You’re stranded in a foreign city for a day with no money and no friends. Where do you go; what do you do?
No money, no friends, just my constant companion – my camera – and 12 hours before I can get out of town. I’ll head to the Tourism office and pick up maps, leaflets and advice. Then head for the Cathedral, if there is one, and catch the low morning light streaming through the stained glass windows. I shall probably spend a good couple of hours exploring the architecture and finding details in every nook and cranny.
If the city does not boast a cathedral, it is bound to have an ancient church to explore and the bonus, possibly, of an interesting graveyard.
Assuming “no money” means I do at least have loose change to keep myself in coffee and sandwiches, I’ll go get an Americano from a nearby coffee cart and sit in a park to drink it. I’ll take shots of passers by, squirrels, ducks, children playing, lovers kissing…
…until the rain starts. This is when I duck into a slightly off-beat museum – not a large municipal type museum but a quirky special interest one. Perhaps I am in Brussels – in which case I have 100 to choose from. I’m not picky, so long as it’s free and hopefully I am allowed to use my camera. That said, perhaps I’ll give the Museum of Sewers a miss. So, do I choose Chocolate or Magritte; Beer or Puppets; Pharmacy or Fantastic Art?
At lunchtime, I will grab a sandwich and return to a park or garden. If I am lucky and the rain holds off, I’ll head to the Botanic Gardens and take photographs of flowers – perhaps they will have an arboretum there and I can add to my collection of bark images. If it rains again, I’ll choose another museum.
At 5pm, as the workers head for an after hours drink at a pavement café, I will join them if I have the price of a Leffe left in my pocket. If I come up short, I shall simply sit on a nearby bench and do some “street” shots as the sun goes down and twilight arrives.
I will head for the Grand Central Station well before my train is due. Wherever I am, there is bound to be some splendid architecture at the station, and interesting faces to capture… fleeting images of tearful partings and joyful reunions.
It has been a simply wonderful day and I scarcely noticed the hours pass, or the fact that I had no real money to spend – and I completely forgot to do the Blue Plaque tour!
More folks with time on their hands and a strange city to explore:
What was your favorite book as a child? Did it influence the person you are now?
I have no recollection of being read to at bedtime. I do remember reading absolutely anything that I could lay my hands on once I could read for myself. I doubt that I had a favourite book, it is not in my nature to do “favourites”, but I do remember avidly reading my way through Andrew’ Lang’s “coloured” Fairy Books, which I would take out of the school library. These clearly left an impression on me as I have recently been buying the Folio editions for my bookshelves!
I went to the Public Library each Saturday morning and took my three books out from there, too. There were some books at home – I recall a scattering of Ladybird books (we had relatives who worked at the factory) and Little Black Sambo books. No Peter Rabbit at our house, we were far too working class for that type of thing.
No one book influenced the person that I am now. It is the totality of my reading that has brought me to where and who that I am. I read absolutely anything and everything as I was growing up. Books that I recall with fondness are Anne Frank’s Diary, Anne of Green Gables, Little House in the Big Wood, Little Women and its sequels, E Nesbitt’s Bastable books, and the Psammead ones of course, not to mention The Railway Children. It was Little Women that had the most obviously lasting effect and is no doubt the reason that I chose to call myself Beth, rather than by my given name of Elizabeth. I so wanted to be tragic Beth when I was young.
I read rubbish too: Famous Five and Secret Seven books from Enid Blyton, the Chalet School series and similar series about boarding schools, princesses and ballet dancers and so on. I simply read any book that I could find, and issues of quality did not figure – books were a scarce resource.
Having read my way through the Junior library by the time that I was 11, I had to get a special dispensation to join the Adult library. Oh, I read some tosh then! Alistair MacLean, Dennis Wheatley, the entire shelf of yellow-backed Gollancz Sci Fi… Lady Chatterley, Fanny Hill… but Lorna Doone holds fast in my memory, and The Scarlet Letter affected me deeply, pushing me gently in the Feminist direction that I would take as an adult.
