Monday, 6 August 2012

English OCD

I have OCD! 

I have an Obsessive Compulsion of noticing spelling and grammatical errors in everything I read!!  My children, I'm sure, are sick of it! My fingers itch to correct their use of incorrect words and spelling on their Facebook updates! 

It’s not something new. When my son was in primary school I remember returning a school newsletter marked in red, with spelling errors the principal had made! (He was also a good friend!) My daughters were given fun ways to remember spellings of certain words, e.g. 

Betty Eats Cake And Uncle Sells Eggs – because!   

My daughter used to say Fri-End to remember which way the ‘i’ and ‘e’ went.   

We remembered that ‘stationEry’ was pEns and pEncils, so ‘stationAry’ was the other one! Generally it’s stood them in good stead – except for the odd lapse or two!

In an ‘officially’ single language country like England, although there are many immigrants, one expects those brought up and schooled in this country to be proficient in the English language.  In countries where there are more than one official national language (e.g. many of the African countries), one can excuse the odd English error; for example, lay-bys used to be a popular way of securing a purchase by ‘laying by’ money with the supplier until the item was fully paid and could be taken home. But was this a ‘lay-by’, ‘lay-buy’, ‘layby’ or ‘lay-bye’? All these versions were spotted in one African town!

Typos can be excused although they should not be present when in public display, but using the incorrect word can only be inexcusable!

While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room recently there was a professionally printed poster in bright colours, clearly printed, easy to read and understand, explaining the cautions to be taken when drinking alcohol.  It was presented in the form of football goals, obviously to get attention from the English population, with facts about what a unit equalled, the number of days a week one should go alcohol free, etc. But the last one read as follows: 
“Eat before you drink as food slows alcohol consumption.”

I didn’t have to read it twice! As soon as I got home I checked their website and with a sigh of relief saw they’d got it right! 

“Eat before you drink as food slows alcohol ABSORPTION! 

But how does a poster which has probably gone up in hundreds of doctors’ surgeries across our county, slip through a simple editing process? Even if there were only two people who checked it, surely one of them should have picked up the wrong word!?

(I noticed two other typos in the five minute wait for my doctor! One was, ‘appoinment’ and the other had added an ‘a’ into a sentence. Just in-house notices that weren’t read before pinning to the notice board!)

My daughter was also amused at the notice in the London buses:

Please do not talk to or distract the driver’s attention!

(I believe this has been changed to: Please do not talk to or distract the driver! …… in some buses!)

And finally: 

and ? (Megan captured a passionate English language boffs correction in Bath!)

(And yes, I've read this blog a good few times to make sure there aren't any glaring errors! If you find one I suppose you'll have to let me know!)

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Poets & Harvests!

       I often wondered how my high school English teacher could say with such certainty what a 17th or 18th century poet meant in the cloaked verses of our anthologies! In fact in my final English exam I remember phrasing some of my answers to reflect these doubts with comments like, The poet may have been referring to…. or, it’s possible that the poet was thinking…. and in one answer, our teacher said that……, but I think …..! Maybe that’s why my grade was not as high as I’d hoped!

        While standing at the bottom of a harvested barley field early in the morning with patient Bella at my feet, I tapped these words into my Blackberry memo pad:

Crass naked stalks where golden barley e’er did wave in gentle breezes
Hard huddling hollow brown and yellow clumps bereft of
childhood games.
But to the sun whose light is golden,
still a beauty lies beside
dark guardian trees and passing clouds;
admired by those who see beneath the discipline
of necessity.

It was a beautiful fresh sunny morning with the sun weaving in and out of grey-white clouds and it struck me that we often speak of ‘golden barley fields’ (immortalised by Sting!) but usually it’s the before-harvest picture! So to see that harvested field with the sun lighting it up was a beautiful scene. At that point my mind was not on ‘lessons of life’ or ‘deeper meanings’! I just wanted to describe what was before me in poetic language.

Maybe one day this 21st century poem will be read by high school students trying to find what the poet was trying to say, and I hope that their teacher will allow them to guess at any possibilities but also point out the incredible beauty of God’s creation around us all and how to express it for themselves!

(photo from via Google images)

Monday, 19 March 2012


Robert stood back, frowned, humphed, head on one side, then the other, then deftly popped the paintbrush between his lips and turned the entire orange canvas upside down on the easel. Again he stood with head on one side, closed one eye, then the other, wrinkled his nose and eventually reached forward and delicately dabbed the darkened brush to join the lines on the very satisfying backdrop.

This had to be right. It had to be perfect and there was no doubt that it would be unique. The oranges seemed to have just mixed themselves and Robert knew he would never be able to recreate the effervescent, depth and richness of that scene.

Much like Caroline. As Robert’s mind wandered, the picture on the easel became the slum streets of Mexico nearly five years ago where Caroline had first set eyes on a young, adventurous, and ruggedly handsome specimen of humanity! They’d been happy in Mexico. She was vivacious, happy, spontaneous. After two ecstatic, energetic years she’d agreed to return to his home country and it was then he discovered, despite his unfailing, devoted love, how wild and free she was. She ran with him, but he couldn’t hold on to her……

Robert righted the canvas and smiled. Caroline was a good memory, but she needed to be free, and he would never find anyone as bold, as deep, or as comforting.  The orange canvas smiled back as the shadowy characters galloped on. 

