Writing


The reaction to my most recent haiku – the most ‘likes’ on any post of mine since I began blogging some 16 months ago – has really inspired me to stop and try to express my thoughts in 17 syllables more often. Of course, over the months I’ve learned that there are many other formats for a haiku, but the rigid discipline of 5-7-5 really appeals to me. In some ways this has similarities to the discipline of writing headlines and advertising copy – part of my professional activity for over 50 years – conveying a thought in very few words. I’ve also learned the importance of that change of thought in the last five syllables.

It all began with a box of photos and a regular blogger of haiku who has since, sadly, disappeared – fivereflections. At the time I came across his haiku below I was sorting through photographs found in a box at my recently deceased mother’s home. Here it is:

from the old locked box
photographs you left behind
my eyes become yours

I found a photograph of a Coronation street party in 1953, and felt ‘my eyes become yours’ – I saw through my mother’s eyes – as the photo showed myself and siblings together with neighbouring children in a play I wrote – it wasn’t my first piece of fiction but it was my first play … and my last.

Picture haiku

The 5-7-5 pattern appealed to me and I constructed a ‘haiku’ with just pictures from the box, though I did feel obliged to pen some lines with it.

However, having a passion for photography, some of my own photographs, and eventually those of others, prompted a haiku as soon as I saw them.

Then it occurred to me that maybe a picture and a haiku could be conceived together, the words and the envisaged image being formed in the mind at the same time. A walk in a church graveyard inspired two.

The ‘rowan tree’ haiku was like this: the tree immediately formed as a picture and haiku together in my mind. However, there was something missing and I had to go back with a camera later to realise what had been missing – sun.

Looking back through my ‘haiku’ posts I thought it would be a good idea to put them all under a ‘haiku’ menu heading, so that is what I have done, but … wait for it …

… I discovered that the rowan tree was the seventeenth haiku I had published, the first from ‘fivereflections’, followed by sixteen of my own.

Green satiated

Winter songsters’ sanguine store

Shiver prophesy

Rowan tree in berry

I haven’t been motivated to try a haiku for some time. As often happens, a ‘like’ – on my previous post – took me to a new world. Not geographically – Marsden village is bounded by scenery as beautiful as anywhere in Yorkshire though not as well known as the dales in which I live, so I have visited and walked there often. David Coldwell’s ‘like’ took me to The Cotton Grass Appreciation Society. And motivation.

This is one of the busiest times of the year for my work as the charity I work for takes part in numerous outside events and I usually have to set them up and take them down at the end of the day. Last Saturday I was at a local school which raises money for us, and Sunday I was at the Dragon Boat Challenge in York, where we had a fundraising stall. So I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging, or reading the many which I follow.

The Optimistic Pessimist's poem on display in Lofty's rear window

The Optimistic Pessimist’s poem on display in Lofty’s rear window

However, I said in my most recent post that Lofty, my VW camper, had not only insisted I reblogged a poem – Campervan – penned by Bradford’s blogger the Optimistic Pessimist, but that I printed it out and displayed it in his window. That I had not had time to do.

So, apart from giving me all sorts of problems changing gear (he needs a new clutch), yesterday on a visit to nearby Bronte land – ie Haworth – he refused to start to bring us home.

I promised that the poem would go in today and, possibly helped by a jump start from the leisure battery, he got us home.

We have a lot of steep hills around here so I really must get the clutch done – I had quite a problem to pull away on a 1 in 3 today – but with no place to do it, not the tools necessary and, more important, getting too long in the tooth to do such things now, it’s a garage job so I have to find a day I can do without him as he’s my daily ride (and travelling B&B!).

He also runs on LPG, half the cost of running on petrol, so I will only trust someone who knows the LPG system to pull the engine (or, more to the point, put it back and get it running correctly again) for the new clutch.

I’ll have to get it done soon; I should be on annual leave for the rest of the month after 7 August so I don’t want to be stranded in the Yorkshire Dales, let alone maybe in the north of Scotland!

Originally posted on The optimistic pessimist:

Box of dreams

Wardrobe to other worlds

Part of the gang

We wave at our own

Like crazy people

Because we know

We share the joy

Perfect joy

Of freedom

On wheels

Where every day is perfect

Every meal the most amazing

Every moment with you

In that perfect little place

To keep us together

Trapped in the same room

Never bored

Always happy

Happy like

You can’t remember

What sad feels like

Just filled to brimming

With joy.

View original

Witches   tread with care

Beware our bouquet    spiky

Healthy human food

A black and white picture of wild garlic

Wild garlic in the Washburn Valley, June, Yorkshire

Photo on Olympus OM4, Zuiko 50mm f/1.8, Ilford PanF Plus 50, stand-developed RO9

madness frozen out

bones interred together        warmed

peace       buds in waiting

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian "lunatic asylum" at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried close by

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower – about 1/2 mile away – of the once notorious Victorian “lunatic asylum” at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried, together, close by

I’ve recently removed the requirement for comments to be ‘moderated’ before they appear – on both my blogs.

