Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Socialising and shopping

Someone wrote a play with ‘shopping’ and er something else or other in the title, didn’t they? Well enough of that – we went to another neighbour drinks thing on Sunday night and yesterday, Christmas Day, to M’s brother, who produced roast turkey with all the trimmings for us. Excellent job. It was rather a lazy day, and we watched Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone on the TV – and a number of other things. Having read the first four books for my dissertation in 2002, I watched it (although for the second time) with interest. It was a very faithful version of the book.

We made up our minds to go to Comet today to get a new microwave and this was surprisingly effortless. We managed to get a reasonable parking space; we found the microwave we wanted and a nice young salesman carried it to the car; we then hunted for a digital radio and found one of those too. Then we took ourselves off to see carpets and suites to assess prices, etc., our living room carpet having developed a worn patch and our suite having been deserving of the elbow for some time. I can’t decide if the worn patch is due to my aerobics period (although I haven’t been energetic enough to do this recently) or the fact that the Dyson seems to eat up half the carpet on every tour of duty. Typically, M on seeing the pattern books in the furniture shop was reluctant to agree to a dark brown suite to replace our green one. I could see what he wanted, as he has never stopped hankering for a white carpet – he wanted the cream coloured one, so that he could pour coffee over it and decorate it with tar and oil. I had to concede that the dark brown would make our lounge look rather depressing and cream was actually the right colour for the room. The salesman in Furniture Village – very helpful and not at all pushy – nearly sold us the idea when he told us about the guaranteed protective surface which could be sprayed on. We left without making a decision though. New suite requires a little mulling over.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

The festive season

No-one’s ever accused me of being energetic, so I’m happy if I get one major job done in a day. I did the Sainsbury’s shop on Friday – not a huge shop, as we don’t have to cater for anyone until after Christmas – however, when I run out of bananas, I always know it’s time to go to the supermarket. I also got off the first couple of quotations with an accompanying explanatory letter, which M & I worked on together. My writing skills are always put to good use when I’m taking dictation.

There’ll be another visit to the supermarket on Wednesday next before our kids arrive – by that time, we’ll need fresh fruit and veg. oh – and milk. The milkman, who always believes in keeping his visits a secret from me in the Christmas period, left me my Friday order, plus my Christmas order – six pints in total - but didn’t fill me in on when he’s coming next.

Yesterday I made an apple cake, a portion to take to my brother in law on Christmas Day, and the rest for freezing. It’s basically a Victoria sponge cake with large pieces of apple covering the top, and always appreciated, though this time, I think I overcooked it a fraction, and the sponge shrunk back from the apple. Recipe available for anyone who’s interested. I took a couple of apples from my store in the shed and spotted a couple of bad ones, which I threw out. But the one I used was perfect.

Then in the evening, we went to our first two social occasions – one with our neighbours and the second at Jennifer’s (Writers’ Circle and MD of Goldenford (www.goldenford.co.uk)). It was a shame to leave party No. 1, but there is another neighbour’s party tonight and a lot of the same people will be there, so we’ll have a chance to talk to them then. We spent most of the evening at party No. 2 – thank you Jennifer and Tony for a great evening. Lovely food and good company. We left at 11.30 pm. M was falling asleep and I didn’t realise how tired he was and delegated the driving to him, as I’d a couple of glasses of wine. But I couldn’t get off to sleep, affected by a late cup of tea at Jennifer’s. I can’t take caffeine late at night, now.

Woke up this morning very tired indeed and in fact was so dopey that I washed most of me twice over in the shower. I only remembered when I thought – I’ve washed this leg before. However I’ve woken up a bit now and will try to do something productive this afternoon before going to our next social bash.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Another horrid day

Almost nothing can be worse than this horrible fog. And so cold too. The heating’s been on all day, and the grey outside hasn’t shifted. I spent almost the entire morning taking dictation and started up again after lunch, until a Chinese restaurant in Croydon called M out to an emergency job. Took him to the station and will have to collect him again later, when it’s dark.

I cooked some joints of turkey, yesterday, possibly for a meal for us, if I’m do a veggie roast for the kids. No decisions made on that yet. I’ll see what I come up with. But we had some last night and it was very good. Some of the trimmings, too – parsnips, roast potatoes and Brussels. But I have to carve the rest today some time and put it into foil parcels for future use. I couldn’t be bothered to do anything else last night and had a Victorian evening with Bramwell, followed by Sherlock Holmes – The House of the Baskervilles with Jeremy Brett – all on Sky UKTV Drama, or somesuch. Both very good.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Man out at work

It was cold yesterday, and my heart sank when M commented in the morning, ‘It’s very mild, isn’t it?’ Another day of playing ‘draughts’ - him opening windows and me closing them and sneaking the heating on. But, after a week of him staying home and watching repeats on Sky TV, he got called out, and I think was quite pleased to leave the house. While out, he offered to go to Irene to sort out a problem with her heating. Oh joy. The heating went on, here, the second he left the house. Later Irene immortalised him on her blog – (http://www.thisthatfromireneblack.blogspot.com/) well the back end of him, that is, and she was full of praise at his efforts.

I collected a few bits and pieces which I might need during the Christmas period – contact lens fluid; free range eggs – and aspirin, though I still have my main shop to do, as late as possible in the week; I polished off some ironing and printed out my nearly successful story for comments from Guildford Writers (www.guildfordwriters.co.uk) in the evening. I’ll send it off again somewhere; it’s been shortlisted twice. Oh and I went on line and had another go at PayPal. I confessed once again to forgetting my password and got the necessary reminders and than informed them of the amounts paid into my account. And yes! That’s been successful and all I have to do now is earn royalties from Virtual Tales (www.virtualtales.com) to get money coming into the account.

That was yesterday. Today M has gone off again – I took him out to the station this morning – a horrible, foggy day, and I’ve just heard that his trip out today will bring about three quotations. Bo-o-o-r-r-r-ing. Just when I was thinking I could carry on tidying up loose ends and concentrate on cooking for next week. Anyhow before he comes back, I will at least make up the bed for Eve, the first of my granddaughters to visit - with her parents, of course – next week.

Later today, a breakthrough. I tried to connect to Virgin (dial up still, of course) and after two days of being barred, they let me in. And I managed to order the filters for the broadband connection – with a bit of luck everything will be ready to go when my kids arrive and surely, one or other of them, with their Maths with Computing degrees, will be able to help us connect up.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Technology strikes again

I spent a thoroughly frustrating evening last night. It’s all a giant conspiracy to confuse the technologically challenged. As soon as I get on the Net and have to start filling out forms, it all goes pear-shaped, to use a clichĂ©. (Who invented that one, by the way?)

It started when my son telephoned. I’d already told him on email that I couldn’t send the Plonk cover file – uploading via FTP, and he was obviously determined to educate me so that I could rise to the challenge. After a half hour or so on the telephone with him giving instructions and me trying to follow them, we gave up.

I needed to deal with PayPal. When you register for PayPal, they credit your account with two small amounts so that you can verify it’s gone to the right account. I decided to take advantage of the 24 hour service provided by my bank and telephone them. I did get the information in the end, but not until I’d been on the phone for ten minutes listening to the dreariest music imaginable.

