Monday, 15 January 2018

The Fall of Ursula Usher

The Fall of Ursula Usher is the story of a lonely pop star. Her efforts to keep the haunting ghosts of her life at bay are continually thwarted by a nosy journalist determined to discover what makes her tick.

Each chapter is named after a character who left a lasting impression on her, they are ...

Steve, Sara, Joe, Miss Prince, Gordon, Louise, Mr Willison, Simone, Mike, Rosemary, Nick, Uma, Aunt Frances, Jason, Colleen, Charles, Tony, Ursula ...

Ursula's public persona is somewhat based on the work of Tori Amos and Kate Bush.

Monday, 8 January 2018

London Walks: the Thames Path

One of the major joys of living in London is walking along the Thames Path, Over the last ten years I have walked the whole of the central London part of the Thames Path from the Thames Barrier to Hampton Court. These are my highlights of that well trodden path.

Part One: The Thames Barrier to the Cutty Sark

The Thames Barrier was built in 1984 but I didn't see it for real until 2014 when I decided to visit the official start of the London section the Thames Path. The barrier stretches across the width of the Thames looking a little like the curves of the Sydney Opera House. There is a small cafe and visitors centre plus a grand view of the river. 

The Greenwich peninsula has seen a lot of building work over the years, but there is still something quite desolate about it. The O2 is a welcome public space. There are interesting retro outlets here, bars, walkways and restaurants, as well as a gateway to the entertainment arena. Security was very tight when I last visited.

The Cutty Sark is an impressive ship named after the witch from the Robert Burns' poem 'Tam O'Shanter', the name means 'short shirt'. It was a good place to end the first leg of the Thames Path.

Part Two: Cutty Sark to Tower Bridge

We did part two of the Thames Path on the north side of the river. The most memorable sight was the traffic light tree on the Isle of Dogs, an artistic statement about man and nature, utterly confusing for motorists. We did this part of the path in reverse and crossed back to the South Bank via the Greenwich foot tunnel.

Part Three: Tower Bridge to Westminster Bridge

Amy, mum and I often walk the stretch of the river between Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge. There are many places we like visiting around this area: the Royal Festival Hall, Gabriel's Wharf, Tate Modern, the Globe Theatre, Southwark Cathedral and Borough Market. We are generally blessed with a good, clear and sunny, day, the river generally looks lovely and there is usually something vibrant, exciting and good natured going on. Stretching this walk out on either side, you can also take in the London Aquarium at County Hall and the Tower of London on the North side of the river near Tower Bridge. 

The highlight of London Aquarium for me was the rays and especially the rays at feeding time. These flat fish are extraordinarily cute, beautiful and fscinating. There is a Sea World type glass tunnel with sharks swimming, to the side and above you. 'Finding Nemo' was all the rage when we visited and the clown fish and angel fish were very popular.

The Tower of London includes a number of buildings circling a central court. Most interesting are the crown jewels, which had a long queue to it and a moving walkway to keep viewers circulating. A popular part of the tower is the Bloody Tower; well-known 'guests' in the Bloody Tower have been Queen Anne Boleyn, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Ralegh and the young princes, Edward and Richard, all of whom met very sticky ends. The last time we visited the Tower of London we kept bumping into Dr Who's River Song, which made the day even more thrilling.

Part three of the Thames Path is very special and I think deserves a blog post all of its own.

Part Four: Westminster Bridge to Putney Bridge

The highlight of this stretch of the river was definitely Battersea Park. I have visited this park several times over the years and find it surprising, green and spacious. I first brought Amy here when she was six. She loved the zoo, the carved wooden animals, the fountains and the water features, as well as the rough and ready adventure playground. My favourite part of the park was the retro cafe by the lake, it was like being back in a work canteen in the 1950s.

Part Five: Putney Bridge to Richmond Bridge

This was the most straightforward of the walks, it was surprising how much the riverside had been developed, mostly flats and accompanying restaurants, bars, green spaces and helicopter pads. An interesting diversion could have been the London Wetland Centre at Barnes. Richmond Riverside was a good place to end the walk, with a cup of tea at the Tide Tables riverside cafe.

Part Six: Richmond Bridge to Hampton Court

This part of the path felt very familiar to me, it is near the area I grew up in. The riverside walk between Twickenham and Richmond is particularly lovely. On the way is the Marble Hill House and gardens and a lovely children's playground. This walk passes through a lot of greenery and ends up at one of my favourite London places: Hampton Court. 

The last time I visited Hampton Court we were treated to many different historical scenarios. Amy was pleased to meet Catherine Parr in one of the drawing rooms, a conspiracy concerning Charles I was being conducted in a shady passageway, jousting was taking part in the grounds. We also visited the wardrobe costumes for the Other Boleyn Girl. The cafes have become crowded and overpriced, but the maze is definitely worth exploring. 