I did not grow up to be a spy, or a devil worshipper, nor yet an Astronaut – though I freely admit to having quite got the hang of enjoying the old bedroom activities. Overall, I was learning the love of the written word and to embed reading in my daily life. I have never once regretted that.
It was about this time that I read the whole of Hiawatha too:
By the shores of Gitche Gumee,
By the shining Big-Sea-Water,
Stood the wigwam of Nokomis,
Daughter of the Moon, Nokomis.
Dark behind it rose the forest,
Rose the black and gloomy pine-trees,
Rose the firs with cones upon them;
Bright before it beat the water,
Beat the clear and sunny water,
Beat the shining Big-Sea-Water.
Even now, it raises goosebumps. I fell in love with poetry at a very early age and I still try to read some new poetry each day, if I can.
Oh, and I did read to my own children and bought them books… despite the lack of example I had as a small child.
Do parties and crowds fill you with energy, or send you scurrying for peace and quiet?
Today’s prompt made me smile. Having been Myers-Briggs tested on several occasions, I almost always turn up an INTJ, but sometimes as an INTP.
INTJs are analytical. Like INTPs, they are most comfortable working alone and tend to be less sociable than other types. Nevertheless, INTJs are prepared to lead if no one else seems up to the task, or if they see a major weakness in the current leadership. They tend to be pragmatic, logical, and creative. They have a low tolerance for spin or rampant emotionalism. They are not generally susceptible to catchphrases and do not readily accept authority based on tradition, rank, or title.
Me, to a T.
The oddest thing about these type indicators is that they are said to be rare, but my partner and most of my friends are INTJ/INTP too. Almost everyone I know, in fact.
Do we flock together? The fact that I met most of my social circle, including my husband, via the Internet, principally in Usenet newsgroups says much, I feel.
So. No – parties do not fill me with energy. They are a fate worse than death, like most social situations.
This is timely – I had cause to mention only yesterday how most people find it hard to comprehend that I find socialising a struggle. I need energy and emotional resources in order to get out and go to even simple meetings, such as my regular spinning group. Those resources are not always at hand and I can find it an uphill effort just going somewhere where I have to interact socially. I did not feel up to going yesterday, so I did not. I went out after lunch with my camera and spent an hour alone in the sunshine and the gravestones, with the birds singing in the clear air.
That’s my kind of party. I’m not saying that I like my people dead… but, you know what I mean. They don’t bother me.
Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?
I have had animals in my for almost as long as I can recall – the first being a hamster that I begged my mother for when I was pre-school. She spent the bus fare home on it and I had to toddle all the way back, carrying my little brown box with hamster inside. When the hamster died, I had a terrapin turtle in a tank to console me,
Dogs did not arrive in my life until after we left the city, when I was about 9 years old – our first family dog was a Labrador x GSD, named David. He was a bad bugger: both the milkman and the insurance man refused to call at our door while we had that dog. Mother ended up in court over him and he was put to sleep.
That did not deter. Many dogs followed:
Nina; a crazy Border Collie from the rescue kennels
Rudi; a pedigree Whippet – gentle as a kitten and very handsome
Rufus; another rescue – a cross ‘twixt a Red Setter and an Afghan Hound – sleek and glossy at one end, fluffy at the other, and terrified of thunder. Liked to steal hen’s eggs from the run, and put to sleep because of that.
Bess; from a pup – pedigree Black Labrador, trained to my father’s gun
Molly; from a pup – a German Pointer x English Springer Spaniel, was the runt of the litter and brain damaged. We had her for 17 years (I took her on when I had a home of my own) and she never, ever grew out of her puppy ways.
Around about Rudi time, Guinea Pigs arrived. Mine was named Gwen.
