Thoughts: Emotional Safety

Thoughts: Emotional Safety.

Ah, my friend, Tom Atkins, a sublime poet and philosopher with whom I am connected via the Creative Group that author Jon Katz conceived, is simply brilliant at expressing that which lies deep within many of us. These words are not only wise and beautifully articulated, but they are above all, like their author, kind and true. I struggle with being kind – to myself and sometimes towards others, but all I ever need to do is read his words and I am inspired. Thank you Tom, for your wisdom and your friendship. I hope you don’t mind me re-blogging this one.

Haiku: Strawberry

Strawberry

Bright scarlet berry,

Hiding under glossy green

Leaves; you taste so good!

This is from my rainbow haiku book that I am currently compiling. I’ve had lots of colour-related haiku written for ages, but I’m steadily gathering images to illustrate the poetry with. This afternoon, after the fantastic heat and sunshine earlier in the week and the exciting lightning display at four o’clock this morning, followed by an epic downpour, I popped out into the garden and plucked yet another scrumptious crop of strawberries from my plants that have survived the relocation brilliantly. I’ve been trying to get the *perfect* image for about two years. Today, I think I may be nearly there…

Is this the perfect strawberry?

Is this the perfect strawberry?

And yes, I have now eaten this one. It was, as its plump, juicy flesh had promised, utterly delicious. Oh. My. *sigh*

Thanks for reading once again my friends!

‘The Insect Play’ – preparing for life outside the bubble

It’s a funny old world.

For thirty-odd years we have had at least one child in school and in all of that time I have watched or participated in a great many school plays, either as a parent or as a teacher. This was to be the last one, as our youngest performs in his final production before graduating from high school (sixth-form college) in the coming week. It’s a teeny bit momentous really, for us as parents. Huge for him too, of course, but none-the-less an important milestone for us.

So what was this final production about then?

The GUS came home earlier on this year and announced that his group would be performing an adaptation of ‘The Insect Play’ by Karel and Josef Capek, a collaboration of Czech brothers, first performed in 1921 at the National Czechoslovakian Theatre in Brno. Their esteemed head of department at York College, Tony Ravenhall adapted the play from the original which has long had mixed reviews and I was intrigued to see how the enterprise would turn out.

Magnificently is the answer.

For those who do not know the play, I’ll give you a brief overview. A tramp in a park observes the lives of a variety of insects and (this is the clever part) draws analogies with human life, in all its glorious stages, from cradle to grave with diversions such as reproduction, gathering ye seeds while ye may, haves-and-have-nots, politics – most notably Communism, working for the greater good, nihilistic wars and Napoleonic world-conquering neuroses. Life and Death in sixty minutes. It’s genius is the crystal clear comparison of insect behaviour and life cycles with human ones.

The butterflies at the beginning of the play are hunted by a slightly loony lepidopterist (brilliantly portrayed by Emily Furness) their nymphomaniacal fluttering and flitting about is observed by the Tramp (equally well played by Josh Sissons) who (perhaps through his drunken haze) interprets their actions in human terms, as ‘bright young things’ from a Roaring Twenties champagne party. Some clever word-play, flawlessly expressed, coupled with well-choreographed movements drew the audience in even closer than the unusual ‘Promenade’ participation accorded and we were hooked, mesmerised by these young actors’ performances.

With just a tinge of sadness at the death of Victor, snaffled by a bird (off-stage), the butterflies flit-flutter off and the Tramp is intrigued to come across a pair of dung-beetles, carefully rolling their nest-egg, the sum of their life’s work, around to find a suitable place to hoard their ‘Lovely'; both Mr and Mrs Beetle are clearly obsessed with what they have amassed, lavishing far more love and attention upon it than towards each other. Mildly comical in appearance, the Gus made a very convincing Dung Beetle – a fact that concerns me not a little! Still, this is the hallmark of a good actor, being convincing, so now I am on the horns of a dilemma – proud  of his ability to morph into another character effectively, slightly disgusted at the idea of my son, the dung beetle. But, I digress, yet again!

The story moves on with the arrival of the Crickets, bedecked in The Green, with accompanying Irish characterisation, well portrayed by Anastasia Crook as a heavily pregnant Mrs Cricket and Louis Hague as her doting husband, Mr Cricket. Their poignant representation of the Middle Classes, concerned with a ‘nice new pair of curtains’ rang true with many of the audience; tragically they succumb to the voracious appetite of the Ichneumon Fly (played by Dan Burton), who is singularly obsessed with feeding his precious larvae, a  spoilt brat magnificently portrayed by Tasha Connor. The Parasite, assuredly played by Kirsten Allison, dressed in a proletarian shell-suit and achieving an impeccable Geordie accent, rammed home the pertinent message of the narcissistic, ‘Me-First’ generation.

