Friday, December 04, 2015

My what I call epiphany

Or, in other words, I suddenly realised today that a particular senior solicitor and partner at my workplace has a walk like the Fonz. Every time I've seen her walk, my brain's been like "WHY is that so familiar?"... and now I know. Did I say she's a woman - a somewhat mannish woman? And usually wears dresses and make-up and jewellery, like many women do? I've nothing against that at all, she's a sharp dresser for her age (and looks younger). All that, though, combined with Fonzie's bouncing sort of walk, really messed with my head for a while, But the mystery's solved now.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

How time does fly!

Seriously, I was under the impression that my previous post was published just a couple of days ago - but's been over a week already! And what do I have to show as accomplished for the week? Not particularly much, unless you want to include watching the new James Bond movie "Spectre". Which, to be fair, was absolutely the best paisa vasool ("money's worth", in Hindi) movie I've seen of late.

Other than that, I've dragged myself to work every morning, then simply RACED back home in the evening - believe me when I say that I have boulders tied to my feet in the a.m, which turn into angel feathers when it's time to go home!

So that's been my last few days. Hardly enough to scrape into a post, is it?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Home is where the stranger is?

A funny thing happened today on the way back from work. 

No, really, it was funny! 

I was standing at the pedestrian crossing outside my workplace, waiting for the little green man to appear (would have been a little white man *snigger*, if this was set in the States), when a guy pushing a whimpering little girl in a pram came up. She may have been 2 or 3 years old, and very cute. I smiled at her and said "Are you feeling sad?". 

Her dad only then noticed that she was whimpering, so he bent down and asked her what was wrong. She didn't reply, just whined a bit louder. He tried to comfort her, saying "We'll be home soon, sweetheart, and you can tell mummy why you're sad." 

That really turned on the waterworks with increasingly louder cries of "No no no". Rather at his wit's end, I suspect, the dad said "What IS it, Emma? What are you saying No to?" And his sobbing daughter said "Don't want to go home!" Then she looked up, pointed at me and added, just to make sure he understood: "Don't want to go HOME, want to go with HER!"

Hmmm... methinks dad's going to need to start the "stranger danger" talks fairly sharpish with that young lady! 

Thursday, November 05, 2015

A confession

Remember the post where I wrote about how I was cruelly disillusioned by Gerald Durrell and his Jersey Zoo? This episode sort of followed on from that disappointment, because I was still determined to do something nice for animals and demonstrate my support for conservation - even if Gerald would never find out about it. However, being penniless and gormless, I didn't quite know what I could do or how to do it. 

Then I saw an ad in a magazine for the "Beauty Without Cruelty" organisation (they make ethical cosmetics that don't make use of animals for research or incorporate extracts of dead animals in their products) and was immediately impressed. They offered, for the princely donation of 20 rupees, a subscription to their magazine and various other enticements that I can't recall now, with the added attraction of helping to save endangered cheetahs or leopards - or perhaps it was tigers. Some sort of big cats, anyway. 

I don't know if you can guess what I did next. Because I had no money (the idea of pocket money was light years from being a twinkle in my dad's eye), I "liberated" the subscription amount from my mother's purse (or dad's wallet? I'm not quite sure) and sent it off to Beauty Without Cruelty. Not for a moment did it occur to me that this was stealing - I considered it a justifiable act because the money was going towards a good cause. After all, I wasn't spending it on library books. 

Anyway, eventually a large package arrived for me, causing a lot of surprise all around, because I was normally not the recipient for anything the postman delivered. I opened up the package in great excitement (alas, another disappointment, because the magazine wasn't what I was expecting, and the accompanying bumf was just more appeals for donations, forms to fill and so on. There really wasn't that much to show for the 20 rupees that the organisation had received).

Also, I was busted. 

Once my parents saw the contents of the package and the letter thanking me for my donation, they of course realised what had taken place. I thought I was going to get a bollocking for taking the money, but somewhat to my surprise, my dad wasn't mad. He asked where I'd got the donation amount from, and I had to confess that I'd simply taken it, pointing out pathetically that I'd only wanted to do a good deed and I didn't think that was wrong. He was silent for a moment, then he said quite firmly that I was wrong, what I did was wrong even if it was for a good cause. Especially because it was for a good cause. The end, he said, never justified the means if the means were shady. 

