Thursday 28 February 2013

Day 16 - youff and poetry

Oh my days.  That was one challenging evening!  Feel totally drained.

What did I do?

Went to a youth club on the outskirts of Brighton to attempt to share some poetry and see if anyone was interested in learning about/doing performance poetry or spoken word stuff.  This is one of the projects I've been asked to be involved in: putting on spoken word events and workshops with 14-19 years old from disadvantaged backgrounds in Brighton and Hove.  So a group of four of us arranged to visit a popular youth club in Whitehawk to see what was what.

We knew it wasn't going to be easy, and we tried to prepare for different situations, not knowing how many young people there'd be, how old they'd be or what they'd want to do.  But I don't think any of us were quite prepared for how it actually was.  A few girls wondered into the room and asked what we were doing. I said we're poets and would you like to hear a poem?  They said OK, some boys wondered in, and after a line or two the boys said 'this is shit' and walked out.  Nice.  I managed to get through it and asked what they thought.  Half of them said again, 'shit'. One or two said they liked it.  Nothing like a bit of encouragement!  So it was a tough start, and that was the only poem any of us managed to actually get through the whole evening.

We changed tack and tried to do some word and rhyming games, but it was all we could do to try get them say something other than a swear word or 'your mum'!  Tough times and eventually we sorta gave up, and had a break to re-think.  To be honest I would have quite gladly gone home then but one of our group didn't want to give up, and respect to him.  So we just tried chatting to people, asking if they would be interested in doing any more stuff with us in the future.  And somehow a few boys ended up back in the room, watching you tube clips of poets and rappers, and then we ended up doing some rhyming stuff and making up silly poems.  And it was fun and we laughed and the guys came up with good stuff and I'm glad we stayed.

At the end of the day it was a bit of an experiment.  And we always said if it makes a difference to just one person then it's worth it.  So I think, despite nearly crying with exhaustion afterwards, that we'll probably be back. :-)

Day 15 - Grumpy

Last night I was GRUMPY.

Irritable, impatient, of foul disposition.

And I'm not even sure why.  And that just made it worse - the fact that all my excuses were pretty lame.


I forgot to take my medication this morning.  Perhaps a fair point, but I'd like to say that I can manage for a few hours without it.  Maybe not.

Or, I'm cold.  I had only expected to be out for an hour, and then ended up being out all evening.  For the first time in months I only had jeans on - with no leggings underneath.  I'm very un-hardcore when it comes to being cold.

This evening wasn't what I expected.  Received a message saying we'd been invited for dinner and then were going to a pub quiz.  I thought, hooray, nice meal, time to catch up with my sister-in-law, glass of wine at the pub then I'll come home to finish off all the things I'd planned to do that evening.  Instead, I arrive at brother-in-law's place and he, hubby plus best friend are standing outside in like ZERO DEGREES, BARBEQUEING.  Yep, that's what you get for marrying a South African.  Braai-ing Boerewors in the middle of winter.  And sister-in-law wasn't even there so no chance of a girl chat inside with a cup of tea.

I'm tired and I have a lot to do.  I also think I'm starting to get a bit stressed/anxious underneath my skin about our move to Cornwall, and all the things that have to happen before we go.

My mood was not helped by the fact that beer was spilled down my trousers as a result of the guys thumb-wrestling at the pub quiz (last week it was arm-wrestling but apparently their arms are consequentially still too sore to repeat the contest).

So, as you can imagine, I was a joy to be with.  Or not.  By the end of the day, (having stayed at the pub quiz  and not come home early because it was actually pretty good and the pub was really nice AND part of me is thinking I need to make the most of hanging out with friends before we leave Brighton) I was even more tired, even more grumpy, upset hubby even more, and almost cried myself to sleep feeling guilty at how horrible I'd been.

And that's the thing.  If I'd had a real good reason to be down, then maybe that would be different.  I'd maybe have some justification in feeling sorry for myself.  But the truth is, I didn't.  The evening was actually very nice and the guys are all great.  The boerewors was tasty and the wine at the pub was tasty too!  And, as I was worrying about stuff I had to get done at home, which wasn't really aaalll that urgent to be honest, I could have left, and taken my cloudy frown with me, and chilled out, and been a nicer wife by the time hubby returned.  But I didn't.  I could have decided that none of my excuses were good enough, and put on a smile, and made the most of the evening.  But I didn't.

