dragons and china

What I've been up to

I'm still preparing for the move, sorting boxes of clothes and books, though I've also applied for a temp job in London that would be useful.

Some of you may remember that I've been working on a YA urban fantasy novel for the last five years. I've sent the current (fourth) draft to an editor friend to look over, but I think it's mostly ready. Looking for an agent will be a very big adventure in itself.

On a similar note, Otter Perry said something which reminded me of the best review I've ever had, for my previous story Not Ordinarily Borrowable. I 'm now working on a plan to merge that into a framing story with some others to make something larger.

My friend Kathryn Rose, who has often set my words to music, has started a newsletter called Passing Notes. Check it out.

A poem

Dear Sir:— This application form,
from one potential employee,
will tell you how I should perform.
I have a first-class B.Sc.,
ten years of writing ANSI C,
some Java; Perl with DBI;
and tendencies to wander free
and gaze, all wordless, at the sky.

I know perhaps it's not the norm
to mention this on one's CV.
I wonder if you'd just transform
the job I'm asking for, to be
not writing code, but poetry.
Do ask your boss. It's worth a try.
He'd sing, himself, when he was three,
and gaze, all wordless, at the sky.

I'd stay till ten beneath a warm
duvet, and then I'd climb a tree,
my face upheld towards the storm,
or paddle barefoot in the sea.
Perhaps a friend comes round for tea.
Perhaps among the corn we'd lie
in silent solidarity
and gaze, all wordless, at the sky.

Sir, I enclose an S.A.E.
I wonder if you might reply
and leave your desk to run with me,
and gaze, all wordless, at the sky.

A picture

With apologies to Tenniel.

image

["I think I can safely say," said Humpty Dumpty severely, "that last summer was one of the most unpleasant episodes of my entire life. Sitting on walls here! Being dragged around by the king's horses there! There seemed no end to it." Alice nodded with sympathy. "I hope your life became better when the autumn came." "Why yes, child," replied Humpty Dumpty. "I had a great fall."]

Something wonderful

Terra incognita, "unknown land", is a phrase that used to be written on maps in places that hadn't yet been explored. We don't see it these days, at least not on maps of the earth, because every last square inch is known about— or at least, we like to think it is. In reality, we don't really know much about the deep sea floor, nor about what goes on in the jungles of the Amazon. There is a story that the mapmakers would write "here be dragons!" to explain why nobody had come back with charts of the area, though there's actually only one such map known.

One of the last pieces of terra incognita to disappear was a tiny island, about quarter of an acre, off the coast of Newfoundland. Somehow, nobody had ever noticed it until the mapping satellite Landsat took its photograph in 1976. The Canadian government duly despatched a helicopter to verify the news, which lowered a scientist onto the island. Sadly, he found no dragons. Instead, there was a large and unfriendly polar bear which attempted to swat the scientist; he got back into the helicopter very quickly. The island is now called "Landsat Island" .

Another poem

When I was a toddler, my grandfather R.S. Hall was my usual babysitter. He had a talent for reciting poetry, and then naturally so did I: there was nobody to tell me people usually find it difficult. Somewhere there is a cassette tape of him telling me poems; I'd like to put it on YouTube some day, so you can all hear it. This is one of the poems he was fond of; I've found copies in only a few other places, and I haven't discovered who the poet is. Do any of you know?

( " Famille verte" and the rest are kinds of antique porcelain; he pronounced it "FAMai", not "famEE" as the French do.)
When I was a toddler, my grandfather R.S. Hall was my usual babysitter. He had a talent for reciting poetry, and then naturally so did I: there was nobody to tell me people usually find it difficult. Somewhere there is a cassette tape of him telling me poems; I'd like to put it on YouTube some day, so you can all hear it. This is one of the poems he was fond of; I've found copies in only a few other places, and I haven't discovered who the poet is. Do any of you know?

("Famille verte" and the rest are kinds of antique porcelain; he pronounced it "FAMai", not "famEE" as the French do.)

I went to dine with a friend of mine
who dined off porcelain plate,
of a kind so rare it turned one's hair
to think of their possible fate:

for some were Ming and some were Ching,
whatever those names may be,
and the food was divine, and— ah!— the wine
intoxicated me.

There were ices, those on famille rose,
and coffee on famille noire,
and a choice dessert on famille verte
preceded a fine cigar.

But alas for the end of the dinner, my friend!
for he happened his eyes to raise
as I started to rub the burning stub
on a bit of his finest glaze!

He was awfully nice, but as cold as ice,
as he rang for my coat and hat,
for Ming is a thing— and so is Ching!—
which mustn't be used for that!