I made a promise that the next time I was overcome by the urge to generously donate someone else's money to charity, I would first ask their permission. It was an unnecessary promise. That urge never returned.  

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Ditch the fish and try the fry

Ok, nonsense headline, I know. We'll just ignore it and continue with the rest of this post, ok?

So I was reading a book today and came across the phrase "other fish to fry". It's a perfectly common expression and obviously I've not only come across it but - drumroll - I even know what it means. Mensa level brain, of course. Until today the phrase has been ordinary enough that I've not felt the urge to write about coming across it. But today... today was different. Today, right after I read the phrase, a random thought rocked up to my hitherto quiescent brain in relation to the fish that were apparently lined up to be fried. And it was good. The thought was this: the phrase "other fish to fry" is all very well for pescatarians in particular and non-vegetarians in general... but not really suitable for vegetarians and vegans, is it? So many things nowadays are geared to cater to the latter two categories, but it would seem that the language of idiom has not really moved with the times. 

Any, as they say, hoo - a second thought then occurred in quick succession to the first one, and it was also good. The thought was this: how about coming up with alternatives to the fishy frase - er - phrase? That way there would be food-related idiomatic expressions suitable for use by vegetarians and vegans when they want to imply (or state outright) that they have other important things to do (than the original thing they tried to do but embarrassingly failed at). 

Here goes, then:

- "other vegetables to boil"

- "other varieties of rice to cook"

- "other (eggless) cakes to bake"

- "other meat-substitute proteins to fry"

Do feel free to add your suggestions too - they will all go into the idiomatic pot and enrich the language stew. 

PS. Yet another thought has just occurred to me (yay! Hat-trick!) - we should root out other such non-veg expressions and make suitable vegetarian alterations. No, I can't provide an example. I've exceeded my quota of thoughts for the day. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Musically speaking...

When I was much, much younger than I am now (possibly 7 or 8 years old) and living in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, the only music I knew was what my parents listened to, and I don't remember much about it in any case. Except for the songs from a couple or three very old Hindi movies, which I l loved and played over and over. And over.

This was in those days of cassette tapes, which you could buy pre-recorded (yes, like CDs). There were two tapes which I considered mine. One of them had the songs from the 1951 movie "Deedar" on the one side, and "Andaaz" (1949) on the other. I knew - and still know - every song on that tape, and today the song playing really loudly in my head has been Meri kahani bhoolne wale, sung by the truly immortal, golden-voiced Mohammad Rafi. In fact, all day long I'd been fighting the urge to belt it out, mainly because - call it an instinct - the solicitors at my workplace would not have appreciated the melody of this beautiful song in the middle of the workday...or at any other time, I suppose.

However, the closer it came to leaving time, the more insistent the urge to sing became and, as I hurried to my car, I was already singing (although not as loudly as I wanted). It was a huge relief to get in the car and finally, FINALLY release the song. Whoever noticed me as I drove home might have thought I was in agony, or possibly just off my head, because believe me, I was bellowing my lungs out as I hit the high spots. If you click on the song link above and listen to the song, you'll notice that Rafi sahab started out on a ridiculously high note and rose higher still in the course of it. Just right for bellowing. And it wasn't just "Meri kahani..." that was rendered, it was followed in good order by others from the movie. You'd better believe that they were in the exact order as on the tape.

Oh, the other tape (which I mentioned earlier) had "Baiju Bawra" on one side, and I've no idea what was on the other side, because after listening to Baiju Bawra, no other movie songs sounded good enough. So I kept having to rewind the Baiju Bawra side over and over. But wouldn't the tape wear out on the one side, you ask (and you do realise that the mere asking dates you, don't you?) Well, yes, it did wear out, and so did its replacement, and its replacement too, and so on down the line. It was a loooooooong time before I graduated to CDs, but even those stopped working when they accumulated enough scratches. It's such a blessing that you can't wear out YouTube videos!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The call of the not-so-wild

In my first year at the Meenakshi College for Women in Chennai, I met Gee, with whom I quite reasonably soon (for me) became best friends – mainly because she had enough friendliness and gregariousness in her for the both of us (and spill over to include dozens of others, but that’s beside the point here).

