When I met Lady Baden Powell

August 12, 2007

When I met Lady Baden Powell
The recent Scout celebrations prompted me to remember when I met Lady Baden Powell in a similar celebration in Tasmania, many years ago.
I was a very young Brownie in those days and there were many preparations to greet the wife of the founder of the Scout Movement. A special costume was prepared weeks before and I was to be a duck-billed platypus. I was to lie on the ground with my plump little body covered in the costume and I was to stretch my hand forward to slip a letter of greeting through the bill of the platypus to present it to the good Lady.
The whole township was agog and the day finally arrived. I lay on the ground, my costume carefully pulled over me so that I was completely hidden. I waited patiently.I squinted through a little gap between the costume and me and could just see the steady approach of the feet of the Lady. When her sturdy shoes reached me, I pushed the letter through the bill. Mission accomplished and the costume still held in position. I was relieved.
The kind Lady laughed took the letter then, to my child’s mind, ruined it all by lifting the costume right up and exposing me in my Brownie Uniform lying flat out on the ground. Did I smile and say how pleased I was to meet her? Not me – I insisted on pulling the costume back into place saying crossly “I am a platypus!”
In spite of this rather dodgy start, I remained a Brownie and enjoyed many years a as Guide to learn survival techniques in the bush, making safe fires, finding and eating witchetty grubs under the bark of trees, learning how to deal with snake bite, finding south using the Southern Cross constellation of stars in the sky and ‘the usual’ activities of the Scouting and Guiding meetings that have continued to take place since.


I have a complaint

August 12, 2007

Thank goodness for the opportunity to express one’s thoughts on this website. A great place to sound off – especially when the issue seems to be very relevant. I think you’ve got it by now – I want to be a writer, a working, paid writer. I have been trying to be a writer for some time now. I managed to get a job writing for a small publication – I was paid ‘the going rate’ for my reviews. All was well. Then there was a change of editor. I send reviews regularly – most are ignored. I complained for the people who took part were peeved that they were ‘reported but not published’. I complained to the editor, the editor’s boss and the editor’s boss’s boss. Stone cold indifference.

I was delighted when my photos and a review were finally published. The sum total of payment for the job – £5!

On the other side of the coin a friend who is a writer complains she has too much writing work to do – writing marketing type articles for companies. Are we now a nation of advertisers advertising advertisers with nothing to show for it? Are our businesses reduced to being mere parasites on each other, not really contributing anything concrete or important? Is the media determined to stifle those of us who try to write and report events that really happen?

I love Spanish flamenco music

July 23, 2007

I adore the gutsy sound of Spanish flamenco music. I went to a concert recently and there were two guitarists and drummer playing gypsy flamenco from the south of Frence. – Great stuff. I wrote a review of them as I am wont to do. I have great trouble in trying to use plain English – I always sound as if I am talking through the top of my head – so, if you can bear with me, I will keep trying to come down to earth and write approachable reviews.
Here it is if you have time to read it:
Review of Lost Gitanos in the Mathodist Church Ely
Matthew and Graham Austin, two Ely residents who contribute to the daily running of Ely Cathedral, have an amazing talent. As “Los Gitanos” their guitar playing displays phenomenal virtuosic techniques that get right to the heart of the impassioned gypsy flamenco music that they play.
At their concert in Ely Methodist Church recently, accompanied by Crispin Semmens on drums (tabla or cajon), they drew the listeners into an exciting world of earthy, emotive music. Their strong fingers flew across the fingerboards in a faultless blur, at one time striking very clear folk melodies at another branching into rolling chords that adapted and changed, taking us to unexpected places. Captivating rhythms were enhanced with percussive fingers on the guitar case and with Crispin’s sensitively attuned drumming.
The atmosphere was exhilarating, involving us in moments of frenzy (e.g. “Rhuma de Manitas”), gentle amorous contemplation (e.g. “Amor d’un dia”), melancholy (e.g. “Sol del Moro” or contentment (e.g. “Caminando por la Calle”).
Ely is very fortunate to have such a talented trio in its midst. It is no wonder that they are in high demand and that they have played at fascinating venues such as the International Festival of Gypsy Life and for Hollywood superstar Cate Blanchett at the private celebration to mark the end of the filming of “The Golden Age”.
Their next major event will be in Ely Cathedral on September 6th 2007. You are advised to book early.
Rosemary Westwell

