Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Then And Now

Having reverted to childhood as a subject this week, I've decided to stick with the theme a little longer. In the book I keep referring to, 'The Littlest One', you get a picture of a gentler, less complicated way of life by the time you've read it to the end. It was obviously written from a fairly upper class viewpoint. The little boy featured on all the pages, lived in a household with maids, servants, a Nanny. There's a dog called Toby and a nameless, black cat. His home sports a grand piano, which his Mother played sad music on 'when Daddy was ill', as one poem tells us.

As well as the family scenario, which includes references to Uncles, Aunts, Grandparents, Cousins - though, interestingly, no siblings - other people appear who add to the sense of time and place: a jolly postman: a boat builder: a baker with a shop window where gingerbread men have' bright, curranty eyes': travelling gypsies, complete with dire warnings to children ( they might be spirited away!).

There's a forge where ringing blows echo, as the boy watches sparks fly in the dusk, and in a nearby house, an old man called Peter Bollins lights the way upstairs with a candle, which casts scary, goblin shadows on the windows.

The book has no prose, simply poems that have all this information woven invisibly within their rhymes. I think it such a shame it's gone out of print.

Anyhow, having got children and childhood on the brain, I wanted to write something to show how far removed many of their lives are today, from the almost idyllic picture of the early 1900's that my favourite book portrayed.

Different Lives

Mum and I live
in a flat down town
in a building with a lift
that goes up and down.
We don’t have a garden,
but the park is close by.
We go there walking,
my Mum and I.

Dad lives on the river
in a barge tied with ropes
to a little wooden jetty
where the riverbank slopes.
It has coloured flowers
painted round its rim,
and I sleep in a bunk
when I go to stay with him.

My Grandparent's villa
is very far away,
beside a sandy seashore
in Spain, I heard Mum say.
We're saving up our money
for tickets on a plane,
to have a special visit
with Gran and Gramps again.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Buttercups And Daisies

Having introduced Marion St John Webb's poem to you yesterday, I thought I would share some more delights from 'The Littlest One His Book'. Old they may be, but Oh, so understandable to anyone who has had dealings with small children - plus, it will leave me time to attend to other things this morning!

Buttercup

I've got a fairy in a box:
I made her all myself.
I always keep her safe, away
on Mother's shelf.

I thought of her an' cut her out,
but Mother sewed her up.
An' then I picked a name for her -
it's Buttercup.

I mustn't tell you what she's like,
she asked me not to say
in case you tried to make her, if
you knew the way.

An' then she'd not know which to be
if there were two of her you see.


Daisy

Daisy lives inside the picture
at the bottom of my plate.
She can breave' in bread-an'- milk though,
if she hasn't long to wait.

When I eat my bread-an'-milk up,
eat up every little bit,
there is Daisy, nearly drownded,
waiting underneath of it.

Daddy says I must be punkshall
down to breakfast always, or
Daisy might get really drownded
and be gone for ever more !

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Favourite Poems

Other people's choices have a habit of appearing all over Blogland, from time to time. As today is Sunday, I have a particularly apt one for all those endeavouring to be especially good on the Sabbath. It comes from a very old book by Marion St John Webb, first published in 1914, and the entire volume is written exactly as a child might speak. The beautiful illustrations on every page were drawn by A H Watson and are equally delightful, although you can't see them! Due to the great age of the original, I hope I am not infringing any copyright when I share with you:-

As Good As Gold

I wonder what it's like
To be as good as gold,
'Cos that's how good I ought to be
I'm always bein' told.
I'd like to be like gold,
Jus' once - jus' so's to see.

I wonder what would gold be like
If gold was good as me !

Saturday, 28 March 2009

Up, Up And Away!

I was intrigued to see on Squared Off But Curvy's blog, a count down to a holiday. Not an unheard of occurrence, be it the counting or the holiday. But what made it so unusual, was method of counting. Sleeps? Yes, obvious enough; but dustbin days and eyelash tints? It's almost like a Just So Story, akin to Tegumai Bopsulai and his daughter Taffimai Metallumai who caused the first letter to be written. A new way of looking things. A brand new counting system. Imagine the chaos if we all had our own versions of numerical wizardry in this way.

I'd count in haircuts. This would leave me a lot of leeway, as I have no regular schedule for snipping off recalcitrant frizz. One measure could be six weeks worth, while another, due to a bad hair day, might only be seven days. I'd be bound to miss the plane, let alone the holiday.
And even if I used my sleeps - would these be all night sleeps (about once a year) , or bother-I really-wanted-to- see-the-end-of-that-film sleeps? ( far too frequent and irregular to count at all)...

I can't wait to see how other Bloglanders would choose to count, given the chance. For Curvy's sake, I hope the dustbin men don't go on strike before the end of her fifteen sleeps, or the holiday may be over before it's begun.

Assuming all will be well, maybe the longed for vacation will begin thus:-

Night Flight

The plane rises higher, to leave far below
somnambular clouds that glisten like snow.
Soaring, it vies with an eagle in flight
as in effortless motion it glides through the night
in pursuit of the dawn.

The jewel bright stars in a sky of plush velvet,
like small silver fishes caught fast in a net,
are echoed by town lights which carpet the Earth
and shimmering, as you encircle it's girth,
peep up from between clouds.

At dawn, the sun's rim appears low in the sky,
and heaven's great dome is revealed to the eye;
first, roseate amber and golden of hue,
then gradually changing and deepening to blue
in the cold light of day.

Friday, 27 March 2009

Friday And Fish

Nothing to do with religious scruples here folks, but a tale will be forthcoming eventually, I promise. But not before I take you on a detour, as is my wont.
N.B. For Blogland people who think I speak an alien language at the best of times, this is not a typo for 'won't', but a derivation from:-
"Middle English, past participle of wonen, to be used to, dwell."
Having almost deserted Blogland for the past couple of days, I had time to get down to more unusual matters; arranging a pre-paid funeral plan with Help The Aged. Not something one does every day, but a worthwhile thing to sort out, once you face up to eventual demise.

A straightforward 'phone call at the beginning of the week, had the necessary pamphlets and forms shooting through my letterbox in next to no time. Having juggled various piggy banks, I wanted to be able to pay half now, and the remainder by the end of the year, once I could determine the rate of shrinkage or growth of the few measly shares I have to my name. No problem.

Until you see the questions on the form you have to fill in. O.K., you 'pays your money and takes your choice' as to which of three plans to choose. Then you come across a section that wants 'Grave Information'. I ask you, is information anything but grave when you are cogitating your own end?

Of course, I know what they meant, but while discussing various payment options with the helpful lady on the other end of the 'phone line, and her volunteering to go through the form with me then and there, I could not help remarking on such a wonderful phrase. Like you would. Or rather, like I would (and possibly Suldog or Carolina might).

I reduced the poor woman to a state of unadulterated hilarity. By the time I'd also explained I wanted my ashes thrown in the sea, (and really would not have been in a position to care whether specific music or hymns swelled the air as I headed towards the fiery furnace of a crematorium) therefore declined to fill in those details either, as well as the Grave Information.

You have to take your laughs when you can get them in this life...

Where are the fish, I hear you ask? Saturday last, No 1 Daughter and No 1 Son In Law had bought their two girls a goldfish each, plus aquarium with pump. Sadly, as is often the case with goldfish, by Thursday evening one had died. Already. Smallest granddaughter, bereaved owner, was awash with tears. Understanding Mama carefully explained, at least the little fish had found a loving family to welcome him into their home, and hadn't ended up a lonely fish in a pet shop, who'd never been loved. Is my daughter a genius, or what?

This morning, after saying ' When I woke up, Mummy, I thought my fish was still alive, but then I remembered, and was sad.' Mummy agreed with her offspring; yes, this is how things are when your pet has died. But then she suggested they go straight to the pet shop after school, to find another one. 'Yay!' said small daughter, much recovered.

I told you I'd get round to the fish.

A Fishy Tale

Once, in a pet shop,
there stood on a shelf
a dusty old fish bowl,
set apart by itself.

A goldfish swam in it,
around and around;
the swish of his tail
was the only sound
he made, as he surfaced
to look for dinner.

But none ever came -
he grew thinner and thinner -
'Til, at last! A boy noticed him!
Without more delay
(feeling sorry for Fishy)
he hurried to pay
the man at the counter.