What thrilled me to bits was that, in her, I’d found someone who also loved books (actual books without pictures or cartoons) and reading, and who read nearly as voraciously as I did. All through school there had been a drought of book-loving friends in my life, so it was doubly sweet that we had so many favourite authors and books in common. At that point my biggest craze was Gerald Durrell and his fabulously funny books, and we spent many happy hours discussing his writing with great enthusiasm. 

I always love anybody with a sense of humour, and Gerald Durrell had that in spades. Along with a pronounced funnybone, he also had the ability to make every animal, bird and insect that he came into contact with seem really attractive to be around, and his lifestyle appeared to be incredibly fun (even though he went to great efforts to talk about just how difficult it was really). I've always had this amazing ability to completely ignore things that don't fit into my world view, so I just skated right past the difficulties and dangers that he described, and latched on to the fun bits - which, to be fair, were aplenty! 

So then I had this fabulous and original (to my thinking) idea of writing to Mr Durrell at his Jersey Zoo, describing just how much I loved his humour and his writing and his life and the animals in his zoo, and expressing the hope that I could one day work there and help look after the livestock. Given that I was in my first year of college - 17 years old! - my naivete in expecting him to reply personally to my lovingly hand-written letter was really rather extreme. (It never occurred to me that he would probably have been getting hundreds if not thousands of such fangirl letters, nor that he probably didn't have the time to reply personally to each letter - not unless it was accompanied by a fat cheque for his zoo, I guess.) 

I told Gee that I'd written to him, but she felt that I would likely not get a reply. However, remember what I said about ignoring things that didn't fit into my world view? Of course I brushed off what she said and waited impatiently for a reply. A few weeks later, when I got a letter with the Jersey Zoo address on the envelope, I was thrilled beyond words! My hero had written to me, and Gee was wrong! Eagerly, enthusiastically, I tore open the envelope and unfolded the letter...only to have every last atom of enthusiasm extinguished within the space of the first three words of the letter: "Dear Mr Shyamala". 

Dear Mr Shyamala??? My hero had called me "Mr Shyamala"! He thought I was a man! Seriously, how I expected anybody in Jersey to realise that "Shyamala Ramanathan" was not a man is beyond me, but the fact all the same is that I was crushed, absolutely crushed. And embarrassed. Bad enough that my hero had not seen my letter, but worse, not even the minion who had replied had bothered to read it (proof: I was addressed as "Mr Shyamala" - and anyone who'd read even a few lines would have realised from the gushing that the writer could only have been a teenage girl). Worst of all, it was a classic "money begging" response, asking me to send a donation if I wanted the animals in the zoo to continue being looked after. 

So that was one reason why I decided that becoming a naturalist and conservationist like Mr Durrell was not for me. The other reason, of course, was that it occurred to me (eventually, after the tears had dried) that I decidedly did NOT like slugs, spiders, caterpillars, earthworms, bees, wasps, ants, snakes and such like creatures that Gerald wrote so affectionately about, and that I did NOT want to be stung, scratched, bitten, poisoned or otherwise harmed in any way by getting up close and personal with them. My heart had finally caught up with what my head had been trying to tell me - basically, that I was not cut out to work with animals. With some relief, I came to the conclusion that I was much happier reading about them, and that it was much easier to love them all by proxy and within the confines of a book. 

That was the end of my naturalist dreams, but it didn't stop me enjoying Gerald Durrell's books, and I still persisted with a few daydreams about how when I was in a job and earning money, I would send the Jersey Zoo a big fat cheque and THEN ol' Gerald would send me a hand written letter to thank me for my love and loyalty... My dreams die hardest of all, I'll have you know. It would make John McClane green with jealousy. 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Letting loose my inner William

Do you remember the Just William books, by Richmal Crompton? My friend Brinda and I were crazy about William (yes, at age 26 - so what?) and hunted down as many of the books as were available to us, by hook or by crook. Incidentally, isn't Richmal the most unusual name? I've never come across it anywhere else, never heard of anybody else with that name, in reality or in fiction. Until I checked on on the Internet, I hadn't even been sure if Richmal was a man or a woman (woman, if that was unclear to you too). 

In one of the books, William is collecting writing implements for him and his gang to bring out a newspaper. Richmal Crompton's description has remained with me all down the years - "William's task was to collect pencils. Henry's was to supply the paper. William collected pencils, and in collecting pencils as in everything else he was very thorough. He seemed to attract pencils like a magnet. They left their hiding-places of bureaus and davenports and attache cases and pockets and boxes and flocked into his possession. For days afterwards the adult members of the Brown family were indignantly accusing each other of having taken each other's pencils, nor was peace restored till Mr Brown brought back a large supply of fresh pencils from the City".

