Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Blue Moon



As everyone knows
Who can touch their toes
The moon is round, and it smiles and glows
in the sky to keep us safe at night;
unless someone comes and takes a bite
and whoever it is, giant or troll
he leaves the moon with a bite sized hole
for as anyone who’s learnt their ABC’s
knows that the moon is made of cheese
and if you know that the dish ran away with the spoon
you’ll know that the cow jumped over the moon!
The question is not HOW, but WHY
Did Daisy cow want to leap so high?
Perhaps she’s checking out this story
She’s heard sometime on Jackanory?
What kind of tasty cheese will it be,
Gloucester, Wensleydale, Cheshire, Brie?
or faithful Cheddar, strong and true?
No, surprisingly, it’s Danish Blue!

Sue champion 18/11/2015

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Book reviews, by Maureen


 

Leaving Time, by Jodi Picoult

1.       

My favourite fiction writer of the moment has produced yet another thought-provoking story which captured my heart as well as my imagination. The plight of elephants in Africa has been well documented, but to read about it whilst being thoroughly entertained by a story which embraces the paranormal, detective work and broken human relationships is a rare experience. Highly recommended.

 

The Business of the 21st Century, by Robert T. Kiyosaki

I rarely read business books ('Who moved my Cheese?' being the last one, a decade or so ago), but this one, and his famous Rich Dad, Poor Dad, had me fascinated. Robert Kiyosaki's theory that working hard at school to get a good job, then working hard for our money, earning our old age pension, saving up to have cash to invest in financial products, etc. is completely the wrong way to live our lives...this was, for me, a revelation. If we want to be rich, he says, we need to learn how to make our money work for us, not the other way round.

 

Whatever happened to Billy Parks, by Gareth  Roberts

 
Funny, heart breaking, and insightful. I love watching football and have often wondered what it must feel like to score a goal (having been inept in all matters sporty throughout my entire life).

In this book, Gareth Roberts does just that: he describes the elation so well that I actually felt it myself. A thoroughly enjoyable read for everyone, regardless of whether or not a fan of the game.

 

The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt

 
Mesmerising, challenging, and absorbing. The way the author weaves the threads of this story together is exceptional. I guess that's why it won the Pulitzer Prize! It's a beautiful work of art that explores aspects of alienation and despair, not just in the plot, but in its very structure. It was a joy and a privilege to be present to such skill; long live literary fiction!

 

 
Cutting for Stone, by Abraham Verghese

 
Expect to be swept along by the drama of this roller-coaster of a novel. Over five hundred pages of beauty, horror, poignancy, tragedy and charm.

Verghese takes us from India to Ethiopia and the USA, revealing intricate details of surgery, rebellion, war, passion, faith and love.  It is not often that a book can lift your spirit to new heights, and this one is right up there with the likes of  Shantaram and similar great novels.

An unforgettable read

Maureen Moss

 

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

 
Quite simply a fabulous book. The story is narrated by a dog, a dog with more insight into being human than many of our own species could hope for.

This book has everything: humour, heartbreak, philosophy, excitement, and most of all, love. And for me, a bonus: I had never realised just how demanding car racing could be!


The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, by Rachel Joyce

 
Why does such an unlikely story work so well? I found myself asking this question over and over again as I accompanied Harold on his strange pilgrimage.

What is the book about? In short, a middle aged man sets off to post a letter and ends up walking without money, proper shoes, map, or food, for nearly 90 days, towards a destination over 600 miles away whose exact location he doesn’t even know. His mission: to save a life.

 After several of the early pages wondering where on earth this story was going, I found myself drawn towards Harold, his wife, and the terminally ill woman he has decided to visit. Curiosity got the better of me and before long I was turning pages avidly, needing to know the outcome. Would he make it in time? What damage had he done to his marriage? What was the mystery surrounding his estranged son?

 And it gradually dawned on me that this story is about living an extraordinary life, about having the courage to live in the unknown, to commit, and to take action, no matter how ‘dull and ordinary’ one’s circumstances are.

 Harold is joined and subsequently deserted by a motley crew of well-wishers and fame seekers. Even Dog, who had, as Harold said, ‘chosen to walk with Harold for a while, and then it had chosen to stop, and walk instead with the young girl. Life was like that.’

 To quote Alfred Hickling in The Guardian, Rachel Joyce successfully conveys ‘profound emotions in simple, unaffected language’.

 And for me, therein lies both its charm and its success.

 

A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki

 
As you know, I have been fascinated by quantum physics for the last sixteen years, throughout which both family and friends have laughed at me for my bizarre ideas and the whacky theories I have shared. So to read a book by a well-respected author (Ruth Ozeki has won two literary awards) which explores in a fiction the ideas of eminent physicists such as Schroedinger, Heisenberg and Niels Bohr, as well as the thoughts of Zen masters, was sheer bliss.

 
I guess by now many of you will have already switched off. Yes, this is literary fiction. It won’t keep you awake at night turning pages to find out who dunnit, though you will definitely want to know what happened next. It is a truly human, warm and tender story which weaves its way through two distinct cultures and time zones. The two protagonists are Nao and Ruth (the author? Well, the husband has the same name as her husband). Nao is a depressed and bewildered teenage Japanese girl and Ruth a Canadian novelist, whose day to day life is interrupted when she finds a bag on the beach containing the diary of Nao, presumably swept away in the tsunami of 2011.

 
The story itself enters and leaves real life, as historical references are interspersed with ghosts and Zen sayings, and brings us to question the very nature of reality, of time and of the universe (or multiverse?) in which we exist.

 
Truly intriguing, inspiring and touching.

 

That Immortal Jukebox Sensation, by Gareth Roberts
 
Looking for an entertaining holiday read? This will keep you laughing from the minute you pick it up.