The Thames Path continues past Hampton Court, maybe I will explore it further, beyond London, in the future.

Monday, 1 January 2018

Continuing in Concert

I had my first piano lesson in 1975. Since then I have played the recorder in local Eisteddfods and music festivals, sang in a choir, participated in a college musical, completed an acting course and performed my songs in folk clubs in and around London and South East England, however it wasn’t until 2010 that I started playing classical piano pieces in public, primarily in local churches. 

Since 2010 I have developed a repertoire of over twenty pieces that I find very enjoyable both to play and to listen to. You can listen to these favourite piano pieces by going to my ‘At the piano’ playlists, which are available on YouTube and 8Tracks.

Monday, 18 December 2017

ALF Christmas cards

After designing my own grown-up Christmas Cards in 2015 I went through Amy's old drawings and found six that I thought could be developed into lovely child-like Christmas card designs. Together with mine they form the basis of a ten card collection.

Monday, 11 December 2017

ALF @ Landmark

I watched this church in Teddington deteriorate, over the years, from the top of a double decker bus on the way to Kingston. A few years ago it was taken over by the Landmark art centre. Now you can visit various arts and crafts exhibitions, held there on occasions throughout the year. In 2016 Amy and I visited twice.

The first visit was to the art show which Amy found very inspiring. The artists came from all over Britain and beyond, we especially enjoyed the natural landscapes and floral designs. The second visit was more crafty and Christmassy. There was food and drink on offer as well as glass fusion pieces, pottery, candles, porcelain lampshades, handmade soap and various needle-crafts. There were a few painters but not so many as previously. I bought Amy another needle-felt slide for her hair.

Monday, 4 December 2017


 Pulsar has been a work in progress for some time now. I wanted the illustration to look something like a 1950s sci-fi film poster, but I think my picture above looks more like 'Scooby Doo' than 'When Worlds Collide.' I have recently completed a more successful science fiction picture called 'Out of this world', I have used it as background for my poem 'Pulsar Observation'.

The most successful 1950s Sci-Fi inspired poster I did, previously, was for 'Destination Deep Space'. 

Monday, 27 November 2017

The Watering Hole

This essay / piece of flash fiction helped me get my A in my English Language O'level, so I will always be grateful to it. It can also be found on my WattPad page.

The Watering Hole by Lorna Wadge
Candy sat in the pub with a double whisky, as recommended by ‘Kerrang’, and her boyfriend, Syd. She looked deeply troubled; since waking earlier that afternoon she found she was profoundly concerned for the future of Rock’n’Roll.
Syd was irritated. He stood up.
‘Where are you going?’ Candy asked.
‘You’re so depressing,’ he growled and left.
Candy was on the verge of arguing that she had not said anything all evening, but she thought better of it.
‘He’ll see the light,’ Candy thought, obviously not on the same wavelength as Syd, who had a mind like a cess-pit.
Syd was in fact the cleverest boy Candy had gone out with, he was ‘brave’ enough to drive a car and was the fastest ‘Rizzla roller-upper’ in the Black Dog. Candy had said of this latter accomplishment ‘you’ve got to have something in this life.’
Supplying the music this Thursday night was a pretentious wimp, who played the synthesizer and sang of love lost, love found and love in similar predictable situations, all of which left Candy seething and in a good mind to select ‘rip it up’ on the juke-box, but now found she was too legless to move.
‘This Evan Williams is strong stuff,’ she concluded, while setting fire to the wrong end of a Marlboro cigarette and struggling with an awkward packet of cheese and onion flavoured crisps.
The time was nine o’clock and the bar was filling up fast. The sound of the synthesiser player became weedier as people chatted about mundane matters such as ‘the washing machine's been playing up again’ and ‘I must see the chiropodist.’
Candy reminisced about the old days.
‘I remember the great guitarists,’ she told herself, ‘Shame about Hendrix.’
She also remembered Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison and a joke about necrophiliacs paying death duties.
‘Huh,’ Candy stood up and smoothed down her bourbon stained ‘Pop Art’ dress. She blinked, tried to focus her eyes on the wall and her mind on her usual worries and hang-ups and she staggered over to the ‘Way Out’.
When she had reached the door, she turned.
‘Save Rock’n’Roll,’ she screamed and spent ten minutes trying to make a dramatic exit by slamming the saloon bar door.

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Goodbye to All That (5B450)

2017 has ended up being quite a goal orientated year, mostly because of my idea for a 5B450 project which I had at the beginning of the year. The idea was to do five achievable things that I'd always wanted to do, but never got around to doing, before I reached my 50th birthday in November. These are the five things I achieved.

1. See a Shakespeare play at the Globe Theatre
One of our favourite London walks is between the Royal Festival Hall and Southwark Cathedral. Near the end of it is the Globe Theatre. Every time we passed it I thought 'we must go and see a play there'. We saw 'Romeo and Juliet' in May 2017.

