Wednesday 31 December 2008


Somewhen shortly before 4am this morning, insomnia struck. I contemplated trying hard to ignore it, in the hope it would go away, but had eventually to acknowledge its presence and accept it as fact.

So I switched on the TV and discovered BBC3 was showing the last episode of a documentary about the clothing industry in India - Mumbai, to be exact - and the shocking incidence of child labour in the 'sweat shops'. I had seen the other programmes in the series, but missed no.4 somehow, so was glad to be able to fill the gap at last.

Six English teenagers, all interested in the fashion industry, one way or another, had gone to India to see where many of their cheap, high street clothes were manufactured. During their stay, they visited a variety of factories, from one high-end, ethical, well run establishment to several grubby, back street ones, where the workers were paid a pittance and where children who were obviously younger than fourteen - the legal age - were employed. The English lads and lasses actually lived and worked in some appalling conditions, alongside their Indian counterparts, so they really got to ' see how the other half lived ' and how the glitzy garments destined for London, New York or other world wide cities were being made .

There was a government body of inspectors who attempted valiantly to stop children as young as nine from being exploited, and to let them have a chance to get an education as well as experience a proper childhood, but as soon as one child was freed from the virtually slave labour conditions, there were instantly several eager youngsters waiting to take over, as any kind of a job meant they could at least afford to eat.

The lucky children saved by the inspectors, were sent to an establishment where they were cared for, to a degree, and given an eduaction in the hope that they would be able to lead a better life as an adult. One youngster who couldn't have been more than nine, had run away from his boss who had not only beaten him for any misdemeanour, but also punished him by hanging him up and dousing him with sugar water to attract flies or other biting, stinging insects to plague him.

The group of English teenagers, once arrived back in England, began several schemes to raise money for this worthwhile school in Mumbai, which had rescued so many boys from a hellish existence. They also asked us, the audience, to think a little more about clothes we bought, for a few questions about where and how they'd been produced, before opting to buy them, might help eventually to eliminate the very worst of the manufacturing hot beds of child exploitation.

As this started with insomnia, here's a poem with the same subject:-

Breathing rasps
and heart pounds
in the silence.
Dancing shapes
in the dark behind eyelids
swirl like woodfire sparks
inside closed eyes.
Absense of sounds;
ears strain to hear.
No light;
eyes strain to see.
The world is asleep,
but not me...

Tuesday 30 December 2008


The real reason I got tempted to join the blog brigade, is because I have a secret hankering to publish a book of poems, but not the confidence, drive or or even accepted poetical skills to do so. The modern fashion in poetry is for it not to rhyme; rhymers are considered 'old fashioned'. They are, however, allowed to use this form in poems intended for children, or for humourous odes or sagas. I don't for a minute say blank verse is NBG (no b****y good), and I do have many an example of my own creation, be it good or ill, that follows this pattern - or more correctly, non-pattern. In fact my latest offering was a case in point:-

Death Of A Living Room

The room resents intrusion:
shouts 'Silence!' in protest
as wooden boards echo
with departing footsteps.

Ornate marble mantelpiece
stands coldly to attention,
guards an empty fireplace
and mourns the loss of fire.

We papered over life's cracks
and painted rosy pictures
before we learned reality
needed more than a makeover.

I admit to this being a direct crib of a friend's basic theme about moving house, but these particular words are none the less all mine. Subject matter doesn't have a copyright attached...
By contrast, the following ditty (ryhming) is ALL mine - idea as well as vocabulary.

A Hostess' Farewell

Did you enjoy the party?
We hoped it would go with a swing,
but next time
we'll make sure the neighbours are out
before we let everyone sing...

Did you enjoy the party?
I'm sorry it got out of hand,
but possibly,
once all the noise has died down
the majority will understand?

Did you enjoy the party-
the food and the drink and the fun?
You must have,
because you're the last one to leave...
I'm so glad you decided to come!

I make no apologies for either one, as I enjoyed writing both, but leave it up to the reader to choose which they prefer - either or neither, of course !

