Saturday, 31 December 2011

Tradition is the illusion of permanence

...said Woody Allen once. Or maybe twice. Who knows? "Traditions are the guideposts driven deep into our subconscious minds" said someone else, anonymous.

I was considering the New Year's Eve traditions that are my guideposts - and decided I haven't got any. Or not any that are worth preserving. I cling on to all sorts of family and cultural traditions but New Year just isn't a particularly PARTICULAR event in my life. I can't recall it being so in my childhood. Christmas was and is the most important festival.

New Year's Eve in my young adult life consisted of getting horribly drunk on Guinness and 'rum and blacks' then throwing up in the back of a friend's van and trying to clean up the mess with torn up Yellow Pages...well, that was one I DO remember, and they were all much the same.

New Year's Eve NOW consists of trying very hard to remain awake beyond 10.30 p.m. and either failing to or, come midnight, heaving a sigh of relief and thinking 'thank heavens, I can go to bed AT LAST.'

I think I should take a lesson from the Germans and, apparently, Scandinavians too. I was listening to Radio 4 this morning and learned that their New Year's Eve tradition is to watch an ancient English black and white short film called Dinner For One   (see it for yourselves)

 ...which reduces them to bundles of helpless laughter.

I can't say it had that effect on me, though it made me smile.

Still, it beats my own (lack of) memorable traditions by a country mile. I'm not sure if that says more about my woeful New Year's Eves or the German sense of humour...

Friday, 30 December 2011

Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!

So P.T. Barnum WAS the circus fellow! I thought he must be - although there must be other people called Barnum.

I wish I could see his troupe of Very Remarkable Trained Pigs.

I wish he would promote ME but I'm not very good at playing the xylophone with my snout or anything.

Promotion. A subject that I have an ostrich-like attitude to, head firmly buried in the sand.

It leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. (Well, sand would, wouldn't it?) Perhaps it's my British reserve but I find self-promotion so very hard to do. So I don't do it.

Result: I write some good stuff and nobody sees it. How motivating THAT feels! It's such a great way to carry on. And I do.

Oh look. I just discovered the very book for me:

Or alternatively, I could buy a xylophone and a pig costume?

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Don't be fooled by the calendar. There are only as many days in the year as you make use of.

There are quite a few people called Charles Richards, to whom this quote is attributed. One of them, it says, was designer of the Colt single action army revolver and Yale professor.

Personally, I think designing Yale professors is far more laudable.

 Around this time of year, everyone is busy thinking up New Year's resolutions. Well, maybe not EVERYBODY. And certainly not me.

There's a huge temptation to leave everything on hold until January 1st. For me, that has always been fatal. This year, instead, I started my New Year before Christmas, inserting new aspirations and ways of achieving them into my life without the grand announcements and hype.

Me, I'm very far from perfect.

I hope that by not having New Year's resolutions but instead just getting on with things that it'll last a bit longer than usual, which is to say, longer than January 15th or whenever it is I get sick of what I stated on January 1st and conveniently sweep it under The Carpet Of Forgetfulness.

My favourite film - the one that endures - has always been Dead Poet's Society.

And my favourite quotation from the film has always been: “Carpe Diem! Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary.”

So, I seized December 23rd!

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

There are easier things to do than writing. Nailing jelly to a tree, for example.

English - American picture dictionary coming up:

 English - jelly

American - Jello 

English - jam

American - jelly 

(You can see where my confusion lay with talk of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Are they INSANE?)

Anyway - I'm talking about writing (sometimes) being like nailing (English) jelly to a tree.

Although it wouldn't be that easy to nail jam to a tree either. Those jars can be incredibly tough.

And then I castigate myself. There are MUCH worse jobs than writing.

I could be a Hazmat Diver - listed as the worst job ever.
"They swim in sewage. Enough said," quips Popular Science of hazmat divers. And we mean sewage. One diver really had it bad. When a truck driver crashed, his truck tumbled into a lagoon at a factory pig farm. He drowned. So a hazmat diver had to go in and pull the body out of a waste lagoon filled with urine, liquid pig faeces and needles.

