Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Comments on Rejection

I had a rejection email a couple of days ago, which was quite good as it had several notes with it. In general it gives me plenty of information about what the editor is thinking, though actual “improvements” are not quite so plentiful. I will act on the suggestions, as they took time and effort to produce, but like several other of my published pieces, I will also write the one i want to write and try again. Poems are, after all, only words and, as I have said before, I have plenty of words to write another one. It’s not like every poem published depletes the stock of words for the rest of us.

The three main points are that I should show, not tell. Last time I sent something to that magazine the comment was that I should have shown the house being built. There was, in the entire poem, no mention of a house being built, and in real life no house was built. The editor imagined it as a result of the poem. This is both good and bad, and after reading up I found that telling is sometimes necessary. It’s one of those things you find when you have contact with editors – inconsistency, grey areas and matters of opinion. Usually, I tell too much and gradually edit it out as I condense the poem. However, this can take months and I wrote the poem in question in three days. The problem wasn’t so much telling not showing – it was rushing things and  not editing properly. I’ll hold my hand up to that one.

Then there was the question of certain phrases and whether they were “poetic” or necessary. One of them was a metaphor that linked with other things in the poem, but that wasn’t noted. I’m obviously too subtle. Another was a phrase that most of you would have recognise a my speaking voice. I tend to write as I speak and I don’t always sound like Shelly or Frost. This irks me slightly a it’s like I’m being edited out of my own poems. It’s happened with others too, so this isn’t unusual.

Finally, the suggestions seem to have reduced the poem to a short paragraph with a tanka at each side. Whether this is by accident or not, I’m not clear. Over the years haibun have become shorter. I presume the same is true for tanka prose, though I admit I didn’t pay much attention to them until I started to write them. It seems to be a particularly American thing – a few lines of prose and a quick poem, usually with a tangential connection to the prose, referred to as “link and shift“. What they don’t tell you is that there are other ways of connecting the two elements.

I will stop there, lest I go on to explore other areas where editors may have blind spots dictated by fashion. I’m very close to 500 words now, which is a long post on a subject that is mainly of interest only to me.

My Orange Parker Pen

Nightmare Saturday

Things are not going well. I had a bad day on Thursday, aching in all my joints. Eventually I had to give in and give myself a good dose of painkillers before bed. Yes, including ibuprofen. It worked. I had a good night’s sleep, a complete run of five and a half hours without waking, and when I did wake I was pain free and felt years younger. Meanwhile my co-worker said he also felt undefinably ill that day. I put it down to something in the air. Then on Friday we found the boss, who had been doing paperwork and having a day off, on Thursday, had also felt ill on Thursday. On Friday he was still ill, and developed a harrowing dry cough, one of the classic covid symptoms. His wife made him take a lateral flow test on Thursday night and he was clear, but it was still a worry. I took a test on Friday night and was OK. The boss’s wife made him do a proper test (I forget the name) on Friday night and they sent it off.

As a result, with my co-worker away on Saturday and the boss being made to self-isolate by his mask-wearing wife, there was just me in today.

I had the door locked and did the eBay parcels. There were six of them, an advance on previous days. Then a customer arrived and I let him in. While he was in a family (grandparents and grandson) arrived. That took some time, but the lad is just starting out and needed some advice. I see advice for young collectors as an important thing so took my time over that.

By the time I had the shop to myself again more items had sold on eBay and several auctions had finished. I’d been told I could go at 1.00, but ended up going just after 3.00. It was still an early finish, but it’s surprising how  a day’s work can expand, particularly now that all the foreign parcels need customs labels – thanks to leaving the EU. It’s one of the hidden costs. We spend a couple of hours a week doing them, I suppose. Not a huge figure, but 2 hours a wee is 100 hours, which is two weeks. Somebody has to pay fro that two weeks. I don’t remember seeing that written on the side of a bus…

It was also hot and stuffy as we have no air-conditioning and can’t hav ethe doors open when there is just one of us in the shop.

Hopefully, all the covid stuff is just a groundless worry, but watch this space.

An Evening Out

Last night we went out, I was too tired to post when I returned and, this morning, sat down to write a post at work, which I emailed to myself. It was quick, but not elegant and I have spent so much time editing I may as well not have written it. On the other hand, as there was no work to do, what else was I going to do? I could have cleaned the toilet or blogged. Not a difficult choice.

