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Friday, 25 May 2018

EXPERIENCING THE COSMIC EGG

Earlier this week we spent a magical day celebrating my birthday at Buckland Abbey, a National Trust property which lies on the fringe of Dartmoor. By some lucky chance we were also able to experience Andrew Logan’s marvellous ‘Cosmic Egg’ which forms part of his ‘Art of Reflection’ Exhibition and is currently on display at the Abbey.* 


I say ‘experience’, because the work is huge, standing five metres (more than sixteen feet) high. This breathtaking mirrored structure was commissioned by the Greater London Council for Peace Year in 1983. According to the National Trust, ‘The egg is the universal symbol of the life principle and the mirrored shell of this egg represents cosmic time and space swirling to reflect the world today’.



The temporary custodians have positioned it inside the Abbey’s Great Barn which is a perfect environment in which to absorb the impact of such a beautiful and unusual work of art. The effect of its size and reflectiveness is to produce astonishment and speaking in whispers, if at all – which is probably exactly what its creator hoped for.

This week my burden of grief (following my mother’s death last year) has at last become manageable and eased considerably. No-one warns you, and I had forgotten – because my father died so long ago – about the weight of this emotion and how it can drag you down, both physically and mentally. I’ve been in a very dark place, but some rays of bright sunshine have quite literally begun to lighten up the farthest corners.



 

Last Saturday many people around the world were glued to their television screens watching a British Royal Wedding. Four members of my family, including me, decided this would be a good morning during which to carry out a task we had been putting off, and which needed fine weather. We assembled at a petrol station just off the A30 where other travellers and holidaymakers were busy breaking their journeys and fuelling their cars, anxious to reach their destinations in time to watch the wedding. We were the only ones to drive away on to Dartmoor and make our way in convoy to a small, quiet place where we carried out our assignment under clear blue skies.

Afterwards three of us decided to go to the nearest pub, where we found a comfortable table and ordered drinks. And yes, you’ve guessed it: there in the corner a TV hung on the wall silently broadcasting the arrival of Princes William and Harry at Windsor. 

Gradually the pub filled up with cheerful Devon folk, all ordering food and drink and many of them ready to watch sport which was belting out of the other TV in the other bar. Suddenly there was a hush and a rush of women towards ‘our’ TV – the bride had arrived, and we all wanted to see her dress. 

Throughout the hubbub which accompanied our food, the Royal Wedding continued its silent transmission. The pomp, glory and fun shone out despite the interruption of an automatic switch-off, gales of laughter and loud good-natured commentary from some of the locals.

Andrew Logan, creator of ‘The Cosmic Egg’ tells us: “It is very difficult to conceive the universe. You can’t see it, yet it is all around you; so vast you can only begin to come to terms with it through mathematics or art." 



We are so tiny and our lives are too brief ever to conceive the truth. How vital, therefore, to enjoy every single moment when we can. We four who were released from our duty on Saturday can now move on, while the ashes of the person we loved will forever sing and dance in the breezes across the moor… 





Sunday, 29 April 2018

LIFE IN NEGATIVE

When a book is finished the work has not ended. As an author, a new task begins: editing and perfecting. The prose needs picking over, knots require unravelling, and where it has strayed into incomprehension the meaning must be made clear. Like a newly knitted garment, ends have to be tidied and all parts pressed before they are sewn together. And this is how everything should have worked for me with ‘Stopping Time’. I say ‘should have’ because, of course, it hasn’t. In a month of what I would call ‘losing focus’, April led me astray. A month of ups and downs, mixed with bouts of deep depression, have brought all work to a standstill. I won’t detail the reasons, but life has a way of interfering and turning things upside down, we all know this.

Roscoff
A brief jaunt across the Channel to France brought a gust of cold, damp air and several uncomfortable nights into our stagnant routine. We needed a break and a little sunshine, but our problems sailed with us and we returned home exhausted. One of us has been unwell for a while now, so he took the lower bunk on the overnight crossing. Having made it up to the top bunk I realised that I really am getting too old for bunk beds and overnight crossings, my nausea dulled by that most excellent drug Stugeron® but nonetheless groggy for most of the following day!

Bursting into the gloom, a day of glorious sunshine made the trip worthwhile, and the goodies we purchased from those excellent French supermarkets have gone a long way towards making up for the miserable hours of driving through rain and fog.

