Sunday, March 30, 2008

In loco parentis

The ProdigalD and family arrived late on Thursday. And when I say late, I mean late. M & I were about to go to bed as it was midnight. The car arrived and they started unloading their stuff, and finally, a very sleepy six year old. However, she had slept in the car, and I vaguely remember doing similar things, on rare occasions, when our two were very young.

We were in charge the next day, as PD & Spouse had a meeting to go to. Unfortunately, M too had to go out - to a funeral. So GD2 and I were left on our own. But we had lots of chats, and played Ludo, and Snakes and Ladders too.

The family were around on Saturday, but early this morning PD & S went off to Brussels on a business trip. GD2 and I discussed fairies, as it appears she is a great fan of them, and every night says, 'I believe in fairies,' in the hope that one will be brought back to life. It is just as well that GD3, who is more of sceptic, was not around to disillusion her, particularly about the Tooth Fairy, who had visited on Thursday night, after her arrival. GD2, despite being very articulate and grownup in her vocabulary and speech, is nevertheless rather an innocent. But as we all know, the innocence of children lasts a very short time these days, so let's enjoy it while we can.

At last the weather has brightened up a bit, and GD2 went to the 'Pooh Bridge' nearby, to throw sticks in the water and watch them emerge from the other side of the bridge. In the afternoon, we all went to the local 'Soft Play Area'. We took GD2 there when she stayed with us a couple of years ago, and she was very hesitant about climbing up things and needed to return to us several times to boost her confidence before joining in. Now there's a big change and as soon as she arrived, she rushed in, climbed up, slid down the big slide, collected coloured balls etc, etc. and repeated all these activities for the next hour and a half. We had difficulty in getting her to depart, even though it was closing time; she wanted to find all the children she had befriended while she was there and say goodbye to them. She is an expert in procrastination - as I found out at bed-time too. Tomorrow, we have a friend coming (mine) with an equivalent granddaughter. They played together before, and like each other's company, so it should go well.

In the meantime, a brief visit to the computer is quite a respite. But I doubt if I'll be back until GD2 departs - on Tuesday.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Heating and eating

Did I hear someone say that Easter Day was colder than Christmas? It wouldn't surprise me. We have had sleet, snow, rain and frost. In fact, my feet are freezing at this moment, even though I surreptitiously nipped into the utility room and turned up the boiler temperature. Now that M is home rather more than of yore, I am having to play 'draughts', which does not resemble the board game 'drafts', but nevertheless generally requires us to make alternate moves. He goes into a room and opens the window; I close it. He turns the heating off; I turn it on.

I still recall our early married days in our first home, which had a rather antiquated heating system. M told me that when we moved into the house we were at that time building, there would be a sophisticated system with a programmer which would bring on the heat the house first thing in the morning and again in the early evening. During the day (he said) I would be working (ie cleaning) and would therefore not need the heating on. This scenario did not appeal to me. For one thing, I couldn't envisage working that hard on domestic chores - and I was certainly proved right there. So once our heating was set up in the new home, I made sure I found the by-pass switch on the programmer, and although M is a heating engineer, I know as much as he does about programming the timeclock.

On Friday, M & I went to Sainsbury's which was packed to capacity. I'm told you should never shop on an empty stomach, so it was a mistake going before lunch. It was probably an error of judgement taking M with me, too, as he urged me to buy more of this and more of that. I was also unsure when the family (arriving on Saturday, after lunch to accommodate a birthday party) were returning to their home. So I over bought. I bought too much cheese; chocolate profiteroles; tiramasu; a chocolate gateau; too much bread - I even went back in the afternoon for that, having forgotten it in the morning. Then when the Son&Heir and family arrived on Saturday, they brought a home-made chocolate cake with them (as well as chocolates.) Instead of returning on Bank Holiday Monday (today), which I thought they might do, they went back mid-afternoon on Sunday, having had only two main meals. So M and I will have to eat our way through the surplus cakes and chocs.

