Making precious memories: Thomas Hardy’s poems

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violin

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Thomas Hardy  has always tended to be better known for his novels than for his poems, but among the hundreds of poems he wrote on a wide range of subjects, there are some very memorable ones. This has always been one of my favourites:

The Self-Unseeing

Here is the ancient floor,

Footworn and hollowed and thin,

Here was the former door

Where the dead feet walked in.

 

She sat here in her chair,

Smiling into the fire;

He who played stood there,

Bowing it higher and higher.

 

Childlike, I danced in a dream;

Blessings emblazoned that day;

Everything glowed with a gleam;

Yet we were looking away!

Hardy here is describing a scene from his childhood: it’s a family occasion with his father playing his violin as the young Thomas dances and twirls and his mother looks on smiling. The last two lines are the most poignant since they carry the message that this family time was a very precious moment  but, sadly, they had not appreciated this at the time. Continue reading

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The A-Z of Buying Presents

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presents

We’re now entering a major present-buying period for many people, but of course we buy presents for all kinds of people for many different reasons. This list may provide some helpful suggestions, whatever the occasion and whoever you’re buying for.

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What’s changed in the last 20 years?

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Technology

Last week it was the twentieth anniversary of the day my dad died: inevitably a time for looking back, but also for pondering on what’s happened between then and now. So much has gone on in the family – the kids have grown up and married; a grandchild has been born – but it also struck me just how much in my daily life involves things Dad would know nothing about. Here are just a few:

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Developing your Creativity

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What is Creativity?

What do we envisage when we hear someone called a “very creative person”? Possibly we assume that he or she is a gifted artist or composer, or someone whose home is filled with beautifully hand-crafted objects. Maybe it sounds like this is someone we should be in awe of. Then we might compare ourselves –inevitably unfavourably , telling ourselves that we just couldn’t hope to compete , that we’re “not that creative”.

But creativity has nothing to do with competition. The etymology of the word “create” is connected with the idea of giving life – of producing something where nothing existed before. Beyond this, it has the sense of being able to transcend traditional ideas to produce something original and imaginative. In other words, to come up with something a bit different. Continue reading

How to enjoy reading Charles Dickens

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First of all, why bother to read Dickens at all?

Because he was one of the greatest novelists who ever lived. His novels feature really ingenious plotting; a vast range of exceptionally colourful and memorable characters of all kinds – many of them eccentric and humorous (although there are some great villains too); interesting insights into life and human nature; many funny episodes; a breath-taking prose style; memorable expressions and witty comments.

Traditionally, Dickens is not seen as an easy read, and in some ways he isn’t. Unfortunately, though, many people have been introduced to Dickens at school when they were too young to understand his prose style and this has had the effect of turning them off Dickens for life. Because children are quite familiar with simplified versions of stories such as Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol and Great Expectations, there is a mistaken perception that these books were written for children, but they remain very much adult novels. The original full-length versions are far too dificult for children yet, if you return to Dickens’s books as an adult, you’ll find them much more readable than they were when you were fourteen!

Nevertheless, it’s worth bearing in mind that in the twenty-first century we’re saturated with instant messages and easy readability, but Dickens does have to be worked at a bit – not something we’re used to. But if you’ve never managed to enjoy Dickens before but you’re prepared to make the effort now, he more than repays the toil you put in .

Seven Steps to Getting the Best from Dickens

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How to organise your day – and feel good!

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Now that we’re moving into the busy season of a-million-things-to-do-before-Christmas, it seemed a particularly opportune moment to think about how I could organise my time a bit better. I had three key goals:

  1. To get some tedious tasks done out of the way
  2. To avoid procrastination
  3. To factor in time to do some things I enjoy

When I have a free day, (I reasoned to myself) I could perhaps spend all of it doing the dreary things that need to be done: sorting out accounts and admin, cleaning and housework   or organising my clutter. But, of course, I don’t want to do those things so none of them even get started. Alternatively, I could plan to spend the whole day doing something I enjoy: seeing friends, reading or watching a film, immersing myelf into a craft project. I don’t do that either, though, largely because I feel guilty about not doing all the dreary things. Continue reading

Do you know your proverbs?

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In days gone by, people loved wise old sayings. It seemed like a point was never made simply and directly if it could be dressed up in an illustrative metaphor or catchy phrase.

My mother and her mother could have whole conversations in proverbs. It would go something like this:

Mum: Old Arthur’s sailing close to the wind.

Gran: Yes, he’ll need to look before he leaps.

Mum: But he’d better strike while the iron’s hot.

Gran: Well, fortune rewards the brave. It’s an ill wind, after all.

Mum: Hm,but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks.

Gran: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Though there’s many a slip!

Rough translation:

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