Monthly Archives: August 2020


The title isn’t quite accurate, but headlines often aren’t. However, there is an element of truth in it, as you will see if you persist.

Despite me rushing to finish last night’s post by midnight, my days don’t really run from midnight to midnight and I often work an hour or so into the night while it is quiet. This is particularly the case at weekends when I can get up later to compensate.

As an example, I did some decluttering this morning then set my alarm to give myself just over an hour at the computer before warming up the soup for lunch. Julia decided this would be a good time to start work on reorganising the kitchen so my writing efforts are now accompanied by the clatter of various kitchen implements (mainly noisy ones) as she composes a symphony for baking trays and raised voices.

I did think of inserting a witty quote on marriage here, but couldn’t find one. I suspect all the wittiest quotes are written by people who aren’t married. The ones who are married just nod and keep their heads down, which is why they are still married.

I’m playing WP Roulette here – if she reads this I’m in trouble. If not I will live to moan another day.

That’s why I work into the early hours.

And that was why, about half an hour after posting I decided to look at one of the magazines that had some submissions from me five weeks ago. I was surprised, and a little put out, to find that they had published the next issue. I don’t mind rejection too much, because it’s part of writing, but I don’t really like being ignored.

Anyway, it is what it is. I read a few of the haibun and decided to see when the next submission window opened. While I did that I noticed a note saying that if you don’t get an acknowledgement within in two days you should get in touch. It was a lot longer than two days, but I double checked, found I definitely hadn’t had one and decided to take action.

Two Cyclists

As recommended in many articles on writing I dropped the the editor a short polite note to check if they had received anything from me and checking the best way to submit next time round.

The marvels of email and the time difference between the UK and USA meant I had a reply within half an hour. It seems the automated submission form is suspected of discarding a number of submissions and is now out of favour.

Ah well!

When it comes down to it I checked the two pieces I’d submitted and decided they weren’t all that good anyway. Internet oblivion is probably the best place for them. Anyway, even if they had been brilliant you can’t turn back time, despite Cher’s singing and the services of a good plastic surgeon.

As time goes on I’m finding that I have more and more sympathy for editors. It can’t be easy at the best of times, particularly when you see the number of submissions some of them get, and when the technology turns against you it must be hellish.

It’s a big day tomorrow – three submission windows open and I have submissions prepared for each one.

The game’s afoot, as Holmes said, though when I check the quote I find that Henry V said it first. Tricky things, quotes.



Quite a Good Sunday

I had a surprise this afternoon when I switched the computer on and it worked. Sorry, only joking, but based on yesterday’s post I expect some of you heaved a sigh of relief. I did have a surprise, but it wasn’t that. I had been sent an email by Country Life, which happens regularly, and in it they were running a number of articles about Northamptonshire, which is becoming known as the new Cotswolds. Strange, I thought, I’m sure I mentioned that several years ago in a post titled Cotswolds or Notswolds?

Looks like I’m in the forefront of modern trends and thinking. That was a surprise as I’m not usually a trendsetter. However, as usual, I am at the back of the queue when it comes to getting paid for my prescient brilliance. I just hope it doesn’t lead to the ruination of Northamptonshire as it fills up with Londoners.

Then I turned on my emails. I had an email from Failed Haiku. They have accepted a haibun for next month. Out of the submissions I’ve sent out i  the last couple of months that now means numbers two and four have now accepted haibun. One and three have yet to reply. Five and six are just submissions of haiku and I don’t hold out much hope for them, but I won’t get better if I don’t try.

I am, as I have said before, not good at haiku, and try to disguise the fact by writing a bit of prose to dress it up, thus creating a haibun.

I once read an article on how you should set yourself up to fail because you learn more from failure than you do from success. Unfortunately I have also seen articles saying you learn more from success than from failure. The only thing I know about failure is that the more you fail, the more you get used to it. It’s all very well telling yourself it isn’t personal or that it’s just an editor’s preference. You can even make a book of your successes so that you can leaf through it to buoy yourself up when things get tough (and I confess that I have done this). But the best thing of all is just toughening yourself up by practicing being rejected.

I am currently employing the same theory that I used when I was a salesman. If you have to make twenty calls to get one sale you need to get the nineteen calls out of the way. So I’ve decided to submit more and see if it results in more acceptances. If it doesn’t I will have to have a serious look at the quality of my output.

