Stuck for a Subject

It’s 23.22 and I have made a late start. I have also made two false starts, one on the subject of writer biographies and one on the subject of aiming for 100 rejections.

I have a strong dislike of biographical notes in poetry magazines, because I really don’t give a toss for the lives of the various poets that appear in the magazines I subscribe to. I don’t read them because I am interested to know that A spent twenty years in teaching or B has a degree in Creative Writing. I read them because they write something worth reading. I am at one with the editors who don’t do notes on the grounds that the magazine is about poetry.

I’m not against talking about myself, as you will know if you read the blog regularly, but I am against writing about myself when I’m trying to get poetry published. There are too many dull biographical notes, including ones that are just lists of publications, and I don’t see any need to add to them.

Anyway, I have nothing interesting to say.

I’m currently deciding on the look for the photograph one magazine has asked me for. Do I take a selfie as I am? That will, as Julia points out, establish me as a man in the tradition of W H Davis, the tramp poet. Though, strangely, he always looks well-groomed in all the photos you see of him. Or do I  shave my head, trim my beard and end up looking like the idiot brother of Ming the Merciless? It’s not an easy choice, and it doesn’t change my writing, just the opinion people have of me.

Then there is the question of the 100 rejections. It’s really about upping the number of submissions and aiming high. That, so far, is where I have failed. I only made four submissions last month and so far this month have only submitted one thing. I have several other submissions in the planning stage but I doubt I’ll manage more than four this month, as I don’t have the finished material to send. It hasn’t helped that I’ve slowed down this month, just when I really needed to get a move on.

When I started writing poetry I didn’t realise that so much of my writing life would revolve around haircuts, autobiography and planning. I thought it was all about writing. Silly me.

Robin on a Fence

Chaffinch on the same fence


The Blotted Copybook

Oh dear.

I watched TV, I ate the curry that Julia had made. I watched The Great British Sewing Bee. Then, having listed the jobs I needed to do, I fell asleep. When I awoke it was too late to finish the shopping and when it arrives there will be no bread. More annoyingly, because I have failed to make it to the minimum order level, I will have to pay a £4 surcharge.

The moral is clear – order earlier. The secondary moral is that it doesn’t matter. We can buy bread seperately and £4 isn’t enough to worry about, It’s annoying but it won’t break me.

It wasn’t the only blot on my copybook, I failed to post a second time, as I intended. Then, having dragged myself from my sleep at 1 am I proceeded to make sandwiches and after that,  foolishly, sat down for a few minutes at the computer. Over an hour passed. I am closer to completing some submissions (everything seems to be dragging at the moment) but I am also late to bed, which will mean more sleep-based problems tomorrow.

Dream sequence of a clock, hands turning quickly…

Fourteen hours later. I am in trouble for passing the boss a phone call which I could have handled.

Stephen Hawking 50p

“I’ve already had a dozen like it,” I said, “and if I hadn’t passed it over to you I’d have ben rude to him.”

“I was rude to him.”

“Yes,” I said, “but I’m paid to be polite and I have reached breaking point.”

I then had another dozen, but that one pass saved my manners and the day passed off without incident. It was close though. I don’t know why people think a coin from the 1980s is of any value, or why a 50p that you can pull out of your change would be worth £6,000.  If you could pull a £6,000 coin out of your change, do they think I’d be sitting in the windowless middle room of a shop answering their calls.

I don’t mind the enquiries, it’s sensible for people to ring up after seeing yet another outrageously inaccurate story in the press. It’s the ones that clearly don’t believe me that get on my nerves. I once offered a woman a selection of coins for £2.50 each. She didn’t buy them. But she did want me to buy hers for £3,000, and left the shop chuntering about me knowing nothing.

Again, did she think I’d be standing there serving her if I could buy five coins for £12.50 and turn them into £15,000.  If I could make that sort of money every day I’d stay at home and employ a butler to go down to the shop and insult customers.

