Iivo-Jaan

21 Sep

Daj att mij liisnuu luugu.

‘Iivo-Jaan.’

Lopp Jij tagsi vi ett glaaz.  Diir flaat aat pikali mett ett meer i makk vi yokut va niirikk Plekksiiglaas vo Prspekks.  Aat ett ventsrr haamakk vi ett sama matriejaal.  Iirr aat niirikk okks.  Jij haaprovv, uusk Jij.  Niim Jij een lopp dajsi i siir verr vu ett lottiliit skript iim ett bunn rikktrruuka jorn va ett glaaz.  ‘Tsal-Konoki’, ett lovoo saag i nekkt tii dij, ‘Ĉïmor Dnílap’, fabrikkhaar i plaaz va fabrikk, tinkk Jij.  Aat dii een piirskpegg, va soort.  Aat dvo nii rask flaatr iim ett kommpaatshuut, nii skaap krastr.  Ett meerr kruuv iimtii ett luvo.  Aat ett luva mukk i sett vu rijdr.  Zelv ett uvi aat mukk, kladdt iim een fett iinsulatt matriejaal.  I dii aat zaatt. 

‘I kvoden aat ett rekuuprant?’

Zom viis juu, fiint Jij mij vaj tagsi tii ett velikshuus.  Dij timm, miinst, huskkr Jij kvoden Jij fot daj.  Ett koppmaal maasgot fot.  Haajavst Jij hammrtinkk.  Aalskrivv Jij ett pappverkk i oppniim reziidnet.  Doktorr kom i doktorr gaa.  Doktor Kviizmijstr, Doktor Kvestjaana, Doktor Laurii… 

‘Denkk juu vu ett kindra,’ saag svii. 

‘Maa haa Jij een kindra ik,’ vatsa Jij. 

‘Aat dvo een kindra iimett va vii alv, Olav.’

R aat va regressnes terapij, dan, va aaltrikkt i verrfinnt huskknes, reiinkarnjnes…  Alv va dijr lovoteknikk kaast Doktor Laurii, vu een timm vo tojnen.  Nokk va dii julp?  Aat Jij uulvorvijsst ik. 

Oppsiir Jij.  Niim Iir mij ogg. 

‘Tarrin.’

Ett doktor latok verr. 

‘Uusk Jij nii een lovo va dii,’ saag iir.

‘Maa aat daat ett vaj huskkr Jij dii,’ vatsa Jij. 

‘Oppmakk juu alv dii, komaraad.’

Kva maats Jij iir taal, dan? 

"Komjuvel tii Noorii"

Liitsr Jij een knakk.  Opplokk Jij mij timmlogg vi ett luvanekktboord.  Dii aat trii iim ett davn.  Eenyokut aat knakkikk vu ett duur.  Dii vilavvrikk diir raam voor laanj.  Iim ett halla ujtti mij hijrt zaal een haar i een fruu staar.  Iijrr skiinoorii-bluu uniformaa siir tuuta.  Iirr nodikk iirr iim, taal Jij tii fo een liit koffr. 

‘Vii vilgaaa huus naj?’ kvitsa Jij. 

‘I kvo aat daat, ekkzaktt?’ vatsa ett fruu. 

Jij kaan nii huskkr.

Sett Jij mij frokk. 

Aat mij zaal vu ett topp latt va ett konsrukkt.  Klopp vii dol ett tiin tagsi trepp.  Aat dii enna tmokk ujtti iim ett straad.  Ett kombii aat een amvulanz – vi ett ujtti, miinst.  Niim iirr Jij iim, vorklaar iirr, va obsrvnes i ekksammr.  Haauulviis iirr Jij va yokut timm naj, skijnvr.  Klatt Jij iimtii ett tagsi va ett kombii i dan aat Jij iimstaapt.  Ett motro skrijk zom vii lopp vito drokk ett straadr va statt, huul vij klakkzon. 

