Monday, 22 November 2004
On This Day
Can you remember what you were doing and where you were forty-one years ago on this date? I can.
I was on Brighton Station waiting for a train.
If you are old enough, you will probably remember where you were too. The 22nd November 1963 was a Friday and the special news bulletin that evening was patched through the station's loud speaker system... Have you remembered yet? The words I heard struck me with horror and disbelief. If I had been near a telephone, I would have rung home to tell them to listen to the news... You have remembered! The announcement I heard was grim: "The President of the United States of America, John F Kennedy, has been shot and seriously wounded as he was riding in an open limousine through the streets of Dallas, Texas." Everyone on the station stopped in their tracks, we looked at each other, not quite comprehending what we were hearing. I had a lump in my throat. He had seemed such a good man. The journey home seemed to take for ever and when I arrived at last, I rushed to hear the Evening News Bulletin. The President was dead. Our hearts went out to his wife, who had cradled her husband's blood-smeared head in her arms, and to his young children. Why had something so awful and so tragic happened?
I was on Brighton Station waiting for a train....
Thursday, 18 November 2004
The brain is an amazingly complex organ which controls everything our body does from breathing and walking to seeing and hearing. We like to think that our consciousness is always in control but sometimes the brain foils us. Take this silly exercise which arrived in my Inbox last night:
How smart is your right foot?
This will boggle your mind. And you will keep trying at least 50 more times to see if you can outsmart your foot, but you can't.
While sitting at your desk, lift your right foot off the floor and make clockwise circles.
Now, while doing this, draw the number "6" in the air with your right hand.
Your foot will change direction.
Well, I couldn't do it. I thought my husband might be able to because he can do that other trick of patting your head with one hand whilst the other hand rubs your stomach in circles - but he couldn't either. Can you do it? Perhaps a Jazz Drummer could do it? Or an Organist? I wonder...
Sunday, 14 November 2004
"The Glorious Dead"
I feel sad today. There is something so nostalgic and poignant about watching old soldiers and members of the armed forces marching past our Cenotaph, in London's Whitehall, in remembrance of their fallen comrades. The Cenotaph (an 'empty tomb') was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and erected in 1920. It bears the words, "The Glorious Dead", and commemorates the many whose lives were lost in two World Wars and other conficts. In the case of the First World War, the decimation of a whole generation of young men.
The first time I began to realise just how many young men never came home from the Great War was when I was twelve or thirteen. Two spinster sisters lived together just down the road, the Misses C------. They seemed old to me but they were very kind. They invited my sister, Pauline, and myself to tea and plied us with scones and home made quince jam. I saw a photograph of a handsome young man and, being curious, I asked, "Who is that in the photograph?" One sister, immediately looked very sad and said softly, "That is my Fiancé. He never came home after the Great War." Her eyes glistened. My sister frowned at me. That was when I realised how cruel war is. Not only were so many soldiers killed in the Great War, so many mothers and wives bereaved, but a whole generation of young girls never had the chance to marry. Miss C, not a spinster by choice, had remained true to her lost love but so many other young girls, like her sister, never had the chance to meet anyone - there just weren't enough young men left to go round.
The Thundering line of battle stands,
And in the air Death moans and sings;
But Day shall clasp him with strong hands,
And Night shall fold him in soft wings.
.... last verse of "Into Battle" by Julian Grenfell - killen in action 1915.
"Selections from Modern Poets" made by J.C. Squire. Published 1934 - London: Martin Secker
I feel sad today....
Thursday, 11 November 2004
"They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them."
....... Fourth stanza of 'For the Fallen' by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943)
Did you know that today, the anniversary of Armistice Day on 11th November 1918, is a public holiday in Belgium? They always hold a Service of Remembrance in Ypres and a special Last Post ceremony at The Menin Gate Memorial. Belgium has never forgotten the sacrifices made by so many young soldiers - some of them just boys who pretended they were older. Now on Remembrance Sunday, the nearest Sunday to the 11th November, we honour and remember the dead of all wars and conflicts.
Did you know that an American Lady called Moina Bell Michael, from Georgia, was the person responsible for the poppy emblem? She was inspired by John McCrae's poem "In Flanders Fields" - especially the last verse, "To you from failing hands we throw the Torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die, we shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields." She made a personal pledge to 'keep the faith' and always wear a red poppy of Flanders Fields as a sign of remembrance.
