A Change of Gear

I’m going to relax tonight. No ranting. No description of my dull day. No mention of rejection. This is Julia’s new rule. She decided she had to have a new rule to calm me down.

We were in traffic when a taxi driver, not satisfied with my progress, overtook me, sounded his horn and pulled back in front of me, causing me to brake, as there wasn’t a lot of room. I’m not sure what his problem was, as I was not, as far as I know, holding him up. I think he was just impatient.

I’m resigned to people rushing and driving badly, but I didn’t think the horn was necessary so when we caught up with him at the next hold-up (his hurrying having gained him no time at all), I positioned myself alongside and enquired as to the exact nature of his problem.

I am now in trouble for acting in an unbecoming manner, and have been ordered to calm down.

The header picture is a rugby club reflected in the wing of the car parked next to us at Tebay Services during our trip to the Lakes. The did, to answer the old chant, eat all the pies. This wasn’t their fault – the shop should have had a better stock.To be honest, it was a mixed blessing. We missed out on the excellent pies but we bought lunch elsewhere and didn’t need the normal small bank loan that shopping at Tebay normally requires.

The picture of the Small White is from the garden earlier in the week.

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Small White on Red Valerian

The final picture is a poppy in the garden, still crumples as it has only just emerged from the bud. They always look like this when we leave in the morning. By the time we return home then petals have fallen. They are, in many ways, an unsatisfactory flower.

Poppy in the early morning

Poppy in the early morning

I feel calmer now…

Rejection, Rejection, Rejection…

No, it’s not a semantic device, the title is, so far, an accurate representation of the week so far.

With two more submissions still waiting for replies, it could get worse yet.

On the back of last week’s rejection, I had another yesterday. I then rewrote things, as suggested, and resubmitted them (I had the afternoon free because Julia is on jury duty). The rewrites were rejected.

Then today I had another batch returned.This is an new record for efficient editing – it took approximately 36 hours from sending the poems to getting a rejection.

Four rejections, Three in a week. It’s not doing much for my figure, but it’s not doing me any harm either. I’ve been doing quite well and maybe it’s time for a bit of introspection.

Something has happened over the last year and I find myself strangely serene in the face of adversity.

The first thing, I think, is to remember that it’s my work that’s being rejected, not me.

The second thing is to remember that it’s just words. Nobody died in the making of that poem, no trees were felled and nobody was force fed on salad. There will be plenty more words to work with tomorrow and even if the supply dries up, I must have half a million of them floating round in my blog by now so I could always reuse some of them.

Third – editors are human, and like all of us they have thoughts on what is a good poem. Their view is always going to prevail because it’s their magazine. If you want to be the one calling the shots, either become exceedingly good as a poet, or start your own magazine.

Fourth – in my case, based on past experience, I thought that this time I would target the top magazines and see how I measured up. Some of these magazines publish 1% of the poems they get sent every year. It’s hardly surprising that there’s a lot of rejection flying about. I’d rather be rejected by one of the better magazines than be accepted by something with lower standards. Though, obviously, I’d rather be published than rejected.

Five – every cloud has a silver lining. After thinking I was short of decent poems I now find I have quite a lot of spare one floating about. Within the next week they will be back on offer, using my recycling strategy. I also have an idea for an article on coping with rejection.

 

A Post I didn’t mean to write

The day dawned fair, and far too early. I wanted to turn over and have a lie in as it’s my day off and we weren’t going out but Julia had exacted  a promise from me the night before and so I had to get up and take her to breakfast before dropping her off for her first day of jury service.

I am a man of my word.

That meant I was able to get to the jewellers in time for a good two hours of moaning about the state of business before returning home to spend a couple of hours moaning about politics and sport with Number One Son. During this time he heated up last night’s beef rendang for lunch. I am eating well at the moment.

I also had an email to deal with this afternoon. My luck is really out as far as poetry editors is concerned as I just had another rejection. I thought the 3 haibun were all reasonable and had a good chance of success, but it appears I was wrong.

The rejection was accompanied by some notes, which was handy as it’s always nice (though rare) to get feedback. Sometimes it’s probably better to get feedback than it is to get accepted.

I don’t know if any of you have ever noticed this, but I often feel that once you have either posted your work, or hit the send button, it starts to deteriorate.

Even if it is accepted, the polished gem you sent never looks as good when it is printed. And when it is returned it looks even worse. I looked at what was sent back today and looked at the notes and wondered why I’d sent it. The first sentence of the first submission was just so glaringly wrong, yet two weeks ago it had seemed brilliant.

So, apart from writing better, I also have to start looking at everything with a much more critical eye.

Anyway, I had the afternoon off, so I set to work with the suggested improvements and have resubmitted them. Fingers crossed.

This wasn’t the post I meant to write, but it was what emerged on the paper as I started writing. I am not always master of my own keyboard. That, of course, means I have no suitable picture so I’m reusing the Dylan Thomas £5 coin photo. It’s a tenuous poetry connection, but it’s the best I can do. As I read the post where it originally appeared I see this is the second time I’ve used it as a random space filler.

