Etiquette and Editors and Lifestyle Changes

I’m never quite sure about how to treat editors. I treat them politely, but it’s difficult knowing exactly how to do that. I was brought up not to use first names until I knew someone, but the simple use of Mr or Mrs or Miss or any other simple title is now a politically charged minefield with the capacity for causing great offence, so I try to avoid it.

Talking of that, did you know that the Post office had a set of stamps in 2002 that included a rabbit and the words “a new baby”. I have nightmares about using them on a parcel that goes to someone who, for one reason or another, finds it upsetting. It’s a great stamp for someone who just had a healthy baby but there are are a number of circumstances where it could cause offence.

Anyway, back to editors. Apart from the problem of how to address them, there is the problem of how to reply after they have either accepted or rejected something. I’ve seen mixed advice on this, including several opinions that editors have enough to do without extra emails.

I took that advice to start with, as I don’t want to cause extra work, but after a while it began to seem rude.

Several editors, including one who turned me down this week, go out of their way to tell you that they can’t, or won’t, offer help or advice on your work. Others do offer some comment, which is always a happy extra. I’m happy that they don’t comment (as it isn’t their purpose). I’m not so happy with the ones who make a big thing out of not commenting, as it seems slightly aggressive and negative. Which leaves us with the ones that do comment – it seems rude not to thank them. so I now do that. In general, the most helpful comments seem to come from people who are turning my work down.

That just leaves the question of whether writing anything but a submission looks like an attempt to suck up to an editor. I don’t have a clue about that one, and would be interested to hear from any editors or ex-editors out there who have a view.

I’ll stop there as I am planning a drive North and a pub lunch. They were things that I used to do without thinking eighteen months ago. Now, I’ve had to book, which means I need plans and timings, and I have had to read the website. We can now have a party of any size we like, don’t need to wear masks and don’t need to use track and trace. I have looked at the menu on line and see that they do vegan Fishless Fish and Chips with Crispy Quorn fish style fillets.

Why oh why oh why, as I so often find myself asking, do the producers of vegan food have to align it with meat? Why not just advertise battered slabs of tasteless crap served with chips and peas. Vegans are hardy souls, I’m sure they could take it on the chin with a description of what they are about to be given. Mentioning fish three times in a vegan menu description doesn’t make the Quorn sound better, it just makes me think of succulent flakes of fresh fish in crisp golden batter.

Stone on the Floor

 

 

Saturday morning and some time to spare

A blue tit is squeaking from somewhere near our neighbour’s roof. I  have seen or heard it several times and I have wondered if it might be nesting. There is a gap under the tiles and they have nested there before, though it seems a bit late in the season to be looking at a new site. According to naturalists on TV they have had a bad season this year, the cold spring preventing the flush of caterpillars that usually coincides with the hatching of their young. No food meant a poor success rate.  We tend not to feed the birds these days because it attracts squirrels, magpies and rats. None of them are particularly welcome. Several of the neighbours over-feed, and some even put food out for foxes. I’ve told them several times that this causes rats, but they ignore me. One even told me that it was my unkempt nature plot that caused the rat problem. Not true. Rats need to eat, and there is nothing for them here. Gardens that leave out food scraps and hard boiled eggs are the cause of the rat problem, and gardens with decking. The stories I could tell you about decking . . .

I have actually sat in a neighbour’s garden and watched rats, in daylight, emerge from under their shed and climb the bird table to feed. The neighbour treated it as if it were a nature documentary. It’s not the fault of the rats, it’s the fault of humans who don’t have the sense they were born with.

After a lifetime killing rats on farms, and knowing a man who caught Weil’s disease whilst fishing, I don’t take rats lightly. There’s something about a rat that riggers a murderous impulse in me. I have actually seen people playing with pet rats in public, and have felt myself wanting to go over and  kill it. Fancy rats, despite their colours and cute faces are just the same as the normal disease-ridden bird killing garden rat – they were originally bred from colour variations that Victorian ratcatchers found in sewers. Bear that in mind next time you see one.