Setrasr kom i setrasr gaa.  Setras Jovaa, Setras Niiko, Setras Tiia…  Taar iirr mij jadluu.  Gavn iirr Jij tablettr i kom dan ett drommr.  Timmsyokut, dromm Jij Doktor Laurii haaligg nekkt tii Jij zom slevn Jij, i klokkvo Jij vakkn iim ett davn, vilfinn Jij een laanj krevn flett vu mij paad (kaanskii dromm Jij dij okks).  Va danjar vu een timm, ligg Jij vu mij tagsi vu ett luva i siir vu ett luvo.  Dvo aat ikknes ellr tii makk.  Kvillr i penaa vorbuut aat tii Jij.  Haa Jij oppmakkr mijegg luduur.  Aat Jij naj ujtti niitilaat.  Dii aat varaa, aat Jij taalt.  Ekktat zelv ett vrald ujtti?  Savn Jij ik. 

Setras Tiia triik ett naal iimtii ett skruuk va mij rankkruuv. 

‘Jij vilgaa huus naj?’ kvitsa Jij. 

Inkkr va dij aat ekkt.

Alv skript i foto © PSR tvuzikk-zekkstun

Just One Globe

30 May

The internet is a funny thing. It’s intimately entwined with globalisation. Wearing the economist’s hat from my day job, I see the negatives all too clearly. It facilitates the growth of global markets and multinational corporations, leaving the individual ever more powerless, and often, his or her government too. It multiplies the herd mentality of markets, dragging us into the malaise of global recessions. Globalisation erodes cultural differences, the diversity of human experience that makes the world such a fascinating place. And when these differences are defended, it frequently brings societies into violent conflict.

 

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Another part of Europe…

And yet, at the same time, it brings human beings together too, wherever they may be around the globe. My experience of blogging has brought this point home to me. Sometimes enthusiastically, often sporadically, I’ve kept this blog going for nearly four years now here on www.wordpress.com. I’ve had visitors from every single country in Europe, almost everywhere in the Americas (but never Venezuela or the Guianas, for some reason), much of Asia and some parts of Africa. I’ve made friends with creative people from the USA, Canada, Italy, Norway, Switzerland, Russia, Belarus and India, to name just a few.

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And somewhere else…

Ultimately, the solutions to our problems, the resolution of our conflicts and the custodianship of the planet, can only come from the citizens of the globe pulling together as one. Governments by themselves cannot achieve this and corporations generally have no interest in doing so. The internet enables us to encounter one another, to reach mutual understanding and discover the things we have in common. It makes a better future possible. In my little island, many people are afraid of this new world, wishing to retreat into some imagined past where we lived in isolation, free from foreign influence. I understand their fear but history is against them. The future lies in our common humanity, understanding our differences and embracing them. Here in Ipswich, the town has become increasingly global and I have gained friends from Germany, Portugal, Latvia, Slovakia, Hungary, Zimbabwe and Namibia, among other places.

Through the reach of the internet, I’ve even been introduced to the talented Colombian painter whom I’d love to illustrate the children’s books I’m threatening to write, if ever I get around to it… The stories originate in the long and complex novel that I’m constructing at present. And here’s a tiny extract:

The girl sat down on an oval shaped rock.  It was black and perfectly smooth.  Uluf lay at her feet.  From the high ground they could see the southern tip of the island stretching out before them toward the sea.  The morning sun glittered on the water, playing skipping stones on its surface with diamonds and sapphires.  Although it was still early, the day was already really quite warm.  Kriistiijaana imagined herself flying across the sea on the wings of a white screamer.  The goats bleated away contentedly among the scrappy grass.  The two companions sat there in silence for a while, contemplating the view.

  ‘What do you think lies beyond the sea?’ the girl asked at last.

  ‘Who can say, mistress?’ the wolf answered.  ‘The sun, perhaps?’

  ‘I wonder if there are other islands like our own.’

  ‘Perhaps there is only sea.’

All text and images © PSR 2016

 

Bainbridge Syndrome

17 Apr

Beryl Bainbridge was a real character. She was short-listed five times for the Booker Prize and highly regarded by many. The Times included her in its list of the fifty best British writers since WW2 (it’s an odd litany, mixing populist choices with genuine contenders). I’ve only read two of her novels and don’t feel greatly inclined to read another. Part of the reason I haven’t read any more is that I find them under-written. Yes, they’re intelligent and have great premises but they feel like they need at least another two drafts. Maybe I’ve read the wrong ones. Nevertheless, she provides a useful piece of shorthand for the sin of insufficient revision, Bainbridge Syndrome.

