The UK is having a general election this coming Thursday – 7th May and I’m slightly ashamed (but only slightly) to say that I couldn’t care less. I’ve decided that I won’t be wasting my shoe leather trotting down to the polling station. This is a first for me, as up until this year, I’d always considered voting to be a duty – as well as a hard-earned (by previous generations) democratic right. But the truth is, I’m so sick of the negative campaigning and the smug attitudes of all the politicians involved. Coupled with the fact that I don’t like most of their manifestos and I don’t believe any of their promises. Plus the “first past the post” system that exists here in the UK, basically means that unless I vote for one of the main parties (for my area/constituency) my vote is to all intents and purposes “wasted”.
This poem and cartoon almost changed my mind – maybe next time.
For all of you that are in the UK, I hope the election doesn’t spoil your weekend.
Study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose
Last November I read an interesting article that pointed at some research, which I’m glad to say indicated that science is finally catching up with the stuff that we poets (I include myself loosely and some might say, ‘self-indulgently’ in that category) all know already. Because I’m not one for long wordy posts and because I appreciate you have better things to do, I can summarise what scientists have discovered about reading poetry as follows:
So there you have it, everything you already knew officially recognised and endorsed by scientific research.
If you are a science geek and want to read the research findings in more depth, you can find them by clicking the following link (NB – you will have to pay for the full paper): By Heart An fMRI Study of Brain Activation by Poetry and Prose Authors: Zeman, Adam; Milton, F.; Smith, A.; Rylance, R.Source: Journal of Consciousness Studies, Volume 20, Numbers 9-10, 2013, pp. 132-158(27)
Or for a less sciencey, much shorter and easier to digest set of words – go here to an art.mic article : Science Shows Something Surprising About What Reading Poetry Does to Your Brain
Or better yet click HERE grab yourself some first class poetry and read that 🙂 You’d also get a bonus warm fuzzy feeling – gleaned from the knowledge that you’re also supporting charity. Now that’s a win, win, win in my book.
I took this photo a couple of years ago, during an Easter egg hunt. As part of this organised event, there was a kids’ competition – to see if they could spot a number of teddies hidden in different locations and solve a puzzle. I snapped this one, as it just looked so surreal and proof that the number 13 is indeed unlucky for some. With his head bowed forward in this way, it also seemed that the poor little mite had topped himself.
Lo and behold my mind has finally digested the image and churned out this parody. Hip hip hooray! Now I’d best go and take my medication and get back to me padded cell, before the men in white coats get physical. TTFN & have a good weekend.
I’ve been offline for a few months now and my SPAM-Filter is well and truly clogged. These buggers really do keep coming thick & fast don’t they? I’m not normally one to repeat myself. I’m not normally one to repeat myself. Quite an echo in here today…today…today. But since my last post about SPAM comments I just couldn’t resist another salvo of retortiveness. Yes it’s a real word, one I’ve just made up I grant you, but a real word nonetheless. One worthy of it’s place in any dictionary, but especially the DV dictionary of b*ll*cks phrases. To respond to utter garbled questions/points or comments using withering sarcasm. Yes I know it’s the lowest form of wit, but what can I do, I was raised on the stuff…
Like my previous post, the original spam comments are in blue and my responses follow in black. For those of you who might be listening in black & white – the spam comments are the bulleted ones:
Are you coming on to me? No seriously, are you? – I’m not very good at reading the signals. But, I’m married anyway, so F**k off!
Of course I do – Amputation’s the answer right? BTW, have you seen my profile photo – I don’t need to LOSE WEIGHT, so F*ck off!
Hmm – I’ve got short hair (OK – NO hair, don’t push it), but I’ve never been in the military. And my credit score is my business, so F*ck off!
Have you not seen my gorgeous fizzog on my profile picture. I have the jawline and wrinkle-free forehead of a 5 year old (5 year old corpse that is). You’ve got me on the fine hair on my legs though. Wait a minute, are you the pervert that’s spying on me in the shower at the gym – thought so – F*ck off!
