Category: Thoughts

There's More Than One Way To Bin Your Kin

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Daphne was driven. The life she’d been given
Was clearly no better than bad.
Her husband, a user, a nightmare, a loser.
And she knew that she’d surely been had.

What reason was there, for his ripped underwear?
For his stubble, his hairpiece, his scowl?
And how might he explain his pretences of pain
When presented with spade or with trowel?

If his body was lazy, his mind it was too,
He lived in a permanent mist
Of smoking and drinking and drug-addled thinking.
Of his vices… she’d written a list!

Of how he would curse, in the car it was worst,
Of how he would hate and berate her.
And then he would calm, say ‘I’m sorry, no harm’
And take it all out on her later.

Oh, but how he relied. And how she had cried,
When again he demanded her wages.
She screamed ‘It’s abuse’, but still couldn’t refuse,
For fear of his terrible rages.

On Friday she planted a kiss on his cheek.
She said, ‘See you later, okay?’.
‘Whatever,’ he said. That’s when she wished him dead.
Cos he didn’t care, he had nothing to say and she knew that he’d always
Keep acting that way.

It was all about him, how he’d gain, how he’d win.
It was all about what he could get.
He exploited her caring with his own brand of sharing
A minefield of doubt and of debt.

She lay in the bath, contemplating her wrath,
And thinking of what she might do.
She came up with a ruse for her crime without clues.
And was sure what she needed to do.

She would get her revenge, she would seek out new friends.
She’d prevent her life plunging to hell.
She would simply say ‘Bye’ to the hate of her life
And leave him to fend for himself.

Inspired by Paul Simon’s ’50 Ways to Leave Your Lover’

#meredithschumann #author #authors #poem #poetry #revenge #paulsimon

True Crime Detection

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Written for one of my writing groups…

This group is crammed with poets; accomplished and expressive writers who create in their preferred format, often carrying out the impossible task of producing more than one fantastic and competent piece per session. The talent and competence of these poets regularly takes my breath away, but I know I will never be able to join their ranks. As you will be aware from listening to my readings over the months, I am naturally wordy and longwinded, and therefore best suited to being a writer of prose. I have my skills and talents, but poetically succinct expression and short, sharp sentences don’t come easily.

So, I thought I’d share with you the sentiments of what my poem was hoping to express. My intention was to explore the dynamics of detective work in the dramas I watch the most. I wanted to explain that solving crimes is dependent on the work of skilled men and women and that the more experience these detectives have, the more chances there are of the crime being solved. This is where my problems begin. I wanted to begin my poem with the line ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery’. It rhymes and says what I wanted it to say, but it’s clunky and juvenile, like a song lyric that 10 year olds might compose. Or it could even have been a rap. ‘It all comes down to history. That’s how they solve the mystery.’ Yes, that’s it. It’s a pathetic little rap lyric. Nothing more.

But I wanted to extend my explanation. I wanted to clarify that the mysteries were those ‘Of criminal urges. Intangible surges, Adrenaline rushes, and trilling wire pushes’. There’s a nice rhythm to the words, and I like the way they all sound together. But I couldn’t fit them in as they needed an explanatory first line which would serve the purpose of informing the listener that the lines related to forensic methods and inspiration.

I carried on by writing ‘Detectives think over the crime,’ and genuinely couldn’t find a good way of introducing the idea of fingerprint patterns, DNA testing, and many of the other chemical processes that prove or deny the presence of certain substances within a test sample. So I wrote ‘Detection test fizzes, the rages, the steams it fazes. Wire in the blood. Theoretical stuff. Genetic kinks. Unforseen links’. Not quite a clickety clack rhythm, but also neither flowing nor easily understood. I clearly am unable to master the skill of explaining without the provision of an introductory explanation. Which, of course, renders the entire subsequent poem pointless.

