The Napoleon of Notting Hill

To Hilaire Belloc.

For every tiny town or place
God made the stars especially;
Babies look up with owlish face
And see them tangled in a tree:
You saw a moon from Sussex Downs,
A Sussex moon, untravelled still,
I saw a moon that was the town’s,
The largest lamp on Campden Hill.

Yea; Heaven is everywhere at home
The big blue cap that always fits,
And so it is (be calm; they come
To goal at last, my wandering wits),
So is it with the heroic thing;
This shall not end for the world’s end,
And though the sullen engines swing,
Be you not much afraid, my friend.

This did not end by Nelson’s urn
Where an immortal England sits–
Nor where your tall young men in turn
Drank death like wine at Austerlitz.
And when the pedants bade us mark
What cold mechanic happenings
Must come; our souls said in the dark,
“Belike; but there are likelier things.”

Likelier across these flats afar
These sulky levels smooth and free
The drums shall crash a waltz of war
And Death shall dance with Liberty;
Likelier the barricades shall blare
Slaughter below and smoke above,
And death and hate and hell declare
That men have found a thing to love.

Far from your sunny uplands set
I saw the dream; the streets I trod
The lit straight streets shot out and met
The starry streets that point to God.
This legend of an epic hour
A child I dreamed, and dream it still,
Under the great grey water-tower
That strikes the stars on Campden Hill.

G. K. C.

New Year’s Resolutions

1. Stop procrastinating. [giggles like a fool]

2. Read more fiction — starting with Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. I picked it up about two years ago, loved every word, and inexplicably put it down several times. There’s no real reason that I can discern: it’s the size of a medium-sized music box and heavy to carry around, and its tone and milieu make it difficult to dip in and out of, but for pete’s sake. Two years. I’ve gone back to the beginning.

3. Do some form of exercise that’s not Pilates or walking. Before I moved here I was taking ballet classes for a short while, and it was awesome. When I got here I excitedly looked at other dance classes, trampolining, capoeira, and kettlebells. Then I started working every night. There must be a way around this.

4. Sleep, think, and pray more. Preferably all the time, though not all three at once.

5. Learn how to thrift shop like a big girl.

I Sit and Think

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;

Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.

I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall never see.

For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.

I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.

But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Favourite things: Penguin Great Ideas

It is well-known that Betty has a fairly hefty thing for Augustine. She also has a committed fondness for Unity Books and Penguin. Imagine her excitement when she gets to go in and peruse the Penguin Great Ideas display.

And these are the tip of the iceberg — the series includes Robert Louis Stevenson’s Apology for Idlers, George Orwell’s Decline of the English Murder, Virginia Woolf’s Thoughts on Peace in an Air Raid, Søren Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death, William Morris’s Useful Work versus Useless Toil, Plato’s Symposium, Marco Polo’s Travels in the Land of Kubilai Khan, even Revelation and Job in one slim volume. Each book is small and pleasing, in lovely paper, beautifully designed, and cheap. Great ideas, indeed.

NaNoWriMo ploughs ahead

The thing about NaNoWriMo is that it is vital not to stop. Industrious bods who write every single day need only bash out 1,667 words a pop in order to reach their 50,000 by the end of the month. Lazy people who get sidetracked, on the other hand, have a harder time of it: their wordcount goal creeps up and up by the day until they write themselves — or, rather, fail to write themselves — into an untenable situation, and are forced to either give up in ignominy or chuck a sickie and do 18,000 words on the last day of November.

Neither of these is an option that Betty will have the liberty of taking, and consequently Betty has been forced to repent of her previous ways and start writing in good earnest. Fortunately, she has one more week of the cushy cable-watching job, which takes care of writing time on Mondays and Tuesdays; Wednesday nights has been free for the past two weeks, due to the rest of the student group having exams, and so Betty has managed to hunker down in the Borders cafe with a sizable array of other November novelists, which is terribly good for the wordcount; Thursdays afford a certain amount of time between leaving the studio and starting at the third job, which also has some free time built into it, hence all the blogging. Fridays are a little tricky. Tomorrow will include a lateish client, which will mean that writing will only start in the middle of the afternoon. The weekend involves the third job, and plenty of time between client visits and non-clinical notes.

For the readers’ amusement, Betty will hereby enclose the official NaNoWriMo graph widget as of this morning. The red bars indicate absolute slothfulness; the green bits are writing; and the grey bits are writing that actually fulfilled the wordcount. Note that the red bits get added to the wordcount goals in the future. Note also, in case any reader is alarmed, that the wordcount at the time of posting is 19,034, which means that the end is in sight: Betty can do it.

Kinda. I hope. Stay tuned.

Lolcats Job

Sometimes adaptations are just as good as, if not better than, the texts from which they are adapted. Think of The Man from Snowy River, Seamus Heaney’s Beowulf, all of Rosemary Sutcliff, and O Brother, Where Art Thou. When it comes to the book of Job, which is cracking good stuff, hyperbolic claims of secondary inspiration are not necessary, but take a look, if you will, at this.


