Monday, 28 May 2012

Golden flag

The pond plants were put in three years ago and this is the first time these golden irises have flowered.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

A poem for the sunshine (a bit spicy!)


In this weather,
the coconut ghost of Hawaiian Tropic
wafts back from the Seventies and
I feel the Spanish sands
tickle and grate
and the sting of the hot sun on my brown arms.
Disco beats punch the midnight sky blue-black
and salty kisses
linger like tears on my lips,
the words dissolved
like jellyfish in the sun.

Fernando, Rafael, Miguel –
names that dipped my tongue in honey.
tending their boats in red shorts.
taut and brown and hard as oars,
choc-ices for my eyes.
Granddads now, do they recall
a skinny Scouser redhead
who matched their eagerness
when sex stabbed like a mosquito
in the cicada-scritching night?
No, names and faces were incidental
to the thighs’ molten sun
and coconut-scented flesh

And in the morning, the walk of shame
past laden breakfast tables,
sensing the paused forks, the thoughts:
‘She’s still in her disco gear!
We know what you’ve been doing, dirty cow,’
as envy surged in waves
from folk as old as I am now.
Hawaiian Tropic, it’s all your fault
that today, in the hot sun,
I feel twenty-two again,
cicadas ringing in my ears
and a voice sighs in a coconut shell:
Miguel… Fernando… Rafael…

Lorna Read, 25/5/12

Friday, 25 May 2012

The Kindle disguise

I have just read an article concerning the results of a survey which showed that 55% of adult purchasers bought a Kindle or other e-book reader to disguise what they were reading. The books they were most embarrassed to be seen with were erotica and children's fiction.

This got me wondering what kinds of books I would hate to be caught reading. I was never worried about reading a Harry Potter book on the tube, but I did try to use my elbows as wings to disguise the fact that I was avidly perusing a Mills & Boon (intellectual snobbery!). I also felt slightly awkward about reading a misery memoir, maybe in case people would think I was a miserable person! I certainly wouldn't want to be caught with Flogging Scarlet, or Diana and the Jig Jig Man, two recent titles from Xcite books!

The article ended by posing the question of how is a sensitive young man to attract a similar lady if he is reading a Kindle rather than a Penguin original paperback. That's intellectual snoggery!

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Piatkus Romantic Novel Compeition

Win A Publishing Contract With Piatkus Entice

Posted at 7:53AM Tuesday 22 May 2012
Piatkus/Little, Brown Book Group is excited to announce the launch of a new competition for UK writers in conjunction with the Festival of Romance 2012. Three winners will land a publishing contract and see their novels published on digital-first list Piatkus Entice, with the possibility of moving to print on the Piatkus imprint in the future.
Senior editor Donna Condon said: "The Piatkus Entice list presents a fantastic opportunity to break out new international and home-grown talent, as well as supporting existing Piatkus authors. Piatkus is known for quality fiction, and publishes some of the biggest names in the genre across a broad spectrum of genres, from romance to erotica, and we look forward to discovering some fantastic new voices. We're incredibly excited about teaming up with the Festival of Romance to present this exciting competition to writers in the UK."
Kate Allan, chief romantic, Festival of Romance, said: "This is a fantastic opportunity for authors and would-be authors at all stages of their careers who love writing romance and are looking for a home with a UK imprint motored by a leading publisher. With the digital boom, romance of all genres is flourishing and Piatkus Entice are at the cutting edge of this trend to give romance readers what they want to read. We can't wait to meet the new Piatkus Entice UK authors at this year's Festival of Romance."
The three winners' novels will be published in summer 2013, with Entice accepting entries in the following genres:
1) Romance/contemporary women's fiction
2) Historical romance
3) Paranormal romance
One winner from each category will be chosen and the winners will be announced at the Festival of Romance 2012 in Bedford, November 2012. The closing date for entries is 30th September 2012, and for details of how to enter, and terms and conditions, please visit:

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Another cold

Eyes are watery, throat is raw
Nose is sniffly, head is sore
I'm feeling 99 years old -
I think I've got another cold.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

A scary blip

I had a mental blip yesterday. One of those senior moments when, even before the episode is over, you start wondering if you have truly lost the plot. It went like this. After Sunday's car boot, I had a wallet full of fivers. I spent them, went to the ATM and filled up with tenners.

