Friday, 29 August 2008

Back in the Hot Seat.

I'm back at my computer today and writing about Chinese Astrology. Again. The last time I wrote about this and offered the article to my favourite customer on Constant Content, it wasn't taken up. But a few weeks later it was - by someone else. And now the first customer wants something on the subject. I suspect they came back to search it out and realised they'd missed the boat. I know their publication date is 15 September so they'll be wanting it quickly. I needed to work up a slightly different angle, so that I can't be accused of plagiarising my own work. It meant doing a bit more research.

I'm not going to get it finished tonight so I decided to take a break and do my blog post. I did check the CC forum this morning and read a thread enquiring how people manage to churn out 10 or 15 articles a day. It beats me: I'm always battling against time, even since I retired from the day jobs.

In between some staccato bursts of researching and writing today, I've had to:

  • sort the laundry and get on a washload
  • call Autoglass to find out why they hadn't turned up at 11.30 this morning when I'd been expecting them at 10
  • deal with them when they finally did turn up at about 1.30
  • negotiate space with my neighbour so I could give the engineer space to open the doors on both sides
  • discuss my cat feeding duties with wife of said neighbour while they go away for a long weekend
  • head out for my weekly electrolysis session and get some bits for the fridge and our evening meal - fortunately hubby was around to drive me to the salon in his taxi, because my car still couldn't be moved. I had to walk home - just as well as it was my only exercise today
  • return a call from a friend who invited me to walk around Blagdon Lake with her on Monday. I had to explain that I can't take yet anther day off the writing just yet. I didn't mention that the weather forecast is horrendous for Monday anyway
  • decide to put off making several other phone calls I'll have to catch up with this weekend.

So it is now 10 pm and I haven't even completed a first draft of my article. And I simply must do some Entrecard dropping before I turn in.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Windscreens and Flying Stones

I'm forward posting again. And I still haven't finished the ironing and putting everything ready for packing at 6 am, so this ought to be short.

I'm not too enamoured of Autglass at the moment s I won't be adding their link. It's their fault I'm having to get a train to my daughter's tomorrow. Here's what happened.

Monday: after the latest flying stone chips my windscreen, I think it's time to sort out all my chips. I call Autoglass.

"The first appointment I can give you is on Friday morning at about 10. That ok?"

"Sure. I don't know if I will get away with a repair or need a new windscreen." Not that last quote from me. It's important.

After going through all the necessary questions. the girl at the end og the phone says, "As you don't have any shelter, our representative won't be able to do the work if it's raining."

Later a man calls and says they have double booked and will not be able to come before noon.

Wednesday: I have a brainwave and knock on my neighbour's door and ask for a favour.

"Of course you can use our car port if it's raining."

I call Autoglass. They note that shelter is now available if needed.

Friday: The phone rings at 11 am - the Autoglass man has been knocking on my back door which I can't hear because I am working in my office upstairs and not expecting him before 12. At least he had the sense to use the phone. We go to my car and inspect all the chips.

"Only these two need to be repaired.," he tells me. "The others are just surface chips and are not a problem. But this one is very near the edge so I'm not sure I can repair. But I'll try , and I'll start with that one. "

I tell him to open the door and call out when he needs me, and retire back upstairs.

Three minutes later, I'm called back down.

"Sorry, I'd only just started and, as I thought, it was too near the edge and it's started to crack."

"OK. I'm prepared to pay the excess for the new windscreen as I told you girl on the phone."


"The earliest we can do it is next Wednesday."

"I won't be here then. I'm going away and will be back latish on Thursday. I suppose I'd better go to London by train."

We arrange an appointment for Friday morning, one week ahead.

"You can still drive," he said. "It's safe enough."

At that point the crack was about an inch either side of the chip. The next morning the crack was half way across the windscreen. I gingerly did a 10 mile round trip to Shaftesbury. I haven't looked at it today, but I'm too chicken to try taking it up the M3.

Monday, 25 August 2008

The Polar Front Jet Stream

I’m using the blogspot facility to pre-post this to be published while I’m away again for a few days. If it works you’ll be able to see it on August Bank Holiday Monday while I’m heading to London by train.

