Tag Archives: cynicism

Be Careful What You Wish For

Only one day after saying I was waiting impatiently for news from two editors, one got back to me.

Not only did they get back to me, but they told me they were going to pass on the haibun which, it seems, lack depth, as the haiku fail to take the reader on a step beyond the prose.

This is slightly depressing as I was just beginning to think I was getting the hang of things. About a year ago I had several haibun returned as the haiku were felt to be a step to far away from the prose and were not related enough.

Rejection I can cope with. It is, as I recently said, simply an indication that one particular editor, at this time, doesn’t think that the work is right for publication. It isn’t personal and it isn’t necessarily an opinion shared by other editors.

What does concern me a little with this rejection is that the specific objection is one that I thought I’d addressed. It’s not about my ability to write, it’s about my judgement of what is good and what is bad. I actually thought I was getting better and was moderately happy with them. (I am never fully happy with any submissions, even when they are published, I even went over yesterdays Limmerbun to alter a line this afternoon).

I have just been and looked at about twenty haibun in a couple of magazines. About a third of them had haiku attached which were stronger than mine. Another third featured haiku much the same as mine. The final third featured haiku which bore little relationship to anything that had gone on in the prose – my previous problem. This, of course, is just my opinion, and as we have just seen, my opinion may not be correct. I would however suggest that on another day, with another editor and a different magazine, these haibun could have been accepted,

This all goes to show that there is no good and bad in haibun, just things that gain approval and things that don’t. Today, I didn’t. Watch, learn, move on. I will tweak them over the next few days. It’s not so much improving them as moving them more into the area where they are likely to be accepted for publication. Or does that sound too cynical?

I will leave you with these wise words from one of our great, but unappreciated, philosophers.

“When you are a Bear of Very Little Brain, and you Think of Things, you find sometimes that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it.”A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

 

 

Sunday Once More

We’ve been out today for lunch in Derbyshire – meeting Number One son for lunch in Castleton, which is roughly half way between us. It was a very pleasant drive and an excellent lunch. Though we were spaced out in the dining room Derbyshire was a bit crowded at times and it’s easy to see how the virus spreads even when we are supposed to be being careful.

Everyone seems more chatty these days, as if the lockdown has made us more open to talking to strangers. It’s probably the only good thing to come from it. Well, maybe not quite – I have also broken my habit of ordering takeaway meals and buying supermarket sandwiches.

I could tell you more but I’m always quite reticent about discussing, or photographing other people for the blog. Part of me doesn’t want to take responsibility for talking about other people, and another part of me thinks that their stories are for them to tell. I would make a very poor autobiographer because of this. However, as I have had a dull, boring and even dreary life, I would make a poor autobiographer for many other reasons too.

View of Castleton, Derbyshire

Tonight I had another rejection. It was for haiku, and I tend to expect this as they are not my strongest suit. I fact, I have only ever had one accepted and this was probably out of charity.

It was a very nice rejection and the editor thanked me for submitting them, told me they had enjoyed all my haiku but had not, in this case selected any for the magazine. There was a suspicion of a double-edged compliment when they told me that they hoped to read some of them in other publications soon. That could be genuine good wishes for success, or just a coded way of telling me to go away and bother someone else.

Being cynical, I checked back a couple of years (I have, as you know, a large store of old emails) and found that this was exactly the same rejection message I had received in 2018.

My suspicion about a coded message is taking a more solid form.

Looking on the bright side, I have had three sets of haiku returned, which allows me to mix and match and send them out to a couple of other editors. As with the previous recipients I am sure they will all be very grateful.

View from Castleton, Derbyshire

10 Points about Writing Ten Point Lists

I was looking at an article on generating ideas. When you search for “generating ideas” on Google, two trends emerge.

One is a big business theme about generating major strategic ideas to make millions and/or change the world. That’s probably a bit more than I need, though it has its charms.

How about lacing the new corona virus vaccines with fish DNA so that future generations can live in the sea? You could even breed groups of piscatorialy enhanced people specifically to pick plastic litter from the oceans.

Just a thought. But if it works I expect a Nobel Prize.

The other theme is about generating ideas for writing articles. That wasn’t quite what I was after either, though I did spend a few hours reading various sites and seeing how people reused the same information time after time to generate blog content.

Ten point lists seem to be  a favourite.

