Monthly Archives: March 2012

Sugoi, desu ne?*

* I go all Japanese around blossom and beautiful stuff. It’s my default language of admiration and awe.

Yesterday, I finished delivering all my papers across the region – such a hard job, driving through the beautiful countryside stopping at gorgeous towns. Yesterday, it was the turn of Chasseneuil, Roumazieres-Loubert, Chabanais, St Junien and Rochechouart.

First stop is a little café in Chasseneuil where the wonderful proprietress told me her customers were ‘greedy’ for the magazine and she has to ration them. Chasseneuil is a sleepy little town that hasn’t really moved on much from the 70s. A lot of the shops have tired old displays and it’s definitely like a step back in time. Ever since the by-pass went in, the town hasn’t exactly died so much as stagnated. Having said that, I like it. I like the feeling of being in a completely different era, one with few cars and old shops with tired displays. The Madame in the café is like a breath of fresh air in a town where an Intermarché and a Lidl in need of a ‘relooking’ rule the street.

Next up is Roumazieres. Truthfully, I don’t like this town. It’s got little by way of anything interesting. The buildings are dirty, the people seem less polite – the whole place is out of step with the rest of the Charente stops. It just seems scruffy and uncared for. There aren’t any flower displays, there are no beautiful buildings. Even though Chasseneuil is a little tired, it still has THE most beautiful Art Nouveau town hall with beautiful tile work and lovely details. Romazieres can’t even offer that.

From here, it’s a little windy way from Romazieres to do a couple of drop-offs in more remote locations before getting back to Chabanais, which is an utterly charming little town. It sits astride the Vienne river and although it’s desperately in need of a bypass (in the process of being built) since all the traffic from Angouleme to Limoges has to pass along it, including hundreds of articulated lorries, it’s quite lovely.

St Junien is the biggest town on the route, and I like it a lot. There are ample shops, bars and restaurants. It always feels busy, too, which is rare for France. Plus, I get to do drop-offs at the wonderful Moulin de Tin Tin, a treasure trove of lovely household stuff as well as jewellery, handbags and clothes. A true delight!

I parked near the church and walked over to drop off magazines at Giac’s bar – only to see the most beautiful trees in blossom.

It’s at times like this that I’d love my film camera to hand. Truth be told, it doesn’t get so much of an outing any more. It’s becoming impossible to get good quality film (I only use Fuji for colour work because of the greens and the blues – amazing colours) and it costs a ridiculous amount to process. Black and white I can process myself, even though the film is still pushing on for 5€ a pop. So I use my cute little digital my mum, sister and brother bought for me, but it doesn’t have manual focus and the aperture range is limited, which is a shame. Oh the things I could do with a digital SLR! I think I need to start saving for a second-hand one because I miss what I can do with an SLR. Still, the shots don’t come out too bad at all!

If you’re a photographer, you’ll know what I mean when I say I’d like a better depth of field. I could make those blossoms pop out like you wouldn’t believe! Still, I always try to get the balance between remembering that a photograph is just a way of capturing a moment – and it should never be better than the moment was, or detract from the moment. And the warm wind, the petals blowing across the square like snow, the smell of the magnolias – a photograph could never do it justice!

This magnolia stellata was a couple of days past its prime – and another Japanese moment – mono no aware – simultaneous sadness and joy. The joy of the beauty of a thing and the sadness that it is fleeting and transitory. It was utterly magnificent. I had a magnolia (a tiny little one!) back in Manchester, and I’d love one here. I made do with a couple of 1€ purchases of some rather tired-looking perennials. I’ve still got to decide where to put this flowerbed of mine. I’m stacking up pots of perennials and need a suitably appropriate place to put them.

I love magnolias. They’re a kind of gift you get from the previous house-owner who perhaps had the kindness to plant one – as they’re not the kind of thing you can buy and see in all its magnificence by the next few years. I love the huge trees with tulip blossoms – but they’re years and years worth of growth – the kind you acquire rather than buy.

It is, however, days like these when I realise how lucky I am to have such achingly blue skies that almost make my heart hurt because they’re so, so beautiful. I think this time of year is a perfect time of year. Everything is still new, so alive and vibrant. It’s not too hot – the nights are beginning to get warmer – the breezes are delightful. The garden is manageable and beautiful and green. The chickens are laying. The animals are enjoying sunbathing and dirt baths. I wake up with the pear and quince tree in blossom outside my bedroom window. It’s light. The evenings are long and cool. All those dark little seeds are beginning to put out leaves and stalks. Everything is gentle and new.

Steve’s in the process of painting the outside of the house – it seems to have taken years off the house and given it a new lease of life. Amazing what two big tubs of cheap paint can do! Mind you, I’m a little worried it will a) put the rest of the house to shame b) put the rest of the village to shame c) blind people who come round the corner, used to seeing a grubby little vision, not a glowing edifice. I hope they aren’t so distracted that they drive into the house.

Quoi de neuf?

It’s an almost exhausting onslaught of work-work-work-work at the moment. All good. I like work. It’s all lovely work too, and it’s nice being work-tired. It’s also nice to stop and chat and meet new people. I stopped for coffee yesterday with the fabulous Hege to discuss my design input. She’s so cool, she puts me to shame, although I think we’re both hankering for a dress-up occasion.

Now the lawnmower hasn’t yet had an outing, though the lawn needs doing. I guess that will be a job for next week. Steve’s been helping my dad conquer the plot of land at Charmé – mostly by setting fire to stuff, as far as I can tell. It’s the monthly ‘freebie’ weekend where some venues are open for nothing, so we’re going to go over to Aubeterre on Sunday. It’s amazing that I’ve been here two years and haven’t been yet. We’re going to take a picnic and stop somewhere on the way. I’d leave it til May, except the boys aren’t here. I can’t do it in June because I’ll be marking, and by July and August, the department doesn’t do the free days at all. So it’s a case of now or never, really. Unless we want to pay. And we don’t. I’m cheap like that.

