Tag Archives: reading

A Change of Pace

I tried to catch up with my blog reading today, but didn’t quite manage. A couple more hours tomorrow will just about get me there.

Then I have up to five submissions to make in the next 8 days (it’s a short month) and I will be up to date. I say “up to” as I could do five but may not have time to write five good sets of submissions. Better to write three good sets than five poor ones.

Seems so simple when you write it like that, doesn’t it? Such a small manageable number, but one that seems huge when you sit here with nothing on paper and nothing in the tank.  This is where habit and discipline take over. This is where the traits like talent and inspiration start to show the strain and the excuse of writer’s block comes in. I don’t need talent or inspiration, just habit and discipline, and I’m not blocked, just disorganised. I should have been writing since Tuesday, after finishing the medallion talk but I seem to have watched TV and read instead. We all need a change of pace, but sometimes you need to force things on a bit, and I’m not very good with that.

That is, in the end, something that separates the top performers from the second division of writers. It’s also a good excuse. I can tell myself that I wasn’t quite dedicated enough to make that final push for the top and don’t need to admit I don’t write well enough to rise to the top of the pile.

With that thought, I will close down for the night, recharge my batteries and start the writing tomorrow. I’ve just remembered we are busy next weekend, so it’s going to be five submissions in four days. As I said, planning is important.


Butlins Veleta Competition Medallion 1954

No Time . . .

Sorry, I’ve become unreliable again. I’m having to devote too much energy to  problems in real life (as opposed to the bowdlerised version I present in the blog). One, which I can discuss now, is sciatica. Some heat, some stretching and some attention to my seating arrangements have improved it after two weeks of problems and I’m happy that I’m on the way to recovery.

The other is annoying, frustrating, but essentially trivial matter at work, which has been annoying me, and preventing me from concentrating, for the last few days. This is something and nothing, and the annoyance at being unable to shake it off is actually greater than the annoyance at the situation. However, that’s work, and has no place in my blog apart from a passing comment.

Sometimes, like when I had two boundary disputes with neighbours and a collapsing chimney stack, you just have to work through them carefully and persistently. In the end, all three problems were resolved and though one of the neighbours was annoyed with me, nothing bad happened. The one who was annoyed really had no reason for it – I won’t go over the details as it still irritates me.

This morning I got a new acceptance, so that’s good. Three of last months submissions were competitions, so I won’t get any sort of answer for months yet, probably never, as they disappear into the black hole that is the fate of most competition entries. Of the other four I now have two acceptances and am waiting for two. It compensates fro my other problems in some way – I’m still in pain and I’m still annoyed, but at least I am also grinning while all that is happening.

My current energy is devoted to catching up on reading blogs (with limited success I’m afraid), reading Laurie’s latest book  (I’m only two months late) and thinking about starting the presentation on medallions. That’s about ten days away and I really must start.

In fact I will go and start now . . .

New Horizons

My original plan was to buy enough food so that I could pass the Christmas week without going out to shop. As I take stock, it’s possible that I overdid things. Apart from milk and bread I probably don’t need anything until the second week of January and there are certain things, like Christmas pudding, that won’t be eaten until Spring. I find a little goes a long way and as we ate the one that Number One Son brought with, we don’t need more for some time.

Because we broke the microwave we did at least boil the one we had, which made it more palatable. Microwaved Christmas pudding is rarely a success, but after a Christmas season of large roast dinners I cannot be bothered with the palaver of boiling a pudding. It’s one of those circular things – the less you like pudding, the more you fail to treat it well, and the worse you treat it, the less you like pudding.

I’ve just been reading a book about writing. It’s the first book I’ve read properly for over a year. I really need a reading lamp because my eyes are dimming (which sounds like a cue for half-remembered song)  and I should buy a reading lamp. Julia bought me a new Kindle for  Christmas, which is pretty much the same thing.  In terms of light, that is. In terms of books, it’s still quite different. I don’t buy expensive books for my Kindle as you don’t really get anything from your money apart from renting a few pixels. (t’s a bit like NFTs).

I tried reading that link – it still makes little sense. basically an NFT is a picture which people believe is worth something. It’s a bit like buying a suit from the same tailor that made the Emperor’s New Clothes.

Or as Jimmy Carr put it last night on TV – and NFT is a con trick bought by an idiot. I think that’s probably the best definition I’ve heard yet. Don’t Google him, you probably wouldn’t like him as a comedian. But as a social commentator he’s spot on.

