Category Archives: WRITING

*(JAP) SLOW BLOGGING


 

Today I discovered a new literary blog  on WordPress – dolcebellezza  thanks to the industrious blogger on bookertalk.wordpress.com  who is a marvellous source of info on literary topics.  Anyway, when I was reading the About  section on dolcebellezza,  she made an interesting remark on the topic of Slow Blogging, saying that having reached her 10th Blogging Anniversary (I’m impressed) she’s come to realise the  satisfaction of Slow Blogging. The capitalisation is mine, not hers. In essence it’s about  no longer being driven, or feeling you have to blog daily – or weekly – or instantly – whatever crazy targets you have set for yourself. Instead you blog whenever you have the inclination  and take time to enjoy the process. Kind of like the  Slow Food movement  I suppose? Things that take a long time to cook, whether prose or pumpkin, generally taste much nicer when you get to savour that deep flavour.

Theoretically I have a target of one blog per week, for each of my two blogs * but it doesn’t always turn out that way. Does it matter? Hell no. I blog because I enjoy it, so  less of the whip and treadmill technique can only be good news.

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’: random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

 

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THE FREEDOM OF UNSUBSCRIBING


 

 

You have no idea how liberating it is to tick the Unsubscribe box  and confirm that you no longer wish to receive e-mails from  xyz  site. 

Let’s face it: over time one’s interest can, do and should change. Why not? You’re not dead are you? Life flows swiftly by and some interests prove to have been but a passing fancy, or a big mistake. Did you really think you were going to learn Urdu on-line from Babbel.com?  Get a grip!

So I unsubscribed from the writing sites that were clogging up my Yahoo Inbox. Right now I’m confining myself to blogging and the occasional letter to long-time friends. I’m not writing short stories or working on a novel. So why do I need torrents of advice on 20 Sure fire tricks to get that Novel Finished!  or  Revision strategy?  or  How to Write a Killer Query letter   or Find your Agent, make a new Friend!

My Yahoo InBox should be breathing an enormous sigh of relief. I know I am.  Wading through the advice swamp was time consuming, to say the least of it. Now all I have to do is wean myself away from Pinterest. Think I’ll leave that until next week.  Softly softly catchee monkey, and all that.

And I’m firmly resisting the odd stabs of FOMO.  Do you know what that is? Fear of missing out.  Some genius has identified it as a new trend, symptomatic of our insatiable craving for electronic content.  They may be on to something. But: I will be strong! Subscriptions – be gone!

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Filed under HUMOUR, SOCIAL COMMENT, WRITING

POTTERING THROUGH MY NOTEBOOKS


I’m a great potter-er. Sunday is a good day to potter around my house, doing minor tasks, playing with my Stuff. Even after my recent purge (see my recent post about The Guys and the Grand Purge) I still have plenty of Stuff left to play with. Believe me.

I was paging through my  old notebooks, dating back to the early 1990s.  Regrettably I have a weakness for notebooks. I can’t resist them. And don’t let me find a sale offering bargain price notebooks, because we all know what will happen.  A quirky cover? Cute Cats? Gold and sparkly ?  Ka-ching. Ka-ching.

So there I was, reminiscing with my notebooks when I was struck by a thought: what will happen to my notebooks when I die? Will the family be sufficiently interested to read them? Always assuming, of course, that they can read them. My handwriting varies from the semi-legible to a jerky scrawl …

Added to which I have developed a  series of abbreviations over the years, which enables me  to write quickly, and the chances of anybody else working out what I  intended, are not good. I spent years slaving behind a typewriter, and latterly a keyboard, which means I can type much, much faster than I can write. I can type at the speed of my thoughts. Very satisfactory, and also legible. But obviously notebooks are handwritten, in a variety of places – coffee shops, aeroplanes, retreat centres, other people’s spare bedrooms – anywhere and everywhere, and the  notes are not always legible.  Even to my eye.

The notebooks contain ideas for future  blog posts, draft poems, notes to self, articles, writing exercises, outpourings of angst, lists, titles of books and authors and  must-reads. And so on. Let’s face it: because I’m not a famous writer, nor a noted social diarist, it’s doubtful that anybody else will be remotely interested in my scribbling.

