Monthly Archives: February 2022

Day 59 (Part 2)

I am sitting at the computer and am full of pizza and salad. Julia has been on holiday today and has been a whirlwind of activity. The house smells of wax polish, my desk has been tidied and, anticipating a doughnut shortage, a plate of sugary comestibles was shove in front of me on my return from work. I fear this is all part of a plot to kill me with food, but there are worse ways to go.

As I dozed gently in front of the TV she cooked the pizzas, made the coleslaw and salad and then woke me to eat just as Mastermind was starting. This is really a description of my ideal day.

The recipients of two of last night’s three submissions have acknowledged receipt of them and I am feeling relaxed. Tomorrow I must begin a determined effort to get ahead so that I don’t have to rush round so much. Slow and steady wins the race.

I’ve been looking into how to survive a nuclear war and have decided that it is too much like hard work.

Initial advice, for instance, is to run on a line perpendicular to the direction of the wind coming from the site of the explosion. Run? With my knees?

I’m also supposed to have a bug-out bag ready by the door so I am prepared for the worst. Well, I can see a problem there too. We might get twenty minutes advance warning, we might get three, depending on what internet article I read.  A bug-out bag isn’t a lot of use to a man of my age. I’m just not suited to quick exits. By the time I’ve been to the toilet, found the car keys and I’ve laced up my shoes, I’ll be lucky to make it to the car before Armageddon, let alone get to safety.

To be honest, I’m not a natural survivalist and as the only people to survive the nuclear blast are going to be politicians, civil servants and survivalists I’m not sure the post-apocalyptic world is a place I want to be.

I’m going to follow the advice I once saw on a TV programme about the battle of the Atlantic and how to prepare for bed in case you were torpedoed. An ex-Merchant seaman said that if you were on an ore carrier, they sank fast, so you went to bed fully clothed with the door of your cabin wedged open for a fast exit. If you were on a munitions ship you went to bed normally, including pyjamas, because there was no point worrying.

Day 59

Early hours of Day 59. I had an email from an editor last, which made me irritable, to say the least. It featured block capitals and exclamation marks and various instructions. As block capitals and exclamation marks always make me feel like I’m being shouted at, and as I’d followed all the instructions, I began to think critical thoughts.

This is the second journal to start carrying on like a tin-pot dictator in the last few weeks and as I write for relaxation I can do without it. Americans, though supposedly laid back, decentralised and in favour of freedom, do seem to like issuing instructions, just like any other nationality.

I didn’t reply. There is no point.

Then I got the second email. It seems he was declining my submissions as they were two days late. They weren’t. They were two days before the deadline. It’s not a problem, as they are only words, but it’s annoying to be called unprofessional, which is basically what is happening here. So I have dropped him a  polite line telling him that I fear something has gone awry with the system. It may well be Russians messing with communications, but it isn’t me. It does, however, explain the previous email with the block capitals etc.

I am going to have to get a move on and get my submissions in earlier.

The question is, how do I count this for submission purposes? I’m inclined to count it as a submission, because I did the work. I’m not so sure about counting it as a rejection, because it wasn’t really rejected. It was hung up in the system and I’ve been asked to resubmit next month.

This is the third time I’ve had a submission disappear into a black hole that was not of my making. I’ve also had one disappear as a result of my email ineptitude when I blocked gmail (which could have been worse). The editor who got shirty with me with that one was English (I add that for the sake of balance – the Irish, Canadian and Indian editors all took it in their stride).

I like email. I tend to avoid ordinary mail now if I can. But sometimes it is a pain.

My Orange Parker Pen

Day 58

The header picture is the roasted vegetables from a couple of nights ago when we had the cauliflower cheese. The roots have cumin sprinkled on them and the cauliflower has smoked paprika on it. The effect was mainly cosmetic in the case of the cauli, as i didn’t notice any change in flavour. However, it did look more interesting when it came out of the oven and after over 30 years of making as little effort as possible, I was happy just to cook something that looked a bit more interesting. Thirty years and I’ve graduated to smoked paprika. Who knows what dizzy heights I might achieve in another 30 years?

Apart from that it doesn’t feel as if the last week has brought much in the way of progress.

I’m getting back into the swing of things with writing, but even that is feeling like more of the same, rather than moving forward.

It looks like I am going to have to go back to writing lists of things to do. I know that some people disagree with them but I have always found them useful. However, I do tend to sloth, drifting and procrastination and I need something to combat that.

As long as I start with (1) Make a list of things to do and (2) Drift off to make cup of tea and check eBay I will at least get two things a day done from my list.

This is my resolution for the coming week. In the meantime I am going to go and make a cup of tea. We have shortbread biscuits and they aren’t going to eat themselves . . .

Day 57

Spring is definitely starting to show now – lighter mornings, lighter evenings, a bit of brightness and a few more flowers. It’s difficult not to feel happier.

This was slightly moderated by three conversations in the shop today (really yesterday, as I’m writing in the early hours of Sunday morning). One was with a man who had just suffered a death in the family, one with a man whose parents have just been scammed out of their life savings and one with a man who has lived here for many years but still has friends and family in the Ukraine.

