Monthly Archives: March 2021

Am I the Only One?

WP seems to be running very slowly, added to which I am not getting my normal pages when I try to write. Am I the only one or has WP decided to give me more unwanted “improvements”?  I really hope ntm as i’m not in the mood for more messing about.

There were more people out on the roads yesterday, and more people walking around in the evenings, so it looks like the easing of lockdown restrictions is having some impact. I’m not sure what the easing is, to be honest, aas I no longer bother to keep up.

I just checked – we are still supposed to minimise travel and work from home if we can. Not sure why there is more traffic about, in that case.

People can met outside, including private gardens – two households or groups of six, though it doesn’t say if you can repeat this every hour or whether you are limited to just the same other  household for the next few weeks. The stay at home rule is ended, though w are still asked to minimise travel and no holidays are allowed.

Outdoor sports can start again, though that’s a bit vague.

You can get married, with up to six people attending. Not sure if that includes bride and groom.

Other countries within the UK have different systems, so if you live in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland the timings will be slightly different. They do this to justify the huge costs of their devolved governments and to show they are different from England, rather than because it makes any difference.

I am fairly sure that life in the Midlands is different from life in London, and we could  justify having our own government. The West Midlands has a population of 5.9 million, which would make it 114 on the world list, above Singapore and Denmark, for instance. The East Midlands is slightly smaller, at 4.8 million, which puts it around 125 on the world list – slightly below Ireland and level with New Zealand.

Compare to Scotland (5.4 million, Wales 3.1 million and Northern Ireland at 1.9 million, and the Republic of the East Midlands starts to look like a viable proposition. We have access to the sea, an airport and a world class cheese industry, what more do we need?

 

 

 

Jentacular Spectacular

I imagine that all proper writers are currently walking in the countryside, writing , or at work wishing they were doing either of the other two. I am having my customary Monday off, and sm wasting my time playing Nine Men’s Morris on the computer.  However, I have taken a grip of myself and am now writing after squandering most of the last 100 minutes on games and emails and checking eBay.

The post has just arrived so I will pick that up and on the way back I might as well put the kettle on. I’m not expecting anything good in the post so it will only be bills and circulars, but any displacement activity is welcome to a keyboard loafer.

On the way to the kettle I noticed we had a single wrap left in the bag. We have been keeping a few in as they stop us running out of breadlike substances for packed lunches. One isn’t much use though, They make a very good substitute for an oatcake so I thought while I was waiting for the kettle to boil I might as well stick a bit of bacon in this one and thus clean up the kitchen a bit. I added mushrooms, because we have quite a lot of them too, four small tomatoes which are going a bit soft, and a spring onion, cut in half and then sliced lengthways. When cooked and wrapped it did indeed make a passable substitute for an oatcake. I now feel much more able to face the day and do some work.

My Orange Parker Pen

The post wasn’t quite useless, as it contains my copy of Poetry Review. The outer, which looks like it is compostable, though it doesn’t actually say so, contains the magazine plus a number of extras – a copy of Poetry News, which I normally skim and recycle, a flyer for the Winchester poetry Prize, which I won’t enter, a Bloodaxe Catalogue and the Winners’ Anthology for the National poetry Competition. I’ll read the Bloodaxe catalogue and dream about being in it, and I’ll read the anthology so that I can feel affronted that, once again, I didn’t even make the long-list. However, after my recent success in the BHS competition I am content.

Can anyone answer a grammar question while you are here? Is it a Winners’ Anthology, as it doesn’t belong to them, or is it a Winners Anthology because its’s an anthology by more than one winner?

You can read the winners here.

And, of course, there is Poetry Review. It’s a serious magazine full of serious poems. It contains essays, translations and reviews. I confess that I don’t always read it all. I’m going to read some of it before lunch, then I’m going to write Limericks. Once my mind is receptive to lightness again I have haiku to write, as I am suffering a haiku deficiency and my haikuless haibun collection is crying out for closure.

