Monthly Archives: January 2022

Day 31

It didn’t seem natural to begin with, but numbering instead of titling the posts now seems normal, and saves time. However, unlike a finely crafted pun or alliteration there is little satisfaction to be gained from just writing a number. I may have to reconsider later in the year.

All my submissions are in and there is still an hour to spare. It isn’t the best way of doing things, but it certainly got me moving. Five submissions in three days, and some of them weren’t even written at this time last night. I think we can say that the pressure got me writing again. I’m just contemplating using the time difference between here and the USA to my advantage, but that might be overdoing it.

I now need to update my submissions log. I also need to write the submissions plan for the coming year. Then I need to sort out my haiku and tanka. Because they don’t have titles, and because I’ve taken my eye off the ball, I have lost control of them and don’t know what’s what. That was one of the reasons I had to write new tanka, I just can’t remember where I’ve sent some of the existing ones before, and I can’t recall every accepted one.

Time for bed now, and the admin and other problems can wait.

Here is the Larkin poem – it’s not quite as good as I remember it, but then I have deteriorated with the passing of the years. It was originally in Failed Haiku Number 62 and there are a few notes about it here and here.

Hidden Worlds

He wears a grey gaberdine and rides a bicycle from church to church.
In his head he composes poems about sex and tombs. On YouTube he
flickers in black and white, like a newsreel from the 1950s. Smiles are
clearly still on ration.

Larkin used more bad language than you normally expect from a
librarian. This becomes understandable when you find that he started
his day with half a bottle of sherry.

monochrome photo
my parents younger than me

The header picture is the sort of picture I think a poet should have -, not like the pale and washed out old codger that actually appears in my biographical notes.


Day 30

In terms of creativity and industry things haven’t worked out that well. In other ways it has been  a pleasant and relaxing day. This qualifies it as a tick in the “good day” column of the celestial ledger, and I am now bringing it to a close with a smile on my face.

Normally I like to approach a deadline with plenty of material already written and refined. My deadline is 31st January which is tomorrow (for the next 22 minutes, when it will become “today”.

Fortunately, last time I had a rejection all the ten haiku had been written a few days before submission so I was able to look at them again and make improvements (I know I ought to give time for them to mature, but it always seems like I don’t have enough). I’m hoping that one will be acceptable this time round.

Submitting to editors is an art and not a science. What works with one editor doesn’t necessarily work with another and many of my poems have been accepted after two or three rejections. The best example I have is my haibun about Philip Larkin. I’ll add it at the bottom of post if I can find it. That haibun went out four times and came back four times. I tinkered a little each time to tighten it up, but didn’t change it too much. The fourth time it came back I sent it out again the next day and had it accepted in two days. Which goes to show that you can never tell what is around the corner. I have seen interviews where established writers have sent out poems a lot more than that. I don’t have that sort of confidence. After three or four failures I usually retire them.

However, I’ve been trawling through them today, looking for pieces that are good enough to send out. I’ve found three, polished them, and sent them out and am now looking for three more. After that I just need to write ten tanka in the next 23 hours and I’m laughing.

There are several more deadlines that I decided to ignore. One journal has been rejecting me constantly since a change of editor, for instance, and another is fond of heavy-handed editing. I’m going to give them a miss this month and catch them next time they come round.

In fact, I’d better get back to work – ten tanka won’t write themselves.

Later, far too much later on a work night, I have all three of the next batch of haibun assembled, and I realised I forgot the Larkin piece. I will search it out tomorrow.


Day 29

Has the year really passed so quickly? There are now only 336 days left until Christmas. The cynic in me is tempted to suggest that it will only be a couple of weeks before we start seeing the first Christmas displays in the shops. However, first we have Valentine’s Day (14th February). Then we have Mother’s Day (27th March) and Easter (17th April). Then there are all those summer holidays that people have been looking forward to, because modern people can’t function without their holidays. When I started work we used to get by on two weeks a year, and knew people who had been at work when there was no such thing as annual holiday. The whole country is getting soft. You can’t imagine the Spartans taking two weeks off in summer. Anyway, enough about the good old days. We probably won’t start Christmas until September.

