Monday, 11 November 2013

Never Forgetting and Trying to Learn

11th November.
Commemorated as Armistice Day and marked with 2 minutes silence while people pay their respects to those who died during the First World War. Yesterday, Sunday, wreaths were laid at the Cenotaph in Whitehall and at hundreds of others across the country. Today across the world, memorial services will be held and thousands will quietly reflect on the enormity and consequences of that war.

We also remember other wars and battles that have taken place where so many lives have been lost and so many families broken.
WW2, the Cold War, the Gulf War, the Korean War,Vietnam, Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan and many wars in the Middle East and Africa that continue to rage today and destroy people.

It is easy to be sanctimonious and say that all wars should stop now or naieve and believe that there will ever be world peace. Sometimes it seems that if there ever was peace on this earth, then we would go further afield and declare war on other planets.

I am not clever enough or educated enough to suggest a solution to war caused and perpetuated mankind. Nor am I able to explain to my grandchildren, why we persist in hurting each other. We have evolved enough to cure illnesses and disease, to make artificial limbs and  other body parts, that work as perfectly as the original. We have the technology to do things that are incomprehensible to the ordinary person, such as me. Yet, we do not have the ability it seems, to  curb our desire for power and domination of others in our world.

What I am saying here of course, is nothing new. It has been said  thousands of times by people who are very much more intelligent than me.
Which makes it all the more worrying that we continue with our destruction.
The terrible events in the Phillipines this week have shown again that natural forces are perfectly capable of destroying us and everything around us. Nature does not need mankind to fight amongst ourselves
to eliminate us completely.

I shall be remembering this as I reflect on the past and wonder about the future. Please feel free to join me.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Twelve Years On - When Will We Ever Learn ?

Today, 11th September 2013 is the 12th anniversary of the attacks on USA that killed almost 3,000.

I would not dream of making a comment on how the family and friends of those people felt then or feel now. No words could ever justifiably describe the horror and devastation. We remember that awful event swearing that we will never allow anything like that to happen again. Hundreds of  human beings obliterated forever and hundreds more injured and maimed.

We usually recall specific major terrible events by noting what we were doing at the time that we heard the announcement. For my generation that is often when President Kennedy was killed, when John Lennon was killed, when Diana (then Princess) was killed.  
My parents generation remember the announcement of the start of WW2 and also the ending. All these events involved the unnecessary deaths of ordinary people - yes of course, even the ending of a war, where we in Britain rejoiced, while others died in the most terrible circumstances.

And here we are in 2013.
Waiting and wondering whether United States will decide to drop bombs on Syria as 100,000 are killed in the army alone,100,000 civilians killed and no one really knows how many missing, in prison, kidnapped or dead. The death toll continues daily.

In the future, what will we remember we were doing on 11th September 2013 ? 

I will maybe remember that I was writing this blog and trying to come to terms with my inadequacies as an individual in a very big world of fear and hatred. Or maybe not.
In this global village that we supposedly inhabit our concerns for our neighbour are only really for our very close neighbour. 
And the rest of the world can get on with it themselves.

Monday, 15 July 2013

Writing - Yes, It's Work and Warrants Remuneration

Ok, so the article I thought I had shared to my Facebook, didn't actually share and the very intelligent comment that I'd posted to go with it looks less than intelligent without it. And yes, the smart comments of others are I suppose, deserved.
It was such a good article too, but the most annoying thing is that I can't find it again, and I don't remember who the author was. In my attempts to find it, however, though not finding the actual one I have found a number of others on a similar theme. If I ever find the one that I read in the first place, I promise to reference it and the author properly and thank him/her now for the thoughts.

It was about writer's not being thought of as doing a real "job" and so many times are expected to write, talk about their writing, give opinions and views on theirs and other people's writing ... for free, ie without proper payment.
The article writer in question cited a time when they were asked to speak about their 'work' at a venue that involved a journey of 250 miles. The 'payment' turned out to be 6 bottles of a supermarket's own brand red wine. On asking for an expenses form they were greeted with amazement and it was clear that it had never crossed anyone's mind that real payment and/or expenses would be required.

Perhaps the writer should have been grateful for the publicity and thankful that the opportunity to show and advertise his work was payment enough. Sadly, this seems to be a frequent event for writers unless an actual  commission has been agreed on.

