madness frozen out
bones interred together warmed
peace buds in waiting
January 29, 2013
madness frozen out
bones interred together warmed
peace buds in waiting
January 18, 2013
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.
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?
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).
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.
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.
January 1, 2013
HAPPY NEW YEAR
to you all
may your year be full of rainbows
November 29, 2012
A deep thought minute
click to click is time enough
the wind raged sea calmed
I haven’t published a haiku, I haven’t written a haiku, for some time.
What I have found is that, for me, composing a haiku requires a certain state of mind, a calm which has been missing from the recent hustle and bussle in my life, mainly catching up on some work projects which had slipped. But there has also been the attempt to get back into film photography, some of the hassles and frustrations of which I’ve been documenting on my other blog, grumpytykepix. And then there are some aspects of everyday life in the present-day UK.
The work catch-up is almost complete. I have finally accepted that getting back into film is not going to be a easy as I thought. And the irritation of so many things imposed upon us, mainly by politicians and the mass media, is being resolved by writing about them (even though my promised ‘grump’ on this blog is, as yet, only in draft).
I’ve been fascinated by a picture published some time ago on one of my favourite photo blogs, ‘Shimmering Grains’. It showed what seemed to be a calm, almost ethereal, scene of the sea. In fact, it was taken during a gale but the sea has been calmed by a long time exposure. A perfect illustration of the oft mis-voiced ‘quote’ – “As tyme hem hurt, a tyme doth hem cure”, Chaucer; or “Time is the healer of all necessary evils”, Menander.
The picture above is a screen grab; the original picture is at:
But if you find beautiful photographs of things natural therapeutic, I’d recommend following this Swedish photographer’s blog.
August 9, 2012
All else mute they look to dawn
Winter waits restore
July 29, 2012
_ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _
I said in a post or two ago that I wanted to try to create both picture and haiku together rather than a picture prompting a haiku. Walking through a local churchyard this morning I had the first opportunity. The sandals were not placed there for the picture – I discovered them just as they are pictured. The haiku were not complete when I took the pictures but the idea was there. I worked on them a little once I saw the pictures on the screen.
Both pictures taken on a Panasonic GF1. I’d have preferred black and white film for the first but then I wouldn’t have been able to post it today.
My photo package for Romania has changed a bit since I posted the debate with myself a few days ago. The change was mostly prompted by two almost incredible bits of luck. I was hoping for one of the 100 £1millions on Euromillions on Friday evening and I did win – £2.68! More about the bigger luck at a later date, now I must finish packing.
July 23, 2012
As those of you who read my 1 July post will know, my recent attempt (first for a few decades) at ‘street photography’ ended in disaster but, inspired by
I’m determined to use an imminent trip to Romania (which I know to be a photographer’s dream for almost any genre) to have another go. What is more, away from distractions of work and other things in the UK, I’m aiming to wander further down the path of ‘picture haiku’, trying to create haiku and picture at the same time. I’ll aim to post regularly from Romania though I won’t have the opportunity to develop film so I’ll be using the Lumix for that.
I was excited to receive seven B&W 35mm cassettes in the post yesterday morning. If I could have found my reloadable cassettes (buried in the mounds from a house move a year ago) I’d have loaded up from an unopened 50m reel of Agfa APX. As it is, I bought two rolls of Rollei Retro 400S, which I believe is an equivalent, and five rolls of Kodak 400 Tmax.
For the ‘street photography’ the B&W will go in my Bessa-T, most often fitted with a 35mm Voigtlander Color Skopar. I wish I had a longer lens for some ‘studied’ portraits – there are some wonderful character faces in Romania. (But see below for why I’ve inserted the picture above).
Persuaded by Marie in Sweden to take some of my discontinued Astia
I’m asking myself whether I can carry another film camera for colour. It needs to be as small and light as possible but the Bessa is my only working rangefinder so it’ll have to be an SLR. I’m wishing I’d kept my long gone Olympus OM. But the Contax 139 isn’t so big. If I take that I’m tempted to pack a Zeiss 50mm Planar, either the 1.7 or 1.4, and the Yashica 55mm f2.8 macro and an extension to give me 1:1 (in fact a bit more as I don’t have a 27mm tube, I have a 32mm one).
I’ll be taking the Lumix GF1 anyway and, with 4/3 to C/Y adapter, can use the Zeiss and the Yashica on that, though it will usually have the Pani 14-42 zoom on for snap shots.
Having gone through all that, I just took a break from writing this to look for the Yashica right-angle finder in case I do take the SLR and macro lens. And I came across the Olympus XA, not used for two years as it seemed to have jammed. I knew it had a film inside which had come adrift from a reloadable cassette so, seeing the dark bag also, decided to take the naked film out.
Wonder! The XA is now working. (You may deduce that I sometimes write in ‘real time’, as I did while doing the post on fast food – now a page under the ‘Food’ menu).