On the topic of noted social diarists, some very famous people e.g. Winston Churchill, or famous  writers e.g. Noel Coward  kept detailed – and regular – diaries. I own a copy of a fascinating compilation of diary entries, arranged by date and kicking off around the era of  the mid 1660’s (Samuel Pepys)  up to the late 20th century  (Alec Guinness, Brian Eno, Andy Warhol), titled The Assassin’s Cloak,  edited by Irene & Alan Taylor.   Of course, the social diarists entries are a delightful  mix of gossip, innuendo and scandal, whilst the politicians are dealing with weighty matters of state, or declaring war and so forth.  A far cry from my notebooks.

Thinking it over, I should probably tear out the written pages, burn them, and donate the remaining unused notebook to a charitable scheme collecting stationery for  disadvantaged school kids.  That’s what I should do . I probably won’t get around to it, and my family will stare in dismay at the pile of notebooks and say : “What the hell are we going to do with these?” Good question.

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THE DAYS OF MY YOUTH by A M Smith ©


 

 

Periodically I post my short fiction on my blog.  The following short memoir could have been titled “Interview with a Monster” but I opted for “The Days of my Youth”  because it was written in response to the question: what happens before or after a famous fictional event? So I chose Thomas Harris’ famous fictional creation, and  wondered what sort of a childhood could produce such a complex, monstrous character? The character is being interviewed by a brave journalist:

 

 

I’m hoping to set the record straight, by agreeing to this interview about my earliest childhood experiences.  Everyone seems to think that people like me emerge from the womb dripping with wickedness, right from the start.  It’s not so – nothing could be further from the truth.  I had a perfectly normal childhood.  Normal –  whatever that is. It’s all relative isn’t it? But perhaps you don’t agree.

My earliest memory? Mmm, let’s see. I remember Mother pushing me up and down the garden path in my pram, humming quietly under her breath, trying to get me to drop off to sleep no doubt.  Father didn’t like to be disturbed, he made it very clear he would not tolerate a screaming baby, and once he was in his workroom he definitely didn’t want to be disturbed.  I remember being allowed to visit his workroom, I might have been four or five, maybe?  I was allowed in, on condition I sat on the stool and didn’t touch anything.  I remember the smell of the formaldehyde, and being enchanted by the box containing the glass eyes – I was longing to touch them, and play with them, but I sat on my hands, and looked around at the animal heads mounted on the walls, the glass fronted display case containing the most delicate examples of Father’s craft, the birds, seemingly caught in mid-flight. No, no, I don’t think Father’s taxidermy had anything to do with my interests in later life.

Oh – one of my fondest memories from my early years, was Spot.  My dog – I loved him dearly.  He had black spotty patches on his white coat, and so lively, as only fox terriers can be!  And I’d like to emphasize that I did not spend my boyhood  doing unspeakable things to small animals!  Really, you have no idea, no idea at all, of the dreadful letters I receive on this subject – I often wonder whether the authorities have locked up the right person when I read those letters. Trust me, some of those letter-writers ought to be in here, if what they write is to be believed.  I’m sorry, but I feel strongly about this and again it takes me back to my first question : what is normal?

You think my name might have been an influencing factor? Well – I must admit it is an unusual name – Mother was obsessed with the ancient world and she chose my name. Of course, once I went to school, I was teased mercilessly about my name. And then, later, the newspapers had a field day inventing that silly rhyming couplet to describe me.  So juvenile, don’t you agree?

My first love? Oh, that’s an easy question to answer: she was the prettiest little girl (I have a soft spot for pretty women – but perhaps you’ve heard). Anyway, she sat in the desk in front of me in Primary School.  She had long brown ringlets, and her name was Clare.  It’s a name that keeps recurring in my life, quite strange really. Very recently a young woman came to interview me and her name was Clarice.  But not a pretty girl, I have to say, rather thin mousy hair and a pale, strained face.

