The Wight Fair Writers & Artists Circle

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Members Musings April 2017

April1

Fred CanavanBy Fred Canavan

Do you ever get them? The mid-novel blues, I mean. The feeling that it`s all out of control? Characters  refusing to behave as you ask? Sub-plots breeding like rabbits? That`s where I am at 61K words into `To the last Penny`, my novel of an Edwardian family`s fall from prosperity to poverty played out against the backdrop of genteel Bournemouth in the First World War.

I need to make my mind up – fast. Is Lily Jennings a silly young orphan girl unaware of her attraction for men?  Or is she a conniving little tart who`ll come to a bad end? Hmmm…`

And what about society surgeon, Simon Greaves? Is he simply a heartless ruling-class seducer  ( Boo! Rotter! Cad!).  or is he an honourable man who is helplessly trapped in Lily`s spell?

Also, minor characters are muscling onto the stage, demanding I tell their story. Where did they come from, and what do they want?  Trouble is these people seem to have a mind of their own. Take Victoria Durham. A demure, timid young woman on one page – a furious fighting feminist on the next. How did that happen? I don`t remember.  Is it a case of character development – as the experts recommend? – or is it all a contradictory jumble of  nonsense?  I suppose I must wait and see.

So, it`s  eleven o`clock. I`ve had the mid-morning munchies and coffee. Let`s open the computer and see what they`re doing now – bound to be up to something behind my back. I just wish they`d do as they`re told. Not much to ask, is it?

On a lighter note, I would like you to meet `Little Dennis` – a character from Manchester`s past – and mine. He actually existed. It all seems a long time ago. Anyway, here he is.

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Members Musings March 2017

March1

My Muse for Members’ Musings

By Tony Trowbridge

I cannot imagine what it’s like not to get a good night’s sleep.  As my head hits the pillow, I fall straight into a deep and very happy sleep and it has always been like that.  In fact when people say ‘at the drop of a hat’ – that’s me.   I’ve fallen asleep standing up, at the bus stop and I even once managed to fall asleep during a Queen concert at The Coliseum in London before they became famous; as Freddie strutted his stuff, I curled up under one of the tables.

A year or so ago, an old friend contacted me through Facebook; a friend who can never sleep, who hasn’t had a good night’s sleep in years, one who has tried everything from yoga, meditation and  exercise to alcohol and every form or prescribed medication but nothing works.

On occasions, while she was awake during the night, she would take photographs of herself suffering.  She told me about these and I asked to see them.  The anguish in her face was inspirational and I used these images in several hundred of my pictures.  I still find her facial contortions of abject pain and misery great for my art.  She exists in many forms throughout my art and in a small way I am helping her.  She enjoys taking the pictures when she’s at her lowest and then seeing her image on a wall or canvas.

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Members Musings January 2017

January1

David WeatherspoonMusical Memories

By David Weatherston

I don`t know about you, but for me, looking back over the years, there are many tunes and songs that bring back memories! Most of them are happy, there are several sad and a few romantic ones that I could`nt possibly discuss in public!!

Back at College in the sixties I remember winning £5 in a jive competition with my partner Pam Smith.The tune we danced to was “Harlem Shuffle” by Bob & Earl and I can recall several of our “moves” which were made all the more difficult because Pam [bless her!] had very sweaty hands and almost slipped away on several occasions! Wherever you are now Pam I hope hope you are still rockin`girl! Also at college I remember the DJ always playing “A Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procul Harem as the last tune of the Saturday night disco and knowing that if you had failed to “pull” by then your evening was effectively over!

Another song that always makes me stop and think back is “Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M. About twelve years ago a young teenage girl in Bristol took her own life in her bedroom while her parents sat downstairs watching TV. She had been a victim of bullying at school and as I had also suffered in the same way when I was young I could fully understand her distress.She left a note for her friends thanking them for trying to help her and she left a letter for the bullies asking them not to hurt anyone else in the future. She asked for “Everybody Hurts” to be played at her funeral.I remember holding a very emotional Year 8 assembly with the children entering and leaving in silence and playing that song to them after I had spoken to them about the girl`s tragic death.

On a lighter note our band were recently singing a rousing sea shanty called “South Australia”. Our brilliant fiddler Andy, who does`nt usually sing had the verse….

“There ain`t but one thing grieves my mind…Heave away, Haul Away,
To leave Miss Nancy Blair behind…We`re bound for South Australia”

Unfortunately Andy got the words slightly wrong and sang:-

” There ain`t but one thing grieves my mind…Heave away, Haul Away,
To leave Miss Nancy`s bare behind…We`re bound for South Australia”

At which point the whole band collapsed into helpless giggles!!!

