The Fiona MacCarthy

The Fiona MacCarthy

What pleases and annoys

Instinctive, impulsive, and logical but always passionate and reflective of what I feel here and now.

Individual blogs are in most recent, first sequence and are also grouped in various "categories" which are just to the right & down a bit should you prefer to search that way. Please feel free to add a comment.

Blog restarted June 2018

Busy time

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, June 19, 2016 09:06:37

Greetings. It’s been a while and a busy while too. But it also has been very good.

For the past few months (4 in case you curious), I have been commuting from home (Yep, that is still North Shields) to London on a weekly basis. For most of that time I have regarded the Angel of the North statue on the outskirts of Gateshead as a sign that I’m home. What then followed was a frantically busy period before Monday dawned and a commute work cycle repeated. Busy working week with a bit of time after work in one of a several options before retiring to hotel room for a bit of telly and sleep. A bit of a bitch in terms of quality of life!

In the past month life have been changing and improving with slightly more social routine be it music, or a movie or a different place. An effort which would conceivably draw critique from any good friend “could try harder at life”

With work contract very recently extended by 4 months a different and better personal plan is in place. There is more to life than work-sleep-boring routines.

Last weekend was the first during which I stayed over in London. Stupid to have stayed away from there so long but now there are bookings for end July and August where I will stay alternate weekends.

For my first stay on a sunny Friday evening, I ventured south from my hotel a great distance of 10 minutes getting to Peckham Rye which is a treasure trove of English life at a gentle pace and much different to Peckham high street with its never ending blare of blues and yellows emergency vehicles. Awful noise. Peckham Rye started with an ice cream cone and a stroll around the streets of small shops bustling with activity and fresh produce competing to be sold. Artusi provided the meal and Victoria Inn the refreshment as sunlight enabled a joyful feeling to permeate the ether and lift any darkness.

Saturday morning had me eagerly travelling to the British Museum for “Sunken Cities” a memorable and wonderful exhibition of treasured buried in 2 cities off the delta of the Nile. The strong bonds of Greece and Egypt were obvious in terms of their deity worship and a bold statement of living together when we shortly vote of divisions between us and our neighbours. Trade binds in the money sense but people bond too across countries as they have done for millennium. The equivalent of gravestones bear testimony to people adopting aspects of both cultures in which the Gods of the Greeks had human form whilst those of the Egyptians had animal form.

British museums are charge free but special shows as this have a cost of approx. £15 which deters many. A positive aspect of this for space loving me was the relative calm compared to the rest of the museum.

A contrast was offered by the Modern Tate which used the cash register to dampen the audience numbers at certain parts of its displays. Its sinful to keep the Mona Hatoum away from the general public as its inspirational in its creativity, provoking at every step and entertaining.

Evening time had me walking around Covent Garden busy as could be before seeking calm and entertainment at the Royal opera House. Excellent Ballet performance with a threesome of ballet: Obsidian tear (a sorrowful watery emission from the eye or a rip- you to decide) with Wayne McGregor providing the choreography for 9 male dancers in a strange and beautiful performance prompting many questions and leaving the interpretation to the audience. Wonderful not to be simplified. The 2nd performance was “The Invitation” by Kenneth McMillan a retelling of a controversial ballet from the 1960s’ about the crossover relationships between a younger and older couple. The 3rd ballet was “Within the Golden Hour” by Christopher Wheeldon a mesmerising performance by 7 couple dancing either as a couple or 2 couples through 7 dances until the final stupendous scene. The 3 ballets in one night provided great variety entertainment and thoughts for the mind. The quality of the dancing superb and the setting divine. Return visit booked.

Sunday morning had me enjoying one of the many walking tours in rain, for 2 and a half hours through the quiet silent streets of the business district, its wonderful streets of old, rebuilt churches and the special peace of St Dunstons with its Blitz bombed walls untouched for over 7 decades and now a garden space of serenity in a money mad making stretch of trillions but emptied for a Sunday. Lunch in a Christopher Wren pub was a touching reminder that people are often remembered for one thing only when we often do many great things.

I don’t see myself moving lock stock and barrel to London in 2016, but I will spend more of my personal time there this year. In November I will be looking for a new contract in London as the quality of engaging work is there at a day rate that covers the expenses and hassle of commuting. The North East offers average quality work at average £rates and lengthy gaps between contracts that crucify any savings and cause unnecessary stress (2 mths last year and 1 this year with a low paid role in between). A creative blend of work life balance is an option as my work does not mean I have to be in London for 5 weekdays but that depends on my client / customers and by negotiation. My dream job would be 3days in London per week with alternate weekends, a 4th workday each week here at “home” during which days (all 4) I would do a working week of say 37 -40 hours. Its good to have a plan and I must simplify how I tell it.

Will be back here more often now.

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Temporary sabbatical

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, April 17, 2016 08:28:06
Have been working away in London since February and my personal life more than slightly impacted.
Will be returning here in next week
best wishes

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Weddings, Fairies, Dance, Education, Love and Gender

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, February 07, 2016 08:56:53

My Tuesday music class from Explore ( on the theme this Season of music from Shakespeare was on the subject of the music of a Mid-Summer Nights dream and more specifically On Mendelssohn or more fully “Jakob Ludwig Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy” where we looked at his creative clever instrumental play including on how he created an image of mischievous fairies and the better known at least to many Wedding March piece.

Rambert Dance were in town again as part of their 85th year tour presented a programme in 2 parts

· “Frames” a very clever use of shapes (interlocking metal bars) to “frame” the dancers as they engage with each other.

· “The strange Charm of Mother nature” where the dancers become the atoms of the universe whizzing or is that dancing about to the music of Stravinsky and Bach

· The three Dancers based on Picasso’s painting of same name but using 2 groups of 3 dancers, one in black the other in white initially separately but then combined in a thought provoking play on ecstasy and doom which can separately and at least for me simultaneously occupy the human mind. The music for this part of the programme was the best and most captivating. The programme tells me its from an Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin because I had no idea.

On Friday a short play called “Presumption” from third Angel of Sheffield was a 20 year revival without updating analysis of the loving relationship between a couple. Starting with an empty stage then the 2 actors and ending with a furnished living room in their flat, we were taken through in stages and for which the furnishing of the stage was a prompt. The script was relayed in matching stages as they explored their own love, compared with friends in a realistic way with uncertainty honesty wrapped in their relationship of love.

On Saturday I went to another show at Northern stage where Kate O Donnell originally from Coventry took us through a very theatrical take on her gender transition. I say “very” as there were times I thought over the top although it was in fairness to her the prop to aid her difficult times and struggles with her family along her journey.

