Tag Archives: writing

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.

 

Some thoughts on Long Covid

I made six submissions last month, all apart from one were in the final week of the month. This month I have only two submissions to make, and have made them both already.

This is a welcome return to what I consider normality. Twelve months ago I was able to make the month’s submissions on the days the submission windows opened. Illness intervened and I found myself entering a period where I was mainly editing work that was already written, and I was struggling to complete it and submit for the end of the period. After six months I started writing new poems again, and it is only this month that I have managed to get far enough ahead to submit closer to the beginning of the period.

I could have submitted sooner, but have become lazy in the last year.

The advantage of submitting earlier in the period is that (in my theory, at least) you establish yourself as the favoured candidate, and later submissions have to work harder to push you out.

The advantage of submitting later is that you (probably) have more time to let the piece mature (unless, like me, you are struggling to keep up) and you get answers quicker, as decisions are made within days of submission rather than waiting until the end of the month.

In years to come, the mythical PhD student I always think I’m writing for, will be able to read this post and add it to the list of Long Covid symptoms – difficulty in writing new poetry. I didn’t write anything new for several months after Covid, and even struggled to knock the existing writing into shape. I then spent a long time struggling to write anything new – resulting in missed deadlines and lots of last minute submissions. Finally I managed to find some form and, for the last month, have finally started writing with fluidity again. The plan for next month is that I will submit as much as possible in the first week of the month, using things which I am finalising now.

What a difference a year makes.

Starts with Poetry and ends up with Wallpaper Paste

As with Newton’s Laws there is always a price to be paid for success and that has cut in today. I looked at some of my successes yesterday and decided they could have been written a lot better. This morning I woke up with the thought that if I’m going to justify my place in magazines I have to back it up with another selection of successful submissions, then another . . .

The road to Hell may be paved with good intentions, but somebody has to provide the wallpaper and that is a task that may well fall to me. I can see it now, hundreds of yards of wasted drafts and rejected versions.

The vision in my mind is not, believe it or not, the flames or damnation, but wallpaper paste. It’s what we used to use in school handicraft classes for doing papier-mâché work. That was our limit at school. We did art and we did “handicrafts”, which was sewing for girls and papier-mâché for boys. Yes, I grew up in a patriarchal society, but look at it this way – sewing is much more useful than the ability to make badly proportioned models from newspaper and glue.

At home, during wet school holidays we would sometimes do it, but using flour and water to make the paste. That skill later came in useful when we produced a Greek style helmet for one of the kids when he had to do a history project. We cheated and kept it for a couple of years before resubmitting it for the next child.  We used diluted PVA glue for it, so it didn’t suffer from storage.

It’s very simple and works for a number of things. Select an ion from history that is roughly balloon-shaped, cover it in glue and then cut holes/paint as necessary.

Strange what you think of when you blog.

Now I need to find a photograph. It has nothing to do with anything in the blog. The header is a frangipane tart made with our Cape Gooseberry harvest. We have just eaten the last ones out of the garden. Unfortunately they die in winter if you grow them outside, so we will have to try again next year. There are no pictures of one that was actually baked as they tended to get eaten fairly quickly.

 

A Missed Day

Last night (or this morning, to be accurate) I followed my normal habit of falling asleep in front of the TV. Normally I can write a few hundred words on waking but this time I felt so tired and stiff that I went straight up to bed. Fortunately I had already made my sandwiches.  This stiffness has been a feature of this week for some reason – I woke in bed a few days ago with aches in my hands, arms and back and it seems to have become a fixture. I think I may have missed my medication last week, which may be the reason.

Normally I take my arthritis pills on Saturday night. I had to change the routine a few weeks ago and have become a little disorganised. I also have to start injecting myself fortnightly now that we are back from holiday and am going to have to keep a diary to make sure I get it right. You can easily lose a week when you aren’t concentrating.

Actually, you can easily lose a month when you aren’t concentrating, which is what I seem to have done. Once again I am deficient in material to submit, and struggling to write. This isn’t due to lack of inspiration, more to the fact that I find a laptop keyboard harder to write with than a normal one, just as I find a keyboard less good than a fountain pen.

I need to get a grip and start writing. I will make a start by writing an extra post on Sunday to make up for Friday.

 

Laptop Woes (Yesterday’s Post)

I have a problem. It is a long-running problem. which I haven’t had to think about for a while. but it is now starting to affect me again. Put simply, I have trouble composing on a laptop. Balancing a piece of plastic on my lap and prodding at a keyboard with one finger is not a good way to write. It’s not just the laptop, of course, it’s also difficult to compose when you are sitting in the living room talking to your wife and coping with TV in the background. As a younger man I was able to follow TV whilst reading a book but as I get older my concentration isn’t what it was.

