Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Merry Xmas

Probably my last blog until Christmas.  Can't believe the amount of snow that fell last Saturday afternoon - I've never seen anything like that before and it's only the second time I can remember so much snow in the UK.  It was a strange way for my girlfriend and I to celebrate eighteen months together...but on the plus side it meant that we had to stay in!

On Thursday I had my work christmas lunch at Camino and while the portions weren't exactly generous the food itself was delicious.  I had a bream and was perfectly cooked and tasted delicious.  On Friday I met up with ex-work colleagues followed by a lovely pizza at Cafe Pasta.  My girlfriend thought that the olives were some of the best she'd tasted and the chocolate fudge cake afterwards was really tasty.

I'm so glad that I won't be travelling by air this Christmas, for a while I was a little worried about travelling at all, but the roads seem to be clear now.  It does seem incredible how badly the situation seems to have been handled by Heathrow.  The train companies seem just as bad as well.  You start to wonder why it does go so wrong...is it a lack of investment?  Or perhaps just bad management?  Any ideas would be welcome.

Finally, I have just heard a lovely version of Merry Xmas Everybody (by Slade) sung by Karine Polwart.  I heard it on Mike Harding's folk programme on Radio 2 and believe it's well worth a listen.  I believe it might also be played on Christmas Eve.

So take care everyone, travel safe, and Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Lucia

The Swedes celebrated St Lucia on Monday.  There were, and are, various events around London to celebrate it too, however by the time I found out about them they were fully booked, much to the disappointment of my girlfriend.  Instead I watched the SVT programme online.

After having had it described to me, I was expecting to see the hair of a pretty blond being set on fire by those jealous of her looks, in some sort of weird pagan festival harking back to witch burning.  Just shows what I knew!

It was in fact lots of nice songs, hymns, folk songs and modern songs, sung by a choir of boys and girls with candles (the boys with odd pointy "dunces" hats made of paper), along with some professional singers, held in a church. It felt a little like a christmas episode of songs of praise in fact, but certainly nice enough that I will make the effort to go to one for real next year.

With christmas definately just around the corner office parties have sprung up.  I have mine tomorrow, then an ex-workplace one on Friday.  Not only that, the third test starts overnight, and after englands decimation of the aussies last time out I am expecting revenge from the baggy greens.  It could be painful, but I'm hoping not.

By the way, cryptic crossword 2 is now out!

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Straight Puzzle...and stuff

I honestly don't know how Nick Clegg can live with himself. After spending the whole election campaign saying that tuition fees will be scrapped, he now continues to follow the Tories in saddling the future of the country with enough debt to ensure that they will be unable to have children, save for pensions and put anything back into the economy in twenty years time.
The only people who will be able to really afford University will be those from families who are really poor (ie those who can't be bothered to work and have various other excuses for not working) or those who can pay their own tuition fees up front.  And this doesn't make for a good sounding, let alone "fair", future.
The worst thing is that politics suddenly began to get interesting for young people. Now that they've seen such an about face I would be surprised if anyone under the age of 25 will ever trust a politician again.  And what is the point of that? Surely we have to be able to trust the people we elect to organise the country for us.  Otherwise we might as well go back to the times when they decide it amongst themselves and leave us out of it completely, without bothering to pretend that this is a democracy. How can it be right that they can promise us something, not do anything about it (within a matter of months since getting in) and then we have to put up with them for another four and a half years! The people should be able to dissolve government whenever they like (given a majority vote) if the government is not doing what they were voted in to do.
The point is that I thought things might change a little, but I am now incredibly disappointed and disillusioned in the whole system.  We need drastic changes now I think.  This taking advantage of ordinary people really has to stop.

Oh and straight puzzle number one is now available at Spare Time Puzzles (follow the link on the left).

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Staying In

With my girlfriend out of the country for a few days, I simply have only myself to please.  As such I have decided to stay in all day today and am enjoying it.  I was in my dressing gown and bed clothes up until midday, stayed up until 1.30am last night listening to cricket, and woke to it at 6.30.
I have been listening to the radio, and to War of the Worlds (which I don't get to listen to enough when my girlfriend is around - incidentally I have heard bits of it twice this week, The Spirit of Man was booming out of a car at Tufnell Park and part of Eve of the War was played on a radio programme about HG Wells last night).
I have also watched a DVD, eaten porridge and scrambled egg (not together), read some of ...Hornets Nest and uploaded the answers for Cryptic Puzzle 1 on my puzzle blog.
Played Penguin Toss on facebook (very addictive), began tidying my desk and thought about what to have for dinner - admittedly a few hours away.  Will listen to the football shortly and the cricket again later.  At some point in between I will chat to my girlfriend.
Its raining outside now and the snow is melting nicely.  I can't believe its only three weeks to christmas day now.  I definately must be getting older because how else can it come around so quickly?  So little done this year really but so many hopes for the year ahead.  And so many dreams...

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

No to Strikes

I think I was a little premature with my post about strikes a month ago.  This week I had a nightmare on strike day.  In the morning it wasn't a direct cause of the strike, in fact I got on a train with plenty of time, only for two passenger alarms to be pulled a fraction of a second after leaving the station!  It took twenty minutes for them to be reset before I could get going.  On the way back it was even worse.
The trip to Bank was no problem, however the northern line there was showing the next train to be in 15 minutes - then it vanished altogether.  I decided to take my chances up top with the buses but as I walked all the way up to Kings Cross not a single bus passed by heading North.  They were all going the other way.  Finally I got a bus from KX followed by another little walk.  All in all it took over an hour and a half.  I was knackered when I got home but still had to go straight down the launderette.  Oh for a washing machine!

Already started my christmas shopping, although not done the wrapping yet and picked up some good books from the library yesterday, including Elizabeth Kostova's new book, The Swan Thieves.  Am also getting the third of the Millenium trilogy tomorrow from a friend of my girlfriend.  Speaking of which, yes she is swedish hence the title of this blog.  I have been trying to get her to appreciate the finer points of the game of cricket but it is proving more difficult than I thought.  This is no silly point I'm making, how do you cover the game of cricket without stumping someone?

Cryptic Puzzle No. 1 is now up on the new blog...follow the link on the right!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Good things and new blogs

Well, it seems as if the worst is now over for Sheffield Wednesday.  I would have to agree with the comment on my previous post that the whole situation has been a little like an episode of the Addams Family.  Never mind, a takeover now seems probable, the club is safe and have just got through to the third round of the FA Cup with a sixth win in a row.

The Ashes started this week, not that I've been able to listen to too much of it, and they didn't start well with the skipper getting a third ball duck and Siddle getting a hat-trick.  Then a record stand between Haddin and Hussey really put England on the ropes looking down the wrong end of a 220 run deficit.  But last night Strauss, Cook and Trott pulled England to a good chance of a draw.  Much relief I have to say. My girlfriend does seem to enjoy listening to it a little but still has to ask me whether something good or bad has happened.  She still needs some training I think.

The puzzle blog will begin on December 1st, but it can be found at Spare Time Puzzles.  I have also been busy creating in Excel and five advent calendars can be found at Spare Time Fun.  Do check them out and enjoy!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Wednesday Woes

It seems that I should write something contraversial more often...I received more comments on my last post than I have on any previous other post!  I did reconsider reading that book, however my girlfriend had already taken it back to the library and come across the first of Stieg Larsson's Millennium trilogy, 'The girl with the Dragon Tattoo'.  I've read it now and its brilliant (obviously - it wouldn't have been so popular otherwise).  I'm now on the second book but not yet seen the third in the library.  I might have to get lucky.

This week Sheffield Wednesday almost went into administration, and to be perfectly honest I don't think the extra month they have will make any difference.  If somebody truly wanted to invest then they would have done it by now.  What worries me even more is the interview given by the Chief Exec. outside the court.  It was described as passionate, but to me it just looked desperate.  The worst thing is that we are playing the best football than we have done in many years and look like we might have a chance of promotion back to the Championship after just one season.  But a ten point penalty will scupper that.  Our best chance seems to be to win as many games as possible over the next month and hopefully we'll be outside of the relegation zone after the deduction.  Then, we rebuild from scratch.

