Book Review: A Street Cat Named Bob James Bowen

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This book was bought for me as a Christmas present and I left it lying around for a while. When finally I opened it up I had a pleasant surprise. It is the story of a young Australian guy living in London. It opens with him leaving his sheltered accommodation for recovering drug addicts in Tottenham.  The protaganist is down on his luck. He has been homeless and a heroin addict after his failure to succeed in the music business. Into this dark world steps Bob, a cat he discovers hanging around at the bottom of  the stairs. They srike up a friendship and a close bond develops. We share their adventures as James gets his life together and comes off methadone. Busking in Covent Garden as a source of income Bob is a lucky charm. Everyone stops to pet him and the money rolls in enabling the pair to recover from street life. The book is simply written and hopeful. The mood is not black in spite of the  inauspicious start and we see the goodness in so many people. This is a story of redemption and love. It was quite lovely.

Becoming Henry Moore – Finding Inspiration

On Easter Monday my husband and I set off to The Henry Moore Foundation which is in the tiny village of Perry Green in rural Hertfordshire. There is a new exhibition being staged there called Becoming Henry Moore explaining how he became to be a sculptor.

The village is down tiny lanes and didn’t appear to be on our old, erratic sat nav but we found it through the signs and common sense. They must be making money at the Henry Moore Foundation as there was a flashy purpose built visitor centre with cafe. It was tastefully done and fitted into the landscape. It snugged next to the old farmhouse where Henry Moore spent the last decades of his life.

There is a permanent exhibition and then a vast array of huge sculptures dotted around the grounds. They are treated with indifference by the many straggly sheep grazing all around them.  The outdoor exhibits are solid and impressive. There is a common theme of reclining woman. They suggest other sculptor’s work of the same era. They all went for that huge scale and bold shape. I am no expert in art but I love them. I love art. I love the way there is no need for words. You just feel the work. I was told at school I was no good at art, my efforts usually laughed at by friends and family so I never attempt any now but I am so interested in it and how it makes me feel. I like modern work, work that unsettles or suggests. I like art that plays with form and texture. Henry Moore certainly does it for me. I like his sturdy buxom women. Angelina Jolie they ain’t.

There are other exhibitions in barns dotted around the huge grounds. He must have made some serious money in his day to buy this pile which surprises me as I always think of sculptors beavering away in garrets, living in messy poverty with cheap red wine and cheaper whores. Not so Henry Moore who passed his time in this ever so respectable part of Hertfordshire in married bliss. The tranquility is slightly marred by planes from Standstead Airport but you can’t have everything.

Becoming Henry Moore is a temporary exhibition about Moore’s early life and how he was inspired. I was thrilled to learn he was a Northern boy, a miner’s son from Castleton. He had great talent from an early age of course. He was entwined with the landscape of the north, the rock, evident in the work. He went to art college but became a teacher in line with the wishes of his father who thought being an artist was not really a career. This is an attitude I am familiar with in the working class where proper jobs are always the thing. Bravely, he gave up teaching pretty soon and pursued his art career being lucky enough and talented enough to attract scholarships and funding to pursue courses and get started. He was influenced by the other modern artists of the day like Picasso but also by ethnic and tribal art. There are plenty of examples of these in the exhibition. Later he became one of Britain’s best known sculptures and received commissions from all over the world which made him pretty wealthy. Overall a success story!

I felt inspired by his life. I am also a northern girl and also became a teacher. Of course I don’t have Moore’s talent but I do have a hankering to be a good writer. I stayed in teaching too long and I should have been like Moore and followed my heart to write. Now weary and battle scarred I think I could still devote myself to my writing as he did to his art and stop worrying about jobs, work, money and all that rubbish our heads are stuffed with.

I felt uplifted. Thanks Henry!

PS The cafe does good cakes.

Why I write this blog

Recently somebody shared one of my blog posts to their Facebook page. It was a family member. I had written the blog a while ago and forgotten all about it. I think it was shared with the intention of causing drama and upset. I don’t really care. I could see from the stats people were reading it for all the wrong reasons. I know they are people I am not even facebook friends with. I am not friends with them for good reason.