1973 50p

It’s Wednesday and I can’t think of a title

Sorry I ‘ve been a bit erratic. I seem to have been very tired over the past few days and just haven’t got round to blogging. This isn’t much of an excuse, I know, because there isn’t a lot of  effort involved in typing a few hundred words, but it just seems to have defeated me. This, I suppose is a sign that I’m getting old. When I was a lad I’d think nothing of starting work at 6am and then working and carousing my way through the next eighteen or twenty hours. I had so much more energy…

Much less sense, but definitely much more energy.

I think I mentioned that we were hard at work putting Duke of Edinburgh coins and medallions on the internet. I’m not sure if I mentioned that I remarked to the boss that if my co-worker had been at work he would have been telling us off for a lack of good taste. And sure enough, when he returned to work and saw what we’d been selling, he did comment on our poor taste. It seems to be poor taste that is gently paying off, and it has certainly paid my wages for a week.  Most of it was already on and just needed “Duke of Edinburgh” or “Prince Philip” adding to the title. The medallion pictured in my last post is now on its way to Australia. A lot of people in Australia like royalty items. A lot, to be fair, probably favour a republic.  I’m easy either way, but if someone wants to buy something, I’m happy to sell it.

That, I think is enough for now. It’s going to end up around 300 words and that’s a good start. I don’t want to bury my readers under a deluge of invective about David Cameron, for instance, who is either slightly immoral or very, very stupid, with his lobbying activities. Looking at his track record, I actually favour very, very stupid. I made the mistake of watching Prime MInister’s Questions this morning, and the current incumbent, and his opposition opposite number gave me a great insight into the politics of the school yard and the way that two reputed heavyweight intellects become childish idiots when you give them a country to run.

I had a brainwave whilst watching them, and looking at the rest of the associated sycophants. It’s a pay per view game show combining Prime Minister’s Questions and the current fascination for big cats. If I say that the working title is “Release the Lions” , you can probably guess the rest.

I still haven’t touched on roadworks, builders and pharmacies. I may have to write a second post…

An Unusual Medallion and Some Reflections on Life

As we sorted through our stock yesterday, adding items relevant to the Duke of Edinburgh, we found this medallion. It is, according to the books, the only souvenir medallion issued for the wedding of Princess Elizabeth and Lieutenant Phillip Mountbatten.  The wedding, in 1947, came at a bad time for commemorative medals, as raw materials were in short supply and I assume people were thinking of other things.  In 1951, the Lesney company (later to be makers of the famous Matchbox range) nearly closed down because they were unable to get supplies of zinc, due to the needs of the Korean War. We also had bread and potato rationing in the years after the war due to bad harvests, neither of which had been rationed in the war.

A a further example of royal hand-me-downs, as mentioned in the above link. The famous Coronation coach model made by Lesney (a million selling souvenir) was originally designed as a commemorative for George VI and later remodelled after his death to become the Coronation coach model for the Queen. Cynicism in royal souvenirs has clearly existed for some time.

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 Reverse


Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 Reverse

It’s not the most6 artistic medallion, but it does the job and shows a feature of many royal commemoratives, which persists to the present day – the Queen is depicted using a good likeness and the Duke is only identifiable as the Duke because he is next to his wife. I have other examples of this, but won’t bore you with them.





It appears that it wasn’t just me who thought the TV coverage hit the wrong note. I know it’s difficult but turning over both BBC channels to coverage of the Duke was, I feel, excessive. I thought that coverage of Diana’s demise was over the top, but it was at least unexpected, and it was news. Having said that, I have still not forgiven the British public for their great outpouring of grief for someone who, and I pick my words carefully, wasn’t really of much importance to most of us. It seems the BBC have probably overreacted because they were criticised for their lack of seriousness in dealing with the death of the Queen Mother.  I can’t remember what they did, so it was probably about right.

It’s an example of the way things have changed. In 1947 Britain still made things, These days we ship huge quantities of goods into the country from China. Plastic, in those days, was a wonder material. These days it’s held to be responsible for so much that is wrong with the way we live. In 1947 we produced a white metal medallion as a commemorative. Today, I am bracing myself for a deluge of low quality commemorative coins.

