~ The Three Friends ~

Bullying has to stop! ‘The Three Friends’ written by new children’s Author Samantha Howatson. A must buy if you have children, godchildren, nieces or nephews! Oh and pets! A really beautiful story of three friends! Grey the Rabbit, Bella the puppy and Sherlock the Budgie. I read it yesterday for the first time, and have to say one of the best children’s stories around today! It tackles the subject of bullying, being different, and being the ‘Other’ on a level which children can understand and relate to! In addition, it is also beautifully illustrated by the Author. It educates them on how it is okay to report bullying. Definitely one for the bookshelf!

© Liola Lee 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

~ Women have balls too ~

The British are a football crazy nation and football fever reaches new heights whenever there is a cup final on the horizon. However, at times when our football heroes such as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling et al, may herald a victory that brings that glimmering trophy home that signifies the ultimate goal of the national game played at Wembley Stadium during the FA Cup Final, it seems only fair to consider the part that women have played in this much loved sport of the nation. The Woman’s final between West Ham and Manchester City is coming to Wembley on 4th May. No longer contented to restrict themselves to the more traditional sports associated with women, the ‘fairer sex’ can be seen tackling, dribbling and passing on the football field with the fervour and enthusiasm of any passionate athlete. Football is no longer a sport designated to men alone. Women take their football every bit as seriously as their male counterparts. Women’s football has secured a firm foothold on the sporting calendar and continues to attract more and more girls into the game. 

However, contrary to belief, girls and women playing football is by no means new to the world of sport. Historical sources refer to women’s football teams as early as 1895. World War 1 saw the formation of women’s teams, based around the munitions factories, the most famous perhaps being Dick Kerr’s Ladies from Preston. The war years saw an enormous increase in the numbers of women’s teams nationwide. Not surprising really when women’s roles at this time had undergone such dramatic change with women taking on the jobs previously held by men as part of the war effort. By the start of the ‘roaring twenties’ women’s football held widespread appeal and attracted ever increasing crowds. Records reveal that a match at Goodison Park in 1920 between Dick Kerr’s Ladies and St Helen’s Ladies drew a crowd of some 53,000 people, a sizeable crowd by any standards. Women’s football was big and getting bigger, a situation which by all accounts did not seem to gain too much favour with the FA at that time. The war was now over and the men were back. Where did this leave the ladies? In December of 1921 the FA declared a ban on women playing football on Football League grounds.

Recent years have seen a resurgence of interest in women’s football both on and off the pitch. The Women’s FA was founded in 1969 and heralded a new era in women’s football. Pressure exerted by UEFA brought a long overdue lifting of the FA ban on women’s football in Britain in 1972. It was in this same year that the first official Women’s International in Britain was played at Greenock with England beating Scotland 3 -2. Women’s football was once more to assert itself as a sport for serious consideration in the world of sport and this was further endorsed by the formation of the first Women’s National league in 1991. That same year saw the FA lift its ban on mixed football for the under 11’s in our schools. 

In most schools, girls are welcomed and actively encouraged to participate, in what has been a traditionally male dominated contact sports. Young girls are finding themselves more and more attracted to the country’s national sport. In our schools, boys and girls may play side by side on the football field as members of the same team working towards a common goal. The emphasis at this level is clearly concentrated on the development of team spirit and co-operation. However, girls are as fiercely competitive as boys, and equally eager to show off their newly acquired skills. Today’s youngsters will grow up in a society where it is the rule, rather than the exception for girls to play football. 

In league football men and women may remain segregated for some time to come. It is still early days for the girls but the question arises, ‘ What does the future really hold?’.  In reality, it seems highly unlikely at the present time that women will play alongside men. The reason is simple. Out on the pitch there is no room for sentiment and chivalry. Football is a highly physical sport often requiring close bodily contact during tackles and the like. One has to wonder whether both men and women could rise above the ‘sex thing’. How might a woman take to being fouled by an opposing male player? How many of her team mates would be able to ignore such a situation? Of course there are those who would claim that they would play the game by the rules; rules that would apply equally to both men and women. This sort of attitude is most admirable in theory but would it work in practice? The debate goes on. Women’s football is one of the fastest growing sports in the country. New clubs are forming and the number of registered players continues to increase. It is not surprising that women’s football grows in popularity with girls now being allowed to participate as players from an early age. Increased media coverage of the sport can only add to the attraction.

