Monthly Archives: June 2009

Poem: Moonrise

Moonrise moonrise1

Sunset

Day-part

Weekend

Day-clear

Starlight

Day-clean

Sunrise

Leaf-fall

Candle-mass

Mayday

Rainfall

Moonset

Windfall

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

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Music Review: Anne-Sophie Mutter’s Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 8

515Q8GVYCYL._SL500_AA240_Though it is true that Anne Sophie Mutter can get a loud sound out of her violin, she is also capable of playing with great delicacy.  Witness her performance of some of the passages of the Beethoven Sonata No. 8, Op. 30 No. 3. The opening movement is one of great contrasts and subtlety, and Mutter does not miss any of the nuances.  The slow movement requires some very quiet and restful playing, and Mutter is able to provided the sotto-voce veiled tone that is needed to evoke the mood of poignant contemplation.  The third movement is a rollicking moto perpetuo in Beethoven’s grand style, and here, Mutter plays just as her reputation suggests, with what my violin teacher used to call a “terrific sound”, i.e. a sound that can easily cut through the intricate rhythmic complexities of a concert grand piano.

Deutsche Grammaphon has packaged Mutter’s performance of the 10 Beethoven sonatas on a DVD.  At first this took me aback as I thought I had purchased a CD.  However, I soon found that if I set the DVD player on my iMac to open a small window, I could work on my computer while listening (and occasionally glancing) at the performance.  Note to Mac users:  If you just insert the disc, you will be in Full Screen view.  To get out of it, eject the disc, to get the small window to pop up, then put it back in again.  Alternatively, you can open the DVD player and set it to the small window BEFORE putting the disc in. I do not find the DVD distracting at all, as I can easily hide the window behind other windows I have open, and in the meantime I can enjoy listening to this heavenly music.  This would be a perfect Christmas gift for those discerning classical music friends who have never seen (or heard) Mutter perform.

–Cynthia Haggard once trained to be a professional violinist. During the day, she is a medical writer and owns her own business.  During the evening, she writes novels, short pieces and poetry. 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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Who Do You Think You Are?

Orphaned British Pensioner uncovers 1,500-year-old family tree

exclaimed a headline in London’s Telegraph.

Without the benefit of the web, Mr. Roy Blackmore set out to learn about the family he never knew.  He started with just one document – his birth certificate – and went to St Catherine’s House London to find out more about a great-grandfather who was born in 1825. For the past twenty-eight years Mr. 172Blackmore has spent twenty thousand pounds (around forty thousand dollars) to scour archives, cemetery records and census registers to lay a paper trail that traces his roots back 1,500 years. He has traced 9,390 ancestors and is applying to the Guinness Book of Records for the title of the World’s largest documented family tree. He can link himself back 37 generations to William the Conqueror (1027-1087), 45 generations to Alfred the Great (849-899) and 1,500 years to the Cerdick family who lived in England in circa 500 CE.

In England, genealogy has become popular due to programs like the BBC’s Who Do You Think You Are? In this country, genealogy has become popular due to the Internet and the great effort made to put all the US censuses online in recent years.  I myself have done some genealogy.  I was curious about my great-grandfather, called George Washington Davis who was born in Acworth New Hampshire in 1830. I am British by birth, and like many British people I have American roots.  As I now live in the US, I wanted to find out just how American I was!  I was able to trace my American family back to the birth of George Washington’s grandfather Thomas Davis, who was born in 1752 in Amesbury Massachusetts.  But I had the benefit of the Internet and all those online searchable censuses.  And even then, it took me four years of hard work and many brick walls.
Do you have any stories to share about your efforts to find out more about your family?  What techniques have you found most helpful in trying to get good-quality information?  What strategies have you found least helpful? Do you have any interesting stories you would like to share?

To get started on your own research, go to Ancestry.

Image shows an old inn near Cullompton, Devon, where many of Mr. Blackmore’s ancestors lived.

–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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What’s In a Name?

