Wednesday, November 30, 2011

GROW News Update

A lot has happened since the last Blog entry!

GROW is now running three workshops each week.

1. Creative Writing Workshop every Tuesday 10.00 - 12.00 in the Hastings Children's Library, Robertson Terrace, Hastings Town Centre.

2. Skill-Sharing Workshop every Wednesday 10.00 - 13.30 in the Roosevelt Court Residents Lounge, Stonehouse Drive, St Leonards.

3. Creative Writing Workshop (for adults on the Autistic Spectrum) every Friday 14.00 - 16.00 in Roebuck 3, Autism Sussex, Roebuck Street, Hastings Old Town.

We have published 4 anthologies
2008 - 'Nature'
2009 - 'Illumination'
2010 - 'Reflection'
2011 - Dreams

and 3 calendars

2010 - 'Poetry Forms'
2011 - 'Animal Kingdom'
2012 - 'Fruit of the Spirit'

We are currently collecting submissions
  • on the theme of 'Water' for our 2012 anthology
  • on the theme of 'Our Favourite Places' for our 2013 Calendar
Please visit our Website - for further information about our group

and join our GroupSpace to receive regular email updates about our events and activities.

Saturday, December 12, 2009



At the moment there is an orgy of decoration going on! You may remember that early in October last year Joanie had that awful fall and ended up with a broken knee and a wrist in plaster; as a result last year’s decorations were somewhat minimal. But this year she is making up for lost time! The porch lights were switched on Thanksgiving evening and now there are decorations strewn all over the living room carpet. The rule this year appears to be that it if it’s not moving then decorate it!! Tinker was having his usual afternoon nap and almost got festooned with a string of lights, well no, that’s a joke actually, but the way things are you never know! Seriously though, Joanie just loves her decorations and will more than make up for last years shortfall.


Jimmy arrived with his pickup this morning and took us to the tree farm. Evidently to produce a six foot tree involves a twelve year cycle from planting to harvesting; the recent wet summer has caused a considerable amount of root rot thus affecting the final product, however the lady with whom I spoke did not seem too worried. Our tree was loaded onto the truck, and (surprise surprise) Joanie immediately started with the decorations the instant it was placed on it’s stand once bought indoors!


The tree decoration was completed this morning, and very nice it looks too. Just to add to the atmosphere it is snowing as I write this. However it is not forecast to last very long and next week is forecast to be sunny and dry.


Joanie had to go to the hospital yesterday for some tests which she passed OK. The reason I raise this matter is so as to say a little about American hospitals. Lehigh Valley Hospital, on the outskirts of Allentown and about 45 minutes drive, is the main general hospital for North East Pennsylvania. The complex is vast, it must be around five or six times the size of the Conquest. There are many buildings, some going up ten floors and it has the capacity to handle every conceivable case or emergency; most road accident victims are firstly taken to the local hospital here in Pottsville and, when stabilised, flown by helicopter to Lehigh for further treatment.

Upon arrival at the main entrance you find a valet parking service, this is completely free. You simply wait a few moments until one of the Staff comes over with your ticket and he then parks your car in a specially designated secure area. There is every conceivable facility within the hospital, a very large cafeteria serving anything from burgers to chop suey, a very comprehensive gift shop and a general store. Of course the medical facilities are second to none, and if you are only in for some tests, you are hooked up to one of those bleeping monitors. All the bed bays have televisions and there is a very high nurse/patient ratio.

Upon leaving the hospital you hand the parking ticket to a staff member who walks to the parking area and brings your car back to the main entrance. After having been accustomed to those horrendous parking charges at the Conquest, this is indeed a luxury!

We are experiencing the first really cold snap of the winter with temperatures down in single figures(F not C) in some places. Earlier this week a very large storm crossed the country from Northern California to Maine. We were lucky with only minimal snowfall, but the past two days the wind of around 30 mph has been a real killer. But today the wind has gone and we have wall to wall sunshine but still with sub zero temperatures.

Well that’s if for this time



Tuesday, December 1, 2009

7th November

We were invited to a kids birthday party this afternoon. Derrick, next door, was two and another boy was ten. So the Mums decided to have a joint party in a local clubroom. This led to my first encounter with something called a “Pinyada” which is yet another American custom which I had not previously witnessed. The Pinyada is a cardboard box model of some character or other, (in this case it was Spongebob) they are sold in the supermarkets and are then filled with sweets and suspended from either the ceiling or a tree depending on the time of year. Each guest strikes it in turn with a stout stick until it breaks and all the sweets fall out onto the ground. There is then a mad scramble to pick up as many sweets as possible. Evidently this replaces our custom of having “Goodie Bags” to take home after the party.


