SANTA IN FLORIDA
Click on the picture to get the British Pathe video – Santa ‘high as a kite’…
This is George Donald, a shepherd from Aberdeen who in the 1920′s would bring a flock of sheep from Scotland to graze in the London parks. Not surprisingly they quickly became a tourist attraction, and there were even questions in the House of Commons. ‘Why Scottish sheep? Don’t we have any of our own?’
And these are children from one of the outdoor schools that became popular at that time. They would learn their lessons, eat, play and even sleep outside. Apparently even in the snow. It was a cure for TB and other breathing related diseases caused by the city pollution of that time.
And behind the glass in the recording studio is Bill Paterson, as he recorded a story I wrote for BBC Radio 4 about what happened when George Donald (and his sheep) met the children from the outdoor school in 1927!
It’s due to go out on January 26th, following another story about George on the 19th by my writing partner, Jerome Vincent. His is a brilliant one about what happened when the sheep, Selfridge’s Department Store, and Logie Baird all collided on Hyde Park Corner. There are more in the pipeline, we have plans for George!
Today was the first meeting of the ‘Southern chapter’ of a new writing and tailoring project, Bespoke(n). More information to come soon – including some opportunities to get yourself some goodies – but in the meantime just look at how fast Nathalie’s hands work…
A beautiful coat in production:
Who couldn’t fail to find inspiration here:
And here’s one of the other writers involved, Viccy Adams, trying out a new editing device:
I’m feeling very pleased with myself today because a clip from an article I wrote about the advantages of getting lost for Psychologies Magazine was picked as one of the top 100 quotes from their last 100 issues:
And of course one of the best places to get lost is in books. (I know, sometimes my segues hurt me too..).
But seriously, nothing beats a word-of-mouth surprise choice you might never have picked out yourself or pulling a book off the shelf and finding it is just what you needed right now.
So I’m delighted to tell you that the wise Clare Law and I will be at OXFAM BOOKS TUNBRIDGE WELLS (in Chapel Place, Tunbridge Wells) on Sunday 15th December between 2-5pm offering ‘book prescriptions’.
The idea is that you will come to us and give an idea what you want help with for 2014 (or as a present for a friend, for example) and we will find a book that will surprise, delight or perhaps terrify you.
Each ‘go’ will cost £5 and all the money will go to Oxfam’s Education Fund, so it really is a win-win situation. And it may just change your life, because you can trust me I’m a book
But of course if you want a more authoritative guide to bibliotherapy, can I direct you towards The Novel Cure. I’ve just reviewed it for Mslexia magazine, and have to admit I keep dipping into it. The perfect guide for your friendly hypochondriac writer and/or reader! (It does cost more than £5 though, see Clare and I are a BARGAIN.)
I’ve just come back from a day working with students at the University of Kent, thinking about issues of confidence and how they can get the most out of university. One of the things we did was to watch this TED talk by Amy Cuddy – I always love how after watching everyone – including me – sits a bit straighter, takes up a bit more space in the room (although not as much as these guys).
If you haven’t seen it already, it’s definitely worth a look.
Here are details of a course I will be running with the personal development expert and coach, Alison Piasecka.
It is at Jamyang Buddhist Centre. The Old Courthouse, 43 Renfrew Road, London SE11 4NA
Sat 30th November- Sunday 1st December 2013
1000-1600 both days (non-residential)
‘Dear Year’ is a two day creative journaling and experiential workshop. I think it’s fair to say that both Alison and I have a joint fascination for the combination of personal development and creative writing- as well as good senses of sensitivity and the ridiculous…
The workshop will cost £255 and will include tea, coffee and biscuits and a simple lunch each day. The maximum group size will be ten people.
This is the second time we have run the course. Here are some participant comments from last year:
“…Thanks again to Sarah and Alison for such a stimulating and inspiring weekend. I enjoyed the relaxing and balanced pace of the weekend – I arrived very tired after a long and busy term but during the weekend always felt invigorated rather than drained.”
“…I particularly enjoyed the pacy writing exercises, reflecting in pairs, “I remember” + “I want”, focus on pleasures, the nuggets of ‘prose poems’, and the kinds of conversations that flow when we write.”