After a short interval Act Three, The Antics of the Ants, presents an altogether ominously dark representation of life in a commune, with workers mindlessly following their leader’s instructions, all to achieve the most efficient and profitable outcome for the State. The snide provocation of War, in order to glorify the newly-self-appointed Empress Ant (authoritatively portrayed by Claire Rimmington) results in the chaotic breakdown of society, reinforcing the idea that pursuit of power, for its own sake, is reprehensible and will always end in total failure. The tramp, disgusted by what he has seen finally interferes with the insects’ lives by killing the leader of the victorious colony of ants, which ultimately causes his own demise. He dies. The Chrysalis, who has been interjecting continually throughout the play so far, is finally born as a beautiful moth, but dies almost instantly, with only the moths around the flame to sing a song of mourning. The three moths, Isobel Leger, Lydia Potter and Emma Berridge’s haunting, exquisite rendition of the newly composed song of the cycle of life and death cast an air of finality over the proceedings.

A delightfully comedic epilogue in which two snails painfully slowly steal the show, cleaning up the carnage and thereby renewing the cycle of life breaks the tension magically. The moving symbolism of other humans acknowledging the death of a fellow human being with the placing of a single rose upon the corpse of the deceased Tramp is not lost upon the audience.

I was struck by the importance of all of these messages to our young people, who are embarking upon their own careers forthwith. This version of The Insect Play clearly concerns itself with the greater questions of how to live in this world once life is bestowed upon us. The lampooning of human greed, complacency and selfishness emphasizes the relativity of human values and the most pressing need to come to terms with human life. How much more pertinent could a final performance be? It was a breathtakingly brilliant choice to undertake the retelling of this vital story. I’m sure that all involved will hold its message dear to their hearts for many years to come. I know Toby will.

The Insect Play, York College cast and crew, 12th June 2015

The Insect Play, York College cast and crew, 12th June 2015

Thank you to all the staff at York College for such insightful and valuable lessons to our children, who have matured into interesting, informed and intuitive young adults under your tutelage; may I offer my good wishes to all the graduates for success in the future.

Thanks for reading once again, my friends!

 

 

Colour Me Orb!

Now I know why there are are days when everything goes wrong. When you can’t put your left foot in front of your right without your leg falling off… well, OK, perhaps I’m exaggerating a teeny bit there, but you get the gist I hope.

Those days, many, many of those days exist so that very, very occasionally we can have balance and a good day comes along. Of course, I’d sure prefer it if they could be telegraphed a little better, with, y’know, a great big SIGN or something, so I’d be a little less worried I might miss it or something, but hey, I’ll take them, whenever they show up.

Because it’s fabulous to feel normal again. Even if it’s only for today.

Yes. Today has been a GOOD DAY. So far.

It started off inauspiciously, with an horrific dream about being not dead, when everyone thought I was – but not being able to make anyone understand that dead I definitely was NOT. Very scary stuff, from which as I was woken up seemed ever more reality than I could imagine. Terrifying. Ugh! I’m shaking just at the memory of it.

Perhaps, in hindsight, watching that episode of ‘D.C.I. Banks’ where the victim was buried alive, well after midnight last night, was a little unwise. That has long been my most terrifying fear and the absolute reason for me demanding that my remaining family should see me off in a Viking burial, on a burning pyre, sailing off into the sunset is my only request – after that I really don’t mind much what happens as long as they don’t put me in a box and allow Mother Earth to make an Hors D’Oeuvres of me.

Yes, I think that probably explains the nightmare’s origins, that and my current depressive state dictating my stifling feelings of utter insignificance in life. I don’t think you need to be much of a psychologist here to work this one out.

So, not a good start and often I’m given to an Eeyore Frame of Mind – that is, things that start off badly can only go downhill from here.

But today, TODAY, was different.

When I arrived at the hospital for physio my PT was off sick and so another physio said she’d see me as she had time spare. She noticed I sit incorrectly, leaning to my left and exacerbating my back pain over time and in five minutes she managed more than most of the other gazillions of physios that I’ve seen before have ever done, all together. And that really IS saying something because I think I know every physiotherapist in the world. It certainly feels like it after years of  scoliosis, rehab from ankle reconstruction and unremitting back pain. Just a small change in my habits may really help to relieve some of this chronic pain. Who knew?

