Tag Archives: culture

Poem: House Full of Secrets

In the House Full of Secrets there was:134
A Conspiracy of Silence

A Broken Home

Dark Corners

Mysterious happenings

Things that didn’t make sense.

People
Repressed their Emotions
Lived on the Surface
Lived in the Waters of Forgetfulness
Had Superficial Relationships.

There was:
Disassociation
Pain
Grief135
Anxiety
Silence
Walls
Anger
Rage
Guilt

I
Tried to find out what was going on.
I
Was fobbed off.
No-one said it, but
I
Was “told” my feelings were not important.
I
Experienced:
Slatted Stairs Phobia
Escalator Phobia
Elevator Phobia
Castle Stairs Phobia136
Claustrophobia
Agoraphobia.
I
Acted Out
Became Depressed
Developed a Low Tolerance for Frustration
And
Disappeared.

Where is my place?
Who am I?

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Pat Barker’s Life Class

41zhniynv4l_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_Life Class is a novel about artists caught up in the chaos of war and how they respond to it.  The novel starts in 1914 with a group of art students at the famous Slade School of Art in London taking part in the life drawing class, when the famous Slade professor Henry Tonks shows up to critique the student’s work and the main character (Paul Tarrant) storms out of the room.

Meticulously researched, this novel is really a study of relationships between people and what happens when those relationships are put through the cauldron of war.  For those who love reading about this period of history, this novel is a treat, told by a person who has spent many years researching the subject matter.  It is also very relevant to today’s world where the US is fighting a war on two fronts.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Philippa Gregory’s The Other Boleyn Girl

51qevfktgql_sl160_Perhaps one of Philippa Gregory’s best-known novels – due to the recent movie starring Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johanssen and Eric Bana – this novel tells the story of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of the future Elizabeth I.  This novel is about a stormy relationship that ignited into a passion that destroyed the Catholic Church in England and ultimately led to tragedy when King Henry ordered the beheading of his wife Anne.

What was Anne’s crime? Although she was charged with incest and adultery, the real issue may have been her inability to bear Henry a son, and the resulting souring of their relationship.

What is brilliant about this novel is that it is told from the point of view of Anne’s sister Mary, who was one of King Henry’s mistresses before he embarked on an affair with Anne, and thus we are given a very different take not only on Anne, and King Henry, but also Anne’s brother George Boleyn, by someone who knew all these people very well.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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The Vanity Table

My mother used to have a dressing table 125that was done up in dark blue fabric decorated with gold thread that criss-crossed in a diamond pattern.  It was kidney shaped and consisted of two pillars of three drawers on either side, with room for a small stool in the center.  On top was placed a kidney-shaped glass, cut to the exact dimensions of the table with a 3-part glass mirror fixed to the back.
I loved that table.  It was like a huge jewelry box.  My mother was very neat and tidy, and everything had its place.  One drawer held all of her gloves.  She had dainty wrist gloves made of white lace, grey suede, and fawn.  She had leather driving gloves and thick gloves decorated with fur.  In another drawer, she kept silk scarves, neatly folded into piles of jeweled hues.  In the third drawer on the left hand side she had a collection of embroidered handkerchiefs, in piles of neatly ironed triangles.  On the other side she kept her jewelry in various cardboard boxes, marked Bentalls on them.  (Bentalls was the name of the local department store in Kingston-upon-Thames.) Here were pearl earrings, pearl strands, and heavy pendants on metal chains, brooches, and ear-bobs.
As a child I would happily spend hours sitting there while my mother was out at work, and my grandmother was downstairs doing the laundry or making lunch.  Then, “What do you think you’re doing?”  And I would jump to see my mother standing in the doorway. I flushed, guiltily aware that she didn’t like my going through her things.  My mother would sigh as she walked towards me.  Why aren’t you practicing your violin?
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and has recently opened her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2008. All rights reserved.

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Poem: As Rigid As Glass

I feel like glass.
As if at the slightest touch, I will shatter.
The light is bright, too bright.
I am dressed stylishly, and feel frozen.
The glass in my hand is chilled.118
My eyes are glazed.
Everyone around me chatters brightly.
But I am silent.
I feel frozen, unable to start.
Where do I begin?
Everyone has formed into groups?
So where do I belong?
How do I break in?