OK, I’d made some progress. Now to attempt something I’d been putting off for days. Getting linked up to Broadband. All these problems sending large files have convinced me. Using my Virgin connection, I dialled up and started filling out the form. I started three times – inextricably, the dial up disconnected me twice. You’d think they didn’t want my business. No choice, but to use my other connection. Right, I was on to the page again and this time, I managed to deal with almost all the questions. But then I got to the request to deliver the filtering equipment. I fill out the questions and get to the end of the page. I do it twice or three times, but there’s nowhere to go from there. I go back. Then they tell me that due to a glitch, they can’t take my order at the moment. There’s another problem, they ask for my Virgin address, etc. I provide that, but my password’s wrong. I can’t remember it; I thought it was the same as the one used for my other connection. Before I stop to think I’ve pressed the button for ‘forgotten password’. And then it’s downhill all the way. By now I’ve remembered that my Virgin password has got extra digits and I think I know what they are. But it’s too late. I have to put in a new password and when I go back to the Virgin connection to fill out the details of the bank credits for PayPal, I can’t get in. I can’t use the old password and I can’t use the new password and I can’t use my other connection because that gets used for Goldenford Publishers (www.goldenford.co.uk) . And will I get to speak to another human being who’ll help me? No way. I’m faced with a barrage of computerised robots who will send me error messages ad infinitum, probably without even knowing what they mean. I go to bed, frustrated. I haven’t completed anything.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Old fashioned ways

After several attempts to send off the cover file to Virtual Tales (www.virtualtales.com) I found it easier to put it on CD and take it to the post office. Five working days, they tell me, so it should get there before the New Year. Sometimes you have to recognise when you’ve been defeated by new technology. The file is very large because it is unlocked. That enables the people at Virtual Tales to fiddle with it – and possibly change the font. As soon as the file is locked, it immediately becomes much smaller.

I also finished the editing of A Bottle of Plonk last night and sent that off to Jake. I see I've already mentioned this. Anyhow, Jake has now received it, which is good. I also subscribed again to the Virtual Tales contributors’ e-group. I had already done it, but when I went to the Yahoo site to deal with something on the Guildford Writers’ e-group I wasn’t recognised. I got sent from page to page and had to confirm my password, and I thought I’d better register again, as I didn’t seem to exist in Yahoo’s eyes.

So with all that behind me, I can concentrate on other things. Can I come up with a new story for Guildford Writers (www.guildfordwriters.com) tomorrow night? Or a further instalment of my novel? And how much time should I spend on cooking for my kids’ visits, post Christmas?

M is going out to a job tomorrow. First call-out he’s had for about a week. I think he’s actually quite enjoyed sitting at home watching, Keeping up Appearances, Poirrot, Rumpole of the Bailey and numerous repeats of Only Fools and Horses.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Relaxing weekend

A weekend of recharging batteries, before the big rush next week.

I sat in front of the TV last night and watched three Frasiers in a row. I love Frasier; it's so clever and subtle sometimes, even though it's farcical at others. It's never crude and you have so much empathy for the main characters. Before I realised, it was midnight. We slept late this morning as a result.

I did a major shop, though I'm sure I'll have to repeat it before next weekend. After all, we are expecting the kids after Christmas, in turn not together. And I will have to do some food preparation before they arrive, otherwise my time will be spent exclusively in the kitchen.

I have now completely read through A Bottle of Plonk and made a few small alterations before returning it to the editor at Virtual Tales. It was interesting to re-read it and I was pleasantly surprised to realise that the rewrites I had made just before publication by Goldenford in 2005 had worked quite well. I know that most writers, artists, etc are terribly unsatisfied by their work when they look at it. I expect there's something wrong with me.

I've had terrible trouble trying to send off my original cover to Virtual Tales. It's too large to go by email in any unlocked state. I'm going to have to resort to putting it in an envelope and sending it through the post.

I'll deal with that tomorrow, when I send off my grand-daughter's birthday present.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Working on the novel

I’ve been assigned an editor, Jake, by Virtual Tales (http://www.virtualtales.com/) and I’ve been spending some time on looking through his few changes to my original version. It’s all moving along quite quickly. I’m also contemplating going on broadband shortly, because I’ve had so much hassle sending large files. My computer has been slowly grinding through everything I ask it to do, but neighbour, Celia suggested that I defrag it and I think that and putting it through its cleaning programme has helped.

The Christmas cards are gradually disappearing too, but still some sticky labels around (printed out from last year’s list) that I haven’t dealt with and I’m wondering – are they going to send this year? I wouldn’t recognise them if I met them in the street. Why are we still going through the motions? We got a card from our regular holiday resort in Majorca. A dyslexic secretary had addressed it to M with the name he never uses, except that she’d managed to turn it into Brain.

M took my car in for its service yesterday, and using the garage as a car park, went on into Guildford. He first attached the bike he picked up recently, with the intention of cycling, once he’d handed in the car. But the gears jammed up, and he had to walk in the end. When he got home, he was so irritated, he took his angle grinder and cut off the back gears. He’s unlikely to be cycling up hills on it.

It’s been a busy week. A committee meeting on Monday. A meeting of Goldenford (http://www.goldenford.co.uk/) on Tuesday. A nice relaxed meal last night to compensate M for the rushed ones of the previous couple of days and tonight a meeting of the reading circle. We discussed A short history of tractors in Ukrainian – a very good choice and much to discuss. Several of the group thought it was not hilarious, as described on the cover, but rather a sad book. Nevertheless we did find ourselves laughing at the descriptions. I think it was the author’s (Marina Lewycka) style and language that was funny not the events themselves. It was a very social occasion with savouries and mince pies provided by our hostess, Jackie. I took along some chocolate brownies. If you’ve got a recipe that works, you might as well use it.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Crossing things off the list

Yes I actually organised a couple of things today. That doesn’t actually amount to doing them, but at least I have made appointments for both servicing and MOT of my car and writing a will (the two not connected.)

As far as other miscellaneous things are concerned, I did a bit of office work, including the post and filing; changed sheets, etc. I haven’t made any progress on Christmas cards, though, and the ironing is falling behind again. Oh dear, there’s the children’s presents to wrap up too, including one for Ella’s birthday, which must go off shortly.

I spent useful time on my website, updating it to include Virtual Tales (http://www.virtualtales.com/) in various places. Programming doesn’t come naturally to me – even though I have two very computer literate children (I use the term loosely – meaning offspring.) I have to copy other bits of HTML and even that goes wrong sometimes. For example, in my first attempt to link to Virtual Tales with a label – A Bottle of Plonk – On-line version, I copied the original label directing interested parties to Goldenford Publishers (http://www.goldenford.co.uk/). Why should the new label pop up in blue, when the old one was in white? A missing apostrophe or bracket, perhaps. Who know? I had to keep trying and checking the changes, all of which is time consuming. Still, I’m nearly there now. When I’m sure it’s all right, I’ll upload it to the Net.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Lost in Woking

I still had some clearing up to do – mainly washing up some nice dishes that won’t go in the dish washer. Unfortunately the spout broke off my posh teapot yesterday – not, thank goodness, as I was pouring tea out, but in the kitchen, when I'd given it a minor tap. M has repaired it, but I will inspect before bringing it out. The whole point of it is that it’s a nice china pot. If it has a circle of glue round the spout, it no longer qualifies as posh.

