Wednesday, 28 July 2010

You Have to Speculate - Don't You?

I’ve been in a certain shopping centre many times and I’ve always liked the view coming out.

So I took a picture as I was leaving and I zoomed in on the shop at the end . . . ahem . . . oh will you look at that, it’s Thorntons! You know I hadn’t realised, fancy that being there . . . Anyway I noticed a fuzzy blur in the window. I filled the flash a bit and lo, I found a man – a bearded man with a big smile.

I find it amazing and a bit magical that he was there in the original picture even though I couldn’t see him.

So why is he smiling? Does he work there? Has he just sold a gigantic box of chocs? Or is he buying a gift for someone and smiling because he’s imagining how pleased she’s going to be.

“What’s this? But you know I’m on a diet! How could you?”

“I’ll take them back.”

“Get your hands off. I’ll have to eat them now. See I’ve opened them . . . nom yum mmmem . . . stupid man . . . chomp slurp. My mother was right about you . . . I never did like that beard . . . yumm ummph shlurrrp.”

Or perhaps he’s a ghost. The building is old. Maybe he flits round before the shop opens smelling the chocolate and wishing he was still alive to eat it.

Well all this speculation is a waste of time as the bearded man in the shop is actually a reflection of the man walking past – who hasn’t even got a beard (you’ll have to take my word for it as I’ve fuzzed his face since the poor chap didn’t ask to be splattered all over my blog!).

How disappointing, but on the other hand it’s all ink in the writer’s pen isn’t it?

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Happy Holidays

Today is the first day of the school summer holidays – well for us it is. I’ve made a chart and pencilled in places to go, people to see, things to do. Today we found another new (to us) play park which has everything the kids want in it – and it was clean and deserted!

It’s in a quiet village and there is a big playing field as well and friendly horses in the field next door. We also saw woodpeckers and rabbits. Result! We now have another picnic/play spot to add to the chart.

A while back I bought a parcel of 10 assorted books from The Book People for £9.99. I’ve probably mentioned this – more than once. I do tend to bang on a bit about my bargains don’t I?

I didn’t read them all – some I just couldn’t finish, but I did find a few gems and most sparkling among them was The Last Anniversary by Australian writer Liane Moriarty.

It is a lovely book with an intriguing story and interesting and likeable characters. And it was one of those I just couldn’t put down.

What is it about? Well I’m rubbish at reviews and I’ve never been able to write a decent book report, but I’ll give you a taster.

The setting is Scribbly Gum Island and it has, like all islands worth their salt, a mystery – the Munro Baby Mystery around which life on the island revolves.

Recently I read Liane Moriarty’s latest book What Alice Forgot. It’s about Alice who bumps her head and comes round having lost her memory only to find that she’s not the happily married pregnant 29 year old she thinks she is, but a 39 year old mother of three in the midst of a divorce.

There is a lot of humour and while it is a page turner it isn’t light and fluffy by any means and it has a great ending. When I put it down I had a tear in my eye and a feeling of satisfaction.

And what do I have to look forward to now? Two and a quarter inches of Stephen King that’s what. That is how fat Under the Dome is. I read the first chapter of that a while back, either in the back of another of his books or online, I can’t remember. But that chapter is as vivid to me as if I’d watched it on the big screen and I can’t wait to get stuck in.

I hear tell that it is on a par with The Stand. I feel a little quiver of excitement every time I see it sitting there waiting to be opened. I’ve already had a peek – and there’s a map in the front and a list of characters and I have to say I have a fondness for books that have maps or family trees or diagrams or whatever in the front.

But back to What Alice Forgot. It got me thinking. If I banged my head (which given my accident-proneness wouldn’t be a surprise) and woke up thinking it was ten years ago how much would have changed? My god I’d get a shock when I looked in the mirror for a start! Actually that happens anyway.

And quite unrelated – aren’t the daddy long legses out early this year? Every night at least one turns up and starts messing around my bedside light. You hear it flitting about getting more and more frantic until it touches the bulb then it lands with a sort of splatty thud.

It stays where it is sprawled out for a few minutes, then it’s up and at ‘em again, flapping round wondering why its wings are scorched and its feet are singed. I used to be scared of them, refusing to sleep until they were removed – but not any more. I’ve scorched my wings a few times myself.

And where do they go? They’re never in evidence in the morning, there are no corpses under the lamp – perhaps they find their way back out of the window when the sun comes up. I like to think so.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Writing from Life - Competition!

I reviewed Writing from Life by Lynne Hackles a while back. Excellent book. Not just for short story writers, but for anyone who writes.

You can win a copy of Writing from Life (second edition) with the bonus of the Handy Little Book for Writers (I have both and I wouldn't part with my copies for anything!) - details on Lynne's blog.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Haiti Update

It is six months since the devastating earthquake in Haiti.

So far 100 Stories for Haiti has raised around £3000 for the Red Cross which I think is pretty amazing. It's too soon to write The End though - they still need help out there.

You can visit the 100 Stories site where you can order the book or listen to the Podcast which includes interviews with some of the authors and others involved in the project. It’s also available as an e-book and BBC audio book. Details are here

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Fair Memories

The downside of looking after grandchildren as I was reminded this week is when they get hurt when in your care.

