Author Archives: quercuscommunity

Another day, Another List

Determined to make up for my slow start to the week I wrote a list of jobs for Wednesday. The good news is that I completed the shopping list and think I managed to put everything on it (so many weeks I suddenly remember I’ve missed something off as it becomes too late to add anything). I also wrote the blog post for the day and typed a few haiku that were lying dormant in my notebooks. I need a few for the end of the month so this seems like a timely activity.

We also watched Father Brown this afternoon and ate the fresh bread that Julia had baked. It’s a  tomato and cheese bread from a kit and, nicely crusty as a result of her use of the “Crusty” setting. It’s so long since I’ve used the bread maker that I had forgotten there was a setting for crustiness. If only I’d thought to put those two activities on the list.

The rest of the list did not go so well. It rarely does.

I conspicuously failed to shred the box of old documents by the side of the shredder, forgot to ring the Pharmacy with my PORN number, didn’t do any of my online course (I have lost the habit since they messed me about with the password change) and forgot to do anything about the casserole until too late (it needs two hours in the oven).

Sorry, what was that? You want to know why the Pharmacy wants a PORN number off me. It’s a Personal Order Reference Number. I really don’t know what you were thinking…

Nor, to be fair, do I know what the inventor of the PORN acronym was thinking of. I thought of making it one of my tags, but didn’t want to disappoint anyone, or attract the sort of readers who would be disappointed by this.

That’s a fair summary of my day. Nothing bad happened. On the plus side, though I didn’t pull up any (metaphorical) trees, we watched Father Brown and ate warm home made bread with cheese and pickles. I have had many days that have been worse than this. Judging from the weather forecast, I had a better day than a lot of people who are having snow and floods.

 

 

A Tuesday Retrospective

I seem to be having a week of looking back on the previous day. I’m not sure how this happened but I may as well go with it, and try to catch up.

My alarm went off at 6.30, which was cutting it a bit fine to get to the hospital for a blood test before work, but I didn’t really feel like getting up. In the end I turned over and went back to sleep anyway, finally shaking myself free of the covers at just before 7.00 It was still dark so there were no interestingly lit morning shots.

Down to the hospital, in to the waiting room, and there was nobody else there. Even so, I still had to wait five minutes for someone to conclude their conversation and deal with me. Five minutes isn’t a long time to wait, but when you want to get done and take your wife to work, it’s long enough.

The sample was easy, and taken using a syringe rather that all the modern paraphernalia. It didn’t bleed after she removed the needle, which is always a worry, a it suggests the clotting is too good.

I was home for 8am, as the murky grey night slid into a murky grey morning. Typical – the morning I think of photography, there is nothing to photograph. Julia was ready and we set off for work. There seems to be more traffic about again – some days you wouldn’t guess there is a lockdown in progress. It seems from a news article that numbers in schools are up on last time, which suggests that more people are going to work, and probably more are being accepted as keyworkers.

Julia has just been given a letter from work to confirm her keyworker status. She was a key worker working from home in the first lockdown and a keyworker at work for the second. They gave her a badge for that. She’s now a keyworker at work, and she has just been given a letter to prove it. It’s printed on a black and white printer, has handwritten amendments and, quite frankly, looks like  a bad attempt at a forgery.

This is typical of the way the project is managed. Several of the staff who ran for the hills last week, have returned. A cynic might suggest that it’s better than spending time at home with the kids, or that it’s an attempt to make sure they don’t miss out on their vaccination.

Next, I went to the pharmacy to wait in the rain, collect inaccurate prescriptions and try to make sense of the chaos. The electronic ordering system I am compelled to use by the NHS is a lot less accurate than the old one where you used to and pick up a piece of paper. I think I may have mentions (just once or twice) that although change is easy, improvement is hard. I may even have mentioned that “new and improved” systems are often not improved, and sadly are often not even as good as the one they replace. Part of the sorting process was ringing to give the pharmacy a reference number. I must have tried 20 times and the phone was either busy or unanswered.

Not long after I returned home, I missed a call from the doctor and had to ring back. It took twenty minutes, but I persisted as I thought they might be helping to sort out the double cock-up they have made with my prescriptions.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska on Pexels.com

No such luck. They were ringing to tell me my blood tests were done (they can be very quick when they want to be). I failed. The blood is clotting too well and I have to raise my dose of warfarin and go back for a blood test next week.

That takes me up to 11.30 and gives you a flavour of the day. That is, I think, a good place to finish. It is now just after mis-day and Julia is engaged in her second long work call of the day, despite it being her day off. I’m going to start making noise now, as a sign that we have better things to do.

Blue Monday – Fact or Fiction?

