Thursday, 28 May 2009

Blue tit rescue

Great excitement this morning and I missed it all as I slept in till gone 9am. Flad chased a large spider across the floor. Mr Grumpy rescued it and put it in a glass to show me. (Yes, I know, some people get a glass of orange juice, I get a spider.) Flad was cheesed off, but soon brightened up when a blue tit flew into the kitchen and he took off like a streak of lightning after it. Mr G rescued the bluetit and put it out.

Flad stalked off in a huff. Later, we found lots of pigeon feathers on the lawn, but no remains. Somewhere there is a pigeon minus its feathery trousers.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

A change of agent

Six or seven years ago, I left my literary agent because she only handled children's writing and I wanted to branch out into steamy women's novels. Steamy novels for women, I mean... though if my readers get steamy while reading them, so much the better!

It was a big mistake because the new agent worked in a different way to my previous one. With my first agent, she would ring me and tell me that such and such a publisher was looking for a certain type of book and I would have a go. I could send her ideas and get feedback as to whether they were commercial or not. But the new agent never got back to me when I sent him ideas and when I asked him to let me know what was selling at the moment, he told me off, saying I had the wrong attitude and was approaching novel writing like a journalist (my previous career) rather than a true writer; according to him, a 'true writer' sat in the garret bashing out masterpieces with no thought as to their commercial viability, but at least they were writing with their heart and soul rather than their head. This made me realise that the agent and I were coming from different places and he was more in tune with literary fiction than the kind of potboilers I wanted to write.

For six whole years I begged my previous agent to take me back. At last she has consented. Hooray! I think she was both upset and insulted when I left and now she feels I have served my time in the literary wilderness. Of course, the fact that Love Cheat has been reissued and is on sale in Waterstones probably helped a little. (I neglected to tell my other agent that, and he agreed to release me from my contract as from yesterday.)

I have already sent a new idea for a series of books for 8-11 year old girls to my old agent, and am meeting up with her in a fortnight. However, as far as writing for the adult market is concerned, I am still in limbo. Though I did get an email from a self-publishing lot this morning, whose rates sound very reasonable. Last resort?

Monday, 25 May 2009

Dream meanings: the hidden room

Years ago, I had a small corner in a magazine in which I used to analyse people's dreams. I'd forgotten all about it until I read Jacula's comment on my dream of hidden rooms. Turns out she has similar dreams. I started mulling it over properly and remembered that dreams are not straightforward but end to cloak their meanings in symbols. If the 'house' represents ourselves, what the dream could be trying to tell us is that there are neglected parts of our psyche that we are not exploring. Perhaps we have hidden talents, or secret wishes.

There is a wonderful clairvoyant medium in Fulham, London, called Peter McDonnell (I think that's how his surname is spelt). When I consulted him around ten years ago, he told me, "I have your mother here. She has a guitar in one hand and a paintbrush in the other and she says you're not doing enough of either of these two things." Once, I loved both painting and creating music and over the last ten years, I have not heeded Peter's/Mum's words at all. Oh yes, I have loads of excuses: I'm living in someone else's house and haven't the space or peace of mind; I have had too much work to do; I've been too depressed to feel creative. All true. But perhaps the dream shows that if I were to open up and dust away the cobwebs inside these creative rooms inside my brain, and start to live in them again, I'd feel so much better.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

A dream of hidden rooms

I have a recurring dream and I dreamed it again last night. Although it takes place in different locations, it always involves me buying a house or a flat and finding it has a hidden extra room that I didn't know was there when I bought it. A variation on this dream is discovering I still own a property I thought I had sold years ago (there are quite a few of those!). On revisiting it, I yet again discover that hidden room.

Last night's version involved an ex-council house that I owned but hadn't been in since I'd bought it months earlier. (This was a product of my imagination as I'd never seen this particular house in real life.) When I visited it, it was full of things left behind by the previous occupant including a ladies' green bike with the front wheel missing, and some fitness equipment (probably my conscience prodding me because I haven't been to the gym for weeks). As I was tidying up, I opened a door which I thought led to a cupboard and there was the secret room, big, light and airy, with a laminate floor and an unassembled bed and mattress leaning against the wall.

I wonder if this dream comes from the fact that none of the places I've been able to afford have ever been quite large enough or had enough storage. This includes the flat I saw last week. 'If only it had had one extra room,' I sighed as I came away.

