Category Archives: friends and family

Yes, My Other Half’s Novel is Out in Print!!!

Today’s news is that OH’s novel Replicas which came out in Kindle form a few months back, is out in print!  I haven’t actually read it yet because I can’t read books from a screen, but here’s the link:

So get yours today!  Buy buy buy!  Delivered in time for Christmas!

Oh, and I hope it’s OK to link here to the Insecure Writers’ Group, as Friday is so close to Christmas…

http://www.insecurewriterssupportgroup.com

Kirk out

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Filed under The madness of Mark, friends and family, Book reviews

Is There Life Without Money?

Recently, as I may have mentioned, I’ve been reading Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; an account of his time living deliberately in a cabin in the woods.  I used to have a cabin in the woods and although I wasn’t legally permitted to live there, I did stay there quite deliberately.  My days in the woods were times of living slowly; of contemplating, thinking, writing and walking.  It taught me a lot about what I take for granted; about what I can and can’t do without.  Above all it taught me to value water: when all you have is a five-gallon container which needs to be filled from a tap a hundred yards away, you learn to treasure every drop of the stuff.

Thoreau includes meticulous accounts in Walden, of how much it cost him to raise his barn and plant his crops; how much it cost him to live there once he’d settled in.  It’s a little different in rural Leicestershire where my cabin was already ‘raised’ so I had to buy it as well as paying ground rent twice a year for services such as water and use of the toilet block.  There were no shops nearby, which also taught me to value what I had, especially during those times when I was up there without a car.

But the one thing I couldn’t live without was money.  And there’s the rub: plenty of people have tried, but those who succeeded the best were either able to survive at a very basic level, or those who started off with a great deal of land in the first place.  I did once know some rather hippyish people who maintained that money comes to those who believe; and that if you have faith you can simply reach out and pluck money from the air.

Hm.

I have to report that for a while one of these people ended up living in a horse box in a field…

Since deciding to write full-time I have had basically no income.  Fortunately I am married, so I share my partner’s income.  Unfortunately it isn’t very big.  Fortunately we have generous friends and relatives (some of them) who help us.  Unfortunately we can’t rely on that happening.  And there are times when you find yourself at the bottom of a very dry pit.

But I chose this life.  I could have stayed a teacher; I could have carried on running teacher training courses.  Sure, I’d be miserable – but I’d have an income.  The ones I feel sorry for are those who don’t have that choice: the homeless, the unemployed – or, these days, the slightly-employed: cleaners who have to get up at four to clean offices and get home before the children go to school.  The disregarded.  The despised.  Because my life has two huge compensations: one, I’m happy doing what I’m doing – and two, there’s every chance that it will get better.

So do one thing this Christmas to help.  Donate to a food bank.  Buy the Big Issue.  Offer a sandwich to a homeless person.  Help out at a shelter.  Or just smile at someone and wish them a happy Christmas.

Kirk out

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The Right Sort of Snow

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And once more we return to the perennial subject of the British weather.  It’s like a standard filler for a slow news day; it’s something to say while you’re thinking of something else to say that might prove more interesting.

But! today the weather is quite interesting in itself; for not only has it snowed (yes, snow is general all over England) but it is quite positively the Right sort of snow; the sort you can make snowballs and snowmen out of, the sort that engages children of all ages in blizzardly activity in parks and gardens.  On Sunday when the snow first fell I decided to make a snow car.  In my head it looked like a perfectly-formed snow-child of Bertie: in real life it looked like a misshapen heap of white.  But all was not lost: along came a child who helped me to improve it.  Sadly I ran over Bertie’s snow-child while taking Bertie for his yearly check-up (he needs a couple of new tyres but apart from that he’s perfectly healthy) and I can report that out there it is not only freezing, it is Failing to Thaw.  Normally when we have snow it doesn’t last; if it freezes overnight it thaws during the day (thus causing more problems since the remaining slush refreezes and becomes treacherous) but this time it’s staying.  If anything it seems colder now than it was this morning when I literally had to unfreeze Bertie’s doors with a hairdryer, letting down the extension lead from upstairs like Rapunzel’s hair.

The roads were not too bad, considering, but I can’t see anything thawing out today.  Even in the sun it’s completely arctic.

Have I thought of anything more interesting to say?  Nope, we’re stuck with it.