 

 

Some Feelgood Photos

Stilton and Date Scones

Yes, I admit that I could have included kittens, puppies and seals, or even smiling babies and teddy bears, but none of them really make me as happy as pictures of home baking. I really should start doing more of it, but my hands make it difficult. Maybe a mixer is in order. I could also have included pictures of Julia but that would just be sentimental., and, let’s face it, most people would rather see scones.

The cicones in the picture above are Date and Stilton Cheese scones – my own recipe. They are better than they sound, in case you don’t like Stilton, because the Stilton flavour doesn’t really come out in them. If you do like Stilton they are slightly disappointing, for the same reason.

Grantham Gingerbreads

Tricky biscuits because they are supposed to open up and be hollow in the middle. I’ve never quite got that right, though they taste OK and look alright on the outside. Only made them twice because, to be honest, they are more trouble than they are worth.

Peppermint Creams

I like peppermint creams but I may as well just inject myself with glucose syrup as they are basically just sugar with a bit of extra effort thrown in. The most important thing about making them was that they pick up any bit of loose colour in the cooking area. They even managed to take up blue from the chequered table covering.

Gingerbread Men

Probably should be called gingerbread people in these days of political concern. Or Gender Fluid Gingers, as there is no actual indication of gender. This would probably annoy  people with ginger hair…

OK, they are biscuits with ginger in them. Since when did biscuits get so political?

Wheatsheaf Loaf (with mouse)

Mouse on Wheatsheaf Loaf

These are useless because you can’t actually eat them, but they were always nice to make.  Not only was it good to feel artistic for once, bu it was nice to be part of an ancient tradition.

From Bed to Verse

Post 2,313

28th January 2021

As usual, nothing of importance to relate. I woke while it was still half-dark and had to look at my phone for a time check. The clocks went forward in the night so we lost an hour and I can no longer tell the time by the degree of light outside.

Temperatures have dropped from yesterday, it is windy and there are flecks of rain on the window. From what I remember of setting up my WordPress account it would be called something like “Standard Autumn”  or even  “Just Grey”.

All the normal things happened, the ones I normally filter out of my daily posts – trouser troubles, stiff knees, feeling the gaps when I brush my teeth.

I found myself thinking about prostates this morning. It’s my age. part of me says that I really ought to have a serious conversation with a doctor. Part of me says that I do not want to be part of any conversation that occurs whilst I have my back turned to a stranger wearing rubber gloves. Even worse, a conversation with someone I know, who is wearing rubber gloves.

That led me on to Richard Mabey. When I was last in male urology I was in the middle of reading one of his books and Clare Pooley suggested another of his books when I was convalescing. He ended up in male urology at one point and used the experience to write about water, internal and external, in a a philosophical manner. I used the experience to complain about the NHS, including sandwiches made with white bread and two cancelled operations. I seem to lack the spiritual dimension needed to be a great nature writer. I could, however, have had a lucrative and fulfilling career as a management consultant in the NHS if my life had turned out differently. Or as John Lewis-Stempel. I wouldn’t mind being John Lewis-Stempel.

This is an interesting thought but not one I’m going to dwell on as i have things to do. Poems don’t write themselves, and, as yet, there is no such thing as self-spreading marmalade. That would be a great advance – no more balancing knives and pots on corners of my desk where papers and pill packets haven’t spread. No more juggling, no more sticky patches on the desk, or fluff on toast.

I must make a note of that. But first I must write poems. I am feeling in a very Limerick mood.

A Suffolk blogger called Pooley,
has a name that rhymes with Gilhooley.
It could have been worse,
in this sort of verse,
it often ends up rhymed with…

…that probably needs a bit of work. It may also not work for Americans as I am not sure. I just checked the dictionary and things got even more confused. On top of that, and following the nature writer theme, I find there is a man called Tristan Gooley. Words fail me. And that is not a common occurrence. And this was going to be such a subtle ending…

 

Early to Bed…

My new health regime, which consists mainly of going to bed at a sensible time and turning down offers of a second slice of cake, have paid off – I’m already feeling a lot better than I was at the start of the week.

Today turned out to be another busy day. The sales promotion has not only brought a surge in sales but an avalanche of enquiries – many of which are time consuming and lead nowhere. However, like many things, you have to sift through to find the nuggets and as one of the queries led to a £275 sale, it was worth the sifting.