Also, in this poem I almost created, I wanted to explain how the detective drama, ‘Wire in the Blood’ uses as its title, a phrase from TS Eliot’s ‘Four Quartets’. As so… ‘The trilling wire in the blood / sings below inveterate scars / appeasing long-forgotten wars’. Apparently the star of this drama, Robson Green, believed it was intended to refer to a genetic kink. Such a kink was impure and unusual and of the kind that leads to the form of psychosis that the psychologist, Dr Tony Hill might deal with. Interesting, though Val McDermid believes something different – that the phrase ‘wire in the blood’ was ‘a metaphor for the thrill of adrenaline surging through the bloodstream’.

So, not only would my hoped-for poem, in tribute to many of the detective greats, have talked of ‘Partnership drinks. Encouragements to think,’ it would have ended, just because I liked it, with the line ‘Might, Flight, Sight and Spite’. I’m guessing that this must be a fairly standard poet’s problem, but how annoying when you come up with something that feels right and sounds right, but doesn’t fit at all. Especially when it is your entire poem that does this.

I do not write good poetry. I do not even write barely competent poetry. What I write is inexplicably shortened prose, and tiny strings of rhyming words.

So, I’m sorry that I couldn’t fulfil the homework mission set for us all this week, but felt the need to relate to you all my attempts at work in progress. I didn’t want to simply say that I had tried yet failed. But it was the truth. Anyway, at least I tried.

#author #truecrime #detective #crime #shortstory #shortstories #meredithschumann #fiction #authors

Inviting Facebook Scams

The online life can be quite an adventure of discovery. Recently, I set up a Facebook page and account under my new author name, Meredith Schumann. I don’t much like social media, but it seems to be an essential tool nowadays for author promotion and integration. As I wanted to keep my personal and author accounts separate, I decided to add Meredith’s account to various writing groups, and to make an occasional post within those groups, suffixed by the words ‘Feel free to add me as a friend’.
I wouldn’t usually be so free with my friendship but was conscious that I was starting from point zero, and I needed to have SOME friends to be accepted as a member of some of the more particular groups.

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At first, things were quiet, but then a couple came through. What to do with a random friend request can be a bit of a grey area, and, yes, for me a few friend requests appeared that didn’t seem quite right. I deleted most as obvious spam, but then I thought, what harm can one new friend do?
As I said, it’s useful to have a few Facebook friends, even on a brand new account, as it gives more of an impression of authenticity.

So, I accepted one request, just to see what happened. And from this (shock horror) there appeared another 500 auto-generated requests from another 500 men that I don’t know. Not a single woman! Most of these profiles indicated males that were from Nigeria, the far East, Arabian countries and the US. Almost all had bland and impersonal profiles and would send bland and impersonal messages.

I’m no scam victim; I’m just a person interested in how the scammers work, what the ‘friendly guys’ had to say, and how their messages aligned with their profiles.

I didn’t make a note of the first fifty messages I received as I was busy with other stuff. But the contacts seemed to be triggered by my logging into Facebook, and they occurred despite my profile clearly stating that I would only respond to messages about writing and books.

The men’s words indicate that they are either not reading my instructions or that their silly little messages are automated. OK, so let’s go. I’m logging on now.

The messages are so bland and NOT writing-related. You are so pretty today. What are you doing? Hello. Hello? Hi? You There? Hey! How You Pretty Lady! And I looking for nice England lady for marry.

The ‘people’ who are messaging don’t look much like my usual friends, though it isn’t always easy to tell. Iyobor has a bike frame as his profile. Innocent seems about 12 and asks if I had a good day at work. Egonu wears a basketball shirt, is from Nigeria, and without my responding to anything he says, informs me that he longs to travel and that he ‘likes big woman’. Ozzy’s profile photo is a nondescript bowl of something unappetising. You can tell it must be food because there is a spoon balanced on the side of the dish.

Oddly (and cynically) I notice that Ozzy’s only friends are also friends with me! Gosh, what an incredible coincidence. We aren’t members of the same groups, and yet from across the globe, I have acquired non-friends of non-friends. I am such a lucky lady.

