Thursday, 30 April 2009

Fingers crossed...

Sent of lots of samples of work - children's picture book and poem ideas, chapters of my romantic novel and ideas that I'd like to work on - to the Barbara Levy Agency. What I'd like to do is use my own name for the children's writing and a pen-name for adult fiction. I'd so dearly love to get started again...

But if I don't, I'll just have to become a one-woman internet publishing industry and sell them all myself.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Hungover and in limbo

Went to the Society of Authors' Spring bash last night. Margaret Drabble gave an inspiring speech on the subject of agents and publishers needing authors for their raw material, then we all got merrily drunk. I walked boldly up to several agents and told them I was 'agent-stalking'. Got the brush-off from Andrew Lownie and Jonathan Lloyd (CEO of Curtis Brown Lit Agency) but made good contact with with Caroline Sheldon, who went off with a copy of my book, Love Cheat, and promised to read it. She was such a lovely lady and I really hope she agrees to take me on. I have emailed her this morning and suggested a six month trial period. The other ones I appeared to hit it off with were Barbara Levy and her colleague, and I've promised to send them a copy of Love Cheat as they wish to expand their children's fiction list.

Later, after more wine, I found myself having coffee with an Asian medical author and GP who shall remain nameless because he told me he'd had his eye on me all night and was a widow. He even gave me a goodnight kiss! I think I said a while ago that I wish I'd married a doctor...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Big stink

The whole house reeks with a stench somewhat akin to burning rubber sweetly mingled with dead rat. Mr Grumpy is cleaning out the pipes at the back of the washing machine and dishwasher. I have had to open the windows and now a gale is flapping all the paperwork on my desk and I am freezing.

The trouble with living with Mr G is that his insistence on 'my house, I'll do what I want in it when I want' means I am always the loser. He didn't tell me he was about to create a stink otherwise I could have closed the door in the hallway and be typing in fragrant warmth instead of shivering in front of open windows with a scarf around my face. Another trouble with it being Mr G's house is that I never get any 'me time'. This morning he woke me at 7.25 am banging the front door and driving to Sainsbury's. I leapt up and tried six times to ring him to tell him what I needed from Sainsbury's - not much, just a bag of salad, a tin of soup, some tomatoes and some milk. I left him a voicemail. When he came in, he told me he hadn't got it as his phone was on silent, so I have to go out in the rain and get my own stuff - and still pay half for the things he got which I didn't want.

While he was out, not knowing how long he'd be, I settled on the sofa to watch A Place In the Sun which I'd recorded last night as he wanted to watch CSI. Fifteen minutes in, just as I was nicely relaxed with tea and toast, he came crashing back in demanding tea instantly and insisting on telling me about a special offer on chicken breasts, when all I wanted to do was continue peacefully watching my programme. My private viewing times are restricted to when he has gone to bed, and by that time I'm tired myself and don't want to stay up for another hour. This relationship just isn't working. But then, it never did. I knew 12 years ago that living with him didn't work for me, and probably not for him, either. But now I'm getting desperate for my own space, a sanctuary where I can play the music I haven't played for years as he always has his hits from the Sixties on (how many times can you listen to Do-Wa Diddy Diddy without wanting to commit murder?), and watch programmes I'd like to watch, or sit quietly on the sofa reading a book. I can't wait.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

First signs of dottiness

I read in a Sunday paper at the weekend that one of the first recognised signs of Alzheimer's was the inability to recognise when someone was being sarcastic. O dear. I have NEVER been able to recognise sarcasm. All my life I have been the unwitting victim of leg-pulls and wind-ups because I have failed to recognise the giveaway vocal inflections or body language. Like a child, I tend to take what is said to me seriously, at face value, and have often felt wounded when the person winding me up has collapsed into gales of laughter.

But today I had the most dreadful warning sign that my brain may have taken the slippery slope to wipe-out. I opened the bird feed bin and found, nestling on top of the peanuts, a half-finished jar of pasta sauce that I took out of the fridge several days ago to throw in the bin. The yellow rubbish bin, not the blue bird-feed bin. One is on the floor, the other is on the dresser. You'd think I'd know the difference.