In the United Kingdom, we hold a two minute silence at 11 am - the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month. Sadly, not everyone remembers or cares. I can recall a time shortly after the end of World War II when everybody did care. I was in the car with my Dad, I think we were in the Finchley Road going towards Golders Green. ALL the cars came to a standstill - ALL the drivers and passengers got out and stood to attention, stiff and silent, for two minutes. Not a sound could be heard anywhere in London. It made a huge impression on me.
Do you wear a poppy?
Tuesday, 9 November 2004
My Early Childhood
I read somewhere very recently (and I can't remember where!) that most people's earliest memories don't go back further than age three or four. The trouble with most early memories is that you don't always know exactly how old you were when something happened. Also, you may think you 'remember' something because you were told about it so many times or because you saw a photograph. Anyway, it got me thinking about my earliest memories and I thought I'd share some with you.
- Tasting salt! I was being carried and I know I was keeping my eyes shut and salt was put on my tongue. The only thing this could have been was my baptism and I was four weeks old. So, is this a real memory?
- I can definitely remember standing up in my cot. It was against the wall just to the right of the door inside our 'Drawing Room'. The door opened and my sister, Maud, stuck her head round and called out, "She's been sick" and disappeared.
- I think I can remember having a bath in the wash basin but I am not sure because there is a photograph of my eldest sister, Marie-Claire, sitting in the wash basin.
- I was in a long corridor with my mother and there was a nurse and a large pair of scales. My mother had to remove my clothes so that I could be weighed and I felt very indignant because strangers were walking along the corridor and I was naked!
- Further forward in time, I can remember being in a bed which was at the bottom end of my parent's bed. Again, Maud came in and this time she put bitter aloes on my thumb to stop me sucking it. It tasted AWFUL! I sucked my finger instead.
- Having whooping cough. I was sitting on a fluffy green rug in front of the fireplace in our front room, coughing away. My mother had just opened the door to someone who was in the hall looking in and who commented, "She is still whooping a lot".
- The sound of the Air Raid Siren. Standing under the stairwell and wondering why my sister Marie-Claire was rubbing and rubbing a plate with a tea towel (she had been helping with the washing up when the siren went).
- The droning sound of a doodle bug, the German V-1 unmanned rocket bombs in 1944, (I was 2?) - I told my mother "C'est un mechant avion" (a naughty plane) - she ran to the window to listen and I can remember her fear.
- Eating red berries growing on a bush outside the window and being given lots of milk to drink.
- Going to hospital to have my tonsils out, the sweet smell of chloroform on a mask a man in white put on my face, the nurse sitting me on a potty inside my cot and my upsetting it, my sore throat, my parents bringing me ice cream, the boy in the bed in the same room.
- A summer's day, Marie-Claire pushing me in my pushchair and I was urging her to run faster.
- Looking behind the garden shed and seeing several little spitting kittens. My mother didn't believe me at first but yes, there they were, as wild as anything. Later on, we saw the mother cat carrying her babies away one by one. A day or so later, my sister noticed our cat, Tibby, sitting staring at something in the garden. Every now and then, his paw shot out and patted something. It was one of the wild little kittens. The convent school gave it a home. It was a hot summer's day (probably July 1945) and I was playing in the front garden with the boy next door. He was called in and I thought of the kitten. So, off I went down the road. It was a nearly a mile to the school but I knew the way. I left my cardigans on garden walls. (My mother called the police). I remember being at the school - a summer fete was going on, someone gave me a glass of lemonade, I was having a great time. Then, I saw my sister Pauline coming across the lawn and telling me I was a very naughty girl. I remember going home with her on the bus.
Sunday, 7 November 2004
Did America vote the right way last Tuesday? I don't know. But I am not alone in wondering what is happening in the world. Are we heading to World War Three? I sincerely hope not. But what is happening in Iraq is absolutely terrible for the Iraqi people. How many of them have died or been murdered as a result of this war? Acts of terrorism have been increasing, innocent hostages are taken and beheaded, ordinary Iraqis trying to do a responsible job to earn money and to help their country are murdered because they are linked to the 'Infidel'. Why is it that religion causes so much hatred? Sunni against Shiite, because of a war long long ago over the rightful successor to the prophet Muhammad. Christian against Jew. Protestant against Catholic. Whatever our skin colour or ethnic origin, we are all Human Beings of the species Homo Sapiens - 'Wise Man'. What a misnomer! 'Homo Hostilis' would be a better name.