The granddaughters did a show on Sunday morning. This required them draping themselves with all the scarves they could find in my wardrobe and GD3 doing a display of gymnastics on the floor. GD1 she gave a running commentary on how to keep fit, having already issued tickets, together with a questionnaire. This we were supposed to fill in at the end to check if we remembered all we'd been told. However, there was a break for chocolates in the interval.

As ever after a family visit, we were both tired today. However, M found time to take this picture of me with Jan's painting for the Tainted Tree cover. Only a few more weeks before TT will be ready to face the world. Is the world ready for TT, I wonder.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New cover for the laundry maid and bridesmaid

The book's finally arrived and the picture is on the wall. I got M to collect the picture with me, so he did the parking on the pavement and carried it to the car too. And the book is on display too, so that anyone who walks in the house will have no excuse to avoid the subject of Tainted Tree. The printers are doing a bit of repositioning of text for me, but other than that, the order should be ready in about four weeks. Then it's all systems go. Thanks Jan for the lovely cover and for my painting.

On the writing front, it's bridesmaid time again. I got a letter yesterday with my name printed out in pen (and correctly spelt). I can usually sum up the post before I've opened it - financial stuff; charity appeals; household bills; banks/cc statments, etc. Anything that isn't typed is usually more interesting than the above. When I ripped it open, I found a note from Lichfield Writers saying that two of my stories had been shortlisted in their competition. They had been kind enough to send me two certificates, but alas, had not spelt my name correctly on these. Still , nice thought. And I read out the second half of my 'bullying' story at Guildford Writers last night. Since the second half was written on the train to London last week, without reference to the first half, I had managed to change the villain's name from Damian to Darren. So I've sorted that out and will deal with other comments before sending it off. Only problem is, I can't find the mention of it in Writers' News. It won't be wasted though. I'll send it off to some competition or other eventually.

But to more mundane matters, I've remade the bed for the Son&Heir and OH, and taken down the curtains to wash too. And this afternoon, after we'd returned from the art shop, M entertained me by dictating invoices. So plenty to do. And tomorrow is the reading circle - we will be discussing Julian Barnes's Arthur and George, which was okay, but to me a surprising nomination for the Booker. For me it didn't really scintil.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Laundry maids and ladies in waiting

I am trying to be more disciplined. I am trying not to visit the computer as my first port of call in the day. Instead, I am visiting the washing machine. I have been stripping down beds and filling the washing machine with sheets and as a special treat, the duvet cover too. (This does not apply to our bed - we don't have a duvet - we are the last remaining household in the UK to have sheets and blankets.) Today I am going to remake the bed for Son&H, coming for the Easter weekend. Then I'll start on the next one.

In the meantime, I am expecting delivery of my sample copy of Tainted Tree. I have been chasing this for a couple of weeks and am getting rather tense as time moves on. I have been waiting to receive it, before sending out invitations to my launch party, and, in a sudden panic, I sent out a note of the date to some family and friends yesterday. However, I haven't yet recreated my email address book, so some of the invitations will have to go by post. Last week, I got a call from the art shop in Knaphill where I took Jan's painting to be framed that it's now ready to collect. I went yesterday, combining it with a trip to the bank, but when I got there and had parked myself, more or less on the pavement adjacent to the shop, (because the framed painting will be heavy) I found they were closed for lunch. Yes people still do that, amazingly, in this little backwater. So I will take myself there again today, but not until after the post arrives. I need to make sure my sample copy is safely here, before I go buzzing off anywhere.

We went to my s-i-l's birthday/anniversary party on Sunday. It was good to see the family, and particularly those we don't see too often - s-i-l's son, d-i-l and grandson. D-i-l said I should make a podcast of my book, but we didn't discuss how one goes about such things. We had a lovely meal, followed, at s-i-l's house, later, by lovely cakes - chocolate gateau, goody. Needless to say, the pounds are not slipping off me. They are remaining pretty much where they were - around my waistband and under my chin.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Russian Art and the Scaffold