Yesterday was “Blue Monday”. It’s supposedly the most depressing day of the year. However, it’s something developed by a travel company in 2005. Wikipedia calls it pseudoscience, and nonsense. That is charitable. Like so many things that have a presence on the web, it is plausible and has taken on a life of its own.

I can’t help thinking that if the third Monday in January is the most depressing day of the year you are not leaving yourself much to look forwards to in the remaining 347 days of the year. If you read the Wiki entry it is clear that the whole thing is nonsense.

I can believe that the middle of January isn’t the most cheery time of the year, It’s dark, cold and wet. You spent too much money at Christmas, put weight on and have just about broken all your New Year Resolutions. It’s not going to be a cheerful time of the year, unless you live south of the Equator, where it is midsummer, and a very different January to mine.

I had a more depressing time last week – four days off the road, large bill for car repairs and sprinkle of disappointment from work being refused by editors. That was depressing. Blue Monday was merely a dreary day.

It seems that April and May are the peak time for suicide, which tends to suggest that the most depressing day of the year might actually be there. It also seems that lockdown is affecting mood, with a quarter of people reporting at least one mental health problem during the first lockdown and one in ten having suicidal thoughts.

I had a great time in the first one – it was basically a paid holiday with Julia, in summer. We had no work to go to, no worries and, more importantly, plenty of space and no home schooling because the kids are out of the way. I actually feel guilty about this, because it must have been horrific for some people.

Lockdown 2 was a bit depressing, but number 3 is going OK. Not as good as Number 1 but I decided to approach it in a positive manner and so far it’s working. It hasn’t been as successful or productive as I wanted it to be, but it’s still been quite good.

If today was as bad as it gets, I’ll be happy. Somehow I think there is a lot of potential for things to get worse.

I thought I’d add a picture of a shopping list. Now that I shop online I don’t use shopping lists anymore. Who would have thought that shopping lists would be a victim of Covid?

 

Book Review – The Mazaroff Mystery

I read this directly after The Windsor Knot. They are very different books.

The Windsor Knot is a modern whodunnit with a good helping of originality, a novelty detective and an undercurrent of humour.

The Mazaroff Mystery by [J.S. Fletcher]

The Mazaroff Mystery is a Golden Age detective novel, published in 1928. There is nothing original about it, the detective is not unusual (a young man looking for amusement after serving as an officer in the Great War) and there is no humour. It lacks depth, including themes you would expect in a modern novel – class, race and sex, – and the protagonist has suffered no mental or physical problems as a result of his war service. The world of the Golden Age detective novel was largely white, middle class and not given to introspection. Peter Wimsey suffered from shell shock, but the rest of that generation seem remarkably unscathed.

The authors are both fine writers, the characterisation is good, and the plots both have the odd weak spot. The pacing of the older book is superior, as is the quality of the red herrings and the supporting characters.

I would say that if you want a book for entertainment, get The Windsor Knot. If you want a good detective novel, The Mazaroff Mystery is the one to go for. Unless you are looking for historical detective fiction.

I notice one or two people in the reviews, seem to think it  is historical fiction, some liking its authenticity, and at least one complaining that it is old-fashioned. Well, it would be. it’s 93 years old. The author was born in 1863, just four years after Conan Doyle and two years before Kipling. I always think of those two as Victorians. The surprise isn’t that the book is old-fashioned, the surprise is that it is quite fresh and contemporary rather than being rooted in Victorian days. He was, by the way, the favourite mystery writer of Woodrow Wilson

It’s well worth a read if you like Golden Age whodunnits, and is currently available on Kindle for £0.77.

Writing, but more importantly, Reading

Just before falling asleep in the early hours of the morning I had an idea. This time I had my pad and pen ready and I wrote a quick note to myself.

This morning I felt like a proper writer. I so far as I am a person who puts words down on paper so that others can read them, I suppose I can call myself a writer. IN the sense of someone who makes marks on paper with a writing instrument so that I can read them later, the situation is not so clear cut. I’d definitely done something that approximated to writing on my pad. The marks were there. But it lacked the important element of me being able to read it later

It’s a bit like Mallory’s (possible) conquest of Everest. If you don’t get back down have you really conquered the mountain?

I stared at the riot of loops and whirls, done with a scratchy and slightly dry fibre tip pen and began to panic.  Is this, I asked myself, what dementia feels like?

Anyway, as my eyes recalibrated themselves for the grey morning light (I find that they no longer lap into action these days but take a while to get going, much like the rest of me) a few words started to show .  Even then, in the absence of memory, no meaning emerged. This isn’t surprising as a number of the words I seem to have used have escaped the notice of the OED.  There were 28 words in the note, for several minutes, and several readings, I couldn’t read a single word. It took another few minutes to extract half a dozen words, then it all fell into place.

Our the lent fen gus I line swiss by cuckolded winter. Blog beige abunt layings and precurstractor has benignly bun the wounded layet hucid hut for my new carver.

