Posted in Books, Life, Love and Laughter

Book Review – The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I have never written a book review before, but this blogging lark is all about new experiences, so here goes.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles by Hiro Arikawa

I picked up ‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ from the Central Library in Liverpool a couple of weeks ago, and with moving house and general busyness I have only just managed to finish it. Why did I pick it up? Well as with most books I choose, I liked the cover. I know, I know – but it was soooo pretty. Blue covers seem to do it every time, but this one also had an oriental style painting of a cat on the front. It was a winner from the off.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is the story of Satoru who rescues a stray cat and then takes him around Japan in his van to visit his friends, but we don’t why know until later in the book. I tried to finish it on the bus tonight but I knew I was about to cry, so I had to wait until I got home and then blubbed away to my hearts content.

It’s a gentle, warm story that you just can’t put down (unless you are about to embarrass yourself on the Number 82) and tells of friendship and companionship between Satoru and his cat Nana, but also between him and his childhood and university friends as well. Satoru has had a hard time, but he is never seen to complain or bemoan his lot in life, and the writer doesn’t dwell on it either. He is a truly gentle, kind soul and the story depicts that perfectly. The humour comes mostly from Nana’s side of the story, looking into the strange human world that he has chosen to live in. Anyone who loves cats will know that you do begin to wonder who adopted who. Did Satoru adopt a cat, or did Nana adopt a lonely young man?

It is also a great introduction to a country I know very little about. From the changing seasons, to the diverse landscapes and the understated customs, it is an interesting and evocative read.

The author Hiro Arikawa lives in Tokyo and her book is a massive hit in Japan. It was translated from the original Japanese by Philip Gabriel and has since become an international hit too – and rightly so. In Japan the story has now been made into a film.

I was half way through the book before it occurred to me that the cover I love so much shows a picture of a black cat, but Nana is a white cat with a black tail. When I reached the end of the story I found out why. The painting is a work entitled ‘Man and the World’ painted by Shuai Liu, a Chinese painter with cerebral palsy. They simply fell in love with the picture, so used it for the cover. It obviously worked on me. The internal artwork was created by Yoco Nagamiya.

If you’re a cat lover, you will love this book. If you’re not a cat lover, you will also love this book. At just 247 pages long it is a truly lovely short novel that will find it’s way into your soul. Buy it, borrow it, gift it, but absolutely, definitely read it.

Posted in Uncategorized

Is Poetic Justice Wright Or Nott?

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justice

In the December 1904 issue of Green Bag, Vol. 16,there is an amusing account through poetry chronicling the aftermath of a court case. When the Court of Clams passed a judgment in the case of Harvey Steel Company v. United States, by a majority of four out of five judges, the majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Nott while Justice Wright wrote a dissenting opinion. Lincoln B. Smith wrote the following poem as a dedication to Justice Wright:

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Posted in Life, Love and Laughter

Smile :-)

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.

In the immortal words of Julie Andrews, when she’s feeling sad she simply remembers her favourite things and then she doesn’t feel so bad.

For me it is always music and in particular the video of the the American Marine’s parody of Carly Rae Jepson’s video ‘Call Me Maybe’.  Those guys are just so cute and some are clearly not as comfortable with it as others, but they always bring a smile.   So cool. 

The Brits in Iraq parodying ‘Is This The Way to Amarillo’ is next  This one crashed the Army’s website because it had so many views when it was released.   I particularly like the toilet humour – it is the British Military after all, I would expect nothing less.

Another good one is Bobby McFerrin’s video for ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’ with Robin Williams and Bill Irwin.   I can’t believe it’s from 1988 –  that’s 30 years ago!  And of course, more recently is ‘Happy’ by Pharrell Williams, that one is a little younger than Bobby’s.

Not seen them?  Google them – right now – they’re a must. I’ve saved them in my bookmarks.

It’s a well known fact that music can shape your moods so I also have a Spotify playlist called ‘My Happy Place’ filled with over 300 merry tunes to turn up nice and loud and sing along to.

As well as music there was a lovely train guard one day that brightened my day and when I see this in my notebook it always makes me smile.  He was a very jolly and flamboyant young man with a big beard.  I ordered coffee from him from the cart and as he passed me my cup he said in a grand booming voice “And of course don’t forget the stick of destiny.  All powerful … until … it … get’s … wet.  Oh well, maybe next time.” He was referring to the wooden stirrer that he dropped into my coffee as he said it.  I know – you had to be there – but he didn’t have to say anything and it really cheered me up on a long and boring journey where I hadn’t spoken to anyone for over 5 hours.

And finally, this sign outside a tiny church hall warmed the cockles.

“Feeling down in the mouth?  You need a faith lift.”

