It’s 23.22 and I have made a late start. I have also made two false starts, one on the subject of writer biographies and one on the subject of aiming for 100 rejections.
I have a strong dislike of biographical notes in poetry magazines, because I really don’t give a toss for the lives of the various poets that appear in the magazines I subscribe to. I don’t read them because I am interested to know that A spent twenty years in teaching or B has a degree in Creative Writing. I read them because they write something worth reading. I am at one with the editors who don’t do notes on the grounds that the magazine is about poetry.
I’m not against talking about myself, as you will know if you read the blog regularly, but I am against writing about myself when I’m trying to get poetry published. There are too many dull biographical notes, including ones that are just lists of publications, and I don’t see any need to add to them.
Anyway, I have nothing interesting to say.
I’m currently deciding on the look for the photograph one magazine has asked me for. Do I take a selfie as I am? That will, as Julia points out, establish me as a man in the tradition of W H Davis, the tramp poet. Though, strangely, he always looks well-groomed in all the photos you see of him. Or do I shave my head, trim my beard and end up looking like the idiot brother of Ming the Merciless? It’s not an easy choice, and it doesn’t change my writing, just the opinion people have of me.
Then there is the question of the 100 rejections. It’s really about upping the number of submissions and aiming high. That, so far, is where I have failed. I only made four submissions last month and so far this month have only submitted one thing. I have several other submissions in the planning stage but I doubt I’ll manage more than four this month, as I don’t have the finished material to send. It hasn’t helped that I’ve slowed down this month, just when I really needed to get a move on.
When I started writing poetry I didn’t realise that so much of my writing life would revolve around haircuts, autobiography and planning. I thought it was all about writing. Silly me.
After seven and a half months of saying “I really must do something” I finally started in earnest a couple of weeks ago, as you may have noticed in previous posts.
The result was a presentation that fell far short of my original plans. Fortunately, nobody apart from me knew this and I just tried to look confident and smile. It would probably be better if I was an habitual smiler. It doesn’t come naturally and it does tend to make me look like I’m auditioning for the part in the Ladykillers. Think 1955 Alec Guinness, not the new one.
The Ladykillers – look at that smile
The main thing is to remember that it’s rare that you have anyone in the audience that knows as much as you do. so yuo don’t need to be perfect.
There were a couple of complaints from the usual suspects about not being able to hear. They didn’t bother to tell me to speak up at the time and, as usual, they sat at the back, which isn’t the best place if you can’t hear.
Julia sat behind them. She could hear. In fact she said the only time she had trouble hearing was when the old gits were chuntering about not being able to hear.
Next time I will ask if everyone can hear me. Better still, I will prepare a slide saying – “Can you hear me at the back?”. After all, if they are that deaf they may not be able to hear me ask.
I will also set off earlier. I thought I set off in plenty of time, but the traffic congestion from the bridge works is clogging things up. I was stuck for 30 minutes at one point just to travel 100 yards and get round a roundabout.I had to text to say I was stuck, and then I had to get set up without practice.
When I pressed the button for the first slide it was the first time I’d ever used PowerPoint. Fortunately it’s (mainly) idiot proof and I only pressed the wrong button three times. That means I pressed the right button 21 times. Three sounds a small number but in percentage terms it’s not impressive.
At least with PowerPoint you don’t have to take loads of slides, you can’t load it wrong way round and it doesn’t jam, overheat or blow the bulbs. I’m sure I can work on this area and break PowerPoint, I just haven’t found out how to do it yet.
One thing I did do was get the notes disastrously wrong. Having taken advice from Julia I wrote notes in PowerPoint, assuming it would be easy to access them on the night. This, I felt, was far better than a pile of cards, reading glasses and poor light. We switched the machine on, I pressed the button, and I stared in panic…
I looked at the screen, I looked at the computer, I looked at Julia. Nothing. It turns out that there is slightly more to the notes feature than I thought.
You’re all thinking one of two things aren’t you? Some of you are thinking “I bet he has a back-up plan with a selection of colour-coded note cards linked to each slide”.
And some of you are thinking “I bet he has a back-up plan with a selection of colour-coded note cards linked to each slide, and I bet he left them next to his computer as he left the house.”
You are both right. I did have a back-up, and I did leave it at home.
So – a sea of faces, darkness, no notes on PowerPoint, a distance of five miles between me and my back-up cards. I have had better moments.
I thought of sneaking out before the lights came back on.
I’m not built for sneaking, so there was nothing more to be done. Sometimes you just have to take a deep breath and start…
Wath Main Colliery Tribute Medal
The photos are a medallion given to the staff of the Wath Main Colliery Company. This one is to Harry Winder, who enlisted in 1915. He was a coal hewer and lived in a cottage with his parents and ten siblings. I suspect he was one of those people who found the army to be easier than living at home. In the army they often got better food and lighter work.
