50 Shades of Gray?

I don’t know if you’ve ever tried writing about sex, but let me tell you it’s impossibly hard to get it right.  You want to strike the right tone – not uncaring, not harsh but also somehow real and gritty and – yes, let’s not forget – fun! and you end up being either coy or slushy.  If you manage to avoid this Scylla and Charybdis you can end up between another rock and hard place (fnarr, fnarr!) and sound either too clinical like a doctor; or too smutty.  It’s just really hard to get it right.

And it’s not just me: there’s a thing called the Bad Sex Award for dreadful descriptions of sex; here’s the shortlist from last year.  I must say I’m disappointed in Ben Okri – I thought better of him:


But! would you believe it,  in 2012 ‘Fifty Shades’ didn’t make the shortlist.  There really is no justice: I would have thought the ‘novel’ defined bad sex.  But no…


So here’s my problem: in my latest story I’m trying to describe a couple making love.  They’ve lost both their twins in a car accident (I’m writing about losing children a lot recently, I’m not sure why – yesterday I was actually in tears as I wrote about the accident).  They say the first thing a couple often does after losing a child is to make love, and whilst this doesn’t happen in the story, it signals the end of the first stage of overwhelming grief and the beginning of new life.  But it’s so hard to make it authentic and moving without resorting to metaphor all the time.  I’ve got as far as describing waves, but that’s pretty standard stuff.  I don’t know where to go from here.

Answers on a postcard please…

Kirk out

Balti Towers

I’ve had a brilliant idea for a sitcom.  The ‘Goodness Gracious Me’ team could do this easily, and the script writes itself, but it would have to be done by Asians otherwise it might look dodgy.

So, you have an Indian restaurant called ‘Balti Towers’.  It’s very badly run by a high-caste Hindu who has come down in the world and resents his customers.  There’s a waiter from the Punjab (‘I’m so sorry, he’s from Amritsar’) and a cowboy builder from Bengal.  One day a party of English customers comes in and Balti says ‘Don’t mention the Raj.  I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.’

I’m thinking of writing a synopsis and sending it to the Beeb.  Whaddaya think?  I could definitely work in ‘a small aubergine’ somewhere…

Yesterday was busy.  I spent the morning at a smoking keyboard judging poems in the Hysteria Women’s Poetry Competition.  By and large this was a real pleasure; I enjoyed reading the poems and there was a lot of variety of form, subject matter and style.  There was even a perfectly formed sonnet; plus a sestina (I think it was a sestina) villanelle, and lots of free verse.  Rhyme was generally not used well, but I think that’s a feature of our age.  We tend to assume that rhyme (accurate, continuing rhyme) is only for birthday cards.  There were one or two comic verses, and the subject matter was extremely varied.  True, there were the themes you might expect: abortion, children (having and losing), relationships, ageing – but all human life was here and it by no means felt like a ‘women’s thing’.  In fact sometimes I had to remind myself that the writers were all women.  The standard in general was not bad, and there were a few utterly excellent poems and many good ones.  Fortunately I don’t have to choose the best; I just rate them on a scale of 1-10 for various qualities.

I’m not very good at the technical bits of poetry.  Mark’s always asking me what chiasm is and how exactly a sestina works, and I can’t keep it in my head.

I don’t think I’ve ever had a chiasm…

Kirk out

Photo Opportunities

The Church of the Martyrs dates back to 1890, which means this year they are celebrating their 125th anniversary.  We missed the centenary as we weren’t yet going there: in fact, this time in 1990 Mark and I had not known each other long and I had started teaching in Spain.  Makes you think…

The exhibition is gathered from photos people have sent in from their own collections.  They range from very recent to the 1920’s as far as I could see.  There were, naturally enough, lots of weddings.  Many people who still come to the Martyrs grew up in the area and had parents who married in the church: Gwyneth, possibly the longest-serving member, loaned a photo of her parents standing, as Chaucer had it, ‘at churche doore’ *.  There were a lot of corporate events, too, such as Guides, Brownies and Tomatoes – and as you go in you are assailed by Gail shrieking and covered in paint at Soul Survivor.  There were church holidays, picnics and days out – and also articles from the Mercury when the church had figured in the local news.

And it all made me think about what we take photos of.  Which events do we want to record?  There were weddings and baptisms, but no funerals.  It hadn’t occurred to me until now, that no-one takes a photo of a funeral.  But why not?

Well, obviously because it’s a sad occasion.  It’s not something you want to remember.  But perhaps there’s something more personal in the kind of remembering a funeral entails; with each person recalling how the deceased impacted on their own lives.  Plus, the funeral is in itself a remembering; a memorial.