Anyway, the book, which I last mentioned some paragraphs ago, was talking about how to improve your writing. The author writes 750 words a day. I’ve been knocking out my 250 a day fro so long it’s become the norm. I used to do a thousand in various forms, but gradually reduced to a single blog post with a minimum target of 250 words. Then I allowed the 250 words to become the limit. That could be the cause of several of the problems I am finding with writing. Looks like it’s time to set some new targets.


Day 3

I know, it’s already starting to look like I’ve given up on titles.

However, it does save time.

I have just finished Diddly Squat – A Year on the Farm, by Jeremy Clarkson.b My sister gave it to me for Christmas and it’s a great book, covering the trials and tribulations of modern farming and Clarkson’s life as a farmer. Clarkson is a genuinely funny and thought-provoking writer, even if he is also dull and irritating in large doses. The book is just about short enough to avoid him becoming irritating.

However, that in itself is a fault. Read John Lewis-Stempel and you generally get a decent sized book with plenty of content. Clarkson’s book is a touch thin, with lots of white space inside, and quite a big font. In other words, it’s his newspaper columns which have been padded out to book size. As I say, it’s a mixed blessing – short enough to stop him getting on my nerves, but not long enough to seem good value.  It’s a good read, but poor value on a per word basis.

We had beef on New Year’s Day. With it we had horseradish sauce. It wasn’t our normal brand (TESCO) as they were sold out so we had Colman’s instead. Good brand, more expensive but you get what you pay for. Or so I thought. It was like being attacked by a chemical weapon. My mouth burned, my eyes watered, I fought for breath . . .

It was like the time I ate part of a horseradish leaf to see what it was like. It was so bad that I have never felt the urge to try it again. My experience on Sunday was every bit as bad.

Julia said she thought it was quite bland.

And you know what? For the next few tastes it was almost tasteless, the it hit me again, before fading away. It’s like Half of it was the strongest horseradish I’ve ever had, and half of it was the most bland. All in all, it was the worst jar of horseradish I’ve ever had and I’m inclined to throw it away. It’s there on the shelf in the kitchen, eyeing me up, daring me to try again. It’s like playing Russian Roulette with comestibles. If it’s hot, I’m not sure I can bear the pain. If it’s bland, I will have just wasted a beef sandwich.


Lavinia sent me a link to the paperback.


Day 2

I think I may have hit on a new labour-saving idea for titling my posts. It saves a lot of thinking, though it probably won’t seem such a brilliant solution by the time we get to the far end of January.

I have now also reached Number 2 in my reading target, having just completed Death of Yesterday ,a  Hamish Macbeth mystery by M. C. Beaton. It was formulaic, dull, and badly produced – the blurb on the jacket was so inaccurate that it could have belonged to another book. I’ve actually read it before, but didn’t realise after reading the summary. I did say, a couple of years ago, I wouldn’t be reading more of these, as the editing was so bad. What I didn’t tell you was that I’d read it the week we were away, just before lockdown, and I threw it away in the hotel bin. So badly edited.  I may be being unfair on M. C. Beaton, and am still quite fond of Agatha Raisin, but the books did go off at the end.

I’ve also finished The Haibun Journal (Issue 3.2). It has 61 pages of haibun, so it’s as long as some poetry books and I’m claiming it as an allowable book. I’m in it, so this is a biased view.

I started both of them on 31st December, but I’m counting them for this year. At the end of the year I won’t count anything that I haven’t finished. Just a word of warning – don’t look for any good books in my list, I tend to gravitate to murder mysteries and a variety of oddments. You will see what I mean as time goes on.

At the moment I am reading The Siege of Mr Khan’s Curry Shop by charliecountryboy. It’s a bit more heavyweight than my average reading and is going slowly. It is my downstairs book that I keep by my chair and dip into in a reflective manner, so it could take some time. So far I’m enjoying it, though nobody has been murdered and Scotland Yard  hasn’t been called in. Each to his own . . .

(The  link to the book is the Kindle edition – I have the paperback, but can’t find the link on Amazon).

The Reading Paradox

If you want to write, you have to read. That’s standard advice whenever you look at anything about how to be a better writer. At the moment, I’m struggling to read. My eyes aren’t as good as they were and I really need to get a decent reading lamp. That has limited my reading over the last year, and since I was ill at the end of summer, I seem to have lost interest and concentration.