On a more positive note my girlfriend signed with a teaching agency this week and with some luck will start getting some offers of work.  I myself start as a permanent employee on Monday.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Cryptic Answers and a rant

Well the answers to last week's cryptic crossword are added as a comment on the previous post (ie the one with the crossword on it)...hope you enjoyed it.  No more puzzles for a little bit but I am planning on making a blog solely for regular puzzles and will give more information shortly.  The year by the way was 1955.

I just started reading a book my girlfriend had picked up from the library (I had finished reading all my books), called The Gum Thief by Douglas Coupland.  His books are supposed to be well known, but I've not heard of him before.  I should mention that I am no longer reading the book.  After just 5 pages the main character states his youthful dream of writing a novel with an odd name, the words vaguely inspired by (and I quote) "the title of a novel or movie from England - like Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas".
I was shocked.  How wrong could a person get?  For a start Dylan Thomas wrote a play called Under Milk Wood, not a novel, and the film was released several years after he died, so he didn't write that either (technically).  He is also from Wales.  Not England.  Thusly, I could read the book no longer.
It may sound like a petty reason but I knew I could not enjoy it from that moment in from looking for mistakes in the text.  You may have guessed by now that the author is American.  But shocks me most is not that this line was written, but more that it was left in.  Was there no editing procedure?
Needless to say I will attempt to read no more of his books.  That's all...

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Answers, Strikes and a new Cryptic Puzzle

Firstly, here are the answers to the straight crossword I posted a few days ago:

Across: 5. Total; 6. Leaf; 7. Idol; 8. Realm; 11. Daubs; 13. Rote; 15. Star; 16. Stink
Down: 1. Rood; 2. Bails; 3. Glue; 4. Cable; 9. Dante; 10. Crate; 12. Byre; 14. Tiny

Hope you enjoyed that one.  Once more there have been tube strikes in London but I am actually now of the opinion that they should be held more often.  For a start fewer people use the tube in the belief that it will not run a decent service, or that the stations they need are closed, which makes life cramped on an underground train a little more bearable.  But secondly by missing out stations it makes the trip a lot quicker.  Going to work today and coming back I had the quickest trips yet since I started working in Canary Wharf...just thought I'd share that with you!

So now another cryptic crossword and once more all the answers have a year in common...some more tenuous than others...Good luck!

Across
1. West Midlands town tilts cold fondue - strangely (6,9)
5. Northern queen follows charge for actor (7)
7. For each reversed rejection, a dictator (5)
9. Get disease from one in mint (5)
11. Reptilian entrepeneur? (4)
12. Faculty head opposes audible noise (4)
13. Turn right and stop driver (5)
16. Sheikh merceneries hold Cambodian (5)
18. Shortened version superb for designer (7)
19. Film faces the past (4,2,3,6)

Down
1. Exchanges unusual wasps (5)
2. Geneticist in mufti joke (4)
3. Switzerland and Sweden hold a hunt (5)
4. Angler catches digital snack (10)
6. Wealthy, advanced research department is dickie (7)
8. Art of levitating transport (10)
9. Is likely naval intelligence mixed coloured paste (5)
10. Writer rearranges book van (7)
14. Kruger's first in Indian emigration (5)
15. Class assessment (5)
17. Deer centre? (4)

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Books...and a new puzzle

I did promise a blog about books, and so here it is.  The recent book I've read was called 'Tintin in the New World'.  It's not a comic, and it wasn't written by Herge but by Frederic Tuten.  It was a very interesting book, not a huge amount in the way of plot but more about growing up.  Some of it I have to say was a little over my head, but for anyone who was a fan of the original stories it is a must read, after all, don't you sometimes wonder what happened to your childhood heroes after the last story?
Some of you may have seen the new TV series 'Thorne' which aired recently...I haven't.  But I have recently read one of the books about the detective and really enjoyed it.  It is really well written and has great observational touches as you would expect from former stand-up Mark Billingham.  What really led me to it was the fact that Thorne himself lives in Kentish Town and all the places mentioned were immediately recognisable to me.  I have another of his to read now.
A classic now and 'Catcher in the Rye' by JD Salinger.  It's one of those books which often gets compared to and mentioned in various circumstances but I had yet to read it.  I have to say I enjoyed it.  The protaganist wasn't exactly a character I could like (I'm probably too old to really identify now) but I had to agree with a lot of his observations about people and the world.  What staggered me was that the majority of them were still true today in terms to the way people act and behave.  A thoroughly recommendable book.
I'll finish off by mentioning Iain Banks, one of my favourite authors and I've read several of his non-genre books but until now none of his sci-fi books.  Recently I did read 'The Player of Games' and am currently reading 'Consider Phlebas', and they are both great.  I used to read a lot of sci-fi but found that they tended to have a very bleak philosophical look on the future, but his books don't have this quite forced down your throat.  They are simply stories set in a different world to this one in which the same basics are the same.  That's why they work.  They are also infused with a great deal of wit and humour as you would expect from Banks.  Once more, well worth a read.

So now to a puzzle.  This is a straight/quick crossword which is actually 4 very small ones within one to make it a little trickier.  A cryptic puzzle is on its way.

Across

5. Sum
6. Thin Metal
7. Image
8. Kingdom
11. Applies crudely
13. Off by heart
15. Sun
16. Nauseating smell

Down

1. Crucifix
2. Flees
3. Adhesive
4. Strong rope
9. 'Inferno' author
10. Cowshed
12. Packing box
14. Very small

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Woodland Tales

Got back from Sweden in mid-week, after having travelled out there last weekend.  It was great to see my girlfriend again after having spent about ten days apart...it was tough.  We took a walk on the Sunday into the woods where we picked some mushrooms, and I was shown some very very large rocks.  We spent some time looking out over Gagnef from a hunting hide and on the way up we saw pigs in a neighbours yard.  It was wonderful to breathe such clean and fresh air and to see the unspoilt landscape of trees and distant hills, rivers and rocks which were dragged by the last ice age.  Having been brought up surrounded by concrete and cars I find these other landscapes more wonderful than I can really describe and in some ways can't help feeling a little jealous of those who have been brought up within them.  However, all romance is lost when you find out that you saw bear poo in the woods and that wolves have been close by recently.  The mushrooms we picked were delicous though.

We also did the usual things of meeting some family, but also Erica's aunt from the united states, so it was nice for me to have someone else there who spoke good english.  Even received a t-shirt from her (a tradition is that she brings them over for the whole family) so that was very kind of her.

Back home to the cold now since I have no working heating here in the flat.  Sitting in sweaters and gloves, hats and woolen socks.  It's a pleasure to cook since that is the warmest spot.  I plan to blog in the next few days solely about books.  I've read several recently and should share at least some of my findings.

Finally, the puzzle answers.  The previous blog actually has a comment with all the correct answers in it, so by publishing it I thought it would be easier than typing them all in myself.  Well done to that person, whoever they were.  And of course the linking year to all the clues...1666.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Puzzle Update

Well it seems as if my last post has drawn some interest, which is good.  I have received two comments, both with the correct year, along with a mystery phone caller at work with the correct answer.  They must get a special commendation really since even I don't even know the telephone number, so they must have done a lot of digging!

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Puzzle Time

I've decided to create a cryptic puzzle.  Below you will find the clues and below that is the grid in which they fit.  You will have to excuse it a little since it is create using Paint...but anyway.  Now the clever thing is that all the answers link to a particular year.  Once you've got the answers (or some of them) make a guess at the year.  I've hidden comments on my blog for the moment so you can send me the answers without others seeing them and I will give out the answers in roughly two weeks time.  Good luck and have fun.

