Monday, 30 January 2012

Burns Night

When Chris turned 40 I bought him a book of Burns poetry dating from 1878. Its in amazing condition considering its age and it claims to contain everything he ever wrote...letters, poems, songs, epistles, epigrams and epitaphs. We were invited to our friends house to celebrate Burns Night, we took it with us and he read the address to a haggis before we had our meal. It reminded me just how much I love Robert Burns poetry! The language used and the imagery conjured up really is something to behold so yesterday I sat down and re-read one of my favourite poems and I've decided to share it with you...it is quite long but well worth a read! (Don't worry, I've included translations).

Tam O'Shanter:

When chapman billies (Fellows) leave the street,
And drouthy (thirsty) neibors neibors meet,
As market days are wearin' late,
And folk begin to tak the gate (road);
While we sit bousing at the nappy (Ale),
And gettin' fou and unco happy,
We think na on the lang Scots miles,
The mosses, waters, slaps and stiles (Breaches in hedges or walls),
That lie between us and our hame,
Where sits our sulky sullen dame,
Gathering her brows like gathering storm,
Nursing her wrath to keep it warm.

This truth fand honest Tam o'Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne'er a town surpasses
For honest men and bonny lasses.)

O Tam! hadst thon but been sae wise
As ta'en thy ain wife Kate's advice!
She tauld thee weel thou wast a skellum (A worthless fellow),
A blethering, blustering, drunken blellum (A talker of nonsense, a drunken fool);
That frae November till October,
Ae market dat thou wasne sober;
That ilka melder (any quantity of corn sent to the mill is called a melder), wi' the miller
Thou sat as land as thou hadst siller (money);
That every naig (Horse) was ca'd a shoe on,
The smith and thee gat roaring fou on,
That at the Lord's house, even on Sunday,
Thou drank wi' Kirkton (the village in which a parish church is situated is known as a kirk-town) Jean till Monday (Jean Kennedy ran a reputable pub in the villiage of kirkoswald).
She prophesised that, late or soon,
Thou wouldst be found deep drown'd in Doon!
Or catch'd wi warlocks i' the mirk (Dark),
By Alloway's auld haunted kirk.

Ah, gentle dames! it gars (makes) me greet
To think how mony counsels sweet,
How mony lengthen'd sage advices,
The husband frae the wife despises!

But to our tale: - Ae market night,
Tam had got planted unco (Unusually) right,
Fast by an ingle (fire), bleezing finely,
Wi' reaming swats (foaming ale), that drank divinely;
And at his elbow, Souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy (thirsty) crony;
Tam lo'ed him live a vera brither-
They had been fou for weeks thegither!
The night drave on wi' sangs and clatter.
And aye the ale was growing better:
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
Wi' favours secret, sweet, and precious;
The Souter tauld his queerest stories,
The landlord's laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair (roar) and rustle-
Tam didna mind the storm a whistle.

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E'en drown'd himsel amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi' lades (loads) o'treasure,
The minutes wing'd their way wi' pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious,
O'er a' the ills of life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed!
Or like the snowfall in the river,
A moment white - then melts for ever;
Or like the borealis race,
That flit ere you can point thier place;
Or like the rainbow's lovely form,
Evanishing amid the storm.
Nae man can tether (tie up) time or tide;
The hour approaches Tam maun ride;
That hour, o'night's back arch the keystane,
That dreary hour he mounts his beast in;
And sic (such) a night he take the road in
As ne'er poor sinner was abroad in.

The wind blew as 'twad blawn its last;
The rattling showers rose on the blast;
The speedy gleams the darkness swallow'd:
Loud, deep, and lang, the thunder bellow'd:
That night, a child might understand
The deil (devil) had business on his hand.

Well mounted on his grey mare, Meg,
A better never lifted leg,
Tam skelpit (rode with careless speed) on through dub and mire,
Despising wind, and rain, and fire;
Whiles holding fast his guid blue bonnet,
Whiles crooning (humming) o'er some auld Scots sonnet;
Whiles glowering (Staring) round wi' prudent cares,
Lest bogles (Spirits) catch him unawares:
Kirk - Alloway was drawing nigh,
Whare ghaists and houlets (Ghosts and owls) nightly cry.

