Give all the Children Rocks

A few weeks ago I stumbled across an Instagram post, which compared the gun related deaths in Switzerland and Chicago. The picture employed statistics (from 2015) to highlight the devastation firearms are having on their communities. According to the post, Chicago experienced  deaths in excess of 42,000 whilst the whole of Switzerland had just over 4000. When you consider alongside this that Switzerland has a greater population it becomes clear that the gun situation in Chicago needs rectifying.

Naturally, there are several factors which separate Chicago and Switzerland and said factors will have influence over the number of gun related deaths. Firstly, the economic situation of the country and city must be considered. Poverty surely would have an influence upon the necessity for weapons and upbringing. To be crude: desperate times call for desperate measures. For some gun crime is a means of survival. Secondly, we must consider culture or more importantly subcultures. Of course I am referring to gang crime and the ever present fracture in U.S. society that is another symptom of extreme financial and intellectual poverty. The final obvious criticism that renders comparison between a country and a single city redundant is population density. It must be considered that the people of Switzerland will be much further displaced because it is a country. There will be less people living  close together and divided among towns, cities, villages and other various settlements.

Whilst it is futile to draw direct comparison a city and a country the fact remains that the statistic is still alarming. The approach of the U.S.A. towards their issues with gun violence is something of joke. There appears to be little movement towards correct control and defenders of the weapon shield behind The Second Amendment. Often they propose increased arming. This appears to promote an illusion that if both people have guns then the “good guys” will win and shoot the “baddie” first.

Yesterday I was discussing this approach to solving gun related deaths with a friend. He put forward an analogy his Father used and I’d like to share with you:

Timmy came home from school yesterday with a big cut on his forehead.

“Why Timmy! How on earth did you receive that cut upon your forehead?” exclaimed Papa.

“Johnny threw a rock and it hit me. It was an accident.”

“Be that as it may” said Mama. “We’re still going to have a talk with your teacher about Johnny and his rock throwing.”

Next morning, Mama and Papa went to school to talk to Timmy’s teacher.

“What is going on with all the pebble slinging in school?” inquired Mama.

“Oh!” said the Teacher. “It was an accident. Johnny has been told off and lost his snack yesterday. I’m sure he won’t do it again.”

“Hmmmm” mumbled Papa.

“Don’t worry.” explained the teacher. “We have given all the children rocks now. They cacn throw them back if they get hit.”

 

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One Hundred Years of Solitude

For New Year’s Eve I attended a dinner party in Stockholm. I donned a new suit, (from the H&M boxing day sale) and not to sound too immodest looked particularly handsome. Whilst we had coffee and dessert conversation turned to books. I mentioned my recent obsession with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his most highly regarded novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. Only one other person at the table had read the book but she immediately replied, “it’s rare that a book lives up to the hype”. This review (by the most esteemed reader Lina) is exceptionally accurate.

Initially I had bought the text from a second hand book store for £1 and was apprehensive about opening it. There were other books I bought that day I wanted to read first and One Hundred Years of Solitude filtered its way to the bottom of the pile. This was a mistake. I should have devoured Marquez’s words fresh upon purchase because it quickly became the most captivating story I read in 2016.

In 1982 Marquez was correctly awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. In the directions of Alfred Nobel’s last will and testament, writers may be awarded the prize for producing, “in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction”. It seems verbose to describe my favourite book of the year with Nobel’s words but Marquez managed to do just that. He weaved a story unbound by the normal passage of time and follows a whole family, with their interweaving life and relationships, over the span of a century. So much detail is compacted into a small space. It’s an achievement to fully explore the history of the whole family through the generations. A testament to the number of characters and various relations is the family tree that is printed in my edition.

Not only does the book cover an expanse of characters but manages to do so simultaneously. The chapters are long because whole family’s life is explored at the same time in a fluid manner. There’s no stopping to focus on a particular person for a chapter, despite how pivotal the drama is. This creates a different approach to the passing a time and saves excessive leaps in chronology to catch up on people’s lives, allowing for fuller characters. If you add to this the magical nature of the story, the remote location family reside and the tone of isolation, you’re quickly immersed into the lives of the clan.

The tragedies of the household and rare their joys are easily felt. It swiftly became a book I couldn’t stop reading on the commute, at lunch and before falling asleep. Unfortunately, disaster struck one lunch time after I returned the book to my bag along with an unopened bottle of cola. As I returned my bag to the storeroom, before sitting at the desk, I noticed it felt damp. The liquid had exploded over the book when I had less than twenty pages left. The paper was soaked and no radiator was working for a quick rescue. I started working under the sways of melancholy; the train home was in mourning with nothing to read.

I managed to rescue the text on the bathroom radiator. I paced the tiles all night hoping the words would be legible. Eventually I awoke, slumped against the bathroom sink. The book pages struggled to be separated but the words were fine. In fact, the book smells better than before. The heat curled and splayed the pages into a fan as large as the story they hold. It’s now the most beautiful book on the shelf and possibly the best story as well.