Nothing else of note happened during the day. I watched a little TV, snoozed and ate stir-fried vegetables for tea. I’ve also been going through magazines of Readly. I’ve managed a bird watching magazine, two writing magazines, the TLS and an art magazine tonight. Not bad for a monthly subscription that is the equivalent of buying two magazines. OK, so I only browsed the last two as I wasn’t feeling very intellectual, but it’s still good value.

If anyone is doing ab thesis on the life of an average middle-aged man in the early 21st century – this is it. This what I spent 60 years training for – a life of quiet mediocrity and vegetables. I always wanted to be rich and famous and eat steak…

I had an article sent to my email about the cherry trees in Washington DC – very interesting. I like cherry trees. My Mum and Dad had several and when Julia’s Mum died the village planted a cherry tree in memory of her contribution to the local community., so they have always ben part of my life. Of course, now that I write poetry in Japanese forms I am virtually obliged to write about them.

I seem to be deficient in cherry blossom pictures, so you will have to make do with apple blossom.

Spring in the Mencap Garden

Schröedinger’s Shop

I’ve just had a quick look at eBay, and today doesn’t look like it’s going to be too busy. We certainly won’t be having any customers in the shop (that’s still two weeks away) but we may get phone calls. The one’s I really marvel at are the ones that say “I was just checking to see if you were open.”. It’s as if a year of lockdown ha passed by them without making any impression. Either that or they see a coin shop as an essential service.

They assume that because we are in the shop we are open, which, in a sense, we are. It’s like (as if you can’t tell from the title) we are in the position of Schröedinger’s cat, being both alive and dead at the same time. We are clearly open because I am answering calls on the business number, and am actually sitting in the shop. But we are closed to the public (a)  because we don’t want to be responsible for transmitting the virus and (b) because breaching the rules can lead to a fine of up to £10,000. As a dealer in London was recently fine £8,000 for selling a £5 medal to someone who entered his shop uninvited while he was doing admin, it’s not a risk I want to take.

Tyhe long, narrow shop.

I’m expecting a lot of activity when w do actually open. We are already taking bookings, and have a few in the book for 12th April week. People don’t like planning too far ahead, so there will be more appointments made in the next week or two and there will be a lot of people who ignore the sign and website and come in without an appointment.

The shop is long and narrow and, with three sets of customers in, is soon crowded.

Just to think, a year ago a crowded shop was considered a good thing. Now it’s considered a health risk.

What a difference a year makes…

 

Ups and Downs

It was another day of manic activity as we kept getting orders from the new sales initiative. I quite like the active days, though it would be nice to have a little variation in pace.

The day started off with my second failed blood test in two weeks. I am consistently coming in too high and actually climbing as they seek to adjust the dose downwards. I’m not sure why this is happening but I suspect it might b because I started making an effort to do things properly. Instead of drifting on and forgetting to take my pills or taking them late, I am establishing a routine and I wonder if this means I have effectively increased the does without meaning too. I’m not taking supplements, I haven’t changed any medication and I haven’t ben eating huge amounts of green vegetables, which can all affect it. Whatever has caused it, the slow reduction by one tablet a week, as they have done this week, isn’t going to see it corrected any time soon.

Yesterday, I had an email headed “Congratulations”. Normally I’m wary of them because they usually contain details of how lucky I am to have been chosen to launder the estate of a deceased African politician. Presumably, the way things have been going, they will soon be inviting me to launder the estates of corrupt Tory supporters who have amassed illicit millions by making PPE for the NHS.

This one was from the British Haiku Society. I entered their annual competition and the results are out. According to the results there were 587 haiku, 164 tanka and 71 haibun entered. I am one of the top five haibun. I wasn’t 1st or 2nd but I did get an Honourable Mention which means I have a certificate and a free book.

The strange thing is that  the one I did all the work on made no impact but the successful one was one which had only been returned by an editor the week before. I tweaked it a bit, in line with his comments, and sent it off to the competition. It just goes to show, as I have said before, that I am not a good judge of my own writing.