How can this be and is a writer the only job where working for free is expected ? It's not as if we expect an electrician or a doctor or a window cleaner or a plumber to work and not get paid (although actually I know people who do expect that )

I have written many things that have been published, without payment. Years ago,seeing my work and my name in the Times Educational Supplement gave me as much if not more pleasure than the paid for stories in magazines. But that was when I had another real job to make my living from.
And more recently - and naievely-  persuading myself that the 'honour' of having my writing on someone who used to work for the BBC's blog was great and even asking what he would like for the next piece. (Can't believe I did that ... )
Pleasure or publicity doesn't pay the bills.

Since the advent of the internet, - and it's not that long ago that we didn't have it - we tend to believe that information is free and anyone can be a writer. It's not that difficult to press a few buttons and let the whole universe know your every thought, is it ? But not everyone can be a professional writer and it seems to me that the "media" and the big corporations are cashing in, literally, on the work and creativity of writers. It's a sign of the times and a result of the 'free market' but maybe the ones who are really to blame are us, the writers ourselves, by allowing it to happen.

So stand strong fellow writers. Don't allow your work to be given freely and challenge the perceptions  that writing is not a job but something that people do in their spare time, sitting on the bed in their pyjamas.

On that note, payment in cash or in kind is accepted for this blog, and suggestions for the future most welcome.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

There's Something About a "Real Book"

 There is something about a real book that is unique and gives such pleasure to reader and author alike.

By real book here, I mean one made of paper that you can hold in your hands, feel the pages, smell the newness of and watch grow older and change as you do.

Of course, the benefits - and drawbacks - of ebooks and digital technology is constantly discussed and the 'which is better' debate I think, will always be with us.
Most of us have our views on which is 'better' but also most of us these days appreciate that all formats of written words have their place and deciding which is appropriate for which occasion is a personal preference.

The One Word Anthology by Talkback Writers  was published as an ebook in  November 2012 by Alfie Dog Ltd  and is available there. It can also be purchased at Kobo Books and at Amazon
The authors, editors and publishers of the One Word Anthology are now very happy to announce the publishing of the real Paperback book version which is also available at Alfie Dog Ltd  and Amazon

INTRODUCTION by Jonothan Telfer, Editor, Writing Magazine and Writers Online

Article on the original idea and process of building the anthology, 
by Rosemary J Kind, Brenda Gunning and Marion Clarke in 
 January 2013 issue of  Writing Magazine

Photos of the authors in this article and biographies in the One Word Challenge Book

My contributions  - Heat, page 20   Torch, page 48   Fog, page78   Lightning, page 90

We are all very proud of the anthology, in ebook form and in paperback. For some of the authors this is their first time published. For others of us it is an extra to add to the writing CV and another achievement to congratulate ourselves on.

For some reason, many of us are extra specially pleased about this 'hard copy' version of One Word Anthology.

Hope you buy it. Sure you will enjoy it.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Make me whole

Just what are you seeing when you close your eyes?
Is the sun always shining in perfect blue skies?
Do your thoughts float through fluffy white clouds in your dreams?
Or do you ever think this is not as it seems?

When I sleep I still feel I have your hand in mine
And I’m not alone and all things should be fine 
for you’re there to protect me from all that I fear
when the darkness comes closer and nightmares are here.

Yet I’m lost in a world that’s not real but seems true
Searching always for someone, and always it’s you
Though I think you’re beside me as I feel your touch
I’m still scared of these feelings that overrule much.

So if you see sunshine and perfect blue skies
When you lay down beside her and you close your eyes
will you push past my dark clouds and look deep in my soul
for the love that we once had and so make me whole.

To Where We Belong

To where we belong

He first went there with school long ago. The teacher’s told them that the stone work was Roman, remnants from hundreds of years ago. Turned out that it wasn’t Roman at all. It was an old mill used for making first iron and then fine paper for wrapping needles. Romantic maybe – but not Roman.
When they met years later, he could not wait to take her to this place, high up the hillside in the depths of the forest with the stream trickling then rushing down from the tops. Brown, yellow and orange tainted leaves and ferns painted the background for the scene.
And she loved it too. It was an almost secret place with it’s overhanging trees and woodland walk to it, which not many used. The millpond itself lies clear, still holding secrets from times gone by. 
This day he was on his own, He had walked up the incline to the pond with his head bent against the stinging wind and rain fighting against the stinging tears that he could not hold back. He held the urn high in the air and tilted it slowly, sprinkling the ashes of the one who knew him best, into the water.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

" To a Young Poet "

To a Young Poet 
by Mahmoud Darwish 

Don’t believe our outlines, forget them
and begin from your own words.
As if you are the first to write poetry
or the last poet.

