Travellers Return

I’m back. We have returned from approximately 8 weeks travelling through France and Spain in our motorhome. We have had a mixed bag of weather – snow (yes, snow), rain, thunderstorms, strong winds and I admit, some hot days with sunshine – enough to at least show some slight signs of a suntan (I’m fair skinned and don’t tan easily at the best of times), but generally a lot colder than we are used to when visiting this time of the year.

Family at La Pedals de CLip

Photo from La Pedals de Clip website

I now have an awful lot of catching up to do so I don’t intend to give you chapter and verse of my time away. However one thing we did do is take part once again La Pedals de Clip, a rally for classic road-race bikes, together with our daughter. I have reported on this event in the past (here) so there is no need for me to fully explain it again. Basically it is a fun event that ‘does exactly what it says on the tin’, very friendly and enjoyable. My husband and I both rode our Henry Burton classic bikes (built locally to our home in the UK) and our daughter rode her James Fothergill which was built in Liverpool. At one point I thought I might not be able to take part, having taken a tumble from my bike a couple of weeks before the event and hurt my elbow rather badly – beware of pedestrians in Spain, they have right of way apparently and do not always look before stepping out to cross the road! (Hubby stopped suddenly to avoid hitting the pedestrian and I crashed into hubby’s bike.) Fortunately the pain had subsided sufficiently by the ride day, although I did ache a bit afterwards!

Always a fairly tough ride, up and hill and down dale with a final 1Km hill climb to the castle of Sant Marti Sarroca where the event finishes, this year’s ride was tougher than last time we did it due to an almost continuous strong headwind all the way round. (I gather that last year’s event, which we didn’t do, was worse as the weather was very cold and wet.)

We made one or two interesting observations at the cycling event. First we got the impression that there seemed to be slightly fewer participants than previously – possible due to last year’s weather – but there did seem to be more younger people in evidence, which must bode well for the future of the event. I also got the impression that there was not as many females this time and in fact I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was probably one of the oldest females, if not the oldest, taking part.

Before we went away I challenged myself to write at least one poem a week during the holiday. Usually when on holiday I do very little writing other than keeping a journal so I decided I wanted to make better use of some of my ‘spare time’. Although I didn’t literally  write a poem every week, (some weeks I wrote two and then maybe nothing for the next week) overall I wrote 9 poems plus 2 Elfje, 2 Tanka and 10 Haiku or Senryu and I wrote my usual journal. I have impressed myself – not bad for just under 8 weeks away! Most of the poems do need some further polishing (I didn’t say they were good poems!) but I hope to share the Elfje, Tanka and Haiku/Senryu with you over the coming days, starting here with one about my little accident:

Falling off my bike
the road bites my arm and leg.
My elbow swells up.

 

Advertisements

Travels

I’m off on my travels again this weekend, in our Motorhome and we will be away for a couple of months. As we have often done before we will be travelling through France and into Spain to visit our daughter. We try to go via a different route each time so that we see more of the two countries which is always fun. Our youngest son, who lives at home, will be in charge in our absence.

One of the problems we have when travelling in the Motorhome is unreliable access to the Internet (we tend to stay in small villages rather than large towns with plenty of WiFi Cafes) so this means I will for the most part be off-line until we return in late May and therefore unable to post anything here. If I can I will.

Aware that I rarely, if ever, post any of my what I call my ‘proper’ poems I hope to share some of these with you while I am away, starting with one this coming Monday. All of these are poems that have previously been published elsewhere. I have also challenged myself to write at least one poem a week while we are away – but I will not be sharing these as they will need time to settle and receive several sessions of tweaking! Maybe some other time.

I look forward to seeing you back here again on my return.

Book Order

Not a Small Stone
but a moan…

In January I ordered and paid for a book from the USA. I was told it could arrive in two weeks but to allow up to 30 days. Yesterday I followed it up since 30 days have passed and it hasn’t arrived. I am now told to allow 45 days! What are they doing? Bringing it across by paddle steamer?

The Treacle Mines of Wem

Further to Monday’s post I would like to give you a bit more information about the treacle mines of Wem. I mentioned that the locals are known as Treacle Miners and I suspect this is because the town grew up around the mines to house the miners. Now, of course, due to the expansion of the town as time went by many inhabitants earn their living in other occupations, however they are still collectively referred to as Treacle Miners.

I would like to take this opportunity to share with you my children’s poem on the subject, taken from my book ‘Barking at Nothing’. For more information about the book, which is sold in aid of the charity ‘The Donna Louise Trust’ please refer to my Books page or go to my website at http://www.silverburnpublishing.co.uk.