Monday 29 December 2008


Mention of a spinning wheel yesterday seems to have generated some inborn, female yearning, judging from the comments I've just read! If I'd known, I'd have taken a picture of this particular wheel, before passing it on - it was NOT your usual variety, that's for sure. I got it third hand (at least) from industrious Cuz in Scotland, who had acquired a more elaborate one... To say mine was a little Heath Robinson, may give you an inkling that luxury it was not.
It was made in Germany, according to its label, and came to me in approximately 10 pieces, packed into a rectangular box. Granted, the wheel was round, but the rest were four- square, columnar shaped pieces of wood with turned screw threads (still wooden) at points of assembly, ready to receive the nuts - also wooden and square. It resembled nothing so much as one of those puzzles you see advertised around Christmas time each year for 'the man who has everything' except, naturally a complicated wooden puzzle... Cuz had cleverly numbered sections to indicate which piece fitted where, but unfortunately, instead of writing the numbers on the wood itself, had used tiny pieces of post-it-note paper, theoretically sticky backed. Somehow, during transit, many of these crutial clues as to construction had become detached and simply stuck to my fingers as I unloaded the goods.
Luckily I have the kind of mechanical mind that likes taking things apart and putting them back together, so assembly was not as hard as it might have been for a lesser mortal. Cuz had packed a small amount of fleece with the wheel ( fleece to which many of the sticky numbers had stuck) and with much trial and error I finally got the hang of things enough to spin the wool.
Another friend presented me with three bags full (seriously, no nursery rhyme joke) of sheep fleeces from her friend's pet mouton. (No, not a special breed, just a French word dredged up from one of those peculiar recesses of my mind.) The bags were large, black bin liners, and stood puffed up with fleeces and their own importance for many a long moon in my spare bedroom.
I duly taught my self to spin on that strange looking contraption, but noticed that a surfeit of treadling enthusiastically, tended to shake the wooden nuts loose and the wheel on it's three legs began to show crab like tendencies of walking sideways, or forwards, or backwards - how does one tell with only three legs? But I spun enough to crochet a square big enough for a large cushion top from the resulting balls of wool before my enthusiasm wained.
Months rolled by, turned into years, and the black bags continued to adorn my spare room with their presence and in hot weather, their very sheepish smell... Eventually I sent them off to landfill (freecycle hadn't been an option then) and dismantled the spinning wheel. It continued to live in my cupboard under the stairs, ensconced in a green bin liner ( tougher than the black!) until I dragged it forth recently, in order to allow my living room's sliding door to actually slide from it's recess in said under-stair cupboard, as opposed to being wedged immovably against a side wall.
So, you can see, this was part of the final push that sent me rushing to the computer to join freecycle and rid myself of the wheel for once and all. The add was answered in next to no time, which only left me with the task of re-assembling it - hhhmmm. No stickers, long interim of out of sight, out of mind and inevitable decreasing of mental capacity. What joy. A quick phone call to Cuz, to compare notes with any residual knowledge she could arm me with, then with only ten minutes to go before Interested Lady appeared on my doorstep, I got it together - literally.
So, I don't think any of you would mourn the passing of this particular spinning wheel. Be grateful.

Sunday 28 December 2008

Recycling par excellence

Despite today's being a Sunday, so far it's been an extremely busy, worthwhile day. On Christmas Eve, I joined (via computer, naturally) a local recycling site, where members can offer, or ask for, items to be freely exchanged in the interests of keeping them out of landfill. It utilises the notion of supply and demand on a grand scale. Wonderful.

In the last couple of hours, I've given away a massage table, a spinning wheel and a large number of powdered poster paints that have been waiting 'to come in handy' for far too long, and cluttering up my limited cupboard space in the meantime
There is a slight draw back. The emails containing 'Offers' or 'Wanted' adds, pile into your inbox with alarming speed and frequency, but oh!, the wonderful lightening of the burden of accumulated 'too good to throw away' goods, or, as I said, the 'come in handy' variety. Are there any perfect people out there who can admit never to have succumbed to such pitfalls?

On reflection, the very poorest of the world's inhabitants may have no concept of such luxury, of having more than they need, and this thought makes me feel very humble. Long may such recycling groups continue.