Specifically, the bit which says "he attracted pencils like a magnet"? I do that too! Not in collecting pencils, but in other things - and the main place where I do this nowadays is on Amazon. Over the years, my interest has been taken by various things arty-farty. It started with fabric painting when I was in my early 20s (and had got my first job). Camlin fabric paints were my favourite, and also the only ones that I knew about. At that point the magnet effect hadn't started because I hadn't quite grasped just how much money could buy, and I was still innocent enough to only buy what I needed. (Yes, I do wish I could go back to that state of mind - it would save a bleddy fortune, I tell you!)

However, that innocence didn't last long. In Singapore I had other vices to pander to, but artsy craftsy didn't come into it. It was only after coming to the UK, during the couple of years that I wasn't allowed to work here, that I really got into the arts and crafts. Apart from indulging in loads of fabric paints (which I didn't use as much as I should have) from Dylon and other manufacturers, I did a few courses.
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Watercolouring was the first, and of course I bought all the paraphernalia - sketchbook, artist's easel, palette, water colour paints, the best brushes I could afford (although I wasn't quite far gone enough to pay over £100 for a single brush!), books on teaching yourself to watercolour, a DVD by a famous children's TV arts presenter on step-by-step watercolour painting - you name it, I bought it. I didn't, however, use all these things as much as I should have, because by then my interest was taken up by....
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Embroidery. This was a craze that lasted a few years (and is still ongoing, although perhaps with a little less craze) - so I bought embroidery threads by the dozen, supplemented by some really beautiful expensive silks from a trip to the USA by way of a shop called Michaels (I think). I admit to going slightly bonkers there because of all the things that I wanted to buy that weren't available back home (or at least not in the same avatars).Oh, and I went to the Hobbycrafts Exhibition at the NEC in Birmingham and while I tried very hard to restrain myself, I still ended up with silk fabrics, threads and a few books on embroidery. Of course at the same time I was also trawling Ebay and Amazon for whatever offbeat books I could find, and yet more silks.
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In between, I experimented with...

Jewellery making. This didn't last beyond the one beginners course that I attended. Too much like hard work, and it required a workshop if I wanted at all to make anything worthwhile. I didn't want to play with fire and I definitely didn't want to bend metal into weird shapes. However, that didn't stop me from getting the paraphernalia that went with it - copper wire, a whole set of pliers of different sizes and a jeweller's magnifying glass, plus a book on metal craft. After that...

Beading. I went to quite a few classes, and made some bracelets and a couple of necklaces, some of which were even wearable, and one really rather complicated necklace that I gifted away (kinda sorta regret that, almost). But I bought dozens and dozens of packs of glittering little beads in various shapes and of various makes from various Internet crafts shops - and believe you me, a lot of the beads are incredibly expensive (I lusted after them, but couldn't afford them)! Other accessories like beading needles, wax, strong threads, a design board, and so on, also found their way to me. Sequins, too. I had big dreams of embellishing T-shirts and clothes with the beads and sequins - I did a few, but again, not enough. However, the beads remain with me, because they are just so very pretty! Shiny, glittering little things in such gorgeous colours. If I could eat them, I would! Then...
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Colouring. I always loved it, and with colouring being classed a de-stressing activity, I was only too happy to buy colour pencils and gel pens and sketch pens and adult colouring books (by which i do not mean pornographic pictures!). I'm not in the least stressed but I do enjoy colouring very much. It's something that my niece (five years old) and I have in common! 

My latest venture is sewing. This was partly wanting to take it up and partly being pushed into it willy-nilly by my sister and brother who gifted me a gorgeous Janome sewing machine last year. It sat at home for a few months while I guiltily ignored it, too scared to actually check out its workings. ew. But of COURSE I had all the accessories arriving at my doorstep in a series of deliveries way before I signed up for a few classes at a local sewing school (which unfortunately closed down a few months after I joined! - I swear it wasn't my fault)  - so the pinking shears, the tailor's scissors, sewing threads in a dozen colours, 3-foot quilting ruler, square quilting ruler, needle threader, seam unpicker, measuring tape, rotary cutters in two sizes, flat-headed glass pins, table-top ironing board, cutting mat in two sizes,  and various other necessities were all in place before I knew how to thread the darned machine! And let's not forget the cloth and pre-cut fabric squares for quilting. 

