a twist in the tales of life

Sunday, April 22, 2012

I'm a World Book Night Giver

Tomorrow is world book night www.worldbooknight.org  and I am delighted to say that I was chosen as a giver this year.

It’s a brilliant idea thought up by Jamie Byng who was running the London marathon today and giving away one of the titles on this year’s givers list after each completed mile.
The thinking behind world book night is that each giver gets 24 books to collect from their chosen collection point. The givers then give out their books free to anyone you think may not be an avid reader to encourage them to enjoy all the wonders that the world of books and reading can bring.

World book night first came into existence last year when I was lucky to be chosen as a giver then but as can happen on any new project things didn’t work out quite right for me but when I received the e mail about world book night 2012 I jumped at the chance to be a giver again and was delighted to be chosen again.

I collected my books on Thursday from my chosen collection point, the Gutter Bookshop, www.gutterbookshop.com  which is on Cows Lane, Temple Bar, Dublin. I LOVE the Gutter Bookshop. I have never gone there without finding an absolute gem of a book and the staff is the best. The gutter bookshop is giving away world book night books on the Ha’penny Bridge at 6pm.

My choice of book was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. It’s a lovely little tale and a lovely read with a message at the end to carry with you. I just felt that a story like this can sow a seed and could encourage further journeys into the realms and joys of reading.

There are some really great books on the list but the alchemist just felt like the right one for me to give. The books have been given a special world book night 2012 cover so they will always be acknowledged as part of this cool concept. 

The website www.worldbooknight.org has a selection of bookmarks to print down so I put two in each of my books. The idea is that each receiver passes the book to another reader and so on so I thought as the first receiver catches the reading bug; well they are going to need a bookmark aren’t they.

This year Germany and the US are part of world book night along with the U.K and Ireland so hopefully the word will spread to other countries by next year which would be amazing.

The website has a list of events for tomorrow night in all areas of the U.K and some in Ireland so check it out and see what events are happening near you. There are some great events listed as well as the main event in London is at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road. It starts at 7.15 and will be streamed live to different venues. There are some great reading taking place too.

And guess what, my next blog will be telling you all about my experiences tomorrow night as part of this great event.

Keep Smiling

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Life before mobiles

I was early for my acupuncture appointment the other day so of course as I was waiting for the previous client to finish up I began fiddling with my iPhone. I had a quick look at the news channels and was running a check on twitter when the previous lady, who is a really pleasant friendly person, took one look at me scrolling away and said ‘what did we do before we got our mobile phones!’

I had to laugh because what did I do before I got a mobile phone.  I had to think about it.

I have an early memory of visiting my Nan on a Sunday; you know the old family rituals. But at around 6.30 ish I think (I would have to ask mum this, Dad doesn’t remember things like this but ask him about an old engine…….) we called my grandparents in England. We didn’t have a phone at home ourselves at the time. Now this is the mid and late 1970’s not the dark ages for any of you younger readers.  We didn’t get a landline phone until 1983 or 4. But this wasn’t terribly unusual.

I remember if mum needed to call her sisters we went to the phone box at the end of our road. There was always a queue. There were a few dotted around the town so this was a great way of catching up with some of the people who lived locally. That phone box queue was quite a sociable spot!

Sometimes if we were in a real hurry and couldn’t afford the wait at the box we used a neighbour’s phone. A 10p piece was left on the hall table for the call despite the protestations of said neighbour but this was correct phone etiquette. Looking back it seems a bit like Victorian calling cards and not being allowed to refuse a dance at a dance hall.

The landline arrived in time for me to be a pain in the ass teenager ringing my friends in the evenings after home work was done. Dad couldn’t get his head around how I just been in school all day with my friends but I still had to be hours on the phone to them in the evening when I would be back in school with them the next morning. Then when I was allowed out to discos it was one call after another we eventually went out and left the poor phone in peace.

I had friends and their parents locked the phones. There was a little purpose made lock for telephones. And of course there was a way of picking them too so they soon went out of fashion.

I got my first mobile sometime in ’01 I think or maybe late 2000, I’m not sure. I was first in our office to have one.  It had the tinniest ringtone ever. At that time I worked with a real funny character who used to dance to the tune when it rang. The whole office used to look up when it started, it was such a novelty.

The next one I got had a setting where you could record a tune of your own. Each key had a sound like a mini keyboard and you could record your own ringtone. Mine sounded like a cross between a Middle Eastern dance and a wasp caught in a jam jar. That used to get a reaction but there were more phones in the office at that stage so it was more a case of ‘there’s the mad ones noise again’.

