Monthly Archives: July 2023

Monday Musings

I injected myself last night . It was a few days behind schedule because it’s easy to forget to stab yourself with a needle. It ranks below dieting and exercise as a way I’d like to spend my time. I’d rather eat salad.

It was mildly uncomfortable, but this morning I noticed that it had bled overnight. Not much, just enough to make Julia recoil in horror at my blood-flecked night attire. That’s what happens when you have injections to take and pills that stop your blood coagulating. As I’ve said before, several of the pills I take are to stop the other pills doing me any harm. It’s not a sustainable way of going on, and I promise you I never set out to do this to myself.

Add that to the fact my right leg, after being held at a moderately uncomfortable angle last night, felt like the knee had been stuffed with gravel, and it wasn’t a great morning.

Then we had emails . . .

Stamps, stamps, stamps…

An Australian wants us to send him a parcel (value about £140) listed as a present with no value on the customs form. He also wants us to send it without insurance or the need for a signature so he can keep his costs down. I sympathise, but on the other hand, there are so many things that could go wrong with that arrangement that we really can’t do it.

Another Australian gave us a lecture on parcelling up his order and keeping costs down. It’s always tempting to write and thank them, point out that we have a feedback of over 10,000 (done the hard way) so it’s possible we know about packaging, and ask if they have any helpful tips on sucking eggs as my grandmother is finding it tricky.

But I don’t. I have the good name of the shop to consider.

Yes, I know you are wondering what could be hard about sitting in a shop sending parcels. The easy way to get to 10,000 feedback is to sell mass-produced items from a wholesaler, which fit neatly into a padded envelope. Compared to laboriously listing individual items with a variety of packaging needs, that is the easy way. I packed eight parcels this morning, using four different sizes of envelope, three different postage methods and six different postage rates. It’s not as hard as some jobs I’ve done and I’ve never fallen off a ladder or given myself an electric shock whilst doing it (unlike my previous lives in farming and gardening) but it has its moments.

Magical Worlds Stamps

Missed a day – Ooops!

I missed a day. Sorry about that. It would be nice to report that after leaving work on Saturday I became embroiled in writing and wasn’t able to find time to produce a blog post, but in fact I spent most of the time sleeping. I actually went to bed in the afternoon for about 4 hours. It was, I think, nature’s way of telling me to sleep more and get back to a sensible routine.

At the back of my mind I have an idea that I should be able to produce good work in the early hours of the morning when everything is quiet and there is nobody to disturb me. This was true at one time, but these days I tend to find that I don’t do anything worthwhile after midnight. All that happens is that after an hour or two of doing nothing useful I go to be, sleep badly and next day, find myself nodding off in the afternoon or evening.

At the moment I have three submissions to edit before sending them off, and two others to finish writing. I suppose that I can at least take pleasure from the fact that I have three ready. This is three more than I manged in either February or May, so it’s not all bad, even if it short of target. With two days to go I can still do a bit better, so I’ll get this finished and get to work.

Of course, as soon as I say that, the ideas stop. Julia just called me to remind me that we are going out tonight. We are going to a carvery. I had forgotten ll about it. If I’d remembered I would have cooked a smaller brunch.

Random photos, sorry, I have no inspiration. Two views of the red boat at Dunwich. One from last week, one from several years ago.

Red boat at Dunwich

Drawing a Line

I just spent an hour writing a blog post. Just over 400 words detailing the irritation caused by two imperfect customers. It was entertaining, because I wrote at least 800 words and crafted it carefully, but it contained several elements that I’m not keen on in blogging. In my early days I used to write blogs I wasn’t always happy with, but now I try to avoid it.

It is not really fair to detail the shortcomings of others in a public forum, even if you do keep them anonymous. They probably don’t even realise how obnoxious they are.


Additionally, editors often say that poetry isn’t therapy. Blogging is relaxing for me, but it too, isn’t therapy and is no place to write about all my frustrations.

Finally, in writing memoirs, writers are cautioned about using them to get our own back on people from the past. It’s also true when writing about things like this. Revenge has no place in a blog.