Wait a minute...That's not so far removed from me struggling to extract words from my brain...

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Procrastination is opportunity's assassin

Victor Kiam...wasn't he the fellow that loved the shaver so much he bought the company?

Yes, he was. I always thought that wasn't such a great commercial - it made me feel something along the lines of 'Well, bully for YOU, Mr. Kiam, but some of us haven't got that much money at our disposal, you arrogant git.' However, I guess it was memorable so it served its purpose. (So memorable I thought it was Gillette and I now see it was Remington!)

His statement about procrastination is good though. I'm finding it quite tough to get going.


 Before Christmas, working like a maniac (only more sanely)...a few days of nothing...and now I feel as though my head's full of glue. It's not so much a case of not getting on with my To Do List, it's more a case of not even knowing what to put on a To Do List.

So - here's a start...

Monday, 26 December 2011

The way is not in the Skype. The way is in the heart.

It's quite amazing to think that Hindu Prince Gautama Siddharta, the founder of Buddhism, knew all about Skype in 563-483 B.C.

In all seriousness, yesterday the way WAS in the Skype. 

It's been lovely to have Tim at home but at Christmas time I'd love it even more if all three of my boys were around me - my two other boys and their lovely girls.

Jamie and Breanna live in upstateOntario...

 and Laurie and Irene are currently in Whistler, BC. 

 So no, they couldn't pop home for Christmas...

But they could Skype. And they did. And it was a little bit like having them there in the sitting room, just for a few moments.And it still amazes me that it's FREE!

And here is Tim, being adored by a horse called Humphrey.

The way is in the heart and that's where they all are. Except possibly Humphrey, though I'm pretty fond of him too. But not in the same way.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

A Very Merry Christmas, all you people

Happy reading and happy writing to you all, today and in 2012. It's going to be a tremendous year.

Believe me. I'm an optimist.

Always was, always will be.

Saturday, 24 December 2011

And now for something completely different.

Yeah, yeah. You were expecting sloppy Christmas wishes, weren't you?

I was searching for something more unusual and here's what I found:

An image entitled Last Christmas, I gave you my heart.

Yes, the title comes from a Christmas song by George Michael which positively OOZES sentimentality (George is probably oozing as we speak and all I can say is - get well soon from the pneumonia.)

The image...doesn't ooze (except for the blood) and is by the artist Kasia Jackowska  Somehow, I like this painting a lot, in my dark and weird way of liking things dark and weird. I certainly prefer it to the song.

Here's something weird but not dark I won't be doing tomorrow:

 ...plunging into the sea in Brighton for the annual Christmas swim. But it's suddenly become an ambition of mine. Something to go on my bucket list. Maybe next year?

Have an unusual Christmas!

Friday, 23 December 2011

In words are seen the state of mind and character and disposition of the speaker

Yes, that was what I was afraid of, Plutarch, because this morning my mind is completely blank.

My boy Tim is home for Christmas. He is a Google Plus devotee (euphemism for quite irritating evangelist) He said to me 'Why don't you write a blog about Google Plus?'

My reply to him was similar to the abuse thrown at Ms. Garmin before I discovered she was a life-coach. Only I didn't call Tim a stupid tart.

I know, I'll engage him in an intelligent existentialist conversation...that should stimulate a fascinating blog subject.

This is getting serious now.

Tell you what, I'll go Christmas shopping instead. Now that you know all about my state of mind, character and disposition.

Only I can't think what I need to buy...

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Recalculating, recalculating...

I could learn a lot from Ms.Garmin. In fact, I DID learn a lot from Ms. Garmin.

Yesterday, she suffered a whole lot of abuse from me on my journey from Buxted to Sheffield and home again via Northampton. Usually, I'm known for being polite but nearing the end of thirteen hours on the road, tempers were beginning to get a little frayed.

Ms. Garmin: Take the next exit and enter the roundabout.


Ms. Garmin: (without raising her voice or sounding in the slightest bit offended) Recalculating, recalculating...

Things don't always go as planned in this life. When I got home, there was an e-mail waiting for me from a literary agent for children's fiction - a very kind and considered e-mail which nonetheless turned me down.

