Saturday, 15 September 2018

A Curate's Egg of a Summer!




That’s how summer felt, but looking back it was mostly good. Not the summer I had planned, but these things happen.

It began with a blur of doctor’s appointments, a visit to Minor Injuries (me), a dash to A&E (hubby), more doctor’s appointments, another dash to Colchester General (hubby again), physiotherapists, nurses, doctors – argh!

The school summer holidays began and for the first year ever, I had no days out planned, but fun was had in the garden with the paddling pool and we managed to fit in crabbing, swimming and beach. I took them to Clacton Pier and realised with a bit of a pang that even the smallest ones no longer need to be accompanied on the rides. My role was water, snack and jacket carrier as well as taxi driver which I am happy to do.

Scout came into season during the holidays so had to be kept away from Dusty. Then Dusty had his accident…

He ran onto the beach as he always does, went for a splash in the sea then we noticed blobs of blood on the grass when he came back. Some poor dog has injured itself I thought…

At which point my hubby noticed that Dusty had four bright red legs and a red stomach and chest! It was quite a walk back to the car and he left a trail of blood. When we got home, I hosed the blood off him – I’d already deduced it was coming from one of his paws, but I needed to find exactly where – while hubby phoned the vet.

The cut was above his paw – at his wrist – and there was blood all over the patio and a towel which I’d had wrapped round him in the car. I put a dressing on and we dashed to the vet. It is a 20 minute drive if the traffic is good, but can take twice as long as that. I honestly don’t know how he had any blood left in him.

I was convinced on that drive that he was going to pass out and die!

While we were gone, my son went outside and cleaned away all the blood and washed the towel. It looked as if there’d been a murder.

When the vet took off the dressing, I could see the cut and blood began to pump out. She quickly put it back on and said they would have to admit him and anaesthetise him. We had an anxious wait then as he’d had breakfast which made an anaesthetic more risky (note to self – NEVER give him breakfast before his walk again).

He was sick on the table and when we went to pick him up they gave us a carrier bag full of medicine. Antibiotics, pain relief, two different stomach medicines (because he’d been sick), syringes to administer the milky stomach medicine and a drip bag with a bandage threaded through it to put over his heavily bandaged paw if he went outside in the rain.

Shark Bandage


And he was back to wearing the dreaded battering-ram leg-bruiser lampshade!

Oh no not again!


Three vet visits later (for wound checks, dressing changes and stitch removal) and he is back to his normal self again, but we are avoiding that part of the beach. It was almost certain that it was glass that cut him. One of the vets told me that they had had a lot more dogs with injuries like that coming in this year.

Blue stitches


I’m just glad we weren’t at the far distant beach because I don’t think we would have made it home.

Scout’s grown a bit since they got her in March when she was about the size of a cat! She towers over Dusty now.

Scout - 8 months


At the end of the holidays my two granddaughters-from-away joined us for a week and all the cousins went to Jimmy’s Farm which is a great value day out with plenty to keep the kids occupied. They were particularly taken with a beautiful blue-eyed Rhea and the Capybara.

Beautiful blue eyes

Capybara


There were more beautiful butterflies in the butterfly house than last year. But – curate’s egg again – a load of children were running wild in there, running through the greenery and screaming and shouting while their parents ignored them. Luckily a keeper was in there and told them to stick to the paths and behave. Why would you take kids in somewhere like that if you can’t control them? There are plenty of play areas for them to run off steam. Sorry – excuse me while I just tuck my soap box away again.





So now summer is over, everyone is back at school and work, and hubby and I have our consultant appointments later this month. Today is the day I hope to get back into a serious writing routine, but I’m not counting any chickens just in case the pesky Law of Sod comes and bites me on the bum again!

Hope you’ve had a lovely summer!



Thursday, 26 July 2018

Goodbye to Little Scrappy Tweetie Bird!


It’s been a while since I blogged. A lot of things have been happening on the home front.

First I did something to my neck/shoulder which means I can’t use my computer and driving is painful. I’ve found a way to sit on the sofa with a laptop so I am able to write, but it’s very slow.

This isn’t meant to be a poor me post especially as it's my poor husband who is really in the wars and in need of looking after. Remember that old saying? It was one my parents used a lot.

That reminds me of something my mum used to say when things went wrong or she was really cross, “Bloody Wars”. You always knew you were in trouble when she said that. I looked it up and apparently it originated in Norfolk, unless anyone out there knows different.