Another vivid childhood memory?  Well, let’s see. I know!  it was Uncle Gregor’s visit. I must have been about seven at the time. I found him very exotic, with his thick accent and funny foreign clothes. But what I remember most clearly is the night he took us out to dine, in a restaurant, what an occasion! The starched tablecloth, the smart waiters, the bright lights, the odours of food, wine, cigars, the buzz of voices – so different from our usual quiet life at home.  What? What did I eat? Do you know, I can’t remember, but I do remember what Uncle Gregor ordered. I’d never seen or heard of it before – hardly surprising, Steak Tartare was not a feature of our modest suburban cuisine. I remember being fascinated by the deep redness of the raw steak, and the intoxicating rich, sharp bloody smell of the meat – somehow it struck a deep note in the depth of my being. Hmmm. Now that I look back, perhaps a seminal moment.

What? Sorry, I was wool-gathering. More about my school days? Well, I don’t know – nothing really springs to mind.  My favourite lesson? Oh – biology I suppose, especially when I reached Senior School, and we started dissecting specimens. I was quite handy with a scalpel, Father’s tuition paid off there, and it was always so intriguing to slice through the muscle tissue and come to those perfect little organs, those tiny little mouse-hearts glistening with the blood … Are you alright? You’ve turned quite pale. Maybe you should call the guard and get some water?  Or should we stop now, perhaps it’s enough for one day.

But I must say I’ve enjoyed re-living my childhood memories with you, it’s not often that anybody shows any interest in Hannibal Lecter’s youth, no, they always want to hear about my later career. Oh well, that’s the way of the world, I suppose.

 

 

 

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DIGGING FOR DINKIES by A M Smith ©


morrisPeriodically I post my short fiction; here is a Christmas story – not so short, but enjoy!)

I was digging in the garden when my spade struck something metal.

Hello, I thought, what’s this?  I knew the allotments had been checked and cleared by the Bomb Squad years ago, once the War was over. I leant on my spade and looked down. Saw nothing.  But there’d been a definite  clunk, and it was a metallic clunk, not a rocky thunk. I’ve done enough digging  in my 75 years to know the difference.  Okay. I slowly scraped the earth away, gently dug down and after a while, there it was. Whatever it was. Actually, I knew what it was.  I mean a trapdoor is a trapdoor, innit? Even if it is painted dark green with a pattern of … bells – bells?? …round the border and two twisty handles. How come the paint looks fresh? Buried under a good eight inches of muck. Not possible. But there it was.

 

Now what? I looked around. Dusk was falling, the allotments were deserted. I wanted to know what lay under the trapdoor. I grabbed the handles and tugged.  Bet you would’ve done the same. The trapdoor flew open.  Just like that! Amazingly easy.  And would you believe, there was a metal slide, like you get at WaterWorld for the kiddies, but it was wide, not kiddy-sized. So, obviously, I stepped down and whoosh! Away I went. Down, down, down through the darkness, round a bend and thump! I landed on my bottom inside a wide, sandy tunnel.

 

Further down the tunnel  I could see a bright yellow light, and hear the sound of, well, it sounded like a – a – workshop, I suppose, hammering and banging and clanging.  You know, like people working, making stuff. I dusted off my trousers and crept down the tunnel. Luckily the rocky wall bulged out, so I could hide in the tunnel and  peep round the rock to see what was what.

 

It was a workshop all right. Hammering, and sawing, painting and sanding, cutting and grinding, a real proper workshop, but  – and I rubbed my eyes and squinted hard: why were the workers all so short,  and wearing red caps with bells  on? And green jackets with brass buttons, and green and white striped tights, and their shoes! No workboots here – Health & Safety would’ve had a field day: no yellow hard hats, no boots – pointy red soft shoes, ending with curled up toes, and  bells on the curly tips. Bells on your shoes – well, I never!

 

And then I noticed the slanty eyes, and .. omigod … the pointy ears … Mr Spock had nothing on this lot!  I clutched the rocky outcrop, and took a deep breath. Where was I?

