Reading Lives

You meander back after a long bus ride
When something catches your eye
From that charity shop window

And a mat shakes hands with your shoes

1280px-AUT_Wien_Kohlmarkt_Buchhandlung_Berger_9748_MSZ110731

Shelves burst with wallpaper samples
That swallow chunks of intricately shattered porcelain
Showing skillful limbs or perceived skirts

Then you see droplets
Marked with words like “Huckleberry Finn”
Whilst, somewhere,
Clusters of other letters dissolve into a grid

That canvas bucket can carry each drop
But it doesn’t hold the aroma of royal silver

old-books-1237619_960_720

Your feet create the latest dance craze
Born between those display cases
And kindled by the looks of tired assistants
The calcium in your arms turns blue

Finally a plastic bag cradles a clear conscience
Anticipating only the journey
Unobstructed by personal greetings
To the reader who thinned the pages

Once home your new book falls open
To reveal an abyss 
From where Twain returns a ticket
To the city of Yellbormoon

19513950222_9d34dc5a8a_b

You claw for the box
Where an envelope addressed “…”
And a faceless group image
Both specked with red wool
Scrunch the train ticket to Y….moon
With the energy of 4,000 giants
And they will for 40 years

Like stranded boatmen
At times bump a buoy
Familiar strangers
Gently graze your history
Requesting in lieu of your gratitude
A mere time capsule

f7a3e148cc3c75aa1cc645a41688aaca

By A.L. 

This poem is about collecting together the old train tickets, messages, and even photos, which are sometimes found in books that are bought at charity shops. Though I certainly do not keep things that aren’t mine, my poem here aims to hint at the notion that by putting each of these things in a time capsule one could hypothetically preserve the existence of strangers (who have floated into an out of one’s life) for years. I contributed this poem to Leeds Wellbeing Web, because I felt the above notion was an interesting concept.

Edinburgh Fringe (2016)

At 70 years old next year, I think I am right in saying that the Edinburgh Fringe is one of the most long-lasting festivals in the UK.  

As we meandered through the busy and bustling streets of Scotland’s capital, it was difficult to imagine that the Fringe of 1947 may well have included only a hand-full of events, which perhaps took place in perhaps a dozen venues (or less). This is a far cry from the number of venues that host the festival’s events today; a total that I think comes very close to the 200 mark.

The bit of the Fringe we saw most of, was that which happened around the Royal Mile. This is a street that is located towards the south of Edinburgh, and runs horizontally to that prestigious piece of architecture that is known as Edinburgh Castle.

Try ambling and navigating through the Royal Mile (and surrounding areas) during August, and you’ll find it easier to ride a frighteningly tall unicycle backwards. To put it simply, at this time of year the Royal Mile is “choca-blocked”. If people aren’t watching a piece of entertainment outside, they are attracting passers-by to their show, travelling between venues, or possibly taking a  moment to enjoy the weather.

My visit to the Fringe this year was the first time I had been, and before I went I was used to hearing “well we came out of the Fringe but we’re going in again”.  I tell you, I now fully appreciate what people had meant by that. When you are at the Fringe you are inevitably part of the festival. However upon leaving there is the sound of night crickets, the view of stars, and the feeling of a kind of instant numbness.

We didn’t go “back in” again, but during the time we spent there I for one got a sense of the buzz and momentous cultural significance that the Fringe has come to symbolise. 

The first event of the day we were there, was a book tour. This runs on most days of the year, however we booked our places through the Fringe. The tour took us on a journey through the Edinburghs of different decades, right up to the present day. Amongst the things we learnt on this tour were that some of Alexander McCall Smith’s Number one Ladies Detective Agency series was published by the Edinburgh University Press, and that the Waverley area of Edinburgh was named after a series of books written by Sir Walter Scott.

