Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Celebrating forty years

Once there was a time when forty seemed old and then of course when I was forty it seemed quite young.  With increasing life expectancies, it's a long time since I heard the saying that life begins at forty; these days it probably starts at fifty or even sixty.  But forty years ago - well, that is something else if one can look back that far and still be an adult.

Two very important things happened to me forty years ago.  In July I went on my first pottery summer school.  In August I came to live in Stroud (having at last secured a teaching job).  I was truly rubbish at pottery and I hated Stroud.

Stroud has become the home I never want to leave and perseverence has turned me into a potter.  I've learned that rather than being good with my hands but not very bright, which I believed back then, I actually have quite poor hand-eye co-ordination, but am intelligent.  I now understand why it took so long to learn to throw a cereal bowl (many years) and I no longer brush aside my ability to do accounts and write websites as just things I'm interested in.

In forty years I've done a variety of work, none of which I regret and all of which I probably still draw on from time to time, both in my working life and in relating to others.  I've had therapy, two marriages, two widowhoods, two dogs, gained some wonderful friends and lost two of them - all of which experiences have contributed to my becoming the person I currently am.

An emotionally healthy person will be constantly changing, albeit often in small and subtle ways, so I'm pleased to recognise that I'm a work in progress.  I didn't get forty years of marriage to celebrate, nor children who turned forty (though I have some wonderful stepchildren doing that) but I'm really happy to be celebrating a forty-year relationship with clay and forty years living in the place which will always be home.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Why this election matters so much to me

OK, so here is my personal election post.  It is long.  I make no apologies for that.  You don’t have to read it, but it would be nice to think that some of you will.  It's also a Party Political post.

I want to explain why I feel so passionately about this election.  I haven’t done this sort of thing before but I will try what I can to make the point because I believe it is vital.

I've never felt so despairing about what a government is doing. So many public services undermined. How can that be right? 

Recent history also shows us the people working in our essential public services - like police officers, doctors, nurses, teachers - have been increasingly struggling to offer the services they are committed to providing but are not given the resources to do so and those individuals trying to serve our community in these services are near to breaking point.

Statistics say that one in four of us (last time I heard, might not be current) will suffer from mental illness in our lifetime. So if you haven't suffered yourself, you probably know someone who has, and you will know the role stress plays in that. And know that eventually people crumble and can't go to work. I fear that our doctors, nurses and police will soon reach that point. I know that many of our teachers have already done so and others are on the brink.  When people eventually crumble in larger numbers, we’ll see even more struggling services.  And again, treating people who work for our benefit like this just can’t be right.

The Labour Party has a manifesto which commits to reversing so many of the cuts to public services.  Unlike manifestos in some elections, which could be criticised for being not thought out, this one explains that more funding for public services will be provided by higher taxes from the top 5% of the population.

Now, if you’re one of those in the top 5% I can see you might have got used to how much you earn and can spend and might not want to do that much, not because you can’t but because you don’t want to help everyone else at your own expense.  But for the rest of us, the vast majority    And actually, I don’t believe that all high earners would be against paying more.

When I started work the basic rate for tax was 33%.  It seemed fair enough at the time.  I earned money, I paid a chunk of it to the government to pay for things I might or might not need but would certainly expect to be there if I ever did need them.  Taking the wider picture, I also wanted those things to be there for everyone else.  The rest of my money I spent directly on the other things I needed, such as shelter, food and clothing.  But they were all things I needed and understood I should pay for.  Now we pay much lower basic rate of tax and still none of the parties contesting this election is suggesting that the basic rate goes up.  Only the top 5% of earners are going to be asked to pay more tax.

I cannot understand how people can believe it’s ok to mistreat the poor, sick and underprivileged.  The top 5% is really not very many of the population.  Why aren’t the other 95% united in wanting to support our communities?

All the major religions believe in helping others and atheists are not exempt from being decent, caring people. 

In anyone’s eyes, how can austerity be a morally good way to run a country?
I don’t think that people who vote Tory are bad people themselves.  I know that some of my friends have often done so and are possibly planning to do so again. 
But this time. 
This time. 
This time is surely different.  The recent policy of austerity, which is set to continue under the Tory manifesto, surely is just not right.

I expect most people reading this, and certainly reading it to the end, have already decided how to vote and I may anyway have been preaching to the converted.  If you think anything I’ve written might help a floating voter, though, please feel free to pass it on.

I don’t know whether to hope or not.  Hoping is more pleasant.  Disappointment can be awful.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Seeing Bob

I could write a small book about my relationship with the work of Bob Dylan but I'm not going to do that now.