Only one photo tonight.A combination of the old editor and an old computer meant it took seventeen minutes to load the featured image. Life is too short to load a second. In fact the day is too short to load another.

An Interesting Day in the Shop

We had an interesting day in the shop today, but I expect you gathered that from the title. I really need to work on my titles. They should tantalise rather than tell all in the first few words.

Last week, which I don’t think I have told you, I switched on my computer in the shop and it wouldn’t go. We eventually narrowed this down to a power supply issue. Apparently the flashing amber lights that happen when a computer breaks down aren’t random, they are a coded breakdown message.

We rang the customer who attends to our computer needs and he was on his way to the airport for a holiday. He said that we should disconnect the computer from the mains, take the cover off, look for a silver box, take the serial number off it and see if we could buy another on eBay. Even an idiot can replace it, he said.  No chance. I’ve done that sort of thing before and I know how the story ends. Tears, regrets and the smell of burning…

So this morning, being first in, I switched the other computer on. A few minutes later I noticed it didn’t seem to be working, so I did it again in case I had done it wrong.

Again, nothing. So I tried a third time and sat and watched the screen. According to the message that flashed briefly onto the screen before it went dead, it can’t find the hard drive. Seems simple enough to me, and if I can do it you’d think something with a brain like a computer would be able to do it.

I tried switching it on and off a few times. Disconnected all the plugs and stuff, then plugged them all back in. Tried again. Administered a good sharp tap to the top of the case. All the usual.

I am developing a bit of a reputation for breaking computers.

I decided to make a cup of coffee, but having developed a sixth sense about these things over the years, sniffed the milk first. We had black coffee. After years of inadequate refrigeration on farms and in shops you soon learn that the question “One lump or two?” doesn’t always refer to the sugar.

Why Bother Blogging? (Part 2)

Joking aside, (and I wasn’t entirely joking about my desire for fame and fortune), I needed the writing practice. My writing had come to a halt and my brief career as a poet had fizzled out. It wasn’t a concious decision, I had about a dozen poems published, I was just getting into a better class of magazine when I let it all go. It was a combination of children and poverty, as I recall. There just wasn’t enough time for everything and I spent the next eight years writing match reports for various junior rugby teams and hiring myself out as a jobbing gardener.

Then, while I was working on the farm with Julia and the Quercus group I decided it was time to start writing again. The blog was my first step back into regular writing. After two thousand posts and establishing a habit which I am seemingly unable to break, I think it’s safe to say I write regularly.

I also like the company. I know it’s only virtual company but that’s good enough for me. WordPress friends are better than flesh and blood friends as they don’t disturb you in the middle of doing things and they don’t come round and eat your biscuits.  They also let you blether on without telling you to shut up. This is a model of behaviour that Julia could do with adopting. In WP there is also a touch of the feeling you get when you look into people’s back gardens from the train. (Or is that just me?) I’m curious to the point of being nosey.

The other thing with WP friends is that I was till able to visit during lockdown.

Apart from a disturbance in my shopping habits, and a morbid fear of sniffling strangers, I hardly noticed any difference between lockdown and my normal life,  This, I feel, says nothing good about my normal life.

Blogging is also a reason to get up in the morning, go out, observe things and set targets. You can say this about many forms of writing, but if I hadn’t started blogging there’s a chance I wouldn’t be doing any other writing. It’s a chilling thought.

I wouldn’t be doing any photography either, because I started that to add photographs to the blog.

You frequently see people making the same point about writing haiku, and it’s true. If you are going to write a lot of Japanese style poetry of any type you need to keep looking out for details.

If you get into the habit of observing it becomes easier to see things and, this gives you more to write about so it’s a sort of virtuous circle. (Julia saw a weasel today in the Mencap Garden. A real one, that is, not a jumped up school caretaker or a cowardly manager. It must be hard being an animal when your name is used as a term of abuse.

It’s particularly hard on weasels, who are quite affable, and don’t really deserve the opprobrium they get. When you think of the personal habits of the stoat, it’s the stoat that should be the term of abuse. The word itself sounds more like a snarled insult too. Weasel is a bit of a woolly word.

You also learn a lot from blogging – particularly as you browse Wikipedia looking for links for the blog.

I’m sure it does other things too, like keeping my fingers flexible but I’m starting to tire now and it’s time to go and read my new book. It’s a Kindle book about how to be an autodidact, and before anyone asks, yes, it’s a Teach Yourself book…

I’m going to use the penny picture again to tie this to the Part 1 post. I’m not sure if I’ll use any others as it’s too much of a faff on the old editor.


