Thursday, December 27, 2007

The calm after ...

The house is quiet. I do enjoy a bit of peace after social things. M has buzzed off to help out a cousin with some voluntary technical stuff. I have just browsed the Archers’ website and see that everyone is back – being either witty and clever, or sometimes rather murderous – but generally entertaining. It’s as if addicts can’t wait to be back behind the screen after a couple of days of turkey and stuffing – stuffing themselves, that is.

We had a relatively quiet day yesterday, but went to a neighbour get-together on Christmas Eve and spent Christmas Day with my brother-in-law and friends. He - M’s brother – whilst following in the family tradition of being a Male Chauvinist (person) is nevertheless, unlike his older brother, a very good cook and entertained us royally with turkey and all the rest of the frills. We took a very extravagant chocolate cake with us, but had to bring half back as Bro-i-L said he would never eat all of it on his own. So yesterday, we had slices of choc cake; chocolate truffles; chocolate liqueurs and I still raided my secret supply of chocolate buttons. We did go for a short walk and possibly walked off the effects of one champagne truffle each. New leaves will be called for shortly.

I finished off the Reading Circle book, by Anita Shreve, very quickly. I didn’t care for the title – Eden Close – and it would not in itself have prompted me to read it. Was the title meant to be ambiguous? – it sounded like a location, not a person’s name. I was also prejudiced against it immediately because, like Tenderness of Wolves, it was in the present tense with strays into the past. It’s something I rarely do, with the possible exception of a short story, where I’m occasionally more experimental. I’ve heard it said, ‘It’s so immediate.’ Frankly, I don’t feel that way - I find it distracting and I have to work at ignoring it. There is a tradition of writing in the past tense – after all the present becomes the past immediately – and you have perfect tenses and plu-perfect to place the story further back into the past.

Having said that, once I got on to the relationship between the main protagonists, I was hooked; it really did have, for me page turning qualities, and a very satisfying build-up towards a climax. There were parts of it which were very sensitively written with insightful demonstrations of people’s genuine emotions and we mostly stayed in the head of the main character, got to know him and appreciate his personality. A genuine good read in my view. Now I’m reading a non-fiction book, The 43 Group, about people who fought fascism in London in the post-war period. My cousin was one of their number, hence my interest.

But having had a lazy morning, I’m debating whether to go to Guildford and see what the sales have to offer. And return some trousers that were too tight – and that was before Christmas.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Tidying up; curling up; going out; staying in

Ploughing through the paper mountain on my desk, I came to a list. It was a fairly old list with items on it that had been transferred several times. On glancing at it, I was thrilled to see that the first item – Carpet – which had been on there for probably nine months – could be erased. And so could Defrost freezer, and so too Email D-i-L about the children’s presents – and I’d updated the Guildford Writers’ Website recently, too. What joy. It was too late for the Writers’ News Swimming short story competition and too late to worry about further invites here this year. With glee, I scrapped the whole list. I’ll start again in a couple of weeks.

Preparing for my visitors on Sunday, I looked up roasted peppers on the net. I came to one site which said: ‘You can roast and blacken peppers on the burner directly over the gas flame. Have a fire extinguisher handy.’ This is not the one for me, I thought.

There were no disasters at my dinner party, and everyone seemed to get on well. I was tired though, after what seemed to be the entire day cooking. I really do not like entertaining. I should like to send out an announcement to all my friends: I’m a really good guest – I’m much better at that than at being a hostess.

We were going to invite neighbours over on Saturday night Рwell in fact we did, but most of them seem to be doing something else. As each family politely declined, waves of relief washed over me (to use a clich̩). Tomorrow, I will cancel the event and inform the couple of people who have yet to contact me.

For the whole of this freezing cold week, I have wanted to go into hibernation. Animals have got it right. They know we should be curled up in a small ball in our bedding quarters. Each day, I have had to force myself to go out, clear layers of ice from my equally reluctant car and go off into the world. Today, I have succumbed and stayed at home.

On Monday, we had a Goldenford ( meeting and a post mortem on recent events. We also discussed our forthcoming books. Anne Brooke’s Thorn in the Flesh is now with the printers. We should get the sample copy early in January and will be ready to order very soon. I think it will be very successful, as it’s a gripping read. I’ve also sent off the new PDF file on Gawain.

Yesterday, Irene and I went to The Deli, to give readings of our respective books, and were delighted that even on such a cold night, we were able to sell some books. We were so impressed at the hospitality which Claire and Matt of The Deli provided, and at the wonderful array of goods which they had for sale. They are going to hold more literary events, so keep an eye open for them, if you are in the area. And if you want to buy from an independent and individual food supplier, pay them a visit as soon as possible, in the flesh or at their website: Their address is: 119 Lynchford Road, North Camp Farnborough, Hampshire GU14 6ET.

On Tuesday, we were selling at the Craft Fair at the Farnham Maltings. It was a very successful sale and we had a lot of fun. A moment of crisis when Jennifer upset hot chocolate over the table, but we recovered. People were attracted to our stall by Irene’s Thai dragons and then several were interested in our books. We are benefiting from having a range to offer – my book, A Bottle of Plonk is in my view contemporary; although set in the late eighties, I cannot regard that as historic. Since it is about people and their interaction with each other, such things do not changed dramatically in twenty years. The Gawain Quest is a historical mystery; The Moon’s Complexion a romantic thriller set in India and Sri Lanka; Pink Champagne is concerned with a gay transvestite. And we also have short stories and my autobiographical book, The Fruit of the Tree. Next year possibly another four books will be available. There’s something for everyone at Goldenford.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Ups and downs in life and books

I am currently imprisoned in my mini office or study or whatever you want to call it. Actually, it’s a good place to be because with the door closed and the computer on, it’s quite cosy and outside the window, it looks decidedly chilly. I have a carpet fitter here, as for some time, we’ve been concerned about a threadbare patch of carpet in a very obvious place. He came to look, today, and then said he’d deal with it there and then. He’s cut a bit from one place and put it in another; what’s more he’s going to clean it too. Consequently, I can’t really move into any of the areas where work is in progress.

We’ve had rather a grim few days. M’s medication caused problems, which resulted in us spending an evening – well up to 2.30 a.m. actually – at the local Casualty. (Thank goodness for the Surrey County – they haven’t succeeded in closing it yet.) Then I got an infection and had to go on anti-biotics. But hopefully, we’re both OK now.

On our way to Casualty, the internal workings of my car made the most appalling racket. Bearing in mind it was the same day that the car had been serviced, I wasn’t best pleased. When M was feeling back to normal, he took it back for me. He had to go in that direction, and I really wanted him to do the grumbling. (I’m not very good at that in the flesh, though my grumpy letters are normally quite potent.) However, when they opened the car up, they found a conker in the innards. M & I speculated how it could have got there – after all, it’s not even conker time now, is it? M’s cousin – a car engineer – suggested that some small animal had attempted to make a nest in the underneath of the car, attracted by the warmth, and the conker had been drawn in by the air system. Then perhaps during the service, it had moved into a position where we became aware of it. As you know, animals love to come and occupy our space.

I’ve been working on the changes to the PDF file on Gawain, one of the Goldenford books (, before we get a reprint, and I’ve just sent off my final version to the others for any comments. We hope to get our printing orders in for additional books in the new year, along with Thorn in the Flesh and Pink Champagne.

Tonight, I’m at the reading circle to dispense my thoughts on Tenderness of Wolves. My main feeling was it tried to cover too much, in terms of characters. When I wrote Tainted Tree, my focus was on one main character. Perhaps this was too narrow, but I think the reader’s sympathies should not be dissipated by having to cope with too many characters and sub-plots. Bear in mind, I’m not talking about Russian novels, but anything characterised by the term ‘a good read’, and by the end of T of W, I had begun to find my interest in what happened to all of them was wearing thin. It also moved too slowly towards a climax. A story should move rapidly in an uphill direction to a peak, very near the end, in my opinion. This was jogging along on a plateau. But then, who am I too comment? Not a winner of the Costa Prize, that's or sure.

I’ve been listening to Dombey and Son serialised on Women’s Hour, and of course it’s possible that it has been edited to remove too many sub-plots – I haven’t read it, so I don’t know – but it does seem that Dickens has concentrated on the main characters, and though there are sub-plots, there is a sort of hierarchy of interest, with Florence Dombey at the top of the tree. It’s worked for me; I’ve listened avidly to all three weeks of it.

Having dealt with Thorn and Gawain, next job is to complete the Christmas cards and prepare for a dinner party this weekend. Then it seems the way will be clear for me to start on the edit of Tainted Tree. There can’t be anything else happening in the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The answer’s in a lemon

There are some days when you wake up knowing that neither brain nor moving parts are working properly. Today was one of those days. I had booked an MOT and service for my car, but if felt as if I needed one myself.

Driving along, I couldn’t seem to stay in a straight line, as I adjusted wipers, radio, temperature, etc. And I overshot the garage and had to do a three point turn in another premises. Then when the receptionist asked me for my mobile number, I gaped at her idiotically. ‘I don’t know it,’ I confessed.

Walking into Guildford then felt like hard work; my legs and hips ached. I tried to remember what I had done the previous day to cause this, but nothing came to mind except putting lemon juice on my fish last night. A friend claims she always suffers from rheumatics if she has lemons. Has anyone else encountered this?

