Monthly Archives: January 2023

Like Writing, but Slower.

Sorry, I’ve been suffering from writers’ block recently, and haven’t written either the blog or anything useful to submit to magazines. As regular readers will know, I don’t actually believe in being blocked. It is, in my view, lack of practice, laziness and poor organisation. That is certainly the case for me at the moment. Defining it as I do doesn’t necessarily make it easier to cope with,it just puts the blame where it belongs instead of blaming it on a mystery condition.

Yesterday I decided to tackle it by becoming more organised. I have sent two submissions off for this month and have two more ready (one just needs some tinkering). There are three days until the end of the month. It is going to be tight.

On counting the submissions required, I was surprised to find there were 13, not eleven as I had thought. Take four away and you have 9 left. Three a day is not good.

Edward VII visits Cardiff Docks (Obverse)

Edward VII visits Cardiff Docks (Reverse)









However, I also found that several were for ordinary poetry, which I don’t write very often, and a couple were for journals that I’m not that bothered about. I’d put them all down but have no qualms about missing them out. That meant I only had eight to do, four of them are done or near enough done and one is just two poems. That more or less leaves three to do – one a day. I can do this.

Of course, that leads on to the old question of when a poem is finished. Is it ever finished or do you, sometimes, just have to say it is time to send it out? And also to procrastination. There is, I feel, a link between the time I have left and the interest I feel in reading trash on the internet. A week – I read about politics. Five days – I read about Harry and Meghan. Three days and I will read anything to avoid work, including those appalling click bait articles that start off sounding interesting and peter out into being totally useless have you have clicked 20 or 30 times. I really don’t know why I do it.

Oh dear, I have just realised I hardly have any time to do the medallion talk . . .

Time for a severe internal pep talk and some work. That, for me, has been the last three days.

Piece of Masonic and Preston Guild interest – though it my just mark 50 years and 1922 might be a coincidence (1922 being a Guild Year).

A Question of Difference

Mornings can be very different.

At the beginning of the week we had frost. On one of the frosty days the frost had obviously melted slightly and refrozen, producing a glazed surface rather than the textured frost I normally expect. Fortunately the screen had been covered, but the rest of the windows were left with a covering that resisted the ice scraper. Eventually, a mix of cunning and heat did the trick.

It has been frost free for the last few days. I hope this will be the case again tonight, as I have left the cover off the screen.

This morning, in a fast-moving stream of traffic, where were had queued for20 minutes on Monday, I had a good view of an advert on the back of a bus – Motorcycle Funerals. I’ve seen a motorcycle hearse on a TV advert, but until now, that was the only place. As I said to Julia, it’s a bit of a double-edged marketing ploy. The only real motorcycle enthusiast in our family, would probably have loved it. Unfortunately, as he was killed whilst riding his motorbike, I can’t see that the family would have been in favour of the idea if such things had existed back then.

At the end of my journey I parked and went into the shop, sitting in the back room to start work. When I looked out (when the boss arrived twenty minutes later) there was a blue light flashing. In that twenty minutes there had been an accident on the ring road and an ambulance had been called. I’m not sure what happened, but it just shows how things can change in an instant and somebody’s life can change.

And on that philosophical note, I will call it a day, add some photos and go to bed.

If you search for “pig” in my media files most of the pictures feature pigeons. This probably reveals many things says more about the way I title my pictures. Pig? Yes, pig. I was going to follow up the puffin photos with pig photos and maintain a level of cuteness. However, without sifting through thousands of shots I am unlikely to find more pigs, hence the final picture.


Coming Home to Roost

Earlier in the week I knocked over a box of medallions, and was most displeased. IT was clearly my fault as it was me who knocked them over, but I couldn’t help thinking at the time that if I’d been allowed to organise the storage space things would be a lot better. When you have run the chaos that relates to spare parts on farms, you tend to develop a skill for stacking and storing.

I had to pick up around 20 medallions, and as I did so, I put them in order and made a safer space for them. Today we sold one and I found it easily. However, I then noticed it should have a certificate with it. There wasn’t one. I checked and double-checked, then checked the rest of the box and another box that held similar medallions. Eventually, having exhausted all possibilities, I checked the floor again. It seems that I had been too hasty in my previous clearance, as several more medallions and certificates appeared, having dropped into a storage box on the floor and lodged in gaps between the stored items.

