Sunday, 31 July 2011


I have put an offer in on the second bungalow, but some other viewers were going round it over the weekend, so I don't know if they will put in offers, too. I went Bollywood dancing again this morning with this very nice woman, also an ex journalist and also from Oop North, who lives locally and who I hope will become a friend. She's my age and manages a jazz band! So perhaps things are starting to look up after four years in the doldrums.... No, six. Six solid years in Mr G's house. He has been remarkably patient with me as he doesn't show his emotions and I, as you know, am the opposite! I don't think I am very good at living with people and, once I've moved, I don't think I shall ever contemplate doing it again.

Blackbird's nest

Mr Grumpy had refrained from trimming the hedge while the blackbirds were nesting, but once the fledglings had flown, he climbed up the ladder and found this perfect, beautiful, empty nest. He trimmed the hedge, then put it back in case were tempted to nest a second time.

We were amazed to find that the blackbirds had wound garden string around it, and had woven sage leaves in. On Springwatch, they said that birds often use aromatic leaves to keep ticks and flies out of the nest. If you look at the top photo you can see the sage quite clearly. They must have nipped it from my sage bush!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Bungalow no-go.

I've pulled out of buying it. There was damp, the garden was much too big and wild for me to deal with, and it required far too much work to get it ship-shape. In addition, my hoped-for profit evaporated when my surveyor pointed out that there wasn't enough head height in the loft.

Every other bungalow had got a loft room but sadly, with this one I would have needed planning permission to raise the roof height and build dormers and I don't have that kind of money. I'm off to see a two-bed bungalow this afternoon that doesn't require any work at all. But it won't make me any money to move back to Highgate with, either. At least I'd have somewhere warm to spend the winter, though. Mr G has said ominously that he is going to turn off some of the radiators this winter, to save money. He'd save more by mending the windows and curing all the draughts!

Saturday, 23 July 2011

A study in stripes

Here's another piccy I took on my new camera - Chi Mimi in camouflage mode amidst the shadows cast by the slatted table. Quite arty-farty, I think!

New camera

As I managed to kill my beloved Pentax compact camera by dropping it on the wooden floor, I thought I would treat myself to a replacement. I loved the Pentax because a) it took good, sharp photos and was very easy to use, and b) it used batteries rather than a charger. I have another compact which has a charger and that means I could never take it on holiday because the charge would be bound to run out just as you were poised to take the shot of a lifetime and were miles away from the nearest electricity supply.

Off I went to discuss the matter with my local Jessops, where the salesman soon pointed me towards a special offer, a Canon Powershot A495, reduced from £111 to £49. I was a bit put off by the cheap, plasticky look of it, but I decided to give it a go and I'm glad I did.

Here is the very first photo I took on it, of the last of my winter pansies. I am really impressed with the vividness and trueness of the colour. £49 well spent, I think.

Friday, 22 July 2011

This says it all!

I think I'll have to get this doormat!

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I had a terrible night last night. I'm taking homeopathy for insomnia and it does seem to be helping me to get to sleep but I am waking up several times a night. Last night, I had a ghastly dream. Some foreign terrorists were murdering visiting diplomats (I'm sure this happened in an episode of Spooks) but the problem was that, in the dream, the role of each diplomat, whether male or female, was taken by me. And in the dream, it wasn't just acting, I was bring killed for real.

The first time, I was electrocuted. I woke up, terrified and glad to find out I was alive. I went back to sleep and the dream resumed and this time I was poisoned. I woke up again, thinking, 'Hey, this isn't fair, I should have had a different dream this time.'

The third time, I was shot. When I awoke this time, it was getting light. It was bin day and I think the sound of the shot that penetrated my dream was the sound of the binmen hurling rubbish sacks around.

I spent today feeling weak and drained, almost as if I'd had my life-blood sucked out by a vampire. (Glad I didn't have that dream! Oh... I dunno... it could have been quite sexy.)

Wonder what that dream of being multiply murdered means? Anyone have any idea?

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Rant of the day

I sent my agent a grumpy email last night, complaining that it didn't do much for a once-prolific writer's ego and soul when she was being encouraged NOT to write, rather than being nurtured and enthused. This was her reply:

I fear that the older authors are having a really tough time with new novels and ideas. Adult fiction has to be really blockbuster stunning because those mid list titles are just not being taken up any more - partly because library sales have dwindled so much. Getting the voice right is the main problem today with young people and it is a real problem for the older YA author too.

What the hell does the age of an author have to do with whether a book is good or not? When you thumb through a book in the bookstore/library and think, 'This looks interesting, I shall buy it/take it out', do you also think, 'Are they a mid-lister?' or 'I wonder how old the author is?' I have never thought that in my life. I bet it doesn't apply to MEN!!!!

What my agent seems to be saying is that, because of cutbacks, the reading public are being presented with less and less choice because publishers only want to publish books which they consider to be surefire hits, e.g. celebrity memoirs (ugh!). They are not interested in slow burners. The shops wouldn't keep them on the shelf for long enough for them to conflagrate.