I spent some time browsing and bought some trousers and sweaters – just for me – no gift receipts required. Then to HMV for High School Musical for GD1, as part of her birthday present. Alas, another shopping trip will be called for. But my car was ready, and I had no energy for continuing. But when I collected it, I noticed one of the hub caps was missing. It must have come off during the road test, because they couldn’t find it. So another trip back is on the cards.

M got over his procedure very quickly. If you think I sound a little casual at what sounds a very major event, I am only taking my cue from him. There’s no pain; he’s in and out of the hospital in a morning and he loves being surrounded by young nurses making a fuss of him. However, a couple of days ago, he developed an infection under his tooth – same problem as a few weeks ago, and I was really sorry for him. He’s had a couple of bad nights and had to take painkillers; he was even reduced to having porridge for lunch.

Meanwhile, on the work front, I have polished off all the invoices dictated last week and the end of month statements. I’ve also dealt with Thorn in the Flesh, Anne’s ‘woman in jeopardy’ novel, to the best of my ability, and it will soon be ready to go to the printer. Anne ( is organising the cover. Hopefully, the book will be ready for launch in the early part of next year, to be followed in May by Tainted Tree.

But Tainted Tree is still in abeyance, as the next Goldenford ( job is to create a new PDF file on Gawain, to take in some changes. And Christmas cards have started arriving, so I must check up on my Christmas list. Last week, when I was listening to Katharine Whitehorn, I heard her saying how supportive her husband was, and I thought how some women with high-powered careers seem to have husbands who don’t mind doing the mundane stuff at home. Almost – it seems – like a wife. Now that’s what I could do with – a wife.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Larks, owls and other birds

What a long day. M has once again had to have his heart stopped and restarted, or as a friend rather wittily put it, 'He's been rebooted.'

I had to get up at the crack of dawn - well actually, in the middle of night in my terms - about 6.30 a.m. - to get him to the hospital. I have friends who say how wonderful it is to get up early; I couldn't share their enthusiasm; by 11 a.m. I was exhausted and ready for bed, though I continued to muddle through the day. M never has any difficulty in getting up; but he sleeps through all the evening television.

When I collected M, two people pulled in behind me in the tiny car park, as I was about to attempt to reverse into a better position. I was almost at right angles to them but had to try to straighten up to create more space for them. To my embarrassment, the car not only kept slipping back on the slight incline, but stalled as well, at least half a dozen times. When I finally managed to right it, I half expected a burst of applause, but the elderly man with frame, manfully making his way to the entrance, a la Mrs. Overall, (from the car behind) did not look so inclined.

M, condemned to staying put because of the general anaesthetic, kept thinking of activities he'd like to be doing. In the end, to stop him wandering outside and playing in his workshop with unsuitable things, I had to suggest we polished off the invoices. So more office work to sort out tomorrow. I dared not send them out today, without checking them. With my brain in sleep mode, I could easily have sent them out with the pounds in the pence column.
And now, as a special treat, my bird pictures, from which you will see that the jay and the green woodpecker, which I shot from my office and kitchen window, repsectively, a few days ago, seem eager to escape from the photos. It's the best I can do. I'll try again another time.

Monday, November 26, 2007

A housewife's lot ...

Two more tasks completed and maybe soon I’ll be able to get to the Tainted Tree edit and also my book for the reading circle, The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney. Though the prospect of starting on business and personal Christmas cards looms and I must also make a trip into Guildford to get birthday presents for two of the grandchildren. Still I have been working hard during the last few days, and I do have some feeling of satisfaction. I spent a large part of Friday cooking. I made a vegetable terrine and some onion soup, for the vegetarian ProdigalD, spouse and GD2, who were coming back from Switzerland on Friday evening, as well, of course, as our own meal – and loads of roast potatoes and veg for five people. Disappointingly, they were very late and exhausted and could hardly do justice to the meal. We had had to start a couple of hours before them.

They left shortly after breakfast and I had resolved to tackle defrosting the chest freezer. The ice on the rim was thick and hard and I was getting more and more worried that the temperature within was not as cold as it should be. But while the wasps were paying their regular visits to the utility room, I was reluctant to spend time there; or, in fact, to open it when vast amounts of poison had been sprayed into the atmosphere. Fortunately, about a week ago, there was a frost. I don’t like being cold, but there are times when it’s a necessary evil. At any rate, it appeared to have done the trick; there were only a couple more dead bodies on the floor, and then no appearance of any flying creatures. I just hope they haven’t found a little haven in there in which to start a new nest next year. So I cleared all the stuff from the freezer, wrapped it up in the spare room with the towels the family had just used – might as well get some more use out of them before starting on the marathon wash – and started chipping away. M offered me a steamer; I blenched when he unearthed it from his workroom; it had only been used twice and it was covered with dust and tar. He filled it up getting water all over the floor. At this point I banished him. He didn’t mind - there was rugby on the TV - and I cleaned up the thing and then found it quite useful. When I’d finished, I found another towel for M to wipe up the water in bottom of the freezer. I could quite see that if I attempted to reach the bottom, my feet would start waving in the air.

While I worked I listened to the new Frederick Raphael serial on the radio. I’ve forgotten the name and I hadn’t really followed the plot; I just listened to the witty dialogue, which I think is all that matters. And talking of wit, I loved listening to Katharine Whitehorn’s memoirs last week – Unreliable Memories, I think it was called. I thought she was a woman after my own heart when she confessed on Any Questions many yonks ago that her bra strap was done up with a safety pin.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I completed the VAT yesterday, with days to spare. Then M & I went off to a supper quiz with a team of friends. Great fun, though we didn’t win.

I notice from a brief look at my various site statistics that whenever I mention chocolate brownies there is a flurry of interest. Readers, if you're that keen, just let me know and I'll supply the recipe. Regretfully, I cannot supply virtual slices. My computer won't allow it.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Stripping down and taking off

The week is rapidly going into a descent. From a family birthday party on Sunday, a a visit from the Prodigal D staying over with husband and GD2, before taking off to Heathrow, to er take off again (to Switzerland) and a very productive day on Tuesday, to stripping down the Dyson today and having to go to Sainsbury’s too, today, there has been a definite downward move.

The wretched Dyson was spitting out as much as it was taking in and there was no option but to change my clothes and get out my Phillips’ screwdriver (just showing off about my technical know-how). The Dyson is supposed to be such a brilliant design (or is everyone now disillusioned?) but is there anyone who doesn’t get covered in dust when they remove the lower part and extract one week’s intake? In this case, I had to change the filters, take off the cone and clean that up, and remove the base plate and dig out what seemed like a bird’s nest from the underneath and inside. (I used another screwdriver for that). Then I was left with three parts to put back and experienced a moment of panic. How had I got the thing back together last time? Was I going to have to leave the bits for M to reinstate? But no, suddenly, everything clicked into place, and all I had to do then was dump my clothes in with the other washing and vacuum all the bits that had spread themselves on to the floor. All in all the operation took nearly an hour of my – at the moment – very precious time.

I’ve had a couple of good sessions on the VAT earlier in the week, and on Tuesday, another productive Goldenford ( meeting. When I got home, that evening, instead of wasting the time, I printed out four stories and ready to send to a competition. It’s a while since I’ve sent anything off, and I had been meaning to do this for some time. They were due in at the end of this month. I’ve also spent some time updating my website with information on Tainted Tree. That took another evening, but once again, has been bothering me. I’ve also been wondering how difficult it would be to transfer the whole lot to a site with my domain name. Any advice on that would be appreciated. I’ve also updated the Guildford Writers’ News page, ( and will soon be starting on the Goldenford website with the latest information about Tainted Tree and Anne Brooke’s ( Thorn in the Flesh. The Goldenford hot-line has been buzzing with discussions about blurbs and logos. Too much time seems to have been wasted on other emails, to be read and responded to and similarly letters – and still the tower on my desk gets higher. Also had to chauffeur M to and from his garage for his van’s MOT.

I was going to upload – just for Anne’s sake – a photo of the visiting green woodpecker, as well as a jay that’s been feeding just outside the kitchen door. But it will have to wait, for I must return to the VAT and the proposed shopping this afternoon, or there will be complaints from Customs & Excise, who may whisk me away to repay my debt to society, and also from M, as there are no bananas left in the house.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Cool characters, art and books, London nights and lights

We had a lovely lunch out with our friends on Sunday, at a French restaurant attached to a pub. We have a lot of poultry at home; for many reasons, it seems better to avoid too much red meat, but at this restaurant, I really enjoy it because of the quality of the meat and the way it’s cooked.

I didn’t do the bookkeeping on Monday. I did do a bit of catching up, generally. Thank goodness for a full day at home. But it’s time for statements (I am the one that checks these accounts and, where appropriate, pays the bills.) Then it was necessary to go to the bank and return Salmon Fishing to the library More importantly, I did finish Thorn in the Flesh, and emailed Anne with my comments. I found it a book full of suspense and had to concentrate on the job in hand – the occasional need for editing – rather than just following my instinct to read on and find out what was going to happen. Though, of course, Anne is such a good writer that there are very few places that need changing. Just as well I finished, though, as Anne completed Tainted Tree on Monday night too, and I must soon get down to dealing with the editing. Irene’s comments have also been coming in and it will be very useful to compare the two.

