Sunday, 13 September 2015

The Butterfly

The Butterfly

You are sitting in a big saggy armchair

In a so-called ‘living’ room.

With beige non-descript walls,

Full of empty picture frames.

Everything feels dull and grey and silent.

It’s so quiet, you think you’ve gone deaf

But then you hear your own blood

Rushing through your veins.

And hear the sound of your own breathing

 In and out, in and out.


A weak sunlight insinuates itself

Like an oil slick through the grimy, dust-encrusted widow.

Its path impaired slightly by the saggy yellowing lace curtains

That give the light a mottled washed out look.

It meanders across the wooden slatted floor,

Kicking the dust bunnies out of the way

Illuminating a space in front of where you are sitting.

Your chair is positioned just short of the light.

Wishing for its warmth,

You scrape your armchair across the oak floor

Not caring about the damage it may create –

Towards the pool of sunlight.

Your feet and legs quickly soak in the heat of the Sun’s rays

And you feel warmth return to your lower limbs

And the tips of your fingers.

The afternoon solar warmth kneads in to your cold knuckles and shin bones

You find yourself drifting off to sleep,

Cosy in the bosom of the chair and the soothing fingers of Helios

Suddenly, you find yourself on a Dandelion-covered path

Winding its way through the Autumnal forest

You can smell the slightly sweet organic decay of fallen leaves

Mingled with the smell of pine needles

There’s the sharpness of ice crystals in the air.

Dead leaves are strewn along the forest floor

The slight wind, making them talk –

‘Sussurrar’, they whisper dryly.

They cover the ground between the trees

But strangely - none on the path itself

The ‘coo’ of a Wood pigeon and the grating ‘caw’ of a Crow

Permeates through the still air

But the sound is slightly muffled by the vegetation

As you stand there, suddenly acutely aware of your surroundings

You feel a slight fluttering near your left ear

You subconsciously think it’s a fly –

And bat it away

Then - out of the corner of your eye

You see that it’s a brilliant cobalt-blue butterfly!

It hovers to your left for a moment

As if waiting for your attention

Then flits away along the path in front of you.

You follow, curiosity awakened

You walk along, following the path of the butterfly

Senses heightened by the strange surroundings

Wanting not to lose this blue Lepidoptera

You quicken your pace.

The butterfly lures you to a small clearing

In the middle of an overgrown copse

Raspberry and blackberry vines

Wrap around a small cottage

You have just become aware of

A one-story grey stone dwelling

With a grass roof sloping nearly to the ground

The butterfly skips past you and lands

To rest on the window ledge

You take the unspoken hint

And knock on the weather-beaten wooden door

You hear movement inside

Your mind thinks up terrible visions

A deranged crone? A toothless hermit?

No - for some reason

You know you are safe

The door opens, you step back in surprise

You can’t believe it

It’s her – how can it be her?

You haven’t even admitted to yourself

Until now – that she is HER.

She’s wrapped in a large multi-coloured shawl

The earthly smell of a peat fire wafts passed her and over you

She welcomes you in with a smile

The main room is a hotchpotch of

Farm house and old art room

She offers you a cup of pungent herbal tea

And guides you to a blanket strewn armchair

Next to the blazing peat fire

You talk for what seems like hours

She smells of roses and honeysuckle

It feels so natural that at first you don’t even notice

Just as you feel yourself drifting off

She kisses you gently on the mouth.

You awake, startled – finding yourself

Back in your lifeless living room

The room now sunless and drab

You sigh, then notice a faint smell of roses and honeysuckle

Despite the greyness, you feel a warm glow

And smile contentedly to yourself

You snuggle back into the embrace of the armchair

And drift back off to sleep

Chasing the dream of love in a little cottage.

Chasing a butterfly - home


© Kate McClelland 2015

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Worst Rendition of Macbeth - Ever

This conversation with my sister (see last blog post) triggered a memory of mine from my Senior School days.

