Archive for category Travel

If Goethe had had to prepare supper

I’m just back from a cycling holiday along the banks of the Danube from Passau, near the German/Austrian border, to Vienna, in Austria. The weather was excellent. I didn’t get saddle-sore, thanks to several pairs of padded shorts. And although my leg muscles were exhausted by the end of day two, I got a second-wind and finished the trip without too many aches.Emerenz Meier

However, the point of this blog post is to highlight a memorial to the authoress, Emerenz Meier, on the river bank in Passau. The written work of this lady suffered due to the pressures on her to earn a living and keep house. She laments this in a poem reproduced on the memorial. It reads:

If Goethe had had to prepare supper, salt the dumplings;
If Schiller had had to wash the dishes;
If Heine had had to mend what he had torn, to clean the rooms, kill the bugs –
Oh, the menfolk, none of them would have become great poets.

Most of us have moaned, at some time or another, about the way chores and working for a living take up too much time. Time which could otherwise be used for productive writing. Today, equality of the sexes means fitting in the housework is no longer a uniquely female problem. But Emerenz Meier was born in 1874, died in 1928 and was married twice, so I’m guessing neither husband was particularly domesticated.

So next time domestic drudgery is getting in the way of creativity, be glad that we have washing machines, vacuum cleaners and many other labour saving devices: Emerenz would have been doing everything the hard way. And we don’t usually have to kill too many bugs!

The memorial was erected by Soroptimist International Club Passau, an organisation of professional women.

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The Museum of Brands

A few days ago I visited The Museum of Brands in London. The museum takes the visitor on a colourful stroll through the branding, advertising and consumerism of the last two hundred or so years. It’s a wonderful microcosm of British social history. Museum of Brands and Packaging

The visit left me with two thoughts. Firstly, it made me feel ancient. A large part of my childhood and the years beyond were in those glass cases. Surely I’m not old enough for my lifetime to become museum worthy! Who else out there remembers Spangles sweets, Jackie magazine, Philadelphia cheese wrapped in silver paper rather than in a plastic tub, Caramac bars (just discovered you can still buy those) and renting instead of buying a TV?

Secondly, it brought home to me how the long-lived brands had evolved over time in order to survive. Much of this evolution was done in baby steps – a change of font for the logo, moving from a metal to plastic packaging or updating the slogan. Companies like Sony have constantly innovated to ensure their products always offer the consumer something new and attractive. Unfortunately Kodak didn’t and was lost in the great tsunami of digital photography.

What has this got to with writing?

It’s a reminder that we should always be looking where we are going with our writing careers. For example the market for womag stories is rapidly shrinking meaning those of us who used to target women’s magazines with our short stories need to find new outlets or try a different form of writing. Attracting an agent for a novel is as difficult as ever – is it time to set a limit on the number of rejections and then start investigating other routes such as the growing number of new independent digital publishers like Hera who accept unagented submissions? Or maybe it’s time to try non-fiction or a different genre?

The important thing is to stay current with what’s going on in the writing world and be proactive to avoid being left behind. Be a Sony not a Kodak! Simon Whaley has been talking about a similar topic on his blog this week.

Incidentally, whilst going through my kitchen cupboards to take the photo accompanying this post, I discovered that most of my tins and packets were supermarket own brands. I wonder what that says for branding in the future?

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Heritage Travel Writing Competition

The next Senior Travel Expert writing competition is now open for entries.

The competition calls for original travel articles on the theme ‘Heritage’ up to 750 words in length. Historical, cultural and natural heritage are all included under this theme.

Unusually for an article writing competition, entertaining fictional entries are also allowed. Entry is free.

The author of the best entry will receive £100 cash. Ten runners-up will each receive £10 Amazon UK Vouchers. The winning entry and runner-up entries will be published on the Senior Travel Expert website. Closing date is October 31st.

When writing your entry don’t forget that the Senior Travel Expert website is aimed at travellers aged 55 and over. And, as always, make sure you read the full terms and conditions.

