Posts Tagged ‘chain letters’

I come from a family of collectors. When we were children my mother went through phases of collecting different things – piggy banks, china cottages, pill boxes. At the moment I have my suspicions that her assortment of teddy bears is getting larger – she can’t pass a forlorn little furry face without rescuing it from a shop shelf and bringing it home to join the others for a bit of tender loving care. Dad amassed tools. He had a workshop built onto the back of the kitchen which he filled with screwdrivers, chisels, tins of nails and tacks, hammers, saws for any eventuality, bits of wood (my sister and I were always accompanying him to the wood yard), planes, drills, attachments, cans of oil, string and goodness knows what else. Glue. He had a lot of glue.

Dad's workshop looked a little like this

Dad’s workshop looked a little like this model from Brooklands Museum in Surrey

So, as a child, I began collecting things. Shells from days at the beach; bus tickets, theatre tickets and programmes; pencils (I was always buying pencils with pocket money); Enid Blyton books; note pads and drawing paper. I hoarded them all. Imagine my excitement, at around the age of nine or ten, when someone sent me a chain letter with promises of postcards from every corner of the world. All I had to do was send a postcard from my village to the unknown person at the top of the attached list and forward the letter to six friends. Which I dutifully did and then waited with delicious anticipation for my exponential pile of postcards to arrive, once my name had moved to the top of the list. I waited and watched the doormat under the front door every day for the post to arrive. For weeks. After an eternity, three cards dropped through the letter box. Two were from England, one from Wales. And that was it. Forever. No four corners of the earth for me. It was probably this one event that triggered my long-term cynical outlook on life.

My sister and I moved onto other things. We began collecting badges: the cloth ones that could be sewn onto an anorak – rather like those earned in the Brownies or Guides but since neither of us lasted very long in that particular institution we decided to create our own sleeves of honour. These were very popular decades ago, there being no such thing as designer logo back then. We’d buy them on our holidays – woven badges depicting a county, or a particular town or historical place. This was a craze that only lasted as long as the anorak fitted. My sister went on to accumulating  wrapped sugar lumps which she stored in an old cigar box. I think that’s when I gave up and became a minimalist. My brother, in the meantime, was collecting football cards.

I did, however, accumulate a variety of pigs at one point. I made the mistake of admitting I liked them, found them misunderstood and quite cute which was like opening the floodgates for every Christmas and birthday thereafter. They ended up stuffed in a box and then farmed out to charity shops.

So I don’t think I’m really a collector of things. A collector has to be dogged; determined and should enjoy displaying (and dusting) whatever it is that’s being sought. When Son was learning the clarinet at around the age of eleven, we had to visit the home of the piano accompanist who would take him through his music exam rehearsal. Her home was full of frogs. Everywhere. Wooden, knitted, metal, fabric, macramé. On cushions, tea towels, on teacups and saucers. There were pictures on the walls of frogs and she had stone ornaments of them in various poses in her garden. This was extreme collecting. To be honest, it was creepy. She even looked a little amphibian herself. I was glad when the half hour session was over.

Is storing one’s own stories collecting, do you think? If it is, then I am still a collector of sorts. Trawling through my computer files this week, I came across this 300 flash, written some time ago in response to “Theft” – a creative writing prompt.

Mavis opened the battered leather case and stroked the faded purple velvet into which the six silver apostle spoons were nestled. They were perfect; just in need of a shine. Holding her polishing cloth in one hand, she took one of the spoons in the other and twirled it around on the cloth until the little figure shone with a soft glow as she rubbed the tarnish away. She would check the hallmark later in the little reference book Mr Hennessy had given her, after she had expressed an interest one morning, whilst wiping his mantelpiece.

Of course when Mr Hennessy died suddenly, a couple of years ago, it had come as a shock. Mavis had worked for the Hennessy’s for years but she was even more shocked when, continuing her employment, she discovered that Mrs Hennessy had no taste, preferring to display garish china dogs rather than the beautiful pieces of silver Mr Hennessy had collected over the years. She found his collection one morning, stuffed into the back of the sideboard, unloved and forgotten. She took the pieces out, polished them and arranged them on a table but the following week they were back in their cupboard and she was left to dust the loathsome Staffordshire spaniels.

The eighteenth century cow creamer came home first – it looked lovely under Mavis’ lamp in her front room. Next came the owls cruet set and the Mappin and Webb porringer; a tiny snuff box with an enamel lid (in which Mavis kept her sweeteners); an ivory handled paper knife, a pair of Victorian berry spoons and the Paul Storr coffee pot, in use every day since.  What Mavis was doing with Mr Hennessy’s collection couldn’t be classed as stealing, she told herself: it was appreciating.