Too much to do to produce anything for Guildford Writers in the evening, but it was a pleasant relaxed occasion with only half a dozen people there. Shortly after starting, an unshaven, filthy man in his thirties, with a beret at a rakish angle, turned up and, eyeing us all commented something like, ‘You’re a funny lot.’ I would guess that it was to pre-empt our saying the same about him. Asked if he was a writer, he replied he wrote poetry, which I thought was a possibility and was quite interested to hear it. He also assured us that what he really liked was fighting, but no-one picked a fight with him, because we’re used to an assortment of people arriving at the group, with the occasional eccentric. After listening to one reading, he got up, said, ‘That was good,’ but he needed to go to the pub. We breathed a sigh of relief, particularly those closest to him, (I wasn’t one of them.) who said he absolutely stank.; they probably hadn’t been able to draw breath for several minutes.

M & I decided that ‘cool’ is definitely the in-word for the young. GD1, coming up for nine, says it a lot. Yesterday morning, M rang a customer where he’d put in a temporary heater; the customer reported it was blowing cold air. M asked him to check out a few things and confirmed he would fix a permanent one in a few days. The young man replied ‘cool’ so often M thought he was still talking about the heater.

I went to London yesterday. First there was the usual coat debate. Is it going to be warm or cold. Will the train be hot and the outside cold? Will the sun go in; will a warm coat be heavy when trooping round an art gallery or similar. Indecisive must be my middle name.

On the train, I started work on a short story; another passenger was studying property law, while the young girl opposite me was knitting. I had a good look at her, for the knitting seemed incongruous; she was wearing trendy silver trainers, a thick knitted scarf and woolly hat, but black nail varnish, and a silver ring in her nose and a dark red bead under her lower lip. (At first I wasn’t quite sure if it was a bad spot, but it was very central.) I decided I might use her in my story. I also decided that knitting must be ‘cool’ now.

Coming in to Waterloo, I heard an announcement, ‘Please leave the station immediately. Follow the directions from station staff’ and something about ‘emergency.’ For a moment I thought, ‘What’s happening?’, but it was immediately followed by, ‘That is the end of the fire alarm.’ A fellow passenger chuckled to his companion, ‘Spreading alarm and despondency.’

My friend had checked up on what was on at the galleries, and my preference was for an exhibition of Millais at Tate Britain, which I thought was marvellous. There were seven rooms of paintings, many of them huge works, and although his style changed a little over the years, his detail of people and clothing was meticulous. Wonderful dresses, where you imagined, if you touched them you would feel the silk or the velvet. Jewels that sparkled, as if he had glued a real one to the canvas. And facial expressions beautifully portraying the emotions of the subjects. I understood that at some time his work had appeared controversial, but it was always aesthetically pleasing. Unlike the controversial art of today. For another £2 we could have seen a retrospective of the Turner prize-winners. After the Lord Mayor’s Show – I don’t think so.

When we emerged, it was getting dark. The London I still love was alive with lights and colour. The magnificent buildings still imposing and impressive. When I lived and worked in London in my twenties, I hardly noticed the darkness of winter. The London nights were exciting. They still are.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The week whizzes past

Once again a full week. Much as I hate to have a week with nothing happening at all, I sometimes find that if I have an activity every day of the week, I start to get panicky about the accumulated tasks that haven’t been dealt with.

The wasp crisis has continued, and there were new half dead wasps on the floor, when I sneaked into the utility room yesterday. I managed to get the machine loaded with towels, and then rushed out, looking above and around me for zooming winged creatures and any sort of threatening behaviour. Today, I got the washing into the tumble drier and another lot into the machine. I’m well behind because I’m scared of spending any time in there.

M & I had our meal out at the Chinese restaurant and very nice it was too – I had several helpings of their lemon chicken, but managed to resist the chocolate cake; M didn’t; unusual dessert for a Chinese Restaurant and M said it was delicious. Then the next day, on my birthday, Irene and I had our signing at Farnborough, which went well. On Wednesday I met a friend for a chat over a large tub of hot chocolate, then polished off my shopping at Sainsbury’s too. By Thursday, the paperwork was building up, along with the washing. But I was out in the evening discussing Salmon Fishing in the Yemen with my reading circle. (Verdict - a very interesting and unusual first novel, but rather too many different strands woven into it for me.) And Friday, my brother in law came for dinner. Somewhere along the line, my writers’ mags arrived and they just sat on the top of the pile of papers. Still nagging at me - I must start on the VAT. It’s nearly half way through the month.

On the plus side, I have now read up to Chapter 15 of Thorn in the Flesh, Anne’s novel, and it is going along very well. It is strange how one finds common themes, for as Anne has pointed out, both our heroines are searching for information about their respective pasts. Yet the books couldn’t be more different.

This afternoon, I have been to visit Jan who is designing the cover for Tainted Tree. We spent ages trying out different sizes and positions of the font on screen, and there is still more to do. Out to lunch tomorrow with friends, and on Monday, I must make a concerted effort to deal with bookkeeping.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Books; Brownies and Bonfires

I have been too busy to visit other sites recently, so please excuse me, friends. If I had to make a list of things to do, it would have to be divided into about 7 or 8 different columns. This always presents one with a problem - which column should be tackled first?

Purely on the reading/writing front, I am now receiving Irene’s ( comments on Tainted Tree and should be dealing with them. However, at the same time, I am reading and adding my comments to Anne’s ( book, Thorn in the Flesh. Having read four chapters, I can tell you it is full of suspense and impending danger. I’m also reading, for the book circle this coming Thursday, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen which is a very novel first novel. I’m enjoying both of these books and creating time for them by having fewer games of Freecell and Solitaire.

I managed to remember my camera and took a photo of the trees on our local road. Another few days and they will have lost their leaves. I also took a shot of what was our shed, prior to its removal for Bonfire Night - Saturday, in our case.

I thought Thursday was going to be a very productive day. I made up the bed in the Pink Room – the room that was once my daughter’s, but is now used for whichever granddaughters come to stay. I had to change the sheets, as GD2 was in them last, and GD3 will be in the bed next. GD1, being big and grown-up at nearly 9, sleeps on a blow-up mattress on the floor. I was going to go to Sainsbury’s to get my shopping for us and for the family visit, and also particularly to get more chocolate buttons for a second batch of chocolate brownies for Bonfire Night, when I remembered I had some cooking chocolate, and decided to delay the shopping till Friday. Then I walked to the post-box to get rid of some urgent letters and dealt with the end of month statements, to go in the post on Friday.

My neighbour had sent an urgent message on Tuesday night, when I was at Guildford Writers. No nuts. Apparently some of the female teenagers coming to the party think they might be allergic. We are viewing this with a certain amount of scepticism – either you are, or you aren’t. And any way, how can you make brownies without nuts. Nevertheless, on Wednesday, I tried making a batch of double chocolate brownies instead. Alas, the chocolate buttons, which I put in at the last stage, melted into the mixture, so they didn’t turn out quite as I wanted. But they seemed to taste OK. With batch 2, on Thursday, I had the bright idea of adding raisons instead of extra chocolate. When I’d finished them, I was about to throw away the chocolate wrappers, when I spotted the words, may contain traces of hazelnuts, almonds, milk, wheat and egg. My 35 nutless brownies were, after all, not nut free. I have to say I was very irritated, and had to contemplate making a further batch for the party. So I hadn’t made such good progress after all. To add insult to injury, a customer telephoned during our meal, wanting a report done, so I had to take dictation after the meal, and produce four copies to go off tomorrow. Not much time for reading anything that evening.

On Friday, I braved the utility room (stick head in, observe wasps in flight, fetch spray; call back an hour later) and got some washing in the machine and numerous stuff hanging up in there out for ironing. And I did a huge Sainsbury’s shop, too, bearing in mind that the Son&Heir and his women were coming on Saturday.

Saturday was another beautiful day and the girls were delighted to help collecting timber for the fire. Our neighbour’s sons put our old shed on our trailer and transported the stuff to the site; they were all involved in building a magnificent bonfire with Guy on top. I, in the meantime, made my third batch of brownies – a total of 105 in four days. In the evening, we went to our immediate neighbour for drinks before fire lighting. The bonfire was amazing; I didn’t take my camera, but the flames were probably leaping 20 feet in the air, singeing branches of the trees around. Our other neighbour was circling with a hosepipe, constantly trying to damp it down, but the old shed was probably very dry and there were also some builders’ pallets which formed the base. It was all OK; it didn’t get out of hand, and the men took turns to keep an eye on it while the rest of us watched the fireworks’ display. Then back to the other neighbour for the food. Our girls were tired by then, and we soon took them off home.

Still to come was our trip to the Chinese restaurant for my birthday treat, where I had to open the home made cards designed by the girls (and be very surprised about it.) I also received two books from the family A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon and Grumpy Old Woman by Judith Holder. Well that sums me up then.

When they’d gone, I collapsed onto the settee (or is it sofa – wouldn’t want to show up my humble beginnings) incapable of anything other than making a quick supper and watching Andrew Davies’ version of A Room with a View. M was quite disappointed to find that he wasn’t watching Rear Window. He also complained bitterly about the time shifts – unnecessary in my view, though I enjoyed most of it. In the commercials, I read a few pages of Salmon Fishing as time is rushing on. And yet more activity tonight, when we are going to restaurant in Staines, where M has done some work in the past. They want him to come and talk about electrics, and the lady wife is invited too.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Of Mice and er Wasps

Went off to the hairdresser today for a trim. It was a beautiful day, though it clouded over a bit later. Our local roads and lanes are full of trees, ferns and silver birches and I couldn’t stop admiring the wonderful autumn colours as I drove along – so many different shades of golden brown, orange, yellow, red and silvery green. I’m sure I said the same sort of things last year. Have I really been writing this blog for a year?

