Stay active - it's Christmas
Early Christmas present from the NHS - the other NHS. This has been deleted by the childbride on the grounds of being an insult to all those brilliant people who are trying to save lives.
Garden - moment for a sit
The other granddad is a dab hand with the birding. So I went for a Simon Barnes' sit.
It's Christmas, I think - stay active
On the BBC website this week from Rebecca Seales, 'Letters to kids: why it's a good time to write to your children.'
Apparently the pain and privation of the pandemic has stimulated writing. Personal stuff which could give future generations insight into their ancestors has been especially popular. It's a touch more than recording memories and events. Expressing feelings and exposing other material previously hidden from view. This sounds a bit like bibliotherapy; writing as a means of getting your stuff out so you can have a good look and try and make some sense of it, or not. Why not?
Many of these pieces of writing are being collected by the Sociology department, Swansea University, for a project entitled 'Corona Diaries'. I've tried to track down this research online and failed.
I recently picked up 'Writing your life story,' by Philip Oke from a genealogy festival. A comprehensive guide to how to do it. Having written for thirty years, pieces everywhere, it's time I got my act together and maybe family stories is an organising principle. But, when writing for myself, I rarely stick to the point, always on a sidetrack.
Oke refers to autobiography, memoir, diary, journal, family history.
I have had a look at family lives - as a result of a present I received from my daughter. I wrote the following introduction.
'This last Christmas gone or maybe for my birthday when granny and I were 70 years of age, your mum and dad gave me a book to write to you about me, so you would have a record of things that could so easily get forgotten.
The book is called ‘Dear Grandad: from you to me - journal of a lifetime’
Please look after it, for yourself, and for any other grandchildren.
There have been a few problems. First is time. Serious writers allocate a daily writing routine which is deliberately selfish and excludes everything and everyone else. It needs your nearest and dearest, granny in my case, to agree. Broadly speaking she does let me get on with it, but things do creep in - like shopping and housework and social time. But as she says “That’s life”. So the project is taking a long time, especially as I like to keep up with my personal blog, but even that is an uphill struggle.
Second the headlines suggested in the book your mum and dad gave me. They seem to be in the wrong order. For example, the family trees come after my first memories. To make a coherent story, I have arranged the articles in chronological order.
Third duplication. Writing since 1990, I have a lot of archive material. It can get a bit muddled up. At best it is duplication, which can be no bad thing in a large piece of work. Bill Bryson tells us that no less a writer than Shakespeare made a fine mess of keeping his plays in some sort of order.
Fourth with pieces from different eras, there are different styles and voices. Factual stuff about family trees and history take on a matter of fact feel. Describing emotional events such as a funeral or illness. Or the pains of growing - either leaving home yourself or watching your own children leave home or struggling with getting old. All these have a different tone.
Fifth there could be problems with my memory - so a proportion of the writing could be inaccurate, though pieces written nearer 1990 are likely to be more valid than the recent ones.'
More complications, I am currently working on family members from the nineteenth century - the hand-loom weaver, the stoker and the railway porter. These cannot be memories - they are stories of how I imagine they fitted in with local events and national themes.
Oke does mention assistance - it's a thought, I still have a fighting fund.
A commitment? It's a purpose, a hobby, a record .....
It's already been at least a year and more. I'm 73 now.
Little Anne from pilates tries to recruit me to 'mindful' sessions. They are not for me. Mindless sessions are more to my taste though there is overlap. Sit for long enough and the birds will come, much as Simon Barnes experiences on his wild walks, here or in Africa. Otters and deer are more his thing. Bull finches are more mine.
Increasing awareness of peripheral vision is mindful I think. Don't forget the plastic bag, to prevent a damp bum. Try to remember your bins and a stick.
Simon Barnes, 'Rewild Yourself', Simon and Schuster.
time sit wonder breathe
blue sky high white cloud cold feet
bull finch drinks
The forget-me-not bottles are everywhere, even in the Black Country. Arthur is my man.
And a cool present for lots, a vaccine. Any antivaxxers out there? Remember small pox - no you can't because it is no longer out there. Because of vaccination. If it's safe, it's safe.
From the archive
Black Country museum 2014
The pub was Andrew's favourite obviously.
