To Blog or not to Blog? That is the question.
Hmmm... almost everyone else in the universe seems to be doing it these days. Maybe I will, too - just now and then. Don't expect anything too revealing or profound, though.
I'd forgotten this section was here.
What to write? Well, at the start of 2005 I decided to look at nonfiction markets - the market for short fiction in the UK is restricted, to say the least - and I set a couple of goals. By the end of February I told myself I had to have written and sold at least two nonfic articles.
It's now Feb 9th and I've already managed that - which is a Good Thing.
Sold three articles so far to an excellent American mag called Time Travel Britain. Also won a short story comp and have a piece coming out in Speak Up later this month.
Rose has a new camera and is busy taking photographs of everything that moves (and quite a few things that don't move). Take a look at her page.
Life ticks on.
I shall try to make comments a little more frequently in future.
Writers News Magazine asked for true, funny stories to be published under the heading: It Shouldn't Happen To A Writer.
I sent 'em this:
* * *
Back in 1997 I sent a story called The Moon in June to Woman's Weekly.
Thinking (incorrectly) that the editors wouldn't consider anything written by a man, I used a female pen-name - Faith Phillips.
Naturally, I was delighted when I learned that my story had been accepted.
In the week it came out, I had an appointment with my dentist.
I sat there in the waiting room. A woman arrived and sat down beside me.
She pulled Woman's Weekly out of her bag and flicked to page 14. She began reading my story!
I was really, really tempted to nudge her and say: Hey, you know that Faith Phillips? Well that's me, that is!
Back then I was 43 years old, six feet tall, bearded...
She may well have done a runner - but I'll never know, because I didn't have the guts to open my mouth.
When I did (later) it cost me half my story-fee.
Dentists earn more than writers.
* * *
Got my copy of Writers' News today and discovered I've won the prize...
... a copy of Mortification: Writers' Stories of Their Public Shame.
Now I can retire.
The lovely Fatima Naoot has translated nine of my stories into Arabic, and the collection is due to be published in September.
Strange to have a book of my own stuff that I can't read!
* قاص وروائي إنجليزي معاصر ولد عام1954 في بريمنجام بإنجلترا ، يعيش في " لينكون شاير" بالمملكة المتحدة. يشارك مع آخرين في تحرير مجلة "كادينزا" Cadenza Magazine . له العديد من الأعمال مثل ( نبتة صغيرة - المشي بالمقلوب- هديةٌ من أجل باكو - أحوال المادة- البومة–الجين المدمر – الزنبقة المدهشة. وغيرها)
حاصل على عدة جوائز من بينها جائزة الكومنولث.
في السَّرير رقم 6، ترقدُ في صَمتِها، الفتاةُ الحزينةُ " ياسمين" . هكذا أُدعى أنا أيضًا. لكنَّ الأسماءَ محضُ نعوتٍ قشرية، تطفو كالزبَدِ، متأرجحةً فوق سطح الماء. غير أن أمورًا أكثر عمقًا و أصالةً كانت تربطُ بيننا . تلك الأمور التي جعلتْها ترتاحُ إليّ وحدي، والتي جعلتني لا أقضي يومَ عطلتي إلاّ إلى جوارها.
كان اليومُ صعبًا. عنبرُ المستشفى يئنُّ بالمرضى، الأمرُ الذي جعلَ نهاري كلَّه مشحونًا بالعمل : تفريغُ السلال جوارَ الأسرّة، ملءُ نماذجِ التقاريرِ الخاصةِ بالمرضى، تبديلُ الضماداتِ و تغييرُ الملاءات . و أخيرًا، في نهايةِ اليومِ تقريبًا، تمكنتُ من اقتناص بضعِ دقائقَ لإعدادِ فنجانٍ من القهوة، أخذتُه إلى حيث المقعدِ البلاستيكيّ برتقاليّ اللون جوار سريرِها. كم أشعرُ بالامتنانِ لتلك الدقائق التي أنعم فيها بصحبة تلك الفتاة.
Found an image of my home area, The Wash, taken from space.
Looks pretty good from a few miles up. Makes me want to buy a boat and start messing about on the water. Maybe one of these days I will.
* * *
Yesterday I finished reading 83 short stories - half the entries for the current Cadenza Comp.
I sorted them into 3 piles:
A - stories that really have to go to the final judge
B - stories that have merit, but are clearly flawed
C - the rest
(all, of course, in my opinion)
There are only five stories in pile A
There are twenty-one in B
So there must be fifty-seven in C
One of the things I've learned is never, ever to write another story about a couple (especially a middle-class couple) having marriage problems. I swear 70% of the stories I've just read were about this.
I've done it myself.
But I ain't never doing it again. Not no more.
After 30 'Unhappy Couple' stories in a row - a judge LONGS for something else.
Even My Life As A Cat would seem better.
Finally got my 'new' car - not that it is new. Still, it does what cars are supposed to do. Pleased with it (so far).
Raining and grey this morning. Where did the sunshine go?
* * *
Got up at 4.00 a.m. to see an eclipse.
Took the dog out on the marsh. There were four other early-morning idiots out there waiting for the sun to rise.
Time came and went, but there was low cloud so nothing to see. I turned around and headed for home - then the sun rose a little higher and the cloud vanished.