Here are two poems.  The second one was written in 1991 by my first husband, who introduced me to the world of Bob and with whom I attended 7 performances, including the one he wrote about anticipating here.  I had the opening lines of the poem in my head all day yesterday leading up to seeing Bob that evening.

The first poem is written by me about that.  For twenty-five years I've had a friend who I met through our interest in Dylan but although separately we've seen him many times, I with various different people, we have never managed to attend a concert together until now.

expecting my last time
watching dylan
before I let him go
I am caught unawares
by the thrill
of the performance

here he is before us
bob the same bob
just being in the now
like we should all
be, telling us
things have changed

here is what he wants
to show us
this is what he feels
in these songs today
and highway 61 is joyful
and so am I

me and my dylan buddy
twenty-five years
waiting to see bob together
and it’s everything
it could be
and worth the wait

tangled up in blue
I weep for the bob-centric years
of my first lost marriage
feeling reconnected
at last to the start of

bob the same bob
nobody else quite right
to go with till now
restored in my heart
joyous plaintive rollicking
genius poet muso

just as it should be
leaving me wanting
the next time
knowing of course
I want to do it all again

Jane Vernon, May 2017 

last year bob
you just like a woman'd
and man in the long black coat'd
to the ceiling
of the Hammersmith Odeon
on the night the
specialists in institutionalised poison
unleashed the attack on
my invasive leukaemic cells

I listen to the tape of your
weighty cries at the foothills of thunder
              at the chords of doubt
              at the crossroads of the spirit
              in the whine of love
              in the heart of loss
as you knew them on that day
which I spent blanketed in drugs and exhaustion

a year later I tick away the days
until I see you once more
I will be there this year
to allow you to stand amid
the waves of the hugest unknowns
while east and west play armageddon
while my blood cells orgy
while beauty holds my hand

and you with you lone harmonica
sing it all for us free
as you have done
since the primal
blowin of the wind

Mike Vernon, January 1991   

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Wot? No ....

Fill in the blank to suit - no blog post, no photo a day, no fresh bread; this week I'm especially conscious of all the things I've let slip lately.

Most mornings recently I've thought today might be the day I get back to the Photo A Day challenge but still it's now more than three weeks since I posted anything. I think it's because of the shape the year is taking.  This part time work thing is not as easy to manage as it sounds.  I've done a lot of the part where I'm not working already this year so now find myself needing to do the work part most of the time.  The Photo A Day challenge often needs thinking about and thinking time is what I'm shortest of.

No fresh bread ....  well, I'm pleased to say that I've managed to continue the year with a home-made loaf on the go most of the time unless I made a deliberate decision to buy something different for a change.  This week, though, no fresh bread because I didn't make it when I intended to.  I'm hoping that will be put right soon because the bread has been better than ever.  I keep thinking about a post about that but as you'll have noticed ...

And no blog post.  Why is that?  I've also got an idea for a short article that I've been wanting to write for about a year.  I thought I might do that in the winter, but no.  Really, very little writing of any sort.  What's that about, then?

I've still taken photos, of course.  Functional ones of new work (ah yes, the gallery pages of my website also need updating but almost certainly won't be any time soon), documentary ones, in particular of the garden, watching how last year's new plants are coming into their own for a second season and relishing all the new tulips I bought in the autumn, and photos taken for the pleasure of photography, to capture things I've seen and maybe create one or two images I really like.

Wot? No ...  real explanation.  Not for the lack of blog posts, anyway.  Perhaps this will be a (nother) new start.

Friday, January 13, 2017

A fresh start

My weekend starts on Friday afternoon and this week it starts with fresh bread.  I topped it with butter (as it was a new loaf I wanted the maximum treat value) and tangy pink grapefruit marmalade, which I made last December.  (I made the butter dish too, but not the butter.)

It's also a fresh start for me in baking bread.  I used to bake most of our bread and then for some reason it started to be less successful and M didn't like it much so I gave up.  I was rigorous and although it went against the grain (mine), threw all my old bread flour into the compost and started with new.  Moved over to instant ready-mix yeast, as so many recipes call for it.  Used half white and half granary flour, a tad more yeast than the recipe for white bread called for and included 1 tsp vitamin C powder.  Result!  Oh, sorry, that should really say "Result, one lovely, light, tasty loaf."  Not too sticky, not yeasty in flavour, even and light texture and lovely crunch on the crust.  I'm hoping this will mean a return to making much of my own bread.

And finally ...  a fresh start with the blog.  Writing about what's on my mind, or in my life, even if not at length.

Happy New Year.  I've avoided flu so far so already it's been a much better start to 2017 than it was at this point in 2016.