By this time he was 'cross the foord,
Whare in the snaw the chapman smoor'd (Pedlar was smothered),
And past the birks that meikle stane
Whare drunken Charlie brak's neck-bane:
And through the whins, and by the cairn (Stone heap)
Whare hunters fand the murder'd bairn (child);
And near the thorn, aboon the well,
Whare Mungo's mither hand's hersel.
Before him Doon pours a' his floods;
The doubling storm roars through the woods
The lightening flash frae pole to pole;
Near and more near the thuders roll;
When, glimmering through the groaning trees,
Kirk-Alloway seem'd in a bleeze (lit up);
Through ilka bore (Crevice) the beams were glancing,
And loud resounded mirth and dancing.

Inspiring bold John Barleycorn!
What dangers thou canst mak us scorn!
Wi' tippenny (Two penny), we fear nae evil;
Wi usquebae (Whisky), we'll face the devil! -
The swats sae ream's in Tammie's noodle (the ale so wrought in Tam's head),
Fair play, he cared na deils a boddle (A small coin).
But Maggie stood right saie astonish'd,
Till, by the heel and hand admonish'd,
She ventured forward on the light;
And, wow! Tam saw an unco sight!
Warlocks and witches in a dance;
Nae cotillon brent-new (Brand new) frae France,
But hornpipes, jigs, strethspeys, and reels,
Put life and mettle i' their heals:
At winnock-bunker (window seat), i' the east,
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke (A rough dog), black, grim, and large,
To gie them music was his charge;
He screw'd the pipes, and gart (made) them skirl (scream),
Till roof and rafters a' did dirl (vibrate).
Coffins stood round, like open presses,
That shaw'd the dead in their last dresses;
And by some devilish cantrip (spell) slight
each in its cauld hand held a light,-
B which heroic Tam was able
To note upon the haly table,
A murderer's banes in gibbet airns (Irons);
Twa span-lang, wee (small), unchristen'd bairns;
A thief, new-cutted fre a rape,
Wi his last gasp his gab (mouth) did gape;
Five tomahawks, wi' bluid red-rusted;
Five scimitars, wi' murder crusted;
A garter, which a babe had strangled;
A knife, a father's throat had mangled,
Whom his ain son o'life bereft,
The gray hairs yet stack to the heft (handle):
Wi' mair o'horrible and awfu',
Which even to name wad be unlawfu'.

As Tammie glower'd (Stared), amazed and curious,
The mirth and fun grew fast and furious:
The piper loud and louder blew,
The dancers quick and quicker flew;
They reel'd, they set, they cross'd, they cleekit,
Till ilka carlin swat and reekit (till each old bedlam smoked with sweat),
And coost (stript) her duddies (clothes) to the wark,
And linket (tripped0 at it in her sark (shirt).

Now Tam! O Tam! had thae been queans (young girls),
A' plump and strappin' in their teens,
Thier sarks, instead o' creeshie flannen (Greasy flannel),
Been snaw-white seventeen-hunder linen (the manufacturers' term for fine linen)!
Thir breeks (these breeches) o'mine, my only pair,
That ance were plush, o'guid blue hair,
I wad hae gien them aff my hurdies (Hams),
For ae blink (look) o' the bonny burdies (Lasses)!

But wither'd beldams, auld and droll,
Rigwoodie (Gallows-worthy) hags, wad spean (Wean) a foal,
Lowpin' and flingin' on a cummock (jumping and capering on a staff),
I wonder didna turn thy stomach.

But Tam kenn'd (knew) what was what fu' brawlie (full well)
"There was ae winsome wench and walie (A hearty girl and jolly),"
That night enlised in the core,
(Land after kenn'd on Carrick shore;
For mony a beast to dead she shot,
And perish'd mony a bonny boat,
And shook baith meikle corn and bear,
And kept the country-side in fear.)
Her cutty sark (short shirt), o' Paisley harn,
That, while a lassie (girl), she had worn,
In longitude though sorely scanty,
It was her best, and she was vauntie (Proud of it).