Fast forward to two Christmas’s ago and dad insisted on buying me an iPhone. He saw them being used in the stands when he was at soccer match and for some reason decided I needed one! Now I am not using it to its full potential but really I did fall in love with it pretty quickly. As I said twitter is a real addiction. I don’t tweet a lot but I love what the people I follow tweet and also when the bloggers I follow have a new post I can read them from twitter which is great. I love tweets with links like that!

Then there is the news apps, e reader apps, games, an invaluable notebook, guided meditation apps, it’s a real hobby toy.

I’m not a great one for texts. Or e mails for that matter. I prefer to call people. I’m still an old fashioned girl in that way. I just love talking. A LOT! I find texts and emails are easy to misinterpret. People need that human touch sometimes, that understanding from a friend who knows from your voice that you need to talk. And besides when the lady ahead of me at the acupuncture passed her funny comment, I could have taken it a number of ways, even as sarcasm if it was written and not said. It would have made for an interesting crossing of paths this week if that was the case.

So what did I do before mobile phones? Well I drove my parents mad, stood in the cold at a phone box which has now been replaced by a flower bed carried a purse full of change, ‘in case I need a phone box’, relied on the newspapers and 9’o clock news to see what was happening in the world and played a hand held battery operated space invaders game. Oh and mediated to cassette tapes on a walk man about the size of a small house brick.  The cell phone world has its down sides but most things do, I suppose. Funny though for all my phone saves me in what I now don’t have to carry around I still have a handbag that weighs a bloody tonne!!!

Keep smiling

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Springtime with a cupcake

I woke up this morning with an ungovernable urge to do two things, (don’t panic this is not THAT kind of blog).

The first was to bake buns/cupcakes/fairy cakes or whatever I am supposed to call them now. The second was to get back to my old friend, my blog. I know it’s been inexcusable to stay away for so long but life has a habit of getting in the way of things sometimes. I do however have endless scraps of paper and bits in my notebook where I was developing ideas and working on my projects. It’s funny, once you say out loud ‘I write’ you’ve opened the floodgates and you just don’t stop!

The baking was a surprise this morning. I had made pancakes yesterday as bro and his son, the angel child were visiting and the two of them and dad like getting together over a treat. Cakes didn’t feature in today’s plan. It must have been the sunshine.

The days are showing signs of a ‘stretch in the evenings’ and certainly I am not groping around in the dark when I get up for work in the last week or so. My tulips are putting in an appearance, joining the daffodils and anemones who are already greeting passers by with their bright spring colours. Soon it will be time to prune the roses. An old gardener once told me to prune the roses after St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th. I have stuck to that rule and the roses here at my window have had many a good year.

So the cakes are now happily sitting on the counter waiting to be eaten. I went a little experimental with them. Well I am in a good mood today. I decided to try a filling so I remembered I had a lovely organic cherry and berry spread so I put a spoon into the centre of each cake to see how it tasted. I just do the good old basic Madeira mixture, margarine, sugar, eggs, cream flour and baking powder. I placed a small spoonful into the paper case, dropped the jam into a well I made in the centre and covered the jam in with another spoonful of mixture. And miracle of miracles the jam stayed in the centre and didn’t run out the side or burst through the top. Happy days.

I just went the route of royal icing, icing sugar in boiling water. I am not a fan of butter cream icing at all. It just isn’t my bag. In a way I wish it was because you see all these lovely piped icing on cupcakes and they look so well finished. But I just aint a classy dame, so icing of the plain persuasion it has to be.
I am off now for a cup of tea and a bun. These creations aren’t going to make until tea time I think so it looks like the dog will be getting a long walk tonight. Or I might end up on the exercise bike if I can’t behave myself.
It’s fun to be back,especially as i cant load my photo the right way around!!!!!!

Keep smiling

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Vinyl 80's

I am currently reconstructing my front room at home. I promised myself that I would make this room habitable for Christmas this year.  With different people watching different T.V it can get a bit like a G20 summit when trying to decide who is watching what, as I have all the visitors here.

Dad is all about sport all year around, Mum is old black and white movies (this year on her own as this was Auntie B’s province also) and I just want to return to my childhood with the annual repeat of ‘The Great Escape’ and re runs of ‘Open all Hours,’ Tommy Cooper or Les Dawson. I can’t live without my comedy.

So construction commenced with a brand new storage cupboard for all my crafts (I LOVE IT LOVE IT LOVE IT) and a sort out of all my craft materials. Then I have to organise more storage and best of all, a new writing station.

