A tentative blog to test the temperature.
Ten years ago I was writing several blogs on various subjects - F1 motor racing, Music, Classic Cars, Great Romances and, most crushingly, a personal journal that included my thoughts on America, memories of England and Africa, opinion, humour, writing and anything else that occurred. It all became too much (I was attempting to update the journal every day) and I collapsed, exhausted and thoroughly disillusioned in the end.|
So this blog is indeed a Toe in the Water, a place to document my thoughts in and on WdC but with a determination not to get sucked into the blog whirlpool ever again. Here's hoping.
|Yesterday I noticed that it's been 28 days since I updated this blog. Clearly, it was time to set my impressive brain to the task of devising a post for the sadly neglected thing. So here's one of my famous (well they might be, posthumously) sayings:
Never write a sentence when ten will do.
One of the things about dying that we don’t really think about is that we’re going to miss the end. Not of the world, for that will surely carry on without us, but those television series that we’ve started watching but not finished yet. Somehow that bugs me and I now have to think about whether I want to start a new series with its risk of non-completion or just attack it with a devil-may-care attitude, accepting that the denouement may be forever beyond my reach.
You can say that’s a pretty pathetic regret to have at that point, and you’d probably be right. But there’s the ending of one story that you too are going to miss out on. That would be your own story and you’re never going to see how things went after you popped your clogs, you’ll not be able to attend your own funeral, you won’t be able to rage that they went cheap when it came to choice of coffin. It’s all a bit sad, really.
Word Count: 172
|Who Needs Excuses?
2021 seems to have ushered in my grumpy old man phase. Suddenly I find that I have lost my tendency towards tact and diplomacy and am now answering questions with unaccustomed bluntness and honesty. Already I think I have offended one or two people in WdC with my irascible responses to questions or prompts. My only excuse is that, being as old as I am, this was bound to happen sooner or later.
Suck it up, folks!
Word Count: 77
|Henry of the Bushveld
In the late 19th Century, a man we now know as Sir Percy Fitzpatrick went out to South Africa to seek his fortune. After struggling to find his feet in a strange and hard land, he found himself driving wagon trains through the bush to take the riches of the interior to the coast. Along the way, he picked up a puppy that was to become the most famous dog in southern Africa. This was the Jock of the Bushveld that gave his name to the book Sir Percy wrote of his adventures, tales of a man and his dog in the wilds of Africa.
Jock was a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, a breed that I grew up with and so it was inevitable that the story of his life would be important in my own upbringing, as well as those of countless other children in that part of the world. This was all vividly recalled to me a few days ago when I saw an advertisement on television for Henry rifles.
The Henry rifle plays a minor but significant role in Jock’s story and the name brought the book immediately to my mind. How strange, I thought, that here in America, a firearm manufacturer’s name should bring back such memories of Africa for me. It had never occurred to me that the maker of the old elephant gun of that world would still be in business after all this time.
The name Henry has become a bridge between two worlds separated by 120 years of history. It was a harder and harsher world back then but also a simpler age when there was less time to worry about matters of who can go in which bathroom and what is the correct word for this or for that. We throw away our past at the risk of the future.
So famous in southern Africa did Jock become that a statue of him was erected over his grave on a farm in the lowveld, where most of his adventures took place. That statue has now been moved to Barberton Town Hall in Mpumalanga (formerly known as the Transvaal). This gives some idea of how important he was in the history of South Africa. Not a lot of dogs get statues as memorials.
Word Count: 374
|Apologies for Silence
A few people may have noticed the distinct lack of contributions from me over the past few days. This was unavoidable as I had an accident on Friday that landed me in hospital until yesterday (Sunday). For reasons unclear (take your pick between heart condition, low iron level in the blood and a recent meal), I passed out in the bathroom and bashed my head rather severely on the way down to the tiled floor.
It was a few minutes before I regained consciousness and, in the meantime, my wife had summoned an ambulance. So I was already part of the system and had to submit to the usual indignities and tests in the medical organisation. The hospitals and staff around here are particularly good, however, and I was dealt with speedily and efficiently. I was surprised to be released so swiftly, in fact
And now it’s Monday and I can find out what’s been going on. It will be a while before I am able to participate at the same level as before, as the low iron level has left me weak and without energy. I shall try as much as I can and can only apologise for my unusual terseness.
Word Count: 202
It was Harry who taught me the value of memories. I met Harry on the net, in Yahoo chat, and he quickly became a friend, particularly after I discovered that he was a writer. I snuck a few looks at what he’d written and was showing to others and I was pretty impressed. Not only could he write, he had lived a vagabond life that provided him with a mountain of material for memoirs, stories and comic verse.
In time, I let him know that I also had a writing blog and we began to drift away from chat, spending more time in blogging and commenting on each other’s posts. Other chat friends were lured into blogging and we developed a little circle of writers, scribbling away daily and commenting on each other’s posts. Comments developed into conversations and often led to more posts.
