Odd Ad Add

I’ve just noticed something I haven’t noticed before in the WP Reader: under each post – whether it’s from a free plan with “wordpress” in the URL; or a paid-for plan – there appears a couple of links to posts from other user’s blogs.

“More on WordPress.com” is the heading. It isn’t quite random but probably down to our old “friend”, the algorithm, as the tenuous connection seems to be whatever keyword is in the title or amongst the tags. For instance, as I’ve used the word “Odd”, the two selected other posts might also have “Odd” in them.

Like ads, algorithms don’t work at all well for me. It’s because an algorithm doesn’t know human nature.


Supplemental Sat. 27 March:

Having browsed a number of posts on the Reader since publishing my post above, I’m getting used to the idea of further reading suggestions excerpted below a post.

In the past, I haven’t found the search box in Reader at all helpful in finding other interesting writers so maybe this add-on might bear fruit.

God, where art thou?

Giles Fraser, writing in Unherd (2019) about a poll on the most religious constituencies in Britain (Northern Ireland wasn’t included in the poll) found that belief in Gods for our source of morality is higher in cities than in the countryside. He imagines that the higher numbers of immigrants in cities accounts for this, and he may be right.

However, he doesn’t agree that morality stems from religion; it’s just that the religious think it does. This is very plausible; the cart before the horse, kind of thing.

I was wondering whether religiosity across the kingdom was more to do with environment. If you live in the heart of a concrete jungle, you will seek god; if you live amongst nature, you’ve found it.

In Tandem

a flash-fiction prompt

“Oh, Gerald! Can’t we slow down? I think I’ve swallowed a fly.”

“But Gertie, dearest, the thrill of the enterprise is in the speed! We’ll soon be out of town and into the countryside; then you’ll appreciate it, you’ll see!”

“I fear there will be awful mud, and bottomless potholes, and other horrid things.”

“You just hold on to the bars, dear, and you’ll avoid heading the road – if I have cause to stop rather suddenly!”

In Gertrude’s dreams, she relived the moment when Edward had hinted at wedlock. He’s something in the City now; a financier, a close friend had suggested. He not only owned a new motor car but had a fellow in uniform to drive it. Edward had called one day to speak with her father; but Father had persuaded him against it.

“He’s simply not for the likes of us, my girl,” he’d said when she’d asked afterwards.

“Hold on tight now, Gertie!” Catching sight of a scattering of steaming horse excrement in the road ahead did nothing to kindle her enthusiasm.

(176 words)


A found picture prompt. I read an interesting history on the bicycle (and tricycle) social revolution in Britain around 1900s. Cycling became a very fashionable recreation amongst the upper middle class and the gentry.

The photo came up on my Pinterest suggestions yesterday. I think it shows a man who’s a member of a cycling club – judging by his cap and cap badge – and his lady wife, out on a leisurely day’s outing on what would have been a costly contraption in the day – a tandem tricycle.

“Heading (the road)”, in early cyclist parlance, was the process of going clear over the handlebars when coming to an abrupt halt, according to the book.

Damn quotes!

It’s not that I don’t like quotes; it’s that I don’t like vague sentiments unshackled from their full context. (There are many things I don’t like in the course of viewing blogs; I might write a post on it one day.)

Here are some which just about pass muster;

“One ought, every day at least, to hear a little song, read a good poem, see a fine picture, and, if it were possible, to speak a few reasonable words.”

― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,

It’s taken from Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. This was Goethe’s second novel of which I’m unfamiliar. To be honest, I’m not familiar with Goethe at all and it’s only the apparent completeness in the quote above which makes it acceptable for me to use.

Goethe – like Gertcha, a song by Chas & Dave?

I’m a great believer in personal discipline of this kind; the kind which improves mind – and that kind which improves body too, though not this – simply as I have no discipline. It must be nice, but “every day at least”? It’s a tall order.

Maybe it’s not so complete as I’ve also found this by Goethe, almost the same though slightly more expansive;

“A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.”

That’ll do for me, and, in a casual way, it is what I do and why I think to do it. On Youtube (though the place has become sullied with alternative politics and “destroyer” culture). It might be nice to have a dedicated blog…maybe?

Here’s a different thought by Goethe,

“If you treat an individual as he is, he will remain how he is. But if you treat him as if he were what he ought to be and could be, he will become what he ought to be and could be.”

See, there’s no proper context to this and we may interpret its deeper meaning as we will, or not at all; maybe superimpose the words in calibri font over the black and white image of a small urban boy with a dirty face; or a sunrise…

Elsewhere, at another time, I discovered this,

Before you speak, let your words pass through three gates. At the first gate, ask yourself, “Is it true?”

Rumi anticipates the Theremin centuries before its invention

At the second gate ask, “Is it necessary?”

At the third gate ask, “Is it kind?”