When I saw it in there, a ghastly cold feeling swept through me and the words, 'You're going barmy' rang in my brain. After Mr Grumpy's various brain haemorrhages and strokes, he regularly had to retrieve his mobile from the freezer and the sugar from the fridge, but now I'm doing it, too, and I have no excuse other than... well, maybe a visitor suddenly walked in (Mr G leaves the front door on the latch when he's at home), or perhaps the phone rang, or... or maybe I really am losing the plot.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Charity Shop Queen

I did really well at our local RSPCA charity shop today. As usual, I took a bagful in and came out with another bagful. So much for slimming down the wardrobe. One of my finds was the M&S linen skirt I'm wearing in the photo. In fact, everything save the necklace came from charity shops and I reckon I could go to a wedding in this outfit. (Go on, someone, get married. I've got the hat!)

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The incredible Susan Boyle

Just listened to Susan Boyle singing Cry Me a River, and watched her stunning the judges on Britain's Got Talent. What an amazing lady. She gives me hope! In fact, she probably gives hope to every closet singer of a certain age who thought their dreams were consigned to mothballs.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

April afternoon

I call the first picture Angles. It's interesting to see the way Flad appears to be mimicking the way the ladders and chair are leaning.

The second one shows him dreaming beneath the cherry tree with bluebells in the background. Shortly after taking this, next door's cat threw up all over the grass and wrecked the tranquil moment. Serves her right for stealing Flad's grub.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Buddy and Flad

Three weeks ago we looked after Buddy, a friend's budgie. Flad ignored him most of the time, but there was just this one night when he took a particular interest...

Now Buddy's owner is going off skiing again and is on his way right now to deliver his precious feathered pal into out safe(?)-keeping. I think Flad is already downloading recipes from the internet. Budgie kedgeree? Budgie kebab?

Cheesy dreams

On Minday night I decided to use up two organic potatoes left over from my Abel & Cole box. I baked them, and spread them with Roquefort cheese (sheep's cheese, which I prefer to cow's) and had them with salad and a slice of ham. Delicious. I only intended to eat one, but greedily polished off the lot.

Well, I can now report that the old wives' tale linking eating cheese at bedtime with having nightmares is true. I awoke shouting after a dream in which I was about to get shot. Then I went back to sleep and had dream after vivid dream. The last was the most interesting as it involved me becoming the singer with a band of oldies like myself (this was probably influenced by the episode of Lewis that I watched on Sunday involving an ageing rock band). We were all dressed in weird costumes meant to disguise our wrinkles. I was dressed from head to foot in diaphanous white, with a filmy veil, and I'd christened myself Ghost.

In the morning, I thought 'what a brilliant name to record my spooky songs under'. So in a few months' time, you may be able to find my on YouTube, filmed from the rear, in white net curtains and lace gloves, playing the piano and singing songs like Moonchild and Creatures that the World Forgot, under the name of Ghost. You heard it here first!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The boating life

I have often fancied the idea of living in a houseboat. It seems such a cheap, carefree way of life. A couple of years ago I went to view a couple, with the idea of living in board and typing my novels whilst swans glided by the window. I'm glad I didn't buy the one that took my fancy because next time I walked along that stretch of the Grand Union canal, a tough-looking couple with two noisy, belligerent Dobermans had taken the boat next door.

And cheap way of life? Forget it! The mooring charges can be upwards of three grand a year - in central London, Islington for example, it's £700 per month, much more than I would pay in a mortgage. Added to that, it has to be lifted out of the water and overhauled every couple of years, in order to receive its certificate for being in good shape.

If I ever did have a houseboat or narrow boat, though, I'd like it to be like this one, which I spotted a week last Sunday. The illustration is exactly like the ones I draw of Flad!

Monday, 13 April 2009

Funny turn

Two friends were supposed to be coming on Saturday. We were all going to get pissed and have fun and go round a stately home with my National Trust card. However, Mr Grumpy and I had colds, so did one of the friends, so we cancelled.

Lucky thing, too, because on Saturday night Mr G had a return of the strange symptoms he got from time to time before his strokes. Only now we know what they are. His vision goes blurry, or reduces to a pinpoint, his face is flushed, his extremities freezing and they're all signs of his blood pressure having suddenly shot up for no reason at all. When he checked his BP on his little machine, it was 183 over 104. Normally, since his strokes, it's been something like 140 over 88.

I asked anxiously whether or not I should call an ambulance but he preferred to wait and see if it went down again. By the time he went to bed at ten, it was 173 over 90-something. Yesterday it was 163 over 88. He hadn't done anything energetic, there was no reason for it to have happened. But it was very, very worrying and as I was about to eat when it happened (and didn't want to waste my nice cod steak), the result was stomach ache all night, as I was so tense, followed by many trips to the loo yesterday, the return of my IBS.