To be fair, I've actually stitched usable things that look quite pretty too: A Christmas table runner and four matching placemats. A cushion cover complete with piping and concealed zip. At least a dozen little bags which I gifted to various little girls I knew (it's a different matter that my mother had to sew zips to the bags to stop little-girl possessions from falling out). A small quilt for a small child (which incorporated some embroidery too). And now I'm working on a bigger quilt for a bigger child, my niece, who is 5 years old. When I complete it, I will be making a bigger quilt still, for my sister. This sewing lark might just be the one that lasts the duration...but there will probably be other things to try, and let my inner William loose. Watch this space, won't you? 

Thursday, October 08, 2015

It's National Poetry Day today!

And to show my appreciation for poetry, I will refrain from writing any.

It's no joke to invent a pun
Writing a poem is also not fun
Coming up with a limerick
Is at best a bit of a shtick -
Now I wish I had never begun!

What? A limerick isn't real poetry! That's my excuse and I'm sticking with it.


I'm a pretty damn good touch-typist, and have been one ever since my sister and I took typing classes at a typing and shorthand institute very close to home, when we were living in Abhiramapuram. I can't actually remember the name of the institute now, but I remember that the typing instructor looked and sounded very much like the Tamil actor Bhagyaraj (he of the "ek gaon mein ek kisan raghuthatha" fame), and had a really droll way of talking that had me and my sister in fits of giggles at the most inappropriate times (like when he was giving us instructions before our typing exam, for instance). He would chide us for our inattention, but that just made the giggles worse. Poor man, he was only trying his best to help us pass the typing exam! 

Those were the days of manual typewriters, and while I learnt to type on a manual one, I never again had occasion to use one of them after leaving the institute. At home I had my dad's electric typewriter, which was infinitely easier to type on compared to bashing the keys on a manual. And once I started work, it was straight onto computers and keyboards, which were of course easiest of all to use. 

While I can type up a storm and maintain well above average accuracy, there are some words which I always, always type incorrectly - not on purpose, it's just how it happens. For instance, "Shrewsbury"(my adopted hometown). It comes out as "Shrwesbury", or "Shrewsbruy" for some reason I've never been able to fathom, and then I have to go back and correct it. Another word that I misspell is "brown", which comes out as "borwn". It's not a word that you  would normally encounter in the way of work (not in my work, at any rate), but because the cookie always crumbles in the most inconvenient way, there's a new client at work whose surname is Brown, and who lives in Shrewsbury! 

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Who "nose" the answer?

Have you ever noticed when people blow their noses into a handkerchief or tissue, they invariably look at the handkerchief or tissue afterwards? Why do they do that? What are they expecting to see there?  

If you can hazard a guess, please leave your insight in the comment section. (I'm expecting dozens of comments, same as for my previous blog posts. Not. Ha!)

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Driving Mrs Crazy

When you're driving behind someone who's crawling at 10mph in a 30mph zone, and you can't pass because there's traffic coming the other way, when you get more and more irritated, and when eventually an opportunity to pass opens up and you can leave that tortoise you zoom ahead thankfully, only to suddenly realise that you're doing nearly 40mph, and slow down sharply so that you're no longer breaking the speed limit? Or is that just me? 

If ever I get caught speeding like that - and I'm not a speed freak in general - it will be entirely and absolutely the fault of those "careful" drivers whose "safe driving" makes law-abiding people lose their temper and inadvertently ignore traffic laws. If going over the speed limit is breaking the law, doing 10mph in a 30 zone should be equally an offence!   

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Parking mad

One of my pet dislikes is disabled parking. All those long rows of parking spaces at supermarkets that are meant for the disabled, or parents with children. Don't get me wrong, I have absolutely nothing against parking spaces being reserved for the disabled, but it simply doesn't make sense that they should have three or four regular parking rows marked exclusively for their use. Especially as I've only ever seen the first few spaces in use. 

