Monday 29 June 2009

Salzberg Lament

This gorgeous picture of Salzberg is by MatthiasKabel at Wikimedia Commons.

I sometimes try to find out what’s happened to articles I post at Constant Content. If they’ve sold for usage rights only, I need to make sure the buyers have played by the rules. They should have included my byline and not have changed anything, and they should only have used the piece once.

Sometimes, I also check out those that went for full rights, where I relinquish all rights to the article and the buyer can do as he pleases with it. It’s good when I find my byline has been used in those circumstances, usually it’s not, and sometimes another author passes my work off as his own. As long as she has paid the price, that’s not illegal.

But just occasionally I do feel a pang when I find that all my hard work has been attributed to someone else. That happened this morning when I googled the first paragraph of my article about Salzberg. It has been syndicated to and from several article sites, mostly with the byline of another author. Since he paid a fair price for it, I won’t link to a page with his name on it, but this one doesn’t. It’s also a travel guide site, so I’m sure they’ll be happy about the link.

PS Oops. Just clicked on my link and found they've added the author's name so I've decided to remove it. Sorry.

Saturday 27 June 2009


I was advised to join BlogCatalog when I first started this blog. So I did, quite early on, though I was never quite sure what benefits I was getting from it. I didn't really use it and rarely visited it.

A few weeks ago, I got notification that someone had added me as a friend, then another, and another. At first I just checked the blogs of the friend and added them to my own friends if they seemed appropriate. One day I noticed that someone had left a message thanking for an add. That seemed a courteous thing to do, so I copied and tried to think of something I liked about the blog that I could mention.

Then I started to get messages back, and a few virtual conversations started. The friend adds really snowballed. I realised that I was getting a lot more traffic than my entrecard stats were telling me.

I'm sure you can work out that there's a lesson here for any BlogCatalog users who are as naive as I was.

Ninny that I am, I still haven't worked out how to get full stats for my blog. If you are able to point me in the right direction, please do.

Wednesday 24 June 2009

My Gardens

The gardens at my new house are going to be very different from the ones I have here. The one similarity is at the back where you step out onto a patio. But while here we then go up a couple of steps, there we'll be going down.

This is part of what I'll be leaving behind at the back.

And at the front.

But these can go with me...

because they are in a pot.

Monday 22 June 2009

My New Bathrooms

This morning I delivered two signed contracts to my solicitor, one to sell my house and the other to buy one. We are the ones who have been holding things up because when I received the contracts last week was the first time I’d seen the covenants that were set up for the estate when the next house was built. One of those nearly gave me a heart attack when I thought we can’t accept that, and therefore can’t buy this house, and we’ll have to start over and pay for everything again. However, it’s all been sorted out and we hope to get to contract exchange this week.

Now I can start thinking about the new house and how different it is to the current one. One big difference is that it has two bathrooms. Well, there’s a bathroom upstairs, and a shower room downstairs. We never did get to finish off our bathroom properly here. After the double glazing, the new kitchen, the garden landscaping and the central heating, all done over the years, I couldn’t get to a point where I could afford it.

So having two finished bathrooms when we move will be great. Of course I may want to change the bathroom accessories once we get there. And according to the surveyor, we need to do something about ventilation in the shower room.

No doubt there’ll be other stuff I want to do too. I can’t wait to get at it. Shouldn’t be too long now.

A Memorable Saturday Night

Writing this on Sunday, I am still gobbsmacked at what happened to us last night. The plan was to meet up with friends at our local pub and then take a short train ride to a nearby town and try out some of their hostelries, picking up a meal on the way.

Hubby went on ahead and I followed at the allotted time, to find them all there, plus Bramble, the springer spaniel. Also in the pub was the former landlord, another friend we hadn’t seen for a few years.

I ordered a small shandy; I thought it might be rather a heavy drinking night so I should start light. As time went on, hubby asked our friend if he was taking his dog home before we went on.

“Oh yes, there’s plenty of time,” was the reply.

