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As I feared. Not worth writing a post. Someone forwarded the following to me: perfect summary!

This Saturday we are ‘celebrating’ the 5th birthday of our writers’ club, Writers on the Wharfe (now ‘virtual’ of course). Formation of the club was life-changing for me although for most of my working life I was writing for a living. It’s a good time I think to reflect on my ‘writing’ journey.

I’d rarely tried to write fiction or a ‘poem’ before the club (other than haiku and those were usually linked to a photograph in what I called ‘picture haiku’). I can think of only a couple of very short stories.

Restricted forms

Those who’ve been following me for a while will know that when I try to write I often prefer a tightly restricted format, like an English sonnet, an acrostic, haiku or even, with prose, writing to an exact length, eg 100 words or even 25 words, or some self-imposed restriction like in my recent post when I tried to ‘make’ a character in 20 sentences or less.

I cannot force myself to sit down and write, though that was never a problem as a journalist. So, although in the writers’ club we are usually given a theme about which to write for the next meeting I now rarely follow this.

I gave up attempting haiku when I decided good haiku were not possible except probably in Japanese, as I explained here. But my real journey into ‘restricted poems’ began after an hour with ‘eyup poet’ Matt Abbot on a barge in Leeds on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.

The décima

A portrait of Vincente Espinel

Vicente Espinel

So, I was excited to discover a new-to-me restricted form, the décima. It was created in Spain in the 16th century by Vicente Espinel, born in Ronda in 1550. Like haiku, it was often used in a ‘conversation’ between two poets, one answering the other’s décima with another décima. However, like haiku, the décima was created for a different language and a different culture so those written in English can never be quite right.

Even more exciting was the discovery that, set to music, there are competitions in Puerto Rica where the décimas are composed ‘on the spot’ to a given theme. How they are able to do that is just amazing. However, just as rhyming poetry is easier in Romanian because of the grammar, the décima is possibly a bit easier in Spanish as two written syllables are sometimes voiced as one. On the other hand, the interchangeability of eg,‘don’t’ and ‘do not’ in English can make achieving the syllable count easier.

In an attempt to make the occasion ‘special’ I’ve attempted to write two on the theme ‘birthday’, one by my alter ego answering that from ‘me’.


Birthday

I’m celebrating a birthday
A truly golden day for me
My start in fiction as you’ll see
A few false ‘haiku’ on the way
Even ‘tankas’ kept boredom at bay
But then came someone, she’s crazy
A sylphlike figure far from lazy.
Dark tales left, came a writers’ club
First coffee shop then kind of pub.
Ruxandra is now boss; rules are hazy.

Alter ego’s response

Well, I’m grumpy tyke it seems
Even hazy rules bring rebel
A milder revolt than Bebel,
I often don’t follow the themes
I tend just to follow my dreams
I’ve done it today yet again
Not today’s ‘Isolated Brain’,
The set theme for why I don’t know.
Having considered I said “NO!”
Adopting ‘Birthday’ kept me sane.


If you haven’t worked it out from my efforts, the décima is a poem of ten lines each with eight syllables, the rhyming plan being ABBAACCDDC.

There’s more info on:
https://dversepoets.com/2016/04/21/form-for-allmeeting-the-bar-decima/
from which I took most of my information. There’s also an example of a competition with sung décima in Puerto Rica.

More information about formation of the writers’ club at:

https://wp.me/pkm0h-NI

I commented last weekend about the increase of traffic on the road on the other side of our village park. After that I read about increasing traffic in the Yorkshire Dales and about the abuse one policewoman had to suffer from some drivers when she pointed out the error of their ways.

Fines, way too low

I think the fine, the level of a parking ticket, is far too lenient. In my closest city, Bradford, probably the city with the highest incidence of uninsured drivers in the UK and with the worst driving anywhere in the world from my experience, would not deter many in their go faster Subarus or enhanced Range Rovers.

Human rights, etc

I am fed up of people prattling on about ‘liberty’ and ‘human rights’ in this situation. What about my ‘human right’ simply to live, which they are endangering?

Realistic ‘punishments’

I’d like to see the fines replaced with at least 6 penalty points on a first offence, and removal of their driving licence on the second. As far as ignoring the instructions, or bending them, the fine should be enough to hurt, £1,000 minimum.

A better idea would be to ram wide tubes down their throats and force them to breath through that for a few weeks, as many of those in intensive care have to do, but without anaesthetic or induced sleep.

