Friday, March 27, 2009

A Missive to the West Country

I've just returned from a chilly walk - the weather is to be even colder tomorrow, I hear. But at least I got my half hour session in today - and the daffs are still beautiful. I posted some letters - one of them an entry for the Exeter Writers' short story competition. I'm putting a bit more emphasis on West Country competitions, as I would like my name known there. Much of Tainted Tree is set in the West Country - with events taking place in Bristol and Bath and a little bit about Plymouth - and I'm sure it would be of interest locally - if I could only get some publicity in that area. In fact, one extract was written on a train, looking out at the countryside, on my return from the Arvon Foundation near Exeter.

Delighted that Janice, who created the wonderful cover, has bought herself another copy from Guildford Waterstone's. Thanks Jan. As a bonus, one of the new visitors to Guildford Writers, which I went to on Tuesday, said he bought a copy of A Bottle of Plonk from the same Waterstone's, having read the first chapter on the Goldenford website. Waterstone's must be overwhelmed by so many customers for the Luben brand, and will no doubt be stocking up, to avoid the rush.

Incredible to realise that we are already one quarter through the year. Spring is on the way, and lighter evenings are coming - that's the good news; we lose an hour's sleep this weekend - that's the bad news.

This last week has been much less busy than the previous fortnight, in terms of being out and about, but at least I have nearly finished my final VAT return; sent off other stories for competitions; taken down curtains for cleaning and washed the nets in our bedrooms. The pile of papers on my desk has reduced marginally, too. On the agenda - a talk at the library next weekend, together with my Goldenford pals.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Bridesmaid revisited

Spring isn't spring without daffodils. But I haven't that many in my garden, above; there's always a conflict between filling the garden with them, and then having to put up with the foliage for the next month. So there are just a few, backed up by many polyanthus in yellows and white. The other greenery belongs to muscari - grape hyacinths - which will be flowering shortly. They too provide much salad like growth, disproportionate to the number of flowers. On my walks last week, I captured this shot of someone else's display of daffs.

After the last couple of weeks of frenzied activity, I feel strangely unmotivated. I contemplated going to Sainsbury's today, as we are out of bananas - always the signal to me that it's time for my weekly (or possibly my 9-daily) shop. I dropped M at the station for a London job, but wasn't awake enough to shop then. When I realised that he had left his mobile phone behind, I felt obliged to stay in, as I couldn't ring him to ask what time he'd be coming back. He however, decided to walk home from the station (we've both put weight on again.) When he got in, it looked cold, windy and wet outside; I decided I couldn't face it - the bananas would have to wait.

I spent some time deleting emails, which was the sort of mindless occupation most suited to my mood today.

However, on the good news front, as you've already heard, both Guildford Waterstone's have Tainted Tree in stock; the ALCS paid me some money for photocopies of my work in various countries and other uses of my material (always a satisfying feeling) and two of my short stories were shortlisted in the Lichfield Short Story competition. One of the three has been shortlisted three times in different competitions. Lichfield also shortlisted two of my stories this time last year.

I'm tempted to sing 'Why am I always shortlisted? Never the premier prize.' to the tune of 'Why am I always the bridesmaid?'

Thursday, March 19, 2009

The busy life of a Guildford writer

It has been such a busy couple of weeks- a complete contrast to the early part of the year, when I stayed huddled up indoors. During March, there’s hardly been a day when something hasn’t been arranged, and in addition to that, I’ve been being productive and pro-active.

Briefly, I’ll run through some of my activities.

Monday, 9th, spent two hours in Knaphill, collecting my new contact lens, visiting the dry cleaners where I had a dress and a skirt taken up (I didn’t do it earlier, because I didn’t want to have to change in the shop when it was freezing); visited the bank, where the teller, Carol, asked after Tainted Tree. She had loaned her signed copy to a friend, who alas, left it in Cyprus. She feels like reading it again, so I told her she could now borrow it from one of Surrey libraries. The TV gave up the ghost, and we installed the miniscule bedroom one in the lounge.

Tuesday, 10th, spent two hours looking at new televisions and left with a new digital TV. We moved on to a carpet/flooring shop to investigate new vinyl for the kitchen floor, as it’s wearing badly. I need to choose a design, but they are coming on Saturday to give us a quote. At home finished a story I’d started and took it along to Guildford Writers in the evening.