When I say “all fell into place” I may be exaggerating slightly. It took another effort before my synapses fired up.

Over the last few years I have seriously considered becoming a content writer. Blog being about laziness and procrastination has basically been the longest suicide note for my new career.

In other words, if you want to use a blog to get writing jobs, don’t blog about being lazy and unreliable.

As it turns out, while I was considering the new career the market was flooded with students offering to write for next to nothing, so I didn’t actually lose anything.

 

Book Review – The Windsor Knot

I have a dozen subjects in mind but some require research or other effort and others are simply not suitable. Sorry about that.

I finished a book last night, which is why this is a book review.  Book Reviews are worthy subjects for blogging but don’t require much work or research, just reading a book and remembering a bit about it.

That, I find, is one of the difficult things about a book review. Someone has just spent a year or so sweating over this but after a few hours reading and half  an hour typing, I feel qualified to pass judgement on it. That’s one of the reasons I don’t write many reviews, because I find it hard to offer criticism of somebody who has just done something I can’t do. On the other hand, as I normally only review books I enjoyed, I don’t do much criticising.

The Windsor Knot: The Queen investigates a murder in this delightfully clever my

In a world where books need a gimmick, and there are plenty of novelty sleuths about, it must be difficult to com up with another variation.  That’s all taken care of with this book – the investigator is Queen Elizabeth II,  This is handled well, with plenty of great characterisation, a lot of detail and the feeling that S J Bennett (a) knows and loves the subject and (b) could write first class fiction in an y genre.

So – writing – good. Characterisation – excellent. Atmosphere – brilliant.

The pacing is acceptable, but it does seem to slow a little in places as the book progresses. This around the time when we seem to be bombarded with a few too many characters, who aren’t always well differentiated.

What about the plot? . It could do with being tightened up and I was left with a feeling that if I examined it too closely the whole thing would fall apart. There were just a couple of places where it seemed weak.

The ending – which is important in most mystery novels, has a fault that can’t be fully overcome. The Queen must remain in the background at all times and part of the tension in the book is that she is constrained taher than assisted by her position as monarch. That means the credit for solving the crime goes to another person, who explains it to the Queen. This is unsatisfactory, but it’s a logical part of the way the book works and would be hard to work round. Foe this reason, I’ll accept this fault.

I don’t feel quite as forgiving about the patchy pacing, the slight excess of slightly samey characters and my reservations over the plot. I will read the next one in the series, and am sure I will enjoy it, but it’s only four stars.

If there was no crime in the book I would still enjoy this as a comic novel featuring the Royal Family, which tends to indicate that the crime element needs a bit of a boost. It’s a great read but it’s not, unfortunately, a great whodunnit.

The Daily Struggle

It’s hard to dislike any day as I’m approaching the age at which FDR, U S Grant, General Lee, Alfred Nobel and Audrey Hepburn all died.  The are are others, but that is enough for now. If you are of a similar morbid turn of mind you can look things up here.

However, of all the days of the week, Friday is probably the one when I am least pleased to wake up and realise I have survived another day. It’s the only day of the week when I have to go to work, so it’s tainted with the “back to work” feeling that I remember from the days I had a job I ‘didn’t like.

It started off badly when I couldn’t find some of the things I needed for parcels and ended badly when I got into a queue at the Post Office and found I was behind someone with a rudimentary grasp of parcels. He ended up having to repack it at the counter as he was returning some mail order clothing and thought it was OK to bundle it up in a plastic bag and leave the return address inside. It’s possible that postmen in his country have X-Ray vision, or just open parcels as a matter of course, because it took a lot of explaining before he grasped the idea that the return label should be on the outside.

Meanwhile, a man has just started a complaint against us on eBay as he hasn’t had an item he ordered. He ordered it last Friday, so at best it’s only been a week. A week is a bit soon to start complaining, even at the best of times. In times of COVID it’s definitely a bit too soon. He ordered after we closed on Friday, we posted it on Monday, the next day we were open and it has, since then, been in the hands of the Post Office. Words do not fail me, it’s just that they aren’t suitable for polite company.

That sums up my day. Fortunately, better weather is on the waya nd Spring is just around the corner. Six more weeks and I might try smiling again.

The night sky is a shot from January last year, when I actually used to go out and take photographs.

A Treat from the Back of the Cupboard

Yesterday, as part of my efforts at self-improvement, I researched ways of improving my writing. I will, as a result, not be using the phrase “doom and gloom” but will say that the morning is gloomy, and so is my mood.

Still no car. Still no news of the car. No news of my prescription either. This is a worry as I have run out of some things. The new system means that I don’t have a clue if my prescription has been processed. The screen says it is in progress but it is a day late already and that is not a good sign. Fortunately I am not short of anything essential. Apart from good humour, I am running short of good humour because the system takes several days longer and seems to produce more errors.