During the week was at a lecture at the Lit and Phil on Education as influenced by war. Professor Docherty of Warwick (dam farm not to do with “war”). He started with Ireland which is a good way of getting additional attention from myself and the founding the first catholic university by an Englishman Cardinal Newman. The importance of education is a major artery to us Celts and so it was that this University was a building block in later nationhood. The role of Universities in France under Napoleon and Germany at the time of Hitler was also looked at before turning to the UK and the current civil war taking place on freedom of speech.

I was shocked to learn that lecturers are expected to monitor and report what they perceive to be extremist response in writing, talk or even body language of students. Most of us can define extremism by ak47 wielding bomb carrying bearded terrorist of a certain religious group. But the lack of legal clarity and use of nudge nudge self police but don’t get it wrong makes the whole area very subjective. I say this in a country that went from fighting the IRA here and in Northern Ireland with its own troops and security service to having the leaders meet the queen and engage in talks, in a few decades. Terrorism to freedom fighter to diplomat to politician is a singular road and using Higher Education to police thought wrong.

Earlier in the week I was absorbed in the high quality acting bond between mother and son in “room” who were held captive by a nutter (he fathered the boy) their escape and most difficult assimilation back into normal life. The strength of the relationship between mother and child which was forged in their prison, tested frequently, provided aid to escape and most crucially was the catalyst to survive the media analysis and support family helplessness (some not all).

My personal Work quest (as I must) has seen a 3 week (since holiday) spell of plans efforts and talks without outcomes reach a stage where I now have interviews confirmed for 2 perm (from last week) and one interim job next week with interview date awaited for 1 further perm role (also from last week). At last action although 2 weeks later than I had hoped. Am also in running for 2 interim roles of which 1 is in London. Will be looking more closely at that city in the following week if no action.

Next week's plans

Play at Northern stage: Learning how to die

Play at Theatre Royal: Inspector calls

Lectures: Music (Explore series), Energy entropy & wealth (Newcastle University Insights), Chinese Cultural Revolution (Explore- Saturday)

Chinese New Year banquet at Golden swallow on Friday evening: so fitting

3 at least or maybe 4 interviews, 2 yoga, and 1 Age UK befriending visit (play on numbers).

Would like to see the Icelandic movie Rams and a 2nd visit to Assassin if possible

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Miners, Movies and Me.

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, January 31, 2016 08:58:20


Enjoyed Land of our Fathers at Live Theatre (this Saturday) which tells the tale of 6 Welsh miners trapped some 1,000 or thereabouts feet below surface in 1979. The date gives context to their discussions chatter and song as they awaited efforts to save them. Mining has a particularly strong legacy here in North East England too as besides being an inherently dangerous occupation it provided a multi century battleground between work and safety legislation of a long rooted common sense type. There was no safety legislation in early days and most concessions came from bitter disputes with only a few proactive mine owners.

The play is very good but in my opinion misses from being excellent due to poor script at the beginning of the 2nd half. The first half pre break is excellent in itself. But from the start of the 2nd half the subjects as raised by miners are more like a checklist of subjects one would expect but their sequence seems random and contrived. Rescued by an excellent final quarter from the miners.


“The Big Short” is a very funny movie about the banking crisis of 2008 from a USA perspective but as many British banks and building societies bought the same fraudulent stocks it has resonance here too. The narrative pace is fast and funny and the movie takes time to explain in an easy to understand way some of the tools of the trade of these crooks and opportunists. We are also reminded several times that there is and was a major impact on human beings and that this was not a victim free crime. Having called it a crime, it is sad to note that few went to jail that a fine from the employing organisation settled most but that there were many innocent victims and also some who should have known better. The childhood fairy-tale about the Emperors clothes, having none came to mind.

The “Assassin” will need a cinema-return by me to work out the subplots although I did understand the main plot. It is beautifully filmed with great scenery and acting. The title implies violence and there is some and so don’t go if you expecting a martial arts movie in human killing. The dialogue is frequently fast and trying to follow the new characters as they are introduced when a Chinese speaker can focus on the picture rather than sub titles makes this a must re-do as I hope to crack the tales and sub plots.

The Danish Girl tackles the earliest reported tale on surgical intervention for a transgendered person in this case a Danish artist who underwent several pioneering surgeries to achieve her true self. It’s a lot to squeeze into 2 hours and more so when the Director incorporates specifics of the particular case which serve as red herrings to someone who might be watching this movie with little prior understanding of transgenderism. As a movie it is fairly well done and could have been better if simplified. The movie attracted criticism from many transgendered for not using a transgendered person to star. Named and famed actors seem to be preferred by Directors but I do wish that Directors would be bolder in casting of other similar movies.

Lecture this week

“Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” was the topic of this week’s music class from Explore looking at Shostakovich 1934 opera. It’s a great lively bawdy opera whose contemporary tale is in tune with much that is offered these days in soap operas. Of course the music and singing is a distinguishing characteristic with the soap opera but the plots and subplots are at home with our humanity.

This opera toured successfully in Russia for about 2 years until Stalin went to see it, condemned the morality and send Shostakovich into an uncertain limbo for several years.

Work- mine

Have 2 interviews planned for next week plus 2 from last week to be rescheduled. All 4 are for Permanent roles and are for organisations I’d be happy to work with and for. Long term solution to a long term past and current problem.

Next week's plans include

Rambert Dance at Theatre Royal

Presumption at Northern Stage also "Big girl blouse"

Movies: Room (hopefully) and Assassin maybe

Lectures from Explore (Music series), Lit & Phil (education) and Neas (archaeology)

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Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, January 24, 2016 08:51:01

My descent to reality this week was as rapid as my plane landing at Manchester last Sunday and took place on Monday morning after a chilly darkness encased breakfast

Warm clothes including headwear of a non-sunny disposition, boots and gloves litter my hallway with a strange familiarity that is a million miles away from 8 days ago when insect repellent and sunhat were to hand, to head,

This week I occasionally look at my feet as the tan marks of my sandals tell a tale of warmer days and tanned parts fade.

Back to several pre-Christmas routines such as yoga in full swing with a great and difficult class yesterday as my lazy body collided with ambition beyond stretchability and another in an hour. Musical pub excursions resumed too. Strange having both topics in same paragraph.

My mind is being re-engaged with activities other than beach bargaining and converting Dalasis to £. Strange having..... !

On Tuesday my music class this Season as part of a series on musical interpretations of Shakespeare looked at the music of West Side Story with delightful recordings of Bernstein in rehearsals with his stars and team as he looked for artistic perfection in a recording. “Take 123” etc. was of note. The search for Peurto Ricans who could sing dance and act the challenge in this interpretation of Romeo and Juliet with a gang culture immigrant twist.

