Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Baz Luhrmann's Australia, A Review

In attempt to go one better than Helenmh's six-word film reviews (my favourite was of Mamma Mia, for which she wrote: "Colin Firth with no shirt on"), here is my two-word review of Baz Luhrmann's new blockbuster, Australia:

Whew Jackman!

Or, if you would prefer the full six words: "Hugh Jackman gets his kecks off" (or "Daniel Craig, eat your heart out"). And if you would prefer an intelligent review, I'm sorry.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Awards Awards!

I am really honoured this week; I have two more awards!

Really chuffed to have come third in DJK's Wordless Wednesday competition this week (see right). For those who are not familiar with Wordless Wednesday, I heartily recommend a visit to DJ's blog, Chez Aspie, where her weekly caption-competition brings a plethora of high-class entries (including mine, of course. Obviously). Get yours in too!

My other award is from JJ, who thinks my blog is fabulous. Well, thank you, JJ, and thank you for the challenge of naming five obsessions (the task attached to the award). Now, those who know me well will realise how difficult this challenge is for me, because I am not, in any way, an obsessive person. If I were, however, I think my obsessions would be:

• saving money (I have the bankers* to thank for this one)
• being on time
• loading the dishwasher in a certain way
• not hoarding (the current replacement for my hoarding obsession)
• not being obsessive
  * Feel free to translate into rhyming slang.

The Rules for receiving the above award are:
1. Copy and paste the rules and instructions into your post.
2. Post the award, and a link to the person who gave it to you.
3. Post five of your addictions.
4. Post five winners and link to them as well.
5. Inform your winners by commenting on their blogs.

So, my winners are: SallyQ, Karen, Trousers, B, Tom Foolery, and Zinnia.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Superior Scribbler Award

The lovely DJ Kirkby has given me this marvellous award. I am very honoured to be thus endowed by the illustrious DJK, but also to be thought of as a Superior Scribbler - especially as I have not been doing much scribbling of late.

Additionally, DJ's timing could not have been better: I went on a Della course with Helen yesterday, and I couldn't recommend it highly enough. I came away glowing with ideas. Subsequently, showing Helen my writing software and pictures of my main novel-characters made me miss the world in which I was once so deeply buried. And it's been a crap year, and I am keen for it to end on a positive note. So, thank you, DJ. I am truly inspired to start writing again and be worthy of this award!

So, the first thing I must do is pass it on to: womagwriter (if she's sobered up enough to receive it without falling off the stage), Helen (because her writing is so beautiful), JJ (because she deserves it), Calistro (because she's an inspiration), and Spiral Jen and Lane (because they use their writing to make other people laugh). So, here you are, girls. Enjoy it. Pass it on.

The Rules
1. Every superior scribbler must name other super scribblers.
2. Link back to the author and the name of the blog that gave you the award.
3. Display the award and link to this post, which explains the award.
4. Add your name to the Mr Linky List, some way down this page, as a record of who the superest scribblers are.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

I used to be lethargic, but I can't be bothered anymore...

In fact, having shaken myself out of a long-term stupor, I find I can be bothered to do all sorts of things.

Today, with a certain degree of motivation, I finally switched various suppliers/tariffs - having known for years that we were probably paying too much for some services. From January/February 2009, I will be saving £50 a month on electricity, £15 a month on my mobile (including a extra fiver off for suggesting a move to Orange), £25 a month on the home phone, and £5 a month on broadband. That's...er...£85 a month saved...

I'm a bit gobsmacked, actually.

Are you a super service-switcher, or a lethargic lazy-lumpkin?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

And I Never Knew the Revenue had a Sense of Humour

You might have seen this already, but if you haven't, I just have to share it with you... on Mark Lee's blog, Accountant Jokes and Fun.
I'm still smiling.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Lost in Translation!

The Welsh text reads:
"I am not in the office at the moment. Please send any work to be translated."

Taken from the BBC.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

An Award!

The adorable Helenmh has presented me with this super award... on the condition that I answer all the questions that go with it:
1. Where is your mobile? In my back pocket.
2. Where is your significant other? In the kitchen making himself an omelette
3. Your hair colour? Yes, I still have some colour
4. Your mother? Dead
5. Your father? A great friend
6. Your favorite thing? Beer
7. Your dream last night? Oooh, ooh, it was a really vivid one about... errrrm... I can't remember.
8. Your dream/goal? To have three happy children
9. The room you're in? Study
10. Your hobby? Sleeping (when I get the chance)
11. Your fear? Serious health problems
12. Where do you want to be in six years? In a happy place
13. Where were you last night? At home
14. What you're not? Teetotal
15. One of your wish-list items? A tidy house
16. Where you grew up? In a not-very-nice town
17. The last thing you did? Eat chocolate
18. What are you wearing? Jeans and a hoodie (plus a full compliment of underwear)
19. Your TV? Very small and very old
20. Your pets? Three guineas, three chickens, three children & a husband
21. Your computer? iBook
22. Your mood? Reasonable
23. Missing someone? My cat
24. Your car? Black gangsta car
25. Something you're not wearing? Makeup
26. Favourite shop? The Apple Store
27. Your summer? Scottish
28. Love someone? My kids, always
29. Your favorite color? Orange
30. When was the last time you laughed? This afternoon - with some riotous friends
31. Last time you cried? This afternoon (with laughter - see previous entry)

I'd like to pass on this award to: B, Spiral, Trousers, JJ, and Womag.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

On Mountains and Muppetry

I climbed a mountain today.

I had until the baby woke up from her lunchtime nap to get back to the cottage, and so I had to climb it in record time. That wasn't as hard as it sounds because, although it was a bloody big mountain, I was on my own.

I've climbed that particular mountain: while pregnant with the small boy; while pregnant with the small girl; carrying the small boy on my back; carrying the small girl on my front (see photo); carrying the small girl on my back whilst pushing the small boy in the buggy. Today, I carried nothing more than a bottle of water, and that was much easier. (Easier still was taking the funicular down; baby's nap time and all that.)

