Blessed with Belfast Cousins …

16/09/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Blessed with Belfast Cousins’ by Ms Paige Turner
We landed at the George Best Belfast City airport last week and stayed at the Titanic Hotel. (The latter interestingly enough was the setting place of the Sunday Times Short Story comp this week with Danielle McLaughlin’s ‘A Partial List of the Saved’ bagging her £30,000.) My grandfather, who died seventeen years before I was born was a riveter on the Titanic and I hope it wasn’t his rivet that did it.
We place orange lilies and red roses on six graves at the cemeteries Dundonald and Rose Lawn and it was a joy to see my granddaughter Princess Maddie Moo Moo laying flowers on her great, great, great grandparents’ family grave. That would have been my grandfather’s parents’ grave if you are still with the arithmetic. My cousin Raymond collects us, pulls up beside the graves, opens the boot and gives us a bottle of water, scissors and tissues (for our hands).
After this customary visit, we are free to enjoy some Belfast booze and copious craic where my honorary cousin (I have 22 and Susan is a second cousin) pulled out some old black and white photos and I was able to show Miss Trial, Master Mind and Mister Justin Case who was who and who was buried with whom. Susan truly brought the older generation to the table and asked who was who and I actually felt like the older generation. It’s wonderful to have so many lovely cousins who turn up and talk about my dad as if he was here with a pint and not been gone for forty two years. It makes me feel like I have or had one.
At the end of the weekend we waved ‘goodbye’ to Miss Trial, Master Mind and Princess Maddie Moo Moo at the George Best Belfast City airport when Maddie with her almost three years said, ‘Goodbye. I’m going on my holidays now. I’m going on the plane and I will see you when I get back’.
In fact, Mister Justin Case and I were going off to the Giant’s Causeway for the week. I did notice that beside a big picture of George Best there was a sign saying ‘Multi-Faith Prayer Room’. Yes, I thought, only the Irish could name an airport after an alcoholic and a hotel after a sunken ship. But I do love them.

The next Creative Ink Evening workshop is on Wednesday 2nd October at 8.00pm in Amersham. £18 for a two hour workshop with me, Catherine’s ravishing refreshments and hand out sheets. Theme: Keys to the Door/Opening and Closing. Email me for further details.

Reminded of My Working Tools

04/09/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

Reminded of My Working Tools by Ms Paige Turner
Having visited the British Library’s Exhibition ‘Making Your Mark’ exhibition from Stone Age scratchings to Facebook, I was reminded of my own journey: wax crayons, powder paint, inkwells (yes, inkwells, dear Reader), my first gold-nibbed fountain pen with cartridge, the first of many green fibre felt-tipped pens which have glided across A4 paper for almost fifty years, my first Olivetti typewriter, Amstrad and laptop. What a long sentence that was. How much we have to thank the Phoenicians for. Is that where the word ‘phonetics’ originates from?
I write just as our Parliament may be blotting its copy book.
If you want to put pen (or anything) to paper (or screen) then the next Creative Ink for Writers’ evening workshop is on Wednesday 2nd October at 8.00 pm in Amersham. Theme: ‘Keys to the Door’. Email me if you are interested.

‘A Lady of the Dance ..’

