Tuesday, 24 November 2020

Poetry and Project links

My Poetry:

Yesterday I experienced one of those serendipitous moments. Within a few hours two people who are totally unrelated asked if they would be able to read any of my poetry online. So this is for you (you know who you are) and for anyone else who happens to be passing by - a selection of those poems that have been published online: 

Youth in the Ekphrastic Review

Klezmer Men in the Jewish Literary Journal

From Far Away 1904 in the Copperfield Review

Tempus Fugit in the Ekphrastic Review

Unprecedented in 100 Words of Solitude (about to be launched as a book)

End of the Day which was an Ekphrastic Challenge but you have to be intrepid to find it. It's half way down the page of poems in response to a painting by Emilio Boggio.

Heritage Projects:

While I'm at it I shall include links to the two Heritage funded projects that I co-ordinated because I am extremely proud of the outcomes of both of them.

The Jewish Voices project's main outcome was a book of memories of the Leicester Jewish Community during and shortly after the Second World War. The website gives a taster of the book and an insight into how the book was compiled and produced. If you click on the Voices tab you'll hear a number of brief interviews that were recorded during one of the writing workshops.

The Jewish Gilroes project has catalogued the entire Jewish Cemetery in Leicester. I originally only intended to research and write up stories of some of the 'lives behind the stones' but while we were gathering information about each plot, a number of the hard-working team of volunteers set up a database which is now available to research information about the graves. If you visit this site do click on the Stories tab. It provides a link to some fascinating vignettes of people's lives way back when.

And now I shall get back to a bit of poetry writing which is proving to be an invaluable distraction during these tedious lockdown days.

Wednesday, 18 November 2020

Poetry, Shop Names and Corny Puns


It's too easy to become slothful during a national lockdown. I have been trying to keep writing which at the moment means poetry writing. Even though I've produced a number of books - history related mostly - I keep coming back to poetry. It's what I enjoy most of all.

Last week an acceptance gave me the boost that I needed. A fascinating new magazine called The Pomegranate London have accepted my poem, The Circus Barker. It will be published in their first Issue which comes out in Spring 2021. I think they're still calling for submissions so any writers reading this might like to pop over and read their brief.

Shop Names

I do enjoy listening to podcasts, especially at night when sleep is elusive. It's been particularly bad this week as sadly my lovely cat, Mabel, died. This is the end of an era. I will never have another pet. It hurts too much when you lose them. Last night, in an effort to stop my overactive brain, I turned to my favourite podcast, Michael Rosen's Word of Mouth. I listened to an old episode about shop names. He talked about some old shop names from as far back as 1278. There is evidence of a shop in Westminster called Le Corner Shoppe, although it wasn't a shop as we would recognise it. There would have been a shopkeeper sitting at an outside stall with no customers allowed inside. 

My favourite part of the programme was when he discussed present day shop names. He had asked people to send in interesting shop names and these are just a few of the ones he mentioned:

a fruit shop called Melon Cauli

a chip shop in the Rhonda Valley called A Fish called Rhonda

a hairdresser in a narrow street called Alley Barber

and a window cleaner called Mr Bit (read it out loud if you don't get it first time!)

The one I liked the best is a camping shop's winter sale notice which read, Now is the winter of our discount tents.

If you want to hear more then tune in on BBC iPlayer to Word of Mouth Shop Names. I think you'll find it here. If not then it comes up on a Google search.

I'm sure there are local shop owners with equally punny ideas. The chain of UK pubs called The Slug and Lettuce comes to mind but that genuinely puts me off eating there and I used to frequent a cafe called The Salvador Deli but that has now closed down. 

I can't think of any others. Can you? 

Do share if you live near a clever shop name.

Wednesday, 4 November 2020

Twiddling my thumbs

The UK is about to descend into another national lockdown, we saw the first real frost of the season this morning and it's now getting dark long before supper time. I'm running out of useful things to do and so I'm clearing out cupboards. I expect I'm not the only one. I am quite a hoarder and find it hard to throw things away but some of this stuff is utter rubbish and the bin is filling up nicely.

Daughter Update: To those who know me personally you will know that Daughter has just relocated from down South and has bought a house only four and a half minutes away - Yay! She arrived last Thursday and so you might be wondering why I'm twiddling thumbs and clearing cupboards. It's because we're waiting for her to self-isolate from the removals and initial workmen. We will then become a bubble, the three of us, at which point we'll have plenty to keep us occupied. Her house was empty for a year and Rod can't wait to get started on the garden.

