Apr 5th

Biting your tongue

By Bill W

Biting your tongue

 

There are some people on the planet, who have the gift of thinking very carefully about what they are about to say before they open their mouths to speak, these folk have no excuse if what they say offends or upsets others. 

 

Then, there is a far larger group of people who sometimes don't always engage their brains before they speak, so from time to time they offend others with their words.

 

There is another group (of which I belong), that hates to offend anyone whatsoever, but have the habit of never engaging what's left of their brain, and choosing the wrong words at the wrong time and do sometimes offend some people.

 

With the benefit of hindsight, I've looked back at some of the things I've said and wished I'd said it differently, or explained better, but sometimes, once it's said it can't be 'unsaid'

 

I do 'bite my tongue' in the hope that it won't get me into trouble, perhaps I should bite the beggar off.....ha ha ha.

 

Have you had occasion where you should have 'bitten your tongue' ?

 

Apr 1st

Aussie cry-babies

By Hugh G

I am fascinated by the extraordinary over-reaction in Australia to the ball-tampering scandal which has erupted in recent days. The punishment meted out to the players who have admitted responsibility seems to be disproportionate, and the public humiliation of the captain, Steve Smith, who burst into tears in a press conference after arriving back in Australia, is difficult to understand. Ball-tampering is not regarded by the cricket authorities as a very serious offence, and it is difficult to imagine English cricketers, or the English public, reacting in such an extreme manner.

We tend to regard Australians as hard-bitten, resilient types, reflecting in their character the harsh country which bred them. They are not noted for their diligent observance of the rules in any sphere, and they tend to regard the Poms as soft, pampered and excessively law-abiding. Yet this incident suggests almost the opposite – does it show Aussies acting out of character, or is there a different cultural explanation?

Australians take sport very seriously, and cricket is their national sport – the only one which binds the nation together because it is played across the whole country. Australia is also a surprisingly conservative country, and the ideal of a strong, independent man who will do anything for his mates, but adheres to a strict code of conduct, is deeply rooted in the national psyche. The Australian cricketers played hard but not fairly, and this offended the Australian sense of honour. Only this can explain the hysterical reaction to what was, in reality, a pretty minor incident.

If we look at the British sporting culture, it is, of course, dominated by football, in which cheating is an integral part of the game. We do not regard integrity as a crucial ingredient in our sporting identity. Indeed, whilst admiring the qualities of true gentlemen like Bobby Charlton, our real heroes are more complex individuals like Jimmy Greaves and George Best. In this environment, it would not be possible for an incident of cheating in cricket to be so overblown. Cricket is not important enough to us, and our sense of honour in sport has been compromised by our acceptance of football culture.

Mar 31st

Parable of a Cracked Pot

By brenda r
Account Settings
 
 
 
Mar 28th

Never again

By Robert M

 

Mary muttered softly to herself as she dipped the wooden spoon into the saucepan that was bubbling merrily on the stove. After a quick taste she added a little more salt and then replaced the saucepan lid. She was all behind today, her nice, regular routine thrown into confusion by that blasted man.

 

     Fred had always been so good about the time she spent caring for her ‘down-and-outs’ as he called them. Sunday evening had been the first time that she had ever taken one of them to her home. The poor, sodden man had been in desperate need of dry clothing and Fred had a wardrobe full of clothes he never wore. Fred, unfortunately, had chosen that evening to come home early from his wretched golf club committee meeting.

 

     He had shouted at her and forbidden her to have anything more to do with them. He said it was one thing to give her cash to do her work, but quite another to have one of the scruffy deadbeats in his own home. He ranted on and on, asking if she thought he had spent forty years struggling up the civil service promotion ladder only to spend his hard-earned pension on wasters. Never again would he feed the ‘mangy, idle, low-life scroungers’.  


 

     The closure of St Hugh’s mobile soup kitchen four years before had coincided with Mary’s own retirement. She had bought a tatty, fourth-hand van, and with her driving skills testing to the limits the protection of the St Christopher hanging from the mirror, she had restarted the soup round. Her ingredients were anything and everything she could beg or scrounge from local shops, butchers and supermarkets. Her scalding hot coffee and soup and tasty, home-baked meat pies were the only sustenance some of her “clients” ever got. They relied heavily on her punctual visits and repaid her by treating her with the utmost respect. They never called her Mary, it was always a deferential, Mrs Fulbright. She in turn knew all of their names, or, as she had come to suspect, aliases, and used them

accordingly;  it no longer seemed strange to wish a good evening to “Mr Slasher” or “Jimmy the dip”.

