Friday, June 19, 2009

Umbrella For A Sunny Day

“Umbrella” because the two components of this post are completely disparate but I’m going to lump them together ‘cos today is the day for writing about them both. The first part is a family oriented kiddie post, the second touches on the reading aloud of poetry. Take your pick, dear reader, or read ‘em both.

The eldest boy is celebrating his 8th birthday today. He came downstairs this morning to find the sofa stacked with presents – presents that his dad hastily wrapped last night while his mum suffered beneath the vicious malaise of a horrible cold. Every birthday / Christmas Karen and I always say “this time we’ll be more organized and get the presents wrapped early” and every time we play present wrapping chicken and wrap them at the very last minute.

Not that Ben minded. He’s had a good haul – loads of Lego (naturally), a Nintendo game, the ubiquitous Pokémon cards and a digital camera amongst the new treasures.

Tom’s reaction was very interesting. Last Christmas he still didn’t fully understand this “present opening malarkey” at all though had good fun shredding the discarded paper and cardboard.

Today however was very much a different kettle of fish. He seemed as excited by the presents as Ben was – lots of cooing and ooh-ing and a few attempts to eat the presents whilst still in their wrapping paper...

But once the gifts were unwrapped they were far more intriguing than the paper.

I sense a shift in consciousness here. Gone are the days when we could have palmed him off with an empty box or a bit of glittery paper... now he wants product! He’s joined the consumer race at last.

To help avoid any displays of jealousy or feelings of neglect we bought Tom a little present too. His current love is bus spotting whenever we are out and about in the car. He just loves them. Every time we point a bus out to him we elicit a shout of joy and the phrase: “Dus! Dus!” which is Tom’s pronunciation of the word “bus”.

Hence Tom’s present just had to be a big bright yellow Lego Duplo bus complete with passengers and luggage compartment which, if it has been opened and closed once, it has been opened and closed a hundred times already. He loves anything with a hinge does our Tom.

He has refused to let the damn thing go and has taken it into nursery with him. Woe betide the staff if they ever try and separate them...

Anyway the upshot is, I think Tom has decided he quite likes birthdays. Doesn’t matter if it’s his or not. Any birthday will do. Just as long as he acquires a bus.

Let’s hope I’m not having to negotiate with Midland Red when he turns 18...

And now for the poetry...

Janete over at Writer’s Blog has embedded a small movie into her latest post featuring photos she has taken during her travels. The soundtrack is Janete herself reading one of her amazing poems. It’s worth a click and a few minutes of your time savouring the experience.

What struck a chord with me was Janete’s comment about not liking her own voice. I expect most people feel the same way – possibly because we imagine our voices to sound somehow different to how they really are... sort of the same but different. The same but improved. Polished. Authoritative. Silkier. Movie star like.

It’s always depressing when you hear your voice played back to you and you realize you sound like a bin man from Walsall.

Not that Janete does, I hasten to add. I actually think she has a fabulous voice – really lovely – and it suits her poetry perfectly. Go and listen to it if you don’t believe me.

Mine, however, does. Or at least I think it does. About 15 years ago I had the opportunity to read out some of my poetry on a local radio programme broadcast by Coventry & Warwickshire BBC. It was to be pre-recorded and would be broadcast a week later... so, lucky me, I’d be able to listen to myself in the comfort of my own home.

For some reason, even though I’m Midlands born and bred, I had a fancy to sound like Ted Hughes. I loved his poetry and I loved to hear him reciting it. Such a rich, dark voice. And the Yorkshire accent lent his words an expressiveness and earthiness that added yet more depth and richness to a grasp of language that was already immeasurably deep and rich.

Oh to sound like that! I would have turned heads.

Now, don’t think for a minute that, when presented with the microphone, I launched into an awful cod-Yorkshire “ee bah gum it’s cold oop North int it” accent. I wasn’t that stupid. I’m not good at mimicking accents though can manage a passable Scots if I put my mind to it (but as my dad is part Scottish this is only right and proper).

I merely tried to speak clearly and authoritatively. With feeling and passion. With an ear for the words and the music of my poetry.

I swear to God I sounded like a Birmingham fish monger reading William Blake. Not a great mix.

It affected me so badly I didn’t write anything for nearly 12 months and, bar reading a
3rd prize winning poem at Warwick’s 2006 Warwick Words competition, have never read my work aloud again.

Beauty might be in the eye of the beholder but the ear has its part to play also.


KeyReed said...

Janete's voice is fine and she's a 'looker' too!

Steve said...

Tenon_Saw: alas, nobody has ever said that about me...! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Oh you are definitely a looker, Steve. It always strikes me as a funny word "looker" - more like someone who is constantly searching for things but never finds them.

I think everyone hates their own voice. I certainly dislike mine - it is horrid. But Janete's is very sexy I must say - I could listen to her quite happily!

We had a green bus with a hinged side for years - it had a strange giraffe as a driver. My boys loved it. No idea what happened to it though - some toys just vanish mysteriously. Not a problem when you have a "looker" in the house I suppose!

Hope Ben enjoys the rest of his birthday. It's my middle son's 10th birthday tomorrow so I'll be wrapping presents tonight!

Steve said...

Gina: am blushing profusely - thank you so much but I really wasn't fishing for a compliment (honest)!

