rhythmaning: (violin)
The house I have been living in for the last week in the far north of Britain, as far as you can go, has an electric cooker.

I haven't used an electric cooker for many years. I understand why this house has one - there is no gas supply in the island (ironic since it is surrounded by the gas fields of the North Sea); electricity cables cross over from the  neighbouring island, and thence to the main island of the archipelago, and there are a lot of rotors churning out wind power, too.

My mother had a fear of gas, stemming, I think, from the war and accidents with gas. In her youth, gas was made from coal - coal gas - which had smelt bad and was stored in large tanks - telescopic gasometers, the skeletons of which can be seen in many towns and cities. Every so often these would blow up. Or the cookers would blow up. And people would put their heads in the ovens and asphixiate themselves, gas being heavier than air so it would push the air out.

DSCN3173



My mother had a fear of gas all her life, and all the homes she had used only electricity. I grew up learning to cook on an electric cooker, slow to heat and slow to cool. You couldn't tell if the rings were on it not, unless they were very hot, in which case they would glow orange and angry. But it was easy to leave on and hard to clean.

And hard to control.

Even as a schoolboy, the use of electricity didn't make a lot of sense to me. To take one form of energy and transform it to another didn't seem right - power stations (and any type of transformer - particularly the internal combustion engine) are inefficient. Using electricity as a source of energy, derived from coal (mostly back then) or gas (natural gas, odour-free, less toxic, and not derived from coal but initially as a by-product of oil production, from the 1970s), meant losing energy when you could have had all the power of the original, seemed wasteful.

But my mother - and her parents, whom she may have caught this from - had the gas removed from the houses she lived in. And she really didn't like gas at all. Perhaps because electricity was advertised as the fuel of the future. "The white heat of technology."

Whereas I have never liked electric cookers.

(My mother also thought electricity sockets had to be switched off if nothing was plugged into them, to stop the electricity leaking out. But I never knew if she were serious or not.)
rhythmaning: (violin)
I have described my life as a child movie star actor appearee before. Now, I have evidence as myself as a tv star actor appearee, too.

I had an email from my brother directing me to a film of Joyce Grenfell, and, in particular, a couple of sections towards the end of the audience at a recording of the Michael Parkinson show in 1976. My father, who worked in what now would be called PR, publicised Joyce Grenfell, and presumably got us all tickets. I have no recollection whatsoever of having sat in a BBC studio watching Parkinson interview Joyce Grenfell. But I am there, along with my brother, mother and father.



Ms Grenfell had just asked the audience to close our eyes and imagine the character she was protraying - hence everyone in the audience has their eyes shut. And the image is spliced from two stills I grabbed. (Presumably the BBC owns copyright of my image...)

And before [livejournal.com profile] star_tourmaline says it, I clearly needed a hair cut in 1976. However, this applies to 90% of the male members of the audience, including Mr Parkinson.

Congo

Nov. 20th, 2008 07:47 pm
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
The Disasters Emergency Committee has just launched an appeal for funds for the conflict in the Congo.

Tomorrow, my brother (who works for a worldwide charity) is flying out to the Congo to get his organisation's part of the programme set up for a few weeks.

I will have to admit this is a little worrying. Still, he has spent much of his adult life in disaster zones (hopefully as the effect, not the cause) - Sudan, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Somaliland - so I guess he'll do ok.

Congo

Nov. 20th, 2008 07:47 pm
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
The Disasters Emergency Committee has just launched an appeal for funds for the conflict in the Congo.

Tomorrow, my brother (who works for a worldwide charity) is flying out to the Congo to get his organisation's part of the programme set up for a few weeks.

I will have to admit this is a little worrying. Still, he has spent much of his adult life in disaster zones (hopefully as the effect, not the cause) - Sudan, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Somaliland - so I guess he'll do ok.
rhythmaning: (cat)
My mother left piles of paper. I mean, piles of paper: paper that belonged to my grandfather, who died in 1985; paper that belonged to my father, who died in 1988; paper that belonged to my grandmother, who died in 1990; and paper that belonged to my mother.

She seems to have kept everything. We have found rates demands going back to the mid-1960s; phone bills from the mid-1970s; electricity bills; bank statements on long closed accounts with long closed banks; cheque book stubs going back thirty years; business receipts going back twenty years or more.

A lot of paper.

Some of it was sorted and orderly, but a lot of it seemed in no obvious order – papers from completely different periods sat together.

