Monthly Archives: October 2020

Study Number 1 - The Idiot

New Lockdown Diary

It looks like I’ll be having a surprise holiday by the end of the week, as the Blonde Buffoon has just announced a month of lockdown. It gives a whole new lease of life to words like vacillating, wobble and dithering, which will surely be in great demand over the next few days.

I hadn’t actually expected this, as the government hasn’t shown much inclination to take action or spend money on keeping us safe. It probably won’t be as much fun as the first lot as it’s winter, but I do have an adequate supply of pasta and toilet paper this time. The slide from Level 2 to Level 3 to Level 3+ to lockdown has not taken long. It’s also, as far as I can see, been accompanied by no recognisable plan

Julia is unlikely to be closed down this time, but at least she won’t need to use public transport because I will be available for taxi duties. It’s a small gesture, but as mask-wearing is poorly enforced on both the trams and buses, it’s quite a useful thing to do. Whether it’s up there with buying jewellery and cooking steak as a romantic gesture is debatable, but in these peculiar times you do what you can.

This is one of those posts that seems to drag on forever as I struggle to find inspiration. A month cooped up on my own at home in November is not going to be as much fun as three months of summer with my beloved. However, it will give me time to declutter.

On with the dance! Let Joy be unconfined, as Byron put it. He was, of course, a Nottinghamshire man, and probably the second best poet from the county. Modesty prevents me mentioning who is the best…

Link to Bricks

I just noticed someone has seen this – I’ve posted again haven’t I? I just meant to make a note for myself and expand it at a later date. It’s the second time I’ve been troubled by premature publication recently.

Anyway, it’s a great post. I hope you all enjoy it. I’d like to be able to write posts like that. Bricks are brilliant things – we take them for granted but we’d be in trouble without them. I’d be typing in a tent if it wasn’t for bricks.

Meanwhile, put it down to another senior moment, and to me typing whilst looking over my shoulder in a subversive manner. Read this post to see what I mean.

Strangers on a Train

Are you familiar with the plot of Strangers on a Train? It’s been re-used several times by the CSI franchise, so you may know it but not under that name.

It’s a Patricia Highsmith novel, made into a film by Hitchcock and therefore has impeccable pedigree. This is what Wikipedia says about it.

“Architect Guy Haines wants to divorce his unfaithful wife, Miriam, in order to marry the woman he loves, Anne Faulkner. While on a train to see his wife, he meets Charles Anthony Bruno, a psychopathic playboy who proposes an idea to “exchange murders”: Bruno will kill Miriam if Guy kills Bruno’s father; neither of them will have a motive, and the police will have no reason to suspect either of them. Guy does not take Bruno seriously, but Bruno kills Guy’s wife while Guy is away in Mexico.”

This struck a chord with me when reading a comment by Charliecountryboy. In the comment he said: “I got one of those looks last night from Gillian when I wondered out loud.
“How it was possible to squeeze so many idiots onto one planet?”
She suggested it wasn’t a good FB post.”

I get those looks all the time, particularly when discussing my solution to the idiot supply, which seems to be exceeding our real needs for idiots by a considerable margin. I mean, once every village has one and you add 600 for Westminster and 200 to supply the needs of daytime/reality/celebrity TV, why do we need more?

This is a slightly different subject to Charlie’s, which I believe is down to a little known law of Newtonian Physics where, once the concentration of idiots reaches a certain level it forms a barrier around itself (rather like the security cordon round Westminster), achieves critical mass and calls out into space for other idiots…

Sorry, that’s Dr Who, not Isaac Newton. Easy mistake. Dr Who is the time traveller, Isaac Newton invented the cat flap and pushed needles into his eyes in the interests of science.

Anyway, my solution (to Uxorial Censorship rather than the breeding of idiots) would be for us to write posts for each other. I will write Charlie’s post on idiots and he can publish my poem that is so tasteless it wins a modern competition (though that won’t be easy).

That way we can stay married but still maintain access to freedom of speech.

It’s worth thinking about.




Ups and Downs

I’ve had two acceptances in the last few days, which has put me in a good mood. I’m now balanced on 50%, having had five out of my last ten submissions accepted. Last week it seemed like everything was sinking fast, with a small run of rejections but after a couple of acceptances it all looks a lot better. Such is the fragility of the writer’s ego.

Last week I was on the way out, and the frail bubble of my success was about to burst. Now I’m full of it, and full strength smugness is once again looming on the horizon.

At least I have ASDA to bring me back to earth. This week’s deliveries featured a number of items that I thought I had deleted from the order, and as a result I now have enough high fibre cereal to last until the New Year and enough ingredients to make ratatouille for a rugby team, though I’m not sure if rugby teams eat ratatouille.

Before you suggest it, the freezer is full, and has been crammed with all the extra bread that arrived.

It won’t pay off for them in the end, because I will cancel next week’s order and will do a small shop in person to buy the things we need, as we eat the last bits of this week’s order. Apart from ratatouille, my future is likely to feature quite a lot of vegetable soup.