So next time you hear a song that brings back memories stop for a moment and think. I hope your thoughts will be happy ones!!

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Members Musings December 2016

December1

To Plot, or Not to Plot, That is the Question

By Jonathan Dodd

Jonathan DoddI love writing groups. I’ve been in a few, I’ve started them and joined them and left them as my career has taken me from place to place, and now here I am very happily part of Wight Fair Writers and Artists Circle. The first thing I like about it is that we meet in a very comfortable coffee bar and there’s good coffee available. The second thing is that in common with most of my previous group experience, everyone is very friendly, sincere, and welcoming.

I’m not going to go into any details about the circle I briefly belonged to East of London where everyone’s sole desire was to write a book that would be published by Mills and Boon, while someone tried to steal my car from outside. I won’t mention the group with about fifty members that was riven by jealousy and in-fighting. I suppose writers can be just like everyone else in that way.

What I particularly like about us is that we’re all engaged in such different projects, and we’re all so different, but none of that matters because we’re all passionate about writing in general, and our own writing in particular. We talk about our triumphs and blockages and the day-to-day grind, and everybody listens and offers any advice or similar experiences, with great patience and respect. Thank you all for welcoming me.

From my own point of view, the most interesting discussion so far has been about the age old question – ‘To plot, or not to plot?’ I went to creative writing evening classes when the writing bug started to bite, as I suspect many of you did too, and I mourn their passing along with so many other subjects.

My first teacher was a poet called Sue Stewart. She had never done anything but write, and was as poor as a church mouse, but she was passionate about each of us finding our voice. I have an enormous amount to thank her for.

My second teacher wasn’t a writer, but he was very interested in the subject. He used to photocopy his lecture about the subject, then distribute it, and spend most of the weekly session reading it out aloud to us. I’m afraid I wasn’t his most ruly student, but I was bolshy enough to persuade most of my fellow members to start a writers circle of our own, thus proving that all experience is valuable to an aspiring writer.

I found out during those years that I’m not a ‘plotter’. Like Stephen King, in his great book ‘On Writing’, I start writing and the story more or less unfolds in front of my very eyes, constantly surprising me with what the characters get up to. I’ve tried to plot, but my imagination turns out to be far duller than the imagination of my characters. I’m just there to write down the words that they put in my head, like a glorified touch-typist.

I’ve known other writers like myself, many of them more or less happy about this situation. I just shrug, because that’s the way it works for me, and I get on with it fine. I have no idea how good a writer I am, but essentially I love to read, and I read my own work as if someone else wrote it, full of wonder and amazement. And no, I don’t have a genre.

I also know several writers who do plot. I knew one who put everything in a timeline and wrote bullet points on post-it notes all along their walls. They were able to pick any chapter and write it, completely out of order. I was in awe of him, as I am in awe of all other writers, and I certainly wouldn’t try to suggest one way is better or worse than another. To write is sublime, and I’m proud to count myself as one.

May we all continue to write and create and share and support each other. See you next month.

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Members Musings November 2016

November1

Maggie JonesCan Dreams Come True?

By Maggie Jones

Can dreams come true, and should you pursue them to make them happen? This is something I’ve asked myself for a long time. And if you think they can’t come true when you are looking at acheiving them, should you let go of your dream and always be thinking, what if for the rest of your life?

When I was younger and at school chosing my options which would allow me to achieve my dream job at the time, I was convinced I wanted to be an air hostess or a vet.

However, my mum soon put paid to those dreams, saying I would be a glorified waitress on a plane and also telling me that there was no way I should work at a vets, she knew that any animal that came in because it/they had been abandoned, would no doubt end up being taken home by me. 😉

However, sometimes it’s so incredibly hard to let go of your dreams, especially when it is something you’ve always yearned for.

Not always can you follow your dreams, due to circumstances being out of your control.

Take my daughter who has diabetes and because of her health has found that there are a lot of dream jobs she can never do. Saying that, it has never swayed her with her choices, and who knows perhaps in the future a cure can be found for diabetes. She just adjusted to what she could and couldn’t be or have.

Many people believe their dreams are out of reach, and when I was younger, there was no way I would have thought my dream of becoming an author and getting published would ever come true.

But, I stuck with my dreams and pursued it until it did become a reality. It was hard work, and there was disappointment and tears on the way, but it was all worth it in the end, especially to see my book published and people buying it.

So should you give up your dreams?

