Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Men at work and women who lunch

A good day on Saturday at the Flower Show. A few sales and lots of chats - in some cases with friends I haven’t seen for a long time. For the second year running, the weather was fantastic - no need for umbrellas or emergency covers for the books. Summer has definitely come.

And on the following day, we visited my cousin with other family, primarily to see another cousin visiting from Australia. Once again, we were able to sit out in the garden. The downside of all this relaxing in the sun was that by Monday, I had put in 2lbs through my lack of activity. Having watched my weight fall by that much during the previous week - a few painful ounces a day - it was irritating to see it on its way up again. One or two brisk walks are called for, but I have to devote the next few days to Goldenford accounts. Having dealt with the cheques paid out to anonymous recipients, I am now on the trail of money paid in by unidentified donors. If all else fails, I believe there’s a list somewhere in the office.

This weekend, we’re having the launch lunch for Irene’s new novel, Darshan - another great read from Irene, full of the flavour of India, although also partly set in Oxford. Hopefully, once again, we’ll be able to be in the garden. I know people are complaining it’s too hot, but I really appreciate a bit of genuine summer.

Today, I was out with a friend, lunching in a cosy little tea place (very Surrey) in Compton. Then we returned to her house and sat in her conservatory for a while. On my way back, I called into a local shop, who have very kindly taken some copies of Tainted Tree, and was delighted to hear there had been a couple of sales.

However, after that, it was somewhat downhill. M has been continuing with work in the utility room. Half the room has had new board put down to replace the rotten floor and he’s installed a new cabinet too. At one point, this morning, when he was adapting the cabinet to fit the room - sawing chunks off it in the garden - the air was filled with sawdust. It wasn’t a good place to be around, and I was pleased to manage to be out for a good part of the day. However, tonight M has discovered that another bit of the floor is rotten and giving away underfoot. This is not good news.

Friday, July 25, 2008

A bit of local colour, and water on my mind

I am so used to being a) a housewife, b) M’s secretary - he always introduces me as such, as if it were conferring some particular honour on me, that I always find it surprising if anyone actually remembers that I write. So it was refreshing that at the birthday lunch last Saturday, a couple of people said to me - ‘Ah, you’re the writer …’ and actually wanted to hear about Tainted Tree. My cousin is also planning for me to give a talk in her area early next year.

Our birthday friend’s lovely garden - 2 ½ acres, caused me to think about our garden and what might provide us with summer colour. We have put in some New Guinea impatiens (busy lizzies) photos to be added when I've a bit of time, but I liked her mass of yellow blossoms which were mainly from potentillas and hypericum. I’m thinking of introducing more of these into the garden, and possibly a hardy fuscia - maybe in the autumn, when they don’t have to fight to hard for water. Talking of which, M has installed a water butt to collect rainwater from our garage roof and taken it across our path to a tap just by our rhododendrons. We have been watering the plants regularly from this very successful innovation.

We also have water in our utility room - as a result of a leak from some pipework, the floor is saturated and we’ve had to move the washing machine to the spare room. The floor is up in the utility room and has been drying out for a week. Fortunately, I’m able to dry the washing on the line, as the tumble dryer’s been taken out too.

But to less mundane items, I got summoned from the shower yesterday, to talk to a journalist from a West Country paper and I almost got a piece included about me. She telephoned me as a result of a press release I sent her, and interviewed me over a 20 minute period. It was only at the end of the conversation that she realised I live in Surrey and the paper features only authors living in the area. She still might put a small piece in, but not the original feature. I had included all the aspects of Tainted Tree that relate to the West Country, which mainly relate to my heroine’s mother, who grew up in an area near Bath and then went on to Bristol University. In addition to that, my heroine’s benefactor spent his early married life in Plymouth and named his Surrey house (pictured on the cover) Tamar, to bring back memories of happy times there.

It has been a quiet week, compared with the previous, but I am turning my attention now to the Goldenford accounts. It’s a far cry from being a media star, but I do get some strange fulfilment from it. There was a trail to follow to find three undated cheques with no figures on them, and a certain sort of satisfaction in finding the entries on the statement and then the invoices that inspired the payments. It should take me a couple of days to sort it all out.

