Saturday 29 November 2008

Tenby for a Holiday

Why would hubby and I want to stay in a Tenby Self Catering Cottage next spring? Well, we both have birthdays quite close together, one near the end of March and the other at the beginning of April. It’s good to take a holiday around that time and go away somewhere, so we can both feel we’ve treated each other close to our special days.

Tenby is a place I’ve driven past a few times on the way to Pembroke for the ferries for Ireland, but I’ve never followed the signpost into the town. People say it is a popular and beautiful seaside resort. When an opportunity came up on PayPerPost, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and find out what the area has to offer.

If you are a regular here you will know that the sea is important to me, so I first looked at the beach areas. Tenby boasts four separate beaches – South Beach, Castle beach, Harbour Beach and North Beach. From Easter through to October, boat trips go from the harbour to Caldey Island which only about 2 miles away. Cistercian monks s till live here in their abbey above a village with a green and a Post Office which is also a museum.

We might be too early in the year for that, and for warm, lazy days on the beach or swimming in the sea, but we can always take a 351 bus from Tenby to Saundersfoot and walk the 4 and a half miles back on the coast path.

If we book our Tenby self catering cottage at Celtic Haven at Lydstep, just outside Tenby, we’ll have golf courses close by, plus wild cliffs and a rocky shoreline. Only a mile away is Manorbier, with its own beach and a magnificent example of a 12th century castle also open to the public from Easter onwards. Another castle, at nearby Carew, together with a tidal mill, will definitely be open when we can get there. And Pembroke Castle is under ten miles away.

At the weekend we might be joined by some younger members of our family and visit some of the other Tenby attractions. If they don’t fancy the town’s Museum and Art Gallery, we could try out the Great Wedlock Dinosaur Park or the Silent World Aquarium & Reptile House. We could even check out the quad bikes at Ritec Valley Buggies.

I’m getting more enthusiastic about staying in a Tenby self catering cottage by the minute. All I have to do is persuade hubby. I don’t think it will cost as much as visiting the Valley of the Kings in Egypt. But if we don't make it in March, I'll definitely find time for a Short Break Wales.

Friday 28 November 2008

Vivat Bacchus

One of the articles I have sold at the Constant Content site, was about a restaurant in the City of London that had a special £1000 menu that included some very pricey wine. It used to be a popular treat at Vivat Bacchus for many of those well-heeled, bonus-heavy City workers. Since the credit crunch was recognised, of course, it’s no longer available.

I heard about this on the Richard and Judy show one evening when they invited the Head Chef to come in and talk about it. The next day I looked them up and wrote my 400 words that eventually netted me $20 (less the site commission) for a one-off non-exclusive use. It’s still for sale there but, since it’s no longer up to date, I need to revise it as a restaurant review, which is on my to do list.

When I wrote that article, Vivat Bacchus was just in Farringdon. Now it’s also to be found near London Bridge as well. Ordinary mortals can eat very well at Vivat Bacchus for around £30 plus wine, snack on tapas or cheese in the wine bar, or try one of its special international platters.

The owners are South African but passionate about food and wine from around the world. They claim to have 18,000 bottles of wine in five cellars at the Farringdon address. Their menus include South African delicacies such as springbok. The restaurants also have whole rooms full of cheese where punters can look, sample and make their choices. You can buy them from the Deli to take home. Great for food hampers too – a super Christmas gift.

This post was inspired by CK’s new London Chow. Thanks CK. I promise I won’t steal any more of your thunder (or any more London eateries).

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Wordless Wednesday - the Beach in Winter

Deserted beach at Hunstanton
Patterns in the Sand

Friday 21 November 2008

Helium Again

I’m feeling a little tired this evening and I need to retire early. But first I must keep a promise and give some tips about Helium. Don’t forget though, that these tips are just what I’ve picked up in my few weeks of contributing there. If any more experienced Helium writers disagree, please leave a comment and give us the benefit of your greater wisdom.

1 Writing to a title. If you have already written articles or short stories and still own the copyright, you can submit them and earn a few extra cents or perhaps a little more. To get your stars, you need to make them fit a title that already exists with at least three articles already posted. Then you have a chance of being rated in the top 25%, which is needed to get a star and get paid an up-front amount. Alternatively, pick a title and check out some of the articles on it. If you think you could do an equally good job, or better, write a new article to submit. You can also submit a new title, but if there is no competition, it won’t qualify towards your star. It’s a good idea to do a bit of promotion of your articles to get people to click on them.

