Thursday, January 16, 2014

Re-heating the soup

This soup has gone cold. I have an idea for re-heating it but it's not something I've done before so it may or may not work.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The long grass

The other day I heard a report on a radio news programme that talked about how we should stop sitting on our hands, get off the fence, roll up our sleeves and do some serious spadework. Oh, and we should not let people get away with kicking things into the long grass.

I wonder what the gardening programmes are like?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Unexpected things

I didn't expect to ever go to a concert where I knew every note and pause of every piece played. I didn't expect to go to a live concert of music by an artist who sadly died in 1997, leaving behind a band without the essence that they had formed around. It was strange to hear the so-very-familiar music, played by a new generation of musicians and to hear it interspersed with new pieces that blended perfectly. In fact, for this long-time fan, the highlight of the night was a new composition. It was wonderful to hear a son breath new life into the music his father left behind and add a whole new chapter to a story that I thought had long since ended. Thank you, Arthur Jeffes, for keeping the Penguin Cafe open. It's the unexpected things that make life so interesting.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Tiny beetle

For two days now a tiny beetle has been circumnavigating my laptop screen. Up one side, across the top, then down the other side. Occasionally it turns and goes back the other way, or ventures a short distance over the keyboard. Once, it fell off onto its back but, when I helped it to right itself, it went straight back to its track around the screen. It's there when I shut down to go to bed, and when I log back on in the morning, there it is. Round and round and round it goes. What I want to know is this. What, exectly, is it trying to tell me?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

On concision

I've always enjoyed the concise, the pithy, even the terse. Like many others, over the last year I've found myself tweeting and being involved in that conversation far more than blogging. Is this a bad thing? I don't think so. Much of Twitter is trivial but so is much of everything, and at least it has the virtue of being briefly trivial.

However, some of it isn't trivial. Today I've seen a campaign launched to speak up for my profession which is, like many others, under threat of possible cuts. The call is for professionals to tweet what they do and why it matters, to sum it up in 140 characters or less. It's a campaign that makes us focus on the essentials, it doesn't allow for rambling arguments or going off the point. It shares the discipline of short forms of writing generally.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

The New Pearl Harbor

David Ray Griffin's 'The New Pearl Harbor' and 'The New Pearl Harbor Revisited' are shocking books.

I found the books shocking not because I didn't know the events of 9/11 described in them, but because I did. I knew what happened, but I hadn't thought through just how bizarre some of the things that occurred that day were, and what the implications might be. I accepted what I was told too easily. Didn't question enough what I was not being told. Didn't want to think about the horrific images. Got tired of waiting for the official reports. Relied on journalists to investigate. Failed to notice that the phrase 'conspiracy theory' was being used to suggest that conspiracies never happen. Above all I'm shocked to realise how incompetently done a conspiracy can be and still succeed.

Some of the most inexplicable events of the 11th of September 2001

  • Several civil aircraft are hijacked and flown off-course, and no military aircraft intercept any of them.
  • The President is informed the country is 'under attack' but is not rushed immediately to a secure location.
  • The President later speaks of having seen the first aircraft hit the World Trade Centre live on TV on 9/11, although footage of this was not broadcast until the next day.
  • A hijacked aircraft is able to fly to the Pentagon without interception more than half an hour after the attacks on the World Trade Centre.
  • Two steel-framed buildings collapse at virtually free-fall speed due to fires that burn for less than two hours.
  • A third steel-framed building collapses at virtually free fall speed due to fire later the same day. The third in history ever to do so.
  • The BBC reports the collapse of this building more than twenty minutes before it happens.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Last Cigarette - Chichester

I'm not sure that a stage version of The Last Cigarette really works, except to draw attention to the diaries themselves.

Sadly I found Felicity Kendall - although delightful - was a major distraction from the grumpy, cantankerous, decidedly not always delightful Mr Simon Gray. His voice did come through clearly in some parts and those were by far the best. At other times he seemed to be lost somewhere in between the three actors portraying him. Another distraction was the problem of having three actors on stage with very little to do except deliver dialogue. Elaborate moving around of chairs and almost-lighting of cigarettes only drew attention to this. The one point at which there is some real action - when Simon turns on himself violently after getting his diagnosis - had all the more impact as a result.