Oh, and in case you’re not in the UK and don’t instantly recognise the reference, the title refers to a British Rail announcement years ago that a train was cancelled because of ‘the wrong sort of snow.’  They don’t make announcements like that any more…

Kirk out

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It’s All In The -rist

I have made mention of this little gem of a sitcom in the past:

https://wordpress.com/post/lizardyoga.wordpress.com/8343

and as all the world surely knows by now, a metal detector is the piece of kit but the person operating it is called a detectorist.

Detectorists is now back for a third series and though it’s still consigned to the relative backwaters of BBC 4, the Beeb is finally promoting it.  I wasn’t quite sure about this series at first: Andy and Becky are back from Botswana where Andy was working on a dig; they have no money and are living with her mother whilst saving for a house.  Andy ends up quitting his job on a local dig because his boss doesn’t give a toss about Roman floors; meanwhile the field where they have been detecting for years, is under threat of development.

But from a rather slow start the series has built to last week’s stonking episode.  I won’t give it all away since it may still be languishing on your ‘downloads’ list or you may yet have to catch up on the series as a whole: suffice it to say that everything comes together and rather than the gentle comedy which usually prevails, this episode is a firecracker.  There’s one brilliant joke after another; the best one being when the pals decide to save a tree by putting a bat box in it.  For more information they phone the Bat Action Line which turns out to be staffed by none other than their arch-rivals, the Dirt-Sharks (aka Simon and Garfunkel) who happen to be in a nearby field.  The dialogue goes like this:

Phil:  could you turn off your phone please?  It’s interfering with my detector.

Paul:  I’ve had a call.

Phil:  So?  Just turn it off

Paul:  But it’s on the bat-phone!

Sheer genius.  Much more than this is afoot and I can’t wait to see how everything unfolds next week.  In the meantime, here’s the episode in question:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b09hgdx2/detectorists-series-3-episode-5

Kirk out

 

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That Thought Would Never Have Occurred to Me

Occasionally you meet with an opinion on some everyday phenomenon which rocks you back on your heels, not necessarily because it’s controversial but because it’s so totally out there: it’s a thought that would never, in a million years, have occurred to you.  The latest example of this meme (if you can call it that, which you can’t) happened the other evening.  I was at a meeting in a room with an artwork on the wall, showing Guy Fawkes on a bonfire.  It was a 3-D effigy and the flames were very colourful; I smiled at it once or twice, thought how unusual it was to see Guy Fawkes rather than a bonfire plus fireworks and set off on a nostalgic journey to a childhood where groups of kids wandered the streets with a stuffed suit in a wheelbarrow shouting ‘penny for the guy!’  We were never allowed to walk the streets, but we did make a guy every year by stuffing some old clothes of my Dad’s with newspaper.  This guy went on the bonfire and was a central part of the festivities, along with hand-held sparklers, wall-mounted Catherine wheels and distant rockets whose failure to explode would be investigated by a torch-wielding parent.  I loved Bonfire Night and have regretted that of late it has been superseded by Hallowe’en: it does seem to be making a comeback, though, possibly connected in some vague way to Brexit.

But in all these years it never occurred to me to think of the burning of Guy Fawkes as anti-Catholic.  Sure, I knew the story, but as far as I was concerned these religious divisions were buried deep in the past.  Bonfire Night was an anti-authoritarian night of fun; nothing more.  So I was quite taken aback to hear someone say, after the meeting, that she was shocked by the picture on the wall.

‘Shocked?’ we asked.  ‘How so?’

‘It’s so anti-Catholic,’ she affirmed.

I think we were all taken aback by this view of things.  Most others took my view of things, that the 5th of November has been so long divorced from those political acts that inspired it, as to have no relevance.  If it inspires any feelings nowadays beyond family fun, it is a general antipathy to politicians: I don’t think it would occur to anybody to associate it with anti-Catholicism.  After all, nobody thinks about the torture of St Catherine when they look at a Catherine wheel, do they?

Am I wrong?  Am I living in an Anglican bubble?  Do Catholics still take offence at Bonfire Night?

I think we should be told.

Kirk out

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For The Love of Money

Recently my OH has got a bee in his bonnet about bitcoin.  In my mind bitcoin is a sort of gold-coloured object like the new pound coins which you bite on to see if it’s real.  But although OH has tried several times to explain what bitcoin actually is, I have no concept of it.  Apparently it’s a thing you make yourself, though what manner of thing I don’t know.  Maybe you need a 3-D printer?