So it might be Monday before the lawn gets a mowing. That’s okay. The weather looks like it might cool a bit by then. It’s been baking these last few days. Plus, there are lots of other little jobs that need doing if I get so much as a minute. I’ve not even managed to get anything planted this week – it’s been a case of keep it watered and get out of the house. I’ve got so much that either needs to go in the propagator or needs to go in pots or into their growing space. The mirabilis have popped up, the broccoli I planted in last week have also put out a couple of little leaves. The turnips – it’s going to be tomorrow, or never. They’re getting too big to be handled. Calendula and last week’s asters, as well as the marguerites are all showing leaves. It’s taken a week for them to pop up – not bad at all. I’ve not seen any sign of my radishes yet, but it’s early days. And the courgettes and cornichons have also got their first leaves!

It’s going to be a busy, busy Monday and Tuesday next week!

I’ve got some Calendula Pink Surprise to sow.

The flower looks like this:

This blog has some lovely images on it, as well.

The next thing that will be planted is Pepper Prairie Firewhich are apparently an extremely hot chili pepper. I’m not a big lettuce fan, but I’ll also be planting some ‘Webbs Wonderful’. This is a loose lettuce which should serve Steve’s need for a vehicle for his salad dressing.

I’ve also got some kiwi fruit seeds, though I’m not sure if they’ll make it through to a full tree (though why not? I’ve got a lemon tree outside that I grew from a pip. It may never get any lemons on it, but it’s a lovely pot plant anyway and I like it very much…) They’ll be going in the propagator when the other stuff comes out. I’ve got some achillea that have put out their tiny, tender little leaves and thin, white stems, and some scabiosa.

I’ve really got to get building my flower garden in the next couple of weeks – otherwise it will be so dry the soil will turn to dust. I think a lot of organic matter is called for! I’m not entirely sure where I’m going to put it yet. I don’t really want it in full sun – it’s absolutely searing hot here in full sun and most places are so far away that they will be a pain to water. I figure a little light shade won’t hurt.

I’ve got a few options. One is to build a raised flowerbed in our courtyard. Another is that we’ve got a little space under a couple of trees – which is pretty shady, but also quite a bit cooler and more moist. The other area – I think my third choice – is down at the side of the garden along the hedge. There are a few things in already but it’s not very pretty, so it could do with being all flowery. The only problem is that it’s quite far away from the rest of the house. It also gets morning sun, but then not very much for the rest of the day.

One potential site for a flower garden

The other potential place is here:

Other site... minus the step ladder

This site is nearer, but drier… though the bath pipe comes out beneath the peach tree on the right. Now that’s efficient grey water use for you. But the site is in shade til about lunchtime and then sunny until the sun sinks behind the house – maybe about six hours. I suspect I may end up doing both, but we’ll see!

I planted up the turnips today and noted what other things have popped out or are yet to pop. I suspect slugs are wreaking havoc in the polytunnel, but only on the lettuces, which are kind of like little leaf-less stems. I’d be very sad and hungry in there if I were a slug. I’ve removed the lettuces. Maybe they’ll move onto the leeks and the cabbages, though they seem untouched. Cornichons and courgettes have made an appearance, as have the asters and the campanulas.

All rows of peas and beans have now got shoots, though something is clearly eating the beans. Time for a bath in nettle tea, I think! They also all need stakes in the next few days. By then, all magazines should be out, I hopefully won’t have surprise clients and I’ll finally get a bit of a rest. Mind you, I just got my request from AQA to mark in the summer. Yes, you’re right… there’s definitely no rest for the wicked.

Top Ten Tuesday

My top ten cities, accompanied by the very fine Midge Ure and Ultravox, with Vienna. 

Vienna isn’t on my top ten cities, because I’ve never been. Maybe it would be, if I had.

1. Manchester. I’d be remiss if I did not have Manchester as my number 1 top city. We rule at sport, music, socialism and all sorts of other things. We do science AND industry. We do factories, we do warehouses, we do trains. We had the first proper canal, the first passenger railway and the longest passenger rail station. We welcomed settlers from the Flemish weavers right through to modern influxes of Irish, Indian, Pakistani, Chinese, Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian. We also created the Communist Manifesto to be written, and gave the world Dr Harold Shipman, the world’s most prolific serial killer in peacetime. We also had the biggest bomb released on mainland Great Britain in peacetime. God, I love Manchester.

2. London. I love London ALMOST as much as Manchester, although all they gave us were fighting bankers and a place for politicians and royals to hang out. I love Camden, I love Green Park, I love Piccadilly. I love South Kensington, I love the Thames, I love the Victoria Embankment. I loved those days when I worked in London and had meetings in the poetry society café and on Whitehall and the Strand or on Piccadilly. I love everything that London is.

3. Paris. Because it’d be rude not to. Because of the Sacre Coeur, because of Montmartre, because of Notre Dame and Ile St Louis. Because of bateau mouches and perky madeleines, because of macarons and grand cremes, because of the shopes and even because of the French people who look at every single tourist who tries to speak French as if they are speaking Farsi or Swahili.

4. Kyoto because it reminds me a little of Manchester, as it rains a lot. It’s surrounded by hills. I love the mix of ancient and uber-modern, of temples and Kyoto train stations. I love how there are coffee machines everywhere, and I love the little co-op corner shops who sell green tea Kit Kats and Pocky. I love how polite Japanese people are, and I love Mr Donut. I love tea ceremonies and I love sushi. I love eating udon noodles and soup at a little noodle bar. I love underheated floors and futuristic toilets with privacy buttons. I love the umbrellas and the handkerchiefs and the children in yellow hats and sailor shirts.

5. I love Fes. It’s everything I wanted Marrakech to be, but that was just too touristy, too slick and a little too jaded. Fes is fun and still feels foreign to anyone who’s not from there. There are souks galore – the whole city is a souk. It’s not filled with high-end restaurants and shops like Marrakech. Plus, this is the city where I saw a camouflage fleece jellabah. Every girl needs one of those.  It’s also home to the tanneries – a weird kind of  giant stinky paint box where all the leather is processed and dyed. Marrakech does not have one of these. Fes might not have a huge square like the Jamaa el Fna, but then they don’t have people trying to get money off you for taking a picture of a snake charmer, either. Something about Fes feels much more real. Plus, I like that the only things that can get down most of the streets are donkeys. That must make Fes, despite the tanneries and the huge population, very green indeed.