The brilliant Gareth Roberts has created characters we can all relate to. His hero Richie Strafe wants to achieve immortality by killing his one-time rival (who just happens to be a world famous rock star), but he becomes embroiled in the unlikeliest of legal assignments, leading him to encounter both psychopaths and strippers, to doubt his humanity and fear for his own life. Well, sort of. Grab some refreshments, get comfortable, and enjoy! You’re in for a treat……

 

 

 

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Writing Thought for October

Real writers make ideas happen.


Ian C

A Terrible Beauty

There was a good attendance of 22 people for this week's meeting.

 Before the reading started Ian announced that the winner of the writing competition as chosen by the editor and staff of "Costa Blanca People" was one of our newer members, Andrea Peers. He advised the members that the editor had shortlisted 3 contributions as the standard of writing was high and she had found it difficult to reach a decision so much so that she hoped to publish not only the winning entry but, space permitting, some of the others. Well done to all of you and, if you were not lucky, do not despair, keep on writing.

This week's subject was "A Terrible Beauty" and the consensus of opinion was that this was a difficult topic as it was almost a contradiction. Ian explained that it was part of a line of poetry by W., B. Yeats  relating to the Easter Uprising of 1916 and its aftermath where he foresees the start of the continual struggle against the British Government by the Irish Nationalists in their quest for independence. As usual the members rose to the challenge with written pieces on various forms of beauty. The topics included family relationships, the death of James Dean, the devil, aliens and vampires, the dropping of the atomic bomb, beauty being in the eyes of the beholder, the construction of spiders webs, workmates being demeaned by colleagues, community meetings,a Jihadist in oblivion,and an illiterate girl finding the pleasure of being taught to write her name.

 How is that for variety? The subject was hard to write about? I don't think so. You all came up with the goods!!!

Ian C

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Meeting of 30th September

Torrevieja Writers Circle meeting of 30th September.

On this cooler morning eighteen writers assembled for the monthly 'Hot Pen' which is always well attended and the challenge is accepted as a matter of course.

We have a newcomer and Vida Nelson introduced herself and we welcomed her.

Maureen asked for our views on her 'blurb' for the back cover of her book and there were constructive comments made during a full discussion.  She will bring it again next week for our further views.
John Mac  gave us his version of the progress of radio and the effect upon him in Radio Goo Goo. which was inspired by a previous theme.
Heather broached the subject of dementia and the fact that they like to read 'out-a-loud' and asked for poems that were suitable for them to be read.

The poet Elizabeth Bishop's poem The Weed provided the random selected word of CAUTIOUS.

All eighteen attendees read and it was remarked upon that apart from two all the subjects or themes chosen to write upon were different.  This variety of ideas was dissimilar to most previous 'hot pens'.   Some reflected past experiences and some came from the imagination.  The initial thoughts upon this word were not encouraging it was later said, but we all produced something.  There were thoughtful and profound ones that rubbed shoulders with good old rhyming lines, re-produced stories and some hilarity.  I hope some of these words produced today will spark and idea or two in future days.

I reminded them of the theme for nest week which is TERRIBLE BEAUTY and there was a short discussion on what could be written on it.

Again we had a new face joining our group and Vida is one of several new writers that have come to us in the past months.

John Edwards





Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Wordsworth

I am on week three of a course with Future Learn examining the work of William Wordsworth in People, Poetry and Places. This exercise is something to look at and do.  What do you think?

This creative task is about engaging with, and sharing, your responses to a particular site that has meaning for you.

Choose a place, preferably somewhere outdoors, that you will go to for this exercise. It should be somewhere that has a particular value for you personally.

Take a notepad + pen and/or a sketchpad+ pencil and/or a camera with you.

Before you set off, think of three words that sum up that place for you and write these down.

When you arrive in the place sit down with your eyes shut for two minutes. Then open your eyes and write down all the sounds you heard or the thoughts you had during that time.

Now look around you for two minutes but without moving position. Write down everything you can see. Pay attention to the immediate, microcosmic world around you. If you prefer to sketch or paint rather than write then do this as well as, or instead of, writing.

If you brought a camera with you, take 4 photographs of whatever interested you or might relate to what you are thinking or take a short video of this. [If you want to make a visual work then feel free to take more visual images as necessary for you and in a range of media]

Return home. When you get home produce a creative work of whatever kind you like from your site visit that communicates the essence of that place and its value to you. You might choose to write just a list of words, or a poem, or a prose account of that place. If you prefer to use the visual materials then make a short video or combine word and image in some way. Be creative!

John Edwards

Sunday, 20 September 2015

AN INVITATION TO WRITE

AN INVITATION The members of Stanza Mar Menor (I know it's a grand title), which is a stanza group of the Poetry Society in London will meet up again on Thursday 24th September at 2pm in San Miguel de Salinas.  It is the first time that we have met up in months although there are always emails.  We support each other, make suggestions and encourage.  We also respect that the writer has the ultimate choice - to amend or not.  Personally, I have had so much advice which I have valued.  There is nothing pretentious about our small group and we will always welcome new faces. No one has anything to lose by coming along.  After all writers write don't they?  
If you wish to be there either speak to me on Wednesday or email me.  JE

Thursday, 17 September 2015

English Language 500 years ago




At yesterday's Torrevieja Writer's meeting - covered elsewhere on the blog by John - we discussed how language changes with use and has done throughout the ages as new words, pronunciations, accents and indeed languages themselves changed and influenced our way of speaking. As immigrants swelled the native population in greater or lesser numbers, their influences and customs gradually changed us as they assimilated, learned English and contributed to our rich literary heritage.  

On Tuesday the i100 (from The Independent) ran a piece on the subject and included a video of a political satire written 500 years ago, read by a Dutch University Professor, pronouncing each word as close to Middle English as possible.Check it out at http://i100.independent.co.uk/article/heres-what-the-english-language-sounded-like-500-years-ago--b1leV6aXmLg?icn=puff-3 
Fascinating Stuff! LD.


