Everyone is writing and talking about Coronavirus and lockdown — I will leave that alone then.
I’ve spent the last few weeks working on two stories: one for my Realism submission and one for Prose Writing (I wrote a short memoir). The results came in yesterday, and I was pretty pleased. A high merit for the Realism and a low distinction for the Memoir. If I’m honest, which I like to be, I hoped to get a distinction for my Realism piece too, but it fell short on pace and plot. When I’m in the mood I’ll go back to it and tweak it so that I can either enter it for a competition or develop it into something else. That’s the thing about writing you can always edit, redraft, resubmit or find a home for most pieces of work other than the bin!
A good bit of news is that I was long listed for the Fish Poetry Prize this year. I was indeed chuffed as they had nearly 2000 entries and the long list was 295. The Man pointed out that I was in the top 15% — I could never have worked that out! I’ve now entered the poem for the Bridport Prize…I’ll keep you posted.
Poetry is where I’m at right now. For my MA Dissertation, I must complete 600 lines of poetry. If you say it quickly it doesn’t sound too bad but it will probably be around forty poems. I’m trying to write a sequence of poems inspired by dance; specifically ballet, and even more specifically The Firebird, a ballet first performed by the Ballet Russes in the 1920s. The Ballet Russes were a touring company based in Paris. Their director Serge Diaghilev had left Russia during the turbulent revolutionary period. Read more about it here.
The Original Design for The Firebird Costume by Léon Bakst
I’m enjoying the process of creating these poems but as with every project it seems to have morphed into something much more than The Firebird and Ballet Russes. I downloaded a master class by the poet Billy Collins and one thing he said was: “Let the poem take you somewhere. Choose a starting point and just go with it.” Or words to that effect. It was a good piece of advice. The journeys the poems take me on can be arduous and I get a bit lost before I reach the end, but sometimes, I just arrive without even noticing a bump.
Don’t let the restrictions tie you down — Whoops! I said I wouldn’t mention it — you can dance in your house, in your garden or even in your head. Here’s a little haiku from me:
I’ve just returned home after four nights away in the beautiful Devon countryside, in the village of Sheepwash. It was a writer’s haven. Good healthy food, endless cups of tea or coffee, (and delicious wine), homemade cakes, flapjacks, gluten-free or vegan if required. Debbie Flint knows how to look after her guests at Retreats For You
Wine O’Clock…Table Laid for Dinner…Debbie working hard in the kitchen.
I loved my bedroom which was spacious, well-appointed with kettle, tea, coffee etc., towels, bathrobe and slippers. A writing desk close to the window where I could look out to a street in the village. My one concern had been that I would have to share a bathroom (although large) with three other guests. I need not have worried. I never once met anyone coming in or out, nobody ever had to knock on the door to disturb me and I didn’t have to knock on the door to get anybody out! There was another bathroom on the ground floor, so we all managed very well thank you.
The Village Square and Pub
Retreats for You the big white house in the corner. My lovely room. The Village Square and Pub at Sheepwash. Two lovely horses walking by my window.
This was a screenwriting retreat organised by Retreat West . Our teacher, for three mornings was C M Taylor, or Craig to us. You can follow him on Twitter @CMTaylorStory. He shared his screenwriting and novel-writing expertise with us and we were all enthralled. Well, I’m easily pleased. NOT TRUE! This week I have learnt; techniques for structure, planning, character building (fictional character that is not mine) and so much more (what a cliché cop-out). From a personal point of view, I recieved some solid advice about which point in the story to begin my novel, which I hope to finish one day AND I would like to write the screenplay for it. A girl can dream can’t she?
All working very hard…(I need a haircut!)
Above all it was a productive, fun week with lovely people, all with one common interest— WRITING.
Amanda, Sylvia, Gayle and Craig…hope to see you all again soon and Debbie of course oh and Linda and the lovely young… something beginning with N…but not Ninette, I am so bad at names (help me out here screenwriting chums).
I am going back in November for the flash fiction retreat run by Retreat West, you can find the link here…hurry, there are only two spaces left!
I have borrowed a book from the library in the Phonebox, I went cycling twice in my four day visit, I had a brilliant time. Devon is a beautiful county
I knew it had been a while since I posted but could not believe it was the beginning of March, when we had all that ice and snow, that I last updated my blog. Well, it would be thoroughly boring to take you through the four weeks with a day blow by blow account so I’ll precis the 2nd March to the 30th and we’ll go into detail for the last couple of days.
Most of March was spent avoiding the rain, snow and ice, walking the dog in a sodden field or delivering The Man to outlying places in Dorset so that he could cycle back. Sunday 25th he fought his way from Wareham to Axminster via Poole and Weymouth and back to Wareham, 206 kilometres to be exact. Why? I have no idea but I was proud of him even though he was completely wrecked when I collected him at 8.45pm after 13 hours on the road, (including a couple of breaks.)
I have been writing plenty. My fingers are worn down as are the computer keys but it may be to no avail. I’ve performed my poem Waiting at Apothecary Words in Bridport and I entered the Flash Fiction Slam at Bridport Arts Centre — I wasn’t placed but it’s the taking part that counts. A friend of mine won the people’s vote, so that was enough for me.
