Friday, 28 August 2009

We're All Going On A...

My Paramour and I are scheduled to depart at lunchtime today for Shrewsbury Folk Festival. He has a monster work deadline to meet before we go, and it's anyone's guess whether he'll manage it in time - or, if he doesn't, whether he'll abandon the work project or put in a request for a late departure. He had a small meltdown last night when he discovered that he's managed to buy us tickets that don't include camping - and the festival is now sold out - but one of our friends has been a steward there for years, and she reckons she can find a way around the problem for us. If all else fails, I have a key for a friend's house in Shrewsbury, but it's a couple of miles from the festival site so not ideal.

I haven't started packing yet, but I have started making a list. Wellies, jumpers, mac, thick socks, umbrella, gloves, scarf. Yes, folks, it's August in England. Sigh...

Nevertheless, there should be some good things. Karine Polwart. Ade Edmondson playing thrash mandolin with the Bad Shepherds. Three beer tents, count 'em, three! If we can just get there... and if it would please PLEASE stop raining, and turn down the wind from fierce gusts to gentle breezes. I live in hope. It's a nice place to live. Better than England in August.

Back on Tuesday, if all goes according to plan. Have a good weekend, yourselves.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Feeling Better?

I was feeling quite low after last weekend. Not miserable, as such, just low in energy and lacking in motivation - which is very unusual for me.

I've been seeing an osteopath for a while, now, for help with back and knee injuries from when I was ill last year. He's lovely, and always wants to know how I am in general, as well as how the musculo-skeletal problems are progressing. I had a treatment this week, and moaned a bit about how I'd been feeling droopy and lacklustre. He remarked, at the end of the treatment, that he expected my energy would rise as a result.

It did. I woke up the next morning with my brain buzzing with ideas that proliferated in all directions. I could barely keep up with myself.

I would have been very pleased about this, if it hadn't been 2 am.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Not Feeling Quite So Clever Now

I have been so proud of my crochet achievements. (You may have noticed.) The other night I sent Millie an email, with photos, very much like my last blog post. She had no idea what I'd been up to, and I thought she'd be pleased to know I'd been working on a way to mend the lovely blankets her granny made. I told her I thought I was nearly there; that I knew the square I'd crocheted didn't look quite like the ones in the blanket, but I reckoned I'd worked out how to make them like her granny, and I figured the next one would be up to the mark.

Millie phoned me last night. 'Thank you for your email,' she said.

'No problem.' I sat back on the sofa, waiting for my due allocation of gratitude and praise.

'Your crochet looks very good,' she said. 'Although Pete says he's not holding his breath for his blanket.'

Such a joker, Millie's husband. I chuckled obligingly.

'The only thing is,' Millie sounded as if she was trying to suppress a laugh, 'you know my granny's blankets?'

'Er, yes.'

'I can tell you why the squares don't look like the one you've made.' Now she could barely get her words out between giggles. 'My granny didn't crochet those blankets. She knitted them.'

I was speechless. I used to knit! How come I didn't realise? Why didn't any of you lot realise either? Or maybe you did, and you were just being tactful...

'You can crochet blankets too,' Millie said kindly. 'I'm sure they'll be very nice.'

I intend to spend this weekend lying in a darkened room with a cold compress on my forehead, in the hope that by Monday my face will have returned to its normal colour. Have a good one, yourselves!

Thursday, 20 August 2009

It Gets Bigger

(well, that should result in some entertaining Google searches)

I think I've worked out the architecture of these granny square things. See here:

(apologies for photo quality - my Paramour 'borrowed' my camera and changed all the settings, and I need to re-read the manual to find out how to change them back again. Photo below taken before my camera was messed about with. I rest my case.)

Anyway, I'm still really pleased with my progress, BUT the square I have made is much looser and holier (in the non-religious sense) than the ones in the blanket I'd like to mend:

I think I've worked out why. In my square, I do three triples before each chain stitch, and - from close inspection of the blanket, with my glasses on - it looks as if Millie's granny did four triples. She probably also had a smaller central circle - I've done a chain of six, but I suspect she used a chain of five or possibly even four. So my next experiments will be along those lines. And at some point soon, it'll be time to try more than one colour. I will, of course, keep you posted. Bet you can't wait!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Look What I Did!

Do you remember my amusingly hopeless attempts to crochet a square, a month or so ago? Well, after creating several more previously unknown shapes since then, I think I finally cracked it last night:

Is that not squarishly, almost, near enough, a square? I mean, if it had some little squarish friends, and their corners were tied together with bits of wool, would it not then be part of a fairly convincing blanket?

I think so! Yay me, craftswoman extraordinaire!!! And I taught myself to crochet left-handed, too (not bad, eh, Debs?!). Watch out, world, for you shall soon be covered in blankets made of purple squarey things!

I'm a little bit pleased with myself. Can you tell?

