NaPoWriMo #6

Red is the filter of this place
the clay, the blood, the heat.
A silent film that covers all.
A nuance to the breath.
A rusty song that lulls a hate
That spreads across the veld.
A lesson to the children,
to never soak their feet.


NaPoWriMo #5

A moment… GONG!
Split second perception,
of a thing profound.
Love is gone.
A phrase contrite,
but no less sound.
My invisible hole,
A withered chasm,
Neatly chopped.
I see two hearts,
Yours still beats,
But mine has stopped.

Pause for Thought

We’re in a cosy little tearoom, appropriately named the ‘Stop-Gap’, and Ms Semicolon is reclining on a luxuriously upholstered chair. Her curvaceous bottom half folds elegantly over the front edge and her full round head rests gently against the back.It seems incredible that some have called this fantastic punctuation mark old fashioned but this is precisely the reason we are here. Ms Semicolon has cause for complaint; she is slowly being wiped out.

Q: It has been said that you are unnecessary. How do you feel about that?

“Well, understandably, I’m quite hurt by that kind of talk. For centuries I’ve been providing an important service to mankind in their efforts to compose eloquent prose, and how am I repaid? I get slandered and ignored! Do you know what that George Orwell said about me? He said, and I quote, ‘I have decided about this time that the semicolon is an unnecessary stop and that I would write my next book without one’, and you know what? He did! He completely eradicated my existence from his prose. Unbelievable! Me, I’ve been around for hundreds of years, and some upstart writer thinks he can just will me away!”

Q: So, how old are you precisely?

“Let’s see, the Greeks have been making use of me since they started writing things down; but they only used me as a question mark, so I’m not sure if that’s applicable to a modern context. Oh, and of course medieveal scribes stuck me onto the end of Latin words to show where letters were missing in abbreviations, but again, that’s another situation. I suppose if I were to name a birth year it would be the year I was first set in a printing press. That was 1494 and it was Aldus Manutius who presided over my debut. That makes me 514 years old! Hmmm, perhaps we should move on to the next question.”

Q: Why do you think people are so hesitant to make use of you in their work?

“I think there are two schools of thought on that topic. On the one hand, we’ve got writers who want to pretend that I am a nuisance, an imposter punctuation mark that is either a weak cousin of the colon or a glorified comma. These are the people who, in my opinion, have no sense of balance. On the other hand, I think most people are just confused and don’t know exactly how to handle me. For those poor souls, at least, there is hope.”

Q: What would you like to say to our readers?

“My dearest hope is that your readers will take the time, after reading this interview, to go and get themselves a good book on punctuation and read up on me and the many valuable services I can provide. I am more than capable of fulfilling my functions in modern prose and I’m sure that after a few pointers, even the most hesitant of penpushers will come to welcome the assistance I can give them.”

And there we have it; the semicolon has spoken! So, next time you’re struggling through that essay or re-reading that thesis, and you get the feeling that it reads a little disjointedly, remember the semicolon! She’d be more than happy, and more than willing, to add a little more flow to your sentence structure.

Suggested further reading:

Truss, Lynne. Eats, Shoots and Leaves.Carey, G.V. Mind the Stop: A Brief Guide to Punctuation.

Philological Fun Facts

Many of us will recognise the word ‘woot’ from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, as in:

“And wel I woot, as ye goon by the weye” Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, General Prologue l.771

It translates to ‘know’ in modern English but did you know that ‘woot’ is still in use today, although the meaning is very different.

Today the word ‘woot’ has become a term that is more at home in the game-speak of multi-player online role-playing games and Unix geek-speak. In the former situation it means ‘Wow, loot!” and in the latter it is used to refer to the root command prompt.

Our modern English conjunction ‘but’ is actually derived from an Old English preposition ‘butan’, which meant ‘outside’ (and for you budding comparative linguists out there, notice the similarity with modern Dutch ‘buiten’); originally, the Old English word for ‘but’ was ‘ac’. Over the course of Old English, however, the word ‘ac’ became less preferred and ‘butan’ started to be used as the conjunction ‘unless’ and eventually ‘but’.

Our modern words for ‘shirt’ and ‘skirt’ are actually derived from the same word in Old Norse ‘skyrta’. ‘Shirt’ took the Old English ‘sc’ sound, which is the same as our modern English ‘sh’ and ‘skirt’ took the Scandinavian ‘sk’ sound.

