Monthly Archives: February 2023

Something I Forgot

I forgot to tell you the most interesting bit of the day on Sunday. I got home, tried to ring my sister to check she was home safely, and found that I had no phone service. No telephone, no texting and a big notice telling me there was no network service. This was still the same when we went to bed, and still the same when we got up next day. Julia had the day off, so while I dressed and made breakfast she checked in with my phone provider. No help. They reported no faults and suggested she contacted the airtime provider. They, in turn, suggested turning it off nd turning it back on.

It’s like something out of a joke isn’t it?

But it worked.

21st century technology which includes, if you bother to use it (guess who doesn’t?), enough technology to fly you to the moon. And it responds to the old switch off/switch on method, which is little better than the way we used to slap the side of the Tv to correct faults.

I now have four and a half hours to submit four sets of poetry. I think tomorrow’s blog may be a selection of excuses. Sometimes you jut have to rest and regroup. I’m going to be washing up and cooking for the next hour or so, which leaves three and a half hours. I may as well skip the poetry and just start writing the excuses.

Talking of which, I can smell burning, so I’d better go and prod the potatoes.

The picture is Trinity Bridge in Crowland. It cropped up in conversation recently.

Trinity Bridge – Crowland, Lincolnshire

A (Mostly) Relaxing trip

I’m getting too old for sitting in a car for hours. It’s not as if it’s even  long journey but by the time we got home on Sunday night I felt like my back had changed shape permanently. It still does. I’m going to have to start doing some stretching exercises.

Apart from that, I didn’t do much. I was just there to drive Julia who was intent on doing family stuff like visiting and being pleasant. I quite like my family (I’m not a monster, after all) but I don’t require them to be in touching distance.

If you ever find yourself in Norwich on a Sunday morning I can recommend the Rushcutter’s Arms. The portions aren’t huge and their “sourdough” toast is disappointing for a number of reasons (mainly lack of size and lack of actual sourdough), but it’s good food, served professionally and the portion sizes are probably OK for most people.

Apart from that, not much happened. We had tea and sandwiches at Waitrose in Swaffham. They cost slightly less than an arm and a leg (but not much) watched rugby on Saturday, ate Number One Sons Jambalaya, watched “Military Wives” on TV in the hotel (script could have been better and Kristin Scott Thomas had to do much of the heavy lifting for the rest of the cast) and spent a night on a hard bed. I like my own familiar bed. On Sunday we had porridge made in pots we had bought from the supermarket, loafed around for a couple of hours, had brunch (as mentioned), went to a crowded Country Park (everyone wanted to get outside for the first nice day of spring) and pottered home.

Not bad, apart from my back, and a useful reminder about doing more exercise.

A Bad Start . . .

Today started badly when I woke up at 4.30 am in my chair. Normally Julia wakes, realises I am not in bed and wakes me up. Today she slept. It could have been worse, at least I was generally fit and well, and the fire was on so I was warm. I was, in fact, warmer than I had been for much of the evening.

Later, after almost three hours in bed we had a milkless breakfast, due to our inability to  buy milk on the way back from work, we walked out to find the remains of a McDonalds spread across the road. We have had problems with this before. A few months ago we had a run of littering that followed the same pattern. It’s always at the same point in the road, give or take a few yards and it always involves paper bags, lettuce and pots of sauce. It also involves all our other neighbours ignoring the mess, even though it is actually in front of their house, not ours. Experience shows that if we don’t move it, it will spread all over the road as cars drive over it, so it’s easier just to clear it.

Could things get worse? Surprisingly, they didn’t seem to. My car went into the garage today and, for instance, only needed one new tyre rather than the expected two. And while they were doing that they checked the others and found a  nail in one, so they repaired the hole. As we will be driving several hundred miles tomorrow, this is a good thing to find. All in all, I am chalking this up as a day that ended well, despite n unpromising start.

The pictures – just random, I’m afraid.

Sciatica, Sensitivity and Strange Collapses

I have just spent the last few weeks shaking off sciatica. I have been lucky as it was only really bad for a few of days and I was able to work out the likely cause and a possible solution. So far, the solution (padding on my typing chairs) seems to be working. I’m also walking round instead of sitting all the time and limiting my typing time in the evening. It’s not 100% gone but it’s gone for 95% of the time and the severity is much reduced.

