In the December edition of the Newsletter:
So, what will you be doing for Christmas? Let's see if I can guess?
Probably getting together with members of your family for a big Christmas lunch. I won't be. You'll probably have roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry sauce and sausages wrapped in bacon. And sprouts and roast potatoes and gravy. I won't. You'll probably follow that with Christmas pudding. I won't.
Someone will have spent much of Christmas Eve peeling all those spuds and sprouts, and much of Christmas morning cooking that festive feast. I won't. Then you'll probably collapse in front of the telly to doze it all off, until it's time for ham sandwiches and mince pies and Christmas cake for tea. Not me.
My family are a bit odd. We don't do any of that. For a start, I don't think there's anything in that long list of food that most of us would choose to eat. I like sprouts and the boys like sausages, but that's about it. None of us would choose to eat turkey, and none of us like Christmas pudding or mince pies or Christmas cake. And we don't like eating dinner during the day.
We all like roast dinner, but in the evening, not at lunchtime. We like to do all sorts of other stuff during the day, usually energetic and usually out of doors. Most of my boys appear at some stage over Christmas, but I never know who is going to turn up when, and we all like it that way. No commitments, no expectations.
Bet you're dying to know what we eat for our untraditional Christmas dinner, aren't you? Well, tough! I'm going to tell you, anyway. Roast lamb always wins the meat vote, and sprouts never win the veg vote. Broccoli, cabbage, beans; anything but sprouts. Roast potatoes of course (with their skins on), but far more important is Yorkshire pudding. And several gallons of gravy. All of which the boys happily reheat, if they happen to turn up on a different day from the day it is cooked.
The pudding of choice has varied over the years. It used to be baked Alaska when the boys were young. (Messy to reheat!). Raspberry pavlova seems to be more popular these days. (No reheating required). Or chocolate pavlova. Or both. And instead of Christmas cake? Again, that's changed over the years. It used to be chocolate log. Now it seems to be treacle plum cake. And instead of mince pies? Scones and jam and clotted cream.
So, no traditional menu and no big organised family gathering, just various sons and hangers on drifting by from time to time, eating whatever they can get their hands on, and drifting off again to leave me in peace.
And what of my 92-year-old mother? Will she be joining us? No, she won't. We invite her. We do most years. But she usually likes to do her own thing, too. This year she's off to Catalonia to join the latest Spanish Civil War. She's very into all things Spanish and feels she really ought to get involved. She hasn't quite decided which side she's on yet, but if you should happen to see an elderly lady on the television news, fighting one or both sides with great enthusiasm, armed with a robust walking stick, it may well be my Mum, celebrating Christmas.
Merry Granny and Happy New Socks to you all.
I'm Chenda Appleyard
Kilimanjaro and Premature Babies
Climbing Kilimanjaro in Tanzania is undoubtedly a challenge for anyone and something I have always wanted to tackle. Bag packed and trip planned for February 2018, I felt I could use this experience to help a charity; Bliss (providing help and support to ill babies; premature babies and parents) hoping to raise £4,500 between now and the beginning of December 2017. If you feel this is a charity you would like to support, you can make a donation either directly or if you would like it to count towards my fund raising effort, you can use my JustGiving page at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/supportinglittleones. If you would like further details of the work of Bliss, their telephone number is 020 7378 1122 or their website www.bliss.org.uk. Thank you.
On Saturday, 14th October 2017 over 40 members from the North-East region gathered at Minerva Lodge Masonic Hall in Hull for the Regional Wayzgoose.
After a welcome from the Regional Officer, Chenda Appleyard and Secretary Chris Brooks, the five tables were invited to discuss in their table what they would most like to see or be achieved in their lifetime. This resulted in the following suggestions:
- Because the planet is so over populated and there isn't enough space for all the people everyone becomes either vegetarian or vegan. The space that is no longer required for livestock could be used to accommodate people.
- For the Sahara to be turned green with vegetation again as it once was.
- Manufacturing in the UK to be reinvigorated - giving a great many people a purpose in life and pride in their work.
- Bridges to be built across all seas and oceans so that it was possible to drive everywhere without having to fly.
- Bionic improvements to humans, principally with the intention of repairing currently serious and disabling injuries.
The Local Officers including, Chenda Appleyard, (Harrogate), Chris Finn (Hull), Chris Bee (East Coast of Yorkshire) Richard Arthurs (York) and Graham Smith (Huddersfield), gave a brief rundown of activities in their areas.