I also spent time investigating a blockage in my Dyson. There are wispy little spiders around the house determined to leave the largest possible cobweb and when I tried to vacuum one of these webs, I found there was no suction at all. M was very impressed – he assumes all women are impractical. I dismantled it completely and looked through every tube, cleaned away surplus dust from all other parts and then reassembled it. And now it’s fine. It’s a matter of pride with me that I can deal with such things. I even bought my own tool box and Phillips’ screwdriver, but M discovered their whereabouts and frequently borrows them.

Having spoken on the phone to my daughter, I was given permission to get another present for Eve. I had scoured Guildford for Barbie clothes to no avail, and nearly everything I’d bought for her came under the category of boring, practical, clothes (for Eve that is, not Barbie). M offered to take me to Woking this afternoon. I thought he would park the car and walk to the toy shop with me, but he wanted to drop me off and drive round in circles until I’d finished. Under sufferance, he eventually came with me. You can’t get lost in Woking, because there are only a few roads around a central area. BUT you can certainly get lost in the Peacocks’ car park. We parked in the wrong colour, walked out of the car park to get to Toysarus and then having bought a jigsaw, couldn’t find our way back to the yellow car park. We went round in circles, up and down stairs, not enhanced by the aroma of public lavatory, and eventually asked someone and followed them to safety. This enforced M’s conviction that he hates shopping and he hates car parks and confirmed my feeling that I am much happier shopping in Guildford.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Lunch is served

The meal went off OK, but I would love to have a slave running around after me, saying, ‘Don’t forget to heat the dishes,’ and putting out crisps and so on. Reminding me to buy soft drinks like bitter lemon and soda would be helpful too. Alas, the nearest thing to the lowly helper in my household is the other half. Those who know him will know that he is not very domesticated, and on a day of entertaining like today, has to be told every little thing, including that it is time for him to get changed, and which trousers to put on. Nevertheless we had a pleasant lunch and afternoon, and felt too full (after cakes as well as lunch) to eat this evening.

I went on line, this evening, to organise myself a PayPal account for the vast wealth that will be flooding into this account from Bottle of Plonk royalties from Virtual Tales (http://www.virtualtales.com/). Sorry, I’m being ungracious. Virtual Tales have taken me on, and I am delighted with this. But e-publishing is an unknown quantity to me, so I have no idea how well Plonk will do. Now I have several tasks ahead of me, including creating a digital signature to send them, so that the contract can be signed without my posting it via ‘snail mail’. They have also asked me to create links from my website, etc. and to send a photo. There’s an article about them in September’s Writers’ News, but I think I originally read about them in an earlier edition. The fact that they were looking for books that could be chopped up into small episodes made me think that Plonk might be right for them.

Dealing with PayPal took me absolute ages. I hate these sites, where you go round and round in circles while they tell you, you didn’t fill that in or this in. Also it is manned by faceless robots back at the PayPal centre, wherever that might be, that never answer your questions, just send you a bit of prepared jargon. I have a question I need to ask them, and I know what the result will be. Just frustration.

I received the current copy of Writers’ News (http://www.writersnews.co.uk/) this morning and found that I had been shortlisted for their Foster Mother competition. I felt sure I had sent them a SAE, but I didn’t receive my story back, and a subsequent story that did come back to me had no attached letter, as is usually the case. Anne - (http://www.annebrooke.com/) - my writing friend, says that they are going through a period of change at the moment, so perhaps that accounts for it. It’s a while since my last WN short-listing, so I’m pleased about that.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Unexpected success?

Last night after I got in from shopping, I went to check emails and found that the telephone line wasn’t working. We checked all the phones, then M went to our neighbours to report the fault. It must have been something to do with the torrential rain, because an hour or so later, we were back on line.

When I checked my emails, I had a surprise. There was an email from Virtual Tales asking why I hadn’t returned the contract they’d sent me. Had I decided not to go ahead with this? I’d forgotten I sent them A Bottle of Plonk for their website. They let people see a first chapter and then can buy the rest as a serial. I thought Plonk would be ideal for this, and it seems they thought it might be OK too. However, as far as the contract was concerned, I didn’t know anything about it. I asked them to send me another copy, which also disappeared. Then I thought to check my other service provider, which I hardly ever use and there it was – all eight pages of it. (Twice over, by now.) It was originally sent on 22nd November.

Being a pessimist, I feel there’s plenty of scope for things going wrong, so no point in getting excited about this. But it entailed a bit of correspondence, as I queried one or two items in the contract. Virtual Tales is based in Washington, USA.

I’ve been preparing for lunch with friends tomorrow. I’m always so slow in the mornings, I have to compensate by working nights. As I’m making a steak and mushroom pie, I will prepare the pastry tomorrow.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Getting things done

My cousin Nick (who I’ve never met, but who is in charge of a huge family tree) sent me the census records for my grandfather and great grandfather on my father’s side for the years 1881 and 1871. Fascinating stuff. They lived in East London and although they, themselves, had, I think about one or two children each, at that time, the total occupancy of the houses in which they lived was about a dozen people. My grandfather was a young man at the time, living with his first wife; my grandmother was a little girl. They married when his wife died, by which time, he had eight children.

I started watching ‘Love Actually’ last night and switched it off after establishing it was a load of rubbish. Why Richard whathisname is so acclaimed, I can’t imagine. I couldn’t put up with the gratuitous four letter words. It reminded me of when my son said ‘Knickers’ as a substitute swear word, when he was about ten. These stupid people regard the overuse of swearing as wit or sophistication. Give me American chick-lit any time. Nora Ephron with ‘When Sally met Harry’, or ‘You’ve got mail.’

The weather was terrible today. When I went off to Guildford, there was a gale and the rain was teeming down. (Later I heard there was a tornado in NW London.) But it quietened down and I managed to park easily, which was great. And I accomplished what I wanted to do and got presents for the kids, and got back before rush hour too. And tonight, I made a batch of brownies. Tomorrow, I have cooking to do for a lunch on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Pressure builds up

Inspiration didn’t come yesterday, so I wasn’t able to read at the Guildford Writers’ meeting. But there was plenty of good stuff – everything leaving you wanting to know what happened next.

I had every intention of going to Guildford today, but woke up with a bad back due no doubt to shunting things around in my freezer yesterday – lots of bending and lifting. I took some aspirins and later went to Sainsbury’s instead. M came with me, feeling he should do some strong arm stuff in view of me limping around. So I bought twice as much as I'd intended. I would have had to go tomorrow, as I'd run out of several things.

The first Christmas cards have started to arrive. Must get down to that too and we have invitations to another couple of happenings in the pre-Christmas period. And I should have arranged to have my car serviced. It’s all too much.

I got an unsolicited review of my chapters today, to my surprise, from someone else at the YouWriteOn site – once again, I was criticised for too much in the way of explanation. I just can’t get these first chapters right. It’s not so much that the reader needs to know the back story, but my heroine needs to know certain things before she can go off and start researching the family tree. But I can’t put these things in without there being too much narrative. But I will certainly have to look at the chapters again, when the pressure’s off.