Remember the little sparrow we rescued from behind the wall, the one I was so determined not to get fond of? (That ship sailed on day one). She grew into a lovely young bird and we got her a bigger cage hoping she’d be able to fly a little (out of the cage, she always ended up on the floor! And there was talk of building an aviary for her). We also got a bird table so there would always be food in the garden for her when we let her go.

At one point releasing her didn’t look likely as she wasn’t at all inclined to feed herself. I started counting how many mealworms I was feeding her and it was between 40 and 50 a day.

She wouldn’t eat seed and all she seemed to eat were the mealworms and only if I fed them to her.

We started to put her out in the garden in the cage (keeping the cats in) and she was often visited by a pair of collared doves, but no sparrows.

I put a spray of millet in the cage, more in hope than expectation and the next thing there were millet husks everywhere. Soon I saw her drinking water and pecking at the seed in her dish  and sparrows began to come to have a look.

It didn’t happen overnight, but it was quick once she got the hang of it. She started throwing her mealworms on the floor and flapping her wings. I don’t think she could have said any clearer, “Hey come on, I’m ready! I’ve got this.” But I wasn’t! Oh my goodness, I wasn’t. I won’t lie – there were tears. A lot of tears.

I was heartbroken at the thought of turning her out into the big wide world and all its dangers.

“I’ll leave it until tomorrow,” I said. But my son said, “Do it! The cats are indoors and settled and we’ve all weekend.” So I opened up the cage and she flew right out and went round the garden before landing on the grass.

This is it, I thought. She’ll come back now. The big outdoors is too much for her. But once she’d got her breath back, she flew out of the garden and I thought I’d never see her again, but she came back after a while and sat in the honeysuckle. She gaped her beak at me so I gave her a mealworm and she threw it on the ground then flew round my head about three times before flying away again. She seemed so joyful and the sentimental part of me thought she was telling me she was fine to look after herself now.

I don’t know if she’s been back, but we have had two female sparrows in the back garden and one of them comes right up to the patio doors. I always said if she flew away and we never saw her again, I’d assume she’d hooked up with a group of sparrows so that’s what I’m assuming.

We kept the cats in for a couple of days and I put dishes of food round the garden. I left the cage out there, door wide open, just in case she wanted to come back.

Yesterday my son folded the cage up and we’ve packed it away in the garage, just in case we ever need it again. I hope we don’t, but raising that beautiful little bird from the almost bald little thing she was, turned out to be something very special and an experience I am very glad to have had.

Oh and in case you wondered why it hasn’t rained, that might be my fault I’m afraid. I got fed up getting caught in the rain on the school run, so I put an umbrella in the car just in case. That was several weeks ago and it hasn’t rained since. The law of sod at work. I’m very sorry. I will remove the umbrella just as soon as the grandchildren aren’t looking – they’ve told me to leave it where it is!



Sunday, 1 July 2018

The Winner of Plots and Plotting is....




Thank you to everyone who commented on the last post and as promised all the names went into a draw to win a copy of Plots and Plotting by Diana Kimpton.

A long time ago my beautiful dog Indy picked a winner from a cowboy hat for a blog competition and I had ideas of Dusty following in his footsteps.

But I couldn’t find the cowboy hat. So I put the pieces of paper outside thinking Dusty might choose one as he loves picking things up, but they started blowing round the garden. Once I'd retrieved them from various bushes, I weighed down each name with one of Scout's puppy treats – which meant I could unfold the paper so the names were visible (just wish I'd used a darker pen!).

Dusty was watching from inside, licking his lips while I took a photo of the names. Meanwhile Harley strolled up wanting to know what was going on.

What's all this?


I hoped to be able to get a photo of the first treat Dusty took, but before I could let him out, it seemed Harley made the decision on his behalf and I had to agree with her that as the longest serving four legged member of this household, she had that right.

Don't Mind If I Do



So there you have it – congratulations to LL Cool Joe Joey's Pad! I’ll be in touch so we can get the book sent out to you.

The Winner!


By the time Dusty and Tinks came out, all the treats had gone!

What did we miss?


Thank you again to Diana for her lovely guest post and for giving away a copy of her book.



Friday, 22 June 2018

Guest Post by Diana Kimpton – Win a signed copy of Plots and Plotting





As soon as I heard that Diana Kimpton had written a book about plotting, I went straight to Amazon and bought myself a copy. As I read it I felt as if this book had been written for me. I have found it hugely inspiring and I highly recommend it. 



I am delighted that Diana has written a post for this blog and everyone who comments will go into a draw to win a signed copy of Plots and Plotting. The winner of the book will be announced on Sunday, 1st July. 

