Waiting for Godots

Waiting for Godots

What do authors do when they send manuscripts to agents or presses? They have several choices. For example, they can listen to the sound of silence. Listen carefully to the paining above. What does it say to you? Absolutely nothing. Quite. It doesn’t communicate. It’s the sound of silence.

Another choice, they can read and re-read Beckett’s Waiting for Godot. Alas, in this case there are many Godots out there and all of them are super-busy gazing at their navels – and I don’t mean oranges. Some indulge in the wonderful world of “Mirror, mirror, on the wall…” and we all know what the answer is to that question. And we know what happened to Narcissus when he saw himself in the river water. Or have we forgotten? Our failure to share cultures is also a sound of silence – two solitudes, gazing at each other, neither one having anything in common with the other one, except maybe the weather. And we can’t always agree on that.

A third choice, they can climb into their dustbins, Queen’s English for garbage cans, and stand there waiting for someone to put the lid on so they can go back to sleep. Allusion / elusion – you don’t know what I am talking about? Well, maybe we are living in two separate solitudes. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least.

A fourth choice, they can take up painting, and scribbling, and drawing, and doing all sorts of things. But, if the phone rings and you don’t recognize the number – don’t pick up the phone. It’s probably a fraudulent scam call. And if you don’t know the e-mail address, put it in Spam and then block it. It’s probably some bot from another country trying to trap you into giving them your bank account details and signing your savings away. Whoever it is or they are , I doubt if it’s an agent or an editor!

Broken Laws and Broken Rules

Broken Laws and Broken Rules

Rugby Football is a wonderful game. It has laws, not rules, and yes, like almost every rugby player I have known, I have broken the laws, and got away with it. How? Stepping off-side, handling the ball in the ruck (old laws), blocking and obstructing ‘accidentally on purpose’. I asked one of my instructors on a national coaching coach whether we should be coaching school age players to play outside the laws. His reply was most instructive. “The laws – there’s what the law book says, what the referee is calling on the day, and what you can get away with. You get away with what you can.” He was a national level coach – so much for the laws of rugby.

There is a difference between the rule of law, specific laws, and rules. Life in various boarding schools, twelve years, from age six to eighteen, taught me that rules were made to be broken. No talking after lights out. Whisper away – just don’t let yourself be heard by the prefects or monitors listening outside the dormitory door. No hands in trouser pockets. So – stick them in your coat pockets. No smoking – well I didn’t smoke, never have. But I know many who did but very few who got caught. No talking in prep – so I taught myself and a couple of friends basic sign language – the alphabet mainly. You may not place butter on your bread – so put the butter on the bread and turn it upside down when you eat. And no, that wasn’t me. No reading in the dormitory after lights out – so, go to the toilet, with a book in your pajamas and sit there and read Lady Chatterley’s Lover for as long as you want. You may only wear ties of a quiet color. So, wear a V-neck sweater and make sure the nude lady on your quietly colored tie cannot be seen by the masters. It is forbidden to enter a public house. So, sit outside in the garden. It is forbidden to drink beer. So, order some cider – it was the West Country, after all. And remember that rules, especially school rules, are often asinine, ie -stupid, like an ass – and made to be broken.

“The law is an ass is a derisive expression said when the the rigid application of the letter of the law is seen to be contrary to common sense.” Well, that is quite explicit, as is this – “This proverbial expression is of English origin and the ass being referred to here is the English colloquial name for a donkey, not the American ‘ass’, which we will leave behind us at this point. Donkeys have a somewhat unjustified reputation for obstinance and stupidity that has given us the adjective ‘asinine’. It is the stupidly rigid application of the law that this phrase calls into question.” Both quotes come from the following site – and I am indebted to the writers thereof – https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/the-law-is-an-ass.html

It is well worthwhile to remember, not just the law, but the spirit of the law. I can honestly say that I have never broken a law or a rule in such a way as to cause someone else to get hurt, physically or emotionally. Play up, play up, and play life’s game – ludum ludite – I have always done so – and always have I stayed within the spirit of rule or law.