It got me thinking about why I write this blog. It is not widely read, certainly not by any of my friends or family. Some posts on particular subjects are popular, some are hardly read at all.

I write largely for myself. I express myself. I organise my thoughts. I examine my reactions and feelings. I am brutally honest about myself and others. I also hope the blog might help people. It might be read by someone who feels like me. It might make them feel better that they are not alone, that there is someone like them. I write about my tendency to depression and my attempts to conquer it. I hope this helps someone. They might find something in it of interest. I write about writing. I hope to encourage others to write. I write about what happens to me. I am an observer of people and situations. I write about books. I hope to encourage others to read the books I like. Sometimes I write about my buddhist  and bohmeian gifts business. I hope it might encourage someone to take an interest.  Somebody might even buy something so I can pay my bills.I write because it is my form of art. I watched an interview with Anthony Gormley who said art should make us uncomfortable. I agree. My blog post may not have been fluffy but it was honest. If it upsets people then so be it. It is my art, my take on the world. Take it or leave it. Nobody forces anyone to read it.

Some people love creating drama on Facebook. They have nothing else. That’s why I got bored of it long ago. It could be a brilliant medium of communication but somehow it just isn’t.  It is a privilege to be friends with me on facebook not a right. People who use it to criticise and needle me are blocked. I got wise to the head games a long time ago. I grew up. I moved on. Some people don’t. My focus is now not on the past but on the future. I stopped being an insecure girl hoping everyone would like me a long time ago. I don’t care if you don’t like me. I don’t care. Drip your poison elsewhere. Buddhism has taught me the importance of non-attachment. It is hard but there is great wisdom in it.

I write the truth as I see it. If you don’t want to be written about you should behave better. Beware of what you say to an author. You could end up in a book.

Notes from The Old Chapel – Spring

So Spring has finally arrived in Norfolk. I feel with its coming  a lifting of my mood. There is still a weight on me. I think of my depression as a heavy block of stone lying on top of me but it is lightened with the changing of the seasons though still there try as I might to shift it.

I have sought help for my chronic sinusitis and been to the doctor. I have a nasal spray to use which is some kind of steroid. The doctor said it may take up to six months or a year to work. Well that’s a pretty big time scale. So as I attempt to heal my physical ailments I hope to do more mental healing into the bargain.

The farms have geared up again and started ploughing and planting and fertilising. Tractors are up and down the lane in their noisy business. The fields are full of yellow rape. The yellow is so bright it almost hurts your eyes. It seems like one day it wasn’t there and the next it was in full bloom. I think I am allergic to it.

The garden burst into spring last month. There were lots of primroses and daffodils. I have no bluebells or snowdrops or tulips. I must plant more for next year. I have begun gardening: the endless tasks of weeding and pruning.  The garden is beautiful and gladdens the heart. The birds are busy nest building and are frequent visitors to the bird feeder. I have a solitary robin who dots around. I have seen a goldfinch hopping on the path. The dog killed a blue tit which made me cry.  He was so perfect and pretty in life and death. I like to feel nature. It calms me. I still have lots to do in the garden.

The weather has warmed up considerably. As always in England it is very changeable. We have had some days as perfect as summer and some as cold as February. There is much more sunlight. The conservatory becomes really warm as soon as the sun dares to peep out. It is lovely to sit in. Such a contrast to the ice I felt in there in winter.

My business selling Buddhist and bohemian things has improved. I have a steady trade though it is not really enough to live on. I need to write more. I need to find another source of income. The search continues. I have  a fear of being bullied again so I must choose carefully. Maybe one day the business will take off. Maybe one day my writing will take off. I have to hope.

I tried to be frugal in Lent and eat simply. I didn’t quite manage no alcohol though I did have simple meals and no eating out. Easter has passed and the privations of Lent are over. We are in the season of plenty and enjoyment. Easter was lovely. We had a side of salmon with pomegranate dressing. My dessert didn’t set which upset me. I am overly critical of myself. I must stop berating myself.

