Tag Archives: life

Sisters Don’t Chase Sticks

This post started life as an attempt at a longer haibun. If you read modern haibun they are very often just a few lines of prose followed by a haiku. It’s not how they used to be, when they were often used for travelogues. Indeed, only about fifteen years ago, haibun, as a form, was originally explained to me as an essay with two or three haiku.

I wrote one. Fourteen years later I wrote another one. It doesn’t do to rush these things.

Recently I felt like having a go at something a bit longer, and thought I might try an autobiography. It earned two rejections, one in its original form and one in a cut down version. To be honest I wasn’t keen on cutting it down, but if an editor suggests trimming the prose I’m going to trim.

The altered version didn’t meet with approval, so I added “loss of integrity” to the sting of double rejection.

I decided that I would use it as a blog post. I have removed the haiku as I can use them later if they are unpublished (and because I struggle to write acceptable haiku). Apart from that, I have just about left it alone – I say “just about” because who can resist the temptation to tinker?

When I posted it, I added the news about my father, which was new since I “finished” the original. Later, I realised I had put in nothing about my mother, so I’m back again (on 6th July) to add more. A poem is never actually finished, you just get to a point where you give up and let it go. I don’t often go back to them, but this one, being an autobiography, just keeps on going. I’m hoping there will be a lot more to add before I consider it finished.

Sisters Don’t Chase Sticks

I am sitting in the garden with a cup of tea, contemplating the neglected door of our coal shed, which now serves as a utility room. A thought enters my freewheeling mind. Could I write my autobiography in haibun form?

Year One – I remember nothing.

Year Two – same again.

This is not, I feel, a promising start.

Year Three – I acquire a dog and a baby sister. I prefer the dog as it is better at fetching sticks. In this golden age there are butterflies the size of my hand and only two sorts of weather – sunshine or snowball  time. It is only with hindsight that I recognise it as a golden age.

Year Four – we move into town, the dog is hit by a car and my parents tell me they have arranged for him to live somewhere safe in the country. I start school – they teach me to read and insist I have a nap every afternoon.

Show me the boy, as they say, and I will show you the man – the reading habit is still with me and I still like a nap in the afternoon, despite complaints from my employer.

Year Five – I go fishing for sticklebacks in the canal. Nobody would let a five-year-old fish in a canal on his own these days. We have destroyed childhood as it used to be. It is, however, possible that we have prevented a few drownings and relieved the pressure on the stickleback population.

Some dogs, according to Disney, make their way back home from hundreds of miles away. Mine doesn’t. In fact, when we visit my uncle, where the dog is now living, he pretends not to know me. I like to think this was because of the head injury, but it might just be that he doesn’t like me.

Eventually I give up trying to teach my sister to fetch sticks and lose my interest in sticklebacks.

At the age of 11 I hit my academic peak, coming top of the class, and am given a book as a prize. I opt for a book on birds, an interest which is still with me.

The dog successfully avoids cars for another eighteen years and dies of old age.

Nothing much of note happens for the rest of my life. I find that sisters do have some redeeming features and are, in the end, better than dogs. I accumulate a wife, a family, and arthritis, which I have inherited from my mother. From my father I have inherited a tendency to offer unwanted advice to other road users.

My parents, after sixty years of marriage, get a telegram from the Queen and we have a party. Gradually, my mother fades away.

And so, fifty years after hitting my academic peak I am sitting in the garden thinking of writing an autobiography in haibun form.

I leave this haibun to mature. Six months later the world changes and I spend a my life in lockdown.

My father dies, and we are not allowed to sing at his funeral.

A Postscript and a Day of Disappointment

I’m in the doghouse after yesterday’s post. Julia is not happy with me for revealing details of my abysmal standards of nasal etiquette – “letting the whole world know you’re full of unpleasant habits” as she put it.

This is a complete over-reaction because I have, at best, let a couple of dozen people know. And by the law of averages there are probably one or two who aren’t averse to a spot of clandestine nasal probing. It’s also likely, after reading several posts that those two dozen readers aren’t really under any illusions about my lack of social graces.