As that declined, I found myself becoming more agitated about Roald Dahl and the Sensitivity Readers. The more I read about it, the more I realise it’s about money and pushing an agenda rather than real sensitivity, and when I see that Matilda’s favourite authors have been changed from Conrad, Hemingway and Kipling to Austen, Hemingway and Steinbeck I find myself completely lost.

I don’t understand why Hemingway is seen as more sensitive than Conrad and Kipling. And I don’t understand why Austen and Steinbeck are considered adequate substitutes. Dahl presumably wanted to portray Matilda as a girl who enjoyed reading the sea stories of Conrad, a Polish emigre who had been persecuted by Russian invaders and taught himself to write classic works in English. The revision sees he as a girl who enjoys reading the mannered stories of jane Austen –  undoubtedly a writer of great stature, but not at all the same. As for Steinbeck, I don’t know what to say. It just seems a random selection, probably from an American reader, as he doesn’t feature heavily in UK reading lists.

And then we have the drive . . .

Our drive adjoins the drive of the people next door. The previous people damaged the edge of ours when they had their new one laid and the present people tend to catch ours as they swing into theirs. It’s one of those things that is no big deal, but just a minor irritant of suburban living.

Yesterday morning we stepped out to go to work and found that the cast iron drain cover in the drive has collapsed. It’s been cracked for years, but I never drive over it, so I’ve never done anything about it.  I think that the neighbours have driven over it as they swung in and it has collapsed. However, it may have simply collapsed under it’s own weight, or the footsteps of a passing fox may have been the last straw. We will never know. All I do know is that they rushed past us last night without stopping as they took the dog for a walk, which is suspicious behaviour. . .

I’m currently waiting for quotes, which are, no doubt, going to look more like ransom demands than the bill for a simple repair job.

A Change of Pace

I tried to catch up with my blog reading today, but didn’t quite manage. A couple more hours tomorrow will just about get me there.

Then I have up to five submissions to make in the next 8 days (it’s a short month) and I will be up to date. I say “up to” as I could do five but may not have time to write five good sets of submissions. Better to write three good sets than five poor ones.

Seems so simple when you write it like that, doesn’t it? Such a small manageable number, but one that seems huge when you sit here with nothing on paper and nothing in the tank.  This is where habit and discipline take over. This is where the traits like talent and inspiration start to show the strain and the excuse of writer’s block comes in. I don’t need talent or inspiration, just habit and discipline, and I’m not blocked, just disorganised. I should have been writing since Tuesday, after finishing the medallion talk but I seem to have watched TV and read instead. We all need a change of pace, but sometimes you need to force things on a bit, and I’m not very good with that.

That is, in the end, something that separates the top performers from the second division of writers. It’s also a good excuse. I can tell myself that I wasn’t quite dedicated enough to make that final push for the top and don’t need to admit I don’t write well enough to rise to the top of the pile.

With that thought, I will close down for the night, recharge my batteries and start the writing tomorrow. I’ve just remembered we are busy next weekend, so it’s going to be five submissions in four days. As I said, planning is important.



Philosophy or Just a Dull Post?

Back to normal stuff for now.

The poetry results for January are in. I submitted four selections to magazines and three to competitions. The competition entries will take ages yet and will probably disappear without trace. However, I just had my fourth acceptance out of the four sent to magazines  for January. That hides a number of things, including that today’s acceptance is one haiku selected from ten, and I seriously believe that even then  the editor just takes one to encourage me rather than because they are any good.

The unvarnished figures are 25 submitted – four accepted. It’s not quite the same as four out of four when you look at it like that.

Looking on the bright side, I have 21 poems which are now available to go out again.  It seems a shame to waste the effort, particularly as experience shows that a number of the rejects aren’t that far off being acceptable. You sometimes have to accept that there is only so much space in a magazine and you can’t have more than your fair share. Sometimes I’ve had two or three accepted by an editor, which is good. But when it happens I always feel that I have taken a slot someone else might have been happy to have.