Regular rows are usually quite long, so why force those in wheelchairs or on crutches to navigate all the way from the far end to get to the supermarket entrance - assuming always that there are enough of them at any one time to use up entire rows of disabled parking spaces? Wouldn't it be more sensible to make, say, the first five spaces on every row that is close to the entrance extra-wide to accommodate the disabled-with-wheelchairs or parents-with-children? That way they would have plenty of spaces conveniently close, and the remaining spaces in the rows could be used by the non-disabled customers. It makes sense to me. How come nobody has considered this? Or am I missing something?  

Monday, August 31, 2015

It's called Papa John's quality guarantee...but is it?

Here's the promise: "Love your pizza or we'll deliver you another one absolutely free"

Could be a promise.

Could also be a threat.

"If you DON'T love your pizza and if you then complain to us about it, you'll be looking at another one from us, mateys!"

One bad pizza is bad enough... so you wouldn't really want the prospect of another one dangling over your head (in a manner of speaking), would you? :-)

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Story time from the past

Following on from my first post of 2015 (The One With The Promise, in Friends-speak), it struck me that someone who happens on that post might be interested in reading some of the short stories I wrote from the prompts given by my friend. Looking back at my short-story posts from the challenge (good lord, back in 2006! a full eight years back!), I noticed that I'd missed the first two challenges. But the rest of them, from 3 through 13, are there, in the months of November and December 2006.

So, here's the link to the first of them: Ammani's I Ask, You Write 3. I hope you'll follow up on the rest of them. Do let me know if the stories are as good as I imagine them to be... and if they aren't, let me down gently, won't you?

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Seven Things You Didn’t Know About Me meme

At least, I hope they're seven things you didn't know. The problem is that I forget what I've written about previously... I just hope that those who've read my blog also forget what they've read! :)
1. I love dogs and I love kids, but they have to belong to other people so that I can go home without them. It’s being responsible for them 24/7 that petrifies me. (Aside: I did have a dog, a beautiful Welsh Border Collie. I loved her very much and was devastated when she died of cancer at the ridiculous age of 4. Never again. 
2. As a teenager, my best friend and I, along with another girl (whose name I absolutely cannot remember now) formed a writers group. We called ourselves “Sulakshya” – a name formed from the first syllables of our own names. This compound word serendipitously even had a meaning (“Lucky”). Our aim was to collaborate on writing stories for children, get them published, become well-known authors and make a lot of money (no, we didn’t have our collective heads in the clouds – why do you ask?). Nothing came of Sulakshya, I can’t imagine why, but we did get to spend many pleasant hours brainstorming, sitting under a shady tree in a park or a college campus (i.e, anywhere that had shady trees not frequented by shady youths).
3. I am not at all competitive, but something about a writing prompt set by someone else (whether for a competition or not) gets my creative juices flowing – if not quite a waterfall, at least a trickle.
4. I add my name to “Awaaz” petitions regularly, but actually I don’t see how an online petition could help mitigate truly dire situations. For instance, collecting one million signatures protesting the horrifying actions of IS militants isn’t going to save even one person in their grip from dying a terrible death. Is it? Those one million signatures might bring the petition to the attention of politicians in the UK, maybe get it discussed in Parliament - but that still isn’t going to save the life of even one person kidnapped by the IS. Right?
5. I lurk on a lot of websites that I really like, but usually don’t leave a comment if I can’t think of anything more intelligent to say than “Thank you for sharing” (unless it was shared personally with me and only me) or if I’m one of fifty dozen people all saying “Great read!” or “Well written!”. No value addition, no point. I also don’t leave abusive comments – even if I’m sorely tempted!
6. For all the reading that I’ve done over the years, I’ve never joined a Book Club, nor ever felt the need to. Usually the most that I want to say to friends about a book I’ve liked is “Read it, it’s really good!” I hate the idea of dissecting the plot or the characters or the writing – most of all, I loathe having to explain (or listen to explanations) as to “why this is funny”. Maybe it’s to do with a traumatic episode in the 8th standard at school, where Mark Twain’s short story “My Watch” (which I had thoroughly enjoyed reading) was analysed to a lingering death by the completely humour-free English teacher.

7. I’ve never been to the Opera. It’s on my bucket list, but I refuse to go without mini-binoculars (opera glasses?) because those are essential to the experience, right? (“Wrong” does not count as an answer in this instance.)
PS: I've copied this off my Facebook, because while I promised to post more often, I didn't promise that the posts would be exclusive to this blog! hah! Sneaky, perhaps, but those who are unable to write as expansively and comprehensively as a volcano spews ash are forced to resort to such underhand methods. Sue me.  

