Wednesday 30 April 2008

Moody Poem

This will be my last post this week. I'm frantically trying to get everything done before I head off to London tomorrow to look after my granddaughter while her mother is away on a jolly. The weather's not too good but my mood is still better than it was last year. Here's a poem I wrote then to reflect my mood. Thanks to franscud for encouraging me to post it.


We drive through the wood

where the trees stand naked.

Stark leafless branches

twist and snake towards the grey

sunless sky.

We drive past the fields

bare of crops and sludgey.

Rain falling dankly.

Thin hedge revealing brown

sullen earth.

Flashes light the puddles

dull green and greasy.

Matching our hopeless mood

this winter.

Monday 28 April 2008

The Writing Habit

I’m a little off colour today. I swam at a new pool yesterday and hubby said he thought I might have swallowed some of the water, which upset my tum.

I did manage to get my car to the garage for its MOT. Passed thank goodness, so that’s that for another year.

Then I spent most of the day doing research for an article on Liverpool as the European City of Culture. I’ve also started drafting, but it’s slow work when I’m feeling like this.

To be honest, since I started my gallivanting around the country at the beginning of the month, I’ve taken so much time off writing, it’s hard to get back into the habit of turning out articles every day. And now that we’ve had some better weather, it’s been really easy to excuse myself because of spring cleaning jobs and gardening that needs to be done.

This has cut my submissions to Constant Content by more than half this month, although it doesn’t seem to have affected my sales, and I’ll still be getting paid. That’s one of the joys of the site. It may be disappointing when your work doesn’t get selected by the customer it was aimed at, but if you apply a little patience, someone else will be along to snap it up later.

That reminds me, I was going to review what I still have for sale and the prices I originally set, which might have been related to someone’s related budget and could be revised for a more general market.

I’d better hop off to CC.

Friday 25 April 2008

Filing and Clutter

I’ve just been reading a book review of Ten Minute Clutter Control in The Writer’s Roundabout blog. At the end, Rebecca, the blogger, wonders what other tips are out there. It got me thinking about how I cope.

I work at home in a small office which would otherwise be a bedroom. It’s right next to our master bedroom. When I move from project to project and task to task, I don’t often have time for filing in between. The piles of paper on my desk and other surfaces grow higher and higher.

Eventually, they have to get sorted. One by one I pick them up and take them next door. I use our bed as a sorting table and the miscellaneous piles become organised piles. This doesn’t usually take too long. It’s the next bit that can be time consuming.

I deal with the organised piles as and when I can. After a couple of hours of research or writing, I need a break from that. I go and get a fruit tea or a coffee and bring it upstairs. While I’m slurping I’ll be considering the pages in one of the piles, deciding what to do with them and then doing it.

It might be putting things in date order, stapling or sliding them into plastic folders and slipping them into a slot in my filing cabinet. Some of them will go into the recycling pile, but I’m obsessive about tearing off all personal information first. That will go into the shredding pile.

And there’s inevitably an enormous pile of THINGS TO DO. Getting that one lower gives me the greatest satisfaction.

The great thing about using the bed is that it all has to be finished before we can get any sleep – and that’s really motivating. So that’s my tip for today.

Wednesday 23 April 2008

Blogsvertise etc.

I registered with blogsvertise on March 3rd. They accepted my blog on a probationary status and said that I would get tasks but would not be paid as much as a blog with full status. So far, no tasks. At first, I checked several times a day, then once a day. Now it’s when I remember, two or three times a week. That’s supposed to be ok, so I don’t think I’ve missed anything.

It’s frustrating because that was my reason for setting up this blog anyway, although I’m the first to admit I was very na├»ve about it and have been on quite a steep learning curve.

However, I just love the freedom it gives me to write and express myself about whatever I like. Could that be the problem?

Incidentally, so far, I have found that the best way to get traffic to my site was to join entrecard.

I’ve just revisited the blogsvertise help pages and see I need to get cached with Google. Actually I don’t know what that means, but I assume it means you can find me there. I can find me – in a couple of former occupations, and in blogcatalog and listed there under writing holiday results, which links to one of my posts (not very appropriately, I have to say).