Boy carried Fish home
to a big, shady pool
where he wasn't alone;
he made bubbly friends
amongst other small fish
and Boy fed him, lovingly,
with all Fish could wish.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Only Slightly Less Puzzled

The reason for so many wasted replies being lost in the ether, is, I've discovered, quite simple. When setting up on Blogger.com, it is possible to decide others may email you. Once a fellow blogperson uses that function, from that point on, replies to future inbox 'you have a comment' list, will go on their merry way to them. No 1 Son, alias Q, gave a much better explanation on yesterday's comment list, and we proved that opting to receive emails allows the 'behind the scenes' chat; he doesn't have a blog, but has signed in to Blogger.com, and receives my replies to his comments, no problem.

I'm sure he would answer any queries put to him, via my blog, about the email thing, as he has more knowledge in his little finger about such things, than I do in my entire being!

And you see why I'm not happy to answer comments on my own blog? With 22 on yesterday's post so far, only 1 of which is mine, answering everybody by that method is long winded plus boring for anybody coming late in the day to comment, for they have to scroll through reams of chat first.
Oh, well, I'd like to say sorry to the following for having been talking back to them completely silently for days/weeks! :-
Beth Kephart
Cheshire Wife
Garnetrose
Giddymomof6
God of another world
Lakeviewer
No rhyme or reason
Sixty five what now
Woman in a window
- plus anyone else who thinks I've been ignoring them. As far as I can tell, all other faithful blog comment regulars have been able to field my back chat successfully.

With Blogger.com giving out dire warnings of coming to a standstill at four o'clock this afternoon, I think today would be a good time to go and hide in a darkened room until tomorrow, as the imagination boggles as to how much mayhem may be caused by their action... What can I use as a blindfold?...Wake me up when it is all over...

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Puzzlement

This is just a quickie post, to which I may well (almost certainly!) add more later in the day. I am totally bemused, when I get comments appear as emails in my Inbox, as I requested, that the 'Properties' for many of them are listed as 'noreply-comment@blogger.com' - is this simply Blogger keeping a veil of secrecy over the proceedings, or do my answers to the comments thus marked in my inbox, never get back to the original comment writer?

Please can I get some feedback, folks? If you've left me a comment, ever, can you check your email inbox? I faithfully send answers to them, but am not sure about these 'no reply-comment' property details....
TTFN jinksy x

It's now afternoon, and the comments on and off screen a have given me lots to think about. I need to do a lot of dodging about to see who I can or can't email ( some of you I know well, anyhow!) and I think that will put paid to any creative juices I may have called upon today for a proper post - just leave me wallowing in fog for a bit, and maybe the winds of change will clear my take off runway for another flight of fancy...once the windsock shows necessary direction in which to proceed, of course.

More xxx to keep you all going...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Off On A New Tack

This morning I've decided to leave the weather behind; sun, rain, wind, or snow and ice - be gone! Instead, I intend to embark on the calmer waters of childhood memories. Did I say calmer? Probably not the right word for one born in 1941 in wartime Britain. But the mind is able to muffle the 'Whumpf!' of dropping bombs and the wailing ululations of those horrific sirens, as they had no real meaning in a small child's world - were simply 'noises off' in act 1, scene 1 of my life.

Mum and I lived at Granny Ada's while my Dad sailed the seas with The Royal Navy, so my memories are entwined with the extended family who managed to squeeze into that tiny house: Auntie and Uncle: two cousins (their daughter's): a maiden Aunt: Gran: Mum - and yours truly.
For the best part of three years that was my home territory, although my parents did have a flat in a large, three storied house a short walk away, I have no particular war time memories of living in it until my brother was born in 1944 .

With the unavoidable stresses and strains of living through a war, tempers were lost, family feuds waxed and waned, laughter, tears and love always providing a strong enough glue to repair any chips or cracks in the whole structure of family life as I knew it then.

With such a selection of grown ups around to play with, who needed toys? At least, of the conventional variety. I know I had a small, stuffed panda, made in a gingerbread man shape, that my eighteen year old cousin gave me for my first birthday; to this day, I have his 'remains' in my chest of drawers upstairs. He's flatter than ever, and a hole in the bald, plush fabric of his once glossy head will still leak a little sawdust -or was it straw?- if he's handled too roughly. But apart from that, I had more down to earth, every day items to serve as playthings, when the cousins weren't entertaining me, of course.

One of my favourite 'toys' was my Auntie's button box - presumably once I got beyond the baby stage of putting extraneous objects in mouth - so here is the resulting memory wrapped up in the guise of a poem, for you to join me in my game.

The Button Box

When I was a child and went to stay
with my Granny and Auntie, I loved to play
with the large box of buttons they kept on a shelf
and allowed me to take down and open myself.

I'd sort them by sizes, or colours, or feel,
wondering what each new scrape would reveal
as I dug for the depths of the box full of treasures.
Their slip-sliding movement afforded such pleasure,
reminiscent of pits dug in sand on a beach,
where a base, tantalisingly, stays out of reach.

I had special favourites: one silver and white,
that looked like a seagull in soaring flight:
one like a posy of flowers in grass,
painted so carefully on transparent glass
that sparkled, as slowly it twisted and turned
beneath my enquiring fingers. I learned
of the stories attached by a thread
of time and memory to the buttons that fed
my dawning imagination.

Now, many years later, I too have a tin
full of various buttons, right up to its rim.
Amongst their number is one silver and white
that looks like a seagull in soaring flight
and one like a posy of flowers in grass,
painted so carefully on transparent glass.

Monday, 23 March 2009

Wet Stuff

It was all over the place in Blogland yesterday, from huge thunder drops to fine misty dampness. Rain has so many faces, so many moods. It can caress, refresh, bite, batter or drench, as the mood takes it. After a dry spell, garden flowers lift their petalled faces towards it eagerly, but how often does the capricious rain, after a gentle beginning, suddenly gather its strength, freeze its cold heart to hailstones and cause mayhem, especially in England, and especially at this time of year?

In the house where I used to live, the living room had large windows facing onto both front and back gardens. They were the small paned, mock Georgian variety, that divided each window into multiple wooden framed pictures, if you studied them individually as opposed to part of one large whole. The overall effect was of a private art gallery; exhibits in ordered groups, the white paintwork enhancing the muted colours of Nature that they framed.

Depending on whether you were sitting or standing in the room, so the collection altered. From the higher viewpoint the majority of glass squares highlighted plants, shrubs, lawns, with sky limited to the upper rows of windowpanes. But sit yourself down on the deep turquoise carpet to play with the children, and the sky dominated and focused the attention.

I remember one year, Spring had 'come early', we said; by February the eighth, Number One Son's birthday, the daffodils were already well advanced and I actually found one brave bud that had burst into bloom - in February- unheard of! Come March, more and more fragrant flowers jostled their dancing heads to capture every available sun beam. Everything looked fair to becoming the best Springtime we'd experienced in a long while.

My window 'art gallery' was a riot of yellow, gold and green in the lower levels, and shades of palest, springtime blues above. But we were lulled into a false sense of security, for the rain and wind had been saving a last onslaught to shatter our joy. One night they gathered forces, blew and blustered, rained and hailed, destroyed blossom on fruit trees, decimated flowerbeds, hurled bits of twigs, branches and bark from every unsuspecting tree.

Which is why I wrote the following:-

Spring Storm

Racing grey cloud
flying overhead.
Wind torn daffodils
uprooted from their bed,
lie bedraggled in the dirt,
their sun-gold yellow
the only brightness;

paper thin petals
at the mercy of the storm,
lashed by rain that watersheds
into full-flood streams
gushing over long dry beds.

Whorls and eddies appear
on the glassy, textured surface
of that frenzied flow
of perpetual motion.

Wind and water
hold the land hostage.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Rain Reverie

Rain is falling softly
on the eager ground.
A bouncing raindrop
sets a leaf aquiver
with its life giving promise.
Drips gather along sloping branches
like beads in a string,
or birds collecting for migration.
Slowly they merge
one into the other
until their combined weight
frees them to continue
their earthward journey.
Drip, drop, plop.

(If you're wondering why the rain - go over to 'The things we carried', and see the raindrops trickling down on one of the pictures there. Honest - moving raindrops! Magic!)

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Procrastination

I am a pass master in this underrated art. I put it down to the two sides of my twin, Piscean nature, with its fishy friends always tugging me in opposite directions. A whole hour and a half ago, I sat down at the computer, quite sure that I would quickly check emails, then get a post on screen, before tackling things on the boring side of life.

