Tag Archives: failure

Failure, Another Perspective

I had my copy of Ribbons today – the magazine of the Tanka Society of America. I jhave three poems in it, so I am happy. Slightly less happy that it will be reducing to two magazines a year instead of three, but if it relieves some of the workload on the committee you can’t really argue with it. I know from previous volunteering how hard and thankless it can be. The loss of one hance a year to publish is a small price to pay for the continued smooth running of the society.

I’ve been watching a documentary on TV – David Harewood’s F Wordand it was quite interesting. He interviewed some successful actors (including Brian Cox, Olivia Colman and Damian Lewis) and it seems that they are all just as susceptible to worries about success and failure as I am. Admittedly, we operate t different levels and I’m way behind in terms of wealth and global recognition, but we all seem to think pretty much the same.

Brian Cox, for instance, says a bad review is just the opinion of one person, who might be having a bad day, while Olivia Colman told of her experiences after winning awards and still finding herself out of work. Having said that, I expect that being an out of work Oscar winner is probably still better than being an unemployed non-Oscar winner.

Most actors who have any moderate fame seem to fill their time quite nicely with writing books for children. It seems all the rage at the moment. This is an interesting article on the subject. I’m not sure how I feel about some of the comments, particularly the ones about being careful bout what children read at an early age. One of mine was a poor reader until he started reading Pokemon cards to his younger brother and then moved on to sports journalism. By the time he wrote his first essay at University he was miles away from having a good academic style but he quickly learned. The other one just read graphic novels, or comic books as I always think of them. A local librarian told me to be grateful that he ws reading anything voluntarily.

The problem, as mentioned in the article, is that there is a touch of snobbery about what kids read, just as there used to be when libraries removed Enid Blyton books. Personally, I read a lot of classics in Dean & Sons junior editions. I still remember ploughing through Jane Eyre and similar stuff when I was far too young. having been taught to read by the time I was five I was skilful enough to read a lot of novels that I was far too young to appreciate. It was only when I moved on to Biggles and William and Enid Blyton that I actually liked reading and I haven’t stopped since., though I have rarely gone back to fine literature after my early experiences.


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.

Wednesday 8th July Part III


We just had tea and biscuits for a mid-day break. then I washed up from breakfast, including the poaching pan, which looked like an explosion of ectoplasm. Then I let the compost caddy slip from my wet fingers. The lid could be more robustly secured…

So after clearing compost from the kitchen floor (in the shape of tea bags, egg shells, avocado skins and slippery veg peel) I am once more sitting down to work.

SMART Plans were, as I recall, my next subject.

They are plans which have a snappy acronym, and are thus better than ordinary plans. SMART, for those of you who haven’t been exposed to fashionable jargon in the last twenty years are plans that are:





Time Related

They can be other things too, but this has always done for me. All it means is that you have to say what you are going to do, how you will measure it, who will do it, how you will do it and when you will do it by.

I spent a whole week once filling in the plan for a Junior Rugby section – including recruiting, training or obtaining coaches, first aiders, team managers, match officials, safeguarding officers, equipment, and several things I’ve forgotten, though I remember there were twelve things.

Somebody looked it over and said: “You’re mad, you’ll never do it.”

By the end of the year ten of the twelve things had been done and one had nearly been done. If I’d have just gone ahead with a vague plan in mind I would have managed three or four of the easier things.

I’ve just cut out 150 words on the philosophy and meaning of failure. I can sometimes be very pompous and boring and have to guard against it.

I will just say that real failure consists of not trying.

One of my plans for today is to write a number of blog posts covering the entire day. That seems to be working. Cooking breakfast was also on the list, as was catching up with the washing up. I now need to write a SMART Plan for my writing over the next year, sort out some books for the charity shop, do the grocery order for TESCO online and start the outlines for some magazine articles.

Julia is currently on the phone in the front room and the TV is off, so there is no temptation to wander through. She has been busy sorting out one of her clients (which I cannot discuss even though it is interesting), sorting out some office inefficiency (which I probably discuss, but it would be tactless) and generally chatting to people who are bored and still aren’t sure why they aren’t allowed out yet.

This is why.

I’d better get back to work now.

Flowers are from  A Bunch of Irises.



Wednesday 8th July Part I

Wednesday 8th July Part II

Wednesday 8th July Part III

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Wednesday 8th July Part V

Another One Bites the Dust

Hopefully, my masterful title writing has hooked you, and you are now wondering which of my many shonky enterprises is currently munching the dry brown stuff.

It could be the continuity of my blog. I started writing it last night but was diverted by a number of things, including a slow-cooked tea which refused to cook properly and an interesting programme on how they make cakes in factories, including fondant fancies and Battenberg, which are two of my favourite cakes.