So, tick one in the ‘Good day’ column. Yay!

Then it was off to Scarborough to meet with someone who may be able to help me to achieve my goal of becoming a proper artist – with a studio, gallery and clientele. It went well and whilst I don’t want to get ahead of myself, I certainly left feeling buoyed with positivity and a renewed sense of real purpose.

Even the Sun joined me by putting on his hat and coming out to play. Scarborough’s North Beach is glorious in the sunshine, especially when you can enjoy an ice-cream and a stroll along the sands watching other people’s dogs frolicking and having fun. Really, it was very relaxing.

Its a gorgeous day here

Its a gorgeous day here

So on returning home I decided to complete a small task I spent the entire day on yesterday. I wanted to create a colour wheel digitally, like the ones I used to paint by hand with my students – colleagues will remember that I used to bang on about colour being the essence of all visual art blah, blah, blah… but it is something I really love to explore and having a digital version seemed an essential thing for me to create.

I’ve looked at others on-line of course. The trouble is that most seem to lack any degree of subtlety or a true appreciation of what use a colour wheel is to anyone who wants to understand any aspect of colour theory. So the only solution was to create my own from scratch and then give it a special, Liz-treatment.

I constructed the 36 colour wheel using the familiar format that I swear I invented, but it seems so did lots of other people too! I selected graded shades mathematically (as you would expect, if you know me well), given that all colours we can see on a computer screen have a numerical value since this is the only way a machine can interpret the concept of colour.

And then, having achieved a reasonably good wheel… I orbed it! I love the new version – it just made me happy. So I wanted to share it with you all too – I hope you may find it useful as well.

Colour Wheel Orb - turns the wheel on its head!

Colour Wheel Orb – turns the wheel on its head!

Thank you for reading, once again my friends!

Owl be there for you-hoo!

Today’s short stroll in the park happened in York. As you may already know, York is the ‘capital’ of Yorkshire – or at least the town after which the county is named, which gives it a degree of importance that other Yorkshire towns simply cannot aspire to. Which is unfortunate if your family are from Leeds of course, but for the purpose of this article, let’s just accept that York is a serious town in Yorkshire.

Emperor Constantine the Great

Emperor Constantine the Great

Its main claim to fame of course is that it was once, way back in Roman times, the capital city in all of England. Back then, the Romans called the town Eboracum, where the famous Yorkshire saying ‘Eee, bah gum!’ is said to originate from. Of course if you’re uttering those words, you’re probably trying to make an interesting interjection when some more captivating personage is regaling the audience with some fantasmagorical tale of wunderlust and woe, rather than referring to the vanquishers of Briton’s pre-eminent Northern stronghold. If you’re not from Yorkshire, it’s probably best not to attempt it at all, unless you’ve managed to rope in a magnificent vocal coach, well versed in the art of local English dialects. You’d just sound silly – trust me!

The Emperor Constanine the Great was proclaimed Emperor of the Roman Empire in 306 AD from within the city walls of Eboracum, where he had been accompanying his father on a visit. Unfortunately, poor Connie-pops the Elder popped his clogs one fateful afternoon in York (not something the city is particularly proud of, by all accounts) and young Constantine was declared the leader of the Empire by the legions of loyal soldiers that had accompanied the royal family on their trip. This is a truly enrapturous tale on its own which deserves a whole post dedicated to it, so I’ll hold off on that particular history lesson for now – but it’s a corker, so do come back when I get round to telling that one!

Walk along the York Walls today

Walk along the York Walls today

After the Romans departed, the walls fell into disrepair of course until the Vikings arrived and pronounced Jorvik as their capital and started constructing new, even stronger defences to surround this thriving city. They knocked down what rubble remained of the Roman walls and used these for substantial footings for their new walls. A walk along the walls today reveals much about this heavily contested fortress city and provides a fascinating insight into British history.

But that was not what I was searching for today.

Nope.

I was looking for a gentle distraction to fill my battered soul with calming balm and make me feel that life is in fact worth the living. It’s been a difficult, even hugely challenging week that has not ended particularly well and here we are, the other side of Fractious Friday, alive and still kicking it would seem.

I needed cool green gardens with perhaps a little Spring colour to brighten my mood and sooth my jangling nerves.

A stroll along the river (the Ouse, for those who need to get their bearings) in dappled sunlight followed by perambulations through the Museum Gardens seemed just the ticket.