In teh land of Uz wuz a man calded Job. Teh man wuz goodz, wif respeck fur teh Ceiling Cat and hated evilz. Teh man hadz seven sunz and tree doters, And lots of mices and camlez and rinoceruseses and servnts and stuff, srsly. His sunz tok turns mading cookies, and they all eated them. And Job wuz liek “Oh noes! Wut if cookies were sin? Gotta pray, just in cases.”

Furst Tess

Teh ayngles wented to seez Ceiling Cat, and Basement Cat wented two. Ceiling Cat axt Basement Cat, “Wher wuz u?” Basement Cat saied “Oh, hai. I’z wuz in ur urfs, wawking up and down uponz it.”Teh Ceiling Cat sez “Has u seen mai servnt Job? He can has cheezburger cuz he laiks me.”

“No wai!” sed Basement Cat. “U just plyin favrits. If u take his cheezburgers, oar his bukkit, he no laiks u no moar.”

Then teh Ceiling Cat sez “Okai, u can take his bukkit, but no givin Job owies.” And then Basement Cat went awai.

Wun day Jobes’ sunz and doters were eateding cookies at teh oldest wuns hoose, And a mans cam to told Job a mesege. “Ur donkzeys and moo cows was eateding tasteh grass And then PKers were in ur hous killin your dudez and ur naminals got stoldz and only i got wai.”

And then anotter mans cam to told Job a diffrant mesege. He sed “Teh Ceiling Cat maids fyr fall from teh skys and it burnded up ur sheepz and moar servnts and only i got awai.”

And thens a moar diffranter mans cam to told Job a mesege. “Sum angry dudez took ur rinoceroseseses and killd moar servnts and only i got wai.”

And then 1 moar mans cam to told Job a mesege. “Ur sunz howse feld over and skwishded evryones. Sry.”

Then Job got upt and shaved and was liek “Gota prey now.”

“Teh Ceiling Cat giv me cheezburger, teh Ceiling Cat takded mah cheezburger awai. I stil laiks teh Ceiling Cat.”

Job preyed to Ceiling Cat and didnt afraid of anyone. Do want.

Knocks your socks off, doesn’t it? I thought so.

NaNoWriMo: the difficult second session

The best NaNo writing–inevitably, given that the only requirement is volume of output–tends to happen in large spurts, and spurts, perhaps counter-intuitively, tend to happen in remarkably short periods of time. For both of these reasons, NaNoers are fond of organising write-ins: these combine the benefits of some congenial and usually caffeinated location with the motivational presence of other crazed writers, and they usually result in significant advances in word-count. Betty, therefore, spent a couple of hours in the Borders cafe, writing furiously, alongside an impressively large group of local novelists.

The happy result was an additional two thousand and something words, which brings Betty’s word-count up to the low 7,000s, and is not to be sneezed at. In addition, the plot is now kinda humming, which makes it all so much easier. Onward and upward.

NaNoWriMo: we have lift-off

The faithless can bite their tongues. Betty had her cushy cable-watching job today, and by the time her client called for assistance, the wordcount was 1,040. True, this should have been achieved by about 2pm on the first of November, but it’s really not that big a deal: delaying like this merely bumps the daily word target up to 2,500. It is perfectly possible to crack out 5,000 on a good day, if you find a cafe with a power-socket. The NaNo founder advocates what are technically called “nuclear weekends”, which involve three sessions a day, forty minutes on, twenty off, until you hit 1,500; this gives you almost 10k in only two days. At that rate, I could finish NaNo with ten days to spare. But we shall see.

By noon, Betty’s wordcount was 1,553. The first day’s official target, 1,667 words, was reached at 12.20 precisely. By 9.30pm, it was 2,800 words. Nothing to worry about.

NaNoWriMo: so it begins, sort of

National Novel Writing Month, as readers will know, is the highlight of Betty’s extremely tiny life, at least during November. That is to say, when she isn’t doing something vitally important like sleeping or walking to work, Betty likes to spend valuable stretches of time writing cobbled-together novels for her own amusement and that of — well, nobody else. The first one, readers may recall, was completed during the month that should have seen the completion of her thesis; the second helped to pass the time that should have been spent preparing for her move to the big city. This year’s one, for interest, will interrupt the time devoted to preparing for the final examinations of Betty’s Pilates career, but what the hey.

Trouble is, Betty had other things to do when NaNo kicked off on November 1, and, naturally, most of them are still waiting to be achieved; ones that cannot be put off, like turning up at work and so on, remain a bit of a hindrance. However, on the bright side, Betty did yesterday manage to achieve a word count. It is only 193 as of Day 6, but brave and fearless NaNoers would not even quiver at such a thing. Indeed, Betty’s first NaNo was won five days early, so suck it down; victory is, doubtless, close at hand.

If Betty may borrow a metaphor from the world of first aid, a project like this one, no matter how frozen it may appear, is not dead until it’s warm and dead. So shall it be written. So shall it be done.