In the meantime, as readers, are we expected to subsist on the intellectual equivalent of a Big Mac? Not me. I haunt library sales and Amazon's secondhand sections and the charity shop shelves and feel sad that these re-sales are not putting any more cash into the poor author's pocket.

So, once more, it seems that all roads lead to the self-publishing option - though a recent article I read on the subject intimated that, as well as publishing, we need to be able to add videos and podcasts. Whaaaat? Shakespeare and Dickens would have been non-starters in this techie age. Podcasts be damned. Pods are to keep peas in. Pass me a quill pen.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011


Mr G came back from the supermarket with a bunch of flowers for me, so say sorry for being grumpy. Not red roses, not perfumed lilies, but a few scraggy old purple crysanthemums that were already dropping their petals. The price label was on - £3. But I suppose it's the thought that counts. I must have cried far more than £3-worth of tears, though.... I feel a poem coming on.


The only way I can get the kind of profit I need in order to move pack to 'my patch' in N. London is to build a loft room in this house. But Mr G has been ferreting away on the council website and has told me that someone further down the street had to make 8 applications at several hundred pounds a time, before they got permission. Not only that, but you are only permitted to extend a house by so much, and this one already has a kitchen extension and a conservatory. Not only that, but they don't appear to have had planning permission for them, either.

I have rung the agent and asked him to find out. He said, "Oh well, if it was done years ago, it doesn't matter." Oh yes, it does. When I bought my last house, I discovered the stairs had moved from a straight flight to a right-angle and the vendors had to take out insurance before I bought it, in case the council came along and insisted they had to be put back to where they originally were.

I can see that there have to be rules to stop people knocking down their houses and building monstrosities that would block out all the neighbours' light and ruin their privacy, but it really is a minefield.

This morning, I had a ticket to go to Leicester for lunch with my literary agent. My head was buzzing with ideas to discuss with her. Then came the news over the radio that a tube train had broken down on the very route that takes me to St Pancras station. So I emailed her and said I had to cancel as I couldn't get there. "Damn," she said, "I was so looking forward to having a girly chat." So then I emailed her a couple of my ideas for children's books. "No point even thinking about books, nothing's selling," she replied.

She said the same thing two years ago, which means my creative side has been idle as it seems pointless even starting anything. Yet... she is considering taking on a young man I put her way, and marketing his books. So why not mine?

I'm so disappointed and so hopping mad that I'm glad I didn't trail all the way to Leicester (3 hours each way from where I live), only to be told to give up writing as it's pointless. Why did she take me on as a client if she doesn't want me to write, but only wants to meet for lunch and 'girly chats'? It all points to the fact that if I want to carry on writing, my only route is to go it alone, sans agents and avec Amazon.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

A bad patch

I have spent the last few days in a state of extreme anxiety. I thought the relationship was over and I made a decision that was based on that, at least in part. I feel exhausted. Although Mr G would never lay a finger on me, he is very good at doling out an emotional battering, leaving one bruised inside, rather than outside; the kind of bruises which you cannot see, but oh, how painful they feel. I call it a slap on the soul.

As always when we have a row - and it doesn't happen very often as I walk on broken glass, trying not to say anything controversial that might raise his blood pressure and cause him to have another stoke - I am left confused, wondering what I have said or done that was wrong.

He bought a new piece of kit, some kind of box to enable you to see programmes from BBC I-player on the TV screen. He plugged it into the television then coiled a twiny cable across the doorway and over the hall into his study, where the other end was plugged into his computer. Now, as an insomnia sufferer, I sometimes wander around at night. I go into the kitchen to swig Gaviscon if my ulcer is bad, or open the door and stand on the deck, looking at the moon and stars, enjoying the night-time sounds, stroking Flad if he is around, photographing hedgehogs (as one does)... and I do all these things with the lights out, so as not to wake myself up too much. I am almost sleepwalking.

Here is what I said to cause the monumental row. I posed the question in the mildest, un-naggy, un-moany of voices. "Please could you unplug it at bedtime so I don't trip over it in the night." A fair enough request, wouldn't you think?

Well, Mr G snorted and pawed the ground like an enraged bull. "How dare you speak to me like that! How dare you tell me what to do in my own house!" The tirade went on while I cowered, tears springing to my eyes, a big neon sign with the word UNFAIR on it blinking on and off in front of my inner eye.

"Please," I said. "I wasn't trying to tell you what to do, I was only trying to prevent an accident. What if you'd tripped over it? You know your balance isn't too good since the strokes." But that didn't do the trick and other resentments got added to the mix, such as the fact that I had dared to grumble the other day about not being able to concentrate on my work because of his visitors coming round all the time - the ones with the five kids especially - and that I hadn't written a book for six years because I didn't have enough peace and quiet. Until I moved the computer into my bedroom, I was working on a glorified landing with no heating and not even a door to close. Now I can work in the bedroom, but it faces north, the window is broken and the wind whistles around the panes and the traffic noise is deafening.