Sent off my short story entry for the Writers’ News competition.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Writing progress

Out for lunch yesterday at Irene’s, (http://homepage.ntlworld.com/blacks.house/) my fellow writing buddy. But not before I had dealt with the mindless Monday tasks of removing sheets, towels etc and filling the linen basket with them. Like Alice, for ever running to stand still, in this aspect of my life. But this morning I’ve loaded the machine, so the contents of the linen basket are reduced by half.

Horrible morning, so far, the sky dark and the rain pouring down and drumming on the roof. But it’s still not cold for December. When I was writing my novel, Tainted Tree, which takes place over a six month period, I kept a database so that I would know what was going on in the garden, what the weather was like on any particular day and what time the sun went down. This web diary could prove equally useful as a reference – assuming, of course, I can go back into my own archive, which I haven’t checked.

There was a good interview on the Today programme this morning. Professor Christopher Marks was on, explaining why we should keep open the Royal Surrey County Hospital. M and I talked about the awful occasion when he had waterworks problems. He woke me up in the middle of the night and told me I had to get him to hospital. He was in agony. I didn’t have time to put in my contacts, but used glasses instead (never quite as good) and the weather was horrible. But the drive to the Royal Surrey is easy, and I got him there in less than 15 minutes. How different it would have been if we had had to cross the ranges to Frimley, or drive along the horrid ‘narrow lanes’ leading to St. Peter’s, Chertsey. Speed was of the essence; they said afterwards his kidneys could have been damaged.

Why are they reducing the facilities of a modern hospital?

I’ve received the first critique of Tainted Tree from the YouWriteOn site. Main criticism – description needs cutting and my heroine doesn’t sound American. I will have to look at it again. However, last night, when I prepared three chapters to send out, I hadn’t seen these comments and I will send it off anyway, without amendment. Today, I’m also going to print out my short story for submission, and see if I can come up with something new for Guildford Writers (http://www.guildfordwriters.net/) tonight.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Lazy weekend

Not much happening over the weekend. I caught up yesterday with ironing - exciting stuff. Bought a paper when I dropped M at the station and read through all the supplements. They are so time consuming. Watched Casualty in the evening where the emphasis was on homelessness. The elderly homeless heroine assured the nurses that (having been a journalist in an earlier life) ‘it’s surprising how quickly you can get used to a new way of life…’ (to paraphrase.) Really? When we were living without electricity for six months, (as described in my book The Fruit of the Tree,) I didn’t get used to it at all. I hated every moment of it.

We’ve just been to our neighbours. Their parents went on a cruise, but our neighbour’s father was thrown to the ground in high winds, broke his ankle and spent three days marooned in the cabin while half the boat was seasick. At one point in a Force 10 or 12 gale, a lifeboat was lifted off the deck and crashed into the neighbouring cabin. The two of them subsequently spent the rest of the holiday in a hospital in Funchal. It sounded like a chapter of accidents, and they were finally flown back to England yesterday and brought by ambulance to our neighbours, (where their car is.)

The shower’s leaking and I tried to redesign the bathroom, but didn’t come up with anything better. I need to draw it out to scale and add little toilets and basins and baths and move them around to see where they fit. But I suspect we will end up with a replacement shower tray and nothing else changed.

I haven’t yet heard whether the birthday present I sent to my youngest granddaughter arrived safely. I bought it in Guildford on Tuesday – twin dancing Barbies. I tried several shops to find it – ended up in Argos. By the time I walked back to the car park with that and three or four other presents, I was worn out from the ups and downs. Several people smiled at me. ‘Poor old soul,’ they must have thought. Either that or I was wearing my pants on the outside of my trousers. Come to think of it, a couple of people chatted to me in the M & S cafĂ©. Why was everyone being so friendly? There was a man who started telling me about the Lyons’ Corner House in Leicester Square (in past times) and a young mother who was entertaining her baby and feeding her at the table. I tried to think if I could incorporate them into a story, but didn’t come up with anything.

I finally, this evening, uploaded chapters of my novel, Tainted Tree, to the YouWriteOn site. It took me ages and having entered a set of questions about it, giving three answers (only one right), I found myself getting the answers wrong and had to redo it. However, something accomplished.

Friday, December 01, 2006

A Parcel

Very grey and dreary outside and high winds forecast. One of those mornings when nothing much gets done. Can’t blame it on the weather, though. I’ve browsed through my small dictionary of quotations for a title for my Park Keeper story, and ended up with To everything a season. Not sure how appropriate it is, but it’s the best I can do.

A parcel arrived for me – some mail order sheets, gloves and slippers. I now have numerous slippers and none of them seem to fit properly. Needless to say, these are too big. But my granddaughter will enjoy trying them on and slip-slopping around the house in them. She likes to investigate my wardrobe to see what shoes she can try on. She will soon find that they are desperately uncool. Talking of uncool, I also received a free gift - a horrible jacket. So horrible, it almost didn't deserve to be given away. I'll save it for emergencies, or a charity shop.

We are invited to a neighbour for Christmas drinks. I phoned to say we’d like to come, but are usually invited by other neighbours. I said we’d try to get to both. I don’t want to offend either sets and neighbour 2 hasn’t actually sent out invites yet.

I have been preparing tonight’s meal, when my brother in law will join us. M and his brother specialise in male chauvinism, but when Bro. is around, M abdicates his role and is rather quiet as we indulge in sparring matches.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Writing diaries and other things

I never could stick to a daily diary. My first diary was often filled in after the event, with me consulting my school timetable and inserting, items such as ‘French in the afternoon.’ ‘PE in the morning and it was freezing. I started writing a proper diary when I bought a plain lined book with hard covers and filled it out only when I was in the mood. Sometimes there was nothing to say and at other times, I would recall events from weeks before and write from memory. Diary writing was very therapeutic and helped me through many bad times. It also meant that after many years, I found it very easy to describe my feelings. Probably when I first started writing in it, it was rather self-conscious, but I grew out of that. I stopped keeping a diary when I got married but I still have them, stashed away in the corner of a cupboard.. Probably, my children will find them one day and throw them out.

I’ve just come back from Barclays Bank, where we Goldenford girls did readings of our work for their Christmas party. It was quite a successful event – and enjoyable too. We joined in the party spirit and had drinks and nibbles and received boxes of chocolates too, at the end of the evening. Irene and I also had a table selling Goldenford books at a craft fair last Sunday.

Unfortunately, my article on Goldenford books was rejected by Writers’ Forum, who have in the past published six of my articles. The editor once took the trouble to return a couple of articles to me with suggestions all over them on tightening them up and reducing them to one article, which they eventually accepted. It is sad that this latest rejection was completely impersonal. Is there a regime change, I wonder?

I got an order for The Fruit of the Tree this morning, from Gardners, via Bookdata. This was so out of the blue that I wonder if it was triggered off by my recent talk at Sutton Writers.

I still have a story to send off, but haven’t thought of a title for it yet. And I must conjure something up for next Tuesday – Guildford Writers.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Musicals

We went to Guys and Dolls last night at the New Victoria Theatre. We were over on one side of the stalls and it was terribly draughty to begin with. A girl in front of me put the hood up on her jacket/sweater and two or three people put their coats back on. I’d left mine in the car, so had to suffer. I also had problems with double vision, but that subsided too, in the second half, as my brain began to adjust.

