Open University

booksThere seems to be a mad rush going on in the course forum for all to join up for the next course. The natural evolution of an OU Creative Writer would probably be to move on to the Advanced Creative Writing course — at least, that certainly seems to be how a lot of the students in the forums see it for the development of their writing careers. Their decision may also have something to do with how their degree course is structured, but as I am probably looking at an Open Degree which at this stage has just as much chance of becoming a Science Degree as an Arts one, I don’t feel as if I am harnessed by the more obvious choices.

So thinking about other options, and doing a few calculations on what I still have to do for the degree, I see that I have foolishly left myself another 10 credits to collect at Level 1 — another 10 credits to collect at Level 2, and finally 60 to collect at Level 3! Was I shortsighted or what? So I am thinking of doing another 30 credit course at Level 2 to make up for the credits missing in the first 2 levels, and then finally the 60 credit course at Level 3. Which would all be just perfect if it weren’t for the fact that I can’t really see anything with 30 credits which appeals to me.

Probably it would be a wise move to try for a 30 or 60 credits at Level 3? What do you think? Anyway, in actual fact I have been looking at a 60 credit course, Level 2 which would give me a handle on English used in various parts of the world. A deeper understanding of the development of the use of the language at various cultural levels, and in various international cultures. Sounds quite fascinating, so watch this space …

It’s called ‘Worlds of English’ [Read more … ]
Level 2 course, ‘Creative Writing’ [Read more … ]
Level 3 course, ‘Advanced Creative Writing’ [Read more … ]
Level 3 course, ‘Children’s Literature’ [Read more … ]
Level 3 course, ‘English Grammar in Context’ [Read more … ]
Level 3 course, ‘Religion in history’ [Read more … ]

The life span of a fridge

One of those useless titbits of information which floats around in cyberspace, and to which very few of us give much attention, has to do with the life span of a fridge. Ten years seems to be the general consensus of opinion — though whose opinion is not quite clear — and that same benchmark can apparently be applied to most large electrical appliances.

Well, much to my dismay, I can now confirm that — at least in this household — the one about the fridge is correct. If only I had recognized the signs — the heaving, the heavy engine grumbling noises, the shudders — I might have been better prepared for the worst. But no — I just regarded these symptoms as nuisances sent to ruin the audio of my favourite films, our having an open-plan lounge/kitchen/diner and all.

So when it finally died a very noisy death ten days ago, I was quite unprepared. Financially more than anything. And no amount of surfing on the internet could find us anything that cost less than almost €400 to fit neatly into the fitted cupboard space over in the corner of the kitchen. And this morning it arrived, and to add insult to injury, it took hubby some 3 hours to finally tame the thing enough to get it to sit inside the cubby hole properly.

If you know someone in the bomb squad who can find and defuse the ten year time bomb sitting inside your fridge, I suggest you get them to do it at the earliest. Meanwhile treat your faithful fridge with a little tender loving care … you just never know when it might turn nasty on you.


The weatherman tells us that the weather is going to be truly rotten from this evening for 24 hours or so. He tells us that we should expect torrential rain and hail, bad storms and even the occasional ‘tromba d’aria’ here and there. And if you are uncertain about those, they are tornadoes. So we decided that today, before all this happens — would be as good a time as any to go out on the bike for a few hours. We didn’t actually go that far from home as we had some things to pick up in the hypermarkets out on the mainland, but if nothing else it meant that we were able to turn the bike engine over after 10 days of its inactivity sitting in the garage.

I experimented with my little digital recorder — I wanted to pick up some local noises and the bike was on my list. A bit disappointing since the wind almost smothered the engine noise, but I also managed to get the local boat transport noises, and a few inside the supermarket including the ‘beeping’ cash register. Hubby managed to set off the alarm in the men’s loos after pulling the alarm cord instead of pushing the thingie on top of the cistern!