111Comment

I didn’t consciously put them there when I first created the blogs but, getting emails asking for ‘approval’, I suddenly thought “Why do I need to approve them?”. It’s an unnecessary delaying step; if someone has taken the time to comment I’d ‘approve’ it anyway, whether I liked it or not.

What might someone say that I wouldn’t want to appear? Well, I would not want a lot of four word expletives – I’d find them tiresome and some of my followers might find them offensive.

WordPress says not approving increases the likelihood of spam, but the spam filter seems to be very good at picking those up and getting rid of them. I suppose if a lot of meaningless spam began to appear I’d have to think again, but hopefully this won’t happen.

To my mind, if comments are to have any value then they shouldn’t be subject to whether I ‘approve’ of them or not.

So now they are not.

Because I have no particular theme for this blog, I am often torn between several subjects. I’ve shunted off classic photography to another blog, but even that’s a problem as there are so many commonalities between cooking, which I often write about on this blog, and the processing side of ‘classic’ photography (ie on film) – measuring, timing, weighing, careful attention, care (even love) – come to think of it, much of that applies to the taking of photographs too.

fragi

Fragi – tiny Romanian wild strawberries

As I’ve said before, I’ve no need of the WordPress daily prompts; my problem is how to find the time to write about everything which motivates me to write, especially as I have an hiatus in my soujourns on internet as I spend two days away from home attending to the ‘communications’ needs of the small charity for which I work (and I’ve recently introduced  a weekly blog for that, though it’s a very simple one).

Then there’s the whole ‘grump’ thing; I originally set up this blog to ‘have a go at’ so much I find wrong with the world, particularly the UK, today. And I’ve written almost nothing about music, which has been an inseparable companion for the whole of my life. It’s coming: I’ve got a major grump boiling up about ‘Classic FM’ radio, which – X-Factoring everything including Beethoven – is getting close to being shut off permanently in my home.

This afternoon I made a small pot of tea (my Romanian wife doesn’t drink it), Yorkshire tea of course (no, it doesn’t grow on the moors here but we know how to select the best) and, fancying something sweet, I spread a couple of slices of my home-made bread with ‘strawberry’ jam. But I don’t like strawberry jam! Except for a very small summer window, strawberries with any really ‘good’ taste no longer exist. The ‘window’ coincides with one of my pet hates – Wimbledon – but this is the English strawberry season.

However, the strawberry jam I ate this afternoon would blow your mind. I say ‘strawberry’ but this was made with miniature versions of the fruit we buy, or maybe grow, here – between 0.5 and 1 cm across. They grow on the lower slopes of the Romanian mountains and are called ‘Fragi’ (that’s ‘fradge’). Even as jam they taste extraordinarily good, but picked fresh on a Romanian mountain they explode in the mouth insisting “This is what a strawberry should taste like”.

Red cabbage with quickly seared pork shoulder (forget the old wives' tale that pork must be well cooked if you want some flavour)

Red cabbage with quickly seared pork shoulder (forget the old wives’ tale that pork must be well cooked if you want some flavour)

That’s not to say there’s nothing in the UK which tastes good – there are many British bloggers I read who show that to be untrue – so today I’d like to sing the praises of red cabbage, which I’ve been cooking to accompany quickly seared slices of pork shoulder around taking some pictures and processing the film for a grumpytykepix photo post – probably tomorrow morning.

The picture above isn’t up to much but I forgot to tart up the plate and take a photograph before I dived (or is that dove?) in.

So, for two people: chop up quarter of a small red cabbage (they’re actually purple of course). Chop up a large shallot (or onion) alongside. Spread freshly ground black pepper over it, sprinkle on a pinch of salt and a handful of juniper berries, tip into a saucepan with a knob of butter and a bit of oil (any good oil will do so long as you avoid the over-publicised poison – margarine). I’d add a chopped up Granny Smith or Bramley apple but then my wife wouldn’t eat it. Put on a low heat with a tightly fitting lid for about 45min, stirring occasionally, until it’s well cooked. Delicious and the perfect accompaniment to pork. I tried some Stella Artois cidre with it (it was a cheap offer in the local supermarket). OK, but a poor substitute for the real thing from Somerset, or Britanny.

Although I love to labour over complex classic French recipes, I also like to throw things together quickly, especially when I’m using my female ‘multi-tasking’ alias. Such was yesterday – when, among other things, I wanted to scan a film and do a post for my photo blog. Accomplished. However, seeing that a number of people had dropped in to my ‘About’ on this one, while I was quickly ‘throwing together’ a meal which reminded me of my student days I thought I’d expand a bit on my ‘About’ bio.

Student days - the '74' skiffle group. After a year of fun, gigging up and down the A5 trunk road, we all did badly in our exams and gave it up.