Yesterday I went to a wonderful one off lecture on the sagas of the Icelanders with reference to the surviving manuscripts from 600 to 800 years ago. The prose style as vivid in use then as it is now, as they recorded on paper their long standing stories from their oral tradition. We looked at the origin of settlements, the impact of early Irish hermits’ pre 8th century followed by Norse from 800CE onwards. Celtic DNA features strongly on the female side suggesting slaves captured on raiding trips to Ireland and elsewhere on the periphery of the UK. Their exploration trips to north east America interestingly in tandem to Irish theories on who got there from Europe before Columbus. We Iris claim that. Yes sounds like another country (Iceland that is) to add to my plans when warmth not on the holiday agenda.

Sat in last night and decided in consequence to watch War Horse which Id not seen in film or stage before due to no planned fault. Great acting by the lead horse “Joey” and then discovered that 14 horses played joey of which 8 was whilst he was an adult. I was saddened to have my naïve assumption of a single horse, knackered by fact in the hands of a great story teller of the current day; Spielberg. Cannot criticise him too much when I am gentler and equally fascinated by the ancient writers from Iceland.

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Ho ho ho

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, December 27, 2015 10:09:24

And so it came to be that an age routed period of pagan feasting wrapped up in a Christian fable and submerged in a crass commercial festival came to be celebrated. And what a fab time seems to have been enjoyed by so many including myself. I base my assessment of others good times upon the posts on facebook by various friends. I’ve not seen many folk in recent days.

I have struggled in prior years or indeed most of the past decade to gain serious joy out of this period of the calendar but am delighted to say I have enjoyed the month: yes the month and that is the month to date as another week or so remains in my end of year celebrations as I wrap up this year and start to unwrap the challenges of the year ahead.

In earlier weeks I have enjoyed many nights out with friends from over the years whom I do not see regularly. That sets the tone for me, the wrapping up and bringing together and upon which friendships can carry (hopefully) into the future.

Christmas period 24-26th was by selfish selection of what to watch, listen to, smell and savour. I used to mock my father when back in Ireland as I turned 20 or so a few decades ago he used to take a telly guide and mark therein what he wished to see often with overlapping conflicting choices. For him it was perhaps liberation from the time (earlier still in history) when Ireland only has one television offering or perhaps the misguided hope that my Mother would concede some token concession programmes that did not disrupt her planned relaxation. A game of bluff perhaps. I do the same now with the programme guide although following the departure of Milly the 7 legged spider from my home I get to make the big choices. Milly left following 2 assassination attempts by the Celtic warrior brigade (i.e. me) and she should have known better than rest upon an open page. She lives but our relationship is beyond repair as is one of her legs.

Mood setters are essential and 2 good movies on Christmas Eve in the form of Mama Mia and Hotel Marigold got me right in the festive mood of good cheer and happy will. Christmas day passed peacefully between movies such as White Christmas, Avatar (fellowship and friendship of the former and how we screw up Mother Nature and the environment in the 2nd) and 2 excellent programmes on Ballet by Darcey Bussell showing how male dancers have changed the way ballet is presented. Billy Elliot and Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake are good examples of current trends but Carlos Acosta from Cuba another. Least enjoyed and my only viewing on the top 10 for the period was Mrs Brown’s Boys which is now truly tired in script, lazy in acting and past its best by date. Sprouts can only be reheated so many times.

Two enjoyable movies on Saturday at Tyneside Cinema brought to an end a period of relaxed viewing and post on Facebook yesterday said; “Double bill at TC of Suffragette which did well in movie time to tell the tale of the national struggle for voting equality, the personal struggle of Maud played very well by Carey Mulligan whose interaction with Cop Brendan Gleeson could have been so much more firey- a missed opportunity. Sadly it took the martyrdom of Emily Davison to galvanise the opposition and a further 2 decades approx before all women got the vote. It would take a much better Director than Sarah Gavron to make best work of the impact of the various struggles in such a short time i.e. better as a series on telly.

Brooklyn is delightfully sweet movie of a young Irish woman in New York in early '50s. Great acting by Saoirse Ronan and others, sharp script played carefully between stereotypes and gosh I knew (even know!) people like that and those who engage with life with passion.”

Have set objectives; new year resolutions sound great in January and tired in the month of Mars although Objectives rather scary as early morning sun rays plays upon the floor, in each of the 4 key areas of my life Family (much more positive), Work (tuff) Personal (my playground of the mind), and a Miscellaneous hodge podge group for which am searching a name. Same in concept to prior years but more specific, more focused and better still to measure how much joy I extract from this life. I can still reflect happily upon the dozen days or so spent lazily in a hammock in Place of 4,000 islands upon the Mekong in Southern Laos 15 years ago but there are times for action too and this year will bring forth plenty opportunities which I will not squander. Have booked some 20 shows in a variety of places in the period till mid May or about 1 a week. One big holiday planned for first 2 weeks of January in Gambia and shorter trips away a new must do for 2016. The big challenge is permanent work to provide a platform of stability and plans in that direction are going very well with meetings to progress last and next week. Classes at Explore, Lit & Phil, and Newcastle Uni diarised. Comedy Club will abound merrily plus many more as mu divorce from telly proceeds with glee.

Later today it will be Sri Lankan cooking with some beef brisket a far different cut than my fine fillet steak of Christmas day. Sri Lankan Beef Smore with Mallung and Pol Sambol and all the spices and idiot guide from TheSpicery. Release the flavours and dance upon the Sky.
Find me on twitter at @fionamaccarthy for the more impulsive me

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Smashing 60!

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, December 20, 2015 11:50:27

Smashing 60!

It’s been a delightful festive season this month of catching up with friends and colleagues from the past and last night was another delightful night in local places cos that sure does beat the taxi craze.

A quiet drink at Charlies (not my fav place but the group I was with more than made up for it), before sailing forth on a wave of rain that abated on cue for a wonderful quality meal The Staith House: the Christmas choice menu a delight of pleasures and one of the most challenging chocolate desserts no light and fluffy here but rich penetrating dark taste. The only disappointment of the place is the price of the wine which despite the quality of its house wines was off-putting on the wine list itself. The fact that most of the price goes in taxes rather than the provider is niggling at a time of giving. From there we wondered the short distance to Low Lights which was chock a block with good cheer great laughter lovely folk and fair quality wines at non sobering prices.

A piles of laughs enjoyed at Stand comedy on Friday night where a great line up concluding with Carl Hutchinson who has a wonderful stage presence and a way of telling stories that is artful. Too many comedians like to laugh at others but those that have the courage to laugh at themselves via their humour are the best for me.

Finished my work contract at QE Gateshead this Friday past and the NHS accounting processes bring most of its pain upon itself. It could learn so much from simplification of financial processes that would improve efficiencies, reduce costs and generate more meaningful information. Great learning and made some good contributions made during my assignment. Updating this week my marketing CV and will be circulating it and the more conventional CV to agencies before Christmas shut down. It’s a right real shutdown for all but retail staff and front line public sector. If you are working right through and not one of those and would like to correct my generalisation, please write longhand.

