Sunday, 29 August 2010


I tried Caroline’s suggestion of holding a biscuit over my head with one hand and the camera with the other to get a decent dog shot. So this is Indy’s “I’m being good gimme the biscuit,” face (more about him later).

And this is Tilly’s “I’ve been in the smelly, dirty dyke, but I don’t think anyone has noticed,” face.

I love Thames barges. One day I am going to have a painting of one to hang over my fireplace – but first I would have to get a fireplace. What’s that got to do with the price of petrol I hear you ask – well nothing, I just wanted an excuse to put a picture of a Thames Barge on my blog.

Last week was lovely. All my grandchildren were here, right down to the littlest, Charlotte who is 10 weeks old and just about the most placid, easy going, good humoured baby I’ve ever known.

I managed to get them playing quietly for oooh about a minute and a half with Play Doh. No that’s not true, they played nicely for quite a while. But why is it when you get something out for kids to play with, Lego, Play Doh, wooden bricks – you suddenly find yourself engrossed in making something and completely alone where they’ve all wandered off to play with something else?

We managed to get a boat trip over to Shotley where Lachlan and Imogen posed for a picture.

And I took this picture because I felt like it.

Now the serious stuff. They started harvesting just over a week ago and of course with the harvest comes the guns. You hear the men shouting at their dogs then the guns go off. I hate it, knowing every time there’s a gunshot something is either dying or hurt.

Indy found where they’d been gutting the rabbits that they’d shot. They’d left the entrails at the side of the footpath. I’m just glad the only child with me was Isabel who is 19 months old and not old enough to realise what it was.

Indy went straight for it and began to eat. But it was a similar incident that may have saved his life as a puppy – or at least it gave him a few extra hours. I’ve probably blogged about his pancreatic insufficiency before (but being of a certain age I'm allowed to repeat myself). He was only a few months old when he got sick and the nurse at the vets called him a skeleton with a head.

All his food went through him and came out exactly as it had gone in. The vet kept prescribing antibiotics but nothing was working.

On a walk before he got too weak to come out – it may have even been the last walk he had until he recovered - he came across a freshly killed rabbit which had been ripped open and he ate the insides before I could stop him. I thought at the time it was because he was always ravenous. Well it probably was, but amongst those innards must have been a pancreas and it must have contained live enzymes because his next poo was near normal.

I researched on the internet and learned about pancreatic insufficiency and asked the vet to do a blood test. Then we had to wait for the results while Indy died a little more every day. I didn’t think he’d last until the results came through and I asked for the enzyme powder that would save his life. The vet was reluctant without a proper diagnosis, but what difference did it make anyway? It wouldn’t harm him and might save him.

They gave me the powder and the effect was immediate and a few days later the blood test results confirmed the diagnosis. So began his recovery. This time 10 years ago he was a very sick little dog.

I wish I’d taken a photo of him when he was ill, but I couldn’t bear to. I thought he was going to die and I didn’t want anything to remind me of his suffering.

I suppose in my usual long winded fashion what I am saying is that yes, the sight of the grey and red guts dangling from his jaw today was gruesome, but it reminded me of how close we came to losing him and how lucky we are that he is still here.

And finally, another trip to Shotley. At last I got to see inside the HMS Ganges museum there this afternoon. I’ve been itching to get in there, but every time I’ve been over it’s been a weekday and the museum is only open at weekends.

It was worth the wait. Small but beautifully put together with so many photos and items of interest including the restored figurehead from the original HMS Ganges. There are endless folders to look through containing more photos and interesting documents. I went through some hoping for a glimpse of my mum or dad, but alas not this time. It is so lovingly kept and cared for and the people working there so friendly and helpful.

I became unexpectedly choked up. It was an emotional experience on many levels. The photos of the boys who looked so young and who would have been at war soon after; the woollen long johns worn by men like my dad on the Arctic convoys; the thought of how much my mum would have enjoyed looking round there. It all got a bit much for me.

Anyway, had a little walk afterwards, looked longingly at boats for sale and took this final photo. It made me smile. Perhaps you’ll be able to see why – perhaps you won’t.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Meerkats and Serial Killers

Before I get into full waffle mode may I just direct you to Lynne Hackles’ post here

And when you get there (Lynne explains it all so much better than I would) follow the link Lynne has put up. You’ll see why when you get there.

Meerkats. Cute little things aren’t they. I think so too, but to be honest I’m getting sick of the sight of the toy versions which seem to be popping up everywhere.

You can’t go into a stationery store, a garden centre or an innocent looking High Street shop without seeing a bunch of them. Some are wearing waistcoats. I blame a certain advert.

They even had them in The Works. I bought some paint brushes and a book about serial killers and my beloved got a pair of Jack Higgins. I would have bought their only copy of Marley and Me – as if the film didn’t make me cry enough – but the cover was all mangled and call me fussy, but if I buy a new book even if it’s cheap I want it in decent condition.

