Saturday, 31 December 2011

Waving goodbye to 2011

And so, as the year 2011 sails off over the horizon and 2012 sets sail, it's time to climb the mast, spruce up the rigging and count the pieces of eight (excuse the nautical references, partly a flashback to the New Brighton Pirate Muster and partly because I was just watching Pirates of the Caribbean). I am reliably informed that on New Year's Eve, staying in is the new going out. Cheers! So what have been my highlights of 2011?

Poetry 24
Thanks to an unexpected invitation from Martin Hodges at Square Sunshine early in 2011, I have been involved in setting up a unique online poetry site which has since published news-related poems from contributors around the world almost daily on an extraordinary range of  subjects. Check out this marvelous snapshot review of the year from one of our regulars.

Library Centenary
OK, it's all in a day's work really, but it's been a roller-coaster ride through the year with more than 60 events for the Centenary of the library where I work. We had author visits, themed days, quizes, music, talks and performances, culminating in a ukulele-rich Centenary Weekend with John Hegley and quite a lot of cake.

Re-visiting Israel
Twenty years after I first went to Israel as  kibbutz volunteer for three months (and stayed the better part of three years) I went back. I do like to stir up the ghosts and managed to surprise two former lovers by turning up unannounced decades later. Closure, at last.

Finished my novel
I finally completed my work in progress which I started three years ago. The (Un)Dead Residents Association - a light-hearted romp through local authority nonsense and the living-challenged - currently seeking representation.

Festival of Firsts
Mixed feelings about this - proud to have been involved in a new local festival and setting up Wirral's first Poet Tree, but it also nearly sent me back to the dark side, I wasted a lot of time unnecessarily on it and I fell out badly with a member of a prominent Sixties band (it's ok - we've made up now, especially as he bought me thunder for Christmas (no - really!)).

Other highlights: I had more quality time with my mum and dad, and my brother didn't die in the Andes (which is always good news). Jet-setting to Cuba, Fuertaventura and Copenhagen. I had a story published in one of Lancaster Litfest's prestigious publications (and was profiled on their website) and 16 other stories or poems published. I met lots of groovy people online - you know who you are - and in real life (local poets mostly, also borrowers... ooh, and poetry hero John Hegley 3 times!). I had larks performing at Studio Liverpool, Vintage Radio, and Wenlock Poetry Festival... and of course I was briefly an internet sensation exactly a year ago... in a sad, nerdy sort of way.

I haven't really thought about 2012 yet... watch this space.

Meanwhile, what were YOUR highlights! Come on, share... and a Happy New Year!! *gets all teary*

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The 'Hark!' Lark

Hark! the High Street Angels sing:

Buy it now – don’t pay till Spring!
No peace on earth and purses wild:

You must get this for your child
Joyful all ye nations rise
Buy cranberry and mince pies
With angelic voice proclaim
10% off every game.

Hark the High Street Angels sing:
Two for one on everything!

Try our Heaven-born new settees
We have twelve month guarantees
Hail this ton of bright excess
Buy on credit – send express!
Light and life to all you'll bring

Try it free – there are no strings,
Awful things that cost the earth -
Get yourselves a dollar’s worth.

We're all broke, but still we buy
(Terms and conditions apply)

Hark the High Street Angels sing:
Two for one on everything!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Nothing like a Dane

Here are some more pics from my recent trip to Copenhagen. Sorry about my recent absence - I have actually been back for a week but things have been a bit hectic at Broken Biro Towers
This year's 'Russian' theme ... hmm, just like Moscow

Live coal hand-warming in public places

Pretty lights at the Tivoli Gardens

So..o.o.o pretty!

Seasonal goodies - Æbleskiver, little donut type things (not actually bigger than my head
- it's a perspective thing), and gløgg

Friday, 9 December 2011

Wonderful, wonderful...

Copenhagen!  Yes, I'm jet-setting again. It's not my fault, my best friend insisted.

I've never been to Scandinavia before, and you know what has really struck me?  (Apart from the the 120mph winds which followed me here.)

It's really, really quiet.

I've just got back from 6 circuits of the Winter Wonderland that is the Tivoli Gardens (pictured - but not my picture, I forgot to bring the lead!). Every building, tree, natural (and unnatural) feature, animal, person, kiosk and merry-go-round is completely decked out in lights. But the rides and stalls aren't blasting loud music at you (often no music at all), people aren't shouting at each other, there are no violent sound effects to assault your ears, even the people  plummeting to earth from the Great Pointing Thing of Death (not its official title, I'm sure) are screaming ever so sedately.

I love it. I may move here.

Monday, 5 December 2011

10 Best Christmas Gifts for Writers

Looking for a Christmas present for the writer in your life?

Yes, it's that time of year again: sleigh bells glisten, Santa is nipping at your toes and the mince pies are burning away merrily. And here I am again exhorting readers to use my link (on the right) when buying their pressies from Amazon so I get a few shiny pennies under my tree (not a euphemism).

