Thursday, 30 June 2011

This blog has moved. ;(

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Sunday, 26 June 2011

Very short story - Labour Exchange

     'Sorry - next please,' she says, just like that, the girl with the lilac lipstick behind the desk. I look up into his face, his silence makes me swallow a lump in my throat.  I didn’t even listen to what he asked her, I hate the Labour Exchange.

We are out on the street, and dad has a look in his eyes I don't like.  He's heading home the long way, I don't know why, but I follow him, breaking into a run every few steps so I can keep up.  He hasn't worked for six weeks now, though he still has his scruffs on, that jacket full of holes that when I was little I used to poke my fingers through and he’d nip at them with his teeth.   He marches like a soldier – he was a soldier before I was born.  We’re heading past the park, the way we go home from school, over the bridge and down the hill. 

Last week Thomas Cartwright told me his dad had thrown their kittens off the bridge in a sack.  I almost cried in Mrs Thomas’ class and went at half past three to see if I could see proof in the water far below.  Of course I couldn’t, I didn’t let myself think that even if it had been there the river would have washed it away.  Then I swallowed hard, I pictured my dad scaling that wall, and leaping over the railings. 

We pass the park, the bridge isn’t far; I can see the brick columns which stand at either side of the road.  A bus drives past and the exhaust fumes are black and sting my throat. The drop would kill kittens, they wouldn’t drown - Thomas Cartwright said it was kinder because they died quick.  We were at the bridge, my dad still strode, I stumbled to keep up.

I took his hand, he didn’t clasp but he left his there and kept walking.

Then we were over the bridge and I let mine drop again, I don’t think he noticed.  He’s walked quickly all the way home, it is cold and my cheeks are numb.  When we got home mum started shouting as usual and the two laid into each other.  I went upstairs and quickly jumped on my bed to hide my wet face from my sister.

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Friday, 24 June 2011


artifice (plural artifices)
  1. a crafty but underhanded deception
  2. a trick played out as an ingenious, but artful, ruse
  3. a strategic maneuver that uses some clever means to avoid detection or capture
  4. a tactical move to gain advantage

Monday's short story writing course was based around the idea of the artifice story.  I'm no expert on genre writing, and I will admit to losing interest in a novel or story pretty quickly when something I feel is implausible occurs. I say implausible because I think it’s more fitting that saying unrealistic – for example all stories about robots ruling the world might be pretty unrealistic, but Terminator 2, just as an example, is a plausible story about robots ruling the world because the makers lay out a back-story to explain their rise to power.  Still what I can tolerate in a film I often can’t tolerate in a book or story, maybe I want a book to have real relevance to me?  Or perhaps I just shy away from the idea of genre and the culture of rules and obsessive devotees.  Nonetheless our homework for the following month is to write an artifice story.  That is to say a story grounded in the plausible, (even the realistic,) but with one extraordinary or strange element about the setting or characters.

A good example would be Franz Kafka’s Metamorphosis – where the protagonist awakes to find he has transformed into a bug during the night.  Adam Marek is also a writer of this kind of short story. 

So I was away in North Wales for most of this week and I sat in a rainy caravan on Tuesday night and pondered.  My stories are always about the real, whether relationships, events, difficult situations – not everything I write has happened to me, but I guess, it could have.  However I really enjoyed the task, and spent about four hours writing a story based in the not so distant future where the NHS is so overstretched and pensions and overcrowding have become such a bind that the government decided to euthanize over-seventies once their health has begun to dip.  A bit controversial I know I don’t know where the idea came from, but it allowed me to mention this bizarre state of affairs, and then explore an ordinary situation – a daughter nursing her sick mother.  While her mother is over seventy the daughter, as a precaution, fills out the relevant forms for an exemption for her mother.  This involves, in my little fantasy, getting proof she is still working, volunteering, has savings and is generally a merit to society.  Essentially though the story is concerned with the bedside conversations and the difficult experiences. 

I don’t know what adding a fantasy/futuristic element to a story does, how does it make it more interesting?  Perhaps it is just escapism to set a story in a time of place which doesn’t exist.  Or is it that we’re running out of straight fiction in the twenty-first century and have to start speculating about other worlds?  All I know is I felt more in control of my little invented dystopia (or utopia, depending on how endearing you find the over seventies?) because I could take it wherever I wanted.