6. Havana. The socialists’ dream. No shops, nowhere to buy Adidas trainers. A wonderful harbour that has amazingly clean waters (that’s what having an embargo on cargo from the US does to you…). Yes, the buildings are in a state of ruin, but that didn’t happen in the post-Batista years – no matter what you think of Cuba or Castro, Havana – right now Havana – with its melange of donkeys, horses, bicycles, buses, ancient ladas and huge American classics – is utterly amazing. There’s a magic to a city that switches all its lights out at night – even if it is to save on electricity. The Capitolio, ice cream stands, pizza served from windows – all part of the charm.

7. Brasilia. Not the popular choice, I guess. But any city that looks ENTIRELY like something from the 50s vision of the future is cool by me. It’s the ultimate film set. I’m surprised it’s not used more as a backdrop to almost every modelling shoot there is. It’s way cool. It’s neat and it’s Brazilian at the same time. For a city so far from the sea, it also seems very blue – I don’t know why. Maybe they use a lot of blue glass. No government in the world has a parliament building as cool as the Brazilian one. No-one. Compare the houses of Westminster with those two saucer things and you’ll know what I mean.

8. Tokyo. Because of Omotosando shopping, the Meiji Shrine, Asakusa, the Asahi golden turd building, 60 storey department buildings, the Imperial Gardens, Harajuku, Shinjuki, Shibuya. It’s too cool for school. Yes, you feel that you’re in a world with 29,000,000 other people. You are. You can’t really find any space and if you’re a claustrophobic person, that might freak you out. Even if you go to Fuji, you’ll find that the other 28,999,999 people in Tokyo have decided to do the same, but it’s still cool.

9. Galway. Because it’s everything Dublin and Cork should have been. It manages to be touristy but it still feels like you’d want it to feel. You can still sit in little bars with a pint of Guinness and listen to people who sound like they should rule the musical world. It might have rained the whole time we were there, but, like Manchester and Kyoto, it’d feel kind of weird if it hadn’t.

10. Essaouira – this is just about THE coolest seaside city. It kind of looks a bit like St Malo in Brittany. It’s one of the last ‘safe’ stops before you get down to Western Sahara. People speak Spanish, French, Arabic, berber languages, English. There’s a great beach. There are little souks. There’s a fabulous marquetry bit and shops in the old fortress walls.

Monday, Monday, Monday…

First off, here’s Tegan and Sara singing Monday, Monday, Monday to start you off.

So what am I loving?

I’m loving the growing season, and this season’s copy of Living Poitou-Charentes. It’s  in supermarkets, tourist offices and local businesses across the region.


And not only that, the other thing that’s been keeping me busy is this baby:


And since I’m even out delivering them to all and sundry along the N141 corridor from Angouleme to St Junien over the next few (busy!) days, I’ll even get to see all the other things I love – the fine, fine countryside of the Charente, Perigord Noir and the Haute Vienne – the sunshine, the people I know, Moulin de Tin Tin, the very fine Domaine D’Etang in Massignac – dream!

However, it’s a bit of a busy, bits-and-pieces week. Angouleme this morning, then racing round delivering before teaching, then more deliveries interspersed with a coffee break with the lovely Hege, then more deliveries, more teaching, more teaching, more teaching, deliveries, deliveries, teaching, deliveries, teaching, teaching, teaching… And then Sunday! Wow! It’s going to be a busy one!

I’ve almost finished my little cabinet – hopefully I’ll have some pictures to show. It’s looking lovely. We all need a revamp from time to time!

It’s growing like billy-o out there right now, though it’s too dry. The soil is already like dust. It’s set to be sunny all for the next week – whilst I love the sun, I never, ever thought I would say ‘I wish it would rain’. I look at some of my photos from the August we moved here, and it was SO green and SO lush. Already, it’s so dry – worse than it was in August 2010. Cabbages, cauliflower, lettuces, red cabbages, savoy cabbages, onions, beetroot, carrots, peas, beans, leeks, broccoli – all beginning to put out leaves. I’ve also got an idea for how I want to get some borders put in and a little bit of floral delights – our garden is bereft of anything flowery, which is a shame.

I’m also Much Loving my Mum’s embroidery. These rainbow squares – they’re my Mum’s!

Next weekend, many of the region’s cultural attractions throw open their doors for a freebie, so hopefully, we’ll get to go to Aubeterre-sur-Dronne – which has been on my list forever. I love Brantome, and those in the know say Aubeterre is even more beautiful. I’ll pack a picnic and we’ll go on Sunday – my first ‘day of rest’ in three weeks, believe it or not! I don’t mind, because as soon as I see that blue sky, it’s like being on holiday, even if I’m working. I could work all day with blue sky to look at. When it rains, I work because there’s less to do – and I want to get the work out of the way for the sunny days.

In all honesty, I’m just trying to get through to the holidays – our region’s schools break up on the 20th April – or somewhere around there – and I’m going to have a bit of a work break. I say this, and I’ll probably not. Oh well.

Monday poem will follow, my dears!

Silent Sunday

Here’s a beautiful song that I can listen to one hundred times without stopping. It’s Bolton’s own Badly Drawn Boy with an appropriate song: Silent Sigh.


My mother will be glad to hear I can play this on the piano. Mrs Pass would be glad too.

Copyright… it’s a funny old game!

Still the Pinterest argument continues. I notice one blog I used to follow is now no longer. That’s a shame, because it was a good blog, but to be honest, if you’re that fussy about people sharing your stuff, it’s not a good idea to put pictures of it on the internet and do things to encourage people to visit your site! I guess the owner decided that she didn’t want to share.