Thank you, Ms. Garmin. In all seriousness, I thought of her. I DIDN'T fly into my usual very stupid 'That proves I'm worthless' scenario.

I simply said, with smile on face,

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Half the fun of travel is the aesthetic of lostness.

I don't think so, Ray Bradbury. I really don't think so.

Hence, I'm taking my trusty Garmin with me on my trip to Sheffield to see my sister. This is the trusty Garmin about the size of a house brick long since rejected by the menfolk in my house for slimmer, up to date versions with lots of gizmos and widgets and gadgets that nobody really needs if they're honest.

I'm the same about mobile phones. I want a mobile phone to make phone calls with when I'm travelling and with which to send text messages. I don't want one that dabbles in differential calculus and is the world's smallest high-energy particle accelerator and projects images to the Hubble Space Telescope.

Call me old-fashioned. Let me do it for you.


(but Not THAT old-fashioned because I don't favour the use of maps and signposts or semaphore)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Winter is not a season, it's an occupation.

...especially if you have horses. By the way, I'm not complaining because I love it - but it IS hard work sometimes. Perhaps Sinclair Lewis was complaining? He'd be complaining all the more if he knew I hadn't heard of him AND he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1930...

Back to the horses. Lately we've had all the weather winter could throw at us except heavy snow (which I won't write too loudly. You never know who might be listening.)

For a start, at 7 a.m. when I arrive at the yard - it's dark.

We've had howling gales and slashing rain. This translates into...the sand school's a lake, there's lots of mud, and frisky horses with sodden rugs to change. And riding's not much fun.

Storm horse by Zeelis Tech of Android Zoom
 We've had icy conditions - which means frozen windscreen, frozen fingers and toes, head collars with rigor mortis, frozen drinking troughs, treacherous roads. And riding's not much fun.

Ice horse by Cisco of Queeky
And today...we have sunshine.

And riding was a great deal of fun.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Something about an old-fashioned Christmas is hard to forget

...said Hugh Downs who I've never heard of, or, if you're feeling particularly hot on grammar today, of whom I've never heard.

I have two Christmas stories (apart from that one in the bible) and they're both about my father.

He was born on Christmas Day. (Poor fellow. Always hard done by with the joint Christmas-birthday presents)

Now, this might not be true but it's a good story anyway...

His father was a vicar. According to the annals of family history,  Grandfather was taking a service on Christmas morning when my father made his grand or possibly squally entrance into the world. Someone raced to the church to announce the glad news, flung open the door and was met by the sound of the congregation singing...

Unto us is born a son

Christmas story number two, also set in church. This time, St.Matthew's Church, Northampton, when I was a child. There, the seating consisted of rows of wooden chairs with slatted backs,

....just like that only all joined together in twelves.

In front of us was a young family with a podgy toddler. Half way through the service, she stuck a leg through the slats of the chair in front of her and couldn't get it out on account of the bunching up of all her rolls of baby fat.

 Oh,the screams!

Daddy to the rescue. He raced home, grabbed a saw and during the sermon... skwee,skwee,skwee, skwee... he sawed through the back of the chair. (No, he DIDN'T amputate the baby's leg, even though, as a doctor, it might have crossed his mind - which would have been a better story, really)

Funny, the things that stick in my memory...

Sunday, 18 December 2011

On Christmas Day you can't be sore. Your fellow man you must adore...

...there's time to cheat him all the more, the other three hundred and sixty four.

See, Christmas doesn't have to be all schmaltz. It can have hints of black. (Not that I'm endorsing the idea of cheating our fellow men throughout the year.)

Today I can't be sore either - friends and neighbours round for lunch. Am I feeling just the tiniest bit hassled? You bet I am!

For your delectation, some Tom Lehrer - who wrote the rhyme above. I don't suppose he celebrated Christmas. Too busy poisoning pigeons in the park.

Except, he mostly does it in the spring...

Have a schmaltz-free day!

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Christmas, children, is not a date. It is a state of mind.

Mary Ellen Chase, American educator, teacher, scholar, and author. Yet another person I've never heard of. My ignorance astounds me.

