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CB 200 for 300, bargain.

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I struggled to come to a decision about which car to include next in this series of posts.

I wanted to mention one which played a significant part in my life and that was proving difficult because, as I have said, I spent many years at sea and moving from one shore base to another when at home, so there was little point in owning a vehicle to leave it sitting idle for several months on end.

Which means I skip several years or so, until 1975/78 (ish), to continue these blog posts. Also, I am not writing about a car, but a Motorcycle.

You see, with me being away so often and for so long, I deemed it easier for storage and running costs, to buy an easily maintainable and reliable motorbike. Nothing fast or fancy, simply a small bike I could run errands with, pop down to the beach or for a run into the countryside, do a little shopping, commute and so forth.

£300 bought me a one-year-old Honda CB 200. A bargain.

For those who don’t know this model, it is a four-stroke, twin-cylinder, OHC, 2 valves per cylinder. 196cc, air-cooled, coil ignition, 5 speed, chain-driven, electric start, 124 mph high revving but very reliable roadster.

Now, back in the day, it was legal to ride up to a 250cc motorcycle without passing a motorcycle driving test. All you needed was to have ‘L’ plates displayed and off you went. That is precisely what I did.

After a few ‘test drives’, over the weekend; when I took the bike to the garages situated at the rear of my house, where I self-taught myself starting and stopping, getting used to the throttle, gears and breaks, I took the bike out onto the local roads in the part of the city I was living in. All was well and went without incident.

My next journey was one of around thirty-five miles. This involved driving out of the city, along a major route, skirting two towns and two villages before heading out into the countryside, along some narrow and twisty country lanes to a military installation, which never officially existed, at least not until it was decommissioned and sold off to a housing development company.

Anyway, this became the regular journey I made for several months, most times twice a day – there and back. I only had two incidents, both minor.

I only mention the first of these so you can laugh at me.

It was during a very cold and icy spell in December. I rode the bike that morning very cautiously, with due consideration for the weather conditions. It snowed during the night, a layer of fresh powder laying atop yesterdays melt, which was now a hidden sheet of ice.

As I approached the last couple of miles I needed to decide which of the possible two roads to take. Neither were main routes.

The first choice was to stay on the larger road and hope I could climb the steep hill and negotiate the final part, which was little more than a rough track.

My second choice was to use the smaller, twisting lanes. The advantage was, although longer in distance, this route skirted the hill, which I was concerned about due to the ice and only having two wheels.

I went with my gut instinct and took the back roads. I made the right choice, as I later learnt the hill route was closed due to the ice making it impassable. However, this also meant all the traffic heading west was diverted along the narrow lanes in the direction I was heading.

While I intended, when taking this route, to creep along at my own steady pace, I now had vans, cars and trucks moving far too slowly as they jostled to pass one another. I was managing fine, keeping a measured distance from the vehicle in front, until the whole line of traffic came to a halt.

Now, the bikers among you will know, once you come to a complete stop the rider must also contend with the weight of the bike along with its balance. To do this generally means taking the machine’s weight by bracing it with a leg. On ice, on a cambered road, this means the bikes centre of gravity alters, the tyres no longer have any grip and, on this occasion, neither did my well-placed boot.

The outcome is the bike slid out from under me and I hopped a couple of times before slipping and falling flat on my arse.

Righting a fallen machine on sheet ice is no easy task either.

Thankfully, the driver following me was patient. He smiled and nodded, letting me know he would wait for me to pick the bike up and get moving again and not mow me down. Although he declined to get out from the heated comfort of his car and help.

Personally, I think he found it the whole episode amusing and would, once at work, tell the tale of the biker taking several attempts to pick his bike up and then mount it and ride on. For myself, I felt I was auditioning for the Keystone Cops, stand up, grip the handlebars, pull, fall over. Do the same and with the bike halfway upright, the back wheel decides to slither off in another direction… and so on. All in the middle of a road with halted traffic, the drivers watching in amusement tinged with some annoyance of being delayed further. I admit it was one of the few time I have ever felt embarrassed.

Eventually, I managed to get back on the bike and complete my journey… but only in 1st gear. When the bike toppled the gear lever was bent upwards. meaning I could not select any other gear. Later that day, armed with a house brick and a hammer, I managed to straighten the lever, the intention to replace it once home.

I never did… because it worked better than before. The gear changes were easier, sweeter and more precise. This Luddite type repair proved effective enough to last the entire next few years I owned the motorcycle and, possibly many years after.

That’s the end of this week’s story.

So, I hear you asking, what has all that to do with writing?

Well, quite a lot really. I believe this tale proves at least two points.

The first is, many, probably most of us, are not trained writers. We have not a master’s degree in English literature, nor do we hold any journalistic diplomas. But we are writers and authors, professional ones at that and some of us hold a wealth of knowledge which simply cannot be taught in a classroom.

