Music to my mind is a most puissant form of magic, and has the power to invoke such strong memories and emotions, that tune that always reminds you of your first love, or the song that could be your own biography, and all those happy reminders of your past.
When Liz first played Ralph Vaughan Williams’ Valse Lente for me, she did so in the hopes that I’d like it enough to start learning it myself. I did, I really loved it, instantly, it spoke sweetly and dearly to me. It spoke to me of childhood memories; merry-go-rounds, music boxes and the Italian commedia dell’arte and its comedic and tragic characters, the Pierrot doll I had as a young girl, and still have to this day. And I played it for my son, and to him it spoke of a fantasy computer game he used to play. Ah, the generations! Music speaks differently to people.
This beautiful piece however soon became a reminder of great loss, the last piece Liz and I worked on together. I stopped playing it and listening to it after her sudden death two years ago. I always knew that when I eventually returned to it, I would have gained at least some acceptance of what is a great loss for me.
I made a promise to you Liz, that I would keep working it, a promise I intended keeping. I’m back working on it now, but I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to talk to you about it. See I still forget at times, that you’ve gone, and I cry when I’m on my own, and oh I still see you walking down the street. However I also think of you often with joy and happy memories and thankfully there’s more of these than tears these days. And I think happy thoughts of a beautiful Valse Lente again.
For you my dear, dear Liz, for all the wonderful memories I have because of you, of music and books, the love of which we shared, lovely evenings with wine and chats, of laughter and silliness and an eternal friendship that will never fade. I love you. I miss you.
Cheers and shine brightly.
So have you ever experienced something you can’t explain. Oh I know, a lot of you will probably be thinking, oh no, she’s finally lost it. Granted I’ve never tried to make sense of my experiences, but they are my experiences and they are very real to me.
So how did I come to think of all this again, well one thing led to another, as it does, and here we are. I’ve been laid up in bed the last three days with the dreaded lurgy, alright probably a virus, but should be right as rain for tomorrow, Monday, typical. I got to watching documentaries on Tudor history and one ‘Tudor from Above’ transported me back to the late 1980’s and the wonderful village of Lavenham in Suffolk England. Lavenham is noted for it’s wonderful 15th century church and medieval and tudor cottages. To stand in the High Street and gaze at the houses snuggled neatly together but tilting in all different directions, backwards, forwards and sideways as they have settled over time, was a wonder to behold. The cars whizzing by, an anachronism to a backdrop of times gone by. I fell in love with that village and it’s history and wonderful character filled buildings.
This of course then led me to recall Elm Hill in Norwich, a cobbled street lined with more medieval and tudor houses, nearby the great Norwich Cathedral. By the way cobbles look wonderful but they’re murder on the feet and in high heels deadly,and after many months of walking on them, they no longer hold any romance for me….
And on to the first house I lived in when I returned to this part of the world.
I shared this house with my aunt, three cousins and my sister. My aunt owned a gift shop which was on the ground floor, and this was my first job on arrival. The house had been a tavern in it’s early days, and was a wonderful house with lots of nooks and crannies, crooked walls, tilted floors and narrow stairways everywhere. Five storeys including the cellar and attic and it was haunted, purportedly like a number of other houses on Elm Hill, but my story doesn’t begin here.
My aunt is unique, it would be safe to say, a witch, dreamy and flighty, and quite frankly a little nuts, but I wouldn’t say that to her face, who knows she might actually be able to turn me into a frog, but she could also be very kind and affectionate. One of the first things she said to me after all the hugs and kisses was, “Do you remember the grey lady”. I didn’t, but I’d grown up hearing the story.
I was born in London and lived there until the age of 5 when I moved to Australia. When I was 2 we moved into police flats in Grove Park, my father having just joined the London Police Force. The flats were relatively modern having been built on the site of an old house that had been torn down. We grew up listening to many of my fathers stories of his time as a London Bobby. His regular and friendly meetings with Harry Secombe of The Goons, who nicknamed him Blue, a name that stayed with him during his time as a policeman, and of whom he was a great fan and the actor John Mills, as well as encounters with the infamous Kray twins and a very young and lets just say, under the weather Mick Jagger. It was at this time that my father received the Queen’s commendation for bravery, he’d attempted to save two men from an overturned burning newspaper van by going in several times to pull them from the vehicle, but was sadly unsuccessful. However it left him with severe burns to his hands and face and damage to the eyes which left him severely shortsighted for the rest of his life. He was rightly proud of his silver laurel leaves, but to my young mind, leaves should not be silver and I attempted to rectify this with the aid of a green felt tip pen. While my parents were able to remove the green from the laurel leaves, there is still evidence of my mischief on the velvet lining of the box they are kept in.
