Sunday, January 27, 2008

Six things about me meme

Thanks to moondreamer for putting me on this particular spot. ;-)
The small print: Link to the person that tagged you. Post the rules on your blog. Share six non-important things/habits/quirks about yourself. Tag six random people at the end of your post by linking to their blogs. Let each random person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on his/her website.
I havent networked enough to tag anyone yet.

1.I can be very antisocial, but enjoy people's company when I make the effort. Though I used to be shy, I now talk to almost anyone. I won't elaborate on the almost.

2.I have a tendency to be scatter-brained, and am inclined to lose things. I am trying to improve. Playing the absent-minded professor type just isn't 'cool'.

3.I can't decide whether 13 was a lucky number for my mother (now dead) or not. Mine and my brother's birthdays are on the 13th of the month (different months), and our sister just made it into the 14th by half an hour. My son was born on the 31st. My daughters fall outside this pattern. Yes, I know, dates are arbitrary, anyway.

4.We rarely had Christmas dinner until the evening, or sometimes the following day. My mother was a nurse and was always working on Christmas Day. I worked in hospitals during uni vacations, but was already glad I had decided against a career in that area.

5.My grandmother was born when her mother was only 17. Her parents were first cousins twice over - two brothers married two sisters - the son of one lot married the daughter of the other lot, a couple of years after my grandmother's birth. My mother used to say they'd been watching too many animals on the farm. Oh, the goings on in the Derbyshire countryside at the end of the nineteenth century! My grandmother was always very prim and proper, and sold out her share of the farm as soon as possible. We have tried to widen the gene pool since then, and the next generation are doing the same.

6.My great-grandfather chased his future son-in-law off the farm with a shotgun when my grandparents were courting. I don't know why, though I have theories.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Earth Hour

I've just been reading about Earth Hour - at 8pm on March 29th anywhere in the world, you turn your lights and other electrical appliances off for one hour. It may be just a token gesture towards greenness, to raise awareness of how we could do something to help slow global warming, but in Sydney last year it cut energy consumption by about 10% for the hour.
I felt great about the idea, until I thought of my internet addiction. First thing in the morning, last thing at night and most stations in between.
But we could always play Scrabble by candlelight.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Books and clutter

Reading moondreamer's post on de-cluttering sparked these thoughts.

Are books disposable? It all depends on the book - I quite happily take books to Oxfam when I've read them. Not sure what the authors would feel about this one...

I also had a light-bulb moment when I realised I could write in cookery books, and tear apart camping site guides.

In school they encouraged us to make pencil notes on texts we studied. I suppose regarding the book as disposable is not such a big step.

Some of mine should definitely be disposed of.

As for clutter - I wouldn't try to list it, but know the feeling of being unable to discard.

I read somewhere there are three questions to ask.

1. Is it beautiful?

2. Is it useful?

3. Do I love it?
Hmm. That takes care of most stuff then.

I could add a question.
4. Does it make me feel guilty?
Answer yes, and then what - throw it away and feel its presence in your head? Keep it and hide it? Write about it, then throw it away?

Another poem - from July 2006. Luckily for me, my sister took the tea-set. I wrote the poem in her house. My thoughts, not hers.

The weight of old china

Once upon a time
great-great-aunt Jane
bought a "half tea-set",
fluted cups, sugar bowl,
proud with painted peacocks .

It sat for years,
grew old and heavy.

Ah, yes, this belonged to Aunt Jane.
The things it must have seen,
the years
the tears.

She left it to my mother,
who left it to me.
I can't give it away
or sell on eBay
so it squats behind glass,
unwashed and unwished,
on a shelf
on the edge of my life.

Just because it's old
doesn't make it mean a thing
sucking food
eating space.

No use,
no beauty,
no sense but duty
to dead hands.

I want to be free
to be clear to be me
to know my history
not carry artefacts
like sacks of coal

No reason to hoard

crocks in a cupboard
out of sight,

out of mind.

Did she think she was refined
a century ago?
Was it just for show?
Did it sit on a shelf
peacock-proud of itself?

Used or abused
in life's rough and tumble?

I don't want it
you can have it.

Take it away
snapshot it

file it
smash it
trash it.
It's nothing to me.

An update September 2011 - the teaset was sold, a year or so ago,  in a charity shop for £12.  Much better for it than sitting on the shelf. And now it's lost the emotional baggage, methinks, set free to sink or swim in this wide world.