Saturday 27 December 2008

Pondering About Books

The changing face of books was brought home to me a while back, by my niece. She was talking about'Book 5 in the Heidi series'. Heidi was one of my favourites too, but it was, and still is, a cloth covered hardback, still in my possession though slightly the worse for wear. It was a complete volume in itself, not a paperback series that may, or may not, follow the original storyline.
This started me thinking about my other childhood books. I never had so many that I couldn't list them still, if I wanted to. I must admit to not keeping various Annuals that came my way (like Rupert, Girl or Eagle, as well as the odd Beano or Dandy) as I didn't consider them to be 'real books', snob that I was even at that young age, but all my original, true children's classics are still in one of my over filled bookcases.
Mary Mouse, by Enid Blyton, was my first book. About the size of a chequebook, it had two pictures to a page, with a minimum of text, and it was read to me as bombs fell from the sky...
Eventually came the era of Mickey Mouse Comics that sometimes appeared, mostly due to the generosity of Auntie B, not a real aunt, but given the title out of politeness. It would have been unthinkable for me, a child, to have addressed her by her first name alone.
She it was who gave me 'The Littlest One His Book'; it triggered my love of verse, which has lasted from that day to this. To begin with, she used to read to me from her copy, but when she saw how much I love it, she bought me one of my own - which I have to this day, albeit in a new binding... This she followed in due course by AA Milne's 'When We Were Very Young', 'Now We Are Six', 'Winnie The Pooh' and 'House At Pooh Corner'. My eternal thanks go out to her for the coutless hours she spent reading them to me, before I could read them for myself.
Sadly, Walt Disney's commercially biased cartoon characters have overtaken the beautiful line drawings in the original books, but true connoisseurs of Pooh will, hopefully, still appreciate them.
The Littlest One book was illustrated with delightful drawings on every page, by A H Watson, and its author, Marion St John Webb, wrote the whole book as a small child might speak, i.e. 'I expect' becomes 'I 'speks'. In this terribly 'politically correct age', this may well horrify a modern day editor, but I'd like to assure any such beings that, from a reader's view, it makes the poems more charming and memorable.
The book was originally published in 1927, though my copy was a much later edition. I would be so pleased to think that anything I wrote might endure half as long in anyone's affection.
Maybe this one, inspired by my grandaughters?


For sunny days I've sandals, with flowers on the toes -
I think one is a daisy and the other is a rose.

For chilly days I've pink boots with fur around the top
and four big, floppy pompoms that go kerflip-kerflop.

For stormy days I've wellingtons to walk out in the rain
and jump in lots of puddles, then jump in them again.

But when it's dark and time for bed, the slippers on my feet
have many tiny twinkling lights, so I dance instead of sleep!

Friday 26 December 2008

Boxing day, or ghost of Christmas past!

Having finally managed to set myself up as an OAP Blogger yesterday morning, I was then called to the kitchen to by the knowledge that Christmas dinner needed to be prepared if I was to feed the inner man/woman even as the blog called me to feed the mind by learning something new...
At this point, the day took over and ran away with me, so it was not until this morning that I settled down to actually 'post' something. There is so much jargon to learn. I would have said simply 'to write something', but no, I have to get used to 'posting' sans paper, pen, envelope or stamp. It's only taken me about two hours to actually find where and how this very first post may be committed to screen...
All who read, pity me - it will come to you to eventually - the feeling of being overtaken by technology.
Undaunted, I shall plod on.
But not before leaving you with a poem or two...


Evening dark enfolds the waiting city.
Children dream, perhaps of Santa Claus,
while juke-box music churns its tuneless ditties
into the streets where nobody gives pause
to think of Christmas.

The midnight hour solemnly approaches;
a small group congregates in vacant pews,
their measured footsteps rythmically encroaching
upon a silence echoing with the news
of that first Christmas.

Around the crib the candlelight is flickering,
but muted organ notes cannot compete
with raucous sound of angry voices bickering
from drunken revellers outside in the street.
Can this be Christmas?

Expectant landscape waits for welcome silence,
as moon and stars continue on their way
around a world beset with wars and violence
which needs the gift of Peace as much today
as that first Christmas.

And in a completely different frame of mind, here's another offering...

Noel, noel...

Festive wreaths all spiked with holly,
mistletoe and robins (jolly):
wassail cup all spiked with gin:
crackers with no bangers in:
smelly soap and stripy socks:
same old programmes on the box:
nuts and sweets and drinks free-flowing:
paper hats, balloons for blowing.
Tempers (short) and children (tired):
evening suits and dresses (hired):
office parties, too much drink:
Father Christmas on the brink
of chimney pots with central heating:
Christmas takes a lot of beating!


And to prove some things never change, I've linked this to Poetry Pantry today,24/12/2012!