Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Writing, reading and not splashing in puddles

After the last couple of wasted weeks, I felt much more productive yesterday.

Having taken M to the station, I made up my mind I would go for a walk, as I had done the previous day, to try to shake off some of the pounds. I put on my wellies because my usual route is very muddy, but I didn't splash in puddles. I never did it as a child, and I still don't; it probably gives enormous insight into my character and mis-spent youth. The child who couldn't skip or play ball games, do handstands, ride a bicycle and what's more didn't splash in puddles. Anyhow, enough of that; suffice to say, I walked for 25 minutes. Today is too miserable, but it looks better tomorrow, so that may be on the agenda.

Having the house to myself, yesterday, I decided to pick up my copy of Writers' News and apply myself to whatever story was in their competition. The subject was 'Marriage Guidance Counsellor' - it wasn't one I would have chosen, but I applied myself for the next hour or so, and managed to produce a first draft of 1,400 approx. This is the first short story I've written for some time, but I have more work to do to it, in terms of tidying up and padding out.

I've been checking to see if the copies of Goldenford books ordered by East Horsley Library have arrived yet - it's some time since we gave our talk. I was pleased to see yesterday, that a copy of Tainted Tree has arrived at Godalming Library. What's more, it was borrowed, as soon as it arrived and the copy at Woking is on loan too. Will I earn tuppence from Public Lending Right? - that's the question. Unfortunately, your book has to be in the right library to get its loans included, but one can but hope. So keep borrowing, people of Godalming and Woking.

In the evening, I went to Guildford Writers - the first time this year, having missed one session because of my cold. We were a select group of only five this time, but with more leisure to discuss each other's work. My story went down quite well, I'm pleased to say, and I got ideas on what to do to improve it.

And talking of fiction, I've just received a copy of the next Reading Circle book - A Kind of Loving - a novel from the sixties. It will be interesting to see how it stands the test of time. We will be discussing that and The Catcher in the Rye, which, as I think I mentioned, didn't really grab me.

I'll have to practise going to bed early tonight, as on Friday, an engineer is coming to change our electricity meter, and we are warned that he could be with us any time between 7 am and 3.00 p.m. Don't you just love that sort of information - if we get up prompt, chances are they'll be with us at midday. But it we dare to hover in bed that morning, they'll no doubt be banging on the bedroom window at dawn.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Turning points

With the pound and the stockmarket falling again, there is a feeling of doom in the air. This is compounded by the world's other problems. Who knows where all this is going? I really hope that yesterday's inauguration is a turning point, and that somehow, we are able to change direction.

When Hillary Clinton and Obama were competing for the Democratic nomination, I really hoped that Hillary would get in. I thought she was knowledgeable and experienced and that she deserved to be President. But eventually I changed my mind. I thought that it was possible that Hillary would be a good manager, but perhaps Obama has the potential to be a great President. Of course, the problems of the world are not going to be solved in a day, or a week - or even a year. But I I really hope that the feeling of optimism that Obama has generated in so many people is justified, and that we will look back and think of this day being the start of a new era. If my friends in America think it is strange that I should be saying this, I would remind you that 'no man is an island' and we in the UK are not insulated from the world's problems. What happens in the US affects us all. As in chaos theory, the ripples of events in far away places eventually has its effect upon all of us.

Did they say it was -11C. at the inauguration, yesterday? My goodness, here's me complaining about the weather being at zero. I can't even imagine having to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue in a skirt and jacket at that temperature, when I'm defeated by a mere zero. I went for a walk today, for the first time for weeks. I wore my coat over trousers, two sweaters and a tee-shirt, two scarves and my fake fur leopard skin hat well down over my ears. I still found it cold, and what's worse, I was puffed out after the first three minutes. I'm overweight and out of condition.

But we're nearly through January, and there are bulbs coming up already. It's always good to have spring to look forward too.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Writers, historical and writers very young

Well this has been a non-event of a week. I won't bore you with the details of my nose blowing, which has subsided to about a blow every hour or so, but now M has the dreaded bug and he's ploughing through yards of tissue. Having passed the lowest point last week when what I really wanted to do was go back to bed and have someone bring me cups of tea and tomato soup (it didn't happen) I have now made it to the post office and to Sainsbury's. M, in the meantime, felt really horrible yesterday and today, and undoubtedly will have to stay home tomorrow, when I go to friends.

