Sunday, 31 January 2010


I am a dreadful sleeper, it's a fact I can't deny.
The sandman never sprinkles any sleep dust in my eye.
My duvet is my enemy. It creeps about the bed
And leaves my tootsies bare and cold whilst smothering my head.
My oh, so comfy pillow, at the stroke of midnight's bell
Suffers a transformation to the sack of spuds from hell.
And when did I eat toast in bed? I'm sure I feel a crumb
Lying on the sheet in wait to stab me in the bum.
I hear a stealthy rustle from the corner of the room
And hold my breath in terror as I scan the fearsome gloom.
Is it a mouse? A cockroach? Or something much, much worse -
An evil, ghastly spectre from an ancient family curse!
By now it's almost four a.m., five hours since I turned in.
Soon the wretched blackbirds will start their morning din.
Then - bliss! I feel sleep drifting up. Perhaps a dream or two...
Alas, my slumber's not to be. I need the wretched loo!

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Heart of the Wolf

My friend Teresa Ashby tells us in her blog that January's full moon is known as the wolf moon. I didn't know this, but I did write this poem a few years ago. Perhaps I was channeling something, as it was one of those poems that wrote itself and has a strange, almost ritual quality.


At the heart of Man is the Wolf,
at the heart of Wolf is the Moon.
At the heart of the Moon are our dreams -
I hope you find yours soon.
Dreams of the man, dreams of the wolf
and the brightest, bravest Moon

At the heart of Wolf is the Moon
and Wolf's at the heart of Man.
At the heart of the Moon are the dreams
that we've had since time began.
Dreams of the wolf, dreams of the moon
and a howl at the heart of Man.

The howl of Wolf is the lust
for sinew, blood and bone.
The howl of Man is the dust
of the dreams he's never known.
Howl of the man, howl of the wolf
and the keen of the wind through bone.

The dreams of the Moon are dark.
The dreams of the wolf are bright.
Who knows of the dreams of Man
in the hollow shield of night?
Dreams of the man, dreams of the wolf
in the moonstone silver light.

At the heart of Man is the wolf.
At the heart of Wolf is the Moon.
At the heart of the Moon are are dreams -
I hope you find yours soon.
Dreams of the man, dreams of the wolf
and the silent, secret Moon.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

The ten most annoying things authors do

As both a published author and an editor, I am in the lucky and unusual position of being able to view the publishing scene from both sides of the fence. I am in the middle of my third book-editing job in as many weeks, and am becoming ever more irritated at the common mistakes authors make. I'm not saying I haven't made some of them myself. My friend Jacula kindly proof-read a few chapters for me and I was horrified at the number of typos that had slipped through my eagle-eyed net. (One mistake: mixing metaphors!)

Here are my chief horrors.

i. Not checking the spellings of brands or products. This is just plain laziness. If I have to correct Liebfraumilch or Laurent Perrier one more time, I'll be forced to tip a bottle of one or the other, or even both, down my throat.

ii. Thriller writers who can't even spell essential words like Kevlar. It doesn't take a moment to type it into a search engine and come up with the correct spelling. The same with names of weapons. And foreign words and phrases - and these, as well as being correctly spelled, should be put into italics.

iii. Authors who set their story in a town or village, then vary the spelling of it throughout the book. The answer to this is to write your own outline, setting out spellings of characters, place names, etc., before beginning the actual writing. This is taking a professional approach.

iv. Authors whose characters start off with red hair and green eyes and end up as blue-eyed blondes. See previous comment and add descriptions of your characters.

v. Writers who invent an interesting subplot strand, such as what happened to Aunt Agatha's will, then forget all about it, leaving a loose end waving about at the end of the book like an unravelling jumper.

vi. Too many flashbacks. It's awful when you're thoroughly involved in what's happening in 1991, and are suddenly pulled back to 1928. It's much better if a story can unfold in a linear fashion, so that the events of 1928 precede the events of 1991. All good saga writers write linearly. It doesn't matter if the story jumps a decade or so, so long as it all makes logical sense.

vii. Too many incidental characters that have no important role to play in the story. If a writer goes to great lengths to describe a character and fill in some biographical details about them, the reader then expects them to play a major part in the story. I have just finished editing one book in which the reader was made to feel very involved in the life and quest of a detective, who was promptly forgotten two chapters later, never to be featured again.