Difficult and Easy

This week's meeting had a slightly different twist. Ian asked each of those present to write down what they found difficult writing and also what they found easy. The reasons for this were twofold i.e. assistance could be given either by advice/guidance from the membership on the "difficult" subjects and those that found items easier to write about would be asked to provide such assistance. It would also give him an ideas  as subjects in the next programme. Each member provided an insight into their work with many of them finding things in common with others.

A number of members found poetry (rhyming or non- rhyming) difficult to write and discussion took place on the question of scanning,rhythm etc. It was also suggested that, to help, an idea would be to take one of their short stories and convert it into a poem and vice versa

A few of the members found it easier to write items prose and poetry of a lighthearted nature usually with a twist in the tale. Dialogue was another favoured item as this, members found, could progress their work at a pace.

Some general items emerged during the various discussions such as,"What person it was better to write in? What genre you should write about or should you write about what you know?

What did arise was the number of members who had no aspirations to write a novel, that many were reluctant to do detailed research  and that some had a dislike for working under pressure e.g. "hot pen" whereas others welcomed that particular discipline.

Some of the newer members indicated that they had been reluctant to join the group as they felt that either they had no talent or that the group would be dismissive of their attempts. It was quickly pointed out to them that they were not alone with these feelings, that each of us had had such reservations and that we were all here to learn, improve and encourage each other.

The general feeling can be summed up by saying,

"If you want to be a writer, you have to write!"

Ian C

September Writing Thought

If you ask a writer how to become a writer, they will often give you the same piece of advice:

Just Write.

Ian C

Thursday, 10 September 2015

Pura Vida!

http://www.tourguidecourse.com/pura-vida/



I buckled up my seat belt for landing.  Flying low over Costa Rica’s highlands, I looked down on green jungle dotted with single storey wooden dwellings with corrugated iron roofs. A twenty minute taxi ride took me from San Jose airport to my friend Ros’s coffee farm, where I stepped out into the glorious scent of jasmine and looked over to the horizon where volcanoes rose up, silhouetted against a grey sky. Ros greeted me warmly, despite having arrived home only 6 hours earlier on a flight from Europe. We’ve known each other since 1966, when we were lodged together as room mates in our first year at university. After a long shower and a glass of refreshing home-made lemonade, my Costa Rican adventure began.
coffee bushcoffee farm




coffee farm walk


To stretch my legs after the long haul flight I strolled lazily around the plantation, between coffee bushes, bougeanvillea and hibiscus, as thunder rumbled, but no rain came. I was collecting cass fruit or guava, to use in drinks later on. I felt sticky, but relaxed, as I wandered past the coffee farm workers’ dwellings, all adorned with pots of colourful flowers.

farm worker's home

Ros prepared a salad lunch using fresh, organic vegetables from her garden. After catching up on each other’s news, we dined on fish cooked in a teriyaki and passion fruit sauce, and retired at 8.30pm. It was so quiet that sleep washed over me within seconds.
Next day was the Dia de los Abuelos (grandparents day) at the international school which Ros’s grandson attended. It was a very chic affair, with rich Costa Rican ladies showing off their best attire and most expensive jewellery, sizing each other up whilst ostensibly watching each year group perform a suitably enchanting song. Afterwards we lunched at The Costa Rica Country Club where I sampled a local version of the Mexican drink Michelada, served with salt around the rim of the pint beer glass instead of the original chilli.
I visited the Guadalupe organic market for a breakfast of arepas cheese patties with huevos rancheros spicy eggs and bought smoked trout, giant avocados, and goldenberries. The latter apparently work like Viagra, but I didn’t have the opportunity to find out how effective they are. The market was busy with locals, known as ‘ticos’ or ‘ticas’ depending on their gender, crying out the quality of their produce, or shoving samples of it under your nose to tempt you to buy. ‘Pura Vida’ is the greeting here: ‘pure life!’, and my internet search revealed that the ‘ticos’ have been designated the world’s happiest people. Certainly, everyone I spoke to wore a smile.

FullSizeRender


After a few days Ros drove me to the family beach house, a beautiful condo at Playa Escondida on the Pacific Ocean shore north of the farm. And ‘escondida’ it was, hidden away among lush trees and down a long winding road to the ocean. We stopped on the way to buy pineapples and mangoes as scarlet macaws, pelicans, vultures and yellow-breasted fly catchers swooped and dived above us. The house is set among cashew and flame trees, the garden is filled with scented shrubs, and the view from each of the six bedrooms is calming and restful. I watched waves rolling onto the sand and palm trees bent low. The shore crackled as its pebbles were dragged back into the ocean when each wave receded. I attempted to swim and had difficulty getting out of the water as the undertow was so strong, and I still have a few scratches to prove it. The insects here are big, and the lizards very big!

big lizard!beach house


beach house bedroom viewplaya escondida: hidden beach



jacaranda playa escondida

We visited the beach housemaid’s new home, walking along the bank of what in the rainy season is a river but was now the dried up bed. Ros was curious to find out where her employee now lived; she treats all her workers like members of her family. Angelica used to live in a cardboard house until the previous month; now she has been adopted by an uncle who lives in a tin hut with children and chickens galore. Moving up in the world is on a different level here. On the way back to the beach house I tried out a coconut granizado. It was made with condensed milk poured over crushed ice and when I stood up I felt drunkenly dizzy from the sugar rush. An hour later I was suffering from what I can only describe as a hangover; I have never consumed so much sugar in my life.