When I got back to the carpark, I thought "Oh, look. There's another car exactly like mine." I did think it a bit odd that there should be one exactly like mine parked so very close. But I knew it was somebody else's, because the door was wide open...


Soooo, my advice is, if you're going to leave your car unlocked at a popular tourist spot, make sure you leave the door open too, because no owner would be such a muppet to be any distance away, thus the car thieves will leave it alone...

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Warning: Another Rant

This time, we're talking phone companies. In particular: Vodafone.

Himself is in the wilds of Scotland. His mobile tariff was due to end, and he was required to call them with his sim number in order to move to a new tariff. So far so easy. He called them, gave the necessary information. The chappy said "I'm just switching you now", and the line went dead. So, I got a call from pissed-off husband (from a payphone - he had 20p) telling me that his sim was now showing 'invalid', and would I please call Vodafone and sort it out.


The first moron I spoke to said she couldn't deal with me as it would be illegal to make any changes to my husband's account without his permission. "But you already have," I said."You didn't have his permission to invalidate his sim." But she wouldn't budge. She needed to speak with him, she said, and him alone, despite the fact that he is currently inhabiting the northern wilds with a non-working phone (and absolutely no inclination to stand in a freezing phone box feeding 20ps into the slot while waiting for someone to put down his cup of tea down long enough to answer the bloody phone.). I suggested telepathy, but she didn't see the funny side. In fact she didn't see my side of it at all, and put the phone down. (Though that might have been because I shouted at her).

The second moron was a bit more helpful. She was quite prepared to act illegally (huh?), but when I read her the number that himself had given me from the back of his sim card, she said it didn't exist, and that she couldn't do anything without the number from his actual sim, the one in his actual phone...

I won't bore you with the rise and fall of my temper (mostly rising) over the following hour, only to say that that was how long it took for absolutely nothing to happen. Husband is still stranded in the northern wilds without a phone. Fortunately, he is stranded within inches of a bar populated by rather a lot of our mates (and he's not actually stranded). I told him he can deal with it.

PlusNet has entered my consciousness by trying to charge me a cancellation fee for cancelling a service I reckon they didn't provide: 48kps anyone? Call that broadband? I don't.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Blogoversary Day!

How different things were when I wittered writted my first blog post in September last year. I felt very isolated in my study, but at the same time bemoaned the advice that I should 'get out there and meet other writers'. With three little children (the youngest only six months at the time) the only place I get out to was the playground, and there aren't many other writers there.

Now, a year on, I have made some very special friends - many of whom I hope to know for life. I have been on two writing courses, two Novel Racers' meets, and I am heading up to London on [edited to read...] Thursday for my second book-launch (though not actually my book, you understand). I make time for myself now, because these are things I really want to do... for myself. Thus blogging, and the world to which it has introduced me, has changed the way I live.

I used to think that blogging was an idle/frivolous pastime of absolutely no value; but, I've changed my mind. I have learned that with the right motivation and support (which might not be available locally), one can find new energy and inspiration.

I would like to take this opportunity to say THANK YOU to all you, who read and comment on my posts. I have also generated a new award (see right) to say an extra big thank you to some of those who made me so welcome in my first few days (and who have stayed with me): SallyQ, Calistro, Helenmh, JJ, Spiral Jen and Womagwriter.

Do you have blogmates who supported your early blogging? Please feel free to give them this award.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Warning: Rant Alert

The baby has been playing with the hoover switch this morning, while I've been trying to hoover - thus I am in ranting mood. However, toddlers are just having fun, whereas this lot have no excuses:
1. People parking on the pavement (thus blocking it), because they're too damn lazy to walk the extra 50 yards from the carpark.
2. People parking in parent/disabled spaces because they're too damn lazy to walk the extra 50 yards, etc.
3. Call-centre morons telling you that you'll have to 'put that in writing', because although they're happy to take your order (and your money) over the phone, they're completely incapable of taking your cancellation over the phone. Probably can't spell cancellation.
4. Teenagers on supermarket checkouts who zap your shopping through at 100-items a second, and hold their hands out for the money while you still have the European food mountain in front of you. And then, they put on this face that says: "Would you like help with your packing now?"
5. The dog-owner who says "Oh, he won't hurt you," as his fat labrador knocks your small child flying into a bed of nettles/brambles.

What gets your goat?

And a big thank you to all my widget visitors, many of whom I've been magicked to already. I'll be popping by to say hello to everyone else soon.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Widget Visitors

Hello to all widget visitors! It would be great if you'd leave a comment to say that you came by, and if you can remember, I'd love to know what choices you made to get here!

(For widget addicts - there is one just below in the sidebar - happy deciding.)

Edit: I can't believe someone made me choose between Daniel Craig and Colin Firth!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Location Location

Some of my settings are based on real places, but sometimes I change the names. In two cases, I wanted authentic croft names, but not actual croft names (i.e. houses in which people might actually be living).

The solution manifested itself by luck when I happened upon an old parish map hanging on the wall of a local pub. From that I was able to identify a number of derelict crofts, and thus select genuine-sounding names (for they were indeed genuine) without fear of upsetting anyone.

For villages and towns and cities, I generally use real names, except in the case of one particular town – which had absolutely nothing to recommend it – for which I fabricated a name, although I don't really know why.

Do you pluck your setting(s) out of your imagination, or use real places? Or both? Do you use real names too? If not, how do you go about making them up?

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Six Glorious Weeks

I am suffering from shock. In the space of two days, I went

from this...to this.

Arrived home from Scotland yesterday, after six glorious weeks; but, less than twenty-four hours later, I don't feel as though I've been away at all. Thus, I am in a somewhat downbeat and reflective mood:

Things I missed while I was away
My induction hob and thick-bottomed pans
Functional broadband
My dictionary
Virgin Radio

Things I loved about where I was
Islay beef mince
Islay Ales (Angus Og in particular)
Everyone waving at everyone
Water so soft you could cuddle it
Big skies and big landscapes
Popping to the shop (every village has one)

Things I didn't miss
The sheer weight of traffic
Being hassled by other drivers
All the mess on my desk at home
The noisy builders working over the road
Rude people
Dead animals in the road
Chlorine in the water
Any fine weather (from what I heard)

Things I didn't love
Having to come home.

