Monday, October 29, 2007

Lucky Escape

This BBC report tells of cars crashing to avoid an 82-year-old woman, who was driving north in the southbound fast lane of the M6 in Cumbria yesterday evening.

Guess where we were yesterday evening...

Friday, October 26, 2007

It Ain't Getting Any Better...

The small girl hurt her leg on a tube slide yesterday, but they didn't work out that it was broken until this afternoon, nearly twenty-four hours later (we had another bad night). That being said, there was no swelling, no bruising, no deformation - nothing to indicate a break. They were convinced that it was just soft tissue damage until they x-rayed, and said, 'Oh, that's quite a nasty fracture...'

This afternoon took us on a trip to Raigmore (hospital in Inverness) for the application of a groin-to-toe plaster cast. She's not yet three, poor little thing.

Baby's still teething.

Haven't had much chance to write.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spot the Ptarmigan

Herewith a picture of a cottage in the Highlands. Not the one we're staying in, but one that probably doesn't have WiFi.

Actually, I have stayed in this cottage. It is called Bailead Beag (chose your own spelling), and I spent a week there during my first ever holiday.

The little building on the right was the pump house for getting water from the burn. It was the summer of 1976...

My parents, bless them, were rather thrown by this. But, hey, no water just added to the rustication (the cottage had no electricity either), and the good folk of Newtonmore brought us water in milk churns every day for a week.

The mountain behind is Creag Dubh (2,500'), and I climbed it with my Dad. I was really quite small, and I remain proud of that achivement to this day.

This time we are staying in Boat of Garten, a little way down the strath. I am sitting in front of a log fire, drinking Trade Winds, a fine ale from the Cairngorm Brewery. With each sip I am transported back to the bar of the Cairngorm Gliding Club, at Feshiebridge (where we usually stay), and where I have ill-spent many, many happy hours of my life.

I have children now, and I do more sensible things like walking in the mountains and photographing the wildlife... How many ptarmigan can you see?

Friday, October 19, 2007

Escape to the Highlands

I have been struggling to get another batch of submissions off before going to Scotland tomorrow. Needless to say, with all the strife from my supposed-to-be-very-part-time-work, I've done neither writing nor editing for over a week. I've been hoping that an internet-free cottage in the Highlands will give me the excuse I need to ignore everything else. I can't do any horrible-hosting work, can't research, can't go blogging. I'll have all evening just to write. I might have to eat something, I suppose, but that's about it.

Unfortunately, not only did I not find time to write during the last ten days, I didn't find time to book an internet-free cottage in the Highlands either. I started phoning round this afternoon (yep, a mere twenty-four hours before we plan to leave home), and now understand why everyone gets so narked about school-holiday-restricted holidays. Some places have been booked up for a year.

Well, I found one eventually. It has all the mod cons: washer, dryer, disher, microwave, DVD, HiFi,

Okay, so a non-internet-free cottage in the Highlands is better than none at all; but, if you catch me blogging, slap my hand, and send me back to work.

Monday, October 15, 2007

A Weekend Off

Saturday morning was spent, after less than five hours sleep, trying to get myself and three small children ready for Niece's wedding.

Fifteen minutes before we were due to leave Husband appeared from his cave (the garage), still wearing his jeans and shirt with the worn collar.

Ten minutes later he reappeared in a suit, pressed shirt, polished shoes, brushed hair and trimmed beard - and he had put away his jeans.

We left late (my fault), and we had to go back because I had forgotten to put on my necklace (the necklace I had spent a whole morning shopping for).

It was worth it. The wedding was great. Niece had arranged a kiddies' table where they could draw, make necklaces (perhaps I hadn't needed to go back after all), and play with various games. It was a stroke of genius, and we enjoyed ourselves all the more because the kids were happy.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The Bad Day Continues

Having had a really Bad Morning, following on from yesterday's really Bad Day, I discovered the cat had been sick under my desk (right where I put my feet).

He was getting his own back for my refusing to let him sleep on my keyboard yesterday evening (while I was working). As well as wanting to get on with some surfing work, I felt that the computer has had its share of small creatures recently (see here), so the cat got turfed off. He's not a bright animal, and he got many flying lessons before he got the message.

