Wednesday, 16 November 2022

We Will Remember Them

I've been thinking about my grandad this week. He's always in my mind when Armistice Day comes around, but especially so this year as his great great granddaughter, Izzy, has been been learning about World War 1, and I have been digging out some photos for her.

I don't remember him ever talking about the war, but he certainly saw a great deal of action. There was a rumour that he lied about his age so that he could enlist early. He served as a private (regimental number 637627) with the 22nd Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers (3rd Tyneside Scottish). 

In 1916, the 3rd Tyneside Scottish regiment fought at the Battle of the Somme where they went across 200 yards of No Man’s Land, resulting in 20 officers and 628 men were killed.

In 1917 they fought in the First and Second Battles of the Scarpe and the Battle of Arleux during the Arras Offensive. In August that year they fought at Hargicourt and in October they took part in the 3rd Battle of Ypres at Broenbeek (Passchendaele).

In 1918 they were in action at the Battle of St Quentin and then moved to Flanders, seeing action in the Battle of Estaires, Baillieul, Kemmel Ridge and Lys, suffering heavy losses. They finally fought in the Final Advance in Artois. Click here to find out more.

He was eventually Discharged under King's Regulations in 1919.

I never had a close relationship with my grandad, but recall he could be very entertaining, performing tricks at family parties. I remember him mostly though as someone who was somewhat withdrawn, morose and grumpy and I was rather wary of him. I never thought about it at the time, but looking back I think he was probably deeply traumatised by his wartime experiences. WW1 veterans were expected to return, pick up the pieces of their life and get on with it. Nowadays, we would recognise their trauma as complex PTSD and offer help.

Writing Prompts:

  • How important for you is Armistice Day? Answer this question in your writing.
  • Is there something you find difficult to talk about? Set a timer for six minutes and write about it if you can. 
  • Do you have a family member or friend who you are particularly proud of for their bravery? Write about them. 


Saturday, 12 November 2022

World Kindness Day

    Kindness soothes the bitter anguish,
    Kindness wipes the falling tear,
    Kindness cheers us when we languish,
    Kindness makes a friend more dear.

    Kindness turns a pain to pleasure,
    Kindness softens every woe,
    Kindness is the greatest treasure,
    That frail man enjoys below.

from Kindness by Eliza Paul Kirkbride Gurney

Tomorrow is 'World Kindness Day' and 'Kindness Day UK'. Click here to be further inspired. 

Writing prompts:

  • Make a list of five kind things you could do tomorrow.
  • When was the last time were kind to someone. Write about and how it made you feel.
  • When was the last time someone showed kindess to you. Write about it and how it made you feel.
  • Is our world a kind place? Explore this question in your writing. 
  • Write a poem on the theme of 'kindness'.


Monday, 7 November 2022

'To Be Great, Be Whole'


  "To be great, be whole: nothing that's you
         Should you exaggerate or exclude.
In each thing, be all. Give all you are
         In the least you ever do.
The whole moon, because it rides so high,
         Is reflected in each pool."

Fernando Pessoa

This very interesting postcard was sent to me recently from a 'postcrosser' in Portugal. The image is called  "navegar o mar da cal├žada" which the artist, Hauke Vagt, translates as "navigating the sea of cobblestones".

Hauke says, "The figure in the foreground is supposed to remind you of Fernando Pessoa- famous Portuguese writer, maybe scattering his unwritten poetry into the wind. The ship is a mix between a caravela portuguesa and the old dilapidated houses in Alfama district where I used to live when I drew this.

It was an attempt to express "saudade" visually and the sadness about old Lisbon changing."
I had never heard of Fernando Pessoa until communicating with the artist, then realised that I had encountered the poet's bronze statue outside a cafe a few years ago when visiting Lisbon - a strange coincidence.
I love this ode and the idea that in everything I do I should be whole, and not exaggerate or exclude any part of myself.
Writing prompts:
  • Look at the postcard picture for a couple of minutes then write in response to it; put down whatever comes into your mind.
  • Do you "give all you are in the least thing you ever do"? Is it a good approach to life? Is it easy or difficult to 'be whole'? Explore these questions in your writing. 
  • The discovery of this postcard and its link to my photo was a bit of serendipity. Write about something serendipitous in your life. 
  • Do you feel any sadness (like the artist) about your home town or city changing? Write about it.


