On frosty starts and birdie-socks

24 03 2014

Wotcha!

Oooooh, wasn’t it chilly this morning? A frost-scraper of a morning for those of you that drive, and a finger-freezer of a morning for those that travel by other means and forgot their gloves.

A little frosty-morning rhyme snuck into my head as I was walking to the station:

It’s frosty out this morning
I feel my fingers freeze
The birds are going bonkers
As they flit about the trees.

A little later, after a particularly violent sneeze, I amended it:

It’s frosty out this morning
So cold it makes me sneeze
The noisy nose explosion
Scares the birdies from the trees.

Or maybe it was a second verse?

Anyway, I was delighted when my pals on Facebook replied to my efforts with little rhymes of their own – isn’t it lovely how the Rhyming Bug can wiggle its way into other people heads, and make them rhyme too?

I had to share this one with you, penned by my friend Jon – it’s soooo sweet, and really made me smile!

The frost is on the branches,
The snowdrops and the rose,
We need to knit some tiny socks
To warm the birdies’ toes.

How cute is that?! So cute it prompted a wobbly little finger-doodle on my phone on the train once my fingers had thawed out:

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Cheers for planting the image in my head Mr Jordan!





Happy World Poetry Day 2014!

21 03 2014

Happy World Poetry Day one and all!

Blimey, it’s been a while since I posted – doesn’t time fly?!

In honour of World Poetry Day I decided to do one of my Crazy Rhymey Challenges. I was given a veritable feast of words from the good folks of Twitter:

@M_Z_Harrison Crepuscular
@modflowers Plinth
@Mr_Pie Meander
@Mr_Pie Slither (rather weirdly, two people sent in “meander” so one sent another word, then t’other sent another too which fitted in with the emerging theme so I just had to use it!)
@mooseandmouse Excruciating
@ADsaxist Harpsichord
@kaye_sedgwick Soporific
@cathy_maclennan Sliver
@PermaPaula Discombobulated

And this is the resulting rhyme. Oh, if you’d like to know where the lizard’s name came from, have a read of this – What else could I have possibly called him?! 🙂

Graham Steals The Show

The sun was slowly setting
As the moon began to rise,
And in the jungle, on a leaf
A lizard yawned and sighed.

The lizard’s name was Graham,
And you’d see him every eve
Doing push-ups and contortions
That were quite hard to believe.

This wasn’t out of choice –
You see, poor Graham was crepuscular
(And ‘though he hated excercise
It made him very muscular.)

But in his heart of hearts
He felt so lonely and ignored –
For no-one new his talent
On the humble harpsichord.

At twilight every evening
In the jungle concert hall,
All kinds of creatures gathered
To perform and give their all.

And poor old Graham, on his twig
A-stretching and vibrating,
Had to miss the concerts –
Which he found excruciating.

One evening as he exercised
Upon his leafy plinth,
A monkey, swinging from a branch,
Fell off dropped his synth.

It crashed upon the ground
With a distressing little clatter,
And monkey howled in sorrow
As he watched his keyboard shatter.

“Oh woe is me!” poor monkey cried,
“Oh most unhappy day!
My instrument’s quite ruined,
Now I have nothing to play!”

Then Graham had a massive thought
That set him all a-quiver
Dare he? Should he? Would it work?
There was a chance – a sliver!

He cleared his throat politely
And addressed the monkey thus:
“Dear monkey, I can help you out –
But only after dusk,”

“I have a lovely harpischord
And borrow it you may,
And in return, I wondered
If you’d kindly let me play?”

The monkey leapt for joy
And cried “Oh, wond’rous salamander*!
I’ll wait until you’re finished,
Then we’ll to the show meander!”

So monkey watched in awe
As Graham twisted and gyrated –
The lizard’s dextrous antics
Left him discombobulated.

And as the twilight ended
Graham off his leaf did slither,
And hand in hand they set off
To the concert, with his zither.**

The monkey’s band had gone down well,
The concert hall was packed;
Then Graham stepped up to the stage –
He was the final act.

He felt a little nervous
But as soon as he began
He lost himself in music
As along the keys he ran.

And after he had finished
Came a stunned and silent pause –
Then the concert hall exploded
With loud cheering and applause!

Some thought those dulcit tones
Would prove a little soporific
But Graham made the harpsichord
Sound totally terrific!

These days in the jungle
It’s a very well known fact
That Graham and his harpsichord
Is THE BEST final act!

Ta daaaaa! Hope you liked it, and big thanks to everyone that joined in the challenge by tweeting me random words!

Oh, and if you’d like to read the rhyme I wrote for last year’s World Poetry Day, it’s here… 🙂

* Graham was a little hurt at being called a salamander when he was quite obviously a lizard, but he decided to let it pass.

