Monday, 23 March 2015

Evidence that you can use a duck-billed platypus to say almost anything

Just a reminder that, on my new blog, once a week or maybe twice I'm posting up ideas, tips and exercises - along with a few laughs - for anyone who loves to write.

There are a few posts up there now. Today's is about using a variety of sentence types to lift your writing style.

Go and have a look or recommend to any writer friends. And follow to get regular updates.  Here's the link.

Writing with the use of a duck-billed platypus

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Evidence that you can't always find a common theme however hard you try

I have some things to tell you. I'll attempt to link them all together, but I don't yet know how. Let's wait and see.

1. Near my house, an alleyway leads under a railway bridge. On the wall of the bridge, some kid who has a GSOH but won't get a GCSE in English has sprayed, in enormous white painted letters, this message:

'Call the Graffiti Removeral!'

2. I noticed, yesterday morning while making my packed lunch of home-made cheese coleslaw, that when you grate cheese, it behaves itself, but when you grate carrot, it goes everywhere but into its assigned container. The cheese obediently grated into the sandwich box, yet only three shreds of carrot landed in there. The rest was a) on my cardigan; b) on the walls; c) on the work surface; d) still on the carrot. Retrieving shreds of carrot from various surfaces is not the way to start a working day.

3. When I log in to my computer, it asks for a password. When I mistype the password, it says to me in its 'concerned friend' voice: 'Hint: usual password.'  It seems to think I would deliberately type in an unfamiliar one. Surely, 'Might that have been a typo?' would be more humane rather than treating me as though I had a peanut's brain?

4. Today was 'moderation day' for our English department at school, checking our GCSE coursework grades to see if we'd been marking them fairly. To accompany the moderation, we had a) hot cross buns; b) Party Ring biscuits; c) Jaffa Cakes; d) chocolate biscuits. We even missed lunch while we worked, snacking instead on a) hot cross buns; b) Party Ri - you get the idea. Moderation is sedentary stuff. I have never sat so still, and yet consumed so many calories, before. If I did a week like that, I would need bringing out of the building on a crane. Two weeks: a hearse. Three weeks: a hearse, pulled by two carthorses and a tractor.

5. Last night, I started to listen to a radio programme about how stressful teaching is these days, except that I kept falling asleep, shattered after an 11 hour day. I woke several times to find the programme had moved on ten minutes without me. I love this kind of irony.

Okay. Now for the connection between these items........


Nope. Can't think of any way of linking these together. So, today, my theme is the randomness and arbitrariness of life and existence. Beckett, eat your heart out.

Here's an owl in a straw hat, just to consolidate today's theme ...

Friday, 6 March 2015

Reasons why the Internet isn't always a good thing

Short story entitled 'Why people shouldn't go to the Internet for medical help.'

'What's that strange lump on my leg? Surely that wasn't there before,' thought the woman.

She Googled it. 'Strange lump on leg,' she typed.

Website 1 said, You have a lump on your leg. It will go soon. Do not worry.

Website 2 said, You have probably bumped yourself without realising. It will go soon. Do not worry.

Website 3 said, This is probably a fatty lump or a benign cyst. It will go soon. Do not worry.

Website 4 said, You have a fast-growing incurable malignant fibrous histiocytoma. See a doctor immediately and check that you have no diaries lying around.

She felt the lump again. Surely, since she started Googling, it had grown thirteen times bigger?

The End.

Googling the lump had given it an ego and a personality of its own

Medics seem to hate it when you turn up at the surgery and say, 'Doctor, I've googled this, and apparently .....'  I guess they know what's coming. 'Doctor, I've googled this, and I think you'd better tell me your opinion quickly, because I only have three minutes left before I go into a coma.' Or, 'Doctor, I've googled this, and in my humble opinion you need to prescribe me a year's worth of Cure-it-all-acillin even though it costs £14,000 per two week course.'

Last time I mentioned I'd been playing Google Diagnosis to my doctor, it was when I had a Baker's cyst developing behind my knee. I told him people on the Internet were saying that if a Baker's cyst burst, it was a pain three times worse than childbirth. 'Is that true?' I said.

The word 'contemptuous' isn't strong enough to describe his look. 'Hmph,' he said. 'Well, people on the Internet are stupid.'

What? EVERYone? What about Stephen Hawking? I checked Stephen Hawking's website and either he's a lot cleverer than I am, or he is SO stupid, as the doctor suggested, that he's talking claptrap and academia hasn't realised.

Having said this, Stephen Hawking has absolutely nothing to say about strange lumps on legs. I guess even the best brains have their limits.

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Evidence that Fran has experienced major trauma


Mourn with me, brothers and sisters. I went to M & S to fetch my new slippers and put them on at home only to find my heels hung over the edge. 