Nothing Much to Say

I’ve run out of things to say. I never thought that would happen.

Part 2 of yesterday’s post is on hold, because the day has failed to provide the necessary spark of inspiration. I could force it but I’d rather do it well.

This morning I had to confess to my sister that I had (a) lost a letter I was supposed to send to the accountant and (b) couldn’t find the electronic copy to download. So far my tenure as executor has not been marked by any degree of competence. Fortunately my sister is doing the actual work and I just have to sign things and look decorative.

Then I sent the surgery a copy of my driving license as they need photo ID to re-issue my NHS pass word, which has never actually worked. I got an email by return, asking for my email address so they could send the password.

Yes, that’s right.

It was followed moments later by a sheepish phone call – the supervisor had spotted what had happened and had forced the culprit to ring me and apologise. I thought it was funny and told her how we had once put the return address on the front of a parcel by accident – resulting in us sending a parcel to ourselves. Much hilarity ensued and we parted on good terms.

It rained most of the day, and was unseasonally cold, as a reminder that September is just around the corner.


I could do without that.

A customer with a 2.30 appointment rang to ask if he could come early, and I said yes because I was happy to increase my chances of picking Julia up on time. Of course, the plan went wrong. He stood round talking and left just after three, at which point my co-worker, and the Universe, seemed to slow down. The queue over the bridge was worse than usual and I was 20 minutes late picking her up.

I listened to an interesting radio programme on wildlife as I queued so it wasn’t a complete waste, though I didn’t tell Julia that.

The TESCO delivery service arrived half an hour early, but I can’t be bothered to talk about efficiency or their increased costs.

The school where Julia’s project is based has bullied its way into making MENCAP allow it access through the gardens so they can send their lower school in that way. This will be inconvenient in the morning when Julia is trying to set up, but worse in the afternoon when they will disrupt the routine of the group members. As a number of them are quite withdrawn and don’t adapt well to change we are hoping it doesn’t do too much damage.

The thing I most object to, though, is that the school got its way by a number of bullying tactics, including telling Julia they would refuse her access to water.

I’d like to alert the Press and repay the bullying by causing some stress but Julia, as usual, won’t take decisive action. That’s why bullies prosper. It’s also why bad management proliferates.

If bullies and useless, cowardly managers were tarred and feathered and secured to their own front gates with cable ties (not that I have planned any of this, just in case it ever comes to court) there would be a lot less of it about.

The old practice of hanging, drawing and quartering had a lot to recommend it., and I wouldn’t object to extending its use to delivery drivers who arrive too early.

The photo has nothing to do with the post. It’s a coin, believe it or not. It’s from Ghana, a country not normally associated with Ancient Egypt. Other issuers of coins of King Tut include the Isle of Man and the Cook Islands. They are much more famous for issuing novelty coins than they are for having Pyramids.


Why Bother Blogging? (Part 1)

I’ve just had a message from WordPress thanking me for renewing and saying “so your site has all its great tools and features for another year”. This is ironic, to say the least, when you consider I’m having to use a version which seems to have been developed by James Watt and has, as a result of WordPress “improvements” noticeably fewer great tools and features than it did this time last week.  Having said that, James Watt would probably have made a better job of it.

They then add “Until then, have fun with your site!”. Fun? I had so much fun last week that I nearly cancelled my subscription and gave up blogging. It would have been more fun to insert broken glass into my nostrils.

One thing I’ve noticed on the plug-in Classic Editor is that when I have comments waiting I rarely get a red spot on the bell icon. If it was always absent, I could understand it, but to have it appear once in every ten times I look seems peculiar.

Same goes for my replies. It no longer tells me I have replied. Before I realised this I actually replied twice to something Derrick had said. It was bad enough looking like I am losing my marbles, but he now has the moral high ground in the question of which of us is blogging with fewer marbles. Having said that, his post today, with photographs from his Assistant Photographer, Head Gardener, Driver and Wife (that’s one hard-working multi-tasking person rather than an entourage) indicate that she’s planning an early claim on his life insurance as he plummets to his death whilst photographing storms from cliff tops. That sort of peril just to get a few photographs for a blog is beyond the call of duty.