Yesterday, I had a trip to London, to meet my friend, who lives an equivalent distance in the opposite direction. We had decided to go to the exhibition at the Royal Academy (From Russia) and since there was likely to be a queue, my friend, Pam, got there ahead of me and bought the tickets, while I kept in touch on the mobile. It was a very varied exhibition, including French impressionist paintings, moving on to modern stuff (I mean in terms of art) - Picasso, Gaugin, cubism followed by constructivism and abstraction. Very interesting. Of course, we also sat and lunched and chatted in a cafĂ© in Piccadilly and then moved on to the National Portrait Gallery for a second cup of tea. En route to the NPG, we passed by the new construction on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square. One can only call it that; frankly I wouldn’t dignify it by the name ‘sculpture’. I thought was some scaffolding that had been set up in order to carry out some work, until Pam reminded me that that was the work.

On the train, I continued with my short story about bullying. It is my intention to have my hero stand up for himself and for a weaker person, but, as I commented to Pam, this is something of a fairy story. It no longer seems a good idea to defend yourself against bullies, or, more particularly to intervene on someone else’s behalf. There are too many reported stabbings where just such a situation has occurred. Alas, my story probably contains some left-over Enid Blyton philosophy which no longer exists.

Just heard from the Son&Heir tonight that he and his brood are coming for Easter - followed, the following week, by the ProdigalD. So after a long run of leisurely weekends, when other people have entertained us, it will be back to work for me for that couple of weeks.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Birthday and new leaves

We were at a surprise birthday party at the weekend. Lunch out at a lovely restaurant in Guildford - Cambio's - and lots of chat with people we'd not met before. Our hostess then invited us back to her house for cake and champagne. The sight of the rather delicious chocolate roulade and chocolate gateau (there was also a lemon cake, but I managed to ignore that) overwhelmed me. I felt like an alcoholic in a brewery. I'm ashamed to admit I had three slices.

Such behaviour would have been OK twenty years ago. Now, there's absolutely no doubt, I'm succumbing to too many temptations and putting on too much weight. I've tried chewing gum, so as to get over the desire to be eating something at odd times of the day. (M not too pleased about this; apparently I left some chewed gum on a plate and gummed up the dishwasher.) I should also be taking more exercise, but it's been so wet and windy, I'm not inspired to go out for walks. I'll let you know how I progress.

We have another party on Sunday coming. It's my sister-in-law's birthday - and, in addition, her 25th anniversary. I spent a large part of yesterday looking on the Net for posh vases, sculptures or flowers to send on behalf of us, M's brother and other sister. But in the end we decided a garden plant would be nice, so we went off this morning and returned with a beautiful camellia. I'm still waiting for mine to flower, but perhaps this one will be happier and more cared for in S-i-l's garden.

I've just heard from Virtual Tales my e-publisher in the US. It's their intention to relaunch A Bottle of Plonk soon with a new cover and a new name. Apparently, they don't feel that my name and my current cover make it sufficiently explicit that it's a romance. Once it's up and running on their site, they're going to bring it out in print in America. So that's exciting news. In the mean time, you can still buy the print version in the UK and the e-version from VT under the old names. Look it up on Virtual Tales, under Romance, or at the Goldenford site. VT have a new forum set up, and you can leave comments there on any of their authors or titles, if you're so inclined.

In the meantime, Anne's publicity seems to be paying off, for I understand she's been interviewed by the Surrey Advertiser about her new book, Thorn in the Flesh. I agree with others who've commented that it's her best yet. Looking forward to seeing the write-up.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Spring is coming, but not quite yet

I've managed to reinstall my camera software to the new computer and this is a picture of the crocuses in my garden a couple of weeks ago. Actually, you can hardly see them, but they were lovely.
It's been a grey day, today, but nevertheless, there is a spring like quality. Driving into Guildford to buy a gift for someone, I was impressed at the masses of daffodils at every traffic island. And we have some in our garden too. The lemon yellow polyanthus are like bright gems and a neighbouring copper beech, which gave us much pleasure in the autumn is suddenly in flower. In sheltered gardens, I am always amazed to see the brilliant reds of camellias - they look like roses and seem incongruous in the late days of winter - I saw the first one about a fortnight ago. The first time I spotted them - in London, surprisingly - I was inspired to buy two for our garden. But we are a frost pocket and our flowers are always later than many other gardens. So though we have buds, we will not have flowers for another two or three weeks. The photo below shows the effect of Mr Mole who has inhabited our garden for several weeks. We're told it is because of the heavy rain last year and the high water table which has pushed the mole to seek higher ground.