If you read our work, let it not be an extension of our airs,
but to correct our errs
in the book of agony.

Don’t ask anyone: Who am I?
You know who your mother is.
As for your father, be your own.

Truth is white, write over it
with a crow’s ink.
Truth is black, write over it
with a mirage’s light.

If you want to duel with a falcon
soar with the falcon.

If you fall in love with a woman,
be the one, not she,
who desires his end.

Life is less alive than we think but we don’t think
of the matter too much lest we hurt emotions’ health.

If you ponder a rose for too long
you won’t budge in a storm.

You are like me, but my abyss is clear.
And you have roads whose secrets never end.
They descend and ascend, descend and ascend.

You might call the end of youth
the maturity of talent
or wisdom. No doubt, it is wisdom,
the wisdom of a cool non-lyric.

One thousand birds in the hand
don’t equal one bird that wears a tree.

A poem in a difficult time
is beautiful flowers in a cemetery.

Example is not easy to attain
so be yourself and other than yourself
behind the borders of echo.

Ardor has an expiration date with extended range.
So fill up with fervor for your heart’s sake,
follow it before you reach your path.

Don’t tell the beloved, you are I
and I am you, say
the opposite of that: we are two guests
of an excess, fugitive cloud.

Deviate, with all your might, deviate from the rule.

Don’t place two stars in one utterance
and place the marginal next to the essential
to complete the rising rapture.

Don’t believe the accuracy of our instructions.
Believe only the caravan’s trace.

A moral is as a bullet in its poet’s heart
a deadly wisdom.
Be strong as a bull when you’re angry
weak as an almond blossom
when you love, and nothing, nothing
when you serenade yourself in a closed room.

The road is long like an ancient poet’s night:
plains and hills, rivers and valleys.
Walk according to your dream’s measure: either a lily
follows you or the gallows.

Your tasks are not what worry me about you.
I worry about you from those who dance
over their children’s graves,
and from the hidden cameras
in the singers’ navels.

You won’t disappoint me,
if you distance yourself from others, and from me.
What doesn’t resemble me is more beautiful.

From now on, your only guardian is a neglected future.

Don’t think, when you melt in sorrow
like candle tears, of who will see you
or follow your intuition’s light.
Think of yourself: is this all of myself?

The poem is always incomplete, the butterflies make it whole.

No advice in love. It’s experience.
No advice in poetry. It’s talent.

And last but not least, Salaam.

For more poetry and information on Mahmoud Darwish click   Poetry Foundation

Sunday, 24 February 2013

So, anyway ... ...

A tweet from Richard Dawkins  (English ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author - Wikipedia) this morning asked the question :

"So why do so many Americans begin a story with "So" ? Is it the 140 chars version of "Once upon a time" ? "

(for the uninitiated in the regulations of Twitter "chars" refers to the 140 characters or less that a tweet is made up of)

My first reaction to this question was - I do this all the time, especially on blogs. If this is an americanism I think I should stop !

Other comments suggest that it is a way of framing - the time, situation, place without having to go into detail of the full context at that point in the story. "Anyway" is used in much the same way, or in some circumstances "well".

Of course it's neither an American 'thing' nor an English one. Every language and culture appears to have a version. Bueno in Spanish, perhaps d'accord in French, W'allah in Arabic (I'll check on that last one)  It's also a way of beginning to speak or tell a tale without having done much thinking before. A kind of short stop gap while the mind deciphers and tames wild thoughts and turns them into logical, coherent and understandable sentences.

