Monthly Archives: October 2020

Tree Gibraltar Point, Lincolnshire - dramatic setting

Dreams of Lottery Wins

We didn’t, I must confess, get much work done today. Well, not much work of a decluttering nature. I spent most of the morning writing instead of working and Julia spent most of the day preparing for an art session she is running tomorrow. It won’t be appreciated by the organisation, though the clients will enjoy it. That seems to be the  way of things at the moment. Normally, when I dream of winning the lottery, I see myself giving a month’s notice and acting as a responsible employee should.

However, if we win enough (my normal £2 win won’t be enough, I’m afraid) I’m going to take great pleasure in listening to Julia’s end of the phone call where she rings up the morning after the win and hands in her notice instantly.

There’s a £70 million rollover on Friday. If I win that I will suggest that we retire early.

Then I locked my keyboard. Not entirely sure how I did it, but I did. The computer was supposed to be off but it switched itself on and when I got back to it, after stacking stuff all over the table, there were messages on the screen. One must have related to locking the keyboard, because that is what happened.

I got Julia to look up how to unlock a keyboard, but it didn’t work. So I tried the old keyboard we had hanging around. It wouldn’t plug into the back of the computer. Fortunately we had a third one, the one I used to use with my laptop on the farm (yes, we really do need to declutter – but look how useful it is to have three keyboards). This one plugs into a USB port and fortunately the computer, though old, does have several, so I was able to connect it up and get going. I really do hate computers…

…and computers feel the same way about me.

If I win the £70 million at the weekend I will probably get a new computer too. But mainly I will buy myself a house enclosed in a bubble, with filtered air and an airlock for a door so the grocery delivery man can deliver them without breathing on me. Let nobody accuse me of not taking Covid seriously.

This is not at all like I used to dream of spending my lottery winnings.

Sea Buckthorn

Porridge, prunes and pomposity

It looks like the boundary issue at the bottom of the garden has been solved. It’s cost me more than it should have done, and I feel I have been “beaten” in the negotiation, but on the other hand I have emerged with my dignity and I can now use my time for doing things I enjoy.

Well, to be honest, I do enjoy winding pompous people up, but after six months it grows stale. They probably think the same thing. I am now going to attempt to re-establish the wildlife habitat at the bottom of the garden. We had blackcaps breeding and a thriving colony of frogs. Now we have a clear view into the upstairs windows of the house on the slope below. That’s why we grew the big hedge in the first place – it’s very off-putting to look across and see a neighbour in a state of undress in their bedroom. I’d much rather see blackcaps.

I am going to grow blackthorn and hawthorn and am not sure what else. They will provide bird cover, thorny security and sloes, plus privacy and a windbreak (I am aiming for about six foot tall eventually, (though we may have moved by then). I may try to get one hawthorn to tree size to replace the one that the dickhead neighbour removed – we always had nesting birds in there.

We just had prunes for breakfast. With porridge. That will cause a few perturbations north of the border, where salt and misery are the only acceptable porridge seasonings. I did the Tinker. tailor rhyme and ran out of professions. Obviously my three surplus stones represented chicken farmer, antiques dealer and gardener in my declining career trajectory. Two more stones and I could have brought it up to date with shop assistant and poet.

It’s interesting to see there are other versions, though I do agree with A A Milne that there should be more professions represented.

That’s enough for now – off for a jolly day decluttering now…

 

Study Number 1 - The Idiot

The Tuesday Tirade

At the moment I’m working four days a week. I have Sunday off, Wednesday off and, at the moment, Tuesday off. I’m three hours short of my normal time, but I get a whole extra day off, which is quite useful. I could really compress my hours into three days and take a second job, but although that would suit me, it wouldn’t be quite as convenient for running the shop.

It’s now time to confess that I didn’t follow up the chance of teaching adults to read, as I said I would a few weeks ago. I meant to, because it’s important, but the application form rubbed me up the wrong way. There were a number of things which jarred, but I can work round that, people who write forms often become a little bossy. However I then reached the bit where it required details of my relevant qualifications and went on to ask for two references, preferably from “people of some standing in the community”.

Well, I don’t have any “relevant qualifications”, which is generally a coded reference to the fact that they are looking for ex-teachers. I’ve had this sort of thing before. I also, to be honest, no longer have any people in my social circle who could possibly be described as having any sort of “standing” in the community.