Cats entered the family home between the arrivals of Rufus and Bess – Mother favoured Siamese cats and she had the most frightening tom, called Simon. We kids were scared to death of him and he bullied us terribly. Once he had settled on a lap, there was no moving until he was ready – the slightest hint of a tremor in a leg and he would bite – and bite HARD! He would attack our legs as we walked across a room too – and we resorted to placing dining chairs across the room so that we could cross the room above ground level. Simon stole a hare, hanging in the larder, once and my furious father tried to drown that damned cat with two buckets of water. Guess who came off worst? The cat lived.
Pharoah came next, then Peter and Zebedee. Suzy Wong was a gift from me, after I had left home. All of them Siamese.
There were birds too, in my younger years. Dad bred Budgerigars and Lovebirds in the attic, alongside his darkroom equipment, when I was very small. When we moved south and lived in the country, he built an aviary and added Cockatiels to the mix. In the house, there was a Mynah bird – name of Charlie.
With all that pet-keeping background, it was scarcely surprising that I would want animal companions in my adult life. Frankly, a house does not feel like a home without them and the hard times have been the ones where pet-keeping was banned or not feasible, when I lived in shared accommodation or above ground-level flats.
A kitten name ‘Gif was my only companion when I was living the life of a not-so-gay divorcee. She grew into a wonderful cat and was something of a soulmate for me. She knew when I was unwell or sad and she never left my side when I needed her.
I need her often in those days
Dogs and Cats bring different benefits and I am at my happiest when I have both around. There have been a few – some dogs have left my life when circumstances have dictated. Cats tend to come to a stickier end. The hardest loss is when a cat goes out and simply fails to return. That has happened on a few occasions. There is no closure, no knowledge of what is keeping them away. Of all the cats that have deigned to share their life with me, only one has been lost on the road. I have been lucky that way.
We chose the house that we live in now largely for the fact that our three cats would be safe – the house is set well back from what is an extremely quiet road and they can roam on three sides of the property with no risk at all. That’s what we thought, until we lost our beloved Lulu.
Lulu was the first pet that Mr L and I had together in our newly-shared home. We had her from a kitten and she moved with us from a large village south of Leeds, into a Bradford housing estate and she survived that environment, becoming very traffic-savvy in the process.
She travelled to Scotland with us and had a great time ratting in the Southern Uplands for three years. She survived for a year the lunatic lorry drivers tearing past our home in Glenlivet and then came up here to Orkney with us. To our safe patch of ground. She went out one Saturday morning in the summer and we did not see her for a full week. At 1am on the following Sunday morning I heard Lulu – it was the most terrible noise I have ever heard, a strangled moaning. I woke Mr L and I said “Lulu is home…” and as he was responding “Thank Go…” I added “…and she’s not all right.”
Mr L went to the back door to call her in. I grabbed a torch and leaned out of the window to seek her and what I saw is a memory that I would like to forever erase.
The day that Lulu went missing, the field next to our garden was being cut for silage. Lulu must have been sleeping in the long grass at the time. She lost both her back legs and the plucky wee thing took a week to drag herself home and I really cannot write any more about this just now.
Yes, animals bring great heartache with them and I have cried many tears in my lifetime. There will be more yet.
Of course, it’s not just when you lose them that they make you cry – meet Suzie. She came to live with us shortly after Lulu joined us. Suzie was a rescue dog, a cruelty case, from the RSPCA. Her story broke my heart. She weighed only 13lbs when she was rescued so came to live with us very quickly as dogs do better in proper homes. We got her up to 35lbs in a few weeks, She came to us in 2000 and is still with us… and still able to do this:
When Suzie came to us she had no knowledge of how to play and could not even chase a ball.
Back to the cats – Lulu was a Bengal cross. She did not look a lot like a Bengal, except to those who know, but she had a full-on Bengal temperament, which we fell instantly in love with. We elected to get her a pal.
Teddy is a pedigree Foundation Bengal. He was meant to be a breeding cat but he failed in his duty, was neutered, and given to us for his forever home. He has been with us since 2000. Possibly the handsomest cat ever,
almost certainly the daftest.