Certain toys do disappear - loads of mine did: some ended up staying at the hospital after my spell there at 18 months after fracturing my leg; others were given away to other kids / families; other ended up in the loft to be binned when we were teenagers - though without consultation I might add! Weirdly I feel quite upset about it and mean to store as many of Ben and Tom's favourite toys as possible. If they want to chuck them later when they're adults that's up to them - but I'd like them to have the choice.

Will be thinking of you with the scissors and sellotape tonight as I crash out in front of the telly! ;-)

Annie G said...

Happy Birthday to Ben. Being eight is great!

Janete's poem is wonderful - yes her voice suits it.

I suspect you are being far too self-critical about your recital on radio, but hey, many of us are the same (I always sound so Brummie,like Mrs Overall on Acorn Antiques lol)

I don't suppose you would have a change of heart and record some poetry for us...........?

Steve said...

Annie: I had a feeling somebody might ask me that! All I'll say is, I'll consider it. But I'm not making any promises!

French Fancy... said...

Aw, your boys sound so lovely. I can just imagine little Tom and his lego bus.

As for the vid - until Mr FF sorts something out for me I just can't play them. Dunno what's happened but all I get are error messages these days. I think it's his deliberate ploy to stop me wasting time watching Killers vids on You Tube

Fingers crossed for tomorrow's results. You must be quite nervy atm.

Steve said...

French Fancy: as long as I've passed and maintained my 2:1 average, I'll be pleased! Sorry you can't see the vid - hope Mr FF comes up with an IT fix soon!

The Joined up Cook said...

I wouldn't say I dislike my voice; I would say I'm always rather surprsed by it.

It sounds nothing like the one I hear. The accent, for one thing, hits me.

I'm never aware of it but when I hear it, wow, I'd never pass for a southerner.

I'd agree with Annie; you are being too self critical about your voice.

Unless you sound like Neddy Seagoon out of the Goon show :)

Steve said...

AWB: what can I say but "Needle-nardle-noo..."! ;-)

Inchy said...

I had to give a presentation the other week and I was bricking it, but much like my sisters wedding in Feb when I had to carry out the father of the bride duties, I surprised myself with the confidence, wit and panache that I displayed during said task . . .

. . . that was until I saw the video replay. It would appear that I was simultaneously trying to break the world record for the amount of words spoken in 5 minutes and hold in a dangerously weak bladder.

My voice was the least of my worries.

Steve said...

Inchy: I had a similar attack of nerves at my best mate, Tris's wedding - I was the best man. For some reason I decided (in utter madness) just to ad lib an informal speech... this was made worse by the father of the bride who leapt in and delivered his speech before me. His was a masterpiece of ratory and humour - at least 10 minutes long - and he didn't fluff his lines once. That said I managed to deliver a pretty good joke and got by on earnestness. I was told it was pretty good but I'm damn glad it was not recorded for posterity. I've a feeling I'd be cringing if I ever heard it myself.

Inchy said...


You were either brave or stupid, I'm not sure which!

It can be quite addictive though, and I found myself actually enjoying the experience.

Steve said...

Inchy: I was stupid and lazy. I'd never rely on my wits again. They're just not up to it. Preparation and practise is definitely the way to go.

Steve said...

P.S. That should have been "oratory" not "ratory"... I'm sure you worked it out!

Inchy said...

I dunno, I'd pay good money to see a masterpiece of ratory!

David Blaine, are you listening?!

Steve said...

Yeah, I'd pay good money to be at the front for that gig...

Suburbia said...

Sounds like Small Sprogs present list last Christmas! Hope you all had a good weekend

Steve said...

Suburbia: we did thank you - took the boys out for a pizza yesterday; the young 'uns first proper restaurant experience - he quite enjoyed it.

Anonymous said...

I hope Ben loves his gifts. Maybe you could get Ben to take some pictures for you to post on your blog. The world looks so much different to kids than to adults.

For the record...I hate my voice on recording too...It makes me feel weird.


Owen said...

Love it when you write like this, straight from the heart... hmm, might be fun to see you doing a Birmingham fish monger act... selling fish with barker type poetry ? Could be fun...

Steve said...

Sweet Cheeks: I've yet to meet anyone who likes their own voice... strange when it is such a personal possession!

Owen: I'm not sure that poetry with strong fishy odours would really pack in a crowd... hmm, unless it came with chips, of course... now that could work!

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Presents on someone else's birthday?


What a dangerous precedent to set. And how confusing for him.

No wonder he has become a rampant consumerist quicker than he has learned to say 'rampant consumerist'.

Not that I would recommend my own deprived childhood to anyone (and it really was), but I think there should be definite boundaries about whose birthday it really is and kids getting presents rarely enough to really value them/learn the value of receiving and being rewarded for being good over a period of time.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday to your fine son.
I always think it's the mother that should get the presents, but when I fly that past my lot it's usually dismissed quickly.

Sounds like you all had a great time.

Steve said...

Laura: I'm going to have to disagree with you there. My own parents did the same with me and my sisters up until we were 4 or 5 and old enough to understand the concepts of birthday and "someone else's birthday" and not "we love someone else more than you today". For the first 4 or 5 years it's fine and avoids a whole heap of tears.

Missbehaving: can't disagree with you there. I'd be happy to go along with it - provided the dad's small contribution is also remembered...! ;-)