Archive for July, 2007

Poem #32 Beach Sunset

The deserted beach
Became quiet and soft
As the sun set
Over the smooth water.

Gentle ripples
The only waves,
Caressing breeze
The only movement.

Red sky
Growing pink,
Then grey
As the disappearing sun
Left us alone
On the deserted beach.

Copyright 2007 Trevor W. Hampel

All rights reserved.

Short fiction: What a Day

One day I had to stay indoors the whole day because it was raining cats and dogs. I was bored out of my brain. I started getting under Mum’s skin. I thought that she was going to blow her top.

‘Stop getting under my feet!’ she yelled. Well, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Mum never yells at me. I’m so perfect.

So I went to my room to let off some steam. I picked up my favourite joke book. Soon I was laughing my head off. I laughed so much I soon had a frog in my throat.

Later that day my cousin Pete came over. He’s a real pain in the neck. Anyway, we decided to play a game of cards. I knew at once that this was a huge mistake. He started cheating and wanted to change the rules all the time. I couldn’t hold my tongue.

‘Hold your horses!’ I said. ‘Have you got rocks in your head? You can’t do that.’

Well, Pete was really burned up by my little outburst.

‘Hang on,’ he said. ‘Have you lost your marbles? Are you as nutty as a fruitcake? You are really getting in my hair.’

‘And you are driving me up the wall!’ I yelled back at him. ‘And now I’m starting to get a splitting headache!’

‘Don’t scream your head off at me!’ Pete screamed.

‘And don’t bite my head off!’ I shouted.

We stopped yelling as Mum came into the room. We knew that we had really blown it. I knew by the look on her face that we were in the doghouse. This made me feel down in the dumps. I was up to my neck in trouble.

‘Oh, well,’ I thought. ‘No use crying over spilt milk. I might as well face the music. I really am in a pickle.’ But Pete just spat the dummy. He swore at Mum!

‘You are grounded for two weeks,’ Mum said, pointing to me. ‘And Pete, you will not be allowed to visit for a month.’

‘Yes!’ I thought to myself. ‘A whole month without Pesky Pete. That was as easy as falling off a log.’

Copyright 2007 Trevor W. Hampel. All rights reserved.

Short Fiction: “Well – I’ll be blowed!”

You could have knocked me down with a feather when Suzy came to visit. I hadn’t seen her for donkey’s years. In fact, she only ever visited us once in a blue moon. Now the reason she rarely comes to visit us is that we really don’t see eye to eye. In fact, she thinks I’m off my rocker and I think that she’s gone bananas!

The truth is – she really is a pain in the neck. You see, Suzy loves the sound of her own voice; she never stops talking! Even telling her to put a sock in it doesn’t help. The last time I saw Suzy I said that she was as nutty as a fruitcake and that she was driving us all up the wall.

Now, the day that Suzy came to visit was a red-letter day. I’d had a splitting headache all morning and it felt like I had a frog in my throat. But I soon forgot how ill I felt when Suzy knocked on the door. The first thing I noticed was how she was dressed. Normally she is so untidy in her appearance, but not today. She was done up like a Christmas tree.

The second thing I noticed was her behaviour. Normally she is really off the planet. But on this day she was as quiet as a mouse.

‘Please,’ she whispered with tears in her eyes. I could tell at once that these were not crocodile tears.

‘I need help,’ she went on. ‘I’ve been shaking in my boots all day. I think I’ve really blown it.’

I’ was standing there like a stunned mullet. This was definitely not like Suzy. She wasn’t one to cry over spilt milk.

‘P-p-please, come in,’ I stammered. ‘Here, sit down and spill the beans to me.’

It’s like this,’ she began. ‘I was going to surprise Mum when she came home from work. I decided to make the house as neat as a pin. Then I was going to cook up a storm for tea. I thought it would be a breeze, as easy as falling off a log. How wrong I was!’

‘What went wrong?’

‘Well you know how it’s been raining cats and dogs all day. So that meant my little brother Sam had to play inside. It wasn’t long before he was getting in my hair. He was constantly getting under my feet. I even asked Sam to lend me a hand. That was a big mistake. Because he had been trapped indoors all morning he was ready to let off steam. I nearly jumped out of my skin when he tried to give the cat a shave. Later he tried to give all the pot plants a haircut with Mum’s best dressmaking scissors. Boy, were we in a pretty pickle.’

