Monday, 29 July 2013

Blowing Away the Cobwebs

 Oban Bay. A place to embrace open space.

    Recent research reports that children by the age of seven, have spent the equivalent of one year of their lives in front of a TV, or computer screen. In turn, the lack of exercise can have long term, serious health implications, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

    Now these findings aren't new, this is information that we've already been told repeatedly. So, how can we get our kids to embrace the great outdoors? Well, for a start off we adults need to lead by example and get off our own butt's.

   Speaking as a writer and someone who knows from personal experience, spending hours in front of a computer screen certainly assists the derriere and waistline to expand. Although I do try and get out and about regularly, because I find it's not just my body that benefits from a workout, my mind does too. There's nothing better for clearing my thoughts than a brisk walk in the countryside, or local park.

    If you've been promising yourself to start a new health regime, this week is the time to begin. In the UK it's 'National Park Week' commencing 27th July to 4th August and it's all about encouraging the young and old alike, to get outside and embrace our green spaces and parks.

    Last weekend I visited the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park, which opened July 2002 and I was amazed at the activities that are available to all. Whether you want to go cycling, walking, boating, bird-watching, or fishing it's all there.

    All these activities get the blood pumping through our veins, stimulate our brains and may help stir our creative juices. After all it's said that a visit to the Trossachs inspired, Sir Walter Scott to write 'The Lady of the Lake.'

One of the many lochs in the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park

Thursday, 25 July 2013

It's All About the Cambridge Boy

Linlithgow Palace designed by Master James of St George
    When the news arrived on Monday, that the Duchess of Cambridge had safely delivered the UK and Commonwealth with a new Prince and future King, the crowds cheered.

    Within 24 hours of his arrival the proud parents, Prince William and Katherine stood on the steps of St Mary's Hospital, Paddington, London and introduced their beautiful son to the awaiting media and well wishers.

    But, now that the sex of the child was known, the name was anxiously anticipated by all. However, William and Kate, as Katherine is better known, didn't leave it too long before they set the record straight. The young Prince of Cambridge was to be named George, Alexander, Louis.

   So in keeping with the royal theme today, I've listed writers with the same, or variant forms of the three chosen christian names of the newborn Prince.

    George, meaning a farmer, worker of the land.
  • George Elliot. UK novelist and short story writer.
  • George Orwell. UK novelist, poet and essayist.
  • George Bowering. Canadian poet.
  • George Farquhar. Irish playwright.
  • George S Kaufman. US playwright and critic. 
  • George Kelly. US playwright.
  • George Bernard Shaw. Irish playwright, essayist and critic.
  • George Meredith. UK novelist and poet.  
  • George Seferis. Greek poet, essayist and critic.
  • George Oppen. US poet.    
    Alexander, meaning a helper of men.
  • Alexander Pope. UK poet, critic and satirist.
  • Aleksandr Pushkin. Russian novelist and poet.
  • Alexandre Dumas. French playwright and novelist.
  • Alejo Carpenter. Cuban journalist and novelist.
  • Aleksandr Blok. Russian poet.
  • Alex Haley. US novelist.
  • A.A Milne. UK children's writer and playwright. (Alan, Alexander)
  • Alessandro Manzoni. Italian poet and novelist.
  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. Russian novelist.
  • Alexei Tolstoy. Russian novelist and playwright.

    Louis, meaning brave in battle.
  • Jorge Luis Borges. Argentinian, writer and poet.
  • Ludovico Ariosto. Italian poet and playwright.
  • Louis L'Amour. US novelist.
  • Louis Auchincloss. US novelist and short story writer.
  • Louis Bromfield. US novelist, playwright and short story writer.
  • Lewis Carroll. UK children's writer.
  • Louis MacNeice. Irish novelist, playwright and poet.
  • Luigi Pirandello. Italian playwright, novelist and poet.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson. UK essayist,novelist and short story writer.
  • Louis Simpson. Jamaican born, US novelist and poet.    
    If this young  heir can leave the legacy that the above writers all have, his parents chest's will be bursting with pride even more.


