Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Words From A Room of One's Own

Good Afternoon Dear Friends 

And what a glorious one it is; in contrast to the rather murky morn that met my waking eyes the sun is lapping at the newly-washed windows and even the pavements seem to be in a relaxed state . . . 
You find me in the still-cluttered and somewhat unorganised study thinking about a room of one's own - a concept which has been spending a lot of time loitering in the corners of my mind recently and the reason why today's offering bears that particular title.

It is, of course, the title of an extended essay by the delightful creature pictured here, Virginia Woolf, based upon a lecture she was asked to give at Cambridge in 1929 regarding women and literature.  She declared that a woman needed " money and a room of one's own to write fiction" and now, some eighty-two years later, I can but concur with her and relate it to my own particular circumstances.

Of course it is so much easier for me technically now than it was for her in 1929; in fact, it is so much easier now than it was for me when I first began to write in those long-ago pre-internet days!  The concept of producing something that didn't involve inserting paper into an old Smith Corona typewriter, correcting it with tippex, then hieing off to the copy shop and finally trying to distribute the thing would have been inconceivable; the professionalism and ease with which it is possible these days would have been similarly unimaginable.

However, Virginia was referring to the fact that it was because she was a woman in what was still very much a male dominated world that she needed the independence (that was at that time mainly the preserve of men)  - the money and the room - in order to work and in order to be herself. In the essay she refers to the fact that, wandering around the college prior to the lecture, she was forbidden to walk upon the grass - a privilege afforded only to scholars ( all male at that time)  and their guests or to enter the library without a formal invitation because of her gender - a state of affairs that we find difficult to comprehend these days . . . I wonder, though, how I would have fared in those days; Virginia may have been female but, being from a relatively well-heeled family, she was of the correct class to have access to the right people and to not have to work in drudgery in order to eat; another example, I suppose, of how the availability of technology these days acts as a social leveler to some degree.

I, too, needed a room of my own. Not because of my gender, but because of the beliefs I hold and the way I am as a person.  I needed the space and independence from the stresses of living in the Bijou Penthouse Suite; I needed the silence and the solitude; to be free from unwillingly having to share peoples lives as they fought and argued volubly at all hours of the day and night; would Virginia have managed to succeed living in the East End of London? I very much doubt it; as I have learned to be different in an environment is to invite trouble!

As it was, of course, even the 'room' she eventually found was not enough to prevent her suicide in 1941; She had been plagued for many years with bouts of severe depression and fits and I wonder if modern anti-depressants would have been of any help to her? Or would it have been a case of taking away the devils and the angels too and rendering her writing voice mute?

Whilst my writing voice is in full throat it is sadly only so in a creative direction; the slight issue of outstanding assignments is never far from my mind, no matter how hard I push it away and really I should be writing them instead of this . . . ah me! A Writer's Life, eh!

And all these thoughts and musings occur to me in the silence of the study;  I have my room and, once sorted with the addition of more bookcases and a comfy chair to read in (luxury indeed!) it will be worth of the title of a room of one's own . . .

And with that I shall leave you to the eventide; have a lovely one and enjoy your freedoms for they are plentiful!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Only A Matter Of Time

Good Evening Dear Friends

The last rays of sun from an altered time drift lazily though the windows of Myrtle House, each one bringing with it a waft of evensong as bells from the church ring to close the day.  Normally, on walking in the environs, ones senses are assailed by the wonderful smells of a very quaint Victorian factory close by which manufactures Uncle Joe's Mint Balls and also by Allgates Brewery just a little further afield, very close by the church; the smells of peppermint and mashing hops is a curious blend and not one for the faint-hearted to imagine drinking but together in the nostrils they mix marvellously.  Today though being Sunday, smells and sounds are at a minimum - as is activity, mine included.

A traditional ceremony marking the start of Summer
Such activity as there is began when I awoke and checked the time on my phone -  07.16  - and was immediately subject to the grief and anxiety that has attacked us mercilessly in such circumstances since the dawn of British Summer Time - which was, coincidentally enough I believe, 1916 (or 7.16 in the 12 hour clock! But I digress!) - and that anguished question was "What time is it really?" I honestly couldn't work out in the befuddled chambers of my brain exactly what time it possibly could be, so I took the bull by the horns and, grasping nettles as I went, strode manfully downstairs to the kitchen - still a novel experience after 8 years of living on one level!

