Thanks to the medication prescribed a few months ago I feel able again to drive to Romania; last year we flew and I still ended up in A&E! It was a big problem having to hire cars – €1000 guarantee because of my age so I was driving stressed most of the time. I’m looking forward to taking Dusty the Dacia to his home country 😜, leaving on 25 July.

Photo of medication to take with me to last six weeks

Medication accumulated, Levothyroxine and Xtandi keep me bright eyed and bushy tailed. Xtandi and Zoladex will, hopefully, keep me alive. My lovely nurse here in the UK, Hafsa, tells me the needle of the Zoladex implant is “like a screwdriver”; I’ve never dared look. The due date for one to be put in is midway through our Romania stay but I’m certain the Romanian nurses will be just as competent.

A lot of thinking has to go into what to take as, spacious though the Dacia is, it is no comparison with the VW camper but for sure I couldn’t do the trip in that now. The trip to the English Lakes was about as far as I could manage. Looks like a lot of meds but the biggest problem there will be the temperature in Romania – not for me, I love 30-35degC, but the Xtandi is supposed to be stored no higher than 25degC.

 Click on a picture to read a caption or view larger as a slide show

Feeling much better than for a few years I’m hoping to document the trip far better than last year or the year before, with regular posts here supplemented by a Facebook group for shorter posts. So, two years ago it was almost exclusively on a Facebook group ‘Lofty to Romania‘; this year look out for ‘Dusty to Romania‘ on Facebook but, I hope, more substantial posts by grumpytyke. Romania merits it.

I’m amazed how few members of our writers’ club blog; as many (most?) of them aspire to be published writers (not self-published) I find it inexplicable. It’s even more surprising when you consider that pretty well all of them say they love writing for itself, as I do, and fiddle about on Facebook – which has it’s place but not for someone driven to write, at least not until they’ve ‘made’ it, to promote their published book.

Turned off ‘publicize’ to Facebook – not helpful

The ‘auto-promote’ – ‘publicize’ – to Facebook is not helpful in this respect and for a recent post I turned this off. When notification of a post gets out on Facebook many people just put a ‘like’ on that, based on the summary, without ever reading the actual post. Worse, they frequently ‘like’ the picture chosen by Facebook, which often is not the best pic or even that associated with the lead story if there are more than one. Same applies to comments left on the Facebook summary, which are nowhere near as useful to the blogger as comments left on the blog post itself, if only that those on the blog help to raise awareness of the writer through Google and, of course, the blog followers.

I’ve tried to say it several times with little result; is this failure to understand blogging or laziness? Easier just to push the ‘like’ button or choose an emoji rather than write something thoughtful? They are writers for heaven’s sake!

Twitter is better as it will choose the headline and the lead story picture if there are more than one in the post.

The post for which I turned off the auto promote to Facebook was the latest on the ‘alternative’ village website I do – https://menstonvillagewharfedale.com. Excited that I persuaded a talented, entertaining writer from our writers’ club (and great blogger though unfortunately not on WordPress) – Becky Bond to contribute a post now and then, about one a month, I specifically asked for some comments from club members to support her. I was concerned that what comments were made would be on my Facebook page, for which I choose to have very few followers, not on her post itself.

I dislike Facebook

If you haven’t gathered it from past posts you should have no doubt now that, as a writer, I dislike Facebook except in small closed groups, where it can be useful for communication within the group, as in ours, though one member does not use Facebook so misses out on some comms. Blogging does not seem to attract the asinine comments so often seen on Facebook, comments which the perpetrators seem to think are witty. On the other hand, I do like messenger for brief exchanges with real friends (ie not necessarily Facebook ‘friends’, who may or may not be)

True friends and surprises through blogging

I’ve never found a true friend through Facebook though several friendships have begun with a ‘like’ or comment on a post on this blog. I’ve also had tremendous support from bloggers during difficult times, like when I was quite seriously ill.

Then there are the surprises. I had one just last week from a delightful young lady, an opera singer, a soprano who I’ve been following through her blog since she began studying singing a while ago. She’s now at the Royal College of Music. No surprise there, but the only contact has been through this blog or hers and the latest I heard was that she was singing in Manchester, in opera for babies (BambinO, a project of Scottish Opera). I don’t have a baby so decided this was not the occasion to try to hear this singing blogger, Charlotte Hoather, sing live.

Then she popped up on the village blog, leaving a ‘like’ on a post I did on a gig in the village, with a very different kind of music. It was almost as big a surprise as finding myself dancing at the village event, and equally pleasing.

 

My ‘alternative’ website/blog for the village in which I live, Menston, has got me into trouble far more than this one ever has (for one example of why see some ‘wanted’ posters I created and published) but it has also brought me more plaudits than grumpytyke has. There is an ‘official’ village website run by the Parish Council; it doesn’t have a blog. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago posting on both ‘my’ sites became rather erratic – sometimes because I just did not feel well enough. In a way the village site suffered more than this one because it had lists of village events, village businesses, etc, which became out of date as I could not chase around garnering the information. In fact I had a third blog, specifically about classic cameras and film photography; I stopped posting on that completely but didn’t take it down and it can still be accessed through a link on this site.