We even got celeriac this week, after five unsuccessful attempts, which means I now have two, as I bought one on Tuesday.

One of my memories of 2020 is going to be the ups and downs of internet grocery shopping, mainly the downs, as it rarely fails to disappoint in some way. However, it does mean we don’t need to shop in a room full of coughing geriatrics and snotty kids, so it’s generally a good thing.


We had an interesting conversation after I picked Julia up from work yesterday.

“I’ve bought steak for tea.” I said.

“I thought we were going to have that for our anniversary.” she said.

This was news to me as I thought that I’d had the idea all on my own. She has probably been using mind control techniques to manipulate my weak and feeble man’s mind.

“I thought we’d have it early, as part of a longer celebration.”

“You’ve forgotten when it is, haven’t you?”

“No I haven’t. It’s later this week.I just thought I’d prolong the joyous celebration.”

She wasn’t convinced and went on to narrow it down and corner me like a rat in a trap. It isn’t fair, I can’t drive through traffic, talk and lie convincingly at the same time.

It’s today. This time next year I am going to search “wedding anniversary” and check the date. WP may yet prove to be good for something apart from blogging and providing shoddy “improved” services.

Thirty one years. Where have they all gone?

I’m going to think about that as I go about decluttering,

The pictures are from Huttoft beach car park on our last (and only) trip to the coast this year. It’s just a long concrete strip of parked cars and a stretch of beach. Very old-fashioned and very relaxing, particularly when trying to avoid social contact.

Two ladies on the beach at Huttoft

Fishermen on the beach at Huttoft

I’ve had the photos since we went, but haven’t got round to using them.

Tuesday – Diary of a Lazy Husband

Another rough night, and again it was caused by sleeping too much in front of the TV, worry and waterworks. I really should learn to mange my sleep better.

There was a news item about the seals at Donna Nook that I mentioned yesterday. Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust is going to start charging and will limit the number of people who can visit. Surprisingly, they are nearly all sold out for the current week, despite the report being of a handful of seals and just one pup. It’s free this week, which may explain it. No, I just checked Saturday – it’s £10 and they only have one slot left. Next Tuesday it’s £7.50 and they have about 200 slots left.

We won’t be going. We aren’t allowed to travel out of the area due to our Level 3 status.

I’m not saying that the current Covid situation is great for people who like rules and people who want to profiteer, but if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck…

Took Julia to work and nipped to the jewellers. I caught my wedding ring on something and created a small spike last week Like a broken tooth, it’s a small thing, but you keep going back to it. They filed it down and polished it for me, so all is right with the world. “Nipping” to the jewellers consisted of staying two hours and drinking three cups of tea. I’m not sure how that squares up with our new Level 3 status, but we are almost a social bubble anyway.

They had a customer who entered the shop carrying a mask. “Do I have to put this on?” he asked. Well, if you’ve gone to the trouble of carrying it, you may as well wear it, I thought.

I went to TESCO after that and bought some of Julia’s favourite food. It’s our anniversary soon, though I can never remember the actual date. I did know it once, but it has become hazy over the years. If I do a few things around the right date she will never guess I’ve forgotten. Numbers aren’t my strong point.

Two members of staff were working amongst customers without masks – one of them had one, but was wearing it under his chin.

They had celeriac in stock so I bought one. I’ve been trying to get one for about six weeks and when I try online I can never get one.

Back home – the blood test results were waiting. I missed a few doses in the last week or two because somebody (and I point no fingers) tidied my Warfarin away and I ran out before I could get another supply. I took a few extra in the last five days and managed to boost my level to 2.0. My acceptable range is 2.0 – 3.0 so I only just scraped in. Next test, January 2021. I am happy.

Wrote a piece on haibun titles (after doing an hour or so of reading articles on the internet) and washed up. Ate stew leftovers for a late lunch and reached for the wrong bottle. It wasn’t too bad with ketchup, though the first mouthful was a bit of a surprise.

That leaves me about an hour to make the house look like I’ve been decluttering. Wish me luck!

Tuesday – Thoughts on Titles

Does the title give it away? I’ve been having to think about titles recently as part of my general “upping the game” policy for haibun. With WP you can just throw a few words in the title box and you are done. If I can add some alliteration I consider it a good day and if I can work a pun into it I turn mental cartwheels. But with haibun they expect much more.

A haibun title should draw the reader in and enthuse them to read on, It should link to the prose and haiku, without giving it away, and it should, after the reader has finished, add a further dimension or other meaning.

That’s slightly different to the way I generally view a title, which is a way to identify the work when I want to find it again. I can see a major reassessment is needed.

I’ve actually looked at the titles of a few haibun by people who have criticised my titles. Guess what? I just read half a dozen haibun. One title drew me in. Several were dull. One linked to the haiku but neither the title nor the haiku linked to the prose. A couple seemed to have nothing to do with anything that followed. None of them changed meaning after I finished reading the haibun, though several puzzled me by, as mentioned above, seeming to have nothing to do with the haibun. I could go on.