As we turned in through the gates to the gardens and sauntered up the path we realised with increasing excitement that the owls were in town! At various points in the calendar (it just seems random to me, but there’s probably a program of events somewhere, organised by some lovely volunteer) the Owl Conservation group – I think they’re called the Owl  Adventures – show their fabulous beasts off in displays in the Museum Gardens, informing members of the public about the vital conservation work they carry out and introducing people to these stunning creatures; close up contact with the birds is a carefully supervised but incredibly thrilling experience and we were fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time today. Often when we’ve been in the past the crowds are too large to get close enough to take any kind of photos, but today I was in luck. A large enough crowd to ensure the display was in full fling when we arrived, but small enough to afford me an opportunity to find an excellent position to shoot from.

And my, these birds are simply gorgeous!

First, I came across a Little Owl, sitting patiently awaiting some tasty tidbit, posing perfectly for me on his low perch.

Little Owl (How I wished he was Pigwidgeon!)

Little Owl (How I wished he was Pigwidgeon!)

Every feather a tiny work of art on its own, together they cause him to glow gloriously, as he gave me his best side along with a piercing glare – no doubt weighing up whether I had anything to offer him, apart from a cheery smile. I didn’t, except for the chance to take this portrait, which I’m fairly pleased with. I was reminded of Pigwidgeon, Ron Weasley’s Little Owl who was famously inept at delivering mail, frequently failing to notice glazed windows and consequently crashing into them comically. I wanted to pet him and tell him what a fan I am, but I refrained. I’m quite civilised really.

Next, sat a little way along on another low perch, came the Barn Owl; surely the most exquisitely bedecked bird in the world – the heart-shaped face Nature’s own design to ensure that pin-point accuracy is attained when hearing the slightest rustling in the darkened undergrowth, allowing the Barn Owl to pick off its prey (tiny mammals, mice, shrews and voles) from significant distances whilst making not a sound.

Barn Owl, with her heart-shaped face acting as  a natural sonar detection device.

Barn Owl, with her heart-shaped face acting as a natural sonar detection device.

I fell in love instantly, so beguiling was she, hypnotising me with her curious contemplations. I could have looked at this face all day long.

There were others too – a Harris hawk and a Sparrow hawk if I’m not mistaken, although I didn’t get the opportunity to ask so I can’t confirm that of course.

Harris Hawk, watching the proceedings like a ... well, a hawk perhaps!

Harris Hawk, watching the proceedings like a … well, a hawk perhaps!

Mean and very scary looking, awe-inspiring of course, but I certainly wouldn’t want to meet them alone in the woods after dark. Especially if I was a teeny mammal. Most definitely not.

But the main display that was going on involved Eva, the Canadian Great Horned owl, who obligingly flew from pillar to post, providing many opportunities to watch how silently they fly.

Volunteers, thankful it was not their tummy Eva took a stroll on!

Volunteers, thankful it was not their tummy Eva took a stroll on!

The falconer asked for several volunteers to lie down, in order that they might demonstrate how close to the ground Eva can fly – they duly lined up on the grass and awaited their fate – wickedly Eva was encouraged to ramble along the first volunteer’s tum, much to everyone else’s amusement! And then she launched from her perch and single-mindedly swooped towards her handler and the grisly reward he was offering her.

Swooping low - Eva the Canadian Horned Owl

Swooping low – Eva the Canadian Horned Owl

I was not in the best of positions to see this, but I hope the picture I did manage to capture conveys at least a little of the awesome nature of her flight. Wicked stuff!

Eva then returned to her low perch as she awaited her fans and she too posed perfectly for her portrait.

Eva's portrait - mesmerising eyes!

Eva’s portrait – mesmerising eyes!

I was elated!

So that was my stroll.

Do I feel replenished? Yes. Who wouldn’t?

Or should that be ‘Hoo’ wouldn’t?

Thanks for reading once again my friends!

Creative cow

There are several parts of Yorkshire and indeed, of the rest of England, where you can see examples of a magnificent breed of cattle, the venerable Highland Cattle. I used to enjoy spotting them living amiably outside the sadly abandoned Saltersgate Inn – a landmark that all visitors to the North Yorkshire Moors may have had the good fortune to have experienced in the past, standing guard as it did at the foot of the infamous Devil’s Elbow that cradles the Hole of Horcum, on Levisham Moor – possibly my most favourite place on Earth.

The Saltersgate Pub, as I remember it, before it was abandoned.

The Saltersgate Inn, as I remember it, before it was abandoned.

The Saltersgate Inn was a white-painted brick building with a truly fascinating history. Legend has it that the pub, built in 1648, in a post-Civil war climate, soon became a smuggler’s haunt, largely due to its location, far enough away from the smuggling hides along the East coast – Robin Hood’s Bay is one very famous example – frequented by those who wished to turn their ill-gotten gains into cash with no questions asked.