Monday, 17 August 2009

The Weekend

We talked, non-stop, except when we were asleep. And, in the Squirrel's case, except for a few bleary minutes on Sunday morning when she was sitting up and breastfeeding but not, in fact, awake. Spiral and I happily filled that conversation gap and, finding herself with two relentlessly cheerful morning people who provided her with a cup of tea and a cup of coffee, the Squirrel succumbed to peer pressure and resumed her chatty status.

Baby Squirrel was a delight, despite being full of cold. He has a staggering bowlegged flat-footed walk which makes him look like a miniature drunk, especially as he sometimes sits down very suddenly (and once went flat bonk on his nose on the kitchen floor, which would have made me laugh if it hadn't made him wail). He enjoyed bimbling around my kitchen and garden, playing with kitchen utensils - a few bits of tupperware, a pair of spatulas and a wooden spoon kept him happy for ages. There was much communicative clapping of hands and bibblibblibbling of fingers and lips, and that was just the grown-ups.

Spiral and Squirrel got on well, bonding over shared experiences as mothers of sons. We talked about writing, and families, and mutual friends and acquaintances, food and drink, jobs and careers, haircuts and make-up - all sorts of things. I cooked, accompanied by organic English Kir Imperial - yes, really - Spiral brought organic English 'champagne' and organic English blackcurrant vodka, AND some delicious organic nut chocolate, what a good guest! We pottered out to the park on Saturday afternoon, to amuse Baby Squirrel, but mostly we sat around chatting, eating, drinking, laughing and chatting some more.

Then on Sunday afternoon Spiral went home (I did try to persuade her to stay another night and drive home at the crack of dawn, but she had her sensible head on). It was still an hour until the Squirrels' train was due, so the remaining trio went to the park again with the aim of wearing out Baby Squirrel so he would be peaceable en route. I was confident about how long it would take us to walk from the park to the station, but I had forgotten to factor in various things such as the slower progress made by people with baby and buggy, and the bypass actually being the long way round. So they missed it, and it was all my fault - but Mummy Squirrel was very laid back and kind about my stupidity and, in the hour before the next train, I took them to Wetherspoons for consolatory drinks and warm chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream. Baby Squirrel amused us by emitting an outraged bellow every time Mummy Squirrel raised her spoon to her lips - she did give him a few small tastes of ice cream, but he wanted the great big bits of cake!

We managed to get them on to the next train, then I strolled home and made an experimental pizza with a spelt flour base which luckily turned out to be scrumptious. Overall, it was one of my best weekends in ages, and without the magical wonderful Internet it never would have happened.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Lovely People In My Life

Last night my Paramour cooked a toothsome stir-fry: small cubes of marinaded tofu, fried until crispy; lots of sliced red onion and garlic; big slices of field mushroom; mixed bean sprouts from the jar on the windowsill; a savoury, spicy sauce; and fried rice with mange-touts from the garden. I washed that down with a large glass of well-chilled Sauvignon Blanc, he chose a bottle of Speckled Hen ale.

We'd both had busy and stressful days, so we weren't talking much, just eating in a comfortable silence. Then he said 'I've had an idea for a TV programme. I think I'll pitch it for the autumn schedules.'

I looked at him, surprised. He was concentrating on his plate but I could see a mischievous light in his eye. 'Go on,' I said.

'Bone Idol,' he said.

I laughed. 'About people who want to be archaeologists?'

'Yes. But not very much.'

I laughed some more, then I had a thought of my own. 'Can I nick that for my blog?'

He smiled his generous smile. 'Of course you can.'

So I did.

In other news, a couple of lovely blogfriends are visiting me this weekend. I've met them both; they've both been here before; they know each other well online, but they've never met in person. I suspect drink will be taken, and I don't think much blogging will be done by any of us. Sorry about that, but sometimes - and I know this may come as a shock - meeting people out in the world, where we talk with our mouths and listen with our ears instead of talking with our fingers and listening with our eyes, makes a nice change. I understand it can be addictive, though, so don't worry, we will be careful; we are determined not to get hooked and start ignoring our proper computer lives. It's just recreational, honest. We only do it at weekends. We could stop any time we liked...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

The Last Five Days

Nights in own bed: 1
Nights in other beds: 4
Number of other beds slept in: 3
Miles driven: 550ish
Friends and family caught up with: 9
Cats canoodled with: 4
Computers used: 4
Visits to cafes: 1
Visits to pubs: 1
Visits to very old Saxon churches: 1
Bottles of really good New Zealand wine shared: 2
Bottles of other perfectly drinkable wine shared: 8ish
Delicious nosh scoffed: far too much
Shiny red Ferraris spotted on recovery vehicles: 1
Minutes of amusement engendered by sight of shiny red Ferrari on recovery vehicle: 742
Words written: 2000

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Ten Per Cent

Look at my word counter!!!