Somehow I don’t think that means my blog is cached at Google.

Can anyone help?

Monday 21 April 2008

Journeying by Rail

Travelling to South Devon by train is a familiar journey for me. I always get excited on leaving Exeter, anticipating the vista of little boats bobbing on the wide River Exe. Or, if the tide is out, there will be flocks of birds feeding in the mud and I’ll have a great time trying to recognise all the different species. The excitement mounts as we pass the ferry to Exmouth at Starcross and I finally glimpse the sea beyond the golf course and the dunes at Dawlish Warren.

Last Thursday was even more exciting than usual. The sea was wild with white topped waves and as my train approached Dawlish station, the view was suddenly obscured by all the spray that flew up over the carriages. After the five tunnels through the red sandstone rock, engineered by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, comes another sea wall stretch to Teignmouth. Again we were subjected to a wash from the sea and the carriage rang to the shrieks of children and general laughter.I know this gives Railtrack quite a few headaches, but for us travellers it was a happy and memorable journey.

The same could not be said for my return trip. I’d been visiting friends in Teignmouth and was to pick up the through train there at 3.39 pm on Saturday. But when we arrived at the station, in cold and miserable rain, the train was not listed on the boards. We waited awhile until I finally reconciled myself to the fact that it wasn’t coming.

Half a freezing hour later, I boarded the next train for Exeter, where I’d have a 90 minute wait but could get some warmth and sustenance. On the way, as we passed Powderham Castle estate, I managed to be thankful at least that I wasn’t taking part in the equestrian cross country event that was fenced off from the deer herd.

At 5.50, when I should have been arriving at my home station, I was still sitting in the Exeter St Davids buffet, and I limped into my house at 8 pm, still feeling chilled to the bone.

I just have to note these experiences because I never know when they might provide some writing inspiration.

Sunday 20 April 2008

A Walk in Torquay

Today I’m making up for not posting on my regular day, Friday. On that day, I was trekking around the coast at Torquay. My friend and I have a regular pilgrimage to this area where we first met as school children.

We had an early lunch at Molloys in St Marychurch – a warming steak pudding for an incredibly reasonable £3.95 each. Afterwards we visited some of our favourite parks before arriving on Babbacombe Downs where we were enticed by the rolling breakers below. The weather was wild, most unusual for that part of the world, and the white tops of the waves blended into a strange muddy colour I don’t remember seeing before.

The familiar stepped path we took beside, and under, the cliff railway was littered with broken branches. Down at Oddicombe Beach we stood gazing at the powerful sea breaking on the shore close by. Looking up at the red cliffs I saw where they had broken off and tumbled down, breaking up the steps to the promenade below and hiding the footpaths I used to walk in my youth.

A sudden squall of rain sent us rushing to the pay kiosk for a ride to the top in the dry of the railway box that would be heaved up on its metal ropes, passing the downward box on the way. We weren’t alone. Other strollers were ill equipped for the weather. I hid a chuckle when a woman said, “Notice how the guard closed the doors on us but didn’t step inside. Wonder if he knows something we don’t.” That cliff railway had been operating with no accidents since before I was born.

By the time we reached the top, the rain had almost stopped, so we set off through the manicured gardens that were Babbacombe Downs, where I had some of my first wedding’s photos taken many years ago. With the weather so uncertain, we gave gave the wild Walls Hill Downs a miss and followed the road to the Palace Hotel, where recuperating RAF officers were killed in bombing raids in the last war.

Here we turned off again to the coast and walked down to the cliffs above Ansteys Cove. This was where another school friend of mine got her enviable tan every summer because her father had a business on the beach there – deck chairs, pedalloes, ice creams and such like.

It is also where a notorious part of the coast path called Bishops Walk begins. Because it is sheltered by trees and cliffside vegetation, we followed it high above the shore and past the sheltered seats where a girl was found murdered when I was in my early teens. Nowadays, I seem to hear about murders almost every day, but when that happened it was really unusual and it rocked our seaside town community to the core.

