There is Such a Thing as a Free Lunch!

I am writing to you from the wonderful haven that is our sun lounge. When I was a kid, my grandparents had a sun lounge and it was the best place to hang out, especially on days when the wind was cruel but the sun was kind. Today is such a day, and to be in the conservatory, as Mark calls it, is very heaven.  This morning we failed utterly to find a climate change event (maybe the climate changed and they went home) and so did the Peace Café instead. Then we mooched around the shops and found a great deli/cafe at the top of Silver Arcade, passing time until 12.30 when the main event was happening.

We only found out about this on Thursday: called the Junk Food Cafe, it takes food supermarkets would otherwise throw away, makes it into lunch and serves it for the price of a donation.  If you can’t pay you can help with the washing-up.  We has a vegetable balti and a Palestinian bake, plus we got to take away a packet of pasta. It was great! There were!loads of people and a lovely atmosphere. They plan to do it once a month, at Leicester Adult Ed College.

WeeWe will definitely go again. They had policemen dancing outside and musicians inside. Terrific!

And so home.  And that’s today. Yesterday I worked on a poetry collection.

Kirk out

FIFA-Fo-Fum

Well – I’ve been whizzing about in my stats for this blog and trying to understand these little columns of blue and the maps that go with them.  I admit to being a bit obsessive about checking my stats, as I guess most bloggers are (those of us who don’t have millions of followers, that is).  In the last year or so, they have ‘improved’ them, and like most improvements, it’s a mixed blessing.  Instead of giving you just the total number of views in a nice blue bar-chart, they give you another column in dark blue.  This indicates the number of visitors to your shores.  So, it’s like counting, say, the number of birds who visit your garden and then being able to identify each individual bird and discovering you have a lot fewer than you thought because you’ve got the same birds coming back again and again.

Now, I can’t decide whether that’s a good thing or not.  If I have, say, 100 views in a day but only 20 visitors, is that better than 100 different people coming and taking a quick look?  And what are these twenty visitors doing, leaving and coming back again an average of four times a day?

Whatever.  So long as the stats go up, I’m happy – although that does mean that when they go down I’m unhappy.  I just can’t seem to cure myself of the habit of looking at them.

Anyway, what I was really going to blog about was the news that broke yesterday about corruption in FIFA.  I couldn’t care less about football (incidentally, why do Americans say ‘I could care less’?  It makes no sense!!!) but my heart still sinks to my boots when I hear these stories.  Is everything up for sale?  Is everyone?

Maybe drugs were involved.  They were certainly involved in last night’s Drink and Think, although we got a bit stuck on currently illegal drugs and didn’t have much to say about legal highs as we don’t really know what they are.  We did touch on prescription drugs though and the good or harm that these do.

If you weren’t there, you missed it.  And a good pint of Holden’s mild, too.

Kirk out

Whoosh! That was Your Morning!

I guess the morning is nearly over: it’s 11.50 now and I started work at about 9.15 so I can have a bit of a break.  I’ve sent something off: I always feel a bit weak at the knees when I send a piece of my soul out into the universe.  It takes so much out of you, preparing these submissions – in fact, submission is a good word for it, since it feels like preparing your soul for God.  Only trouble is, God doesn’t answer for a looooooooooooong time, and when he does it’s likely to be ‘not today, thanks.’  Yesterday, today and forever, it seems like nothing changes.  But there is no choice except to carry on.

So: today I have sent off a clutch of poems.  I’ve called them, collectively, ‘Five-Fingered Faith’ and they include ‘Spike’, a poem on funerals inspired by Emily Dickinson and one called ‘My Guru’.  They range from very long to very short, and my hope is that something in there will interest the editors.

I nearly didn’t send them anything.  When I read the description of what they’re after my soul plummeted to the depths and I thought, there’s another place I just don’t fit in.  But then I saw they were planning an issue on the theme of ‘Faith’ and I thought – hey, just maybe.  In any case it doesn’t cost anything and they do allow simultaneous submissions, so what have I got to lose?

Apart from my will to live, of course… but that’s pretty much gone already.

Ho ho.

Here’s where I sent them:

http://www.tinhouse.com/home

So: once I’ve prepared my manuscript and read and re-read their requirements and made sure I’ve done everything right (and EVERY SINGLE publisher, let me tell you, wants something different) and actually sent the things out into the world to fend for themselves, I’m feeling a bit shaky and in need of a sit-down and some TLC.

So here we are.

How’s your morning been?