So far, so good. Inbox cleared, open up napple notes dashboard to see which part of the Blogland world is already up and running. Curiosity always wins at this point, when I see posts that are so newly hatched from their creator's minds, that the time lag is in minutes, rather than hours.

It is my downfall.

There's Granny On The Web celebrating a 'Fabulous Blog Award' - must pop over and say congratulations, and see whether she has any more delightful grand children pics for me to 'Oo!' and 'Ah!' over. But no, what do I find? Her generosity has overcome her common sense, and listed Jinksy - with a capital J, no less - as one of her nominees for receiving the same accolade. Aarrgghh! Granny, how could you miss picking up on my aversion (like Suldog, only a bit more gentle) to such bling? To keep blog pages clear of such distractions, I hang awards around my neck, and am beginning to feel very round shouldered as a result - and they do make an awful clanking noise on the keyboard.

As for giving away secrets like listing five addictions - Not on your nellie! My favourite Blogland buddies all know who they are, anyway, as I shower them with emails which can surely leave them in no doubt? Many, many emails - lot more than five. The best thing is for everyone to help themselves to whichever award makes them feel good today, and share out a little love amongst their friends, the more the merrier.

If I didn't think you all worthy of the nicest award of all - friendship - I wouldn't start leaving you cryptic comments all over the place, now would I? I love you all! x

P.S. The 'anti award' thing is nothing personal...It just happens to rub my sensibilities up the wrong way. I wouldn't dream of chasing my friends with a pitchfork to make them go visit a certain place or person, nor to list their innermost thoughts on any subject, so why would I hound them under the guise of an award to do the same things? I'm open to those who wish to put the opposite side of the argument for consideration, but don't expect me to be an easy convert. Blogs that rely on these endless lists of questions/answers to fill a page are somewhat soporific to my way of thinking, and I feel a glazed expression hovering over my mind every time I come
across one in my Blogland wandering. OK, perhaps I'm a lot more like Suldog than I care to admit...

P.P.S

Late edition, appropriate for procrastination and world poetry day...

Dainty cowslips flaunt
buttery yellow petals,
cushioning cow's feet.

Who gave them that name?
They deserve a sweeter word
to describe their souls;

fragile, dancing blooms
threatened by brown bovine lips
intent on grazing.

Friday, 20 March 2009

Blog Hopping

Many a journey begins with a hop. We say 'Hop in the car...' : 'Hop on a bike...' : 'Hop in a plane...' All singularly strange expressions for two legged people, not closely related to kangaroos, that is, as far as I can see and Darwin not withstanding. Such strange expressions that make their way into common parlance are a source of wonder to me. If we could rewind Time and go back to the very first occasion the expression had been used by some unknown Tom, Dick or Harry - or even Thomasina, Dulcie or Harriet, they might have earned a place in our History Books as an innovator of language. Instead, the phrases gradually seep though the social layers and generations, spreading out like ink on blotting paper. The edges blur, and we begin to assume they have been in use for ever.

This brings another problem. Can you imagine a Roman soldier, bedecked in shiny breastplate and plumed helmet, calling out to his cohort 'Come on, men, HOP in your chariots' ( or 'HOP on your horses!') The picture is enough to make an ancient Brit laugh, let alone a modern one.
**** Curses! I have lost my cursor. It has gone AWOL and I find it extremely disconcerting, to say the least. How can I make amendments to my crap typing, when I'm unable to position myself where necessary?Anything may happen from here on in....

What I really meant to talk about this morning, was the Blog Hopping Tour I took yesterday, to catch up on what I'd missed the two preceding days. Curses retracted****; the cursor has deigned to return.

There were belated Birthday Wishes to hand out at rhymeswithplague - yet another Pisces Person in our watery Blogland Pool - and more icy photos to shiver at with Raindrops and The Smitten Image, where Hilary's chilliest shots made me remember...

Early one bright, cold morning, I was on a train going to Southampton. It was October or November time, so although the trees had dropped their summer finery, Winter had yet to claim the land with any degree of certainty. I watched through the windows as townscape slowly changed to countryside and fields and hedges flickered by outside. Then for reasons known only to the engine driver and British Rail, we slowed to a gentle crawl, giving me time to properly appreciate the view outside. Luckily, I had pen and notebook on hand, and was able to record these images for posterity.

From The Palette Of Turner

The sky is opalescent this morning;
rays of delicate winter sunshine
caress frosted field and dark tracery
of tree and hedgerow.

Ice crystal ringed puddles,
glassy,
shining in low slanting sun.

Misty boats on water.

Brown gold leaves
dead on branch or ground,
add simulated warmth
to a landscape coloured cold.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Thursday Thanks

To everyone who sent congratulations and best wishes for Salt River - big thanks! I had an email this morning to let me know Author Liz has given the first copy to her Age P's, and a celebratory dinner was enjoyed to mark the occasion. Let's hope it's the first of many - books, that is, not dinners. Though they will probably need to be repeated at regular intervals, if Liz is to have enough strength to continue pounding keyboards...

We have had more than a week of gloriously sunny days here in Havant. I wish I could share some of its golden glow with those of you still suffering from winter's chillier colours. It does seem to be one of the perks of living on the South Coast, this one-upmanship with weather. All the time I was still trotting to the station between 6.30-7.00 am, on my daily trek to work, Spring mornings like these made me feel I was personally being given gifts for my eyes to unwrap.

The longer a sunny spell continued, the greater the array of flowers and shrubs waiting to say 'Good morning!' as I passed the various front gardens. One house had an enormous camellia close to the front garden wall; its peachy-pink flowers would stop me in my tracks, so I could allow my eyes to feast on their compact whorls of colour. Invariably, an unexpected night of rain managed to reduce them to peach coloured pulp on the grey pavement, long before they should have died, as though Winter was trying to prove he still had the upper hand.

A few gardens along, and a small Magnolia planted near a group of bushy evergreens, held out a few of its slender branches at shoulder height, offering easy viewing of its elegant, creamy cups backed with shades of plum. Under the shrubs, the first snowdrops and crocuses nestled beneath the low branches, thankful for their protection.

On the opposite side of the road, one garden was planted entirely with rose bushes. The man, or lady, of the house kept the beds weeded, the bushes pruned, and woe betide any leaf that dared to show a sign of the dreaded Black Spot. I've known mild winters, when these bushes still had an odd rose or two in December, but the exciting time was the beginning of the year, when you could watch the leaf buds grow on the woody stems, knowing the pinky-green leaves were gathering forces inside.

The house next door to these regimented roses, had a completely different approach. A couple of Silver Birch trees drooped their pleated, heart shaped leaves over a mass of narcissus and daffodil bulbs, with primroses and bluebells self seeded higgledy piggledy, ready to create a mini woodland dell in the proper season.

You can probably tell, I used to allow an extra long time for getting to the station, as I knew I'd have many stops along the way...The nice thing about the early hour, was that I could dawdle and ogle flora and fauna as long as I liked, without passers by wondering what I was up to, standing stock still in the middle of the pavement!

One of the most beautiful sights was afforded by the half dozen or so ornamental flowering cherry trees that flanked two sides of the old people's flats on the corner. Looking up through their pink
blossoms to a clear blue sky, has to be a picture as close to Heaven as one may get on Earth. No surprise, then, when you read today's offering:-

Spring Panoply

Bunched on slim stalks,
tight furled buds dangle
puckered rosy lips
offering a kiss of welcome.

Canopies blush beauty;
fallen petals a pink tidemark
outlining ebb and flow
of capricious night winds.

Matching ruffle-edged flounce,
adrift alongside wall or path,
softens harsh perimeters
with flower-strewn edging.

Spring's light brushstrokes
overlay winter's canvas,
producing a composition
of pristine clarity.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Double Hurrah!

I am having a bad day. The original post has been wiped from the face of the Earth, even though three stalwart souls commented on it! It was entitled 'Hurrah', hence the Double Hurrah of this second attempt. For all but those enlightened three, the essence of the cheer was MY NIECE'S FIRST BOOK COMES OUT 1st April! I was then stupid enough to copy and paste a load of stuff from Fishpond NZ, which was where my day went downhill. It nobbled my formatting. The spacing went, the type face went, the colour went, followed by my patience, in the end. No1 Son worked many, many miracles from afar, and got the post readable, at last. But I eventually deleted the whole thing in order to loose wayward formatting problems in a flash, and bring the Blog back to its usual, peaceful looking self... Odd black type face irked my sensibilities!

