Covid19

You're a Firework!

Before the coronavirus pandemic locked us all down and locked us all in, before the days of constant news about the 'virus' and testing and tracing and sanitising and physical distancing ... I was for more than a year part of a Community Choir here in Jersey. 

We met every two weeks on a Friday just to sing ... mostly inspirational 'pop' songs and music with a bit of a meaning. It was organised by a few of us at our church - The Salvation Army in Jersey - and it was wondeful.

None of us were particularly expert singers or musicians, including the trio (including me) who led the group, but we had real fun. We did 'sing out' at church services including at Christmastime 2019 just before the pandemic hit, but most importantly, and more important than the music, it was a time to grow friendships and sing. 

We know that singing is good for us, it can lift our spirits and help with stress because it can help control out breathing. And that's why the loss of song and music and performance and choirs, and the communities and friendships they create, were so missed during the lockdowns and the pandemic restrictions. Now here in Jersey, along with other parts of the world which are benefitting from the COVID19 vaccines, we are fortunately able to sing again. 

Tomorrow evening I will be at a thanksgiving service and concert here in Jersey which I've helped to produce - I spoke about that yesterday in this blog - and it will be fabulous to welcome 'live' musicians to perform for us! It's a glimpse of how we might be returning to some sort of 'normal', although at the service we will be remembering those who have lost their lives and for whom that 'new normal' will never come.

We haven't started our Community Choir again, but who knows?

However today I want to share with you one of the songs we loved singing. It's a song by the American singer and pop sensation Katy Perry, who's birthday it is today, and it's called 'Firework'.


Katy Perry - FireworkThe words are so inspiring and challenging and for any of us who've often felt 'invisible' or worthless or vulnerable, there's a real message of hope here.

I particularly like the line :

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road

Sometimes it feels like we're getting nowhere in life, that all the doors are closing on us and we're not getting any of our dreams or even wishes. Nothing seems to work for us, we feel abandoned and without hope.

But remember - you are a firework. I'm a firework and we can shine!

I just need to believe more ... believe in myself more, maybe ... and Ignite the Light inside and let it shine. Breathe in, be courageous, regain my confidence, show the world who I am.

Don't listen to the criticism. Forget the nay-sayers and those who would put us down! We are  worthy, we are valuable,  we are precious!

Let's Fly High!

This song, we discovered when we sang it in our Community Choir, meant different things to different people. It's got the knack of touching hearts.

So .. thank you Katy ... and Happy Birthday!

 
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag
Drifting through the wind
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel, feel so paper-thin
Like a house of cards, one blow from caving in?

Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under screams but no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there's still a chance for you
'Cause there's a spark in you?

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

You don't have to feel like a wasted space
You're original, cannot be replaced
If you only knew what the future holds
After a hurricane comes a rainbow

Maybe a reason why all the doors are closed
So you could open one that leads you to the perfect road
Like a lightning bolt your heart will glow
And when it's time you'll know

You just gotta ignite the light and let it shine
Just own the night like the 4th of July

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colors burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
It's always been inside of you, you, you
And now it's time to let it through,  

'Cause, baby, you're a firework
Come on, show 'em what you're worth
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
As you shoot across the sky

Baby, you're a firework
Come on, let your colours burst
Make 'em go, "Ah, ah, ah"
You're gonna leave 'em all in awe, awe, awe

Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon
Boom, boom, boom
Even brighter than the moon, moon, moon

 

 


The Road Home

Next Tuesday - October 26th - at St Thomas' Roman Catholic Church in Jersey there will be a very special event.

It's a Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving, and it's an opportunity for all of us to remember those who have died and who meant something special to us and to celebrate their lives.

The service has been organised by a local Funeral Directors - Pitcher and Le Quesne - who have held similar events before, but of course in the past couple of years that's been impossible because of the COVID19  restrictions.

We know that since the pandemic began, so many of us have been unable to to remember loved ones in the way we may have wanted. Either we've had limited opportunities to say a proper 'farewell' or we've been unable to travel to pay our respects and to grieve with families members and friends. So next Tuesday is an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the lives that meant, and still mean, so much to us.

But the service is not just for folk who've lost someone in the pandemic ... it's open to everyone who wants to keep alive the memories of their dear ones, even if they passed away years ago.

PLQ-remembrance-facebook (2)The evening, which starts at 7pm, will be just an hour of poems, readings, prayers, music and ... we hope ... smiles along with the sadness.

Church and faith leaders will play their part, and we'll have the magnificent Malcolm L'Amy on the organ at St Thomas' ... which is in Val Plaisant in St Helier (if you don't know it ... it's the big Catholic Church!) 

But we'll also be joined by some amazing singers. 

Georgi Mottram is a Jersey-born soprano. She's already a Classic Brit Award Nominee who’s debut single shot to No.1 in the iTunes Official Classical Charts in May 2021. Georgi is a very special talent and we're so thrilled she'll be joining us.