Friday – a middling sort of day

I missed posting yesterday because things were a bit hectic, and I’m close to missing today’a post because they have been busy today too. Number One Son is home for a quick visit, the first time we have seen him since Christmas. We have been eating pizza (and salad), discussing the Olympics and trying to get the DVD player to work. I had though he would be useful with the technology but it seems that DVD players are out of date. I can’t tell you what is in date as I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Superficially it was like English, but when it was all strung together t was like staring into purgatory. The future is not a welcoming place and seems to contain a lot of clouds . . .

Meanwhile, I have had two emails today, which just goes to show that rejections, like buses, always come along in groups. One magazine didn’t actually reject me (they declined me) but did so in such a way that I have decided I may not offer them the fruits of my labours next time round. The other did reject me, but did so with  alight touch and a helpful comment. I liked that better.

Generally, though, they just bounced off me. A year into my great poetic effort (great effort that is, not great poetry) I have grown a carapace that deflects the sting of rejection and allows me to carry on crawling towards my goal, indifferent to rejection, no matter what they may call it.

We are having cheesecake now, to round off the pizza. I like having visitors.

The Results Are In

This is not really a post, just an exercise in procrastination. I started writing it last night and left it for completion but had an idea for another post before returning to it.  I should be writing some haibun at the moment, but that isn’t going well. I started writing but wandered off to search Gray’s Elegy for a title, and ended up reading Lowell’s For the Union Dead, which is a fine poem but isn’t going to move my haibun forward. On the other hand, twenty minutes of staring into space and chewing a pen didn’t move it forward either.

I am now going to complete the post so that I don’t need to think about actually writing poetry.

It is now twelve months since I decided to take poetry seriously and I am in a position to discuss my 12 month rolling average.

Fifty six submissions made. Twenty eight have been successful, twenty one have been rejected and seven are awaiting a decision. Three of those have very little chance but I have a reasonable chance with the others. Even if none of them are accepted I am still on 50%, which everyone tells me is a good proportion.

This year it’s safe to say that I have written more, managed a publishable standard and have moved slightly out of my comfort zone by venturing into ordinary poetry and tanka, whilst trying a few new magazines.

In truth, I’ve done a little ordinary poetry before, though I did aim reasonably high with my choice of magazine, so I’m happy there. The tanka seem quite successful too, so I need  anew challenge. This year I will consolidate what I am doing (no need to get over-confident) then look for new challenges.

I also have to work on becoming more productive, but for the moment I am off to read about writing better tanka. It beats bashing away at haibun that won’t come, but is all about self-improvement so doesn’t count at procrastination.

 

 

 

Heroes of Lockdown

I did very well out of Covid – plenty of time off with pay and found the whole thing relaxing and productive. Others had a very different experience.

Here’s a few thoughts that go beyond the NHS and  teachers. Not saying that they aren’t heroes, but they do have a habit of telling us how hard they work, even in non-pandemic times and seem to have a well-tuned PR machine.

Bin men. Out is all weathers taking rubbish away. Take the bin men away for a month and you’d start to see rats in the streets and the breakdown of society.

Shop assistants. A couple of my sisters in law were in ASDA all through the pandemic, putting up with abuse from the public, risking infection every day and keeping us fed.

Bus drivers – several died from Covid as they kept our transport system going so people could get to work. Their deaths passed mostly unreported.

Postmen. Another profession that suffered Covid casualties but kept going through thick and thin. People were quarantining mail during lockdown because they were afraid of it bringing in germs, but the posties had to handle thousands of items a day. After the first lockdown, when we did close, they kept our eBay business going.

Street cleaners, meals on wheels, power workers, farm workers, police, firemen, railway staff. I’m afraid that I can’r even start to list everyone, because there are so many people who get taken for granted and I’m bound to have forgotten someone.

