quotes

Think on: Does any cheese complement a tomato?

The UK’s popular, and probably populist, newspaper, The Sun, states, following a poll of its readers, that a fraction above 62% of them would vote Leave if there was a second referendum on Brexit. Quelle surprise, as they may say in Brussels.

Polls are silly and I don’t like them, so much so that I might respond to any in a mischievous and inconsistent way just to subvert them. Am I alone in this? Let’s take a poll….

Seriously, I wondered if any of our other esteemed papers had instigated their own agenda driven readers’ polls. I didn’t find any but stumbled across a YouGov analysis of different paperstypical reader. It was all pretty banal until I read,

“A Daily Mail reader enjoys eating cheese and tomato sandwiches…”

Now I’m not saying reverse logic can apply and that knowing your character traits can point you towards the appropriate newspaper but, really, is there any way I can pick up the Daily Mail knowing this?

In my world, sliced tomatoes have no business between two slices of bread anymore than say a sliced lemon does (by all means try one and let me know). But then with cheese?!

I know, I know, the pairing of Cheese and tomato, have history – but how on Earth did that happen?

As usual, answers on a postcard, please, as we used to say….


YouGov Poll on UK newspaper readerships (via The Guardian) – old news

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Views on Writing: Catching the Light

Clive James wrote of writing that it was turning a phrase until it catches the light.

When I read – and when I write, though this is a late experience and I’m still on the nursery slopes – too often I’m not noticing the glint of light. This is made more obvious when I consider those times when the light appears brilliantly, and it’s as if something magical is happening. It’s quite often an opening paragraph or an introduction to something, and it’s usually quite simple, precise, colourful and concise.

Following a path towards an understanding of Reena’s Exploration Challenge this week, I googled the name Kosho Uchiyama Rōshi. He was a Zen Buddhist monk in 20th century Japan, a master of origami, and an exponent of zazen, literally “sitting”, a method of meditation devised by the Zen master, Eihei Dōgen.

I follow his name in turn and find this passage on zazen attributed to him,

“I have not visited many Zen monasteries. I simply, with my master Tendo, quietly verified that the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical. I cannot be misled by anyone anymore. I have returned home empty-handed.

I quietly verified that the eyes are horizontal and the nose is vertical. This is a phrase that catches the light.

Honour #writephoto

A rose plucked and laid
red across a pallid stone
for love enduring,
memories of adonis’ wounds
mingled with a turmoiled earth
which, amongst the remains,
bore blossoms of a different kind
though red, not of a rose,
though dead, not for love
but honour.


written for Sue Vincent’s Daily Echo Photo Prompt Challenge – “Honour”

Up against Quintus Horatius Flaccus and Wilfred Owen, I ought not to try for a poem this time but I simply didn’t have a story.

I then wondered, in my ignorance, whether poetry was a higher form of literature and should therefore be truthful. From the heart, so to speak. I don’t think I believe in the sentiment of “Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori”.

Amour sans frontières.

Back to Normal

“We just want to go back to some semblance of a normal life that everyone else has”
(Eric Van Balen)

Humans are conservative by nature; they love normal, they desire normal whenever life seems… abnormal. An excess of normal is often seen as being boring.

Normal is the rock on which we build successfully. Normal is the level base upon which we grow, from which we develop. Normal is sane. Normal is rational. Normal produces a healthy intellect, encourages imagination and innovation.

Normal is the calm before a storm, and the calm following a storm (unless on Jupiter where the storms have been raging for thousands of years. For a Jovian, that’s normal).

Normal is peacefulness, a time free of trouble and conflict, unless you’re a child born in Yemen or Syria where war is continuing. Fear is normal.

Normal is routine. A morning begins with fresh coffee, from a pot which has already been cleaned from the previous day’s use, the coffee jar not yet empty, fresh water in the jug, sugar in the sugar pot and clean mugs.