It just all makes me laugh. Copyright? It’s a right minefield is what it is, especially where the internet is concerned! I like all the barrack-room lawyers coming out of the wood-work to express an opinion and be all smug about how noble they are for not using this pinterest anymore (most of them, by the way, had an account themselves before realising their own stuff was on there and someone else told them they should be bothered about copyright). Copyright is something I know about on account of having written textbooks, which often use materials from other sources. Jeremy Clarkson wanted £5,000 to grant us the right to copy 100 words of text. He’s not worth it, so I went with the ever-so-kind Boris Johnson instead who gave us his stuff for nothing. When you are working for a gigantic publisher and using other sources, be they print or image, then you constantly ask yourself: ‘will we get copyright for this?’

And do you know what irks me?

It’s usually ‘yes, for a price.’

So rather than publishing in an educational text book about the English language for free, inspiring the nation’s youth, they’re fussing over whether you’ll give them £1,000 or £5,000 and grubbing for money. The richer they are, the more they grub for it.

To be honest, I feel about pinterest as I felt about those people who wouldn’t give us their stuff for free: really? Your ideas/words/images are really THAT good that you want money to be included in a book for use in a classroom? I wrote the whole damn book and got £2,000 for the privilege and was happy to do it, and you want £5,000 for 100 words because you’re famous?! I think I’ll go with Boris, who writes better than you anyway, you money-grubbing whore. You’re richer than Croesus and yet you begrudge 5,000 editions of 100 words in a textbook about language?!

I like that copyright only existed when the printing press was invented. That troublesome printing press. Maybe we should have smashed them all. Look where it’s led us! 500 years and WOMEN ARE POSTING PICTURES THEY LIKE ON A VIRTUAL SCRAPBOOK… mankind is doomed! Society is obviously on the brink of collapse the way some people are going on about pinterest and copyright.

But I’m totally on board with the original rules. Copyright was invented to stop poor copies being run off and sold on the cheap. Good old Queen Anne’s government decided that things couldn’t be copied because “Printers, Booksellers, and other Persons, have of late frequently taken the Liberty of Printing… Books, and other Writings, without the Consent of the Authors…to their very great Detriment, and too often to the Ruin of them and their Families:..”

I hold by that. If you copy stuff and it’s rubbish and it also ‘ruins’ the person who made it in the first place and they have to eat baked beans whilst you’re eating roast pork, then that’s not fair. But is pinterest ruining people’s lives?! The embroidery blog I followed… was it ruining her life that 20 women had linked to one of her images? Was she eating baked beans whilst those 20 women made a fortune selling cheap knock-offs? We’re hardly talking Lacoste copies, are we now?

Plus, the rules are silly and unclear in this internet age. Some countries, like Australia and the UK have complete copyright automatically. You do in the USA too, and lots of other countries, but if you sue and you didn’t have a © and the date, you might not get as much in damages. Some countries have no copyright laws. The internet throws a bigger spanner in the works. I could write or draw or photograph in one country with robust copyright laws, but how does it hold up if the country the server is in doesn’t? Or the country that it’s being made in doesn’t?

But photography and the internet pose massive problems that haven’t really ever been resolved.

For instance: if I post things in certain places, I can fall into a trap of actually giving the material to the site who host it. Facebook are notoriously blamed for ‘owning’ any pictures or content you upload, but who of us checks our blog host, or our server to see what their policy is? Can you imagine if Facebook decided to ‘own’ everything that had been uploaded, all those pictures of drunken girls, girls doing trout pouts, girls wearing skirts so short their knickers were showing, or take your pictures of your children and sell them to catalogues – or, worse – paedophiles?! So this is why some people don’t upload their photos to Facebook, because they’re not clear about Facebook’s rules. The same with Flickr and Tumblr and all the others.

What happens if I take a photo of a thing? I own the photo, of course. Except do I? There is dispute over a self-portrait of a monkey. The monkey actually owns the copyright and if the image makes money, the monkey should get the money. So what if I like a picture on your blog and I photograph the computer screen?! Do I own it just as much as I do if I take a picture of Westminster? And Disney – the most notoriously strict copyright-upholders – if I take a picture of Minnie Mouse in Disneyland, and then I make that photograph into a bag that I am selling – I’ve taken the photograph, and I’ve made the bag, but Disney don’t see it that way. They see that I’m making money from something they’ve made. And I am. They say it’s ‘derivative’. It’s a knock-off. I feel like that about a lot of music. And art. And buildings. And clothes. And furniture. And literature. And television. Maybe there should be more suing than there already is? Disney lead the way on this (despite the fact that they get LOADS of dosh from stealing Charles Perrault’s stories. That’s okay though… he’s not around to sue) Hypocrisy much?

But does this work with a London bus, for instance? It’s a ubiquitous symbol of London that makes LOADS of money. But someone made that shape and presumably, I’m not allowed to just copy it and make a bus and call it a London Bus and make money from it?


Things ‘run out’ of copyright (which is why I only publish poems that are out of copyright) but then I know in my poetry GCSE books, in order to write about the poems, I have to restrict myself to ‘fair’ usage and not quote too much of the poem. That’s a problem. If a poem is published as part of a book, does this mean I can use 5% of the book, or only 5% of the poem? 5% is the English ‘fair use’ percentage. But I’m writing in France. Is my book therefore French? Is copyright different here? I sell it on Amazon UK, FR, ES, IT and COM. Does this mean the book might be legal in some countries and abusive in others?!


What if I take that book on my kindle and read it in a country where it contravenes copyright?! Will the thought police come and arrest me?

Personally, I like to remember that Gutenberg, that Tim Berners-Lee, gave us methods of mass communication and made very little themselves. Maybe, with patents and copyright and trademarks, they could have been the Bill Gates’s of the world and made an awful lot of money. There’s a nobility in sharing – Gutenberg was, according to the best free resource of all, Wikipedia, ‘financially unsuccessful in his lifetime’. Many of life’s best inventions have been collaborations in universities or academies and have been given to the people for free. Computers, the internet, the world wide web, all freebies. Sir Tim Berners-Lee (shares my surname, therefore cool) is a professor. Professors are well known for their riches. By all rights, TimBL should be living in a golden palace drinking 10,000€ bottles of cognac and feeding his dogs on Kobe beef.