Here’s more information about the coin if you want it -it is quite interesting.

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Dylan Thomas Alderney £5 coin

Sorry, it turned into a rant

It’s that time of the day again.

The sun is draping itself gently on the rooftops of Nottingham as I stare out of the window at the back of the house and try to look like a writer. There’s still a while before sunset and the sky has not yet taken on any colour, but I am a patient man and I live in hope. It’s low enough to light up the trees in the garden and it is doing a particularly fine job of lighting up the variegated holly which are looking quite spectacular tonight.

The view, rather like the Amazon, has been deforested over the years.

On our left the neighbour removed an ornamental plum and a crab apple tree, as well as ripping up their lawn and spreading the garden with gravel. They also pushed over our laburnum tree when they had a new fence put up. It didn’t need moving, but they had never liked it and used to hack at it whenever they got a chance. I can’t, of course, prove that it was done with malice, but I’m pretty sure that this was the case.

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Small Tortoiseshell on Red Valerian

That same corner was the site of a strange case of forsythia die-back, a disease that only seems to have existed in one corner in one particular garden in the country. A man give to muttering dark things about his neighbours might justifiably think that they had poured something through the gap in the fence to poison his plants.

When I win the lottery I am going to fit this house with a high-powered sound system and it out to students. This will be my revenge. I’m also going to fit water feature and wind chimes – let’s see how they like it.

To be fair, they do still have two Leylandii, which are the only trees, apart from ours, in a six garden area.

Over the years a couple of birches have disappeared from a garden at the back of us, supposedly removed because they were rotten. They looked good when they were cut, and they haven’t been replaced.

The worst loss was the hawthorn. It looked to me to be shared between four gardens because it had grown at the junction of the fences but one of the neighbours took it on himself to remove it one day and that was that.

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Arnot Hill

That was a really bad day for biodiversity. We frequently used to have nesting birds in that tree – mainly blackbirds.

The neighbours on the other side, the ones who used to complain regularly, took several trees out too, though apart from a few Leylandii I can’t remember what they had. They were the ones that reported me to the the local Community Support Officer because of the brambles, the overhanging plums and the leaves which blew into her garden. She actually wanted me to cut the trees down to stop the leaves and the plums dropping in her garden.

As I pointed out, you can’t stop leaves (and there couldn’t have been many of them) and I thought of the plums as giving them free fruit, rather than being a nuisance. You can’t help some people.

The brambles, you say? Yes, I admit they are a nuisance, but several of them were actually coming from their garden into ours under the fence. A previous gardener seems to have had cultivated blackberries in the garden and they have always been rampant. And juicy. I suppose some people just don’t like fresh fruit.

We’re not savages, by the way, and not even particularly bad neighbours, despite the way things may sound, so we did cut the brambles and the plum branches. Couldn’t stop the leaves though.

That leaves our garden as the only one making an effort for nature. We have  a privet, which I confess was a mistake, the holly, a plum, the one we don’t know the name of, and a Leylandii. This needs topping as it is really too big for the garden now, but most years we have pigeons nesting in it and I never get round to it. We also have a couple of apple trees in pots but I always feel guilty about them as they look so dispirited. I really must give them some compost.

I didn’t really mean to run on about the deforestation of back gardens and the drive to force out wildlife, but I did. Sorry about the crusading, but I just don’t know why people don’t just live in flats, or even dungeons, if they hate trees and wildlife so much.

It’s an outdoor space full of birds and insects and even animals and kids. It’s not an extension of the living room. You can tell the difference because of the absence of carpets, though I’ve recently seen astroturf on sale in a garden centre so even that distinction is being blurred. I’ve been thinking that I really must get on top of the garden next year. And plant more trees.

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Apple at Mencap Gardens

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

The morning passed fairly quickly, though I’m breaking in new shoes and my bunion was twinging a bit. Julia has treated me to a set of shoe stretchers and they have a special attachment for the bunion area so I’m expecting the problem will be solved tonight.

Because of that I went home when we finished at lunchtime and did a few chores, after removing my shoes. I would have liked to have seen my friends on the other side of town but you can’t really walk into a jeweller and slip your shoes off.

I then set to on the new poetry system I’m developing. I now make files up, named for the relevant magazine and submission date. I then have something to aim at when using the computer, instead of relying on memory and scraps of paper. After I send one tonight I will have four submissions out. This is the most I’ve ever had out at one time, and the next two lots are due to go out in October. As yet, I have nothing good enough to go out, which is very worrying. I don’t like it when that happens.

It’s my fault. I’m just submitting at a higher rate than I can write. It takes me seven to ten minutes to write the prose portion of a haibun when everything is going well. Unfortunately it then takes weeks to hone it and write the haiku. In a few weeks I’m sure I’ll have caught up a bit and everything will be back in balance.

