Thursday 31 May 2012


I think I must have just about tried it all when it comes to trying to organise my writing life. Charts, timers, targets, getting up extra early…

Getting up early is fine in theory. But I’m not a lark. If I get up earlier than usual, I’m flagging by the afternoon. And I suffer from “I’m up early so I don’t have to hurry” syndrome and find that I’m not just flagging, but also well behind by teatime.

I am usually awake around 3.30 am which is when the birds start. Not that I’m complaining I hasten to add. I’m usually awake at that time in winter as well which is downright miserable, dark and cold and my thoughts then are not pleasant company.

At this time of year though, I enjoy listening to the birds as they wake up. The other morning there was one particularly beautiful singer out there and I was tempted to get up and record the song.

But it would have meant disturbing Indy and Beloved so I kept the song to myself. I do of course go back to sleep before the alarm goes off. I wouldn’t be worth knowing if I didn’t!

And it’s funny, but the seagulls and crows are always noisier on bin days – even before anyone has put out their rubbish.

I got this rather busy picture when I was out taking shots for covers for my new kindle books. I’m not going to use it as a cover, but I do like it.

A few years ago I decided to try the oven timer method. I set myself four tasks a day above and beyond my usual writing work. 20 minutes to be spent on each of four projects. And it worked …. for about a week, then I got fed up with the beeping and the projects.

I tried lists. Diane Fordham also writes about plans and lists here.

It wasn’t just writing. I used to list everything I had to do. It was the only way to stay on top, but the lists started to get me down. I found I was at screaming point trying to keep up – and so I ripped my lists up and said never again. Well no, I didn’t say “never again”, but I’m not going to tell you what I did scream and rant, goodness me no.

So I decided to go with the flow and oh boy was that a mistake. I didn’t just go with the flow, I drifted off course completely and ended up having to give myself a good talking to!

Now I have a chart on my wall. Four writing tasks to complete every week and included on that chart is “Write new story”. And of course I can put more than one tick in each box if I am doing well. I don’t expect to tick all the boxes, but if I can look at it at the end of each week and know I’ve done something, I’m satisfied.

I don’t expect it to last. I daresay I’ll tire of the chart eventually and try something else.

I also have a wall calendar. I put a green sticker on it every time I submit something. I've been doing this for years and I like it. Simple, but an effective way of keeping an eye on your productivity.

I keep meaning to share this site with you. Live webcams from the Lost Gardens of Heligan – one inside the owl box and one in the wood mice box. Fascinating.

There are owlets in the owl box, but not as many as there should be. Owls lay their eggs over a period of days and the last born ends up at the back of the queue when it comes to food.  Nature being what it is, when the weakest die, the strongest eat them. Fascinated as I am by the webcams, I am very glad not to have seen that happen.

Nature can be cruel, she can also be very beautiful. I love this time of year.

Monday 28 May 2012


A while ago, I started research into Raynaud’s Syndrome and Scleroderma. I hoped to a) raise awareness and b) try and help raise funds.

Most people will have heard of Raynaud’s Syndrome. My daughter was diagnosed with Raynaud’s in her teens. It is quite common in teenagers and often disappears when the sufferer reaches their twenties which thankfully was the case with my daughter.

Scleroderma is another matter entirely. I didn’t know anything about it until a friend mentioned the fund raising to me.

It is a disease of the immune system rather like Lupus, Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis. The name means “hard skin”, but the hardness is not limited to the skin and can affect the joints, blood vessels and internal organs.

It is very painful to live with and causes an endless list of symptoms.

Here are a few facts about the disease:

Scleroderma is four times more common in women than men.

It usually begins between the ages of 25 and 55.

Over 95% of those with Scleroderma have Raynaud’s, but the chances of someone with Raynaud’s actually going on to develop Scleroderma is very small.

There is no cure, but there are treatments to manage some of the symptoms.

Following diagnosis, 65% of people will survive for ten years. Research into the causes of the disease and better therapies for sufferers is vital.

The RSA (Raynaud’s and Scleroderma Association) is aiming to raise a million pounds for research to mark their 30th anniversary this year. They are still quite a way short of that figure and if anyone reading this feels they could donate, here is a link.

