Monthly Archives: February 2021

The Curfew Tolls

The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
         The lowing herd wind slowly o’er the lea,
Thomas Grey – Elegy in a Country Churchyard
It’s a dull and mournful poem at the best of times, and when it was first crammed into me about the age of 13, I didn’t appreciate its finer points. Even in my maturity I tend to think of the lines Far From The Madding Crowd and Paths of Glory as being useful in a trivia quiz, rather than appreciating its finer points as a poem.
However, if Hardy and Kubrick can steal bits of it, my title problems are over for months. It’s a very long poem…
It’s also, according to an article I read, not an elegy, which just goes to show that poets know nothing about poetry.
So, I hear you shouting, it’s all very well having a pop at Grey’s Elegy, but what masterpieces have you written today?
The honest answer is none. I looked at my notes, I set to with enthusiasm and I’m currently looking at the smoking wreckage of one haibun and the lifeless corpse of another.
I’m not sure whether it was the weight of my expectations or my attempts to write on then screen that caused the problem. After eating  (Julia is just putting the finishing touches to a roast dinner), I am going to revert to pen and paper.
If that fails then I will have to admit that the weight of expectation and the amount of planning has probably stifled the work.
This, unfortunately, leads me to the conclusion that my best work is all don by accident and I am, as mentioned before, a fraud. A lucky fraud, but still a fraud.
If, on the other hand, the work does flow, I will be making work for myself, ad I hate the labour of typing out my notes. Labour? That’s a very privileged definition of labour.
Footnote: I ate the roast dinner then watched the The Great Pottery Throwdown. Then I had apple crumble. Later, I will write…
The picture of the country churchyard is Southwell MInster.

Too Many Thoughts

It’s a bit nippy today, but seems bright enough as I look past my computer screen to the world outside.

I made a start on a couple of projects last night – cataloguing my collection and sorting things out to make a start at selling on eBay. I’ve been saying I will do this for several years now. I will do more today,in the hope that it will become a habit. Later I will have to order some padded envelopes.

Recently I have fallen behind with my blog reading, which is a shame, as there are lots of great blogs to read. Again, it’s a case of establishing a habit. Unfortunately my head is full of other things, and I really have to get that done. I will b back to reading blogs later today but for now I need to write.

Ten minutes with pen and paper upstairs has given me enough to write about for the rest of the day and I want to get that done before I lose the impetus. I’ve not done much writing recently and need to start  again. When I’ve done today’s notes Istill have a couple of weeks of ideas to work on.

So that’s where I am – to many things to do and not enough time or brain to do it. Today I will do the things that make me happy – writing and reading and tomorrow I will do things that need doing but aren’t as pleasurable – listing, sorting and cookery.

And with that plan in mind, I had better get on with it.

Heron at Arnott Hill park – he looks as happy as I feel

Just a quick note about parker pens – the orange one I use in my stock picture is almost deceased. It seemed flimsier than previous pens, and when I gathered them for a comparison, it definitely was flimsier.

The first problem was an internal leak which left staining that you could see from the outside – this looks shabby. Then a crack developed in the cap. The nib is excellent, but the rest of it is not up to scratch. As Parker have ignored all my hints that I would like free pens in return for mentions on the blog, I feel I can mention their shoddy build quality. My Parker experience has been disappointing. I have several older pens that have lasted 30 years so this one is a particular disappointment.

I only buy cheap pens, I admit, because I am forever putting them down and losing then, but Parker prices seem to have gone up and build quality has gone down. This, as history shows, is a perfect recipe for losing market share, or even bankruptcy. You don’t need as degree in business to spot that, but it’s an error people still make. All those young geniuses in their shiny offices with big salaries and gleaming German cars, and they can’t spot that.

Parker, I don’t want free samples of your inferior pens, but if you have any well-paid jobs in marketing or  quality control I’d be happy to sell my principles and work for you.

It’s leaf. It may or may not have a deeper meaning. But mainly it’s a leaf.

Meanwhile, Julia has had her results from yesterday’s covid test – negative again.

The Year Moves On

Today was another beautiful day, though somewhat marred by having to sit in the back room of the shop. Tomorrow, if it is similarly beautiful, I will probably spend indoors hiding from people. It is a very trying time but I don’t intend becoming ill just as we get in sight of a solution.

The birds are certainly playing their part – they were singing before dawn and wee still singing at dusk.

My Blood test results came back. I am hovering just within the permitted range – my reward is a three week rest before the next ritual puncturing. Julia posted her test kit today, so if things go as smoothly as last time we should have  a result tomorrow.