Last night I found myself grinding to a halt. I have haibun and tanka prose to transfer from paper to computer but the task was beyond me. The same goes for blogging. I stared at the screen, I tried a few paragraphs and I decided that even by my lax standards I was writing rubbish. I tried three times. I failed three times. I deleted three times. Then I fell asleep, woke at 2 am and made sandwiches. The sandwiches – herby cream cheese and cucumber, are not quite as bad as the blog, but they are far from my best. I was intending to make a mackerel spread from smoked mackerel fillets, spring onions, herby cream cheese and lemon juice, but at 2am it isn’t just sparkling prose that evades me.

At the moment I am writing this blog post (which will count as yesterday’s post) at work, and will email it to myself. Then I have one to write for today, and hopefully I will manage some poetry too, before everyone arrives. That was the plan yesterday, though it didn’t work out.

Tonight I will spend time making room for my laptop on my normal table and will plug a keyboard into it. Not only will it make it easier to type, but I will be able to divide my time clearly between work (or writing, eBay and procrastination) and relaxation (TV, conversation and napping). It is important to keep the balance between the two parts of my life.

The picture is the badge we sold to Germany today. I’m sorry to see it go, but that’s what I get paid for.

Day 150

Californian Poppies

Today, I am going to rush through my 250 words and then get on with something else. I only realised this morning, with a shock, that it is the last day of May and I have submissions to make before midnight. Having been caught up at work this evening, then slept in front of the TV I find myself a little short on time.

This afternoon was interesting. We left work at 4.00 and locked the shop. My workmate exchanged a few words with an elderly gent and walked away. The man then came to me. I smiled in a warm and friendly manner, expecting some comment on our opening hours. Instead he said, “I need help, please can you help me?”

It was the start of a series of events that lasted for over an hour. That’s not long in terms of a lifetime, but it’s quit a long time to be involved in the problems of a complete stranger.

Wren

His problem was that he had been dropped off by a taxi driver. He didn’t know where he was or where he was going (apart from the fact it was a hospital). He had no money, no phone and no ID. All this came out in the course of our conversation. He wasn’t quite sure how old he was – late 80s – but the age and DOB he gave didn’t match up, and there was nobody at home we could ring because his partner was in hospital and was expecting him to visit. He was a touch confused, though he seemed o know his name and address, and had not shaved recently or had the benefit of clean clothes. This was not a man for whom things were going well, and in some respects, it was like looking in a mirror.

It was also a nudge into a memory that I don’t really like. About 40 years ago I saw a confused elderly man hit by a car as he tried to cross the M11 motorway near Cambridge. He went flying through the air, and when I attended the inquest the events of that afternoon had clearly placed a great strain on both the car driver and the wife of the deceased. I wasn’t going to let him wander off, but there wasn’t  a lot I could do to help him either.

Gannets

In the end I had to ring the police and wait until an officer turned up to attend to him. She was very friendly and efficient, and asked all the right questions and took him home, where she was going to check with the neighbours and see what was happening. I will probably hear no more about the story, and will always wonder how things turned out but, in the manner of these things, I suspect it is the start of a change in his life that will not be to his advantage. I hope he has a family and that they gather round to help.

And on that sombre note I will leave you and go to finish my submissions for the month. I am going to make the most of my brain while it is still working. Not sure what photographs I am going to post with this, I will try for something cheerful.

Yellow Flag Iris

Day 111

It’s the 21st April already and I have a deadline on 25th, followed by another on the 30th. I am going to have to get a move on. When there are only two deadlines in a month (having already taken the decision to skip the one requiring a war/global warming theme) I have to make sure I keep my work rate up. One is for an editor who has never accepted anything from me and another is for an American magazine. I don’t do well in American magazines. It looks like this month will be the one that redresses the balance of last month’s success.

I wrote that last night, as it was on my mind as i thought of what to write. Today things moved on, and I wrote an entire haibun in my head on the way home.

I have now booked my second Covid booster vaccination, having had a text to tell me to do so. However, the government site seems sceptical and wants me to take proof of my compromised immune system. Left hand and right hand seem to be acting in a slightly disconnected way. I’m having this booster because my rheumatology specialist booked me in for it six months ago because of the drugs they are giving me. I would have thought that was all the proof they needed.