 Worst Rendition of Macbeth - Ever

It was the late 1970's - Punk had not yet broken out nationally in the U.K. and Brian Eno still had his beautiful long hair. The Comprehensive Education System was about to take over from the Grammar/Secondary Modern/Apprenticeship Education System.

I attended a Silesian Sisters controlled Catholic High School for Girls (for the sin of passing the ’11 Plus’ Entrance exam).

As part of our 'O' Level English Literature syllabus (now called GCSE's), we were studying Macbeth. (I know – still with the Macbeth theme)

We had already covered the book 'ad nauseam' in the classroom, so the Silesian Sisters decided that we would benefit from watching different versions of the play.

We watched a Japanese black and white film version, where Macbeth was a Japanese Samurai Commander and the 'three witches' were replaced with one old wizard guy with a very scary singing voice and a spindle (like Sleeping Beauty).

It was the goriest, scariest version I have ever seen - gave me nightmares.

During the battle scenes, I was so glad it was in black and white because it was a gore-fest! There must have been swimming pool amounts of fake (hopefully) blood used.  

Then a week later as a 'treat', (not many teenagers think a trip to the theatre to watch Shakespeare is a ‘treat’ and I was also not one of them) we were taken to a live performance put on by students at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool (if my memory serves me correctly).

The students had obviously put a heck of a lot of work in to it. The set and costumes were really good considering they probably had a ‘pocket money’ budget for it.

They had hit upon the idea of staging Macbeth as a 'Western', complete with a 'two bits a glass of whiskey' saloon.

The theatre was fairly full, even though it was during the day.

We hadn’t been warned by the Sisters beforehand what to expect – which in hindsight, they probably wished they had, because when the curtain came up and out strode a guy dressed like ‘Black Bart’ complete with guns, holster, black clothes, black boots, black Stetson, followed by a young woman dressed as a saloon girl, complete with slapped on makeup, hitched up skirts and ripped fishnet tights – well we did what any bunch of teenage Catholic Girls policed by nuns always does – We roared laughing!

We thought we were at the wrong play at first.

Then the Sisters started swooping like grey crows and grabbing shoulders, arms or ears in vice like grips and whispering unnamed threats of punishment on our return to school if we didn’t shut up. Sister Pygmalion was puce with rage and probably embarrassment.

(I called her Sister Pygmalion because she always managed to get George Bernard Shaw’s ‘Pygmalion’ into the Literature lessons each year. I mused to myself on occasion that she was either a victim of, or a recipient of unrequited love, but had decided on god over marriage).

However, despite the warnings and pinching’s, the laughter was infectious. One row would settle down, for another one to start and it rippled through the section of the audience we were in.

This carried on and I could see we were putting off the poor actors who were doing their best in the circumstances. It must have been a terrible blow to their egos to be laughed at so heartily by a rabble of schoolgirls.

It actually wasn’t meant in any vicious way – if we had been pre-warned, we could have at least been prepared – but we weren’t given the opportunity, the Sisters probably assuming that their psychological grip on us would suffice – so wrong.

By the interval, we were exhausted trying to suppress the fits of giggles as ‘Black Bart’ who was actually playing Macbeth and the ‘Saloon Girl’ who was playing Lady Macbeth strolled around the saloon trying to give their performance over the laughing.

It wasn’t the costumes or that the castle was a saloon that made us laugh – we would have calmed down after a couple of minutes.

It was the fact that the Shakespearean script was being murdered by the actors speaking it in a thick Texan drawl. We had only ever seen it done in a plummy British accent before (even the Japanese version was dubbed) so it just tickled our collective funny bones on all levels. It was a surreal experience.

During the interval, the Sisters gave us all a very public dressing down, telling us we were disgracing our school and destroying its reputation and the school wouldn’t be allowed back in future – culprits will be punished etc..

I did feel bad, but when you’ve got a fit of the giggles, there’s not much you can do apart bite your own fist to try and stop it.