We also picked up a couple of toys for daughter’s doggie, Tria, and I am now waiting for her to drop by so we can see the puppy’s reaction! Daughter is pretty peeved as her boyfriend has had to go off for some five days for work. He is a sailing instructor and occasionaly gets sent off to the French Riviera — or other places, to look at/arm/repair yachts. This time he was sent to Sardinia and should be back tomorrow. I think he is also supposed to be messing about with the America’s Cup next week. I only hope they have some decent weather, but the weatherman hasn’t given a terribly pormising forecast that’s for sure.

p.s. for anyone who might have gone to the trouble of reading the previous post regarding our bike, you may have noticed that the photos show two different bikes. Well spotted! That one was a Honda and this one is a Moto Guzzi — decided to buy local produce and move up to a bigger engine which will theoretically be better for all those long journeys we keep planning to do — and which up until now we have not really done. But don’t lose faith and come back often to see if we eventually manage to cross the Alps!

My Scribbles

Just a warning to all who pass this way …

My scribbles in here will only occasionally be serious pieces of written work, and will for the main part, follow the trend of the generic blog, covering walks in the country, baking cakes and cleaning up after the dog. Just now and again something with a bit of meat on it will slip through.

I take part in a couple of writers’ workshops where my work is laid at the feet of the editorial gods who unceremoniously cleave my meagre offerings with the axe of critique, putting me very much in my humble literary place. One (that ‘one’ being yours truly) dreams that this flagellation will eventually produce discreet results …


Haiku in English

is a development of the Japanese haiku poetic form in the English language.

Contemporary haiku are written in many languages, but most poets outside of Japan are concentrated in the English-speaking countries.

It is impossible to single out any current style, format, or subject matter as definitive. Some of the more common practices in English include:

— Use of three lines of up to 17 syllables (5,7,5);
— Use of a season word (kigo);
— Use of a cut or kire (sometimes indicated by a punctuation mark) to compare two images implicitly. [Read more on Wikipedia … ]


Japanese poetic form [Read more on Wikipedia … ]

Haiku [summer’s end]

A burst of colour
Long streams of fiery garlands
fill the midnight sky

Fireworks exploding
celebrate the special day
one we will recall

Summer has gone by
our memories are many
keeping us happy

‘Til another year
A start for fresh ideas
spurred on by new energy

Haiku [the weary student]

Sleep closes my eyes
whilst weary limbs beg for rest
to restore my soul

Soon a bright new day
will bring me fresh energy
to live to the full

New tasks to perform
New challenges for my mind
I must feel refreshed

So away to bed
and I bid you all farewell
and a sweet repose

Haiku [a student’s day begins]

Here I am again
sharpened pencil in hand
and wits about me

A new day has dawned
My mind and body refreshed
ready to begin again

Open Big Red Book
to read the latest chapter
and activities

Stick my head in door
of all the student forums
Check the goings on

Get head down to work
and snap out of reverie
my worst enemy

Got too much to do
to allow my daydreaming
and waste precious time

The sun eats the hours
as they all say over here
so to work, dear lass

Show that you are strong
perfectly able to do
all that’s thrown at you

Wind stopped play

Couldn’t believe it — the whole of last week was absolutely glorious with brilliant sunny, even if not very warm, Spring days. Yesterday morning we woke up earlier than usual to get ready for the flea market and were frustrated to see that the wind had got up and was putting the whole day in jeapardy. Bear in mind that we only get to take part in six of these markets each year, and having spent almost two months preparing new material for our handcrafts stall – sewing, glueing, cutting etc. — it was upsetting to see that one of those six days might be lost.

It is probably difficult for you to imagine that the only way that we can get to the market zone is by loading everything into our little boat and braving the elements — made even more hazardous by the wind whipping up the water and soaking us every time we rode a wave! We decided to take the two big tables over to the market first, just to see what the situation was and whether the strong wind was rushing down the long and wide street making it impossible to lay out the merchandise without the risk of its disappearing into the nearest canal. Seeing a few other market stall-holders there was encouraging, and we opted for the risk and my husband went back in the boat to pick up all our boxes of stuff.

We weren’t the only ones affected by the wind, as there were very few tourists stopping, and those that did were obviously not dressed for the occasion and were suffering from the cold and too busy trying to stay warm to be able to think about shopping! Nonetheless, we managed to save the day and pay for the snack lunch which we ate at the bar next to our stall. My daughter’s puppy came along to keep us company for part of the time and amused most of the people walking in the area — for her it was a new experience to be able to run after the pigeons and meet lots of new dogs, so it was good fun for her too. The strong wind was the least of her worries!