Just ‘doing it’ is very much how I first learnt to ride my motorcycle and then the following experience I gained from riding in snow and ice. I am now, by the way, an ‘A’ class driver (I have the certificates to prove it!)

So, achieving a high, professional standard of authorship is, I believe, within almost anyone’s grasp so long as they are willing to take the opportunity. Accepting they will fall off now and again but will get back on and complete the journey.

No one said it would be easy, comfortable, or without incident, but by golly, it is an awful lot of fun.

My second point is this; not everything in this world needs to be brand new and shiny. Often imperfect is as good, if not better. As was my Luddite repair to the gear lever.

Too often authors strive for literary perfection. While I’ll not say this is wrong, I do think the telling of a wonderful and captivating tale, one which connects to the reader drawing them deep into the (un)reality of your fantasy world, is far, far more important than having every genitive case or article in a perfect place.

“Jeffery Archer’s agent once told him, (in reference to Kane & Able);  you will never be a great literary writer, but you can tell a damned good tale.”

For those of you who may not know of Jeffery Archer, he was a British Conservative politician, who fell from grace and was sentenced to four years in jail for Perjury. He is a survivor of prostate cancer.

Archer was almost bankrupt when he wrote his first book, Not a Penny More, Not a Penny Less, in the autumn of 1974. This was followed by Kane and Abel in 1979, his best-selling work to date. Many of Archer’s works were adapted to radio, television and films.

To date, Archer has written 36 books; his international sales are estimated to exceed 330 million and have generated him more than £250 million GBP.

So, I guess writing a damned good tale is where my focus is, maybe yours should be too?


You can find some of my ‘damned good tales’ in my latest book, a collection of short, and not so short, stories, Within the Invisible Pentacle

These stories explore the depths of human character, the quintessence disposition of living and of life itself. Questions we shy from, the ones we are afraid to ask ourselves are unearthed, revealed, brought screaming into the daylight of recognition.

The prevailing factor is, they are written with consideration for our fragile human propensity; the fears, the dreams and wishes, the uncertainties and self-doubts we all carry inside ourselves, the human elements of love, of life and of survival.

This is a collection of poignant, emotive, yet entertaining stories everyone should read, at least once.

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After Caroline came the Hunter…

After Caroline,  (read ‘Meet Caroline’ here)

… it was a long time until I owned another vehicle. You see, I was back at sea, often for long periods and there is not much of a requirement for cars aboard a ship.

However, when I was home from leave I did have the opportunity to drive whichever car my father had at the time. It seemed each time I returned home a different car was in our garage. I cannot remember them all, but I do recall one I enjoyed driving, the Hillman Hunter.

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The photograph shown above is about the closest example I can find to my fathers’ car, a gold-coloured Hillman Hunter with a vinyl (leather look) roof, (all the rage at the time), The car was an automatic, making it a very easy vehicle to drive.

The Hillman Hunter was probably one of the best vehicles being built at the time in the UK, whose motor industry was in total meltdown, from which it never recovered.

Today Morgan is about the only manufacturer still British owned.

Other famous marques, often still perceived as British, are all foreign-owned.

Aston Martin belongs to Ford, Rolls Royce to Volkswagen, Bentley is part of Tata as is Land Rover, Lotus is a division of Proton, MG is a Chinese brand, Mini is BMW, and Vauxhall is part of General Motors (GM).

This, the Hillman Hunter, is one of the cars I recall in which we, the family, travelled to the beach and countryside for ‘days out’ and picnics, something I have blogged about before.

Many of these trips, or instances from those journeys, are part of the various recollections I write about in one of my ‘works in progress’ On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion, which takes the form of a fictitious road trip, allowing me to share my thoughts and perceptions with you, “strung together as a collage of momentary instances, loosely stitched together by wisps of fleeting reflection.”

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In a way, I feel I am cheating a bit by writing this book. You see, I am blending reality and fact, suspect and distorted, even selected memory, along with fiction and fantasy to create a platform in which I can share my personal observations and sideways views on life, society, culture, civilisation and humanity by way of a series of connected monologues.

The result, when completed, will be a book which is neither a factual piece nor a work of fiction but rather one of reflective opinion and personal contemplations. One which is far from accurate or objective, although it is both genuine and honest.

I find On the Highway of Irreverent Rumination & Delusion difficult to classify or, as is the want with everything nowadays, to give a label. I wonder who may read it once completed? Is this book pure indulgence on my part, a form of catharsis so I can justify my own assessments and evaluations of life?

I am hoping people find the cover and blurb intriguing enough to buy it, so I can take them on a voyage where we can rattle along the twisted neural carriageways of my psyche and see where it leads.

We can but wait and see.