 

I inched cautiously round the rock, just a little closer, so I could see what the … the .. umm …  elves, I suppose , were making. Toys, that’s what they were busy with. You name it, they were making ’em. Toy trains, dolls, and doll-houses, rocking horses, teddy bears, and I don’t know what all. Even some of those modern X-box thingies.  And then I spied them: they were making Dinky cars!  I collect Dinkies. I’ve loved them ever since I was a kid. Just love ‘em. But they’re hard to find these days, they went out of production years ago. But not down here, apparently.  I looked around, and worked out that if I sneaked under the workbenches I could get right up close to the dinkies. I was dying to get a good look, and see if they were real Dinkies.  So I did. Holding my breath, quiet as a mouse, a bit of scientific crawling, and  there I was. Crouched under the  workbench opposite the Dinky  makers. Luckily I’m a skinny little man, take after my Dad, who was a Jockey.

 

Anyway, I spied a blue Morris Minor Traveller that I’d been after for years. The car came out in 1953. I think it was the English answer to those huge American station wagons, only being British, ours was more modest  – utilitarian, even.  My Dad had a green one, and I thought it was the smartest car, ever. Nobody else in our street had one. Only us. I’ve always admired the shiny yellow wood trim along the sides. It complimented the classic bull-nose of the front view.  And there it was, a beautiful, shiny new Dinky. Could I? Should I? Oh – what the hell : why not? There’ll never be another chance like this , that’s for sure.

 

I took a deep breath, popped my head and shoulders out from under the workbench, closed my fist over the Dinky, and was preparing to whip back my arm and slither away as fast as I could, when: “What’s this then?” bellowed a deep, bass voice. An angry deep bass voice.

 

I craned my neck and saw a huge pair of black shiny boots next to the bench, and two red-clad legs, big as oak tree trunks, but my view upwards was blocked by a vast red bulge.  A massive hand, decorated with a white fur cuff on a stout red sleeve grabbed my arm, shoulder and then the rest of me. I was hauled out  and held up, eye to eye, facing  very irate bright blue eyes under bushy white eyebrows.  The round red apple cheeks glowed red with rage.  Dimly I notice the silence. The hammering and banging stopped.

 

“Well? “  roared Santa.  “Explain yourself! You miserable little shrimp!”  he shook me hard, but I hung onto my precious new Dinky like grim death. I wasn’t letting  it go, not for anything.

 

Santa’s popping blue eyes narrowed a fraction, “Oh, I see”, he growled. “This is all about that Christmas when you were nine, isn’t it? No presents, no money for the gas meter, no Christmas Dinner. I’m right, aren’t I? Of course I am, I’m always right!” He plonked me back on my feet and glared down at me from his gigantic height.

 

“Errm”, I began, had to clear my throat, my voice wasn’t working.  All that shaking must’ve rattled my voice box loose, I reckon.

 

“Save your breath, you miserable little man.  I’m too busy to worry about you and one little green Dinky. Look at our production line – down to a standstill. Back to work you nosey lot!” he bellowed. An  immediate  salvo of hammering and drilling  broke out. Somewhere in the background I heard what sounded like neighing – what? horses, down here? Surely not? Then it dawned on me: oh, the reindeer, of course. Fleetingly I wondered what they ate, so far underground, but maybe they were taken up-world to graze. My dazed thoughts were jolted rudely when Santa scooped me up in a meaty paw, swung  back his arm and hurled me upwards … into the blackness.

 

When I came to, I was lying flat on my back, next to the  hole I’d dug, and  Debbie’s shrill voice was berating me:

“Grandpa! Just look  at you! Flat out in the muck – in the dark, on your own – bet you’ve been at your dandelion wine again, Granny’s going to give you what for, I can tell you. Good thing she sent me to fetch you home for supper. What’re we going to do with you?  And what’s the big hole about, then? I thought you were planting leeks? Looks like you were digging down to Australia more like it! C’mon, upsadaisy, on your feet. Put your arm around my neck, let’s get you  home. What’s that in your hand? Lemme see – wherever did you find that? It looks brand new – going to add it to your Dinky collection, I expect. Funny place to find a new Dinky, I must say.”

 

 

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BLOGGER’S LAMENT  (JAP)*


 

My friend Elaine lent me a delightful collection of poetry titled The Last to Leave by Margaret Clough. It’s her second collection of poetry, engaging with the issues of aging and mortality, but in a light, warm-hearted tone which makes the collection a pleasure to read.  The Cape Times said “Joyful and plump with life”, and I couldn’t agree more. Ageing doesn’t have to be  gloomy! I loved the following poem and I’m sharing it with you, because I’m pretty sure many of us have undergone the same awful experience:

BLOGSPOT BLUES – by Margaret Clough

I’ve lost my blog. Where can it be?