The Treacle Mines of Wem

If ever I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle you could hope to find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.

They dig it up from where it’s found
In sticky globules underground,
They refine it and they ladle it
Into jars and label it,
And happily they’ll show you round.

The mines are dark and smell so sweet,
But you’ll get sticky hand and feet
So they give you special clothes
That cover you from head to toes.
And when you’ve looked you get a treat —

They let you sample treacle pud
And oh, it is so very good.
And toffee-apples you will find
With toffee of the richest kind
Made from Wem treacle, as it should.

So next time I go back to Wem
I’ll visit the treacle mines again.
The best treacle in the world you’ll find
Is the treacle that is mined
In the treacle mines of Wem.
____________________________

There are many other treacle mines in England and, I believe, one or two in Scotland. Mines can be found anywhere from Devon and Somerset, through Kent and Hertfordshire, Yorkshire and Cumbria. In Lancashire too they can be found, immortalised by Ken Dodd and his Diddy Men who worked the mines in Knotty Ash – although come to think of it that was the jam butty mines not treacle mines.

For further information I can refer those of you who are interested to an article which can be found at the British Food History site here, although there is no mention of the Wem mines. (You may wish to note the date of the article).

 

Journaling

For several years I wrote ‘Morning Pages’, as writers are so often prompted to do. This is supposed to be ‘stream of consciousness’ writing, without thought, the idea being that when you read over what you have written later there may be something there that provides an inspiration for more serious writing. It never worked for me!

I wrote my Morning Pages religiously, at least 4 sides of A5 notebook every morning before I got up. It was complete and utter rubbish, nothing but pointless waffle, not one iota of inspiration hidden in the dross to inspire anything worth writing. Was I doing it wrong? Well, apparently there is no right or wrong way to do it. So I persevered, as I say, for several years, filling notebook after notebook with scribblings about the worries and concerns of my everyday life – what to cook for dinner, what to buy for someone’s birthday among other occasional more serious concerns and with a few nature observations here and there – but nothing to inspire a best-selling novel or even a decent poem. Stream of consciousness? Often I had to consciously think of something to write about, although I admit that once in the flow of the new topic it did stream out (I’m good at waffle), until I ran out of steam and had to think of another topic.

Eventually I decided enough was enough, I was wasting paper and ink for no apparent gain. For some time now I have not given so much as a thought to the idea of Morning Pages and have burned several of those rubbish filled notebooks, (although there are still some in the drawer of my bedside cabinet awaiting their turn on the fire).

Recently I have had something of a change of heart. Maybe I could do it differently. Part of the idea of these pages was as a form of mindfulness, subconsciously noticing things I suppose, in that stream of consciousness. Well ‘Small Stones’ share something of this idea too and I have also been writing these for many years. I enjoy writing these little poetic observation and have no intention of giving up.

Synchronicity had a hand in it perhaps, but recently I read a book that I picked up in a local charity shop; Notes from Walnut Tree Farm by the late Roger Deakin, ‘a writer, broadcaster and film maker with a particular interest in nature and the environment’. Walnut Tree Farm was his home in Suffolk and for the last six years of his life he kept notebooks about his impressions and observations around his home and other places he visited, people he met. Whether or not he wrote these notes everyday I don’t know, the book only claims to contain ‘the best of these writings’, but it occurred to me that here is my answer, I could do something similar. Most of my ‘stones’ are based on nature observation in my garden or when out and about so why not enlarge this perspective?

During the time I was reading the book I realised my awareness of what was going on around me was actually more acute than I had previously recognised or recorded, details I had thought too trivial to bother with. With this awareness came inspiration for some new poems and, as I mentioned in last Monday’s post, after almost a couple of years without writing a single decent poem I came up with several.

My answer, I decided, was to write my own similar nature notes, make my Morning Pages more meaningful to me, not so much ‘stream of consciousness’ but more specifically aimed, while still dragging things out of my subconscious mind – i.e. a more deliberate and focused ‘Journaling’ rather than the aimless Morning Pages. Also I do not need the stress and pressure of doing this first thing in the morning, I will do it as and when I have something to write about, whatever time of day, while what I have observed is fresh in my mind. Nor do I need to do it every day – if I have had an ‘indoor’ day with no chance to observe then there is no need to write. My writing will not be as share-worthy as Roger Deakin’s, I do not have his level of knowledge and experience, but then mine is not intended for sharing.