I also dreamt last night that my goddaughter's waters broke while she was sitting on the sofa watching TV and she had a quick and easy labour and the baby popped out after just four hours. She isn't due for four weeks yet, but I hope her labour is as easy as my dream.

Both dreams occurred before 3 am because that's when I awoke, and was still awake at half past four, when, with the addition of earplugs and sleep mask, I managed to catch another couple of hours. I think my brain was far too busy to let me sleep.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

The Apple Pie Wars

Mr Grumpy isn't speaking to me. He's sitting in the lounge sulking in front of a blank TV screen, in order to stop me watching a recording of a property programme. The argument started thus...

I announced that I wanted to use up some nice organic apples and that an apple pie would be a good idea. I went upstairs to my computer. When I came down, some shortcrust pastry was defrosting and so was a jug of frozen Bramley apple slices. "Oh no!" I wailed. "I wanted just my apples in the pie, I don't want to mix organic with non-organic." Fair enough, I would have thought. After all, it was my pie and if he had the idea of using up his crappy old frozen stuff in it, he should have asked me first. Especially as my apples weren't even Bramleys. I suggested we made two separate pies.

Well, Mr Grumpy went into one. He hurled his apples into the bin and yelled at me for 'assuming' that he was intending to mix them. Then he told me that last time we'd made an apple pie, he'd sneaked his frozen Bramleys in and I hadn't even noticed. I held my tongue. I was trying to keep calm because I was just about to eat lunch and if you've got an ulcer, eating while you're tense or angry is the worst possible thing. But Mr G wasn't going to let it go. "You're always assuming things. I've had to put up with it for the last thirteen years!" he bellowed. Actually, it's twelve. It's obviously felt like longer to him. To me, it's felt like a life sentence.

I'd previously expressed my desire to eat lunch in front of the telly in order to watch one of the programmes I'd recorded that he's always complaining I never watch - simply because he won't let me. I can only watch 'my' programmes after he's gone to bed, and then I'm normally going to bed too. And I'm not allowed to watch them in another room because, quote, "I don't see you all day as you're always on the computer." The fact that I am working and trying to earn money doesn't seem to enter his head. Anyway, he sat in front of the telly to prevent me from watching, and played with his mobile phone. For two whole hours.

Methinks we are completely incompatible, red roses or not. And as for the apple pie, I know he won't eat it if I make it with 'my' apples (there is no 'our' in this household, just his and mine) so mine are on their way into the bin to join his.

Monday, 18 May 2009

The red rose challenge

I made the mistake of telling Mr Grumpy how a friend's boyfriend, returning from what had seemed like a permanent split-up, had had a bouquet of 13 red roses sent to her office, one for every year they had been seeing each other. (Mr G and I have had 12 years of ups and downs.)

I say 'mistake' because this was like a red rag to a bull - or rather, a red rose petal. Not to be outdone, Mr G disappeared to Sainsburys and on his return, proudly presented me with a scarlet patio rose, instructing me to turf out the mint seedlings from my blue pot and replace them with the rose.

Every day, he has been out counting the blossoms and buds and once they had beaten my friend's bunch and reached 14, he was triumphant. Yesterday he counted 17 and was beside himself. "Never let it be said that I'm competitive," he said with a heavy dose of irony.

I rushed out and photographed a rose for posterity, after a heavy shower. The pelagoniums looked pretty after the rain, so here is a pic of them, too.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Stomach ulcer

I don't know what set it off, but I have really suffered over the past week. I have searched my memory for foods that might have inflamed my tum, but, thinking about it, it started a few days before my last trip to the dentist, so perhaps it was worry and stress.

I took Omeprazole for four days, to no effect whatever. Usually I feel better the next day, after just one pill. Then I switched to Ranitidine, again to no effect. On Monday, the day I saw the flat in Finchley, I felt truly ghastly. The IBS had returned, too. I left at ten, got there at 12.15 and saw it through a haze of Ranitidine, Bicarb, Mega-Probiotics and Pepto Bismol (not all taken at the same time!). That combination calmed my tum down sufficiently to get me through the day.

