Liebster Award

I have to say that this kind of thing is generally met with confusion from me. I’ve received a couple of nominations before now and once I get over the beffudlement, I tend to make plans to respond before yet another silly idea for a blog leads me away from being focused. I haven’t much idea why anyone would nominate me for such a thing. And that’s not false modesty – I believe in my writing, but most of the time I’m writing to amuse myself, really. And that’s especially true with poems, where over the past couple of months I’ve written poems about my neighbour’s shed, animal sightings in lockdown. competitive parents and most recently on the blog, how frantic lockdown must have made bucket listers.

That said, I’d like to say a massive thank you to liveparentteachrepeat.com/ for my nomination. You’re too kind. No, genuinely, you’re too kind!

The Liebster Award is by bloggers for bloggers. The award is a great way to “pay it forward” in the blogging community, encouraging us bloggers to keep discovering others in the wide world of the interwebs.

The rules: the nominee thanks (and links to) the bloggers who nominated them, answers their 11 questions, and then nominates other bloggers to answer a new set of questions!

The Liebster Award is by bloggers for bloggers. The award is a great way to ‘pay it forward’ in the blogging community, encouraging us bloggers to keep discovering others in the wide world of the internet.

Apparently, I have to thank and link to the blogger who nominated me – I’ve managed that above, hopefully – before answering their 11 questions. Then I’ll nominate some other bloggers with a new set of questions. (I’ll apologise for my most likely brainless questions in advance).

Here are my answers then.

Do you still have an item from your childhood?

If they count as an itme, I still have the same hands I had as a boy of about 8, I think. Donald Trump’s got nothing on my tiny hands! Elsewhere, I have my childhood teddy bear, but only because my mother kept it. I genuinely couldn’t tell you what I named it. Other than that, I don’t think I have anything from early childhood. I do have numerous teen items – records, old magazines, football programmes and memorabilia; lots of stuff like that.

Which word of the English language annoys you?

I used to loathe the word ‘guys’. If I heard people referring to others as ‘guys’ I would shudder. It still strikes me as the kind of label that only children’s TV presenters should use. And even then, they should try not to. Nowadays I don’t really mind it. I use it sarcastically at work all the time and only my close colleagues know that I’m being cynical. I’ve still never stood in front of a class and called them ‘guys’ though, however mellow I might have become about the word. Otherwise, words don’t offend me. Words are fantastic, valuable, powerful. But at the end of the day, they’re only words. Sticks and stones are far worse, in my opinion.

Have you ever switched allegiances?

Certainly not that I’m aware of. I really value loyalty. I’m a Newcastle United fan and have been for over 40 years. If you can still loyal to that football club, you can stay loyal to anything.

Do you dislike something which is extremely popular with everyone else?

Oh, how long have you got? It’s not a cool kind of thing; I’m just very sure of what I like. Maybe the most well known one is the band Queen. I’ve never understood the attraction. I have close friends and family who love them, but they’re not for me (Queen that is, not the friends and family). There are a multitude of reasons as to why. The songs are far too overblown and complicated for me. Too much going on. And that stuff where Freddie Mercury just makes noises? I don’t care if the whole of Wembley would sing it all back at him. He’s wrong and they’re wrong. It’s just nonsense for me. Apples and strawberries for me, as well. I’ve rarely disliked anything as much! Over the years I’ve watched people bite into both, heard their noises, listened as they declare how delicious they are and watched what can only be described as their sex face. All for some fruit! Give me a banana any day!

Did you learn a new skill during lockdown?

Unusually for me, I did. Well, sort of. I’ve been learning Spanish, but only via Duolingo. My wife thinks I’ll be able to chat away to the locals when we eventually get back to Majorca, but I won’t. I’m great on the App, but as a quite forgetful person, I imagine if someone starts talking to me in actual Spanish, I’ll just crumble. I’ll have to ask them to do multiple choice drawings or word banks that I can pair up instead. I’ve also learnt lots of new exercises too. So thanks to lockdown I can squat and plank with the best of them! And the final thing I’ve learnt is that if you find a podcast on Google and click play, you can finally listen to podcasts. A revelation to this particular luddite!

Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

If we fast forward a few years the answer will be my daughter, who is forever telling me that nothing really matters because she’s going to be incredibly famous. I blame YouTube. I’ve met two icons in David Dickinson and Declan Donnelly (off of Ant and Dec). I say met, I actually just walked past them both, seperately. In all seriousness, I’ve met Paul Gasgoine, who if you’re into football, is massively famous. He started my school’s 75th anniversary cross country race and played football with a few of us beforehand. Ignoring his personal life, he’s the single most talented individual I’ve ever witnessed in the flesh. An absolute magician with a football at his feet. While I remember, I also work with the wonderful Gemma Sinclair, who as we all know is famous for Episode 3 of Educating Yorkshire, the popular Channel 4 documentary. She’s mega-talented and will ‘grapevine’ for you on request if you ever have the good fortune to meet her.

Have you ever been mistaken for somebody else?

I have and nearly all of the somebody elses have all been in some way well known. One is actually mega famous. I can’t remember who I was mistaken for that wasn’t famous. It was just some local scrote. It was also a local scrote that mistook me for a local scrote. Anyway, turns out one didn’t like the other and so when they saw me they threw a snowball in my face, grabbed me by the throat, punched me in the face and told me, “No one messes with the army’s snowballs.” True story. I was probably a good five years younger than my attacker. He was an army cadet. I bet he was cataclysmically disappointed when he later realised that the army didn’t even use snowballs in combat situations. Later in life, mistaken identity was a lot more fun. I was mistaken for a footballer called Paul Kitson at Old Trafford once when I went to see Newcastle play. Kitson played for Newcastle. He was injured at the time. So when I turned up in the bar beforehand the stars aligned and someone thought I had to be Paul Kitson. I was then serenaded with a chorus of ‘There’s only one Paul Kitson’ before people gradually realised that while this was actually true, the one Paul Kitson wasn’t standing in front of them having a pint. Finally, when I lived in Stoke I was mistaken for Robbie Williams at the height of his Take That fame. This one has been a fairly regular part of my life for a number of years and even now someone will tell me that I look just like him. I don’t. He’s chunkier than me and I don’t have any tattoos.

Would you consider plastic surgery?

No. I’m reasonably happy with how I look. I don’t look too weathered for my age and I think there’s a danger of ending up looking ridiculous at the hands of a surgeon.

What has been your most extravagant purchase to date?

I don’t really do extravagant. I bought an expensive diamond ring for my wife when I was going to propose, if that counts. That was when I finally realised I was a proper adult! I also bought myself quite an expensive watch a year or so ago, but to be fair it’s not extravagant. A few months ago I bought 5 packets of Black Jack sweets in Asda because I love them and they were reduced. High rollin’ stuff, no? When it was cutting edge technology we bought a Nintendo Wii simply because we fancied playing on it that afternoon. We were years away from having kids and had a bit of money to throw around! I also bought not one, but two sheds at the same time once. That was probably my Sultan of Brunei moment!

Which law would you repeal?

I’d get rid of the one that says cars can’t use bus lanes. It’s not because I regularly want to use them, but I did once receive an £80 fine for driving in one. I was actually going to give a lift to one of the players for my team and his dad as their car was out of action. The sign that said ‘Bus Lane’ was way above eye level and I actually cut across the bus lane to get on to another street at a junction. I didn’t even drive down the lane! I now have an irrational hatred of bus lanes. In all seriousness, I think I’d repeal the law that sends children to school at four years old. Let them play and just enjoy life for at least another couple of years.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Have more confidence in yourself. Stop thinking you’re adopted; you’re not. Become a teacher as soon as you finish university. Write more. Stay in touch with people properly, especially your sister. Don’t go out with that girl in your first year at university. You’ll know which one. She’s mental. Stop daydreaming.

Here are my questions. Sorry!

  1. What’s your favourite cheese?
  2. What is your greatest regret in life?
  3. What three things would you take if you were to be marooned on a desert island for a year?
  4. Who, in your opinion, is the greatest living human?
  5. What’s your go to karaoke song?
  6. Have you ever heard a ridiculous rumour about yourself?
  7. What are your worst habits?
  8. You have to have a song to announce you into any situation. What’s your walk on music?
  9. What do you miss most about being a kid?
  10. What’s the best thing about being an adult?
  11. Do you have any hidden talents?