But the story that fired my imagination was of the grey lady. There was a glass wall divide between the hall and the sitting room, of the flat, where I would go and sit, head raised and smiling and babbling away toward the corner of the hall, for long stretches of time. When asked what I was doing, my only reply over and over was “the grey lady is smiling”. My parents were of course unnerved, but it became such a regular occurrence, and they never felt overly frightened by it, that it just became Gill’s friend, her grey lady. While my parents took it in their stride, my uncle was so frightened and upset by experience and witnessing my babbling conversations, that he ended his one and only stay early and abruptly and refused to ever visit the flat again. When I saw him again twenty years later and asked him about it, he refused point blank to discuss it with me. So it went down in infamy as one of my extended families collective stories and events.
I don’t myself remember this episode, but I have experienced similarly unexplainable events since that time. As I go through life, I realize there is so much mystery out there, an infinite expanse of mind, energy and universe and sometimes you don’t need an explanation or a reason why, it just is.
When I was working in the gift shop in Elm Hill, during a quiet afternoon, with my friend and colleague Denise, I experienced something, that although time softens and blurs the memory, still sits strongly with me. I took a step back and bumped into someone, that is all I can describe it as, the clumsy meeting of two bodies, I apologized as I turned around to be met with no one. I have no idea what happened, but I will swear till the day I die that it happened. Of course Denise was overjoyed as was my aunt on hearing the news, but then she always seemed to have an affinity for things spooky. Most of our day trips were to very old and eerie places including Blickling Hall in Norfolk, the reputed birth place of Anne Boleyn and is said to be badly haunted. There is a picture emerging here, I think my aunt looked on me as her own personal ghost hunter. Yes, no, maybe. But more upsetting was a feeling of great unease in the attic bedroom I shared with my sister, which I felt in no other room of that wonderful house.
To my own home, which I would like to state is a very happy and warm house, and yet I’ve experienced many things over the years. Running footsteps in the back garden at night, mirrors that shake on the wall, a kitchen door that frequently opens on its own to a glass on my bedroom dresser that started shaking then fell to the floor and smashed. But there is a place in the house that don’t hang around near and have felt myself being watched more than once. But the closest I came to being frightened was the little blond boy who appeared in the back sitting room as I was bedding down the fire late one night. Although the child was smiling and in many ways reminded me of my youngest, and who out of the corner of my eye, it first appeared to be, it was gone in the blink of an eye, and this experience chilled me to the bone. Of course I checked all the kids rooms and all were sound asleep, fortunately, I’ve only experienced that once. Several members of my family have experienced some of these events, so I’m certain I’m not imagining all of this.
I don’t know what happens after death, but I do believe our energy, spirit or soul, call it what you like, continues long after our corporeal existence ceases, so it is within the bounds of possibility that we can still communicate on some level with those that have passed. I have two very strong reasons for believing this to be that case. Some 25 years ago, shortly after I’d moved into my home, I was alone one night and woke to very powerful and vivid thoughts of my grandmother. I lay awake thinking of her for some time and vowed to write the letter I’d promised her the next day. I woke several times more that night and again those same vivid thoughts. I woke the next morning to the news that she had passed away during the night. I believe with every fibre of my being that she was with me that night. And to my father, shortly after he’d passed away in 2000, I was outside talking to him, when suddenly I heard his laugh. He had a wonderful infectious laugh, and it was like he was sitting next to me. I know some would say it was a memory of his laugh but the timing was perfect, I’d just been telling him a funny story of something that had happened that day, then this wonderful laugh. Call it what you like, but for me it was the first time since he’d died, that I felt he hadn’t gone from me forever.
Perhaps this is all down to a fantastic imagination, and perhaps even believing, allows us to make sense of our loved ones passing, it gives us a sense of acceptance. But I do wonder why some experience these things, while others do not. Like I said, I’ve never really tried to make sense of it, it just is, and that’s good enough for me.