 

 

She was never quite sure what Jimmy did but now and then he would slip a crumpled five-pound note into her hand, “to help a bit with the expenses like”.                

 

 

     The giving had not been all one-way. From them, she had learned that it was possible to smile no matter what hand life dealt you, to carry on regardless, no matter what other people said or did. And she intended to carry on.

 

      Mary once again picked up the wooden spoon then lifted the saucepan lid. Fred’s poached, watery eyes stared up at her through the steam. He had been so wrong when he said that he would never again feed her down-and-outs.

 

 

 

 

 

Mar 20th

Weeping Window, Hereford Cathedral

By Ann R

Many of you will remember seeing pictures of the ceramic poppies installation at the Tower of London back in 2014, named 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red', by the artist Paul Cummins and designer Tom Piper.

Two years ago the exhibition started to tour the country with its first destination being Caernarvon Castle (Wales).  Since then it has been to many locations and, from last Wednesday, it is here in Hereford - outside the Cathedral.

There are also various talks at the Town Hall each day, ie the history of the Herefordshire Regiment.

I finally got to see it this morning and found it so moving.  There is an exhibition inside the Cathedral of art and poems done by local schoolchildren - I could only read one and I was finished.  They had really studied the subject well and some of them were primary school children.  

Deciding not to make a fool of myself I headed to the local wool shop, noticing that each shop down the little street was decorated with poppies.  Having bought my wool the lady told me that they had got a display in their window and she walked out with me.  Fatal, I did start crying then and had to apologise to her.

I have taken a few photos and will post them in the photo section in a moment.

If you can get to see the exhibition if it comes to a place near you then it is worth it, very thought provoking on the lives that were lost.

 

Mar 17th

Beast from the East

By Hugh G

As long-term but inactive member of DropBy, I have been inspired by Bill W‘s exhortation to ‘use it or lose it’ to write the first of what I hope will become a regular series of blogs from the perspective of a retired history teacher, living in Surrey not a million miles away from Mary B.

All bad things at the moment seem to come from the East. First, we had the Beast from the East, a wind blowing straight from Siberia (that sinister place!) which brought freezing weather and inevitable chaos to the UK a couple of weeks ago. We appear to be suffering from his little brother’s attentions as I write. Then, the Russian Bear showed his gruesome claws by, it seems, trying to murder one of its former spies in the peaceful city of Salisbury. Somehow, the location of the dastardly act made it all the more frightening.

Am I right to suggest that there is something visceral in our fear and suspicion of malign forces from the East? It seems to me that our history helps to explain why we tend to look Eastwards for danger and Westwards for salvation. It was, after all, from the East that the barbarian hordes came to overthrow the Roman Empire. Huns, Goths, Vandals – their very names are full of menace. Britain, as an outlying part of the Empire was not immune, though the Celtic Britons were submerged by tribes, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, whose names have been domesticated in our traditional place-names. Then it was the Vikings’ turn to appear unexpectedly in their longboats to ravage the coasts of Anglo-Saxon England. They were mostly Danes, now the most peaceful and civilized of peoples, but then a fearsome visitation from the East. Even the Normans, who destroyed the Anglo-Saxon kingdom in 1066, were originally of Viking stock. So, our early history taught us to look warily when we looked Eastwards.

Moving forward into more recent times, the Russians were our allies against Napoleon and in both World Wars. But, I think, they were allies of necessity rather than of choice, brought in to redress the balance of power in Western Europe threatened first by France and then by Germany. Having served their purpose, they reverted to being objects of our profound suspicion. The Great Game of the mid-19th century was a product of British paranoia about Russia’s ambition to take over India, an idea which was promoted by extreme Russian imperialists, but never taken seriously by cooler heads in St Petersburg. After the First World War, the Bolshevik Revolution, with its atheism and hostility to private property, made Russia once again appear profoundly sinister. Banished from any contact with the West, Russia turned in on itself and sought to establish Communism in one nation under Stalin which ended any hope of the peaceful assimilation into the community of nations. The Second World War alliance between Russia and the West was fraught with suspicion on both sides and led directly into the Cold War. The supposed end of this period in 1989 resulted in a brief thawing of relations, but the rise of President Putin, former KGB man and died-in-the wool Russian nationalist, has led to a return of deep suspicions on both sides.

Perhaps we should try to rid ourselves of these deeply entrenched prejudices against ‘the East’, or perhaps they are, in truth, well-founded? I’d like to hear any views DropBy members may have on this.

