Archive for July, 2009

New Header for tired eyes!

July 26, 2009

Thought I would have a change of header. Something more solid. This oil painting has come out a bit dark but no matter — it is different to what was here before — twiggy trees with a rainbow just peeking through.
I painted this picture years ago. We lived in Loughborough at the time. It is the view from where we lived — Priory Road. Anyone coming from that part of Leicestershire will recognise The Beacon, a place to walk and relax. Actually, on one occasion, one of our lads — quite young at the time and a bit of an adventurer — walked off and we were at our wits end to find him. As usual, he showed surprise that we were concerned.
Still in the infant school, he was a young entrepreneur. We heard he had gone to all the houses on our small estate selling his comics. On another occasion, he went round knocking on doors offering to take back empty (glass) bottles to the shop. (He collected tuppence for each bottle). He also regularly searched ditches looking for potential loot — scrap iron etc — which would earn more pennies. Anything of value would be taken to the Police Station.
Because he was slow to learn how to read, the Infant School Head told us that he was not academic but good with his hands. Actually, he was dyslexic but such a condition was not recognised then.
I am pleased to say the school was wrong. Our son made it to University with a degree in Engineering. But they were right about being good with his hands. Using hands and brain, there are few things he cannot do. He has now mostly compensated for his dyslexia. And so it is with many children of that era.
And today?
How many children have been written off at school? Boredom is often the cause.

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Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE

July 24, 2009

Ernie Johnson’s masterpiece — The BOOKHOUSE
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I say ‘masterpiece’, because I consider the BOOKHOUSE to be a true work of art — creative, tasteful and incredibly well put together. Ernie is a craftsman of the Internet. But not only that but a philanthropist to authors looking to showcase their books.

Being a clumsy, computer illiterate, I admire anyone with skills and knowledge of computer language. Unfortunately, many web sites employ so many gimics and bizarre flashing items in clashing colours, that they are a ‘turn off’ as far as I am concerned. Just because things are available does not mean that all of them have to be employed — to the detriment of the essential contents.

A visit to the BOOKHOUSE is like entering a well-ordered bookstore or library where the genre you are seeking is there ready and waiting, clearly ordered. Here – at the click of the mouse – we see the latest books by new authors. All of them potential best sellers. Book covers, reviews or synopsis reveal each books contents, plus where they can be purchased. You can even have a chat with one of the authors on certain days.

Take a look at the BOOKHOUSE

And my page there.

Maybe you should be there too?

Late 1940’s Factory Life — Training To Be A Designer

July 21, 2009

This is the third part of the story of my design training and growing up into an adult.
That first day at work was painful on my hands. The cutting shears were huge and my hands fairly small and tender. The pressure on the ball of my thumb caused by the unyielding metal as it sliced through several thicknesses of fabric, was unrelenting. Binding the the thumb and finger grips may have softened things a little but it did not stop blisters forming.
The constant noise of heavy machinery above and below that huge room, as well as in the room itself, was like nothing I had ever before experienced. Noise of tanks going along the road and shaking the house was about the nearest thing but that was just an occasional occurrence, this noise only ceased when the workers stopped for lunch.
The room — almost a whole floor of the huge factory — was dull except next to the dirty windows. Plenty of lighting over work benches though. A smell of oil pervaded everywhere. The floor was worn and shiny from many years of use. Shiny knots and heavy grain in the wood stood out of the floorboards, not enough to trip us up but showing the factory’s age like the wrinkled and gnarled faces of some of the aged workers. Many of those employees had spent the whole of their working lives at that factory.
By the time I arrived home on that first day, I felt incredibly weary. My hands hurt and my feet ached. Everything had been so new to me. All my ideas about dress designing had been completely at odds with what I had experienced that day. I may have been staff, but to start with I was part of the workforce. The girls on the cutting bench were lovely, but I felt alone and gauche when talking to the staff. At lunchtime, the office girl took me down to the canteen to have lunch with her. Morning snack with the work-girls, then all change at lunchtime. I ate my pudding with a spoon. She ate it with a fork and spoon. We had nothing in common to talk about. She talked posh and had a boyfriend about twenty years her senior. I was back with the girls on my own level after lunchtime. Well, not really on my level because they were more sophisticated and knowledgeable about life as well as their jobs. (That is where I found out a lot about sex!) I felt everyone was laughing at me. Since I blushed easily, they had cause to.
It sounds daft now, maybe because my perception of life has radically changed. I was young and vulnerable in those days. I had never been away from home and even the girls at college, during my short time there, seemed above my ‘station’ in life. I had been the only girl at school without a navy gabardine coat (I only had a second-hand pea-green coat), and patches stitched over cracks in the uppers of my shoes had marked me out as a poor child. But I started work in the factory wearing a jumper and skirt I bought with my pay from the six weeks’ job I had before getting the trainee designer position. Even so, I was aware of poverty. Poverty had brought about humiliating experiences and they could not easily be dismissed from my memory.
So the evening of that first day of working in that factory, weary and disillusioned I cried myself to sleep. What had I expected? Bright offices and pleasant workrooms with genteel ladies working on individual garments. My mother wanted to know why I was crying but I could not tell her. I did not really know myself.
Teasing over blushing went on, but I settled in. Eventually I kicked the overseer on the shin because he refused to stop rubbing the knuckle of his thumb down my spine. Okay, so he called me ‘a nasty little bitch’ but he never did it again.
I became friendly with one of the cutters — May, a girl six feet in height and a big welcoming smile.
Joan, a young woman, was head cutter. She also modelled the new designs. A lovely friendly girl, she invited May and me to her twenty-first birthday party. I remember we had a lot to drink, mostly stuff like cherry brandy but also gin and lime. I stayed the night at May’s house. We had more to drink before we went to bed. Her younger brother was still up. He drank too, turned a greenish grey (I had never seen anyone turn that colour before) and threw up in the sink. Us? We ate a few large pickled onions, dropped a few and picked them up — likely with fluff attached — ate them and went to bed. We had a good night’s sleep and I went home the next day, fit and happy.
More of my adventures with May later.