Spring is the season of hope. I hope I can be well again.  I am exploring Christianity and Buddhism as my spritual paths. I think they have much in common. I know I have a long way to go. My faults are legion. I am trying to improve. I have improved. I will improve.

 

Spring.

Hope springs eternal.

How To Play Your Singing Bowl

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How To Play Your Singing Bowl

Singing bowls can be struck on the side like a gong. This can mark the passage of time. Hand hammered singing bowls have a lovely, long lasting, resonant tone. Most singing bowls can be played and made to sing by rubbing round the rim. There is an art to this which can be learned and improved. Some singing bowls are easier to play than others and different people prefer different bowls. It really is a matter of trial and error. I have found I can’t get some bowls to sing at all and others almost immediately.

I have found it is easier to play a bowl of smaller size by placing on the palm of your hand. Hold the rubbing stick like a pencil and start to rub the bowl slowly round the rim. Don’t go too fast. You can go clockwise or anti-clockwise. The singing bowl will soon start to sing. Larger bowls can be played by placing on a cushion.

The singing bowls sold on this site are from Kathmandu in Nepal. Each bowl is individually hand beaten in a small workshop. Our bowls are not tuned to a particular note. Each one is different. For every bowl sold a donation is given to HelpinAction which does humanitarian work in Nepal and Tibet.

 

Playing a small chopa hand hammered singing bowl YouTubelinks-l1600

Adventures in Independent Publishing – Create Space

A few years ago I wrote my first novel. I sent it off to every agent I could find in the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook and was rejected by everybody. To say I was gutted was an understatement. I trawled the internet and discovered the crazy world of indie publishing. You could publish yourself without an agent and without a book deal. Some people had sold lots this way. Many appeared to be making a living. I gave it a go.

Firstly I just did a Kindle book with Amazon. It was ok. It was very easy to do. I just did the free version and edited it myself. It was far from perfect but at least my book was out there and on Amazon. It didn’t sell. I made it free for a while and then it made it to no 1 in the American romance chart but I don’t think many people read it. People probably just download anything that’s free. It’s really hard to stand out in the kindle world. There are a lot of totally rubbish kindle books so how do people know yours is all right. They don’t. Trying to get relatives and friends to write reviews for me was like pulling teeth. I didn’t ever look at them in the same way again. So many just couldn’t be bothered. The key is marketing but marketing seems to cost money. This I do not have.

I decided to go for the paperback version as well with Create Space who are the book publishing arm of Amazon. I did the free version and ended up with a pretty dreadful looking paperback that looked like it was an AA guide to something. It was pretty awful. It didn’t help my book sales much.

I decided I wanted a proper looking book. I raided our savings account and signed up for the full Create Space package. I paid them about a grand and a half. This was a lot of money for me. For this I got two rounds of editing, help with the cover design and some marketing blurb to use. The first editor kind of got on my nerves. She just didn’t get my book at all and I could tell it made her feel queasy. I learned some things about my writing style that needed changing. Apparently, I over capitalise everything. I just went along with it all for a quiet life.  The editor was American so I think there was not a lot of common ground. The second round of editing was all the technical stuff so that was fine. I think I use semi colons wrongly a lot of the time and have some part phrases. I think it’s all about having your own style but editors don’t agree. What sticklers they are. The best bit was the cover as they had better photos for me to choose and the marketing blurb on the back was actually really good. I was pleased with the final product and it did look like a real paperback that a proper publisher could have published.

Would I recommend others to do this? I am not sure. It was easy but very expensive. It would be better to have an editor you gel with and who gets you and what you are trying to do. You are still stuck with the problem of marketing which is definitely the tricky bit. I still have not mastered this. I would think carefully about CreateSpace and weigh up all your possiblities. In the end I just feel like I have vanity published something for my own ego when I might have been better to go back to the drawing board and write something else.

So that’s what I am going to do. One day I might be a real novelist with a real publisher.

One day. 50167305_High Resolution Front Cover_4693703