Friday 26 April 2013

Celebrating the VERY small things

It's been a rather dull week, I'm afraid. The household has been plodding along without any excitement - but neither have there been any catastrophes, so I can count that in our weekly quest to Celebrate the Small Things.

I suppose we could also include the fact that I didn't fall off my horse when I went riding last weekend; and that all the seeds I've planted have started to sprout

This week's 'Close But No Cigar' moment came with the notification that my story 'Briefs Encounter' has received a commendation in the CheerReader Spring Short Story Competition. It will be on that website shortly, and I'm going to submit it to Ether Books, should you care to read it.

Anyone had a more exciting week?

Tuesday 23 April 2013

World Book Night 2013

‘One morning, Pantaloon hopped on his shiny red bicycle and headed straight for the baker’s shop.’ So begins the story of a poodle who dreamed of being a baker. This curious tale is one of the strongest connections I have with my childhood. I can’t remember where the book came from, but I loved it. I read it over and over until I knew it off by heart. It’s locked into my memory. I still have the book and it is one of the things I would rescue were I ever forced to flee from a fire in our house.
Apparently a third of all households in Britain do not own a single book. How can that be? I can’t imagine a home without books. Well, it wouldn’t be a home.
I have always been a bookworm. I could read before I started school and haven’t stopped since. Having worked my way through the Enid Blyton cannon, I explored the Chalet School books – ask any woman of my generation about these, if you’ve never heard of them – then moved on to Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh. During my dark teenage years, it was James Herbert and Dennis Wheatley that captivated me. These days I’m keen on Joanne Harris, Christopher Fowler and Julie Myserson, but this likely to change without warning if a friend recommends something that takes my fancy.
At the Althorp Literary Festival last year I heard six authors speak and bought a book by each of them. I’ve already got my tickets for this year. At our local arts centre, performers often have a book to sell and I’m always in the queue to meet the author, buy a copy and have it signed. I just can’t help myself. I have to keep putting up more shelves.
Tonight is World BookNight, when 20,000 volunteers each give away 20 copies of a book from a list of 20 to people who wouldn’t normally read it. I’m giving away Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. I took part last year, too, and gave away Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. Some people were quite suspicious, as though I was trying to trick them into something nefarious. They didn’t want to get involved. Hey ho, their loss.
There’s no such thing as a free lunch, but there is such a thing as a free book. So if someone approaches you this evening and offers you, say, a copy Girl with a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde or Judge Dredd: The Dark Judges by John Wagner, take it. There are no strings. Simply accept the gift, read it and pass it on. 

Friday 19 April 2013

So, what's new?

Welcome to Friday, everyone. Let's Celebrate the Small Things with VikLit.


  • I've had a handful of new students turn up for yoga this week. Now, if I could just sign up some of them for my workshop on 18th May...
  • I've picked up my copies of Treasure Island ready to give away on World Book Night. Can't wait!
  • The posters have been delivered for my choir's concert. Bright yellow!
  • I'm going riding tomorrow. I haven't been on a horse since, ooh, I don't know when. Wish me luck.

Wednesday 17 April 2013

Grave matters

Beach in North west wales
Black Rock Sands

There seems to be an overarching theme of the departed at the moment: not just deaths of the famous in the news, about whom the less I say the better, but also much closer to home. My mum has lost three people from her life recently: a friend, a family member, and the husband of a woman she has known all her a life and who is, in fact, my brother's godfather. As she said as we stood in the waiting room at the crematorium, 'It makes you wonder if it's worth going home.' Meanwhile, I was pondering whether the positioning of a defibrillator on the wall was at best optimistic. 

We were gathered to commemorate the aforementioned relative, my aunt, who was one of two sisters of my late father. She was almost 90, which is a good age, so while the occasion was sad, there was no sense of tragedy. After the brief ceremony, we retired to the cricket club for a Staffordshire wake of mugs of resolute tea and pork pie. As Jessie from The Fast Show might have put it, 'Today we will be mostly eating pig.'

My father and aunt's surviving sister, still glamorous with full pancake and turquoise eyeshadow, notwithstanding her advancing years and diminishing height, held court while gesticulating with a whisky in one hand and a ham cob in the other. As her daughter wryly observed, 'At least she hasn't got a hand free for a cigarette.' 

Apart from the circumstances I would say it was a lovely afternoon. I saw cousins I hadn't seen for over 30 years and met people from my aunt's life who gave me a more rounded view of the woman who had been a presence throughout my childhood. Sadly, it had been a while since I had seen her, although we had kept in touch. 