I’ve witnessed it in writers I’ve known. A member of a writing group I belonged to claimed that he never revised his work and could knock out a novel in a matter of months. It didn’t show in his writing, of course… I definitely suffer from it. And my writing suffers too. I never give my manuscripts as many drafts as they need. Bainbridge was pretty prolific. Perhaps this was the cause of the malady in her case. For me, the cause is simple. I don’t have sufficient time to see my projects through to true fulfilment. I’m not a full-time writer and have never enjoyed that luxury. The bills have to be paid. I don’t have a private income. I haven’t ever received a bequest. And thus that extra draft or two that my fiction requires doesn’t materialise.

I’ve recently been reminded of this deficiency in my writing. A reading group, some of the members of which I know, is about to read my novella, Norwegian Rock. So I felt I ought to re-read it myself. If I’m honest, I was quite pleased with how well it stood up. But one thought kept occurring to me – if only I’d given it another draft. Yesterday, I met up with a good friend of mine, who is also a writer, though he has little time for it at present. We hadn’t seen each other for ages and although he’d read my war novel “Mayflies” quite some time before, he hadn’t given me his reaction to it. Although he’d enjoyed it, he found parts of it under-written. It’s a long and complex novel that took me six years to write. I probably could have spent another six on it to get it where I wanted it. Ho hum…

LUAP Special Norwegian Rock

Of course, there’s a danger here. A writer can be plagued by the opposite of Bainbridge Syndrome, becoming unable to let go of a novel, endlessly revisiting it and reworking it. It’s a syndrome by which another good friend of mine is afflicted. It’s not a condition I would wish to endure. Maybe in another life, I’ll be born idle rich and have a bijou apartment gifted to me where I’ll write the fully realised novels that I envisage. And I’ll have the time to make my blog posts perfect too…

Mayflies blank

All text and images © PSR 2016

Recharging Creative Batteries

13 Apr

A week at the writing den soon passed. I made far less progress than I’d hoped for on my almost-finished manuscript. On the other hand, I recharged my sadly depleted creative batteries. I read Michael Krüger’s highly entertaining ‘The Executor’. I went on some wonderful rural stomps, including a stroll around the surreal sculpture park below. I saw a green woodpecker and a raven. I ate lots of good food too.

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I also returned to a remote and inaccessible bay. It’s quite possibly my favourite spot on earth. Being early April, the waters of the Western Channel were far too cold to swim in. I had to settle for sitting on a rock and dipping my welly boots into its jade green but icy water. It’s a place where all cares and worries go whistling away, if only for a short while. The photo below does no justice at all to the beauty of this place. Ho hum…

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I also explored some new places. I had sailed out of Dieppe countless times but never looked around the town. From the ferry it looks uninteresting. Closer to, it turns out to be a ramshackle delight, with grand old churches and a cliff-top medieval castle. By sheer coincidence, I have just picked out Henrik Stangerup’s ‘The Seducer’ as the next read from my bookshelves. It’s subtitled ‘It’s Hard to Die in Dieppe’… Now I’m looking forward all the more to reading it.

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So now it’s back to the grind of the day job and of life with all its hassles. Hopefully, somewhere in amongst it all, I’ll find the time and energy to complete my manuscript this year. In the meantime, here’s a tiny extract. I’ve been much concerned with games, perhaps because my children and I have played numerous games of Cluedo during the holidays…

The Kaffe Muzeesmis is another haunt of the old chess players.  A number of barstools have been crammed against a counter at the end of the compartment.  This leaves room for a single table at which games may be played.  More often than not, the combatants will be Vikktur Kiirilavnas and Valentiin Krutt.  They seem to be working their way through the same restricted and highly symbolic set of moves, as though playing a handful of games from memory.  Are these exhibition matches, then?  Perhaps.  Certainly, they will frequently draw the attention of the other customers, who watch in rapt silence from the bar. 

