Almost an Anniversary Funeral Poem

28 02 2021

So 29 years ago, give or take a day, we got married.

Being the unorthodox folk we are, we chose 29th February 1992 as our day to tie the knot. In European* date format that was 29.2.92 which struck us as particularly neat and symmetrical. More to the point, it was a Saturday and the Registry Office had a free booking available.

The downside is that three of every four anniversaries don’t quite happen. Almost, but not quite. Whoever decided to make the Earth spin at a rate of 365¼ times the period of a trip round the sun is to blame – I suspect Dr Brian Cox had a hand in it actually (“It’s not just beautiful… it’s physics!”). It definitely smacks of a devious Mancunian plot. Leap years are a reasonably good compromise all being told, but it has its issues.

So anyway, we had a rather pleasant kerbside pickup dinner from The Keg as part of the Dine Out Vancouver festival. We could celebrate with a “fancy” meal (I had surf’n’turf) and safely keep our social distance. (To my utter horror the restaurant dine-in was expecting 400 people on the night! People – there’s a pandemic! Haven’t you been watching the news?!)

After a pleasant bottle of wine that had been cached for some time at the back of the fridge, and ploughing with some success through the unreasonably large dessert portions provided by The Keg, we settled in to watch Four Weddings and a Funeral on the Olde Worlde DVD player. We were amused to realise the film was made pre-mobile phone dependence. Extant alarm clocks and plot turns that only work without ubiquitous GPS were much in evidence. And several glorious Land Rover Defenders. Real ones, not the current travesties.

At the funeral referenced in the film title, John Hannah‘s character reads Funeral Blues by Yorkshireman W.H. Auden.

Not exactly what you’d call “romantic” given our almost anniversary, but it is a very moving poem, and Hannah performs the recital with a wealth of emotion for his character’s lost love.

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

*Or most non-American places actually. Except Japan – who do it entirely their own way. Like many other things.

As with spelling “colour”/”color”, Canada is indecisive on the matter forcing many immigrants like myself into being cautious and using a longer format and spelling out the month to avoid misunderstandings in the first 12 days of each month.

Go on – write something!

23 02 2021

A “stream of consciousness” can so easily become a “river of shit”, don’t you think? Let me demonstrate, please do:

One’s deepest, most considered ideas, once brought to the light, may prove to be nothing more than the fetid miasma of an open sewer. But that’s OK. No, really, it is. An idea is just a point in space. Or time. Or something. It’s a point anyway. Transient. It’s not inherently good or bad, though I think it’s true that acting on some of them has historically been shown to be spectacularly bad. (Looking at you, Adolf!)

My point though (about an idea being a point) is that it can be used as a marker, an intellectual cairn if you will, en route to another idea. Or even a cluster of them. These may be better or worse, or just different to the one that preceded them. An idea is not a destination in itself. An idea rarely exists in a vacuum. When it does, it’s a dangerous thing, for that way lies madness. Or religion. Or other politically dubious views. Or all of the above.

An idea that can morph into other ideas though? Ah… that is powerful indeed. The ideas may be complementary or contrary, but the person who is capable of leaving one idea behind in preference of another is capable of change, of learning, of growth! Being unwilling to leave an idea under any circumstances is the sign of someone intellectually shipwrecked. Left clinging desperately to a familiar, apparently safe rock, and in so doing, denying themselves not only the risk of drowning, but also the chance of reaching dry land.

Ideas can be sampled, compared, adapted or rejected, but to tie oneself unquestioningly to an idea is to close down novel thought and the chance of growing into something new and remarkable.

To be willing to at least sample ideas you think you’ll reject is to be open to persuasion. It’s a risk for sure. It may mean your current beliefs can no longer pass muster. But not to listen… to assume the new idea is wrong… that is cowardice. It means you dare not give other ideas – potentially contradicting your own – the simple chance to persuade you that you are wrong. It means you inherently believe your current “truth” is fragile and you’d rather believe that than risk believing something more persuasive to you. Consider the implications… it’s equivalent to a parent saying “because I said so!” as irrefutable proof of being correct.

But I’m willing to be persuaded otherwise, of course. 🙂

Points in space. Or Time. Or something

Creating dots/grids/lines in MS-Word for journaling or letter writing

13 02 2021

So I went through one of my creative phases a few weeks ago and made some hand-stitched journals. They got progressively better, neater and usable. I gave them away though because the paper I’d used wasn’t particularly fountain pen friendly, so they weren’t too useful for myself.

Here’s the first attempt, complete with end-papers and bound in part of an old pair of jeans…

You can see that for the first try I just used some old graph pad and some printer paper in alternating signatures – just to get the hang of things. Unfortunately Canada – despite being nominally metric – subscribes to the US paper standards, so we typically get “Letter” sized paper at 8.5″x11″ instead of A4. There’s not a huge difference for most usage, but the A-series paper sizes are so much more well thought out, in that if you cut A4 in half you get A5… with exactly the same aspect ratio. Fold that in half and you get an A6 notebook… again: with the same aspect ratio. Quarter of Letter size is OK… but it’s just not as aesthetically pleasing in my view.