I almost wish I had thought of this earlier and started at the beginning of the year, instead of just yesterday, but I have solved that wish by deciding to start with a summary of things I noticed in January and take it from there – no more Morning Pages but Journaling, I think this will suit me better and hopefully be more productive.

Christmas Break

Christmas Baubles

This will be my last post here until the New Year – I am taking my annual Christmas break from the internet.

I wish all my readers a wonderful Christmas season as you celebrate in your own way and look forward to seeing you again in 2019.

Running Ragged

I always seem to get stressed out on the run up to Christmas and this year is no exception, in fact Christmas seems to be catching up on me even quicker than usual. I have been so busy lately I have hardly made a start on the preparations.

What I intended to write about today has gone out of the window. I got very little sleep last night for some reason and I have spent most of today trying to do some Christmas shopping. Not without some success of course, I have managed to buy a fair few of the gifts that need to be posted but there are still some outstanding and I haven’t started on the ones for the family members that I will see over the Christmas period, nor all the little extras – stocking fillers, tree presents etc. – that go towards the fun of the day.

Apart from that I have not even thought about decorating the house and setting up the Christmas tree yet and I shall need to give the house a thorough clean first of course. I have not written any Christmas cards, I haven’t made even my first batch of mince pies this year and I have not yet made my Christmas cake. In a weak moment while shopping this morning I did contemplate buying the cake (I have done on a few occasions in the past) but I do prefer home-made and I have already bought the ingredients so it would be a bit of a waste if I just buy one. The recipe I am using requires some of the ingredients to soak overnight so my plan now is to do that preparation this evening and then I will have to make the cake tomorrow afternoon when I get home from my Spanish class.

Talking of which, this week it is my turn to provide the activities and refreshments for the group (we take it in turns) and the preparation for this occupied my weekend. I have an article for them to read and translate about Spanish Christmas customs and then we shall have a fun game about Christmas Carols and songs – at least I hope it will be fun. Each member of the group will draw a piece of paper from a Christmas stocking and must describe in Spanish the carol or song written on the paper without giving the title away and the others must try to guess what it is.

Other intrusions into my Christmas preparation time include a visit to the dentist this week and then, much more enjoyably two Christmas parties – one for the Spanish group and one for my poetry group. Then it is the final run up to the big day and at last a chance to relax as my son and his family are hosting at their house. Then they all come to us to do it all again on Boxing Day, but by then I should be ready.

Fracking Madness

Now I don’t pretend to know a great deal about fracking, or at least no more than the average man-in-the-street, but I know it involves pumping chemicals into the ground in order to break up shale rocks to release their gas or oil. My gut feeling (which I trust) tells me that this is madness. Whoever thought it would be a good idea to pump a cocktail of chemicals into the ground must be two sandwiches short of a picnic – at least that’s my opinion.

It is almost impossible to find out exactly what chemicals are used – fracking companies are protected from disclosure under trade exemptions. From the Internet I have learned that studies of waste have identified formaldehyde, acetic acids and boric acids among hundreds of others. 80-300 tons of chemicals may be used from a menu of 600 different chemicals, many of them Petroleum Distillates such as kerosene and diesel fuel (containing benzenes, ethylbenzene, toluene, naphthalene and others). To be fair apparently the fracking fluid used is 90% water, 9.5% standard sand and only the remaining 0.5% is the chemicals, which are largely acids intended to dissolve the rock and minerals so that the gas or oil released can be flushed to the surface.

Although it has only relatively recently come to prominence fracking has actually been around of more than 60 years. Despite local opposition, fracking, by the company Cuadrilla first took place near Blackpool, Lancashire in 2011 but was stopped for 7 years after causing an earth tremor of 2.3 magnitude. Lancashire County Council, as well as the local population opposed Cuadrilla’s plans to re-start but the UK Government forced permission through this year and fracking re-started in Lancashire within days, on 16th October 2018. Currently Cuadrilla are supposedly doing tests to assess whether or not full-scale gas extraction is viable but they have vowed to continue fracking.

Since the re-start there have been at least 33 earth tremors including 3 when drilling has had to be stopped as the tremors reached up to 1.1 magnitude on the Richter Scale. Currently UK law requires fracking to be paused if tremors of 0.5 or above are detected but Cuadrilla are arguing against this.

Fracking areas UK

Available fracking areas UK

So, let’s sum up; they start fracking, it causes earth tremors and they stop fracking, all is quite again, so they start fracking, it causes earth tremors so they stop. Then they start again, it causes tremors, and so on…is there a pattern here? What is the definition of stupidity? Ah…yes, it goes something along the lines of ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result’!