For a work that so directly confronts the issue of death the ending was oddly vague. Inevitably the diaries themselves couldn't provide any sort of closure here but a play could have. I especially regretted that the two major ironies of Simon Gray's life; that his fame most likely will rest on his diaries rather than on the plays he felt were his life's main work, and that he did not, in fact, die of the lung cancer that appeared to be his inevitable fate but of another illness altogether, were not alluded to at all.

To provide that much of a step back from the content of the diaries themselves might have given more of a context to this life story. As it was I was left remembering the last play I saw at Chichester, Six Characters in Search of an Author, and the Father's insistance that, because of their context within the structure of a play, characters have a more immutable reality than real people and real lives do.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Idea for a story No.452

Maybe we live to sleep each night and dream, and when we die we spend eternity in the dream world we have built.

Why write?

To find out
what you would write
if you did.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I went on a visit to the cinema that made me feel old. I remember Richard Nixon and the young David Frost, although I don't remember either one being as likeable and sympathetic as they are portrayed in this film. Maybe that's what makes it good? That it successfully calls for empathy with a couple of closed off, self-sufficient characters. It still seems to me that Nixon was the one really in control and admitted not a single thing more than he wanted to admit.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

A partly political broadcast

When I was studying sociology for A level there was this theory of political convergence. It said that the two main political parties in the UK were increasingly making claims for the middle ground. Over the many years that have passed since this prediction was made I have watched it come true. To the extent that there is scarcely anything to choose now, between the so-called left and the so-called right. Precious few political candidates are willing to do anything more than mouth vague platitudes. It's all a nasty grey goo in the middle. And who wants to vote for grey goo?

In American politics the grey goo phenomena is of rather longer standing. There being nothing even remotely resembling a real left, (as that is, of course, the stamping ground of the devil incarnate and Europeans) the whole lot have to huddle uncomfortably together on the right, righter, or self-righteously rightest.

But for once in a long, long time there is, amazingly enough, a candidate who appears to have something for brains other than grey goo and the most truly amazing thing of all is... the polls say it's still pretty close and McCain/Palin might even win.

Hey USA! Don't mess this one up! I'm not sure you'll get another chance like this.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Nobel Prize

Some excellent news today about the Nobel Prize for Literature

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clezio is a name that takes me back many years to a happy accident in a public library in my youth when I picked up one of his books. After that I looked for more for many years, didn't find them, and finally gave up.

I'm hoping that this news will mean that his books might be a little more easily available than they were, and I look forward to catching up with what I've missed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Rain Man

I'd originally booked to go and see Rain Man a few days after its opening night. Then there was a change of director and the opening was delayed, so I ended up going to see a preview. I may be proved wrong but, with about a week to go until it opens, I can't see how this can be saved.

Josh Hartnett's character Charlie is pretty much one-note throughout. Adam Godley's Raymond spends most of his time with his head hung down and, from my seat in the Apollo's vertiginous balcony, the view was rather restricted, but even just watching the top of his head he almost made it all worthwhile. Almost, but not quite, because this should have been a play not just about two contrasting but equally emotionally blocked characters, but also about Charlie gaining what Raymond never can - insight into the human condition and relationships. Unfortunately the 'insight' he demonstrates in the final few minutes is both abrupt and unremarkable.

Monday, September 01, 2008

" "

"Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished." (Lao Tzu)

"Some people put up walls, not to keep people out, but to see who cares enough to knock them down." (Anon)

"Are you going to come quietly, or do I have to use earplugs?" (Spike Milligan)

Why can't I think of anything as good as that to write?

Friday, August 08, 2008

Six Characters in Search of an Author. Chichester. August 2008.

I've never seen the original Six Characters in Search of an Author, but from what I'd picked up in the little I'd heard of it I had thought of it as a play about the excessive artifice of the theatre at the time it was written. So it was no surprise to see the Six Characters story re-framed in the context of television drama documentary, an equally questionable artifice making claims to truth.

What I hadn't appreciated was the extra layers within the Six Characters story itself, which was left largely intact in this otherwise very different production. Changing the framing device made very little difference to this, although it provided a modern context for the more timeless themes of identity and sense making in everyday life that the main story explores. It also provided a sort of a light relief to the more serious themes that most certainly are developed, even amongst the occasionally ludicrous goings on of the Six Characters drama.

I don't believe that this production is about the state of TV drama documentary any more than the original was about the state of contemporary theatre and so while I found the frame appropriate and amusing what I was really interested in was the Six Characters story.

