Wednesday, February 28, 2007

These boots are made for wading

I managed to get to the bank in between showers today and got back home before a burst of torrential rain and some thunder too. I even bought myself some Wellington boots while I was out, because all around here, it’s too waterlogged to walk in ordinary shoes. Even on a bright day, I’ve been reluctant to walk to the post box. And I need the exercise - I've gained about 3lbs over and above my 'normal' weight since Christmas. Now I’ve got no excuse to avoid a walk.

They’ve been talking about sport on the radio. Roger Black, I think, has been trying to introduce more sport into schools. When I heard the excuses from the girls – left my kit at home; couldn’t be bothered to bring it, etc., I thought back to my own school days in the dim and distant past.

I remember sport all right. No-one dared leave their kit at home; but we weren’t faced with the birch or similar. We just did as we were told. And unlike me, the majority of the class actually enjoyed sport – I always regarded myself as an exception. Most of the girls were good at netball, tennis and gymnastics – and we had something like two lessons outside, even when it was freezing – and one in a well-equipped gym. So speaking as someone who had to be hauled into position by two other girls, when attempting the handstand, who never had the spring to land on the ‘horse’ or the ‘box’ and who was never welcome in any netball team by the other members, I can’t understand why sport is now so low on the schools’ priority list. The damage that political parties of both persuasions have done – the Labour party in the seventies condemning ‘competition’ and the Tories in the nineties, I suppose, selling off playing fields. What short-sightedness. No wonder we have an obesity problem. The one bright hope to get girls interested in keeping fit is the prospect of more dance at schools instead of games. I would have been very happy with that, all those years ago. The trouble is I’ve heard them say that before and nothing much seems to have happened.

rain; boots; sport; gymnastics; dance

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Teapots and calculators

I was all set to complete the VAT today and a few more small jobs, when my friend, Val, telephoned to ask if I felt like going out to lunch. Never turn down an invitation; friends are important. So off I went and off we went to our usual venue a little tea-place out in the middle of nowhere. No haute cuisine, but they do a nice scrambled egg on toast. They put a lot of emphasis on pretty teapots, but ours dribbled an entire river over our table. We had a natter and then I returned to the book-keeping, which is now complete. I couldn’t be bothered to go the post office with the return. It had turned miserably wet, and I decided to pay it through the bank tomorrow, instead, when we are due to have sunny intervals, or light showers, or something marginally better than today. My poor little crocuses hardly saw the light of day before being knocked sideways by the weather. But still a few daffs are coming up and sunshine is forecast for the end of the week.

Although I always make a fuss about book-keeping, I actually quite like doing it. The mind can wander free as you’re entering the figures, and there’s something soothing about the regular sound of the printer-calculator as it pushes out another eighth of an inch of its little cash till roll. I could relate therefore to the autobiographical story of Daniel Tammet, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism, which was serialised last week. He absolutely loves figures and achieved some sort of record in memorising pi to thousands and thousands of decimal points. He also sees them in various colours; that has a name too – synasthesia, or something like that. I’m not suggesting that I’m anything like him, but it is regarded as strange to like figures or figure work. It’s almost an admission of pride to declare yourself innumerate; those people who would hate to be illiterate cheerfully own up to not being able to add up.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Eye Spy

Goodness. Nearly a week since my last entry. This is partly because of my sore eye, which turned out to be conjunctivitis. But the first two or three bloodcurdling days – well that’s how I looked in the mirror - were probably nothing to do with the later infection. But the upshot was I had to leave out my lenses for several days, and when I tried putting them in on one day, it made the eye worse the next day. I tend to get double vision when I’m wearing glasses, so I didn’t wear them all the time. And because I haven’t got bifocals or varifocals, reading or looking at the computer screen was most difficult. I had to put myself about 3” away from my account books in order to continue the bookkeeping, but nevertheless managed to do most of it. Still a couple of columns to add up tonight, which is just as well, because the VAT return should be sent off by now.