So here’s my list –

10 Points about Ways to Writing Ten Point Lists

Make sure you have ten points. People will notice if you only have nine.

Start with number one. Why re-invent the wheel?

Several of the points can be the same thing written in a different way.

Point four. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious.

Steal it off another blog. That’s how they got theirs.

Don’t spend too much time over it, they don’t give Pulitzers for 10 Point Lists.

Make a general comment on the social,aspects of the list as in ‘I think we can all agree that this is particularly relevant in lockdown’. Hide it a little way down the list so people don’t notice you are being lazy.

Point nine. Add emphasis. Or, in other words, say the same thing again (see point 3). (Or point 4).

For a change, why not try a 13 point list for Halloween?

Simple.

For the autumn I will compile a 13 point list about writing 13 point lists for Halloween. I will use the ten point list, and add three more, change the order and if anyone queries it I will say that this is an example about getting the most out of your research. Or recycling my rubbish.

I think I’m getting the hang of this blogging stuff.

person writing on brown printer paper

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

Admitting Defeat

I am going to admit defeat. I have been struggling for things to say for a week or more and am now going to admit that I am defeated. There is no point in dressing it up – I have lost my ability to be light, frothy and cheerful.

I have no confidence in the government, who are lurching from one knee-jerk reaction to the next.

I have no confidence in my fellow citizens, who appear to be in the grip of panic-buying hysteria.

I have no confidence in many of the professionals who appear on TV. There have been a few who were worth listening to, but by definition, if they know what they are doing they are generally too busy for TV.

Does this sound bitter and negative? Sorry if that is the case. However, I assure you that it is upbeat and mild compared to the earlier versions that I wrote and discarded in the last few days.

I also think we are in the middle of a grandmother’s railings scenario – they want us to concentrate on washing hands rather than examine their policies.

I have been looking at various information on hand hygiene and flu transmission with a view to making sure I am doing the right things. It seems that hand-washing reduces respiratory infections by 16%. Yes, one sixth. It’s worth doing, but it’s clearly not the entire answer and it’s been diverting attention from other matters.

Now that I’m in the groove I can feel a rant coming on. I’m amazed by some of the things I’ve been reading, and very interested in the way that things are phrased to avoid giving information to casual readers like me.

I did find some concrete information – as a result of a hand hygiene campaign in the NHS a few years ago the use of soap and sanitiser went up and the incidence of infections went down. From that I infer that people weren’t washing their hands properly and patients were becoming ill as a result.

Try this, for more information. It’s illuminating, and frightening. The basic information is that the WHO calculates handwashing rates at 40% and in an American hospital study only 22% washed their hands after seeing a patient (rising to 57% when they knew they were being watched).

Makes you think, doesn’t it?

I used the owl as the header picture because we all need wisdom. And because I don’t have a picture of a Boris Johnson doll with pins in it.

 

 

 

 

 

Charity, Children and Christmas

It’s finally here (which is more than you can say about the promised article on the Gibraltar £20 coin), and in just over three hours it will be Christmas. It seems like a lot of effort goes into just one day.

It also seems like a lot of guilt goes into it, as we are emotionally blackmailed into giving money to the homeless, foreign children and donkeys. Now, I have great sympathy for the homeless, and for foreign children who are needlessly blind, or in need of fresh water, but I don’t appreciate the tactics of the charities in swamping the Christmas TV screens with these adverts.

As for the donkeys, I may sound heartless but compared to a child I don’t really see the suffering in the same league. I also think that on charity quiz shows the celebrities should be prohibited from raising money for animal charities, but that’s a personal view and as the RSPCA raised £81 million from legacies last year it seems there are plenty of people who are happy to give.

It’s an interesting document, the RSPCA report, though I notice that , once again, it fails to call for the prosecution of people who deliberately breed faults into dogs in the name of breed standards. Another personal point there. I must be careful not to rant.

I give to two charities monthly One is for children overseas and one for children in this country. I’ve been thinking of transferring the former donation to the homeless in this country, but after seeing the adverts I’ve decided to leave it. I may transfer the second one, as I’ve had words with the charity over the years about their tactics in trying to bully me to give more. It shows the power, and wisdom, of the TV adverts, where one has stopped me withdrawing support, and the other, which doesn’t advertise, might lose out. On the other hand, as it’s the charity and not the kids that have upset me, I may leave that too.

