Racked on a Bed of Pain

I am sitting in Daniel’s room at his request, watching him while he sleeps.  The poor lad is not at all well, having had one course of antibiotics which failed to kill his ear infection. His tonsils are inflamed, his glands are up and he has a temperature. So back to the doctor’s we went yesterday, to be given another lot of stronger antibiotics.  And guess what?  This lot have aspartame in.
Now, I am no fan of these unnatural sweeteners, and I always avoid them but it never occurred to me that they would be in medicine!  And Daniel once had a bad reaction to the stuff, so we have steered clear of it ever since.  However I was not convinced that a reaction he had as a five-year-old would be repeated twelve years later, but once he found out about the aspartame he became agitated and there was no way I could get it down him.  So back to the doctor’s I went at the crack of eight o’clock, and I am now waiting for the doc to call me back.  In the meantime Daniel has bitten the bullet and taken the medicine, which was very brave of him as he was terrified of an adverse reaction.
I am going to use the time to go back to reading Proust. A toute a l’heure, mes petits!
Kirk out

Don’t Drink That – It’s Had a Troll Washed In It

Once Holly as an exercise in writing decided to write down bits of conversation we were having in the household.  I probably still have them somewhere, but I have now accumulated so many notebooks that I can’t begin to contemplate trying to find it: however, I do remember that one thing she wrote down was ‘Don’t drink that, it’s had a troll washed in it.’  The children used to have these little plastic things with long combable hair which I used to call Gonks but they knew as trolls.


There was a glass of water hanging about, and at some point somebody said the immortal words: ‘Don’t drink that; it’s had a troll washed in it.’

I guess every family has its sayings, the mere repetition of which is enough to provoke laughter in the family and bemusement in everyone else.  Ours are, apart from the troll thing, ‘I can’t face it!’ (a joke about when Mark had a hissy fit), ‘it doesn’t come free, you know,’ (Mark’s perennial joke about charging people for comfrey cream) and – oh, I’m sure there are lots of others but I can’t think what they are now.

Do your family have sayings which make you laugh and baffle strangers?  Let me know what they are.

Kirk out



Sometimes I wish this blog was like Facebook: that I could interact more directly with readers; that they could comment more easily and we could have a chat without the endless posting and clicking of buttons and signing in and having wordpress insist that I am Mark etc.  Whereas what usually happens is that I catch up with comments the day after I post, and then having made it through the incomprehensibly tortuous screening process needed in order to comment on my own blog!!! I respond to the comment, we’ve all forgotten what the post was about in the first place.

Of course, people do comment on Facebook, but then you can’t see the comments unless you’re a friend of mine on there.

I hope my latest follower comments from time to time: Sandy Ludinski is a caravanner in Australia


and I have always longed to have a caravan.  Actually not a caravan as such: I’d really like a camper van (a VW one if possible) which you can just get into and drive and then climb in the back of and cook and then sleep.  Lovely.  I’ve decided since last summer’s fiasco in Derbyshire:


– that my camping days are over, but a camper van is very appealing.  Perhaps you can hire one for a few days?  Er – yes, you can, but it’s not cheap:


Anyone out there got a camper van they want to loan us for the weekend?

While we wait for offers to flood in, I will just note that the Synod has approved the appointment of women bishops.  Yay!

Kirk out


Three Fine Days and a Thunderstorm

‘It’s three fine days and then a thunderstorm.’  That’s what I used to say to my students in Spain when they asked me to describe a typical English summer.  ‘Ah,’ they said, ‘and then three more fine days and another thunderstorm?’  ‘Nope,’ I’d reply.  ‘That’s it.’

And so it is this weekend.  Yesterday I spent the entire day in the garden, thinking how wonderful it was to have a garden one could spend the whole day in without wanting to scream at the beer cans on the wall or rip up some horrible piece of plumbing or tear out the sheds and start again.  It was actually too hot out there and it reminded me of summer afternoons in the vicarage garden with the spire’s shadow slowly sweeping across the lawn.  That was some garden: half an acre.  Bits of it never got tamed, but it was paradise for us as kids.  The garden here faces North and gets the sun on it the whole day, just as the vicarage garden did.  I think it faced West; I seem to remember the sun setting over the far wall, but I could be remembering that wrong.  Anyway, it wasn’t overlooked by anything apart from the church spire, so there were no buildings to get in the way.  There were lots of trees on one side but much of the lawn stayed in the sun.

