Writing


Picture of lambToday – 26 February – is Fairy Tale Day so I thought I’d try to tell you a fairy tale. Although it is Romanian, called Miorita (I don’t have the Romanian characters but it’s pronounced mee-oh-ree-tsa), the little ewe lamb, I’ll try to tell it in English. My very free – not literal – translation (I would not attempt to versify it) is based on a version collected by Vasile Alecsandri (1821 – 1890, Romanian poet, playwright, politician and diplomat who came from the Moldavian city of Bacau, a little south of where I spent most of my time in Romania).

It’s not really a ‘fairy tale’, it’s an ancient ballad which, when I thought I understood it after several years in Romania and knew the language reasonably well, I began to say “Understand Miorita and you can understand Romanians”. Some Romanians may say that is presumptuous, but I believe it to be true though perhaps I should say “Understand Miorita and you can understand Moldavians”.

Moldavia is the part of Romania in which I stayed most of my over 11 years there; if I have a favourite part of this wonderful country it is Moldavia, though my specific favourite is the Bucovina, where some of the more fragile aspects of Moldavians have been strengthened by influences from the western side of the Carpathian mountains.


Bride and groom with marriage crowns during a Romanian wedding service

“Tell them I went to marry a princess”


Miorita

Once upon a time there were three shepherds, each tending their flock on the plain below the lower slopes of hills which seemed to lead to heaven. One of the shepherds was Moldavian, one Transylvanian and one Vrancean (from three parts of ancient Romania).

The Moldavian had more flocks with the most beautiful sheep, with long horns. He had the best, well-trained horses and the most ferocious hounds; in short he was the richest of the three.

The Transylvanian and Vrancean were envious. In their minds, and planning together, they intended to ambush the Moldavian, and kill him, when the sun went down.

Meanwhile, one small grey-dappled ewe lamb had bleated loudly and continuously for three days, refusing to eat.

The Moldavian shepherd asked her: “Don’t you like the grass? Why do you bleat so long and loud? Are you too sick to eat, sweet little lamb?”

She answered: “Dear master, take the flock into that far field, where there is shade for you.  Call a large hound, a fierce, fearless one, strong and loyal, to be near you. When the daylight is gone the Transylvanian and Vrancean intend to murder you”.

The shepherd said to her: “If I am to die here, tell the Vrancean and Transylvanian to let my bones lie somewhere near, by the sheepfold so that my sheep are close by and I can hear my hounds. Put beside me a small beech pipe with its soft, sweet sound, a small pipe of bone which has a loving tone, and one of elderwood, good but fiery-tongued. Then, when the winds blow and play on them all my listening sheep would come near and weep”.

“Do not tell them how I died. Say that I could not stay but went to marry a princess, the most beautiful princess in the world. Tell them that at my wedding a bright star fell, the sun and moon came down to hold my marriage crown. My guests were trees – firs and maples. The high mountains were my priests, my fiddlers the birds, my torchlights the stars”.

“However, if you should meet somewhere my little, old mother with her girdle of wool, crossing the plains with tears flowing from her eyes, asking everyone she meets whether they had seen, had known, her fine shepherd son, slim as a willow tree with a face as bright as milk foam and a small moustache like a young ear of wheat, with hair as black as the feathers of a crow, and small black eyes that glow like ripe sloe berries, have pity and tell her that I have gone to marry a noble princess on the far hills there which lead to heaven”.

“But do not tell my old mother that a bright star fell for my bridal night, that firs and maples were my guests or that the high mountains were my priests, my fiddlers the birds and my torches the stars”.


I have stood on those hills which lead to heaven and can assure you that they do.

“Phone!”

Eyes glint, sunk in a sea of black. A mean nose pricks the air, piercing the swirling, breathless, grey clouds erupting from the dark slit beneath, from which the single syllable had come. A flash of light in the lower darkness draws my eyes down: a thin bright steely gash tremors in the black, darting forward erratically from time to time.

“Gimme yuh fuckin’ phone” leaps from the slit as the sharp flash of light makes a short dash in my direction.

I feel the anger bubbling up, smothering the surprise.

I have a phone; I hate it. It’s the key that so many people think they have the right to turn to enter my life as and when they choose. They wouldn’t turn up on my doorstep as and when they choose and expect to enter. So why do they think the slim megabited slab in my pocket gives them that right? I rarely answer it. I have it to call a breakdown service if the car fails, to let my wife know not to wait for me to eat if I’m going to be late home, or for her to contact me in an emergency. I hate it, but sometimes I need it.

The bitter bile of anger surges more at ‘that word’. That corrupted, over-used word which assaults me on every city street, which has me desperately pressing a button on the tv remote, the word which otherwise articulate, witty men and women seem to believe is indispensable to a joke on tv after 9pm, the word which keeps me from the once favourite pastime of standing at the bar with a pint, which has me snapping shut a barely opened book, the word which has me reaching for ‘close’ on otherwise enticing blogs. It was a good word, to be savoured infrequently, as an extremely rare single malt. It was a powerful word which has had its energy ripped from it, its strength sapped as it slashed the English language asunder and now I hate it, even more than the phone.