My phone, being a bit posh and possessing more acumen than yours truly, had automatically updated itself and so 07.16 was the correct time - but what time was it really? Well, really it was 07.16 but to my poor aching body it was an hour earlier . . . Such matters concern not man's best friend however, and Sal was keen to be up and about and sniffing into things as we took to the highways and byways of a very silent town.  Despite the undoubtedly restorative effects of tissane, marmalade and toast for breakfast, I don't feel as though this is a day that I have ever got to grips with; I was looking forward to watching the Australian Grand Prix on TV and yet found myself decidedly uninterested and barely able to keep from nodding - I blame William Willett who first made the proposal for adjusting the clocks in 1907 and kept on about it incessantly until his death in 1915 - the Government immediately decided it was a good thing after all and so in May 1916 they began buggering about with our clocks internal and external, within and without until the present day . . . or so I thought!  

It seems that between 1968 and 1971  we permanently ran on British Standard Time which was an hour ahead of GMT -  which I certainly do not remember happening though I was old enough to -  and in the Second World War (1939-45), Britain adopted Double British Summer Time, with the clocks one hour ahead of Greenwich in winter and two hours ahead in summer. Fascinating, eh! Anyhow, the result in my books is that it's now nearly twelve hours since I first saw light of day and, quite honestly, I could lay me down to rest without another moment passing - the ravages of time and age and existence, ah me!

A brief passage of time and it's now approaching midnight; I had a modest repast and then found myself watching the Antiques Roadshow - I may collect my pension tomorrow! Anyhow, I hope you forgive this temporal ramble and spend what is left of the time before bed in a suitably affable frame of mind, thus hopefully ensuring the sweetest of dreams before the week begins again.

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

ps: The somewhat bizarre illustration is taken (without permission) from the amazing "Hooting Yard" blog by  Frank Key ( http://hootingyard.org/) from 26th March 2006 and a post regarding BST

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Final Day of the Half-Century . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends!

And a lovely Spring morning it is too; do help yourself to tea and toast, pop your bums down and let's have a chat!

A whole new routine is slowly taking shape in the environs of Myrtle House; the peacefulness is only shattered by the tree-sawing snore of Sal as she basks in sunshine and dreams doggynesses with both rapid eye and leg movement; I sit in the new library or study - haven't quite decided which term to use yet - still surrounded by crates of books and indecision reigns . . . where should this go?  Will that look okay there? I shall have to seek advice, possibly professional in nature!  However, as I say, the routines appear to be developing organically and everything seems to fit into place quite naturally which is fantastic. As you can see from the pic I have also been lucky enough to receive this beautiful house-guest who now sits and meditates amid the banana palms and adds considerably to the tranquility; thank you to my secret benefactor for the generosity and love ॐ

Not such good news about the web page / blog of the same name however; I still have had no response from Blogger or Google (the company behind Blogger) as to their reasoning for removing the Myrtle House blog or their plans to reinstate it - most enervating! Thankfully my good friend Sam is beavering away at a site for me and hopefully some sort of web-presence will be in evidence soon - us award-winning authors need that sort of thing, you know! And on that subject I still await final details of my trip to Jura; with hols coming up in April it would seem a good time to go but I am at the mercy of the gods - and the marvellous Mr Cochrane who is, I believe, the man behind it all!  If any of you would like to see just where yours truly will be based for the full duration of the 1,984 minutes of my stay can I suggest you pop along to and enjoy the sights at http://www.isleofjura.com/lodge/gallery.aspx  - you will need to enter your date of birth in order to prove that you are old enough to withstand the delights of the Lodge without succumbing to a fainting fit - which I nearly did!

Other news of the week: two lovely friends have birthdays this week - Jen'fer, a very talented web and graphic designer who I first worked with when she was even more wee than presently, will be celebrating on Friday, as will the lovely Louise in Cape Town, a musician who I first encountered when she came to play in the UK many moons ago and have remained good friends with  - our toes have touched ever since . . . I also will be commemorating - if not celebrating exactly - another year of waking up in the morning as I enter my second half-century tomorrow . . . it really doesn't seem possible but there you have it!

