About J. Johnson Smith

I read poets and around poetry and whatever I take a fancy to. I dare to claim I write poems too...... I seem to have a preference for seeing the changes from Late Victorian period through to the 1940’s. But, and a big but, I also read right up to current poetry/performance poetry which I often find exhilerating but am unable to emulate. Sometimes my ‘historic’ preference for 'imagist' and ‘Nature' holds me back from too ‘modern’. Poetry with music, as word or song is a current interest. I also like finding (if only for me) regional or partly forgotten poems and poets. Maybe all this is too eclectic to have a themed 'Blog' but so be it....... I also write fiction that might add up to a small mole-hill one day. Plus reviewing new or old books that are relevant to my enthusiasms of Crime Fiction, the Arts, Natural History and Special Education. This is on 'wordparc'. I try to record honestly what I think but if something is too bad (to my mind, others may love it!!) then I will not 'blog'. I buy or borrow to read and review. If there is a click-through it is meant to be useful. There, what's that if not seemingly random!

Armistice Day Centenary 1918-2018

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The Blue Lagoon

After Jimbo died, after his funeral,  we felt it right to miss a couple of meetings of our Whittlestreet Crime Writers’ Circle but life must go on, well, mostly.  Though if you write about crime these days it usually involves an excessive number of deaths.

Anyway:     We had a simple ceremony.  The five of us.  We did leave his chair, the sixth, in the circle, it seemed appropriate so soon after Jimbo had left us.

I suppose I should be formal and call him Jim, or rather James if you want to be really formal.  But no, he was Jimbo to us all.  At least those that actually used his name.   Amy never used it as far as I remember.  Mostly because she doesn’t use anybody’s name directly, just looks at them and speaks into their faces.  Somewhat disconcerting if you are not aware of her system.  She just sits and taps away at the tablet on her lap, eyes glued to it.  Goodness knows what she does on it.  I  assume she takes notes but it could be anything.   Oddly I just don’t have the nerve to ask.  She sits opposite me, leaning over, fiddling with it.  She glares if she deigns to raise her head and talk at you.  I can’t get Medusa out of my mind whenever she does that.

Amy sat next to the empty chair, Tom the other side of that.  Next to him was Harry then me.  Marie closed the circle, as it were, therefore sitting between Amy and me.

The ceremony:

It was quite brief. We had agreed at his funeral for each of us to give a short eulogy at the next meeting of the Burnthorpe, Whittlestreet Crime Writers Circle.   So there it was.

Tom and Harry dipped into a couple of drunken episodes with Jimbo.  I read the last two pages of his  published crime novel, “the end” being the final words.

Marie said a few words about being a journalist then quoted the first sentence from ‘A Tale of Two Cities’.  Finally, Amy read a poem by Emily Dickinson about death.  “Fair enough,” I thought.

Of course we opened a bottle of his favourite whiskey and raised our glasses at the end in a chorus of “Jimbo!”  and sipped or glugged to his memory.  Some of us accepted seconds and then we sat in silence as we had planned no further.

A Crime Writer’s life can be fraught with difficulties and this vacuum was no stranger to us.  We are always eager to learn and offer advice, even criticism, as long as we don’t have to reveal any potential plot lines or vital clues. This is why we like to have an agenda, so we can plan our secrets, as it were.   To cover our group embarrassment we began to talk about the pub we were holding the meeting in.  The publican was a friend of ours so he lent us the room for meetings.  A good excuse for a drink too, we also use the library and bookshop but no drinking allowed there.   Writer’s block can sometimes be oiled by drink, or hide it for a while.

There we were, breaking into a sweat of gossip when the door opened  enough for a head and shoulder to appear.     “Is this the book club?”

“No!” Several voices, not quite in time, responded.  “Crime Writing!”  A lone voice continued.

“Oh, good.” The door opened fully and the young woman came in, carefully shut it, saw the empty chair and dived into it.  “Hello everyone, I am Nyree, sorry I am late.  Have you started”

We vaguely looked round at each other then the young woman.  She was literally like a breath of fresh air, maybe a gust, possibly a gale.  Energy seemed to flail out of her as she fumbled through her large flowery shoulder-bag.  Amy sat erect. (Was this the first time,ever?) Half turning to look at the newcomer.  Amy’s white Goth facade a contrast to the ebony of the stranger.

Tom sat immobile as the bag landed on his lap as well as the owner’s and wriggled as her hands riffled through it.  We others just watched.

“I’ve got the book.” She said and dragged it out.  Dropped the bag with a clatter to the floor and waved the book in the air.  She settled, held the book on her lap, looked round at the little group holding a smile as she looked at each of us.

“You were expecting me, weren’t you?”

A cross between silence and murmurs of “no,” filtered out as she continued.

“Uncle Jim sent me a list of dates and venues.  He wanted me to come but I never did.”  She looked around again. “But I have now.”  She looked down, collected herself.   “I brought the book.”

With that she lifted it, face forward so we could see the cover.

Still surprised, we looked at what she held.  The cover-photo was of a small lake surrounded by overhanging trees.  The water, steely grey and in the foreground, viewed as a high-shot, a small building on the edge that may have been a wooden boathouse with a short jetty part-collapsed in the water.

“Can you see the title?” she said proudly, “The Haunting of Blue Lagoon.”

“It’s not very blue.” Said Amy.

I have to admit to being stuck on the “uncle Jim” words but I did look at the book and had to agree with Amy.

“Well, I think it’s atmospheric!”  Was her non-apologetic, enthusiastic, response.

I could feel the gently sinking of all spirits round me.  An odd thing to say as no one had been particularly ‘up’ in the first place.  It was the first meeting we had managed since “Our Jimbo” had been duly buried and mourned.  Two months that had been. Two meetings missed.   We had all arrived, settled and looked at the empty chair respectfully.

