Category Archives: writing

Seven Percent

As I wrote it, I thought the title seemed familiar. Entering “Seven Percent” into Google confirms that it was the title of a Sherlock Holmes film, though one of the later stories. That’s “later” as in after Conan Doyle died, though I do note that the seven percent solution was mentioned in some of the original stories.

That is just a diversion, the real purpose of the title is to report progress on my 100 Post/100 Day challenge.

I’m sure Derrick J Knight and Tootlepedal have posted for years with no interruption. I have managed over 100 days of successive posting several times but I’m not as well-organised as they are. I’ve also noticed a difference since I started work again – after a hard six hour day battering a keyboard and posting parcels I often find I’m too tired to post. I’m getting soft, which is one of the reasons for the challenge and its public announcement.

I’ve been practising my poetry skills for the last couple of years and trying to write something every day. It’s been hard work getting back into practice and I’m not sure I’ve really returned to my levels of 14 years ago when I had my other, brief, career as a poet.

That, plus the blog, was as much writing as I could comfortably do.

The rot set in when I started looking at ebay as part of the process of getting back to work. That takes more time than you’d think, even though a lot of it isn’t really productive.

Add a job to that, even if it is only six hours a day, and the catering and blogging have been suffering. Hence the need for a challenge.

It came about because I needed more haiku practice. Someone had written a blog detailing their challenge of writing 100 haiku in 100 days, and the benefits they gained. I thought I might try that, as I need the practice and polish, but before I started, I read this.

My report on the 1,000 Hiku challenge is that I’m five days in, and I’m ahead of the count. I’m already learning a lot, but that’s a discussion for another day, though one of the things I’ve learnt is that I really ought to stop taking this sort of thing on, and I should stop telling people I’m doing it.

100 in 100 days would have been plenty…

 

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Sumac Tree and Sunshine

For pictures I’ve used two pictures of the sumac tree in the MENCAP gardens – I’ve used them both recently but not together. They are about two weeks apart.

Time is passing.

 

 

Mental Freewheeling

A thought struck me this morning.

Our kids, though “young” in our eyes, are actually older than Julia and I were when we first met.

I’m having trouble putting that in perspective.

It makes me feel old, but it also makes me wonder if I’m treating them like children when they are really adults. On the other hand, maybe I’ll start treating them like adults when they start acting like adults. Until then I will keep providing logistical support and offering advice which is ignored.

That represents most of the thinking I did this morning because, after dropping Julia off at work, I went back to sleep for much of the morning. I was able to set the bedroom fan just how I like it and go back to sleep for four hours.

The new router finally arrived from British Telecom. It only took three months, five phone calls and (from them) multiple examples of poor customer service for us to get this far. At this point I think it’s fair to point out that this is far, far better than my experience with Virgin.

I’m still both impressed and appalled by the way I made tea last night. Julia didn’t know what she wanted, just “something light”, so I threw together avocados, prawns, rocket, coleslaw, tomatoes and thousand island dressing (or ketchup, mayonnaise and plain yoghurt if you require accuracy).

It’s impressive because I merely toured a supermarket pulling things from shelves and produced a reasonable meal. Even after forty years of cooking for self and family I’m still always amazed when I manage to do that.

On the other hand there are ecological issues with avocados and prawns, plastic issues with bagged rocket, tomatoes and coleslaw and some air mile and additive concerns too.

I should have done better at growing my own (we’ve grown virtually nothing this year) and I’m capable of making better coleslaw than the one we had last night.

I just looked up eco-guilt as I think that’s what I’m suffering from. It is a word, though without the hyphen. I like the hyphen but I suppose I’ll have to lose it. Also known as “green guilt”. There’s a whole post waiting to be written on that.

Meanwhile I’m a bad parent and mediocre husband – do I really have enough guilt left to encompass the plight of avocado farmers and plastic-eating sea creatures?

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George Orwell – Southwold Pier

Unfortunately not. I would like to worry about them, but it’s not going to happen until I can find more space in my (metaphorical) self-flagellation schedule. I’ll try to cut down on plastic, and I’ll try to eat less processed food, but it’s hard to remember when you’re busy and shallow.

