Stuff

Lots of poetry going on.  Good things.  A few anthologies coming out this year, plus there is a plan to release another book of my own stuff too.

Oh, and, a small thing, I’m about to become a US citizen (assuming I don’t flunk the Civics Test) 😉

But then, a week is a long time in poetry.

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Skype adds ads

So today Skype have announced that they will start putting adverts out to all customers, even those who pay.  I can see the point, after all it’s all about the money honey.  Isn’t it?

Wait – I have a *paid* account.  In fact – I pay quite  a lot for my Skype account.  Not just a few cents here or there – over a $100 a year plus extra if I call UK-based cell phones or ridiculous ‘easy-to-remember’ numbers for people like the bank or the tax office.

I pay.  I pay a lot.

I do like Skype – really, it’s an awesome service and without it I can pretty much say that it would have been difficult, if not impossible for my wife and I to have met and formed a decent relationship.  We used to use over 2500 minutes a month talking to each other on Skype.  Hours and hours talking to each other made it so we knew each other like we’d gone to school together – despite at that point never having met in person and a physical separation of two continents and 4000 miles.  Skype helped us fall in love.  Skype helped us stay together through tricky traumatic reams of government paperwork and visas.  It played a big part in the arrangements of our first nervous meetings.  It allowed us to cry together, laugh together and grow one year older together.  Skype was there, drenched in tears of happiness the day I called a sleepy future wife to tell her my interview at the US Embassy had gone well and we had the necessary permission for me to fly over permanently and for us to be allowed to marry.

That day was one of the most heart-burstingly happy moments I have ever had.  I know Lisa felt the same way.

Nowadays Skype helps me work.  In fact, without Skype my work would be a quiet message-filled experience snowed under a pile of time-shifted emails.   It means I can hear my mother’s voice, even though she has no computer and it plays a critical part in letting me wave at my sister, my nephew, my Dad and his future wife and pull silly faces at them in a range of strange hats.  Soon Skype might be there as I perform poetry to a foggy rain-damp UK audience whilst I stand, sun-brushed on the balcony of my apartment in the USA.

Skype…you are a good friend.  Please don’t become a knuckle-dragging Neanderthal who drops adverts in my lap and screams sound-bytes in my ears.  I *pay* for you to sit in the audience with me – if you invite along adverts who yell out at the wrong time and ruin the moment I’ll buy a new friend, one who values our friendship and the color of my money…

Calling Vonage and Google Voice – are you listening?

Veteran’s Day / Remembrance Day / Armistice Day

I learnt quite a while ago that the best way to start an argument is to talk about religion or politics. So this is about neither.

If you’ve read my poetry or books you’ll understand my views on war and peace. If you haven’t I suggest you read “Dawn” or “Where the children played“.

Over here, in the USA, Armistice Day was renamed to Veteran’s Day since it was felt that the day should remember all veterans of military service and not just one particular day in one particular war. It’s still held on the 11th day of the 11th month and a silence is observed at 11am.

In the UK people (mostly older folk) wear poppies and some, not all, offices even have a minute or two silence to remember the fallen. On the whole our soldiers are, to most non military Brits, an invisible clichéd rabble of hard drinkers or characters in a video game. Or the focus of a documentary; a shot-peppered young face attached to the stumps of legs. Our eyes well up as they hug their children. Then we go back to the daily grind.

British ex-soldiers do not discuss their service – not even on the 11th day. On Remembrance Sunday we see increasingly wrinkled old men wheeled up to place wreathes at the Cenotaph. The bands play, the bearskins bob as the Grenadiers stamp boots in unison and present arms.

British ex-soldiers wake up on the 11th day and go to work in factories and offices. Friends say the normal “hi”. They work, pack up, go home.

In the US ex-soldiers get free lunches on the 11th day. US ex-soldiers get asked to stand up at yesterday’s school concert and **everyone** gives them a standing ovation and the school head thanks them “for their service”….and means it. US ex-soldiers get people who do not know them walk up and shake them vigorously by the hand. Their warfare is not a dirty secret. They don’t need to have fewer limbs or eyes to be recognized.

So, today I would like to at least directly thank one ‘veteran’ for his service: Andrew O’Brien.

Thank you.

I’ve taken holy orders and become a monk

Ok, well maybe not.   It’s a bit like that though if you take in the altruistic character disorder I seem to suffer/benefit from and my current cloister-like surroundings.