Did I discover this afternoon's offering before putting my feet in place? You can choose, according to your sensitivities.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Wanna know how to procrastinate...?

-------------------------------------------...ask a four-year-old at bedtime.

Having had a really Bad Day out there in the real world of trying to run a web-hosting business (the other thing I do when the kids are napping), I have now sat down at my desk to write (humph).

The children went to bed at seven, as usual, but the small boy is still padding about, going to the loo, washing his hands ("Mummy, the soap thingy's run out"), looking for a towel (although there's one on the radiator), fetching a cup of water (from the tap in the kitchen because the one upstairs is too tight for him to turn on) putting out Penguin to take for Show & Tell tomorrow...

The conversation will go like this:
--"Mummy, I just need—"
--"Going, Mummy."

I can't be angry with him, though. I know where he gets it from...ahem.

Ask Sally

Sally Quillford has opened a new section to her blog: Ask Sally, where the lady with 41 hits already this year, gives the rest of us some worthy advice on how to (and how not to) do it.

Already (and she only started at 07:38 this morning) she has covered:
1. Timing Submissions
2. Using Brand Names.

I, for one, am deeply glad to see this new feature. I will not have to sit, fingers hovering uncertainly over the keybaord, as I begin to type: "Dear Sally, I'm really sorry to bother you again, but I wonder if you'd be prepared to answer another question for me..."

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Masterly Procrastination

Yesterday morning Jane pitched up with a short story for me to proof. This is an honour, I tell myself, despite the fact that Jane's idea of "short" is anything under 20,000 words.

We tried to discuss some of the salient points this afternoon, but with six kids trashing her lounge we were forced to postpone until this evening. We susequently spent an hour and a half on the phone some films with Dustin Hoffman in, Peter Hall's 1989 production of The Merchant of Venice, the way BBC News 24 insists on making news out of nothing, the moronic nature of Jeremy Vine's presentation style, oh, and her story (and why I was looking for it in the fridge).

Having finally sat down to do some work, all I can think about is that, apart from finishing this story (my ambition for this evening), I have yet to load the dishwasher, put some washing in the tumble dryer, put the bins out, get the cat in, feed the baby, go to bed, and sleep, all before six-thirty tomorrow morning.

So, it's sleep or story, and I know which one's gonna win.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Block, Baby & Banana

Still struggling with my reluctant shorty.

Womagwriter suggested a bit of alcoholic lubrication so, having finally run out of chocolate, I poured myself a beer late (very late) last night. I must admit that it had some effect - although whether good or bad I have yet to tell. In pursuit of consistent results, I thought it best to repeat the experiment this evening... and perhaps tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I am being distracted by ideas for the next story. I know I should dump the one I'm working on and get on with the one that shouts the loudest, but I'm trying to be disciplined about this, which is difficult; the alcochol is interfering somewhat.

I try to write whenever I can, but I have a policy of not working while the kids are around. This means that I really only get the evenings, or when the small boy is at school and the little people are napping.

Having taken advantage of one such opportunity this afternoon (resulting in 300 words), my laptop was sitting, screen still open, on the dining room table at tea time. I had just popped a spoonful into the baby's mouth when she sneezed, covering my keyboard with mashed banana and/or snot.

I subsequently made a bargain with the computer: I promised to keep it away from sticky fingers, banana, and the contents of the baby's nose, in exchange for it refusing to open emails or websites that have nothing to do with research.

This evening, I managed a grand total of 75 words before discovering that only one of us is keeping to this bargain.

I guess I'll have to stick to the beer.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Do we all make the same typos?

I'm not just talking about misspelling here, but the genuine slips of the fingers that generate the same mistakes over and over again.

Do you stop and correct typos as you go along, or can you bear to leave them there until you edit?

Here are my most frequent errors:
SHe siad it was juts the smae int he hosue as befroe, nad she didn;t liek it.

What are yours?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Arrrrgh. Sticky Fingers.

Never, ever, give a four-year-old honey on his toast, and then say,

'Yes, of course you can play on my computer.'

Even if he swears he's cleaned his hands first.
Four-year-old-boy handwashing standards are not really up to mine.

And I know this.

Book Meme

Okay, here we go...