Nyree broke all that.  An interloper!  A mystery from her uncle Jim, our Jimbo!  And goodness me she was so young and exuberant the air was suddenly sucked out of all of us.  The pause to study the book’s cover extended until Marie broke the silence.

“I can’t actually see it. Can you turn it my way?”

Immdiately apologetic, Nyree turned the book to Marie and placed it face-up on her lap.

“We didn’t know Jim had a niece.  You’re his niece?”  Tom popped the question we all worried about.

“Sure.  I’ve two brothers; nephews, as well.  We’re all from Kingston.”

Oh-oh, someone stepped in something when they asked, “Jamaica?”

“on-Thames.”  She kindly managed a little laugh as she spoke.  Feet safely extricated all round!

“We never knew.”

“No worries, you lot never existed until he died.  Then I got this book sent to me, with his letter and instructions.”  She waited for any responses.  I have to admit she was a good listener.  She had to wait a fair old time while we digested.

Tom took up the reins again,  “Well, your very welcome, Nyree.  Hello from all of us.”   He assumed we all nodded in agreement,  “Why the book? I haven’t seen it before. Has anyone else?”   More assumption.  “What does you mean, instructions?”

“Well!”  The pause and intake of breath signified one of two things;  nervousness or a lot to say.   It turned out to be the latter.    It also turned out to bear only part relation to the title of the book and its cover.  In fact the book was a collection of mysteries that had been dolled-up to read like ghost stories, or what goes nowadays.  Apparently the title and the cover, so obviously mis-matched was at the insistence of the author.  And, low and behold, the author was not the mystery.

“The author is my dad!  He was from Jamaica, not Kingston though!  One of the first students at Surrey University.  Got his degree and all that, married mum and they had us kids while they both worked at the uni..  He worked around and about, post grad, doctorate and then we all up-staked and moved to Kingston.”  She just had to pause and rub it in with,  “-on-Thames!”

This is the short version I give here, won’t bother with Nyree’s extended version, interesting as it was, at times.  Jim had never mentioned a daughter let alone any other family.  We knew a wife had been and gone.   ‘Excess work and drink’ he had said, meaning his, not hers.

“Soon after our move he got this published.  We all pointed out the odd jacket and he just said  ‘it had to be’. And that was that.  Then he went to work one day to research at the library.”  She stopped, tone flattened. We waited, expectantly.

“When he came back in the afternoon.” Pause again

Okay that was something of an anticlimax, you could feel the little circle settle back into relax-mode.

“He packed a ruck-sack with whatever, and said he had to visit uncle Jim about the lagoon story” This time she really had lost her exuberance. “And got run over near a Zebra Crossing on the way to the railway station!  Uncle Jim never saw him.  He went to meet him off the train and waited for the next but, of course, he never turned up.”

The atmosphere changedyet again but Nyree continued before anyone could find any words.

“Anyway,” she pulled some smile back into her voice. That was years ago!  Five years now.  The police agreed it was a stupid accident.”   She emphasised the last sentence, you could see her energy coming back.  “Uncle Jim was at his funeral and we did all the reminiscing, and crying, and read some of this damned book.”     She  passed it to Marie as if it were hot.

You could see her clench her jaw to regain control and she held Jims letter to her   “Uncle Jim’s instructions were to come here and find out why the jacket and title were so important to my dad.  And to sit in your circle and ask for your help.”  She stopped, all out of steam.

You can imagine the hush that came after that.  We had all those internal questions I won’t bother with writing here.

Here is where Amy proved herself. She simply moved over to the young woman and gave her a hug.  That gave Marie the example to react, “Of course we’ll help.” She looked over to the one consoling the other then at us men opposite to encourage our responses.

Trouble was, what could one retired detective and two as good as gone policemen do with that story?   Worse, none of us could recall any crime or detail of a local mystery or lagoon, blue or grey!   And why did Jim not nag us when it happened?  We looked across at each other.  Three policemen without a clue!

Only one thing we could say, “Of course!  Whatever we can!  Absolutely!”

We adjourned to the bar to sit round a table of drinks and introduce ourselves properly. Hear more about Nyree and her family and exchange bits of memory and stories about her uncle Jim.  Plus a little digging into her parent’s, especially father’s lives. All for the sake of investigation, be sure.

So that’s how our memorial meeting to Jim went.  Threw us all into a mixture of excitement and concern that we had somehow agreed to do a ‘proper job’!

………………………

So why would a man want to rush like that for no real reason?  Well, one that we could fathom?  He had got published and was rushing off to research something……….    That was where we came back to;  his library visit the day before he left and his mis-matched jacket and book.   “Maybe he just managed to grab a couple of days holiday and decided to go!” was suggested.    And why visit Jim in Burnthorpe?     We even prodded carefully about his death and had to accept it was a cruel accident and not suicide.     You have to admit it might have been!

Nyree was staying at Jim’s old place.  In fact he left it to her as the eldest child, it seems, so we had no worries about where she lived while we all went to our separate homes that evening.

…………………..

It was late.  Too late to just go to bed so I sat in my chair with a gin and tonic and looked at the book  borrowed from Nyree.  She had read it and found nothing in there to suggest a mystery.  Jim’s letter was headed ‘instructions’  how to find his friends at the Whittlestreet Crime Writer’s Circle’,  i.e. at the pub or the Library!     So back to the book again.

The cover photograph was nowhere I , or the others recognised.  The photo was copyrighted by an Eric Johnson.   The contents list had fourteen titles and thirteenth was ‘The Haunting of Blue Lagoon’.     “Unlucky thirteen,” I found myself muttering.  Then, “What would Jim have done?”