TreesInAusterlitz

How many of you have a name you dislike?  How many of you wished that you’d had the chance to change your name when you were growing up? Many cultures in the world had initiation ceremonies that herald the start of adulthood, and at this time, a new name was bestowed upon the young person.  But we don’t have this custom in countries with European traditions.
Sometimes it is obvious why someone might want to change their name.  How would you feel if your parents called you Zowie Bowie, Dandelion, Dweezil or even Talulah Does A Hula From Hawaii?  Others of us are stuck with names that, on the surface, seem fine.

“I hate my name,” one pharmacist told me.
“What is it?”  I enquired, as I took my prescription from him.
“Jim,” he replied, investing that one syllable with all the loathing he could muster.

In my case, I was called Sally.  I started hate that name when I was about eleven years old.
Why?
I still think Sally is a pretty name for a little girl, but that’s just the trouble: To me that name has little-girl all over it as if it were outlined in cute little blinky-blinky lights.  At the age of eleven, I knew I hated my name, but had no idea what to call myself instead.
So I put up with it.
Several years later, when I married again, I had the opportunity to change my name.  By that time I was going around with my first husband’s family name and my second husband-to-be naturally wanted me to do something about it.  Faced with the opportunity of changing my name, I decided to change ALL of it. But what to call myself?  I agonized over this during one night of insomnia finally deciding that the name had to start with an s sound that mimicked the way my original name of Sally had started.  But of course, it didn’t have to be spelled with an s.  I finally settled on the name Cynthia.FarmInVirginia

Why?
As someone who was turning into an older woman, I really needed a name that conveyed dignity.  The three syllables of Cynthia give it a gravitas that Sally can’t possibly have.

I had no idea what a burden the name Sally had been until I stopped using it.

–Cynthia Haggard (formerly Sally Bogacz) 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 Boleyn Inheritance

516o-ognatl_sl160_pisitb-sticker-arrow-dptopright12-18_sh30_ou01_aa115_This is the story is told from the point of view of the three women who share the Boleyn Inheritance:  Jane Boleyn, the sister-in-law of Queen Anne Boleyn, Katherine Howard, a cousin to Queen Anne who ultimately becomes the fifth wife of King Henry VIII, and Queen Anne of Cleves, the fourth wife of King Henry.

Jane Boleyn is the ambitious woman who maneuvers herself into the favor of successive Queens with a view to feathering her own nest – for English Queens had considerable powers of patronage.

Anne of Cleves is the German princess sent to marry King Henry in the autumn of 1539, after the tragic death of his third wife Jane Seymour.  Anne of Cleves and King Henry are strangers when they meet and their first meeting does not go well.  Things rapidly deteriorate.

Katherine Howard is the swan-necked beauty who lights up the aging King, and is ruthlessly used – and sacrificed – as a political pawn.

If you enjoyed reading The Other Boleyn Girl, you will enjoy this sequel, which brilliantly conveys the ruthless politics of sixteenth century England.
–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 Storyteller

1141

“I’d run a mile for a bar of nougat,” my grandmother proclaimed.  “In those days I could run like the wind.”
My grandmother was in her eighties when she told me that story.  She was not tall and not slim, her comfortable plumpness belying her words.  Grandma Stephanie became a grandmother late in life at the age of sixty-six.  Perhaps this was not surprising since she’d not become a mother until she was thirty-four, and her only child was a son.
“How I loved to dance,” she declared.
“What is it like to be a ballerina and dance en pointe?” I inquired.
“As light as a feather,” she assured me, beaming.
Even at the age of ten, that statement didn’t seem very probable.  I had never heard anyone else say that grandma was a ballerina.  But then, my grandmother was a great storyteller.  She had a natural gift for it.

I remember a picnic we had once:  She and I, my sister, my father and a friend.  It was a beautiful early summer day and we had come to see the racing at Goodwood in Sussex.  1151I remember lounging on the woolen blanket we had spread out in my cotton summer dress, leather brown sandals and white socks as my grandmother told her stories.  When she was on form, there was no one funnier.  Oh how she made us laugh!  And she was only talking about something that had happened to her the week before.  Her tales were not light and fantastical, but grounded in the realities of being a widow in 1970s Britain:  A person with a small income, who never learned to drive a car, and as a consequence had many interesting encounters at bus-stops.
But my grandmother’s storytelling abilities knew no boundaries.  She would repeat her stories so many times she was no longer sure what was true.  And when I realized that at the age of fifteen, I was scared.  I wanted something to hold onto in my life.  So I try to have it both ways, like controlling a chariot driven by two horses, with one hand on stories and the other on the truth.