American readers may have noticed that we have Mother’s Day on a different day. That’s because ours is linked to Mothering Sunday, which is a church festival and it takes its date from Easter, which is a notably moveable feast. Yours is linked to a woman called Anna Jarvis, who wanted to honour the memory of her mother.

I must apologise to Americans here, because I had always assumed that your Mother’s Day was just another commercial orgy driven by greetings card manufacturers. Seems I’m wrong – not only was it not started for that reason, but it inspired an English woman – Adelaide Smith – to reinvigorate the festival in the UK. She lived and worked in Nottingham and is buried nearby, but until today I knew nothing about her.

However, the greetings card manufacturers did take over, and Anna Jarvis actually tried to put a stop to Mother’s Day. To be fair to the card manufacturers, when she needed care at the end of her life, they paid for it, but it just goes to show how commercial interests take things over.

That’s probably a good place to stop. Otherwise I might get onto the subject of Father’s Day, a completely unnecessary blot on the calendar, and an idea, I suspect, that is supported behind the scenes  by an international  cartel of sock manufacturers.


Day 28

I realised today that my 250-350 words a day are only skimming the surface. It was meant to be a minimum number but seems to have become the norm.

It would probably be possible to write a dozen 250 word posts during the day and give a better picture of my life. However, I have other things to do and if you think my life is dull now, just wait until I give you 3,000 words of it. It would be like having a sack of wet cement dropped on your head – grey, mind-numbing and burdensome. So I will stick to short sketches of the futility of my existence.

This morning was grey, but traffic was light. We had a few parcels to pack at work and a few auctions finished. We have ben listing things from the junk box this week. Just over half the lots sold, and though some of them made the minimum bid several made good money. This just goes to prove that the difference between junk and a desirable collectable is in the ye of the beholder.

We only have a couple of people who look in the junk box in the shop, but via eBay we have showed it to dozens, and several of them are now happy.

I spoke to a few customers, added more stuff to eBay and came home, where I had pasty and beans for tea (we didn’t feel like cooking much). They were ASDA pasties and not as good as Ginster’s. I knew this would be the case, but they were cheaper and I thought I’d give it a go. It wasn’t a pleasurable experience and I now feel a little bilious.

Then it was TV, snooze, waste time on eBay, blog and , now, make a drink before going to bed.

And that is my day summed up in 300 words. It isn’t much of a life, but it’s better than the alternative. Maybe it will get better. The picture is from a picture library and serves to remind me of mortality and greyness. It’s been that sort of day.


Day 27

I had a shock on opening my bank statement when I returned home  today. I knew I’d relaxed my spending control over Christmas, but I hadn’t realised I’d spent quite so much. In fact I couldn’t remember spending anything like the amount that was missing. That initiated a search for my bank statement from last month, which I confess I hadn’t opened. I’m not good at things like that. My fear was that my account had been hacked. I worry about things like that as I get older and criminals get sneakier. It turned out that I had simply misremembered the running total I keep in my head. Normally I keep tabs on my cash by using ATMs, but since lockdown I have hardly used one. Julia and my sister, who fill the roles in my life that Bertie Wooster;s aunts played in his, are both keen on me growing up and going online with my banking, but I feel that as long as I don’t go online I can’t be robbed online. Seems logical to me.

Last year, or maybe the year before, I refused to give Amazon my phone details when they wanted to add them to my account. The reason? If my number isn’t on the internet people can’t ring me with nuisance calls. Julia gets a lot of nuisance calls from time to time. There will be none for a while, then they start again, often using software to disguise where they are coming from. Once we had a month of calls from numbers that, according to the caller ID, were coming from all over West Africa. They weren’t, they were coming from one call centre with some clever software. They haven’t quite grasped the psychology of it – if you aren’t going to answer a call from Ghana, you really aren’t going to answer the next one either, even if it does claim to be from the Ivory Coast.

