Monday, 6 July 2020
Monday, 29 June 2020
What is it you see first?
Is it the worst, the mindless, thoughtless deed,
the violence, the selfish greed,
the cutting word, the slur you heard
the disregard for you, your creed?
Or is there something else you see?
A vision of humanity,
where each and every one has worth,
regardless of their place of birth,
where what we say, and what we do,
is measured by a different view,
that sees the good and shouts it loud
and spots the kindness in the crowd
and looks to soothe another’s pain.
And tries its best.
Friday, 31 January 2020
We didn't know for sure if we were doing the right thing, but we'd thought about it long and hard and it seemed the best option; a way to secure our future, a chance to buy a house of our own, an opportunity to feel more independent.
We'd chosen carefully, but there was no way to know how things would be once we'd actually left.
We didn't go far; everything that Shoreham had to offer was still in touching distance. We could visit whenever we wanted to, and we did, but it never felt quite the same. It was no longer our village, we were no longer part of it.
We'd left Shoreham, but the village never quite left us.
A few years later, we had the chance to return, our former neighbours hadn't forgotten us, they hadn't taken offence that we'd chosen to go away. They welcomed us back with open arms - they knew this was our home, just as much as we knew it ourselves.
And today, on a day when I feel so desperately sad that we are leaving the European Union, my wish for all of us, is that one day, in the not too distant future, we'll have another chance to return.
Monday, 6 February 2017
Sunday, 6 November 2016
We leave the house and turn together to walk up Crown Road. The forecast warns of rain and another drop in temperature this afternoon, but for now the sun is bright with just enough warmth to melt the frost and warm our backs.
'Up and along?' one of us says, knowing the other will understand, and we do, crossing the High Street to take the Millenium footpath up to the woods. Halfway up we clamber over a stile that seems to grow in height each time we cross it, as the earth around it gradually wears away.
'Or how about along then up? We'll be able to stay in the sunshine a little bit longer.'
It's a less-used route, at least by humans, but tractor tyres have flattened a pathway and either side the telltale signs of recently dug holes and small round droppings tell us there were rabbits here not long ago.
'They'll be in their burrows now, sitting by the fire with a nice cup of tea and a slice of bramble pie, wondering what those thundering footsteps are doing overhead' I suggest.
I've never quite moved on from believing that the world under our feet is just as Beatrix Potter might have painted it.
'Along then up' turns out to be a much steeper route, so we pause frequently, each time turning to look back at the valley behind us, never failing to absorb its simple beauty. At the top of the hill we turn into the woods. Dry fallen leaves cover the path. Thick under foot, their crunch is a delightful reminder of all our childhoods.This is what we've come for. We scuff and trample, shattering leaves into clouds of dust that will filter down into the soil and feed the trees that dropped them.
I'm the first to spot the chestnuts shining between the leaves. We're never usually in time to see any more than the prickly open cases, their soft white insides turning slowly brown, but today it seems we've got to them before the squirrels. Perhaps the wind last night has shaken down a new crop, or maybe, just like the rabbits, the squirrels are sitting cosy by their firesides, their cupboards already stocked for winter. Either way the chestnuts are there for the picking. We shuffle through the leaves, spotting more and more until our pockets are full, our legs misshapen and lumpy.
As we turn for home, I start humming a Christmas song, imagining chestnuts roasting on the open fire we'll light a little later. Philip is already musing about collecting sprouts from the allotment to cook with them.
Halfway down the hill I stop and look again at our street, nestled in the valley below. I know I'll never tire of the sight. And as we get nearer to our own burrow, I can't help thinking that down there too is just as Beatrix Potter might have painted it.
Saturday, 28 February 2015
Monday, 9 February 2015
It's the final performance of Robin Hood, and I'm backstage in the village hall. At any other time, this would be the play group's storage area, but this week the plastic boxes of toys and the child-size tables and chairs have been stacked to one side. With the introduction of a clothes rail, it's suddenly a dressing room for the Shoreham Village Players.
Around me, other members of the cast are waiting for their next scene. There are never enough chairs for us all, but it's no big deal; when someone gets up to go on-stage, someone else sits down. When someone needs to reach their costume on the rail we all bunch up a bit, when someone gets cold and wants a seat by the only radiator, we all shift round.
There's a speaker on the wall, for us to hear the action on the stage, but it only seems to be picking up the music from the piano, so every now and then one of us checks where we are in the script, making sure that the youngest players don't miss their entrances. Kenny brings round my stick for the auld crones scene and we go through our lines once again, too caught up in the comfort of the ritual now to dare going on stage without another practice. Next to us, Emily and Hatty quietly sing their shared song, reassuring each other that they really do know the words. Kate, our director wanders through; she knows it's too late for her to say anything now, but we all sense her unspoken determination for us all to do the very best we can.
Patsy and Janet check costumes, helping to fasten the out-of-reach buttons, pinning up an over-long skirt. Michelle is in charge of make-up; transforming Luke into a talking frog, Josh into a bat. Beth flutters her glitter-lined cats eyes, while the Shoreham Witches show off their sparkling painted nails and the Scottish Widows adjust their tartan skirts. Our Dame bemoans the discomfort of a false bust, and I'm dressed as a man, but nobody seems to find anything strange.
Every few minutes someone passes round a bag of sweets. While we're still discussing the relative merits of jelly babies and wine gums, a tin of Quality Street appears, quickly followed by a tube of Pringles, then a pack of chocolate biscuits. At the interval, just when it's most needed, a tray of tea and coffee arrives as if by magic.
We've a wide range of ages between us, but that doesn't seem to matter. People pose together for group selfies, they share games on their i-pads and mobiles. We all sit and listen as Ellie tells us about the time they staged Oliver, when it was so cold backstage that everyone sat in sleeping bags to keep warm. People share memories of other favourite shows, talk about the characters they'd most like to play, put forward suggestions for the next production. While we chat, we keep an ear open for what's going on on-stage. When we get to the point where the audience is supposed to join in with a song, everyone backstage sings loudly as well, realising for once that we don't need to keep our voices down.
Before we know it, we're all on stage for the curtain call, smiling out at the audience, standing in line to take a single bow. All that's left is one last chorus of the final song and as the applause fades away, I realise how just how aptly the words describe what it's been like to sit backstage with the Shoreham Village Players.
'If there's a moral to this tale,
It's do not shut the door.
In Shoreham Forest, there is room,
For all types rich and poor'