Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Two Parcels Arrive

It’s been a quiet day, just a blood test and a visit to the jewellers. The new computer has been delivered and is now charging. That’s it. It has not been a particularly active sort of day. To be honest, none of my days are. I was listening to Giles Brandreth on a podcast recently (I really am starting to embrace the 21st Century) and he said that he was once told by a successful businessman that the key to success was energy. I’m not very energetic, and this is reflected in my success rate.

There was one small wobble when the post arrived. There was a parcel for me, which should have been delivered to the shop. This would have covered up my delinquency in bidding in an auction last week when I am supposed to be economising. However, the vendor got this wrong and the parcel ended up in Julia’s hands. If you look in the dictionary under “caught bang to rights”, you will see a picture of Julia holding my parcel from the auction. Look under “shifty, guilty husband”, as she pointed out, and you will find a picture of me. She actually used a different word, but “husband” is accurate and politer.

We’ve agreed that I will now start my economy drive. It wasn’t a difficult decision as the car and lap top have emptied the reserve I keep to allow for this sort of thing.  It’s also not difficult to give up spending when the evidence is delivered to your wife.

Anyway, that’s enough for now, I want to go and test the new laptop.

Customer Service . . .

I have ordered a new computer. This will give me time to consider my options with the old one. It should, according to what I read online, be possible to restart my old computer and retrieve the information in my files by use of a simple free download. Having read the instructions several times I can now refine that sentence and add a little accuracy.

It should, according to what I read online, be possible to restart my old computer and retrieve the information in my files by use of a simple free download, but it won’t be. It never is. It might not quite be free and it definitely won’t be simple. If it were simple, dare I suggest that it wouldn’t need a video tutorial and there wouldn’t be quite as much discussion about it on the support forum. However, having tried everything on the computer and come back to blue screen each time, I definitely have to try something that needs a download.

As a bonus, I have had a lesson on why it is important to back things up and why I need to learn more about using computers.

The loop where I do things and, twenty minutes later, end up with the same blue screen I started with, is mimicked perfectly by the so-called “customer service” phoneline at Curry’s. I have no doubt that if you have a computer it works well. However, if your computer refuses to start, and you buy a new one, it is a nightmare. You ring the number, it asks you to select numbers. You select numbers and after three steps it tells you to contact your carrier and disconnects automatically. This is repeated, with variations, when you try different combinations. I ended up ringing the repair line, where I was told that the service might be slow due to Covid. After 15 minutes of being told they would be with me soon, I hung up. I suppose that every cost-cutting measure for the next 20 years will be due to Covid. Quite honestly I’m beginning to think that the main casualty of Covid wasn’t the hundreds of thousands of deaths or the thousands of fearful recluses – the main casualty has been truth and customer service.

Fortunately, when I eventually coaxed the stone age laptop into action I was able to get some answers. Does it not occur to them that someone buying a new computer may not have access to working  technology, or want their phone linking to the internet?

In time, we will recover out courage when we hear a neighbour cough, we will haul ourselves out of the stone age which Putin’s war looks set to return us too, and we will become used to living in plastic bubbles as the Earth fries, but we will never again be able to see a doctor face to face, pay for a pizza by cash or talk to a human being on a helpline.

For some reason, I felt drawn to finish with a quote from Brave New World – “A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”

That is our future – tethered to the internet by a mobile phone, dating by Tinder,  politics by fake news . . .

Aldous Huxley died on the same day as C S Lewis and J F Kennedy. Nobody noticed. Just like nobody notices our slide into a society of willing servitude.

Unknown Stories – a haibun

This is an example of a haibun, following on from yesterday’s post. The eldest (tallest) daughter is my grandmother. She isn’t holding his hand, as mentioned in the poem, but it is the last photograph. For more information see The Carus Brothers at War (Part 1), or The Carus Brothers at War (Part 2) or The Carus Brothers at War (Part 3).

It was first published in The Haibun Journal April 2022.

Unknown Stories

last photograph
in it my grandma holds
a soldier’s hand

In 1920 the Great War was over, but the grieving continued. The British Army exhumed four unidentified bodies from the major battle areas of the Great War. After four years of fighting there was no shortage of choice. There are differing stories about the secretive process, and nobody knows exactly what happened. However, we do know that on the night of 7th November 1920, a General, either blindfolded, or with his eyes closed, selected one of them.

That body became the most celebrated British soldier of the war – the Unknown Warrior. He lies in Westminster Abbey – the only tombstone in the Abbey where nobody is allowed to walk. He is buried with a Crusader’s sword, a gift from the King, in a coffin made from an oak tree that once grew at Hampton Court. The Americans gave him the Medal of Honor and, in 2020, his hundredth anniversary, the Poet Laureate wrote a poem for him.

The remaining three were reburied by the roadside under cover of darkness. They were eventually found by a Grave Registration Unit and moved to a cemetery, as were thousands of other wayside graves. For them, there was no grand ceremony, just a stone marked, like thousands of others, “Known unto God”.

a poppy cross
each year her eyes filled up
two minutes pass

What is a Haibun?