Have you been away this summer?
What did you like/dislike about your holiday?

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Awards & Away No More

JJ, that lovely lady over in Bangkok, has not only sent me some fabby flavoured lip balms (cola cola and lemon soda), she has given me a friendship award too! Thank you JJ! This is just what I need to cheer me up, as we leave for the south this morning. It's bye bye to the mountains, and hello to the M25...oh joy. At least I'll get to say hello to my sister and Helenmh on the way, so it's not all bad.

I need to pass on this award, but I am leaving now (this minute), so I'll post again when I get home.
I hope you can stand the suspense.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Isle of Colonsay

Today we visited Colonsay (pop. 100). There was so much to do – hills to climb, beaches to play on, beers to sample, mesolithic shell mounds to visit – that we’re just going to have to go back for a longer stay.

Herewith some piccies:

My arch nemesis Alan Jenkins - spotted at in the queue for the Jura ferry this morning.

The approach into Scalasaig, main population centre of Colonsay.

The most expensive fuel in the UK? (and, apparently, sold 'not for profit'...)

The small boy said his favourite part of the day was “going to the beach and getting soaked.”

Not looking forward to the school run next week...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Having the Best Time

Apologies for absence. I've been working quite hard, catching up with friends all over Scotland, doing tons of stuff with the kids, and just chilling out (i.e. reading books and watching the Olympics). Just come back from a long weekend on Skye with friends, followed by a drive through Glen Torridon on the way home. I think the photos say it all:

The Cullin, Skye.

The ridge above Staffin, north east Skye.

The hills of Torridon (on the mainland), from Skye.

Loch Torridon.

One of Glen Torridon's peaks, as viewed through the sunroof.

A rather distracting rear-view of Glen Torridon.

Loch Maree (and Kinlochewe) from the east.

It was just fab, and great source of story ideas!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Big Wide Open Spaces

Well, we survived the journey, despite yet another motorist on the M1 trying to smash his way through to the other carriageway. His accident occurred at almost exactly the same spot as the accident we witnessed in May (also on the way to Scotland), and, it must be said, as the accident in which my mother and I were involved in 1986. I think someone is trying to tell me something (to stick to the M40, perhaps). This time, however, there were no injuries. No hands needed to be held. And we carried on our way in awe of the severely bent, but intact, crash barrier. I really thought he was a gonner.

An hour later, and we were at Helenmh's where we finally got to meet Smudge (renamed 'Spludge' by the small girl). I thought Helen very brave to have us, considering that the small boy arrived with sick bowl in hand. But he was fine, and after a good natter and some great food, we were on our way again. We made an overnight stop at my sister's (more good food, more nattering, and a stupidly late night) before making the final push for the Highlands - only 460 miles to go, on five hours' sleep...

Three cans of Red Bull later and we pulled up outside what is now our home for six weeks. It is a tiny house (the kids are all in together), but it's really comfy, and we're loving it. It's not the inside, you see; it's the outside. There's lots of it. Lots.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Dettol & Dioralite

You can guess, can't you?

We've all had it, all five of us, in forty-eight hours. Actually, it's longer than that now, because the small boy threw up again today, over thirty-six hours after the last time (parents of other small children will understand why this is so unfair). Only this time he did it at school, at pick-up time, right in front of the assembled parents. He also managed to splat three other small children and a teacher in the process. Oh, God. [hides face in hands] I'm tired.

We leave for Scotland tomorrow. No more school now for small boy and, given that he had to take yesterday off too, we might as well have gone on Saturday... except for all the vomiting on Sunday, of course.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Have You Forgotten Something?

Do you ever get that feeling that you've left a half-finished cup of tea lying about somewhere? Or at a party, when you've put your glass down, moved away from it, and taken another glass? You never quite lose that feeling that there's something, somewhere, waiting for you.

I do it with shorties too. I think them up in my head during the school run (or whenever else I have no means of committing them to paper/silicon), and put them down somewhere while I wait for the chance to write them. I forget, of course, everything - the characters, the plot, the dialogue. The whole lot vanishes somewhere between thinking how brilliant it all is, and realising I can't remember a word. Just to make it worse, I never quite lose that feeling that I have forgotten something important. It is very erksome, and somewhat distressing.

Well, yesterday, I did it with chocolate. I put two squares of Dairy Milk down somewhere, and forgot where I left them. All afternoon and evening (school run, shopping trip, cooking, kids' bedtime, cinema) I could hear them calling (but not loudly enough for a positive location).

Well, having finally given up on them, I went to the fridge for some more, and you know what? There they were.

Some (admittedly, very small) part of my brain was actually working: I'd put the chocolate where the kids can't reach it, where it was sure not to melt, and where I'd be certain to find it again later.

If only I could be that clever with my missing shorties...

Friday, July 04, 2008

Determined - My Writing Word of the Moment

In November last year Womagwriter posted the following quote, pinched from J A Konrath’s blog:

There's a word for a writer who never gives up: Published

It struck a chord with me at the time, and even though months have gone by, this remark keeps popping into my head.

It is a welcome visitor just now. At the moment I am smothered with work, a mountain of washing, a house that is buried under five years’ (of not more) of junk, the demands of three small (but lovely) children, and endless paperwork of other people’s making. As soon as I stop to write, the whole world crashes down around me, and the result (not surprisingly) lacks lusture.

I can imagine that these are the circumstances under which people consider giving up; but I’m not. Why? Because of JAK’s remark. Because the only way to be one of the two in three thousand slush-pile survivors is to keep going. And because I don’t want them writing on my grave: “Could have made it, but didn’t try hard enough.”

What’s your 'writing word of the moment'?