viii. Too many viewpoints. Each time an author gives a character a 'voice', the reader is thrust into that character's head. If the reader is expected to follow the inner workings of too many characters' minds and emotions, they will just get dizzy and confused, so the rule is, limit the viewpoints to just three or four main characters.

ix. Not matching the dialogue to the characters. In life, different people have their own vocabulary, which may contain mainly swear words, or could sound as if they've swallowed a dictionary, but will always match their personality. Too many writers make all the dialogue sound the same, no matter who is speaking.

x. Weak, flabby endings that resemble the backsides of writers who spend too many hours hunched over their keyboards. I have never embarked on a novel without having the end fully worked out. Many times, I have written a good, strong final sentence before even writing the words, Chapter One. If you do that, you have something to work towards. It's like setting your destination into your SatNav, then navigating along the route till you finally, gladly, arrive.

House search latest

I had to bow out of the bungalow. Not only were they pushing for another five thousand which I didn't have but as I came out after my second viewing, I remarked to the agent that it would be a good idea to pave the side path. Which is when I noticed why the present owner hadn't paved it. A big, knobbly tree root was growing across it. The tree itself was on the other side of the fence, in the grounds of a block of flats and only about five feet from the house. Tree roots spell structural trouble in my book, so I said no and my search is on again.

To add to my woes, I have toothache in a new tooth. Someone up there certainly has it in for me.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Ill again

My goddaughter and family will be at Heathrow later with her parents, as she, husband and babe are flying back to Vancouver today after six weeks in the UK. They asked me to have lunch with them at Carluccio's in Terminal 5, but guess what? Having dropped off to sleep at 11pm, I awoke around 2.30 with the most ghastly stomach ache, lay awake till 6, when I dragged myself up and found Mr G feeding Flad. He had gone to bed at tennish and had a blissful, uninterrupted night. I have since had several unpleasant trips to the loo and it looks as if the IBS is back with a vengeance. Yet I only forgot to take my probiotics for one day. Not fair, is it?

It is horrible having your life dominated by your stomach, being unable to arrange things and rely on actually getting there because you are notorious for cancelling on the day due to feeling ill. I am so fed up with it that I have sent off for the York Test to try and find out what I am allergic to. I ate Mr G's stew with dumplings last night. I also drank some red wine. I don't mind giving up red, but if the test says I can't have any wine ever again.... I suppose you can't put a price on feeling well.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

T-Mobile too mobile!

Isn't it typical? Just when you think you have a pleasant day ahead with nothing to spoil it, something does. My mobile phone bill arrived and was inexplicably high. I have been with T-Mobile since they started and am on a very good deal with a loyalty discount. Recently, I went into my local T-Mobile shop and was awarded a phone upgrade so long as they could sign me up for another 18 month contract. I agreed, as long as I could stay on my present contract, which is a manageable amount each month.

Anyhow, I just rang them asking for an explanation, only to be told that the cunning sod in the T-Mobile shop had changed things on his computer, so my current cheap deal ran for one month only, and then I was switched to a much more expensive deal. The unhelpful woman in customer services told me I would have to take the bus into town and take it up with the people in the shop. Yet she could have put things right just by tapping a few digits into her computer. I am steaming mad. Mr G says they have broken their contract with me and I am free to go elsewhere. I hope this is true. He has a good deal with Virgin and only pays £10 per month. I have checked the contract they gave me in the shop and there is no mention of my payment plan whatsoever. Whatever the outcome, my peaceful Sunday is now ruined.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Keeping schtum

Or is it shtoom? The dictionary says either is permissible. I have some red hot sizzling news concerning someone very close to me, and I have had to promise not to tell. It's SO difficult to keep my mouth shut on this one. I mean, there are secrets and there are secrets... When I am eventually given the green light, though, I shall be jumping for joy and buying a... No! Hush my mouth!!!

Friday, 22 January 2010

Location, location (of estate agent)

I have tracked the b****r down in his empty, echoing no-property-to-sell habitat in North London. He sounded drained of all energy, a hollow man totally bereft of any shred of salesman bounce and energy. Maybe he has a small baby that keeps him up all night. Or a large mistress. According to him he was 'in meetings' all Wednesday and didn't give an excuse for Thursday at all. I have arranged a second viewing for next Tuesday, which gives me a chance to have a look at a cheaper cottage in a further away location (swings and roundabouts) that another (very bright and enthusiastic) agent has just contacted me about.