Swedish Language Lessons

I first went to Stockholm in March 2017 and haven’t stopped going back. I now have my first frequent flyer card. It’s shiny, silver and says SAS Eurobonus. After so many flights to the capital I started feeling like a part time resident. I took to Duolingo and decided to try  attempting to learn the language again. But it is hard. Stupidly hard to learn Swedish. Here are my main to obstacles:

Firstly, the accent is unique. When I try to talk Swedish my tongue does an uneven waltz between Russian and Welsh. It’s a complicated sound with unique syllables and accented words making it hard to replicate for none natives. Even once you’re past the embarrassment of speaking like an alien and talk to a Swede they look at you with either horror or excitement. The frightened people express fear because your sound is so poor that the words are misrepresented and it’s better to “Tack”, thumbs up and walk away. On the other hand, those who are happy to talk are enthused because you’re so blatantly English you may as well wear a mask of Elizabeth II and carry a teapot. Their eagerness quickly overshadows yours because they desire to practice their English. After all, the country is full of Swedish speakers and you can always work on your words with somebody else.

The second reason I find Swedish particularly challenging is the word endings. More specifically the different approach to the indefinite article,  definite article and plurals. When you learn a new Swedish word you also have to learn the grammatical rules which differ from word to word. The indefinite article is fairly simple. It’s usually placed at the front of the word as “en” or another variant. Plurals and the definite article are located at the end of the word. For example:

Child- Barn

A Child- En Barn

The Child- Barnet

The Children- Barneten.

Before you know who the parent of the child is and breach into possessive suffixes there’s already two attachments to remember. I don’t doubt this is something that I will adapt to with practice. Eventually, I expect this issues to become second nature but for now I’ll just have to hit Duolingo harder.

Journeying into Copy-writing

In September of last year I was asked by a friend to proofread and edit their tender for work. I did a good job apparently. So much so that he suggested I start doing it freelance and charging for it. At the time I’d applied for many editing, proofreading and copy-writing jobs. Only one interview came out of it and I was quickly rejected. His suggestion of doing it independently seemed appealing because it would bolster the little working experience I had. Hopefully the freelancing would be more appealing to employers.

I set about building a website through another online website which somehow creates other websites. It’s still a little perplexing that can be done- it seems like matryoshka dolls but for the internet. However, I gave the site a try and have had a page since September. Unfortunately, I haven’t had the response I would. Perhaps this is because the website still needs a polish; maybe I need to be bolder in my advertising- I shall work on both. Speaking of bolder advertising…here’s the link:

http://twaine24.wixsite.com/website

 

 

Poetry Reading

It’s an odd thing to confess you write poems. You hide them away in books, in old shoe boxes and under the bed. They’re treated like a large spot on the end of your nose. You walk with your head to the ground hoping nobody notices, or worse wants to take a good look. It’s a hard thing to let someone else read your poems because it makes you feel vulnerable. When you’re writing nonfiction it appears in your head as if you’re conversing a subject with another person: you’re just explaining what you think about the topic. But a poem doesn’t form at you fingers in the same way. It’s more automatic than the talking stroll of sentence. In truth, it feels more sensitive and there’s no guarantee the reader will understand it, let alone think it’s good.

I have been writing poems for a few years. They always stay in word documents, notebooks and on scraps of paper. Rarely I’ll share them with a trusted friend. However, in December I was brave (through much encouragement) and stood in front of over ten people and read five of my poems. Apparently, this is referred to as doing a set. Standing before so many people, reading what is normally clandestine was terrifying. The recording will show the shakes of my bones and at the time I was too caught up in the fear to enjoy the experience. Strangely, as soon as I’d finished and the adrenaline had ebbed away, I wanted to do it again. Only the second time I wanted to do it better, the way I’d practiced in front of the mirror. I now know that reading in front of others isn’t just exposing- it’s freeing as well.

That night there wasn’t chance for another try and I only had one other poem prepared. The other acts took the stage. There were a few guitar players/singers, other poets and a girl with a ukulele. They all were brave and brilliant, showing their talents for a good cause. The aim of the evening was to raise money and awareness for a mental health charity named CALM.(campaign against living miserably). Their focus is prevention of male suicide, a cause which initially confused me until I learned that 3 out of 4 suicides are male. The organisers of the event (at the Nexus Art Cafe in Manchester) are an art collective called Datura who produce original plays and are starting their first film later in the year.

I’m grateful to have people who challenge me and I’m inspired that there’s people reaching out to those who most need it. I hope to engage in such an important event again and next time I’ll aim to slow my words and shake less throughout the set.

The poem I didn’t read that night:

Alpha

In the beginning there was the word

lighting on tongue of Gods

but when it first cracked out his human skull

I misheard it as “hello”:

His eyes that saw Pangaea split, continents drift

apart on sheets of ocean foam,

Lost warmth when I turned the body over

into frost soft pillows of snow.

I pulled the spear from his sleeping head

thanked a God for battle well won

with lines that ran my face in blood

praying conflict, never war.

With one last breath of wind or luck

the dreamer shook out a jigsaw of bone,

I sat among the red, rearranging the hieroglyphs

until his mantra formed:

“Cool down the spear,

heat up the pot and

with open ears

pass my message on.”

https://www.thecalmzone.net/

https://www.facebook.com/daturaproductions.uk/?pnref=story