I grew up surrounded by books, my parents were avid readers and encouraged us all to read widely. When I was twelve, my parents purchased a set of encyclopaedias. I still recall vividly the visit by the sales rep with a few demonstration books, as we poured over the pages with such enthusiasm and anticipation. An anticipation of a world opening up to us, and those encyclopaedias were still in the bookcase, where they’d always been when I left home for the last time. Although I always remember reading, especially lazy afternoons, lying in the garden, my overwhelming passion for reading was ignited at 14, when I read for the first time ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. No other school curriculum book, or for that matter any other book I’d read prior to that, had that same hold as this gorgeous book. For the first time in my memory, I could see the book coming alive for me in pictures, in my mind. And that has been my guide to this day.
I’ve now a home and family of my own and like my childhood, books are everywhere. There have only ever been two rules regarding books, don’t scribble on them and don’t damage them in any way. They’re grown up now and I no longer have to remind them. I’m guessing like most people I have my favourites, genres and authors, and I tend to return to them over and over. However joining and belonging to a book club has opened me up to new and exciting authors and books. I have one personal rule, if a book doesn’t grab me, I won’t finish it. My time is too precious and passion for reading is too important to waste on a book, I find unworthy. The greatest of books, take me on a journey, to a new place and time. They’ve been my life line many, many times and have lifted me for the darkest hours and the darkest times in my life. I owe them everything and to me there is a sacredness in reading, a very personal journey and great privilege in being able to read. There was a time when reading only belonged to an elite few, and I wonder at how small their world and lives must have been.
Right now I’m re-reading for umpteenth time Pride and Prejudice, and before you all start saying, ‘oh she loves her romances’. The only thing Jane Austen went dewy eyed and gaga over was real estate, Pemberley and to a lesser extent Rosings. Any marriages that take place are swiftly pushed off the page to make way for Austen’s social satire, wicked wit and the glorious grotesques that grace the pages of this wonderful book. Lady Catherine de Bourgh (of the piano “If I had ever learnt, I should have been a great proficient.”) one of her more unassuming proclamations, Mr. Collins, the loquacious and laughable parson. But then I can laugh, because I don’t have to live with him, if I did have to live with him I think I would probably have punctured my own ear drums. The delightful Mr. & Mrs. Bennett, solo or in tandem and to a lesser extent the hapless and bitchy Caroline Bingley.
There are however two proposals which get more time than one or two sentences, the painful and cringe worthy fumblings and mumblings of Mr. Collins trying to woo Elizabeth Bennett and the first attempt at a proposal by Mr. Darcy….
(Cue romantic background Baroque/Classical music)
“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”
………..He spoke well, but there were feelings besides those of the heart to be detailed, and he was not more eloquent on the subject of tenderness then of pride. His sense of her inferiority – of its being a degradation – of the family obstacles which judgement had always opposed to inclination, were dwelt on with a warmth which seemed due to the consequence he was wounding, …………… (music skids to a halt)
Yikes….you haven’t done this much, have you Mr. Darcy.
And just for good measure, he adds.
“……….Nor am I ashamed of the feelings I related. They are natural and just. Could you expect me to rejoice in the inferiority of your connections? To congratulate myself on the hope of relations, whose condition in life is so decidedly beneath my own?”
If you want to know where the pride in Pride and Prejudice comes from, he was shocked and stunned when she says no.
Jane Austen wasn’t a romantic, she was by all accounts a practical, acid tongued and occasionally coarse woman. I think I like her. Marriage for her was a contract, one of very few options for a gentlewoman of little means. And this is very evident in her writing, Pride and Prejudice is a comedy of manners and Austen is at her greatest when she’s holding up a magnifying glass to the arrogance, vanity, stupidity and pride of many of the great characters in this wonderful and delicious book.
I tend to use my kindle a lot these days, apart from the obvious advantage of being able to store 1000’s of books in one place, it’s less likely than a mighty tome, to leave me concussed when I fall asleep reading at night. However I often return to books, there is something magical about the act of turning a page in a book, a physical and emotional response and interaction, and an empathy with the characters and story that I don’t get in using a kindle. There is a progression and immersion in books, that make you believe you’re living the story, that’s missing with an e-reader. My kindle is a moment in time, disconnected and static.