We promised to behave and settled down for the second part.

Out came ‘Black Bart’ he stood mid-stage and a knife was lowered down on a wire and dangled in front of him. On seeing the knife, he tipped his hat back, ‘John Wayne’ style and started to speak.

This very over the top thick as crude oil, Texan accent spilled out– ‘'Aeyas thaeyas urr daregurr ahh say b'fore muy…’’.

Well, it was like a Monty Python sketch – it just set us off again.

The actor actually stopped for a few seconds and stared out at us in an ‘I want to kill you all and chop you into little pieces’ way. I really did feel so sorry for him.

Again, the nuns swooped and we were told in no uncertain terms that any more nonsense, we would be taken out of the theatre and straight back to school for a visit to the Headmistress and a note to all our parents. The next one to laugh would be physically hauled out in front of everyone there.

We managed to contain ourselves for the rest of the play, but obviously, it was ruined for everyone, the poor actors, the remaining audience and also for us.

We were hauled back to school when the play ended and given another ear- blasting and we had to sit down and all write an apology letter.

I never found out whether the letters actually got sent to the Everyman, or whether it was just a punishment, but I hope they did.

Goodness knows what the actors thought was going on – I just hope it didn’t scar them for life.


Copywrite Kate McClelland 2015

What accent was Shakespeare written in?

A few weeks ago my younger sister Momo (nickname, don’t ask) and I were just chatting about books.

We both love reading and sometimes when we are talking and enjoying a couple of glasses of Chardonnay (me) or Rosé (her), we come up with odd ideas or questions.

I said to her 'What accent do you think Shakespeare wrote in?'

She just started laughing and said 'What kind of a question is that?'

I explained that, when I write, I go through the words in my head and if it's 'narrative' - I hear my voice and if it's a character, I hear what I think their accent should be. Even when I read other peoples work, I get an idea of what accent I think it's in.

If the book is later adapted into a TV programme or a film and the characters' accents aren't the ones I envisaged when I read it, it can be a bit off-putting for me on first viewing.

Shakespeare came from Stoke on Trent, but lived mainly in London. So would he have written in a 'Stoke on Trent' accent, or a London accent, or a bit of both? Or did they have a ‘Tudor Royal Court’ accent? What do you think?

I know a lot of people adore Sir Lawrence Olivier's Shakespearean performances, but he killed it stone dead for me with his stilted staccato type speech pattern he used, coupled with the automaton movements.

I avoided watching Shakespeare like the plague for quite some years as other actors tried to mimic his performance. I much prefer Kenneth Brannagh's Henry V - a much more natural performance.

Anyway, I meandered off there – (sorry)

Momo and I then played about with this idea and I said that I thought Shakespeare would sound at its most authentic in a Brummie (Birmingham, U.K.) accent. At which point my sister guffawed out loud and nearly spilt her Rosé.

‘What’? She said ‘Don’t be daft – Shakespeare is always done in a very ‘plummy’ British accent’!

‘High time for a revisualisation then’ I laughed back.  

One of the most famous lines in Shakespeare, from Macbeth is: 'Is this a dagger I see before me....'

Now think of it being spoken in a Brummie accent. It totally works. I am now convinced that Shakespeare was really a Brummie, and not from Stoke on Trent at all :0).

‘I think the whole of Macbeth should be done in a Birmingham accent – that would be a 'Bostin' idea'! I said.

‘You’re cracked’ she said as she delicately manoeuvred a handful of salted peanuts into her mouth.

