Friday, 8 December 2017

A book, a talk and one of my poems

Gosh! What happened to November? This year is going too fast. I don't want my time at Uni to end. I'm enjoying my MA Course too much. I'm working on my assignment and starting to plan my dissertation now but thankfully I've another nine months before I hand my dissertation in so I can still wallow in all the library books, seminars and lectures. Did I mention that as an MA student I'm allowed to borrow 40 books!? I did? Oh, I'm becoming a book bore!

As well as my course I've been working on a history book recording the story of the Leicester Progressive Jewish Community. That book, I'm delighted (and relieved) to say is now published. We had a launch last week and so far it has been well received. Mind you, in my launch party speech I did give a dire warning that if anyone spots a mistake they were not to tell me. My old history professor always insists that all books have at least a few typos in them and even the odd historical if it's good enough for him it's certainly good enough for me.

Last Sunday I gave a talk at the local Secular Society about Richard III and how the book was created. I used a power point to illustrate, showing them all the fun we had promoting the book, e.g. Dr Richard Buckley, head of the archaeological dig, with his colleague dressed in full Wars of the Roses armour. I even did my Witch of Daneshill act with silly hat, the lot. It seemed to go down well but the next day a friend told me that he had been to a number of their talks and they were usually very serious affairs. Oh well, it is the season to be jolly...allegedly.

The other week, in one of our poetry seminars, we were looking at iambic pentameter with rhyming couplets. The next day I was in the GP's waiting room and was inspired by events that occurred to write this:
You think the door's an automatic one.
It's not and what is more it weighs a ton.
You take the blow full force right in your face
but people see and so you have to brace
yourself pretending that you've not been hurt,
leap off the floor and brush away the dirt
and as you walk you hold your head up high,
ignore their giggles and the urge to cry.

Finally, I'd like to send special wishes and prayers to our blog friend, Carol Hedges, who is in hospital after an operation for breast cancer. Get well very soon, Carol. We all miss you xxx

Friday, 20 October 2017

Meet the Author

"Did you really write this book?"
I love it when children ask me that, not because it makes me feel good about myself (well, OK, maybe that's a little bit of the reason) but mainly because it means that they're learning to appreciate books. They're realising that books don't just appear as if by magic and that writing can be fun, extremely satisfying and done by ordinary people like myself.

This week I went along to Leicester Cathedral for a Meet the Author session. For those who are not familiar with Leicester Cathedral, it's where Richard III has been finally laid to rest. Directly opposite the Cathedral is the Richard III Visitors' Centre. This is Leicester's half term holiday week. (I know! The rest of country are about to have theirs but Leicester's holidays have been different for many years.) Anyway, during this half term week the area has seen a steady stream of visitors, young, old and all ages in-between.

On Wednesday, I spent a most enjoyable morning chatting with visitors, signing books and helping the Cathedral staff cut out coloured paper shapes so that visiting children could make a Tudor Rose. The children made some amazing Tudor Roses and I had some fascinating discussions with parents, grandparents and, in one case, great-grandparents whose great granddaughter knew the route round the Visitors Centre and Cathedral so well she was leading them.
"Is it lunchtime yet?" asked a weary great granddad.

A big thanks to Andy Heafford from the Leicester Cathedral for organising the morning and I have a momento of the occasion, a lovely photograph taken by a member of staff showing me signing a book for the Richard III Visitors' Centre.

Saturday, 7 October 2017

A 'Beyond Busy' Week

Sometimes weeks are beyond busy. Those kinds of weeks slay me and have me grabbing a duvet day before I can face any more. Today is that duvet day. I’m sneezing and coughing and the activities of the week are rolling round in my head so I thought it might help to share them with you now.

On Monday it was the first day of my second year at University studying for my MA in Creative Writing. The first year was very much theory based. This year is all about work-shopping our writing. I hit the ground running. We had to post up a poem onto Blackboard, the dedicated website, by Thursday teatime. No problem, you might think but…

Leicester is celebrating an Everybody’s Reading Festival this week so I was part of a poetry-reading group with the Soundswrite Poetry Group one evening and I was on a panel of writers at The Leicester Writers’ Club talking about using social media to reach readers on another evening. Still no problem, you might be thinking but…

This week we are celebrating the Jewish Festival of Succot. It’s a bit like a harvest festival. Outdoor booths or huts, called Succahs, are built with rough frames and lots of greenery and branches covering them. You’re meant to eat out there. It’s been rather a wet week but at least I managed some Kiddush wine and honey cake in the one at the Synagogue.

I then settled down to finish my poem and post it up but remember this has been a week that I describe above as ‘beyond busy’ so you won’t be surprised to hear that Blackboard denied me access, refused to accept my password, told me I was illegal. I know that I’m not illegal and I told the technical support desk as much over the phone.

It’s all sorted now and I’m tucked up on the settee, reading a book called ‘You Can’t Make This Stuff Up’ by Lee Gutkind. It’s all about creative non-fiction and it’s going to help me with my dissertation about which you will definitely be hearing more during the year and that’s a promise.

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Apple and honey time again

Where did the summer go? And what has kept me so busy that I've been neglecting my blog? Here are just a few of my summer activities:

We had an amazing visit from Son and his family. I got to see all those familiar Leicester places through children's eyes again - New Walk Museum with its dinosaurs and mummies, the Guildhall with the prisoners in the cells, our impressive High Cross shopping centre and the glittering shops in The Lanes that had DIL and Granddaughter enthralled.

The Jackson Five from Motown the Musical
We've been tourists in London again, going to two more amazing London shows - yes I agree, they are VERY expensive! But I do love going.

We saw Motown The Musical which not only had fabulous music. It also told a disturbing story of the fight that Black Music had in white America in the 1960s. I've lived through all of that but had never appreciated how hard they had to fight to even get Motown music played on mainstream radio in the US, especially the Southern States. Black music was not considered appropriate for white ears - as I said, disturbing. We also saw American in Paris. This was not quite as dynamic as 42 Street which we saw in April but it had the most amazing scenery - with the effect of being painted as you watched it emerge - and the music was Gershwin which I love.

Daughter got us organised and took us on a spa holiday down to Salcombe. The Harbour House Hotel was pure luxury. Our rooms had amazing views across the estuary.
We had massages and facials and we lounged around in the sauna and jacuzzi. We wandered round the small town, ate local ice cream, went on a boat trip. What more can you ask of a holiday? A big thanks to Daughter.

So now it's almost time for the second half of my MA Course at Leicester University to begin. No, I'm not ready for it. But before that there is Rosh Hashonah, the Jewish New Year, which starts this evening, Wednesday 20th. So I'd like to wish you all the traditional greeting of Shana Tova - have a sweet and happy new year - and once again I'd like to share my virtual apple and honey with you.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

An Elephant in Town

The other day I popped into town to buy a few bits and pieces. My first stop was Boots on Leicester's busy Gallowtree Gate but as I approached the store I couldn't help noticing an elephant moving along majestically. It's trunk was swinging and its body swaying as it glided towards me.

Ok, so it wasn't a real elephant but it made me stop and smile. I was intrigued. I was attracted by the sound of Indian music. My purchases from Boots would have to wait. At the Clock Tower a troupe of acrobatic dancers were flipping and flying through the air. Their movements were accomplished. The music was rousing. I stood on tiptoes to see over the heads of the crowd. The atmosphere was good. Everyone was smiling and clapping.

A stage on Humberstone Gate was attracting another crowd. I made my way past the Haymarket and watched as dancers moved their arms, telling stories with their hands. Then the presenter introduced the next act shown in the picture below. He was a singer whose voice was clear and beautiful, leaping up and down the scales in a hypnotic way.

I turned back towards the Clock Tower. Now there were youngsters dancing. They were throwing coloured powder into the air. The wind caught the powder and the crowd became speckled with blue and red. I laughed, cleaned my glasses with a tissue and moved on. In the newly created Market Square there were drummers. I stood and watched, feeling each drumbeat vibrating in the air.

As I returned along Granby Street I was offered Masala tea which was rich and spicy. The first sip caught my throat. The man who had served me smiled. Would I rather have orange juice, he asked, but I persisted and I'm glad I did. The tea gave me a warm glow. I may go and buy some to make at home but I suspect it would never taste as good as it did that afternoon from a paper beaker in the middle of town.
These events were part of Leicester's Night of Festivals to celebrate the spirit of South Asia and mark the 70th anniversary of Pakistan and Indian independence.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

One of my Poems and Virtual Chinese Whispers

Last month I won a poetry competition organised by a local arts festival. My MA Tutor asked me to write about it for the Department blog. He tweeted and posted on Facebook a message of congratulations with a link to the blog post. I shared on Facebook and retweeted on Twitter and didn't think any more about it until friends and family started phoning in varying states of high excitement. How delighted they were to hear that I'd won a National Award. Why hadn't I told them about this amazing achievement?

Don't get me wrong. It was lovely winning the competition but it was NOT a National Award. It took several weeks for the excitement and embarrassment to subside. Now that things have calmed down, I thought I'd share the post with you, so below is what I wrote for the Leicester University Creative Writing Blog with the winning poem at the end:

We All Belong

The programme for this year’s ArtBeat Leicester Festival was packed with activities. They ranged from Israeli dancing to philosophy in the pub to a Gurdwara visit with curry lunch. I ticked off the most appealing events but I knew that it would be impossible to attend them all. I was going to have to be selective.

The festival theme was We All Belong and this was the topic for this year’s ArtBeat poetry competition. I submitted two poems and fully intended to turn up to the prize-giving event but, as I said, it was a busy week. Did I mention the Lindy Hop or the Indian Folk Dancing or the Maypole Dance Workshop? It was a true test of stamina.

Last Tuesday, with all thoughts of Artbeat behind me, I attended my regular poetry group meeting. I settled down to a morning of workshopping, only to find myself the centre of attention. The Festival organiser had chosen that morning to present me with a certificate, or to be more precise two certificates. To my embarrassment I’d scooped not only 1st but also 4th place in the We All Belong poetry competition.

There is a lesson to be learnt here. If you enter a competition, make sure to give top priority to attending the prize-giving event, no matter how busy your week is. This is the poem that won first prize.

The Top Class by Rosalind Adam
Winner of the Artbeat Leicester ‘We All Belong’ Poetry Competition

It was our morning mantra:
Linda. Here, Miss. Andrew. Here, Miss.
Lee. He’s not here, Miss and we knew
the Board Man would be on his way.
He’d not go round the back like us.
He’d knock on Lee’s front door
while Lee hid because that’s what you did
when The Board Man called.

After the register we all lined up
for assembly in the hall.
Cross-legged by the back wall
we flicked paper pellets and sang
about Jerusalem being builded here
in our green and pleasant land
which was really grey and full of soot
from the factory down the road.

In class we sat at desks with lids,
did handwriting with pens that had spiky nibs
and pounds, shillings, pence sums on squared-paper.
We longed for Miss to say, playtime,
and give out bottles of milk from the metal crate.
In the playground we skipped with the long rope,
and we chose the song, jelly on the plate,
because we were the top class.

We stayed out for PE, for the fresh air,
and spun hoops round our waists,
round our necks when Miss wasn’t there,
but games on Friday was the best,
going to the field, clambering onto the bus,
racing for the back seat and us all singing
Ten Green Bottles and falling about laughing
because we always got the numbers wrong.

Soon we’d sit the 11 plus test
and they’d split us up for ever.
We’d be sent to the sec mod down the road
or the big grammar school in town
where we’d be streamed and given homework,
where we’d have to read stuff by Shakespeare,
do logarithms with a book full of numbers
but for now we were the top class.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Me and Distance Driving…

…Pathetic but true

I have been driving for over 50 years (yes, I'm that old!). This means that I’ve had more than enough time to hone the craft and I am fine around town but distance driving has never been my strength. Last weekend I visited family in North Manchester. I’ve done it before but will I ever be brave enough to do it again? It was so traumatic that I need to share the experience, by way of therapy. Please don’t feel obliged to read to the end. This one’s for me!

The Journey there: I thought I’d try a different route, avoid the dreaded M6, so I went up the M1 and over the top of Sheffield. That’s a pretty road, especially where it crosses the Pennines. I even pulled over on a lay-by for a few minutes to admire the view. I wouldn’t have done that if I’d known what was round the next corner. I’d never heard of the village Tintwhistle before. I have now. I spent almost an hour crawling towards Tintwhistle and then through Tintwhistle and then out the other side of Tintwhistle.

The Journey home: I was resigned to taking the dreaded M6 route but thankfully the motorway was clear… clear for the M6, that is. I transferred from M6 to A500 feeling smug until I reached the A50. There is a large roundabout on that road with signs saying how many lorries have overturned there during the year. That weekend I don’t suppose any lorries were about to overturn because the road beyond was shut, barred with red and white striped barriers.

Any seasoned traveller would have stopped and reassessed. I panicked. I went round the roundabout and drove back the way I had come. I had crazy thoughts of driving back to Manchester but knew that wasn’t an option. I drove all the way back to the M6. I drove South to the A5. I drove through a place called Cannock. I drove through numerous other places that I had never been to before. I was gripping the steering wheel, ‘rabbit in headlights’ mode. I should have stopped. Why didn’t I stop? I drove on for four hours. When I got home I sat on the settee with a substantial whisky and didn’t move for several hours. That night I had flashbacks of red and white striped barriers. Pathetic but true.

Thank you for allowing me to off-load.