Category: Events and Outings

Seasons (by )

I realised something whilst watching all the online banta and bitchin about Halloween verses Christmas. For me there is no real distinction as such, Halloween at the beginning of the darker, scarier but also conversely cosy and safe part of the year.

I see the festivities as flows and markers within the seasonal procession but they are the beginnings not the ends. I think most people see the fixed Western calendar dates as the ends of the festivities. Both me and Alaric see them as beginnings or markers and that is all. I think that is also how my Grandparents and that saw them as there was a steady ramp up and down to Christmas/Easter etc....

And from them I have also come to the conclusion that there is kind of only two seasons for me as well - Summer and Winter - Spring and Autumn are the transition periods. Autumn is the ramp up to Winter but though I used Winter as the name for the season in the darker part of the year I do not believe that the bit normally labeled autumn is less important it is more - that for me they blend and merge and are in essence one.

Looking at fiction produced for Children I find myself thinking that others feel the same - the groupings are always Spring-Summer and Autumn-Winter. Maybe this is because I think like a child?

For me "winter cosy" or the making of the safe place or creating the home nest, begins with Harvest - my seasons also do not entirely match our months. Harvest is a nebulous term as food can be pretty much gathered all year round if you know where to look but some times are easier than others and for many things there is a deadline for harvest i.e. before the bad frosts begin. Nature being nature and physics being physics the precise times for these alter ever year. There are variations within years, the Earth's orbit round the sun changes, climate fluctuations, sunspot activities and volcanic eruptions on other bits of our glob all affect it. But roughly speaking it is the end of September or beginning of October.

This is Harvest Festival time it is when I am still foraging but the fruits are getting less abundant and I'm winding down things like the tomato and squash plants. Now begins baking and making time snugged in my home. It is jam, wine - preserves time, I start planning in my head what sort of presents we will give at Christmas. I start to itch for long long walks in the low golden sunshine that bounces off of trees and clouds and seems to be a remembrance of the harsher summer light.

Of course this is also the time when I start to suffer from season light issues - but the thing is with that... it is only an issue with how our society is structured - it actually means I'm kind of more in tune with how things are - I am adapting to the changing light levels and getting ready for the northern reaches semi hibernation.

I start knitting and watching films with the girls, more board games are played, if our fire place was installed properly we'd light fires. We snuggle under blankets as Harvest melts seamlessly into Halloween with vegetables grown and picked (or selected) are strung up or carved into faces to keep the souls and spirits whipping around loose at this quarter turn of our globe away, marking our homes as safe spaces. I light a candle to remember those no longer with us - I think it is a Jewish thing not sure - my Welsh grandmother used to do it.

When I was a kid the nights from Halloween to Bonfire night were filled with listening to ghostly stories around a lit pumpkin until fireworks night sparklers were dumped into the beginning to moulder flesh.

Bone Fire Night contained the mission of checking for hedgehogs in the prepared fires to be - they were normally constructed from someones old wardrobe and a couple of pallets no one wanted anymore. When my dad worked at the timber yard along with a few of our other neighbours lots of wood was found along with scavenge from the local out crop of trees - our "wood". Everyone would bring a few fireworks and we'd go behind the houses, eating burgers and sausages cooked on peoples BBQs not yet packed away from the summer. Sometimes apples and potatoes were cooked in the fire embers for a later meal whilst we toasted marshmallows and drank hot chocolate. In some ways it was the beginning of the dark part of the year but also the transition and halloween/bonfire week would be the last major use of the outdoor spaces for gathering and eating as the cold began to strike.

It was packing away the remnants of summer time.

The first painful to be outside and true winter event was/is less than a week later - Armistice Day or Remembrance Sunday when we would march and sing and lay wreaths and think on war and the horrors within and the making of heros and the breaking of their families hearts. Blood red drops of flowers and later white contrasts mingled and mixed. I used to collect the remnants of poppies with conquers that lay strewn on the ground, one was strung to play multitudes of tournaments, the others were used to repair and create new flowers as the forgotten mutilated remnants of flowers hurt too much - it was as if people forgot what it was all about as soon as the service had finished.

Mists and fogs and frosts, sometimes together, would swallow up our little out crop of London - this still happens here in the Cotswolds too though there are more frosts and the fogs and mists are in patches depending on the ground layout.

Being part of various Choirs and Sunday School meant that most of November was spent in prep for Christmas and now as a workshop leader and crafter this is still very much true and so the seasons slide seamlessly.

Frost makes the air taste of tin and smell of electric sparks, I would make stories up about Jack Frost and how he made all the patterns as I walked to school, I'd tell of the ice dragon who lived under the railway bridge and prove it's existence by the plumes of breath that arose from us in the chill.

Sometimes I got into trouble for scaring my brother and little cousins but that was more with my Mad March Hare at Easter.

Gloves would be sown on strings and hats labeled. We'd feed the goats at the top of our road our playtime crisps so that their breath would warm our fingers.

For a few years which seemed like every year it snowed and settled but that was generally after Christmas Day.

