Rabbits, Ducks and Rampant thoughts.

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Bentley hamlet. The duck pond is just visible, to the right of the last building, on the nearside of the road

This evening I took a stroll to an adjacent village to feed the ducks on the pond.

A pleasant, relaxing outing; one that allows my writers mind to relax, to take a break from its normal state, which is one of constant overdrive of complex inventiveness.

I walked to this small village which contains, seven houses, one which is a converted chapel and two farms. To be absolutely accurate, I should call it a hamlet rather than a village.

This hamlet is only one and a half miles from my own home and the walk is along a quite country road. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on the hamlets pond.

Near the rear of the pond is a wooden bench of the type often found in public parks. It was donated by a group of women, I’m uncertain who, but their names are etched into a plaque on the rear of the seat. I thank them.

It is a tranquil spot, idyllic even.

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On my walk to the hamlet, I watched wild rabbits scurry into the dense undergrowth of bracken and bramble, dive headlong under hedgerows as my approach disturbed their grazing. Birds sung evensong, apart from the swifts and swallows which hunted on the wing, darting to and fro, seeking out their prey in a wondrous acrobatic aerial display.

I often walk, choosing various routes, partly as exercise, partly as relaxation and partly to wonder at the sheer variety of nature that is, so to speak, right on my doorstep. It is something I enjoy immensely.

This evening was no different until I saw a small rabbit, white tail bobbing as it ran down a steep bank, dodging the saplings, looking for somewhere to hide from my presence. Uncontrollably my mind took this as a prompt!

How would a body look rolling down that bank? “Imagine pushing it with your foot” it said, “watch it turn over and over as it falls”.

“Hey…what about this? running from zombies, or a mad axe murderer. Think about scrambling up the bank, slipping back into their gasp”.

I fought NOT to think of such things, pushed them to the back of my mind. Luckily, looking up, I caught sight of a Buzzard circling above the woodland. This stayed those musings…for a time.

2-ducks-on-a-pond-vaswaith-elengwinSoon, I was at the pond, sitting on the bench, watching a raft of ducks as they squabbled over the dried bread and old cake I casually tossed into the pond.

But my muse would not be quieted. “How deep is that water?” it asked. “Look, look a body is floating to the surface”. It was not; it is too heavily weighted to rise!

I shook my head to clear these notions. It worked, momentarily.

You see, the cottage opposite the pond has a small window, through which a pale yellow light was shining.

My mind spoke out again, “That is a lover’s hideaway. Two lost souls finding solace and love, a future together after all the turmoil and pain they have suffered”.

Sometimes I cannot control my own mind. It seeks inspiration and finds creative fertility of its own accord. Many times this is visual, like on this evenings stroll. Other times a voice, a sound, a few overheard words, sends it spiraling out of control.

I count this, most times, as a blessing and I am grateful to have this gift; but other times I regard it as a curse, as I did this night.

That’s all I have for you just now.

Goodnight, Paul.

 

© Paul White 2016

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Feel free to visit my website, take a look around, you may be surprised at what I get up to!

http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

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Yoghurt Tasting.

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We often talk of how important punctuation and grammar are when writing. I think this is also true of the spoken word, oration and pronunciation should be a foremost concern.

NOT, I hasten to add, for everyday conversation where colloquialisms, dialects and vernaculars colour our conversations and lives, but when the spoken word is transmitted by mainstream media.

I believe, broadcasters have a duty to society to articulate, to use elocution and enunciation to the highest standard and, by doing so, enable our young to learn the wonders of well-versed dialogue, gain the ability for constructive discourse and communication.

How can we expect our young to learn to speak clearly and precisely, to acquire the ability to explain, to communicate effectively, if the denizens of our communications industry cannot do so themselves?

Personally, I do not think ‘dumbing down’ standards to ‘accommodate’ those considered, in correct ‘PC’ terms to be ‘less fortunate’ is the answer. This only has the effect of decreasing the overall standards by suggesting the lowering of general standards are acceptable. Which, of course, they are not.

I fear for the future.