And yet small-minded, mealy-mouthed people who don’t mind making a living off freebies themselves are then getting all agitated about something that amounts to little more than other people looking at their stuff – and – shock horror! – maybe – maybe! even visiting their website for a look.

I like Banksy’s view of things. Banksy, if you don’t know, and if you are alive, you’ll know, is an ‘anonymous’ graffiti artist. I like that people try to work out who he is, like it’s important. On his website, he says this:

“Banksy does not make photo canvases, mugs, wall stickers, greeting cards or T shirts.

Please feel free to

– Copy any Banksy imagery in any way for any kind of personal amusement

– Make your own Banksy merchandise for non-commercial purposes

– Pretend you drew it yourself for art homework”

Please do not

– Put up signs saying ‘strictly no photographs’ when all you do is sell photographs of my graffiti

– Take images off my website and ‘license’ them for a huge fee to a fucking German calendar company.”

Well said, that man.

So, feel free to copy my stuff, borrow my stuff, link or not link, but if you use it and you make more money than me from it, cast a few pence in my direction to make up for it, I beg you!

Do not feel free to copy and sell stuff I try to sell. You’ll know I’m trying to sell it because it’s not instantly and obviously available (i.e. it’s a book on Amazon) and it has a price next to it. If you steal that, that’s just stealing the food right out of my mouth. You might as well come round here and take the food from my fridge. I’m sure most people are sensible enough to know the difference. And, if you get rich from selling one of my ideas, then good luck to you. You’re obviously a better salesperson than I. Maybe you might be magnanimous to share a little of your success in return for this thievery?

So overall, I’m with Queen Anne and Banksy on this. If you share, fine. If you make a profit at my expense, not fine. I’ll rain down seven types of pointy reckonings upon you, one way or another.

Pinterest: to pin or not to pin

If you haven’t found Pinterest yet, you’re probably not missing out on very much unless you are the type of person who liked cutting things out and collecting them for later reference. If you like pretty things and magpie articles, it’s perfect for that.

Take me. I’m a compulsive cutter-outer. I blame my mother. She’s a cutter-outer too. She even cuts things out and posts them to me. Then I categorise them and stick them in a book. I keep recipes, ideas for the garden, ideas for the home, pictures I like… just like I used to keep pictures of Morten Harket from A-Ha when I was twelve. I keep them to read when I need them.

Cutting-out compulsion!

This isn’t so easy on the internet.

Back in the early days, about fifteen years ago, I used to print things off. This is not good for many reasons. One is that it uses up a lot of ink. The second is that it uses a lot of paper.

Then bookmarks came along.

I book marked. I reddit. I found other online ‘cut-and-keep’ methods and I kept them.

Book marks, however, are just a link. They don’t always tell you about content, unless you tell it to. They aren’t pretty. They are just functional. Not only that, my book mark bar was getting out of hand. Even with Diigo, which has a wonderful facility where you can add tags, I very rarely go back and look at stuff again. It gets forgotten about. I’ve got hundreds of things on Diigo and I never look at them again, unless I’ve book marked things for a lesson and I look at it once.

Bookmarks also need looking at regularly and you spend an inordinate amount of time looking over sites that may have added loads of new content or none at all.

That’s where RSS reader comes in. Add an RSS reader to your browser, click on it to ‘subscribe’ to a blog and then it cuts them out and puts them on a feedreader. It’s brilliant. I follow about 200 sites and it tells me every time I click on it what’s new or been updated. I can subscribe to gardening pages and get their new articles. I don’t have to keep looking back at a blog that hasn’t been updated.

An RSS button... click to subscribe (and click to find the article this came from telling you how to use RSS if you haven't already)

RSS is only good if you want everything on that site, however. I then have a choice. I’ve read something interesting, but didn’t really want the rest of the blog/site. What do I do?

I can RSS it, but then I get stuff I don’t want to read, which is annoying. I can bookmark it or Diigo it and never revisit it.


I can pin it!

This is my ‘pin’ page for my garden

As you can see, I link to articles I’ve read about the plants I’ve sown. They give me advice, reminders, prompts. Sometimes, it’s from the exact seed company. Sometimes, it’s just a track of what I’ve read and what’s in my garden. It’s a one-stop at-a-glance place where every time I want to see what advice I need for growing my lettuce, I can just click on the picture and it will take me there.

It’s a great digital version of something I’ve done for donkeys.

Of course, some people think – and the law is included in this maybe – that I’m ‘stealing’ the image.

They say that I’ve not credited the owner (Pinterest does… it’s easy to link and hard to get rid of the link to the original site – therefore, it’s very easy to get back to the source… even if it gets ‘repinned’)

Sometimes, they say that the owner wouldn’t give permission for me to ‘use’ the image.

That’s true. I have not asked a single one of any of the image-owners for their permission.

However, when I pin an image, it tells the website that a ping-back has been created. This tells the owner that a link has been made. You can click on it and see it. I can see who’s pinned my stuff and who’s repinned it. I can even comment on their pins. Two people have done this on mine. I’d pinned a great artist, Belinda Fireman, and she commented on my pin. Not only that, she knows how great I thought her work was. I pinned something from a Spanish Etsy designer and she’d said thanks too. People have pinned my stuff from Flickr. It’s amazing to see people spread and share your work.

Of course, recognition is nice too. Sometimes, something is pinned beyond all recognition, or people don’t click to see the original site.

Once, when I was a teacher-adviser, I came up with an oral activity on Macbeth. It was based on Paul Ginnis’s work. I credited him in the article. I delivered the activity and wrote my findings up. I took photos. I sourced and credited appropriately. It went as an article in the Secondary English Magazine. 

