Monday, August 30, 2010

Tea party in the rain

In the news, at the moment, the miners, trapped underground in Chile. I think they coped admirably until they were found, and I hope that they can continue the level of co-operation that already existed. When I heard they had been living on one or two teaspoonfuls of tuna per day in order to survive, I was extremely impressed. How easy it would have been for one person to help himself and deprive the rest. It would be good if their restraint then, and their patience now ensure their physical and mental well-being and ultimate survival. There was an interesting article on the New Scientist website about how they can be helped to cope psychologically.

A fairly quiet week for us, after the two treks out to the family. Yesterday, we went to Polesden Lacey, again – with the intention of visiting the rose garden. I had some invoices to do in the morning, so we drove off in the afternoon, but not until I had changed and applied my usual camouflage. The OM complained that by the time we got there, the weather would have changed – and predictably, it did. From passable sunshine, it suddenly poured down, just as we arrived at the entrance. Still, all was not lost, for we made for the shelter of the tea tent, and, rather like last week’s barbecue, sat, as rain poured down around us, with our tea and lemon drizzle cake. We managed to find a place, which although on the edge had two places away from the August wind and rain. In a short time, a couple rushed to join us, then another one, and we all squashed on to three sides of the table. It was very jolly. Then the sun came out again, and we were transported by the buggy (designated for the less able, although we were perfectly capable) to the house and garden.

First we visited the house briefly, (see photo of magnificent chandalier) as we saw it a few weeks ago.

Then the garden - see other photos. Probably June would have been a better time to see the roses, but to compensate, there were dahlias and other things to see.

At the beginning of summer, I always look forward to it stretching forward, visions of me sitting in the garden in the sunshine, but August is often disappointing.

Friends are away, the children have seen enough of us and the sun’s not shining. In many ways, September will be welcome. The Writing Circle will be back in action – actually we have a meeting in someone’s house, tomorrow, and soon after that, Goldenford will be hosting some events.

In the meantime, my Virtual Tales ( royalty statement arrived today, showing my three monthly sales of Have Wine will Travel. Don’t forget whether you are in the UK or the US, or anywhere else for that matter, you can download a copy of Have Wine … for a very moderate cost. For some reason, if you are looking on Amazon, you have to find the author page, before accessing the Kindle edition. Copies of Tainted Tree, in the mean time, are out on loan from Surrey libraries and available from some Surrey bookshops – and Amazon, of course. All looking up. I have an extract from my current book, ready to read, at Guildford Writers. Must keep at it, before inspiration fades away.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cows in the field, punts on the Cam

In terms of mileage, it's been a busy couple of weeks. Possibly, I've already said that we went to visit the ProdigalD at Herefordshire. Once upon a time, when I first came to live in Surrey from my London home in a busy main road, I thought I was coming to live in the country. When I visit my daughter, I realise that is real country. The neighbours are bullocks and sheep, and when we drive the last ten or fifteen miles to her home, we see nothing but undulating hills and valleys with fields on either side of the road. My home, by contrast, is a mere half a dozen miles to the civilisation of the Guildford, the town centre and Surrey University too. We have a station only two miles away, taking us to London in 40 minutes. Thank goodness.

By contrast, the Son&H lives in a town house not far from the centre of Cambridge, and that's where we were this weekend. We went on Saturday and returned on Sunday afternoon. In the morning we walked to the river, and there was the usual hubbub. Young men trying to tempt passers by, or should I say prospective punters, to go for a ... well punt. GD3 didn't really want to go for a walk, but she was mollified by being allowed to climb a tree en route. GD1 put her foot down and simply didn't come.

We rushed home to go to join friends for a barbecue on Sunday evening. Having left Cambridge in brilliant sunshine and with a temperature of 27 deg. C. , we came home to drizzle, which, once we were under our friends' gazebo, turned to torrential rain. We sat there the whole evening, eating and talking. I suspect the host had rainwater dribbling down the back of his neck, but the OH and I were OK. It was very British - a barbecue in the rain.

I've been to the orthoptist, the dentist and the optician in the last couple of weeks. The dentist had to repair yet another broken tooth, which fortunately only took about two minutes. The orthoptist discharged me, as my vision seemed fine, and the optician saw me for the first time since my eye operation and was very impressed at the difference between a year ago and now. The operation has transformed my sight in terms of double vision. It's nearly a year ago that I was contemplating both operations with dread, and now they're in the past, and I'm very glad that I had them done.

Tonight, I've been to a Goldenford meeting, where we discussed activities for the autumn, and ideas to get our books to the public. Once again, we're doing about four presentations in this area and I hope some other ideas will come up. And, on the subject, while arranging to have a new lens in my glasses to accommodate my improved vision, I asked the optician if she'd read the copy of Tainted Tree, which the shop had bought from me. 'We've all read it,' she said. 'We all loved it.' Can't get much better than that.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Eating peanuts at the lap dance club

Things wind down during August, and if the weather starts getting cool, it feels as if summer is over, but the interesting events of early autumn haven’t begun. We three Goldenford girls met last week, but it was supposed to be a Guildford Writers meeting. No-one else came, though. They must all be on their hols, so we didn’t discuss writing at all, but just chatted about all the things we don’t normally have time to do. I had taken my latest bit of Innocent Bystanders where my hero goes investigating in a lap dance club. Perhaps I should call the book Eating peanuts at the lap dance club. At any rate, I’ll be saving it for our next meeting.

