Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Battles with Technology

I have been turning over a new leaf (cliché) as I think the computer, the internet, myspace, myblog, etc. are all big timewasters. It’s all too easy to wander around looking at this and that, instead of doing something. I bet Virginia Woolf never had anything like that to lead her astray. Even apart from the novels I would have written, or other such creative pursuits, I’m not even getting basic housework done.

So I was very disciplined on Sunday and didn’t switch on the computer till mid-afternoon. That meant I dealt with the ironing, which otherwise would have gone out of my head and talked to my daughter and a friend on the phone, before I gave in and did a bit of browsing on the net and read my emails.

Sometime on Sunday, or possibly Monday, I managed to finish off a short story for a Writers News (www.writersnews.co.uk) competition. No panic to get it in, so I’ll have something to read next Tuesday, at Guildford Writers (http://www.guildfordwriters.net).

Yesterday, in one of those moments when you think you are going to be efficient, I decided to copy my works to a CD. I use a three generation method, where the CD you are copying to is not the most recent. When I found it was full up, I agreed to deleting all previous stuff, but for some reason, it was reluctant to copy. I went and cooked, and subsequently ate, the evening meal - chicken soup followed by chicken, pineapple and rice if you’re interested – and returned to it, by which time it had churned around for at least two hours and told me it had dealt with 9% of the CD. At this point I took the thing out and cut it up, and found another CD to copy to. However, it had got me worried about the amount of unnecessary stuff on the computer, and I carried out an orgy of deleting. But it seems however much you try to delete things they pop up again in another form. Windows has some crazy system whereby I not only have My Documents, but a second My Documents within the same folder – same with My Pictures. I can access more than one file called My Pictures and one file has photos which I’ve tried to erase at least twice and the other file hasn’t got the pictures I want it to have.

Out to lunch with Irene http://www.thisthatfromireneblack.blogspot.com/ and Val, a non-writing friend. Did Irene have her camera with her, I wonder? Her Blog and MySpace are usually filled with wonderful photos of life on the hoof. Our conversation ranged from heavy social issues to the TV crime dramas which we’re currently enjoying, with a bit of politics thrown in. Will Gordon Brown ...? Will Hilary Clinton ...? A person at a neighbouring table seemed to be listening more to our conversation than participating in one with his wife. I in the meantime was equally fascinated by watching the pair of them work their way through scones, jam and cream. I vicariously enjoyed each heaped spoonful that passed through their lips.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Winter Garden, 24th Jan.

This is the photo I wanted to upload a couple of days ago. Thank you Irene for telling me what to do.

A Bottle of Plonk on line

Just as I was wondering what was happening to A Bottle of Plonk, Jake the editor told me it was now on the Virtual Tales (http://www.virtual.tales.com/) site. I’ve looked and yes, there it is, and there am I too, with a biography, a photo and a credit for the front cover too. No publicity about it yet though, and I’m not sure whether it’s ‘officially’ published yet. I had a feeling it was to be February. There is a Virtual Tales e-group – in fact two, one for readers and one for contributors. I may go on and say hallo to writers and readers if nothing happens in a few days.

Thank goodness it wasn’t quite so cold today. I put off doing my big shop because the weather was uninviting yesterday and went on, after dropping M at the station today. I also posted off a letter to another publisher regarding my novel, Tainted Tree. I must do some work on the novel in progress, but will be out tomorrow. Also I have the start of a short story, but it’s petered out a bit. Must put my other hat on and start on the VAT next week. I don’t seem to have been very organised the last few days – story of my life. Having broadband is a terrible distraction and so are the games of patience, etc, on the computer. Though now I come to think of it, I did clear a lot of paper from my desk, either by filing it or by deciding to recycle it. But it’s good to see a bit of a space there.

M has just telephoned to say he won’t be home for an hour and half, so I hope the temperature doesn’t drop too much, when I have to collect him.

Just listening to the news about some people who were using and supplying cannabis to others with multiple sclerosis. I can’t fathom out why it can’t be included in prescription drugs if it gives so much help to people in pain.

A Bottle of Plonk; Virtual Tales; Tainted Tree; VAT; computer games; MS; cannabis

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

White out

I've tried to upload the photo I took this morning of my snow covered garden. But it seems I haven't worked out the technology to do it. Perhaps someone will tell me how. After subjecting myself to winter chills in nightie and dressing gown, I threw out some stuff for the birds, who've been neglecting me recently. Then I turned up the room thermostat and at the boiler and tried to get the house hospitable.

