O, my Poetic Soul!

Unfortunately I’ve used up all my poetic news by telling you about my workshop on Saturday – except to say that there is a TON of stuff this week in Leicester due to it being Everybody’s Reading week:


Tomorrow there is a choice of both Pinggk! and Word!; we shall be going to the former as the event is called ‘In Translation’ and not only has Mark written a poem in Anglo Saxon (of course) but I have translated one of mine into French.  So come along – it’s at Duffy’s bar at 7.30:


I hope you make it to something anyway.

As a result of Saturday’s event I have loads of ideas for further workshops, involving clapping and reciting and being antiphonal and walking and yoga and all sorts of things!  I shall be doing some in the spring…

Philosophy this morning.  See ya tomoz!

Kirk out

We all Hate Poetry

Poetry workshop yesterday was great: we had seven people including two Home Educated girls and their Dad, a Polish woman and Mark, who is of course inexplicable.  It was a great mix of stuff; they each brought something they loved – or hated – and we listened, read, chanted, rapped, clapped and did the Iambic Pentameter shuffle.

You can do this at home, too: it’s easy.  All you have to do is take five steps, quite deliberately, like so: heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe, heel-toe; as you walk you chant ‘de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum, de-dum,’ 

Or alternatively you can chant something in that rhythm:


Then turn and do the same again, and you’ve done your first couplet in iambic pentameter.

It’s a great way to learn poetry.

So that was good; and after that I mended the puncture on my bike.  I was very pleased with myself: I found the hole straight away and fixed it, then used Mark’s wonderful foot-pump to blow it up again.  It held beautifully – but alas, by nightfall it had deflated again.  The hole is in a very awkward place so it looks as if I’m going to have to buy a new inner tube.  When I get some money… meantime I have to get the bus today, which means more money that I was going to save.


And that was yesterday.

Kirk out

You’re So Romantic Darling…

Now, frequently I have spam posts that I can laugh at because the English is so terrible; because they sound like random chopped-up phrases or sentences that have been literally translated from the original: however, today’s spam post is frankly insulting:

obviously like your web site but you need to check the spelling
on quite a few of your posts. Several of them are rife with spelling problems and I find it very bothersome to inform the truth nevertheless I will
certainly come again again.

I NEVER – or almost never – make spelling mistakes; and I’ll have you know, Mr ‘Oriental Buffet Offers’ (if indeed that is your real name) that I got 10/10 for my third-year junior spelling test – and a gold star!

No, to be fair, since I’ve been writing properly I find that my focus on spelling has diminished somewhat – or perhaps it’s a memory thing: all I know is that I only used to have to see a word once in order to remember how to spell it.  But I object most strongly to the idea that my spelling on this blog is ‘rife with problems’.

So **** off!

This morning, Mark and I were talking about our wedding photo which sits on the mantelpiece.  He reckons that your wedding is something you chew over for the rest of your life; which reminded me of Simon Callow’s comment in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’, that a wedding is a good idea because it gives you something to talk about.  It is, he says, ‘the definitive ice-breaker.’


Mark went on to say, ignoring Simon Callow, that it’s like ‘that saw for chopping people’s legs off.’

‘What?  Why?’ I said.

‘Because of the emotion associated with it.’

‘So what you’re saying is, that getting married is like having your legs sawn off?’


Nothing went right yesterday.  All right, I got the workshop sorted out (please come along – Westcotes Library at 11) but after that I lost 1500 words of my novel when the laptop fainted, and I couldn’t pump up the tyres of my lovely new bike because the valves were a different size from the pump.  And then I tried to fit a D-lock holder on the cross-bar and it wouldn’t go.

And so to bed…

Kirk out

Head on a Stick?

Gosh, I’m so conflicted this morning – there’s just so much I want to talk about.  First off, I want to pay tribute to a local man, Dr Muhammad Taufiq Al Sattar.  He’s the man who returned from Dublin to Leicester a couple of weeks ago to find his whole family dead in a fire.  For that to happen by accident is bad enough; but it was almost certainly murder.  Worse still, it’s thought to have been a revenge attack.  And yet more appallingly, it was a case of mistaken identity, so they say.  I find it utterly chilling and horrifying that someone could so casually set a fire and kill an entire family without even checking that they had the right house.  Voldemort himself could not have done worse.