I’m struggling with the idea of getting out and about after 15 months of various lockdowns and wasn’t entirely comfortable about going. Despite my misgivings, it went well. It’s not so much that I’m afraid of catching Covid, as I’m now fully vaccinated, but after spending all that time isolating I don’t want to see the world blow it because people can’t think things through. After all that time, and all the alterations we have made to our lifestyle, it would be a shame if we spoil it now. There is still, in my mind, very little difference between a foreign holiday and a super-spreader event.

The main difference between Harvester now and Harvester fifteen months ago is that I am not allowed in one on my own. I don’t have Track and Trace loaded on my phone and even if I did, I don’t have the thing on it that allows you to use those pixelated square things you see around the place. It seems that unless you are tech savvy or in the company of young people you are no longer required. This is OK by me as I am resigned to being on life’s scrapheap, but it seems a little rough that a whole generation is written off just like that. On the bright side, it will enable me to save money.

Bee on Welsh Poppy

Bee on Spanish Poppy

The steak was dry, the garnish was grudging (a few peas, half a tomato and two mushrooms the size of my thumb nail) and the massive portion of chips was a clear attempt to disguise the paucity of the rest of the plateful. The free salad had to be served by a member of staff and the choice was limited, as was the portion size. A shy person would have been seriously short-changed on the salad. They were happy to offer bread rolls, in fact they were happy to offer two bread rolls – see my previous comment on disguising small portions.

They also had no choice of bottled water – it was just still water in a large bottle – no sparkling or small bottles. There was no horseradish sauce. There were no condiments on the table so no pepper or vinegar for me. Like so many of the economy measures we see, it’s a cost-saving exercise dressed up as a health precaution. They had, however, salted my chips without asking me. I don’t add salt to my food. I haven’t added salt for around 30 years. It took a bit of getting used to, but I don’t need it and I don’t see why it should be added without my permission.

Apart from that, it was OK, though I’m not going to be tempted back by the quality of the dining experience.

The actual socialising was more relaxing than I had expected. It was nice to see people and it was good to get out and to find that I could relax in a social setting despite my misgivings about mixing. Even so, I’m not planning on more mixing for a while. That’s the thing about lockdown, I wasn’t very sociable before lockdown so I’m not suddenly going to become a people person just  because the government tells me I can go out.

A lot of people put themselves at risk so that I could stay happy and healthy in lockdown, including members of the NHS (though not dentists, who have not been doing much apart from counting their money), emergency services, dustmen, bus drivers, postmen and, of course, Julia. I was lucky enough to be able to just treat it as one long holiday.

All that will be in vain if we start to act stupidly now.

Similarly, we have had cleaner air recently. If we all jump on a flight to Portugal it won’t be long before we are back to normal.

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

Hoverfly on Spanish Poppy

I’m with David Attenborough on this one – “The truth is: the natural world is changing. And we are totally dependent on that world. It provides our food, water and air. It is the most precious thing we have and we need to defend it.”

Covid has changed my life, and my way of thinking. Even now it is nearly over, the changes continue. And briefly, for just one post, it has made me serious and philosophical. I will try to be more light-hearted next time.

We had 24 poppies out yesterday morning – all gone when we got home. They are Spanish Poppies according to Clare Pooley, and when you look them up on the internet it seems quite obvious. I’d never heard of them until today – another gap in my knowledge. Mine are singles, rather than the pom-pom flowers on the RHS website. Thank you Clare.

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Governments, statistics and unreliable narratives

I’m having to rush a bit because I just wrote 350 words which went nowhere. They were started by me seeing this on the internet whilst researching travel between the USA and UK – a train of thought sparked off by the sight of an elderly gent arriving in Cornwall this morning.

The U.S. State Department has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for the United Kingdom: Reconsider travel to the United Kingdom due to COVID-19 and exercise increased caution due to terrorism.

I didn’t realise that we had that much terrorism. It certainly doesn’t seem as common as it was when I was growing up. At one time they used to search us before we were allowed in a pub. This was strange as I was searched more going into pubs than I was when I used to go to Ireland on business.

It’s also strange when you think that the intentional homicide rate in the UK is 1.2 per 100,000, where it is 5 per 100,000 in the USA. It looks to me like we should be warning UK citizens not to travel to the USA, and that your government advice would be to prepare for a nice restful holiday in the UK.

It just goes to show that Governments and statistics are what they call “unreliable narrators” in the world of writing.

I’m going out for a meal now, in an attempt to get back to normal. It doesn’t feel quite right but I’m sure I’ll enjoy it once I get there. As long as I can elude those pesky terrorists…

I will try to post something more interesting later, but in the meantime, don’t believe all you read..

At a Loss for a Title . . .