Christmas day this week will be a quiet day but not a lonely day as is my preference. There is so much socially in and around this time of year that I enjoy it all.

Will use the next 2 weeks to put in place plans for the New Year and the first 3-4 months in particular. More importantly to relax mind and body and exercise both too of course. Yesterday at the Quay tap for lunch I was heartily regaled with stories of bird eating spiders (giant) in Gambia. They exist and I will be leaving the budgie at home and bringing the peregrine falcon to protect me when I depart on the 2nd.

My yoga this weekend has been more than challenging as red wine oozed from my pores and lapped about on the mat, but what a delightful feeling of inner happiness from completing most of the routines. A 2 hour session Monday night is next and then I may read the book I bought 5 years ago but got no further than a few pages. Should be more readable this time round.

Wind blusters and a blue sky excites a lovely day whilst sun rays dance to Verdi. The “60” in the title is the units of alcohol between 5pm Friday and 7pm tonight nearly all in wine from sundowners, lunch dinner and pub. Nearly all from partaking in great events with wonderful folk. Its also 10% more than my age which seems so irrelevant this year. Maybe I should increase my units of a as I age perhaps to a power factor: Must think about which as squaring ridiculous.

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Statins, Gambia and Nail Art

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, December 06, 2015 09:12:09

Racing to the end of the year and a period of extra indulgence it was a great time to check in with Professor Naveed Sattar of Glasgow University who was giving one of the varied, topical and high quality Public lectures at Newcastle University: the topic this Tuesday was “Cholesterol, statins…. the truth…”. This service from the University was a “find” of the season and although it overlaps very much with my Explore lecture programme it is one I will be following up in the New Year. Topics are truly varied, with timing and venue ideal.

My knowledge of the subject could be written on the inside of a cigarette packet, if I could find one!. The topic is heavily and well researched (I was told), statins do benefit and are becoming much cheaper due to looming patent expiry, statins can be for a period and not just for life and continue to generate benefits if stopped, and don’t automatically extend expected life if started too late, lifestyle and genetics more key to longevity than just diet (10%-20% impact at most on level) although more fibre strong recommendation from a warm and knowledgeable expert whose own family had a history of strokes in and around the age of 50. Far from a theoretical boffin this gem.

I still enjoy my Age UK volunteering as a Befriendee which is a feature of most Wednesday late afternoons. Visiting someone elderly who in my case is now in her mid 90’s takes between 60-90 mins plus travel. Chatting and listening a pleasant task and knowing that my time is appreciated priceless. Coming to a time of festivities its also a reminder that many elderly are alone at this time through no fault other than that their friends in age group have succumbed to death.

By Friday it was back to another good festive cheer event and catch up with someone I had worked with before. Drinks and a lovely early evening meal at Browns in Grey bit not grey street Newcastle before returning to “Scratch the Surface” in my local who were in my opinion pleasant without being great. Yoga on Saturday was challenging lol

After research on Friday with local travel agent supplemented by internet price check I have booked 2 weeks in Gambia from 2nd January. Do not know what 2016 will bring but I have had a great Personal year, a very poor Work year and am particularly pleased with my Family life. But no holidays others than a few days in Ireland in April and a weekend down south. That is flipping awful. Did a calculation on all my credit facilities which are largely unutilised and decided that despite the workless stretch this year that I would afford a holiday with thanks to plastic. Question to local Agent was where could I go that would give me warmth and something different. Prior questions have resulted in answers Morocco / Tunisia and it is along those lines that my natural curiosity is aligned. Only an idiot would realise that terrorism is blighting potential areas eg Egypt at this time of year. Canaries or Gambia was offered, latter selected and the biggest problem was getting to an airport that flies at required dates. An extra £100 to fly on 2nd rather than 1st but could not get to an airport in time on the 1st. Crazy country where public transport seems to exist for purpose of work not pleasure. Now booked. Checking out inoculations and will take my malaria tablets. Something experienced in the Congo before and not avoidable with tablets when living but certainly avoidable for holidays.

The saturday lecture (2nd last of this season) was on Edith Wharton upon one of whose books the movie "age of innocence" was based. Another quality writer for me to follow up on. another door opened to another writer upon whom my knowledge was zilch on Friday.

Pre christmas nails as the main design comes later

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Curry JSB & I

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 29, 2015 11:18:50

I was the only train passenger heading for the “Valley restaurant” in Corbridge on Monday evening after work. Food superb, service impeccable and my friend and I had the restaurant to ourselves. The only negative is that in the midst of winter there is so little to observe from the train as I headed out and back. The beckoning lights of Newcastle a welcome home return from the blanket of darkness of the muted sleeping countryside.

My Age UK befriending programme continues on Wednesdays and has been a regular fixture now for over 4 years visiting the same person. Years do fly so rapidly as we age but we ourselves not getting older as subjectively judged unless it’s the creak or grumble from within or a grey hair or two atop. Happy to continue as I am with this Programme but uncertain about what a friendship would be like with someone else. This has been somewhat special, frequently eye opening, sometimes challenging to mind-set and always enjoyable.

One unsuccessful interim role job application including preparation etc. this week which increases the impetus for get myself into permanent work asap for which a programme continues with an Employment Specialist. Am pleased with progress and at least in current role till end of year.

Saturday was a joyous delight of events and activities.

After a challenging rewarding and perspiration cup filling Yoga session my brain was let loose upon the writings of Marilynne Robinson/; an American writer now into her seventies and with four good books of fiction as I learnt. Nearly all in my class of 15 or so were keen fans or recent reading inductees to the power of her writing, the story sculpting, intelligent word usage and the forceful requirement upon the reader to read and not skim as mea culpa too frequently. Either “Housekeeping” or “Gilead” is now on the reading list and will join a pile upon the living room floor that grows as “Explore” unpacks its 80+ boxes of literary works inherited from a programme whose shape has changed but Phoenix like continues to enthral and at £1 donation each too good to side step and on floor too.

After 3 hours of mental improvement it was across the road to Tyneside Cinema to enjoy a wonderful pairing of Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett in “Carol”. Many of the reviews talk of Cate and it is her name that pulls in many but for me it is the loving chemistry between the two that is so special in this movie. The camera work, lighting, scene setting and mood creating techniques add so much to this movie too. Set in a time where lesbianism could be cured by a good Psychotherapist and a woman could lose access to her child because of the type of person she loved. Progress made and in movie subjects too and not about good time.

After a brief lull in activities it was off to St George’s Church in Jesmond for a performance of a selection of the music of JS Bach by the Newcastle Bach choir who turns 100 this year. The acoustics were wonderful in this building, the variety of singing and playing varied and most entertaining.

