Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rebels without a cause - our teenagers

All's back to normal here. Since last week, the appearance of my eye has improved, and you can hardly tell anything's happened to it. Last Friday, I drove the car for the first time by day. On Tuesday, I drove at night. All was well.

I went to the orthoptist last Monday, and did the usual stuff, pointing at a chart with a long pointer. The resultant graph which the orthoptist takes from this, was much improved from my pre operation attempts. I have no doubt that the operation has greatly improved this aspect of my vision, and I am very pleased to have had it done.

Tuesday was Guildford Writers, and I squeezed out about 500 words of my current novel. A good evening, with diverse offerings from the group. Later, having a drink, we discussed a TV programme from the previous night - The World's Strictest Parents. Irene and I had both watched this and were equally dismayed at the two young people, who appeared to have given up completely on obedience, respect for parents and any desire to make their way in the world. It was a revelation to see the contrast between them and the Indian school children they met when taken to India to the supposed 'strict parents'. The Indian children were bright, hardworking, enthusiastic - and pretty horrified by the British teenagers. I was not totally convinced by the magical change in their attitude, which occurred some time in the middle of the programme. I suspect that this happens each week, a bit like Supernanny with the ghastly brats she comes across. However, if you subtract that from the total, it was interesting to see the totally different attitude to learning and ambition in another part of the world, but pretty depressing too, to realise how low are the aspirations of many British teenagers.

The previous Thursday was the reading circle, to which the OH transported me. We discussed The Other Hand by Chris Cleeve, and I'm afraid the majority view was that it was not a great book. One or two people were impressed with the description of life in an immigrant centre, but most of us were unconvinced by the contrived plot, the poor characterisations of the main characters, including the four year old child, and generally underwhelmed. A lovely expression - a pot of message - was expressed by one of our group.

Today, we the Goldenford girls met up for a discussion over lunch of our next few projects, at a local pub. We keep having email discussions, which result in one of us answering the previous question, and it never quite catches up. Today, we were able to hash out a few things. We have postponed our musical event until Thursday, 15th April - we hope to see some Guildfordians there, but it's best to book in advance - contact We also discussed our next workshop - Sense and Sensitivity - to take place in May at the Brighton Fringe Festival, and a further workshop in October in Leatherhead.

After lunch, I went to Guildford to return a sweater which was miles too small for me - I can't believe it had the correct size on it. I would have to go back to a 1980's me, to get into it. I bought something else completely different - and this time I tried it on at the store.

I then went on to Waterstone's High Street branch, to see if they'd got in more copies of Tainted Tree, which had sold out, last time I looked. Pleased to say, that when I pinned down the buyer, he found they were already on order. So if you're in the Guildford area in the next couple of weeks, look out for your copy - if you're interested in a fictional account of a young woman's quest to find out about her family - this is the book for you. At Waterstone's, at Amazon and from

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Bloody but unbowed - Beckham and I

Today, I am recovering after my eye operation, yesterday, for diplopia – I think that’s what they called it. It is too early to tell if it has been successful in restoring me to single vision, but I will be seeing the orthoptist next week. The eye that was subjected to the surgeon’s knife is somewhat bloodstained now, but I’m coping pretty well, having put my contact lens in the other eye. (Since this the more short-sighted one, I can see pretty well.)

However, I have had indigestion all day, having accepted a rather stale complimentary sandwich at the Royal Surrey. Good filling, shame about the bread. Or it may have been the giant size painkillers I accepted, on awakening from the anaesthetic. Amazing, one minute I was discussing with the anaesthetist, living near the shooting range at Bisley, and whether people could possibly take offence at shooting clay pigeons, and the next I was woken up, and it was all over. And David Beckham was having his op at the same time, no doubt - and neither of us will be in the World Cup.

Having spent the evening yesterday, in front of the TV, today, I have been out for a short walk, transferred a few crocuses to a new position, watered a half dying rhododendron and done normal things about the house. For the rest of this week, I’ll be at home, with the exception of the trip to the reading circle. I expect the OH will drive me there, as I’m reluctant to put in the right hand lens yet. I’d already collected all the library books for the whole group, so I can’t bow out. In any case, I’m interested to hear the verdict on The other hand by Chris Cleeve.