Writers' Magazines: In the meantime I'm clearing cupboards. In one cupboard I rediscovered boxes and boxes of old Writers News Magazines. I put a call out on the local Facebook Page and WhatsApp group to see if anyone wanted to take them off my hands but no one did so I settled down to do a bit of rereading. This may take some time:

Internet Competition: It's surprising how much of the information in the magazines is now freely available on the Internet. I suspect many monthly magazines have found themselves competing with free Internet content. I flicked through pages containing lists of publishers accepting submissions, suggestions on where to send different kinds of manuscripts, how to best word your covering letter when submitting, etc., etc. I can't now imagine having to wait for a monthly magazine to check on submission requirements and as for covering letters, they have been replaced by a politely worded email. 

Writing Letters: Talking of letters, they say that people are starting to write more personal letters during this lockdown/semi-lockdown period. I have not, as yet, turned to the Basil Bond and ink pen but maybe I will. I do have some old letters that I cherish. I have some that Daughter sent to me when she was volunteering on a Kibbutz in Israel some time in the last century. I also have one letter written by Son on the day he left home. I watched him drive off, heading South to his first job and an exciting new career. His car was piled to the top with his life. I waved until his car was out of sight and then I went up to his bedroom, stripped of his world, bed bare to the mattress, but on the bed was an envelope addressed to me and in the envelope was a letter from Son. I cried as I sat on the mattress and read his words and of course I still have the letter. An email or text message would not have worked and would have been long gone.

So, who reading this is going to send a letter or two to friends rather than typing out a quick WhatsApp? I'll let you know next time if I managed to get around to it. 

Friday, 30 October 2020

Lost and Finds - my poetic contribution

I recently had a new experience - I attended a session at an archeology conference (via Zoom of course). The brief was to produce a piece of archeological poetry writing. I'm not an archaeologist but as a historian/writer I suspected that I would be able to wing it and wing it I did. In fact, it was a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. 

The session was part of Festival CHAT (CHAT stands for Contemporary and Historical Archeology in Theory). The session was called Lost and Finds and was run by Jodie Hannis from the University of Leicester Department of Archeology.  Jodie asked us to bring along a suitable item, for example one that had been languishing in a drawer, forgotten about, lost and then found again. Some of the archeologists brought along items from archeological digs. I don't possess such things but I had recently been sorting through drawers, having a bit of a lockdown clear-out, when I rediscovered an elderly item with a special meaning for me.

I thought I'd share the writing that I produced during the session first and then I will reveal the item although you'll probably guess what it is long before you reach the last line:

The Gift

Dad never was a gift-giver, not really, 
and this was long ago,  
so long ago that the pages are tea-stain brown
and fragile as dying leaves.

It was a gentle reminder of my heritage -
chicken soup, fried fish. I tried
but we never made feasts together, me and the gift,
which doesn't make it any less special. 

One day I'll pass it on to my daughter,
not for its written words - she knows all that by now -
but for its special message that remained unwritten 
because Dad never was a gift-giver, not really. 


I'm sure you've worked out that it was a cookery book but extra brownie points if by some feat of telepathy you said Florence Greenberg Recipe Book. Dad bought it as a surprise gift and gave it to me a few days before I got married. Like I said in my poem, it was a special gift.






Friday, 16 October 2020


I'm sitting at my laptop, trying to start this blog post and all the time I'm singing a song in my head that has been there for days. It could have been any song. On this occasion it's Lewis Capaldi's Someone You Loved... I let my guard down and then you pulled the rug... 

There are some amazing lyrics out there but it doesn't have to have a moving lyric to become an earworm. This morning Daughter sent an emoji of a penguin along with a message - which had nothing to do with penguins but she's hoping to make a major house move quite soon so I disregarded the mismatch. It was a cute penguin but I fought off the Happy Feet earworm. Sorry if your brain is now singing it. It is a particularly aggressive earworm, as is The Wombling Song. Sorry again but it's not a bad idea to be wombling free. I could do with a bit of wombling free right now.