I must say my heart is in property number one because it is on my familiar patch, I could get my lovely old GP back again, my old chiropractor is down the road and best of all, so are three of my good friends. My old local pub with the Sunday jazz sessions is a stroll away. I could have fun again. BUT... and it's a big but... I'd be paying a mortgage. The other, I could buy for cash but in order to have fun, I'd be spending an hour each way on buses. Lotter win, oh lottery win, wherefore art thou? The £15 I won on the Euromillions last week had a few noughts missing!

Thursday, 21 January 2010

House-buying trials

After months of searching, I finally find a house I like. I tell the agent I am very interested. He says he will ring me in the morning. He doesn't. In the afternoon, I ring him, to be told he is out of the office and will ring me when he gets back. He doesn't.

This morning, I go to the bank and arrange a loan. I come back and wait for the agent to call me. He doesn't. Mid-afternoon, I ring him, to be told he is just leaving for an appointment and will ring me when he gets back. He doesn't. What the hell is going on? If they have accepted an offer in the meantime, surely it is common courtesy to inform me? I am SO frustrated. No wonder I hardly slept last night.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

And there's more...

The last post reminded me of a joke.

Man goes to the doctor and says, "There's something odd wrong with me. Every time I take a dump, it comes out looking like French fries."

Doc asks him to strip off and lie face down on the couch to be examined. Suddenly, the patient hears the doctor rummaging around in his desk. He looks round and is horrified to see him approaching the couch with a large pair of sharp scissors.

"No, no, Doc!" he screams as the doctor looms over him with the blades in his hand.

"Relax," says the doctor. "I'm only going to cut a few inches off your string vest."


Spotty chest

Woke up this morning with ghastly stomach ache. Made a cup of tea and found my chest was itching intensely. I scratched and scratched, then went and looked and found, to my horror, that I had a pattern on it as if I'd worn a tight string vest. There were big, raised, white weals spread across my chest.

I'd been looking forward to going to a party at Soho House that my goddaughter was throwing this afternoon, but I didn't feel up to it and besides, I couldn't bear having to put warm clothes on top of my itchy chest. So I stayed in reading the papers and feeling sorry for myself and hoping my goddaughter would forgive me. I have put some E45 Itch Relief cream on and that has worked very well. I can only think it is an allergy to something or other. I ate some ginger-flavoured licorice last night. Could that be the culprit? I also used some new moisturing lotion, but I smeared that all over my arms and legs as well and they show no signs of a rash. Very, very strange...

Friday, 15 January 2010

Not a cold but...

Every day I play the Babble word game ( and one great thing about it, apart from the chance to chat to people all over the world via messages in the chatbox, is that the words are linked to an online dictionary so that you can find out what the obscure ones mean. It's a great way of improving your vocabulary (hope it helps stave off Alzheimers!).

Anyway, today I have learned what must be the best one of all - coryza. I looked it up and discovered it was a medical term for an acute infection of the mucous membranes, or a head cold. No longer do you have to tell the boss that the reason you haven't come in is that you've got a cold. How much more impressive it sounds when you say, "Sorry, I have a very bad attack of coryza." They certainly wouldn't want you in the office then. In fact, they'll all be left wondering if you can catch it from lavatory seats!!!

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Creams and Dreams

Just when I find a moisturiser that really works (L'Oreal's Age Re-perfect) I have to go and develop an allergy to it. The first week was fine and even Mr G noticed my wrinkles vanishing. But last night I awoke with streaming eyes and nose, and this morning I've just put the day cream on and can't stop sneezing and blowing. That's £40+ down the drain.

I have tried others that don't make me sneeze and stream, but they don't work. What do I do? Put up with the allergic rhinitis and see my wrinkles disappearing, or smear my wrinkles with the hypoallergenic goo that doesn't work? The latter seems a pointless exercise, apart from the fact that it makes my face feel less like it's going to crack if I smile.

On another subject, I sometimes wake in the night with an idea for a song, short story or poem in my head, so I decided the solution would be a notebook and pen next to the bed for my nocturnal inspirations. Two nights ago I woke up with the most wonderful poem literally writing itself in my mind. The notebook was an arm's reach away. As was the light switch. I thought about it. Either act might wake me up so I couldn't get back to sleep again. Damn it, I thought. I'll remember it in the morning and work on it then. Next day, it was six in the evening before I recalled the previous night's poem. Did I remember a word of it? What do you think!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Telepathy has a new name

It takes me till Wednesday every week to finish reading the Sunday papers. I always keep my favourite sections till last, and in one of them (Sunday Times News Review if you must know), there was an article about Dr Christopher James, a biomedical engineer at Southampton University who is researching into brain to brain communication which, as journalist Matt Rudd who wrote the article points out, is a scientific way of saying 'telepathy'.