Two Puffins

Again, nobody’s fault but mine, as I should have checked more thoroughly. Definitely a case of “more haste, less speed”, though, as before, I couldn’t help thinking it would be nice if we had things organised so that we didn’t have to work in the middle of a pile of boxes.

When I get a minute I will sort it all out. At the same time I will discover perpetual motion, cure covid, and organise world peace.

And as my pigs fly off into the sunset, I will reflect on the impossibility of ever becoming organised and turn

my mind to things which are more possible, like submitting eight sets of poetry in the next five days and losing weight . . .

I thought of using chickens in photos to match with coming home to roost, but I ended up with puffins.

Puffin at Bempton

It all went surprisingly well . . .

We managed to change over without too much of a problem. I added the new password and that was it for the computer. We had slightly more trouble with the TV as the password is long and complicated and so id the process for entering it, with lots of keystrokes needed. It all goes to show how different I am from the average hacker. They can open up your secrets despite layers of security, I can just about change a password in three attempts,, as long as I have my reading glasses and reasonable light.

So that is why I am writing not one post, not two posts, but three posts today.

Unfortunately it’s the only work I have done today, but as I have also been for a blood test (which didn’t happen, for a number of reasons), to fill the car and to visit the doctor my day has not been entirely wasted. I was also able to sit and watch TV in a nice warm room with Julia. We had bacon sandwiches after the engineer left, the had cheese and biscuits and the last of the Christmas cake for a late lunch before ending the day with vegetable stew.

It wasn’t a bad day and gives me another chance to quote the Omar Khayyam and the verse I used in a comment earlier in the week.

Here with a Loaf of Bread beneath the Bough,
A Flask of Wine, a Book of Verse — and Thou
     Beside me singing in the Wilderness —
And Wilderness is Paradise enow.

Meanwhile, the receptionist at the doctor’s was having a bad morning and clearly wondering about where the glamour had gone. No “angels” for her (only nurses qualify as angels) and no romance with a dashing doctor as is so often found in novels of the Mills & Boon persuasion.

All she got was a 68-year-old who was struggling to coordinate his ancient mobile  phone with the NHS app. (No, not me – I’m not 68 – though the rest is accurate) and a woman needing a sputum pot and bottle for a urine sample.

I’m afraid I didn’t really raise the tone much.

“I have a urine sample to hand in.” I said.

“Does it have your name on it?” she asked.

For a moment I thought of seaside rock with the name written all the way through it, and permitted myself a moment of frivolity.

“Yes.” I said, coming back to reality, because I’d used the paper label stuck to the pot.

I wonder if she will ever know that this moment has been enshrined in prose by a well-known local poet and blogger. If the mood takes me, I may even write a poem about it. However, my next challenge is selecting suitable photographs for this post . . .


Winter Aconites

An Hour Later

It all seems to have gone OK. We have three green lights on the box which is now attached to the wall and a green light on the new router. So far I haven’t gone as far as to disconnect the old router, so this is still brought to you by old-fashioned technology and copper wires. IF you are confused, you may need this to catch up.

We now also have a black wire trailing down the front of the house at a slight but irritating angle. There are technical reasons for this. Light, it seems, is not good at going round corners  (one way in which the new system is already inferior to the old one). The old one, where electricity WAS able to travel round corners in copper wires, could be tucked discreetly out of sight and fixed to the black beams of our mock-Tudor semi. The new one, where the cable has to avoid corners, has to run directly across a white portion of the frontage.

To be fair the annoying deviation from perpendicular is not due to technology. That is due to the engineer being unable to run a cable in a straight line.

Hobbit Stamp

In a moment I am going to try to link to the new router. IF you don’t hear from me for several days don’t worry, it will just be the mismatch of 21st Century tech and 1950s brains.

It seems that the change to fibre optics is driven by government rather than the phone companies. They want to get everyone connected, even people in the countryside, and they need a fibre optic system to do this. Clearly they have plans to roll out cyber doctors, work and tax collection by fibre optic, which will save a lot of money. And once we are all vulnerable to hackers in everything we do, we will look back on the days of the Great Postal Stoppage with nostalgia.