I can still read from a screen, but it isn’t really  the same. On top of that I seem to have mislaid my tablet. I had it a few weeks ago, did some tidying, and now can’t find it. That’s the trouble with making electrical gear smaller – it’s easier to lose. I thought it might turn up under a book or something, but so far it has eluded me.

The other problem is that I have been trying to do so much writing. Or, to put it another way, the writing isn’t flowing like it used to and so it takes more time. This could, of course, be related to me not reading enough, which is where this started. It will be interesting to see if my target of reading 50 books in 2022 helps me out.

However, do I count poetry books as books? And if they do, do journals like The Haibun Journal also count. There are 56 pages of Haibun in the latest issue, and that is longer than some poetry books. I have a few days to think about it before 1st January arrives, and in that time I also have to finish at least two submissions – three if I feel really motivated.

Anyone got any views on the subject?

Reading – not as easy as it used to be


Overdoing it

Yes, you guessed. After weeks of sitting with my leg elevated, I finally, after a week of building up to it, managed to overdo things. After my haircut and shopping I spent the rest of the day gradually deteriorating as my knee stiffened and my leg throbbed. Maybe “Back to Normal” was a bit optimistic. Just one more day on the zig zag of recovery.

It’s at times like this that you appreciate the magic of WP. I’ve been reading about Captain Moonlight, dining out and the Dave Clark Five over the last few days. Life would be a much poorer place without this ability. I don’t use the internet in the living room these days, as |I’m trying to restore the art of conversation (which is basically me talking while Julia grunts and uses her laptop. To be fair, she does take her work seriously, and does do a lot of planning, even though the general culture of the organisation is to take the money and do as little as possible.  I won’t go on, but as I watch her fill out forms, do training and plan sessions for hours every evening, I do a lot of thinking about the unfairness of life.

I’m going to go to the doctor soon, then will go to work for the first time in just over three weeks. I have grown lazy over that time. It hasn’t been like lockdown where I had plenty of time to do things – most of the time was spent sitting down like a vegetable, unable to concentrate for more than a few minutes at a time.  Four pages of a book has been a struggle.

In the last week things have improved and I’ve been writing again, though I haven’t actually typed or submitted anything. Good news is that I just had a haibun accepted, so things are still working their way through the system. I am able to write, but so far haven’t typed much. I’m going to have to start the whole, dull, copy typing process again if I’m going to get back to making regular submissions. I need to get a couple of submissions knocked into shape as the end date for two magazines is 15th of this month – five days is cutting it fine even by my standards.

Generally, despite the up and down nature of my recovery the week has been a positive one and I’m better now than I was when I started. Even yesterday was a positive, despite the knee pain – it was me that caused the pain by trying too much. My immune system just keeps chugging along and healing as fast as it can.

1st January 2021

So, how do you start the first blog post of the New Year? I thought I’d try an irritating speech habit and a few surplus capitals.

I’ve noticed on quiz programmes that many people, when asked to say a few words about themselves, seem to be starting with the word “So…”. It’s taken the place of “Well…’ and, my personal favourite “Er…”.

At least “Er…” is an understandable reaction. The other two are just irritating. And, to be honest, as you should be expecting to be asked about yourself, you should be ready. Keen-eyed readers will have noticed “To be honest”, which I admit is an irritating habit of mine. I’ve tried to stamp it out, but so far I haven’t managed to eradicate it. Maybe 2021 is the year I will sucvceed.

As for the Unnecessary Capitalisation, this is likely to get worse as I am going to read more Dickens this year and I suspect that my prose will become more Victorian. I have read very little Dickens and have decided to address this lack. I’m also going to re-read Evelyn Waugh, as I’ve mot read any for 15 or 20 years and I feel that my supplies of waspishness need refilling.

I am currently thinking of how to arrange my writing in 2021, and what I’m going to do on the blog. The first thing I’m going to do is wish everyone a Happy New Year, because I’m feeling cheerful. The second thing I’m going to do is panic as it’s 11.55 and I need to get a photo and some tags loaded.

See you tomorrow!

Procrastination – a Primer

I watched a programme about alpaca farming earlier in the week. One of the farmers had been a professional writer all his life and had fitted in a career as a circus ringmaster.

