Open Book Blog Hop (wb 16 November 2020)

In her Open Book Blog Hop, Stevie asks:

Has the pandemic affected your writing? If so, how? Have your writing habits changed in reaction to the ‘different’ world we are faced with?

Okay, it’s a tricky one this week, just because I’m not a writer. Not literature, anyway. So I’ll interpret the question as a more general regular activity rather than writing, specifically .

Actually, my regular activity is writing, but software rather than literature. And I ramped that down, just because there seemed to be more important things to be doing.

Over the last few years I’ve been doing some voluntary work. It is only calling people to chit-chat, but that human contact is important, especially when many of the clients are isolated anyway. At the start of lockdown, I said “if there is anything more I can do…” and my list doubled overnight!

Ostensibly, it was tangible things, “do you have enough food?”, but over time the intangible came to the fore, people’s mental health. Some people went crazy, while for others lockdown was no different to any other day. Please take a moment to let that sink in – some people are forced to live every day as though they are locked down. But while that is terrible, when lockdown did happen, these people already had their logistics sorted. Many people are still locked down (from February, they have never not been locked down) and I am still in contact with them.

So, there was one “regular activity” which got ramped up.

Another was blogging. Before, I posted 3-4 times per week, but I thought it was important to put out some kind of regular “heartbeat” message. Because when we post, whatever the subject, we’re also saying “I am OK”. It’s weird, because there’s nothing we can actually do if somebody isn’t OK, but we care anyway. I do, I’m sure you do, too.

So I started posting daily. I got involved with a few more prompts, which helped find something to write about. A lot of these were just links to a song or a photo, but I was posting daily. And, I tried my hand at fiction and poetry, because… why not? Between you and me, I’m really pleased with how the poetry has gone – absolute nonsense but I enjoy writing it, I find it easy, and people seem to like reading it.

So while I’m not so sure I’d measure volume, I’ve certainly found my scope has broadened.

Open Book Blog Hop (wb 9 November 2020)

In her Open Book Blog Hop, Stevie asks:

What would be the hardest thing for you to give up?

Okay, Stevie splits her response into a few different strands, so I shall do the same.

On one level, it is my meds. A couple of things with me were known many years before the stroke, but I certainly didn’t take them seriously and neither, I think, did my doctors. And then I had a stroke. I mean, during that “stroke” event, all the meds were overhauled, but also, I’m much more hands-on.

I think we, as patients, need to have a mindset that a doctor will be happy to advise us as best they can, but when all is said and done, they don’t really give a monkey’s. And that is how it must be – we have to be in charge of our own health. But the flip-side is that we can’t afford to think my doctor’s got me covered. Because they don’t.

Okay, more lightweight things. I use my computer pretty much all day, every day. Especially with the internet, it gives me that level of communication that I don’t have in real life – a lot of stroke survivors lead sedentary lives. The other thing, I worked all my life in programming computers, so I got back into that and it helped me get my brain back, sharpen myself up again. Things like actually using the computer have become harder, nuts and bolts like typing and reading the screen, but I get by.

I’m speaking from experience, here, too, because I did have to give up the computer for about six months after the stroke – my eyes weren’t good enough to see the screen properly. Fortunately that improved, although when I started back again I had to use a magnifying-glass program to see everything. Even now, I listen if I can and have worked out several ways of doing that.

So there’s another thing I wouldn’t like to give up.

Lastly, tea, because… who could?

Incidentally, one thing I managed to do with pretty much no problem was to give up the company of people, specifically during Lockdown. You might be surprised how little my day-to-day life has changed since last year. You might also be surprised how many people, particularly the elderly, this applies to. Okay, coming clean, I live with my wife, but she is all the company I need. The longer this goes on, the more I realise that my world is in my head – and in my computer!

Open Book Blog Hop (wb 2 November 2020)

In her Open Book Blog Hop, Stevie today asked another interesting question:

Is humour an important element in your stories? Do you ever laugh at something you’ve written?

I split myself into three here, driven by the three different types of writing that I have attempted.

  1. For straightforward prose, I just reflect my own personality. I’m quite like Stevie in this respect. If I can see a humorous angle to something, I’ll try to exploit that in telling the story.

Being serious for a moment, I think that one of the things that the stroke did was to leave very few subjects off the table as regards making fun – because ultimately, the only thing in our power is how we regard things. And I don’t think that’s particularly a personal thing – I bet anybody who ever had some kind of serious illness would say the same.

  1. In terms of the fiction that I have written so far, the characters are just in my image. The character might seek to exploit the humour in a situation, just like I might. But I’m not deliberately writing humourous situations for them. Having said that, as a reader I have loved authors like Douglas Adams, who could write such nonsense that, putting it all together, it was genius! I’m just left in awe of the wondrous place that guy’s head must have been.
  2. In terms of the poetry, absolutely. Simple as that. My aim in 99% of my poetry is just to raise a smile on the reader’s face. Okay, a bit of thinking has gone into that, though, as well. If the poetry is going to be funny, at the very least it has to be understandable,

which means,

I’m not just going

to add line-breaks

Here and There

To make my prose

Appear poetic.

Okay, all you poets out there will tell me that there is a darned site more to poetry than that, that I have misrepresented your craft. And I have. But that’s my point – I feel I have to write such that I am easy to understand. Maybe one day I’ll write something complex, but that doesn’t float my boat right now.

Open Book Blog Hop (wb 26 October 2020)

I wasn’t even aware of this prompt but I read it from somebody I started following, Stevie Turner, and it sounded interesting. It is called the Open Book Blog Hop, and reading Stevie’s post, it is a weekly thing.

The question which piqued my interest was:

Hallowe’en/Autumn is coming, do you celebrate? What does that look like? Is it different this year?

Okay, quickly… We (wife and I) do not celebrate anything, although we generally buy some nondescript bag of snack-size candy just in case we have visitors. We’re rural and it has never happened yet,so I generally have something to chew on through November. This year, we have a stock of facemasks instead.

As a boy, I used to celebrate hallowe’en. We would play duck-apple and bob-apple. It was never very exciting because, well, apples are boring. We used to carve turnip lanterns. I had no idea what a pumpkin was. At that time, they were not available in the shops. Besides, Bonfire Night, just a week later, was always a bigger deal.

As a parent, I was the so-and-so father who would not let my child take part in Trick or Treat. The notion that if somebody does not give you something nice, then you will do something nasty to them is… well, that’s what the highwaymen used to say, wasn’t it? That’s not the way you get through life. So this was not a value I wished to instill in my daughter.

This continued – every year she asked, every year I explained why I was refusing – until my daughter was old enough to ignore what I said.

I reckon most people just go out looking for candy, a bit of harmless fun, but for me, there is a principle involved. “Lighten up”, I hear you say. But actually, the idea is not a very nice one.

Again, though, we did celebrate Bonfire Night (5 November), and took my daughter to an organised firework display each year. Organised – I don’t think I ever bought a firework in my life.

Does that make me a slightly better person?

Oh, and thank you to P.J. MacLayne for allowing me to use their image.