Top image: My grandmother in 1975 at the age of eighty.

Bottom image: My grandmother as a young woman.

–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: 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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News & Notes: Edwardian Hairdos

My sister is a cellist and has recently got involved in a gig that requires her to dress as an Edwardian lady.  Problem:  What to do with her hair? She doesn’t have the waist-length hair that our grandmother and great-grandmothers had to play around with. Most fashionable Edwardian women used their voluminous tresses to do complex updo 1241that involved piling it up towards the front of the head.   But most modern women only have hair that touches their shoulders a best, and so it is necessary to come up with an alternate solution.
For those of you who don’t want to wear a wig or go to the trouble of using hair extensions, here are some simple things you can do with your hair to give it that old-fashioned look.
1.    If your hair is doesn’t actually touch your shoulders, you will need to grow it out. Try to achieve a length that is at least one inch past your shoulders.
2.    For those of you with thick luxuriant tresses that stand up to any kind of treatment, you can skip this part.  However, if you have hard-to-manage silky hair read on.  For this body-challenged hair, there are a couple of things you need to do BEFORE you attempt to style it:

a.    After washing and drying it, bend from the waist so that your hair flops towards the floor.  Brush it out by brushing down towards the floor until all the tangles have disappeared.
b.    Then straighten and flip the hair up to its usual position, brushing UP to keep the body.
c.    If the hair is bone dry by this point, stick your hand under the faucet and gently wet your hair

3.    To style, first make your hair into a low ponytail, one that starts from the nape of your neck.
4.    Roll the hair into a cushion, but rolling the ends of the hair UNDERNEATH.
5.    Check to be sure that you have all the hair in the cushion, then secure with a jaw.
6.    Check in the mirror to be sure that your hair neatly covers the back part of your head.
7.    If there are any unsightly parts, take a comb and hand mirror, and stand with your back to your vanity mirror so that you can see the unsightly part.  Use the comb to gently neaten your hair so that any unsightly part is covered and your hair has a finished look from the back.  (Of course, 100 years ago, a lady’s maid would have done this job for you.  If you can’t get it right, then don’t be shy about asking someone to help you.)
8.    Voila!  1251
9.    If you don’t want to spend a fortune replacing lost barrettes and hair combs, you are better off with a jaw.  I use jaws because if I don’t get something that actually clamps my hair with a really forceful grip, it will fall out.  That is why I don’t use barrettes, hair combs, cascades or anything like that. I like FrenchLuxe jaws because you can get them in tortoiseshell and other pretty colors.  For the website, click here:
10.    Good luck, and please send me your pictures!

Top image is taken from a website called In Timely Fashion.  It gives excellent instructions for doing Edwardian hairstyles.  However, all the models have very long hair.

Bottom picture shows author wearing hairstyle that looks Edwardian by means of a jaw.

–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: Tying Up Loose Threads

I never said “goodbye” to him. Now, thirty years after he passed I find myself thinking about him more and more.  He was a favorite person when I was growing up. Such conversations we had, about everything! Then he disappeared.
I fell into a depression.  My grades suffered the year following, the year I took public exams, a university requirement.  I should have been able to get at least an A and two Bs.  Instead I got two Cs and a bare pass.  I did not go to university.1131
As I look more closely at this person whom I sat on a pedestal when young, I find, of course, that he was a fallible human being.  For one thing, he did not take me seriously. I remember once I made some remark, and inadvertently embarrassed him.  When I asked him what I’d done, he blew it off.  But I knew something was wrong.  I thought over what had occurred and was genuinely puzzled.  What had I said to upset? I asked him again. He told me not to worry.  And that kindness hurt.
But he came from a culture that valued politeness above all else.  Sometimes it seems to me that this value set on civility prevented people from engaging with each other.  We passed each other as ships in the night in a sea of civility…and loneliness.

–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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