recycled teenagers on the language learning front

July 8, 2007

I’ve spent most of the day in the company of good friends. But this was no ordinary get-together – we all want to improve our French (what little we speak) and one way or another we are indeed learning new words each time we meet. As we are no spring chickens (I’d better say I am speaking for myself here) we know that it is probably going to be difficult, but there is little to say that we can’t learn a language as quickly as we did when we were young. We forget that when we were young we had all the time in the world to play at learning – when I was little I certainly didn’t have to do the shopping, clean the house, take the children backwards and forwards from school, do the ironing, gardening, admin and letter writing and go out to full-time work. So, if we recycled teenagers can still learn – who is to say that we can’t learn as well as we could when we were youngsters?

letter from the UK

July 8, 2007

I write a letter to my friends across the seas on a monthly basis. I try to give a taste of ordinary life in Cambrdigeshire (UK) from the eyes of an Aussie-born semi-retired recycled teenager. Please feel welcome to read these letters as I paste them in my blog.

June 07

Well, I guess we have to admit ‘flaming June’ was indeed ‘flaming June’ but only in the Aussie colloquial sense – i.e. we had sunshine very occasionally and enjoyed the rain that we missed in April instead. I hope you had some good times yourself. I had looked forward to strawberries and the tennis at Wimbledon – the strawberries I have been enjoying very much and Wimbledon only occasionally in between the rain. Getting on in years I am starting to sympathise with those quaint ‘old’ characters I have met previously – like my dear old landlady at Manor Farm in Peterborough. She used to sit almost on top of the TV to see it – now that I am developing cataracts it seems, I too am having to perch myself very close to the screen if I really want to see – many of those fantastic plays at Wimbledon were missed by me for I could not see the ball! Still the replays new to Wimbledon were very helpful. Fortunately I am told that there is a quick and easy operation they can do to restore my sight.

Family are all fine. Daughter Susie quiet on the home front – her end of term looming. My John (husband) is the same although a wound he has on his right hip has proved to be MRSA positive. This month I was honoured to be invited to baby sit the grandchildren Elisabeth (10, disabled) and James (coming up to 2). Parents Jenny and Jon did all they could to make it easy for me and I even managed to get together my usual healthy salad lunch along with their different meals. I planned a proper sit down lunch family-style. I should have known better – both children really did not want to sit at the table so I remained in glorious isolation watching them from afar as the food was carried and dropped around the room. Mid meal, there was no mistaking it – each one in turn needed their nappies changing – the worst kind for the day, of course.  Not the most pleasant of meals I have enjoyed recently. However, it was lovely to play with them (when they would let me) and to see how they are developing. James loves his fruit and he made himself very popular with me by calling me ‘Nanna’ and I think he learnt ‘plumb’ pronounced ‘umb’ by him.

The course at the language school in Cambridge finished on the 8th of June. The staff is very conscientious and I was determined to get them to smile at least once before I left. I made them my Guinness and Walnut cake and left it for them to take a piece at coffee break time. Next to it I left a recipe for fruit cake – not a proper one but a hilarious version given to me by Jenny’s mother –in- law (Anna), which suggests you regularly sample the vodka or whatever to test its quality and gradually gets more and more confused until it ends “Who wants fruitcake anyway!” It brought a few chuckles from the staff as planned

I’ve enjoyed some fantastic concerts – an amazing violinist and a concert at Fordham which featured the Saffron Walden Choral Society conducted by Janet Wheeler. I knew her from my days at the King’s School Junior School when the junior choir went down to the BBC to record for her – she produces schools programmes. I knew she was going to be good because I saw her in action as she tidied up my choir ready for recording.

Piano pupils are working towards exam soon and spa parties continue..