On Thursday, I had my hair trimmed and booked an appointment with the optician, too. The receptionist has read Tainted Tree and asked how I was getting on with the next book. At least I could say that I was making progress. She mentioned that she’s part of a reading circle and I said I’d be happy to give a talk or similar. I hope something will come of it. In the meantime, I’ve been reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society – which has to be one of the longest and most gimmicky titles in publication at the moment. Did they think of the title first, I wonder. It seems to me that sometimes it’s the quirky title that sells the book – Salmon Fishing … and Tractors in Ukrainian .. or whatever. On Thursday night was my reading circle night, where we discussed Guernsey, etc..

Like one of the reviewers, at the beginning of this book I was immediately reminded of 84, Charing Cross Road, particularly, when Juliet requests a particular book for Dawsey Adams and says – ‘a good plain copy’. That’s the sort of thing Helene Hanff used to say all the time to Mr Frank Doel of Charing X Road.

But this is fiction, so it doesn’t have to be authentic. Some of the long letters from these previously not very literate people seemed to be a bit unlikely. Nevertheless, it was a clever way to tell the story of the tribulations of the Channel Islanders during the war, with a love story at the same time.

People have described this as a gentle book – which it is. I felt it was a little too cute sometimes – particularly at the beginning when many of the characters seem to start with the letter ‘S’ – Sidney and Sophie Stark of Stevens & Stark, and Susan Scott, and then Gilly Gilbert, also. It was as if they were caricatures, rather than characters. In some of the letters too, they were very determinedly eccentric.

I also felt that the letter format detached me from any real drama. I wasn’t really carried away by the plight of Elizabeth, though I know I should have been. I never really felt I got to know her, in spite of descriptions showing her to be brave and altruistic.

I was a little concerned about the child, Kit. Did this child ever speak? (Was she traumatised? Perhaps I missed this.) All she seemed to do was pat people on the face. At four years old, my children never stopped talking.

However, despite this, I found it very readable – and easy to pick up and resume. Perhaps that was part of the problem. I did pick it up and then leave it several times.

I saw the orthoptist on Friday, and also the eye surgeon who carried out my operation earlier in the year. Both were very happy with the result of the op, as I am too.

Over the weekend, we went to Herefordshire to see the ProdigalD, spouse and two of my granddaughters – GD2 and GD4. We took GD4 a caterpillar which plays music when its nose is pressed. It drove us up the wall very quickly, particularly when GD2, who should know better at 9 years old, insisted on starting it up, when the baby wasn’t actually interested. GD4 is approaching her first birthday, and is very cute and cuddly.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


As promised - a few photos taken at Chartwell, Winston Churchill's home looking out over The Weald, Kent.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

The sting in the tale

Despite threatening clouds, Irene and I had a very pleasant afternoon selling our Goldenford books at the Pirbright Flower Show. Only problem was that we were under a tree, which would have been good if it had been hotter, but was rather windy. When we first arrived the plant tent adjacent to us was being held to the ground with sandbags and seemed in danger of taking off. But somehow or other, the Flower Show manages to achieve good weather, even in the bad summers of the last couple of years, and the wind settled and it remained dry.

I left our pitch a couple of times, once to look at the paintings from the local Art club, which are hung on the railings for display and sale, a la Green Park in London. (Do they still do that, I wonder? I haven’t been there at the weekend for years.) On the other occasion, I went into the show itself, to admire displays such as ‘four vegetables on a trug’ or the best coffee walnut cake. Despite the popularity of the presentations, we had lots of visitors to our table, sold some books and chatted with lots of people. I was delighted that one lady who had read Tainted Tree last year enjoyed it so much that she wanted another book of mine, and took a copy of A Bottle of Plonk.

The only fly in the ointment was - well to be precise, not a fly but a wasp, which decided to alight on my finger and sting me. There were loads of wasps hovering in our tree, and after this attack, I spent more time standing up away from them.

On Sunday, Irene came with the OM and me to Polesden Lacey, a stately home where the former King and Queen (George VI and Elizabeth, the late Queen Mother) spent their honeymoon. The owner of that time seemed to have climbed the greasy pole from being a porter’s daughter, albeit the illegitimate child of a brewery millionaire, to marrying the eldest son of a baronet. Since they had no children, she owned seventeen dogs, whose graves we saw in the gardens. Fascinating insight into the aristocracy – she ended up leaving her diamonds to the Queen Mother and thousands of pounds to Princess Margaret. ‘New money,’ the guides told us several times.

Since Monday, when I met up with the reading group, one of whose ex-members has just returned from Holland for a brief trip, I have been dealing with various forms of drudgery – invoices, quotations and washing. I’m bored with it. Next job is the Goldenford accounts and also the OM’s, and if I can polish them off, I’ll be able to do more fun things. So back to the treadmill …