Loads of people were there who I haven’t seen for ages, and still more on the Sunday, though I couldn’t make it then.  There was a video message from Rob Freeman, who was apparently on another planet (he’s a bishop now, though anyone less Bishop-y could hardly be imagined; he’s quite like Rev, in a way – small, weedy and unassuming.  Hard to picture him in the House of Lords…)  Also Brian Robertson was there – Brian went on to be vicar of St Peter’s in Oadby, where my parents went.  So it’s a shame I missed seeing him and Viv.

Such exhibitions are a heartwarming antidote to the modern trend of taking selfies.  I don’t like selfies: to me they smack of individualism and a lack of communal experience.  Why do people take so many selfies?  Is it the modern equivalent of writing ‘Liz woz ‘ere’ – like people used to do in my youth?

Maybe.  But I never did write ‘Liz woz ‘ere’ on a wall.  And I’ve never taken a selfie.

Anyway, it was an interesting exhibition and kudos to Tony for putting it together.


Kirk out

*not that I’m suggesting Gwyneth’s parents go back to the Middle Ages!

Eid on the Park

Saudi Arabia does seem to be in the news a lot lately: this time it’s not a human rights issue but a health and safety one, as more than 700 people have died during a crush at Mecca.

Like the Muslims on Vicky park, they were celebrating Eid.  I asked a pair of women on the park and they told me what it was: I did walk around a bit but it wasn’t very accessible to non-Muslims.  I could have bought headscarves, incense and lots of food (I wondered whether it was all halal) though they did have a bouncy castle and a couple of fairground rides staffed by bewildered-looking non-Muslims.

The women were all headscarved, though few wore a burqa: I guess that’s the equivalent of dressing up for church.

I was a bit confused by it being Eid again, as I thought Ramadan was in the summer – however, I have now discovered that there are two Eids, Eid al-Fitr, which is the end of fasting and a sort of equivalent of Easter; and Eid al-adha which is the end of the Hajj season and celebrates God intervening to stop Abraham (or Ibrahim) sacrificing Isaac (Ishaq).  When you consider how much Judaism and Islam have in common, the Israel-Palestine conflict is thrown into sharp relief and much of Christian opposition to Islam is neutralised.  Of course, you can always say that Islam treats women badly – but is Judaism any better?  And what about Christianity?  Historically it’s surely just as bad – in fact there are those who say the Prophet gave women more rights in the 14th century than any other major religion.  The problem is that it hasn’t been reconstructed.  There has been no Messiah, no New Testament; no updating.

Which brings us back to yesterday’s post.  Let’s remember our own history, folks!

Kirk out


Once upon a time if you said, ‘I hate everything about S. A.’ you’d be talking about South Africa.  But nowadays you’d likely mean Saudi Arabia.  They haven’t moved on there in 2,000 years; and later this week they’re going to be crucifying someone for ‘crimes’ relating to the Arab Spring, when he was still a child:


Yes, you heard that right.  Crucifying.  Oh, but it’s all right – they’re beheading him first, so it’s more humane.

And will our government do anything about it?  Will they ****!  I mean, it’s like when they were going to behead that princess.  What did they say?  ‘If you want to execute your princesses, go ahead – as many as you like!’

OK that was Not the Nine o’clock News.  But it pretty much summed up the government attitude.  Sadly I can’t find a link so if you know where to find one, please comment below.

It’s all very well to blame the government (and god knows, I do) but we have to think about this.  As the NTNON ‘newscaster’ went on to say, Saudi Arabia has ‘an awful lot of oil’ and the likely outcome of criticising SA’s human rights regime would be a cut in oil supply.  So how much oil would you sacrifice to help achieve a better human rights record in SA?  Would you give up driving?  Central heating?  Plastic?

I loathe everything I hear about SA.  I hate the way they treat women; I hate that they’re super-duper-mega-rich but no-one’s asking them to take refugees (most of whom are Muslim) and I especially hate their so-called justice system.  They suck.  And I’m not afraid to say that – but then I’m not risking anything am I?

Even if I were, it’s important to stand up for human rights.  But there’s a problem.  I will happily sign a petition against Saudi Arabia executing someone – for example – because they are gay, but there’s something about the rhetoric that sticks in the craw a little.  It’s a bit self-righteous to be rapping other countries over the knuckles for doing something we only stopped doing about five minutes ago.  We’ve decided it’s OK to be gay, and suddenly we get the right to lecture the rest of the world about it.  Where we once colonised, we now do lecture-tours – and so let’s not forget; it’s within my lifetime that it’s become legal in the UK to be a practising homosexual and until a hundred years earlier – 1861, according to wikipedia, it was a capital offence.


In 1895, Oscar Wilde was sent to prison for daring to love one of his own sex: he escaped hanging by less than 30 years.

