Growth Industry

In March this year I wrote about my joy at having moved to a place that had a garden once more but then bemoaned the fact that I had forgotten in the intervening years just what amount of work was involved in keeping such an area up to scratch. Certainly the current place is big enough to keep me busy every day especially as Spring has brought everything into flower, and more especially armies of weeds.  Where do they all come from?  Maintaining the health of border plants, lovingly tended and watered, takes a lot of time and effort, whereas weeds just seem to thrive on neglect, popping up at will and in plentiful numbers, even in the driest of conditions. Even when trying to extract them, you realise when the long root snaps off below the soil that they will reappear in next to no time.

I resist the temptation to use weedkillers or other chemicals in the fight against these persistent interlopers, not least because of the danger to animals and birds and the environment in general. Anyhow, I am seeing the fruits, or more accurately the product, of my earlier trials. I spoke about purchasing seed potatoes in March and in recent weeks have dug the first of these, which have provided delicious additions to the salads we are now having in this hot weather. My success with these, however, will undoubtedly result in my having a crop in excess of what I can consume and will therefore be donating them to friends and colleagues. Nevertheless, for all my complaints about maintenance of the garden and battles with weeds, this has certainly encouraged me to plough on (pun intended!) with leeks, lettuce, and butternut squash.

This is a photo of my potato plants in flower.

Potatoes

Tubers produce fruits,

Subsoil nuggets to nurture.

Organic growing.

 

Acting on Impulse

It has been some time since I performed in public. And on the last occasion it was in one of my own plays and with a view to supporting the local library funds. Since then I have moved to another part of the country and in the past nine months have involved myself in several of the community activities in this rural backwater. Perhaps I’m being a little unfair in calling this delightful town a backwater.  It  may not be a name that is familiar to everyone, nor has it any special historical reference, depending on how special you consider the word ‘special’ but Halesworth in Suffolk certainly has a lot going for it for me.  Not least the local theatre/arts centre, The Cut, which stages some wonderful events and performances through out the year. I think it must have been seeing some live theatre at this venue that caused a resurgence in my desire to walk the boards again.

A writing colleague, who appeared in the company’s last production, suggested I go along to a reading of the current production, Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. Never having attempted Shakespeare before, I just had to go along to the reading. I consider myself fortunate in being such a newcomer to this well established group of players (the company was set up in 1967) that I was very happy to be given the role of ‘Servant’. The wonderful thing about this summer production is that it is performed in various pubs and gardens in this part of the county over the course of a few weeks.

We are now into the first few weeks of rehearsals and all is going well.  I have already learned my lines (both of them!). As long as I don’t foul up, I may be given a bigger part in the Christmas pantomime.  Can’t wait.

Words That Work

The Suffolk Poetry Society festival that I wrote about in my last piece, and in which I had been asked to read some of my poetry, was not as daunting as I had feared. I suppose it helped that the weather was fine which always lifts spirits. It was possible too to listen to the poems of other local groups before we took the stage and gauge the standard on offer.  That didn’t really help, since the standard was very high, although I am happy to report that there was polite applause after I read my three offerings, so they could not have been that bad.

It never ceases to amaze me what some people are able to do with words, conjuring up fantastical images and events, and creating scenes and atmospheres that are almost tangible. There was humour, drama, pastoral, observational, lyrical and many other aspects of the spoken word on offer. The lovely surroundings of the John Peel Centre for Creative Arts in Stowmarket was an ideal venue. Also on offer was work by local sixth form students. Powerful, imaginative and thoughtful poetry. I was very happy to accept the free anthologies that were on display.

An enjoyable experience, and there are more such festivals to come later in the summer. I have attached a picture of a very serious (glum) looking me (under the banner), waiting my turn to deliver, and wishing I’d been able to have a pint beforehand.

Suffolk Poetry Festival

I may have posted this poem before, but it seems relevant.

Lucidity fails in fast fading light.

My brain befuddled as day turns to night.

Tested and tortured by tongue-twisting words,

Farcical phrases disturbing bird’s

Song, as dawn breaks. Breakfast beckons

And in only a matter of just a few seconds,

As the eggs that are scrambled with coffee brewed,

My head becomes clear, my thoughts all unscrewed.

I now find the urge to continue to write.

I’ve banished the block that happened last night.

The poetry flows, the metre intact.

