Chris’s conscience crisis, a Monday alliteration

Dionaea muscipula – the Venus Flytrap.  I have one and he’s special. I bought him back in May, when the hope of spring was upon me, and just as the weather permitted him to be left outside to his own devices.  Neither he nor I could have imagined a rain-soaked summer like this one; it’s a miracle he’s still alive and eating. Ah!  Eating.  Now it’s a fact that nature throws up some freaks every once in a while: two-headed cows, three-legged rabbits, gay goldfish…whatever.  I though believed I had bought the world’s first vegetarian Flytrap – I kid you not.  I spent weeks checking on his welfare; the soil condition, the balance of sunlight and shade, although I think this summer they seem to merge into one and the same.  I digress.  Not once did I see a trap shut, not once! Now there are 3 (animals?) insects I detest:  wasps (bastards), mosquitoes (bitches) and flies, yep, those same houseflies that tread and throw up on your food when you’re not looking, so I started patrolling my balcony with an innocent plastic fly-swatter in my hand and, after downing a blighter, I would give it to the plant.  However, after a backhand like Jimmy Connors (remember him?) the fly would be, how can I say, very dead.  That would then necessitate an operation involving a match or toothpick to get the trap to shut.  Tonight that changed. I came home from work, walked out on the balcony and there, sitting on the table fat as fortune, no doubt bloated after a session of stuffing, stomping and spewing, sat a blowfly.  A thumping forehand, minus the swatter, took down the shining son-of-a-gun and it lay motionless on the floor.  I picked it up by a wing and deposited it neatly into a trap.  I guess it must have landed on a couple of trigger-hairs as it started moving, and as it did so…whoops!  I hadn’t actually killed it.  Well, I guess you could say I have now.  Then I had a li’l crisis of conscience.  Giving dead flies to my plant doesn’t bother me, the same as a butcher giving someone a dead chicken doesn’t bother me, but the thought that it had about a second to realise it had a trigger-hair up its arse just as its world closed in on it gave me a pang of guilt.  A little.  Well, I guess all in all about five seconds, time enough to realise that my plant is as nature intended.  Order has been restored.  Good stuff! 20140908_193744 Slightly out of focus picture courtesy of author who can’t stand looking over his balcony…  

Tinkerer (n.) – Derivative of tinker

This evening I have been tinkering with this blog; changing theme, colours, title, even inserting the photo on the home page.  I tinkered, therefore I am a tinkerer.  I could have fiddled with this blog, in fact I probably did, except being a fiddler, even one on the roof, doesn’t have the same innocent charm of the tinkerer.  I guess I could have played with my blog, but would that then make me a player?

So why have I done this, especially on a Friday night?  Simply because, as I mentioned in my last post, I have plans for this blog to possibly include work-related writing, such as an eventual copywriting portfolio, instead of using it as a simple link to my writing site and, let’s be honest, that blue was fairly horrendous.  It was way too gloomy, bordering on aphotic and with a background design that seemed to lend itself to the posting of some of history’s darker fairy tales.  I hope the new look doesn’t scare people off but I guess I’ll find out when I post…

Ah yes, Friday night.  Well, I’ll put my hand up and admit that I had an extremely late one last night and I am beat/bushed/done/knackered/tired/feel free to insert your own adjective.

So, for this evening the tired tinkerer bids you good night, happy his blog turned from blue to white.

 

 

 

At the crossroads but I’m no Robert Johnson

The endless non-summer that has crawled its way across central Europe since June has now decided it would add some much needed spice by…becoming colder.  What?  What has happened to the weather?  It’s not just me; even the weather apps have given up predicting what the day’s going to turn out like.  Last week I looked at the window watching the rain, while my weather app told me no rain was forecast and it was apparently 27° C.  How many billions of $ / £ / € worth of weather-predicting space hardware is flying around in orbit?  Have things really improved since Farmer Giles put on his wellies, stuck his finger in some orifice or other, turned to the wind and predicted snow on Thursday?

Anyway, that’s not my point.  My point is the autumn is now almost upon us and I have itchy feeet, or rather hands, thinking about the long, cold, dark days of winter and what I could be doing with them (the days, not the hands).  Last year I attempted NaNoWriMo but this year I want something different, something I can get my teeth into and with a commercial slant.  I want change!

Yes, I have reached the crossroads.  I see no-one to whom I can sell my soul for a few years of playing wicked bottleneck guitar and whiskey drinking, so I think I’m going to start getting my head back round the idea of copywriting.