The Aureole Choir will also be part of the evening. The choir (founder and director Nicki Kennedy) was set up during the early stages of lockdown in early 2020 to give people who love singing a chance to celebrate their love for music. They initially met online and recorded music to raise money for local charities but now have over 100 members of all ages who meet regularly to sing, have fun and fundraise. They also run weekly ‘sing-alongs’ (with requests) to boost morale among those living alone and in Jersey’s care homes. They're a great bunch of people, so talented and so committed!

Next Tuesday will be an evening, as I said, which will be reflective, but it will also be filled, we trust, with smiles and hope!

During and after the service there will be an opportunity to remember loved ones and leave messages in a ‘memorial garden' at the back of church and those who wish to do so are also invited to give a donation to the Royal British Legion Jersey Poppy Appeal. That appeal actually starts next week!

Now you might be wondering why I know so much about this?

Well, it's because I've been working on this for months with the managing director of Pitcher and Le Quesne, Paul Battrick, and St Thomas' Church ... helping to communicate, finding the artists and speakers, sourcing the poems and prayers etc and getting involved in a little bit of PR as well.

I have to say, it's one of the best 'jobs' I've had for a very long time. It feels like we are doing something which will make a big difference to people and maybe bring help and comfort in their sorrow and grief.  But hopefully it will also just be a general uplifting hour! It's made me really happy to be involved, but also it's given me much time for reflection myself, and moments when I've been moved by words and music and remembered MY loved ones, including my darling Dad, who have 'gone before'.

If you are in Jersey on Tuesday, we would love to see you! If you are not here in the island, please pray for us, that people will come and be blessed. It's a big church and we'd love to see many people... and we hope it will bless us all.

So, on this Sunday, to bring you all into the circle of love we hope will surround us on Tuesday evening, please click on the link below to see/hear a presentation that will be part of the Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving.

It will be the first of two musical offerings from the Aureole Choir  and it's actually one of the first projects they produced when Jersey was in lockdown in Spring 2020. The song and video (which is on YouTube as well as the Aureole Music website) raised money for local charities, and it brought music into our lives at a time when choirs could not meet, we could not sing even in church (and anyway churches were closed)  and we felt so bereft of the joys of music and performance.

Enjoy the beautiful Jersey landscapes and seascapes and images and people, and the even more beautifully talented islanders who joined together for this very special project.

See you on Tuesday! 

 

 


Talking Movies

This past weekend the latest James Bond movie hit cinemas across the world.

'No Time to Die' is the 25th in the series of films featuring the British secret agent James Bond -  based on the original spy novels by author Ian Fleming 

For actor Daniel Craig it's his fifth outing as '007',  the fictional British MI6 agent, and it's his final Bond film so next time around there will be a new Bond.

After various delays in production, the latest movie in the Bond franchise was due out in 2019 and then 2020 but release was delayed several times because of the global COVID19 pandemic.

The producers and distributors resisted temptation to release the movie early via one of the streaming sites and decided instead to wait to release it in cinemas. And finally, No Time to Die had its world premiere at the Royal Albert Hall in London on 28 September 2021. An exciting, sparkling event by all accounts packed full of royalty and celebrities!

Loads of my friends have already seen the movie - it was released in cinemas on 30 September 2021 in the United Kingdom and here in Jersey (as well as other countries like India where Bond is huge) . It is set to be released in the United States on Friday this week - October 8th -  and is now being rolled out across the world.

But it's already a massive success - in its first weekend Universal Pictures reckon No Time to Die took $121 million at the international box office! 

In fact, No Time to Die is being credited with 'saving' cinema. Across the world, the coronavirus has closed cinemas  and James Bond is bringing people back to movie houses in their millions!

But I'm not talking about this today just because of the latest 007 phenomenon, but also because October 6th marks another important day in movie history.

It was on this day in 1927 that a film called The Jazz Singer posterThe Jazz Singer was released.

Starring Al Jolson - a big stage and musical star of the day and reckoned to be the most well-known American entertainer of the 1920s - although it wasn't the first film to have pre-recorded sound, it was the first feature-length movie to have pre-recorded dialogue as well as music and song. 

And so it's gone down as the first 'talkie'.

The movie premiered on this day at the Warner Theatre in New York and it was a sensation! Although many people in the industry may have thought 'talking movies' were a 'flash in the pan',  actually The Jazz Singer revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. It was a huge investment and gamble for Warner Brothers, who were just a small studio in those days ... but it paid off.

Film dates back to the 19th century and by the early part of the 20th century movies were very popular ... but they were 'silent'.

There were HUGE stars of the Silent Movies (just think people like Charlie Chaplin for starters), but no one heard them speak or talk, or sing. There was no sound at all and when the films were shown in cinemas there was usually organ accompaniment which was a whole genre of entertainment in its own right.

And then came The Jazz Singer!

