CROCUS FIRES ARE KINDLING *

The unexpected gift proffered in his hand is a single crocus, weak and weary after the stormy night, found forlorn on the sodden lawn, its stem and spirit broken by the might of the gusty gale.

With a tiny ‘ahh’ she reaches quickly forth and gently takes hold of the stricken flower, searching out a small glass and fills it with water. She places the crocus on the windowsill and waits.

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Never a patient person she returns regularly until at last her administrations are rewarded with an admirable show, a spectacle of petals open to view, the blue purple streaks bold yet tender, the yellow stamen a glorious beacon of light, of warmth, a promise of Spring.

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‘It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.’  Charles Dickens

The brevity of life is encapsulated in that single crocus as the next day she approaches the windowsill with fluttering expectation and finds the petals serenely closed, folded across each other into a perfect form, the sunshine within hidden, the petals virtually translucent. There is only a glimmering of the purple veins of life visible upon the parchment-like veil of petals.

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By the evening the crocus clings limply to the glass surface, a striking green slime flourishing around the sad stem, the petals now shrunken and old, the straggly stem floating listlessly in the water. This particular augur of Spring decaying just as the crocuses outside are timidly reaching out from beyond the dark of the ground, their purple, yellow petals a bright sparkle to the winter still residing in the natural world. Onwards she strolls around the garden eyeing each new development, the buds on the buddleia, the daffodils tall and proud, their yellow trumpets safely ensconced in its tight wrap, the leaves of the tulips promising the red celebration later in Spring. Here, amongst the snowdrops the crocuses display shines strong. Welcome Spring!

‘I wonder if the sap is stirring yet,

If wintry birds are dreaming of a mate,

If frozen snowdrops feel as yet the sun

And crocus fires are kindling one by one:

Sing, robin, sing;

I still am sore in doubt concerning Spring.’

The First Spring Day by Christina Rossetti

* Christina Rossetti

THE ONE MEMORY OF FLORA BANKS by @emily_barr #FloraBanks #FollowingFlora

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This is a book that shouldn’t work. But it does so brilliantly. The One Memory of Flora Banks tells the story of Flora, a girl with no recent memory and who astonishingly is the sole narrator. As she faces the world and herself anew every few hours the reader quickly becomes as one with Flora and her confusion, despair and growth.

As a result of treatment for a brain tumour at the age of ten Flora Banks has anterograde amnesia. The seven years following the operation are a void to her although she remembers much of the first decade of her life, especially her parents, her best friend, Paige and her brother Jacob. However each day she’s startled by her older self, family and friends as she wakes to fear what is happening, what has happened. No wonder she has ‘Flora, be brave’ written on one of her hands. 

Writing is one form of survival for Flora as she seeks to navigate her disjointed life and for her aid, she covers her hands and arms with words to remind her of her life, events, people. She also keeps a detailed notebook throughout the days which becomes vital for her sanity and further notes direct her to the book. 

svalbard-islandsThis is Flora’s life until one day something amazing occurs – she kisses a boy on the beach and remembers it!  The boy is called Drake and also Paige’s boyfriend. This pivotal event transforms Flora’s life and she will do anything to chase her memory of  Drake – even to the extent of travelling to the Artic alone in search of him. Her one and only memory in seven years. She’s sure he holds the key to her future self.

Memory forms not only ourselves and our lives but is also critical in storytelling with a beginning, a middle and an end. The One Memory of Flora Banks is unique in that the past, present and future become the now and along with Flora we face each new moment with a tangible sense of fear and anticipation. Her bewilderment and turmoil are brilliantly conveyed and the reader immediately mirrors the unpleasant surreal sensation of her existence. Life becomes akin to a waking dream, at times nightmarish, at times exquisitely beautiful. Whilst Flora’s life in Penzance is written with a more concrete grounding in reality, her time in Spitsbergen gains a stunning dreamlike quality whilst her new-found friends remind her about themselves and herself, helping her, losing her as she chases Drake further.

svalbard-ice-cave-trip-spitsbergenUnlike Flora, the reader has one major advantage – memory! With this ability, the brave, tenacious and surprisingly whimsical nature of Flora shines through and the remote location in the frozen depths of the Artic takes prominence, the bleak white landscape a metaphor of Flora’s blank spaces where her memories should reside. Gradually a more complete picture of her life is created, how her parents dealt with her illness, how her brother wanted her to have a more free, less protected life. His belief in her strength and ability to do anything is the driving force that carries her closer to Drake. But will she ever find him? Will it help her recover her memory?