Monday, January 21, 2008

TV without the sound

Yesterday I was at someone's house with the TV on, but the volume turned off - it was almost more interesting than having the full story. I guess it could be a way to kick-start the imagination. But it's amazing how that box in the corner of the room hogs everyone's atention. There was no way I couldn't watch.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A meme (what?)

This is long by the standards of this blog. Blame Sally

What's the last thing you wrote?
Apart from blog entries, a short piece (officially a story, but more of an episode) in response to flash prompts –on Writers’ Dock.

Was it any good?
It began ok, but I wasn’t impressed with the ending.

What's the first thing you ever wrote that you still have?
A poem I wrote when I was 10, which went in the school mag. (I peaked early.) But when I say, I have it, I remembered the first verse, and wrote a second one later.

Write poetry?
I’ve written a lot in the past three years or so, not so much very recently.

Angsty poetry?
Not usually. Yes, when I was younger, but now I tend to be more detached.

Favourite genre of writing?
Poetry, or short pieces – I really enjoyed filling in the details in real stories from my family history, fictionalising them.

Most fun character you ever wrote?

Most annoying character you ever wrote?

Best plot you ever wrote?
I started one which I loved, but couldn’t work out how to tie the ends together. Still lying fallow.

Coolest plot twist you ever wrote?
I wish – plots are my weakness.

How often do you get Writers block?
I call it bone-idleness, does that count?

Write fan fiction?

Do you type or write by hand?
I tend to type because it gives me a bit of distance from whatever I’m writing.

Do you save everything you write?
Pretty well, but can I always find it?

Do you ever go back to an old idea long after you abandoned it?
Yes, if I’ve been looking through old notes.

What's your favourite thing that you've written?
Either the unfinished story I’ve mentioned, or some of the family stuff.

What's everyone else's favourite thing that you've written?
No idea.

Do you even show people your work?
Quite a lot goes on the WD website.

Did you ever write a novel?
No, though I did do 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo 2006, but it wasn’t a proper novel with a plot and so on.

Ever written romance or teen angsty drama?

How many writing projects are you working on right now?
I have several unfinished projects.

Do you want to write for a living?
Dream on..

Have you ever won an award for your writing?

Ever written something in script or play format?

Do you ever write based on yourself?
I constantly include bits of myself.

What character that you've written most resembles yourself?

Where do you get ideas for your other characters?
People I meet, or read about, or hear about.

Do you ever write based on your dreams?
Not often – my dreams, when I remember them, don’t have a strong narrative.

Do you favour happy endings, sad endings, or cliff-hangers?
That depends on what grows from the story.

Have you ever written based on an artwork you've seen?

Are you concerned with spelling and grammar as you write?
I don’t find it a big problem. I’ll pick things up on a read-through.

Ever write something entirely in chatspeak? (How r u?)
only the odd txt wiv dificulti.

Entirely in L337?

Was that question completely appalling and un-writer like?
Is anything?

Does music help you write?
I rarely listen to music except when driving. I’ve written a few poems based on the tunes of songs, and the rhythms.

Quote something you've written. The first thing to pop into your mind.
Well, I don’t think anything ‘popped into my mind’, but I found this one from 2005. We stopped for a picnic lunch at Dartmeet in Devon, and there was a man playing Border pipes. Just practising, for himself. It’s much more other-worldly than most stuff I write.

Twenty-first Century Minstrel

The river runs through beds of ancient boulders
dark brown and clear, down to its deepest pool.
The sunlight streams green-leaved and sylvan cool,
reveals a bridge of stone from days as old as

Celtic myth, when fairy music cold as
ice-bound water, charmed some mortal fool.
Entrancing sounds defying every rule
seduced all care, then life from weary shoulders.

But now I hear an air from times long past
insistent, calm, commanding, come my way.
A minstrel by the water's edge today
with English border pipes begins to play
melodic notes, entwined to weave a vast
enchanted canopy. His spell is cast.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Clear the decks...

All this sorting out is a great way to put things off. Clear the decks for action. If you're lucky it'll take all day. Too late for action now. Go on, you deserve a game of Scrabble.

However, I've got back as far as March 2006 in my sorting out.

I found a silly poem I wrote then in response to the topic 'Heat' . If my brother stumbles across this blog it may remind him.

Mam sent us to t' chippy
to buy us some fish.
Dog 'ad to come wi' me,
Not what I'd wish.

'Ey up,' says t' lassie
as served me wi' food,
'summat smells a bit queer.'
Says I, ' 't's a bit rude.

This dog is a bitch, and
to be short and sweet
I've sprayed Antimate on 'er
You see, she's on 'eat.'