When hubby went outside for a smoke, my lady friend asked me if I knew anything about plants.

“Can you help me identify some here?” So we moved outside too. Strangely she had forgotten that the plants were above our heads in hanging baskets.

Then the barmaid came out and said she was closing the door because she was feeling cold. But it was quite a balmy evening.

Our friend came out a bit later and said he was buying another round. By that time I was resigned to having to wait an hour for the next train, but we followed him in to a crowd of people all laughing their heads off at something. Two large banners were slung up on the walls with our names on. On the bar were large silver dishes of hot and cold nibbles. Then out came a card with lots of signatures on it, a wrapped present for hubby (an engraved pewter beer mug, of course) and a big bouquet of flowers for me. It was a surprise farewell party before our house move.

And it was completely unexpected. We hadn’t realised, even with all the clues I’ve spelt out above. No train ride for us that night. We had a lovely time with more friends than we knew we had. A few hours later we rolled home with all our booty and some very warm feelings.

Friday 19 June 2009

Breaking Into the Big Time

I first tried my hand at freelance writing twenty or so years ago, when it was everyone’s ambition to be published in The Lady. My efforts to impress this illustrious weekly were rejected many times, but I finally cracked it in 1994 with this piece, accompanied by some black and white pics. I’m posting it because I think it’s a particularly good demonstration of how you can be successful in placing something if you aim at the publication’s target readers obvious from their adverts.

Be a nanny and go travelling

When my daughter, Julie, answered an advertisement in The Lady, and was offered her first overseas position as a nanny in Canada, I had very mixed feelings. I was, naturally, overjoyed that she had the opportunity, sad that she was going so far away, and anxious in case things went wrong while she was cut off from the support of her family.

The first few weeks were rather worrying, with tearful phone calls from a very homesick young girl. But she was enjoying her job looking after toddler Mark and Christopher, a young baby, while their parents, Bruce and Kelly, were at work. Julie soon discovered there were lots of other nannies in the area – indeed Unionville, the suburb of Toronto which was the family’s home, was nicknamed ‘Nannyville’.

It was not long before Julie became part of this circle of nannies, who used to visit each other’s homes with their charges and plan activities together. Julie was a great success and my fears for her were unfounded. The two years of NNEB training had paid off. The English qualification of the Nursery Nursing Education Board is highly regarded and opens up many worthwhile opportunities.

When Julie was in Canada I found there was something in it for me too! It is the norm for nannies’ mothers to come and visit, staying in the family home. When Julie broached the subject with Bruce and Kelly, they said, of course – it was only what they expected. The result for me was a wonderful holiday in Toronto, new friendships with the Canadian family and with the parents of another English nanny, as well as precious time with my daughter.

Like most of the families in Unionville, Bruce and Kelly had a nanny flat in the basement. Julie’s private area, which I shared while I was there, comprised a large bedroom with a television and video, plus her own bathroom with shower and toilet.

When I arrived it was mid-September and the family had taken a holiday to coincide with my first few days, giving Julie and me some time to ourselves. They had generously left us the car which Kelly normally shared with Julie, so we were able to go sightseeing and drive north of the city to experience the wonderful scenery and colours of the autumn.

On one of the most memorable mornings of my stay, another English nanny, also called Julie, joined us for a Western trail ride around a country estate. Our fascinating Indian guide showed us how to ride with long stirrups and only one hand on the reins. At the top of a steep hill, with a magnificent view over Lake Ontario, we stopped for a breather and he showed us some small red berries. If you don’t have any water, he explained, they will quench your thirst. When we tried them, they tasted like lemons.

Then the other Julie’s parents, Pam and Dick, arrived for a visit. We joined forces and had a great time exploring, and sampling the local delicacies. Unionville is proud of its picturesque main street, which boasts a ‘pub serving’ Youngers bitter and the best chicken wings I have ever tasted.

