she’d have been garrotted at Trinian’s

(Love those Trinian’s vixens in any incarnation!)

Damn it. I had a terrific idea today – well, I had an idea that would be fun for me, and that amounts to the same thing. I was listening to a local pop radio station, golden oldies – depending on your era. It was one cheesy 90s housey-housey rave trance and techno classic after another, which is always good fun for me. And I thought – with poetry on my mind, after reading one blog post after another about it – O, I know what would be a good idea.

I could write a series of ‘After a line from’ poems! But, instead of taking the first line from another writer’s poem, and building a whole new cathedral of words upon it… I could take the first line (or maybe the standout line from the chorus) of an earworm-worthy 90s dance classic.  Like say ‘Ride On Time’, or ‘You’ve Got The Love’. Or ‘You Might Need Somebody’Shola Ama, baby!

…and then make something completely other out of it.  Something that you wouldn’t catch on a dancefloor.  A quiet meditation on death, or love, or gardening, say.

Yes! It’s a well-worn tradition.  Not my own idea, of course. People have been doing the same thing for years.  And for that matter setting it as homework, making a parlour game of it, producing new creations out of old classics. And – traditionally – that’s what you do, the accepted procedure: to name your derivative poem ‘After a line from xxx by xxxx’. All attribution and credit present and correct – no attempt to filch the prestige of the original idea.

But beyond the signalling of the format, the citing of the original creative spark – I was damn sure that it was a poetic format that had an actual name, dammit.

But what? I had a vague notion that it might be a clerihew. But a quick resorting to search engine services proved me wrong. I’m not overly educated regarding formal poetry structures – O, the power of understatement.  But what little information I did possess proved insufficient. Not a rondel, not a sonnet – bloody hell no – not a villanelle either.

I knew there was an answer, though – and I knew how I knew, too. I’d first come across the phenomenon at ten or eleven years of age – in a boarding school story by Ann Digby.

The Trebizon school stories were moderately popular at the time, although I found them a bit bland. Compared to the traditional exemplars of the genre – Enid Blyton, basically, and perhaps the Chalet School, and of course St. Trinian’s – they were botched, uneasy half-arsed 1980s creations, products of the time. Hardly able to flat-out condemn private education, given that they were trading on its snob appeal – and yet offering half-hearted sops to the red flag, with school scholarships for plucky lower-middle class heroines. (Definitely lower-middle. Not actual proles, darling.) Doubtful about the seductive charms of the aristocracy, even in an era in love with Princess Diana, and gifting the school involved with a cohort of upper-middle bourgeoisie, banker’s brats and doctor’s daughters.

Sign o’ the times, right? Thatcherite union-breaking, miners’ strikes, all that jazz. Not exactly down with the workers, but unable to uninhibitedly embrace the decadent allure of the aristocracy, blatant capitalist privilege and unearned elitism.

Not like these days, eh? Fucking Mumford, and his clueless hairy flippin’ progeny, in fruitless search of a tune in a tin bath.  Tom Hiddlestone, ex-Eton, ex-Dragon School, ex-Cambridge, the scrappy urchin nobly urging us to reach for the stars.  Cheers, Tom.

But I was an uncritical young reader – anything including cornflake packets and the Reader’s Digest, basically – and I swallowed the books down whole. Including one installment of the series, which included a school poetry competition. And what poetry format did our plucky heroine choose, as her competition entry?


image – Maximilian Ott licence

Yep. She picked a line by – ooh, I want to say Wordsworth, but it was probably someone more obscure – a first line. And she wrote herself an ‘After A Line From…’ poem. Except, I’m pretty sure that in the book, she knew what the format was actually called, and – admirably – used the correct term. Well, admirably for a twelve or thirteen year old character. Considering that I still can’t locate the appropriate word, myself.

Not just that, we’re not done.  In the book, the format itself was key to the plot – because it wasn’t all over with just with the climax of OPH writing a winning comp entry. No.

The silly little heroine of the fourth form, and her slightly non-U accent, first wrote her derivative work while wandering lonely as a cloud along the beach, or a cliff or somesuch.