(Image from Writing Prompt 19th March 2012)

Friday, 9 March 2012

My Senses, My Memories - Feb 2012 Poetry win!

I wrote this while on a holiday, but also remembered lying on the grass with my children making pictures from the clouds, then closing our eyes and 'seeing' spirogyra (the only biology term I ever remembered from high school!) and other bright lights flashing in and out!

With eyes closed other senses seem to take over and hearing especially is heightened.  It's also a relaxing exercise in the middle of the day - if you're not driving or walking across a busy road!

Thank you for choosing it as your February poetry winner!

Thursday, 8 March 2012


I didn't start writing with the intention of making my fortune!! I've enjoyed the few things I have written and have been thrilled that somebody 'out there' appreciates it and has published some of them!

Today I had TWO emails! From two different places who have accepted my stories before, to say they were accepting a second! Whoo-hoo!!

Bringing my total to 7! Nothing I can go on a spending spree with, in fact, I think I may have been able to buy a cup of coffee and a biscuit from the proceeds of two articles!

Creative Writing Ink made me the December 2011 winner for the short story 'Jessie' and they have now voted me the poetry winner for February 2012 for 'My Senses, My Memories' (watch the website!).

About a year ago Cafe Lit - Creative Cafe Project - put my story 'Neighbours' on their site, and today they've accepted 'Good Luck Bad Luck Cat'!

So two in Creative Cafe Project, two on Creative Writing Ink, two in Carillon Magazine (issue 29 February 2011 & Issue 31 November 2011) and one on the Gold Dust 2012 calendar. I'm happy!

It's not an ego thing, just nice to be acknowledged! Makes you feel good about yourself  and gives the encouragement to carry on!

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Seasons of Leaves


Today - they wave in warm sunny breeze

Tomorrow - they flutter down to the ground

The next day - they’re hardly seen at all

The seasons of leaves once more.

Today - they shush with all their friends

Tomorrow - they rustle and start parting ways

The next day - they’re hardly heard at all

The seasons of leaves at your door.

Today - they’re green and shiny and bright

Tomorrow - they’re brown and dull and wet

The next day - they’re slush and composty stuff

The seasons of leaves – just enough.

So next time you see or feel or squash

The shapely veined babe of the tree

Spare a thought - Take time to consider

The seasons of leaves

For you - And for me.

( 23 Jan 2012)

Going home.

This is it. The day has come. The crosses on the calendar will stop. It’s time.

Janey stared at the taxi man watching his lips move but not hearing a sound. Watching him stretch out his hand to take the small overnight bag slouched at her feet. She didn’t move. Her thoughts were on pause.

From across the seas she felt her heart start to beat, her neat breasts twitched as the breath of what was to come stirred inside. The edges of her glossed lips climbed to meet the sparkle which suddenly shone from her green eyes.

The taxi man’s eyebrows rose questioningly into the wise furrows above and Janey smiled. “Hello! Thank you, and this…,” she stepped aside to reveal the monstrosity! Taxi man’s eyes engulfed his chubby cheeks, as he envisioned staggering down the path with the polished pirate’s chest across his skinny arms!

“Whoa! That thing looks like it’s come out of Jack Sparrow’s Black Pearl!”

“It’s going home,” said Janey and her assertive tone snapped him back to his professional duty.

“You want me to put that in the boot?” 

Fortunately for him, Janey’s rugby playing brothers thundered down the stairs as if on cue and without a word they each took a sturdy handle and glided out the door before taxi man could take a second breath!

“Good luck, Janey.” Bear hugs, no tears, just knowing smiles and they were gone.

The tickets were safely stored in the roomy patchwork bag slung over her shoulder: Dar Es Salaam, 1 Adult, one way. The first leg was easy; after that trains, taxis, and finally boat. Grandfather ‘Pappa’ Jackson was waiting. The Black Purl was waiting!

Janey was the chosen one to return childhood memories to her elusive Pappa, Pirate Jack!

( 31 Jan 2012)

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Culture Shock

              They say you can’t go back, isn’t that what they say? We looked back, although inwardly had all told ourselves we wouldn’t. Looked back at our home, the green lawn stretching out like a lake, the edges dancing with colour as the new born sun gently swept over pansies, impatiens, roses, cassia, blossoms, pampas grass and lavender. We looked back at the pastures beyond and the cows grazing in slow motion, the picture we’d been part of many a morning while sipping coffee on our veranda. We looked back at the homes around, the dogs stretching from a night’s rest, the cat’s chasing moths, butterflies and other imaginary insects in their large spacious gardens. We looked back, with a grin, at the Hadeda Ibis violently jabbing his long beak deep in the grass to spear the choicest worm, and then startled by nothing but the silence, he rises clumsily, squawking in fright. We wouldn’t miss him - or would we?