Across
2 Moroccan dynasty changes a late IOU (8)
4 Differentiating professor (8)
7 Noah makes another one for US city (6)
8 Punctuation not applicable for Italian pillar (7)
10 see 11 Down
12 Danish journalist sounds like he's getting on (7)
13 Savoury or sweet for dessert (7)

Down
1 Philanthropist is coarse (but not right) (4)
3 & 9 No dress for wild radio transmitter (6,4)
4 Anatomist in Moscow persuasion (6)
5 Engraver sounds like he's shouting (6)
6 Painter has left mix (4)
9 see 3 Down
11 & 10 Across. Wonderful year - if you have the latin (5,9)

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Underground Musicians

From the title you might think that this will be a post about busking on the underground, but it's not.  Although now having mentioned it I can't help being reminded about the annoying man simply drumming at Waterloo sometimes who continually looks extremely smug.  I mean, drumming.  It's an accompaniment to music, not music itself.  Especially not at five thirty at night when you're trying to get home.
Anyway, that off my chest...this is a story about this morning on my way to work when two people got on at Camden Town carrying three large pieces of luggage as well as two large guitar cases and taking up half of one end of a carriage.  When I heard their accents I couldn't help thinking to myself "stupid Americans".  Then I couldn't help but give an inward sigh when I realised they'd completely blocked up one door and were obviously going to be caught out by the fact that the platform at Warren Street is on the opposite side of the train to the platforms either side.  But being too much of a Londoner I didn't say anything, and only looked on smugly when they indeed found that they were in the way.
However it was due to this incident and a rearrangement of belongings that I ended up being able to read the name tag on one of the bags.  Devon Sproule.  I then couldn't help becoming extremely impressed with this couple (for it was indeed Devon with her husband).  Reasonably famous musicians still slumming it on their way to Heathrow on the Underground, despite the fact that they could probably have afforded a taxi all the way there, or failing that the Heathrow Express.  And doubly impressed for being Americans taking the underground after their government have issued warnings about being in Europe.  So very well done them.
Couldn't help feeling a bit guilty afterwards though.  Still it would have been great if they could have taken that annoying drummer to America with them too.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

More Poems...And Yes, I Am Still Alive

Well, its been a long while since I got around to blogging.  Lots of reasons for that, one of which is that for the past two weekends I've been away from home.  Two weeks ago I was in Falmouth, for a cousin's wedding.  It was held in Pendennis Castle, an old Tudor fort and made for a wonderful atmosphere.  They are both scottish, and so there were kilts and a piper and it felt like heading back in time, as if witnessing a marriage ceremony in the remote highlands of Scotland.
Falmouth itself is a lovely place, with tasty cornish pasties, a wonderful climate with unusual vegetation and a relaxed atmosphere which is nothing like London.  Erica found the air a lot friendlier to her lungs too.  Perhaps I could see myself living there in the future?
Last week was a school friend's wedding, although I was invited only to the after party.  But it was still good to see him so happy.  Their live music was an intriguing trio of blond girls with large breasts singing songs from the 70's, 80's and 90's along to backing tracks, with matching outfits for each period.  I'm still not certain whether they were good or not.

So, to my new job.  I've been there about five weeks now I guess but still don't feel as if I'm settling in.  I'm not exactly certain why.  The commute on the Underground isn't fun, for sure, with packed carriages on the Jubilee line, and even packed platforms sometimes.  The office is also extremely quiet, with hardly anyone talking to anyone else, and when they do it's solely about work.
It's not that people are unfriendly, they're just very involved in their work...and that's a concept I struggle with.  It can make the days incredibly long sometimes.  The work itself I am actually enjoying, and it may be that once I've been there a bit longer and I get some more tasks then I won't feel the need to talk to anyone.  But I doubt it somehow.
I know that I need to move on somewhere else, but even that is no simple task and I can't really afford to run the risk of having no work at all.  I currently have a vague idea of taking some bookkeeping courses, so at least I have a professional qualification to my name and could make it easier to get work in future.  We'll see.

Other than work and the weddings very little else has been going on.  I am desperate to move to a bigger place so that I get some creative space to do writings and such, but with Erica still without a job it is not yet possible.  An oven would be good too of course.  And a decent fridge and freezer.  And a washing machine...hopefully sometime soon.

I have written a couple of poems at work though, slightly odd ones, but here they are anyway:

Mould

I'm growing mould
To fight my cold
Is a silly thing to say.
Although it may
Be true.
It cannot be that good for you.

Running Bales

A thousand running bales
and ten unfurling sails
amongst gigantic whales.
I wish that I could see.

Imagine bales running
while bronzed-babes were a-sunning
Watched by comics punning.
I wish that I could see.

And would those bales racing
with men to do the pacing
be back or forward facing?
I wish that I could see.

With water jumps and hurdles
and gold encrusted girdles
the bales would make one curdle.
I wish that I could see.

Yes I wish that I could see
out the window next to me
all those bales running free.
A thousand running bales.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

My Job

In a silence
Of inner solitude;
Alone
Amongst the grey-shades.
No colour.
No life.
No intoxification of fulfilling wonder.
Starved of thoughts
Or memories,
Of confirming comments
And quips.
A vacuum
Of inspiration,
In which the spirit
Suffocates.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Season One Finale

Life is never quite like the movies...or television serials for that matter...but it could be said that I've reached a season finale, so here's a brief overview of the season so far:
The hero (me) leaves full time work in order to concentrate both on practising his interest in writing and pursuing a newly found love interest in a foreign country.  Things start slowly, in fact very little happens for a while other than the odd criss-crossing back and forth to sweden, and a continual cycle of lay-ins caused by cold and wet weather, autumn having arrived.
But then Christmas and new year arrive and there is the drama of possible cabin crew strikes at the exact moment of spending the holiday season away from the uk for the first time ever.  There is tension, there are tears, but then it all blows over thanks due a dubious legal decision.  And the period is as it should be, with frozen nostrils and ear drums in -30 temperatures.
More excitement in the new year as the hero discovers that he will have a poem published within an anthology, disappointment quickly dives in with the knowledge that there will be no payment and the quality of the printing is also a little dodgy.  Meanwhile, spending so much time apart from his love is playing havoc with his happiness.  What is he doing?  Should he move to Sweden?
Never mind, its their first valentines day together and he receives some music and they feed ducks.  Aww, how cute!
Books are getting read in their numerousness (is that a word?) but the writing is getting harder.  Stories and poems are sent away but all are rejected.  But here finally is easter, and two visits from his swede, one with her father who visits the english countryside for the first time.  The second visit is for three weeks and is wonderful until the last days when the realisation of having to part comes in once more.
But the god Vulcan is looking after them. Iceland is smoking, no-one is going anywhere and our hero (me) has his best ever thursday afternoon sitting in just a t-shirt by the canal...he gets to keep her for another week and gets to take her out to dinner for her birthday.
Money's starting to get tighter...he's going to have to find work again soon.  Starts slowly, doesn't really want to.  His love has by this point decided to move over so they can be together and will do once she finishes at the folk art school she doesn't enjoy.
More time spent travelling, more time spent pretending to look for work and his football team are relegated amidst a woeful run of form.  But never mind, she's actually moving over.  And by a strange quirk of fate he gets some temping work due to start the day after she moves here.
The work stays sporadic however and his love is also having difficulties with the system.  Thrift is the watchword.  Both require help from each other to stay positive.  She gets an NI number but agencies are still not interested without proof she has a teaching degree they can understand...

But now the hero has found a full time job.  Working at the International Grains Council in Canary Wharf (the big famous tower with the pyramid), who monitor the worldwide grain trade.  Everyone seems friendly and it is on a temp to perm basis.  Things are looking up.  His love has received her NARIC certificate and the schools will soon be returning and her friend has found somewhere in London too. And that's where we stand, on the edge of the brink of season Two...but what will happen?  Well, you'll just have to tune in to find out, and no there will be no spoilers...