Complete rethink. B&W in the XA; with its discrete small size and 35mm Zuiko lens it’s just the job for ‘street photography’. The light seals seem a bit sticky but, with one week to go till I leave, there’s time to renew them.
Now, shall I forget the macro and just take the Bessa, adding one of the only longer rangefinder lenses I have which will work on the Bessa, a Russian 50mm f2 Jupiter or a 52mm f2.8 Fed? The collapsible Industar lenses (which look like the Leitz) will not go to infinity. I can put a cheap C41 film through with the Jupiter and three Feds I have, developed locally in 1 hr, and see how they are. I’ll do the same with the XA to try to ensure it really is working now.
It’s tempting to leave the heavier stuff at home; we’re off to Cornwall in Lofty, the VW camper, for the rest of August when we get back on the 12th. He won’t mind the extra weight and the beach might offer some good macro opportunities.I might change my mind about it all before I leave next Saturday. Any suggestions gratefully received.
July 20, 2012
soul guide hand taken
serene work on graceful curves
symbol stories writ
I haven’t yet settled down to attempt an edit on my first short story of a couple of days ago. It seems to me that to edit is much more difficult than to write first time. Is that generally so?
The idea comes, it pours out onto the keyboard. And there it is.
I tinker with the words. The idea secretes itself among the mocking letters. I turn them over but the idea stubbornly plays hide and seek.
But which idea? There were many (and many more as yet unwritten).
To hell with it; I’ll write a haiku around one of them.
July 17, 2012
Lenutsa’s right hand moved smoothly in a small arc, its shadow – pale and indistinct in the light of a solitary oil lamp – gliding over the surface of the dark, ugly thing grasped lightly in her other hand. She sighed, laid the object on the cloth which covered the small table at which she was sitting and, turning to the eastern corner of the room, with thumb and first two fingers of her right hand together, touched them to her forehead, then her lower breast, then her right shoulder, then her left. She repeated the movements twice more.
She had written the final line. It was perfect.
Turning to the table again, she gently took the wart-covered thing between finger and thumb and placed it carefully in a small cup, half full with a potion, black, evil-looking, emanating an acrid, nauseating smell. Plucking a small stick from the table, she turned the object in the liquid, carefully pushing it down as she turned.
Again and again she plunged the object into the murky depths, till the object itself, covered in raised lines like old scars left by the razor of a precise maniac, was completely black.
Grasping it lightly between thumb and forefinger, she lifted the thing from the black liquid, lightly wiped it with a stained piece of cloth and placed it on a small clay tile on the table. She dried her thumb and finger with the same cloth and looked with distaste at the stains left there.
Never mind, she was almost done.
The first rays of dawn were creeping through the window. She blew out the lamp and a golden ray from the rising sun lit on the dark thing, now becoming a dull black as the evil liquid evaporated.
Lenutsa looked at the thing through drooping eyelids. Should she complete her task now, or sleep a little? She had just time for a short nap before the ducks began their morning gabble crying for food. If she completed her task she would not be able to sleep until all the daily chores demanded by her small piece of land and its few living creatures were completed.
She’d finish the thing.
She lit the oil lamp again. Reaching out her left hand, she took up the thing and, while holding it way above the flame of the lamp, took again the old rag in her right hand and began gently to wipe the black scars, now warm from the flame.
A red slash, bright as newly drawn blood, spilled out of the black where the rag had touched. The scars dissolved in the wake of the caressing rag. Another stroke, and golden yellow leapt out to reflect the increasingly strong rays of the sun. Another red slash, another burst of yellow; as the rag swept over the thing’s surface the colours began to coalesce into recognisable forms.
A diamond, a triangle, a star, a cross. Each delineated by a fine, shiny line, black or white. Each formed with sweeping, precise curves on the surface of the fragile creation.
Lenutsa absorbed the beauty with pride, crossed herself again and placed it at the end of a row of similar things on the nearby dresser.
She’d feed the ducks who had given her the beginning of each of those wonderful things now standing proudly in line. Then she’d walk to the local monastery, carefully carrying her creations in a plastic bag.
If she was lucky, today the tourists would come. The dozen duck egg shells she had written would each translate into one Euro, maybe more. And she would have money for the sugar, the coffee and the other things that her small plot could not provide and, of course, for the beeswax she would buy from her neighbour to write more eggs, and the chemical dyes which came from across the border, from the Ukraine.
Lenutsa crossed herself again as her lips moved silently to thank God. And then she smiled.
This is my first attempt to write more than the few words of a haiku or a limerick as I’ve posted before. I’d welcome any feedback from all you more experienced writers out there, or from those who simply read. (A word of explanation, the egg decorators of the Bucovina in northern Romania say they ‘write’ the eggs, not ‘decorate’ or ‘paint’ them).