“You fuckin’ stupid? Gimme yuh fuckin’ phone”.

That’s two too many assaults on the English language for me. My knuckles speed forward, overcoming  the paltry resistance felt when almost at full stretch, finally coming to an abrupt stop in a small messy pool where that mean, sharp beak had previously been. Eyes, messy pool and screaming slit collapse into a writhing black mass at my feet; the light flash clatters to the ground.

I take a handkerchief from my pocket and pick up the knife.

“Kill, Kill” screams in my brain as I rip the balaclava from the squirming black mass, grab the hair to wrench the head back and press the knife point to its throat. Silence.

I roll the mass over, grab the ends of a cord at the bottom of an anorak and swiftly bind wrists to ankles. Whimpers.

“You should ask nicely”, I say as I take the phone from my pocket and press the 9 three times. I hate the phone but, as I said, sometimes I need it.

office rules to rest

laid among timed paper clips

writing in my head

Retirement caked decorated with symbols of writing - paper, pen, computer monitor

21 January 2015

 

White snow dying     grey

Children’s faces sad    silent

Birds sing    dreams of Spring

Boxing Day was restful: a superb walk up to the Chevin Inn for lunch. Time in the afternoon to watch again some of the great dancing in ‘A Christmas Carol’ at the New Bradford Playhouse by watching my video clips (and later to put some more pictures and video clips up on the net – see below – as promised on the village blog which I edit).

We’ve called in the Chevin many times for a drink when walking back home from Otley Chevin but have never eaten there (though we quite often ate at sister pub The Stansfield Arms when we lived close to it). The food was good – wild mushrooms and gammon steak for Petronela, chicken liver parfait and braised lamb shoulder for me. The young people serving were very pleasant and efficient, and the Timothy Taylor’s Landlord was an excellent accompaniment. All in all a good experience. (more…)

A recent post on a forum of UK freelancers to which I subscribe asked “Why do we write?”. Not surprisingly, given the context, most answered “To make money” but many answered with something like “To shout about something”.

The author at a computer with some of his writing on the screenI can associate with the latter response but not with the first, even though for much of my life my income has derived to a great extent from my ability to write, either as a journalist or on the other side of the fence in marketing communications. And now, having recently retired from my part time job, I am about to start up a business offering a writing service, for money (to be launched on ‘Small Business Saturday’, 6 December, with yet another WordPress website).

Nevertheless, although I may find myself writing blogs for pay (and did so, indirectly, in my previous employment) it is not why I post on the three WordPress personal blogs I run. Moreover, having been unable to post for a period  and, even now, less frequently, for a variety of reasons including ill health, I feel guilty for the omission. Why is that? 

This set me thinking again about the question “Why do we blog?”. Some do it for money but not, I think, the majority. What is more, it seems that for the majority it is the subject of the post which is of interest, rather than the writing itself. So it does not seem to be driven by the same urge as that for the so-called ‘creative writer’.

Some obvious examples can be seen in two categories of blog which I follow. First, photography blogs, which often (the most popular?) have very little text, if any, but when there is it is more often about the subject of the photo(s) or the technique of photography, rather than writing for its own sake. The second example is blogging about food and cooking.

Of course, as these are addressing two of my hobbies I enjoy following them but some, and many more texts in print, I read only because I enjoy the satisfaction I get from reading excellent writing.  An obvious example here is a poetry blog but there are a few bloggers I follow who write about their everyday lives and the pleasure reading them derives not from what they write but from how they write it. The subject is irrelevant.

I can give an example of reading for the writing from my local daily paper, the Yorkshire Post. With the exception of my ‘classic’ vehicles and a few super cars, motor vehicles do not interest me at all, yet I look forward to reading the paper’s motoring feature writer, Fred Manby, because he  writes well. He occasionally digresses into a restaurant review and I read it with pleasure for the same reason as I’ve little interest now in eating in restaurants.

Returning to my opening question, I have concluded that the majority of bloggers do not post because they enjoy writing for its own sake, but with some other motive.

So, why do you blog?

 

Grumpytyke is back, I hope fairly frequently, after a long absence, and I’m trying to decide whether to resume with the wide ranging subjects which I wrote about before – Romania, VW campers, classic minis, haiku, Yorkshire and food and cooking, and a few more as the mood takes me – or to limit myself to one or two themes. That might be difficult for me.

I just ploughed through emails going back to February this year – helluvalot of spam – and was glad to see a lot of ‘old friends’ still posting, though some seem to have disappeared in recent months. Apart from one short post in February ‘explaining’ my absence I haven’t really posted or looked at emails for about a year.

Me

Much of my absence has been due to a major health problem. I was diagnosed with prostate cancer, had my first ever stays in hospital and spent a while with tubes and bags limiting my movement. Hopefully it’s under control for the moment. I might have something to say about the wonderful overworked nursing staff in the NHS, but the often abysmal administration, management and systems, in a future post. (more…)

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