Today I turn my mind to New Year resolution setting which is not a 1 day but a relaxing casual 3 -4 week long annual process. This has been a great year for me on a personal level, a poor year on the work front although at last I have a robust plan to improve and last but not least a year which has seen good progress on the family front. And I have lost weight this year, got healthier via yoga, and developed a wider range of interests. As I get older I wish to grow as a better human with an increasingly diverse range of interests rather than live in an increasingly narrow focused world which provides solace and comfort to many. By the last week of December I will be ready for the year ahead.

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Flymo, Vans and a Spy

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 22, 2015 09:24:07

Flymo, Vans and a Spy

“Day of the Flymo” at Live Theatre (last night) which has just concluded a new run was excellent thought provoking material delivered with humour, passion and serious bite from a cast of 5 and set on Tyneside although could be anywhere in the UK.

· A 12 year old boy “Liam” who had in younger years protected his mother from a brutal attack by his father and was much troubled personally heading down the path of complete dysfunctionality badly managed by medications.

· An older sister who spoke sense and was unsupported to breaking point.

· Their mother whose 2nd husband was about to be released from Prison and who was increasingly unable to cope with her son. Worn down woman. Know any?

· A social worker trying to engage with great heart.

· A young female new-friend of the boy who was potentially a good influence.

Despite my lack of knowledge and experience (98% total at least) of responding and assisting such families I am deeply worried how the resources of people and money can be made available for the Social workers, the mothers and fathers and the children in such cases. Early intervention is in my opinion preferable to waiting for the powder keg to explode but that takes money and people which are in scarce supply. But it is more important than many areas of financial waste in our society. I would like to see a more vigorous debate on how we spend our resources. Dysfunctional families should be a priority.

Earlier in day I did enjoy “Lady in the van” which had a fabulous script crafted to word perfection and delivered by a great cast including Maggie Smith. A tale of a dysfunctional senior citizen and the inability of society to cope with her. Her driveway provider Alan Bennett did take many years to come to terms with her, himself and his relationship with his own mother. Whilst Flymo challenges our responses to problem families, this tale (15 years of mainly fact) leaps to the other end of the age spectrum.

Both tales are not isolated but symptoms of society and the questionable extent of intervention by the State. Great opportunity for debate on the trade off between personal choice, acceptable life style and when where and how the state should intervene. Great mind stirring material for the weekend but taking Sunday off.

Did get to a lecture at the Lit & Phil about the ambivalent attitude of Britain and the North east in particular towards Russia from about 1800 to early 1920. Our involvement has been most varied from the Carr’s and their businesses in St Petersburg through to Rudolf Abel who was born in Newcastle upon Tyne and went on to become the Russian spy exchanged for Gary Powers.

On the local music scene at the Maggie I enjoyed the performance of Voodoo Traveller (name is longer) last Sunday and the 2nd set of an excellent Diamond Geezers last night. Also on the menu last night was the Jazz Café a delightful haven of good music surrounded by the most boisterous cheer laden.

Thoughts on ISIS

And so it came to past that at the time of year that there are less than 3 wise men / women to be found in the EU. Cameron will press ahead with plans to get Parliamentary approval to bomb ISIS in Syria although we have a meagre force bombing them ineffectively in Iraq for some time. I am appalled at the political grandstanding and shenanigans going on, as he seeks to enlist opposition parties who seek to make hay at his weakness internally. Since 2014 there has been an Allied force of which we in Britain have been a part of mainly airplanes and some ground forces fighting Isis in Iraq and supporting rebels in Syria to defeat Assad. It’s all really silly to consider that Turkey as part of Nato will bomb Kurds who are fighting Assad and aligned with Iraqi state. Then Isis is using former Iraqi military commanders to train their forces. Throw in Russia supporting Assad and bombing all rebels and then wading in we have the internationally naïve Cameron seeking opportunities to galvanise his troupe of semi performing MPs.

ISIS is a nasty virulent organisation whose political economic and social policy I find repulsive on all levels. Therefore we have been at war with ISIS and consequently should have no surprise as to when they attempt to bomb us in our home cities. Our media portrays is as something new, as ina new threat. Its not new just not an exercised threat. We are and have been at war for 2 years and quite eagerly bombing them from time to time with our paltry forces. Our MoD has just published a list of actions in January of this year at

To destroy ISIS we need to snuff out their finances and with more vigour. Bloomberg has this week investigated and found that the Allies are not bombing fleets of ISIS oil tankers because that would kill the drivers who are apparently not ISIS employees. Such mad morality. ISIS is a very successful commercial organisation and yet we do not cut off its finances.

Iraq and Syria are now failed states the former because of our actions, the latter because of Assads failure to control and a very disunited fractious rebel force.

In conclusion I believe the war against ISIS should be

· Destroy its sources of revenue both militarily against its oil and financially against its banks and suppliers of weapons and vans too!

· Use technology against its communication and propaganda. What has been done so far is paltry.

· Bomb its training camps, supply routes, storage depots as the Russians have whilst we dithered.

· Support rebels who are fighting ISIS such as the Kurds but not just anyone as the USA have.

· Most importantly prepare for a future afterwards ensuring that support for a free press, independent judiciary, equality of access to health and education, small business support and reconstruction are prepared now so can be rolled out after a ceasefire. This is by far our greatest failing in the past and yet we love the jets and bombs over the tools of peace.

· Continue talking (just started mind you after 2 years) with the Russians as to how we can get Assad talking and provide him an exit strategy. He does not want to die like Gaddafi and Saddam inn the gutters of their countries. We may despise him but we need to encourage an exit before even more thousands of civilians die.

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Reflections on the week of 15th

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 15, 2015 13:15:03

On a personal level it has been a very enjoyable week including a performance of the Nutcracker by Northern Ballet on Saturday night. The choreography was excellent, costumes wonderful, sets created with great imagination and the music delivered with fantasia delight.

One aspect that stood out for me were the integration of young dancers from the Elaine Milbourne Theatre Dance School (researched their name) into the story where they dance with the adults but also as some of the most delightful playful mice on their own. What a wonderful incentive for young and gifted to pursue a difficult career whose creative output enchants by working with talented adults. This particular ballet from Tchaikovsky is to my mind one of his most playfully imaginative and it was wonderful to sit back and let my imagination run freely. Mmmm difficult today as I listen to a recording and type this.

Music of a different form was provided by Celtic Woman on Wednesday at the Sage. The performance was slick, very professional with good but not brilliant vocals and excellent percussion. Id travel to hear those two guys with some great kit. The songs selected were those you’d find at the exit duty free shop at any Irish airport. Pretty girls in lovely dresses singing of sweet things. Would have been happy to take my mother, glad to have gone (once) but would not return. They are said to do very well in the USA. The song style was such a contrast to that of Christy Moore the other week at the same venue who delivered lyrics of passion and fire.