I shall have this book ready at some point during 2020… hopefully.


In the meantime, I have some news, there is a NEW blog, Electric Eclectic’s blog. Please, please, head over there and follow the blog today. You will love it… that’s a promise, not an order!

Catch you next week, Paul.EEBlogBlkSqr

1973, a Vauxhall Viva and no excuses.

Viva

I thought I would start this year’s posts based on a theme of the various motor vehicles I have driven over the years.

Doing such links with other projects I am working on, such as my new artwork collection ‘8mm’ and one of my current works-in-progress ‘On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion’.

8mm is where I take a still from an amateur home movie and combine it with a short excerpt from one of my books. You can view the 8mm collection on this link. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/artworks/8mm

On the Highway of Irrelevant Rumination and Delusion is my musings on life and living, taken from my old blog series of the same name and explored during a fictitious road trip, itself an amalgam of many, to create a captivating, informative and entertaining monologue. https://paulznewpostbox.wixsite.com/paul-white/works-in-progress

I am beginning this series of posts with a car from 1973 in which I first learned to drive, the ubiquitous Vauxhall Viva.

In its time, the Vauxhall Viva was the most popular car to come from Vauxhall’s Luton works. Once seen on every street corner The Viva was the first Vauxhall to achieve a six-figure production run and, by the early 1970s, was Vauxhall’s best-selling model.

None of that mattered to me as I struggled to master the necessary synchronicity between clutch, steering, mirrors, gearshift and acceleration while simultaneously looking ahead and in my mirrors. No mean feat for someone who never road a bicycle until they were eight years old!

However, the point of this series of post is far from riding bicycles or driving cars, its about life, the world, being an indie author and, at least for the first few posts, a little bit of nostalgia. A mix I hope you will find informative as well as entertaining.


So, without further ado, let me get started ‘proper’.

At the end of 1973, I was a young sailor in the Royal Navy. I had around six weeks left before I was to join my first ship and sail away to some far-flung shores. I was, to all intents and purpose a ‘whippersnapper‘. I suppose it was the start of me becoming me, becoming who I am now.

Did you know the word Whippersnapper was originally a “diminutive, insignificant, or presumptuous person?”

It was a term of reproach, here is the word used in a lengthy harangue by Edgar Allan Poe, from his story “Loss of Breath”:

“Thou wretch! – thou vixen! – thou shrew!” said I to my wife on the morning after our wedding, “thou witch! – thou hag! – thou whipper-snapper! – thou sink of iniquity! – thou fiery-faced quintessence of all that is abominable! – thou – thou –”

(The speaker in the story is then, gratifyingly, bereft of breath and stops speaking.)

 

Some may have preferred to call me a ‘Whiffet’ which has similar connotations and also means “a small, young, or unimportant person.”

But the cuteness of the word kept it becoming a term of reproach. Whiffet was used in the 19th century in relaxed and informal writing, such as this breezy passage from an early magazine movie review:

Particularly is this true in the case of William Haines. This cinema actor invariably plays the obnoxious, precocious whiffet who upsets plans, causes heartaches by his wilfulness.

—“The New Pictures,” Time Magazine, 10 October 1928

Now, back to my tale…

With little to do with my ‘off-duty’ time, I decided to learn to drive. (Not that I was going to get much chance to practise the skill once at sea!) Anyway, I engaged the services of a driving instructor and jumped into the driving seat of a shiny red car. The picture on this blog is exactly as I recall the vehicle.

Three lessons a week taught me the skills necessary for basic car control, well, enough to pass my test and gain a licence just in time to board my ship and sail away on the high seas.

My first ‘foreign’ port of call was Lisbon, Portugal; which is just across the English Channel and a little south. The fine city that it is, it was not the exotic tropical port of my boyhood dreams. (Thankfully I did get to visit those too.)

But tales of sailing the high seas and exploring foreign lands is not my premise of this post. It is about me taking those driving lessons although I knew it would be many months before I could use to use my newly acquired skills. Besides which, I still needed to purchase a vehicle.

You see, far too often we stop ourselves from undertaking certain tasks because of… well, whatever excuse we can find to convince ourselves. I could have so easily not taken those driving lessons because I was going to sea, because I did not have a car, because I… whatever. The point is it would have simply been an excuse with no real foundation of any matter.

It is making these excuses to ourselves so many of us authors and writers do far too frequently when what we should be doing is finding reasons to do something, making time to do something.  

We must say to ourselves, “Yes, I can write another chapter today despite having to work late.” Or “I can watch the TV later, or tomorrow, but I must write this down now.” No matter your book may not be ready until next year; no matter your laptop is broken, you have paper and pen.

