When Will I Be Back on Facebook?

I’ve been off the endless blue pages for three weeks now, and I can honestly say I’m not missing it.  On the contrary, nowadays there is so little of what I like ie sharing with genuine friends, swapping ideas, gathering information – and so much of what I thoroughly dislike, that I’m feeling more than ever happy to be free of it.  This morning I happened to look over OH’s shoulder at his Facebook profile and saw a big post saying:

Make Penelope the biggest C*** of 2018

What?  What the actual?  This is like playground graffitti but so much worse.  I feel awful when I see something like that, and I don’t want to be feeling awful first thing in the morning – or indeed at any time of day.  There’s very little you can do about those posts: reporting you to Facebook doesn’t seem to achieve anything (they’re far more concerned about removing pictures of breastfeeding and selling your data) and attempting to remonstrate with the person who posted it will only garner you a whole heap of abuse.  No thank you.  There’s nothing Facebook has to offer which could possibly compensate me for all the crap on there.

So now that I’ve conquered my social media addiction, what next?  I managed to buy a book fairly cheaply today without going on Amazon, which was great.  I’m making efforts to shop more ethically (not that I do shop, much) so I checked out other retailers – Goodreads gives you a list – and found Alibris:

https://www.alibris.co.uk

which has a list of independent stockists.  I managed to order a second-hand hardback copy reportedly in good condition for £3.50 including shipping.

Not bad eh?

And our Xmas tree is up too…

Could I BE more virtuous?

 

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Kirk out

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I Will Follow You, Will You Follow Me?

I am I hope always appreciative of my followers.  If you don’t know how to follow this blog, click on ‘follow’ which should be in the bottom right-hand corner, and you’ll get an email every time I post.  If you do this I guarantee I will look at your blog (if you have one) and may even follow you in return.

As of this week I have 400 followers.  In internet terms this isn’t very great, but it’s a bit of a landmark for me because for the last few months I’ve been inching towards that number and suddenly on Tuesday I got 4 new followers which means we’re up to 403.  So I was telling OH and he suggested that I commit to doing something when we reach 500.  What could that be? I wondered.  Hiding upside-down in a tub of custard?  Running a marathon? (absolutely no way, baby).  Shaving my head?  Mmm..nope.  I know, I’ll give away a book of my poetry.  Of course I haven’t got any books of my poetry at the moment, so that means I’ll have to keep an eye on the numbers and when we get close to 500 I’ll have to get my finger out and produce one.  Should be no problem; I’ve got plenty of poems after all.

So in the meantime here’s an appropriate song:

 

Kirk out

Happy With Your Life?

Today is the first Sunday in Advent and so should be a time for looking forward.  Yet we often find ourselves looking back on the year and asking the inevitable question, ‘What have I achieved?’

Well, the answer to that depends on how you define achievement.  The usual way is to consider worldly success in terms of work, money, possessions, and so on, followed by personal goals (travel, weight loss, exercise, etc).  You draw up a sort of achievement balance-sheet: on the plus side you put goals attained and on the minus, and much more painful, side you put negatives such as goals you didn’t achieve.  There might be even worse things to add such as giving up smoking and then taking it up again, losing your job or putting on weight you’d previously lost.

All of this, I submit, has a very negative effect on us.  Even if the goals have all been achieved and the boxes ticked, the sense of satisfaction is likely to be short-lived; then when similar goals are set in the New Year we may feel we should move the goal posts.  Of course this in itself can be very positive: in the last couple of years I increased my yoga practice from 10 – 15 minutes to 20-30 minutes; I now have a vague aim of doing one or two longer sessions.  But this goal comes from an inner prompting, a desire to do more – rather than an external taskmaster wagging their finger and saying ’30 minutes is not enough!’

There’s a truth here which I believe to be universal; and it’s this:

Contentment with where you are is the key to achieving more.

By ‘contentment’ I don’t mean a sort of self-satisfied sloth:

Image result for a self-satisfied sloth

(image removed on request)

but a genuine ability to be OK with where you are, even at the same time as recognising that’s not where you want to stay.  It’s one of life’s paradoxes that lasting change comes from a standpoint of acceptance rather than discontent.  It’s also self-evident that a lack of contentment means that no goal is actually worth achieving because you won’t be contented there.

The hills may look blue from a distance but once you get there you see more and bluer hills in the distance.  When I get there I’ll be happy, you think – but if you’re not content now, why would you be then?  There are always more and bluer hills to climb.  So you’ve run a marathon?  That warm glow of satisfaction worn off already?  Do a triathlon.  Swim the channel, climb Everest, row around the coast.  Then you’ll be happy.

Consider, if you will, the super-rich.  I don’t know any of these people personally but to judge by their behaviour they, too, are never satisfied with what they have – otherwise why would they always want more?  And they always do want more: one yacht is never enough.  There’s always someone richer than they are.