Meanwhile, another story published on Monday (yey), my MA results came in for second semester (yey) 72% (booo) I thought I’d improved loads but I’m obviously still a work in progress, it’s only 1% rise on last semester.  Oh and the Purple Hibiscus book club met, drank, discussed and succeeded in not only finding a consensus on the novel but also getting matching gecko tattoos.  Overall an interesting week.  The panorama’s were taken on my travels in North Wales and Anglesey.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Pictures from Stafford and Writing update

Another short story for anyone idle enough to want one, this time by American writer Ambrose Bierce.  Today, which was as bland a day as ever there was one, I had my fourth story published in about six weeks.  It will be featured on Fiction 365 which I thought was pretty cool since I have my photo 365 project already and now am featured on this site.  You can find a new contemporary fiction story there everyday.  Mine will be published there in a month or so and I will post the link again when it is.  Hopefully I'll be able to post the three links from the other stories too next month although they won't all be free to view. 

I don't quite know whether to keep featuring short stories people can read, post my own short stories and poems, post pictures, or just update with news about my own writing.  I like the mixture but I guess people like continuity.  I'll update early in the week though because I have the second installment of my Manchester Writers Course tomorrow which was really interesting last month.  Then I'm going away to North Wales Tuesday and Wednesday so won't have internet access.  Thanks for reading.

Some pictures from my Saturday trip to Stafford, especially from the park, the church and the castle.

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Canal

I know I don't write enough prose and poetry here, and that was my intention.  I guess with all this success...(ha kidding)  No but really, I want to send off my best stuff to publishers in the rare chance it might get accepted - and I'm worried that they might do a search to see if it's online already, so that leaves me with stuff I don't like enough to send off and it isn't fair for me to post rubbish here.  What I can post is stuff that was published years ago!  So here's a poem published in a magazine in 2005.

The Canal 

Now the canal lies like a paraplegic
Visualising leaping and running
Imagining straining muscles stretched
The sluggish canal devoid of movement.

Parallel its litter-choked margins grooves on brick
Scarred by knotted rope plucking barges
Coal laden through the oily slip
Whilst movements tide zipped closed behind.

This is how the past had been for them
A rhythm of shouting men busy with work
Wet wood creaking in disapprobation
Knots strain vibration against the narrow walls.

Now it lies a trickle through estates
Left by a falling volume odiously polluted
Where untidy men with beards fish all day for nothing
Infrequently dredged for missing persons.

And a slightly linked picture, since one of my friends on 365 was suggesting I mix word and image more (you know who you are)  This is the Bridgewater Canal, with HDR processing.

Thanks for reading and have a good weekend.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Seeing like a child and being a better person

My camera broke!
I've had to buy a new one off ebay, I spent more on it than I thought I should so I'm kind of holding my breath for a few days, anxious to see if it's any good.  That's my reason for not having anything interesting to say on here - bad excuse.

You can - as always - see my ongoing photo-a-day project here I'm about half way through and still loving it, although it's harder all the time to find new things to photograph.  But I guess it's the same with any hobby, it's harder to find unique stuff, and original ideas.  What I love about the project, and the reason I'm writing about it here (not just to get sympathy for my poor camera) is because I realised it makes me look at the world harder.  Not just harder, it makes me look like a child again.  I take pictures of flowers, new shoots growing, snails climbing up the wall.  When do adults get the chance to stand and ogle at a snail climbing up a wall?  Funny signs, funny people (the other day I saw a huge, morbidly-obese woman going into McDonalds with a NIKE sweater on that said 'Just Do It'!) just about everything - and I see it all with an excitement only born from getting a decent shot that day, nevertheless I remind myself of being a kid.  I get giddy when I see a cow, I go quiet and move in slow motion when a bird lands near me!  Recapturing my childhood through photography.

So then I thought - I wonder how interests and passions can change us, or can give us transferable skills or have an indirect affect on us?  Worth a thought.

I wondered if writing, and probably reading fiction too, might make for a better person, a more caring and understanding person.  After all reading and writing fiction is often concerned with the ins and outs, and ups and downs of peoples lives, and we learn to empathise and appreciate them during their struggles.  It at least dispells ignorance, if your reading is broad you can learn about all kinds of people and their lives.  If you read the right books I suppose you'd say, but fiction at least is a way to learn about people, and what makes them tick.  Has anybody ever felt this actually taking place, perhaps you read a good book and felt a deeper understanding for other people and became more accepting and easy going?  Maybe you stereotyped a kind of person and then read a novel with a character in who reminded you of that person and you realised why they did the things they do.  Or am I being too idealistic?  As a writer I at least think you love to talk to people more than if you were not a writer, because people can give you great story ideas just by moaning, or explaining something from their life.  After reading and writing hundreds of plots I have also found I can predict the end of films pretty quick, but thats another story for another day!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Short Story History Continued:

Following on from my post from a few days ago - I'm still reading through my guide to short stories.  I thought I'd post a few more links to short stories which form the basis of the genre. I wanted to include Ernest Hemmingway's Hills Like White Elephants, as an example of a story pared down and full of meaning 'between the lines' .