Add to this list my husband’s hugs, sunflowers, sunshine and the seaside, Kitty curled up on my lap, good friends and my kids banter around a dinner table and I think that’s me pretty much sorted for life.

So what is it that turns your frown upside down?

photography of woman surrounded by sunflowers
Photo by Andre Furtado on Pexels.com
Posted in Army, Poetry

The Ballad of the White Poppy

landscape red field flowers
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Red poppies worn proudly and tears left unshed

The white poppy scornful of those who have bled.

The last post they played and two minutes stood still,

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

 

A wife and her son watch the vanishing crowd,

Together in sadness in their mist made shroud.

Their soldier returned from a conflict so raw

He just couldn’t cope and began to withdraw.

 

His day of endurance his fight to survive

One more like all others, his ghosts to deprive.

Another night darkens and street lights turn on

Awaiting the morning, bad dreams to be gone.

 

She wonders ‘Where is he?’ and checks the doorways,

Her son he looks at her with his father’s gaze.

She squeezes his hand, he has grown up so tall.

Now home to the medals and to the Albert Hall.

 

Whores, thieves and wretches they all step around,

His eyes, they all know, still see a battleground.

A hand on his shoulder revives and consoles

The hot soup designed to save many lost souls.

 

The big empty bed and a breakfast for two

An empty place setting – if only he knew.

When he was on tour at least bluies they’d write

But now there was nothing, the day gave no light.

 

Fitfully sleeping to block out the day

His beds behind stations are then moved away.

Out of the rain but not out of the cold

If only he’d known this when he’d first enrolled.

 

The school run and home, they can both feel the chill.

She takes down his photo from a windowsill,

Puts it in a bag with the rest of the gear

Then leaves once again to find one they hold dear.

 

He misses the structure of his army life

And can’t bear to think about his child and wife.

The pain and the guilt drive their faces away

His head choked with thoughts of that one awful day.

 

Hostels and soup kitchens, picture in hand,

They’re searching the desert for one grain of sand.

The city is packed with the homeless and lost

But they’ll keep on searching, whatever the cost.

 

A churchyard tonight, his bed lies in a lee

The bright shining poppies a welcome red sea.

His friends may be missed, maimed or dead, many gone

But here with the poppies their memories live on.

 

“I’m sorry my darling we’ll try tomorrow.”

“I’ll be here again mum, as always, you know.”

Footsore and dejected they turn to go home

The world a dark place of a grey monochrome.

 

  A white poppy shines in the midst of the red

If he could just find some peace inside his head.

His heart scarce believes it, his mind it protests

As two friendly faces look down where he rests.

 

His son clasps his shoulder, his wife turns to say

“Would you like a drink to keep the cold at bay?”

Their eyes shine with love as they pass him some tea

And his tears fall unguarded on the white poppy.

 

He’s obliged to so many, his war has ended

His gratitude’s boundless for all that they did.

Two years have now passed and things have moved apace.

His family are comforted in his embrace.

 

Red poppies worn proudly for what went before,

The white for his family, the peace that they bore.

The Last Post they played and two minutes stood still.

Reveille revives them from November’s chill.

sunset sun horizon priroda
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Posted in Army, Poetry, Remembrance

Hourglass

Please bear with me this week as I share with you two of my poems.  I am not, in any way shape or form, a poet, but I was forced (kicking and often screaming) to write poetry for my MA in Creative Writing by the amazing and sadly missed Mr Nigel Jenkins from The Gower.  A lovely man and an inspirational teacher.

I produced two poems over that time which I am rather proud of and so I have decided to share my favourite, a few days before Remembrance Day and the second will be posted at the weekend.

This one is called ‘Hourglass‘ and records the moment we lined the route for one of our comrades whose coffin was being taken into a Chinook to fly him home from the Gulf.  This is, therefore, in Remembrance of several people.

  1. Sergeant John Nightingale for whom the poem is written.
  2. Lance Corporal Pete Mahoney who sadly took his own life soon after returning from Iraq.
  3. Flight Sergeant Anna Irwin, a truly inspirational person  and the light of everyone’s life taken far too soon by cancer, and who was standing next to me during this parade.
  4. And also of course, to Mr Nigel Jenkins who made me write the poem in the first place.

 

HOURGLASS

Together

Shoulder to shoulder

Dread, pain, sorrow and fear.

A thought, a sigh, the closeness of friends.

The bright flash of flag draped over

someone we hold dear.

The Chinook’s maw

Black

Open

Beckons.

Dusty desert boots

Six shoulder the load.

A stifled sob, gritted teeth, a silent tear.

The padre, the bible, the bugler, a sandstorm.

Two rows of uniforms

Left in silence

Alone.

Remembrance bench
Remembrance Bench, Hereford