Sunday, August 20, 2017

Conversation with me

Husband made the mistake of sitting in the room with me while we were drinking our tea. I thought I'd tell him about, well, listen. Or read.

'I was listening to a programme on the radio when I was in the car,' I said. 'Well actually part of a programme. There was a man on it - I think he was a DJ but I don't know him - and he was choosing his Inheritance Tracks. Records he'd want to pass on to his children. And the one he chose was by a group called ... Stinking Lips or something. That doesn't sound like a great name for a band, does it? Hang on, I'll google it.

'Stinking Lips ... no, stinky lips. Ooh, no, perhaps I won't read that page, it looks a bit rude. Perhaps it was something else then.'

'Sinking Lips?' Husband suggests. I google it. 
'No, nothing.'
'Sinking Ships?'
'No, it was definitely lips. I think.

'Well anyway, this song, the DJ said it was written by the lead singer after his friend died. I can't remember what it was called. But it was about, well, I'm not sure, but it's upbeat and cheerful. Except for this one line, Everybody you know will die, or something like that. And it made me think: everybody I know will die. I mean I know everyone dies but you don't think about people you know dying, do you?'

I think Husband had fallen asleep by then.

Of course I know loads of people who have died, some old, some young. But - I don't know how to explain it. I mean my grandchildren will die. Hopefully many many many years after I'm dead and buried. (Burned.) In some strange way it made me feel more accepting of death. Not that I think about it a lot or worry about it. 

I expect you've fallen asleep now. I don't blame you; I'm blathering on with no real focus. If I ever work out what I mean I'll come back to it.

P.S. A wonderful invention iplayer. I was able to check out and listen again to the programme. The band was called Flaming Lips and the song, Do you realise? Well I got Lips right. They are good words too.

Do you realize that you have the most beautiful face
Do you realize we're floating in space,
Do you realize that happiness makes you cry
Do you realize that everyone you know someday will die
And instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know
You realize that life goes fast
It's hard to make the good things last
You realize the sun doesn't go down
It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round
Do you realize, oh, oh, oh?
Do you realize that everyone you know
Someday will die?
And instead

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trouble in Haiti

A cop for Christ Mike Di Sanza NYPD
Some of you may know that, way back in 2001, a book I ghost-wrote was published by Hodder. Called A Cop for Christ it told the story of a NYPD cop Mike Di Sanza. 

I first met Mike when he came to nearby Port Talbot to stay with the pastor of a church there. The pastor's name is Christy Smith and, some time after A Cop had been published, Christy asked me if I'd be interested in hearing his story with a view to doing the same thing i.e. ghost-writing his autobiography.

So we met up and he began to tell me about his upbringing in Dublin and how disappointed his father had been when he became a pastor. 'He'd been hoping I would follow him into the family business: robbing.'

We continued to meet and I began to work on his book. Then he moved away and we sort of lost touch and the book idea was forgotten about. 

Some years later there was a knock at my door. I opened it and there stood Christy. In the gap between visits he'd had a brain haemorrhage - and he was only 37. We picked up where we left off but again distance and life got in the way. 

I think there was at least one other occasion when we met and swore we'd definitely get it done this time. In fact I even began contacting publishers and interest was expressed by Penguin Ireland ... if they could see the whole manuscript. 

Christy contacted me again a few weeks ago and said he had some time available and he'd be willing to come down and talk again. We finally managed to arrange a date that suited us both and he and his wife visited last Wednesday and Thursday and continued to tell me the story of their lives. 

Lives which take in Haiti, Kosovo, Macedonia, America, Estonia, Spain, Ireland, Manchester, Grenfell Park; you name it Christy was there. In his role as Police Chaplain and part of a rapid response team.

Christy and Linda in Haiti

So I now have a new (-ish) project to work on and this time we're determined. Apart from anything else the internet has made giant steps since we started and now we can skype!

I feel excited about this but also, having tried to make sense of my notes, a little daunted. Never believe yourself when you say, 'It's all right: I'll remember what all this is about.' Just a day or so later and you'll be saying, 'Hare Krishna? Erotic poetry? Mother of woman who ...? What does this mean?'

At the beginning of September I'm planning to go on  a week's retreat. To my study. I'm going to be unavailable (children, please note) as far as the outside world is concerned while I try to break the back of this jumble.

But I'm enthused. Even though I'm not sure how it'll fit in with the rest of my life ...

Friday, August 18, 2017

Staying at the Palace

Most of my holidays were spent in a caravan in Port Eynon on Gower. It belonged to a friend of my mum's who let us use it for a week a year.

Regent Palace hotel london
But one year my mum took me and my gran to London. All I can remember about it is that we stayed in the Regent Palace Hotel and one lunchtime in a cafe I chose an Open Sandwich. It turned out to be on dark rye bread and I hated it.
The camera I'm holding so tightly outside Buckingham Palace is a Brownie 125 bought for me by Auntie Dusty, my mum's Yorkshire/American friend. That's her in the photo with me in my nifty little swimsuit at Langland. It was my first camera and I loved it. In fact in the London photo I'm probably holding an empty case as I suspect this photo was taken with my Brownie.

Many years later my mum took me and my cousin, Lynne, to stay with May, her old WAAF friend, and her family in Cheshire. I'm not saying we were poor but I had to wear my school uniform summer dress while my cousin, six months and an attitude older, wore the latest fashions.
But we did get to 'Ferry cross the Mersey' and see the Cavern Club.

The gift of the gab

I've never had it. The gift of the gab that is. Very shy as a child so my mother sent me to Kate Kolinski for elocution lessons in the hope it would give me confidence. It didn't. All I got was this certificate for passing the exam. 
Then as an adult I tried kissing the blarney stone - at great personal terror, you understand. I had to walk around the castle three times telling myself it was perfectly safe to lie on my back across a hole with my head leaning backwards and down into nothingness.
kissing the blarney stone
That didn't work either.

I had better resign myself to the fact that I'm never going to get it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

A peculiarly British habit?

I never used to worry about cows. That is until Daughter told me stories of people who'd been chased and even killed by cows. Even then though I didn't believe her really. Until the cows chased me.

Okay, it's possible they just happened to be running in my direction rather than rampaging at me but I wasn't taking any chances and hid behind a tree with GrandDaughter1 in her pushchair. Since then I've treated cows, especially with calves, with great respect and a lot of space.

So I wasn't pleased today to see the golf course covered in cows including this one who was obviously planning a surprise attack.
Cow peeping over hillock

But the one who was blocking the path completely was a different prospect.
'Come on, dogs,' I said. 'We can do this. We'll just edge towards her quietly.'
The cow looked up, glanced at us, saw our predicament and kindly moved into the bushes.
'Thank you so much, dear cow. That is most gracious of you.'

Pah! Scary cows? Nonsense.

By the time we'd reached the beach, hurried around the headland before the tide came in, and turned into Pobbles the rain had caught up with us.
That wasn't supposed to happen until I was home and dry not when I still had a long walk ahead of me. Without a coat.

Now is it a peculiarly British habit to leave one's belongings unattended on the beach?
I've done it since I was a child, left all my worldly goods including my purse and watch, and, more importantly, my towel in a pile on the beach. And I've never had anything taken. Does that mean robbers don't frequent beaches?

I wanna win big

If I've learned anything from watching television, in particular law drama, Suits, it's that if you wear a tight enough dress and high enough heels you can march in anywhere and demand what you like.

I explained this to Husband when I told him how much compensation I thought we should claim for the problems we're having with Uncle's flat. He thought I'd be laughed out of court but I pointed out that if you're determined enough - and you have something with which to blackmail the company - you'll be the one laughing.

On reflection though I may be lacking something: a pert sticky-out bottom. Mine is more on the droopy side.

Okay, back-up plan, Husband goes as Harvey Specter.
Harvey Specter quote win big

Monday, August 14, 2017

Tea at Auntie Gay's

When I was born my gran's sister, Auntie Gay (Grace), and her husband, Uncle Dan, who were childless, wanted to adopt me but my mum decided to keep me. Here they are at their silver wedding party.
They lived in the next street so we saw a lot of them and Auntie Gay was devoted to me. Uncle Dan worked at Mumbles pier on the skee rolls, which I loved - and he used to let me have free goes.