Sunday, 6 November 2022

Now We Are Six

Now We Are Six

By A. A. Milne

When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five,
I was just alive.
But now I am Six,
I'm as clever as clever,
So I think I'll be six now for ever and ever.

Tomorrow is the sixth birthday of my youngest granddaughter Naya and, although I'm somewhat biased, she certainly is 'clever as clever'. I'm mostly excited and curious to know what lies ahead for her and my other grandchildren, but also a little anxious.

No one could have predicted in 1961, when I became six years old, what lay ahead for me. The changes that have taken place, particularly in the field of technology, would have been unimaginable then. I consider myself fortunate though to have lived my life in peace, always with a roof over my head, enough food to eat, surrounded by lovely friends and family.

I hope little Naya has a similarly safe and wonderful time ahead of her. Happy birthday!

Writing prompts: 

  • Write a letter to your six-year-old self. What words of wisdom or advice will you give?
  • Write about what you have got to be grateful for in your life.
  • What do you think are the biggest changes that have happened in your lifetime so far? Write about them, for ten minutes.




Tuesday, 1 November 2022

'Je Suis Catweazle'


"We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields."

Today, as we were about to set out on our tandem, we met the very interesting Mike Whitty, from Australia, AKA 'Je Suis Catweazle'. He's been on the road, on his bike, since November 2015, cycling to visit all 25,630 Commonwealth War Grave Locations. He set out from Ambleside with £19 in his pocket, and has travelled the world. He'd recently got off the ferry in Hull, having travelled around Scandinavia and was on his way to Scotland. I was privileged to take a peek at his grandfather's inspirational war diary of 1916, and could happily have stood there all day listening to his many fascinating stories. 

Writing prompts:

  • You have £19 in your pocket and a bicycle. Write about your cycling journey.
  • Write what you know about one of your grandparents for six minutes. 
  • Do you keep a diary? Imagine you are writing an inscription inside the front cover for your descendants to read. What would you say? 
  • Write for six minutes about a long journey you have made.
  • Write about visiting a graveyard.

Sunday, 30 October 2022

Right to Speak
Right to Speak

Where is my right to speak? 
Who said you can take my voice?

When did I give you permission? 
When did I give you the choice?

It’s unfair I can’t have my say; 
you silence me with your power.

All you can say to this is 
‘Cometh the man, cometh the hour.’

You’re no hero of mine, 
you’re no hero at all.

Let me make my own decisions, 
and if I’m wrong I will fall,

but at least it will be my truth 
and not someone else’s way.

Give me back the right to say 
what I want to say!

You stifle me with your loudness. 
You will stop me at all cost.

Where is my freedom of speech? 
Where is it lost?

I hope that in the future 
this problem will be solved,

because the only way forward for this world
is if we are all involved.


Thank you to Sam for this poem in response to my recent post about democracy.

Thursday, 27 October 2022

Black Cat Day

When the tea is brought at five o'clock,
And all the neat curtains are drawn with care,
The little black cat with bright green eyes
Is suddenly purring there.

From 'Milk for the Cat' by Henry Munro

Today is National Black Cat day which was created in 2011 by the Cats' Protection League. It seems that blacks cats take longer to re-home than cats of other colours. To find out more click here.

Click here for black cat quotes.  

Click here for the history of Black Cat cigarettes.

Above is pictured our own black cat Poco (aka Pokey or Poke). As a kitten she was left in a cardboard box, along with her tabby sister Brio, on the doorstep of the RSPCA animal shelter in Bradford. We had no difficulty in offering them a home and they've been with us for 13 years.  

Writing prompts: 

  • In some countries black cats are thought to bring luck, while in others they are a portent of bad luck. Write about time when either good or bad luck has come your way.
  • How would you feel if a black cat crossed your path? Write about any superstitions you have.
  • Write about a pet you have known and loved.