I felt like I was 15 again, unable to control my emotions.  Or perhaps unwilling to?  I think by now I'm supposed to be able to CHOOSE JOY, as a poster I had for years and years said.  But sometimes, or many times, I don't.  I've maybe got a bit better at it since being married, because it's like there's a constant mirror showing you your imperfection and you can't escape and pretend that your actions have no effect on someone else.  But yesterday I failed.  Over and over again. And I'm sorry.

And totally undeserving of a husband who wipes my tears away and holds me tight and tells me that 'tomorrow is a new day'.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Day 14 - Sofar Sounds

Last night I went to something called Sofar Sounds.  It's a movement happening all over the world, creating music performances in intimate spaces - usually people's living rooms.

A friend had heard about it and managed to get herself and me tickets.  As you can imagine, spaces are limited.  We were emailed the address just the day before and knew nothing about what music was going to be played.  All we were told is to arrive at 8pm, and asked not to talk during performances.

We rocked up to a large house, clearly rented by students.  There were already a lot of people (mainly scruffy-trendy university students that Shona and I decided were annoying, but we couldn't quite say why!! haha so judgemental...maybe more on that another time!!) sitting on the floor of the large living room, but then more and more people were squeezed in.  *Next time: bring a cushion, and a drink*  So it wasn't exactly comfortable, but once the music eventually started, it was good enough not to care too much.

There were four acts, each playing about three songs each.  To be honest I don't go to many gigs, and I'd rather go out dancing than sit and listen to live music.  Partly because I'm not very good at sitting still (!), and also because I often end up thinking too much and getting a bit melancholy.  But last night the music, lyrics and performers were so engaging that there was no worry of that.

There was a singer songwriter, Marika Hackman, with a beautiful voice and poetic lyrics

Anna Phoebe, an incredible violinist with her band

CC Smugglers - a really lively group of guys with banjos, accordions, harmonicas, violins, guitars, ukeleles.... they've just had a documentary made about them too... 

And finally, a man with a guitar, a husky voice, and a great sense of humour: John Smith

It was a real privilege to hear them all, and could have happily listened to more from all of them.  I think my favourite was Anna Phoebe and band (see video below of them playing another gig), partly because the way they interacted with each other, and their facial expressions, whilst playing was brilliant.

So if you ever get the chance to go to a Sofar Sounds event, DO IT!!

Monday 25 February 2013

Day 13 - Black and Grey J

J's world is black and grey
the members of her church choir
wear a black and grey uniform of skirts and suits
in which they sing and sway
on a grey stage
in a huge grey auditorium

J drives a black car
along grey motorways
underneath grey skies
in her grey heels and black trouser she
arrives at the grey towers of Canary Wharf
and joins the marching black coats and cases
to deal in black figures marching across grey screens

But J is not black and grey
she dances hot pink trails across the salsa floor
and eats crispy orange friend chicken in her warm brown home
she laughs green life into dark rooms
she loves deep red
and sometimes sings blue
she speaks precious purple wisdom to the people around her
she dreams big, bright and yellow

the colours of her worlds sometimes clash with the colours of herself
and she is not a chameleon because
she doesn't blend in very well

she is a rainbow

I've just been up to London to see my friend Joy, and this is for her.

Sunday 24 February 2013

Day 11 - One Way Ticket

I'm writing for yesterday and then today is a day off right?  Being Sunday and all :-)

Yesterday was looong.  I'd worked in the pub Friday night and didn't finish till 2.  It was quite fun but fairly non-stop for 8 hours.  I'd been thinking about quitting alcohol for lent, but I think that's impossible while working in a pub where people often buy the bar staff drinks!  So yes, a few shots of Tuaca were consumed (it tastes like pudding in a glass!).  Anyways, yep Friday night did not offer much time for sleeping as I was up early to catch a train to London on Saturday morning.