** I know. I know, okay? Yes, I know there’s a big difference between a harpsichord and a zither, but I liked the rhyme. So there. 🙂





Millie and the bird…

15 01 2014

What-ho readers!

It’s the first Crazy Rhymey Challenge of 2014, hurrah!

Well, sort of…

A couple of weeks back my good friend Cat posted a picture of her lovely Bedlington terrior Millie with her new toy box, which rather resembles a piratey treasure chest. We bantered a bit about doggy-piratical things and she suggested I pen a rhyme on the subject…

Cut to today, and I had a little train commute so decided to do a Rhymey Challenge. After receiving only one word (thank you Susan Sharpe for supplying “bird”!), I thought “Hmmmm… Millie… Pirates…” and this is what popped out…

Millie and the bird…

Millie was a pirate,
She had a wooden paw;
But every time she tried to run
It skidded on the floor.

One day out on the foredeck
Millie sat alone and sighed;
Pirating was difficult
When all you did was slide.

She gave a mournful woof
And looked down sadly at her feet,
Then heard a little flutter
And a tiny cheerful tweet.

Something flew right past her nose
So quickly that it blurred;
Then there upon the rigging
Sat a tiny bright green bird.

“Hello!” it said, and fluttered down
To perch upon the floor,
“I have to say, I love the carving
On your wooden paw.”

Millie smiled quite sadly
And her big eyes went all drippy,
“Thank you bird,” she said,
“It’s just a shame that it’s so slippy.”

“Slippy?” said the little bird,
“Well maybe I can help,”
And Millie looked down at the bird
And gave a hopeful yelp.

The bird produced a rucksack
And pulled out a shiny box,
And after a short rummage
It held up a pair of socks.

“They’re made from special wool,” it said,
“It’s guaranteed to grip –
With one of these upon your paw
You’ll never, ever slip!”

Millie took the proffered sock
And put it on her paw,
Then stood up and began to run
Around the wooden floor.

Back and forth she scampered
And the bird looked on with pride –
No matter how fast Millie ran
Her paw refused to slide!

Millie is a pirate
And when her ship doth dock
People come from miles around
To see her non-slip sock.

And here’s the picture of Millie, in her posh socks, with her pirate’s trunk (no, she doesn’t really have a wooden paw!) – ain’t she cute?!

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Thanks to Susan for joining in, to Cat for the idea and for letting me use her photo here, and to Millie for being Millie!





A year of books…

1 01 2014

Well hello there 2014!

Last year I tried to keep a record of every book I read, and rather annoyingly the total comes to 99! A fair few were audiobooks or eBooks – I do a lot of travelling by train for work, and they’re handier when packing light.

The list is in vague order of time (but not always) and at the end I’ve picked my favourite previously-unread book from a few sort-of-genres. I don’t do reviews, so don’t expect much blurb…

Oh, and by the way – the little ‘r’ means it’s a re-read.