Summer View Nottinghamshire

Anyway, enough of my adventures with WordPress, it’s time to write a thoughtful examination of my blogging career so far. That’s what I call it anyway. Others may consider it a series of disjointed rants about things I can’t change and things that don’t matter. That is probably fair, but it wasn’t meant to be like that.

Six years ago I dreamed of writing things that mattered and would change the world to be a better place. I wanted to crusade, to be revered as a master of witty and elegant prose and, some months after starting, to be offered jobs writing columns for top London papers. I thought “months” was realistic, whereas “weeks” would have been an impractical daydream. It has proved to be so – seventy months, to be accurate and the London Editors are playing hard to get.

When the call came, I told Julia, despite my probable membership of the Groucho Club, I would try to remain the ordinary, grounded sort of person I had always been. The cocaine fuelled binges, the women, the wads of cash and the free holidays on the yachts of Russian oligarchs, would not change me. So far, I can say that this has been the case. I am unchanged from the idealistic youth of fifty-something that set off to be a famous blogger, with my dignity and integrity in tact. Actually that may not be true. My integrity is still in tact but having written more than once on the subject of the National Health Service inserting a camera into my bladder in a very undignified manner, I feel my dignity may have suffered.

One of several ex-windmills in the area

So that, at least has gone, mainly, to plan.

As for the rest, I rattle on about trivia in a style that relies heavily on a spellchecker, and has only a nodding acquaintance with good writing practice (too many commas and Too Many capitals, for a start) and no longer expect an email from the Editor of The Times.

Looking on the bright side, at least I have not had to employ an accountant to sort out my tax affairs.

Having just checked the membership details for the Groucho Club so I could add a link, it seems unlikely I’d be able to join anyway, and, as several of you are probably thinking, would I want to join a club that would have me as a member?

I think I should end Part 1 here, as it has gone on long enough and I have to cook tea.

Having disposed of the show-biz element of blogging, with the orgies and the oligarchs, I will continue tomorrow with further discussion of the rewards of sitting down at the dining room table and bashing away on a computer that can, like me, no longer cope with the demands of modern life.

Photo by Burst on

Some News, and an Old Grudge

Although I try to avoid change, I thought it was time to give it a go today. This is the result. I hope it is anyway, as I can’t currently view it myself. I’m working WordPress in Chrome, because that knows my password (I, unfortunately don’t) and Blogger in Firefox because Blogger won’t open up when you use, as I do, XP and Chrome.

I’ve been limping on for well over a year now with this ancient set-up after my laptop packed up and I’m resisting replacing it. I keep meaning to see if I can get it fixed but I don’t really want to put myself in the hands of PC World (who always seem keen to take lots of money off me but give little in return).

I refer you to an incident several years ago. We bought Number One son a laptop when he went to University in Leeds, and purchased, at vast cost, an insurance policy, working on the basis that all kids are idiots and ours add carelessness and clumsiness to the mix.

He dropped it and broke the hinge so that it didn’t close properly and it interfered with the automatic close down when you closed the lid.

We told him to take it in to PC World in Leeds and get it fixed or replaced under guarantee. The shop had told us it covered any damage or malfunction for the next three years. How lucky it was that we had taken out the guarantee.

They told him he had to take it back to Nottingham. So we went up and collected it. . In Nottingham they said they would send it away, and two weeks later we were able to pick it up.

So, you are thinking, the Fat Man is out by two trips to Leeds and annoyed with a shop manager. Why is he still nursing a grudge against PC World?

Because it was still broken when it came back. The computer was still functioning and they had cobbled it together so the broken hinge didn’t affect the running of the machine. It was however, still broken, you couldn’t close the top properly and he was without it for a total of four weeks.

For that I had paid the best part of £200. They might just as well have stuck a gun in my ribs and emptied my wallet. But even if they had done that, I’d have probably forgiven them. But to lie to me, deprive my son of his laptop then virtually laugh in my face as they refused to honour the guarantee, that is an insult that will not be forgotten.

I will have to get the laptop fixed soon I think, as this desktop is getting to the end of its useful life.

Now I’ve said that I’d better start backing up some files.

Just a Quick Note

This isn’t the main post of the day but I just wanted to let people know while I thought about it.

I’ve just been looking at comments and managed to put one into trash by ill-disciplined use of my bunch of banana-like fingers. When I went to retrieve it, I thought I’d have a quick look at Spam and found eight comments, made over the last two days, had ended up in Spam. I took them out of there but now can’t find them.