Monday, 22 July 2013

Healing Time

Healing Time  

I feel this day I'm full of sorrow,
I feel this day there's no tomorrow.
I think this day of how you looked,
I think this day of what they took.
I feel your pillow and my heart feels broken, 
I feel so sad no matter what words are spoken.

The words they say I hope are true,
Time is a healer and I'll get through.
    A short poem from a WIP by Christina Rowell Copyright 2013 

Thursday, 18 July 2013

One Size Fits All?

    This week the UK government proposed that all children between the age of five and eleven years of age in England will have to sit formal tests at school, to evaluate their literacy and numeracy skills.

    At present tests are done informally in a child's early years by teachers, his/her progress is monitored and personal details, learning difficulties, or disabilities are taken into account.

    These new proposals will have an outside examiner assess the papers, with no school involvement. Therefore individual circumstances that may have an impact on the child's ability to learn will not be taken into consideration, as far as I can understand.

    The government believe that by standardising tests throughout schools and officially grading children's abilities, children will attain a more acceptable level of the skills needed to move on to High School.

    Whilst I bang on regularly about all kids having the right to be schooled, I am of the opinion that these 'base line' tests are very much a one size fits all. This standardisation works in the clothing industry for example, but kids aren't kaftans, or dresses. When clothing is made we start with a piece of cloth, but children aren't strips of woven material, they are very unique indeed. So one size will never, ever, fit all.

    As Benjamin Franklin said, "By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail," and by failing to receive input from teachers with regards to each child's individuality we are preparing to fail our children.
Even these guys are individuals


Monday, 15 July 2013

Poet in the Making

   Today I'm featuring a poem my niece wrote, when she was just eleven years of age. I'm sure you'll enjoy it as much as I did when I first read it seven years ago and of course still do.

 The Garden Path
Along the garden path I walk,
And suddenly the trees begin to talk,
The insects whisper gently to me,
Just like a shell talking to the sea.
The garden path so long and winding,
Sometimes it looks so dark and frightening,
In summer the sun glistens down,
I feel warmth and pleasure as I look around.
Small white daisies so rare and defined,
The birds swoop around for food they must find,
I walk further down the garden path,
And I feel natures magical wrath.
The garden path so long and wide,
Just like the boat that follows the tide,
The garden path comes to an end,
I find a deep red rose round the next bend.
The garden path went away,
I wish to see it again some day.
By Megan V. Copyright 2013


Thursday, 11 July 2013

Malala's Big Day

Forth Road Bridge

    Malala Yousafzai, the girl who was shot by the Taliban for campaigning for girls rights to education has a big day ahead of her today (12th July). It's not only her sixteenth birthday, but she's also making a speech and delivering a petition to the United Nations in New York, advocating for a school place for every boy and girl globally.

    She and other children from all over the world are attending an education conference there, organised by Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and now UN Special Envoy for Global Education.

    We know that the schooling of girls in many countries is not allowed and a boy's education will  take priority. But although boys have the right  to be schooled, it is often not possible to do so, or is ignored. So I'm happy to see that education for boys is being acknowledged at this meeting too.

    Being educated isn't just about learning to read, write and do Arithmetic; education teaches us to tolerate and realise that we are all each others equal. Change is needed in the male attitude towards the female in third world countries, and by educating the children, the founds are being put down to a bridge which hopefully will close the gap between the two.




Monday, 8 July 2013

Walking on Sunshine

Example of Gothic Architecture in Barcelona
    Summer well and truly arrived in Scotland yesterday with the temperature reaching around 28 degrees centigrade in some parts. Expecting that the weather was going to be good all day I had a slight dilemma on my hands. Should I stay indoors and watch Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final on TV, or finish reading Carlos Ruiz Zafon's novel, The Shadow of the Wind, whilst catching some rays outside? The thing was I wanted to do both.
    I knew that watching Murray would not be a particularly enjoyable experience as I would be peeping at the TV screen through splayed fingers, and sighing with exasperation for a couple of hours. Therefore, weighing up all the pros and cons of both of my choices, I decided for my sanity and blood pressure that I'd settle down on my deck chair with Zafon's novel.