Two months later, I was at a paid-for conference where someone delivered this as ‘their own.’ They didn’t credit Paul Ginnis. They didn’t credit me. They even had copied my photographs from the article, uploaded them, put them in a powerpoint and delivered it to 20 people paying £100 for the conference. Including one angry owner. Me.

After the conference, I approached the thief. I asked him where he’d got his inspiration. To his credit, he admitted it wasn’t his. Then I told him it was my work. He didn’t even blush. I was mad. Hardened copyright abuser meets his source.  Hardened copyright abuser has just made £2,000 from theft.

But I was gracious. I said I was very flattered, but would he please credit a) Paul Ginnis and b) the children who’d produced the work (the name of the school was clear on the photos anyway…)

Probably, he was sussed as being a fraud. Maybe not. Maybe he’s written books filled with ‘stolen’ ideas.

Recently, one of my little students said he was going to perform one of his GCSE pieces in class. It was based on ‘Room 101’ – the BBC comedy series. Now, way back in 2006, when I was a speaking and listening assessor for an exam board, I got so tired of what ‘speeches’ most schools did that I had a hissy fit. Most were doing ‘do a speech about your work experience’, or ‘do a speech about a hobby. ‘ This is fine if you don’t mind 30 accounts over about 3 hours of making tea, or – worse – 30 accounts over about 30 hours about teenagers’ hobbies. Until you have someone bring skinned rabbits into school, or a selection of shotguns, fishing rods or cheap make-up from the market and talk about it until you and the other 29 non-interested teenagers in the room all have bleeding ears, then you won’t really know why I had that hissy fit. Having spent 5 days – 25 hours – listening to boys talking about their fishing rods – then I went home and thought about speeches that would spark everybody’s interest. Room 101 was one. Make an argument about a thing you’d want to ban. Another was ‘It’s so unfair!’ largely inspired by John Scieszka’s The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by A. Wolf. Ironically, I was not the only one inspired by a retelling of a villain’s story. Wicked seems to have gone a long way on it.

Anyway, said student told me of his assignment. I was a little flattered, though not big-headed enough to think that it was definitely MY idea (which it isn’t, since it was taken from the BBC series, and them from 1984 and Orwell probably yoinked it from somewhere or other) as such memes seem to have a life of their own, spontaneously flowering in many open minds globally. However, I did not get my knickers in a twist and try to trace down the teacher’s source and demand a credit. I just had a little moment when I thought ‘wow!’

Honestly, I thought it was pretty cool an idea had travelled and I was pleased my student was inspired. He got an A. I was suitably pleased.

The upshot of all of this is that you can try to copyright things, trademark them and so on, but ultimately, people will take your ideas and not give you credit. Nice people will. They’ll say thank you and appreciate you. Unscrupulous people will take your stuff anyway. They’ll use screen capture to steal your images or words, if you use a programme to stop them copying.

And if you don’t want stuff sharing, don’t post it on the internet. Simple. Maybe you think you should post stuff on the internet and people won’t steal it, but really, is your idea THAT unique? Did YOU source everything that inspired you? Did YOU put a little © God or © Fate or © La Rochefoucauld architects for providing me with a wonderfully inspiring view of a beautiful castle or © this-or-that artist who gave me the idea?

Personally, people who are precious about their own ideas are those who like to think they are inspired in a bubble and that all of their ideas are self-creating and spontaneous and original. I’ve unsubscribed from three blogs who find it offensive that I pin things and say they don’t want their own things pinning. So you want to use the internet to share your ‘original’ ideas (one was a painter whose work owed a lot to lots of other painters, and one was an embroidery blog I follow, who often links to stitches from other people and I think it’s a bit rich to say ‘Oh, I like this sharing, but not that sharing and I want YOU to share how I inspire you, but I don’t want you to keep hold of anything that I’ve done that inspires you…) but you don’t want to share what I do.

Why have a blog of your stuff if you a) don’t want people to look and b) don’t want people to be inspired by you or c) don’t want people to share your stuff with others who might also like it?

I’ve visited 10 sites today that I wouldn’t normally have visited because of Pinterest. I get Pinterest traffic myself. Pinterest shot one blog’s stats through the roof. And that’s all good.

I think, as a writer, artist, whatever, if I personally put something on the internet, I can’t then say ‘but don’t share it’. Pinterest doesn’t encourage stealing because it links back automatically to the original source, so the owner gets a credit.  Tumblr does the same.

So those people who bang on about copyright infringement and theft – well, they maybe would be better to keep their ideas to themselves – and then they’re never, ever going to be stolen.

So, if you see something on my site you want to pin, go for it! I’d be honoured. If you want to share it – lovely! If you think it’s worth sharing, I’m truly touched. If it ends up ten months later splattered all over Pinterest, completely uncredited, well, I’LL know, and that’s the important thing. I can tell myself ‘that’s me!’ and smile at the effect.

And for those getting ants in their pants about it, by my count from my FB friends, 4 out of 300 use it. That’s less than 1% of the internet population. All are women. All are about my age. All are crafty. All pin because they want to link back to the original site easily. None are thieves. Is it really worth getting all agitated about?!

That’s my almost-two-thousand-penneth.

No. It’s almost my almost-two-thousand-penneth.

I told you last time about my business cards… here they are:

Prime example of copyrightness… I think I came up with ‘for all your wordy needs’ spontaneously. Steve thinks HE came up with it. I KNOW he didn’t. But when I googled it, 748 other people thought the same thing. I’m DAMN sure the idea came from NONE of them. But whoever DID think of it first might be pretty annoyed I’m flaunting it on the internet. Hopefully, they feel like I do about the Room 101 lesson: it’s nice to be honoured, even if people don’t know they’re doing it. And if it’s a kind-of-spontaneous-great-minds-think-alike thing, well, I think human beings are amazing and sometimes scarily hive-like. But that’s still pretty cool all the same.

For all your wordy needs*

* this is not an original slogan, because 748 other Google hits have it, but it is my slogan. There is little original in this world.