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I got to drive later that year when I returned from my first sea draft. Since then I gained an advanced drivers’ licence. I have driven racing cars on various tracks around the world, from Brands Hatch in the UK to Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. I have personally owned some amazingly powerful machines like a Nissan Skyline GTR, a Toyota GT4 and an Aston Martin BD9.

I don’t think I would have done so had made an excuse to myself not to take those driving lessons. I am a firm believer that each decision we make forges our life path ahead for a length of time until our next pivotal decision must be made. Once each choice is selected there is no going back, no return, just differing routes to choose.

I think this is why I have several books and various art projects on the go at any one time, I don’t like saying no to myself; I don’t like making excuses to myself about why I can’t, or shouldn’t do something, anything.

I like to encourage myself to forge ahead, to do it, to say yes.

I encourage you to support and believe in yourself. I bet you will find you are a far more capable person than you give yourself credit for.

Keep Happy, Paul 😊

Do you share my literary DNA?

dna-

Now, here is the thing.

Do you believe your writing has been enriched and influenced by the books you have read?

If so, is it just the good books, the ones you love, the ones which made some connection with your soul?

Or… would you say the bad books have an equal hand in affecting your stories?

By ‘bad books’ I don’t mean the poorly written, but stories that aggravated, annoyed and even rasped on your sensitivities. The ones that you recall for the opposite reasons to those you loved, which means, in their own way, they too made a connection with your inner being.

So, did those bad books achieve the aim of their authors and if so, should we consider them good books for that very reason?

Something to ponder.

Here’s another matter for thought while on this topic.

I don’t write stories which have any direct connection with the books that made a mark on me. Like the historic African based fiction of Wilbur Smith; whose books I devoured as a teenager. My books are not based in history, in Africa or in any set time, as it happens.

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Neither do I attempt to write like Criena Rohan, (Deirdre Cash), whose book, Down by the Dockside still resonates with me today.

16279954While I enjoyed such wonderful works as Catch 22, Life according to Garp, and Do not go Gentle, I have never tried to replicate those authors style or attempt to write in their chosen genre.

In fact, I write the only way I can; by scribing the thoughts and feelings flitting through my mind at any given time. Oh, and as quickly as I can, before those very contemplations disappear into the amnesiac blankness of absolute… now, what was it, where was I?

So, I wonder how much and how many of those authors I read, the ones who pen compositions of illusion, write of their imaginary netherworlds and create the fictitious lives of the characters inhabiting them, find their way onto the pages and into my own work, without my being aware of their presence.

Are we, us writers and authors, part of all those who have gone before? Do we inherit, by some magic, some mystery, a trace of another, many others, literary DNA?

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Are our own stories part of a continuous evolution of literary nature? Are you, in therefore my brother, my sister, my sibling or, in that context, my child?

If so, are you writing my words, is your hand guided, even in part, by that which I have written before?

Or are my words part of you?

Now, there is something to contemplate.


Thank you for reading this post on Ramblings from a Writers Mind.

I do hope you will read at least one of my books, either an Electric Eclectic novelette or one of my prime works. All can be found on my website right, HERE

Keep Happy, Paul

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Stewart who?

A short while ago I wrote a post as a guest blogger for Noreen Lace on her ‘writing 365’ blog.

The post is about the love one must have for writing to succeed as an author.

These are some of the words I posted on Noreen’s blog.

But it’s just a dream, I guess.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

But it’s is just a dream, I guess.

What brought this to mind, was reading one the newsletters I subscribe too, one I often use as a ‘go to’ area for inspiration.

Now, obituary’s may not be everyone’s first choice or idea of inspirational reading material but believe me, there are many strange and unknown quantities revealed in an in-depth obituary, which is why I subscribe to the ‘Notable Obituary Newsletter’as I do with a blog called ‘Defrosting Cold Cases’.

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Yes, I do write crime and murder and psychological drama, not exclusively, but they have become a major part of my overall works, so there is no need to call the police… just yet.

As usual, I digress from the main thread of this post.

Taking my statement above, call it a legacy statement, I connected the thoughts I carried when I wrote it, to one of the obituary notices in today’s, (Feb-4th), newsletter.

The notice is about the death of a man called Stewart Adams.

His name probably means very little, if anything, to you; yet this man has affected many people’s lives, possibly… make that probably, most humans on earth, and yet as I have said, most of us have not heard of him before now.

If I said Stewart Adams was a British chemist, would that help?

No? I thought not.

However, if I ask you, asked anybody, what ibuprofen is, I am sure you could tell me it is an anti-inflammatory pain killer.

In fact, it is one of the most commonly used drugs of its kind and Stewart Adams was the British chemist who led the team that developed ibuprofen.

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Stewart insisted he was his own guinea pig, he always tried out the drugs he developed on himself.

“I always felt it was important to take the first dose before asking others to do so,” he said in a 2012 interview with Trends in Pharmacological Sciences.