What do you collect?

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I have a slightly delicate subject to blog about this week, which is one of the reasons I’ve been putting it off. Other reasons include Christmas shopping on the high street as opposed to online and having a whale of a time at Tracy’s blog party which I managed to turn up late for, met lots of interesting folk and then probably out stayed my welcome.

Now, not wanting to offend anyone at all (believe me, if it was intended there’d be no mistake) – but the delicate subject to which I refer is awards. I just don’t get them. I don’t mean that I don’t get nominated – I do and have been sincerely touched by the thought – I mean that I don’t understand the concept. To me, an award is something bestowed, without strings attached, for an outstanding achievement or endeavour. So while it is obviously very gratifying that fellow bloggers consider my blog an outstanding achievement, I reckon that’s over doing things a tad.

Furthermore, as far as I’m aware, a requirement of accepting these awards is to answer a few questions posed by the nominator then pass on to other deserving bloggers, rather like a game of hot potato or an old fashioned chain letter. Therein, for me, lays a twofold awkwardness. Firstly, if I was worthy enough to win an award for something like, say, a Bafta, I‘d get to keep it with impunity and bask in its regularly polished reflection forever, and secondly, not wanting to bequeath to someone else the same uneasy dilemma, I wouldn’t have to angst over to whom I should pass the award.

I suppose it’s a bit like the passing on of the baton in a relay race, unless of course you are British  (which I am – and we all know how disappointing that can be when it comes to the last day of track and field events), as the baton is frequently dropped. So in traditional British style, I shall fumble over the baton exchange on this particular subject, say a collective thank you to all who have sent an award my way, and apologise for breaking the link.

photo from Daily Mail archive

photo from Daily Mail archive

Most blog awards that I’ve come across also require a certain amount of question answering, which I never mind as long as they are not being posed by a sales caller, so without further ado, (rather like a man faced with a set of instructions for flat packed furniture) I shall skip to these, and answer, as promised, a set of questions sent to me by the lovely Jade from her eclectic blog, Cocktails and Country Tales.

1)   What are your five favourite novels?

I couldn’t possibly commit to naming five all time favourites: the list would change. Books to me are memorable for different reasons, not always because I’ve enjoyed them. However, five books I’ve read recently and have enjoyed are:

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan; Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor; Painter of Silence by Georgina Harding; Ours Are the Streets by Sunjeev Sahota and Toby’s Room by Pat Barker.

It remains to be seen if they become memorable.

2)   What’s the best lie/ tall tale your parents ever told you as a child?

I don’t think they ever did. Apart from the magic surrounding Santa Claus they were wary of feeding the wrong information into enquiring young minds so were always very straight with us, even if sometimes the truth was disappointing.

3) What one object would you save from your house in a fire? (Nothing alive – presume that even the tropical fish can get themselves safely out without your help).

My teddy bear collection: the gang of three. As they are inseparable they’d have to count as one object, although they wouldn’t like to be thought of as such, each having his very own unique personality.

4) Do you remember the first ever fancy-dress party you went to? What did you go as and why?

It was our village summer carnival. At six years old, I was Peter Pan and my sister, Tinkerbell. Nanna made our costumes. I wore green tights underneath a green cotton tabard onto which she had sewn an assortment of plastic leaves. I also wore a pointed pixie hat. My sister had a white frock with lots of netting. I think she carried a wand made from tin foil and a cereal packet. As children, Peter Pan was one of our favourite stories – we would play at being the Darling family. By the way, Nanna was our real grandmother, not the Darling’s dog.

5) What would plan B have been, career-wise?

To try harder at Plan A

6) What one garment or item of clothing that you own could you not live without?

My old leather car coat

7) What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?

On leaving school I attended the London College of Fashion’s course in periodical journalism which I hated with a passion. Thankfully the course duration was only a year and it turned out to be a case of being in the right place at the right time because it tipped me in the direction of the career in publicity which I absolutely loved and which I followed for the next fifteen years.

8) Do you have any phobias, and what do you think caused them?

No phobias, although I’m not a huge fan of heights or spiders – but I deal with the latter using a glass and bit of cardboard. (Or the vacuum nozzle if it’s handy). An encounter with a spider on the top floor of an open air multi-storey car-park could well set off a phobia.

9) What is your most common typo? (Mine is Englihs . Yes, I know. ‘I am an Englihs teacher’. Sigh.)

I’m not aware of making a consistent typo. The spelling of ‘weird’ always takes me by surprise.

10) Why did you first start your blog, and is it the same thing that keeps you writing it now?

