Tag Archives: writing

Storytime…

“…then I’ll huff, and I’ll puff, and I’ll blow your house in”, bellowed the big bad wolf in the most ferocious, and gruffest of  voices that he could muster. This, he did to the first, the second, and the third little pig. Such is the stuff and nonsense that fills children’s fairytales some may say, but not I and maybe not you either. Most of the tales, stories and fables we heard as children, and in our turn tell to our own children have an important message rooted somewhere within. Something that needs to be said but in a way that young minds can relate to. Oftentimes (now there’s quite an old fashioned word), the message is crystal clear quite early on, and near the beginning even.  At others it is for the reader to discover as the story unfolds word by word, page by page, picture by picture.  Stories are repeated, over, and over again, and possibly, and most likely become ingrained in the young subconscious mind, a seed waiting to grow and realise the lesson when the lesson needs to be learnt somewhere along the line that is life. Let’s face it, most children love being read to! Many Mums and Dads, and children of all ages get to share a special time, with storybook characters who may be good, bad, beautiful, ugly and changeable.  Story time is a time for make believe, play and characterisation. There’s many a parent out there who puts on their best funny, happy, angry, sad voice. I know I did, and my husband too. Our children loved all the verbal playacting and if we did the voices differently as happened on occasion, the little cherubs would say “no, not like that, like this” as they piped in with how you had said it last time.  It’s part of the fun!  Part of the ritual.

So where was I? Oh yes, I was talking about the inherent lesson that lurks within, between and beneath the lines. In the aforementioned tale of ‘The Three Little Pigs’ which was accredited to James Orchard Halliwell (later Halliwell-Phillips) the lesson is about how hard work pays off, and how by working hard, putting in the time and effort and building strong foundations, you can achieve a safe and secure world for yourself where you can ‘keep the wolf from the door’ as it were. Of course, it is a good lesson, and there is much to be said for working hard, and reaping the rewards of one’s efforts, and the idea of a sound structure speaks for itself. However, you must remember that this story was supposedly written in the mid 1800s, therefore Victorian times. People, or at least the working masses did have to work hard in those times to literally put bread on the table.  If you did not work hard, you may starve. So, in this particular story the message is clear. That said, I think if the story had been written today, there may have been another angle that said that yes, it’s good to work hard but that play is just as important. I think today the onus would be on striving for and achieving balance. We all want to avoid the clutches of the big bad scary wolf which may appear in many guises, but all work and no play pushes us too far near the edge, and if we are not careful, we may trip over and fall into a quagmire.

Another thing that springs to my mind regarding the ‘fantasy’ of fairytales and may be food for thought is how much a story can change through the telling as it is passed down from one generation to another. In one version of the above, the antagonist is a cunning fox rather than a big bad wolf. There is, it seems a version too where the three little pigs have names, and individual personality traits but that is another story. Where the changes in stories take place is often not known and is lost somewhere in the telling. My point is that stories whether fairytale, fiction or reality should be told. We are the storytellers, and it is for us to ensure that those who follow in our footsteps know the stories so that they too can pass them down when it is their time to tell. So perhaps today or tonight put down that extension of your arm that is your mobile phone, pick up a storybook and share it with young ears.

In years to come you will be glad that you did!

© 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. Let’s face it Women’s football is gaining ground, in no small way!.  The Woman’s final between England and Germany/France is coming to Wembley on Sunday 31st August 2022.  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. The men could learn a thing or two from watching our Lionesses. They have demonstrated, not only are they a force to be reckoned with but that they epitomise the meaning of team play. They get on with the game! 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. It was wonderful to see such a big crowd at the England/Sweden Semi-final at Bramell Lane last night. What a match!

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 that 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 the 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. Shame on the FA but they were just reflecting how things were at the time. Thankfully, times have changed.

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. 

Young girls are finding themselves more and more attracted to the country’s national sport. In our primary 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. 

. 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 bright, both for women and for football. Women have balls too!

Best of British Luck to our Lionesses this Sunday! You got this Ladies!

‘Football’s coming home’.

© Liola Lee 2022

Nameless Souls on Sepia

They were just nameless souls on sepia, staring out seemingly into space:  a peer into a time long since past and now, not often remembered with any degree of regularity. With its jagged edges it was evident that part of the photograph had been torn away, why is a mystery. Someone in the family, though I cannot recall who, had once mentioned that there had been a rift within the family back in the days when they used to gather at the beautiful hill station of Mussoorie, when escaping the harrowing heat of the city. That was as much as was known. There was no accompanying documentation and nothing written down to suggest who the people in the picture may have been. That they were ancestors seemed a little more than likely. The photograph depicted a wedding scene. Three people remained in the frame. Two seated and one standing or rather two standing but as one had been unceremoniously decapitated he could not be counted. He could have been anyone. The bride wore a lavish wedding gown of lace with what appeared to be a full layered veil laid lightly and carefully, so as not to interfere with her elegant upswept hair which was so fashionable in the early 1900s. Seated beside her was an older man with a head of thick snow white wavy hair and sporting a long white beard: a little like Santa Claus in a suit. Beneath the hairy façade was a man not unlike my father. In fact, but for the beard it could have been my father sitting beside the bride.  It was the eyes that gave it away. They were the same eyes that had watched over me all my life. Only my father’s eyes had seen different things to those of the apparently stoic figure of the man pictured here. Their worlds were far apart but their narrative of origin was one and the same.

