Monthly Archives: Mar 2018

Writing tip: Writing with clarity

Dear readers,

I saw this meme on the Writers’ Group on Facebook which made me giggle. I for one know the importance of reading through what I’ve written to ensure I’ve been clear in my work. Some things jump of the page, others go right over my head, especially in spellings and punctuation. We’re all guilty of it, typically when we’re writing while tired or not thinking coherently. Ensuring that we’re clear in our discourse is also essential, as this meme points out, although they can bring to life a whole meaning, or story, within itself.


Beyond Honduras (Tales of Tela, Trujillo and Other Places) by Guillermo Yuscaran

Dear readers,

I am including a Goodreads review I wrote on the the book Beyond Honduras (Tales of Tela, Trujillo and Other Places) by Guillermo Yuscaran, which I read a couple of weeks ago while actually in Trujillo. I had read a lot of the book before, although I didn’t finish it, due to me losing it or getting pickpocketed; not sure which. Anyway, I bought it for a second time a couple of months ago from a bar in Santa Lucia, a town which has a library named after the writer of this book.

I have written about the writer before, having read a couple of other books of his. I thought they were good but I felt this was better and I gave it a 5 star rating. His real name is William Lewis and he hails from California, although he has lived three or four decades in Honduras, living between Santa Lucia and the Northcoast of the country. Along with lively narrative, he offers an fascinating insight of Honduran culture and the people. I recommend it to curious Hondurans, interested in what foreigners think of their country. He’s balanced and fair and tries to provide a wider panoramic view, kind of timeless (many things written thirty or so years ago still hold weight today), rather than the normal negativity. This book is more of a fictional portrayal, which suffice to say, I immensely enjoyed as I rarely give 5 star ratings, although my father also read it and thought it was more about “fucking and fighting”; those were his exact words, but then he also agreed the book grows in depth towards the end.

Here’s my short review, anyhow.

Extraordinary selection of short stories, well-written, artistic, poignant, riveting, containing magic realism, as well as a few harsh realities of poverty. He knows how to build flawed characters, narrating the build ups to their conflict well.

I read much of the book in Trujillo, Honduras, which gave me something of an emotional attachment to the book, which is the best I’ve read so far from this author.

It’s not the most conventional of anthologies, but it’s better than many famous short story writers I’ve read. Guillermo Yuscaran has something of a O Henry wit in his style, or maybe it’s just that both have written about the adventures of Americans in Honduras.

Nonetheless, loved it.

Recipe: To Relax

Dear readers,

I have a new hammock in the house. I have never lived in a home with a hammock. It’s been on my bucket list for an age. Now I have one. A colourful one. It’s in the backyard. The garden is still full of weeds and wildflowers. The former we hope to destroy. Some of the later would be nice to keep. We did have an orange tree. It hasn’t a leaf upon it. It want to replace it with a mango tree. Small mangos. The caramel flavored ones I tasted in Trujillo a few years ago. My mouth’s watering just thinking of it.

It’s a rainbow of colours. They’re matted, though, striped. It’s received admirers. We took the last one from a shop in Valle de Angeles. No way I’m giving it away. No one would want to take it anyway; it’s Christened with my afternoon farts.

Due to the direction and heat of the sun, the only time I can’t laze in it is mid to late morning. Lying in the early morning or late afternoon/early morning is a problem due to mosquitoes, although I can lie in it caked in repellent.

I love it though. Lying there and writing. They’re a wonderful duet to help me relax. My belly is growing because of it, but also that I often drink beer while rocking in it.

Frida likes it, just sitting with me, although she’s always looking out for Vicente, who gets jealous and plays rough. Vicente has been with us a year now. I love the little dude; never thought I’d like a dog so much. So noble and loving, looking after the house when we’re not there and looking after us when we are. Yes we’ve had to train me on a few things but he’s smart and learns ever so quickly. He has a stomach made of iron, able to eating pretty much anything. Going through the bins or waiting to nab whatever we might have. You can take Chente off the streets but you can’t take the streets out of Chente. I’m biased, but he’s the best dog in the world.

I love chatting with Frida. She says an array of words which she natters into my ear. She’s a bird of paradise and just looking at her helps me relax. Makes happy just looking at her. A therapy for the eyes and the soul. She says hola whenever I see her. She sits on my shoulder. She preens my own feathers (my greying locks). Her colours not even an artist could have created. The greens, especially. She’s gorgeous.