I was asked recently, in the comments, for a definition of a haibun. The quick answer is that it’s some prose with a haiku. As answers go, that’s accurate, but not particularly useful.

It’s likely, if you look back at old poems, that it doesn’t actually have to have a haiku. However, try convincing an editor of that.

A haiku is a very short poem that, over the years, has attracted a lot of rules. In Japanese it has 17 “on”, which are sound units. They are not the same as syllables, though they were originally treated as if they were. In Japanese “haiku” has three “on”., but only two syllables in English. Originally we were told to write haiku in three lines of 5, 7 and 5 syllables. If you check on the internet, you will still be told that. This is wrong.

We are now allowed to use lines of different length and told that 13 syllables is probably about right. We aren’t supposed to include ourselves or poetic devices in haiku and they are supposed to have a season word, talk of nature and a cutting word to differentiate the two parts of the haiku. They like to have two parts – one being what you saw and the other (usually the last line), something that acts as as a contrast. If they talk of human nature, they are senryu, but for haibun purposes they are much the same. They also have simplicity and various sad, wistful feelings attached to them. As I say, short poem, a lot of rules.

Strangely, a lot of the “rules” started off as guidelines and, in the minds of various editors, become rules.

My Orange Parker Pen

Then you get the prose. It should be terse and haiku-like, because it then mirrors the haiku. Or if you read another well-respected poet, it should be different in style from a haiku, as the same style will make it boring.

The haiku should be different from the subject matter, and should “link and shift”. Or, according to another well-known haibun writer, that’s not correct. and is based on a misunderstanding. No, I can’t explain “link and shift” properly. And considering the experience of all the poets and their different views, I can’t tell you exactly what a haibun is either,

Tanka prose is slightly easier to understand. It’s a tanka (five line poem) and prose. There are fewer rules and less discussion about tanka prose, so it’s easier to write. You can concentrate on the writing instead of worrying about hitting the targets imposed by various, contradictory, rules.

Finally, the poem and prose can be placed in different ways. This can be poem and prose or prose and poem. It can also be prose, poem, prose or poem, prose, poem. Or other ways. As usual, there are Japanese words for all these things. And, as usual, I can’t remember them.

That’s a vey short, simple and not exactly neutral explanation. I’ll post a few poems and links over the next few days.

Orange Parker Pen

Back to Titles

Well, I managed 220 days, but then my computer died. I am trying not to take it personally but can’t help feeling that it died of boredom. I really should try to become more entertaining.

There was no warning. I left it, had my tea, watched a little TV and pottered back into my library, where the computer is installed on my desk. Or, to be more accurate, I pottered back into the dining room where my computer sits on our dining table, amongst various piles of papers.

The screensaver was stuck. I had to switch off and start it again. It was blue, which is never good news. I tried everything I could (mainly prodding a few buttons and hoping) but it remained broken. This is still the situation. This post is being typed on an ancient borrowed laptop.

The full story of my technological incompetence will probably never be revealed. My full catalogue of ineptitude is, I hope, going to remain under wraps. But my hatred of the 21st Century will be reported in full.

An example? To use this computer, I have to put up with notices from Spotify and Microsoft about doing things to get full access. Why? All I want to do is use a computer, I don’t need outside help. Similarly, when I tried to download Apache Open Office it won’t let me. I need the permission of the Administrator, as it calls Number One Son. He can’t give permission, because he’s forgotten the password and I, as a result, can’t do any word processing.

It shouldn’t be like that. We  paid for these computers, we should be allowed to use them.

Day 220

I’ve just been watching a couple of programmes on Philip Larkin. There are four on tonight but I can’t take so much concentrated culture. I hadn’t realised that he died when he was 63. I may have left it a bit late to become a famous poet, as I am now a year older than he was when he died and nobody has heard of me.

I was finally able to talk to a doctor about my adverse reaction to the medication. They hadn’t been able to fit me in for a telephone consultation yesterday and the receptionist was in the middle of fobbing me off again when I stopped her and told her I was confused as I’d been told I could ring about adverse reactions to medication at any time. The words “adverse reaction to medication” worked like a charm and a doctor eventually rang me to discuss it. It seems it’s a well known side effect. I already knew that. They are going to change my medication to slow-release capsules, which should, with luck, solve the problem.

Backlit Sumac Tree in the MENCAP garden

At work, there were a few parcels to sort and the normal phone calls to answer.. Julia rang in the early afternoon to ask me for a word she couldn’t call to mind. It’s normally “sumac” because she has a blind-spot concerning that particular tree. They have one in the Mencap garden so it does crop up in conversation.

This time, however, it was “name a motorway services in Cumbria”. She meant Tebay. Fortunately I am a husband of many talents.

They are known for their pies. Most of my pictures which include Tebay in the title feature pies.

Lamb and Mint – Tebay

 

Day 219

Two acceptances today – one where the editor told me they thought a touch of punctuation might be in order. I agreed with them – I had looked at putting a dash in that very place but then decided, in the interests of simplicity, to leave it out. Nice to find I’m synchronised in my thinking with and editor. I bet if I’d put it in they would have suggested leaving it out. That has happened before.

