Sunday 31 March 2019

We are the World Blogfest # 23: Mothering Sunday and BookAid International …

#WAWTB falls today on Mothering Sunday in the UK … the fourth Sunday in Lent, then in three weeks it will be Easter Sunday …

 … originally people would visit their “mother church” and anyone who did this commonly was said to have gone “a-mothering” … in time Mothering Sunday became a day when domestic servants were given a day off … the children would pick wildflowers to place in the church, and/or give to their mothers …

I’ve been without my mother since 2012 … but I have wonderful memories of Mothering Sundays with the bunches of cheerful early blooms … and how love prevailed around the family …

Ben Okri in Tallinn, Estonia

Ben Okri gave today’s BBC’s Radio 4 Appeal … on behalf of Book Aid International – which seemed an appropriate adjunct in remembering our mothers and all those who love and guide us through life … I know my parents would have supported Book Aid – we always had books around.

c/o Book Aid International blog

Ben Okri – the Nigerian poet and novelist (often compared to Salmon Rushdie and Gabriel Garcia Marquez) – was promoting the charity Book Aid International … as he, like us, considers books his salvation … as he mentions:

Books give you hope for a brighter future …

Book Aid International sends over one million carefully selected brand new books to refugee camps, schools … these books are a lifeline to many …

Revision guides to help with exams … as their March book featured on their blog and here …
Novels for pleasure and greater human understanding …
Biographies for inspiration …

… so students, who wish, can read every day – giving them the opportunity to learn and study further …

An example of one of Book Aid's
guides sent out for Disaster Nursing -
which seems to be in dire need so often
- at least there's access to information
Books offer a life-line …

Mothers, Fathers and leaders are those who can guide us carefully through life …

Let’s donate a book a week, or a month via Book Aid International, to give those in dire need and peril some hope that their imaginative minds can latch onto – which as likely as not will give them a brighter future, and one which we too will benefit from.


We are the World … In Darkness, Be Light

I know we will give when and where we can … thank you!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday 26 March 2019

Caryatids at Pitzhanger Manor; but not at King’s Observatory …

Well I’d no idea what a ‘caryatid’ was … but picked up the name as I went on a tour of one of our local Eastbourne theatres – then the Saturday Times had an article on Pitzhanger Manor, Ealing, London … where caryatids were mentioned.

Caryatid displayed in
the British Museum

The way things seem to happen in this learning world of ours – well it does to me … once one hears about something, then it keeps popping its head above the parapet.

Sir John Soane c 1800
portrait by Thomas Lawrence

Sir John Soane (1753 – 1837) used the Manor as a sort of laboratory to develop his architectural ideas.  Sir John was a son of a bricklayer, who rose to the top-most heights of his profession …

… as professor of architecture at the Royal Academy, and an official architect to the Office of Works – the English Royal Households castles and residences overseer.

Bank of England facade 1818-1827
with a facade of caryatid columns

His design of the Bank of England, soon after destroyed by fire, set the tone for commercial architecture;  

Dulwich Picture Gallery

Dulwich Picture Gallery was a major influence in the planning of subsequent art galleries and museums.  

Soane Museum

The main legacy – his home in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, was designed to display the art works and architectural artefacts that he collected during his lifetime – is described in the Oxford Dictionary of Architecture as “one of the most complex, intricate, and ingenious series of interiors ever conceived”.

I feel like I probably should be a caryatid at the moment – I’m like a static person holding up numerous tendrils of learning – attending lots of classes, giving some talks, going to films by the dozen, being round and about with the encumbent mashed brain trying to remember where and when I’m doing what …on the other hand I've no wish to be turned to stone!