At the hairdresser, I watched as an elderly lady emerged from curlers and tolerated her hair being back-combed - a technique we all once used many years ago – to make the hair look thicker and fuller. I can’t remember at what point I discovered my hair didn’t need any of this, and could just be washed and left to do its own thing. So much quicker, easier and cheaper. I was full of admiration that two of the stylists could do their stuff in heels four inches high. We were discussing heels at Guildford Writers ( a couple of weeks ago, and someone queried whether women still wore them. Oh they definitely do.

My hair looked fine when she’d finished, which is good, because we will be out for lunch on Sunday with the family, and I’ll be at BookBoyz in Farnborough for the book signing on Tuesday.

We are being invaded again – things from the outside are in – where we don’t want them. When the ProdigalDaughter was here with her family, she found a blue tit in the kitchen. It must have sneaked in when I took rubbish out to the dustbin. Fortunately, it exited as soon as she opened the kitchen door. Next, I found a slug on the kitchen floor. That went out straight away. I should have known it was the thin end of the edge. Worse was to follow. We heard the patter of tiny feet above our heads on Saturday night, and M went up into the roof and put out unmentionable things up there, and I’m afraid, had to retrieve dead bodies the next day.

In addition, for the past three weeks, or so, we have had wasps in the utility room. I thought the problem was over when we spotted a potential nest at the edge of the roof, outside, and dealt with it, but no. On Monday morning, when I went in, there were two or three hovering dangerously. I dashed out again. There are no windows to open there, and I didn’t fancy doing my jobs with them circling round my head. I took the last of the wasp spray in there and sprayed the room and then had my shower. I hoped that when I needed access they’d be dead. But no, when I went back, one was still shooting angrily round the room. I found there was almost no job I could get on with. I couldn’t load the washing machine, or take out clean sheets; I couldn’t get a loaf from the freezer, or a new dustbin bag (the bin men remembered to take our rubbish today; they don’t always). I couldn’t get a clean towel, having washed my hair and I couldn’t get some fish I wanted to cook, from the freezer. It all had to wait. Another few puffs of spray and that was finished. Fortunately, though not for him, the wasp too succumbed to the final blast. And at last, I was able to catch up with those Monday morning jobs; by that time I’d made the bed; clean sheets had to wait for the following day. Since then I’ve bought some more spray, and each day another contingent meets their fate.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Of Men and Sheds

Did I really hear on a news programme yesterday that sheds are good for men's health? Sad, if so, for we (I use the term figuratively) have demolished our shed which embellished the turning circle at the front of our house. Pictures will follow in a few days, when I've taken them out of the camera. After the scrap dealer came, last week, M took the shed apart and when I returned from the Guildford Institute on Tuesday, there it was - a pile of timber - awaiting the bonfire next week. What a superb bonfire that will be.

But men are funny creatures aren't they. Although I thought The Amateur Marriage a bit disappointing, Anne Tyler is so good at summing people up. Take this extract (American spelling):

Hearing Anna remark last night upon the draft from the dining-room window, he had felt a quickening of enthusiasm. ... And later: There was something so reassuring about hardware stores. We can help you deal with anything ...

Yes, I could so imagine M, his face lighting up, as a problem arose that required his skills. A nice practical problem that doesn't require emotion. As it was, today, a customer rang at lunch time, with a plumbing problem, and he raced out of the house, stopping only to seize a sandwich.

I have been playing catch-up today. There was so much paperwork on my desk. I had nearly left the house contents insurance unpaid - it had got buried under the pile. And there was a statement to be checked and a few other bills to sort out. I will take them to the post shortly. And the washing is behind again too. After the weekend away, Monday with our daughter, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Guildford Institute and lunch with local friends yesterday, I've hardly had a chance to do anything this week. I'm still reading through Tainted Tree and I've agreed a cover design with Jan ( - isn't there some way I can make that smaller?) though there is still a little work on it to be done. However, that's a big step towards publication next year. The lunch times spent selling at Guildford Institute were mixed, but I for one, enjoyed my stints there. I talked to quite a few people and had a few sales. These events at the Institute, the Farmers' Market, etc., have left me feeling quite bullish about Goldenford (

We - The Golden Girls - held a meeting this week, and we have four books in the pipeline for 2008 - Anne Brooke's ( next - Thorn in the Flesh - and me after that. Exciting stuff.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The quiet after the storm

It's strange how quiet it always seems when one of our children disappears taking their offspring and partner with them. Suddenly high pitched voices, giggles, tantrums and so on are replaced by silence, and the two of us remaining seem to sink into armchairs in front of the TV, incapable for the moment at least of anything other than a soothing murder mystery. This weekend we have had granddaughters in triplicate, having been to Cambridge and back to see GDs 1 & 3 (together with the Son&Heir and partner) and then to have ProdigalDaughter & family, including GD2, returning from a journey they had to make during the day, for a meal in the evening. They had also stayed on Saturday night (using us as a base) and remained here last night too, so that we could spend a little time with GD2 this morning and feed them lunch before they returned to Herefordshire, mid afternoon.

In addition to this activity, this afternoon, M and a friendly scrap dealer cleared most of the rubbish from one of his sheds. The shed, if the remainder of the stuff is cleared from it in time, is destined to be on a bonfire in a couple of weeks time. We may have to look for some more garden plants to fill the gap created.

Tomorrow, it seems I shall be at the Guildford Institute on my own, selling books, as there seem to have been some changes in the rota. This is a shame, as there's nothing I like more than having an excuse for a gossip, and not much of that gets done on one's own. I may take my library book - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen which is the next choice of the reading circle, although I took it with me to Cambridge, and ended up watching rugby instead. That's a first. But the other three adults were watching, and I thought I might need to comment on it at some stage. I found it difficult to believe that fouls weren't being committed every two minutes - or in fact every time everyone jumped on top of one poor man at the bottom of the heap. However, I understood enough about the game to come to the conclusion that England couldn't get through the South African defence. Good try, no sorry, let's rephrase that, good attempt though, at one point.

And now, my eyelids are drooping and requesting an early bath - as they say in rugby circles - and tomorrow, when I come back, I will once again have to plough through a mass of papers on my desk; the returned account books - just in time for the VAT to be dealt with for the end of November - oh and numerous sheets to be changed in time for the next visit - the bonfire night party in a few weeks.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Views and Trees

Friday evening, and the sky is beginning to darken. Last night, after a stint at the Guildford Institute, I went to Sainsbury’s, getting back near seven. There was the most wonderful sunset – the sky was flaming and there were pinks and dark colours blending in. I didn’t have my camera, otherwise I might have hazarded a shot. That, of course, was after a lovely sunny day, and today has been similar.

Our lunchtime trips to the Institute have been interesting. As at the Farmers’ Market, our sales have not been colossal, but we are getting ourselves known and recognised. Sometimes a single contact can be valuable. Of course we have also scoffed the excellent vegetarian lunches that are on offer every day. Leone and Celia’s desserts as well – though not every day. It’s worth calling in, just for the nutty meringue.

M & I spent the afternoon chatting with our ex brother in law, who is still our accountant and who called in with the account books. He had been tracing his family tree in Poland, together with his son (our nephew) – an amazing experience. Family trees are still a topic of great fascination and I didn’t get round to telling him that tracing a family tree (albeit in England) plays an important role in my novel, Tainted Tree - out some time next year. Stay tuned and you’ll here more news of it soon.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What writers have to do

Monday, and I’m in a mess. My desk is full of papers once again, and I have to load the washing machine with the sheets I stripped from the bed. I’ve unloaded the dish washer – M normally does that but he forgot to start it till this morning. (Normally we do it overnight, on cheap rate electricity.) I have to deal with the spare room bed, because my daughter and family are coming next weekend. (Wouldn’t you know it, we’ve already arranged to visit my son and family in Cambridge). I’ve just been to the post office and couldn’t draw cash, because I’d taken the wrong card with me – because my brain is still asleep. I’ve also got to do some advance cooking for a meal when we return from Cambridge and PD & family will still be around.

Last night, though, when my brain was in gear, I wrote the following blog, which I didn’t then upload:

Sunday, 14th October

raised an interesting point in her query yesterday. Is this really what writers have to do?

I thought about it and the answer is Yes – and No. Any writer who only wants to write can do just that. Putting aside what it’s necessary to do to earn a living, or look after one’s family, after that, it could be the only thing that occupies your time, and you could do nothing but write. But this has nothing to do with getting or being published. In our particular case, because Goldenford Publishers ( is run by a group of us and is a publishing company, we have to carry out all the work required in a small business – that is sales, marketing, design, setting up files ready for the printer, bookkeeping, etc. – as well, of course, as editing and writing. But it would be completely wrong to imagine that if we were published by any other publisher, we could sit back and let them do all the work.

Even in the 1980s, when my self help book was published by Thorsons, I went on about fifty radio stations carrying out publicity at places arranged by the publicity department of the publishing house, and similarly, when it was brought out in a new edition in the early 90s, I carried out a another publicity tour, did interviews ‘down the line’ from Radio Southern Counties and went on Sky TV as well.