It seems to be a common feature of these “new and improved” systems that they are actually just “new”. The “improved” part involves cost-cutting and is no improvement to me at all. I am worried that this may be the case with my writing too – it may produce a crisper and more concise style, but is that going to be an improvement. I am a poet and raconteur rather than a business consultant or a copywriter.

Things will get better, as I always tell myself. I told myself that when boundary and building issues threatened to bury me six months ago. They didn’t really get better, they just faded. The main one was sorted out but we are waiting for a second planning application from the neighbours on the right and the builder still hasn’t come to repair the chimney stack. problems do that – what seems the end of the world at one point is almost forgotten six months later.

I just looked up and noticed that the drizzle has increased in intensity and has lumps in it. It is now a wintry shower.

I just checked that up.

Wintry is the preferred form and is used approximately 20 times to every one use of wintery. However, as the article points out, many people pronounce wintry as wintery. I do, and I feel wintery is a more logical development from the word winter. On the other hand, this is English, so logic has little to do with it.

Time for Late Breakfast now, one of my favourites among my recent new words. I like stewp too, but it excludes bacon sandwiches, which late Breakfast does not. I will be having chilli jam with my bacon. I found it in the back of a cupboard recently. We bought it when we went to The Lakes for our 25th wedding anniversary (yes, six years ago) and the Best Before Date is in 2016, but it was unopened and it still tastes good.

That is the problem with Best Before dates – people mistake them for Use By dates.  Best Before dates can safely be ignored (according to me, though not to Julia). Use By dates indicate that the product can kill you if you leave it too long.

The picture is a Late Breakfast from happier days.

 

Rejection, Superstition, Vaccination

Editors seem to be busy at the moment. I have now had replies to all four of my January submissions. One, as you know, resulted in an acceptance, and one in a rejection with helpful editorial comments. The third is in limbo until the end of january, when the submission period ends, and the fourth has just come back with “helpful editorial comments”. I’ve put that in quotes as I am thinking of adopting it as an alternative to saying I’ve had a rejection.

I may, in future grade levels of response as “rejection”, “helpful editorial comment” and “acceptance”. This means that instead of being split equally between positive and negative results I can now claim that 66.6% of the results are positive, so call me an optimist and change my name to Pollyanna.

For any superstitious numerologists who may be reading, I admit that 66.6 might not be a good number to use. However, 66.6 isn’t actually the Number of the Beast, but 10% of it. Bearing in mind my retail background I can’t help thinking of it as the Discount of the Beast.

(Yes, before somebody corrects me, I do realise that other commentators believe the number is actually 616, but I’m traditional in matters of theology and superstition.)

In line with my new positive outlook I won’t even tell you what the situation is with the car. Let’s just say it’s hard to find anything upbeat or cheerful to say.

Some good news is that Julia has been given a projected vaccination date – early February. By March she should be reasonably well protected against COVID. This will be good. Meanwhile, I will stay at home, unvaccinated, and enjoy my holiday, which is also good.

Book Review – Out of Time – Great Library Series Volume 3 – Laurie Graves

Out of Time (The Great Library Series Book 3) by [Laurie Graves]According to the Amazon details the book has 276 pages. It didn’t seem like it. Time flew,and although I spread it over two nights, it finished too soon. If there was another in the series I would definitely buy it right away. Unfortunately, there isn’t.

That’s really all you need to know. It’s less than £3 on Kindle, so what are you waiting for?

Of course, book reviews are supposed to be slightly longer than that so I’ll just add a bit of waffle. The action takes place in a magic county called Elferterre (somebody is showing their French roots again!) , which is a convincing place, and has an excellent talking cat. There are very few books that can’t be improved by the addition of a talking cat, so this is good to see.. Even  a talking cat couldn’t improve that Don Quixote, but I won’t go into that..

I always get off to a slow start as I pick up the threads from the last book, but it is handled well, with enough prompts to get the reader up to speed, and enough information to help a first-time reader get into the story. After that it goes along at a decent pace and, as I say, is over all too soon.

There’s a bit of teenage romance going on, which I suppose you have to accept in these modern times, plus some comment on equality, ecology and vegetarianism, though it’s all done lightly and it isn’t laboured. This is handled much better than C S Lewis manages it  in Narnia. (Cut that out as a quote Laurie “much better than C S Lewis”).

The only fault I can find in the book – the ending seems a little rushed. I felt theer was room within the pacing for a little more action but the book seemed to pick up speed towards the end, as if a word limit was looming. Apart from that – pacing, character, action, context – all brilliant.

All that remains is for me to recommend the purchase of a copy, as I said, at £3 on Kindle it’s an absolute bargain.