They are supposedly an organisation which aims, amongst other things, to make people feel good about themselves by redressing their lack of education, and they end up reminding me that I made some bad decisions in the past, lack educational qualifications and, in addition, have no friends of any standing in the community. Even writing about it now I feel depressed and embarrassed about this.

Anyway, I’m giving my time to help people and I will complete a criminal record check before starting work, so why do they need references?

As I say, some people just can’t help being pompous when writing forms. Overlying that is the idea that I’ve seen this all before – people running volunteer schemes or charities because they want to be in charge of something and look important, and they want to make sure all their helpers are the right sort of person. Unfortunately, I’m not.

I’ll tell you what I am though, I’m someone who has done a lot of volunteering, and someone who won a regional award for my work in running volunteer and training schemes.

At the moment I’m waiting to find out what we will be doing in the shop in the long term. When we settle that I’m going to volunteer for a scheme that goes into schools to help kids learn to love reading. In the meantime I’ve set up a payment to donate to them every month.

Sorry if this makes me sound like a bad person but I have experienced several organisations where I wasn’t happy. My time is valuable to me and I’m not going to waste it on the wrong scheme.

And there we go, a rant about people trying to do good in the community. I really am a nasty piece of work.

Another Day, Another Post

Well, the general feeling seems to be that most people write because they enjoy it or they love words (or probably both). Tootlepedal writes to remind himself he’s still alive and write because I’m addicted to it. I also enjoy it, love words and, deep down, believe that someone is going to recognise my talent and give me money.

To be honest, it is looking like the only way i”m likely to make money from writing is by diversifying into kidnapping people and writing ransom notes. I could try kidnapping Boris and threaten to release him unless people send me money. However, I’d better be careful. If someone actually tries it I could find that my blog becomes a matter for discussion in court and what started as “humour” is probably going to be seen in a different light when it is labelled “evidence”. It will also involve buying a suit and tie, which is an expense I can do without.

I dropped Julia off at work this morning and drove back to join the main road via a side-street. That gave me an idea for a haibun and I had two more shortly after. I can’t use the voice recorder I bought recently because it is too small for my big, stiff fingers. I should have spent more money and bought one I could actually use. That is false economy of the first order. That meant I had to keep repeating the ideas to myself as I drove along. If I allow myself to relax I tend to forget. And if I forget I convince myself I have just forgotten my best ever poem. This is unlikely to be true, but it’s annoying to forget anything, even the bad ones.

At work I purloined (which sounds better than “stole”) some office stationery and wrote the rough outlines of the three haibun before making some notes which might turn into something. But they might not/ If I don’t tell you, nobody can ask how the new project is going. Or even if there is a new project…

Tonight we had corned beef hash for tea. It featured the remains of yesterdays vegetable stew, a tin of corned beef, onions, leeks and a pack of ready chopped vegetables. I will have it for lunch tomorrow too, as I made far too much. Fortunately I like corned beef hash. I would probably enjoy it nearly as much without the corned beef, which is something I will have to think about as we eat more veg and less meat.

 

 

One Day, Three Posts

Links in case you missed the first and second posts.

I’m watching Family Fortunes. It’s comforting to know that although many species are threatened by extinction we still have a thriving population of idiots. If we could work out a way to generate electricity from them we would be in a really good position to stop depleting the world’s resources. Obviously I mean a socially acceptable way of generating electricity. Merely forking them into a massive incinerator would be easy and direct, but would probably encounter opposition. I’m also unclear on the release of carbon dioxide from burning idiots. It’s probably better to put up massive multi-storey buildings full of bicycles linked to generators and make the idiots pedal. It will take idiots off the streets and give them something useful to do.  When you think of the potential of idiots to breed more idiots it is definitely a renewable energy resource.

First one up for my new idiot treatment will be Boris Johnson. He’s reportedly going to resign as Prime Minister next year as he can’t manage on his £150,000 pa salary. That’s what he thinks. My plans for him are slightly different. He’s lied to us about Brexit, he’s lied and backstabbed his way to the top, he’s cultivated  Dominic Cummings like some vile germ, he’s completely lost it when called on for Covid leadership and now, after having a go at being PM, he’s bored and he wants to go so he can jump on the lecture circuit.