I started a story on Tuesday and managed to get it typed for Guildford Writers in the evening. The subject is bullying, but having been sure I'd seen it as a competition topin in Writers' News, I now can't find it. There was a good piece about Anne in the current edition, mainly focusing on Thorn in the Flesh. I hope it does well. It deserves to.

Yesterday, Parcel Force arrived to make a delivery at about 8.30 a.m. With M not doing so much work these days and nothing like school runs to cause us to rush out of the house, we were sitting having a leisurely breakfast. When M brought in a large box, I thought it was a) Another replacement chainsaw; or b) a new nightie which I'd ordered from (better whisper this) Damart underwear. I know this is very uncool, but I really like long nighties with long sleeves for winter wear. I have given up on being trendy. Incidentally, the Son&Heir had cause to go into Damart years ago, when he took a winter trip to Russia. He told me he put a paper bag over his head. However, he was pleased to have the thermals in the sub-zero temperatures, particularly when most of his other clothes were stolen from the hostel where he was staying.

Anyway, it wasn't any of the above - it was a hamper from Fortnum & Mason's, sent by one of M's customers - the Board of Management of a block of flats - that he had given up working for about six months ago. We opened up the parcel, containing a basket with smoked salmon, cheeses, alcohol and other things and were delighted at their thoughtfulness. What a wealth of difference there is between being appreciated and thanked and those that just take one's efforts for granted.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Mountains out of Molehills

I’m still trying to catch up with things not done. One of the things was to remind the mole catcher to come back and deal with our moles. We had a mole problem about thirty years ago, and now, suddenly, they’re back. As you can see, from the photo, which I will add in a day or two.

We had a quiet weekend, though M decided to visit friends to take them a steam cleaner to brighten up their patio. They said I should come over too, so we arrived there for tea with the cleaner and yards of hosepipe. I thought M would probably enjoy messing about with hoses and water with the male half and my friend and I would have a gossip. However, M had forgotten the nozzle - a crucial part of the operation, so we all sat and chatted. I think M has been having withdrawal symptoms since his chainsaw fell to bits in the middle of attacking a tree in Irene’s garden. Well, to be precise, this is the second time it’s fallen to pieces. M returned the first one and now the second one too. Disappointing, because we’re no longer having cosy fires. Apparently, the company have had a problem with this chainsaw and are sending 60 back to the manufacturers.

I am currently reading Arthur and George by Julian Barnes for the book circle. Interesting, though not riveting; it’s more like a biography than a novel. Talking of books, I thought you might like an extract of my speech at Anne’s launch last week.

Today, another Anne Brooke novel – Thorn in the Flesh - is launched. As I was asked to edit this book, I can only hope I spotted any stray errors, because I was soon too engrossed in the story to worry about any misplaced full-stops. I found myself on the edge of my seat, worrying about the central character, sharing her fears and empathizing with her, hoping that Anne would be kind to her.

It’s not a comedy this time, but a dark thriller that takes you to places you don’t necessarily want to go to, but that have a very authentic feel to them, when you are there. When Anne took her main character and me with her, amongst the down and outs in Central London, I felt as if I needed a shower afterwards. I marvelled at how she could describe these seamy scenes - and hoped that she hadn’t been researching them in the flesh.

Anne has many fans, and I think most of us agree that this is her best book to date. You can buy a copy at Goldenford.

And just a brief note about A Bottle of Plonk, my novella, which is on sale both in print form from Goldenford and on line from Virtual Tales. Virtual Tales are doing a special deal at the moment - just until 9th March. 30% off all books and that brings the price of a download of B of P to $3.47 and you can pay through PayPal.