Finding a voice

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A series of upcoming presentations found me feeling somewhat apprehensive, they’re not my ‘thing’. If the topic I have to discuss is something I’m not enthusiastic about, I also find presenting it nerve racking. I strongly dislike feigning enthusiasm for something my ‘heart’ isn’t in, If I’m obliged to do it, I suffer physically with anything from headaches, to an upset stomach.

With the hope of learning a few tips on how to ‘act as if’, the topic was the ‘best thing since sliced bread’ I signed up for a voice workshop.

I didn’t have the expectation that one or two lessons could help me completely overcome my reticence, or that I’d become an actress overnight. The class teacher however was an actress and an experienced voice coach, who gave me just the right amount of complimentary and encouraging feedback. She thought my existing use of voice and body was effective for the task.

.’Have you ever done ballet? she asked, as I performed a particular arm movement, part of the warm up routine for the workshop. It possibly being 50 years since I’d done a demi-seconde or an en avant, and now being more of a sugar plump, than sugar plum fairy! ……..I thought she was just trying to be kind, she told me however, that many people, including herself, found the arm positioning didn’t come naturally. I can’t say her compliment had me thinking……. ‘I’ve possibly a latter day career as a ballerina in the offing’, but the amusing thought did cheer me up.

Whereas I care less these days as to what people might think about my appearance, it is still a morale boost if someone pays a sincere compliment.

Having done the preliminary warm-up stretches, the teacher wanted me read some set pieces aloud. As an aid to finding good breath control while reading, she first asked me to do what she described as breathing ‘movements’. I found the idea of breath work being movements, preferable to some breathing exercises I’ve previously experienced at similar workshops, where having been directed to breath ‘properly’, I’ve held my breath a bit longer than advisable!

One of the readings was a poem, and though the location of the workshops was in a leafy laned, backwater of LS6, the poem transported me via sea-going vessels to more exotic climes, and to returning home again through the choppy waters of the English Channel.

Here it is,,,,,,

Cargoes‘ by John Masefield

 

 

Nodding acquaintances

On the value of having nodding acquaintances.

If you’ve lived in a neighbourhood any length of time it’s likely you will be on nodding acquaintance terms with many people. This type of recognition can be an aid to your wellbeing as it places you in a context, of the time and spaces you inhabit…..you belong!

In an age where many report feeling they don’t belong, that they are isolated or lonely, nodding acquaintances can be a reassuring acknowledgement that you are not alone…..we are known.

If over time you’ve been on nodding acquaintance with someone, you might have progressed to stopping and ‘passing the time of day’ with the them. You might chat about what’s trending in local, national or International news. These kind of conversations are valuable, even if the chit-chat remains only that, about …….’the price of fish’ or the weather.

Often when I’m about my daily chores in LS13, I see an elderly lady standing inside her house and looking through the window, as yet we only wave, but it’s a connection, I hope we get to talk some time.

Other people who see me sit awhile to catch my breath when carrying shopping, or simply if I’ve stopped to enjoy good weather, or just ‘people watch’…. may smile…..

‘Hills….you can’t avoid hills in Bramley love, can you?’……

It is said that Leeds is one of the friendliest cities in UK and certainly its rare if I stand at a bus stop not to start up a conversation with someone.

On days when the news is particularly alarming, as it was yesterday with the US election results, you might like myself only  have accessed it via the media, and without the opportunity to discuss it with anyone, the potential to feel disoriented, destabalised is real. You may doubt your own perception, or indeed the sanity of the ‘crowd’ who brought about that result. You might as a result phone a friend and commiserate along with them about ways to avert feeling hopeless. Just how can you as individual combat that?

On hearing the news, and feeling downcast I ventured out to the local greasy spoon cafe in a somewhat defensive mood. The conversation in there is often similar to the tabloids that are scattered on its tables, it is frequently sexist and racist…….usually because of that I don’t linger.

‘If someone praises that man’s success’, I was thinking ‘I’ll challenge them’.

The cafe was empty except for the staff who also seemed as dismayed at the result as myself. Fortunately other more pleasant topics were discussed and a simple personal compliment from one member of staff, cheered me on my way, my equilibrium was restored. By the end of the day I did need a ‘top up’ by discussing the days news with a friend but I still valued the earlier time of day passed.

Lily P.

