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...