The reaction to my most recent haiku – the most ‘likes’ on any post of mine since I began blogging some 16 months ago – has really inspired me to stop and try to express my thoughts in 17 syllables more often. Of course, over the months I’ve learned that there are many other formats for a haiku, but the rigid discipline of 5-7-5 really appeals to me. In some ways this has similarities to the discipline of writing headlines and advertising copy – part of my professional activity for over 50 years – conveying a thought in very few words. I’ve also learned the importance of that change of thought in the last five syllables.

It all began with a box of photos and a regular blogger of haiku who has since, sadly, disappeared – fivereflections. At the time I came across his haiku below I was sorting through photographs found in a box at my recently deceased mother’s home. Here it is:

from the old locked box
photographs you left behind
my eyes become yours

I found a photograph of a Coronation street party in 1953, and felt ‘my eyes become yours’ – I saw through my mother’s eyes – as the photo showed myself and siblings together with neighbouring children in a play I wrote – it wasn’t my first piece of fiction but it was my first play … and my last. (more…)

Advertisements

I found these pictures at my mother’s after she died in 2011. She had written a date on most of them. I do intend to ‘repair’ them some time but for the moment I’m posting them as I found them. I was very pleased to find them as all my photographs prior to 1993, when I went to Romania, were disposed of by someone

The best way to see them is to click on the first, when you will then see them as a slide show with a caption for each (the ‘gallery’ feature still seems to have some bugs; one is that there are more pictures in the slide show than shown below).

I know that my mother had a very hard time as a war widow with three young boys to raise; she often did not know where the next meal was coming from, but it was always there, and she was often very ill. She made virtually all our clothes – just look how ‘smart’ we were. I think the studio photographs were taken to send to my father who was either away in the war or in hospital until he died. No surprise that I and my brothers were born about 9 months after each ‘leave’ in the UK – most of the time he was away at sea in the Royal Navy.

I do think it’s important to preserve such things. I’m sure that future generations will want to know, and see, something of those who preceded them.

The temperature has been 41degC (106degF) in the shade, rather more in the sun. The whole country has been starved of rain and the harvest is forecast to be half or less of what is normal; many smallholders will have close to no harvest at all. Prices of vegetables and fruit will rocket and a lot of Romanians will go hungry.

Many Romanians, including my family, have shut themselves inside and complained about the heat. But you know about mad dogs and Englishmen, no doubt. Coming from the appalling summer in England I was determined to get some real sun but I did, for once, wear a hat.

Rain in Iasi, Romania - street photography

I went into the town centre in bright sunshine. The sky darkened, lighting ripped it apart and, a few paces from shelter, the heavens opened and I immediately had a power shower. Within two seconds or less I was soaked. We might say it was bucketing down; the Romanians have a similar expression: “ploua cu galeata” –  ‘it’s raining with a bucket’ – and it was.

I sheltered in a hotel entrance and was quickly joined by several very wet Romanians. Every one complained about the rain.

Then we were joined by a gipsy boy, maybe 17 or 18.

“Decand a plouat, arata frumos” – “(how long) since it rained, it looks beautiful”, he said.

And it did.

Photo: Fuji Superia 200, expired film. Olympus XA (35mm, f.2.8 F-Zuiko). Long hand-held exposure. Probably f.5.6. Commercially developed and scanned in Iasi, Romania.

I am not by nature a city dweller, I much prefer rural life. However, it has been a real pleasure to return briefly to the city where I lived, and taught English, for several years in Romania. The city is Iasi (pronounced ‘Yash’ – in Romanian the ‘s’ has a comma under it, rather like a cedilla, and so has the sound ‘sh’), which is a major city in north east Romania with the country’s oldest University.

Fountain in the Palas Mal park, Iasi, with the Culture Palace museum in the background

One of the pleasures of living in Iasi was that artistic culture was very much alive and to share in it cost very little, but the downside was that many of the facilities were very run down. Today, many of the buildings are being renovated, some almost complete. The building in the background in the picture above is ‘Palatul Culturii’ (The Palace of Culture), in fact a museum. The Romanians cleverly allowed a developer to build an enormous shopping mall, together with a delightful park (pictured below), only on condition they undertook the renovation of the museum building, an enormous and incredibly costly project. It is now almost completed.