Donald Smith from Indonesia has a profile picture that shows a very young Asian man holding a cute dog. I delete him as soon as he messages me. I have nothing against Indonesians nor tiny dogs. I do have something against a stranger who informs me that he plans to travel to the UK and that I (not he) would like to meet up. It is the most presumptuous statement!
Henry’s profile picture is of a cute black baby, but I delete him as soon as he tells me he is looking for beautiful woman. One of his friends claims to like guns, and he is also instantly deleted. Uchenna and Ogun say Hi and Hey. Capo says Hello, and so do Iyobor and Kelechi. Gosh, I’m utterly overstimulated and can’t keep up with their incredible witty banter. The latter’s profile picture is dull purple with what looks like a very tiny guy peeping onto the bottom of the photo. I think he’s trying to be cute and quirky, but he just seems as if his photo studio stool is far too small.
After each contact, I delete the sender as a friend, though I respect their astonishing inventiveness and inspirational literacy.

Over a couple of weeks, I also receive fourteen video calls. I ignore all fourteen. I don’t even always answer the phone to people I love, and I HATE video calls. One example was when little Uchenna (who looks about 20) tried to video chat me at midnight. I was asleep, but he was persistent. ‘Hello beautiful, good morning over there, how are you doing over there?’ No punctuation or capitals and wow, I was seduced. Really, I was.
Contacts continued for a couple of weeks. I was deleting everyone who messaged me about anything that wasn’t writing-related, and I lost a couple of hundred so-called friends. I was gutted, of course, to have mislaid such precious life-companions, but it genuinely couldn’t have been helped.

I must resign myself to ignoring every one of these auto-generated unreal characters, and watching their numbers reduce day by day. I look forward to the day when one (just ONE) of these genuine ‘friends’ decide to converse about books or words.

#meredithschumann #facebook #scam #scammers #facebookscam

Review of Ivan Campo at the Harris on 14th February 2020

Have you ever walked into a gig and felt calm and inspired, even before the music begins? Even when you’re an ancient prog-folk-rocker like me, and even before you’ve sat down? Well, that’s what happened when I went to see Ivan Campo at Preston’s Harris Art Gallery on Valentines Day 2020.

Firstly, the location was gorgeous. I’ve been to the Harris many times before but never to an event, so my assumption was that the concert would be held in a suite deep within the building: somewhere dull and bland with flat acoustics and plenty of audience space. I couldn’t have been more wrong. When we arrived, the band were setting up in the space just behind the lobby’s glass doors. In front of the small stage we could see a chic collection of bistro style chairs and tables.

It was then that I realised this was to be an intimate gig of maybe 50 attendees, yet the space was vertically massive. The ‘concert hall’ was three storeys high, and the band’s tuning-up sounds floated around the tables and up, through the art galleries, into the stunning ceiling cavity. When the doors opened, we accepted a free glass of Prosecco, then sat ourselves directly in front of the stage.

Ivan Campo has a seemingly simple set up: Adam on lead vocals and guitar, Will on keyboard, guitars, backing vocals and glockenspiel, and Ben on guitars, bass, percussion, clarinet and backing vocals. But Ivan Campo’s sound is anything but simple. Of course, they utilise many elements of folk music, particularly in the vocal harmonies, but the band exhibit elements of pop and choral music too, as the band’s musical influences are multiple and complex.

Each person listening to their music would be aware of different influences, but I found myself hearing Nick Drake, early Crosby Stills, Nash and Young, The Beatles, The Trees, Mellow Candle and even early Genesis. I even detected elements of The Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band, though these are rare! In ‘Darling Diva’ , there’s definitely a Bonzo feeling to the enunciation and of the verses in particular, and with its near-muted backing voices, the lead voice floats.Whatever their influences, Ivan Campo’s musical talents blend together in a cohesive whirl of gorgeous sounds.

I didn’t stop smiling the entire time, as watching and listening to Ivan Campo transcended pleasure and became unaccustomed joy. Yes, it was certainly connected with the quality of the musical performance, but also with the music’s feel. It exuded positivity and optimism – particularly ‘The Bloodhound and the Fox’ with its gentle organ sound and powerful lyrics, and in the bouncy harmonies of ‘Roll On’ with its staccato guitar and enticing foot-tapping rhythm.