I think it has unfriended me.

It disappeared into the cloud

I shake my fist. I cry aloud.

I punch the keys, but all in vain.

It doesn’t like my user-name.

 

*(Just a Paragraph:  when I’m short of time and/or inspiration, I keep my blog ticking over with ‘just a paragraph’; random thoughts, reflections, comments, ideas … little snippets)

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Obsessive reading


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I wish I’d saved the blog post. I should have saved the blog post. But I didn’t. So this blog post is a bit hazy on the exact details. Dear blogger: whoever/wherever you are, thanks for inspiring me, and my apologies for not  naming you and your blog, as my source.

These apologies are the preamble to my reaction about an obsessive reader.  The blogger cheerfully told his readers that he had read the play Hamlet  and one of P G Wodehouse’s  Jeeves  novels (and there are fourteen of them, so I’m excused on fudging the exact title) OVER 100 TIMES.  And this, mark you, over a period of a few years, when he was a student. It sounded as if the blogger was in his mid-20s’. Apparently he was studying Hamlet  for academic reasons, but Jeeves?  Perhaps after all the dramatic Scandinavian crime and gloom he needed a bit of a respite? What could be a better tonic that P G Wodehouse’s imperturbable, unflappable butler, the immortal Jeeves? I’m a Jeeves fan myself, so I can understand his affection for the man.

But the point is: imagine reading the same work – makes no maybe what it is: a play, a novel,  an essay – over one hundred times! I’m sure we all have a much-loved book that we’ve read, and re-read many times.  For example, I have re-read one of my all-time favourites, The Last Samurai  by Helen de Witt at least four or five times. It’s a wonderful story, and a great read.  But one hundred times?  No.

The blogger revealed that re-reading Hamlet  so frequently made him aware of  the language, the subtleties, the nuances; the phrase ‘close reading’ which is much in vogue, covers this approach.  I don’t know that the Jeeves novels offer the same depth. PG was a master of the neat phrase, the bon mot, dialogue that required no frills or trimmings to drive the story forward and make his characters immortal. I wish I could write dialogue the way PG did! Mind you, Wodehouse lived into his early 90s and was a prolific writer, almost to the end, so there’s hope yet.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P._G._Wodehouse

His output was prodigious. Encyclopaedia Brittanica tells us:  He wrote more than 90 books and more than 20 film scripts and collaborated on more than 30 plays and musical comedies.

I wonder if any of my readers have obsessively read one of their favourites over and over again? If so: do tell!

 

http://www.amazon.co.uk/PG-Wodehouse-Jeevesbooks-in-order/lm/R1Z4EX9G0UR446

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CHAPTER 2 :  MORE ADVENTURESWITH OUR INBOXES


My faithful readers have asked for more  tips to help them stem the inexorable tide of e-mails.

The following hints won’t stem the tide, but suggest what you  can do to the deposited flood.

*Strap on your heavy duty protective gear, select your biggest, sharpest scythe, and plunge to the bottom, the very bottom, the first item (i.e. the oldest) of your InBox. Start wielding your scythe.  If item #1 has been lurking at the bottom this long, does it really need any attention now? I thought not: weeessssh, snick! Off with its head! Continue in this mode, until you can begin to see daylight in the mid-section of your Box. Wipe off your scythe blade, and have a cup of coffee. Now back to the task.

 

  • Simply delete mail without even opening it. I have friends who love to share their political opinions, or hoary old jokes : I press that magic button marked DELETE.  Best button on the keyboard, wisely used.

 

  • Under no circumstances take part in those irritating On-line Scrabble e-mails : they are total time wasters. You know what to do: press the magic button!

 

  • The heart-rending appeals for lost kids, dying patients, starving animals: harden your heart, most are phishing scams: Magic Button – yes, again!

 

  • Petitions: I delete them instantly. I read an article, written by a reliable source, that conclusively proved the info goes nowhere and changes nothing.

