Category Archives: Uncategorized

My Latest Sonnet

I’ve just done 300 words. Starting out with an idea that I would demonstrate how blogging shows only a small part of our true character, I started off on a quick tour of my inner life with the intention of discussing the hidden depths that lie behind the public facade of Quercus, the cheery salad-dodger. It’s a sad thing when, after 65 years of life, you realise that you haven’t any. So I drastically self-edited.

My main thoughts are (a) my beard, after being trimmed, is at an awkward intermediate length. I’m not sure if I want to grow it again, or trim it more. The first option risks a reappearance of the inner tramp (hobo, for you users of American English) but the second risks making me look like a round-faced hamster. My secondary thoughts are much the same. With the additional worry that if I met Kylie Minogue in the street it would be terrible if she looked at me at a time when my fine masculine profile was marred by imperfections of beard length.

I would obviously have to tell her that my heart was taken by another and that despite her elfin charm and undoubted talent in the singing line she will always be, in my mind. a pale substitute for Julia, but it would be better coming from a man with a decent beard. She is unlikely to mind one way or the other if these lines are delivered by a man who looks like a hamster with well-filled cheek pouches, and my great romantic gesture will be wasted.

Yep, definitely no hidden depths.

But it is proof that you shouldn’t talk much. When silent I am a man of brooding mystery with potential hidden depths and a hint of the Lord Byrons. When I talk I am a man that thinks about his beard far too much.

Hemingway muttered something about seven eighths of a story being below the waterline, so I am merely following in the footsteps of greater men.

I will be going on to develop this idea as I gradually distill my ideas of nothingness in writing into the world’s greatest sonnet – Fourteen Lines of Nothing.  Julia vetoed my earlier, more alliterative title. Here it is (with apologies to John Cage and 4′ 33″).

Fourteen Lines of Nothing

















What did you think? Powerful and moving? The work of an idiot? It is, I admit, slightly more than 14 lines, but you do need space before and after. I’m seriously thinking of submitting it to a real editor and seeing what they say. I have one in mind.

My Orange Parker Pen

Reality Check and New Words

After blogging last night, I looked at my list of Haibun and Tanka Prose that are “ready” for submission. I may have been over-optimistic in that assessment. I read the first one of nine and was immediately overwhelmed by a feeling of trepidation. Of the nine I thought were ready it turns out that several of them aren’t as good as I thought they were when I “finished” them. A couple more aren’t actually finished (I normally write the prose using a working title and then think “I’ll write the haiku later”). So that means I still have poems to write. And then, even more annoying, two of them are almost the same. Four out of nine are ready. the other five are going to need work, and that work is going to have to be done in the next two weeks. It’s not quite the leisurely month I was planning.

Still, as we all know, I only work under pressure. Julia says I only work under protest, which is also pretty accurate. I meant to be a dilettante with private means but life didn’t get the message.


I just looked it up to make sure I was using it correctly, and found a search listed as “What does dilettante mean in old terms?” Old terms? From that question it’s almost as if the enquirer thinks it’s one of those new words that crop up every year, like . . .

(Googles “List of New Words”)

. . .abrogate. I wasn’t expecting that on a list of new words for 2023. Or gaffe, inchoate or omphaloskepsis (a lack of motivation to move, exert oneself or change – guess why I decided to add this one.). This is not what I was expecting. These are, I feel, only a list of new words if you are John Milton.

Apple Press

It seems that the modern, pejorative sense of dilettante only came into use in the late 18th Century. Modern? late 18th Century? Who is deciding on these definitions?

Fortunately I then found a proper list. Cakeage – a fee charged at an eating establishment for bringing in your own cake. Obviously comes from corkage. I presume it mainly applies to birthday cakes at celebrations. Cakeism – a belief that you can have your cake and eat it. Pinkwashing – making it look like you are an ally of the LGBTQ+ community to gain credibility – joining whitewashing, greenwashing and sportswashing. It’s also a term that has been used since 2002 to describe companies who use the breast cancer pink ribbon to disguise their activities.

It is, as I’ve said before, interesting where the internet takes you.

Apple Juice. Notice the clue in the picture.

Pictures are from September 2015. Guess what we were doing.

Excuses and Plans

I could tell you that I have been so busy writing poetry that I haven’t had time to blog. This would be plausible, but, as regular readers will know, unlikely. Gaps in my blogging are normally caused by laziness or napping in front of TV. Or both. The recent gap has been no exception – laziness and napping both come into play.

