Monthly Archives: June, 2012

Dear Lupin

I’ve just finished reading Dear Lupin having heard extracts read out on BBC Radio 4.  I loved the reference to Pooter from the classic Diary of a Nobody and had to get hold of my own copy. I consumed it quickly, drawn into the claustrophobic world of Roger Mortimer and touched to the core by his love, forgiveness and constancy for his wayward, hapless son, Charlie.

This is a world of the British upper class (definitely not the middle class as both Charlie and his father insist). Names are dropped that you wonder about: is that the famous Hislops? The circles that the Mortimers move in are full of gin-drinking, hunting, antique-dealing, banking, posh toff divorcees and Brigadiers and heiresses. Theirs is a closed world of public school, Oxbridge, the Turf Club and drink driving.

And yet.

This is a story, a real life account, of a father-son relationship. The book is made up of a series of letters written by Roger Mortimer (a POW after capture at Dunkirk and racing correspondent for the Sunday Times) to his son Charlie, whose addiction to booze, drugs and shifty living continually exasperates him.

Mortimer comes from the generation of stiff-upper lip that this class of Brits is renowned for, a man who should not be able to express his emotions for his son, to his son. A son who has endured Eton and a brief stint in the army. A son who is decidedly anti-establishment, lurching from one odd-job to another, from one stint in hospital to another. But these letters, written regularly and persistently over thirty odd years, demonstrate this father’s steadfast love for his son with wit, self-deprecation and a gritty determination. To have all this recorded in print is precious. And, looking back at these letters that miraculously survived across continents and London boroughs, Charlie knows it. This book is a testament to that.

Lovely, Actually

Well, this gets me every time… And so true. I love you Richard Curtis for writing unashamedly about love in this cynical world.

And I know it’s only June and a long time till Christmas but Love Actually is always something my daughter and I have to watch if it’s on telly.

SW19

Henman’s sliced backhand

I have watched Wimbledon every year ever since I was about seven years old. The mid-seventies was an exciting time to watch tennis, with hard-hitting characters like Jimmy Connors and Ilie Nastase. But it was Bjorn Borg who caught me. And when John McEnroe showed up, the greatest on-court rivalry was born.

So I thought I would post some pictures of some of my Wimbledon heroes. Some obvious ones are not there because they left me cold for whatever reason. But these men and women will stay in my memory, whether for a victory, or a match, or a human response to the game they loved.

Wimbledon fortnight contains the highs and lows of human drama. Moments of victory and defeat. Moments I will cherish forever.
Bring it on!

This Holey Life

I started writing This Holey Life back in 2008. I wanted to write about the grown-up relationship between a sister and her brother. I am interested in the way siblings can revert to childhood roles when they get together as adults.

There’s no one else in the world who knows you quite like a brother or a sister knows you. They were there for the experimental suppers of goulash and lemon meringue pie. They were there at five o’clock on Christmas mornings, opening stockings and tiptoeing with excitement around the house trying not to wake the parents. They were there throughout the shocking hairstyles, the lost cat, the awful boyfriends/girlfriends. They sat alongside you outside the pub with a coke and a packet of cheese and onion crisps while you waited for your dad. They gave you dead legs, brain ache, their last Rolo. They played eye-spy, hide and seek, their heavy metal records too loud. They would wallop you to win an argument but if anyone else dared have a go at you, they would wallop them. They hated you and loved you all at the same time.

As we become adults we may not play hide and seek or wake up in the same house on Christmas mornings. We might have our own families, our own kids, but when we are back together, we have a way of reverting to childhood; our adult behaviour gets dismantled the same way we used to dismantle each other’s toys.

I have two older brothers and I have three children of my own: a daughter with two older brothers. I hope when my kids are adults with their own families that they will be friends and that they will be able to remind each other where they came from and what shaped them.

