Moaning – a Skill for Modern Men

This afternoon I had a call from the hospital. It was slightly confused as I thought he said he was from Haematology and I thought it was about the blood test last week. It seems he said Rheumatology and he was ringing to tell me that my GP would be in touch. Why? Because my naughty GP hadn’t filled the form in correctly and they had refused me a consultation until the form was filled in properly.

I should have asked why they had staff to ring and tell me that but no staff to ring and get the information directly.

What I actually said was – “All you need to know is that my hand is virtually useless and I’d like it fixing.”

He said: “Oh.”

I think he was expecting me to simper with gratitude.

I let them off lightly last time they screwed me over. It isn’t going to happen a second time. I’m making notes and I’m going to use them this time.

Most of the rest of my day was devoted to struggling with School Attendance Medals. There are basically two types of these – interesting ones and one given out in London. There’s a whole website devoted to London medals here. Read it and tell me you retain the will to live.

I was given the London ones to do.

Don’t get me wrong – they are an interesting piece of social history, but as a subject for multiple listing on eBay. I have entered the date, metal, clasp detail, name, grade of medal and catalogue numbers for approximately 40 medals, with prices, conditions and at least three photographs for each one. I have struggled, made mistakes and accidentally lost the data on a whole batch. I say “lost”, but I actually managed to delete it by carelessness. Twice.

That’s enough for now. I really don’t want to dwell on it.

The standard catalogue on School Attendance Medals is School Attendance Medals of England, Scotland and Wales by Cedric Dry (Whitmore 1992). 

I will leave you with that thought.

 

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That’s right, MORE London School Attendance Medals

Cold, Wet and Miserable

Yesterday morning when we left the house the day was beautiful – just the right temperature with a bright blue sky and a goldfinch perched incongruously on a TV aerial singing its heart out.

I wasted the rest of the day labouring on a computer in a windowless back room thinking of freedom and foolproof ways to kill my co-workers. This isn’t time wasted as it will eventually become the plot for one of my planned series of crime novels. The motive still needs work – nobody is going to believe that someone is murdered because he keeps moving the scissors – but I am being pushed to the edge. The only thing that prevents a fatal stabbing at the moment is the fact I can never find the bloody scissors.

What a contrast with today.

I stuck my head out of the door into a gloomy world with a low grey sky and only the chatter of a magpie to serve as a soundtrack. Even that stopped before I reached the car. No doubt it had found something small and defenceless to eat.

Wednesday is my day off but today was not to be filled with fun because it is MOT day. Actually, yesterday was MOT day, but because I’m a poor organiser it didn’t get done. Yesterday it had a new windscreen to replace the one that was cracked in Stoke on Trent as that sort of damage means a fail in the test.

Have I really being procrastinating for six months? That’s world class procrastination.

Fortunately the law allows you to drive without a valid MOT certificate as long as you are driving directly to a test station to keep a previously booked appointment.

They rang me just before lunch to tell me it had failed despite the new screen. It seems that one of the tyres I didn’t replace after the holiday had failed because of damage to the inner side-wall. It’s now cost me £325 for 3 tyres, the excess for the windscreen insurance and the MOT. Car ownership is starting to look like an expensive hobby.

They rang just after lunch to tell me it was ready, but when I stuck my head out of the door it was pouring down. I’d been typing in the dining room and hadn’t noticed. It was heavy, blustery and constant.

Half an hour later it was still blustery and constant, but it was heavier. And my coat was in the car. I have another coat. Unfortunately that was also in the car. My habit is to wear a coat while I am outside, walk back to the car, put it in the car and then walk into the house without the coat. This means I always have a coat with me when we go out.

It also means that, having failed to take the hint offered by the morning’s grey sky, I had walked home without a coat. It’s only quarter of a mile. Who needs a coat for that distance?

Fortunately I do have a third coat. Unfortunately, I’ve had it a while and I can no longer fasten it. I’ve noticed this with clothes. As they get older they seem to get smaller.

So, to summarise. Heavy rain, gusting wind. Coat that won’t fasten. Nothing for it but to grit my teeth and walk. At least my back will stay dry, I thought.

That’s where my new haircut came into play. With a newly shaved head there is nothing to impede rain as it runs off your shiny scalp and down your neck.

Later that day we went shopping. I checked my lottery tickets and found I had won £2.70.

Some days you think fate is laughing at you.