We all blame the weather for things going wrong, but as Spring struggles to make itself known and my garden begins to emerge from Winter, I feel motivated to begin again. We’ve had some good news on the medical front too, so whilst that particular journey isn’t ended, it progresses.

Yesterday I was inspired by something I saw on the internet. In answer to a question about negative thoughts, two points were made. First: negative thoughts stem from self-consciousness which needs to be reduced. In other words: stop thinking about yourself all the time! The second is far more profound and has jump-started my writing again.

Cosmos on a Summer's Day

‘NOTHING EXISTS AS IT APPEARS’ says the Dalai Lama, and once you begin to examine this statement many possibilities flow from it. I won’t attempt to put my own interpretation on these words, because they speak for themselves. Now… let’s move on!



Thursday, 22 February 2018

'STOPPING TIME' - a progress update on my second book...


THE WAIT IS NEARLY OVER... BUT THE STORY ISN'T!

January, which used to be a nightmare month when I was an accountant wrestling with clients’ tax returns, proved inspirational this year. I drew down the blind in my study to shut out the gloomy weather, set to work and wrote. Thousands of words later the month end came and went, and on 8th February I wrote those extraordinary final words: ‘The End’. Off went the story to my wonderful beta reader in Australia and one here in the UK who always takes a little longer.
The week which followed was tricky. As an author I always wonder what my readers will feel as they read my words; I live in hope of their enjoyment, but I never expect it. I’ve poured my heart into this one, determined to up my game and make it something special, but you never know. Well the good news is that my Australian reader has given it the thumbs up – and more! I have a few amendments and a little polishing to do, as well as a cover to finalize, but as soon as it’s ready to release I’ll let you know.

In the meantime, if you haven't read the first volume 'Losing Time' - what are you waiting for? Head over to my website to read a preview and purchase a copy. www.prfordauthor.com

Now I need to get on - there's quite a bit of work still to do! I leave you with a photo from my garden this week. It appears I'm not the only one for whom inspiration has blossomed...





Monday, 15 January 2018

GLOOMY MONDAY

I write fairly often about depression, and today definitely gives pause for thought. I wonder who dreamed up the dedication of today, 15th January, as ‘BLUE MONDAY’ - the gloomiest day of the year? Well it’s easy to discover: ‘The concept was first publicised as part of a 2005 press release from holiday company Sky Travel, which claimed to have calculated the date using an equation’ says a national newspaper. Really? This sounds like a very negative exercise!

Over the weekend I received a late Christmas present which has filled me with joy: a calendar created from R’s own photographs, each one taken in the month it represents. Here I share January, as it would make anyone smile, and a smile lifts a little bit of gloom.

A smile is my first recommendation, but if you can find someone with whom to share a laugh, even better. This is a useless piece of advice if you live alone, but it is possible to laugh at almost anything if you put your mind to it, including TV and radio, and the internet etc.

Avoid the news. If you feel the slightest bit low, it's fatal to watch or listen to, or even read the news. It will make you feel worse - I know, because I've been there. Just now there is plenty of bad news worldwide, and enough quarrelling among politicians to drive anyone up the wall. Switch it off!

Make sure you are sitting somewhere light. Draw the curtains or blinds back and gaze out at the sky for a minute or two. If it's not too cold and wet, GO outside because it will do you good. Watch and  listen to the birds, if you can.

The other reason many people feel lethargic and depressed on a working Monday in early January is just that - work. Many of the colleagues I used to work with are at their desks this morning, struggling through January to complete Tax Returns for those clients who for many and varied reasons known only to themselves have failed to submit their information earlier. This is a time of stress and work overload for all such accountants and tax advisers for whom 31st January is the dreaded deadline they must beat. Added to their burden is the daily worry of weather conditions, traffic and transport delays and cuts reducing their available work time, as well as the inevitable sickness of themselves and their families. I'm horribly smug that I no longer have to go through this!

Enough rambling! Wherever you are, enjoy your day and make it a Monday you are glad you lived through. 



 


Sunday, 31 December 2017

END OF YEAR



At the end of what for me has been a sad year sprinkled with the odd sparkling moment, I cannot let it pass without mentioning this tiny quotation. It was posted on G+ by one of my contacts there, to whom I am grateful because it made me pause for a moment to reflect:

“For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.”

― T.S. Eliot


Despite reservations about social media, I have a Facebook Page (with very few friends) for the simple reason that I need a presence there as an author in case someone wants to contact me about my writing. On my personal profile page I don't show a picture of myself, preferring the 'icon' to be a flower or - more recently - a clock.