Thursday 24 May 2012

Chronological King, Cruelty Free & Save the Urban Fox

Phew that was a bit of a mouthful wasn't it?

One thing I asked for every year on my birthday or at Christmas was a Stephen King novel. I used to have a list and I’d cross them off as they joined my collection, but then I caught up with him and started to buy his books as they came out.

Many years ago, I used to borrow his books from the library, but I always knew I’d want to revisit them – and I have, sometimes several times.

James Smythe at The Guardian is in the process of re-visiting Stephen King’s novels in chronological order. He starts here with Carrie.

What a good idea! I may try that myself - reading them in order I mean.

My daughter is on the cover of his latest book - can't tell you how chuffed I am about that!!

There are a couple of petitions some of you might be interested in as I know many readers of this blog are animal lovers.

The first is against the plan to cull the urban foxes in London. You can read more here and find the petition if you’ve a mind, here. And if you have an interest in urban foxes, I suggest a visit to the Hillingdon Wildlife blog where you will see some fabulous pictures of foxes (and a rather gorgeous cat) and other wildlife.

The other petition comes via The Body Shop who are partnering Cruelty-Free International to stop cosmetic testing on animals around the world. You can read more and sign the petition here.

Thank you.

Wednesday 23 May 2012


The nation is in shock. Why? Well the weather of course.

We’d become used to having to wear extra clothes and turn the heating up a notch. We’d resigned ourselves to a cold, wet summer, although that may still be on the cards, who knows?

On Sunday I went to watch two of my grandchildren take part in a sports event. It was held in the park which is right on the seafront. We all turned various shades of blue and even a hot doughnut didn’t warm us up (although the price of them got my beloved a bit hot under the collar).

On Tuesday morning I grumbled to my friend in Sydney that it was flipping cold. On Tuesday afternoon I drove down to the town and boiled. That’s when I noticed the full effect of the shock on the general public.

If you’ve ever seen The Walking Dead – well it was like a scene from that without the ragged clothes. People lurching along the pavements before suddenly hurling themselves into the path of oncoming cars.

I watched a woman try to reverse into a parking space. Nothing unusual there you might think except a lorry was already halfway into it. He had to hoot so she went and parked on a double yellow line instead.

And what effect did this sudden strange burst of heat have on me? I rushed into a shop and bought beach buckets. I now have a mammoth supply of beach buckets – but no spades. See, heat addled.

Saturday 19 May 2012

I Smell Like a Fruit Bowl

Look at me – posing here with my rubber ducky, my new shampoo and my new hairdo. I’ve even had my yeti feet sorted out.

I’ve had two baths in the past fortnight. The first was a sort of emergency one as I was slightly muddy – oh all right, I was very muddy. And she’d run out of my special shampoo so she used Johnson’s baby shampoo with camomile and she said I was as soft as a kitten and smelled like a baby afterwards. Hurrumph! Way to insult someone!

The second was a cosmetic one. They took to my feathers with the strimmer – oh all right, the electric snippers, but they sound like a strimmer. And once all my beautiful fur was carpeting the dining room, I was taken upstairs - for another bath. To get rid of all the bits they said.

My cries of, “I’ve already had one this year!” fell on deaf ears and I was plunged into warm water, then smothered in this new shampoo. It smells of apples and kiwi fruit. It’s called Pet Head and has a lid shaped like a bone. Nice.

The variety is Fears for Tears and is extra gentle for delicate little flowers like what I am.

And this is me during my photo shoot (oo-er get me missus), knocking over the shampoo and checking to see if the rubber ducky was edible! 

Thursday 17 May 2012


I’ve spent ages recently searching for an outfit for my youngest son’s wedding next month and I’ve done exactly the same as I always do with a big event. I got the outfit and it was swiftly followed by a crisis of confidence.

Last year I bought some pink court shoes for the wedding and thought I had it licked. It’s always the shoes I’ve had problems with in the past. Doesn’t help that having broken my foot a few years ago, I have to choose my footwear very carefully.