Suzy stopped for a moment. A tear rolled down her cheek.

‘I nearly screamed my head off for him to stop,’ she went on. ‘I nearly blew my top. I knew our goose was cooked when Sam decided to spray paint his room – BLACK! So I spat the dummy and came to you for help. I think I’m going round the bend. Any more of this and I’ll be round the twist for sure. All my friends already suspect I’ve got marbles in my head; now they will be certain. What should I do?’

‘Well,’ I began, not quite sure what to say. ‘The fat’s really in the fire, isn’t it? The problem seems to be with Sam. He really is out of line. He needs to turn over a new leaf. He is up to his neck in trouble this time. You need to talk firmly with him. Call a spade a spade. Don’t beat around the bush. Pull no punches. He has to hold his horses. Sam needs to pull his head in and stop monkeying around. If we don’t stop him now he will continue doing this until the cows come home.’

‘Yeah, monkeying around,’ said Suzy bitterly. ‘That’s all he ever does. And that’s where he belongs – behind bars in the zoo with the monkeys!’

Copyright 2007 Trevor W. Hampel. All rights reserved. First published in “Freexpression” March 2005.

More about idioms

Over the time I have been writing on this blog I have written a series of articles about idioms. Idioms are those colourful expressions we use liberally in our speaking and writing, but if taken literally they become rather silly.

For a longer discussion on idioms, read my article called What is an idiom?

To read more about various idioms, their origins and possible meanings search through my archives in the idioms category here.

Over the next few days I plan to publish a series of stories that contain dozens of idioms. I hope that you enjoy them.

To err is human – to proofread is to be a good writer: Seven effective proofreading hints

Don’t you just hate it when you have slaved over a piece of writing for hours, printed it out – only to find an error embedded somewhere in the text? Perhaps it was a typo, spelling error or glaring grammatical boo-boo.

Here is a list of seven very effective hints on doing away with those errors – or at least minimizing them:

  1. Give it away: As writers, we get too close to what we are writing. As we proofread we tend to read what we intended to write, rather than what we actually wrote. Get a trusted friend or family member to read through it. I often ask my wife; she can be meticulously severe on my writing. And that’s what you want – not someone who says, “Very nice,” but doesn’t want to offend you by pointing out the fifty three glaring errors you’ve overlooked.
  2. Let it sleep for a while: If you do not have a pressing deadline to meet, let the piece of writing sleep for a while. Come back to after a few hours, days or weeks. Fresh eyes will see errors that were hidden when you first wrote the piece.
  3. Have an audience of one: Read your writing aloud to yourself. Or to the dog, cat or canary – whoever. If you stumble over a phrase or sentence when reading aloud, so will your readers. If something doesn’t quite make sense to your ears, you will surely lose your readers at that point.
  4. Writer – know thyself: Be aware of weaknesses in your writing style, spelling abilities and grasp of grammar. Focus particularly on those weaknesses until you master them or you will be their slave forever. I have to be particularly careful of the spelling of some words because they almost always trip me up. Get a good dictionary.
  5. Turn down the volume: Sure – some writers can produce wonderful prose with the stereo blaring in the background, or the television on, or five screaming children running riot through the house. Some have no choice. I know I work best when there are few distractions and a minimum of noise. I know I can write in a busy, noisy environment – I was an elementary school teacher for thirty five years after all! My best writing, however, comes from a calm and quiet environment with few distractions.
  6. Print and peruse: Proofreading on a computer monitor is a very difficult task. Print out a hard copy and proofread that; you’ll find it easier to seek out those errors. Get a red pen and go to work.
  7. Play it again Sam: Well…maybe not. But it is important to read your work over and over and over again until you are sure it is free of errors.

Good writing.

PS: I’m hoping someone will proofread this for me; my favourite television programme is on in a few minutes. So much for those distractions!

UPDATE: I’ve just discovered another great article on proofreading called “The Impotence of Proofreading.” Read at your peril – there are deliberate errors embedded in the text.