It’s a case of swings and roundabouts, or possibly actions and reactions. I just looked up Newton, as I seemed to recall he had something to do with it, but it turns out that although he did mention actions and reactions, he left out any mention of elderly men falling asleep.

I’m left with a distinct feeling of unease, and am now worried about the rotation of the earth slowing down. At that point I suppose there would be no gravity and we would all drift off into space. At that point the financial acumen of the British Government,  the world domination plans of the Russians and the moral concerns about eating meat and using fossil fuels would all seem less important. However, the main conclusion to draw from this is that I shouldn’t think too much. I’m going to be burnt to a crisp by global warming long before I drift off into space. And, realistically, I’m going to die of something weight-related before global warming gets me..

My Law of Ageing, which I really must get round to writing down, is that for every effort, life pushes back back by demanding an equivalent amount of nap time to rebalance the energy levels. So if you write over 40 poems in  a day and then spend hours driving to a funeral you are going to have to pay back by sleeping when you should be blogging. You may think you are 19, you may think you have got away without extra sleep, but in the end, even if it is days later, there is a debt to be paid.

Anyway, I hope it’s all sorted now and I can get back t normal. I made six submissions last month. I’ve already made seven so far this month. I want to do at least five more so I need to get a move on. I’d better finish this, get to bed and wake up with a positive mental attitude ready for an industrious Wednesday. Julia is going to work tomorrow, despite it being our day off and I have a blood test. Apart from that I have an empty day of possibilities lying ahead of me.

Welsh Poppy

An Early Start

Well, not early for a farmer, but anything before 10 am is early for me on a Sunday. I’ve made a few notes about what I want to do for the rest of the day and have sent an email to one of my cousins  My patchy family history research, though deficient in many ways, seems to have contained a piece she needed to fill a gap. She, in turn, was able to correct something my dad told me. He was an extraordinary man, I know this because a journalist said it in a newspaper article about him, and we quoted it for years after. He wasn’t, however, a very reliable source of family history as his memories were often close to reality without actually being accurate.

I’m going to write my self-imposed minimum 250 words now and then get on with my list of thigs to do. It’s not that I don’t love all my readers, it’s just that when I get a good run of inspiration going I don’t love anything as much as getting it all down on paper. I have twelve notes made overnight and I need to get them fleshed out before they melt away. There is little so sad as a ghost of an idea, when you remember you had a brilliant idea, and thought of a great opening line, and find that it has slipped away as you came downstairs.

I now need fifteen words to finish off. It can be tricky when writing this sort of post – enough to show I’m still alive, but not enough to divert me. Expect me back later today when I need a change of pace.

Pictures are from our recent trip to Southwold, which was in the headlines this week – it will soon have no bank in town.  This is part of a growing trend towards removing cash from society and making us all vulnerable to internet fraud. Cash is a security issue for banks. So is computer fraud, but they can make that our problem with a few subtle alterations to their terms and conditions.

More beach huts at Southwold



The Journey of a Life

It was beautiful as long as it lasted – The journey of my life
Farewell my Friends – Rabindranath Tagore

Today we celebrated the life of one of my uncles who died shortly after his 100th birthday. It was, to be honest, a very pleasant day. We set off at 7.30, the roads were clear and when we arrived in Wendover it was everything you would want from a small English town. The Church is light and airy and was pleasantly cool on a day that saw my car temperature gauge reach 33 degrees C. The service was excellent and we saw the memorial cross in the header, pictured by Julia.

It’s just a shame, as we mentioned several times, that we only meet when someone dies. If it hadn’t been for that it would have been a perfect day, with good weather and five generations of the family there. I’ve never had a picnic in a church before, so today’s post funeral buffet was quite a strange experience. I couldn’t, initially, rid myself of the feeling that I was going to be told off by a church official as I balanced a cup of tea and a plate of sandwiches on the chair next to me, but by the end, I was much more relaxed. I managed to spill cream from the excellent scones on my shirt, but fortunately I missed my tie. The tie is now folded back in the glove box ready for the next funeral.

I think one of the kids might have given it to me, as it’s much narrower than any tie I remember buying. This is good – if it had been wider the cream would have fallen on it, and ties are not easy to clean.

