Happy Valentine’s Day!

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ODE TO A WREN

A graveyard squats beyond a wall
Where they bury dreams with rocks.
As child, as adult, those dreams once called
And on those caskets knocked.

Each year a thinning wail would stray
From walls bulged thicker, taller.
Each day my prayers, more distant, play
In silence to the caller.

Until that sleety autumn noon
When quiet cloaked my pleadings,
As thorns and claws and hooks of Moon,
Tore love from spirit’s bleedings.

Now death puffs its heartless chest
On bones through broken soil,
A waxen, tuxedoed dinner guest
Slurps grinning at the spoil.

Time tried but failed to fix
My endless melancholy,
A constant acid reflux mix
A three-legged border collie.

Okay, so the dog makes zero sense,
I bet you can’t do better,
Onward then with the suspense,
As I struggle with every letter.

One day the calendar did turn,
And a wren, of fluffy breast,
Who’d dined on creepy-crawly things, and a worm
Flew by to build a nest.

The graveyard scared the birdy so,
It jettisoned its eating.
A deluge white as driven snow
Spattered barren soil in greeting.

And in that spattering, a seed was sown
It germinated quickly.
Then roots and trunk and branch were grown.
The plant grew tall, and thickly.

It burst the walls, it let in light,
The voice of hope returned.
The dreams with their attendant might,
Bore fruit in all I’d yearned.

Now love has settled where all was lost,
I’m no longer a complainer,
Remember—whatever the cost—
Keep hold of hope. That’s a no-brainer.

The moral of this poetic crime,
Strained from slurry, compost, grit?
No one’s more certain than I’m
That good can come from s**t.

 

A Valentine’s Day Poem…from Ben to you.

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(Ode to a Wren, Ben Starling, 2016)

Winter Ben-isms

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Aiming for the goal – everyone’s gotta have a dream!

#4,377 in Ben’s occasional series “Culinary Recommendation of the Day”: grind 4 nutmegs into 1/3rd pint of (fake) low fat double cream. Blend. Pour over freshly steamed Brussel sprouts. Eat. Smile.

2 hours in the gym, 475 calories burned. 2 minutes in Starbucks, 475 calories consumed (choc chip frappuccino). Well, my yoga teacher did say I needed to achieve balance in my life…

I NEED YOUR HELP!! Forget the presidential election. Brexit. David Bowie’s passing and global warming. My life has been ambushed by a far more sadistic, insidious and determined interloper. How do I deal with the frustration of an unopened pistachio?

I have men-flu. (It’s like man-flu but at least twice as bad).

What should today’s rhetorical question be?

Provisional title of my weight loss book: I’m Gonna Need a Smaller Parachute.

I’m informed that 45 of my Facebook friends have birthdays today. 4960/365 = 13.6. 3.3 times as many birthdays as the expected average? Anyone else notice the same thing? Or has Putin hacked Facebook and is playing with the numbers?

With 2016 drawing to a close, I’m naturally devastated to not be included in the New Years Honours List. Looks like I won’t be a Knight of the Realm. It being New Year’s, I shall drown my sorrows in the realm of the night.

Proud to see my cooking still fails the smoke alarm test.

(1) Estimate odds that utility company will screw things up. (2) Phone them to tell them they’ve mis-spelt my name and could they please send out a corrected bill. Make them repeat correct spelling. Twice. (3) Suppress astonishment that it will take 10 working days. (4) On thirteenth working day receive bill with name uncorrected. (5) Review (1) above and smile. There aren’t many dead certainties in life.

My phone suffers from phantom vibrate syndrome.

Following an unexpected explosion – a partial meltdown – a shock that made me jump – last night, my life was cast into darkness. Total, unrelenting darkness. Logic dictates that the eerie silence, the chill wind that accompanied it were coincidental; that the drop in temperature was a trick of body over mind. Alarmed observers might whisper, “Oh no, Ben – it could be a case of OW Syndrome (Open Window Syndrome)” …Time, I think, for a new lightbulb…

Tip of the Day: bored of that monotonous landline “bring-bring” ringtone? Looking for a constant ringing to make you feel wanted and keep the neighbours awake, even when no one is phoning you? Simply pour water down your phone socket.

 

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Happy….

Happy…Lunar Year of the Chicken!

Hurrah, we all get another chance to make our new year’s resolutions!