I might even finish this poem. In fact…

 

Poetic Panic

A few months ago I agreed, much against my better judgement, to read a few poems at a county arts festival. This was to be on behalf of a local café poetry group that I have occasionally attended. I was particularly proud of the fact that I had been invited to attend this annual event and actually spout some of my poetry. Now that the date is drawing near (this weekend!) my confidence is ebbing away. This is the result of my trawling through scores of poems I have written over the years and not finding any that I consider worthy of reading in public. It’s one thing to have read out some of my efforts to a small group of fellow writers/poets, but a hall full of strangers is quite another matter.

Some poems that I considered in the past to have had merit, certainly enough to submit to competitions, I now view as bland, trite or self-indulgent. I am therefore in the process of re-visiting some of them with a view to improvement. This is an aspect of writing that I have commented on previously: recycling.  There is also the aspect of an approaching deadline, another topic I wrote about and how it is a great motivational factor for me. Well, we shall see.

I have yet to choose a handful of poems but will reproduce them here next week along with a report of how the event went.

http://www.suffolkpoetrysociety.org.uk/festival

Image result for john peel centre

Fishing for Inspiration

The following was first written in September 2016 when I was challenged to write a piece including the words: Float, Wisp and Scatter.  I have had a more recent fishing experience this week.

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Several times throughout my life I have been persuaded that fishing, or angling to give a more precise definition of the sport, is the most popular pastime in Britain. Aficionados claim it is the most relaxing of all sports. Now, correct me if I’m wrong but my idea of sport is the pursuit of some form of activity that actually involves expending more energy than having a cup of tea or climbing the stairs to visit the loo. Something that actually gets you slightly out of puff. Even a sport like archery involves strengthening arm and shoulder muscles and a regular walk back and forth to the target to collect the arrows, but fishing…well. It involves sitting, fiddling with some nylon line and hooks and then…more sitting.

The argument is that it is a mental tussle between man, the hunter, against the living creature being hunted. However, I don’t really put it on a par with say bullfighting in terms of the adrenalin rush it might produce.

My first experience of fishing was sitting (that word again) on the bank of the Leeds/Liverpool canal with a friend who was an angling enthusiast. It was more of an educational experience for me: a tutorial in which I learned about types of rod (steel, carbon, bamboo etc), reels, different breaking strengths of line (I could never understand why you didn’t just use the toughest line – but apparently that’s not sporting) and flies and floats and lots of other paraphernalia, which was a far cry from the time when I was a small boy with a net, trying to catch sticklebacks.

On that day, hours passed with no sign of any fish, although one did rise to the surface, seemingly to see what I was doing as I sat there with my eyes glued to the float, as I was instructed, to see if there had been a bite. I swear the fish in question (my friend reckoned it was a gudgeon) shook its head in despair at my feeble efforts before sinking below the surface again.

I should also point out that this so-called relaxing sport does not confine itself to enjoying the sunny outdoors on balmy summer days. Not at all. The best times to catch fish are apparently on dull, preferably rainy days, and just before dawn breaks, since this is when the fish are ready for breakfast. Naturally, this requires the relevant all weather kit of clothing and a large umbrella or a small tent-like shelter for the even hardier, making this sport one of the more expensive for the serious minded. Speaking of serious mindedness, it occurred to me that this pursuit was something more than merely dipping a line into water and hoping that some poor unsuspecting, hungry fish would plant its mouth over your No. 10 hook (oh yes, I forgot – lots of different graduations for these too). I realised that it bordered on meditation and had serious connections with the teachings of Zen Buddhism. Generally, it is a solitary pursuit, since two or more anglers together might create conversation, and any sound that might scare off the intended prey is taboo. In these circumstances, contemplation of the meaning of life (if not the purpose of fishing) must be paramount.

Hours of isolation on a remote riverbank or beside a lonely lake clearly denies any access to a corner shop or cafe for a snack or other sustenance, and it therefore requires drinks and nourishments to be taken along to the selected spot for the day. Some will merely rely on the sustaining power of cigarettes to keep them going, and sad is the sight of an angler, forlornly looking at the water, peppered with raindrops, which thrum against his umbrella, as a silent wisp of smoke drifts from beneath his shelter, like the sad end to a doused fire. And I have to question whether this person is really happy. But a lot of our happiness comes from personal achievement, and I suppose in the case of angling that comes from catching a prize fish after hours of stalking and luring and then struggling with, especially when it comes to deep sea fishing and catching massive marlin, tuna or even sharks. Now, I would concede that that is a sport. However, back to the riverbank, or canal as it was in my brief experience.