I've mentioned before that I'm taking part in a couple of writing projects at the moment.  One of them is called 'One Way Ticket'.  I, along with 7 other 'emerging young writers' are involved in the research and development stage of creating a show for 8-1-yearolds about the scandal of children in care being sent from the UK to Australia (and Canada and Zimbabwe) during the 20th century.  It's mad that a lot of people still don't know anything about this - it was purposely kept under wraps as well known charities, churches and the government all had a hand in it.  Literally thousands of children who were being looked after by the state, were sent on boats to the other side of the world with promises of a better life.  Their parents were told they'd been adopted by other families (in England, NOT Australia!), and children were told their parents had died.  Lies lies lies all round.  And why?  Because the Australian government was scared of being invaded, worried about their low population numbers, and determined to 'whiten up'; the country.  Yeh crazy.

Once there, the children were brought up in institutions where they were often abused and mistreated.  They grew up with no sense of identity and belonging.  Messed up, yes.  Individual childhoods stolen because of panic decisions made by people in authority.  Whole lives affected and tainted by being separated from mums and dads and sisters and brothers.

If you've watched the film 'Oranges and Sunshine' you'll know that a husband and wife who were both social workers uncovered what had gone on, and started going over to Australia to meet with these now grown up child migrants, and ultimately began helping them find their families back in England.  It's unbelievable how difficult it was for them to get support from the government to do this, despite the role that the British government played in the whole affair.  Eventually Gordon Brown did offer an official apology and recognition of what had been done, but this was only a few years ago.

Yesterday we had the privilege of meeting Mervyn Humphreys, one half of the couple who set up the Child Migrants Trust, to support and help child migrants.  He was very unassuming, very 'normal' - well perhaps slightly eccentric - and you'd almost never know what a huge difference him and his wife have made to thousands of people.  They've devoted their lives to the cause.  I'm sure they're far from perfect, but really, they're heroes, and an inspiration to uncover truth, fight for justice, and respect each individual.

Friday 22 February 2013

Day 10 - Auden

I picked up a book of poems by W. H. Auden from a second hand books stall recently, in my attempts to read more widely.  I'd heard of Auden but never read anything by him.  I don't really know anything about him, to be honest.  See, I told you I was no literary expert, not even close.

I'll be honest, I'm struggling to get my head around some of his poetry, maybe you're not supposed to.  It feels pretty dense to me.  But this one is pretty straightforward, and carries a strong message:

Refugee Blues

Say this city has ten million souls,
Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes:
Yet there's no place for us, my dear, yet there's no place for us.

Once we had a country and we thought it fair,
Look in the atlas and you'll find it there:
We cannot go there now, my dear, we cannot go there now.

In the village churchyard there grows an old yew,
Every spring it blossoms anew:
Old passports can't do that, my dear, old passports can't do that.

The consul banged the table and said,
"If you've got no passport you're officially dead":
But we are still alive, my dear, but we are still alive.

Went to a committee; they offered me a chair;
Asked me politely to return next year:
But where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?

Came to a public meeting; the speaker got up and said;
"If we let them in, they will steal our daily bread":
He was talking of you and me, my dear, he was talking of you and me.

Thought I heard the thunder rumbling in the sky;
It was Hitler over Europe, saying, "They must die":
O we were in his mind, my dear, O we were in his mind.

Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin,
Saw a door opened and a cat let in:
But they weren't German Jews, my dear, but they weren't German Jews.

Went down the harbour and stood upon the quay,
Saw the fish swimming as if they were free:
Only ten feet away, my dear, only ten feet away.

Walked through a wood, saw the birds in the trees;
They had no politicians and sang at their ease:
They weren't the human race, my dear, they weren't the human race.

Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors,
A thousand windows and a thousand doors:
Not one of them was ours, my dear, not one of them was ours.

Stood on a great plain in the falling snow;
Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro:
Looking for you and me, my dear, looking for you and me. 

Day 9 - Early vs Late and Food for Friends

Wow this post-a-day thing is a challenge.  I didn't manage yesterday... was admin-ing all day then too tired to face more computer when I got home.  The hubby and I went for a date in the evening as we hadn't managed to hang out on Valentines day, and we haven't gone out together for ages.  Got home at 5 to find hubby all scrubbed up and ready, looking rather dashing might I add.  Here's where we differ - he's ready two hours early and I can pretty much guarantee I'll always be ready five minutes late.  If his friends say they're meeting at 7, most of them will be there at about 6.30.  Whereas my friends would arrive at about 8.30!  And his lot are the South Africans so that pretty much says 'in your face' to stereotypes!  To be honest I don't see much point in being early, it feels like a waste of time to me that could be spent doing other things BUT being late isn't great either and I'm trying to change... but it's clearly not coming naturally to me.  I blame my parents ;-)

