Soundtrack of my life…

I was recently invited to appear on a radio show and asked for the six tracks to the soundtrack of my life. Here are my offerings, and the reasons I chose them:

This is the very first song in my memory.  My grandfather used to sing to my brothers and I when we were babies, and I in turn sang it to all of my children. Now I get to sing it to my grandchildren – it’s a very special song because it links us all to one very special man in my life – my grandad. I hear his voice whenever I hear rhis play.

The Seekers, Morningtown Ride

I spent a large part of my life in Wales and this track combines the voice of Cerys Matthews, who after a successful Pop career with Catatonia, went back to her Welsh roots and now sings in both Welsh and English.  This is a particularly beautiful Welsh Folk song, with a backing by a Welsh Male Voice choir – another of my most favourite sounds.​ I find no sound quite as stirring to my soul as the rich sound of a Welsh male voice choir.

Cerys Matthews, Calon Lan

This track is one I have listened to on an old 45rpm single, since I was tiny.  Days after my 40th birthday, I was privileged to see Danny Williams himself sing it on stage at the West Cliff Theatre in Clacton – he  signed my original copy of the single.  He said he was shocked to see the vinyl still in existence, let alone in good condition.  It is all the more precious as Danny died less than 3 months later of lung cancer.

Danny Williams, Moon River

This track is to remind me of one of the reasons I am a student at the University of Essex right now. Two years ago, one of my bothers died.  It was a very pointless death due to drugs and alcohol and I was very angry with him. At his funeral however, we decided that we would conduct the service ourselves and this is the song we played to say goodbye to him.  So why did this bring me to Essex – there is nothing like a call to recognise your own mortality to make you sure to get the most of life!

Monty Python/Eric Idle, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life

This track is another nod to my grandparents. When my grandad was dying, I spent one of his last nights with him in hospital. He was already comatose by that point and in the middle of the night I found myself repeating things to try to keep talking to him, in some vain attempt to keep him with us. At this point I realised that it wasn’t fair – he needed to go and be with my Granny. I began to sing, just as he had to us all those years ago, to sing to let him know it was okay with me, that we would all be okay, if he chose to go. He passed a short time later. I will always be grateful to my Aunties though, for letting me have that last night with the most special person who loved all of us beyond words.

Don Williams, You’re my Best Friend

And finally…the great Joe Brown plays the West Cliff Theatre every year, and closes his show with the same song, every show he does.  I love it, it makes me cry every time and it seems a great way to end any show. This time it ends the soundtrack of my life – for now. But when the time comes, I’d like my family to say goodbye to me this way, because I will be there, in their dreams…

Joe Brown, I’ll See You in my Dreams

My Poor abandoned Blog…

My poor blog! You were abandoned without a hope of publishing anything further in favour of Fresher’s Week.

It was manic. I attended over 20 department ‘Welcome’ talks, the Mature Student’s Reception, the Southend Campus Fresher’s Fair and the Postgrad/Mature Students’ Mixer. I also hosted various events under the banner of MaPSA (Mature and Part-time Students’ Association) through the week. We raised a handy little sum for Macmillan Cancer Care in the process of holding Coffee and Cake drop-ins though the week too. This was all capped off by the Colchester Campus Fresher’s Fair on Saturday, which was well attended until the thunder and lightning commenced and we were then stood in deep puddles of rain water for some time until we gave up and packed away.

It was literally a very event-full week. I met so many lovely folk who are joining the University this term – a privilege for sure.

The next week was our fist week of lectures – back to uni proper. I had a great time in the first lecture – looking at Oulipian writing. I KNOW I’m going to love this one. My second lecture was a bit of a car crash though. Some of you know I walk with a stick, to help maintain my balance. In Writing for Theatre, the first exercise of the day was to walk briskly around the room into an empty space without ever stopping – I never got started. I am well aware of my limitations and they had come headlong to meet me. This and other exercises were very physical and I sat and questioned my wisdom in signing up for the module. But then, I signed up for WRITING for Theatre, not acting. A quick chat with the lecturer and all is now well – I shall take part from the side lines in any future activities of this kind…though I am still not sure that they fit into a module for writing. My third class, on Thursday was the one I had spent the summer being least confident about. I chose to study ‘Writing and Understanding Science Fiction’ because I believe that in order to grow as a writer, I need to stretch myself and investigate new ways of working. The class was good – not great, not yet, but it was good. I am now about to write a 1000 word short story as our first assignment – wish me luck. Perhaps I will post it here for you to see if I am not too embarrassed by it.

