Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Contrast

My first memory of the concept of contrast was from a Ladybird book I always loved, the story of Snow White and Rose Red. Not the well-known Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, but the old traditional fairytale of sisters Snow White and Rose Red. Snow White was fair-haired and quiet and favoured being indoors and wore a white dress, while Rose Red was dark-haired and vivacious in a ruby-red dress and loved nothing more than being outdoors exploring in nature.

Even as a little girl the dramatic contrast between the two sisters puzzled me and pulled me agonisingly in two, lurching between either end of the spectrum – did I prefer Snow White or Rose Red? It always seemed to me that the meeker, gentler stay-at-home Snow White was portrayed as the ideal of femininity, especially as she won the main prince as her husband, whereas the more boistrous and robust Rose Red with her confident wanderlust had to settle for marrying the prince’s brother – who presumably was also a prince, but not the heir apparent?

Even then I recognised some of me within each sister, and I suppose even at the age of fifty-four a small part of me is still pulled between wanting to be each in turn, or more often than not struggling to be both at the same time… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Contrast

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Songs from the Past: The Pogues and Kirsty McCall – A Fairytale in New York

We’re almost at the end of the year and my participation in Hughs 51 Songs from the Past in 51 weeks has fallen off a cliff – sorry Hugh!

So for week 49, Hugh has asked for our second favourite Christmas song – and as week 48 was supposed to be our first favourite, I thought I’d post that too, albeit a little late 🙂

My first favourite is The Pogues with Kirsty McCall from 1987 with A Fairytale in New York. I love the change in tempo, and the way it reminds me of the kind of New Year family get-togethers where everyone drinks too much and sometimes a couple of otherwise-very-different individuals pair up to sing a duet in the same kind of odd way that this song somehow works, even though it probably shouldn’t… 🙂

And for my second favourite Christmas song it has to be Nat King Cole from 1961 with The Christmas Song…

I just love listening to Nat King Cole all year round, but this particular song reminds me of my early childhood Christmases in the 1960s ❤

Thoughts On My Dad

I’ve been thinking a lot about my dad today. He’s still in hospital recovering from a recent series of small but troublesome strokes, and it may be a while before he gets home again. Always assuming he doesn’t have yet another stroke, of course – and at 81, with his health having been noticably deteriorating over the last few months, sadly nothing is certain any more. He is getting old, and the realities of age are causing him to fail almost in front of our eyes: A diagnosis of vascular dementia is adding a cognitive element to his physical limitations.

I’m thinking about the last time I saw him at home, not even a month ago, standing watching out the kitchen window and waving at my train as it passed the house. The thing is, the train to London from Inverness doesn’t usually pass by that way, but on that particular occasion due to engineering works we were diverted via Aberdeen, which meant travelling along the railway line next to my mum and dad’s house.

Dad had said beforehand that he would watch out for the train and wave, so I was looking out for him. Even in the dark and after all these years living elsewhere I still remember the area like the back of my hand so I knew we would go through a short deep cutting, pass under a road bridge, and immediately after we would rush past four houses in a row, with mum and dad’s house being the last to see.

I know it takes only a few precious seconds for the train to pass and it was dark outside, so I decided not to try to take a photograph of the house as we rattled by but just to see how much I could see at that time of the evening. I just didn’t want to risk missing anything by concentrating too hard on my camera instead of looking out and maybe not even getting a shot in focus, so I left my camera off.

As it happened, it was actually the darkness that helped me see him so clearly, a solid dark figure reassuringly framed squarely in the centre of the brightly lit window, waving slowly and steadily with both arms, a familiar gesture I’d seen a million times before. Every time we had visitors I remember dad standing in the road waving them off in just the same way, keeping waving until the car had disappeared over the top of the hill.

So I simply kept watching for as long as I could, tears blurring my vision, as dad and the window grew smaller, flickered, and in an instant vanished from sight. I felt overwhelmed with love and longing for those happy family memories, and a sudden flash of fear that I might not ever see him stand there again. Five days later, he had the stroke that took him off to hospital and has kept him there so far. It seems that train diversion was meant to be.

I do have a photograph I took a bare month ago of my dad sitting in his front porch, snoozing in his usual armchair in his well-worn jeans, old navy blue heavy-knit jumper and workboots – his everyday garb for being at home and messing about outdoors. He had come in supposedly to read the paper, but after only a page or two had dropped off – having forty winks, as he would often say, although forty minutes was more usual these days. I snapped him snoozing from through the grubby rain-spotted window so as not to disturb him, and the ordinariness of that candid shot touches my heart.