He was now fitting in life as an alpaca farmer with his writing. He said, as it showed him settling down to type, that the farming had helped him focus, and that his writing had improbed as he no longer had time for writer’s block.

I feel the same way about procrastination. It’s so hard to fit in when you have work to do. I no longer have the luxury of sitting at the computer wondering what to do, if I’m going to fritter my time away I need to start frittering immediately.

Freecell isn’t going to solve itself, and who will stroke the vanity of all those Hollywood stars if I don’t click to see what they look like now. or click to see what that man found in his back garden.

After I’ve done that I need to read poetry, because we all know we can’t be successful writers if we don’t read the genre we are attempting to write.

Then the shopping list needs doing. I forgot to add breakfast cereal to the list last week and Julia is grumpy because she is having to eat bran flakes instead of Weetabix. To me that’s like the doctor asking if you’d rather have eczema or psoriasis. (I’ve toned that down for a family audience, and taken the opportunity to show off my spelling, in case you didn’t notice).

I’d rather have porridge, but I prefer lying under the covers until the last minute, whimpering about getting up on a cold, dark, morning. Normally I zoom downstairs late, splash milk on something that promises to deliver health and high fibre, and plough through it. Frankly, weekday breakfasts are a penance rather than a pleasure, but even after twenty years as a non-smoker I haven’t found anything to replace cigarettes and tea as the perfect start to the day. Apart from Sunday, when I favour fried food. Healthy choices do not come easily to me.

Time to serve up the tea now. It’s ratatouille served in the style of a pasta bake. I’m trying to sound enthusiastic, but it’s hard when you really want a Chinese takeaway…

Authors, Austen and AI

I’ve just been reading this. I’m now more convinced than ever that technology is not for me. Having just read an article that tells me future books are going to be written by Artificial Intelligence. This is depressing. However, it isn’t as depressing as reading the AI attempts at classic literature.

Even more depressing, I read that the average reading age in the UK is somewhere between nine and eleven. There are a number of statistics around this, with a variety of measurements and interpretations, but it means that a lot of adults struggle to get by with reading. A significant proportion can’t read simple notes or road signs. I am worried by this for a number of reasons. Not only will these people not be able to enjoy the pleasure of Wordsworth or Wodehouse, but there is a distinct possibility that they are a danger to other road users. That, I suppose, is why so many road signs have pictures on them.

The state of the nation’s education system was first revealed to me when I was recruiting school leavers to work on a poultry farm. I told the careers advisor we would need people within reasonable literacy and numeracy skills but after they sent several illiterate candidates (because it was only a poultry farm) we reverted to advertising in the local paper.

I won’t even mention my view of careers advisors because I think we covered that a few days ago, but I was shocked to find that it was possible to pass an entire school career without learning to read and write.

blur book stack books bookshelves

Photo by Janko Ferlic on Pexels.com

So much depends on being able to read. In fact everything depends on it, including your academic results in other subjects, and your success (not necessarily monetary)  in life. Yes, you can be successful without being a great reader but it must be harder.

You can either believe me about this or you can search the internet. The only trouble with the internet is that there is so much information, often gathered and interpreted differently, that it’s hard work putting it all together. You read one list of the top ten nations for literacy and then you read another and only a couple of the countries are duplicated. Unfortunately they tend to agree that the UK is about 17th. It’s not a disaster, but it’s not very good either.

One of the sites I read had a question from a user asking if anyone out there had read 100 books. People were generally quite polite, but they did mention that they had read 100 by the time they left school or had read fifty or even a hundred in a year. It all depends on what you call a book. I’ve probably been going through three a week during lockdown, but we’re talking about Golden Age and modern cosy crime books, so they aren’t actually hard.

I really must start a better balanced reading programme, a few more classic novels and some non-fiction. That, however, is a diversion. We’re talking about literacy, not about me squandering my life on whodunnits.

I’ve tried various ways of reading a better selection over the years, but it always degenerates into a discussion of why I hate Don Quixote. I just re-read that post, from 23 April 2016, and found the sentence “I had muesli for breakfast as I wanted something smallish in case I set my socket off.”

No, I haven’t a clue what I meant to write.

I’ve just been reading the local literacy project website, and have decided to start volunteering once lockdown ends. Really, I should have been doing it for years.

The question is whether I volunteer to help adults or children.At least, by telling you all I am making sure I can’t back out.

boy in white and black school uniform reading book

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com