Along the way, I discovered that HP 28lb (105 g/m2) printer paper – readily available from Walmart and other places – is actually reasonably good for fountain pen ink. I gather there’s a 32lb version too, though I’ve yet to find any in my local shops. Even the cartridges of ink that came with my Pilot Parallel barely bleed through, and that’s saying something!

The next challenge came in pre-printing the pages of the journals to make them more use-specific. (Week per spread diary, hiking journal, wine tasting log, that sort of thing…) And at that point I got bored and shelved the project…

At Christmas, my lovely family bought me some really nice writing paper (Tomoe River for those in the know), which though a wonderful gift now constantly gives me a dilemma when I write letters. Will this particular recipient appreciate the way the Tomoe River brings out the shading in the ink? Or will they be struggling enough just to read my scrawl, and not even notice it was a fountain pen rather than a Biro?

Tomoe River is sold as A4, and this particular paper is 52g/m2, so pretty thin. It helpfully comes with a cardboard template sheet with a grid on one side and lines on the other. The paper is thin enough to see the guide lines through it, and some of us, believe me, need all the help we can get to write in a straight line!

It occured to me then that if I pre-printed very faint lines (or feint-ruled as it is in the UK) on the 28lb paper, I could use it more easily without it being as obtrusive to the recipient. I then went on to make grid and dot patterns because, well, I could! I enclose them for your delight and delectation – or ridicule, if you’re of a more negative persuasion.

Remember – be Internet safe! I didn’t put anything dodgy in these Word files, but to be frank – you don’t know me from Adam, so make sure to use a virus checker before opening the files.

If you’d like to explore other options for yourself, or prefer not to download files from unknown sources, the essential elements I used were as follows. You can obviously tweak them to your own needs:

  • Open MS-Word and set page margins to zero on all sides.
  • Insert a table and add a few rows – it’s not important how many. If you are creating a grid or dots, add a few columns too.
  • Set the row size option to “exactly” rather than “at least” and set the row/column dimensions you want for your lines/grid/dot-spacing.
    • I found 7mm worked well for me, but if you’re a small writer go smaller by all means.
  • Add additional rows and columns to fit as many as you need to fill the page.
  • Go to table properties and set its position to be centred relative to the page in both horizontal and vertical dimensions. This will centre the table on the page at print time.
  • Now things get style-specific.
    • For lines, go to “Borders” in “Table Design” and de-select the vertical lines on the outsides of the table. They’ll become dotted on the screen, but will no longer print.
    • For grid, you need all the lines, so do nothing.
    • For dots, go to “Borders” in “Table Design” and de-select all the lines – you don’t want any lines to print – you’re just using them to give accurate spacing. Now add a “.” character in the first square (or “+” or one of the Wingding characters if you prefer) and duplicate it across each cell in the row and then duplicate the row down to fill all the rows. You have a small amount of control of the dot location within the table cell by selecting left/centre/right/top/centre/bottom justification and cell margin, but make sure you do it on all cells to maintain the relative “pitch” set by the cells spacing. It’s not really necessary though.
    • I chose to make my lines/dots quite faint so they weren’t obtrusive once I wrote on the paper. Do this by selecting “Pen Colour” in the borders setting or text colour for the dots. I used the pale blue “Blue, Accent 1, Lighter 80%” and also “Orange, Accent 2, Lighter 80%”, but knock yourself out – make it as faint or bold as you like! I also made the lines dotted rather than solid, to make them even fainter. You can make them solid black and extra wide though, if that’s your preference!
  • Duplicate to a second page if you want to make use of your printer’s double-sided print facility.
  • Print! If asked, ignore the error about margins being out of range – the printer will print as much as it can and leave the minimum white space around the edge it’s capable of. If you prefer – print to PDF and print it on someone else’s printer if it’s better than yours!

The same principle will work on any paper size you may want to use. Just add more rows/columns to fill the page.

If you’re making refill pages for a loose-leaf journal, like a Filofax, start by creating a TextBox of the correct page size and putting the table in that. You can then guillotine or cut to the text box perimeter once it’s printed.

Use two columns with two tables in panorama mode if you’re going to pre-print pages for a hand-made journal. That’s my next project. Once I get around to it…

I hope you found this of some use. Let me know how you got on!

A Splash of Colour

4 02 2021

So it’s been quite some time since I booted up my photo editing PC, and I paid the price with a couple of rounds of Windows updates for my sins. Not to mention some guff about my mains adaptor being below par, requiring lower power modes on the poor neglected thing, and best of all – the clock being 2 minutes slow for about half an hour before it caught up. Plainly the wee beastie was in a snit and determined to make me pay.

After tea, it seemed to be in a better mood, and I got on with uploading several months’ worth of casual snaps I’d taken on my iPhone and camera. No “proper” pictures, but stuff I’d felt snap-worthy at the time.

One series I just found from way back in June I thought I’d share. “Accidental Art” is the best you could say. “Pretty Mess” is more accurate. These are literally photos of pieces of kitchen towel I’d been using to clean up messy nibs as I tried out differing fountain pen and dip nib inks.