Aunty Paddy had been a gifted and animated storyteller who had a penchant for making colourless characters come to life. She would captivate us with stories of heroes, heroines and travellers tales. “Children….are you listening carefully?” would be our queue to gather round to hear how our ancestors had sailed across oceans in search of fame and fortune. The story told so eloquently and consistently by Aunty Paddy, revealed that long ago when great vessels with billowing sails ruled the waves, travelling the trade routes carrying spices, silks and other luxury commodities, and when George III was King; two or possibly three brothers had set sail from bonny Scotland for the far off and exotic land of India. One of them or maybe all of them had been seduced by what the East had to offer, fallen madly in love with and married an Indian princess, and lived out his days happily ever after in India. This was perhaps a rather romanticised account but this was how the story had been told and retold. One brother had perhaps been a doctor, one a sea captain and the third, if indeed there was a third could have been anything Paddy decided him to be. Such is the power of the narrator. The stories were most likely a mixture of myth and reality but to us as children they were fact rather than fiction, impressing upon our imagination that we were indelibly connected to this mysterious and mystical other world where gods were more than one, and princes were one and many; a world that had captured the hearts and souls of our forefathers and that was forever in our blood.

Shared experiences, cultures, customs and habits all go some way to forging our identities. What we are told as children often stays with us as adults. However, there are other commonalities that can engender an inherent sense of identity and belonging, such as the idea of shared stories and myths. There is no hard definition of myth. Myth is sometimes seen as being synonymous with fantasy and fairy stories and little to do with fact. The notion of myth often conjure up images of superheroes and superhuman beings that create an idealised view of where we come from, therefore adding to our sense of worth. To us, these pioneers were real life superheroes; they represented the true to life fodder of fairy tales and fiction that filled our minds with the machinations of an ‘Other’ world. 

Linking myth to the narrative form is relevant, especially when considering Anglo-Indian narratives of origin because their change in circumstances and the transitions they underwent in adapting to a colonial and a post colonial era both in Indian and in British society is shrouded with princesses both real and imagined. Of particular interest is what has become known as The Princess Myth which seems to circulate in many Anglo-Indian families. The myth suggests the presence of a noble ancestral connection and more specifically an Indian princess. What is of importance is why this myth has been created and the reason why some families lay claim to a princess in their midst.

Aunty Paddy’s version of events is echoed in a letter dated 19th December 2004 written by Marjorie Williams to her niece;

     …thank you so much for sending me a copy of the family tree…It’s very interesting that so many Howatsons lived in India. Where does the Scottish side come in? I suppose Thomas Howatson who was originally married to (an Indian Princess)? So I heard. My story was that two brothers, Thomas and George set sail from Scotland – one a doctor and the other a sailor or captain of a ship. I can’t tell you where I got this story from – maybe Paddy…

The letter demonstrates firstly, that we find our narratives of origin appealing at any age. Marjorie Williams was 81 when she wrote the letter. She is unable to remember where she got the story from, ‘…maybe Paddy’ she asserts. Paddy was her elder sister who had died some years earlier and who it is purported knew more about the history of the family than anyone else. When Paddy past away, so too did much of the family narrative.

In addition the letter typifies the element of the ‘Indian princess’ myth that circulates in many Anglo-Indian families. Marjorie Williams is Anglo-Indian. Her father was Hugh William Howatson born in Calcutta, India, in 1886, habitually resident in India until about 1900 when he was sent to Britain to finish his education and later to follow a successful career in medicine. It was in Scotland that he met, fell in love with and married his own princess. His princess was Annie. It was close to one hundred years earlier, when Hugh William’s great grandfather Thomas Howatson had set sail for India. What Thomas would have thought of the Britain that his great grandson Hugh returned to can only be guessed at. It is known that following an irregular marriage in Glasgow, Hugh and Annie journeyed to India and travelled about with their young family for a few years, only to return permanently to Britain later. The reasons for their movements between these two great lands, is unknown. The Diaspora to other lands following partition and independence is well documented but what of those who returned to the fatherland beforehand. What are their stories? Our sense of ‘self’ is governed by what is going on the world and is in a constant state of flux. 

It is only by telling our stories and passing them on to our children that we can preserve the memories and myths of past lives. Many stories are passed down between one generation and another, while other stories remain untold and are lost forever. So next time, when you are gathered cosily around the dining table after a sumptuous Sunday lunch as is quite common among families, laughing at the crazy antics of dad’s schooldays,  finding out about grandma’s culinary gifts or hearing of an aunt’s penchant for telling tales, take note and listen very carefully to the snippets and anecdotes of your elders for these are your stories, your narratives of origin: savour every word and share!