That reminds me – I once flounced out of Waterstones in a huff because the only copy of a Monty Python book I wanted to buy was battered and covered in stains. It was only when I ordered one through my local book store that I realised it was supposed to look like that!

So last night I had a little read before going to sleep – as you do – and put my serial killer book up on the high cupboard beside my bed. And just as I was drifting off, it flung itself off the cupboard and bashed me on the head on its way to the floor.

Then I had a very disturbing dream about an old lady wearing a headscarf (no it wasn’t her Maj) and she was trying to tell me something about a murder, but she was terrified she’d be overheard.

I tried to get some nice photos of the dogs. Here’s one of Indy at the bottom of a ditch. Oh he’s down there all right – you can just about see the white flash of his neck fur.

And the pair of them eating grass – they seem to think they’re horses every time we go out and must graze.

And unusually, Tilly posed for a photo. Normally I only get a shot of her tail or the back of her head, but for some reason she decided she’d come right up to me and stand still. Well at least I got one decent shot today!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Blog Takeover Day - I Am Not Amused!

Look, she’s forgotten it’s Sally’s birthday and that it’s Blog Takeover Day and so I’ve taken a risk and decided to go for it.

Sorry if I keep looking over my shoulder, but she could come in here any minute. She said she was Going Out With The Dogs, but she might be on to me in which case she could suddenly reappear.

She’s a Grade A Control Freak and if she thought I was using her precious computer the fallout would be terrifying. She’d start by accusing me of Checking Up On Her. As if I haven't got better things to do!

I don’t have to go into her history to see she’s been on Facebook, tending her farm and preparing dishes in her CafĂ©. It’s pathetic – her houseplants are withering from lack of attention, her garden has more weeds than the whole of East Anglia and her idea of cooking a nutritious meal is to boil a kettle and open a Pot Noodle, do you know what I’m saying?

And she’s addicted to games of solitaire. Crazy Quilt Solitaire, Spider, Pyramid, you name it, she plays it. Remember that chimpanzee in the PG Tips advert; “You hum it, son, I’ll play it.”? You show her a pack of cards on her screen and she’ll play them till she’s seeing cards in her sleep.

She’ll tell you that she’s busy looking after the children and the dogs, but she’s lying. She locks them all in the kitchen with a packet of Rich Tea Biscuits and it’s every boy/girl/dog for himself.

As for the stories – she doesn’t make them up – I do.

And The Beloved – poor soul. He’s a shadow of his former self, a shadow and it’s all her fault. She doesn’t call him The Beloved in Real Life let me tell you. She calls him a lot of things – none of which I can repeat here, but suffice to say it isn’t pretty.

True, she writes a bit, when I can get her to listen to me. Most of the time she ignores me just as she ignores everyone else.

My Muse has gone on her holidays she says. My Muse has disappeared. My Muse has gone AWOL. Well I’ve got news for you, sister, I’m right here. I’m always here; you just Don’t Ever Listen To Me!

I come up with the most wonderful ideas and she says she’ll let them fester for a bit, then she goes on Facebook and I might as well be in-bloody-visible – oh, well yes I am invisible as it happens, but okay I might as well not be here.

She even poked me in the eye once. It’s true I tell you. She pretended to be scratching an itch behind her ear, but I know that finger was meant for me and I know it had malicious intent.

I feel hurt. Sidelined. I used to work so hard for her and she for me, but these days it’s a struggle just to get her to open up a Word document and as for a notebook - she may tell you she adores notebooks and it’s true she does have a stack of them, but they’ll be on the Antiques Roadshow one day you mark my words.

“Unused Pukka pads,” the stationery expert will say. “Unheard of. What a remarkable find. How did you come by these?”

“Well,” the excited little old lady will coo as little ££££ signs flash in her eyes. “I bought an old stationery cupboard and there they were inside in pristine condition along with a box of paperclips and a half eaten Twix.”

Actually I’m joking about the Twix (I do have a sense of humour you know – she hasn’t quite beaten that out of me). That is one thing she has no problem starting or finishing – anything with chocolate in it. Actually anything with FOOD in it. Or alcohol. Well let’s be honest anything she can swallow - down it goes.

I just want to get one thing straight here. The rejections – they’re all hers. The acceptances are mine. I’m the inspiration, the sweat and the tears and without me she’d be nothing I tell you, nothing! And she knows it.

You know what? I think I’m safe. She wouldn’t dare get rid of me.

Hold on – listen – she’s coming back. Dogs are panting – and smelly. Why does she let them swim in the dykes and roll in the mud (and worse)? She’s coming up the stairs.

