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October

This poem is from my second book, Should I Wear Floral? and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving, to be published in the early part of 2017 by Matador.

Living at the seaside brings many pleasures and much joy from visiting grandchildren who swoop down to the beach to dive into the sea and plead for ice creams or another ride on ‘the train’ to the pleasure of living in such a wonderful community.

We found Swanage one hot August afternoon in 1999. It was accidental, brought about by our attempt to avoid the returning masses hell bent on getting back to London. It was love at first sight and we have lived here since 2000.

We don’t complain about the visitors  as our town needs them to keep thriving and buzzing but with many second-homers descending on The Isle of Purbeck each school holiday this poem sums up what we see.

 October

Friday night

Streets jammed

Car park full

One trolley

Wonky wheel

Swarming mob

Hiking boots

Ouch! Little toe

 

No bread

No veg

No oven chips

No fishfingers

No baked beans

Leaking milk

Oozing egg carton

Squashed cake

 

Six trolleys

Piled high

Junk food

Wine and beer

One checkout

Faulty scanner

Long queue

Tea Break …

 

Noisy kids

Crying baby

Screaming toddler

Bicker, bicker

Row, row

Red faces

White faces

Half-term!

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Nanny and New Technology

 

Part memoir/part short story

It was raining heavily. So what, you might say but for someone still stuck in the Eighties, babysitting requires mastery of new technology not to mention the bravery of using public transport.

They did offer to collect me but their town house sits resplendent, devoid of parking and one journey out of Band D on a Friday evening ensures a lost spot for the weekend.

Why don’t I drive, you may ask? I hold a blemish-free licence and a not-too-old car but these days I easily decline.  Driving is no fun anymore.  Drivers are getting younger, have less hair and shiny heads which dazzle one in the headlights.  This same breed drives faster and switches lanes without warning. Tailgating is illegal but how does one shake off these nuisances when they persist in filling the rear mirror?

The one-way system in the town centre requires three circulations before I find Linden Gardens. Finding no parking space, I am unable to turn back and am then required to drive headlong into a maze of narrower one-way streets, with those irritating small humps every five metres and myriad No Entry signs.

Even if I do, on a rare occasion, find a space near enough to their home, parking is not a straightforward ‘jump out and slam your door’ job, as completing the scratch-off details on their residents’ parking permit is impossible if you have a) forgotten your glasses and b) forgotten the permit. No wonder I have little compulsion to use my car,

The first time I used the train, I arrived bright-eyed and fresh at the station, marvelling in my discovery of stress-free travelling, only to be confronted by an ‘Office Closed’ sign. How, I screeched at the blank glass, am I to get a ticket?  No problem said the greasy-haired cyclist leading me to a large machine on the platform.  Having disclosed my destination, name and address (now sure to be burgled and bereft of my analogue tv), he forces cash from my hand, feeding it into the contraption’s hungry jaws.  “How much?” I squawk as the ticket drops down minus any semblance of returned loose change.

“It’s cheaper online” he says as he pedals away.

My heart sinks at the reference to technology. At this rate, the car could return to favour, but, no ……, the prospect of driving headlong onto the pier haunts me.

This time, despite the rain and the dark of winter, I have conquered the internet but am informed my ticket can only be collected from the same self-service machine. There is no escape.  Neither is there a manned office, a guard with a flag (as in olden times) or the greasy haired cyclist of last week.  However, I manage the ticket machine, the trip and the taxi ride to be met at the door by the departing parents keen to see the start of the show.  I hear words like oven, microwave and dishwasher as Hannah provides a lightning tour of her new kitchen, a wall of white behind which these items lurk.  Then it’s mobile numbers, Sky, baby alarm (she won’t wake up they say), automatic sliding doors, windows, kitchen cupboard doors and entry phone each with its own separate hand control – “It’s all very simple” Hannah assures me, and they are gone.