But as the Baghavad Gita says (I think it’s the Gita) ‘What is found here will be found there.’  Contentment is a quality that comes from within, not from external achievements.  It can be developed but it takes dedication and practice – the willingness to say to yourself, no matter where you are and what’s happening, ‘I am content to be here right now.’  The paradox is that this can spur you on to greater achievements – with which you will be content – until it’s time to move on.

Of course it’s a hell of a lot easier to do this when you’re somewhere nice than if you’re on the streets or in a refugee camp or a hostage in solitary confinement – and far be it from me to lecture people in those situations about how they should behave.  As for me, I first started the practice of santosh (as it’s called in Sanskrit – beautiful word) when I lived in Madrid: walking round the streets and being aware that I wouldn’t be there for ever, I made a conscious decision to appreciate everything I saw and felt and experienced.  But contentment can have a transformative effect on negative experiences too; and be the springboard that gets you out of them.

So I guess that teaches me to be content with only being slightly published.  Hmm – it’s harder than it looks, this santosh…

Kirk out

Face Trumps Book

I have spent the last couple of weeks not being on Facebook.  At first it was hard getting out of the habit of checking my updates every half-hour, but after a couple of days it stopped figuring in my consciousness: my mind was clearer and more importantly my emotions were calmer.  No more anger, no more upset, no more reading posts and not knowing whether to laugh or scream, no more having to ignore insults when I express the mildest disagreement, no more gloomy world-view, no more angry echo-chamber.  I shan’t yet delete my account but I will keep it in a coma until I decide what to do with it.

Along with this disengagement from Facebook I have stopped watching or listening to any news.  I do think it’s important to keep up with what’s happening, but whether hourly bulletins and a constant drip-drip of articles on social media actually help you to do this is debatable.  Instead I look at online news sites and a couple of times a week we get a newspaper: it may be a generational thing but I find I don’t concentrate at all well reading from a screen.  All of this means I can engage with the news when I’m ready rather than having it come at me willy-nilly; it means I can follow up whichever stories I want and leave the rest.  It also frees me from the obligation to check out stories on Facebook to see whether they’re fake or not – or, most irritatingly, whether they are outdated.

I am calmer and happier now; the world seems less threatening, and those things I thought I’d miss out on – like contact with friends and keeping up with events – well, they haven’t materialised.  I keep in touch via messenger, text and email and, the most old-fashioned way of all, by face-to-face communication.  You can’t beat it…

Kirk out

Gigging for Momentum

Momentum in the area of gigs is something I’d really like to have; to swing from one (paid) gig to another, to travel the country bringing emergency poetry to areas of need, to hop on a train down to London one night and up to Nottingham the next, then over to Brum, maybe up to Edinburgh the next week; that’s the life for me.  Swinging from tree to tree…

I’m a poetess and I’m OK;

I gig all night and I write all day

(Before you write in, I dislike the word ‘poetess’ as much as anyone; I just used it for its syllables.)

But until that day comes I must content myself with a gig for Momentum.  This happened on Sunday at the Criterion in Leicester:

https://bit.ly/2Ri5MMO

a venerable pub with plenty of good beer (alas, I was driving so had none) and a separate music room.  It was a good afternoon with a mix of musicians and poets: I met some old friends and encountered a new poet, Will Horspool, whose poetry I enjoyed.  Myself, Bobba, Richard Byrt and Will were the poets and Steve Cartwright, Sheila Mosley and Paul (sorry Paul I forgot your last name) the musicians.  It was a game of two halves with each of us having a ten-minute set in each half.

I have now finished Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’ and begun my poetry journal.  This is proving very useful as I can record not only what I’ve done in terms of practising and writing, but the thoughts and ideas which occur while I’m practising and writing.  These are many and varied and writing them down is a good way to begin organising them.  To my intense relief Fry says ‘Please do not send me your poems.’  He is terribly polite about not having the time to read them, and it releases me from any compulsion I might otherwise have felt to send him a sonnet I’d written in response to one of his prompts.  However in case he should stop by this blog for a moment, I’ll reproduce it below.

The poems for Momentum were:

Spike (written for Sound Cafe)

A Hostile Environment (about the effects of austerity on the poor)

Spirit of ’44

More in Common (for Jo Cox)

Poet-Tree, a peace poem

and The Lady in the Van.

These were well-received.

The sonnet prompt in Fry’s book was to write about voting in elections from two opposing points of view.  This is the first sonnet, exhorting people to vote – the second is a work in progress, probably because my heart isn’t in it (if you’re interested, this one is based on Wordsworth’s poem about Milton:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/45528/london-1802

On Voter Apathy

Voter!  Thou should’st be living at this last

hour, for all the signs say life’s expired

x does not mark the spot: you can’t be arsed

for apathy is tiredness beyond tired.

Arise!  The ballot box hath need of thee

thy paper crossed and folded but complete

your vote could be the one to change the MP

take part instead of voting with your seat.