 I sometimes ask myself the same question. I wanted a reason to write regularly and originally I had intended to post some creative writing here, which I have done occasionally. However I quickly discovered that posting equals publishing so for any competition entering I may want to venture into, pre-posted stories would be ineligible. I keep writing now, still for the challenge of regular postings, but mainly to interact with all the interesting bloggers I have met along the way.

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Over the weekend I was challenged by fellow blogger, Lynette D’arty-Cross, to take part in a circulating question and answer game.

It works a bit like a chain letter – which I always diligently followed through as a child and was frequently disappointed when the mountains of promised postcards from all over the world never materialised. (My best total ever was three: all from Cornwall). However, not being one to bear a grudge I’ll be throwing myself wholeheartedly into answering Lynette’s questions as best I can and then compose some of my own.

Here are the rules of the game:

Me and Favourite

Me and Favourite

1. Post these rules.

2. Post a photo of yourself and eleven random facts about you. 

3. Answer the questions given to you in the tagger’s post.

4. Create eleven new questions and tag new people to answer them.

 5. Go to their blog/twitter and let them know they’ve been tagged.

So, here’s the photo. There was no stipulation that it should be current, and anyway, it illustrates one of the answers to Lynette’s questions.

For anyone still with this, here are eleven (I am intrigued to know why eleven) random facts about me.

I am left-handed; I can’t knit and I hate the feel of nylon. (That’s three).

The only word I know in German is Schildkröte. (Tortoise).

A few years ago I met Peter Osgood, my football hero from the seventies. It didn’t matter that he was old. Or shorter than me. He signed my programme. I was excited for days.

High heeled shoes are anathema to me.

I used to collect pigs but got bored with them.

My index fingers are double jointed.

I have never enjoyed a novel by Jane Austen, or the Bronte’s, for that matter. Even Colin Firth in a wet shirt doesn’t do it for me. Sorry. (Does that count as three separate items? Probably not. Oh well).

I want to ride round London in an open-topped bus pretending I’m a tourist.

My favourite chocolate is the green triangle in a box of Quality Street.

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And now to Lynette’s Eleven Questions Time….

If you had a chance to go back five years from today, and knowing what you know, what would you tell yourself?

Not to keep to the same lottery numbers – far too stressful remembering to buy the ticket.  Better still, don’t buy a lottery ticket in the first place, EVER.

Who inspires you?

Absolutely everyone I meet inspires in some way.

What makes you laugh?

I can find humour everywhere and rarely go through a day without laughing. Monty Python’s fish slapping dance never fails to make me laugh out loud.

Why do you blog?

To impose self-discipline and a deadline; to meet like-minded people, share ideas and interests and become inspired.

What is your favourite animal?img001 (2)

The elephant. I have a large wooden one on my windowsill.  Here’s one I drew earlier.

What is your favourite travel destination?

Anywhere in France.  Unlike most of my fellow countrymen I genuinely like the French – even the Parisians – I have a sneaking admiration for them. How dare they display such arrogant insouciance in their own city?

Who would you like to meet (dead* or alive)?

Grayson Perry.  For so many reasons, not least because we share a love of Teddy Bears. His is called Alan Measles, and mine is Favourite, looking pristine in the photo above. (He looks nothing like this now). Grayson’s art works are beautiful, interesting and thought-provoking:  everything a work of art should be. For all his cross-dressing, he remains very blokey and is able to hold forth on any subject with sense, sensitivity and humour. Grayson for PM!

*I wouldn’t like to meet a dead person. That would be just weird.

What is your favourite food?

Anything cooked by someone else.

What annoys you?

Dirty plates on the draining board, not in the dishwasher.

If you could change something in your life, what would it be?

The ageing process. So much to do, so much to see, people to meet. Time’s winged chariot and all that.

What do you do to relax yourself?

Write.

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Now here’s the bit where I cheat a little. I have a list of questions below (yes, eleven of them), but I’m not tagging anyone in particular.  If anyone feels so inclined to answer one or two, or even all of them, I shall be genuinely interested in the response – I don’t want to turn it into an interrogation. I hope this doesn’t mean that Lynette will strike me off her Christmas card list for altering the game. Did I mention that I’m very bossy? Make that random item number twelve, then.

 Eleven Random Questions for anyone out there who wants to be in my gang:

1. If you could be someone else for the day, who would it be?

2. Is there something you’ve been putting off doing, and if so, what?

3. Name the highest place you’ve ever been to.

4. What gets you up in the morning?

5. When was the last time you were embarrassed?

6. If you bought a present for your next door neighbour, what would it be?

7. What do you consider to be the worst form of transport?

8. What was the last live music gig you went to?

9. What is your favourite film?

10. Whose advice do you regularly take?

11. How many different places have you lived in?

So, that’s me done. I shall avoid the number eleven from now on and await responses forthwith.  Humour me!

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