words

Life stories come to life at Barton Grange!Thoughts

Posted by Angela Norris 31 Jul, 2014 15:31:55

I felt very honoured and privileged to lead a Life Story writing session at Barton Grange yesterday. Twelve people attended and we had lots of lively and interesting discussion. It was great to hear people’s memories and their rich tapestry of tales, and the session really brought home to me proof, as if it were needed, that we each have a story to tell. And tell it we must, in order to create our own unique social history.

Among the participants were three sisters who have each chosen to write separately about their own childhood and to compare and contrast their experiences. So while each account will be very different, it will also have threads of similarity. Fascinating.

I’m hoping that the day will have fired people up enough to be able to go home and begin the process of writing their own story – a story that will one day become a treasured keepsake for grandchildren and future generations to read and savour.

One of the suggestions that came out of the session was to set up an informal group for life story writers to get together and share their experiences and keep the momentum of their life story writing and research going. So, with this in mind, I’m looking at organising a quarterly get together for anyone who attended the life story day or life story taster sessions.

I’m hoping to organise our first meeting in the autumn and am in discussion with Barton Grange to see if we might be able to meet there over coffee and a cake. I’ll let you know, via this blog, when I have a date for meeting.

In the meantime, if you want to post comments on my blog relating to your own life story writing progress, please do. It would be great to hear from you.

Finally, to borrow a catchphrase from Bruce Forsyth and Tess Daly: ’Keep… writing!’



River Wyre Poetry WorkshopThoughts

Posted by Angela Norris 10 Jun, 2014 10:23:22

I attended a poetry workshop based around the theme of the River Wyre on Saturday (June 7). It was organised by the Walking Wyre Group and the Lancashire Dead Good Poets Society and it was a lovely event. It started off with a short walk along the banks of the River Wyre at Scorton. After that we met at The Barn to discuss what we'd seen and to use our findings as inspiration for poems.

It poured down when we were doing the walk, which meant we all arrived back at The Barn feeling soggy and bedraggled. But interestingly the rain added to the charm and beauty of the river scene and made for some lovely words. It was as if, as one of our leaders pointed out, the rain made us looked at the view microscopically - rather than seeing the wider vista of landscape as you might normally do on a fine, clear day.

Our poems will be included in the Walking Wyre blog and a panel of judges will choose a selection of these to be included in a commemorative booklet which is to be launched at Garstang Arts Festival, on Wednesday August 20. Visit http://walkingwyreblogspot.co.uk

What was interesting about this event, for me, was how the River Wyre features as the backcloth to my own life story. For example, I can remember going across the old Shard Toll Bridge, at Hambleton, as a child. This was a narrow toll bridge and it had its own unique charm, linking the rural villages of Wyre to the rest of the world. Each Christmas, my dad would drive us to Thornton to pick up my Auntie Lizzy so that she could spend the festivities with us. As a five year old, that journey was part of the mounting excitement, because it meant Christmas was nearly upon us.

At one end of the bridge there was a toll booth, and there was always a queue of cars waiting for tickets, slowing traffic down to a snail’s pace. I have clear memories of a tall, bespectacled elderly man (in reality he probably wasn’t old, but to my child’s eyes he was), in a bright yellow sou’wester coming out of the toll booth in the driving rain and wind with his ticket machine, ready to take money. I can’t remember how much it cost to buy a ticket. (Mental note: need to find out toll charges).

When Shard Bridge was placed by a new, modern road bridge in the 1990s, there were some who felt the Over Wyre community would never be the same again. Locals feared an increase in traffic, bringing with it an end to a quiet and tranquil way of life for the rural villages. In reality, the creation of a new bridge has made it much easier for motorists to get over the river, but it can’t be denied that the old bridge was part of the character and history of the area.

I can remember the new bridge opening in 1993. Just before the bridge was opened to traffic, the council allowed primary school children to make history by being the first to walk across. I was working as a reporter on the Garstang Courier at the time, and I can remember interviewing the excited children from Hambleton Primary School as they walked across on a hot summer’s day.

Of course, I’ve also got lots of memories of going across the Wyre on the Fleetwood to Knott End ferry. As children, it was a treat for my brother and me to be taken across to Fleetwood on the ferry boat by our Granny. We would stop and have an ice cream in the Marine Gardens before going to the playground. During one visit, my wiry, agile brother caused huge consternation when he decided to walk down the helter skelter rather than slide down on his bottom. I have a memory of him peering precariously over the edge, while Granny shouted in horror.

More recently, the River Wyre has featured in my leisure life. For the past few years, I’ve been signing up for walking events during Garstang Walking Festival, which takes place in May each year. For me, the highlight was taking part in the wonderful Wyre Way Walk three years ago. This four-day walk follows the Wyre from its mouth at Fleetwood to its source as a stream in the fells above Tarnbrook and Marshaw. It’s a delightful walk, incorporating all of Wyre’s diverse scenery, from the seaside and low-lying pastures of the Wyre plain, to the scenic Bowland fells, with their commanding views of the Fylde Coast.

So, thanks to the inspiration from the poetry workshop, the River Wyre will be woven into my life story.



Introducing myselfNearly but not quite ....

Posted by Angela Norris 05 Jun, 2014 10:46:05

I'm Angela and I'm 57 and a half years old. I'm in that No Man's (or Woman's) land between paid work and official 'retirement'. I've had a great career, starting as a journalist on a rural weekly newspaper, before going on to university as a mature student and graduating to become a health promotion specialist in the NHS.

Lecturing, research, community engagement and project management have all featured in my career pathway over the last ten years. My last job was as a project officer for Age UK Lancashire, working alongside The Dukes theatre in Lancaster, to develop a programme of cinema and arts events for people with dementia and their families. It was a lovely project but, sadly, the funding ran out in March this year.

And now I still want to work, but in a different way, more flexibly, more creatively. The need to return to my roots as a journalist and writer is my driving force. But I want to carve out a niche in life story writing, recognising that we each have a story to tell. Naturally, I'm putting a lot of energy into writing my own story, the story of my own childhood and career. Over the coming months I'll be sharing some of this with you as I write my blog.

I'm also running workshops on life story writing at Barton Grange, to motivate and inspire others to get started. I'm not setting myself up as some kind of 'expert' here - there is no one who is more qualified to write your own story than you are - but I offer some basic tools to get you going.

Alongside this, I'm also helping my husband with his electrical contracting business, doing general admin. I visit my 81-year-old mother in a nursing home. I have two grandchildren and a dog that I walk for up to three miles each day (the dog, not the grandchildren!). I also try to keep myself fit by running and have recently joined a local running club.

So, yes, life is very full, very busy. And yet...despite all of this, I am, dare I say it.... lonely. Yes, I've said the word now, committed it to print. But the truth is, I'm lonely and isolated, at 57 and a half.

Don't get me wrong. I am blessed in many ways, with a loving husband and family, good friends and neighbours. What I'm really missing is the buzz of the work environment, the camaraderie that you get from office colleagues, the sense of routine and structure and of being part of a wider world that work brings.

I suspect I'm not alone in this and that many others who are making the transition from formal work to retirement or semi-retirement will identify with these feelings. At the same time, I am excited by the possibilities offered by a new life away from the rigidity of work. Writing, voluntary work, community work...the list is endless.

So, really, my blog is an online diary of how I manage the transition from formal work and career to becoming someone who is 'Nearly but Not Quite' - and hopefully still a long way off - retired.