La politique s’occupe de vous, said Jean-Paul;

he’s right: not voting now is voting Tory

to sofa-sit effects no change at all

you have the power – now go get the glory.

They fought for this, the people of our nation

sometimes a right implies an obligation.

(c) Liz Gray, 2018

Kirk out

 

 

How to be Awesome

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Now as you guys all know I’m a sucker for a new notebook.  I try not to get one just for the hell of it otherwise it languishes without a real purpose but it’s a joy when purpose and notebook come together, as they did today.  I’ve just about reached the end of Stephen Fry’s ‘The Ode Less Travelled’, a whistle-stop tour through English poetic forms, and one of his suggestions at the end is to keep a poetry journal.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Ode_Less_Travelled

I only take up other people’s ideas if there’s a thunk of recognition in the breast; an ‘aha!’ sounding in the brain which tells me this is a Good Thing For Me To Do – and with that there was a sort of thunk and a sort of think which led to a sort of thankyou and off I went to The Works to see just how cheaply I could buy another notebook.

This exercise is not unaccompanied by guilt, as I wonder whether most paper nowadays is recycled and if not why not and whether I should be devastating the tree population in this way for my own amusement.  Of course it isn’t mere amusement, it’s work; and if I could find a way to make it happen digitally I would but there’s something so organic about the conjunction of pen and paper which seems directly to connect the brain with the page as though the pen were joined to the bloodstream.  We shouldn’t take this image too far though, else we’ll end up like Harry Potter in detention:

Aaanyway, as usual in The Works they had a range of exciting notebooks in just the right size for my poetry journal and so the choice came down to what was on the cover.  As you know (and can see from this blog’s motif in the top left) I like a notebook with a motivational message, so I chose the one which told me to be more awesome.  What’s not to like?  I now have a total of nine notebooks:

One is for daily thoughts and ideas (I’ve kept this sort of ‘diary’ for 34 years now)

Two is for short story ideas and writing prompts (https://writerswrite.co.za)

Three is for current poems

Four, five and six contain older poems which I still perform

Seven has ideas for the novel and eight, a squared notebook, contains designs associated with it i.e. spiral patterns and outlines of the tapestries which accompany each chapter.

And finally, nine is a tiny notebook which records things I’ve sent to publishers.

Kirk out

 

Radio Silence

WordPress are still threatening me with that editor coming to level up my layout and I wish they wouldn’t as I have no idea what that means or when it will actually come.  Oh wait, apparently it’s here and I have to select it.  It tells me I can now use ‘blocks’ and I have no idea what that means either.  Why does everything have to use such technical language?  Why can’t they just say ‘if you click on this thing which you will find in the top-left corner then it will create a box for you to type in’?  I seem to have created such a box here and I don’t know if I want it or not but it’s academic because I can’t tell how to undo it.

Phew!  Now I’ve switched back to Classic Mode which is fine except I’m still getting those annoying messages about a new editor…

I don’t know about you (I expect it’s probably my age) but these days I find that there are just too many things for me to get my head around.  No sooner have I got used to an app than they go and change it, sometimes for good reasons and sometimes just for the hell of it.  Well I guess at some point I’ll try out this new editor, but preferably at a point where I’m not actually trying to write a post.

I’m still off Facebook so there will be radio silence from me on there, but none of this is what I was intending to blog about.  It was this: every six months or so the BBC in her infinite wisdom has a Window; and when this window appears it’s the time for drama writers of all colours and persuasions to submit to the great Clearing-House of Drama called Writersroom:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/

Doesn’t matter what it is; whether a full-length play or a short drama, a series or a sit-com; whether it’s for TV or radio, it all goes to Writersroom.  A great sifting then occurs and if you’re lucky they’ll pick up your contribution, give it a shake and send it to the editorial team to be half-baked, whereupon it will be sent back and forth endlessly before being (if you are exceptionally lucky) Actually Produced, at which point you may finally see some dosh for your efforts (though I’m not entirely sure they don’t pay on broadcast.)  Is it worth it?  Financially no, not at all.  But in other ways yes; the idea of telling a story through radio drama intrigues me.  I have a good ear for dialogue and whereas I have no sense of ‘theatre’ in the physical sense I do have a good sense of what works aurally, so I think I’m in with a chance.

This is not my first attempt at writersroom.  I have previously submitted at least one radio play as well as a sitcom called Waiting for Theo (no prizes for guessing that Theo was based on OH).  With sitcoms you send an outline of the series (usually six episodes to start) plus one full episode.  It didn’t get commissioned but I did get a letter back saying they quite liked it, so that was something.

I’m not starting from scratch with this current project either: I had previously laid down the bones and written some scenes, so the story and all the characters are in place.  It’s coming on quite nicely.  And to help me I’m listening to as many radio dramas as possible, including this one:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m0000z5g

Kirk out