His creation of ibuprofen came about during a search for a better drug to treat rheumatoid arthritis.

Possibly one of Stewarts most notable quotes is from ‘The Telegraph’ newspaper interview with him in 2007.

“It’s funny now, but over the years so many people have told me that ibuprofen really works for them and did I know it was so good for hangovers? Of course, I had to admit I did.”

So, we have here the legacy of an intelligent man, a man well respected in both his professional and social communities and a man whose legacy most of us have ingested and benefited from at some point in our life.

Yet, very few of us have ever heard his name mentioned. In that respect, he is almost as unknown as say, you or me.

Which, in my regular rambling way and via my twisted neural pathways, leads me to say this;

No matter how many or how few books you write, how many or how few you sell, by publishing just one, one small short story, you are leaving your own legacy, a mark of your being here, here in this world.

Do not have concerns about becoming famous or well-known. Do not try and chase false celebrity, for no matter what you do, how you affect others’ lives few if any, will recall your name.

Be happy with what is and what you write. If you are honest and true to yourself, your soul will live on forever in your words.

My own words, those written above, then become as much yours as they are mine.

I’ll repeat them again, leaving out the ‘just a dream’ part.

I write to leave a trace of my being, however faint that may be.

I hope, or dream, at some point in the future, someone somewhere will dust off the cover of one of my books and open it. Turning the yellowing, fragile pages for the first time in a millennium.

As they read my words, they shall hear my voice echo through the centuries, be touched by my narrative. I wish them to become one with my story, lost in the world of fantasy and fiction which inhabited my mind generations before… Then, I would not have lived for nothing.

Write on 😊

Paul


P.S. take a look at my Crime & Violence collection, three books of short stories I know you will love.

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Kindle

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVKindleV1 

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVPaperV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVKindleV3

Paperback

Volume 1             mybook.to/CandVPaperV1

Volume 2             mybook.to/CandVKindleV2

Volume 3             mybook.to/CandVPaperV3


 

When I am not writing…

“What do authors do when they are not writing?”

This is a question I asked myself while pottering about in the garden.

It may seem like a simple question, one which has a very simple answer; the likes and the things we do listed, almost ‘bullet-pointed’ as a reply.

Sure.

That’s fine, for most people.

But I am an author, a writer. To me, even those simple answers have hidden depths, more meaning and a thousand stories each to be told.

Here is where my writer’s mind went after I asked myself that question…

I know what I do, but I wondered if that was ‘just me’?

You see, I love travelling. I love to explore other countries, sampling their food, their culture, being amazed at wonderful vistas, cascading waterfalls, crazy cities, wild traffic and such.

I also like to travel around Britain, the place I live. So far, my favourite areas are the Highlands & Western Isles of Scotland.

The road to Oban
The road to Oban ©paulwhite2017

The Llyn peninsular in Wales gets better and better the further west you travel. The very best being Aberdaron and Bardsey Island.

Looking out, towards Bardsey

I reside in Yorkshire, the county known as ‘Gods Country’ for its stunning landscapes.

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Gods Country

I originate from the south and was lucky enough to have lived in Kent, called the ‘Garden of England’, which kind of speaks for itself.

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The Garden of England

All in all, I love nature; landscapes, coastal areas, animals, plants, and grand views. I like red wine, cold beer, fine whiskey, food and some good company.

To my mind this is what home is all about, making a comfortable place with hints, reminders and touches of all the things you love. Pictures and photographs of loved ones, trinkets and ‘tat’ from all those places you have visited; be it a foreign country or the local park, it’s those little inconsequential, yet sentimental items, like a shell collected from a beach, a pebble from a mountain path or a serviette from ‘that’ café.

In a way that is what our homes are for, storing and sharing all those little things which bring back the memories from a life well lived.

We can also make our homes reflect the things which make us… us. Especially, at least for me, in the garden, the garden in which I was pottering when I first asked myself the question I am writing about now.

In this instance, I have ninety per cent completed a project I started about three weeks ago.

In one corner of my garden was a derelict, rotted and neglected raised ‘deck’. I built the deck about ten years or so ago from reclaimed scaffolders boards and, I must admit, was proud of the outcome.

The said deck, (holding tables, chairs, potted plants and lighting), hosted many ‘al fresco’ lunches and dinners, served as a ‘buffet’ table during garden parties and barbecues it even became an improvised office for my writing on the days the sun shone and the rains held off.

But, as many structures constantly exposed to all weathers, it slowly degenerated, until it was little more than a rickety load of planks balancing precariously on a few rotten cross-members.

After laying unused and unloved for so long I decided to rip it up, replacing it with raised-bed vegetable plots and a small seating area.