It’s getting ready for work at the right hour. It’s regular work. When I explained to my father-in-law that I worked freelance for short contracts, he was aghast. He’d told me, with some pride, how he’d been with the same firm for forty years. I have known people who started work after university and are still at that same company, the same commute to the same office, the same lunchtime routine, the same time going home. The way the company works, the way it likes to do business, has become second nature. That’s normal. Though in that time, they say they have seen changes. That’s normal.

Normal. Even the sound of the word appears to grind to a standstill.

If you’re an adventurer, if you’re a party goer, if you grab life by the balls, carpe diem, and all that, and you do all this, then that’s normal for you.

Normal is what we want unless that’s all there is, and then we want something else. And that’s normal too.


Written for Reena Saxena’s Exploration Challenge #68 – “Back to Normal”

It’s a train of thought piece which is how posts normally start though it’s not normally how I publish them.

Family Dynamics

They say that Blood is Thicker than Water. I don’t know why that’s important because Treacle is thicker than Blood and it’s a darn sight tastier.

My family lived in a cupboard. Well, that isn’t strictly true. We lived in a full house; if someone opened the front door, we’d all fall out into the street. It was like a cupboard, and we were like the tins of treacle, preserves, beans and all kinds of things you might put in a cupboard that’s useful.

We were a very useful family. Dad would make things, Mum would bake things, Gramps would rake things, and I would break things. I was the most useful because I’d give the others something to do.

(120 words)


Inspired by Joelle’s Tales: Tell Me A Tale In Exactly 120 Words – “Family Dynamics”

To borrow or steal

I met a working artist who trained in England at a time when the prevailing painterly style was Abstract. As a consequence, that’s mostly all his generation of artists were comfortable painting.

When opening his gallery, he found customers preferred landscapes. Apparently there is a yawning chasm between what the art schools teach and what the public wants. To survive, he turned to copying the work of other artists, ones who painted landscapes, until his skill and confidence grew, and now he is a successful landscape painter.

This in part reflects a sentiment attributed to Pablo Picasso,

Good artists borrow, great artists steal.


As I’m reading over my little stories here prior to clicking the publish button, I’m partly aware that I’ve copied a style of a professional author I’ve read, and probably admired, recently. It’s probably automatic and possibly subconscious. It certainly must be easier than inventing your own unique “voice”, if this is at all possible to do.

When I read other people’s, I wonder if it too is an unconscious borrowing of whatever it is they like to read.

Romance, thriller, historical, classic, kitchen sink working class realism. Is there a regular prompt out there which involves writing in a particular style?

And October can be nice also

Well I am pleased to have quit work in time to enjoy the Autumn. There was a danger of it rolling on into Winter and I didn’t want that.

Though the weather in England is unpredictable and often disappointing day by day, we do have the two beautiful, though short, seasons, Spring and Autumn, which I think are sadly absent in a lot of the world. Spring is Life and Autumn for Contemplation, the best seasons in my view.

Autumn is a beautiful word for it, quaint and comforting, though Fall is better descriptive of what happens with the deciduous leaves; deciduous itself a wonderfully sounding word, from decidere, to fall down.

In my younger days, there was a colleague called Stefan. He was a peaceful guy with a soft Polish accent. One lunchtime, we came across one another out walking around a large public park in Ealing, London. It was a fine day as we talked about it. I said how much I liked September, when the weather could be great. He said, and I remember it exactly, both the words and the sound of his voice,

“And October can be nice also.”

And he is right.


image by Annie Spratt via Unsplash.com

Stories

Under a previous post, the 99 word challenge story, No Expectations, Charli Mills kindly commented about the story’s shape. I like the idea of a story having a shape, like a neatly wrapped gift.

In Primary School, when we were first tasked to write stories, we were told they had to have a beginning, a middle, and an end. For a long time after, I felt the end was the most important because;

a) Primary School teachers probably require closure (can you imagine having to read and mark 20 – 30 stories with plot lines that left you hanging?)

b) We’d still be sat there, writing sequels.

Personally, I like to read a good beginning;

The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there; It was a bright, cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen; There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, Dim being really dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar making up our rassoodocks what to do with the evening, a flip dark chill winter bastard though dry.

