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Another Well by Colin Angwin

A few years ago, some sparky copywriter came up with use of the word “silver” as a euphonious euphemism for “elderly”, which is itself a euphemism for “aged”.   The usage has become widespread and a week ago last Sunday I attended a session on Creative Writing given as part of a series of events for oldies grouped under the title of “Silver Sunday”.

 

The tutor, Robert, mentioned a piece by one of his students who came from Eastern Europe, I think, and who recalled that in her childhood she had had to break the ice on the well in order to draw water.   Others from warmer climates had indeed had to use wells for water supplies, but not through the ice.

 

This reminded me of a well I came across as a child.   I must have been about 7 or 8 and I was with my parents in some remote part of India.   One day, as I wandered about the countryside, I saw a magnificent well-head.   It consisted of a huge horizontal wheel linked by a system of large cogs to an equally huge vertical wheel.   This type of irrigation apparatus was and probably still is widespread in Asia and the Middle East and I imagine it has been for centuries.

 

My eye was caught by the third component of the structure, a rope festooned with earthenware pots at regular intervals and looped loosely round the vertical wheel so that part of it trailed down into the well beneath.   An ox was lashed to the horizontal wheel and rotated it by plodding round in a never-ending circle.   This made the vertical wheel rotate in its turn, so that the pots came up out of the well filled with water which, as they passed the apex of their circuit, was tipped into a channel leading to the fields to be irrigated.

 

I picked up a stone and threw it at one of the pots which shattered satisfyingly, shedding its contents onto the dry earth.   I repeated the act with another stone, another pot.   My memory is that I hit a pot with every stone I threw, but my later experience on the cricket field showed that my hand and eye coordination is very shaky so that is unlikely.   It is, however, true that by the time I had finished my little game every pot was broken, and I headed for home well pleased with myself.

 

I dawdled on the way, so that the owner of the well got there well before me and was pouring out the story to my father, who took decisive action.   He paid the man for the damage done, more than generously I have no doubt, and he took a slipper to me, also quite generously.   This is the only beating that I remember his giving me.   I also remember his clear explanation of what the beating was for.   It was not for breaking the pots.   It was for not considering the effects of my action on the farmer, whose whole livelihood depended on the irrigation system I had destroyed.

 

Looking back on the episode many decades later, I also draw two other possibly unfashionable conclusions.   First, corporal punishment can be good – this slippering certainly impressed the desired lesson on me and did not in the least diminish my love and respect for my father.   Secondly, you could be one of the colonial rulers and still behave thoughtfully and fairly to the ruled.

 

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Six Unusual Writing Studios

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How wonderful and inspiring to see how other writers work and are inspired by these Six Unusual Writing Studios. we stumbled upon at Something to Write Home About – Jean Fischer’s brilliant blog.

News Flash Writing Exercise

Today’s writing exercise is about ‘News’ from Open Age’s Creative Writing Phone group led by tutor and writer Robert Silver.
For your assignment write about an even in your life or someone else’s as a news story – 250 words max
The three most important things about news are
1) It’s always written in the third person (i.e. he, she or they – never I or we)
2) The most important bit of information goes in the first sentence. (No soft lead ins or making your reader wait, you just state it as it is)
3) No opinions (That’s going to be tough for us)
Also – don’t forget my friends the 5 W’s:
Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How?
Answer those questions – not necessarily in that order – and you’re half way there.
Writing News – Some Rules. 1. News stories are always written in the third person.2. The most important information goes at the top of the story.

3. This lead should be a single sentence which contains all the relevant information. E.g. Eighteen people were rescued from a burning factory by a stray sheepdog.

4. Keep paragraphs down to one or two sentences.

5. Keep sentences short.

6. Keep the language simple.

7. In Associated Press style, punctuation almost always goes inside quotation marks. Example: “We arrested the suspect,” Detective John Jones said. (Note the placement of the comma.)

8. News stories are written in the past tense.

9. News stories do not contain opinion. Avoid words (particularly adjectives) that imply that the writer has one.

10. Opinions can be quoted.

11. When you first refer to someone who’s quoted in a story, use their full name and job title if applicable. On the second and all subsequent references, use just their last name.