 

A Cunning Plan produces Dividends

I have watched too much TV tonight and only have 32 minutes to post. That blocks out a thoughtful and well-reasoned post, a properly researched post and even a soup review. A proper review with three or four photos to load will be pushing it.

We had a hectic day at work – the boss found a button which allows him to offer discounts to people who are watching our lots on ebay. He spent the morning knocking 8% off prices and provoked a flurry of buying. We had eleven orders today – nine as a result of the discount campaign, and now have eleven others waiting to be packed. It’s all very well selling, but we need to get some new stuff on. By the time we’d finished packing, dealing with queries and answering the phone, there wasn’t any time left for other things.

However, it is nice to be busy.

My day wasn’t helped by having a bad back. I woke up at about 5am with my back in spasm and couldn’t get back to sleep.  After a while I knew I wasn’t going to get back to sleep so I got up. It was 6.28 and the clock wa set for ^.30 so it wasn’t a great sacrifice. The plan was to be having a blood test by about 7.15 but I moved so slowly I wasn’t even ready to leave the house by then, Better luck tomorrow, I hope.

Oh dear, midnight has caught me. I’ll still keep it short though, as I need to gett o bed.

 

Twelve Ideas

Lat night I wrote a list of ideas when I was looking for subjects to write about.  I ended up with eleven, which grew to twelve when I decided to write about writing a list of things to write about. Ideas, as I may have said before, are not difficult to come by. I could probably have thought of 20-30 more, but I find that having too many ideas is not always a good thing. If you have too many the quality tails off and you never get to the end of the list.

I meant to start using them last night but by the time I’d written the blog post and edited work in progress, I ran out of energy. This morning I started with some reading and commenting and have just looked at the list un front of me.

Twelve ideas became ten because two are undecipherable. That became  eleven when I remembered what one of them was, and twelve when I decided that writing about bad handwriting could replace the idea I couldn’t read.

As I said, I don’t lack ideas, just the ability to turn ideas into results. I think I may have told you we once had a meeting on the farm and someone said, with a perfectly straight face, “My talent is having ideas, rather than doing things. If you want any ideas I have plenty of them.”

If you’ve ever been on a committee I think you probably agree that talk and ideas are never in short supply. One person putting one idea into action, that’s what’s in short supply.

On that subject, what happens next? Well, I have twelve ideas. You are reading the result of one of them. Four of them have moved on to be the prose sections of haibun. Three of them now have lines of poetry attached. Two of them will become blog posts. One, I have not developed, but will do. The twelfth, which was going to be about the trials of being a prince with a trophy wife and a massive trust fun, doesn’t really appeal. I am going to cross that one off. Sometimes you realise you just don’t want to develop an idea.

The next stage is typing the haibun prose and the first drafts of the blog posts. Some results will be good, some not so good. It’s all a process of natural wastage. Eventually twelve ideas will be turned into a few finished pieces and the rest will be used as spare parts for other things.

 

What is Necessary?

There are several choices for tonight’s post. I can, for instance, write about The Lockdown Anniversary, politics, or counting our blessings.

I watched the news tonight and looked at the scenes in the refugee camp at Cox’s Bazaar. I’m not a man of great sensitivity, but even I was moved by the idea of refugees having even more troubles heaped on them.

Yes, it’s tricky not knowing if you can book yourself a foreign holiday this year, but I’m not sure it ranks that high on the list of bad things that have happened over the last year. Considering that much of the early infection was brought into the country by people coming back from foreign holidays, maybe we should all start to rethink our views on holidays abroad. The last holiday that I had abroad was in 1974 when I went for a daytrip to Calais by hovercraft. I still have  a lot of the UK to see and don’t feel at all deprived by not going abroad. Yes, a bit of sun would be nice, as would the chance to see ancient monuments and exotic birds, but I don’t feel deprived because I’ve spent my holidays in the UK.

As we come to the end of our first year of lockdown maybe it’s time to look around and decide what is really necessary. Food, clean water and shelter are necessary, A foreign holiday is not.

Sorry it’s a short post again, I’m just not quite on top form at the moment.