M wasn’t enthusiastic at first. I think he was put off by the dull sets. There were some good ones, but some of the action takes place in a downmarket district of New York in the 30s with gamblers roaming the streets and putting on illicit bets on the side. M was disappointed because there was nothing as exciting as the helicopter in Miss Saigon, but there was a good dance routine in Havana. The second part was better than the first, I think, with the well-known number Sit down you’re rocking the boat almost a show stopper – certainly a scene stealer. (It was performed by a Welsh singer, with a really good voice.) But they didn’t do an encore, which the audience would have liked.

I suppose I wouldn’t describe Guys and Dolls as my favourite musical. Some very good tunes, but it suffers from its simplistic storyline. Gambler reformed and married to Salvation Army lady in three days. I don’t think so. The first musical I loved was South Pacific. When my friend Ruth and I saw it (the film) in the mid-fifties, we were in tears at the ill-fated romance and the death of the hero. But though people look back sometimes and describe such things as ‘patronising’, the film, at that time, was a brave attempt to look at mixed relationships. West Side Story in the sixties remains in my mind a wonderful musical with fantastic music and an important theme. Two other musicals which I have appreciated more, as time has gone on, are Cabaret and Fiddler on the Roof. I was horrified by the former, when I first saw it. I have become somewhat less prim, as I have grown older. And the latter also hides some serious themes behind its light-hearted exterior.

Jennifer telephoned me this morning to tell me that I’d been awarded a Very Highly Commended in the H E Bates short story competition. I would have been happier, had I not known in the first place that I was in the finalists, because then I wouldn’t have had my hopes raised that I might have achieved a better place. Ah well. C’est la vie. Still writing-wise, it’s quite nice to have been commended, to have a story in the process of being tidied up (Park Keeper) to have just sent off an article, and to have received (this morning) the CD of my radio story.

I’m going to get on with tonight’s chicken dinner and concentrate on some ironing after that. I’ve left it for several days.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Complete story

A bleak and cold day yesterday. I was glad to stay in. I finished my three months’ worth of bookkeeping and the VAT, so that feels very satisfactory.

With all the office work behind me, I did a bit of work on my story about a park-keeper, and I continued it and finished a first draft this morning - or second in the case of the first 600 words, already read out to Guildford Writers. I’ve emailed it to them for comments. I heard from Wendy Lloyd who organised the competition with Radio Southern Counties to say that a CD is in the post. I assume this will have all the stories on it, and, as I missed hearing some of them on the radio, it will be interesting to listen to them. I will probably put the CD in the car and listen to the stories there, as I assume the player there is the most technically up to date.

In contrast to yesterday, it has been a beautiful day – once again the type of view you would wish to capture in a painting – the sun shining through the trees, the sky blue, contrasting with the still multi-coloured leaves. I collected up a few apples – this surely is the last of them – and my cleaning lady took a couple of pounds of the smaller ones as a treat for her horse. He has been sampling them for the past four or five weeks and they seem to go down well.

At lunch-time, I heard that The World at One presenter, Nick Clarke, had died of cancer. The whole programme was devoted to him, as he had been its main presenter for twelve years. It was very sad and very moving. I didn’t know his face, but his voice was a familiar one, as I listen much of the time to Radio Four. I remembered how I heard his journal on the radio one morning, as he described his apprehension when he faced chemotherapy after the amputation of his leg. I was taking M to the station, and I was quite tearful as I listened. I imagine that, faced with an amputation, one might be tempted to say – is this going to prolong my life? If not, perhaps I won’t bother – just make me comfortable for time that’s left. He obviously wanted very much to live and it is so sad that that terrible ordeal did not gain him more than a year of life.

Four thirty and it’s almost dark. I must make an early meal, as we’re going to see Guys and Dolls in Woking.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Efficiency (almost) personified

I tried to be efficient today and almost achieved it. I prepared my manuscript, together with biography for Writers’ Forum and packaged it up, so that I could go to the post office. I had some telephone calls to make before leaving home, but managed to get to the PO before it closed for lunch. Because of the thickness of it, (SAE enclosed) it nearly qualified for the next postal rate. [It’s a bit of a pain this ‘large letter’ stuff. I used to be able to throw things on the kitchen scales; now they have to be measured in all sorts of other ways.] Then I bought some eggs; then petrol and Sainsbury’s, followed by dropping off a few plastic bottles at the recycling centre in the village.

Only when I got home did I realise I’d missed out on one of the fruit aisles and had to go back, thus wasting half an hour. By this time M was back from the garage, where he went to do a job for them. He took his car there, with bicycle on board; left the car there, cycled back and arrived home puffed out. Tomorrow, he will take my car and bring his home. Apparently my ‘new’ car door has arrived. Once tied to the house, I will get back to the bookkeeping, but at least I am now very up to date with invoices. All except one or two pending have been typed, entered and sent.

I managed to throw together a brief piece ready for tonight’s Guildford Writers’ meeting. Only 600 words but I’ll try to keep going with it. It’s intended to go to the Writers’ News ‘Park-keeper’ competition. Not many people there tonight, so we all had ample time to read. All good stuff, as usual.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Non events

Not a lot happening at the moment. Office work still continuing and as usual, chatted with the children during the weekend. Made plans for post Christmas.

Got my missing filling attended to today. It was one of those doubles right at the back and I think the dentist had his arm down my throat. Still at least I wasn't subjected to the drill, nor an injection. And he checked my other teeth and all was OK. I've been eating very delicately since then. I don't want to have to return too quickly.

I've been attending to my article on Goldenford, which I will try out on Writers' Forum. Received a rejection of the story I sent to Writers' News. Disappointing - not even a short-listed this time. Though I comfort myself with the fact that A Glimpse of the Sky wasn't shortlisted by WN, but was by the Guildford short story competition and now the HE Bates comp.

Tomorrow, my car door should arrive at the garage. So, providing it's OK, I'll be losing it for three days. So I'll be shopping tomorrow, as I'll be marooned here until the weekend.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Office work

A really boring evening yesterday. A full two hours spent taking dictation - more invoices to be done - customer requires them for the end of their financial year. So this morning, I spent some time unwinding - probably a bit too much. Did the codewords puzzle in the Evening Standard and then played several computer games. Guilt overcame me around lunch time and I sorted out the invoices, printed them out, filed the copies, etc., etc.

While taking and collecting M from the station, I had another marvellous view of autumn colours. I tried to describe them in my head - the golden browns set against the red brick of our mainly Victorian village, but how do you describe autumn leaves; golden browns, warm browns, yellowy browns? Can a writer ever do justice to scenery in the way an artist can? I asked this in a poem I composed some time ago. One keeps trying, probably, in the same way that some artists repeatedly choose the same subject and try to reproduce it over and over again, each time aiming for perfection, or perhaps something better than last time.

Shortly after we got in, there was a downpour, so just as well I wasn't driving then. It was torrential. As it was, on my journey out, I noticed quite a few fallen branches. Autumn is very late this year. The leaves are only just falling, but the high winds and heavy rain will soon bring them all down.