Times change; and we must change with them.  That applies just as much to religions as it does to the law; but how much to change and how much to retain, will always be a subject for debate.  Some religious leaders, while being forward-thinking in general, remain unreconstructed in some areas: hence the Dalai Lama’s reported remarks about a female successor needing to be attractive.

Here’s a more balanced view than I got on Facebook:


I’m disappointed, I must admit.  However all such iconoclasms throw us back on ourselves and cause us to think about the connection between culture and belief.  I think the Quakers do a pretty good job: every thirty years they update ‘Quaker Faith and Practice’, aiming to keep the best of the old and add the best of the new. They’re not afraid to be iconoclastic either: though they admire George Fox (the Quaker equivalent of St Paul), they are not afraid to criticise him.  This seems to me a sensible attitude.

As it is written in Bruce Almighty:

God: ‘You can use any of my powers you want.  But you can’t mess with free will.’

Bruce:  ‘Can I ask why?’

God:  ‘Yes!  You can!  That’s the beauty of it!’


I love that film.  Best screen representation of God – except perhaps Liam Neeson in Rev:


So let’s be righteous, folks – but not self-righteous.

Kirk out

Equal Amounts of Day and Night

Apparently it’s the equinox today.  Perhaps that explains why I’m getting equal amounts of sleep night and day – and no, it’s not because I’m sleeping all day.  In fact last night it seemed to me that I lay awake all night.  Now, I’m sure that’s not true: I’m sure that at some point – probably at many points – I closed my eyes and dozed.  I’m fairly sure I slept a few hours at least.  But it didn’t seem like it – and that’s quite unsettling.  Because it’s like losing your memory.  I have long since ceased to say blithely things like ‘Oh, it’s ages since I’ve been to ___’ or ‘since I’ve seen ___’ because inevitably someone will retort saying that I came here only last year or saw so-and-so just a couple of months ago.  And when that happens I feel horribly insecure.  Only last week I upset someone because I thought she’d had a hip replacement (elderly person + hospital = hip replacement) when she’d been treated for cancer.  Truth is, I was doing pretty well just to remember that she’d been ill at all.  There’s too much stuff happening all the time, that’s the problem; and just as I feel insecure when I don’t remember things, so I feel scared when I seem to be awake but Mark says I’ve slept.  It makes me feel like there’s no certainty anywhere.  If I don’t know what I’ve done, what DO I know?

Well, one way to find out is to read your old diaries.  I’ve dug mine out; spanning a period from 2005 until last year, they are a mix of biographical notes, ideas for poems, drafts of stories and thoughts for the blog.  This led me to re-read segments of the blog, including this fragment of a conversation from 2008 and a conversation Mark and I held in writing because I was deaf.  I’d forgotten how horrible it was to have so much wax in the ears that you could start a candle factory.

As I write I’m waiting for Daniel to return with pizza.  We’re going to have some mother-son time, hanging out and watching ‘Extras.’  Sadly I will not be making it to Chris Conway’s gig with Lorraine Bowen, though Mark will.


Kirk out

Cups for Walking Down the Street…

I know I keep coming back to Ever-Decreasing Circles – it’s probably something about the nature of the series, but a line from it popped into my head today as I was wishing that there was a medal I could get for breaking 50,000 words of my novel.  I know if it was November I could have uploaded it to NaNoWriMo and printed myself a certificate, but it’s September (not that Mark can tell the difference: I’m due to give a talk on Quakerism to ‘You and Me’ friendship group at the Martyrs and he told me it was in September, so I was getting ready for that when the woman in charge told me it was November.

‘I knew it was an ember,’ he protested.

‘Yes, but you couldn’t remember which ember,’ I quipped.

Oh how we laughed.)

but to write 50K in just seven weeks seems worthy of some kind of recognition, I think.

So, to return to EDC; Martin is counting on winning the cup for playing snooker, as he has defeated Paul and has only to beat Howard.  Before he plays Paul, Martin is convinced he’ll lose, since Paul beats him at everything.  ‘I’ve never won a cup for anything,’ says Martin ruefully.  ‘I bet he’s got loads of cups.  Cups for smiling.  Cups for walking down the street…’

Here’s the scene:


I gave away my DVD’s as I was watching them obsessively.  I miss them now…

Kirk out

Humankind Cannot Bear Too Much Reality TV

I bought the Big Issue today – something I don’t do very often because I don’t usually have £2.50 to spare – and in it, a reviewer was blasting the Beeb for not doing much drama.  I have to say, you can criticise them for doing too much ‘reality’ (humankind cannot bear too much reality TV) but not for insufficient drama: a trawl through the iplayer category throws up dozens of offerings and some of them are actually good.