He also complained that my 'stuff' was taking over his spare room. "I may as well move out and let you take over my house as that's what you seem to be doing," he said. (It's always 'my house', 'my kitchen', 'my spare room', 'my garden'; his sense of ownership borders on the obsessive.) So my response to that was to tell him I would redouble my efforts to buy my own place.

That remark was greeted by silence. Then I remembered something he'd said at least three years ago, and I mentioned it. "The only reason I haven't found somewhere before now is because you told me that you wouldn't abandon me if I'd had a stroke."

"I never said that. I would never use emotional blackmail. You've invented it," he said. I hadn't. I'd been so upset at the time, caught between my desire to help him and my need for my own creative space that I'd rung my sister and a couple of close friends and told them. I reminded him of another upsetting thing he'd said and of course he denied ever having said that, too. The upshot was that he shouted at me, saying he'd tell his friends never to come round or even ring in case they disturbed me. Then he had the cheek to tell me that I didn't need to work. DIDN'T NEED TO WORK? I am a writer. A poet. A songwriter. And as well as my own work, I edit and critique other people's. And although I don't earn much, I need that extra cash and I also need the stimulation and sense of achievement I get out of what I do. Without work, I would go crazy with boredom here. Totally barking mad.

I had put the dinner I was about to cook back in the fridge because I felt sick, and I didn't want another curry anyway as it was the third in a week and I have digestive problems, as you know. It was he who was insisting on currying the leftover kleftiko. (I think he could happily live on nothing but curry, so why doesn't he f--- off to Mumbai?) He then got the meat out again and cooked it and we ate curry in tense silence. The whole of the next day he went round with his headphones on and didn't speak to me. So I put in an offer on the bungalow I'd seen on Monday, that needed doing up.

By the end of yesterday, when the offer was accepted, he was speaking to me again. Just. I am now walking on eggshells again so as not to upset him. But now the next controvery has begun. This house is my property, my project. I want to design it and find the builders, but I got up this morning to find he had printed out the floor plan and was busy scribbling on it. He is sticking his oar in, telling me that I would be stupid to tile the floor of the half-finished conservatory but I should put in a laminate floor instead (ugh!) and I should use his mate X to do this and his mate Y to do that. I could scream! I want him to butt out and leave me to get on with my project on which I am spending my money. Not ours, not his - mine. I can already see more storm clouds gathering on the horizon. Pass me the Gaviscon!

Friday, 8 July 2011

Ill again

I stopped taking my Colofac tablets for IBS about three months ago and have been feeling pretty good. Not today, though. I awoke at 6 am, couldn't get back to sleep, then realised my tum was feeling uncomfortable. Now it's 9 am and I have such a bad stomach ache. I feel sick, I've had several trips to the loo and I have to drag myself across London to view a house because if I don't, I will have missed it altogether as tenants are moving in tomorrow. It's right where I want to be, and it's a detached bungalow where I could play the piano and not disturb anyone. I wouldn't be able to move in for six months, till the tenants have gone, but at least I'd know I had it and I wouldn't have to keep on searching.

I also have a cheap ticket for London Zoo tonight and am going with my friend Jill. But the way I'm feeling right now, there'll be no house and no zoo. It's just not fair! I'm trying to remember what I ate yesterday. Two slices of cheap packet salami from the Indian corner shop with a salad for lunch. Could it have been that? I made some cherry buns and ate two. Mr G cooked 'pigs in blankets' - sausages wrapped in bacon. I had two of those with new potatoes, baked beans and mushrooms for dinner. It was a bit heavy on the meat yesterday. Perhaps that is what my digestive tract is complaining about. I ate a handful of cherries, too, to try and redress the balance. Did they over-tip the scales?

I have never known what causes my stomach aches. I've been plagued with them my entire life. From time to time I have kept food lists for a week or so, to no avail. I can eat something with impunity one week, yet the next week the same thing will make me feel dreadful. The only 'new' thing I ate yesterday was that salami, so I shall stick the rest in the fox's bowl as I should think it has a stronger digestion than I have.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Musical cobweb

When I was a kid, I used to ping cobwebs as if plucking the strings of an instrument. Yesterday, I was walking down the side of the house, which is covered with a perspex roof, when I looked up and saw an ancient cobweb forming a perfect quaver. Wonder if the spider who made it could be the reincarnation of a famous composer?

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Cool for cats

Chi Mimi has the right idea about how to keep cool. She stretches right out, just where the breeze comes through the roof window. And yes, she is lying on one of my poems, which is entitled Notes on the Wallace Collection.

(Her 'dad', by the way, has been moved to the spinal injuries unit at Stoke Mandeville. He is utterly fed up with being in hospital, but until the fractures in his spine and neck have mended, he can't be allowed to move as it might cause permanent damage. The poor man has pneumonia, too. He's still not out of the woods. We hope to get up to see him this week.)