Did you know they use jam to glue the cake slices together in Battenberg, but jelly to stick the marzipan? I didn’t. It really is fascinating. Not quite fascinating enough as I fell asleep before the end of the programme and missed my midnight deadline.

I’ve been burning the midnight oil recently, trying to correct the faults in my haibun, which are coming home to roost at an alarming rate. Another set came back today, meaning that I now have a run of five submissions without a single success to lighten the gloom.

I am not letting it bring my mood down. It’s frustrating that I no longer seem able to write acceptable haibun but I’m sure it will pass. If I write enough one of them, on the law of averages, will turn out OK.

With that thought in mind, I am off to lunch at IKEA. Number One son needs a few bits before he moves into his new flat and I want to be as helpful as possible in helping him  move out.

It will be a relaxing interlude, which will hopefully help my writing.



Fallen at the 26th Hurdle

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

Twenty six days into my hundred day blogging challenge and I fell asleep in front of the TV. That’s not unsual. Unfortunately Julia had gone to bed after a hard day in the Mencap Garden and I slept, undisturbed for several hours.

That took me through until the early hours on Saturday morning, missing my midnight deadline.

Ah well, it’s annoying but it’s a target rather than a deadline. Nothing bad will happen as a result of missing it and I will just potter on. The new target is to do 100 posts in 100 non-consecutive days. I’m on 32 posts in 25 days so far.

The challenge was about self-discipline and regularity and 25 consecutive days isn’t bad compared to the erratic posting I was managing.  It may be a failure in terms of falling short of the target by 75 days, but it shows what can be done and, like all failures, is best seen as a foundation for future success.

This is a huge subject. I’ve seen adults paralysed by the idea of failure. I’m sure it prevents many people being happy and successful. All I do is smile sweetly, apologise and move on to Plan B.

As I may have said, the challenge doesn’t help with the quality of writing. It may help fluency and speed but I’m not sure it helps anything else. I really want to be a writer of posts on important, serious and thought-provoking issues. Instead I’m not sure what I really am, though current possibilities for subjects include waking up with a nosebleed, the poetry of Les Barker and curry for breakfast.

Which reminds me, I’m peckish and there’s a large pot of curry on the stove top.

Time to move on and read a very fine comic poem.

Sundays and Self-Improvement

I’m currently reading yet another self-improvement book. I can’t recommend it as I’m currently wondering whether to carry on reading it, and one of the few things that I have learned from it is that extremely successful people say “no” more often than people who are merely ordinarily successful.

So I’m close to saying “no”, I won’t waste more of my life on this book. It’s strident in tone, doesn’t really explain the concept of being extreme and isn’t giving much in the way of insight.

Fortunately, being a Kindle book, it was cheap, it hasn’t killed a tree and nobody else will have to suffer as I can’t pass it on.

It’s even worse than the last one. I decided I would benefit from a book on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. So far, I haven’t. I kept falling asleep when I read it. This probably isn’t the fault of the book as I have a habit of buying psychology books despite knowing that they have a soporific effect on me. I’m going to persist with this one as I think it has something for me.

I can finish most books, including the one about eating frogs. It isn’t really about eating frogs, but it does offer an extended, and overdone, metaphor. It was irritating but useful.

For some reason the writers of self-improvement books really have it in for frogs, as do Victorian scientists.

A couple of weeks ago, I listened to a radio programme on self-improvement and research suggested that by the end of a self-improvement book you feel worse about yourself for failing to be the person the book implies you should be.

The strident book mentioned in the opening paragraph is a bit like that, and tells you that you should write all your failures in a journal as this helps you get over them. I’m currently failing to make the change from self-employment to employment, and did wonder, momentarily, whether to write it all down. I’m not sure, but if I do you will be the first to know.

The picture shows a cream tea that came off second best when it went head to head with me on Wednesday. It wasn’t the greatest cream tea, but it does have a link to self-improvement and failure in that one of my long-standing self-improvement targets is to lose weight.

That cackling sound you hear is 2,000 calories laughing ironically.

And that concludes my thoughts for Sunday morning.

A New Job and Work/Life Balance

It’s now official – I have a new job. For the first time in 25 years I’m going to be employed instead of self-employed, so it’s a time of mixed emotions.

It’s true to say that it’s close to being a job in a million. For one thing, you don’t get too many job offers when you’re my age and have no proper qualifications. For another, there aren’t too many jobs going in the antiques trade. And finally, a job that allows you Wednesdays off (that’s Julia’s main day off) and regular time off for blood tests is also hard to find.

I’ve also been offered a job as a consultant with the jerk seasoning project. There’s no money attached to that yet but I’ve always wanted to be a consultant so I accepted.