A lifetime spent cycling so I can have cheap electricity seems a fitting end to the blonde buffoon after the mess he’s made of the country in his pursuit of personal gain, particularly if he had to exist on minimum wage.  We could cuff him to the bike like a galley slave and make him pedal off his debt to society.

If I tell you that I’d use my cheap electricity to charge a cattle prod, can you guess where I’d shove it?

 

Writing and Inspiration (Part 2)

I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.

That was as far as I got this morning, before being diverted from my course with some thoughts on junior match reports.

After trying novels I moved on to poetry, then back to novels. I did think about an autobiography but I didn’t really have enough material at the age of seventeen. After that I carried on writing endless first pages and throwing them away whilst reading books on how to write best sellers. Occasionally I had a go at magazine articles, and had a few accepted. I did wonder if I could become a freelance writer, but lack of a decent work ethic suggested it would be a disaster.

Eventually I had a proper go and tried for more fame and fortune with a detective novel. I say novel, what I really mean is “load of words”. It went to about 120,000 words but lacked a couple of things, including a decent plot, an ending and a lot of editing. So I tried again. Another 80,000 words, but still a lack of plot, ending and editing. At least I’d learned to keep the word count down.

After that I moved on to poetry for light relief. My father-in-law had started writing poetry in retirement and had several pieces published. He also performed some of his poems on stage, which is something I will never be brave enough to do. I decided to follow his example and had about fifteen published, was Highly Commended in a national competition, and even managed to get one poem in a decent quality magazine.

At that point I ended up in hospital a couple of times and, when I emerged,  started writing match reports (as previously mentioned) and programme notes. This was not the time in hospital I blogged about a few years ago, but the forerunner. It did, however, involve much the same procedure – spinal anaesthetic, small orifice, large camera and much whining. It also included two biopsies. The dissolving stitches on one of them dissolved far too soon and it took two hours to stop the bleeding. Ah, good times…

There were a couple of years where I did nothing, then I started the blog, went into hospital again and decided to have a crack at haibun. So far it seems to have worked out.

It’s not much for fifty years in writing. A handful of poems of various types published, a dozen magazine articles and a blog. I’m clearly not in it for the money, or even for the fame. To be honest, when the rejections start piling up I don’t even do it because I enjoy it.

One day I may write enough to think about a slim volume of poetry but I’m not, when I think about it, too worried. Once they are published I’m not too concerned. I like the idea of testing myself against the standards of editors, and showing off by blogging about it, but I’m not sure if a few poems justify cutting down acres of trees.

No, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do it because I’m addicted. Or, if that isn’t possible, I am at least in the grip of a very strong habit.

How about you?

 

 

PW Crigglestone

Writing and Inspiration (Part 1)

I’m feeling like I’m in the middle of a desert at the moment. Inspiration for both blog and haibun is thin on the ground and just as I wrote some new haibun, I stopped thinking of subjects for blog posts. You may have noticed.

The old Field of Dreams approach to ideas (if you write it, they will come) has let me down recently. I know that ideas are supposed to flow more freely as you have them, and that there is an infinite supply of ideas out there, but every so often, it stops. My notebooks tell the story – dozens of two line entries, scribbled out. This is the internal editor in full swing.

It’s probably confidence. When you are being published on a regular basis you relax and write things knowing that you can go back to them. When you hit a slump you get less relaxed and start becoming more critical. That’s what happened with the haibun. In the case of the blog I merely sit here staring at a screen and think “2,000 posts, what can I possible write that’s new?” I can’r even add photos because the system tends to freeze when I try, and even when they load I can’t see them. I know that I’m loading the photos for others to see, but it’s still hard to stay motivated if I can’t see them myself.

Domestic life is not offering much of interest (at the back of my mind there’s a light flashing on and off warning me that the wedding anniversary is coming up and I have nothing planned, but that is, to be fair, not unusual). We have been married over 11,000 days and I’m not sure I make every one of them a joy for Julia. Corona virus is an old subject, work is just work and little is happening there which hasn’t happened before.

Two of those things may be linked – corona virus is stopping us doing a lot of things, and a trip to Derbyshire for tea, cake and jewellery would solve the wedding anniversary problem, it’s just that we shouldn’t really be travelling.