I have to tell you that the highlighter is Photoshoppery; I don't want you thinking I'd do that to my beloved dictionary.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Tagged by JJ

What were you doing 10 years ago?
Loads of things. Not married. No kids. Nuff said.

Five things on your to-do list for today:
Finish reading one of Jane's shorties
Finish writing letter of complaint to dentist
Unpack stuff from weekend stay at my Dad's
Sort the washing
Write something

What are three of your bad habits?
Always being in a hurry, even when I'm running to schedule.
Spending an hour making just-a-little change to a story when I should be sorting the washing.

What would you do if you were a billionaire?

What are some snacks you enjoy?

What were the last five books you read?
You're Not the Only One, Sarah J. Peach, Ed. (in progress)
Daphne, Justine Picardie (in progress)
A Talent to Deceive, Robert Barnard - a biography of Agatha Christie (in progress)
On Edge, Dick Francis
Shattered, Dick Francis

What are five jobs you have had?
Electronic-component assembler

Five places that you have lived?
Hertfordshire (hated it)
Yorkshire (loved it)
Hampshire (bearable)
Surrey (unbearable)
Australia (er, hot)

Tags: Maddie, Helenmh, Womag, Karen, and Lucy (cos she's got nothing better to do at the moment).

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

No Time

I've realised where all my time has gone, but I'm not quite sure why it has taken me this long to work it out (perhaps because I have a Brain of Mush), but at least I have worked it out.

This time last year I had a 4yo, a 2yo, and a 3mo baby, and I was writing a shorty a week. Now that the small boy is at school, and the small girl at playgroup every day, you'd think I'd be managing a shorty every day, but no...the baby has given up her morning nap.

Sounds trivial, doesn't it. Not exactly world-stopping news. Rather boring coffee-morning-type news, in fact (and I'm talking here about mothers' coffee mornings, rather than the somewhat more interesting Novel Racers' coffee mornings).

But a year ago, when both the baby and the small girl were napping, I had ten hours a week in which I could reckon to write effectively (my brain doesn't work in the evenings). This dropped to about six hours a week, and, now, I have none.
And that's it, until the baby starts playgroup in fifteen months time.

But, you know what? In fifteen years time, I want to look back on this pre-school bit and remember it as a time I enjoyed with the kids. So often, in teashops and such places, older women come up to me (with my children) and say, 'make the most of them, they grow up so quickly', and I think, yeah, yeah, you've forgotten how hard it is; but they haven't. They just know that this is a really good bit. So, despite the six hours a day I'll get in a few years time, I'm not in a hurry for my kids to trot off to school.

Not even when I wish I could write more.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Firm Foundations

And so, whilst trying to make space for my laptop, amongst all the stuff that has crept back onto my desk, I realised that my tidying-up dominoes were all still lying along the same path, still leading to the loft.

To that end, I went back to the DIY store, and came home laden with twelve packs of tongue and groove boarding - weighing 14kg each - yes, I weighed them, after carrying the first eleven from the car to the loft - and a box of 100x no.6, 40mm wood screws (I just love dazzling you with the technicalities).

Some days later (I don't know how many; I lost all sense of time) I clambered back down the loft ladder with a painful case of housemaid's knee, builder's back, and a rather wild stare; but a loft you could walk across with your eyes closed.

--Take Your Life in Your Hands--------------Boarded!

And so, I ticked another one off the list of...
Jobs to be Done in the Loft:
1. Put lights up
2. Put boards down

3. Tidy up
4. Contact builder/electricians/window people/carpet people to quote for work
5. Plasterboard loft
6. Watch builder/electrician/window people/carpet people do their jobs
7. Struggle up ladder with furniture
8. Relax with nice view over the Sussex weald, and a large glass of Merlot
9. Get writing!

Easy, I thought, on to number three. Ahem...I've been having a bit of trouble with number three. It has developed a number of sub-clauses, not apparent when I originally wrote the list:
3a. Open loft hatch
3b. Pull down ladder
3c. Climb ladder, and stick head into loft space
3d. Switch on lights
3e. Survey loft, and decide upon Tidying Order-of-Events
3f. Switch off lights
3g. Remove head from loft space, and climb back down ladder
3h. Push ladder up
3i. Close loft hatch
3j. Walk away quickly, hoping that there have been no witnesses
3k. Tell lies about how much time has been occupied by children/work/domestic chores all day
3l. Add 'Tidy Loft' to tomorrow's list of jobs

Monday, June 09, 2008

You're Not the Only One

Ah, just what I needed: A hit!

My contribution to the You're Not the Only One anthology has been included! This book has been produced by Peach, and Bloggers for Charity, for the benefit of War Child, a charity helping children in war zones.

I have done so little writing in the last six weeks, that I was beginning to wonder if I would simply drift away from it. I have not been able even to shoehorn writing time into my life recently, so full has it been with work (interesting enough) and children (marvellous) and, well, other stuff (...[insert your chosen adjective here]...). This hit has given me a tremendous boost, just as I am beginning to drag myself out of the mire.

What unusual timing...

You can buy You're Not the Only One from Lulu, by clicking on the button. (It'll offer you two copies to begin with, for print and/or download copies, so be careful when deleting one of them.)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Return to Planet Real Life

Thanks, folks, for your nice emails and comments.

The main reason for my silence has been a massive website-redesign job (100 pages + 244 supporting files), which has occupied all but three of my evenings (7pm - midnight) for the last five weeks.

Of those three evenings off, I spent one critting a short story for Jane (remember 'short' in Jane's world equals a full-length novel for the rest of us). Another evening I spent in the pub, having completely freaked out after a too-long day of rain and grumpy children. The third evening I spent in the company of Harrison Ford (oh, and about three-hundred cinema-goers, sadly).

I have also boarded the loft in the quest for a room of my own (photos to follow), and written a shorty.

Now, I'm knackered, and I need a lie down. Excuse me. I'll be back again soon.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Chilling Out

Thank you for your nice emails.
Am fine, and enjoying a little break from all things stressful.
Back soon!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Memes (Mesmes?)