When Frida or Vicente are not there, I write, read and/or listen to music. A beer or whiskey might be near. I’ve a fair bit of Famous Grouse left which my folks brought me. The music, well, everything. But there is a band that has apparently been around for a while. My good ol’ mate and wonderful new colleague Regina Ponce introduced me to them. They’re from the US but they deal in reggae/chill out/funk from different parts of the world. I feel I’ve been hiding under a stone. No idea how I’ve not heard of them before. Some of the songs remind me of reggae nights I attended in Moseley or Kings Heath back in Birmingham. Times gone by. Nostalgic. I’m getting through their back catalogue. They’re called Thievery Corporation.

One song I like in particular is Sweet Tides. It’s from the album Radio Retaliation which was released in 2008. The singer of the song is called LouLou. I’ve dedicated it to my wife. Listen to see why.

Here’s a link.

This, folks, is my recipe to relax.

Alfombras of Tegucigalpa

Dear readers,

It’s Semana Santa, a week of holidays which for many in the Catholic world is more significant than Christmas. This was what I was taught during my Catholic tutoring a few years back, that it was more important to attend Mass to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus rather than the birth of him.

What do Hondurans think, though? In Honduras, like the rest of the world, Christmas seems more commercialized by the year. Gifts are exchanged and consumerism seems to be going through the roof, especially in the seven years I’ve been here. Shops begin selling Santa stuff as early as September, and it’s even more bizarre to see shopping centres bringing in Christmas trees and snow displays, candy sticks and Santa grottos, especially being in a tropical country (think of the gullible eejit in the Santa outfit while the sun sits high at 25°C). There are Masses and Christmas nativities, but it seems less about religion and more gringo. Although all Hondurans probably hold nacatamales above all else at Christmas. That and family.

Semana Santa seems to be becoming just as commercialised, especially for younger generations. It’s not a critique; just an observation. It’s a time families hit the beaches, especially youngsters who flock to the north coast or the Bay Islands. Don’t get me wrong….I’m not a party pooper. I too have headed to Utila in the past (pretty much the Ibiza of Honduras), and I have had more than my fair share of units of alcohol this week, as well. The sun’s out and smiles are on faces; no complaints on my part.

However, while everyone is at the beach, Tegucigalpa becomes Heaven (a part from the heat). Everyone’s chilled, there’s the sound of a party coming from somewhere, as well as a whiff of a barbeque, and there’s no traffic on the streets; therefore, no road rage or waiting behind lorries in the heat. You can actually get to places within minutes, rather than half-hours or hours. Malls are empty and shops don’t have queues. In short, Tegucigalpa is a closed shop, it’s when I like the city most.

Another element I like during Semana Santa are the alfombras. They are found in most the cities throughout Honduras, as well as other places in Central America, although they’re most famous in Comayagua; the former Honduran capital (as well as a city in Guatemala, but I will leave that to Nick “El Chapine” Rogers to waffle on about). Alfombras translates as carpets, and they consist of hand-drawn symbols from the Bible and the Catholic Church which relate to the death and resurrection of Christ. They are laid down on Good Friday, and the symbols are then coated carefully in different coloured sands and sawdust, using stencils and water to help it remain in place (only the Lord knows what happens if it happens to be a rainy or windy day). In Tegucigalpa it aligns Calle Cervantes towards the more bohemian end, where you can sometimes observe interesting street art upon the walls, screaming whatever political crisis happening is at that moment. Then later in the day, the Procession passes over the alfombras, pretty much ruining wonderful works of art. But it’s all in the name of religion….

I passed through today and it never fails to impress me, despite me being burned to toast while conducting my admiring.

However, I must end this post on a sad note, unfortunately highlighting a more negative aspect of Honduras which has hit the headlines in the last couple of days. I try not to publish such things, as the country already receives a lot of unbalanced publicity (yes there are big social problems, but yes there are also millions of wonderful people, beaches and soups).

During week, a medical student named Silvia Vanessa Izaguirre was violated and murdered on a bus, so I believe, en route to Trujillo in the north of the country. I don’t know much more, nor do I need to say more. I didn’t know her either, although she must have been near the end of her studies, having recently completed her work practice at a hospital in Danlí. She was 26 years old when she died.

I don’t know nor understand the grief and anger that her loved ones must be feeling at this moment. It could have been any one of us, and now we have lost a life of a young woman who was dedicating her life to saving the lives of others. I only hope she rests in peace, and those responsible are brought to justice.