He got himself into that, by the way (we would never dress an animal up), and he did not panic – just strutted about the place for all the world as though he was on the er… catwalk in Milan. He thought it was the cat’s pyjamas. I thought he looked like the caped crusader. It was safely removed after snapping, don’t fret.
Ted came to us in 2002, I think – he’s 13 years old now and very much still with us. Sadly, he and Lulu did not make friends, ever.
So, we got him another pal. Treacle is another pedigree Bengal but nobody wanted him because he has no spots. He came to live with us as a kitten in 2004. Ted was a bit off about to to begin with, but they have been inseparable ever since.
As I write this (ever-lengthening) post, Ted and Treacle are curled up together in the middle of my bed. They cry for each other when they are separated – Ted in particular panics if he cannot see Treacle.
Griff came to live with us before Treacle arrived. I went to the kennels to find a rescue Greyhound, but came home with the sweetest Border Collie ever.
Griff had been taken up as a stray. To the best of anybody’s knowledge he is about the same age as Suzie. He is ageing faster though and I think he will not be with us a great deal longer. I think his life before us was a hard one. He was clearly kept outside as when we first brought him home he would not come in – he was fearful. After we persuaded him over the threshold he spent several weeks choosing to sit outside all day long, even in a heavy snowstorm. Griff has been with us for ten years now and he still jumps out of his skin at unexpected noises and cowers if he thinks we are raising an arm or wielding a stick. His wounds go deep.
Two dogs is plenty. Two dogs are a pair, three are a pack. I always said I would never have three dogs – it changes the family dynamic too much. However, here is Nell. Nell came to us as a pup after we moved to the island, she needed new parents and I am a soft touch, despite all my common-sense ideas.
Nell is… well, bonkers, but in a good way. She’s funny and bright and always on the go. A typical Border Collie, in fact. Very OCD.
That’s the current complement of cats and dogs: 3 dogs (Suzie, Griff & Nell) and only the 2 cats now (Teddy & Treacle). They are our companions and our family. They entertain us – have you ever seen a cat preserve its dignity after falling from a table? They console us when we are sad. They make us get up and about and take exercise. They are an essential part of our life and, yes, they make things very difficult at times. We can’t take holidays and trips to town can be a logistical nightmare when your 13 year old collie has become incontinent. Let us not even begin think about the costs of keeping animals these days (it is horrific.) The rewards are far greater than the costs however and a home without animals would fell sterile to me.
The rest of our Ménage à dix are out in the garden, and I cannot imagine why we did not take them on years ago. Our chooks! They free range about our acre and keep us in fresh tasty eggs. They are comical and entertaining things and I can lose myself for hours, watching them scratch about and do chooky things. We have two Cochins and three Black Rocks. We started out with four Cochins, but one turned out to be a cockerel and a second suffered a prolapse and had to be dispatched. One of the four Black Rocks that we bought went walkabout and disappeared. It is maybe as well, for our five remaining ladies keep us well supplied.
At least somebody is earning their keep around here!
“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – the White Queen, Alice in Wonderland.
What are the six impossible things you believe in?
I believe in:
My ability to complete all of my unfinished knitting projects before I lose the ability to use my eyes and my hands well enough to knit
My ability to knit my way through my entire Yarn stash, currently exhibiting all the signs of signs of SABLE (Stash Acquisition Beyond Lifetime Expectancy)
My ability to spin my way through my complete fleece and rovings stash, also currently exhibiting all the signs of SABLE
That achieving Item 3 will not affect Item 2 and that achieving item 2 will not impinge on efforts to achieve item 1.
World Peace and a future Utopia – Star Trek World, if you like.