Then, the little div managed to let it get blown away by the wind. O’er the cliff and far away, and could she remember a word of it once it was gone out of her hand? Could she heck as like. Oh dear, oh hell.

So, what’s an earnest scholarship private boarding school girl to do, when she’s lost the work of genius that the inspiration of the moment has brought her?  And the competition deadline is looming? Oh, bloody hell. Probably just bodge out an inferior substitute.  Because when the Muse isn’t calling, the poxy bitch can’t be seduced, and you just gotta pound out the words and fulfill the requirements anyhow.

Well, too bad, she doesn’t win the competition. Except, she does get to read the winning entry. And get this: it’s her own poem. Yep, the first one – the one she let blow away over the cliff.

Which was apparently caught and retrieved by the Assistant Head Girl of the whole damn school. The moral leader and ethical exemplar of the entire damn shooting match. Which the dodgy bint has… uh-oh… claimed, and submitted as her own work.  Not a citation, not a reference, not a credit to be seen in the whole shebang, kidses, nuttin’.  Nuttin’!  No acknowledgment of either the original poet, or our transformative-workin’ Plucky Heroine, to be seen!

Oh, Plucky Heroine! What are you to do, in this tight spot?

Well, mostly, she spends the next chapter or so dithering about it. Oh, her work has been stolen! Oh, but it’s the assistant Head Girl! Who would believe her? How can she prove it? Will allegations result in dire consequences?

Eventually, after enough agonizing to justify a murder or a little insider trading, OPH does make a formal complaint. And both lassies get hauled in to see the Headmistress. (Who is as sapphically lithe and foxy as you might expect the headmistress of a fictional girls’ boarding school to be. Well, that’s how I choose to remember her, at any rate.)

It’s not smooth sailing.  Prove it, the Headmistress basically says. And our divvy – hang on, Our Plucky Heroine – who has not thought this through – has no comeback to that. Until! The Assistant Head Girl – or, as we shall know her, Thieving Little Cow – is making good her escape, smirking smugly and heading for the study door. That’s when the Headmistress casually says, “By the way, Robin -”

…assistant Head Girls are always called Robin, or Roberta at a pinch…

“I’m planning on including the works of NAME OF HIGHLY OBSCURE POET in next term’s English seminars. What’s your opinion on that?”

Cue blank look from Evil Roberta, The Thieving Little Cow. Who has never blimmin’ heard of HIGHLY OBSCURE POET. Despite having entered an ‘After A Line From…’ poem in the prestigious school literary competition, taking as its first line one filched from that very HIGHLY OBSCURE POET himself.  Not that it was flagged up as a derivative work, since OPH had just been scratching out a rough draft on the leaf of paper that found its way into TLC’s eager hot sweaty little hands.  Roberta didn’t have a clue, that not one but two writers had contributed to the work, which she then laid claim to and appended her own name to.

Pwned is, I believe, what the kids haven’t been saying for about five years now.

Turns out, Sexy Sapphic Headmistress (in my head) had had her suspicions about TLC – given the lack of the usual format of title attribution for these poems, given her past character.  But without hard evidence to confirm her suspicions, she’d been powerless to validate and support OP(AC)H.

What? Oh. Our Plucky (Although Common) Heroine.  Obvs. Who was extremely familiar with the works of the obscure poet, and could demonstrate the fact, cosmopolitan, sophisticated and myopic as any other book-worm. And thereby proved her prior claim to the string of words arranged into music and meter on the page. Thievery thwarted!


image – Smithsonian Institution licence

Anyhow, there ya go. Protected by poetry, redeemed by riffs, legitimized by language! This is the power of words, folks! Never doubt what the right or the wrong word can do – moving mountains, freezing hearts, changing destinies with the flick of a page of the thesaurus.

Never doubt it.

And I still have no clue what the poetry form in question is really and legitimately called. Must I really go the full hog and start re-reading the anodyne Trebizon saga, book after book, to find out? O dear reader, have you no clue on the issue?