What inspires you to read a particular book?

Dear readers,

I purchase more books than I can read. I read them slowly so they sink in and induce me into the writer’s mind or a fantasy world; the curse of having a huge imagination. When I’m not reading (or writing), I feel guilty. Watching Netflix sometimes makes me feel I’m cheating on a book.

“I’m sorry, Bonjour Tristesse. I promise to pay you more attention.”

What inspires me to read? The topic largely, I suppose. Not a great secret. No re-creating the wheel. What topic? Depends on what I’m writing, especially if the narrative or voice is not a life or profession I’m familiar with. If I’m writing from a Latina female perspective, I dig out Isabel Allende or the like, to see how the characters express emotion or describe landscapes, etc. If I’m looking for humour with real life drama, Roddy Doyle or Irvine Welsh do the trick. It might for a critical eye, almost academic, to see how a particular writer builds plots or conflict, taking notes on things I like and dislike. You get the picture. I imagine you, reading, are not too dissimilar.

Also like you, I’m also sold on reviews and a great synopsis. They’re sometimes better written than the books themselves. They hook you and leave you fixed. I sit there before my Kindle buying countless electronic books. I’ve amassed an amount which I’m struggling to get through. Addiction makes the mind do illogical things. I know I shouldn’t go to the Amazon Kindle store, but I do. I shouldn’t click buy, but I do. I know I shouldn’t give tax-dodger Jeff Bezos my hard-earned cash, but I do. I should just write my own book, but I need to get off my lazy arse and build a healthy writing habit.

I’m reading four books at once. The main one to hand is David Copperfield, the 700+ page Charles Dickens epic. A weight in my bag, I can tell you. It’s almost a project within itself, just to read it, let alone write something like that. I began reading it in 2013 but I needed to put it down and read something else for a while. A break or respite period. About 200 pages I read. Not even half. It’s dense but fascinating vocabulary is a workout for the mind, though not always a refreshing one. The pace is slow, making it laborious. When I put it down five years ago, I wasn’t brave enough to pick it back up. I wanted something else to massage the mind; not give it a tumor. And it has sat there, since, taunting me (“Read me. Pussy.”). It doesn’t help that the edition I have looks black and sincere, which kind of goes with the tone of the narrative. If I struggle with a book, think it’s shit or not enjoying it, I’ve no problem in dropping it. Life’s too short.

How I chose David Copperfield was quite different from previous books I’ve chosen. It was that all important first paragraph, depth and strength of the entrance that made you know you were going on a verge into Copperfield’s life. It’s almost a memorable quote, although I can’t remember how I came across it. For some reason it’s something in relation to a Family Guy episode.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. To begin my life with the beginning of my life, I record that I was born (as I have been informed and believe) on a Friday, at twelve o’clock at night. It was remarked that the real clock began to strike, and I began to cry, simultaneously. Go for

Here’s your chance to tell us how you choose the books you read. What inspired you to go for the current book you’re reading? Do you choose books like I do?

Write your answers in the comments section.

Cabbages and Kings by O. Henry – part two

Dear readers,

Humans. We never seem to learn, do we? Look back over human history and there’s never been a period of total world peace. There’s always been a military conflict of some form on the planet, yet we never learn from it, despite all the promises to never return to such destruction and hate. Take the two world wars. The First World War was labelled “the war to end all wars”, then a couple of decades later the same countries throughout most of Europe kicked off again.

Don’t get me wrong. There are billions of nice people over the planet. Different races, politics, backgrounds, all doing their part to get by, survive, or more ambitiously, make an impact. There are also many intelligent and smart individuals. Just look at the wonder inventions (some great, some catastrophic), landing on the moon, cell phones, cures for once deadly diseases, amongst many others. Yet we are collectively a bit stupid, aren’t we?

My A-level English teacher taught me that at Bournville College of Further Education. His name was Clive and he had a curly haired perm and was a charismatic pessimist. There were four of us in the class who most the time he enjoyed winding us up by bringing up what we thought were nonesense philosophies, but he what he aimed for was to debate articulately and explain why he was wrong. Clive had an answer to everything, so he was often to quick and smart for us to prove him wrong. This class came about while studying an anthology of poems by Wilfred Owen. One of which was The Anthem of Doomed Youth, if I remember correctly. Yet this argument stuck with me because I agreed with him and still do, and it links in with Cabbages and Kings, and proves why we humans never learn.

