Sestina Lente

My dears, I’ve been so busy I’ve been neglecting you.  Well, what a time I’ve had of it!  First Holly came to visit, then Chris arrived for the weekend bringing the weather with him, and then it was my birthday.  I had the best birthday ever – or at least the best one I can remember, apart from my 50th when I had a huge party in a marquee next to the chalet in the woods.  (Sounds like one of those made-up Welsh names – the party inside the marquee next to the chalet in the woods by the reservoir…)

It was really good to see Holly – it felt as if she’d never been away – and likewise with Chris.  I hadn’t seen either of them since our North-West tour in February, and we had a great time.  I haven’t drunk so much beer in a while, and the thali curry we had on Saturday kept me going the entire weekend (and no, I don’t mean that in the way you’re thinking!)

After which it was my birthday, and so the fun did not stop: ten of us went to Pizza Express and lunched upon pizza and salad, and then came the big surprise: a birthday cake!  I really wasn’t expecting that, and I was very touched that they’d all got together and had this cake brought to the restaurant.  The staff fetched it out and lit the candles and they they all sang to me and I blew the candles out.  I haven’t done that in a long time.

I’ve still got a bit of cake left but if you want some you’ll have to be quick.

And so back to work.  I’ve started a couple of new stories and sent one off; this time to the V S Pritchett Memorial Prize which is organised by the Royal Society of Literature (or the RSL, as we cognoscenti call it).  It’s quite cheap to enter, unlike the Mslexia poetry pamphlet competition which cost me £20 and which I almost certainly won’t win.  Still, you’ve got to keep on trying.

Right now I’m gearing up to Artbeat – it’s finally dawned on me that, having offered to run a poetry workshop, I’d better make a start on planning it, so I’ve got some ideas down.  Only two days till the launch!

What else has been happening?  I’ve got some elderflower hanging ready to make into wine.  You have to hang the flower-heads up inside a bag to let all the tiny insects drop out, otherwise you end up with insect soup.  Is it me or has the elderflower been really late this year?  Everything else is blossoming away, but whereas elder usually flowers in May, it’s been well into June this year.

I think we should be told.

All of which means I haven’t made much progress on the sestina.  So it’s kind of a sestina lente…


Kirk out

Sestina City

For a long time I’ve been meaning to get my head around the sestina.  And no wonder: it’s a rather complicated little form where the last words of each line in a 6-line stanza swap around in each of the following six verses and are followed by three final lines.  The form was, unsurprisingly, beloved of Dante who particularly enjoyed messing around with the ends of lines; although his terza rima is different from the sestina which traditionally doesn’t rhyme.

But!  Much to the horror of Mark who maintains it Just Isn’t Done, I have decided to make one which does rhyme.  And why not?  If I do it, then it’s done.  QED.  I don’t believe in rules for poetry; or at least, not in hard-and-fast rules.  When I write a sonnet I do the fourteen lines divided into eight and six thing, but I do that because I can see a point to it.  But when you can make a form even more effective (or interesting) by the use of rhyme, why not?

So I am wrestling with one now, and the first draft has emerged.

It has been a brilliant day here today: we have spent much time outdoors with Holly, who has very rapidly acquired skin the colour of pickled beetroot.  It is great to have her around and one of the side-effects is that our son also hangs out with us when she’s here.

And apart from that I’ve worked on a short story and re-done another chapter of the novel.

Kirk out

Bumbling Sex

I saw this in my garden this morning:

Bombus lapidarius bumblebees mating

It looked very strange and I wasn’t entirely sure until I looked it up, whether it was in fact two bumblebees mating.  The white-tailed ones are busily bumbling in and out of the space in the roof, and I am now waiting for Holly to get home.  We are waiting dinner for her, and of course her train is delayed.  I’m starving!

Sooo – today I wrote the last verse of a poem I’m working on called ‘Hounslow West’.  It’s about the place where I grew up, and it’s a parody of Betjeman’s famous poem on Slough:

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough

– it isn’t fit for humans now

It always seems to work best if I do poetry in the mornings and prose in the afternoons; so after a spell in the garden planting the seeds and petunia plants I unexpectedly acquired at Riverside and bemoaning the slow progress of the grass seed, I hied me to the shops to enprovision the house in advance of daughter’s arrival and then back to the laptop-face for some prose.  The pattern seems to be short stories followed by a chapter of the novel, following which it is usually time for dinner.

Except today.

Excuse me.  I have to go now to prepare the pizza and salad which we will eventually eat, East Midlands Trains permitting.

Kirk out

Return to Sender?

Most of this post disappeared into the blogosphere yesterday: I’d spent ages writing it and then I hit ‘return’ or something and it took me literally and returned whence it came.  Wherever that was… then I started a new post today and it asked me if I wanted to restore yesterday’s post.  If only I’d known it would do that!  I tried everything to get it back… so now you have yesterday today:

Ouf!  That was a very tiring day, from which I am only just now beginning to surface.  For reasons about which I shall, for the time being, remain mysterious, I have been to Nottingham and back.  This involved a trip around the castle (not into it) and a tour of the back streets before getting thoroughly exasperated with Thing for not a) bringing directions to our venue or b) thinking to bring their phone number.  In the end we found a friendly local bobby (gosh, they really are getting younger, aren’t they?) and he set us on the right road.  I arrived hot, sweaty, tired and thoroughly irritated.  Not the best start.