I have been reading the recently published Goldenford novel by Jay Margrave, Luther's Ambassadors, and although I'm not normally a great fan of historical novels, I am going to be very brief, so that I can get back to it. It's about Anne Boleyn's machinations in her quest to get into a position of power at Court and it also includes Jay's hero, Priedeux, who was the star of her last novel, The Gawain Quest. I'm finding it very interesting, and it will make me look up Anne, to find out more about the real historical story. We at Goldenford were very pleased to hear a few days ago that Luther's Ambassadors is to be the Editor's choice in February, at the Historical Novel Society, and its review will be featured in their magazine and on line.

Inspired by this, I decided to send Tainted Tree to the Historical Novel Society for a review, in the hope that it will fit into the category of a 'multiple time novel'. I have always regarded it as contemporary novel, but with the description of events in the early part of the century, Addie's grandmother's letters from WW2 and her mother's diaries and letters from the sixties, it does actually give something of a cultural history of the 20th century.

I missed Guildford Writers this week, but hope to be at the Goldenford meeting next week, when we can discuss a programme of events to promote our books to a wider reading public. Well maybe one or two, at least.

I had a chat on the phone with the offspring today, and was pleased to hear that GD3 (seven) got an award from the headmistress for writing something with 'fantastic adjectives'. Creative writing groups may dismiss them, but adjectives are alive and well at primary schools. At around seven, I was praised for a story which contained the word 'suddenly'. Good to know that one of my grandchildren may be following in my footsteps.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Cold and Heating economies

I have had a cold which has progressed along predictable lines.

Day 1: Tickle in throat

Day 2: Sore throat and cough

Day 3: Runny nose

Day 4: Sneezing all day

Day 5: (Today) Runny nose again with occasional sneezes.

Remedies taken: Lots of clementines plus Vitamin C tablets; Echinacea; Cough linctus and aspirin. Vaseline on sore lips.

Needless to say, as a result of this, I have not done anything at all in the last few days. Fortunately, I did my Sainsbury's trip before the sneezing stage, and since then, haven't left the house. It's been so cold, I haven't wanted to. Irene asked me whether M (heating engineer) thought it better to leave the heating on overnight, so that it didn't have to work so hard the next day. M is very definite about immersion heaters in this context. Since there is always heat loss, it is never practical from a financial point of view to leave it on night and day. The heat loss when it is on is never balanced by it having to work less hard, or whatever, on the following day. When it comes to heating, it is a slightly different question and on a par with should one have double glazed windows. When we were first married, we rejected double glazing from the point of view that it has to be in many years before the initial costs are repaid by savings in heating usage. Later, when we were in a better position, financially, we installed it anyway. The reason - because the rooms were less inclined to be draughty and we therefore had greater comfort.

The heating argument is similar. In the last few freezing days, we have had our heating on from approximately 7.00 a.m. till about midnight. We don't have it on overnight, and we set the boiler up high during the day to achieve a comfortable temperature. We reduce it if necessary during the day. We would not benefit financially by having it on overnight. As darkness falls, it gets colder, and there would be greater heat loss. Fast asleep, we would be unaware of any heat benefits. However, the temperature has been around zero, falling to -3 or -5 at night. Say it were to fall to - 20. We might then be tempted to leave the heating on overnight, not to save money, but to increase our comfort. Let's hope it doesn't come to that, though.

As it is, I have been trying to conserve heat by drawing curtains at dusk, pulling down all window blinds and wearing an extra tee-shirt under the other layers. Today, it's been milder, but because my personal thermostat is not working properly, I still feel cold. I don't feel capable of being creative, or of being efficient. Not even in the mood to read - and I have about six books queuing for attention. Still I was pleased to see my letter to Writers' News published at the head of the column this month - on a subject of concern to me and which I've touched on before - loaning books to all the relations. (Friends abroad, this doesn't apply to you - I realise that the postage costs push up the cost of the book.)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Finance and fiction

Financial programmes abound at the moment. I heard Mark Dampier, a financial expert, saying something I’ve been saying for ages – that is, don’t borrow in order to invest. What he actually said was, ‘If you said you wanted to borrow £200,000 to buy shares, people would think you were mad. So why do people do that in order to invest in property?’ I think we both make the distinction that it doesn’t apply to buying the house you want to live in, but to people buying into something they think is rising and causing it to rise more, artificially – that is, until it comes crashing down.