Shoes and Socks

Old Roman Road
Puerto de Pico
Ruta de la Plata
Avila

Shoes and Sox

So, I am in anti-prompt mode this morning. Why should I tell you about my shoes when I want to talk about my socks? They are so closely associated anyway and you can’t have one without the other – well, you most certainly can, but it’s never quite the same thing.

So, I was walking the Camino de Santiago / the Road to St. James, back in the day, just being a Pilgrim and making a quick Pilgrim’s Progress, while on the bus, but a much slower one when I decided to get off the bus, put on my shoes, and walk. No, I didn’t have hiking or walking boots, just a very comfortable pair of sneakers and a very thick pair of socks.

I left the hotel early and set out, on foot, from Leon to Astorga. The sun shone. The heat rose up from the tarmac. I sought the shade from the poplar trees that lined the road and rapidly realized how popular they are for the long-distance walker. And I sweated. I carried my pilgrim possessions in an Army and Navy Stores backpack. It didn’t weight much, but it grew heavier as the day went on. I had expected to meet people along the way, but I didn’t. No other pilgrims. A farmer – I asked him if this was the road – and he said yes. A ragged looking priest from a small roadside chapel who invited me to spend the night. Two dogs that ran down the hill and barked at me and then ran back up again.

By the time I got to Hospital de Orbigo, just down the road from Puente de Orbigo, I was tired. I went into the first hotel I found, asked for a room, and got one. The owner gave me a funny look and let me find my own way to a room, very isolated, at the end of a long corridor. When I got there, I decided to have a shower, and took my clothes off, starting with my shoes. As I took my shoes off, it hit me – and it was a combination of week old kippers, soaked in the Bishop’s Gaiters, and anointed with long-past-it raw milk / lait cru Camembert. My sox had the pox.

I stripped off, left my socks on, and paddled in the shower. It did no good at all. I put shampoo in the toilet bowl, stood in the bowl, stamped up and down as if I were trampling out the vintage where the grapes of wrath were indeed stored – it did no good at all. I flushed the toilet multiple times and still those poxy sox refused to release their ripeness. I took them off, laid them out to dry, to see if that would help, and went down to the bar for supper and a brandy (or two).

When I came back to my room, inspiration struck. I whistled- as if calling my dog. The sox got up of their own accord and – I kid you not – walked towards me. I opened the garbage bag and pointed to it, and the sox walked right in. I tied the bag up with a plastic tie, added two more plastic bags outside the first one, went happily to sleep, got up next morning, and walked to the bus stop, abandoning my socks in their safety blanket for the hotel owner to find.

Moral of the story – if you want to get to your destination, don’t get off the bus until your journey ends.

Car Wash

Car Wash

“What do you do with a dirty car, dear Liza?”
“You wash it, dear Henry.”
“Where do I wash it, Dear Liza?”
“In a car wash, dear Henry.”

So, off I went to the car wash. I chose a warm day, the sun was shining, and the car wash was packed. The line-up went twice around the yard and I could see other cars circling, their drivers looking anxious. I came home – the car unwashed. The next day it was the same. The day after, a working day, I got up early, had a cup of coffee and was at the car wash before 9:00 am, only to find a large sign announcing Sorry – Car Wash Closed. I came home again.

This morning, I again got up early, drove into town, went to the gas station, and stopped at a pump. I didn’t want to get gas if I couldn’t get a car wash – reciprocal points and all that – so I went into the office and asked if the car wash was working. It was. I filled up with gas, went in to pay, and ordered a car wash. A triumph – or was it?

I drove round to the car wash entrance and typed in my code. The light turned green, the door lifted up, and I drove slowly in. No undercoat wash to greet me. No lights came on. The door didn’t close behind me. The mechanical octopus didn’t wave its arms in the direction of my car. I drove out, backwards, the way I had come in, and tried again. Nothing.

I typed in the code once more only to get the Illegal Code sign. I pressed the button on the Intercom, A young lady answered and said she’d be right out and out she came. She looked at the machine, the open door, the lack of lights and told me she’d find somebody to fix it. And she did.

A minute or two later, the man who had first served me, re-appeared. He asked me a quick couple of questions, then walked bravely into the car wash. He tapped the door. Inspected the octopus, double checked the screen, then went to a large switch board at the back of the car wash. He fiddled around, pressed some buttons, the light came on – and so did the water – soaking him from top to bottom. He flicked another switch and the water stopped.

He told me to wait while he got me a new code. Then he punched it in for me. The lights came on, I drove in, everything happened the way it was meant to, and I drove out through the hot air blower with a nice clean car. As I came out, a rather soggy car wash attendant waved at me. I smiled and waved back. then I drove home – my car as good as new and me safe and warm inside.

My Favourite Candies

My Favorite Candies

I searched for the blog prompt, but I couldn’t find it. Not by name and I don’t remember the number, nor do I know how to search for it. So – here I am, on the sea shore, stranded, looking for something I may never find. Yet an echo of it has found me.

I googled ‘candy’ to find out what it meant because when I think ‘candy’ I think of Candy Floss, that long, thinly-spun web of sticky pink sweetness sold at the fairgrounds and the ice-cream stalls of my childhood beaches, back in Gower. Barred and banned it was, and seen as a source of cavities and visits to those much-to-be-feared, brutal, ex-Armed Forces dentists who terrified our childhood while working in those days in the NHS.

Candies, in my Olde English language, were called sweets. In post-war Britain, where rationing was the unwelcome rule, sweets were rare, for they cost us coupons, and were therefore, very, very precious. In those days, my grandfather had many friends and his friends were priceless. On Saturday mornings he would take me to Swansea Market, the one that had been bombed during the war. It had been rebuilt but, in those days, remained roofless. There he would work a shift at Green’s Sweet Stall while someone took a break – and I helped him. We would take the orders, count and weigh the sweets, take the cash, count it, check it, place it in the till, and hand over the correct change along with small, white paper packets that contained the hand-made sweets.

We received no money for this pleasurable work. However, when our duty was done, I would be given my choice of hard-boiled sweets. My favourites were those red and white striped sweets, called winter warmers, laden with the lusty tang of cloves that lingered long in the mouth. We held competitions to see who could make their sweet last longest. And woe betide the losers who cracked them, or swallowed them whole, for they were mocked and forced to watch, minute by minute, the lucky ones whose sweets dwindled on and on, shown off, paper thin, on tongue tip, for all to see.

But better than any candies were the Cockle Women in their tall black hats and red Welsh shawls who came all the way from Penclawdd on Saturdays with their baskets of cockles and their buckets of laverbread – bara lawr – at thruppence a pound. Laverbread – Welsh Caviar, Richard Burton used to call it, a delicacy to be savoured for breakfast or lunch and sweeter to the enthusiast and devotee than any candied sweets, even winter warmers.

Digging the Snow

Digging the Snow

I have had a snow blower for some time now. It means that I don’t have to dig the snow. I just get the machine to blow it. But what if the blower doesn’t work?

This winter the local radio station has been filled with stories about snow blowers breaking down, snow blowers catching on fire, snow blowers not starting, snow blowers breaking their shearing pins. All of this has been caused by the weight of the snow, its depth, the compilation of snow on snow, ice pellets on snow, icy rain on snow.

The other day, I went out to blow the snow. It was so heavy that I likened it to wet quick sands on the beach. I could hardly get the blower out of the garage. When I did, I couldn’t move it, forwards or backwards, without enormous effort. I sat on the back of my car and cried. Here is the related post https://rogermoorepoet.com/2023/01/18/luminescence/

For many people of my age, and younger, this is heart attack time. Blowing snow, digging snow, clearing snow, shoveling snow. I know the song – “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.” But who clears it? Who digs it? Do you dig that snow? Hey, man, dig that snow. Cool, eh? Chill, man, chill.

So where did the snowman go? To the hospital with a heart attack? Who knows? But one thing I do know: digging snow has become one of the things that I fear. And why shouldn’t I? I am at that age when things happen. And here’s what I mean – https://rogermoorepoet.com/2023/02/10/and-if-we-fall/

No. I don’t want to become a fatality on the statistics page. I don’t want to ‘fall to rise no more, as many others have done before’ – a tribute to Over the hills and far away, that one. So, let it snow, yes. But not too much and let us avoid that bleak mid-winter when ‘snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow on snow’. Christmas Card whiteness I can take – but not the chest wracking heave of heavy snow, weighing my shovel down, puling me down, burying me.