It’s attributed to Rumi, the poet, and I kid you not, someone had a mind to print those words across a photo of a garden gate; as if we didn’t know gates, and that it wasn’t known that Rumi’s gates were just metaphorical.

(I actually imagined them as “OR” gates in a process flow diagram, which shows you were my mind’s at.)

I would, if I could, print them over the “Publish” button, but it might not be absolutely necessary as evident from the increasing size of my “Drafts” folder.

Be kind, be true, and always be necessary.

Considering the nuance between mystery and just plain esoteric.

“‘you seen the cat, Erwin?” asked Mrs. Schrödinger, spooning out its Whiskas.

“I’m sorry to say it may have died,” said Schrödinger.

Mrs. Schrödinger thought, “funny, he seemed exceptionally ebullient yesterday,” and, looking to the window, said,

“Died?!”

“Only possibly,” said Schrödinger.

(42 words)


Can a story be written in 42 words? This prompt is for a 42 word story on “Mystery”.

Thanks to Deb Whittam at Twenty Four blog. Check out the link below for more stories,

Twenty Four 42 #19 Mystery

photo: by Elena Kloppenburg via Unsplash.com

Composition & lessons in flash-fiction

“Plot is the last resort of a good writer.” Stephen King

I’m fairly new to writing flash-fiction. I only came across this method of writing a made up piece to a prompt this time around in my intermittent blogging endeavours.

Before that, it was all more or less true stuff I published. Before that, the last time I made up a story was for my “Ordinary Level” English Language examination – the trick there was to make up at least three stories in advance, trusting that one could be bent into the shape asked for on the exam paper. It was called “composition” in my schooldays – what is known as today, I wonder? I can’t say I enjoyed it; probably because, like all school work, I saw it as a chore or an imposition. And I don’t think I received much praise or encouragement when I tried (okay, there was one teacher who wrote at the bottom of one composition, in red, how much she enjoyed it. Unfortunately, she was only my teacher for one year).

Now I can’t think what was in my mind when I had a go at blogging a piece of flash-fiction a couple of years ago. But I enjoyed it a lot. Having read consistently since my teens, and nearly always trying good books too, it doesn’t surprise me that a time came when I thought I’d see what it was like to write fiction; if not a novel, then a short story; if not a short story, then a tiny piece of flash-fiction.

On doing it, it made me realise I’m not especially into the idea of a story. What do I mean by that? Well, casting back to school classes – as a small boy in short trousers, not an O-level student – we were probably taught that a story had a beginning, a middle, and an end. Though it might not have been as explicit, it was no doubt inferred that it had to have a purpose beyond the writing: a message, meaning or moral, in other words.

I find that this idea has not died. Among the plethora of blog post articles on how to be a writer (better/successful/published/professional), I came across one suggesting how to write better flash-fiction. The author included a link to a free class and being a born-again student, I thought it might be interesting if not fun to do.

But having enrolled, I’m not sure it’s a wise thing to do. I’m not a serious writer and have no inclination to be one, to wish to support myself financially, even in part, by writing. I wouldn’t want this anymore than say wanting to be a one-star Michelin restaurant chef off the back of a love for preparing an enjoyable meal for two, each evening. I believe the work would destroy the love.

However, the class, and its forum, are dominated by wannabe serious writers. And, it transpires, these peers are also your teachers and judges – it is free after all – and they hold on to the rule of a story needing a beginning, a middle, and an end – and a meaning, and absolute clarity, and linear progression, and almost anything which ensures formulaic adherence to the traditional idea of a story. And that is not where I’m at after all these years of reading good books!

It seems ironic to think back to when I was studying English Literature – a separate subject and O-level examination at school – I would question why we’d be picking over an isolated passage from a novel instead of reading the whole from the beginning. And now this is what I like doing!; although in the course of reading a book in the usual way.

Maybe those lessons have finally taken root and flourished in my mind; or maybe I’ve been subconsciously conditioned to discover the beauty in the paragraphs, and pay no mind to the plot. I don’t know. But here I am, and enjoying it, and this boat is not to be rocked!

Distraction

She stood in a field quartered by the crossroads; the main road between the two towns, and a side road between a large farmyard and nowhere in particular. We – me and this complete stranger – waited fifty yards down at a stop for the bus, both connected only in our mutual intrigue for this picture of a girl.

She was as still as a statue, arms stretched aloft: posed, like the qigong fighting crane; the vogue manikin; the stringless puppet; the girl on the cross, unseen; the dying swan-queen; she had been hung out to dry.

Was she trying to fly? Summoning the power to remove herself from the ground; the unseen force of self-determination simmering beneath that tranquil pose? The only perceptible movement came when the light breeze rippled her thin blouse.

I sensed the stranger beside me edge closer, though without dropping his gaze from the spectacle.

‘That’s funny,’ he said, ‘that scarecrow’s scaring crows where there ain’t no crops!’