Today I found myself disappointed by such a badly enunciated sentence.

“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoghurt taster from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

Now…I have, as many of you do, a writers mind. This is a strange and oft uncontrollable beast. One which will pick-up on tid-bits and oddities which would, for the greater part, pass most people by without causing a ripple in their lives.

But for those of us who are cursed, or blessed, with such minds will know once this beast has focused on its intended target, once it has its victim firmly caught, there is little we can do until it has satisfied its hunger, or passions, or whatever desires need stating.

This was my situation earlier today. As soon as that sentence had been spoken my muse went into overdrive.

A quick and personal excuse (Disclaimer!): I was not watching or listening to the programme being broadcast, it was just ‘on’. My wife had switched the TV on earlier and it was playing away in the background.

So, where was I? Oh, yes my muse awakening, giving me a jolt.

Questions started to flood my head, ‘Yoghurt taster’ what kind of a job was that? Was it a flavour tasting position or simply to ensure the product was of a certain quality? Maybe this was a taste panel for R&D, for new products, new lines?

How did one get a job like that? Could I get a job like that? What qualifications, besides liking yoghurt, did one need?

My muse was excited; could this be part of a plot? A Poisoning?  Mass poisoning…holding corporations to ransom? Maybe the start of strange happenings in a small town… Zombie like conditions…Mmmm? My mind continued to race.

However, I love that word so I’ll say it again!

However, somewhere beside my overly stimulated muse, I had a nagging doubt such a position, a job as a yoghurt taster, actually existed. Food taster, yes. But I could not believe anyone could be employed solely as a Yoghurt taster.

No, I convinced myself, something was wrong. (Much to the annoyance of my muse!).

Thanks to modern technology, satellite, cable, Digi-boxes etc. we are able to do so many things with ‘live’ and ‘on-air’ television which have previously been impossible. One of these is instant ‘re-wind’.

This is what I used to take the programme back to the point where the ‘voice-over’ presenter stated that Emma was a ‘Yogurt taster’ from Essex.

This time I would actually be watching and listening to the broadcast, rather than having it grumbling away in the background, where only my subconscious was taking note.

Sitting too close and staring at the screen, like a six-year-old child, I pressed ‘play’. The images began to move and the narrator started to speak.

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“…blah, blah, blah…27-year-old Emma, a Yoga teacher from Essex…. blah, blah, blah…”

I played this over and again, four times in total, until I was absolutely certain this version was the correct one.

Emma was a yoga teacher and not a yoghurt taster, as I had first thought.

This was not me miss-hearing, it was clearly a case of shameful presentation.

I must say, I was more than a little disappointed.

I am sure, in the world of yoghurt, tasters are required? although I am uncertain of what the progression of seniority may be in such a profession. Perhaps one starts with the ‘own label’ products, progressing to ‘natural’ before moving to thick ‘Greek-style’ yoghurts. Maybe, an alternative route would be to delve into the technical realm of flavours, or the scientific corridor of ‘low-fat’ and ‘healthy’ options.

I guess I shall never know.

A divergent track that leads me, by some circuitous route, back to where I began this post; which is where I stated my belief that major broadcasters and, in many respects, our respective Governments, should take responsibility for the clarity and precision of language when transmitting programmes.

The above is a prime example of bad annunciation and elocution, the equivalent in my book, (note the pun!), of bad grammar and punctuation in writing.

Besides, my restless muse was unnecessarily disturbed.

Now I have to find an excuse NOT to write a novel about a wicked dairy farmer, who decides to get his revenge on the local townsfolk by plying them with infected yoghurt, thus turning them into pliable and malleable zombie-like humanoids who forever more will do the farmers bidding. Of course, as with all good pulp-fiction, there is always one young girl who hates all milk type products, regardless of flavour. Perhaps it is she who can fight back against the forces of evil and bovine product manipulation to save the earth…or at least the local town?

That is all I am going to say on the matter!

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So, until next time, enjoy your writing, even if your inspiration has been stimulated by a miss-print or badly spoken presenter. But please, please take care with your grammar. You never know when someone may read your work live on air, they may even be an ex yoghurt taster venturing into a new career!

