Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Tuesday Poem: Union Local '64 by Tim Bowling


Last night I caught the boy I'd been
in fishnet and gutted him
on the government wharf
by the light of an oil lamp
hung from my dead father's hand.
Above the dyke, over the road,
the town was just the same:
weeping willows, widows,
whale-stains on the cheesecloth walls
of the first houses
and an overwhelming sense
of a last breath being taken.
The worst of it was
the ordinary blood
on the ordinary wood
and my father saying
as he gazed out to sea
"It's no good.
The companies won't pay.
They didn't pay for mine
and they won't pay for yours."
I watched him through my mother's eyes
as he sighed and bent
to the stiffened body of our time
together not worth one red cent
to anyone and picked it up
and took his life and mine away again.

From Circa Nineteen Hundred and Grief  (Gaspereau, 2014) by Tim Bowling

(Photo by Barry Pettinger)

Cross-blogged from Véhicule Press

"Tim Bowling has published numerous poetry collections, including Low Water Slack; Dying Scarlet (winner of the 1998 Stephan G. Stephansson Award for poetry);Darkness and Silence (winner of the Canadian Authors Association Award for Poetry); The Witness Ghost; andThe Memory Orchard (both nominated for the Governor General's Literary Award). He is also the author of three novels, Downriver Drift (Harbour), The Paperboy's Winter(Penguin) and The Bone Sharps (Gaspereau Press). His first book of non-fiction, The Lost Coast: Salmon, Memory and the Death of Wild Culture (Nightwood Editions), was shortlisted for three literary awards: The Writers' Trust Nereus Non-Fiction Award, the BC Book Prizes' Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize and the Alberta Literary Awards' Wilfred Eggleston Award for Non-Fiction. The Lost Coastwas also chosen as a 2008 Kiriyama Prize "Notable Book." Bowling is the recipient of the Petra Kenney International Poetry Prize, the National Poetry Award and the Orillia International Poetry Prize. Bowling was the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008. A native of the West Coast, he now lives in Edmonton Alberta. His latest collections of poetry are Tenderman (Nightwood),  and Circa Nineteen Hundred and Grief."

Monday, 28 July 2014

Know your rights - with Ryanair customer service

This morning it was breakfast on the terrace with apricots and peaches in hazy sunshine with the Mediterranean somewhere in the distance.  But it almost didn't happen due to huge thunderstorms that deluged the area around Pisa, closing the airport for hours.  The Ryanair plane I was due to fly on was still stuck on the ground at Pisa at the time it was due to take off from UK.  7 hours in Liverpool airport is no joke!!  There was very little information on the ground - a lot of rumours, but I found their customer service impeccable.  Ryanair get a lot of knocks, but I'm a frequent flyer (sometimes 2 or 3 times a month) and have been for years and this is the first time I've encountered real problems. They may not be lovable, but they are certainly efficient - I can usually rely on them to be on time.

I'm registered with Ryanair, which makes it easier to book since they have all my details already, and was pleasantly surprised that I got regular text messages updating me on the progress of the flight which were far more accurate than the departure board.  I was even able to tell fellow sufferers what time the flight had left Pisa!  After a 2 hour delay, they began giving out vouchers for food and drink at the Ryanair gates, which you could get by showing your boarding pass. At 6.30pm I was sent an email telling me the estimated time of the flight departure and telling me that I could cancel and get my money back immediately if I wished, or that I could transfer free of charge to any other Ryanair flight that had seats.  In the end I waited, arriving in Pisa in the middle of the night, facing a long taxi ride home (which I can claim on  my travel insurance).  I'm copying the info at the bottom of this post, just in case anyone wants to be sure of their rights in a similar situation.

I got back to the house in torrential rain to find branches off trees, water everywhere, no electricity and a stinking fridge full of mouldy food - apparently a storm earlier in the week had kicked out the power. Not the kind of homecoming I'd planned, but all is back to normal this morning.  And I have no complaints about Ryanair's customer service - they've obviously been listening to critics.  It must have been a nightmare for them, because 12.30am Sunday  morning they had a plane and crew in Pisa that were supposed to be in Malta and lots of other planes around Europe all in the wrong places, not to mention a lot of disgruntled passengers! Spare a thought for the operations manager.

Now, I'm off to enjoy the sun before the next storm due to arrive early tomorrow......