Our local BBC TV news service is Points West. Their resident weather forecaster, Richard Angwin, is very popular. I won’t steal a picture of him but you can find him here.

He always does his best to make his forecasts interesting, giving tips on what we might be able to see passing in space on clear evenings, and so on. Last week he was trying to explain how the reason for all our recent bad weather is the behaviour of the polar front jet stream.

This is a band of wind that separates the mass of warm air to the south and the colder air to the north. It’s the wind that makes a flight time from America to Europe faster than going the other way, when the aircraft would have to make headway against it. The wind usually blows from west to east, the way the earth rotates. But sometimes it can move in a more southerly direction.

The jet stream also brings the weather fronts. And so the reason for all the rain we’ve had recently is that this jet stream is much further south than it usually is at this time of year, bringing us the rain-bearing depressions and storms we’ve had recently.

Unfortunately, after the floods in the dreadful weather here last year, it seems to be setting a trend. No doubt it’s one other thing we can lay at the door of global waming.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Menorcan Horses

I’ve been writing about Menorcan horses this week. They are so beautiful. It’s hard to do them justice. I went to a spectacular equestrian performance of dressage by some magnificent black stallions. We weren’t allowed to take photos during the show but were invited into the arena to do so afterwards. Of course, it was impossible to get a good shot amidst all the other people. Here’s one that’s not too bad.

The island has lots of fiestas and one of their traditions is the rearing horse. Spectators jostle to pat the horses to make them rear up and walk forward on their hind legs. This, of course also formed part of the show. The next photo shows a statue on a roundabout in the old capital of Ciutadella. It’s a pretty good likeness.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Do Writers Ever Switch Off?

I’ve just read an article about freelancers and holidays. It seems that most acknowledge they a) need their breaks and time to switch off, and b) fear the results of taking holidays away from their homes and computers, ie losing out on potential work because they are not there to answer the phone or collect emails.

Many people find ways to do this anyway, even when they are half way across the world. When I was away recently I resolutely walked past the internet café every day, but I admit it was tempting. I did turn on my mobile for a short period each day, to check for messages and texts, but that was really in case family wanted to get in touch.

What I did have with me, and use, was a notebook and some pens. The writer in me simply has to record what we’ve done and where we’ve been. And at some point I have to write out the ideas that I’ve been thinking up during the day.

Another item of writing equipment is my trusty camera. It’s a lightweight digi SLR, and I’m actually thinking I also need a little compact that’s even easier to carry everywhere. But that won’t get further than my wishlist for a while. Anyway I try to have one with me most of the time, and I’ve recently transferred nearly 200 holiday shots onto the computer.

So here’s yet another holiday shot from Minorca – the taula at the Torralba d’en Salord. The human figure shows the scale of the tablet, which we are told was used for worship. There are a number of prehistoric settlements on the island, and it is known as an open-air museum.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Life Just isn’t Fair

Today I managed just 250 words of an article draft. Apart from my fulfilling my blog schedule, those are the first words I’ve written since we got back from holiday a week ago.

Yet I haven’t been idle. It feels as though I’ll never catch up.

There were messages on the phone that needed attention. Sadly none of these informed me that someone wanted to buy my house.

When I collected my emails, there were over 2000 in my spam folder – I have to check them in case some missive from an editor has crept in there by mistake. There were also about 150 to be read in my inbox, and while some were just info about comments and so on, others needed replies or other action. Sadly none were about article sales.

Once I’d unpacked, there was a ton of washing, and since my son and girlfriend had been staying in the house while we were away, there was extra bed linen and towels to add to it. I’ve been doing one or two loads a day, and today I did the few items that just had to be handwashed. I’ve also been doing about an hour of ironing each day as well, but of course, I keep adding to the pile.

Since my batteries were recharged while I was on holiday, I decided I ought to start doing the jobs that I’ve been putting off thinking we’d be moving soon. Almost a whole day was taken up with defrosting and cleaning out the fridge-freezer.

I put two books up for sale on Grand Metropolis and one on Amazon. The latter sold immediately so I had to package that up and send it off. The next day another book sold at Green Met so there was another trip to the post office. That was after I’d taken my son out to lunch for his birthday.