Canal Wall – Stoke on Trent

When I see magazines that have published four or five pieces from one writer, as sometimes happens, I actually feel resentful at times. Even if they are five good pieces I often wonder if the space could have been used better. If a poet is good, they don’t need the validation of multiple acceptances, but there might be someone who is struggling and would love to get just one piece published. That one piece might make the difference between continuing or giving up.

This is similar to the two different approaches to junior sports. Are you there to spread healthy exercise, teamwork and an appreciation of effort? Or are you there to pick out the naturally talented kids and push them on to greater things (including greater reflected glory for the coaches?). I’ve seen both. I’ve seen coaches who have managed to combine both approaches. I’ve also seen rabid parents and over-ambitious coaches who have spoiled sport for both their kids and the children of others.

Stack of books burning

I’ve just been reading some words from an editor, who says that they feel they are there to reflect the breadth of writing from their readership, rather than to select writing that conforms to the narrow vision of the editor. Not every editor takes that view, and I feel that can be a problem at times. I’m not telling editors what to do, as they all give a lot of time up to do the job, but I do wonder which approach serves the writing community better.

Medallic Meanderings – The Automobile Association (2000)

There’s no point letting the work I did on the medallion talk go to waste, so here is some of it reused as a blog post. Not every one will lend itself to use as a blog post, unless the post is on the subject of curing insomnia, but some will stand on their own.

The medal is, as collectors like to know, issued by the Automobile Association, 45mm in diameter and made from a metal that isn’t easy to identify. It’s copper in colour but likely to be a cheap alloy rather than pure copper. An alloy, because it needs to resist scratching and similar things and cheap because that is the modern way. To be fair, in a world where accountants govern our lives, we are lucky that anyone still bothers to make medals. On the other hand, when you look at what they charged me for membership over the years, they could afford it.

AA Medallion 1905-2000

The reverse is plain with as tablet in the middle and the number 1,400 stamped on it. We originally had several others in the shop, with a  mix of numbers. I selected this one because I like numbers with noughts on the end.

The obverse bears the dates 1905 – 2000 above an old-fashioned AA telephone box. The box itself is over the new AA logo (the old one can be seen on the front of the box (it used to look a bit like an owl to me), I have no photo, but this link shows several varieties.

The figures represent an AA patrolman of the 1920s  on the left and a modern one on the right.

In 2000 the AA demutualised and became just another public company, which is why the medallion celebrates 95 years instead of a centenary, as would be usual. During that time the number of cars on the road rose from approximately 1,000 to 27,200,000. In 2020 we had  32,7000,000. That’s a lot more cars, needing a lot more roads. Originally you used to buy petrol from the pharmacy, but as more cars appeared more people started to sell it. In 1919 the AA opened the first filling station in the UK. I didn’t know that until I looked it up to chek some fats before writing this post. This just goes to show the educational benefits of collecting medallions.



Our Speaker for Tonight . . .

It is done. It could have been done better, but it could also have been a lot worse. Learning from last time, I spoke louder, looked directly at the various grumbling miscreants on the back row and projected an air of confidence.

Even half an hour before I started, this was not the impression you would have received if you had been watching me. I only finished fifteen minutes before I was due to leave home. It had gone OK, but I had decided that I needed a few extra slides to ensure I hit my target of 40-45 minutes. These always take more time than you think, even if you are doing simple slides (two photos and a title). That meant I didn’t start to download the presentation to memory stick until the time I had set aside for changing clothes. and combing my hair.

The first memory stick didn’t have enough room for the presentation. The second was faulty, but, thank goodness, took the download. Because I use Open Office, I had to save as PowerPoint (using two formats as I wasn’t sure which one the screen used in the meeting room). It probably takes either, but there’s no point in taking chances. Fortunately I had established the need for PowerPoint  at a previous meeting – one of my few bits of forward planning. I just didn’t realise there were two formats until I started the download. That was how I came to leve home without any grooming . . .

Shuffling sheets of paper with your head down as you mumble lists of facts and figures is a very popular way of giving this sort of presentation. It shows commendable organisation and ensures that the audience gets all the information. However, you on’t be surprised to find that I don’t do it that way, I just switch the screen on and start talking. As I was later than I had intended that is what happened. Walk in, say hello, listen to the Secretary for a few minutes, be introduced and away . . .