I've been tagged for the Six-Word Bio. by Tam, and for the Three Things You Can't Explain to Your Mother meme by Karen (only I'm going to do it for my Dad), and the Nearest Book meme by Jumbly Girl. So here goes!

Six-Word Bio.
Weary, Tired, Drained, Pooped, Shattered, Exhausted.

I tag: anyone with the energy left to do it.

Three Things I Can't Explain to my Father
Other drivers are not able to tell that he's about to turn off, from his position in the road.
People don't understand, when he says 'portable' and 'tape', that he's talking about a laptop and a CD.
He is not now, and never will be, a burden.

Three Things my Father Can't Explain to Me
Why dogs are nicer than cats.
Why it's necessary to turn the volume right down, rather than just press mute.
What exactly it was that he did before his computer stopped working.

I tag: anyone who hasn't done it yet.

Nearest Book Meme
1. Pick up the nearest book. 2. Open to page 123. 3. Find the fifth sentence. 4. Post the next three sentences. 5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.

Er, does it really have to be the nearest book? Oh well, here goes...
Drapery Wholesalers, see: Soft furnishings Manufacturers and Wholesalers, Textile Manufacturers, Textile Warehousemen Wholesale. Draught Proofing, see: Energy Efficient Consultants and Systems, Insulation Installers. Dredging, Clearwater Dredging Ltd, 7 Greengate, Lurgashall, Petworth, (01428) 707058.


Tagged by Jumbly Girl.
Am tagging: Helenmh, TF, Liz, Womagwriter, and Sally.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sexy Trains and Committee Meetings

Saturday morning found me standing on the platform of Rugby station watching sexy Virgin trains (sleek, silver bullets with smoky windows). It was surreal. I could not equate the hoovering and toy-picking-up, which is my usual Saturday-morning pastime, with that railway smell, the feel of the wind, the hiss/whine/rumble of the trains. It was very exciting.

I love trains. I lived near a railway line as a child and the romance of travelling by rail has never left me. I'd always rather go by train than fly. That being said, south of London we have these horrid little electric jobs with double sliding doors and hard, hard seats. They stop everywhere, and are only marginally better than sitting on a rather boring fairground ride, only you don't have to keep hold of your candy floss.

But inter-city trains? Ooooh. North of Stafford we really picked up speed, thundering under the bridges and leaning into the corners. It was the closest I've been to riding a motorbike since I couldn't get into my leathers any more. We were going so fast that I half expected the guard to say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, we will shortly be beginning our descent into Crewe..."

The Novel-Racers' meet began a bit like a committee meeting, with fifteen of us sitting around a large square (black) table. It was only when someone suggested that, as no one had brought an agenda, perhaps we should get the drinks in. And so, we drank (varying amounts), we ate, but mostly we talked about writing. It was fab.

Six minutes hours later it was time to go home (although JJ and I managed to fit in a spot of shopping first). The ride home was equally enjoyable, although I had the added pleasure of my new (red) iPod Shuffle to gaze at, and the virtuous feeling of having bought a present for my babysitting sister too.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

And Then There Was Light!

I'm good at procrastinating in all areas of my life, and Sorting Stuff Out is no exception. But recently, I have been rather overwhelmed by work, and everything else has slipped, including my writing time. This has focussed my otherwise befuddled mind (in a way that cheerios on the carpet never do), and I have been trying to work out why I haven't cleared out all the junk as was my ambition six months ago.

These are the excuses so far:
1. Can't clear stuff out - need to organise stuff first.
2. Can't organise stuff - too much of it in the way - need to put some in loft first.
3. Can't fit any more stuff in loft - must tidy loft first.
4. Can't tidy up loft in winter - too cold.
5. Can't tidy up loft in summer - too hot.
6. Can't tidy up loft in spring or autumn - too dark up there anyway.

Thus, it was with a glowing heart that I selected £16.82 worth of bulkhead bayonets and two-ply cable from our local DIY store (sounds technical, doesn't it? Made me feel Very Knowledgeable).

"Are you fitting this yourself?" The girl on the checkout asked with a frown.
Fearing a health and safety lecture, (or worse, being told that it was illegal for me to fit lights in my own loft) I lied. "Oh," I said airily. "Just buying the bits. Electricians always rip you off, don't they?"

She seemed satisfied by this reply, and I consoled myself with the fact that I hadn't actually told an untruth; I was just being a tinsy bit deceptive. (I don't want you to think, Dear Reader, that I am a Dishonest Person. I'm not. I'm just not very good at receiving lectures from HSE-wannabes without SHOUTING before they've finished.)

I spent a couple of hours fitting the lights. And I think they look splendid. Sadly, having eliminated the 'too dark' excuse, the others have fallen like dominoes, and I shall now have to do Clearing Out.

Watch this space - for space there will be!


Saturday, April 19, 2008

First Lines - How D'you Like 'Em?

I am fascinated by the lure of the first line, and how it grabs the reader. So, I was delighted to find, on Karen's blog, a link to The 100 Best First Lines of Novels. Okay, I thought, let's see the genii in action!

Now, this might be supreme ignorance, or supreme arrogance (and I'm happy for you to tell me which), but having read the whole list, I thought just a few of them priceless, and the rest utter crap.

