Monthly Archives: September 2019

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.

 

One for Tootlepedal

As requested by Tootlepedal, here is the picture I took of a long-tailed tit yesterday. They flit through the treetops, squeaking to each other and never settling long in one spot. I didn’t have my big camera with me and the one I did have was set for flowers in close-up so it is a very bad shot. I put it here just to show that long-tailed tits, though beautiful birds, are not easy to photograph. I will then add, if I can find them, a few more shots taken over the years which are slightly better.

Poor shot of a long-tailed tit

Poor shot of a long-tailed tit

Even the miracle of modern photo editing can’t make this into anything but a comedic failure. Small equipment allied to poor technique do not produce good results, as Julia has often mentioned.

I don’t seem to be doing too well finding the shots of long-tailed tits, though I know I have a few. Try these instead. Here’s one from  The Marmalade Police and other stories…

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I will look for more tonight but I have to go to work now – packing parcels and answering phone calls from people who are about to have their dreams shattered.

Number One son is back from his raid on Leeds. He has fixed up a flat and done his first job interview but is bemoaning the fact that he might have to take a boring job. I didn’t like to explain that this is normal. The job openings for International Playboys and Unicorn Trainers are very limited.

Time to Stand and Stare

I’m going to post about the garden to start with. It’s a nice calm place to start.

We bought sausage baguettes from the Co-op on Wilford Lane and ate them as we watched the geese fly over on their daily trip to the river. It’s an extravagance but it’s nice to eat out once in a while, and it’s hardly Babylonian in its excess.

There was a robin, a crow, a few pigeons, some magpies and a flight of about a dozen long-tailed tits. You’s think I’d manage some decent photos but I had the small camera and it was set for close-ups. By the time I’d adjusted it I normally found I was zooming in on an empty branch.

The flowers were less flighty and I even got a couple of wildlife shots, though bees and caterpillars aren’t the hardest of subjects.

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Caterpillar and flower. My flimsy knowledge of plants and wildlife is revealed for all to see.

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Safer ground here – it’s a bee and a nasturtium

Imagine my mind like an over-full bookcase. As you force a volume of coin knowledge in at one end a book of insect knowledge falls off the other end.

Eventually the Council House clock struck nine and I had to leave for work. I may cover the events of the day later – breaking a grandmother’s heart, talking to a lunatic and cynically laying a trap for a potential young collector.

Those, of course, are just the highlights.

Runner Beans - guess what's for tea

Runner Beans – guess what’s for tea

In Victorian times they were grown for their decorative flowers rather than the beans. You have to wonder who first decided to taste them.

Antidote to Happiness

I had an interesting phone call today – someone trying to sell me “old coins”.

They were actually sets of football medallions from the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, which were sold or given away in supermarkets at the time. They are virtually worthless and even with the help of eBay they are almost unsaleable. We buy them if they come in with other things and even then we try to avoid them because they clutter the place up and encourage people to bring in even more useless junk.

Like Gresham’s Law, in which bad money drives out good, a shelf of unsaleable crap seems to just grow and grow until you become a junk shop rather than a coin shop. Actually, that’s more like Topsy, but I’m trying to sound intellectual.

I apologised, even though it’s not my fault, and said that we didn’t buy them. This started an argument as the caller pointed out that we were a coin shop and these were “over 30 years old” so we had to buy them. (As I write that, I realise they are only 20 years old).

I’d been in the middle of a tricky email, using Google Translate, to an idiot on eBay, and this new idiot had interrupted me, so I’m afraid I didn’t put things as tactfully as I might have done.

I could have been less blunt in telling him we had coins that were 2,000 years old so 30 years wasn’t a selling point.

But the problem really started when I told him they were medallions not coins. He couldn’t understand the difference. And I, unfortunately, was even less tactful in my explanation of why they weren’t coins. Well, to be fair to me, I was tactful on the first and second time I tried to explain it. I was, I admit, a bit sharp on my third attempted explanation. He just couldn’t grasp the ideas that not all round flat things are coins or that I was free not to buy them.

It ended with him shouting “I’m not an effing idiot you know!” and disconnecting the call. (I have altered the language slightly.)

Of course, he was wrong in that too, because he was an idiot.

After that, I went back to the email. We have an unhappy Spanish customer but we aren’t sure why. He has now sent us two messages in Spanish and the translation websites are struggling. I can’t work out what he is actually unhappy about – it seems that I got it wrong on my first attempt but his second email is no more help. I’ve composed a message using short sentences and very simple concepts in the hope that the translator won’t garble it.

No doubt we will sort it out one way or another.

This was probably the sort of day I needed as an antidote to my recent unusual happiness.

Happiness and Haibun

 

I’ve just had a rejection letter from an editor.

My current levels of happiness are such that I have offered him my sincere thanks for his feedback and have already rewritten one of the pieces to send elsewhere later this week.

I am seriously worried about my levels of positivity.

It’s not natural, it’s not me and I know it will all end in tears. I’m wondering if I’m associating with too many Americans. What with Pollyanna and a can-do attitude you lot ought to be quarantined.

I am, of course, a little bit annoyed at the rejection because I’ve clearly sent out sub-standard work and I need to tighten up on it. Fortunately the feedback I was given made the rewrite on one of them quite easy. That will be going to an editor who has never accepted anything from me before. It is very likely to be rejected again, because I don’t think the two of us are on the same wavelength, but you never know…

I’ve actually looked back on one or two posts that mention rejection and seem to have taken it in my stride. However, there was one double rejection that I had, which did stop me in my tracks for a few weeks. I can’t find any mention of it in the blog and may have kept it to myself. That’s how you look successful – talk about the acceptances and gloss over the rejections.

 

I have had, if I remember rightly, I’ve had nine acceptances and six rejections in the 12 months since I started sending things out. It’s all written down but it’s in another room and I’m lazy. As I started off with three rejections the average isn’t looking too bad.

In some ways, acceptance is worse than rejection. Every time I’m accepted I worry about if I’ll ever manage it again, or if editors will ever realise I actually don’t have a clue about what I’m doing.

The key to a good haibun is, it seems, a good haiku, which should be the first thing you write. Well, that’s what a number of well-respected people have said on more than one occasion. It makes sense. You should not, they add, start writing haibun until you are having haiku accepted regularly by reputable journals.

If I’d known that in the beginning I’d never have written haibun. In truth, I started writing them because my haiku are rubbish and I was hoping to conceal this by hiding them in a chunk of prose.

My writing method is to write the prose and then wait, sometimes for weeks, until a thought for the haibun presents itself. If I make a half-decent attempt the editor often suggests improvements, which I immediately agree to.

It may not be the classic method but it seems to work.