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Sutton on Sea

She’s definitely wrong about one thing though – I have plenty of room for new unpleasant habits.

I also have plenty of room in my wallet. The garage rang today – my deflating tyre is not merely unseated, the sidewall is damaged and I have to buy a new one. I haven’t had it that long, and was planning on it lasting a good while longer.

There is a small grey cloud hanging over my head as I write this.

We had a policeman call this morning. He was returning the flash drive we had let them have with CCTV footage of the robbery on. It was contained in three plastic bags – one for travel to the station and storage, one for travel back to the shop and one I’m not sure about. That’s a lot of plastic in a world which is generally trying to cut back.

They can, as we already knew, do nothing to catch the robbers. This isn’t CSI and the science does not quite work like it does on TV. And, to be honest, the police don’t work like they do on TV. Nobody, as far as I know, tried tracing the getaway car on traffic cameras, because robbery from a closed shop isn’t a priority.

A bit like filling in potholes in Lincolnshire.

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Dogs at Sutton on Sea

Today!

I’ve given myself a proper talking to, and I really am going to do better at keeping the blog up to date. I rarely seem to write about the events of the day these days, and that removes the diary element from the day’s writing.

I am trying to get that back.

This morning I rose sluggishly and dragged myself to the bathroom. They tell me that exercise is good for arthritis (yes,Clare Pooley, I’m looking at you as I write this) but I’m not sure that’s true. My knee and back seem definitely do not seem improved the day after I’ve been walking.

 

This handsome Robin is from February 2018, though he has been seen many times in later posts…

I breakfasted on a bacon sandwich (Julia hasn’t quite got the hang of meat-free Mondays) and a slice of toast and jam. This was a good start to the morning, though I’m not sure that a man on a diet really needs a slice of toast and sugar. It’s like offering an alcoholic a cocktail – no matter how you dress it up, the bad stuff is still at the bottom of it. Because I am weak-willed I ate the toast.

This is our fourth week of taking a different route to work on Monday. Julia works from the office on Mondays and we go through town. Unfortunately, part of the road is closed, and will be until May, as they repair a large chunk of Nottingham’s decrepit gas system.

The first gas supply in Nottingham was used on 14 April 1819, to light ten gas lamps in the city. Crowds came to gawp, being mesmerised by the miracle of modern light, and also terrified of a gas explosion. The Nottingham Gas Light and Coke Company provided gas for many years before being taken over by the corporation in 1874, which was in turn nationalised in 1949.

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Sunset over Sherwood – February 2018

The mains in question are, like the ones replaced last year, from the 1960s. It surprises me they are so new, I thought they lasted longer than that. Anyway, they have lasted fifty years, and are now going to inconvenience me for the next four months.

If my 31-year-old self had set off walking at the same time as my 61-year-old self set off by car today it’s likely the walk we would have got to town sooner. The roads were very congested and the traffic was slow.

This congestion isn’t helped because there seem to be roadworks everywhere. Whether it’s using up budgets, inefficiency or bad luck, I do not know. Though I can hazard a guess.

After dropping Julia off I manoeuvred by a builders’ lorry which was blocking a road and, judging by the reaction from the builders, used several words they didn’t expect from a white-haired, bald old coot.

Late February 2018, we have a way to go before we can congratulate ourselves on a mild winter

Traffic was light on the other side of town and I was able to get to work in plenty of time to start packing. We had 21 parcels for the post, so it was a good thing I was in early. Several things happened this morning, some of which would be very amusing if I were the sort of person to publish gossip on his blog. But I’m not.

Someone came in from a local Sikh temple with the foreign coins and notes out of the various charity collections they have made.

After that it was time to close and spend the afternoon in errands. I shopped, took prescriptions to the doctors and made an appointment, then took my tyre to the garage. They will look at it and tell me if I simply need it reinflating or if I have damaged the (nearly new) tyre and need a new one.