Anyways, we went to 'Food for Friends' for dinner.  It's a vegetarian restaurant in the South Laines in Brighton and I'd heard plenty of good things about it, so wanted to try it out before we leave.  I'll be honest, it didn't blow me away, especially when you consider the price you pay (over £50 for two - main course and desert and one drink each).  Having said that, the open ravioli with butternut squash in a creamy saffron and sage sauce was LOVELY and I would happily have it again.  Llewellyn's desert of marscapone, plum and panatone was interesting and tasty too.  The rest didn't really live up to expectation I'd say and portions were small.  And interestingly a couple beside us made such a fuss about the standards having dropped since they last came that they returned their food!  That seemed quite over the top to me, but then we hadn't been before so had nothing to compare it to.  I know others will be shocked because as I said I'd received rave reviews about the place.  Maybe it all depends on the dish, and the night.  The waiting staff were friendly but it took a while to catch their attention!

I suppose we are quite spoiled for choice for places to eat in Brighton, and there's a lot of places that are cheaper and serve equally tasty vegetarian food.  Perhaps the environments aren't so fancy, and it was really nice to get dressed up, so yeh, I don't regret going, but I don't think I'd go again.

Hmm I don't think I've ever given a 'review' of anything before.  Mostly I don't feel like I have enough knowledge or experience to, but then I suppose all us 'ordinary people' are entitled to opinions too! :-)

Wednesday 20 February 2013

Day 8 - Alice

I know an old lady called Alice
Who laughs with neither spite nor with malice
Her memory is failing
But she's certainly not ailing
Oh there's definitely no messing with Alice!

just a short one today... thought I'd try a limerick for a change.  I spend my Wednesdays with Alice, and at 82 years old she'd definitely beat me in a fight!


Tuesday 19 February 2013

Day 7 - Wandering about Brighton

Too tired for words today, enjoy some Brighton photos instead.  Another lovely sunny day, hooray.  
With added bonus of two dear friends coming down to visit, lunch at Iydea, and a beautiful sunset...

Monday 18 February 2013

Day 6 - Where I belong

Where I belong (first draft)

I’m at home when I’m on the move
I belong to the shifting shore lines
Sand revealed and then hidden
I’m myself when I’m wandering
Capturing moments with my pen and camera
Freeze-framing beauty
A solitary sojourner
A restless roamer
I am free when I’m dancing
Weaving in and out of worlds
I sleep easy on trains and buses and cars
The space in between leaving and arriving
Blurred landscapes and city light hallucinations
Windows open to let in the warm wind
Smell of dust/petrol/salty air
I sit back in my chair and pray for the journey not to end
Not just yet, anyhow

by me

Sunday 17 February 2013

Day 5 - The Race

Sunny Sundays are my favourite kind of Brighton days.  Especially when I get to have a wander along by the sea.  This morning was the Brighton half marathon.  I watched for quite a while, hoping to catch a glimpse of two friends who were running it.  But there were literally thousands of runners.  Quite incredible.  I have a lot of respect for them, especially standing at 1 mile from the finish and seeing the pain etched on their faces.  Yet still they ran.

What struck me most was the people cheering.  And also, the people not cheering.  A lot of people were watching, and there were some groups who constantly shouted, cheered, banged drums and encouraged.  But there were also a lot of people who stayed pretty silent.  And I have to be honest, that included me for the most part.  It's so stupid but because I was on my own I felt embarrassed to clap and cheer.  Even though it's obvious that it makes a difference to the runners, even though I knew I'd want people to cheer for me if I was running, and even though a bit of embarrassment on my part is nothing compared to running 13 miles!  And still, I only cheered a couple of times.  Yep, I'm a little ashamed.

This is a bit cliche, but watching the race made me think about life.

Made me think that we are often too slow to encourage each other.

Made me think it's easy to judge how well (or not) someone is doing, by looking at how far along the road they are in comparison to others.  But we have NO idea what they've overcome to be there in the first place.  We have no idea how much preparation each person has done, and their reasons for being there.  Judging and comparing are just no help to any of us really!

Made me think that even after you've finished one race, there are still other challenges to face - like getting home, like loving your family, like facing whatever else is going on in your life.