2 Entering the writing contests. Titles for these are issued every week, giving a deadline two weeks away. Points are awarded according to the ratings on each article you write; they can also be deducted for a poor rating. You need to write on several titles in the contest to have a chance of winning one of the three prizes; I reckon it probably needs about six. At the minimum word count of 400 per piece, that is 2,400 words. And if you win first prize having written six pieces you’ll receive $10 dollars per article. You can check your progress on the site page for the contest and see if you are in the running for a prize.

3 Writing for the Marketplace. Pay offered is not too bad here, but competition can be fierce. You have to write to a publisher’s spec and it’s very important to follow all instructions carefully. Just recently Helium has introduced a kill fee for all articles that are not selected and paid for by the publisher. The unsuccessful articles then revert to the site for public consumption.

4 Remember to rate. Helium sets great store by its policy of peer ratings. Everyone is expected to do this, and to get the most return, you need to get rating stars as well as writing ones.

There’s more to Helium than all the above, but that’s where I am right now. And it’s probably enough for anyone considering Helium to start out with.

As with any of the showcasing sites, don’t expect to earn lots of bucks from the word go. For serious freelancers, it can only be a sideline. For those with another income, it can be good fun.

By the way, I got my star back with my next article, Returning to College During Middle Age. It's currently rated number 12 out of 67.

Note to fellow entrecarders – I’m going to be away for a few days so my dropping will tail off. Back again next Wednesday.

Wednesday 19 November 2008


I’m feeling a little frustrated with Helium. They’ve recently introduced some great incentives:

- additional daily revenue share
- up-front payments for articles submitted each month, and
- kill fees for articles not selected by publishers in their marketplace, and therefore automatically transferred to the site.

All you have to do to qualify, they say in their announcement about this, is maintain at least a one star rating, which is supposed to be easy. Elsewhere they say you have to have it on the last day of the month when they’ll work out who gets what. Five star holders will also get a $3 dollar monthly bonus.

To get your stars, your ratings have to average in the top quarter of the ratings. If you introduce a new title and noone follows suit, there will be nothing to rate it against, so it won’t count. The number of stars relates to the total number of articles you have submitted. I’m still a newbie, and I got my one star right away, then I lost it, then I got it back, now it’s disappeared again because my rating score is 74%.

Some of the ratings do seem a bit unfair. My article about home energy audits went up to number 2 of 6 and then back down to 6. In the meantime I received a message from another member who was kind enough to take the trouble to tell me that she found that particular piece very well written and helpful.

A writer pal told me that he doesn’t like Helium because people will vote for their friends so it’s not fair. That can only be true part of the time because articles for rating are all anonymous and are issued randomly. I guess you just might recognise something you’ve seen before, but the chance of this seems quite remote.

The same person said he thought it was slanted to the US. That could be something that contributed to my down-rating because I wrote about the home energy audit in relation to the UK law on the new Energy Performance Certificate.

Ah well, I’ll just have to try to submit some more articles and hope they get rated high before the end o November. If lots of writers do that each month, the Helium stock is going to grow and grow. More pages to attract the advertisers I suppose.

Monday 17 November 2008

Pros and Cons of the Blogging World

I’ve come across bloggers who feel guilty if they don’t post something every day. All I can say is thank goodness you don’t. It takes me enough time to check out the hundred or so blogs I look at each day in order to drop my Entrecard, without having to read every single one. I don’t know how people manage 300 drops on even one blog, let alone several, as I understand some people do.

The times I feel guilty are when I don’t manage to read all the new posts and make at least a few comments. Even leaving comments takes more time than just writing them, because after that all the new comments on that post keep arriving in my inbox. They have to be read before they are deleted. I really didn’t know what I’d be getting myself into when I started this blog.

But isn’t the blogosphere just great. How else would I get to know other freelancers from around the world as easily as this? How else would I be able to join a raft of people praying for Henry, the missing parrot, and waiting anxiously for news of his return home? How else would I meet the talking cats, dogs and horses who regularly fill my screen? How else would I meet all these wonderful people from Greece, the States, Ireland, The Phillipines, Holland, etc. all in the same day?

I love it really.

Friday 14 November 2008

Tagged - Who Me?

I’ve long been reading blog tags and thinking the bloggers are lucky because they don’t have to make a decision on what to blog about that day. Now it’s happened to me and, I have to say, it doesn’t seem to make the decision process that much easier. I still have to decide what to disclose about myself so that my readers get to know me a bit better.

First I should thank jenaisle for thinking of me as a recipient of her tag. Jena is a great blogging friend who comments regularly and is always doing things I am grateful for. Jena – I really do appreciate you.

Now I must copy Jena and offer five aspects of myself that you are unlikely to know already.