The film is the fictional story of Jakie Rabinowitz, a young man born into a devout Jewish family who defies tradition - he decides not to follow in his father's footsteps to become a 'cantor' in a New York  synagogue but instead decides to aim high to make it in the world as a jazz singer. It's not just a change of name (he becomes Jack Robin) but also a change of direction which puts him into conflict with his faith, his culture, his home and his heritage.

Although it's gone down in cinema history as the first talking film actually most of The Jazz Singer is still silent with subtitles. There are actually only nine scenes with lip-synchronous singing, two of which also include a few spoken words, lasting less than two minutes.

But it was enough to see off the silent film era. In 1928, the year after its release, The Jazz Singer was given an Honorary Academy Award and by mid-1929, Hollywood would be producing almost exclusively sound film. By the mid-1930's movie makers in Western Europe were doing the same. If you're interested in all this, why not go to  A Brief History of Sound Film (1895-1930) to find out more or click here?

The Jazz Singer has been re-made a couple of times as movies - namely in 1952  starring Danny Thomas and Peggy Lee; and - one of MY favourite movies - the 1980 remake starred Neil DiamondLucie Arnaz, and Laurence Olivier - a classic, in my opinion, with some amazing songs!

Cinema has come a long way since 1927! The majority of those who flock to the 'movies' to feast on No Time to Die may never have watched a black and white film and some might even turn their noses up at the 'old stuff', thinking them to be unsophisticated, 'old fashioned' and a bit 'simple' because they don't have all the bells and whistles, effects, tensions and pounding soundtracks of today's films.

But it's worth remembering that without the trailblazers of movie making, those willing to take a risk, try something completely new, step outside the normal conventions of the day and reach, literally, for the stars ... we wouldn't be where we are today, and not just when it comes to movies!

So to mark this landmark day ... let's enjoy a clip or two from the original 'talkie, learn more about his amazing film that broke the mould, and give thanks for those pioneers of cinema1

Have a great day everyone!

 


Celebrating Kindness!

Today in Jersey in the Channel Islands we will celebrate Kindness!

Kindness Festival Sept 2021It's the fourth biennial Jersey Kindness Festival - previous events happened in 2015, 2017 and 2019 - and it's a celebration of all the people here in our lovely island who live lives of kindness. Simple really.

At the beautiful harbourside in the village of St Aubin around 30 charities will set up stall to show off what they do, to chat to people, to have fun, and to show how every day their acts of kindness are making a difference to those living in our island and to the world.

Each of the charities has been tasked with bringing something fun to the party - so there are competitions and face-painting, arts and crafts, sculpting, yoga, hand reflexology and lots of conversations to be had.

It'll be educational as well. There's a chance to walk through a giant inflatable bowel - yes, you heard right - and to see how a specially adapted car works for disabled people.

And, one of the most favourite fun things to do, I'm sure, will be free pats with a Therapy Dog.

In the St Brelade's Parish Hall which is also on the harbourside there's an Affordable Art Show, with all the proceeds of sales going to the charities involved in the Kindness Festival.

Because of the COVID19 pandemic, lockdowns and restrictions, for the charities taking part, this will be the first time many of them will have had a chance to meet the public face-to-face and there will be loads of smiles all round.

Now, you might be wondering why I know so much about this event.

Well, it's because over the past few months I've been helping the organiser, Brian Clarke, to promote the event. And I shall be there, in the sunshine, to help out!

As you'll know if you've been following my daily blog since the start of the year, at the end of March I lost my job with the BBC so I've been doing a few writing and PR jobs in the past months. And the Kindness Festival popped up quite early. In my previous life as a radio producer and presenter I worked with Brian and covered the three previous Kindness Festivals, including interviewing and reporting from the festival itself.

It's been fun being involved again, from a different perspective, and it also fits in perfectly with another new project that's on the cards for me.

A few years ago I wrote a fun book with a friend of mine - Debbie Duncan. 'Lifelines' is the story of two friends sharing laughter, challenges, and cake and now I'm writing another book with Debbie ... and it's all about ..... KINDNESS!

Forgive me if over the next few months as I enter the final quarter of this year-long blog, I mention kindness a few more times.

I'm doing lots of reading about kindness and doing interviews and chatting to people, and in fact today at the Kindness Festival I'll also be doing just that! What a great opportunity to have loads of kind people in one place to chat to!

Kindness is freeIf I didn't know it already, I'm learning kindness is something that really defines us as humans. Anthropologists believe kindness is the strongest possible proof of our common humanity. Co-operation is the reason why, anthropologists believe, humanity has evolved and developed over more than 600 centuries.

All the science aside, of course we also know that kindness makes a difference, not just to those who are on the receiving end of kindnesses, whether they are 'random' acts or not, but also it affects the person who is GIVING the kindness. 

When you do something good for someone, it makes YOU feel great. To see someone else's smile is amazing.  Hopefully we're not kind to others to make OURSELVES feel good, but it can be a side effect.

Performing acts of kindness, with no thought of a return will, bit by bit, act by act, prove life-changing for giver and receiver alike.

We can all make a difference – and we can all help to change to the world! 