This gig showcased some great music that moved between genres. ‘Forgetful Fredrick’ had a great reggae/calypso sound with its snappy, syncopated guitar and jolly glockenspiel. Incidentally, the whistling in this and in other tunes is an unexpected pleasure that’s simple but so effective. More jolliness arises in ‘Lotus Eater’ – a feel-good song with an early-Beatles skiffle feel, that changes to The Everly Brothers when they sing ‘Every day, gets a little stronger’. Taking a totally different tack, ‘A Chancer’ incorporates reggae-sounding rhythm guitar and a gorgeous lead guitar in this understated piece. Taking another direction, ‘Roller Disco’ tells of waking up in 1959 wanting to go to a roller disco. With its delightful hand shaker, doo-wop backing vocals sound and bass, it is funny, sweet and very feel-good. Weirdly, ‘Local Dealer’s catchy piano reminds me of Billy Bragg’s ‘Waiting for the Great Leap Forward’!

Ivan Campo have a wonderful percussive sound, especially as there is no drum kit. Everything is percussive! Consider ‘Season of the King’ with its gorgeous, rolling piano and motifs, with a tune that particularly suits Adam’s voice, and is brought into another dimension with the clicked-fingers percussion, shakers and syncopated rhythms. Also, in ‘The Mirror’ , amidst the gorgeous seemingly-complex harmonies of a tune that seems too pure to have arisen in our cynical times, the timings are satisfying and tight, assisted by sonorous clarinet notes and the clicking of clarinet keys for percussive effect.

The harmonies and the way the voices merge together are just mild-melting. In ‘The B&B’ the lyrics are great ‘ I know I’ll survive only if I try’, ‘A real reverie.’. ‘Wouldn’t you agree?’ ‘Was it all just a dream?’ My particular favourite part is the ‘It’s difficult. Impossible to see.’ There’s something astonishing about how those harmonies are delivered and how the words are articulated with a beautiful use of silence. In ‘Invisible Man’, the simple effective guitar picking is topped with almost-whispered singing of ethereal harmonies, and the simplest of keyboard accompaniments. ‘Crome Yellow’ presents us with such a Kinks-like feel at the beginning (Kinks but darker), with rich folk harmonies, and syncopated rhythm guitar. In ‘One Minute War’, the articulation of the word ‘Suddenly’ is gorgeous.

Not every band is able to use sparsity to the best effect, but Ivan Campo does. They use a chugging guitar sound on ‘Hurricane Ivan’ to start, and this is reflected by the singing style. As the song progresses, the tune becomes more lyrical, though the sparseness of the arrangement is effective. In ‘Blind Spot’ the harmonies and lyrics are exceptional especially on the lead up to the chorus. Even the chorus is pretty sparse, but so beautiful as a result.

It’s as if the band has fully orchestrated, then stripped right down to only what was essential.

And it is this musical self-awareness that made the band so special. These guys were not afraid of using their instruments and voices unpretentiously. ‘Liquor Mountain’ was sweet and reminiscent of something in the long ago past, and ‘Obscene Dream’ was glorious with its descending and ascending sweetness, and of silence. And again, reminiscent of a time gone by with its gentle, almost-whispered singing, ‘Rat Race’ begins in the manner of one of those brilliant busking tunes that cheers you as you walk past. But soon it becomes a hush little baby style version of something Beatles-like. How could such a thing be described in mere words? In ‘Could the Devil be a Gentleman’ I was instantly reminded of the Orkney and Shetland folk I adored in my teen years. I love the clarity of the fingerpicked guitar and the sound of the voices, especially the line ‘By the thoughts of a restless day’ which gives me tummyache and brings tears to my eyes.

This was one of the best gigs I have ever attended. Perhaps the best.

Acoustic music is often considered to have less breadth and depth. Not so. Of course, the grandeur and echo-chamber effects of the venue added to the atmosphere. But it was all about the band and their pure music. I purchased Purchased four Ivan Campo EPs on my way out – and have been listening to them ever since. This will definitely not be my final Campo gig.