Parents

Parents

Today’s prompt – what were my parents doing at my age? Well, actually, they were both dead. We aren’t meant to mention death anymore, so let me say ‘they had passed’. Loads of cliches of course – pushing up the daisies – moved into higher society – or lower but I hope not – deceased – demised – expired (like my driver’s license) – extinct (like the Dodo) – passed on – recycled – enough – no more – it’s not as sweet now as it was before – nor do I like any potential answer when I look in the mirror and wonder – who am I? – What am I? Where am I going? Am I next?

My father being an excellent rugby player – on the wing – in the old days – I can imagine him running, and kicking and chasing – but I can’t imagine him passing. Or setting up a maul or a ruck. Dear Lord – times have changed – and the laws of rugby have changed – and the rules of etiquette have changed – and political correctness has put dark hands upon our throats and choked us -let us not contemplate the myth of freedom of speech – but consider the endless stupidity of senseless questions that changeth not and abide with all of us, on radio and tv and in the newspapers – all day and everyday.

Here’s anther prompt – Where have all the young men gone? Depends on which song you listen to – emigrated – gone down the mines – gone west – gone AWOL – gone astray – gone to graveyards, everyone. But will we – or they – ever learn – blydi hel – a good Welsh expression – I doubt it.

So – I ask myself – what are my parents doing today? – and the answer is – I really do not know. I would like to think they are happy – happy in the knowledge that they did their best for me – happy to know that I am still here – ar gwaetha pawb a phopeth rh’y n’i yma o hyd – I hope I spelled that right – I have seen several versions – and yes – in spite of everything, I am still here – I am well – and I would like to tell them that I love them – and I would like to thank them for all they did right – and forgive them for anything they did wrong – and yes, I loved them so much – and still do – and I miss them – and blydi hel – now you’ve got me crying.

I Can’t Complain!

I can’t complain!

Why not? Everybody else does.

Sun Absence Depression – People complain about the absence of the sun – and so do I. Five sun appearances between early December and the end of January. A sun glimpse, so to speak, pale coin between clouds, a sudden shadow that appears on the wall and vanishes before you can catch it. Do these count? Sun glimpses, mind you, and even less sunny days.

Snow, Sleet, Ice Pellets, Freezing Rain – Take your choice. The snow itself isn’t too bad. The snow blower takes care of that. But not when it rains on top of the snow, then freezes. Not when ice pellets weight it down and make it the consistency of wet sand on a wintry beach. My neighbor broke his snow blower trying to shift the mess. I was willing to risk the snow blower, but not my health. I couldn’t even get the blower out of the garage and into the mess that masqueraded as snow. I sat on the back bumper of the car, huffed and puffed, and decided not to risk it. And as for the freezing rain – my beloved had to put crampons on her shoes to be able to walk the ice and take the garbage to the end of the drive. As for blowing the ice that had fallen on the snow – the snow blower grunted, and groaned and complained as it slipped and slid all around – and so did I.

Rejection – Dejection – “Paper your walls with rejections.” Well, I won’t do that as we have just had the walls repainted. That said, when I checked my progress files this morning, out of 95 submissions, 93 had been rejected. Does the 2% make up for the 98%? Well, 5 more rejections and I’ll let you know.

Inflation – Gas. Luxury foods. Alcohol. You name, it and I will complain about it. And if I don’t, every day I go out shopping I see and hear someone complaining about the rising cost of just about everything out there. Being on a more or less fixed pension doesn’t help much either. Luckily, we don’t have to make choices yet, like some pensioners, and working people, are doing in the Untied Kingdom [sick]. Eat or heat? Food or medicine? Dog food or cat food? They have been staples for pensioners in the UK for a long, long time. Cheap and nourishing, though prices are rising, and taste disguised in a nice curry sauce. I kid you not.