This, then is what Fishpond had to say about Salt River:-

"Based on the true story of the Pook family in the 1920s, living in a remote area of the Kaipura Harbour, North of Auckland, the beautifully written story begins as a family of eight siblings are left alone for a week, while their parents go away to get married. Fourteen year old Tom is left in charge and must ensure that all the daily tasks are done, as well as keeping the family fishing business running and caring for the younger children, aided by his ten year old sister, Mary.
Life is tough and daily dramas ensue, not without humour. But it's not until the parents return that we learn what a hard task master the Dad is. A fascinating, and often exciting, insight into life in the not-so-distant past, which will astonish today's kids.

About the author

A first time author, Elizabeth tells us: 'The very day I finished writing my book, I made an astonishing discovery. All the time I'd been writing, Tom Pook's son had been working in the same building as me, without my realising.' He read the story, then brought Elizabeth an album full of photos, letters and documents which she then used to bring the story even closer to the truth. Some of the photos are included in the book.''

I am so chuffed on her behalf, you can't imagine!
I rushed to fill in the form to order a copy, but the postage put paid to my enthusiasm a little. I shall consult with Bush Face Bro to see whether Fishpond is blinding me with science by calculating shipping as costing about a third more than the price of the book itself. If they've got it right, I'll pay up willingly, but if they seem to be charging over the odds, I shall become all bolshie!

In the meantime, many Blogland inhabitants are still waiting for Spring to burgeon. Flicking through my pages of scribbling just now, I happened upon the following verses, written many moons ago but carrying the feeling of 'being on the brink', which I thought appropriate for today.

***At this point, the gremlins arrived. They wanted all lines to be double spaced from here on, so I gave up in disgust, and went away, disgruntled***

I then 'phoned No1 Son, who took pity on me, and did amazing things on my screen from his far away lair, eventually typing himself

No.1 Son to the rescue !!!
...do go on...

So I thought he should be blazoned in Royal Purple, by way of applause from his grateful Ma.

Ain't life grand? There's my lovely son using his superior knowledge to banish the gremlins, and send them scurrying away in high dudgeon... then within five minutes, I completely wreck his work by messing around on the editing page! Sorry Son! As I said at the start, I then deleted the bothersome post completely, and set about typing everything myself, with no cut and paste horrors to contend with. Much later than intend, I give you...wait for it....

Waiting

Beneath the soil the bulbs are waiting,
waiting for the warming sun,
until the Spring calls forth their beauty,
unfolding petals one by one.

Beneath the soil the seeds are waiting,
waiting for the falling rain
to swell their casings, loose their bonds
so beauteous flowers may bloom again.

Inside my heart the love is waiting,
waiting for a kindred soul
as it has waited, dormant, trusting
in Destiny to play her role.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

The Morning After...

...Has already turned into afternoon! It took me so long to read and reply to all your beautiful Blogland wishes, that the morning is long gone. I have to smile to myself, though, as the 'UG' or 'GU' language problem I blogged about much earlier, is obviously still in force. For every person who realised my Monday (birthday) post was mostly all about the happenings of Sunday, there was another who believed the glue gun episode was a birthday party game. I wonder, did I write in 'Gu' so the 'Uggers' got it wrong, or did I write in 'Ug', and it was the 'Guers' who ended up with the wrong end of the stick? Maybe, the problem was the glue stick? One day got stuck to the other. I did think, the little word 'yesterday' would have been enough to separate them, but there, days do flow into each other in Blogland.

But it's going to make it seem as if I had a specially long birthday, once I tell you what the rest of the day held! I'd hardly clicked the mouse to publish my daily blog waffle, when my Super Neighbour came bearing gifts. We had a lovely gossipy catch up on our respective grandchildren's exploits over the last week or so. Hardly had the front door closed behind her, when I had to open it wide again for long time Singing Buddy, who arrived bearing hot, fish and chips lunch, ready to be eaten straight from the paper with the fingers (for me) or from a plate with knife and fork for my Oh, so ladylike pal! She'd offered to take me out for lunch, but when the choice was left with me, fingers, paper and fish and chips were top of the list! I am a hopeless case. I blame it on spending five years as an art student and uncouth youth, then never growing up.

Once tummies were full, lips licked and in my case, fingers washed, we had time to play computers. Singing Buddy is not one of us, but loves hearing the stories of Blogland doings. At last, she was able to make a whistle stop tour round Blogland to visit those of you I'd mentioned, and she could see for herself what a clever, arty bunch you are. Eventually she had to wend her merry way home, to prepare for her Monday evening choral meeting.

Within half an hour, during which the phone worked overtime, the doorbell clanged again (I have a small, black cast iron, old fashioned bell with clapper and rope) and another of my Pisces Pals was on the doorstep with a bagful of goodies.

So the entire day was a sociable whirl of 'phone calls and visits; I felt I was definitely on a Happy Birthday merry-go-round. What better introduction, then, do I need for this?

Dragon Ride

Fun Fairs are fantastically full of surprises,
with Ghost Trains and Dodgems,
Stalls to win prizes
if you can hit targets that go whizzing by.
'Roll up!' the man says. 'Come, give us a try!'

Ferris Wheel on its journey of slow revolution
locks riders in harnesses,
limits the motion
of bucket seats, swinging and straining to fly,
'til folk fervently wish they were not up so high!

Carousel Horses stride out, three abreast,
flaring red nostrils;
no time for a rest
as they prance to the Steam Organ's bellowing cry
which spurs them to silently neigh in reply.

'Whoosh!' goes the Switchback. It can't be ignored
by neck-craning viewers
who loudly applaud
its serpentine carriages, saucy and spry -
a Silhouette Dragon, alive, in the sky.

Monday, 16 March 2009

16th March

Monochrome Monday? Pardon me while I give a 'horse' laugh, Carolina at Brinkbeest In English, but today is multi coloured: bright shiny sun yellow: daffodils dripping with diamonds: kaleidoscopic! Why such exuberance all of a sudden? Well, that's easy - it's my birthday! Aren't you happy it's not yours, making you have to admit to being another year older, just like that? There, thought you'd be glad I'm willing to take it on board instead of you!! Actually, I didn't appear on the scene until the early evening, so I'm still not a year older until then...There is always a silver lining if you look for it!

At a relatively early hour, Bush Face Bro and Mushroom Lulu telephoned with best wishes from New Zealand, bless their cotton socks, managing to catch me (as is often the case when they phone birthday greetings) in a semi nude state which makes me (and them!) thankful that video phones are not the norm.

Once fully clothed and functional, Blogland greeted me with a plethora of nice comments on yesterday's mini post and elsewhere, so what better start to the day? But it's yesterday that's left you wondering, I bet.

Usually it takes an hour for Kiddywink's parents to transport them hither, but yesterday, Son-in-law was at the wheel, and suddenly he switched into auto mode, heading for his workplace instead of here....
It eventually took them twice as long to get to me via the 'scenic route' - or as smallest grandchild put it, 'Daddy took us round in circles.' But no harm done, and it worked out very well, as No1 Son arrived shortly after No 1 Daughter and we filled our tums with food and our ears with chat and laughter in the time honoured way.

Then the day got even better. The subject of Easter Bonnets came up. Daughter, already a teacher and therefore fraught enough, had a note from smallest grandchild's school, to warn of impending Easter Bonnet Parade. 'I've got some hats, and a cupboard full of flowers', says I, hoarder par excellence. 'Shall we have a look?' Suitable hat duly found, Ma and kids went off to the local craft store for a flock of yellow chicks, while I hunted out the glue gun and deheaded a bunch of daffodils and spring flora and fauna. OK, avid gardeners, they were all only the silk variety - no natural beauty was harmed in this exercise.

Eldest granddaughter didn't need the headgear, so was quite happy adorning a polystyrene egg, instead. So I spent the afternoon as happy as a pig in muck, with glue left right and centre, and only an occasional 'Ouch!' when I touched the glue before it cooled down.

Come the day of the Parade, if that creation (with about three dozen mini chicks hanging on to the edge of the crown for dear life, while daffs twirl their petals all round the brim) doesn't win a gold medal at the very least, I shall be demoralised for life....

Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sorry Sunday?

