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

Break

Landscape with the Fall of Icarus, c.1555 (oil on canvas) after Bruegel, Pieter the Elder (Musees Royaux des Beaux-Arts de Belgique, Brussels)

A temporary post to let regular readers know I shall be offline for a little while — but not to worry! I shall return in due course with, hopefully, further goodies. Like Icarus in Pieter Bruegel’s painting my disappearance will hardly be noticed in the general scheme of things — but, unlike Icarus, I hope to swim back to the land of blogging. The odd post has been scheduled for my absence, but don’t be surprised if you don’t get any immediate feedback to your responses …

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Blogs I follow (5)

Fireworks [credit: Jon Sullivan, Public Domain]

We come now to the final instalment of my miniseries Blogs I follow, where you lovely people — fellow bloggers and visitors — get a view of what gets my attention on WordPress. This post represents a miscellany of weblog thingies that don’t fit either comfortably or conveniently into those categories I’ve previously examined, namely creative, book reviews, and bookish matters. So without further ado let’s jump in, with the usual caveat that there’s no ranking implied in the order they appear.

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Blogs I follow (4)

Library card catalogues (credit: http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-a-card-catalog.htm)

We come now to the fourth (but unfortunately not the final) instalment in the Blogs I follow mini-series. Here is where I list the last few of the sixtyish WordPress sites with a literary focus that I’ve kept a watching brief on. Previous posts have featured creative blogs (both image and word-based) and those that concentrate primarily on book reviews. This post looks at blogs with a bookish bent (some reviews but mostly writing and authors), while those of a more miscellaneous nature (lifestyle, travel, philosophy … you get the drift) I’ll leave for a final instalment.

Again, these are mostly in random order, though I do separate active blogs from those which only post intermittently or may be classed as zombie blogs (still ‘live’ but to all intents and purposes ‘dead’) — though some I prefer to think of as sleeping beauties, waiting to be woken.

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Blogs I follow (3)

Books wot i should (re)read

This, the third in my series about, well, Blogs that I follow, features book review blogs — given that Calmgrove is mostly about reviewing books. Here is where I list those WordPress sites that mostly discuss books and things bookish. I follow some blogs that review books occasionally, but I shall pop them all in another post just to make these jottings manageable. (And perhaps also — whisper it — to drag this series out a bit.)

As before, these appear in no particular order and therefore no ranking of any kind is implied.

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Blogs I follow (2)

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/75/Jigsaw.svg

All shapes and sizes. (In a manner of speaking.) That’s how the blogs I follow appear to me. So here’s where I give a shout out to some of the creative ones, those that attracted me when I was regularly updating Calmgrove’s sister blogs, MyNewShy and Zenrinji. Here you will see the counterparts of these two sites, one dedicated to images and the other to fiction and poetry. (The following blogs appear in no particular order, by the way. To view, just click on the link.)

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Blogs I follow (1)

How many blogs do you follow? Exactly how many followed blogs is too many to manage?

I ask this because I’ve been following around sixty sites for a while now. I’ll be talking about why I follow these particular ones in due course, but just for now I’ll mention, first, how much I share the obsessiveness that comes about from pretty much all social media these days: the feeling that I’ll be missing something if I don’t check up regularly. The backlog when I miss a day or two gets pretty unmanageable.

This is compounded by the knowledge of how bereft I personally feel when I’ve put my all (as it were) into a post, only to have a minimal response. How much then must others also feel when there is little or no feedback for their efforts, either in the form of written comments or, at the very least, ‘likes’? Surely my little verbal input or click on a ‘like’ button will make all the difference? Won’t it?

So keeping abreast of followed sites requires a degree of commitment on my part, ideally daily. How to square this voluntary commitment with life’s other tasks? At least I’m ‘retired’ (whatever that means; I still put in some work, mostly unpaid) but how do most people fit in their day job with parenting and/or grandparenting, household tasks and socialising? And that’s apart from quality time with a loved one, not forgetting hobbies, exercise or time spent online? In fact how did I actually fit it all in when I was in regular work? My memories of time-management are fragmenting already…

Anyway, it’s the summer holidays. Commitments such as accompanying for choirs and for instrumental exams are temporarily in abeyance, and Phase III of home DIY and decorating is almost at an end (Phase IV can go whistle for now). I can now get back down to those things I feel a touch of guilt about (like that alpha reading of a first draft that I stalled on several chapters in, sorry Lynn) while racking up my book reading and reviewing quotas.

Oh, and giving more attention to those five dozen blogs.


I promised to write about what blogs I follow and why. As those cheesy TV serials of the mid 20th century said, “Tune in again, same time, same channel!” for more!

Halfway

I’ve arrived at another checkpoint in my 2017 reading challenge set by My Reader’s Block blogger Bev, the Mount TBR Challenge. You may remember that this involves reducing the mountain of unread books produced by tsundoku. My task was to achieve the summit of Mont Blanc, that is, to read 24 books from my to-be-read pile. That meant I had to have consumed twelve books by the end of June. Did I achieve this waymarked total?

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High five

WordPress have just informed me that it has been five years since I began this blog by registering it. Back in 2012 I had no real ambitions other than to post a few reviews and hopefully engage with a few likeminded bloggers. Now, in 2017, that remains the core ambition. I have nothing to sell, only ideas to share; I aim to receive no remuneration except informative dialogue and virtual friendship.

I’d like to thank all current followers of Calmgrove for remaining active and for sharing thoughts and adding ‘likes’ where appropriate. I myself follow sixty-odd blogs, not on a follow4follow basis but because they have interesting things to say or wonderfully crafted visual and wordy creations to share. If I am sometimes remiss in engaging it’s because of time and opportunity, not because I’m dismissive of your inspiring efforts.