Saturdays lecture form the Explore programme was on Max Beckman and his Triptychs. Had to think twice when I saw the topic in print first. Three pictures linked thematically, yes thats it. Historically the two side panels were hinged to the centre picture and this mechanism was used particularly when used for religious themes during the Renaissance when the panels could be opened to reveal all three pictures at spiritually significant times. Nowadays its generally three pictures on a wall. Max’s themes were varied around such as the “Departure” shown here and he provided next to no guidance on what they were supposed to be saying. It was good learning to explore his various Triptychs noting symbolism common, to discuss with others and to learn about the artistic portrayal of complex ideas from a great lecturer Peter Quinn. Very much a wonderful working of the mind morning.

Thoughts on Tragic Paris

A few years ago when wondering in Vietnam I came across what was an American cigarette lighter from the “war” engraved “Fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity”. True: from observation rather than personal experience. The lighter is no longer with me but the words remain engraved on my mind. The Americans got beaten there (Vietnam) by a non conventional army and a few years after the French had been beaten in same country by the same army. Conventional armies are not good against non conventional ones.

What has transpired this weekend in Paris could have happened is so many other cities across Europe and frequently does in the Middle East but with far less media coverage. Our free and open society is vulnerable to such attacks by whomsoever carries them out. Last nights outing by myself to the Nutcracker was via public transport, through a crowded Grey street so joyful and lively to a packed theatre not too far removed in layout from that in Paris. I did not see a single policeman last night nor any trouble and so it should be. But so many opportunities to kill should ones mind be so evil.

However, there are several countries such as Iraq where life is not like that here at home. We as in the Western democracies removed a dictator there whom we did not like and replaced him with a weak and frail democracy exploited by crookedness and tribalism. In the resulting structural vacuum ISIS has exploited opportunities, recruiting those favoured by Saddam, seizing control of tracts of land and several important towns. An uprising in neighbouring Syria has allowed the ISIS cancer to spread there. The West is still involved in providing support to a weak Iraq army and weaker rebels in Syria. Vacuums are bad as evil thrives.

We are very quick to play the military card from Vietnam to Afghanistan because we have the best toys available but we are dangerously careless in our lack of forethought as to what will replace the mayhem. We learn lessons and dispense experience gained through blood as if a seasonal fashion. It is great to hear of peace conferences such as planned for Syria but without embedding democratic structures such as a free press, education equality, judicial processes, property rights, ensuring personal security and safety to name a few basics then we will create another demonic structure such as Libya etc and not a democratic one.

We bomb others with impunity via drones, long range missiles which makes it seem safely clinical and risk free (to us). Blood and guts are delivered via tv pictures without texture or odour and we have seen so many of those that we are emotionally desensitised. My artist of the week Max Beckman had a nervous breakdown during World War 1 when he served as a medical orderly because of the horrors on the Eastern front not that the Western was much better. War up close is awful: It should be the last option not the first. If we wish to carry on fighting for “peace” we should realise it can be on our doorstep too. We should therefore learn not to be shocked if others wish to kill us because war has no rules. I hope we can do better but fear we prefer the roll of the drum, the flashy toys and pressed uniforms.

Yoga this weekend has pushed and challenged me and must start practising during the week as I see opportunities to improve.

Next weeks highlight is Day of the Flymo at Live theatre

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Reflections on 8th November

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 08, 2015 12:15:44

The musical part of the week started with a class on the “Sacred” form, which was as expected the least interesting part in the five classes to date. Sombre respectful just don’t ring bells with me with few exceptions such as Verdi’s requiem which I see as a final farewell rather than spiritual. Last class in the current series next Tuesday.

Then it was to a musical Jenufa by the Czech Janacek on wednesday and its easier to call it a musical although it is an opera. Telling folk that one is off to the Opera brings out the extremely over-knowledged rather than sanely knowledgeable. The former want you to know about them. The other extreme are the biased against opera. My interest is in pushing boundaries to my experiences and finding those forms of opera that appeal to my ear and sentiment. Jenufa was performed by Opera North in English with subtitles for the likes of me. It was a pacey vibrant script of love not returned twofold and of good intentioned meddling with cruel twists. I loved the music and the singing by the 100 year old tale as valid in story as life’s dramas today.

I failed to get to “Kiss me Kate” at Theatre royal last night preferring to sleep long in prospect of a busy week with 2 key appointments on the work front. I’m determined to avoid a repeat of the lengthy gap between assignments that I had earlier this year between May and June and which started in April. I am progressing well with an organisation called Next Steps Careers who offer career management advice. I badly need advice to avoid the cycle of gaps between contracts and aim to re-enter permanent work. The 3 sessions so far via skype have gone very well and am doing a video interview next Friday to be used to help market myself. In between on Tuesday I have an interview for an interim role to replace current role ending soon and which (the new one) might itself go permanent. My learnings to date with Next Steps will hopefully help me sell myself better. I am good at this selling malarkey but need to improve. Am determined to avoid coming 2nd. Im well aware of a bucket load of reasons why people might judge against me such as age gender but fundamentally it’s a desire by many recruiters compounded by agencies to look at prior role same job hamster repetition rather than skills set gained which can be applied. I need fresh minds who are prepared to see beyond the treadmill mindset.

Enjoyed somewhat the debate on poppy wearing and this is the first year in a decade I have not worn a poppy. Is it red white or a silent supporter of one of the many charities. I’ve listened and am peeved with the virulent “poppy police” of conformist group think mindset. I believe that both world wars arose out of rank stupidity of electorates and politicians and am saddened that we not much better now. We have scattered our bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq like confetti at a wedding and left failed states behind. We have a moral consistency that makes childhood fads seem like a credible philosophy. I think I understand why people volunteer to serve in our defence services and I have benefited from the protection proffered by the MoD when I lived in Kinshasa and units were stationed across the river in case required as Mobutu scrambled for his last flight out and my staff at work coloured in a map of the country which had fallen to the rebels. Surreal. They were not required and so it shows that not all soldiering is about kicking in doors in foreign wars. I have resolved my internal debate by signing up for a monthly donation the British Legion this morning but other than here don’t expect me to wave the flag because our politicians think its an endorsement of more of their stupidity and have hijacked the symbols of support for more of their sick purposes.

Spending time with good friends and catching up on their lives is an important part of my friendship and so over 5 hours was spent on Friday between Quay tap, Low Lights and Maggie. I perspired wine at Saturday yoga at 8 ha ha ouch

Double yoga this week but without the time warp - shame

Next week highlights are the Nutcracker at Theatre Royal (sat), Celtic Woman at Sage (wed) 2 work related meetings, an art lecture, and a music class. Must re-ignite weight loss programme which saw ¾ stone fade in spring and not re-emerge. More to be done before fattening season surfaces soon.