And yet – when interviewed on Today this morning, Dr Al Sattar was incredible.  Full of compassionate remembrance of his family; full of admiration for his wife and love for his children; full of sadness and regret that he couldn’t yet hold a funeral – he spoke for fifteen minutes, and yet in spite of his pain not one word escaped him of bitterness or anger or recrimination.  He spoke about the perpetrator not at all – and I was so full of admiration for him that I just had to share it with you.


That’s the programme site, though the interview won’t be up till later.  It was broadcast about 8.10.

So before I heard that I was going to tell you about a man with his head on a stick.  But first I shall do what I should have done yesterday and talk about what I saw on i-player this week.  There were four really noteworthy things:

1.  Heavenly Creatures.  I’ve seen this film before, the first big thing Kate Winslet ever did.  It’s the true story of a couple of girls in New Zealand who have a vivid life of the imagination, develop an obsessively close and lesbian relationship and end up killing the mother of one of them.  It’s a compelling and chilling film and worth watching for the New Zealand scenery alone:


2.  Rev.  Rev was on Netflix, though it is sometimes on i-player; it’s an utterly brilliant series and much truer to life than The Vicar of Dibley: I found out the other night at the PCC social that the character is actually an amalgam of two real vicars who work in London:


3.  I can’t find this now, but there was a fascinating programme about the Sagas which exploded my ideas about these stories: chiefly that a) they were all about men and that b) women were treated horribly in all of them.  The Icelandic language is fascinating; and apparently one in ten Icelanders is a published author.

Maybe I should go there!

4.  Citizen Kane

Well!  What can I say about this that hasn’t been said already?  Nothing, I suspect, but I did succeed in the end in getting Daniel to watch some of it, and he pronounced what he saw ‘awesome.’  What struck me on this viewing was not only the dramatic use of light and shade to underpin the moral nature of the tale; but the inhuman scale of the architecture.  Apart from the newspaper office, nothing is on a human scale; the people are dwarfed by the buildings, especially the large mansion Kane builds to contain his wife, which becomes an echoing mausoleum full of statues.  So on the off-chance that you haven’t seen this – or haven’t watched it recently, do so immediately:


And finally, the man with his head on a stick.  Well, in days of yore when I was a youth, there used to be a column in the newspapers called ‘Lonely Hearts’ which mostly consisted of people looking for potential partners.  In those days, there being no email, people would either write or else phone a number and dictate their ads to a telephonist.  Typical ads would read something like this:

‘Man, ’40’s, outgoing, fun-loving, into boats and swimming, seeks woman similar age for fun and possible relationship.’

Or else: ‘woman, 30’s, divorced no children, seeks warm, caring man for walks in the park and watching films.’

Apparently, though, some telephonists were less literate than others; for when a man phoned through with this wording:

‘Man, 30’s, outgoing, hedonistic….’

this is what he got:

‘Man, 30’s, outgoing, head on a stick…’

I laughed for days at that one.

Kirk out

Losing Ten Kilos and Gaining a Thali and a Bike

Mark has made it!  69.1 kilos this morning, which means he’s hit his target of 70 kg.  He really looks different – slim instead of a bit paunchy; and in honour of the occasion he’s going to cook a thali from scratch.  That means a whole smorgasbord on a tray; 2 different curries, a sauce, puris or chappattis, rice, salad, yoghurt and a sweet which will be gulab jamun.


Challenging!  But perhaps not as challenging as losing 10 kilos…

Alas!  I am not losing any weight; so I am going to look at a bike this morning, in the hope that I’ll be able to get it fixed and start cycling again.  I’m clearly not getting enough aerobic exercise: I do my yoga in the morning and I go for a walk later but neither of those things is aerobic, and the rest of the day I’m seated.  Unless I do a bit of gardening, that is.

So, what have I been reading this week?  The Colm Toibin novella, ‘The Testament of Mary’ was highly evocative and compelling; alas, I have problems with atheist versions of religious stories, not because I’m anti-atheist but because they always seem to have an axe to grind.  This even extends to the other book I’m reading – however, the imaginative power of ‘The Amber Spyglass’ more than compensates for these issues as the story-telling is quite incredible.  When you first read these books you are utterly mesmerised; it’s a feeling similar to reading the Narnia books for the first time, except that there’s a lot more to figure out.  He doesn’t give the reader much; no explanation or back-story; you just have to work it out for yourself.  So if you haven’t yet caught up with ‘His Dark Materials,’ do so.  It’s a brilliant read, and the film is great too – it’s just sad that they didn’t finish the trilogy.  I’d swap that for the bloody Hobbit any day:



Kirk out

What Colour is the Future Again?

