Monday, 2 April 2012

Cross Pollination ...!

When Sandra showed her lightening sketches of faces on her blog (see ) the other day, I commented that I never draw people or faces. But of course I do ... but not as 'art,' not as part of drawing!   I draw them as part of Writing!

For example, I wrote a short story, "Coat Tales" (pun intended) for a Literary magazine, about an event that happened to me and a friend when we were in Kabul, Afghanistan, in the 1970s

Basically we went off the beaten track in search of cheap Afghan coats for our wives. We came across two Afghan men, they looked like father and son, and they were sewing the coats by hand. Now their English was as non-existent as our Pashtu. We tried writing numbers (as prices) in English and then in Arabic ... but we got nowhere, they understood neither. 

Then I spotted a young lad carrying schoolbooks, I grabbed him before he ran away from the fiendish white men. Soon we were all friends, they were smoking our cigarettes and crying with laughter as we coughed ourselves to death over their local weed... those far off days when everyone smoked.

 We all sat scrunched together on this rickety wooden platform: that kept them out of the dust in the summer and mud in the winter. The old man sat on a pile of blankets, and the schoolboy knelt between them his arm on the old man's shoulder. 

I wrote my opening bid on the schoolboy's book in Arabic, and he translated the number verbally to the Tailors. They laughed and told the lad how much they wanted, he wrote their figure down and I translated. Finally, after a thoroughly entertaining half-an-hour of too-ing and fro-ing, with much laughter we parted company with arm breaking handshakes and slaps on the back. 

From the glint in their eyes it was obvious that they thought they had made a killing, and made it fairly ... this wasn't a rip off.

My pal sold the coat he had bought, when we got back to the UK - he got £500 ($1,200 at that time). They had only cost us £25 ($60) each!

I wrote the short story as fiction, and told it from the Afghan tailor's  son's Point-of-View. But I had to sketch the three of them  before I started writing ... just to be inside the group and understand the how they all saw it.

Susan (over on ) wrote about how her ballet characters take over and develop the situation, she is never sure where they will take it (fantastic pictures she paints btw).  And so it is with writing: these three Afghans were not content with a role in a  short story they now play a significant role in my thriller, 'The Othila Paradigm,' which agent's and publisher's permitting should be out by the end of the year.

But this cross-pollination across the 'arts' doesn't end there. When I write a poem, full of deep philosophical stanzas - nobody takes ant notice. But when I cross a 'silly' poem with boatbuilding and drawing and convert poetry into boatry.... it gets published and there are demands for more ... 



                                                                    I like flags.
                                                           fore  Sails
                                                     sail  is     Flapping
                                               not for sale   In the wind.
                                           you  may find   Makes one think
                                       that you need it    Of  flying far off like
                                    rather badly in a     Some Albatross set free
                                 wind or in a gale        From land and those grassy ties
         I                   and  without it  find       That shore can bring, although I do
            do      others quickly up your tail    Like being a landlocked Shipwright it's part
                  like                                                   of
                        boatbuilding it's                       my                                                     
                                 such a  large part of my life. I love the smell of the wood as I cut and I plane it.
                                     listen to the music of the parts that go to make a boat, each word such poetry:
                ~~~~~~~~~~ tumblehome and transom; hog and hogson; apron and the thwart~~~             
                                                gutter and garboard strakes of planking: clinker & hard chine
                                                       but alas without a keel
                                                              where would we be
                                                                   capsized and upside
                                                                       down, swimming
                                                                                far beneath
                                                                                          the sea.


  1. First of all I love the sketch, it really is full of life! And second of all, I love the story you told, and third that poem is SO impressive! I can't even imagine all the skill and brainpower that took. Holy smokes! You are one talented person John. :))

    1. Thank you, Crystal. I don't normally show my 'people' sketches. The poem is more to do with fun than being clever, but I'm glad you found it all entertaining.

  2. It is a joy to read your posts, John! It does not surprise me that you are writing a thriller, you are a wonderful story teller! And your poem is indeed impressive!

    1. I'm glad you find them enjoyable, Joy. I hoped the poem would make everyone smile :0)

      Thanks for commenting.

  3. Your story is SO entertaining - I LOVED reading it! You could surely write an autobiography and throw in a little fiction for good measure! I am sure it would be a joy to read! I love how you have shaped the poem in to a boat. You are creative in so many ways - -and as for your people, well they are drawn so beautifully. A far cry from my own mediocre sketches! :0)
    Oh and by the way, thank you so much for the mention :0D

  4. My Granddaughter reckons there are only two types of people: Makers and non-Makers I guess we lot hereabouts are Makers :0)

    There is an autobiography under way, my granddaughters insist - but I'm not sure it would be of General interest.

    My people took ages to draw ... and more than one attempt, so they are really not as talented as your lightening sketches.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment, Sandra.

  5. What a wonderful post!! You have so many talents, John!! Love the sketch and of course, the wonderful poem....

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  8. Glad you enjoyed it, Hilda. Jack-of-all-Trades ... Master of None ..that's me :0))

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  10. Hi, John - sorry I am so late in commenting as I have been following for some time but I want you to know I LOVE your blog. It's downright fascinating! What a life you have chronicled for us - I am enjoying every moment of reading about your personal, professional and artistic endeavors. Thanks so much for sharing with us!

  11. Susan, you really are too kind,thank you. You may have noted that my life is arranged more by accident than design :0)