Out to lunch at friends in the village, so a pleasant afternoon was spent just chatting and catching up. I did a little bit of rewriting of my novel extract that I read out to Guildford Writers (www.guildfordwriters.co.uk) last night and also looked at some of the others' work via our e-group. Read an article in Writers' Forum about Transita, the publishing house for the over 45s and sent off an email to them, asking if my novel might be suitable. So a nice relaxing day without a great deal actually getting done.

Shame about the photo.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sky's the Limit

Oh dear. Half a pack of crisps and TWO liqueur chocolates at the weekend and two chocolate brownies yesterday. V. Bad.

Spoke on the phone to my son at the weekend – about bicycles. I tried to avoid it, because I am not at all interested in cycling, but this is a gene inherited from his father. M in fact cycled back from the station the other day, before the storms. He tells me he is much happier with his bike now he has sawn off the back gears. He cycles along the pavement, now but at such a slow speed, he is in no danger of knocking over old ladies. My son was worried about M using this old contraption, but reassured himself in the end, that as M never remembers to lock things up, at least it was guaranteed not to get stolen.

I am missing not hearing from Virtual Tales (www.virtualtales.com) . I assume that all is well, and that publication is not far off, but without the proofs flying backwards and forwards to give me a push, I have returned to my normal unfocused state. Also my desk is covered with January nasties – telephone bill, electricity, gas, insurance and the VATman’s billet doux, too. Depressing to see that my friends and family reduction was under a pound. That’s partly, though, because I communicate mainly by email, and also BT gives us very cheap evening and weekend calls, anyway.

Today, Monday, I have just spent more than half an hour on a telephone call to Sky. I don’t recommend it. It stems from the fact that my bike-loving son gave M a birthday present of a year’s subscription to Sky in June last year. This lump sum was too much for their little brains to take in and we had no end of hassle with them in the first month after set up. Having got over that, I couldn’t bear to speak to them, even though I found their first statement incomprehensible. I imagined that all would become clear to me as time went on. In fact what became clear was that what should have been a credit as a result of losing time at the beginning had been added on instead of deducted, and in addition to that they had charged us for the same month twice. My long phone call (most of which was spent listening to their terrible music and adverts for themselves) has finally resulted in a credit of £26.50. The question is though, how much did the phone call cost?

We were out to lunch yesterday with friends in a rather modern restaurant at the top of Guildford. A delightful Spanish girl served us and told us she quite liked Guildford because it wasn’t too cold. Alas, it feels decidedly chilly today and the temperature is due to take a dive, I think. My poor little crocuses which surprised me by making an early appearance will not survive, I fear. And tomorrow, we unfortunately have to go to Bushey, Herts. to the funeral of an old friend, an event which will not be enhanced by cold and rain.

Just got back from a trip to the bank. Really wintry weather out there; for the first time for several weeks, I had to wear my hat.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Stormy Weather

Aerobics Wednesday. V. Good. 2 squares of chocolate and several Walkers’ Lite Crisps. V Bad.

This weather yesterday, reminded me of another January storm. It was after the 1987 hurricane – 1990, so I heard this morning, and I was on my back from a radio interview in Essex – Chelmsford, I think. I arrived at Waterloo station and went to the loo, as one does, obviously, at Waterloo. I could hear someone on the tannoy, but I ignored it, until I heard banging on the doors and shouting - ‘Everyone out of the station.’ Gosh that was frightening for the minute. What was going on? Then it transpired they were worried about the glass in the roof over the station. So this mass of people went outside and a large number of them (me included) had no idea how to get home at this point. Somehow I became attached to two American tourists and we went to Clapham in the hope of arriving at Clapham Junction station. At one point the wind was so wild we were afraid of crossing the road. On this same day, the star of ‘ello, ello’ was hit in the head and seriously injured by a piece of timber coming through his car windscreen. I eventually got home after about six hours. Whereas, in our neck of the woods, we had been very badly affected by the 87 hurricane, we didn’t have the same problems this time.