This week it was Isabel’s turn. She’s 18 months old and we’d been to the park and decided to feed the ducks. It’s a nice safe area fenced off from the road and the pond itself has a railing round.

She’s a bit of a Dangerous Brian, climbing on things and generally turning the last dozen brown hairs on my head to grey. But at the pond she just tripped and fell hitting her forehead on the hard paving.

Poor little mite. She had a huge lump on her head and a bruise and grazes.

Meanwhile Imogen had coaxed a duck out of the pond and it came right over to the girls. Poor tatty old thing it was, but as it ate the bread and twittered softly at them, Isabel’s tears dried up and she forgot all about her hurt noggin.

There was nothing I could have done to stop her falling and as they say, you can’t wrap them in cotton wool. But I still feel guilty.

When my kids were little it seemed I was always rushing round to casualty with one or other of them. So this week’s mishap brought plenty of memories of other injuries flooding back.

And it’s not just kids. I’ve got a poor track record when it comes to looking after pets too.

I remember once Oakley leaping over a barbed wire fence and slashing his willy and the amount of blood he lost was frightening (the vet was very sympathetic) . . . then there was the time he ran through a rape field and came out with cuts under both eyes so it looked as if his eyes were bleeding.

Would you trust me with your children or your pets? I wouldn’t. I can’t remember my mum ever returning any of mine to me broken or damaged in any way – although there was the time one of my sons knelt on a needle and it went right into his knee and we did once have to dig one of my cats out from under her bedroom carpet.

Here is a picture of said cat – Huggy. He was an orphaned feral cat. We’d just lost one of our cats and our other cat Leo was pining and lonely.

Anyway, he arrived in our house lousy with fleas, riddled with worms and it has to be said, a tad smelly. Leo was mortified at first, but he came to love the little newcomer, cleaned him up and taught him how to be a cat.

He grew into a huge, beautiful cat, but he was never completely domesticated and always kept his wild streak. Once when my mum’s dog looked at him without warning him first, he did a wall of death circuit round the room inches from the ceiling. Impressive. He broke two wall lights.

Stocks funfair is on the green this week. Oh that brings back happy memories for me. My grandad moaning about the cost of the rides, my dad being asked to move along from the rifle range, toffee apples, candyfloss, the Skids and best of all the atmosphere.

We lived near the green so you’d hear the music as soon as it opened. I used to spend far too much time hanging round, making friends with the kids, watching them setting it all up and taking it apart again a few days later.

And that wonderful smell, a mixture of diesel, sweetness and frying onions – and the noise of the machinery grinding round when there was a pause in the music and of course the screaming and laughter of people enjoying themselves. Sigh.

Anyway enough of all that. Anyone know where I can buy an industrial sized roll of cotton wool?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Something Old Something New

How do you feel about the hot weather? Not so long ago I was moaning about it being too cold for June so I’m not going to complain now that it’s hot in July. I’m not. I’m really not.

The thing with hot weather is that it’s lovely if you’ve nothing to do and can sit by your own swimming pool all day sipping pina coladas through a straw and having the occasional dip to cool off.

Oh and said swimming pool area would be fly, ant and wasp free.

Next best thing as far as I’m concerned is to get the paddling pool out, find a willing volunteer to blow it up, fill it to the brim with water and plastic balls and insert as many factor 30 coated small children as you can comfortably fit in.

Then take a comfortable chair, put it in the shade and relax for a while! This can be anything from five minutes to a couple of hours, depending on how quickly they decide they want to do something else.

It was Imogen’s third birthday last week and her birthday party is today – she’s a Dr Who fan and her cake is a pink Tardis. Bless her, she came to Ipswich when we went for our eye tests and spent two long boring hours in the opticians without a word of complaint.

I don’t know how many hundreds of times I’ve been to Ipswich, shopping or to the cinema or theatre or to the Portman Road stadium. I’ve visited family and been to weddings there and one of my sons went to college there, but a couple of weeks ago Lachlan went on his first school trip and part of it included a picnic in Christchurch Park.

It’s not far away from the town centre, but I’d never really been aware of it.

So we thought we’d take Imogen to the park. What a surprise! It’s lovely and we found a bench by a large pond in the shade to sit and cool off a bit. Ducks and geese came under the railings and Imogen shared her sandwiches with them.

We saw a turtle basking on a rock and a squirrel came down a tree and gave us a good look. He only had one ear. Of course I hadn’t got my camera – I didn’t think I’d need it.

But it was nice to discover somewhere new in familiar surroundings. It’s funny isn’t it how you can go on holiday and explore the area till you know it like the back of your hand, yet fail to see things that are almost on your doorstep. I think I’ve said this before.

Everything about going to the park inspired me. From the houses that overlook it to the people dotted about in the shade of the trees, the two old ladies on the bench next to ours wearing cardigans and the annoying child that came up on a scooter and rode shrieking at the ducks and geese, frightening them back into the pond while her mother looked on without saying a word.

Despite the heat, the long time in the opticians and the sore feet, it was a lovely day.