In the first game, Kiirilavnas plays black.  He undertakes a ruthless demolition of his opponent’s forces, removing piece after piece in rapid succession.  This opening has become known as Kiirilavnas’ Defence.  The older man seems to take particular pleasure in the early capture of white’s bishops and in his deferred pursuit of the queen.  But it is those black rooks, the kjerntuurr that appear key to every move.  In the second game, Krutt is red.  Now it’s the younger man’s turn to go on the offensive.  In a breath-taking display of attacking play, he deploys his knights to deadly effect and the red king or krevnkunikk in an unusually advanced position.  His opponent offers little resistance.  It’s maat in eighteen moves.  For the third game, Kiirilavnas is white.  He plays a highly skilled, counter-attacking game, combining his knights and bishops to destroy his opponent’s defences and soon the black king is staring defeat in the face.  The fourth game sees Krutt draw level again, providing a textbook demonstration in the offensive possibilities of the board’s most powerful piece.  This is Kruut’s Gambit.  The white queen or bjeldronikk controls the game almost from the debut to its endgame, supported by the merciless thrusts of her bishops.  The opposing pawns are soon under her command and then, for black, the game is up.  The old men include in their repertoire a few examples of the modern game, played at irregular intervals – one where Krutt wins swiftly as black, another in which Kiirilavnas sweeps to victory as red – nevertheless, you’d only have to spend a few afternoons observing play at the Museum Café before you’d find the familiar patterns re-asserting themselves, the same four exercises being played out, with minor variations, those sequences to which the players always seem to return.  History repeats itself as tragedy then farce, cataclysm then slapstick, catastrophe then stand-up… 

All text and images © PSR 2016

A Change of Title

20 Feb

I’ve just returned from the writing den. I went there with a good friend of mine. We spent our time walking, socialising and eating. In between, I worked on my current writing project. As we were driving back to the UK, my friend asked me what the title of my work-in-progress was. So I told him. He wasn’t convinced.

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I know that my current title is highly appropriate to the manuscript and its themes but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the right title or even that it’s a good one. Adrift on our infinite ocean of information,  in a world of short attention spans and snap judgements, the two most important features of a book are its opening sentence and its title. And so we have Nineteen Eighty-Four with ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen’ or The Trial and ‘Someone must have been telling lies about Josef K, because one fine morning, without having done anything wrong, he was arrested’. I like to think that the titles at least of three previous efforts were pretty good. But my current project… My friend was kicking at an open door. The only problem is that I don’t have a decent replacement lined up at present.

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So here are some possibilities I’ve been mulling over, though I’m not sure that any of them are any good:

  • Lokomotiv
  • The Twilight of the Autocrats
  • Transitory
  • In Transit
  • 2025
  • A Short Guide to the VHR
  • Tarrinstøy
  • ZTL 25

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Do my readers particularly like or dislike the sound of any of them? Please let me know what you think.

All text and images © PSR 2016

Time Cast Anew

31 Dec

And so another ‘new year’ approaches. Except that it doesn’t, really. In truth, one day just follows another. Like most people, though, I still get sucked into it. I write down those resolutions. We humans seem to need these artificial divisions, so that we can impose meaning on the formless future. It’s ridiculous, of course. If we’re to influence at all the shape our lives, we need to take action every day, not just on one evening of the year.

It was a beautiful winter’s day here in East Anglia, so I went for a walk along the river bank. The path passes through a post-industrial landscape before reaching the open countryside. I actually find the ugly part more interesting than the pretty section (as you’ll see from my photographs). And walking always helps with contemplation, I find.

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Time flows seamlessly like a river and has no natural divisions.

One resolution that I shall make is to finish off my current manuscript in 2016. I resolved that for 2015 too… but it is getting closer. It’s an unwieldy thing, neither fitting into any neat genre nor following the conventions of what a novel should look like. So I probably shouldn’t add finding a publisher for it to my resolutions for 2016. Life isn’t at all like a riverside walk, of course, with its predictable stages and landmarks. We have no idea where it will take us. We make plans. Sometimes they come off. More often, they don’t. We shall see…

Giant hogweed, doing its best to resist the council's efforts to eradicate it.

Giant hogweed – some things man just can’t control, however hard he tries.

It so happens that the next 12 months may well have more significance for me than would normally be the case. For once, that artificial time frame may well mirror actual events in my own life that could have a profound impact upon it. For there to be any chance of this actually happening, though, I shall need to work to hard throughout the year. I’ll report back in 366 days’ time…

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I know where these steps will lead me. Life, on the other hand, could head in any number of directions.