So, the novel. What if this brother, Martin, came to stay (uninvited) and caused mass disruption in the house? He is still playing the older brother role – annoying, smug and dismissive – and his sister, Vicky, is forced to take a good look at her situation. She has recently and reluctantly become a curate’s wife and is still very much getting used to this new life. She also has three feisty daughters to contend with and is grieving for a lost son. What if this horrible big brother actually manages to help his sister in the way only an older brother can? When push comes to shove, who else in her life could do this?

And why a curate’s wife? Vicky’s husband, Steve, is a plumber when he has his dramatic conversion on the way to Dartford. This has a huge impact on family life and Vicky is resistant to this change. I wanted to explore the issue of new-found faith. I think programmes like Rev are popular not just for the characters but because of the ‘God thing’ that so many of us are afraid to talk about. There are many assumptions about Christians and followers of other faiths. I just wanted to show that these are ordinary people trying to make sense of life. And that life is a journey. And we need someone to give us a piggy back from time to time.

So whether you have an older brother or not, the people who knew us as children could be the ones to help us, even if there are times when you want to scream in their face. And even if you did scream in their face, they would probably be the ones to forgive you.

This Holey Life is published by Legend Press on August 1st and is available to pre-order on Amazon for £3.92

For Dad

For all those who miss someone special today.

Unable are the loved to die. For love is immortality. ~Emily Dickinson

And to my step-father Ralph Albert Parry Pritchard (1924-2007)

I miss you both.

Step by Step

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/jun/16/niagara-falls-tightrope-nik-wallenda

Nik Wallenda, a seventh generation tightrope walker completed a dare devil stunt last night over the Horseshoe Falls at Niagara, crossing from America to Canada. If you’ve never been to Niagara Falls you won’t quite appreciate how risky, scary and downright mad this is. But Nik Wallenda has been doing this all his life. It’s in his blood.

Desperate to do it without a harness, he was not allowed, but this takes nothing away from his achievement. Wearing elkskin slippers made by his mother, he walked across a two inch wide wire for 1800 feet, 150 feet above the falls, mist and wind coming at him from all sides, and with the weight of expectancy on his shoulders.

When I woke up this morning the first thing I had to do was check to see if he had made it as the crossing took place in the middle of our night. I was really excited and very relieved to discover he had. Having been in Niagara in April, with a view of the falls, it was incredible to think anyone could achieve this feat.

As an American citizen, Wallenda had to show his passport as he stepped onto Canadian soil. When asked by an official “What is the purpose of your trip?”, he replied: “To inspire people around the world.”

Canada is a great country but surely there are easier ways to enter it…?

Happy Hookers

Paris

Well, if you are disappointed to find out that this blog is about crochet, don’t be. There’s something going on in the world of wool and it isn’t boring or unsexy. It is actually very exciting and more than a teeny weeny bit inspiring.

I’ve blogged before about guerrilla gardening, flash mobs and the like. But yarn bombing is where it’s at. And it’s appearing everywhere.

In Cornwall there is a group called Graffiti Grannys who describe themselves as ‘a group of middle aged granny urban woolerists, you won’t see us or hear us, but you will know we have been there!!!!!’ They tart up the area with their creations which they they display in unlikely places under cover. ‘We crochet and knit and creep about in the dead of night to make Cornwall and other areas a brighter place!!’

Yarn bombing is now a world-wide phenomenon. The end results vary considerably but there seems to be a common goal of making a local place brighter and to bring a smile to those who live and visit there. And, maybe on a deeper level, it is about feminising what could otherwise be seen as a very masculine environment.

Here are some of my favourites:

Charging Bull given a make-over in NYC

Berlin

Check out this link for an interesting article that explores the ethos and work of a yarn bomber.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/19/fashion/creating-graffiti-with-yarn.html

I hope you weren’t too disappointed. (I stole the title from a fabulous book called The Happy Hooker by Debbie Stoller.)