James Joyce's famous collection of short stories Dubliners stands out for several excellent examples - many of which you can find if you click the link.  Virginia Wolff, whose novel Orlando I love, wrote short stories too.  Her stories worked on several levels most significant of which was there rebellion against a male tradition of story writing - I haven't read any of her short stories so will have to look them up.  Kate Chopin and Katherine Mansfield are also influential female writers - Katherine Mansfield wrote some excellent short stories before dying of TB aged 34, one of her most famous is The Fly.

Not that I've done much reading or writing today, I worked and then ate myself silly.  And I've just watched a dreadful Japanese Animation - cup of tea and bed!

Monday, 6 June 2011

I suck at Endings

Twists in the tale, sudden reveals, epiphanies – it doesn’t matter what, I suck at endings.  My stories start with such promise and then...I run out of steam.  It isn’t like I don’t read the endings of other stories, and I almost always finish novels unless they’re really bad (FYI this list includes Barchester Towers by A Trollope, Little Women by L May Alcott, Kim by R Kipling and Crash by JG Ballard).  So why don’t I get the hang of it?  Maybe my writing reflects my life (quite interesting and satisfying but ultimately going nowhere?) I don’t know.

Openings I do fine with, and I come up with some really great lines, descriptions and characters, especially characters – or so I think so.  I also reckon I write women better than men, whilst five out of eleven of my main characters in my novels are men, and six women (that doesn’t mean I’ve finished eleven novels, two or three are equally split between male and female protagonists) and around 50% of my short stories are told with women’s voices – those seeming to be the best ones.  But endings, I just don’t know.

I guess I kind of see a novel as a journey spent in a train carriage with some interesting characters, it doesn’t really matter where you’re going, if the people are new and exciting enough you’ll enjoy the ride.  The journey is what matters – like when you’ve done a big exam, or important interview and you feel relief, and a little boredom afterwards – that’s how I feel about writing.  It’s the anticipation and excitement, and the anxiety of the build up, whether they end up together or whether they survive the battle etc.  Doesn’t matter as much because a novel can’t be a whole life, it can only be a snippet, the best bit.  Are the endings the best bit?  How much does your enjoyment of a novel depend on a satisfying ending and not on the bulk of the story or the quality of the prose, I wonder.

These pictures are from Leigh in Greater Manchester, I spent the weekend house sitting there for my brother, and having a dreadful time regards inspiration!  They are processed with HDR software Oloneo.  Ah well, new month, summer holidays and lots of projects!

Saturday, 4 June 2011

A Week of Short Stories

I've been trying to improve my short stories this week - and trying to learn the 'art' of it.  I often end up writing short stories after just starting with an idea and seeing where it runs out.  But there is a specific way of structuring a short story which is more sophisticated than just a chunk of a novel or a passage of fiction.

The history of the short story is dominated by Russian and American writers.  In the mid-nineteenth century Edgar Allan Poe paved the way with stories like The Pit and the Pendulum, using genre-defining symbols and imagery.  Then Anton Chekov made character and difficult situations the focus in stories like The Lady and the Lapdog which describes a love affair.  I have a lot of time for Chekov, I think Poe is a bit dated now.  Then came Maupassant, whose novels and stories I love.  He is remembered for his wow endings, but flimsy plots, see The Necklace.  Basically if you put Maupassant and Chekov together you might have the best story ever.  These writers were writing 150 years ago now, but their stories still have value for writers, as they set the standard. 

I'd be interested to know what people think if they have the time to read these three stories, or if they have read them before.  Can you tell the different styles apart? This post was a bit better the first time round but unfortunately when I clicked POST it all deleted and I hadn't saved it.  Oh and it's half past midnight, lol.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011


It's all photographs and short stories at the moment, nothing in the way of art or poetry.  So heres a few pics I did with the Olenio software I mentioned.

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

I have been pretty busy recently. 

I've found myself writing more than ever these last few days, and if I go online it's to send people stories to read so I can get some feedback on them.  I had a couple of things published (yey) and I'll be posting a link here next month for the story I had turned into a podcast!! Hopefully everyone will purchase it, I hope it's cheap.  Apart from that - I discovered HDR photography which you can see on my facebook public gallery.  I don't know how famous HDR is, and I don't know the tech behind it, but basically it's a cool way of lifting the lights, lowering the darks and intensifying the colour of pics so that any light or colour flaws are removed.  Just google HDR photography.  And the software was free, from Oloneo, but I don't know if it's really free or just pretending to be!  Count down to lots of fun stuff in June, I'm glad May finished, it seemed ridiculously long and tedious, at last my MA semester is over, and my summer break is beginning (I work at a university) and I can begin the projects I've been planning.