Now over to Diana!



When I first became a writer, I struggled to write anything longer than a picture book or short story. I was so bad that my first attempt at a novel was rejected for having a weak plot and a flat ending. I was devastated by that comment so I dived into books on story structure in an attempt to learn to plot.

After lots of study, I could recognize inciting incidents, pick out turning points and have a good stab at analysing the hero's journey. I could even spot what was wrong with some of the bad films and books I came across. But that didn't help me create my own plots, because story analysis is a completely different skill from story creation. However hard you study a finished book or film, you can't tell how the ideas came together in the writer's mind.

In response to the advice often given to writers, I tried creating characters and seeing where they would go. But mine packed up and left in chapter 3 because the story was so boring. Then I tried working out a chapter by chapter breakdown. But that acted like a straightjacket on my creativity and resulted in the bad novel I mentioned in the first paragraph.

Finally I discovered step outlining: a technique that freed my creativity and took me from rejection to selling a million copies of my books.  It lets me start with any scene in my story and work backwards or forwards from there to create my plot. I usually work out a complete step outline before I start writing as that minimises the number of drafts I have to do. But sometimes I start writing earlier and use the step outline to help with the rewriting or I use a stop and start technique of plot, write, plot, write. There is no right way to work and no set rules. Step outlining gives you the freedom to find a way of plotting that works for you and your story.   

My methods have worked so well for me that I decided to pass them on to other writers. But when I started writing Plots and Plotting, my test readers asked for examples to help them see how my ideas work in action. That created a problem. I couldn't use other people's books because I didn't know how their writers created them, and I couldn't use my own books either because I couldn't remember exactly how I worked out their plots. In the end, I decided to demonstrate step-outlining live by developing a brand new story as I wrote - revealing all my mistakes, changes of mind and occasional flashes of inspiration in the process. I don't know if I'll ever turn that plot into a novel,  but I've enjoyed providing an insight into how a writer's mind works and the feedback I've had from readers suggest they enjoy it too.

I've noticed that this blog has lots of photos of dogs. I don't have one so I thought you'd like to see a photo of my horse instead.  He gets a mention in the book because I bought a horse to help with my research for There Must Be Horses.  (Well that was my excuse anyway).



Diana Kimpton is the author of more than 40 books, including her successful Pony-Mad Princess series. She writes for adults as well as children and many of her books have been translated into other languages. You can find out more about her at www.dianakimpton.co.uk

Plots and Plotting is available from Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com 



Saturday, 9 June 2018

A Bit of a To Do!


I took this photo on the 20th May of a swan family on one of the dykes. Eight cygnets! What a handful – or wingful - those parents have. I can’t zoom my phone camera in any more for some reason.



I got this one today. Very happy to see all eight cygnets, but not happy not being able to zoom in.



There was a bit of a to do in the garden this morning. Shrieking magpies, other birds joining in. Noticed Tinks on the fence by the oak tree being mobbed.

Dusty shot out and immediately spotted something bouncing about in the bushes – young magpie!

I raced across the garden and grabbed him, meanwhile the young magpie fluttered behind the tree and Tinks jumped down to pursue. I grabbed Dusty and got him in just as Harley shot out. The young magpie ended up right outside the patio door with Tinks almost on it, but Hubby managed to catch Tinks just in time and as he put her inside, Harley shot across the garden. He caught Harley just as the young magpie disappeared under the gate.

The whole thing only lasted a few seconds, but wow, it was intense! How anyone gets pleasure from having one animal hunt another is beyond me! I felt sick afterwards thinking what could have happened.

I went out the front and checked under the cars, but there was no sign of the youngster, so I assume it managed to fly off and rejoin its parents.

But there was an even bigger to do on Monday.

I found the remains of a baby bird in our downstairs loo/utility room. Cleared it up feeling sad and muttering about murdering cats. Then a bit later we heard a bird tweeting in there. It was coming from inside where all the pipes are boarded in.

Hubby wrestled the bottom panel off and there was just one baby bird in there with very few feathers. I was in tears thinking there was no hope for the poor little thing which must have fallen about 20 feet down the shaft, but we lined a box with kitchen paper and loo paper and some clean hay and popped her in.

I reckoned we had an 8-10 day old-ish female house sparrow. I didn’t hold out any hope at all, but I started feeding her.

I took this photo on Wednesday.



We saw Tinks later with her arm right in the gap beside the loo waste pipe fishing about behind the panel which is presumably how she got the other poor little thing. They must have fallen about 20 feet down the shaft.