So, to all the people out there who kept the country running and didn’t get a proper thank you, I assure you I am grateful.

Finally, care workers. Not going to labour the point, but underpaid and unappreciated are words that definitely apply.

I did a bad thing today

You know how they say the customer is always right? I forgot that this morning.

The customer from last week rang to express his discontent that we still hadn’t sent him the details he needed and that he didn’t see why he should pay to return the goods and that it was all our fault . . .

I apologised for whatever it was that we had got wrong this time, expressed my surprise that it wasn’t proceeding smoothly and ascertained what the problem was. It was the same as last week – he has cocked it up again and pressed the wrong buttons, bringing the whole refund process to a halt. This, it appears is all my fault.

At that point I snapped and said “No!”

I explained that I was sorry that he hadn’t received what he wanted and that he hadn’t had his refund but said I was unwilling to carry on being told it was my fault. I have sent him the things he ordered and I have sent him what he needed to obtain a refund. He, on the other hand, ordered the wrong things and has failed to press the right buttons to obtain the refund. It is costing us money to correct his mistake and enough is enough.

I have now sent him a stamped addressed envelope and look forward to seeing if he manages to work that without mishap.

Now I feel guilty, because I have told a customer he is wrong, but I just couldn’t take it any more. Even if it were my fault, there’s no need for the constant chorus of blame, but some people just like to blame somebody for their misfortune, and it’s never their fault, or the product of blind chance.

Bad Start to the Week

Sorry, I fell asleep in the chair last night so did’t post. Then tonight I decided to shake up my routine by not using the computer until late. I got that wrong – got carried away watching TV and suddenly it’s late and I still have a blog to write and sandwiches to make..

So here I am.

Not much to report.

I injured my foot this morning in a rather foolish pedicure accident. As  a result of the Warfarin it took just over an hour to stop the bleeding. I would normally gloss over this sort of stupidity, but if this is to b a warts and all diary I need to tell the truth. I am irredeemably stupid, don’t have the sense I was born with and can’t be trusted to put my socks on without incident. That;s not me being self-deprecating, that’s a direct quote from the Court of Enquiry hosted by Julia when I had to call for help. She wasn’t amused, and that First Aid Course she did last week appears to have skimped on information about pedicure incidents.

I’ve been watertight for the last 17 hours, so the repair seems to have held. With all the excitement I couldn’t take Julia in to work and had to take my breakfast to the shop. Not the best start to the day for either of us. I should have fitted in a blood test this morning too, but had to miss it. Ironic, as I could have provided plenty, and all without needing a needle.

We have  a severe weather warning with thunder and lightning tomorrow, which is OK for people like me who work indoors. Not quite so good for Julia, who will be out in the gardens with her group. She says she will take a coat. I think they’d be better cancelling the session. You can do without that sort of stuff when you are out in the garden and all the shelter you have is either a steel portacabin or a polytunnel with steel hoops. I keep thinking of lightning conductors . . .

 

Customer Service and a Tale of Two Morons

I read a post yesterday, which referred to “customer service” as an oxymoron. Not at our shop – we always try to come achieve a satisfactory solution when there is a problem. With eBay being so skewed towards the customer it’s actually hard not to get to a satisfactory solution for the customer, even stupid or dishonest ones.

How about this for an example.

A customer ordered an item last week, then rang to complain that he had received an X when he had ordered a Z. I replied that I couldn’t understand what had happened, as he had definitely ordered an X according to our eBay screen. (No, we don’t sell capital letters, I’m just trying to protect the identity of an idiot). He added, “You always do this. I ordered  a P a Q and an X last time and you sent me three Xs. It’s all the fault of your system, it’s difficult to use and it’s not very clear.”

We agreed that we didn’t want him to have things he didn’t require, but that all the others were out of stock, so he would have to ring the next day to speak to the owner, who could make decisions on this that I couldn’t make.

Alarm bells were, to put it mildly, ringing.

I checked his last order. He had ordered Three Xs and that was what we had supplied.