I’ve been listening with interest to the furore about Big Brother. I have never seen Celeb. B.B. and only once, I think, saw the common or garden version. (Common prob.) A couple of years ago, I was on local radio doing a spot called Prime Minister for the Day, or similar. One of the laws I was going to bring in was to ban BB and other equivalent reality shows. BB in particular sets out to humiliate people and let us all have a good laugh at people showing themselves in their worst light – that’s my impression any way. I also believe it is horribly voyeuristic. When I said this to the presenter at Radio SC, he looked at me as if I was quite mad. Now it seems people are dropping it like the proverbial hot potato.

Now that A Bottle of Plonk appears to be sorted, I’ve done a spot of rewriting on the first three chapters of Tainted Tree, my full length novel. I’m also waiting for a critique from Writers’ News. I’ve dealt with one or two things for Goldenford, and also some business letters for M. We had a meeting of Goldenford on Tuesday night and discussed our projects for the coming year, including J’s new novel, The Gawain Quest.

Today I’ve been to Sainsbury’s (no fruit, no yoghurts, no cakes! Disaster) and this afternoon a woman with her daughter and son came to see the piano I have put up for sale. It was for the very pretty daughter, and she seemed to like it. So it’s likely to be departing this house soon.

This evening my bro-in-law is here for dinner. So I’d best get down to it.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Bridget Jones rides again?

If Bridget Jones can do it, so should I. You will recall how she monitored her behaviour – i.e. 2 cigs. v. good. Three glasses wine. v.bad – or similar.

So in this new year, my efforts to achieve or not, as the case may be should be similarly monitored. The good news is (in terms of recent achievements) that I had the neighbours over on Saturday night – well some of them at least, for others were going to the village panto. Bad timing. Must do better next year. I cooked all Saturday –v. successful were mushroom vol-au-vents and to a lesser extent, asparagus ones (all the mushroom ones went first – but then M was scoffing them. My special pizza went down well too – it always does – cut up into small squares, it was a messy but convenient sized finger food. Also smoked salmon squares on wholemeal bread – I copied that from the other neighbour dos.

Earlier in the week, I read through, for the second time, my novella, A Bottle of Plonk. From my days working in the Education Department of The Institution of Mechanical Engineers (the most boring job I ever had, bar one) I remembered that when sending examination papers to the printers, we got them back first as galley proofs, then page proofs. Even now in this digital age, similar comings and goings are required. So I read through the equivalent of galley proofs, returned them to the editor, who forwarded me page proofs, which I read again, each time commenting on any small errors that had cropped up, and have now finally checked the final PDF versions. Hopefully, A Bottle of Plonk will be published on line by Virtual Tales (http://www.virtualtales.com/) in February.

With a bit of luck that will coincide with an article about my recent successes, to be featured in Writers’ News in the March edition. (That’ll be about a month’s time, mid-February.) I’ve included my e-publication, my short listing in the WN short story competition last month, my fourth place in the HE Bates competition and the broadcasting of my radio story. Not a bad few months.

With my secretarial hat on, I took dictation from M at the end of last week and have now caught up with most of our invoices. At least, they’re all in the computer, waiting to be printed out and copies filed, etc. That’s today’s job, after the ironing. So I’m having an industrious day.

The bad news is that I have over-stuffed myself with chocolates - given to us by friends and loved ones - and cakes – my own and bought ones, too, and I can’t shake off the pounds.

But I did an aerobics session this morning – my third this month and year. V. Good. Bridget would be proud of me.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Lots of activity

I didn’t achieve too much yesterday, but Irene: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/blacks.house/
came over for lunch and a chat. M was still hanging around with no particular job to go to, so I gave him lunch and shushed him out of the house to collect a part for something later in the week. You can’t have a decent chat with a husband around.

Later Irene and I were both at the Guildford Writers’ Circle, ((http://www.guildfordwriters.net/) where a rather depleted band of writers discussed their pieces. All good stuff, as usual. I got a prime position outside the Guildford Institute thanks to a Samaritan who guided me in. There I was stuck in the middle of the road like a crooked tooth, longing to try to get into this tempting space, but knowing I was going to make a hash of it, when this young man who was standing outside the Friends’ Meeting House, started gesticulating, in the way that men do when they can see your wheels going in the wrong direction. I following his guidance and achieved perfect parking (for once in my life.) A friend indeed.

I’d managed to squeeze out about 600 words of my next novel – currently called Innocent Bystanders but that may change. It was very much a first draft and needs rewriting.

Today, once again my desk is full of bits of paper and the linen basket is full of washing – how does it mount up so quickly? But I think a priority is to look over the Bottle of Plonk chapters from Jake at Virtual Tales (http://www.virtualtales.com/) . I’d like to be able to tick off one job from my list.