Now, a quick word on the wooden cross in the picture. I may have covered some of this before. After the war, as the Imperial War Graves Commission (as it was then) concentrated all the smaller burial grounds into the larger cemeteries we see today and erected the permanent grave markers, they gave the families the opportunity to have the original crosses from the graves of their loved ones. As I interpret the various articles I have read, the families had to pay for the markers to be sent. For many of them, already struggling to get by without a husband or a father, this additional cost could not be justified. Despite this, around 10,000 were returned. According to a website I read this evening, the location of approximately 550 are known. That means either that there are 9,450 held in private hands, which is unlikely, as you would hear about them or see them for sale, or that over 9,000 have rotted, been thrown away or otherwise lost. That is what happens to our history if we don’t look after it.

Of course, you could say that about a lot of things.

More information on Captain Hudson is available here. And here.




3,101 – Inspiration is Difficult in the Heat

It seems that yesterday’s post was number 3,100.  At 3,000 I was happy at my achievement. Then I developed an ambition to get to 3,100. Now I’m looking forwards and wondering when I will get to number 4,000.

Yesterday I sent off three poems for a members’anthology. It’s not a great challenge – I’m pretty sure all members get one in automatically. However, the good bit was that I had the acceptance within hours. In the last year or so I have been submitting so late in the cycle that in some cases I’ve only waited days for a decision. Now that I’m submitting three weeks before the end of the cycle I have to wait at least three weeks. It’s definitely not as exciting . . .

As I’m starting to submit a bit of mainstream poetry again I’m going to have to get used to this sort of thing – many of the regular poetry magazines take three months or more to get back to you.

It’s been a bit hot today, but not the worst it’s been. I’m not going to complain because this i possible the best weather we’ve had all year and it’s going to finish soon. Give it a couple of months and it will be cooler. In fact it’s just a couple of weeks ago we were thinking we might need a touch of heating on. We normally last until late September or even into October in a good year. Withe price of power still being high, every day is a bonus.

These days I do not watch the approach of winter with the same relaxed attitude I used to have when I was in my 30s. The cold and damp hurt more, for one thing. Bills are higher, draughts are keener and duvets are no fun when you sleep with a woman who gathers the bedding round her with the grim determination of a hibernating bear (and snarls in much the same way as the aforementioned ursine when you try to get a little of it back).

It seems that Royal Mail filled a form in wrongly and the Irish Customs have charged the customer nearly 150 Euros in duty. We are now having to provide copy paperwork to help her reclaim the overpayment. The postage was £15 so you’d think they could get it right. That filled a good part of my afternoon.

Incidentally, last week while I was away at the funeral, we had two parcels returned by the Irish Post Office. It’s taken six months. There is something seriously wrong with the Irish postal service. Out favourite theory is that it is their revenge for Brexit. They were OK until Brexit and it all fell apart at that time. Same for Germany. Italy was always chaotic, even before Brexit.  I could have walked to Ireland, delivered them and walked back in that time.

Postal charges are going up again – for the second time in the year. In April First Class letters went up from 95p to £1.15, which was a bit savage. In October they will be going up to £1.25. Three price rises in 18 months. Meanwhile the quality of service goes down.

Heavily stamped envelope

Today’s Post – 300 Words, Fermented Shark and Pizza

I was doing OK until lunch, not pulling up any trees, but getting some work done. Then I stopped to eat (Julia made avocados for lunch) and went to sit in front of TV with a coffee. (Yes, of course I made her one! And a Kit Kat.) The quizzes started, the snoozing commenced and four hours later I find I’ve frittered the afternoon away, watched some dreadful cricket and have to cook tea. The pizzas are in the oven now. I’m taking ten minutes to do this then I’m going to make the salad. It’s not a great meal, but it’s not the worst meal either. (Actually, it was quite a bad meal, as I got hot cheese stuck to the roof of my mouth).

View from Bangor Pier

I’m not sure what the worst meal is, probably something featuring fish, beetroot and salad, or something Icelandic with a sheep’s head or festering fish in the middle. At times like this, you have to ask why British cuisine is so often criticised when people like the Icelanders exist. How bad does your life have to be before you adopt boiled sheep’s head as  a national dish? Having just read this link, I can see life was very hard. I now forgive them for their culinary delinquency, though whether I’d want to go on a culinary tour of Iceland is another matter. They don’t have salt because they have no firewood to boil the seawater (and let’s face it, the sun is going to be no help in Iceland) so that’s why they ferment food and wind dry it. It’s amazing how little you can know about someone who is almost a neighbour.