After the family arrived home, Julie was left in charge of the boys and the house. She introduced me to Canadian home cooking and many local ingredients. I also joined in, and enjoyed, various outings with the children. The night before I left, Bruce and Kelly arranged a babysitter so that Julie and I could take them out for dinner to say ‘thank you’ for making the holiday possible.

Unfortunately, the recession was hitting Canada, and when Kelly was made redundant, Julie’s contract came to an end. But the family still keep in touch and we hope to meet again in the future. Pam and Dick live only about 100 miles away form our home, and we meet from time to time.

After 18 months with a London family, Julie had itchy feet again. This time she has landed up in Holland and we have the best of both worlds: she is able to have regular holidays and weekends at home and I can easily visit. She has made friends there with an Australian nanny, and hopes to follow her home for her next assignment later this year.

So if you have an aspiring nanny in the family, show them your copy of The Lady and do be encouraging. It’s a worthwhile way to earn a living and can be a great way to see the world. And perhaps, like me, you might be offered a chance to spend Christmas in Australia.”

Monday 15 June 2009

For a Golden Future

I was thinking about my daughter’s and my granddaughter’s future and how it could be financially secure. It occurred to me that people who’ve invested in precious metals are not suffering as much as other investors right now. I checked this out and found that gold is a pretty good buy right now, if you have any funds to invest.

Unlike other areas of investment, the value of gold is going up as the credit crunch bites and currencies go down. If you want to invest for your children and safeguard their future, buying gold coins could be the safest bet.

At Gold Coins Gain, you can buy and sell gold and get lots of information and advice. You can find out about these coins from around the world, and decide just what to buy with your money.

For example, the American Buffalo is made up of 24-karat gold and currently selling at a little over $1,000, while the Gold American Eagle, a 22-karat bullion coin costs under $1,000. Other countries’ coins include the Chinese Panda, on which a delightful scene of a panda mother and cub has ensured its popularity around the world.

But whatever gold coins you choose for your investment are likely to bring a healthy return.

Relief from a Manic Monday

I’m having a hard time writing anything that’s not related to packing and moving at the moment, since clearing the house and packing what’s left is occupying most of our waking moments.

So for a bit of light relief tonight I thought I’d look through the Egypt photos again. Here’s a pic of a giant statue in Karnak Temple, that reminded me of how awe-inspiring it all was.

Friday 12 June 2009

Another Day at Hillcroft

This is the cover of a book written by the Principal of Hillcroft College when I was there as a student in the 1970s. The college still looks exactly like this. I was there again yesterday, to join in their annual Celebration of Achievement Day. I last wrote about Hillcroft in March 2008, in my second ever post here. That time I had been to the AGM, and I didn’t get to the celebration day last year, because it clashed with helping out a friend in need.

It’s always great to go back and catch up with other people doing the same as me. Because I was once a Chair of Governors, I am treated as something of a VIP, and have to be included in the photographs. No doubt I will be featuring in the local press as I was placed next to the new mayor of Kingston. I didn’t mind as he is something of a dish (but don’t tell my hubby). I also discovered that he likes to be called Ian, rather than His Worship.

But in one respect, this time the day was rather a disappointment. It was originally instigated as a Graduation Day, when the students of the year receive their certificates of achievement in front of their proud families. This year, only one exceptional student was singled out for that honour, and said to be representative of her year.

The achievement that was truly celebrated seemed to be winning a bid to the national lottery for some very necessary cash. The local Waitrose also sent a representative to present a cheque from their token collections. It’s a sad day when fund-raising success in a supposedly government funded college takes precedence over what the students, who are all educationally disadvantaged women, have managed to achieve.

Hillcroft is a very special place. I described my own experiences there in my previous post, and mentioned plans for an additional building on the present site to bring the premises into the 21st century. But, despite the cash spent on the grand plans and on project managers to deal with it, the promised government funding has not arrived, nor is it likely to. Everything is still on the drawing board, more or less where it was when I last wrote about it. And the lottery money won’t help that project as it is ring-fenced for other work. You can find out more about Hillcroft on the college web site.