2. Attend a School of Life event
I have been a fan of the School of Life since it was set up in the late noughties. The 'How to be serene' seminar I attended in June fitted in with my newly developed Stoical philosophy of life.

3. Get the house redecorated
Some of the house hadn't seen a lick of paint since we moved in over twenty years ago. I'd been dreaming of a pale orange landing (mango melody shade 3) for over ten years. Now I see it every time I exit my bedroom.

4. Join a book club
Always having my young daughter around meant not joining groups where I could socialise in the evenings. I finally joined an evening book club in early October 2017.

5. Visit New York City
The biggest of my 5B450s was my visit to New York City in late October 2017. I'd been wanting to go there since I was about 15. It felt like a dream when I rode in a yellow taxi from JFK to my hotel and sat at my hotel window looking out at Upper West Side Manhattan. I now have my photos and diary to look back on and I'm really pleased with myself for making that trip.

As well as these five things, I wanted 2017 to be memorable in other ways too. I made sure I had something special to do each month; whether it was a Bowie book signing in Kensington, a London walk, visiting Brighton and the Lake District, doing a craft fair or just enjoying a celebratory meal. I also had a few virtual goals too, like producing over 50 blog posts, making more use of Wattpad and writing more book reviews. I don't know what 2018 will bring, whether I'll attempt some goal free living, more in depth work or just help other people more. In the words of someone suffering from severe short term memory loss, I think I'll do 'whatever is beneficial'.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

London Walks: a ghost walk

One of the highlights of my 2012 visit to Edinburgh was the ghost walk. Edinburgh is a great place for a ghost walk, an old Scottish-Gothic city with a murky past of fake witchcraft, over drinking and English nastiness. Cardiff in 2013 was too new for a ghost walk, but there is still enough of the old city of London to make for a substantial ghost walking experience. My ghost walk was a birthday treat on a misty chilly evening in November.

We started at Bank Station. I know from experience that Bank-Monument tube station is a tangled maze, so I was quite careful to get the exact exit to meet up with our guide and fellow ghost-walkers; the guide was an articulate English lady in a flowery hat. After the rules of the walk were explained to us we ventured out into the modern city. Most people on the walk were tourists and there was a little explanation of traffic protocol, in particular zebra crossings, before we proceeded into the shadowy alleyways of the City of London.

There are many old churches in the city, our guide pointed out one which had been bombed out during the blitz leaving it a particularly eerie looking sight on a moonlit, late autumnal night. We often found ourselves walking in the footsteps of Ebenezer Scrooge, down the alleyways of old London and within the earshot of the church bells that heralded the arrival of Scrooge's three redemptive spirits. The whole atmosphere and lighting of our walk did invite ghostly imaginings of half seen reflections and illusions, of odd shapes and figures.

There was talk of supernatural dramas and Harry Potter films around Leadenhall Market and our walk ended in the shadow of the Guild Hall. The London ghost walk was not as creepy as the Edinburgh ghost walk, but I'm glad we did it, maybe the Jack the Ripper walk would have proved more chilling.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Poppies in November

I buy a remembrance day poppy every year and think I will continue to do so, however I do find the regular poppies rather difficult to wear. After seeing Amy's godmother wearing a very pleasing crocheted poppy, one evening at our church concert, I decided to have a go at making one myself. I went on to make several poppies one of which now belongs to my niece.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

New York Top Twelve (5B450)

My much anticipated trip to New York did not disappoint. The city was every bit as surprising, diverse and fascinating as I thought it would be. I was on my own and had a packed itinerary for myself, visiting about four interesting places each day over the six days I was there. Although I enjoyed everywhere I visited, these are my top twelve NYC highlights.

1. Central Park
Beautiful in autumn, vast, so I only saw bits of it. I enjoyed Strawberry Fields, Alice in Wonderland, the boating lake and a pumpkin muffin and earl grey tea in Le Pain Quotidien.

2. Brooklyn Bridge
A most unexpected bridge with the walk way in the middle of its famous intricate structure. Quite a walk with breathtaking views all round.

3. Lincoln Center
It was nearly sunset when I visited and the center was at its most glittering. All the theatres in the center looked lovely and inviting. The most spectacular was the Metropolitan Opera House. Unfortunately I didn't have the opportunity to see an opera, but I did visit the gift shop and bought a postcard.

4. Grand Central Terminal
The most beautiful railway station I've ever seen. The zodiac ceiling is exquisite and the polished surfaces, grand staircases and sparkling main hall are all quite mesmerising. I lingered a while and drank iced tea in the downstairs food hall.