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Status Quo

Still no more work.  This week I've been putting myself forward for jobs on websites, as well as sending my CV to different agencies.  Heard nothing from them yet, but we will see.  So I've been turning the rest of my attention to books.
Alain de Botton writes on philosophy and I've finally gotten around to reading one of his books, The Architecture of Happiness.  It was in fact very interesting and gave great insights on why we can like some buildings or art and dislike others.  It also set off a few ideas in my head for stories.  So maybe I'll get around to writing them...hmm.
Next up was Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys, which seemed to follow on a bit from his American Gods.  It took a while to get into it, and was in some senses predictable, but the pleasure of his books is more the odd mini-stories that are in the middle of the tale.  In a lot of ways his style reminds me of Douglas Adams.
Finally another Henning Mankell book, but not a Wallander story.  It had the same feel of cold and darkness and death as the detective books but was a different type of story entirely.  It was still excellent though and I look forward to reading any more of his books that I can get my hands on.

The weather has been strange this past week.  Very changeable, between sudden showers, and bright sunshine, but usually an odd mix of cold and warmth.  As such it makes it very difficult to know when and for how long to go out.  Right now it looks nice, but there are no guarantees.

Last night I listened to a documentary on Radio 2 about Richard Burton.  If it was not for his voice then I'm not sure how much interest I would have in poetry and literature now.  It was because of that voice that I began reading HG Wells and other science fiction at a young age, and then took an interest in Dylan Thomas and from there other poetry.  I can still remember, at the age of not much more than four or five, sitting in my parents living room on a Saturday morning with a bowl of shreddies that I couldn't finish for being so scared, and hearing Jeff Wayne's War of the Worlds for the first time.  The radio programme was excellent, with both Burton's and other fine voices to listen to.  I wrote a poem after it finished.

Listening
To a voice on the radio;
Long dead.
Echoes from the past.
Words spoken,
Lines read.
The voice of the poets,
Of coal dust and rain;
And black bread.
The voice
That sunk a thousand pints
Before bed;
And said:
This is me.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Poem

The passion, the art
Make love
Then fart.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Portobello Hell and the Green Invader

No work in the past week but I've not been...completely...idle.  As I said at the end of my last post, I was off to the Proms for some Mahler and it was excellent.  The seats were only eight from the front and about a dozen back from the stage, a perfect view really and sound was also great.  It was nice to see how the other half live for a while at least. 
Erica quite enjoyed her knitting cafe, albeit a bit different from the way it works in Sweden.  Once more its that general lack of inclusiveness and equality that she misses, which comes over a little rude.  I'm not sure why we have to be like that here, is it a shyness?  Or is it a lack of self confidence that makes us try harder to appear more important? Or something else entirely.

Anyway, on Saturday she got the chance to speak plenty of Swedish as a former Uni colleague was over with her own friends.  Unfortunately (at least from my point of view) we had to visit Portobello Market...on a Saturday...late morning...and it was heaving.  You could barely hear an english accent and it felt as if the whole of Europe had suddenly descended upon West Eleven.  And its not as if they even sell anything worth buying.  Does anyone really want old spoons with ivory handles or pairs of porcelain spaniels?  I only perked up at the sight of the wonderful fruits and veg, cakes and breads, further down.  Now that was a market I would like to have on my doorstep.  Nevertheless, the Swedish ladies were all very friendly, spoke to me in good English and enjoyed themselves.  We left them to visit Buck House alone.

Since then we've devoured three books between us.  Erica had Pride & Prejudice, which (based upon the number of snorts of laughter and giggles) she enjoyed.  I had le Carre's Mission Song, the best of his that I've read so far (still want to read the older cold war ones), along with Robert Harris' Fatherland which I have read before.  Still excellent however.  I now have one of his more recent Roman novels Lustrum along with a Jack Higgins.  Erica is sticking with Austen and Mansfield Park.  I have also been re-writing my CV into much more modern format and have to say I'm rather pleased with it.  Really could do with some more work soon, but have some better ideas about the future now.

Finally to a curious incident this weekend and the arrival of a green insect which may have been a grasshopper.  I have no idea how it got into my room but Erica suddenly spotted it on the carpet while she read.  I quickly caught it in a glass jar but was at a loss what to do with it.  After realising it had wings we decided to throw it out of the window (I am on the fourth floor) but this proved tricky since it decided to stick to the jar.  It then refused to move while I flicked at it with a piece of paper and if you excuse the pun, I was rather jumpy since I did not know what it was or what it would do.  Thankfully I got it to leave the jar and it has not been seen since.  We continue to keep a lookout, however...

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Sense No More

Ever feel like your banging your head against a brick wall?  Well today I've felt like that on a tour around several recruitment agencies with Erica who just look at her as if she fell off their shoe.  Saying that they don't recruit for that kind of work, and expecting you to know it, even though their websites are only plastered with slogans like "the right job just for you" etc. which makes you think they'd recruit for anything.
Then others that say that they would want people with previous experience...but in which case how do you get the experience?  And then pithily telling you that you can check employers own websites for their own job listings...well duh!..perhaps there is no reason for recruitment agencies after all.
And finally the ones that ask "what is your dream job?" as if they were ten years old and doing a mock interview for their English homework. I know what mine is...recruitment consultant...you get paid ridiculous amounts of money and all you have to do is find a job for someone who already has about ten offers of work and tell everyone else to go away.

As for myself I finished at Sense yesterday, and received a lovely box of choccies from them, which was really nice.  Quite a few have already gone I have to say.  So I'm back out there looking for something else to keep me occupied and trying to think up what type of career it is that I want.  My recent job has allowed my mind to wander a little and I've had a few interesting ideas for stories and characters.  Just have to write them all down now and ponder and work a little more.

On a much brighter and exciting note my friend has received two tickets for the Proms tomorrow (a pair of Mahler Symphonies on offer) and so I get to sit down at a Prom for the first time ever.  I have sat at the RAH before, but for different things.  Very exciting.  And as for Erica, well she won't be home completely alone since she has found a craft group to meet up with.  More on that story later...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

More Tales

Since I last blogged I have continued to work at Sense, and now all my work is up on their webpage at the link I gave you before.  Erica finally had her NI interview only to find that its best if she has work already (why they don't tell you that on the HMRC webpage I don't know) and has to wait four more weeks to find out if she gets it or not.  It's a bit like banging your head on a brick wall sometimes.  As a result she has now begun looking for teaching work but is feeling a bit down.
I have not had much chance to write over the last few weeks but have uploaded another story I wrote recently, The Honey Seller on the same website as before.  I have also uploaded some older short stories to the site.
Had a family gathering to go to yesterday which was nice, especially since I haven't seen my dad for a while.  More stress for Erica of course at having to remember lots more new names, at least the weather was nice though, and we did get to stroll alongside the Thames.
I expect to finish at Sense this week, so maybe will get a couple of days off, a chance to relax and a chance to help Erica settle in more to London.  It's a tough place.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Trio

The data I have been working on with Sense has now started to appear on their website and you can find it here at Urgency Report .  All the data are in Excel spreadsheets which you find by clicking on each relevant area within England and overall they show that there will be an increase in the numbers of people who are Deafblind over the next twenty years.  The report itself can be downloaded from the main report page.

Since I last blogged I applied for a job at the Royal Geographical Society (yet to hear anything back) and made lots of chocolate which has gone down well with all those who have tried it.  Thankfully Erica returns from Sweden tomorrow...it's only been a week but it feels like years.