Fashion and Dress Design — Jan.1949

July 10, 2009

I started work at the factory in 1949. I was sixteen and unprepared for factory life. A simple lass, nervous of the big wide world, shy and totally naive. I knew little about the world of clothing manufacture. I had spent barely one and a half terms at college, but at least, I was attending evening classes. But this was a factory and I had memories of what happened to my sister when she worked as a machinist for a local manufacturer. She began to swear. My dad (a prolific swearer himself but could not abide it coming from a woman’s mouth) said,
‘If another daughter of mine goes into a factory and starts swearing, I’ll cut her throat!’
Oo — he didn’t mean it but my dad could be fearsome and I hated to be around when he was angry.

What I did not bargain for was wolf-whistles. I blushed easily. The first time I entered the canteen a barrage of whistling met me. The workers’ union lady dealt with that. But whistling was not needed to make me blush. The male junior managers soon found out that staring at me had the same effect. Working at the cutting bench, I would sense someone there and look up at a grinning male. Laughter followed. When I took no notice they gave up but it was not easy — my cheeks were hot with embarrassment.

I soon heard plenty of sexy jokes. I was not sure what most of them meant but better to laugh or smile than look ignorant. The girls were generally a friendly lot. It was a difficult situation for me: I was on the staff payroll but working on the factory floor learning about factory methods while waiting for the designer to need assistance. To break me in I was given lots of roll ends and pieces to chop up with cutting shears. Cutting through several thicknesses at a time with heavy shears, my hands, especially my thumbs, became sore and blistered but eventually they hardened off. (No electric cutters then)

It seemed a shame to cut up large pieces of fabric but colours changed each season (and with slightly different dyes), and small ends were best out of the way. It would be sold as waste wool. Occasionally large ends would be sneaked away. One machinist made bathing costumes for her husband and friend. She told us that when they went in the sea the costumes soaked up the water and floated away. They had to leave the sea naked as the day they were born, to the hoots of their wives. A cutter did the same thing for herself and lost the bra part in the river.

More to follow…

Martin Shaw — right for When Angels Lie?

July 10, 2009

Each time I see Martin Shaw in television dramas, and when interviewed, I envisage him playing the part of Canon Nick Palmer in a TV drama series of my book When Angels Lie. He is SO right for the part. When I read my book, I see Martin Shaw and hear him speak, I see him dressed in robes for conducting services and presiding at Communion. I hear him speaking at conferences with authority, and quoting that psalm of love from 1 Cor.13 ‘Though I speak in the tongues of men and angels…’ I see him as the stronger partner of a loving relationship, a relationship which took him by surprise. But one which he was willing to let go (if necessary) for the love of the other. I feel that few actors could play the part of a gay senior cleric successfully. Within this particular setting, When Angels Lie is a unique story and Martin Shaw is a unique actor.
As for the other parts? I saw a photo of Joe Shaw. I don’t know him but he looks the part for the young cleric — Paul — that came into Nick’s life. I ‘see’ other actors playing vital roles too. For the ‘angelic’ Angela and charismatic Rita — opposite personalities but both causing big waves on what started out as a calm sea. The churchwarden with an axe to grind, Paul’s homophobic family. And the list could go on.
This would be an amazing production, topical and full of drama. Pity that it will never happen. Never? Well, I have tried to get in touch with Shaw’s agent. So maybe, just maybe…
Wake up, old girl — get real.
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Fashion and Dress Design

July 7, 2009

I find it interesting, as well as surprising, that my posts on dress design and post-war fashion are visited not only with regularity but have become ‘top of the pops’, viewings even exceeding those of Sex and the Over Sixties — and other sex related postings. Who searches them out?