IMG_1629

We had a few days at Escondida, and all too soon it was time to leave the peace behind and set off to drive back to San Jose. We stopped at a roadside café for a breakfast of gallo y pinto, a typical Central and South American dish of rice and beans, with spicy eggs, fried plantain and corn tortillas.

rainforest la cusingarainforest walk

La Cusinga Lodge is a rainforest resort run by Jack Ewing, author of Monkeys are Made of Chocolate and Where Tapirs and Jaguars Once Roamed. He had the brainwave of establishing wildlife corridors so that endangered species can move freely when local food supplies become exhausted due to mankind’s plundering of the rainforest. I had the honour of meeting this charming, self-effacing man, who has done so much to bring the plight of forest creatures to the world’s attention, when Ros and I called in to visit and walk in the forest on our way to her home.

view from la cusinga lodge

By the time we left for San Jose the weather had broken and finally, the rain came. Torrents of it, so that we couldn’t see anything through the windscreen. This was made worse by the lack of working windscreen wipers on Ros’s Hilux 280 truck. Driving along a winding coast road in zero visibility was scary, but Ros wanted to press on, and I bowed to her local knowledge: apparently spending the night en route in a hotel with dubious standards of morality and cleanliness could have been even more dangerous!

Poas volcano crater lake

Rising at 05.30 next morning I was astounded to see red and yellow butterflies fluttering around me. It was steaming hot, the air was filled with luscious juicy jungle scents. The sun was shining, and Poas volcano beckoned; I wanted to see the turquoise-blue crater lake, only visible occasionally when the skies are clear. We hiked up gently in the sweet mountain air and were lucky to glimpse the lake below us before the clouds regrouped to cover the sky with grey again.

costa rican bus stop

That night, my last, we enjoyed strawberry and mint granizados and fresh lemonade with basil before our dinner in a local restaurant of camaron (huge prawns) with garlic whilst watching a fantastic flamenco dancer swirl and twirl and stamp her feet.
Pura vida, ticos!

restaurant view




SWFObject - step 1

Get Paid to See the World




Wednesday, 9 September 2015

TWC on Wednesday 9th September

TWC meeting of Wednesday 9th September

It has been said that the blog is important to the group and for the group because it is a means of communication for all members, but more importantly for those who cannot attend regularly.  It is always good to know what is going on.  Additionally it is our window into which the outside world can look through and see what our group can write.  It is as simple as that.  Last week Ian was absent and so was I.  We both agreed that it would have been beneficial if someone had undertaken to write a blog report.  It is viewed by many and there were eleven entries posted last month with almost three thousand page views.  It is being looked at.

The last entry was for Bare Fiction Competitions with a closing date of 31st October.  If you check out the judges credentials you could be impressed.  As a group we could look more seriously at writing for competitions with a view to submitting entries.  I realize that not all members will want to participate and it might be a good idea for those willing to do so liaise with one another.  Maybe an agenda point for next week.

Ian announced that thirteen submissions on 'Why Write' had been forwarded to Costa Blanca Peoples Newspaper where they will be judged by the editor and the winning entry published.

Now to today.  We welcomed two newcomers, Suzanne and Lynn,  to add to several new faces that have appeared recently.  They were, of course, welcomed and it is good for the group that fresh voices are heard.

The theme was The Dinner Party.  The majority of those present had written on this subject and as always both rhyming couplets and humour were both in abundance.  Interesting stories carried the writings along and it was very apparent that sexual activity was, at times, foremost in the writers' minds.  Ian wrote about a son who never knew, until today, who his real father was and Suzanne's Olga, the maid and willing partner, was seduced by a sexually active husband.  Both of these stories evolved carefully and were very good to hear and they were well received.  Robin delighted us with an amusing story and acted it out beautifully. She talks with her hands too!

The writings were varied and included a disaster at cooking time, death at an inconvenient moment, a hungry family going out to kill and a re-cycling of one or two past events.

The penultimate story was from  Lisa and this arose as a result of a 'hot pen' from last week when a teenager 'ditched ballet for burlesque'.  There is of course much more to the story than that and the reading of it produced quite deep discussions involving ' the perception of self'.  There was much in this piece that was appreciated for its depth and for the writing.

Maureen introduced another travel article.  This time it was of a trip to Costa Rica and she dealt with the subjects of food, dance, wildlife and the environment.  The words did move well on the line.

More importantly there are many writing and even more importantly the feedback is being given with serious thought and in the correct manner. Writing is a challenge and in this group members should challenge the writing and the writer.  That is how we can all improve.  No one has got to the stage of decrying or denigrating anyone of the efforts read out.  There was some great stories this morning, skillfully read, listened to and commented upon for the writer to consider and work more on their pieces.
John Edwards

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Bare Fiction Competitions

Just passing this information on to members. JE


Bare Fiction Prize 2015 for Poetry, Flash Fiction & Short Story

Details: 2nd annual Bare Fiction Prize is accepting entries of poetry (max 40 lines), flash fiction (max 500 words) & short story (max 3000 words). Prizes in each category of: 1st Prize £500, 2nd Prize £200, 3rd Prize £100, 2 x Highly Commended Awards of £25 each.
1st, 2nd & 3rd prize winners will be published in the Spring 2016 issue of Bare Fiction Magazine and on our website, with the prizes to be awarded at the Spring launch reading in March/April 2016 (date and location/venue to be confirmed). Entries accepted from anyone in the UK, or internationally, online or by post until October 31st 2015.

Judges: Poetry - Jo Bell, Flash Fiction - Richard Skinner, Short Story - Paul McVeigh.

Entry Fee:  (£2 discount per entry for subscribers) £5 per poem, £6 per flash fiction, £8 per short story. You can subscribe during the submission process if you wish and receive the discount.

Contact: For more information, rules, submission details, to enter online or download a postal entry form, please see http://www.barefictionmagazine.co.uk/competitions/




Monday, 31 August 2015

Kerala houseboat and Cochin

22-23 February
We strolled across the lawns of Coconut Lagoon resort to our Rainbow Cruise houseboat, manned by Captain Shilby and his crew Videsh and Benedict, who greeted us with coconut mojitos made with fresh coconut water. This was followed an hour later by a lunch of lake fish - Perfil Sopt - with spicy vegetables, including a strange looking one called Butta chaat, and rice.
After a post prandial snooze, our Captain asked if we would like some wine with our dinner. We agreed eagerly, only to find that this involved a walk along the river edge to find a rickshaw to ride to an ATM to take out money to pay for it.