Anyway, I had the shoes and I managed to get the perfect little pink bag to go with them. Should be a doddle to find an outfit to match. Wrong. I’ve bought different shoes now (white ones – well I am from Essex - although I was strangely drawn towards those “nude” shoes which are starting to grow on me), but I so wanted to wear the pink ones.

Anyone who knows me will know about my aversion to shopping, particularly clothes shopping. Well it’s not so much the shopping as Other People – too many of them and I’m running back to the car in a panic. Being able to shop online has been a life saver.

I take a lot of notice of reviews. I trawl through them and it amazes me how people can rate the same item so differently. One reviewer will say something is “perfect for weddings, lovely quality, hangs beautifully” and another, “Rubbish material, thin and cheap looking, sent it back”.

Does anyone remember, “The Gullibles – they’re always falling for scams”? (Punt and Dennis). Well that is a phrase that often flits through my mind. If someone says in a review that shoes are the smartest on the planet, I will believe them. Why? Because I don’t trust my own judgement, not an inch of it, but I will trust the opinion of a stranger and if they’ve said they’re all right, then they must be.

That’s another thing – what if someone else is wearing the same dress as me? Well that’s easily sorted because no one in their right mind would want to wear that dress to a wedding…. See my problem? I can argue with myself till I’m blue in the face – and often do.

At the end of the day the clothes don’t matter – no one is going to be looking at me with a beautiful bride, handsome groom and a whole host of gorgeous bridesmaids to gaze at. There. Sorted.

Thankfully I don’t lead such a confused existence when it comes to reading matter. I know what I like! I will read reviews, yes, but I base my purchases on past experience, recommendations from friends or from being grabbed by the first few pages.

At the moment I have been grabbed by the lovely Julian Clary. I got his Briefs Encountered for my birthday and couldn’t wait to get stuck in. I was delighted when I opened the front of the book to find a list of characters with brief descriptions. I love books that have character lists or maps in the front. Don’t ask me why. I just do.

Meanwhile in other news, the painting continues…

Friday 11 May 2012

I Really Should...

Use my notebook! The one beside my bed. I keep it open with a pen right next to it, but what do I do when inspiration strikes in the middle of the night – I think, “Oh, I’ll remember it in the morning.”

I never do. I think we’ve been through this before, so now I’m repeating myself - sorry.

It is tricky to reach it with Indy snuggled up next to me and I don’t like to disturb him. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

But things that seem like a good idea for a story or a blog at four in the morning usually aren’t. So I’ll spare you the bits I do remember, particularly the one about the catchphrases of the various birds in the dawn chorus.

I’ll also spare you my planned rant about the new recycling system our local council has put in place this week. A new system which appears to mean more waste going into “normal” waste and less going to be recycled, but with the addition of two new (very small) recycling boxes and a fancy new dustcart that the dustmen seem very unwilling to use if the amount of stuff left behind is anything to go by.

But I said I was going to spare you so I’ll shut up. I won’t tell you about the annoying huge yellow stickers they bung on everything with boxes ticked as to why they didn’t take it or about the man, when tackled about why he’d stickered a plastics box, who shrugged and said “Don’t ask me, I’m on food waste.” Hm.

Anyone seen any of the Playhouse series on Sky Arts 1 HD? I love them!  Half hour well-crafted and thought provoking stories. Sheila Hancock is brilliant in hers. Well they all are. Bring back more of this kind of thing I say!

Speaking of Playhouse, I bought my Jubilee copy of My Weekly today and was thrilled to see a story by Rosemary Timperley in there. It took all my willpower not to sit down and get stuck in. Rosemary Timperley was a huge influence on me when I had my early writerly stirrings.

She was an extremely prolific writer of novels, short stories and articles and she once said that she lived very much in her own mind. Well we know that feeling don’t we?

And the Playhouse connection? One of her stories was turned into play for the ITV Playhouse in 1960 and starred June Brown, Phyllida Law and Hugh Burden.

I hardly dare say this, but you can see blue sky out there and it’s been visible for most of the day and it hasn’t rained! And yes, I’ve had a glass of wine – well it is Friday.

Happy weekend – and I hope the skies stay blue for you.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Nice Weather For Ducks!