I also have a photograph of him in hospital, only a week or so later, taken on the ward with my not-so-great phone camera. He had just had his hair trimmed by a nurse so was looking very smart, and in that moment he looked directly at me and smiled just as I clicked the silent shutter button. In contrast to the previous photo there is nothing ordinary about that image, a clean-shaven spruced-up dad sitting in a dress shirt (well, his version of a dress shirt) in a high-backed hospital chair, but somehow in that split second he looks more like dad than he has in months.

His brilliant blue eyes are sparkling and bright, with no hint of the dull bewildered confusion that has been plaguing him on and off since these little vascular incidents have been challenging his brain. That lucid look of complete clarity didn’t last long, but I’m so pleased I managed to capture it while it was there…

Love you, Dad, I wish you could get well soon… ❤

 

Songs From The Past: Andy Stewart – Barnyards O’ Delgaty

This week’s Song from the Past is a real blast from my very long ago past! Hugh has asked us what song would be top of our Halloween play list, but to be honest I’m not really into Halloween, or any other kind of celebratory parties for that matter.

But what did come to mind was the spontaneous impromptu family get-togethers of my childhood, where friends and neighbours all simply got together in someone’s house bringing a bottle (or two!) and a bite to eat to share and we all made our own entertainment for the evening.

Mum played the accordian, so would usually play a medley of whatever was requested with everyone else singing along, and as the festivities flowed along with the whisky Dad would put on his favourite Jimmy Shand Scottish Country Dance music, or Andy Stewart singing traditional songs from the North East coast of Scotland.

One of my favourite sing-along bothy ballads of that time has to be ‘Barnyards O’ Delgaty’, so that’s my song from the past for this week. It’s sung in the Doric dialect, so don’t worry if you can’t follow it, but with bothy ballads the tunes are always easy to pick up and have a simple repetitive chorus. The theme is always farm-related, and the lyrics usually quite tongue in cheek 🙂

 

 

The Graveyard – My Old Haunt

graveyard-1

This is the Graveyard, my old haunt, set into one corner of an agricultural field, alone and exposed yet contained and comfortable in its position, settled silently and solidly into the landscape with peaceful purpose. It does have a proper name – Bracklich (or Breachlich, or other variant spellings) Cemetery – but for my lifetime it has been known locally simply as the Graveyard.

All traces of the old church to which the graveyard was originally attached has long gone, with the church building itself going out of use in the late 17th Century due to the merger of this parish with a neighbouring parish, and whatever remained being in ruins by the late 18th Century. The current visible gravestones are dated from the mid 18th C to the late 20th C, but this has been a traditional burial place for centuries before that.

This is the view looking up across the field from my mum and dad’s front gate – we always used to joke about having really quiet neighbours. The trees have grown and been cut down and have grown again countless times, but their silhouetted outline softening the regular headstone shapes remain a constant presence against the night sky, and I can’t imagine any of it not being there.

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Walking up the quiet single-track graveyard road and into the walled cemetery itself has been a fun adventure for three generations of my family – my brother and sister and I loved exploring and playing there when we were young, as did our children and now our grandchildren in turn. The mossy grass is so springy and soft underfoot, a safe surface for toddlers to practice walking outside and getting a feel for the naturally uneven ground beneath their feet.

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Below is the view of the local landscape from inside the graveyard, looking down towards the village of Ardersier and out across the water to the Black Isle in the distance. This is a beautifully peaceful spot from which to watch the sun set over the undulating horizon in the summer months.

graveyard-view

Share Your World: 30 October 2017

Where do you eat breakfast?

Nowhere – I’m really not good with eating anything at all when I first wake up and need to be up for a couple of hours at least before I eat. But I always like to have my first cup of tea quietly curled up on the sofa, contemplating the day ahead.

Given the choice of anyone in the world, whom would you want to have an evening with?

My long-gone paternal grandmother, who first inspired my love of cooking – a farmer’s wife with a large family and a large farmhouse kitchen, I discovered at her knee the traditional task of coaxing minimal food ingredients into making maximum impact with a lot of love and practical ingenuity. So I’d choose to spend just one more evening cooking a huge family meal with her as she was in her prime, but with me at the age I am now – two women two generations apart but with hindsight a lot more in common than I’d ever imagined was possible during her lifetime ❤

If you could be a tree or plant, what would you be?

I’d be a beautifully delicate yet hardy snowdrop, triumphantly pushing through the partially-thawing frost and snow every winter to herald the promise of spring ❤

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?

My mum is newly home from hospital after having another chest infection – she has chronic respiratory problems – so while mum was being treated in hospital, instead of staying with my youngest daughter as planned over the last couple of weeks I stayed for several days with my 81 year old dad who is in the process of recovering from a recent mini-stroke.