“Read the bloody story!” I heard him say….. in my head, of course.    So I did.

A typical story of the late 80s.  Bright lights appearing and disappearing over the water, voices in a strange language chanting and shadows flitting through the trees.  And then, of course, everything just stopped and no sign of anything having happened.  Written in the third person by someone, it seemed, who tried to make something out of nothing, and failed.  It could have been any number of activities or pure imagination.

Unsatisfied by it I finished the drink, abandoned the book and went to bed.  There, in the dark with only the odd car swishing along I had another thought. “If the story wasnt interesting, what was?  What was researched?  The place or the photographer?  Both?”  Sleep took those thoughts from me.

………….

I telephoned Jim’s number.  It was odd when she answered with her name.  Jim’s response was usually a disappointed “What!”      We arranged to meet at the library.

It was small, like the town, but had local newspaper archives and directories.  Marie was there, as usual, as librarian.  We each had a subject; the photograph or report in a newspaper, the address of the photographer.   Largescale Ordnance Survey maps to find a ‘blue lagoon’.  Something must be on file or Nyree’s dad wouldn’t have been fired up.  We started looking in the mid-seventies and worked backwards. Based on the fact that none of us Burnthorpe residents had recalled anything we were looking for over the previous eighteen years!  I suspect Marie and I just hoped our memories were still sound.  Jim would have been proud of us!

We had books and opened maps flooding over the tables while Marie strode in and out with heavy binders containing the huge A3 and A2 newspapers of the area.  Despite their size they were useful in that they covered quite a few square miles of assorted villages, hamlets and solitary farms.  If there was anything to find it ought to be covered. After that it would have to be the microfiche and none of us fancied shuffling and peering on that wretched machine.

I suppose we should just have looked in the telephone directory first.     Nyree copied out half a dozen  E Johnson names plus their address and numbers. Thank goodness for directories.  A couple were ‘Eric’ but those with just the ‘E’ might have been too and the system also had a couple of Mrs. E Johnson’s so they had to be included as it was still common for the wife to be called  ‘Mrs Eric Whatever’ in an unnecessary, historical way.  Officially an addendum to the man rather than an individual in those days!

Poor Marie, she had opted for the hardest job and only ended up with smudged fingers from old inky papers from one of the binders.   I scanned the maps systematically for all the ponds and lakes for names.  It wasn’t until Nyree moved across to me with the list of names and addresses that we made real progress.  We matched addresses to the map in the vague hope that it would prove something.  It did.   One Mrs E. Johnson lived a stones throw from a series of gravel pits, right on the edge of a map. In the real world it was about seven miles away, Royton Farm House.  Others lived in the town or generally around but only that one lived near lots of water.    This 1946 map only called them pits but we were hoping they had glammed them up since then.

Nyree rang the number for Royton farm.  In my old job we rarely got it right first time.  But you have to win the lottery some time and this, it would seem, was it.  Her conversation was a bit ragged, emotional for her part and the other party who turned out to be the widow of the photographer.  Yes, she would be happy to see a visitor.  Nice to have a little chat.  We arranged a time to visit.   I agreed to contact the others and decide who went with Nyree.  We couldn’t all go, it would be too much like a trip to visit a curio.    In the end I drove and Amy would keep Nyree company. The others had to stay gainfully employed.  Especially Tom and Harry as they were on standby for a shift of picket line duty at some factory lock-outs near Sheffield.

……………………….

We drove in the old Mondeo.  It wasn’t that old, I kept saying, just needed attention.  Something it never really got from me!  Bronze was a trendy colour but my bronze was blurred by the dust and mud that accumulated between services,  the garage gave it a birthday-treat wash.  I think they were  disappointed at my laziness and sorry for the car so cleaned it.  Still cost me a few extra quid each time.

You might have expected a solid old farmhouse but we arrived at a 50s bungalow.  It was next to a couple of small barns that were built of the solid chunks of age-blackened stone more akin to the area.  They had corrugated iron roofs painted in red-oxide for rust-proofing.  Sitting beside them was a little black Renault, which I parked beside.

She was so old!  Born in the early Twenieth Century!  Her husband, the photographer had died ten years before.  They had lived in the bungalow since it was first built in 1954. (Good guess eh?).    Apparently the photograph was one of a reel he took when they first arrived.  There had been trees all over the area where the gravel pits had been excavated and as the site expanded trees were felled.   The back of their garden once had a paddock behind it.  From the edge of that had been the woods leading on to the excavations, with that gap, which was originally a fire-break, not an avenue to the water side.

She told us what she and her husband had witnessed in the sixties; the story that he had written for the local newspaper and the photograph.  “Yes, that’s the one.” She responded to the image.

“It was black and white, they have made it much greyer, perhaps the negative was damaged.”

The story had appeared in the local newspaper (We hadn’t gone back far enough) and had been written up as a mystery.  The nice old lady said they had written what they had seen and the editor had turned into a little piece about aliens.

“Aliens indeed!” She brushed the idea away.  “I think it was anarchists, or IRA, or them Russians. We’re having a Cold War, you know?”

We could only agree.

“We told the police but they decided it was aliens.  Agreed we were potty more like.  After they wrote it that way in the papers.”

Always nosey I looked out of the window while she made us all another pot of tea with Nyree’s help.   I could see the trees and the gap but not much else, just more trees further back, the other side of the lake.

Mrs Johnson came back, Nyree carrying the refreshed teapot on a tray.  Amy was going through the old photos.   The old lady poured more tea and came for my empty cup.

“It’s changed a lot.  Much tidier now they have….. what do you call it….. conserved it?   For the birds and animals.  The shed thing has gone and lots of trees and bushes planted.  Grown quite big now some of ‘em.”     She took my cup to refill.