Granddaughters are coming to day!
I guess I'll not have time to play
with computers and stuff,
so that's a bit rough,
but hopefully, see you Monday? x

Saturday, 14 March 2009

And Finally...

This last part of The Lucky Stone is maybe a bit longer than the first two, so probably only the very tenacious will want to get to the end. Give yourself a pat on the back, when /if you reach it, then sit and relax over a cup of tea and a crab sandwich, maybe...
*******

Back in the kitchen of the aptly named Crab and Lobster, Kate busied herself with preparations for lunch. The tourist season was just beginning to gather momentum, so a steady stream of customers kept her busy for the whole of the mid-morning.
Eventually, by about three o'clock, she had restored the kitchen quarters to some semblance of order. As she packed the last of the clean crockery away, the landlord appeared in the doorway.

'What, still workin', my girl?' he said with a grin. 'Perhaps 'tis just as well, though. I've been wantin' to have a word this past hour or more, but you know when we're busy there's scarce time to draw breath! That young couple come in - ones from the Old Customs House? They was wonderin' if any reg'lars had seen their childern round here this mornin'? Seemed to think they was friends of yourn? Anyways, Old Bill reckoned he'd seen their young'uns goin' towards the headland earlier on; they was goin' to check there next.'

'The headland? said Kate, with a note of alarm creeping into her voice.'I think we'd best get Bill to take a trip to the point as fast as ever he can. I'm fairly sure I know where we'll find 'em and we've no tome to loose!' Kate hurried out onto the terrace and leaned over the wall above the beach. There was Bill, thank goodness, sitting in his favourite spot on an upturned boat, mending a net. 'Hey! Bill - Get your boat ready, double quick! No questions 'till we're underway!'
Kate's progress round the building and onto the adjacent causeway would have won her a gold medal in any Olympic Games.

Bill was used to such hurried departures at this time of the year, and was ready with the outboard motor chugging as Kate climbed aboard.
'Mermaid cave, as fast as you can go, Bill!', she ordered as she settled herself into the stern of the tiny craft. Shading her eyes with one hand, she scanned the beach around the base of the headland, but without success. To her, the little boat seemed to take an eternity to cross the lapping waves, but in reality it was no more than a minute or two before they rounded the rocky outcrop and saw the jagged edged aperture gaping before them. As they came up to it, Bill cut the motor and let their headway carry them forward in silence.

Silence soon shattered, however, for as he took a flashlight from the tiny locker under his seat and played its yellow beam into the depths of the cave, two tearful, childish voices were raised in greeting. 'Hello! Kate! Is that you?' called out Claire, blinking in the sudden light.
'You found us, you found us!', chanted Tim, jumping up and down, all of his usual bounce returning now rescue was certain.

As the small boat drifted closer to the miniature beach inside the cave, Bill stepped over the side and waded towards the children. He scooped one child under each of his brawny arms and lifted them over the shallow stretch of water into the safety of the boat, where they clung thankfully to Kate, glad to snuggle close to her comforting, familiar figure.

'How did you know where to find us Kate?' asked Claire, still not fully able to believe their ordeal was over. 'We thought we were going to be drowned - we had to keep going further and further into the darkest corner of the cave as the sea kept creeping in.'

'It was all my fault', said Tim. 'I set my watch wrong, or we'd have been home long before it shut us in. It was only when my tummy started rumbling that we looked at the time. By then it was long past twelve thirty.'

'Never mind', said Kate. You're both safe now; that's all that matters. When the landlord said your parents had been searching for you both, it didn't take long to work out the most likely place to find you. I guessed my story would give the clue to your whereabouts - that and your stone with the hole in it, Claire. That's what started the storytelling, wasn't it?'

'So it was', said Claire, fishing for it in the pocket of her shorts. 'Well Kate, you said it was lucky, didn't you? It was too, 'cause it helped you find us.' Claire smiled at Kate and gave her hand yet another grateful squeeze with their own small, damp, slightly sandy fingers.'Though I still wish we'd found the Mermaid', she said wistfully as Bill started the motor and they moved back into the sunlight, heading for shore.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Story Time Continues

With no more ado, back to The Lucky Stone, after our intermission...

'Come now! I needs must get back to my work, much as I may like to stand about entertaining you two,' said Kate, after the children had thanked her for their open air story time by each giving her a big hug.
'Gosh, Kate, I forgot you weren't on holiday like us. Sorry! I hope you won't get into any trouble for staying long enough to tell that story?' Claire apologised.
'No, it'll be fine', replied Kate, straightening up from the pool with a dripping lobster firmly grasped in each hand. 'Though I nearly forgot these were what I came for!' and she trudged back up the beach with her strange cargo, accompanied by a child on each side, both intrigued by the slate coloured creatures that were so soon to miraculously change colour in the boiling water.

At the top of the beach, the children waved goodbye to Kate and the lobsters, then turned and wandered back, deep in conversation. 'Do you think that story Kate told us was true?' Tim asked his sister, who could be relied upon to answer all his questions.
'I should think most of it was - all except the mermaid.'
'But she only said the fisherman thought there was a mermaid in the cave, because of what sounded like music. Kate didn't say there really was one, did she?' Tim was proving how thoroughly he'd taken in every word of the narrative, despite the fact he'd been trailing his fingers in the lobster pool for most of its duration. 'Couldn't we go and have a look for ourselves?' The idea seeded in his mind, and once the words had been spoken, it positively flowered. 'Claire, we could, couldn't we? Look! The tide is way down the beach. If the cave is where Kate said, out on the point there, we could get to it easily now. Go on, let's!' He could tell his sister was wavering, and thinking an extra appeal to common sense would tip the the balance in his favour, he quickly added as an afterthought 'I'll run back up the steps and ask Mum and Dad if it's alright for us to go, shall I?'
'Go on then', said Claire, 'I'll wait here.'

Tim hurtled across the beach and back up the rough hewn steps that lead to their temporary home. According to Kate, it had been a customs and excise look-out station at one point of its existence. From Tim's tiny bedroom, at the top of the house, there was certainly an excellent harbour view through two windows set at right angles to each other in the thick, stone walls. It was also rumoured, those self same windows were often used for the benefit of local smugglers, rather than the opposing forces of law and order - but only reputedly so, of course!

Despite its possibly colourful past, it made an ideal holiday home. The large patio along the length of the cottage, provided a sheltered spot for sunbathing, which was exactly what Tim's parents were doing, as his mop of curls hove into view over the top of the garden wall.
'Mum, Dad! Can Claire and me go and search for the mermaid? Kate said there might be one', called Tim, not bothering to climb up to garden level, so his head gave the impression of a talking gargoyle.

His father, stretched out on a brightly patterned blanket, rolled over and sat up to answer him, as his mother raised her eyes from the book she was reading. 'That's fine, but set your watch alarm for half past twelve, so you'll be back in time for lunch.'

Tim was extremely proud of the digital watch he sported on his wrist. His uncle had sent it him for his last birthday, and to be asked to set the alarm was a big occasion. Normally, his parents threatened to confiscate it, if he dared set it one more time! Understandably, as a new acquisition, its loud beeps had sounded a little too frequently in the normally quiet Tennant household. Decidedly too much of a good thing, according to Tim's parents. They smiled knowingly at each other now, as Tim's fair head bobbed back down out of sight.

At the foot of the steps, Tim carefully set the alarm for twelve thirty. Unfortunately, in the excitement of the moment, not carefully enough; he failed to check the am / pm function and eventually ran back across the sand to his sister with the time 12.30am logged into the watch's memory.

***And that is your ration for today***

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Story Time

I feel like trying something different today. The following story was published in an anthology some time ago, but naturally, I never got any feedback, so am using Blogland to supply same. I did email it to a pen pal, but that's not the same as throwing it to the winds of chance, and letting the world have a peep! So, for kiddywinks, or grown ups with Peter Pan syndrome, here it is.

The Lucky Stone

Seagulls swooped, squabbling over the remains of seafood scraps that a woman in wellingtons emptied onto a shingle bank. She stood for a moment with birds encircling her, then turned and walked slowly away to inspect the shallow lobster pool at the cliff base, where fisherman kept their catch under short lived, life sentence. She needed a couple of lobsters for today's lunches.

The indentations left by her boots quickly filled to form miniature pools in the sea-edge sand, as two small children came running up to add their imprints to hers. They had spotted her from the steps of their holiday cottage, half-built into the the cliff face on one side of the small harbour, and began laughing as they rushed towards her.