Kirk out

Like Drinking? Like Thinking? Then You’ll Love Drink and Think

Once more I must remind you that tomorrow night is Drink and Think at the Ale Wagon.

http://www.alewagon.co.uk

This month the topic is ‘Should Drugs be a Matter for Choice or a Matter for the Law?’  OH is going to introduce the topic and will talk about prescription drugs, ‘recreational’ drugs and so-called ‘legal highs’.  He has strong views on this subject, but then he has strong views on just about anything, from coffee to the human rights act, so that doesn’t particularly distinguish it from any other topic.

You should come along.  Yes, Drink and Think is a philosophy discussion group, but it’s not specially academic or high-flown and anyone is welcome to come and join us.  There are usually about six or seven men and women who range from the abstract and intellectual to the very down-to-earth.  And then there’s the beer: the Ale Wagon sports several different real ales and since May is Mild Month they should have at least one type of mild on.

I have strong views on mild.  And tea, but particularly mild.  It aggrieves me that mild beer is seen as an old man’s drink when it is mostly very tasty and, as the name suggests, not too alcoholic.  And yet it has become so unfashionable, losing out to trendy lagers and strong bitters, that you can hardly find it.  My favourite is Banks’ Mild which hails from the Black Country.

http://www.bankssbeer.co.uk/banks’s-fresh.aspx

I shall hope to find mild of some description tomorrow night.

See you there.

Kirk out

Anyone From Porlock Here?

Well howdy everyone and what are you doing on this Bank Holiday Monday?  I am doing a fair bit of mooching in between cleaning bits and bobs that never get cleaned; then we’re going into town to look at the cathedral.  As far as I know it’s still there…

Bank Holidays are always a problem.  It’s a holiday, so you wanna do something with it – but the question is what?  Even if we had a car, a trip to the coast would be out of the question because the weather’s not great and no doubt the roads will be jammed.  We could go somewhere closer, such as Bradgate Park, except that since they stopped the bus service you can’t get within about three miles of it: plus holiday buses are few and far between.  Not that you’d get Mark on a bus – not in this life.  I wouldn’t mind so much but he’s against having a car for environmental reasons.  Fair enough, but then he doesn’t ride a bike either, which is definitely not fair enough.

So usually I end up cleaning or gardening or hanging out reading and drinking wine or going for a walk somewhere closer.  On Saturday I walked down to our local park.  It’s called Knighton Park and has just about everything you’d want in an urban space.  From most of it you can’t see the road or houses so you can forget you’re in a city: it has lots of trees, play areas, open spaces, a stream, wild areas and a spinney which is open on Sundays and staffed by volunteers.  I would have gone yesterday had I not had a prior engagement.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=Knighton+Park+Leicester&client=opera&hs=jKs&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ei=7ANjVcGiHqKK7Qaa3oFw&ved=0CD0Q7Ak&biw=1067&bih=515

Now, I know what you’re thinking.  This woman works from home; she’s self-employed, so what do bank holidays mean to her?

Well, you’re right – but I’ve decided that what works for me at the moment is to be more or less in step with the rest of the world.  So I basically work office hours: Monday to Friday, 9-ish to 5-ish, and I take bank holidays off.  There are some practical reasons for this, in that a lot of my friends get bank holidays off too (I’m meeting one of them later.)  But mainly it helps me to feel that I am engaged with society on a wider level; something I don’t get to feel very much in my work.  Maybe when I’m more successful I’ll work weirder hours; although somehow I doubt I’ll ever be the sort of writer who stays up till dawn and sleeps till the afternoon.  Or vice versa.  It just doesn’t suit me.

Most writers – or so we surmise – hate interruptions.  I positively long for them.  Person from Porlock?  Yes, please!  I’d like a whole delegation from Porlock.

Any volunteers?

Kirk out

BYKI

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand before you know it, three days have gone by and you haven’t put a blog post up.  The last two days have been spent in a frenzy of gardening; mowing the lawn, re-seeding the bare patches of the lawn, pruning (I nearly wrote ‘pruining’ which, according to the male owner of this house, is what we’ve done to the buddleia) ripping up nettles and chopping up logs.  These are now waiting to be collected by the owner of a wood-burning stove.

BYKI (Before You Know It) reminds me of a series of language books we had when the children were small.  They claimed to teach Latin, French, German and probably just about every tongue known to humankind, before you knew it.  Well, we tried them and before we knew it, they hadn’t really learned very much.  Still, that was the state of play with just about all academic learning we tried at home.  Unless they were in a group, they didn’t want to do it.