Who’s been messing about with my computer? The Beloved runs for cover, the dogs cower, I shrink back into the shadows but I am not afraid. She needs me. I can feel her mind reaching out for mine . . .

She sits down.

I’ve just remembered, it’s Sally Quilford’s birthday blog Takeover. I should have thought about this sooner.

Happy Birthday Sally!

Saturday, 7 August 2010


Last Wednesday we took the kids to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary near Gt Yarmouth.

It’s somewhere I’ve always wanted to go and the fact that Marilyn Fountain would be there to sign copies of Gentle Footprints in which Lyn has a story (a donation from each sale goes to the Born Free Foundation) was the added push I needed.

It was lovely to see Lyn again and I meant to take a photo for the blog, but we were so busy chatting that I completely forgot. But I did remember to buy a copy of the book which Lyn signed for me.

And I didn’t get many photos of horses either.

As well as the sanctuary, Redwings runs a re-homing scheme and around 500 horses and ponies live in Guardian homes, but with the charity keeping an eye on them.

It was a lovely day out. The kids enjoyed it and have all said they want to go back. As do I.

The little uns made a fuss of a handsome 19 hand shire horse, a very friendly little Shetland pony and a beautiful Newfoundland dog (visitor not resident) among others and I thought how animals usually do tread gently, especially around children. If only people could be relied upon to do the same.

And on another subject I am sick and tired of the Back to School adverts hooting out everywhere you look. As a child I can remember being depressed once the Trutex adverts (are you old enough to remember those?) signalling the end of the holidays started to appear (I can still hear their annoying jingle). These days I’ve seen Back to School adverts before the summer holiday has even started. Shouldn’t be allowed!

Gentle Footprints is published by Bridge House Publishing

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Couple of Things . . .

First of all you may already know that the People’s Friend is no longer sending out contributor copies, but contributors can buy a subscription at a reduced rate. If you’re serious about writing for the magazine, you should be buying it anyway and if you’re a contributor then the sale of one story will easily cover the cost of a subscription.

I have heard grumbles from contributors about having to go out and buy a copy of the magazine, but I feel if you want to write for a particular magazine and you want that magazine to buy your stories, the least you can do is buy it!

There, that’s my piece said. I shall now step down from my soap box and carry on . . .

Having had my little rant, I’ll move on to something more exciting.

My daughter had a scan last week which revealed that the baby due in December is a boy. I got so excited when I heard the news, had a bit of a cry and went round with a big smile on my face for the rest of the day.

It occurred to me later that I would have had that reaction whatever the sex of the baby.

And finally – oh this means there is more than a couple of things doesn’t it. Hey ho, isn’t that what we do? Start writing something and then go with the flow?

I am up to page 685 of The Dome and I am happy to say all that breathless anticipation was not in vain. And that big list of characters in the front – well I now know all those people and anyone familiar with the work of Stephen King will know and understand that I know them well.

I was going to wait till I’d finished to write about it, but something happened yesterday that made me want to write about it NOW!

We took the dogs for a walk along the Essex Way. The crops are pale yellow, ripe and ready and you can hear them popping in the heat. I looked up the hill across one of the fields and “Look at the sky!” I said with rather more wonder and surprise than it deserved.

My beloved looked and his expression said “What of it?” I got all excited about the colour, the beautiful clear blue, the cleanness of it and his expression changed to “My god she’s finally lost it.” It is after all the same sky we always see.

But then I came to my senses. I have been so immersed in The Dome, so involved in it, that I have been In The Dome seeing the sky as the residents of the Mill see it. In my mind anyway. That book is so inside me that I feel as if I am living in Chester’s Mill, Maine and I would not be surprised to bump into Julia Shumway walking her Corgi Horace.

It is Stephen King at his best. It reminds me why at one time I read his books over and over again with the occasional visit with Dean Koontz, Richard Laymon, Robert Holdstock or Graham Masterton. It reminds me why I have kept all his books and will never part with any of them. Why I am a Constant Reader.

I read a lot more widely now I am pleased to say, but for me Stephen King remains the master.

Anyway, something I have noticed in this book. Characters with similar names. Ginny and Gina, Rennie and Rommie, Andy, Andi and Audi – something we are told not to do for fear of confusing the reader (in fact some advocate that we shouldn’t even use the same initial letters for characters) and something I would agree with up to a point but Not In This Case. The characters are so well drawn, so distinctive; you couldn’t possibly read about one and mistake them for another.

I’ve read the reviews on Amazon. Some (not many!) people say it is too long, that the ending is too far fetched. Well, deep breath, it isn’t too long for me and as I’m less than 200 pages from the end I’m getting that sinking feeling that it will soon be over and I don’t want it to be – I’d be happy if it went on for another 800 pages.

As for the ending, well, I’ll know when I get there and then the book will go on my shelf to be read again . . . and again . . .