However, it was still an enjoyable day for me, catching up with old friends. And I had the pleasure of meeting the guest speaker, Alison Baverstock, writer and broadcaster of note, who chose to speak about writing, something else dear to my heart.

Wednesday 10 June 2009

Almost Wordless Wednesday - Continues the Horse Theme

We saw this little Shetland pony at the Heavy Horse Centre in Dorset. He took little children for short rides.

Monday 8 June 2009

The Horses of Luxor

My heart bled for some of the horses I saw in Luxor when I was on holiday there recently. There were many. All were pulling calashes and being ordered to walk, trot or canter on the tarmaced roads, often in blistering heat. While some looked sleek, well-groomed and well fed, many looked haggard, with their ribs and bones noticeable under their harnessed bodies. Some were obviously limping. I couldn’t bring myself to ride in one of these horse carriages, thinking that I might be contributing to some poor beast’s hardship.

This is one that looks well cared for and happy enough, although it’s owner has made no attempt to find shade for it during this stop.

Not too sure about this one.

But I didn't dare try to take pictures of the really grotty ones, for fear of those lethal looking whips the drivers carried, and often used.

Friday 5 June 2009

Charles Dickens' Way with Words

“… As much mud in the streets, as if the waters had but newly retired from the face of the earth, and it would not be wonderful to meet a Megalosaurus, forty feet long or so, waddling like an elephantine lizard up Holborn Hill. Smoke lowering down from chimney-pots, making a soft black drizzle, with flakes of soot in it as big as full grown snow-flakes – gone into mourning, one might imagine, for the death of the sun….

“Fog everywhere. Fog up the river, where it flows among green aits and meadows; fog down the river, where it rolls defiled among the tiers of shipping, and the waterside pollutions of a great (and dirty) city. Fog on the Essex marshes, fog on the Kentish heights. Fog creeping into the cabooses of collier-brigs; fog lying out on the yards, and hovering in the rigging of great ships; fog drooping on the gunwhales of barges and small ships….. Chance people on the bridges peeping over the parapets into a nether sky of fog, with fog all around them, as if they were up in a balloon, and hanging in the misty clouds.”

These two paragraphs are excerpts from Dickens’ description of London on a November morning. How much bleaker can you get? Actually it’s the beginning of his novel, Bleak House.

This was the book that my literacy students wanted to read when I was teaching a few years ago. I was nervous about it beforehand. But I needn’t have been. I started off reading it myself while they followed the words with their fingers. And they were hooked by this description on the very first page. Such were the power of his words on people who had most likely never read any book before, let alone a classic tome of 989 pages in small print.

You can’t interest a publisher in a book like that these days. You don’t really set the scene like this. You have to get straight into the action, so we’re told. But every so often I take out his books and marvel at these pages of description, and how he brings it all alive in my head. His use of repetition is particularly effective.

He does it again at the start of Little Dorrit, another of my favourites. Here the book begins with a description of Marseille on a blazing hot day. The word he repeats is ‘stare’, and I take it to mean glare. Nothing is glaring; it’s all staring, and it’s really effective – makes you want to loosen whatever clothes you are wearing.

And there is that wonderful, spooky description of the graveyard early in Great Expectations. (I haven’t got that one to hand at present. It must be packed in one of the boxes ready for our move.)

There are things to criticise in his books, as well as other aspects to demonstrate his mastery, but it’s way he uses descriptive language that is most memorable for me. What about you?

Monday 1 June 2009

Top EC Droppers for May

It's a couple of months since I've publicly recognised my loyal EC followers. I've also been less active here and in my own dropping, what with holidays, family events, and the great move getting in the way. So the following deserve a really special thank you from me.

The Way I See It

Computer Help and Advice

Split Rock Ranch

Poetic Shutterbug

Toltec Insights with Dr Susan Gregg

Richard's Journal

Behind the Bit

Caught in the Stream

Flitting on Fiction

Gewgaw Writings.

They are also great blogs in their own right, so do treat yourself by stopping by them when you have time.

Writing Tip

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