A couple I’ve watched in the last week were ‘Doctor Foster’ and ‘An Inspector Calls’.  I thought I’d seen the JB Priestley play before but I don’t think I have, since I don’t remember it.  (Mind you, that doesn’t mean much these days – it’s only by reading this blog that I can recall what I did yesterday).  Still I have to report that I was disappointed.  It was a good cast including Ken Stott, Miranda Richardson and David (Remus Lupin) Thewlis but I found the play somewhat contrived and the ending confusing.  Plus, I hadn’t realised Ken Stott had gotten so fat – or was that just for the role?  (I still haven’t caught up with him playing Rebus).  Anyway, the play concerns a rich family who have all in different ways screwed up a working woman’s life and at the end there’s a sort of time-slip.  It’s still on i-player, as is the new series Doctor Foster.

I found this compelling but frustrating.  The doctor, a ‘good woman’, finds out that her husband is having an affair – but instead of talking to him she goes straight into revenge mode and then when he doesn’t even notice that she’s packed his bags and put them by the door, she goes straight back into doormat mode.  There’s not nearly enough about their marriage and very little about them as people to explain why they are behaving like this; plus, I’m getting rather sick of marital infidelity being a staple of TV drama.  It’s practically routine and it can make you feel that everyone’s at it.

Which they ain’t.

Anyway here are the links:



Oh!  and I know what I was going to tell you: this morning as I was buying bits and pieces for the samosa chaat Mark is going to make tonight, I had planned to look for some wine.  Then I decided to buy a Big Issue instead.  ‘If I need the wine it will come to me,’ I thought.

I went home with some soya yoghurt but sans the sev which is unavailable in Clarendon Park, especially if you don’t pronounce it correctly (sehw not sev).  About an hour later a patient of Mark’s turned up to fetch some medicine.  She entered the kitchen with a bottle of wine.  ‘I’ve brought this for you,’ she said.  ‘It was just hanging around at home.’

I know how it feels.

Off for a walk now,

Kirk out

It’s Your BMI, Baby

Dang, women just can’t get it right.  You try to be a model and even though you’re a size 10 they say you’re too fat.  You work as an air hostess and even though you’re not overweight you get sacked – because you’re just too fat.  So you go to the doctor for help – and the doctor says you’re too thin.  You ask your family and friends and they all say you’re too thin too.  So what’s a girl to do?

I don’t have a clue what my BMI is – do you?  I don’t even know what it means.  I mean, I know it stands for body mass index but I don’t know what a healthy one is or what mine might be.  I know how much I weigh and I could probably work it all out from there if the height charts weren’t all in metres, but why bother?  I know what the healthy weight for my age and height is and I can tell by looking how much fat is on my body.

I can feel it too.  Hmm…

Anyway, I have a suggestion for Chris Conway’s next gig – which incidentally is next week: he should do a version of the National Anthem but in a minor key.  We would all stand in respectful silence and then have a chorus of ‘Share and Enjoy’ or alternatively something from ‘Star Trek’.  What do you think Chris?

Here’s the photo from the gig: Weds 23rd at Firebug, Leicester

Kirk out

Oo! Suit You , Sir! And Would You Like Bias With That?

OK now here’s a question for you: are the media biassed?

If you answered ‘Duh!’ then you are probably on the Left somewhere.  The BBC never shuts up about Jeremy Corbyn being ‘left-wing,’ though they never described Tony Blair – or even David Cameron – as ‘right-wing’.  However, perversely, Nigel Farage routinely describes the Beeb as ‘left-wing’ which sort of boggles the mind a tad.

The question is easier to answer when it comes to the press.  All you have to do is ask ‘Cui bono?’ – in other words, who stands to profit from selling the paper? – and there’s your answer.  The more papers owned by the likes of Murdoch, the more right-wing the press tends to be.  And the more they side-step the issues and go on about Corbyn’s dress-sense and the donkey-jackets he might bring out when the weather gets colder.

It’s particularly noticeable when you get someone like Corbyn in a position of leadership.  But I have a sneaking hope.  It may be far-fetched – it probably is; it could well be utopian and it’s almost certainly fanciful: but I have the feeling that Corbyn won not only because of his integrity and lack of spin, but because he got out there and spoke directly to people.  He didn’t have a spin-doctor or image manager – he spoke to people in words they could relate to, and he said what he believed in.  He got into trouble for refusing to sing the National Anthem, but as a veteran who was present commented, he stood in respectful silence unlike the Secretary of Defence who was looking around trying to catch the cameras.  Corbyn is no hypocrite, and I respect that.  So I have a sneaking suspicion that he may end up simply side-stepping the media and appealing to people directly.

God knows, somebody needs to.  They get in the way of so much…

I had a very vivid dream last night which I think was inspired by Jeremy: I was driving a DMU.  Remember those?  The little chugging diesel multiple units which used to run everywhere in the ’70’s?