 

Clocks go BACK ending British Summer Time: Memories of light

British Summer Time ends on Sunday 30th October at 02.00a.m.

We turn the clocks….. BACK one hour.

Click here to see …..why we do it!

I’ve always enjoyed the interim period as we’ve counted down to it, though not without a twinge of sadness for the diminishing light.

The nights have been drawing in naturally enough without the need of human interference. Nature in decreasing its daylight hours has alerted us that we have still had time to enjoy, what have lately been, wonderful autumnal splendor on sunlit evenings.

The words of the beautiful harvest hymn, ‘Come you thankful people come’…..are always recalled to my mind at this time of year.

…….”All is safely gathered in”

Humans and animals alike start to ‘gather in’, or replenish their store of winter ‘comforters’.

My comforters this year include a fleecy hoodie, and in keeping with the mantra of my mum….. ‘layers’ of thermals which keep me snug, these enable me to enjoy the fresher weather of the season.

It’s a time when memories of how comforting the coal fire’s warmth and light of my childhood days were.

October, the ‘season of mists”, when the ‘feint blue land’ prior to adjusting our clocks, still has sufficient light in the morning to wake me naturally, and in the early evenings to feel unrestricted by the ever increasing darkening streets.

It’s a time of year where festivals involving light abound,

Diwali almost upon us. diwali

Even Halloween and Bonfire night with their ‘darker’ side involve colour and light in one form or other.

During the last few year the newer festival of light,….. ‘Light Night’ has become a must see festival.

This year’s Light Night outing included for me and my fellow Light Nighters, a jaunt to China courtesy of the Nankai University choir.

Nankai Uni choir by Sue

Nankai Uni choir by Sue M,

The colorful costumes I photographed here, (and there were more) represented each of the different Chinese ethnic groups and their traditional dress.

The audience were treated to a variety of Chinese folk songs, one, Mo Li Hau,  we learned a verse of in Mandarin Chinese, and sang along to it with the choir.

Apparently the folk song is very revered in China. Many in the audience were Chinese and sang it with such depth of feeling, that it moved me to tears. A sudden ‘catch’ in the throat, I was uncertain from where it came,…

was it just the power of music and lyric that  tugged at my ‘heart’ and memory? though I don’t remember having heard it before, or perhaps the tender way those beside me sang it?..I can’t be sure.

The Light Night concert also revealed that the Chinese performers alongside their very disciplined, and polished classical and folk performance could also appeal, with comedic effect, to a Western audience.

The somewhat stern facial expression, and composed body posture of the choir mistress gave little hint of her sense of well timed humour.

….although she did later revert to a warrior like role as well as sing in fearsome tones

During her initial entrance, and as she paused to gain the attention and composure of her troupe and audience, her body language indicated , ‘I’m in charge’….except that is to a young child in the front row who let out a yell…or two!

At first the choir mistress didn’t flinch, remaining composed, unruffled for a further minute while the small child still continued to break the silence. She captivated us first by casting him an annoyed glance over her shoulder,  then by proceeding towards him with mock anger, …..he shut up then!…..

rather than looking frightened he just seemed transfixed, even though subsequently he remained on the receiving end of  other choir members attention, who singled him out during the enacted war scenes. He remained quiet!

Possibly because of the swirling swords!

Nankai choir warriors - Sue M.

Nankai choir warriors – Leeds Uni

World Mental Health Day 2016

Knowing the value of good mental health after having experienced the disruptive force of losing it, is a great reason to keep the relevance of World  Mental Health Day, October 10th, in mind.

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My experience with acute distress which led to diagnosis and treatment I’m now pleased, and proud to say is well behind me.

Each year that World Mental Health Day  comes round I find time to reflect on that experience 16 years ago, and how it changed my life and also just how far, despite it’s residual effects, I’ve come.

I feel compelled annually to both reflect and contribute a written piece as witness to the value of good support, and attest to the value of  effective listeners and friends, when  one’s own emotional reserves may need ‘patching up’.

The theme of this years World Mental Health Day is two-fold,

Dignity and psychological first aid

Maintaining dignity after experiencing breakdown or trauma isn’t always easy but it’s an aspect of self-worth that’s important to strive for. It’s that inner core of being which aids us regain our sense of self when things get emotionally blurred, or practically chaotic, reminding us,

‘you do deserve to be well and have peace of mind’.