That kind of thing.

I like to think the middle can take care of itself but I’m afraid it’s the middle which forms the shape of the story and the shape of it is important; a good story is like water, a poor one like fire. A story must accept the shape which contains it.

In a nutshell. This is what’s said sometimes before recounting an event, or the listener imploring the teller to be considerate and brief. Do not embellish, do not digress, just give me the kernel of the tale, solid and sweet. He told it without an ounce of fat.

But the end is where I usually start. This way I can establish exactly what it is I want to tell – and whether it’s worth telling. Also I have a better idea how it’s going to fit the shape I have in mind for it.

How long is now

My first thought is that poster ought to have a question mark. My second thought is maybe not; perhaps How Long is a name. Perhaps Now is also a name and the claim is that this How Long, an individual or group, is an alias of this other person or group known as Now. So, How Long is Now.

That clears up a lot of confusion, or maybe just discloses a secret, who knows?


My third thought is there definitely should be a question mark.


My fourth thought returns again to the subject of dogs. Does a dog, or another intelligent animal, possess a sense of Now, and if yes, is their Now the same as ours?

I know our dogs have a sense of Now by the way they pester us whenever they think it’s the moment for their food or time for a walk. It’s as if they have an innate sense of the passing of time, an inner biological clock – assuming they can’t actually tell the time from the clock on the wall. Has anyone tested this?

But like most clocks, theirs is slightly flawed. It leads real time by around half an hour. Now, Now, Now!, they implore. Too early, too early, too early!, we stress. Of course, their clocks might not be faulty at all, it might just be emotional overload as excitement builds as the Now approaches.


Okay, let’s not delay tackling How Long a “Now” is. The human idea of Now is, I think, a timeless quantity. It is immeasurable. Yet it lasts for ever. Well, at least as long as there is a sentient being in the Universe, and only up to the point when the Universe ceases to be.

It’s like this ineffable thing, a pinpoint of being moving along the timeline, for ever. It is both no time at all and all time, at the same time.

It’s made all the more odd by knowing that our senses to our environment are lagging behind real time, the senses informing the brain and the brain’s synapses firing to make sense of anything, all take time. Thus, the Now we think we experience was really the Then; we spend our time in futile pursuit of the Now, always nanoseconds behind it but never able to be up with it.

But, strangely, in our imagination, we can be ahead of it. Like the dog wanting her meal or his habitual stroll around the park. Now is before Now, and after Now, and forever, but never actually Now.

Okay, I’m going to post this now, but I maybe be some time.


Inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge – week #52.

image supplied by Reena via Maria Popova (click on it for the bigger picture)

Freedom

“You only are free when you realise you belong no place; you belong every place.”

Maya Angelou (in conversation with Bill Moyers, 1972)


I’m unfamiliar with Maya Angelou, but I don’t imagine she means it geographically. I think it’s about acceptance, about being accepted as a person.
Toleration. Respect.

But what has this to do with freedom? Freedom, from what?

If you live free from obligation, from responsibility, from commitment, then how can you expect to hold onto respect?

And what is it to be free of compassion, and free of love?

John Donne, in his Meditations, in 1624, wrote of man being not an island, entire of himself. He is connected to others by human experience and shared values, of life and death. Do not ask for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

So what of freedom? Elusive?

Richard Lovelace, while imprisoned for political dissent in London, 1642, wrote to Althea in verse. The famous final stanza reads,

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage:
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone, that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.

The line that impresses most is, minds, innocent and quiet. If we do not feel at ease in our own mind, then where on Earth do we go to find it?


inspired by Reena’s Exploration Challenge, week #50

It’s a good, and difficult, challenge from Reena, this week. Being overprivileged as I am in this old world, I wonder how much of value I can say about the sense of freedom, unlike Maya Angelou, say. Mine is just thoughts and words, and participating in Reena’s challenge.

No man is an island, by John Donne (spoken poetry / youtube)

To Althea, from prison, by Richard Lovelace