My state of mind at the moment, regarding Christmas, is, after my full-on week...AAAAAARGH! So much to do. Too much to do. When am I going to get it done? Why did I leave it all until the last minute? What on earth can I buy for The Man Who Has Everything? When's the last post for Christmas cards? Panic. Panic. Panic.

I have to remind myself that Christmas is a time of joy and love. Peace on earth and goodwill to all men (except the one who issued my speeding ticket.)

I've put on my beautiful CD - Carols from King's...

My favourite is Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day - (John Gardner's setting) Even the title...

Staggeringly, it's on YouTube for your delight. Moan about modern technology all you like but sometimes it takes my breath away. Do listen!

...and I shall take a few deep breaths and begin to ENJOY...

Friday, 16 December 2011

People often say that motivation doesn’t last. Well, neither does bathing – that’s why we recommend it daily.

Who IS Zig Ziglar?

Let me find out, to save you the trouble.

He's an American author, salesman, and motivational speaker. His real first name is Hilary so calling himself Zig was a smart move. He wrote 'Success For Dummies.' I must take it to my next seminar...(not)

The last couple of days, I've been successful. Have I earned millions of pounds? Won the Nobel Prize for Writing Travel Brochures? Climbed up Mount Everest backwards? Discovered a cure for terminal hiccups?

None of these.

I've been working like a demon. A new area of copy-writing for me.Very tight deadlines. It could have been stressful. It could have made me fraught. It could have made me unhappy.

It didn't. I've been having too much fun.

When working and having fun are the same thing, I consider that to be an OUTSTANDING...

It's a great feeling to wake up excited about the working day ahead. Don't I just make you SICK?


I don't suppose it'll last.

Thursday, 15 December 2011


 dit·to/ˈditō/   Used to indicate that something already said is applicable a second time.
...Read yesterday's blog. If you haven't already. If not, why not?

Here's an image for ditto.

How was I to know Ditto is a Pokemon? Apparently. I don't actually know what a Pokemon is either, to be honest. Suffice to say...I worked until very late last night.

  Looks like it might be the same today. I'm not complaining, because...

(no, I'm not working for THEM...)

Normal service may be resumed tomorrow.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Journalist: a person without any ideas but with an ability to express them;

"...a writer whose skill is improved by a deadline: the more time he has, the worse he writes."

An Austrian journalist called Karl Kraus created this definition. (He's allowed to be disparaging about his own kind.)

I had a wonderful day yesterday - and no time to tell you about it today - not for the moment.

As punishment for enjoying myself too much - today I've got to work like three people stuck together. Other people's tight deadlines become mine. 

A piece for these guys to be completed last week sometime.


And a 20 page brochure for these guys to be completed yesterday at the latest.

Jobs are like wait for ages and then two show up at once. 

 See ya later! I'm wanting to prove Karl Kraus at least partially right...

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

As far as I'm concerned, there won't be a Beatles reunion as long as John Lennon remains dead.

George Harrison said this. I'm amazed! Not that he said it, which is great, but that he died ten years ago and John Lennon was killed THIRTY ONE years ago.

Seems like only yesterday, truly it does.

I'm thinking reunions today. Every year, I meet up with three of the girls who were in my class at school - Mandy, Jen and Jan.

Northampton High School For Girls.

I couldn't find a picture quickly, but here's the house where we had our music lessons - incidentally, designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Beckett House.

(If I recall correctly, all the windows on the right were false so that the appearance of symmetry was maintained from the outside, despite the rooms having no windows on that wall)

I think Mandy, Jan and Jen have been meeting up for ages, but I was invited three or four years ago. Our first encounter was very funny. 

We hadn't met for thirty-five years or so...We all looked much the same, except they said to me, almost in unison 'Haven't you GROWN!'

When I was at school, I was tiny. So tiny I could have been the class mascot. So tiny that I had to buy a bra that was completely flat just so I could say I had one...(it was pale blue and white gingham)

I waited to have my growth spurt until I was in my late teens.

Now I'm TALL!

(I'm the one on the left)

I'm hoping I've grown in many ways, not just stature.