Just a couple of years ago, Irene ( and I escorted an author, who shall be nameless, to a Guildford Festival event, and she complained that the budget for publicity from her publisher, who will also remain anonymous, was about £12 a year, and that if she wanted to sell her books, she had to go out to events of this kind and sell them herself. I hear that now, the big publishing houses want to hear what the author can offer in terms of marketing ideas and possible selling leads, before they take them on. Books these days are a commodity and authors can no longer retreat to the garret with their quill pens, if they want their books to sell. That’s not to say that some fine, exceptional books don’t reach the public and sell well. But many others rely on hype, bookshop signings, and radio and TV appearances, even for the shyest and most introvert of writers. For those who are in the public eye through football, modelling or Big Brother, life is so much easier – and they don’t even have to know how to write.

We have just returned from a party at my cousin’s home in Chigwell, Essex to celebrate both an engagement and a housewarming – an hour and three quarters to get there, but alas two hours and twenty minutes to get back, crawling through a traffic jam on the North Circular. Good party, though. I always enjoy seeing my relations and we were blessed with a beautiful autumn day and sat in the sunshine for a couple of hours this afternoon, surrounded by spectacular New Guinea busy lizzies. And another party is in the offing in a few weeks’ time – this time a birthday party with a zero on the end. As it happens, my son has just celebrated one of those – no party – just a weekend away with his family. As it was a special birthday, M & I bought him a mobile phone that does everything but cook the dinner. Conferencing, linking to the internet – when we discussed it we decided it was similar to that Yuppy type toy – the Raspberry, or Strawberry – or is it a Blackcurrant? (All you need is an Apple computer to go with it and you have a dessert.) My son is not a Yuppy, but he knows he doesn’t need this. It is a toy, but that’s what presents are all about, so I don’t begrudge buying it for him.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Books and bookshops

Talking of titles – as I was in my last blog - when we, the Goldenford girls, ( were at the Farmers’ Market last week, a woman stopped to stare at our piles of books. When we caught her eye, she said, indicating The Fruit of the Tree, ‘Is that book about apples?’ ‘There is a mention of a Bramley apple tree,’ I said, ‘but actually it’s an autobiographical book. It’s about children.’ She turned away with a dismissive air.

This got Irene and me talking about books titles and how easy it would be to put our books in the wrong category in the bookshop. The Moon’s Complexion, Irene’s novel about India could be placed under Astronomy; Pink champagne and Apple Juice, Anne Brooke’s gay novel would be in the wine section, along with my novella, A Bottle of Plonk, (which was indeed placed there, in one of the local Waterstone’s on one occasion.) Tainted Tree, will of course, be found with The Fruit of the Tree amongst the gardening books – subsection, diseases of trees, perhaps. Jay Margrave’s mediaeval novel, The Gawain Quest is the only one of the novels we’ve brought out, where the title says precisely what the book’s about. See them all at the Goldenford site.

Early in the week, when M was home, no-one having rung for his services, I suggested that we do some invoices. We keep a record on small dockets and when no-one’s paid us anything for a while, we remember to go through them and M spells out what he actually did. It looked as though we had about thirty invoices to do, but when we started on them, they were almost all for one customer, and the work was unfinished. Yippee, I could put them aside, after dealing with the only two relevant ones, and get on with something of my own with a clear conscience. So I finished the short story – the one which started out as an ill wind, almost became anonymous letter and finished up as no smoke without fire. I called it Seeds of Doubt. I can’t say it was the best story ever, but it was beginning to feel like a log-jam. I had to clear it and start on something fresh. I’ve sent it off to the Writers’ News competition now, and can start thinking about the next comp. and my novel too, which has also dried up. I have continued editing Tainted Tree, though. It will soon be ready to submit to others at Goldenford for their comments and editing.

I also nearly finished my reread of The Amateur Marriage for tonight’s reading ‘Round Table’ where apart from discussion, we had a delicious chocolate cake for our third birthday. The general consensus was that Anne Tyler is a good writer and a keen observer of people behaviour and relationships, but we were not enthused by this book; its view on marriage left us rather depressed.

Irene and I have had two bookshop trips this week; today’s to Leatherhead was not productive, because the manager/owner was busy. But he will read the information we left with him and we’ll talk with him again, when he’s had time to browse through our stuff. Yesterday – to Farnborough again, was excellent. The manager of Bookboyz in Farnborough (that’s Hants, not Kent) has booked Irene and me to do a signing event on 6th November with the possibility of another event for the other two at a later date. And he’s ordered our books, already.

If this is what being multi-skilled is all about, we’re certainly doing it. This week, we writers have again been salespersons and marketers, as well as writers and editors. I, of course, at home, have also been a secretary, bookkeeper and financial wizard. Next week we’ll be selling books at some lunchtimes at the Guildford Institute, during the Book Festival. Delighted to say hallo to any Guildfordians. The lunches are good there, too.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Climbing up Guildford

It’s been a busy few days, and quite productive too. Irene ( and I went on Wednesday to another bookshop to try our luck with sales. The good news – as Irene was parking the car, a man gave us a ticket he hadn’t used up. The bad news – the manager of the shop was having his afternoon off. But, good news again, having looked at the brochure and fliers we left, he emailed and said he’d be happy for us to do a Creative Writing event. We might visit him again for a discussion. As we arrived back at my house, a huge vehicle went down the adjacent lane, and then emerged and followed us, effectively blocking Irene in. The driver emerged with a modest sized parcel and backed his way out of my narrow entrance. When I opened it up, I found it was the first four of my prize books – the others being out of stock at the moment. I haven’t started on them. I’m still reading An Amateur Marriage for next Thursday.

The reading circle is comprised mainly of people who graduated from Surrey University when I did – in 2002. We, (a group of rather ‘mature’ graduates,) also have regular lunch meetings in Guildford and I went to one of these on Thursday. There were only four of us this time - often there are ten or eleven - but we had a good chat, and I went on to do some shopping. At the bottom of town the ‘remaindered’ book shop was closing down and I was tempted to buy a couple of large, glossy gardening books at £2.50 each. But the thought of lugging that weight up the hill put me off. I bought some make-up at Debenhams and acquired a free gift from Estee Lauder. It was a small box, so I didn’t mind that too much. A vase for my cousin came from House of Fraser and that, with its box, weighed a ton. As I lurched in any upwardly direction towards my car, I remembered I was going to buy advance Christmas presents for GD2 (I haven’t yet checked on the others.) Barbie clothes and a bead set, in boxes, added to my burden. I love Guildford – it has so much atmosphere, but wherever you park, there is always climbing to do in the course of the shopping.

My brother in law came for dinner on Friday night, and in the course of the day, apart from my other work, I had to rush out to collect my new contact lens, and prescriptions from the doctor, and pay my credit card at the bank, because of the postal strike. Most of our post seems to be getting through, but I don’t know how quickly our outgoing letters out are arriving.

Yesterday was a leisurely day; even though I don’t like the phone, I still spend quite a long time on it, in order to keep in touch with my children. So almost the whole morning was used up with chats with the Son&Heir and the ProdigalDaughter, as well as GD2 and my sister in law, who also telephoned. But today I’ve been industrious and applied myself to ironing and getting out some letters that were waiting to be dealt with. The weather’s dry and pleasant and M & I took a walk out to the post box, so even it it’s not going to be emptied, the letters have, at least, left our house.

A new Myspace friend, Jean – you’ll find there, amongst my friends – asked when I thought of titles for my stories and books. Occasionally, I have been inspired by a proposed title, or when suggested in a competition, a subject, which is almost a title. Mostly, though, I think of the title afterwards, when I’m looking for something that sums up the story. My novel, Tainted Tree, had a completed different name at first. A writing friend who read it and gave me a very useful critique, said he didn’t like the name. Because it is about a girl researching her family tree, I had looked up ‘history’ in a small Oxford book of Quotations and found a quote by TS Eliot. I extracted a couple of words from the quote for my title. But the general consensus was that it suggested the book was more literary than it actually was. (I don’t do literary fiction – intelligent is all I can aim for.) So I asked myself what the book was about, and came up with the current title, which I think is the right one. As you can tell, the Family Tree is not quite what my heroine, Addie, is hoping for, when she sets out on her quest.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Beads are In and Bosoms are Out

A busy few days. We had a very satisfactory launch of Irene's book Sold to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop on Sunday. Anne and I manned the bookshop and by using most of our fingers, nearly always gave the right change and collected the appropriate money. And on Tuesday, we were selling again at the Guildford Farmers' Market. We had no cover, and it could have been dreadful, but, once again, we were quite lucky with the weather. It wasn't sunny like last time, but we only had a fine spattering of rain and we managed to protect the books.

Irrespective 0f how many books we sell, I quite enjoy sitting there meeting up with passers by. There were a couple of students from the Guildford drama school (the alma mater of Bill Nighy) who had only just come to Guildford from Watford and London respectively and who were enjoying it. There was the mysterious man who took away a leaflet, but didn't want a book. 'Are you a writer?' I asked. 'I might be,' came back the cautious reply. One woman came up to the stall, told us a bit about her own writing, and then remembered me from something I'd written for Writers' Forum. To my surprise, she said she had been moved by my article (which included a mention of our late friend, Esme Ashford, the writer of one of our books, On the Edge) and had cut it out and shown it to a friend. 'It is a privilege to have met you,' she told me. Much as I like to be appreciated, I'm still asking myself, if she was that impressed by my article, why wasn't she tempted to buy one of my two books, available at that very table. Answers on a postcard, please.

