Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tooth, As in ‘Sweet’ and ‘Broken’

Yesterday went well and apart from an early morning tantrum, GD2 behaved impeccably, coping both with the funeral service and the burial. It’s amazing that even a child of 5 can rise to an occasion. We now have a cake mountain at our house. My daughter made cakes; I bought cakes at Sainsbury’s, just in case and then we found that the ladies of the church had also made cakes. However a lot of the people who went to the service did not return to the house, and so insufficient was consumed. We persuaded the church ladies to take back some of the cakes and use them for the next church social. I have volunteered to host a coffee walnut (M will enjoy that.) and a Victoria sponge. And of course, I will put away all the bought Sainsbury’s cakes for a rainy day. This will be difficult, as I’m trying not to eat too much of such stuff myself.

The family left for home this morning and I have returned to bookkeeping. There’s still waiting pile of business letters for action or filing. It’s a treat to have the family, but it is tiring and the peace and quiet of the house is a relief after four days of activity. Somewhere beyond the horizon, I may return to writing.

Another bit of info on the holiday front – the problem filling went wrong again, and I found myself with what seemed like a razor’s edge in my mouth, cutting my tongue and stopping me talking. I put up with it for a day or so. Then M pushed me to find out about a dentist. So one morning of my holiday was taken up with an emergency appointment at the proprietor’s own dentist in Palma. He’s put in a temporary filling, which is still there at the moment. He said I should have a crown; my dentist had already said that he didn’t think that was practical because of the size of the filling. Who am I to believe? At any rate, I have another appointment with my man next week. No doubt he’s eager to inspect the Spanish work.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

In loco parentis

We have been looking after my granddaughter (GD2) while my daughter and son in law sort out paperwork, following my son in law’s mother’s death. They’ve been staying with us too, and so I haven’t had much additional time. Today, I had a friend over with an equivalent 6 year old granddaughter. Great success – the two of them played with dolls; played hairdressers, became an orchestra; did colouring in and finally exchanged addresses and promises to write to each other. Yesterday, M & I spent an afternoon at the local soft play area. GD2 loved that too, and having started out a little apprehensive, got more and more enthusiastic at hurling herself down a slide. Initial visits and waves to us were soon forgotten. Tomorrow is the funeral – so a difficult day for the family.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Our holiday

The good news about the holiday is that although I ate well, I do not appear to have put on any weight. (Unless the new scales I bought for 4.99 a few weeks ago are completely hopeless.) Not only was I restrained (particularly when it came to the desserts) but I went to the gym in the hotel every day (except one) and spent 28 minutes on the bicycle, the rowing machine and the walking thing, whatever that’s called. Is it a treadmill? I managed to stave off total boredom by watching TV in the gym. I think the exercise also helped my back. First I asked the proprietor whether someone could recommend some exercises. But she persuaded me to attend a yoga class which takes place every day for an hour. That was boredom, and the sylph like creature taking it irritated me by her ability to touch her nose with her toes. I also found her difficult to understand and couldn’t watch what positions we were supposed to be putting ourselves in (myself and the one other volunteer) without putting myself in an incorrect position. One session was all I could bear to suffer.

Away and home

Hi friends,
if you wondered about my disappearance, I've just been on holiday. A lovely ten days in Illetas, Majorca. I shall tell all about it soon, but at the moment, I have my usual pile of things to face - unpacking (half done); washing - first lot in the machine. Ironing, probably tomorrow. Post; lots of mail has arrived and emails to be dealt with too; VAT, by the end of month deadline. My daughter, son in law and granddaughter are coming to stay for a few days. Unfortunately, because of the recent death of my son-in-law's mother. There will be a lot to do, so I'll come back soon when the pressure's off a bit.

Friday, May 11, 2007

The roads we take

It seems as if I’ve been critical of Open University in my last couple of entries, and that would be an incorrect analysis. In fact, the tutor for the Social Sciences foundation course was excellent. I would say that that course really caused me to look at things in a whole new light. And Psychology – with a different tutor, of course - gave me insights that I still remember. I gave up OU after that, though. I was quite disappointed with my exam results when I found that I was getting very confused with the various different views from different psychologists. However, the main reason was that I missed creative writing, for while I studied I had no time to write fiction. Eventually I completed a modular degree at Surrey University, but by that time, I’d written A Bottle of Plonk: ( and Tainted Tree.