This is a book that lived with me through the days even when not reading and to which I couldn’t wait to return to every evening. Its magical enchanted feel fluttered like lilting music over me, the absolute unknown a welcome break from formulaic writing.

Why on earth it is marketed under the YA (Young Adult) category beggars belief. This is truly a disservice to a superb book which would be loved by readers of all ages, so please don’t be put off by this pigeonholing.  

This is a wonderful unexpected unusual book which will delight you with its story, its originality and its deft and clever execution; I really can’t recommend this highly enough.

netgalleyI received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.

Rating:                          5 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     Penguin

Price:                              £ 3.99      Kindle UK

                                          $ 4.39    Paperback  US

FRIENDSHIP

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From a young age we all strive to form friendships, to feel that special moment of ‘oh yes, you get met’ as kindred spirits meet, cautiously at first then unconsciously a life-long friendship is cemented. To have even one two o’clock in the morning friend, on whom to call without fear of disturbing in moments of need, fear, sadness or even celebration  is a blessing indeed.

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The subject of friends has been on my mind this week as a dear and very close friend celebrated her birthday. As I bombarded her email with birthday messages, some posted here today, the sentimental and poignant quotations struck a chord with me. 

Only our truest friends know us to the core, the inner worries, the films and books that will bring us to tears of laughter. Only lifelong friends from young know the ‘whole’ us, events at school, childhood, teenage years that are so instrumental in forming the person of today. Only with them can you reminisce about the broken hearts of young love, the friendship breakups which cut so deep, the scars still raw.

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As we exit what is hopefully the haven of home a cloak descends upon us – for better or worse. We can’t help it! In the midst of desperation, a smile will be plastered across our face as we greet others in the street, at work. In a snatched lunch hour an email full of your true feelings will be sent and soon the ping of reply from a good friend brings soothing comfort and support.

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Friendships take many shapes and when young you believe friendship is one solely between peers. The sense of joy is overwhelming when you realise how short-sighted, how juvenile you’ve been and a close friendship strikes up between your parents and your more mature self, as a closer warmth and care for your grandparents develops and later you become aware that the security of friendship is found not only in platonic relationships but also in loving ones. This really does feel like hitting the jackpot!

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Like relationships, friendships take work – hard work at times! Like relationships there can be break-ups, big ones that reverberate across a large group of people, as the ground shifts, old friendships crumble, new ones are formed. Unlike most relationships, friendships can be sustained for months, even years, with only remote contact – it is amazing how one can sense the others problems, call just at the right time, how easy it is to slot back into relaxed chat after a three-year hiatus apart and pick up the conversation as if from the day before. 

The journey of life, withs its highs of happiness and lows of loss and suffering, would be unbearable without the constant presence of friends – the shared expedition easing the load, doubling the joy.

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As friendships take new format in the world of interconnectedness a new source of inspiration, support and sharing is created. Its warm glow a ray of sunshine and hope on the many bleak aspects of the internet.

So, to new friends here on WP, I ask you to join in a virtual celebratory toast to friendships everywhere! 

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AT THE EDGE OF THE ORCHARD: A BOOK REVIEW

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Apples! Only someone of Tracy Chevalier’s calibre can pick such an ordinary fruit and create the most mesmerising, sweeping novel centred around them. 

tracy-chevalierAs a huge fan of her earlier books, particularly Girl with a Blue Earring and The Last Runaway, I was positively giddy to be approved by HarperCollins to review her latest creation, At the Edge of the Orchard. I started reading with a great sense of anticipation.