Deep down, I come to a question. What do I write for? I’d be interested in the answers of other people on that, just to see how many reasons there are.

I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.

Nottingham U15s

Nottingham U15s

 

 

Writing come and goes in my life. At one time I had so much on with two kids participating in sports that I didn’t have time for much writing, apart from endless match reports. That started when I volunteered to do the match reports for the Under 12s. They went well. Nobody noticed my grip of rugby wasn’t all it could be, and everybody  liked seeing their kid get their name in print. Then the Under 10s asked if I would do their reports too, as the parent doing them was writing five line reports which mentioned his kid three times and his kids’s best mate twice and did little for team unity. My reports, even when I wasn’t there to watch, were regarded as more accurate than his.

Here, in case you ever need it, is my template for a junior match report.

  1. Start with “Fixtures between Nottingham and X are traditionally hard fought/one-sided/a waste of my Sunday morning” (you may want to gloss that one up a little).
  2. Move on to “Things started briskly/slowly, with both teams testing the opposition.”
  3. Add “from the set piece”, “turnover ball”, “against the head”, “blindside” and “effort” in varying proportions.
  4. Use the words “cynical” and “lucky” in relation to the opposition. Your team are “well-drilled” and “reap the rewards of hard work in training”.
  5. Mention every child by name. Yes, it’s difficult. Only five of them are any good, with ten average players making up the numbers. You will also have several players who are there because their dad insists, one or two who are there because this is the only sport for fat kids and one who is so uncoordinated he has trouble walking in a straight line. Two mentions if they were really good, three only if they score a hat-trick. You need a full squad, and it’s mainly about effort and being with your mates. They all turn up, they all freeze, they all deserve a mention.
  6. Do not criticise the referee, the opposition, the opposition parents, the parents of the referee, or anyone else. The report, amongst other things, is about building character and manners.
  7. Thank the referee whenever possible. If he has been so bad it might seem sarcastic to thank him, you may omit this step. Very few referees step onto the pitch intending to be bad, and they are giving up their free time so that junior sport can go ahead. I say “few” as several parents and coaches ref matches with the sole intention of cheating their way to victory. I saw three of these in ten years, so they are very rare. See Point 6.
  8. Stress team work, praise effort, point out the successful coaching points, thank the parents, thank the catering. 
  9. Feel free to quote sporting memoirs and poetry. This is particularly true when you want to add something uplifting after a heavy defeat in freezing mud. In general, Kipling and the Victorians did some good quotes. It’s best to avoid poems that feature words like Devizes and Nantucket as they encourage unfortunate rhymes. They are all very well in the clubhouse on a Saturday night, but not in a junior match report.
  10. Add a selection of stats at the bottom of the page, including the names again, and remind them about training times, the next match, subscriptions and anything else they like to ignore, like when it’s your turn to run the kitchen or the car parking. Parents have busy lives and tend to forget that sort of stuff.

That, I think, completes the post. It grew out of a random word and I am going to have to write a second part to finish it off. Sorry if it wandered off subject a bit.

Midlands RL at European Youth Festival

Midlands RL at European Youth Festival

 

VW Daisy Wheel

Watching TV

I’m watching TV and typing again, as I did last night. It means I can talk to Julia, watch TV, blog and save money on heating. And they say men can’t multi-task…

We were busy in the shop today with a combination of eBay and retail customers. We also loaded quite a lot of medallions onto eBay. However, though busy, it wasn’t the sort of day that provided much in the way of interest or insight.

Watching TV all evening has had a similar result, passing before my eyes and leaving no mark. I’ve laughed a few times, but learnt nothing and not been provoked into any thought other than “TV is really rubbish tonight.” I would like to report something more profound, but that’s as good as it gets.

Julia outdid herself tonight, producing a roast dinner as I slept in front of the fire with a quiz on TV. This is not really how I imagine the home life of a poet. I can’t imagine Byron or Wordsworth, or even Larkin or Carol Ann Duffy, snoozing in front of the TV. Well, maybe Larkin…

I might have to change my artistic ambitions away from poetry and move towards art. That way I can tell people that I’m installation art, and the snoring is meant ironically. The gravy on my shirt will also be incorporated into the work, as will a regular supply of tea, which will then become tax-deductible. If I’m going to be able to claim for tea I can probably pay a butler to serve it. It seems to have worked for Jack Vettriano.