Cheers, I could do with a magic-beanie-hat telephone receptionist. When are you sending it to “well deserved” me? What do you mean you’re not! – F*ck off then.
Say what now?! …WHAT-EVER Dude…
Coach mercer can f*ck off and take his bangle watch and stick it where the sun don’t shine. That’s right – Ipswich… Aha!, that’s where I’ve been going wrong, shan’t be using those dark crayons on the walls of my padded cell any longer – it’s small enough already.
Have a great weekend folks.
In my last blog post, I alluded to the fact that I was considering moving my blog/site away from wordpress.com to a self hosted alternative. With any luck this move will take place before my next scheduled post is published (Fri 17th April). My intention is to try and make sure that the look and feel of my site is unaltered. But, I do intend to give the whole thing a good shake and a complete overhaul in time. Indeed this was one of the main drivers behind the move.
Unfortunately, I’ve discovered that “Likes” (for Posts & Pages) can not be migrated. So, if you’ve “Liked” any of my previous posts or pages, those “Likes” will soon disappear. I would like to stress that this is not a personal slight, but merely an unfortunate technical side-effect of the move. I will endeavour to find an alternative “Like” solution. So, watch this space as always.
Until the next time – Onwards & Upwards,
The last few months of 2014 was one big shit-storm for me and my family. Which resulted in the-wheels-sorta falling-off-my-bus and to say that I lost my mojo/motivation, would be a gross understatement.
It’s now a New Year and it’s also Spring (my favourite Season), I’m ready to pick myself up, dust myself down and start the onward & upwards march of life again. I’ve recently started working on the “21st Century Verse” anthology again. By the end of this month, if everything goes to plan, I should be posting on this blog in my usual semi-regular hap-hazard way and will provide an update on the publication date for the 21st Century Verse book.
I’ve also decided that it’s time to move my blog/website away from WordPress.com and on to a self-hosted platform. The move will happen, as soon as I’ve selected a hosting company and worked out the technical aspects. I’m hopeful that this move will not result in any “down-time”, but can’t be 100% positive that a glitch in visibility won’t occur.
Have a great weekend folks.
Following the death of a close family member, I’m putting my blogging and publishing projects on-hold temporarily and until further notice.
I apologize to all of you whose poems I’ve shortlisted for inclusion in 21st Century Verse. This book will be published, but most likely not until the new year now. I promise I will be in touch, when I pick things up again. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.
The rest of this post is a bit of a departure for me – in that it is somewhat on the long side, or at least not as short as they usually are. It’s also a tad more serious than my standard output.
As it’s the second anniversary of the publication date of All Said & Done, I’ve decided that this would be a good opportunity to share with the world an article that I wrote for The National Autistic Society (the NAS) to explain why I’d produced the book in the first place. So, here you go:
Why I came to be a supporter of The NAS
My wife and I always thought our son was ‘different’ and it was obvious that certain aspects of his development were delayed compared with his peers. But it was equally apparent to us that he had intelligence and abilities that were unique.
He started school, not long after his sister was born. He found the changes difficult (massive understatement!!). Consequently, his behaviour deteriorated significantly and our home-life became unsettled.
I can’t remember whether it was a family member or his teacher that mentioned he had ‘autistic traits’. But it sparked an internet search, which lead us to the NAS website. That was a Damascene moment. We found a wealth of salient information and advice, better than anything proffered by the myriad of professionals we’d encountered before or since.
Based on what we read on the NAS website, we quickly came to the conclusion that our son had Asperger Syndrome. An official diagnosis, which came to the same conclusion, followed several months later. It was 2004, and my son was aged 5 at the time. I’ve been a supporter of the NAS ever since.
As well as standing in the street rattling a collection tin, I’ve taken on a number of challenges to raise funds for the NAS over the years. In 2004, I ran the Loch Ness marathon (my first ever marathon). In 2006 I trekked through the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and in 2010 I ran the London marathon.