Top 10 Stocking Fillers for Writers for under a Tenner

Writers need to back up their works in progress or perhaps move stuff from one computer to another.  Show them you 'woof' them by filling their stockings with this delightful Humping Dog USB flashdrive.

Or, if your loved one prefers a pen... and is writing something gruesome, look no further than this Novelty Syringe Pen at just 99p.

How about this Book Lovers Calendar - a page a day of great novels they didn't write, serving the dual purpose of reminding them of how unsuccessful they are and the swift passage of time, and hence their own mortality.

Anyone who wants to write for a living is a mug - so buy them one. This one is from the Literary Gift Company (see below) at £9.95 but there are loads at £11 from Cafe Press who will also make one with your own wording on (or maybe a quote from one of your writer's poems or stories?).

Oh, you want to give them books? Anyone who loves words will love The Etymologicon from ace blogger The Inky Fool - a witty and enlightening little book described in the Observer as 'the stocking filler of the season.'

Another gift for hungry word lovers is Scrabble with Chocolate Pieces at £8.50. There is a range of other classic games with a chocolatey twist... although the Twister with Chocolate looked disappointing. I'm sure I could have been more imaginative with that idea... but it wouldn't have much of a literary bent so I digress.

Of course the classic gift for any writer - a literary equivalent of The Beano is the seminal The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2012 which is packed with useful advice we do not heed, how-to guides we do not read and lists of agents and publishers we keep meaning to submit material to. But as it's just over £10, why not look out for a pristine (unopened) 2011 one as they're not going to open it anyway!

Beware of buying your writer this gorgeous Handmade Leather Journal. Beautiful notebooks demand beautiful writing, and most of us need notebooks for demented scribblings. We will not sully our beautiful notebooks with such things and will never write another word.

Try something cheeky instead like this Marvel Retro A5 Notebook at £5.70.

Nothing says more clearly 'I'm a writer' than this typewriter pin badge which is £4 gift-boxed from the Literary Gift Company... except perhaps a pin badge saying 'I'm a writer' which would just be silly... but available from Cafe Press (above).

I mention the Literary Gift Company last because once you go to them you will be lost to me - and I don't get any commission from them!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The Queen and I... a flaggy dog story

I promised you the Queen, and the Queen you shall have. But first, here's a very patriotic pup. Woof Brittania!

ER was visiting Liverpool on Thursday to open the fab new museum and celebrate something to do with the Liver Buildings (eg the fact that they have survived amidst some truly hideous new buildings sprouting up around them).

Then she came across to our side of the Mersey to see the refurbished Floral Pavilion theatre just around the corner from my mum and dad's.

It was supposed to be hush hush. There were top level meetings, secret briefings, Special Branch directives - tell no-one.  But everyone knew something was up when all the local railings got a fresh coat of paint. Then mum found out the full details from the bin men.

She didn't stop to chat - probably hungry or desperate for a royal 'wee'. So these are as close as I got to frank, close-up portraits of her majesty - a few distant glimpses through a forest of flags and cameras, and the back of her head as she left.

I was hoping to get something like the ones below...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Biscuits and tunnels

It's been a very exciting week, here in Wirral, even for me - and I missed half of lozzing around in sunny... oh, never mind, I don't want to rub it in.

There was the Royal Visit, which I'll come back to shortly, and there was the Big Strike.  Luckily I was on holiday, and luckily for my colleagues Wirral libraries are closed on Wednesdays anyway, so no-one had to lose a day's pay to make a stand against all this goal-post moving.

The media seems to be stoking a war of attrition between the workers in the public and private sectors over this. They say public sector employees are better paid, have better pensions and are better represented than private sector ones who don't have the luxury of unions. I'm sure there's truth in that, but my question is:  'Because you have no voice, should we stay silent too?'  Shouldn't somebody be standing up against the way the banks, big institutions and off-shore companies continue to take us all for a ride?

I love this joke that is doing the rounds (except that it's no joke):
A Banker, a School Teacher, a Tory MP & a Daily Mail reader are sat around a table. In front of them is a plate, upon which there are ten biscuits. The Banker scoffs nine of the biscuits. The Tory then turns to the Daily Mail reader and whispers in his ear: "Watch out, that teacher is after your biscuit".

I was, however, affected by the strike - when I arrived back in Liverpool at 10.45pm, the tunnels were closed due to industrial action, the only detour being via the Runcorn Bridge (far right of the map) to get home to the Land of Broken Biros (far left) - an extra 35miles!  So I gave unplanned custom to those same whining private sector workers by holing up for an hour or so at an all-night purveyor of food and beverages until the tunnels reopened.  Well, I say 'food'...

I'm sure with imagination there is something we could all do to make our voices heard about the liberties being taken (reckless bankers, price-fixing energy providers, bonuses for the inept, wars we didn't want, tax havens for the super-rich etc etc) without people losing pay and/or being inconvenienced by the big clumsy tool of a general strike. If I think of it I'll let you know.

Maybe I should have mentioned all this to the Queen... to be continued