Friday, October 29, 2010

Cows and whales and girls behaving badly

Goodness, it's been a long time since my last blog. So I'll quickly try to get something down. I have had a busy few days - it seems to come in fits and starts. A quiet week, when I try to break the back of the paperwork, then no time at home and the post piles up again. A week ago, I picked up my library book - something about hump backed whales, but I've only read one page so far.

We had a family lunch last Sunday - always an enjoyable occasion - with my two sisters in law, and three brothers in law present as well as my one niece. So much talking and eating is very tiring, and having arrived at midday, we got home in time to see Downton Abbey - a regular slot for my Sunday nights.

The ProdigalD was arriving with her family that day - but I could rely on her not to appear before midnight, and my expectations were fulfilled. It didn't stop me sleeping rather fitfully until her arrival at 1.30 a.m. and this has contributed to my tiredness all the week. However, it was lovely to see her and hubby and two of my granddaughters, and we had a very good day on Monday. We had considered going to Guildford to get Christmas presents, but in the end there was a vote against it. GD2, apparently does not like shopping, and no-one else had any enthusiasm either, although I was hoping to take them all to the veggie restaurant at the Guildford Institute. It was a nice day, after the heavy frost the previous night, and we went for a walk through the woods, lifting the push chair over challenging bits of the route. (That's the two spouses - I've given up lifting things, since my op.)

Now that the PD lives in the country (real country, surrounded by cows and bullocks and things like that) she found it difficult to let off fireworks for Bonfire Night. Having bought them in Sussex where she lived originally and taken them to her West Midlands in the year of moving, about four years ago, she asked if she could bring them with her on this visit. As a result we had an early firework display on 25th October to which GD2 watched, thrilled, and baby GD4, watched from her push=chair, with an increasing lack of enthusiasm. Before and after, I did the food preparation of a veggie roast with green veg, sweet potatoes and the conventional sort, parsnips and ratatouille - and roast turkey for the OM and me - but in fairness - some of this, as in Blue Peter, I prepared earlier.

The family didn't leave till Tuesday, midday approx. and in the evening, I went to Guildford Writers, though I'd failed to produce any further episodes of my novel, Innocent Bystanders. (My hero is going though a hard time at the moment, pursuing the baddy through casinos and lap dancing clubs, trying to find some evidence of his wrong-doing.)

On Wednesday, we Goldenford Girls, did a presentation to an audience at the Guildford |Institute of recorded music linked to extracts from our novels, entitled Music and the Muse. It went extremely well, and the audience appreciated it. This was our first performance, but we feel we could do it again at other venues; one of its advantages is that, since our books are so different, so too is the music, mine being linked to my twentieth century novels, with a bit of sixties, eighties and a classical piece from 1917. Jay Margrave goes back into history and medieval times for her inspiration, while Irene has an exotic Indian link and a bit of jazz thrown in. I rushed home to eat and subsequently participate in a committee meeting in the evening, and sat yawning and making notes at the same time. Fortunately, I got home in time for The Apprentice as I wouldn't have wanted to miss Melissa behaving extremely badly in the course of the programme, and being charm itself for The Apprentice, You're Fired.

It was a relief to get to Thursday, though, and have nothing to rush around for. I was so tired, I booked an on-line delivery for today, rather than go shopping yesterday. And today is the first day I haven't felt tired, for a week. And no plans for tomorrow either.

Sunday, the OH is joining me and Irene to go to London for the launch of the latest Goldenford book - The Nine Lives of Kit Marlowe, by Jay Margrave. And after that, goodness me, we're in November, with more things planned, but hopefully, one or two rests in between.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

A story of heroes and comrades

It was a busy week, particularly the latter half and, as a result, my desk is piled high with bits of paper I haven’t sorted out. Even a trip to the Writers’ Circle results in several sheets with comments on them, for me to take note of - or ignore – as the case may be, as was the case this week, when I did manage to produce a further episode of Innocent Bystanders. I spent much of the earlier part of Tuesday removing pieces of paper one at a time, and filing them, acting upon them or presenting them to the waste paper recycling box. But it didn’t seem as if many disappeared.