Christmas involved ADVENT and NATIVITY and stories and songs and making things, making so many things and also at my school the Christmas play my favourite being a Chinese story about dragons in the moon and sun.

Glitter covered everything and lights lit up the dark night and candle processions filled the streets and one of my favourites - Santa on a sleigh would come round collecting for children's charities, you'd get a sweet weather you dropped a coin or not, I was often too shy to go up to Father Christmas so a Carole Singer would have to rescue me and give me my sweet.

We'd learn about why we put apples on trees and eat lots of food - the festivities meant visiting family and friends and staying inside with them whilst the world was dark and miserable outside.

There would be Christmas Bazaars and Fetes and Rainham Village would turn into a Christmas Village complete with stag men and a rag-a-tag men dancing and fake snow drifting across the streets. We would have to help at the sausage sizzle. They did a similar thing in May for the Summer but that involved a Maypole and no baskets of fruit.

Later on whilst working on the campsite I discovered the joy of catching the silver dawns often gently tinted of new year mornings, of seeing the trees silhouetted against the weak but trying sun, watching it burn off the mist and reveal subtle rainbows in the dew drops. The barren woods are not that barren and little birds and scurrying animals would say hello. When we lived at The Mill deer would come at dawn to drink, breaking ice in the streams shallow edges.

My uncle would do insane races in water on New Years Day after his epic parties with streamers being set off at mid night and New York and Auld Lang Eye sung badly. Often the parties greeted the dawn with all ages in attendance and left over curry for breakfast.

Christmas for me will always continue to twelve night but it doesn't really end there... there would be little bits of the story still unfolding through January until the beginning of February. Especially as I have a January birthday and we'd have some decorations left for my celebration (yes I'm aware some people consider this bad luck). But then the wise men didn't finish their journey until well after my birthday and they still count as Christmas!

And then for me the change over occurs February 14th with Valentines Day - flowers are peeking, the birds are beginning to change places again. It is transition time to the Lighter Part of the year where I crave the outdoors and make my family live in tents and eat BBQ food and sit in gardens and dig allotments. Feb. is when I start potting seeds up to germinate on the window sills. For me it is the beginning of Spring-Summer I know that for most people it is not.

So that is my seasonal divide - how do others view the changes of seasons?

Mad but Lovely Times! (by )

Things have been pretty mad here! There have been Science Festivals, poetry festival, scare acting and a whole host of other things! Last week saw SMASHfest at Gloucester Library which was super super amazing and Cuddly Science had a fab time.

The Wiggly Pet Press launched the Gloucester Poetry Societies first book Poetry without Pretension at the The Gloucester Poetry Festival and Salaric Art and Craft have been out and about doing Upcycling projects and drawing like fiends!

And of course all three of those things are me plus the acting! This last week alone saw me filmed for TV, interviewed for radio and though I wasn't in the photo Cuddly Science was photographed for the newspaper. I have so many photos and things to share and November is looking pretty exciting too with more acting, Christmas craft workshops, archaeology digs, singing, Diversity, literature and poetry Festivals, craft fayres, community outreach and museum gigs! I am no longer taking bookings for 2017 sorry about that but I really am full!

And that's without all the domestic stuff like my hospital appointments and halloween/fireworks events for kids etc... not to mention Nanowrimo and stuff.

Poetry! Poetry! Poetry! (by )

The first ever Gloucester Poetry Festival is almost upon us - Saturday (21st Oct 2017) sees events starting off with an extra special Food for Thoughts at the Cafe Rene 2-5 pm. This is followed by the Gloucester Waterstones Villanelles on Sunday 2-4 pm complete with Poetry Roulette and me co-hosting!

Then on Thursday the Festival proper begins with a plethora of events 🙂 So check it out!

And then of course there is the really exciting news! The Gloucester Societies first ever poetry collection has arrived and is a gorgeous book!

Poetry Without Pretension The Gloucester Poetry Societies Poetry Collection

Copies of Poetry Without Pretension will be at all the festival events and are also purchasable from my publishing group The WigglyPet Press.

Poetry pouches containing limited edition Poetry Festival 2017 badges will also be being given out at events until we run out!

Spoogy Woogy Oooogy! (by )

Monday night I inflicted my childrens poetry on an audience in the Waterstones Cheltenham as part of the Villanelles series run by The Gloucester Poetry Society.

Sarah reading The Little Book of Spoogy Poetry at Waterstones Cheltenham

This beautiful photo of the reading was taken by Kurt Schroeder Photography which is a challenge as I can't really do flash photography and the light levels were poor!

The Little Book of Spoogy Poetry

The The Little Book of Spoogy Poetry has been getting out and about again - Last weekend saw me take the baby yeti (Alaric) to Cheltenham Library along with El Nosy Rat for the Fun Palaces Event.