Today, being Wednesday, means I'm off eastwards to that seat of learning I have called home for the past two years . . . it's also startling to think that, in a few short weeks, all that will be behind me and, with any luck, I shall be fully qualified and most definitely certified!  I have enjoyed the experience, especially on days like this when I can trundle along on the train, contemplating life, the universe and why schoolchildren deem it necessary to shout all the time  - my journey unfortunately coincides with letting out time!

And now it's time to leap into action . . . well, amble into activity of some sort I suppose! I have work to do and a small canine's ambulatory desires to satisfy so I wish you well on this wonderful Wednesday; have an absolutely stunningly brilliant day!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Spring in the Air, Bishop! *

Good Morning Dear Friends

My new neighbours  
And welcome to this slightly drizzly Sunday morning which heralds the dawn of a new era; this is the first of, I hope, many blogs to emanate from the peace and quiet of Myrtle House which, as is stated elsewhere, shelters in the shadow of the church of All Saints and is subsequently filled with a ring of bells on mornings such as these.

The library here is a much more extensive affair and affords me the opportunity to purchase some new shelving to take the burden from the present groaning incumbents - I can feel a trip to Ikea looming! - although at present the books sit patiently in crates, some 13 of them, awaiting their new and, one hopes, considerably more tranquil home.

Today sees a last dash back to the BPS to retrieve the plants which were deemed by the carriers, for some reason best known to themselves,  to be in the same category as nuclear waste and therefore remained behind in verdant solitude, sole protectors of the land like some ancient forest and guardians of the land of the past . . .  anyhow, in a manner not too far removed from Birnham Wood, they will shortly be on the move, although in this case transported less than ceremoniously in Rosie the Red Fiesta from that place and back to here where they will grace my home with their favours.

And then that will be that. Sal is, at the mo, a little unsure and, I think, slightly stressed by the whole affair; I'm sure in time she will come to terms with the new surroundings; she is already quite a fan of the courtyard which will, in time for Summer, be a riot of colour and a place of retreat . . . talking of seasons, it seems that the Vernal Equinox has sneaked up on me and today is in fact the first day of Spring!

As I was planning to use this day to launch the new book-centred blog cum website named Myrtle House it has caught me quite unawares; anyhow, it will be ready in some format by tomorrow and so keep the peepers peeled for an announcement i the press . . . or Twitter and Facebook more like!  I'm still awaiting details of my Jura jaunt and will be happy to furnish you with those as soon as they arrive; this week also sees me enter my second half-century - an unimaginable thought for one so firmly child-like in mind, ah me! Never mind, one aspect of my advancing years is that my eyesight is so poor that I can't see my wrinkles in the mirror anymore, a blessing don't you think?

Well, I must away to the greenage and so will leave you here to sip tea and maybe unpack a crate or two . . . oh!  The sun is beginning to shine; have a wonderful first day and enjoy and savour the sheer vitality of it all!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

* A delightful exchange from the ancient TV programme ‘All Gas and Gaiters’:  The Archdeacon and the Bishop walked through the cloisters, as the Archdeacon sniffed the air and said, “Spring in the air, Bishop!” The Bishop looked sideways at him and responded, “Spring in the air yourself, Archdeacon!” I used this in one of my first blogs on the first day of Spring many moons ago!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Final Words . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends

And welcome to this, the final posting and the last words from this particular room, namely the library in the Bijou Penthouse Suite, on a grey and rather rainy Sunday morning that is also my late father's birthday. Do sit down and, as Kenneth Grahame said, we'll see if tea and buns can make the world a better place . . .The accompanying photograph is of James and yours truly in 1961; if you look very carefully you can see a very youthful Old Duchess who was taking the photograph, reflected in the mirror indoors . . .  James and I share the same bottom lip and both seem equally enamoured by the whole process, do we not?