I applied to OU when my daughter left home for university. If you know yourself and know that something is going to make you sad and empty, you have to plan for it. I believe this might even come under the heading of cognitive therapy. I knew I would miss my daughter and that it would be particularly difficult having no children left in the house, my son, having already left home. Something very large had to fill that gap, and OU was the choice I made. I had also lost a very close friend through cancer at around the same time. I felt it was a decision she would have approved of, for she had taken an academic route, whereas I had left school after O-levels and commercial training to become a secretary.

Another decision I made was to self-publish my autobiographical book The Fruit of the Tree ( after trying the conventional approach, and that was because of a significant birthday. And of course, the writing of the book itself was as a result of the most – for me – life changing event in my life, the cot death of my daughter, Amanda.

Writing is therapeutic and the writing I did at the time helped me greatly. But, apart from the diary I wrote during my teens and early twenties, I have never written just for myself. For me, it’s not just a therapy. I’m a writer. I enjoy writing and I want an audience for what I’ve written. That’s why it was not sufficient just to write The Fruit of the Tree - I wanted – and still want – other people to read the book too.

I don’t quite know why I’m being thoughtful – perhaps it’s they grey sky that hovers overhead today. I’m not sad. Just thoughtful.

We had a meeting of Goldenford yesterday, and discussed various events to market our books – which is good. And I also spent an enjoyable lunch and beyond with Irene ( on Wednesday. We went over some of the fine details of her next book – Sold to the Lady with the Lime Green Laptop which will be Goldenford’s next project after The Gawain Quest which will be launched in June. Being part of the company is enjoyable and even if the project is not your own, it’s good to be part of it.

I’m still looking at front cover ideas for Tainted Tree and have not yet put in the work on the first chapters. I spoke to someone I met on holiday last year, who bought both my books, and she asked me when my next one would be out. ‘Don’t forget to let me know, so I can buy a copy,’ she said. Always uplifting to hear comments like that.

An afterthought, I want to add a list of links to others' sites to my profile, but haven't worked out how to do it. I'd be very grateful for help with that.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Back to the desk

During the long weekend, I didn’t think about work at all. After the departure of the family and the tea party, we were out again yesterday, for lunch with friends. I didn’t have a twinge of conscience - I’m quite able to put work to one side without a qualm – at least when I’m not at home. However, this morning the post arrived, and I became aware of numerous letters for action or filing mounting on my desk – and the washing had started to accumulate too. So I’ve started ploughing through it again. And of course, I haven’t finished the VAT and I haven’t done anything to my novel in progress, nor a story for the Writers’ News comp, nor worked on the first three chapters of Tainted Tree. I’m back on the treadmill again.

M took the New Scientist on the train to a job today, and left it at the job. That was a pity because I wanted to look again at the article on making decisions. The particular thing I was interested in was the ‘sunk cost fallacy’. I remember that from the Economics section of the Social Science foundation course. I think actually that the New Scientist explained it better, because I suddenly clicked that what it actually means is ‘throwing good money after bad.’ Everyone knows about that. M bought himself a Range Rover about eighteen months ago (second hand) with a gas conversion. Unfortunately, the gas is not working properly, so he’s having to go over to the expensive petrol option. His idea – to get it repaired, so that it does work. My idea – send to the scrap metal dealers. Spending money on it because we have already invested money in it is a case of sunk cost fallacy.

I don’t know if it quite applies to the other phenomenon – that is buying something to wear and then finding (when it’s too late to take it back) that the colour or the fit is not quite right, but you wear it anyway, to kind of justify it. I’m sure there must be a name for doing that. Perhaps it’s just plain meanness.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The genetic cocktail – a heady brew