Wath Main Colliery Tribute Medal
He did not, as far as I can see, serve overseas, as he was not A1 physically, due to a hernia sustained whilst mining, and he served with an Anti-Aircraft Battery for three years.
The German bombing campaign in the Great War consisted of 51 airship raids and 27 aircraft raids. They killed 1,392 people and injured 3,330. They lost 30 airships and 62 aircraft, so Harry Winder was doing an important job. Compared to the 43,000 killed in 1939-41, this is not a big number, but it is surprisingly large when you consider the technology in use.
I can only find one other definite trace of Harry Winder in the records as there was another man of the same name in the area and this confuses matters. The following newspaper report from 1923 is definitely “our” Harry Winder though.
This morning, poised like an elegant crane, I stood on one leg, pointed my toes and slipped my right leg into my trousers. I then did the same with my other leg.
This would have seemed unremarkable a few years ago, but one of the things I seem to have lost over the years is the ability to put my trousers on while standing up. This morning, and the my resemblance to a tai chi master, is not typical.
Normally, Julia tells me, I look like a drunken tramp playing hopscotch. This is partly because I have dodgy joints and partly because I have the wardrobe and facial hair of a man who has seen better days. The joints have been particularly bad in the last week and there have been a couple of days when it looked like the trousers might win.
Fortunately time, rest and paracetamol seem to have done the trick. I didn’t report this earlier in the week as I was already moaning about my man flu. It’s important, I think, not to seem like a complete hypochondriac when blogging. The same goes for food reviews – I only report on virtuous recipes and leave out quite a lot of fried food and cake.
This is also the case with The Presentation, which has eight days to go. Though I tend to report it as a linear process it is more of a zig-zag, and I am struggling to finish. I have a few photos to do, a couple of slides to finish and quite a lot of information to trim.
I have already cut a lot out of the script, but there’s still more to do. It sent Julia to sleep when I talked her through it in the car and I’m afraid that if that is the case it might adversely affect the wakefulness of a group of elderly gents sitting in the semi-darkness.
I am fascinated by the events of 1919, but I don’t suppose this fascination will be shared by everyone. The Government put tanks on the streets to keep order in Glasgow and Liverpool, troops mutinied, revolution was in the air and, as the Irish started their final war against the English, they embarked on a series of Soviets and dairy-based resistance to their capitalist oppressors.
At that point, even I start to run out of interest…
After looking at a number of sites for advice on Power Point I found myself no wiser after a couple of hours. I recognised the words but not the concepts. It involves buttons and menus and stuff, but I knew that when I started. If you told me it involved dancing elephants and the Dagenham Girl Pipers I wouldn’t actually have any proof that you weren’t telling the truth. I am going to have to involve somebody considerably smarter and more technical than I am. Regular readers will realise that I am, of course, referring to Julia.
I did, however, take on one gem of wisdom – that you can’t make a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Or, to put it another way, if the content is poor Power Point won’t improve it, just project it on the wall so that even people at the back of the room can see how bad it really is.
With that in mind I have started to think about the content.
Bradford on Avon Tribute Medal with Great War Campaign Medals
Another thing that I read was that you should follow the 10 – 20 – 30 rule. This states that a presentation should feature ten slides or less, last twenty minutes or less and involve a typeface of at least 30 points. This means that it has to be punchy, to the point and written in big letters so you can’t fit too many words onto a slide. As a further refinement they suggest dividing the age of the oldest member of the audience audience by two and using that as the minimum font size. As we have an eighty-year-old member that means 40 point, which, as he’s troubled by cataracts, is probably not a bad idea.
You see, I’m getting better already…
They actually expect about an hour, and to be fair, it needs to be around that length to make it worth people making then effort of comiing to the meeting. The material falls neatly into two halves so I’m going to aim for an introduction, two twenty minute sections and a summing up. That should keep it snappy and fill the time.
On that note I had better get off, as I now have some research to do.
The top picture is the Brighouse Tribute Medal with a pair of Great War Campaign Medals, the other is the medal from Bradford on Avon with a similar pair of medals. They are both going to feature in the presentation.
We did expect snow this afternoon, it was just that we were expecting it in a different place. It was supposed to be on high ground in Derbyshire. Instead, it snowed on the low ground of Nottingham.
Carlton Hill – Nottingham
At 12.30 pm it started to rain. By 1.00 it had started to resemble a wintry shower.Then it began to look like snow, which it wasn’t, as none was forecast. By the time I parked by the side of the road it was beginning to stick.
I nearly went straight home, as I had things to do, but I went to visit the jewellers instead and watched from their office window as the flakes became larger and formed a four inch blanket of snow.