This has plunged me into a dilemm. I had just started looking for my own home again so I could get all my belongings out of storage, which is costing me £200 per month. But how can I leave him when he could keel over with another stroke? Friends remind me that it could happen while I am out at the shops, and I can't watch him like a hawk 24/7. But if I move, I'll feel like the rat deserting the sinking ship. How can I do it? If we were married or in a committed relationship, there would be no question of my staying. But as I am in a halfway state, sharing his house but not fully together, two separate lives rubbing shoulders uncomfortably under one roof, where does that leave me? No wonder I can't sleep at night.

Friday, 10 April 2009

My Good Friday

So far today I have:

* fed cat. Cat didn't like food. Gave him biscuits. Cat ate biscuits then licked food
* put on a wash
* had breakfast
* thrown out crumbs for birds (three times, three slices of bread)
* charged mobile
* made Mr Grumpy two mugs of tea
* changed bedding
* dusted bedroom
* vacuumed bedroom
* played with cat for 20 mins, lying on stomach to retrieve plastic ball from under sofa, armchair, cupboards, fridge...
* hung out washing
* tripped over cat who was slumped in exhaustion just through doorway
* brought in washing as it had started to rain and draped on airer
* made coffee and second piece of toast
* searched wardrobe for footless tights and in doing so, tidied two bags of tights, all gym clothes, all tracky tops and bottoms and put away the winter thermals#
* sorted out some clothes for the charity shop
* read two articles in Writing Magazine
* slumped in exhaustion on office chair

all while coughing, sniffing and sneezing, and it's still only 9.30 am.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Anudder bloody code!

I've only just got over one, the wretched fluey thing that lasted for a fortnight and caused me to a) miss a meeting with a literary agent that I've never managed to reschedule because she's too busy, and b) lose a holiday in Cornwall which I'd paid £120 in advance for, in train fare and deposit on the b&b. And now I've got another. It's just not fair. It's Easter, I've got friends coming to stay, I don't want to be red-nosed and streaming, with aching limbs and a head full of snot. 'Snot funnny!

I'm taking a multivitamin with 1000mg of Vitamin C in it, a Vit D supplement and regular doses of Nat. Mur, a homeopathic preparation that is supposed to dry up the mucus. But nothing's working., not even Hot Toddies.

Come to think of it, so far this year I've had: two attacks of the winter vomiting bug, one gastric bug with bright green poo, two colds, eye problems, tooth problems, and it's only April. Usually, I get one cold every two or three years. I must be extremely run down. I blame my sudden exposure to small children for all this. Having lived in a toddler-free bubble for most of my life, I am now having regular contact with the infections little so-and-so's and I've never been iller! Roll on a retirement complex for the over-50's. But they'll probably have visiting grandchildren who'll sneeze all over the communal areas. Can't win, can I?

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Kitty contrast

The cat on the left is 'the lodger', as she spends so much time round at our house. She belongs next door with her pedigree Bengal siblings And boy, does she have style. She's sleek, svelte and super-intelligent.

The cat on the right is Flad. Not sleek, not svelte, a furry lard-bucket, and no PhD either, but oh, so lovable. Which do you prefer, cat lovers?

Saturday, 4 April 2009

Tooth update

Was seen this morning by my third dentist in four weeks (my original one, who I left as I was fed up with the long journey, the in between one who left me to suffer over Easter, and now this third one). He was a bright and breezy young Asian guy called Phiz, with a shock of pop star black hair and a warm, friendly manner and in no time at all he had drilled, rodded the root canals with the energy of a Dyno-rod man and shoved them full of antibiotic dressings. I'm going back in a couple of weeks to have the tooth crowned and I pray that that will be the end of the saga. For now.

Teeth lurk like enemies hiding round corners choosing their moment to strike, which is usually just before you're due to fly off on holiday. They seem to know. They grin an evil grin and think, 'Maximum pain, maximum disturbance.' I once attended the dentist for a normal check-up the day before I was going to Spain. Or not, as it turned out, for an x-ray found that my wisdom tooth was full of infection and about to erupt. In fact, said my dear old dentist, it would probably have exploded in agony on the plane. There was nothing to be done but yank it out and give me antibiotics. And I was told, with wagging finger, that it would be better if I didn't go on my five-day trip.

As it turned out, it would have been the last time I'd have seen my friend John in Spain as he died suddenly of a stroke a couple of months later. It was also the last time I saw my dentist, God rest his soul. He died, too. And the last time I saw my wisdom tooth. They do say that bad things happen in threes... At least I'm still here, touch wood!