I may vent my frustration when it comes to technology and poor service, but there is a line I try not to cross. I’m not sure where that line is, but when I cross it I seem to know. Do you have any lines like this? Or are you all nice people with no anger issues?

Only a half day tomorrow – the others are away at their bi-monthly banknote meeting. It really is a nuisance getting up and making sandwiches just for a half day. Additionally, finishing at 1.00 doesn’t give you much time to do anything in the afternoon. At least the owner hasn’t suggested that I should take it off as a half-day holiday as he once did. I used to open the shop on my own but we don’t do that anymore. If I were a cynic, I would say that it’s because he doesn’t want to come back at the end of the afternoon and help me close up.

But I’m not a cynic, so I won’t.

Tomorrow’s talk is on the banknotes issued by the provincial banks of Leicester and Rutland. It’s quite an interesting subject. They were issued in 17th, 18th and 19th centuries by private banking companies (the last provincial banknotes being issued by Fox, Fowler & Co of Wellington, Somerset, who lost the right to issue their own notes under the terms of the Bank Charter Act of `1844, when they were taken over by Lloyds Bank in 1921). To be honest, it’s always been a subject that has fascinated me since I learned about it in History at school, but never quite enough to persuade me to collect them.

So much to collect, so little time . . .

Grumbles and Guest Photos

Red Boat at Southwold

The end of the month draws nearer. I have two submissions ready to go, though I actually had six planned. One of those passed on 25th, leaving just five. I really need to get a move on. It’s not this month I need to worry about, it’s the six for the months after that, and the six for the month after that . . .

It’s hard to believe that at one time I was sending my submissions off at the start of the month rather than letting it drag on until the end. The advantage I find with submitting for the end of the month is that you hear from the editors sooner.

In the shop we had no customers calling to buy and nobody coming to sell. Just three aging men muttering to each other and, in my case, answering vexatious telephone calls. It was a vintage day for phone calls. From callers on bad lines to callers who seemed determined not to give me any information (despite ringing me to ask bout their coins), to customers who has seen their 25p coin on eBay for £14,000, we had them all.

Southwold – Gun Hill

Finally, released from work and free to use the keyboard, I wrote most of my daily blog, went for tea, watched TV and fell asleep just before midnight. That is why I will be writing the minimum number of words and going to bed.

One thing we noted today was that things we put on new (such as a run of medallions) not only stimulate sales (we sold two of the new medallions within an hour) , but seem to have an effect on the sale of similar, older items. Three of todays sales were medallions that had been on sale for six months or more. There must be a PhD thesis in there somewhere.

The pictures today are all guest pictures from Julia, who took them during our recent trip to Norfolk, including an artistic bicycle shot, the red boat from Dunwich and the cannon from Southwold – site of the Battle of Sole Bay.

Southwold – Parked Bicycle and Atmospheric Clouds


The Day in Retrospect (and Soup)

After lunch arrived the activity of the day became a little slower. In fact, for one of us it slowed down to gentle breathing pace interspersed with cups of tea and suggestions from Julia that it might be a good idea to wake up.

So far I have done a bit of washing up and finalised three submissions for The Haibun Journal. It’s not what you’d think of if you had to define the term “workload”.

Currently I’m making soup as a change of pace from editing. I’m going to write this post whilst the soup simmers. One pot is Tomato, Lentil and Chilli. The other is Curried Yellow Pea soup.  Yes, it’s welcome to “What Does Simon have in his Cupboard Tonight?”. I’m hoping they will see me through three lunches and at least one main meal. To be accurate, that’s my second hope. My first hope is that the yellow split pea soup works. I’ve not made it before and the peas take a while to cook. I’m hazy on recipes (just adapting my normal process of boiling and blitzing without bothering too much about the rest of it. My concern at the moment, apart from proportions and cooking time is that the recipe I’m using as a guide refers to “vibrant, spicy, yellow soup”. Mine is red. That’s because I used curry powder instead of spices. Hopefully, by the time I’ve blitzed it and added turmeric and lemon juice it might be yellow, though as long as it tastes OK I’m not overly concerned.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Carrot & Ginger Soup

The plan is to use soup as a replacement for sandwiches at lunchtime as sandwiches tend to involve bread, cheese, and pickle. Or carbs, fat and salt as they are better known.