At the beginning it seems that the Father is the character who is determined to have the truth, as he sees it, told and we might think that he has dragged the other five along. However, he has a surprisingly strong opponent in his apparantly abused Step-Daughter who is at least equally determined that her version of events will be the one to see the light of day. It is said that she has been the one most active in trying to provoke the original author to complete his story. The Mother admits that she is unable to match the Father's eloquence but in several interjections she makes it clear that she has her own perspective that she is unable to articulate. The Son's angry silence and occasional outbursts of denial suggest his account would be different again, although he would rather it all remained private!

This leaves the battle over truth to be fought out between the Father and Step-Daughter and I wonder if, in this age of moral panic over paedophiles, we fail to see this as the equally matched power struggle that it really is. The Father's attempts to present himself as someone trying to do his best and suffering agonies of guilt and shame at his failure are ridiculed by the Step-Daughter who then blames her own moral failings entirely on him. However she takes such great delight in tormenting him it is not easy to see her as a victim.

Has he mistreated his wife and abused his step-daughter? Or have they manipulated his weaknesses?

Towards the end the Father turns on the new Author and questions her claim to reality, suggesting that characters in a story have a greater claim to coherence and lasting identity than those who exist in the fluid, changable real world where each person has to attempt to carve out their own role in competition with others doing the same for themselves, and where there there is no author to impose order. Which is, of course, exactly what we have just seen happen!

In this production I was particularly impressed with Ian McDiarmid's ability to portray the Father in a way that avoids demonising the character while still having something of the diabolical about him.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


No posts for so long. Have I given up writing altogether? Almost. Not sure how that happened. I still try to keep the miso soup bubbling but I struggle even with that. My own writing group fizzled out. The local writing classes I went to came to an end, and I couldn't make the times of the new sessions. I've been moving house, busy at work, doing more and introspecting less, but those are all excuses, not reasons. I think what really happened was I realised I needed to refocus on what I want to write about and I've been evading that task.

Saturday, January 12, 2008



Sunday, December 09, 2007

A Ghost Story

The air was already shimmering with heat by the time we started out on our day’s hike after having lingered, full, after our English breakfast.

Mike, Edmund and myself had planned a leisurely walk along the stretch of coast between the village of Warnham and the next night’s B&B.

At the first turn of the road Mike stopped, resting his rucksack on a stone wall to consult the map. We were hoping to visit the Old Cemetery that Edmund had been reading about, and we needed to make sure we took the right path out of the village, to avoid having to cross a marshy section the locals had told us about.

Edmund leant over Mike’s shoulder and they argued briefly over the best route. At last they agreed and we set off.

We strolled along, boots crunching on the gravel. Our conversation ambled from one thing to another. The scent of warm grass was in the air, and there was an occasional drone of bees. We let our discussion of poetry lapse to listen to the quacking of ducks, and meandered on towards the distant glint of water.

Having expounded my views on a certain modern novelist I wandered on ahead, watching the water’s surface glitter in the sun. After a while I noticed that the others were loitering further up the path. I looked back and saw that Edmund had taken out his notebook and was writing something.

‘Ah! Observe! The writer at work!’ Mike said, with a sweeping gesture of his arm towards Edmund. ‘When we stop for the night you’ll be able to keep us entertained with the first chapter of the Tale of the Shaggy Dog, or whatever that is you’re writing!’

‘This is no hirsute canine fiction!’ snapped Edmund, 'This is a true story of an unearthly phantom! I have it on the highest authority – that chap in the pub told me last night. Of course I’ll have to change the names.’

‘Oh, come on’ said Mike, ‘we haven’t got all day!’ He paused, ‘Well, actually, now I come to think of it, I suppose we have! But if you want to go poking around that cemetery later we’d better get a move on.’

‘Alright, alright, give me a minute. I’m just making some notes for the background, you know, setting the scene. There’s nothing like walking the territory to really catch the atmosphere of a place.’

A lark began to sing and we shaded our eyes to look up into the bright blue. Edmund made another note.

By late afternoon we’d come to the gates of the Old Cemetery. We were greeted with birdsong, long and loud. Edmund pointed out the wren, in a curl of ivy twined around a fallen stone angel’s wing.

‘Nosiy little devil, isn’t she?’ he grinned.