Yesterday was an equally bad day, when I could hardly eat and didn't know what to do with myself as the burning sensation in my middle was so awful. I went to the chemist to buy some make-up wipes and spotted some soluble Zantac and took one as soon as I got home. Today, my stomach feels a lot easier. I've heard that soluble tablets act faster, but do they also have a more powerful effect? It would certainly seem so. I'll take another one today. Only trouble is, all these stomach pills have a horribly constipating effect and if I take anything for that, I'll irritate my tum all over again. Sometimes I think I just can't win.

The Green-eyed Monster

Last night I had a dream of pure envy. I was being taken round a number of flats by an estate agent and a couple of his staff - don't know why we were mob-handed; I think they were trainees. I toiled up scores of stairs, opened doors onto hideous flats, one of which was festooned with creepy African masks, another which had a hatch leading up onto a roof covered in clanking Victorian machinery, rusting cogs and wheels painted a municipal green colour.

Then at last the agent opened a door to a flat which had a big lounge with lovely golden-varnished floorboards and a gorgeous fireplace. There was just one problem: we couldn't see any more as the vendor, a pretty young girl who had opened the door to us, was ensconced in another room with a recording engineer working on her album.

We were told to sit and wait. A middle-aged woman who seemed like a cook-housekeeper brought us all plates of food. I started eating some kind of gooey dish with avocados in it, when suddenly I had a glimpse into my past, to the days when I, too, had a recording contract(with Phillips) and a manager, only nothing came of it as I was told that although I wrote brilliant songs, I wasn't pretty enough, so they dropped me. I felt bitter, viciously envious of the opportunities young singers have today, when looks aren't all that matter, so I put my plate down, told the assembled company that I had things to do with my day and I wasn't prepared to wait around at some young wannabe's beck and call, and marched off.

And woke up.

Monday, 11 May 2009

So near and yet so far

My tick boxes with regard to property are: Quiet; near transport and shops; lots of storage; character; outside space; good view; two bedrooms.

Today, I saw a top floor flat in a gorgeous street. It was near two tubes, lots of buses, Tesco, Waitrose and Majestic wine warehouse, as well as lots of small local shops. It had a balcony overlooking a park and the park itself was lovely, with tennis courts and a cafe. It had two bedrooms, it had cupboards, it was quirky in extremis, and the price was brilliant.

So why didn't I grab it? Well, the main reason was the layout. The kitchen carved a chunk out of the lounge, leaving a space only large enough for a TV and a two-seater sofa. No room for a dining table or any extra chairs. No room for my dishwasher and fridge freezer. No space for cupboards, hi-fi, DVD's and CD's and definitely no room for books. 'Aha,' thought I: 'They can go in the bedroom.' Well, the fatal flaw in that idea was that there was no fitted wardrobe in the bedroom. In fact, there was no wardrobe at all, the hanging space being round the corner in a small corridor. Put a wardrobe in the bedroom and bang goes the book shelving space. There was also a small cupboard in the small second bedroom, but guess what was in it? The boiler.

Having travelled an hour and half to get there and facing a similar trip back, I felt disappointed, let down, cheated. The description and measurements in the ad were nothing like the reality. It really was a case of almost, but not quite. To get onto the terrace you had to climb through a sash window. To get into the laughingly named 'study' you had to climb through a small cupboard door. Some developer had cut every corner to turn a cramped space into a two-bedroomed flat. And yet it was so gorgeous... for a first-time buyer or a minimalist.

Alien dream

On Saturday night I had a very strange dream. I was in something resembling a large hotel and in one of the rooms, under lock and key, was an immensely tall being from another planet. It looked like a human female, but it had a wedge-shaped black head.

The manager came with a message. Apparently the being had asked for me, saying I was the only one it/she could talk to. When I was let into the room, the 'head' was gone - it had been an oddly-shaped space helmet - and I was looking at a ten foot tall blonde woman, pretty but not overly so. Not the creature of male fantasies in computer games. No big boobs, no make-up.

I can't remember the conversation, but towards the end of it the female alien asked how old I was. I told her and returned the question. "24," she replied. "I wish I was 24 again," I said, whereupon she touched me with a long index finger and said, blithely, "24!" It turned out that their species could cure all illness and even reverse ageing just by touch.

Then she said she had to go and led me outside. All I could see was a pile of what looked like empty white pizza boxes in a sunken yard behind the hotel. The heap shimmered and a door opened and two people in cabin crew uniform - one, a woman dressed in grey - were there to usher in the alien visitor. I waved her off, then suddenly cried, "Can I come?" and launched myself towards the spacecraft.