Ah! little kenn'd they reverent grannie,
That sark she coft (bought) for her wee Nannie,
Wi twa pund Scots, ('twas a' her riches,)
Wad ever graced a dance o' witches!

But here my Muse her wing maun cour (Lower),
Sic flights are far beyond her power;
To sing how Nannie lap and flang (Jumped and kicked),
(A souple jade (girl) she was, and strang (strong),
And how Tam stood, like ane bewitch's,
And thought his very een (eyes) enrich'd;
Even Satan glower'd, and fidged fu' fain,
And hotch's (hitched) and blew wi' might and main:
Till first ae caper, syne (then) anither,
Tam tint (lost) his reason a' thegither,
And roars out, "Weel done, Cutty-sark!"
And in an instant a' was dark:
And scarcely had he Maggie rallied,
When out the hellish legion sallied.
As bees bizz out wi' angry fyke (Fuss),
When plundering heards assail their byke (Hive),
As open pussie's mortal foes,
When, pop! she started before their nose;
As eager runs the market-crowd,
When "Catch the thief!" resounds aloud;
So Maggies runs, the witches follow,
Wi' mony an eldritch (unearthly) screech and hollow.

Ah, Tam! ah, Tam! thou'lt get thy fairin' (deserts)!
In hell they'll roast thee like a herrin'!
In vian thy Kate awaits thy comin'!
Kate soon will be a woefu' woman!
Now, do they speedy utmost, Meg,
And win the keystane (Witches, or any evil spirit, have no power to follow a person any further than the middle of the next running stream) of the brig (bridge);
There at them thou thy tail may toss,
A running stream they darena cross;
But ere the keystane she could make,
The fient (ne'er) a tal she had to shake!
For Nannie, far before the rest,
Hard unon noble Maggie prest,
And flew at Tam wi' furious ettle (design);
But little wist (knew) she Maggies mettle-
Ae spring brough of her master hale,
Bit left behind her ain gray tail:
The carlin claught her by the rump,
And left poor maggie scarce a stump.

Now, what this tale o'truth shall read,
Ilk (each) man and mother's son, take head:
Whane'er to drink you are inclined,
Or cutty-sarks run in your mind,
Think! ye may buy the joys owre dear-
Remember Tam o'Shanters mare.

(The bridge is still there and you can cross it!)

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

So my caged drawings got me thinking...

...about my inner demons and what a big part they have played in my life over the years. For those not following my Art is Autobiographical site, I have done a couple of drawings (as you can see) based on the idea that we form our own cages and bend their bars to fit our view of what we can and can't achieve...that we can be our own worst enemies and that sometimes we capture ourselves! They are based on my battles...

When I was younger those inner 'you can't do this' voices really dominated...to the point where I think I subconsiously sabotaged what I was doing so that I could say 'Well, I knew I was never going to be able to do that anyway'...kind of a self-fufilling prophecy! Its improved as I got older...in my mid twenties I took a stand (ha, took a stand against my inner demons...how daft does that sound!) and decided to go for what I actually wanted to do...hence my move into the Charity Sector. I was out of my comfort zone but as I learned and pushed myself forward they got quieter and quieter...then I would do something stupid like say 'Of course I can be Chief Exec and run this company' and they would come back with a vengeance! Still, I did it and again they went quiet. Its funny though...how and when they rear their ugly head...I had no problems about moving to Thailand, none about the work I did there and none about how I was going to cope moving back. They were pretty big things so why were my demons not there telling me that I couldnt do it? *shrugs*

When I got accepted to Uni...well, those of you that have followed my progress know how much of a panic I was in after my induction! It got better but each and every piece of work had me freaking out that it wasn't going to be good enough...I wasn't going to be good enough. I have literally spent the two and a half years that it took me to get my Masters degree in a permanent state of 'I can't do this'. I think it was my fear of failure that pushed me to work as hard as I did which, whilst the outcome was good, the process wasn't the nicest one to go through. I actually wrote a paper about it for my 'managing self and others' module at Uni which led to my dissertation tutor writing 'I am glad you didn’t fall flat on your face at graduation – a more realistic fear than your similar fears about intellectual pursuits' in reply to my e-mail telling him that I had managed to go up the stairs, across the stage, down the stairs and back to my seat without falling over! (Hey, I was in heels...it was totally possible!!).