With electrodes attached, Rudd and James's daughter thought hard about 'left' or 'right' and tried to communicate the thought to the other one. "Seemples," as Aleksandr the Meerkat would say. Our family practised much more complex communication than that.

As I mentioned in an early entry in this blog, my mother was a great believer in the powers of the mind. When we were quite small, she used to think of an object, usually an animal, and project it into our minds. All three of us (me, Mum, my sister) would take turns to be a 'sender' or a 'receiver' and with practise we got quite good - 8 out of 10 correct. My own experiments with 'sending' taught me that the animal (let's stick with animals) had to be reduced to a simple shape such as found in a baby's book about animals. Just an outline, coloured in with the correct stripes, spots or shade. A parrot would be green with a curved beak and a long tail - no wings, they were too complicated. A cat would be a black silhouette with ears, whiskers and tail. The sender would focus very powerfully on this image and project it clearly, allowing no other thoughts to enter the brain. When I was sending, I used to mentally repeat the name, too.

I wonder if this is why, in later life, I had many psychic and ESP-type experiences. Perhaps it was because that part of my brain involved in sending and receiving 'messages through the ether' had been finely tuned when I was young and, like learning to swim or ride a bicycle, it's a skill you never forget.

Buddy the Budgie

We looked after this little chap from before Christmas until today, when his owner came to collect him. He became very much part of the family, with his wonderful trilling song and his cheeky chirps. Mr G let him fly all over his study as he is used to stretching his wings in his owner's penthouse which has a 40 foot living room. Here, he had to adapt to a mere 8 feet of wing space.

He speaks just two intelligible sentences - "Buddy good boy" and "Give us a kiss." My G's attempts to teach him rude words seem to have failed. I think he is a very well brought up budgie. I shall certainly miss his cheery company.

Monday, 11 January 2010

More snow

Woke at 3.37 am as the room was illuminated. The outside light had come on, probably set off by foxes, and was reflecting off a fresh fall of snow. Very pretty. I woke again at 7, pulled an extra duvet on the bed, turned on the electric blanket and dozed till 8. From the bumps and bangs, I knew Mr G was up but when I sprang out of bed with a "Brrrr!", the radiator was stone cold.

Turns out he has decided to go back to his old regime of no heating till 10 am to give the hot water cylinder a chance to heat up. He only puts it on for two hours in the morning so of COURSE it's gone cold again by nighttime. No wonder when I stagger sleepily into the bathroom for a wash before bed, I get woken right up again. The bloody water has always gone cold. What a house! Yet he lived here for 10 years with his late partner and two small children. They were obviously made of sterner stuff than I. When I have had my own house, I have always had a combi boiler - hot water any time of day, as much as you want - and set the heating to come on at 7am. When you're living in someone else's house, it's hard to put up with their rules when you've been used to setting your own, with your own comfort in mind. I don't think I can stand it much longer.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Supermarket spat

Deleted yesterday's post as I hadn't realised it made me sound as if I condoned homophobia! Which I certainly don't. The point I had been trying to make was that I'd love to find a chap who enjoyed watching costume dramas and soaps, and there aren't many of those around.

Mr G has just asked me if I'd 'like' to go to Sainsburys with him. Is there anyone who actually enjoys going to a big supermarket? Bashing your way down the aisle through dozy people's shopping trolleys? Why am I the only person who tucks my trolley in nice and neatly so everyone can get past while I am perusing the cheeses which Sainsburys will insist on stacking on both sides of an aisle, rather than putting them all on the same side. Their logic quite evades me. As does Mr G's logic in using the self-checkout facility when he has a stacked trolley and half the items bleep for an assistant, and he curses and says it's all my fault for buying loose lemons, or whatever.

Mr G, who is a stickler for timekeeping, has suddenly yelled up the stairs that he told me 15 mins ago he was going in 15 mins time, and he will wait for nobody. It was only 5 mins ago that he said he was going in 20 mins time, and I told him I had to get changed first, not wanting to be seen outdoors in my grotty old tracky bottoms. So now he has gone and I have missed my only chance of getting to Sainsburys for a week as it is only accessible by car and I don't drive. Hooray!