I went to my first Prom in two years on Monday and it was fantastic.  Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2 (famous from Brief Encounter) was lovely and the other pieces were also good, and it was wonderful to hear the organ in full flow.  It just goes right through you, from the walls and the floor and the ceiling.  I will take Erica on Sunday for some Schumann, Dvorak and Strauss.  I'm sure she will enjoy the experience.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Spellbook

I have decided that it would be easier to share some of my stories and writings with you in a better format than can be read in this blog.  Therefore I have created an account at an online document website and have uploaded my first story to it The Spellbook
This is a story I wrote a couple of months ago, it is a fairy tale / fantasy about a young girl who uses magic to gain revenge upon a nasty teacher.  I hope you enjoy it!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Catching Up

Wow, it's been a while since I blogged, so I guess a bit of catching up needs to be done.  As I write I'm listening to Tired Pony on Spotify.
After my one week of work, which was at the charity Sense, I had a week off.  I was then recalled by Sense as they realised they wanted me to do some more work.  I have entering population data in excel spreadsheets as part of a report which I think is due to come out next week.  I had originally only entered data for one year, however they later decided to have future years too, and I was very grateful to be called back.  They were obviously happy with me.  I am still working there as the data is not yet finished, but with the report coming out soon, things are starting to get hectic.
As I said in my last "real" post my girlfriend was about to arrive, and she did.  For the first week of work she was very much alone all day making me food, doing dishes and making crafts.  But during that time it gave her the chance to set up her online shop for crafts, which is at Erica's Misi Shop.  She has much more to upload than is already on here, but it's all very clever.
But we then had a week together, during which I also had a birthday.  We had a fantastic night on the 2nd, having decided to take a walk along the river.  We took bus 43 down to London Bridge, which had a faulty oyster reader which meant we got a free trip.  We had a lovely walk, stopping every now and again to watch and to hug, and got to Waterloo about 10pm, at which time a modern circus group were about to start.  This was free too, and a great show.  We then picked up the 168 to come back home to find that this bus too had a faulty oyster reader.  Incredible!
My birthday was spent picnicking on Clapham Common, wandering to Wandsworth and then further on to Putney before getting the bus home.  A very relaxing day, but we were both a little allergic from grass pollen by the end of it.  My girlfriend did embroider me a lovely card however.
After more than a week in the uk Erica was missing her knackebrod and fluffy pillows, so we took a trip up to the Edmonton Ikea to pick up both bedroom and food supplies.  It was my first experience of an Ikea (the best bit was the meatballs in the canteen), but I didn't see much difference between it and B&Q to be honest.  The smell was the same after all.
Erica has been a little unlucky with getting started here.  It took three phone calls to the NI office before she could even get an interview for an NI number and when she went to the same work agency as the one I work for they barely let her speak before thrusting a sheet of paper at her and telling her to look online.  Not friendly at all to be honest and very disappointing.  She has seen some work available at her favourite art shop however, so fingers crossed, hold your thumbs.
I have a week to myself now, with Erica going home for her allergy shot, and will endeavour to apply for some jobs, make some chocolate and visit the Proms.  It's been two years since I last went, I never got there last year, and am getting excited.  I listened to last nights broadcast and felt quite emotional about the thought of climbing those steps up to the gallery and the vision that is the interior of the Royal Albert Hall.  It's such a beautiful place (I'm feeling emotional again as I write) and I can't wait to get there again.
That's about it for now.  I've not been doing any writing for a while, for various reasons, one of which is that I can't type on  my girlfriends computer.  Too many weird characters appearing and it's much too big!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Germany v England

England's worst performance in a World Cup Finals?  Undoubtedly. Outplayed, outclassed and out of (South) Africa.  At least the 1966 ghost of "did the ball cross the line?" has now been laid to rest.  Whether it did or not, it certainly did in Bloemfontein, but on this occasion there was no Russian linesman.  And as for Munich, well we can all stop talking about that too.
Something, completely and unutterably, has to change now within the FA.  I don't know whether Fabio should stay or not, and to be honest I don't think it really matters.  What has to change, however, are the players.  A manager must choose his system and then pick the best players to play that system, like any club manager would.  He should not be picking the "best" eleven English players and then hoping that they will make a team.  If anything an international manager should have it easier, since money to buy the best players, does not come into it.  And England have plenty of good players.
But FIFA must do something too now.  Their decision to not use technology on goal lines was ridiculous when they made it several months ago. It now looks more ridiculous, now that it has had an affect in a World Cup. I very much doubt that it would have changed the outcome in this game, but it might have, and that is the point.  If results of these matches are called into question because of this, then that must be a problem for the governing body.  We will see.
For the first time in my life I have not been able to sit through a whole England game, and I have been there for other defeats.  It was more their lack of interest that became a problem.  But at least I have the cricket now...

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Back to Work

Since I blogged yesterday I have received confirmation that I have some work...(sharp intake of breath)...starting tomorrow for about a week.  So it seems that another new portion of my life begins.  My girlfriend gets here later today, and I can't wait, but she will be somewhat alone in taking her first steps.  For now I'm just trying to enjoy the warm weather as much as I can.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Twinge of Sadness

I always feel a twinge of sadness, of regret, when I finish reading a good book.  It's worse when it's a trilogy, or a series, especially when you've been able to read them back to back.  I finished reading the Amber Spyglass last night and I'm still feeling the effects of it this morning.
The first time I finished the story a few years ago, I was sitting on a train, surounded by people, and had to try swallowing back the tears.  When I saw the play last year, the same thing happened.  I'm sure that if they make the two more films of the trilogy, the same will happen.
I wonder how many times I have to read it, or watch it, before it will stop affecting me.  Something tells me that it won't stop. I've seen Pan's Labyrinth three times, and each time cried at the end.  A Very Long Engagement brings tears at the beginning still, even!
The strange thing is that I should be feeling extremely happy.  My girlfriend will be here tomorrow, not just to visit, but to move here.  She's decided to move to another country, just to be with me.  I should be the happiest man in the world, and deep down I am.  For the moment though, I still can't help worrying about Will and Lyra.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Words and Pictures

Since I last blogged I have signed with an agency...No work as yet but I have to wait for references etc. to get through the system, but hopefully something will come up during the next week.
In the meantime I have been doing a little more sketching, this time of people I've caught accidentally in photographs of other things:


On Tuesday I took a walk into town before meeting a friend for a fantastic pizza.  While out I bought the entire His Dark Materials trilogy for just £6!  I was shocked at how cheap it was, and a saving of £16 on the rrp.  Interestingly I had heard Philip Pullman on the radio on sunday morning talking about his new book.  I also made a sketch of two people in a coffee shop (unfortunately the figure on the right moved while I sketched) and have made watercolour based on a sketch I made on one of the numerous elephants still in the city.

The Football World Cup is finally starting to get interesting, with defeats for Spain and France.  England were disappointing last week, but too much is being said of the 'keeper.  The fact was that they should have scored more than the one goal in my opinion.  Hopefully they will do better today.

So that's the pictures, now the words (yes I'm afraid this is a longer blog this time).  I've decided to post a couple of 500 word stories that I wrote a while ago.  Hope you enjoy them.  Comments welcome.

Summer Holiday

It ended in the same way as it began, on a cloudy, moonless night.  Rain plopped gently into the sand, and drummed loudly on the planks of the wooden hut above them.  For two weeks they had met here, every night, but tonight it was time to say goodbye.
The rain had led them here on that first night, independently of one another.  First the boy, and then her.  She had given him a wary look at first, as if trying to judge if he could be trusted, but then a glance around had shown that there was no other shelter on this part of the beach.
She stepped in and shook herself dry, sitting down on the step next to him.  And that’s how they met, sitting there in silence and staring out at the dark water.  When the rain had stopped she stepped out cautiously, and giving him a quick backward glance, she ran off.  The boy didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.
The next night was clear as the boy strolled down the beach.  The stars shone and the moon was reflected in the sea.  When he came to the hut he had been surprised to see her sitting there, as if waiting for him.
He stepped up slowly, not sure whether his company was welcome or not, but she appeared to give him a nod of acceptance.  He sat down and introduced himself, telling her that his name was Billy Connor and that he came from London.  She stared up at him for a moment with her blue eyes, before turning to look at the waves.
As they met night after night, the boy told her more and more about himself.  His family were here on holiday for two weeks.  But, all that his parents and older sister wanted to do was lie on the beach all day getting sun tans.  He would rather be in the museum, learning about the history and culture of the island.  The rest of his family weren’t interested in museums.
He told her that History and Geography were his favourite subjects at school, and that when he grew up he wanted to be an archaeologist, or a historical researcher, or maybe even a curator in a museum.  He hadn’t decided yet, but still had plenty of time to work it out.
And so it had come to the final night.  He was flying back home tomorrow and he would miss her.  He still knew nothing about her, not her name or where she came from, but he would still miss these moments of stillness and of being able to talk freely.
He told her that he would take her with him were it not for his mother’s allergies, and the fact that she might belong to someone.  He hoped that she would understand that he wouldn’t be coming there again.  But she simply purred gently as they stared out at the falling rain.

