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Blogging about things that matter to me. Photographing things I love - Instagram @debcyork. Writing about both. Only wine and chocolate can save us… You can also find me on Twitter (@debcyork) and Facebook. If you like four-legged views, try @missbonniedog on Twitter

Monday, 28 March 2016

99 Problems. Or not.

It is the Easter holidays and our house is ringing with phrases such as 'it's so unfair!' and 'you never let me'.  The joys of pre-teens.  God help me when they are another couple of years down the line.

This morning's major battle centred on how to spend the rather generous amount of Easter cash which has come their way from grandparents.  One, to be fair, was already saving for something and so has achieved his heart's desire far more quickly than we had anticipated.  The other, generally the easier to please, now has the money burning a hole.  Because the other has something due to arrive from good old Amazon so surely their cash needs to be spend ASAP as well.  This has entailed an ever more ridiculous list of items costing just about the right amount.  Items she never knew she needed.

So go the 'problems' for children in comfortable situations.  It was on the tip of my tongue to begin a lecture on the friends who recently lost their mother.  Or children at their schools who have much less than they do.  Or the many children in our city whose homes were flooded.  Or the children who are abused and beaten.  The child killed by a bouncy castle at the weekend. To say nothing of the millions of children caught in the increasingly widespread wars/famines/disasters.  But I did not because once I had started I would not have stopped and I probably would have cried and scared them.

Then when I came downstairs from dealing with my children's oh-so-awful problems, I found a programme called Man v Food on television (no idea what channel or why it was gracing our TV).  Apparently watching a person overeat is now legitimate entertainment.  We live in a world where millions are starving but it is perfectly the acceptable for the lucky minority to sit and watch other people stuffing their faces.  No doubt shovelling in snacks as they watch.

I cannot help but fear for the future.  I am counting on genealogy continuing as a hobby but I believe there is every chance it may start to be used Nazi-style.  And I fear our descendants will be doing their family trees and looking at things like 'when our family moved to that [Hunger Games type place].  Or 'look, that was the year when the massive wall was built in the Med.  So glad our ancestors were on this side of it.'  Whether there will be many humans on this planet in two centuries time remains to be seen though.

Monday, 21 March 2016

The (B)light of our Lives

It is two weeks since I posted on this blog.  I had had it in mind to write again about the refugee crisis but I haven't felt able to express what I wanted to say.  I have at least two unfinished attempts in my drafts.

However, this weekend something happened which took my thoughts and turned them upside down and inside out.  A friend has died from one of the most aggressive cancers I have ever had the misfortune to hear about.  Diagnosed a very short while ago and gone this weekend.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post called Family Diseases Tree.  I had based it on the issue of diabetes but ended the post with a World Health Organisation quote about 'non-communicable diseases' in general - cancers, heart disease, diabetes, etc.  About how much more remains to be done to combat these diseases.

And once again, along with far too many others, a family has been torn apart.  It has seemed incredible to all those who have had to watch this happen that in in this day and age, in a modern society, someone can be taken so fast.  The doctors knew what it was but were powerless.  The disease was unstoppable. 

Yet billions are spent every day on wars, on political campaigns, on super yachts, on an endless list of unnecessary things.  It is more than time for things to change.  Eddie Izzard has run twenty seven marathons in twenty seven days.  He has raised millions.  It has been a staggering achievement.  Except that every day, while he was running, other human beings were spending that same amount of money like it really does grow on trees.  On things to kill other humans, things to make even more unneeded cash, things to make themselves feel good.

*   *   *

On a less general note, I have also written before about how a family tree does not really show the truth of a person's existence.  You might look at a tree and think 'oh, they had no living relations when they died' or 'she lost her children in infancy' and not always stop to think about the implications of those pronouncements.  Or about the people that they would hopefully have had around them.  I wrote about needing a 'friends tree' as well as a family tree if we were to see the full picture.

On my tree, the friend who has died would appear at the time I became a parent.  She was already the parent of a toddler when I staggered to my first post-natal group clutching a three month old baby.  And during that period, when I had my two children, she was a wonderful person to be around.  There was a tight group of us.  All trying to come to terms with our new situations as parents.  To survive the pregnancies, the sleeplessness.  But also to celebrate the good times together.  She was a great one for celebrations.  A beautiful cake for every occasion.  Laughter, love and food.  And a few drinks too.  As our children grew up, that closeness ended.  There was never a fall out, just a moving on.  She always threw herself completely into life at whatever stage she was at.  In recent years, it was her theatre work.  The last time I had more than a fleeting conversation with her, she and her family had joined an annual camping trip that a few of us always organise.  I remember sitting by the river, watching the children swim, chatting and having a glass of wine.  She was sewing or knitting, as I recall.

Friends come and go in your life.  But I cannot bear to think that she is not somewhere, even if I had not seen her for a while.  Another one taken too soon, as another friend said this weekend.

Monday, 7 March 2016

In Praise of Sharpe

I have been pondering what to write about today and had actually half completed a rather morbid blog about ISIS, as I have been reading increasingly depressing articles all week about Islamic State's aims, methods and beliefs.

However, I have decided instead to confess one of my current guilty pleasures.  Bernard Cornwell's Richard Sharpe novels.  I am completely addicted and have spent more of my Audible credits on them than anything else.  I have also bought a load of them on my Kindle.  Just because they were on sale - I had actually listened to the stories already.  Oh dear.

They are wonderful escapism.  I never really watched the Sean Bean television version.  And I am glad not to have done so because I have so enjoyed them when discovering them now.  Rupert Farley who narrates the series is fantastic.  Doing the ironing has never been so exciting!
I have always loved historical fiction.  Not the Georgette Heyer kind though.  The more dashing and exciting, the better.  I think I have previously mentioned the Dennis Wheatley Roger Brook series as a favourite as well.  The Sharpe novels are formulaic but the character is so strong.  He is a bit like a Napoleonic A-Team member - he always finds a way out or something to use as a weapon.  And he always gets the girl.  You can't help but be drawn in, against your better judgement and knowing that Sharpe will be victorious whatever.
When I started listening to the initial novels, I did so because I was interested in the research that Bernard Cornwell must have done to write such detailed descriptions of life in a British regiment in India at the beginning of the eighteenth century.  I have traced ancestors to similar regiments.  However, like any addiction, it didn't stop there and I am now half way through the series.
The other reason for my 'confession' is that yesterday, in a Mothers' Day miracle, I was left alone long enough whilst in the bath to read Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift.  The title was obviously perfect for the day but the length of the story even more so.  Around one hundred and thirty pages.  Enough to read the whole thing before I was completely freezing and wrinkled in the bath.  (A glass of fizz helped.)
The book is completely captivating and it touched on some of my favourite 'issues' in this blog.  How small changes in decisions could affect our lives and those of our descendants.  What things actually feel like - Swift's writing is very emotional.  I cannot recommend the book highly enough.  But one aspect of Jane, the main character, which struck a chord that I had never even considered was her preference for what was then (1920s) thought of as 'boys' literature.  Treasure Island, Kidnapped, etc.  I do remember reading stuff like Judy Blume and 'girl' classics like Little Women or Anne of Green Gables.  But I think I related more to the adventurous characters.  Jo was my favourite in Little Women.  And I definitely liked the 'boy' stuff as mentioned above.
I don't remember being pushed at such stories but there must be something from my childhood and/or in my own character.  My mother and I are still drawn to the same books.  In fact I sent her books for Mothers' Day!
So next on my agenda is making sure I am writing strong characters.  Not just reading about them.