5. Metropolitan Museum of Art
I thought it would be good, but it turned out to be even better. The building itself was spectacular and beautiful and likewise the exhibits within. My favourite of all was the recreation of a Frank Lloyd Wright drawing room, but there was so much more, the recreation of rooms from French palaces and an Egyptian tomb were also further highlights.

6. New York Public Library
I have never before encountered such a beautiful public library as the one on 42nd Street New York. The entrance reminded me of the Paris Opera House. The reading rooms were grand, gorgeous and open to anyone. A very inspiring space.

7. Staten Island Ferry
I didn't want to do anything too touristy on my holiday and someone suggested that viewing the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry was a good alternative to an organised tour of Liberty Island. They were right, it was good enough for me and Staten Island is also an interesting place to visit if you have time to linger a little while.

8. Poe Cottage
Being a big Edgar Allan Poe fan I felt I couldn't leave New York without visiting Poe's Cottage and visitors' centre located in Poe Park, the Bronx. It was an unexpected pleasure to enjoy the personal talk, brief tour and film about the last three years of Poe's life, looking after his dieing wife and finally making that last fateful trip to Baltimore, all from this tiny home. It was all very sad, sobering and poignant, not to mention thought provoking.

9. The Highline
A disused railway line turned into a beautiful park; the idea itself is wonderful. I walked all along the High Line back and forth and enjoyed all of it. Amongst the autumnal leaves and flowers were weird, modern art sculptures every so often and some of the most comfortable street furniture I've had the pleasure to sit on.

10. Coney Island
I could not have gone to New York and not visited Coney Island. I did not know what to expect, October is most definitely out of season. What I received was unexpected and intriguing. The strong Atlantic winds blew across the promenade, which was eerie and nearly deserted except for a few stragglers. All was shut, including Nathans, except for one lone retro beach shop. I'm glad I got there.

11. 9/11 memorial
Like all great cities New York has had its fair share of rough and smooth, good and bad. I found the 9/11 memorial a particularly touching commemoration of this, most possibly, darkest episode in the life of this beautiful city.

12. Top of the rock
I felt I couldn't leave New York without getting high up and looking down at the city from a great height. I chose the 70th floor of the Rockefeller Center for this particular experience. It cost a bit of time and money to do it, but I think the views speak from themselves.

These are merely my highlights, the list could go on but for now I will stop there.

Monday, 30 October 2017

The Abandoned Baby

Amy came up with this sweet, but sad picture story a few years ago now. I have since put it together into a nine picture cartoon strip.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Book club adventures (5B450)

When I was running my SubVerse Poetry Group in the early noughties, two other tempting ideas were popular which I didn't have the opportunity to explore at the time. One was reading groups and the other was blogging. I finally started blogging in 2013 and joining a book club became my fourth 5B450 goal for 2017.

My first foray into reading groups was a complete disaster. There was a breakdown in communication, there was no room in the group, I left the library dejected. I ended up in the local pub, drowning my sorrows over half a pint of Guinness.

My second attempt to join a book club was even more of a disaster. The time listed on the meeting page was in total conflict with reality. The book club was meant to meet at 7 pm, when the library was in fact closed.

For my third attempt at joining a book club I turned away from the library avenue towards the modern Meetup internet avenue. Here I found Ruislip Readers who meet monthly in an unassuming pub in Ruislip.

It was October when I joined and they were in a Halloween mood. In this month we were reviewing Stephen King's 'The Shining', a book I had already read, although had not reviewed on Good Reads.

The Ruislip Book-to-Film Club did not disappoint. The company, chat and accompanying craft beer were all quite wonderful. I had to rake through my memory for choice nuggets about The Shining, both the book and the film were mild obsessions of mine about twenty years ago. While the first hour was full of Stephen King chat, the second was mostly preoccupied with what we were going to read and watch next. I put in a bid for Daphne Du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rebecca'. I left satisfied with the proceedings and the upcoming prospect of reading and watching Agatha Christie's 'Murder on the Orient Express' ready for the next meetup in November.

The Shining - Review by LJ Finnigan (read at Christmas, 1995)

I don't read many Stephen King books as I find them so scary. This one I found to be particularly so. There is a bit of background story about the father's job situation and his son's specially sensitive nature, 'the shining', before we arrive in the main setting of the story. The Overlook Hotel is a huge, hollow place in the middle of nowhere and is a fully blown character in itself. In this desolate building, the father, Jack, his vulnerable wife, Wendy, and special little boy, Danny, arrive as guardians for the off-season. Winter deepens, the hotel gets snowed in, the family gets more isolated and the nightmares become more real, in particular the father becomes even more scary than the ghosts, that inhabit the hotel. The father was very vividly brought to life, in Stanley Kubrick's film, by Jack Nicholson, for me the most stand out performance of his career. The endings of the book and the film are quite different, I preferred the book's ending. That said, I think the book and the film are both great.