     I had read reviews of Zafon's books, author interviews and even managed to put a question to him via a live webchat, but I'm ashamed to admit that I still hadn't read one of his books. However, following a chat with a Spanish friend, who raved about Zafon's novels, I purchased a copy of, The Shadow of the Wind a couple of days ago.

    Making the decision to read, rather than watch yesterday was something I did not regret, as the emotions this book filled me with were something I hadn't experienced in a long time. The words of passion, fear, love were easily absorbed and the atmosphere of, Barcelona's, Gothic style buildings, were captured without a doubt.

Zafon describes doors similar to this in the book

    But in the end Carlos Ruiz Zafon wasn't the only winner yesterday, Andy Murray also did what he set out to do and he made history at the same time. He is the first British male to win the single's title in 77 years and even if the sun doesn't shine in Scotland today, the Scots and the rest of Britain will be walking on sunshine with pride, following Andy's great achievement.  

A sunny beach in Scotland

Thursday, 4 July 2013

Whale of a Time

    Back on the 27th May I published a post titled 'Christopher Columbus's Last Pit Stop,' which featured the Island of La Gomera, part of a group of islands known as the Canary Islands, Spain. I had spent a long weekend there and I was overwhelmed by its natural beauty.

    Now it seems that the movie going public will also have the chance to experience its rugged allure in a new movie, which Hollywood Director, Ron Howard, is shooting on the island later this year.

    The movie is an adaptation of the 2000 US winner of the National Book Awards for nonfiction, In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick.
    The Essex was sunk in 1820 by a sperm whale and a record of the event, written by one of the surviving crew also inspired Herman Melville to write one of the well known classics, Moby-Dick.
    On my trip I saw a couple of pilot whales and dolphins, but thankfully no Captain Ahab, or Sperm Whales. But, I did have a whale of a time. Sorry about the cliche.
    I should add that the name of the excursion boat is coincidental, I have no vested interest in this vessel. 

Monday, 1 July 2013

Groundhog Day


    Thinking of a topic for my twice weekly blog isn't always easy and today was one such hair pulling occasion. I spent a couple of hours reading magazines, newspapers and blogs in a hope for a glimmer of inspiration, but to no avail. Therefore, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and go chillaxe.

    My eyes and brain were sore with reading, so I thought I would watch a few hours TV. Searching through the listing magazine, only one scheduled programme caught my eye, but it wasn't on until 9pm. Michael Buble, to be exact. (Screams with delight). However, that was 7 hours away, meaning I needed to find something else to view.

    Surfing through the movie channels wasn't proving too fruitful either. Then I saw 'Groundhog Day' was on, checking the clock I saw that it was just about to start. Mmm, (scratch head). Should I watch it again? It's a film I did enjoy.

    Maybe not; I've watched it so many times now, that I feel as though I'm having a Groundhog Day moment every time I see the opening sequence. If you've seen the movie you'll know that each day when the main character Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray wakes up at 6 a.m, he relives the same day over and over again.

    At first he sees it as a way he can manipulate events, for his own personal gain. But as the day in  question dawns repeatedly, he fears that his life will be continually put on hold. Eventually, by changing his whole approach to life, he reaps his reward and awakens one morning to find that time has finally moved on.

    There are similarities here that could be applied to anyone's life, but I want to focus on a writers at this point in time. As an individual who hopes to master our craft it's important that we're not scared to tweak our work here and there. Learning by our mistakes as we go along, just as Phil Connors did. Without editing, or listening to advice from others, we will never take our projects forward and succeed in our craft.