“Landscape!  That’s it. They had to landscape it.  All the old gravel pits when they finished digging out.”  I collected the filled cup. I went back to just standing, looking out.  Feeling it had all been a waste of time. However, it was sunny and not too cold for the end of October.

“It’s still there though. Not the boat-house.  And the jetty seems to have rotted away.”

I assumed she meant the lake. “Yeah, I can see” I suppose I didn’t seem bothered.

“Not from here!  You have to go round to the side a bit.  Not much like the photo now. But then you cant see it in the photo either.   Another biscuit?”

That got my attention.  “What?”  Not the biscuit!

“The pile of stones.”  She went and sat. I followed.

“Go on.”  We all listened.

“Eric called me to see the lights flashing over the water.  We saw it from here.  Reckoned it was kids with storm lanterns having a drink.  It was late.  We were a lot younger then, kids ourselves, really.  Eric, bless ‘im, was worried they would swim and drown or some such.  It was a rough old hole in them days  and wasn’t pretty.  All the other pits still working were further on. Look alright now.”

She stopped, casually went off the subject. “ He was lovely you know, always taking pictures in his spare time. We often went for a bus ride just to take his photos.  He took one of that pit before he died.  Lake, lagoon or whatever you call it.  It’s in the box somewhere, it’ll be written on the back.  Prints off slides as well. He took a lot of slides.” She shook her head gently while  remembering.  “I remember him saying that it looked more like a blue lagoon now than it did then.”

That was the first time she called it Blue Lagoon.  “Go on,” prodded Nyree.

“Well, we wandered across the field, it was ploughed in those days.  Following the flickering lights.  Off and on, they were.  We crept quite close but stopped when we heard low grumbly voices.  Not children at all.  They were speaking a foreign language but we only heard snatches.

“We sort of hid. It was almost exciting.  Then we saw this light float up from the middle of the lake and float to the side. It was like a fuzzy moon with its reflection in the water. Or a bright ballon, I suppose, close to the surface.   It sort of fizzled out on the bank opposite.  We watched and it was only when it got dark again we realized all the noises and lights had stopped.”

“What happened next?”

“Nothing. It was all silent except for the rustling trees.  No voices.  Not a single person came out of that place. They had to pass us, or at least come out the way we went in.  We would have seen anyone moving, had sharp eyes in those days.  No other way to get to the lake.  Not like now.  Dog walkers, cyclists and all sorts use the paths they’ve built round the lakes.  Five of ‘em now, you know.”   She said proudly.

“The photo. The one on the cover on the book?”

“Oh yes. He took that the next morning.  I was with him. It was a rainy, miserable day that’s why the picture is poor. And, of course, it’s all been cleared up and made pretty now.”

Nyree spoke again,”I can understand  you called it a lagoon but why blue?”

“Ah, yes.” She smiled sweetly. “ I think there was a film or a book.  A book, all the rage, called Blue Lagoon or whatever.  Eric called his picture that, thought it would catch the editor’s eye. Topical and ironic, he said.  Anyway the water was blue, petrolly when we saw it, so it was sort of true. Just invisible in the black and white photo. So he added ‘Haunting’ to make it like a ghost story.  Just for fun.”

“So it wasn’t a mystery or haunting really?”  Amy spoke disappointedly.

“I must say I like your make-up dear.  I used to have it like that when I was a girl.  All that white powder puffing everywhere. Like chalk-dust!”  She recomposed her hands in her lap.  “Well, the odd thing was that pile of big stones we found.  Someone must have put them there.  Piled like one of those little monuments.  By a tree a yard or so from the edge of the water.  We truly thought it was Russians up to no good.  The police just ignored it.  Well, it’s all different now, very pretty.  A few ducks but no swans, as far as I know.”

“Are the stones still there?”  I just had to ask.

“As far as I know, dear. Go and have a look. It’s a lovely day.  Walk that way to the lake,” she pointed out of the window, “ when you get to the edge move to your right.  You will see them.  By a pretty white tree. Birch, silver birch, it is.”

lake in autumn

c.  wordparc

And so we went.  All three of us at the behest of Mrs Johnson.   A little lake, curving round like a banana, or should I say “an oxbow” as the designers called it.  We didn’t expect to find anything.  Nyree’s dad never got there, he never said what to look for and we had just heard it wasn’t really a mystery except for someone dumping some old stones.  Fly-tipping obviously not as new as all that.

We reached the edge, moved back a bit as it was soggy then walked to our right as instructed.  Saw the stones, or rather small boulders in a little mound covered in leaf mould, lichen and almost hidden by ferns.  I trampled it down a bit to study the stones and nearly lost my foot down a hole.  It hit another rock or something  and I grabbed a sapling to stop falling over.  Twisted my foot to escape and it brought out some strips of decaying material.

I didn’t know what dug that hole. Some biggish or enthusiastic rat, rabbit, badger?  But I had to peer into it.  Assumed it was empty and got out my trusty torch to let a little light in.  It’s odd how surprised you can be looking into a gun barrel in the darkness, even if it is a buried one!

It was such a shame to ruin that almost idyllic scene, even though nature would have its way eventually.  After we had all squinted down the barrel of the gun, rifle?  We returned to the house.  Called the police.  Two cars and two layers up and they called the army and they called their bomb squad, who eventually arrived at dusk.   They drove their truck over the paddock and up to the waterside. Headlights on and tentative investigations made.   At that stage we were confined to the bungalow.

A couple of hours later and the lights of the truck bounced and the rear lights bobbed and gently waved their way backwards along the track at the side of the field to the edge of the road, where it stopped.   By this time we were all waiting at the front door for the soldier who was wandering our way.