Total Number of Books
Erm, had to get the tape measure out for this one: about 20-yards - is that an acceptable unit of measurement? I have no idea what the actual number is. We have three floor-to-ceiling bookcases in the study, with some doubled-up. There are also two smaller book cases in the same room, plus the pile in the bedroom, plus the pile on the sitting-room windowsill, and so on. My father's study has more than that on just one wall (and that's just one room), so I know where I get it from.

Last Book Read
Watching the English, by Kate Fox, a hilarious anthropological look at the unwritten rules of Englishness. She starts the book explaining that she has just spent the morning bumping into people (and counting the number who said 'sorry'), and that she is about to spend the afternoon queue-jumping, and how she really doesn't want to do this. I nodded, and chuckled my way right through this book. I am very much hoping that she will produce a study of the Scots, Welsh and Irish, too.

Last Book Bought
The Great Big Glorious Book for Girls, by Rosemary Davidson and Sarah Vine. This is a wonderful celebration of all things girly, and contains much of the vital information I missed out on, having had a career-orientated mother. It explains how to bake fairy cakes, apply make-up, sew, etc., and is a marvellous antidote for political correctness.

Five Meaningful Books
1. The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkein
I can remember lying awake in the dark, when I was supposed to be asleep, listening to my father read this book to my older sister on the other side of the room. Not being able to see the illustrations, my imagination conjured its own pictures of Middle Earth and its inhabitants, and these are the images I carry with me still.

2. Barney Blue Eyes, by Mabel Marlowe
The first book I can remember my father reading to me. A collection of short stories about Barney the copper-gnome, and his friends, Humpy, Grump, Bumble, Lazy Lob, Mumble, Dobble, and Jingle (I might have missed someone here). The tales chart their exploits both in and out of the copper mines where they work. It was first published in 1934, and I know that the stories were, at some stage, broadcast on Children's Hour.

3. Jonathan Livingstone Seagull, by Richard Bach
Read it! I cannot begin to explain!

4. Tess of the D'Urbervilles, by Thomas Hardy
I studied this book for O-level which, you might think, would put me off for life. True, I haven't read it since (I haven't needed to), but it made me aware, as a teenager, just how unfair life is.

5. Quaker Faith & Practice
Known amongst Friends as 'The Red Book', this is presented to all Quakers when they join. Rather than the dogma one might expect from a religious organisation, it is, in fact, a collection of notes, many taken from personal experience, to help guide one through the many and varied difficulties of life. Invaluable at times of crisis.

Now, I can't tag anyone else to do this, as all the bloggers I read have already completed it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Tools of the Trade

Jane's been trying to email her biography and photo for the competition in which she was placed. Being a technophobe, this has proved to be rather difficult.

'I sent it,' she said. 'But they say it hasn't arrived.'
We go through the it still in the drafts folder, the sent folder, the trash? But no. The whole thing, attachments and all, has completely vanished into the ether.

Now, Jane's a genius when it comes to writing plots (making cakes, designing cards, etc.), but does she understand computers? No. Both she and my husband come from school of thought that believes that computers should just do what you want them to do. You shouldn't have to understand how to work them.

Wasn't it the case that when cars were new, you either needed considerable mechanical skills before daring to leave home, or you employed someone to drive it, and mend it, for you? And wasn't it the same with computers? In 1980, you needed a degree in programming to make a computer perform the most simple function. Now, as with cars, we're all just expected to be able to work them, and anyone who can't is seen a being a bit, well, dim. But it's not fair, is it?

Not everyone is cut out for scuba diving, or stamp collecting, and we can choose whether or not to be involved in these activities; but cars, and computers...they're pretty much de rigueur these days.

You only have to look at some folk's driving skills to see that they should still be employing chauffeurs. And the likes of my husband should never be let near a computer. If he had actually thrown a laptop out of the window as many times as he has threatened to, I would no longer have a view - and nor would our neighbours.

But could he survive without it? He would be a junkie in withdrawal. There would be the shakes, the irritability, the unpredictable behaviour...Mmm.

I wonder, how many creative people struggle with the technology that was invented to help them, and how many don't bother with it at all?
And is it the fault of the individual that he or she struggles, or the designer?

When we really do have computers that respond to the command, "Computer, send photo no.34 to the competition organiser," Jane and my husband will be fighting each other for a place at the head of the queue.