If you’ve ever considered an active challenge, then my advice is to go for it. They’re character building, provide an unbeatable opportunity to meet great people and have some unforgettable experiences. You can find out more about what’s available through the NAS, by viewing their challenge events on the NAS Get Active page – http://www.autism.org.uk/get-involved/raise-money/get-active.aspx
Why I decided to produce a book of poetry
I found London very tough, mainly because injury had hampered my training. I’ve since been diagnosed with arthritis in my knees and running is becoming increasingly uncomfortable. So, I’ve come to the realisation, that if I want to raise money for charity, I should probably do something different i.e. “less physical”.
Because 2012 was the NAS’ 50th anniversary year, it seemed an appropriate time to decide what something different meant. But I didn’t really have much time to think about it until fate intervened…
In the Spring of 2012, I had a nasty case of vertigo, brought on by an ear infection. I had to have several weeks off work. During this time, any activity involving movement of the head or using my eyes, made me feel very sick/dizzy. I was therefore only able to watch TV, use a PC, read or drive for short periods.
So, I spent a lot of time listening to my CD’s. Many of which I hadn’t heard for years, including some by performance poets – John Cooper Clarke, John Hegley, Attila The Stockbroker and Murray Lachlan Young [I didn’t realise at the time that Attila and Murray would later agree to include poems in the book]. It’s these CD’s that sparked the brainwave to use poetry for fundraising.
My initial idea was to produce a poetry chap-book, to sell locally to friends, relatives and work colleagues. When I was able to use a PC again, I sent out some emails to ask people I knew if they would be willing to contribute some poems. The responses were all very supportive. Some even made suggestions of others that I might like to approach. So I did, and before long I had enough material for several chap-books.
How the book developed
I wanted to use humorous poems (light verse) to paint a picture of modern life. I didn’t intend to relate the poems with autism. However, I realised that the subject matter of some of the short-listed poems, had a clear link with the issues faced by autistic people. This realisation changed my focus and I decided to include works by autistic poets. What’s more, I felt certain that with a bit more work, a full blown book would be a better prospect.
Encouraged by early responses, I approached some well known poets for permissions. To my surprise the vast majority agreed, including: Donna Williams, Wendy Lawson, Wendy Cope, Murray Lachlan Young, Attila The Stockbroker, John Whitworth, Charles Ghigna and Julie Kane.
I kicked around lots of ways to organize the poems in the book along with several different titles. One thing that kept coming to mind was the triad of impairments. This eventually inspired the traffic light graphics, cover design and the concept of splitting the book into 3 sections – each having relevance to one of the triad of impairments i.e:
In the end I chose most of the poems, simply because they made me laugh. But, I also included some more poignant and thought provoking pieces like “What I learned at School” by Melinda Smith, which brought a lump to my throat the first time I read it. One thing that all the poems have in common is that they’re well written.
The End Result
Producing the book was a bit like learning a new language. It took more than 6 months and I had to get to grips with new terminology and several pieces of unfamiliar software.
The end result is a unique 130+ page book, containing works by poets from all over the world, including: the UK, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the USA.
I’ve received several emails from people, telling me how much they’ve enjoyed reading the book. When you combine that with the fact that every sale raises money for the NAS – it gives me as good a feeling as crossing the finish-line of any marathon.
Would I do it again? – absolutely, I’ve got a set of ISBN numbers to use! In fact 21st Century Verse is a direct attempt by me to finish what I’d started initially – at least in terms of content.
This brilliant video – if I may be allowed to paraphrase Mary Poppins – contains a few of my favourite things :-
I’ve watched Tim perform this on stage, but I think the animation adds a little something extra to the mix. So, until such time as a Magic, Micro-Minchin, Mannequin Machine is invented, we can all get a dose of Tim’s genius on-tap, by watching this video.