En route we passed a Christian church where a saint's festival was being celebrated with drums and singing, and a procession under parasols.

Once back on board we chugged across Lake Vembanad towards the far bank, where we stopped to buy prawns for dinner: 5 huge langoustines for 1500R, about 23 euro.
lake sunsetWe moored alongside a grassy path, where we enjoyed a sunset walk, followed by the prawn dinner with fish, okra, rice, chapattis, vegetables, wine..... and bed at 9.00pm.
moored houseboat
At 07.00 we were wide awake and ready for our delicious breakfast of coconut and banana pancakes made with cumin, cardamom and sugar, mixed with ghee.
We passed miniature ghats (steps leading into the water) for washing clothes, tins, and people!

Keeping ducks is a popular activity here; I didn't want to know if they were pets or a food supply.

Early morning rituals began: people sat lazily on long narrow wooden canoes, cleaning their teeth in the river water.

The cruise along narrower channels, filled with boats, was fascinating, but by 0900 it was time to depart for Cochin by car. We felt sad that our cruise was over, and a bit disappointed that the 'two days' were really only an afternoon and short morning.

The car journey to Cochin was interesting but by now, on Day 13 of our India holiday, we'd had enough of bumpy road journeys. We arrived at 10.30am, too early to check in, so I asked our driver to take us to a spice shop, where I intended to have a look only. Needless to say I emerged an hour later some 70 euro lighter. The modern Eighth Bastion hotel was a pleasant surprise; we had a lovely room overlooking the pool. After a two hour relax our guide collected us for a car ride into Cochin. We paddled on the beach of the Arabian Sea, strolled around the Old Fort area, and watched in fascination as fishermen hauled in their catch using Chinese fishing nets

Our walk took us past the Dutch church, and through the fish and crafts markets. After a brief look inside the Dutch Palace and the Synagogue, we peeked inside a shop displaying a long snake boat with seats for 100 people.
The Kathakali dance is known as the 'stately dance' of Kerala.
job done
More like a play than a dance, it tells a story, whose moral is 'under any circumstances, evil should be punished'
Briefly, the story tells of a young man sitting in heaven's garden when he is duped by a beautiful woman who claims to come from heaven. But she is too eager for sex and this makes him suspicious. She grabs him and only then does he see that she is a demoness in disguise. He takes his sword and disfigures her, and she is sent away from heaven.
ready to dance

The make up the dancers put on takes two to three hours.
make up 2make up
Both dancers are male, and they transform themselves into mythical beings, especially when they put on their colourful headgear. It is certainly an unusual performance, and not to be missed.
After the dance, we headed around the corner to Cochin Fort restaurant for our last dinner in India: cashew naan, mushroom rice, spinach with potatoes, and a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc.

To see videos to accompany this post, please go to http://www.tourguidecourse.com/houseboat-and-cochin/



Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Black adder may go forth again

BLACK ADDER IS ON THE CARDS - the line read.

I would hate anyone to think that my pink halo is shining brightly as I have been reading a newspaper again.  According to Graeme Virtue (who) in The Guardian today there is a cunning plan afoot to take the cowardly Edmund and his bum-chum Baldrick into a different time zone.  Fascinating it could be as we could get out of that medieval rut (or perhaps, midden) and propel these two creatures back to Roman Times or bring them almost up to date into the flared trouser era of the sixties.  Anyway, you can read the article with all its ideas.
It seems to be that another choice could be to take that Oxbridge lot of cabinet and (yes) shadow cabinet boys and girls and see what script they could come up.  But who would be in charge? On the other hand you could leave it to the real working classes to come up with a mighty plot. I just hope that it happens.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Alternative Online Outlets for Buying Books

Press reports on Amazon’s treatment of staff escalated recently with a piece in the Independent about the Seattle head office and warehouse employee conditions in in the USA, following similar press articles in the UK.

Last Christmas an on-line petition garnered upwards of 40,000 signatories committed to shopping at alternative sites; on July  17 The Independent helpfully published a list of such sites – check it out via link below. LD

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Desert Island Discs

Ian explained that he had chosen this as a subject because music, in every form, played a part in all of our lives and lyrics, another form of poetry, contributed much to the music industry.

Although there was only a small number of members in attendance, the contributions were varied in the choices  of music which ranged from church music,opera,country and western, folk, modern day pop and what could be described as the classics of the 60's, 70's and 80's. Some of the contributions were a revelation and many provoked memories of eras past as well as sparking discussion on what was also popular at the time.

I think everyone enjoyed the exercise ad had found it difficult to restrict themselves to a choice of three pieces.

John D read out a poem which had won a competition in "The Oldie". It was about the use of modern technology and the unforeseen consequences. This was very amusing and enjoyed by all who thought it a worthy winner.

Lisa raised a couple of points which she wanted to draw attention to the first being an article on the way Amazon treated its part-time and temporary workers and the second was that of what appeared to be discrimination among agents/publishers towards male and female writers.

All in all a rather enjoyable meeting.

Ian C 

Monday, 17 August 2015

Poem By Potential New Member

New Friends by Lyn Bell

We sat down at the table, we didn't know a soul
But pretty soon we exchanged names over the starter and a crusty roll.

We talked about the journey and as the wine began to flow
We chatted away all through the meal until it was time to go.

When we arrived in Vigo, a new format had been set
We had gelled together as a group of eight, no greater company could you get.

There was Chris, who loved his sugar fix, and Helen who liked to tell
Her favorite joke, not once or twice, but again to explain it as well.

Along with me and Eric, who kept us supplied with wine,
Were Elaine and Ian from Scotland, and we all got along just fine.

Last but not least, a German couple, Gerd and Ulla, joined us also
And everywhere that Ulla went, her camera was sure to go.

Now, Gerd, we know, is a very busy man, for each time he finished eating
He would take his bag and disappear to yet another business meeting!