Oh yes, a brave new world awaits

Talking of which, Royal mail is now delivering overseas mail. However, the catch is that they are just delivering parcels they already have in hand. You still can’t post new parcels, and our backlog is building . . .

Mallard stamp


Ten Minutes

I about ten minutes (see what I did with the title?) I will be losing my internet connection as an engineer arrives to “improve” the service I will receive from BT. I have pointed out that I am perfectly satisfied with the service, but consider the price to be ridiculous. Their answer is to put me on fibre broadband and charge me less. This seems illogical when all they needed to do was to reduce the price to reflect the fact they have done very little to improve the service in the last 20 years. All they have done in that time is to provide an expensive new router to restore the service to the levels it used to be. This is not, as they claim, about progress, it is about built in obsolescence.

First we had internet, then we had broadband and now we have fibre optic broadband. That is, of course, the advantage of living in town. In the country I believe many people still struggle with speed and reliability.

We will soon see if it is an improvement or a nightmare.

Meanwhile, let us all think of Dyson’s contribution to modern life. Dyson’s main invention is not, as many think, a slickly advertised, powerful and heavy vacuum cleaner, but the concept of filters which need to be replaced (as in purchased) on a regular basis. In the old days when one Hoover bag could last a lifetime manufacturers of vacuum cleaners had to rely on selling new equipment to make money, and as they used to build them to last they didn’t sell much.

That’s the way to riches in 21st Century – design something a little worse, which needs a little more maintenance.  Then you can use your money to buy up farmland and talk about responsible farming whilst creating tons of plastic waste. Simple.

I’m off now. Wish me well.

Pictures are durable old-fashioned technology.

From Pottery to Canal to London to Manchester. 19th Century technology which still works.

Things Can Only Get Better

797 views, 12 visitors. The mystery continues. I have not been able to work out why, and it probably isn’t worth the effort.

Royal Mail announced that it is now accepting international parcels again, which is good. However, on reading the actual text rather than the headline it turns out that if you live in Northern Ireland you can post International Mail to the Republic. That’s not a lot of use to most of us and as a news release is misleading and almost untrue.

I don’t know details of the ongoing computer problems but I suspect a lot of it is due to the vulnerability of outdated systems (as was the case when the National Health Service was hacked a few years ago).

The lesson I will take from all this is not the lack of investment in new kit, but the way they kept lying to us about the resumption of services, and the way that all through the pandemic and into the cyber attack, the way they keep charging full price for a shadow of a proper service.

Big news of the day was that Julia was off work ill. She was poorly all yesterday but I still had to force her to take a day off today. I’d be happy to see her have tomorrow off too but they have been pestering her on the phone all day and she says even if she was still ill (she claims to be cured) it’s a waste of time staying at home.

When we retire I am going to make her change her phone number. When we were on the farm she used to give out her phone number to Quercus clients. When she went to work for MENCAP the clients we had in common shared her number so now all the MENCAP service users have it, and even on holidays and Sundays we get calls from them.

She is nicer than me. I would either be rude to people or change my number.

The staff are nearly as bad. Her manager has been ringing up too, to bully her into going back to work tomorrow. They will be sitting in a heated leisure centre with running water and flush toilets. Julia will be out in a garden with one lousy heater in a portacabin, water they take down in containers and chemical toilets. They have no electricity in the gardens, so no lighting either at this time of year. It’s not the sort of place you want to be when you are ill.

Snowdrops in the MENCAP garden

Two Mysteries

The first is, how can I sleep so long? And how can I fall asleep in the middle of a TV programme I am interested in? I’m not sure about this, but after discussing it for more than 200 words I have come to the conclusion that it’s a mystery but it’s not very interesting, so I have edited heavily, using the “Delete” function. Old age and bad habits are probably at the root of things, so I will leave it at that.

The second mystery is my stats.Three days ago I had 41 views, 23 visitors, 15 likes and 12 comments. It’s about average. Obviously I would like to be more popular, but that might involve being nicer, or more interesting, and that’s not really my natural area.