'Hello, my dear, are you coming to look at the lobsters again? Don't you ever get tired of them?' She smiled a greeting to the small, angelic faced boy with his head of bubbly curls.

'Oh, Kate, how could you think such a thing? There's nothing this exciting in our pond at home - only goldfish that hide under weeds most of the time. I could watch lobsters waving at me for hours!' Tim danced on ahead, to teeter on the pool's brink. Crouched on his haunches, he was able to cause a ripple on its surface with one gentle, but persistent, finger.

His sister Claire, three years older and therefore too grown-up to indulge in lobster baiting, however timidly, slipped a small, soft hand into Kate's large, roughened one. She gazed up at the woman's weather beaten face through clear, grey eyes, her smile revealing a row of teeth that seemed too large for her delicate, elfin-featured face, as children's second teeth often do.

'I shall miss squelching to the lobster pool every day when our holiday is over', said Claire, still holding tightly to Kate's hand, at the same time bending over to pick up a tiny stone. Her sharp eyes had spotted it was one with a hole; they were always to be treasured. For a second, the equilibrium of the unevenly matched pair was unbalanced and they both seemed in danger of toppling into the wet sand.

'Sorry, Kate!' Claire laughed apologetically, as she realised how close they had come to falling over. 'I simply had to pick up this stone - it's almost like one of those mints with a hole in the middle. Look!' and Claire held up her prize for inspection.

'So it is, my dear! Well I never! They do say it's lucky to find one with a hole right through. That one's a beauty, right enough', Kate agreed.

The children had been staying in the small fishing village for the best part of two weeks, and in that time had become firm favourites with Kate, who made a daily trek down the beach. They first met her in the garden of the tiny Public House where Kate worked. 'If it had been any closer to the beach, it would have needed to be a houseboat!', the Landlord was fond of remarking to tourists; and it was definitely true. The concrete square which served in lieu of a back garden, had only a steep drop to beach level on its seaward side and high tides regularly showered it with spray. In summer, the small area was grandly referred to as 'The Terrace.'

Here it was that Kate had served the Tennant family with crab sandwiches on the first day of their holiday. She had stood by their table, chatting for quite some time about places of local interest and recounting snippets of village folklore. So when the children had seen her on the beach the next day, they had been eager to carry on the acquaintance. Grown-ups with such a vast supply of tales to tell were rare; ones who could spare the time to tell them were even more rare.

The finding of the stone with the hole was trigger enough for Kate to launch into yet another of her stories, which held the attention of the children for the next ten minutes.


***Next instalment tomorrow, people.***

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A Stitch In Time?

Anyone waiting for a photo of some glorious garment to appear amongst all this verbal chicanery will be sadly disappointed. Use your imaginations, Bloglanders! You can choose from dainty baby clothes, jazzy little boy outfits, suits, jackets, wedding outfits, hats, curtains, dolls, toys and anythings else that can start life beneath the foot of a sewing machine. You imagine it and I've probably made it, at some time.

However, I can recall a less than perfect experience a few years ago, when I was still in full time employment. I now relate it, for your eyes only...

The Ballad Of The Bridesmaids' Dresses

Have you ever embarked on a project,
then realised, far from the end,
that the fates have conspired against you,
so your firm resolve gradually bends?
Carol asked me to sew up two outfits,
Claire's bridal attendants to grace.
Soon, my table was totally covered -
paper pattern all over the place.

I'd carefully cut out each section;
twenty pieces I'd trimmed, whilst I dreamed
of the wedding day's colourful garments,
all complete, every stitch, every seam.
When my scissors, at last, finished trimming,
to instruction sheet details I turned.
Far too late to avoid wasted effort,
of Big Snag Number One I then learned.

Bodice pattern showed specified layout
on material width, side to side,
while skirt pieces showed by their markings,
an up and down grain was implied.
Many fabrics would not have caused problems
by the criss-cross of grains of this ilk,
but unfortunately, this was not likely,
when applied to those yards of shot silk.

For held lengthwise, the fabric was paler;
cross-wise showed a much darker hue.
Now I was in quite a dilemma.
What would be the best thing to do?
After quick round of 'phone calls and emails,
between me, the bridesmaids and the bride,
an alternative pattern was chosen;
website pictures helped them to decide.

A mercy dash then to the factory,
for a new pattern packet to buy.
What is that well known adage?
When you're having fun, doesn't time fly?
By now my week's leave was 'most over.
Not a stitch had I sewn, nay, not one!
I was simply back at the beginning,
as if I had never begun!

I thought I could try to get slightly ahead,
by buying two zips, at the ready.
But once back indoors, not a zip could I find
with my shopping. So, whose a big Neddy?
I searched for them, then I went back to the shop.
The counter assistant was sure -
she'd not found a brown paper bag left behind,
so I went home to ponder some more.

When I thought over carefully what I had done,
once I'd got in and closed my front door,
I could see myself unloading shopping with haste...
Then at last two and two equaled four.
A small paper bag full of mushrooms
I had place on a fridge shelf, I knew.
And yes, you guessed, when I looked closer,
there was not one brown bag there, but two.

I can't recommend frozen fasteners,
but the message got through without doubt,
for a symbolic signal I'd given myself -
'Don't forget to leave time to chill out!'

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Chinese Whispers

After reading all the comments left on the four posts in which I tried to share the contents of a television documentary, I began to see that Blogland has almost been playing a game of Chinese Whispers with me. I don't know how many of my readers are familiar with this party game? I'd better try explaining, just in case. Participants stand, or sit, in a circle. One person chooses a short sentence and whispers it into the ear of his/her neighbour, who in turn whispers what they thought they heard to the next person. When the whispers have passed around the circle, then the original sentence is compared to the final version - usually widely differing and often hilarious because of it.

I'd like to assure everyone, the painted bodies were thoroughly washed and restored to glowing pinky-brown before the assembly gathered for that final meal, so they were not asked to venture forth looking like a tribe of multicoloured aliens. Nor were they topped up with alcohol to overcome inhibitions. I think the whole experiment proved, as Suldog so wisely deduced, that humans have been conditioned to regard nudity as abnormal.

Personally, the most fascinating thing for me, was how scientists had been able to come up with a theory which explained why humans are no longer born with their own, luxurious fur coat, not to mention the fact that they've been dressing themselves up (though maybe not to the nines) for the past five or six thousand years. Gives High Street Fashion a whole new meaning...

This lets me glide almost seamlessly (!) into the wonderful topic of needlework. Making clothes was a way of life, for me, from a very early age. I used to beg to be allowed to turn the handle on Gran's old Singer Sewing machine when any of the family were sewing up a garment, and could be trusted to 'Stop!' or 'Go!' on command of the one whose fingers, at the business end of the process, would have been in danger if I hadn't!

Dressmaking

Tape measure: scissors: material: pins:
chalk and pattern; now to begin.
Lay out the pieces. Try not to waste
precious inches. Don't cut in haste.
Shuffle the pattern till order appears
from chaos, using knowledge acquired with years
of how and when to cut and snip
for perfect fit from bust to hip.
Allow for turnings, hems and seams
and bring to life the stuff of dreams
as slowly you watch the garment grow
beneath fingers that pin and tack and sew,
machine and trim and turn and press.
So much work for one new dress.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Last Horizon

I see some Blogland people have managed to miss the fact that, for the last few days, I've been relaying the main points of a BBC2 documentary 'What's the problem with nudity?' Horizon delved into the reasons why many of us are embarrassed about our bodies. By taking a group of volunteers and subjecting them to a series of physical and psychological tests, scientists were hoping to change attitudes to the naked human form. Questions raised struck at the heart of human physical and social evolution. Recap over, it's back to where I left off.

Although we undress ourselves every day, this is not normally done in front of other people, let alone a roomful of strangers. Four of the group were asked to do something more intimate than any of them feared, namely undress the remaining four people, as they stood on platforms in front of the partner. They could not escape the intense emotions this simple act produced. But what purpose does this sensitivity to nudity serve, if any? An evolutionary psychologist may have found an answer; two emotions play a roll in sexual modesty, embarrassment at the lesser end of the spectrum, or shame at the higher end, caused by gross, or inappropriate exposure of one's sexuality.