I’ve been getting advice from the chatline on the Writers’ News website about my current book, Innocent Bystanders and I’ve hit a snag, since my boy hero, having run away from home, would apparently be subjected to various inquisitions and check-ups by social workers, medical people, etc. on his return. All this sort of thing becomes tedious when written down, and I want to skate over it if I can. On the good side, since our holiday, I’ve been copying out the stuff I wrote, which so far amounts to 4,000 words and takes me to 43,000 words. I’m not very prolific. Chances are it will stay in that region till my next holiday, particularly if I get bogged down with official procedures.

Tomorrow, I hope to spend a good part of the day in the sun - I shall take all the Goldenford books to the Flower Show, together with my hat and sun-cream, and if the weather stays fine, I shall enjoy it thoroughly, even if I can’t find any fans to buy the wares.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Books and Life

I was without my internet connection for fourteen frustrating days. During that period I spent a lot of time on the phone to my service provider. They kept giving me little jobs to do - but I suspect that was only to keep me happy with activity - rather as one does with a toddler. In fact it made me anything but happy, as I paid most of the telephone bills. I was convinced there was something wrong with my outside line, as the connection ceased in a thunderstorm. In fact, it turned out to be the router. I did exactly what I was told. I disconnected it several times. I reset the passwords, etc., as suggested by my service provider, but it was all ineffective. However, the engineer who I eventually brought in on Irene’s recommendation got it working in about half an hour. It just shows, it’s not what you do, it’s the way that you do it. Even so, I did think that my service provider might have telephoned me a few times and not apparently abandoned me to my fate.

During my time away from you, I’ve read two books for the Reading Circle. The first, it was agreed, was an almost perfect book. That was To Kill a Mockingbird. This is a book that has a very important message about the way black people were treated at the time that is depicted - the thirties, but probably relates almost equally to the time of writing - 1960. Nevertheless, it is a message that it not hammered home, but delivered with great subtlety as part of the story. And that way that the story is told, through the eyes of a child is almost like an Anne of Green Gables with its folksy anecdotes. In spite of the dramatic events, it also extremely funny in parts and the dialogue is great. It is possible that in today’s climate the use of some words would be regarded as racist - and the children are beaten too - and that’s regarded as perfectly acceptable. But times change, and it should be read in that context.

The philosophy of Atticus Finch - the hero of the book is that we should always be able to put ourselves in the shoes of someone else. The world would be a better place if we all did that, particularly if we added the principle of doing unto others as we would be done by. If only the young men (mainly) who are involved of crimes of violence at the moment would stop and ask how they would feel if they were being attacked with a knife, or what their mothers would say if they were told their son had just been killed in a fight, perhaps some of the violence on our streets would disappear. There are some ugly crimes committed by young people, deliberately, but there are also, particularly in the case of knife crimes, actions taken that were probably not meant to happen. Young men piling into a fight, and suddenly someone is killed. Someone compared this, on the radio this morning, with Romeo and Juliet. Coincidentally, I had already intended to write that I had been thinking of how in West Side Story, when Tony goes to break up a fight, he ends up killing Maria’s brother without this being his intention. Many of the young men convicted of knife crimes today may wish they had not taken that step, or allowed a situation to escalate into violence.

The new Reading Circle book, which I polished off in an afternoon (without the Internet, what else could I do?) was On Chesil Beach. Hmm. It’s the sort of book, where I’m inclined to say, ‘So what.’ The wedding night that went wrong stretched out into a novella. And even fewer words than my novella, A Bottle of Plonk. Goodness knows if I can scrape up anything to say about it for the next meeting.

So what else has been happening during the past fortnight?

I had a very successful shopping trip, and bought an outfit at Debenhams on their Blue Cross Day (or whatever). This is for the wedding we’re going to in August, and it was reduced to half price. What’s more, I bought a fascinator - i.e. a bit of nothing with a feather - that goes on the head and substitutes for a hat. (It was in millinery terms, just like On Chesil Beach, including the inflated price.). It was priced (would you believe?) at £79.00. However, because of a fault - a lost feather, or similar, it had been reduced to £19 and then £5. This was right up my street. Even if I never use it, I don’t mind wasting £5 , but it may well be used at said wedding. I also bought a Monopoly set for GD2, celebrating a 7th birthday, and other odd things which had been nagging at me.

