Saturday, 31 December 2016

Time and Tide Wait for No Man

Here we are again on the last day of the year, looking back on the year past and forward to the next year. Some of us will be glad to see the end of 2016 and happy to see the start of a new year, while others will be cautious and perhaps nervous of what 2017 will bring. 

Of course, the concept of a "new year" is a purely man made notion to help us fix ourselves in time within days, weeks and months and likewise in hours, minutes, seconds and even nano seconds - which I understand is equal to one billionth of a second, one nano second being to one second as one second is to 31.7 years. At this point my mind boggles and fails to comprehend the enormity of "time" as we as humans on earth, know it.

Our idea of a month comes from the moon and many cultures over thousands of years have used months with lengths of 29 or 30 days to divide the year up into manageable pieces. With this system though, there is the problem of having moon cycles at 29.5 days not dividing equally into the 365.25 days of a year. Luckily, we have the rhyme to remind us of how many days are in each month :

 30 days hath September, April, June and November
 All the rest have 31, except for February alone
which has but 28 days clear
and 29 in a Leap Year.

Ok, it doesn't roll off the tongue too easily but its worth memorising  - while your memory still works a bit... and for when you  have forgotten where you put your diary. It's all well and good having a "planner" on your phone which records times, dates and events, but you can bet your life when you need to know the date, the app has mysteriously moved itself to another page or other not immediately accessible (to me) area of the device. 

This year, 2016 which was a leap year, is being stretched out a little further, with an extra second being added just before midnight. It's to regulate the Earth's rotation - which fluctuates - with the UK's timescale. Earth time, apparently, falls behind the atomic clocks kept by the National Physical Laboratory, that keep what is known as civil time and so an extra second is occasionally added to regulate atomic and astronomical time.

Peter Whibberley who is Senior Research Scientist in the Time & Frequency Group at NPL says :
"Atomic clocks are more than a million times better at keeping time than the rotation of the Earth, which fluctuates unpredictably.
Leap seconds are needed to prevent civil time drifting away from Earth time. Although the drift is small - taking around a thousand years to accumulate a one-hour difference - if not corrected, it would eventually result in clocks showing midday before sunrise."

Hmmm... ... ... 

So, as I write this, and time continues to flow (or is it us that are moving through time ?) the new year has already arrived in Australia, Hong Kong and New Zealand where it is now 2017.I am grateful for the extra second to stabilise us, here though I wouldn't have known it was going to happen if I hadn't heard it on the news.

Here's hoping for a new year that will bring peace and stability to those in this world who are suffering in so many ways due to war, greed and power seeking. May the notion of equality and a caring society become not only a man made notion, but a reality, for all.

Happy New Year, 2017 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Since my mother now 91 years old, moved out of her home of 62 years and into a care home, I have stored in my spare room a large collection of paper work, written over many years by my mother and father. They were both involved in the Methodist Church since childhood, Dad being a Local Preacher and Mam leading a weekly Women's Group at "The Chapel" at Whitburn for around forty or more years. 

Whitburn Then and Now by J Gordon Holmes

When we look at these writings - readings, anecdotes, poetry and stories - with Mam, she remembers things sometimes and has forgotten them completely at other times, but she is always amazed that she wrote them and pleased that we can share them and the memories, together. One about people who collect things which we read the other day was particularly apt. It is a slow process as she finds it difficult to concentrate - as do I most  days. 

My Dad, who died in 1989, was a writer, musician, artist, local historian and aeroplane information collector, (I have written about this elsewhere) and was meticulous in his presentation of any aspect of his work. He grew up in an age where handwritten documents were the norm and like my grandfathers collections of information were made into "scrap books", a tradition that was passed on to us children. Many hours were spent cutting out pictures and articles from newspapers and magazines and pasting them onto sheets of paper, which were then labelled and made into "books" on our preferred subject. Needless to say, I remember many of my scrap books were entitled Animals and Nature, while my brother's were Aeroplanes and Space.

The scrap books and collections of other hobby type things are of course no value to anyone but us. Anyone today who has a plane hobby or an interest in the Lake District will I am sure get all they need from the internet - though I believe there is still an interest in Real Books for many people.

The boxes of my dad's papers labelled Local Preachers are of particular interest to me. 

As I have said, his life, my mothers and our family was to an extent, centred around Whitburn Methodist Church and incorporated many groups, meetings and clubs throughout our childhood and into our teens. 
Though our family was loving and caring, and I remember my childhood vividly as one of contentment, we were not very open in our thoughts and feelings. Perhaps this was a sign of the times, just our family's way, or a combination of both. I attended chapel and Sunday School every week and listened to hundreds of sermons over the years, some I understood, many I didn't. But I only heard and saw my father preach and hear his sermon on one occasion at Whitburn that I can recall. This was no doubt because we children left the service at sermon time and went into the "school room" for our Sunday lesson and also that the ministers and local preachers worked on a "circuit" of churches of around 12 in the area. If my dad wasn't preaching at one of these churches then he would be playing the organ at one of them.