Then I went to the crystal stall in the market, to pay for two readings from a clairvoyant medium, one for me and one for my friend (on June 8th, in case you're wondering). The lady who has the stall also organises everything at the spiritualist church. Now for a short digression...

Last Friday, I and my young friend, Mr G's kind of step-daughter (he lived with her mum and brought her up from the age of three) attended an evening of mediumship with Jeff Phillips, aka The Laughing Postman. I have seen him twice. The first time was when he brought my dad through, describing him minutely, even down to the tune he was playing on the piano, to tell me I was going to take up studying again, do a further degree or diploma and write a book about healing (highly unlikely...) The second time, there was no message for me at all.

So last Friday, I left home at 6.30 pm to pick up Step, who lives twenty minutes away. She wasn't ready,. so we barely made the hall by 7.30, when Mr G dropped us off. In fact, the session was just starting. I could have done with the loo, but was confident there would be an interval. There wasn't. It got to 9.30 and I was wriggling in my seat. I turned to the organiser, who was sitting behind me, and asked if there was going to be a break and she said no. "Then I'm going to have to leave," I said, knowing the nearest loo would be in a pub ten minutes' hobble away. I couldn't use the hall's loo was it was through a door behind the medium and I would have disturbed everyone and the organiser said it wouldn't do at all.

Just as Step and I were leaving, Jeff said to her, "It's a shame you're going. I've got a message for you." "Sorry," said Step and followed me out, even though I told her to stay. So she had wasted a fiver and not had her message. Which brings us back to yesterday...

I had decided to treat Step to a private reading with another medium as an apology for last Friday. The readings cost £10 each. "That will be £20," said the crystal stall lady. I looked in my purse, stared at the three £10 notes in it and this is where my mind had its blip. "Oh dear, I've only got £15," said, handing her the three tenners. "I'll see what change I've got in my purse."

"But you've given me £30! Shall I keep £10 as a tip?" she quipped. And it was then, and only then, that my eyes and my mind recognised the notes as tenners, not fivers, and at once a cold wash of fear spread over me. I am losing my mind, I told myself as I crept away towards the bus stop.

I just missed the bus. As it doubles around the back of town before heading for the next bus stop, I put my head down and jogged through the middle of Uxbridge, but didn't jog quite fast enough (well, you don't when you suffer from stress incontinence!) and rounded the corner just as the bus was pulling away. There wouldn't be another for half an hour, so I went to the Cafe Nero and found I had ten stamps on my loyalty card and was due for a free coffee.

Twenty minutes, freebie and slice of carrot cake later (well, it's healthy if it's got carrots in, isn't it?), I returned to the bus stop and that's when I realised that, after all, I couldn't take that particular bus which drops me nearest the house, as I'd promised Mr G that I'd buy a jar of pasta sauce. Oops, nearly forgot.

That, plus the fiasco of mistaking tenners for fivers (they are different colours so why would I? Why was my mind still seeing images of blue fivers in my wallet?) makes me think I am on the downward slope to Dementia City. My mum developed it in her eighties. I am twenty years younger. But then there's Terry Pratchett, isn't there?

There is one straw to which I am clinging with all my strength. About seven years ago, I answered an ad in the local paper to take part in a survey at the Institute of Neurology in Queen's Square, the very place where Mr G went for his scans after his brain haemorrhage in 2000. It was part of a neurologist's PhD thesis. She had devised a series of tests and quizzes to measure mental agility in older people. It wasn't easy, but after it was all over, she told me that not only had I done well, in some of the tests I had scored higher than anyone else. "I don't think you're showing any signs of Alzheimer's!" she said confidently, adding, "In fact, I don't think you ever need to worry about getting dementia."