‘They were fighting over apples again.’

applesConstant war reigns between James and Sadie Goodenough in Ohio in 1838 and onwards as they struggle to turn the inhospitable and aptly named Black Swamp into a successful apple orchard. To James, son of an eminent apple farmer in Connecticut, apples and their trees are an obsession and are treated with reverential care and none more so than his beloved Golden Pippen, a sweet-tasting ‘eater’. 

ciderspittersMeanwhile, his wife Sadie seeks solace from the misery of her life, her losses, in the applejack cider which is made from fresh ‘spitters’ apples. 

In the midst of their bitter, self-centred and often violent marriage, ten children are born and many die from the yearly ‘skeeters’  (mosquitoes). Those that survive are more slaves to their parents than children and fend for themselves in the brutal harsh world. It is a gruelling existence which is described in great detail and intensity; I felt as if I suffered with them.

Robert, the youngest son, is striking with his disarming knowing look that unsettles both James and Sadie equally; his quiet diplomacy at times succeeds in calming the household even though he is also interested in the apples.  Martha meanwhile is a sickly child, who nevertheless runs the family ‘home’ and she is pithily described by Sadie as: 

‘Martha was the runt of the litter, the only weak one left who hadn’t died. She hummed all the time, hymns to block out the sounds of Deaths footstep behind her.’

This example is just one of the variety of brilliant narrative techniques used by Tracy Chevalier in this book. Her skilful entwining of narrative voices creates a fully immersive read and it starts with a close third person (James’s) point of view interwoven with the simpler, colloquial, childlike, even bawdy and misspelt first person voice of Sadie. I felt I was involved in an intimate conversation with her at some stages. 

Altogether there are five chapters, each from a different era though some do overlap. One chapter is a masterful collection of Robert’s yearly (unanswered) letters back home following his sudden departure from Black Swamp as a child, describing his intriguing and tough adventures over seventeen years as he heads further west. The mystery as to the cause of his sudden departure is not revealed until much later, however. His life is vividly portrayed as he enters the Gold Rush in California and ultimately ends up working for Willian Lobb, a famous tree collector.  

in-wintertreesWhilst the first section of the book deals deftly with details of apple grafting, growth, picking, the second section centres around the grand sequoia of California and of Robert’s life with them. The description of the sequoia that Robert first encounters is awe-inspiring and I can visualise the whole scene exactly.


dancingThroughout the book, Tracy Chevalier expertly weaves fact with fiction, including the then recently discovered Calaveras Grove in California.  Billie Latham built the infamous stage on the stump of first giant sequoia, named The Discovery Tree, to be cut down at the Grove. As a tree agent, Robert becomes responsible under William Lobb to collect seeds and saplings to send to James Veitch, an English nurseryman for the stately homes in the UK. 


The rough pioneering life of California is recreated brilliantly with the raw hard life in San Francisco captured in minute detail whilst evoking the enthralling enticing allure of the wildlife. Robert is forced to forgo his lonely existence when one day a visitor brings the haunted past dramatically back to him.

The characterisation in At the Edge of the Orchard is superb; there is not a single false tone or word. Everyone is realistically portrayed although it is hard to feel empathy for certain characters, especially James and Sadie. 

The darkness that is all pervasive in the book would be too much without the glint of light and hope in the form of one critical person. Will she become Robert’s saviour and end the desolation that’s blighted the lives of so many? 

I fell head over heels for Tracy Chevalier’s latest novel and was swept away by the story. I’m in awe of the electrifying literary writing which remained powerful throughout. Reading the book I was emotionally overwrought as well intellectually savouring the exquisite recreation of nineteenth century Ohio and California. The ending was a crescendo of sorrows and joy. The best book of 2017 – so far!

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest and impartial review.  At the Edge of the Orchard is available to purchase although the paperback will be released on 7th February 2017 in the UK and is already for sale in the USA.

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Rating:                          5 out of 5 stars.

Publisher:                     HarperCollins UK

Links:                             Amazon UK or   Amazon US 

 

A Winter’s Walk

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 Picture perfect winter days have been few and far between this season and when they do deign to appear I’m like a child again, eager to step forth into the white hued countryside, to inhale the crisp icy air, to stomp on the frozen puddles and lakes sending ripples of cracks zigzagging along the ice.

On my quest one sunny Sunday I join my son on his regular long (ie. very long for me) walk through the local nature reserve, across the fields to the local town. A new route for me as I’ve only taken the road there but trusting his navigational skills, I duly follow!

