Who will we blame now?
As we stand in our squares
Baying for our point of view
Now that an eye for an eye
Has been ticked off our list
So proud, so proud
And I can’t look my race
In the face
(On the orgasmic, jingoistic American reaction to the news that Osama Bin Laden had been assassinated.)
I don’t have an eReader. Well at least I didn’t think I did until ‘Doh!’ I looked at my iPhone and realised I could get iBooks on it. (I’m not always the sharpest tool in the box.)
Again, being a bit tight-fisted (so I didn’t bother to look) it took me a while to realise that some of the titles on iBooks are FREE (I told you I’m not always the sharpest tool etc., etc.)
So the other night I was having a browse (I just typed ‘Free’ into the search box) and a whole lot of stuff came up which was zero priced. 1200 in fact.
“This is great!” I thought and it was but some of it is of dubious interest or quality. But then what would you expect for free?
“The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci?” Well actually that is free.
Works from ‘The Bondage Ministry’ (don’t ask.)
“Short Erotic Tales”, not well reviewed at all.
“The Objective-C Programming Language”, quite niche I think.
Funnily, “How to find and download free ebooks” was priced at 99p.
I’ll tell you what I went for and no, it wasn’t “Sexy Teenage Vampires.”
It was “Scott’s Last Expedition Vol. 1″ & “South!” by Sir Ernest Shackleton.
I’ve been intrigued by these stories in the past but with the recent programmes on the BBC my interest was renewed.
So I was considering heading over to Amazon and buying a copy but when I got there Shackleton’s book was free on it’s kindle system. But as I don’t have a kindle I thought I’d look on my iPhone and … well you know the rest.
So I’m going to have a go with these ebooks and see how it goes. An iPhone is a great gadget but will I be able to read a whole book on it?
Honestly, I dunno. I like the idea of a physical book and all that goes with it. Physical page turning, physical bookmarks etc., I always reckoned that I would miss that.
But I guess holding the phone or perching it on the table can be physical enough.
And I suppose I could always drop some physical coffee on it as well.
This is what I came up with …
time looked back
know nothing like something
get things asked
I got paid this week. Yahoo!
So I decided to treat myself and go into Waterstones in Cambridge and buy some books.
They have a 3 for 2 offer on at the mo so I picked myself three books (you can see what I got on the sidebar.) I also bought Simon Armitage’s Selected Poems. Now this wasn’t on offer and cost me £9.99. The other books all had original prices of between £7.99 and £8.99.
I didn’t mind that. I like Simon’s work and I’d already got some bargains but it struck me that I’ve never seen poetry books on any offers in the High Street. (The one exception being Borders but they were closing down so it doesn’t count.)
But why is poetry priced at such a premium?
I’m sure that someone could come up with all sorts of costings as to why they charge at least £2 more for a book half the thickness. One being, I suppose, that they don’t sell many so they have to charge more to make a profit from the print run.
But then Amazon have all these books on offer so maybe it’s the cost of the shop space, leases, rates etc. But if that’s the case, how can they do 3 for 2 offers?
So I’m looking from the punters point of view. There ain’t no bargains to be had with poetry on the High Street, that’s my conclusion.
Seems a shame. They have book offers to encourage people to buy more books.
Poetry could do with that … and I might just save a couple of quid.
The Tomlit Blog has a short story competition. Entries need to be in by March 15th. so there’s still time. No cash prize I’m afraid but the winner gets their story published in Tomlit.
I think I’ll chance my arm. It doesn’t look like too many have entered just yet so the odds are good.
Mmm, in fact ignore this post. There’s nothing wrong with increasing ones chances are there?
I find the patterns of words it produces fascinating.
Let’s see what week 2 brings …
Ruth’s diary is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, called Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.
Ruth’s first entry is below, and you can continue reading tomorrow here.
These hands are ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded wings. And you can see her insides.
The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the world.
I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave, reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.
So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me? I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact, I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first diagnosis. What else? What else is there?
Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting wine. I have huge books all over my flat — books you have to take in both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours, concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake into dust.
Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been writing about — princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.