To the readers of this blog, and to my family and friends too, it goes without saying that I am one of the people who need this device, especially in my speaking. I try to tell myself that the reason that my words are coming out of my mouth in an unintellible order is because there are so many amazing thoughts that I need to get out quickly before I forget them. In reality it's more a case of Put Brain in Gear Before Opening Mouth. Come on, I know I'm not unique in that. 
Thinking about this, I have now established that my extensive use of ellipsis recently (... ...)  and dashes (-) within a sentence is  more than likely, probably - well maybe, at least - is serving the same purpose for me. What a wonderful thing language is. It can make you appear very intelligent, or on the other hand, less than that.

So, anyway ... ...

What d'you think ?

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Morals, Conscience and Hypocrisy - where do we draw the line ?

A discussion on a writer's forum has me thinking. A comment I  made appears to be at odds with a number of views, so here I state my case.

 I think that attending a religious funeral, singing hymns and praying whilst having no religious beliefs yourself, is acting hypocritically. I would feel a hypocrite by attending a religious funeral where my own beliefs were different to the general belief of the deceased and the other attenders - whether that was Christian, Muslim, Humanist, Creationist, Hindu or any other religion that has a name to it.

I was brought up within the beliefs and attitudes of the Methodist Church. My father was a local preacher and played  the organ for weddings, funerals, christenings and Sunday services from around the age of twenty. He wrote and illustrated books on Methodism and the history of his local circuit. My mother

I was brought up within the beliefs and attitudes of the Methodist Church. My father was a local preacher and played the organ for weddings, funerals, christenings and weekly services from around the age of 20 yrs old. He wrote and illustrated books on Methodism and the history of his local circuit. My mother is 87 and religion and the church has been and still is a major part of her life. My own faith has grown, changed and been challenged (by me !) throughout my life. I have been a Sunday School teacher, church youth group leader, Brown Owl - when Brownies made promises to a god - and have tried to bring up my own children to know about and understand the beliefs of others and to be tolerant and sympathetic to all. I have also been a primary school teacher where I had to teach about many religions, their history and their customs and practices. 
I think of myself as being fortunate that at that time I had decided for myself my own views on religion and did not believe in a god as generally described, or Jesus as a divine being. It was more difficult for my truly Christian friends NOT to teach about their personal belief - as they felt it was their duty to their faith to do so. 
My father died aged 64 in 1988. At his funeral in the chapel where he had preached so many times and along with the organ that he had played so many times, I sang the hymns he loved along with my children aged 4, 9 and 11 and many others and prayed - or rather thought deeply about my father. But I felt hypocritical. By my age, there are more family and friends who have died and I send flowers and letters and visit the bereaved.
My mother, at 87 yrs old says often that she won't be here much longer, or it's time she wasn't here. We discuss things quite openly, and when I say what about me at your funeral when I don't class myself as a Christian ? Don't bother about a funeral then she, says - you can think of me just as well anywhere else.
None of us know when we or our loved ones are going to die - I might be dead before her and then the dilemma will be on my own children as to what to do about me ! Maybe we just have to wait and see how we feel at the time, and go with our conscience.

(This is solely my own opinion and thoughts and is not meant to sound "holier than thou" )

Thursday, 10 January 2013

Clearout or Waste ?

I started this post yesterday and today it’s in the news that as much as half of the world's food, around two billion tonnes worth is wasted. It's maybe coincidence (or one of those 'being drawn to things' scenarios) but it's relevant anyway.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers said "the waste is being caused by poor storage, strict sell-by dates, bulk offers and consumer fussiness". The study also found that up to 30% of vegetables in the UK were not harvested because of their physical appearance. The institution's Dr Tim Fox said the level of waste was "staggering".

World Food Waste I’ve just done the biennial food cupboard clean out.
I say biennial as I just can’t remember whether I did one this time last year or not but based on the ‘best before’ dates of more than one item, it seems as though if I did, I didn’t do it very well.In world food statistics I don't suppose my thrown out food plays a very big part but I have noticed that I have extras this year to chuck in the bin and 'waste'.As well as the obligatory unopened jar of pickled cabbage and a couple of opened jars of pickled onions.For those interested, or who would like to compare with their own, here is the full list :