With a flick of a wing the bird was gone. We walked on in companiable silence among the graves. The headstones were all askew, overgrown and bright with buttercups. I pointed out an inscription, ‘Not Here, Gone On’

‘And here we are still loitering around!’ was Mike’s response. ‘Have you found what you’re after here yet, Edmund?’

‘Yes, here it is’ He stopped to copy down some words and a date from one of the graves. ‘If only I could have met him...’

Mike gave an exasperated sigh and strode on.

‘Met who?’ I ask.

‘Jack.’ said Edmund. ‘Jack O’Leary, the Lantern Man they called him. That guy back at Warnham was telling me about him. Sounds like a real old character, just the kind you need for a good story.’

Edmund was unusually quiet in the pub that night, not rising to Mike’s frequent attempts to get him to talk about what he’d been writing. As the night wore on and darkness fell he seemed restless, and finally announced he was going for a stroll. Half an hour later Mike stood up and stretched.

‘Well, I suppose I’d better go and see if the lad’s wandered off and got himself lost in that graveyard!’ he said and chuckled.

A bearded man turned from the bar. ‘You don’t want to go near there, not tonight, haven’t you heard? It’s the Lantern Man’s night!’

‘I’ll be fine’ said Mike. ‘I’ve got a map, and a torch…’

‘No!’ The man said loudly, and the pub fell silent. ‘Don’t go carrying a light. Not on the Lantern Man’s ground. He’ll come at you if you do. Knock you down and kick your light out. Often enough it’s not just the light he’ll give a kicking either. If you must go, then go without a light, he may let you pass then - if you’re lucky!’

Just then Edmund appeared at the door, Mike’s torch in his hand. He was dusty, bruised and disheveled, but with an odd gleam in his eye.


I've become aware of a sneaking sense of guilt in the back of my mind over this blog. The writing group that it's named after went off the boil a while back. Busyness, lack of inspiration, all the usual excuses. I don't suppose anyone cares. I am aware though, that the blog gets the occasional visitor, probably quite at random, but even so. I feel guilty to offer the occasional random visitor nothing new.

But I don't have anything new, so I thought I'd post something old. Something I wrote as an exercise in one of my other writing groups. I don't recall blogging it anywhere before, so it may as well see the light of day, even though it is a dark little story. I hope it may serve as a warning to writers who may be tempted to take their search for inspiration to dangerous extremes.

I'll make it the next posting.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

People who may be offended by Equus

Well, as I said before, I went to see Equus. I throughly enjoyed it, and I’d highly recommend it to everyone. Hmn, well, maybe not quite everyone. So, as a public service, here is my list of…

People who may be offended by Equus

  • Animal lovers. "In London, Equus caused a sensation because it displayed cruelty to horses; in New York, because it allegedly displayed cruelty to psychiatrists." Peter Shaffer (Playwright)
  • Anti-psychiatrists. The R.D.Laing over-simplifiers who are offended by the way the boy is 'cured' of his unique personal experience of life.
  • Anti anti-psychiatrists. Those who dislike the previous lot and are offended at their view being represented at all, even if the boy is 'cured'.
  • Anti-smoking campaigners. No chance to be offended by anything else, as they walk out in disgust after the first minute.
  • Atheists. Offended that the Atheist father is being blamed.
  • Christians. Offended that the Christian mother is being blamed.
  • Harry Potter fans. Offended at ‘Harry’s’ behaviour.
  • Harry Potter fan haters. Offended by the presence of all those teenage girls who never usually go to the theatre at all.
  • Harry Potter haters. Offended at ‘Harry’ appearing in a serious play.
  • Heterosexuals. Offended by the presence of all those gays who never usually go to the theatre at all.
  • Homosexuals. Offended that the boy's attraction to those nice men in tight trousers playing the horses is seen as deviance in need of cure.
  • Horse fetishists. Who feel really got at by the whole thing.
  • Normal people. Offended by the psychiatrist's rants against the mediocrity of normality.
  • Pagans. Offended by the psychiatrist's rants against himself.
  • Psychiatrists. See: Animal lovers and Pagans.
  • Prudes. So offended by the constant harping on about sex, the men in tight trousers, the swearing, the smoking, and the violence that they drop their opera-glasses at the vital moment and miss their chance to be offended by the nudity.
  • Puritans. See: Scottish lady dentist puritans
  • Scottish lady dentist puritans. A minority group viciously attacked without so much as a two-line character with which to defend themselves.
  • Socialists. Offended by being called 'old type'. In a 1970's play, no less.
  • The easily offended. Probably offended by this list.