Stupid wordpress won’t let me comment on my own posts, for some reason – it keeps insisting that I am Mark.  I am not Mark: even Mark is not Mark, and I keep telling it so, but it won’t believe me.  So here’s my reply to Steve’s comment yesterday: did the gaslighter have a long thing on a stick or did he climb a ladder?

You can comment below – presumably wordpress won’t insist that all my readers are Mark.

Or will it?  I think we should be told.

Kirk out

PS Oh! and the cooker fairy appears to have mysteriously visited our house as the oven wasn’t working last night and this morning it is.  Spooky!

Lampposts in Lavender

Today I have been mostly writing a short story called Lamppost Man.  I got the idea when I was walking up Queens Rd and saw a man in a cherry- picker changing the bulb in a lamppost. I hadn’t thought about it before but I guess bulbs in lampposts have to be changed from time to time, same as any other bulbs, and it set me thinking about the people who do this job and how they are like the lamplighters of today. I wasn’t sure where I was going with the story but it’s reached a conclusion now, so that’s all good.  I shall probably send it off to a magazine soon.

When I’m not writing I love walking around this area and looking at what people do with their gardens. It makes a change from the West End where seasonal varieties include mattresses, swivel chairs, burger cartons and in summer what looks like the entire furniture of the house thrown into the front garden.  Here, people go in for trees, shrubs and flowers, or possibly patios. There is one house that has a dead swivel chair next to the bin, but it’s the exception not the rule.

Last night I watched ‘Ladies in Lavender’, a very moving historical film about two sisters living in Cornwall between the wars.  One day a body mysteriously washes up on the beach: it turns out to be a young Polish man.  They look after him while he recovers but one of them develops an unhealthy attachment to him.

There’s brilliant acting from Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, with Miriam Margoyles supporting.  Go watch.

Kirk out


Good Trip?

We had a bit of a drama here today: first the electricity went off, and then after we’d put the tripped fuse back, the water went off.  We couldn’t figure it out: all our neighbours had water, there was no work being done in the street, and it seemed inevitably that it had something to do with the fuse being tripped.  But how could a tripped fuse cut the water off?

We tried and failed to find a stopcock and eventually I phoned Severn Trent.  They couldn’t figure it either, but an engineer phoned me back and said I should look for a blue switch somewhere in the garage or under the sink.  I did: there wasn’t one.  So we proceeded to the neighbours’ houses and filled jugs and bowls with some of their still-flowing H2O.

It’s quite astonishingly inconvenient not to have running water.  What do you do about flushing the loo or washing your hands, not to mention actually drinking?  It makes you appreciate the problems of people without a water supply, and I reflected on this as I hastened down to Queen’s Road to purchase some large bottles of mineral water and a small bottle of hand sanitiser.  I returned to run another fruitless search of the garage and the house.  Eventually while trying to figure out how to programme the oven again, I found a blue switch in the cupboard next to it.  Could this be it?  I flipped it: it was.

The engineer, when he came, was quite unbothered about having a wasted trip*, and explained that the sink had probably originally been near where the cooker was now.  These ‘sure start’ switches are apparently a safety feature and are common in houses with old people.
So that was satisfactorily explained, and I came away (or rather, stayed here) feeling that I’d learned something.  Unfortunately we still can’t figure out how to programme the oven because the manual shows a row of nice buttons which are entirely missing on our cooker, and so it cannot be switched on.
In other news, Holly is back from Benidorm looking tanned and relaxed.

Kirk out

*no pun intended.  I promise.

PS  Oh, and I must mention Lorraine Pointon who was the first – nay, only – person to comment that the phrase ‘always winter and never Christmas’ comes from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.  Well done Lorraine.  The rest of you, where were you?

Don’t say Benidorm!


A Hard Day’s Morning

My People’s Friend story has gone off today.  Now, tell me what you would have done in this situation: I was in the Post Office and I picked out a couple of envelopes.  I needed to address them and so I put the envelopes plus story on the scales and asked for two second-class stamps.  Having paid for those, I went to one side and started writing: but only then did I realise that I hadn’t actually paid for the envelopes.  I felt somewhat guilty and went back and told them: however they were really busy and I think they’d have rather not bothered with the 70p I subsequently gave them.

Did I do the right thing or not?