The Monster

No one would be expecting it from him, of all people.  He was the quiet, nerdy kid with the strange name, who always sat in the corner of class, the timid field-mouse of a student who wasn’t even worth teasing, since nobody ever noticed him.
He would never have even come up with the idea if he hadn’t seen the article about the celebrations in the local paper.  It was the perfect opportunity, the whole town would be there, and they would be in awe of him.
He made a trip to library; picking up books on anatomy, back issues of horror comics and of course Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.  The assistant had given him an odd look, but Barnabas had just smiled nonchalantly back.
It had been difficult keeping his father out of the garden shed until he spun him a story about how he was building him something for Father’s Day.  His dad winked at him then, tapping his nose twice and saying how proud he was that he had finally taken up woodwork.  Barnabas thought that he would be disappointed that he had been lied to, but would understand when he finally saw what his son had created.
And on hindsight maybe it hadn’t been such a great idea to put the sign on the door saying: “Top Secret Project – No Unauthorised Personnel”.
It had only made his younger brother even more curious as to what he was doing.  The game had almost been up one day when he came home to find that little Joseph had already broken through two of the three padlocks with a pair of bolt cutters.  He had ended up having to bribe him with free sweets and football stickers for a whole month.
His mother had been the most persistent at wanting to know what he was up to.  First of all she had been worried that he had joined a cigarette smoking gang, which then led to her thinking that it was a drug taking gang after he borrowed a couple of tea spoons.
She had been satisfied when he told her that it was for a science project.  But that only lasted a day, by which time she had come up with the notion that science was a codeword for biology, which was a euphemism for girls.  The only way he could stop her going in there was to agree to listen when she spoke for an hour about the dangers of unprotected sex.
But it was worth it, because now the monster was ready.  Tomorrow the whole town would see what he had created, when it was unveiled at the Halloween celebration Monster Painting competition.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Classic Experiments




Having heard very little from the agency I signed with several weeks ago I today visited another agency who were much more positive...I sign with them tomorrow.  In the meantime I have completed the short story I began in Sweden, which I am quite pleased with.  I intend to sketch out another story later tonight, for which I already have ideas for submitting.  I also received an email from a writing website today which contained links to other writing websites, some of which looked very interesting.  When I get work, I intend to subscribe to them.
With the World Cup in football finally beginning tomorrow I picked up a wallchart today so that I can keep up with the scores.  It is stuck proudly to my wardrobe.  I have also been painting, as you can see above.  A blue flower (watercolours on watercolour paper) and fruits (chalk pencils brushed with water on card).  I'm quite pleased with them actually.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

New Painting


To deal with boredom last night, a new painting...English Landscape with Plesiosaur

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

I Made This

Saw the night for the first time in eleven days yesterday...and no, this is not a metaphor for missing my girlfriend. With the year inching towards midsummer the light in Dalarna, even after eleven pm, is little more than dusk.  But now that I'm back home I saw the black of night once more.
My girlfriend is a little happier now to have left her art school, but there were still the final days to get through, including a goodbye event involving singing, humour, costume changes and bingo.  Unfortunately I couldn't understand enough of the numbers to genuinely win a prize.
I did however get the opportunity to carry an over-heavy bag, more than half full of my girlfriends belongings...which wasn't quite so fun.  She also gave me a huge recipe book to bring back with me (for her use when she moves over).  I think the weight of my bag made it into double figures for the first time ever.
While at her dad's I watched A Knights Tale, for the first time, fun and a lot better than Dirty Dancing...but that goes without saying. Carrying a heavy pack is better than having to watch Dirty Dancing.  I also cooked for all the family, a very daunting prospect, but decided to go for something simple, and English...A cottage pie.  Thankfully it went down very well, mainly thanks to my girlfriends sister having some Worcestershire Sauce, for it would have been poor without it.
Now I am faced once more with having to find work, not fun, but I really must push myself.  I have also managed only a little writing in the last fortnight and must sort my brain out again.  Have just finished reading The Summer Tree however, one of my girlfriends favourites, need to wait for her to arrive with books 2 and 3 of the Fionavar Tapestry.  It was good, and I am curious to know how it all ends. For fantasy lovers I do recommend it.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Back in Time

Well I've made it to Sweden now, and gone back in time as a result...only joking...Sweden isn't that backward a country.  It was actually the Medieval Market I visited in Leksand.  They had stalls selling pottery and earthenware, cloth and clothes, silverware and ironware, herbs and sweets and soaps.  There were also people in period costume and a "medieval boy-band"


Later there were jousters on horseback and a horse and cart giving rides


Since then I have come to Arjang to help my girlfriend pack and to get her through the last few days of school.  I've been trying to keep her on the rails, while surveying from my throne...


We've had some shocking moments...


But also been to see a beautifully still lake...although in Sweden this is just a puddle...a puddle with moquitos


I will endeavour to write sometime over the next few days while my girlfriend works, cleans, etc

Sunday, 23 May 2010

A Busy Week

Not really, but a title like that always sounds good.  And it's not that i've been celebrating England's first ICC tournament win either, at least not for the whole week.
I've actually been sequestering my own brain this week to get some writing done.  I've been working on an idea using the Snowflake method as mentioned last week, but I've also been writing something else entirely to keep my mind in gear.  The truth is, i'm not much good at planning, I get bored very easily. So I've decided to make it easier by getting some writing done at the same time. That way I can feel that I've done something. Anyway, I've written about 17000 words since last time, which is quite a lot for a weeks work. Doesn't mean its much good though, but we'll see how it turns out.
The weather is baking, so I'm sitting here sweating right now.  Later this week I head out to Sweden again - finally - for the last trip before my girlfriend moves over, so I will have to do some washing and packing this week. But I will try to continue with the writing.  I have to really, because I know that I'll get sidetracked if i'm not careful and it'll never get finished. Wish me luck.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

The Old Battle

Over the past couple of weeks the West Indies have been hosting the Twenty20 world cup and the final takes place tomorrow between England and Australia.  England have never won an ICC tournament before, although they have been to some finals.  It all kicks off at 16.30 BST and I for one am very much looking forward to it...I'm only hoping that they do themselves justice.
I've also been checking out the International Cricket Council website and found they have a profile for Swedish Cricket which sadly has not been allowed to compete recently in international events since they don't have enough home grown players.  There is a league, but most players seem to be ex-pats from other cricketing nations.  Come on you Swedes!  Take the game up...

I've also been working on writing this week.  I've come across an interesting web page detailing the Snowflake method and its the most useful thing I've read on writing so far.  I've already begun working down as far as stage three, so hopefully I'll be able to keep going.
I also came up with some ideas on humorous poems looking at historical stories a little differently.  Not sure how they will work yet, or whether I will print them here...but we'll see.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Teaching the Swedes British Politics

I think in truth that this is a harder task since at least cricket has a clear list of laws and rules...After all how can it seem fair that one party can get 22% of the votes, and only 9% of the seats, or another to get 26% votes and 37% of the seats.  The point is that constinuencies are inconsistent in their size and the first past the post sytem (FPP) is archaic.
 I won't even bother on trying to explain how people would have been unable to vote because I don't understand that either.  It seems that in a lot of european countries their elections take place on a Sunday and therefore people don't have the problem of being at work all day.  Ours have always taken place on Thursdays and I can only think that this dates back from a time the only people allowed to vote were the ones who didn't have to work anyway!
So we got a hung parliament as expected, and the upshot is that we have our first coalition government since the second world war.  I have been seeing some odd comments on facebook throughout all of this, about people complaining about voting Lib Dem, to see a Tory government in place etc.  But did they expect Nick Clegg to form a minority government with only 57 seats?  Or perhaps they just expected him to sit on the sidelines and do nothing?
The fact that the Tories will now have to moderate some of their policies seems to have escaped them totally, along with the fact that a party they voted for will actually have a say in the running of the country.  There seems to be no pleasing some people.
How this will all turn out is intriguing to say the least.