In any case, my plan goes forward – onwards, ever onwards!  With or without the format name of the verse I’ll be spewing forth shortly. Expect ‘After A Line From ‘Last Night A DJ Saved My Life’ any day now. Perhaps modified, to ‘Last Night A Poet Saved My Rep’.  Or possibly ‘After A Line From ‘Bump – I’m Rushing’‘.

The Jetslags’ Rushing Roulette remix, obviously.



GRL Blog Tour with J.C. Owens — Joyfully Jay

Today I am pleased to be hosting J.C. Owens for our first stop on the GRL Blog Tour! Welcome J.C.! Last year destroyed my confidence with the varying difficulties regarding publishers folding, and then a very large third party seller (how’s that for diplomatic?). By the end of it, I was burned so badly…

via GRL Blog Tour with J.C. Owens — Joyfully Jay

Well said.  Nil bastardii carborundum etc.

A) You’re adorable, B) You’re so beautiful, C) You’re a cutie full of charms

Lately, I’ve been writing five lists when I get up in the morning, first thing I do.  The first list is the gratitude list, just like they tell you you should do.


I’ve always meant to get started on it, but somehow it’s taken me this long to actually get around to it.  I always felt like, well, I’m grateful, I’m a grateful person, I think about the things I’m grateful for all the time.  Doesn’t that count for the same?  But, when it comes down to sharpening the pencil, finding a blank page in a favourite notebook and actually getting down to making the list, it’s a whole different beast.

The process matters.  Like praying, it’s the actual words of the prayer, the getting down on your knees, the willingness to give up the time and do the work, instead of just thinking about it and thinking that makes it so.  Like the Steve Jobs quote – ‘the disease of thinking that having a great idea is really 90 percent of the work’.

So that works, and it’s been good.  Ten things I’m grateful for, every morning, varying from day to day but often the same things showing up – my partner, my parents, Theresa May getting a kicking in the election, the usual things.  It’s always ten items, for simplicity, and because an arbitrary number makes you really think – stretching for gratitude when the list is difficult to finish, making hard choices when there are too many candidates for too few spots.


Then I move on to the second list, and another ten items.  The second list is my ‘hello universe’ list.  Signs, signals, little tips and winks and nudges from the universe to put me on another path or confirm the way I’m heading, or just to say ‘hi there, hi.  you’re not alone’.  I don’t generally get ten signs or synchronicities a day, and repetition from day to day is fine.  But almost always, I have something new to add to the list – like, I turn on the radio and there’s a discussion going on about something I’m thinking about right that second.  Or someone’s name comes up in every book I open, every song I hear.

Then there’s the third list, which is the daily To-Do list.  This is self-explanatory, and probably very little different from anyone’s to-do list.  Paperwork, shopping, phone-calls to make, nothing unusual.  The fourth list is Work, and is a more narrowly-defined to-do list with purely professional/work/money based items to be ticked off.


The fifth list is maybe the most important.  It’s the ‘The Ones I Love’ list, and what could be more important than that?  Listing off ten people you love – changing little from day to day, maybe the slightest variations according to the vicissitudes of life and relationships – is guaranteed to open the heart, lighten the spirits, make the world a more beautiful place.

I find it so, anyhow.  It makes every day a good day. 

Every morning, the ritual, then.  Except that yesterday morning, my brain was on the fritz, glitching away with senior moments.  The first four lists I dashed off fine, pleased with my spiritual and practical processes and progress.  Then when it came to the Love List, I had a dyslexic moment.  Instead of ‘love’, you see, I wrote ‘evol’.

The Evol List – I was writing – apparently – the Evol List.  It sounds a little sinister, doesn’t it?  Packed full of supervillainy and miscreants, you’d think.  Who needs a list of evol-doers in their life?

I went to strike it out, to correct it.  And then I hesitated, and I thought.  Well, if you believe in signs and synchronicities – and I do – don’t these things happen for a reason?  At minimum, maybe my brain was talking to me.  Unconscious to superego, are you reading me, superego?

Evol.  Hmm.  Take a look at it.  It’s not exactly love in reverse.  It’s more of a mish-mash, the ingredients of love taken and misused by a terrible cook.  What would an Evol List consist of?