Today we'll celebrate kindness, and all those people who do so much to share kindness and make our world a better place, but kindness is something we can all do ... it costs nothinbut it is a great gift!

Be Kind to each other everyone!

And it you're in Jersey today ... we'd love to see you at the Kindness Festival!

 

 


Wellbeing Wednesday

How are you feeling today?

Is this a Wellbeing Wednesday for you?

I'm reminded that for a few years when I was the presenter of the BBC Radio Jersey Afternoon Show, an hour every Wednesday was devoted to subjects related to our  health and wellbeing. It was a really interesting hour, with different subjects and guests talking about all sorts of issues.

We covered physical as well as mental health, and explored alternative medicines and measures that people employ to keep themselves well. I learned a lot.

When you are working on a daily show, I soon discovered that to sustain the programme day in and day out, I needed some sort of  'structure'.

Planning ahead is vital. It can be unbelievably exhausting if you arrive at work every day with no idea about what is going to happen and how you're are going to fill your programme. If every day of the working week is a struggle to fill space, it's just so stressful! Andin the long term, that's certainly not good for your wellbeing! Putting a little plan together can actually keep you well!

It's also depressing if you keep getting knock-backs and disappointments, but the truth is ... ringing possible guests and contributors at say 10am asking them to chat to you live on the radio at for example, 3pm, can result in constant refusals. Believe it or not people have lives and work, and not everyone can just drop everything to have a chat with a radio host, not unless they have an urgent need to do so.

Yes I'm aware that lots of media people think the world revolves around us ... why WOULDN'T everybody just pause their lives to be on the radio in half an hour's time? But the truth is, life is not like that! We have to work around others. 

Yes, there's always flexibility, of course, because it might be something happens that day that you need to respond to during the show. But mostly you can plan most of your guests and subjects in advance and work around them if you need to.

The trick when you're working on a long running production - and I have worked for many years not just in radio but in (live and recorded) television so I think I know what I'm talking about - is to have a plan and even a 'schedule'!

You can look ahead and see if one day in particular is an important date or anniversary  in the calendar ... you could book guests to reflect that. You can source guests who might have an event planned, and you can think of ideas for what we call 'stranding' - subjects which pop up regularly which you can plan in advance, featuring issues you think might interest your listeners. These can be pre-planned.

This 'stranding' also means that people tuning in to your show may feel that they have an 'appointment to listen' if they want to. They know that a subject may be coming up at a certain time, on a specific day of the week. If you're running a 'series' you may want to run it around the same time every week so that people know to listen in!

I know what you're saying ... 'well you can always play another song or run some sort of survey or competition where it's mostly YOU chatting'?

Yes, that's true, but BBC local radio in the UK is supposed to be predominantly 'talk' and based in the community, featuring local conversations which interest local people. Well that was the original intention and aim anyway. The BBC is not a' commercial' station or set of stations which rely on mostly music. 

Anyway, although I loved playing music on the radio, when I was presenting I'd much rather chat to someone else who is far more interesting than me rather than just wittering on into the microphone about myself, the things I've been up to, the people I've met, the places I've visited or are connected to and the things I'm interested in. Giving a little of yourself is important, but not too much I always think!

We can all  be rather self-centred, it's true, and we would often rather talk about ourselves than let others speak. Maybe many of us would rather push our own ideas than listen to the other person. If you're at a party, how often do you find yourself chatting about what YOU are up to, or YOUR opinions on a matter, rather than being quiet and letting others talk and finding out about what they are doing? It's all part of the skill of  'Active Listening' which I was blogging about last week.

And as I said at the top, apart from anything else, when you talk to different people, you learn SO much! 

And I believe it's never too late to learn!

It takes a lot of work to put together an interesting radio programme every day, especially when you're working either alone and producing your own show or working with a very small team. Researching subjects so you can ask sensible questions is important, I think.

Some presenters don't do that. They go into an interview rather unprepared, relying on stuff they 'think' they already know,  and so often it can become more about pushing their own thoughts on the issue. It's more about THEM than the subject and the person they are talking to! 

Wellbeing Wednesday acrosticAnyway, back to Wellbeing Wednesday on the radio!

This acrostic reminded me of it and today I share it with you ... and hope you will be inspired.

Wellbeing Wednesday on the radio wasn't MY idea, rather it came from a fabulous young producer who I was working with at the time - Emma-Jayne - and she did most of the legwork on the series, booking guests, compiling those all important notes, introducing me to some of the wonderful people in Jersey who are part of the 'wellbeing' community. 

Of course, lots of people choose to concentrate on this issue in the middle of the week ... which for many is also called 'Wellness Wednesday' ...  so it was a great fit.

It was a lovely time for me, working with EmJay ... what a privilege to share office and studio space and ideas with someone so fabulous!!! We bounced off each other and it was glorious!

The Afternoon Show as originally envisaged (1-4pm) is now no more ... the schedules have changed, different people are in place. Actually the focus of BBC local radio is changing in some respects although I hope the 'localness' will never be entirely lost.