I’ve finally got round to calling the windscreen repairers to arrange for them to deal with the chips on my windscreen. And I’ve downloaded the free bus pass applications; sorted out the proof of identity and residence documents needed and photocopied them; and found a passport size photo for mine. I just need to get hold of hubby’s driving licence and photo and that can be sent off.

And all the while I’m anxious about those three sets of year end accounts I should have done by now.

All hubby had to do when we got home was put the emptied suitcase up in the loft, go out to his normal work day after putting on his clean and freshly ironed clothes, and come home later to a home-cooked meal. I know this is the age old cry from a wife, but I have to say it – it just doesn’t seem fair, somehow.

Friday, 15 August 2008

The Dream Holiday

Five days on, (I've spent this one defrosting and scrubbing the fridge and the freezer) our holiday in Minorca seems like a dream that I've woken up from.

The photo is of the beach at Cala 'n Porter, which we left behind on Monday when we returned home after our two weeks. Our hotel was in the centre of the resort on top of the cliffs, and there were steps down, about 190 of them. Coming up by road was nearly as bad as it got quite steep. A third option was one of the those road trains, if you were there at the right time. On the last day we waited half an hour and then decided to take the steps, only to see the train arrive below us as we were about half way up. There were some strategically placed seats on the way so we were able to catch our breath.

It was a pity the rep didn't tell us about the cost of the beach umbrellas and sunbeds costing €17. After paying this once, most people bought some mats and an umbrella to tote down there each time. But the beach was great. The lifeguards had a really easy time as the sea was so safe. We waded out a long way to swim with the fish in the clear water. And we watched other people snorkeling, diving, kayaking, playing with bats or just balls, lounging on rafts, putting their shopping into rubber dinghys to ferry it out to their yachts, swooping down the water slides on top of pedalloes. It was all happening. Looking after the tourists was the life of the locals.

We did see some of the rest of the island of Minorca as well, so I may tell more later.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Delightful Spanish Softies

After the holiday, it’s time to write about it. I need to think about what aspects to select and what to say about them. I’ll probably need to do more research as well. That part I’ll really enjoy, because I always love putting my own experience into a broader context than I found at the time. Usually it makes me want to go back.

At the moment I feel that, if I do make another visit, it’ll have to be at a different time of year. Menorca was having a heat wave.

“It’s not usually as hot as this,” one of the holiday reps told us. For us this meant we couldn’t walk as much as usual and it certainly curtailed some of the sightseeing. The Menorcans are aware of this. When we visited the site of an enormous fort and were heading back from its furthest point, walking along a trail with no shelter from the glaring sun, a minibus approached and stopped beside us.

“Are you ok walking?” asked its slim and attractive female driver. If I hadn’t been standing next to him, I’m convinced my hubby would have hopped in beside her with no hesitation.

Another surprise was meeting an animal loving Spaniard who brought his dog to the terrace bar of our hotel at around 7 pm every day. One day he came alone and we hoped the dog was ok.

“Oh yes. I left him because it’s so hot and he’s been playing in our pool all afternoon.” Carlos spoke near perfect English. Originally from mainland Spain, he had moved to England as a young man and lived in Ealing for 30 years before his English wife persuaded him to come and live in Menorca.

His dog was a black and grey spaniel with no tail. It was very friendly and adored children. When a small person came near, instead of having a wagging tail, it had a Renault Clio backside, if you know what I mean.

“We had an alsation here as well but not for long. At 18 months, he developed a tumour on the brain. I had to hold him and stroke him while they put the injection in.” Carlos was clearly still very upset about that. “They are like family, aren’t they?

“This one I wanted to get a haircut. Would have cost €35, but my wife said no. He goes on the top and second step of the pool to get cool but he won’t go any further. Must have had a bad experience at some time.

“We got him from the rescue centre. That place is so busy and so big. We’re always finding abandoned dogs and cats. It’s not the Spanish. They don’t go away and leave them. It’s the English who just come for six months and then go back home.”

So much for our reputation as the softest nation in the world when it comes to animals.

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