Awakening

The caravan site unfolds

As vivid pink flashes cut the sky

Bleary-eyed adults meander to shower blocks

Towels draped across shoulders

And children circuit ready for the day to begin,

On a different timescale to weary parents

Who sipped wine long into the evening.

It is a microcosm of an entire country,

Cheery good morning folk

Alongside keeping themselves to themselvers.

Hens cluck and prowl with

The promise of so many morsels

And slowly, gently the day unwraps itself

People disperse to carry out their plans,

Whilst I, the writer, snoop on.

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Catarrhine

It was a day for a creative writing challenge; today another ‘clustering’ exercise. Monkey, Cheeky, Smile, Jean, Aberdeen, Home are not necessarily the words that may come to mind for most when creating a ‘cluster’ or mind map from the word “Catarrhine”. The word relates to primates of a particular group – much better explained than I can by https://myteatowels.wordpress.com/2018/01/22/a-tale-of-two-continents-2017-originated-in-2008/ – and leads from ‘monkey’ to ‘Jean’ (my aunt) because she loves monkeys.

She is our matriarch, our guide and inspiration, the elder of the family at 92. She dispenses love and wisdom without apology or a desire for recognition, though often with a cheeky smile. She seeks nothing in response to her giving though is grateful, without ingratiation, for all that is given. I could put it in many ways but, simply, she knows what is what. She is not hidden behind flounce, or flummery; she’ll tell you straight what she thinks.

She is Jean. She is my Aunt but, also, a Great Aunt, a Great Great Aunt, and much more besides. Though born in Inverness, she has lived in Aberdeen for more than 87 years. It seems she knows every street, every person, every change for good, or not; it is her home. She ranted about the flats built by the roundabout on Queen’s Road and about “Trump’s” golf course seizing part of Balmedie Beach. She loved the opening of the Gordon Highlander’s Museum and, especially, the Duchess Jean Tea Room within.

I imagine her as matriarch of all of Aberdeen; it could do no better than this treasure who is short in height but never in strength.

© Liz MacKenzie
22 November 2018

Great Grandma Day

On hearing the news that his Great Grandma had died last year, my Grandson, then not quite 8, said 2 things; “Is Great Grandad ok?” and “I’d like to have a Great Grandma Day every year to remember her.”

We were all struck by his sensitivity, his awareness of death and its finality, and his concern for his Great Grandad. A year on, I wondered if he’d remember and if it would still be something he wanted to do. My daughter asked him; he had remembered and he did want to have Great Grandma Day. We settled on a small family get together on a Sunday, with roast dinner and a few games. “Great Grandma” always cooked a roast on a Sunday and loved playing all sorts of games. When she and “Great Grandad” were younger they had been avid table tennis players and, given the weather in January, this seemed a better option than tennis or golf – her other passions. So, after lunch, washing up done and kitchen cleared, we were able to play and recount tales of Great Grandma and Great Grandad’s prowess at the game. Meanwhile “Flippin Fish” and a Scotland jigsaw puzzle were ‘happening’ in the living room.

It was a simple day with family; enjoying each other’s company and being together to remember Mum, Grandma, Great Grandma. Writing this, I am humbled, again, by the incredible insight, sensitivity and thoughtfulness of my Grandson; a lesson to us all in listening to our children and grandchildren, and marvelling at their wisdom.

I hope there will be many more Great Grandma Days ahead; times to share, to be together and to remember.

© Liz MacKenzie

Is Snacking Ruining our Appetite?

I wrote this a while back and, somehow, never got around to posting it. I was reminded of it watching the news today as it seems it is also in the thoughts of Public Health England.

My aim in writing this is not to preach, or to set myself up as an expert, or one of those “I’ve-done-it-so-anyone-can” annoying types; my aim is to ask some questions and, maybe, meander toward some answers.

Why am I asking the question, “Is snacking ruining our appetite?” First, perhaps, I should define snacking so we know what we’re talking about. Looking at all the online dictionary definitions, they tend to refer to small amounts of food, between meals; they also refer to a nibble or bite, ‘snappen’ from Middle Dutch. My question, however, is when did they start to become such an integral part of our daily lives? And what is the impact on our health, how we view food, and our appetite? Hands up, I snack, take snacks, do snacking, nibble, munch and have a bite but I’ve also taken breaks from doing so, which has led me to wonder at their impact.

I look back to my childhood and wonder if snacks and snacking were such a feature of life back then – I was born in the late 50s. I remember being hungry on return from school; also Friday sweet night. The difference then to now was that eating out was a rarity, a treat and, in my memory, snacks were specific, e.g. Friday sweet night. Additionally, I don’t recall referring to these as snacks and definitely not to the act of snacking. Other than that, meals were meals, three times a day, sitting at the table, end of. Now, we seem bombarded with snacks and the opportunity for snacking; supermarkets, cafes, petrol stations, fast food joints beckoning us to participate in a lifelong relationship with snacks. The snacks seem to grow in size as they swell in importance; no longer the little nibble between meals to keep you going but almost another meal in itself.