Dealing with the mozzies

Compared to a few years ago, the mosquito situation in Venice seems to have improved tremendously. I can well remember my early years here when I would get up in the morning covered in bites with a feeling of great fatigue after a night spent battling with these invisible, though noisy, enemies! Small consolation to know that only the females do the damage as they inject an anti-coagulant under the skin in order to take their fill of blood necessary to develop their eggs before laying.

Probably the main reason for my seeing an improvement in the situation can be found in an improved understanding of their habits, and a slight change in my own. My husband is not convinced that there are less mosquitoes around, but just that I now know how to deal with them a bit better! My memory of excessive numbers of mosquitoes is more likely to be of the non-biting — though still a real nuisance — kind. The numbers of that particular species diminished considerably as soon as the local authorities began to remove the dead algae which accumulated in the lagoon which was, by the way, also the principle cause of the terrible smell so often associated with the city.

Something which has definitely happened in recent years is that a ‘new’ type of mosquito has been introduced — the Asian ‘tiger’ mosquito — which has a higher nuisance value in my opinion as this one does not limit its activity to dusk and dawn, but comes out during the day.

So what are my suggestions to tourists or new residents here for avoiding the discomfort of mozzie bites?

— When you go to bed, avoid using strong perfumes. A quick shower to remove perfumes and perspiration will help

— Close all windows before turning on any lights in the evening. If you have air conditioning this will mean that you can leave the windows closed of course. If you do not have air conditioning, only open the windows again once you are in bed with all the lights turned off. Personally I do not like using any of the contraptions with chemical products which are available on the market for keeping mosquitoes away. However, some of these small electrical units do use little tablets with natural ingredients such as citronella so keep your eyes open for those. Citronella is also the deterrent used in various types of candles, but of course it is not wise to leave these unattended in bedrooms during the course of the evening. They are ideal for eating outside if you have a terrace or ‘altana’ — as also are the spiral burners, commonly known as ‘vulcano’ which burn slowly letting off smoke. Be warned that they have a strong smell and might not go down too well with your meal!

— Whatever you choose, particularly with regard to the bedroom where I would suggest only the use of the little electrical contraption, you can keep the windows closed in your absence, but before going to bed, turn off the unit, and with the lights out, leave the window open for about 20 minutes at least so that air can circulate. Mine is only a suggestion, but the packaging on the specific product will give you the directions for its proper use of course.

— Keep a repellent to hand in your bag or backpack as you move around during the day. You will only be likely to need to use it if you are visiting areas with lots of trees or wetlands such as some of the smaller islands — Torcello, Sant’Erasmo, San Francesco for instance — or if you are sitting in a restaurant garden too. It will also come in useful if you decide to eat out somewhere in the evening — a quick spray before sitting down to eat will help ensure that you are not bothered by the presence of mozzies. Just make sure you do the spraying some distance from the other clients, and remember your ankles which are always a vulnerable spot. As said before, I prefer to use the natural oil products available. They are not as efficient as a chemical repellent, but in many situations I find them to be enough.

— And if all else fails, make sure that when you get yourself a repellent, you also buy an ‘after-sting’ to soothe the itching!

— In our home we have an old-fashioned, ‘Casablanca’ style mosquito net hanging over our bed. Very inexpensive, they can be purchased in various places — I think we got ours in Ikea actually — and very effective. Just flap around inside the hanging net a few times before closing it to make sure you have no mosquitoes already inside! Also make sure there are no areas around the edges where they can enter, and do your best to avoid snagging the net as the mosquitoes will find a way in through even those little holes.

— Make sure all potted plants on your balconies (and those of your neighbours) do not have an accumulation of water in the little dishes or trays underneath as this is a sure way to encourage breeding. I am told that it is sufficient to drop a couple of pieces of copper wire in these dishes to discourage breeding — must be some kind of chemical reaction which doesn’t suit the development of the eggs I imagine.

Reading back through all this it would seem that we can hardly move for mosquitoes! Not that drastic at all, though knowing how to deal with them can make life a lot more comfortable — particularly ‘holiday’ life. I had one buzzing around my head here in my little office yesterday, but since the temperatures outside have dropped again, the mozzie activity seems to have stopped for now. However, it won’t be long before we have to get out our net again I’m sure, and by April, through until at least the beginning of November, it is likely to be a full-time feature of our bedroom décor!