Top Ten – well, I guess I could go on and on. But I won’t. Four reasons to cry are enough. Today, the sun is shining (positive). The overnight temperature was -25C / -13F, but it’s rising in the sunshine -15C / +5F as I type (positive), and I don’t have to go out in the cold (very positive), and I don’t have to snow blow today (very, very positive). So, may we all walk on the sunny side of life, find a silver lining to each and every cloud, and carry on regardless. It’s better than the alternative.

A book is a book is a book

A book is a book is a book

“If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.” Oscar Wilde

A good friend of mine once told me that her creative writing writing prof in the MFA program told the class: “We are not writers. We are re-writers.” Our mission in life, then, is not just to rewrite, but to think and to revise. The art of writing lies in analysis, research, thought, and thinking carefully about (a) what we are about to write and (b) what we have just written. As a great Spanish writer once said “I write as I speak and when writing I count my syllables.”

So can the same principle be applied to reading? In my undergraduate poetry courses, one of my wiser profs announced that “It is better to read one poem a hundred times, than a hundred poems once.” Is re-reading better than reading? Good question. But it is what I call a swimming pool question: it has shallow ends and deep ends. Joke – it depends, you see, upon the quality of the material one is reading. For example, does a single reading of the Bible suffice? I read it through, page by page, when I was twelve years old. Was that it? No, I still return to it – the good book – from time to time, selecting, remembering, checking, looking for comfort, advice, or sometimes, pure joy in the sound of the language – King James version, of course.

What other books have I read and re-read? Lazarillo de Tormes, Don Quixote, The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The first book in the Harry Potter series – it reminded me of elements of my own childhood, especially the cupboard under the stairs. Been there, done that, got the tee shirt. The Wind in the Willows, Gongora’s Polifemo, Quevedo’s Metaphysical Poems and his Cycle to Lisi. Octavio Paz’s Sunstone / Piedra de Sol, Lorca’s Romancero Gitano, his Poet in New York, and his plays. Platero y yo. Charlotte’s Web. Several of Shakespeare’s plays, including McBeth, Henry V, King Lear, and a couple more. Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and Stalky and Co. Mary Gentle’s Golden Witchbreed. Robert Bly’s Morning Poems, Iron John, The Sibling Society. Unamuno’s The Tragic Sense of Life and his Niebla. Enough, no more. It is not as sweet now as it was before. And there are so many more to which I have returned, again and again.

So, think about all the time wasted on trivial books, books that remained unfinished, books that have never been opened. One person’s vegetarian or vegan’s fare is a carnivore’s poison [sick]. Sometimes a book mirrors our thoughts. Sometimes it challenges us to rethink our lives and our philosophies. Sometimes it comforts us or takes us back into our childhood. And sometimes it just bores us and we cannot finish it.

A rose is a rose is a rose. A book is a book is a book. Or is it? We are not readers – we are re-readers. And if we aren’t, we ought to be. Think about that. Carefully.

Looking at the Stars

Looking at the Stars

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”  Oscar Wilde

Another beautiful quote from Oscar Wilde. I look at the world around me and I see two different spheres – the celestial one where, on a clear night, Orion patrols the winter skies, his faithful dog star at his heels. These are nights of great beauty, fields where mythical animals wander their ways, clothed in sparking suits of light.

Then I open the newspapers, read the news, and wonder what we are all up to. Up to? Down to, rather, for I have that sneaking feeling that so many of us are indeed lying in the gutter, somewhere, thrown out of a moving car, and abandoned, like some dead deer in a roadside ditch. Everywhere, the news is dark and dreary – wars, rumors of war, shootings, beatings, corruption, lies – or terminological inexactitudes, as Winston Churchill called them, the word ‘lies’ not being permitted in the Mother of Parliaments.

The Mother of Parliaments, indeed. And what a non-sensical mess that has become. To repeat the litanies of nonsense spouted in the English Parliament nowadays, I hesitate to call it ‘the British Parliament’, is to risk rusting and ruining my computer keyboard with the salt tears I shed.

So many of them, then, literally lying- the word has multiple meanings – in the gutter. So many of us dragged down with them. But, each night, when the skies are clear and the clouds move away, I find myself, once again, looking up at the stars. Per ardua ad astra – through hardship to the stars.

Breathe deep – keep the faith and believe.