Nail art continues of course

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Sunday 1st reflections

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, November 01, 2015 12:39:51

A big musical kick to the start of my week with a good performance by “Fickle Lilly” in my local pub (Magnesia Bank / aka Maggie (100 yards away mind you)) followed by a performance by Christy Moore at the Sage on Monday. Christy’s introduction to the UK musical (folk) scene was in ‘66 when he could not get work in Ireland. My introduction to him was in a concert in the Bridge Hotel in Waterford City in the early 80’s with one of the several bands he played with, this one “Moving Hearts” were on stage. This group inspired one of my earlier LP purchases and the lyrics of one particular anti-nuclear song “Hiroshima Nagasaki” still plays in my mind. I had joined the local anti-nuclear group to be disappointed by the amount of extreme left wing publications but strongly of the view that we were not being given all the required information in the debate over a possible power plant at Carnsore which was in my then neighbouring county. Having a full understanding of all the relevant information in any issue is very important. On Monday the lyrics of another folk song composed by someone to whom Christy played tribute but memory allowed to elude me for now, was in respect of the Chinese cockle gathering workers at Morecambe who died tragically and needlessly a few years ago, when the tide came in but not in a traditional way in front of them, but whose employers cared not for them. It is good to see an increasing number of companies paying attention to the mental well being of their employees. Mental illness does not get the respect or understanding it deserves and it can creep up on one just like the tide caught up on those workers. Its impact is tragic and for the most part unseen until erupting on our personal stage.

The 2 hours non-stop musical evening by Christy was a delight in itself with songs packed with hert-felt meaning in a variety of subjects by a top class performer who does not seem to have aged. Ah sure: he always looked like that. I on the other hand have improved <smile>.

My Tuesday evening musical class was on the Sonata. Of particular interest was looking at the sonata form and its structure of Exposition, Development and Recapitulation starting with a listening, then a viewing of the musical notation to develop understanding before listening again now with improved appreciation. My Friday night brought me back to my local pub for the rock band Contraband which saw heavy perspiration adorning my neck and hair. Who put the heat on?.

Saturdays lecture was a delightful 3 hours on Orwell a more famous Blair (surname) than the political cocktail circuit one. One of his better known books, “1984” is scarily prescient not as to timing. 84 was a handy transposition of the year of publishing: ‘48. The monitoring and control of the administrators within the system and only of the proles who might pose a threat, the ability to do so in such a way that the object of surveillance unaware of being monitored, the harnessing of nation wide emotion to a single focus, the rigid thought formulation of issues in such a way that objection or non compliance is putting one so far out on the perimeter of debate. The expressions such as “strivers not skivers” or “hard working families” are designed to apply to 99% of the population. We are all “on board” with the direction of travel; or dare we find a different way. For example I find the debate on climate change dangerous as a scientific situation is being reduced to either one conclusion or the minority other but with major caveats as to the limitations on the Science overlooked. Science is not black white in such complexity. I want more scientific study of the pure form and not the partisan type where people look for science to support a single viewpoint. As another example; University campuses are increasingly less debate friendly and more for a single viewpoint. One of the joys of debating from many years ago was when with a voluntary organisation initially in Ireland and then south Africa was when we as a public speaking group within the organisation (Junior Chamber of Commerce/ Jaycees) were given a motion to prepare and after 10 days received advice that we would be required to propose and not oppose the motion as we had been told. No time was wasted in those 10 days as a good debate requires understanding of the other side of the debate. If one cannot see the other side of the debate or argument then you don’t understand it. We are rapidly heading to a single viewpoint on any issue and its radical to be non compliant.

Enjoyed very much the last 2 games of the Rugby World Cup pleased that South Africa regained some pride by defeating Argentina and particularly as they has started the tournament by losing to Japan who were my favourites from the 20 teams after that. Vey unsurprised by the All Blacks victory as they were a machine of consistency; lapses of minutes not hours.

Double Yoga sessions this week and collapsed during Saturdays in a 3 minute routine to the music of the time warp when endless varieties and combinations of “plank” position the beat. Music can be cruel too. I recovered later, slowly.

Finished reading “My sister my love” by Joyce carol Oates: which was enjoyable tale of a dysfunctional family to typical by far where the 2 children were doped high on meds by their parents to combat personal issues arising from poor parenting. Not as good as the gravediggers daughter. On now “The Buddha of Suburbia” by Kureishi (comedy)

Next week sees an outing to the opera Jenufa (pushing personal boundaries) and also “Kiss me Kate” (ha!) and hopefully a movie now that the rugby is over (for me)

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Sunday 25th reflections

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, October 25, 2015 11:26:46

Having enjoyed the Manifesto musical show at Northern Stage on Saturday I was surprised to find that Tynemouth market (passing through on another task) had a book sale on Sunday and limiting myself to 15 minutes (to prevent buying too much as is a weakness) amidst more than 30 stalls I was lucky to find a copy of the works of Julia Darling which has now been added to my “To read” pile on the floor. The pile is on the floor as I don’t have enough bookcase space. The physical form exists rather than digital as I prefer the feel of paper which ages as I do roughly a year each per annum. I am loathsome to Kindleise or similar the accumulated books many of which have crossed the Equator 3 times because I’m what some would call old fashioned but cynically have spent a lot of time converting likes and loves from records to cassettes to cd to cloud something and sense books might do same costly journey but most importantly as at least I own the book rather than rent form a conglomerate that may disappear before I die leaving me without a multitudinous series of links to my past. Like musical Album collectors I like the covers, the formats and personalities of the physical form.

My Tuesday musical lecture was on Secular Song pulling together a 800 year history of the various forms of non religious singing including Troubadours, “Part song”, Madrigals, Ballet (not the dance!) and Art song. This was the third in a series of 6 classes before Christmas which I continue to enjoy.

Saturday morning’s class also from Explore and retaining its one off subject nature was the “Evolution of the Pit Village”. Exploitative totally at first before either humanity via Quaker owners etc or the law led, to certain and very mixed varied improvements. I cannot help but feel that it was always a commercial trade off between the minimum of commercial cost with but a vaguest tint of morality. Communities need more and a dependency on a single industry or company leaves a vulnerability to Community that we see with for example with SSI. The South African mining industry (lived in RSA 1983-95) used to be criticised for recruiting employees on a single status basis for its mines which were for the most part geographically distinct from employees home by much more than a daily or weekly commute. This practise leads to all sorts of difficulties in relationships where bread earner was separate from family for many years. A compromise I feel is that where we have something similar to a Pit Village or single company town, some of the taxes (corporate /employee) should be put into a fund such as a Trust Fund to be used to help employees and their families when the reason for existence of that distinct newtown ceases. To clarify lets say that a new mineral resource is found in a remote part of the UK. The company sets up operations, recruits employees who move to live in the area and live and work there for 5/10/15 years with their families. At the end of the extraction process there would be a fund available to allow re-settling and retraining. Our society should be doing so already but as with the SSI story there seems to be a significant lack of money for when it is most badly required.