But I'm not eighty yet. There's still plenty of time... Was this a particularly bad senior moment? Can anyone top it? I hope I'm not alone!

E-book readership is growing

I found this article very interesting. It makes me keener to try self-publishing, especially as the older age-group is a growth area.


Nearly a third of British adults (31%) say they are likely to buy an e-book in the next six months, according to a new study from Bowker.

According to report Understanding the Digital Consumer, the percentage of adults who have purchased an e-book has seen an almost threefold increase since February 2011.

The Kindle has become the e-reader of choice for UK adults, with 40% of those reading e-books using the Kindle most often to do so. Tablet devices have more than doubled market share between February 2011 and March 2012, with 12% reporting that they use them most often.
Growth in e-book consumption is being driven by older readers, particularly those aged 45-54. Just over a quarter of this age group bought an e-book in the six months to March 2012, up from 17% in November 2011. Men are more likely than women to buy e-books, but women buy more and also download more free titles.

Children aged 10 and under are reading e-books on laptops rather than dedicated e-readers, according to the study. However from the age of 11, the Kindle becomes their most widely used device.

The 2011/12 Understanding the Digital Consumer study is based on online surveys involving 3,000 British adults aged 16-84, with an extended set of questions around children and their use of digital content.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Another writing competition

Can you write funny stories for children? This comp is open to writers who don't currently have an agent. Which means I can't enter, boo-hoo, which is a shame, as I haven't even spoken to my agent for three years and she is actively discouraging me from writing. Huh!

Flad fled

Is there a cat under that bench?

I think perhaps there is...

Actually, poor old Flad had a tough time of it this weekend as the sky was full of ear-splitting Typhoon fighter planes. Every time one went over, Flad shot in through the cat flap and cowered halfway up the stairs. We had been warned that there would be excessive aircraft noise as they were running a rehearsal for what would happen if there was a terrorist attack on the Olympic Games and the planes were taking off and landing from Northolt aerodrome, a mile away from here. I wonder if the other host countries did anything similar? It's a chilling thought. 

Here he is, in all his relaxed, furry glory. He's 15 now. I think that makes him about 75 in cat years. He deserves a relaxing snooze, doesn't he? 

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Green fingers? Not me!

Some people have green fingers and plants love them and will grow willingly and abundantly for them. Others, like me, have black fingers, not because they are compost-covered, but because, as far as plants are concerned, they are the black fingers of doom. Plants only have to feel their touch, to shrivel and die.

Years ago, a romantic boyfriend handed me a plant. "When this dies, so will our love," he said melodramatically. Well, the plant looked healthy enough, but within a week it had keeled over and the relationship didn't last much longer!

The only things that seem immune to my fingers of doom are tomato plants. Last year I planted six and had a jolly good crop. Far too many, in fact. I think people were scared to come round in the end, as they didn't want yet another bag of tomatoes thrust at them. This year I have only planted four; two Moneyspinners and two Alicante, which the lady at the plant stall by Uxbridge station assured me were easy to grow and produced plenty of fruit. We'll see...

I also bought some blue things and some yellow things. Apart from the pansies, I've forgotten their names. Aaargh! So sorry, flowers. Perhaps that's why they give up on me. They feel unrecognised, unacknowledged and just about every other 'un' you can think of. Wonder if I'd get on better with a Ranunculus?!

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Boring, boring!

Yes, today I'm going to be extremely boring and mention the subject of my tooth woes again, hopefully for the last time. I have just signed on with a new and rather hard to get to (requires lift from Mr G) dental practice and I had my first appointment this morning. It coincided with my having a terribly upset stomach, so when the dentist (a gracious, stately, very attractive Indian lady who is head of the practice) welcomed me in and asked me how I was, I went into my nervous babble mode which I always do when ill at ease, and told her she wasn't seeing me at my best as I had a really bad tum. "Sorry to hear that, but we do have a loo!" she said with a big smile. At once, my nerves vanished and the two Immodium Melts I'd taken on the way kicked in and my tummy tumults began to settle down.