The biggest move forward is the involvement of the Football Association, which in 1993 demonstrated its commitment to women’s football by instigating the establishment of a Women’s Football Committee, which would ‘ deal with all matters relating to the development of female football, including the arrangements, administration and selection of International Representative Teams, and the Coaching and Education Programme’. By appointing a Women’s Football Co-ordinator within the Coaching and Education Section, the Football Association was showing its commitment to the continuing development of women’s football. The ensuing years have seen women’s football rise up like the Phoenix from the flames. We would do well to remember those early pioneers who played the game at a time when women were still fighting for the right to vote. 

Women’s football has returned and it is staying. The future for women’s football looks remarkably good both for women, and for football. Women have balls too!

© Liola Lee 2019

~ It’s up to us ~

Each new day grants us the opportunity to start over with a clean slate as it were, and put the past well and truly behind us. Let’s face it we cannot change the mistakes we made yesterday but we can try and make better choices today. Over the years I have made poor choices in all areas of my life at some stage or other, after all I am only human, and it is therefore in my genetic make up to get things wrong along the way. I have to accept that they were my choices whether right, wrong or something in between. I think we all have lessons to learn, and those mistakes or bad choices are just part of the curriculum. That said, sometimes we make the same mistakes over and over again, repeating bad patterns that hinder us and hold us back rather than help us and move us forward.

Why is that? I sometimes wonder.Why do we often choose to repeat things that no longer serve us? And that is, if they ever served us in the first place, which most likely they never did or did they? Sometimes I think we fall into bad habits, and they then become part of our daily ritual and become the norm because it seems easier that way.  Now I could be talking about anything here, smoking, drinking alcohol, too much caffeine, drug taking, over the counter medicines, spending too much money, gambling, too much sugar, too much food, too much tv, too much social networking, too much procrastination, not enough exercise, too much exercise, too much of anything or maybe not enough of something, just to name a few things that stop us in our tracks and gets us stuck in a rut; take your pick or add something else not listed here. 

However, the beauty of being human is that we can make choices! Yes, we often may make poor choices and regret those choices. On the plus side we can decide at any given moment in time to change our minds and make better choices. Choices that will help us move towards our goals, find our life’s purpose; choices that take us closer to wherever it is we want to go. It really is up to us. That’s the beauty of it! The point is we have the power within us to change direction at any given moment,  and choose which way we wish to go from this point forward. It may not always feel as though we have a choice but the reality is that we do. 

So, choose to do something today that your future self will thank you for! 

© Liola Lee 2019

Image © Liola Photographic shown is of a British Common Blue Butterfly on a Michaelmas Daisy. Butterflies are wonderful symbols of transformation. 

I Love London ~ A peer into the past

With the sun shining and a refreshing breeze to keep us cool, we decided to take ourselves up to London by train yesterday, Saturday 9th July 2011, and what a fabulous time we had. We are very lucky, inasmuch as we are just twenty minutes away from   the West End and the City. Although many people travel about London by tube, there really is no need. It is quite possible to walk around London taking in all the sights, sounds and smells of this wonderfully vibrant city. Being so close to it, and enjoying such easy access to it ,often results in us taking what is right on our doorstep for granted. We do not visit the city centre as often as we should, and it is all too easy to forget that we live in one of the world’s most beautiful and historic cities. There is just so much to see and do.

We decided to travel to Cannon Street which takes you into the heart of the City. From Monday to Friday, this area is bustling with bankers, moneymen, and office workers; all suited and booted, ready for yet another day of dealing on the London Stock Exchange. On Saturday however, the City takes on the air of a ghost town. It’s a stark contrast from the weekly buzz of boardroom banter and corporate clutter. Saturday sees a state of quietude in place, and far removed from the manic mayhem of the working week.

On leaving the almost deserted station, we noticed close by, the College of Arms. The building as it is now, is not the original, though what can be seen can be dated back to the late 17th century. The original site on which stood a medieval house called Derby Place, was given to the Heralds in 1555. The building was subjected to various alterations over the years. However, the building was burnt down in the  Great Fire of London in 1666, and then later rebuilt. Again, alterations were made but it is now much the same as it was in the late 1600s. London really tends to be like this all the time. You walk a few steps, and then stop again to marvel at the architecture that rises up in front of you.