One of my strongest recollections of her is of draughty holidays in north Wales where I would be in one caravan with my family alongside another housing my aunt, uncle and cousin. After having spent the day sheltering behind the windbreak on the beach, we would huddle in one van to share fish and chips and a game of cards. Before bed we would treated, if that's the right word, to hot orange squash and Nice biscuits. Thanks for the memory, Auntie Joan.

Friday 12 April 2013

Celebrate good times...

... come on! Let's celebrate the small things.

  • It's our wedding anniversary today: 33 years. Going out for a meal tonight.
  • Potbelly Folk Festival tomorrow at Kettering Arts Centre. Dust off your diddly-diddly!
  • Big Bang Theory is back on TV.
  • Etherbooks app has been officially launched in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store
  • Paul Edwards Radio Show, which features my ramblings, has been taken up by Viking Radio Gold.
Not been a bad week. How about you?

Wednesday 10 April 2013

How time flies

When I was in Coventry last week, I happened upon the Herbert Museum and Art Gallery. This is a really accessible series of exhibits with stuff for youngsters to fiddle with and plenty, though not too much, captioning to keep the grown-ups happy. 

As a child of the '60s I’ve seen relics from my formative years displayed before. I was, however, rather taken aback to come across some items from the 1980s. Surely that can’t be right? I mean, the 1980s is my coming-of-age decade. Don't tell me I’m old enough to be in a museum! There were examples of music and football memorabilia, and some hideous clothing, and the most enormous microwave oven. But what really caught my eye was the ZX Spectrum 8-bit personal home computer, which was released in the UK in 1982. We had one of those and used to marvel at its colour display, such a huge improvement on the black and white of its predecessor, the ZX81.

Looking back to the Victorian and Edwardian eras isn’t too big a leap for us even now, because we still recognise brand names, even if the paper wrapping has been replaced by plastic and vacuum packs. Artefacts from the '40s and '50s seem familiar to me because some of them there were still around when I was growing up. Things evolved slowly back then.

Remember the daisy-wheel printer?
Today, though, thanks to industrial and technological developments, what was current only a few years ago is laughable now. Fashions change. Anyone still using a videophone? And do you remember the excitement of the Sony Walkman? How cool was that! But soon that was replaced with the personal CD player, which was cooler still – unless you tried to jog while carrying it. I have just bought a 32Gb memory stick the size of my thumbnail to use in the car. It's already storing thousands songs, and there is still for more. Amazing.

So make the most of your iPad, because any day now it’ll be consigned to the archives.

Friday 5 April 2013

That Friday feeling

Let's celebrate the small things.

My friend and fellow yoga teacher Penny and I have taken the plunge and are running a yoga workshop. I've put all the details on the Events page of my website - after spending an hour on the phone to the Vistaprint helpline trying to upload a map of the venue. And relax. It's all booked, so now all we have to do is advertise it, and sign up some yogis, and write and prepare the sessions, and teach them. Nothing to it. Om shanti, shanti Om.

Off to our local art gallery this evening to support my friend Elaine whose picture is on show.

Coventry Cathedral Baptistry
Had a visit to Coventry Cathedral on Wednesday. I hadn't been there since I was a nipper. We had a fantastic tour guide, Patricia, who really knew her stuff and pointed out all sorts of things we wouldn't have noticed. The baptistry window, pictured, is wonderful. Apparently the artists had a job-lot of green glass left over from an order for traffic lights!

What are you celebrating today?

Tuesday 2 April 2013

Now, where was I?

Castleton, for no reason other than it's lovely
I'm not very good at relaxing at home. There are many advantages to being self-employed and only having to stumble into my back room to be at work is one of them; but it does mean that unless I actually leave the house I am, technically, 'at work'. Hence the last four days have seen me not glad to have a long weekend in which to skip and play, but rather fidgeting on the sofa trying to focus on TV when all the time I know there are proofs on my desk that need my attention. It's almost a relief that it's Tuesday! (How pathetic is that?)

Good to see the return of Doctor Who and Jonathan Creek, both of which washed over me in a lovely, comfy way. More stimulating was Perspectives, where the wondrous Sheila Hancock considered 'The Brilliant Bronte Sisters'. Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books - much to the disgust of both my sons, who had to study it for various exams. But entertainment highlight of the whole weekend was on Radio 4 last night: Bravo Figaro, Mark Thomas's show about his relationship with his opera-loving father. Find it on iPlayer; it's wonderful.

Booking is now open for the Althorp Literary Festival. I'm going on the Friday. See you there.

In other news for writers: