Welcome to my adventures and experiments in creativity. Where writing is like running: sometimes I know where I'm going, and sometimes I see where the mood takes me.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The Discerning Commuter (POEM)

The Route Of Choice For The Discerning Commuter

Pity the indignant dog
Patrolling a dusty concrete farmyard,
Stopping its yapping and fleeing the roadside,
As he makes his way past to beat the morning crush;
On the route of choice for the discerning commuter.

Bask in the contented dawn,
Habitat of the gregarious sheep,
Wince as it’s shattered and see the sheep scatter –
He makes his way past, giving the pedal more push;
On the route of choice for the ambitious commuter.

How brave, the unflinching horse!
Minding its business as the morning wakes,
The silver Audi zips by, inches away –
‘Paintwork meet hedgerow’, giving it a hefty brush;
On the route of choice for the impatient commuter.

Lying prone on the tarmac,
A darker side to the sunny morning:
A poor lifeless rabbit (somebody’s victim)
Barely glanced on his way past – too much of a rush;
On the route of choice for the over-stretched commuter.

No other cars, lanes are hushed,
Everyone else still home, starting the day.
Like his darling wife, unknowing of his strife…
He races along, thinking of what he keeps shush;
On the route of choice for the discerning commuter
Soon to be made redundant.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Not Angry, Just Disappointed (POEM)

Not Angry, Just Disappointed

(with this)
had it

Follow Me, Follow Me

Let it not be said that this blog does not aim to entertain, for here is a little game to play. Try and spot the connections between tweets I posted on Twitter this week, and new followers accrued in the same time period. First the tweets:

“A PHILISTINE SPEAKS! Or is he a Philistine? More on Bristol…”

“Catching up from last night - watching Michel Roux taste chilli made by Claudia Winkleman might be the funniest thing I've ever seen.”

“Good old Freesat red button - got the BBC F1 2010 review on for the third time tonight. The closing montage is a masterpiece. #bbcf1”

“Coarse by name, coarse by nature? New 'Fish 'n' Tips' in the angling world…”

And now the followers (all grammar and spelling inconsistencies are the property of the individuals named):

‘CrossFitBristol’ – Old school training with attitude. Kettlebells, Ropes, Indian Clubs and CrossFit. Real world fitness with no machines and no expensive contracts. Try us Free.

‘ClaudiaFanPage’ – Unofficial Claudia Winkleman Twitter page and website. A place to talk about your favourite presenter and Journalist. I am not Claudia Winkleman…

‘FreeSat_View’ – FreeSat or Freeview it’s a hard choice, try our Website for FREE information to help you make the decision.

‘FishKeep’ – Fishing tips, anglers photos, fishing venues, sea fishing, coarse fishing, fly fishing, carp fishing, rigs, knots, competitions.

You see? That was fun, wasn’t it? And very easy. Interestingly, I’m also followed by ‘SubbuteoEngland’, but there have been no tweets relating to Subbuteo (of that you can be sure!). That aside, none of this should be any sort of a surprise. After all, there is nothing to say that Twitter cannot or should not be used as a marketing tool; indeed, for the most part, that is what most people are on there for in one form or another. It raises a couple of interesting questions though.

First – just how feasible is it to connect with ‘real people’ through Twitter (especially without the aid of a network of friends and contacts on there who you also know in some other capacity; like, say, ‘real life’)?

Second – while there is no doubt that the Twitter accounts of various celebrities are followed by many thousands of aforementioned ‘real people’, just how many of their tens of thousands of followers are spam/marketing accounts? And does that say anything for perceived popularity over genuine popularity?

Some of that may sound like a man with few followers being rather jealous of people whose views are read by even a few hundred interested parties, but it is not the case. Well, not much… Call it ‘Twitter Existentialism’, if you will, but in terms of using the 140 characters format to promote work and/or creative output, it does beg the question as to whether energy would be better expended on ‘connecting’ with people through other (virtual) means and then backing that up with Twitter. After all, blog comments and e-mail allow a more expansive means of communication, and therefore the means to build some sort of relationship.

So maybe it’s time to start using Twitter a little less. If nothing else, this should at least mean I can enjoy TV programmes again, because in a desperate effort to try and ‘connect’ with like-minded individuals I have resorted to tweeting (excessively, on occasion) about the few shows I’m watching.

More seriously, my use of Twitter has already started changing slightly – in recent weeks it has started to resemble a kind of online notebook that other people happen to be able to read. Increasingly, tweets are less for the entertainment of others (no sniggering about how they’re not very entertaining anyway, thank you!), and more to serve as reminders of random occurrences and ideas that later act as inspiration for blog posts (or poems, in accordance with my current creative vogue).

The only alternative would be to go in the opposite direction and become a version of an annoying spam account, following anyone and (almost) everyone with a connection to my areas of interest in the desperate hope of lucking into some genuine, creative online relationships. What that would require, however, is ample time and appropriate fortitude in the face of repeated failure. Doesn’t sound like a recipe for success, does it?

Friday, 25 March 2011

Another Working Day (POEM)

Finally, as promised, my entry for the Buxton Poetry Competition:

Another Working Day

I wish they would fire me…
It’s 7.15am on the A323.
The road is already clogged, and my mind has been fogged ever since
I started finishing each day late – how many months ago? Maybe eight.
The DJ on the radio breakfast show says things I don’t hear,
to a bellow of laughter that drowns out all thought.
Sometimes I wish to murder such cheery folk, but I’d only get caught.

Ha! They’d fire me then!
Except I’d be in prison, of course,
when I should be in bed cuddling my wife,
and reading in the papers about the strife with which everyone else is dealing.
Deep inside me is a feeling – serious crime probably isn’t the way to go.
Or maybe it’s indigestion from low-caffeine tea and high fibre cereal,
while I stare at all the cars and long for something more ethereal.

I want them to set me free.
I want them to show me the door and say, “Don’t come back anymore.”
I need to lose the feeling of restraint – get the wind in my hair,
free from the taint of cheap coffee and even cheaper meal-deal lunch
(the checkout girls in Boots don’t even smile – thanks a bunch!)
that combats this bulge in my suit, with a ‘healthy’ sandwich and tasteless piece of fruit.

How can I get myself fired? Go to work one day high, or wired?
Daub graffiti on my boss Peter’s car? No no.
They’d say I hadn’t gone too far, only that I was tired and stressed:
“Go home and recuperate ‘til you’re back to your best.”
“I don’t want to come back!” would be my reply
(if I didn’t lack the balls to make the changes I’d like).
For good measure: “You can stick the job and go take a hike.”

Oh but I can dream, about leaving behind this team
of incompetent fools and the ignorant clients they make feel important.
Each and every day motivation and esteem plunge into the abyss.
I want no further part of this;
I am tired, depressed and bored, but cannot leave of my own accord.
Somebody – anybody – PLEASE set me free.
Why won’t they just fucking fire me?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Coarse Fishing

It is difficult to tell the following story without sounding like a ‘typical bloke’. I can offer no excuses, sadly, and so will have to plough on regardless, trusting to the fact that you believe in my fine, upstanding character… Anyway; while casting an indifferent eye across the shelves of WH Smith recently, my attention was caught – briefly – by a magazine cover featuring a scantily clad lady.

Now, before you jump to conclusions, let me point out that I wasn’t standing next to ‘those sort’ of magazines (and certainly not ‘the other sort’ either!). The magazines within whose vicinity I happened to be standing were fishing magazines, and so it was something of a surprise to see a woman wearing a bikini on the front of one of them.

It was even more of a surprise to see her proudly displaying a large fish. Presumably it was a warm day when she caught it, or maybe she stripped off especially in celebration. Either way, above this picture – and below the magazine title, which I failed to note mainly through shock – was the ‘tag-line’ of the publication:

“Putting a throb in your rod!”

For fear of being associated with such innuendo (says the man who has just consciously written the words, “proudly displaying a large fish”), I moved along quickly. The impact on my innocent and naïve mind was less easily disregarded, however, and the presence of such a magazine – in what is presumably a fairly staid ‘sector’ for the publishing industry – begged a number of obvious questions.

Is the past-time of angling desperate to attract a previously untapped market by utilising a ‘Max Power’-style of design? Or has a market been identified within the existing angling community that makes such a publication feasible? And whichever of those two is the case, just who is going to be ‘turned on’ (to sufficient degree to buy the magazine) by a half-dressed woman cradling a giant flatfish in her arms?

The mind boggles…

In an effort to be somewhat better informed prior to embarking on this particular topic, I looked up the magazine in question and discovered it to be called Fish ‘n’ Tips, which is an adequate pun if you make certain assumptions about the target audience of the cover design. This is the first issue, so it will be interesting to see whether the policy of photographing cover girls and fish together is sustained (at least, it would  be if I was going to buy it, but I’m not).

In the interests of balance – and I do recognise that my attempts to describe the situation in an amusing fashion could be construed as damning such an approach to magazine publishing – an internet forum thread regarding Fish ‘n’ Tips had a post by the editor (Mark Barrett) defending his creation against openly-sceptical (and in some cases, scathing) contributions from other forum members:

“We are doing things a bit differently from the rest, that’s true, and yes there will be some attractive ladies throughout the mag, but you would see more flesh on page three of The Sun. What we are about is quality writing and photography with the accent on fun and the enjoyment that fishing is to all of us. You won’t find an article in Fish N Tips that tells you how to tie the latest wonder rig for the umpteenth time. Instead what you will find is good stories, humour and the camaraderie that angling engenders. Angling is brilliant fun and it’s about time that this was represented within the angling media.”

To which I can only say: “Fair enough.” Because, in all honesty, I don’t have a particular opinion one way or the other – angling doesn’t interest me, and if there are people out there who do want to read the magazine then good luck to all concerned. As someone who writes with aspirations of ‘success’, there is no reason to question an attempt to provide quality material on a particular subject. At the same time though, it does seem … unfortunate … that a need is felt for that content to be accompanied by pictures like “a half-dressed woman cradling a giant flatfish in her arms”, apparently without irony.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

The Fiftieth Blog Post Fifty-Blog-Posts Round-Up

And so ‘The Repository … 2’ reaches its half-century, raises its bat to the pavilion, and looks forward to remaining at the crease a little while longer, hoping to set in against a sustained spell of intense bowling pressure (yes, yes, I know the metaphor falls down spectacularly at that point, but perhaps best if we don’t make too much fuss about it).

For any new readers (the stats suggest people all over the world are reading this little website! Given how the internet works, the site address is probably just going through some servers or automated searches, but it’s still nice to think someone in Vietnam has found something of interest here), or those who’ve been here from the start and missed a few, I’ve tried to summarise the first 49 posts under various headings so you can read anything you might feel your soul will be hollow without.

Enjoy! And feel free to say hello in a comment (in whatever language you like).


Books / Reading / Creativity


The Pointlessness Of Recruitment Agents

Pub Quizzes



Michel Roux / Masterchef / Cooking



Video Collections

Crispy Duck Won Ton (POEM)

Following the disappointing ‘Aloo Gobhi Affair’ on Thursday evening, my better half and I went out for a meal on Friday in an effort to remember what proper cooking tastes like. We both had Crispy Duck Won Ton to start, and I couldn’t resist playing around with the words a bit. The following hasn’t gone through extensive revision or re-writing (indeed, there are probably many more similar sounding words I could have played with), but as an exercise in trying out something a little different, I think it works reasonably well.

Poetry competition update – the entry was sent off yesterday, so it’s just a case of waiting until June now to see if anything comes of it. I’ll post the finished poem at the start of the coming week.

Crispy Duck Won Ton

What weighs more?
One ton of feathers
Or one ton of crispy duck won ton?
One hopes one would not say
That one ton of won ton weighs
More than one ton of feathers,
But a wanton disregard
For the laws of physics
May result in such an outcome.

What, then, are your thoughts
On Chinese food?
What does one want or not want?
One does not want wan ton,
Though the wan ton
Does not want for flavour.
Wanting won ton in winter
Can ease the wait for spring (rolls),
But may well be disappointing to some.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Portmanteau Of A Pastiche (POEM)

So the poetic odyssey continues its first faltering steps, this time with a 46-line effort, split into two verses (or is it stanzas? I forget my GSCE English education!), with each and every line containing seven syllables. Not sure at this stage whether plucking such an arbitrary figure out of thin air was a hindrance or not, or even what a good reason for it might be, but hopefully the effort is comic enough. Or vaguely readable at the very least.

This quest to write poetic verse is either semi-serious or semi-joking, depending upon what mood I find my brain to be in. Whenever I become too conscious of what I am doing, or simply want a laugh, I picture myself becoming some sort of 18th century Lord Byron-type figure. However unlikely that might be - and it is extremely unlikely - two simple truths exist: (1) I am not someone who ever seemed cut out for such non-prose endeavours, and (2) if this should become 100% serious at some point in the future, and it turns out that maybe I am cut out for such things, I ain't half going to have a tough time trying to convince a majority of people I know!

Portmanteau Of A Pastiche

Allow me to set the scene:
In a rustic country pub
on the … um … bleak, windy moor,
where cliché piles on cliché
and a fierce open fire
welcomes drinkers old and new,
two upstanding gentlemen
take a table every week
to do the Sunday pub quiz.
The very definition
of regular pub-goers,
like the last entrenched stalwarts
of a Wild West trading post
(one has a most impressive
full-grown, bushy white moustache).
In-keeping with that image,
and in warm-up for the quiz,
they pit their wits against each
other in a friendly but
competitive game of crib.
The name they’ve given to this
fusion of mental rigour?
Why, ‘quib night’, of course; what else?

But this is a sorry tale,
of bad luck in table choice
and windows simply aging.
A creaky old latch might fail
at any time, day or night,
caused by lack of maintenance.
Paucity of funds, maybe,
because the brewery have
raised the high rent yet again.
This, though, a splendid free house
and favourite of CAMRA,
must have different reasons.
Whatever those reasons are,
on one particular night
a window latch did fail by
the table of our quibbers,
letting in the lashing rain
and flooding their cribbage board.
Morose it made these elders,
with pints of Cornish Doom Bar
in their aged-but-sturdy grasp,
and the quib night did become
a very damp squib indeed.

If This Blog Still Exists In 150 Years Time...

Today has seen the completion of Nick Hornby’s The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, a book mentioned in this post a couple of weeks ago. In all honesty, I don’t have a lot to add to that post, even now I’ve read all 274 pages. It was certainly an entertaining read, and the intention to note the books Hornby talked about that piqued my own interest has been a miserable failure; I spent more time looking out for books I’d already read to see what Hornby made of them (there weren’t many).

Ordinarily, the fact that very few of the books or authors were familiar would have been a source of some disappointment, making me feel that however much I love books, I love the ‘wrong ones’. After all, if I’m not reading what a popular and successful author likes reading, just what on earth is it that I am reading?

However, the superb introduction to The Complete Polysyllabic Spree ensured this wasn’t the case, and given that the book now has to go back to the library, I wanted to record some select extracts of that introduction:

“My solution was to try to choose books I knew I would like. I’m not sure this idea is as blindingly obvious as it seems. We often read books that we think we ought to read, or that we think we ought to have read, or that other people think we should read (I’m always coming across people who have a mental list, sometimes even an actual, list of the books they think they should have read by the time they turn forty, fifty or dead)…”

“It has proved surprisingly easy to eliminate boredom from my reading life.”

“One of the problems, it seems to me, is that we have got it into our heads that books should be hard work, and that unless they’re hard work, they’re not doing us any good.”

“If reading books is to survive as a leisure activity – and there are statistics which show that this is by no means assured – then we have to promote the joys of reading, rather than the (dubious) benefits. I would never attempt to dissuade anyone from reading a book. But please, if you’re reading a book that’s killing you, put it down and read something else…”

“Dickens is Literary now, of course, because the books are old. But his work has survived not because he makes you think, but because he makes you feel, and he makes you laugh, and you need to know what is going to happen to his characters.”

“And please, please stop patronising those who are reading a book – The Da Vinci Code, maybe – because they are enjoying it. For a start, none of us knows what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing. I don’t mean we should all be reading chick-lit or thrillers (although if that’s what you want to read, it’s fine by me, because here’s something else no one will ever tell you: if you don’t read the classics, or the novel that won this year’s Booker Prize, then nothing bad will happen to you; more importantly, nothing good will happen to you if you do); I simply mean that turning pages should not be like walking through thick mud.”

Taking all that into account, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree might be the one of the most important books I ever read.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Cookery Lesson

Tonight’s tea was Aloo Gobhi, taken from Jamie Oliver’s Jamie’s Ministry Of Food, an excellent recipe book with lots of different food ideas that literally anybody should be able to cook. Unfortunately, the outcome was not quite as good as hoped for, though I take full responsibility. The lesson to be taken from this blog post is that sometimes – just sometimes – it is possible to miss out too many ingredients from a recipe.

The recipe as written
1 medium onion
2-3 fresh green chillies
thumb-sized piece of fresh root ginger
small bunch of fresh coriander
half a cauliflower
500g potatoes
groundnut or vegetable oil
knob of butter
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
salt and pepper
1 lemon

Ingredients as used
1 medium onion
half a cauliflower
500g potatoes
vegetable oil
knob of butter
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 level teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper

Looking at it like that, it’s not hard to understand why it was all rather tasteless!

There ends the lesson.

Scratch It Lucky

In June 2004, my then-employers arranged a competition for predictions of which two teams would contest the final of the European Football Championships. Despite normally having a soft spot for ‘the underdog’, on this occasion I sensed an opportunity. After all, the ‘big teams’ always prevail in these tournaments, don’t they? I roused the curiosity of a few otherwise disinterested colleagues by promising a sure-fire method of securing victory, and thus an equal split of the prize pot.

Over a lunchtime burger we picked out eight teams we felt had the best chance of winning the tournament and proceeded to create enough entries to cover the eventuality of each of those teams facing all the others in the final. Job done, we sat back, watched the tournament unfold and … well, Greece kept winning matches.

Needless to say, nobody had pinpointed Greece as a potential force in European football. There was no need to panic though; as the semi-final line-ups were confirmed, three of the four remaining teams were part of our predictions, and as long as the Czech Republic made the final we were certain of the winnings. There was no way Greece’s run would continue.

Was there?

Only once during the entire tournament did the Greeks score more than one goal in a game, but still they won their first title in international football while I cursed that ‘the underdog’ had actually succeeded on the one occasion I hoped they wouldn’t. For all the preparation that went into producing an almost foolproof system, I’d been defeated in comprehensive fashion. It was the most bitter of ironies, as well as, some might argue, a fine illustration of the futility of gambling.

Futile because ‘luck’, like ‘time’, is one of those wonderfully existential concepts that are so difficult to pin down and explain. Everybody knows that “gambling is for fools”, but we still do it because we read stories like that of the man who knows nothing about horse racing, but places £2 on a six-race accumulator and wins £1.4 million. Lucky git! Tried it myself once but soon failed when the day’s races stopped featuring Frankie Dettori. Not that a lack of knowledge hindered the other guy…

It saddens me when the dreams and aspirations of so many people are centred on winning the lottery, but that is the way of the world and I am every bit as guilty. I haven’t purchased a lottery ticket for a long time, but I do buy a scratchcard every now and again. Not many, it should be said, not least because there seems to be an ever-dwindling selection of cards that ‘only’ cost £1 (compared to the majority that cost £2, or even £5).

Generally, I’ve tried to buy them on days when my mood has been bright; when I’ve felt lucky, so to speak. It can’t say much for the quality of my luck (or maybe it does, in fact, say everything about the very premise of luck itself) that on those days I have won precisely nothing. The other day, however, I was feeling grouchy – irritable and more than a little fed-up, so as an ironic experiment I decided to buy a scratchcard. If I win nothing on the days I think I might have a chance, what will happen on a day when I feel like nothing more than a mere toy the Gods play with for their sport?

As it happens… Lo and behold, I won! Sure, the winnings amounted only to reclaiming the £1 spent on the card in the first place, but it was still a win.

“Yep, there’s a pound on that,” said the girl at the National Lottery counter, offering a disproportionately low level of congratulation compared to my euphoric sense of victory. I’d already decided what to do with the winnings, but the girl had clearly seen a lot of similar people in her time working at WH Smith and immediately asked, “Are you buying another?”

“Seems a bit futile if I don’t,” I replied, feeling a hot flush of shame as the claws of gambling sank into my soul that little bit further. Needless to say, the second card held only the sour taste of disappointment (in fact, I might as well have tried actually eating it to see if it possessed a literal sour taste). Perhaps I should have saved the pound for a day when I felt really depressed. Most telling, as the girl processed the winning card through the cash register, an item description flashed up on the checkout display.

‘WINNING CARD DUMMY’ it read. I don’t know why it said that, or what it meant, so I took it as the machine simply telling me something I already knew and made my way back to the office for the afternoon.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

On Stage (POEM)

The competition entry is finished!

I think.

No doubt I could keep finding things to change, but there comes a point where you have to settle on it, and the only query I had about the competition – whether it is okay to include swearing – has been clarified (the answer was, essentially, “Swear away!” – which also made me chuckle a great deal). I’ll post my effort in a couple of days when it’s been submitted, so for now here’s a silly little piece I came up with this afternoon:

On Stage

I hate reading
Out loud
Before a crowd,
Expectations exceeding

The performance
Of which
I am capable of delivering,
And that soon turns into a rambling mess
From which there is no escape so I finish by looking like
A fool.

The Moment In Which The Blog Found Its Purpose

On the basis of having written a poem in the last seven days, I have decided to become a poet.

For financial (and probably many other) reasons, ‘part-time poet’ would be a better description, but that doesn’t sound very impressive. And anyway, in the unlikely event that I one day have an anthology published, it would be nice to say that ‘poet’ was my ambition from the start. You don’t hear many people who do the thing they love most for a living saying they only ever intended to do it when they weren’t watching repeats of Catchphrase on Challenge TV.

The one respect in which ‘part-time poet’ would be an accurate description is that I don’t really consider myself a likely poet, and so don’t rate my chances of success very highly. Nor do I particularly like or understand poetry, unless it is of the humorous and irreverent variety (a few rhymes help, too), so it is hardly as though I am aiming to do “the thing I love most”.

But, to use the motto of Top Gear – ‘How hard can it be?’

(Quite hard, presumably. The beauty of asking ‘how hard can it be?’ is that it implies an element of complacency, thereby ensuring a redemptive conclusion when success is finally achieved. Or, in the event of failure, new-found respect for those who do make it look easy.)

Unintentionally, this goal has already been injected with an element of challenge and deadline. It was less than ten days ago that I picked up the promotional card for a poetry competition, the deadline for which is April 1st. The competition has been open since about October last year, so I am very much a horse coming from some distance back with less than a furlong to race (or a metaphor to that effect). How exciting!

“But you have written the poem!” I can hear you cry. “You said so yourself in the first sentence.”

Yes, I have written a poem for the competition. Sadly, one important thing I failed to do was read the rules properly, and my poem is 25% too big (in terms of number of lines). This might easily be remedied by combining shorter lines into one, and less easily by rewriting it completely. Such are the challenges faced by an artist, or so one once told me.

When the competition entry has received a little more work, I will post it for the purposes of enjoyment/amusement…

Monday, 14 March 2011

Earning A Crust

Last week, the BBC started broadcasting a series called The Great British Food Revival, featuring various cooking-related celebrities ‘championing’ foodstuffs that are in danger of becoming forgotten. First up was Michel Roux Jr, a man previously described on this blog as “the most watchable chef on television”, talking about bread. None of the arguments he made were difficult to agree with – mass produced white loaves are, after all, strange gluey representations of bread that possess nothing like the real quality of a fresh, homemade example.

Where the programme fell down – and where the normally mercurial and expansive MRJ started to appear merely human compared to his inspirational best – was in the unwillingness to recognise that certain realities mean the proliferation of artisan bakers on “every street corner” is never going to be a reality outside of the most affluent parts of London (and maybe some other cities).

Tellingly, even a man representing the mass-produced bread industry didn’t try and defend the quality of the product. “For better or worse, British bread is the cheapest in Europe,” he said (which is no sort of defence for anything), having already made the startling observation that, “the British consumer is the British consumer.” As veiled insults go, that was a good one – ‘they don’t mind eating crap, so that’s what we make for them’.

This angered MRJ, evidenced by him sounding slightly deflated and maintaining a stern expression that little bit longer than normal, so he went to the kitchen set up for the series and promptly made a fresh white loaf. It did look good, and led to the gratifying sight of a Michelin-starred chef eating plain old bread and butter on national television. That should cheer us, the serfs, even if nothing else does.

Everybody else MRJ met throughout the course of the half hour turned out to be as “PASSIONATE” as Michel, which was clearly good for him but got a bit tiresome for the viewer to hear after a while. The final interviewee was a man who set himself up selling fresh bread a year or so ago and doesn’t seem to have lost money from the enterprise yet. As he set about baking a fresh batch of loaves, all to be sold at £3.50 a piece, MRJ cooed that “the time and effort is worth every penny” in comparison to a mass produced loaf.

There was no doubting the art and craft going into the baking process, and it was nice to know the guy sells out every day, but there is no way I could afford to pay that much for every loaf I eat, and that is certainly true for many other people. The reasoning behind the programme was laudable, but watching a man driving a brand new Land Rover and lecturing that we should deliberately increase our shopping bills in order to send a message that we want better, seemed more than a little at odds with the economic realities most of us have to deal with.

Not that I’m completely against ‘supporting my local baker’. I don’t normally shop there, but starting this week I’ll try and visit Gregg’s more often…

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Review Of The Week

Or: Yet More Existential Quandaries To Ponder

First things first: anyone expecting a traditional ‘look back at the news’ style review, full of incisive opinion and witty comment, has come to the wrong place. If you are any sort of a regular reader of this blog (and I know that’s not many of you), incisive opinion and witty comment is the last thing you should expect anyway. Maybe one day…(!). Being serious momentarily, it goes without saying that the continuing events in Japan – a country for which I have a significant soft spot – are terrible to behold, and my heart genuinely goes out to the people there. But that is not the purpose of this post.

This week has been a tiring week. Actually, scratch that – it has been a tired week. Nothing out of the ordinary has occurred, but the effects of six weeks of this blog’s existence (is that all it’s been…?) seem finally to have caught up with me. Upon bringing ‘The Repository Of Fruitless Work 2’ into the digital world, I never believed the inspiration or motivation would be so forthcoming; and yet, 44 days later, this is the 40th  post. Nearly a post a day. That is insane! Since when did I have so much to say?

(The question of ‘what’ and ‘how good is anything’ I have said can be addressed another time. What do you mean you’d like to know when?)

The desire to post frequently – and the mental machinations of enjoying doing so at the same time as trying not to let it become a ‘I MUST POST EVERY DAY!’ challenge – has had an interesting impact on the way I use my time. Already in 2011, even before choosing to embark on TROFW2, I had elected to record the books I read as part of a seemingly superficial ‘Decade of Reading’ exercise (blogged about here, and referred to again here; the latter is especially relevant).

The unintended consequence of that alone was feeling the need to read as much as humanly possible in order to either (a) justify starting the exercise in the first place, or (b) look really good and very literate by devouring books at a rate of knots. (At this stage, doing it ‘because I like books’ is simply a given). For the first eight or nine weeks, therefore, the reading list documented at least one book a week – no mean feat with several 500-page Lee Child novels and a hefty Stephen King work involved.

Combined with trying to find time to write blog posts (mainly during evenings after work where I wasn’t seeing my better half or, indeed, pretty much anyone or anything other than a computer screen), my routine has been stretched to the limit. Despite still getting up at 5.45am every day, many many nights have seen bedtime pushed out to 11.30pm, midnight, or – occasionally, when a book has been really engrossing – even later. And then there’s been the matter of finding time to do some exercise as well…

Somehow, for four or five weeks, this routine seemed perpetuating. Since last weekend, however, my body has firmly rejected further attempts to sustain it. The writing has survived – just – though the quality control monitor has perhaps fogged over a little. On the other hand, the reading has suffered badly. Nick Hornby’s The Complete Polysyllabic Spree was started on Monday evening but not looked at again until Friday.

Friday was the oasis of the week – an engagement in the morning, but then a day of relaxing at a friend’s house ploughing through the pages that had gone untouched for the previous three days. It felt good, but it is impractical to expect a day like that every week. Hell, once a month is good fortune!

The Hornby book includes short extracts of a few of the books he reviews, and one particular line from one particular extract caught my eye (albeit slightly shorn of context, as its principle subject matter is how to become a ‘civilised person’. If, however, you want to argue the two contexts are actually quite similar, that is fine by me).

From a letter, then, written by Anton Chekov:

“What you must do is work unceasingly, day and night, read constantly, study, exercise willpower … Every hour is precious …”

Attempting to balance ‘quality’ reading and writing is an eternal dilemma. Any advice ever written for aspiring writers mentions the need to read, both for inspiration and education. This is fine for someone like Stephen King, whose daily quota of written words is finished before lunchtime, but for the rest of us trying to do a day job and run a house (and that’s just me – there are people with far more demanding situations), simply reading or producing something is an achievement in itself. How do we then achieve anything ‘significant’ or ‘substantial’ with the work we do produce? How do we translate that to ‘getting noticed’, or even simply engaging with people who may want to read it but don’t know it yet?

Some bigger writing projects – those requiring a little time and thought, but which may ultimately result in nothing of great significance – can’t get a look in at present. Part of me fears that devoting too much time to them will see the inspiration for regular blogging suffer, and at a time when I am shamelessly using Twitter to try and accrue a small-but-dedicated band of regular readers, that sounds like a price not worth paying.

This essay (I can’t think of a better description for it) has also been inspired by another blog I’ve been reading called ‘The Clear-Minded Creative’. Milo, the author, has proved to be a friendly and approachable guy, which has resulted in some interesting and considered responses to questions I’ve put to him. He recently wrote on the subject of finding time for everything …

… something he would probably have less of a problem with if it weren’t for the likes of me writing long e-mails and comments to him! The matter of identifying ‘a way forward’ and focussing on something is an interesting one. Suffice to say there are a few ideas floating around my head, but finding the time to investigate and act upon them is going to prove difficult. Maybe I shouldn’t run before I can walk. Equally, however, my previously published articles (all two of them!) make me wonder what the ultimate purpose of ‘The Repository 2’ is. Does it need one? Do I need to be writing more stuff that I want to try and get published?

Perhaps that is something to deal with another time. When I have the time…