Last Saturday, we went to dinner at Irene, with Jennifer and other half in attendance – thank you, Irene, for a lovely evening and for taking my mind partially off the impending operation. Prior to that, we all rushed out on Friday to get copies of the Surrey Advertiser – large imposing picture of the three Goldenford authors with their books and a good write- up. As ever, I didn’t like the photo of myself. Too short; too plump, too round shouldered - and metallic hair. Unfortunately, I had already booked a hair appointment for the following day, because it was looking tatty, and I couldn’t bring it forward, so I did my best with it which wasn’t quite good enough. The other two looked stately and dignified. However, the important thing is that it brings in an audience for our Music and the Muse talk on Thursday evening, 7.30 p.m., 25th March, at the Guildford Institute. Tickets available from Buy early, buy often.

In the meantime, I nearly forgot to say that, as a result of my article about Tainted Tree in Family Tree Magazine, I have had orders via the wholesaler, Gardners, every month since December, and only last week a copy made its way to Walthamstow - a long way from this territory, plus a copy was sold from the Amazon site. It's nice to know it's getting around.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lookward forwards, looking upwards and looking back

My forthcoming op is finally sorted out and will take place next week. The ophthalmologist says she will get rid of my ‘coy look’. That’s because I instinctively turn my face slightly when looking at people, in order to get single vision. First I have to have an ECG, but I hope all will be well. Having made the decision to go ahead, I want to get it over with.

In the meantime, the Son&Heir visited with the girls last weekend. Looking back in my diary, I can’t find when we last saw them, but GD1 now towers over me. True, I was never very tall, but possibly I have shrunk. No doubt at all though she has grown – and must be somewhere 5ft 4” at eleven years old. Now, little sister, GD3, is rushing to catch up, and she now (at eight) is nearly as tall as I am. We all went to see a local amateur production of The King and I at the village hall, with an impressive performance from the lead soprano. The children who participated (from the local school, where my kids went, many moons ago) were also excellent, though some of the other adults fell a bit short.

I was once part of the dramatic society, and performed in two pantomimes and a review, where it was necessary to wear a frilly garter and a very short skirt. Not sure I could get away with it now. Fortunately, our writing performances don’t require such exhibitionism. Our next performance is to take place at the Guildford Institute on 25th March in the evening. Called ‘Music and the Muse’, we are linking pieces of music with passages in our books. I will be using Ravel’s Bolero to illustrate a seduction scene in A Bottle of Plonk, a piece of classical music which has links to the West Country and which will evoke the bombing of Plymouth during WW2, and two passages which relate to my heroine, Addie’s mother’s diary in Tainted Tree, both from the late fifties, early sixties, one from West Side Story.

Having received our press releases, we had a call from the Surrey Advertiser, yesterday, saying they would like to photograph the three of us – Jay Margrave, Irene Black and myself – for the paper, to appear this week, or next week. So we got together in the evening before Guildford Writers and the photographer came and arranged and re-arranged us and took several shots. I glimpsed the final shot on his camera's display. Once again, I noticed that I'm the incredible shrinking woman. But it’s good that we are once again making our presence felt in Surrey.

I was also gratified to receive a healthy payment from the ALCS, and once again recommend all writers to register for such payments. They at least make an effort to protect an author’s copyright in this day and age, when music and writing is regularly downloaded without such credit going to the author, and they reclaim cash for such things as photocopying abroad, about which we would have no knowledge without them. I foresee they may become more and more important in the future.

And to add to my comments in my last blog, about money, always have some ‘rainy day money’ in an easy to access account. Preferably, at least equivalent to three to six months’ salary. I noticed that the Money Box programme on Radio 4 is discussing whether or not people should consider putting money into ISAs, rather than pensions. Although I believe in pensions as a safety net, I long ago decided that paying large sums to a body who will eventually give you back pocket money is not as good an idea is investing the money to provide an income in later life, and still own the capital lump sum. Having made that decision several years ago, I’m glad to see they’re catching up with my philosophy.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Hidden treasure - the snowdrop philosophy

I see I have been a bit repetitive in my last blog, rehashing the old ground of the Bramley library presentations, but also my Writers’ News prize – which is now in my possession. So my apologies for not offering you something more unexciting.