I also finished re-reading A Bottle of Plonk, and sent my comments to Dave at Virtual Tales ( so hopefully, it’s now on its way to being an e-book.

At the end of the week, I finally caved in and went to the doctor, but by that time the eye was practically better.

I am seriously considering submitting my novel, Tainted Tree, to Goldenford for publishing this year. In the meantime, Anne’s friend Nell has created a draft of a cover for it. It is quite unlike anything I had envisaged, but I think I like it.

I’ve visited Irene ( today. Poor Irene is struggling to find ways of managing with one hand only, since breaking her arm a couple of weeks ago. She made two mugs of tea without any help, but it is a demoralising business. Nevertheless, we had a good chat – at least the ‘little grey cells’, as Poirrot might say, are functioning.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A novel critique

Now you’ve seen Freddy the pheasant, here’s a nice view of Robin, the er robin.

Since my last log, the family have visited for the weekend – the Young Master, as we used to call him when he was four, and his tribe of females. We had a fire in their honour on Saturday, though the wood was all damp and it took ages to get going. It was no comparison to the fires which I used to make with loving care, when we had no electricity in the first days of living here – see my book, The Fruit of the Tree, available from my website, We went to a Chinese restaurant on Sunday for a buffet lunch, which always goes down well with the girls as they can trot backwards and forwards getting a bit more of this or that.

I received an email from Dave at Virtual Tales ( with the format of A Bottle of Plonk as an e-book. So it will be marketed by VT in two ways – one in the serial format, to be downloaded a couple of times a week with the whole e-book as an alternative. My eye was so sore on from Monday until today that I haven’t been able to check much of it. Strangely enough, when it looked really bad over the weekend, it didn’t hurt at all.

I also received a critique of the first three chapters of my novel from Writers’ News ( I was disappointed in it in some ways. Firstly a request for more description. Two of the people who reviewed it on You Write On more or less told me to cut to the chase. If you’re going to mention the flowers in the garden said one of them, they have to be relevant later on. Also description of the main protagonist – and here I have another problem. If it’s her viewpoint, am I supposed to describe her? I don’t compare myself with Jane Austen, but she as far as I remember didn’t describe her heroines. I can never work out what to say about people. For example, what does a ‘wide mouth’ actually look like – Cherie Booth?

Friday, February 16, 2007

Birds and no bees

We were supposed to have sunshine yesterday, but I was quite cold, and disappointed that it wasn’t more spring-like. Nevertheless, the crocuses have all come up and in addition, there are a few snowdrops, polyanthus and the first flower on our camellia. Camellias are amazing – such big, bright red flowers at this time of year seem quite inappropriate. Nevertheless, I do love the purple crocuses. The colour is indescribable and when there’s a mass of them, I just have to stand and stare at them.

It’s also nice to see the birds outside my kitchen window. They were absent right up until the recent cold weather, even though I was throwing out wild bird food. (I think the squirrels were eating that.) Then when the frost and snow arrived, I cut up some French bread and threw it on to the patio. Even though the wild bird has healthy seeds and nuts in it, they obviously preferred the refined white bread, and a blackbird and robin are now regularly pecking around. This is the time of year when Freddie the pheasant first arrived in our garden. It’s actually three years ago, and he repeated his visit the following year. But he hasn’t come since and I suspect he’s been the main course on someone’s table.

I had a friend for lunch (something of a burnt offering, since I’m still getting the hang of my combination microwave) on Tuesday, and we chatted for some time. So not a lot was done. Then our monthly Goldenford meeting in the evening. Irene ( was absent due to a broken arm, but with us in spirit. Anne ( arrived with copies of her new poetry collection, A Stranger’s Table. I have been reading my signed copy and am full of admiration for Anne’s language. Anne’s novel A Dangerous Man is also out now, published by Flamebooks and is getting a good press.