So, the first two weeks of term are behind me, we are back into work mode and ready to write out little fingers off. Who knows what gems or turds are about to roll from our fingertips? Only time will tell of course.

One thing you’re excited for – Day 30/30 Sept Challenge

First of all, a number which I will not be able to write until I have completed this post – the number of words I have blogged this month. Right now, I know it will be around 18,000 words. A few days ago, I began to realise just how much the words were starting to add up and I felt so excited! To realise this sort of output means that not only have I been writing every single day, it means that I am capable of the sort of output necessary to actually finish writing a book. Almost without exception, a writer feels they will not get to the end of their book, and of course many do not. The Blog Challenge has shown me that I can – if only I put my mind to it. It has also shown me something else really important though. I NEED A PLAN in order to write well. All this seat-of-the-pants stuff might work well for some writers, and for them I am truly happy; but this month has proved to me that I have a much better chance of writing more and writing well, if I have a plan. It doesn’t need to be detailed to the minute; it just needs to be a skeleton that I can work to. Even this morning when I should be doing loads of other things, getting ready for so many meetings I am meeting myself coming back; I have the passion and the commitment to myself and my writing to be out here at stupid-o’clock in the morning, writing. I have proved to myself that I can do it.

When I started out with this challenge, I wasn’t at all sure that I could do it. I will also make a little confession…not every post has been written on the day it was published. The plan, made it possible for me to write about things in the order in which inspiration came, without losing the plot. What a revelation!

So dear reader – the one thing about which I am most excited at this moment in time, is WRITING.

In just a few days time, the university term starts proper and I will be completing four modules this year, which will count toward my BA Degree. I will be studying ‘Oulipo’ (more on this when I understand more about it myself – it is a new concept for me and I am relishing the challenge). My second module is ‘Writing for the Theatre’. This one I have a bit more idea about and have done a little previously, but am looking forward to learning under the tut ledge of Liz Kuti, an established playwright with a great record. The third module for this year is ‘Writing Science Fiction’. I am looking forward to this with some trepidation. I have never written any sci-fi before and although I have been reading some over the summer, my previous reading in this area extends to ‘The Hitch-hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ and several of John Wyndham’s novels. It should prove to be a challenge but an interesting one, I hope. My final module is to produce an independent piece of creative work, 12,000 words long. I will be documenting my work on this project on my blog as it progresses, so watch this space. I have already begun with it and have a very dear friend helping me with a mammoth task of photography to provide information and inspiration. As you might guess, if you have been following me this month, the project is based in and around the hills and valleys I love so much in Wales.

 

So finally, that number I alluded to in my first sentence.

Drum roll please…

During the month of September I have blogged a total of 18,242 words!

Go me!!

I am feeling really excited now for the writing the year has in store for me. If you have enjoyed following me this month, perhaps you will continue to do so, and maybe even click on the link in the sidebar and follow me by email.

Thanks for the fun this month folks and for your support too.

Five weird things that you’d like – Day 29/30 Sept Challenge

Five weird things that you’d like…

 

  • A parrot – my baby sister has a Blue-gold Mackaw, called George. George is a proper little madam and can bark like a dog, cluck like a chicken and call the kids ‘Ratbags’ as well as doing some pretty cool stuff, like going for a walk on a lead. I love George and have always wanted to have a big bird. Alas, it is well out of my pocket, so instead I have two budgies.
  • A full-body mud bath – I’ve never had one, but there is some perverse little part of me that really, really wants to give this a go. I use microwaveable mud packs if I have a back pain etc and I think a warm mud bath might just be bliss, as long as there is some nice relaxing music and preferably champagne on tap of course!
  • A tattoo (look, I’m a 49 year old grandmother so it’s not exactly mainstream is it?) – I’ve already got one, though it is less than six months old but I would love to have two more. I want to have a swallow on my left arm like my granny had and there is another but I’m not telling, till I get it done!
  • A corset – a proper whalebone corset. The sort that vintage buffs would freak about. I know I would be hard pushed to find one to fit at the moment, but I can dream can’t I?
  • I’ve always had a bit of a thing about mugs. They have to be a nice shape, a well-balanced weight and pretty. I don’t like ugly mugs, though we did have several from a range called ‘ugly mugs’ at one time. They were allowed because they were a good shape and weight. The fact they had silly faces on them was outweighed by their other qualities. There is a mug in my cupboard, which I bought when I was thirteen; I have drunk from it just once but it is the prettiest mug I own. I also have a similar ‘thing’ about glasses – not the spectacle kind, the drinking kind. I have glasses of all shapes and sizes, from tiny aperitif glasses to pint jugs, all shapes of wine glasses and tumblers. I like a quality glass, with a good weight in your hand and a beautiful sound if tapped. A good shape is also a must.

