Friday, 31 August 2012

A Perfect Poser

Today, I went to meet the friend whose partner is gravely ill in hospital. The quickest way to get to the hospital in question is to turn right out of the station and walk through the cemetery, an unfortunate and macabre juxtaposition. Halfway down the path, I bumped into another friend - Joan Byrne, whose excellent blog, Joan Byrne Snaps, is well worth following - and found her gazing at a stone angel with a perfectly posing pigeon on top. I was glad I'd brought my camera.

We also came across this unusual green tombstone. Green marble? Or is it faced with copper?

As you can see, it was a glorious day, if rather chilly for the last day of Summer, and we had a fantastic and remarkably cheap lunch (£7.95 for three courses) and a wonderful Turkish restaurant in Fulham. I hope that, with our laughter and reminiscences, we managed to cheer up our friend if only for an hour or so.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Prayers and prose

I have 11 days left to write four light-hearted, sexy chapters, plus a new synopsis, plus do loads of research about Brazil, because the book's foreign location scenes have to be moved from Italy, which the commissioning editor says is boring and has been done to death. (Pity: I did tons of  research on Italy when the book was originally written.)

Meanwhile, an old friend who has been in hospital for the last six weeks has taken a definite turn for the worse and we have been told that it is 'a waiting game'. So I am trying to write sexy romps whilst reading heart-breaking text messages and emails from my friend's partner and bursting into tears at intervals. It is a sad and uncomfortable and extremely ill-timed juxtaposition of art and life and all I can do is be like an actor and don the comic mask over the tragic one. I feel like giving up and telling the publisher I just can't do it, but that would mean blowing the biggest chance I've had in the last 15 years. I am praying for my friend, even though the situation seems hopeless. Perhaps you could join a prayer to mine.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

On the edge

I heard from the publisher at last. Of all my ideas, the one they like best is the complete book I sent them, which I wrote a few years ago and stars three young women in their twenties and thirties. They want the ages changed, the locations changed and lots more sex put in, and I have a deadline of 3rd September. That's two weeks away. If I succeed and they decide to go ahead with the book, there is the possibility of a series.

I thought Mr Grumpy might be pleased for me. After all, my writing career has been in the doldrums for the last seven years. Ever since I moved into his house 'temporarily' and he had his two strokes. We writers don't ask for much. Just peace and quiet, and to be left alone while we're working. But is he prepared to give it to me? Is he hell! He has commandeered the only quiet room in the house for his own office, which he sits in downloading movies and pieces of software. He keeps the front door on the latch, which terrifies me, and his loud, shouty friends barge in and out - and I am working in my bedroom right next to the front door, with traffic roaring by.

Now I am under this terrible time pressure, I find myself tense and in tears. I asked him if he could possibly postpone the party he is planning just for a week, in order that I may have that weekend to work, and he went mad. "So you're asking me to put my whole life on hold, are you?" he railed, then I got the 'it's my house and I'll do what I want in it' tirade.

I've been offered a flat to rent for a fortnight, but it has no internet access and my publisher wants us to bat chapters back and forth, which I can't do if I have to find an internet cafe each time. Also, without a car, I can't transport my desktop computer with the big screen, that I need for my appalling eyesight. Wish I could persuade Mr G to go away for a fortnight, but there's no chance of that. Oh, and I don't have a smart phone with internet on it. Though I don't think I could send whole book chapters on that.

My head is in my hands... and so is my writing career.

P.S. 9 fleas were in the water dish on the bedroom floor this morning. Bloody useless flea-bombs!

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Oh no!

I have set off flea bombs in Mr G's bedroom, the guest bedroom and the room in which I sleep and work, which houses all my clothes. At last, I thought, I can relax and not have to glance down and inspect every itch and tingle on legs and feet, to see if it's caused by a flea that I must grab instantly and dunk in the flea-drowning jug, which contains a goodly squirt of 'agent orange', which finishes them off instantly.

Then just now, sitting in my room on the telephone, I glanced down and spotted something black on my trousers. I approached it with a finger and PING! it bounced, across the room. It was another flea, and a very lively one at that and now it's about to infest my room all over again.

I can't de-flea the other downstairs rooms because they are used by Mr G all the time and he hardly every goes out. He refuses to be barred from his living room and kitchen for two hours, so the fleas that are lurking there are bound to infest the bedrooms all over again and are probably comfortably reproducing IN MY WARDROBE! AAARGH! What on EARTH am I going to do?