A week ago, I finally got round to having some business cards printed. I don’t know why I need them more in France but I do. It’s much more au courant and even rubbish people have business cards. I guess in England (or Japan) you’d find their website on the spot, add their linkedin, their facebook, their blog, their website and their google details and have done. Here, few people carry their phone with them, and all that gives you is access to their phone number. If you want more, like web address details, then a business card is perfect.

I’d looked at all the ‘cheap’ French sites and was quite disgusted that they can charge 21€ to send a small box. I pay 3€ to send books to students, and it doesn’t weigh more than that. Vistaprint seemed to be the go-to: everyone I get one off seems to have a free set of Vistaprint cards, but the ‘free’ ones were a bit 90s looking, and not in a good way. They didn’t really have any designs I liked either.

So in the end I went for the more honest and I’m very pleased with the results. I’d seen a blogger I follow in the USA recommending them and when I looked, I thought ‘wow!’ – mine!

I like the typewriter ones because they go with the ‘for all your wordy needs’ slogan and I like the colours and the weight of the card. Now I need to get a handbag out to put them in. Normally, I’m a pockets kind of a girl over here, which is very sad, since I used to be a handbag kind of a girl.

To be fair, ‘for all your wordy needs’ is a good slogan for me. Maybe I might have a set with ‘will write for food’ or something along those lines too. In the last month, I’ve written about bicycle cranks and feline HIV, cognac, butter, amortisation, the Bombay Stock Exchange, several poems, lesson plans, blogs… diverse is perhaps my middle name.

But my garden has not gone un-tended. Luckily, these lengthy days make life much more pleasant and I’ve been getting on with several projects – not least of which is losing the dress size I’ve put on over winter. It was nice gaining it and all these extra hours of movement will mean that it’s nice losing it too. I don’t weigh myself any more – I was compulsive about it when I used to run a lot – and if you’re a runner, you’ll know why. If you try running with a back pack with even 5 kg of stuff in it, it all slows you down, makes your lungs and heart work harder. But I like eating. There’s nothing psychological about it – it just tastes good. I like cooking and I like eating. I eat well and I eat healthily, but with a freezer filled with apples and pears, cherries and plums, it’s hard to resist the lure of crumbles and pies with creme fraiche or creme anglaise. This is why I like the summer months because I get to work it off again.

So what have I been sowing?

I’ve sowed mirabilis, broccoli, asters, calendula, marguerites and radish today.

Mirabilis are a half-hardy annual – I’ve tried to get a good balance of flowers in this year, because last year’s flowers were decidedly thin on the ground, bar the 29c packets of marigolds and zinnias I picked up from Lidl. I know annuals are a lot of effort, and to be honest, dry as last year was, it’s a bit of a waste of water, though I used grey water to keep them happy.

These mirabilis red and yellow marbles seeded very well and are a bit nasturtium-like, leaf-wise. I used the propagator to get them going and it was a great start for them. This is a beautiful blog by the way, if you click on the image of the flowers.

My mum sent me a packet of Aster ostrich feather which I’ve also sown today.

More half-hardy annuals, but lovely colours. These will be lovely with some bright whites mixed in, don’t you think? I love their fronds and thin petals – they’re like little bright pom-poms. I think these with some little pom-pom whites or some of the marguerites will look fabulous. It’ll just be a matter of keeping on top of them and keeping them moist enough – though this year I’m hopefully not going to have to keep going back to the UK to mark and therefore my garden won’t go to ruin.

I planted my marguerite etoile d’Anvers which are giant perennials. I love perennials and I’d love to have a cottage garden, though it’s far too dry for a cottage garden round here.

Finally, on the flower front, it was the turn of the calendula art shades which is a hardy annual. I got loads of seeds from my marigolds last year, and I’m hoping this will be the same. I only had maybe ten or so that were planted at the end of each row of vegetables.  I like the whole idea of mixed planting – flowers with vegetables. Not only do the flowers pretty up the vegetable patch (which is, though, pretty enough as it is) but they also keep nasties away. Luckily, we don’t get much by way of nasties. The birds were the major pests: they completely savaged my beautiful sweetcorn and the hens destroyed the red cabbage. Naughty birds.

But with all this floraison, I’ve not been remiss with the vegetables. I’m about to plant some courgettes and have already planted some broccoli. I didn’t plant any broccoli last year and this year I’m sporting not one but two varieties: romanesca and purple sprouting. Romanesca is just beautiful

Top Ten Tuesday

I was going to follow a theme, like the first top tens should be a ten top tens about music, but I’m really not that organised.

Since I’ve been immersed in liberated books, I thought I’d do my all time top ten books.

1. The Great Gatsby. No comparison. No argument. No contest. It just is. It’s one of the reasons I don’t think they could ever do a good film of it because it’s such a great, great book. It’s such a sad, sad story – the pointlessness of love, of never being able to go back and reclaim what you once had, how love blinds us, how love improves us. Love is sad. That’s all this book says. The Redford film version is not for me, but I love Baz Luhrman and I long to see what he’ll do with it. Leo di Caprio is a little portly for me but I loved him in Romeo+Juliet and he was floppy-haired and beautiful, so maybe it will work. No matter how corrupt you might be, you can still have a pure and un-corrupted love, even just for a moment, but you can’t cling to that love. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. And mostly, the other person in that love affair won’t see it the same way you do. Too sad.

2. To Kill a Mockingbird. I know both of these are fixed in a period of time and in a space in the world, and I think that’s why I like them. I love how dignified Tom is, and I feel for the Ewells in a way. It’s inspired and it always makes me cry, just like The Great Gatsby does. The Gregory Peck version is great, but I can’t listen to anyone saying ‘Atticus’ in a southern drawl any more. I like that Nelle Harper and I share a surname too. That’s just the icing on the cake. It’s the first of my favourites told through the eyes of a child. I obviously like the ‘writing as a child’ genre.