Most of it was of no interest – phone bills, bank statements, electricity bills – I threw them out (keeping only the most recent). I appear to be a chucker – I want rid of most things; my brother prefers to keep much more, in case it might be of interest. (I take the view that unless there is a clear use or interest, it should go: otherwise it will just sit in a box, forgotten in an attic, until someone else has to throw it out.) My mother, clearly, was a hoarder. The things she kept are, at times, fascinating: she stored some files in the vegetable rack of an old fridge; she kept old envelops and old bits of cardboard, in case they might one day be useful. (She grew up during the second world war and lived through years of rationing, so perhaps keeping things for a time when they would become valuable made sense.)

I don’t find it easy to sort through all this paper. Most of it is boring: another phone bill! Another electricity bill! (No gas bills: my mother didn’t like gas, being almost pathologically scared of it: again, I think this dates back to growing up in a time when catastrophic gas explosions were common, and gas leaks asphyxiated families as they slept.)

Amongst the boring pieces of paper, though, are some fascinating jewels: there is a strange balance between tedium and deep distraction, as something interesting grabs me and I sit and read, and suddenly time has passed. Many of them bring back memories – strong recollections of my childhood and youth.
Read more... )
rhythmaning: (cat)
My mother left piles of paper. I mean, piles of paper: paper that belonged to my grandfather, who died in 1985; paper that belonged to my father, who died in 1988; paper that belonged to my grandmother, who died in 1990; and paper that belonged to my mother.

She seems to have kept everything. We have found rates demands going back to the mid-1960s; phone bills from the mid-1970s; electricity bills; bank statements on long closed accounts with long closed banks; cheque book stubs going back thirty years; business receipts going back twenty years or more.

A lot of paper.

Some of it was sorted and orderly, but a lot of it seemed in no obvious order – papers from completely different periods sat together.

Most of it was of no interest – phone bills, bank statements, electricity bills – I threw them out (keeping only the most recent). I appear to be a chucker – I want rid of most things; my brother prefers to keep much more, in case it might be of interest. (I take the view that unless there is a clear use or interest, it should go: otherwise it will just sit in a box, forgotten in an attic, until someone else has to throw it out.) My mother, clearly, was a hoarder. The things she kept are, at times, fascinating: she stored some files in the vegetable rack of an old fridge; she kept old envelops and old bits of cardboard, in case they might one day be useful. (She grew up during the second world war and lived through years of rationing, so perhaps keeping things for a time when they would become valuable made sense.)

I don’t find it easy to sort through all this paper. Most of it is boring: another phone bill! Another electricity bill! (No gas bills: my mother didn’t like gas, being almost pathologically scared of it: again, I think this dates back to growing up in a time when catastrophic gas explosions were common, and gas leaks asphyxiated families as they slept.)

Amongst the boring pieces of paper, though, are some fascinating jewels: there is a strange balance between tedium and deep distraction, as something interesting grabs me and I sit and read, and suddenly time has passed. Many of them bring back memories – strong recollections of my childhood and youth.
Read more... )

Politics

Nov. 1st, 2008 04:56 pm
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
Sorting through some of my mother’s stuff – and there really is a lot of stuff to sort through – my brother came across some papers relating to my grandfather.

Before the Second World War – right before – my grandfather stood for election as the Labour candidate for Ashton, Birmingham, and we found some campaign materials from an election: a “newspaper” from the Birmingham and District Co-operative Party called “Co-operative Citizen”. (The Co-operative Party was clearly allied to the Labour Party in May 1939 – and apparently, it still is.) It must have been a by-election, there not being a general election in 1939.

DSC_0175 bw



It makes fascinating reading, seeming both relevant and dated at the same time.
Read more... )

Politics

Nov. 1st, 2008 04:56 pm
rhythmaning: (Armed Forces)
Sorting through some of my mother’s stuff – and there really is a lot of stuff to sort through – my brother came across some papers relating to my grandfather.

Before the Second World War – right before – my grandfather stood for election as the Labour candidate for Ashton, Birmingham, and we found some campaign materials from an election: a “newspaper” from the Birmingham and District Co-operative Party called “Co-operative Citizen”. (The Co-operative Party was clearly allied to the Labour Party in May 1939 – and apparently, it still is.) It must have been a by-election, there not being a general election in 1939.

DSC_0175 bw



It makes fascinating reading, seeming both relevant and dated at the same time.
Read more... )
rhythmaning: (bottle)
My mother’s funeral was more than a week ago; there were lots of things I wanted to say about it, but I am not sure if I can remember them all. It might still be too soon.
Read more... )
rhythmaning: (bottle)
My mother’s funeral was more than a week ago; there were lots of things I wanted to say about it, but I am not sure if I can remember them all. It might still be too soon.
Read more... )

Community

Oct. 4th, 2008 02:18 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
I don’t have a great sense of community; I am never sure that I understand what the word means – I certainly don’t recognise many of the uses of it. It was one of the few things my last partner and I disagreed on: she had a strong sense of community, and it meant something very real to her, something she needed, something she was part of, which I had difficulty reconciling.