By the way, I had a survey done on a cottage that needed a quick sale and guess what? The damp treatment and roof repairs are going to come to over £10,000 so I am going to have to withdraw my offer and yet another estate agent will be horribly rude to me.

Ever felt like packing the proverbial spotted handkerchief and running away? (Though that's probably got bloody fleas, too!)

Monday, 13 August 2012

The Long Wait

If you're a writer, there is nothing worse than the silence you have to endure after you've sent something off. It's bad enough if it's a short story, but if it's a whole novel that took you months, maybe years to write, the waiting period is pure agony.

You veer between optimism and despair. You scan your emails constantly, or pace impatiently as you wait for the postman to arrive each day, crossing toes and fingers that what you'll get is a letter-sized envelope rather than a large jiffy-bag addressed in your own hand. I have several of those jiffy-bags lying around in dusty corners, with their years-old rejection letters still inside. I am almost superstitious about them; it's as if touching them, or taking out those rejected manuscripts, will act like bad magic, draining all creativity from my system for ever and ever.

In this latest case, I sent off some synopses and outlines, having been - gasp - invited to do so by a publisher. How rare and lucky is that? The publisher in question actually tracked me down on the internet, having once worked for another publisher for whom I wrote six or seven books at least twelve years ago. I decided not to go away last week in case... well, in case I had that email saying, "Please could you write three sample chapters by Friday, when we have our meeting with the sales and marketing people." It's the S&M department (should I call them Fifty Shades?) upon whom all acquisitions depend. I have been warned that even if I write my sample chapters, I still might not get them accepted. But who wouldn't be willing to have a go?

Is no news good news? Well, it won't be if I have a nervous breakdown due to the sheer stress of waiting! I can't concentrate on a thing, I'm on an emotional see-saw, Mr Grumpy doesn't understand and wonders why I'm so moody. The only living creatures who sympathise are Flad and my fellow writers. Good luck to us all!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Fleeing the fleas!

Our dad used to work for the Elder Dempster shipping line in Liverpool, where,. if I remember rightly, and perhaps my sister Merrylegs can correct me on this, he held the post of Assistant Chief Victualling Superintendent, responsible for food, drink, carpets and curtains and the training of the stewards on board ships like the Oreol, the company flagship, the Apapa and the Accra ( for anyone interested in shipping history; the company closed in 1985).

The boats plied between the Liverpool docks and West Africa and I well remember Dad bringing home, on different occasions, coconuts which he bashed with a hammer to break into them, pouring out the milk which was peppered with bits of broken hairy shell), sackfuls of peanuts still in the shell, and on one wondrous occasion a bright green Praying Mantis, which scuttled up the living room curtains and lived there for a while, before starving to death, poor thing, because we didn't have a clue how to feed it and just hoped it could catch enough spiders and flies.

Amongst the treasures brought home by Dad was the occasional flea. At the first sign of any of being bitten, the Hunt the Flea ritual would commence. It involved filling the bath tub with a few inches of water then going into the bathroom one at a time, stripping off each garment in turn and shaking it over the tub, until the flea appeared, swimming for its life. It would then be dispatched to a watery grave down the plughole.

These were human fleas, black, round and shiny, not like the reddish cat flea. The cat flea is a cunning b*****d. It lurks in soft furnishings, carpets and crevices in wooden floors, having hatched from eggs that fell off the cat when the next flea treatment was slightly overdue, and multiplies at a rate of squillions squared. In terms of cars, the population can go from 0 to 50 in a millisecond, beating the fastest Formula 5 racer. And they are in my bedroom... and the spare room... and the kitchen... and despite my daily sprayings and vacuumings, they still hop on my feet the moment I get out of bed in the morning.

I have now bought some flea bombs. You let them off in a room, close the door and flee for three hours. Apparently they smell like moth balls. So if that 'old lady' smell reaches your nostrils over the next few days, look around and you might spot me. And hopefully the spots left by the flea bites will have gone!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Charlie the Stray

This is Charlie.

He ran away from home in May and his owners leafleted the area and we were able to tell them that he was paying frequent visits to our garden. To get here, he had to cross a busy road and cut through the horses' field, then push his his way through brambles and nettles, but this didn't seem to deter him. We frequently found him with his head in the fox's dish.