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Two Competitions

I’ve been busy novelling for the last eight months or so and haven’t had time for competitions. However, a couple have popped into my inbox lately and, since I can’t use them, I thought I’d share them with you lovely people. Fingers crossed, one (or more) of you might have what it takes to be a winner!

Travel Writing Competition run by Travel for Seniors
This is free to enter and offers a first prize of £100 plus internet publication. They want 750 words on the theme ‘Travel for Seniors’ and the closing date is 31st July 2017. Entries can be fact or fiction.
Details are on the Senior Travel Expert website.

The Fiction Desk Newcomer Prize for Short Stories
This is aimed at ‘new and emerging writers who haven’t already been published by us, and have yet to publish a novel or full-length collection of short stories on paper‘. There is an entry fee of £8 and a first prize of £500 and second prize of £250. Closing date is 31st May 2017. Full details are on the Fiction Desk website.

Good Luck!

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Fundação Livraria Esperança – Madeira

Fundação Livraria Esperança - Madeira

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover and don’t judge a shop by its entrance. Down a backstreet in Funchal this unpromising doorway led to a giant of a bookshop. There were books displayed in twenty rooms across several floors. It was an Aladdin’s cave – I only wish there’d been more than a handful in English!

This book shop is special because all the books are displayed by cover, not spine. So it’s possible to easily see the front cover of every book. The shop was founded in 1886 and has been within the same family ever since. There are around seventy different literary sections covering subjects such as Economics, Childrens, History, Education etc. etc. Even if (like me) you don’t speak Portugese it’s fun to wander around spotting best-selling author names such as John Grisham and the like. And the notices by the door are in English.

For more information see the shop’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/FundacaoLivrariaEsperanca/

Biggest Bookshop in PortugalMadeira bookshop

 

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Win a Trip to Sydney!

Have you ever travelled via Heathrow Airport? Was it memorable in some way? For example did you meet your partner in the check-in queue or give birth in the departure lounge or were you en route to start a new life outside the UK?

2016 is Heathrow Airport’s 70th birthday and they are giving away some great ‘birthday gifts’ to the writers of the best stories. The stories will be judged according to the following criteria:

  • Quality of story
  • How the story shows personal progression/ development as a result of your Heathrow experience
  • If the story includes Heathrow as catalyst for change
  • How heart-warming the story is

The ‘birthday gifts’ up for grabs are many and varied. They range from a trip to Sydney through Gucci hampers to luggage tags.

Submit your story here and read the terms and conditions here. The competition closes on September 5th 2016.

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Notes From A Big Country by Bill Bryson

If you want to learn the art of writing humour based on everyday life, this is the book to read.Notes from a Big Country by Bill Bryson

It’s also the first book by Bill Bryson that I’ve ever read. It came into my hands not through choice but because members of the library reading group that I coordinate requested something by Bill Bryson.

Notes from a Big Country is a collection of Bill’s columns about life in America that appeared in the Mail on Sunday‘s Night & Day Magazine in the late 90s. Despite being twenty years old the topics addressed are still interesting today, things such as the death penalty, Americans driving everywhere instead of walking, the devastating effect of a skunk spraying in your home, the history of diners (they came in prefabricated kits on the back of lorries) and how low key Christmas is in the US compared to here.

Bill Bryson has a wonderful turn of phrase and this quote made me smile in particular: My father, who like all dads sometimes seemed to be practising for a world’s most boring man competition.

I read the book straight through from start to finish because of our looming reading group meeting but I would advise others to dip in and out so that each column can be savoured like a favourite chocolate.

I had another American connection this week when I was congratulated on Twitter for my article in the Washington Post.  Unfortunately I had to be honest and admit to never having written for the Washington Post and explain that the article was probably written by my doppelganger, the US sports writer Sally Jenkins.  This is the second time I’ve been mistaken for my more famous counterpart. A couple of years ago I was contacted by someone who wanted help with their autobiography following ‘my’ success ghosting Lance Armstong’s It’s Not About the Bike. Perhaps one day the US Sally Jenkins will be mistaken for me!

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