Partly this decision was to do with the ‘stuff’ I wrote about earlier, the travelling to places, the sampling of food and wine and such like.

You will see in the following photographs I have placed my potted vines along the wall. These have never produced any edible grapes or enough to make even a single glass of wine, not here in England, not with our weather. But they do grow some large and tender leaves which are perfect for making dolmades, one of those foods I first ‘found’ on my travels many years ago.

I have made one deep growing bed and two shallow beds. The idea is to grow ‘root’ vegetables, such as carrots, parsnip, onion and sweeds in the deep one, leaving the shallow beds for the vegetables that grow ‘upwards’; beans, peas, sprouts, lettuce and so forth… once the soil has been delivered, which is about all I need now to complete my task, hence it is only ninety per cent complete.

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The path to the new vegetable garden passes the fish pond (left)
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Raised beds awaiting soil, the seating area (far left) will get chairs soon
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Note the vines and fig tree against the wall.

I already have an area for soft fruits and yesterday harvested a bumper crop of particularly sweet and sticky Gooseberries, the ‘Brambles’ (Blackberries) are beginning to set fruits and so still have many flowers.

This then, is my answer to my own question, “what do writers do when they are not writing?”

For me it is often gardening, but not simply for gardening’s sake.

Its for relaxation, creativity, frugality, satisfaction and for good food, healthy unadulterated food which I and or my wife will turn into some amazing dishes or preserves; some that will bring memories of a time, a trip or a place, flooding back, or maybe excite us, as we look forward to the next travel experience we have planned.

These are the sort of things I do when not sitting alone, isolated, eyes glued to the screen and scribbling away like a manic… I’ll let you finish that line!

However, I am curious to know what you do when you are not writing, please, let me know so I can be sure it is not ‘Just me’.

Keep Happy, Paul.


Don’t forget to visit my website, http://bit.ly/paulswebsite where you can find my latest books, including my Electric Eclectic Novelettes.

 

 

 

Dyslexia, Irlen Syndrome and Alexia. (This has nothing to do with Amazon gadgets)

While this post focuses on writing blogs, website content, social media and emails rather than stories and books, much of the following could be adapted by authors and publishers of books.

As independent authors, our ability to write such is of paramount importance to our promotional and marketing strategy. Yet the way you write could be alienating those who are not quite as apt as you or me at reading.


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A couple of years ago, I had a wonderful comment from a person who suffered from dyslexia about a post.

Although his comments were primarily about the content and not the presentation of the post, he mentioned he found my post far easier to read than many, if not most.

Curiosity got the better of me.

Why I wondered, could he read and understand my posts, when he struggled to read so many others?

Over the next few days, he and I conversed, by email, about his reading on a personal AAEAAQAAAAAAAAxCAAAAJDdmZDE5N2IxLWUxZmUtNGMwNi04YzE3LWYyNGUxYjA3MDE1MQlevel and Dyslexia in general.

 

Before I carry on and explain the outcome of our conversations, I think as writers we should all know and understand what dyslexia and some of the most common reading difficulties are. So, I am including the following few paragraphs & bullet points, (which I cribbed from the internet), for clarity.

 

A formal definition of dyslexia used by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development states, “It is characterized by difficulties with accurate and / or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities. These difficulties typically result from a deficit in the phonological component of language that is often unexpected in relation to other cognitive abilities and the provision of effective classroom instruction. Secondary consequences may include problems in reading comprehension and reduced reading experience that can impede growth of vocabulary and background knowledge. “

Unsurprisingly, the International Dyslexia Association defines it in simple terms. “Dyslexia is a language-based learning disability. Dyslexia refers to a cluster of symptoms, which result in people having difficulties with specific language skills, particularly reading. Students with dyslexia usually experience difficulties with other language skills such as spelling, writing, and pronouncing words.”


In contrast, Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder, meaning that it relates specifically to how the brain processes the visual information it receives. It is not a language-based disorder and phonics-based instruction will not help someone with Irlen Syndrome improve in the same way it will help someone with dyslexia improve their reading skills.

At its core, Irlen Syndrome is a light sensitivity, where individuals are sensitive to a specific wavelength of light and this sensitivity is what causes the physical and visual symptoms that people with Irlen Syndrome experience. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty reading not because their brains have difficulty connecting the letters they see with the sounds those letters make, but because they see distortions on the printed page, or because the white background or glare hurts their eyes, gives them a headache, or makes them fall asleep when trying to read.

Unlike dyslexia, difficulties experienced because of Irlen Syndrome can reach well beyond just reading. People with Irlen Syndrome have difficulty processing all visual information, not just words on a printed page, so they often have trouble with depth perception, driving, sports performance, and other areas not generally connected with dyslexia.


Alexia is a form of dyslexia, but dyslexia is developmental, meaning that it does not happen from an occurrence such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury.