I promised to rejuvenate my photoblog MyNewShy and my creating writing outlet Zenrinji — all that is ongoing and will emerge in due course — but for the moment I’m focusing on this literary blog, attempting a sensible regular schedule. I don’t intend to stop reading, so there’s every chance I shall be still here in five years’ time doing what I set out to do in a rather more optimistic era: exploring the world of ideas through books. I hope you’ll continue to join me in that exploration!

Sister blogs

I’d like to give a quick shout out for Calmgrove’s two sister blogs. MyNewShy is a photoblog, while Zenrinji has a mix of micropoetry and flash fiction, humour and seriousness.

I am planning revamps of both blogs in the next little while, both in appearance and in frequency of posts (which have been rather irregular in recent months) though not much in content.

Do feel free to visit these sites and look through the archives, but fear not — the chief virtue of the posts are their brevity. I’ll leave verbosity to Calmgrove.

Chain mail

knight

Chain mail (noun) 1. a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh. 2. (also chain letter) letter intended to be copied and passed on to as many recipients as possible.

Just as with the knight in the image above there will be no links to the first definition of chain mail (he’s wearing plate armour, you’ll note). There will instead be a short discussion about a particular kind of chain correspondence: blogging awards.

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Twelve of the Best

calendar

New Year’s Eve: the traditional time for a review of the past year. Let me not here break with that tradition but instead put a bit of a spin on it, melding statistics and selectivity. I’m going to look back at the twelve most popular posts (1) by month in terms of the amount of likes and (2) by comments. Each measure is, I suppose, an indication of popularity, one in terms of attraction and the other in terms of interaction. Not very scientific perhaps, given that anyone can ‘like’ a post without having to read it and — remembering I try to acknowledge each observation with a response of my own — that half of the comments are likely to be by me. Still, there’s half a chance that readers may find some of these spurious statistics as interesting as I do.

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Post-truth: alive and well

grotesque
Romanesque grotesque on font, Brecon Cathedral

It’s time, whether you like it or not, for some more superfluous post-truth arse-licking material (better known by its initials) to be analysed and then despatched down the refuse chute. First up is in the category of irrelevant statements.

I decided to have some shared funds to diversify my cash.

Yeah, like anyone cares, Anonymous Person. Unless of course I click on your link … and then my cash may well be diversified to somewhere I can’t access or even trace.

Flattery will get you nowhere
Some posters try the oleaginous, unctuous approach, occasionally in a language that’s other than broken English.

Hi, all is going nicely here and of course every one is sharing facts, that’s genuinely excellent, keep up writing.

The truth is, everyone is sharing lies, not facts, and that’s not genuinely excellent. But I’m glad for the observation that all is going nicely here.

I am honestly grateful towards this site who has provided this passage that is wonderful at here’s proprietor.

Aw, sweet. I do like a statement that suggests I can trust the speaker. As with the politician who answers an interviewer’s question with, “Well, to be honest …” Of course, we were always hoping you as a politician would say something approaching the truth.

I could not refrain from commenting. Well written!

Thanks. But honestly, I wish you really had refrained.

Me a encantado el articulo, un saludo.

Hola! to you too. And your point is … ?

Good posts, beautiful blog. Congratulations.
Welcome to see my creations …

I was nearly convinced there. Until you invited me up to see your etchings.

Pointless
Now some questions that require no answers, but I honestly couldn’t refrain from commenting:

Fantastic post, however, I was wanting to know if you could write a little more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Kudos!

Ah, you’d like me to write a little bit more? There, is that enough?

And here’s a couple of questions that obviously originate from one and the same source:

1. This post is worth everyone’s focus. When can I find more out?

2. This post may be everyone’s that is worth consideration. When could I find more out?

Well, dummy, you can find out more when you bother to read the article in the first place.

You can’t beat combo
Last in the current batch of superfluous post-truth arse-licking material is what must be the ideal comment: one that combines irrelevancy, flattery and pointless questions. Here is a recent contender.

Have you ever considered about adding a little bit more than just your articles? I mean, what you say is important and everything. But think about if you added some great visuals or videos to give your posts more “pop”! Your content is excellent but with pics and videos, this website could undeniably be one of the very best in its field. Fantastic blog!

Undeniably your comment is one of the very best in its field, and what is says is important and everything. Sadly, all it’s missing is a bit more pop. Anyway, my friend, you could try reading the actual content of my blog first, maybe try the words? Welcome to my creations.

• WARNING The grammar police have gone through these unsolicited messages with a fine-toothed comb. However some mistakes have slipped through the net for the purposes of establishing authenticity

Choices

mirepoix labyrinth

Once I got the germ of an idea regarding this post I found myself umming and ahing about the title, ironic since it’s about post titles. Well it’ll be a mystery to me for much longer than it will be for you because — the gods willing — that’ll be the first thing you see, while I will be scratching my head until the remaining hairs fall out of their own accord.

Do you have problems deciding your title? Or does it come to you in a flash? Maybe the title comes first and you fit the content to it? Or perhaps you don’t bother with one at all, rebel that you may be? Here’s a little discourse on how I approach the issue, and I’ll be pleased to hear about your own modus operandi regarding these tricksy things.

Post titles function in the same way as book titles, don’t they. They may inform: this often applies to review blogs which give the book title and even helpfully add the word ‘review’; with photo blogs they may tell us what in the picture (sometimes in more than one language). They may intrigue with offbeat phrases or witty puns or challenging statements that stop you in your tracks. They may quote from the huge stock left us by literary giants, politicians or philosophers; preferably Shakespeare or the Bible but anything portentous will do. Best of all they will tap into a current meme to capitalise on public curiosity and the efficiency of search engines.

Continue reading “Choices”