When I was a kid I thought I could do anything...so when do these demons arrive? Where do they come from? When do they piss off and leave you alone? I know that its not just me that has them...I think everyone has them to a greater or lesser extent...I guess the main thing is how we deal with them. Mine? Well, mine are still there but I am happy to report that, having got my Masters with distinction, they are now a hell of a lot quieter than they have ever been and when they get shouty I am much better at telling them to shut the hell up! (and just in case they are listening...I can and I bloody well will!)

(Oooh, a serious post...that doesn't happen very often!)

Monday, 9 January 2012

Nordic Walking

For the last two years/eighteen months I have done no exercise at all...and I mean none!! Most of my time has been spent sat on my backside either doing the reading I needed to do for Uni or writing essays...and when I took a break from that I was working on my art which is another activity that doesn't really require much physical exertion! Last year was particularly bad as I struggled to get my dissertation done...basically I got up, went into the study and stayed there till it was bed time. Exercise, even just getting out the house, was the last thing on my mind...I really did become a lesser spotted house dweller!

This year I have decided that I want to be a bit more active...I want to lose some weight and get fit. Not the gym...I've tried that before and I'm just not a gym going kinda gal...its not my thing and I go for a bit and then end up giving up. I had heard good things about Nordic Walking...that it helps with weight loss, improves fitness, helps with posture, is 80% more effective than going to the gym AND it has the added benefit of being something that is done outside and that Chris and I can do together. Soooo...this weekend Chris and I signed up to go on an introductory Nordic walking course. Our guide and trainer was the lovely Steve who runs Gemini Outdoor Adventure ltd and you know what? I can't recommend him or the course highly enough (Seriously, if you live locally then click on the link and sign up...you won't be sorry you did!).

Nordic walking is done in groups (which is a really nice way of exercising cause we all kind of cheered each other on) so there were seven of us that had signed up for the course. We met up on Saturday morning at 10.30am, were all given walking poles that met our specific height requirements and then the day started by learning the basics. It is funny...you look at it and think that it is something that should be really easy to do, and it is, but you do need tuition to make sure that you get it right. The weekend course was brilliant! If we had been only doing an hours class then the next time we picked up the poles I think we would have spent a lot of time going back over the basics again...by the end of the morning I think we had all pretty much got it. We had lunch and then went for a fabulous walk that took us across fields, brooks and through a very pretty little village. Oh, and we stopped for coffee and cake!!

Just before the end of the first day Steve made us do an exercise which was really interesting...and I don't think I would have believed it if I hadn't experienced it for myself...he had us plant our poles in the ground, walk up a small hill and back down again without them and then he had us repeat the exercise using the poles...my god what a difference they make!! Not only did I get up the hill quicker but I felt less exausted the second time! (did you hear that...less exausted the SECOND time!). I was tired at the end of the day (we finished at 4.30pm) but exhilarated.

Day two was amazing! We met up at the same time, got in a couple of cars and drove to a parking area next to part of the Cotswold way. What a way to exercise! The sky was blue, the sun was shining and we were walking along woodland paths with views that took your breath away! Steve was brilliant...he managed to spend some one-on-one time with everyone as we walked, gave tips on technique and was really encouraging which, I have to admit I needed from time to time!. (There was really only one climb that I stuggled with but with support from Steve, Chris and the rest of the group I made it to the top...and that was a great feeling!).

Today my body feels tired and a bit achy but not in a 'OMG I'm never going to be able to move again' way it feels achy in a good way. Put it this way...I have done no exercise at all in about two years, I have just spent a weekend walking (12 miles...that's how far we walked!) and yet I am not long off the phone asking Steve to order two sets of poles for us...yup, we loved it so much that we are buying our own AND we are meeting up with Steve and the group again on Tuesday evening to go for an hour and a quarter walk. I tell you...if I can do it then anyone can!