Bright Star

I’ve blogged about Teignmouth before but am going to do it again. The town is a pretty cool place to live with its natural beauty, seafront with pier, and river beach with painted huts. It has part of Brunel’s atmospheric railway (what was) and the strip of railway line between Teignmouth and Dawlish is supposed to be the most repaired in the country due to winter tides that wash over the seawall where the track runs close. The town still has a working port which largely handles clay and timber. The town retains some Georgian grandeur and fishermen’s cottages, despite what the town planners did back in the day.

And some famous people have connections with the town. Donald Crowhurst set out on his doomed voyage from here. The band members of Muse met at school here. Fanny Burney stayed and wrote her diaries here. But the man I am interested in right now is Keats.

One of the prettier houses in town is known as Keats House. The young poet stayed there in 1818 and completed his epic poem Endymion. Now here I get to the point of this blog. I was listening to a radio programme yesterday which touched on Keats and his theory and practice of negative capability.  ‘When man is capable of being in uncertainties. Mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.’

Despite being so young, Keats grasped a concept that is nowadays known as Mindfulness and is used by therapists to help their clients to learn to live in the moment. It’s not a new idea. Jesus said in the Bible not to worry as tomorrow has enough worries of its own.

I thought you had to be older to have something to say. But by the age of 26 Keats had lived a life that gave him great insight and wisdom. He had to face separation, grief, loss, a broken heart, his mortality.

I love that he walked the same streets I walk everyday.

The New Elizabethans

It’s been a funny old sort of long weekend. You can’t go anywhere without being accosted by Union Jack bunting – whether it’s cheap plastic or posh Cath Kidston, bunting is being hung out as never before.  I’m a fan of bunting, don’t get me wrong. I love all things retro and vintage and bunting has nostalgia threaded through it. (Though we haven’t had any up at home as the Union Flag is banned. Another story.)

The telly  and newspapers have been full of stats about Queen Elizabeth II who has been on the throne for sixty years, the second longest-serving monarch (only Queen Victoria to beat at 63 years). She has seen 12 British Prime Ministers (Tony Blair was the first PM to be born during her reign in 1953), 14 New Zealand  Prime Ministers, 12 Australian Prime Ministers and 11 Canadian Prime Ministers. 12 US Presidents, 6 Popes and 6 Archbishops of Canterbury. She has been on 261 overseas visits including visiting Australia 18 times, Canada 22 times, Jamaica 6 times and NZ 10 times. She was the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland (last year) and the first  to visit China (in 1986).

On a personal note, I have grown in admiration for her over the years since I first saw her in Bristol in 1977 during the Silver Jubilee celebrations. During the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant on Sunday, Sea Containers House unveiled a giant photo of the Silver Jubilee balcony appearance which brought the memories to the surface: A hot day. Waiting on the Downs above the River Avon, the Suspension Bridge in the background. Waiting and waiting for a glimpse of her Majesty to drive past in an open car. My lovely grandparents looking after my brother and I, excited as we were. Her dark hair, her wave, her smile. A picnic with tomato sandwiches and hard-boiled eggs. An ice lolly. Tired legs…

Back in Teignmouth, we went to a street party. Despite the heat, I was dressed in a red, white and blue tank top knitted by my mum from a Woman’s Realm pattern. The highlight for me was winning the bonnet competition (see The Generation Game for a fictionalised version of events). And looking at that photograph now, of the pre-Diana Royal family back in the day, you can only wonder at how that family has changed over the years. As every family has changed. As mine has changed. The  jubilee offers a chance to wonder at the journey we have been on as a nation over the last 60 years. And the journey each of us has been on with our own families, through the ups and the downs and the highs and lows. The break-ups, the make-ups. The successes, the failures. The passing of the old and the arrivals of the new. The sun and the rain.

We don’t know the obstacles ahead of us but, when we come up against them, we keep going. We keep going because of the love we have for those around us that we call our family. Whether we see them everyday, every month, every year. Or whether we just carry them in our hearts.

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