The Great British Sewing Bee has ended for another year. I won’t spoil the ending for you but the winner was the one we suspected it would be. You can generally tell these things weeks before. It’s not generally the standard of sewing but the favouritism of the judges that gives it away. Fortunately the judges’ favourite also produced the best dress of teh final so it was all OK this year.

The soup has turned out alright. It’s a bit under-seasoned as a result of my decision not to use stock cubes but no problems apart from that. Even the Yellow Split Pea Soup came through with a recognisable yellow colour. The lentils have thickened the tomato a little too much but nothing a splash of water won’t fix. Yellow split peas are £1 a kilo, which should do eight or ten portions of soup. It tastes nice and it delights my sense of economy.

Carrot, Parsnip and Swede Soup


A new word, a new world

The day has started well. I woke at seven, realised I didn’t need to get up, re-woke at 8.30. Wandered downstairs switched on the computer and deleted 121 old emails. Renewed a society membership, ordered a nice addition to my collection of Sweetheart brooches and reviewed my list of jobs for today. Despite doing three things I have not yet done one of the things on my list. Typical.

I have just tackled the rising mound of paperwork on my desk, most of which is either waste paper or paper for recycling. None of it was the bit of paper I was hoping for, which is the penalty you pay for filing everything in one large pile and turning it over periodically.

Next, I started with National Savings and Investments. It’s a government organisation which handles savings and investments. Are you with me so far? It does nor, it seems, answer questions. When I ask it “How do I register online?” it tells me that it is new to the job and asks that I rephrase the question. It is either a robot, a misnamed artificial intelligence system or an idiot. The best suggestion it could come up with when I said “Yes please, I would like to talk to a person.” was that I should contact one of the team on Facebook or Twitter. Because nothing says “security” like discussing financial questions on a social media platform.


The part of my brain which keeps my language to a level suitable for use on a public blog is bulging and threatening to break, unleashing a tirade of foul-mouthed abuse and outdated vocabulary from a different era. Of the two, the world seems to take the latter much more seriously. Call someone a word that requires asterisks in polite company and nobody bothers, because that sort of language is all over TV. Call someone a moron and if the wrong person sees it you will be categorised as being on a lower level than a child molester or a Nazi.

At least I learned a new word today – cisheteropatriarchy. It means the dominance of cisgender heterosexual men. Cisgender, in case you haven’t been keeping up with modern doublespeak, is people that are the same gender as the one they were born with.

And with that, I will leave the blog. To stay longer would be to risk saying something with its roots in the mid-twentieth century.

It’s time to go anyway. Julia has just rung for a lift. It took three attempts to connect to her call because there is so much choice on this new phone. In the old days you only had one button and you only needed one try.

Change is easy, as people often say, but Improvement is hard.

Sexist stereotyping

I used the old postcard pictures I used to use for “humour” and changed them to depict modern concerns. Not sure if that makes me a sexist, misogynist, a hypocrite or a dinosaur.

A Day the Same as Many Others

Today I thought I’d write a list of everything that happened today, to prove that a day could take 5,000 words to describe and that what we discuss in our blogs is a very small part of what happens to any of us in our daily lives.

I got up, had overnight oats with two sorts of fruit (discuss overnight oats, lazy cooking and the concept of bananas for breakfast). Watched Tv whilst eating breakfast, can’t remember what was one, had toast, despite vowing to cut calories and carbs, put shoes on (which was quite easy today despite my knees being resistant to bending) and left the house. Noted evidence of overnight rain in garden, reflected on the large bill for roofing and new guttering, reflected on the poor state of the house – a direct consequence of me buying  a house that had been bodged up by an amateur property developer and the surveyor I employed not doing a very good job.