I can’t answer that, because everyone is an individual. What I can say is, if you want something, like I did, go for it. I can honestly say I’m so pleased that I did. 😁

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Members Musings October 2016

October2

The Apple I pad and me

By Val Jones

I first heard about the Carers IW free course when hubby mentioned that he would like to go. I wasn’t very enthusiastic having worked with computers almost all of my life. I thought that I was pretty clued up and didn’t need further instructions.

We went on a Thursday afternoon to the Riverside Centre and I sat there trying not to look bored. We were offered tea/coffee and biscuits – it was quite a homely atmosphere. Most of those attending were OAP’s although there is a younger element .  Carers come in all age groups and abilities. The main instructor is profoundly deaf but her lip reading is extremely good.

I learned how to use Ceri ( questions and answers given) and how to Facetime with my son in Scotland – this was a bit of a shock to him as he didn’t think since I had given up on other systems with face to face conferencing,  that I could manage it. I spent the next ten minutes convincing my ten year old granddaughter that it was a bit early to get out her Halloween costume.

I sat there this week working out my monthly budget, coming to the conclusion that there was still too much month at the end of the money! As always, a big sigh and off we go. When I got stuck, the computer asked politely if it could help. Such a nice little thing!

Meanwhile my hubby was learning how to save his pictures and how to use the camera. He is really into these I pads.

In conclusion, its never too late to learn new tricks. All I can say is Asus (The desktop) watch out ! there’s a new kid in town and he’s out to get you!

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Members Musings September 2016

September1

My Summer Adventures With a Wheel Chair

By Michelle Angell

Michelle AngellAt the very beginning of July my daughter broke her leg. To be exact, her right tibia, in two places. We wont go into how this happened, let us just say it was misadventure at a kids playground. But this is also the part where I add that my daughter is seventeen years old, so shouldn’t really have been there in the first place.

With the bleak prospect of having an over knee cast on for the summer holidays, we were surprised to learn that she could have a waterproof cast. I thought that this meant that it was splash proof, but was informed by one of the nurses that it was fully submergible.

I couldn’t believe this until I saw it, but it actually was waterproof, and the half hour dripping of water from inside the cast was all it took to dry out.

Before leaving the plaster room we were given a form to pick up a wheel chair, on loan from the Red Cross. This was good news, at least life would be easier with a wheel chair…Or so I thought.

So after driving around to pick it up, I was wondering how I was going to fit it into the back of a Ford Fusion that already contained three people (one of which with a broken leg stuck out at an angle) and a very bored and full of sugar five year old in a car seat. The boot as always was full of random useless things that I might or might not ever need, with a carpet of large carrier bags which always get forgotten when I go shopping anyway and then I end up having to buy more. My plan was to rearrange things in such a way to wedge the wheel chair in there somehow. Or ‘car boot Tetris’ as I call it.

My other option of course was to drive home, empty the car and then come back alone, later that day to pick up the wheelchair. But, being the person who once managed to fit three adults, a baby seat and a dyson hoover (still boxed) into a mini, I did not want to be beaten on this.

Eventually with a lot of wedging, it squeezed in, until I tried to close the boot and the extending foot plate made a crunching sound. It was swiftly removed and wedged under someone’s armpit in the back.  Job done!

So of course, one of our first adventures the next day was to take the wheelchair for a spin up to the cemetery. Not that we are morbid or anything, we often walk the dogs up there and it’s also a pokestop apparently. I was feeling confident; I use wheelchairs frequently at work so this should be fine. Within minutes I started to learn some of the many lessons of the harsh reality of wheel chairs in the outdoors.

Of course on a carpet, up and down a hallway things are easy but when you are outside, things take a whole different turn. To start with, there was fun with kerbs. Now, on a few lucky occasions you will see dropped kerbs, adjacent to each other on both sides of the road, for example at a zebra crossing. The rest of the time, they very rarely match up. This meant that the whole procedure of crossing the road became a bit of a race. I was met with the choice of either moving as quickly down the road as possible to reach the nearest drop kerb to get back up, and in the process look like some kind of loony trying to race the approaching traffic. Or stopping, turning around and reverse bumping up the kerb.  All this without getting run over in the process. This evolved into me forward planning on where all the drop kerbs were ahead of each journey. Then promptly forgetting by the time I got there.

The cemetery itself is mostly uphill. It’s not a steep hill, until you are pushing a wheel chair up it on a hot summers day and then it seems to be practically vertical. With the added peril of the dog running dangerously close to the wheels in a zig zag fashion and all at once I begin wondering exactly how hard it would be to remove a squashed King Charles Cavalier spaniel from the rear wheels, and if the Red Cross would charge for damages.