Currently I’m reading a book about three friends touring the piers of England and Wales. It’s research, as I’m considering doing the same thing. I’ve always wanted to write a book so I may stitch together the blog posts on piers and give it a go.

One fear is always about word count – can I write enough words. I reckon the blog now runs to around 400,000 words which suggests that stamina and vocabulary won’t be a problem, though it’s still only enough words to do 80% of War and Peace.

I once read Gone with the Wind (400,000 words) when I was about 16. It took a weekend. I then moved on to War and Peace (500,000 words), lost my way in the family names, stalled, tried again and lost the will to live. That is a lot of words, though I feel War and Peace was probably easier to write than it is to read.

Obviously writing is not like bricklaying so just being able to stack words on top of each other won’t be enough. I have some regular followers/commenters who seem to stick with me so I suppose I must be doing OK

I’ve just counted the words I’ve written on two piers and two lots of fish and chips – 2,739. If I extend to crabs, winkles and candyfloss that should give me 75,000 words, which should be enough for a book. Add in the words I’ve done on marshes, butterflies and such and we come up to around 100,000 words, probably a few more if we get held up in traffic. This is likely to be too many.

It looks like I’ve just publicly committed myself to visiting over 50 piers and writing a book about it.

Having done that, and I did think about it before I wrote it down, I now have no excuses.

As I wrote that line I felt all my confidence drain…

What have I done?

 

 

 

A Note About Laurie Graves – Author, Raconteur and Eater of Ice Cream

I referred to Laurie Graves as a “noted author” in a recent post. She, of course, modestly demurred.

Well, apart from her blog, Notes from the Hinterland, she has also written a Young Adult book – Maya and the Book of Everything.

Having searched for those links I now feel a touch of shame that I have fallen behind with her blog, and have not reviewed the book on Amazon. I did review it on this blog, but that didn’t really reach many people compared to reviewing it on Amazon. I really must do better.

According to her latest post Laurie has just completed the first draft of her second Maya novel.

I’m looking forwards to the new book.

So, there you are – I’ve written a note about her. She is now definitely a noted author.

In time she may become well-known, famous, prize-winning or even legendary. Who can tell? But for now, she is definitely a noted author.

🙂

Reading, Writing, Researching, Reviewing…

Easter Sunday, being one of the two days of the year when the shops close, is the perfect guilt-free day for catching up on things I want to do. There are no launderettes, no shops and no garden centres to reproach me for my lack of activity. I do experience a slight twinge of guilt at not going to church, and it does bother me that Julia has to work, but a sit down with a nice cup of tea usually helps me get over it.

Today was similar, as we both decided to block out the weather and watch poor quality TV. Or, to be more accurate, we decided to block out the weather and watch the only TV that was available.

It’s a bit like junk food, sometimes it’s just what you need.

I’ve been using it to do some reading, as I don’t seem to have done much reading recently. I’ve also looked some things up and taken photos of book jackets ready to do a bit of reviewing.

What I haven’t done over the last two days was much writing. I think the cause of this lies in potential – as I prepare, the whole world of blogging is out there, waiting for my masterpiece.

Once it’s written it’s just one more slightly disappointing post.

 

More About Words

I’ve been looking at the list of words that should be banned from poems, as mentioned in a previous post. They have been nagging at me since I looked at the list in preparing the post. I’m now worried that I’m unacceptable as a writer because I’m using unacceptable words.

To get things straight, I’m going to carry on using the word “rectal” no matter what. The amount of times I’ve been in hospital recently I want to be very clear when discussing thermometers as the consequences of a mix up could disturb my dreams for a very long time.

The same goes for the following list, though for different reasons. Ammonite, blob, candyfloss, daffodil, destiny, fester, frond, golden, gossamer, heartbreak, Jesus, mango, milt, poised, prayer, shimmer, shriek, snot, soul, sunset, tesserae and ziggurat.

They are mostly unexceptional words and if you are writing about fossils, flowers or fish breeding you are probably going to struggle to do without them. We went to Cirencester once, where they have a great display of Roman mosaics. It would be tough to visit without being armed with the word tesserae. Same would apply if I ever visited a museum of Assyrian temples. There are just some words you can’t do without.