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Juliet Nicholson’s The Perfect Summer

51jouu3tjfl_sl160_A Perfect Summer chronicles the glorious summer of 1911, when life seemed to have a golden timeless quality, because it is set in sharp relief by the horrors of the Great War (1914-1918) that followed shortly thereafter.

We see the upper classes enjoying themselves at a charity ball, where the young ladies appear as white swans, except for the toast of the town Lady Diana Manners, who appears as a black swan.  We see the Ballets Russes arrive in England for the first time, with an incredible dancer named Vaslav Nijinsky.  We see a young Home Secretary named Winston Churchill worry about the increasing speed of change. And we also see the cracks in English society as the whole country is brought to a standstill by massive strikes.

All of this is seen through the lens of Juliet Nicholson, the granddaughter of Vita Sackville-West (of Sissinghurst fame) and Sir Harold Nicholson, who, through her connections, had access to intimate and rarely seen sources.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Poem: The Appassionata Sonata

The music curled out of the half-open door of the music shop.  It fell gently down and then rose quietly.
“That’s the Appassionata sonata,” remarked my mother.
The quiet opening closed and exploded in jazzy syncopated chords.  Suddenly it became quiet with a running note underneath like an underground stream.
It forced me to stop and listen to every note.
I felt caught, transported by emotion.
The music was pure. Grand. Magnificent. Rocky.
It took me out of my daily life.
It took me above myself.
It took me and held me.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises

“Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. Do not think that I am very much impressed by that as a boxing title, but it meant a lot to Cohn…”

With these words – which immediately give us a narrator with attitude – Ernest Hemingway begins his first big novel, published in 1926.  This novel perfectly evokes the twenties. It is a portrait of a group of British and American expatriates enjoying the café scene of Left Bank Paris, who decide to take an excursion to Pamplona in Spain to see bullfighting.

sunalsorisesWhat could be more charming or interesting than to see (or hear in Hemingway’s inimitable dialogues) these well-educated bright young things? And yet the ravages of the Great War lurk underneath the surface, with ruined bodies, ruined minds, cynicism and spiritual dissolution.

It is helpful to remember that when people talk about the “Lost Generation”, they mean the survivors of a horrible and wasteful war. This war killed so many young men (the first day of the Battle of the Somme in 1916 cost England 23,000 young men), that plenty of women had to live out their lives without any hope of marriage and family.

It is not surprising that the twenties – when people tried to cope with the aftermath of so much destruction – evokes so many images of light and darkness.  This book is particularly relevant today.

–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Book Review: Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina

This novel has one of my favorite opening lines:

“All happy families are alike but an unhappy family is unhappy after its own fashion.  Everything had gone wrong in the Oblonsky household. The wife had found out about her husband’s relationship with their former French governess and had announced that she could not go on living in the same house with him…”

Immediately, Tolstoy plunges us into a very unhappy situation, with a weeping wife, an uncomfortably guilty husband (forced to sleep on a morocco-leather couch in his study) and various people (including the husband’s sister Anna Karenina) who come to try and calm the situation.

annakareninaOf course, the novel is not really about Prince Stepan Oblonsky or his wife Dolly. Instead, it is a classically constructed tragedy about his sister Anna, her own unhappy marriage to a cold man, and her search for happiness.  Like a classical tragedy, we first meet Anna when she has position, money, family and her son to sustain her Then we see her gradually throw everything away in her pursuit of passion until she has nothing left.

This is a great novel that tells us much about the stifling lives that respectable women were forced to endure in the nineteenth century (the novel was written in 1873). It would make a perfect gift for a person of any age.
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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Fiction: Blosmy Bowes

