Five fowl vignettes

Image: WordPress Free Photo Library

1. A foul fowl

Our son came to visit us at our former Welsh farmhouse, at a time when we kept hens and a cockerel. We were out at the time, but when we returned he told us how entertained he’d been by a particular hen we’d recently acquired: she’d been strutting around on her own, as was her habit, ejaculating what sounded like a sneezed obscenity at intervals, and that had had him in stitches. Oh, we said, that’ll be Fuckit!

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Blogging and lockdown

Blogging for me (and maybe for you too) has been a saving grace for the last year and especially during lockdowns. Much social media has been awash with political indignation, pandemic worries and personal tragedies, but having an outlet focused on books has been one positive thing to look forward to and think about, largely because it is so concerned with creativity.

Having a book blogging community has therefore been a real boon, else it would have been calling into a void with only one’s own echoes coming back. I’m so grateful, thank you all, and I hope I have been able to perform a similar service back to all of you.

But I also know that fatigue can hit, as some of you have been posting, all while we individually try to cope with sustained levels of anxiety and stress caused by outside factors. And some of you have indicated that you’ve needed to take a break from a demanding schedule of writing and posting. I think I may be approaching that point.

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The Walrus said

Andrew Morton Books, Lion Yard, Brecon

‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said,
To talk of many things…

But mostly books

We all know how this year has gone — what can I usefully add to what has already been said, and experienced, and suffered by so many? — so let me here consider positive things, like reading and stuff.

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Somewhere to go

Those lovely bloggers at Reenchantment of the World, Ola and Piotrek, were recently gifted the Real Neat Blog Award because, I’m guessing, their site is regarded as real neat (which it is). As part of these types of blogging awards one is often required to answer a series of questions, which Piotrek and Ola in tandem duly did here.

You may know that I eschew such exercises if ever I am nominated, sometimes because an additional requirement is to nominate more bloggers in a kind of virtual pyramid scheme, other times because the questions just don’t appeal, but mostly because I prefer to generate posts from a stimulus I myself have chosen.

But just occasionally, regardless of whether I’ve actually been nominated, something indefinable about the questionnaire does appeal, and that was the case here.

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The Inside and Out Book Tag

I borrowed this tag from Bookforager — who borrowed it from other bloggers — who had no idea where it came from — so that’s the accreditation done.

I’m not a habitual tag-user on this blog — many tags, especially those ubiquitous blogging ‘awards’, seem designed to elicit the kind of private details (name of pet, favourite place) that fraudsters seek to ferret out — so I only introduce such Q&A posts sparingly, and only when I like the tone of the questions.

As here, in which the prompts are all book-related. And, even better, there are only eight questions, substantially less than on a tax form…

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Little things

© Christopher Lovegrove https://minutiae.photo.blog

Mighty oaks from little acorns grow, they say. Minutiae aims to start small but to then to branch out over time. Do please follow its progress, starting today, 1st January 2020: all photos mine except where stated.

While MyNewShy will still be live I shan’t be posting further photos there (it’s 99% full at the last count)—but the mix will be much the same!

May I wish you the very best for 2020, and may it bring us what we want for the world and what it needs

Fancy free

Many of you may be aware of Zenrinji, a blog where fancy flows freely, lubricated by creative juices.

Posts on this site may be intermittent but the upside is that the micropoetry and flash fiction featured are mercifully short, illumined by images which may or may not be relevant.

Recent posts include responses to micropoems on Twitter (such are Web chat, Uni-verse and Summer chills).

There are also parodies, as with Twisted Rhymes, satirical rants (The Joker), fables (Strong Competition and The Hyena and the Wolf) and drolleries (as in the recent Cutting a long story short).

And, if you look hard, you may also spot some more serious pieces. Nothing with great literary merit, though, so no need to feel intimidated: just push open the gate and roam freely.

Bibliovore

The briefest of brief updates, but first — an apology.

I’m sorry to be behind in reading and commenting on others’ blogs — mainly for good reasons, but I hate to neglect writers and artists I follow: in a week or three I hope I may have started to catch up. The reasons?

  1. It’s the summer.
  2. It’s the Go-Away-I’m-Reading state of mind.
  3. I have grandparent duties.
  4. I’m trying — and mostly failing — to complete the titles in my official 20 Books of Summer list before the start of September.
  5. I’m mostly on Twitter doing a The Wolves of Willoughby Chase readalong called #WilloughbyReads.
  6. I’m reading. Mostly titles not on my 20 Books of Summer list.
  7. I’m composing posts for another blog and for an event in … autumn.

Anything else? Oh yes, I’m scrolling through past reviews to repost because I’m too busy to compose new ones.

I think that just about covers it. Sorry.

Seven Year Hitch

Image WordPress Free Media Library photo

This month, April 2019, sees seven years of the Calmgrove blog since I hitched it to WordPress (although I’ve since reposted revisions of some of those early posts and deleted others).

Now, it was a score or so of years ago that I started hearing more and more about weblogs appearing online. My first instinct had been to think it ridiculous for people to put out personal diaries into the ether: whoever would want to read about the lives of random strangers?

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Blog jam

Occasionally I like to post about Calmgrove‘s sister blogs, for those readers who may have forgotten (if they were ever aware of) their existence.

First up is Zenrinji, a blog devoted to flash fiction and — increasingly — micropoems and short-form poetry. The virtues of Zenrinji are that the posts are generally, well, short and that they are accompanied by pretty pictures.

Zenrinji is derived from the Japanese meaning something like The Temple of the Calm Grove, so you can guess one of the reasons I chose it.

