Child: “I’m trying!” Caretaker: “You’ll have to try harder!”

Caretaker: “Come Along!

Child (sixty years later): “I’ll do it in my own good time.

Child: “I’m trying!” “I really am trying!

Caretaker (grimly, and with heavy sarcasm that is not lost on the child: “Yes, you really are trying…”


“If at first you don’t succeed, try try again.”

But staying at that task all day: it gives me so much pain.

The others have gone home by now, yet I am not yet succeeding

in getting there as perfectly as I thought you were needing.

If at first you don’t succeed, sit back and take a rest;

or go and have a little play; some exercise is best;

or out into the freshest air, or basking in the sun;

or time out on the norty step, when forty, forty-one.

If at first you don’t succeed, O please don’t call it “failure”,

nor brand your self a failure too, lest O, that failure ail you,

pursue you through the corridors of harshest, high, depressions

to places where you’ll need to call on higher intercessions.

If at first you don’t succeed, O pray not turn your back

forever on the task ahead, thus building up your lack.

When you have rested, eased, refreshed, or basked in autumn sun:

“I choose to try again to chance at what I left undone.”

If at first I don’t succeed, I need not hide in shame;

Or if I do, well, that’s okay. I shrug off any blame.

I do not need to “get it right” at first nor last attempt

And “perfect finish”? Not required. I mess up. I’m unkempt.

If – as First – I don’t succeed, then thank the Lord for that!

(I mean, The Lord of [Frank] Misrule. My only caveat.)

Please recognise my fear of this, and hunger, thirst and greed

for freedom now to break the rules, and not to be The First.

Copyright Kathy Labrum McVittie    19 January 2021

A long time ago, in what feels like another life and maybe is, I posted an essay (from the French: essayer = to try out) about practice, a word that covers a range of meanings and, indeed, spelling (c for the noun, s for the verb).

{It is the only post on this site for which I have any evidence that any of my blood family read my blog. On that occasion my eldest surviving sister left a reply, of which our father (a stickler for correct spelling, and indeed for appropriate pronunciation) would have been proud.}

Reading practise – practice again (which you don’t have to do, and you can if you wish), I am noticing two facts:


My fascination with “parts of speech” – a legacy of English Grammar lessons (with Mr Lewis) at Newton Primary School, Chester.

Using a book called ‘A First Aid in English’. There I will have come across the classification of words into Nouns, Verbs, Adjectives, which extended as time went on, to embrace Adverbs, Prefixes, Pronouns, and Conjugations.

At eleven, my sister Sue and I moved school 180 miles away, to Hatfield Girls’ Grammar. where the family of “Parts of Speech” expanded (first by compulsory French, and then for the more academically able girls via German or Latin lessons. Those who were in “bottom division” for French (we were streamed by ability just for Maths and French) did Classical Studies. [I shuddered at the idea of that, only to realise in my forties – reading Greek myths with my son – what I had missed].

Thus, since German and Latin learning embraces the concept of “declining” nouns and “conjugating” verbs, we were encouraged to embrace a new linguistic vocabulary. I came across complex tenses, prepositions, adjectival phrases, participles.

But of gerunds, beloved of (or hated by) the fictional character Molesworth of St Custard’s (of whom I may write another day) were yet – like public schools (i.e..private schools to those in USA) off my radar.

I digress. You are getting used to that by now


I’ve already forgotten what that was, although it was something to do with the titles that I have been using for writing our way whole: at home. most of them take the form of at home: something-ing. Is that a “present participle”? an adjectival phrase? both? And is today’s “trying” an adjective (as in “she was a trying child”) or part of a participle (as in “she is trying to come top” – I could try to give that up for Lent.)

In March 2020, I posted an as-yet un-numbered opener – the week before #1 (which is in many ways my favourite as it is pictorial as well as verbose, and coaxes you, or should I say us, towards graphic outcomes rather than garrulous ones (speaking for myself here).).

So, at number 40 of this series, I offer this appreciation of each of you silent companions, and especially those who’ve Replied, Commented, Followed, Liked or contacted me privately.

On what has been a rather clunky blog, unchanged in structure since 2015 (& watch this space for development in 2021)

Thank you for staying for so long, or for dropping by occasionally. I do this for you – and mostly for me.

And I shall continue inviting you to join me in writing our way whole, although developmentally (adverb) ; that is, with an eye towards evolutionary change (adverbial phrase). Not only in the layout and the titles, but also with an evolving content. Including (since I am – after all – a biologist) work inspired by Charles Darwin.

Meanwhile here is a January hybrid betweem BrainDump and GoldenThreadwork, and see you in February!

Dip and dive

Take one ThoughtBook, one or more writing tools (think colour), and take any or all of these line openers for a walk:

 ... but if I were to try very hard, I could ... 
... if I were to try less hard, I could ... 

... if I try to let go, I can ...

If I stop trying, I ...

Oooh I'll just try a corner of that, said ...

Trials and tribulations, cry-alls and crib-ulations ...

In those days there was no try-before-you-buy, so ...

Appreciation practice

~ for you to write your own, before mine

Today I am grateful for:




Today I’m grateful for:

~ an unexpected and warm message from my new friend

~ a Dipper ( like a Blackbird with a dapper white bib) at the Clynemilton Burn

~ crocuses emerging in Cambridgeshire

Copyright Jim McVittie 19 January 2021

Further resources

The above sentiment “I do this for you – and mostly for me”, I have borrowed from this:

I make photographs and poems to please myself (and share them to please you).

on the photographic blog of my friend Murray Robertson in Canada.

Murray has a very different style, and some of his pictures and poems are extraordinary.

Go, find! Enjoy!