Dear Customer
Ryanair sincerely apologises for the delay to your flight the FR9626, from Liverpool to Pisa on the 26-07-2014.
Please see below the 2 options available to you:
1. Transfer from the delayed flight to another Ryanair flight - Free of Charge
When a flight is delayed more than 2 hours after its scheduled time of departure, you can (if you wish) transfer from the delayed flight free of charge (subject to seat availability) to an alternative Ryanair flight to/from different departure or destination airports or via another airport served by Ryanair, please contact Reservations (subject to opening hours) or go to the airport ticket desk/handling agent desk.
If you transfer to a new Ryanair flight on the same or following day and cannot re-print your boarding pass it will be re-issued free of charge at the airport ticket desk.
2. Apply for a refund if you choose not to travel
If due to the flight delay you wish to cancel your reservation and claim a full refund of your unused flight(s) please go to the ticket desk in the airport or contact our Reservations Department (subject to opening hours). Refunds will be
processed in 7 working days back to the form of payment used to pay for the original booking
Click here www.callcardpins.com
 to view the access number from your country then dial that number and enter the following unique 10 digit pin 5964363761 to receive your free phone credit valid for 24 hours from the time of issue.

Click on the following link for information on Passenger Rights under EU Regulation - EU261/2004 – 14.2 NOTICE
We again sincerely apologise for the inconvenience caused by this flight delay.

Yours sincerely
Ryanair Customer Services

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

The Music of Exile

Today, Roz Morris is featuring the music that helped to create The Centauress on her website at The Undercover Soundtrack.  Most of the characters in The Centauress are expatriates or exiles living in a Europe scarred by decades of division and war and ethnic hatred.  The novel is set in Istria which was part of Italy before 1945, then became part of Yugoslavia and is now in Croatia.  The novel's narrator, Alex Forbes, has lost her husband and child in a terrorist attack and is struggling to find a reason to carry on living.  She goes to Istria to research the biography of a controversial artist, Zenobia de Braganza, born 'between genders'  at a time when such things were poorly understood. Zenobia has lived her life in a kind of exile, neither male nor female, neither Italian nor Croatian. In trying to understand Zenobia's life, Alex begins to come to terms with her own loss and is able to accept love in a new relationship.

When I wrote the Undercover Soundtrack blog for Roz, several weeks ago, Flight MH17 had not been shot down and Israel had not begun its offensive against Palestine, but by a tragic coincidence what was written echoes what is happening in the real world now.  Although the characters in the novel have had their lives torn apart by terrorism and ethnic conflict, The Centauress is an optimistic book where everything is possible if we care enough.  One of the tracks I featured is an example of that optimism.

I listened to music from the exiled Palestinian diaspora as part of the creation of the novel and I've included a track sung by Reem Khalani, backed by Israeli musician Gilad Atzmon whose band 'Orient House' includes both Israeli and Palestinian musicians. Gilad unequivocally opposes his country's policies towards Palestine.  Reem Khalani sings the powerful and moving lament 'Dal' ouna - On the Return' - something most Palestinian exiles would like to do. I'm putting a link to it below as a tribute. Events on the television news are so terrible I can't watch any more, particularly with the knowledge that the British were instrumental in the dispossession of the Palestinian people after the second world war.  Ludo, in the novel, complains that the Superpowers divided Europe 'like slicing a cake' - and he's right.

If you'd like to know more about the European folk music I used for The Centauress, please click here for The Undercover Soundtrack.   There's also the chance to win 3 free copies of the novel. 

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tuesday Poem: Storm on Facebook

Storm on Facebook

I don’t know how to ‘Heart’ this big wind
bullying my doors and windows with strange suggestions
I can’t even ‘Like’

or ‘Share’ the feeling that knots my stomach
leaving my mouth dry.

If I don’t go out, it will threaten to come in
so I cower under the quilt
putting up pictures of cute dogs
and kittens in boxes.

But the wind comes guttering
beneath the tiles of the roof
pushing the wall back with a sudden gust

going Viral.

© Kathleen Jones 2014

'Nubifragio' - Cloudburst
Written under a quilt at Peralta, sharing a bed with Ellie, Vaniglia, Pino and Bisco (1 dog and 3 cats) during a once in a hundred year event that chucked down 300mm rain, felled trees and washed the road away, leaving the hamlet isolated for 6 months.  We didn't have any electricity, so the pictures went up on Facebook afterwards!
The morning after

A terrified Ellie

Vaniglia unmoved!

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The tragic feminisation of Baby M

In my new novel, The Centauress, I deal with the dilemmas faced by the 1 in 2000 children born every year with indeterminate gender - 'intersex'.  The policy recently has been to intervene surgically - creating either a boy or a girl (usually the latter) where there is confusion.  A new article in The Atlantic, just out today, reveals the dangers of this procedure - focusing on the tragic case of baby M who was ''feminised' while in foster care, but later became quite definitely a boy.  Unfortunately his (albeit imperfect) genitalia had been removed.