Caryatid Building, Madrid
… to add to myself insulting me … ‘my bus’ decided to do a funny on me:  I don’t usually take the bus, as I can walk from town quite happily … but felt like a ride back on Saturday …

… there are two of ‘my buses’ one goes round via the theatres and thence to my stop, the other goes up the hill to the Eastbourne village of Meads, round the top and back down to my stop – I got this one …

Pitzhanger Manor - front entrance
(with caryatid pillars)

… I was minding my own business – enjoying the view as I took the long route home – but hey ho, fiddle dee dee  … the bus went straight back to town to ‘dump me’ where I’d got on --- I then walked home, which obviously I should have done forty minutes earlier!!  Ridiculous life?!

Pitzhanger Manor library c1802

Enough of the wobbling chit-chat … Pitzhanger Manor has just reopened, having been refurbished – and looks a great place to visit …

Circle and Upper Circle, Devonshire Park Theatre Eastbourne
… as is another restored rather magnificent building: King’s Observatory, Richmond … which has a telescope observatory on the roof.  Both of which are now on my list of ‘to see’ places … I guess I need a TBS list: to be seen!

Looking out from the Theatre bar towards the
refurbishing of the Devonshire Park Tennis Centre
(the area is almost ready for the 2019 season - after much
redevelopment of the area, including the Congress Theatre -
a 1963 (I'd say) brutalist building! which has been restored)

Ah well … I’m failing … but I’ll write about the Theatre another day … my head needs to get into gear … so for April I’ll be gathering those tendrils of brain (if possible) – but will continue with the #WATWB (We are the World Blogfest) posts at the end of the month and will do WEP – see my side bar … but not the A-Z Challenge …

Ionic Entablature
engraving c/o Wiki
So this static caryatid person with an entablature on her head full of who knows what … is signing off …

 If any of you can make head or tail of this post = well done is all I can say … but something got written!  Caryatid is the key … 

I’ll be around … vaguely probably – thank goodness it’s getting lighter and I’ve six months to get myself into gear while the longer days are around.

The restored King’s Observatory post

Pitzhanger Manor – via Wiki

My post mentioning Eleanor Coade 

An immediate addendum to this post about the King's Observatory ... a simultaneous posting by the Royal Society refers to the Observatory ... gives more details, shows more, mentions the Transit of Venus, and talks clocks - the subject of the post ... no caryatids though!

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Monday 18 March 2019

Jacqui Murray’s new pre-history fiction release: Survival of the Fittest …

Here’s an author who is prepared to research and explore life as it is … as well as what life could well have been nearly a million years ago – as ‘we’ were starting our journey towards the 21st century …

Jacqui has written lots of other books on technical education, thrillers, her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy  (Building a Midshipman)… and now we have the first of her Crossroads trilogy: Survival of the Fittest.

What I like about this … is that Jacqui has let her imagination wander into the prehistory possibilities of life on earth and how we are now where we are … this path has obviously opened her eyes to so much … communication, spiritual aspects, male and female accomplishments, art, music, the land with its seasons – what a wealth of information to draw on.

Did Xhosa have any type of culture – art, music, that sort?  Is the question I asked Jacqui.

Her answer:  This time in man’s prehistory predated art, music, and most culture. There is very little if anything known about earliest man’s (850,000 years ago) interest in art and music.

In Xhosa’s case, I extrapolated from what we do know about these early iterations of man. They appreciated colors but didn’t think of applying it to themselves. Their brains could imagine things unseen but that didn’t extend to painting themselves, wearing jewelry, or tattoos.

Since clothing was only for warmth (or in Seeker’s case, to protect his sensitive parts), no thought was given to designing or decorating these.

Music—They did appreciate bird songs but considered it an animal voice, not something that they could replicate for their own pleasure. They could replicate it but it was to imitate the bird, not express creativity. They also appreciated rhythm but that was to set a running pace or sooth people.