He has, it seems, left instructions for his funeral to be simple, which is pretty much what you would expect from a man who used to cook his own breakfast (in contrast to some of his bone-idle issue).


An Eventful Day

I had a night off last night. I’m going to claim that it is part of recharging my creativity and avoiding RSI. It might just be laziness and an inclination to watch low quality TV, but that’s for me to know and you to wonder.

This morning I had a blood test. The result was not good when they phoned it through- a rise of approximately 20%, meaning they are even more worried than they were last week. Did I tell you I’d had a letter from the anti-coagulant service? I forget these things. I don’t know if my test results triggered it or if they sent them out to everyone. It seems that during lockdown they have found people’s levels rising, which is a concern as it makes us more likely to bleed. It isn’t, to be fair, much of a worry to me because I don’t seem to be having any unusual bruising or bleeding, but the medical staff take all this very seriously.

I was a bit slow dressing this morning and struggled to get a parking spot. As a consequence, I forgot to take my mask with me and had to use one from the hospital dispenser by the door. Did you know they make masks in different sizes? The ones I bought at the beginning of the pandemic were a decent size and covered my face.  The ones my sister made me were also a decent size. The one they gave me at the vaccination centre gave good coverage too (even though it was a poor fit and, I suggest, not as effective as the sister-made one I was already wearing, which sealed well around my nose).

A Man in a Mask made by his Sister

The one I wore this morning was smaller and only covered my nose and mouth simultaneously if I balanced it carefully. I won’t say more – us big-faced people are used to this sort of discrimination – but it’s written here as a a snippet for future students who may use my blog as part of a dissertation about life in lockdown.

The Duke of Edinburgh died today. As a seller of second hand goods my first thought was for the family and the second, which followed quickly behind, was that we should get on eBay and start putting prices up. As if they were mind-readers, several customers beat us to it in the search for commemorative coins. I’m sure there will be others issued soon, as coin producers will have been getting ready for his 100th birthday and many of the dies will have been prepared. A quick change of wording and they will still be usable.

The royal souvenir market is a volatile one – it was great in Victorian times but they really caught a cold on Edward VIII. All the stuff was made, then suddenly there was no coronation. Incidentally, did you know that they crowned George VI on the same date as the planned coronation of Edward VIII, as it was easier and they didn’t need to alter most of the arrangements? What a way to start a reign. It’s bad enough being forced to be King, but even worse when you are made to use the hand-me-down coronation arrangements.

Medallions of Edward VIII

He’s been a hard-working man all his life, with a  solid naval career behind him and a record of 22,219 solo engagements and 5,493 speeches since 1952. I don’t know how many other things he did, but it’s a record that some of the younger royals may want to think about.

However, we seem to have four TV channels broadcasting  programmes about him and I’m not sure that we need all that. A few dignified programmes would have been plenty (and they have clearly been making programmes in preparation for this day).  I’m just hoping that when the Queen dies it’s a Tuesday or a Wednesday – there’s never much worth watching then anyway. Another snippet before I go – did you know that the death of George V was managed by his personal physician so that it could be reported in the morning by The Times, rather than the evening papers, which were felt to be less dignified? As a member of the Royal Family, even your death isn’t left to chance.

Wednesday Morning and Procrastination is in Full Swing

On Wednesdays, our day off, I traditionally get up earlier than Julia and go downstairs with thoughts of making her breakfast. This thought never gets past the computer, as  I can never resist using a bit of quiet time to write.

Today I sat down, checked emails, read and commented on a number of other posts and settled down to write this. They last ninety minutes seems to have gone in a blur and has covered polio, books, A A Milne, a famous England cricketer in the shower, academic redundancies, several poems, an article on whether Covid has killed our ability to socialise and an anecdote about bird feeding. Plus a few  bits and pieces as I replied to comments on my own blog.

Though I always feel bad about not reading other blogs properly, I do find that time only stretches so far. I may have to stop watching so much TV. Quiz programmes are probably good as a way of keeping my brain active, but they do tend to blur into cookery (which isn’t so mind enhancing) and popular culture (which I am sure reduces my ability to think).