He was a sargent and was immediately offered tea but refused saying he had to take everything back to camp.

“Everything?   What was found? Russian guns, bombs?” The Cold War seemed closer than ever.

“Nothing like. More boring but odder.  I shouldn’t be telling you this but as you found them!”  He tapped his nose, signifying we should keep a secret, at least for his sake.   “They were guns. You probably saw that. A couple of rifles, a light machine gun and rounds of ammunition.  And half a dozen stick grenades.  All carefully wrapped in a tarpaulin.  Oiled most like to keep the weapons safe. mind you, the tarp had well-rotted.”

The soldier had said they weren’t Russian, it led to a more local, ominous thought.

He continued  “It’s odd, very odd.   They were German.  Old weapons.  Must have been from the war.  There was a label on the tarpaulin, just readable.”

We had to wait while he took out a notebook he had written in, “Fallschirmgruppe Drei”,

He tucked it away, “ That’s Parachute Group Three.  Someone must have buried them during the early part of the war, maybe ‘39 or ‘40.  At least before we were able to round every one up.  I can guarantee they have been there seventy-odd years.”   With that he offered thanks and goodbyes and strolled back to the truck where a couple of his men waited.  He climbed in and they reversed onto the tarmac and skidded away quickly.

That then was the end of our search, story and acquaintance with Mrs Eric Johnson.  We had the shortish drive back to Burnthorpe and it was when we had stopped to drop Amy at her family’s house, in the silence before you work out how to goodbye.  Amy spoke into the dark of the Mondeo.

“If those things were buried in 1939, what did the Johnsons see in that very same spot in 1965?”

She got out before we had a thought.  Nyree and I just looked at each other then Amy hurrying up the path and knocking on the front door.  The warm light appeared and disappeared, as did Amy.

Nyree and I both shivered as the chill of late October infiltrated the car.

I turned the key, the engine turned and we headed off into November still oblivious as to what Nyree’s father had got so excited about!

 

 

 

 

 

Graph Review of: Don’t Forget to Love: an ep by Emily Lee

A Graph Review

of the ep:this happy spirit graph 70 to 80 ……..Don’t Forget To Love.  By Emily Lee

Merits more points than average of 75, should be avge 80,  only wish cd was more easily obtainable.

Also, recently released (1st Sept)  by Emily Lee another   cd:     Dance my Demons Away

Have to confess to one favourite vocal being ‘In the Balance’…..from Karmina Burana.  Sometimes a few assorted arias/ duets of Puccini, Verdi et al of mezzos and sopranos as my mood or playlist takes me.

Nothing better than to binge on Marianne Faithfull with ‘Before the Poison’ et al.  plus many assorted others thrown in from even further back from jazz and blues of Billie Holiday and what some would call ‘folk’ from another huge assortment of singers from Sandy Denny to Eva Cassidy.   Okay, huge gaps, known and unknown not ignored just not included……

I  have labelled a very few above as regulars but I do try to listen randomly, or deliberately to contemporary singers.  Yes, I have found lots to like in different ways and could drift on listing many well-established singers (Dixie Chicks, Storm Large) and assorted new (to me) like Jorja Smith who are going to be a permanent fixture on my favourite playlist.  Huge array of talent, all of them.

However, when I want to sit and listen to voice, words and music I currently fall back onto Jane Silberry’s  ‘Maria’ cd.  Within that the final, long, track is ‘Oh My My’ which just has to be listened to the final note.

There is any amount of superb singers, writers, musicians out there, old, contemporary or in the wings that deserve to be heard. I wish I had the time and memory to look more.

What’s this got to do with an Emily Lee review of ‘Dont Forget To Love’, an ep  cd released in 2015?    It’s because I have only just heard her sing and it was live on acoustic guitar (a Joan Baez song), and later listened to this ep.     emily lee cover 1Five of her own beautifully crafted and produced songs with style and variation that held together whilst showing her ability and vocal confidence. Emily and a guitar. ……. Not forgetting the intro. on first track, for me a pleasant surprise……

Tracks:    Mr Moonlight;   Special;   Don’t Forget To Love;   Ain’t Man Enough;   Blue.

 

As a contrary customer I might have put  ‘Ain’t Man Enough’ last.   But then I deserve a slap on the wrist for saying that because it wasn’t anything to do with me!!!!     It’s tough but if I had to choose one of the above it should be ‘Special’, because it is!   An ep of music and words to last a lifetime.

dont forget to love insideI have listened to the ep from first to last about six times in four days. More times than I have listened to numerous other cds over two or three months.   I don’t know who wrote the ‘about’ notes on her website; looks a bit tooo much (for me) but then it sounds like that personality over the various  tracks.  I do hope she is one of the many, many-talented singers, writers, musicians to make it in their careers.       With Emily, tread carefully, you won’t know what hits you when you listen.  You will be hooked!

Sept 1st, was  release date for her second ep, ‘Dance My Demon Away’ at a launch at the Lexington, London N1..    I was unable to go so missed out on the event of Emily Lee and a 10 piece band……. even worse……..is the problem that I can’t get the cd yet.   But will!

Meantime visit her on youtube for a taster: Emily Lee:  Sleep With A Stranger. Good song, good video!

Don’t Forget to Love‘:   A thoughtful, provoking, sensitive yet at times steely performance from an artist who will push on to even greater music.   This album will sit as my top-tip for some time……….unless the new one is as good, then it will be a fight!

Fifteen Things They Forgot To Tell You About Autism. A Graph Review

A Graph Review.         80-89 graph points Definitely gets points all in the 80s. Nearly broke through to 90 but couldn’t quite give that all-time high.    Almost regret it!!!

 

Fifteen things they forgot to tell you about autism.

By Debby Elley,

cover fifteen things coverCo- founder of AUKIDS Magazine, with Tori Houghton

 

Jessica Kingsley Publishing.        Paperback.  £12.99

published spring 2018                      978 1 78592 438 5

Books on this subject are coming thick and fast these days.  This is not a complaint as the more information and practical help that gets into public awareness is surely much the better for everyone.  My problem is that there is so much more to choose from that time allows only a fraction of the books to be looked at and some read and reviewed.

I could list numerous titles that have been popular, informative and no doubt sold well but it is safer for me to refer you to:   Books Education.   website for a whole range of publishers and Educational books, or go to Jessica Kingsley site for a good range of a single publisher.

Let’s get to grips with  Fifteen Things……:

I have got to page 40 of 209 pages of text and several more of glossary and further information items.   Can I call this a ‘Joyous Book on Autism’?   Already I love the style, the humour, the simplicity and the skill of Debby Elley in her understanding and explanation of autism. This book already ought to be a staple read for parents and clinicians alike.  Debby Elley is the mother of autistic twins is well versed in the subject!!

Author of ‘Uniquely Human’,  by Dr.Barry Prizant.human pic………., another book I highly recommend, says frequently that if you can’t quite find the answer to a child’s difficulties then talk to the parent as they are likely to have at least a part solution, directly or indirectly.  I have no doubt badly paraphrased this.  I mention it as in Debbie Elley we seem to have a parent who is able to talk sensibly and oh so knowledgeably on autism.     Roll on ‘Pick & Mix and Autism Sundae Dessert!!  in all conversations and courses ( read her book for explanations…)

See page 45, first sentence:         “If we shore up their self-belief, value their differences and stop trying to make them be like everyone for 40 seconds, we’ll see that we have some very original thinkers on our hands.

And page  114:    ‘ Its important to remember that a child’s view of the world begins and ends with their parents.  Your expectations become theirs.  If you are disappointed in them, they will be even more downcast about themselves.’

I am not going to  quote the page but see also page 142 on the need for ‘re-telling and adding the reason why….. ie fully explain the logic of ‘why’ something should or should not be done…….      Not  a proper explanation but  me encouraging you to read the book.

This book most certainly speaks to parents, especially those that are trying to understand any diagnosis on an ASD child.  It may confirm their suspicions or be a shock and have need of support in putting professional words and practice into common usage and action.    Having said this, I believe that now, those working closely with children and families in some professional way have the opportunities through training and mentoring to work with sensibility and understanding.  Also, dare I say it, on the supportive approach parents and families require for helping children develop to the maximum.   Finding the support system may still be difficult as help is  spread much too thinly, but it is there.  There also many parent-started and run (with professionals too) charities all over the country offering help, support and most of all, a sense of community.  You might need to search a little that suits you and your family.  The beauty of today is that they can be web-based so available nationally, even internationally, as well as physically local.

I finished reading this book in good spirits.  As Debby says right at the beginning, she is a ‘positive’ person and her aim is to clarify terms and activities into understandable practice. as well as developing techniques to help reach potential.

She is always positive, fun to read, imaginative and humorous in style.  She is obviously serious about the subject and the Aukids magazine she, and her co-founder Tori Houghton run and continue to look for offering help and support to parents of autistic children.   I must mention that they have autistic workers in their charity office from whom they ask advice on subjects from their perspective.

Any criticisms?   Well, maybe that although she admits times can be difficult (numerous examples given) her skill in humour and ‘positivity’ seems to slide over the hard times.  But, there you go, it’s attitude of mind.  Proving that her mindset is the way to go.  See a problem, sort it or seek advice from trusted adviser……. and stick to a positive attitude and problem solving by using as many ‘outside boxes’ as you can find…….And proving that my glass is half-empty; however it is beginning to look half-full after reading this.

A fun, exciting, informative guide to autism and emphasising the fact that absolutely ‘everyone is different’.

I haven’t seen the physical magazine, just the website; but it looks an ideal magazine to come  through the post!!

see other Books Education listings

Avalon

Acolyte, Eblow and Anvil go to Avalon.

The temple was massively built in a style that would eventually be called ‘Romanesque’ but was designed by the gods.  One of the rare periods where they played together and laughed and built their homes and created favourite places to have fun.

The question that bothered them towards the end of its construction was its dedication.  All the gods in the town (factually it was the entire town that was inhabited entirely by gods) had agreed at the planning stage that the building would just be a centre-place for them all to enjoy.  It had taken some time for the design to be agreed in order for all to have their own secure space within ere the confines of the building in addition to the wide open aspect for community gatherings such as singing, magical music, feasting and fornication.

Admittedly the furnishings were basic slabs of granite and sandstone scooped into armchairs and bar stools arranged around the enormous rectangular marble tables that were placed at irregular angles on three sides of the enormous hall. Splendid pillars sat on all edges of the building, each topped with a giant as if waiting for release.   Similarly the multicoloured marbled slabs of table-top were supported by humans. Some standing, arms akimbo and supporting the table like an army surrendering, while others had humans kneeling, crouching or lying in various positions upon another to support  the sheets of marble on their backs.   Luckily they were spelled to remain still and dumb or they would have created a degree of chaos with their moaning and wailing that would have severely taxed the gods.  Dragons laboured in the kitchens, aprons twitching under wings and waiters waited; ever waiting, waiting, waiting.

So, the giants looked down and the humans looked up to all the different gods that partied or argued over who possessed whom throughout the inauguration of the most exotic and profligate building ever. Finally, after the wildest partying and hilarious tricks played on lesser gods by the higher they had to decide on the naming of the Hall.   Many of the serving nymphs, imps, nyaed, and even cherubs had been spelled into unnatural phenomenon like trees, brooks, flowers, maybe statues or even animals and worst of all, humans.