My point? Some of these simple things are harder than they look and even the great and the good struggle to get it right.

It might be that they are getting it right and I am just too plodding to recognise the fact.

So – three things to learn from today.

One – work harder on titles, using these guidelines.

Two – develop critical reading skills.

Three – editors don’t always follow their own advice.

That, I think, is enough for now. I’m now going to apply these lessons to my latest haibuns “Crap haibun I threw together between games of Freecell” and “Number 82”. It’s likely that they can both be improved.

Monday and Moving Up a Level

I spent the night alternately laying awake or making trips to the bathroom. As I finally drifted off into an exhausted sleep an old alarm clock of Julia’s, which wasn’t actually set and hadn’t been used for years, decided to start working and sounded an alarm at about 5am, then again half an hour later. It will, as a result, never sound another alarm.

Then, at 6.30, having woken up yet again for a bathroom break, I gave up, got dressed, had a glass of water (which apparently makes the blood flow better) and set off for my blood test. The car parking is still free, due to Covid, though I’m not sure how that makes a difference, and the service still suffers from random halts, where they don’t seem to do anything. I was still finished just before 8.00, despite the delays and the need to puncture both arms in search of blood.

I went home, picked Julia up and took her to work. It worked out nicely and we were ten minutes early. That meant I arrived at work in plenty of time, which gave me time to have coffee and read haiku on the computer before starting to pack the eBay sales.

This relaxing interlude made up for the hassle of getting into the shop, as my front door key decided to play up. Once or twice a year it does that. I suspect it is a lock problem rather than a key problem but there isn’t much I can do about it.

The day passed smoothly, I went home, washed up, set a vegetable stew going on the hob and prepared afternoon tea for Julia on her return from work. It was one of my better days as a husband.

The afternoon tea will be the basis for a new scone chronicle soon, but I’m out of practice and it might be a day or two yet. My sister sent us an afternoon tea gift box, which formed the basis of four days of afternoon tea.

Tonight we were told we will be moving up to a Level 3 lockdown, but as I don’t socialise, go to the pub or eat out it is not going to affect me a great deal.

That could be the title of my lockdown memoirs “The Man Who Stayed at Home”.

I’d like to be able to travel a bit more, particularly as it’s seal time soon, and I’d like more reliable access to toilets when we are out, but I’d also like a better computer, world peace and a substantial lottery win. Sometimes you just need to get on with your life and be grateful for what you have.

Insights into a Lack of Success

The odds of acceptance in one of the poetry magazines I submit to is, according to their submission guidelines, about 1%. Every year I send four in, and every year I get  four back. I do, however find it an uplifting experience as the editor is always very kind about my efforts, and does tend to reply quite quickly. In this case the quick replies are standard practice and I don’t take them to mean that they want my poetry off the premises asap. (I’ve just had another rejection, by the way, in case it wasn’t clear).

One percent is a very small target to aim for (though not as small as the chance of winning the lottery) and I wonder if I might be better increasing my odds of success by looking elsewhere. The trouble is that I quite like the magazine, even though it is a literary magazine rather than a poetry magazine. Half of the content goes straight over my head and is printed in space that should, in my view, be full of poetry.

It’s tricky, because I do think you ought, at my level, to subscribe to magazines if you want to be in them, so if I’m going to look elsewhere it involves more expense, or shifting allegiances.

By “my level” I mean someone submitting to three or four magazines once a year each. My conventional poetry output is much smaller than my haibun production, though I’m going to have to work a bit harder on it if I’m going to make the cut for next Poet Laureate. The current one only has nine years left and if I don’t get it then I’ll be 81 before I get another chance. By that time I probably won’t be bothered.

Anyway, as one door closes another door opens and this rejection gets me out of a hole. The four returned poems, with a couple of others I have hanging around, give me just enough for four to another magazine before their submission window closes and two to the National Poetry Competition. I keep saying I’m going to stop entering, but the lure of fame and fortune is too strong. Not that I’ll stand a chance if the current trend for nastiness continues. I was seriously thinking of writing a poem about dead puppies, just to see what happened.

I say “thinking”, but confess that I did actually make a start, so I can tell you what happened. Julia banned me from writing it. That, I think, is a convenient place to end.

A Few Words For Our Leader

Whilst chatting to Tootlepedal last night in the comments section, I was able to formulate an acronym for Boris. He asked me if I could make it into a haiku, but I admit I am unequal to the challenge. It runs to twenty syllables and even the old-fashioned 5-7-5 Haiku only run to seventeen. I have managed to work it into a haibun.

Warning – contains an acronym of dubious taste.

After admiring the acronym POTUS for some time, I have decided that our Prime Minister needs an acronym. I’m still working on one as a general acronym for our leader, but have managed to develop one specific to Boris. Few, I imagine, would dispute that he is a Famously Unprincipled Conservative Kingpin Without Intelligent Thought.

Julia says it won’t catch on.

a few letters
to sum up his Covid work