I certainly don’t get the desire of people online to be in a community: I can see how the websites (and their owners) benefit from community, but although I subscribe to sites such as flickr, I do not feel part of the community: I use them to look at pictures, and to post my own, but that doesn’t join me to the millions of other people who use the site.

Strangely, though, my mother was clearly part of many real world communities: different spheres, circles, of people, rarely overlapping, to whom she played an important role. The sense of community I have gathered from people I have spoken to over the past couple of weeks is tangible – solid and meaningful; and something I don’t have.

I don’t remember this when I was younger: perhaps she was too busy working and bringing up a family (and travelling the world, too) to have the time or energy to build communities; maybe it is a function of semi-retirement, something she devoted her energies to.

It is curious – a different side to her. And it is making me think of community all over again.

Community

Oct. 4th, 2008 02:18 pm
rhythmaning: (sunset)
I don’t have a great sense of community; I am never sure that I understand what the word means – I certainly don’t recognise many of the uses of it. It was one of the few things my last partner and I disagreed on: she had a strong sense of community, and it meant something very real to her, something she needed, something she was part of, which I had difficulty reconciling.

I certainly don’t get the desire of people online to be in a community: I can see how the websites (and their owners) benefit from community, but although I subscribe to sites such as flickr, I do not feel part of the community: I use them to look at pictures, and to post my own, but that doesn’t join me to the millions of other people who use the site.

Strangely, though, my mother was clearly part of many real world communities: different spheres, circles, of people, rarely overlapping, to whom she played an important role. The sense of community I have gathered from people I have spoken to over the past couple of weeks is tangible – solid and meaningful; and something I don’t have.

I don’t remember this when I was younger: perhaps she was too busy working and bringing up a family (and travelling the world, too) to have the time or energy to build communities; maybe it is a function of semi-retirement, something she devoted her energies to.

It is curious – a different side to her. And it is making me think of community all over again.
rhythmaning: (bottle)
The undertaker was clearly in the wrong job. She seemed startlingly unsympathetic. She didn’t understand what we didn’t understand, and she couldn't answer our questions: she looked at us as if we were foolish to have any questions at all.

She asked what religion my mother was. “None,” we replied. “Shall I put C of E, then?” she asked.

It was more important to her to fill out the form than to interact with us. Perhaps she was scared of death.

Each room in the undertakers was named after a castle, although it was a curious choice of castles: Arundel, Stirling, Balvenie Most of the rooms were named after Scottish castles; I would have liked to be interviewed in Balvenie (a bottle of which I have sitting on my sideboard at home, the 12 yo double wood). Drowning in the spirit seemed kind of appropriate.

We went to see my mother lying in her coffin; she lay “in rest” in Tintagel; next door was Edinburgh, which seemed more appropriate to me, at least.

She didn’t really look like my mother, to me; rather like a poor waxwork. I had expected to be moved – I have after cried a far deal over the past couple of weeks (I am pretty good when it comes to sharing my emotions I have a lot of practice). Perhaps I am all cried out.

I half expected Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Geller to burst in, stakes at the ready. Well, a boy can dream.
rhythmaning: (bottle)
The undertaker was clearly in the wrong job. She seemed startlingly unsympathetic. She didn’t understand what we didn’t understand, and she couldn't answer our questions: she looked at us as if we were foolish to have any questions at all.

She asked what religion my mother was. “None,” we replied. “Shall I put C of E, then?” she asked.

It was more important to her to fill out the form than to interact with us. Perhaps she was scared of death.

Each room in the undertakers was named after a castle, although it was a curious choice of castles: Arundel, Stirling, Balvenie Most of the rooms were named after Scottish castles; I would have liked to be interviewed in Balvenie (a bottle of which I have sitting on my sideboard at home, the 12 yo double wood). Drowning in the spirit seemed kind of appropriate.

We went to see my mother lying in her coffin; she lay “in rest” in Tintagel; next door was Edinburgh, which seemed more appropriate to me, at least.

She didn’t really look like my mother, to me; rather like a poor waxwork. I had expected to be moved – I have after cried a far deal over the past couple of weeks (I am pretty good when it comes to sharing my emotions I have a lot of practice). Perhaps I am all cried out.

I half expected Alyson Hannigan and Sarah Michelle Geller to burst in, stakes at the ready. Well, a boy can dream.

