We Work, We Write… And Rinse, Repeat!

Life is a house of cards. Complex and fragile, it sometimes just comes fluttering down or else you strike it with Alice-like overwhelm morphed into sour temper.

Yet at other times, the weariness is forgotten and everything seems possible. Surprisingly, Beijing (with its loud, crazy traffic and humorous, hard-working and openly curious people) had that effect on me.

Vertigo over Beijing traffic (in its calmest moments).
Vertigo over Beijing traffic (in its calmest moments).
The masters of pointless walls, which never really kept out invaders.
The masters of pointless walls, which never really kept out invaders.
Pomp and grandeur of past and present...
Pomp and grandeur of past and present…
... but it's the energy, good humour and willingness to learn of its people that I really admire.
… but it’s the energy, good humour and willingness to learn of its young people that I really admire.

I felt I could come home and tackle the long, long list of household, administrative, professional and creative tasks that I have set myself. Not just yet, though. Today I will take time to recover from jetlag and catch up with emails and blog posts. Otherwise, I may end up falling asleep just about anywhere, as is often the case in hard-working China.


It’s not quite Friday yet, but this may well be my Friday Fun contribution for this week, as I start to get up to speed again with all of my work. Lots of reviews coming up too!

Oh, and just a whiff of Beijing smog to spoil the air on my last day there…


So Old and Yet So New (Poetry)

This is some poetry inspired by my current re-reading of The Tale of Genji.

From ink-treasures.com
From ink-treasures.com

The brush at rest, she sweetly shed
her kanji burden in black rain.
Told it slant, but all refrain
from advice or like
on poetry’s thin frame.
Safflower and cicada shells linger on pages
but nothing compares
to the shy violet blush of
crocus beneath dried leaves.
How could I forget
the persistent folly of men
and how quickly sleeves are

dampened by the morning dew?


And, in the spirit of Royall Tyler’s multiple footnotes: kanji are the Chinese characters or ideograms used in Japanese (alongside the syllabic hiragana and katakana), safflower and cicada shells are nicknames used for certain ladies to whom Genji has shown some affection, while the wet sleeves are a recurring motif in all of Classical Japanese and Chinese literature and represent mourning, regret, suffering.

Don’t Believe Me? Just Watch!

It’s on every radio station I seem to switch on: Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars singing ‘Uptown Funk’. I’d heard this catchy song before, enjoyed the cheeky video, but in February it became part of the soundtrack of my life.

It was the music blaring out of the loudspeakers as my children came skiing down the slopes with shiny badges and faces to match. It was the last song on my car radio before I had my fateful meeting with a literary agent and editor. It was the song I heard just before I embarked upon a challenging training course with a difficult client. And, in each case, the outcome was as happy and snappy as the song itself. So it has become my ‘good luck token’. Think I’m all bark and no bite, all dreams and nought to back it up? Just you watch!

So it made my day to see Michelle Obama dancing to it on Ellen:


Sometimes you just need to prove them all wrong. Have a lovely weekend and don’t give up on your ambitions!


Friday Fun: Take to the Trees

Alongside a (slight) obsession with chateaux and libraries, you may know that I also dream of owning a treehouse. So here are some that have inspired me over the years…

Forest Hut or Gingerbread House? From Decoist.
Forest Hut or Gingerbread House? From Decoist.
Point Hotel in Washington State website.
Point Hotel in Washington State website.
Some are relatively simple, like this one from The Telegraph.
Some are relatively simple, like this one from The Telegraph.
Others can only be described as... grandiose. From The Treehouse Company Ltd.
Others can only be described as… grandiose. From The Treehouse Company Ltd.
The interiors are enticing too. Canada Farow Partnership.
The interiors are enticing too. Canada, Farrow Partnership.

We’ve come a long way from our tree-dwelling ancestors, haven’t we?

Now all I need to do is find a suitable tree…

A few favourite quotes

No world is too hard,

If you summon up enough heat.

You can do it.

The fire is there in your fingertips…

(Jerome Rothenberg)


Poetry is what we make of disparity—an effort to bridge the gap between the raggedness of daily life and our deeper intuition of (or yearning for) coherence, if only with a flying leap. Life is accidental. A poem is a foothold, a stepping stone, a space probe. A whole is what we leave in our wake.  (Kevin Craft)



Das Gedicht ist einsam. Es ist einsam und unterwegs… das Gedicht zeigt eine starke Neigung zum Verstummen.

The poem is lonely. It is lonely and on its way… the poem shows a strong tendency to fall silent.

(Paul Celan)


Poem: Love of Music

Music-Note-Coloring-Pages-For-KidsAnthony at dVerse Poets Pub has us talking about music being the food of love,  and urging us to play on. Who am I to disagree? Musicality, rhythm, sound is all-important to me in poetry – when I read the poetry of others or when I write my own.




When you were mine I took you for granted.

I lost you and never noticed you had gone.

My desk, my car, my home bathed in silence –

I believed them calm. I thought I relished the peace.

Then one day I wandered by chance to a small room

cloudy with sweat, bulging with smoke, but a space

where you were revered

uttered with honey-dripped tongue

encased in love-laden arms.

No more passing by in deafness.

You unleashed yourself against my ears

entered my pulse

forged new pathways in my limited world.

Travel Poetry: The Secret Gardens of Vaulx

20140830_154618An assault on the senses: so much to catch the eye.

We wander in a daze, through minarets of clay,

alabaster arches of thousand one more dreams.

We get lost in mazes, guided only by

children’s laughter and gasps of enchantment.

Round-mopped flowerheads beckon us to stroke them.

Birdsong fills the cool shade under the chestnut tree.

Water in every form bustles, trickles, dribbles, laps –

Each fountain a family member,

each square of cement path a pebble-enscribed love-letter.

20140830_154332It shouldn’t work: it’s madness,

disparate elements reclaimed from Morocco, Java, Spain,

brought together with nothing but bare hands and humour.

It started out as child’s play and became a family’s history,

hands in soil for decades, shared sighs, always a surprise,

glimmer of a pool around the corner, where

copper filigree meets bulbous earthen pumpkins.

Day after day they built one more terrace,

seeded another flowerbed,

unhurried, unforced,

mosaics of azure tinged with moss, gold shredded with scarlet.


20140830_154442We walked in smarting with petty quarrels.

Thirst quenched, a little silenced,

we leave here hand in hand.


These magnificent gardens that I discovered earlier this year  just outside Annecy in France – a source of inspiration and delight. For Gabriella’s brilliant initial hosting prompt about travel writing over at dVerse Poets Pub.