I’m in better financial shape than I have been for the last few years, so I may just have to give more, as I’m beginning to think about the homeless and the Salvation Army. Their adverts at Christmas always make me feel that way and General Booth came from Nottingham so I should support the local man.

And that, via a circuitous route, takes us back to the beginning of the post. It looks like the adverts, irritating, and cynical as they may be, do serve a purpose.

I will now wish those of you who celebrate Christmas good wishes for the holiday. Those of you who don’t celebrate Christmas can have my good wishes too. If you don’t hear from me tomorrow, imagine me eating a large lunch, with turkey and Hasselback potatoes, and snoozing in front of a feast of variable quality TV.

Dog Show Prize Medal

Dog Show Prize Medal

 

A Short Note on Difficult Customers

Sometimes on eBay you run up against an immovable object. With over a thousand items listed for sale at any time we are obviously going to make mistakes. In nine months we’ve sent the wrong item twice and had one complaint about quality. That’s less than quarter of a per cent.

We now have another complaint. With hindsight we should have expected it as the buyer asked for a discount before buying. We politely declined but he ordered anyway. We then had a letter of complaint telling us this was the worst lot he’d ever bought and various other things.

We offered him his money back.

He’s just replied that we’ve missed the point. He doesn’t want to send them back for a refund, he wants to struggle selling them and moan that the charity he sells for will lose money. He’s very keen to tell you he sells for charity.

There’s not much you can do to help some people.

Cynicism prompts me to suggest that his next note will contain a threat about negative feedback and another suggestion about discount. After all, he does sell for charity you know…

A Misty Morning and Thoughts of Mortality

It was, as the title suggestd, misty this morning. Due to Julia’s start time it was also dark, so there was no photo-opportunity. I may try again later.

Mist, which can be a nuisance on a long trip, is always welcome at this time of year because it tells me that Spring is coming. There’s a fine line between yearning for Spring and wishing your life away. and this year is probably the first time I’ve felt this quite so sharply. The last twelve months has made me focus on health, age and mortality in a way I’ve never done before.

It’s also the first year where I’ve been so aware that there’s more to winter than crisp mornings and a nip in the air. This year I’ve had to worry about falling and  the fact that I need to keep warm. O;d people die in winter, and I’ve been feeling old. In fact I’ve been feeling Very Old for the last few weeks as all my joints seems to have turned up the pain setting. If I was youmger I’d insert a Spinal Tap reference here about the pain levels being turned up to eleven. But I’m old. So I won’t.

They used to say that one of the signs of old age was that the policemen were looking younger. That happened ages ago, and didn’t really bother me. My personal milestone, is that Life Peers seem to be getting younger. I’ve added a link for readers who aren’t familiar with the UK’s constitution arrangements but, frankly, it doesn’t help.

All you need to know is that in the old days (basically from the dawn of time until 1958) if you worked hard, did your best and tried to be a useful member of society you would be allowed to wear yourself out and die.

If you added a layer of corruption, politics, back-stabbing, lick-spittling and (often) cash to that , you could become a Peer. In fact, let’s face it, if you did enough of this, you could get by without the hard work, doing your best and being a useful member of society. If you look at the current crop of Peers it’s hard to see many that will be of any use until we have Soylent Green on the menu.  Having lied, cheated and bribed your way to the top you could then pass on your title to future generations of inbred offspring.

All this changed in 1958. After 1958 you were generally no longer allowed to pass it on, and there was more politics involved. Because if you want to improve something, adding more input from politicians really is the way to go, isn’t it?

Getting back to the point, Life Peers are looking younger. To add insult to injury, they also remind me of my lack of success as  they all look sleeker, richer and socially superior to me.

 

 

The Cost of Daily Blogging

If you are as disorganised as me, one of the penalties of daily blogging is that you end up with less than an hour to post and keep your streak going. I could, if I had due regard for my readers and quality of my output, miss a day. However, when have you ever known me flinch from writing a cynical lightweight post just to make my stats look good?

That’s right, I’ve never flinched from cynical lightweight posts.

I refer, of course, to the cynicism inherent in writing a piece of fluff just to get a tick for the day. The normal cynicism of my character remains constant regardless of the need to write.