My favourites (in no particular order) were:
• "It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen." - George Orwell, 1984 (1949)
• "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." - Charles Dickens, David Copperfield (1850)
• "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." - C. S. Lewis, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (1952)
• "I was born twice: first, as a baby girl, on a remarkably smogless Detroit day in January of 1960; and then again, as a teenage boy, in an emergency room near Petoskey, Michigan, in August of 1974." - Jeffrey Eugenides, Middlesex (2002)
• "Justice?—You get justice in the next world, in this world you have the law." - William Gaddis, A Frolic of His Own (1994)
• "I, Tiberius Claudius Drusus Nero Germanicus This-that-and-the-other (for I shall not trouble you yet with all my titles) who was once, and not so long ago either, known to my friends and relatives and associates as “Claudius the Idiot,” or “That Claudius,” or “Claudius the Stammerer,” or “Clau-Clau-Claudius” or at best as “Poor Uncle Claudius,” am now about to write this strange history of my life; starting from my earliest childhood and continuing year by year until I reach the fateful point of change where, some eight years ago, at the age of fifty-one, I suddenly found myself caught in what I may call the “golden predicament” from which I have never since become disentangled." - Robert Graves, I, Claudius

My don't-get-'ems were (amongst many others too boring to include here):
• "riverrun, past Eve and Adam's, from swerve of shore to bend of bay, brings us by a commodius vicus of recirculation back to Howth Castle and Environs." - James Joyce, Finnegans Wake (1939)
• Where now? Who now? When now?" - Samuel Beckett, The Unnamable (1953)
• Ages ago, Alex, Allen and Alva arrived at Antibes, and Alva allowing all, allowing anyone, against Alex's admonition, against Allen's angry assertion: another African amusement . . . [blah blah blah]" - Walter Abish, Alphabetical Africa (1974)

Now, call me shallow and poorly-read, but I think Dick Francis always writes a great first line:
"I could think of three good reasons for not going to Moscow, one of which was twenty-six, blonde, and upstairs unpacking her suitcase." Trial Run

And can anyone tell me why Herman Melville's opening to Moby Dick, "Call me Ishmael" (which I have seen on several 'best first-line' lists this evening) should be considered a good opening? I'm still scratching my head over that one.

What are your favourite/least favourite first lines?
Any of you prepared to reveal your own first line(s)?

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Playing Catch Up

I can heartily reccommend Helen M. Hunt as a perfect house guest. Not only did she bring a bottle of wine for her hostess, but a book too! How civilised is that? Daphne, by Justine Picardie, has now found itself on the very top of my reading pile!

Helen and I collected Cal from the station in the morning (although it was still the middle of the night as far as Cal was concerned), and we travelled on to Bournemouth together. Now, I always thought having kids in the car was distracting, but kids are nothing compared with writers, and writerly conversation...
You know those Police!-Stop!-Action!-type documentaries? Where you're sitting in the police car, bombing down the fast lane, blue lights on? And some muppet is sitting in the way, completely oblivious? And the policeman starts mutttering, 'come on, get out of the way'? And then the car brakes, and lurches into the middle lane? Well, I was that muppet. In my defence, Cal is really tall, and she was sitting in the middle seat, so I couldn't see a thing out of the rear window, except perhaps, just a corner of a blue flashing light, when the cop car got really close and angry... Fortunately, I was only going a little bit over the limit, so it wasn't me they were after...

As with last time, I thoroughly enjoyed Della's course, and would encourage anyone, with any interest in writing commercial short stories, to attend if at all possible. The woman knows her stuff. She knows the markets too, inside out, and she makes suggestions that leave you thinking anything from 'now why didn't I think of that?' to 'I'd have never worked that out in a zillion years'. Unbeatable!

The let-out-of-class drinks meet was great too. Womagwriter (who is local) came to join us, and I wondered that the West-Brom-watching locals thought of us, discussing the finer merits of first-person versus third-person points of view. We did sound a bit nerdy! But who cares. Great day, girls. Thanks!

Okay, so will whoever nicked the last week, please bring it back now?

The lovely Karen Clarke has given me an award. It is supposed to be because I have cheered her up, but really it works the other way around. Thank you Karen!

I would like to pass this on to Sally, who always appears (at least) to have a smile on her face!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Life-Movie-Soundtrack Meme

So, here’s how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that’s playing
5. When you go to a new question, press the next button
6. Don’t lie and try to pretend you’re cool…because you’re not!
7. Stick the soundtrack on your mp3 player and listen away during the day.

Opening Credits – Umbrella, Manic Street Preachers
Waking Up – Waiting for an Alibi, Thin Lizzy
First Day at School – Bethena Waltz, Scott Joplin
Falling in Love – Toccata Fugue in D minor, J. S. Bach
Fight Song – I Say a Little Prayer, Aretha Franklin
Breaking Up – Seven Wonders, Fleetwood Mac
Prom/Dance/Ball – I Heard it Through the Grapevine, Marvin Gaye
Life's OK – Single, Everything but the Girl
Mental Breakdown – World Where you Live, Crowded House
Flashback – Some Days You Gotta Dance, Dixie Chicks
Getting Back Together – Piano Concerto No.2 Larghetto, Chopin
Birth of Child – Devil Woman, Cliff Richard (ahem)
Wedding – Catwoman, Shakespeare's Sister
Final Battle – Piano Concerto #21 In C, "Elvira Madigan", Mozart
Funeral Song – What a Wonderful World, Louis Armstrong (actually, I'd like that played at my funeral)
End Credits – Free Bird, Lynyrd Skynyrd (ha ha ha!)

Thank God SClub 7 and Tom Jones didn't come up. I'd be really embarrassed for you to know I had those, and I wouldn't like to listen to them all day either.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


For regular readers of this blog, I have to tell you that Rudy was killed this evening. Hit by a car outside Jane's house. It was she who came to tell me. The occupants of the car came too, which I thought was very brave of them. They were probably going too fast (they all do along this stretch, which is a nice straight bit with a 30mph limit), but at least they stopped.

Friday, April 04, 2008

How do you Remember?

You know when that fantastic plot-line jumps into your brain? And you're not sitting in front of your computer/writing pad... How do you remember?

1. In the middle of the night:
a) get up, go to desk, and write/type the whole thing down, dialogue and all?
b) turn on the light, and make detailed notes in a moleskine*-by-the-bed?
c) fumble around in the dark for a pencil/pen/lippy and something to write on?
d) spend the next hour constructing complex associations until convinced that nothing will be forgotten, and then it all is.
*insert favourite brand of notebook here.