Imagine my amusement when Facebook decided I would like to frame my picture with a seasonal 'profile overlay'. It looks rather smart, so I'm sharing it here!



Finally: wherever you are and whatever you are doing, I wish you a very

HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Friday, 24 November 2017

DINNER WITH FRIENDS


I am about to write a scene for my current book in which six people are gathered around a dinner table in extraordinary circumstances. The reader will by now be very familiar with each one of the six, and of course others are missing from the table. The story is building to a climax and these characters have recently undergone experiences which have tested them to their limits. In such circumstances the ‘calm before the storm’ will prompt a diversity of reactions.
How hard is it to enjoy yourself in heartbreaking, difficult or frightening situations? As someone recently bereaved and in a year of losing many members of our close and extended family, and friends too, I find myself comparing my situation to living through a war. My parents’ generation did just this, and my grandmother had three sons caught up in the war overseas. I cannot imagine everyday life for those left at home to worry – or to mourn – and to try living out that worn-out motto: ‘keep calm and carry on’.
Human beings have a wonderful capacity for coping with grief and worry, but I believe they are helped by finding others in similar situations. Moving back to my ‘dinner table’, the six have been drawn into a web of sinister events without choice. This dining experience will be unexpected and tranquil with candlelight and spectacular food. But can two people who disliked each other on sight become reconciled? Will two troubled and fearful souls be fortified enough to draw strength for the forthcoming hiatus? Might one couple passionately in love find a solution to their enforced separation? I’m beginning to sound like the back cover of a trashy novel!

As I begin to plan our annual Christmas lunch, the elephant in the room is the missing person from the gathering this year. Then I begin to consider how much the table has shrunk over the years as other late lamented guests have departed too soon, and a list begins to form.

Enough gloom. I leave you with a question: in Fantasyland, you may host a dinner table for six. Around the table will be you and five others who you would rather dine with than anyone else. They may be living or dead, real or imaginary (fiction). They must be people who will make you laugh, who will stimulate you or simply add quiet support. Who would they be? I know who mine are… but then again, maybe I need to host more than one of these fantasy meals. Enjoy!

Saturday, 9 September 2017

LISTEN WITH MOTHER



One of the most vivid memories of my early childhood is of my mother singing. She would sing while doing the housework, songs her mother had sung, or current songs from musicals. When her infant daughter (me) sat listening to the daily ritual of the ‘wireless’ voice of Daphne Oxenford broadcasting ‘Listen With Mother’*, my mother would sing along with the nursery rhymes and hum the closing excerpt from Faure's ‘Dolly Suite’.  

We are talking about the nineteen fifties, a time which would seem like an alien world to any young visitor from today. Put into context: Britain was dragging itself out of post-war depression, broadcasting patriotic and cheerful music on its BBC ‘Light Programme’ which was conveyed to factory workers as ‘Music While You Work’. We didn’t have supermarkets then, and the idea of music as a background to shopping would have been considered frivolous. Remember: many people were still suffering a reaction to appalling experiences during the war, while others conformed to a hard and rigorous code of living out of a kind of terror of losing everything for which the country had been fighting. Disapproval was the order of the day! Yet people sang. They whistled on the way to work, sang readily and easily when encouraged, and sang at home.

My mother’s life had been filled with music. She came from a musical family where playing the piano was a basic requirement; singing was in her genes. My father, to whom all this was novelty having been brought up as the son of a clergyman, and having served in Burma during the war where he lost many friends, delighted in her joy. We were never without a piano, which she played in her spare time, heedless of  sheet music: she had that rare talent – the ability to play by ear. 

As the years passed and her children grew up she sang less, preferring to listen to music, until even that pleasure turned to sadness as familiar tunes became tainted with sad memories. People died and she withdrew from the emotion such associations induced. Which to my mind is a greater sadness in itself, but I understand. If I listen now to the ‘Dolly Suite’ – which many years later I played on the piano with a great friend – it shouts out nostalgia and I am momentarily transported back in time…

Today as I write this I realise how much more difficult it will be from now on to listen to some of the music from my childhood. I am incredibly fortunate to have been brought up in a secure and – usually – happy household, and to have memories of songs and laughter as a background to my own stability. I want to thank my mother. I wish I had done, but I think she knew. 

Tomorrow, on her birthday, I won’t be able to listen to any music, because she won’t be there. Last month she slipped away...

Pauline 1929 – 2017