Further details about Jacqui Murray's book launch:

Short Blurb:

Five tribes. One leader. A treacherous journey across three continents in search of a new home.
Short Summary:
Chased by a ruthless and powerful enemy, Xhosa flees with her People, leaving behind a certain life in her African homeland to search for an unknown future. She leads her People on a grueling journey through unknown and dangerous lands but an escape path laid out years before by her father as a final desperate means to survival. She is joined by other homeless tribes--from Indonesia, China, South Africa, East Africa, and the Levant—all similarly forced by timeless events to find new lives. As they struggle to overcome treachery, lies, danger, tragedy, hidden secrets, and Nature herself, Xhosa must face the reality that this enemy doesn't want her People's land. He wants to destroy her.
Book information:

Title and author: Survival of the Fittest
Series: Book 1 in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs. Nature saga
Genre: Prehistoric fiction
Cover by: Damonza 

Author bio:
Jacqui Murray is the author of the popular Building a Midshipman, the story of her daughter’s journey from high school to United States Naval Academy, the Rowe-Delamagente thrillers, and the Man vs. Nature saga. She is also the author/editor of over a hundred books on integrating tech into education, adjunct professor of technology in education, blog webmaster, an Amazon Vine Voice,  a columnist for TeachHUB and NEA Today, and a freelance journalist on tech ed topics. Look for her next prehistoric fiction, Quest for Home, Summer 2019. You can find her tech ed books at her publisher’s website, Structured Learning

Social Media contacts:

I congratulate Jacqui on her obvious desire to broaden the scope of her writing … this first book in the Crossroads series, part of the Man vs Nature saga – sounds intriguing and should set our senses searching for new prompts for our own writings – enjoy …

Please check her out and keep an eye open for further publications by this stimulating author … who is Jacqui Murray.

If you would like to read the first chapter ... it can be found at Balroop Singh's post on her 'Emotional Shadows' blog ... where she has also been promoting Jacqui's book.

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Friday 8 March 2019

International Women's Day ...

For half the population it is ‘our day’ … and I give you a few quotes from thought provoking women:

Red: official holiday; Orange: holiday for women;
yellow: non-official holiday.
(see Wikipedia for more details on map.

“Courage calls to courage everywhere.” 
Millicent Fawcett, British writer and suffragette (1847 – 1929)

“Feet, what do I need them for if I have wings to fly?”
Frida Kahlo, Mexican artist  (1907 – 1954)

“Never be limited by other people’s limited imaginations.”
Dr Mae Jemison, American astronaut and physician  (born 1956)

“We are too precious to let disappointments enter our minds.” 
NL Beno Zephine, Indian Diplomat  (Sightless, but full of vision).    (born 1990)

“I am stronger than myself.”
Clarice Lispector, Brazilian novelist  (1920 – 1977)

“I really believe in the idea of the future.”
Zaha Hadid, British-Iraqi architect  (1950 – 2016)

“I matter.  I matter equally.  Not ‘If only’, not ‘as long as’.  
I matter.  Full Stop.” 
Chimamanda Adichie, Nigerian Writer  (born 1977)

The women whose quotes I’ve copied are taken from those expressed in today’s Google Doodle and are the ones that drew me in … while Clarice Lispector, Beno Zephine and Mae Jemison I had not heard of …

… so I looked them up … to find Clarice and her family had experienced enormous hardship before fleeing from Russian Ukraine to Romania and ultimately Brazil, where her mother had relatives. 

The story I found about her harrowing early life makeshorrendous readingand we should all (always) remember how lucky we are – regardless of where we are in life …

Taken from a book
She overcame so much … while in the mid 1960s … the American translator Gregory Rabassa, who first encountered Lispector in the mid 1960s, at a conference on Brazilian literature, in Texas, recalled being:

 "flabbergasted to meet that rare person who looked like Marlene Dietrich and wrote like Virginia Woolf"

The quotes are so apposite in so many ways … I leave you to ponder them on this 2019’s International Women’s Day …

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Saturday 2 March 2019

Magic Exhibition … ideas here for the curious mind …

Just had to tell you all about this exhibition as I’m sure some of you in London could be majicked out to see it …

c/o from Staging
Magic Guide

Right let’s ask White Rabbit what this is all about … if we can get him out from under his hat to tell us about the resources, references available to entice us to pay a visit to be entranced …