It was glorious. Looked a lot like this.
Only about half the sun swallowed at this latitude - even so it was beautiful. The dog was impressed.
Wish I'd taken a camera.
Still not got my next Citroen, but I managed to get hold of a battered old loan car until next week, so I'm no longer restricted to pedal-power.
(Found a better photo. Seen from Lincolnshire, it was more like this.)
* * *
My car died last week and I've yet to replace it. So for the last few days I've been getting around (when I have to get around) by bicycle.
I live in the middle of Lincolnshire Nowhere - nearest shop 2.5 miles away, town 7 miles away - so the roads are pretty empty. Wouldn't fancy cycling in London, but around here it's quite pleasant. And you see so much more than you see when you're in a car.
On my trip to the paper shop this morning, I saw:
* an owl cruising along the ditch beside the road looking for tasty mice
* a huge flock of birds flying overhead, on their way to the RSPB reserve near my house
* not one, but two used condoms dumped at the pull-in where the local farmers store their piles of sugar-beet (someone's been having some fun)
Also, my legs are firming up, and I've lost a couple of pounds.
Maybe when I get another car, I'll keep cycling, too. But knowing me, I won't.
* * *
Last night I had this dream.
I was sitting up in a tree, sawing off branches. No mystery about that because I did it in real life at my sister's place yesterday.
But then in my dream I looked down at my feet and decided to saw them off, too - so I did.
There was lots of blood - cartoon fountains of it. I just sat there and watched my stumps gushing.
What the hell was that all about?
Have to do a Google search on 'Freud + severed + feet.'
On Tuesday we cremated my mother. Family and friends. Party. Got drunk.
Not much else to say about that, I guess. (I sound like Forrest Gump.)
Time to move on.
* * *
Strange time, this. Feel a bit numb. The past couple of nights I've caught myself thinking (at about 7.00 p.m.) 'oh, better phone mum.'
No mystery in that because it's exactly what I've done for the past five years or so, but the thought seems to come from some deep-seated part of me that's only half-aware of what's happened.
What odd creatures we are.
* * *
Mum died yesterday morning at eight o'clock. She was 91.
She'd been ill for ages and was suffering, so what my sister and I feel more than anything else is relief. I'm pretty sure that goes for the rest of the family, too.
Can't sleep. Got up at 5.00 a.m. and I've been sitting here jotting down a few notes for her funeral. Things I liked about her, things I didn't. Here's some of the good stuff.
A Few Things I Liked About My Mum
* The fact that she once phoned my dad from a police station at midnight to say she'd been arrested for being with a bunch of drunken rock musicians in the back of a transit van. She was 83 at the time.
* The fact that watching snooker on TV gave her an orgasm.
* The fact that she gave me a love of the English language by teaching me - at a very early age - wonderful poetry, such as:
Have you ever seen Nelly make water?
She pees such a beautiful stream.
She pees for three miles and a quarter,
And you can't see her belly for steam.
Ah, well. Life, eh?
* * *
Away for a few days. Ancient Mother stuff. Birmingham. Hospital. Traffic. Roadworks. Not nice.
What is nice is the fact that Spring is finally doing its thing. We have several trees in the garden with dead animals rotting beneath them, and Morgan's tree (Morgan was a cat we had for almost twenty years who's now buried under a cherry tree) is a mass of pink flowers. Wonderful against this morning's blue sky.
* * *
I usually wake about 6.00 a.m. these days. First thing I do is switch on the radio (I use an earpiece because Rose generally sleeps later than I do) and listen to a UK news prog called Today.
So this morning I get the news that US soldiers opened fire on a car and killed Iraqi women and kids - having failed to fire warning shots early enough, according to one 'embedded' (latest buzz word) reporter.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of it, this war is depressing as hell.
* * *
Went for a meal with friends last night to celebrate Rose's 48th. Nice. Talked about how strange it feels to be almost fifty - it does - and decided one of the reasons it feels so strange is that we don't have kids. Kids are measuring devices that track the passage of time. Memories of little Billy at three, seven, thirteen etc.
I guess I measure my time in dead dog units.
Had an email from Monica Ali - one of Granta's Best of Young British Novelists - saying she'd be delighted to do a Cadenza interview when she gets back from her holiday. Excellent stuff!
Today I was a killer. Last week several Tesco bags of soot came down the living-room chimney, and today the reason became clear. A trapped bird.
I managed to pull the poor thing free, but it was in a dreadful state - feathers burnt away, eyes full of soot, already half-dead. Not nice at all. So I carried it into the garden and chopped its head off.
Seemed the kindest thing to do, and the fastest way to put it out of its misery, but it made me think. Indeed it did.
* * *
Rose's birthday. I'm sitting here in the room we call the study - well, it has books and a couple of computers in it - and she's still sleeping next door. When she wakes up I'll take her breakfast in bed as a birthday treat.
My mother's on my mind. She's 91 and stuck in Good Hope Hospital, Sutton Coldfield - exactly 103 miles away from where I live. A month ago we were told she had days rather than weeks left, but the docs were wrong. I suppose they often are. Mum's getting better. Trouble is, the same old question keeps surfacing: what kind of life will she have if/when she finally gets out?