Poem for Cormy

For my beloved Cormac on his eighth birthday:
The day has come when now you’re eight. 
I can’t believe it’s true.
Is Cormy really eight years old?
Is mummy eight years older too!?
Sometimes I look at you at night
While you are sound asleep.
I’ll stroke your hair and kiss your cheek. 
I’ll hear the sighs as you breathe deep.
And can’t believe I’m fortunate,
So fortunate that you are here,
You give great joy, you make me smile,
You make me shed a happy tear.
Cormac – clever, awesome Corms,
I send such love your way.
Lots of kisses, lots of cuddles,
Harry Potter, witches, muggles…
Yoda, Indiana, Hellboy,
Spiderman and others:
All these friends say happy birthday
To the world’s best brother…
And from the moment you wake up
Until the time the day is done
Your mummy will adore and hug
And love the world’s best son.
I love you more and more and more each day xxxxxxx.   Love from Mummy xxxx

The Glories of Writing Groups

From 2016…
I’ve been attending my writing group, Write You Are, for a year and a half now, since its start-up meeting.  I also attended a previous group with some of the members for a couple of years before that.  I can honestly say that I wouldn’t ever want to be without it, and it feels wrong if I can’t attend. The members are family to me.

I’m a motivated person who writes whether I have a reason to or not, but there’s something special about a weekly writing session where you have the opportunity to mingle with other writers.  Whether we’re alike, character-wise or not, doesn’t matter.  What matters is that we all write.  And not everyone else understands the writing compulsion.  Indeed, other group members are surrounded by family who do not support or appreciate just how much their writing means to them, and how talented they really are.

So, what do we do at our writing group?  Well, it depends. 

Rarely we have outside speakers. It has happened, but we don’t seem to need it.

More often, members of our group will present sessions.  These can be about absolutely anything.  Sometimes they’re about abstract concepts such as descriptions of colour, the senses, the linguistics or comedy… or perhaps they might be about an unusual writing concept, perhaps a form of poetry, or even a writing style, methods or something that’s currently in the news and able to provoke debate and potential for inspiration.

But even if we don’t present sessions we are comfortable holding an open session, where the group is not led by anyone in particular.  For two hours we sit around a table in a comfortable room inside the local Methodist church hall.  Mainly we chat, but we open with news (writing and other) and then will read out anything produced for last week’s home assignment. 

Sometimes our readings are met with gentle criticism, or the odd comment about what could perhaps be done better (in my case, I read far too quickly, keen to get it over with!) but normally they are met with the positive praise of our writing friends who are keen to encourage and share in your triumphs. 

Half way through it is break time, with hot drinks and biscuits, subsidised by our £3 a week fee (it also goes to pay for the room).  After the break we continue with more chat, usually.  We chat about our writing, we ask for advice, and we tell our friends what we’re working on.  And sometimes (these are my favourite times) we are given a writing challenge and take up our pens to longhand-scrawl into our pads: writing to exercise our imagination or our technique.  If we get time we read these out loud too.

Some people reading this may be apprehensive if they’ve never shared one of their literary ‘babies’ with another living soul – and many writers are definitely in this position.  Writing is such a solitary and personal act that we almost can’t bear to share and to get our work ‘out there’.  Are the words on our pages like a recalcitrant child – forever to be chastised and kept under lock and key? 

I don’t believe so.

I believe my work has improved enormously as a result of attending Write You Are, and I believe that some of my happiest and most fulfilling moments occur at writing group, or while preparing my pieces for it.  I believe that the support received there has been essential to me and am convinced that, without it, I would have given up many moons ago.

So, if you’re a writer, new or old, and have never considered attending a writing group, give it a go.  What’s the worst that can happen?  Sure, you may feel a little shy and uncomfortable at first, and I’m sure that not all writing groups are a wonderfully friendly as mine is, but give it a go.  And if you don’t like that one, try another one.  Go on, give it a go.

Narcissistic Contempt (guest blog by Sun Paige)

I’m a good person, I say to myself over and over.  So why is this happening to me?

Have my actions led to this?

Surely life isn’t so unjust that these things be allowed to happen without just cause and without future consequence?  What about karma?

The chair wobbled under me, my centre of gravity corrupted by this burgeoning mass in my belly.  My baby.  Our baby.  Six months inside already and just another three to go. 

But nobody gets to put their feet up anywhere near Him.  I’m accustomed to both his looming presence and the atmospheric malevolence accompanying it, but this acclimatisation comes at great personal cost.

My friend calls him a knobhead every day. I smirk but it isn’t quite right. He’s more than that – and less than that.  Weak and feeble inside – and that’s what I need to keep telling myself.  The worst thing that ever happened to me – and the best thing too. He unintentionally gave me the gift of this bump inside me, the first one that’s stayed with me till such a late date. I’ve learnt to see good where I can in the world. I can see it here – in this baby growing.

The chair doesn’t seem strong enough to take my weight.  I don’t want to be here. On another chair next to me are boxes that need storing in the top cupboard, high up and built into an alcove in this tall-ceilinged terraced house. 

And He refuses to fetch the stepladder.

The chair wobbles under me.  My centre of gravity is pulling me forward, but I manage to reach out and grab a low cupboard handle.  It wobbles too (the screws are loose) and I shriek.  The top box of three falls to the floor but I manage to right myself as I feel the beginnings of tears in the corners of my eyes. 