I daren’t use the word shards, because it’s been universally decried over the years, and anyway, if I need to discuss broken pots with an archaeologist I’m sure that potsherds, as they used to be called in my youth, will suffice.

I can’t say the same for some of the other words. Some are just dreadful words – loo and humdinger – and have no part in my vocabulary. When the world is so full of words for toilet (yes, I know it’s non-U) why bother to use one so loaded with class connotations? We have bog, jakes, ajax, thunderbox, water-closet, house of ease, WC, to name a few of te politer ones. (No thesaurus was used in the listing of loo substitutes, I just have a very unsophisticated vocabulary). As for humdinger, I really don’t have a use for it. If something is splendid I shall say so. I don’t need humdinger and I certainly don’t need awesome. Awesome isn’t actually on the list – but unless something inspires awe it’s not necessary. That, of course, is just mt biased opinion.

You then move on to archaic. over-used and complicated words – epiphany, harbinger, hark, lambent, myriad and sapient. I have used several of them in prose, but they are a bit overdone in poetry. However, if I ever need to write a poem about a hard of hearing, knowledgeable forerunner who gets licked by a lot, and I mean a lot, of intellectuals and experiences a life-changing moment, I may have to use them.

That leaves palimpsest, plethora and snedder.

I like palimpsest, though I have never used it. I don’t tend to write about re-used parchment. I have used plethora recently. As for snedder, there’s a limited number of times you can use it. Seamus Heaney, as far as I know, only used it once. That’s probably once more than most of us will use it. Unless you write poems about turnips.

 

 

 

 

A Day for Clerihews

The Clerihew, according to Wikipedia, is a four line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley, with a rhyme scheme of aabb. The lines are irregular, though the first line should feature the name of the person who is the subject of the poem.  Bentley believed that the name should be at the end of the line as part of the challenge lay in finding a rhyme for awkward names. It can be whimsical, absurd and inaccurate.

In other words, they aren’t very demanding in terms of technique and historical research.

Here are three that I’ve written as part of a series about British Prime Ministers. Don’t rely on them if you are revising for an exam on the subject. I’ve covered PMs in other posts, but as there have been around 57 of them I still have a way to go.

I will try a few more over Christmas as I will have (a) time and (b) an unpleasantly crotchety attitude, which are both useful for political subjects.

 

 

Robert Walpole, 1st Earl of Orford,

was known to be fond of his orchard.

He was in power for 20 years.

And he raised gin tax, causing many tears.

 

Augustus Henry FitzRoy, 3rd Duke of Grafton

never wore a kaftan.

As a Chathamite Whig

he was a bit of a prig.

 

 

PM Stanley Baldwin

had a disagreement with the King.

A man of stately carriage,

he opposed King Edward’s marriage.

 

 

 

 

Bad Words for Poems

One of the first things I saw yesterday morning was the condensation trail of an airliner in the sky. At 6.45am the sky was clear and still tinged pink with the sunrise.

Later in the day, while we were between the seals and the chips, I saw more contrails. By that time the sky was bright blue, and seemed huge.

Suddenly my brain went into alliteration mode, with “cerulean” and “cicatrice”, following with “ceiling “. I could have gone with “sky” and “scar” but where’s the fun in that?

Cerulean isn’t a word you see every day, though after consulting Wikipedia I see it gets used more times than I think. Despite this I’m pretty sure that it hasn’t been used seriously since 1895.

I once read that the word shard should never be used in poetry, and I’ve searched the internet to check where I read it. I can’t find the original, but I found this list when I was searching.  Cerulean isn’t on it, but I think it should be.

Same goes for cicatrice. Their heyday was in the 1920s when they were often to be found on the faces of sinister foreign henchmen. Although Ian Fleming did his best to keep them going the sinister foreign henchman had all but died out by the 1960s, and taken the cicatrice with them.

I think I’m safe with ceiling. It’s not the most poetic word but I’m tempted go have a go at rhyming it with “sealing”.

With cerulean, cicatrice and ceiling, followed with sky, scar and sealing I’m well on my way to what could be a spectacularly bad poem.

Now all I need is a poetry competition along the lines of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest.