A wonderful end to the year on Saturday afternoon for our local (usually Menston based) writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, ‘performing’ with short stories, songs and poems in the intimate setting of Ilkley library.

Picture of all the 'performers' lined up after their performances in the Ilkley library, with book-fillwed shelves behind.

In the wonderful setting of Ilkley library, left to right: back row – Bob, me, Ruxandra, David, Catherine, Rich; front row – Alina, Emma, Dan, Becky. Sadly two valued members, Kelly and Marjorie, couldn’t make it.

Unfortunately I do not have the contributions available to post here or links to most though I did post my short story in a post recently and you can hear Emma’s wonderful Christmas song and buy it for £1 on bandcamp (should be No.1 in the charts in my opinion!). She also treated us to ‘In the bleak midwinter’, retaining Harold Darke’s melody but substituting her own lyrics, apart from a short spoken excerpt of Christina Rossetti’s original lyrics in the middle.

Becky, Ruxandra and David sharing a joke measuring something with hands

Picture of the day? Measuring what?

Click on any picture in the gallery below to see them larger as a slide show. Many thanks to Adam Nabarro-Steel for photo recording the event for us. Many thanks also to our wonderful ‘leader’, Ruxandra Busoiu, a remarkable young Romanian who founded the club and worked very hard to bring off this event and the previous one at Ilkley Playhouse.

Thanks also to the wonderfully supportive staff of Ilkley library who made this event possible. This library and those in my village of Menston and neighbouring village of Burley in Wharfedale had been scheduled for closure by Bradford Council. Against a background of  appalling illiteracy in the UK, especially in Bradford, libraries should surely be high on any local authority’s priorities. Thankfully, a lot of people from the local communities are now working to take them over and run them as Community Libraries. Let’s hope they succeed.

 

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The chair and the table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old - typical Bucovina motifs

The finished chair and table. The table is the same colour as the chair; the lighting makes it look different here. The Romanian home-woven carpet is probably about 100 years old – typical Bucovina motifs

And now for something completely different (hoping my project does rather better than John Cleese!). Relaxing with feet up is something I like to do in the evening in my dotage, having generally been up and active from around 5.30am (I’ve always been a ‘morning person’). A La-Z-Boy wing recliner chair was what I aspired to. The recommended retail price of around £1,000, or even sale offers of around £750, was more than I was prepared to pay and anyway I do not like the current ‘boxy’ cubic designs. (more…)

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HAPPNEW YEAR

to you all

may your year be full of rainbows

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Several of the blogs I follow add the strapline ‘author’, or mention that this is what they are in the ‘About’. I think I understand what this means.
 
However, some add ‘writer’ as a strap line or describe themselves as this. I’m not sure I understand what this means (I know the dictionary definitions of course).
My first writing professionally was on something pretty much like this

My first writing professionally was on something pretty much like this

 
Am I a ‘writer’? I don’t think so, or I don’t think many people would consider me to be one, but I have certainly written millions of words in my lifetime. I’m leaving aside personal letters (and, over the past 20 years or so, emails), reports and the like, which would account for many, many thousands of words. For around 10 years I wrote no less than 5,000 words a week, so a total of 2.5 million words would be a very conservative estimate during this time alone. In the remaining 40 or so years of my adult life I’ve probably averaged a weekly writing output of about a fifth of this, so around another 2 million in all. Let’s say around 5 million words in total. You might gather that I like to write. Does this make me a ‘writer’?
 
One response
  
Commenting on a recent post on a blog I follow, I said that from the post and the many comments it attracted: “Some of the responses, and even your post, seem to suggest that it (a ‘writer’) is someone who is urged to write by some distressing, or maybe happy, event. I’m sometimes prompted to write by such things, but that doesn’t seem to make me a ‘writer’ either”.
 
The blogger, who terms herself ‘author’, replied: “I don’t think a ‘writer’ is someone who is urged to write by some distressing, or maybe happy, event … We are all writers if we are ‘writing a book’ – but when that book is published we become the ‘author’ of the book. I see no reason why anyone who is writing a book (whether it be fiction, poetry or an autobiography) can’t call themselves a ‘writer’ – because basically they are”. This seems to suggest that – with the exception of an autobiography – you are only a ‘writer’ if you write something fictional. So what about, eg, a ‘travel writer’?
 
I have not written, nor am I writing, a ‘book’. I have attempted a short story – ‘published’ on this blog. And every one of those 2.5 million words over a 10 year period I mention above was published – on paper; what is more, they were not self-published – I was either commissioned to write them or they were accepted and paid for by a publisher. Probably around a quarter of the other 2 million I mentioned were published. But this still does not seem to make me a ‘writer’.
 
Some of the bloggers who say they are a ‘writer’ write, often very eloquently, about writing. These are usually very popular blogs, attracting hundreds, if not thousands, of followers and comments. Many of these writers on writing have not had anything published other than self-published, often then only on their blog. Does this make them a ‘writer’? I’m not sure. What is more, sometimes when I’ve been able to access something they have ‘written’ – a book or short story – I’ve not been anything like as impressed as with the quality when they are ‘writing about writing’.
Some of the many thousands of words written to my mother over several years in Romania. They don't make me a 'writer', but what if I transcribe them and publish as a book? Will this wave the magic wand?