PS watched lots of good films recently - My Life as a Dog, Waking Life, Howls Moving Castle.  I don't know if I'd put 'Blitz' in that list, but I just saw it at the cinema, and well, it was energetic.  Lots of gore.
Check out my recent photos here!  Thanks.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Who remembers tarmac bubbles, bloody knees and dirty fingernails?

Mondays writing course included an exercise where the group leader Jim Hinks collected together suggestions for our most memorable childhood feeling, texture, smell, sound and general word.  Then he set us off writing about our childhood and frequently announced the provided words at random for us to incorporate. 

Funny how writing exercises can take you somewhere different.  I ended up describing horse riding escapades.  I remember going horse riding, back when the town I lived in was mainly fields and a half finished housing estate - not the sprawl of suburbia it is now – I was maybe seven or eight.  There was a farm, and for a few quid I used to join a convoy of sluggish ponies tramping around a waterlogged field.  I don’t remember asking to go, the whole situation was very foreign and for as long as I did it I never became confident enough to enjoy it.  The dusty smell like our airing cupboard, and the smell of urine remind me of the stables.  A fear of the huge animals and anxiety at their fusty breath and grasping gums.  The carpet-texture of their coats and word I didn’t understand which described either some kind of leather accessories or a travelling speed. 

I was allergic to horses, as with most things, as a child – but my mother didn’t realise for months, not even when my eyes swelled to raspberry coloured donuts, or even when I’d sneezed myself into a hot, suffocating nosebleed.

Strangely I hadn’t thought about any of this until the writing exercise.  It’s funny what you forget.  Whatever happened to popping tarmac bubbles, falling over, and dirty fingernails from upturning rocks and discovering insect communities?    And most of all – navigating the geography of the town slowly, step by step, paving stone by paving stone.  I knew points on my journeys better than I know anywhere now, because I sat on the pavement or dug in the sand.  I knew how things felt, smelt and sounded. Now everything is too quick, and I’m only ever outside because I’m between two places, or I’m running.  I guess the paradox is the world is getting smaller – with globalization, world travel and the internet – but we might know our own corner of it less and less.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

My Private World of Writing

Last Wednesday I went to the meeting of the Standish writers group, tomorrow I am at a writing course in Manchester at Madlab, then Wednesday the Bolton University end of year readings at the Octagon in Bolton (I am not reading, due to ridiculous practice sessions in the daytime on weekdays, and a breakdown in communication.)  Then I think the following Wednesday is another writers group this time in Manchester - phew – so I’m hopefully in line to meet some writerly (not a word) folks and learn some new stuff.  And it’s been a weekend of writing (yey!) with one of my old novels in for a controversial rewrite inspired by the flood in the Bible (yep the one with Noah) it’s a bit weird and it makes a very serious book suddenly rather bizarre.  Apart from that I have to prepare my MA piece for submission tomorrow.  I’m so sick of reading it I’ve gone a bit blind and my eyes just pass over the words, it’s time for it to be deposited in the submission box, like a parent watching his child go out into the world (a bad parent?) I just hope it's okay.  And then at the beginning of June we break up for summer!  Projects will hopefully begin to take shape in my mind, summer is a prolific time for me, fingers crossed.  Here is a poem:
As The Cage Fell

As the cage fell
Running water running parallel
And miners breathing on each other’s necks
He felt strong down there, I guess
As close to earning money as he could
Without the worries of the surface life
Hands rough with segs and knees ingrained blood
The disappearing worries of his children and his wife
As the cage fell.

As the cage fell
Pit bottom clunk of wood and stale air
Ventilated circular; hot here and cold there
Piss and shit and methane odour stirred
The lowest foot of air as foul as death
So that you could suffocate crouching for rest
A slow sleep creeps vision being blurred
The disappearing hope and choking breath
As the cage fell.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Marrakech Poem


The piss-stench of horses
Whose shoulders twitch with inaction
Tethered nose to tail with carriages
In the shadow of lanky palms.

Trees which drop small berries
Different each time, from blood-black to white
The tradesmen here keep their wares in trees
Stashed in orifices, adjoining aortas.

Time passes slowly in the parks
The desperation of the carriage drivers
So different to the jovial banter on the square
Come on, they say, I will take you anywhere, very cheap.

Comments welcome, I don't know what possessed me to post my earliest poem and one of my latest. 