The family visit prompted me to think about the genetic inheritance passed on to my granddaughters and Cathy’s blog ( which also deals with the nature/nurture debate has pushed me to think about it further. I’ve been watching the three little girls and am fascinated to see which bits of me they’ve inherited. The interesting thing about grandchildren as opposed to children is that you can see aspects of yourself which are not in your children. I think there’s some sort of formula which says something like a child inherits 25% of the genes from each parent and 12.5% of each of its grandparent’s genes. (If anyone knows otherwise, perhaps they’d let me know.) This suggests that the children could by-pass parental behaviour in favour of the grandparent. Actually I’m not quite sure if this applies to personality only, or if the physical aspects count, as well. My son, who looks nothing like me, is similar to me in some aspects of his behaviour. GD3, who looks a lot like me, does not, as far as I can see, resemble me in terms of personality. So perhaps when the genetic cards are shuffled, you get physical factors and personality genes all thrown in together. GD2, my daughter’s child, is very slow and takes her time in most things. I recognise myself very clearly here. But she doesn’t look like me, and she doesn’t behave like her mother, who is fast and energetic, like the whole of my other half’s family.

But in some things, the line between nature and nurture is not clear-cut. GD1 and GD3 swim and cycle and climb, and are physically very active. Do they take after their parents, who are both sporty and well co-ordinated, or is the fact that they have been exposed to such activities and encouraged to do them the important factor? Did I inherit a lack of co-ordination from my parents, or had no inclination to be sporty because they were not? A bit of both, I suppose.

The nature/nurture debate comes into my novel, Tainted Tree, as my heroine, Addie, is adopted. As I’m always a middle of the road sort of person, I think the line between the two is fuzzy. If it were dogmatically one way or another, we would not be individuals with choice on how to behave. We would be pre-determined by our genes and incapable of changing our behaviour to respond to a given situation. Alternatively, we would be putty, shaped by circumstances without the ability to fight back when those circumstances proved difficult. My view is that our genes might give us the inclination to behave in a certain way, whereas our upbringing will perhaps relate to our attitudes and such aspects of our character as honesty, trustworthiness and so on.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Family weekend

Family weekend

A good weekend’s come and gone. The son and heir arrived with the family early on Saturday and we had a good long day, with a walk in the woods, GD1 and GD3 contemplating walking the plank – a tree trunk over our local stream and playing ‘Pooh-sticks’ on the little bridge across it. It was fine enough to get out the swings and slides that M bought a few years ago from (presumably) a parent or grandparent who wanted to lose them from her own garden. The two girls, occasionally angelic, mostly manage to squabble over perceived rights and injustices, even to the point of fighting over two identical penguins acquired from boxes of Persil.

GD3 today told me that a wish she had made yesterday (apparently you have to make a wish when you blow away the fluffy stuff on a dandelion) was a double wish. ‘I wish you would never die, Grandma,’ she told me, ‘and I wish that chocolate was good for you.’

GD3, who is five, also confided that she doesn’t actually believe in fairies, but she hasn’t told her friends, because she doesn’t want to disappoint them.

My son, who cannot tear himself away from computers was to be found on mine, each time he managed to escape from family duties. I set him a task of installing a photo of the Gawain front cover, on the Goldenford ( website. This still needs a little sorting, as for some reason, the text aligned itself down one side. Now I find I’ve lost my email connection. Every time he visits, I find new things on my computer and ask myself what he’s been up to this time. Is he guilty, or is it something to do with pressure on my server due to the Bank Holiday weekend?

Yesterday evening, we discussed a very interesting article in New Scientist about making you mind up. NS referred again, in one section of the article, to the Zimbardo and the Millgram experiments and the way in which we are inclined to accept others’ view of the rightness of something, and let ourselves off the hook, rather than standing out from the crowd. I’ve always been fascinated by this, and fearful that I would be one of the people to agree with the crowd. I hope I never have to discover how weak I am.

Another section of the same article referred to finding that one had so many choices that one became paralysed by indecision. This is what happened to me when I thought about going on a cruise, and in the end, I booked a holiday at the hotel we’ve been going to for ten years or more, because no choices were required of me. I’m finding the same thing’s happening with Tainted Tree. I’m getting so much feedback, I don’t know who to take notice of. So it’s ground to a halt.