Friday, 3 April 2009

At the Eye Hospital

Saw an optician this morning about my eye. She rang the local hospital who said I should go straight to the Western Eye Hospital in Marylebone. It was just my luck to arrive on one of their busiest days when, according to the nurse, 'Half of London has turned up today, I don't know why'.

Amongst that half was a family from just up the road to me and we all travelled home together, but that's by the by. The important thing is that, after a 3 1/2 hour wait, I was seen by a lovely young eye doctor who confided that he was a new dad, with two month old baby girl, and that the doc I'd seen last time had just become a father, too. Must be something in the water...

Which brings me to what's in my eye. A very large piece of detached, dried up vitreous fluid from the back of the eye, aka a 'floater', though a particular sort, shaped like a sphere. He could see it quite plainly. 'Will I be stuck with it in front of my vision forever?' I asked plaintively, because at the moment it's as if there is a dirty grey lace curtain in front of my eye. He assured me that one's brain adapted and one got used to it. I hope so. Apart from that, my eyes are very healthy and, surprise surprise, 'don't even look as if they are short-sighted', i.e the eyeball hasn't changed shape the way it usually does in myopic people.

I was glad to travel back on the coach with the Hillingdon ladies, one of whom had had a similar event to mine, but when I staggered blindly off the coach, I discovered I would have to travel on alone as they were going to Ruislip. So I managed to catch the bus, which looked like a hazy red blob, and sat down, whereupon a scruffy young bloke plonked himself next to me and sat, knees wide apart to that his left one kept touching my right one. This hadn't happened to me since I was a teenager and I didn't know whether to be insulted or chuffed that I'd attracted a pervert at my advanced age. Disgust won and I draped the strap of my bag over my knee as a deterrent. Then he got off the same stop as me and I feared he'd turn into a stalker, but he went the other way, thank heavens.

Pleased with my progress, I got onto the computer as soon as the eye drops began to wear off and rang the dentist. My plan was to protest loud and long at being left with tooth trouble over Easter, especially as my pal Gill is treating me to a Chinese buffet. At present, I can only eat by cutting food up small and poking it into the left hand corner of my mouth, making sure nothing is transferred anywhere near the dodgy tooth during chewing. The surgery's answering machine told me that the surgery was already closed (4pm) and I know they don't check their messages, as I got accused of missing an appointment last Monday when I had left a message explaining that the dentist had seen me the previous day and had told me to cancel that appointment.

I decided that that particular surgery had had their chips, or their implants, as far as I was concerned, and rang another with the wonderful name of the Feelgood Clinic, which happens to me be on the floor above my chiropractor who I see every six weeks. Their website says it also boats a relaxation spa. The phone was answered immediately by a very nice sounding man who turned out to be the senior dentist and, joy of joys, his colleague can see me at 9.15 tomorrow morning. Now that's more like it! I told him I wanted to be pain-free by Easter. Let's hope Dr Feelgood can do the trick.

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Eyes right!

If it's not one thing, it's another. Yesterday, I was walking down the road when I suddenly flinched as something like a large fly flew directly at my left eye. But there was nothing there. That's when I realised that the 'thing' was there every time I moved my eye to the right, or blinked. A black crescent-shaped object rimmed with blue light, like the moon emerging from an eclipse.

Being well over 50 and very short-sighted, the perfect conditions for detached retina, I sprung onto Google and yes, my symptoms did sound similar. Rang the doc this morning and was told to go to an optician as my first port of call and then, if they found anything, they would give me a letter to take to my GP or the hospital. My sister is right now driving down from Cumbria and should be arriving with her hubby at around 3 pm. So my task now is to get my hair dry and go into town and see if I can get a slot with an optician, then get back by 3. Sis (Merrylegs, to readers of this blog) is off to Mount Everest Base Camp, 18,000 ft up. She and her husband are serious climbers. Wonder, though, if she'll be tempted to go the last 8,000 ft? I sincerely hope not, as I do want to see her again!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

A date at the dump?

Now, Mr Grumpy and I never go anywhere together, apart from the supermarket. I can count on one and a half hands the number of times we have been out for a meal in the 12 years we have been seeing one another. There was one trip to the cinema to see the first Harry Potter Movie. Two trips to a local theatre to see blue comedians. That's it.

Today, he actually asked me if I would like to come out with him. My ears pricked up. I started considering what to wear. Was he offering to take me for lunch in one of the nice riverside pubs? Had my luck changed?

No, it hadn't. The destination was the dump, and the car was full of rubbish. Is he trying to tell me something?