Bangor Pier

If Iceland had a massive TV industry I suppose I’d know more about Icelandic cuisine and less about American.

I’m tempted to go on from here and discuss the use of soft power in world politics, but this probably isn’t the place for serious political discussions about subtlety and influence. Fermented shark, yes. Russian Foreign Policy, no. Draw your own conclusions.

Jellyfish at Bangor

I was looking for photos when I found these. It was a good day and a big jellyfish – about the size of a dustbin.

Reflections and Other Procrastination

Got up intending to launch into another positive and productive day after reading another chapter of the positive thinking book and spent an hour and a half catching up, reading blogs and moving things round. It’s all necessary and it’s all entertaining, but is it work? As his is my day off, does it matter if it’s work?

I see that Paolsoren is making a determined bid to become the next big thing in Australian poetry. Already dubbed “the Antipodean McGonagall” by one of his readers, his latest poem is open to many interpretations. Beware if you read the poem, it contains the concept of asparagus stew which some readers may find upsetting. I did.

Derrick Knight is still travelling round the New Forest bothering livestock and photographing flies. Well, he was yesterday. I’m thinking of starting a campaign where we all add “National treasure” every time we mention his name. He should probably include it in the title of his blog too. Derrick Knight, National Treasure . ..

Meanwhile Tootlepedal is stalking butterflies in the pursuit of a perfect flying butterfly shot. “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, Or what’s a heaven for?” as Browning famously said. I still don’t understand it because reach and grasp are two different things. One involves arm length and the other involves grip strength. However, leaving that aside, I know it’s meant to be a quote about ambition and know that ambition is alive and well in the Borders.

Last night on Amazon I ordered some display stands for the displays I’m planning on doing at the Numismatic Society of Nottinghamshire. I also researched products for my newly shaved head. I was looking for something in the line of a polish, but they mainly seemed to have moisturising products. Ridiculous! If I need moisturising I can use hand cream. It’s bound to work on other body parts. I have half a bottle left from the days I used to use it to stop my hands cracking in my gardening days. As for he polish, we have some beeswax in the cleaning cupboard. I always said beeswax was better than spray polish and it looks like I’m right. Considering that I think of  myself as bald, my scalp is alarmingly stubbly after just one week. Time for another shave.

(Disclaimer: It’s probably better if you don’t try his a home. What works for me may not be good for all skin types, and remember, my idea of a suitable male fragrance is Dettol, so I’m no fashion icon. The original Dettol that is, not the new stuff with the lavender and honey. Honey!) 

A Short Productive Spell

I Have a Problem

My positive thinking campaign has paid off so far. I have written more and have submitted to two magazines that I have a patchy record with, one that has always turned me down and one I have never submitted to before. So far, two have replied and both accepted something – one senryu and one Haibun. These were, to be fair, the magazines that had published me before, even if it was not a regular thing. I’m now waiting to see what happens with the other two. It could be months yet, as neither are particularly speedy.

Unfortunately, though I’m doing more work, I am also finding myself bogged down by admin. Some of it is out of proportion to the increased workload. I could keep track of most stuff I was doing with just a brain and a piece of paper but now I’m picking up the work rate and increasing the submissions I am having to keep better records. My brain is marginal at the best of times but give it four new magazines, and the  30 extra poems and I am struggling to keep up.

So far this year I have made 38 submissions. By the end of the year it will be about 50. It’s a long way from the hundred I used to talk about as a target, but it’s near enough one a week, which seems quite a lot when you are the one doing the writing. I don’t know how the woman who wrote the article managed a hundred.  I just looked it up. She was actually aiming for 100 rejections a year. However, all she got was  43, and five acceptances. Lightweight! Makes my submission record, in a lazy year, look quite good.

Today has been mainly taken up with sorting out two submissions, working out my paperwork system, cookery, reading blogs and  drinking tea. Well you need some relaxation time don’t you? I think I have things sorted now, but it’s been a struggle.

It’s now time to complete a blog post telling you all how hard I am working.

Ooops! I just realised that the first meeting of the Numismatic Society is taking place on 11th and I wanted to put on a small display of some local items. I hve the items (mostly) bu I now have a week to do the research. It’s going to be a bit tight.

The Numismatic Society starts again. Can winter be far behind?

Oh, the problem? Time. It’s always time . . .