Wednesday, 11th, a new team arrived to put the lagging (insulation material) in the roof. Above is a photo of the insulation which stayed in our hall for nearly a week. We could barely get past. Apparently the fitter with the nosebleed is OK, but he didn’t come back to us. So after three attempts, it’s all done – an amazing 8” now covers our roof space. (Not only is this beneficial to us and our heating bills, but it helps the environment too. Later, I spent two hours lunching with friends in the village at the local pub. Once home, emailed our usual hotel in Majorca, and booked flights.

Thursday, 12th, reading circle in the evening. I had prepared a presentation, as I recommended Crow Lake. Most people seemed to enjoy it.

Friday, 13th, went to London to meet my friend for chat and a wander around the Constable exhibition at the National Gallery. I was very interested, having heard his biography only a couple of weeks before. Everything suggested that he was an amicable, sociable man with many friends, and his wife, whom he waited to marry for about ten years, was the love of his life.

Weekend: Saturday, the carpet shop man arrived with his quote. When the postman called, he brought a jiffy bag, which on being opened, seemed to contain nothing but tissues. Suddenly a small shining object caught my eye. Wendy of the B & B, had found my contact lens and sent it on. M had forgotten to tell me she had rung. Good thing I didn’t immediately blow my nose on the tissues. Later, talked to both the children on the phone, and then did the weekly shop.

Sunday; lunch with friends at a local pub, followed by tea at my house. Despite an unshakeable weight gain, I bought a chocolate cake for my friends, but M & I ended up polishing it off during the next few days. We no longer have any will-power.

Monday, 16th: Back to Knaphill to pick up my skirt and dress. The skirt which fitted me last year, when I went to a wedding, is now tight. Parcelled up a present for a friend’s new grandchild, and also returned some slippers which didn’t fit.

Tuesday, 17th: A Goldenford meeting to discuss our forthcoming talks and publicity. We now have events planned for April, May, June, July and September.

Wednesday, 18th: A trip to the hairdresser for a trim and then lunch and a long chat at Irene’s.

Today: A talk in Guildford for a workshop entitled, Writing your Life. I talked about publishing – conventional; self publishing and Vanity Publishers. I shall probably return to do a similar talk in June. And today, I have booked flights to Freiburg, where I am to give readings, also in June.

Throughout this period, I have, of course, carried out my usual activities, i.e. dealing with all paperwork, accounts, washing and ironing and organising things; I’ve also sent off a couple of entries to writing competitions. I have been so efficient, I have amazed myself.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Men in the roof

The job of insulating the roof has, so far, been fated not to happen. The first arrangement for the fitters to come was cancelled on the morning they were to arrive. Bear in mind that we were told they would arrive between 7.00 am and 3.00 pm. It means we have, at least, to be conscious around 7, or have them knocking on the bedroom window, trying to arouse us. At any rate, at 8 am, the company rang to say that the men had called in sick, so would not be coming. The job was put off for a few days.

The second time, they arrived about lunch time. They climbed up in the loft and then came down, scratching their heads, and looking embarrassed. The roof was supposed to have been cleared, they said. The OH said that it had been cleared, except for a boat – everything else up there was insulation material; he suggested they just lay the new lot on top of it. There seemed to be some misunderstanding about what was permissible to be left and what had to be removed. They didn’t stay to discuss it. They went; we cleared the loft; it took an hour and a half. The new appointment was last week. They arrived and they were satisfied. The started bring in rolls of lagging (insulation material) and stacking them in the hall. Then after they’d had a cup of tea, one of the fitters appeared – the other one had had a severe nose bleed; he went to sit in the van for a few minutes, refusing offers of cotton wool. Soon his mate reported back that he had chest pains too. The OH escorted them to the casualty department of our local hospital, and, apparently they spent most of the afternoon there. We hope to see them again this week.