Some Peace Medallions – 1919 – 1920

There are pitfalls to this approach, and wild hair, toast crumbs and a general air of dishevelment are only the start.

Fortunately I didn’t fall into many of them. Politics and royalty can be tricky subjects. My list of personal characteristics of Edward VIII (war hero, party animal, fell out with parents, altogether too fond of Nazis and American divorcees) linked past with present Prince Harry and even raised a modest laugh. It could, I confess, have gone either way.

I stumbled a little over the list of royal wedding presents in 1947. That Queensland sent 500 cases of tinned pineapple is well known, and 900 kg of boiled sweets sent by the Australian Junior Red Cross is easy enough to remember, but I had to consult a prompt card for 50,000 food parcels from the USA and 804 tonnes of food from the City of Toronto. Times were hard in 1947. Bread and potatoes were rationed after the war due to poor harvests (something we had avoided during the war, and medal design, as you can see from the pictures, was at a low ebb. (Yes, I have used those photos before).

Royal Wedding 1947 Obverse

Royal Wedding Medallion 1947 Reverse

I also forgot a couple of other things I meant to mention and  omitted to set my timer when I started, so I finished 5-10 minutes earlier than planned. However, it’s better to be ten minutes too short than ten minutes too long. In my view too many speakers ignore that simple fact.

That’s over 500 words. It’s enough.


Still Struggling

Much of writing a slideshow presentation involves the same difficulty as writing a poem, with the extra difficulty of facts and photos being thrown in.

I’ve successfully procrastinated for eight months now, and followed that up with evasion, displacement activity and sloth over the last few months. That moved on to struggling to write in the last couple of weeks as I just couldn’t get into it. That is quite like poetry, though the timescale is different. I did managed to produce some photos, facts and slides but I couldn’t get the narrative going and my internal editor has seen me start and restart the presentation a dozen times. In the end I decided to put my head down and start writing. Eventually, it came right.

I now have a suitable opening and quite a lot of other bits and pieces. I also have 24 hours and 13 minutes before I am supposed to turn up to the meeting (I decided to take Monday off work – I could do with a break and I need the time to finish.

The plan is to blast through the rest of the slides tonight and establish the order and narrative. I will check the timing and write a list of things that still need doing. I will finalise it tomorrow morning before I take and load any extra photographs I need, check facts and write the prompts. I don’t need prompts as such, because it’s all on screen or in my head, but there are always a few last minute facts to note. Mainly though, I do it as practice and memory training and, to be honest, in case the presentation doesn’t work and I have to revert to the old-fashioned method of talking at a crowd.

That, I think, is about it. I will load this post and get back to work.

Shakespeare Medallion by Paul Vincze

Is there anything you feel too old to do anymore?

I’m going to use the prompt this time. I feel too old to think of a new title for myself.

I’m also too old to train for a new career, or even look for a new job. Nobody needs a cripple with a bad attitude. Admittedly I could hide the attitude long enough to get through the interview but the fact I can’t walk without sticks is a bit of a giveaway  regarding my lack of mobility.

To be honest, I felt too old to train for a new career ten years ago. I did have a try at training to become a teaching assistant but after being told my Maths and English skills weren’t up to it compared to all the teenage girls they were signing up (and signing up to do basic literacy courses at the same time) I decided to give it a miss. I’ve mentioned that before so I won’t go on.

The bottom fell out of the TA market as schools had to tighten up on budgets so I probably didn’t miss much.

However, I’m not too old to have a laugh or eat takeaway food or drive my wife mad, so it’s not all bad being old. You can get away with a lot, and you’re never too old to have fun. I should probably add a link to a poem here. I think this one will do nicely, though it is not a surprising choice. Apologies for my lack of adventure. I would have chosen this one, but it would only serve to allow me to name drop.

Did I mention I once had a poem published in a magazine on the page facing one by Roger McGough? It is still one of the highpoints of my poetic career.

I just watched Crocodile Dundee after a break of over 30 years. It seems to have worn quite well and I enjoyed it. This proves more about my simplicity than the quality for the film, but it just goes to show, that you’re never too old to have a laugh.

Time for tea now. Pie and mash. As I said, I am a simple soul.