A Robin singing in the fog

The sky outside my window is what Julia refers to as a “Simpson’s Sky” – bright blue with lots of cloud-shaped white clouds. If you have watched the cartoon you will know what I mean.  They don’t have cirrus in The Simpsons.

This sort of sky, when accompanied by a lot of movement in the shrubbery and tree tops, and by temperatures cold enough to require heating in the house, is a clear indicator that it is one of those “brisk” spring days, rather than a day for picnics. However, as it’s considerably better than a  a day with grey clouds and drizzle, I will accept it and allow it to raise my spirits.

Wow! I just noticed that it’s 11.00. Julia has made breakfast and I have been reading more blogs. I must get a grip on time.

I’ve been to Crowland, seeing it through the eyes of a visitor. I have written about Crowland several times. Four times, I think. My blogging life was about more than lockdown, bacon sandwiches and arthritis at one time. But time, as thy say, is a great wrecker.

Crowland Abbey



Snow in April

The big news of the day is that it snowed. It’s always a possibility in April but it’s still a surprise when it happens. I suspect all the garden centres love Easter because everybody goes out buying bedding plants, which are normally nipped off by frost. It’s a bit of a reflex, spring = new plants. Heart takes over from head, you buy plants they, get frosted, and then you buy more plants. It didn’t take long to start growing my own.

There was ice on the car this morning, which wasn’t as surprise, a we had been warned it would be cold, but it was a surprise when the temperature dropped this afternoon and the snow started falling. It soon melted, because the air temperature didn’t dip below 5° c, but it was still an unusual sight for a while.

They are still talking about vaccine reactions on the news. I have no doubt that it is true that Covid vaccine is killing people. I have, to be honest, little doubt that all vaccines, all medicines and, in fact, all aspects of modern life kill people. If you invented alcohol today, whisky would never be licensed for sale to the public. Or cigarettes.

Every year in  the UK around 78,000 people die from smoking related illnesses.

Last year 5,460 people died from causes directly related to the intake of alcohol.

There were 1,580 deaths on the roads last year.

These are UK figures, and do not necessarily reflect the state of affairs in the rest of the world.

Photo by Anna Shvets on

But as soon as you get a story that seven people have died as a result of Covid vaccine the whole world is up in arms. That’s actually seven people who died from blood clots after having the Covid vaccination. It’s not actually seven people who died of blood clots BECAUSE they had the Covid vaccine.

I’m not about to engage in a discussion with people who get their science from the internet, you are entitled to believe what you want. But may I suggest that if you are concerned about the tiny chance of an adverse event from a vaccination you might also like to give up drinking, smoking and driving, as they are all much more hazardous than having a vaccination.

I am, however, working on my next project to help reduce resistance to vaccination. I’m developing a recipe for Vaccine Drizzle Cake. I mean, everyone loves a drizzle cake don’t they?  No need to be afraid of needles, no need to worry about people staying away – they’d love a Vaccination Tearoom – and no need to worry about harmful side effects. There’s no way a drizzle cake could be dangerous is there?

Apart from the fact that obesity seems to be killing more people than smoking these days.

Nothing is safe, it seems.


One More Quiet Day and a New Leaf

It has been a restful day today – painkillers overnight, a decent sleep and a morning spent with a hot water bottle. This became an afternoon also spent with a hot water bottle. And cake. It’s been quite good.  Perhaps I have needed to sit down with a hot water bottle and waste time. It’s far more relaxing than sitting at the computer wasting time.

I’m also beginning to think that the problem with my arm and shoulder is RSI rather than arthritis, which is mainly confined to my fingers.

The moral of this is clear – spend less time at the computer. I do my best writing with pen and paper anyway, I have been trying to do more writing at the computer in recent months, but it hasn’t worked out. I thought it would be more efficient if I sat at the computer and made myself write, which would cut out the boring process of typing stuff out. It hasn’t gone to plan – the only thing that has improved is my command of Othello/Reversi and Nine Men’s Morris. A computer in idle hands, is a dreadful thing.