Then I woke up. Got up. Looked in the mirror with hope in my heart... But no, I was not 24 again. Damn dreams!

Friday, 8 May 2009


"How have you been since saw you two weeks ago?" enquired the dentist.

"Ten days of pain," I reported grimly. He looked a bit non-plussed.

He started drilling away, removing the old filling. He hadn't given me a jab because the nerves were dead. Or were they? He rodded out two roots, the ones that had been infected, then, when he stuck the metal probe into the third root, the one the healthy nerve had been taken from, I hit the roof.

"That shouldn't happen," said the dentist. He filled a syringe with anaesthetic and stuck it up the root. If I could have spoken, I'd have said some extremely rude words. It hurt. In fact, I quivered and yelled so much that the dental nurse sweetly took hold of my hand.

"Oh dear. This is very rare. I've only known two or three other cases. There must be a piece of nerve left behind and the anaesthetic hasn't got through. I'll have to give you a jab at the other end of the tooth," I was told. "This might be a bit uncomfortable." It was nothing compared to the jabs in the nerve.

Hardly giving the novocaine a chance to work, he recommenced rodding the drains, to the accompaniment of more ouches. I dug my nails so hard into the back of my other hand that I still have the impressions.

When he'd finished, he warned me that I might experience even more pain than after the last visit. Oh dear. At least I could stomach a Nurofen or two a fortnight ago, but since then, and probably because of the Nurofen, my stomach ulcers have flared up again, so I'll have to rely on Paracetamol, hot water bottles and arnica tablets.

Or maybe - please, Guardian Angel, are you listening up there? - it won't hurt at all.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Clairvoyance strikes again!

In my entry on 21st April, I said I wished someone would get married so I could wear my nice new secondhand clothes. Well, my wish has come true! It must be six years at least since I attended the wedding of a friend's son, and twelve years since the last family wedding, when my sister wed husband No. 3! But this morning a fat, stiff envelope arrived containing an invitation to my cousin's daughter's wedding on July 18th. It's in Dorset, but maybe I can bum a lift off my London cousin. I'm certainly not going to miss it, though I think my black hat might be a tad funereal. I feel another trip to the charity shop coming on...

Hair and fur

When I ask for a trim, I certainly get it! When I got up today, my hair was down to just between my shoulderblades at its longest point. Then Andrea from down the road got to work and suddenly I was up to my hocks in ginger tresses. Then I washed it and... it's gone curly! (Pic taken with my 3 megapixel Nokia which doesn't do the wrinkles any justice.)

Here's what Flad thought of my new look. No seconds of Whiskas for him!

Literary Agents

Just heard back from Caroline Sheldon. She promises to read my book within the next two weeks. I emailed back saying, "Take your time," as I don't want her to think I'm hassling her! I really took to her and would love to work with her, so I am crossing fingers, toes and even eyes!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Bingo wings

Actually, I prefer the term 'bat wings'. In the days when I groomed ponies, played netball and rode bikes (so many decades ago that I've lost count), I was proud of my rock-hard biceps. I never thought that one day they would melt and migrate to hang like soggy dough under my arms, swinging when I moved. Neither did I think the day would come when I'd have to chuck out all my strappy t-shirts and sleeveless dresses for fear of causing members of the public to part company with their breakfast.

But alas, it has happened, so last Monday I went off to the gym to get some advice and was told the best thing I could do was sit on something firm, lower myself over the edge and do backwards press-ups. I found the bath was the ideal piece of equipment for this, as there was no chance of it suddenly skittering backwards and depositing me on the floor. But, in my enthusiasm to melt my too, too solid flesh, I have wrecked my wrists. Not only can I hardly type, I can hardly raise knife and fork to mouth (maybe this was a hidden aspect of the exercise, less food = less flab). As for a full wineglass... forget it. I fear my batwings are here to stay and I may as well practise my nocturnal flying.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Book editing

I am spending the bank holiday working like a dog. I'm editing a manuscript for someone who simply can't write. Almost every comma needs changing and I'm exhausted. I'm being paid £200 and the job has taken 3 days already and I'm not even halfway through. Slave labour, and totally numbing to the creative soul. But... I need the money. Roll on my pension next year!