Right, here we go…

The Impossible Dead – Ian Rankin
Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin
Doors Open – Ian Rankin
Blood Hunt – Ian Rankin
Witch Hunt – Ian Rankin
Bleeding Hearts – Ian Rankin
Beggars Banquet – Ian Rankin
The Shining – Stephen King r
Consider Phlebas – Iain M Banks r
The Bridge – Iain Banks r
Espedaire Street – Iain Banks r
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks r
Disolution – CJ Sansom
Close to the Bone – Stuart MacBride
Dark Fire – CJ Sansom
Sleepyhead – Mark Billingham r
Scaredy Cat – Mark Billingham r
Lazybones – Mark Billingham r
The Burning Girl – Mark Billingham r
Lifeless – Mark Billingham r
Buried – Mark Billingham r
Death Message – Mark Billingham r
Bloodline – Mark Billingham r
From The Dead – Mark Billingham r
Good As Dead – Mark Billingham r
The Dying Hours – Mark Billingham
Report For Murder – Val McDermid
Soverign – CJ Sansom
Common Murder – Val McDermid
The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith
A Good Hanging & Other Stories – Ian Rankin
Harvest – Jim Crace
A Tale for the Time Being – Ruth Ozeki
Rivers of London – Ben Aaronovitch r
Moon Over Soho – Ben Aaronovitch r
Whispers Under Ground – Ben Aaronovitch r
Broken Homes – Ben Aaronovitch
We Need New Names – NoViolet Bulawayo
American Gods – Neil Gaiman r
Anansi Boys – Neil Gaiman r
Watching You – Michael Robotham
The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton
Police – Jo Nesbo
The Bat – Jo Nesbo
Laidlaw – William McIlvanney
Doctor Sleep – Stephen King
The Ocean at The End of The Lane – Neil Gaiman
Fortunately The Milk… – Neil Gaiman
Dixie O’Day: In The Fast Lane – Shirley Hughes & Clara Vulliamy
Paddington Races Ahead – Michael Bond
Gangsta Granny – David Walliams
In the Night Kitchen – Maurice Sendak
The Incredible Book Eating Boy – Oliver Jeffers
Penguin – Polly Dunbar
Love Splat – Rob Scotton
The Life of Charlotte Bronte – Elizabeth Gaskell
Captain’s Purr – Madelaune Flloyd
Wuthering Heights (graphic novel) – Siku/Adam Strickson
Stuck – Oliver Jeffers
The Works – Pam Ayres
You Made Me Late Again – Pam Ayres
The Quarry – Iain Banks
The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes – Neil Gaiman
The Falcons Malteser – Anthony Horowitz
Doctor Proctor’s Fart Powder – Jo Nesbo
NOS4R2 – Joe Hill
Chu’s Day – Neil Gaiman
The Heart & the Bottle – Oliver Jeffers r
The Complete Verse & Other Nonsense – Edward Lear
More About Boy – Roald Dahl
The Green Ship – Quentin Blake
Iceland’s Bell – Halldor Laxness r
In One Person – John Irving
The Water Method Man – John Irving r
What Would You Do with a Wobble Dee Woo? – Colin West
The Coming of the Kings and Other Plays – Ted Hughes r
Shifty McGifty & Slippery Sam – Tracey Corderoy & Steven Lenton
Oliver & The Seawigs – Philip Reeve & Sarah McIntyre
Noah Barleywater Runs Away – John Boyne
The Saturday Big Tent Wedding Party – Alexander McCall Smith
The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection – Alexander McCall Smith
Fergus Crane – Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell
More Than This – Patrick Ness
A Boy & a Bear in a Boat – Dave Shelton
Yeti and the Bird – Nadia Shireen
Saints of the Shadow Bible – Ian Rankin
Crazy Hair – Neil Gaiman r
The Long Earth – Terry Pratchett r
The Way Back Home – Oliver Jeffers
The Storm Whale – Benji Davies
Cockroaches – Jo Nesbo
The Wire in the Blood – Val McDermid
The Last Temptation – Val McDermid
There Are Cats In This Book – Viviane Schwarz
Beneath The Bleeding – Val McDermid
How to Wash a Woolly Mammoth – Michelle Robinson
The Torment of Others – Val McDermid
The Great Paper Caper – Oliver Jeffers
There’s a Shark in the Bath – Sarah McIntyre

And here are my favourite new reads…

Crime Fiction
Standing in Another Man’s Grave – Ian Rankin
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Mr Rankin at his twisty-turny best, and a massive relief!

Fantasy
The Ocean at The End of The Lane – Neil Gaiman
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Blew my socks off. Made me cry. And laugh. And frequently made me put it down, stare into space for a few minutes contemplating the Wonderful Words I’d just read, pick it up again and re-read the same Wonderful Words over and over again in awe before carrying on.

Fiction
The Quarry – Iain Banks
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I don’t really need to say anything about this.

Young Fantasy (Well that’s what I’d class it as!)
Fortunately The Milk… – Neil Gaiman
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Laughed my pants off! Loudly, snortily, and in a public place. Hilarious from start to finish, beautifully complemented by Chris Riddell’s perfect illustrations, and made even better by hearing it in Mr Gaiman’s voice in my head after listening to him read a bit of it in Ely Cathedral earlier in the year.

Picture Book
There Are Cats In This Book – Viviane Schwarz
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I LOVE THIS! It has flappy bits! And cats! And balls of wool to throw at cats! It’s BRILLIANT!

And now to crack on with my 2014 list…





The humble pencil…

30 12 2013

Back in early November, I happened across a tweet from Viviane Schwarz mentioning Blackwing pencils. Being of an easily intrigued persuasion, I looked them up on a Popular Internet Search thingy, read all about them, and immediately thought “PHWOOOOOR!” which I realise may sound a little odd to those of you to whom a pencil is… just… well, a pencil.

Any pencil that – once discontinued – subsequently starts changing hands on a certain Popular Internet Auction Site for up to $40 must be good, right? That’s $40 for ONE PENCIL.

And then someone starts making them again, and artists all over the place swear by ’em – a pencil that’s given resounding praise by such brilliant illustrators as folk like Viviane… well, it has to be tried.