A better Little Egret – February 2017 Blacktoft Sands

At home I washed up, blogged, watched TV, fell asleep, woke to eat vegetable stew and dumplings, watched TV, washed up, made sandwiches (tuna) for tomorrow and blogged. That’s what I’m doing now.

Well, I’m blogging and wondering at the the repetitive banality of my life.

To further labour the point I’m going to use some photos from previous Februaries.

Thomas Paine is from February 2016.

Time Passes…

I originally said I wanted to do two posts a day for a fortnight. Then, in my head, this became two posts a day for 15 days. I’ve just checked and counted up and I’ve done 27 posts in 14 days.

So, despite being ahead at one point, I have missed the target by one post. Or, if I adopt the 15 day target, I’m still in with a chance. Not that it really matters.

Whatever I do, the sun will still rise on a new day and, bit by bit, my life and writings will gradually decay until they disappear and nobody will remember me. That’s a serious point, rather than just me being morbid.

What happens to digital pictures and writing as time goes on? I already have some old camera cards I can’t read, though that may be because they are empty. I really can’t remember. I also have photographs on CD, though I notice a growing trend for laptops not to have CD drives. It’s possible that in a few years my CDs will lie there gathering dust in a house that has no CD drive.

Perhaps it is time to think about using cloud storage, though I’m not really clear what it is or how it really works. I am not altogether comfortable with trusting my life and documents to a third party. I’m afraid of another Word scenario, where I merely rent Microsoft Word instead of owning a copy, and where I belong to an American corporation rather than being a person.

If I live long enough I might have to rewrite that as “a Chinese corporation”, but though the details may change, the reality remains the same.

The header picture shows two British Medals from the Great War – known as “a pair” in the trade. This is the British War Medal (the silver one) and the Victory Medal. All the Allied Nations produced their own Victory Medal after the Great War, with different designs, which is why it may seem familiar to readers from other countries.

It was this that brought on some of these thoughts. We buy something similar nearly every week, and when we ask if they were from as family member, the seller often does not know. They were issued named, and the name often means nothing, because over the years they have forgotten the names of their own ancestors.

The recipient of these medals died in the 1930s, as a result of ill health caused by military service. He was, as far as I could guess from the names and relationships of the mourners, the brother of the vendor’s grandmother. His adverts appeared in local papers of the time – he was a music teacher. He was also a professional musician and a chapel organist for many years.

If you can forget all that in the space of a couple of generations who will remember a man who wrote about eating veggie burgers and similar inconsequential subjects?

Veggie Burgers

Veggie Burgers

Regrets, I’ve had a few…

There are of course the obvious ones – I regret ever starting smoking, I regret eating so much and exercising so little and I regret not being better with money.

I regret being an indifferent husband, a bad father and an ungrateful child.

Most of all, in this miserable, whining list, I regret not being able to make Julia see my marriage potential when we first met. It took me nine years to persuade her, though as she points out, it might have been easier to persuade her if I’d adopted a life of seclusion, sobriety and celibacy. I, in turn, point out that if she’d married me I wouldn’t have needed the wine, women and song to dull the pain of rejection. I am not by nature, introspective or pale and interesting.

To this day, after 30 years of marriage, she remains unimpressed by my explanation.

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Two of my favourite things…

I was born too late to drive a Bentley Speed Six or fly a Sopwith Camel and I didn’t realise you could use a metal detector to find gold in Australia until it was too late. On the other hand, in the absence of parachutes and decent brakes, my regrets are tinged with a feeling of relief.

As for Australia, my suspicions about snakes and spiders mean I am not fully committed to the idea of wandering round with a metal detector, regardless of the possibilities.

You can, after all, find gold in Scotland if you are prepared to brave a cold river.

Finally, I confess that although I did many things I would come to regret, my main regrets are about chances I didn’t take, challenges I ducked and opportunities I missed. There is probably a good quote about this somewhere on the net, but at the moment all I can think of is “A man who never made a mistake never made anything.”