The professor interpreted this feeling of shame as a defence mechanism. The subject is acknowledging unacceptable behaviour by exhibiting shame, and asking not to be hurt, or punished because of it. He said that nudity, the flaunting of sexuality, is a threat to the basic social contract, where a monogamous relationship gives a secure beginning for human babies, who take so long to mature. Because of the large size of our brains, in order for the skull to be small enough to pass through the birth canal, babies are born prematurely, before these brains have reached their full size. As the instinct behind mating is always to preserve the gene pool, parenting young until they reach maturity is what that basic, social contract is all about. Living in large, social communities, it is easy to see how temptation to go against this code can be all too easy. So it would seem, we have been conditioned to sexual modesty because of this understanding.

Finally, the volunteers were pushed beyond the limits of social acceptance, and asked to paint the bodies of the people before them using colour coding to denote the areas they would be most comfortable to touch: green, no problem: yellow, less comfortable: red, strictly taboo. Over the course of the days spent in each others company, the eight people were less stressed at this exercise, and were mostly happy to paint green bodies. Minimal amounts of yellow were painted on one lady's breasts with red nipples, yellow and red on one female's pubic area and red around one male's genitals; the vast majority of the paint was indeed green.

And the conclusion drawn by the scientists? As the state of nudity is the state of being human, essentially, having a naked skin, and understanding the evolution of it, is understanding everything about being human. Sexual modesty exemplifies our uniquely human, emotional morality, for only humans feel shame, the moral emotion that enforces cultural standards.
For scientists, the extreme emotions that nudity can cause, will always be a paradox, for the human state of nudity and hairlessness, is the apex of human evolution.

All the participants were comfortable, by the end of their days spent together, to share a final meal totally naked, all inhibitions apparently overcome. But the very last test for the volunteers at the end of the experiment, was to see if they would accept the final challenge and leave the privacy of the house to appear naked in public. Six out of the eight walked down the steps of the building, crossed the pavement and climbed into the waiting black taxi cabs as naked as the day the were born...

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Horizon Part Three

Hello again; let's on with the next part of the show. How do we still manage to attract each other, despite wearing clothes? What signals do we look for to make fundamental social judgements about one another? A computer was used to display simple, monochrome human shapes, and people were asked to rate them in attractiveness. From tracking eye movements, it was possible to tell the usual path followed; on naked forms the genitals and breast areas were the first areas to be automatically noted, but once clothed, different signals were needed to ascertain sex - the first criteria for attraction.

Firstly, women have an hourglass shape, nipped in at the waist, while men appear more tubular. Next, the hips of a woman tend to sway from side to side, with a slight rolling motion, whereas in men, it's the shoulders that roll, in a kind of swagger. In this way, from just a silhouette shape, the body in motion gives us our first clues of its sexuality.

Our volunteers were fitted with glasses to track and record their eye movements, as they viewed each other, clothed and naked. Apart from one man, who consciously made himself look only at the faces, the rest of the group automatically viewed the hip, waist and shoulder areas of each subject, whatever the state of dress or undress. But how do humans judge the best time to mate? Many primates use distinct displays that signal a female is ready to mate, but beneath our clothes, such signals would be useless. Fertility has to have another method of exhibiting when it is at its highest level.

In an experiment, a group of women were photographed at different times of their cycles, making sure that one picture corresponded to just before ovulation, when they were at their most fertile.
When men were asked to choose the photos in which the women appeared most attractive, 60% of them chose the ones matching the fertile time. The scientists asked themselves, were there secret signals of ovulation , that partners or strangers picked up on?

A recent study was carried out into the amount of tips lap dancers earned. It was discovered, on their high fertility days, men tipped them more generously. No one has yet been able to prove what these unconscious signals are, but it has been established, that women's body odour changes at times of high fertility. Perhaps humans have more of a sixth sense than they realise.

Bacteria that feed on hormones in the sweat around pubic hair, produce distinctive aromas. Perhaps underarm and pubic hair serve the purpose of sending these odours out to the environment, to act as secret attractions beneath our clothes.

After a day and a half spent naked, the four of our original group got dressed again, while the remaining four wondered what would come next, when it was their turn to be put in the spotlight, as you might say. And I've decided to leave that until tomorrow. No sense in information overload all at once!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Horizon Part Two

Hope you all passed a peaceful night, despite nakedness or woolly mammoths. I left you yesterday, still unable to prove for certain the link between sweating and hairlessness. To continue...

A study of the Patas monkey, in Kenya, has excited anthropologists because of similarities to its many attributes similar to our ancestors. Their body proportions are similar, with very long legs that enable them to range over vast distances of the open country on which they live, and, unlike other primates, they sweat copiously. It echoes steps in human evolution.

The monkey's fur is less dense, with finer hairs, but one simple fact prevents them from following the course of our early ancestor; they are not bi-pedal. Walking on all fours, their furry backs continue to give them protection from the sun on the open savannah. Upright humans had no need of furry backs, as in an upright position, the only major area exposed to the sun, was the top of their heads - hence the retention of hair on the scalp.

Another major impact of increased sweat production and cooling ability on the development of humans, was on the brain. One brain produces about 20kw of heat; a rise in temperature of 2-4 degrees can prove fatal, so our improved cooling system would have stopped this happening, and ensured our brains had the chance to develop further, unscathed.

But the one thing impossible to discover, was how far back this loss of hair first occurred. Skeletal remains aplenty have been found, but never skin. Then an unusual link was discovered: lice.
By research into the genetic evolution of lice, significant dates have been pinpointed.
Lice were the earliest common parasite to all furry mammals. By sequencing DNA extracted from lice, interesting facts emerged when it was correlated to evolutionary changes. Human head lice DNA sequence went back earlier than three million years, so it is safe to assume loss of hair was much earlier than at first thought.

Lice can only live once they have a suitable environment to inhabit. Each primate had their own species of lice, so scientists were able to pinpoint 3 million years ago as the date when there were changes in human body hair enough to support the crab louse. It needed a courser, more widely spaced hair for its habitat. Similarly for our third kind, the clothing louse. There had to have been clothing to supply it with its one and only habitat, so its appearance about half a million years ago, gives us the rough date at which our ancestors began dressing.

With the emergence of garments, come another set of questions. How does sexual attraction work, when all parts of the body naturally associated with it, are covered by clothes?

I think I will close the wardrobe doors now, and leave the speculations until tomorrow. My brain has had enough for one post, even if yours hasn't...

Friday, 6 March 2009

On The Horizon

No, this is not about the view thirty miles away ( the distance the horizon appears to be at if you are a six foot male) but the BBC2 Horizon documentary on Tuesday, which asked the question, 'What's the problem with nudity?' Psychologists and scientists gathered a group of eight volunteers, from all parts of the UK and from different walks of life, to study attitudes to the naked human form.

In the first experiment, the eight were divided into pairs: two men: two women: two couples each of mixed sexes. One couple at a time was split between adjacent rooms, separated by a wall with a full length, two-way mirror. Each pair received instructions, to be read when told; one was to sit in front of the mirror, the other asked to stand before their mirror and strip. Most of them realised the partner was on the far side of the glass, although this was not specifically explained. Stress levels were measured. When evaluated, females tended to be more stressed before stripping, males after. They were asked why they thought humans felt this discomfort, being naked before a stranger. Was it simply the sexual aspect? Scientists had a theory that the reasons were rather more complex.

Amongst all the life forms, why are humans not covered in fur? Anthropologists believe humans first appeared in Africa a quarter of a million years ago. In Kenya, there is research being done to explain one of the mysteries of human skin. Why have we lost the insulating, protective fur of other mammals? 150 years ago, Darwin put forward the theory that natural selection accounted for it, preference being for a mate with less hair. In Finland, experiments were begun to test out this theory, that women prefer less body hair on the men they choose. A set of before and after photos of men's torsos were taken - all body hair being shaved before the second set were done.

The UK experimenters followed suit with our volunteers; men were photographed, bodies unshaved, their images being intermingled with those taken in Finland. The women were asked to rate the attractiveness of all the men's pictures. 60% of those most favoured were hairless. Our four 'hairy' volunteers were ranked extremely low in the remaining group. Seemingly, Darwin's theory holds good. But by the rules of evolution, this theory is not enough on its own.

In primates, thick, glossy fur is a prime factor in the choice of a strong, healthy mate. So there must have been a further incentive for our ancestors to become less hairy.