The nature reserve is a lush wood with a few smaller lakes and a central flat grass area with picnic tables dotted around. It is a hidden gem and luckily only twenty metres or so from our house. It has not always been a protected area of natural beauty however and until the 1960s it was a sand and gravel quarry – not too successful by all accounts as the American airforce considered the quality of the product inferior and was unable to use the gravel and sand from here when building the runway at the local airfield. After its closure the quarry became unflatteringly known as the ‘Pits’, the holes filled with water and some fish were introduced for anglers. It remained bleak and barren until adopted by the village in the 1980s and today it is managed to a high standard.

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As  I cross the level plain I glance again – after all is this snow or white sand? It’s deceptive in this play between light and shadow, my eyes blinded by the sunlight.

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Again the mystery of light enhances my feelings of the mystical as I look into the woods, recalling the old-time sagas, remembering the Nordic myths…I almost expect to witness a troll staring back at me and after a pause, a shrug, continue on the walk, my disappointment palpable and real.

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What is it about paths that just beckon to be explored? Where could they lead? There are so many to choose from, I want to veer off, investigate further but my son leads the way and dutifully I follow, musing. Paths. Like the ones out here in the wilderness (of sorts!), life offers up many diverse paths, opportunities and various factors determine which ones we choose to follow, which ones we perhaps return to at a later date, which ones…I realise I’m dawdling and hurry to catch up, my reflections forgotten, as I carefully traverse the rough ground. 

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Frozen in time the leaves, solid in their white coats, catch my eye, their gold, amber and brown colours cloaked in frosty layers. Striking in their unusual state it will not be long before the warmer air frees them from their enhanced beauty and as the soil turns to mud they’ll gradually mulch into the field, another state, another time.

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The bridge, at times flooded from the troubled waters of the stream flowing beneath it, is a safe crossing for us this time and the tractor’s tracks of upturned mud are frozen into solid peaks and troughs. I step gingerly in between them.

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The pools of water are scattered across the plain, their surfaces covered with fragile thin layers of ice, like the veneer we often display to others, the false confidence, joy, certainty. Like the ice here, so easily shattered, transitory.

Good fun memories flow come to mind; of my toddler son jumping with glee on the ice, winter suit wet and muddied, of stick battles with the frozen puddles, swishing huge pieces of two inch thick slabs of ice across the slippery grass, an alternative version to ice-hockey. Memories so much a part of us, part of our past and our present and even our future. 

Content, exhausted, refreshed I return home…like the child of the early morning I long for a hot chocolate and biscuit break – the only difference is now I’ll be making them!

‘I was sorry to hear my name mentioned as one of the great authors because they have a sad habit of dying off. Chaucer is dead, so is Milton, so is Shakespeare, and I am not feeling very well myself.’  Mark Twain

THE GAME

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The Game

maltesers-wrapper-smallImogen popped one more Malteser in her mouth, cracking the honeycomb between her teeth. One of her front teeth wobbled precariously before slotting back into place.

‘I can pull that for you,’ said Layla, rubbing her fingers in anticipation. ‘Look,’ she continued, pointing to a gap, ‘I yanked this out last week. You should have seen the blood – everywhere it was.’

‘No, leave it,’ replied Imogen, edging backwards. ‘Let’s leave this too. The game is stupid. It’s for kids.’

‘God, Imogen, you’re such a loser. Just say the spell, then the word and that’s it. What’s written on these pieces of paper will appear. I promise.’

‘As if.’

‘Well, it worked with the Maltesers, didn’t it?’ retorted Layla.

‘Very funny. I heard the rustling as you pulled them out of your pocket,’ said Imogen.

‘Didn’t.’ 

‘Did.’

Layla scrambled off the rough floorboards.

‘Well, I’m off then,’ she said, pocketing the scraps of folded paper which rested in the chipped bowl. One of Mum’s favourites but she wouldn’t notice it gone. Since her new boyfriend, she never noticed anything.The television was permanently on as was the tablet on Mum’s lap. Being ignored wasn’t the worst, it was their yelling that did her head in. This was her retreat; her Dad’s old shed. It felt safe amongst the cobwebs and spades. Breathing in the musty damp air, Layla reached for the latch.

