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.