Today I offer the following advice to my fellow bloggers.

Always buy the best quality diamond you can afford. Remember the Four C’s of diamond buying. Cut, Colour, Clarity, Carat. Go for quality and do not be dazzled by size. Note that the carat weight of the stone comes last on the list. Better have a smaller sparkling diamond of top quality than a dull diamond of larger size.

Coloured diamonds, whilst expensive are just a novelty and, in my opinion, will be subject to the vagaries of fashion and harder to sell if the need arises.

When I worked out of a jewellers shop I once saw a large diamond that had been bought as an investment. It was large and it was cheap, and it was, to be fair, quite white. However, it didn’t sparkle, it was almost milky, and it had a selection of inclusions (bits of carbon and the like). We had to say that in our opinion it was unsaleable.

It hadn’t cost a fortune so it was a disappointment and a broken dream rather than a crippling financial blow. It was also a lesson about not buying diamonds on ebay.

This is a lesson in life, and can be applied to other areas. My mother always said it is better to have the worst house in a good area than the best house in a bad area. Some friends of our bought a lovely big house in a bad area. By the time they’d fitted security, bought a dog and borrowed a baseball bat it seemed less of a bargain.

It’s nearly midnight now so I’ll leave it here. The photos show the book reviews you can expect over the next few weeks.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

One door closes…

…and another door opens.

Warning: This post may contain rancour and traces of bitterness.

Three months ago we were informed that because the farm is not making money, we would have to vacate the Ecocentre (which would be rented out as a commercial property) and use either the kitchen or a barn.

The barn, being badly lit, leaky, windowless, unheated and infested with mice, was deemed unsuitable, despite promises to make it right. We’ve been promised things before.

The kitchen is a bit on the small side for the group, particularly when you get two electric wheelchairs in there, but it is better than the barn. We looked at alternatives, but there really wasn’t anything suitable, so we agreed to go into the kitchen.

We did, however, ask if we could lease it on a three year rolling lease and run it as a social enterprise because we wanted security for the group. We also wanted to be in charge as we are having a lot of trouble with another kitchen user at the moment (the farmer’s sister and her chintzy Saturday cafe).

Meanwhile, these are the pictures I prefer to remember.

 

He needed to think about our request.

Four weeks later, three on holiday in Nepal and one spent avoiding us, he finally gave us the answer.

It was an emphatic no, and in addition he withdrew the offer of the kitchen because two of the people who were interested in renting the centre also want to rent the kitchen.

We have been told to vacate the premises by 31st December.

I would offer him a set of moustachios to twirl as he throws seven vulnerable adults out in the winter snow, but experience suggests that he doesn’t have enough brain cells to count his money and appreciate irony at the same time.

I will now end on a song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could do better…

Sorry, I seem to have lost focus this week.

I have written several thousand words, but none of them were suitable for a blog. It’s interesting to me to indulge in biographical musings and a polemic about the waste of time and trees involved in the typical grant application, but it’s not so interesting for the people who have to read it. (I’m just having to print out a load stuff for a grant application that could easily just be submitted as links to various internet pages).

Similarly, the new outbreak of hostilities between me and the Farmer’s Sister, whilst giving me a great arena in which to indulge my sarcasm and vitriol, is not a fit subject for publication. Quite apart from the possibilities of a suit for defamation, it’s rude to talk about people behind their backs.

So, in the absence of masterly prose, I will bung in a load of photos.

It’s also bad policy from another point of view;  if I ever describe how to make a bomb from agricultural chemicals it won’t seem so funny as it comes up in court and moves from being “a blog” to becoming “the evidence”.

Even my email box fails to inspire me, with the same old ungrammatical notes purporting to be from banks and credit card companies, and one very persistent accountant, all wanting details and money. Come to think of it the accountant could be for real – as he keeps lecturing us and adding more penalties each time he writes. Ah well, he should write a more convincing letter.

Once in a while I did get an imaginative letter from the widow of an African politician, but they seem to have dried up lately.

Instead of agonising over my lack of output, I’m going to promise to do better next week.

I usually manage to get out of trouble by doing that.

Let’s see if it works this time.

(The title, in case you haven’t guessed, is a quote that appeared in many of my school reports over the years. They probably have to be more upbeat these days but in the 1970s teachers were still allowed to be cynical.)