The new writing station will be in the space currently occupied by a horrendous lump of furniture that I have always hated. It remained when Mum and Dad moved out to become rural and organic about 12 Years ago. This thing has only lasted so long as it housed the family record collection. Back in the days before the download dawned and C.D’s reigned, we had the vinyl records for our music. And did we have our vinyl.

We all love our sounds and bought a fair amount of music over the years. We started with ‘Bugs Bunny in London’ and the soundtrack from ‘Walt Disney’s Cinderella’ and went on from there. Bro and I were pirates and would confer before buying anything then, one of us bought and the other taped to the old cassette tapes. Being older, Bro was working before I was so he had a much larger collection than I had. His collection stayed here when he moved into his own house as he ‘never had time to pack them’. This changed over the weekend.

I took on the mammoth task of packing bro’s records as he has agreed to take them to his attic about 15 years after he left here. Well take about fun memories. I started on his singles collection and had some laughs I can tell you. The first was when I came across ‘What difference does it make’, by the Smiths. I remembered Bro coming in with the record shop bag and asking him what he had bought. His reply, to the point, was ‘what difference does it make.’  My mother, totally misunderstanding her teenagers went into a ‘don’t talk to your sister like that ‘rant. And of course we rolled around laughing incapable of explaining what was so hysterical until Bro revealed the disc from his bag!

Then I found ‘Zoom’, by Fat Larry’s Band. I remember my friend and I wanted a copy each of this, paid for from our pocket money. Auntie O brought us to the record shop and we asked for two copies. The guy in the shop couldn’t hear us over his blaring rock music and my aunt said, in a louder voice,’ They want two Fat Harry’s!!!’

Then the piece de resistance. I found ‘Two Tribes’ by Frankie Goes to Hollywood.  When Frankie goes to Hollywood played Dublin this was the first ever gig I was allowed to. Bro brought me and as is the case with every music fan, you never forget the first stadium gig. I was thirteen and I loved it.

Then the sleeve of the single reminded me of another incident when bro had a Jacket with Frankie goes to Hollywood on the back. The image also had Lenin on it advertising one of their records and our Nan was none too pleased at her grandson walking around wearing a communist and voiced her disapproval until we couldn’t keep straight faces a minute longer. Poor Nan.

It was a fun afternoon with the memories.  Bro has every number one single from 1983 – 1988. Some are great tracks and some are well best left to the confines of the attic in case playing them frightens children and animals. I am referring to a techno record he bought for some reason known only to himself called ‘Doot Doot,’ by some outfit called Freur. This record used to freak me out. But then we all have our little embarrassments in our record collections don’t we. Mine is Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus. What’s yours.

Keep Smiling

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Auntie B, R.I.P

Auntie B died two weeks ago, the way she wanted. This maybe sounds a bit crazy, but she did. You see we had the ‘conversation’ a few weeks ago and discussed everything so I know she got her wish. And I got to keep my promise.

When she talked about her funeral to me we thought she would be around for a bit longer. We thought for example that she would be part of the angel child’s first Christmas. So we sat together one Thursday night and talked about everything. She didn’t want to die at home. ‘Upsets too many people’, she said. She remembered her sister’s deaths. One died at home aged 14. The other died in hospital aged 56. ‘So hospital it is,’ she said. ‘Do you want me to be there with you?’ She was afraid to answer me. ‘Ok’, I said, ‘we did all we did together, we might as well do that too.’

She wasn’t afraid she said. She didn’t want to leave us behind, all the people she loved. I told her the only difference in how we were talking then versus how we would talk after she died was that I wouldn’t be able to see her. I would feel her and sense her and hear her in my head but just not see her. She nodded.

She went downhill suddenly. She was holding court in the hospice smoking room on Sunday night. She had two pals, Robert and Gerry, and she was giving it loads.  She was telling them how the angel child had sprinted down the corridor like Usain bolt and had high fived a nurse mid stride. We left her laughing.

Monday she was tired. She had new meds and was sleeping a lot. Tuesday the hospital phoned me to say she was very sleepy and not to get a fright when we saw her. She was very sleepy and I was unsure of what was happening. When you are close to someone, you know. Deep in your heart you can never lie to yourself, it’s just how much you are prepared to admit.

Wednesday we met her team. They said how it really was. They gave her days. They said there was no need to stay nights with her yet, nearer the weekend was time enough. We called the family. Then I sat with her.

Some of her friends decided to visit her. They thought it was better than waiting until she failed further. They too listen to the inner voice. After a break I went to see her and I found a cousin sitting with her who had decided to visit a day earlier than she planned. B smiled at her when she woke up. I was glad for both of them.