E-readers do have a purpose but I don’t believe they will ever replace the book. And thank god for that, I say.
I’ve been going back over my old posts recently, two reasons primarily, the first to reevaluate my own personal journey. The second to explore how I’ve developed as a writer. So today I’d like to revisit an old post and explore it further in light of my recent experiences, my own story rather than my growth as a writer.
I do like what I wrote back then, it spoke to me at that time, of how I wanted my life to be and I recall a feeling of being uplifted on completing it, but did writing it make any difference, the short answer is no, not then, not for a long while. We think if we say something often enough it becomes real. If only it were that simple, the reality though is that, we are what we believe we are and back then I still had to hit rock bottom before I could start believing in a better, happier, worthwhile me. Why are some people perfectionists, in a nut shell, we have low self esteem, we strive to prove our worth, to ourselves and to others by reaching for unattainable perfection. In believing in our low self worth we anxiously strive to prove ourselves, there is no in between, we’re black or white, all or nothing and success or failure. Low self esteem patterns of behaviour are extensive, but for me I’ve always listened to and analysed the words or statements of others. That was my trigger, my pattern of destruction, and believing myself to found wanting fed this cycle of perfectionism/procrastination. Words hurt, nuances and tones crush.
Harking back to an old mantra of our childhood and the schoolyard.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.”
If only we’d learnt to believe that, all those years ago. But words have the power to be the most inspiring or the most destructive force on earth. And the careless words of a thoughtless person, became the catalyst to all that came after for me. Do I blame her, not entirely, not even mostly, if my own worth had been strong, those words could never have held that much power, but we all need to take responsibility for what we say and the consequences that unfold. So were those words, derogatory, offensive or damning. No they were fairly innocuous in themselves, but to me, with low self esteem and reeling from having just lost my job and security, they were overwhelmingly devastating and undermined everything I had worked hard for. Those words only lost their potency in recent months, when I came to a powerful realization, so powerful that with the tears and release, went so much negative energy. That was the moment when everything started clearing for me, when I accepted and let go. In letting go of those words, everything else started falling away. The need for approval, the need for constant company, the need to always say yes and the need to be perfect, all gone.
My inner demon is quiet now, I hardly ever hear from her, and if she does make an appearance she gets ever so quickly gagged and pushed to the back of my mind. So how then too is the perfectionist in me fairing, I honestly don’t know, I haven’t been in contact with her for awhile. That feels so good to say.
I’ve completed my Advanced Diploma now, although it very nearly became another casualty, what kept me going, the support and friendship of the three very wonderful women that I met through my studies, without them I would have pulled out, without a doubt. The final part of my advanced diploma, a thesis on the practical application of hypnosis and hypnotherapy, was completed in April this year, was it perfect, no but I was happy with it. And the best part of all of this was when I stopped worrying about how good it was, it freed me up to do a paper that my teacher thought worthy of publishing on his website. Yeah I’m never doing that perfectionist rubbish again.
In letting go, I’ve also started taking more risks, and no longer living a life of ‘what ifs’, I’m ready to start working again, and to start seeing clients. And best of all, I’ve grabbed hold of nerves and doubts and reconnected with an old friend. To my memory, the sweetest and kindest boy I’ve ever known and it’s been great getting to know him all over again. I could never have done all this two years ago.
I’ve never really got cookery shows, those of a competitive nature such Masterchef or any number of cookery shows by master chefs. Now I can sit and salivate over a beautiful dish put in front of me but seeing the same on television, well that’s just cruel. Now I have a wonderful friend who just adores them and for her its food porn. Her Masterchef is my crime thriller television and she’s the same with recipe books. She just loves poring over a good cookery book, like I would a medieval or tudor history book.
Recently though Sky Living have started running five series of My Kitchen Rules Australia back to back and I am hooked, BIG TIME. And yet I’m not really sure what it is that’s drawn me in, is it the food perhaps the personalities and as the series move from one to the next those personalities are getting bigger and nastier. I just don’t know. And of course the two tastiest dishes would have to be the judges, Manu Fieldel(right) and Pete Evans.
So am I wrong ladies.