Now for the Easter Weekend: We drove up from Dorset on Friday — the traffic going our way was not too bad but the poor holiday punters travelling west, were in slow, sometimes stationary traffic. The rain, however still poured on we poor travellers, whichever direction we were taking.
Jeremy Irons and Lesley Manville
Friday evening I had booked tickets for A Long Days Journey into Night by Eugene O’Neill. I knew that it would be a long production and I should have paid more for the seats. The leg room in the Wyndham’s Theatre Grand Circle was akin to a Ryanair aeroplane. But, the play was excellent and the three-and-a-half hours fairly flew by. Lesley Manville as the morphine-adicted Mary was superb and Jeremy Irons played her actor husband whose penny pinching ways contribute to the angst and emotional turmoil of the family. You can read a review of the prodution here . I was in awe of the sheer volume of diaglogue and on the one hand I was inspired to rush home and write a play, but, on the other hand I acknowledged the certain fact that I would never be able to produce such an eloquent piece of work.
Saturday we visited The Foundling Museum, I had wanted to go there since I saw in mentioned on the BBC programme Stitch in Timewhen they had talked about mothers leaving a swatch of material with their baby when left at the Foundling Hospital. This little token would enable the mother to be reunited with their child in the future should they be in a position to do so. The museum gives an insight to the lives of babies and children from 1739 – 1936 who were either abandoned in the streets or handed in to the hospital to be cared for. Now the hospital is now run in the form of the children’s charity Corum. Captain Thomas Corum was the founder of the hospital back in 1739. As is usual with these museums it has stirred in me a need to find out more about the stories of the children who were left here. It is heart wrenching to read the book of billets, (of which there are many) each billet is the admission slip for a foundling and they make sorry reading, just a number, date, age (if known), a few bare facts, a token, if there is one, attached to the page. I need to read more about it and will be searching for books to give me more information.
The association has a strong connection to The Arts, music, art, literature etc., with many well-known artists, writers and musicians donating their work to the foundling hospital to be used as a means of generating money and interest. Handel was a particularly ardent fan of the hospital and not only did he leave them a substantial sum of money on his death he also left the manuscript of the Messiahand all rights to it.
There are several displays in the museums and I was particularly drawn to Labelled, A display exploring young people’s experiences of being labelled as a ‘child in care’. These were portrayed by means of a name tape in a child’s shirt with derogatory and hurtful comments made by bullies, teachers and others in charge. Clever idea. I was also intrigues by, Mead’s Mysterious Medicines created by some children from Great Ormond Street Hospital. You can read a little about these and the other installations here.
In the basement of the museum was an exhibition of the poetry book The Lost WordsI was particularly interested in this because I bought the book at Christmas, but I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t read it through properly yet, I will now though. What inspirational poems and illustrations. If you can get to the exhibition then you won’t be disappointed. If you can’t, then just buy the book. It’s beautiful.
Last night we ate Vietnamese food at the Cây-Tre in Soho. Buzzing atmosphere and fab food. Loved it! We finished our evening back at our London base with a game of Cribbage…The Man won. How very annoying. I’ll get him this evening though!
One of many dishes of Vietnamese food savoured on Saturday night.
Jpeg back in her home country…I actually think she prefers England…but who knows?
We returned to the place in Italy where we lived for eight years and it was a strange experience. Full of mixed emotions and a short journey of discovery about the impossibility of turning back the clock. We had a wonderful time when we lived there. We loved the weather and made good friends, but folks move on and things change. For four weeks, we stayed in a lovely house in Montevidon Combatte, about 4 kilometres away from Petritoli, our Italian ‘home town’. We were meant to be on holiday but it never felt like that to me. It was as if I still lived there. The consequence of which meant that I couln’t be bothered to go sightseeing – in fact I couldn’t be bothered to do anything which is not only silly it was a waste of time. I must admit I did enjoy lazing in the sun by the pool
We had a fabulous pool and the surrounding Marche countryside was as lovely as ever.
I tried, unsuccessfully, to write. I managed to produce four poems whilst staying near Lucca in the apartment on my own with the dog. The Man cycled from Rimini to Pisa with his mates from More Adventure … but after that short period of time, the muse disappeared – stage left.
Now, we are home in Dorset, the weather on Thursday was beautiful and welcoming after our long drive back. We stayed in two different places this time on our return journey. The first stop was Asti where we had a brilliant apartment, close to the centre, with secure parking and it was seriously dog friendly. Fabio (the owner) was most welcoming and couldn’t do enough for us and Jpeg, which went over her head of course. She travels quite well but after six hours in the back of the car she’s had enough. We do stop every now and then for short breaks, not just for the dog to stretch her legs but for us too – and to change drivers.
Our excellent accommodation in Asti
Asti did not grab me, there was no ‘wow’ factor to it, except for the enormous car-park in the centre, the biggest town centre car park I have ever seen. It is used for the annual Palio (horse race). I didn’t realise they had one so something I must read up on. I’m not sure the photo does the size of the car-park justice…but it was a whopper!