26th November

Today has been Thanksgiving. It has been a very good day, we watched Macy’s parade on TV in New York in the morning. I think this is about far as can be gone for sheer American showmanship. The parade lasted for two and a half hours and the main feature was, as always, the enormous balloons of various characters, Kermit, Snoopy, Mickey Mouse and a host of other favourites and in addition it featured excerpts from the many shows currently running on Broadway. This parade has been held, with the exception of the war years, for eighty four years. It ended with the arrival of Santa on his sledge. There were also several college marching bands which came from all over the country, from Florida to California and including one from here in Pennsylvania. For lunch we went to Jimmy’s (he’s the one living closeby). It was a smaller than usual gathering, just close family, not because Jimmy is anti social in any way but his table is not sufficiently large to accommodate the extended family. We had the traditional meal of turkey, mashed potato, cranberry, corn and oysters (these Joanie always prepares herself). I drove over with her sitting next to me holding the precious dish in her lap! Tomorrow is “Black Friday” (I told you about this last year) I think it is all getting rather silly, some stores are starting the pre-Christmas sales at 3am! Even the local Salvation Army charity shop is opening at 8 instead of the usual time of 10! Anyway, that’s it for another year, now we have Christmas in less than a month which will be held at Linda’s. The house is of sufficient size for the extended family so I should think there will be about twenty five. Of course on Christmas Eve everyone comes here to Pottsville (another family tradition) for the exchange of gifts. Joanie prepares a lovely table of snacks for the occasion. The next event will be the collection of the Tree which is scheduled early next month when Jimmy comes over with his pickup and takes us to the farm to choose one.

28th November

Well Thanksgiving is over for another year, and I feel that I never want to see turkey ever again! The early morning shopping was something of a success, some people had been queuing since the previous afternoon Today two things took place, this afternoon we went over to help with the decoration of the church. This is something that Joanie loves doing (the porch is all up and illuminated already). I have to admit it was a lot of fun and halfway through we had a break for pizza. Last year we simply could not walk down the garden to the garage due to all the ice and did not make it to the Christmas Eve service. We are hoping this will not happen this year. This evening was the switching on of the lights in Garfield Square. Guess what came before this? Yes the fire trucks with all lights and sirens blazing. Right at the end of the parade was Pottsville’s very own vintage fire truck which, in addition to carrying the winter carnival queen and princesses also carried old Santa himself. Yes, over here the Christmas holiday season is now well under way.

Next summer it is my intention to get the firetrucks on video so you will be able to see for yourselves!

Until next time


pic#1 Vintage fire truck with Santa

pic#2 crib by war memorial

Friday, November 27, 2009


On Saturday 21st November GROW sent some of our members to The FED London MiniFest at Faraday house in Holborn, London.

We had a full day of writing, publishing art, meditation and performance related workshops, celebratory readings and TheFED AGM. We met with members of community writing and publishing groups from all over the UK and America.

A fabulous buffet lunch was laid on for us by Lucia Birch from Stevenage Survivors.

The workshops were all very interesting and generated a huge amount of work from everyone who participated. The Vale House Project workshop, which was run by Roy and Lucia Birch, included meditation, creative writing and Reiki. The theme for the writing was 'Freedom' and we decided to use the same theme for TheFED December 2009 Writing Challenge as a way of show-casing the beautiful and uplifting writing that was produced there.

The Celebratory Performance was expertly compered by Paul King from Manchester. Jan Hedger & Nick Crump very kindly prepared and performed pieces of writing done by some GROW members who were unable to come with us on this occasion. Their performance was very well received and they even took the opportunity to plug our 2010 GROW Calendar for us!

Later on, Tony May gave a spirited performance of his own work, 'Why do I bother?' and Jan Hedger delivered a very moving reading of her own piece 'Empty Teacups'

We met Steve Parks and six of his students from Syracuse University in New York. They had travelled all the way from America just to attend the MiniFest.

We also met some students from King's College in London, who were all new to TheFED.

GROW had two tables to display our own publications - and those of Jan Hedger and FLOW. People were very impressed by 'Illumination' and particularly liked the fact that we had tried to make it accessible to non-readers and visually impaired people by including a DVD. It was lovely to hear that GROW's hard work is inspiring other TheFED groups to make multi-media presentations of their own work.

We enjoyed the opportunity to look at and buy books from the other groups.

We bought back with us some copies of TheFED 2010 Calendar, which features some of the work submitted to TheFED Writing Challenges.

Many of the attendees have sent in their photos, memories, writing and video clips to share their experience of the 2009 MiniFest. They can all be viewed on TheFED website.

We are all looking forward to TheFED 2010 London MiniFest and will do everything in our power to encourage many more people to join us for our very special day out.

Monday, November 16, 2009



I have had an idea!! Yes really!! From now on I shall write up a particular event while the facts are still clear in my mind, and when I have, say, about 6/700 words it will get posted as a complete “Letter from America”. This will prevent my sending a short extra one covering all the things that I had forgotten to include in the first instance

29th October

Halloween turned out to be quite a surprise, instead of waiting until the 31st, the City decided that the official trick or treat was to take place on the previous Wednesday (28th) between the hours of 6 and 8 pm.. There were “official” events downtown, but by 6.30 the pavement outside was full of kids in fancy dress (and adults as well) and we had run out of candy by 7.30. The kids all seemed to have gone to a great deal of trouble over the costumes and all in all it was a great deal of fun for everybody. This turned out to be a good choice of date, on Saturday it rained!