Last year I took a course you see, then this year I had a little success with my creative writing and I left the copywriting on the backburner whilst my poetry was presented, an article was sold and a short story competition won; however, my muse sometimes appears on my desk, kicking a pencil-sharpener, and looking at me as he turns out his empty pockets.  He’s right, wanting to be Hemingway doesn’t pay the bills and I really could use the excitement, hard graft and, ultimately, satisfaction of producing work for others.  I know I can do it, in fact I’ve done it, but gratis.  I even have a portfolio of sorts and I have discovered an all-consuming drive within me for a change where I can start making a difference for ME, yes, ME.

Now another crossroad:  should I dedicate this blog to my intended activity or start afresh, with a brand new one?  If I use this then I guess I’ll have to remove the poetry and flash fiction pieces, which is OK as they have their own blog anyway.  Ah!  Decisions.

 

The necessity of creativity

The necessity of creativity and how we find it. Creativity is spontaneous and comes naturally and it is effected by the environment in which it finds itself. Some people thrive on turmoil and chaos whilst others require peace I their lives, a stable base upon which to build something. I’ve decided I fall into the latter. Much of what I write is done in those early morning, pre-dawning hours when I should be asleep but can’t. I’ve had my 4 hours or whatever and I lie awake, feeling the pillow become warmer and warmer, then having to turn it over and lay my face on its cool cotton whilst a team of chimps start chattering and climbing about inside my head. I can do nothing except get up; get up and write or sometimes read. I just can’t lay there with my head awhir, brain in overdrive and thoughts good and bad, positive and negative, circle and crash into each other, like 10 year olds in bumper cars.
Peace in my life: that’s the one. Upon reflection, insomnia may not appear to be a peaceful, stable base and, to some extent it isn’t because it becomes host to other problems which manifest themselves later on. However, the tranquillity of a silent flat in a small, silent block down a narrow silent street at 4.30am brings a peace of its own. The thunderstorm and lashing rain of two hours ago have decided to come back.
As I lie awake and listened to the crashing rain I thought of the plants on the balcony; the hardy rosemary, which hates excessive water but this ‘summer’ shows no let up. The delicate Venus fly trap, the only thing he’s catching is probably a cold. The young, reaching olive tree yearning for the sun. If these meteorological conditions occur (and they do) while I’m in the office I just shrug and don’t give it a second thought. This morning in my wakefulness I tried to come up with a plan for recovering them from the teeming torrents of water, and only the fact that I would have got soaked doing so stopped me.
So, back to the chaos or tranquillity question, even though it wasn’t a question.
Insomnia creates chaos in my head, there’s no denying that. It kick-starts the engine of my early morning and keeps revving, whether I want it or not. If it’s feeling generous it will sometimes turn off again whilst other times I need to let the clutch out and take it for a spin. It can and does causes problems later when I should be facing the day with enthusiasm and instead I’m sat, yawning, feeling bags delate beneath my eyes. However, this same insomnia leads me by the hand from my bed to my studio next door, where peace, the true, unblemished silence, is broken only by the scratching of my Caran d’Ache 2H pencil.
We could take this down to a completely new level and discuss the intricacies of what lie at the heart of every insomniac’s problem: however that isn’t for now or this page. A this moment in time my head is full of the consequences of a self-inflicted chaos I’ve brought into my life and now must deal with.
The necessity of creativity. We all have it but sometimes life pushes it out onto the balcony in the rain to be replaced by other urgencies which need to be kept warm and dry.

Shadowplay

Living in a daily world of imaginary conflicts, in which the tide of others washed and pushed against him, He lived ever in anger’s twilight. The anger simmered, threatening to boil over but not quite managing to do so. In some ways it would have been better if it had.

In his make-believe world in which everything was a hurt against him, either directly or indirectly, he no longer lived; not in the true sense of the word. Whereas sensibility to his condition was heightened, other important aspects of his character were made obtuse. Happiness was an emotion felt by others. His anger would obtund any sense of enjoyment or achievement and his spiral continued downwards.

The world outside is bright
Spring fills the air
The fields and the trees are colour
Animals awaken from winter slumber
But within him the winter remained
And for him the clocks unchanged
He slivered on ice
where others walked on grass
He shivered with cold
while others warmed to the sun
He withered, his face white
when others danced with new life
He lingered in the shadows
whilst others cavorted in the long,
joyful hours of sunlight
He revered in his head
his sufferance in a world
where hurts imaginary
and conflicts obtusely
Beat him to the ground
into the dust, to be found
Where maybe hope one day
will bring him out;
out into the world again.

Depression can take manifest itself in various guises, this I know from personal experience.  Whilst at the height of my chronic insomnia 4 years ago the hospital put it down to depression which, personally, I couldn’t understand as there was no real motive, so I believed.  I just thought it was the other way around – that I was shot to pieces in the head, imagining scenarios which weren’t there simply because I didn’t sleep.  Thankfully, with loving support and no lack of determination, I managed to untangle myself from the shadow-spectre of this awful and destructive condition. 

