Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I am indebted to......

My old mucker Maddie Grigg has kindly given me a Lovely Blog award. Many thanks!
There are four rules associated with the award:
1) To thank the giver and link back to his or her site.
2. Provide five random facts that folks may not know about you.
3. Pass this award on to five other lovely blog sites and let them know you're awarding them.
4. Copy the award logo and paste it onto your own site.

Here are the random facts:
  • I once had a letter from Iggy Pop. Yes seriously - the grandfather of punk told me all about his cat (!)
  • I once did the Royal Marines Endurance Course at Lympstone. I was going to say "ran" but that would be stretching the truth. However, I did manage to finish it within the 30 minute time limit and my dad (a former Royal Marine) was very proud
  • I only like one type of white wine, very oaky New World Chardonnay. Out of fashion, but there you go
  • I am passionate about piccalilli (and wrote about it in a previous post)
  • My specialist subjects, should I go on Mastermind, include the ballet dancer Nijinsky, the toe toed sloth, Imperial topaz and the books of Thomas Hardy
Now to share the love I am going to nominate Maggie May at Nuts in May, Lucy at Thoughts and Worries from the Wrong Side of the Hill,  Robyn at Joyful Follies, What's Happening at My House and Anne at The Frump Factor.

Coming soon at this blog: my celebrity awards of the year. Roll out the virtual red carpet as we celebrate the most boring couples, the year's worst slimeballs, the most uplifting achievements and the overall Best Chap and Top Bird.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Power of Singing

It seems like a no-brainer.
Singing in groups, or choirs, is proven to have a magical effect on everyone.
Care homes have found that even quite badly affected sufferers of Alzheimer's and dementia still remember favourite songs from their youth. The Alzheimer's Society offers a service called "Singing for the brain." New research this week showed that Parkinson's Disease patients also benefited from song. Singing can help stroke victims regain the power of speech. It can help people overcome depression, and lose weight.

And of course, the inspirational Gareth Malone and the latest "The Choir" TV programme, where he brought together military wives to form a choir, is a great example of how singing brought together a lonely and isolated group of people. The spectacular results were seen when the Military Wives' Choir performed at the Royal British Legion's Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.

So if it's such a no-brainer that singing really helps, why is it marginalised in schools, disappearing from university courses and largely disregarded by the NHS?
Further reading
What is singing for the brain? By the Alzheimer's Society
How singing may help stroke victims
Music healing for depression
Health choirs: let's have singing on rescription, from The Daily Telegraph
In praise of Gareth Malone: from The Guardian

Friday, November 11, 2011

Remembering those who gave their Today for our Tomorrow

This year's Festival of Remembrance has added poignancy for me. I have been researching my late father's family tree and discovered that his dad, Charles Edward Tyler, was a driver in the RFA who saw action on the Somme and two other battlefields. He received three medals and was badly gassed. I will remember this brave little man - he was only 5'5 - whom I never met - when the poppies fall softly, so quietly, from the ceiling of the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday.

In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, May 1915
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

In memory of She magazine

Regular readers will know I buy a lot of magazines. For the last few weeks I've been looking for one of my regulars, She magazine. Having realised I hadn't seen it for a long time, I Googled it and found it has been closed down.

This always makes me very sad, particularly when a magazine has been around for a long time (in She's case, 56 years). Invariably a new publisher takes over and decides to shut down a title. That's it, there is usually no last edition or requiem.

I first started reading She when I was very young and my mum occasionally bought it. In those days it was very different - the masthead looked a bit like Punch and it had quirky content, far removed from the usual women's magazines with their articles about preparing for summer/ Christmas and how to look younger. I bought a few copies from the 70s on ebay - here's an example (left). It was quite risque at the time, as you can see from some of the headlines. Notice how the model is slim but healthy looking.

The adverts were fascinating. Outdoor Girl cosmetics; Innoxa Solution 41 for spots; "Get More Out of Nursing" and "Nice girls don't drink Guinness." In one of my copies there is an advert for a new magazine launching soon - Cosmopolitan.

I imagine the reader then was a fairly bohemian woman with her own opinions who had probably stayed on a kibbutz and was an  early adopter of women's lib.

It wasn't long before a new editor was apppointed and the brief was "revolutionise" She and bring it up-to-date. So it became a lot more like any other women's magazine. The problem She always had was that it was unclear of its target reader and how to differentiate itself.

There were various attempts over the years. When Linda Kelsey (formerly of Cosmopolitan) became editor, she turned it into my least favourite version, the magazine for 'women who juggle their lives' aimed at young mothers.

Briefly there was a period when a male editor was apppointed and the magazine suddenly became sterile and soulless with "how to" articles and glossy cookery cards. How to have the perfect dinner party. How to remove stains. There was no emotional content whatsoever.

In its last gasp years, She had established a solid position where it occupied that glossy, aspirational but not too aspirational ground along with Red and Eve magazines (Eve was unfortunately closed a few years ago).

It had celebrity cover models, some with greater celebrity than others: Myleene Klass, Tess Daley...oh and Jennifer Lopez. The target reader was probably a youngish mother who also had a career, unlike the stay-at-home mother that it had targeted a few years earlier. The magazines had realised readers wanted some escapism, with articles about shopping, beauty and holidays, rather than choosing the best school or disposable nappies road tested.

Let's hope all the staff were given jobs on other titles, and let's raise a glass to a magazine that represented very well the different evolution of women in its 56 years.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Finally it's ready

A few weeks ago I showed you some of the different stages of building work after the old lean-to was demolished and replaced with a new conservatory.

After what seems like months it is now finished. We are using it as a home office. It is very modern and minimal looking. We're going to add a couple of comfy (modern) chairs and the barren garden you see through the door is soon to be transformed.

Here's John sitting in his new home office, his pride and joy.
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