16/08/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘A Lady of the Dance …’ by Ms Paige Turner
I was honoured to read this tribute to Pat Dancer, Creative Inker, who died at the age of 94 on my birthday Sunday 21st July this year. Her funeral at Holy Trinity, Penn, was attended by over 200 guests finishing with The Last Post in recognition of her service as a WREN during World War 11.
Dear Pat,
I knew you for 31 years. You would introduce me as your ‘writing teacher’ but you taught me more about living a good life and dying a good death than I could ever teach you about how to place words on a page.
When you were 80 you were writing quarterly columns for the glossy magazine ‘Chic Chat’ tackling tricky subjects like Self- Harm, Substance Abuse, Al-Anon and Mary Berry –all under the pseudonym Trisha Dee.
The concept of ‘Rhyme & Reason’ which published local writers’ words in aid of the Iain Rennie Hospice at Home and raised more than £70,000 over 27 years was your idea. You were the first co-editor and secretary and stalwart supporter of the project and of me.
Here’s what writer Heather Smith said about you. ‘Pat was blessed with apple pie good looks and an amazing intellect which popped out via those cornflower blue eyes, just to let you know that apple pie was simply a cover. With Pat at Bletchley Park no wonder the war went in our favour.’ How I wish I had written those words.
The days of your life were hugely purposeful and you made full use of your God-given gifts but I know you were ready to move on. For your friends and family, I will read your poem published in the 20th edition of ‘Rhyme & Reason’ which like everyone here was dear to your heart. So Pat, in your own words …

WHAT TO DO WITH MY DAY

Here hath been dawning another new day,
Think thou wilt send it then useless away?
Here hath been dawning a dark and grey day.
Think thou wilt send it just useless away?

No, I’ll keep myself warm and put candles around,
play some music to make an uplifting sound.
I’ll ring up a friend, make us soup and hot bread.
Or get into a book that I’ve never yet read.

Maybe turn on the TV and watch a good play,
Or look out the knitting I promised one day.
Then when evening is here, I’ll get ready for bed
And rest my old body with peace in my head.

Pat told me she was not frightened of what lay ahead. It would be ‘a very big adventure’.

Kings and Queens and Things …

03/08/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Kings and Queens and Things’ by Ms Paige Turner
It was my good fortune to attend an open air production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ in Hampshire. My great niece was following in her great aunt’s acting shoes and playing the part of Titania, Queen of the Fairies. Princess Meghan (for that is my great niece’s name) did not disappoint and I took about as much pleasure in thanking her teacher/director for casting her in the part as I did in playing it at Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre for the New Shakespeare Company many moons ago. In fact I told the teacher/director this fact and enjoyed the whole thing enormously. I don’t think I have ever seen the mechanicals so funny as watching a host of ten year olds with saucepans on their heads acting out their play. Well done, Princess Meghan for playing the Queen so superbly.
And so to ‘The Lion King’ which my 2 year old granddaughter Princess Maddie went to see last week. Five minutes and two packets of chocolate buttons in, she was heard to say, ‘But where is the princess?’ Yes, where was she indeed?
Writing tip of the month: even if you are writing about Kings and Things, don’t forget the princess …

Dear Michael Collins …

20/07/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Dear Michael Collins …’ by Ms Paige Turner
Dear Michael Collins,
On my fifteenth birthday, Monday 21st July 1969, I got up in the early hours to watch your co-mates (and brothers in a somewhat earthly exile) walk the walk of our moon’s surface. What a lot of work the moon has done for me since.
I understand that you took a photo, on that day, of Earth and all the humans alive, including your co-mates: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and all past and future matter in some form as matter can neither be created or destroyed.
Michael, I was brand newly fifteen years old and either sitting in front of our old Rediffusion TV set at 106, Addiscombe Road or on my way to school in Croydon on top of a 119 bus. Who knows?
What I do know is that, as the only past, present or future living matter not caught on that photo, and a being who circumnavigated the moon on your own without any radio contact, if I was lost and had to find my way home, I would ask you. And Mister Justin Case of course.
And that Matter that cannot be either created or destroyed …
From Janet (nee)Titterington.

