The First Time Ever ….. or a folkloric tale with a fantasy leitmotif

I know! I know! I told you last month that I was one step closer to  a special occasion involving  a little someone and her new friend. But here I am in September, still not ready, and still not properly dressed in purple, for our get together.  My friends and family will tell you that’s typical of me. These days I take forever to get ready for anything,  because I am easily distracted, as per my previous post where Mrs Cockalarum suddenly waylaid my attention.

And, now, thanks to a couple of queries from my lovely commenters, concerning the whereabouts of Mrs Cockalarum’s other half,  I am skipping jauntily down memory lane in search of Mr Cockalarum, almost entirely forgetful of present and future social engagements.

I can’t be sure where Mr Cockalarum is today, but I have encountered him ( or possibly his relatives) in numerous locations.  But  the first time ever I   heard him I would have been about this size i.e. pint-sized.

Mother and Child, Lautoka 1956. Churchill Park in the background.

The first time ever I remember hearing Mr Cockalarum I would have been about this size and revelling in a fantasy world  (what’s new!); that of Toad of Toad Hall.

Badger

And the first time ever I tried to record those remembrances I was in my late thirties, and living in Cairo. I typed them into our smart, new computer, and later read them as a bedtime story for my two children.

“In the half-dark of early morning I heard a rooster crow.  Dear Daughter, you said you heard a rooster crow in the summer, but I don’t remember hearing him. A rooster crow is not a normal sound for our part of Maadi. It made me wonder if one of our neighbours were fattening poultry for a special dinner.

When I was little I often heard a rooster crow in the early morning. It was a sound which belonged to my waking. In the summer, or the rainy season, a rooster would crow about 4 or 5 o’clock in the morning. I remember that time as the half-light of early morning. In the colder season, or the dry season, the crowing started at about 6 o’clock, just before the sun rose. That time always comes to my mind as the half-dark of early morning.

The other sounds, which were in my waking, for a few months of the year during the cane crushing  season, were those of the sugar cane trains.  The sugar cane trains clanged and made a ch-ch-ch chuddering sound as they prepared for work each morning. Photo by C R Auckland, August 2008 Loco no 11 entering Lautoka with a long train of approximately 45 loaded wagons.  

I hear the sound of the trains here in Maadi, too, but it is not the gentle, warming-up sound of slow, old trains which I knew as a child. Rather, it is the high speed whistle and whine of a fast, modern train. ( In fact, they are so fast we haven’t seen them, have we? Perhaps the sound we hear floats all the way from the Metro Line next to Road 9, and not from the tracks next to Kimo Market.)

Another sound of my morning, more regular than the trains or the rooster, was the call to prayer from the mosque.

Although we seem to be surrounded by mosques in Maadi, I have yet to hear an early morning call to prayer. I hear all the other calls, but not the first one. In Lautoka, I often heard the first call, and, sometimes, the evening call, but I don’t remember any of the others. Perhaps I was busy at school or swimming at the club, or playing with friends during the day. I liked the first call of the day. The mosque was on the other side of Churchill Park, catty- corner to  our house.

Home, Verona Street, Lautoka

The call floated clearly over our neighborhood. I didn’t know what was being said, but I liked the song of it; the way it wove through and over the early morning air and out to an endless beyond. Later, when I was slightly older, the call changed in tone because it was delivered through loud speakers. The sublime purity of the call was masked as it struggled with the crackles and harshness of the new technology of speakers. The change made me sad for a while.

In Maadi, the mosques have loud speakers, too. Sometimes, I wish I could hear the solitary, unaided call of the muezzin again. I miss its beauty; its resonance.
What do you hear as you wake in the morning? ” Maadi, Cairo, November, 1994.

There was no YouTube in 1994  to give my children an opportunity to hear a call to prayer similar to  the one I knew as a child. Today I found this clip.

This  took me home again to a time of great happiness and love; a time when, by and large, my small world was a friendly, welcoming place, rich in experience, and a delight to play in.

As for the elusive Mr Cockalarum; perhaps you hear him, or have heard him, in your neighborhood.

 

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One step forward, one step back

It’s   ‘best foot forward’ and  one step closer to  the special occasion mentioned in my previous blog post , but before  we get there,

One step closer, best foot forward

I want to take one step (plus several hundred more) back to a  dear character who entered my life in 2012.  If you are a long time follower of my blog you will have met her before but I am sure you will agree that renewing acquaintances is often as much fun as making new ones.

So, let me introduce you to ~~~~~~~~

Mrs Cockalarum

who arrived  on  Christmas Day , complete with name.  She is, in her regular domestic life, a decorative paper weight, only, most of the time, she decorates a chest of drawers and no paper comes near her. A dull life

She has a few animals to keep her company, including some of her own kind. However, every now and again, even a paperweight can do with a change of scenery and a new point of view, so I decided to take Mrs Cockalarum on an autumnal excursion.

