Monthly Archives: March 2015

Blessing the Boats

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Whitby harbour

Whitby harbour

A smoke of gulls
trails the red trawler,
spinning, dipping,
wings tipping
in a grey sky.

Landward of the sea wall,
seeming tall
above the harbour,
the bishop stands,
cope and mitre
brighter than the day.
Arms raised,
praise the Lord,
bless the boats
and all who fish a living
from the sea.

The red trawler dips
and pitches
towards the harbour.
Tide out, keels bare
to the salt air,
boats built for fine days
loll against silt cushions.

Voices join,
thoughts turn from ice cream
to those in peril
on the sea.

The trawler coasts home
with a catch of crabs,
nudging the quay,
home from the sea.
Gulls cries
scratch the harmony of hymns.
Sinews stretch,
boxes swing,
the quayside runs
with captured sea.

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Learning curve

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Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

Brandenburg Gate, Berlin

For someone who loves words, I’m finding it incredibly difficult to learn another language. I always try to learn at least enough to greet people, say please and thank you, and order food and drink, in the native language of any country I visit. That’s just simple courtesy.

I learned French at school and, although I hated the subject, it’s the only foreign language that’s really stuck. I even remember gender and grammar rules. The rest came back very quickly on a three-week meander through France.

Italian I learned at evening classes, and got plenty of practice in Tuscany, staying in rural areas where English wasn’t widely spoken.

The problem is, as I cross the channel when the holidays are over, foreign languages, at least at the level I speak them, are redundant. It’s not as if I can pop into the butcher’s shop and ask for a pound of sausages in French. Any skill unused becomes rusty. Vocabulary is forgotten, even the sounds and cadences of sentences, so familiar just a short time ago, become alien and awkward, the shapes more difficult for the mouth to form.

Now I’m struggling with German. With only a couple of weeks’ notice, I can’t learn very much, but I did think I could pick up a few words of greeting and some useful phrases. I’m not doing very well. I read the words, I listen to the online pronunciation, I repeat the phrases. What I do not do is remember much of it a couple of hours later. I have got to the point where I can greet my husband in German as he comes home from work, but time is short, and I need more confidence before I air my few words publicly in the country of their origin.

I refuse to contemplate the thought that this is yet another symptom of getting older. I retain other information, why should language be any different? Perhaps there are just too many words already floating round in my head? All the story ideas, the scenes that characters play out in my mind, the planning and plotting. Maybe they are squeezing out the small voice that says Guten tag, pushing the words into a corner where I won’t find them. That’s the excuse I’m sticking to, anyway.

Back to the lessons….

Just a few simple words

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722674_40131797Well, the words did finally emerge yesterday, after my bleak, brief post, and I ended up with a short story I’m really pleased with. Edited the copy a couple of times this morning and sent it off via email.

I know that email submissions have literally opened up the world to writers. I don’t have to think twice now before sending work off to States or Australia. At one time, that was a big deal, with IRCs and international postage rates complicating matters, never mind the problems of payment if the work sold. Now with Paypal, even that isn’t an issue. I sell non-fiction through a Canadian company that pays me in US dollars. Every month Paypal calculates the exchange rate for me and I simply transfer the balance into my UK bank account.

So I really can’t complain about the technology that allows me such global freedom.

But….the real issue I have is the lack of acknowledgement for work sent by email, especially when months can elapse between submission and decision. When I sent work out by post, as a matter of course I included a self-addressed and stamped postcard, slipped under the paperclip with the manuscript and return SAE. All the editor had to do was put the postcard into the post tray and in a couple of days I’d know that my work had safely reached someone’s desk.

I have to say at this point that my distrust of electronic communications borders on the pathological. I know that emails don’t reach their destinations sometimes, ditto text messages. It has always been the same with pigeon post. Things go astray. I just like to have some indication that this has happened.

Anyway, this morning I sent off my story, and within a few minutes I had an acknowledgement of receipt. That’s a first for me, and I applaud Meerkat Press for implementing such a simple but important element in their submissions process.

 

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Bad words are better than no words at all.

First working day of March. The curtains are stirring at the windows where a bitter wind is finding its way in. My fingers are cold on the keyboard and my thoughts are skittering about all over the place.

Bad words will be an achievement today. At least they will be written.

And it’s snowing.