Mar 15th

The crew

By Robert M

George wound his way with great care down the newly worn jungle path that was barely visible in the morning mist. At his age stumbles were a way of life and his daughter, Maureen, followed close behind, ready to extend a saving hand. He stopped and rested, blowing hard. This must have been the path they used to remove the bones he thought to himself.

He had got the call from the War Graves Commission a few weeks earlier. His old aircraft and its crew had been found, sixty years after crashing into the earth in a torrent of flame and noise. Now he was back here, where they had all died. Everyone except him. He didn’t really know why he had come, just that he needed to be there.

At last they reached the crash site. His daughter and their local guide stayed back to give him some privacy while he slowly walked the last few yards, leaving him alone with his thoughts. There wasn’t much to see in the mist, just a few pieces of shattered, scorched aluminium and the dark metal lump of one of the engines. The tailplane was surprisingly complete, still with his gun turret in place.

His thoughts went back to that clear, sunny day sixty years earlier. They had bombed and were on the way back to their base when the fighter hit. In seconds the explosive cannon shells turned the beautiful weapon of war into a flying wreck. He had known instinctively that the damage was fatal and had scrambled out of his turret.

The mid-upper turret gunner, Fred, lay dead on the fuselage floor. Henry, the navigator, still sat at his table with his blood spattered charts spread before him, but he no longer had a head. George knew that he should wait for orders to bale out or check on the crew up front but he was gripped with terror. He quickly clipped on his parachute pack and dived out of the door, just missing the flames from a blazing fuel tank.

He was so low when he jumped that by the time he had sorted himself out he was nearly on the ground. He never saw the aircraft hit, just heard the crash. He had, luckily, landed in a small clearing in the dense jungle. Using his survival kit he had reached civilisation after three days of sweating and swearing. All the time, the guilt he felt was weighing heavily on him. The thought played again and again in his mind, you ran out on them, you ran out on them.

George was never allowed back on operations. The doctors said the nineteen year old would never again be stable enough to fly and he was transferred to ground duties only. His guilt at abandoning his mates had affected him deeply. He knew he should have waited for the order to abandon aircraft.

After the war he returned home and married his childhood sweetheart, Enid. She loved him enough to tolerate the nightmare he frequently had. Always the same one. “We’re on fire” he would cry. “Get out! Get out!”

It was peaceful now in the jungle, just the sound of the birds and the low murmuring of Maureen talking with the guide. Suddenly George noticed a flash of colour amongst the deep green of the jungle and he realised a figure was watching him. He moved slowly, cautiously, towards it. The figure was wearing the bright yellow lifejacket that had caught his eye, a faded blue uniform and flying boots. He immediately knew the serene young face above them.

“Skipper, Is that you Skipper?” said George. “Yes George” replied Pilot Officer James Tenby,” it’s me. I knew you would come back to us one day”. “Oh Skip, Skip” said George, “I baled out without the order to do so, I am so, so sorry. Please, please forgive me. I abandoned you all and it has been on my mind all these many years”. Tears rolled down his cheeks.

“George”, said the aircraft captain, “there is nothing to forgive. I gave the order to abandon but the intercom had been shot to pieces. You just never heard it. That fighter certainly made a mess of us. You did exactly the right thing. There is nothing to blame yourself for; you did what any one of us would have done”. The figure started to shimmer. “I have to go now George, the others are calling me”. “Don’t worry any longer; we will all be meeting again before long. We will be a complete crew again”. With those words the figure slowly faded until it was gone.

Maureen watched her father walking slowly back down the path, his steps now those of a man forty years younger. He seemed taller somehow and his face was more peaceful than she had ever seen it. He turned once more to face the wreckage, came to parade ground attention, and saluted in the proper RAF way, palm outwards.  “Bye chaps” he murmured, “see you soon”.

 

Mar 14th

Beachcombing

By Bill W

Going through an old box I found a rounded, flat bean about the size of the palm of my hand. I picked this bean up many years ago on a beautiful little beach at Hushinis, Harris, Outer Hebrides, I was told by locals that it had floated it's way to Hushinis all the way across the Atlantic Ocean from South america or the Caribbean.

It's difficult to describe, but that area has a strange but wonderful smell, and holding the bean to my nose now after 20 odd years, I can still smell Hushinis on it.

I lived in the area for a couple of months and I had an inflateable boat which I used to go to The Isle of Scarp from where I fished in total privacy. I hear people telling me how clean and clear the water is in Greece or other countries, but believe me, the water around this area is so ultra pristine, I could almost shake hands with the fish I was after.