1 When I set up this blog, I had the idea of it being a vehicle to earn more money online. The first thing I didn’t anticipate was how difficult that would be. The second was how much I’d enjoy the blogging anyway. And the third was how many people I was going to get to know and love in the blogosphere. Even though it’s not very lucrative for me, the blogging world is wonderful.

2 I already had another blog at Writelink. There I have a special network of virtual friends who are all writers. But the site des not allow widgets etc. so I needed another blog.

3 My blogging schedule is sacrosanct when I am at home. I post in blogger on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and in Writelink on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If I am going to be away for a few days, I always pre-post when I can fit it in.

4 I found that, rather than detract from the number of articles I can write, blogging has set my writing habit much more firmly. Although I can’t keep up with people who make a living by writing lots of articles a day, I can sometimes manage three or four different pieces of writing a day.

5 Because I also write for Constant Content and Helium, I use both UK and US English. It’s no longer the big deal it was when I first joined the CC site.

Those were five things I suspect you didn’t know about me before today. I think I give away lots of info in my blog posts, like: I am a wife, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, and I like horses, dogs and cats, and travelling around to visit friends and family, so I didn’t include all that in the five.

Now I have to pass on this tag to bloggers whose blogs I admire and about whom I would like to know more. What is tricky about that is a) knowing who will want to take part, and b) who hasn’t done it before. So forgive me, and feel free to ignore me, if I select you and one of the above applies. And if anyone is doing NaNo WriMo, you are perfectly entitled to leave this until December.

Henson’s Hell
Sharp Words
Crete Delights
Writing to Survive
The Writing Nag
The Beauty Denominator
Trapped in the Office
Coastal Commentaries
Symphony of Love
Confessions of Fitness Diva

Monday 10 November 2008

Uniting for Refugees

Today is the day when bloggers unite to raise awareness of the horrendous problems of refugees.

Recently I posted about refugees from the Congo. Sadly these multitudes are just the tip of the iceberg. The world is full of displaced people, who are either running away, or have been chased away, by other people or by an environment crisis, from their homes and most of their dear possessions. I can’t begin to imagine how this must feel, but my heart goes out to them.

The United Nations has a Refugee Agency. Just take a look at their website for a glimpse of the extent of the problem. This year they ran a pilot project prior to setting up an annual Global Needs Assessment planned to launch next year. Its aim is “to outline the total needs, the costs of meeting them and the consequences of any gaps.” Their pilot covered the needs of the refugees in Cameroon, Ecuador, Georgia, Rwanda, Thailand, Tanzania, Yemen and Zambia. They found that, despite previous UN intervention, around 30% of the basic needs of these people remained unmet. They might have no shelter, sanitation, healthcare, education. They might rarely know where their next meal was coming form, or when they would be able to eat. They might still be in fear for their physical safety. They have estimated that they need a budget of $63.5 million dollars to ensure these needs are met in 2009. And that’s just in those eight countries.

On a different level altogether, is Refugees United , a not-for-profit organisation set up to help reunite refugee family members. Refugee families are lucky if they manage to stay together. Even tiny children can get separated from their parents. As a parent and grandparent myself, I just feel panic set in when I think of my five year old granddaughter being separated from her mother and the rest of us.

It seems that all I can do is support charities. Other than that, I feel pretty helpless in the face of all this suffering. I can only dream of a time when we can all live together harmoniously, and noone will ever have to flee their home or lose their children or family members to displacement.

Friday 7 November 2008

Sod's Law

I spent all of this morning cleaning and tidying because someone made an appointment to view my house in the early afternoon. I planned to be here when the agent arrived and then go out, because this agent prefers the vendors not to be present at viewings. I’d arranged to visit a friend, after which I’d get in the food shopping.

That meant I had to take most of the day off. No article writing today. But I can catch up tomorrow, Saturday, when I won’t need to clean my house.

Of course, it didn’t work out like that. One hour before they were due to arrive a phone call let me know it wasn’t going to happen. My potential buyer is having problems with his own buyers and has stopped looking for now. Perhaps he’ll come later.

I called my friend and asked if I could see her later. That was ok with her. She, poor girl, was stuck at home with a bad back. So I headed off to the shops to get that over and done with first.

With my car-boot loaded with shopping, I set off for her house. When my phone rang I pulled over to listen to messages. She had managed to get a chiropractor’s cancelled appointment. She couldn’t wait for me.

If I hadn’t done the shopping first, I would have seen her. If I’d had to wait at home for the estate agent, I wouldn’t have done the shopping first.

Is life trying to tell me something?

Monday 3 November 2008

Writing as Catharsis

We often hear that people believe writing is cathartic. Therapists often advise their clients to write letters to people they have issues with – letters that will never be read by the addressee. Just the writing of it is expected to release the disabling emotions and produce closure.

