didn’t hum that song anymore.

Over the last couple of years Dorothy had become muddled. The memories were confusing and sometimes they melded with her dreams to create a different sort of reality.

‘We’d better get going, my love, if we’re to get to the church on time.’

 ‘I think I must have been dreaming,’ she said. ‘Did you ask me to marry you?’

Daniel smiled. ‘That was a long time ago. We’re going to the carol service now. Do you remember?’

Dorothy concentrated, putting her thoughts and memories in order.

 ‘Come on then. Let’s get those creaky knees going.’ He slipped his hands over hers. ‘Anyway, what did you wish for?’

‘I wished that you would come.’ Dorothy looked at him coyly, her heart drumming so fast she thought he must be able to hear it. ‘And I wanted to tell you yes. If you’ll still have me?’

Daniel wrapped his arms around her. He didn’t mind that they’d been married five years now. For Dorothy, time sometimes shifted: the pace of her clock had changed. Daniel knew that love wasn’t tied by clocks (after all, he’d waited a long time for Dorothy),that it could run free and race by, or slow down with each second requiring tender nurturing.

 ‘Let’s walk by the river on the way home,’ Daniel took Dorothy’s hand. ‘I have a yen to remember when we first met.’

Dorothy beamed. Her mind flooding with happy memories.

~ the end ~

Sunday, 24 December 2017

#12DaysofFiction2017 Day 11

Brian wanted to move back home. Apparently Sandra wanted a younger dancing partner and besides, he missed Dorothy’s companionship. Needless to say, Dorothy wasn’t fooled by his smooth tongue, but she had no legal right to keep him away.

‘You could move into mine,’ Daniel offered protectively. He wasn’t happy about the prospect of Brian coming back on the scene.

But Dorothy was enjoying her freedom and for the first time, she was living life as she wanted. Now that Brian was gone she saw more of the kids and she was even able to look back on the happy times of her marriage. It hadn’t been all bad.

And so she decided to go to Suffolk. It wasn’t something she’d usually do, just take off on a whim, but she needed space to think and sitting beneath the wide, open skies and looking out at the 
Image courtesy of Fine Art America
endless sea put things into perspective. And while she studied the birds, she felt akin to the sandpiper; her life had been spent picking around for scraps of happiness and scurrying away when a large wave threatened to take her under.

By the end of the week, she’d made her decision. They’d sell the house and she’d move into a flat with her share. She didn’t want to move in with Daniel, not while she was married. And she certainly didn’t want to live with Brian again.

But sometimes life takes a funny turn and Brian’s love of bacon butties eventually became his downfall. It wasn’t the cholesterol that finished him off: a crust of farmhouse white jammed his airway while he was ranting at Sandra for her poor jam-making skills. The news was shocking rather than devastating. The sad fact of the matter was Brian would only be vaguely missed.

And so, Dorothy set about turfing over the vegetable patch and getting to know the hens. And daily walks by the river.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

#12DaysofFiction2017 Day 10

Image courtesy of BeStitched Needlepoint
The doctors gave it their best, and Dorothy was thankful that Brian was soon on the road to recovery. She’d come to an arrangement with Sandra to ensure their visits didn’t clash; it was no secret that their dislike for each other was mutual. At first Brian didn’t seem to realise what was going on but as he gained his strength he became strangely alarmed at this new status quo. When the doctor said he was well enough to be discharged (with the conditions that he watched his diet and no longer got as drunk as a lord) he naturally assumed he’d be going home. He hadn’t reckoned on Dorothy having other ideas. She’d thrived in the ten weeks he’d been away and there was a bloom about her that Brian found most attractive.
‘How about we put everything behind us, love?’ He asked, feeling all lovey-dovey.
‘Don’t be silly, Brian. You’ll be much better off with Sandra. I bet she can’t wait to wash your socks and cook you bacon butties. You’re just getting cold feet.’ The two women had come to this agreement and Brian felt strangely out of the loop.
Dorothy gave him a final kiss on the cheek. ‘Goodbye Brian. All the best now.'
Dorothy returned to her routine, but instead of visiting the hospital daily, she spent the time walking along the river, often bumping into Daniel. She found that she looked for him and was disappointed if he wasn’t there.
‘I’ve got tickets for a tea dance next Thursday. Would you like to come?’ Daniel tried to sound casual but the urgency in his voice was clear.
'I’d love to!’ Dorothy beamed.
It had been years since she’d danced with a man and felt a gentle hand on her waist, she trembled at the prospect. She didn’t want to leap too far ahead, but had she found her new dancing partner? She just hoped her knees held out.

Friday, 22 December 2017

#12DaysofFiction2017 Day 9

Although she’d turned a blind eye, self-preservation required Dorothy to be vigilant. And over the years, she’d counted seven affairs. But the appearance of Sandra Locket at the hospital took her by surprise; this one, she’d missed.
‘Is he very poorly?’ Sandra batted her eyelashes towards the door. Dorothy had come out for a break; the intensity in Intensive Care was stifling.
‘Well, yes. I suppose he is.’ Dorothy felt territorial. ‘Only family can visit at present.'
Sandra seemed to visibly deflate. Feeling a little sorry for her she added: ‘Well, I’ll let you know if it changes.’ And then, tentatively: ‘Are you and Brian close?'
Image courtesy of VectorStock
Sandra puffed up again; she was fascinating to watch. ‘We’re dancing partners. The pub final’s next week.'
Dorothy’s heart hammered. Dancing? She had loved to dance with Brian and although she’d accepted the affairs, sharing her dancing partner was a completely different matter.
‘Ah,’ was all she said.
Sandra examined her garish talons casually. ‘He was at mine last night. He often comes round after the pub shuts,’ she looked up with a flick of her hair and locked her eyes on Dorothy’s. ‘So we can, you know,’ a lick of the lips, ‘practise our moves.'
Dorothy looked down at her own liver-spotted hands. They weren’t glamorous like Sandra’s, her short, stubby fingers were swollen and starting to twist like the old roots she dug out in the garden.
'How long have you been, erm,’ Dorothy knew what she wanted to say but was too well-mannered. ‘Dancing partners?'
Now Sandra looked as if she would explode, she positively glowed with her importance. ‘Ooh, for about six months now.'
Six months! Six months. Dorothy contemplated this news, let it settle in and feel the weight of it. As her mind cleared, Blackbird came into her mind, the words comforted.
'You know, Sandra. I’m sure the hospital won’t mind if you visit. After all, you’re almost family.’ Dorothy smiled at Sandra’s goldfish-gulping: that had surprised her. ‘See you.'
Dorothy walked out of the hospital, with each step her heart became a little lighter. By the time she reached the river she was soaring.