I am left in a sparsely but expensively furnished room with a blank TV screen, a white wall at one end behind which somewhere is my dinner and the curtainless wide patio doors. Another door leads to the hallway and the baby’s bedroom.  Baby will not wake up was manna from heaven to my ears.  I attempt to locate my lasagne using the remote control on the breakfast bar.  After several failed attempts at tracking down and starting the microwave, the oven is purring and the dishwasher door is opening and closing only not slow enough for me to grab a cup and plate.  I give up the idea of eating and try to obtain BBC 1 via the TV remote.  What I get is not BBC 1 but a recording of Deal or No Deal, my television pet hate.  My attempts to change channel result in volume overload and unbeknown to me the baby alarm can work in reverse – not a good thing with an eight-week-old.  Blaring TV, crying baby and failed attempts to stop oven and dishwasher working in tandem result in an element of panic during which I pick up the wrong hand control which operates the sliding patio doors.

As I said it was raining heavily and little did I know that the control for the doors also activated the windows (open) and the interior lights (off) – easily done without my glasses to read the display. I decamped quickly to the nursery where for I sang nursery rhymes and was rewarded with a smile.  The simple things in life don’t change do they?

 

Grandma’s  Poetry Book is available by post via dcastle32@talktalk.net or on my website http://www.dicastle.co.uk

This poetry collection spans sixteen years capturing the experience of a first-time grandmother on her sometimes wobbly journey in her new role. It includes many facets of unmissable moments and childhood milestones, some humorous and others more poignant, even sad.  Such treasured times can easily be forgotten so the book acts as a nostalgic memoir. Touching and funny in turn, readers will be reminded of the joys of witnessing childhood development and the effect on their own lives. Even those yet to reach grandparenthood including fathers, aunties and primary school children have already enjoyed reading this book. Grandma’s Poetry Book makes an ideal gift for new grandparents, birthdays, Christmas and Mothers’ Day and many readers have returned to buy more copies for friends and relations. Each poem has its own laugh-out-loud illustration by an artist who has been likened to E H Sheppard.

Some comments have included ‘Pam Ayres meets Winnie the Pooh’, ‘made me laugh, made me cry’, ‘charming book’ and ‘every grandparent should have one’.

 

Our new book, Should I Wear Floral? And other poems on Life Love and Leaving will be out shortly. Follow me on twitter @dinahcas and on Facebook – Di Castle – Writer to hear of updates and see sneak previews of illustrations and poems.

 

cropped-grandmas-poetry-book-cover.jpg

 

Grandma’s Poetry Book – the book signings

 

‘Did you write this?’ Another shopper stands with a copy of Grandma’s Poetry Book, eyes shining, mouth twitching with giggles. She removes her purse from her bag and I lift my pen.

‘How shall I sign it?’  There is the usual pause but quickly I am told whether to write To Nana with one ‘n’ or To Nanna or to Granny from Lewis and James or to many other combinations. Last week I was asked to write ‘To Nana from Benson’. Benson is the family dog.

This is my first, full Christmas season of taking my book to Christmas markets and fairs and I am so busy with events I cannot remember when I last did any housework. I have chosen a selection of local fairs to support schools and charity organisations and also attend those further afield where the area may bring more visitors of the type who will buy the book.

The promotion of my self-published book was not something I looked forward to a year ago but the book has been so well received, the comments via face-to-face and email are warm, the reviews 5* and many of last year’s buyers are returning for more to buy for new grandmothers, friends and relatives that I am proud to display the product. I chose red table covers as my website has a scarlet background specifically to show off the cream cover and to complement the red balloon. In the summer as I attended summer fetes and fairs I bought two hessian bags. One holds the books, up to 20 if necessary, and the other one holds stands, plastic wallets of business cards, flyers and the slip that asks the buyer to leave a review on Amazon. So many buyers don’t do this, especially as they often give the book away as a present. I now suggest they read it before wrapping it and leave the review themselves. After all, the recipient may leave one too if I am lucky.

When I enquire to book at an over-subscribed event, I can often squeeze in by saying ‘I don’t need much space. Half a table will do.’ A further joy is that I can set up my table in 10-15 minutes. We see crafters who arrive at 8am for a 10am market start while we have had an extra hour in bed. Likewise, taking down my display takes minutes. As I live on the first floor of a Victorian building, the lack of boxes, crates and other paraphernalia, makes me pleased to be a writer rather than an artist or ‘maker’ especially as OH and I are of the ‘older generation’.