It got better: after our appointment we found a small friendly cafe which had a nice line in paninis and baked spud as well as a vast range of herbal teas, and we had lunch.  We explored a little more and then got the train back again.  I was exhausted by then as I hadn’t slept well.

I’d also had a busy weekend: the Riverside Festival was heaving with folk from all over the place and as always with these events you bump into people you haven’t seen for years.  Every few yards it seemed there was a long-lost friend to catch up with; not only that, we signed up for a veg box with Riverford and bought coffee from a barge.  After that we were due at Andy’s in Birstall for dinner and wine and possibly a walk through Watermead Park (his hen-filled garden backs onto this wildlife haven).  I arrived too late for the walk but got stuck into the wine and food.

Interestingly they seem to have the same sort of bees as we do nesting in their roof:

White-tailed bumblebee on bramble - Zsuzsanna Bird - Zsuzsanna Bird

These are white-tailed bumblebees.  It’s quite amazing how many different types of bees there are.  We were worried in case ours were masonry bees which, as the name implies, make rather drastic inroads into your brickwork.  But they are in fact harmless.

Sunday at Riverside always features Sing for Water, which this year climaxed with a Bollywood song – terrific fun.  One of my all-time favourite Bollywood songs is Jai Ho, the theme tune for Slumdog Millionaire:

I love this dance sequence at the end of the film: I’d really like to learn Bollywood dance.

Aaand back to today: and it’s the usual scenario, another rejection and sending something off straight away.  That’s my tactic now – every time I get a rejection, I send something else off.  The problem with the previous story, apparently, was that nothing much happens.  That’s one good thing about Everyday Fiction, I guess – you always get feedback, even if it’s painful to read (and it is).  Still, they’ve published a couple of mine, so they can’t be all bad:

Kirk out

The Deserving Poor

At the moment I am in the library sneaking an illicit grape from under the table and waiting for a text from a certain relative of mine.  For some reason when I meet this person she is always late; either through not remembering the time we were supposed to meet or some unforeseen calamity occurring – in this case the bus not turning up – but she didn’t text me until ten minutes after the time we were supposed to meet!  With some people communication is damn-near impossible; they either don’t get your texts or their phone’s on the blink or it’s lost or stolen or the bus breaks down or they fall over and break their leg etc etc etc – but it’s always something you can’t blame them for.  And so you end up extremely irritated with them but with nowhere to vent that irritation because it’s not their fault.

I can’t help thinking that some people just seem to attract trouble.  And how is that?  Why is that?  How does it happen?

For example: in the kitchen some people seem to manage to keep delicate glasses, fine china, exquisite crockery; they use it and it survives for years.  And yet in our house everything breaks.  Why is that?  Are we especially clumsy?  I’m not aware of it, but maybe we are.  Mark has had a succession of glass cafetieres like this one:

and none of them has survived more than a year.  Even when we are really, consciously careful, they still break.  Of course, in the old house we could just blame it on the lack of space in the kitchen, but now we can’t and still his latest one has been broken after a year.  It makes you wonder whether it’s worth it, but it’s still his favourite method of delivering coffee.  We’ve got one like this that works on the hob:×200.jpg

but it’s kinda slow and messy.

First world problems.  Right.

OK, let’s get to something real then.  I want to pose this question: how far can a person be said to be responsible for – or to attract – things that happen to them?

This is a conundrum.  It’s one thing to believe in karma; it’s another to blame a person for getting run down in the street – or worse, for being abused as a child.  By the same token, you would also suggest that an extremely wealthy person deserves their wealth and consequently that the poor deserve to be poor.  This is of course abhorrent – and yet I can’t help thinking that there’s some nugget of truth buried deep within.

I wrote all that yesterday in the library; didn’t get around to uploading it.  So, today I shall be mostly… going to Riverside Festival and thence to Andy and Lynne’s house for dinner.

Have a good day!

Kirk out

Do You Suffer from Horizontigo?

It’s seriously twirly here in blogland this morning. I’ve been awake since 4 am and that’s it: I’m not getting back to sleep now.  I’ve been downstairs and meditated and even taken a walk in the garden, and it’s lovely.

Last night I watched Dances with Wolves again.  I was deeply in love with Kevin Costner at the time, but now I find that what’s stunning about it is the scenery.  We just don’t have skies like that over England: huge skies where the horizon is everywhere, like landing on another planet.  Over here the horizon is short, occluded by trees or mountains or houses or the sea. Just as well really otherwise we’d all suffer from horizontigo.  That’s what you get when you look at something very far away.

So, today I shall be mostly… trying to cope with fatigue and I guess doing some writing.  And trying to persuade Himself to mow the lawn…

Kirk out