On my work front I continue in Interim work with QE hospital Gateshead. I was financially hurt by 9 weeks WORK gap after Uni of Sunderland finished in May and which forced me in the latter part of 9 weeks to consider leaving this area which has been my home since 2002. I was reluctant in extreme and driven by desire and will to work in what I enjoy. I have this week started a series of 1-1 sessions with a new speciality employment consulting business (single person not a conglomerate) with whom I have the confidence to help refine and improve how I sell myself in this box filling market whilst Im a generalist not a specialist. I’m not interested in coming 2nd in interviews which has happened at least once this year, nor in wasting time exploring opportunities driven solely by financial necessity rather than passion. Over the next 5 -6 weeks approx. I plan to get the advice and tools I need to improve my marketability and secure something that takes me away from the uncertainty that is the single problem of note in my life. Very pleased and very happy to have single problems.

Other activities

Sunday band last week at Maggie and visit planned later today for Fickle Lilly at MB if not diverted by rugby.

Age UK / TMW volunteering with a busier than normal week on the latter.

Saturday Yoga with my Sunday sessions resuming today. Missed not having the double weekend session in an activity that has helped me love and treasure my body a tad more than in the past.

Disappointment with Ireland losing to Argentina at rugby and enjoyed the physical battle of South Africa / All Blacks yesterday. Id have preferred to see a different result and think that this was indeed the real “Final” of a most delightful competition. Pleased that Newcastle won at football and curious if goal scoring will continue at Derby today. My befriendee on the Age UK volunteering is despite her mid 90's age a keen football fan. Such is how different threads of weekly life link up in a wonderful mosaic itself a component of a bigger evolving form.

Looking forward to Christy Moore at the Sage tomorrow evening.

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Sunday 18th reflections

Week that wasPosted by Fiona MacCarthy Sun, October 25, 2015 11:21:19

Over the past few years I have found that my website has provided a useful platform directly and indirectly to connect up with friends and work colleagues from my time working and living in other countries. This combined with Linked In, FB (when I have not divorced or binned it as has been my volcanic expression at crass manipulation upon several occasions) has allowed me the opportunity to meet up in life, or on line, and chat with friends about them and I. It’s not that I expect every friendship of the past to have the same energy today but it is to provide a broader foundation to my much travelled life, integrating the melting pot of the past with present and allowing the opportunity to rekindle afresh. The strength of flame is not my primary pursuit but the re-lighting process and seeing what happens.

One such friendship was/is Yvonne B who was an inmate (actually a resident) of a neighbouring shared house or “communes” as we called them which is a word I cannot resist reusing although it can confuse some, upon 2nd Avenue Houghton, Johannesburg in mid to late 80's. Her home was called the “Big Pink” whilst mine was “Peggottys”. Names were important to us and provided an umbrella for a distinctive social atmosphere or chemistry. Both houses were long time self-perpetuating rented homes neglected in décor, functional in maintenance and warm very energetic centres of participative engaging shared social life. My home was shared with 5 other British / Irish with a games room (including full size snooker), tennis court and swimming pool not to mention 3 bars which were scarce feature at that time in the neighbouring metropolis. Having reconnected online (not sure how now) with Yvonne I was delighted to take a rail journey south to the village of Brinsley a short distance from Langley Mill on the Sheffield to Nottingham line and closest to the latter. It was great to sit and chat, see the locality, eat and chat with some of her friends, party with some more, meet a most wonderful horse by the name of Nova, collect a barrow load of poo which is a must do task once off (imo!!) and one to be farmed out (sic) if affordable particularly if weather is winterish. It was a wonderful weekend. (Friday 9th-11th).

The “Explore” programme run mainly at Commercial Union House offers an annual programme of much varied lectures and Tuesday nights is my current music night where under expert guidance a group of music lovers meet to listen discuss and learn about aspects of music in its broader sense although modern styles of recent decades are rare on the menu. This Tuesday 13th was on the Concerto in its varied forms. Ninety minutes of musical diversion listening discussing, improving my knowledge and deepening my understanding of a vast subject that delights my days.

A one off lecture on Thursday by Professor Randell of Newcastle University on Turing, Enigma, Lorenz, Tommy Flowers (yes you have the link) and the contributions of the lesser known but significant contributor to computer development; Percy Ludgate from Cork in Ireland. Delivered at the historical Lit & Phil in Newcastle it brought together in expert hands the code breaking work done by a small group of brilliant minds at Bletchley Park (not Ludgate). The professor’s involvement was from a few decades ago where the acronym GCHQ was shrouded in mystery and where he dug away at officialdom and Official Secrets Act to extract some information but also helped ensure that they (the powers that be) documented what they had done, for later years when secrecy relaxed. Ludgate was a brilliant mind who did great work on modelling how computers should work which are reflected in our current toys and tools. Roll over Babbage who was so impractical but often held out as starting point of computers (don’t disagree with that latter point).

Brownfield sites is a rather off putting title to a Saturday morning lecture but was expertly delivered conveying an understanding of the complexity surrounding knowing and appreciating what went on before but is largely unseen. A practical small group task to work with 4 maps from 4 points in time spanning a 100 years was good way of demonstrating why it’s not as easy as we might wish for. Not a subject for further studies by myself but glad to have tasted without sour odours or mucky boots.

Live Theatre puts on some great shows and helps many shows get an airing they would not do in a larger venue. “Our Ladies….” Did not need too much help to fill the venue for a month including my visit on Friday. A wonderful coming of age musical with lively vibrant street vocabulary from 6 Scottish convent schoolgirls on a trip to Edinburgh under guidance of Nuns for a choir competition. Human friendship, support, love, vicious verbal assaults upon conventional thoughts and ways of expression abounded.

A very different musical on Saturday at Northern Stage was “Manifesto for a new city” based upon an idea where a popular uprising by the people of Newcastle had resulted in the city administration being reclaimed by the people, the Councillors sent to cut up their suits and then re-sew them together. “People should know the history of their streets” which is something I long to do and poetry should be read more often. Penned by Julia Darling shortly before her death in 2005 from Breast Cancer before she reached the age of 50 it was though provoking, expertly and passionately delivered by a cast of 14 amateurs and so fitting to our year when many people are disgusted with our politicians and saying so.

Other activities this week which kept me busy

2 bands at Maggie Bank on Friday / Saturday where renovations now delayed till January but venue needs owners love badly and soon

Age UK volunteering where I continue Befriending programme and continue to enjoy with same person for over 4 years now.

Trans Media watch: a charity where I do some work as Treasurer and where I would like to spend more time if I could working with the media and other organisation on improving media reporting on Trans issues.

Yoga on Saturdays and hopefully a 2nd session on Sunday to resume soon

Joy; watching Ireland’s rugby victory (2nd half as was travelling earlier) over France although concerned about the injuries to the Green Giant (my kind) warriors.

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