So, according to me and eBay he had ordered four Xs and we had, quickly and accurately, supplied exactly that.

The problem is that he isn’t very good with technology, and he isn’t very good at listening. He has pressed the “buy” button four times and tried to order things that are no longer in stock (and are clearly marked as “out of stock”). He’s also clearly no good at listening, when I try to explain. And he doesn’t understand eBay – it’s a standard drop-down menu as used by everyone on eBay. It is not our system as he seems to think. Nobody else has ever had this problem.

Now, I’m happy to take things back, and we are going to help him out, but I do object to him claiming that it is our fault, and I do object to him costing us money when he is the one at fault.r fault, particularly when he could have told us there was a problem after the first lot.

What we are doing is paying for him to send them back and then giving him a refund. The cost to us will be about £7 in postage and £5 in time spent sorting the return out. Next time we sell the goods for £20, the eBay fees of £3 plus the £7 and the £5 all have to be taken from the £20. That leaves us £5 to pay for the stock, our premises and our wages. It is not, as we retail professionals say, a sustainable model.

So there you go, a tale of modern customer service. Not actually the story of an oxymoron, more the story of an actual moron.

Dignity v Whining

I’ve just been watching a news item on TV about electric scooters. One man described how his elderly brother died as result of falling when trying to move a badly parked scooter, another, partially-sighted, man told of his several near miss experiences.

I don’t particularly like the things and think that a lot needs doing about the way they are used and left all over the place, but I have to admit that they seem popular and may be doing something useful. I actually doubt that they are useful, because the people who are using them don’t seem of an age where they would be using a car instead. They seem to be of an age where they would be using buses or skateboards.

On Wednesday Julia was the victim of a near miss when she walked into a supermarket and two youths on electric scooters entered the shop on scooters. She felt the wind of their passing (no social distancing either). They clearly aren’t suitable for shops but in the absence of a sudden appearance of brains or manners, it looks like this will become more common. I didn’t mention it at the time because it simply isn’t possible to rant about every single thing that annoys me.

My point? That it’s possible to go on TV and deliver a point in a dignified manner without demanding “answers” and “justice”. See yesterday’s post, and some of the comments made about my use of the word “whining”.

It’s also possible, as we can see on many blogs, to discuss the challenges of life in a thoughtful and dignified manner. Part of this might be because it’s easier to do this in writing, where the TV is not such an easy medium (though they did mange it this morning).

I’m off to work now, see you later.

No justice, no answers, just a Haibun

I just had a really good rant. I won’t be publishing it, but it has cleared my head. It was all about people whining that they want “justice” and “answers” about the death of their loved ones in Care Homes.  I have news for them – there is no justice, there is just stuff that happens. There are no answers, just opinions. And most of all, there is no point dwelling in the past. Yes, you can learn from past mistakes, but once it gets past a certain point the 80:20 rule cuts in, and you spend a lot pf time going nowhere.

Instead of appearing on TV demanding “justice” or “answers” in relation to the death of my father I will post a haibun today. It was first published in the April 2021 issue of The Haibun Journal.

 

In John Clare’s Footsteps

a grass cup
five speckled eggs
— my fathers’ hands

Despite social distancing rules, one of my cousins helps me adjust my tie in the crematorium car park. He says that he only wears ties at funerals. It’s the same for me. Dad’s generation, on the other hand, didn’t think they were properly dressed without a tie. We weren’t allowed to see him at the funeral home because of the covid restrictions, but I think of him wearing the grey silk tie my sister provided.

As we wait, I look over the ranks of rose bushes to the fields beyond. The scent drifts on the breeze. John Clare, the Peasant Poet, was born and lived a few miles from here before his descent to the asylum. Our family walks used to take us through these fields, where skylarks scattered us with song. I can only see one today as it rises to the clouds, but, in the manner of the modern larks, it does not seem to sing.

silent in the clouds
— a dark spot
ascending