Beer was decent, though the outside toilet took a bit of getting used to.
Andrew is going steady with someone from his flats - Clara. Haven't seen him for 5 weeks.
Anyone remember this?
A year in the life - New Mill Male Voice Choir
Organisations have fixed calendar points. Things to work to. Five year plans that are underpinned by monthly meetings and weekly deadlines. Like music, there is rhythm. New Mill Male Voice Choir is no different. Our overarching rhythm lasts twelve months. It is not a business rhythm, being more in tune with the seasons; the ebb and flow of brown leaves, grey skies, crisp dews and fields of rape seed oil, from which we come up for air every month or so to breathe in the heady atmosphere of performance. Or, prosaically, we leave the shelter of New Mill Club to sing in a concert.
Our current fixed points are Christmas, January, Spring Bank, and the Summer break, peaking a the October Town Hall concert with star guests. We have other engagements when we ourselves are the guests. Mostly fund-raisers, these concerts can recur but many do not.
Christmas is a convenient start. Our annual pilgrimage to Christ Church is an opportunity for the New Mill community to join with their male voice choir in a mix of popular and seasonal musical items. We can all then decant to New Mill Club for eats, drinks and some pretty decent informal singing. That’s shorthand for choir members doing their ‘turns’. These are men who can remember their words and just love the adulation of the mob. It’s our Christmas party.
Almost since our inception we have guested in December at Low Moor, Bradford, once Allied Colloids and now BASF. Our members who spent their working lives with the company provided the original link which, despite the inevitable losses with time, feels to get firmer each year. We usually sing at nearby Holy Trinity, but due to structural issues last year, we had to switch to the works canteen. We share the stage with local primary schools so the audience is substantial, and it’s still pretty good after the calls for bedtime. Anyway, these young choirs give our musical director an excuse to wear a silly outfit. There are two lady vicars, jolly and serious, and there always used to be a bloke from the company who sang Home Sweet Home.
The stuff is all over the place - pdf to another format
Though not a regular competition choir, a recent addition to our touring schedule is the Cornwall International Male Voice Choral Festival, where contesting is shared with more relaxed gigs in great venues such as Tate St Ives and the Eden Project, accompanied by blue cloudless skies and light breezes. Incidentally and proudly, previous forays into competition (2009/10/11) resulted in two wins and a second at the Don Valley festival.
Our other concerts when we are guests often produce great moments in brilliant venues: Royal Albert Hall, Cardiff Arms Park, York Minster, Sheffield Cathedral, Elland Road, Fountains Abbey, Blackpool Winter Gardens, Scarborough Spa and our own Huddersfield Town Hall. And raising not inconsiderable sums for worthy causes. The Winter Gardens concert was for 2500 ladies of Inner Wheel. The Arms Park was full - well Shirley Bassey was the star guest.
Now forget all the adrenaline and fireworks of the Town Hall. Underneath all the froth of the great venues and star guests, down amongst the muck and bullets is the weekly rehearsal in New Mill Club. You can set your watch by it. Two hours of super coaching to sing in harmony and to perform. Two hours away from your normal duties in the company of Musical Director Allan Brierley and Pianist Emma Binns. Everyone grafts. Drinks and food follow and the bonds continue to grow. We are so lucky to have New Mill Club; a powerful factor supporting the closely knit choir. This weekly foundation is the fuel for those ultimate moments of performance.
Another important factor in our choir fellowship is illustrated by Andy’s piece below. The diversity of member’s jobs and interests is considerable. So strong in some cases, small groups actually want to meet between rehearsals to pursue their passions. A final thought about choir health. Our committee meets monthly; a bit of a headache which they gladly suffer to enable the choir to function at the basic level; essential stuff if we are to thrive and triumph on the concert platform. Behind the broad sweeping movements of the seasons there is a steady beat. All those beats count.
Heavy drinkers, heavy thinkers, trumpet players, sooth- sayers,
Organic bakers, micky-takers, runners and joggers, gardeners and loggers,
Teachers and preachers, straight talkers, fell walkers, Writers, right-wingers, folk singers, old swingers, Dropouts and artists, sculptors, conductors,
Ballroom prancers, Morris dancers, computer geeks and techno freaks,
Lawyers, accountants, political wets, the hunting, shooting and fishing sets ...