Got into car. Employed sarcasm to Julia, who had filled the back of the car, and the field of view of my rear view mirror, with a lilac tree she wanted for the gardens. It is pot bound and it has stopped flowering. Then moved on to criticism when I started off and found it wasn’t properly secured. I spend half my life with soil in the car because of things like this and she never learns. However, it pays to overlook this sort of thing if you want to stay married. Pointed out how lucky she was to have an easy-going man like me as a husband. She seemed to find this amusing.

The Boredom of my Day

The roads were clear again as everyone seems to be away on holiday, though I did suffer from  snarled up junction at one time and selected an alternative route. Chatted bout her work. Discussed the reasons for “builders’ bum”. decided it was the poor cut of modern trousers. I avoid it by wearing long vests and suitable shirts. I am a paragon of considerate dressing when it comes to things like this. Someone we both know has a habit of showing far too much rear cleavage when bending.  A vest in this context is an American “undershirt”. Carried on to chat about some of Julia’s workmates. For reasons of manners, and the law of libel, I will treat this as confidential.

Used the ring road today, so discussed other drivers, several cyclists, electric cycles and their use as a chicane on the footpath so that blind people can’t get past. There is a general lack of consideration for others, abandoned electric bikes from out city trial is just one manifestation.

That’s 445 words, we hve just reached Julia’s work and I have spent 450 words on it so far, and not even really discussed any of the subjects, just noted them.

I think this proves a point I have been considering for  while now – blogging presents a biased picture of small slice of our lives. I have often called by life tedious before, but until you read the list of things i talk about did you realise quite how dull it really is? The air was so wet this morning that as I left Julia and drove by a sports field I could actually smell wet grass. My journey to work was fairly uneventful apart from a couple of lorries getting a bit close. At this point in the writing I realise I have failed to mention that we discussed traffic lights, the removal of road works and the driving of a man in a Ford Fiesta.

Sometimes I compose poetry in my head in this bit of the journey. This didn’t happen this morning, but it didn’t matter as I usually forget it anyway, or it never seems as good as I thought when I originally thought of the words.

There we go – 650 words of trivial drivel and I haven’t even got to work yet . . .

My Orange Parker Pen

Scattered Thoughts

During the course of the day I think of so much stuff that I could, if I made notes, probably write 5,000 words on my day and my thoughts. Obviously I won’t, as I’m disorganised and lazy.

As a result of yesterday’s planning I am gathering material for submissions. My normal practice over the last few months has been to get to the end of the month then decide only to submit a selection. Now I’m planning and have numbers to think about, I am looking at sending stuff to all the possible outlets and have even started writing haiku again. I’m a poor writer of haiku but I ned to improve as they are an important part of writing Haibun. I had stopped writing so many Haibun and transferred to writing tank prose because the tanka is much easier to write. Now, again as a reaction to the numbers, I find myself needing to improve my haiku to improve my Haibun.

I may have talked about my looming retirement a bit too much lately. I may also have touched on the idea that one of my new projects is making sure I live long enough to reach retirement. I note today that two well known personalities, George Alagiah (well known British news reader) and Trevor Francis (famous footballer) have both died. Alagiah was 67 and Francis was 69. They both seem to have been decent blokes over the years and it’s a shame to lose them.  It’s also a bit too close to my age for me to feel comfortable. I am about the age my Mum was when we had to stop her reading out the ages of people in the newspaper obituaries.

There is an article on the internet about writing. The title is “Surprising hobby could help older people stave off dementia – new study findings”. It suggests that writing letters, keeping a diary or using a computer could help reduce your chance of Alzheimer’s by 11%. Another story says “literary activities”. This is good news for anyone on WordPress.

However, why is it surprising?

Apart from the Alzheimer’s benefits I’m sure that regular writing keeps my mood up. I also know that blogging, and the people I “talked” to during lockdown, helped keep me stable in an uncertain time.

It’s no surprise to me tat writing is good for you. What do you think?