Student days – the ’74′ skiffle group. After a year of fun, gigging up and down the A5 trunk road, we all did badly in our exams and gave it up.

Towards the end of my apprenticeship (so approaching 21 years old), when I was studying for a Higher National Diploma in Applied Physics, I was awarded a scholarship to go to university to do a BSc in Physics (clever little sod at that time despite spending most of one year doing gigs up and down the A5 – no M1 motorway then – as the thimble-toting washboard/ukulele player in a skiffle group. Anyone remember skiffle, Lonnie Donegan, a real musician?). By then I was beginning to want to change to something involving writing but I took up the scholarship in London. It lasted only a year before I made a determined attempt to get in to journalism, a goal I reached in about 3 months.

Suet dumpling and Baby Belling

Back to student days. We received our student grant in three amounts a year, one at the beginning of each term. Being totally unskilled in financial management, and caring even less, we spent most of it in the first few weeks. So, what to eat for the rest of the term?

Top_1060925

I invented a kind of large biscuit, basically the same recipe as suet dumpling, but flavoured with an Oxo beef cube (or maybe Bovril?), flattened out to a circle about the size of a dinner plate, which went under the grill of the bed-sit Baby Belling cooker for a few minutes. That was ‘dinner’ most days of the week (unless I had a good win at poker).

Pot_1060924

Yesterday, while drafting this post, I threw some chicken legs, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, a lot of lentils and a very large ‘bouquet garni’ into a Romanian gypsy pot, added pepper (a lot) and salt (very little), covered with water and left to simmer till tender. Then I made my large suet ‘biscuit’ (flour:suet two to one) but instead of Oxo laced it with parsley and sage. Rolled out very roughly to fit the pot, dropped on top of the chicken then in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Cooked_1060927

Simple, quick, but deliciously, warmingly filling on a day when snow is falling.

Into Fleet Street

So, having finished my first degree year I decided not to continue. I walked down Fleet Street, then the true centre of the Press, and called in every editorial office saying I wanted a writing job. “Have you any experience?” was the inevitable question in each one. “No”. “Well come back when you have”.

I was lucky. A good friend’s sister had a boyfriend who was a journalist with a north London newspaper group. He took me to meet the editor. “We can’t give you a job”, he said, “but if you want to come in every day and do whatever we ask we’ll buy you a beer and sausages lunch in the pub every day”. Of course I took it.

First I had to learn to type. I was put in front of a very ancient Underwood typewriter and given a para, which used every key, to type over and over again. It wasn’t ‘The quick brown fox …’ and it’s not repeatable here. I mastered the typewriter.

Then I was sent out on every imaginable kind of story – court reporting, council meetings, accidents, sports events, more than I can remember now. I loved it. I learned so much, but particularly how to make a front page story from nothing, how to condense a story into a selling headline, what makes a good picture, how to cut a story to fit a space without losing its essence and, most important of all, the fact that you can never, never miss a deadline.

Fleet Street again

It was time to attack Fleet Street again. The walk of three months before was repeated, to no avail until I reached Bouverie House, headquarters of a then renowned publisher of trade/technical journals, Benn Brothers. The Editorial Director, Mr Woolley (no first names in those collar and tie times!), agreed to see me. He listened to my story then asked, “Do you know anything about chemistry?” “Not a thing”, I said, though I did have to belatedly sit and pass the GCE ‘O’ level chemistry exam to take up my BSc Physics scholarship. “I’m sorry”, he said, “but the only vacancy we have is on a weekly chemical industry newspaper”. “I’ll take it”, I said, and surprisingly he accepted that. That was 1962.

Again my luck was in. As I have written in my ‘About’ piece, the editor of the chemical industry news journal, Mike Hyde, a superb journalist, was one of the two biggest positive influences on my journalistic life; although he ‘threw me in the deep end’, giving me a major story to cover on my first day, he was always there to advise, guide, correct and understand, helping me to continue to accrue the knowledge and skills which had begun earlier on the local newspapers. He also sent me, for the first time in my life, all over Europe, including Communist Europe, an invaluable experience for someone in their early 20s in the 1960s. (Imagine arriving in, say, Prague, not a word, sign or speaker of English anywhere, everything in Cyrillic. You learn very fast!).

At that time I set myself a target, to be an editor and have an income of £3,000 a year (£42,000 or much more in today’s money) by the time I was 30. I achieved it two years earlier than that, no small credit to Mike Hyde.

Nowadays the chances of a keen young writer being able to repeat my experience is about nil; without a degree in journalism, media studies or the like they’ll have no chance. This has done nothing for the standards of journalism today. The appreciation of the value of learning by experience, as I did during my apprenticeship and my early times in the Press, has been replaced by the idea that everyone MUST go to university. It’s a sad, destructive nonsense.

So now – 1962 – I’m a journalist; I’ll continue the story another day.

*

HAPPNEW YEAR

to you all

may your year be full of rainbows

*

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