Friday, 26 October 2018

Talking the talk

I still get nervous before public speaking, which is a completely different beast from standing up and teaching. However, I'm working at it and actually quite enjoy it once I get going.

Tonight, I'm co-presenter at the Fellowship of Professional and Amateur Artists for an evening of readings and discussion on feminist writing. This will be low key and the audience will be made up mostly of people I've met before, so it should be fine. Tomorrow, I'm running a short workshop at the Moulton Literary Festival on bringing fictional characters to life. This is much more daunting, because it is rather an unknown quantity. Tickets are being sold on the door for the whole day, so there is no way of knowing who will turn up and what their expectations will be. Exciting! I've done my prep and packed my boxes, so bring it on!

By coincidence, as I sat down to write this post one landed from my blogworld friend Sally Jenkins, who has some useful things to share about 'Speaking about writing'. Why not pop over and see what she has to say? 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

I've got the music in me

After my rather gloomy post on Sunday, here is something happy.

Do you listen to Planet Rock? One of the best things about my little Ford Fiasco is that it has a DAB radio, so now I can listen to this mighty station when I'm out and about. Every evening at 6pm, they have a Rock Block, where a listener chooses the music - and yesterday that listener was me. The deal is you fill in a form online with your 20 top tunes and they pick a selection to play. Of course, if I were to compile another list I'd choose a completely different mix.

This is what they played from my choices:
  • Bad Reputation - Thin Lizzy
  • Because the Night - Patti Smith
  • Long Live Rock 'n' Roll - Rainbow
  • Closer to the Heart - Rush
  • Bad Company - Bad Company
  • Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper
  • Burlesque - Family
  • Faith Healer - Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • Stay with Me - The Faces
  • Collide - Black Country Communion
  • I Only Lie When I Love You - Royal Blood
This is what they left out:
  • Dancing the Night Away - The Motors
  • We Are the Road Crew - Motorhead
  • Angel Witch - Angel Witch
  • No Laughing in Heaven - Gillan
  • Come With Me Now - Kongos
  • Dance of Death - Iron Maiden
  • Bad Things - Jace Everett
  • War Pigs - Black Sabbath
  • Aint Talking Bout Love - Van Halen
What do you reckon?

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.