On Christmas morning I'd open my presents in bed before going into my mum's room to show her. Then I'd go downstairs and show my grandparents what I'd received. Soon after that Auntie Gay would arrive and out would come the presents again. And about once a week I'd go to Auntie Gay's for tea. We always had tinned fruit and Farmer's Wife bottled cream as a treat for afters. I'm not sure how they preserved the cream in bottles but it had a distinctive flavour.

In 1972 when my mum was in hospital just before she died, my cousin's girlfriend, Anne, who could drive, took us to visit her, us being me, my gran and Auntie Gay. When we were getting in the car to leave the hospital I climbed in behind Anne but my gran, who as eldest - and bossiest - was sitting in the front passenger seat, told me to sit behind her 'so the car will be balanced.' (Two larger ladies and two young women.)

On the way home we were involved in a crash with a lorry with the driver's side taking the brunt of the impact. We were near the hospital and there happened to be a doctor in the traffic behind us and he was able to resuscitate Auntie Gay initially but she died a few weeks later.

As a result of the accident Anne lost an eye; my gran broke her leg; and I had a few scratches.

A story with so many what ifs.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Is it any wonder I'm a hoarder?

These are letters my grandmother kept. The largest pile at the back is from my mother when she was in the WAAF during the war and afterwards working in London. At the front on the left are letters from Uncle, most of which begin with an apology for not writing sooner and end with a request for washing or money. The final pile comprises letters from my grandfather when they were courting - he lived on the other side of Swansea so they didn't see each other that often.

I have been fairly ruthless with the old photos: if they are of people I don't know or can't see clearly enough to identify I'm throwing them out. Letters are different though. One day when I'm in a care home and the grandchildren don't come to visit I'll go through all my mother's, sort them and write a novel based on her experiences. Maybe. I'm assuming I'll have time then.

I also found a letter from Auntie Dusty. She was my mum's friend from the WAAF. A Yorkshire girl she went to work in New York State after the war and lived there until she died a few years ago. Her letter dates from December 1952. It's in response to the letter my mum must have sent telling her of my arrival. In her letter Dusty admits she was shocked but the arrival of an illegitimate child makes no difference to their friendship. And so she proved; she visited the UK every few years and always came to see us, even after my mum died. 

Friday, August 11, 2017

Distracted? Me? Never

It all started with grace and ended up standing on the sea front with Munch the cow.

You see I was writing my article for the next issue of The Bay and I wanted to describe grace. (The grace of God that is not the natural elegant grace some people - not me - are born with.) And then I realised I only had about sixty words left of my allocated word count in which to explain it. 

As Monty said to me in Zac's, 'Philip Yancey needed 300 pages for his book Amazing Grace.'
'Huh,' I shrugged. 'He obviously doesn't have my way with words. Just because he's a best-selling author ...'

I am good at writing concisely. Much better in fact than writing ... whatever the opposite of concisely is. Wordily maybe. 

Some time ago I submitted a short story for an anthology and was asked for a biography in about 100 words to accompany it. I duly wrote my life story and it amounted to sixty words. This inspired me to write a short ditty. Bear with me, I am getting to the point. So I thought I'd include said ode here on my blog. But do you think I can find it anywhere on the computer?

In fact I discover that I can't find any of my old writings. I summon Husband, who Knows About These Things. He looks in all the same places I've looked then says, 'Don't know.'

They must be there somewhere. I hope. In the meantime I am amusing myself getting distracted by writings I'd completely forgotten about, some I am fairly certain I didn't even write. But how are they on my computer then? Anyway I shall no doubt publish some of these wonders from my pen - possibly - over the next weeks. And if you recognise anything as yours please tell me so I can credit you appropriately.

Munch the Cow who wants to be a moosician is worthy of publication I have no doubt; others are just odd.

I did find my little ditty eventually. I used it in the introduction to Dear God, letters to God from a mother (published by Kevin Mayhew) in 1998 - that's nearly twenty years ago! Lumme! So here it is.

My life
My life fits in to sixty words
the who, the what, the where.
But where in that is me?
The why, the how, the who of me
the hopes and prayers
the dreads and fears
the thoughts and deeds
the lies and truths
the real and lost ...
the glimmer within
that dares to dream.

My life fits in a thousand years,