Sunday, February 01, 2015

Addiction available, cheap

Codeine is a dangerously addictive drug that can and should only be taken under prescription. We know that. And yet it's sold over-the-counter, available to anybody who has about £4 on them, whether they require the drug or not. This OTC medicine may be a low enough dosage to not require a doctor's prescription, but there's a perfectly clear message on the packs, warning that codeine is addictive and the tablets should not be taken more than 3 days in a row. 

So, you'd think the tablets would be in packs of three so that nobody could abuse the medicine without having to go back to buy more, wouldn't you? No... the codeine tablets are available in multi-packs - 16 tablets, 28 tablets and so on. Why? 

And another thing - people who buy codeine tablets without a prescription should be asked to provide their NHS ID, whether they pay in cash or by card - so that their purchases can be monitored. I don't know if this is currently being done, but if it isn't, shouldn't it? Since an awful lot of personal medical and health information is already being held online, surely adding this will not be difficult. 

There are plenty of people who would bleat about giving the government more power to "spy" on people and take our society one step closer to becoming a "nanny state". I don't think this would matter, partly because I believe the government is spying on us anyway and we ARE living in a nanny state. At least monitoring this extra information might actually help prevent people from becoming inadvertent codeine addicts, or current addicts from covertly feeding their addiction. Maybe it would even save the NHS money in the long run. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

A post and a commitment


Time and again I’ve read advice from various bestselling authors to wannabe bestselling authors about the art of writing. Well, actually, the craft of writing, because apparently it’s more a craft that can be learned than something artistic that is innate. Anyway, the advice is that if you want write, the only way to get writing is to get writing. What the famous ones differ on is the how and when of writing – some of them say they write as and when the mood takes them for as long as the mood takes them, while others treat it like any other job and have set hours of the day (or night) in which they write, like it or not. Pretty much like you would go to work every day, like it or not – especially if you wanted to earn a living.

So far so good.

(Aside: Am I the only one who feels that the previous paragraph reads like a sample from one of those “essays” on common topics that school students in 1980s/1990s India would “study” for exams?)

The thing about that advice is, I’ve always wondered just how one would “just sit down and write”, when one has no clue what to write about.

To which the answer, apparently, is: “Just write”. Oddly, it is the act of writing that takes top billing – making sense is not the aim. This just seems like so much bull doodoo, because what’s the point of writing if what’s being written isn’t coherent or understandable? I know how to write crap, thank you very much, but it’s not what I want to do. What I want is to write not-crap in a non-crappy sort of way – i.e, something interesting written succinctly and coherently that appeals to readers, whether that writing is fiction or non-fiction.

A few years ago, a friend of mine, who’s always bubbling over with creative enthusiasm and comes up with great ideas in all sorts of spheres that take her interest, came up with a competition for her blog readers. Basically, she would provide a “starter” storyline - say, something like “Padmaja’s most treasured possession was a little wooden box with a ball of wool in it. Why?”  - and people would then expand on it and send in their stories.

I really enjoyed that project of hers, because it exercised my writing muscle every week and forced my imagination to work as well. There were no prizes or anything, apart from the satisfaction I got from using her creativity to fuel mine. All of my stories were pretty short – admittedly, I may have a problem with sustained writing – but some of them were actually really good (in my defence, I can recognise good writing, whether my own or other people’s). At any rate, I was very proud of my little babies. 

That project, unfortunately, only carried on for a few weeks – otherwise I might well have become a successful published author by now with an extremely sleek and well-exercised writing muscle. And if you’re wondering, of COURSE it’s her fault that I’ve not been writing creatively! Well, you don’t think it’s mine, surely?

*sigh* Of course I’m kidding. It’s nobody’s writing block but mine. However, I’m going to make a public declaration of the kind I normally NEVER make (because once you state your intentions aloud - or in a manner visible to others - you’re forced to follow through or look like an idiot… right?).

Anyway, I’m going to find a prompt on the Internet that appeals to me (if nothing occurs to me from within) and write a post on this blog every week to build up my creative writing ability once again. That it will also more or less resurrect this blog will be a happy side effect. Hopefully a reader or two will come along again to appreciate my effort (or not – I’m not expecting to be universally loved). You wouldn’t want me to be my own best fan or my own only critic, would you?