As I trotted up the hill, I passed by a bead shop. There's another one of these in Knaphill. This makes me think that making your own jewellery must have become fashionable, suddenly. I also pondered that women have been showing off more decolletage in the last year or so. Sometimes fashions creep up on you, in a grass roots movement - or one might say, bottom up rather than top down, except it would probably be inappropriate.

I must have been very tired on Sunday night, post launch, because on Monday morning when I woke up, I suddenly realised I could see. This was worrying - my left eye is so bad that first thing in the morning, everything is normally a blur, in spite of my only slightly short sighted right eye. I shot out of bed, and sure enough I'd left my left contact lens in. I took it out and rested my eyes for the four or five hours, before replacing them.

I had to go to a meeting in the evening, and was aware that in the darkness, the roads seemed less clear than ususal. When I got home and attempted to take out the lenses, I found to my horror that now I was only wearing the left lens. There wasn't sign of the right one. At midnight, I swept the kitchen floor, in the hope of finding the errant lens, but I could only find dust. Then I ransacked drawers to find an old right one for the next day, and until I could get a replacement.

Tomorrow I'm back to Guildford for a meeting with my graduate friends, and will be getting a present for GD2 and something for cousins who are having a party in a few weeks.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Books, old and new; apples large and small

I have been finding my Internet speed absolutely hopeless. A test on it about a week ago showed it to be about 58, comparable with a dial-up service, even though I’m on broadband. I checked it because my neighbour also has a slow speed, though much better than mine. We think it might be our telephone line. On Thursday, my connection disappeared completely. Eventually in the afternoon, I rang Virgin and they told me how to reinstate it. I also told them about my pathetic speed, and they said it would be improved when I had set up my new connection.

Testing today gives me a speed of 237, which, apparently, is equivalent to 4008 kbits downloaded in 16.934 seconds. Though that’s a big improvement, it’s not great, and I don’t really know what it should be.

It was good to be reinstated – I missed my connection to the outside world. One day last week, my son emailed me that GD3, my 5 year old granddaughter had sent me a message. I eventually found it in my junk mail box, put there because of the heading ‘I love you.’ She wanted to thank me for honey cake, I had sent home with my son, when he came last weekend. She said, ‘ you are the best.. i love you …’ What a good thing I was able to find it. I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on that.

The rain of a couple of days ago brought down about 3lb of Bramley apples – more or less our entire crop this year. I quickly cooked some for the freezer. It’s very useful to be able to produce a quick apple crumble when people are visiting. Last year we probably had a crop of 50lb of apples or more, ranging from tiny to huge 2 pounders. It is something of a relief, this year, not to have to peel, core, cut and cook apples every day for three months – I feel so guilty if I don’t try to conserve some of them – but the tree will probably be back on form next year.

My desk was getting a bit full up, so I had a blitz on office work again – filing, chucking and also sending out a batch of invoices, together with end of month statements. I’m not too far behind with things at the moment, which is good, because I’m out almost every day next week, and tonight at the launch of Irene’s book, Sold to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop about her sales and buys on EBay. ( Should be fun. We were out too last night at an anniversary party.

I finally found time to select books for my prize for the First Three Pages of a Novel competition at the Winchester Writers Conference, in which Tainted Tree came second. So several books will soon be on their way to me. At the moment, I’m re-reading An Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler, for the reading circle in a couple of weeks’ time and I also recently started Middlemarch. I also need to spend more time on Tainted Tree, as Goldenford are bringing it out next year. So watch out, World, this is my big novel. You heard it here first.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Arthur, Harold - and The Move

I've been listening to Arthur Conan Doyle's letters to his mother on Radio 4 in the mornings. I'm sure he would have enjoyed blogging - his letters are so natural and normal. He talks about decorating his house and having a great party, and enjoying reading Pride and Prejudice for the first time. He sounds a kind son too - his letters are very affectionate. As for Sherlock, he kills him off without a second glance - but of course, we know he's going to have to bring him back to life again.

Laura of HagsHarlotsHeroines, ( has accepted my piece on self-publishing and this will come out later in the autumn, followed at some stage by a review of The Fruit of the Tree. It will be interesting to see how it comes out.

A good Goldenford ( meeting last night, with lots of productive thoughts. Our local Waterstone's is now stocking all our books, so that's good news in sales' terms. Where we come unstuck is publicity, so we'll all have to keep working on that. Despite what they say, not all publicity is good publicity. I listened to Tony Blackburn talking about the record Watching Flowers in the Rain, which was a huge success. Apparently, the publicity person linked it in with a card showing a defamatory cartoon of the PM of the time, Harold Wilson and his secretary, and circulated it. When HW sued for libel, the judge decreed that all royalties from the song should go to a charity. The four young men, The Move, whose song it was, got nothing, and at the time, had no conception of its popularity - that it would still be being played forty years on - nor of the many hundreds of thousands of pounds that they were losing. Rather a sad story, as the libel was really nothing to do with them, and they were young and naive at the time.

M has just appeared bearing a box of Ferrero Rocher - not just the original sort but with two extra varieties - one dark and one white with coconut - I didn't like that one, but the dark one is very nice. No nut in the centre, either, just chocolate. Hmm, chocolate covered chocolate - always goes down well with me. No of course we haven't forgotten our respective diets. A friend brought them to us, when he came for a meal - and, of course, we have to eat them.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Home Alone

I am only just getting back to a normal tempo, having had the Son & Heir and the Proverbial Daughter both visiting over the weekend – without their respective retinues.
Good to see them both.

M agreed some time back to provide evidence in a domestic plumbing problem that went wrong at the home of a cousin. It (so we thought) was arranged for Wednesday and he was going to stay the night with his cousin tomorrow. He went off on the train mid morning, to sort out ventilation problems at a restaurant. He was suitably attired for getting covered in grease. Turns out that the court case is tomorrow and the cousin was expecting him this afternoon. When I rang M with the bad news, he hadn’t even reached the restaurant. So he carried on, dumped his equipment there, and took the next train home, to collect his respectable clothing – the suit that hardly ever sees the light of day – and overnight gear. And the file. And the tablets. The Jackie chauffeur and valet service was on active duty, until he finally left again for another train at about 3.00 p.m.

So I’m on my own today, and as always have plenty of things to tempt me away from the things I ought to do. And now it’s evening, I notice, that, when I’m on my own, I have more lights on and eat more chocolate.

By courtesy of Virtual Tales (, I have registered for an on-line Writing Conference. It’s almost as complicated as finding one’s way around in the flesh at some large university or similar. Anyway, I’ve managed to register and put a link to my website there. I shall visit again tomorrow, and see if anyone’s got anything to say.

More excitement on Sunday, when Goldenford hold another launch party for Irene's book, Sold to the Lady with the Lime Green Lap-top. Take a look at Irene's site for more details, or go to Goldenford:

I’ve been back to my novel, Tainted Tree, which I’m working my way through – not to make major changes, but to look for errant commas, etc. and bits of narrative or dialogue that scream out, ‘I’m wrong.’ I’ve covered another chapter and am one third of the way through. I’m also trying to finish a short story I started three or four months ago. Unusually, it seems to fit in a current Writers’ News competition – No smoke without fire – though it started life as ‘It’s an ill wind …’ In between, it nearly made it to the Anonymous letter competition. Never has one of my stories had so many chances. No all I’ve got to do is write another 600 words to finish it.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Hearts and other equipment

A tense few days, as M has had an irregular heart beat and was booked in to have his heart stopped and re-started. This all sounds very frightening, but now I know of at least four other people who have been through this. M doesn’t do much worrying, so expects me to do that on his behalf. The procedure was carried out first thing yesterday morning, and we had to be at the hospital at 7.00 a.m. This is normally the time of morning when M gets up, brings me some juice, plays a few games of Patience, empties the dishwasher, if it’s run during the night, and gets out the cereal. I take a sip of juice and turn over in bed. Yesterday, though, I had to get up at six, in order to go with M to the hospital. Then I came home and caught up with myself, slowly during the next couple of hours.

I thought they would keep him there till the afternoon, but he obviously became too much for them, as they turfed him out mid morning. The instructions said he was not to drive or work machinery (including kettles or cookers) for 24 hours after the anaesthetic. Fortunately, he has never worked the cooker, though he is a dab hand at tea making. I confess, I did have a problem with the hospital car park, and he has to do a spot of reversing for me, though I took over before we got to the road.

I spoke to two of my granddaughters during the weekend. Since my daughter has gone to Herefordshire, I have a telephone chat with her and then her daughter, GD2, almost every week. GD2 is quite at home on the phone, though I have to remember to ask her questions. In this, she is a little like me, as I’m better at responding than initiating telephone chat. I don’t like the phone much – it’s so devoid of visual clues, and yet you have to respond immediately. I also am not particularly good at small talk, so forget to ask people how they are, etc. GD1 when I speak to her, pours out a stream of information, so that I almost can’t keep up. GD3 has nothing to say and responds in monosyllables, yet she telephoned me on Saturday. I suspect, if she were older, she would be thinking along the lines of, ‘I don’t really want to talk to you, but I want you to know I’m thinking of you.’ My theory is that people who like the telephone do not have the same affection for emails, and vice versa. I’m expecting that when they’re old enough, GD2 and GD3 will both like emailing, but GD1 will not care for it. In this respect, M and I are absolute opposites. He has little patience with a computer at all, except to play games, while I love communicating this way. I think this might be an Introvert/Extrovert thing.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Making do

We were out at friends last night, and when we came home, rather stupidly stayed up another half hour or so. I find it difficult to just walk in the house and go straight to bed. Some winding down has to take place. M switched on his computer and played a game of Scrabble. I started looking in cupboards for a replacement mouse, as his isn’t working well. When I unearthed one, he attached it, and then found it didn’t work at all. By the time we’d reinstated the old one, it was 12.30, and I didn’t get my requisite night’s sleep.