But I will always remember Wellbeing Wednesday with fondness and in fact the idea did gain another life, because until the COVID19 pandemic hit us, every Wednesday a group of  local wellbeing practitioners were setting up stall in Jersey's main town of St Helier, sharing their expertise and experience.  All under the 'Wellbeing Wednesday' banner!

And who knows, that idea might continue yet? I haven't given up on it entirely ... 

Maybe .... Watch this Space!

Meanwhile, if you have a moment,  I invite you to read the attached message. Perhaps read it a few times and feel inspired and motivated.

Have a Well Day everyone!

 

 


Flowers Flowers Everywhere

Today in Jersey should have been Battle Day.!

Let me explain. Today the seafront in our main town of St Helier should have been crowded for the annual Jersey Battle of Flowers, a spectacularly colourful parade featuring dozens of 'floats' all covered in flowers, along with dancers and music, costumes and smiles.

Battle of FLowers Prix d'Honneur 2019I first went to the Battle parade as a child and later in life I would not just attend, but work at it for the local Jersey media - writing for the local newspaper, recording for the local TV station and latterly, I was down in the arena broadcasting live to the island via the local BBC radio station! What a joy!

The history of the parade goes back to 1902, when a parade was organised to  celebrate the coronation of King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra. It was so popular that the event was repeated the following year and then it became an annual event and a great tourist attraction. It's a Jersey tradition!

The best thing about the Battle is that it's 'homegrown'.

Over the years I've spoken to masses of people who give their lives to the parade, spending many months of the year planning and building the gorgeous floats, organising costumes and dances and music, ordering flowers and then covering every millimetre of those fantastic constructions with the blooms - most real, some paper - in preparation for the big day.  For many people, Battle is a way of life especially in the Jersey parishes, who create the biggest floats which sail up and down Victoria Avenue on the day and who compete for the big prizes! Yes it's beautiful and it's competitive! 

For many years it's not just been the Afternoon Parade on the second Thursday in the month of August, but also a Moonlight Parade on the Friday, when the flower festooned floats are re-imagined in colourful lights. Now that's a spectacle to behold. It's just awe-inspiring!

This year, however, for the second year running, the Battle of Flowers is off, thanks to the COVID19 pandemic. Previously it was war that prevented the parade, now this ghastly virus not only prevents us gathering in huge numbers safely to celebrate Battle, but it also means that the people who MAKE the parade and the floats haven't been able to meet across the year to plan and build.

I know the Jersey Battle of Flowers organisers desperately hope that we will be back on track next year, so let's pray for that!

So I'm thinking about flowers today, and this fabulous quote which is attributed to Lady Bird Johnson

Where flowers bloom

"Where flowers bloom, so does hope,”

We can't but help feel happy when we see and experience flowers, especially colourful blooms. The spectacle of those flowery floats IS the most amazing feeling. Knowing that people have created the exhibits with such love is also inspiring!

Flowers represent life and energy, and love.

Why is it that often if we want to show our love, we buy flowers or blooming plants? It's because they remind us that life is good, there are better times ahead. Whatever life may throw at us, the flowers in our lives WILL  bloom again, and we will come through the trials.

The Battle of Flowers WILL be back, the colourful floats will grace the seafront in St Helier again, the people who love the tradition will once again produce those wonderfully ornate and imaginative creations!

Roll on August 2022!

Oh - and if you want to see what the parade was like last time it was held ... on the second Thursday in August of 2019 ... here's how the local ITV station reported it! This programme includes some of the people who make the magic, as well as the parade itself. Ok, so the weather was a bit dull, but it was still a wonderful day!  

 


Just for Today

Today is the final day of the first part of the 2020 Summer Olympics events in Tokyo.

Yes I know what you're thinking ... it's 2021! But of course, the Games last year were postponed because of the COVID19 global pandemic so everything is happening a year later than expected.

Although I've not been 'glued' to the TV during the past fortnight I have enjoyed a lot of the coverage, even of sports I am not particularly interested in. I've watched some of the 'newer' Olympic sports like BMX cycling and skateboarding and been befuddled by events like the cycling 'Madison' (a complicated relay race where the riders 'tag' each other) and the  'Keirin' (weird sprinting race). Got to say I've not watched much of the boxing or judo or weightlifting, although well done to everyone who takes part in those.

The athletics is always a roller coaster and I'm in awe that people can run or jump or throw that fast and high and far. And as for the gymnastics - well that's always incredible and full of tension and awe-inspiring feats of brilliance by those young men and women who throw themselves around with abandon.  Although I have to say I'm still a bit perplexed as to why the women gymnasts have to 'dance' their floor exercises and for the men it's just the amazing tumbles. 

But for me, the most exciting Olympic sports are those that happen primarily in the first week of the Summer Olympics in the water and the pool! It seems like the swimming is closest to my heart, and one which I can most relate to. Not that I could even get close to those times but when I see those swimmers diving in and ploughing up and down the pool and then touching the end of the pool as the race finishes, I can turn back time to my own very limited competitive swimming years.