One small brown envelope contains "Emergency Sermons" carefully numbered and referenced which was kept in the Vestry of the chapel, for those colleagues who had to take a service at short notice or for some reason had not prepared their own.


Reading through the documents over the last few months has given me a different perspective of my dad's thinking and beliefs. The Connexional Examination for Local Preachers on Trial, which my dad passed in 1952 aged twenty six is particularly poignant as it is based on the text - When I consider Thy Heavens which was the title of one his books years later. I will never know if the emergency sermons have ever been preached but the sentiments have been written down and so seem to me to have a permanency about them.

I have thought that one day I will publish the writings of J Gordon Holmes that were not published when he was alive. As the link above shows, I have begun with Whitburn - Then and Now and will do more in the future but for now I am content to peruse the thoughts and memories of my parents, from the writing on the pages.

Publications of J Gordon Holmes (1925 -1989)

In Every Age the Same
Whitburn-Then and Now
The Barbary Coast 
Churches of Sunderland North Circuit
A Winged Lion. Salient - The Story of 607 Squadron - series Sunderland Echo 1971

Monday, 3 October 2016

Looking for a Freelance, Part Time, Work from Home, Writing Job ? Yes... me too.

Having not put pen to paper or rather fingers to keyboard to write anything more creative than a comment and share on Facebook or Twitter - some serious but mostly trivial or joking - I somehow found myself being directed from an Author Community post to a "Freelance Writer" website, this morning.  I say "somehow" as if it was a surprise to me, but as the speedy diversion from one activity to another is how my life runs these days, it wasn't surprising at all. Whether this is a sign of old age, lack of concentration or plain stupidity (probably all three and more) I do it constantly, much to my own annoyance. 
I put bread in the toaster and fill the kettle to make tea or coffee and notice that the tea towels washed earlier are still sitting in the washing machine, so pick them out and begin to hang them on the line. I wonder where the peg bag was left, and a search for it down the garden begins, involving a quick sweep of the path, pulling up a couple of weeds, and a rake of the lumpy soil where I intend planting some broad beans at some point. I am now at the chicken area and they are all screeching at me, so I go back down the garden to get something to feed them, followed by two dogs who think its time for a walk, then into the house to get their leads. The toast is of course burning by now and I haven't even switched the kettle on ... ... and so it goes on throughout the day until there are so many half started activities that I don't know where to begin to complete any one.

So, some freelance writing work, part time, from home would be a nice little earner that I could easily fit in around all these unfinished activities, I was thinking.

The list of topics that need writing about seems endless - news, fashion, hair, beauty, travel, medical, pets, hobbies, food, drink,community, music, to name just some.
I scanned through numerous adverts, searching for the first one that I would write to saying : tell me the topic and I will research it and write about it for you.

Alas, I fell at the first hurdle, as it's said (not that I would use cliches in my writing, of course) The hurdle in this being my CV, which every employer with a writer vacancy is asking for. Now, I've amended, updated and re-hashed my - and many others - CV over the years. I probably still have printed copies somewhere, and almost certainly have pages extolling the virtues of my work and ethics saved on memory sticks and hard drives. But a current one ie. one that takes us from my past to the present, does not exist and if I started one today, it would undoubtedly become another item on the list of "to do".
 (Further information on my experiences of "Lists" can be found in the archives of this blog circa 2010)

Perhaps amongst the freelancing opportunities and writing jobs available, there is a freelancer who could write my CV ?
Preferably without me having to do anything except attach it to my application letter, of course. Meanwhile, I am available to write about anything else that is waiting to be written. 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Showcasing New Blog : The Deceit - Ghassan Abou El Ola

The Deceit - Ghassan Abou El Ola

Behind the slogans, speeches, political statements, and spirited songs of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) lies a hidden entity very different from descriptions widely circulated.

Through the personal experiences of an officer serving in the Palestinian Naval Forces, 'The Deceit' reveals the truth about an inscrutable shadow organisation whose fortune amounted to 50 billion dollars – a fortune of which its sources or destinations are unknown except to a handful of people entrusted by the leader, to run its investments.

The book describes how the junta, who held power in the PLO continuously for more than half a century, jostled for these fortunes and their returns, and how many wars were started and lost killing tens of thousands, mostly civilian, innocent people.
Once these wars stopped being profitable at the beginning of the Soviet Union collapse, this junta turned to the political arena and allied itself with 'peace talks’ begun by Ronald Reagan.

The PLO leadership's political performance was poor and all that they could accomplish was a miserable agreement in Oslo, giving them a meagre piece of land that they could hardly manage. That basic arrangement was intended to be followed with a final settlement within five years, yet twenty-five years later
negotiations are still going on between the Palestinian Authority and Israel with no further advance. The same junta kept its billions of dollars and received yet more from USA and other Western donor countries.