I woke up this morning and when I eventually found my way to the mirror discovered that one eye is completely bloodshot. Now I have to go to Sainsbury’s and no doubt will get sympathetic looks, (Poor thing – must have a husband who beats her.) as it is really startling.
My letters are ready to go too, in particular my short story offering to Writers’ News. Unfortunately, I didn’t finish the story I started last week and the deadline is probably today or tomorrow, or possibly yesterday. It doesn’t really matter, because in my mind it petered out. I wasn’t borne along by the story, and stopped trying. Maybe I can get back to my novel for next week’s Guildford Writers.

I understand that Valentine’s day happened a couple of days ago. Did I get flowers/chocolates/card? No. And I didn’t send them either. M is not a romantic in that sense and can’t remember where he’s going on any particular day. So why should he remember Valentine’s? Wasn’t there an apocryphal story of someone who arrived at his destination and sent a telegram home: ‘Have arrived in Derby. Where should I be?’ That sounds like M, although he’s quite likely not to realise he should be somewhere else.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Chocolate and Martini Rosso

The weather’s improved today, and we’ve been out to lunch for a traditional roast. I had a Martini Rosso with lemonade, which is probably desperately uncool. First had it on a date many decades ago. I rapidly went off the male in question, but I continued to enjoy the drink. I don’t understand why food and drink should be fashionable or otherwise. Either you like it or you don’t. Like Black Forest Gateau, for example, of which I heard mention a day or so on the radio, in a discussion about the seventies and Life on Mars. It’s out of fashion, even though it’s delicious (when baked by a proper patisserie). Dark chocolate, black cherries and cream. Yum.

Having lunch cooked for me meant I came home energized and inclined to do something other than sit at the computer.

With M happily ensconced in front of the rugby on TV (Six nations? But there only seemed to be two playing!) I embarked on an apple cake. I always try to have a couple of apple cakes in the freezer, because all my family seem to like them. Funnily enough, I’m not a great fan – I prefer anything with chocolate (see above). However, the time to make them is while I still have apples in store from our fabulous tree.

While cooking, I turned on the radio and listened to The Mahabharata - I’m sure this is something that Irene ( will know about being something to do with Asian gods and myth, as far as I could tell. I was enjoying it, but disappointed to find it was a serial, as it requires me to remember to listen next Sunday. I collected a few more apples for dessert and listened to Open Book, while peeling and cutting.

My Writers’ News ( magazine arrived a couple of days ago. There was a good profile about me in Members’ News, giving details of my recent success with Virtual Tales ( and the short stories which were placed/broadcast/and shortlisted. Now I’m working on a second story for a WN competition. One is ready to be printed out for a March deadline and the other is under way for mid-Feb. Cutting it fine, but with a bit of effort, I hope to get it done.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

More winter

A cold unexciting day, which I chose to spend indoors. As you can see, the promised snow arrived. The pictures above were taken at 8 a.m., one through the window, which is why there's a reflection on it and the other through the door. You can see how much snow there is on my car. It's melted to a certain extent, but I'm in hibernation today.

Press Button Hell

Written last thing on Wed, 7th February.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, the only button you got to press, when making telephone calls, was in a call box, when you pressed Button A or Button B – one to connect and the other to get your money back.

I had trouble with a debit card yesterday, when I wanted to draw cash, not using my usual card. Of course, when I put in my PIN, it rejected me. Back in the mists of time, or actually about a year ago, I lost my purse with this card in it, and in the process my PIN got changed, and I forgot to revert it back to the one I wanted to use. Trying to sort this out on the phone took ages; when I phoned, I had about ten different menus, and when I’d carefully worked my way through them, the final request (after all the button pressing that first went on – sort code, account number, etc.) was to put in my PIN. Could I ring a local branch and talk to a human being? No. Was there an option – do you want to speak to a customer adviser? No. However, I fooled them. I found there was a number to ring if you were not already a customer, and when I rang that, I did find a human at the end of it. When I started explaining to her, she said, ‘Oh you’ve come through to the wrong department – I’ll transfer you.’ Success at last, but not until I’d wasted an hour or so on my abortive attempt to get some cash.