The week has been a maelstrom indeed with news of the prize from those lovely people at Jura, being interviewed for the local press by the lovely Sara B, the result of which appeared yesterday along with a fine picture by Mr John Leatherbarrow - who has, over the years, photographed many of my news-worthy efforts - and which I shall try to scan and pop on here at some point.  But Sadly, as yin to that particular yang, the terrible news from Japan that caused me instantly to worry about the two people I know very well there; one, the beautiful Georgia has posted to say she is happy and well but, as of yet, there is no word from my 'daughter' Mana . . . I am hoping she is safe and sound too.  It is bad enough that a natural disaster should hit but to also have the danger of nuclear meltdown quite frankly beggars belief; as you could probably have guessed I am very much anti-nuclear but even the most atom-friendly of people would, I think, question the wisdom of building these atrocities in zones so prone to earthquakes . . .it is not perhaps the time to apportion blame but rather hope that some good will come eventually from this appalling situation.

I initially began these spoutings on the first of September last year and a very interesting six months it has been too; they will, of course, continue from Myrtle House when I take up residence there this coming Thursday - which is of course St Patrick's day - so I shall be bestowing sláinte  on you from a more spacious and peaceful pied-à-terre than I have had for the past eight years or so . . . packing has been the usual nightmare, especially as, this time, I decided that I would use 'proper' containers as opposed to the more usual cardboard boxes and so the BPS now looks like a Home for Lost Plastic Crates! I currently have 9 x 85 litre crates for books alone and there are more to pack yet, oh the woes of being a bibliophile!

Thankfully, the library at MH is more commodious; a fact which will, one hopes, be reflected in the subsequent drivellings emanating from there; in fact I shall have much more space in total than at present, along with a rather lovely courtyard with the potential for summery writings 'neath parasols whilst breathing in the scent of stocks and with the faithful Sal basking in the rays, as she is wont to do . . .

This idyll does, of course, require that one lives in this earthly paradise in the first place; a dream that will only become reality if I spend the whole of today, Monday and Tuesday involved in the packing process . . . it is, of course, a great opportunity to de-clutter - but it also affords an equal one to sit and look and reminisce which achieves nothing but a smile, if one is lucky.  I suppose that, in many ways and on many days, I have been happy here; but I also must recall with a shudder the many, many times that I haven't - due in the main to the external intrusions of others it has to be said . . . that, hopefully, is now in the past, a distant land where I shall wander no more.

I think I may have time for one more cup of green tea and a few moments of silent contemplation before the day begins in earnest - I am also reminded at this point by nose-nuzzlings that a certain canine also has a bladder of limited capacity and would appreciate maybe an outing into the great outdoors which, as I write, could be found guilty of clearing up slightly . . . Ah me! There is, as they say, no rest for the wicked and I think sometimes I must have been the personification of evil in a former life!

I hope you have a wonderful day; let it be peaceful and safe from sorrow, a tranquil oasis from tomorrow, and I shall have the kettle on at Myrtle House when next you drop by.
'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Friday, 11 March 2011

Read All About It!

Good Morning Dear Ones!

I literally have about two minutes before the madness begins and so, for those of you who spent yesterday  pot-holing in Patagonia and missed my shameless media-whoring, I shall very quickly recap that yours truly has won a prestigious writing prize sponsored by those lovely people at Isle of Jura Whisky!
Jura is where George Orwell wrote "1984" and my prize is to spend 1,984 minutes finishing a short story centred around the island. The short-story and winning entry in question is "The Maelstrom" which is a type of ghost story with a difference! 

For more details please pop along to my Myrtle House  blog and read the press release put together by the wonderful Stephanie of Weber Shandwick in Edinburgh.
The Myrtle House blog is a pre-launch version of the new website which will hopefully go live on March 21st!

Anyhow, off to attempt to become wonderfully handsome for a photo op with the local press - I am laughing as I type that!
I hope you all have a wonderful day!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

A Moving Experience . . .

Good Morning Dear Friends!

And another very early one it is too! With lots to sort and pack, and words beyond measure to compose for various projects, yours truly is in danger of becoming even more dull than Jack of no play could ever be accused of being!  Still it has to be done and the results will, I'm sure, outweigh the effort  . . . it's just over a week now before the move to Myrtle House takes place and currently the BPS looks not unlike a shop in which the eponymous bull has been rampaging - packing up one's home is certainly an omelette of a process which demands many cracked eggs -  in all probability including me, oh my!