I heard the other day from Wendy Lloyd with the names of the first three short stories in the Radio Southern Counties competition. I wasn't one of them, but was still very happy to have been featured on their website and paid for my story, Damaged Goods. http://www.bbc.co.uk/southerncounties/content/articles/2006/06/13/story_jackie_luben.shtml

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Book-keeping

I just noticed on my Home Page, BBC Radio 4 that Ed Reardon is on tonight. That's one of the best comedy programmes in the 6.30 p.m. slot, in my opinion - and not just mine, because it won some sort of award. It appeals to me at two levels, because he's an impecunious writer and gives creative writing classes to supplement his income and does book signings where no-one turns up. Although I've never done a creative writing class, I do empathise with this very true view of the writer, rather than the one who earns hundreds of thousands of pounds.

I've been very industrious today and made inroads into the bookkeeping. I did a couple of hours last night too, after watching Bramwell on satellite. This is a very good, intelligent series about a woman doctor at the end (I think) of the 19th century. Somehow I never watched it, other than a few episodes when it was out first time around, so I'm enjoying it as fresh TV.

I'm one of those few people who doesn't mind book-keeping. I find it soothing. You don't have to think too hard, and it must be almost like meditation, where you allow your mind to drift. It mustn't drift too much, or you put things in the wrong columns. When I have been very, very upset, it's something I can do and not think about the problem. Unlike some other jobs, you get a feeling of having completed something at the end of it. I have four different books to deal with, and completing each one gives me a sense of satisfaction. I carry out the book-keeping quarterly and do the VAT at the same time. I am old fashioned enough not to do it on the computer.

At 4.00 p.m. I looked out and the sky was still light - bright in fact, as it sometimes is on these late autumn days. I debated whether to take a couple of letters to the post, but decided to plough on. A half an hour later and it's now completely dark.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Good news/bad news

Today has been a day devoted almost entirely to domesticity.

With the gardener expected, I spent much time in the garden collecting up the best of the Bramleys. People are in such a rush to harvest their fruit, but in fact the apples falling now are the best of the crop - very often completely undamaged by insects; ripened by the sun and as sweet as can be when cooked - no sugar needed. I have put bags of the them in the shed and though some will go bad, I hope to have a supply for some time. I am boring on this subject, I know, but they are so much better than apples bought from the shops.

Then I did my weekly shop - I managed to go at lunch time when it was quite empty. I took the precaution of having a crispbread and cheese, as it's a bad idea to go shopping when hungry. Alas, this particular crispbread, having lots of seeds in it, seems to have attacked a filling, as I felt a piece of metal in my mouth. I've booked up the dentist for next week. Fortunately, I got back in time for a dramatic scene on the Archers (dramatic enough to be listened to twice.) But once home, having unloaded my shopping and had lunch, I've hardly had time for anything else.

Yesterday afternoon, the phone rang and it was the organiser from the HE Bates short story competition. He rang to tell me I was one of the four finalists with my story A Glimpse of the Sky. (I shall put it on my website very soon.) I was delighted, though on further reflection, there's no point in getting too excited as I might be in fourth place earning myself a certificate saying Highly Commended. Jennifer is going to the award ceremony and will collect my prize/certificate. I in the meantime will be at Guys and Dolls.

That was the good news. The bad news was that M came back from the body shop to tell me that the little bump would cost £700 to fix.

The people at the garage gave us a number to ring to try and get a new door, and tonight, we 've tried that out and lo and behold four calls came through with doors on offer. One is now being sent to our garage and is a lot cheaper option than them mending my door, which some anonymous person biffed, without my knowledge.

Tonight the VAT beckons.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Autumn rain

After several very bright days, it's raining today. It doesn't change the fact that there are still wonderful views to be seen. This is not my favourite time of year - I hate the way the nights lengthen and the days shorten, but it is very beautiful.

From my window, I can see a copper beech in our neighbour's garden, still retaining its scarlet leaves and in the opposite corner of our garden is a sweet chestnut tree whose green leaves are turning golden. Below it is the dark red of a berberis and alongside that is a grey-green senecio, and a cotoneaster which is bright with red berries. It's a wonderful picture and I appreciate every day when I look out.

I've been to the post office to send off three chapters of my novel to an agent. I'm not a very organised person, but I've gradually trained myself to carry out tasks on certain days. I try to go to the PO, two miles away, only once a week, whereas when it was in our village, I used to go nearly every day. I avoid Mondays, because, on my PO trips, I buy free range eggs from the butcher's and they're not open on a Monday. I go to the bank, if necessary, on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday, as they've now closed it on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Somewhere I fit Sainsbury's into that.

The post office used to be the centre of our village; people met and talked there, but when armed men broke in, it was the last straw for the postmistress. When I have standard size letters to post, I tend to walk to the box five minutes away, and try to extend the walk if I'm feeling energetic. My manuscript had to be weighed, hence the trip to the PO.

M has now taken my car to a garage for them to look at a bump I sustained in a car park. I will apply myself now to VAT.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Sunday

We had a good day with the family yesterday. M is lucky to have two sisters and a brother. Perhaps I have an idealised view of family life. Philippa cooked a meal vast enought for another 20 people to attend and we played a game in the afternoon. A bit of a disaster when David upset a bottle of wine, which broke a figurine and the bottle itself and sprayed red wine on an armchair and all over the floor. Natasha, our niece cleaned the chair with white wine. At 7.05 we 'girls' trooped into another room and listened to The Archers.

Today I am very tired. I need to get down to the office work, but can't concentrate yet. I went to meet my ex neighbour, Maggie, at the local Sainsbury's (cafe) and we had hot chocolate and chatted for a couple of hours. Other than that not a lot has been done, but I need to get back to work tomorrow.

I thought about my talk and came to the conclusion it wasn't one of my best. I was aware that I was hesitating quite a lot, and saying 'em' in between words. Let's say I felt less sharp than I have on some occasions. Last time I talked at Sutton, I arrived late and was very tense. Once I started, everything seemed to go well. I wonder if a certain amount of tension brings about an andrenoline rush which then helps you to speak better. On this occasion, M took me, which meant we had an uneventful journey. Then he sat in the audience, which was distracting, particularly when I heard him chatting to another member of the audience. Maybe I should dispense with my written spiel and just have a few notes, so that I can ad lib throughout the whole speech. I'll think about it.

Must try to get to bed early tonight.
9.20 p.m. on Monday

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Lazy day

Chatted on the phone with the kids this morning. Other than that, nothing much that I can recall.

The talk yesterday went reasonably well. M says the audience enjoyed it, as he was part of it, so perhaps he should know. No book sales, alas, but many of the audience had published their work too. Anyway I was paid for my efforts, so I have no complaint.

Tomorrow, we are going to lunch with Philippa and M's other siblings. Always enjoyable these family visits. Perhaps, as an only child, I appreciate brothers and sisters more than others. I think being an only child is often a lonely experience.

I caught up with Casualty tonight. I'd missed two weeks, but it falls quickly into place. Goodness it's 10.50 p.m. already. How quickly the day has gone.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Achieving some objectives

The only way to clear a desk is one sheet of paper at a time. I have managed to deal with a few things. Some cheques have been sent out; some letters have been filed. And one or two of the other mundane domestic chores have also been dealt with. I meant to deal with some invoices M dictated last night, but somehow they were put on the back burner.