Later: it’s taking longer than anticipated; I’m still only on Chapter 6. However, I have done another session of aerobics today. Miracle of miracles. And I’ve also been to the bank, taken my neighbour to the local station and tried to navigate round my blog too. Unfortunately, I keep getting lost - I never did have much sense of direction. At least I now have a photo on My Space – thanks to Irene. I like this photo as it keeps most of me in shadow, which at my age is an advantage. As you can probably see, I’m not the bright young thing I profess to be, so I’d better own up. I lied about my age. But what does age matter anyway? And for all I know, all these fascinating blogs could be lies, lies, lies.

Monday, January 08, 2007

New Year Resolutions

In the local newsletter – a mention of exercise for the not very fit – I thought I might qualify, but the organiser suggested this might be too low key for me and recommended a Pilates class. New Year Resolution – I’m going to get fit and slim in 2007. Don’t all laugh at once. I tried phoning said Pilates person, but so far have received no reply. I even went to the village hall to see if she was operating a class, but instead there were men fitting windows.

I came home deciding to prance about in front of the TV with my Rosemary Conley video. But due to the arrival of the postman, the milkman and the gardener with an assistant, I couldn’t do this till lunch time. What a long time it is since I’ve had a go at this. Still, half an hour of exercise has to be good.

I’ve sent three edited chapters of A Bottle of Plonk back to Jake at Virtual Tales (www.virtualtales.com) and approved the cover, which is based on my original, but with a different font and one or two other refinements.

I’ve also managed to clear some of the stuff from my desk. In the course of this, I found another pair of glasses, the sellotape I’d been looking for two days, two pens, my shorthand notebook and a list of things to do prepared some days ago. I’ve also dealt with the end of month statements (end of December, alas, somewhat belatedly) and a quotation dictated by M yesterday.

Friday, January 05, 2007

The machines are taking over

I managed to have a full session on broadband, yesterday from 2.00 pm onwards. That is to say, I didn’t lose the connection. But today, although it was on first thing – M wanted to see if it was working, I lost it again later. Being strong minded, I had turned the computer off in order to deal with the other things in the house. It’s very tempting to go on the computer, look up emails, fiddle with things, etc. When I turned it on again at 1.30 p.m., I found that I’d lost the line again. M is looking out for another piece of equipment which joins modem, telephone and surge protector, to replace the one on at the moment.

In the meantime, I’ve been to the doctor’s surgery to get another prescription for spot cream, without which I’d look like a spotty teenager – alas more of the former than the latter, acne rosacae being the cause. Also recycled plastic bottles. When I switched on the radio in my car, it veered confusingly between Radio 2 and Radio 4. Switching off didn’t help. At one point I didn’t realise I was listening to two different programmes – just thought my comprehension levels were at zero.

During my brief access period, this morning, I received all the chapters of my novella, A Bottle of Plonk (view it at Goldenford (www.goldenford.co.uk)) in PDF format from Jake George of Virtual Tales (www.virtualtales.com). I will have to read through everything again, to make sure I’m happy with it, but it seems things are moving. The format looks quite good.

After lunch I rushed off again to catch the bank. One of our errant customers had paid up, just before I got around to sending a grumpy statement. Naturally, it was full up, because they've cloed it two days a week, so everyone pours in on the odd days.

My desk is so full of un-dealt with stuff that I lost my list of things to do today. Hence, I completely forgot to get more bananas – now I can’t put Sainsbury’s off any longer – and petrol, while I was out. But later I got the machine loaded with washing and cooked our dinner – chicken soup tonight. Maybe I’ll catch up with paperwork next week.

M got the broadband connection back. All OK for the rest of the day.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The machines are talking to me

Those readers concerned about the banana crisis in this household will be reassured to hear that it was temporarily resolved on 2nd January when we took a trip to Knaphill. This was primarily to get small bits of electronic equipment from the computer shop there, but while there, I rushed to the Co-op to get bananas and cheese, thus warding off a Sainsbury's trip.

M also decided to have a hair cut and I followed him into the barber's. The woman who has cut his hair for the last 29 years told us she was leaving to go to the west country. She took the opportunity to say that M first met her when she was 19 and said (re his hair), 'Are you sure you know how to do it? Women shouldn't be working in men's barber shops.' He followed that up some time later by telling her she should be at home with her baby. I informed her he was an MCP of the first order and that the only way I tolerated him was by having a switch-off device in my head. She assured me that the only way she had coped with the men in the shop during the last three decades was by operating a similar device.