This sort of  conversation makes me realise how lucky I am.

I( am, I admit, having to do some thinking about death, mainly whether it makes sense to take out a pre-payment plan for a funeral or not. Clearly it’s cheaper to sort it out and have it all ready for when the time comes, but  what happens if they go out of business between now and the funeral?

I’ve also been thinking about keeping my money safe in years to come. I don’t want to hand it all over to a fraudster, and I don’t want to spend it all on high-priced TV offers, as many of our customers do.  I’m reasonably confident I can keep it safe now, but worry about what I may do in the future. I mainly rely on a bad memory and being disorganised at the moment, meaning I couldn’t hand money over to scammers even if I wanted to, but as I get older and have to get more organised, this may become a problem. Similarly, as an incurable collector I would hate to find myself reaching for the phone to buy over-priced coins.

The coin marketing companies are probably even less moral than the criminals. The criminals are at least honest about their dishonesty, but the coin marketing companies, whilst targeting the elderly, pretend to be coin dealers.

And finally, of course, I don’t have family in the Ukraine. It’s bad enough having to watch what is happening without having to worry about family.

I am not a political blogger, so will leave it there. I do, however, dabble in poetry and would like to draw this Kipling poem to your attention. It’s about dane-geld.  For those of you who don’t need the links I will quote the last verse.

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”


Day 56

I miss out so much with these short excerpts of my day. It’s not usually deliberate, it’s just that when I sit down I find it hard to locate more than one or two ideas. This, I suppose, is lack of the lack of concentration I keep complaining about.

We have had two problems with Germany this week.  Two customers bought off eBay. They paid the tax to eBay. We did all the documentation and sent the stuff off. Both customers complained that they had to pay additional tax. We don’t know why, we can’t find any reason for it and we have no control over it. It’s just another racket designed to make life difficult for us all. As someone wrote on a website I used when searching for answers – thanks to everyone who voted for Brexit and welcome to the Brave New World.

It’s cost us several hours of admin time so far and will cost us actual money in a while as the second customer decided to send the goods back rather than accept them. He is currently spinning us a story about having covid and being unable to leave the house to collect the package.

I’m giving him a day to stew and then I’m going to write expressing my sympathy about his illness. I will then explain that although he may be friendless he can always email to ask for delivery, and even if he can’t do that, letters are not returned immediately so he will have plenty of time to be ill and still be allowed out in time to pick up his package.

Let’s see what he says then.

In the end, with all the hassle we are now getting from the post or customs services of various countries, it’s going to be cheaper and easier to stop sending stuff abroad.  So, increased costs and lower turnover – tell me again about how we will benefit from leaving Europe.


Day 55

My apologies to all. I have been busy and have fallen behind with my reading. I will therefore be launching a reading campaign tonight, but comments may be short and banal. This isn’t too far from my normal standard, but I thought I’d get my apologies in first.

Same for the brown potato soup. It is not my best, but it is acceptable for someone working in the cold and requiring warmth and nourishment at mid-day. It is healthy and free of additives. It was, I confess, meant to be celery soup but having over-softened (burnt) the onions and added what seems to have been too much potato, the result is a reminder to look at more recipes. If at first you don’t succeed, rename the recipe. The plan was to add Stilton cheese, but I may wait until I produce a soup where you can taste the celery. No point throwing good ingredients after bad.

Tonight’s cauliflower was huge. I couldn’t cut steaks as it would have needed a machete, and I’m not sure we could manage a whole one. Not sure what we will be eating for the next few days (I’m back to a no menu/no clue situation) but I’m fairly sure it’s going to feature cauliflower.

Anyway, it’s time for the cheese sauce now, and a nice healthy meal of oven-roasted parsnips, carrots and leeks with cauliflower and cheese sauce. I’m resigned to, rather than enthusiastic about our new vegetarian lifestyle, but sometimes you have to do these things. It cheap, it’s healthy, it’s better for the planet, and it’s possibly more moral (I really don’t have a problem with killing animals to eat them). Whether it’s more fun, I wouldn’t like to say.


Day 54

I’ve been looking at lists of 10, 30 and 50 Greatest Poets and Greatest Poems to give myself some perspective on yesterday’s surprise about people not recognising the name Adlestrop. Robert Frost ranks highly in most lists. Edward Thomas, his friend, does not. Frost after surviving the trip back to America in 1915, which was not a foregone conclusion in that year, as the Lusitania shows, developed a poetic career and eventually died at the age of 88. Thomas enlisted in 1915, prompted by Frost’s poem The Road Not Taken, and was killed in 1917. It seems to me that poetic reputations are often developed by such quirks of history, rather than by the quality of the poetry. Death, and its timing has a lot to do with reputations. Thomas died too soon, Byron died at about the right time, at which point he became a legend rather than a mere poet. I could name several poets who died too late, but that would be mean-spirited.