Starting indoors, we tried out the floor,How's it down there?

then a higher  peachy perch, At the High Table

but her view was obscured so we went outside, where she dusted her feathers with the light scent of alyssum andSweet Alyssum

pecked at the sweetest red berries. Berry Good

After which she looked at the world from a seat made of corn and silken tasselsA sweet corn spot

and took a swing in a hanging basket.Swinging along

Today, the world was full of surprises for me and Mrs Cockalarum, not the least of which was finding this in the tree outside my house!How surprising!

Footnote: The berries are called New Zealand cranberries. They are delicious but are not much like any  cranberries that  I have ever tasted. Their real name is Chilean Guava ( Ugni molinae (Mrytus ugni)). Apparently the berries were a favourite with Queen Victoria. Mrs Cockalarum and I have given our unroyal seal of approval, too.Chilean Guavas

© silkannthreades

Another footnote:  Are you wondering about the word, Cockalarum, like I was?  I am not sure I would like Mr Cockalarum (wherever he is), yet Google tells me that cockalarum heroes were popular in their day. I have seen  Seba Smith’s Major Jack Downing  referred to as a cockalarum hero. Whether or not that is true, he is certainly an interesting character, a  “beloved American hero, whose name was synonymous with Yankee Doodle…”.

 

Return of the prodigal blogger

Yes! the prodigal blogger has returned. Did you notice that I  had been away, flirting with Instagram and loafing about on tropical beaches? Probably not. In any case, no need to rush to greet me with the fatted calf et al.   What I would appreciate, dear readers, if you are willing to indulge me, is some ‘sartorial’  advice, on the ring and  robe side of things. Good Lord, how I need it.

Fashion Failure or Fashion Follower?  Foto failure for sure.

Though, lest I judge my fashion sense too harshly, in some elevated circles  my attire, in this pose, would easily qualify me as a  dedicated follower of fashion.

Yes, well, moving on from odd assortments and mix and unmatch couture….

Very soon, I  will be meeting a little someone’s new friend. It will be a special occasion and I would like to honour it by wearing some purple accessories. ( Purple is such a perfect colour for important occasions. 🙂 ) Please give me your opinions on  which jewellery I should wear for our meeting.

 

As a thank you for your indulgence today, and  your patience with my absence,  I  give you the first, small posy of  spring flowers from my garden.

The first floral offering from my spring garden 2019

If you are curious  to know who the little someone and her new friend are, stay tuned to my blog. In the meantime, here is a  BIG hint.

Meeting Myrtle 2017

 

TTFN.  Hopefully,  I will have a few holiday shots to show you soon, too.

Celebrating Courage, Creativity and Grit.

One of the most satisfying aspects of blogging is accompanying (and hopefully supporting) fellow bloggers as they discover, pursue, and, eventually, achieve their dreams.

As writer, architect, traveller, and dreamer, Virginia Duran, explains in this video clip,  achieving dreams requires  persistence, strength, skill, creativity, and a great team of supporters. To her list I would add courage.

Virginia has courage as well as  all it takes to be an achiever of dreams.   I was thrilled to see her latest post announcing the publication of  her London  Architectour Guide , which has been  described as an “exquisite travel book for anyone passionate about architecture”.

Other blogging friends with oodles of courage and talent, namely Cynthia Reyes and Marisa Alvarsson, have delighted me and many others recently with their latest achievements.

Much admired and loved blogger, Cynthia, and her  lovely daughter, Lauren Reyes-Grange, have just  written and published the second book in the Myrtle the Purple Turtle series. As Cynthia recalls in this guest post  bringing Myrtle’s Game to us, the readers, was no easy task,  and getting it off the harvest table into our hands became a full-on family affair.  They had to adopt Myrtle-like persistence and determination to achieve their dreams. In ‘Myrtle’s Game’, ” Myrtle and her friends are turned away when they try to join in a game with others. The friends walk away, feeling hurt, but that’s just the start of the story.” With persistence, patience, and practice, Myrtle and her friends prove that even a  slow turtle can play the game as well as anyone else. And, more than that, Myrtle  shows us that the best team is the one which is inclusive and allows you to believe in yourself.  

Marisa, who has been a dear blogging friend almost from the beginning of my blogging days in 2012, began her social media life unwilling, like so many of us, to even mention her real name.  We knew her only  as Miss Marzipan, mother to a toddler, and confined to bed rest with a difficult pregnancy.   Today, thanks to Marisa’s creativity and courage, and  the support of her loving family, she has given herself permission to  embrace the dream of being the author of a fabulous cook book ‘Naturally Sweet Vegan Treats“. She is also a wonderful, kind (almost magical 🙂 ) presence on Instagram, with 146K followers.