Sarah Snell-Pym reading from The Little Book of Spoogy Poetry at Cheltenham Library

It's interesting to note that the outfit Alaric is wearing is the reason there is a poem with the line "One Daddy dressed as a Yeti" in it and now he puts the outfit on for the poetry readings! It was originally made for a Yeti Hunt when we first started up the Cranham Scouting sections 🙂

A Hiding Baby Yeti at the Cheltenham Library Fun Palace Event 2017

At the poetry readings he is a naughty baby yeti who is also very shy and has a habit of hiding until the children call him to come out! This time the baby yeti stole Jean's shoes! When I took him to the climbing wall he kept hanging upside down! That baby YETI!

El Nosy Rat entertaining small child at the Cheltenham Libraries Fun Palace 2017

El Nosy Rat also features in one of the poems which he is a bit disgruntled about as it feels it gives rats a bad name! He is a relatively new member of the performance team and is also known as Ratty The Plague Rat/Black Death Rat when he comes out on Cuddly Science outings 🙂

El Nosy Rat and Mummy Eating Cherry Pie Cloth Patch

He is a big hit with the kids and talks with a bit of an Eastend twang. In the photo above he his holding on of the lovely cloth patches of the Mummy Eating Cherry Pie (one of the poems and illustrations from the book). I had these made last year and they are in some of my surprise pouches! These were made by White Wizard Purple Elf who also made Jean's beautiful dark fairy hoody. Talking of surprise pouches I did kind of forget I they were also glitter bombs so covered the Children's Library in glitter 0.o

Halloween and Autumn Colouring In sheets by Sarah Snell-Pym

Last year I also spent ages tracing some of the pictures from the book so that I could turn them into black and white colouring sheets. The idea is that eventually all the illustrations will be up for free down load and maybe even as an actual colouring book. I tend to be a bit slow going with this as I do a little bit every September and October. But it did mean that this year I had lots of pictures ready for digital clean up and conversion to colouring in sheets 🙂

I am steadily popping them all on WigglyPets Press - including the older ones I made which have some colour traits like the pumpkin outlines being orange 🙂

There are still quiet a few to be traced and scanned still but that along with new audio files will have to await my new computer!

And talking of audio files don't forget you can listen to the poems on my bandcamp though it is still missing it's story and song to be a proper collection 🙂

Or you can watch a much younger Jeany reading the poems and a baby Mary trying to join in 🙂

I only have about 20 of my original print run left, after they have gone the book will be a more expensive print on demand thing on Amazon. And a second volume is also wending it's way to completion 🙂

But that will be a tale for another year!

But before I leave you I shall explain why it is the Spoogy book and not a Spooky book - when she was 4 yrs old Jean asked me if we could make a poetry book for halloween and so we did about topics she picked... that book was all hand drawn and written and did not contain all ten poems that later appeared in The Little Book it also got a cup of water knocked over on it shortly after it's creation as Jean has it in her tray table next to her bed - the tray table where she was allowed her night time water as if it was spilt it would all stay in the tray!

The 4 yr old Jean could not say Spooky - 4 yr old Jean said Spoogy and the book was for her, I've been asked to change it for "proper" publication but the poems are what they are - first and for most for my kids and the Spoogy bit is an essential part of that. If you are interested here is the blog post from when I made the book back in 2009.

Me Too… and Jean (by )

Ok so seriously are there going to be any women who wouldn't be eligible to write "Me Too" on their statuses?

For those who don't know there is a Status meme and has tag going around social media to highlight the amount of sexual harassment and abuse that women get (including trans etc).

And there is a lot of it - especially if you include catcalling - that's kind of it as soon as you walk down a street on your own and as for public transport at night... I've lost count of the number of willies that have come out for a waggle. And these are not "serious" things, then there is crowd groping, the old rubby rubby which again are kind of hazards of travelling, followed by school yard bar pings and skirt lifts and then we are into the deathly serious rape area which if it hasn't happened to you tends to be a thing you fear will happen to you - hence all the special kits given out to female students when you start uni and the "rape" alarms put in the toilets in the student unions though obviously you aren't officially allowed to call them that though all the staff do. And why bus drivers give me warnings about which stops to get off at at night and so on.

There are reasons that we considered self defence to be a high priority to teach to our kids and that Jean knows protocols for being followed on her way home from school or being approached etc... and the issue doesn't end at us letting her out on her own - I am a small woman - last summer saw us being surrounded by teenage boys and having verbal sexual and horrible (mistaken) racial slurs thrown at us (shortly before they covered our van in shit). Initially they hadn't seen Alaric, and from a distance he is often mistaken as a women anyway and you can see peoples body language and aggression levels change when they realise he is a man and one who is not going to back down - interestingly it didn't even occur to me to report the intimidation and verbal abuse it was only because we called in to report the poo incident that it got reported.

But even when she was much younger we were getting catcalled resulting in me having to explain certain words to her.

When laid out bare like this it makes our society look pretty sick and ill at ease with itself and quiet frankly not very advanced.

Recently I discovered that some universities in this country only started admitting women in 1987 and that was protested at! I was six years old in a country being led by a female PM and a Queen - I still need to chase the facts up but between that and single mothers still forcefully having their babies removed in the 70's it is a rather slower march to equality than I had envisioned.

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