Asti Central Car Park
An average meal was taken at the Tartufo D’Oro and the man overcharged us… we paid for someone else’s pizza and bottle of water as well as our own food. Should have checked the bill more carefully GB! We paid cash so no chance of a refund. Anyway, I think I’m at the end of the line with Italian food. I love it, but the menu does not vary from place to place…I don’t care if I never see another slice of prociutto crudo (Parma ham perhaps to you), accompanied by formaggio (cheese) and melon…for at least ten years.
Next stop was Bourges, (which I kept calling Bruges, much to The Man’s amusement)…
I am in love…
We arrived somewhat harassed as the trip from Asti took much longer that we expected with traffic hold-ups etc., fortunately we had started early in the morning (09.45) so got to our accommodation before dark. I had chosen the hotel Chatueau De Lazenay because the room had a little kitchenette which would allow me to cook. Sadly, it was lacking in utensils of any kind and although Eric, at reception said we could ring down for anything we wanted and they would bring it up. I couldn’t be bothered. My enthusiasm for cooking up a delicious meal flew out of the window to join the aforementioned muse.
The best thing about the hotel was the situation. It was beside a beautiful lake with a path surrounding it for walking, running and cycling of 6k. (Actually, I’m not sure about the cycling). I took the dog out as the light began to fade and she had a wonderful walk, as did I. Following her supper, she gave a big sigh as she finally got into her bed and realised she was out of the car…at least for the time being. She is so good and always relaxes fully in any B&B, hotel room or apartment that we rent, allowing us to go out and eat without any fuss.
The lake and the pathway and Jpeg (she’s not too keen on the water but was fascinated by the birdlife)
We took a taxi into town for an extortionate €20 to the restaurant Gargouille…. A great meal was had, French cuisine is always excellent and it was a welcome change from Italian. I had decided to embark on #soberoctober so no wine or champagne for me on this trip but I did have a delicious glass of lemonade. The Man had vegetable soup, steak, and lemon meringue pie. I had fish and chips followed by pannacotta with bourbon biscuits and forest fruits, served in a kilner jar. No photos I’m afraid. I became irrationally embarrassed at the thought of photographing my food with my Iphone…but I did photograph the drinks!
I cannot wait to go back to Bourges next year when we plan a longer trip around France. I want to explore this beautiful town and all it has to offer. We are in fact, going to take lessons to improve our French beyond O’ level standard…at the moment, whenever I open my mouth to speak French, Italian comes out!
Last Thursday I took my Italian Language examination at level A2, I got 98 out of 100 and I should think so! A2 is not a very high level considering I’ve been here for six years. However, I wanted to go back to lessons and the next level up wasn’t available. The teacher was very helpful, even during the exam. It would have been difficult for anyone to fail.
The first question on the paper was to match up questions and answers. We all dutifully waited to begin and he put on the tape recorder. I looked around the class and everyone was perplexed as the track that was playing seemed to have no relevance at all to question number one. I slowly put up my hand and asked the question.
‘Teacher, what has this to do with question one?’
‘Oh,’ he said, then laughed. ‘Turn over your page this is question three.’
The exam went on a bit like that,the teacher wandering round the class looking over certain shoulders and coughing, letting his hand point vaguely in the direction of any mistake that might have been made. Farcical really but hey, he was such a nice man. I just have to point out here that I didn’t need any help. As each person finished he marked their papers. I’m not exactly sure why I lost two marks but it appeared to be for missing a lesson during the course.
I think it’s really important to learn the language of the country you choose to live in. In Le Marche there is little English spoken and I see no reason for me to expect them to learn my language. I can understand most of the time now except when the locals start speaking in dialect (dialetto) or when they speak too quickly. Italy has only been speaking Italian for a relatively short time, (I’m sure The Man will comment on this and put us straight as to exactly how long). Previously the different provinces, towns, regions all had languages of their own and today some of the older citizens can still only speak their dialetto. In Petritoli they speak dialetto from Fermo and in Carassai, (a town about 6 kilometres away) they speak Ascoli Piceno dialetto.
The Italian language is derived from the Tuscan dialect, ostensibly from Dante Alighieri. I’m no expert on this so don’t shoot me down if I’ve got it wrong.
Learning a foreign language is not easy when you are older, (the wrong side of 60) but I enjoy the interaction of the classroom and it is so much better to be taught by a real person rather than all this long distance, internet virtual stuff that’s readily available now.
I can’t wait for September, to get stuck into B2 the next level, and hope that by then I haven’t forgotten every single thing I learnt this term. I can get by in most circumstances and everyone understands me and the Italians give plenty of help with corrections, but it is so satisfying to actually format my sentences and verbs correctly, the basic stuff anyway!
Why ‘Laughing’ in the title of this week’s post’?
Well, isn’t it wonderful that laughing is universal. We don’t have to learn how to do it in a foreign language. ‘Smile and the world smiles with you,’ I think that’s the expression.
The Man is going to think there’s something up this morning now I’m talking soppy. ☺