So here’s wishing both of my readers a Happy New Year, in the pretence that time isn’t a continuum and that events magically change as a result of the numbers we impose on the universe. I hope that at least some of the things that you have planned for 2016 will come to fruition and that you’ll look back on it as a good year.

All text and images © PSR 2015 [the last of…]

Judging the Contents by the Cover

10 Dec

Don’t judge a book by its cover, so we’re told. But how often have you been attracted to a book or an album, purely on the basis of its cover? Did you buy it without having read or listened to any of it? And did you come to regret it? There was a time, of course, when you couldn’t hear an album before buying it. You couldn’t read a tenth of a book before making up your mind about it. It’s not even twenty years ago, but it seems unimaginable now.  The internet has so utterly transformed our experience of the world.

Man strides through his high-tech world but he remains at heart a primitive creature. Although I don’t share the conservative implications of evolutionary psychology, I do believe it offers a powerful explanation of the way that we behave. The human psyche developed over hundreds of thousands of years and snap decisions played an important part in this. Survival depended upon them in less ‘civilised’ times (the term is used advisedly here, in the light of the last two thousand years of human history). Many of our modes of thinking and acting were evolved for the Savannah and not the city. Is that member of another human group hostile or friendly? Will he fly or fight? You have two seconds to read his face. Does that silhouette belong to a cave bear? There are five seconds in which to retreat to safety behind the fire. These days, the big predators are either extinct or safely behind bars in zoos, relegated to our subconscious. Only the microscopic ones inside our bodies still provide a threat. Those and ourselves, of course, with our dangerous machines and materials, our conflicts and violent crime… In these man-made contexts – crossing the road, deciding whether or not to walk down an unlit alleyway at night, entering a shattered building in a war zone – snap judgements remain essential.

A column of cotton-wool clouds

A column of cotton-wool clouds

It’s surprising how often snap judgements still prove useful in a variety of other contexts. As mentioned, I’ve found this to be the case with two important things in my life, music and reading. Sometimes, the cover of an album or novel just looks right. When I lived in Lincoln, there was a chain record store called MVC (it’s long gone now, I suspect). Among the racks of CDs, I saw the cover of the splendidly named Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot by Sparklehorse. A ridiculous clown mask was hanging against a blue sky filled with cotton-wool clouds. It fascinated me. And then there were the titles – Ballad of a Cold Lost Marble, Most Beautiful Widow in Town, Sad & Beautiful World… I made a snap judgement. And when I bought it, the music turned out to be a revelation. It remains one of my favourite albums. I can’t even begin to describe its beauty – Mark Linkous’ fragile voice croaking out those surreal lyrics, the understated instrumentation, the underlying, aching sadness of it all (MVC also had a copy of Work Lovelife Miscellaneous by David Devant & His Spirit Wife, the name and cover of which similarly intrigued me – it turned out to be entertaining but nowhere near as good). The same was true for the unnerving cityscape on the cover of Metropole by Ferenc Karinthy. I’ve referred before to this Hungarian novel from the 1970s. For some reason, someone had left the book out on top of the others on a shelf in the fiction section at Waterstone’s (don’t even get me started on synchronicity…). Again, I made a snap judgement. Metropole, it transpires, is an enigmatic and compelling read and happens to contain one of my favourite scenes from any book.

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The cover of Karnithy’s Metropole looks something like this… but in which city are these buildings?

I can think of numerous other examples. We enter someone’s living space for the first time. We scan their bookshelves for a few moments and we make a judgement. Or I walk into W.H. Smith and look at the covers of the books there and they tell me instantly that I don’t want to read them. It’s like love at first sight. Do you believe in that? I’ve experienced it several times, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend its outcomes. Many of the people that I’ve become good friends with over the years appealed to me straight away, upon first encounter. As soon as I walked into my house to view it, I knew that I wanted to live there. By chance, a search result brought you to this blog post and you made a snap judgement to click on it. The three of you still reading at this point can nod sagely…

These judgements can mislead us too, of course. We can completely misread another person through initial impressions, for good or bad. Impulsive decisions can backfire (how well I know this). And anyone with an ounce of intelligence knows that judgements made on the basis of ethnicity, disability and so on are deplorable. Should we not judge a book by its cover, then? The problem is that it’s hard not to. How do we override several hundred millennia of human experience? And all too often, these judgements turn out to be the right ones.

All text and images © PSR 2015