When the family had left, today, we went off to a posh hotel for tea with M’s several cousins and one aunt, whose 89th birthday it is tomorrow. None of us, would I think, normally pay out quite such a large sum for tea, scones, sandwiches and gateaux, though we all enjoyed it and the cakes were quite delicious. It was nice to see this part of the family and I presented Auntie with a copy of A Bottle of Plonk, having first checked that she was not likely to be offended by any chapters. But one of the other cousins assured me she was not ‘prissie’ and, in fact, when she saw the book, she was delighted. I shall have to check if she enjoyed it. One of the cousins, who’d obviously read the first bit on the website, ( asked what happened to the hero and heroine – Richard and Julie, when confronted by his mother. I explained that the novella is not the story of the couple, not being a conventional novel, but the story of the bottle, which moves from one situation to another, with a fairly large cast of characters – and that you have to wait till the end to find the answer. I also, as an afterthought, suggested she might like to download a copy from Virtual Tales, (http://www.virtualtales/) at only 4 dollars. Alas, I know from experience that if someone enjoys a book, they rarely tell their friends to buy a copy. They are much more likely to loan them their own, as an act of friendship. For example, a single copy of The Fruit of the Tree did a tour of my village, and Auntie has certainly loaned her copy to one of her nephews. And no doubt, a much thumbed Plonk will eventually do the rounds of the family.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Where was I?

… I can hear you shout. I’m sure I’ve been missed, but I’m back for a brief resume. And talking of backs, this has been a bad session. I’m better than I was a week ago, but had to carry on taking aspirins (reduces inflammation as well as pain) all the week. Now I’m down to 2 a day – first thing in the morning, when it still feels rather frail. Then it improves during the day, so that I feel quite normal. And the broken teeth are fixed – no extraction, so fingers crossed. But the dentist is so fed up with me that he didn’t want to look at the problem tooth on the other side, and said that replacing the filling might do more harm than good. So I have to put up with it, unless it gets dramatically worse.

During this week, I’ve been catching up with the things I didn’t do last week – so lots of exciting washing and ironing and hanging things out and taking them in. How time consuming such things are – and pretty boring too.

And having finished the Goldenford ( accounts, I’m now on the home grown ones. M was out on Wednesday night, at the bakery again, arriving home at about 1.00 a.m. You might ask if I don’t suspect he has a lover, but those who know him will doubt that. It would have to be someone who wanted to get covered in oil from heating systems in pursuit of their love. Oh well, whatever turns you on … Anyway, while he was out I watched The Apprentice in peace. The highlights were when Paul offered to sell pork sausages to a hallal butcher (who I thought was very restrained). Later he (Paul) actually said ‘..he was almost tempted.’ The other one was creating a DIY cooker that failed to work, with tons of sausages to cook. I couldn’t believe that someone would do such a daft thing, with such a lot to play for. Needless to say, he’s out.

And The Archers is going well too. At last Ed and Fallon are getting together. I’ve been waiting for this for years. Only platonically at the moment, but it’s like When Harry met Sally, isn’t it? Mark my words.

We had a full weekend and have another busy one ahead, with the Young Master and his tribe arriving tomorrow. The highlight of last week was visiting a cousin near Uckfield. Lots of bits of family met up, including some strangers, who we are only in contact with via our giant family tree. They (brother and sister and their partners) were the great, great grand children of my grandfather and his first wife. We had a buffet lunch and sat out in the sunshine. Another elderly cousin will be celebrating a diamond wedding in a few weeks. We all had to keep quiet about the surprise party that is to take place. He asked me how the writing was going. I tried to explain about self-publishing but knew he didn’t understand the concept when he asked if I got royalties. I had at that moment, completely forgotten the royalties I received from my self help book, which was a pity, because it’s amazing how relatives can knock your self-confidence. It was only afterwards that I realised I could have mentioned my book sales of 6,000 copies, with accompanying royalties.

I have warned Goldenford ( that Tainted Tree will not be ready for a while. I need to work on the early chapters. But as Irene’s Sold to the Lady with the Lime-Green Laptop about E-Bay sales is to come out next, it doesn’t matter too much. In addition to that The Gawain Quest by Jay Margrave will soon be launched, and we will have some accompanying events. And in addition to that, Anne’s new website which will sell on-line copies of Pink Champagne and Apple Juice (, created by Sue at ( has been launched. All exciting stuff.

I’ve been cooking today, for the weekend, and have to turn my attention to beds, next. I did my Sainsbury shop yesterday, and went to the hairdresser on the previous day, since I’d been able to cancel my dentist’s appointment. It does make you wonder some time, how do other people fit everything in. If anyone has any ideas, I’d be glad to hear. Answers on a post card please.