Back in London, another experiment was conducted. Two men, one clothed, one naked, stood before powerful heaters, while thermal cameras showed hottest areas. The clothes protected the body as fur would do, keeping the temperature of the covered skin lower. But there had to have been more significant factors as to why our ancestors became hairless. Then scientists realised, there had been three main changes: we walked upright: we began strenuous exercise, roving miles over the plains: we developed sweat glands, that were more efficacious with bare skin. These three factors helped our bodies develop in a different way. Our skin is a giant, all over cooling system, capable of loosing a litre of sweat an hour. Fur was no longer so useful.

I think I shall stop here, and take you on another stage of evolutionary delight tomorrow. Hope a night without fur is not too traumatic - you can always snuggle up next to somebody else for warmth - maybe a woolly mammoth? xxx

Thursday, 5 March 2009

A Post on Post

Before Christmas, I sent a small, padded envelope to a friend in London. It contain a small, crystal angel (Christmas present), a silver ring (late birthday present that hid in one of those 'safe places' and got forgotten), and a beautiful blue-green velvet scarf that friend left behind on her last visit. Nothing of huge value, but each piece with a story. I used Online Postage to print the Royal Mail label, and as well as her address, mine was clearly printed on the label too.

In February, friend told me the packet had not arrived. Now, I discover that her text, which had provided her new address, had said 31, whereas 61 was the correct house number. The point is this; why had the recipient at 31 not put the envelope back in the post, marked 'Return to Sender', or 'Not known at this address', when they received post clearly intended for somebody else? Honesty no longer seems to be the best policy.

The Post Office don't want to know unless I can provide a proof of posting. Even if it had been possible after all this time to find the computer record of printing the label, money could not make up for loss of the original articles. And we are back to honesty, and trust. Why would I say I'd posted them if I hadn't? Suspicion and mis-trust rule, more's the pity.

In complete contrast, on the plus side of of postal services, we need to travel further afield. To Delhi, believe it or not. After David McMahon mentioned his novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, I searched on Amazon to see whether a copy was available. One was - for the princely sum of £69. Further Internet searching, showed I could buy one from The Eastern Book Corporation, Pitampura, Delhi. Total cost plus shipping, around £15. As UK can charge £4.95 to send a book within this country, I considered £15 good value, especially since Air Mail would be involved.

Yesterday the parcel arrived. A real, brown paper wrapped, tied with string, parcel, the like of which I'd not seen for many a long year; corrugated cardboard inside, for protection, but elegantly cut and folded brown paper outside, just large enough to function as it should, but not adding one superfluous square centimeter to the amount of recycling waste it would eventually create. Even the label was ordinary paper, glued on - not the horrible, sticky backed, plasticised horror so often used here. A perfect parcel. Thank you, Delhi. Now I'm going away to read the book. Byeee!

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

I Hate Those Meeces To Pieces!

Who hasn't heard that well worn phrase from the cartoon Mr Jinks? Anvilcloud and Cuppa, I suspect, thoroughly agree with this statement, but I have mixed feelings. As a very young child peering over Gran's garden wall to see the pet white mice of the boy next door, I thought they were beautiful and my eyes went greener than normal with envy. They have certainly never inspired terror, though I soon realised that the wild variety were not welcome indoors.

We lived on the top floor of a three story house, when I was little. It was not particularly large, for a flat, though the individual rooms were high ceilinged, and spacious. My Bro, (minus the Bush Face at this stage of his life), slept in a cot to the right of Mum and Dad's bed, and my little bed was in an alcove on the opposite side of the room, to the left of the fireplace. Yes, a proper fireplace in a bedroom. The house was quite grand, as houses go, and must have been lovely before it was divided into flats. Anyhow, underneath my bed, there was just enough space to accommodate the enormous, family Bible that was originally Gran's. It was of a size more usually found on a lectern in a church, and sported a gold tooled, leather binding with ornate brass clasps.

On night, tucked up and waiting for sleep to come (I was a bad sleeper, even then), I heard a strange, rasping noise coming from below my bed. 'Mum, Mum!' I called out.
In comes Mama, 'What's up?'.
'There's something under my bed!'
'Rubbish, of course there isn't! Go to sleep!'
'But Mum..'
'Go to sleep!'
If you'd met my Mama, you'd have known why this was enough to quash further protestation. She was a bit like a little Bantam Fighting cock, when roused.
I continued to lie there, quietly, listening to the intermittent tappitty-rasp, tappity-rasp.

Eventually, time came for Mum and Dad ( on leave for once!) to climb into bed, too. Bro slept peacefully; the remaining three of us lay in the dark, with varying degrees of hope that sleep would claim us.
Tappity-rasp, tappity-rasp broke the silence, yet again...Murmuring from parental bed, and jubilant protestation from mine - 'I told you there was something under my bed!'

Dad came over and peered underneath - 'It's a mouse. Quick shut the door!' he called across to Mum. For the next few minutes there was of shuffling around of humans, and scurrying around of mouse, until suddenly, Whump! Dad grabbed his hefty, green Naval case from the corner and banged it down on the furry intruder. It was a very tiny field mouse, no doubt an overspill from the bottom of the garden hen house, full of chickens kept by the Baker. He owned the building, and lived in the middle flat.

I was glad the noise of gnawing teeth on leather and brass had come to an end, but sad for the mouse...

Many years later, my children bought a pet mouse each with their pocket money. It was shortly after we had acquired a small kitten, too, and I used to joke they were for emergency food rations, should the tins of KittyKat run out. Luckily they never did.

Cat and Mouse

Smooth black fur in elegant undulations,
ecstatic expression in half closed eyes.
Cat purrs gently. Resonant, soft vibrations
set whiskers a-quiver and then Cat sighs.

Front paws folded, tail tucked, neatly composed
her sleek head lowers. At last, she sleeps.
Quite close by to Cat lying deep in repose,
mice scamper stealthily. Creep, mice, creep!

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Hear Endeth The Drain Saga

I'd been sitting at the computer, valiantly endeavouring to travel my daily Bloground while waiting for today's subject for my entry to float to the surface of my mind, when the phone interrupted. A sing-song, feminine voice announced a call from my insurance company. I metaphorically crossed my fingers, toes and anything else crossable as I waited for the outcome of my claim for the drain. ( See, rhyming follows me around non-stop.)

After checking I was indeed the person I professed to be, ( from several inane enquiries, i.e. name and maiden name) Miss Sing Song Voice confirmed the insurers were happy with the report of work carried out by the drain experts, and would be issuing a cheque in the next fourteen days - all without telling me how much they charged. It will be extremely interesting to see how the amount compares with the original quote of £560. I can, however, heave a sigh of relief that it will be paid without recourse to my piggy bank, which is already rattling less jauntily after paying for the annihilation of my tree. May this close yet another chapter in the Life of Jinksy.

Quickly turning to a clean page, I shall now return to the subject I'd decided would provide today's entry; WORDS, and the understanding thereof. After emailing a photo of youngest offshoot of the Jinksy Tree to Bush Face Bro, I realised that the accompanying comment he thought I'd sent, was not what I'd meant. (Quite like accidental rhyme here, so will not edit out.)

I said she 'was a girlie girl all along', meaning that, from a tender age, she'd displayed all the typically feminine traits of adoring clothes, shoes, makeup and new hairstyles. Bush Face Bro, however, interpreted the words to mean she'd suddenly exhibited a side of her character previously hidden. As Bush Face Bro and Jinksy the Pud (me, of course) had grown up with one of the strongest brother-sister understandings you could imagine, this made me think again of the correlation between words spoken, or written, by one person and their meaning as understood by another.

I know from experience, this dual understanding can be the cause of a great deal of friction. My mind has always leaped ahead of a speaker, often to arrive at a completely different destination to the one they intended. I put this down to the individual meaning I've invested a word or phrase with, which has turned out to be totally at odds with what the other person had thought they were conveying. Perhaps this was simply another manifestation of the less admirable side of the Neptune influence on us Pisces people. Illusion / delusion. At least being aware of its effect, means we are able to look out for warning signs! I wonder if others among my Blogland Pisces Pals have noticed the same symptoms? There sure do seem to be a lot of us, judging by yesterday's comments and emails I received...Power to the Pisces People!

Herewith, then, today's pondering poem.

Letters

Words on white paper
make a pattern
of visible thought.
Inside the mind,
corresponding images take shape.
Communication begins.
The next step is understanding,
which remains invisible.