Collage & Storytelling

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As part of London Creativity & Wellbeing Week 2015 here at Open Age we organised a number of exciting events and workshops including an exhibition with performances at Paddington Arts inspired by fairy tales, storytelling, folklore and all things magical!

These wonderful collages were made by members of Open Age Create Expectations art class led by myself Hester Jones at Olive House – a Housing and Care 21 sheltered housing – in Fulham perched on the River Thames. The collages were also exhibited at our Paddington Arts Once Upon a Time showcase in June with lots of brilliant feedback from visitors!

The accompanying stories were made collaboratively in a group storytelling workshop at Olive House. Many of the members in this group are living with dementia.

In our weekly class Create Expecations we certainly experiment with lots of different mediums, inspired by many different artists and writers. We have dabbled in Pop Art, Impressionism, Poor Art, papier mâché, decoupage, candle making, poetry by William Blake, photography, and storytelling.. the list is endless! We hope you enjoy these collages and stories as much as our members enjoyed making them!

“I’m Watching You”

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There was a big eagle in Grandma’s flat, a singing bird, a hawk. “If I was a blackbird” was her favorite song. There was a picture of flowers on the wall with a lampshade dangling down. She was just watching her lunch – the little mouse. Suddenly the big bird decided she didn’t want lunch and instead had a whisky on mice!

“Mary Had A Little Lamb”

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Once upon a time I was expecting a baby and her name was baby Sheila. She was a professional dressmaker and she made suits, and they were well-made. She also made evening wear for ladies. She knitted jumpers from the sheep’s wool too. She made lovely coats and lovely shoes to match.

“A lady called Joan”

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There was a lady called Joan. She was in her living room admiring her collection of nick-nacks. She was out of the bathroom, suddenly, a lion came and broke all the crockery.

“Don’t worry love, I’m not after you, I’m not hungry.”

“Motherly Love”

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Once upon a time there was a panda holding a baby in bed (the only two people to vote for the liberal democrats in the general election in Scotland)

“Hush baby, mummy’s coming now to feed you… some bamboo!”

“The Nanny Goat”

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There was a nanny goat. The nanny goat lived in a field where he used to play chasing the birds and butterflies around in the fields. There was a polar bear and a brown bear. The Queen of Hearts lived in the red hat and the King of Spades lived in the black hat. One day the brown bear decided to go for a walk in the forest, he saw a great big sheep with horns. Then came a lion and butt the sheep with his great big horns. Then, the sheep had a baby! A young lamb.

“Down Under”

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Once upon a time when I was in Australia in the outback I was pleased to see animals hopping about. The meerkats, the kangaroos, and lovely birds, parakeets, wallabies, snakes as well. The meerkats were walking on the sand.

“Oh what a beautiful doll!” “Oh what handsome creatures the way they walk, the way they talk, the way they are all looking at the sea. They were all running about chasing the butterflies and the sheep and all the native animals.

With special thanks to Haynesh Johannes the activity coordinator at Olive House for all her kind support.

The report Creative Homes by the Baring Foundation demonstrates how the arts can contribute to the quality of life of people in residential care. Open Age is delighted to be a member of Age Action Alliance Creative Working Group:

“A vibrant group of representatives from national to grassroots organisations across a wide range of arts activities with interests in active to the most frail and vulnerable people. These different perspectives allow for new innovative ideas to emerge.

We could be a “hot-house” for new ideas and ways of working to make creative arts mainstream for all. This work could bring positive benefits to older people at whatever stage in their life-course; for policy and decision-makers; organisations providing care services and arts opportunities; as well as families, carers and arts practitioners. The impact could affect neighbourhoods and have regional and national implications.”

Bicycle Stories…

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Do you have a bicycle story?

Either about yourself or your experience of bicycles?

Ideas, thoughts, stories about bicycles, fiction or non-fiction…

Did you learn to ride a bicycle as a child? As an adult?