It felt quite poignant being once more in the house I grew up in, as it has become resoundingly clear to both mum and dad that they simply can’t go on living there alone for much longer – the sprawling house is just too big for the two of them rattling around in, too impractical for coping with ongoing failing health issues as they grow older, and far too isolated from the increasingly necessary intensive support of the rest of the family.

Sadly they know now they need to think seriously about moving somewhere smaller and easier to access for them and for everyone else. So this last week or so I’ve truly appreciated the chance to spend precious time quietly with my dad in the rural landscape of my youth, which will always hold a special place in my heart ❤

landscape

Cee’s Share Your World

 

Songs from the Past: American Pie

For week 37 of his series ’51 Songs from the past in 51 weeks’ Hugh has asked us which song we would love to record ourselves, given the chance.

For me, it just has to be ‘American Pie’. The original from Don Maclean (in 1971) is an absolute classic for me, and gained a new lease of life when Madonna released her version in 2000. I don’t honestly know why I like it so much, but it brings back lots of memories of enjoyable nights out in the pub – sooner or later as the evening wore on, someone would put this on the jukebox and we’d all sing along with gusto… 🙂

Daily Prompt: Recite

There’s always a lovely familiarity in still being able to recite things learned in childhood through the regularity of repetition, a satisfactory comfort in the cadence and conscious flow of the words.

At school early on I learned the Lord’s Prayer, and of course my times tables up to twelve. And I also remember with fondness my Brownie Guide Promise:

‘I promise that I’ll do my best to do my duty to God, to serve the Queen and help other people, and to keep the Brownie Guide Law’.

In order to remember how many days were in each month we’d always recite:

‘Thirty days hath September, April June and November. All the rest have thirty-one except February alone which has twenty-eight days clear, and twenty-nine on each leap year.’

From maths class in my teens I particularly remember the Pythagoras Theorem, for some obscure reason:

‘The square of the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle is equal to the sum of the squares on the opposite two sides’

And from English class, as well as being still able to recite simple rules of spelling like ‘i after e except after c’, snippets of Shakespeare’s ”Hamlet’ that resonated at the time and have stuck with me throughout the years:

‘To be, or not to be – that is the question? Whether tis nobler in mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles and, by opposing, end them.’

Turned out to be the story of my life, that one! 🙂

Daily Prompt: Recite

 

 

 

Liquid Rainbows…

Liquid Rainbows…

A colour-wash of memories tint my brain

A million shades I’d love to recreate

I hold too tight, imagination reined

Convince myself I’m too old, it’s too late

‘Not good enough’, spits out its bitter pill

Expecting me to swallow down dream’s death

I challenge habit’s thinking – time stands still –

Anticipation waits with bated breath…

Yet once I start to paint, I find my flow

My brush an inked extension of my hand

My eyes begin to sparkle with warm glow

As liquid rainbows blend, soft strokes expand

Released in coloured undulating swirl

I sense my creativity unfurl…

Daily Prompt: Unfurl

Inspiration, Interpretation, Imagination…

Hmmm… I know so far I’ve only done one simple flower colour study so it’s very early days, but I’ve been reflecting ever since on how it felt this afternoon to be painting again after all these years. Physically I absolutely loved the feel of the brush in my hand, the steady flow of the paint, and the diluting wash of the water, however clumsy and awkward my technique may have been to begin with. I know that technically, patience and practice and perseverance (as with everything else in life) will help me improve in time.

But emotionally I can sense I’m still too tied up in how I feel something ‘should’ look when put to paper, as if the only criteria that mattered for judgement was to reproduce a near-photographic representation of my subject matter for scathing critique under extreme scrutiny. As if true-to-life matters more than true-to-me. Of course, if the purpose of my painting was indeed to achieve that level of accuracy (for example if I were painting someone’s portrait for them) I suppose then it really would matter?

But I think I simply want my subject matter to provide the baby-steps beginnings of my own creativity, be a spring-board point of inspiration that I can choose to interpret in my own way, letting my imagination decide what to do and where to run with it. After all I’m not 17 any more, I don’t have a set syllabus or class curriculum to follow, or for that matter a teacher or parent to please. Rather, I have the absolute freedom to please myself. I can be as abstract and off-beat and making-it-up-as-I-go-along as I want.

So why do I struggle so much with recognising and accepting that artistically creative adult reality? Maybe the question I need to be asking myself is – who am I actually painting for? Because maybe that’s partly what has been blocking me for all these years, maybe at heart I’m still that insecure little girl always yearning for approval from others, trying desperately to feel good enough but all the while knowing I will never be enough for some people no matter what I do…  🙂