We have met many interesting, lovely people at our events this season. My memory is sorely tested each time as stallholders I met at a previous venue stop to say hello. Others attending our events are always willing to share their wisdom on where my book may sell and venues I can try. I always return home with a notebook of ideas and websites to Google. What I have learnt is that the book signing experience is a never-ending journey. The only problem is when to find time to write the next and subsequent book. While I am willing the next book to be available, I know that I should not take short cuts. Grandma’s Poetry took many hours of polishing and editing over a period of sixteen years with a final frenzy in the spring of 2014 before I uploaded the final manuscript. To hurry the process of our next book, Should I Wear Floral, and other poems on Life, Love and Leaving, could leave us with a less-than-perfect product which would disappoint our existing readers who are now eager to see the next book.

Hopefully, when Christmas has passed, I can get down to some serious editing. Once ‘Should I Wear Floral’ is with the publisher, I will be able to concentrate on the final work on my memoir of growing up in the Fifties, another gift for my grandchildren who think we have always watched tv, used the internet and had mobile phones. I can’t wait to deliver the surprises that Red House to Exodus holds for them.

Today, one buyer asked, ‘Is this just one book?’ and I realised that the sooner I can have two books on my table the better. Meanwhile, I have ideas for making my table more interesting. I will be putting ‘free poems’ on A5 or A4 sheets as I have seen the interest from youngsters, especially those around 9 or 10 years of age and I am keen to engage children with poetry.  I also have some wonderful snippets from the reviews which I will be framing.

For now, it is back to Facebook and the internet to find more dates and events.

Hope to see you there!

Grandma’s Poetry Book, written by Di Castle and illustrated by Denise A Horn, is a humorous, sometimes wobbly, journey of a first-time grandmother charting childhood development and family life from the grandparent’s perspective. It is available through bookshops and on www.dicastle.co.uk with free postage for orders via PayPal.

‘Plodding On’

Never Give Up!  Never Surrender!  How to keep writing in the face of rejection’

My first book ended up in the bin. Any glimmer of encouragement was absent as my snooping mother spurned my literary genius. I feigned surprise. Surely my descriptions in My Life Story were not that bad? How could she recognise herself in the ugly, dislikeable main character? I crossed my fingers. Too late. The scandalous recounts muddied with my fertile imagination had to be the final straw.

My first rejection. But all was not lost. There came infant school and my favourite lesson – stories. No mother to rip up my masterpiece here. Convincingly, I avoided cold, wet playtimes asking to ‘stay in and finish’. But I was a lost cause; sadly nothing pinned to the wall.

I scribbled away at Grammar School and by now – Eureka – a flock of avid listeners drew lots to sit alongside this budding author. Disregarding the French teacher and safely hidden in the back row, they lapped up the next instalment of something resembling a female Scarlet Pimpernel. Even then I sought gender equality. But these tomes sank to the bottom of boxes, gathering dust in the loft, only to be inauspiciously dumped by ‘her indoors’ when the house was sold.

A diary. I would write a diary of my children’s young years. But their father thwarted my efforts. Writing, along with reading, suffered more rejection, both activities labelled an unpromising past-time. Years passed inhabiting a world of terry towelling and Napisan, the only paper my shopping lists.

Teaching. Yes, at last, I had to write – on the board, on handouts, on marked work and composing assignments, much of the advice dismissed.

‘She’s written me a story,’ said one student stuffing the red-marked work, unread into her bag.

Eventually immersed in singleton bliss, I wrote – seriously now. Reams of drivel churned out at midnight, edited and retyped tirelessly on an Olympia portable typewriter. Hope arrived in the form of a talent-spotting new partner who bought me my first computer, a cumbersome piece of hard plastic with strange needs. Presented with an interested agent, I promised the finished novel by New Year thereby annihilating a romantic start to 1983.