Currently 60% of the UK is being offered to fracking companies for exploration (see picture above), including National Parks, areas of special Scientific Interest and areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty as well as areas of high population. Utter madness!

Guy Fawkes Night

FireworksWhen I was a child we always had a bonfire and fireworks at home to celebrate Guy Fawkes Night. Many other children from the neighbourhood came round to our house for the party and often brought their own boxes of fireworks with them too so the display went on for quite a long time, often in the cold and damp. There was always much excitement and anticipation as we waited for Dad to come home from work and have his dinner (we always had it on November 5th whatever day it fell on) before going to light the bonfire. We had spent days beforehand making the ‘Guy’ using Dad’s old clothes.

Today private parties such as this are frowned on as being dangerous, so people go to organised events, usually at the weekend before or after. Of course there were also organised displays then, at the weekend, but we still had our own on the actual night and never did we need to call out the fire or ambulance services, no-one ever got hurt. My Dad was very strict about the safety aspect. Also they were never so noisy in those days. Why does everything have to go off with such a loud bang now?

A few years ago, around this time of year, I was invited to go into a local school to run a workshop and read some of my poems. I hadn’t at that time written a poem for children about Guy Fawkes night and as this was my theme for the workshop I decided to write one for the occasion, remembering the bonfire night parties at home when I was a child.  Here it is:

Oh Light the Bonfire Please Dad

Oh light the bonfire please Dad,
It’s very nearly dark.
I know it’s cold and foggy
But I’m sure you’ll get a spark.

We made the Guy last weekend
With an old pair of trousers and shirt.
We painted the face on a paper bag,
(it looks like Uncle Bert).

My friends will all be here soon,
When they’ve had their tea.
Oh go and light the bonfire Dad,
So everyone can see.

The fireworks are ready Dad,
Mum’s locked them in the shed
And Sylvia from down the road
Will bring some more, she said.

I love the Roman Candles
And the Golden Rain,
The Sparklers and the Catherine Wheels
And others I can’t name,

There’ll be Rockets too and Bangers
And, just for a laugh,
I know you’ll light a ‘Rick-Rack’ thing
To chase me down the path.

Look, the fog is lifting,
I can almost see the moon
And there’s the doorbell ringing,
Please light the bonfire soon.

We’ve got our thickest clothes on,
We’re gathered on the lawn.
Please light the bonfire quickly
So it can keep us warm.

We’ll ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ and clap our hands,
It’s going to be such fun,
And then we’ll have some Parkin
And there’s soup to eat, with a bun.

So please light up the bonfire Dad,
And the fireworks too.
We won’t complain about the smoke,
Oh, light the bonfire, do!

© Elizabeth Leaper

Nothing to Write

The following word ramble is a bit of a stop-gap place holder really. We have been away for a few days and I have some catching up to do, especially as I didn’t even take my computer with me knowing that Internet access would be limited and it’s refreshing to have a break from the Internet every now and then.

We went down to our boat in the Motorhome on Wednesday for a routine check on it and give it a generally wash and clean as it is still unsold, then on Friday we moved on to a campsite up the coast a bit as we had a lunch engagement with a group of friends to go to on Saturday.

The time away was fairly low-key and we didn’t really do very much. The first couple of days while we were at the boat were quite mostly dry, sunny and fairly mild but cold at night. We had no access to electricity but we do have a heater that can use either electricity or gas so we able to keep warm. We took the tandem with us but only used it once, for a short ride around Burnham-on-Crouch (where the boat is currently based) and to do a bit of shopping – at a guess barely three miles. We had taken it thinking we might use it to visit my husband’s brother and his wife but in the event they came to us instead.

When we moved up the coast to Thorpe-le-Soken the weather changed, turning rather cold, windy and, by Saturday evening, very wet. We were glad that we had an electric hook up so were able to keep warm. A large chunk of Saturday was of course taken up with our lunchtime get-together – excellent company and a superb meal. However the result of this wonderfully relaxing few days away means that I have nothing to write about!

With winter coming on our trail rides will probably be few and far between now so cycling will be less of a focus for these ramblings of mine. I have in mind one or two other topics to write about but these will need some research. Perhaps I’ll get my act together by next week.

 

Previous Older Entries

Site content copyright of Elizabeth Leaper (Libby).

Supporting the Printed Word

Read the Printed Word!