Dignity itself acts like first-aid, it can help people not to be cowed by negative or traumatic experiences.

The World Federation of Mental Health who are responsible for World Mental Health Day say that psychological first aid is primarily,

‘A humanitarian and appropriate response during times of mental health crisis’,

 

the WFMH also acknowledge that it not always situations of crisis which precipitate the need for psychological first aid.

Stress factors that occur either as a result of everyday pressures and mishaps that befall all, the more extreme aspects of mental illness that affect some, and pertinent to this years theme those global issues where major trauma , such as war displaces people from their loved ones and homes.

Some can be alleviated, their effects possibly reduced through particular interventions, the World Health Organisation have an extensive and excellent  report on proposed ways it can be addressed.

As respects individual mental trauma, professionals are the obvious first-aiders when its extreme or acute forms disrupt wellbeing, however it is also good to see WFMH acknowledge that telling our personal stories, related in informal ways, can also act as triage.

With that in mind they are encouraging people to share their own ways of coping with trauma and as an aid to manage their own incidence of trauma. They also give credit to the contribution of non-professionals who come to the aid of those who’s good mental health is disrupted.

On or around  World Mental Health Day,  people are asked to consider getting together with friends or family for ‘tea and talk’ and to use the occasion to consider making a donation to the Mental Health Foundation.

Making time for someone in distress so they can talk through it is a quick, low cost act of first-aid simply but effectively applied.

Put that kettle on! tea-and-talk-logo

Keep your conversations about ways to positive mental wellbeing fresh.

Finding effective personal strategies or accessing relevant available resouces can be a challenge, epecially if ongoing emotional/mental distress sometimes dints your dignity.

May World Mental Health Day find you with your dignity intact.

Sue Margaret

Colour me orange

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As the summer turns slowly into autumn, the glorious days of late summer have made up for this summers later than usual start.

A bunch of orange and yellow blooms, bought at low cost,  helped to further prolong my summer break from course timetables.

I don’t have a garden and so I have to rely on simple bunches of fresh cut flowers to bring nature indoors.This bunch, with their sunburst of colour, daily lit my north facing room.

Despite the heat of late summer days the fresher mornings and evenings, together with the early turning colours of green foliage, herald autumn with its own promise of orange and gold shades.

Orange has long been a colour that

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holds some poignant memories.

Here a fresh cut, orange rosebud worn in the hair, on a certain October day moons ago.

During the ‘flowers in the hair’ era, aka ‘the 60s’, a favourite pair of jeans were also orange, …..bright orange! …. ‘loon’ bell bottom trousers.

They were ‘bell bottoms’ in every sense, as I had sewn tiny bird bells down each outside leg seam….

..’in the jingle jangle morning,’

usually evenings, I tramped around my favourite haunts in them.

Although at that time considering myself shy, I did of course wish to be seen by that ‘certain one’.

I can’t have been too shy as the bird bells and bright orage bell bottoms ensured I was both seen and heard!

Although the lyric, ‘jingle jangle’ was more likely about the jangled, on edge nervousness of recreational substances than tinkling bells, I had in mind their ‘tambourine in time’

Not being green fingered I don’t know which flowers are late garden bloomers, but each autumn a particular type of orange rose blooms in a neighbours garden. They are often still around to greet the frosts and mists. I admire their tenacity.

This is the time of year I feel most wistful, and enjoy these late blooming roses in their inevitable fading beauty, but admire their determination to hold on, adding their own splash of colour well into the “season of mists’ and greyer frosty days.

The song ‘Misty Roses’ by Tim Hardin, a person much troubled in mind,suits them well, one dare hardly touch them, as their now frozen leaves may snap.

As my eyesight changes, bright colours have become increasingly important to me. My household  filing system is colour coded in bright luminous colours, this not only ensures I can locate them easily but also acts as a memory aid.

Shocking pink is the finance file!

Bright orange my ‘Focus on Photography’ notes.

S.M.

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

Mood change

One of our intrepid community reporters frequently finds low mood limits her motivation to keep active,  or track down local news stories. Fortunately West Leeds Dispatch are good enough to regularly host a news café in her neck of the woods, LS13,

‘it’s a great opportunity to share local ‘happenings’ and spark ideas for possible blog ideas.’

she says.

In the following two video clips she relates how a ‘lollipop’ has broadened her horizons and helped raise her low moods.