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Taking stock

I've been collecting together all my notes and diary style stuff from last year, and printed it out.
Now I'm going to read through it, and see just how much I had forgotten - I've noticed several interesting ( to me anyway) things as I went through merging files before I printed them out. The big question - is anything usable?

I still have another three years to collect up.

I also put all 2007 photos on a CD. Just in case.

Floods in the Welland valley

The River Welland is high today, as it was in January last year. We turned back rather than take the car through a flooded patch of road.

A bit later we were diverted near Rutland Water where the new Oakham bypass seems to have been built along the flood plain - not the Welland. We walked at Rutland Water, which has been fairly full recently - a change from the last couple of years.

By the time we returned near the viaduct it was too late to take photos, so I'm posting one from last year. Normally the river follows its narrow course, but the valley is wide and floods regularly as water drains from further upstream. It looks spectacular, but it's not a place to build houses.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Jamie and Sainsbury's

A post-script to the Jamie Oliver story - he apparently slated Sainsbury's for not turning up to a public discussion (unlike the Co-op and Waitrose), but has now apologised to them. He fronts a lot of their TV advertising. They pay him big bucks. Does he really need them so badly?
Sainsbury's are improving on animal welfare issues, but could do better, and do it faster.

The original story could be spun as an attempt by the Daily Mirror to undermine either Jamie or Sainsbury's, I suppose, or simply as a way for both to get extra publicity/ money?

Or am I getting too deep into conspiracy theories here in an attempt to make sense out of it?


It occurs to me as I've been thinking about things recently. I want to have opinions. I want those opinions to be based on the facts. Yet I feel that I can never be sure of the facts.
So, I ask questions, but rarely find definitive answers.
Is it just because 'they', i.e. those with economic and political power, like to blind us with excessive information? Like 24-hour news, too many facts flying around, over-analysed, from all sides.
So I switch off, and feel inclined to think that 'they' know best.
It suits 'them', as they build their own empires, and leave the rest of us wondering. Or cynical.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nuclear Power?

It's back on the agenda.

The miracle cheap clean energy that will allow us to carry on using our ever more powerful gadgets, and our H-D televisions. And of course our computers. (Guilty, m'lud.)

The miracle energy with one huge drawback - how do we keep the waste safe for several thousand years?

There has been no major accident since Tchernobyl, but there have been reports of leaks and leukemia clusters.

How much of our energy will it produce? How much will it cost? How can we be sure the companies will pay for the eventual decommissioning and safe disposal of waste?

Why can't we do as well as Germany on the renewable energy front?

Jamie's Fowls

One celeb who puts his fame to good use is Jamie Oliver. Not only does he produce useful cookery books, but he cares about how food is produced. I probably won't watch the Channel 4 programmes about battery chickens, but anything that makes people more aware of the cruelty involved in the process can only help.

Apart from the cruelty, I imagine intensive farming must increase the rate of infection when viruses such as avian flu are around.

The government intends to get rid of these methods, but we as consumers will need to change our demands - if we waste less of the food we buy, we'll be able to afford slightly higher prices, surely. And the supermarkets will need to stop encouraging us to think the only way to measure value is by price.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Least worst

It's everywhere. It bugs me like crazy. It can't be correct, can it? What does it say that 'least bad' doesn't?
It's two superlatives together - least + most bad.
I hate it!
Especially in written language - in an article by one of the Guardian's journalists.

However, now I've had my rant, I expect I shall have to accept it as a convenient shorthand idiom meaning 'the best of a bad bunch'. Language changes all the time, and not always grammatically.

Monday, January 07, 2008

The first of Ordinary

I always feel a little bleak when the decorations are cleared on Jan 6th, yet the idea of a fresh start is attractive too... I posted this on Writers' Dock two years ago, though I have altered it since then.

Today is the first of Ordinary -
the feast is finished,
snow has turned to sleet
sun and stars hide.

This is the real New Year.
The glitter and lights are gone.
We come down to earth
grab reality again.

We pack our memories a little tighter
shoulder our bags
better balanced
for a week or so
and slip into forward gear,

Time has marked another turn.

My car bites back.

After yesterday's rant at motorists, what happens when I wish to join the mad throng today? My car gets the hump and has a flat battery. Ho hum.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Cycling mini-rant

We went out for a quiet cycle ride today, along the country roads.

I stopped to take a couple of photos, and just then, a car rushed by at high speed, its horn blaring. No one else in sight, and I was well off to the other side of the road. I'm afraid my immediate response was the traditional two fingers in the air. Then I started worrying about them coming back full of rage. They didn't. Of course it could just have been someone letting off steam after a family row....