Fairy Tales and Orange Lilies …

12/07/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

Fairy Tales and Orange Lilies by Ms Paige Turner
The second of the Creative Ink for Writers’ evening workshops on the theme of ‘Keys’ took place in Amersham on July 3rd. We were looking at fairy tales to unlock the secrets of storytelling structure. Like WHO are we talking about, WHERE are, WHEN is this taking place and WHY NOW? It’s the four Ws. (There’s a bit more to it than that but just come to a workshop and see for yourself.)
So every year, it seems without fail, ONE, TWO OR MORE ORANGE LILIES, appear in our GARDEN on THE DAYS LEADING UP TO THE TWELFTH OF JULY/ORANGEMEN’S DAY and then it or they fade on 15TH JULY OR A DAY OR SO AFTER. What is significant about this NOW? My father was a member of the Orange Order and he died 42 years ago on St Swithin’s Day, July 15th.
I always seem to forget about the orange lilies. Somehow I never look for them but when I came home from our daughter Miss Trial and Master Mind’s house on Saturday there were two. Early. On 6th July. Then I remembered our cousin’s husband Gerry had died and was buried last week in Belfast.
It may seem like a fairy tale, but it gives me comfort. That’s my story for this bi-month.
Next evening workshop is ‘Keys to the Door’ on Wednesday 2nd October at 8.00 pm in Amersham and £18 for workshop, follow up hand out sheets and Catherine’s ravishing refreshments.

Shaking Our Spines Out …

29/06/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

Shaking Out Our Spines … by Ms Paige Turner
Seven of my cohorts from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama met up in our seventh decade at Fifth View, Waterstones, Piccadilly. I’m not quite sure how it exactly happened but I guess it might be a result of semi or near retirement with some time to spend.
We must have looked as though we were ladies who lunched as we munched through our seven salads but we were a packed powerhouse of people: documentary filmmakers, veritable voice bards, Shakespearian schools’ theatre directors, National and RSC actresses, actresses who have filmed with Elizabeth Taylor and those with daughters who are starring in Downton Abbey. Not to mention the voice over agents and radio presenters who missed their trains. And if you dressed us back in a pair of practice leotard and tights we could have passed off (to each other) as eighteen years old shaking out our spines in the Drama Studio.
When I arrived home with much mirth and glee and a stuffed tiger for Princess Maddie Moo Moo, I told my husband Mister Justin Case that our Central course in the seventies had been so diverse it was a wonderful training for all sorts of careers in teaching, theatre, film, radio and writing which in some way or another I have been doing all my life. My mother had referred to my four year training as ‘an intellectual Finishing School’. And I told him wasn’t I lucky to have has such a magical foundation and day. He thoroughly agreed and then added, ‘It’s just a shame Central didn’t teach you to create and read spread sheets. Tax returns tomorrow.’
Hey ho …
Two places left on the ‘Keys to the Kingdom’ Evening Workshop this coming Wednesday 3rd July in Amersham. 8.00 pm and £18 for workshop, Catherine’s ravishing refreshments and my follow up hand out sheets. Keys to the Kingdom … are there any?

Touch of 64 Up Seasoning

15/06/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Touch of 64 Up Seasoning’ by Ms Paige Turner
Last May 2018, ten former pupils from my primary school met up after 53 years. We did a tour of the Ark Oval Infant and Junior school where our education began in 1959. We are just one year older than Michael Apted’s ‘7 Up’ documentary series which has followed a group of children every seven years throughout their lives. ’63 Up’ was broadcast recently and I was, as always, simply captivated.
Apted, now at 78, looks more than faintly like God, although he has, and I think succeeded, not played that role with his interviewees. What he has said is that the documentary series is a testament to ‘the ordinary life’ and its premise is based on Aristotle’s famous statement, taken up by the Jesuits: Give me a child until the age of seven and I will give you the man.
And so to this year’s primary school reunion. Nine of us met up again this May for lunch as a couple of the girls traced couldn’t get to us last year. Last year had been both magical and surrealistic: having the faces of children in one’s head and then seeing them fully formed but still quite patently ‘in there’. I didn’t expect this year’s meeting to live up to that first rendezvous. But it did.
We kind of discovered that the kids you play with become the people you truly know. Trish told me about a play ‘what I wrote’ when I was nine and performed it. She even remembered the plot line – someone got murdered – and I was tempted to write it down for future use. You see, I was doing it back then. And as Angela said – and I add both she and Di were always vying for top of the class and one or other managed to do it every term, never pulling rank on the rest of us – ‘When you’re kids, you’re raw. When you’re moving into retirement, the same rawness descends.’ Or something like that. I will be forever grateful to Angela for taking me into her warm sleeping bag on school camp when I had stuck my feet out of the canvas and got myself drenched. I like that word ‘rawness’. In the child is the same tone of voice, the same slant of the lip, the essence. Here we are back again:  only just slightly modified – raw with a touch of seasoning.
Creative Ink for Writers’ Evening Workshop in Amersham: Wednesday 3rd July at 8.00pm. ‘Keys to the Kingdom’. How Fairy Tales help us understand The Story. £18 for workshop, follow up notes and Catherine’s notorious nibbles and wine.