Today I want to share with you my current morning routine.  Now, in the first days of this blog we had a laptop and so I was able to communicate with my dear readers, from the comfort of my bed.  But nowadays I have to wait until I get downstairs, and so my morning routine looks like this:

1.  Wake up to the sound of tea being poured by Mark.  We used to have a teasmade which woke me up with a purring followed by a series of gurglings and a splash; alas, that died, so now I have tea made by Mark.

2.  Look on the tablet at a series of disappointing emails and the collection of agony, news and trivia that is Facebook.

3.  Talk to Mark.  His sayings this morning included ‘I wonder which is the most boring hormone?’ and ‘I’m not a lentil supremacist’.

4.  Write my blog post in note form.

5.  Listen to the collection of agony and trivia that is the news.  Today the agony is in Kenya and the trivia is a story which thankfully they are NOT calling ‘slutgate’:



6.  I finish my tea and do neti (the nostril-cleaning thing)

7.  Finally, Mark and I consult a higher power (not Jeeves) about our day.

and then I get up.

Today in my thoughts about this post I was considering colours, and what they mean in politics.  In Britain we have red, blue and green which clearly denote particular parties and movements; what we don’t have – in England and Wales at least – is orange.  Orange is a bright, vibrant colour; the fruit is also astringent and often sour.  Is that why it’s usually associated with bigotry?  I cannot comprehend the Orange mentality in Ireland;


likewise the Orange Free State in South Africa was associated with the worst racist tendencies:


and Orange County in Florida seems to be one of the most right-wing in the whole of the US – although, having said that, they have elected Democrats consistently in recent years, so I don’t know about that.


What colour is the future again?

Kirk out

PS  Oh, and Mark went on to say that unless I pronounce ‘Beowulf’ correctly – ie Beww-olf’ (I wanted to put an umlaut over the o to illustrate the diphthong but I can’t find it) instead of ‘Bay-oh-wolf’ as everyone else says – then it won’t scan.

I think his brain won’t scan.

Kirk out

I’m a 4.3 with Wedges of Enthusiast and Bohemian

Well, it finally worked – Mark’s constant nagging about Enneagrams has resulted in me actually doing one.

‘Will it take long?’ I asked wearily, as he told me for about the tenth time (with all the enthusiasm of Patrick Moore discovering a new planet) how much it would benefit me to ‘discover’ who I am in terms of Enneagrams.

‘Well, if you have to ask, it’s not going to work,’ he replied in a huffy sort of way.

Mark has just discovered these things.  As I said before they sound to me like some sort of singing telegram sung by Enya, but they are in fact a method of divining what kind of personality you have.  I’m pretty sure I know what kind of personality I have; I’m quite introspective and spend a lot of time analysing my thoughts and actions and how other people seem to respond to me – so I don’t really feel the need to get my head around yet another system of self-discovery.  But Mark just wouldn’t let up: morning after morning he kept banging on about it, until I finally gave in.

‘How long will it take, though?’ I asked again.  This time instead of being huffy he took a deep breath and said, ‘About 20 minutes.’

‘Oh, OK,’ I said.  It was going to take me about that long to finish my tea anyway.

So we proceeded with a number of questions where I had to say how much I related to certain statements.  The difficulty was, that with each one the answer was partly yes and partly no; so I just had to pick whichever was the strongest.  And the result was that I am an Enthusiast, or something – but when he read me the description of an Enthusiast, it didn’t really fit – and that was because of the ‘no’ bits to the questions I’d answered.

So I don’t feel much enlightened.  But I’m glad it works for Mark.  At least it’ll get him off my back now…


The theme of Philosophy yesterday was ‘Consciousness,’ but we only just about reached consciousness as most of the time we were asleep doing bloody form-filling and admin.  I hate the time this takes as I’m always raring to go at the start of term and wanting to get my teeth into stuff; mind you it was enjoyable to slag off Leicester University who, via Vaughan College, had treated the WEA abysmally.  Anyway, once we surfaced into full wakefulness we did mind-maps of consciousness; what it was and what it wasn’t.  And then the time was up.  The new venue is great, though.  It’s in the coffee-bar of the Unitarian Chapel and we sit around tables and drink tea like in a cafe philosophique.



Au revoir, mes petits.  A la prochaine fois…

Kirk out

Mine’s a Page of IPA

Now normally my favourite type of IPA is India Pale Ale.  This was originally developed, as it says on the – er – tin, to sell to the British in India.  But nowadays I’m into another type of IPA, a type which I first came across in 1976 when I began to study linguistics.  For today’s IPA is none other than the International Phonetic Alphabet.

