Winter Water Wonderland

Here in the UK, January is a dismal month; to my mind, the most dreary month of the year. And this, 2023’s January is worst than most, because added to the woes of the relentless wet or freezing weather are sky-high fuel prices, rampant inflation, impossible grocery price hikes, frightening scenes in our health service and a whole raft of strikes driven by working peoples’ rightful indignation at their inadequate salaries. Oh, and on top of it all, brutal war rages in Europe, where Ukraine slogs it out with Russia on our behalf.

Outside the rear boundary of our house lies a footpath and beyond that, water meadows. They are aptly named, currently under water from the seasonal flooding. In the early days of our occupancy I was anxious over the proximity of the freshwater sea which seems perilously close, but after six years have grown used to our watery outlook during the winter, which is partially tidal due to our nearness to the estuary where the river ends its journey. The views were a useful stimulus for writing The Conways at Earthsend [see footnote].

To drag ourselves from the trough of gloom we’ve cast around for some cultural distractions, last week to a meal, an evening of Cream and Hendrix music, a night away and a British breakfast [an indulgence seldom taken]. In my late teens I was very familiar with Cream’s music, as I was with so many bands of the late 60s, so to hear classics like ‘White Room’, ‘Badge’ and the iconic version of ‘Crossroads’ played [in whatever fashion] was a transport to my youth- a tiny [and loud] morsel of escapism alongside the excellent braised beef and creme brulee of the meal.

On an occasional day when it hasn’t rained I’ve ventured into the garden to make some sense of the ravages of winter. We’ve also walked when the weather allowed, rewarding ourselves with scooting into cafes on the return.

I’ve reserved seats at our local, regional theatre to see a couple of things, including pantomime, to which I’m dragging Offspring and Grandoffspring and to a broadcast screening of the National Theatre’s offering of The Crucible.

And then, having dithered and procrastinated our way through the last few weeks we did, at last get around to seeking some winter sun and booking it [about which- more later].

It’s tempting during these winter months to climb under a thick blanket and hunker down with all manner of TV offerings [which, let’s face it are not universally of top quality] but while the occasional session of television is fine, catching up on anything worth watching, constant binging becomes mind-numbing.

Winter, then is a time for cultural visits and pursuits, of which there are more than in the summer, which is full of festivals. Hooray for the arts!

Grace is the alter ego of novelist and short story writer, Jane Deans. To date I have two published novels to my name: The Conways at Earthsend [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conways-at-Earthsend-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B08VNQT5YC/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2ZHXO7687MYXE&keywords=the+conways+at+earthsend&qid=1673350649&sprefix=the+conways+at+earthsend%2Caps%2C79&sr=8-1 and The Year of Familiar Strangers [https://www.amazon.co.uk/Year-Familiar-Strangers-Jane-Deans-ebook/dp/B00EWNXIFA/ref=sr_1_1?crid=2EQHJGCF8DSSL&keywords=The+year+of+familiar+strangers&qid=1673350789&sprefix=the+year+of+familiar+strangers%2Caps%2C82&sr=8-1 Visit my writer Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/search/top?q=jane%20deans%2C%20novellist%2C%20short%20fiction%20and%20blog or my website: https://www.janedeans.com/

The Best Possible Taste?

                During periods at home it is a rare week that passes without our moseying along to see and hear some live music, and most weeks we’ll go at least twice. Out and about travelling of course it is a different story, with the tiny music player and speakers having to fill in the gap. [This is when some slight differences in musical taste kick in between myself and Husband-usually addressed by me listening to Coldplay during snatched moments while he showers].

                It is a mark of how much I’ve altered, I suppose, that I no longer listen to music radio in my car, preferring the diversions of talk radio these days. Years ago I’d have listened to music during most of my spare hours, but now I often prefer silence, or birdsong, or any of those lyrical, whimsical sounds poets bang on about.

                As a teenager of the mid to late sixties [we babyboomers always like to boast this is the best, the only era for music]-I got my fix in regular doses of essential listening like ‘Pick of the Pops’ on Sunday evenings, when the entire chart would be played to exceedingly naff presentation of Alan Freeman, who called us ‘pop pickers’ [as opposed to pickpockets, perhaps]. In the beginning, one of my brothers and myself would record it all on a reel to reel tape recorder, whilst simultaneously writing each song in a notebook with a diligence we did not apply to homework . We were banished to a cold room. Later, when I was left as the lone teenager I continued to be banished in order to listen, although I’d given up the recording by then.

                A great disappointment to my classical music loving father [he called it seeerious music], I glued myself mulishly to TV’s ‘Top of the Pops’ each Thursday evening. [Sadly its reputation is now tarnished by the grim revelations about one of its presenters]. My parents didn’t ‘get’ it, displaying all the cliché ridden behaviour of the era-‘you can’t tell whether they are boys or girls’ [of the long haired band members], or ‘what a racket!’

                Once, in a rare moment of watching, my father turned to me triumphant during the climax of the number one single and shouted, “I LIKE this one!” I remember my despair. It was the odious, banal and stubbornly popular ‘Silence is Golden’ by the hideous Tremeloes.

                Another time they returned from a weekend away proudly bearing a gift, at a time when I’d just bought ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ by new, progressive band, Cream. They’d gone to a record shop all by themselves [they boasted] and asked the salesperson what was ‘number 1’? “because she’s bound to like that one” What was it? It was ‘This is the Captain of Your Ship’ by Reperata and the Delrons. If you’ve ever heard this you will understand my teenage emotions. I may have managed to play it once, to satisfy their proud smiles. It all demonstrates how parents misunderstand teenagers.

                Now I realise how lucky I am to live within a cycle or a short bus ride away from a whole range of music venues showcasing a broad spectrum of local, talented musicians and I could probably enjoy a different act and genre every night of the week-if I had the energy. Better still, our local music festival takes place next month-about which, more anon!