A long time ago now ... 

Which brings me to the Summer Olympics of 1972

I was 13 and it's my first memory of watching the Olympics on the TV.

The Games were held in Munich in Germany ... and unfortunately that festival of sport has gone down in history for a tragic event rather than the brilliant sportsmen and women and their achievements, because in the second week the Games made the news after a terrorist attack in the Olympic Village in which eleven Israeli athletes and coaches and a West German police officer were killed by Palestinian Black September terrorists.

But for me it's also memorable because it's when I first heard of and saw an amazing swimmer - Mark Spitz from the USA.

He won seven gold medals in the pool, all in world record time. That record stood for 36 years until fellow American Michael Phelps came along and won eight golds at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing

Actually, Mark Spitz won nine Olympic golds, a silver, and a bronze between 1968 and 1972, along with many many other awards at national and global level. And for several years (1969, 1971 and 1972) he was named Swimming World Magazine World Swimmer of the Year.

WHAT A LEGEND!

I was absolutely inspired. At the time I was doing a lot of swimming and even competing and he was my hero! Ok so he was also a good looking young man ... that helped to make him more attractive to a young teen ... so it is no surprise that, along with pop stars like Donny Osmond, I had a poster of Mark on my bedroom wall!

Spitz retired from competitive swimming after the 1972 Olympics, has become a motivational speaker and much more and there are loads of quotes from him online, including thoughts about that terrorist attack on the Israeli Olympic team ... as a person of Jewish faith, those murders of his fellow athletes would have been particularly shocking!

Mark SpitzLots of his 'thoughts' about swimming and winning have been taken out of context, of course, but I found this one from the man which is especially interesting, at least for me.

The idea of living in the moment - for today -  is something I think we can all consider.

I don't know about you but I can be inclined to worry too much about what is to come, things that I can't control, and I lose the joy of just BEING!

And sometimes that concern can stress me out and prevent me from performing as I know I am able.

For elite sportsmen and women, I'm guessing that being in the moment, doing the best they can given all their hard work and training, is all they can do. 

During the coverage of some of the Olympic events I've noticed some of the athletes obviously thinking themselves through what they are going to do. The high-jumpers, for instance, seem to turn their head and even move their arms and hands as they envisage the jump that is to come.  They are committed to that moment in time.

I love to watch tennis and I often hear the 'expert' commentators, including former champions, explain that it's important not to get ahead of oneself but to treat each point separately. If you think 'this one will win me the match/make me the champion' it can lose you that crucial point because you take your eye 'off the ball' ... literally! You are too busy thinking about what is to come rather than that moment in time.

This way of mindful thinking ... being in the moment ... doesn't mean we shouldn't PREPARE for the future ... of course we should! If sportsmen and women didn't put the leg work in then they would not be in a place to compete ... but the ability to just put all else aside and concentrate on THIS MOMENT IN TIME, to perform to the best of their ability, is an example to us all.

Of course we must all work hard to ensure we are all prepared for the crucial moments in our lives, but being able to live for that one moment, to concentrate and to focus ... is a skill we could all try to achieve.

In a week or so time we will be treated to the 'second half' of the Summer Olympics 2020 and the Paralympic Games, again from the Japanese capital city, which are, I think, even more inspiring than the events featuring the able bodied.

It's always unbelievably inspiring to see people who have dealt with so much in their lives push themselves to their limits, smash records, make themselves and their nation proud and just excel at the very highest level.

But for today I'm taking inspiration from one of heroes - the AMAZING Mark Spitz - and this thought. 

The ability to not worry endlessly about the future, to enjoy today, to look around and relish this moment ... that's important for me as I grow older.

As I said, it's a long time since Mark Spitz made it onto my bedroom wall. As a young person it's important to have people to look up to. And he is part of my life journey.

So thanks to you, Mark Spitz!

May you continue to inspire!




 


Fridayest Friday!

If you hadn't guessed it yet - I love words!

I saw this quote and it made me laugh out loud.

Fridayist Friday

'May Today be the Fridayest Friday that ever Fridayed!'

Don't you love that?

I wish I'd thought of it!

Because in my mind it sort of sums up what Friday should be about ... awesome, fabulous, a bit of a relief because we've come to the end of the week ... the 'Fridayest Friday' in fact!

This quote got me thinking about one of my favourite subjects - WORDS.

I'm fascinated by language and words actually and especially intrigued as to WHY certain things are called what they are called.

For the longest time when I was a kid I was obsessed by the English word 'cup' ... I know, that's a bit weird but it's true!

What kept spinning around in my head was this question ... WHY is that vessel we drink from called a 'CUP' ?

I have no idea why that word got me, but if you just listen to the word and try not to think about the object it's describing, it's a very strange sound.

CUP! 