On the writing front, I have completed my rewrite of the article I've written about Goldenford and sent it to my fellow directors, Jennifer, Anne and Irene, for comments. In addition, I've been asked to send the complete ms of my novella A Bottle of Plonk to an on-line publisher of serials, Virtual Tales. I sent that off tonight.

I've also gone through my notes for a talk tomorrow at Sutton Writers. As things stand, it's an article, but I won't just read from it. My method of giving a talk is to write something down in more or less good English, using only half the width of the page, then put in notes and headings summing up what I'm going to say, down the empty half. I try not to read from the article, but it's there if I need it. I like to ramble a bit and face the audience. I'm always nervous in advance, but so far, have recovered once I'm 'on stage'. I hope it will go well tomorrow - M is taking me, as I don't do driving outside my patch.

Once I auditioned for the WI. The parking was terrible; I was a bage of nerves when I arrived, and I had miscalculated the number of words I needed, so my talk - which should have been 20 minutes - turned into about five. I was relieved to fail the audition. I came to the conclusion I really didn't want to travel the countryside getting tense about parking situations.

I still have a lot to do tomorrow. I must assemble my 'props' and some cash, in case anyone wants to buy one of my books.

Time: 11.30 p.m.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Stressed

I like activities - having the family for the weekend; going out to Goldenford meetings and Guildford Writers' meetings, but then I find that lots of trivial things have piled up and I feel stressed. That's happening at the moment. I'm not going out today or this evening and am contemplating not going to the reading circle, to which I also belong, tomorrow. (I will not miss discussing the book, which I read several years ago - The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. I found it Dickension but without the humour. I was bored and wouldn't read it a second time.)

A friend of mine says that when you have too many branches on the tree, you should prune them down to about five. Not, mind you, that she takes much notice of this good advice herself. At the moment I feel there are a lot of branches and twigs (that's what makes the difference) on the tree. There is post on the desk that requires dealing with; the talk still needs to be sorted; an article I'm writing on Goldenford needs to be rewritten. Then there's washing and ironing - I did a batch of that yesterday and there's more today. Borrrrrring! There's apples too, still crying out to be cooked/frozen/stored in some way. I will appreciate them when I have someone to dinner and can produce a quick dessert.

Last night I went to GW. A good evening with lots of really good stuff being read out. I had hardly a comment to make, because it was all so good. Of course I've brought back my own piece with lots of scribbles on it - so that's another job.

Also last night, I listened to the 15,000th episode of The Archers. I haven't looked at the website. Think I'll try to restrain myself - that really is a way of wasting time. But my own verdict was Anti-Climax. Firewords at Ambridge, they said. More like a damp squib.

Now to work. On top of the above mentioned, I haven't even started the VAT. I think I'll postpone that till next week.

11.35 a.m.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Birthday blog

Another birthday. Let's disregard the actual year and move swiftly on.

Apart from dropping M at the station this morning, I stayed in all day. Much to do after the weekend visit. Lots of domestic chores and I haven't finished yet - more tomorrow. But I did manage to spend some time updating the talk I'm giving on Friday to Sutton Writers' circle.

I will print it out tomorrow and put some notes in that I can easily spot, so that I'm not just reading without looking at my audience.

Although it felt as if the birthday was yesterday, I got a card from K and family this morning and some flowers from R & J. Lovely surprise after yesterday.

In the evening, we had a Goldenford meeting. On arriving I was presented with a 'Bottle of Plonk' and Anne crowned me with a tiara, saying 'Birthday girl' or similar. This object which was stabbed into my head, proceeded to play 'Happy birthday, etc.' Jennifer took a photo, which, no doubt, will stay around to haunt me for years to come.

Got through lots of stuff, as usual. Jennifer has reported that following our presentation to Barclays' Bank, they want us to come back to entertain with readings at their Christmas party.

11.35 p.m - And so to bed, as another diarist said.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Early birthday celebrations

We've just returned from lunch at the Chinese restaurant. Very successful. It was self service and my two granddaughters, seven and four respectively (both with birthdays in December) were able to go backwards and forwards to the food table choosing a bit of this and a bit of that. As they are both active and like being up and down all the time anyway, this was right up their street. There was a huge party in the restaurant when we arrived and we were ushered upstairs. This was also good, because, apart from the serving table there were only another four or five tables up there, so very few people to annoy. This was Rob and Jayne's birthday treat for me, but before we left home I opened my cards, including the ones which the girls had made specially; I opened the present which Ella had given me - a brooch, which I wore on my trouser suit and also the family present - some chocs and a copy of A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian - which I had already decided to read.

The family has gone home now, and OH and I are unwinding in our respective ways - me in front of the screen and he in front of the other screen, on which I understand, some rugby will soon take place.

Yesterday was also very successful. The family arrived at lunch time and in the afternoon, we collected up dead wood and branches to add to the huge bonfire already built. Naturally, the girls loved wheeling the barrow and adding their contribution to the wood pile. Harriet, the girl next door, had made an impressive Guy and he was stuck on top.

At six, we reassembled and Harriet lit the fire, which, within minutes, was raging. Friends, parents and in-laws of the group of neighbours all turned up to stand around this furnace, which threw out tremendous heat, despite the cold. The teenagers from two houses and their friends made up the main bulk of the participants, and fireworks were contributed by two neighbours and friends; food from others. We moved to a garden for the fireworks and watched the show for at least half an hour. There was a bright moon, and it was cold and crisp as it has been for the past few days.

Then to another house where the barbecue was churning out burgers and sausages, and chicken legs were arriving straight from the oven. The neighbours all did a terrific job. My brownies apparently went down OK and there were enough for the teenagers' lunch today, after a sleepover in two houses.

I'd already fed the girls, as the fireworks was quite late enough for them. They wanted to be part of the continued jollity, and they each had a baked pototo before coming home to bed. I called it a day too. My toes were getting cold. But M (OH) stayed on to consume a few chicken legs; then arrived home and fell asleep for the next two hours - in fact till bedtime.

Tomorrow is my actual birthday and I'll be at a Goldenford meeting in the evening. That's fine. It's quite a social event. I've got things happening almost every night in the coming week. I shall be exhausted at the end of it.

Later: as usual, the time was incorrect and this addition is taking place at 11.15 p.m. In addition, I've looked at my so called profile to be told my birth sign is Gemini. What rubbish. I'm a Scorpio, of course, known for my sting in the tail.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Frosty mornings

Another bright and frosty start to the day and another dozen or so huge apples fallen from the tree. These late fallers are the best ones - ripe and sweet, and not usually infiltrated by worms like the early fallers. Two years ago, when we had a good crop, I stored them in a cold shed, and was still cooking them in the following March. Bramleys in the shops are never rosy like these are, because they pick them all much earlier.

Yesterday was the first frost and the busy lizzies in the garden turned black and limp. Time for them all to go, and the hanging baskets too. They've given us lots of colour through the summer, and the weather we had in October was unbelievable. I remember when I lived in London, the only time I realised it was spring was when I saw the little white flowers on the privet hedges. One is much more aware of seasons in the country.