The long and short of it is that Denplan won't pay for the bridge, implant, whatever I want to fill the big gap, but the prices she quoted were so much cheaper than Dr Expensive, about a quarter of the price, that I immediately said, "Yes, please."

When I got home, I began to shake and quake again at the thought of having to ring Dr Expensive, with whom I had booked a 2-hour appointment next week, with a promise of lining his pocket with a £2,000 deposit, and tell him it was all off. I had just got through to the practice and was pressing buttons to connect me to 'If you wish to cancel an appointment...' when Mr G came back from the shops. Whew! A short stay of execution while I made him a cuppa to replace the cold one that had waited too long for his return.

I couldn't put off making the call forever, though, so ten minutes later I got through and explained to the very pleasant receptionist that I was having to cancel because I couldn't afford the treatment. "Have you had any further thoughts about joining one of our cheaper schemes? I was the one who gave you a leaflet last time you were here," she said. I gulped, then thought 'why not?' and spilled out the story of how I had tried to bring the subject up with Dr Expensive and he had talked me out of it. I didn't tell her the argument he had used... the fact that he said his colleagues used methods that were 20 years out of date and only he was up to speed and had all the latest equipment, as I didn't want to cause any ructions. He had young, keen-looking dentists working in his practice; no way would they be using antiquated root canal treatment methods! He was just trying to keep me as a private patient as long as he could.

I asked how much I owed, and she said there was nothing showing on the computer. I thought I owed him £100 for a demonstration false tooth he had used, simply so he could show me what my smile would look like with a false tooth in the gap. I thought that was a bloody cheek! He never asked me if I wanted to spend £100 on a piece of china or plastic that would only be used once for a photograph! He has my mobile number so I hope he doesn't start ringing me up to try and make me change my mind. That would be really embarrassing. I mentioned to the receptionist that I fully understood that Dr E needed to make a living and it must be hard for private doctors and dentists at the moment, as I wanted her to know I could see both sides of the story and I was very sorry to be depriving him of his next mortgage payment. What's the betting I get a call saying, "Very sorry, you do owe £100 after all"? Dr E would be doing it out of spite!

With any luck, I am now on the road to having a nice smile and a comfortable bite again (only two teeth meet at the moment when I close my mouth, and it's most uncomfortable). I am going back to my new dentist, Dr D (has anyone else noticed how more and more dentists are calling themselves doctors these days?) next Thursday to start the first stages of bridgework. I decided against an implant as I couldn't bear the thought of having a metal prong drilled into my jaw! Wish me luck...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Naughty eBooks

I haven't yet read 50 Shades of Grey and I'm not sure I want to, but for any of you who fancy their hand at writing in the genre, here's a piece about Harper Collins' new ebook imprint (if you can call it that).

NEW YORK — Publishing house HarperCollins launched in March the eBook imprint Mischief to specialize in erotic fiction. The company, which got the ball-gag rolling with the release of erotic vampire story "Red Grow the Roses," is set to publish four eBooks a month. 
The label hopes to capitalize on the success of E.L. James "50 Shades of Grey," the literary sensation that has struck a chord with female readers over the age of 30 that have become fascinated with the book's themes of BDSM, and which continues to spike sales for retailers of erotic novels and fetish gear.
"The fact that HarperCollins, a big publisher, is joining the fray with this range of erotic books is an indication of the popularity of the genre," said Suzanne Noble, director of Stunning PR, publicists for Mischief.
"Until now erotica has been dominated by small publishers and self-published authors," Noble continued. "With the launch of Mischief, we are looking to raise the quality of what's out there, not to mention the popularity of erotica in general."
To whip up consumer interest, is offering free and half-off download specials this month on many of its eBook titles, including such works as "Sisters in Sin," "A Study in Shame" and "Girl for Hire: The Secret Encounters of Amateur Escorts."