He shouts at me.

‘What the hell are you doing?’

‘Putting stuff away.  Somebody has to,’ I say.

‘Well, I’m not.’

I know he’s not.  That’s why I’m doing it, that’s why I’m unsteady on a chair because this guy, this physically healthy, tall and strong guy is ‘scared of heights’ to such an extent that he’ll encourage his six month pregnant partner to balance unsteadily.

Meanwhile what’s he doing?  He’s reading the news on my computer, a symptom of his obsession with the facelessness of projected tales. It’s the nearest to human interest he can manage.

We had a meal at posh pub to celebrate my new job – I paid. 

He didn’t allow me onto my own computer, but on the few occasions he wasn’t there to watch over me, he set up keystroke tracking software. 

I organised babysitters so we could erect a large set of wardrobes, but he didn’t move from the bed. 

We saw his ex in Morrisons, and she looked down at my growing bump, then back up at me with pity and compassion.  I should have introduced myself and asked for the rationale behind her pitying look, but I didn’t need to. I already knew. 

I should have told her he’d already been controlling my food intake, that he was quick to anger, and that he was controlling.

So, don’t let them in. 

Whether they be friends or lovers or bosses or co-workers, or parents or children…

Don’t let them in. 

Tell them what you think.  

Accept when they inevitably disagree. 

Allow them to demand conflict, but don’t get involved. 

Just walk away. 

Never be less than yourself, no matter how small they try to make you.

I know.

I’ve been there. 

On that chair. 

Doing what needed to be done because I knew nobody else would. 

But I was wrong. 

I should have kicked him into touch. 

I should have kicked him out. 

That’s the problem when you’ve been brought up to be too nice.

Kadenza Christmas Concert 2019 – review


Of course, I was expecting to enjoy the concert.
I was also expecting to recognise and perhaps hum along with some of the music performed.
But, having not seen Kadenza perform before, I wasn’t expecting everything that took place.
We arrived to a busy church already buzzing with chatter, and we quickly found our place in an increasingly busy hall. Amongst those attending alongside us were youngsters decked in Santa and elf costumes, which added very much to the jolly, pre-Christmas atmosphere.
Seats were pushed close together, and at only £3 a ticket with an enormous raffle in aid of Fortalice refuge, it was most gratifying to see almost every seat full, and even some attendees standing at the rear of the hall.
The Kadenza Women’s Choir entered the room tinsel-clad, glittering and festive – and received a hearty welcome. They began their set with a traditional Finlandish song about calling in the reindeer (with lovely strong rhythm and harmonies) and a couple of hours later ended the entire concert with an encore written by choir-leader Moira many years ago. This final song, ‘I’m a woman of a certain age’ made the crowd giggle with its punch line of ‘I’m gonna make trifle’.
Kadenza’s entire set was 16 songs long (including encore) and was split into two halves with a tea and mince pie interval. The entire concert was an extremely feel-good affair, with all the songs on the itinerary joyfully performed. Particular favourites of mine were ‘Carol of the Bells’ – a Czech piece possibly originally written as a rejoicing for the spring, and their vigorous and energetic version of ‘Gaude Te’ – all in Latin.  I have to also mention ‘In the Bleak Midwinter’. This was always a family favourite (my mum adored it) but most versions I’ve heard are intensely rich and harmonic in their arrangement – almost orchestral. This particular arrangement was relatively stark, giving the carol the sound of cloistered nuns rather than the romantic and expressive folk-song feel I’ve more recently heard. I enjoyed it very much.
The audience were reminded on a few occasions to join in with the singing if they knew the songs. This would not have been too hard with some of the tunes. ‘Noel’ had only one word, I think, but other songs in the repertoire, like ‘Somewhere along the road’ were definitely more suited to the choir’s skilled voicecraft, and required much discipline and control to adequately showcase the subtle and effective volume changes and emphases.
One of the many elements of the concert that I had not been expecting was the 100% unaccompanied nature of the choir’s vocal artistry. I loved how rich the sounds were despite the fact that the only instruments were the human voice and a single melodica (as pitch-giver only). Impressively, even occasional chatting from the audience, and attempts to quieten children didn’t in any way mar the quality and volume of the singing.
Another surprise element (for me) was the holistic, socially conscious and inclusive aspect of the pieces performed. The second song, ‘Mary’s Child’ was about homelessness (‘born in a borrowed room’) and had a world music feel, while ‘This Great Sky’ celebrated our connection with the earth and everything in it. This song in particular offered the audience a powerful and coherent sound which was stronger than might be expected from only 30-35 singers.  We also were treated to ‘The Boar’s Head’ written in about 1571 (offered with apologies to vegetarians) and Jackson Brown’s ‘The Rebel Jesus’ which was written from the point of view of heathen and pagan.  Kadenza’s final song was even based on a Celtic blessing of ‘We Wish You Joy’.
So, all in all, from the tight harmonies and timings of ‘The Field Mouse Carol’ which led deftly through to the humour of their comic song about hiding from carol singers, the choir exhibited skill and humour – and radiated a huge amount of energy.  I will definitely attend a future Kadenza concert as their enthusiasm completely shines through their performance, and transfers itself to any and all receptive listeners. I hadn’t been feeling Christmassy till this concert, but it really did the trick. Glorious! 


Find out more on their website – http://kadenzachoir.co.uk/index.htm or the Facebook page ‘Kadenza’.