'The Deceit' addresses the enormity of personal fortunes amassed by those at the helm of power in the PLO and identifies sources. It also reveals the truth about the fake bankruptcy that was declared at the end of the nineties when payment of salaries to officers, soldiers and the families of those killed was stopped, yet around two hundred who formed their entourage continued to be paid. - including the wife of the leader, whose monthly salary amounted to $100000.
How the most powerful in the PLO kept their posts for extended periods of time – longer even than the father and son in the Assad family combined, the Libyan leader, Egyptian president, the Yemeni president or any other member of the Arab Dictatorship brotherhood, is also explained. And how tens of wars were fought without a single one of them, their sons, relatives, in-laws, or friends having been killed or even injured.

Aspects of financial corruption and the moral decline rampant in the institution of the PLO are exposed as the story tells of the Palestinian Naval Forces in Lebanon and how its leader used sexual harassment amongst its members and elected the youngest and most vulnerable men by applying financial, psychological and forced sexual pressure on them.

The relationships between the leaders of the PLO and Kings and Princes of Arabic Gulf countries is shown and how these leaders later swayed between Libya and Iraq, wherever monies were safest, ending up with Iran and it's new Shah at the time.

It tells how the Assad family built an horrific empire in Syria using hundreds of thousands of Alawi secret police, whose methodology was to imprison, torture and kill the Sunni majority of the country. Assad's continuous aim was to take control of the Palestinian Militias, nursing and resisting at the same time, the Iranian permeation into both Lebanese and Palestinian arenas.

This book is an honest and revelatory memoir that details aspects of life in the Middle East which many Arab writers tend to ignore. It recounts the inside story and real history of the PLO and its political vicissitudes that the author is an eyewitness to. An historic account that the media has never told, because it has been so deeply hidden.

Author Profile

Ghassan Abou El Ola was born in 1963 in Yarmouk refugee camp, south of Damascus, Syria.
In 1978 he joined the Fateh Movement (The movement of national liberation) and attended Pakistan Naval Academy (PNS Rahbar) from June of that year. He graduated in 1981 then served in Naval Headquarters located in Tripoli, northern Lebanon.
Between 1983 and 1986 he was forced to serve in Palestinian Liberation Army (owned and controlled by Syrian regime), for compulsory military service.
After demobilization from the Syrian government army, he re-joined the Palestinian Naval Force in Lebanon and was appointed as the Force’s Security officer and later the Force’s Administration officer.
He retired in 2005 holding the rank of Naval Captain, and immigrated to UK.

He has written for Al-Quds magazine and has written many articles in numerous online magazines.     

Thursday, 25 February 2016

The Windmill House

The sky has changed from this morning from a hazy grey to a brilliant, clear blue. White cumulus clouds float motionless above the roof of the house and the sun shines hot on the back of my neck and uncovered head.
I have crossed the causeway to the sounds of herring gulls screeching their familiar call. Now the sound has changed to the gentle chirruping of reed warblers as they dart in and out of the wet marram grass, which blankets this part of the island from the dunes on the sand to the gorse bushes around the pond. The old windmill still stands, tall and sail-less as it surveys the shore, watching the endless tides ebb and flow, day in day out, through all seasons.
  It was winter the first time I met you here. You stood on the turrets of the mill, waving and calling to me as the wind tried to blow you from the top. Your words sailed away and out on the tide leaving me not knowing what it was you’d said. The door of the house opens outwards into the heather-like patches of purple vetch and celandine. You said it was so that when the snow came you could push it away from the door and would never be trapped on the inside. But snow never stays long here - the salt in the air and the sea itself keep it from settling on the ground.
The stone floor of the kitchen felt icy even through my fur lined boots and you ushered me towards the open fire, crackling and sparking with driftwood picked from the beach. We warmed ourselves and drank hot coffee in large mugs, cupping our hands to keep in as much heat as possible.
We lay on a mattress on the floor of an upstairs room and looked out at the moon rising over the sea, round and white sending shafts of light sparkling onto the water. Real moon beams. We watched the sun set over the land in vertical rainbows in pink and purple splendorous skies.
In the morning the sun sent streams of light onto the cold stone floor and warmed us with it’s rays. You said that you would never leave this place and I knew that was true.

Today it is hard to imagine winter ever being here. There is a humming in the air, both from the temperature and the bees hovering around the honeysuckle crawling up and over the porch. I reach out and grasp the metal door handle, pulling it towards me. But the door is locked tight and I don’t have the key. The windows are covered with net curtains and though I peer through the glass, all I see is my own reflection looking back at me.
  Above my head a single Kite hovers and then swoops down over the water of the pond. It plucks something small from the reeds- a mouse or shrew, I can’t tell- and flies off with it’s catch. I feel the beat of it’s wings and then nothing, as the sun beats down causing the blood to race and my head to pound. In the distance the sea laps gently onto the half sand half mud beach as the tide begins to turn.

