Saturday 30 March 2019

There are worse places than Peterborough

You might have seen in the news recently that poor old Peterborough has been named as the worst place to live in the UK. That seems a bit harsh! We visited it yesterday and I can assure you that it's really not that bad. With  Mr Thorley’s birthday coming up, we were there to find him a present. The indoor shopping complex is like many others around the country, but it does have a lovely limestone floor that pleases us. 

First stop, as always, was John Lewis: not to buy anything, but to wander around the kitchen section. It's hilarious. There are so many ridiculous gadgets on sale for stupid prices. For £10 you can buy a giant pencil sharpener for peeling carrots, or some little hairnets to protect the cut surface of a lemon (should putting it upside-down on a plate be beyond you). For £12 you can buy tongs for extracting a boiled egg from a pan (in case you don't have any spoons). Or you could go wild and for £18 treat yourself to a self-tapping sieve. Say, what? Best of all, buy a JosephJoseph GoAvocado tool that 'cuts, de-stones and slices'. What, like a knife? We also saw an enormous, gleaming coffee-making machine. I’m sorry, but if you’ve got £2,000 to spend on making a coffee you have too much money. 

Of course we ended up in a bookshop. Anyone else bemused by the success of Pinch of Nom? Apart from anything else, it's a stupid title - and would you take slimming advice from these two women?

Anyway, we managed to have a largely satisfactory trip, marred only by the presence of a dog on the adjacent seat in the coffee shop. What is wrong with people?

Wednesday 27 March 2019

Use it or lose it

It’s worth remembering when you sit in a traffic jam, sighing in exasperation, that you are part of the problem, because yours is one of the vehicles clogging up the roads. It’s also worth remembering that if you feel the life has gone out of your high street, you are part of the problem, unless you have never bought anything from a supermarket or an online shop. If you moan about the closing of pubs in your town, but never go to those that are open – well, you get the idea.

I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has plenty on offer should you fancy a night out. We have, amongst other things, a theatre and a playhouse, we have a museum and art gallery that puts on regular events, we have pubs offering live music, we have a symphony orchestra, we have am-dram groups and choirs that love to perform, and we have an arts centre that has a comedy night every month and lots of other comedy, music and drama events in between. These venues struggle to find an audience, yet I hear people say there’s nothing to do here. They are wrong. At best they are ill-informed; at worst they are lazy. Netflix or a walk into town? Hm. 

If your town is dying on its arse, you are part of the problem. If nobody supports those people trying to keep the town going, they will stop trying. And then you really will have something to moan about.

Saturday 16 March 2019

On being forced to write

I spent this morning with a group of fellow 3P Publishing authors. We got together to compare notes on overcoming writer's block, what we're reading and writing at the moment, and to have a good old natter about words. It was a very useful way to pass a couple of hours.

Andy, who facilitated the session, gave us an exercise to get our brains working. He gave us three words - suicide, prostitute, Brexit - and asked us to write a  sentence that included one of those words. I wrote:

I'm not a prostitute, it's just the way the light plays on my cleavage.'

Then we had to pass that sentence to the person on our right, so we each had a new sentence to develop into a paragraph or two. I was given:

Brexit drives one to consider suicide.

I continued as follows:

Doris, though, thought she'd rather someone else took responsibility. So she put on her best hat, bought a National Express ticket to London, put a small pistol in her handbag and set off. Quite what she expected to achieve wasn't clear, but someone had to pay and she didn't think it should be her.

It was surprisingly easy to get into the House of Commons. Playing the role of the dizzy old lady, she charmed her way past the security guard and into the lobby, then set off in search of her first quarry. She found the office of Septimus Nobworthy (Con), knocked on the door and walked in without waiting for permission.

He looked up in annoyance at the interruption: 'Who the hell are you?' Then he saw the gun in Doris's hand. 'Look, if this is about that shares business...'

'No,' she said. 'This is about Brexit. It's time to settle up.'

Now, I'm not saying this is a great piece of work, but given that we had no warning and about five minutes to write, I don't think it's too bad. The point is that sometimes you just need a little push to get started.

Wednesday 13 March 2019

Be a pal

 A true friend is someone who is there for you when he'd 
rather be somewhere else. Len Wein

Isn't it easy to get caught  up in the stuff of life? When someone asks how we are, we say, 'Oh, you know, busy.' I get that. We're all busy, with work, family, hobbies, volunteering, et cetera, et cetera. I suggest, though, that if you're too busy to meet up with your friends, then something has gone wrong.

Those of us who have had children well remember the days of coffee mornings with other parents, comparing notes on sleep patterns and weaning, on toddler activities and registering for a school. We were busy, but those meet-ups with others in the same boat were vital, especially when that boat was sinking!

Now my friends and I have moved into a different bracket and can find ourselves pulled not only from below by children - albeit adult children - who still need attention and perhaps by grandchildren, but also from above by elderly relatives who also need care and help. Maybe we have money worries or concerns about our own health. It's a different vessel, but we're all still tryng to navigate choppy waters.

Are we busier now than we were then? I doubt it, but why is it so hard to get a group of pals together for a catchup? What can be more important than supporting each other through this stage of life? If a friend asks if you have time for a cuppa, maybe it's because he or she simply needs to connect with someone who understands.

Say yes to the invitation. Work will still be there tomorrow and that pile of ironing can wait. See your friends. It matters.

Friday 1 March 2019

Sitting tight

I'd be interested to know if any of my writer friends ever take a stall at a craft fair, village fete or somesuch with a view to selling books. I'm part of Northants Authors, which is a group of local writers with physical books to sell, so we often get asked to take part in such events.

Now, obviously I'm all for supporting good causes, but from a hard-headed business angle I'm not sure it's worth it. I have sat in the chilly foyer of a garden centre and sold precisely nothing; but then at other events I've met some lovely people and shifted quite a few copies. I suppose if you've got nothing else on, you might as well give it a go, but I always sit there thinking how much work I could be doing at home.

Perhaps it's the control freak in me that objects to the 'unknown quantity' element. I don't mind doing things for nothing, but I don't like to sign myself up to making a loss, even if it's just the cost of the petrol to get me there. What do you think?