For generations the gods tussled and argued, tricked and joked with each other.  They failed time after time. Eventually they decided that as they were themselves the fiction of man’s imagination and need that they required the naïveté of a human to choose a name for the building.  But there they came unstuck. Humans were entailed to so many different gods that jealousy became rampant both in their table-hugging ranks and within the gods that needed humans’ belief in them.

Eventually, tired from the continual wrangling, body-transforming interludes and the boredom of tricking each other they each wrote a suggestion of name on a stone and cast them into a finger-bowl they called the Adriatic.  The first name called out would be the one.

They called upon Anvil, the youngest in their midst to stir and mix the stones at random.  She put one finger in the water, circled it once and the waters streamed and stirred and sank as a spinning vortex.  The stones span and clashed together. Rubbing side against flat, slate against marble, gneiss against schist until the waters slowly rose again, receding from the lip of the bowl to settle like the ebb tide.

They asked Eblow, next in age, to plunge his hand into the bowl and retrieve a stone, which he did, testing the texture with his rasping fingers. Then passed, as instructed, to Acolyte, next in line to read the random chosen name

Acolyte took the stone, guarded against the light by Eblow’s hands so none of the gods could catch a glimpse or read the chosen word.  Acolyte held the rounded stone, worn smooth now by Anvil’s whirlpool spin and searched the letters to read the word aloud.  He tried.  He held the stone at angles, up to the light and in the shade.  The writing, hieroglyphs or Arabic or some other godly form he couldn’t tell.

The silence around him was palpable. A word he never used but this once.  All eyes upon him, he felt the frustration of decision weighing heavily on his neck.  Unable to read the word clearly, correctly sensing a thunderbolt about to fall he collapsed and decided to ask for help.  He passed the stone to the nearest god and asked:

‘Avagander?’

“Avagander!”  Came the response. The whisper slid from ear to mouth and like the ripple of lava from a volcano the word repeated and repeated. Volume and excitement spread around the mountain hall of the gods until the eruption of a myriad vocal chords exclaimed “Avagander! Avagander! Avagander!”

And so was set the name of the most famous site in the mysterious world of the gods.

No-one took the stone, no-one claimed the laurel of that written name to last as long as humans cared, so Acolyte kept it in his pocket.  Sometimes in the night when he thought about it, of the time he asked for help in the reading of the stone, he wondered if he should tell.  For later, when alone, he looked again at that writing on the stone and made the letters out to read, ‘Avalon’.

 

a myth-mix      also  the Frinks

Spring Day by Amy Lowell

Well,  it is almost summer so this may be a little late in the year.  You might also be able to complain that it is a poem not prose.    Okay, she was a poet and I find a lot of her stuff quite appealing (!) but she wrote a fair bit, as below, in a ‘prose-poem style’…… which I obviously like too.  For me she tells a good story, highly descriptive but in short bursts of journalistic style.    Good for the period she wrote in.  Reminds me of Hemmingway,  despite the theme!

She did write a similar piece an the day after a Zeppelin bombing raid on London in early WW1, when she was here on a visit.  She did visit London around the time but I dont know if she was in the actual vicinity……..I suspect not.

Spring Day      by Amy Lowell

Bath

The day is fresh-washed and fair, and there is a smell of tulips and narcissus in the air.  The sunshine pours in at the bath-room window and bores through the water in the bath-tub in lathes and planes of greenish-white. It cleaves the water into flaws like a jewel, and cracks it to bright light.
Little spots of sunshine lie on the surface of the water and dance, dance, and their reflections wobble deliciously over the ceiling; a stir of my finger sets them whirring, reeling.  I move a foot, and the planes of light in the water jar.  I lie back and laugh, and let the green-white water, the sun-flawed beryl water, flow over me.  The day is almost too bright to bear, the green water covers me from the too bright day.  I will lie here awhile and play with the water and the sun spots.
The sky is blue and high.  A crow flaps by the window, and there is a whiff of tulips and narcissus in the air.
Breakfast Table

In the fresh-washed sunlight, the breakfast table is decked and white.  It offers itself in flat surrender, tendering tastes, and smells, and colours, and metals, and grains, and the white cloth falls over its side, draped and wide. Wheels of white glitter in the silver coffee-pot, hot and spinning like catherine-wheels, they whirl, and twirl—and my eyes begin to smart, the little white, dazzling wheels prick them like darts.  Placid and peaceful, the rolls of bread spread themselves in the sun to bask.  A stack of butter-pats, pyramidal, shout orange through the white, scream, flutter, call:  “Yellow! Yellow! Yellow!”  Coffee steam rises in a stream, clouds the silver tea-service with mist, and twists up into the sunlight, revolved, involuted, suspiring higher and higher, fluting in a thin spiral up the high blue sky.  A crow flies by and croaks at the coffee steam.  The day is new and fair with good smells in the air.
Walk

Over the street the white clouds meet, and sheer away without touching.
On the sidewalks, boys are playing marbles.  Glass marbles, with amber and blue hearts, roll together and part with a sweet clashing noise.  The boys strike them with black and red striped agates.  The glass marbles spit crimson when they are hit, and slip into the gutters under rushing brown water.  I smell tulips and narcissus in the air, but there are no flowers anywhere, only white dust whipping up the street, and a girl with a gay Spring hat and blowing skirts.  The dust and the wind flirt at her ankles and her neat, high-heeled patent leather shoes.  Tap, tap, the little heels pat the pavement, and the wind rustles among the flowers on her hat.
A water-cart crawls slowly on the other side of the way.  It is green and gay with new paint, and rumbles contentedly, sprinkling clear water over the white dust.  Clear zigzagging water, which smells of tulips and narcissus.
The thickening branches make a pink grisaille against the blue sky.
Whoop! The clouds go dashing at each other and sheer away just in time.  Whoop! And a man’s hat careers down the street in front of the white dust, leaps into the branches of a tree, veers away and trundles ahead of the wind, jarring the sunlight into spokes of rose-colour and green.
A motor-car cuts a swathe through the bright air, sharp-beaked, irresistible, shouting to the wind to make way.  A glare of dust and sunshine tosses together behind it, and settles down.  The sky is quiet and high, and the morning is fair with fresh-washed air.