Monday, 1 November 2004
Topic: In the News
Been watching more news coverage on the American Elections tonight. It seems to be a very close thing and I wonder who will win. However, I was amazed yesterday to hear that some Americans are urging people to vote "the way God would"! The implication was that one choice was good and the other evil, which I find appalling. All human beings have free will to make their own decisions and no one should ever presume to imagine that they know whom God would choose! From this side of the Atlantic, I just hope that the best man wins. And you, my American cousins, should all get out tomorrow and exercise your right to vote as every vote DOES count. God bless America and all the rest of the world too.
Sunday, 31 October 2004
A Poem for Halloween
Topic: Special Days
Halloween or All Hallows Eve, the time when witches, wherewolves, ghosts and ghouls are supposed to be about. Why do we frighten our children with these tales? Are they really frightened or is it all part of the magic of growning up? Certainly, it seems to be a more popular 'festival' these days than when I was a child. I don't remember doing anything special at all and I was far more frightened of the Bogie Man than of witches and ghosts. An excuse for parties and fun? Well, why not. Trick or treat? No - that is an American custom and, unless parents accompany their children and they only knock on friend's doors, it is, unfortunately, a potentially risky pastime for young children.
Halloween to me seems to be a dark night before the brightness of All Saints Day. Like this poem taken from "Selections From Modern Poets" made by J.C. Squire, [Published 1934 - London: Martin Secker Ltd.], hope you like it too:
by W.H. Davies
My mind has thunderstorms,
That brood for heavy hours;
Until they rain me words,
My thoughts are drooping flowers
And sulking, silent birds.
Yet come, dark thunderstorms,
And brood your heavy hours;
For when you rain me words
My thoughts are dancing flowers
And joyful singing birds.
P.S. Last Tuesday, baby Andrew took his first two steps all by himself and then repeated his feat several times. He is just 9 months and 3 weeks old. Amazing! His Dad got it on video, which I am looking forward to seeing.
Monday, 25 October 2004
Topic: Health Issues
Still Catching Up with Last Week
Tuesday, 19th October, I saw the doctor again. She had the result of my blood pressure readings. Explained to her that I had been up in the middle of the night for well over an hour, which probably was the reason for the readings not going down. I had been advised to put the machine under the pillow when I went to bed but, of course, I was waiting for it to take a reading. Perhaps I dozed off and missed one but eventually I started to think I had disconnected something. Put the torch on, which slightly disturbed hubby who turned over and started to snore! So, I went downstairs to have a look. Made a coffee. Switched on the computer and went on line searching for information on ambulatory blood pressure moniters. Eventually, I pressed something on the top of the machine and it took a reading at 3 am. Had a sandwich! It finally took another reading at 4 am so I went back to bed thinking that perhaps it was programmed to take readings less often during the night. Anyway, the doctor has put me on tablets. One diuretic in the morning and one Ramipril at night. From tomorrow, two Ramipril for another week, then three for a week, then four. The list of possible side effects is frightening. Still, I suppose it is better than a heart attack or a stroke.
Sunday, 24 October 2004
Well, the last week seems to have gone by in a flash! Sunday, 17th October, was a very special day for little Andrew and all the family when he was Christened at the Church of St Clements with St Peter. He seemed to be very interested in everything that was going on (especially the candles) and was very well behaved indeed. Everyone went back to my son's house for a buffet lunch. I was pleased that the Chocolate Cheesecake I brought seemed to go down very well with everyone - I had been a bit worried that it wouldn't arrive in one piece after our long drive up. Afterwards, it was fun watching the little children playing a form of musical envelopes. David was in charge of the music and tried hard to let each child get his or her chance to open an envelope - which wasn't easy as they were passing them around too quickly! I think one little person got more goes than she should have had! Then the grown-ups joined in with a whispering game - you had to pass a message round and then listen to what the last person heard. This reminded me of a story my father used to tell which he said happened during the war before messages could be sent by radio so, probably the Crimean War or the First World War. The Commander at the front sent a message back by runners to tell his superiors that "I am going to advance. Please send reinforcements". This was passed on several times before a young lad arrived at HQ saying that the Commander says, "I am going to a dance, please send three and fourpence". I know - you've probably all heard it before.
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