By the eighteenth century, it was constantly being raided by customs officers who were rarely able to catch the miscreants in the act of selling their wares. One night, after yet another fruitless search, one brave, but ultimately rather hapless customs officer decided to lay in wait, hiding in the nearby barn for cover. He hid amongst the hay, waiting for the illicit smuggling folly to resume, which of course it surely did after an hour or so. The unnamed officer pounced upon the unsuspecting criminals and proceeded to arrest them, as he was authorised to do. Unfortunately, he was greatly outnumbered and was quickly clouted on the head with a heavy bar stool; the poor man was instantly killed. Wading through the pool of his blood, the rascally smugglers decided to bury his remains under the fireplace and the legend was born when the landlord vowed that the fire should never be allowed to go out, so that the body would never be found. Locals lived in fear that the dead man’s ghost would be able to begin haunting the pub. Many sightings of this ghost have been reported through the years, none of which have been substantiated.

The Great Escape - legendary storytelling at its best!

The Great Escape – legendary storytelling at its best!

I remember vividly that the Saltersgate was the point that escaped boarders Nicky Lavery and Carole Binns reached before being caught after their daring adventure one dark, rainy evening back in about 1976. They were contemporaries of mine at St Hilda’s school in Whitby, some twelve miles or so across the formidable, stark moorland landscape, which was also home at the time to the equally infamous ‘Golf Balls’ at RAF Fylingdales – the first line of defence during the Cold War as the early warning station for the Northern Hemisphere (so we were always told in such dramatic fashion!). For two young teenagers to travel unnoticed and without any sort of protection for such a distance over such inhospitable terrain was quite an achievement and they were held in high regard by many fellow boarders at school, much like the heroes of ‘The Great Escape’ although perhaps not so rugged looking as Steve McQueen, who was one of my film idols at the time.

For many years after I left school when we drove over the moors to visit Whitby, I looked forward to seeing the Saltersgate Inn as the landmark that denoted the edge of the Moors. The hugeness of the sky, the purpleness of the rampant heather and the sheer loneliness of the place has always inspired me, replenishing me with air to breathe like no other place on this earth that I have been to. It is a magical and wonderful place.

In the fields just by the inn there were also, for many years, a herd of Highland Cattle. Most notable for their large, formidable looking horns and great shaggy russet-brown coats, these hardy animals have been bred in rugged farmland for hundreds of years, possibly as far back as the 6th Century. It always seemed fitting to me that these impressive beasts guarded my most holy and revered place; their majestic presence lent credence to the stories of old that ran amok in my imagination even then.

They are the nearest thing we have in this country to those truly sublime creatures, the North American Bison who once wandered the Great Plains in times gone by, unfettered by man, lords of the land they roamed without impunity. Ah, but I wish I could have seen them!

On a recent journey to Scarborough, we came across another small herd of Highlands and I simply had to stop to look at them, say hello and feel a connection to them. They were happily chomping on silage, taking only a brief moment to look up from under their shaggy gaze to notice my arrival. I had to take a picture of course! I think I might frame this one and put it up on my wall one day.

Highland Cattle in North Yorkshire

Highland Cattle in North Yorkshire

Thanks for reading!

Eye-Spy, with Scarlett, aged 2 and three-quarters

Eye Spy, with my little eye...

Eye Spy, with my little eye…

‘Eye Spy, with my little piggies, something beginning with Red!’ Scarlett exclaimed from the back seat of the car.

It had been a long journey.

‘Something beginning with ‘Red’?’ I asked, checking that I understood the parameters of this game.

Clearly I don’t, at least not in the traditional sense of the word.

‘Yes, Nana. Something beginning with ‘Red’.’ She replied, very chirpily.

Hmmm… let me think…

‘Is it in the car Scarlett?’ I enquired, in a vain attempt to narrow the possibilities down a tad.

‘Nope’. She replied, with much more than just a hint of satisfaction.

‘Is it outside the car then?’

‘Nope’.

The puzzled look on my face probably means more to you than it did to her.

‘Is it at your house?’ I ventured, hopefully.

‘Nope’.

Is it at Nana’s house?’

‘Nope’.

Can you give me a clue? I was beginning to sound a little desperate.

‘Nope’ she replied, steadfastly.

‘Is it by the seaside?’

‘Nope’

‘Is it in the supermarket?’

‘Nope’

‘Is it in the garden?’

