Showing posts from September, 2009

How I know that travel writing competitions prefer pieces about people who move

Hey, guys, I wrote this account of a recent holiday for a travel writing competition and got zilch, nowhere, nada, no response, not a dicky bird, absolute silence ... not that I'm bitter or anything. I guess one reason it may not have impressed them is that it's really not about travelling at all. Next time I enter a travel writing competition, I must remember that. You might enjoy it, though. And if you were at the Caerleon writing holiday, too, I'm sure you worked harder than this ... Googling ‘Holidays for those who prefer to sit still’ gets me nowhere, as it were. There’s no justice. Even the slothful need to sloth elsewhere occasionally. I find ‘Holidays for the adventurous’ and ‘Holidays for the wannabe naked abseiler’ but there’s zilch for the indolent. Unless … unless … I google ‘Holidays for Writers’. Up comes a Writers’ Holiday held annually at Caerleon College, the University of Wales, run by Anne and Gerry Hobbs. A good omen: the website is rel

How to get a reputation you don't want

I swear I've seen fruit for sale in Cafe Nero. I swear I've been in there and seen a bowl of assorted pieces of fruit on the counter. So, when I went in one morning this week before work and, with a very long queue of people behind me, asked the assistant if they had any bananas in, I didn't think it was stupid. But they did. 'We don't sell bananas,' the assistant said, with a kind of 'who's this dork who doesn't know a coffee shop from a greengrocer's?' look on her face. Someone in the queue behind me tittered. I should have just walked out there and then. But I swear ... 'Oh, I thought I'd seen fruit on the counter before,' I said. 'Here,' I said, pointing to an empty space. 'It was right here.' Give her her due, she looked at the empty space with me. I was grateful to her for that. She'd obviously had some training in a care home before joining the cafe ... 'Just humour them; if they t

Why I'm so grateful to the British government

So now they've brought out grammar guidance for teachers, fearing that many do not know the basics. That's kind of them. In it, they tell us that sentences need full stops and capital letters, verbs tell us what is happening in a sentence, and - my favourite - that punctuation is what is used to 'chunk up text'. Chunk up? Eh? Is it me, or do they need advice about avoiding colloquialisms in what is meant to be intelligent writing? On a related topic, I hear that I missed 'National Punctuation Day'. No longer do any of my friends need to worry about me checking their grammar and writing skills out when they write to/email me. If I can't even spot that it's National Punctuation Day, I doubt whether they have any reason for anxiety. My observation skills are obviously not what they're used to be.

Why I will choose my buses more carefully

Most disconcerting. Waited at the bus stop, and was pleased to see it come round the corner within a couple of minutes. Bit disturbed, though, to hear, just as it was pulling in, that someone was murdering a dog nearby. I didn't know how they were murdering it, but they weren't doing it nicely, that's for sure. There was a painful, loud, 'OOOWWWRROOOOOO' which seemed to go on for ages. I looked round as I got on the bus, but no sign of ex-dog or murderer. Saying a prayer for dogs everywhere to the Dog-God, I got on, and promptly forgot all about the terrible events because I was reading Jane Eyre, and, my word, that book's a cracker. One sentence about Rochester's granite profile and storm-filled eyes and I couldn't have cared less if someone had disembowelled a new-born puppy in the next seat. Then the bus started off. And, then, as it stopped at the first junction, I realised the dog murderer wasn't back there at the bus station, but he/she/i

Why I need to get real

These are reasons I would like to be able to give as excuses for why I haven't blogged for over a week: 1. Just as I was about to put fingers to keyboard, a dark and mysterious stranger pulled up to my house on a white horse, ran up the stairs, a black cloak sweeping behind him, and grabbed me to his chest, saying, 'This is the moment I have been waiting for, my darling. Come with me to strange and exotic lands where I will feed you with sweetmeats and wine made from grapes crushed by the powerful hands of desert swordsmen. We will sleep in a bed made from the skins of wildebeest and lay our heads on cushions covered with silk threads sewn by ancient grandmothers. We will bathe together in soft waters, warmed by fires built on hot coals and be fed Eastern delights by dancing naiads. I will clutch you to my muscled body and not let you go'. But it wasn't that. 2. Just as I was about to put fingers to keyboard, the phone rang and a voice said, 'This is the

Sin's committed by car washe's in local town's

A great apostrophe moment this morning. At least, it started as a great moment. And then, it all went horribly wrong .... Local garages seem particularly guilty of the 'apostrophe in the plural' disease, eg Bring your car's and motorbike's to u's . (Yes, the last one was made up. No, it's not nice to mock, you're right.) So, when I passed a nearby car wash this morning, I was so EXCITED to see their notice. We wash cars (yay! no apostrophe) and MPVs (yay! yay! yay!) and vans (whoopee! let me hug you!) and caravans (give that man a gold star!) and HGVs ('Arise, Sir Car Wash Manager'!). Then, the next bit of the notice. Price's start at £5. (Aaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrggggggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!) PS This was a one-off, right? So no taking yourself off my followers list in a huff just because you don't want me looking at your punctuation. It's just, every now and again, a woman has to indulge her passions. Yes, I know it

Why I've never worn a graduation gown

Once upon a time, there was a bear, sans stuffing. He was sans stuffing because he lived in a shop called 'The Bear Workshop'. This shop was full of unfinished bears, bears without innards, bears without identities, mere shells of bears who sat on shelves with nothing in their middles to stop them from lolling over like sleeping drunks. Only when someone came in to buy them would they be stuffed and dressed in an outfit of the bear buyer's choice. Our bear, the subject of this story, sat on the shelf, wondering. 'Who will come to buy me?' he wondered. He wondered some more. 'How will I feel when the shop assistant stuffs me with kapok?' he wondered. He wondered some more. 'Which outfit will my new owner choose for me to be dressed in?' he wondered. 'Will they call me Wonder Bear?' he wondered. But they didn't. So that was all a flippin' waste of effort, all that wondering for no reason. Meanwhile, back on the ranch, which wasn

Why I'm going back to eating olives on buses

The Ballad of the Stubborn Cashew Nut Packet - a moral tale I get on the bus with my rucksack and bag And a packet of giant cashews Intending to save them until I get home And have kicked off my workaday shoes. I'm thinking, 'I'll open a bottle of wine And chuck a few nuts in a bowl. I'll sit with the paper and put my feet up And snack.  It’s so good for the soul.' But my lust for cashews - such a terrible thing - Is a lust which will not be denied. So as soon as I've settled and put down my bags, 'I'll just eat a few,' I decide. I'm somewhat put off when a man boards the bus And sits nearer than I'd like him to be. (It's one thing to gorge on a pack of cashews. It's another to have someone see.) But my craven desire for cashews wins the day And I go to tear open the pack. But I pull and I pull and I pull yet again: Pull it forward, and sideways, and back. But whatever I do, the pack will not give in, A