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Poetry matters

I’m not a poetry kind of guy. I don’t curl up with a book of verses to lose myself, or quote passages to fellow aficionados. Poetry I find over-stimulating in a way that’s different from prose. For me the discipline is like solving cryptic crosswords or puzzling out brain teasers: it requires effort from what seems a specific part of the brain and, to be honest, I’m quite lazy.

Not that I’m poetically bankrupt. I appreciate a good turn of phrase, a mind-blowing metaphor, a piquant simile or log-jams of alliteration. I use them — you may have noticed — all the time in posts. It’s just that to put all that into a bag marked Poetry is somehow … just not my bag. It may be to do with it seeming pretentious. Or possibly trite. It could be that I’m put off with all the white space around carefully formatted stanzas. And certainly volumes of verse epics strike me as expeditionary excursions to be avoided.

Thus I’m embarrassed to say that I find myself to be conflicted, even compromised. Because, my dear readers, I write poetry.

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Wales Readathon announcement

Many of you will know that I reside in Wales, and have done so for well over a dozen years — fourteen in fact. My association with this small country goes back a lot further than that, however. In fact, some more of you will know that I was involved with an archaeological excavation on a Welsh Dark Age site for nigh on three decades, from initial investigation to final report; and that I’ve been researching what is arguably Wales’ premier figure of legend, King Arthur, for more than half a century, along with some of the associated literature and folklore.

Although not born and bred Welsh, then, I feel a great affinity with this part of the world. So I was quite excited to find that fellow blogger Paula Bardell-Hedley from North Wales was planning, under the hashtag #dewithon19, a Wales Readathon for March 2019. As she explains, “The people of Wales celebrate St David’s Day annually on 1st March – the date of our patron saint’s death in 589 CE. In honour of this traditional anniversary, and also in recognition of the time of year when daffodils (the national flower of Wales) explode into bloom, we will hold the very first Dewithon – Dewi being the diminutive form of the Welsh name Dafydd (David).”

What does this Readathon involve?

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Pendragonry?

The very phrase “King Arthur” — perhaps with the addition of “and his knights of the Round Table” — is enough to get many people excited, be they romantics, conspiracy theorists or sceptical historians. Many of you may know about my longtime interest in matters Arthuriana (which you may have noticed in the section Arthuriana in the pop-down menu of this blog) and will have spotted the occasional review of fiction or non-fiction with an Arthurian theme.

For some months I’ve been thinking about republishing various essays I’ve written for magazines many decades past, the result of which is the debut of a new WP blog called Pendragonry. Why Pendragonry? Easy choice: ‘pen’ for writing, ‘dragon’ for fantastical, ‘Pendragon’ because I was sometime editor of the journal of the Pendragon Society and ‘-ry’ because this emphasises the European dimension of Arthurian history and legend (as in boulangerie, charcuterie, papeterie or librairie).

Intrigued? Want to know more? Do go have a look at this newly started blog where I hope to post maybe every ten days or so, and feel free to comment, criticise or croon over the opinions expressed there! https://pendragonry.wordpress.com/

Winterlude

In case you were wondering I’ve not gone away.

(Of course, you may not have noticed.)

Life has been a bit hectic. If I ever was in any doubt, being retired is no holiday — not if I want to live a little. Well, live a lot.

In no particular order, here are some of the things I’ve been involved in over the last few weeks.

1. Playing the keyboard part in a Haydn Mass for a Sunday service in a local medieval church. (PS: it boasts a hollow yew tree said to be two millennia old.)
2. Accompanying the local choral society for rehearsals, leading to a concert in Brecon Cathedral where I sang in the tenor section. (This featured the Mass in D by Dvorak, Haydn’s Te Deum and choruses from Handel’s Israel in Egypt.)
3. Attending Cardiff Philharmonic Orchestra rehearsals, playing the piano part, and performing in two concerts. (Film music by John Williams — 85 this year — was the theme, including items from The Cowboys, Warhorse, Jurassic Park: The Lost World and E.T., plus selections from Episodes IV, V and VII of Star Wars.)
4. Accompanying a student performing for the opening of a Confucius Classroom in a local school. (The goal of this UCL Institute of Education initiative is to help local schools to start or strengthen the teaching of Chinese language and culture.)
5. Accompanying students for instrumental exams. (Cello, violin and euphonium, since you ask.)
6. Conducting the local choral society performing a capella carols around the town. (And if it wasn’t for a recent heavy dump of snow which led to cancellation, I’d’ve today been singing with another choir a concert of Advent music by Praetorius,  Gabrieli and other contemporaries, all accompanied by sackbuts and a cornett.)
7. Not all activities have been musical: I’ve been clearing a wild patch of ground of vegetation and rubbish so we can do something with it in the coming year, and we’ve attended a couple of events in Hay Festival’s Winter Weekend. (Hay-on-Wye is one of the globe’s Town of Books, running a famous literary festival every summer.)

There we have it: a busy few weeks which has precluded much blogging. I can’t guarantee there’ll be much literary blogging this side of Christmas, or anything but random following of fellow bloggers’ posts.

But I’ll try. 🙂

Hibernation ends

This is a brief shout-out for Zenrinji, a sister blog dedicated to short form creative writing. This includes examples of haiku and senryu (Japanese micropoetry that partly inspired the name of the blog), limericks and doggerel of various kinds; and also so-called flash fiction, which features short stories of varied length but mostly under about 200 words, along with choice quotes and maybe even the occasional piquant observation!

Zenrinji has been brought out of a summer hibernation (just in time for the winter months, as it happens) but I aim to be less ambitious than when I started it: a haiku a day was the original description, but that discipline soon fell by the wayside.

Background to the blog can be found here https://zenrinji.wordpress.com/about/ but feel free to comment, positively or otherwise; that way I won’t feel I’m broadcasting out into the farthest reaches of space as my personal contribution to the CETI project.*


* Communication with extraterrestrial intelligence