Some say they saw you on the beach that morning barefoot by the rockpools and then pacing that stretch of sand. You stood for a while staring towards the horizon. Then you walked. Straight out across the sand through the rivulets of water, into the shallow waves and then the breakers.

And the Kite soared in the sky, watching and knowing everything.

Friday, 1 January 2016

Happy New Year 2016 - 12 things I learned from last year

It's the usual thing for any blogger/writer/up-to-the-minute person to use December 31st, New Year's Eve, to reflect on the year passed and to look forward to the new year with resolutions and intentions - and to post the thoughts for all to see. 

So, as I spent yesterday reading other people's reflections and resolutions and also because I was ready for bed earlier than on an "ordinary" day, I thought I'd wait till today 1st January to post mine.

Like many people, I have made resolutions in the past and not kept them further than a few days into the new year,This was probably because they weren't really my own decisions but more what I thought I 'ought' to be deciding on.

Today I am not making resolutions as such, but posting 12 things that I have learned during and from 2015 (it was originally 10 things, but that would mean I learned less than an average of one a month , which is not much of an achievement - so 12 it is ) These are in no particular order of chronology, seriousness or importance. 

1    Trying to do more than one thing at a time is not a good idea and benefits no one, in most           cases. 
      This is foremost in my mind as only 2 hours ago I attempted to turn off the light in the kitchen             using the hand which was holding a full mug of tea whilst the other hand held a plate of toast and       had a laptop under the arm. Result ...well, you get the picture.
2    No matter how bad you feel - pain, sadness, guilt, desperation etc there is always someone           who feels worse for what sometimes seems like lesser reasons.
      This is not a new thing for me to learn. At my age, I've known it for a long time and that the                 reasoning of others is not always affected by me. It just feels that way at the time.

3    The theory that no matter how good you feel there's always something comes along to mess         it up -  is not (necessarily) true. 
      Though it's another difficult one to implement at the time, positivity does work. "The future                 begins with your next thought" is a good one to quote here. Not sure who said it, but I expect they       were always happy and content.

4    Being a mother was never easy. Being a grandmother is even harder. Goodness knows how         great grandmothers get through. 
      But they do, and I hope that if I am still around when I am blessed with this role that I can live up       to the standard of the great grandmothers I know.

5    Try to live a good life. Marcus Aurelius says this much better than I can -                                            "If there are gods and they are just, then they will not care  how devout you have been, but will             welcome you based on the virtues you have lived by. If there are gods, but unjust, then you                 should not want to worship them. If there are no gods, then you will be gone, but will have lived a       noble life that will live on in the memories of your loved ones."

6    Never trust a laptop, tablet, smart phone or printer to do what you hoped and expected it           to, especially when you are in a hurry. 
     This one sneaked into this list after the laptop that I am typing on has lost a whole page of text             just because it feels like it. I am wondering if this post will actually be posted today as it's now          11am and I started it before 9am. Lesson learned : learn the lesson the first time not the 250th              time.

7   Don't get irritated by news readers or anyone being interviewed on television who begins an      answer with the word "so".
     For some reason this really is an irritant to me, yet I've found that I often do the very same thing          myself. So, I'll try not to do it anymore or at least come to terms with the fact that it's an                  acceptable form of speech.

8   As cliched and sentimental as it may appear, in times of trouble and and stress, we really do      realise what matters most in life.
    And it is no surprise to anyone, especially me and my family following events in 2015, that it's           people who matter, But it's worth verbalising and writing it down now and then, to remind 
9   As we get older we think that our memories are being very unkind by making us forget many of the things that we should be remembering. Perhaps this is not the case and we remember only the things we need to remember at any given time, Based on this I will forgive myself for not remembering how to play the piano as well as I used to (though that was pretty poor) be patient with practising to  be ready for the time when it is more important. 

10  As per (6) and (9) above, that these items as I post have now become double spaced and I        don't know why is not important and does not matter. Likewise my (relatively new) steam mop does not steam any more, the washing machine is leaking and the dryer is only blowing cold. I shall rise above these small things and look for something to learn from these happenings.

11  That when politicians and those in authority say "lessons have been learned"  they don't mean by them. What they really mean is that they are relinquishing any responsibility for past events and that they think that we, the general public, are too stupid to realise this. Thought I'd better put this one in this list in case the reader thinks I am saying the same thing, in a roundabout way.

12  Life is a rollercoaster, you just gotta ride it - Ronan Keating circa 2000. That I have never really liked any fairground rides is totally irrelevant here. I will get on with 2016 in the best way I can and hope that anyone who reads this , and those who don't can do the same.