I hope all is well with you? RJW

creative banking

July 2, 2007

I once thought that of all the institutions there are, you could trust banks to try to get it right, at least. A few seconds late with payments and they soon whack on the interest – they never seem to miss. Then I had a sneak look at my accounts online on the 1st of June. To my horror the bank had obviously ‘made up’ the dates. Entries of money being taken out had been listed using tomorrow’s date! If we tried to send post dated cheques would they accept them? – I think not. The other trick they have, I notice, is making you sign for currency that you have not actually received in your tiny hot hand while they hug it behind the bullet proof screen behind the counter in the bank. How are we to know that the teller is not suddently going to grab the money and run? – after all, we will have signed to say that we have received it already. Methinks I am going to look sideways at my banks’ activities in future. RJW

the personal touch

June 29, 2007

The personal touch is the only way to communicate. Face to face – one-to-one. Email and blogs like this are OK but with immediate responses from the person you are trying to contact is much more effective and productive. You can get immediate feedback on your ideas and can devleop them together without trapsing through pages of info that my not match what you want to know exactly. Looking at your friend in the eye you can tell what they are really thinking, you can ask questions to get to the point and you can cheer ’em up and encourage them to provide more information. They say it is ‘who you know’ that counts and this is very true. Having spent over £1000 to a rogue plumber from the Yellow Pages, only word by mouth brought forth a reputable plumber so it’s word by mouth for me in future. So, why am I writing this blog to strangers? I am writing it because when I met a friend today she reminded me that if you want to be a writer, first you have to write! cheers Rosemary Westwell

Fancy a good film? Try this one – it makes you think

April 6, 2007

Blog 2

Well, I say I want to be a writer – but, let’s face it, my first attempt at blogging wasn’t exactly inspired – Who on earth wants to read a dry academic-type review of a film if you only want to have a chat.?

So, you might find my little monthly chat I send to some of my friends a little easier to read.

I started writing these letters years ago – as a way of keeping in touch with my daughters.  Then I thought it might help me keep in touch with friends far and wide – so now my long suffering friends put up with receiving these monthly letters. They get them in their email boxes, – fortunately you can choose to open these letters or not.  

I wait in hope to receive return letters from daughter and friends, but I don’t think they all want to become writers, so they don’t have the drive to practise their writing in the same way. Also, some of friends have already made it as writers so they don’t need to practise like me. But, there is always hope…

So here goes, the first monthly letter put on the web as a ‘blog’ – (I hope). I should say, before any prospective burglars out there get any ideas – when I am in Spain I have no end of people in my house in the UK and when I’m in the UK I rent out my flat in Spain (half price at the moment £70) – oops another promise I make is that my monthly letters are not going to be selling agents! There is enough of that sort of thing already – unless, of course, you absolutely love my style of writing and want to sign me up to publish!