Copywrite Kate McClelland 2015

Friday, 4 September 2015

Terry Pratchett's Final 'Discworld' book - 'The Shepherds Crown' (no spoiler alert needed)

Terry Pratchett - 'The Shepherd's Crown' The final book in his series of 'Discworld' books
I bought the final Terry Pratchett 'Discworld' book 'The Shepherds Crown' yesterday.
I know this will sound like a complete 'fan girl' fainting attack, but I held the book like a precious relic.
I sat with it on my knee, brushing the cover a couple of times with my cardigan's right hand 'heel'.
And as always when opening a new Terry Pratchett book, I took in the illustrations on the front cover, the binding and back of the book first.
The front pictured 'Tiffany Aching' a teenage witch with a white cat (assuming this is her 'familiar' as she is a witch).
I love Tiffany Aching. I have read her to my children and I feel like she has grown up with them.
I want to take her in to my home and say 'I know you are an all powerful witch, but you're still so young and everyone needs a hug now and then and this is the place if you need it.' (I'd have to move to 'chalk' to do this - obviously)
The book cover shows Tiffany a few years older than the last Tiffany Aching book, probably in young 'womanhood' - the white cat walking along side her wearing a 'Yeah - just try it mate!' expression on its face.
They are walking through the chalk landscape that is Tiffany's domain, and where she draws her power and resolution from.
The back illustration shows a golden fleeced young goat wearing either a 'YES - AND??!' expression - or a total 'What's going on? Where are my carrots?' look - (you can never tell with goats).
I opened the book to the dedication page and it said :
' For Esmerelda Weatherwax - Mind how you go'....
'Aw what a lovely sentiment, dedicating the book to one of his characters' I thought.
Then I remembered that 'Granny Weatherwax' was a dab hand at dealing with 'Death' and even beat him a few times, so that made me chuckle. If you want anyone by your side at the point of death, you would choose Granny Weatherwax against any angel or devil as she's not frightened of 'playing dirty' to win.
That's when I stopped.
I closed the book and hugged it to me like a well-loved teddy bear.
And all of a sudden it hit me -
This is the last 'Discworld' book I will ever read for the first time!
I will never have this anticipation again!
This is the last 'Discworld' book - ever....
I now understand what people of the time of Shakespeare and Dickens felt when they died. (the Authors - not the people - although it was, I am sure, just as much a shock to the people when they died as well as the authors - It would just be more about who would get the '2nd best bed' and who got the only 4 silver spoons in the house at the time of death)
Before you scoff - I don't over exaggerate - if you read Pratchett, there is pathos, comedy, tragedy, compassion, sadness , murder, intrigue, brandy, dancing, babies, death, love, community, 'seeing through the rhetoric to what is actually there.' and 'Sorry - crap sometimes happens to nice people too'  that occurs in Shakespeare and Dickens.
The only difference is that Terry Pratchett always has - if not a 'happy ending' certainly a 'Life's lesson learnt & were all better for it' outcome.
And here I was - the final book in my hand - holding it like it was a waxed Sumerian tablet or a premature baby (for it was most assuredly a premature end for the author).
I am suddenly overcome with emotion, which takes me by surprise...genuine tears prick my eyes and my heart sinks to my feet - my chin wobbles like a Turkey on Christmas Eve.
The - last - Discworld - novel - ever.
As I let that sink in, I hold the book carefully like a 1000 year old lace shawl.
I was so looking forward to this book, anticipated the rush of this new book acquisition (I am such a book geek) and the new journey into the 'Discworld'
Now I have it, I can't bring myself to read it. I have realised that this will be the last 'Discworld' book I will ever read for the first time - ever again.
I know this may sound dramatic or daft, but Terry Pratchett was/is one of my top 5 authors and to think that I will not be able to open a new book with him as the author ever again? - Well, let's just say that there will need to be some belated mourning and final separation for me to go through before I will be able to read this final book..
So, you're safe - there is no book review here giving away details of the story before you have had a chance to read it.
So no 'spoiler alerts' needed. Just that I hope if you read this book, that you become a true fan and if this is your first 'toe-dip' into the 'Discworld' I hope it's  not your last into the 'Discworld' pool, and you will enjoy it enough to read the rest.
I can assure you that no matter what you're book preference, you will enjoy the 'Discworld'

Copywrite Kate McClelland 2015