The angel child came in then. He wanted to kiss her and he sat on her bed and held her hand. I said he loves his Auntie B. She replied his Auntie B loves him. His dad asked where was his Auntie B? He pointed at her and she pointed back.

More family came and had time with her not realising what little time they all had left with her. Looking back it was just as well. At least they brought the energy of believing they would see her again. This made it easier for her even if she was drifting in and out of consciousness.

I felt uneasy about leaving her. The family reminded me how the nurses said there was no need yet. As I hung around wondering where I would find the way with this her nurse came up to me and said ‘oh you’re staying with her’. I said I wasn’t sure and she said ‘no do, keep her company in her new room.’ We both knew. Thank god for her.

I went home, got warm clothes and came back with dad. She was moved to her own room then and luckily a reclining chair that she had been using was moved with her. So I lined it up beside her and lay holding her hand. She woke up at around 4 a.m and I told her all was happy and peaceful and good. She said you make it all good. She never spoke to me again. She woke up and smiled a few times but never spoke.

Dad went off on his walkabout around 8a.m and met one of her pals. He wheeled him off the premises and to a local shop to buy sweets and cigarettes. They weren’t caught. Dad came into the room, she opened one eye and looked at him and said ‘Jesus Mary and Joseph.’ We laughed. Dad is a lifelong atheist!

9.15a.m and two nurses came in to wash her. They said she would be ready in a few minutes and the doctor would be along then to talk to us. I kissed her forehead and said won’t be long darling see you in a minute. By the time I turned and left the room and passed the chapel she had gone. The poor nurses got a drop.

I came in kissed her again and said goodbye darling. She got everything she wanted. We got her last night together; peaceful and happy. Then she went when she wanted, quickly and peacefully.

I miss her. I miss her calls every night. Her voice. Her laughter. Her eccentricities. Her chats. Winding her up. Swearing at me. Her friendship. Love. All that she was. B.

But I have a new guardian angel now. And guess what she is looking after me already. She isn’t gone. I just can’t see her. I can feel her, I can sense her and I hear her in my head. I just can’t see her.

Keep Smiling,

Monday, September 12, 2011

Healthy Observations

I spent a few hours this weekend at a Health Show in Dublin. Any of you who have read this blog before will know of my interest in all things natural so it is no surprise that I would be hanging out at a show like this on a Saturday.  At the moment my interest runs a bit deeper what with looking after Auntie B which is also the reason why I have been missing for as long as I have.  But my interest is also for myself as I could do with a bit of an overhaul on the health and fitness front.

Rude Health is great show (www.rudehealth.ie). It has been running for a few years now and is a great way to find new products which are coming into our health shops and good retail food outlets. I love nosing around at it.

 As an observer of human behaviour, my favourite hobby, I had a really interesting experience this year. It didn’t change how much fun I had at the show and I am not feeling over sensitive or having a rant. I am sitting writing this with a grin on my face and I have some cool stuff for my writing notebook. So here’s the thing which gave me some amusement.

Mum is a wheelchair user. We are used to people seeing the chair and asking the driver what she wants instead of addressing her. We get a great kick when she answers for herself in a loud clear voice and then the addresser doesn’t know where to put their face.   What fascinated us yesterday was the number of people that seemed not to see us trundling up and down the aisles at the show.  There is limited walking space so did these eegits think we could magic ourselves straight through the crowd and miraculously appear out the other side of them.  Have these people been watching too much Harry Potter? Or are they just so rude and full of self-entitlement that we should struggle out of THEIR way?

Don’t worry; I am a Scorpio after all. I have a voice like a fog horn so I can call out excuse me with a volume that everyone in the vicinity can hear and notice these people not moving and this gives their egos a bit of a dent. Also according to a guy I once worked with, I can adopt a very unique facial expression. It was described as a mixture of boredom and disdain.  When the aisle blockers look to see where the voice is coming from they are met with this face and it has the desired effect.

The second funny observation was in relation my own experiences with the exhibitors. This really was hilarious.  I’ll be honest I am not the smallest person on the planet.  Like all lovers of good chocolate it shows.  So I got a great kick out of the exhibitors who didn’t really know what to do with me.  It seemed as though I had a bad flu that they were afraid of catching. When I appeared on their stands they didn’t really want to deal with me. One guy in particular stopped mid-sentence to discuss his stuff with another woman. Even when I opted to buy his ware and was standing with a tenner in my hand he kept on to the other woman. I was thrilled when she walked off without buying his stuff and he was stuck with ol’ big ass for a sale.  I didn’t have to say anything but my cool calm grin had the desired effect on him.