The next thing we saw was an acrobatics performance. This show featured two break dancers, a drummer, a keyboard player, a basket ball player, a cyclist, and a hoop user. It is difficult to say in writing how spectacular this act was, and the incredible and captivating effect that was achieved by blending acrobatics and beat-boxing. The dance music was impressively, mostly all created with the synthesiser player’s voice, and many outstanding special effects switches. 

The final event we saw was named Fast Fringe. This comedy show lasted for one short hour, but in alot of ways it had all the substance and material of 12 separate stand-up shows. 60 minutes, 12 acts, 5 minute slots for each of them. This event really was an inspired way to see some of the many comedians that the Fringe offered, within a short space of time. It also gave the new audiences an opportunity to experience more of what the Fringe is all about. It came to mind that the skill of the featured comedians in making full use of the snippets of time they were allocated, had to be admired. 

The Edinburgh Fringe Festival then, is the perfect festival for anyone who feels that they have the opportunity to take a few days away during the summer season. With so much on all at once, the Edinburgh Fringe truly allows viewers to have a tailor-made cultural experience. 

By 1blogger3

“Being Out and About” – A consideration of what keeps me well.

There are few chances in life,
for self reflection.
It is this that makes answering questions such as “what keeps me well”,
quite hard to do.

When Leeds Wellbeing Web asked
me to discuss this topic,
there was no clear starting point for me.

Indeed after one or two conversations
with my fellow Leeds Wellbeing Web blog writer Sue,
in which we discussed “what keeps me well” for this article and video,
I still could not get my tongue past the words,
“I don’t really know”.

I have been a writer with Leeds Wellbeing Web since 2013, and I have contributed a number of varied blog posts. My interests are equally diverse. Indeed as a student I studied both Social Studies, and subjects related to the Arts and communications. I attended two universities, successfully completing both a BA and an MA degree programme.

I finally realised that keeping busy, and being ‘out and about’, are what I describe as keeping me well. Once I had realised this ingredient of my wellbeing, I asked myself three questions for the purpose of this article and video.

By Blogger 13

FutureLearn – MOOCS for all

2348649408_cbaacf2e9f

None of us are ever really through with learning. Even though some may leave school early, and others might feel Higher Education really isn’t for them. It’s a fact of whatever this “life” is that we’re all living, that information never becomes that definitive word “obsolete”.

The internet is now a major learning resource, and is home to many informative articles such as the one below. The following loosely explores the educative function of the internet, through looking at FutureLearn; one of many websites which provides Massive Online Open Courses (MOOCs). A MOOC is defined as “a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people: ‘anyone who decides to take a MOOC simply logs on to the website and signs up’ ” (Oxford Dictionaries:Language Matters*). Please see a MOOCs illustration here.

2000px-Global_Open_Educational_Resources_Logo.svg

Given the above, it might not be surprising that FutureLearn is essentially a vast knowledge-base where new ideas are found in abundance. Indeed, a browse through its course catalogue will testify to this.

I personally like FutureLearn courses for many reasons, though a couple stand out…

At it’s essence FutureLearn offers users the chance to gain the building blocks to develop further insight into a topic of interest. Indeed I myself am interested in marketing and branding. I therefore took two FutureLearn courses, in order to further my knowledge in these areas. In addition FutureLearn is also a useful tool, with which one can possess a greater understanding of topics that may be useful for work.

hujkml

Something else… participants who sign up to FutureLearn courses before these are “closed” by the facilitators, have a year to complete them. This means one can fit courses around other commitments. In addition, the online nature of learning material on FutureLearn means that this organisation often repeats courses for those who may have missed them the first time round. Speaking personally I can say that this has been a particularly beneficial feature. Indeed I have learnt a great deal from all the courses I’ve worked through. I feel I would not have learnt quite as much, had some of these not been repeated.

FutureLearn is a highly interactive website. During the weeks that the courses are initially running, each one is “started” by FutureLearn at a particular time, participants work through these at the same time as each other. In addition they also have access to mentors. Participants are able to leave messages for these above groups. This is a great way of checking an understanding of topics, as well as gaining help and clarity. Further, students can provide advice themselves. On a closing note, interaction also results from the requirements of the exercise. What I mean by this is that students are sometimes asked about their opinions, in response to a given article, as part of the course tasks.