That, of course, was just the start of my problems.As I sat in the car to come home, the road seemed to fill with traffic. I cut through a side street and joined a main road. If only I had known what horrors lurked ahead…
Snow in the Trees
I won’t bore you with details, but will merely point out that a fifteen minute journey took me two hours as the traffic system of Nottingham proved unable to accommodate snow and travel at the same time. I actually had to stop at KFC to use the toilets. Such are the demands of an ancient bladder.
Porchester Road – Nottingham
This gave me plenty of time to take photos, as a lot of the time was spent parked and waiting. It was, at the same time, both very annoying and an opportunity for photography.
It’s currently melting nicely, and I’m hoping that driving conditions will be good in the morning.
Magpie in the snow
View across the Rooftops
In the evening I battled with the remains of the day’s gridlock as I made it through to the Numismatic Society meeting. The speaker had managed to make it, so it seemed only fair to turn up, despite the temptation to stay at home. He was talking about his hobby – metal detecting – and was an entertaining speaker. I now have just 4 weeks to prepare my presentation…
It seems the bridge will be staying closed for a few days more, and that the Highways Agency has been way out in its estimates of the re-opening. Julia is back on the bus tomorrow. I feel guilty but the bus was delayed badly today, and is likely to be delayed tomorrow, despite using bus lanes. In a car we have no chance of getting through without queuing for hours.
I wanted a look at the church and war memorial at Sibsey because I have a medallion awarded to a Sibsey man for his part in the Great War – normally called a tribute medal. It’s just over an inch high and I always thought it was a watch fob, but I’ve recently seen one pictured and it should have a bar and pin, the bar bearing the words “Sibsey Boys Fund Great War Souvenir”. Research doesn’t always turnn up the things you want. Corporal Good seems to have survived the war, as he doesn’t appear on the war memorial.
Gift from Sibsey 1918
Gift from Sibsey 1918 – Cpl S. Good
According to the Boston Guardian 22 January 1916, Corporal S. Good of the RAMC had just spent a week on leave with his parents, Mr and Mrs F Good of Sibsey. I used this information to check the census – no sign of him in 1911, but he was listed in 1891 – Samuel Good.
I haven’t been able to pick him up on the military records, which is annoying, but I did pick him up on the 1939 Roll, the one that was used for ID Cards and rationing. As the 1931 Census results were destroyed in the Blitz and the 1941 Census was postponed, the 1939 list is quite important.
In 1939 he was the landlord of the Britannia Inn, Church St, Boston. It is now “Boston’s premier fun bar”. Those words, to be honest, appear to be like a glimpse into hell.
Searching newspapers on-line for the pub name I found that his wife had died in 1942, that they had been married 15 years and that they had one daughter, who went to Boston High School. He was an ex-serviceman, holder of the Mons Star and two of his brothers had died as a result of being gassed in the previous war.
I have found that he set fire to his curtains when he used petrol in an attempt to light his fire and that he was summonsed for two blackout offences during the war, which is ironic when you consider that he was an Air Raid Warden.
There’s still a lot more to find, but I’ve managed to rough out a good part of his life, which will be appearing as part of my talk at the Numismatic Society. There is, however, quite a lot more to do.
Yesterday, one of the customers told me the fact I have used in the title. It makes the year seem rather short.
This, in turn, lead me to calculate the length of time before Spring starts. Just 56 days. That, of course, is only half the story. Meteorological Spring may start on 1st March according to the scientists, but the weather doesn’t always agree.
My parents were married at the end of March and, as they told me for 60 years, it snowed.
One thing you can rely on is the daylength. It’s already feeling longer than it did (and it is actually ten minutes longer than it was on the shortest day). This means that it is lighter when we leave the shop, which makes a big psychological difference. On 29th February, in Nottingham, the day will be over three hours longer than it is now. Even the thought of it is enough to cheer me up.
It’s a sobering insight into the shortness of life. The days of wine and roses are indeed not long…
I was watching the Christmas University Challenge Final tonight and found myself doing quite well against a number of people with high-powered jobs and multiple degrees. The main difference between us, apart from my lack of degree and a job as a shop assistant, is that I suspect they all had confidence, plans ambition and productive work habits. I’ve just spent Christmas watching TV and playing Candy Crush when I should have been writing a best-seller and running an eBay business.
I did manage to get the outline of my presentation done. I have quite a lot of material on 1919 and went through it, with suitable reference to mutinies, Russia, Ireland, strikes, riots, war memorials and the Baltic.
Happy at the breadth and depth of my knowledge, and my grasp of the subject matter, I was alerted to the fact that this feeling was not universal by a gentle snore from Julia’s direction.
It looks like I’m going to have to do some editing.
UK £5 2017
Today’s pictures are all recycled, with vague links to Christmas and 1919.