University of London

… it came about from the donation of Harry Price’s Library of Magical Literature, correspondence, posters, prints etc to University of London’s Senate House Library …

A photo taken in 1922 by
William Hope showing
Price with a "spirit"

Harry Price (1881 – 1948), the psychic researcher, who might best be remembered for describing Borley Rectory as “the most haunted house in England” … as well as his infamous investigations of mediums, hauntings and other supernatural phenomena …

  it is free – now what could be better … Magic Rabbit is quite clever … he tells me he heads the colony or nest (as a collective of rabbits is known) … so Mr Rabbit has lots of very clever magic tricks … some of which he mentions below … Mr White Rabbit notes this blogger’s post today is rather rambly and odd …

Downloadable (see below)

… there’s a free downloadable exhibition guide (well worth looking at - see the site) … 48 pages on the history of the magicians, legerdemaine, charlatans, cabinets of inventions, wonders of wonders, conjurers … European ones, Chinese too … secrets, secrets, secrets – in case you want to have a look!

Lots of ideas for writers and wordsmiths … oh and so much more … books, magazines … amusing automatons ... lots of fun … for example:

Bartolomeo Bosco (1793 - 1863)
Tricks for the Trenches and Ward (1915) … for WW1 Nurses and Soldiers … providing light relief at that time of darkness …

Brilliant – Bartolomeo Bosco, an Italian magician, was wounded during the Battle of Borodino (1812) … he pretended to be dead … the looter searched his clothing, while Bosco picked the looter’s pocket!

Apparition - Milwaukee Sentinel (1933)
There’s an entry about an attempt to Analyse the Automaton Chess Player in 1821 …

So wordsmiths … grab your notebooks, writing implements of desire … and get those curious minds grappling round these ideas …

As set out in the copy of ‘Discovery of Witchcraft, Conjurors, Soothsayers …’ here’s the 1584 description … from ‘Find in a Library: …’:

"The discouerie of witchcraft :

-        vvherein the lewde dealing of witches and witchmongers is notablie detected,
-        the knauerie of coniurors,
-        the impietie of inchantors,
-        the follie of soothsaiers,
-        the impudent falshood of cousenors,
-        the infidelitie of atheists,
-        the pestilent practises of pythonists, et al …"

Simple scientific mysteries … a booklet on experiments illustrating chemical, physical and optical wonders (1891) …

Robert-Houdin Theatrical Museum, Blois
(it has a public display of dragons)

Also … Stage illusions … Parlour Magic … Mysteries … just plain majicke  Films such as ‘The Illusionist’ (2006) was clearly inspired by Robert-Houdin (1805 – 1871);

while “Hugo” (2011) features an automaton, re-enactments of Robert-Houdin’s illusions … Georges Méliès bought Theatre Robert-Houdin …  Méliès, who in time created the classic film ‘A Trip to the Moon’ (1924) …

Harry Houdini – took his stage name from his illustrious predecessor, Robert-Houdin, whose memoir inspired him … but ultimately he unmasked his hero to expose his ‘dishonesty’ …

I hope I’ve enticed you, or perhaps lured you with a tricke or twaine to take a look at the Exhibition’s website … and if you’re ‘local’ … perhaps visit … it looks a really fascinating exhibition … apart from a visit to the library high up in Senate House … you’ve got til 15 June … NB opening hours vary during term time …

Caravaggio's 'The Cardsharps' (1594)
The blog-curtain comes down on White Rabbit here … but wander across to visit a much better blog post about the Exhibition, as well as London University’s absolutely excellent ‘Staging Magic’ exhibition guide … so I shall wave my magic wand over 450 years of magical history and disappear …

Ian Visits Blog - details re the exhibition ...

The Staging Magic Exhibition full guide and details  including the fascinating downloadable guide ... perfect for wordsmiths and curious minds ... 

Hilary Melton-Butcher
Positive Letters Inspirational Stories