‘Who’s garden?’ – AHA! I was getting somewhere? I cast about frantically in my grey matter to weigh up the odds…

‘Your garden?’ I tentatively offered.

‘Erm…’ she teased.

‘Nope’.

There was a big smile on her face now.

‘Is it in Nana’s garden then?’ I was getting a little frustrated.

‘Maybe’ came the reply.

‘So… it’s something beginning with ‘red’ and it’s in Nana’s garden?’ I wanted to confirm before we went any further.

‘Yes’ Scarlett purred.

‘Is it a flower?’

‘Nope’

‘Can I eat it?’

‘Nope’.

Pause.

‘But I can!’ Scarlett declared, delightedly.

I should have known.

‘Is it a strawberry?’

Is it a strawberry?

Is it a strawberry?

‘YES! Nana, you’re SO clever! How did you KNOW?’ The joy on my two-year-old granddaughter’s face was so precious and wonderful, all frustration simply disappeared.

Of COURSE it was a strawberry! How much fun is Eye Spy with two-year-olds?

Thanks for reading!

Tzigane’s Gift

Unwieldy, unshaven, untidily attired,

Surprisingly spry as he re-trod his strides

Back down the neatly manicured garden path.

Smiling warmly, turning through the gate

The Traveller bestowed his kind kismet

Upon the fertile fellow, frantic for fortuity

to finally end this crushing, overbearing burden.

“Good Luck, my friend!” The Traveller called, cheerily,

as they parted ways, diversely empty-handed.

Tzigane lilting, lingering loftily on the breeze.

Hope afloat within him,

A surely sympathic staff to speed his journey.

Maybe.

This time.

I know it’s a bit of a break from tradition for me to post a poem, and especially one with no pictures but it’s just been one of those days and this fleeting encounter feels like some kind of destiny. We need a little good luck right now. I’m convinced we’ve been visited by a guardian angel this morning. I can hear Ravel in my head, an exquisite Hungarian violin haunting my thoughts. 

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Wedding Album

It’s been a while hasn’t it? There are a bunch of reasons why I have taken a hiatus from writing this blog which have little to do with why I’m pumped enough to resume today. On the basis that I’d prefer to write about something I HAVE been doing, rather than something I haven’t, just go with me here, OK?

So, a million years ago my lovely nephew, Lee, and his then fiancée, Lyndsey, asked me if I would be willing to take some pictures of their upcoming nuptials and given that I had done the same for his little brother a couple of years ago, I said ‘Yes’ of course. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? I’d be honoured, of course. So, I’d agreed.

And in any case, it was months away and I wouldn’t have to worry about anything. At all. It’d be a cinch.

It’s possible, you might just be picking up on a teeny, tiny, almost insignificant amount of anxiety on my part about this project. I don’t know why. It’s just an ‘Ely’.

(What in Heaven’s name is an ‘Ely’? I can hear you asking… well, I could direct you to a very funny book entitled ‘The Meaning Of Liff’ that I read, way back in about 1982 I think, which had definitions of a whole bunch of ordinary words that gave an insight into that very vexed question, ‘What, if anything, is the meaning of Life?’. It was a chortlesome volume that held my attention for many a long moon  – as you can probably tell by this lengthy reference to a single definition held within it’s covers. An ‘Ely’ was defined as ‘That slightly anxious feeling one gets when you realise that something is amiss, very definitely, but you cannot quite put your finger on what is actually wrong – you just KNOW that something is amiss.’ See… don’t say this isn’t an educational blog – you’ve probably learned something new today. You’re welcome.

So, I’m having a bit of an Ely, but since I can’t quite say why, I push it to the recesses of my convoluted grey matter. Which is actually a very scary place to be. You really don’t want to go poking around with any kind of a stick there … seriously, you must have something way more entertaining to do than exploring the deepest crooks and nannies of my mind – unless you’re a psychoanalyst of course. Then, I could understand your unnatural interest in my mental machinations.

Ahem.

Sorry – I’ve been losing it a fair bit recently. It’s probably best if I return to the story for today eh?

So, I’ve agreed to take these photos and it all starts getting very *REAL* when we go and visit the venue and walk around the lovely grounds, inspecting the log upon which Lyndsey wants to sit, displaying the elegant bridal gown to best effect, looking wistfully off into the distance whilst a gentle breeze playfully catches her veil and causes it to billow gracefully… I can do this.

Of course I can.

I am the master of Photoshop.

I can make things happen, even if they didn’t really happen that way!

Or can I?

So, I don’t know who was more nervous that lovely sunny Sunday morning last August. Yes. You heard right. Last AUGUST.