In my novel, the intersex consultant, Dr Song Li, is more enlightened and recommends waiting until the child's gender becomes clear.  It is possible to live as a 'third sex', though there are issues for children such as bullying at school and the problem of relationships.

The article in The Atlantic asks 'Should we fix intersex children?' and sets out the problems posed for the medical profession as well as the social issues faced by the children and their parents.

"When Mark and Pam Crawford took their family to Great Wolf Lodge, a water adventure park, for a week’s vacation, their seven-year-old made a request.

“Since we don’t know anybody,” S asked her parents, “can I be a boy?”

The Crawfords, who adopted S at the age of two, had seen signs for years that she did not think of herself as female.

S didn’t want braided hair; S wanted a haircut “like dad’s.” At Halloween, S wanted to be a superhero, but not Wonder Woman. S wanted to use the men’s bathroom and liked to be referred to as a boy. S already tended to be perceived as a boy by strangers, after requesting a buzz cut about a month before the family’s vacation.

The Department of Social Services had told the Crawfords their child was born with an intersex condition, meaning the baby’s gender was unclear. S's genitals had been surgically reconstructed to look more female.

So at Great Wolf Lodge, S’s parents thought, “Okay.” Maybe, the resort, where no one knew S, would be a safe place to try out being a boy. . . 
Read More ......  

The Centauress is available from Amazon Europe  - 

And from Amazon USA - 

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Win a Kindle Fire with The Centauress!

This week I'm taking part in a give-away for The Centauress - click through to the Kindle Book Review if you'd like the chance to win a Kindle Fire completely free!!!   I love my Kindle Fire and would never be without it.  This is an unbelievable offer.

Check out The Centauress on the Kindle Book Review.

"Bereaved biographer Alex Forbes goes to war-ravaged Croatia to research the life of celebrity artist Zenobia de Braganza and finds herself at the centre of a family conflict over a disputed inheritance. At the Kaštela Visoko Alex uncovers a mutilated photograph, stolen letters and a story of indeterminate gender, passion and betrayal. But can she believe what she is being told? In order to discover the truth about Zenobia, Alex travels to Istria, Venice, New York and London and, in working through the narrative of Zenobia’s life, Alex begins to make sense of her own and finds joy and love in a new relationship."

Monday, 14 July 2014

Tuesday Poem: Another Exile Paints a Spring Portrait of Katherine Mansfield by Riemke Ensing

Today I'm the editor of the Tuesday Poem Blog and I'm featuring a poem from 'The K.M. File and Other Poems with Katherine Mansfield' by New Zealand poet Riemke Ensing, so why not hop over to the Tuesday Poem site and take a look?

'There are all these lines
without words telling you a whole
story.   The portrait is a yellow table . . . '

Click here to read the poem

Singing a song of angry men for Bastille Day

It's Bastille Day and I thought it would be appropriate to post a song from Les Miserables - one of the most moving musical theatre productions I've ever seen.  'Do you hear the people sing - singing the song of angry men' seems also very appropriate for the times we're living in now.  Here it is sung in 17 languages by an international cast.

As a child of the 60s who believed that we could change the world and make it a better place for people (and animals) to live in, I am now a disillusioned and bewildered adult wondering where it all went wrong. This particular song from Les Mis expresses it all - here sung by Ruthie Henshall. 'I had a dream my life would be, so different from the life that I am living'


Thursday, 10 July 2014

Following the River - the Poetry Path

Today I walked upstream where the River Eden falls through a series of dramatic limestone 'kettles' and gorges and where the river coincides with an abandoned railway.

This is the top of the fall

This is Stenkrith, at the entrance to Ravenstonedale, on the edge of the Pennines. What looks like a twig in the photo above, is actually the trunk of a tree washed down by floods.  It's impossible to get any sense of scale with a camera, where the river drops from a high sill of rock (high as a multi-storey building), boiling over and under the stone, creating circular holes, deep pools and a dramatic gorge.

And this is at the bottom

The sound it makes, even on a day when the water level is low, is like being on the edge of a thunderstorm, and the rock shakes with the percussion.

Today, reflected light from the water surface was creating holograms on the walls of the gorge.

The Stainmore Railway, from Kirkby Stephen to Barnard Castle, once ran on the edge of the gorge with fabulous views of the river and the Pennines. it was the second highest line in England, going up to 1370 feet above sea level.  Like many small lines, it was axed by Dr Beeching, leaving the small communities here completely isolated.  It opened in 1861 and closed in 1961.