At the moment I am waiting.  Waiting to hear about my application to Everybody’s Reading Week, and waiting for a couple of Quakers to come and visit me.  In the meantime we are being visited by some bumblebees who seem to have made a nest in our roof.  The builders next door said it was wasps, which just goes to show how little they know about hymenoptera; anyone could see at a glance that these were much too fat for wasps.  Mark reckons they are bumblebees, though what type we don’t know.  The consensus seems to be to leave them alone and eventually they’ll disappear.  Fortunately we are not allergic to bee-stings.

Neither am I allergic to nettle-stings, which was fortunate as yesterday my arms were covered in them.  Nettle-stings are actually quite beneficial, especially if you are prone to rheumatoid arthritis; the remedy is to whip the joints with nettles.

I hate waiting for people.  You can never concentrate on anything.  Which is probably why this post is so unfocussed.

OK I’m back now.  The Quakers have been and quaked – or perhaps quoken – and I have heard from Everybody’s Reading and they’re not.  Or at least I’m not.  Budgets are tight apparently – who knew? – and my application cost too much.  Last year I asked for more money, and got it.

*sigh*
So that’s today.  I’m off for a walk now.
Kirk out

The Slush of Despond

Nobody in their right mind would ever want to be a writer.  Michael Caine once commented that when people told him they wanted to be an actor, what they wanted was the perceived glamour; the interviews, the attention, the fame, the cars and the money.  And the girls (or boys).  What they didn’t want was the actual job; the waiting, the wrangling, the endless rehearsing, the waiting, the bad cups of tea, the horrible hotels, the alienation.  So he said, ‘if you wanted to be an actor, you’d be one.  You’d be doing rep or pub theatre or working for a small am-dram company; anything you could, because it’d be in your blood.’  And he’s absolutely right.  I say the same thing (perhaps more tactfully) to would-be writers: if you want to be a writer, write – but if you just want to be famous and do interviews and book-signings and get prizes, there’s no way past the slog.  And oh, god, the endless rejections.

What nobody tells you – because nobody can tell you the length of a piece of string – is how long this period lasts.  In my experience, there is first of all a phase where you are finding your voice.  You may get published during this period if what you do coincides with what’s popular; and that can be good.  It can also be bad news, because you may get stuck there and never evolve.  Then there is a phase where you have found your voice and need to find your public.  That’s where I am right now.  I’ve found a sort of limited public, in that I’ve published a few things: I’ve also found a sort of private public in you guys who are kind enough to read and comment on what I put on here.  But I have yet to find my wider public.

Every time I go onto Everyday Fiction – a magazine which has published a couple of my short stories – I see that my latest offering is still waiting to be read.  This means that it is categorised as ‘slush’.  I do not like seeing my carefully-crafted work described as ‘slush’.  But what can you do?  Insist they recategorise it as ‘genius in waiting’?

I don’t know.  There seems no way round this problem.  You just have to keep going.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress through the Slush of Despond.

Kirk out

Woman and Man and Man and Superman

Well it seemed like a good idea at the time, to go to the Phoenix to see ‘Man and Superman’ by Shaw.  I didn’t know the play; I only know a few of his including Saint Joan and of course Pygmalion (‘My Fair Lady’.)

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0058385/?ref_=nv_sr_1

and of course more recently, ‘Educating Rita’, though that’s not so much an adaptation as a work which references Shaw.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0085478/synopsis?ref_=ttpl_pl_syn

But about Man and Superman I knew nothing.

Perhaps just as well, else I’m not sure I’d have gone.  It was a bit of a rag-bag of a play; the first act was pure Oscar Wilde – witty exchanges in a drawing-room – but the second was quite disconnected from the first and the third, consisting of long philosophical disquisitions by characters stuck in hell, was terribly dull.  I fell asleep and shortly afterwards when the play showed no indication of drawing to a close, I left.  Afterwards I found out it was three and a half hours!  Apparently the third act is often cut, and I can see why.  It might have been entertaining when its ideas were new (all the interesting people being in hell; heaven being deadly dull) but they are now so commonplace that the scene really dragged.  Ralph Fiennes as the hero, a descendent of Don Juan, is on-stage the whole time and has nearly all the speeches.  It must be an exhausting part to play; and in the first scene it occurred to me that the way he was playing the character was reminiscent of Rigsby in ‘Rising Damp’.  I have no way of knowing whether this was intentional and I don’t see why it should be, but Steve (for it was he) said he heard of someone who once fell off their chair laughing at Leonard Rossiter.  But I digress.

The central notions of the play are quite dated, too: that the aim of man (and principally of woman) is to produce a superman.  These ideas have been so discredited by their association with Nazism that had they not been given a largely comic treatment this play would have been quite offensive.  As it was I found it dull, baffling and disjointed.  But I did enjoy the first act and Ralph Fiennes was of course terrific.

