Full Circle

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… and when the child awakes, the fun begins again. I find myself clowning around with my grandchild just as my granddad did with me. The guy was hilarious, bless him! One time he comes to visit and presents us with a big box of Quality Street chocolates. We open it eagerly and start to unwrap the sweets, only to find he’s carefully wrapped up lots of silly little things like pebbles and nuts and bolts. When we express disappointment he keeps calling us greedy. We’re almost finished laughing when he brings out the real chocolates in an old brown paper bag and starts eating them himself, which absolutely kills us kids off.

Another time we – my brother, sister and I – are walking down a country lane with him and he points up at a wooden notice by the side of the road with the message illegible because the paint is peeling off.

“Know what that is, don’t you?” he asks.

We shake our heads.

“That,” he says with a straight face, “is a notice for people who can’t read.”

The three of us laughed so much, we fell into a hedge,

It was granddad who told my mum, his daughter,  about the man outside the League of Nations building after World War I – see my earlier post entitled Homage. And I suppose this present post is a homage to my granddad for filling our lives with hilarity. We never stopped laughing when he was around. If I can give my own grandchildren something of that, I will die happy …

Now

A moment of calm … my grandchild asleep in her pushchair, sunlight pouring through the back windows, Gregorian Chant low in the background … what more could I want?

When I was teaching, a favourite lesson was to ask the class to sit in silence and write down anything that came into their heads – observations, stray thoughts, whatever – and then to turn the notes into a poem called Now. I would work alongside them on my own poem, which gave a valid reason for silence – teacher at work, do not disturb! I would encourage them to read their own poems by reading mine, first or last depending on their response. Private reading in the library only worked when I was reading too and could glare balefully at them over my glasses for disturbing me …

silence

nostalgia

… a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends; a sentimental yearning for the happiness of a former place or time … and after giving my old secondary school barely a thought for half a century, I find myself signed up for a reunion lunch. You can bet the people you want to see won’t be there and those you never wanted to see again, er, will. Or perhaps the years will have mellowed the old antipathies in a golden haze of happy forgetfulness. Remember old Foggy Foggington and the pink bicycle incident? The fun we had … when we weren’t getting beaten up by the school bully or having our ears tweaked by the psychopaths in the male staffroom! And who can ever forget those lazy afternoons in Miss Panting’s English class taking bets on the colour of her underwear. Ah yes, nostalgia, it’s not what it was …

OldSchoolClass

Sob Story

Tried my hand at playwriting recently, a wacky eco-farce called “Beyond The Gilded Cage” which I entered for a one-act play competition co-sponsored by the Nottingham Playhouse. The winning entry was from Toby Campion who is a Leicester-based performance poet.

Happy to lose to someone so young and gifted and  …

Who am I trying to kid? My play wasn’t even on the shortlist of 7, whittled down from 102 entries.

Boo-hoo-hoo …

Still, sniff sniff, I reckon it’s a good laugh for a first effort. First play I’ve finished, anyway. As somebody once said … I’ll be back! 

No Direction

I love the idea that when you start saying something, you don’t know where you’re going with it. This is the opposite to speaking in clichés and anecdotes, which are designed to reduce experience to neat little packages. I dream of a discourse to match the wondrous variation of existence … except when I want people to accept some banal truism or listen to one of my interminable stories.

I have always felt torn between opposite points of view. Perhaps it was the experience of hearing my parents argue. Part of me loves the idea that nobody follows this blog because I can say exactly what I want without worrying about what others might think. Part of me hates having nobody to talk to, because talking to yourself is the first sign of madness … hmm, wonder how many more of me are sitting on the fence?

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Homage

My mum was an idealist. She hated cruelty, elitism, xenophobia, greed and selfishness. She would always argue from the heart, her moral values needing no appeal to evidence. She knew what was right and could never understand why others might not share her passionate beliefs in universal  liberty, equality and fraternity.

I recall many occasions when she was surrounded by others trying to make her see how impractical her ideas were – human nature being what it is, they would tell her, not everyone is as good-hearted as you. Wrong, she would reply, what about the man who walked up the steps of the newly-opened League of Nations building after the carnage of World War I – the war to end war, their watchword – what about him? The man who chained himself to the railings, unfurling a banner whose words went around the world: “I ——– (name), from ——– (country), hereby renounce my nationality and proclaim myself The First Citizen of the World” That man, she would say before leaving the room with all the dignity she could muster, is the person I admire.

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Bless you mum, long gone but never forgotten, I wish more people thought and felt as you did …

Freedom to roam

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I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future …