Silent reading retreat

Every month or so, I book onto a local ‘silent reading retreat’, which runs as follows (and is a bargain at £5):

2 hours, 7- 9 pm
Drop in when it suits – don’t knock, just come in (I pre-book so Kirsty, the host, knows who to expect)
Choose a seat – anywhere with a bookmark
Text to order your drink (subsequent drinks are free, plus a slice of cake thrown in)
Enjoy the ambient playlist and cosy atmosphere

‘In short,’ says Kirsty, ‘it’s just like a normal cafe … but without the noise’.

Now, I’ll be honest, my husband thinks all this is bonkers, and that you could do the same thing at home for free. However, there’s something about pre-booking, making a space for reading, making the effort to show up with your book (although her bookshelves are well stocked), being sociable enough to give a quiet nod to the others without being distracted by conversation … well, you get the picture. Anyway, that’s where I’m off to tonight. And 3 Watering Place Road, Thurlstone, (Shefield, S.Yorks) is also a very comfortable Airbnb if anyone’s interested!

Decluttering continued ….

Here’s a photograph of my grandparents’ wedding. It resurfaced while I was tidying up. I’ve tried to write about it before, more than once in fact, but finding it again sparked something off and I did a short free writing exercise this morning to make sure I got something down before it left me. The problem for me is that there are so many strands to their story and I always feel the need to explain, over-explain really. This time I kept my focus. In fact, it was my grandmother’s eternity ring that became my focus. A couple of weeks ago I photographed it for a blog post, along with a pocket watch and a postcard of carousel horses. What I’m getting round to saying is that I wouldn’t have made the link, between the wedding photo, the ring and the piece of writing I produced today, if I hadn’t been blogging so doggedly. I’m sure I still want to expand on what I’ve written, but for now, it’s good enough to know that I’ve got something down on paper, and that attending to the writing has, in some small way, paid off.

Decluttering …

Responding to the WordPress prompt, ‘how to reduce the clutter in your life’, I immediately remembered a challenge I heard about in a TED talk – get rid of an item a day for a month and see what happens. This isn’t about throwing things out, more about rehoming them. Books are the big thing with me, easy to buy, hard to part with! We do a book swap at school which works well, and I’ve always passed books on in our poetry group. Oxfam have a scheme where they give you stickers with barcodes to put on your donated books so you can see how much they’ve raised. Of course, when you’ve cleared a space it’s easy to fill it. Currently I’ve got pictures of dogs on my desk, to stop me putting more books there. I think Marie Condo advises whittling it down to a maximum of 20. Periodically, I have a ruthless cull but I’ve never got down to 20 books. I can see the point though. Less is more ….

the unfinished nature of haiku

I’m enjoying rereading Michael Dylan Welch’s essay, ‘Harold Henderson’s Grammar Haiku’ in last November’s edition of Blithe Spirit, especially the idea copied above. Basically, Henderson draws our attention to the gaps in the language (Japanese that is) and Michael Dylan Welsh pushes this further, suggesting that this is precisely why haiku have what can be described as an ‘unfinished’ quality. I like this because it gives a sound basis to what might seem, to use his phrase, ‘elliptical’. Food for thought!

The art of knowing when to stop

There are loads of recordings of Alan Watts on the internet, so I’m not quite sure where I got this from, except he’s talking about haiku, and how good haiku exhibit ‘the virtue of knowing when to stop’. Having looked at some notes I’d hoped would become a haiku, I realise that I don’t need to keep reworking them, trying to substitute ‘abreuvoir’ for trough for example, or adding the description ‘galvanized’. What I actually need to do is leave the poem alone!

The problem is, even as I write this, there’s still something seductive about the word abreuvoir!


This might look a bit cryptic, but it’s the format for the Yorks and Lancs haiku group’s Zoom session , writing renga, which I took part in this afternoon. Seven of us wrote a total of 12 poems, all linked in different ways, covering the four seasons (starting with winter). The collaborative approach enabled us to overcome a few blocks, and take a few twists and turns which we probably wouldn’t have managed to do via email. All in all, a really thought-provoking and productive afternoon!

Out with the old …

and in with the new – the anxiety and joy (mainly joy) of starting a new notebook! The one with the dalmatians on has served me well over the last few months and is finally full, so it’s on to the next. Both were gifts, so this post is also a thank you to the lovely friends who gave me them. x