His owners managed to lure him home but he soon absconded again. Apparently, he didn't get on with his feline mum, who also lived there. She bossed him around something terrible, and he, being a big, strong, three-year-old adult male (well, almost...), just wasn't going to put up with it. So he ran away for good this time and is living rough and his former owners are no longer responding to our text messages about him. From being utterly distraught, his 'mum' is now acting like a woman scorned.

He looks pretty well fed and we suspect he's sneaking through every cat flap in the neighbourhood and taking what he can get. But he is wearing a tight collar, the end of which dangles and must really annoy him, so my aim is to get the thing off him.

The last four nights, he has appeared just before 10pm and meowed outside the patio door, so I have been putting some food out for him, though he was so nervous that if he so much as saw me looking at him,. he would run away. I had to peep round the kitchen door and watch him covertly.

Then tonight, I had a major breakthrough. I put his food out, left the door open and crouched down. He buried his face in the food and I slowly extended my hand until I was actually stroking his head very gently. And he didn't run away. I think within a few nights I shall have that collar off him.

His human mum told us that he is supposed to be on a special diet as he has a kidney problem and crystals in his urine. We have seen no signs of distress or ill-health. His coat is glossy and he certainly isn't thin. I rather think he has designs on being household cat number two, if Flad will permit it. There has been the odd outbreak of hissing, but Charlie defers to Flad, backing off if Flad decides to eat Charlie's dinner as well as his own. Maybe they could be friends one day. I hope so.

Friday, 3 August 2012

All Change!

Well, two problems have solved themselves instantly. The offer of my friend's flat in Highgate has been withdrawn because a family member needs to stay there (gutted; was really looking forward to it and had booked up lots of property viewings which I shall now have to cancel as it's too far to keep going there and coming back to where I live - two hours each way on a variety of trains and buses).

The second is that my sister will be having a mad week next week. Not only does she have her art show, which entails hanging all her paintings and getting the last few framed, but she is being filmed for a TV documentary next Thursday - don't know the details yet - and has various climbing friends staying. So we won't be able to have any quality time together, which is what I long for, not having seen her for two long years! She's going away on another long trip on Aug 31st and I have yet another dental appointment on the 21st, so I hope we can get together in one of those 'windows' and have a spa day. I really do miss her and I get horrible flashbacks to my friend Louise, who I didn't see for 18 months because of my infected tooth - I was getting abscess after abscess and didn't feel up to going on holiday to Cornwall, and then she suddenly died. If that were to happen to my sister...

No! Mustn't think such doomy thoughts. Wouldn't have had them at all if I hadn't made a nasty typo in my email to her last night. Instead of 'Dear Sis', I found I'd typed 'Dead Sis'. 'Oh my God, it's an omen!' I thought in panic. But even though it was just me being silly, it's made me all the keener to get up to Patterdale as soon as possible, to see my 'dear Sis'!

Here are two paintings of hers which I have hanging on my bedroom wall. The first is a watercolour of Striding Edge in Cumbria, near where she lives, and the second is a little pastel drawing of two Long-Tailed Tits in the snow.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Keeping balls in the air!

So many things are up in the air at the moment that I think I had better go on a juggling course. I have book ideas out for consideration. I am supposed to be visiting my sister in the Lake District next week but I also have the offer of my friend's flat in Highgate for the same week, which would be most handy as a jumping -off point for my property search, but will my sister have time to see me the following week instead?

I have a couple of jobs in, and sick friends to visit, and the old lady next door who keeps pressing her Careline button in the middle of the night, so we have to go round and put her back to bed (she's blind, deaf and 98 and if she gets up to go to the loo, half the time she can't find her bed again; how she finds the loo is beyond me!!!).

I have lengthy emails from distant and much-loved friends to answer in kind, I have yet more book proposals to dream up... and it's all busy, busy and I'm not even finding the time to watch the Olympics on TV. I am going to the Paralympics in September, though, and am really looking forward to strolling around that super park.

Tooth is still troublesome, but I'm going to have to take the plunge and head for sunnier climes at some point this year, October maybe. I'm quite keen to visit Gumusluk in Turkey because I've heard it's full of arty old hippies like me. Maybe I'll find a beardy weirdie and never come back!