Monday, 16 May 2011

My First Poem

Well not my first, but I deleted all the ones I wrote before it, I reckon this was written in about 1998, I've saved my poems to my hard drive ever since and have several hundred.  I can't remember what inspired this one, maybe walking down to Bolton University when I was studying history, there is a rough gravel car park near HSS Hire shop which I vaguely remember.


Car Park Attendant

Anonymous face slinking round the car park
On that space, the grave of a factory dismembered.
He doesn’t speak, but he waves, every morning at me -
Faces he knows or registrations remembered.

Then I see him at night sleeping in bus-stops
Not homeless, but waiting for his bus to stop.
Under streetlights gold stars, he’s weary of cars
The traffic mist clearing, petrol fumes thick.

Once when I sat window-down, killing time
Half-light and soft-rain he walked between vehicles,
Down the line, muttering conversations alone.
A prayer caught – about cancer, his daughter and miracles.

Click here to see my funny self portrait on my 365 project.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The Dust of Life

What!! Osama's dead and someone is still instigating terrorist activity?  What! Who?
Come on, I hate the news sometimes, and try not to watch it at all - but saw a glimpse of Americans celebrating the recent passing of Bin Laden, when I got back from Morocco, and knew this would happen.  Terrorism will continue as long as the top past time in Israel is throwing stones at Arabs and building houses in their villages. Still I think people blame the average American too quickly, anyone who knows anything about American history knows it is one cover-up after another and I wonder if Americans know even half of what is really going on around the world.

Anyway I didn't intend on writing about politics, but about art-writing-photography and all that good stuff.  Picasso once said 'Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.'

This week I've done a couple of new postcard sized collages, and written quite a bit.  I signed the contract for my poem which was published last week (here) I get $5 and a copy of the book.  It isn't Little Brown, but I'm really pleased because it is a book about war, and American experience of war since 9/11 and I'm sure there will have been loads of American submissions, and that mine was picked shows, I hope, that it was half decent. I also signed up to a short story course which there might be more places on if anyone is in Manchester and likes writing stories, it's only £70 (that's $103 so if I sell another 19 poems I've broken even!).  I think I'm going to a couple of writing groups this week so it will be good to learn new things. 

Finally LubyLou was setting up an online book club which I signed up for, and when she realised all of her enthusiasts were Manchester based she decided to make it an actual book club and we're meeting in a week and reading Purple Hibiscus. Lubylou seems to consume books at an alarming rate so I feel like a bit of a novice but I'm definately looking forward to it, and it probably isn't a book I would have read under my own steam so it will be interesting.

This week I realised how badly I cook, and eat vicariously whenever anyone mentions food!  All it takes is for someone to say, 'I'm having bolognese tonight' and I begin a tirade about cooking it slowly, how Italians throw their garlic in whole with the skin on, how pork mince is nice and a dash of red wine vinegar.  I probably mither them for longer than the actual cooking will take!  My housemate is doing a come-dine-with-me compeition with his family and every time I speak to him I try and rework his menu and tweek his technique.  Then  what do I have for tea, almost every night?  yep, a club sandwich.  But who has time to make elaborate meals for themselves?  Please someone comfort me that I'm not the only person in the world who sabotages other peoples cooking and eating (either that or come to my house and give me someone to cook for!)

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Thoughts about heritage

There’s a part of Bolton where I park when I don’t cycle in, it’s about fifteen minutes from the centre of town and the university where I work.  It is a series of streets of terraced housing, I don’t know how old, but late Victorian I guess.  There’s a mill, gasometers, a couple of other old bits and a few factories.  The area always reminds me of what the whole town must have looked like at one point and I can’t help thinking about the houses history.  This must all sound very boring, but the houses many of us live in have histories of their own, especially terrace streets.  Any one house might have seen brutal poverty at the end of the nineteenth century, family deaths during the First World War, and deaths in mining accidents in this area.  Deaths in the Second World War, unemployment during the depression, even bomb damage in the Second World War, and all manner of issues since then.  It just struck me that the framework we all live in predates us, and has existed around all kinds of lives, and whilst we think of it as ours, our house, our workplace, in another fifty years we might be forgotten about and very different lives be existing in ‘our’ places.

I was looking through some records of the Pretoria pit disaster - December 1910 - as some of my written work recently has been inspired by it, and I found that as I live in number thirteen on my street, a miner died whose home was number twelve and three miners died (possibly a father and two sons) at number fourteen.  This isn’t like standing in Durham Cathedral and thinking some Middle Ages carpenter worked on this or that, this is sitting in my own bedroom and trying to imagine the lives of someone sitting here a hundred years ago finding out about the death of four neighbours in one afternoon.  I wonder if that meant a husband did come home to this house? And sat dumbstruck in his chair, face still smeared with coal dust, hands bruised and chipped from hard work trying to work out what happened.  And maybe a mother had to hush her kids up in respect for the grieving through the walls.