Something remarkable about Equus

I went to see Equus. I thought I’d mention it here as this is a writing blog, even if not much writing is going on here at the moment.

Something struck me about the writing of the play: there’s a thing it does so well that you hardly notice it. It handles the different time sequences that are going on within it effortlessly and elegantly. The psychiatrist’s present time musings are layered in with his memories of conversations with the boy and his parents and other characters. The boy also introduces some of his own earlier memories within these conversations. All this happens in a perfectly natural flow of words, with never the slightest doubt about what point in time someone is speaking from, even when they overlap within the same scene. At times characters in different time layers seem almost to be responding to each other, but it never gets confusing. It’s quite remarkable, so I thought I’d remark on it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

6 words

Cabbage Soup is still off the boil, I'm afraid. It has stirred slightly though, just enough to set a challenge, to the workplace in general, to write a six word story, like these in Wired magazine.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

A blatant breach of the Versifiers Descriptions Act

'New Poets?' I'm feeling more old and prosaic today.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Not so new writing: The Alchemy of Haiku by Alison Williams

The Alchemy of Haiku
[Originally published in Blithe Spirit Vol.13 No.4 Dec 2003.]

Alchemy is much misunderstood and, it must be admitted, much of the reason for this lies with alchemists themselves. There is a long tradition amongst them of obscurity and indirectness, of anything but plain speaking. Some might say of deliberate obfuscation. They claim that their work is derived from basic truths and that it is a practical art rather than a theoretical philosophy, and yet they seem unable to state plainly what the truths are, or what the practice consists of in such a way that others can emulate their skill.

This is the first point of similarity between alchemists and writers of haiku. I would like to suggest that there are two further aspects of these subjects that bear comparison. A particular kind of symbolism and, perhaps, the goal of the practitioner.

Alchemical symbolism is dependent on a world view which was taken for granted in medieval times, but which has been widely discredited by the modern materialist and scientific orthodoxy. There are three interrelated aspects of this world view. One is that the world of matter is transient, and that there is an eternal reality beyond the natural world. The second is that symbolism is not of a merely metaphorical nature but is concerned with discerning real correspondences or equivalence, in the light of which seemingly very different things can be recognised as sharing essential qualities. The third is that these essential qualities are graduated from the lowest to the highest and are capable of transmutation.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistos [1], the nearest thing to a straight¬forward statement of alchemical principles that exists, begins, ‘In truth, certainly and without doubt, whatever is below is like that which is above, and whatever is above is like that which is below.’

dawn -
the rising mist
turns to gold

To the medieval world view it is obvious that the sun and gold share qualities and that these qualities also have their counterpart in the human body and soul. Today these correspondences, if they are noted at all, are seen as either archaic poetic fancy or as coincidental. Thus a BBC science web site [2] recently noted: ‘Mars, the Roman god of war, has always had a special fascination for us. Indeed, there is even a slight connection as both blood and Mars owe their red colour to iron and oxygen.’

R. H. Blyth [3] denied that haiku was symbolic: ‘… it is necessary to state with some vehemence that haiku is not symbolic, that is, not a portrayal of natural phenomena with some meaning behind them... There is no separation between the thing and its meaning... One thing is not used to imply another thing. ‘I would suggest that what he is denying here is that haiku is symbolic in the limited, metaphorical sense. If there is a symbolism in haiku, and surely there is, it is of the kind that seeks to discern the shared essential qualities in natural phenomena and in the human being’s inward experience.

a chained bike
up to its hubs
in yellow leaves

Perhaps the most common misapprehension about alchemists is that they are concerned with the transmutation of lead into gold as a means to wealth. It is true that, throughout the history of alchemy, there have been those ‘charcoal burners’ who wanted only to discover a formula to get rich quick. This was not the concern of the alchemist who was inclined to devote a lifetime to his work and to have more in common with a hermit or monk than with seekers after worldly riches.

The true goal of the alchemist depends upon an understanding of the concept of correspondence discussed above. In this context the physical transformation of lead into gold can only be achieved in parallel with a corresponding transformation of the alchemist himself

Is our goal to discover the formula for writing the golden haiku? Or is there some other goal which, if diligently sought, will transmute our leaden efforts into something of a higher grade?