Or never?

Let the wheels of your imagination guide you and write a short story, a long story, a poem, or a rant even:

about bicycles…

Please share it with us if you do!

Wattpad – The World’s Largest Community of Readers & Writers

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Would you like to share your writing with the wider world? Would you like to read other people’s stories? Then check out Wattpad – it’s a wonderful website and social community where you can upload your writings to share with others, read others’ work, exchange ideas, inspire and be inspired, give and receive constructive feedback, and much much more!

Storytelling Redefined

Three Embraces by Any Rake

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Thank you to Any Rake for sharing her eloquently written piece Three Embraces. The piece was featured in “The Return of the Thursday Travellers – A Second Anthology of Life Stories” by the Thursday morning Life Stories group at the New Horizons Centre, Chelsea, London, September – December 2014

“Members of New Horizons have come from all parts of the globe and travelled widely through the course of their lives. This term we listened to stories set in South America, Japan, South Africa, India, Ireland and the UK. It makes for a rich mix of histories.” – Mike Loveday, Open Age tutor.

Three Embraces by Any Rake

In May of 1961 I was chosen to deliver a poem at a Mother’s Day celebration at school. I was selected not for my particular eloquent way of reciting poems or because my diction was better than most eleven year olds. The Nun in charge of arts had been best friends with my grandmother while in school so she chose me and my sister for all the public appearances where we fitted in.

That Saturday morning was warm, sunny and we the students were all wearing the white school uniforms used for special occasions. Our parents were sitting in the auditorium while we got ready for our presentations.

My turn came.  My passionate performance of the sugary poem brought an enthusiastic response from the audience. Some were even standing up applauding.  I must be very good at this -I thought – for how else could these people be so responsive?  And who the hell was that mother in the poem? That saintly person who with a benign smile takes patient and loving care of her children? Do mothers like those really exist?  -I wondered. Following the script I had my eyes fixated on Isabel, my mother, who being in the second row, was easily recognizable among the four hundred parents present.

My mother was five feet nine, highly unusual for women of her generation. Curly auburn hair which she kept fashionably short, well defined brows and long nicely kept hands. In her wedding picture in 1945 her high cheeks stand out as well as the firmly outlined contour of her face.  The small brown eyes look at the photographer and the joy of that moment was perpetuated in the picture.  Friends from her youth remember her as a happy going, flirtatious young lady, the soul of the party.  Mother taught me to read while making the process so entertaining that at three and a half I was reading without realizing it was not just a game. A rich cousin from my father’s side would send glamorous dresses from last season. Some nights before going out she would go to my bedroom and do a little run away walk with these dresses. I was so proud of her looks and believed that among those of my friends, she was the best looking mother.  From her I learned to love the sea, the sun, the ballet and to search for creative ways to solve a situation. Isabel was a lot of good things to me but never the sweet tender mother of the poem I recited as a young girl of eleven. I remember wishing for that mother. And hating the one I had when her demons took hold of her and extended to me.

One could not anticipate the breaking of those fragile gates containing the dark powerful shadows that got the best of her. When the dam broke it was so sudden and fierce there was no way of avoiding the tsunami that would involve us in seconds.  If an answer of mine was not of her liking, she fiercely slapped me on the face. Or it could be that I did not act or react as she expected. If she was on those explosive days I would find myself at the receiving end of a glass, a metal spoon or a shoe viciously thrown at me.  At seven I started to devise ways to disappear from the situation while enervating her. If she got hold of me and pulled my hair until whole locks were in her fist, I did not cry or scream or try to run.  I started singing silly little songs that kept my mind distracted from what was happening. I did not understand at that time that I really had two mothers.  One who nurtured me and helped me grow into a curious and resourceful person. Another who believed her enemy lived inside me and had to be destroyed. I was always listening, looking, feeling, smelling for potential signs while wondering which one of my mothers would be around.