A Sad Day for Hungry Tigers …

26/05/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘A Sad Day for Hungry Tigers …’ by Ms Paige Turner
Last Thursday 23rd May, writer and illustrator Dame Judith Kerr (95) died. For thirty years, on and off, I’ve been reading her ‘Tiger who came to Tea’ to my daughter Miss Trial and then to my two year old granddaughter Princess Maddie Moo. Both of them (apparently like Kerr’s daughter) would ask for ‘Tiger Talk’. Children and adults alike love it. At its core its premise is this: Sophie’s mother allows ‘a big furry tiger’ to enter the house and eat ‘all’ the food and ‘all’ the drink so that when Dad arrives home he has the brainwave suggestion of going out to eat sausages and chips at the café. Feminists have criticized this much-loved book for its reflection of rigid gender roles. Here’s my response:
1. It’s a story.
2. Sophie’s mum is far too busy playing with her daughter to stock the food cupboard, make the evening meal or run a bath for Sophie. The tiger is a great excuse for play.
3. When Kerr was 9, her German-Jewish family fled Berlin. Her father’s books were burnt and if I may stretch the premise of her renowned ‘Tiger’, possibly what might have been beneath its surface was the invasion of a destructive regime.
On Friday 24th May, Theresa May announced her forthcoming resignation as Conservative and Unionist Party Leader and Prime Minister. Once her job was finally done, she uncharacteristically broke down with emotion on her final few words for ‘the country she loved’. It was a sad day for Theresa May.
I’m not writing blogs to write politics and I’m not on Social Media for that reason either. But man or woman, once our job, effective or not, is done, let us be able to express how we feel publicly without criticism. For as we all know, hungry tigers are always poised to pounce. And as my former Miss Techie Wizard on my plays aka Kerriaberry said, ‘Let’s all go out for some sausages and chips …’

Keys to Wycombe Abbey

10/05/2019 // by Jan Moran Neil

‘Keys to Wycombe Abbey’ by Ms Paige Turner

Continuing with the Creative Ink theme of ‘Keys’ this year, I’ve spent a few days reading the Wycombe Abbey students’ entries for their 2019 Short Story Competition. I was then invited to read my Judge’s Report last night and announce the winners, whilst dining and then serving up some of my ‘Red Lipstick’ offerings.
I agreed with the organiser, English teacher Mrs Shivaun Mason: it was a wonderful evening. Writers as young as eleven years ranging up to the Lower Sixth, grappled with the concepts of Metafiction, the Villanelle and the Sestina. I gave a couple of writing exercises, although Lord love them, by seven o’clock in the evening they must have been school saturated. My four Ws I hoped might provide keys to opening up their stories, WHO, WHERE, WHEN, and, as many of us might ask about our lives: WHY NOW?
I must apologise for mistaking the four staff members for sixth formers. Yes, policemen are getting younger too. And I apologise to the two members of the Literary Society who so eloquently introduced me and gave the closing thanks. Over our lovely dinner I promised to tell them when the evening was over, what Alan Bennett – who coincidentally had a birthday yesterday – had said about our competition theme. ‘Life is rather like a tin of sardines. We’re all of us looking for the key …’