 

Some Haibun News

I’m using the header picture of the stones to warn you I’m going to be talking poetry, so continue with care if you are not the poetic type.

I submitted a couple of haibun to a magazine in the early hours of this morning, and just nine hours later I had the rejection. It was hardly a surprise. When I saw the answer was back so soon I realised it wasn’t going to be good news. Editors don’t generally rush to acceptance, they like to take their time. A case in point is a piece I currently have out – it took eight weeks to get a reply, which asked me to make alterations. I made the alterations and I’ve now been waiting nearly a month for a decision. Sometimes it’s hard not to be cynical.

Would I rather have an acceptance taking 12 weeks or a rejection taking just nine hours? It’s a tricky question. I don’t really like waiting 12 weeks, but I’m not keen on being rejected either. (I have to add that I’ve waited a lot longer than 12 weeks in the past, so it’s not a terrible length of time. However, haibun magazines in the 21st century seem to be able to get answers out a lot quicker these days).

I’m working on the netbook at the moment whilst watching Judge Dredd (the Stallone version, which I always enjoy) so I can’t access my list of submissions – I’ll report on the numbers later, but I’m in a bit of a slump at the moment.

It is therefore pleasant to tell you that The Haibun Journal is out. It’s a print publication from Ireland and much more relaxing to read than a web page. Of course, with postage costing a small fortune from the Republic of Ireland, it’s a lot more expensive than a web page, but you can’t have everything. I’m on page 59. Unfortunately I can’t provide a link, and it’s not really etiquette to reproduce haibun so soon after publication, so you’ll have to wait a bit.

I am in the magazine with three people who, in their editorial capacities, have recently rejected work from me. I can’t help feeling that there’s an element of irony in this.

And with that thought, I’m off. I clearly have to do more reading in my quest for the perfect haibun.

Update: This currently leaves me with 4 acceptances, six rejections and two still waiting – not as good as it was, but it could be a lot worse. Last year was five from eight and the year before that was about four from eight, but I didn’t keep a proper record. 

I Fell Asleep…

Sorry about missing last night. Around 10.30. knowing it was getting l;ate, I fell asleep in front of the TV and didn’t wake up until 12.30. I nearly did the same again tonight, but woke around 11.20.

I seem to be falling into bad habits.

We had our delivery from ASDA tonight. Once again I ordered celeriac and once again they failed to deliver. I’m beginning to get quite annoyed about this. I feel that celeriac is becoming an symbol of my separation from 21st century life. I mean, if you haven’t got any, how difficult can it be to strike it off the system? And if you have got some, why can’t I have it? It’s taking on an almost mythical status, as if Dan Brown is going to write a book about it, or as if ASDA are holding it back to feed their unicorns.

Celeriac and Unicorns – watch out for it in a bookshop near you next Christmas.

Meanwhile, it’s that time of year again. The time when the Poetry Society writes to me to tell me it’s time to submit my poems to the National Poetry Competition. As usual I will send two off – one costing £7 and the other free, because members of the Poetry Society get a free second poem. I never expect to win, but I do allow myself to dream about the life-changing consequences of being short-listed – the job offers, the paparazzi and the inevitable procession of invitations onto TV reality shows.

When the time comes I will accept invitations to do celebrity quiz shows and possibly the occasional documentary, but am going to avoid ones that include the risk of ridicule or eating the less attractive bits of Australian mammals.

I see they are filming I’m a Celebrity in Wales this year, which is likely to make it a very different sort of show, as kangaroo testicles are removed from the menu and the chances of young female participants showering in bikinis recede in direct proportion to the chances of hypothermia.

Having said that, I see that the show is at risk due to the new travel restrictions on travel to Wales.

Oh dear. It’s just past midnight – I seem to have missed posting for a second day.

I’m going to go to bed now and mull over the irony of police enforcing a travel ban, despite their reticence to take action over our burglary at the shop last year, or the general reluctance to take action over politicians breaking lockdown rules. Of course, when you read up on Dominic Cummings and his latest problem, you are left in no doubt that there is a two tier system in this country.