It is our day off and nothing much is happening. The builders next door are not here today, the re-roofing of the house next to them is now complete and there are no other building sounds  around. This is unusual – all the houses round here are from the 1920s, they have mock-Tudor fronts (or in other words, render that crumbles and wood that rots) and small clay roof tiles which have  a tendency to crack in the frost.

We had a buzzard fly over earlier this morning, chased by crows, and there is a dunnock singing fitfully from the pear tree. All else is calm. At one time you never even saw a buzzard in the county. Then they started to expand their range. They reached the edge of town about twenty years ago, then ten years ago we started seeing them on the horizon as they soared over a golf course a couple of miles away. Recently I have seen them over the High School playing fields, which are only a few hundred yards away, but this was the first time one has flown over the house.

Enamelled crown – about 200 years old, so you can forgive the damage.

The car is in for servicing, which is going to be a bit of an adventure – we have hardly been anywhere since we returned from Suffolk at the beginning of lockdown – and the oil is looking both low and treacly. I topped up a bit a few weeks ago and kept my fingers crossed. If my calculations are correct, it’s a week over 14 months since we started the first lockdown. In that time we have hardly been anywhere. At least it’s good for the environment, and the fuel bills are cheaper. There is, let’s face it, a silver lining in everything.

Pictures are three different enamelled crowns – different styles and different levels of finish.

1887 Enamelled Crown

1887 Enamelled Crown

Camera Faults

The featured image is the Belgian enamelled coin I spoke about yesterday, the one I couldn’t show as I’d left my camera at work.

They heyday of the enamelled coin in the UK was 1887, and many of the coins you see were ones with the 1887 Jubilee head of Queen Victoria. That’s why so many enamelled Georgian coins are worn – they were old when they were done. Most of the Jubilee head coins are in good condition as they were taken directly from the bank to the enameller’s workshop. It’s an interesting subject that I would like to know more about. That, to be fair, is something that could be said of many subjects. This is a paragraph I just rescued from yesterday’s draft, which I am about to delete – I try not to add things after publishing but in this case it’s something I should have covered, and forgot.

Today I had even more camera problems. It started with me thinking it was an eBay problem, which it sometimes is. However, it looks like there’s a problem with my camera card. I have a situation where I take photos but they don’t show up on my card. Other photos show up, ones I thought I’d previously moved or deleted. After a certain amount of switching on and off and trying cables and card readers, it occurred to me that I’d just taken five pictures of a tiger medallion and five pictures of a 1938 cricket giveaway had appeared on the card. What, I asked myself, if those five pictures of 1930s cricketers turned out to be my tiger photos.

It’s a bit of a stretch, I know, but by that time, having done everything I could think of, including clearing my cache, I was at the end of my tether. As I dragged the first photo, Don Bradman changed into a tiger. Very strange.

Haven’t a clue what is happening but it must be a card or camera fault. I will try to narrow it down tomorrow. Meanwhile, here is another shot of the coin with a different background. Generally I find the blue is better when taking pictures for eBay but the black is sometimes better when photographing things as a record.

Enamelled coin – nice rare example.

Learning from last night, I have answered comments and am about to post. Then I am going to watch Pointless and plan some poetry. Tim to get a grip.

 

Marmalade Hoverfly

Bah!

I left myself with little time to post, then, when I reached for my camera to load the photos, I realised I’d left it at work. Again. This is annoying.

It also leaves me with 14 minutes to write a post and publish, unless I want to have to start getting notes from WP congratulating me on doing two days of consecutive posting. I’d be happy to do without the notes, but after working my way up to 14 days I don’t want to slip back. It’s like being one of Pavlov’s dog, but without the food.

I have spent most of the night reading blogs and generally catching up, which was quite pleasant, but I really should have blogged first and read second. However, that’s normally the way with me. Good sense and organisation are another world as far as I am concerned,

I can’t think of much more to say, as most of it will be contained in what is now going to be tomorrow’s blog, with photos.

Eight minutes to go.

I ead a blog tonight about writer’s block. I’m glad to say that I don’t believe in it, though I do find writing less easy at some points. I did, however, restrain myself from saying that as it’s not really my place to offer opinions on the blogs of others. I took that option on another blog too – about whether it’s better to say “they” or “he/she”. The drivel that is modern life…

Bees and Poppies – A Simple Post

We have been averaging 14-18 poppies each day. They make a good show in the morning but the petals fall by lunch, so they aren’t the best at providing a showy display. On the other hand, they did drift in free of charge. Others, which I have paid for, have failed to prosper. I keep saying I will have another go with the big red oriental ones, but never get round to it. Perhaps I will simply buy some cheap seed and sprinkle it in the gaps between flagstones. We established  a massive drift of Californian poppies on the farm by emptying some seed packets onto newly dug earth, so it’s worth a try.