2. During the day:
a) keep a notepad and pen handy at all times.
b) have a dictaphone/mobile-with-voice-record.
c) carry a BlackBerry®/palm top into which everything can be typed on the spot (and wifi-ed to the computer at home)
d) Do nothing, it'll all be remembered/forgotten anyway.

a) Every detail is remembered/recorded.
b) Every detail is forgotten, other than it was a Really Fab Idea.

I'm a middle-of-the-night girl, with a notebook by the bed. What are you?

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Lovely Weekend Away (at last)!

Well, my feet have finally touched the ground again after a fantastic weekend away. Yes, I know I said I would never go away again, but I did and no one was sick (at least, not until this morning), and the cat didn't wee in the car until the next day - so that didn't count either.

We spent last weekend at a family reunion in Chesterfield and very nice it was too. Forty rellies from my mother's father's side gathered in a small (and very friendly) hotel to remark on how much older/greyer everyone was since Aunt Margaret/Uncle Guy/Uncle Norman's funeral... and, oooh, haven't the children grown.

And there was rather a lot of drinking involved... which is why I've been
a bit quiet since.

The bonus was that Chesterfield is the home of the lovely SallyQ, whom I met up with on Saturday afternoon for a coffee. Of course, Sally didn't know what I looked like, whereas her appearance is totally familiar to me. Thus is was very strange to find her looking straight through me, like a stranger. Very odd!

Once introduced, we had a lovely hour in Costa Coffee, with her daughter and granddaughter too. The kids (mine) were shattered, and it showed, but Sally has subsequently remarked on their perfect behaviour. I guess she missed the bit when they started throwing things.

Now this morning, things are back to normal except that the car smells of cat wee instead of vomit, and I think I probably prefer the vomit.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

My Favourite Places to Write

Hey, folks, I've discovered a brand-new writing-blog, hosted by Kerry at Writing at the Window. She has a couple of interesting posts about writing accompanied by some rather cool music. She also has a 'favourite places to write' list, which, in the spirit of welcoming a newbie to blogland, I promptly nicked.

I realise that I have totally different criteria for writing, depending on the time of day, and how much time I have available.

Favourite Places to Write
1. Lounging on my bed. Big headphones on. iTunes on (although sometimes I forget, and just sit there with silent headphones on all evening). Beer beside me (preferably chocolate too). Kids in bed/Himself out. Tends to be for marathon evening sessions: 2hr+.
2. Lounging on an easy chair in the living room. Feet up. Tea/coffee. Packet of crisps (hoola-hoops/quavers/skips). Kids in bed/at school. Short afternoon sessions: 1hr max.
3. In the study. Cup of tea (Earl Grey/Lady Grey/Lapsang). Plate of nice ginger/oaty biscuits. Kids watching TV. Quick, sneaky looks in the morning, when I should be doing something else (like talking to husband): ~15mins.

In my dreams:
4. In a bookshop cafe. Large hot chocolate and huge slice of bakewell beside me. All day.
5. In my room-of-my-own in the loft. Stereo on. Phone unplugged. Tea. Chocolate. Children all at school (one day). All day.

What's your favourite combination of place/drink/music/snack for writing?

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Arch Procrastination

For once, it just worked. My fingers flew over the track-pad (perhaps it was clean for a change), and my heart started pounding with anticipation. I knew I was finally going to crack it.

At last!

At last I got the highest score in Chasing Simon Bloody Cowell. Now will someone please take the sodding thing down so I can get on with some writing.

Friday, March 21, 2008

From e-tales

Letters to Hackney Council
Please forward my money at once as I have fallen into errors with my landlord and the milkman.
My husband is diabetic and has to take insolence regular but he finds he's lethargic to it.
Mrs Brown only thinks she's ill but she's nothing but a hypodermic.
The man next door has a large erection in his garden which is unsightly and dangerous.
I am very annoyed to find you have branded my son illiterate. This is a lie as I married his father a week before he was born.

Hotel lift, Paris: You are invited to leave your values at the front desk.
In a Leipzig lift: Do not enter the lift backwards, and only when lit up.
Hotel lobby, Bucharest:
The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.
Hotel, Zurich: Because of the impropriety of entertaining guests of the opposite sex in the bedroom, it is suggested that the lobby be used for this purpose.
Cocktail lounge, Norway: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.
In a Tokyo shop: Our nylons cost more than common, but you'll find they are the best in the long run.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Book Meme

Nicked from Helen.

1. Hardcover or paperback, and why?
Hardback, as long as it's properly stitched (and not glued).

2. If I were to own a book shop I would call it…
'Dusty Bums' (from sitting on the floor reading - just felt I needed to explain that).

3. My favourite quote from a book (mention the title) is…
The first line of any Dick Francis novel.

4. The author (alive or deceased) I would love to have lunch with would be….
Robert Louis Stevenson.

5. If I was going to a deserted island and could only bring one book, except the SAS survival guide, it would be…
Chambers Dictionary (Sorry: NERD ALERT!).

6. I would love someone to invent a bookish gadget that…
Made books easier to read when you're lying on your side in bed.

7. The smell of an old book reminds me of…
My father's study.

8. If I could be the lead character in a book (mention the title), it would be…
Any romance where the hero is tall, dark and handsome (and rich).

9. The most overestimated book of all time is….
Anything by a celebrity ‘non’-writer (YES! Helen, I couldn't agree more!)

10. I hate it when a book…
Turns out (when I've finished it) to be the first in a series of five...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

You're a Bloody Genius!

The level of education required to read this blog is:
blog readability test

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

I Just Had to Share This With You

I am lounging on my bed, laptop on lap, headphones on (Dire Straits). I have a cup of tea and some cranberry and orange buscuits beside me. The sun is shining.

The small boy is at school. The small girl is at playgroup. The baby is at Jane's. Himself is out.
I am home alone!

I have two whole hours to write, and I'm on a roll. The muse has me firmly by the hand and is leading me towards her friends, Success and Fortune. Wish me productivity. Please! I need to make the most of this!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Oh Dear...