Watching some sad stories on the TV last night, though, illustrated the fact that problems with the property market don’t just occur when people use property as an investment vehicle. These stories were about people who borrowed more on their mortgages in order to carry out repairs to their houses; people who thought they were in the perfect house for them, but when a job loss or loss of commission occurred, they could no longer afford it. It still illustrates the same problem though. Unfortunately, people strained themselves to buy at the top of the market, and were then left high and dry when property found its truer level.

Mark Dampier also seemed to be suggesting that this was the time to start looking for bargains in the Stock Market, and this is in accord with Warren Buffet’s quoted comment

“We simply attempt to be fearful when others are greedy and to be greedy only when others are fearful.”

I liked this quote too:

“Only when the tide goes out do you discover who's been swimming naked.”

My current reading is The Catcher in the Rye. I think this is a bit of a sacred cow, but I’m not that keen on it. I know it’s supposed to be the thoughts of a troubled teenage boy, but I find it rather self-conscious and a bit self-indulgent. It is a stream of consciousness type book, but like PD James, whom I heard speaking on Women’s Hour recently, I really prefer books with a beginning, middle and end – a bit like the ones I like writing.

Talking of which, if you want to support me or my books, please vote for me at the Preditors and Editors site. There are no prizes – it’s just a profile raising exercise for books published in 2008. Tainted Tree is there under Novels (general or something like that) and Have Wine Will Travel is under Novels - Romance and also Short Stories.

People are showing interest. The one copy of Tainted Tree at Surrey Libraries (they still haven’t got in the additional four that were ordered by the Friends of E. Horsley Library) was out on loan before Christmas, and also reserved, and since then, it’s been out and back again, and is once more out and reserved. So hopefully, I’m building up a fan club.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Family, finance and frost

It's been a hectic few days. Two parties on New Year's Eve - one at the neighbour's and then straight on to dinner at my sister in law's with some of her friends, and M's brother in law - one sister and spouse weren't there because of flu. A huge meal, and other indulgences and we watched the new year in with the fantastic firework display in London on the TV. M & I got to bed at 1.30.

But we were up prompt the next morning as the Son&H and sprogs were visiting. GD1 is now the same height as me, having had her tenth birthday, last month.

I produced the nut roast I'd made last week, and turkey for the carnivores. Naturally, there was apple crumble. My d-i-l brought a huge box of Lindt chocolates. So there goes the diet for the next week. On Friday, we went to Guildford with the idea of going to Pizza Express. We didn't bank on them being quite so full. We had to wander off for half an hour and then returned at about 2.00. But Express was a misnomer. We had to wait another forty minutes after we'd got a table, and M was in full sarcasm mode by that time. The younger generation didn't want him making a fuss, so there were some tense moments. Actually I agreed with him. It was a bit much. But retailers and restaurants are obviously cutting down on staff, now, to economise, and we shall have to expect this sort of thing.

On Saturday, we had our neighbour invite, which went quite well. There were forteen in total - but I overdid the mini blinis, which were successful last year, and we're therefore still eating them as snacks and lunches. Also too many mushroom vol au vents, but M didn't mind polishing them off, and they've already gone.

On Sunday I put my feet up and read Saturday's paper, gleaning the financial pages for crumbs of comfort. This is the time to invest, if you have the stomach for it - and the cash of course. Even if the economy's in recession for another year and a half, the Stock Market will rise ahead of it. That's my belief at any rate.

Today, I've been getting things back in good order. Fortunately I didn't have to go out, as we had our first snow of 2009. It has been bitterly cold for probably the last ten days with more of the same forecast. I realise that other countries and other areas have much colder winters, but we are the south east of England, after all, and don't expect sub-zero temperature going on for days. Tomorrow, I'm to Irene for lunch and the forecast is zero all day, with -3 at night.