 

 

  • I enjoy gorgeous photography, clever puns, or informative articles sent to me by friends scattered around the globe, but I only send a very short one or two line acknowledgement if the content is superlative or warrants a comment. Not every mail needs a response. I enjoy and delete. Occasionally I forward items, but I’m trying to forward only the crème de la crème this year.

 

  • Buy a cheap kitchen timer. I bought a boring white mechanical timer, and it was a well spent R27.00 . Set it for half an hour, and attack your InBox. When that buzzer sounds, get up and walk away – go and do something else, either virtuous (dishes?) or pleasurable ( go for a walk , read a book). Whatever you choose to do, it’s taken you away from the keyboard. Knowing that you only have half-an-hour or whatever time you opt for, sharpens your focus. You need to get cracking! No time for dawdling or fiddling.

 

  • Beware of traps labelled Wikipaedia, and the like. Clicking on links to websites leads you to the quick-sands of distraction …you may get lost for hours. That distant buzzing sound is your timer: hellooo? hello? Yoohoo! Climb out, and resume your task.

 

  • Open a HOLD or PEND Folder in your Folders column. I stick mail in there that is un-resolved, or likely to be on-going and may take weeks or even months to finalise. Diarise one hour, once a month, to go through your HOLD Folder, and ask the question: why am I keeping this?  Delete anything that has grown mouldy green whiskers … or action it smartly. Feels good, huh?

 

  • For that matter, open loads of Folders, according to your needs, and heave mail into them –including out of your SENT Box. The point is, by filing mail into your Folders, you get it out of the dreaded, catch-all InBox.  I prune my Sent Box daily, keeping only immediate, un-resolved items in there. This way, it’s a kind of built-in Diary system. Works for me.

 

And now, having absorbed all this wisdom, you have  earned happy free hours to nip back on line and play Mahjong, or Poker, or Scrabble, whatever blows your hair back.  I won’t tell anyone if you don’t!

 

 

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SLOW MOTION SNOW/FAST FORWARD  MADAGASCAR   ©by  A M Smith


 (Short Fiction)

As I dropped the coin into the beggar’s hand, his icy fingers brushed mine and I shivered. Icy fingers – slow mo : my fingers were icy – Jake’s fingers were icy, I did all I could but his fingers got colder and colder – icy fingers – why didn’t I do more? All that snow! Spruce branches groaning and creaking under their cargo of snow – snowfields up to the jagged peaks – snow – snow – nothing but cold snow – fast forward  – “Lady? You okay?” – the bearded face, the sour winey breath, the grubby parka – slow mo – the icicles growing on Jakes’s beard, my icy fingers, my freezing feet – I should have done more – the blinding light off the snowfield – the creaking spruce boughs – my icy fingers – fast forward – “I – I ..”

“Lady – “ slow mo – Jake’s fingers stiffening – getting colder – my breath in puffy clouds – no clouds in that harsh blue sky – rubbing Jake’s stiff frozen fingers  –  fast forward – “Lady – what you been takin?  Lady?”

Slow mo: I dimly hear the roar of the traffic on the nearby Trans-Alaska Highway – and I know where that goes – all the way up to the north, where it’s cold, cold, cold and there’s nothing but snow and ice and mountains and there’s Jake sinking into a snowdrift  –  fast forward  “Lady: what you sayin? Ain’t no snow here! just rain – this is Seattle and all we got is rain – no snow!”

Slow mo: the distant clatter of a helicopter – a shadow swooping over the snow –  but it’s too late – Jake’s fingers are stiff – mine are numb – my brain is frozen – my tongue won ‘t work – my eyeballs are stuck – fast forward – “Lady, that’s the radio station traffic bird – WRX – always up there, spyin’ on us all! ain’t rescuin’ nobody – leastways not tonight, not here”.