They’re still rather hard to get hold of in the UK though, with only a few select places stocking them. I put in an order, was contacted a few days later to be told they’d run out and were expecting more in after a few weeks, waited (im)patiently for three weeks, then was told they wouldn’t be in stock again until next year.

“Bugger,” thought I.

But… guess what? Santa found a boxfull! Or it might have been my other half…

And I can now give you my opinion of the elusive Blackwing:

PHWOOOOOOOOOOOOOORRR!!!

It really does glide over your paper. It’s subtle and light, and at the same time it’s almost as black as India ink.

And it’s sexy. Look:

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It has a perfectly shaped rubber in a little holder that you can pull out further as you use it:

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And I get why they sell them by the boxload – it’s because they make you draw more. So you get through them rather quickly. It’s wonderful to be able to sketch lightly, colour in, then define lines without smudging, without changing from 3B to 6B to HB, without digging out an inkpen for those black outlines because normal pencils just give you grey and shiny… Look, here are some doodled cats – not a drop of ink in sight, no graphite smudgeyness, and look how black those outlines are!

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And just to demonstrate now light they are too, here’s a roughly scribbled robo-cat:

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They’re such a delight to use I couldn’t help doodling more cats:

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And some unexpected birdies:

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The only disadvantage I’ve found so far is this:

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Yep, they’re slightly too long to fit in my pencil case.

But that’s only going to be an issue for the first inch or so, and I think I can live with that.





Edwin the Zombie

31 10 2013

BOO!!!

Did I scare you? No? Oh.

Well maybe this will – brace yourselves, it’s the truly terrifying tale of Edwin the Zombie…

Edwin the Zombie

Edwin was a zombie,
He had been all his life.
He lived deep in the forest
With his zombie dog named Strife.

He wasn’t very scarey,
Although sometime’s when he’d cough
His head would wobble weirdly
And occassionally fall off.

One gloomy night in winter
A knock came on his door.
“That’s very odd,” he muttered
As he shuffled ‘cross the floor.

He opened his front door a crack
And peered into the dark,
He couldn’t see a single thing –
Then Strife began to bark.

“What is it?” Edwin asked of Strife
“Does doggie smell a bone?”
Then from the dingy darkness
Came a horrid muffled moan.

He opened the door wider
And it gave an eerie creak,
Then suddenly he saw something
That made his knees go weak.

A ghostly figure loomed out
From betwixt the murky trees!
Poor Edwin was so frightened
That he very nearly sneezed.

Strife and Edwin howled in fright
And out the door they fled,
Pausing only briefly
To pick up poor Edwin’s head.

And from the dingy forest
Came the sound of frightened feet;
‘Twas the children from the village
Who’d been playing Trick or Treat.

Happy Hallowe’en one and all!

Update 12/05/14: Here’s a little doodle of Edwin and Strife out for an evening lurch…

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Hallowe’en and rhymelessness…

26 10 2013

Wotcha!

I spent a rather pleasant afternoon this weekend rootling through a box of my old school books we heaved down from the loft.

After chortling my way through numerous weird, wonderful and often just plain odd stories and poems, sighing nostalgically over little glimpses back into my childhood when we were asked to write about what we’d done at the weekend, or on holiday, and going extremely gooey over a letter to Father Christmas asking very politely for a blue Grecian Flyer bicycle* which ended with the words “My daddy would like a model train set”, I realised something rather sad.

All through primary and junior school, the books are full of stories, poems and rhymes. Learning to write and handwriting practice involved copying out little four-line rhymes; for each year there’s an excercise book called “Stories” or “News and Story“, and many of the entries are poems on a given subject; even History excerise books have stories in them, where we were tasked with writing a historical event from the point of view of the famous person concerned.

Then I start secondary school.

And in all my English books, there’s not a jot of rhyme.

Not a single poem.

There are occassional stories, but nothing rhymily creative from my own imagination.

I was rather shocked when I realised this. Writing – and in particular, writing poems and rhymes – was obviously something I’d loved at primary school, and something my teachers encouraged – but then when I got to Big School, the rhyming stopped.

Very, very sad.

So to cheer things up after that distressing bombshell, here’s a poem I wrote aged 9 for Hallowe’en, seeing as that time is upon us! In fact it was written on this very day, 29th October – exactly xx** years ago today!

Hallowe’en

This is the night of Hallowe’en,
When demons and witches can seen,
I’m in my room
I’m all alone
When from downstairs I hear a groan!

A tapping on the window pane,
And the moan, it comes again,
I close my eyes,
I fall asleep,
And the boys got tired doing trick or treat.

*I got the Grecian Flyer. And it was blue. It was the only brand new bike I ever had, and it was ace.

**I’m not telling you! 🙂