Size 7s, my foot! 

I am slipperless once again, as the nice but harassed lady on the counter tells me that there are no size 8s in stock.

Fear not. I did buy an alternative to make me feel better. Here they are. Not quite a pair, but good enough. 

Thornton's Special Toffees. Yum. One in fruit and nut, and one in Brazil nut flavour.  They won't keep my feet warm, but they still provide a kind of comfort that's very welcome in my distressed, sans-slipper state. 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Reasons why Fran is getting cold feet (and that's not a cliche)

I'm unreasonably excited about getting my new pair of slippers. This is what they look like.

I never used to wear slippers. I'd always schlupped around in socks, going 'oof, oof' on the cold kitchen tiles in the winter. My husband would urge, 'Get yourself some slippers and stop oofing' and I'd look at him and say, 'I may have some parts of my body which have gone south in search of new adventures, and maybe I do watch 'Flog It' on my days off, but I am not yet old enough to wear slippers.'

Why did I think they were a sign that the End was Nigh? I don't know.

Two Christmases ago, not long after I became a Grandma and it seemed futile to hang on to my youth, in the same way it's futile for someone to cling hopefully on to a cliff edge who's got honey on their fingers, I decided it was time. I was in Marks & Spencer, thinking, 'But these all look like care home slippers' when, there they were: my destiny. Exactly like those in the picture above, they looked at me and said, 'Come on. You know you want to. We're not care-home slippers. We're cool. And how much longer can you go oof-oof on the kitchen tiles?'

Within days, I was a slave to them. Barely had I fallen inside the door at the end of the working day before I had tossed away my shoes, caring not where they landed, so I could nestle tired, I've-walked-down-forty-three-school-corridors-today feet into my size 7, fluffy black slippers.

The Anglo-Saxons, who couldn't be doing with boring nouns like 'slippers' and were very keen on using compound words called kennings in their poetry, would have called them foot-socks, or toe-houses, or feet-warmstorers or toe-cuddlers. (Any other ideas, followers?)

Alas, one cannot wear a pair of toe-cuddlers day in day out without having to face their demise at some point. I binned them at the end of January and have been waiting on the nice people at M & S to have my size in stock. I refuse to countenance any other sort. And on Saturday I can go to collect them.

Meanwhile, I've been back to oof-oofing on the kitchen tiles. I've tried wearing a pair of very thick socks but our steep stairs are wooden and slippery. As I still haven't watched a variety of classic films I need to catch up on, and I'd like to visit Dublin one day, and there are varieties of chocolate biscuits I haven't yet tried, I daren't risk mortal injury that way.

Saturday is going to be some moment, housing my toes once again. I may not leave the house for several weeks.

Fran really had been wearing those slippers for far too long. Time for the chiropodist to call.

STOP PRESS. See here for a distressing update on the slipper situation.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Evidence that sometimes three syllables are enough to be going on with

I found this snippet of writing in a notebook. I don't remember where I was when I wrote it or when. A writing class? It intrigued me, though, just playing on one word like this.

The word 'abandon'. Three syllables. Oh, if only it were that simple. And yet, within the word, there is the thing itself. Ah yes, it begins with the vowel, hanging there in the air as though it were benign and could do no damage. 

But then the 'b' - the 'ban' - the plosive threat of violence, of a door shutting, of isolation and the colour black. 

And the fall. The 'don'. It is all finished. The decision to leave you behind has been made. The last part of the word can be whispered by the guilty as a victory hiss, by those who depart, as they slide the bolts on all the doors, or turn the silver key in a lock. They take the 'don' with them. 

It is the centre of the word that remains, the part that hurts the most.

A bit depressing, though. Perhaps I was on one of those writing classes that pitches you in a mire of despair with exercises such as 'Write about the worst time in your whole damn life' or 'Describe a time when you felt like listening to Leonard Cohen'.

One day, when I retire perhaps, and have more time, I will do a similar riff on antidisestablishmentarianism.

Or maybe this Welsh town name ....

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Evidence that Fran would rather start a new blog than mark the rest of a pile of essays

Hey, for those of you who like to write, I've started a new blog on which I'll share writing tips, hints, exercises and the like, mixed in with the usual selection of (what I call) humour.

What inspired me to start the blog was finding a heap of papers and files, all to do with my years of English teaching and running creative writing classes, as well as all the notes from previous writing classes I used to attend years ago. What to do with all these?

Paper a room?
Make a whole fleet of paper aeroplanes?
Send them to recycling and take up an entire landfill site with metaphors and character descriptions?

Ergo - the new blog.  It's here. Write with Fran

Come and take a look. And let any writing friends know. They're welcome aboard.