Then came the day when someone (who I later married) remarked in a comment that what I had written in a post was “almost as good as a Harry memory.” It was meant as a joke but, I can’t deny, it hurt. As far as I was concerned, the battle was on. I set out to create a memory post of my own.
I chose a childhood memory, knowing that it would start with an advantage - no one dare trash a kid’s thoughts. Being set in Africa, where I grew up, it would have that exotic touch that would be irresistible to people who had never set foot outside the States or Britain. It even had a dog in it.
So it couldn’t lose. I was reasonably happy with it, having put a lot of effort into polishing it to perfection, and it duly won considerable acclaim. Even my future wife admitted it was pretty good. It led to a string of tales about Africa as I realised the treasure I had stored in my mind. Everyone’s past is ordinary because it’s merely what they grew up in. The real secret is in the presentation - if it’s in an exotic place, it has a head start. With a bit of careful editing, cutting out what doesn’t add to the effect, any memory can be made into something special.
It wasn’t long before I expanded my memory sources into England and America, always telling the truth but using only the essentials to create interesting tales. And it was all thanks to Harry and his mis-spent youth. He was even older than I am when we first met and he has since passed on to a better place. I miss him and am quite sure that everyone else who knew him misses him grievously.
And now along comes WdC and its 48-Hour Media Challenge, with some young geezer in the group Maroon 5 singing about memories, of all things. Being an old fart, my first thought is to wonder whether such a young feller even has enough life experience to merit a few memories. But I guess we all have them, no matter our ages. And I’m happy to allow it, knowing that I probably have a few more than he does. Most of his seem to centre around drinking, after all. And, in that game, most memories are forgotten by the next morning.
He’ll learn, young whippersnapper, he’ll learn.
Word Count: 551
Years ago, in the early seventies, I had a friend who was an artist. Actually, I had a few artist friends since I was one myself but that is not the point of this story. Nor is the fact that my artist friend remains my friend, although he is no longer an artist. Both of us ceased to be artists round about the same time and this was also in the early seventies.
He became a photographer, having realised that it was easier to press a button than to wield a paintbrush. And I became a writer because I was better at that than painting.
One day I shall write a full description of my friend, Phil, but I’m not quite ready for that. There are still things about that strange little character that I haven’t understood. At the moment, I want to concentrate on the lesson I learned from his photographs. When the bug bit him, he bought himself a camera and a Volkswagen camper and proceeded to disappear into the wilds of Africa for months at a time. On his brief returns, he would always drop by my place and show me the photographs he’d taken.
They were amazing. Most photographers, when finding themselves in Africa, proceed to take photos of big game, herds of antelope, elephants and the things that they think define the continent. Not Phil. His photos were of dilapidated general stores out there in the bush, miles from anywhere, and always decorated with Coke advertising signs. He eventually built a large collection of such photos. They are, in fact, much more representative of the true Africa than anything else I’ve seen.
Alongside these, Phil was also creating a portfolio of close up pictures, recording the things that we walk past every day without noticing. Such things as a tiny flower in a patch of moss, a dash of coloured lichen on the side of a pebble, an ant trying to fight its way out of an ant lion’s trap. They were miniature masterpieces, far better than any of his paintings It was as if Phil lived in an entirely different world from ours and he saw things in a way so unexpected that they could not fail to fascinate me.
When I first saw some examples of Phil’s paintings, I was struck by the quality of innocence that somehow oozed from them. I created a painting in homage to this and, although mine was much cruder than his, I think I captured at least some of the essence of that aspect. In his later photos of miniature life, I saw something else, and I think much of my writing has been influenced by this.
It was Phil’s eye for the beauty in the most humble and ordinary things in life that, so often, I try to express in my poetry. He taught me that nothing is too small to be commented upon, to be enjoyed and celebrated. So, if I write of a tiny black beetle on a bathroom floor, or a miniature scab on my left leg, I am only pointing out the wonder of these things beneath our notice. And I have Phil to thank for that.
For this month, Elle has resurrected her contest, Dirty Poetry. Being enamoured of anything different, I went along to have a look at this strangely-named beast. And it was in inspecting it that I realised that, if I deliberately expanded the definition of “dirty poetry” beyond what I think was intended, I had a poem or two that could be classified as such. I entered my reflections on the aforementioned scab and now wait to see if it gets kicked out.
To me, there are few pleasures in life greater than picking off a well-ripened scab. It’s the flirting with pain, I think, proceeding at just the right pace to feel the exquisite part of the pulling away from skin, without tipping over into the ouch area. Yes, it’s dirty in that we don’t usually talk of such things. Even now, I can hear my mother yelling, “Don’t do that - you’ll leave a scar!”
But I bet you know exactly what I’m talking about.
Word Count: 701