Two days ago I managed 1,016 views, 24 visitors, 9 likes and 8 comments. That’s about average, apart from the views.

Things were moving back to normal by yesterday, with just 732 views (yes, “Just” 732 views – how soon I got used to fame and stratospheric numbers!) The blog had normal figures, with 15 visitors, 4 likes and 8 comments.

Then today, at 10.00, I have 317 views with 10 visitors, 2 likes and 9 comments.

I have a view on the Visitors, Likes and Comments figures – they are quite good for a blog that details the daily meanderings of a dull middle-aged man through modern life. Originally I had hoped for fame and fortune through blogging, but once it became clear that people want to read about food, handbags and the vacuous musings of “influencers” I resigned myself to a life of quiet mediocrity.

So there we have it. Not the greatest mystery in the world, but a mystery all the same.

For the erst of the day I will be occupying myself with medallions, poetry and snoozing in front of the TV. It’s not an exciting life, but it’s a niche that needs filling.

The picture is a clue to my puzzle-solving strategy.




A Perplexing Number. And Bran Flakes.

It seems that I have had 640 visits today, and it’s only just after 5pm. I knew something was up when I found I had two of those messages about “Your stats are booming”. I have never had two together before. One was for 62 hourly views and the other was for 152. My average rate is one per hour.

I’ve still only had a handful of comments so I suspect something is at fault. I’ve either used a keyword which means something completely different to my intention (leading to crowds of people looking and being disappointed) or a switch jammed open on WP.

I’m currently showing 821 visitors, which means I’ve had 181 in the last ten minutes. Visitor numbers? Twelve. With three likes and three comments. I suppose someone could be reading 100s of posts after running out of books and laundry labels whilst incarcerated in a wordless jail. But it seems unlikely.

For now, I’m going to mull that over as I watch TV. Then I may have a little nap and finish posting. By then I will probably find that everyone is having the same figure thrown at them and it is one of those WP foibles we so often see before a major (improvement.

Actually, I may as well crank the count up to 250 and post before leaving. I also have cereal to order before going to watch TV. I have negotiated with Julia and she has agreed we can have Bran Flakes next time, instead of the eternal wheat biscuits. They are all very well but they can be a bit slow to go down when you are late for work and Julia has applied her usually parsimonious portion of milk to the bowl. Yet when I apply tea to make it slide down more easily I am accused of un-natural practices. I won’d use that as a keyword as it’s bound to cause trouble if I do. . .

Of course, it might be the bear pictures bringing them in.

Cold Hands and Royal Mail – a Disappointing Day

Sorry, I have become erratic in my posting again.

However, it’s a case of swings and roundabouts and, in the matter of napping, I have become much more consistent. I suppose it all depends on whether I want to be known for my ability to write, or my ability to sleep through the boring bits on TV. The amazing thing is that I can sleep for a couple of hours in a chair, get up and start doing something. In a bed, which is supposedly designed for sleep, I can still only sleep for a couple of hours at a time, and wake up feeling like I’ve been tied in a knot.

It is, I suppose, part of the process of growing old, and I am now starting to realise the significance of my father’s words on the subject as he grew older.

I worked today, despite it being Wednesday, as the owner was due back from holiday and we wanted to ensure a seamless transition. I can have time off, or the money. If I have the time off I will end up sitting in a cold house waiting for Julia to come home, so I may as well go to work.

As I cleared the frost from the car this morning, my hands became so cold that I couldn’t get the seat belt on when I got in the car. That’s the trouble with being in a country that doesn’t have enough winter to prepare for it properly.

We have had another parcel go missing, this time a significant one. The Track and Trace system can’t tell us anymore than the fact that it’s in the hands of the Royal Mail, which is pretty useless. To be honest, the Royal Mail has been poor for a significant time now, due to the strikes. Julia posted a parcel to Canada in early November and it didn’t leave the UK until after Christmas. Since the attempted ransomware attack last week, nothing has left the country and we haven’t been able to send new parcels. We have only had two overseas parcels to post recently, so it isn’t a big deal for us. It seems they will be starting limited overseas deliveries tomorrow, but they will be very limited – letters not requiring customs stickers. That’s no use to us.

Straw Bale Bowie Bear