Tricia Thomas, Web Officer and meeting co- ordinator asked that people send her notices about events early to allow plenty of time for publishing them.
In her report Chenda indicated a change of officers in Leeds. Susan Graves was moving to Derby and so Ann Gregory would be taking over as Leeds Local Officer.
Chenda also reported that Roberta Bampton, (Treasurer) has been co-opted to the Board of British Mensa.
Finally, Chenda introduced Mike Wilson from Grimsby who was celebrating his birthday and attending his first Mensa meeting since re-joining Mensa.
The guest speaker, Beth Thomas of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust was then introduced. Beth spoke for about 40 minutes giving an overview of the trust and how it fits in with national wildlife trusts and its role
in building relationships with land owners and funding bodies to secure land for nature reserves. She then talked about some of the reserves and the animals that can be seen in them. At the end she answered questions from the audience. More information on the trust can be found at http://www.ywt.org.uk
Beth was thanked by Chenda for her informative and interesting talk.
The activities for the afternoon were then discussed, with local members making several suggestions for things to see and do around Hull. These included visiting the old town or one of several museums in the town. Hull was the birthplace of William Wilberforce, the Hull MP and slavery abolitionist and a visit to his house was recommended. There is also a trawler in the Hull River open to the public and a number of wildlife reserves near to Hull.
Members were reminded about the regional e-mail list and how to join. Local members were encouraged to talk to Chris Finn from Hull to try and organise some local activities.
The meeting was then closed and the traditional quiz was handed out to be completed over lunch.
The winning team members were: Julian and Alison Clayton, Richard and Julie Bevan, Anne Rothwell, Sue Barker, Teresa Lunn and John Sharp.
Thanks to Chris Brooks for completing the notes so quickly to enable them to be in Spotlight.
The next Regional Wayzgoose will be held in the Doncaster area on 28th April 2018.
The front of the house was dark. You'd think they could have left a light on. Fumbling with his key at the lock he opened the front door and stepped inside. His guitar he placed against the wall, his sandals he removed one by one and placed on the shoe rack. The hall was dark. From the lounge room, a blue glow and a murmur of sound suggested occupation. "Hello," he called, but there was no reply. Crossing the hall, he stepped into the dimly lit lounge room. "Mother, Papa, I'm here."
The two recliner chairs facing the television held the recumbent bodies of his parents. Their blank faces watched the screen, oblivious to his presence. The glow from the cathode ray tube bathed them in ersatz twilight, giving their faces a waxen sheen. Disturbed, he lent forward and touched his mother on the knee. Beneath the crocheted woollen rug her skin was warm and yielding, but her gaze remained fixed on the television. He knelt at her side, and reached across to touch his father's hand, resting loosely on the arm of the chair. His father's hand was warm and dry, the papery skin wrinkled but taut over the bones and tendons. The old man did not look around at the touch of his hand. His face did not move, his gaze concentrated on the screen.
Uneasy, uncomprehending, the son, too, turned to face the screen. The volume was turned down so that only a faint murmur of sound reached him. The picture, in black and white, appeared to be a grainy image of a group of people marching along a road. Their clothes were those of a generation ago, cotton blouses and full skirts on the women, collarless shirts on the men. They marched arm in arm, sometimes four, sometimes six abreast. There were subtitles along the bottom of the screen, but they were in a language he had never seen before. Was it even a language? The letters were not in any alphabet he knew of.. What was there about this program that had his parents so transfixed?
Once again, he looked back at his parents, but still they had not moved. Their relaxed pose, each lying back in a chair, head and feet supported, arms lying limply on the arms of the chair, suggested almost sleep; certainly, deep relaxation. If they had been outside, they might have been sunbathing. But the only thing bathing them here was that flickering glow from the television.
What is happening to my parents? Is this a dream? Will I wake up and find normality restored?
He leant closer to his mother, shaking her shoulders and shouting in her face, "Mother! Look at me!" But his mother continued to look straight ahead, at where the television screen would be if his head hadn't been in the way.
And his father never moved.
And on the television screen the people still marched.
I must do something. There must be an answer somewhere. Think, think!
He stood up and went to the light switch on the wall near the door, his hand raised to press it down. Suddenly his father spoke, "Don't!"