Another achiever and  blogger, whom I have come to know in recent months is A Voice from Iran, Laleh Chini.  Like Cynthia she lives in Canada, and, like Cynthia, Laleh and  her daughter  Abnoos Mosleh-Shirazi worked together as co-authors to produce ‘ Climbing over Grit’. “The story follows the journey of Najma as she is forced into a marriage at the age of eleven and faces the challenges of motherhood with an abusive husband, all while the eight-year war with Iraq is taking place.”  The story  is a tribute to Laleh’s mother.  And a tribute to Laleh’s determination to write stories important to her and her family, and which, she believes,  are important for the rest of the world to know.

Now, if, like me, you have places to go and things to do, and if, unlike me, you have your own dreams to pursue, you may not have time to buy or read the books I mention here, but I would urge you to take a closer look at, at least, one of these strong, creative women and their achievements.

I celebrate them all.  And I thank them  for letting me  be a small part  of their dream journeys.

Special note: the photos in this post are not mine. They belong to the authors and illustrators of the books featured.

ps  I may not be on WordPress very much for a few months, but I will do my best to check your posts whenever I can.

 

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ at rest

My garden: festive feijoa

I retreated into silence last night to consider whether it was time to end my quest. My original intention was to post every day of Advent. But that has not happened to this point and, during my little retreat, I decided  there would be no more posts after this one.

After 15 posts (16 including today’s) on silence, my quest seems to have come to a natural conclusion. For now, I am replete with silence. I feel no need to continue.

My quest has been an enriching experience. I am immensely grateful for your participation in my search for silence. Through silence and contemplation, and with your wonderful companionship, I have for the first time, in a long time, been able to create an accepting, peaceful, space in my heart and home for Christmas.

As Linda (Shoreacres) writes in her post Homes Made for the Holidays ” Christmas is coming, after all, and its spirit will find a dwelling in even the smallest or poorest of spaces.”

And so it has, already. In the silence, it came to me.  From my humble home to yours, I send love and best wishes for peace and goodwill now and always. Happy Christmas.

 

The interfaith tree in my dwelling space, 2018; this tree, fully decorated, was given to me in 2016 by a Buddhist friend. The skirt of the tree and the embroidered white cloth come from Christmas celebrations in Cairo. The green prayer beads were a  Hajj gift from a friend in Egypt. The beads help to remind me of another Christmas tree; a fully decorated  Christmas tree given to us by a Muslim friend for our first Christmas in Egypt.

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~ Silent Night

Deep silence, deep sorrow, some peace:  Commonwealth War Cemetery, El Alamein, mid 1990s

Silent Night! Holy Night!
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon godly tender pair
Holy infant with curly hair
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Translated by Bettina Klein
© 1998 Silent Night Museum
A-5024 Salzburg, Steingasse 9

No Advent Quest  would be complete without acknowledgement of Silent Night.

This  Christmas Eve will mark the 200th anniversary of the first public performance of Silent Night in 1818.  It was written by Joseph Mohr in 1816, partly as a way to celebrate  peace and freedom, and to encourage joy, following the end of the Napoleonic  Wars.*

A hundred and four years ago on Christmas Eve in 1914, German officer, Walter Kirchhoff, a tenor with the Berlin Opera  “came forward and sang Silent Night in German, and then in English. In the clear, cold night of Christmas Eve, his voice carried very far.The shooting had stopped and in that silence he sang and the British knew the song and sang back.”

Silent Night has been translated into  hundreds of languages and dialects.  The carol was  declared an intangible, cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011.

When I listen to  Silent Night, I remember  the Holy Family’s search for peace and sanctuary. And I hear the yearning of most every one of us for  the deep silence of peace.

 

ps

*For an accurate account  of  why Mohr wrote Silent Night, please read the comment by Shoreacres.

For more information on the recording in the final link please click here

Silence ~ an Advent Quest ~the web of years

In silence, understanding, the tapestry of my life

In my quest, I begin to understand how the woof of many  silences is woven through the warp of my life. The  unfolding pattern surprises me, delights me, comforts me, saddens me, enriches me.

 

In the light of the silent stars that shine on the struggling sea, 
In the weary cry of the wind and the whisper of flower and tree, 
Under the breath of laughter, deep in the tide of tears, 
I hear the Loom of the Weaver that weaves the Web of Years. 

from the The Loom of Years by Alfred Noyes (1902)

ps The image features a selection of gifts received over many years. The wooden sculptures come from Malawi.  They were given to me over 30 years ago and have travelled to many countries with me.  Faithful friends, I call them Thomas and Sarah.