Entrance to the Palas Mal park, Iasi

When I visited the park, complete with carousel, it was full of families with young children, courting couples, older couples, all looking happy and contented in a green and colourful environment despite the severe drought which has made much of Romania look like a desert. (When I left Romania in 2004, this area was also a desert of waste ground). Looking up through the pierced copper roof of a cupola on a lake in the park, seeing the ‘biscuits’ stamped out from the sky, prompted my ‘sky biscuits’ picture haiku, posted on 3 August.

Carousel in the Palas Mal park, Iasi

Nearby is the church of St. Nicholas, which was renovated some year ago. It is the church in which I was married and where I went on many Sundays to listen to the magnificent choir, at Easter, and at Christmas to hear the wonderful Romanian carols.

St Nicholas's church, Iasi (Sf Nicolae Domnesc)

The ‘Filarmonica’ (Concert hall) was almost a ruin when I went every week throughout the ‘season’, a season ticket costing less than £30 for more than 20 concerts! Every five years this included all the Beethoven string quartets performed over several weeks by a magnificent Iasi quartet, ‘Voces’, whose playing reminded me of the renowned ‘Amadeus’ quartet (I have vinyl LPs of the complete cycle played by them at home in UK). Now the concert hall has been renovated and looks magnificent.

The 'Filarmonica' concert hall, Iasi, and poster advertising performances of Shakespear's 'Midsummer Night's Dream'

In the foreground of the Filarmonica a poster advertises Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream – outside the nearby ‘Teatru National’ (‘national’ theatre), a smaller version of the theatre in Vienna but just as magnificent now that it is almost completely renovated.

Something which impressed me about Romanian high school pupils – 12 to 18 years old – when I lived here was that I could stop one at random in the street and ask them to quote me a line of Shakespeare and at least 9 in 10, probably 99 in 100, would do it flawlessly, often not one of the most quoted ones. What would the proportion be in the UK? I doubt better than 1 in a 100, if that.

The 'national theatre', Iasi, with street banner advertising opera

Another banner across the whole street outside the theatre advertises opera (and I do not have to remind opera lovers that one of the world’s leading ‘divas’ now – Angela Gheorghiu – is Romanian).

Talking of pupils, below is a picture of one of the three high schools at which I taught English in Iasi – Colegiul National which was founded in 1826 and remains one of the top two high schools in the city.

The 'National College', Iasi

It was becoming twilight when I reached Piata Unirii (Unity Square), which celebrates the unification of the different regions to become Romania in 1859 (Transilvania became a part of Romania in 1918). Dominating the square is another magnificent building – the Hotel Traian.

Grand Hotel Traian, Iasi, at twilight

Nearly ‘home’, I passed by what was the only antique shop in Iasi when I lived here – in what was in the distant past the city’s main street – Str. Lapusneanu. A model galleon in full sail sits in our living room back in the UK; I bought it in this shop, which lights up the wares in its window in the evening.

The antique shop window in Str. Lapusneanu, Iasi, in the evening

Buildings in this street are now being renovated and a gigantic protective cover reminds the people of Iasi what they have and need to protect, as said to them by one of the country’s most renowned historians, Nicolae Iorga, a superb writer, who was assassinated by fascists in 1940.

Protective cover over a building in renovation, with quote from Nicolae Iorga, Romanian historian

“These are our historic monuments, so many, from the beginning until 1850, so full of value both materially and in an historic sense, with their surroundings devasted, with everything destroyed, with the patina of age covering each, so varied and original in which is seen what they were. Where you see it, recognise it, respect it and raise them up, if you have the strength, from the ruin and disappearance”. (My translation, not perfect but hopefully adequate). Nicolae Iorga, 1871-1940.

It’s taken a long time but the rebirth has begun.

All these ‘snapshots’ were taken on a Panasonic GF1 with 14-42mm Lumix G ‘X’ lens. I may be able to get some C41 black and white film (Ilford XP2) developed and scanned here towards the end of next week, but colour and ‘conventional’ black and white will have to wait until I’m back in the UK.

I got pollen

I got nectar

I got freedom

Who could ask for anything more?

         With deference to George and Ira Gershwin

Earth to earth   to dust

Twist   scream  turn    yet now return

Games in the graveyard

.

……………….

Grass is greener     where?

Bare footed     treading    careless

Leaving litter here

.

_ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _ . _

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.

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.