Some of these things are less weird than others and in at least one case it is probably me that’s weird, not the object of my desire. I expect we all have odd little things we like, such as me with my mugs. How many of us are brave enough, or daft enough to admit to it in a public forum though? How many of you have similar oddities in your minds – come on – out with them. Share with the rest of us your inner weird stuff!

Somewhere you’d like to move to or visit – Day 28/30 Sept Challenge

This is going to be a surprise to some people. I’m not going to say Wales – for one thing, I’ve already spoken at length this month about my desire to return there. No, there is another place I would love to go, but only to visit, not to live. I’d love to go and see the Alaskan Ice fields. I have never been a hothouse flower; I hate the heat of summer and to be fair, it doesn’t seem to think much to me in return. I always end up with insect bites and swollen legs. I feel claustrophobic in hot weather. A few years ago, I saw a documentary programme on TV about the ice fields in Alaska. I was mesmerised by the sheer beauty, the purity of the landscape and most of all, by the sounds of the ice. I’m not sure I would want to stay there for very long, because it is a dream and I would hate to take away the dream quality of it.

 

Today is a day of heightened emotions for many reasons, and because of that, the blog post today is short. It is Arrivals Day for the University of Essex Fresher’s and for those returners moving back into University accommodation. It is also the first day of my last year as an undergrad student. Like many mature students, I also have my family to think about and today is no different. I have to make sure the week’s laundry is ready for the family, ensure that the shopping is all present and correct and that meals have been planned for the week, and make sure the house looks like it is inhabited by human beings rather than rampaging beasts. Alongside this, there are my duties as Mature and Part-time Students Officer, Association Chairman and last but not least, the barrage of first day nerves of my own. So please excuse me if I am less than able to throw together a raft of coherent words this morning, as I sit in my shed, shaking like a jelly at a birthday party for three-year olds. Normal service is likely to resume sometime in about August next year, after (hopefully) graduation is done and dusted. The blog will continue of course, though perhaps in a pared down fashion for a while, as I slip back into full-time uni life again.

 

If you are one of the Freshers heading to Essex this morning, remember, this really is the first day of the rest of your life, no matter what your age or other responsibilities in life – life will never be the same for you again after today.

I’m looking forward to meeting all our lovely Freshers and getting to know them over the coming months.

One last word – to anyone somewhat over the age of 18 who has thought about returning to study, be that at university or a part-time course at your local adult education facility… GO FOR IT!! It will change your life, your outlook on life and the way you live your life. Most of all, if you decide to do it, wring every last minute out of the experience and live it to the fullest you can. Include your family in the experience and (for those mums out there who are thinking about this especially…) let them help you for a change. Your family will enjoy being the ones to help you, even if they don’t express that very well at times, they will be behind you, because you are their rock.

A quote you try to live by – Day 27/30 Sept Challenge

The Serenity Prayer

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
Courage to change the things I can;
And wisdom to know the difference.

(Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
As it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
If I surrender to His Will;
So that I may be reasonably happy in this life
And supremely happy with Him
Forever and ever in the next.)
This prayer found me at a very difficult time in my life. Only the first four lines from the text above, which is the most commonly found form of the prayer. Alcoholics Anonymous and various other programmes of that kind have adopted the full version over the years since it was written by an American by the name of Reinhold Niebuhr in the mid 1900s.

I was in the grips of depression and not in a very happy place when a friend gave me a slip of card with those first four lines on it. It instantly struck a chord with me and I copied the prayer onto more slips of paper and card, posting them all over my house, keeping one in my purse, one by the bed, one by the kitchen window and so on. Everytime I thought I might lose my grip on the world, there it was, reminding me to take a step back. I sometimes think that if it had not been for that little slip of card, I might have tipped over the edge of reason all those years ago. I hang on to it now in times of stress and worry; and it stills plucks that chord, still reminds me to take that step back and wait to see what happens rather than rushing in where angels fear to tread.