As a result of being careful my mobile has never rung with details of a “parcel delivery” or news that I am the beneficiary of the the will of a deceased African politician.

I’m running out of inspiration for photos, so am reverting to the George II shilling with cunning colour effects.


Day 26

Last night, feeling pleased with myself, I hit a seam of inspiration and wrote notes as I was on the point of falling asleep. his is what proper writers do. So, two things went right – one, I relaxed and became inspired and two, I had a notebook and pen ready.

Just one problem – I can’t read the notes. At the best of times, as I may have said before, I have trouble reading my own writing. It looks like a lazy worm has escaped from an ink pot and made loops on the page. That’s why I generally write in capitals, even if it does end up looking like a ransom demand.

When I am close to sleep it gets worse. I can’t remember what I was thinking and I definitely can’t read it. I am sure none of my thoughts included the words “blessed treehouse stargazer”, “print out the smell lads” or “listed in retinue meat”. It is, however, possible that some future notes may include them because the three of them offer a range of bizarre possibilities.

So, even before starting to write, I seem to have failed. From this I take the lesson that all late night notes should be written in block capitals.

Who would have thought that reading your own writing would be such a problem? Maybe, in years to come, quercusisms (unintentionally amusing poetry resulting from the inability to read your own scrawl) may join malapropisms, spoonerisms and mondegreens in the list of literary mishaps.

In the meantime, I will learn my lesson and start printing my late night notes – I can’t afford to lose inspiration to poor penmanship.

Day 25

I’ve been thinking about road safety.

The government has, according to the papers, just enacted a huge number  of new laws to make the roads safer for for pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists whilst ensuring that drivers of motor vehicles are held responsible for all the bad things that happen.

Leaving the moral dimension of road use to one side, I will start with pointing out the obvious – there’s no point trying to hold pedestrians, horse riders or cyclists responsible for their actions on the roads as you can’t identify them. You can identify motorists because we all have to have numbers on display. It’s actually an offence to have your car number plate obscured, but all other road users are allowed to get away with their various delinquencies due to their anonymity.

I’m not allowed to use a hand-held telephone whilst driving. Yet a pedestrian is allowed to use one whilst walking across the road and I, according to the new guidelines, have to give way to them. Similarly, I now have to do the thinking for cyclists as it will be my fault if I hit one.

What really annoys me is that whatever part of the government came up with all this rubbish seems to think I spend my life on the road running down pedestrians and cyclists and, for some reason, driving too close to horses.

I don’t. In my driving career I have so far managed to avoid pedestrians, cycles and horses. Not only do I not want to injure another road user, I don’t want the hassle of reporting an accident and losing my no-claims discount. And I certainly wouldn’t drive too close to a horse, even one where the rider seemed to be in control (which isn’t always the case) because they are large, unpredictable and, unlike car drivers, not insured for third party claims.

I can’t help thinking that these are not the same sort of changes I would make if I were in charge (assuming I could find time for governing amongst all the lockdown parties).

Rather than bore you with the full tedium of my proposals (which I am currently preparing for my MP) I will just say that I consider Jeremy Clarkson to have once had a great idea about road safety. It was simply this – instead of putting air bags in steering wheels to reduce injuries to drivers it would be better to install a large spike. This would make them drive more carefully and reduce road accidents. So far I have been unable to fault the logic.

Today’s picture is the one I always use to induce tranquility. Lavinia’s comment on water voles reminded me.


Day 24

Years ago, when Russia invaded Afghanistan (oh,  life seemed so simple in those days) someone put a letter through my door, detailing the seriousness of the situation, the fact that I may be needed to answer my country’s call, and various other semi-official hings. I was feeling quite concerned until I got to the final sentence – “Due to recent cut-backs in Defence spending, we would be grateful if you could provide your own gun.”