So there we go, a few marathon thoughts.  Happy Sunday! :-)

Saturday 16 February 2013

Day 4 - La Poesia (Pablo Neruda)

Here's an excerpt from a translation of Pablo Neruda's poem, 'La Poesia' ('Poetry').  I'm enjoying discovering his poems, little by little, because each one says so much!

And it was at that age...poetry arrived
in search of me.  I don't know, I don't know where
it came from, from winter or a river
I don't know how or when,
no, they weren't voices, they were not
words, nor silence,
but from a street it called me,
from the branches of the night,
abruptly from the others,
among raging fires
or returning alone,
there it was, without a face,
and it touched me.

From 'The Essential Neruda', translation by Alastair Reid

Friday 15 February 2013

Day 3 - The City (first draft)

Arriving I hover
Feet forbidden from touching concrete
An obstruction to the flow
I try to shrink
Invisibilize myself
Mask on: I know where I'm going and what I'm doing and why I'm here
I'm not really looking a googlemaps on my phone
such a FAKER
but if the guard drops then YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO BE HERE
You will be ejected from chewing gum decorated paving slabs, ricocheted off sparkling window reflections, blinded by fluorescent beams
And sent flying into the Thames -
Swept away from this place
Where you do not belong

I do not belong
They are correct
I do no want to belong
In the stubborn stream of black coats and cases
In the ravenous marble foyers
Inside-out caverns of
Steel and glass
Everything revealed
Everything hidden
Wealth beyond imagining
Indulgent escalators
City masquerade
Tickets to the ball only cost your life and your health
And perhaps your happiness
But it'll be worth it for the swanky napkins and crab sandwiches

Salmon weaving upriver
I cannot stay here

Yesterday I arrived in London at Liverpool Street Station and walked toward Shoreditch, just as everyone was leaving work.  It was a little overwhelming, to say the least!

Day 2 - Table and Chair

chair looked lonely
so I joined it
table wandered over
and together we made a jolly fine trio

but pen was miffed at being left behind
so he jumped into my hand
notebook was singing to herself in the corner
we invited her over
and asked her to sing a little more

pen got excited
and danced across her pages

chair was supportive
and table looked on encouragingly


just a silly one I wrote whilst waiting for a spoken word night to begin yesterday :-)

Day 1 - White

So, continuing with my aims to write more - for Lent I'm resolving to write something on here everyday.  Mainly poems, I reckon, but other stuff too.  I know we're already into Day 3 of Lent, I just haven't had time to sit down with the laptop and blog, but I have been writing...


He sings white over you
pure and holy
a white stone
with your name written on it

He dances white over you
white shining like
sun, moons and stars
He breathes you full of light

He waves white over you
a victory flag
the battle is won

A white dove
He sends to you
the floods are over
and flowers have already appeared
in the land

He wraps you
and infiltrates you
with white peace
whole and true

In the dark of the night
He sings white
He sings light
over you

I wrote this for my friend Kim, during an evening of dancing and worshipping God.  It was a good, free, time!

Monday 4 February 2013

Poetic Resolution

I've got a few aims for this year, or for this season (that's me not wanting to be too ambitious!).  I've missed the deadline for them to be New Year Resolutions, so I was thinking of tying them in with Lent.  I suppose I need to know that others are simultaneously sacrificing, or struggling to develop new habits.

One of them is to get up earlier.  That's one of the ones that is waiting until Lent.  Yes, I'm putting it off.

Another is to read more poetry.  If I want to write better, I need to read more.  Especially poetry.  I'm still figuring out what I like, what kinds of style I want to write in, and I have loads to learn with regards technique.  I have the amazing privilege of being part of two writing projects at the moment - one is about developing work for children (using performance poetry to communicate tough topics) and the other one is doing workshops with teenagers.  So very new, and exciting, and challenging - but in a good way.  I'm trying hard not to be intimidated by the young writers/poets also taking part, but to instead be encouraged and to learn learn learn.

So to kick this off, here's a lickle bit from T S Eliot's 'Burnt Norton' (Part I) that caught my imagination...

"Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden.  My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
                              But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know."

This excerpt makes me think of the way we too often dwell on the what-might-have-beens.  I know I do.  And as he says, 'to what purpose?'.