Friday, 8 January 2010

Battling in the front line!

Mr Grumpy (and most of his friends) have had the most ghastly cold all over Christmas. It's the one that ends up with the horrible chesty cough that wakes you up all night. You know the one. I's the one that sends you rushing to buy super-glooper Tena Lady pads.

So far I have managed not to catch it, but today I awoke with earache, headache, sore throat and am now going hot and cold. So I am staging a last ditch attempt to beat the bacteria army by swigging soluble Vitamin C 1000mg and taking L-Lysine capsules. This combo is courtesy of my old friend and neighbour Dr John Briffa, who recommended it as a way of giving one's immune system a quick, effective boost if ever you felt you were getting a cold sore (or herpes of any type, even the unmentionable) and it works for colds too. Well, usually. We'll see. I hope it will as I can't skate down to the chemist's for the Tena Lady at the moment and it's just started snowing again.

On another subject, I went shopping for slippers at both my local shopping centres and there wasn't a size 6 to be had. Presumably this popular size was widely bought as Xmas presents. So I went on line and found the most amazing cheap website. It's and from them I purchased black ones with a glittery pink design, and the leopard print bootees you see in the photo. At £3 and £5 apiece, I consider them amazing value. I ordered them last Sunday and they arrived today. Fantastic, considering they have come all the way from Lancashire in the ice and snow. So my feet are warm and toasty now and I have chucked out my previous two pairs, the soles of which were flapping and highly dangerous on our wooden stairs. Just imagine the scene in A&E. Rows of people who have broken legs by slipping on ice, and me. "How did the accident happen?" "Well, I was coming downstairs in my slippers..." I'd feel such an idiot. At least it would have been better if I'd tripped over the cat. (Though maybe Flad wouldn't have enjoyed it...)

Now that I've tempted Fate, I'd better b***** off!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Mr Grumpy's diet.

Fruit, veg and salad he simply won't eat.
I find his refusal quite pervy.
Yet he shovels down dumplings, potatoes and meat -
It's a wonder he doesn't have scurvy.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Moody cat

Flad hates the snow. He has had the hump all day. As I sat in my study he skulked past me and, I thought, climbed onto the bed and went to sleep, as is his wont. So I went in to give him a consoling stroke and... no cat. Nothing black and white and furry on the bed, on the floor under the overhanging bedspread, behind the chair... till I peeped into the en suite. From the look of him, I think he needs the toilet paper!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Next door's cat

'Next time you're in the kitchen, look on top of the fridge,' said Mr G. I did... and this is what I espied. Next door's naughty little Bengal cat, enjoying the heat wafting up from the fridge motor.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Cat food

Have just read an ad for Purina's new cat food for neutered cats - which, we are told, have different needs to non-neutered felines. What it doesn't mention is if there is a gender difference... whether neutered toms need the same type of nutrition as spayed queens. I would have thought that, as males and females have different hormones, they would need different 'neutered cat' food. I mean, men wouldn't be given female HRT. Not, that is, unless they are going through gender reassignment!

So I wonder how long it will be before the pet store shelves are clogged with kitten food, adult cat food - separate tins for males and females that still have all their bits, senior cat food similarly gender diversified, and of course food for male neuters and female neuters.

Come to think of it, I've had a full hysterectomy. Shouldn't I be on special food, too? Where is my shelf in Tesco, eh?! (Or is it the wine section?)

The curse of the new phone

It's been obvious for months that my trusty Nokia N70 was dying. Even though I tried two new batteries in it, it refused to hold a charge for longer than a day and was always expiring just when I needed it most.

Just before Christmas, I went into a phone shop and was informed I could have a free upgrade. Feeling techy that day and wishing to try something new (fool!), I opted for a Tocco Lite. Big mistake. My blundering fingers just haven't got the whizz of youthful digits and soon my texts were going to the wrong people and I was in a hopeless tangle with it.

So yesterday I bought another Nokia. It's black and pink, oh so pretty and oh so light. But... in transfering info from one to the other, I have lost all my keepsake messages, like my daughter saying, 'Love you, Mum', which is music to my ears seeing I only found her four years ago and still haven't quite got used to being called Mum.

I shall persevere with this phone. It's got very few built-in ringtones and I don't know how to download any, but I'm sure I shall soon get used to its beeps and tweedles. It's got a 3.2 megapixel camera so in a mo, I shall go out and take some shots of the beautiful silver frost in the garden.

Happy New Year!