You see there is no need to make a scene or be indignantly offended. Karma usually takes care of all that for me.

It seems to me that they have their marketing all wrong. I mean the people who are obviously beacons of health are going to buy these products to maintain their health and fitness levels. But if someone of the ‘needing to change’ variety has gone to the trouble of coming to  a show on health then surely they are going to want to buy the same stuff to improve their health and fitness too. A no brainer surely.

The best reaction I got all day was from a lovely lady called Lily from www.lilysteashop.com.  Not only does she have a lovely range of good quality loose teas ( her white tea with vanilla is fab) she was really cool to talk to. And far from ignoring the obvious she suggested I try her slimming teas. I mean there goes a sensible retailer. It’s a health show.  Here’s someone who obviously has a change to make. And she was as I said really cool about it. Hats off to you Lily.

So now I have some really fun ideas for my writing based on the discomfort of the health retailer in dealing with the unhealthy.  But the last laugh is on them. When I go to the show next year, all sorted out and healthy we’ll see who wants me to buy their gear and who doesn’t. By then I should have the strength of Shire horse and can carry mum up and over the heads of the planks who refuse to use their brains and make way for a wheelchair.

Keep smiling.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Diary Experiment

I am conducting a writing experiment on myself.  On Thursday I began to keep a diary which I will constantly update throughout the day. The length of the experiment is one week. Every thought deep or shallow, every event big or small will be documented in full. This is a departure for me as I keep notes in tattered copybooks and ideas on scraps of card but never a diary.

It may seem a bit unusual for someone who writes (a bit) not to keep one, but I haven’t kept a diary since I was 16 and then after a few months I had to burn it one day when no one was home. I was rather worried  because as someone who has always been a bit on the scatty side it was likely I would leave in where it could be found and read. Then I would be in more trouble than I could ever imagine!

Looking back now the diary was harmless enough, pages packed with teenage angst and tales of being misunderstood. I have always been a free spirit even if at that age most of the free spiritedness had to stay in my own head. There were a few incidents of experimenting with alcohol which were actually quite funny now and a few tales of mine and my friend’s experiments with boys. Not forgetting one about criminal damage.

Well it wasn’t exactly criminal damage. It was one Sunday when a gang of us got together and my friend Jim and I decided that it would be a laugh to dress Jim up as Prince. So as he was already wearing a black coat, I got two tassel scarves and tied one around his head and the other around his neck and played whatever Prince track was in the charts then on my portable stereo. I thought to complete the look he needed a mock guitar so I pulled up a no dumping sign from the road side and he used that to perfect his look and moves. I wish camera phones were around then.

Anyway the diary experience put me off writing one again. I thought that the safest place to keep any thoughts or memories or ramblings was in my own head. But I thought as I wasn’t getting the time I would like to write as much as I was before aunty B took ill and when I did write it was coming from somewhere rather rushed and stressed. I thought if I record every thought and deed for a week and see what is actually spinning in my head it might actually be a very useful exercise in more ways than one. It could relieve the little bit of stress I can feel from time to time so it would be a therapeutic exercise, it could help me look at stuff differently, and also perhaps bring a new angle to my writing.

As it stands I have my project which is fiction, I have this friendly blog and the frequent use of the communicator messaging in work where we send instant smart and cheeky messages directly to each other trying to outwit each other’s wit. A complete diary is hitting a completely different spot.

I am going with the free association theory, whatever comes up goes down. I have even managed to argue out a few things with myself so it is certainly bringing something new to the table as they say. Next Thursday I will read it back and see do I recognise myself.

I am not doing any read back at all. No checking the page I just turned for continuation I just go. I am not, as far as I can, holding anything in short term memory so I can get a real view of the inside of my head in four days time. This is helping resist the temptation as I know I will get a kick out of the full picture on Thursday.

I am quite interested as to what I might say about work when I am totally unbridled inside this turquoise notebook. Especially with some of what has been going on lately. It been a great time to observe certain human behaviours shall I say. I will have to be careful I don’t leave the thing on my desk at lunchtime or go home without it.

 I could even end up having to burn this one too. If anything interesting comes up I will let you know but I may end up editing just in case I come across as a serious nutter and you never visit me here again. Or indeed my friends, if I haven’t scared them off send for the white coats to drag me away from this keyboard. All shall be revealed! (Maybe)

I don’t feel I can end this one as I usually do what with the sad events in Norway this weekend so I will send  a thought of sympathy and compassion to all who are grieving and a prayer for their loss.