Back to the bean. Holding it, it feels rock hard and shiny with all the handling over time, and although it has no monetery value, I wouldn't part with it because it reignites the memory of my super time in Harris.

I'm sure that I'm not the only DropByer to go beachcombing, so please, tell me and all our other friends about your 'finds'.

 

Feb 23rd

A Long Remembered Visit to Glyndebourne

By Maureen J

Glyndebourne was the highlight of our summer, and like many enthusiasts, we were regulars at the annual winter week-end courses held in the De La Warr Pavilion at Bexhill. These were run by the Southern Opera and Ballet Society (SOBS) as a preparation for the forthcoming season with its scheduled programme of operas to be held at the Sussex venue.

Always well attended, these sessions were mentored by professional artists and musicians, while the mixture of appreciative amateur music-lovers from various walks of life learned much as we enjoyed ourselves during the two days of the course. The master classes proved invaluable. Everyone felt better able to appreciate the final stage production, as well as getting a taster of what was to come through an insight into the hard work and discipline that brings an opera to life on the stage.

In the summer of 1982 we eagerly anticipated our visit to see Orfeo ed Euridice with Dame Janet Baker in the title role. It would prove an unforgettable evening.

After the performance, with tears still streaming down my cheeks, my husband and I descended the stairs. As we were emerging through the doorway at the bottom, we encountered our old friend Miron Grindea, cognoscente of the art world and friend of many who inhabited it. We all made our way into the foyer.

Upon seeing my tears Miron demanded ‘What is the matter?’

‘That performance...it was so wonderful...I can’t stop crying...’

Whereupon, grabbing my hand Miron said, ‘Follow me...’

I did, and leaving a vaguely surprised husband, found myself backstage picking my way in a long evening dress and high heels through a bewildering profusion of scenery, props and people; all of whom appeared to be intent on what they were doing and where they were going. Hitching my skirt with one hand and watching where I put my feet, I followed the tousle-headed figure gesticulating wildly for me to follow and keep up with him.

It happened in a trice; the object of our back-stage perambulation appeared at a dressing-room door. Dame Janet Baker stood for a moment framed by the doorway and dressed in a flowing silk robe embellished with red flowers. Still in make-up, she was at once besieged and engaged in conversation by an excited Miron.

Whatever he said galvanised the world famous diva and with a swift turn she bore down on me, her robe billowing, her arms outstretched as she said, ‘Oh you darling...’ and clasped me in a spontaneous hug.

The memory remains, a golden moment, one among many in the treasure chest of this octogenarian.  

 

 

Feb 21st

Messiah from Bristol Old Vic to be screened in cinemas across Britain

By Mary B

Thanks to the Event organisers CinemaLive who discovered DropBy and like what we are doing......

We’re giving away 2 pairs of tickets for cinema screenings of Messiah from Bristol Old Vic, screening on 28 March!

For a chance to win, simply tell us in the comments below, or in a private message to MaryB (if you would prefer to remain anonymous), which cinema would you like to see this in?

For a list of participating venues, visit http://po.st/dropbymessiah

If more than two people are interested we may have to introduce some sort of competition! Let's start by asking you to explain why you would like to attend this event......

 

I have a video to down load as a taster.......

 

If you are a winner I will need to use your email address.

Although I have most of your email addresses, I think I have to ask for your consent to use it, so please just mention this when you say why you think you should have one of the pairs of tickets.

 

For Easter 2018 we are releasing a powerful, dramatised production of Handel's Messiah, filmed at Bristol Old Vic, into approximately 300 cinemas across the UK and Ireland on March 28. We believe this extraordinary production would appeal not only to people of faith, but also classical music enthusiasts and connoisseurs alike – and I think Drop By subscribers would be interested to hear about it.

Here’s the event’s trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wllmosEsxB8

More information about Messiah from Bristol Old Vic

Directed by Bristol Old Vic’s Tony Award-winning Artistic Director Tom Morris (War Horse), Messiah from Bristol Old Vic explores the drama and struggle of faith, showing a bereaved community whose grief at the loss of their leader is transformed into hope through a narrative of resurrection. Recorded in the theatre in 2017, it features internationally-renowned soloists Catherine Wyn Rogers and Julia Doyle, The Erebus Ensemble (Songs of Hope) and Europe's most celebrated Baroque orchestra The English Concert.

★★★★★ “Immersive and soaring” - The Reviews Hub

★★★★ "Refreshingly direct and impactful” - The Times

★★★★ “Astonishingly beautiful” - The Stage

“The tingling sound of the Hallelujah Chorus…filling this glorious playhouse with aching grandeur” - What's On Stage

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