One thing I do understand – bitcoin is an alternative to money which can make money.  At the moment, anyway, until everyone gets into it.

All of this reminds me somewhat of the Leaf.  The Leaf was an alternative currency used by Leicester LETS (Local Exchange and Trading Scheme) a group who offered skills and goods without the use of LSD.  By which I mean pounds, shillings and pence (hang on, that ought to be LP now…) anyway, the idea was to use skills and to exchange goods which would otherwise not be saleable in the mainstream economy.  Hence if you were good at gardening but without qualifications or experience, you could offer your skills, get paid in Leaves and then use those Leaves to buy, say, an old bike or some window-cleaning.

In theory it was great.  What led to its eventual demise was that people got just as hung up on the value of their leaves as they did about cash.  People ended up with leaves they couldn’t spend because either they couldn’t find what they wanted or there was a gap in the economy.  It was like having vouchers for McDonalds…

But my take on it was, it ought not to matter.  The point was not the Leaf per se; the point was to do things for each other which otherwise wouldn’t have got done, and to recycle things which would otherwise have gone to landfill (though Freecycle has now taken over this role.)

LETS groups tended to work best in smaller, contained communities where people already knew each other.  In a large city such as Leicester there were sadly too many people prepared to take without giving.

But I’ve strayed from my point, which was going to be this: in the end, no matter what currency you have, whether it’s bitcoin or Leaves or pounds sterling, none of it is real.  It is merely a system which everyone has agreed to treat as if it were real.  On the back of a fiver it says (I’m working from memory here since I don’t have any actual notes to look at) ‘I promise to pay the bearer on demand the sum of five pounds.’  In other words, it’s a promissory note.  It ain’t real.

And these days when we’re more likely to see figures on a screen than notes and coins, it becomes less real by the day.

It’s true – I’ve bitten it.

Which brings me  finally to the most often misquoted passage of the Bible.  It isn’t money that’s the root of all evil: it’s the love of money:

http://biblehub.com/1_timothy/6-10.htm

I think we can see this every day.

Kirk out

 

 

 

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Are Facebook Friends Funny?

If Quakers have a fault, it’s that they tend to be a Bit Serious.  There’s a Puritan streak in there somewhere, what with the teetotalism and all, and even though there are at least two jokes about Quakers (I’ve told them before but I’ll tell them again in a minute) they – or we – don’t tend to be great comedians (Stephen Fry excepted, but then he’s not actually a practising Friend.)

So it was with immense joy that I pounced on a new Friends Facebook group.  In addition to my ‘Withnail and I Appreciation Group’ which keeps me mentally healthy (see https://lizardyoga.wordpress.com/2017/12/02/hamlet-is-not-quite-as-funny/) the Quaker groups I belong to are all relatively respectful and calm, considering it’s Facebook, and people post lengthy screeds on subjects such as renewal and worship.  But it’s not a bundle of laughs.  Enter the Association of Bad Friends.  I have high hopes that this will be a great source of merriment since it is a requirement of membership that you Be Funny – and if, as I hope, my membership is approved, I will tell them this story:

Once upon a time a local meeting decided to have a weekend away.  They went to Woodbrooke and held lots of sessions on different subjects; then on the Saturday evening they decided to put on an entertainment.  Part of this entertainment was a skit called ‘The Worst Meeting’ during which people arrived late (and noisily) a mobile went off and was answered, and I got up and told this joke:

Three pieces of string walk into a bar.  The first piece of string walks up to the bar: the barman says, ‘Are you a piece of string?’

‘Yes.’

‘Well, we don’t serve pieces of string in here – get out.’

The second piece of string walks up to the bar.  The barman repeats the question: the string admits to being a piece of string, whereupon he says, ‘I told your friend.  We don’t serve pieces of string.  Get out.’

The third piece of string is somewhat the worse for wear, all ragged at the edges and bulky in the middle.  He waddles up to the bar.  The barman sighs.  ‘Are you a piece of string, too?’

‘No,’ he answers.  ‘I’m a frayed knot.’

Such was the unusualness of this joke that some members of that meeting still call me ‘String.’

OK so here are the jokes about Quakers:

Q:  Why are Quakers like economists?

A:  Because when you ask three Quakers a question you get four different answers.

Q:  Why do Quakers sing hymns so slowly?

A:  Because they’re reading the next verse to see if they agree with it

I’ll let you know about the Facebook group.

Kirk out

 

 

 

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