The electronic bits have not improved things drastically. My Clara connection has been reinstated, but I lose it sometimes and my broadband connection also disappears for long periods (yesterday, all day and half today - it came on some time during the lunch hour.) In addition to that, I am having fun and games with all the things I'm registered with, like Yahoo groups, which don't necessarily recognise me, and passwords which I've changed and have now forgotten. However, my new microwave and digital radio are very friendly and send me messages on their digital displays. The m.wave tells me to start, weigh things and open and close doors. The radio tells me who's on and gives me a potted synopsis of The Archers, amongst other things. Hardly worthwhile listening. I'll just read the display.

I heard from Kate at Writers' News that she would include my piece for 'Members' News', if I would like to rehash it. I spent some time rewriting my original effort, which now includes my shortlisting with WN's own competition, my placing on the HE Bates competition and my contract with Virtual Tales. I hope it will be in the magazine in the spring.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Happy New Year

Before I make any resolutions, I have to deal with the same old problems – washing in the machine – clothes in the tumble dryer and hanging on the line in my utility room – all to be dealt with. Papers all over my office desk, ditto. And the last banana sitting miserably in the fruit bowl while a scrap of mousetrap remains in the fridge. And so the domestic goddess has to do her stuff before doing anything interesting.

It has been a hectic week with almost non-stop comings and goings. We have been to M’s brother on Christmas Day – mentioned already; M’s sister on 29th December, with the other siblings, for lunch and the evening. Always good fun; I’m sure I would have enjoyed having brothers and sisters, though at the time, I might have thought it nicer to have all the benefits of being an only child. We have had daughter, son-in-law and 5 year old, from midnight on 27th till post breakfast on 29th, and son and daughter-out-law with children 5 and 8 from 30th December until yesterday. We also went, together with kids, to neighbours, for drinks on New Year’s Eve.

The kids (mine, not theirs) got pressed into service to sort out technical matters in the household. My broadband activation was due to take place on 28th and by good luck (after a glitch in the ordering) the filters arrived on the right day. After our turkey and nut roast lunch (recipe available on request) my daughter, K, who has also used Virgin for her own connection, supervised the connections of filters and modem and did the necessary to the software. Amazingly, we were on line the same day. However there were intermittent interruptions, and I’m still not getting a 100 per cent service. My son carried out similar supervisory operations while M tidied up the connections underneath my desk. As par for the course, a fair amount of mess was created when M took out the giant drill, to make bigger holes in my worktop for the filters, etc. to pass through. Before creating a second turkey and nut roast meal (most of the younger generation in our two families are semi-vegetarian), I had to vacuum up a great deal of sawdust, and, up to now, my discs and small tools haven’t been put back in the right places.

My son also set up the digital radio for us and programmed in One Word. I listened to it briefly before the household descended, one morning, and after a couple of minutes decided it was the most unutterable tosh, filled with such stuff as ‘she looked at him entreatingly …’ and ‘his lips thrust down on hers violently …’and so on. However, I had to carry on listening just to find out what it was. Could it be Barbara Cartland or similar? Turned out to be a Mills and Boon creation. I feel reassured that I made the right decision in never, never approaching them with my stuff.

Unfortunately, daughter has grumbled at me for having 10,000 emails in my in-box. Dutifully, I started to erase them, working backwards from 2003 and stopping to read them, which slowed things down. Things improved when I attacked emailers such as Friends Reunited and erased them in one stroke. However, while son was looking at something else in my office (and possibly distracting me) I managed to erase the last four months' worth of emails. I'm not yet sure how much this matters, but no doubt I'll find out. The other irritation is that I have to get back into sites that require my ID in order to access them. So far, I've got Irene (Irene: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/blacks.house/) to re-invite me to Guildford Writers, and I've managed to change the ID on this blog. I wanted my other Clara connecti0n left, so that I had an alternative means of going on line (for the time being) but M removed the other connection in an excess of zeal. He's going to get a splitter (is that the right word?) to reinstate Clara pro tem, after I did a fair bit of grumbling.

Today, it’s cold out, but the sun’s streaming through the trees. It seems a good way to start the new year. New Year resolutions will take place in a few days.