Other days you are certain it is.

 

 

Murder Your Darlings

‘Whenever you feel an impulse to perpetrate a piece of exceptionally fine writing, obey it—whole-heartedly—and delete it before sending your manuscript to press. Murder your darlings.’

Arthur Quiller-Couch

This is generally agreed to be good advice to writers. Such good advice, in fact that it has been attributed to a whole clutch of famous writers, such as Faulkner, Oscar Wilde and Chekov. Not that Wilde was ever likely to have said it, but he just attracts attributions.

What it means is that when you write something particularly fine it is probably wandering off the point and needs to be done away with.

I have a haibun like that. It is based on observation, it has been pared down, sent out, pared down again, sent out… You get the picture. Four times I have sent it out, hopefully having been improved each time, and four times it has bounced back. I’m beginning to feel that I’m the only one who likes it.

This is the version I consider the best one. I have removed several of the improvements because I prefer it this way. The finished version included Gordon’s Gin and Lemons, when the real life version featured supermarket vodka and limes. I just thought it warmed things up a little, as the idea of a fragile pensioner laying into cheap vodka is a little bleak. It clearly didn’t work. I also think lemon scans better than lime, but maybe that’s just me.

It might not be the text or the story, of course, it may just be that the haiku is weak. This has been a matter for discussion with several of my published pieces, and may well have played a part in the non-selection of others.

The way to kill a poem is to publish it on a website. Editors don’t want previously published work. If anyone has any ideas as to why it never made the grade, I’d be happy to hear them.

I don’t generally publish my own work, as you know, because I’m never sure about the quality unless a proper editor has selected it. In this case I’m making an exception because I’m looking for ideas, and making you all accessories to murder.

 

One Perfect Lime

The leopard print boots attract my attention. They are several sizes too big for the woman wearing them, and, I think ungallantly, several decades too young.

She is thin and almost translucent, with wispy white hair and the twitching neck movements of an egret.

Shuffling down the aisle in her overly large boots, and getting in my way, she carries a basket containing own-brand yoghurt and a bag of carrots. We go our own ways, but as so often happens we meet in another aisle. Her shopping has increased by one small wholemeal loaf and a bottle of supermarket vodka. She is selecting an unwaxed lime with great care, holding it up to the light and turning it to see all sides.

 

years have passed

since you last danced

one perfect lime

 

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From the Stained Glass Museum at Ely Cathedral

On the Up

We had 20 parcels to post today, which took some doing as many of them had multiple items in them. However, I’m  a professional parcel packer so it’s what I expect. I’m sure there’s a tongue-twister in there somewhere…

Then I returned home to be industrious. I normally waste my half-day by eating fast food and seeing friends, but today I have writing and cooking in mind. I’m going to cook tonight’s tea in advance, and probably Tuesday’s too. But first I’m going to blog.

Do you remember me saying I was back in the game a few days ago? Well, at that time I had two submissions out, both using my email system as an editor due to the lack of Word on the netbook. I’ve just had an acceptance on one of them, so I really am back in the game. This is a record, even for me. From the depths of despair to unbearably smug in just 12 days.

Julia says that one of my most annoying characteristics is my ability to be irritatingly happy. It is, she says, a characteristic I share with my father. At 30 I used to be dismayed at the thought of being anything like my father. In my 60s I take it as a compliment.

The result is that every time she accuses me of being irritatingly happy I smile broadly, knowing I’m carrying on a family tradition. And that, of course, makes me even more irritating…

Every marriage, they say, needs a little mystery to add spice to it. The biggest mystery in our marriage is why she puts up with me.

And that, in a neatly circular manner, brings me back to the beginning. I’ve come home to do some cooking as I really should make more effort. But not so much effort I can’t write a quick post first.

Sorry about repeating more photos, I will sort some new ones out for tomorrow.

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Greylag Goose Arnot Hill Park Arnold

All’s Right With the World

Having gone to bed just before midnight, I found myself awake and ready to creak into action just before 7am. There’s something inevitable about it. As a result, I will potter about until mid-afternoon. If I make the mistake of sitting down in front of TV I will then sleep. I don’t know why, but 3pm on a Sunday just seems to be made for sleeping.

It is now 8am and, having just discovered that I’ve left my camera at the shop, I am muttering at the computer screen and using this quiet sliver of time to blog.