She graduated from Art History when I was about eight.  She later went on to study Home Economics and Family Education.  Afterwards she got a degree in Interior Design and explained us why she could never work in decoration. Her logic was that if people needed help in decorating they must have very bad taste and probably be very difficult to deal with. My mother was very interested in current affairs and politics, a splendid story teller with the ability to keep a mixed audience entertained for hours with her wit and love of detail.  An avid reader of all genres particularly philosophy and historical fiction, she neither guided me nor censored my reading. I placidly mixed Bouvier, Stendhal, Swain with pink novels, juvenile adventures and the study of the catholic saints.

My mother liked to sleep until very late, at times forty eight hours could go by without her getting up from bed.  On those days, I could barely touch the floor or talk out loud for fear of the mood she would wake up in. My heart would throb and my throat close at her violent change of moods, but I was adamant not to show my real feelings.   Being deaf and blind to her demons, or making her believe I was, made me feel strong.

She liked to remind me what an affectionate little girl I had been and blank at why I had changed so much. I could not embrace her or kiss her nor get myself to be close to her even in her good days. We did kiss of course at hellos, goodbyes, birthdays, Christmas or New Year’s. I am thinking of the absence of those lovingly embraces I had seen exchanged between mother and daughter just because they liked to touch each other. No, I could not have physical contact with her spontaneously, though I clearly remember the three embraces I gave her throughout her life.

The first was a fake, selfish and well produced and successful affair when I was thirteen.  The wire holding together the braces on my upper teeth had broken.  I tried to put it back together with scotch tape. No luck. To avoid a furious reaction on her side I tried a different approach. My mother was sitting on my brother’s bed sorting out the boys’ laundry. I stood at her side and looked at her with the sweet insecurity of a docile puppy.  She turned her head surprised at my presence. I threw my arms around her neck, starting to sob uncontrollably. Between tears and snot I managed to explain my ordeal and fear. She comforted me kissing my forehead lovingly while telling me I should not worry at all.  -This things happen -she said softly – I will talk to your father about it.

Occasionally in my teens and early youth I wished my mother was dead. I wanted her gone to stop the abuse, the drama, the shouting, the chaos, the unpredictability.  Growing up very confused by her volatility I created mechanisms to confuse her. Once for example, I threw away a pair of her favourite shoes which she was looking forward to use at a coming event. Another time I quit ballet lessons. Even though we both loved ballet I knew she would be very disappointed. At last I turned sixteen and was almost as tall as her. For some unimportant reason she started going crazy at me like many other times.  This was not any other time.  I was her size now and I could stop her.  When she threw herself at me I held her wrists very hard and looked her fiercely at the eyes. I could almost feel my brown eyes turning black.  -Next time you hit me I will hit you back – I said. Holy remedy.

Her husband, my father, was forty four when he died.  A few months later she was diagnosed with a vicious cancer that almost took her life one year after turning into a widow at forty one.  She told me of her fears of dying and leaving us five children by ourselves.  I was seventeen and being the only of my siblings in transition between high school and university, I was appointed to be with her at the hospital, talking to doctors, bringing her things from home and generally nursing her into good health again. She got well in a few months and in her crazy and determined way, never again returned to the doctor for a check-up. Some years later new medicines started to come out in the market that partially calmed some of her darkness and aggression.

Twenty two years went by from the first voluntary embrace I gave my mother until the second one.  She had not been seriously sick but suddenly a bad reaction to a blood transfusion was killing her. She was around sixty two. Her complexion was very pale, almost transparent.  Liquids came in and out of her body through tubes and plastic bags.  Looking at her so exhausted and fragile, all my love and need of her came bursting out and was expressed without restraint.  I embrace her softly, placed my chest over hers, kissed her eyes, her chin, her cheeks while saying to her:  You cannot go, you cannot go. I need you. This time I cried without thinking or trying.

At sixty nine she accepted an operation to correct a mitral valve defect. I reminded her about the advice she received a few years back to never have open heart surgery. She preferred to die in the operating room than continuing living as a disabled person –she insisted. I did not think she had such a bad life. Swimming in the cold sea of Lima was forbidden for her as were her long walks through the city. But she drove her car, visited friends, enjoyed her grandchildren, went out to dinner with us and had her daily whisky at home. It is true that sometimes she was out of breath and we had to stop and rest because of her gasping. What I believed did not matter, it was her life and her decision.