8th November

Today (Sun) has been the best I have ever known for a November day, the temperature went up to 73f with not a cloud to be seen anywhere. Even higher temperatures have been promised for tomorrow. By Wednesday it should be back to the normal for this time of year, low fifties. We went to the local farmers’ market where the produce and some foods are much cheaper than in the supermarkets. You can get so many things there other than farm produce. There are stalls selling computers at a very low price, eg 1MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive for $130 (78 GBP), clothing, toys, furniture as well as two all-day auctions at which you can get some really good bargains.

12th November

New State legislation has just been passed, this makes it an offence to text (yes, text!) while driving!! It is still legal to use the cell phone, but I suppose that, what with the fact that the majority of cars have automatic transmission, it is not quite so risky as in Britain!

15th November

The weather is still holding up, today (Sun) it has almost got up to 70 and at 9am I was sitting out on the patio in shorts and t-shirt!!

The latest matter to erupt is the decision to have a show trial in New York of the 9/11 suspects. Speaking personally, I think this is a very bad decision indeed. This will provide a platform for the airing of fanatical beliefs and leave the City open for more attacks. The President’s popularity is on the wane, I think people expected too much too soon but it must be remembered that Obama inherited this mess from the Bush Administration. I have to admit that despite my support last year, I do feel somewhat disappointed with the progress so far. Incidentally, I was looking through a book I have about the British Monarchy (oddly enough bought over here) when the following timeline entry caught my eye:- “1838-1842 First British intervention in Afghanistan ends in disaster” Seems like nobody knows when to quit!

Thursday week will be Thanksgiving once more, it really does make one wonder where the year has gone. This year we shall be going to Jimmy’s as he will be working over Christmas (he works in the electricity supply business) and to Linda’s for Christmas instead of the other way round as it has been for the past three years.

I don’t think I have mentioned how small businesses exist in the middle of what are primarily residential areas. This, as far as I can see, is the norm in small-town America. For instance two doors down is Charlies Pizza take-away. The plot size is the same as ours and, because it is on a corner, what would have been the garden is the car park. Charlie also sells milk, crisps etc. and is very useful if we run out of anything or fancy a pizza or sub. Two blocks up the hill is a branch of Brok-Sel which is a chain of local “come in handy” stores. It is around the same size as a small Tesco with a carpark to match. Our major stores are either Wal-Mart, four miles to the north or Giant at Cressona, four miles to the south. The local mall, Fairlane, is slowly dying on it’s feet. One large department store closed it’s doors last year and has left a very large unit empty and last week we learned that Borders, the bookstore I love so much, will be closing the branch early in the New Year. They have got a petition going to try to reverse this decision but I doubt it will do any good. The nearest branch will be in Reading, about thirty miles away.

Until next time,


Monday, November 2, 2009


I expect you are all surprised to be getting another letter so soon after the last one. Well, I realised that I had forgotten one or two things that I should really have included, so here they are.

Here is a photo of the US coins, from left to right they are “Quarter” (25 cents), “Dime” (10 cents), “Nickel” (5 cents) and “Penny” (1 cent) The difference between dimes and nickels I still find confusing, on the other hand, having dollar bills means that you do not accumulate masses of heavy coins, so no holes in pockets over here and these coins are very lightweight.

I forgot to mention the automatic garage doors everyone has, it is a neat system. When we leave home, a push on the button located just inside the garage door causes it to open. There is a radio transmitter kept on the sun visor which closes the door after we have left. Upon returning, the reverse sequence of events enables the car to be garaged without anyone having to go out in the rain/snow etc. I really love this!! The door, by the way, is horizontally sectioned and runs on tracks beneath the garage ceiling.

Life goes on here, Tuesday, November 3rd, is polling day when a plethora of officials are due to be elected. This includes Judges, Sheriffs, Mayors and goodness knows who else. As I do not have the vote, I don’t get very involved but must say I shall be glad to see the end of the election commercials on TV.

Talking of TV commercials, on some channels there are a surprising amount of advertisements for prescription medications, totally unlike those in the UK which are limited to non-prescription items (of course we have those here too!). Generally they are of the type designed to frighten, you know “take our pills or else you will suffer a fatal heart attack”, that sort of thing. Actually it strikes me that Americans are far more concerned about their health than we Brits. The number of specialist health centres, even in a place like Pottsville, is truly amazing!

Autumn is almost over on our mountain. Have you noticed that the first day after the clocks go back is almost always sunny? Ironic eh?

Anyway, I think I am up to speed on what I wanted to tell you, so until next time,

Henry Dallimore