“…It was lovely to spend the weekend together in the study exploring our lives through creative writing..”
“…how much safety you both create and how much thought you put into it..”
“…How you two worked together and were together led to a feeling of safety and comfort. I got the strong sense that you practice what you preach and that is very important to me. The exercises were wonderful, thought provoking, while being gentle…”
I do hope it is something that will be of interest to you, and maybe that you can give yourself as an early Christmas present! The booking form (and more information) is here.
I’m just back from the Somme after a trip organised by my writer friend, Vanessa Gebbie, who is fast becoming an expert in the area (pictured below with a rather rowdy looking new recruit to her team)…
Also in the company were Tania, Angela, Zoe and Caroline. And we were very ably led by military expert, Jeremy Banning. Here we are reading David Jones in Mametz Wood in the rain. A description in fact of a horrendous period of fighting in that particular wood, and I’m sure in the rain too. It’s only a thin strip of trees where we were, but so dark that it was a shock to come out into what dim light there was left in the day.
Definitely the other people in this group were an important part of my experience. It was much more heartbreaking and emotionally draining than I could have thought possible, so I’m not sure how I would have coped if my companions weren’t on the same track.
So why, this morning when I was looking through my photographs did I find so very few of people? Those above are nearly all I have of the ‘group’.
And then it struck me. Of course I had taken photo after photo of people.
The ones who actually mattered most on this particular trip.
Part of Jeremy Banning’s skill as a guide was that he didn’t just give us numbers – although these were pretty horrifying. This field may look tranquil now, but in fact tens of thousands of bodies of Australian soldiers still lie under the surface.
And this is death valley. Formerly known as happy valley. You probably don’t need to ask why the change of name.
Although the cemeteries look uniform from a distance, look closer and there are huge differences – different regiments, different ranks and in some, different nationalities. All placed next to each other as they might have fallen.
Apart from ones like these rows of Canadian soldiers in the Quebec Cemetery…
… and the Devonshire Cemetery, where the men were buried in the trench the regiment had held, and they ‘hold it still’.
A little bit chilling to find this one there…
And then this name too on the Thiepval Monument, amongst the 72,000 men who were killed but whose bodies were never recovered. It’s an extraordinary sight, not least the way you suddenly realise that the pattern you are looking at on the stone is actually name after name after name…
I doubt either Salway is a relative, but in many ways it doesn’t matter. Here are some of the other stories we found…
What a quote there from Private Borthwick of Millwall FC: “This is worse than a whole season of cup ties.”
… and then there is this one with a line from the letter Lieutenant E S H Lane’s family received to inform them of his death. A reminder of how important those letters must have been, especially for a family grieving so far away in Canada ….
… and names like this one which conjured up a person straight away for me…
… some will be remembered for being unknown…
… and others for being known before the war…
… or indeed for what they did during the war. This is the gravestone of Captain W P Nevill who brought four footballs with him and kicked them for his men to chase after as they went ‘over the top’ on 1st July 1916. He offered a reward to the first platoon to score a “goal” in enemy trenches, but didn’t survive to see the success of his initiative …
One of the things the perfectly straight lines of graves does is to give a jolt when the pattern is broken…
And of course not forgetting the German cemetery which it was important to have visited too…
So how wrong could I be to think I’d taken no photos of people. I’ve got so many stories going round and round in my head now. Including that of my own grandfather, Private Peplow, who fought from when he was 19 up until the age of 22. I’m sure I’m not alone in wishing I’d asked more about the war while I could. It’s strange to wonder what generations to come will wish they’d asked us about. Facebook? Twitter? Hmmm… sometimes it’s good to be reminded how lucky we are, and just how much that ‘luck’ cost others.
Well, it was my birthday last week and despite hints – *HINTS!!! More like shouts* – no-one got me this…
It is the copy of the novel, Orlando presented by Virginia Woolf to her sister and inscribed to ‘Vanessa, from her slave and sister”… If you are still interested you can buy it here.
And I wrote about a recent visit to Monks House, the Woolf’s country home in Sussex, on my sister and slave blog, Writer in the Garden. I was delighted when the post was picked up by this amazingly informative website on all things Woolf – Blogging Woolf. Well worth a look, and a follow.