This does make me wonder. In these good words there seems to another question, as in what is virtue? The answer, 'behaviour showing high moral standards.' Then it's what are morals? Aristotle defines moral virtue as a disposition to behave in the right manner and as a mean between extremes of deficiency and excess, which are vices. We learn moral virtue primarily through habit and practice rather than through reasoning and instruction. Another attempt at answering the question, 'Morals are the prevailing standards of behavior that enable people to live cooperatively in groups. Moral refers to what societies sanction as right and acceptable. Most people tend to act morally and follow societal guidelines.'
Right and acceptable must be different depending where you live and in what era. There is more than a hint of the average in these words. What of excellence? Disaster must be its eternal partner. The nurses, doctors, researchers, everybody except us live way beyond the ordinary life. Whither Boris?
Mind you it has been said behind every great sportsman there is a tragedy and behind every great wealth there is a crime.
(1) A hut (I would add a comfy seat, warm clothing, a plastic bag - Simon Barnes recipe for calming the restless mind. Out in nature of course. I have cultivated sitting anywhere)
(3) To avoid superiors, patronisation, infighting and competition - anyone following Roderick Williams and 'British History in Ten Operas'? Peter Grimes written by Benjamin Britten. 1945 - end of WW2 and the decline of the empire. Set in beautiful Suffolk coastal village. Peter Grimes is a fisherman, flawed, uncertain, often in the wrong, an outsider who struggles to get along with others. He loses two apprentices whilst fishing. The villagers try him and he commits suicide. Rod tells us it's about exposing the life beneath - how can an individual be different? Britten and his partner were gay and conscientious objectors. What of today? Being different is a reason for national and international movements. Conflict and bullying by the villagers has been replaced by internet disagreement and 'cancelling'.
(4) Thought - seems a given, but I've had enough philosophy for one day.
(5) A reincarnation of Giovanni Bellini's Madonna - must be good.
Avoiding superiors and 'superior' people I recommend so I don't come into contact with patronising people. The rest goes without saying - best retire to the hut and sit in the present.
Boris - more U-turns and changes of mind. Trump is a poor loser and and crazy. We are just getting on with it. Possible opportunities to complete some unfinished business. Not during the first lockdown because we were enjoying ourselves in the garden too much. I really could do with cleaning up all the mess on my computer and being clear what I use it for. Hmm ...
I used to do clinics in Dewsbury when captain four stripes was still training in SW Spain - ah heady days, in Spain that is. The Dewsbury muslim ladies wore masks. I had to engage seriously with their eyes. Very powerful, and credit to them. Same thing now in shops and the playgrounds. I don't sense power though, I simply don't recognise people I know very well. A bit like the elderly lady who went to the supermarket with her husband - all masked up. Did the shopping, came home. Took masks off, wrong husband.
In dispute with Ryanair. Small claims now complete. Simply waiting for their response. It's 12 months or so since we bought the plane tickets for Dinard, France. April this year when we were supposed to go and when they cancelled. They have offered us vouchers, but we stuck out for a refund.
We asked a local solicitor for assistance in completing the claim. The amount we were asking for was not large enough for them to be bothered. So we phoned a friend. Sorted in 60 seconds. Same solicitor turned us down when we wanted an advocate for Andrew, our autistic son. Very candidly said they didn't make any money from it.
Received an eye appointment this week, at Acre Mills, 12 months after the last one. The organisation in the waiting room was brilliant and I was seen immediately. Hope they learn something from Covid about how to run a clinic.
Saw an SHO. The consultant was in the next room. Between them they stopped my treatment, after several years. I'll be watching this space and hopeful I can keep watching.
I went for coffee in HRI, there being no coffee bar or pharmacy in Acre Mills and I needed eye lubricant. I was also waiting for the childbride, who hitherto could have spent a good 2 hours with her pal in Birkby waiting for me. "Americano please." "You want milk in that?" I did a double take, but I know, whilst not for the purist, Americano with milk is just about acceptable. "No thanks." So she poured milk in it anyway. Tasted okay. Can't blame Covid for that.