Here are my nominees.

http://nufchotspot.blog

http://ourfavouritejar.com

http://thecaskconnoisseur.com

http://geordieoptimist.wordpress.com

http://thebookgeordie.home.blog

http://cashforkat.com/blog

http://theokaymommy.com

http://ourfavouritejar.com

http://bluecollarrising.com

http://yorkienotjustfordads.com

http://rachelfoy96.wordpress.com

Lockdown Literature

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Lockdown should have been a miserable time. If you’d been told that you’d have to stay indoors almost indefinitely because there was the kind of virus that you’d only ever witnessed in the realms of Hollywood and this was the only thing that would keep you safe, you’d have been terrified. As well as looking at the people you’d be living with and wondering which one you’d end up eating first. But then, of course, this is exactly what you were told. (Answers in the comments about who you’ve eaten or are eyeing up for the garlic and herb marinade, by the way).

I’m sure though I’m not alone when I tell you that lockdown has been far from miserable. Yes, it’s painful being away from family, friends, loved-ones and simple normality, but it doesn’t half test your resolve and your sense of creativity. I have two children – a 13-year-old and a 10-year-old – and the challenge of keeping them busy, both with home-schooling and just in terms of general entertainment is tricky to say the least! The challenge of actually continuing to like them has been even trickier at times!

But there have been bright spots and one of which has been the way that people have rallied round each other. Yes, we can’t be together, but that’s not stopped people being kind and resourceful. Some have volunteered and made deliveries, picked up shopping and prescriptions for the elderly or clapped for the NHS. Me? I’ve done some of that and offered my services out even more. However, easily one of the best things I’ve done is to form a Facebook group to help everyone people stay creative.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Lockdown Literature – although it seems to have fizzled out of late – has been great. It was a group that I started in order to encourage some of my friends to stay creative during isolation and to see what people would write. It would also be another good way of staying in touch. The response across the weeks has been amazing – poems, short stories, life writing, even some literary criticism.

The whole idea came about because a friend had done similar, but with an art group. A bunch of us were attempting to post artwork regularly and as I’d been keen to start sketching again, so it served a purpose too. It was definitely fun. I must admit though, that looking at other people’s art made me feel quite inferior and this played a part in forming the Lockdown Literature group. In short, I knew that I was a better writer than an artist!

Lockdown Literature has prompted me to write some poems. This was something I had last done a few years ago and something I’d considered starting using as part of this blog. Typically for me though, I couldn’t find the notebook containing previous poems. And so, I had to start all over again.

My first idea came when I was pegging washing out on the line to dry. I was looking around the washing at my neighbour’s garden and it just occurred to me that his shed was massive. I was humbled by his shed! And a bit jealous, if I’m honest. So, I finished the hanging the washing out, dashed inside and started scribbling stuff down in my notebook. In about 20 minutes I had a poem and by the time half an hour had passed I’d posted it in the group.

I see my poetry as generally being a bit silly really. I like to try to use humour and to experiment with language, if I can. ‘My Neighbour’s Shed’ was exactly that. Silly, sarcastic and, at times, just me having fun with language. There was nothing here to change anyone’s life, nothing to move anyone to tears…or even think, really! Just an attempt to make people smile.

Since then, I’ve written poems about exercise gurus, home-schooling, nature and Prince amongst other things. And yes, that did say Prince, as in the little funky, purply adorned fella. But, inspired by others in the group, who it has to be said have written with real beauty and maturity, I’ve also written much more personal poems about family, which I’ll be posting in the blog in the coming weeks and months.

At the moment the group seems to have hit an almost terminal low. I’ve continued to contribute, but I feel like people might start to think I’m using it as some kind of showcase soon. A bit of a ‘Hey guys, this is me…’ kind of thing and that would never be my intention. So, I’m trying to come up with ways of getting people interested again, but it’s tricky without appearing to be annoyed at people, which I’m really not. I’d just love to read some more of the poems and stories that I’d read before.