Music

Sep. 26th, 2008 08:35 pm
rhythmaning: (Default)
Yesterday, my brother, my aunt and I were picking music for my mother's funeral.

She really liked Duke Ellington - it kind of runs in the family (although maybe it just runs in people that like music?), and for my father's funeral (twenty years ago), she had In A Sentimental Mood played. So we thought we'd go for some Ellington, and if we had found a decent version of In A Sentimental Mood played by Ellington, we'd probably have picked that. (I have seven recordings of In A Sentimental Mood on my iPod; but none of them are by Ellington! My favourite is by Michel Petrucciani - not this version, but close...).

I remembered that when my mother travelled, she always took a cassette of Ellington's Suites, which included a very beautiful, wistful tune called The Single Petal Of A Rose, and I lobbied for that, whilst my brother was pushing for Lotus Blossom, from the memorial to Billy Strayhorn, "And His Mother Called Him Bill". (Actually, my brother really wanted Blood Count, but that was vetoed on the grounds of possible bad taste.)

There are two versions of Lotus Blossom on that recording, one solo and one alternate take with Johnny Hodges joining in at the end. It was the last one we decided we wanted.

I have just had a phone call from my brother (I am now back in Edinburgh); he was clearing out my mother's desk, and he found a scribbled note that said "Duke Ellington Lotus Blossom - alternate take". We reckoned she must have been listening to the radio, heard it, and made a note of it.

It is rather nice to have got that right!

Music

Sep. 26th, 2008 08:35 pm
rhythmaning: (Default)
Yesterday, my brother, my aunt and I were picking music for my mother's funeral.

She really liked Duke Ellington - it kind of runs in the family (although maybe it just runs in people that like music?), and for my father's funeral (twenty years ago), she had In A Sentimental Mood played. So we thought we'd go for some Ellington, and if we had found a decent version of In A Sentimental Mood played by Ellington, we'd probably have picked that. (I have seven recordings of In A Sentimental Mood on my iPod; but none of them are by Ellington! My favourite is by Michel Petrucciani - not this version, but close...).

I remembered that when my mother travelled, she always took a cassette of Ellington's Suites, which included a very beautiful, wistful tune called The Single Petal Of A Rose, and I lobbied for that, whilst my brother was pushing for Lotus Blossom, from the memorial to Billy Strayhorn, "And His Mother Called Him Bill". (Actually, my brother really wanted Blood Count, but that was vetoed on the grounds of possible bad taste.)

There are two versions of Lotus Blossom on that recording, one solo and one alternate take with Johnny Hodges joining in at the end. It was the last one we decided we wanted.

I have just had a phone call from my brother (I am now back in Edinburgh); he was clearing out my mother's desk, and he found a scribbled note that said "Duke Ellington Lotus Blossom - alternate take". We reckoned she must have been listening to the radio, heard it, and made a note of it.

It is rather nice to have got that right!
rhythmaning: (sunset)
In case anyone reads my journal who isn't on my friends' list, my mother died at the weekend. It was very sudden and unexpected. She had spent a week in Edinburgh with me during the festival - we were pretty active, and though she wasn't feeling 100%, she seemed pretty well (we put it down to age: she was 73). I then saw her a week later in London, at a large family gathering.

Read more... )
rhythmaning: (sunset)
In case anyone reads my journal who isn't on my friends' list, my mother died at the weekend. It was very sudden and unexpected. She had spent a week in Edinburgh with me during the festival - we were pretty active, and though she wasn't feeling 100%, she seemed pretty well (we put it down to age: she was 73). I then saw her a week later in London, at a large family gathering.

Read more... )

Small World

Sep. 1st, 2008 04:58 pm
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
There was something about my Monday in London that I forget to mention; I suppose it was the start of what in some respects was a strange, busy day.

I was sitting in Pret a Manger around the corner from my hotel, eating a croissant and sipping a strong cappuccino whilst reading the paper, when a loud voice said, “Hello, what are you doing here?”

It was one of my cousins. I last saw about six years ago in Wiltshire.

I knew I would be seeing her later that evening, but I hadn’t expected to share breakfast with her.

Sometimes London seems a very small place.

Small World

Sep. 1st, 2008 04:58 pm
rhythmaning: (on the beat)
There was something about my Monday in London that I forget to mention; I suppose it was the start of what in some respects was a strange, busy day.

I was sitting in Pret a Manger around the corner from my hotel, eating a croissant and sipping a strong cappuccino whilst reading the paper, when a loud voice said, “Hello, what are you doing here?”

It was one of my cousins. I last saw about six years ago in Wiltshire.

I knew I would be seeing her later that evening, but I hadn’t expected to share breakfast with her.

Sometimes London seems a very small place.

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