Good things come to those who wait. That’s my defence. And I am sticking to it!

As I drove down the motorway at some ungodly hour (to be with the bride as she gets ready for the day) I am going over and over in my mind what to do. Which lenses to use for which shots. When to send the ushers out to get the next group of people. What to do if the children are uncooperative. All bases are covered – I have  pieces of paper with every moment planned, in triplicate, to ensure that everything goes swimmingly and I don’t do the unthinkable and, you know, screw up or anything.

And actually, for the most part, I didn’t.

Unless you count the bit where my camera did the implausible and decided to stop working properly just as I start to take all the pictures of the family groups… and I realise that the last 80 or so pictures were taken at an entirely incorrect setting. They’re all s**t. Blank. Mahoossively over-exposed so that all I can see on my display screen is a big white blur. For eighty shots. ‘Cos of course, I was so busy, I forgot to keep checking in between each different setting  that I’d not done something stupid like nudging a button somewhere.

Oops.

But you see this is where being an extraordinarily organised ex-primary-school-teacher comes in very handy. And an ex-girl-guide to boot.

BE PREPARED.

That’s their motto.

And now it is mine.

I had a plan B. Actually, I had plans C through Z as well, if truth be told, but I didn’t need any of them, so we can all heave a great sigh of relief as plan B was the Get Out Of Jail Free Card and I was enormously grateful to my FAB hubby as he had been snapping away with camera B, you know, JUST IN CASE. And Camera B (my daughter’s Nikon, set entirely on automatic, so that it was completely foolproof. Lesson learned), captured all those moments I missed. Beautifully in fact.

So now all I had to do was edit the 2,245 images and create a perfect album for Mr and Mrs Lee Deaves.

Holy Schmoley!

It’s taken hours and hours of staring at my screen, sometimes replacing pixels here and there, knitting images together, brightening faces, fixing intrusive lights or bags or whatever else to come up with these, my favourite images, which have made it to the album.

I am very proud of it.

And I loved doing it.

Which is actually what it was all about. For me anyway.

I hope you enjoy seeing these images – the link to the album is no longer available, sorry! but I’m including my most favourite pictures here too – thanks for being gorgeous subjects Lee and Lyndsey! And, congratulations too :)

The Dress ... just waiting for the bride!

The Dress … just waiting for the bride!

The Bride and her dad, setting off to the ceremony

The Bride and her dad, setting off to the ceremony

The Groom, reflecting on what is about to happen...

The Groom, reflecting on what is about to happen…

The angelic Flower Girl

The angelic Flower Girl

Cheers! Congratulations to the Bride and Groom!

Cheers! Congratulations to the Bride and Groom!

That dress is just gorgeous!

That dress is just gorgeous!

The Mother of the Bride looking relaxed just before the ceremony

The Mother of the Bride looking relaxed just before the ceremony

OMG! The boys all LOVE the ring... :)

OMG! The boys all LOVE the ring… :)

… and the final log photo…

On the Log, with the gentle breeze catching the veil (you totally cannot see the groom throwing that veil up, can you?)

On the Log, with the gentle breeze catching the veil (you totally cannot see the groom throwing that veil up, can you?)

Of course, no wedding is complete without a couple of bloopers… so, the log was located in quite a boggy area of lawn and the bride had removed her own shoes, so they didn’t get dirty. My able assistant (and rather FAB hubby) came to the rescue by offering his shoes as a substitute as the bride toddled off the the next location, under the romantic, wide-boughed tree – the groom simply peeing himself with laughter!

Erm...those shoes seem a little wrong don't you think?

Erm…those shoes seem a little wrong don’t you think?

And the final word must go to the bride’s mother, Pat; this picture says it all I think!

The Mother of the Bride has a final tipple...

The Mother of the Bride has a final tipple…

What a great day – thanks to everyone, but especially to the wonderful bride and groom who were marvellous subjects. Let’s do this again sometime eh?

Kitten Therapy: Bae style

A little while ago – on my daughter’s thirty-somethingth birthday (that would have been on the fourth of February – I am not so addled that I don’t recall the day of her birth in exact detail!) – she announced that the family would be joined by a new member very shortly.

What has a short, needle-shaped tail?

What has a short, needle-shaped tail?

This little life would be around eight weeks old, have two fairly pointy ears, blue eyes (probably) and a short, aciculated and very furry little tail. My heart went flip-flop.

Oh, my!  How very exciting!