In one way it’s a failure, as my original self-employment plan was to make a lot of money, become a well-respected figure in the trade and go into semi-retirement around the age of sixty.

The reality is that I scraped a living, enjoyed myself and have just accepted a job as a shop assistant in a collectors’ shop. However, I spent plenty of time with my kids and will be in the fortunate position of making a job out of my hobby, it’s hard to see it as a failure. Let’s call it a flawed success.

Watch this space…


Past Mayoress’s Jewel – Collectors’ World, Nottingham


The Morning so Far

It is grey, I can see parents taking children to school, but at least it isn’t raining.

I had a strange dream last night, involving stone-built houses, planning permission and failure. The first two came, I think, because I had fallen asleep in front of the TV during an episode of Grand Designs.  The feeling of failure, on the other hand, seems to have been creeping more and more into my thoughts recently.

It’s strange how negative thoughts are the ones that seem to persist. Yesterday I thought about plans for earning a living, new sweets for Bassett’s Liquorice Allsorts and, by association, growing liquorice.  I then thought of other exotic crops, how James Wong has always disappointed me and gave serious thought to a seed bombing campaign.

I have no personal animosity towards James Wong, in case you are wondering, it’s just that when I’ve tried to grow his alternative crops they have never seemed worth the trouble.

I bought, for instance, two kiwi berry vines when we started Quercus Community. They are hardy, prolific and vigorous to the point of being invasive. Not mine. Mine are like a couple of stroppy teenagers, sulking and refusing to cooperate. When we did get fruit, which was not often, we didn’t get much and my dreams of selling bags of unusual fruit to boost our funds all came to nothing.

I keep telling myself that seed bombing is not the way forwards for my dream to make Nottingham the Butterfly Capital of the world, as it will invariably involve a lot of buddleia and make the locality look like a bomb site. Somehow I always come back to the idea though…

So there you are – my morning has consisted of blogging about yesterday.


Fortunately it is only ten o’clock so I still have time to pull things round. Has it really taken an hour to write this?

I must learn to type faster.

Beware – introspection in progress!

I suppose it’s time to admit a few things.

The willow water, for instance, has not proved to be a success. I took two sets of mint cuttings, putting one set in water, and one set in willow water. After around five days the ones in willow water started to look a bit sickly. When I took them out, the bottom couple of inches had been eaten away. I’m going to say that my experiment indicates that standing in willow water doesn’t make mint cuttings sprout roots quicker. The ones in water were much healthier and hadn’t been eaten away at the bottom.


One on the right is Willow water

It might be too strong, as I’ve just seen someone recommending that it should be diluted to half strength. I’m going to try this when I take cuttings on Monday. This time I’ll use rosemary.

I’ve also managed to kill the kiwi berries and badly scorch the tea bushes; it’s just been too hot in the tunnels and I haven’t been active enough in shading things.

Finally (which isn’t the final confession – just the last one I feel like making at the moment) the accidental permaculture bed is having problems. You may recall that we improved half the bed by layering it with pig manure, wood chippings and used paper towels. The half that was treated has grown a massive crop of fat hen, which is now interfering with the beans. The half that wasn’t treated has grown a sparse crop of fat hen and allowed room for self-sown rocket. The beans? So far the runner beans have been uniformly poor due to a week of cold winds that coincided with them being planted out. We probably put them out too soon, but we wanted a good show for Open Farm Sunday.


Broad beans and French beans have been good

Actually – more confessions while I’m in the mood – the New Zealand spinach I used to fill gaps all died in the cold wind and the four-year-old runner bean plant is looking sickly, as are the year one  plants (see above comments on cold winds).

My experiment design skills are clearly leaving something to be desired.

However, it’s easy to be negative. And it’s easy to take the wrong attitude about failure.

I don’t want to get into pseudo-science here but I know people who are frightened of failure. To me it’s either of no consequence or it’s a step on the way to something else.

As Edison said:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

He has so many quotes on persistence listed that I don’t know how he found time to invent things.

I have failed many times. The failures listed above don’t even begin to cover the mistakes I’ve made. Occasionally I have a night where I can’t sleep and all my failures come back to haunt me, many in painfully sharp detail. A few dead plants don’t even make it into my top thousand failures.

I learned a long time ago that it’s better to think about the future than the past. I’m going to plant beans later next year. I’m going to move the kiwi berries outside. I’m going to design a new willow water experiment.

Not only that, but I’m going to plant wild garlic this autumn, get some peach trees and train standard gooseberries.

I’m going to spread my wings and do a thousand things, including misquoting lyrics from musicals.

And I’m going to concentrate on remembering the things that went well. Like the good beans, or visitors who think we’re doing a good job.


Smiling visitors mean we’re doing something right