I didn’t think about it too much, then.  There were ten spots on the list, and I filled them up, quick, not too much pondering.  With names, with people in and out of my life.  Some of them were names of people who often appear on my Love List, too.  Maybe people I have very imperfect relationships with, but who still merit the word love in my mind, in my heart.

Some of them weren’t.

And I took the list, when I’d written it, and thought about the names on it.  Sighed a bit, and got on with my day.

Who would go on your Evol list?  Who would go on your Love List?  Would any of the names be the same, on both?


Image – holytimeland on Flickr, public domain.

Image – lizzi idiomas on Flickr, public domain.

Image – Jack Ambler on Flickr, public domain.







A Perfect Bloom 43 – Alex Ankarr

a perfect bloom IMAGE

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A Perfect Bloom 43 – Alex Ankarr

“Oh well, if that’s the issue,” Cory says easily. “I can easily think of something that will more than do.” And his hand is still in Sam’s hand – warm, how warm – as he leans up, leans forward and opens his mouth a little. Perhaps they make an odd, incongruous couple, Cory in made to measure tailoring, Sam in his overall with cap still in hand.

Neither of them are thinking about that much, as they kiss, most likely. And the rose is still held tight in Sam’s hand, as his other arm pulls Cory close. Gifts have been given, and their hearts stolen. And they still have two days of the week to come, a weekend free together, the two of them and a stolen rose.





© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra ( via a Creative Commons licence (, book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 42 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 42 – Alex Ankarr

It wouldn’t be true to say that the warmth immediately floods back into Sam’s face, not right away. But there’s a cautious kind of hopefulness that takes away the tight… well, misery, it looked like, a moment ago. “Really?” he asks. A beautiful, charismatic, talented ex-con shouldn’t be capable of looking so gentle, so soft and innocent suddenly – should be hardened into cynicism by bitter experience. But it seems that’s not the case.

“Really,” Cory says firmly. And – because he simply wants to know – he asks, “If you hadn’t seen me with Adam – and that really was absolutely nothing, by the way, a storm in a teacup there – what were you going to give me? Today?” And he thinks he can safely say that, now. Even without explicit admission, it’s not exactly a secret between them, who gave him this week’s gifts.

There’s a shyness – amazing, with the level of cheek and confidence that Cory knows he has in him – that has Sam’s eyes evading his, casting down, before he can speak. But then he does speak. “I hadn’t worked it out,” he says, mumbling slightly. “I – don’t have anything.” He fidgets, and is clearly feeling the omission as a bit of a faux pas. But Cory can sort that out easy enough.

He could perhaps, have been more stealthy with the rose. But it still counts, he feels. He brought it specially, after all, and after all… He already knows that, out of all the hybrids the company produces, this is Sam’s favourite. And perhaps an unoriginal idea for his own gift only fits the pattern Sam’s established, he thinks. A stolen rose, imperfect baking, a copied poem and slightly inexpert guitar playing. And now, Cory himself, copying Sam’s original idea, and reaching out to take his hand, as he holds out a rose that’s second-hand and still lovely.

“There is a fifth present,” he says softly. “If you’ll take mine, and excuse me just copying your first idea.” Sam’s eyes on the rose are warm, but there’s a slight reluctance in the way he takes it, fingers closing carefully over the thin de-thorned stem.

“But I don’t have anything to give you back. Something for you,” he repeats himself, helplessly.






© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra ( via a Creative Commons licence (, book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 41 – Alex Ankarr

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A Perfect Bloom 41 – Alex Ankarr

Cory feels dizzy, like he’s missed something, been spun around and can’t re-acclimatize. “But he did,” he says, uncertainly. “He got my attention. He has it.”

But Sam shakes his head definitely, still not looking at him. “Not the right way,” he says with certainty. “Not if he saw you…” Oh, these pauses and hesitations are going to kill Cory, what with the suspense, the open-mouthed eagerness. He could shake Sam to get the full explanation out of him. Except that that is something that would be a lot more than frowned upon, by his own Human Resources department. And also, even if he would actually do something like that, Sam has about six inches and twenty pounds on him, so that it wouldn’t be the greatest idea in the world in any case.

