Thursday, 17 November 2011

Things autumnal

Ah November, season of damps cramps colds and most of the birthdays in my family. It was B's yesterday, and - apart from having to go to work to pay for it all - we had a pretty nice day and some great pizza and wine at Pizza Express - still our favourite place to eat in spite of my not winning their invent-a-pizza competition (I came second. To be fair, the winning one was delicious, but I could have done with the prize money).
It hasn't been very cold but it has been quite damp: not raining, but foggy and condensation-y all over. And most days have been dark, too, overcast and foggy all day, with a few stunningly beautiful exceptions.
We put our clocks back two weeks ago, making the mornings lighter - although that did not last for long - and the evenings set in an hour earlier. As I type, at ten past three in the afternoon, it is too dull indoors not to have the lights on and it feels the dark is closing in. On some days now, we go out in the morning twilight and come home in darkness. It feels very Northern (though I suppose it could equally feel Southern, only in 6 months time). It also feels as though we should be spending much more time asleep than we actually do. The instinct to hibernate has always been strong in me (I may be closer to our burrowing ancestors than most people you'll meet), but I notice that the cats are sleeping much more (even) than usual.
The other things this time of year brings include colds and coughs. It's our second autumn back in England and only the first cold for both of us, so we've done pretty well, but it was a goodie. I blame the students.
Seriously, I do. In every class there is at least one student, and often three or four out of 16, with a massive cold but no hanky or tissues, and no idea that a rhythmic snuffling every 5 seconds gets tiresome after the first few hours. I'm considering inventing swine flu/bird flu/elephant flu/cat flu rumours to encourage everyone to wear those hygienic masks popular in Japan. I've read that the masks are not actually that useful but I don't care - it gives something to catch the.. ahem.. effluvia.
Richard II was said to be a pretty useless king of England. Shakespeare portrays him as vacillating, self-pitying and feeble in the play of the same name. Richard's cousin Bolingbroke certainly thought so, and decided he would make a much better king himself. He got the crown and sent Richard off to Pontefract, where he may have been stabbed or may have been starved, but in any case rapidly became unfit for consideration due to being dead.
But Richard is supposed to have brought the handkerchief into use in England and for that alone he deserves a statue... possibly one placed in every language school in the country, where students can observe, mark and follow his example.
If they won't, I wonder whether Pontefract castle still has dungeons? Just a thought.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Singing in the Forum

Saturday was the 10th Birthday of the forum, a large glass-topped building from which you can look out on a much finer one; St Peter Mancroft's. The Forum houses Pizza Express, a cafe, the local BBC studios and even a library - see what you need to do to get people into a library? Offer them pizza and beer.
It's a good building and a really great library - three libraries in one, the kids library, the American USAF library, and the Central. (Norfolk Council seems determined not to close any libraries, which is to be applauded).
Anyway, the celebrations involved much fun - Guardspersons on stilts, two Gentlemen of the Press in 1930s trench coats, storytelling (not by me), kids painting a specially erected painting wall, barbershop singing, and in the midst of it, a Flash Mob.
Do you Flash much? I never have before. Suddenly a portly gentleman burst into song in the library. He was homed in upon by people from all quarters of the place - not angry hushing librarians (a dying breed it seems to me) but singers. Men, then altos, then sopranos, lead by the lovely Meg Turpin. Oh... I see... it's a choir then. Yes indeed, for it was Norwich Community Choir. We sang and then, still singing, processed onto the glass balcony over the painting and crafting below. People looked up startled and delighted. We sang an African song - no idea what it meant, but the feeling and the harmonies were lovely. Some people were in tears (and NOT because they were saddened music lovers). Then we processed singing down the stairs and dispersed. We had been instructed to 'recruit men' - a perennial shortage in choirs. I'd brought my own along, but he already sings with the UEA choir. Heyho.
It was fun. We didn't sing happy birthday dear forum... maybe we should have.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

well.. erm...yess - still here.

Yes I'm still here. Well, not here as in here, obviously - there'd have been a good few more posts if I'd been here more often. But here as in still on this planet, in the land of the living.
Appropriately, it's the Day of the Dead (aka All Souls Day) as I write this.
November is kind of a funny, life/death month in my family. Half my family have birthdays around now, from my nephew at Halloween through my sister-in-law, two of my bros 4 days apart, my Beloved, and another nephew on the 19th November (he was supposed to have been a Saggitarius but dropped in early, thus joining his mum, dad, big brother and uncle in the same sign and turning their home into a nest of Scorpios). Then - tomorrow in fact - is the anniversary of my dad's sudden death - 37 years ago and still a shock. Widen the scope a bit into October and you get my third brother's birthday and my mum's anniversary. So, when it comes to remembering the living and the dead, November is it.
As part of the general Halloweeniness, I did my first storytelling gig in England since about... ooh, 1987, perhaps at the Waterman's Art Centre in Brentford? It was a kids' party and the theme of course was Halloween. It turned out to be a rather small audience, but very enjoyable (one tot who I know is only four sat their with his eyes getting rounder and rounder... I hope he got to sleep). Anyway, a good time was had, and I met some interesting people at the party, including a medieval historian in proper 15th century costume. So tonight we're off to the Norwich Storytellers gettogether (a new experience for us both) - theme of course spooky - and I might tell a tale or two, given half a chance.