We all saw some lovely places, liked the boat trip very much
But the highlight was the friends we made and I hope we keep in touch.

Ian C

Thursday, 13 August 2015

August Writing Thought

A writer's aim should be to write a good story that people want to read,tell or hear.

Ian C


Quality Counts

Although the number attending this week's meeting was smaller than usual the quality of pieces written was again of a high standard. The written exercise was, "I write about..... because", the members were required to write about their favourite genre, style or both and explain why this appealed to them. The subjects were varied and ranged from humour to travel to life in general. Some contributors stated that their preferred style was of rhyming poetry while others found writing prose easier. A number of members also advised that their challenge was to write both. The exercise proved once again  what a diverse bunch of people we are but that the common thread was our love of writing.

Before the break we also had an oral exercise on concise writing where a phrase or sentence was read out  and the members had to convey the same meaning but in fewer words.

After the break there was more writing in the form of a hot pen when the word chosen was "hat". Again the contributions were varied with subjects including wedding hats, a hat museum and a busker in the street.

Looking forward to next weeks meeting when the subject is "Desert Island Discs" where members will reveal what three pieces of music means to them.

Ian C

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

I write what I write because....today's ten minute writing exercise, unedited

I write travel articles because I love to relive experiences I've had, revisit places I've been, recreate moods I've felt, and get reacquainted with people I've met. It's not that I want to live in the past, because I have a strong belief that we create our lives second by second, a belief that is now backed up by the latest quantum theory research.
No, it is not to go back to the past per se, more to recreate it. Each time I write about say, a feeling, it is not exactly the same feeling as the last time, and certainly not as the original. It is with the heart of a different observer, a heart that has been renewing itself hundreds and hundreds of times since it first experienced whatever feeling I'm revisiting. The physical cells have been replaced by new ones (daily, I believe), so surely the feeling can't be exactly the same?
For example, the all-consuming, overwhelming excitement and exhilaration of tumbling out of an aircraft, wind rushing in my ears, the earth hurtling upwards, towards me, my entire body tingling, blood rushing through my veins....I feel it in my mind now, not in my body.
But every time I look up at the sky and think 'I've been up there', my stomach does a little flip and my face breaks into an involuntary smile. I'm reliving the past, but in a new present.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

Monkeys are Made of Chocolate, by Jack Ewing

 
 
I loved reading this book. It was the first time I had read this genre and it definitely won't be the last. I didn't realise just how rich our planet is at all levels of life, and have been saddened by our devastating effect on it. Jack Ewing gives me hope; what a simple, great idea to create wildlife corridors! Jack writes with the easy confidence of a man who really knows what he's talking about, but with the humility of someone thirsty for ever more knowledge. I highly recommend this, and am about to purchase his next: Where Tapirs and Jaguars Once Roamed.
 
Message to the author: I have just finished reading Monkeys are Made of Chocolate and want to thank you for educating me about the biodiversity of the rainforest. I worked as a tour guide about a decade ago and often walked in the forest near Rio Negro in the Amazon area of Brazil, but I have learned more from your book than I did in several visits there.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Wednesday 5th August

On a hot August morning we met again at Mil Palmeras.  Our numbers were reduced by members being inundated with visitors and with the luckier ones who had escaped northwards.  Those that remained took part in an entertaining couple of hours.  We heard some gems too.
Quotations were the subject and several had chosen their own and had written about them.  There was humour around the table and of course the endings were written with a surprise in mind.  One or two poetic attempts were surrounded by short stories.  One at least was on a personal level with one other ending with a 'cut throat'.  Apparently one 'too many' verbal ripostes can be 'too much for the back of the camel'.
Other quotations were introduced and they were a mix from Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, Oscar Wild right 'across the board' from 'being sent to Coventry' and two lines from a poem.  Everybody rose to the occasion and this should have been a good practice for next week's writing exercises.
We also had short discussions on the challenge to write 'Why Write', the value of editing and feedback.  I am looking forward to another good session next week.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah

Monument to Murder by Mari Hannah
(Published by Pan MacMillan)
This one starts with the discovery of bones revealed by a collapse of the sand. Mari Hannah's 'Monument to Murder' is another mystery for DCI Kate Daniels to unravel. This fourth book again brings Kate into a contest with the damaged individuals that have been conjured up in Mari Hannah's mind. As in the previous books there is the ongoing and under lying tensions within the murder room. The characters either bounce off one another or combine to form a team that knows how to get a result. They are not all perfect of course.

As in her other stories we see that there is a gulf of expertise between her staff and that of the lowly uniform 'plods' that sometime seem to be there just to be there to stand at a murder scene in atrocious weather or simply there to receive a rebuke. Is it fair to be spoken to like that? However some readers may enjoy that aspect of the story. There is one instance, beautifully written, where it is deserved, but really only one.

There are several threads to this one with some of the story set inside a prison. We get the details of what does go on and again she has characters, both inmates and staff, that lodge in our minds.
Violence seems to be an everyday occurrence.

The setting is wonderful as a body is found buried among the dunes below Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland. Seemingly a magical setting and in full view of Holy Island. Is there any significance that can be attached to that?

The story is woven around the discovery of a life that ended years before to lay undetected for a decade. It is a fast moving plots that alternates between the outside world and that of inside a prison. There is more than one crime occurring in the course of this story.

Kate adds to her personal feelings of a past lesbian love and one that has still, or maybe not, to be allowed to happen or will the power that her job demands deny the love that she craves for. A great story and so well written. I enjoyed all of it and the best one so far. I still have one more to read and establish what Kate can achieve both in her private life and in her professional one. Can it get any better for her and the reader?

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Hot Pen

Being the last Wednesday of the month, today was a "Hot Pen " day but the members were confronted with a different scenario. Instead of using a random word to write about  they were presented with a scene - a pine table and chair and on the table was a stack of paper which had some writing on it along with a pen. Fifteen minutes was allotted to write the piece and as usual the members did not disappoint with various pictures conjured up from a different version  of "The Three Bears", a classroom scene in which the teacher was absent, the proposed reading of a will in a solicitor's office to a young man returning to the cottage where his grandfather had lived.