  Midday and Afternoon

Swirl of crowded streets.  Shock and recoil of traffic.  The stock-still brick façade of an old church, against which the waves of people lurch and withdraw.  Flare of sunshine down side-streets.   Eddies of light in the windows of chemists’ shops, with their blue, gold, purple jars, darting colours far into the crowd.  Loud bangs and tremors, murmurings out of high windows, whirring of machine belts, blurring of horses and motors.  A quick spin and shudder of brakes on an electric car, and the jar of a church-bell knocking against the metal blue of the sky.  I am a piece of the town, a bit of blown dust, thrust along with the crowd.  Proud to feel the pavement under me, reeling with feet.  Feet tripping, skipping, lagging, dragging, plodding doggedly, or springing up and advancing on firm elastic insteps.      A boy is selling papers, I smell them clean and new from the press.  They are fresh like the air, and pungent as tulips and narcissus.
The blue sky pales to lemon, and great tongues of gold blind the shop-windows, putting out their contents in a flood of flame.
Night and Sleep

The day takes her ease in slippered yellow.  Electric signs gleam out along the shop fronts, following each other. They grow, and grow, and blow into patterns of fire-flowers as the sky fades.    Trades scream in spots of light at the unruffled night.  Twinkle, jab, snap, that means a new play; and over the way: plop, drop, quiver, is the sidelong sliver of a watchmaker’s sign with its length on another street.  A gigantic mug of beer effervesces to the atmosphere over a tall building, but the sky is high and has her own stars, why should she heed ours?
I leave the city with speed.  Wheels whirl to take me back to my trees and my quietness. The breeze which blows with me is fresh-washed and clean, it has come but recently from the high sky.  There are no flowers in bloom yet, but the earth of my garden smells of tulips and narcissus.
My room is tranquil and friendly.  Out of the window I can see the distant city, a band of twinkling gems, little flower-heads with no stems.  I cannot see the beer-glass, nor the letters of the restaurants and shops I passed, now the signs blur and all together make the city, glowing on a night of fine weather, like a garden stirring and blowing for the Spring.
The night is fresh-washed and fair and there is a whiff of flowers in the air.
Wrap me close, sheets of lavender.  Pour your blue and purple dreams into my ears.  The breeze whispers at the shutters and mutters queer tales of old days, and cobbled streets, and youths leaping their horses down marble stairways.  Pale blue lavender, you are the colour of the sky when it is fresh-washed and fair . . . I smell the stars . . . they are like tulips and narcissus . . . I smell them in the air.

Published in:    Men Women and Ghosts (1916)

The Man Who Wrote the Story

The man who wrote the story.

I suppose I regret it now.  Maybe that is the wrong thing to say.  So many people have read it.  You might almost assume ‘everyone has read it’.

I pottered about for years, writing articles, developing ideas. Formats kept changing and I even considered stopping altogether.  I did.  It kept niggling at me so I started again.  I think it was three years, no three and a half. Just after I retired, and this writing game kept eating back into my time.

All those new novels sitting in the wings.  All planned and blocked into chapters, bibliographic details noted, asterisked and carefully tucked away at the end of the computer file.  Even the poetry I liked to dabble in when so-called inspiration for imagist or metaphysical scribbling took hold.   I decided I had to focus on one genre.  As much as I liked the escape into all the realms of big fiction, with or without detailed historical fact I had to let it go too.

I was still young, hale and hearty, as they say, when I was lucky enough to retire. Having money is a godsend!  Thus, ambition and drive were sitting on each shoulder, watching what I did.

Focus.  I sat at that computer day and night.  Typing, re-phrasing.  The words failing to convince me.  I knew my final destination, the direction of the lines, as it were.   Just getting there, as a wordsmith, was not the true goal.  How!  That was it, how!

Well it happened.  I refused to move from that room, that desk, almost.  Only to drink coffee or collapse on the bed in the next room, or have a piss.  I didn’t eat.  No need, I was following the lead of other writers, of course.   Except I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t dope or coke.

Yes. As I said, and shouldn’t, I regret it now.  It was written.  It was emailed. 12 point, Helvetica, double spaced.  (Why do they still want it like that?  They can play with it to their hearts content from any old font or size!)

And picked up, published. Carried along, promoted, shouted about.  Hailed!  Loud-hailed!  Again and again.

It was like a crazy forest fire that ripped over the country, jumped the Channel, the Atlantic. Unstoppable.  Continent to continent, language into language.  My format was bought, the rights to everything snapped up in a frenzy of bidding rites.  Even bloggers worldwide emailed with desperate pleadings to be allowed to include it on their sites.  Worldwide press coverage on its success!  Even the Korean lady thumped her desk in excitement, and smiled!

Interview after interview, invitations, quiz programs, Arts; trailers, voiceovers and adverts threw themselves at my feet.  Fanzines, one set up in my name my image.  Endless.

I suppose I regret it now. Should never have written it.   I chose the short story genre, a haiku-novel if that is a term I can invent; to write a story where nothing really happens.