Say it out loud and you'll get what I'm talking about. I'm sure there are other words which sound just as odd, when disembodied from the visual image of what it is describing. But it was 'CUP' that made me think endlessly.

The Oxford Dictionary of Word Origins tells me that the word is from the Old English and comes originally from the Latin word 'cuppa'. But that doesn't help me really. WHO decided that the strange sounding word 'cuppa' was a good way of describing that sort of vessel? Whoever it was, I bet they never guessed that that Latin word would also make it's way into the English language.

I feel like a 'cuppa' tea just thinking about it.

There ARE some words, of course, that DO make more sense because they sort of describe how the thing SOUNDS. That's an example of what we call 'onomatopoeia'. I love these kinds of words.

SIZZLE .. it sounds like what is it!

HOOT ... I can hear the owls in the night-time  now!

SNAP, BANG, BEEP, POP ... I could go on, there are masses of these words. I'm sure you can dream up a list of your own.

But the thing I love about language is that it's always developing. New words are often being introduced into our (English) language as culture develops.

For example, when I was a kid we didn't have the words 'social media' or 'internet' or 'cell/ mobile phone', 'emoji'  - those techy terms just for starters. And the coronavirus/ COVID19 pandemic has also resulted in a whole new set of words we had never or hardly heard before early 2020.

If  you follow the Oxford English Dictionary's 'new' word trail you'll find that new phrases and words are constantly being added to the lexicon. In July 2020, for instance, the New Words section of the OED included now familiar phrases such as 'contact tracing', 'contact tracer', 'physical distancing' and even 'Zoom' as we all turned to the internet to stay in touch during lockdowns. They are all now in the dictionary.

When it comes to making up words, however, in my experience the Champion of the World has to be the amazing author Roald Dahl who is best known, of course, for his children's books and stories, many of which are a bit surreal.

He often made up words including those that are onomatopoeic. Words like 'churgle' , which describes gurgling with laughter, and 'bibble', a perfect description of how water makes a soft gurgling sound when it hits ...  a giant peach! And how about 'scrumdiddlyumptious' - delicious!

Roald Dahl also made up words which sort of incorporate sounds and words we already know ... how about 'Giganticus' which  describes something ' Grand and spectacular'. Or 'Jumpsy; which is if you feel anxious and the slightest thing will make you jump. 

Dahl called his language 'Gobblefunk' and he apparently made up nearly 400 words - over 300 for his fabulous story 'The BFG' (The Big Friendly Giant). If you want to investigate some of his word inventions there are loads of website sites including The Wonderful World of Dahl: GOBBLEFUNK: Dahl Dictionary and Matilda Gobblefunk: A Dictionary of Roald Dahl’s Made-Up Words

Sometimes the writer just mixed up English words. One of his heroes is 'Esio Trot' ... Tortoise backwards. And if you've ever heard someone talk a load of old nonsense then you've experienced Dahl's 'Rommytot' - TommyRot!

But there are just bonkers words which Roald Dahl made up ... conjured out of his own imagination. 

My favourites include those that are written on the walls of the Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden in Buckinghamshire in England ...see my pictures of the place below ..

"It is Truly SWIZZFINGLY FLUSHBUNKINGLY GLORIUMPTIOUS"

WHAT an imagination!

Many moons ago just as I was about to go into my final English exam at high school - my final 'A-level' exam - my teacher, who was standing at the door giving all her students some last minute encouragement, said to me "Cathy you ARE capable of getting an 'A' today ... but only if, just today, YOU DON'T MAKE UP ANY WORDS!"

Yes, I was well known even then, aged 18, for making up words. I often wrote a word which would, in my mind, sound right but which was actually a mixture of already existing words. It was something my English teacher picked up on, and although not discouraging me in my imaginative wordsmithing, was just reminding me that the examiners might not quite understand my brain!

And, by the way, on that June morning, I did resist confloberating a few words, and I did get an A in the English 'A-level'... top marks!

So, back to my thought for this day.

Have a Fridayest Friday!

Don't be a 'Grunion' (a grump) ... have a 'Phizz-Wizzing' (a brilliant) Day everyone! 

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre exterior 2

Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre


*The Roald Dahl Music and Story Centre, Great Missenden, Buckinghamshire 
(images by Cathy Le Feuvre)

Visit if you can ... it's 'Whoopsy-splunkers' - Fantastic!


Bow the Knee

A few weeks ago I was privileged to take part in a very special online 'gathering'.

The senior choir - the Songsters - at The Salvation Army church in Felixstowe in Suffolk in England meet every week online ... they can't meet in person because of the coronavirus, so they meet 'viritually' to stay in touch, be inspired and occasionally to hear from someone different.

So, I had the honour to speak to them, actually about my books, and then to lead them in a prayer 'devotion'. It was, I hope, 'different'.

Bow the kneeFor months a certain song has been travelling with me and has meant so much especially during the lockdowns and the uncertainty of the pandemic, so I chose this song to share with them.

This week especially it kept popping up all over the place, including on the random selection on my music library on my I-Phone. Like someone is trying to tell me something!