The other interesting phenomena was ‘shrinking pavement’ which is common in Ventnor. As you walk along the pavement narrows more and more until you are balancing the wheel on the edge. At any moment there is the possibility that the pavement will run out, either that or the front wheels (which were clearly designed on supermarket trolley wheels) get jammed resulting in coming to a complete stand still.

Another skill I quickly acquired was judging whether or not we could fit through a gap. This is particularly useful when a car has parked half up on the pavement. I never realised what a difference that could make to a wheelchair user. Especially when halfway through you realise you have misjudged the situation and are now stuck fast, with a wing mirror in front of you and Car owner glaring out of the window in case the sides of the wheel have scratched their car.

And I haven’t yet mentioned the wasps! One thing you can’t do whilst pushing a wheelchair is run away from a wasp/stingy flying insect attack. You become a slow moving target, resulting in them repeatedly circling your head or dive bombing from all angles.

After all these fun and games, you would think that I would have been put off travelling far but I decided that it would be a good idea to take my daughter shopping, I soon learnt on that first day, that there were certain shops that would be future no go areas. Sports Direct being one of these, as an outstretched leg in plaster can quite easily take down a whole rack of jogging trousers in one go. Supermarkets were also perilous. The height of a basket in a hand is generally at wheelchair level, as my poor daughter found out many times.

Outside of the shops, there was the chance of nearby Phone zombies. Now, I know everyone looks at their phones a lot these days but not many would be unable to achieve what the phone zombies have. These are rare entities but travel alone at varying speeds, managing to walk along, looking at their phone, hand scrolling or typing on phone without any clue of their surroundings. They do not look up at all, and sometimes have headphones too for added reality avoidance.  I have seen them at times walk straight across roads, in front of oncoming traffic and survived unscathed. Of course, on one occasion we encountered one of these creatures approaching at great speed towards my daughter’s outstretched leg. Only to collide with the end of the extending footplate, which thankfully for them had a rubber cap for safety reasons. (I did at one point wonder how many phone zombies I could impale on a single trip to Newport if we removed that rubber cap). Of course, at the time of the event I gave the completely British reaction when they walked into it by saying ‘ooh sorry.” Repeatedly.  Even though it wasn’t my fault.

And so after all these weeks, and as September begins, we have moved onto the next phase of the broken leg saga, the cast is being changed today for a below the knee version. So it will be goodbye to the jousting foot plate and new adventures with crutches will begin.

I am just thankful that at the end of all this I can give the wheel chair back to the red cross, unlike some poor people who don’t have that to look forward to. I’ve learnt how difficult it must be for a disabled person, and their carers, getting around what seems like the simplest of places.

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Members Musings August 2016

August1

Fiona TrowbridgeArmchair Adventures

By Fiona Trowbridge

I remember laughing at an advertisement in Cusco airport in Peru; it filled the entire billboard above the luggage carousel and was advertising bottles of oxygen.  While we waited for our luggage to be tossed from plane to trolley to conveyer belt and chute, I felt compelled to verbalise my thoughts about the advert to my fellow travellers.  “Look at that,” I said, “I thought we got ripped off in the UK where they try to sell us bottles of water, here they try to sell you bottles of air.”  Little did I realise that a few hours later, I would have paid any amount of money for a bottle of that oxygen as I found myself floored with altitude sickness and suffering from the mother of all headaches.  It was so bad, that if someone had offered me a guillotine at that time, I’d have volunteered to put my head in it.

Luckily I lived to mock another day and this time it was the turn of the armchair traveller.  Until recently, I’d never appreciated the joy of armchair travelling.  In fact, I had even, on occasion, been known to silently belittle the person who waxed lyrical about this place and that when they hadn’t even left their house let alone their city.

However, once again I have been obliged to eat humble pie and admit I was wrong, although fortunately without any medical repercussions this time, when I discovered the wealth of information to be gleaned while travelling around the world without leaving my house.

It started earlier this year when I was asked to do some ghost writing.  I was presented with a diary written by a guy who had travelled around Europe and Asia with his wife and young family and wanted his journal turned into a book.  The diary was well written with comical observations and interesting dialogue between family members, which contained personal stories of their experiences of natural disasters, from flooding and earthquakes to the man made problems of border crossings in Asia.  All this provided me with plenty of material but the real journey started when I had to research the places they had visited.  Like most personal diaries, little mention was made of the architecture, culture, history or atmosphere of the places they visited although my knowledge of individual hotel rooms and restaurant menus in cities from the likes of Prague to Krakow and Kyrgyzstan to China was greatly increased.