[1] Titus Burckhardt. Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul. Fons Vitae, 1997. Translated from the German by William Stoddart. (First published by Walter-Verlag Olten und Freiburg im Breisgau, 1960) p196


[3] RH Blyth. A History of Haiku. Volume 1. The Hokuseido Press, 1963. ppl3-14

Haiku article online

The Australian poetry journal Yellow Moon have now put online the article called Haiku Lessons that I originally had published in Summer 2005. It's partly a 'how to' guide for new haiku writers, but it's also a guide to the lessons haiku can provide for writers generally.

Seeing it again reminds me that it goes rather well with an article I had published in the UK journal Blithe Spirit back in 2003. I think I'll put the text of that up here as the next entry so I have one place to go to find them both.

Friday, September 08, 2006


Carrying on the Cabbage Soup occasional summer break theme. Perhaps, as what I'm writing at the moment is, shall we say, of a certain quality, I ought to be writing on this?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Loose leaves

Sharon Bakar (Bibliobibuli) says that
"“The Old Farmer’s Almanac,” whose pages were often ripped out by people in outhouses and put to practical use, has always come with a hole in its upper left-hand corner for easy hanging."
That explains why loose-leaf updating comes with those little holes in it...

[BTW I'm on holiday, and Cabbage Soup is also on its summer break. Normal soup will resumed as soon as possible.]

Monday, July 03, 2006

work/life life/work

I wasn't sure where to put this blog entry. It's about writing so maybe it should go on my writing group blog, but it's about work, so perhaps it should go on my work blog. Sometimes life is not so neatly compartmentalised!

I've found that creative writing and ordinary, everyday writing are more closely related than you might think. Since I've been doing writing exercises (fiction and non-fiction) I've found it easier to write anything. I'm not so daunted by word counts. I have an idea how much I can convey in 500 or 1000 words and what kind of structures work. I've some experience of how to write differently when the words are to be spoken aloud, which helped in writing the same paper for delivery at a conference and for subsequent submission for publication.

Having to read out my writing group exercises - something I hated doing at first - has helped to get me used to the idea of public speaking to a wider audience.

I'm pretty sure that blogging contributes to this as well. It's a form of regular writing exercise that helps me focus on how to express thoughts and record events in a reasonably concise format.

Saturday, June 17, 2006


I wonder if this would do as my next writing group exercise? I'm a bit worried about this one...


You worry too much,
he said, I know how
to prove it.

I'll suggest something
that's nothing to worry about,
and see how you react.

Imagine -
he smiled at me - imagine
you're a statue.

I stared at him,
not quite able
to believe it.

That isn't worrying,
I replied, it's simply

Imagine this, I said,
you're fully conscious
but can't move.

Can't see or hear,
or feel a pulse, or heartbeat,
can't ever touch.

All you can do,
all you can ever do,
is think.

He thinks
I'm a worrier, but I know
he's turning to stone.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The motivation to write

With an imminent (as in tomorrow morning) deadline for a three act play (who'd join a writing group?) hanging over me I've been reading a biography of Spike Milligan. At one stage he was writing a new episode of The Goon Show every week for broadcast on the BBC. Now there's pressure, and what it can do for productivity! Mind you, it didn't do much for his mental health, so perhaps I don't want quite that much motivation!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Happy Birthday to us!

Cabbage Soup is a year old sometime around now. It came into being in May 2005 and this blog started in July 2005. It's taken us almost exactly a year to work through all the exercises in Teach Yourself Creative Writing. We've just got the last one to do.

[Muffled scrabbling noises in background.]

I just tried to lay hands on my copy of the book to check what it is, but I seem to have misplaced it at the moment. Anyway it's something about coming up with alternative titles for books, I think. Nothing too strenuous as a final exercise. Just as well after the last one - the play writing. That was a tough one, but it was fun taking parts and reading them out loud.

What will we do now?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogs and writing

I'm going to so many writing group meetings I don't have time to write! No, that's not really true, it's just an excuse. Going to writing group meetings gets me writing things I never would have done off my own bat, and dredges up all sorts of ideas that would never see the light of day otherwise. Maybe just as well in some cases, but there's the odd good one amongst them. Occasionally.