In two to four weeks, I’m guessing, I will start getting things rejected and they can be sent out again.

Generally you are asked for three haibun in a submission, and as a principle most magazines will only accept one as they are short of space and want to give everyone a fair go. I can usually place at least one of the rejects, sometimes both, within a few months. Of the three that were rejected last week, two are already out again and the third piece which accompanies them has been out twice before already. Yes, they’ve all been tightened up but they are all essentially the same pieces.

Recycling, that’s the key.

They are all good pieces, they just weren’t fully finished when I sent them out. That’s what happens when you rush things.

Sometimes, when it’s clear that nobody wants it, I’ll admit defeat. The post Murder Your Darlings was one of my defeats. After four attempts I killed one of my favourites by publishing it myself. Editors don’t like previously published work.

However, what I didn’t tell you at the time was that I’d picked over the corpse and turned it into a poem. It will be submitted with a group of poems later tonight.

Reduce (the work), reuse (resubmit) and recycle (use the bits for something else) – it works in writing just thye same as everything else.

Let’s see what happens next.

I’ll mention no names, but thirty years ago I used to know a man who wrote military history books, and, by the time he’d done three, I started to see a pattern as the research from the previous book formed a good portion of the next one. I reckon he wrote nine books from the research he’d done on the first three, This is smart work and good use of resources.

It is also a contrast with a University professor I know. He’s written five books and they are all more or less the same. That, I feel, is lazy, even by my standards.

Finally, the recycled photographs. The gulls from Llandudno Pier feature in one of the resubmitted haibun, which gives me an excuse to reuse some of them.

Sunday Night Already

Where’s it all gone?

A certain amount of it was lost to sleep because I worked into the early hours setting up a plan for submissions. If you go to bed three hours late, you may as well get up three hours late on Sunday morning. Or, I suppose, you could just leave the planning for the morning. I’ve never worked out the best way to do it.

Late night is better for concentration, as there is nobody about to ask me to do other things, but it’s not so good for being alert and getting up next morning.

In the early hours I feel more like a writer. In the morning I feel more like an accountant.

From sleep we burst into action with laundry and shopping, then home for brunch. I did some writing and some work on my talk (it’s only four months away!) then watched TV, had a roast dinner cooked by Julia, who also made crumble. Number Two son served it. Looks like the Old Man has been left to wash up.

Watched some cricket. Then back to the writing.

When I say writing I also mean on-line Scrabble, reading comments on WordPress, playing Othello and trying to read a few WordPress posts, though I’m still very bad at this. Sorry to everyone I’ve been neglecting. Playing Scrabble hasn’t really increased my facility with anagrams, which I’ve never been good with, but it has enlarged my repertoire of games and increased my capacity for wasting time. To be fair, it has also increased my vocabulary of two letter words, but that’s not terribly useful.

I’m going to have to get a grip of my time.

Even if I merely stop discussing my talent for wasting time I’d save several hours a week.

1994 22 carat gold 50p

1994 22 carat gold 50p

The coin I’ve pictured today is a 22 carat gold 50p piece – one of only 2,500 made in gold. It is a rare coin compared to the normal cupro-nickel one, but the collectors are also rare. It weighs 26.32 grams, which is the same as about three and a quarter sovereigns. The cheapest currently on eBay is £1,099.

People with £1,099 don’t visit the shop every day, and don’t often want a modern coin like this.

Catching Up on Friday

Time to go back to Friday.

The first notable phone call was a lady with three “rare” 2016 Peter Rabbit 50p pieces – the variety with half a whisker. There were 9.6 million 2016 Peter Rabbit coins issued, and they all have ten and a half whiskers. The supposed rarity of the coin is not about actually rarity but about poor reporting standards, internet rumours and the rapacious greed and ignorance of a few internet sellers.

It should have been obvious that rare coins don’t crop up in multiples in your change, but people don’t always work that one out. To be honest, it’s dreaming of the elusive rarity which keeps many antiques dealers going.

However, I had to tell the lady they weren’t worth more than 50p each, and she told me this was a shame as she was hoping to buy a wedding dress for her granddaughter. Sometimes I’m less happy with my job than others.

Then we had the man, who to be fair, was an enthusiast. He rang up with a list of rarities, including 30-year-old British banknotes, US dollar bills (which turned out to be from this century) and Australian pennies. It took two ten minute phone calls to persuade him that we had plenty of British bank notes, that modern dollars in circulated condition are worth a dollar and that we have very few customers for Australian pennies (which we sell in bulk lots on eBay).

Finally we had a call from an embarrassed mother. Her son, having collected 50p coins, had tasked her with ringing round to get the best price for them. She was already sure in her own mind that they were worth 50p each and was very apologetic. So I invited her down with her son to view our stock, praising the virtues of coin collecting as a hobby, telling her we had reference books in stock and offering free tea and coffee.

Well, if you’re going to have to sit there taking calls you may as well show some enthusiasm.