So, if you have commented in the last few days and have not had an answer please accept my apologies. If I find them I will reply, if I don’t please don’t think you are being ignored – you have merely been WordPressed.

The featured image is plums again. That’s because after Plum Tart for two nights we are moving on to plum pie tonight. This is on top of several other plum confections and  a large number of loose plums,. We have also given a lot away. Yes, it’s been a good plum year this year. Next year will probably be a bad one. However, at the moment I even see plums when I close my eyes to sleep.

An Interesting Postcode

I had an interesting postcode last week, but events drove it from my mind.

It was ZE2.

I’ll let you rack you brains for a minute or two. Or, if yuo know it, I’let you look smugly round the room as people struggle with it.

It’s not, I can reveal, Zennor in Cornwall, or  Zeal Monachorum, Zeals and Zelah. And it clearly I also know Zouch in Leicestershire, but my knowledge ends there.  When you interrogate Google is also coughs up Zeal Monachorum, Zeals and Zelah.

However, you are safe to assume it is none of these.

The Marquis of Zetland actually lives round Middlesbrough, but as we all know, Middlesbrough is TS fro Teesside. We’ve had that before, and I used to live there. That’s how I know about the Marquis, and the lifeboat.

It’s because of this that I know Zetland is now known as Shetland.

So, after all that wandering round – we had an order from Shetland.

I’ve often said that if there was a job requiring a vast fund of useless trivia, I would apply for it.

Shetland was the base of the Shetland Bus during the Second World War, which, despite its name was not a Bus Service. It was a clandestine supply operation which helped the Norwegian Resistance tie up hundreds of thousands of German troops.

Now, of course, it is better known as a tourist destination and for the Shetland Pony.

It’s now just after 7pm and time to cook tea. In fact it’s long after I should have started but I’ve been lost in stories of lifeboats and latter-day Vikings.

I do love a good postcode.

I’ll just add a photo and get on with cooking. I have used the photo before, and am always able to think peaceful thoughts when I see it.


One of those Cheerful Posts about Happy Things

If something is upsetting you, it needs addressing and the worst thing in my life this week has been WordPress. I have now made the first step towards my new life after WordPress. I am committed to another year, using the plug-in Classic Editor, but the countdown has begun. The Classic Editor, for me, is as good as the Classic Block, and has the added advantage of allowing me to relax as I write.

My email system, like WP, has recently had a so-called “new and improved” version and, as with WordPress, it’s time to move on. I have just signed up to a new provider who has a good clear system with plenty of useful features. I’ve been testing it and it seems OK so I’m going to start moving across to it. This is also part of my plan for the new blog.

I’m not quite sure what form the new blog will take, and don’t know where it will be hosted, but I do know that, unless a miracle happens, it won’t be on WordPress.

I think I’ve been conned over the garden fence issue, and I know I have the law on my side, but it’s easier just to go with the easiest route. Half a garden fence is cheaper than being proved right in court.

The dishonest customer is a bit more of an issue but Julia has told me that my plan of posting bits of dead animal to him is an over-reaction. The fact that I was going to use roadkill rather than killing things specially does not, in her eyes, make it any better.

I’m already beginning to feel better…

Foreign Banknotes

I found a list when we were clearing some old papers out. It was a list of inventions I was considering.

Top of the tree as ideas go, is compostable underwear. It’s like normal pure cotton underwear but with added potato starch. I’m sure you all compost your old underwear anyway, but this would have the added advantage (to the manufacturer) of programmed obsolescence.

Instead of wearing it for twenty years, people would have to buy new when it began to biodegrade, probably after three. Then they could chuck it on the compost heap, buy new stuff and feel virtuous.

Julia has just read this over my shoulder. She tells me that not everybody composts their old underwear. Well, shame on you, I say. I have composted cotton and wool clothing, and leather and cotton work gloves. Yes, even leather will compost away. Things with polyester can also go in the heap, but you have to go through it to retrieve the mesh of polyester left behind, so it probably isn’t worth the effort.

Anyway, that’s enough writing for one day. Time to load a photo or two and look at new blogging platforms.

We had gammon and roast veg for tea tonight, as in the photo. We also had a plum flan, but that didn’t last long enough for me to take a photograph.

Gammon and roast veg for tea

Last night we had new potatoes and mint from the garden (Julia has been growing them in containers) with a quiche that included our own tomatoes.

We picked more plums today and were given more figs. It’s a good time of year. It’s just a shame it means winter is on the way.