“Saw me?” he repeats. It’s about the only gambit he has left.

“With somebody,” Sam says. And oh, the light and the life and the enthusiasm and shy amusement, it all drains out of his face. “In the rose-gardens, yesterday. A visitor, I saw him arrive. And then, then I saw him…”

Well. It seems as if there’s only one incident that Sam can mean. But it isn’t possible, is it?

“He kissed me,” Cory says slowly. Because that, and Adam, is surely what Sam is meaning, with his face all tight and the pleasure and direct warmth gone out of it. “But there was no-one around,” he says, protestingly. He doesn’t like to think of Sam seeing such a daft and meaningless little contretemps, doesn’t like to think of him disturbed by it. This disturbed, and he clearly is. “No-one could have seen us.”

“No?” Sam asks wryly, and he’s looking direct at Cory now for sure, examining his face carefully, like he doesn’t want to miss a thing, miss a trick, miss the exact facts and the truth. “I was up high, on a ladder against the south wall,” he says, explaining, mouth a line that suggests he’s no happier for doing it. “Trimming the Virginia creeper we have growing there. I didn’t mean to spy,” he says, and boy, that’s stiff, that’s uncomfortable.

At least Cory knows what the trouble is, now. He’s hesitant himself, when he moves a little closer, slow and cautious. “You didn’t see as much as you thought, maybe,” he says, awkward. “That was my old boyfriend. I have to admit it. But he’s also a consultant for us, on overseas trading difficulties. What you saw…” He pauses. “It wasn’t instigated by me. And it didn’t lead to anything more. And there’s nothing between me and him. Not now.”







© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra ( via a Creative Commons licence (, book cover modifications made.

A Perfect Bloom 40 – Alex Ankarr

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Download complete ebook for FREE! at

A Perfect Bloom 40 – Alex Ankarr

Sam is up quite close at this point, although not looking directly into Cory’s eyes. His own eyes are cast down, and he’s not really making much effort not to smile at this point. His lashes cast shade on his cheeks, against a background of dark cypress foliage and up above, just the hinting beginnings of a rosy early sunset. It’s beautiful, the view. Not quite as beautiful as Sam, but still.

“Did you dance to it?” Sam’s voice is soft, now – and finally, he’s looking into Cory’s eyes. Seriously, and really wanting to know, Cory can tell.

Perhaps there’s a coy twist to Cory’s mouth, when he says, “Maybe I did. Or maybe not.” (He had).

“And today?” Sam asks. “What did you receive today?”

That’s the question, of course. “You’re assuming I did,” Cory says, slow. “One gift after another after another. It would be greedy to expect the stream of them to continue permanently. Wouldn’t it?”

Sam looks away, over the hedges, into the bright, pinkening sky. “Maybe someone just likes to please you.”

“Someone very sweet,” Cory says. He feels his throat thicken up, because this really is almost too sweet to be borne. It makes the muffin seem like plain bread. “In any case, today it seems the week of spoiling Cory Rocque has come to an end. And it may in fact be greedy of me… It very probably is. But even so, I can’t help wondering why.”

The rose he’s brought is hanging loosely in his hand, almost loosely enough to drop. And Sam’s eyes drift and follow it, briefly, before being trained firmly back up to Cory’s face again. Sam opens his mouth, and visibly deliberates before he speaks. And sighs, too. “Well,” he says. “Suppose they were from a person with a lot of very foolish ideas in his head.” Now his gaze wanders away, travelling out into the far distance, the sky and the valley, fields and motorways and tiny tiny sheep in the hills. “Someone trying to…” He hesitates. “Trying to get your attention, thinking it might lead somewhere.”







© Copyright Alex Ankarr 2014

No unauthorised reproductions allowed. All rights reserved to the author. No inspirations for characters drawn from real-life individuals, no resemblance to real individuals intended.

Photo credit: Bonita Suraputra ( via a Creative Commons licence (, book cover modifications made.