Last Thursday was a bitterly cold day. We awoke to find the electricity off, so no heating. There had been a power cut, and the electricity company told us it was widespread, from us to Croydon and Gravesend. I turned on the radio, thinking it would be on the news if half the south’s electricity had been wiped out. But there was no report on it, and when I rang Irene, to chat, I found there was no power cut in Guildford five miles away. I was able to have a shower, as that had heated up before the cut. And fortunately, power was restored by midday, and I was able to deal with cooking for a visit of my brother in law in the evening.

Our talk went ahead on Saturday, and we had a responsive audience. We were happy with our scripts and hope we can use them again for another occasion. I was also very pleased to get a card from a friend – one who I don’t see very much of. She said:

Just a quick note to let you know how much I enjoyed reading ‘Tainted Tree’. I have to admit I borrowed it from Camberley Library without registering the author’s name – just because I found the blurb interesting.

I was pleased that she hadn’t noticed and had been inspired to read it just the same.

Yesterday, M and I visited his aunt and took her out for a Chinese meal. She is a remarkably youthful 91 year old, and has family descending on her all the time, because she is fun to be with.

I’ve been reading Crow Lake for the reading circle, and writing my comments, as I was the person who recommended it. The story is based in Canada, and I found myself comparing it with Anne of Green Gables, which takes place in Prince Edward Island. I was not surprised when I discovered that the author (Mary Lawson) was a distant cousin of L.M. Montgomery, the writer of the Anne books. I loved them when I was young and recommended them to my own daughter, who also loved them. And Crow Lake had the same qualities. People who you warmed to, a wonderfully described environment, a carefully woven plot, structured in a way I approve of, as a writer – and generally a good read. I’m all for good reads. That’s how I’d like my own book to be viewed.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Feisty Female Characters

Our talk at Guildford Museum is going ahead. If you're in the Guildford area, join us at 3.45 on Saturday, 7th March. We'll be talking about the 'Feisty Female Characters' in our novels - a talk especially for International Women's Day.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Changing Garden and Short Silences

There was a dramatic change in the weather, yesterday – after the last few calm days, a horrible windy day that flattened many of my crocuses. And the purple colour looked sad and dark, without the sun opening the petals and showing off the flowers to advantage. Still, there are daffodils waiting in the wings for their time to show off, and this morning has been brighter. I heard on the radio, yesterday, that rhododendrons can produce disease in oak trees; I have a whole bank of rhododendrons which is a feature of the garden in May. I should hate to have to remove them.

We went to Cambridge at the weekend to see the Son&H, and his harem, staying the night at the B&B we have been using for several years – Rose Corner. As her website says, you do get personal and friendly service; we much prefer it to the hotel where we stayed a couple of times.

Alas, when we got home, I found I had lost a contact lens, and have no idea at what point it disappeared. One of my eyes has almost normal vision, and that’s the lens that was lost. I ransacked a drawer to find an old one, and discovered at least two dozen empty lens cases and eventually just one lens. So I can see OK until my new one is ready.

GD1, now 10, is only a millimetre shorter than me, and GD3, 7, only 5 inches shorter than that. (millimetres – you work it out.) GD3 was pre-occupied with raising funds for an animal sanctuary – and all set to do a sponsored four lap run round the children’s playground. I produced the money for this effort, but she got interested in something else, when we were there, and only did one lap in the end. She also earned 25p for five minutes of silence. The prospect of making a pound for a longer period was tempting, but not tempting enough. I could see her brain was ticking away with money-making endeavours, though, and wouldn’t have been surprised to find that all the family belongings were set out on a stall at the front of the house for others to purchase.

I, in the meantime, have been working on a talk, which we Golden Girls were hoping to give at the Guildford Museum on Saturday, 3.45 p.m. for International Women’s Day. It’s entitled, ‘Women of Substance – Three women writers talk about their feisty female characters.’ There’s now some doubt about whether it will go ahead or not, so if you’re interested, contact the museum now. It was to be the first of a programme of events planned up till the summer, which we hope will bring us more attention and – of course – sales. We are also exhibiting our book covers at the museum. Do come along and see them, if you’re in the neighbourhood.

I received my three-monthly statement from Virtual Tales this week, showing further sales of my novella, Have Wine Will Travel, known in the UK as A Bottle of Plonk. If you’re not a Guildfordfordian, or in fact, if you live outside the UK, you can buy this as a print or e-version, easily and cheaply through