After the break, there was time for a quickfire "hot pen" using the word, "penny". Childhood memories of sweets and family life figured largely with this item and of course the bad penny always showed up.

Ian C

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Futurelearn.com

Futurelearn provide many online courses and they are very good and easy to do.  They can take time, but weekly hours are indicated and the more time you can devote the greater the payback. 
Some members of Stanza Mar Menor have just signed up for WILLIAM WORDSWORTH: POETRY, PEOPLE AND PLACE.  This is a course that is run with Lancaster University and the Wordsworth Trust and if previous courses are anything to go by - it should be good.  It does not start until 7th September and so there is enough time to read more about him.  It is only a few hours a week and is only over four weeks.  Why not give it a go?

There is interactive feedback and we can offer our views of colleagues work and comments.  I just think that it a very good idea and something that TORREVIEJA Writers Circle can participate in.  Okay, I know that you think that it is just about poetry, but there is more in this course than that. If you feel the need to know more about poetry then you will learn and it may influence your future efforts.

John Edwards 28th July, 2015

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Wednesday 22 July

There was a change of programme for today's meeting as we had as a guest speaker, Aoife Leddy, the editor of "Costa Blanca People" (formerly known as "The Coastrider"). Aoife gave us an insight into the running of a newspaper and its trials and tribulations. There was a variety of questions posed to her ranging from her role as editor, the evolution of the newspaper, to the economics of providing a free newspaper in the face of so much competition. During the Q and A session, a number of suggestions were made by members as to what they would like to see in the paper and Aoife said she would take these on board and investigate the possibility of them being included sometime in the future.

After the break there was further discussion on journalistic writing and the general guidelines issued within the newspaper industry. Aoife suggested that, as creative writers, why did we not attempt to write an article on the subject of writing, treat it as a competition which she would judge and the winning entry would be published in a future edition of the newspaper.

The members accepted the challenge with the following guidelines:

Subject                    "Why Write"
Word Count             500 max
Closing Date            26 August ( To the Chairman)

The chairman would then liaise with her at the beginning of September for publication in either late September or early October. The published article would also include details of the TWC which might attract new members.

Ian C
 

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Shimla, our next destination

Tour Leader job

Shimla


16-18 February
We travelled for a full day by road from Dharamshala, and we were relieved to stretch our legs for a short climb up a hundred or so steps leading to our Shimla hotel. Until we had been climbing for a few minutes, that is, when relief was replaced by exhaustion as the altitude began to get the better of some of us, me included. I was gasping by the time we reached the reception at Clarke’s hotel. The establishment is elegant, and the service impeccable, but the view from our window was truly depressing: a huge shabby concrete building, a crowded road, and vehicles jam-packed into tiny car parks or on the pavement below. We had expected sweeping views of the Himalaya. The rooms were comfortable, but there was no free wifi – shock, horror for some of us – and none of our plugs fitted the hotel sockets. The food and bar drinks were expensive, but the ambience was genteel and the waiters looked very dashing in their long coats and turbans. For around 130 euro per night, it wasn’t a bad deal.
During their rule, the British made this town their summer station, moving lock, stock and barrel by horse and cart, up the mountain road to escape the oppressive heat of Calcutta, and ended up spending more time at this ‘hill station’ at 7,000 feet, than in the sweltering capital.
shimla road
The small village was discovered by Captain Charles Kennedy in the early 19th century, became popular with the British in the 1830s, and in 1864 became the summer headquarters of the British Government in India. Enticed by its salubrious character, the ladies arrived first, followed by their officer husbands…. and then the parties started. And party they did, entertaining themselves with clandestine affairs in between visits to church and games of cricket and tennis.
We ventured to a vegetarian restaurant where we dined exquisitely on green pea pulao and methi paratha with fresh lime juice for 233 rupees (3.5 euro), and returned to the hotel bar for a glass of wine which cost twice as much as our meal.
View from restaurant terrace
Shimla from terrace
Next morning we were driven to the Vice Regal Lodge for a glimpse of past luxury, followed by a leisurely stroll along the famous Mall, where no Indians were once allowed. The Lodge is full of memorabilia and original furniture, and it was easy to picture the formal receptions for visiting dignitaries or royal Indian princes. The signatories to the partition of Bangladesh and Pakistan in 1947 would have mounted the wide stairs, as would those on their way to the ballroom for a lavish party, or to the wood-panelled dining room decorated with coats of arms for a sumptuous feast.
Vice Regal Lodge
Vice Regal lodge Shimla
As we ambled along The Mall, I tried to picture characters from fictional stories about the British in India: moustachioed colonels accompanied by pale, lace-clad ladies swooning in the heat, and dashing young soldiers in britches, all being duly waited upon by shy and servile turbaned Indians. Passion rising in their muscular chests and heaving breasts, decorum dictating their behaviour at all times. Except occasionally, when the climate clearly became too much, overwhelming their restraint. Apparently a young British woman eloped on horseback with her Indian lover, prompting Kipling to name their meeting place ‘Scandal Corner’.
Scandal Corner.
^Post Office
I pondered on the rich and poor divide, which despite so-called progress, seems to be as much in evidence in these days as it was in those. While tourists barter over silk pashminas, skinny young lads run errands, weaving between the more fortunate visitors to the town.
For once we were not obliged to rise early on our second morning, as our short Toy Train ride from Shimla to Solan didn’t start till 10.30. The track was covered in scampering monkeys, and the platform crowded with noisy, boisterous schoolchildren, some of whom kept pestering their mothers to buy them biscuit and cake snacks served from rusty buckets.
Important notice
We saved our appetite for the second part of our journey, after stopping near Solan for an outdoor picnic lunch of vegetable sandwiches and tonic water at a government run conference centre in the hills. From there we drove to Kalka, where we continued by train to New Delhi. Dinner was served on board, and seemed endless: starter samosa-type snacks, biscuits, dal, rice, spicy tofu, yogurt….and of course, tea, or chai as it is called in India. The carriage was packed; whenever I travel by train in India, it seems the world and his wife are on the move. I often wonder where they’re all going and why.
Shimla station
Indian humour
View from train

Saturday, 18 July 2015

TORREVIEJA WRITERS GROUP FACE BOOK

There are new items on our Face Book page and it is a way to pass information onwards.  If you are not on Face Book you could join this small group.