The surgeon in charge came out to see us when my mother was still in the operating room.  Looking at his face, I knew.  He was a friend of mine and could not hold back his tears.

My mother was already dead when I gave her the third embrace. After dressing her with my sisters, I brushed her hair and put some light make up on, making sure her eyebrows looked as she liked them.  She always placed great emphasis on the importance of eyebrows. This third embrace was a good bye and thank you one.  I kissed her cheek and her forehead while caressing her hair. I told her she looked very nice. Which she did. Her demons were nowhere around. I lit a cigarette from my brother’s packet and smoked it quickly. I remembered then I did not smoke.

And I asked myself –whom will I spent my Saturdays with?

© Any Rake

A Good Year by Cornelia J. Glynn

Thank you to Open Age member and writer Cornelia J. Glynn for sharing her heart-warming and uplifting piece of writing:

‘A Good Year’ on our blog today…

You can see more of Cornelia’s wonderful and inspirational work at :

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The Power of Love A Transformational Guide to Living from the Heart

A GOOD YEAR

2014 had been a difficult year to get through and didn’t rank high on my list of years to repeat in a hurry, if at all. Some years are just like that. They come to an end and all you want to say is “Good bye and good riddance!” That isn’t to say that it wasn’t interspersed with joyful interludes and light hearted conversations, because it was, but they had been a mere sprinkle by comparison with some of the traumatic events that presented themselves not just to me, but also to people I cherished. With sickness, mine and other people’s, and death reaching out with his cold bony hands snatching relatives of those dear to me, he hadn’t succeeded in snatching my seven year old great nephew, but did succeed in taking yet another close friend of mine and a neighbour to his kingdom. I was in mourning and couldn’t wait for the year to disappear.

Returning from Germany on New Year’s eve where I usually spend Christmas, my flat felt strangely empty and quiet. The previous owners of the cat that had been in my care for over two years and of which I had grown very fond, had been looking after her while I was away and decided they were going to keep her after all.

My mood was reflective and somewhat glum as I cast my mind back over 2014, and 2013 which hadn’t been much better either.  Tired and sad, I apprehensively wondered what 2015 would bring. I didn’t expect problems to magically disappear. They rarely do. But I did hope for fewer trials and tribulations and more jubilations and fun.

I had gone to bed at 11.00, switched on the radio and was dozing a bit, half awake and only dimly aware of the presenter at the radio station starting the count down to midnight before broadcasting the bell of Big Ben. Then something quite extraordinary happened. As Big Ben struck for the first time, my alarm clock started to beep in unison. It wasn’t turned on and even if it had been, it was set for 8.30 in the morning. When the bell had struck for the last time and my alarm clock had stopped beeping, fireworks went off in a garden nearby. I got out of bed, pushed open the curtain and watched the most spectacular display from my bedroom window, letting out several oohs and aahhs. Suddenly, there was a warm glow of elation inside me and I was at peace. I curled up under my duvet and had a smile on my face.  “It’s going to be good year” I thought. “It’s going to be a good year”.

© Cornelia J. Glynn

http://www.thepoweroflove.co.uk/main.htm

The Writer’s Journey: from Inspiration to Publication

Thanks to Cornelia J. Glynn – Open Age member and writer – who has recommended The Writer’s Journey: from Inspiration to Publication a book and the work of Julia McCutchen – an author, conscious writing coach, intuitive mentor, and the founder & creative director of the International Association of Conscious & Creative Writers (IACCW).

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“A former publisher of books on spiritual and personal development, Julia teaches conscious creativity, conscious writing and a holistic approach to writing for publication which combines the inner journey of creative self-discovery with the practical steps required for writing and publishing books, articles and all forms of written communication.”

It looks like a very inspiring book and Julia’s websites are certainly worth checking out for inspiration around ‘conscious creativity and writing’: http://www.juliamccutchen.com/

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