We drove silently through wide empty streets, the cars still sleeping in garages, safely locked away for at least another hour or two. There’s no going back. Tomorrow a new family will discover the tranquillity and delight of the gentle farm-like landscape. Another little girl will be rolling over the soft green lawn. Another dog will be darting in and out, overawed by new smells. Another cat will be cautiously tiptoeing through unknown territory.

                The plane landed. The weather in the northern hemisphere had been unpredictably warm and so we stepped out into a bubble of warm sunshine – much like ‘back home’ – a gentle introduction to a new home, a new beginning, a new life. The bubble kept its shape for two weeks, as we enjoyed a holiday type period living in a friend’s home with greens in the distant hills and vales visible through the small side window.

But the bubble burst as we walked into our ‘own home’ – a box within a box. A garden of three or four bushes leaving a narrow strip of … is that grass? The bubble had burst. Travel cases were emptied and packed away. This is now home.

Cars line the streets parked half on and fully on pavements, and even then there’s only room for one car at a time to move towards the ever wriggling snake of metal boxes on their way to central London. No cows grazing, just neighbours dressing with curtains undrawn. No dogs barking or wagging tails, and the one or two cats glimpsed in the wink of an eye, slink under cover of trees and sheds.

              No privacy to sit in the middle of one’s garden and shed sad tears. The neighbour is just a few feet away pegging her undies to the wash line which stretches the length of her garden. The sun plays on the yellow t-shirts, pink panties, white pillowslips and green dresses. And I long to go back. But this is now where I live; this must become my home. Many tears will flow, but it’s time, we can’t go back. A new life has begun.

(Published in Carillon Mag 2011)

Jessie - Winner December 2011

      It's always exciting to see someone appreciates a story!! The story of Jessie started when I was walking to work one summer morning in south west London. It was nearly 8am and the couple in the story were ahead of me. He was just as I described and presented a very comical picture - the trousers were proudly showing off his socks, his feet were flopping and his coat was long. An original draft included his black NHS prescription glasses which appeared to spell the word NERD across his face! Her dress was adapted for the story, but her reactions to the young man were as told until they separated at the intersection.

       The sad thing is, I wonder if the picture I painted in the story could possibly have been anywhere near the truth. And the sad thing is that a place like Lulu's possibly doesn't exist.

       Real life offers many writing prompts, it just takes imagination to build it!

Friday, 27 January 2012

Starting Point

In the beginning

A few years ago I bought a writers magazine for my daughter who was about to embark on a university course in creative writing. However, I found the mag fascinating and started putting pen to paper myself! One of the competitions in the mag was to write a short story based on a simple photograph. I remember the picture well – it was a woman with a red umbrella walking up some steps. I wrote the story but didn’t submit it. At least it was a beginning!

Soon afterwards I read Jonathan Coe's book The Rain Before It Falls (didn't finish it!) which at one point had someone describing photographs to a blind girl. There was a story in everything she described: the reason why the caravan was at an angle, the weather, the tree, the Spring flowers. This inspired me to start building a family story book on the photos I have in biscuit tins and ice-cream tubs. It was like stepping into a time machine with every picture; I recalled the occasion, the place, the people, the laughs, and the tears.  Needless to say this can leave one in a rather quiet and melancholic state of mind.

When my mother turned 70, we bought her a lever-arch file, a pad of paper and a brand new pen and instructed her to write down her life story! She was always saying things like: “When we were kids….”, or “Your Granddad used to….”.  She enjoyed the experience and we now have a lovely story of her childhood, early days of marriage, travels to a far away country, fears and aspirations. Although I’m nowhere near 70, I decided I needed to at least start on my own life story – for my children and still-to-come grandchildren!  I’ve got 67 pages, with a few photos, and haven’t yet got to the part of meeting my darling husband!

Fortunately I’m a diary writer. For my first Christmas after finishing school, my sister gave me a very small page-by-page diary to record my first impressions of working life. The following year I continued on note-pads – which are now falling apart and almost out of date order! Apart from quite a gap when my children were very small – which would probably have been good fun and the most interesting parts of a diary – I’ve sat each morning over coffee and breakfast and recorded frustrations, the weather, and family news, so it was easy to start writing a life-story, but it’s possibly also a life-long task!

And then to blogs ….. And a family website ….. And an internet-published story …. And a real published poem!
Come to think of it, I have a vague memory of saying I was “writing a story” as a 9 or 10 year old, so maybe the beginning is earlier than I thought!?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Chameleon Leaves

A bright yellow sun

Shines light on earth

The leaves glow harlequin and Kelly green,

Olive, Lime and Forest Green

So clean and sparkly

Polished and clean.

The seasons change and soon

The skies are paler blue

A little less sunshine

Coming through.

The leaves desert their lofty home

And lie in splendour

Bronzed and gold

The people “Ooh” and “Aah” again

As sparkling rust and orange red

Those same green leaves

lie changed



Pumpkin and Venetian red.

But very soon the skies are grey.

Our chameleon trades his hues

For amber, corn and school-bus-yellow

Chartreuse and poppy golden ochre copper

But come the rains and hail and snow

Those very stars of earth’s great show

Begin to fade

And bleach

And tear

Until you look

And nothing’s there.

And so the pattern continues on

From green to gold

To yellow and


Winter 2008 * Rose Kelland