I cannot say what I did today, because my brain stayed in a haze most of the day. I think I might have cleared a mm’s worth of paper from the 3 or 4 inches on my desk. Tonight I made a ‘store-cupboard meal’ - it was going to be tuna with pasta; at some point, I discovered I was out of cheese for the sauce and topping. I was short of milk too, and I had to make up a sauce using half vegetable water, to save some milk for tomorrow’s breakfast. However, I used extra butter in the sauce to compensate for no cheese, and I threw some mushrooms in too. It came out quite well in the end.

The financial world has gone mad, because they’ve finally started to worry about people having debts they can’t repay. Every time I get an unsolicited letter offering me a loan to buy a yacht or a new car, I wonder when they’re going to stop tempting people into this situation. Years ago, when M & I were short of money – approximately the first fourteen/fifteen years of our married life – we didn’t have credit cards. We had one huge debt – the mortgage on our house – compounded by another loan to support our business. But we didn’t borrow anything else. I would have been scared stiff at the prospect of having a card and building up debts with no rein on them. It was only once we were financially OK that we allowed ourselves that luxury. Perhaps, now the big boys are being affected by the debts of the have-nots, some common sense will prevail.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Like Anne (, it was my anniversary yesterday. I used the term advisedly, as M often speaks of ‘your wedding’. Sometimes I choose to ignore him, as I know he is winding me up, in one of the many ways he knows how. Other times, I take the bait. In spite of this, M does not usually remember the date we got married.

The effect of the awful events of 2001 has meant that he does remember that something connected to our family happened on that date. A couple of days ago he started ruminating – ‘Is it your birthday?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is it Son’s birthday?’ ‘No.’ ‘Is it Daughter’s birthday?’ ‘No.’ Eventually his eyes lit up as his brain registered the right answer.

All this reminded me of a September day, years ago when the children were young enough to be going to primary school and were guided by their father. They were all ensconced in the bathroom, with me on the outside, shouting, ‘Hurry up, you’ll be late.’ Then they all emerged with a birthday card for me. Only problem – it was two months early. As you see, despite the passing of the years, M has not progressed in that respect.

Monday, September 10, 2007

A coronation of sorts

My tooth has now been crowned. No agony, I have to say. In fact I was only at the dentist for a short time – and that included patching up my other broken tooth.

Only problem, the dentist asked me several times to bite and then asked me if the new tooth bit on the bottom teeth before the rest. In between he filed bits off (I assume). When I said I thought it was OK, the put the cement on. After that I wasn’t so sure. But it was a bit irrevocable by then. What are these crowns made of? Presumably they don’t wear down like ordinary teeth. So whereas, for the past few weeks, my tongue has been exploring the rough edges of the broken tooth and checking up on the temporary replacement, now I shall be constantly grinding them to see if they meet each other properly. I came home and very gently subjected the teeth to a cheese sandwich. I sincerely hope not to be going back for some months.

We cut down some of our laurel hedge over the weekend. Our neighbour used his chain saw to cut some of the thickest branches. People moan about leylandii, but laurel can grow to a great height too. These are just the clippings:

There’s a new book out about Jenny Churchill, Winston’s mother, I heard on the radio in the last couple of days. She died when she was 67, falling down the stairs because (apparently) she loved wearing high heeled shoes. I can remember my mother visiting me in high heels when she was over seventy. I used to meet her at Guildford Station and was horrified when I saw her descending from the train in stilettos. I hardly ever wear high heels now – my mother would probably be horrified at me being so square.

I had a look at the range of short story competitions during the weekend and quickly sent off three stories to Honiton in Devon. Also spotted on my excel chart that it’s time for the HE Bates competition too. Goodness, hasn’t the year flown. Last year, I was placed fourth, so I’ve spent some time this evening sorting out some other stories to go to that. They allow emailed stories, though for some reason or other, they don’t want an emailed cheque. So I’ve been able to send them off by email, which cuts down on postage costs and avoids wastage of paper too. So even though I haven’t written any new stories recently, I feel as if I’ve done something useful.

We’re out of raspberries and strawberries, which are helping M to stick to his good intentions, so it’s back to Sainsbury’s tomorrow.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Salespersons extraordinaire

It seems as if the legend about St Swithin's Day is pretty accurate. The poor weather we had around 15th July did indeed continue for another 40 days - up till the end of August, in fact. And now we have Indian summer. Beautiful weather when tee shirts can again be worn and legs can be brought out of hiding.

Goldenford ( therefore spent a lovely day at the Farmers' Market on Tuesday, and while we were there, Irene ( and I practised our selling skills by calling on both branches of Waterstone's. There used to be four bookshops in Guildford, not including Smiths, but this is now down to two. Whether this says something about Guildford, about Waterstone's, or about people's reading habits, I'm not quite sure. At any rate, we got a good reception at both branches. This inspired us to meet up today and take a trek to Woking for the same purpose. Once again we received a very pleasant welcome, the only problem being the huge difficulty of finding our way around Woking and the maze that is the Peacock's Centre, and similar difficulty in escaping from the multi-storey car park.

We also offered our services if a Creative Writing evening was required by either of the Woking Waterstone's. Invitations have also gone out now for the launch party of Irene's forthcoming book, Sold to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop at the end of September.

Monday, September 03, 2007

I'm cheating on my husband

It's really not fair. He's trying so hard to lose weight and has nobly eaten only one chocolate a day from the box one of the family brought here a couple of weeks ago, and the second box my son and family brought over the Bank Holiday weekend. Each day, when he's tempted, he first offers the box to me and I take one too. What he doesn't know is that I have my own secret chocolate supply (what would he know about the goings on in the kitchen?) and in the last couple of days - with the onset of dark evenings and colder weather, I have been dipping into my plain chocolate buttons and knocking them back like the addict that I am. I'm fine during the summer, but come the autumn, there is a dramatic change. Perhaps I should get a sad light.

We finally got the replacement tiles for the shower this week, and that job is virtually finished. They're not exactly the same colour as the originals, but I'm past caring. Any job that involves cement, tile cutters, grouting, adhesive, etc. makes me run to the chocolate supply for a bit of comfort. If we'd spent out on a new bathroom, I'd expect it to look very different, but we didn't and until we do, this will suffice.

I managed to get the Nice award on the site, but something's wrong with it. It's kind of stretched out - as I will be after a few weeks of this sort of chocolate consumption. I tried tinkering with it, but it wouldn't budge.

The books have gone off to the accountant, and I'm working on an article about self-publishing. I keep finding more and more things to say, and it might even turn into two articles. Tomorrow, I have my selling hat on and will be at the Farmers' Market in Guildford, selling books with the other Goldenford Girls ( The market was cancelled last month because of Foot & Mouth, but now things have quietened down. The footpaths are open again, though dogs must still be on leads. Let's hope a major crisis has been averted.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Boxes, bikes, bottles and (Nice) blogs

Last week I finished the VAT and today I was looking around for a suitable box to package up my account books and papers to send to our accountant. The postman arrived and, as if by magic, provided me with the right size box. Inside it was a bicycle seat for M's bike. He was going to cycle to the station last week, when I went to the dentist, and after 100 yards, the seat fell off. So when the son & heir was here for the Bank Holiday weekend, he asked him to hunt down a seat on the internet. Our son found a site called Wiggle, and apart from sending this perfect box (and the saddle), they supplied us with a bag of sweets too.

The bicycle riding gene, like the camping gene is something passed from father to son (in our case). It has nothing to do with me. I prefer four wheels; then at least I know the vehicle won't fall over.

Anne ( has nominated me for a Nice Blogger award, for which I'm most grateful, but unsure I'm deserving of such an award. Anne, who is also a recipient of this award, doesn't seem to know how to include this on her own site, and I'll have to wait for someone technical to explain to me how to do it, too.

We had a lovely weekend with the family and subsequently friends. The sun came out. Wasn't it lovely to see it? We were able to sit out in the garden on Saturday, and we went out for lunch with son and family, including two of my granddaughters on Sunday, and sat outside for that too. The place we went to has a dovecote and a lake and the girls bought seeds to feed the ducks at the lake. Everyone was in good temper - except me, as M had made his clean shirt dirty by going into his workshop in it, having, the previous day, sat in an ancient and disgusting tee-shirt all day, without changing. I did a bit of screaming at him, and of course, even after he'd changed for the restaurant, he very quickly got chocolate sauce on the replacement shirt.

When the family had gone, on Monday, we joined some friends for lunch at a French restaurant in Clandon and had a beautiful meal. I felt very reluctant to return to normal work on Tuesday, particularly as the washing basket was full of M's shirts.