We continued to walk on towards St Paul’s Cathedral, which was a little further on but within sight. It simply takes your breath away. You cannot help but stand in awe of this work of art, for art it is. It is beautiful, with its leaded dome, its gilt work and its many statues. The craftsmanship has to be seen to be believed. This magnificent monument has truly stood the test of time. One wonders how a building of this size could have survived the blitz but survive it did. During the Blitz, buildings around the cathedral were hit hard during the bombing raids, but the cathedral, this huge white building with its mighty dome remained safe. Perhaps there were higher powers at play? Close by is a sculpture commemorating the fire-fighters of London; a fitting memorial honouring the courage and bravery of true heroes.

Moving on towards the Southbank, we were stopped by a group of American Tourists who were participating in a treasure hunt. They needed to locate various landmarks, and items both old and new, and to take photographs as evidence of their finds. As part of the task, they needed to request members of the public to be in the photograph. The item to be photographed was a colourful piano, which is chained to the ground but stands in place, to be played by whoever cares to take a seat and stroke the keys or perhaps to pound them. It is one of 29 pianos set up all over London as part of the ‘Piano Street Scheme’. My husband happily obliged. Contrary to belief most Londoners are only too happy to help when help is needed.

We crossed over the River Thames by way of walking over the Millennium Bridge. We stopped to take in the view from both sides of the Bridge. We also marvelled at this modern structure, that stands still and strong across the width of the Thames. It was not always like this though, as when the bridge was initially built it swung from side to side. This was soon put right and now it sways no more. This is just one of the many bridges that connect the two banks. Each bridge is an accolade to the genius of the engineers that built them. One cannot help but be impressed by the bridge builders of today and yesteryear.

Tourists were everywhere. I was happy to share my city on what can only be described as a fine summer’s day. For a few hours, I too was a tourist in my own city. I looked at it again for what seemed the first time, through the eyes of my inner child, and yet I have been here many times before. Each time I come, I am never disappointed. Walking on the Southbank, along the riverside, is an enjoyable way to spend a few hours. The Southbank is a lively place to be. In addition to the many tourists from overseas were other visiting groups. Huge numbers of Girl Guides and Brownies were out in force, chattering with the excitement that a day out in London incites. There were pensioners on a day out, couples holding hands, families, some laughing and others arguing but all playing their part. Occasionally one passes a street beggar. They do not talk to you but simply display a card displaying their plight in the hope that passers by take pity and may spare some loose change. One beggar caught our eye with his card held securely in his hand. He looked positively wizened with age. His card read, ‘Homeless….and my mother’s ill as well’. His humour made me smile as did the many street entertainers. Some of the entertainers are highly talented; others are not but deserve credit for at least trying to earn a living in these hard times. The Southbank is also home to a replica of the Golden Hind, the ship of   Sir Francis Drake.  Queen Elizabeth I ordered that the Golden Hind be preserved and in effect it became the very first maritime museum. Families are able to book sleepovers on the vessel…what fun!

We passed   the Globe Theatre now fully restored, and nearby stands an old house in which Sir Christopher Wren resided, while working on St Paul’s. London is full of cobbled side streets and quirky corners untouched by the passing of time, just waiting to be stumbled upon. As I said, you cannot walk around London and fail to be impressed. There are plenty of places to eat and drink. London is awash with restaurants and bars to cater for all palates. Many places charge what I call tourist prices, which is to be expected in a major capital city, but there are also many places that offer a good plate of food for a reasonable price. It is certainly worth looking around. London is relatively expensive but for those who would seek out a bargain, there are bargains to be had. The fun is in the exploring!

Coming to the end of the Southbank we approached the West End at a leisurely pace. The West End was crowded as one would expect on the busiest shopping day of the week. For a change we chose not go to Covent Garden Market, which boasts some of the best street entertainment in Europe. This was for no other reason than we took ourselves off in the opposite direction, ending up in Piccadilly and Leicester Square, which just a few days earlier had been full of Harry Potter enthusiasts, camping out to hail the premiere of the final Harry Potter movie. This is a very noisy and colourful part of London, which is bursting with life throughout the day, and well into the night. It is not unlike Times Square in Manhattan.