So it is certainly not a chore. Or perhaps its the images of my childhood, having grown up in Australia, the first series included a couple from Shorncliffe in Queensland, a place close to my heart and where my grandmother lived and it brought back memories of Sunday evenings just me, my father and grandmother sitting down to her mock chicken, a favourite of mine. If you’re wondering mock chicken is grated raw potato mixed with egg and seasoning and shallow fried and by the way it tastes (nothing) like chicken but boy was it good to this child.
So I get food, its about the memories it conjures up, of happy times with friends and loved ones. I now live in Ireland but the smell of ripe fruit takes me right back to my childhood. So what is it about cookery shows, has anyone any ideas or thoughts. I’d love to hear them. What is the great attraction?
The one thing watching MKR AUS has done is made me more adventurous in the kitchen. After cooking family meals for the past 25 years, one gets a little jaded. Cooking meals that no one turns up to or everyone turns up (including boyfriend, girlfriend and or other unexpected guests) and I’m forced to utter the immortal words, no its fine I’m not hungry (grrrr). But I’ve tried experimenting with flavours and combining and trying something different and I’m enjoying it.
I searched my kindle recently for a book on flavours and all it could give me was anything and everything on the Hay diet. Maybe I need a different approach.
I think I might be developing a new interest, only time will tell.
Both my Plinky and blog sites appeared to be littered with book reviews, maybe they’re both morphing into that sort of site, not surprising though, books are a huge part of my life. The book I’m reading at the moment on my Kindle is the last of the Philo Vance detective stories, The Winter Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. There are 12 Philo Vance novels in total, all written and set in 1920’s & 30’s New York.
S.S. Van Dine was a pseudonym for the writer Willard Huntington Wright, his last book being published posthumously. I can’t even remember how I came across these books, perhaps I saw a reference to Philo Vance in another book I was reading. All the same though I’ve loved these books and have read them one after the other, over the last few weeks.
I would recommend these books but not to everyone, the writing is a little old fashioned, but the writers use of the English language is exquisite. Fortunately the kindle allows you to highlight words and find the definition and I’ve discovered some incredibly beautiful words. However these are clever detective stories, particularly the early ones and they’re solvable. I abhor detective novels where it’s impossible for the reader to work out ‘whodunit’, to me that’s not playing fair.
But the main reason I love these books is because of Philo Vance. I downloaded the first book and enjoyed it and so downloaded the rest. Very early on in the second book, I fell in love with Philo Vance and can pinpoint the exact moment.
It was in the book, The Canary Murder Case, canary being the well known soubriquet of the murder victim Margaret Odell, a famous singer and dancer (no stampeding to the comment section, I haven’t given anything away) and follows:
‘Currie sensed an emergency and departed. A minute or two later Vance, in an elaborately embroidered silk kimono and sandals, appeared at the living room door.
“My word!” he greeted us, in mild astonishment, glancing at the clock. “Haven’t you chaps gone to bed yet?”
He strolled to the mantel and selected a gold-tipped Régie cigarette from a small Florentine humidor. Markham’s eyes narrowed; he was in no mood for levity.
“The Canary has been murdered,” I blurted out.
Vance held his wax vesta poised and gave me a look of indolent inquisitiveness. “Whose canary?”‘
The Canary Murder Case with William Powell as Philo Vance and Louise Brooks as Margaret Odell (The Canary)
That was the moment, that I fell in love and would have adored to be his friend. He would have infuriated me, and I dare say at times I would have wanted to kill him, but then at times I feel that way about some of my dearest friends. Why, because despite that, or perhaps because of that, they’re the most inspiring, comforting, enjoyable, exciting and lovable people I’m blessed to know. And I get a sense of that about Philo Vance. He came alive to me.
No doubt Philo Vance is irritating, a regular polymath, a know it all, not a ‘Cliff Clavin’ know it all, but one you however can’t help admiring. He’s a gentleman, a connoisseur and gentle soul.
As the poet Ogden Nash wrote ‘Philo Vance needs a kick in the pance’.
I’m quite sure if you decide to give these books a try, you’ll feel the same way on a regular basis, but you will laugh and you may even work out a couple of the culprits. These books are great, give them a try, and enjoy.
I was introduced to this about a year ago by a friend. Magical, peaceful, beautiful. I listen to this often. Enjoy.