Thanks to what I describe as my “wonder pills” (I posted about these cytotoxic miracles here recently) I’ve been able to do far more recently; a short while ago I managed to climb a small mountain in the English Lake District, which I also blogged about, and the weekend before last I was persuaded onto the dance floor at a village gig by two delightful energetic ladies and survived (I thought I was going just to take photographs, which I did – if you’d like to see them and proof that I was dancing you can see pictures here.)

Dusty and me

I’m trying now to rejuvenate this blog and the village one. As far as this one is concerned  I hope to document a forthcoming trip to Romania far better than I did that of two years ago. Just coaxing the then 43 year old VW camper over seven and a half thousand kilometers (4,500 miles) didn’t leave much energy for anything else. This year the trip will be in our recently acquired Dacia Duster – we’ve named him Dusty – which I hope will be less wearing.

menston village wharfedale

As for the village site, I’ve persuaded someone who I’ve described as “one of the three best writers I’ve ever worked with” to join me in writing posts on the blog. She’s Becky Bond, a member of our writers’ club who more often than not has us all in fits of laughter with her contributions. If you’d like to know a little about her I wrote a post introducing her recently on the village blog. She has her own blog, unfortunately not a WordPress one so much more difficult to show appreciation with ‘likes’ or comments. It’s called Becky Bond Writes. Becky was one of those who didn’t succeed in killing me two weeks ago!

The ever enthusiastic, hard-working Romanian founder and leader of our writers’ club Writing on the Wharfe, Ruxandra, always pushing us into new ventures, recently agreed with a local free magazine, Suburban, that each month one of us would provide text for a page. This month I volunteered, mostly choosing the short short stories I favour, or haiku. Some of them you will have seen here before.

Although as a former journalist I’m used to seeing myself in print it’s still a bit of a thrill; I don’t think I’ll ever lose that. I love the blogosphere but that doesn’t give quite the kick that appearing in print does, especially when you know that your work will be dropping in 48,000 local mailboxes.

Here’s the page (some of the haiku were not formatted as written, three lines 5-7-5, but I’ll live with that):

Our writers's club page in the magazine 'Suburban' for June 2017

Suburban, June 2017

 

I’ve been out of circulation in the blogosphere for a while, partly health (lost 6kg+ in five days) then catching up on life so writing as such has taken a bit of a back seat – more on that below. I did manage to get to the meeting I organised with leader of the Women’s Equality Party, Sophie Walker, prior to the general election here. She was as impressive as I hoped she would be.

Making inroads into the second book in her ‘Alpha’ trilogy, fellow writer/blogger Kristina Steiner inspired me to look more closely at my ‘long short story’, which had reached novella length. I decided that perhaps I might achieve my aims by chopping off the current ‘ending/non-ending’ and attempt a trilogy. It’s early days but I’m working on it. A second factor was reading ‘The bestseller code‘ by Jodie Archer and Matthew L Jockers, lent to me by a member of our writers’ club, Kayla. I’ve often said I have no ambition to write a bestseller but this is such a fascinating read and has so much to point anyone towards writing something really good, which I do have the ambition to do.

About half the full complement of our writers’ club at the meeting today. Far left our founder, Ruxandra, then clockwise Marjorie, Helen, my empty seat, David, John, Kayla and Emma. Another two, Kelly and Becky, joined us later.

At the most recent meeting of our writers’ club I said that, for me, responding over two years to a theme set at each meeting with a poem or short story had exhausted its usefulness and in the future I was likely just to present whatever had come into my head. Then, on 23rd May I awoke to the news from Manchester. I had to write something and the theme we had been set for the meeting on 3rd June, ‘broken mirrors’, just happened to fit in with my thoughts. It turned out that another member, Helen, had had a similar reaction. So this is what I read to the club earlier today.

Shards

Shards of shattered mirrors in Manchester
Reflecting eyes of more millions of children
Blasted to hell by bombs rained upon them.
In Iraq by lies transformed to millions of dollars
Swelling the account of our very own war criminal.
In Syria the children pick among their own shards
Before in desperation leaving for another hell
While we eat cake and perhaps text £5 to feel better.
Thousands of eyes appeal from Mediterranian depths.
From Eritrea to Yemen the children cry bewildered,
Shattered by man’s greedy technology
Or simply left unnourished.
While we lust after the latest iPhone.

Should we not pray for our very own mighty Thor
To swing his hammer one last time
To scatter the shards of what we dare to call our civilisation
Beyond recall
And begin to build a kinder, caring, loving being to inhabit this universe?

You’ll probably find me prattling on about equality, and discrimination, even more than usual over the coming month, particularly gender equality, because in the UK we have a general election in a month’s time. Although the present Government is headed for a landslide victory we do have an opportunity to cause a bit of a storm because we now have the Female Equality Party and, exciting for me, the party leader is standing in the constituency where I live. I referred briefly to her, Sophie Walker, in my previous post.