I spent the weekend away in the secluded and sequestered splendour of Whalley Abbey, learning how to use games and play resources with clients of all ages in therapy and a thoroughly wonderful time I had too! The days were long and filled with joy; to paint pictures and stick spots and stars on boxes to be filled with secrets was very liberating and at the same time relaxing and recharging.  The evening I also used productively by doing more work on the writing front, the results of which should be available for viewing when the new site springs into being on the 21st March; details of how to find this wondrous new place, this Eden of literature, will follow shortly if you are interested, so keep a watchful eye or two on this blog.

The weekend was only tinged with sadness by the fact that it was the last one we as a group would attend,  the last one that the college was organising and the very last one that one of our wonderful tutors, Alf Thompson, would experience due to his impending retirement . . . I shall refrain from going into the most ridiculous aspect of the residential that occurred as we were leaving; I knew at the time that placing a mobile phone on top of a car was a very stupid thing to do, knowledge that was confirmed some 5 miles later . . . so now I have a lovely new phone and it hasn't been a hassle at all, grrr!

My famous canine friend had spent the weekend away in the doggy palace known as Talbot House; her joy at being re-united was overwhelming! At one point she was running with such vigour on the tiled flooring that her body was actually perfectly stationary whilst her legs galloped and scrabbled for purchase; she was less than amused at my hilarity to this sight but soon forgive my transgressions following liberal application of hugs and doggy-treats!

I feel I must also apologise for another transgression; the amount of time between postings these days is simply not good enough! From each and every day it has now slipped to maybe once a week if luck has it; I can only plead extenuating circumstances and pressure of life for my lack of output in this medium and beg your forgiveness humbly . . . the last thing I would wish is for you to become sick and tired of waiting for an invitation; hopefully soon you will be enjoying the cosy corners and peaceful slumber of Myrtle House.

Ah well, the rest of the day awaits my attendance; I must go and kick the kettle into life and  try and persuade my body to move - never an easy task at the best of times!  May I wish you all a splendiferous Tuesday and hope to see you very soon indeed.  Don't forget to watch out for info on the new site and some news which I consider to be very exciting indeed!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Daf As A Brush . . .

Good Evening Friends!

And welcome to this special St David's Day edition of the blog! 

Never let it be said that I am one who doesn't keep the various high days and holidays - so, in honour of our Red Dragon-taming and leek-lusting friends across the Marches, I have pleasure in including a Daf for you . . . I actually remember an old teacher of mine driving one very similar to this - except it was in a washed out Narcissus yellow and was probably single-handedly responsible for the damage to the ozone layer!  

So why is this particular day so special you may ask ? Well, were you to pose such a question, I would, in all honesty, have to reply that it is special because of some rather startling and surprising news that I received today whilst sitting in Nero with Sister Cate amid the usual combo of green tea and lemon and poppy-seed muffin; it was news of such magnitude and joyfulness that I almost felt like a shepherd on the hills near Bethlehem, washing my socks by night as dreadful children have sung for many a generation now . . .

I am absolutely bursting with the desire to share my tidings of great joy with you but cannot do so just yet; suffice it to say as soon as I can - and I don't envisage it being too long a wait for those of you of an impatient bent - I most certainly and gladly will;  I hope that it will make you as happy for me as I am for myself and that the fall out affects us all in the most pleasant way!

I am so beside myself that I have forgotten to bestow upon you the customary albino lagomorphs, it being the first day of March . . . and, being that day, it is only another twenty to the first day of Spring and the launch of the new web-site  - an occasion which is causing me some headaches I have to admit; mainly because of my inexperience with these particular beasts and the strange wonderfulness that is DNS which is something to do with domain names or something or other . . . anyhow, the site was going to be hosted on WordPress as befits us writer-types but, sadly, making it all work  doesn't seem to sink into this particular scribe's bonce and so I have relented and gone once again with Blogger.

As I have intimated before the site will have a literary bent and hopefully be offering goodies for those with a disposition for sending in comments - especially if they tell me how wonderful I am! Every man has his price - it's just that I give discount.

Anyhow, the evening is speeding away before me and I have much to do; there won't be many more of these postings from the old BPS so I do hope you will come and join me amongst the homeliness of Myrtle House in the not too distant future - the tea and biscuits will be in the same place, just help yourself!

Have a wonderful evening!

'til next time

Be Seeing You !