I have a lot more to do in view of the busy weekend ahead. And a special request for brownies! I may have to do another batch. Can't disappoint my fans.

2.15 p.m. my time. Even though I haven't yet adjusted my watch, or my car clock, I know it's not 6 in the morning.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Some things accomplished

It's been a busy day. I went with OH this morning to have flu jabs. Then he decided not to bother to go to a job and stayed home. It was pretty cold today, though bright and beautiful; I refrained from putting the heating on, until OH said he was cold. I dressed up warmly and went to post some letters in the local box, but didn't stay out long.

I hope it stays bright for the fireworks on Saturday night, but perhaps not quite so cold.

Tonight I've printed out the end of month statements and the few invoices from last night. So I'm feeling virtuous about that. I also spent some time making two large batches of brownies. I've sampled a couple, but the nuts in them have made me feel shaky. Still they seem all right. I don't think I've ever made them before, but I found a recipe in the depths of my old scrap book. I transferred the recipe to the computer. Much easier to do a print out instead of fumbling through old books. I may have to do another batch tomorrow. I want to achieve at least sixty small squares, as there will be a large number of teenagers at our bonfire night do.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Time for a chat

A good day. Irene came over for lunch and I had a chance to unburden myself. I've been feeling depressed since our visit to Hereford.

We've also arranged to have a table at a Christmas Fair locally where hopefully, we might sell some books.

Although I'm trying to write an article at the moment, domesticity and office work are both queuing up for my attention. I've done some invoices tonight - or rather taken dictation, so that I can print them out tomorrow. Also in the queue - more apples to be stewed and filed in the freezer; a cake to be made for Bonfire night; some crumble mix for my famed apple crumble for the family visit. I've booked a Chinese restaurant for Sunday, as my son and family are taking us out for lunch. It's time for end of month statements too and starting on the bookkeeping.

It's all go, isn't it?

However, I just spent ten minutes on the Archers' website. It's good fun to read, particularly some of the outraged comments. Although I have a name, I haven't got anything to say at the moment. I feel surprisingly shy about it.

Time: 11.45 pm

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Back to civilisation

Some people think we - the OM and I - live out in the wilds; I thought that when I first came here and we built a house in a field - all set out in my autobiographical book, The Fruit of the Tree. Now I see it's really quite civilised - only ten minutes or so to the nearest town, Guildford, and the same distance to Surrey University, where I obtained my degree three or four years ago (as a very mature student.)

We've just returned from my daughter's new house in Hereford and that was an eye opener. A couple of houses and a converted train station house, all set in miles of undulating fields. No-one around but sheep. She and her husband are very happy to have found this isolated spot and if they're happy, that's fine. I like people too much to want to be so cut off. At least there's a school for little Eve only a mile away, with about fifty children attending. And she seems to like it, and enjoyed taking me for a walk to see the train, which drives backwards and forwards along a small section of track about twice a week.

We also drove on to visit my old work friend Susan, and husband, Bruce, in mid-Wales. Another long journey, but it's so long since we visited, and this was a good opportunity.

Now I've come back to all the usual paperwork, and the VAT return has to be done this month. Also there was a rejection of my novel from an agent. I was unsurprised at that. I'll send it off to someone else soon.

My son and family will be visiting next weekend and we and our neighbours are having a bonfire and fireworks on Saturday night, which I hope the children will enjoy. But I need to make a cake or dessert as my contribution. I was considering chocolate brownies.

Just checked this entry and find that the time I'm supposed to have posted it is in the early hours of the morning. Quite ridiculous. It's two forty in the afternoon.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A day of variety

I was very industrious this morning, but all domesticity. Before the rain came, I collected up about 20 pounds (I can't think in kilos and things like that) of huge apples from our Bramley tree, and stored them in a shed. This is a disgusting hole, and I had to negoiate my way through spiders' webs, even putting my head through the doorway. This year's spiders are skinny and spindly but they are very efficient web builders. I'm finding them everywhere, even in the cupboards and doorways of my house.

I coooked some apple too and filed it for future use. We bought our apple tree about 35 years ago, when it looked as if the EEC might phase out Bramleys or call them something like Grade II cooking apple. We have had wonderful crops some years, and my apple crumble is always well received.

This evening Goldenford Publishers, the small publishing house, of which I am a director and which has brought out my novella A Bottle of Plonk, held a presentation at Barclays' Bank in Guildford, as part of the Guildford Book Festival. What nice people they were at the bank - really helpful and welcoming. My fellow writers, Irene Black, Anne Brooke and Jennifer Margrave each read passages from their books, as did I. I was the lucky one tonight, as I sold some books - thanks to Anne's friends that came along, having already bought copies of hers.

When I came home the OM was in a panic about a telephone call that had come in from a restaurant in Covent Garden. I had to put on my other hat as secretary and try to find the invoice that gave details of an extract fan installed two or three years ago. I spent an hour trying to find the info. What an anti-climax to the evening. He is rushing off tomorrow to try to solve their problem.

Should a diary be corrected? An interesting philosophical question. I have just corrected Bloody in the previous entry. At some time I really must look up accrued and see if that's right. Spellchecks have made me lazy.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sunday, Bloody Sunday

A non-event of a day, since the OH, or the OM, whichever you prefer went off to an unfinished job, before I was even out of bed this morning.

Chaos reigned when I got up, the dishwasher had to be emptied and last night's additional bits of washing up, washed up.

I did managed to have an uninterrupted listen to the Archers and ponder on the unlikely love affair between Ruth and Sam. I also finished off re-edits of my latest story entry for Writers' News and put it ready for posting tomorrow. No more luxury of unfolded sheets that now qualify as a 'large letter'. Extravagances such as that will only be reserved for the first three chapters of my novel when it's ready for another excursion into the wilds.

It was pouring with rain all day, which was a shame, because yesterday was such a beautiful autumn day and I didn't go out. I was tempted to collect some apples in, because they are now rosy and beautiful. I am accruing packs of stewed apple in the freezer. Very useful later on in the year, when I need a speedy dessert. The view from the window is not quite as good as some years, when the berberis has been a brilliant shade of red. Too much rain recently, and so the two or three shrubs are dark in colour. But the copper beech is magnificent.

As part of my resolution to try out several things, I reviewed some chapters on the Youwriteon website, and will at some time upload my own chapters. Not being on broadband yet, this is a costly exercise. I am waiting for my neighbour's teething problems to be resolved, before I subject myself to this. We think our overhead cables may be a problem. That's the problem with living in a wood.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Clean sheets

In the days when I kept a diary, I used to like to the look and feel of a clean sheet of paper. I suppose this feels the same, except that it's a bit more difficult and complicated.

Will I keep this up, or will I resort, as I did when I was twelve or so, to writing 'had games today. French in the afternoon' after a crafy look at my school timetable.

At the moment, I'm too easily drawn away from my writing, which is the purpose of this log, sorry, blog. What an ugly word. I wish they could have thought of something more pleasing to the ear.

I have had a bad day today, having been tired. Therefore I have played a million computer games, as I'm addicted to them, and I ate half a box of liquer chocolates, which my brother in law brought last night. I would have eaten the other half, but the Other Half ate them.