Wandering back past the National Gallery, which incidentally has free admission, and houses some of the most celebrated paintings in the world, we found ourselves to be hungry. Where we should go to dine, and satiate our hunger was now uppermost in our minds. Blood sugar levels were plummeting and the desire for food took over. We had already passed through Little Italy and China Town but had not had the urge to graze on either an Italian feast or a Chinese buffet. The likes of Planet Hollywood, TGI Friday and MacDonalds did not on this occasion appeal to our ever increasing appetite as we trundled by Trafalgar Square. Even seeing the flowing fountains, and the ever lazing lions that surround the Lord Admiral Nelson himself, standing on top of his column, could not stop us from thinking about food. Even the Olympic clock set up in the square, with its countdown to  the 2012 games, reminded us that it was lunchtime. We kept walking and decided we would go back to the Southbank, and find somewhere there to rest and eat.

Back at the Southbank we passed various eateries, and yet still we remained undecided. Sometimes it is hard to decide when there is such an abundance of choice. Eventually we could wait no longer and went into the nearest Prêt a Manger (we clearly just needed to eat something! Anything lol!). The food was fresh, reasonably priced and satisfying. The only things missing were a china plate and a metal knife and fork. Feeling fed and watered we continued on our walk. As we turned the next corner we were faced with restaurant after restaurant. It was good to know that they were there. On our next visit, perhaps we could choose to sit down in one of these, looking out to the river while we ate.

No longer hungry, and now quite rested, we walked on absorbing the many sights, sounds and smells that the Southbank had to offer. There was a free photographic exhibition set up for public viewing, celebrating the changing phases of life experienced by different cultures. It was a visually enriching and educational experience. Elsewhere near, in an open air theatre space, young dancers performed for pleasure to an appreciative audience made up of parents, friends and passers by. Along the walkway by the mighty Thames, jugglers juggled, dancers danced, mime artists mimed. Everywhere and all around were people entertaining, and people being entertained. A good time was to be had by all, and all this for free.

It would soon be time to go home but not before we walked to Borough Market. It is truly worthwhile visiting the market just to see the amazing assortment of food on display, and maybe taste some of the treats on offer. We had already eaten but seeing this rainbow of food all around us, was enough to make the mouth water. In addition to the food, just the atmosphere of this wonderfully vibrant marketplace is an experience not to be missed. Coming out of the market, and walking back past the London Dungeons, we made our way to London Bridge Station and home.

There are of course many attractions that we passed by on our day out in London including the London Eye, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, the Tower of London to name but a few. We could have stopped and visited any number of these famous landmarks but just for this one day we were content to walk through our city, not in any hurry, proud in the knowledge that our city gives so much pleasure to so many peoples from all over the world.

For all this I love London!

© Liola Lee 2011

This was just one day out in London. I have visited my City many, many times over the years. It never ceases to amaze me and take me to that childlike stage of wonder as if seeing something for the first time! The image captured here of St Paul’s Cathedral was taken by me from the Millennium Bridge.

What makes a good Writer?

What makes a good writer?’ is a difficult question for a would be writer to answer with any degree of accuracy. It is certainly worth due consideration at the start of  what one hopes will be a literary career one day. A love of language in its many forms, whether that be written or spoken is I would deem desirable. In addition, a passion for playing with how words take shape on the page, and give form to what it is an author is attempting to convey, is a quality worth nurturing. A willingness to be flexible, an eye for detail, and the ability to be objective are also required. A good writer always endeavours to improve their craft by practising, and is prepared to edit and re-edit as necessary, ensuring that credit is awarded accordingly to all sources.  A good writer researches well, reads widely and writes with heart, and values the written word as a vehicle for creative expression.

It is no good just saying ‘I want to be a writer’. Writing is about taking pen to paper or fingers to the keyboard, and getting down to the nitty gritty of penning words on the page.  Although actions do indeed speak louder than words, without the words the page will remain blank. Sometimes we find ourselves staring at a blank screen or empty page willing words to come forth only to find that we are struck dumb with nothing much to say, let alone write.  Why is that, I wonder?

The words will come back to me when they are good and ready, and when the time is right but just now my imagination is on vacation or more likely it’s on strike due to brain overload! Maybe it’s time to nourish my imagination by reading good books, and bathing myself in the experience that is life. Time to get busy living so I can persuade, cajole and encourage my Muse to come back and play.

© Liola Lee 2019