 

Thank you for reading, Paul.

You may like to visit my website and see what else I am writing? http://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white

© Paul White 2016    RTWM310716/975

That is not VERY clever.

 

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It is, however, the way to announce to world that you are an amateur writer, that you have not honed your skills, that you are not a master of your craft.

It is something, I suggest, you would want to do and yet, I have an inkling, that it maybe something you are doing right now.

WHAT IS? I hear you ask!

Simple. It is to use the most useless word in the English dictionary in your writing.

That word is ‘very’.

Honestly, if you are using this word in your novels, your stories or essays you are making a rather large error.

Mark twain once said “Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very;’ your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”

Florence King is quoted as saying that “’Very’ is the most useless word in the English language (see, I told you so!) and can always come out. More than useless, it is treacherous because it invariably weakens what it is intended to strengthen.”

“Avoid using the word ‘very’ because it is lazy. A man is not very tired, he is exhausted. Don’t use very sad, use morose. Language was invented for one reason, boys – to woo women – and, in that endeavour, laziness will not do. It also won’t do in your essays.” Or so say’s N.H. Kleinbaum.

Which brings me to confess, I have, among many other bad habits, deleted so many ‘very’s’ in my work I lost count long ago. Read through’s, edits, re-writes; somehow those pesky little ‘very’s’ sneak themselves into sentences.

When I read some of my older works I could cringe, even those I have re-edited, even re-written in the past; but I guess that is how we all earn.

I am not as bad as I used to be. In fact, I am learning to write without using a single one, or at least that’s the aim. But it is not very easy!

The object of this post is to highlight the mistakes I have made, in an attempt to save you from making those very same errors!

Look back over your current Work in Progress, read through and find all those ‘very’s’ lurking amongst the other words.

Now, you have three options, the first is to simply delete them because you do not need them, they serve absolutely no purpose whatsoever, except to confirm your status as an amateur writer.

The second choice, is to follow Mark Twain’s advice as above!

The third and my preferred choice, is to change them totally. Delete the words associated and replace them with ones that are far more descriptive, evocative or eloquent.

In some, but very few circumstances ‘very’ can be permitted. BUT these occasions are rare. One such time ‘very’ may be used is in a characters ‘speech’. The word can be used to indicate a character of lower education, or a young person, a child who has not accrued a wider vocabulary.

Below is a crib sheet I have cobbled together as an aid. I hope that you find it useful in your quest to extradite those ‘very’ words from your authors lexicon.

The first column is word you have pe-fixed with ‘very’, the second, a suggested alternative…you get the idea!

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Since I originally posted this, I have been inundated with more words NOT to use and further suggestions for alternatives. I am not adding this image as I think it is the most comprehensive. Its from Proofreading Services.com 

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Thank you for reading ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind‘, maybe you will also like my short story blog ‘A Little more Fiction‘ Go take a peek now 🙂 

Meet my Best Friends (& Share them too)!

I Love WordPress

NOTE: Before I start this post……I have now been ‘Rambling’ for over two years; but it is only for the last four months have I been doing so here on WordPress.

I wish I had originally started this Blog on WordPress because since moving from my previous platform(s) I have had far more interactions, of higher quality than ever before. So before I start todays ‘Rambling’ I would like to thank you all, especially those of you who now follow these random scribblings of mine.

THANK YOU.


Now too my Rambling of the day!

I know that the majority who read ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ are indeed writers and it is with that in mind I try, in my haphazard way, to offer advice and share knowledge about all facets of a writer’s life, from the more technical stuff to empathetic ‘hugs’ during those long lonely hours when nothing written seems to work!

One subject I have not broached so far is that of a writers own library. I do not mean the reading material we have for our own pastime, but that which we turn to for help and aid during the long toil of writing a book, or a poem, or an article….or even (possibly) a Blog such as this.

I have, over the years, amassed a huge array of various reference and resource works which sit heavily on and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

Even though we have ease of access to the infinitude of the interwebs content and can collate and bookmark pages, sites and various content to our hearts desire, it is not always so practical to move away from our works and scuttle back and forth electronically.