So – and apart from me it seems to be an exclusively female group of contributors – here’s a little push, I guess. Laura – I’d like to see more life writing, Karen, that short story never ended, Ruth, Kath, Kylie, Emma, Hannah and anyone else in the group who I’ve missed, more of your poems, please! I’m clearly pals with a lot of very talented people! I’ve loved reading the things that my friends have written and for a month or so it felt like Lockdown Literature was a tiny force for good. And although I’m sure it’s not the most original idea anyone’s ever had, I’d definitely recommend setting up such a group with other like-minded souls. You could let me know about our own groups in the comments.

It seems appropriate to end with a poem. So, I will! This was a poem I wrote that was a little different from my other ones. I wrote it a while ago now having been forced out of bed by an idea. I knew I had to get up and get some words down on the page. I’m still unsure about this poem, but, as I said when I posted it in the group, it might be apt for the times that we’re all living through.

Happen

Don’t.
Don’t forever wait.
For the right time, the perfect place, the ideal feeling.
Make something happen.

Pick up the phone, write the letter, click send,
speak to him, speak to her, write the song, do the thing.
Make something happen.

Don’t.
Don’t sit on the fence.
Don’t leave it for tomorrow, count to ten, count to a thousand.
Make something happen.

Life will not wait. There is no perfect time.
There is no perfect. The wind won’t change and the cracks in the pavement don’t actually matter.
Before you know it time has flown, things have changed, they’ve found someone else who said or did what you should have, could have…
Make something happen.

Lockdown Literature – my stab at a poetry blog.

 

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Shortly after our state of lockdown was declared I received an invitation to join a group on Facebook. A friend of mine – Helen, an Art teacher – was setting up a creative group for people to post their art work. It seemed a good way to help squash lockdown boredom and I had been fairly keen to start sketching again for quite a while. My daughter is a gifted artist as well, so I thought it would be nice to post some of her stuff. I could also involve the kids through Art lessons during home schooling. So off I went…

A couple of days later and having watched numerous people posting their artwork I had an idea for a literature version of the group. If people were avidly sharing their drawing and painting, surely I could get some to post poems and writing in my own group. After consulting my friend Laura about whether it was a good idea, I formed the group, invited a ton of friends and Lockdown Literature was born.

It had been a while since I’d written any poetry, but the group inspired me. It wasn’t long before I was being kept awake by ideas and lines from potential poems.

It was on the very afternoon that the group was formed, while pegging my washing out on the line in the sun, I found myself staring at the behemoth in my neighbour’s garden. Bigger, cleaner, tidier, better than mine. What I then wrote has no intellectual value whatsoever. There is no literary genius here or any great amount of thought. It’s not any kind of metaphor for anything else, just a poem about sheds and me feeling a bit jealous. The result of my envy – a silly, sarcastic and frankly daft poem – is below.

My Neighbour’s Shed

My neighbour’s shed has electric lighting.
It has those plastic boxes on the wall containing nails, screws, hooks and all manner of shediphanalia.

My shed is packed with football gear.
It’s a mess and makes me feel like a total shed failure.

My neighbour’s shed contains a high-viz jacket.
Placed neatly round he has a vice, a work bench, a grinder, a sander and drills, drills, drills aplenty.

My shed has some shelving full of spiders’ webs, grass seed, wild bird feed and a stain on the floor that’s a bit cementy.

My neighbour’s shed is a hive of activity – just like good sheds should be.
It’s been extended – by him, the smart arse – and it’s made safe by alarm led security.

My shed has bikes balanced on one wheel perilously, a lawn mower jammed underneath a Halfords roof box and it smells of whatever the opposite is of purity.

My neighbour’s shed is a lockdown dream. Clean, ordered and full of interesting tools. The biggest tool in my shed is undoubtedly me.

I hate my neighbour’s shed.

So, there you have it. My first poetry blog. I will post other poems and give people a little bit of insight into what I was thinking when I wrote them. I think I mainly write things that are supposed to be mildly amusing but some are actually quite serious! As for what I’ve just posted, I’d be interested to know what people think, so feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading!

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