1 – I have a schedule for the knitting and slowly my pile of UFOs (Unfinished Objects) is diminishing. It was 31 items high, when I determined to get it under control. This is what it looked like when I reviewed the problem last September:
I believe that I can finish this lot before I have to give up knitting for good – not to mention all the projects that spring into life at times when I should be completing existing ones…
2 – I could show you my Yarn stash but I would need a very wide angle lens to pack it all in. The challenge is to deploy the yarn stash in new projects whilst still achieving the diminishing of the UFO pile in item 1. I believe that this can be done.
3 – I could show you my fibre stash but I would need a very wide angle lens to pack it all in. Of course, if I spin it all up into yarn, this will inflate the Yarn Stash and then I would need more new projects in order to use it up and this would take time away from finishing all those unfinished objects. All the same, I do believethat it may be achieved.
4 – Yes, I do believethat I can juggle and balance and achieve everything all at once. Why, can’t you?
5 – No, I am not being flippant. I do believe in Star Trek World – which is my name for a Utopian future Earth, with no national borders, no cash currency system, and every person engaged in fulfilling work to the benefit of all. I have to believe in Star Trek World because it embodies all of my hopes for this planet.
The thing about believing in the impossible is that it encourages us to try and if we try, we must necessarily achieve part of the goal – whereas, if we do not believe then we are not stirred to make any effort at all. I could just sit here and say “I’ll never finish all that knitting, I may as well just put it on a bonfire” – but that’s no way to live my life and I would never achieve anything if I took that line.
If we aim for the stars, we may just reach the moon.
EDIT: 6 – I also believe that I can read instructions properly and count to more than 5. *blush*
You’ve been asked to do a five-minute presentation to a group of young schoolchildren on the topic of your choice. Describe your presentation.
My presentation today is about bread – the staple of our existence. I want to show the children what bread is made from and give them a taste of some real home-made bread.
to enable the children to make choices about their basic foodstuff
to raise their awareness of all the undesirable additives in shop-bought bread
My visuals are:
A supermarket loaf, sliced and wrapped
A poster, showing the list of ingredients in the above mentioned loaf:
including preservatives, fortifying agents, raising agents, mould inhibitors etc.
A lovely country wicker basket, lined with a chequered cloth, and piled high with an array of hand-baked loaves and rolls, including muffins.
A poster, showing the ingredients in the basket of bread:
Samples of the four ingredients
A plastic tub, with some mixed dough
Music and words for “Do You Know the Muffin Man”
slices of bread and butter from both types of bread
Five minutes is not long so we will start by engaging attention with a quick burst of “Do You Know the Muffin Man?” – few children will not already know the song but probably none of them will be able to answer the question that comes next:
Do you know what muffins are?
The answer, of course, is “A type of bread” (show Muffins to kids – pass round)
Ask kids which kind of bread they are used to – get them to indicate sliced loaf or home-made
Ask kids if they know what bread is made from?
Show them what goes into the bought loaf (use poster)
Show them what goes into home-made bread (indicate the 4 ingredients)
Tell them that the four mix together to make dough (show dough) and that it is the yeast that makes the bread rise.
Ask kids if they would like to try a bit of each kind of bread and find out which they prefer (offer little pieces of bread and butter)
Show of hands and summarise.
Do a little dance to Muffin Man, if time permits.
Go home: breathe large sigh of relief and exhaustion, pour even larger gin, ponder whether any good has been done and acknowledge internally that US culture is ubiquitous and kids now think I am a raving loony… Muffins are cake, great over-sized buns in paper cases. Sigh again. It’s a lost generation.
What are you more comfortable with — routine and planning, or laissez-faire spontaneity?
Simple answer? I don’t know. Possibly that means that I am equally comfortable with both.
I do know that spontaneity is more fun. I find routine to be productive but it can reduce me to tears at times. Then again, I do feel secure when plans are in place for every eventuality. I just like to be able to break free of those plans on a whim, and simply fly off to explore some new pasture or other.
Wherever my Comfort Zone is, I actually prefer being out of it. It makes me feel alive.
A clear case of wanting my cake, and eating it too.