It's sometimes hard to pray and trust when life seems out of your control. But these words encourage me to keep trusting God however uncertain life may be. And to keep 'talking' to God and praying and believing.

So this Sunday I simply share it with you and hope it encourages you too.

The full lyrics are beneath the music video... but  the words of the chorus are worth repeating, and repeating, and repeating ...

Be blessed!

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the Knee

There are moments on our journey following the Lord
Where God illumines ev'ry step we take
There are times when circumstances make perfect sense to us
As we try to understand each move He makes
When the path grows dim and our questions have no answers, turn to Him

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

Bow the knee
Trust the heart of your Father when the answer goes beyond what you can see
Bow the knee
Lift your eyes toward heaven and believe the One who holds eternity
And when you don't understand the purpose of His plan
In the presence of the King, bow the knee

 

(words and music by Michael Harland and Christopher Machen)

 


Calling it out

If you're as old as me, you'll remember the days before the internet ... and social media.

Those days when if we wanted to contact people, we would have to write a letter, take the trouble to meet them in person, or phone them.

Today, though, we can post something online, send a 'direct message' on one of the social media platforms and get almost instantaneous replies.

It's like magic! 

Well I think it is anyway.

When social media first came around I was a bit dubious. Did I really want to tell the world what I was up to? Did I really want my opinion out there? Did I want to get involved in conversations not just with people I know, but perhaps with those I don't?

Well ... the answer was 'YES'... although I determined from the start that I would try to be wise.

Social media has, of course, been accused of creating the downfall of humanity, or something similar.

But actually I've realised that social media is only the vehicle for misbehaviour and vile, and even evil. It allows us to be more vocal, to be nasty ... especially for those who want to do so while 'hiding' in plain sight. 

Social mediaBut as this quote reminds us ... it's not as simple as that!

And it's down to us all to call it out.

Take, for instance, the recent racist vile and vitriol posted online ... on Twitter primarily ... by those who blamed certain individual footballers for losing the England football team the Euro 2021 Cup.

So, a few of those most excellent young sportsmen missed a penalty which meant that the Italians won the game, and picked up the trophy.

In the past those racists who pointed out that these brilliant sportsmen are not white might have spouted their evil to like minded friends in the pub. But instead they posted on Twitter. Which thankfully resulted in lots of 'calling out' .. and hopefully a ban from that social media platform. Hopefully for life!

Posting on social media in public IS just like having your face on a big poster for all to see. And if you think you can behave immorally and unethically, and with hatred and offence, then think again!

You will be called out and there are masses of us online now who are determined that the social media platforms will NOT be hijacked by the 'Nasty'.

When I first started using social media, there were lots of people who doubted my sanity and thought I was going to the 'dark side' of life.  Social media was an evil place and we should all stay clear. If we didn't want to be corrupted, we should just not go there.

But I quickly learned that it didn't have to be like that. We don't have to exclude ourselves from the magic of social media. In fact, we can be part of the solution, rather than the problem or allowing the problems to be perpetuated.

I've seen so much amazing stuff, so much positivity, on social media. Prayer circles for sick friends, positive quotes and comments for people to be inspired by, encouragement for folk who are having a hard time. Certainly during the COVID19 pandemic, and lockdown, social media was a bit of a saviour for a lot of us, keeping us in touch with our family and friends when we could not meet. 

So ... as for me ... when I'm on social media I try to block the negative. I report when I see bad stuff, and I try to stay away from the controversial discussions. I certainly don't welcome them into my life and I don't go looking for the bad, but I do try to share the 'good'. It's part of what I'm trying to do with this daily blog, which I daily also post to Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

I'm mentioning all  this today because apparently it was on July 15 2006 that Twitter was publicly launched!

Yes, it wasn't that long ago and yet these days Twitter and the other social media platforms - Facebook, Instagram, and now Tik Tok and other newer inventions - are just part of our every day life. And some of us can't imagine life without it!

When Twitter came along, with its 140 character limit, I thought I'd never get it. 

As you know if you read this blog regularly, I'm a bit verbose!

But now I love it. These days I get up to 280 characters to say what I want to say, but for me each tweet is a bit of challenge.

Although the first 'tweet' or message was sent in March 2006 by the company's CEO Jack Dorsey, (who created the platform with Noah GlassBiz Stone, and Evan Williams) it was publicly launched in July and it soon caught on. By 2012, more than 100 million users posted 340 million tweets a day,  and Twitter was handling an average of 1.6 billion search queries every day.

Today (actually as of January this year)  Twitter  has in excess of 350million active users!

It's a powerful platform.

Yes, of course those who run these huge companies have a duty of care to ensure the platform is not abused, and to ensure those who do abuse others online are dealt with, but it is also down to us, the users, to ensure we behave online, and to call out those who don't.

If I want social media to be a healthy place, I need to be part of the community which encourages goodness online.

And I suggest that if we all did a bit of that, the world (and that includes social media) will be a better place!