The second was for a members’ anthology. They asked for 3-5 submissions. If you send five you are guaranteed that one will be accepted. I didn’t see the point of that, as I send them in to be tested, so I sent three. One was accepted, so I passed the test.

So far, so good. I still have a couple waiting for decisions, and really should get on with writing more. My literary legacy won’t write itself.

I had what I though was probably an adverse reaction to medication last night. If I say it was a digestive upheaval you can fill in the details for yourself. I didn’t get a lot of sleep  and still felt actively ill in the morning so, regretfully, I took the day off. It was lunchtime before I got downstairs and after 2.00 before I felt like doing anything. That activity took the form of writing a rather dull explanation of what a haibun is (I was asked a couple of days ago) so I left it when Julia returned home in favour5 of drinking tea and watching TV.

Mint Moth

I’m feeling better now, though slightly resentful that I told the doctor I didn’t want to alter the medication. I don’t think their medical education, despite being long, is very flexible. When a patient tells you he doesn’t want more pills as a known side effect is digestive disruption, and he already has trouble like that from another set of pills, I think it might be a good idea to listen and work out a different solution. But what do I know?

Mint Moth

Pictures are Mint Moths – I was discussing them with Helen earlier.

Day 218

We had the first plums from the tree in the garden today. They are very good, but the crop is not going to be a big one this year.

We also had a Small White and several Large ones in the front garden today, so things are looking up for butterflies. I’m thinking about planting dwarf sunflowers in pots for next year. They will look cheerful and provide bird food. I just looked them up and they are a foodplant of the Painted Lady caterpillars.

We just had a letter from the people who supply our power infrastructure (who are different from the people who supply the electricity). I only found that out last year. They are collecting information on people who need extra help in case of power cuts or other problems. We qualify because i am near pension age, have mobility problems, chronic illness and will have medication in the fridge (the new injectable stuff has to be kept in the fridge).

This is a new steepening of the downward slope that leads to old age and damnation. It’s OK now, but ten years from now they will be using this list as a starting point for euthanasia. It stands to reason that if they can’t cut taxes the government will have to cut overheads. You don’t need to be an economist to work that one out. If you aren’t working you won’t be seen as necessary.

I used Julia’s Low carb cook book as inspiration for a large salad tonight. I didn’t need it for a salad recipe, just to persuade me that salad is a food. I am still not convinced . . .

Day 217

A Red Admiral this morning as I left for work, a Large White when I got home, then a grasshopper by my feet. This isn’t a bad selection of wildlife for a sun-blasted patch of concrete slabs and weeds. I saw several more butterflies as I sat watching TV in the evening. What puzzles me is where grasshoppers come from. Butterflies fly in, but how does a grasshopper end up in my front garden, which is not, I feel, an attractive spot compared to the average meadow,

Grasshoppers

We bought several lots of stuff in the morning, sent five parcels off and then concluded a deal on a large collection. Normally people tell us they have a “large collection” or a “ton” of old coins or a “box of coins” and by the time they get to us they have become a “small accumulation”, a couple of kilos of coins or a handful of coins. In this case, when someone arranged to bring a large collection in o0n Thursday, it really was  a large collection. It had been put together with a plan and it filled six large boxes. At the moment there is little room to move in the shop.

At one time we actually had three customers in the shop this afternoon, which was good, as we need to take some money to  make up for what we spent. Business is still slow and hasn’t really picked up to pre-lockdown levels. We are thinking that the move to card payments that took place during lockdown may have stopped people looking through their change.

With no change to look through, interest in coin collecting declined. It’s just a theory, but it seems logical.

Global warming, war, pandemic, cost of living crisis . . .

. . . and our theory about the lack of coin collectors hinges on the declining availability of 50p coins.

Stephen Hawking 50p

 

 

Day 216

Guess who is pictured in Contemporary Haibun Online? That’s right, me. There’s a distinct danger that I might become a bit full of myself if I’m not careful. However, I will try to moderate my smugness and act in a professional manner. Here is the link.

For those of you who are reading this more than a month after I post it, you will need this link for the poem. The photograph will have gone at the end of the month and my crumbling pixels will have been dispersed in the cyber winds. This thought on the transitory nature of my minor triumph should serve to keep my ego in line.

Meanwhile, we had a Gatekeeper in the garden yesterday. I say garden, but I mean 10 x 20 feet of concrete slabs and weeds. It’s a miracle that anything grows, and an even bigger miracle that insects find it. I don’t think we’ve had a Gatekeeper in the garden before.

Today we had a Large White when I got home and, as I unlocked the front door, it was joined by a Red Admiral. It doesn’t mark an upturn in butterfly fortunes, as three butterflies in two days is not going to change the world, but at least it feels like our attempts at wildlife gardening are doing a little good.

Tonight I browsed Julia’s new cookery book (it’s crammed with low carb recipes) and worked out a menu for the week, before ordering groceries from ASDA. Looks like we will be eating more salad.