‘Wait,’ said Imogen. ‘Okay, I’ll do it.’

Layla tipped the papers back into the bowl.

‘But,’ she added, ‘we don’t have to say the spell aloud. We’ll just think it. Right?’

Biting her nails, Layla was silent for a moment.

‘That should work, but you have to say the word aloud.’

Imogen took a paper and unfolded it and frowning she closed her eyes. Real tight, with the balls of her hands rubbing against her eyelids, the paper dangling between her fingers. She muttered and then shouted out.

‘MUD!’

mud2Layla rolled back in shock, knocking against the tool table which sent a trowel flying into the air, the slimy sloppy brown mud on it trailing messily on the floor and landing by her side.

‘Where did that come from?’ exclaimed Imogen, gaping at the mud and the trowel partially buried in it.

‘Yeah, it really does work!’ laughed Layla, ignoring her friend and grabbing a paper. She mumbled the spell quickly, then whispered, ‘mask’. The girls glanced around expectantly, then frantically. Nothing. With sighs of disappointment, they took a paper each and nonchalantly went through the motions with the two remaining words.

‘Midnight,’ said Imogen.

Sunlight shimmered through the grimy perspex window. More like midday, thought Imogen.

‘Murder,’ droned Layla.

‘I could murder this game,’ said Imogen, as she stood to leave. ‘Like I said, bloody stupid.’ The door clattered shut behind her, rattling the tiny hinges. Within seconds it flew open again and Imogen loomed over her, clutching a black wooden mask.

‘Look! This was on the tree. Just hanging there. I can’t believe it. I’m taking this home.’

african-mask-ebony-woodLayla followed Imogen down the path to the house, shaking her head in wonder. How did her mother’s mask from Gambia end up outside?

Heading inside, Layla snatched some biscuits and crisps from the cupboard before going up to her room, slamming her door to the fighting downstairs.

‘Layla! Layla! Get help!’ screamed her mother.

imagemidnightLayla woke with a start and reached for her phone. 00.00. Midnight. Scrambling out of bed she ran to the door when she suddenly heard an ear-piercing screech. Her mother. Then silence followed by a cough becoming louder and she edged away from the door as the footsteps came closer. Stumbling, she reached the wardrobe and lunged inside, tapping at her phone screen.

‘Police! Help! My mother’s been murdered!’

The End

© Annika Perry

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Hobbling in…

I hobbled into the New Year – literally. 

We learn something every day they say and late on Christmas Eve, following a wonderful celebration with family, I learnt NOT to try to carry two bags of opened presents down slippery wooden steps in the dark whilst deep in thought! My resulting agonised scream brought the whole family to the top of the stairs and as I lay there I began to feel as if I’d landed a part in a soap drama. Whilst my ankle was carefully checked out by a first aider in the family, others brought pillows, duvet and comfort.

For those few seconds before the fall, life became clarified, intensified. As I started to fall backwards I thought, no, no way, not with my two slipped discs in my spine. Pitching forwards I remembered the wall at the bottom of the stairs and imagined my head smashing into the vertical obstacle. I  straightened and fell, landing with my right ankle twisted beneath my body.

The enforced stillness has been an unexpected present this Christmas, time literally slowed as my usual busy self was reduced to a few painful hobbles, accepting lots of help. Now nearly fully recovered the peace is with me yet, a new inner calm. 

In this spirit I turn to my first post of the year and want to write about a certain present I received prior to my fall on Christmas Eve.

img_0055The Five Year Journal is a unique form of the diary requiring only one or two sentences a day – over five years. The layout is one day listed five times on each page, each entry to be filled in one year at a time. The concept had me intrigued from the start and was a perfectly thought out present for me.

What will the five years bring for me? I see this as a time-capsule, to be re-visited…relive memories, emotions, dreams. 

Already I start to consider each and every day, what made a particular impact, what was especially emotional, what comment or quotes caught my imagination. Surprisingly it’s bringing a constructive form of reflection upon each and every day, of the ramifications of my words and actions. I wonder how my entries will evolve, what I will learn. 