Have you made yours yet? I have. Mostly about fitness and getting a new book ready for release. I’ve made it to yoga class three weeks in a row and am busy editing away. I’m on my way!

What are your new year’s re-resolutions?

What plans have you made?

All the best wishes for a new wonderful year from,

Ben

Best wishes for 2017!

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Happy New Year!

All the best from,

Ben

Christmas Wishes from Ben

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Best wishes

to you and yours

for the holidays!

– from, Ben

A Day at Amazon Academy

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I just spent a fascinating day at the launch of the Amazon Academy in London, on Wednesday. The location was the HQ of their new fashion label (yes, they do clothes too!) in Hoxton.

Amazon laid on a range of lectures and expert-led panel discussions to demonstrate what’s on offer which included KDP (Kindle), Alexa and Amazon Marketplace workshops. There were guest panels in the morning and break-out sessions with Q&A in the afternoon. It wasn’t just for authors – there were also experts who spoke on Amazon Web Services (for serious techies and programmers) and a new service that targets entrepreneurs in the food and beverage space. Professional, entertaining, friendly.

img_3774The company is forging ahead with interesting ideas and isn’t resting on its laurels. The event was a well-planned, precision-executed taste of corporate America before a taste of vegetarian (other diets catered for too) lunch.

Deputy Mayor of London for Business, Rajesh Agrawal, told an amusing anecdote about arriving penniless in London from India in 2001. He spent weeks working on a business plan which he took to the bank hoping for a £10,000 loan. He was turned down. He returned a few days later with a request for £20,000 for a car…which was approved. And guess what he used the money for? He quickly added that the bank has been paid back in full!

img_3771Lessons learned? The company treats its writers as valued customers. Despite its size, Amazon demonstrated a human face and will continue to trial the Academy concept.

As a writer, what did I take away with me? Lots of great tips!

In particular, I learned from the mouth of author/entrepreneur Mark Dawson:

  • have at least one free book on offer;
  • build a loyal following via interaction;
  • have a well though out and researched marketing plan before you begin to spend your budget,

and from the Founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, Orna Ross:

  • develop your own email distribution list as one of your key pillars in your marketing plan,
  • speed up your operation by using a database manager like Mailchimp and
  • don’t start spending money on advertising until you have at least three books out there.

So far, there have been two other Amazon Academy events on this side of the pond: one previously in Dublin and this one in London. And there will be one more in Newcastle coming soon! After that, Amazon will review feedback to see if they will do it again.

And I, for one, hope they will.

More Ben-isms

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I TORE UP the gym this morning. Time for a brief recuperative horizontalisation.

White spirit removes oil-based paint from your hands but white rum doesn’t—although it’s both white and a spirit. Explanations on a postcard, please.

Today I failed to change the world. Some things never change.

Dear US Intelligence Services – you want to extract information from someone? Waterboarding is SO last year. Simply have the target wait ALL DAY (in a house with no furniture), for IKEA to deliver, who don’t bother to ring to explain why they are running hours late, and then have the screws not fit and throw in an incorrect diagram or two for fun! Maybe deliver the wrong thing and miss out something too – that’ll be really funny! Or deliver something damaged. The target will crack much sooner and you won’t have breached the Geneva Convention. Probably.

I am proud to announce I am launching a beginners’ class in IKEA YOGA. Enjoy the double benefit of contorting your body in unbelievable shapes while building furniture! First session free but bring unassembled MALM bedside table. After four weeks, move on to my ADVANCED class (HEMNES day bed) and experience palm haematoma and trigger irreversible wrist arthritis! Stay-calm breathing exercises and how to swear in Swedish available as optional extras in 50% of classes (depending on whether parts have been correctly drilled, drawings make sense, etc.). IMPORTANT: don’t miss your class! We start promptly some time between 10am and 4pm but I reserve the right to start at 7.30pm, without notice…and to blame it on the traffic. Inbox me for full details.

I AM BLESSED. To a very few people, it happens every several years. To others, every other year. To some, as regularly as once a year! But the heavens are treating me differently this year. I have been singled out. Chosen. And I don’t even know what I did to deserve it but…(drum roll please)…I have my third cold!

Forgot to add the garlic croutons to my salad 😦
But there’s a heatwave forecast for tomorrow 🙂
Life is indeed a minestrone :-/
Pass the parmesan cheese 😉

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