I think what has caused the slow down in blog entries is the sheer number of blogs I've been trying to keep up with writing or contributing to lately. (Not all visible through my Blogger profile.) It reminds me of my phase of subscribing to poetry journals. At first I signed up for all sorts, partly to get an idea what was about and what I liked, partly as a general learning experience. Then I slowly cut it back to managable proportions.

I'm thinking about which blogs I want to keep going and which I might retire, or retire from. I haven't made any decisions yet.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Cabbage Soup had fun today. Having just done an exercise which involved writing a childrens story we went to the childrens section of a local bookshop and looked at the books to see how our efforts matched up. (There were no children there, just us!) My favourite was Lost and Found by Oliver Jeffers. A wonderful book, even though I thought it really should have ended a couple of pages before the not-quite-believably-happy ending.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

New writing - Shoozle by Alison Williams

Shoozle was not a dragon. He looked a bit like a dragon, but his dark red wings were feathery, rather than leathery, and his paws were big and soft and he didn’t have claws. He got a more dragonish look about him if you annoyed him though. Then he'd turn his bright eyes on you, narrow them to slits, and stare and stare until you went away, or at least changed the subject. It was rather rude, but dragons aren't expected to have good manners.

One day Shoozle was snoozing in his cave. He almost always snoozed with one eye half open, just in case anyone tried to creep up on him and steal his hoard of gold. He didn’t actually have a hoard of gold, but it seemed like the sort of thing that a dragon should do. So when the man in the grey suit with the small suitcase started up the path leading to his cave he noticed at once, and growled quietly to himself.

When the man got to the top of the path he stopped to catch his breath and cool off before he approached the cave. He knew that dragons are quick to spot signs of weakness, and he thought they might even eat you if you irritated them, especially if you looked particularly hot and tasty.

“Good morning Sir Dragon!” he said to Shoozle politely, bowing.

Shoozle opened his eyes and slowly raised his head.

“Tell me, Sir Dragon, are you ever embarrassed by your fire breathing? Ashamed of your scales? Mortified by…”

He dodged quickly to one side. A patch of grass shrivelled and smoked.

“Ah, well yes, I see that fire breathing is not a problem for you, but…” the man looked more closely at Shoozle, “perhaps the scales?”

Shoozle’s body was covered from chin to neatly pointed tail with velvety red triangles. The man set his suitcase down on the grass, opened it, took out a small green bottle and held it up.

“Just a few drops of this potion every day, and in no time at all you’ll have the shiniest, toughest scales of all the dragons in the world!”

Shoozle eyed the little bottle, then he yawned. When he’d finished yawning he spoke.

“Go away.” he said and gave the man one of his narrow-eyed looks.

The man looked surprised and a bit worried.

“But, with those velvety soft scales of yours, whatever will you do when George comes along?” he asked. “He’s got a sharp sword you know, and he doesn’t like dragons much at all. I really think you should… consider…”

Shoozle kept staring, and staring, and it’s not easy to keep on talking to a dragon, or even something very much like a dragon, when it’s staring at you like that.

“Well… perhaps… if you should… change your mind… just… let me know…”

With that the man put the little bottle away in his suitcase, and hurried off down the path.

Shoozle settled down for another snooze, careful to keep one eye half open. Which was just as well, as it meant that he spotted George’s sword glinting in the mid-day sun while he was still quite a long way away. It did look like a very long, very sharp sword, and George was heading straight for the path that led up to the cave.

When he saw this Shoozle opened both eyes, got up, and padded on his big, soft paws to the very back of the cave where he gazed down at the king’s daughter who was curled up there, fast asleep. Then he padded back out of the cave and started down the path that George was coming up.

George, seeing Shoozle, gave a loud cry of “Dragon!”, and started to run up the path towards him waving his sword. Shoozle opened his mouth and shot a blast of fire that made George duck, but he recovered quickly and began swinging his sword wildly again. At this Shoozle reared up, spreading his feathery wings, and flew into the air, circling just beyond reach. Then, suddenly, he swooped down, grabbed the sword out of George’s hand, and carried it off between his great paws, disappearing into the distance as George stared after him, empty handed and with his mouth open.

Shoozle took the sword far, far away, dropped it down a deep, deep pit and then, as the sun was setting, he returned to the cave and padded right to the back to find that the king’s daughter had woken up.

Shoozle was tired out after fighting George and flying such a long way, so he curled up next to the king’s daughter and she stroked his feathery wings, his velvety scales and his big soft paws until he fell fast asleep.