In case you're bemused, an earworm is when you can't get a particular tune out of your head. It keeps on going round and round. You'll realise that you're humming it while you're making your breakfast, singing it out loud as you're driving in the car, and reciting it silently as you walk around - suitably masked up of course - in public. So what exactly causes an earworm or to use its technical term, involuntary musical imagery? I don't think there's a definitive scientific explanation. If you have a theory do please share in the comments section below. I found a blog called Songwriting that gives an explanation and they've illustrated the article with this cartoon. I do love cartoons and I've put a link to their site on it so I hope they don't mind me sharing it with you:

After a while all earworms, however lovely the song, become thoroughly irritating but writing this post has reminded me of a more positive earworm. I suppose you could call it a self-imposed earworm. I blogged about this briefly in 2013 but I thought it deserved a revisit. When I was a teenager I had several periods of agoraphobia. The dictionary definition of this is a fear of open spaces. In reality I was convinced that if I went out on my own I would pass out. The self-imposed earworm that I selected to help me was Stevie Wonder's For Once in my Life. That song saved my teenage years and helped me to get out and about, no doubt because it distracted my mind from my fears. It finally disappeared when I had my children and I'm guessing that's because they also distracted me - big time! 

Back to the present time, even though I've tempted my brain with Happy Feet and The Wombling Song, Capaldi is still there so I shall go and get on with preparing the supper whilst humming gently... I was getting kind of used to being someone you loved...

Thursday, 8 October 2020

The 81 Words Challenge (+ my avatar!)

You may have gathered that I've not been highly motivated with my writing lately what with Covid-19 and lockdown and what-have-you. To illustrate how much time I've had on my hands, here is my avatar created during an idle few hours:

She's rather cute, don't you think. I've grown quite attached to her but it did make me realise that I needed to get back to writing and quickly. So a few days ago I did an online search for flash fiction submissions and came across a site that was asking for 81 word stories - precisely 81 words. I had an idea for a suitable piece of text and set about editing it down to 81 words. I love doing that sort of writing. It makes you really think about the usefulness of each word. It's surprising how many words can be cut without losing the meaning and at the same time making the content sharper.

One of the things that caught my eye about The 81 Words Challenge site was that the host, Christopher Fielden, was planning to gather stories from 1,000 different writers in order to break a world record. Sadly the Guinness World Record Office have declined to accept (you can read all his letters to them on the link in this paragraph) but he is determined to produce an anthology and all proceeds will go to The Arkbound Foundation, a charity that aims to widen access to literature and improve diversity within publishing. 

If you fancy having a go at writing an 81 word story then click on the link above and check out the guidelines. At the time of writing he needs another 128 stories to reach the 1000 mark. While you're there you might want to have a look at my contribution. It's called The Living Statue and it's somewhere near the bottom of the page with all the Stories from 801 to 900

Christopher's website is packed full of help with short story writing, lists of competitions and challenges that he is organising and he also has a list of other publications accepting submissions. You can find all this info at Christopher Fielden. He has certainly inspired me to get back to work and so I shall now wander off to my writing den, lick my virtual pencil and get scribbling. Bye for now...

Wednesday, 30 September 2020

Building Dens

Power Walking: On the 13th August I said in my blog post that shielding was about to end. Wrong! Six weeks on and Rod is still being instructed to shield until 5th October after which time he is miraculously safe to go out. We have, of course, been going out because we've been walking. On that same 13th August blog I said that we'd been strolling. We are now power walking - I trust you're impressed!

Brocks Hill: Yesterday our walking took us to Brocks Hill. It must be almost fifteen years since we used to take Josh, our lovely but rather naughty dog, there. The area was first designated as a country park in 1999 and when we went dog walking there it was nothing more than a series of fields with sparse plantings of saplings. You could see to the farm land beyond and many a time we would be standing, squinting into the distance at a disappearing ginger and white tail as we yelled, 'Josh, come back!' 

Building Dens: After Josh died we no longer went on those kind of walks, in fact we rarely went walking together at all until lockdown - one of the few positives to come out of this pandemic. It was amazing to see how those sparse saplings are now thick wooded areas. There are themed nature trails, wicker sculptures, woodland paths and ponds teeming with life but one area particularly caught my eye. It's called The Den Building Area. Just imagine the games we could have played if we'd had resources like that back in the day. 

The Green: When I was a child I used to play on a bare plot of land that we called The Green even though it wasn't green. It was a kind of muddy brown. It was the route to school and to the bus stop so we used it regularly. When it rained half of the plot flooded. We called that The Puddle. After school I'd hang around on The Green with my friend Theresa and we'd create imaginary worlds with nothing more than weeds and piles of stones. Imagine the worlds we would have created with a Den Building Area like the one at Brocks Hill.