During last 4 years I’ve started writing, which is a therapy in itself.  I still don’t sleep anywhere near the recommended 8 hours but whoever recommends this probably has nothing to do all day.  The above, in a very rough form, has been around quite a while, probably written during ‘recovery’ stage.  Ordinarily I avoid personally-related posts, but this is different – I want that reminder there.  I want to remind myself of where I was and where I am and be thankful for it.

C.

p.s. – Shadowplay is a track by Joy Division from their “Unknown Pleasures” album.  It just seemed apt in this case.

New Year. New tan. New inspiration?

Firstly, happy New Year to everyone.

Personally, this time round was a fairly painless experience – in bed by 2.00am, no hangover the next day, just the headache of suitcase-packing for a week in Capo Verde.  Great time, great weather, a tan (don’t know how long that’ll last in a Lugano winter…) and new ideas for the coming you.  Not resolutions; plans.

With resolutions you have to be, well, resolute I suppose.  As I cannot be sure how my plans will turn out, as some of them are out of my hands, I cannot be resolute about them, can I?

Here however are a few ideas to go along with:

  1. Strengthen the bonds with the most important people in my life;
  2. Worry less about the people who aren’t in that category;
  3. Study and obtain the CELTA teaching English as a foreign language teaching certificate (process initiated);
  4. Sell / publish some writing (as blogging doesn’t count as published).

With 1 & 2, that’s a purely personal thing, however if anyone is interested then I’ll update on 3 & 4 as I go, especially if there’s anyone out there with the same intentions and especially, especially if there’s anyone out there who has taken or is taking the CELTA certificate.

Till the next time, adios y buen año.

It’s that time again…

Yes, November around the corner.  Get Hallowe’en, or possibly the Hallpwe’en party out of your system and the very next day… NaNoWriMo starts again.  After last year’s first and (to some extent) failed attempt, in addition to current commitments, I’ve been intent on ignoring it this year.  In fact until last weekend I was convinced I’d pay it no attention; but…

But I have a story which I’ve been working on and it looks destined for the trash bin – it’s going nowhere and when it starts becoming a stone around your neck you have to think twice about investing time and effort into it.  However, thanks to some positive input from a friend, I’ve decided that the idea itself isn’t a bad one – I just cocked-up on how it was presented.  It needs a back-to-the-bare-bones rewrite, a complete rewrite, which after 12,000 words doesn’t make me the happiest bunny in the warren but still… Anyway, NaNoWriMo could be a darned good excuse to do such a rewrite, because it will be a new novel – the only thing I’d have kept is the idea behind it.  Characters, settings etc. will all be new – they HAVE to be new, as it is not working in its current form.

So; stuck for ideas for the first of November?  Dig out your skeletons on Hallowe’en and try to put some meat on those bones.

 

 

Ode to Moka

In certain aspects during these last 12 years I’ve become ‘Italianised’ living here so close to the border.  When I’m back in the UK I dread hotel sachets of instant coffee and certain coffee-house chains, famous apparently for their ‘Italian’ coffees, serve me an espresso the size of a large glass of wine.  “No!” I want to shout.  I don’t however, I just sit there sipping and dreaming of my trusty Moka at home.  I like coffee, very much in fact but as I already have a sleep disorder I was advised not to drink it after 2pm.  However, when I wake up the first thing after splashing my face is the preparation of the Moka.  Then I can work.  Like, about now…

Once I was a fruit on a tree
Then they dried me, fried me
Made a coffee bean of me


Photo credit: markmiller from morguefile.com

A lose-lose situation

I wrote to a fellow blogger today with the following gripe.  Thinking about it further I thought I’d put it on here and see if anyone had anything to add, apart from “tough titty l’il kitty” maybe.

The pitfalls of blogging: You can’t use the blog as a ‘published’ credit on your writing resume but you can’t submit work to competitions that has been ‘published’ on your blog. I’m sure there’s logic in there somewhere but…

My reasoning is that a blog, irrespective of whether it has 5 followers or 5000, makes available for public viewing a piece of work.  More so if that blog post then receives feedback – proof in black and white that someone has read it.  However the reasoning against is that editors/agents are usually looking for evidence that other editors/agents have rated your writing highly enough to publish it.

So, where does that leave your blog post?  Unless you are lucky enough to have had an editor or agent knocking on your door to use it why can it not then be used as a submission to a competition.  Maybe the Swiss sunshine has gone to my head but I’m darned if I can figure it out.

Thoughts anyone?