Julia has had her weekly lie-in (she calls it that to make me feel guilty about my sluggardly habits) and is moving around upstairs.

She will be down soon, disturbing my day by pressing cups of tea on me and asking if I would like her to wash my shirts. She means well but seems unable to understand that a creative artist needs time and space in which to write.

I do need tea and clean shirts, but I want them to appear magically rather than have to answer questions about them when I’m pursuing my career as a 21st century Samuel Pepys.

At this time of the week I like to mull over events and draw lessons from them.

In this case the events of the week were uneventful and I learned that I didn’t know much.

I did manage to work the word “skullduggery” into an eBay description, the first time I’ve used it in writing in my life, though I’m still deciding how to spell it. There are choices. This might be the first time I’ve used the word “orthography” in writing too. I don’t recall using it before, but why would you, when “spelling” is just as good for most purposes?

It cropped up in something I was reading during the week and I thought, “I’ve never used the word “orthography” in writing.” Now I’ve used it twice.

I read it in a book about Shakespeare. I doubt that he ever used it, but if he did it would have been ironic, in that he would probably have spelt it in several different ways. The Elizabethans did that, and Shakespeare was hard pressed to spell his own name the same way twice.

Just some old photos again, due to lack of camera. The title comes from the fact that, miserable as I am, there can’t be much wrong with life when Julia is making cups of tea and I still have new words to use.

Even if I only have a picture of a cup of coffee.

Help, get me out of here!

Help, get me out of here!

Thoughts on Diet and Multi-Tasking

I’ve gone back to using the netbook. It may be slow but I can use it while I sit in front of the TV and talk to Julia. I think I finally have the hang of this multi-tasking thing.

It won’t be a regular return, as it’s already irritating me by lagging and locking up.

Apart from the time element, this also makes me feel less like writing and less like posting photos.

However, it does leave more time for tea and Julia.

This, in turn, means Julia is able to discuss my character faults in greater detail.

The actual benefits of multi-tasking are, I feel, debatable.

Today I have consumed oranges, an apple, blueberries, raspberries, tomato, onion and courgettes. I am therefore healthy, virtuous and in no danger of constipation. I did fit in a bowl of cereal, a small pork pie, a cheese cob and a pork chop too, so there’s still some work to do on my diet. And a doughnut and a piece of fudge. That’s the trouble with being virtuous, there’s always a bit of sugar lurking about, ready to throw itself down your throat.

Nothing exciting happened today. We had a few strange questions via eBay this morning, which took half an hour to answer tactfully.

I’m not sure if it’s actually confirmed by legislation but it does seem to be a widely accepted there is a basic human right to be a gibbering idiot, so you have to be polite.

It’s strange how eBay has become the international gathering place for such people. You’d think that people who were that stupid wouldn’t be able to operate a computer.

 

 

 

 

A Wastrel’s Life, Or The Glamour of Compost

I used to be a dull person, but I was lucky enough to work outdoors with butterflies, compost and bread.

This added a false veneer of interest to my life.

Now that I spend my days packing parcels in a windowless back room I dream of butterflies and the glamour of compost.

On the plus side, I do get paid for sitting in the windowless back room where most of my work on the farm was unpaid. That’s what happens when you work for your wife…

All in all, I really don’t know which I prefer. Money isn’t everything and it’s hard to put a price on working with your wife, and having flexibility and free time. I would definitely live my life differently if I had it all over again, but I’m not sure it would be an improvement.

I think I’ve covered this before.

All I will add before moving on is that I really ought to be ashamed of the way I have squandered my opportunities, ruined my health and loafed my life away. I do sometimes have regrets in my more introspective moments, but they aren’t real. I don’t necessarily like being a ne’er do well, but I’d hate to be an accountant.

Don’t take this badly if you are an accountant, there is academic research on the subject. This shows that accountants are boring because of the vocabulary they use. It also shows that academics have too much time on their hands. It’s not as if someone writing something called Writing in English for Specific Purposes can take the moral high ground in matters of being interesting. I’m actually confused as the link in the article doesn’t quite tie in to the page that comes up but I can’t really be bothered to sort it all out. Sorry about that, but I’m not academic and I have a cavalier attitude.

If I had to select a motto for my life I’d probably give this one a go.

“I myself am made entirely of flaws, stitched together with good intentions.”

Augusten Burroughs

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Juvenile Starling – looking before it leaps