Thursday, 13 April 2017

I Have Happy Feet

There's nothing that lifts the spirits more than a bit of escapism and that's what we got yesterday. We went to see 42nd Street at London's Drury Lane Theatre and I have to say that 'escapism' is an understatement. If you get the chance to go then please do. Compared to the film, they paint the love story angle with a very light brush. On the other hand, to continue a painting analogy, the dance sequences are produced in primary, poster-paint colours. They are amazing, truly stunning, a stage full of glittering, tap-dancing stars, all moving in perfect formation, in perfect time with the music. There are fabulous stage effects too, one uses a mirror lowered slowly onto the stage to change the effects of the sequence-style routine. You've got to go and see it, really!

I could enthuse about the dancing all day but there's more. The Victorians really knew how to design a theatre. The ceilings and walls are so highly decorated that as soon as you step into the Drury Lane you feel as if you've entered a fantasy land. It sets the scene so perfectly for this kind of show.

During the interval, in the queue for the ladies, a young girl wearing a pretty, red party frock was tapping away, throwing her arms around, twirling her skirt.

"Do you have tap lesson?" I asked.

"No," she said looking at her mother longingly.

It reminded me of when I was a kid. I used to pretend I could tap dance. I'll let you into a secret, between you and me, I still do, in the kitchen when there's no one else around. Those dance routines yesterday had me wanting to get up and dance just like when I was a kid. I'm convinced that tap dancing is inside every excited young girl and it stays there as we grow old. We just learn to hide it - most of the time.

I'm adding below a link to the official site where you can get a taster of the show with all those famous songs including We're in the Money, The Lullaby of Broadway, Keep Young and Beautiful, I Only Have Eyes For You and of course, 42nd Street.

42nd Street Musical

Cat Update: I've taken both cats off that medication (see previous post) and I have my happy, relaxed girls back again. I've spoken to the vet and he's agreed we keep a low-key eye on them and let them get on with their lives without being dosed up to their little feline eyeballs.

MA Update: Crikey! (polite expletive replacing what I really was thinking!) I've only got another two weeks before I hand in my assignment and I'm barely halfway through it. Best be going...


Friday, 7 April 2017

Worrying Cat Update

Yesterday lunchtime the smaller of my two cats, Charlie, had an epileptic fit. To my knowledge she's never had one before. Scroll down to my previous post and you'll see that the vet had put both cats onto medication for overactive thyroids. The medication is Felimazole.

I phoned the vet and he said to keep her quiet and calm. He said that the best thing would be for her to fall into a deep sleep and that I was not to shake her awake from this. He also said to take her off the pills until Monday. Was he kidding? If Felimazole can cause cats to fit then neither of my girls will ever be given it again. A half hour later she had a second fit. It took the rest of the day for her to return to almost normal. She's still very subdued.

Does anyone out there know of any similar incidents with Felimazole and cats having a fit?


Wednesday, 5 April 2017

My Cats Have a Condition

Vet: So Charlie needs to have a 1.25 pill with her breakfast and a 2.5 pill with her supper.

Me: Ok, thank you, Vet.

Vet: And Mabel needs to have a 2.5 pill with her breakfast and a 5.0 pill with her supper.

Me: Ohhh kaaay... thank you, Vet. (Thinks: The vet couldn't have made it harder if she'd tried.)

My girls both have overactive thyroids. It was diagnosed at their yearly check up in February and now they'll have to have medication for the duration. I didn't even know that cats could get overactive thyroids. I'm not sure if it's a coincidence that they both have it, or if it's because they're sisters, but it makes no difference to my new headache which is that they don't like taking pills. I have to crush them in their food but then comes the even bigger headache. My girls have always been in the habit of grazing on each others food. Not any more! I'm hovering over them, lifting their dishes up, putting them down, small bits until they're medicated. I can only put food down freely when they've both had their pill. If only I could explain it to them.

Until they get the dosage right they'll have to go in to the vets once a month for blood tests. Poor girls find that very traumatic. So do I, especially during yesterday's vet visit when Charlie's carry case broke as I was putting her in the car. They have to be nil by mouth from the evening before which is disturbing enough without all the shaved necks and needles business.

One kind of good outcome about all this is that we finally get to benefit from the cat health insurance that we've been paying into for years. Insurance is a funny concept. Somebody said to me the other day that as they had never claimed off their house insurance, would they be able to ask for a rebate. I explained that insurance doesn't work like that but I can see their point. If we had all the insurance money that we'd paid out over the years then we would all be rich...I think.

Masters Update: My final assignment for this year (I'm doing a part-time MA in Creative Writing at Leicester University over two years) has to be handed in on 3rd May so I've only popped by to have a bit of a breather and share my cat concens with whoever reads this. For my assignment I'm creating a small poetry pamphlet and writing about the methods which would be required to get the collection published. I might even share some poems with you when it's completed and marked and returned to me....but first I have to write the thing!

Have a good Pesach (Passover), Easter or maybe you observe a different Spring festival. Whichever it is, have a good one. The sun is shining and it's looking lovely in the garden.....but now I really will get back to work.


Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Masterclass from Bali Rai

The MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester joined together with Literary Leicester today to bring us an inspiring masterclass presented by Bali Rai.

Bali Rai was born in Leicester. He grew up in a multi-cultural, multiracial community, an experience that has had a definite influence on his writing. His first book was the best selling (Un)Arranged Marriage and he went on to become one of the UK's most successful YA authors. Today we were given a glimpse into his writing world, a chance to see how he has become so successful in his craft.

Bali Rai's enthusiasm was infectious
"All humans are nosey parkers," he told us. We must make sure that our audience wants to know more. We must elicit in them first sympathy and then empathy for our characters. Throughout the afternoon he kept bringing us back to this point, to considering who our audience is when we are writing. How we can connect with the audience became his mantra.

He stressed how important it is to analyse each section, each paragraph. Every sentence needs to be there for a reason. If it doesn't have a reason then get rid of it and make sure all the content will connect with the audience. 

How well do we know our characters? He asks his characters questions about their habits, desires, emotions. Only when he knows the characters really well can he portray them in a three-dimensional way. Only then will they connect with the audience.

He dropped in many pieces of advice as he spoke, sharing lessons that he had learnt from experience. The beginning of a novel is the hardest and most important to get right. Character is more important than setting. If you find yourself staring at a blank screen then turn it off and take a break. And yes, as a writer he believes in ghosts. Why be rational? You're a creative writer! 

"Everything comes back to connection with the audience," he reminded us and he practiced what he preached. For this afternoon we were his audience and he certainly connected with us. We were with him all the way.


Sunday, 26 February 2017

Herbs

This time last year I was struck down with pneumonia, not an experience I would recommend to anyone. I did intend to have my flu jab this winter but was waiting until my chest cleared...and waiting...and waiting until it became obvious that the chest-rattle was not going to clear on its own and it was probably too late to have a winter flu jab anyway.

Options: 
  • I could ignore it and hope it went away on its own but that's how I ended up with pneumonia last year.
  • I could request yet another course of antibiotics (I'd already had three courses last year) but I've only just got over the side effects of the last lot.
  • Or I could try something completely different - herbal medicine.

On a friend's recommendation, I went to a well-established herbalist in Leicester, Hydes Herbal Clinic. Advanced warning - this is not a cheap option. I had an hour's consultation and a thorough physical examination and came away with a large bottle of tincture, two kinds of pills and a bill that reminded me how expensive all medicine would be if we didn't have the NHS. 

I am delighted to say that within days of starting the treatment, the chest-rattle began to ease and it has now virtually gone. The herbalist is also trying to treat me for anxiety and related IBS symptoms but I fear that these are rather more deeply entrenched and may take more than a few weeks to tackle. But I shall persevere. 

At the risk of repeating myself, this treatment is not cheap and the tincture does taste rather unusual (good job I bought a jar of Nutella the week before!) but if it works, it'll be worth every grimace and exclamation of "Yuk!"

As for the Creative Writing MA, I do seem to be rather busy right now. Best go and get on with my next assignment.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

So much to do but...

Is it too late to wish people a happy New Year? I guess it’s never too late to wish happiness upon others. I have tried very hard to keep focussed on my University writing this last month. You may have noticed that I’ve kept away from here. I’ve only popped onto Twitter and Facebook briefly to say ‘hi’...
BUT 
There has been one major distraction and I can’t seem to cure myself of the addiction. Scrabble…online Scrabble, or Words With Friends to be absolutely precise. I keep having to have a quick look to see if I can place that elusive seven-letter word or an exhilarating ZA with the Z on a triple letter going two ways. You’re probably thinking that I need to get a life but that’s the problem. I have one, a very busy one, and so my addiction will have to be ‘managed’.


As for my ‘very busy life’, here is a taster:

I completed my first assignment for the MA in Creative Writing two weeks ago. I loved every minute of it…even the hours spent from 3.30 am the day before the submission deadline. I discovered an artist who has depicted his early life in a Polish shtetl through the medium of a series of paintings. I have written a collection of poems around his work, linking it to my Grandma’s early years.

I entertained the entire family over the Christmas period and cooked myself almost to a standstill. It was lovely to see them all, to have them all under one roof. It rarely happens, but I have had to accept that I’m getting old. I needed some serious rest and recuperation after the last of my family departed.

I’m in the middle of gathering and writing up research for a book charting the formation of the Progressive Jewish Community in Leicester. It’s a fascinating story including the long-term loan of a Czech Torah scroll that was confiscated by the Nazis when they rounded up the Jews in Czechoslovakia. I will tell more of that story here soon, but for now I have deadlines and so I must get on.

Oh yes, and a happy 2017 to everyone. The sun is shining as I type this. Maybe Spring will soon be here.



Friday, 2 December 2016

A sample of what I'm doing on my MA Course

I love working on my Masters Course and I’m glad I decided to opt for part-time because it is allowing me to savour every bit of creative writing that I’m producing. As promised several months ago, I'm going to share a bit of my work with you.

One of the many areas we've been looking at is ekphrasis writing. This is writing creatively from a piece of artwork and it has caught my imagination big time. My first attempt was from a picture called Messiah that is in Leicester’s New Walk Museum German Expressionist Collection. At first glance I mistook it to be representative of Hitler Youth and the Führer’s hoped-for Arian race but then I discovered that Ernst Neuschul painted it in 1919, before the rise of Nazism. He had an exhibition of his paintings closed down by the Nazis because he was Jewish. He also lost his teaching post for the same reason and managed to escape Prague just in time to save his life.

When he painted this picture he was a young artist and a yoga enthusiast, and possibly thought that the world would be a kinder place.


Based on the painting ‘Messiah,’ 
by Ernst Neuschul

Messiah?
The symmetry of sunbeams
across angular mountains
that hypnotic manic stare

finger on fourth chakra
body proud
yoga honed
the conceit
of youthful talent

before Juden war Verboten
before the daub of swastikas
before the last train out of Prague



I'm working on my first piece of assessed work now so I may be quiet for a little while longer. At least I'm absent from here for the very best of reasons. I'm having a great time.