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.