Some of the many thousands of words written to my mother over several years in Romania. They don’t make me a ‘writer’, but what if I transcribe them and publish as a book? Will this wave the magic wand?

 
An urge to write?
 
Does it have something to do with an urge to write? I’m not sure about this either; I have had an urge to write since childhood but again this doesn’t seem to make me a ‘writer’. In fact, almost everything I find interesting, fascinating, distressing or joyful urges me to write, and sometimes I write about it, as now. Does this make me a ‘writer’?
 
Steinbeck, Dickens, and who?
 
I’ve been reading books, I am told, from the age of three. The most influential on me was read when a teenager – Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath‘. The grammar is often dreadful, some passages seemingly overlong and difficult to get through, but I have no doubt he was a ‘writer’. Why? Because what he wrote has had such an effect on the whole of what I became? I don’t think this is the answer either, because some authors who I have no doubt are ‘writers’ simply give me enjoyment, as does so much of Dickens (I’m ignoring here his wealth of social commentary, which has also done much to mould my social conscience).
 
I don’t have that many ‘writers’ and ‘authors’ as followers so perhaps I should ask those of you who have to broadcast the question out to their many ‘writer/author’ followers and feed back in some way.
 
Or is the question of interest only to me?

Christmas is getting closer and much as I, being an old traditionalist, like to ignore it until Christmas Eve, I can’t do that as far as sending Christmas cards is concerned. So today I’ve devoted to making some.

This year I thought I’d do something with pictures of Romanian decorated eggs; decorated with Christmas scenes and symbols is not traditional, nor is feeding a ribbon through so it can be hung on the Christmas tree. I think I can take ‘credit’ for this as a suggestion made when I was working in a project to try to increase the income of the ladies who decorate the eggs.

Egg2_1060835 Egg1_1060834

I cannot take any credit for the one below – again it is not ‘traditional’ but the relatively small number of women making these wonderful paintings on hens’ eggs have no artistic training – it’s a natural talent. Some of the nuns in the monasteries paint eggs like this too.

Egg3_1060838

However, I have some people I want to send a Christmas card to who cannot see – tenants in the houses supported by the small charity for which I work and a couple of work colleagues. What about them?

What better than enclosing a CD with some of the wonderful Romanian Christmas carols, very beautiful and very different to the carols I was used to before I went to Romania.

Here are just three from the ‘Christmas card CD’ I have made this morning (hopefully if you click on them they’ll play on your computer – they’re MP3 files not the CD audio files).

22 Colindul clopotelor               21 Linu-i lin             19 O, ce veste minunata

22. The carol of the bells    

21. I can’t translate it – smooth (like the music)    

19. O, what wonderful news

– sung by the superb ‘Mira’ choir of the ‘Lord’s Church of St. Nicholas’ in Iasi, Romania (Lord in the sense of ruler, of Moldova, Stefan cel Mare – Stephen the Great). The only musical instrument in the Romanian church is the human voice, if you discount the bells and the toaca (the wooden board drummed to summon the faithful to prayer), of which this Iasi church has neither. I have been lucky enough to hear this choir many times when I lived in Iasi, not just at Christmas. The church is the one in which I was married.

The third carol is my favourite, perhaps because it is the first I learned by heart and surprised my pupils each year by singing it to them. For you, I can assure you that Mira is much better!

You’ll find Mira on YouTube:

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNmJVKjeQpM

The writer

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.

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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).

imagine     differ

climb out of the commonplace

halt     think free     proceed

Browsing around looking for inspiration I came across a site which, weekly, gives three words as a prompt to write something. This week’s three words were ‘imagine’, ‘differ’ and ‘halt’. The site is

http://www.threewordwednesday.com/

I thought I’d see if the words would prompt a haiku. They did.

In my previous post I said I liked the discipline of the 5-7-5 haiku. I also like the discipline of having to include a given three words, just from time to time.

I haven’t given up on the picture haiku, marrying up a photograph and a haiku, or just creating a ‘haiku’ from 17 pictures, as I did in my first effort – I find it very appealing and my efforts seemed to prompt quite a few ‘likes’ and ‘follows’, so I will persevere.

I find Romania inspiring so I’m hoping to find some haiku inspiring pictures there in August. There’s a little place called Sadova near which, several years ago, I experienced the greatest feeling of peace ever. I hope to go there and maybe recapture that. Just the thought of it has given me an idea for a short story – which will be my first ever if I can complete it (in fact it will not be my first; I’ve been told I wrote a lot of stories as a child. Somewhere along the way I lost that).

Another idea I’ve picked up from another blog, and I’m very sorry I cannot find it again to give a credit, was to assign a day of the week to each of various subjects. For me this might be a great idea as although some people seem to run a multiplicity of blogs, each for one of their interests, I cannot imagine being able to do that. One is hard enough. It might also help with keeping up with a post a day. I’m working on it. I guess it might help followers who find one of my topics interesting but not others.

I haven’t yet signed up to threewordwednesday but maybe I’ll work out how to do the link and make it.