Guildford Writers ( in the evening and another good evening. As a result of the absence of some members – Anne with a cold and Irene with a bad back and Helen who couldn’t get in, we all got to read. (Much rather have you there, though, girls.) My new short story went down quite well; I have to prune about fifty words before sending it to Writers’ News ((

Today, I’ve been to another funeral – twice in only a couple of weeks. It was freezing, but bright. Since snow is forecast again for tomorrow, it was good that it was organised for today.

As I was out, I had to get down to a couple of hours’ book-keeping tonight, and I haven’t managed to read much more of The Poisonwood Bible. It’s unlikely I’ll go out tomorrow night, particularly if the snow arrives. It’s a shame I didn’t start on it earlier, because there’s much there to discuss.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Hope for book-lovers

I’ve just come back from the bank at Knaphill, a village that used to have quite a number of shops, greengrocer’s, two small supermarkets, even a book shop, once. Then Sainsbury’s came along, less than a mile away, and gradually, shops started closing and people vanished. But after a while, new pavements were put down, trees planted and a few raised beds with small shrubs and plants appeared, and then, though it couldn’t hold on to its fruit shop, some professional offices took over shops. Gradually, partly perhaps because it has easy, and free parking, it has begun to attract more people. Today I saw that one of the old supermarkets, which has been empty for a long time is being converted to a smart new library. The old one is a single story building with a corrugated iron roof. Even if they are going to fill this new place with computers, it was really nice to see this act of faith.

It was bitterly cold out and I scampered back to the car and home as soon as possible. Having spotted snowdrops in a neighbouring garden, I checked if I had any. Delighted to say there were four or five flower heads. I hope to see them doubling up each year.

It was a fairly unexciting weekend, but I spoke to both my kids. I caught up with the ironing and took dictation and have now got several invoices to print out. M completely forgot to watch rugby, which was a shame. I still have a number of things to do, including write second short story, if I’m to submit it by mid-Feb; read The Poisonwood Bible for the reading circle on Thursday. (I doubt if I’ll succeed, but I did read it a few years ago, so some things will come back to me.) Start bookkeeping for VAT return due at the end of the month; print, post and file copies of invoices, and a number of small things, which always take longer than expected.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Chocolate temptations

Yesterday, M had one of his periodic days of retirement. This meant that he hung around the house doing odd jobs (boy things) outside, leaving the door open, but coming back in for something every time I closed it. He wanted me, eventually, to take him to the station, so I couldn’t get started on anything. In my mind was a list to deal with – new short story; bookkeeping; end of month statements, ironing. None of them were jobs I wanted to be interrupted once I had started. This went on till about midday and when he went, I had lunch and tried to get a photo of my crocuses, but it didn’t come out very well.

I decided, as it was a fine day, to go and pick up some deeds from a solicitor in Guildford. Having done that, I came back via the Stoke Road cemetery. I visited a grave that is important to me, and was sad to see that the few snowdrops and daffodils I had planted in an earlier year showed no sign of coming up. It was a good day to visit, because it was neither cold nor windy and the cemetery is surprisingly colourful.

I didn’t get down to anything at all on my return; spent too much time browsing on the net; and then wasted the evening watching Dalziel and Pascoe. Can anyone explain about the pronunciation of Dalziel? I couldn’t really believe in some aspects of this episode. Warren Clarke (Dalziel) with a face pack! I don’t think so.

Today, I’ve been to Guildford to meet up with my fellow graduates from Surrey University. A delicious veggie lunch at the Guildford Institute. We’d reserved a table for ten and I was hemmed in by my companions. So I was prevented from getting out to acquire one of the wonderful desserts that Leone and Celia make for the regular lunches. I was also aware that not one of my fellows had a double chin, which was also persuasive. After lunch, I browsed, looking around clothes shops, and went to the bottom of town in search of a furniture shop, which appeared not to exist. My legs were aching once I got back to the car. The omission of the dessert, (chocolate roulade or meringue with a pecan nut base) haunted me on the journey back and the thought of chocolate wouldn’t leave my mind, so that I rushed to have a slice of marble cake once I got in. I am such a weak willed wimp.