Bee on Welsh Poppy

Bee on Welsh Poppy

There are some wonderful drifts of poppies on the ring road where they are letting the grass grow for the pollinators, with Californian and red poppies. They still have their petals when I drive home, so I’m thinking they may be better than the ones we have which, I think, are Welsh poppies. I always thought the yellow ones were Welsh poppies but when I looked them up I found these were an orange variety. There are yellow ones along the street, one of my gardening clients used to have them, but they don’t seem to have spread this far.

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

At one time we had a lot of marigolds. I was given them by a customer, and they spread well and kept coming back, but then declined over a couple of years. We still have three or four of them, but they are not showing any signs of recolonising the garden. It is strange how some things flourish and others don’t. The alyssum isn’t doing so well either, though I’m fairly sure that is being shaded out by the red valerian. That could be the reason why the marigolds have gone, as they would have been overshadowed by the valerian, which is a real thug of a plant, but I always think of them being tough enough to fight back.

Bee on Red Valerian

Bee on Red Valerian

That’s the trouble with gardening the way we do in the front garden – you get what you’re given, which in our case is red valerian. I’m thinking it might be time to cut some of it back and give other things a chance. The only thing that stops me is that it attracts hummingbird hawkmoths, which are always a pleasure to see.

The last bee is on Red Valerian because it would stay still in the morning when it was on the poppies. By 4pm there were no poppies.

I’m wondering id the black bee is a Field Cuckoo Bumble Bee because of the all black colouring. I’m not sure what else to look for to ID it, or if there are any other similar species. I’m hoping the hoverfly is a Marmalade Hoverfly because I like the name. It’s common round here, according to the ID guide, so I feel safe with that ID.

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

A Haibun about Jigsaws and Dementia.

This is my entry for the British Haiku Society Haibun Competition. It was either successful (because it was  honourably mentioned), or unsuccessful because it didn’t win. It has been mentioned on the website and is in the latest edition of Blithe Spirit, and the final haibun is quoted, so I presume it is now OK for me to reprint it. It is the second haibun I have written, featuring Dad and jigsaws. As some people have written books and plays about such things I suppose two haibun is not excessive, but it does worry me that I go back to old subjects – at what point does it become boring. That’s the reason I’ve generally (but not entirely) avoided COVID – we are all living through it, how many poems do we need?

Falling Into Place

years pass
children become strangers
—his new world

Jigsaws became an important part of our lives. First, as conversations became more difficult, we used them to pass the time. Later we used them to stimulate Dad’s thinking and slow the progress of the condition. Finally we used them to measure his decline. A man who once ran a company struggled with a jigsaw designed for a toddler. My sister bought new ones as they were needed, each with fewer pieces than the one preceding it.

He had been an active and successful man, and thousands of events had formed his life. Gradually they faded away. This frustrated him in the beginning but as he sank into the strange new world of dementia he came to accept it as a comforting place. I was happy to see him become contented. Then, one day, he asked me who I was.

the mirror cracks
a fractured smile
released


When we cleared his room my sister picked up the nine-piece jigsaws and suggested we donate them to the care home. She checked with me.

You don’t want them, do you?”

Not yet.” I say.

Haiku and Haibun

I have had a couple of pieces published online recently.

One was a haiku in Wales Haiku Journal Spring 2021. You can either go down from the top – I’m about 154 down, or work up from the end – I’m about 35th if you start at the bottom. Ther are so many

The other is in Drifting Sands, and is available here.

I like being in online journals because I can share the links and show off.  I also like being in printed journals, because I like seeing myself on a page, and admire the editors who keep the tradition of print journals going. In the next month or two I’m going to sort out my subscriptions. I think the least I can do is subscribe to 12 different journals. It’s not as if I smoke or drink anymore. All I need to do is spread them out a bit so that I don’t land myself with a big bill one month. Christmas is always a bad time because so many subscriptions to different things fall due at the end of the year. Don’t they ever stop and think about this? Why put all the subscriptions at the most expensive time of the year?

Of course, there’s a certain amount of self-interest at work here, and I will be supporting journals that I’m in, or want to be in. I’m a realist, not a saint…

Meanwhile, I have a few pieces from print journals that are probably old enough to be reprinted on the blog. I’ll sort them out in the next week or so.