Or so I thought when I saw the dykes so thoroughly flooded. But then we realised that the banks where all the ducks, moorhens, coots and so on build their nests are under water. There were dozens if not hundreds of birds on these dykes a couple of weeks ago. Now you hardly see any - most of them seem to be wandering round on the fields now in little lost-looking groups.

So what is a pain in the neck for us can be catastrophic for some of our wildlife and it’s the same over most of the country.

We don’t have a hosepipe ban here. Lucky aren’t we.

Indy had put on 300 grams when we weighed him after his bath, but he may still have been a bit damp and retaining water. At least that’s what he said. He also claimed that the stress of being on a diet had made him gain weight.

I think he enjoyed having one of his beloved little people aiding and abetting in the ablutions.

As it’s a bank holiday weekend, spare a thought for the people who have to work. It used to be worthwhile working on a bank holiday. Triple time or double time and a day off in the loo – I mean in lieu. Then it was dropped to double time, then time and a half and now I understand that many places don’t pay anything above the usual rate which I think is downright mean.

We had a Frank Spencer moment this morning when the paint pad my beloved was painting the stairwell with flew off the end of the pole, bounced on the stair carpet and landed on the dining room floor. I was just glad it wasn’t him bouncing down the stairs.

He was using this ladder contraption that has a touch of the Heath Robinsons about it and seemed to wobble rather a lot. Frightening.

And on the subject of paint, I found out today that if someone – mentioning no names – drips emulsion onto my white paintwork and I then have to scrub it to remove it – the white comes off! So not as tough as gloss I’m afraid, but I still prefer it.

Happy Bank Holiday – keep warm! I’m off to take Indy for his paddle on the field.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Happy Birthday To Me - Not!

No, not to her – hers has been and gone. To me! I’m twelve today. I knew you’d be surprised. One look at my sylph-like frame, my soft flowing locks and you’d be fooled into thinking I was half my age. Oh all right, I admit it, I was only two in that picture up the top, but the rest were taken today!

Actually I may be exaggerating a tad here with sylph-like. Stretching the truth just a teensy bit.

We were out for a walk on Tuesday and I was doing my best, chasing the tennis ball, bringing it back, sploshing through puddles, as you do, when I heard her say something about a barrel. My ears pricked up – well I can’t prick them up, but I can flap them. A barrel of custard perhaps? Or a barrel of chocolate? Show me the way.

I heard words such as “tank”, “rotund” and then I heard the word every dog dreads the most.


Who could she be talking about? I looked round. Besides me, there wasn’t a soul in sight. I thought she might be talking about a group of fat seagulls gathered on the rugby pitch, but no such luck.

As for the flowing locks – they’re going to be chopped off. They think that they’ve gone woolly and might be adding to my portly – portly! – appearance.

She thinks she might have been spoiling me of late. I’ve yet to see any evidence of spoiling. Sharing. Yes. But sharing isn’t spoiling. I’d share my dinner with her. Well no, actually I wouldn’t, but that’s beside the point.

Anyway, how’s that for a rotten birthday treat. A diet. And possibly more exercise. What?

This is me out exercising today! You don't get a lolling tongue like that without putting a bit of effort in and between you and me I have never seen her with her tongue hanging out and believe you me if anyone needs to be getting more exercise it's her!

Apparently – this is according to her – I have got lazy. Me! She’s been taking me out in the car to some fields that are only slightly under water instead of the very under water ones in walking distance and now when we go out, I always head for the car. Who wouldn’t? I don’t see her in a hurry to walk anywhere.

I did have a nice birthday surprise today. One of my special little people was sent home from school feeling poorly, so I had three of my little people here with me! Yay! Not yay that he was feeling poorly, but yay I had someone else to cuddle.

So watch this space folks. She’ll have me togged up in lycra sitting astride an exercise bike whilst gnawing on an apple core before you can say “Who hid the biscuit tin?”

Food parcels at this difficult time would be more than welcome. I’ll eat anything. Anything at all. And lots of it! Please! But not a word to Her Indoors – she wouldn’t understand (or she might get there first and eat it all).