I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it through. No-one can say, ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful girl, had everything to live for,’ before adding that I did keep myself to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.
Well I forgot about this blog big time didn’t I?
What to do, what to do?
I could list a load of excuses but I won’t. I could whinge and whine about how I didn’t have the time but I won’t.
Time to carry on and not be another dead blog.
So, to it …
It was paper clipped together. No, not it, my masterpiece, my pride and joy. Well it was pretty good anyway. No it was good, or was it crap?
Whatever, it was paper clipped together, printed on one side of A4, double spaced with wide margins. Just the way they like. Bit of a waste of paper I thought but what the hell. Probably gives them plenty of space for doodling and writing shopping lists on.
I imagined reams of carefully typed cherished manuscripts being casually stuffed into pockets for the next trip to Sainsburys. Of rubbish bins overflowing outside Tescos with discarded potential Shakespeare’s. No, no. Best not to think of that. It’ll make me overwrought. Not that I’m not already. Clattering away on my laptop half the night, every night, for the last six weeks had done me in; and all the while the sounds of the tenant next door, humping his way through another 5 minute relationship, seeped through the walls.
A lot of people handed their work in on the last day. It was a general theory that the last ones on the pile got read first and the ones at the bottom were ignored through reading fatigue.
There again an opposing theory, Facebook was full of them, saying that the readers / markers had the memory of a goldfish and the last ones would register the most favour as they’d forgotten the earlier works and couldn’t face going back through them.
So that’s it. Whichever way more shopping list fodder.
I walked through the college on the way to literary destiny. It was mild, sunny and everyone seemed to be going my way. It’s strange, but have you ever been going to something important and it feels as if everyone is going there too? I had a wild notion that I’d get to my destination only to be confronted by hoards of people preventing me from achieving my goal.
Perhaps they’re all handing in papers today I mused. Where else could they possibly be going? This is the most important thing in the world to me today, this hour, this minute and this second. What else would you be doing?
I thought of ten thousand entries being handed in and found that un-nerving. Mine would be lost under a sea of paper. I bet they’d just pulp 99% of them and hope no one notices.
Images of countless bin bags awaiting collection filled my mind. I thrust them away. Begone foul demons!
Up the spiral, winding, rickety wooden steps of the old college building I strode. Strangely hurrying as if to dally would rob me of my chance. I’d been hanging around for ages afraid to hand the work in but suddenly it seemed imperative that it be done ASAP.
I neared the top of the landing. Not long now before I could release my work to the world, my baby, my prodigy, my pain in the bloody neck.
I needed to be rid of it. Yeah I love it, it’s my everything but I want it gone. I want my life back. Good or bad for better or worse this marriage is finally over. I divorce you. Get the hell out of my life!
The moment it drops on the small stack of entries I can move on. See people, go to the cinema, stare blankly at the TV. No longer should I be avoided, tip toed around because I’m the “… grumpy arse who thinks he’s a writer”.
I will be a human again. That is until the next time.
One of the administrators was stood in the room when I entered. He eyed me quizzically. If he was also a reader then he was the object that I would need to overcome to win lasting glory.
I gave him my best winning smile.
He gave me a look. One that said, “Well you’re just about to take a part of my life off me that I’ll never get back.”
Well prepare to be vanquished because I’m going to convert you and change your life forever!
I moved to deposit my blood, sweat and tears onto the entries desk.
“Wait! Is it worth reading?”
“Yes … Of course.” I said shyly, uncertainly. I never expected to have to speak to the decider of my future.
“Come on, come on. If you’re the writer and you’re not sure why should anyone bother?”
“Yes I think it’s worth reading.” (As you’ll find out you arrogant prat.)
“Hmm tell me, if the world was about to end and there was absolutely no chance that anyone would ever read it would you still put it on the pile?”
“Ah the voice of a true desperado. Go on then, put it with the rest.”
I did so and turned away almost fainting with relief. After a moments thought though I turned around and said with a clear voice:-
“No, not the voice of desperation. The voice of submission.”
hating the night
a black warrior
snuffing out the white knight