On another topic entirely, I took a walk through Hyde Park and some of the city yesterday, to find a profusion of elephants!  Not real ones, model ones, everywhere and in various colours.  It's been organised by Elephant Family, a charity protecting asian elephants.  More about the elephant parade in london can be found on the website.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wanted After All

Yesterday I walked into an agency to look for work to be told that that particular branch dealt with a specialist type of work but that they would get back to me...no word yet...However, only two hours after my return home I was called out of the blue by another agency entirely, to say that they had seen my cv online, and maybe had a job for me.  I signed with them today...strange world.
Writing wise I have been working on something inspired by one of my girlfriend's little projects...not too sure whether there will be more on the subject or not, we will see.
I have also been listening to the cricket from the West Indies, the Twenty20 world cup, in which England have managed to progress without winning a game.  I will not talk about Duckworth Lewis.
Finally, here are two recent watercolour sketches...Popping Fun and Bringing Out the Covers...

Monday, 3 May 2010

Down...Down...Down...

In some senses at least, but for real in terms of my Sheffield Wednesday who didn't manage an escape they didn't deserve...
I've been reading Mythago Wood's sequel Avilion which is lovely.  Haunting and sad, but in this way affecting.  And inspiring for that matter.  Although some concepts are hard to follow for someone like me, brought up on the american-influenced fiction of ramming a point down your throat until it becomes comepletely obvious, the writing allows it to almost seep into you.  A trickle of brooks perhaps, or of sap and dew...
No electronic words as yet from the library agency I wrote to last week, but I will wait, but not idly.  Tomorrow I plan to sign up to an agency and set the inevitable ball-bearing roll towards temporary work.
I couldn't let the response to my last post pass however, and have to say that it's lovely to feel so wanted.  I was hoping for work offers...but I'll take what I can...

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Mythago

Yesterday I read Mythago Wood for the first time...literally spent all day reading it, and a wonderful book it is too.  A fantasy containing all the old legends, landscapes and myths of Britain.  I heard about it several months ago when the sequel (25 years after the original) was reviewed in Fortean Times.  Unfortunately my local library did not have it in at the time and the book slipped from my mind.
However, as these things often happen, I was reminded of it recently by a postscript in the same magazine which said that the author Robert Holdstock had died in November aged only 61 (e-coli poisoning), and strangely the next day on the search for another book entirely I found it on the shelf of my library.
I'm glad I took up the opportunity to read it and will now search out the sequel too.  I recommend it to anyone who enjoys fantasy stories.

For myself, I have done a little writing this week, and also have more actively gone on the hunt for "proper" jobs.  Anything in the library and information field is what I'm looking for...anyone want me?

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Perfect Month

Just changed the lyrics to Lou Reed's 'Perfect Day'!  Well it's been a while since I last blogged, so here's a brief review of what's happened since...Visited the Crypt Gallery, the Whitechapel Gallery, the Highgate Society Gallery, the British Musuem, the Museum of London, Tate Britain, visited cousins, aunts and uncles, my dad, friends with wives and girlfriends, went clothes shopping, went book shopping, went bead shopping, went thread shopping, visited the coast, Regents Park, Hampstead Heath, Greenwich Park, travelled on the London Eye, coaches, buses, the tube, the DLR, walked, read books, read magazines, read newspapers, painted, drew, watched football, watched cricket, watched DVD's, went to the theatre, the cinema, ate out, ate in...and had lots of fun!

Now have to take a bit of a breath (gulp) and then begin a hunt for an actual job (gulp gulp) unfortunately.  But then I've got to bring some money in from somewhere.

So as something different, here are a few watercolours painted over the last month.



Saturday, 20 March 2010

Submissions and Rejections

Just a short note to say that I've submitted some of my poems to Brittle Star, Poetry Review and Poetry London.  With any luck I might get something more published.

The short story I submitted just a week ago came back to me as a rejection in the middle of the week, after having been "carefully considered". They must have had it for at least an hour.  Never mind, i've got some more ideas for places to send stories and will keep trying.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Patrick and the Snakes

Not too much to report right now.  This week I have been collating poems in order to send them off to different magazines.  I have a good selection to choose from and so it has taken a little time.  I have also been working on ideas for a possible novel.
On Saturday I went for a walk with my best friend along the south coast between Seaford and Eastbourne.  The weather was lovely, no rain and a little sun.  Unfortunately I didn't have any battery left for my camera, but I've found a lovely website with photographs of the walk (which are probably better than any I could have taken anyway)...walk

Today is St Patricks Day obviously, and so here is a flash story connected to it:

Molly was shocked when she had been asked to speak to the Head.
'Is my George okay?' she asked, full of panic. 'Is he hurt?'
'No, your George is fine', Miss Conrad had replied.  'But he has been causing trouble I'm afraid.'
'Trouble?  But he's usually as good as gold.  His teacher says...'
'I know, Mrs Smith. I know.  That's why I wanted to speak to you, because it is so out of the ordinary.' She paused.  'He's been fighting wiht Patrick O'Regan.'
'The little Irish boy? But I thought they got on well?'
'So did I, but it seems that Christian has been causing some trouble between them.'
'Christian..?'
'He's a new boy, and seems to be desperate for both their attention.'
'What set it off? The fight I mean.'
'Well...'  Miss Conrad smiled in puzzlement.  'Apparantly Patrick completely cleared the tuck-shop of fizzy snakes by eating them all.'

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Movie Identity

Kept myself busy again this week.  I've been writing poems which I do plan to submit at some point in the next few weeks, as well as a children's story which I have submitted for a competition to Smories.  I've also printed out a short story I wrote two weeks ago, which I will submit to People's Friend, in the first instance.
On the subject of the poems I need to obtain some magazines to be certain of where to send them.  I've read back copies of some but plan to go out today for the new copies.  One I've already sent off for over the internet, as well an anthology of "cross-over" short fiction which I will check out with the possibility of submitting something there.
On an unrelated theme, today is the first day of the first test between England and Bangladesh. Since the start time of 3.30am was a little early I decided to set my alarm in time for the post-lunch session.  But weirdly I woke up of my own volition five minutes before it was due to go off.  I've obviously missed Test Match Special more than I thought.

Back to writing now, and here's a new flash story inspired by the fact that today is the 9th anniversary of the death of Robert Ludlum, creator of the Bourne books.

'It feels weird every time I come here now.  Ever since they filmed that film here, you know...'
Tom turned to Steve.
'No I don't know actually...'
'You know.  That film.'
Steve's face was creased in thought.  Tom turned away and began scanning the electronic departures board again.
'Next train to Guildford is in ten minutes.  Come on, let's board.'  He said.
'What is that film?  You know...Wait..there, there...'
Tom stared at Steve in astonishment as he began pointing at a wine shop.
'He ran in there..the main character ran in there.'
'Just now?'
'No!  In the...Are you mocking me?'
Tom grinned.
'Would I do that?'
'He ran in there and into that cupboard', Steve was pointing again.
'To hide?'
'No.  It wasn't a cupboard in the film; there was a staircase behind it.'
'You know sometimes mate', Tom shook his head.  'You really need to get a life.'

Monday, 8 March 2010

Home Again

Been back since before the weekend, but only got around to doing this today.  Had a great time last week, and my girlfriends dad discovered a liking for Marmite (not available in Sweden) and for english beer.  Here's a photo of him and my dad savouring pints in one of the locals.