Alexia is an acquired reading disability because of an acquired event such as a stroke. It is most common for alexia to be accompanied by expressive aphasia (the ability to speak in sentences), and agraphia (the ability to write).

All alexia is not the same, however. You may have difficulty with the following:

Recognizing words ● Difficulty identifying and reading synonyms ● Difficulty with reading despite your ability to sound out pronunciation of words.

Although you can read words, it is too difficult to read for very long ● Blind spots blocking the end of a line or a long word ● Focusing on the left side of the paragraph or page ● Double vision when trying to read ● Reading some words but not others. Of course, this makes reading impossible.

A stroke survivor with alexia that can read larger words, but cannot read tiny words such as “it,” “to,” “and,” etc. ● Any combination of some of these traits.

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My conversations with, (I shall call him ‘Jay’ during this post), led me to take a close look at how I was presenting my blogs, what made them so different and, could I improve them further?

It turns out the style I chose… I was going to say developed, but that sounds arrogant. So, the style I was using at the time was to write in small(ish) chunks, using relatively short sentences and paragraphs, as I have so far in this post.

Unlike the following.

This differed to most blogs and posts on the interweb which were, (and still are), long blocks of continuous sentences and sub-sentences, forming large paragraphs with very little line spacing or breaks. This may be a ‘style’ welcomed by universities and those writing technical/medical/professional and some literary journals. I have seen many papers which follow this style. I have even read a few and I must agree it makes for extremely uncomfortable reading. To read such a document, one must concentrate fully and focus on each word of each line. Whenever the eye moves from its forced liner motion, even for a moment, is when the reader finds some difficulty in returning to the exact location they were at previously, often meaning one must, annoyingly, re-read sections already read. Like you have possibly just done when reading with this last long drivelling, over-worded paragraph I have written in just such a manner to illustrate my point that it makes for uncomfortable reading, even for those of us blessed with good eyesight and adequate skill. A point which I hope I have now made adequately clear with this paragraph which is representative of many blogs.

Writing in this form creates such a large block of words it becomes challenging to separate them into clear concise ‘bite-sized‘ and manageable ‘lots’ of information.

This is one of the areas of written presentation which was highlighted to me by Jay.

I already used a style of writing which broke long paragraphs into much smaller ones, whenever practicable, but I was not aware of the impact doing so made on the reader. From then on, I broke paragraphs down even further than I did ‘pre-‘Jay’

I was also made aware of unnecessarily long sentences, sentences with too many superfluous words.

This simply meant cutting out all those unnecessary words to make sentences read far more precisely and clearly.

OR

Eliminating irrelevant words.

You see, this is not fictional or creative literature as when writing a novel, or even a short story. This is describing and sharing thoughts, ideas, information and data. Another skill set entirely.

Authors often discover this when having to write a precise about their latest book, like the back-cover blurb, an agent’s query letter, a synopsis or copy text for a promotional activity.

We all know, or at least should, that mixing sentence lengths makes for a better reading experience. But so does spacing and breaking them up as I have done in most of this post.

Please do not get me wrong.

I am not solely writing or directing my words specifically to those with reading difficulties, but I am looking to be as inclusive as possible and not simply because I am attempting to be politically, or socially correct.

I do it because I want as many people as possible to read my words. That is why I write.

Looking at how one presents their posts on the screen does not take much effort. Neither does adjusting one’s style to make it clearer and easier to read… for everybody, including you and me.

To finish, look at this Git-Hub virtual reality page. It shows how we can best comprehend the way those suffering from dyslexia and associated reading difficulties may see the written word.

https://geon.github.io/programming/2016/03/03/dsxyliea

My lesson, following those conversations with ‘Jay’, is, 

“We can all learn from others, even those we may have previously considered had nothing to give us. After all, I never thought a dyslexic could teach an established author how to write clearer, even better.

How wrong I was.”

Thank you for reading another of my Ramblings. Please subscribe to this blog if you will.

I am open to all comments and try to reply to them all personally.

Keep happy, Paul


Oh, take a peek at my website, I have a ton of good stuff waiting there 

Watching the sun rise

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As the sun rose and the darkness faded, the sky took on a burnished amber hue.

Birds started to welcome the dawn with the melody of their chorus.

I breathed in the sharp crispness of the morning air and looked up, a few wispy clouds hung motionless in the stratosphere.

It was such a fresh, bright morning. I predictably recalled the hymn ‘Morning has broken’; in this instance, my mind heard it being sung by Cat Stevens. I half-consciously found myself humming along, out of tune of course.

This was soon followed by the voice of Bob Marley and ‘Three little birds’. I smiled inwardly as I realised both these voices were inside my head.

However, the realisation itself began another thought process… I wondered why on earth we become so full of angst when someone admits to hearing voices in their own minds, or indeed fearful if they inhabit our own?

