Tag Archives: Quakers

Listen Up. BBC at Best.

17 Oct

Me n’ mine have been asked to feature in the BBC’s ‘Listening Project’ on a few occasions. Thanks largely, to the matters that involve my family’s background, experiences, international work, kids and views on consumerism – and of course, our proclivities for nude rambling across the Trans-Pennine Trail … ok, ok – I’m joshing about the latter.


*DO* Listen.

But even before I ended up getting roped into recordings, I have to say that this small-but-mighty stakeholder project born of The Beeb has captured my imagination over the last few years – simply as a mere radio fan. But it also, always seems to stoke-up the fires of many others than I know, who have the sense to prefer the radio to the telly.

And yup – I love listening to the conversations of others. What writer/ person with a half-baked intelligent brain *doesn’t*? This is what the entire series is about. Ear-wigging. Nosey Norman Neighbours.

But every single episode is always so beautifully edited – that we always come away with a little nugget of summat or t’other. And today’s little clip? Well.  If there was ever a justification for paying for the existence of the Beeb (licence fee… cough … splutter…) today’s episode was the flagship for the entire thing.  A ‘Ruddy Dobber’ of a programme (as we say in Manchester.)

So my own wee friendies from all over the world – have a listen to this snippet of today  –  entitled “We’re Still Friends”. This conversation could have taken place in my kitchen. With various friends and family members.  All about Brexit. Why some of us wanted to get the hell out. And others of us felt horrified at such a prospect.

And I’m proud of the fact that I have pals in my life who have completely different views to me on the entire issue. So yes, it doesn’t bother me too much that I hang about with gorgeously-warm folk whose views sometimes make me want to, er, er …  reach for the Fizzy Andrews. (Hey – do they make *that stuff* anymore? I always think of it as cocaine – for 6 year olds.)

So, whatever your thoughts on Brexit, Europe, refugees, feminism etc. Just make it a priority to listen to this one clip only. (And MORE please, if you enjoyed the link here  – just have a perusal of the main website. Treasures for all!)  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07z3zfy

For me the key word on this particular broadcast is that of ‘Listening’. Backed up by ‘Friendship’. Closely followed by ‘Show Don’t Tell’. Listen to the emotions and the clarity in the voices of these two women from Donny (Doncaster) and how the real ‘listening’ and tolerance seems to be pointing towards a new direction for them as friends.

They’re listening and learning to and from one another. No sanctimonious attitudes or smart-arse-isms going on there. (I keep expecting to hear that Quakers are running this entire project  – but apparently not. Still. I’m biased.)

And – ooh yeah – let’s give a high-five to certain BBC Radio producers and journalistic-sorts.  The skill of recording and archiving oral testimony, and editing it for both needy and discerning listeners, is alive and well at the Beeb and at its regional stations – and on this particular long-running project – is showing right here and right now – at its top-notch best.


Bless the BBC and Radio. Especially this here Sheffield studio

Bless the BBC and Radio. Especially this ‘ere Sheffield studio


A Flat Head? EJ Howard, writing and the waterways…

3 Jan ej howard

One of our local librarians managed to push aside the fear of her own redundancy in order to try and engage with me. There I was.  Wild eyed and raddled mother of second, newborn baby. Desperate for something both entertaining and intelligent to get me through the wee small hours of brain and boobie-overdrive boredom…

Without Anon Librarian-Lady, I would never have heard of Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Or the Cazalet chronicles. Without Unknown Kirklees Library-Lass, I would never have ended up corresponding with E J Howard herself.

All it took was a certain librarian making a certain recommendation (sans Amazon, sans Kindle estimates of previous-purchases help…) “Oh – judging from your returned books – I think that you will like EJ Howard and the Cazalet chronicles – we don’t lend them out enough these days. A real shame!”

And this was…what? Some FOUR years before BBC Radio 4 decided to credit Elizabeth J Howard for her societal, spiritual, humanitarian and yes – beautiful prose, dialogue and character-observation.

Oh, dearest BBC Radio 4 commissioners I hate to say this, but yes. I really want to say ‘I told you so.’ Elizabeth’s writing was and is amazing.  Tasty, profound, political – without being preachy. Even though many of her contemporaries – and especially the Literahti – perceive her to be ‘domestic, upper class. old fashioned commercial women’s fiction’

Cobblers, my fellas. Just read her stuff.

And yes, how I wish that Radio 4 had re-discovered her before the very recent time where her Cazalet Chronicles were snatched up as new fodder for a Radio 4 audience who had enjoyed ‘Downton Abbey’ etc… But hey. Better now, than never.

I was fortunate to have been able to correspond with her directly.  She was an exceptionally rare person. A woman able to disreguard the birth prejudices of all of us in terms of economic family of origin.  A fellow ‘starting writer in heart’ even though she soared above us all.  She adored books, grassroots, off-the-wall, boho society. She admired socialism, quakerism and pacifist thought. She venerated books and the ‘simple life’. Here was a woman who ‘way back when’ had braved the infamous Standedge Tunnel and who still admired those crazies of us, who still square ourselves up for that all too rare  200 years old tunnel experience right here and now on the waterways today.