In a similarly disconnected way two practice nurses and the pharmacy are trying to get blood pressure readings off me, in three different ways. One nurse wants me to take my own readings in a morning. No chance – I have enough to do. One wants to take them when I have blood tests – which is why I am thinking of going back to the hospital – they just do blood tests and don’t poke about with anything else. The pharmacy is now telling me I can get a free blood pressure test if I make an appointment. I take it from all of this that, having not bothered about it for years, they are now being told, and possibly being paid, to hassle me about blood pressure. The self-fulfilling result of all this is that my blood pressure goes up every time I think about it.

Carrot & Ginger Soup

Day 88

I’ve just written a post and discarded it. Not everything that goes on inside my head makes for good reading, particularly when it’s a discussion of the merits, or otherwise, of eating tofu. You know what I think of salad? Well I dislike tofu more. I know that’s difficult to believe, but it’s true. At least salad has flavour. Tofu, unfortunately, does not.

It’s late now, but under the titling system currently in use, I feel I must post every day and leave no gaps. If it wasn’t for that I’d just go to bed.

There’s something about a row of numbers, on the other hand,  that helps keep you up to the mark.

I’m going to try Carrot & Ginger Soup tomorrow and see how it turns out. Last time I tried it I couldn’t really taste the ginger, so I added it to the list of lacklustre soups and filed it in my mental list of soups to try again. I need to get back on the diet, so it’s time for more soup.

So far this year has seen a few good soups and a few to try again. After carrot & Ginger I will try Celery again, as I feel it’s one that should be good for a low carb diet. Owing to the effect of ordering groceries on the internet, I now have  a stockpile of celery.

I’m hoping it promotes clear thought, as i still have a raft of submissions to make, and a lack of suitable material. Tomorrow is make or break day – three submissions to do and  alack of days to do them in. I may have to shelve some of them and start work on the April submissions. April? Already?

 

 

Day 81

Today I sorted a collection of tickets. Some of them are bus tickets and some relate to things like toll bridges and ferries, but many of them are considerably less interesting than that. Fortunately I have the day off tomorrow and will do some exercises to raise my enthusiasm levels.

Some of them have adverts on the back, and at least one of the adverts refers to rationing, so I’m guessing they go back to the 1940s in some cases.

After looking at all the pictures from previous years, I am starting to feel restless and would like to get out more. All I need to do is find a place that is crammed with interest, devoid of people, and accessible to a man with bad knees and a stick. It’s not as easy as it sounds.

I’m hoping to get an early start tomorrow and get a parking space close to phlebotomy for my overdue blood tests. After that I have a couple of errands to do and plan on spending the rest of the day getting to grips with some writing.

It’s all about practice. The more you write, the better you get. When I decided to start writing poetry again, about the time I started writing this blog, it must have taken a good two years before I started writing to an acceptable level.

This time, six months after being ill, I am struggling again. The quality is OK now, but the quantity isn’t there yet and I’m looking at four deadlines at the end of the week and only enough material for one submission.

That’s why I need a major effort tomorrow – lots of editing to do.

Planning

I’ve just been reading LA in Waking up on the Wrong Side of 50. She is very organised and has all sorts of plans in prospect for next year. This is in contrast to me – I’m vaguely aiming for 100 submissions next year, reading 50 books and that’s it. The planning centres of my brain are not very developed. She has blogging subjects planned until April. I am, as you may have noticed, writing a blog post, but I’m not sure what I’m going to write about once I finish this paragraph.

End of paragraph. Pause. I could write about procrastination, or the amount of staring blankly that I end up doing when I’m supposed to be “writing”. I just drifted off to leave some feedback on eBay and look someone up on the internet. I’m like a small downy feather floating on the breeze – never quite settling.

We are steadily moving through the backlog of food I over-ordered fro Christmas, a situation not helped by  me ordering more for New Year. We have carved all the meat off the turkey crown and frozen it. Tomorrow we will be having turkey and bacon pie and apart from a couple of lots of sandwiches, that is the turkey done.

The planned Celery and Stilton soup[ has become Cauliflower and Stilton Soup as the cauli looked like it needed using, while the celery is still crisp.

Next, I will catalogue a few medallions for an article I’m planning and then will trawl my mind for five haiku I need for a deadline (tomorrow). It’s hard going at the moment, but I will get through. Then it’s just the quality that poses a problem.

I have shelved another submission I was planning for tomorrow and then start work on two submissions for 15th January. A target of 100 isn’t going to hit itself.