“Who are you?” I demand, twisting around on my knees to face the slender twelve-year-old boy.  I speak in French, the language of the aristocracy.  He should understand, richly dressed as he is, in dark blue velvet with black stockings and shoes. With his pale face and grey-blue eyes, he looks very serious, altogether too serious for me.
He draws himself up and says, “And whom do I have the pleasure of talking to?”
I get up, brush my old blue woolen gown with muddy hands, fling my hair out of my face, and draw myself up.  Mama has sent me out on this fine December day to care for my garden, a small plot of land, which lies between the eastern side of Bulmer’s Tower and the curtain wall that surrounds the castle.
“I am Lady Cecylee de Neville”, I declare, “youngest daughter of the greatest lord in the land, my father Earl Ralph of Westmorland.”171
His mouth opens slightly.
“Who are you?” I repeat.
The boy eyes me carefully. Eventually he replies. “I am Richard, Duke of York.”
I know exactly who he is.  Mama explained that someone called the Duke of York would be arriving soon.  “Why is he coming here?” I asked.  Mama’s mouth crinkled at the corners. “Your father wants you to wed.”
I toss my head and smile. “You don’t look grand enough, or old enough, to be a duke,” say I.  “What are you doing here?”
His eyes widen, but he does not answer.
I try not to yawn, and resist returning to my roses. Eventually, I say briskly, “I’m busy.  I have to put my garden to rest.” I gesture at the tools lying here and there, the roses, and my wicker basket full of weeds.  “You may leave us,” I say grandly, adopting Mama’s manner in dismissing unwelcome guests.  I turn my back on him, kneel, and dig vigorously while I sing.
He does not move.  So I look around.  There he is, staring.
I flush. Then impulsively, I say, “Would you like to help?”
Richard nods his head several times.
“You can do the digging over there.”
Silence falls again.
I say: “Do you like roses…1101What did you say your name was?” I don’t want him to think he’s so important I can actually remember his name!
Richard flushes.  “It’s Richard…my lady.”
I start to laugh.  “You don’t have to be so formal, you know.  We’re very informal here.  My family calls me Cecylee, except for Papa, who calls me Cis.  You may call me Cis, if you like.”
“Well, Cis,” he says, “You may call me Dickon.”  There is another pause, and then he actually says something. “I love roses.  Are all these flowers yours?”
“They mostly are. Mama had them planted for me shortly after I was born, as part of my Garden of Contemplation.”  I smile.  “But Robin looks after them too.”
“Who’s Robin?”
“My playfellow.  Only of course, you can’t see him.  He only appears to girls.”
“Does he?” asks Richard, who now frowns.
“Yes,” say I.  “He appears to tell girls all they need to know about boys, so that when they get married, they know what to do.”
I stare at him expectantly.
But Richard only flushes slightly, and concentrates on his digging.
So I start to sing again.
Richard stops digging to listen.
“Do you know that song, Dickon?”
He shakes his head, and so I take him by the hand and say, “I’ll teach it to you.”  He slowly begins to repeat the verses, which are written in English:

“A gardyn saw I ful of blosmy bowes
Upon a ryver, in a grene mede,
There as swetnesse evermore inow is,
With floures white, blewe, yelwe, and rede…”

Great-Uncle Chaucer wrote the lines.  I made up the tune just the other day, to accompany the words.
“It’s fun to sing with you Dickon,” I say, giving him my sweetest smile.   “What are you going to do when you grow up?”
He is silent for a long time.  Finally he says, “I hope to be like your father, with a large estate to manage and a wife and family to come home to.”  He looks at me.  “You will marry.”
I toss my head and pull my ugliest face.  “Oh, I don’t think so!” I squeeze as much determination into those words as possible.
Richard stares at me wide-eyed.
“I don’t want to marry,” I tell him, “because I don’t like people telling me what to do.  It puts me into a very bad mood.”  I pause for a moment.
He stares.
“That’s the trouble with husbands,” I remark. They boss you around.  My sisters always complain of it.”
There is dead silence.
After a while, Richard says very quietly, “So you mean you wouldn’t get married at all?”
“I might consider it, but only if the husband would let me tell him what to do.”  I fix my dark grey eyes on him and speed up to my normal pace. “It would really be much better that way because I have so many good ideas about things, and I’m so often right.”
A little movement begins around the corners of his mouth.  But he says nothing.
I toss the rose onto the pile of weeds. “But truly, I don’t wish to marry!”
“But Cis,” he says quietly, “Ladies are expected to marry. What are you going to do if you don’t marry?”
I open my eyes wide. “I have thought much on that,” I say.  “I would travel to the Holy Land…” I look at him from under my lashes “…like Queen Alainor of Acquitaine.” 1111
But Richard does not blink at my comparing myself with a powerful Queen, who divorced one husband and outmaneuvered another.  He does not walk off or demand my retraction.  Instead he says, “But you can be married and travel.  I would like to travel too.  You could come with me.”
I stiffen.
“Ladies need a man to escort them around.”
“Well, I do not,” I immediately say.  “I can manage very well without one. A man would just be in my way.”
–Cynthia Haggard writes short stories, novels and poetry.  During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories.  For more about her medical writing services, go to clarifyingconcepts.  (c) 2009. All rights reserved.

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