He turned his head swiftly, but his father did not appear to have moved. He looked back at the switch and again his father spoke, "Don't touch the switch." The voice was mechanical, toneless. And the faint trace of accent, product of his earlier life, was missing. The capacity to ignore or deny the evidence of one's senses is probably limited to the human race. Only the human animal would be foolish, or arrogant, or suicidal enough to look danger in the face and ignore its existence.
So, he went to bed.
His room was as he had left it. The lamp on the bedside table cast a muted glow over the single bed, its covers thrown back and bottom sheet wrinkled. Mother, you didn't make my bed. But the glow was warm, yellow, not the cold blue of the room he had just left. The bed seduced him with the prospect of oblivion and without thought he lay down upon it, abandoning himself to a deep dreamless sleep.
That he should sleep at all seems unthinkable. That he should sleep soundly until the sunlight, worming its way through a threadbare patch of curtain, traced light onto his eyelids, seems unbelievable.
When he awoke his bedside lamp was still lit, but the room was bright with sunshine, the harsh glare of noon, not the pale light of dawn. For a while he lay in bed, stretching his arms and legs, flexing his muscles, his eyes closed against the glare.
Eventually, sighing, he turned his head to squint at the clock on the bedside table. The two hands were nearly touching. Noon. He had slept till noon. He had never slept till noon before. But there was something, some reason...
What is it? What have I forgotten?
As he lay idly on the bed, he heard the hall clock begin to strike the hour. His body stiffened, and his hands clenched. His forehead wrinkled and his jaw tightened. The memory of last night's lounge room, his parents, the marchers on the small screen, invaded his mind, regardless of his attempts to deny it entry.
But surely... his mind kept repeating. But surely.... I had a dream. Yes, I had a nightmare. This is all in my head.
His face began to take on colour again as his body relaxed, and he turned again to look at the clock. Yes. By now his mother would be washing, or ironing, filling her narrow life with some domestic chore. And his father, he knew, would be outside in the garden, tilling, hoeing, weeding. Protecting his precious crop of tomatoes or beans or eggplants from their mortal enemies, snails, slugs, birds, bandicoots.
Sitting up, he rubbed his hands over his face, and put his feet onto the hand knotted rug beside his bed. Slowly he stood, stretched his arms above his head, and then reached out his hands to open the curtains. They were so thin that they kept out little but the actual view of outside, and he drew them apart gently, to avoid opening up any more holes. He looked out into the back garden.
The lawn lay greenly pristine, the clothes hoist at its centre empty of flapping towels and sheets despite the day being perfect for the dedicated laundress. The vegetable garden lay baking in the midday sun, wilting leaves crying out for the touch of the sprinkler. Once again, his blood seemed to cool and run more slowly, his fingers and toes began to prick with pins and needles, and his strong dark hair to
stiffen at the roots.
He looked down at himself. He had slept in his clothes. How tired he must have been to do that. Or perhaps not tired, but.... But his mind would not go there.
Don't think about it, it's not, it's not....
But his body must.
Slowly, his feet moving across the floor as unwilling as he was, yet still somehow determined to continue their progress. He reached the door of his room and clung, for a moment, to the doorknob, his hand, like his feet, moving of its own volition. There. It was open. He stepped into the corridor, his eyes looking down at his feet, their pale, smooth skin momentarily disconcerting him. I thought my feet were browner than that. It must be the light. He lifted his hand and was once again taken aback. Where are the calluses? You'd think I'd never played a guitar in my life. How long had he been asleep?
Inexorably, his feet drew him along the corridor to the room he was fast beginning to dread. And he was there. At the doorway, looking in.
The room was still faintly lit with the blue glow from the television set, its picture still flickering. The curtains were still drawn, against the light, now, instead of the dark.
The recliner chairs were empty. They still reclined, the indentation of a body was still apparent on each
brown leather seat. But of their former occupants there was no sign.
Nothing in the room moved except the picture on the thirty-four-centimetre screen. Standing motionless in the doorway he watched the marchers, still marching. And amongst them marched two familiar figures. Familiar from the wedding photograph on the top of the television set.
Hand in hand his parents marched among the others, young, happy, their faces wrinkle free, white teeth glinting in the sun.
Around 2005 our co-editor Val entered and won the Mensa Short Story competition in Australia with "Passing Strange". Val says: "Mensa awarded me two books as a prize. One was a dictionary, the other Eats, Shoots and leaves by Lynne Truss".