Here’s an idea of what it looks like:


it’s a set of symbols for transcribing the sounds people make when they speak, so that you can record and read back exactly how a person says a particular phrase.  So for example, whereas a writer like myself would indicate a cockney accent by changing a few vowels, so that instead of:

‘My brain itches’ you would write:

‘My broin itchis.’

That’s not terribly accurate but it gives the reader an idea; likewise if I were to indicate a Cornish accent, I might do it like this:

‘Moy brayne itchus.’

These are not terribly good and I might not bother at all: some ways of indicating accents can be patronising or just bizarre, and it can be better just to remind readers at intervals that the speaker has a strong accent.  But! with the IPA you can tell people exactly how a person has uttered a particular phrase; so a posh person might say it like this:

/mai brein ichiz/

That’s not entirely accurate because I haven’t got the right set of characters: I expect there’s a way to type in a phrase with an accent and get it in the IPA, but normally you have to speak to get an accurate transcription.  Anyway, there it is.  I prefer to have fun as a writer and do what I feel like, though – rather than being accurate.

Philosophy today where we will be doing consciousness.  Providing I can stay awake…

Kirk out

And finally, today’s top spam comment:

Wow! This might be one of the essential helpful blogs We’ve ever come throughout regarding this subject. Even Fantastic. I’m also a expert in the topic and so I might perceive your hard duty.

Who are you? And who am I?

As I mentioned the other day, Mark is trying to lose weight.  He’s nearly down to his target of 70kg – that’s between 11 and 12 stone in real money I think – and he commented today that counting calories is like capitalism.

‘How is it like capitalism?’ I said, in a do-please-enlighten-me tone of voice.

‘Well,’ he said, ‘you know the comment about capitalists knowing the price of everything but the value of nothing?’

‘Wasn’t that George Bernard Shaw?’ I said.

‘Either him or Emelda Marcos,’ he replied.*

‘Mm.  Anyway, how is that like dieting?’

‘When you’re dieting you know the calorific value of everything but the nutritional worth of nothing.’

I hate to say it, but he’s right.  I hate counting calories; it just makes you obsessed with what you can and can’t eat and what portion size you should have and all sorts of crap like that.  Still, I guess it depends on your personality type.  And that’s another obsession of Mark’s; he keeps trying to get me to do an enneagram.  This sounds to me like a telegram sung by an Irish woman; but in fact it’s some kind of personality test.


I don’t really have much interest in doing one, since I think I already have a fairly clear idea of what my personality is like, and this would be just one more thing to get my head around.  But it set me thinking about theories of personality and what my theory actually is.  I guess it’s a mish-mash really: bits of Freud, smatterings of karma, a hint of Myers-Briggs


and more than a dollop of genes.

Whereas in my parents’ day you were defined much more by class and gender; and there’s nothing in this world more tedious than people behaving according to prescribed class and gender roles.  Whereas in America they have much more of a ‘you are who you choose to be’ ethic.  But how much of our behaviour today is conditioned by social norms?

*We were both wrong.  It was Oscar Wilde:


I’ll leave you with that thought.

Kirk out


Blackberries and Tomatoes

It’s Tomatoes this morning; and tomatoes are a theme this week as I made green tomato chutney with all my reluctant fruits * and the result was several large jars of the stuff, which should keep us going for a while.  And then it occurred to me that the blackberries seemed to be going on a long time, so I went out and picked the last of them – rather squashy but they should be OK for wine.  It’s been a bumper year for berries of all kinds, as I’m sure you’ve noticed – and the birds should do well, not to mention the makers of jams, jellies, pickles – and, yes, wine; and I’ll probably go out again to gather elderberries as they seem to be doing rather well too.

So that’s two lots of wine coming up… sadly I have now drunk the last of the elderflower, which I guess means that summer is at an end.


In addition to all these housewifely activities I have been engaged in proof-reading a Turkish student’s dissertation; in the process of which I learned more than I wanted to know about Turkish attitudes to commercial arbitration.  The government interferes a lot, that’s what I learned: I also learned – though I knew this already – that proof-reading is not easy.  First you have to figure out what the writer is trying to say; then you have to work out how best to phrase it in English.

Oh, and I wrote about 13,000 words this week as well.  That’s about 35 pages, double-spaced: not bad going.

And that was the week that was…

Kirk out

*or vegetables