Orange Parker Pen

The Power of Planning 2

If you have come straight here, you my need to go back to what is Part 1. However, it isn’t listed as such because I didn’t know it was going to be  two-parter when I started. Or even when I finished, to be honest.

hat happened was that I drifted off at a tangent and didn’t realise I was going to want to revisit it.

So, the poetry plan. First we need a target that is Specific. We will go for the acceptance of 50 Japanese style poems and 25 “ordinary” ones. That’s four a month for the Japanese and two a month for the others.It’s not a huge target, as I’ve already had thirty one accepted in the last ten months.I’m thinking that I will end the 12 months on about 40. Fifty is not a big jump from there. The twenty five is a bigger jump, as I haven’t submitted any fr a couple of years, but at two a month I should be able to do that. To be more specific I am going to go for 20 Haibun/Tanka Prose, 20 Tanka and ten haiku. I’m not very good at haiku so that is probably the biggest challenge.

That’s specific done. Measurable is easy enough – acceptances of poetry submitted  in the months of August 2023 to July 2024. It can be a bit tricky measuring poetry as the lead time after acceptance can make counting tricky, which is why I’m counting acceptances.

I’ve already covered Achievable in the Specific category – none of the figures I’ve quoted are outrageous and I’m sure the Japanese figure is going to be realistic as I hardly submit any haiku at the moment. The other figure, the twenty five is a bit more speculative, but not unrealistic. I have lost count but I think when I was submitting free verse a few years ago I had bout ten accepted by decent journals.

My Orange Parker Pen

Realistic already seems to have been fully covered from the writing point of view. From the publishing point of view, there should be enough openings to get this number of poems published. There are some magazines where i do badly, as in always get knocked back, but there are enough to take fifty and I will just have to up my game and try harder to crack the others. That’s the thing with targets – with targets I try different magazines, without them I tend to withdraw to my comfort zone.

Time? Twelve months. I assumed that from the beginning.

I will now need to set my diary out for 12 months, including all the likely magazines and submission windows. Then I will have to remember to keep a total and compare it to the plan. That’s it. Simple.

Now let’s see what happens.

Stone on the Floor






The Power of Planning

A few years ago I did a SMART plan for the junior rugby club. That’s Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic and Timely/Time Bound. There are slight differences in the way people construct the mnemonic, but it all works out the be the same. Timely and Time Bound are both awkward and I may just change that to Timed. Timely implies something more than just delivered on time; there is a suggestion of convenience or aptness about it which is not accurate in this case. Time Bound isn’t a construction I’ve seen in other places and I suspect someone made it up. It worked well.

However, that’s not really important. The article that I’ve linked to has a number of other words you can use.

I also did one for my Haibun writing, and that worked out well too. There is something about planning that makes things happen. Unfortunately I let the planning lapse – a few notes and some good intentions are not an effective plan.

This all comes from my looming retirement. I am going to have to plan this properly or face a time of chaos and disappointment. It then occurred to me that one of the reasons my poetry is struggling is that I don’t have a proper plan for that either.

The moving plan is, at present, just a piece of A4 scrap paper torn from top to bottom. It’s not elegant but it has space for months and notes and it has already given me greater clarity. Eventually it will include things like the date of delivery for new white goods and stuff like that. I’m not actually splashing out on new white goods, I’m being forced into it by the decrepit state of our current lot. The freezer and cooker are both limping along and I am keeping my fingers crossed that they last. The washer and drier both died years ago, hence my many blogs and poems about laundrettes.

The poetry plan is just a few sparks inside my head at the moment but by tonight it will have more form. Meanwhile, bear this in mind – it’s roughly 500 blog posts before I write the one titled “Our New Home”.

(Disclaimer: All this talk of planning should be prefixed by “If the good Lord’s willing and the creeks don’t rise” as it seems like tempting fate to step in, to make so many plans.) 

The pictures? I put “plan” into Search and didn’t get a lot of help. Plants and plant pots seemed to be the best of a bad lot.

Small Copper on castor oil plant