At best this method causes interruption to the creative flow, at worst it is a distraction where one can easily click, just for a moment, a quick glance, at our email or network sites……then three hours later we wonder why we have achieved so little progress!

This is where a book, those pale pages which one has to turn manually become so much more than just good friends, they become our tutors, our mentors, our coachesA, they allow us to find the information we seek while keeping us focused on the task in hand.

Often, while writing I have three, four, seven, even ten various books open on my desk. Each one a weighty and mighty tome of facts and particulars, essential specifics and verifications which I can access at a glance without dismissing the words I am working on, the complex wordsmithing I am hammering out on the furnace of imagination.

You may ask, what are these bound pages of mystical knowledge I keep about me?

Then I shall reveal their names, some you may already be acquainted with, others may yet be strangers, but all are, to me good friends.


These are some you may have, or at least you may have one of their cousins……

The Oxford English Dictionary.oed

The Chambers Dictionary.

Webster’s Encyclopaedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


These friends may not be quite so familiar, but are worth knowing…………6

Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, by Walter W. Skeat.

Dictionary of Difficult Words, by Robert H. Hill.

Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.


You should, in my humble opinion make friends with the following……download (3)

Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.


These folk may be a little unusual, but are worth inviting into your home…..download (2)

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

The Ultimate Loo Book, Mitchell Symons.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, by Michael Rosen.


Lastly these should be among your very best friends………

download (2)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: (A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling), by James N. Frey.

Plot & Structure: (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish), by James Scott Bell.


Clearly these are just a few of those books which line my office walls like paladins. I think you can find copies on Amazon, or indeed go and browse your local bookstore where you may find a lonely discarded volume in need of a good home!

I hope this post has been enjoyable to read as well as helpful. Please follow my blog if you are not already doing so, as I have many more ideas and thoughts I would like to share with you.

Thank you for reading, Paul.

 

Dumbing down

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     The term dumbing down describes a ‘deliberate diminution of the intellectual level of education, literature, cinema, news, and culture’.


The term dumbing down originated in 1933 as slang used by motion picture screenplay writers to mean:  ‘revise so as to appeal to those of little education or intelligence’.

I have also heard the phrase that information should be designed for ‘the lowest common denominator’ of intelligence.

The nature of dumbing down varies according to the subject matter and the reason for the dumbing down, but it usually involves the over-simplification of critical thought to the degree of undermining the intellectual standards of language and of learning; thus tending to trivialise cultural, artistic, and academic standards, as in the case of popular culture.

Here is simple example, television advertising no longer use the word ‘Twice’ as in ‘Twice as many’ or ‘Twice as fast’, preferring to use the term ‘two times faster’!

Researchers at the Institute for Studies have warned that it will soon be impossible to dumb down news and entertainment media any further.

Professor Henry Brubaker said: “Most television is about cooking, the paranormal or poor people having arguments. The news is just opinions and conjecture punctuated with pictures of ‘extreme weather’.

‘The only books being published are ghost-written celebrity biographies or thrillers about serial killers called things like ‘The Face Collector’. Apart from that people just read lists of ’10 facts about muscle growth’ off websites.

‘The problem is that if the mass media continue to further dumb down information human intelligence will continue on its downward trajectory. (thedailymash.co.uk)

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In the latest instance, a research team from universities in Sweden, Holland and Ireland found “a pronounced decline in IQ since the Victorian era, three times bigger than previous theoretical estimates would have us believe.”

Yes, those repressed prudes – notoriously obsessed with keeping table legs covered up in case they gave men sexy thoughts about finely-turned ankles – were actually substantially smarter than the free-wheeling techno-nerds of today. The scientists compared reaction times – regarded as a key indicator of general intelligence, productivity and creativity – from the late-19th century to the present and discovered that our brains are definitely slowing down. The Victorians were positively whizzy: the average man in 1889 had a reaction time of 183 milliseconds, while the present-day Mr Dopey can only manage a sluggish 253 milliseconds.