So now for some new news of an embarrassing nature. A couple of days ago, I went to Sainsbury’s to do my weekly shop. Having spent an hour in the shop and however long it takes to unpack my newly acquired produce on to the conveyor belt, I discovered at the check in, that I had no wallet on me. Considering I had been lugging a weighty bag on my shoulder during that entire time, you may wonder what I was carrying. So did I. A search revealed, apart from some ancient tissues, the cash float from the Bramley trip – about £20 of one pound coins and other assorted silver. Useful for parking, perhaps, but inadequate to pay my grocery bill. Sweeteners, indigestion tablets, two pens, a mobile phone, makeup and a diary. Also three pairs of spectacles – one for reading; one sun glasses and the new prismatic ones for dealing with my double vision. But no wallet. I had visions of having to unpack my trolley and return everything whence it came, and was mentally trying to work out how long that would take me and where to put it, seeing that I’d had some problems finding it in the first place. However, the counter assistant reassured me that my trolley could be wheeled away to a place of safety until such time as I had fetched my card, or fetched my husband with his card, which seemed a better option. Is the brain going, as well as the other non-working bits of me? Should they be wheeling me to a place of safety?

And while we’re on the subjection of my non-functioning bits, I haven’t yet described the hassle I’m having with my medical insurance provider; I’m being shunted backwards and forwards with requests for procedure codes and problems with the venue. So each day, now I have a chat with both sides of this eternal triangle, but to date, it seems, they haven’t wanted to talk to each other. I hope, when the time comes, I’m not lying there, with surgeon and knife hovering over me, saying, ‘How do you propose to pay for this?’ Oh dear, I might be thinking, I’ve left my wallet at home.

In the garden yesterday, I got much pleasure in seeing the crocuses open at last, responding to the sunshine. I really love these flowers, resembling bright jewels in the flower bed. Looking back to this time last year, I discovered I had spotted sixteen snowdrops in my garden. This year, I’m down to 15, despite my optimism that there would be more. However, I’ve divided them, and now have groups in four different places. I’m sure they will multiply, once they’ve got over the trauma of being split in twos and fours.

This time last year, I spent a lot of time talking money. Planting bulbs is a kind of investment. You put them in the ground and hope to see your investment increased, year on year. I’m glad to say that in the financial world at least, things are improving, so anyone who invested a year ago should be in a better position today. I’ve been awfully sensible during this last year, investing with caution, and mainly for income, since the OM and I are getting long in the tooth. However, for anyone interested in investment, I’m taking a punt on Antony Bolton’s Fidelity China fund, due out shortly. However, my philosophy remains the same – never borrow to invest; don’t put your eggs in one basket and spread your risk.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Is Spring here at last?

It's been a couple of weeks since I last blogged (how I hate that word) but I have been quite busy.

The ProdigalD was here for a weekend, together with her family, including the misses Prodigal Major and Minor. Minor - that is GD4, at five months, attempted to chat with me, but is not quite ready for words. It was lovely to see GD2, who is always ready to chat. We also invited over my brother in law, who hasn't seen the family for quite a while. Now it's all change, as far as sheets and towels are concerned, as the Son&Heir will be with us next weekend with his family, including his two girls.

Other social events include lunch with Irene, my sister-in-law here for dinner, a trip to Opera South in Haslemere, for the third time in three years, with some cousins. We all met up for tea and sandwiches first before the performance at the Haslemere Hall, where La Pericole by Offenbach was performed. A very pleasant afternoon and evening with a lovely performance by Opera South - gorgeous dresses; the wardrobe mistress must be very accomplished.

Also met up with the Graduates, my fellow alumnae from Surrey University, for lunch at the Guildford Institute.

During this same period, I have had a couple of appointments with Orthoptics and also the Opthalmologist. I hope that I will in the next few weeks be having corrective eye surgery. I'll let you know how I get on.

We at Goldenford have given two talks during February to the reading circles of Bramley library, near Guildford, to enthusiastic audiences, on both occasions. I've also had further sales of Tainted Tree, as a result of my article in Family Tree Magazine. We are currently planning a musical evening at the Guildford Institute later in March. I've also received my quarterly royalty statement from Virtual Tales, showing sales of A Bottle of Plonk (Have Wine Will Travel).

For the time being, I'm in charge of collecting the library books for the reading circle. I collected the last batch in three goes, because they were heavy hardbacks. In the meantime, I started and finished reading the latest book, The Other Hand, with mixed feelings. I felt I should have felt more for the main protagonist, an illegal migrant, but somehow the author failed to evoke this in me. I felt as if I was being manipulated to feel guilt, and remained unmoved by the various tragedies which took place. It does seem as if I'm very hard to please these days.

For the first time, the weather looked spring like today. The sun came out and the crocuses magically appeared. What joy. Please can we have a few more days like this.

Forgot to say - Star letter in Writers' News, earning me a copy of Writer's Market. And I wrote a new story during Feb. Must keep at it.