We are stuffed full of information these days, internet, TV, film, novels, magazines, and I often wonder how before all of that when there was just the occasional newspaper and an oral tradition of stories and memories – what did people know that we’ve now forgotten?  I think they could tie themselves more to their own past, and to each other in a community.  I think they shared more experiences and that gave them unity and empathy.  I must admit I’m envious of lives lived with space and much less stimulus.  The focus of a hobby, the understanding of distance when many journeys had to be done on foot and the feeling of belonging to one place. 

So my question is; we’ve gained a lot, but have we lost anything to history?

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Back to Work

First of all check out my recent pictures on 365 I'm trying to be more 'artistic', I'm sure there is a term when you take a photograph and make it more into art and less like a snap, but I don't know it.  All I'm doing is adding layers on photoshop and trying to develop pictures into collages.

Above pictures are a shot from the train near Oxford Road Station which I've worked on a bit.

So tomorrow is my first day back at work after the three weeks of Easter, and it feels like a decade, I've worked two different jobs and visted another continent.  That doesn't make it any easier though, it feels like I haven't done my normal job for so long I've forgotten how to tolerate it!

Marrakech left me with some enduring habits it seems, my salmonella scare (raw chicken kebabs) has turned me into a pseudo-vegitarian, and like other pseudo vegitarians I break it only for bacon, (I can't even look at chicken).  I can't seem to drink tea from a cup anymore, unless it has got there via a teapot (poured from a height with an Arabic flourish) and I seem to have become fearless when it comes to busy roads, I need to shake off the Moroccan tactic of crossing one lane at a time and only looking if the next lane is clear when your half way across, (press the crossing-button Dave!!)

So I'm Posting for the sake of posting, although I have made art today and written some stuff I don't really feel like I have anything interesting to share.  Although, I got back from Marrakech to several emails and one of them told me I'd had a poem published!  I would love to post the link to the publishers website but I can't find them, I won't post the poem either because I think they own it now or something, they're sending me a contract.  It's a baby step, and we all know that some babies grow up to be millionaire best selling writers!!  Fingers crossed.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Kittens and tat

The second part of my holiday at least saw better weather but the heat set in, and with it the flies and coupled with the noise and the crowds at times it was a bit stressful.  Marrakech is full of mewing kittens and stalls covered in tat, I mean colourful junk that only a magpie would be attracted to.  It was billed as some kind of shoppers paradise but really - leather slippers in every colour known to man?  The best item I saw was a T-shirt, on the only manikin outside a shop (therefore one of their best items?) and the slogan read 'Hello Munich!'

I found the McDonalds in Guerliz and drank a Fanta elated with relief that I knew what I was getting and how much it would cost, and wouldn't have to argue with the stated price for ten minutes.  It's a strange thing because i don't really drink but I've never craved a beer so much in my life, sure there must have been establishments around the city that sold beer but I didn't see any, and I wasn't going hunting for beer.  I'm not at that stage yet, but I'll be having one tonight.
The British Foreign Office had mentioned keeping an eye on Middle Eastern events because Morocco is very sensitive to what happens elsewhere, so when bin Laden was killed, well... But there seemed to be a few Israeli tourists around so I thought as long as they are smiling the situation is stable.  I kept finding myself back in the parks under the orange trees and the tall palms, where the turtles waddled around the paths and swallows darted just over your heads.  The Jardin Princess Laila Hasna is in my top three of peaceful places on the planet along with the Top of the Rock in New York and the central park in Arezzo, Italy.  It's a stunted list but they're my choices, the park has three security guards, you literally aren't allowed to do much other than sit quietly and enjoy the evening sun and the roses smelled amazing. 

Otherwise the food I ate was so bad that I began relying on dates and bottled water more and more, I think on the fourth and fifth day about 90% of my calories came from these, and the only other culinary success was the Patisserie des Princes near the square which did beautiful French pastries.  I salvaged two croissants for my final days trek across the city to the airport, sick of bartering and being harangued in French I'd decided to walk it and not stand arguing with a taxi driver for twenty minutes.  by the time I arrived I was drenched and had to get changed in the car park, it was really hot.  To give you an idea on the walk to the aiport I drank 4.5 litres of water!  I am realising I am a bit of a home bird, Manchester kind of has everything you need, and if you add Rivington to that you have beautiful countryside too.  And the food here is the best the world has to offer.  Is it a sign of getting old to love your home more and foreign adventures less?