I love kittens. Who doesn’t? Their sheer joy at discovering all that life has to offer is just so intensely palpable and who could not be moved to mush by the sight of a tiny creature clearly accumulating understanding and intelligence before your very eyes? How often do you get to see THAT happen?

So I was thrilled to bits to hear this lovely news. She told me all the details and within an hour of arriving home, we were Skyping so that I could meet the precious one.

Jet black from head to toe, with the cerulean windows on her little soul staring right through me, I fell in love instantly. What a beauty!

What gorgeous eyes you have my dear...

What gorgeous eyes you have my dear…

She had been instantly inquisitive, following her nose to explore the room upon arrival and release from her travelling basket. No nervousness apparent, just intense curiosity about her new surroundings. She’d had a little while to explore the physical area of the room and now her slaves had presented her with a fenestral rectangle that showed a strange humanoid, who looked remarkably similar to the human who seemed to be the one in charge in this new establishment, gushing and gooing, smiling and looking like she too might make an excellent slave. The kitten repeatedly sniffed at the I-Pad and batted it experimentally to gauge its purpose. Each time she did this, excitable sounds emitted from the device as I drank in my virtual kitten therapy.

Bae knows what she wants

Bae knows what she wants

It was a couple of weeks before we could meet in person, during which time this ritual of regular Skyping became ever more exciting for me, but possibly less so for Bae.

I was a little confused at first, as I thought my daughter had said her name was ‘Fay’, but no, this little kitten is destined to have a much grander name. Not that Fay isn’t a grand name – of course it is. Just not quite as impressive as ‘Bellefire Rover Nightshade Everitt’.

Or ‘Bae’ for short.

Natalie patiently explained that Bae was a derivative from Bellefire (at least, that’s what I think she said…) and that it suited her perfectly.  I checked out ‘Bae’ on Google and discovered a hotbed of controversy surrounding the use of the word, the consensus of which seems to be that it is a TLA (three-letter-acronym) for ‘Before All Else’. That or urban slang for a significant other, as in ‘my bae (baby) is my life‘ amongst other equally vomit-inducing sentiments that I simply cannot bring myself to type. Regardless of  wrangling about etymology, I actually agree that it is a name that suits this little ball of fluff.

Toby and Bae - just hanging out

Toby and Bae – just hanging out

We finally met last weekend. She is totally adorable. We were completely captivated by her antics, which included an indefatigable inability to ignore any tiny scratching noise made by the GUS’s fingers on the sofa – this guarantees her pouncing presence within three seconds of her hearing it. Once she had ambushed his hand for the thousandth time, she would move on to the needle-sharp nibbling of the fingers, often accompanied by inquisitorial osculation, presumably testing the waters in the same manner that a human child explores the world through their mouths. Toby has many tiny pinholes in his hands to show how much she loved playing with him too.

Harrie simply loves Bae

Harrie simply loves Bae

The little girls (Harriet and Scarlett) simply cannot get over the fact that they have a real, live kitten in their lives. All the time. Harrie would be very happy to spend every waking moment in the company of this small creature, as well as every sleeping one too. Preferably though, there would be none of that time-wasting on sleeping. Play. Play. PLAY time is precious!

Bae has developed a healthy wariness of Harrie’s chubby little hands as they bear down upon her, relentlessly. Harrie can’t help it, this kitten has us all in the pad of her purr-fect paws, so utterly charming is she. Fortunately, kittens are generally much faster on their feet than four-year-old human children and she’s keeping on top of that situation, which is reassuring for all animal lovers I hope.

She even melted the heart of my FAB hubby, who has repeatedly insisted that no more small furry creatures will invade our lives. Even when faced with an epidemic of tiny rodents who insist on sharing this large farmhouse with us – and I’m really beginning to get why the Farmer’s Wife chased after them all with a carving knife – he has resisted the temptation to get another cat of our own. Bae worked her magic whilst we popped out to play on the park with the children (our grandchildren, not just some random small people, ‘cos, well, THAT would be wHeird!), by playing with his feet whilst he did some washing-up and purring *very loudly* when he bent down to pat her. I think she hypnotised him with her Jedi-Cat Mind Tricks. It’s the only explanation. Well, she is a black cat after all…

We were very carefully monitored each time we left the house this weekend, to ensure that Bae wasn’t being cat-napped in one or other of our pockets. It was a distinct possibility, that we might ‘borrow’ her for a few days/weeks/months/years. But I’m not a complete ass – I know she belongs to my daughter. I just get to have a kitten-fix whenever I feel the need for a little while at least. And we can all do with a little kitten therapy in our lives, I’m sure.

Thanks for reading again my friends!

 

 

 

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