Now, only walkers and cyclists use it.  To celebrate its opening as a footpath, the poet Meg Peacocke was commissioned to write a series of short poems that were to be carved into stone along the river pathway.  The calligrapher who carved them, used special fonts which are now - after years of weathering - very hard to read.

This is one of my favourites -

'Silage tractor incises the first
Green furrow - skillful geometrician
the driver judges an arc of weather'

There are still relics of the railway.  This is a platelayers' hut.  Does anyone nowadays know what a platelayer did?

And then there's the impressive Podgill Viaduct - 30 arches, more than 84 feet high - a feat of engineering designed by Cumbrian engineer Thomas Bouch who later designed the ill-fated Tay Bridge which collapsed in 1879 with considerable loss of life.

 Bouch died later that year, aged 58, a devastated man.  Fortunately Podgill is still standing.

Today was what in Cumbria we call a 'borrowed' day - because we know we're going to have to give it back!  Such weather as this is something precious - tomorrow it will probably be raining.  It isn't called The Lake District for nothing!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Tuesday Poem Pascale Petit: A Poem for Frida Kahlo's Birthday ...

Little deer, I've stuffed all the world's diseases inside you.
Your veins are thorns

and the good cells are lost in the deep dark woods
of your organs . . .   

[Little Deer from What the Water Gave Me]
To read more click on the link below

Pascale Petit's Blog: A Poem and a Reading for Frida Kahlo's Birthday 6 ...: This Saturday 6th July is Frida Kahlo's birthday and to celebrate it I will be giving an illustrated reading from What the Water Gave ...

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Writer's Houses - wandering round Ibsen's house in Oslo

Today I'm blogging over at Authors Electric about Ibsen's home in Oslo and what it revealed about the author.  Did you know that he had a portrait of his greatest rival, August Strindberg, staring sternly down at him as he wrote? That he had a hat fetish?  Or that he kept a box of carved figures on his desk called 'The Devil's Orchestra' to help him work out his plots when he was stuck?

Click here to find out more . . . .

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Living on the Bank of the River

Rivers have their own stories, but you have to listen for them.

The Eden is a big river, just at the start of its journey.  We’re only a few miles from its source up in Ravenstonedale, but already it’s deep and wide - made much more so by the weir.  The river was dammed hundreds of years ago to power the water wheels of the mill.  The foundations of the weir go back to Roman times - humans have been controlling this river for a long time.

Or trying to - there are lots of times when the river is beyond control.  It can rise fast and spread across the landscape in a lethal brown flood.  In 2005 the footbridge at the mill, which is 20 feet above the river, was completely submerged - including the handrail.

It regularly drowns my garden and runs through the ground floor where the mill wheels used to be.  We don’t use it in winter - just in case!

The weir is becoming increasingly ruinous, despite efforts by the local council to patch it up.  Personally, since that involves dumping bags of concrete into the water, I’d prefer they didn’t -
Cement is not a sympathetic material here
There’s something natural and graceful about the process of decay - it makes spaces for wild life to flourish.  There's always a heron fishing in the early morning light. Today I spotted a duck with her tiny ducklings, and once we saw an otter walking up the face of the weir with two cubs.

One of the natural breaches was widened recently to help the salmon make their way upstream in the autumn.  This means that we no longer see the salmon leap in October - a really beautiful sight.

Now there’s mimulus growing in the fallen boulders from the weir.

Islands are beginning to form, creating pools that contain wild crayfish and salmon fry.

I love the trailing weed, with its daisy like flowers - it always reminds me of Lizzie Siddal’s hair when she posed in the water as Ophelia.

At night I lie awake with the window open, listening to the river, letting it sing me to sleep.  I was blown away by this verse in Jean Sprackland’s poem ‘Night in the House’ because it describes my feeling exactly.

‘In the night house
she is nothing but riverbanks
all she can feel is river
drawn through her
like a green rope.’

Jean Sprackland, ‘Night in the House’ from Sleeping Keys

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Tuesday Poem: Listening to Glenn Gould on Orton Scar

I'm delighted that New Zealand author and poet Helen Lowe is featuring one of my poems on her blog today as her Tuesday Poem.  'Listening to Glenn Gould on Orton Scar' - and she's also included 'Winter Light' to celebrate the NZ winter solstice.  Thank you Helen!
You can find it here on this link

Today's main hub poem is 'Cloudmother' by Siobhan Harvey.  Why not click over and take a look?