2 tins of chopped tomatoes – out of date
1 tin of chilli beans  - too rusted to see date
1 tin of chick peas – still in date but not looking very enticing
1 plastic jar of instant hot chocolate mix – can’t think when or where this was bought
2 jars of pickled onions – opened
2 jars of beetroot – opened
1 jar of tomato and herb pasta sauce
3 loose Weetabix
quarter box of cornflakes
tub of glace cherries – from last Christmas
tub of mixed peel - likewise
4-6 broken cream crackers
2 pkts supermarkets own make cheese and onion crisps
3 squashed tomato ketchups from Macdonalds
pkt of salt – dry  and lumpy (who buys salt in packets ?)
half a lb of sr flour
foil pkt of something that should have been used long ago

(Then of course there’s the fridge and freezer, but  that’s another blog post)

Now, I know if I tried really hard I could make a meal out of this, maybe more. But there's been enough folks brought down with the Norovirus recently that I wouldn't want to be responsible for any more upset stomachs.
And yes, we all remember telling our parents that the poor starving children across the world are welcome to the dinner that we are refusing to eat.
So maybe this post is a bit of a guilt trip but, as with the 'starving children' thing, if anyone wants this bagful of 'waste' then I will deliver it (locally)

I resolve to not do any more 'big shops' online or otherwise.
I resolve to keep the cupboards stocked with only things I am likely to eat - or force onto visitors.
I resolve to stick to these resolutions, at least until the end of the month.

Menu for my dinner / tea today as follows :

boil in the bag kippers that have been in the freezer since last time daughter did shopping
mashed potatoes - that are turning green,but were like that when I got them
tin of peas - IN date 

The dog is having the same.
Bet you wish you were joining me ! 

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Another Year -Let's hope it's a good one.

I've waited till today 2nd January, to write a blog about and in, this new year of 2013.
Not because I haven't any thoughts about anything - for a change, lately - but because I wanted to refrain from using all those more than well used phrases like "it's that time of year again" and "standing on the threshold" and "new beginnings" and all that stuff. There's been more than enough reviews of the old year in the media too over the last couple of weeks. The 100 best songs, books, films, tv progs, plays, E readers, Smart phones etc. Just name something and it will be in a list of "best ofs" I can guarantee. Then there's the lists of "famous" people who have died, and notifications of ones soon to be born.

It's natural I suppose to want to put the last 12 months to the back of our minds are rally forth with predictions, expectations and hopes for this next year. Mankind as a whole surely can not afford to continue with the destruction of ourselves and our world as we are doing. And yet new technology, different ways of thinking and different views on governing continue to emerge, as they have done since the beginning of time. (I was going to say, different ways of killing each other, but it's difficult not to sound sanctimonious by doing so).

This past year seems to have seen more bloodshed and more tears than many of us thought possible. We don't need to specify individual situations here - I think we all know where they are around the world.

Or maybe this is the point. 
Maybe we do have to discuss individual situations more than we already do. Maybe in the process of making this world global, multicultural and inclusive we are becoming less able to recognise that peoples and situations are different. Trying to make everyone and everything the same in the guise of inclusiveness, more than likely does not work. Treating different ailments with the same remedy is not always successful.
We can sympathise with the appalling situations in Syria, in Palestine and in Israel but we can't empathise unless we are personally involved. We look and listen today in horror to the stories coming out of Pakistan, India,  the Ivory Coast, the US and also Europe. But when all's said and done we can turn off the news, not read the papers and go online less ... we spend far too much time on the internet anyway, don't we ?

So what to do ? I make no pretensions to be able to answer that question. Many great people have and are currently always aiming to put and end to the bad and to restore and implement the good. They need our support in whatever way we can.

I've just watched an episode of  Nature's Weirdest Events. As well as exploding toads and plagues of insects it showed some very hungry polar bears coming onto land while they wait for the sea to freeze over. These bears, which would be expected to have immediately killed sleigh dogs they come across to eat, in fact changed their predatory stance and began playing with the dogs. Not only that but the polar bears return each year to meet up with their dog friends and play for hours on end. 

I'm not suggesting that we humans go out and play with polar bears (though swimming with dolphins and living with wolves is done often) 
Just that as always, nature has a way of showing us that often, animals have a better perspective on how to live life than we have. 

Here's hoping that this year takes mankind forward in our development and understanding of others and all that is around us. Perhaps, even if we don't make it 'happy', we can make the year peaceful and pleasant to live through.

Best wishes for 2013