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Doreene Clement

The concept of the Five-Year Journal was originally created by Doreene Clement for the new millennium in 2000 although it has been widely copied since then. It is recommended even for people who might be writing a normal journal as this process is uniquely different in recording a flashpoint of events/emotions/thoughts of each day and later upon reading they can see and appreciate the real growth and change in their lives. 

As Doreene says: ‘Time is a healer and what was once hard or unbearable can now make more sense, giving us a clearer picture. Recording and tracking our lives… can actually bring relief, clarity, joy and laughter.’ 

img_0060I can well imagine that with time my journal will become a source of support and thoughtful reflection of where I have been and where I am going, already it is focusing my attention on ever-present and I’m gaining a new perspective on my life! 

Although I am not using any prompts from my entries it is possible to write each day in answer to specific questions or theme for that date. So far it’s so quick and easy to use and there is no room for excuses not for me to write at least these couple of sentences a day!

Have you got a Five-Year Journal? Have you ever started one or perhaps completed the journey? Would you consider buying one for yourself or a friend? What do you think of the concept? As always I look forward to comments and discussion.

“A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful. If we’re lucky we’ll transmit a strong pure note, one that isn’t ours, but which passes through us. If we’re lucky, it will be a note that reverberates and expands, one that other people will hear and understand.” 

― Roxana Robinson

To finish my first post of 2017 I want to share a song I personally love and which came to mind on New Year’s Eve when we sang ‘Auld Lange Syne’, bringing to mind those no longer with us.

The first loss I experienced as young was an influential young teacher who along with his wonderful writing would entertain us with his guitar playing and singing – his favourite was ‘Streets of London’ by Ralph McTell. Hearing this I always remember those childhood days, my teacher’s inspiring classes, his far too early death.

A THOUSAND LIGHTS

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For me, Christmas begins with lights. Forget the Christmas cards on display in July – it’s Summer! Their inane presence on the shop shelves in the middle of a heatwave makes me despair. Piped carol music in the shopping centre during October has me shaking my head – it’s just too early and Halloween has yet to be celebrated.

It’s the lights that cause the flutter of excitement in the pit of my stomach as I eagerly clamber to the loft in search of the Christmas lights. Will the previous year’s due care and diligence reap the ultimate reward – will they work?

Brought back down to the warmth of the house I gently unwrap the swaddled star, cocooned for 11 months in the blanket in which my newborn son was brought home from the hospital. The light bulb, submerged in cotton wool, emerges intact. Will it shine, though? By now anxiety holds sway as the lamps around the room are turned off and in the wintry dusk, I press the switch with trepidation. Rays of bright light shimmer across the blackness, outside into the dark! I feel aglow and calm; engulfed by Christmas peace and contentment.

Lights abound in our house during this holiday, not just the star but also Christmas window candles and the tree lights sparkling in a multitude of colours. Every evening candles are lit, their warm and tender living lustre slowing time in its path, uniting us in a time-honoured tradition. Light bringing its aura of ethereal harmony into our lives.

I have so many favourite Christmas songs but this Swedish one seems particularly appropriate – all about light; lighting those candles in our homes, bringing light and hope into the world.  Sentiments that epitomises the needs of the world today.

For me, Christmas is about being with family and friends and I feel I have made some wonderful friends here on WP.  Thank you so much for your continued interest, support, comments and kindness over the past year, it is a delight and privilege to know you all.

As you listen to the song and read the translation I want to wish each and everyone of you a very special Christmas / Holiday, filled with peace and joy. May light fill your homes and hearts this Christmas.

Finally, like so many, I will be taking a blogging break during the festive season and look forward to catching up with you in the New Year.

MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY NEW YEAR! 

GOD JUL & GOTT NYTT ÅR!

 

Thousands Christmas lights are lit

all around the world

Thousands, thousands also shine

in the dark blue sky

***

And over towns and land tonight

Christmas happy message spreads

that born is Jesus Christ, our Lord

The blessed prince of light.

***

Dear Star over Bethlehem

let your gentle light

Shine with hope and peace

into every home, every house

***

In every heart, poor and dark

please send a gentle ray,

A ray of love from God

In blessed Christmas time.