I’m finding little to dislike about the confinement to our flat for 12 weeks, maybe more. Admittedly, we are lucky: our lovely young neighbours are shopping for us; our sitting room window overlooks the village park, now with white and pink cherry blossom in full bloom, and our bedroom and kitchen windows look over Yorkshire’s Wharfe Valley; the dawn chorus sounds like we live in a forest, no polluting sound from motor vehicles nor aircraft from the local airport early in the morning; and the air from the open window is noticeably cleaner.

However, yesterday there seemed to be considerably more traffic on the main road on the other side of the park, which is worrying. In normal times there was far less traffic on a Friday.

Writing

Important for me, I’m able to write far more: more frequent blog posts which have brought more followers (I don’t actively seek more followers but it’s good to know my ramblings are appreciated); more short stories and ‘poems’; more emails and handwritten letters to distant family and friends; more chats on so called ‘social media’ – I use only one other than WordPress: Messenger.

Messenger video chat has also allowed ‘meetings’ of our local writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, to continue. The latest ‘challenge’, for the ‘meeting’ on Saturday (25th), I misunderstood and rapidly wrote the bit of ‘flash fiction’ below to meet the challenge, (which included answering some set questions about a character within the story and including “something strange”) but adding my own challenge: to answer all the questions in 20 sentences or less. When I found I had misunderstood the challenge it did not appeal to me so I’ve left my story as it is.

As a matter of interest, my first office for a business of my own (other than a table in an Italian restaurant in Soho, opposite Ronnie Scott’s, a few years earlier than the story is set) was in the King’s Road. It would be far too costly now, as would a garden flat home for a nurse!

Photo of World's End pub in King's Road (see story below

World’s End pub, King’s Road, Chelsea, London, modern times (see story below). First recorded mid-17th century. Photo by Ewan Munro.


Miranda

Miranda was looking forward to her twenty third birthday treat. 

Examining herself in the mirror while brushing her shoulder length, auburn, wavy hair, she was grateful for her shapely legs, perfectly displayed by her extra short mini skirt, in accord with today’s fashion, and perfectly in proportion to her height of a little over five feet. She also looked with approval at her gossamer fine white cotton blouse, showing to advantage her boyish breasts. She never wore a bra’. Like many young women at this time she often didn’t wear panties either.

She closed the outside door of her garden flat in London’s King’s Road, Chelsea, excited by thoughts of where her boyfriend Peter might take her (she was taking time off from both her job as a nurse and ‘moonlighting’ as a night club hostess) and guessed it might be one of the Irish pubs in the East End as he knew, with her Dublin upbringing, she would enjoy that, especially as she was born on this day, St Patrick’s Day.

As she waited outside the World’s End pub, close to her home, she turned over in her mind whether tonight was the occasion to tell Peter her real name. He had never asked her in the six months since they first met.

She snuggled into his arms. “I love you,” she whispered in his ear. “You never asked me, but how would you like to know my real name? I think you’ve guessed it’s not Miranda.”

I’d love that; I think it’s probably something exotically Irish,” Peter replied.

Bláthnaid, she whispered in her best Irish brogue. My father delighted in calling me that and telling me the legend linked to it. It means ‘little flower’.”

And so you are, though I’d love to hear the legend later,” Peter said softly, pulling away just enough to look lovingly into her large soft brown eyes. Now, let’s go birthday girl.”


Bláthnaid is pronounced approximately as ‘blaw-nid’.

The legend is important in both Ulster and what is now the Republic of Ireland, Eire, folklore.

I’ve never believed in unnatural exercise; the thought of going to a gym with all those horrific torture machines could give me nightmares, let alone paying to use them.

I’ve never run for a bus!

Hanging from wall bars in the school gym, or attempting to leap over the ‘horse’, are memories I try to keep out of my head. Even running, or jogging, for no good reason has seemed to me a ridiculous activity (I’ve never run for a bus or train – there’s always another – though I’ve rarely missed one as I’m outrageously punctual!), especially as it’s likely to ruin your knees. So when, at school, we were sent on a run because the ground was too hard for rugby, I rapidly found a culvert near to the start in which to hide till the runners came back, meanwhile having a fag or two (an addiction I shed many, many years ago).

Rugby

Despite my aversion to running, I enjoyed running as a winger for rugby as I was able to run faster for short distances than most of my fellows and had the exhilaration of diving over the line with the ball in my hands.

Walking

On the other hand, as a tyke I’ve been walking for most of my life, mostly on the Yorkshire moors or in the Romanian mountains. It began at three years old with my grandmother (who always brought an apple, a bar of Terry’s bitter chocolate and a wedge of Wensleydale cheese as refreshment). Until about six years ago I thought little of doing up to 30 miles in a day. Then those walks had to cease due to health and since then I was able to do only up to a couple of miles on the flat, rarely, on a good day. Nevertheless, Petronela and I walked as much as I was able.