Something familiar about his words struck me and I turned to look at him for the first time. His profile reminded me of the filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock. At that precise moment, in the far distance I could just make out the No. 78 bus approaching beneath his accumulation of chins. The light drone of a small aeroplane passed uneventfully overhead, barely breaching the continuing silence. I forgot about the girl and thought about the shopping instead: what was it the wife wanted again? Bread, pint of milk, and…something else?

(250 words)


a writing prompt from a selected photograph from a random search of the licence-free website, Pexels. Photo by Maksim Goncharenok, titled ‘Woman At A Flower Field’.

Really, I nabbed this photo off a post on Medium having seen it credited to the above site and photographer.

Gold

a flash-fiction prompt

There was little blood; a mere trickle, long since dried, on his lips.

“Sergeant?”

“He’s missing two teeth. Front incisors.”

“Anything on his person?”

“No ID; wallet’s empty; but there’s this card…”

The Inspector took it gingerly,

24-HOUR DENTIST. House calls made.

(42 words)


Can a story be written in 42 words? This prompt is for a 42 word story on “Crime”.

Thanks to Deb Whittam at Twenty Four blog. Check out the link below for more stories,

Twenty Four 42 #6 Crime

Funny Animation

A funny occurrence on Youtube is when an old video from way back resurfaces for some unknown reason. It happens quite a bit judging from the comments; these all start from years ago and then very recent ones appear saying the same thing: “why is this [old video] suddenly trending?” This one dates from 2016 yet now trending.

Another thing is more often than not I find a hyped up title. Not so in this case. Actually, it should be Funny Animations. I really liked the wildebeests; I loved the dog; hey, I liked them all.

Wall #7


Digging into my saved Youtube clips once more, rediscovering the gems I found over the past decade or so. I think the kind of things we like to watch says a lot about who we are.


When the one and probably the only talent a comedian has to have is an ability to make us laugh, we should perhaps have a special high regard for guys like Bill Bailey. He is nothing short of being superb; broad in scope and insight. And now he can dance too!

The west London I knew has definitely moved on yet I’m aware of some of its changes, youth culture in particular. Here, the juxtaposition of acting cool even in mundane situations expresses the ridiculousness of taking that stuff too seriously.


George Formby is from another era. Not allowed to be overtly indecorous, these comedians relied heavily on innuendo. Ridiculous really as risqué was the humour those audiences wanted.

Unlike Bailey, Formby was poorly educated, left school too early in years and, I understand, was more or less illiterate, a thing he regretted later in life.

While he could play the banjolele, he hadn’t the knowledge to play in different keys. To get around this, he had someone tune a performance set of banjoleles with different tunings and played them the same way, only matching a particular instrument with a particular song.


A beauty of Youtube is when it throws up a performer I probably wouldn’t get to know otherwise; some of the talented people might be amateurs. I don’t know Danny James and I don’t know why the reference is to Hendrix; he does well on his own merit.

In my early 20s, I shared a house with a couple who were in a band, or trying to form one. The guitarist would often practice riffs or just a few bars of a tune, but never playing what sounded like a complete piece. This would annoy me a bit: it sounded good and then he’d just stop and go on to something else, over and over.

I’ve tried to play the guitar but haven’t the patience. If I could, I’d play whole pieces. I think I could no more play bits and bobs anymore than I could write half a sentence or draw half a portrait.


I’m a fan of Commissario Montalbano, both the novels by Andrea Camilleri and the dramatised series starring Luca Zingaretti. The theme tune used is from The Dance of the Macabre composed by Saint Saëns, a jolly sounding piece despite the title.

However, in one of the later episodes, the end theme was replaced by the haunting Malamuri sung by Olivia Sellerio. What a beauty! Sellerio is Sicilian and the song is in Sicilian too, not Italian. I tried to find a translation but couldn’t. I’m sure the title means bad love, or something like it.

Some years ago we took a studio apartment on the Greek island of Zakinthos. The owners took us to a local tavern for an authentic Greek dinner and there was a trio of musicians playing folk music by the side. Knowing no Greek, I ask our hostess what the songs were about; they all sounded feisty, and some sounded really bawdy, like rugby songs. “Oh, love, love, love, always about love, nothing else,” she said.


Further up the Italian coast there’s Venice, and further back in time, there’s Baroque, and in that space there was Barbara Strozzi. I read from Wikipedia how she was the most prolific composer in her time. Not merely for a woman, mind, but out of all composers of either sex.

When I hear this piece, I get the same sense as hearing the blues. It’s profound and soulful, and I love that kind of thing.


As an antidote to the seriously cold weather presently here in England, I’m putting up Third World and 96° in the Shade.

I had a copy of the studio album, bought after the hit single, Now That We Found Love, and it is one of the most musical reggae bands I think I’ve heard, mainly down to the lead guitarist.

Although a protest song, but like all reggae tunes, I find it exudes warmth and energy which envelops the soul and makes you want to move around and sing. Wonderful music.