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Precious Lives, Precious Poems

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At the beginning of October I wrote a post entitled  THE GOOD-MORROW #NATIONALPOETRYDAY  to link in with the National Poetry Day here in the UK. At the same time I asked for your comments about your favourite poem or poems, which one(s) had inspired you over the years. The response was overwhelming!

A huge heartfelt thank you to everyone for commenting – through you I reconnected with some old favourite poems as well as welcoming new ones into my heart.

As the responses kept coming the idea of collating all the suggestions grew on me and I am happy to include the link to a PDF document herePrecious Lives, Precious Poems includes the poems mentioned as well as the people suggesting them. Where possible I have included links to the bloggers websites. Please do take the time to visit them – a rewarding read at each and every one and all lovely people to boot!

I apologise in advance for any mistakes – they will all be mine!

Enjoy and thank you once again. Connecting, sharing, learning is the true joy of this blogging journey.

By the way it is possible to import this document into iBooks, Kindles etc to save it and read at your leisure.

To start reading here is the link again:  Precious Lives, Precious Poems

A SENSE OF PLACE

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Tower of London

Every week I look forward to Friday morning and a treat in the form of Bernadette’s regular ‘Feminist Friday’ posts on her blog haddonmusings.com  The women featured, both famous and not so famous, are aways inspiring and fascinating. Recently I heard the story of one British woman who was a trailblazer in the world of printmaking and I want to share her life, her work with you.

helenaArtist and printmaker Helena Markson is a person whose name and fame should have spread far beyond her field of expertise. Born in London in 1934, she studied at Salisbury School of Art and then at Central School of Art before becoming a successful professional printmaker. Initially she co-directed a Fine Art Printmaking workshop, soon after she set up an etching studio in London before teaching at Chelsea College of Art and St. Martin’s School of Art in London. During this time she exhibited many of her prints. Her lifelong career took her across the UK, to America and Israel and she worked until her death in 2012.  

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Brighton Fair

Although there were women involved in printmaking in the 1950s, most would work on smaller pieces that were made using less equipment and could be done at home, for example wood engravings, wood-cuttings and lino cuttings. Helena was unusual in that she worked in etchings, often large ones, which used acid and print presses; in other words she worked from a print studio with both the space and ventilation she required. 

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Albert Dock

 

Throughout her life Helena was inspired by architecture and her range of work reflects this; she always depicted places she had a special connection to and particularly buildings. These were firstly from her life in London and Salisbury. Later Liverpool featured strongly in her work following an important  commission by the main town planner who had been drawn to her earlier work. As a result she spent much time completing a series of prints highlighting the urban renewal undergoing in Liverpool in the 1960s.

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Palm House

Israel was the centre for the latter part of Helena’s career as well as her life. Initially she was invited to show her work in the country, however she was immediately fascinated and drawn to the country and its people and in 1970 Helena moved permanently to Israel. Helena is held in high esteem in the county and is seen as a pioneer who set up the country’s first print studio at the newly created University of Haifa. As co-founder of the Art Department within the university she brought printing presses and equipment from the UK to form the new print studio. Later she set up the Fine Art Print Studios and taught lithography and etching and became Professor Emeritus of Haifa University. 

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Waving Grasses

Helena was a private person throughout her life but she always retained a strong emotional presence to wherever she worked and this was true for her work in Israel which cemented her fascination with landscape and all her prints are imbued by a sense of place. However in Israel there was a transition in her style; her early work of London and Liverpool  were mainly monotone subtle colours and architectural whilst her later prints gave more a sense of space in vibrant blues and oranges. 

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Abercrombie Square

Even though she lived and worked in Israel until her death aged 78, Helena continued to visit the UK and America.  In the UK the poet, Dylan Thomas, particularly caught her attention and she completed a series based on his poems called ‘Dwelling Places’ with images of places she had lived, books she had read and people she knew. 

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book-coverHelena Markson’s beautiful prints are open to view in collections around the world including the Museum of Modern Art in New York and Tate Britain in London. A book celebrating her work has recently been released and is entitled ‘Helena Markson – A Sense of Place’ .

Sources include: BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour Friday    25. 11.16    10.00 am