(If you are interested Steve does cover quite a big geographical area and regularly goes walking all over the country. I'm sure he would probably be more than happy to come to you if you could get a group of people together...there is no harm in asking!)

Friday, 6 January 2012

This year I will be mostly drawing...

So I have been thinking for a while now that I should really do something that would ensure that I don't let my art fall by the wayside. I did so little last year due to all things Uni and I really missed it! I spoke (Ok, so it was more of a moan) to Chris about it and for my Christmas he bought me a fabulous present...he signed me up to take part in 'The Sketchbook' project which is being run by the Art House Co-op in Brooklyn. The idea is to bring as many artists from across the world together to take part in creating an Art Library. There are a number of categories to choose from, you select one, they send you a small sketchbook which you then have to fill and send back. The sketchbook is then professionally scanned and becomes part of an online digital library, is exhibited in New York and the best bits from all the different sketchbooks become part of a series of limited edition art books. Pretty cool eh! I had a look at the categories and the one that stood out for me was 'Create and Capture' so that's the one I picked and I got to unwrap my blank sketchbook on Christmas day. There really is something quite daunting about all those blank pieces of paper looking at you but I bought a second book and starting making notes and playing about with ideas so I can now start filling the actual book.

THEN

I started pondering what I was going to do with myself once the book was done (which it needs to be by the end of March). I find that, although it makes me very happy, my art always seems to take a backseat to everything else...its the first thing to go when things get manic and actually, given the calming influence it has, it should probably be the last thing to go! I wondered whether trying to discipline myself to do a drawing a day would be a good idea. It could be done anywhere...on a train, waiting for a bus, whilst watching the TV etc and the image doesn't even have to be any good I just have to make sure that I keep practicing (good way to improve my skills). I thought about it and then didn't do anything...the idea was just there...lurking at the back of my mind...until...I went over to the lovely Jennifer's blog (Realia) and discovered that she was taking the bull by the horns and had committed to taking a photograph a day for a year (Her photography is fab and you can find her photography site here). She put me to shame so I decided to join her!

I have now set up Art Is Autobiograhical, which I have backdated to New Year Eve, and I will be posting a drawing a day there. If you are interested please pop over and cheer me on

(You can get there by clicking on the tree pic at the top of this blog and there is a 'follow by e-mail' option on the site for those that want to follow my progress but don't want to have to visit the site every day).

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Eyes opened

Politics. Its a funny old thing isn't it...

University opened my eyes and now they have been opened they can't be closed again. Paulo Freire (one of the founding fathers of community development) called this process conscientisation. Its about becoming aware of what is going on around you and, instead of thinking well this is just how it is, realising that you can do something about it and then getting off your butt and doing it! (yeah, he puts it waaay better than that but you get the idea!). It has been a bit of a revelation and now I'm not just interested in the things that effect me and the people I love but also the things that go on within this country that are, when you get right down to it, just plain wrong. I question things a hell of a lot more than I used to and when a statistic is quoted I go and see where it came from and look at what the person quoting it stands to gain from it's use (Oh my Social Structres and Policy tutor would be so proud!). Let me tell you that doing that is an extremely eye opening process (and one which led to me shouting at the TV during PM Question time a few weeks ago...much to the amusement of Tom).

Now, those of you that are also Facebook friends will know that I read a lot of political articles and I have been rather vocal about what is going on within the NHS at the moment. Someone said something to me recently which got me thinking that perhaps I shouldn't be so vocal and I actually spent a couple of days feeling a bit bad about it but you know what? I work in this area, I've studied the current policy in depth, I'm already seeing the negative effects that it is having and I know that there is worse to come. Community Development is a part of who I am and if conscientisation is about raising awareness and pointing people to where they can make a difference how can I not share that knowledge and ask people to add their name? I think equality and fairness are worth fighting for...we need a better place for all not just for some. I am well aware that not everyone shares my views...if you don't like the articles I share and don't agree with my politics (for the record there is no party at the moment which I feel represents my views!) then don't read them and don't add your name to the petitions...and if you do agree then...well, do. As much as I don't like upsetting or offending people I'm not going to stop sharing them.