Just now I referred to luring the fish. This is done in a number of ways, using attachments to the line to attract the fish. Fly fishing is a prime example in which brightly coloured lures, many made by fishermen themselves, are meant to look like particular types of fly or gnat or other insect. A further attraction for the wily fish is to distribute ground bait on the surface of the water in order to bring them closer to your hook. To my mind, a scatter of meal on the water is nothing more than an offering of a free lunch to the fish and as good as telling them that this is hook-free food.

Most times, even when a fish has been caught, bizarrely it is put back into the water, in order that it can grow and be caught another day. For all the arguments given as to the benefits and enjoyment of this sport, I am afraid I am not persuaded and the only fish that I shall be pursuing is the battered variety from my local chip shop.

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Last Monday I was invited along with writing colleagues to visit a local trout farm, where one of our group members offered to catch some trout and prepare the same for our lunch in an oak chip ‘smoker’.  Thankfully, our only requirement on what was a drizzly morning was to stay inside a hut and await lunch, and draw inspiration from the calm surroundings to write something.  This I managed in the form of haikus. Oh, and the trout was delicious.

 

Willow trees close-dipped

Where raindrops dapple water

Sway in shy embrace

 

Casting lines caress

The gently rippled surface

Innocent fly floating

 

Catch, silver-glistened,

Hang beneath a cold, grey sky

Oak smoked pyre awaits

 

Writers’ Block or Blockage

paperwork

Like most writers, I have suffered the ‘block’ in the past. That time when nothing emerges from the grey matter. Worse still, when midway through a poem, or story, or in my case a novel, there is the juddering halt in creative juices. My third novel remains unfinished with only the final few chapters required. I blame myself for leaving so many loose ends to tie up, or perhaps I could just cut them off. Nevertheless, my block gave me the inspiration to submit a poem to a triolet competition for which I was shortlisted.

Writer’s Block

It looks like I have writer’s block.

No words appear across this page.

I’m deafened by the ticking clock.

It looks like I have writer’s block.

And there is nothing to unlock

This feeling, even though I rage.

It looks like I have writer’s block.

No words appear across this page.

 

My problem is in trying to write too many different things at the same time. Submissions to competitions, plays and poems, with many efforts  abandoned mid way as I turn my attention to something else. Deadlines loom and I concentrate my efforts in another direction. Too many things on the go. Not just in terms of writing either. Moving to a rural part of the country, I wanted to immerse myself in lots of local activities and engage with the community. To date, as well as joining a local writing group, I have joined a tennis club, go to ballroom dancing classes, volunteer for a local charity and recently went to a reading with the local drama group. I did not get a part which is probably just as well, since rehearsals might well have put paid to any writing I might have been able to do.  All in all it’s writer’s blockage rather than block that is the problem.

Writer’s Blockage

I’m writing and fighting the constant urge

to write a different type of piece.

So many unfinished poems and drafts

now lurk in drawers and piles of files.

Copious notes remain forgotten,

scrawled in notebooks down in the bottom

of boxes. Should I try such different styles

of writing? Or is this the very craft

of penmanship, a unique niche

of which I might be on the verge?

 

Dancing in the Street

It is to be expected in the more rural areas of England to find traditional events going on at some time or another. I was intrigued to see what the Day of Dance would be in the town where I moved to a few months ago. I was not disappointed by the spectacle which draws ‘teams’, if that is the correct word, of dancers from far and wide to perform through the town’s main thoroughfare. There is something comforting about the continuation of such traditions which is not so much a nostalgic feeling as a means of touching on history, and preserving a community spirit in a world that is rapidly losing that essential aspect of society.

Day of Dance

Day of Dance2

The Day of Dance has crowned the town

With all manner of dress and gowns

As gay and gaudy as the gardens.

The Morris is a must of course with clogs

And sticks and fiddle. The middle

Of the square, as all the teams of dancers

Prepare, where colours collide and mingle,

Is a mayhem of pagan pageant. No single

One stands out, as people sing and sounds

Resound throughout the town to celebrate

The birth of another Spring.