Remembering that story made the place seem really creepy and we hurried on till we recognised the sheltered piece of coast with the small rocky peninsula called Hope’s Nose jutting out ahead of us, and the island of Thatcher Rock looming behind it. The fishing has always been good off Hope’s Nose, but people used to say it was attractive to the fish because it was where our sewerage was emptied into the ocean. I’m not sure what the current arrangements are.

The sea around Thatcher Rock was where the diving school took its students for their training dives. It is always covered in sea gulls.

When we emerged onto Marine Drive, we turned in the opposite direction to reach Lincombe Drive below Kents Cavern, home of the earliest inhabitants of this part of the world. We wandered through the moneyed area of individually designed detached homes, each set in its own beautiful acres, until we could turn into the meadows that stretched right down to Meadfoot and more beaches.I was reminded of the day after my mother’s funeral when a great mess of our family gathered outside someone’s beach hut, basking in the early summer sunshine and speaking in hushed tones of how much she would have enjoyed it.

But on this day the seas were still pounding in and at one point we had to cross to the far side of the road to avoid a drenching from the spray flying over the sea wall. Then it was all road-walking over the hill and down to the harbour and a welcome cup of tea.

We had been lucky with the weather for our walk after all. We were more in danger of getting wet from the sea than the rain, and thoroughly enjoyed our bracing exercise.

Thursday 17 April 2008

Chinese Wisdom

Until yesterday, I wasn’t aware that the Chinese zodiac was a 60 year cycle. I was researching Chinese astrology when I discovered this. I’d already known about the 12 animal signs for consecutive years and I thought that 12 years was the complete cycle. Now I know better.

Because you have to add the five elements of metal, water, wood, fire and earth to the mix, it takes 60 years for the same element to be attached to one of the years of a particular animal. We are now in the year of the Earth Rat and the next time this will occur it will be 2068.

People born in these years will have the characteristics of the Rat – be witty, imaginative, curious, observant, energetic, talkative, charming, sometimes aggressive. However the earth element means they will be even more ambitious and want positions of importance. In their private lives they’ll demand unconditional love from their partners.

Chinese astrology does not predict the future. It really advises us of what to expect from ourselves and others, so that we can guard against traits that might be harmful and be more understanding in our dealings with others.

And perhaps it could be helpful when dreaming up characters for my stories.

Monday 14 April 2008


Ok. So I wasn't here last week. My last blog was on Friday 4th April. And I'm supposed to be here on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That's one of the rules I've written into my schedule.

But I forgot to give myself any leave. So when I planned some holiday breaks, I just had to go AWOL.

For anyone who doesn't know, that means absent without leave. I probably wouldn't have known that myself if I hadn't spent four years in the WRAF (before they dropped the W) in the dim and distant past.

Funny how you can go months and months with no break from the tedium of working at home, and suddenly everyone seems to have a very good reason to want you to be somewhere else, week after week.

Last Monday it was a special birthday party in Eastbourne. This entailed breaking the journey (with a detour to south London) to overnight at my daughter's on Sunday, and then doing another overnight in an Eastbourne B&B, before visiting the birthday pal's new house (some people do manage to sell their houses and move) on Tuesday and then making the long trek home.

So, while I was in my office at home on Wednesday, I couldn't find time for my blog with all the catching up and then preparing for family descending on me on Thursday - before we took off on Friday for a long planned 4 nights in a caravan at Woolacombe. We three generations of females, grandma (me), mum and daughter(4) with friend(7) in tow, had a wow of a time. Every time we phoned our respective homes, they were drowning in rain while we were basking in sunshine. Hope it doesn't mean we've had our luck for the year.

Anyway I'm just back from there. And have be in Torquay by Friday to see my sister and some friends over a couple of days. After only two weeks free before I'm booked to babysit the 4 year old while daughter swans off to Madrid for a hen party.

And would you believe it, as I write, I get an email asking if I can do a weekend in Bovey Tracey at the end of May, and then take a call from my husband's nephew to invite us to his engagement party on 17th May - in Leicester?

Hopefully I won't be AWOL from here too often, but if you do miss me, at least you know why.

Friday 4 April 2008

Feeling the Fear

Do you ever read self help books? I haven’t for quite a while, but at certain times in my life I have found a few of them helpful. Usually I’ve collected them because someone else has recommended them, or I’ve read a good review.