This morning, as the sun rose higher and the amber tones dissipated to reveal an azure blue sky, I found I was comforted by the voices in my head, the voices I heard singing to me.

Regardless of the scientific, cognitive or physiological explanations, of which I do not give one iota of ‘care’ for, I was quite amused by my own insight of this experience

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As a writer, I constantly think of ‘Funny things that make me laugh’ (Re- ‘Arthur’ aka Dudley Moore’.) I hope you have seen that film?

Anyway, this was one of those times, when even lateral thinking was unable to keep up with the speed of the random leaping of my thoughts. I have coined a personal term for this, I refer to it as ‘Geometric Surging’.

I love it because this is where all the oddball, wild, whacky and seemingly unconnected notions, concepts, opinions and theories I have somehow find common ground, which allows them to become authentic and viable concepts.

This is one state of mind where many of my inspirational stimuli collected from far and wide, many over long periods of time, meld into solid ideas.

All I need is a moment of ambience, an atmosphere which can induce the right frame of mind.

Today, it was watching the sunrise.

 

Thanks for reading this Rambling

Paul.


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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 near side of the road. I flew overhead just for you!

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 writer’s 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 most of the walk is along a quiet country road, or via farmland and woods. Dependent on which route you choose. I took with me a bag of half-stale bread and some old cake to treat the ducks that live on Bentley’s pond.

Near the rear of the pond, the area furthest from the road 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 backrest 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 sang 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,” my mind said, “watch it turn over and over as it rolls downwards.”

“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… but only 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 today 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 spiralling 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

A question from a faded memory.

My posts are usually based on an idea or theme I have been mulling over for some time. Yet, when I write, I like to let my words ‘Ramble‘ onto the page.

Hence the title of this blog.

Today’s post is one which stems from contemplations which were running amok inside my head at bedtime last night… (read, ‘the early hours of this morning!‘)

It is not the first time I have considered the subject and one, I am sure, you have paid heed to in the past.

It is one of life, or rather death. But not in the regular way we may think on such a topic.

I shall start by sharing a faded memory.

Some time ago a read an article; by whom or in what magazine or book I forget. You see, it was not where the article was, or who the author might be that was important, it was the content.

It gave me food for thought. Thoughts I am writing about here, years later.

The article suggested we can conceive life, human life, without our own being part of it. Such as historical events or even the future.

We all know that in fifty, seventy, a hundred years from now we, as individuals will not be here. In short, we will have died.

Our own mortality is something we learn to accept. We live with the fact that at any moment, any one of us could expire. Such is life.

It is also not so hard to understand life without entire groups of people. We have read in a newspaper, or seen on the television, reports of families and even whole communities being killed by accidents; motorway pile-ups, air crashes, ships sinking, or natural disasters like tsunami, earthquakes, and forest fires.

We have come to accept these events as part of our life on Earth.

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So, to think of life, to think of the world carrying on without those, or without us, should we ever be unfortunate enough to be caught in such a situation, is not beyond most people’s grasp.

This is where the article asked the reader, me in this instance, to take some time to contemplate and consider the next question.

I shall now ask the same of you. Whatever your initial response or thoughts may be, spend some more time, a day, a week, several years, returning and re-evaluating your answer.

… Ponder life on earth without humanity, without a single human being.

Not the past, not before our race evolved, because that gives a false perspective. We know Homo-Sapiens came into being.

But think of a future world without our presence. How would the world look, how would the future be?

Now think of yourself as the final living human. Would you write a diary, an account of your life on earth?

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Why? Who would read it…not another human. No living entity that could understand those little black marks scribbled across sheets of paper. Nothing which could make head-nor-tail of the strange sounds you utter.

Pictures, paintings, art, recordings… all pathetically useless and irrelevant. They would never mean anything…ever…at all…to anything.

Then the Sun explodes and annihilates the earth, the entire solar system.

That is shortly before Andromeda collides with the Milky-Way. The two galaxies’…the immovable object and the irresistible force.

Take time to consider the universe then…without a single trace of our solar system, of Earth, that human life, or any life, ever existed.

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Would you, as the last human want to leave a trace of our passing, however pitifully futile you knew that to be… Why?

Now, as a writer I find myself retuning to wonder what our world would genuinely be like without ‘us’. Let alone thinking about the aftermath of the destruction of two entire solar systems.

The philosophers among you may adhere to certain schools of thought… or not.

I for one have many ideas, none of which I can truly convince myself is correct.

Now, I don’t expect you to answer this question too quickly. Take your time as I have.

Which has been about twenty years, so far!

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Enjoy your day, Paul.

Did you know I also have a blog where I post the occasional short story? You are welcome to read them all, they are right here at… https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com