January 2nd and we drive post haste into London with a large brown envelope. The optimistic agent sees me as ‘the next big thing’ only to be told two publishers later that my book ‘doesn’t work’. Her sudden loss of interest leaves a double loss – publishers and herself.

My next rejection came when cohabiting with new soulmate – ex-talent spotter -who, I discovered, too late, wanted my full attention. Struggling with the oddities of the publishing industry is enough without suffering a doleful partner. Also, my daughters, having read my earlier efforts with glee, now, in true teenage style, rolled their eyes and preferred me in the car providing lifts.

The next time I wielded a pen and hammered a computer keyboard was to write poetry, much published in anthologies I had to buy myself. My feathers briefly plumped up only to flop when told such accomplishment didn’t count. But I carried on. Somewhere deep inside I sensed glimmers of hope. Rather than sling it out, I would risk rebuffs from agents and publishers. If my lame verses made me laugh surely they might do the same for a wider readership.

But the anticipated stampede didn’t arrive. Few publishers, and even fewer agents, take poetry. W H Smith sports a mere half-a-dozen copies of poetry books, the authors Carol Ann Duffy or dead. Something tells me I’m backing the wrong horse.

Meanwhile I plodded on. A few years ago – it feels like twenty – a memoir bubbled and flowed from my pen and I threw words at the screen once more. Thousands of words full of memories, angst, naughty deeds and embarrassing experiences.

Suddenly I wasn’t such a dud after all. My efforts impressed a biographer at a Writers’ Conference who gave me his publisher’s card, saying he would ‘‘put in a word”. My feathers didn’t plump this time, they took flight. But a year later the delicate decline arrived with the now all-too-familiar ping by email. The publisher eventually couldn’t see a commercial route for my graft. I showed it elsewhere drawing blanks. But I was learning from the rejections, reworking my passion with undying enthusiasm. There is always a new phrase, a better word, a different structure, an interesting new character and …. hope.

Eureka! It is 2013. I sit before an agent and can’t believe I’m hearing those much craved words ‘send me more’.  I tell a few people, my biggest mistake.  I didn’t count on the end of my champion’s maternity cover and the return of the embedded agent who …. yes, you’ve guessed …. did not like my novel, if indeed it was a novel.

Now I have to solve the problem of my book bridging two genres before wasting another agent’s time. The clock is ticking and I have appointments. The tired thesaurus is covered in coffee stains, red wine and what resembles a salty blob. This is only for the synopsis but still to come is the struggle with back story and more tears. My study is piled with abandoned, awful drafts and many pages I thought were brilliant until the edit.

Of course, this ebb and flow is part of a writer’s life and no doubt more disappointments lurk around the corner. Meanwhile I suffer unhelpful oh-so-well-meaning acquaintances delivering the ultimate rejection saying ‘Fancy you, a writer?’ Do I, I want to ask, look daft? Worse still is ‘But when, my dear, will you be published?’ Another thud on the doormat or loud ping from Outlook and I might stand trial for murder for that one.

Even when I get there – as I will – in the adversity of my 1950s childhood, I was reared to persevere – I still have to stomach the eager line of readers snaking three times round Waterstones as they wait for a fellow book signer (I wish) while I sit head buried in his book, queueless, ignored and …………..

acting as if I couldn’t give a damn!

Excuse me if I smash your phone

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

And dump it down the drain.

We really do not want to hear,

‘Hello, I’m on the train’.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

I know you’re on this train.

And I’m really not that interested,

In your week-long trip to Spain.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

The quiet zone should do it.

I’d like to splice it from your ear,

And let my shredder chew it.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

Your ailments make me sick.

You’d better hide it in your bag,

Or I’ll grab it double quick.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

Your eyes don’t leave the screen.

We’re on a date, our eyes should meet,

Are mine blue, or brown or green?

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

And dump it in the bin.

Its silly jingle woke me up,

And made an awful din.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

But this is better honey.

I’ll take it, dial NYC,

And cost you lots of money.

 

Excuse me if I smash your phone,

They should legislate against them.

Make a law, impose some fines,

But for now I’ll gladly smash ‘em.