I listened to Laurie Graham on the radio one day last week. We, at the reading circle, read her book, Future Homemakers of America, and all enjoyed it very much. I thought she was American, but it turns out she has an American husband and is herself, English. She talked about how the title of one of her books had to be changed for an American market. This made me even more convinced that A Bottle of Plonk's name has to be changed for marketing on Virtual Tales ( I am going to discuss it with Dave of VT next week.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mouth Wide Open

If someone told you that you would subject yourself to lying flat on an uncomfortable chair; having a huge needle thrust into your gum; having to open your mouth repeatedly and really wide, over and over again during a half hour period; having a great lump of plasticine or playdoh bunged in your mouth, squelching through your teeth, and then having it yanked out again, almost taking the healthy teeth with it; having a mini hoover placed within to clear out the crumbs, and then when released from the ordeal, returning home with a wonky smile; trying to eat a soft roll only to find it escaping and devouring a cup of tea and slurping it out of your mouth, you would tell them they were crazy. I must be crazy – I’ve put up with all that, and I’m paying for it too. My first experience of having a crown fitted. (And I still have to go back to have the permanent creation installed.)

Last night was our regular Goldenford ( meeting and it went well, apart from Anne being absent. We missed you, Anne. ( Our sales are ticking over and we are still exploring selling ideas. Now that I’m home, lots of jobs are waiting. Replenishing food stocks at Sainsbury’s; dealing with washing and ironing and the last leg of the bookkeeping are on the agenda for this afternoon. When I’ve sent off the VAT return and the books, perhaps I can think again about writing.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Food, Glorious Food

After the food preparation of the last couple of weeks, the family visit went well – as they always do. There were errors – last night, I defrosted the stuffing, and this morning, I lost it and found it again. But it wasn’t till the end of the meal that I realised I’d put it in the oven to reheat and forgotten to serve it. There were also excesses – see below. And now – because it was a busy day – I’m struggling to stay awake and there is still some work, in finding homes for those excesses or over bought items and odd things like washing the large tablecloths and removing the extra leaves of the table.

I don’t do fancy food. We had pate followed by roast turkey and roast potatoes and vegetables, including fresh runner beans from my sister-in-law’s garden. Then apple crumble (apples from my garden – cooked and frozen a year ago) and fruit salad. In the evening, there were various savoury bits and pieces, followed by trifle, chocolate brownies and meringues. That was the theory – but my brother in law popped into Sainsbury’s on the way and brought with him a trifle and chocolate roulade and SiL2 brought an enormous chocolate and caramel meringue, which was so rich that when we had each had a piece, we could eat barely anything else. Consequently, I still have a large percentage of my desserts - half an apple crumble/fruit salad/trifle/nearly all the brownies and half the meringues; This would be fine – in past times, the aftermath of a family visit was that no cooking was required for two to three days, as we ate our way through leftovers. But M & I are both trying to be more restrained and lose some weight, so we will be having a battle with our will power during the next few days. I managed to get BiL to take home his trifle and I froze the roulade, and can freeze the chocolate brownies too, for my son & family’s visit next weekend. We also acquired chocolates and biscuits. I was inspired to write A Bottle of Plonk when a New Year’s Eve party left us with so much wine, I started wondering whether some bottles just kept going round in circles without ever being consumed. Now I wonder whether I should be writing an equivalent book about A Box of Chocs or similar.

But enough of food. It was a lovely day. As an only child, I have always enjoyed family gatherings with my two sisters in law and my brother in law and their respective spouses, etc. And after all the tension before, as I try to remember what I should be doing and juggling the various things in and out of the oven, once they arrive, they dive in and organise me, which I so appreciate. On this occasion, SiL2’s son and daughter came too. This particular nephew works in a ski resort in Switzerland and had come over for a couple of days, and my niece, a recently qualified solicitor in Reading, has been offered a job in Geneva and so will be quite near to her brother. He is going back in a few days; she is starting her job next week, so it was lovely to see them both.

When I’m preparing food in the evenings, I always listen to the radio, but sometimes I find the so-called alternative humour at 6.30 on Radio 4 absolute rubbish. Recently, though, I’ve enjoyed Alan Davies in About a Dog, which I’d regard as traditional humour, but it makes me laugh, and now, though that’s finished for the moment – Ed Reardon is back. He is the wonderful writer, who does no work, recycles old scripts and tries to earn a buck by giving Creative Writing classes to a group of cynical no-hopers. It’s great. I’ve also been thorough enjoying the Woman’s Hour serial, The Crowded Street by Winifred Holtby, who was a great friend of Vera Brittain. I’ve always meant to read her work, since watching Testament of Youth.

When I read Writers’ News last week, I was interested a piece on the Frome Festival short story competition. Although I didn’t get beyond the short list of nine, and I didn’t therefore get a mention in the short piece that was published, I was one of more than 450 people who took part. That’s given me heart to look out for the next competition to have a go at.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

All work and no playmates

Not much writing is getting done this week. We have family coming on Sunday for lunch and the rest of the day. I’ve been doing some advance cooking for that, as there will be nine of us for lunch. I’m also working on the bookkeeping for the VAT return – due in at the end of August, and have promised our accountant that I’ll send him our account books immediately after that.

Tuesday was a write-off. M reinstalled the shower. Oh what a grim day. I couldn’t concentrate on anything for fear that I would be hauled in to help, and sure enough, at one point I found myself standing in the shower, trying to support one of the glass doors and help connect it to the metal bar above. I have never wanted to be the plumber’s mate; I am always hopeless at this type of job; I longed for him to ask our neighbour for help. But he didn’t. When the door wouldn’t go in the right place, he had a rethink; at this point, I remembered I had to pay some money into the bank. What a relief to escape. I took as long as I possibly could, and because some resurfacing work was going on in Knaphill, actually managed to get held up in a traffic jam. When I got back, M had managed without me, but left a great deal of mess – bits of metal, screws, dust, etc. I cleaned it up as best I could, thankful that the job was over.

It was also a grey, miserable day, that felt as if autumn had already arrived. I felt very down by the end of it. I hear now we might have a bit more summer weather next week. I hope so, because I feel in need of it. Also no writers’ circle, reading circle or Goldenford ( meeting this week. I felt bored and lonely with only virtual friends to play with.

I have been discussing A Bottle of Plonk with Dave at Virtual Tales ( I’ve been looking at the other titles on the site, and come to the conclusion that my cover is not right for the virtual market (which I suspect is younger than a bookshop market). I think Plonk should have a more romantic cover than its current design, so I may be assigned an artist to deal with that. Just as a reminder, this is the current cover.

I’ve been reading The Gawain Quest – our most recent Goldenford book. I wasn’t involved in the editing, so I haven’t read it before, and though it’s not the sort of genre I would normally go for, I’m enjoying it. I’m impressed at the amount of research that’s gone into it. Next week we Golden Girls will get together again to discuss next year’s publications.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Basking in praise

Today, I finally got my notification from the Winchester Writing Festival of my second prize in the First Three Pages of a Novel Competition.

I now have a catalogue of Piatkus books and can choose £50 worth. I’ll browse over that during the weekend. I also have a certificate, though it’s in the name of Jackie Luben. It should really be Jacquelynn, as because of its individuality, its my ‘brand’. However, I suppose that’s the problem with me mainly using the short form. Best of all though, is the critique from Adrienne Dines – coincidentally, her first name is the name of one of my important characters – and the comment from an editor at Piatkus. Believe it or not, I didn’t go in for this competition thinking I would win anything. I did it because on the basis of a critique I got a couple of years ago of one of my short stories, I made changes and submitted the story to a competition at Radio Southern Counties. It became one of the finalists, was recorded and won me £200, which I was delighted about. I am still awaiting the short stories I sent, to work on them.

However, let me indulge myself by quoting from the words of praise from the Piatkus editor and Adrienne Dines.

Piatkus (publishers):
‘You have an engaging narrative voice, and I was immediately drawn into the story. I though your writing was very clear and the pacing just right, and your ability to create an appropriate atmosphere was very impressive.’

Adrienne Dines (author):
‘This is a popular type of story – the unfolding of family secrets – and I wondered when I read the synopsis if the writer would be able to carry it off. There is an amount of travelling into the past, which if not carried out successfully, can leave readers frustrated and confused.

However, my fears were allayed on reading how Lady M (my pseudonym) handles the first three pages. We are brought right into the scene and the atmosphere is skilfully built, humming with suspense. Her physical descriptions of the house and its atmosphere are detailed – evocative images and well-chosen vocabulary. I particularly like the way this writer varies her sentence length to keep the pace just right.

Setting the story between Surrey and the West Country with an American heroine gives the novel broad appeal.
This writing is confident and I can see Tainted Tree being a page-turner if she can keep it up.’

Isn’t that nice?

Well back to other happenings.

The footpath has now been closed, 100 yards from where I live. Fortunately, they’re still letting us in and out. A few posts ago, I gave the Pirbright laboratory an incorrect name. It is actually the Animal Health Institute. From my limited knowledge – having friends who’ve worked there, over the years – they are very careful and people have to shower before they go out. My brother in law, who used to trouble-shoot computers there, said it was an absolute pain if you accidentally left something in the car, which you later needed. A shower was necessary on the way out, and then, of course, a second one, when the job was finished. They had the cleanest workers imaginable.

The Range Rover has gone. I think it’s going to be cannibalised for spare parts, which is a well-deserved fate for it. Instead we have this nice neat turquoise (or maybe it’s pale blue) van with a little light on top, so that M can pretend to be important and on a mission somewhere when he drives it. The garage who sold it to him have put compartments in the back, for plumbing gear, electrical, etc. This is presumably in the hope that he will start to develop orderly habits. But I wouldn’t put much faith in that. It will soon go the way of former vehicles. I may even give it a little warning – that its life of being cared for and nurtured is now over.