To some extent this worked for me. When I wrote about my parents, after they had left this world, although I still have some uncertainties and regrets, the one feeling I’m glad I was left with is pride. Here’s a piece about my mother and her memories. They are a slice of English social history as well.

After my parents died, I realised that I didn’t really know them well as I should. My father kept his feelings well hidden and rarely talked about his early life. Only after he died did I discover that he’d had another fiancĂ©e before he met my mother.

Mother was different and reminisced a lot. She outlived all of her siblings and was the last of her generation. I remember five of my uncles and aunts: Sid, Sam and Charlie; Elsie and Florrie.

I never met my Uncle Mark and Aunt Doris. Mark died as a young man after an illness. In the year that Doris was chosen to be May Princess at the Ram Roasting Fair, the day was scorching and the sun beat down on her flower garlanded head and flimsy princess dress. After hours of waving royally as her carriage processed, poor Doris succumbed to sunstroke and didn’t recover.

Mother was born in 1918 so must have been conceived after her father had been invalided back from the Great War. He’d been gassed in the trenches and was unable to work after that to provide for his large family. He died when she was still quite young.

My grandmother, Jane, had to find a way to feed and clothe her children even before she was a widow. She was the unofficial village midwife and would attend all the births. When this happened, mother would have to stay at home to do the washing, all by hand of course, and prepare tea for her brothers and sisters. Sometimes, she said, she didn’t have any food except potatoes she could dig out of the garden.

The school often sent an inspector around to the homes of absent children. He had a wooden leg so you could hear him coming. Word would be passed along Ley Lane where they lived.

“Quick. Peg-leg’s coming.”

Like all the other children, mother would jump into bed and cover herself with the blanket so she could say she was ill.

All her life she felt she was ignorant and she was diffident about taking part in discussions and giving her own point of view. But she made up for her lack of education in hundreds of little ways, and was loved and respected by our neighbours who often came to her for help.

Her first job was at Newton Abbot’s leather factory. She hated it and often told of having red, raw hands after a day of pushing the skins around in the chemicals they were treated with. When her friend Gladys suggested they both apply for live-in work at the local hospital, she persuaded her mother to let her take the post of matron’s maid, while Gladys worked as a cook in the hospital kitchens.

They worked hard and enjoyed their nights out. If they arrived back late, and the hospital doors were locked against them, they would climb in through the window of the men’s ward. Many of the men in the ward would help them out by coughing a warning if the ward sister was around and likely to catch them. Mother and Gladys continued to work and play together until Gladys married.

When my mother moved to work in a nursing home in Torquay, she met Harold, my father. She was walking on the sea front with a girl friend. Harold was with a young man who knew this girl, and they stopped for a chat.

When he mentioned where he was playing football that Saturday, mother told him he’d be playing against two of her brothers, and that was how they became interested in each other. I believe she actually went to the match.

Mother was only nineteen when they married so father had to get permission from my grandmother. He was eight years older so I guess she believed him when he said that he would take care of her.

Mother had left the family home when she was sixteen but often went back to visit. I well remember Sunday treks to the family home. On summer evenings we would go “down ’Ackney” to a pub on the Hackney Marshes at the edge of the River Teign. Here we would congregate in an outside shelter, often with many of the extended family who also turned up.

While the men drank their pints of beer or scrumpy, the ladies would sip their half pints and Great Aunt Maud would eat her favourite pig’s trotters. And we children would be allowed to play hide and seek or spy the wildlife from the footpaths of the river bank.

Another great family day out was to the horse racing, but we couldn’t afford the entrance fees. Some of my uncles were employed at the brickworks that used to be beside the race course at Newton Abbot. When there were race meetings at the weekend, one of them would meet us at the works entrance and escort us through the yards to a bank right next to the race course. That would be our base for the day and we’d spread out our picnics and await the fun. When the race came past us, we had a close up view of the sweat frothing horses and their determined jockeys.

Sometimes one or two of the men would climb over the fence, when they thought they wouldn’t get caught, and walk quickly towards the crowds and the bookies so that they could place their bets. We’d not be likely to see them again that day. Occasionally a policeman or two would walk past and look at us sternly, saying,

“Mind you stay on that side of the fence, you lot. You don’t come in unless you pay.” Little did they know. Or perhaps they just didn’t want us to know that they knew.

Anyway, they were great times, now long gone. Towards the end of her life, mother often referred to them. As with so many of the elderly in their latter days, the older memories were easier to recall.

I feel proud to be a member of an extended family that loved to come together and looked after its own. I feel doubly proud to be the offspring of a woman who began life with few advantages, managed to make her own way but retained her family links, and made it her life’s work to be a good neighbour and care for the people around her.

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