Anyway, my next break comes in July, three days on the Isle of Man, should be much more relaxing!

Still In One Piece

Even glide is too choppy a verb for how Ryan air lets you pass through airports nowadays.  No one asked for my passport, did you pack this yourself, have you left it unattended, has anyone given you anything to carry!  Just a five foot policewoman with a huge machine gun, and I thought, surely a pistol or a rifle would be enough?  She might encounter a terrorist but would she really encounter several terrorists and be able to pump away like Rambo spraying bullets everywhere? 
My holiday mostly involved people watching, and being woken up by the call to prayer in the early hours of the morning. Marrakech is about as big as Bolton and entirely clad in concrete the colour of overcooked salmon.  It smells of wee, basically, (trying to give you a mental picture) wee and leather and two stroke oil and perhaps raw liver.  The laws we hold dear in this country of cars on the road - people on the pavement, are blurred there somewhat and vehicles and pedestrians seem to follow a predestined, synchronised course between each other, sometimes at high speed.

The Cafe Argana, which was bombed earlier in the week, is bang in the centre, on the main square.  Considering the schism in everyday life that 9/11, the Madrid bombings and June 7th bombings in London caused it was strange to see life had returned to normal within two days.  Was it insensitive that western tourists were cavorting around the site day and night?  What would Bush have said about thousands of Arab tourists swarming over ground zero with smiles and snapping cameras?  Anyway there were obvious tensions what with bin Laden’s demise and anti-government demonstrations in the square but the city rolled on as usual.

Arab society does seem peaceful and built around community, in the evenings I liked to sit in the park surrounded by couples and families who did very little other than chat, hold hands and watch their kids run in circles.  Maybe we don’t have the climate, but when it is nice we sit in our own personal gardens or go to the pub, it just seemed more sociable in Marrakech.  I never shifted the feeling of being an outsider though, even amongst tourists it seemed to be more of a couples and family destination rather than backpackers, adventurers and single people – and 95% of the tourists were French and very comfortable sauntering around – bronzed and heavy eyed.  I sat beneath the orange and the fig trees and drank spiced tea and read my book but it’s hard to overcome isolation, and when you’re completely new to a place and have four or five days to get to grips with it you have to make yourself comfortable in any way you can.

Friday, 29 April 2011

Marrakesh or not

It isn't what you want to hear a day before you leave is it, suicide bomber hits the building next to your hotel.  Today I will spend fretting regardless of my normal laid back demenour.  If I cancel I lose a bit of money, not enough to lose sleep over, but I have to cancel today else I lose more, and I would lose sleep.  Everyone I ring though just dismisses it, I'm not afraid for my life, don't get me wrong, it's the state of the city, London, Madrid and New York weren't really tourist hot-spots after recent attacks.

Anyway, another off putting factor is amazing weather in Manchester!!

Eventually I will become more literary and write down my thoughts on books, and even include much more poetry and prose, as that is my plan for blogging, but for now I am limbering up - this is my warm up period.  If I go to Morocco however I won't post here till next Friday but be comforted that I haven't given up I'm just visiting North Africa (ha, the fool, I hear you say).  And may I add getting information about travel when there's been an incident isn't easy in this era of world media and 24 hour news.  Even the British foreign office kind of shrugged their shoulders, meh, and said just stay out of that area.  When my hotel is next door to the bombed cafe I doubt that will be possible.

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Earning Money 1: Creativity 0

I worked again as a gardener today, and because it was so hot the work was tough, we couldn't turn the mower off because it wasn't restarting so in one cul de sac I mowed for what felt like hours, going from one house to another.  It's made me think how lucky I am, since my job allows me to pretty much drink coffee, read and write with occassional meetings and lectures - (hope the company I work for doesn't see that) but university life does seem to function at a slower pace.  Specifically I think my laid back job allows me the time and space to think about my hobbies and I wonder if I did a job like this gardening all the time would I have ever put pen to paper?

Just some postcard sized collages from last month, I still have loads of blank postcards and will one day have another session on these, they're so quick to do.  I keep all of my collage materials in a big box now and it was hidden away before, so easier to get at.  Tonight I can't stop listening to Chief, so I wanted to post a link:

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

I'm making a concerted effort, alongside starting this amateurish blog, to send off my writing and (hopefully) supplement my income. I don't know how realistic that is.  I used to send off poems and get them published, but I feel like it's one of those things that you spend years not only getting better at poetry, but learning about the market before you get any success.  Now I'm starting from scratch with stories and achiving publication in one seems to have no bearing on the other. 