March 07 I hope you are well and enjoying a very pleasant spring. Much of the month for me was spent in my apartment in
Spain. The first few days were windy, but after then I had yet another lovely summer although the sea water wasn’t quite warm enough to go swimming. One of my first jobs was to buy a DVD player so I could watch some DVD’s to review for the
London Human Rights Watch Film Festival. I spent the evenings watching a good film and the following mornings writing a review. Then I toddled down to the internet café and sat at ‘my usual’ post – the one that would let me use my memory stick/USB stick whatever, and pasted my review into an email to the website who wanted them. (The website is altfg.com, if you are interested.) Buying a DVD was easier than I thought – it was simply a matter of walking into town, going to the ‘high street’ (Calle Ramon Gallud) and asking for the cheapest and lightest DVD players they had in the nearest electrical shop.
They have a couple of theatres in Torrevieja so I later on in the holiday I persuaded kind long suffering English neighbours to come with me to hear a Spanish concert. We were a bit worried when we were treated to a series of Spanish speeches –which none of us understood. However, we were eventually treated to some choral singing. It was interesting to hear the Torreviejan habaňera (you know the one with the rhythm da- di da- da-) It was certainly much more musical than the one I am used to hearing in Bizet’s ‘Carmen’.I tried to improve my Spanish, but having long breaks in between doesn’t help. There is a thin line between having a friendly chat with a stranger and going too far with this activity. However, so far, so good and as I spent nearly every day at the same table I book by the sea front, the waiters know me by now, so I hope if there is any trouble, they will come to rescue!. One day there was a quiet retired couple sitting next to me. The chap and I had obviously ordered paella which is cooked fresh so we had a while to wait. Trying to use the time profitably I said in my limited Spanish that we were obviously both waiting for paella. We had a little conversation and I learned that he and his wife were on holiday. I understood that there were from
Madrid and had several properties in Torrevieja – although they may have been talking about children for all I know. I eventually asked what he did for a job with which he whipped out his badge and announced that he was with the police. I gulped and continued. His badge was a lovely large gold one – different to the tinny ones seen on TV.
Mother’s Day, English style, was during my stay in Spain and, ‘typical’ I thought, the macho Spanish have no Mother’s Day at that time – they have a Father’s Day which is considered a ‘big deal’ on the following day. However, they assured me they celebrate Mother’s Day in May. Still when I returned home there was a lovely box of chocolates to enjoy from the two daughters – growing up nicely I thought. The chocolates gave me an excuse to stop trying to be on permanent starvation rations and just to try to eat sensibly – one choc a day. We’ll see.In my final week I caught up with some of my English friends and on the day before I left
Spain, my doorbell rang and it was José who had called at my door previously. He wanted to practise his English and I wanted to practise my Spanish so we held a long conversation and, of course, I agreed to buy some lottery tickets. He assured me he would ring my English phone number if I won – I await his call. The remainder of the month was filled with going to
London to see the film festival (see separate letter).
Take care. RJW 

London visit with a difference – a true story

I had an interesting time in
London last week.

I had booked into a hotel for four nights paying a princely sum that indicated my stay would be quite luxurious. I arrived on Friday to be given a single room with en suite as requested. The room was adequate enough, although you had to fight the drawers a little to open them. I unpacked my suitcase, made a nice cup of tea, didn’t worry too much about there being no biscuits (good for the diet) and relaxed watching TV. Then I heard a sudden splashing of water. Water was pouring out of a shelf above the hand basin in the en suite. With the sound of gushing water still in my ears, I dialled reception on the internal phone. After some delay there was no reply so I went down to the reception area by lift. The reception area was packed with people trying to register for their stay.  Thinking that the water level in my room could have reached ankle height by now, I threw all caution to the wind and shouted loudly above the sea of heads: “There’s water gushing into my room!” The people waiting to register immediately turned to look at me and staff suddenly appeared very willing to help.

I was given an alternative room and moved all my things into this new single room. I went out of the hotel to get a breath of fresh air (obviously forgetting about the massive fumes from the continuous flow of traffic that fills the
London streets nowadays). When I returned to my room, the key would not work. I tried it at least 6 times and asked a passer-by to check. It still did not work.

I went down to the reception area and complained. I was allocated another, better room – one with a bath as well as a shower. I changed rooms and unpacked everything. I sat at the desk to practise my writing. However, when I stood up, I bumped my head on the shelf above the desk. I decided to take care not to bump my ahead again. After I found myself reeling from bumping my head for a fourth time I decided it was getting too dangerous so went again to reception and complained.

I was allocated a deluxe twin room. Getting wary by now, I asked if I could perhaps check it first and so I went to see the room. Yes, I would avoid bumping my head, but there were no drawers for my clothes – living out of a suitcase is for camping holidays for me and certainly not when I would be paying such a phenomenally high price. So, I turned the room down.

I was finally allocated a room which fitted the bill. There was a light for the bedroom, there were drawers in which to put my clothes (although you still had to fight them a little) and I did not bump my head when I sat at the desk. The only drawback, if any, was that you had to prop a cupboard door open with the Yellow Pages if you wanted to watch TV. I was also pleased to discover that I no longer had to dry myself with a wet towel after going swimming.

I had prepared to go swimming before I changed rooms for the final time and after I unpacked I took the lift to the pool area. The pool was closed so I could not go swimming after all. I went upstairs ready to enjoy and Italian meal like the one I had enjoyed there previously. The restaurant was shut.