On Wednesday, I met my friend, Pam, in London, with a view to seeing the Gauguin Exhibition at Tate Modern. Pam had a brainwave and instead of going by tube and getting lost en route from the tube station, we took a bus from Charing Cross to St Paul’s and crossed over the Millennium Bridge. First time I’ve done that – and of course, it doesn’t wobble any longer. I’m not a great fan of Gauguin – his rather flat, two dimensional style -though some of his highly coloured paintings are quite attractive. . Because we had tickets timed for 2.30 p.m., we first went to the Sunflower Seeds exhibit, created by artist, Ai Weiwei. . This occupied the whole of the Turbine Hall at the Tate, and was filled with people strolling over the massed ‘seeds’ (they are in fact made of porcelain) and sitting down and playing with them, particularly when accompanied by toddlers and children. We even saw a couple of kids of about eight and ten being buried up to their necks in the seeds. It was very much like being on Brighton beach, playing in the loose stones. On Friday, it was announced that people were no longer to be allowed on the seeds, because of dust – and I must admit to having had a coughing fit, near the entrance. However, I do feel quite privileged to have been one of the visitors in the three days that the public could walk all over the exhibit. It is sad, because without people, there, it does look like a room of shingle, or even, from above, a fitted, sculptured grey carpet. It’s the people that make the exhibit, though I know that Mr Weiwei’s aim was to show that a mass of seemingly identical objects are actually all individual – perhaps a metaphor for China and its history. You can still see a video of his thoughts and how they were made.

I came home and had to force myself to do the ironing in the evening, because I was so behind with chores. I watched The Apprentice at the same time, so that made it palatable, and then went to the rolling news on BBC to see what was happening to the miners. I stayed up later than I should, just watching as the miners were brought to the surface, as I had also done on the previous day. Listening to the squealing girls on The Apprentice, incapable of co-operating with each other, it seemed, with all the egos struggling to be top, I couldn’t help contrasting this with the amazing ability of the men imprisoned down the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, to work together as a team from the very beginning.

What a stirring story the miners’ rescue has been. I haven’t followed the individual stories of the minors, though I know that some have more than one woman in their lives, and some have fathered children additional to their acknowledge family unit. But I was affected by the story as soon as I heard how they had survived the first 17 days down the mine – they had worked together and rationed out their food and water. What self discipline they exhibited then and later. I felt they just had to be rescued and their concern for each other, their ability to act as a single unit was inspiring. And although there were concerns about how they would survive until rescue came, I felt that in succeeding to survive up till the time of their discovery, they had surely experienced the worst time of all and would be able to cope with anything else they were presented with.

From a psychological point of view, it was good that the initial forecast was three months, then reduced to two and actually, one month. And the engineering and the drilling, etc., has been magnificent.

This is so obviously going to make a fabulous book – all the ingredients are there; the drama and the human stories. It is also a very good example of how a novel could be constructed and shows how over time, we can get involved with a group of people. A tragedy occurs, people die – we hear, we’re sorry, but it’s at an end. But when the story of a group occurs over a longer period, we can’t help but get involved.

Meanwhile, we at Goldenford, had another rehearsal of our event, Music and the Muse, to take place on 27th October at the Guildford Institute. Our audience will get tea and cake and us to entertain, all for a very modest price. After our rehearsal, I lunched with Irene, and then dashed home before rushing out again to the reading circle, where we discussed India House – a somewhat claustrophobic book purporting to describe the late fifties. It had some wit, but was, on the whole, a rather downbeat and depressing book. So it may have been well-written, but I wouldn’t be tempted to read it a second time. My bro-in-law came for dinner on Friday, and yesterday, I more or less flopped in front of the TV. Next week is looking quiet, though, so plenty of time to catch up with paperwork, washing – and the dreaded Goldenford accounts.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Two halves of cake are better than one

I was busy all last week preparing my slot for the Goldenford presentation for the Mole Valley Arts Alive Festival. This was a more ambitious workshop than last year, and therefore more daunting, but I think, in the end, our pupils, or perhaps, subjects, were satisfied with it. One thing you can say is that our sessions are never po-faced. We always seem to have a bit of a laugh. The preparation, though, wasn’t really a laugh. At times I felt as if I was facing an exam, and by the night before, had the same sort of panic at the prospect of going blank once in the exam room. We are doing another one at the end of the month at the Guildford Institute, but I think it should be less alarming, second time around.

We also are putting on a musical afternoon, also at the Guildford Institute, and have done one rehearsal for that too. Don’t worry – none of us are singing – it’s all recorded – and just as well we rehearsed, because two of my pieces have talking on them before the music starts, and so we’re going to have to run them silently and start at the right place.

After the hectic Saturday, the OH and I spent Sunday afternoon at Winkworth Arboretum. We went to see the autumn colours, but we were too early. Because of the amount of rain we’ve had, the leaves for the most part, haven’t turned yet. The nice thing about visiting National Trust properties – and Wisley, for that matter, is that you can sit down to tea and cake as part of the outing. Feeling somewhat weak-willed, I ordered a slice of lemon drizzle and a chocolate gateau, and cut them into halves, so we each had a piece of both. Then we had to do a second walk to counteract the cake eating. We followed a gradual slope down to the lake, which took about 15 minutes. Alas, the gradual slope felt like very hard work on the return journey. The OM, who tripped over last week, also found it hard going, and his knee has puffed up today and has required several cold compresses throughout the day. We shouldn’t really have done the walk, but he thought he was better.

Guildford Writers tomorrow night, and I must try to get back to another instalment of the novel.