7816346874_049ed5c866

Lastly I also like the satisfaction, and sense of achievement, I feel after I have completed a FutureLearn course. Part of the sense of fulfillment comes from the fact that the material on the courses, provided by departments in Universities across the UK, is of a good quality. In addition the FutureLearn material, which is written in a way that aims to be accessible and approachable to learners from various backgrounds, covers topics in thorough detail. The above all ultimately means that participants on FutureLearn courses can come away knowing more than they did when they started. So students can prove this new knowledge, and also so they can feel proud of their accomplishments, a “Certificate of Completion” can be obtained from FutureLearn once a course has been finished.

=hvn

If I could issue a word of warning about FutureLearn, it would only be a small one to say that it is easy to be too enthusiastic and “click-happy” when signing up for courses. Indeed if you’re not careful you may find you’ve signed up to too many. Whilst this is undoubtedly not a bad thing in itself, and to the contrary is actually really good, it does mean you may not have time to complete all the courses you’ve chosen. – Though having said this completing courses on FutureLearn is by no means obligatory. If needed you can stop a course at anytime, no questions asked-.

In conclusion each person who does a FutureLearn course, may do so for their own reasons. If you feel you would like to do something new that will develop your knowledge, then a FutureLearn course is certainly worth doing. You can register and sign up to courses any time you wish, if and when it suits. Or you can follow FutureLearn on Facebook and Twitter, to hear about news and receive various other updates from them.

By Amanda Lynsdale

Sources:
*Oxford Dictionaries: Language Matters – http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/MOOC – accessed 11.7.2015

Photos:
1.Online Test = Open CHEAT!:Cheating Cheaters and the Cheaters Who Love Them (Photos of my IDS team members by Travis Begay for our Cheatability presentation) – Mr Stein – Taken on March 18th 2008 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/5tein/2348649408/ -accessed 12.7.2015

2. Global Open Educational Resources Logo.svg – by Jonathansmello (own work), uploaded by AnonMoos – created on February 22nd 2012 – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_educational_resources#/media/File:Global_Open_Educational_Resources_Logo.svg – accessed 12.7.2015

3. Path Path Path – by hockadilly – Taken on May 21st 2011 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/hockadilly/5744624394/ – accessed 12.7.2015

4. Colorful worlds…just about to explode !! – by AlmaArte Photography – Taken on August 12th 2012 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/almaarte_photography/7816346874/ – accessed 12.7.2015

5. IMG_4338 (Tom Lee Yamaha Music Course Certificate Concert) – by Dennis Wong – Taken on March 22nd 2008 – https://www.flickr.com/photos/denniswong/2406135310/ – accessed 12.7.2015

Poetry Readings, a consideration.

“I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Wordsworth)
“I do not like green eggs and ham” (Dr Suess)
“They sent me a salwar kameez” (Alvi)

In January or February of this year I participated in my second ever poetry reading. I wanted to be involved in this, because I enjoy hearing others read their poems. I also feel a sense of achievement from reading my work to groups as well. It was a surprise on the night of the recital, at least to myself, that I was not moving around awkwardly in my seat in the 10 minutes before meeting the audience. I had feared that I would succumb to nerves which would affect my ability to recite what I’d practiced reading, the whole week before the recital. Thankfully these nerves, never, came. And so it was that with light shoulders, and clear mind, I read three of my poems: Truth, Driver’s Bed Time, and Patch.