It was during my armchair travels that I came across the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic and the friendly and contented Nachi people of western China.  Closer to home, I was surprised to learn that the Thiepval War Memorial of the Somme was built using Accrington bricks from Lancashire and that despite being completely landlocked, Switzerland has a beach – La Plage, an idyllic lake with sandy beaches adjacent to a low wire activity course for children.  Perhaps the least surprising thing I discovered after all that, was that there is even an Armchair Travellers Club.

These are just a few of the gems I’ve discovered while sitting at my desk, so I’d like to applaud all you armchair adventurers out there.  I’ve learnt a great deal while eating my humble pie.

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Members Musings July 2016

July1

Brexit

By Georgina Coode

Brexit

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Members Musings June 2016

June1

AM I THAT EASY TO FORGET?

Andrew Hough

By Andrew Hough

“With little children like you around – tell me what can I do around little children like you1?”

From an early age I have been fascinated by song lyrics. There were some that I picked up pretty quickly but I also recall regularly recoiling from others for what I thought was their sheer banality:

“They say you found somebody new – but that won’t stop my loving you2!”

I soon learnt that whilst some lyrics would continue to “Please please me” others I could simply disregard. “Am I that easy to forget?” “Easy”? “Yes”!

Taste in music is all very subjective of course but even when “it’s a been a hard day’s night” I realised quickly that like poetry, lyrics did not always need to rhyme to impress “It’s automatic when I talk to old friends, conversation turns to girls we knew3” while others immediately caught my attention when I allowed them “Woke up one morning half asleep with all my blankets in a heap4!”

I have come to admire numerous writers like Bacharach, Smokey Robinson, Frankie Valli, Joni Mitchell, the Isley brothers, Neil Diamond, Holland and Dozier, Gamble and Huff for their lyrics. Some confound me – it took me years to work out that Smokey was actually singing “Just like Pagliacci did I try to keep my sadness hid!5” While others were more immediately obvious “There’s no use in our good bying – true love takes a lot of trying6”.

But what constitutes an acceptable or exceptionally good silly love song even when “I’m not in love”? For some the simpler the better: especially as “I am wicked and I’m lazy7!” written by one of the most enigmatic singers of this and the last century.

“Major Tom to ground control8” is the opening line of my personal preferred popular song of all time. “The moment I wake up, before I put on my make up9” is a close second. “Well my pad is very messy and there are whiskers on my chin10” are ones that I would have loved to have written! Others conjure up all sorts of ideas but never give away what they are about: many of Bowie’s songs may be “Hunky Dory” but could equally drive “Aladdin Sane”. Costello’s got me “Watching the detectives” while Young and Dylan even made me like a “Hurricane” but as I wander “All along the watchtower” I am still wondering what most of their songs are all about. I suppose it could be argued that some compositions are the “Citizen Kane” or “2001 a space odyssey” of the pop world. Great to experience but leave you with no idea what they meant!

So when I pen my poetry and perhaps extend to experimenting with song lyrics I end up with this:

“Yes today I’m sad Yes today I’m blue

Yesterday you made me glad

Yesterday I had you

Yes today you are colder Yesterday you were hot

Yesterday your head on my shoulder

Yes today it’s not

Yesterday you were nearer Yes today you are far away

Yesterday was an era

How I long for your yes today.”

1 Little Children” is a song written by J. Leslie McFarland and Mort Shuman. It was recorded by Billy JKramer & the Dakotas, and reached number one in the UK

2 “Am I That Easy to Forget” is the title of a popular song written by  Carl Belew and W.S. Stevenson and was a UK hit for Engelbert Humperdinck in 1967

3Do It Again” is a song by the Beach Boys, written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love and was a UK hit in 1968

4Flowers in the Rain” is a song by English rock band The Move. The song was released as a single and reached number two in 1967 on the UK Singles Chart,

5“The Tears of a Clown” is a song written by Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, and Hank Cosby and originally recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

6Let’s Hang On!” is a song composed by Bob Crewe, Sandy Linzer, and Denny Randell that was popularized by The Four Seasons in 1965

7”Lazy” is a song written by David Byrne and was a UK hit in 2002 for him

8”Space Oddity” is a song written and performed by David Bowie and was a UK hit in 1969 and 1975

9”I say a little prayer” is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David and has been a hit for several singers including Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick

10 I’m a man “I’m a Man” is a song written by The Spencer Davis Group singer-songwriter Steve Winwood and record producer Jimmy Miller and was a UK hit in 1967 and for the US band Chicago in 1971

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