A look back, and to the future

2014:  t’was a strange year.  From a writing point of view it went much better than expected, and more on that another time.

Firstly, an more importantly, on a personal level it was a year of ups and downs, ending with my long-term partner’s discovery of breast cancer which required two operations and now demands a course of chemotherapy to look forward to in 2015.  However post-op results are very favourable and we, hand-in-hand, are both positive also that all will go well. It was a shock, it came out of the blue as the last mammogram was only done two years ago which was all clear.  Ladies; the mammogram can be a life-saver, don’t neglect yours!

In addition, my eldest brother was diagnosed with Crohn’s diesease in June, also necessitating operations, and the long-term results of which we are still awaiting an outcome.  Both situations have made my partner and I realise that health must come before all else and, in light of this, we decided to forego Christmas between ourselves and donate to both causes.

Cancer research is probably one of the widest-known causes one can donate to and for us a Swiss research foundation was chosen, however Crohn’s disease is another matter: there is a lot of information available on the disease itself but research resource seem to be lacking which is unfathomable given the seriousness of the condition.  A new MAP test is still in the testing stage at King’s College hospital and requires £380’000 of funding.  Yes, you read correctly; only £380’000.  That’s less than two weeks wages for some footballers and is nothing to the authorities that could do but won’t.  Priorities eh?

This isn’t a call-to-arms charity donation post; far from it.  The people who should be responsible for laying out the money for both causes, fully aware of their non-commitment, would do well to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves why, although having the hide of a Stegosaurus can no doubt come in handy.

From a professional point of view, the changes in the financial sector here in Switzerland have dictated that I’d be better off out than in so, at the end of January 2015, I’ll be out.  Relieved? Oh yes.  Worried?  That’s what drives us, isn’t it?  I will be concentrating on the Cambridge CELTA course to teach English as a foreign language, which will finish at the end of May.  It’s no pushover and it’s high pressure, but the thought of leaving with the CELTA certificate in my pocket, after not-too-inconsiderable outlay, encourages me no end.

2015 has already laid out some hurdles but if you jump high enough, and run fast enough, you can still overcome and succeed.

Happy New Year to you all.

Chris

 

One continent, four years and poles apart

08 December. A bad day for music.

I’m not talking about John Lennon, tragedy and massive loss to the music world that it was.  I will instead pay this little homage to my favourite band of the 80s who, after the events of 08 December 1984, decided they couldn’t go on making music the way they had been doing, new record deal or not.  It’s not a biography: I’ve added a link for that, it’s just a few lines dedicated to a decent drummer and a few thoughts of what could have been.

Hanoi Rocks.  In 1980 Four Finns and one Swede got together and formed a band, with a look and sound winking in the direction of the New York Dolls.  They independently release two albums and a move to London where Razzle, an endearing and talented ‘geezer’ from the Isle of White replaced the strung-out Swede on the drum stool.  The band and their sound stepped up a gear.  A further two albums down the line and CBS signed them and, with a US tour on the cards in late 1984, the world should have been their oyster…

08 December.  Los Angeles.  During a forced break from touring after frontman Michael Monroe fractured his ankle, Razzle and Andy McCoy, lead guitarist with the band, are partying hard with Mötley Crüe at Vince Neil’s house (Neil being the lead singer of the Crüe), partying so hard in fact that they run out of booze.  Vince takes it upon himself to drive to the liquor store to bring back supplies and asks Razzle if he’s like to go with him.  Vince has recently purchased a 72 DeTomaso Pantera and Razzle, a bit of a car nut, says yes.

On their way back from the store, Vince hits water and slides across the other side of the road, and the passenger side of the car takes the full force of the impact.  Neil cuts his nose while Razzle dies from massive head injuries just an hour later.

Hanoi Rocks limped on for a few months but it wasn’t the same.  The man who’d come in, swept out the Swede and forged four Finns with his charm, sense of humour and talent was no more.  Within six months following the accident, nor was the band.  Their legacy lived on for much longer however, with Guns N’ Roses openly declaring the band as a massive influence.

R.I.P. Razzle.  “Give us another pint of brown mate, cheers.”

Songs, demons and general annoyance

A demon has entered my head.  It won’t come out, no matter how much I try and force the issue.

Somewhere across the mists of time, a time in which wars have been won and lost, kingdoms have risen and fallen and territories have been ceded and possessed, someone somewhere has entered by being and possessed me.  A song.  A song damn it, so dire, so horrendous that it has stuck in my head and won’t budge,  I have been zapped by the worst of 1958; that’s 11 years before I was born ladies and gentlemen, zapped by someone who sings with a voice like molten lard, yes lard.  Not lava, lard.