About fifteen minutes later, another speed merchant came along a different road, and somehow I found my arm making rude signs again (you know the fist to forehead one). Maybe I should have waggled my pinky, as these Australian campaigners do.
Luckily I got away with it again. Maybe motorists really don't see cyclists?
Memo to self - remember you're the little guy when you're on a bike.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The Snow Leopard

photo Copyright bbc.

BBC 2 showed an excellent programme about the snow leopard in the mountains of Northern Pakistan. It is an agile animal with enormous paws and a heavy tail it uses to balance as it crosses precipitous slopes, sometimes carrying prey as heavy as itself.
We saw a female play with her almost adult cub, then send him back to the den when she had to do some serious hunting.
The film also tackled the problem of the animal's relationship with the villagers who originally saw it as a threat to their livestock, but came to appreciate it more when they realised its main prey was wild goats.
I felt sorry for the beast when she was fitted with a clumsy radio collar, but she continued to hunt effectively and the researchers hope the information they gained will help to ensure that the species survives.
A link to some of the myths and conservancy work associated with this animal

Friday, January 04, 2008

Beauvoir's centenary

Simone de Beauvoir, one of my role models as a young woman, was born in January 1908 and died in 1986.

A contradictory figure in some ways - wanting equality for women, independence in work and private life, and yet always under Sartre's shadow, although she argued that she was not. Would she have been considered even more outrageous now, as she and J-P S exploited their roles as university and sixth form teachers to indulge in sexual relationships with students?

Is this any more important in the long-term than Racine's ill-treatment of his wife?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Frivolity and intellectual rigour?

For some reason this morning I am in a frivolous mood. Maybe because I've scrubbed the kitchen floor and feel in need of a reward. So I have wavered between online banter, playing Scrabble, and investigating concepts like 'fourth person plural' , which really exists as a concept in the Algonquian languages, spoken by some native North American peoples.
Didn't I say I'd stop procrastinating tomorrow?

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Instead of resolutions, this was 2007

I've made a list of some of the good things that I did last year.

We went swimming most weeks

In Jan we saw the New Year in at Share and Mick's party

In Feb, we saw Thomas Guthrie sing 'Die Winterreise'

In March, we went to Esther and Adrian's wedding

I spent a day in the New Forest with Dan, Sara and Isaac

In April, we spent my birthday in Vienna, and got a reduced price entry to a gallery

In June, I walked in Bristol city centre,along the waterfront, and climbed the Cabot tower

In July-Aug, we drew some castles in Wales and walked up Skirrid

In Oct, we leaf-peeped in New England

We went on a boat and saw hump-back whales off Boston

I went to Maine with Harry, Leonie and Brian

We stayed at Loon Lake in NH and went to Polly's Pancake Parlor

We climbed the Camel's Hump in Vermont

I spent Halloween in Brooklyn with Leonie, Brian, Eilidh and Aneurin

In Nov, we saw Paula Radcliffe run by in the NY marathon

We saw and heard Colin Carr play Bach cello suites in Uppingham

In Dec, we went ice-skating outdoors in Nottingham

Time to post a pic of the other cat. I don't think he was making resolutions either, unless it was to avoid looking at the flash.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Eat less meat?

Jonathan Brown writes in the Independent
A prolonged drought in the US threatens corn yields and could push global cereal prices to new record highs.

I wonder if we would be better to change our diet to more cereal, eating it directly, rather than feeding it to animals and then eating them. According to
a meat-based diet requires 7 times more land than a plant-based diet.

OK, so I'm pretty much veggie, apart from the fact that I do now eat fish, but we could all easily eat less meat, without in any way lowering our quality of life.

Happy New Day

It's foggy, and I don't think it's post-firework smog. Onward into the fog of the future...

Resolutions? There are only two I remember making and keeping. One was to drink more wine after a sober couple of years.

The other wasn't even a New Year's resolution. I knocked myself out falling off my bike, and, when I recovered, I resolved to grab life by the scruff of the neck and stop postponing stuff. No, I'm not perfect at this even now, but I'm better at it than I was.

Happy New Day!, this is 2008?

So 2008 is here. We saw it in rather quietly this year, as we decided to give the usual knees-up in Bristol a miss for various reasons.
With Jools Holland's crowd doing the countdown in the background, here and in Bartley, we skyped and toasted each other cyberstyle. Before the first hour was out, Esther and I were back at our addiction - Scrabble. Sad or what?