I have now successfully given away virtually everything I own, save for the clothes I am taking with me to the USA and some random bits and bobs like my poetry books, a laptop or two and, essentially, my snow boots.  I will need my snow boots – my Christmas visit to Omaha made that absolutely crystal clear.  The car goes back to its owner on Saturday (newly returned from rescuing the free world from Enemies Of The State) after which I think I may get a bit fitter – it’s so *easy* to jump in the car for even the shortest journies.  Still, good training for being a non-walking American.  😉

I’ve moved out from my sister’s house where I’ve languished for the last few months (I’m missing Bouncer, her dog, already) and I’m now firmly entrenched in a B & B hotel 2 minute’s walk from my office.

Visa progress: I’ve now sent off “packet 3” which is the penultimate part of the K1 US immigration visa process.  I’ve scheduled my US visa medical appointment for within the next week and the US Embassy in London has all the information they could ever want from me about my life.

A weird amount of information they need too, including details of *every* address I have lived at since the age of 16 – and the month I moved!  I don’t know about you but given that I am in my mid-forties and led a bit of an itinerant lifestyle that’s a hell of a time period to cover.  So much so I had to sit down and write out a chronological biographical timeline stretching from when I was born to the present day.  Still I got it done.

So what happens next?

This Saturday: give back the car.  The following week: full tackle-out don’t blush we’ve-seen-it-all-before medical.  A couple of weeks after that (or, please God, sooner) I go for my embassy interview where the final decision is made and my visa is issued..or not.  The chances of it being “not” are extremely slim but you just never know.  😦

Lisa and I get asked all the time “so, when are you getting married?”  This is an impossible question to answer: it’s really in the hands of the US State Department and when the embassy get around to assigning me an interview date.  The current theory is I will be “in America by the middle of November at the latest”.  In practice it’s likely my interview date will be “some time towards the end of October” but it could be middle of November or who knows when.  Sigh.

I’m ready to go now..really really really really ready to go now.  Please.  Pretty please?

Oh, in other news I have some more poems coming out in a few magazines.  Popshotzine are featuring “Not my baby” in issue 2 (with artwork and everything – woo!) and Monkey Kettle are publishing “Winemouse”.  I seem to think  someone else asked for permission on a couple of others as well but I can’t remember who at the moment – the curse of visa stress – if it’s you then please let me know so I can show off about it to anyone who stands still long enough.

I’m shy really.  Honest.

😀

April and the change cometh…

So, Facebook and Twitter have destroyed my enthusiasm in connection with blogging and distracted my attention away to the world of 140 characters or less.  The lazy man’s blogging ensnares the lazy man; how predictable!

We’ve had all sorts of things triggering my Google alerts about Milton Keynes in the last month due to Google Street View descending on us.  When it came down my road I happened to be at home and I spotted it with just enough time to spare so I could pin myself to the window of my apartment like one of those stick-on Garfields you see suckered to the back of people’s cars (or a generally redundant “baby on board” sign – you get the picture).  I have no idea if I will appear on their pictures but I thought it might be funny and gave it my best shot.  🙂

When the Street View car went down one of the local suburbs and the locals spotted it if the newspapers are to be believed they all rushed out and blocked its way.  There was no actual mention of pitchforks or wickermen. Amusingly most news agencies referred to the area – Broughton – as a village “just outside Milton Keynes”.  Most locals scoff at this description because Broughton stopped being a village outside Milton Keynes about 20 years ago and is now mostly a sprawling new housing development well within the environs of good old MK.  As the increasingly interesting Rory Cellan-Jones said via his Twitter account and various online blogs it was slightly ironic that the “villagers” stand against Google’s street photography resulted in half a ton of news crews arriving on their doorstep and broadcasting pictures of their closely-guarded private front doors to all and sundry possibly making them for a brief time one of the most world-famous streets with the possible exception of the home The Rover’s Return.  In the final analysis their whole argument did seem fairly daft; that it would provide a tool for burglers to case the properties at a safe distance.  Who knows?

Anyway, I’m off being a poet again tomorrow (Easter Saturday), first stop the centre:mk (a.k.a. Central Milton Keynes shopping centre) for poetry busking and then in the evening I’m up performing , judging and generally mingling and being useful at The Poetry Kapow.  May, in particular, seems to be a whole month of lots and lots of performances and gigs.  There does seem to be some kind of poetic renaissance going on around these parts.  Woop woop!

Work is going well – sorry if you’ve been hit by the recession – we seem to be hitting an upward curve and have been given bottles of champagne (a sign of a HUGE order being signed) twice in the last 30 days plus champers and cakes on another occasion too.  There are still customers out there for people like us so it seems.

Oh, and I wrote a daft poem for the BBC the other day – perhaps we should spare a thought for the feelings of telephone boxes and give them our love.  Read it here.