What I can tell you about some of the lists is that I haven’t heard of many of the poets on one of the lists, which, as far as I can tell, was chosen on political rather than poetic grounds. Such is life when you start making lists. Any list you make is bound to be biased, though you only notice when it is biased in a way you don’t like.

The average list is composed of classic white men with a few Indians, Japanese and female poets thrown in jut to show how well read the lister is. I’m always left with a feeling that these lists reveal just how little I really know about poetry and how any list I write on this subject should not be titled “100 Best Poets” but “100 best Poets in the Opinion of a man of limited reading and ingrained prejudices”. This would be more accurate.

It’s the same with many articles in the news, in the UK they should all be qualified with the words “written by a young and overconfident Oxbridge graduate”.

And that is the opinion of the blogger Quercus Community (a miserable old git who is not fond of modern life and young people).

Day 53

And again, nothing much happened . . .

I did once think of writing a witty modern novel about life in a coin shop, but I’m not sure where I’d get the material from. We only had two customers through the door today – one with £3 worth of coppers and one with a rare American coin. Or “rare American coin” if you prefer. He wouldn’t go away or believe the owner that it was common, until he was shown several hundred in bags. It was a modern quarter and although it has George Washington on it, isn’t that old.

In Europe, if we put someone on a coin, they tend to be alive. In America it is the other way round and to get on one of their coins you need to be dead. I suppose it is cheaper that way if you change presidents every four or eight years. We have had four different portraits of the Queen in sixty years, which is a lot easier.

My Orange Parker Pen

On the writing front I have just had a rejection to balance up recent successes. It wasn’t unexpected and I had wondered whether to send it or not. In the end I did send it as the writing is OK, it was just the subject that caused concern. So you ask yourself, what is Quercus doing writing hate-filled racist, homophobic, sexist, pornographic or violent poems?

Don’t worry, I’m not. It’s just a problem with translation.

Though we think of language when we think of translation, there are other things that can cause problems. Species of  birds have made me think about this in the past, goldcrests and kinglets interchange nicely but tits and chickadees have a tricky syllable mismatch.

No, the problem was a British cultural reference which was considered too obscure.

I was advised that notes may have helped but I find that a tricky area. Notes always make me think the writer is being condescending. On the other hand, I’m not keen on poets who write obscure verse either, and don’t really want to be one. To be honest, I didn’t realise the poem Adlestrop, which I reference, was obscure. If an American wrote about two roads diverging or only God being able to make a tree I wouldn’t find that obscure. Even with my low level of formal education there are some poems that I assume are familiar to everyone at some level.

If, of course, I were to make a joke about my submission getting a frosty reception, that would be obscure, unless you have checked the links.

Snowy Detail

Day 52

Still plenty of wind and rain. It was still breezy this evening, though it all seems to have gone quiet now. This evening I returned home in daylight rather than the normal winter murk and felt, at last, that we were leaving winter and coming into spring. In a few weeks we will be putting the clocks forward and  drop back into winter. It always happens – just as I am getting used to the time again, they alter it and I will spend another three months unable to judge the time by the sun.

I did well at Mastermind tonight and beat all the contestants in the general knowledge round. This, of course, is easy to do when you are sitting at home relaxed. In font of a TV camera I would probably freeze and make myself look like an idiot in front of millions of people. I then fell asleep and made up for lat night’s poor sleep. It’s becoming a cycle. Sleep badly, sleep in the evening, fail to sleep at night, sleep in front of TV. It’s not  good for me and it does little for either my conversation or my writing.

eBay was playing up today. We were unable to send an invoice to someone who was buying multiple lots and then it refused to0 upload photographs. It’s at times like these when you realise how much you rely on the internet. I tried all the normal fixes (variations on switching off then switching on again) but nothing helped. I’m hoping that the situation has improved by the time we start again tomorrow.

And that sums the day up – covid news, WW3 and the storm damage all passed me by, and I wrote about my poor internet connection. Life in the 21st Century.

I slept until close to midnight, posted this about 20 minutes after midnight and re-used a photo from last week. This is not how I saw blogging when I started off all those years ago.

Day 51

We finally got round to having the carrot and ginger soup today. You couldn’t notice the ginger, but I managed to find some coriander, and added a handful of that to the pot. It was a great improvement. Next time I will try lentils, as suggested by Helen.

Well, next time I will try celery. Next time I use carrots I will try the lentils. I haven’t used them for a while as Julia always feels the need to mention them, a sign that she’s on the verge of a complaint. The trouble is that she just doesn’t appreciate my exotic cookery.

We had Storm Franklin today. It’s the third named storm of the week, and it is all getting a bit stupid. Whatever happened to the days when we just had wind and rain? Weather is not improved by having a name and I really can’t see the point. It rained. Then it was windy while it rained. Then it was dry and windy and then it rained again. The ornaments on our mantelshelf vibrated every time we had gusts from a certain direction, which became wearing after a time, but that was really the worst of it for us.

Unfortunately, when I check up, a lot of reports say that it is going to get worse, which is worrying as I thought it had passed over. That’s the trouble with all the detail you get in weather reports these days – they tell you a variety of things and they don’t always agree with other reports.