At about 11 p.m. that night, I decided to go to bed and discovered that I must have left my nightdress under one of the pillows in one of the previous rooms I had settled in. I went down to reception and asked if I could retrieve the nightdress from one of my previous rooms. One of the staff started to suggest that I waited until the morning, but fortunately another staff member escorted me to the previous room and let me in so I could retrieve the nightdress and have something to wear for the night.

The next evening I had booked with a friend to go to the cinema in Brixton. I asked the staff to book me a return taxi for the show, but they refused – they do not do that anymore because the taxis never turn up. I persuaded the staff to let me have the phone number of a Brixton taxi firm to bring us back after the film at about 11p.m. The taxi was successfully booked and I was assured that a taxi would be waiting for us outside the cinema at 11p.m. that night. After the film was over, at about 11 p.m. we went and waited outside the cinema. There was no taxi in sight. We asked the staff of the cinema for help – they told us the taxi cab office was round the corner, assured us the taxi would turn up eventually and firmly locked the cinema doors behind us. We waited. After some minutes we were accosted by a man who wanted money – he had only just got out of prison, he told us. My kind friend gave him some money. I shepherded my friend quickly away and towards the taxi cab office but there was no sign of it as we rounded the corner.  We were then accosted by a girl who was a little more determined and she demanded money for her baby. I hailed a taxi, which stopped but when we told him where our hotel was, and that it was a little unsafe here so could we get in – he refused, told us we should cross the street to make it easier for another taxi driver to take us and drove off. My friend had a knee injury that was not quite healed, so she had no running speed. However, I manoeuvred her smartly across the street half dragging her so that we could stand in the lights of MacDonald’s.  Before we could be accosted again we finally managed to hail a taxi. 

Needless to say, although I enjoy staying in
London as a rule, I don’t think I will try to replicate this stay on my next visit. 


Blog 1

Review of the film “Hot House”

When “Hot House” was shown as part of the Human Rights Watch International Film Festival in
London, it was received by the audience in stunned silence. The chilling reality that the film portrayed made it almost impossible for us to extricate ourselves from its powerful message – there was too much to think about; we could not drag ourselves back easily into our very different world of banal complacency. This was undoubtedly a very powerful film.

Written and directed by Shimon Dotan, and produced by Arik Berbstein, Jonathan Aroch, Dikla Barkal and Shimon Dotan, the film presents a number of Palestinian male and female prisoners inside Ber
Ashkelon, Hadarim and
Megiddo prisons in
Israel. These inmates face the camera with confidence, announcing their sentences and crimes of terrorism as symbols of their patriotism and courage. With intellectual frigidity they pledge their existence to what they believe to be their Palestinian cause. In their minds, sending suicide bombers to kill a maximum of Jews is a legitimate and significant act of political endeavour.

Within the walls of the prisons an extension of the
Palestine state is being established, maintained and developed with a certain amount of compliance by the Israeli guards. More experienced prisoners lead a population in the region of 8 thousand, establishing a governmental structure that replicates
Palestine itself, communicating frequently with the world outside by secret messages, smuggled mobile phones and other undisclosed methods.

With considerable pride, witness after witness testifies to their allegiance to this mindset. Asked if they felt remorse after the death of innocent children, the response was immediately “Of course not”. The same individuals who express love for their own families smile proudly at the idea of their own children becoming suicide bombers for the sakes of their cause. We were shown scenes of young inmates educating themselves, learning Hebrew and taking university degrees. This is no ignorant population.

Ron Klein’s music adds considerably to the chilling effect. As the witnesses speak of their firm commitment to their intransigent beliefs, uneasy tones hover as a constant message in the background.

With unequivocal clarity this film brings into the open the ongoing conflict of interests that exist in the powder keg that is the city of
Jerusalem and the surrounding countryside. The struggle for Palestinians and Israelis for their right to land and a living remains unresolved while one culture is dominated by another and while injustices remain unattended and unresolved.

The film is in Hebrew, Arabic and English with English subtitles and with particularly well crafted timing and clearly presented text, the message is an effective and cohesive portrayal of representatives’ beliefs.

For more information contact: http://www.hrw.org; http://www.thefrontlinerclub.com

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April 5, 2007

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