I return again to my appetite question and my own ‘avoidance of snacking’ experimentation. What did I discover but a rumbling tummy that had been long silent; a pleasing sense of hunger. Where had that gone? Into the well of snackiness no less, I conject. As my granddaughter would say, “this is not what I was expecting.”

Is anyone out there reading and resonating? Or am I a lone ponderer on the snacking matter? As I said at the outset, I don’t wish to preach but to see if there are answers. (Though it may be just more questions)

Liz Mackenzie

Bye Al

I suppose it was quite nice on day one; sweet, if a tad baffling. By the 2nd, 3rd and 4th I had, I admit, become more than a bit irritated, perhaps enhanced by lack of sleep. What did he expect me to do with them all and did he not realise the repetition thing did not require resending 1 with 2, 1 and 2 with 3, and so on? This could get out of hand.

5 brought a frisson of hope, soon dashed by the arrival of 5 napkin rings. Really? My heart bounced to the floor and back in imitation of a yoyo merely thinking of 6 and 7. If he were to continue with his ignorant bid to repeat each one as the days passed there was no telling how many dinner parties would finally kill off those tacky napkin rings. How many does one girl need in one life?

I stoically stayed with it though my house and garden now resembled the latest branch of RSPB. I pondered whether he’d see sense at 8 and 9, maybe resorting to miniatures somewhat like his toy soldiers. I know, they’re not toys and “not for playing with” so how come he spent so many, many hours shut in his room with them? As it turned out, 8 was a shock; were the cows really necessary? I conject not your honour.

9 was temporarily entertaining until they all moved in and began courting Lords the following day. I knew it would end badly with 1 Lord ever left out, though it helped that some of the pipers and drummers were gay. I never envisaged such an orgy; did he?

On the 13th day, I hired 2 oversized trucks and sent the lot back with a large and unequivocal note on each stating, “return to sender”. I know dumping by text may be frowned upon but I simply could not face seeing him again. So, “Hey, Al. It’s over. 2 trucks on way to you. Enjoy. Mel.”

The End

Liz MacKenzie

Boxing Day

A tongue in cheek poem for Boxing Day.

Bubble squeaking with pigs in blankets

Over- indulgence leaving some

Xanthic (or yellowish if you will)

Invite friends for silly games

Nod off during yet more Christmas films

Go for a walk, brisk and bright

Doze again to TV repeats

And smile at yesterday’s snapshots

Yule, Christmas, Noel and New Year beckons…

©️ Liz Mackenzie

Migration 3

This is another piece written in response to the theme of ‘migration’. I decided to take a completely different approach to writing for this. I notice that I find ‘doing the research’ the element of writing that I can gloss over quickly and, therefore, decided to base this on research about people who had come to Britain as refugees or migrants, with a story element at the end. It was interesting to learn about the different people in my piece; I was especially taken by the story of Jaber Abdullah.
The Saatchi family fled Iraq for Britain in 1947. “Nothing is impossible” is carved in the steps of the London Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising Agency.

Freddie Mercury, born Farrokh Bulsara, fled Zanzibar for the UK with his family at the time of the bloody revolution; he became part of the world famous rock group, Queen. He once said, “If I lost everything tomorrow, I’d claw my way back to the top somehow”.

Rita Ora came to the UK as a baby – a refugee from Kosovo. She is now an internationally renown singer.

British MPs Ed and David Miliband are sons of Belgian Jewish refugees.

The Grandson of a Czechoslovakian refugee who fled with his family to Wales, Ben Elton is a prolific comedy writer, best known for TV comedies Black Adder and The Young Ones, along with the musical We Will Rock You.

Mona Hatoum is an artist; she is also a Palestinian Lebanese refugee.

The Great British store Marks and Spencer of which we are so proud was co-founded by Michael Marks, a Polish Jew who emigrated to England in the 1880s.

A Kenyan refugee, Lakshmibhai Pathak, is the founder of the British company Pataks, making and selling Indian style curry pastes, sauces, pickles and spices.

Jaber Abdullah is a Sudanese asylum seeker. He saved £3 from his £30 a week benefits to buy a football and subsequently set up Refugee Tigers Football Club who are now part of the amateur league. Barnsley Football Club offered support to the team.

Liverpool Football Club player Dejan Lovren left war torn Bosnia at the age of three with his family.

What could be more British than the Mini? This little car was designed by Alec Issigonis whose family were evacuated from Smyrna, Turkey, following the end of the Greco Turkish war.

Known as the father of psychoanalysis, Sigmund Freud fled Vienna for London in 1938. In reference to his books being burned by the Nazis, he is quoted as saying:
“What progress are we making. In the middle ages, they would have burned me – now they are content with burning my books.”

Refugees, asylum seekers, people. I am but an ageing woman who is no longer a wife, a mother, a grandmother or an aunt. My health is torn apart by trauma and poverty. I may have little to offer today but tomorrow? Maybe I too will join the ranks of the famous refugees who have fled persecution and torture, heading for hope and humanity, or maybe I will be your neighbour and offer you a kindness. If you are a Christian, perhaps, when you see me, you will remember the most famous refugee of all; Jesus, who fled the holy land to escape King Herod.

© Liz MacKenzie
9 November 2017