Slow mo: –helicopter – that’s it – we’ll go to the red sand, where yellow snakes bask in the sun, and black  and white striped lemur tails whisk through the trees, where the careful chameleons creep – no snow there, they don’t even know what snow means they –  fast forward –  “Whaddya mean we’re going to Madagascar? Lady, I don’t even know where Madagascar is – someplace down south maybe?  And anyway, I don’t even know you! Who you, crazy lady? Where you from? Where you goin? only place you need to go is Saint Martin’s Memorial I reckon, they got places for crazies like you”   – fast forward  – and Madagascar will be warm, and Sir David will show me round the island, you can come too, dirty old hobo in a parka, I’m sure you’ll enjoy the warmth, the sun, we can swim in the sea, and play with the lemurs, and there’ll be no more snow, no more icy fingers, your fingers will never be cold again – fast forward  : “Whaddya mean: swim? Where? In the freakin gutters? In this weather?  Lady – I’m drunk, I know I’m drunk, helps keep the cold out, but you is somethin’ else. Man!”

Slow mo : No, don’t go, old hobo man, I’m going to sell Aunty Maudie’s ring, that big emerald , and those emeralds  will buy us two tickets and we’ll go far away from the snow, no more icy fingers, no more Jake, we’ll be warm and no more snow and you can have a chameleon, I’ll have one too, and our hands will always be warm  – fast forward  “Lady: I’m getting wet, you is getting wet, I’m tired of your mumbling and your nonsense – go on home now, get outta the rain, I’m  going down the street to the Shelter, where you going? You what? No, Lady, NO! Ohmigod: no lady – what you do that for? Huh? Huh? Don’ wanna be a witness, no sir, guess I’ll just sneak down the alley into 6th Street and go to the Shelter that route – freakin cold, might as well be snowin’, that lady sure was rambling about snow, and why her fingers was cold in them fancy gloves I’ll never know.  Women! I ain’t got no gloves, and I sure do know about icy fingers. “

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USEFUL BOOKS ON MY SHELVES


 

 

The Rough Guide to CULT FICTION . I bought this on a sale (can’t resist bargains) and it has been invaluable.  I often refer to it if I need more info on an author – it has intriguing snippets about their personal foibles, as well as literary info about their books. I’ve spent happy moments browsing its pages, reading up on Gothic Chic,  identifying Japanese Manga,  researching Kafka,  discovering new authors. In terms of value for money, I should have paid ten times more for this sale bargain.

1000 BOOKS  You Must Read Before You Die General Editor: Peter Boxall. This hefty reference book  is my ultimate go-to  guide. I prefer it to Google. My generous friend Marita sent it to me as a gift – and considering it was mailed from Australia, I’ll bet the postage came to more than the cost of the book.

The book starts  pre-1700 with Aesop’s Fables and ends in the 2000s. There are indices of book titles, and authors’ names, plus a general index. The book stock is glossy paper, so the many  writers’ portraits are high quality.  It’s concise, comprehensive, informative, and meticulously indexed. If you can find a copy (published 2006) and afford it, buy the book.  You won’t regret it. I wouldn’t be without mine.

The shorter Oxford English Dictionary –  two  massive tomes – heaven save us from the Longer Version! But invaluable, despite the weight lifting involved to find a word.

Collins’ SCRABBLE DICTIONARY  – treasury of weird words. You will be unbeatable at Scrabble, no question. Bet you don’t know what zoppa means. I certainly didn’t until I stumbled across it. (I’m showing off – slap me on the wrist).  One of my favourite new words is fice – means ‘a small fierce dog’.

Old Friends From Far Away – American writing teacher Natalie Goldberg’s brilliant take on writing memoir. She’s feisty, accessible, practical – she’s more real than real. Wannabe writers should  carry this book everywhere.

Wildlife of the Cape Peninsula –  – Common Animals and Plants  by Duncan Butchart : this handy little guide enabled me  to identify The Malachite Sunbird  that briefly visited my garden. The bird was so large, I was baffled because I had always thought  Sunbirds to be dainty little creatures. So now we know: they come super-sized as well!

Snacks & Treats for Sustained Energy – Gabi Steenkamp & Jeske Wellmann

A recent Birthday gift; low fat, low GI  recipes.  As a diabetic, this is the ideal cookbook for me, and surprising to report, the results haven’t had too much of the  sawdust factor. So often, diabetic recipes are loaded with oat bran etc. etc. that the end result tastes pretty much like … you guessed it : sawdust.

 

 

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