On the poetry front, things are going pretty much as you would expect. A set of haiku to one magazine were returned, as has become traditional. I’m not sure which one of us will break first. In fact I’m not sure if one of us will break before Death takes us. I don’t give up easily and she clearly doesn’t like my submissions.

Another one returned my attempts too, but it was a regular journal with a guest editor. I have  never managed to have anything accepted when they have a guest editor.

On a more positive note, Obsessed with Pipework had one of my poems this issue. They aren’t on-line so I can’t direct you to it.

The Haibun Journal has accepted a haibun for next month’s issue. Not online, so again there won’t be a link. I like the Haibun Journal – a well-produced old-fashioned sort of journal, which |I could imagine reading whilst wearing a smoking jacket in my Library.

To be fair, I like all journals that publish me, and quite a few that don’t.

The biggest news is that I’ve been shortlisted by Acumen.  They have  a two stage policy – Normally they turn me down and tell me competition is fierce, as they only publish about 1% of submissions. This time I’ve made it onto the list to be considered as part of the 1%. I probably won’t progress but it’s a step up from a simple rejection, and it’s actually more exciting than being published by a lot of other magazines.

For a week or two I can dream of publication in a prestigious magazine, but after that it will be down to earth with  a bang.

And on that note, it is time to go and drink tea in front of the Tv. It’s a hard life being a poet…


For a picture – snowdrops from 2018.


First day of Real Spring

Today was the first day of Real Spring. We have meteorological Spring – that starts on 1st March – and we have  Traditional Spring, which starts on 20th March this year. Neither of them are particularly realistic as they can both be quite dismal days, and it’s hard to feel springlike on a dreary day. No, you need Real Spring, which is the first day that feels like Spring. It has been getting closer, but today was the first day I really felt spring had arrived.

It was a lovely morning with a slight nip in the air, and a very light frost. There was just a touch of colour in the sky as I headed off for a blood test, and my feelings of wellbeing were enhanced by the lack of traffic – a lovely lockdown bonus. The sunrise was fading as I went to hospital, and by the time I returned home the sky was bright blue and cloudless. 

The sun, hitting the silver birches, produced a magical effect, further enhanced by a meeting of magpies. There were only a dozen of them, a long way from some of the groups I’ve seen at this time of year, but it’s nice to see that breeding is on the agenda.

As I turned into the hospital entrance, the area under the trees  was alive with snowdrops and small tete a tete daffodils.

In the car park a dunnock was singing its heart out, though, now I know more about its personal habits I’m not sure this is a bird to use as a celebration of spring.

There was no queue for the blood test, but that was the last good thing to happen for a while, as they managed to hit a nerve when taking the test samples (I was in for a double lot today)  and  that wasn’t fun. First, my arm hurt, then it started to go numb. The hand, which I’d ben told to clench, began to open. It took about twenty minutes to recover, so it wasn’t bad, but it’s still a bit sore sixteen hours later and there’s quite a lot of bruising. Normally I say good things about Phlebotomy at City Hospital, but this was not one of their better days.

Cup a Soup Chronicles III – Bachelor’s Oxtail

Cup a Soup Chronicles III (25.02.21)

Batchelor’s Oxtail – TESCO 79p for four sachets

That’s right, it’s 4p more than ASDA. If that was the only bad thing I had to say about TESCO it wouldn’t be too bad, but it isn’t. They rang this evening, at around 4.30 to tell me they had cancelled my delivery due to driver absences, but they would arrange for me to pick it up at the Click and Collect bay if I still wanted it. I have just come back from doing that, which is why  I am publishing another soup review so soon.

I sympathise with TESCO and their driver problems, but, to be blunt, that is their problem, not mine. They are a massive company and they should do better. If all else fails, send it by taxi. And don’t leave it some poor lad from Customer Services to ring me, make the duty manager at the store ring me. I think he’d have a different view of things if he needed to listen to the customers and their views about his store, which has now cancelled deliveries twice at short notice.

They have, to be fair, sent me a £10 voucher for my inconvenience, but part of that is a refund for the delivery that they didn’t make. They must think I’m stupid not to notice that half the voucher is just a refund.

Anyway, the soup…

It’s another variation on the theme of grey, this time with a hint of reddish brown.

Oxtail Soup and a free mug we were given by a local scrap merchant

It looks slightly chocolatey, but it has a pleasant spicy flavour, albeit with  a slight aftertaste of glue. However, I haven’t had oxtail soup from a can recently, so it’s possible I might detect that in a canned soup if I tried hard. There is a lot of cartilage in an ox tail, as I recall from when I have seen them offered for sale, and it’s quite likely there is a taste of glue from that.

