Pulling Threads Update: Postcards from Passchendaele

Pulling Threads, Touchstones Creative Writing Group’s performance arm, are being busy bees this summer; they’re preparing for a piece of original writing. Here are notes from the meeting and the performance dates.

Reflecting on the pity of war: draft script, replica pistol & cloth to clean it.

Pulling threads rehearsal & planning meeting, Falinge Park 13th July 2017

To commemorate one of the “greatest of the four battles of Ypres”, Pulling Threads are pulling together a piece of original drama based on testimonials from the battle. Annette Martens is the artistic director for this production which features dramatic true stories, horrific images, and sound. The italicised phrases are from some of the writers.

“Here are our gifts to the Gods” “roads that lead to the killing Fields”
The voluntary group of players have all contributed pieces to this performance in order to capture the human element; it’s not just the facts, the sheer number of the dead or the time and slog of the battle it’s about getting to the heart of it. The facts are woven in and there is compromise and cooperation in editing the pieces.

“I don’t usually carry a weapon, I carry arms… I’m a stretcher bearer”
There is pathos, and sympathy, created for the characters – the nurse, the stretcher bearer, the man who had his face half blown off but lived. And there is so much mud, a mud world, who thought you could drown in the battlefield?”. The emotion and empathy that has been created shows that “bravery can take many forms”.

“The government, the general, and the Kaiser sat down”
For a small piece of land many gave their lives, and as the performance comes together the script is becoming stronger. Any audience will be moved.

Performance Dates
10th November Oldham British legion, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Oldham. 19:50 – 20:20
22nd October, Part of Rochdale Literature & Ideas Festival Fringe. Vibe, Drake Street, Rochdale. 13:00 – 13:40

Next meeting: Thursday 27th July 3pm, the Heritage Cafe in Falinge Park.

Busy Doing Nothing

When the American born wife of local MP, Steven Goodhew, visited Whitefield Primary School yesterday as part of her husband’s electioneering campaign, she got more than she bargained for.

“Oh my God” she exclaimed as she entered the reception class and saw the children at play,  “aren’t they adorable! All busy doing nothing!”

Class teacher, Miss Susan Ford, quickly jumped on the defensive. “The activities the children are engaged in, all have strong educational purposes.” she retorted. Pointing to the table nearest to where they were standing she said, “For example, these tasks, bead threading, lacing cards, cutting out, all help to develop eye and hand co-ordination.”  She then indicated another group working with a nursery assistant. “The children here are playing matching games, memory training games and jigsaws, crucial in developing skills necessary for reading.” The entourage moved on to a purpose built tiled area. Miss Ford continued “ Activities such as water and sand play, painting, clay and plasticine are excellent learning mediums, especially in encouraging mathematical concepts. We are very careful to provide appropriate language facilitation alongside the many different tasks the children are engaged in. Much thought goes into all the activities provided in order to enhance maximum educational progress. Although it may look as if the children are playing, I can assure you they are actually learning a lot from their play.”

Read the full piece

Busy Doing Nothing

As I write this, or, more accurately these days, type this, onto a screen, I am mindful that I have just celebrated my 58th birthday. A day out in Whitby with the family and fish and chips. The fish and chips were lunch, I should explain, not extra guests. Life is passing far too rapidly these days. It will not be too much longer before I have lived in Yorkshire longer than I lived in Kent, the county of my birth. I have worked in Lancashire for most of my working life, missionary work, of course, but moving North had never been part of my grand design, it just happened, I was busily doing nothing when life and the passage of time caught up with me and moved me along with not so much as a “Nothing to see here, move along now please!”

As I reflect on my life I realise that time has been accurate in her statement, too. There is nothing to see here, I have been busy doing nothing for the last 58 years. The best of it is, no one else has noticed my sham, I seem to have got away with it. Do you want to know the secret of my success? Simples! As a particular meerkat might put it. I have always been quite good at role play, I would say excellent but that would suggest I had practiced the art and had not been busy doing nothing all this time.

Even as a baby I could play the role of angelic younger brother to my two sisters, a role I still play to this very day. Of course my father dying when I was just six meant that I was presented with one role that was impossibly difficult to perfect. At that age hearing that “Daddy’s gone to live with Jesus!” simply left me thinking “OK, so when do I see him again?” I must admit this is one role I still struggle with over half a century later.

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Love of my life

She is the love of my life
She is the love within me
that gets deeper
and deeper and deeper.
That depth of love within my breast.
my heart flutters when she is close.

She is the pride of my life.
We write poetry together;
we write short stories.
I am so proud of her
for being so proud of me.
I always feel as tall as a mountain
when she walks by my side.

She is the pride of my life.
My inspiration,
the beautiful lady by my side.
Now she is always there for me,
as I am for her.
And it will always be.

She is the pride of my life

She

She is tall
Slim, easy on the eye
Her contours are supremely designed
She is elegant with pride and quality
She is beautiful from bow to stern
She is the tea clipper, ‘Cutty Sark’

HMS Victory, flag ship of Nelson at Trafalgar
She was a man of war
100 guns and more
First rate ship of the line
Laid down in 1759
Built from thousands of oak trees
She was sublime

RMS Titanic, Olympic and Britannic
Sisters all with destinies unknown
She was the White Star Line pride
Titanic, was the largest ship of her day
Her sinking costing so many lives

Like the Titanic sisters
The three Mersey ferries are sisters
Mountwood being famous for
‘Ferry cross the Mersey’
Today renamed Snowdrop
She is small and dumpy
But fulfils her roll of passenger ferry
Along with her two sisters
In the year of 1872

She’s found drifting off the Azores in the Atlantic
Abandoned by crew and passengers
The only lifeboat missing, and all supplies intact
This merchant brigantine ‘Marie Celeste’
Today known as the ghost ship
Of the Arthur Conan Doyle story chest

She was a 1900 ton two paddle steam frigate
One of the first iron-built
Captained by R Salmond
She left England for South Africa in 1852
Along with women and children

The Regiments of Fusiliers, Highlanders, Lancers,
Foresters, Rifles and Green Jackets
In all 634 souls
Off the coast of South Africa
She hit an underwater outcrop known as danger point
Sinking within twenty minutes

Soldiers are ordered to stand fast
Allowing women and children to board lifeboats
Four hundred and forty lives lost
The soldiers’ chivalry gave rise to the order
“Women and children first”

‘To stand and be still
to the Birken’ead drill
is a damn tough bullet to chew’
Rudyard Kipling 1893

She was
HMS Birkenhead