I want to know where the hell I heard the song “All in the game” by Tommy Edwards.  I want to know where, and who and I want revenge.  Of all the songs from that age, that year this one has stalked and found me.  I could have had anything by Gene Vincent, Buddy Holly, Eddie Cochran, anything but not this.  This is worse than hearing something slide under your bed in the darkest depth of night.

Tommy Edwards, I will now publicly attempt to cast you out.  Be gone from my head, never to return.  Go!

 

From a jar in motion to a jarring motion

Bear with me on the title…

During the last 6 days following my last post and the reluctant concealment of my home-made pickled red cabbage jars for at least two weeks, I have to confess to feeling not quite myself.

Last Wednesday I came home early from work, sure that by the evening I would be running a fever; it didn’t happen. Looking back on it now I wish it had. Like the forest fire started by the lightning burning away the old growth to allow the new, a fever can work a treat to blast the bugs from the bod. No; this time it decided to ignore me and instead left me feeling shattered, mentally numb, unable to work (day job) and unable to work on what I like to have time to work on, which is writing.

I had about as much creative inspiration as a bunch of limp water-cress. It happens, especially when one is feeling crappy and is confined to stay at home and not infect an office full of colleagues. Ordinarily I don’t worry about it: the lack of creativity that is, not the infection of colleagues. After all, it comes and goes and I find it easier not to force it. I decided instead to turn on the computer and start researching the world of freelance copywriting; I’ve made reference to my interest in this in previous posts. However, it didn’t stop there, as soon as I started a-Googling I had all sorts of additional aspects thrown at me, such as content writing, web marketing; even, I hasten to add, HTML. HTML? It took me 10 minutes just to remember what is stands for! It does however seem to be a useful skill addition for a copywriter.

So I entered “freelance copywriting jobs” in the search bar. What a mistake that was. Suddenly a host of job auction sites flashed up at me, offering me $10 an hour in India, $15 an hour in the US, £10 an hour in the UK – My God, is this what the freelancing world has become? Are there any freelancers out there who read this blog or are reading this post (yeah, small chance I know…)?

I really enjoyed the copywriting course I took last year and I received a very positive feedback from my tutor, with whom I still in contact.I would trade dollars (or in my case Swiss Francs) for a little job satisfaction. I love the idea of freelancing;: the freedom would allow me to pursue other interests, some of which also pay (that doesn’t include selling my body…at least not yet). Teaching English, even at conversational level, is always welcome here. It would allow me to concentrate on “serious writing” also. It’s a dream to embark on a professional path which may not bring in the same wage but will give me a hell of a lot more enjoyment, challenge and sense of fulfilment. I guess the Googling, and Elnace in particular, brought me back down to Earth with a jolt.

You see, it was all in the title.

And now for something completely different: A little rap and pickle…

I’ve never been a woman, at least not in this life, so it stands to reason I’ve never been pregnant.  I do however currently nurse a craving, a food craving.  Nothing so severe as Whiskas on toast on a bed of Marmite but a craving none the less.  Pickled red cabbage.  Yep, mainstay of many an English Christmas larder.  Larder? I haven’t used that word since I was about 15… Anyway, it’s now mid September and I have this craving – pickled red cabbage with Cheddar cheese.  So what? you reply.  Go to the supermarket and buy some.  Ha!  Too simple, this is Switzerland and I can’t find any.  Anyway, what I actually want is that my Mum made years ago.  So, following a week of this craving I decided to make some…yes, you read me right, make some!

Actually it was a spur of the moment thing.  I saw the cabbage in the supermarket, thought about it for a few seconds, put it in the trolley then went in search for vinegar.  That’s another thing, I can’t buy malt vinegar for love nor money, although if truth be told I’ve only ever tried with money, so I bought wine inegar instead.  Then I thought about spicing said vinegar, and after visiting 48,324 different websites came up with the answer.  And so it began.

I'd love a shirt this colour!
I’d love a shirt this colour!

On Monday, I chopped the cabbage, laid it in a bowl and smothered it with salt and left it 24 hours.  Tuesday came round, I rinsed it well and let it drain while I prepared my spices – whole peppercorns, cloves, dried chili, bay leaves and fennel – just that which I found at the back of the cupboard.  Cutting up an old, clean tea-towel I laid the spices inside, tied itup and laid it in the now-simmering vinegar for five minutes before taking the latter off the heat, leaving the spices in and putting it out on the balcony to cool.  Then the jar sterilisation; jars in the oven at 150 degrees for 10 minutes while boiling the lids for the same amount of time.

Spice is nice
Spice is nice

With both the jars and vinegar now cool, I initiated my first pickling, ever.  Here is the result.  I’ve never been a woman, hence I’ve never been pregnant, but I can’t wait for these babies…

The babies!

The babies!

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.

 

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?