So, drug abuse, my health, fashionable injuries, procrastination. I seem to have covered a range of subjects, but it all sems very self-centred. How is everyone out there? I will try to get round and do some visiting now, as I’ve not been very good about reading recently.

Having said that I have finally started on one of my pile of books to read. It feels good to be reading again, after spending so much time concentrating on writing. Or, to be more accurate, after spending so much time concentrating on procrastination. Time, I think, to turn over a new leaf.


Bread, Bibles and Buzzcocks

The sourdough proved to be soft and forgiving and sliced beautifully. This demonstrates two things – one that you should never talk about a difficulty until it actually appears, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof”, as the Bible and several self-help books put it. The modern translation is “Don’t worry about tomorrow. It will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today”. Seventeen words instead of eight and a complete lack of majesty – the translation is a good example of why “new” and “improved” are not always the same thing, which is my second point. You are probably fed up of my views on that, so I will leave it there.

For historical purists out there, yes, I’m aware that the KIng James version is merely a translation itself, and was seen as a retrograde step by the Catholic Church – who went as far as to execute William Tyndale for heresy. This is quite a serious criticism of his work. These days the Pope would merely troll Tyndale’s Twitter account – one way we have advanced a little.

I watched some good TV last night. Julia went up early so I had free range of the TV controls and, having no desire to type, decided to sit and watch TV. I watched Yesterday – six programmes about music in the 1970s and two about the Vikings. OK, more like one and a half about the Vikings, but the room was warm and it was getting late…

I’m now starting to lay plans for my retirement. It starts with  persuading Julia to  take up more hobbies which involve going out so I can watch more history programmes on TV. It’s a modest ambition, but with a bit of care I think I can manage it.  I did briefly think about buying a second TV and sitting watching in a different room, but we’ve never had two TVs in the house. It seems like the sort of thing that only celebrities and footballers do. If I won the lottery I would have two TVs, but one would be for staff. Well, it would be unseemly to wrangle with the butler over who had the remote. It’s clearly his job to push the buttons, but I’d prefer him to have his own TV and just come through when I rang for him to change channels.

This reminds me of my second favourite royal joke.

Prince Charles and Camilla are sitting at the breakfast table and Camilla is clearly unsettled as she looks around whilst holding a letter in her hand.

“What’s wrong my dear? You look unsettled.” says Charles.

“I’m looking for the letter opener.”

“Ah!” says Charles. “He’s not here today, I gave him the day off.”

If you think I’m exaggerating, read this.


Modern Problems

If today follows yesterday’s pattern I will be able to type this morning but by evening I won’t even be able to sit without being aware of the pain in my hands. Sorry if it seems like I’m moaning a lot, but I find it difficult to write about politics, philosophy or economics when my fingers hurt. I generally find it easier to write about the pressing matters close to home. Fortunately I only have severe pain for a a few days every year and haven’t had it this bad for about a year. However, it is human nature not to bother writing about things that go well.

In fact, it was just before lockdown. My hands were really bad when we went down to Suffolk in what turned out to be the week before lockdown. It was an interesting week. All the Londoners had fled to their country cottages, food was short in supermarkets, restaurants were nearly empty in the evenings and I could barely manage my shirt buttons. Yes, on one of the more historic weeks I have lived through, I had trouble dressing myself. It will be an interesting chapter in my memoirs – the world collapses and I debate the merits of wearing T Shirts. Or Tee shirts. Or T-Shirts. I wasn’t sure how to spell it, so I checked it up. Seems the rest of the world isn’t sure either.

I’m going to make brunch now. Part of it is sourdough bread and I’m not looking forward to cutting it. The bread knife, wielded by stiff fingers, does not cope with the bottom crust, so I have to bring out a carving knife and push it though the last bit. I should have stuck to using sliced bread.

Who would have thought it? When you are twenty you wonder about the mysteries of life, like why you have to work five whole days between weekends, whether we actually will ever get household robots and where you will keep all your money after a glittering career. When you are sixty you wonder if you will be able to make brunch without severing a finger. The gulf between the two things is fertile ground for a game of “What have I done with my Life?”

Ah well, brunch…