Oct 14th, I successfully completed a zoom presentation for Linlithgow rotary. Big Dave and Joan asked me to do it as he knew I was interested in the history of cricket. A fair amount of preparation and rehearsal. When the time came, it was like talking to myself. I suggested future speakers read their work. Otherwise seemed to go okay. I'd forgotten Gavin Hamilton (Yorkshire and Scotland) came from Linlithgow.
Captain four stripes came for a drink yesterday, with children. "The canaries are back," he shouts with his arms in the air. "I didn't know you'd lost them," says I. "Actually I didn't know you had canaries." "No you clot, the Canary Islands. We are flying there again." "Ah, of course."
We assume this event at Birks' funeral home was connected to Dignitas. It's a bit short, but you get the general idea.
Guess what Phillip Pullman, author of 'His Dark Materials', watches in the evening to relax - Bosch.
Looking at my diary around March onward. It was full of stuff: dates for travelling like France and Anglesey, Alnmouth and Scarborough, Edinburgh and Magic Weekend; choir dates, particularly London as well as concerts and rehearsals; family meets, anniversaries and so on.
April, May, June - blank.
July, August, September - dentist, flu jab, chiropodist, blood pressure clinic, pharmacy review, steroid shoulder injection that didn't happen, eye clinic (x2), Andrew's electric muscle test, H for 4-5 weekly diy haircut (I'm going to donate the proceeds to charity. At £5 a pop it's going to be a while.)
High point - Matthew, Suzuki son-in-law, got a promotion.
So it's all zoom: zoom pilates, zoom coffee meetings, zoom choir rehearsals, zoom Linlithgow talk.
It all goes to my major feeling about lockdown - it's robbing me of my time. I'm not sure what this moment is - philosophical or mystical or simply buck up and make a plan.
Chris Hoy was Desert Island Disc guest this week. Grounded good guy. Mind you I've never heard a pompous ass on that show. 'Mr Blue Sky', ELO, was his first favourite. So what was the first song that got to you in some way? Well this was mine, 9 years of age.
in/outside toilet memories
We zoomed pals last Thursday eve. We are not going to see them, so why not.
Our host tells terrible jokes. He also mentioned falling off the toilet, trying to stand. From a Sheffield newsagent's family, he is never without reading material when visiting. Not sure which nerves got trapped in that awkward sitting position, but long enough to produce anaesthesia of prodigious proportions. No information on the fall, if it happened. The major unanswered question remains however ...
This prompted me to relate one of my toilet stories:
My granny lived in Hillhouse as part of a terrace that lined and defined a yard.
Twenty-five metres away, at the bottom of the yard was a long narrow single storey building with six doors, each with its own keyhole. Behind grannie's front door was a nail from which hung neat hand-sized squares of newspaper. A small sewing bobbin and a key also hung there, on a loop of string. A candle too somehow suspended.
The newspaper served two purposes. Much like fish and chip wrapping. No one was ever in that dimly lit ice box down the yard long enough to get a numb bum.
My brother and I were flummoxed by a singular fact however. Behind grannie's door there was only ever one match.
Now another one from Dave Whalley.
Em's chocolate cake
Awayday - Ramsden res
Town 1 - Forest 0
Castleford 19 - Fartown 31
It's been a slow week for gardening and curation. We were supposed to be visiting Anglesey, but that fell through. Used the time to learn how to put slides on zoom, not too successfully as yet, but more or less ready for my talk to Big Dave and Joan's rotary group in Linlithgow. Cricket and textiles during the industrial revolution. Dave's choice. End-to-end stuff.
The cricketers are shaping up. Difficult to get them to pose properly. The garden is a bit overgrown just now, but the cosmos and robinia are good. And the wall has reappeared. Haven't seen the frogs for a week. Em keeps getting in the act.
Awayday in Scarborough
Difficult to say anything constructive. Time for some rhubarb therapy - stay in the dark and expect some manure regularly.
Don’t let the covid in
It’s got some living to do
Can’t leave it up to it
It’s knocking on our door
Wise men have known all along
Rules are there for reasons
Don’t let the covid in
Many moons we have lived
Our bodies weathered and worn
It’s not just our age that concerns
Our frailty makes it so hard
Some things may have changed
Sit tight when you’re called
Rules are still there for reasons
We must all get along
When he rides up on his horse
And you feel the cold winter chill
Look out your window and smile
Don’t let the covid in