I haven’t ‘marched’ for years, 23 years to be precise when a German teaching colleague and I were pushed to the front of the column of protesting Romanian teachers which we had joined.

I’m polishing my marching boots now and honing my placarding skills. But as a starter I thought I’d give you a run-down of how and when I took up the cudgels against each type of discrimination. I might be a year or so out but not more, and gender discrimination was not the first.

Religious discrimination

I first experienced religious discrimination when I was about eight years old, though I didn’t recognise it as such at the time and what we’d now call bullying was not directed at me. I can now see there was an element of economic discrimination too as the bullying was directed at children from Roman Catholic families, who were generally even poorer than us. Even at that tender age I did not understand it and was often in trouble with the ‘protestant’ clique as I insisted on playing with the RCs.

Gender discrimination

I didn’t recognise discrimination against women until I was much older, 16 in fact. At that time I was working in a research laboratory and began to question why all the lab technicians were women, no males, but there was not one woman among the many research staff or section heads. It would not be true now but there’s still a long way to go. I eventually, in 2006, ended up working in an organisation specifically supporting and promoting the roles of women in science and technology.

Racial discrimination

I first became aware of racial (or skin colour) discrimination in the early 1960s when, between ‘real’ jobs, I worked for a short time in a coffee bar near Victoria station in London. I had a colleague, a lovely man from Balochistan (or should that be Baluchistan?) called Gulamnabi (the spelling may not be correct) and was horrified by the abuse he got from seemingly civilised customers. I used to put orange concentrate in their early morning coffee 😇 and steam it till it was too hot to drink (they were always in a rush). I’ve had many confrontations since those days.

Disability/ability discrimination

I think I first became aware of the discrimination against people with a disability in the late 1980s when, as a member of a Lions club, I assisted at sports days and in clubs for people with a disability. This culminated in my visit to Romania in 1993, initially specifically to work with children with a disability and their parents. More recently I’ve worked for a charity supporting people with sight loss and additional disabilities.

Age discrimination

I’ve never had a problem with age discrimination but I know and/or know of many people who have, particularly when looking for employment in the early 2000s. The best story I have was from applying for a job in an organisation supporting women in science and technology, when I did not respond to the date of birth question on the application form. “I see you didn’t reply to the age question,” said one of the interviewing panel. “Here we go,” I thought as I answered “No”. “Good for you,” was the response. I got the job.

Sexual orientation discrimination

Homophobia was not obvious to me before the late 1970s when I sometimes went to dinner parties where I was with a lady partner but all the other couples were male and discussions round the table made me aware of it. In some ways it became far worse when homosexual acts between men finally became decriminalised in 2004. Of course there never had been legislation making lesbian acts illegal. Oddly enough I ended up working in an organisation supporting LGBT people in 2005; really odd for me was that I was the only ‘straight’ person in the organisation, no problem for me but it was for some of my colleagues.

That sets out my battlefield for the coming month. My weapons will only be words but you all know I’m sure the English metonymic adage about the pen being mightier than ….

How to illustrate this post? The ‘ Happy Bunnies’, a special needs class I taught in Romania in 1994 made my heart bleed yet gave me so much joy every lesson. Here with me on a picnic, at the famous citadel of Stephen the Great in Suceava

My soul rarely bleeds out on my blog, more often in short pieces I write for relating in our writers’ club. Recently, however, as a result of an unexpected increased passion for ‘creative writing’, I’ve been exploring more writers’ blogs and have been staggered just how many blogger writers lay their souls bare – beautifully.

Many do it through poetry and what is really surprising is that many of these are not from bloggers in English speaking countries but nevertheless they are writing in English. The only language other than my native English I know reasonably well is Romanian so I can say some of the Romanian writers manage to overlay their English writings with the extraordinary beauty of the Romanian language. I suspect the same is true of some of the writing in English from India, which often also has an extraordinary beauty of its own. In both cases the English is frequently near perfect – better than many native English speakers!

I was particularly struck very recently by the final paragraph in a post from a Romanian blogger, Iulia Halatz, a teacher of English in Bucharest (moreover, she runs her own business – check her out at https://blogdecompanie.wordpress.com). Here’s the final paragraph of her post ‘tyrannosaurus writing’:

“To write with the truth of pain in your mouth is gruesome poetry…You’ll have to cut out your heart with every word and show it to the world, then hope it will heal. This is how the light gets in, also the dark. To acknowledge fear, defeat, despair and pretend serenity of a lesson learned while patching up the wounds is…Life.”

As someone much influenced by Leonard Cohen in my younger days I found the bow (or curtsy) to him striking. It made me think maybe I should write posts now and then where I open a few cracks, to let the light in.


PS. If the picture of my ‘Happy Bunnies’ used to illustrate this post intrigues you, perhaps you’ll find a long post I wrote four years ago , which has quite a bit of information about experiences teaching English in Romania 1993-94 (and using internet before we had Windows), when my heart was bleeding almost every day, though often with joy, interesting. Be warned, I ramble on about other things though.