Answers on a postcard (paid for) please…

Last night we sat down and watched ‘A Hard Day’s Night’.  I hadn’t seen it since the ‘sixties, so it was fun to watch it again and see how natural and unassuming the Beatles were back then.  A lot of it didn’t look scripted at all; they were very funny and the whole thing was a somewhat formless romp with lots of songs thrown in.  Great fun.  That – apart from the brilliance of the music – was their most appealing feature; their ‘down-to-earthiness’ and refusal to take themselves too seriously.

Until Yoko came along, that is…

So this afternoon I have been mostly… writing notes for my Alan Bennett review.

Kirk out


A Friend of the People

I am currently writing a short story about visiting an elderly mother in a home.  My mother was in a home for several years before she died: even though it would have been totally impossible to look after her in our house, still you can’t escape the guilt.  It’s a dilemma many people face, including, I suspect, a lot of readers of magazines such as The People’s Friend.  I have been aware for a number of years that such magazines pay well for stories, but I have not been able to come up with the goods, as it’s just not my natural style.  I have now, however, been able  to adopt this style – a bit like learning a foreign language, I suppose – and last week I sent off one story to Woman’s Weekly.  This week I am working on something for The People’s Friend about the subject of old people in homes.  They have lives and interests too – in fact Chris Conway has a really good song about this, called ‘Superheroes Never Die’, which is on this album:


It was written after he did a gig at an old people’s home and, rather than enjoying his selection of old-time music-hall numbers they told him they liked stuff like David Bowie and Pink Floyd.

So my story is called ‘Always Winter and Never Christmas’.  The first reader to tell me in a comment where that comes from will get a –

they’ll get a –

a –

a mention!

Kirk out

I am Lonely, Apparently

Well!  It’s been a busy day here in blogland: Daniel is not at all well and has had to go to the doctor’s and get some antibiotics.  This is a thing we hardly ever do here, preferring to treat things herbally wherever possible, but antibiotics have their place and a perforated eardrum is definitely the right place.  He is not doing very well and this is not helped by his refusal to go to bed in the daytime.


As well as that I’ve been dashing off a short story about a woman whose mother has dementia; this will go to the People’s Friend very shortly.  I’ve decided to try writing for mainstream magazines again; I’m tired of giving a story my all for litmags and being paid a pittance.  Though I did get some unexpected pay in the post for a recent poetry performance, so that was good.

Apparently the Serenity event yesterday raised over £700, which is excellent.  Oh, and my post from a couple of days ago is listed as one of the top five on Lonely Blogs:


That’s the site, though I can’t find any reference to the top five, so they may just be flattering me.  Ah well..

Kirk out

I am Now Serene

Science Fiction was all around today as I attended a ‘Serenity’ event to raise money for Women’s Aid.


I had only the vaguest idea of what the Serenity bit was all about, as I have never seen Firefly or Serenity (both by Joss Wheedon) and besides, I arrived after the film had started, failed to find a seat, bumped into several people, had a hissed conversation with Mark and then left to sit in Town Hall square and gather my thought, ready for my poetry slot.  Town Hall Square was a nice mix of relaxed people and drunks.  Although I guess the drunks were relaxed as well.


There were six or seven poets after the film had finished and Chris Conway arrived before his gig slot to hear us, which was nice.  I did three poems, ‘Doctor’, ‘A Martian Sends an Email Home’, and ‘To the Looking Glass.’  The first two are obviously sci-fi and the third is about women, so I thought it fitted in nicely.  Mark also did a couple of poems and the whole event was admirably organised by Tabby and Dave Wood.

Alas, I didn’t stay to hear Chris Conway’s set: Daniel has a perforated eardrum, so I came home after that just in case he was feeling ill again.  He’s a bit better today, but he will have to see the doctor tomorrow.  Chris was very forgiving, especially as we’ve been to three of his gigs in the last month…

Lots of people were dressed in weird costumes which related to the film; one woman even wore a pink dress with a crinoline; and there was a plethora of orange-and-green woolly hats.  I, however, wore only trousers and t-shirt as I ascended the stage to perform my stuff.  It went down well, though it’s always harder in environments where people are not used to poetry; however several people were complimentary afterwards and I left behind some booklets to be sold for Women’s Aid.

And that was today.  I notice Djokovic has won Wimbledon, which is a bit of a surprise.  A good year for the East Europeans then…

Kirk out