 

It has now come to the time when I have to think about replenishing the coffers so to speak.  It's not at desperation stage yet, but thinking ahead isn't a bad thing.  As such, I applied for two jobs over the weekend and in all likelihood will be applying for more over the next few weeks.  If nothing comes in a month or so I will revert to temping for a bit.
Today though my mind was elsewhere, so I visited the cinema to see MicMacs, from the director of Amelie.  It was good, but not as good as his previous films.  Although it still had the range of odd and quirky characters, they were less believable, as was the story itself.  Still it was a fun piece of escapism.

Finally, I also submitted a piece of writing to Smoke, a London based semi regular magazine containing articles and stories about London.  I did submit a piece a few months ago, but it wasn't accepted for reasons that it didn't quite fit with the magazine (a perfectly valid reason I think).  However, that doesn't mean I can't publish it here as it's quite a fun piece.  
Oh and yes, there will be more flash stories to come as promised.

Smoke and Ashes

It’s Sunday.  The fourth day of the Oval Ashes Test.  The sun is streaming through the window, a Bolognese sauce begins to bubble on the stove, and Australia are still only two wickets down.  Ponting and Hussey are keeping the England bowlers out.  I’m getting nervous.  I need a distraction.
Suddenly I remember one of those back copies of Smoke that, between falling in love with a gorgeous Swedish girl and moving house, I’ve neglected for a few months.  She doesn’t yet understand Cricket, but I plan to hook her.
I begin to read the first sentence, but immediately my brain is distracted.  Aggers has gone crazy; surely Ponting hasn’t got himself run out again?  Indeed he has.  Tears stream into my eyes, remembering the feeling of the win four years previously, celebrating with my friends in the pub in Euston and then joining in with the singing in Trafalgar Square.  Are the Ashes coming our way again?
I listen to four more balls of commentary, and then cast my eyes back to the magazine.  But wait...what’s that?  Another run out?  This is getting ridiculous.  I’ve not even started reading yet but suddenly I begin to look at the magazine in a whole new light.  I try reading again, still with one ear on the commentary, but all is quiet for a while.
In between stories of pregnant mothers, crime waves and Alexandra Palace, I stir my Bolognese a few times and Australia score a few runs, eating away at some more of those overs.  Surely we’ve got plenty of time to bowl them out?  My worries are short lived as Prior’s neat work produces a fifth wicket.  We’re halfway there.
Tea comes and goes (I decide to suspend reading during the interval since I’m certain now that it’s having an effect and don’t want to waste words) but Australia are just about hanging in.  I read about unusually decorated fish and wonder if my sauce is ready yet.  The wine I bought following an early morning stroll across Hampstead Heath is opened.  I eat, but there are no more wickets.
I’m back in my armchair and pick up Smoke once more.  The Brockley monastery intrigues me, but only for a moment as one, then two wickets fall.  Surely it’s all over now?  I continue reading, wondering if I should slow down or speed up.  Will England stop taking wickets when I finish or are they waiting for me to reach the end so that they can reach the end themselves?  It’s too much for a Sunday afternoon after a filling dinner and some red wine.
I’m nervous now.  I’ve reached the back page.  Still no more wickets.  But just as I begin...BANG...BANG...and Harmy’s on a hat-trick!  I’m wishing I was down in Regent’s Park, but only for a moment.  Having experienced the sprawling mass of people the day before, I’m sure it could only be worse today.  Besides, it’s far more civilised being able to drink out of a glass bottle in your own home with TMS on the radio.
I’m still on the back page, just below the Walrus picture.  There’s still one more wicket to get.  In comes Swann, I notice Catford mentioned, what is it about all these animals?  But then that’s it, it’s all over, we’ve regained the Ashes and, strangely, I’ve finished the magazine.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Poker Players, Travellers and Time Travellers

Well, there might be a bit of radio silence for a little while since my girlfriend comes into the country today.  But to keep you going I thought I'd add a couple of interesting links that I've come across lately.
I watched a programme called The Bubble recently, a new bbc show where the celebrity contestants are hidden away for a few days before then asked whether they think certain news reports are real or fake. It was a fun programme, and the first one starred Frank Skinner, Victoria Coren and Reginald D Hunter. While watching it I couldn't help noticing that there seemed to be some closeness between VC and RDH (not just the fact that they were sitting together).  I decided to explore this idea further and came across VC's blog page.  Turns out to be an interesting one, she also plays Poker apparently, so here's Victoria's blog.
Next up is a site that I came across rather randomly (I was checking out the location of the River Fleet, so go figure), and it's Michael Palin's travel site.  I'm a big fan of his, even saw a live show with him last summer, and as an amateur traveller myself his shows and books have an inspiration.  So his travel webpage is a kind of internet heaven.  I haven't checked it all out yet, but the great thing is that you can read all of his travel books online.  I think I'll be here a while.
Finally some music, and this is via spotify, Doctor Who - Series 3.  The soundtrack album from the series.  I've always loved the show, time travel has a kind of fascination for me, all those what ifs?  But I saw "Blink" the other day, which is a great (and award winning) episode, which starred Carey Mulligan (who I hadn't actually heard of until a week ago when she herself won an award).  Strange how things work out like that.  Anyway, if you can, watch it...and remember...keep reading this site...don't, whatever you do...blink!

Thursday, 25 February 2010

All Quiet

Been a bit quiet for the past couple of days I suppose, but I've been catching up on some dull things like washing and sorting out my electronic photo albums.  All done now though.
I've also been working on a short story which I plan to submit to a magazine, as well as working on some poems which I also plan to submit.  I've got some other ideas for submitting things for different places too, or at least they're more like partial ideas right now.  Don't really want to say too much yet as I'm not sure I have too much to say.
Finally got around to seeing Avatar last night, in 3D of course.  I'm still not certain that it actually enhances movie going, the lines around objects still feel a little indistinct and sometimes it feels as if you're looking at the world through somebody else's prescription glasses.  But the film itself was decent, if full of strong political messages that get a little preachy after a while.
Moving in places, and I could connect with the concept of falling in love with someone who speaks a different language and comes from a different culture.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Woolworths

From today I'm going to be posting some mini-flash stories on a regular basis.  Here is the first (along with its introduction).

On this day in 1879, the first Woolworth five and dime shop was opened in the US but now, sadly, they no longer exist in the UK.

‘It’s all changed’, Craig said, staring.  ‘And it’s only been four years.’
‘Things change’, Maria replied.  ‘Nothing stays the same.’
‘I know...but...I wanted to show it to you as I remembered it. Even Sainsbury’s entrance wasn’t always like that’, Craig pointed, turning to Maria.  ‘What?’
She gave him a loving smile.
‘You seem so disappointed that some shops have changed’, Maria replied.  ‘It’s sweet.’
‘It’s not just shops, I lived here for three years and it was part of my life. A past life admittedly, but still...’
‘I know’, Maria said, putting her arms around Craig.
They hugged for a minute, ignoring the people around them.
‘I’ve got lots of good memories here’, Craig continued.  ‘In some ways I wish I’d never left, although...If I hadn’t I probably wouldn’t have met you.’
‘Ohh!’  Maria said, hugging Craig again as he spoke sadly.
‘Waitrose just looks wrong here.  I miss Woolworth’s.’

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Back to Childhood

Today I watched one of the UCL lunchtime lectures online - it was about dinosaur evolution and absolutely fascinating.  If you like that sort of thing, and I do - have since I was a kid to be honest.  It got me looking at dino type things on the internet and I came across some colour-in pictures which looked fun.  They are from the Dinosaur Museum website, the museum being down in Dorchester.
And so I downloaded one and have turned it into a watercolour painting.

 

Quite nice I hope you'll agree.
I've also been doing some writing, flash fiction to be exact, two stories of less than 500 words.  And I have submitted them to this magazine Vestal Review.  Will hopefully hear from them in a few months.

Feels a little strange to be back in London, hard to believe that two weeks ago I was looking forward to travelling to Sweden.  But I get my girlfriend with me again in just a weeks time as she's coming over for spring break with her dad.