Sunday, 21 October 2018

In the midst of life

Image copyright unknown
Mr T and I went to a free talk at the Alfred East Art Gallery on Friday: 'Treasure in Northamptonshire', all about the archaeological finds from this neck of the woods and the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  It was only a hour, but we both came away intrigued by what might be underneath our town.

It was a warm day, the room was a bit stuffy and the lights were dimmed so we could see the screen properly. We weren't surprised, then, when an elderly lady a couple of rows in front of us appeared to nod off about halfway through. She leaned on the shoulder of the woman to her left,  who pushed her back over to the right, where she rested on the shoulder of a man. This couple were definitely with the old lady, perhaps her son and daughter-in-law.

Anyway, the old lady slumped right down in her seat and the man tried to rouse her by shaking her arm. Then he put his hand around the back of her neck and hoicked her upright, rather like a cat might gather up a kitten. The lady stayed in place for a few seconds, but then slumped back on to his shoulder. This made us smile at first; but then we started to wonder if perhaps something was amiss - and yet neither of the 'chaperones' seemed unduly concerned and kept their attention on the speaker.

It was only at the end, when the lights came back on, that it became clear the lady was not asleep. At best she had passed out. (Mr T assures me she was still breathing, but I'm not convinced.) Very discreetly, gallery staff asked us to clear the room as the lady was moved to the floor. As we left, an ambulance could be heard on its way.

I learned later that the lady's husband has died a couple of months ago, so she probably wasn't at her best anyway. I wondered about the conversation that might have taken place before she set off on what might well have been her last trip out. Did she want to go to the talk? Did she feel unwell at home, but didn't want to say for fear of upsetting her well-meaning family? Did she realise she was drifting while she sat listening to the talk?

What really bothers me, though, is why the man didn't realise that she wasn't just asleep.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Pipe mania

I have always thought it's better to be married to a man who can cook than one who can mend things. For his part, Mr Thorley has long reconciled himself to the fact that my idea of sewing is less needle and thread and more Copydex and staples. We don't do much DIY, preferring instead to GSI (get someone in).

This week, we have called on the services of our plumber, Justin, who over the years has helped us out of many a damp hole. He is what you might call a Diamond Geezer, a man who works with great intensity and enthusiasm and the most extraordinary attention to detail. I don't know where he gets his energy, because he's as thin as one of the drainpipes he has manoeuvred into  place outside our kitchen window, and from what he tells us about his work-hard-play-hard life he can’t have time to sleep. He bounces in and gets straight to business: no chat and no pre-work cuppa. We have recommended him to several friends and he has never let down either them or us. 

Having fixed the problems at the front of the house, he moved to the back and I watched in awe from my office window as he worked miracles with our guttering. Everyone needs a Justin in their life.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Pulling myself together

My mood is much improved this week, thanks in no small part to some major-league pruning and tidying in the garden. Basically, we've been editing the long border that runs from the pond to the shed and it looks much better. There's nothing like a physical labour in the sun to raise the spirits.

Work is picking up, too. Today I've edited an article about Russian military aircraft, finished a piece on a tourist destination in Staffordshire, taught a yoga class and noticed that I get a mention in Writing Magazine as judge of the H E Bates short story competition. Have you started on your entry yet? You have until 3 December to get your entries in. I'm in the current issue of Spectrum, too (the magazine for members of the British Wheel of Yoga).

Elsewhere, nerves are building ahead of the charity concert on Saturday, raising money for Cransley Hospice and Headway East Northants. My nails are filed short, my ukulele is tuned and I'm ready to rock!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

I have sinned

Of the seven deadly sins, the one I succumb to most often is envy. (What did you think I was going to confess? Shame on you!)

I've decided that's what's wrong with me this week. I'm envious of my husband for having escaped into retirement, even though it was me who encouraged him to give up work; I'm envious of friends who have more money than me, more freedom, bigger houses, better clothes, whiter teeth; and I'm envious of writers who have achieved more success than me and at an earlier age. In short, I have a bad case of Poor Me Syndrome. This is, of course, ridiculous. I am healthy, I'm surrounded by loving family and friends, I have no mortgage and I earn a decent living doing things I enjoy. I should be ashamed of myself - and I am.

I've been looking back over my last two years' accounts; while my earnings have remained roughly the same, the amount of my own writing seems to have gone down, notwithstanding that I've published two books in the last 12 months. This presumably means I've been editing more of other people's work, which is what pays the bills, but it seems a retrograde step.

Today, then, I've entered a couple of competitions. I also popped into Sainsbury's to buy the new issue of Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine, where I was pleased to see that Stripped-back Yoga gets a mention on the books page. It's not all bad, then.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Hitting the snooze button

Does anyone else need a deadline to be motivated? Both the monthly magazines I work for went to press last week, so this is my quiet week in which I usually get busy with my own stuff. Unfortunately, it's just not happening.

I've had a bit of a cold, which has left me feeling rather lethargic. I just can't seem to get going on anything new and thumbing through my WIP folder has made me feel guilty about my apathy, rather than stimulating the creative juices.

Apparently there's a full moon tonight (technically, it's 3.52 tomorrow morning), so perhaps that will bring some inspiration.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Bacon or eggs?*

I went to my first BNI meeting last week. I was invited because the group is seeking a copy-writer. BNI (Business Network International) is a business and professional referral organisation that allows only one representative from each profession to join any of its 'chapters'. The sole purpose of every BNI chapter is to generate more business for its members. It's a sound idea and I know several people who have found it beneficial, but while they made me welcome and sat patiently through my permitted 60-second presentation, I shan't be joining. It's not for me, thanks.

The organisation's stated philosophy is 'Givers Gain'. Again, a sound idea and one that I try to embrace. If I join something I like to get involved. This sometimes leads to me 'doing a Julia', as my son so eloquently puts it. Not only do I join in, but I also have a tendency to try to take over. Once a control freak...

Anyhoo, also last week I answered the rallying cry from one of the music groups I'm involved in for members to step up and help organise our forthcoming concert. Out of a possible pool of 40-plus people, there were 10 of us - and that included the two hosts, one partner who isn't a member but was there to support her man, and another person who isn't going to be in the show.

Is it me, or is that a bit sad?

*When it comes to a cooked breakfast, a pig really commits to the project, while a hen makes a small donation. What do you do? (I bring the vegetarian sausage.)

Monday, 3 September 2018

Fancy winning £500?

Details have been announced of this year's H E Bates short story competition. Submissions of stories of up to 2,000 words are invited by the closing date of 3rd December. Top prize is £500. Further details are on the competition website here, where you will also see that Head Judge is yours truly.

Good luck to everyone who enters.