I didn't reach this point as quickly as I would have liked - but hey, I'm there now.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Short Stories

I sold another story a couple of weeks ago, to The People's Friend this time. Which means I've achieved my original objective of selling to three different women's magazines (the other two I've sold stories to so far are The Weekly News and Yours magazine). So I thought I'd do a stocktake of what it took to get me here. Mostly it took the support and encouragement of everyone in my womag writers' group, which of course I can't quantify. But other than that, to get these three sales took:

17 months
25 stories written
43 submissions
27 rejections

and there are 13 of my stories still out there, so I could have another sale or two to come, if I'm lucky.

I think this means I'm doing well, because it seems to me that a sale average of one in every 8.3 stories written is pretty good for a novice. And, although I've achieved my original objective, I'm not giving up just yet - I'm enjoying it too much, learning a lot, and there are more markets to crack! Oh, and of course there are the huge earnings that supplement my income...

So far, my three short story sales have earned me a total of £255. I reckon each story takes on average around half a day to write, edit and submit. Then there are the extra submissions, and time spent reading/critiquing the stories of others in my group, I'd say that adds up to another day a month, plus another half day overall for time spent on euphoric emails/texts/phone calls to tell people about my sales. That means I've spent 30 days so far on my short story writing. Which comes out at £8.50/day or just over a pound an hour!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

More About My Holiday

Going on holiday, a proper, dossing holiday, made me realise how exhausted I am after the last emotionally hectic year. So much has happened, no part terribly momentous in itself, but the sheer quantity of stuff I've had to deal with seems immense. Right now I feel as if a year's holiday wouldn't be enough to redress the balance, although I'm sure that will change with time.

For the first day and a half I was in France, I was too tired to read a single word. I don't think I've gone a day and a half without reading since I learned to read over 40 years ago. However, I did manage to canter through four books in the rest of the holiday, and as they never made it on to my sidebar, I thought I'd chronicle them here.

Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe by Fannie Flagg, see how long it takes me to get around to reading things, this was first published over 20 years ago, I haven't seen the film either. Loved it.

For A Pagan Song by Jonny Bealby, published over 10 years ago, this is the second of his travel books that I've read, his writing has a great combination of vulnerability and strength, I have his third (and, so far, last) and will be saving it for a special occasion.

Summer In The City by Pauline McLynn (aka Mrs Doyle from Father Ted), published only three years ago. I had more mixed feelings about this book, it's a great story with some terrific characters but zooms along at breakneck speed, so that I felt some of the key scenes were rushed and superficial (not all though). Also, there were so many characters that at times I lost track of who was who - seven major characters, each with their own POV scenes, and at least 14 significant minor characters. This may be as much my fault as the book's fault, because I am impatient and I read fast, so when I come up against a quick-thinking author who writes fast, I tend to miss bits. I got more out of the book when I re-read some parts more slowly, so perhaps the lesson for me is to take my time as and when I read another book by Ms McLynn - which I will, because she is a skilful writer, who was able to pull my heartstrings hard on one page and make me laugh out loud on the next, and I think she hasn't yet reached her full writing potential.

Travelling Light by Katrina Kittle, published at the turn of the century. This is a real tear-jerker, the kind of thing Caroline would like, and yet I enjoyed it too - even though it very nearly made me cry on the plane - perhaps because its poignancy was leavened with gentle humour interspersed with the full range of other human emotions. Great characters in a very imaginative and memorable story.

I didn't set myself any writing targets for the week, but I did turn out 2000 words of the WIP rewrite, and edit a short story which I subbed yesterday. So altogether my lovely week in France managed to be both restful and productive.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

La Belle France Et Les Petits Chats

I swam and sunbathed here:

slept here:

ate here, mostly:

went in and out through here:

took a snap of the pretty kitchen window (you can see how thick the walls are, this house is NEVER going to fall down!):

helped my cousin feed the cats (that's her, not me):

She feeds around 10 local cats every day. They've had them all neutered. One or two are willing to be stroked, but most are wary of humans; they lie around in relaxed-cat poses but spring away quick as whips if you go too close. And here's one specially for Helen, I bet none of your cats ever brought you a present like this, I know none of mine ever have:

And this photo was taken at the playing-with-it stage, before the snake got disembowelled.

After seeing that, I swore I would never ever again moan about ours bringing in mice and birds. However, when Sock Boy and Rorschach woke me up in the small hours of last night by playing with a very lively mouse under our bed last night, I broke my oath. Broke out several new oaths, in fact, especially when they cornered it under the chest of drawers and had a long stand-off involving lots of snuffling and growling. (Rorschach is a small cat with big eyes and therefore extremely cute. She is also all black, which is why you haven't seen a picture of her yet, because she always comes out looking more like an ink blot than a feline.) I don't know what happened in the end because I decamped to the spare room. Maybe there's still a mouse hiding in our bedroom. The cats would be right out of favour if I wasn't so pleased to see them.