There were some small songy bits left in the bottom of the cup when I finished – possibly bits of ox? Freeze-dried and reconstituted ox…hmm, lovely.

It was spicy, warming and not totally revolting, but if was having company to dinner I don’t think I’d select this as the soup course.

It looks quite healthy until the end


How many shades of grey?

I posted this in “Uncategorised”. I was going to post in “Food” but it didn’t seem appropriate.


A Thirty Minute Post

I don’t know what’s happening to me but I just can’t settle to write. Even when I do write I run out of steam or fall out of love with the post as I get part way through. I really don’t know what’s happened to me – it’s like I’ve become, tired, dull and lazy, all at the same time. It can’t be writers’ block, before anyone suggests that, because it doesn’t exist.  Sensitive types and amateurs get blocked, but I’m not sensitive and I am trying to develop a professional approach.

I am just going to set my alarm and get my head down over the keyboard. Let’s see what happens. Well, a rambling introduction happens, which is always good – that’s used up about half the 250 word target.

I finished my Open Learn course “Creative Writing and Critical Reading”, which didn’t really teach me much. I’m afraid some of them do skim over the subject. It’s always interesting to see something put together as a course, because reading books or the internet can be a bit scrappy. And, of course, if I were doing this to impress an employer, it’s always handy to have it all set out on a screen. I have now completed six courses and am just starting at seventh.

My current course is “Personal Branding for Career Success”. This brings round in a neat circle, as I selected it because I am feeling the need to appear professional  to editors, and to make sure they view me as hard working, rather than the sort of person who retires to a darkened room and claims to be blocked.. A personal brand, according to Jeff Bezos, is what people say about you when you are out of the room. In the days when we spoke English and used fewer words, it used to be called “reputation”. I’ve only done about 10% of the course so far, I’ll let you know how it goes as I proceed.

There you go – 299 words and 18 minutes. Just goes to show the benefits of getting your head down and showing a professional attitude.

I will, I expect, spend the remaining 12 minutes messing about with links, tags and photos.

364 words, 29 minutes’ including links, tags and photos. Looks like I’m back…


Yes, listicles. It’s like a list but with added -icle. Sounds like something a kid would write. Probably a young kid writing a list of their ten favourite Pokémon or Unicorns. However, it seems that it is a word commonly used by adults on social media. Yes, I realise that the ‘on social media’ part should lower my expectations, but even so, the main users of the word would seem to be legally adult.

For those of you who have never before wondered about the sanity of the internet or 21st Century life, do you now see why I despair? It’s a bit like writing a posticle about the virus that is engulfing us in a worldwide pandemicle. It’s not necessary and it makes the user sound like a child from a horror film. Or from Essex.

It’s not helped by the fact that my poetic brain, which never quite switches off, is constantly trying to rhyme it with testicle. This is the same part of my brain where the words “Devizes” and “Nantucket” are on permanent stand-by. Don’t blame me, I’m not the only one who was thinking it. I’m pretty sure that at least two regular readers were thinking it. They may like to mention that if they comment.

All this has been caused by me reading a pop-up advert that promised me a way to earn good money writing “content”.

It seems good. Some one claims to earn $126,000 a year from freelance content writing. .

Even after deducting expenses , that’s more money than I could spend in a year, and all I have to do is write. Well, not quite. There seems to be a lot of SEO involved (Search Engine Optimisation)  and I have just been checking it up. I don’t really understand a lot of the words they use, so it looks like I may have to give it a miss. It’s like parachuting and shaving – I’m vaguely aware of it, but don’t really understand it, or want to get involved.

Ah well, a man can dream.

At least I won’t have to use words like listicle.

Yes, I missed the midnight deadline. I’ll post twice tody.

Mandarin Duck – Arnott Hill park, Arnold

Cup a Soup Chronicles II – Bachelor’s Mushroom with Croutons

Cup a Soup Chronicles II (22.02.21)

Batchelor’s Mushroom – ASDA 75p for four sachets

Well, it’s another grey soup, but this time grey is acceptable. Mushroom soup is meant to be grey. It’s also meant to taste like mushrooms and this one did, though a lot of it seemed to sink to the bottom as I drank.

You need to gauge things just right with the croutons. It takes a few minutes to get them nicely soft. Depends whether you like your croutons crunchy or soft.

When I prepare this one I stir, leave it to stand for a few minutes to soften the croutons and then stir again before drinking.