Cycling

I once (1995 or ‘96) cycled across northern Romania, from Maramureș to Suceava city, on a cobbled together bike, having not been on a bike for about 40 years. It included 26 consecutive hairpins to climb over one of the passes.

Romanians thought I was crazy; I enjoyed it but it confirmed my view that walking was better. I didn’t see one other biker; there are many now. I did see a lot of dogs, most of which attacked me, met many fascinating people, and received three proposals of marriage!

Confinement

So, confined to our flat on the instructions of both our medical consultants, we miss the walks, close to home where we have many beautiful walks or, with a short car ride, further afield. We were also aware that just sitting about was not good. So, for the first time I’ve taken up some ‘unnatural exercise’.

Back and forth across our sitting room fifty times is 1km. That’s enough for me in one go though just meandering about the flat, cooking etc, probably adds another kilometre. Petronela is way ahead: she’s on 8km in a day at the moment! I can hardly believe that because she is not a ‘walker’, complaining continuously when I once took her on a 3 mile walk along the Leeds Liverpool canal to Shipley (one of my childhood playgrounds).

Another thing I never thought I’d do was exercise with dumbbells, but Petronela has two of 1.5kg. So I’ve joined her in using those!

Odd behaviour for me, but thank heavens we are now able to stop keeping two metres between us. Now that was really odd!

My blogger friend Gray is a staff nurse in Wales. Here is his latest post, unedited.

via Corona. Was once a soft drink. Now? 🖕🏻

Today is Easter Sunday for us and the majority of Romanians.

To all of you, but especially those of you who are working in our NHS, care and nursing homes, and many other vital roles, I send you all thanks and the traditional greeting for today:

Hristos a înviat!


During the current ‘lockdown’ we are being reminded many times a day of the possible effects on mental health. It will no doubt be a big problem for many, but … …

I have thought for a long time that the concentration in the past few years on treatment and support (clearly necessary) to the exclusion of looking at the underlying causes is wrong. I  believe that my mother’s generation (she would have been 100 in June this year had she lived), subjected to appalling stress and strain as a result of WWII, did not suffer from mental health problems to anything like the same extent as the generations following mine.

Why has mental health become a scourge on today’s and recent generations? I firmly believe that the cause is the sick society in which we now live, a society ruled by money in which the acquisition of the latest gadget has become paramount, illustrated very well by the words and actions of the current President of the USA (and the gun touting crowds now protesting in some states of his country).

Perhaps the current pandemic will bring about a rethink. Sadly, I doubt it in the long term.

Perhaps some people will claim that mental health problems were just as rife in my mother’s generation as in today’s, that it was just not recognised. I’m certain that is not true.

My mother’s generation

Why do I say ‘my mother’s generation’ rather than ‘my father’s generation’? Simple. My father, as a Royal Navy sailor, was almost never there. So my mother brought up me and my two younger brothers as, effectively, a single mother. At the end of the war my father died so she became a single mother in reality.

Studio photo of me and my younger brother

My younger brother and I, always smartly dressed, not just for this studio photo, clothes made my mother (trip to the studio probably paid by my grandmother).

Many times my mother did not know where the next meal was coming from. But it was always there. I still have wonderful memories of stew steaming in an enamelled bowl on the hearth in front of the shiny ‘black leaded’ range, dumplings floating on top, greeting us when we arrived from school (a little under a mile away) in winter, having climbed the steep hill home through deep snow; on foot of course, not picked up in a Range Rover.

She did not bemoan the fact that she could not afford to buy clothes to dress her three sons smartly; she made all our clothes.

Christmas was made special not by piles of presents from Amazon, but by sitting together making Christmas decorations and a chicken for Christmas dinner; it was too expensive for any other meal.

As one of my birthday (fifth birthday?) ‘treats’: when I was safely in bed and asleep she took up the ‘flags’ (for non Yorkshire folk, large heavy paving stones) in our small yard so the ‘fairies’ could plant many plants in flower to greet me in the morning. Of course I still remember it!

There are many other similar examples. The point I’m making is that, in general, my mother’s generation did not sink into depression when faced with difficulties. Why do you think that was? 


How easy it is to ‘catch’ the coronavirus; a reminder

While most people are abiding by the ‘lockdown’ instructions in the UK, there are still some people flouting them, if not to the letter then in spirit. So here’s a sobering reminder.

A friend of ours’ next door neighbour was fit and going for a 20 minute run in the park every day, observing distance rules. Following his most recent run he began to feel unwell, went to bed with a elevated temperature and developed a cough.

He had been infected by the virus!

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