3. The Shadow of the Wind. A story about a library in Barcelona, and a love story. What’s not to love?! I love the description of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books and I’d kind of like to be the curator of such a place. Not unlike The Great Gatsby as it is a story of a sad love, but also a mystery. I love Carlos Ruiz Zafon and I’d go as far as to say he’s my favourite current writer.

4. Of Mice and Men. Yes, I could put many Steinbeck greats on here. I equally love East of Eden and Cannery Row and Tortilla Flats – the quaint American picaresque of the Depression – but when you’ve taught Of Mice and Men over twenty times and it never, ever loses its wonder, then that’s a great book. I like things that are allusions to other great stories – and I like how this book works as a giant hyperlink to loads of other texts, not least the Bible. Also, noticing a pattern about how life doesn’t work out the way you expect it to… about how life isn’t fair. Read every major book he’s ever written and I love them all, even though he’s quite a lazy writer – he likes to re-use the same images and ideas. I wonder if he thinks his reader stupid and feels the need to reiterate his point over and over and over.

5. Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. I love South American fiction – so many, many great writers and I love the kind of surreal, dreamy magic to them, so this would definitely be right up there. Plus, Eliza, the main character, is the type of woman I’d like to be. She’s amazing, a little crazy, independent and super-adaptable. And not only that, the first book on my list that’s a little more upbeat.

6. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It’s all of this stuff that got me thinking about South America a long, long time ago. I don’t know what it is about these stories – they’re just so free.

7. A Suitable Boy. Stephen King once said reading a novel can be like a long love affair – and this one really, really was. It made me weep buckets at the end. Like a love affair, it didn’t end the way I wanted it to. That’s all I’ll say about it. I lived this book for about a month. Most things don’t take me a long time to read, but this one did and it was part of me for what seemed to be a very long time.

8. The Dharma Bums. Again, another of those books that are just so free and so fun, a little crazy and also completely unique and unforgettable. I have a huge crush on Japhy Ryder, the little zen poet who sends the author off into another realm. I’ve been lucky to know a few people like Japhy Ryder – freespirited individuals who are not constrained by society in the same way as most.

9. The Kite Runner – such an amazing story and so beautifully written. Friendship and guilt. I obviously like stories that make me cry!

10. The Magic Toyshop  – I had to put at least one Angela Carter on. She’s probably my favourite writer of all. I wallow in her words – it’s like taking a bath in Belgian chocolate, sumptuous and rich and glorious – but not every day reading. I love her short stories the most, since I like anything that takes something expected and makes it unexpected – twists on originals, if you like (this is why I like John Scieszka’s children’s books like The True Story of the Three Little Pigs) and spent a lot of time teaching creative writing classes where I take a classic story and twist it. But of her full-length novels, this is probably my favourite. It’s both sad and happy and weird and definitely Carter, through and through. Love comes in many forms.

I got nothing but love for you…

Bit of the Fleetwood Mac coming in your direction for this Monday Much Love blog.

I did a dance when picking this song which rather alarmed Steve. He said I should have gone for some Slayer, but I quite rightly pointed out that Slayer didn’t do a song about Mondays. If they did, I might do a blog on it.

So what do I have Much Love for? I have Much Love for the things in my garden that are starting to grow. I’ve still got so much to get out though. The onions are coming up, and yesterday I noticed some little dark green and burgundy leaves that mark the beginning of beetroot. The beans and peas were put on hold a little because it was so very hot. I’ve also got much love for the rain, since rain is all good. It’s amazing that since the river Tardoire looked like this:

that it has now disappeared and looks like this:

From the flooding, it’s rained intermittently, but nothing like this. Then it snowed. And then it hasn’t rained since. It’s already looking like it’ll be a dry year. I’m already wondering whether I should even bother with any annuals since watering them is just completely pointless.

So whilst it might be wet out today and I already miss the beautiful sunshine, I have Much Love for the rain.

I’ve also got Much Love for several thousand ebooks I’ve got on my laptop… I’m working my way through Harry Bosch and although I realise I should probably read something literary, like the Booker prize winner, sometimes I just like easy stuff. I know, I know. I’m repetitive. I like cop stuff. FBI, CIA, CSI… any stuff with three initials. If it’s American and hard-boiled, so much the better. But getting these books was like several Christmases all together. I just now need three lifetimes to read them. I was looking down the inventory list going ‘Fantastic… Fabulous… Yes!’ and despite several hundred new books, I’m wading through the older ones I’ve read before. It’s somehow comforting.

I have Much Love for a tiny little thing I bought for 9€ last week… it’s a USB port with 4 USBs. Currently, I have only one working USB port on this ancient laptop. I have to have a keyboard plugged in to it. It’s a long story as to why, involving cat sick and PC World and decisions about £7 keyboards being better value than £200 laptop keyboard replacements. Anyway, I have a keyboard plugged in. This meant I couldn’t use poor remaining USB for my printer or my camera or my webcam unless I unplugged the keyboard.

Not only that, but Steve has added some more memory to this old laptop so now it functions more like a fairly solid 40-something rather than an 80 year old with severe osteoporosis. Much Love. Human beings don’t like change and going over to the reconditioned laptop would have been too sad. Steve wants to F-disk this ancient being of a laptop I am currently typing upon, but I won’t let him. He looks at it from time to time in the same way The Child-Catcher in Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang would look at a school bus full of children.

Much Love to my lovely work life at the moment. Not many people in the world get to say that and I realise I’m lucky to be able to say it.

As for Pam’s Poetry Corner… no natural choice shouted out to me today, so I’ve gone for my hands-down favourite poem ever. Ozymandias. If ever a poem spoke the truth, this does. If you don’t think of this poem every time some populist mass tear down statues of a dictator, then maybe you should. Not only are dictators just replaced by other dictators, but dictators are forgotten. It’s not just Joey in Friends who didn’t know who Joseph Stalin was… it never fails to surprise me how many people of my generation don’t know who he is, or who Idi Amin was, or Pol Pot or what happened during the Cultural Revolution. But then, it doesn’t surprise me either. Tyrants are just as forgettable in the grand scheme of things.


I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

Percy Shelley