Post-war Britain was an interesting time for those keen to be dress designers. Wartime (and just after) restrictions (where all clothing bore a utility label, and ‘make do and mend’ was just as much a war cry as ‘dig for victory’) were being lifted, more fabric could be used and thought given to the body beautiful. Brassieres that shaped as well as uplifted, and girdles that nipped in the waist all helped to achieve an ‘hour-glass’ figure perfect for the New Look in women’s clothing. Extravagant flaring skirts reaching below the calf gave a new elegance, and soft dropped shoulder lines were a necessary casting off of uniform dullness that we had lived with for so long.

When the New Look was introduced in Paris I was just a young teenager with my heart set on being a dress designer. I was in my second year of a two year course at a secondary art school. I remember there was a lot of buzz as to whether using so much fabric was practical and desirable. I guess we had long been brainwashed into thinking about economy and practicability. I did well at the art school and was allowed to go on to take a design course at the Nottingham Art College. I loved it. We were taught not only about design of all types of garments but also pattern cutting and making up. No silly clothes in those days. Dresses had to fit the figure, and fit perfectly. Elegance and style were important. Local manufacturers looked for clothing they could sell. No cheap clothes you could just discard in those days, and few people had money to spare for frivolity.

Unfortunately, I had to leave the course during the second term when my dad, after years of struggle with a creeping paralysis, could no longer go out to work. In those days benefits were abysmal and grants in short supply. I got a job at a ladies’ outfitters for thirty shillings a week. I hated it there. The girls sniggered when I asked a young lady if she would like to try on a suspender belt as she was not sure about the size. Corsets were tried on but no one had ever suggested anything of lesser value.

When a consignment of nylons arrived, a queue formed reaching outside into the street. My pencil disappeared as I was about to write out a receipt. The boss’s wife refused to lend me hers or replace it. I was stuck with a waiting queue — my face getting redder and redder. She eventually relented (bad for business?) and told me to let that be a lesson not to lose anything.

Imagine my joy when an acquaintance of the family, who was secretary to the manager of the outwear department of a very large clothing manufacturer, suggested she ask her boss if he would consider taking me on as a trainee designer.

I was indeed taken on, initially to assist the chief designer and to help on the cutting benches, but, within a fairly short time I too was designing for the firm. (The factory is more or less as I have used for one of the settings in ;Awakening Love where June is the young designer).

More in the next post…

A Storm In The Church…?

July 5, 2009

Before my book ‘When Angels Lie’ was first published (Magpies Nest Publishing) five years ago, I asked a Cambridge scholar if he would kindly read it and give his opinion. It must be noted here that the gentleman in question happens to be a churchwarden in the Anglican Church and not someone to champion gay rights, nor is it a book he would normally read.
He had a number of conclusions. One was that ‘… your book could cause a storm in the Church’ and another, more specific, ‘…could make the general public look at the Anglican Church, its clergy and its adherents with new eyes.’
I will ignore here the positive remarks made by him, and those of a newspaper reviewer who spoke of an urgency to read on and on. And elsewhere you can read a ‘tens across the board‘ review. Here I want to concentrate on the unjust situation as regards gay clergy and the Church’s attitude to homosexuals generally.
Five years on since I published that book. Have things changed? Legally, yes. In Church circles? It seems to me, not a lot. And that has surprised me as, at the time, there seemed to be positive movements for greater acceptance. Yes, there has been acceptance at the price of celibacy in some circles, but even that is beyond consideration for some Evangelicals where homosexuality is considered evil sinful or a sickness.
Biblical quotations continue to be made as regard the sinfulness of homosexuality. Should we then comply with the Bible on all matters? Punish by stoning? Bar women from public speaking? Condone slavery? We live in enlightened times. Not so many years ago, slavery was accepted by Christians, just as was poverty for those born into it (the rich man in his castle, the poor man at his gate, God made them high and lowly and ordered their estate’)
But, the prophets’ message is one of justice and equality for all people. We do not worship a book, or anything other than God himself. For a Christian that is the God we see in Jesus Christ. God is love. It is God who calls and God who enables. Who is man that he should deny those whom he has called to serve? St Peter would have denied Gentiles water baptism but God acted first and baptised them in Holy Spirit.
It follows then, that those whom God has called, of whatever colour and sexual orientation (and that person shows forth the necessary gifts and fruit of that calling) the Church cannot, in Truth, deny that calling.
To a certain extent, that is what my book is about. Other issues abound as the setting is a Parish of three churches, in the throes of change and of controversial Holy Spirit revival — not all of it welcome. The characters are drawn from life, and so are the relationships, conflicts, co-operation, friendliness, love, joy and pain of daily situations. Of course, for truthfulness of daily living, sexual relationships come into the story — women falling for their vicar and a shocking affair involving an ‘angelic’ teenager who brings about a crisis threatening all that has been achieved.
The story is seen through the eyes of a cleric whose whole will is devoted to answering his calling, serving God with heart and mind. And with the comfort and support of the man whom God had brought into his life. A perfect partnership of love and ministry within two sets of parishes drawn together in team ministry.
I won’t give away the end.
I had considered a sequel of ‘five years on’ but the way things are progressing in the Church, what I had in mind then, will have to wait a few more years to be written!