Third in Mari Hannah's Series of Crime

Mari Hannah with 'Deadly Deceit'
Mari Hannah and 'Deadly Deceit' where on the cover it is said that 'pure evil wears many disguises', and as it unfolds you will know that it does.
This is the third book that I have read following on from the 'Murder Wall' and 'Settled Blood' where her top detectives DCI Kate Daniels and her solid as a rock DS Hank Gormley battle not only with themselves, but the murdering kind as well.
She paints her characters with a vividness that steps off the page into our imagination. I like the way she writes about individual frailties that become exposed within the murder room and in the real world of the street. No one is perfect.
Her books voice our concerns about what we know is out here. The prejudices and discriminations
that hinder the freedom of choice. Kate battles with 'coming out' or staying stum so as not to hinder her possible promotion. I enjoyed the revelations about her sex/love life and the need to remain focused on her work that just gets in the way of emotional satisfaction.
Kate is a super-woman who has the apparent energy of a battalion of lesser people. Here I ask why do writers have to give their heroes more than they should?
I will not say a thing about the plots as you can read the back cover if you care to. Incidents are pulled together and the participants write their own story. There is one occasion where Kate is leaning against the wall at the nick and within a few lines she is opening a back door in a house. What occurred there? There is one other section that also requires a leap of the imagination.
If you want a hero, particularly a female one, then you have one here and there are others that can entice. You will know that it is much less of a perfect world that you may have thought before reading this fast moving novel.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Book Review

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett


First published in 1989 by Macmillan, ISBN 978-0-330-45013-3, 1076 pages long.

A book set  in 12th century England it covers the period from 1123 to 1174. For anyone interested in history, particularly medieval history, this book is astonishing in its attention to detail.

In Ken Follett's introduction he admits that this book nearly never got written. He is better known as a "thriller" writer, but this idea was in his head for ten years before he actually started writing it. It began with his fascination of medieval architecture, churches and cathedrals in particular. The way they were built at a time without today's technology, power tools or understanding of modern engineering. They were also poor. Only the rich and powerful rode horses. The rest went by foot. And yet many of those buildings, built nine hundred years ago, still stand today.

Relegion dominated peoples lives and the monasteries were the closest thing to the welfare system. Ken Follett explores the daily lives of both the rich and poor, during times of wealth and famine. Today, politicians and bankers, more or less rule peoples lives. Then, it was the Kings and Bishops, Squires and Earls. Someone who was rich one day, residing in a castle, could, the next, be starving in a prison.

This book contains plenty of violence, including rape, pillage and murder, but it is the love stories, entwined through the generations, which capture. This book is such a page turner, that, despite its length, I read it in a couple of weeks. It is definitely one of my favourite books. At the end of the book we are given the first chapter of his sequel, "World Without End", which I will now be looking out for.


Sue Champion

Book Review

The Moment  By   Douglas Kennedy


This is the storyof a divorced American writer living a very private life in Maine. One winter morning his solitude is disrupted by the arrival of a package postmarked "Berlin". It brings back memories of a former lover and their relationship in a divided Berlin where people lived fearfully under the shadows of the Cold War. She was a refugee from the police state of East Germany and they met through their work.

I found it very different from my usual reading and initially it was riveting but, halfway through, I got a bit confused and found the story hard to follow. It was described as a love story but was also a bit of a thriller.


Ann Braithwaite

TWC Book Review

Light On Snow  By  Anita Shreve



I've always been a voracious reader and as soon as I finish a book am desperate to find the next. I could say I'll read anything but that isn't true - I'll read (almost) any genre but it has to be well written. I read for entertainment and escapism - and bad grammer and clumsy phrasing distract me from the narrative. My preferred reading is detective fiction, page turners with three dimensional characters and ideally some humour, my favourites being Ian Rankin's John Rebus, Reginald Hill's Andy Dalziel and Harlan Coben's Myron Bolitar.

For the Writer's Circle I've chosen Anita Shreve's Light On Snow because, as writers, you might find the author's technique interesting. I was given this book by a friend who "thought I might like it." In a bookshop the first page would have put me off. First person AND present tense. My two pet hates. So it remained unread for a long time until I was" desperate" for something to read. I liked it enough to get another by the same author!

The story is told by Nicky, a twelve year old girl. On page two we learn she is thirty now (this cleverly explains the capable descriptions) but she was twelve when she and her father found a newborn baby abandoned in deep snow in the forest near their home. We are taken forward in the present tense to the police's slightly aggressive questioning of Nicky's father, and obviously all the characters want to know who is the baby and why was she left to die in the snow.

The author uses the the police interview to inform the reader that Nicky and her father have only been in their isolated house in New England for two years. They came here from New York where he was an architect. So now the reader has two mysteries to ponder. Who is the baby's mother and what is her story and why did Nicky and her father leave the sophistication of New York for the isolation of their rather hick-sounding home in the forest?

Nicky changes into the past tense to drip feed the background story of why she and her father are alone; she describes them as half a family.

This technique works well. As we move from one scene to the next, the reader is in no doubt as to whether we are in the "present" - the mystery surrounding the baby, or in the "past" - as Nicky tells us how she and her father came to be here.

The descriptive prose is beautiful, the characters are realistic and well- drawn. The story is thought provoking. A masterclass in writing.


Andrea Peers