I’m not surprised. We don’t need studies and statistics to tell us this stuff, the evidence is staring us in the face every day.

Last year, I made a radio programme about the Belfast writer and poet Helen Waddell, who became one of the biggest literary stars of the 1920s and 1930s.

Her historical novel, Peter Abelard, was a runaway success, praised by everyone from Queen Mary to factory workers and prisoners. It was the must-read novel of 1933, reprinted an incredible nine times in the first year of its publication.

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    But Waddell’s breakthrough novel would never, ever make the bestseller lists today. Why? Because the writing, while beautiful and resonant, is simply far too challenging. Reading it takes a certain effort of concentration, not to mention a passing knowledge of medieval theology. With Fifty Shades of Grey, today’s popular publishing miracle, all you need is some basic literacy and a sick, prurient interest in getting lashed with a whip for pleasure.

In culture, in politics, in everyday life, superficial froth and twaddle regularly triumphs over substantial, thought-through ideas. Attention spans attenuated by the 140 character demands of Twitter, we often behave more like bored toddlers than sentient adults, expecting to be continually indulged and entertained.  (Fionola Meridith)

Sadly, our country has been hijacked by a compulsion to homogenise society, to control individualism and turn us all into one classless soup.

In Bog-Standard Britain, defenders of crisply enunciated English are told they are ‘toffs’. This class neurosis lowers standards. It spreads mediocrity. It permits pre-Victorian levels of coarseness to pollute our streets.

Intervene? No, that would be an act of class prejudice. Opprobrium has been driven from our public life. Shame and propriety and judgments of right and wrong are replaced by whispered orthodoxies about what is ‘appropriate’, codes which can be understood only by sociology graduates.

Manners have disappeared, to be replaced by strict ‘ guidelines’ about sexism and racism. Classy people once knew instinctively how to behave. Now manners have to be taught in rehabilitation classes. They have lost their humanity and become ‘codes of conduct’.

Commissions, working parties, think tanks, steering committees, conferences, charities, consultancies: egalitarianism has become an industry for the self-righteous.

From university admissions to unisex hospital wards, tokenistic equality runs like bindweed, strangling common sense. Officialdom towers over us, wagging its disapproving finger, instructing us to observe equality codes or face the withdrawal of public funds.

Despite all this, equality has not achieved its aims. Social mobility is dropping. The wealth divide broadens.  ‘Equality practitioners’, as they call themselves, have simply become brahmins amid the beggars, sixth-form monitors of thought who draw their salaries from the pockets of the very poor they profess to help.

Clearly, as with most topics that affect mass populations, there are those who believe in conspiracy. The following paragraph is an extract taken from the vigilantcitizen.com

Is a dumber population something that is desired by the elite? Hitler once said “How fortunate for the leaders that men do not think.” An educated population knows its rights, understands the issues and takes action when it does not approve of what is going on. Judging by the incredible amount of data available on the subject, it seems that the elite want the exact opposite: an unhealthy, frightened, confused and sedated population. We will look at the effects of medication, pesticides, fluoride and aspartame on the human body and how those products are being pushed by people from inside the power structure.

To end this post I have included the following, which is supposed to be a rant against Dumbing Down, but actually is an extremely good example of dumb media in action.

This, as you will see, also supports the Goebbels view on propagandaDr__Joseph_Goebbels_by_tree27

‘From the minute you get up its trashy soap and Celebrity and Hollywood gossip and programming aimed at bored housewives. Dumbed down breakfast TVs followed by This Morning which is obsessed with soap and reality TV chit-chat and z list guests, sex change couples and fashion tips like what’s the latest handbag or which nail file should I buy and general couch potato crap aimed at people who read National Enquirer and Heat magazine. Nothing of any actual intellect at all.

Then its Jeremy Kyle interspersed with ads for online bingo and debt management and quick cash adverts. Afternoons are dominated by more gobshatting by Loose Women or other such drivel. Dumbed down quiz shows for thickies, dumbed down news for the less intelligent, and soaps’.

Thank you for reading, your comments and feedback welcome as always.

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