You Should Be a Film Writer

You don't just create compelling stories, you see them as clearly as a movie in your mind.

You have a knack for details and dialogue. You can really make a character come to life.

Chances are, you enjoy creating all types of stories. The joy is in the storytelling.

And nothing would please you more than millions of people seeing your story on the big screen!

Of course, when they turn my novel into a film...

Monday, March 10, 2008

My Career as a Rock Star - Part Two

Further to my new-found ambition to be a rock star (see 4th March), I find
that I am not the only one. Shame. I thought I'd found a niche.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Life on Mars - a Holiday

I was in need of a real break - one that didn't involve broken legs, heart attacks, or vomit. To that end, I have spent the last week on Mars, with DCI Gene Hunt, and very nice it has been too. Jane leant me both series on DVD, making for a smorgasbord of ogling viewing. All sixteen hours! I didn't know I had that much free time...

I have now returned to planet Real World to find a veritable Olympus Mons of washing, and some fine spring-growth in the fridge. I'm also rather hungry, not having eaten since Monday last. Just give me a couple of days to scale the 90,000' monolith in my utility room, and I'll be back to play catch-up in Blogland.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

My Career as a Rock Star Starts Here

This is a great procrastination meme that I nicked from found on Karen's blog. All you have to do is:

1. Click on Wikipedia's Random Article page
The first article title on the page is the name of your band.

2. Click on this Random Quote page
The last four words of the very last quote is the title of your album.

3. Click on Flickr's Last Seven Days page
The third picture, no matter what it is, will be your album cover.

Here's mine:

I like this so much that I now plan to give up all forms of drudgery, and become a rock star.

Monday, March 03, 2008

No Title

Ruth is thirty two years old and
doesn't know if she wants to be thirty three. She gives herself three months
to decide, and that is where her journey into the unknown begins...

Ruth's diary
is the new novel by Fiona Robyn, Thaw. She has decided to blog the novel in
its entirety over the next few months, so you can read it for free.

Read the first entry below, and continue reading
tomorrow at


These hands are
ninety-three years old. They belong to Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller.
She was so frail that her grand-daughter had to carry her onto the set
to take this photo. It’s a close-up. Her emaciated arms emerge from the
top corners of the photo and the background is black, maybe velvet, as
if we’re being protected from seeing the strings. One wrist rests on the
other, and her fingers hang loose, close together, a pair of folded
wings. And you can see her insides.

The bones of her knuckles bulge out of the skin, which sags like plastic
that has melted in the sun and is dripping off her, wrinkling and
folding. Her veins look as though they’re stuck to the outside of her
hands. They’re a colour that’s difficult to describe: blue, but also
silver, green; her blood runs through them, close to the surface. The
book says she died shortly after they took this picture. Did she even
get to see it? Maybe it was the last beautiful thing she left in the

I’m trying to decide whether or not I want to carry on living. I’m
giving myself three months of this journal to decide. You might think
that sounds melodramatic, but I don’t think I’m alone in wondering
whether it’s all worth it. I’ve seen the look in people’s eyes. Stiff
suits travelling to work, morning after morning, on the cramped and
humid tube. Tarted-up girls and gangs of boys reeking of aftershave,
reeling on the pavements on a Friday night, trying to mop up the
dreariness of their week with one desperate, fake-happy night. I’ve
heard the weary grief in my dad’s voice.

So where do I start with all this? What do you want to know about me?
I’m Ruth White, thirty-two years old, going on a hundred. I live alone
with no boyfriend and no cat in a tiny flat in central London. In fact,
I had a non-relationship with a man at work, Dan, for seven years. I’m
sitting in my bedroom-cum-living room right now, looking up every
so often at the thin rain slanting across a flat grey sky. I work in a
city hospital lab as a microbiologist. My dad is an accountant and lives
with his sensible second wife Julie, in a sensible second home. Mother
finished dying when I was fourteen, three years after her first
diagnosis. What else? What else is there?

Charlotte Marie Bradley Miller. I looked at her hands for twelve
minutes. It was odd describing what I was seeing in words. Usually the
picture just sits inside my head and I swish it around like tasting
wine. I have huge books all over my flat; books you have to take in
both hands to lift. I’ve had the photo habit for years. Mother bought me
my first book, black and white landscapes by Ansel Adams. When she got
really ill, I used to take it to bed with me and look at it for hours,
concentrating on the huge trees, the still water, the never-ending
skies. I suppose it helped me think about something other than what was
happening. I learned to focus on one photo at a time rather than
flicking from scene to scene in search of something to hold me. If I
concentrate, then everything stands still. Although I use them to escape
the world, I also think they bring me closer to it. I’ve still got that
book. When I take it out, I handle the pages as though they might flake
into dust.

Mother used to write a journal. When I was small, I sat by her bed in
the early mornings on a hard chair and looked at her face as her pen
spat out sentences in short bursts. I imagined what she might have been
writing about; princesses dressed in star-patterned silk, talking
horses, adventures with pirates. More likely she was writing about what
she was going to cook for dinner and how irritating Dad’s snoring was.

I’ve always wanted to write my own journal, and this is my chance. Maybe
my last chance. The idea is that every night for three months, I’ll take
one of these heavy sheets of pure white paper, rough under my
fingertips, and fill it up on both sides. If my suicide note is nearly a
hundred pages long, then no-one can accuse me of not thinking it
through. No-one can say; ‘It makes no sense; she was a polite, cheerful
girl, had everything to live for’, before adding that I did keep myself
to myself. It’ll all be here. I’m using a silver fountain pen with
purple ink. A bit flamboyant for me, I know. I need these idiosyncratic
rituals; they hold things in place. Like the way I make tea, squeezing
the tea-bag three times, the exact amount of milk, seven stirs. My
writing is small and neat; I’m striping the paper. I’m near the bottom
of the page now. Only ninety-one more days to go before I’m allowed to
make my decision. That’s it for today. It’s begun.