Women's voices ring out 2

I believe now that the reason my confidence was heightened at this second recital, was three-fold. Firstly, I actually knew many of the people in my audience. This was handy as these recognisable faces gave me something to focus on, when I suddenly realised it was my voice that was the sole sound in that room full of people. A second thing that put me at ease was that I was not first to read. Indeed there were other readers before me, which gave me time to compose my thoughts. Despite this, I still hit a cliched ‘sticky patch’. My printer broke down when I was about to print my work! My decision to take photos of my poems with my phone so I could read them, worked! Until I was on stage and my phone took ages to switch on. Thirdly I was more relaxed as I arrived in good time for the start of this event, unlike my first time at a reading when I had been unavoidably detained for the first hour and a half. That time, I had created a movement within an audience who were like chemical particles. This second time however, I took my seat before the event even started, and actually had time to talk to those people I knew.

When it comes to what you hear at poetry readings, it’s true that one is in danger of being seriously inspired and experiencing inspiration overload. One particularly energetic school teacher at my first reading passionately used his physical and vocal presence as a way of engaging the audience. At the second event, we also sat stone still as a woman read a poem whose vivid imagery and detail meant it could only have been about one topic; the Second World War. Another person used one of their poems to tell us about their appreciation for one part of Britain.

Women's Voices Ring Out - reading - 18.5.2015

Since the above was written I have read at my third event. This was Women’s Voices Ring Out in Wakefield. I had an amazing evening at this event too since I was on the same bill as about 10 highly talented writers, and once I’d read I was part of the audience that was treated to their array of topics. As was equally true at other readings I’ve been involved in, each poem that the writers showcased at Women’s Voices Ring Out was an inspirational piece of work that had the ability to explore real human feeling and emotion. As before, there also was a mountain of literary treasures: from the works of the writer who reflected on the thoughts of various people in society, to a moving poem about motherhood, to the other beautifully written examples of poetry and song in between.

In conclusion poetry readings are a nice way to be involved in your community and to meet people – whether you’d like to read, or simply listen. Granted not everyone eagerly jumps up at the chance to do public speaking. The great thing about poetry events is that the choice of involvement is wholly personal, and someone can have any level of participation they chose. If you’d like to be a part of poetry readings then you’re sure to take something positive from what you hear, and to grow in confidence if you do share something. Poetry readings are then in my view, ultimately a brilliant use of anyone’s evening. It’s for this reason that I am due to read at my fourth.

Long may creative spirits reign!

By Amanda Lynsdale

Photo source:
Photos by one of the Women’s Voices Ring Out event organisers, Hamila Mayat.

1.Poetry reading “Women’s Voices Ring Out” 18.5.2015 – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=826499440771133&set=pcb.826500717437672&type=1&theater – accessed 25.5.2015
2. Poetry reading “Women’s Voices Ring Out” 18.5.2015 – https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=826499174104493&set=pcb.826500717437672&type=1&theater – accessed 25.5.2015

 

Cooking conquests

Not so long ago a “ping” filled the nation’s kitchens,
and with it came a slight end to those pastries filled with ‘mum’s special ingredients’.

In life you see, the fact is that time flies.
We simply feel too tired to cook at the end of the day.

No you may not be called “Ramsey”, “Berry”, “Oliver”, or “Lawson”.
But you might be inspired by them to experiment with la comida*.

It starts with the £3.00 spent on veg.
It starts with the chop on the board.
It starts with the sound of the fridge door.

2015-03-11 21.54.36

There’s so much to learn from
Parsnips boiling,
Potatoes peeling,
or things sizzling.

Not least, you learn more about yourself as a cook.
– Are you someone who moves at a pace, as ingredients come together like drops of water to form a splash of a feast?
– Maybe having a recipe down to perfection means you slam a book shut in celebration, so flour cascades towards the worktop?
– or possibly you go so far from the recipes that they ought to be written in symbols, yet the very entity that is your culinary masterpiece has you grinning like a Cheshire cat?
‘Only I know what the secret ingredient is’.

Whatever the kind of cook, the therapeutic
dicing of tomatoes, or whisking of that egg
is universal.

Unpacking and arranging ingredients, with the
warm crinkling of the packets.
Mysterious aromas of garlic and onions,
and others which never quite taste how you’d expect.
Promises to yourself and others
‘next time I’ll not put so much of this in’.
– All these serve to add to the fun.