Other highlights were a Chinese meal with my two sisters-in-law and brother-in-law and all the partners; a book signing session at Waterstone’s, Guildford, a trip to London to meet my friend, Pam, and see the BP sponsored exhibition of portraits at the National Portrait Gallery and an outing with Irene, her other half and Joe to see Evita at the Victoria Theatre in Woking. Very good, but very noisy. So it has been a very enjoyable couple of weeks, and no doubt if I hadn't been having such a good time, I would have done something about the computer earlier.

Today, we have been to a birthday party, and surprisingly, the sun managed to stay out, so it was a lovely day. Comments from the birthday girl caused another guest to ask for a copy of Tainted Tree, and fortunately, I had a couple of copies in the car.

Tainted Tree has continued to sell and receive appreciation. There was an unsolicited order on the phone last week from someone who’d read A Bottle of Plonk. Unsolicited orders are always the best ones of all. And when in frustration, I spent an evening at my neighbour’s reading my emails on line, I was delighted to receive this one from a friend, Diane, who said: ‘I so enjoyed reading the rest of your book Jackie - it was wonderful and a real credit to you. I have lent it to a couple of my friends who have also enjoyed it very much.’

And even better, this one from my neighbour, Sally:

‘Mum and I both loved your book. Mum would like to buy a copy for a friend if
you have more available.’ Great. Needless to say, I rushed to her house with a copy on the following day.

Also while off line, Surrey Advertiser sent me a copy of the photo taken in my garden for the Woking free paper article. Nice photo, so I’ve added it in here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Fifteen things about me

Hi everyone. I'm back. And here, whether you want to know or not, are fifteen facts about me, since Beth on MySpace has tagged me.

My parents had been married for nearly 17 years when they had me. My mother never gave up hope of having her own child.

At primary school, I once campaigned to get rid of a teacher, until I was told it was very hurtful thing to do.

As a schoolgirl, I got 100% in maths exams on two separate occasions; the first was the 11-plus.

I had acne all my teenage years, and have had acne rosacia for many years. Many of the things that affect it would normally be regarded as beneficial, many fruits - apples, pears, grapes, and so on, onions, tomatoes, nuts, red wine, and other things like white bread and coffee.

I also had eczema for many years, until we installed a water softener, which brought about a dramatic improvement.

During the GCE as it was in those days, (the 16+ public exam,) I got acute gastro-enteritis and missed half the papers. I have never felt so ill before or since; I lay in bed, not wanting my mother to leave my side. I took the missed exams four or five months later.

At one time, I felt peeved at having no middle name, and for a brief period, adopted the name, Adrienne.

I gave blood a few times, until it made me nauseous. The first time I went I was turned down because I was below 7 stone. After that I lied.

My first secretarial job was with a theatrical agent, where I saw young enthusiastic artistes getting rejected as soon as they came through the door. I should have learned something from that.

Within a few months of passing my driving test, travelling at about 10 mph, I hit a police car in the rear.

I wrote The Fruit of the Tree by hand and then copy typed in with my old fashioned manual typewriter, circa 1950 - an Imperial 55, which I still have.

My son introduced me to computers when I wrote my self help book on cot death. I fell in love with my computer within a couple of weeks of having it. You either love ‘em or you hate ‘em.

In 1969, M and I lived for the 6 months from July to January without laid on gas or electricity.

In 1976, M created a solar heating system with an old radiator, covered in glass and painted black, connected to our water tank in the loft. I observed it for three months and wrote an article on it which was accepted by a technical journal. It was my second published article. Unfortunately, the radiator was so heavy it eventually made a hole in the garage roof.

In the eighties, I was on BBC Radio Four on a programme called Punters. I loved every minute of it. I spent three or four days with the producer and presenter, visiting an agent, a vanity publisher and three women’s magazines. After editing, it was eventually whittled down to 20 minutes. I was also on Sky TV three times.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Hi Folks - this is not Jackie, it's Irene. Just calling in to say that Jackie's pesky PC has gone on strike and she's been currently without Internet. Please don't desert her -she'll be back in full glory hopefully in the next few days!