Bachelor’s Mushroom Cup a Soup

I normally drink the mushroom, and have only branched out because I need variety for a series of reviews. It would be difficult to have  a whole series based on Mushroom Cup a Soup of different makes. Who knows, I may even find a soup I prefer to mushroom.  It’s unlikely but it’s possible. Mushroom is one of my favourites.

Somehow I seem to have come to the end of the review without using many words. I’ve already said it’s my favourite, that grey is acceptable as a colour for mushroom soup and that the croutons are better if allowed to soften a bit. That really sums it up.

I only had one this time because, although I like my readers, I don’t think it’s worth having a stroke just to test a second cup of high salt soup.

Bachelor’s Mushroom Cup a Soup

That’s the difference between testing soup and scones – I could eat scones all week and not bother about it, because they seem wholesome.  Cup a Soup is just a sachet full of chemicals and strikes me of being a foodstuff that is nice once in a while – when you come in from a long cold walk for instance. It’s not something I’d want on regular basis.

Nutritionally it’s one step down from a Pot Noodle, and it’s over a year since I had a Pot Noodle. At least you get decent noodles in a Pot Noodle. It’s probably one step down from the box it comes in too, as that is lower in salt and, I assume, higher in fibre.

Ah well, next week it’s Oxtail. I used to like Oxtail soup when I was a kid. I’ve never had it as a Cup a Soup and it will be interesting to see what it’s like.

Bachelor’s Mushroom Cup a Soup – lower salt but higher in everything else than the Chicken Noodle


No Inspiration Yet…

At 10am on Sunday Julia posted the Covid test kit. At 10.30 this morning she had a text with the result. It is negative. Credit where credit is due – this is a very efficient piece of work and the laboratory staff are to be congratulated.

If I say that was the most interesting thing in my Sunday, apart from a salted caramel chocolate brownie Julia bought when she went out for a walk, you may see what a waste my day has been. Again.

Now that spring is coming I really should be perking up.

I stalled in my writing, decided to have a cup of tea and a sit down, and ended up falling asleep through the midnight deadline. I’m still not much better placed as far as inspiration is concerned,, because Monday hasn’t exactly been a day of laughs. I dropped Julia off at work, went to the doctor, found my blood testing forms weren’t ready, despite my telephone conversation and email, and came home to make toast, wash up and stare at a blank screen.

Last night I had a strange dream about my legs being paralysed. I woke to find that I was laying on my side with my feet caught in the duvet. I’m not sure how I managed it, but they were held tightly together and I was trying to kick my way free.

A doctor rang me in the middle of the morning, to check on the blood test request. We discussed a few other problems we have had over the months and she was able to unravel several mysteries about missing prescriptions over the last few months. I felt slightly guilty as (a) I’m not ill and (b) all the years spent to train as a GP should not be wasted doing admin. It’s just unfortunate that the admin team at the surgery couldn’t have done it. I am beginning to suspect that deep in the bowels of the NHS Electronic Prescription system, there are a number of random faults that keep casting up aberrations.

I am doing the menu for tonight through to Thursday now. It’s sausages with roasted veg – the accent being on carrots. Tomorrow will be sausage and mash with mashed carrot and parsnips, and onion sauce. I have too many carrots. Even carrot soup for Wednesday lunch isn’t going to bring the numbers down significantly. I’m going to start eating carrot sticks for lunch too.  Looks like carrot hotpot on Thursday…





Saturday in a Shut Shop Sitting Silently

Here’s a selection of what I did today. I photographed a Peter Rabbit 50p coin and put it on eBay. It was the first in the Beatrix Potter series, and Peter is the best known and most popular of the characters. It soon sold out when it was released in 2016 and  that coin – an ordinary 50p coin, but struck in silver, to proof standard, with added colour and a great deal of glitzy presentation, is now worth over £600. A lot of the others can be had for around £20 each, which still seems expensive to me. However, it pays my wages.

In case the word “proof” is throwing you, it mans they are produced in from specially prepared dies, striking specially prepared blanks. They are excellent examples of the coiner’s craft but o many different ones are now produced that they hold little charm for a cynic such as me.

The next item, a rowing medal from Oxford University, is more my sort of thing. It is engraved with the names of the boat’s crew around the edge. Several of them had famous connections though they aren’t that famous themselves.

Medal for the Commoner’s Fours 1866

I just went back to look for a link and couldn’t find it. It has sold already – six hours after we put it up for sale. The miracle of eBay!

People watching

This is a picture taken using my door mirror. I went straight from work to the vaccination centre on Thursday and had time to kill. I should probably have wound the window down completely, bit I didn’t. Another lesson learnt!