2015-04-08 19.59.01

Above all else is the pride as you think observe the food-tastic output.
‘Just look at what I did’.

Until tomorrow, when you clean.
The non-stick pan gets ‘stickier’.
The rice-maker becomes ‘inconvenient’.
The spoon is ‘damaged’ by sauce.

After that Captain Scott like expedition,
You decide to tidy along to the radio.
After all, it’ll make the time go much faster.

By Amanda Lynsdale

Notes:- Comida,the Spanish word for food.

Volunteering

“…Volunteer”

This is a word that nowadays carries as much prestige on a CV, as the word “Chartered” does before Accountant. In this current economic and financial climate, this is hardly surprising.

So what exactly are the benefits, of having a voluntary role?
– Before I start I’d like to say that a voluntary role is not for everyone.
Indeed it can be like Marmite: you either love it and find the idea of volunteering truly exciting, or you alternatively find the prospect uninspiring.

For those of us in our 20s-30s trying desperately to find our way in the world, volunteering as a great way of showing interest in a certain area or profession – for future employers. Indeed whether you’d like to be an airline pilot, work with a specific social group, be a waitress, or an artist of some description, volunteering these days can set you apart from the rest of the candidates. This is demonstrated well I think, in a sketch by Monty Python:

(Michael Palin’s character wants to be a Lion Tamer, John Cleese is the Careers Adviser)
John Cleese : Do you have any qualifications?
Michael Palin: Yes I’ve got a hat
John Cleese: A hat?
Michael Palin: A lion taming hat, with Lion Tamer on it..
John Cleese: The snag is that if I now call (the contacts name) and say to him look here, I’ve got a 45 year old Chartered Accountant with me who wants to become a Lion Tamer, his first question is not going to be “does he have his own hat?”. He’s going to ask what sort experience you’ve had with lions….

In short then: experience is the evidence of your enthusiasm, that will encourage an employer to eagerly eye your CV.

Of course however, a person might not be looking to move into a career through volunteering. In these cases other benefits of volunteering will be equally important. Indeed a weekly voluntary role could have hugely significant benefits for a person’s health, psychologically and physically.
There are certain volunteering roles which would allow someone to become more active: I’m thinking here for example of gardening-based roles, roles that involve working with children and other social groups etc., or positions that involve organising and putting-on various events.
Whatever the role a volunteer has, there are inevitably going to be other people at these organisations who they can build up a great and long-lasting rapport with. This is turn will have significant and positive effects on a person’s mental health. Firstly, since getting out and meeting new people is always a positive thing to be doing – if people feel they would like to. Secondly some volunteers get a sense of accomplishment, have the gratifying feeling of participating towards a good cause, or enjoy their role because they feel they are doing something productive. These are the feelings that some people have about their volunteering roles, and it is for this reason that they find such work to be so motivating.

A last benefit of volunteering is one which is perhaps less obvious, though no less important. It is something that happens far more gradually. As I write this I have the words of a politician in my head: ‘education, education, education’. This mantra perfectly sums up the personal developments and subconscious changes, that result from volunteering. Simply put, “you’ll learn a lot”. For example I currently have a role volunteering with people, in a fast-paced environment where no two days are the same. I find that in the short time since I started, I have learnt a large amount about the industry I’m in. In addition, and this has been happening so slowly that I haven’t noticed, but doing it has allowed my confidence to greatly improve.

To close I would just like to “shout-out” to everyone I’ve met in my various volunteering roles; I really appreciate what they’ve done for me, and the opportunities I’ve had because of them. Indeed each of the roles I’ve done has ultimately helped me to grow, in unforeseen  and positive ways, into the person I am today.

To the audience: if you feel like you can, and would like to volunteer, then I encourage you to try it. Indeed as I hope I’ve shown: there’s not much to lose from volunteering, but instead a vast amount to gain :).

By Amanda Lynsdale