And poignantly, she admired and priorised the extended family. She was a subtle reminder to us all that ‘love affairs’ of the heart can and do change but that actually ‘being a parent’ has nothing to do with whether you have actually given birth or not.That parenting per se goes far beyond biology, paperwork and gushing sentiment…

As for me, I will never forget her kind responses and encouragements to my yearning to write whilst being a mother to small children. And that particular encouragement as to how parking the mammoth Cazalet chronicles on the noggin of child number two might not simply lead to a ‘peculiarly shaped, flat-head’…. but also might lead to a life-long love of books and learning…

ej howard

Why the Lassie-Statue in yon Jumper?

4 Jun

I have been trying to think of a background which would suit the nature of this blog.  Finally, this funny photograph began waving rather giddily at me, from the hard drive.

I was lucky enough to visit Seattle recently, where I was bowled over by the intelligence and perception of its residents. Both in terms of their knowledge of the wide wide world but also  in relation to their interest in their ‘neighbours’. Something I hope that this blog can stimulate a bit of interest in – i.e. who your neighbour is. Or could be outside of the bloke who lives on t’other side of your bricks n mortar…

Something about Seattle hit home with me. Such an unusual interest in the outside world on behalf of nearly everyone I met there – whether the bods running the workshops at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the woman serving customers in the local co-operative, the lad working on the reception desk at the hotel, the lady manning the Wooden Boat Society Museum, the girl flogging me The Big Issue.  There is a striving in Seattle to make a difference on their own doorsteps. There seems to be an understanding that, although ‘your own nearest and dearest’ are of course  precious bunch to you – unless you can get off your arse and quietly help those who may live over the road from you – who are struggling with life – well… Then you have no room to preach to others or to even comment on the ‘way of the world’.

That’s what I believe.  I suppose it’s what my parents have brought me up to believe. But I also like to think that I have figured it out for myself too.  And that’s what an awful lot of people in Seattle seem to buy into.  The premise that ‘Everyone’s kids are as precious as yours. Yours are special to you – but no more important than anyone elses’.  Seattle  seemed to me to be able to get beyond the small-minded, self-centredness that the current mode of capitalist society in the North tends to breed,

What I would love my own children to see more of, as they grow up, is   a culture where the human dignity of everyone prevails. Where getting angry and passionate about the care and attention that all the vulnerable in society receive is part of the fabric of where you live. This means our elderly people, asylum seekers and refugees, the mentally ill, addicts and even criminals (and if you disagree with me on the last group of individuals being deserving of an insightful strategic approach – you may as well stop reading right now my friend..)

This is what I loved about Seattle.  No-one was to be disregarded. Everyone was different but deserving of respect and perhaps requiring a different approach, or consideration.  No knee-jerk reactions. A willingness to admit that you dont have the answers to everything. That we all need to LISTEN more.  That there is no ONE FITS ALL solution (regardless of what the current educational systematic approaches entail…regardless of the current trend for parenting methodologies involve.)

This is something that my own interest in the Quakers has encouraged me to think about a bit more on.   We all are – or have the potential to be – Exceptional. There are aspects of Quakerism that I don’t quite embrace fully  – but that I would love to be able to (i.e. pacifism). But  in terms of all of the spiritual and humanist approaches that I have ever been exposed to – that lot have got it right.  The Quakers adopt the sentiment that ‘this is our collective view on XYZ after we have considered, discussed and asked God about the issue …over a good amount of time…. and if you don’t like it…hey – you are still welcome here!  And we MIGHT even change our collective views on it if you care to tell us more about your experiences and thoughts’.

(Can you get more democratic than that??)

So. Seattle. A bunch of arsey anarchists to some.  A crowd of woosey liberal do-gooders to others.  Perhaps a little too many crystals being twirled and dodgy cheesecloth clothes…But what a cool  place in terms of putting words into acts!   I love the City (and believe me – I am NOT a fan of big cities at all).   And if it rains – which Seattle is infamous for – so bloody what? Get an umbrella up – you big namby pamby!

So to explain my blog’s background photo. This is one of the statues that has been placed in the University of Seattle district of Fremont.  Local people in Seattle like to dress up their statues (yes – there IS even a Lenin one – that is always wearing a warm scarf or a bob-hat).

And for me the Seattle approach to welcoming and looking after their civic statues says it all really.  It’s about time Lord Nelson had a pair of ear muffs, I say!




I am choosing to call this blog ‘Funny Lass’ because this is something that my dad has always called me. In true Lancashire dialect the meaning of ‘Eh – she’s a right funny lass!’ is less about a female causing ‘hillarity and  mirth’ and much more along the lines of being  ‘Odd/Peculiar and prompting humour’ – which quite frankly, I think is a much more fitting  description of myself). I think that this is also a perfect description for most Seattleites – the ability to have a serious outlook on life – on how we really CAN change the world via our brains and actions etc.  But they are also able to be ‘daft’ and ‘ridiculous’.

So – long may the funny lasses and lads of Seattle reign! Let’s see some more of this attitude on other shores…