At the moment my house is overflowing with books. It takes me a very long time to decide I can do without any book, and they pile up and up. Since I’m trying to sell the house and have a fresh start somewhere else, I have finally convinced myself that quite a lot of them have to go. So I’ve sorted out the ones that I’m allowing myself to keep and the rest are gradually being put up for sale on Amazon, ebay or Green Metropolis. Those that don’t sell before I move will go to the local charity shops.

One of those I have to keep is Susan Jeffers’ Feel The Fear And Do It Anyway. There’s a lot of good stuff in there that I like to be reminded of, so I dip in from time to time. She thinks it’s fear that often holds us back and can even stop us on the brink of success.

And she puts into words some sublime truths, such as – the fear will never go away. It’s so true – each time I submit a manuscript, I am afraid that I haven’t done enough market research and it won’t be right for my target market. Often that fear delays me for days, sometimes weeks, sometimes my work never sees the light of day.

That’s because I don’t take the advice of the next truth – the only way to get rid of the fear of something is to go out and do it. Remembering this does help me bite the bullet and send pieces out. After all, the worst that can happen is it’ll get rejected. And there’s only so much that market research can tell me. It certainly won’t let me know that the editor has already accepted something similar and is planning to use it next month.

It’s the same with query letters. I’m afraid I’ll be thought of as an upstart, not a writer really. But actually, I don’t suppose that crosses the editor’s mind. S/he will look at the idea and toss it onto a pile – yes, no, think about it. Maybe I’ll get a reply; maybe not; if I do, it could be a straight yes or no; it could be a yes but…; or it could be a ‘no but what other ideas do you have?’. I have to remember that I’ll never succeed if I don’t try to overcome my fears, and just do it.

As for picking up the phone – well, I don’t think I have enough time to go into all that today.

Wednesday 2 April 2008

House projects, IT projects, and Zimbabwe

I’m late getting to this blog post today. There’s so much going on here that I haven’t written anything, which is one admission I hate to make.

One of my projects has been rearranging my lounge, washing walls and general spring cleaning, and removing loads of books that were cluttering it up. Unfortunately, many of them are now cluttering up the spare bedroom. They’ll have to stay there for a while but that’s my next sorting job. I’m gradually putting those I can bear to part with for sale on various websites. Had to say goodbye to one yesterday as I sent it off to a buyer who I hope will love it like I did.

Anyway, the house should look a bit better when the next potential home buyers arrive to view on Friday. Fingers crossed they might even want to make an offer. Apparently they do have an offer on the house they are trying to sell but they have to wait for their chain to fall into place. I don’t care though, just receiving an offer is the next step through this obstacle course.

I have friends on the move as well. They had been waiting months to exchange contracts and received a call out of the blue from their solicitor saying it had just happened. At the time they were driving to visit the area they were moving to, so were immediately able to go for a second viewing on a new build with no chain, make an offer subject to survey, and arrange to move in quickly. It’s happening this week, just three weeks from the exchange date.

Another time waster for me has been the emails flying between myself and the support team at Avanquest, who are trying to help me install the latest version of SystemSuite, which I paid for and downloaded. No luck as yet. Normally I swear by SystemSuite, which I’ve been using for several years, but my patience is wearing thin over this issue. It’s just so time consuming when the technical things don’t work properly.

I’m also watching the news from Zimbabwe with bated breath. When Mugabe was first voted in, I was at college with a Zimbabwean friend. She and other students from her country were firm supporters and I helped them celebrate after the election. After we graduated with our Media Studies degrees, she went home and was soon presenting her own TV show in Harare.

She wrote me a few times and once came back to visit the UK and turned up unannounced at my flat. Eventually though, I got no replies to my letters and gave up writing to her. I have often wondered what became of her as things began to go so badly wrong, but I haven’t been able to find any references to her anywhere.

News of the current election seems to be wavering back and forth between hope for change and despair. Personally, I’m praying for change that will bring some respite to the people suffering so much over there.

In the meantime, life goes on, and I hope I’ll be able to achieve at least one more article for Constant Content tomorrow.

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