#meredithschumann #author #authors #review #reviews #ivancampomusic #prestonharris #harris

Darkness.Chill.Silence.Bliss

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Summer isn’t ice-cream and beaches. Not to me.

The summer forces windows wide, admitting birdsong, creaking gates, the whirring of mowers, the madness of hedge trimmers, and the rhythmic cawing of noisy birds.

Neighbourhood children add to this with shouts, as do their mothers, while the grinding, grating power tools amplify their white noise backing track.

The skies are bland and blue, adorned with swathes of dove-grey clouds.

We wake early and retire late, and doze through the heat of the day, to be wakened by the ‘Greensleeves’ of the ice cream van.

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Houses remain empty while gardens fill with barbecue smoke and the snuffles of meat-obsessed canines.

But, to me, summer’s not ice-cream and beaches.

Neither are the darker months merely times pre- and post- the manic expectancy of Christmas; the craziness of shops, the worries of the poor and the extravagance of the rich.

It’s more than that.

Winter brings its own silent, deafening beauty and the comforting sounds of rain and wind.

Summer’s muggy blankness is a barrier of brightness.  

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Yet I’m drawn into winter skies; as tangibly solid and grey as my bed sheet. Winter rises late and snuggles down early in duvets that wrap us in their womblike comfort, while streets echo with cloistered emptiness.

I celebrate the differences of our seasonal extremes, but winter’s majesty, winter’s peace and winter’s rest are the introvert’s perfect backdrop.

Winter’s chill factor warms and energises my soul.

And autumn is a welcome transition.

Only five months more…

#lesleyatherton, #summer, #winter, #scottmartinproductions

Review of Bolton: The Positives, by Meredith Schumann

David Holding takes a wander through Victorian Bolton in his book ‘The Dark Figure: Crime in Victorian Bolton’ so I thought I’d stroll through the 21st Century version, for good and for bad.

Second, some goods.

  • Skaters yell to each other. Despite the heat and brightness of the day, they wear long sleeves and beanies and there isn’t a single t-shirt or pair of sunglasses to be seen. We watch as they zoom about, but we’re mainly looking at their facial expressions – pride, cool, nonchalance… The joys of being young.
  • We park in the multi storey where weekend parking is free, and we manage to find a spot on the first floor.  It’s never happened before.   
  • Thirsty, we flop into a café for a much-needed drink. I can’t place the accent of the man who takes our order, but he’s so friendly and recognises us from our previous visits. He asks about the family and gives us each a toasted teacake on the house.
  • We spend two hours rummaging round X-Records and emerge with music, DVDs and a pretty funky Led Zepp-inspired shirt. I absolutely love the friendly organised chaos of this place.
  • We decide to eat at the Cherry Moon café, just up the road. It is a place for gamers of all types, for comic book fans, and for diners who like good food. We certainly go mad for their halloumi fries, and my crushed avocado on sourdough toast is superb. Yep, this has to be the coolest and friendliest place ever. Oh, happy days.
  • A community police officer smiles at us and comments ‘Isn’t it a beautiful day?’ If he’d been wearing a bowler hat or flat cap I’m sure he would have raised it for me. ‘It’s certainly warm, I reply. ‘I think the lions are happy’. I gesture over to the distinctive town hall step statues, and note the affection for the town’s people in the officer’s eyes. †††† ‘Good job. We don’t want hungry lions rampaging round Bolton. We have enough problems.’
  • We do our fish and vegetable shopping in the covered market. The place is clean and bustling and the choice is fantastic. We purchase Caribbean curry to accompany the fish, and I suspect the man dishing out the chickpeas is the cheeriest person in the whole town. We leave, arms clutching food bags and faces glowing with anticipation of our evening meal. It feels like Christmas.
  • We take a trip round the museum and gallery and discuss the photographic exhibition and Egyptian displays. Another two hours happily spent. We don’t call in at the aquarium this time, as we need to get home.
  • The roads are busy, but I’m astonished when a pedestrian stranger leads us from the car park and onto the road. He holds up the traffic with a grin, and waves as we drive away.

#lesleyfridayreads