Yesterday I transferred the sparrow from the box to a cage (cheap one I picked up) so she had more space to test her wings (and would be safer), but she hopped up on the side of the box and fluttered across the bed and onto the floor. A good sign I thought!

I took this photo today and just look at those feathers! If you can see them that is. It isn't a great photo.  Amazing how much she’s developed since Monday.



She’d just had a meal and was settling down to sleep. I am trying very hard not to imprint on her as I want her to be wary of humans and I never let her see the dogs or cats for obvious reasons.

Letting her go when the time comes (and I hope it does) is going to be hard! But there are a lot of sparrows out there for her to join up with.

Talking of things growing rapidly, Scout is now way taller than Poppy and Dusty. This was her at the beginning of May.



Two weeks later!



And this was last week when she was playing in the sea with Poppy while Dusty stands patiently waiting for someone to throw a ball for him!



When they’re at home, it’s Dusty and Scout that play together – constantly! The only time they stop is if we separate them and once they're apart, they both flake out - as do I!



Thursday, 12 April 2018

Puppy Love


Dusty is well and truly besotted with Scout. They never stop playing and we have to separate them at times just so they can both get some rest.

Dusty had his 6 monthly check up at the vet’s and he’s put on two kilos and now weighs 16.5 kilos which is a far more respectable weight. That’s a lot of weight to put on, but he’s always been at the very low end of low and as skinny as a rake. Lucy said he was “perfect” and that some of the increase could be down to muscle, but she certainly wasn’t worried. Phew.

Last year I changed him to a different brand of dog food. The one I had used for my dogs for nearly 20 years just didn’t seem to suit him at all and we couldn’t get him to gain weight. I looked into it and checked on various forums and a name that kept coming up as being a good quality food was Skinner’s Field and Trial.

I’ve got him on their Duck and rice variety for dogs with sensitivities – and it suits him very well. He looks sturdier. And it’s half the price of the other food which is a bonus.

Scout has started training classes. She seems to grow before your eyes and is almost as tall as Dusty now. It’s difficult to get a photo of them standing together because when we’re at home, they’re normally rolling around the floor snorting and snuffling!





Settled after a walk


Did you see Spring? It lasted all of two days and now we seem to be back in Autumn! It’s all topsy-turvy.

It was nice while it lasted


Saturday, 17 March 2018

Scouting for pups!


I haven’t posted recently because there was nothing to post about except Christmas and snow and I think we all had enough of that thank you very much! Although we seem to have a covering out there again just now.

But something exciting and life changing happened just over a week ago. I went with my daughter to pick up her new puppy and this past week has been all about settling her in. It was four years almost to the day since we brought Dusty home.

She already knows that I pick her and Poppy up in the mornings to bring her back here and happily goes home again later in the day.

She’s called Scout and is a mix of four different breeds. I shan’t tell you what they are, but see if you can guess. If you want to that is.

Her colours are black, honey, white and reddish brown. She’s about twice the size Dusty was when we got him.

Here she is.

Scout


Tinks, who is the most laid back cat I have ever met, went straight up to her and kissed her on the nose. No puffed up tail or arched back or huge black eyes. 

Tinks and Scout


Harley. Well Harley did this the first time she saw her, but she now accepts her. They even rubbed noses yesterday!

Harley


Dusty has been better with her than I dared hope. His record with other dogs is odd to say the least. Some he’ll be friends with and yet others he’ll bark at for no apparent reason. He's starting to catch on that the new addition wants to play and he's playful himself, so I see fun and games ahead.

In the photo below, Scout had rolled the treat ball towards Dusty and he was trying to decide whether to check it for more treats or roll it back. When he first met her and for the first few days, he's been so calm, like a different dog. I don't expect that to last.

Poppy, Dusty and Scout


When she goes outside and has a wee or poo, she immediately comes to you for a treat – and she’ll sit for that. If she goes indoors, she uses a puppy pad – unless she misjudges, but there have been few accidents. We were a bit concerned because she sleeps so much, but then realised we are so used to high energy dogs (mentioning no names Dusty-never-stops) that she’s just a normal pup.

She comes alive when the kids get home from school. She adored them all from the very start. And I fell in love with her the minute I saw her. It’s amazing just how fast they worm their way into your heart isn’t it.

Her two younger little people knew nothing about her and came home from school and there she was. They were over the moon!

Meeting one of her little people for the first time

 Hope everyone is okay, keeping warm and looking forward to Lovely Spring!