It’s a weird thing, too, seeing these plays relayed from the NT.  You’re both there and not there; and when people laugh and clap you feel a weird disembodied sense of sitting among ghosts.

I shall explore this idea further, but that’s enough for today.

Have a good Monday

Kirk out

Am I Itching? Am I Hell!

One of the useful things WordPress does is to tell you about anniversaries, and this morning a little anvil-shaped icon appeared in the corner of my screen.  At least, I think it was anvil-shaped, but as Mark has conclusively proved, I am rubbish at recognising icons.*  Anyway, it turned out to be an anniversary message so who knows – maybe it was meant to be a cake or a candle or a card or something.  I don’t know.  But it did shock me slightly to discover that it was seven years ago this very day that I started this blog.

Seven years!  Seven years is a significant period of time; in fact many people think our lives can be understood in periods of seven: infancy, childhood, adolescence/young adulthood, marriage and parenthood, settling down, finding your way/becoming responsible, middle age (around this time you tend to get a mid-life crisis) and so on.  As a rough guide it sort of works – which reminds me, I wonder if they’re still doing the ‘7-up’ series?  According to wikipedia they are: the last one came out in 2012.  Interesting.  I remember seeing it when I was teacher-training; since that was in 1980 I guess they would have been – hang on! – if they were seven in 1964 they’ll be the same age as me!!!  How come I never realised that?

Maybe I did realise it, and forgot.  I’m at that sort of age…

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Up_Series

Anyway, back to the blog.  As I’ve told you before (you’re probably sick of hearing about it) Hanif Kureishi was the father of this blog, since it was he who suggested to me that I should start one.  I met him in Leicester library and instantly took his advice.  Initially I didn’t blog every day, but I soon got into the habit and now I blog around five times a week on average.

Over those seven years I’ve covered more topics than I can remember.  It started out being a blog about writing; but it soon occurred to me that as well as writing about writing I could practise my writing by writing about – well, anything that took my fancy.  So from home brewing to politics, from film reviews to gardening, from prose to poetry and from poetry to drama – and not forgetting the very pertinent category relating to my dear OH – I’ve covered quite a range.

And I’ve never regretted starting it.  Having a blog has enabled me to interact with other bloggers, to get comments on my stories and poems, and to get a residency on Mslexia’s very own blog!  Not too bad!

So a happy seven-year anniversary to all my readers and followers and a special thanks to those who’ve been with me since the beginning.  Why not drop me a line today?

Off now to see to the garden.

Kirk out

*I think it’s supposed to be a cup or chalice of some kind.  I’m still not sure

I Am Not Washing My Husband’s Bras

Thanks for all the positive comments on the short story and please keep them coming.  I’d especially like to know if you guessed the ending and if so, what gave it away.  I hope it fares better in any case than my previous story, the one which began ‘I am Washing My Husband’s Bras’.  I thought it deserved a better fate than to be completely ignored in the Mslexia short story competition, but it didn’t even get shortlisted.

*sigh*

I may send it off to another competition.

Aanyway, today it’s a lovely day here in blogland and already I’ve been pervasive along Queen’s Rd as we had our usual Friday morning breakfast at Fingerprints.  We often end up having discussions of one kind or another over breakfast and today was no exception as we started on the topic of the election.  Mark is much more down about this than I am as he thinks it’s evidence that people are basically very self-centred and deceitful: I’m not sure what it’s evidence of, but I’m regrouping myself (if an individual can regroup themselves) to do things differently.  What that will involve I’m not sure but I’ll keep you posted.

Even more than self-centredness, which is depressing enough, what makes me gloomy is apathy.  I understand people feeling that politicians are all the same, that you can’t trust any of them and that nothing changes: what I can’t see is what these people who don’t vote would do instead.  So if you didn’t vote – not because you weren’t eligible, but because you didn’t want to – please let me know why.

I promise I won’t tear you apart – I’d just really like to know.

Changing the subject, I’ve just realised with a shock that it’s only just over a month till the start of Artbeat!  Five weeks from today the whole thing will kick off and I’ll be doing my Artbeat Opening Ode at Christchurch on Clarendon Park Rd.  So please put the date in your diaries and come down for the launch, from 5.30 on Friday 19th June.  More details to come.

Meanwhile, have a good weekend.  What have you got planned?  I’ve got Tomatoes tomorrow followed by gardening, then a shared lunch at the Quaker Meeting on Sunday.

Kirk out