My friend craig put me onto duotrope which shows listings of magazines, worth a look if you write stories.  But it's hard to know where to start.

And then, theory is, that when I send off a novel to a publisher I can list my published stories, that's the theory.

And I keep drawing and snapping away with my camera, but I don't think there is any money in that so it's just for fun.  That's as much as I have to say today though, decidedly unartistic, I'm working for a friend at the moment, as a gardener since I'm on Easter vacation from my university job, and all I did of note today was cut down a rotten tree, and it stunk of cheese.  Weird.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Writing versus art.

Why is it on sunny days when I open all of my windows, do my washing and put it out, air my house, oil up and arrange myself on the decking - do people in neighbouring gardens feel compelled to light fires?  Now I'm sitting at my computer inside coughing and all the rooms stink.

This isn't a self portrait, I stilled a film and sketched the character, I'm not saying what film because it doesn't look at all like the actoer it's supposed to be!!
Check out my recent photos:

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Sunday Afternoon

It seems like summer has just pounced on us
And winter had seemed so endless
Like drowning out of sight of shore -
It feels like summer has just pounced.

But with its light nights and happy dawns
Comes the sadness of every summer
A remembrance of childhood dreams
They never came true – I had faith in them.

Happy Easter to all, the weather's back and I split my time between cowering inside tingling and checking shoulders and forehead in the mirror, and basking gloriously.  I'm reading Fingersmith by Sarah Waters which is amazing and I can't seem to apply myself for very long to anything else.  The poem's very recent, the picture is Pont Nerf in Paris, done in black ink and then altered in photoshop.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

So I guess if you play with fire you get burnt, and if you live in the UK you're gonna get wet, whether its winter-spring-summer or autumn.  That's what happened yesterday - after being burnt to a nice shade of pinky-brown I called on a friend in the afternoon, and as I drove home later I took these pictures on macro of the rain on the windscreen.

I have to admit though, spring puts a nice spin on everything, even a rain storm, and since I can't sleep past 8am anymore I'm sat on the decking on a slightly damp chair and the air, and the smells and the feel of the day is amazing.  Fresh, and quiet and soft. I used to work in Italy and France years ago (in my heyday) and starting a summers day early always reminds me of crawling out of my couriers tent, hungover and ready for a strong coffee and a pastry.  They're pretty bitter-sweet memories for me, I guess all happy memories of being in love and living a little bit wild become slightly bitter once you're past thirty?  I don't know.

Anyway, maybe off to Liverpool today, or somewhere at least, since my 365 project is quite mature now and the longer it goes on the wider the radius around my home town grows within which I've photographed everything.

And I guess I mentioned a poem in a previous post, and it ties in with this nostalgia, one I wrote in France and published to the tune of £50 back in 2007 and anyone who knows poetry knows that's a fortune!

The late-evening emptiness of day-end
Blown wind swaying the hissing tops of trees
And your golden hair still damp.
Through that breezy-rustle night settles
Oceans tamed strength becomes quiet.

That Atlantic bay was geographical
But for me it was memories, feelings.
It was the landscape where I loved you
The landscape of intimacies and meetings
Of parched birches leaning like waiters
Over the warm sand, the cool thick grasses.
Harbour lights casting thin shadows
Enticing waves calling us in, distracting us
Breaking to a ripple of diamonds,
Hushed and then withdrawn.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Easter Holidays (at last)

So I was excited for about five minutes last night, thinking oh the endless possibilities - an audience for my prolific creative output.  But then I woke up this morning and the thought of even one person reading, and viewing my pictures and prose didn't seem so attractive.

Is it every amateur writer/artists experience to wonder what use is any of it - before being published?  I can find the beautiful in the things I make but when I hold it up to some other professional work on the web It sometimes looks like a child has made it. 

I'll stay safe for now, and stick to photography (and the occassional funky postcard since I have millions of them,) and when I feel more adventurous, well, we'll see.

Maybe tomorrow a poem...................

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

First Post

Or should that be Bolton's artistic son?  Nonetheless I'm in the North West of England and I produce so much on a daily basis that blogging makes such sense.  It will be saying something constructive between my art-photo and writing which will be the challenge.  Theme wise I write, make art and take photos of my home and the area I love so that will be my main topic.

So I'm not so much a newbie - if a 365 project is a kind of blog already, but I need to spread out, to increase, to unfurl my wings - that is I want to post daily poems, daily items of prose and daily drawings, but I may still add links to my 365 if I snap a pic worth sharing.

Anyway nothing is interesting the first time, the first time is usually painful and awkward, so I'll cut it short and hopefully increase with awesomeness as time goes by.  Thanks for reading.