When someone refers to a boss or a leader as the ‘honcho’ they are actually using a word that was introduced into English from Japanese. ‘Honcho’ is translated as ‘lead officer’ and was adopted by English speaking pilots when they were stationed in Japan during WWII.

Wallonian Wonders – Monks, Boats and Industrial Inspiration

Living in the economic hub of this little country is sometimes a little daunting. The pace of life is breakneck and in my work as a freelancer I often have to work like mad for months at a time to make sure I can get through the slower months of the summer. When insanity threatens, therefore, me and the better half try to get away for a few days to see remind ourselves of what life is like outside the maelstrom.
Our most recent trip took us to Wallonia, the French speaking half of Belgium. We’d discovered a charming little B&B just south of Maastricht and booked ourselves in for three nights.
The added bonus of this little village, Berneau, is that it is a deadzone for all mobile and wifi signals and so we were also blissfully detached from the net while we were there.
Sans electronic attachments, we thus had a wonderful long weekend rambling about the countryside and take in the rolling hills and cute little villages of this rather picturesque corner of Belgium.

 The abbey at Val Dieu

Our first ramble took us through the villages of Aubel and Val Dieu, where we visited an Abbey that produces its own beer, cheese and assorted religious trinkets. This is quite a common occurrence in Belgium, but what tickled me about this particular abbey is that it was built in a valley named the Valley of the Devil. Apparently, these monks were not going to let him downstairs get the better of him upstairs, and they built their abbey right smack in the midle of it and started brewing their own nectar of, well, one God.
The area around the abbey is all rolling hills and farms, which the intrepid wanderer is quite welcome to walk through, as long as you close the ‘klaphekjes’ (swinging gates) behind you and don’t mind being accosted by cheeky horses looking for sugar lumps.
We took a route that led us all over the valley and up and down the hills on both sides and eventually ended up back at the abbey where we stopped off at the tavern for a taste of the local brew.
Now here I must also mention that I had a bit of an ulterior motive for wanting to visit Belgium. Not only is it a lovely country, landscape-wise, but I am endlessly amazed by their ingenuity when it comes to technology. Particularly in the more remote parts of Belgium, one sees an awful lot of alternative energy; something I am particularly interested in at the moment as it will be an important theme in my next novel.

Another thing I love about Belgians is their penchant for hanging on to old stuff. These charming old objects were just standing in a back garden:


 If only I had a kitchen big enough…

On day two of our ramble we decided to explore another part of the region. Here there is a great deal of industry as this is where the Rhine and the Meuse meet. At Lanaye, we discovered a large lock that is being expanded to include a second gate so that more barges can be let through. The sheer scope of the work being done is incredible and I couldn’t resist filming the passage of a large barge as it came in at the upper level to make its way through to the lower canal.

Click on this link to see a short film of the Lock at Lanaye

All in all, a fantastic little getaway and a wonderful reminder of how resourceful and industrious we humans can be.

#NaPoWriMo #4

A raven on a tree branch
Devours the mouldy flesh
Of slain and ravaged burger buns
And processed meat long dead
His world is all of silence
While we below sigh and scream
His needs are few as we discard
More food than he could eat
The raven on the tree branch
Invisible to all
But me as I lie dying
Starved of all I adore

#NaPoWriMo 3

A bit late but here goes

She took a feather
Ripped it up
To show the birds
Their weakness
The birds replied
With beady eyes
And beaks and claws
And bloody jaws
That skin is so much softer
And easier to tear
Than a single unplucked feather
discarded on the air


Writing a novel is an all-consuming project, so can you imagine not telling anyone? At The New York Times, Alice Mattison discusses keeping her novels secrets until at least the third draft. “If I talk about the book, I believe — I cannot help believing — my characters will be angry, and will no longer confide in me about their embarrassing, troubled lives.” On another side of the secrecy spectrum, Emma Straub writes about what it’s like to keep a personal secret even as her literary life was booming.

Do you keep your next book a secret?

#NaPoWriMo 2

Sanding away the varnish
of another glamorous lie
It was a night for revelling
yet I was the painted fly
who sat on his gorgeous petal
as the ladies butterflew by
How they dance to his dew scented tune
How they spiral around his lust
But me, I sit quietly
My thousand eyed stare
Turning them all to dust.