I never found out who sent it, but it was amusing at the time. Less amusing now, after British troops have died in several wars because they didn’t have enough equipment.

The writing is still going slowly. This post has taken me half an hour already, though a lot of that has been checking the internet for “research”. As for the poetry, it’s hard to write when you are asleep in font of the TV.

It’s not so much a case of writer’s block (which I am convinced does not exist) but a case of bad sleep habits and lack of focus. If I stayed off eBay and got to bed at a decent time I would be able o write more prolifically. Simple really – there’s only so much time in a day and you have to use it wisely. Over Christmas I allowed myself to stay up later and that led to me sleeping in late, meaning I felt wide awake at bedtime. Or sleeping in front of the TV, with the same result. That, in turn, meant I wasn’t sleeping enough at nights and when I went back to work I found I’d established a bad habit. Why are they always so much easier to establish than good ones?

Anyway, that’s enough words. I’m off to bed now before I get my second wind and start doing something else instead of sleeping.

There have been some great sunrises on the way to work recently (admittedly interspersed by some miserable grey ones). The picture is one I took a few years ago.

We have ben spotting a cormorant regularly on the way to work too. It seems to take up position on a lamp post and gaze down at the canal. We have seen it perching, and flying to its perch, but have not yet seen it fish in the canal.

I went through 1,500 photos without finding a cormorant, but I did find these photos of silver Britannia coins, taken a few years ago. Somehow, I just couldn’t get the balance right last time I photographed a new set we had for sale. Maybe my camera is wearing out, or maybe I am . . .

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin

Silver Britannia coin


Day 23

Our Government is in disarray. Russian troops are massing on the Ukrainian border. Tonga has been flattened by a tsunami. But I’m more concerned with on-line grocery shopping, approaching poetry deadlines and eBay. In years to come, I can’t see my blog being much of a barometer of the mood of the country in 2022 Unless everyone else is  self-centred and politically unaware too.

Let’s face it, Russia starting World War III isn’t even the biggest problem we have. The planet dying because we have too many people using too much stuff and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. WW III might actually do us some good by thinning out the population. I’m not advocating it, just pointing it out. How ironic to come back in a a hundred years, having been frozen in a new Ice Age caused by nuclear winter, to find that Vladimir Putin is actually seen as the saviour of the human race. Well, if we are allowed freedom of thought by our new Chinese overlords.  They might want us to see the General who ordered the release of Covid to be seen in a similar way.

That’s at least two sci-fi novels in the bag – The Man who Saved the World and The Pangolin Protocol. Sadly, a I can’t even get a simple haibun written, I’m unlikely to be able to find time in my schedule to knock out a couple of dystopian novels.

This is a shame, because if I could write them, and the film rights sold for enough, I could spend the rest of my life living in a plastic bubble on Mars, taking drinks by the pool with Elon Musk and Richard Branson, whilst paying Microsoft or Amazon a monthly fee for air.

Sometimes Armageddon doesn’t look so bad . . .


Day 22

Got up, had breakfast, went to work. There was one parking space left when I arrived. Is this what my life has become – repetitive with worries about parking spaces? I used to think there was more to life than that.

On the positive side, I have started to find myself laughing and smiling more. You are supposed to get happier as you age and I had been waiting for it to kick in, as the last few years have been hard work. I may be lagging behind the curve (nothing new there) but it looks like I’m finally becoming happy.

The customer who has been irritating us for most of the week with unrealistic offers has finally decided to order something. He still tried to do a deal until we had gone to the post office (it closes at lunchtime on Saturdays) so we won’t be able to send it until Monday. By Tuesday I expect he will be writing about something being wrong. Some deals just have an aura of doom hanging around them.

One bright spot in the day was that we put some second-hand display cases on sale. After a bit of a lull they have started selling and we sold our last three during the week. The owner checked in the overspill stock room (as I call his garage when talking to customers) and found a couple more, which I added to our eBay listings around lunchtime. One of them sold twenty minutes later. It always feels good when that happens.