It doesn’t quite fit the subject, but it does provide a good place to break off. And it’s probably a good place to put regrets into perspective. It’s all very well looking back, wondering about “what ifs” and plotting different courses for my life, but it all points to one thing. Destiny needed me to be in Preston on a particular day in 1980. I was there. And I’ve never regretted it.

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A pattern develops…

 

Homespun Philosophy, or Hopeless Drivel

I started off with the intention of writing about police inefficiency, motorway roadworks, the cupidity of insurance companies and the general unfairness of life. Then I realised that life doesn’t care. Nor do the police, the Highways Agency or the insurance industry.

Commercially speaking, monopolies are bad, and the police, for instance, have no incentive to improve. Unlike the power industry I cannot opt to have Justice provided by Nottinghamshire Constabulary if I don’t find West Yorkshire Police to my liking. Having said that, it’s rather like having a choice between eczema and psoriasis, though without the spelling problems.

Same goes for the Highways Agency, if you don’t like the way they set out their roadworks you can’t use someone else who sets it up better. That’s why they are able to get away with shoddy signing and everlasting roadworks.

As for insurance companies, they have their uses, as do leeches, faecal coliforms and corporate accountants. It probably isn’t fair to criticise them too much, though anyone who can increase your insurance premium by  15% for no apparant reason then add another £50 because of a speeding offence probably deserves some stick. When they follow up by asking “are you happy with that?” they virtually guarantee that they are not going to do well in comparison to other unpleasant life forms.

That’s all for now.

After a cold day in the shop and a cold evening at home sorting insurance documents I am now going out for a cold drive through badly laid out roadworks to deliver Number Two Son to work.

You are very lucky this is only a minor rant with low-level negativity and minor misery. It could have been a lot worse, particularly as, six days after going to the dentist, I also have a raging toothache.

Time, I think, to grip life by something tender and give it a good twist. That will teach it not to mess with me.

The stamps are a homage to a well-known blogger – can you guess which one?

Wandering, not lost

Not all those who wander are lost

J R R Tolkien

I dropped Julia off at work this morning. The gates into the school car park were open today, as it’s school holidays, so we were able to drive right up to the garden gates and unload plants. Yes, unload plants. We’re at it again, making up gardens from scrounged plants.

After that I took a turn through the countryside between Nottingham and Loughborough. It’s scenic, though unexciting countryside, with some pleasant villages. The weather was a bit dull for photography and I wasn’t on top of my game so there are no photographs today. If there were, they would be pictures of gently rolling countryside with lots of greenery.

The trouble was that I started off mentally listing the things I need to do to set my life right, I’ve been letting things drift over the last few years and need to get organised.

Unfortunately this line of thought has a habit of sliding into thoughts of things that went wrong, things I should have done better and bad decisions I have made. It’s often sparked off by looking at a biggish house and thinking “I could have had one like that if I’d worked harder and planned better.”

However, I enjoyed my life as an unprofitable antique dealer and gardener. I also enjoyed the unprofitable time I spent with the kids. And I have two neighbours who ply me with cake.

All in all, it could be worse.

Eventually, I decided I was lost. Strictly speaking I couldn’t have been lost because I wasn’t going anywhere. That’s often been the subject of some discussion between me and Julia when I’ve been happily exploring country lanes over the years. Just because I don’t know where I am doesn’t mean I’m lost. And if I’ve got nowhere particular to go I can’t be going the wrong way.

After that I succumbed to the lure of the Oxfam bookshop in West Bridgford. It’s been refitted since last time I was here and is much better lit and laid out. This isn’t necessarily a good thing as I liked the poky old shop. In fact part of the experience of buying second-hand books ought to be in the dim, cramped, slightly musty conditions.

I resisted the temptation to buy books on Shakespeare, Mary Queen of Scots and Richard III, but did buy books on Percy Toplis, Moorcroft Pottery and historical trivia.

The Moorcroft book cost me £3.49. It was originally £35. Unfortunately, just as I was feeling  economically prudent I took a look at the prices on the Moorcroft site.

I’m going for a nice lie down in a darkened room now.