Before I delve into my theory, I want to underline how much I enjoyed the book, mainly for the narrative wit, which charms and absurds and flows, keeping you hooked. O. Henry has fast become one of my favourite writers, and his style is one I may mimic in the future. His dialogue and description reminds me of James Michener, talking of goings on in the town, but more in a swashbucking kind of way. As mentioned in part one for my Cabbages and Kings review, the book consists of a group of short stories which interwine and come together in the end. Some are poignant, some are silly, but you get to taste the atmosphere and emotion in the town at the time. The book is also based on O. Henry’s time in Trujillo in Northern Honduras during the Banana Republic at the turn of the 19th/20th century, although he calls Honduras the “Republic of Anchuriain the book He was apparently there hiding from the US taxing authorities. The details I don’t know and will spare you.

I also enjoyed it for a romantic reason, or rather an emotive factor, in that I read it a couple of weeks before going to Trujillo myself. It wasn’t the first time. I had gone in 2013 with my Spanish friend Nacho and Mariela and fell in love with the place.

It’s a sleeply and relaxing haven which is kind of the last major town before you reach La Mosquitia. A rich concoction of different cultures, whether it be Spanish, Garifuna, Pech or North American, many realtors, many fishermen, many farmers, many shooting the breeze. People flock there for the beaches, resembling closest thing to paradise, especially if you take a short stroll to the west of Trujillo. The clouds permanently hang over the tropical forests immediately behind the town, but the sun seems to permanently shine, with a delightful afternoon breeze which burns all gringos and Chele’d Europeans not accustomed to the sun. The water is warm and clean, which feels like swimming in a sea of delicate rum, and you can walk out among the sandbanks which go out for kilometers. Talking of rum, the town roars of history, much of which involves pirates. It’s also one of the first places the Spanish touched down when they landed in the New World. It’s hard to know if the Christopher Columbus came to Trujillo. The cannons at the Santa Barbara Fort stick out on the hillside over the principle beaches. That hillside has some of the best sea-views I have had the joy of experiencing in my 38 years, though. Despite their threat, the town saw many pirate invasions and revolutions. Trujillo was also one of the focal ports during the Banana Republic. On that note, let’s return to the book.

Why was I going on about why people never learn? Well, as you might have read in the media (and on this blog) in the last few months, about elections, corrupt politicians, the US interfering with politics in other countries…well, this was all happening back 130 odd years ago. Almost direct replicas, of stir ups and protests. It’s uncanny and weird. I’m not calling the local people stupid or allowing this; it’s the politicians. The Juan Orlandos and Mel Zelayas, the continued abuse and pilfering of public funds which disables the country’s development. The same things and the powerful elite, from left and right, too short-sighted and hungry for power to actually introduce a sustainable development for the majority, which left me sad yet amused while reading it.

President Losada—many called him Dictator—was a man whose genius would have made him conspicuous even among Anglo-Saxons, had not that genius been intermixed with other traits that were petty and subversive. He had some of the lofty patriotism of Washington (the man he most admired), the force of Napoleon, and much of the wisdom of the sages. These characteristics might have justified him in the assumption of the title of “The Illustrious Liberator,” had they not been accompanied by a stupendous and amazing vanity that kept him in the less worthy ranks of the dictators.

A ghostly familiar description one might give for the current president, Juan Orlando Hernández often accused of being a dictator, or at least a quasi-dictator, using his military arm to keep the country in check, while getting support from the US.

After the ineffectual revolt against the administration of President Losada, the country settled again into quiet toleration of the abuses with which he had been charged. In Coralio old political enemies went arm-in-arm, lightly eschewing for the time all differences of opinion.

Reminds me of Honduras now, after the riots and flare-ups, the Hondurans return to their daily lives, putting up with the abuses of politicians, such as the recent scandal of the former president’s Pepe Lobo’s ex wife who was accused of wiring public funds to her personal account. People seem resigned to it. There might be a protest or a march, but people will get on with their daily lives, not knowing what to do.

The book is littered with passages like these, which left me banging my head against a wall, like I mentioned previously, in sadness and amusement, almost doing a waltz together.

I enjoyed it though. All of it. I judge books about how well I remember them, the impact and emotion they smack me with. The writing styles can often be great but the plots do nothing for me. This had a bit of everything.

I recommend Cabbages and Kings to all Hondurans or anyone coming to the country, especially in the northern areas. It’s informative and entertaining. One of my favourite books about this fascinating country. And despite it being written some 100 years ago, it holds much relevance today.