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Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Chirpy little birds of doom (my hatred thereof)

Well.  It's (hang on, let me check) 5.39 a.m.  Yes, a mere twenty to six in the morning, the skies have barely pushed back the duvet of night, and already the alarm clock of birdy tweeting is in the air.

It started (I am in the nearly unique position to tell you), with the first twit at twenty past four.  Twenty past four!  What are they doing out there that is so important that they have to tell the world about it at twenty past four!  Even I wait until a reasonable hour to go on and on about Doctor Who... Anyhow, whatever it was they were doing it big time by half past four.  There I lay with the duvet pulled up to my forehead (not that I listen through my forehead, you understand, I was just trying to pretend it was still the middle of the night, mmm...dark, warm...smelling slightly of onions...) when outside in the hedge it sounded as though the bird equivalent of Britain's Got Talent was going through the audition phase.
Yes, this is the girl whose been told by her whole family that she sings just like Adele.

I tried to poke the duvet into my ears to prevent the noise-leakage, but my ears aren't big enough.  I wrapped my head in the pillows but the need to breathe drove me out again, and still, outside the window it's all 'lalalalallala - look how feathery and happy we are....I just ate a worm, you know...did you?...oooh,yes, big, fat, juicy one it was...'; full on avian water-cooler gossip being conducted outside my window.  I considered throwing something at them (chiefly I considered throwing a cat, having one conveniently to hand), but reasoned that even the largest feline-impact  ( and he's a pretty large cat) would only take out a very few of the culprits.  Mostly by squashing, since he's not one for chasing, although he does try to convince me that He Is Hunter by leaving conspicuous piles of feathers around the place and sitting next to them with a complacent smile.  I think he buys them in.

So.  There I lie while something that sounds like a snoring machine is giving it its all somewhere round the window ledge.  Whatever bird it is that has a song that sounds like 'tweeeet...tweettweettweet....tweeeet...tweettweettweeet' is the first on my list for extinction when I'm put in charge of the next Ice Age, I can tell you that.  Then there's something that sounds way too perky and over-excited, like a twelve year old girl let loose in Boots the Chemist's make up department with a twenty pound note.  That one particularly gets up my nose.  Then we have the standard-level 'chirp chirp' (those ones are small and brown, like little fluffy lumps of pooh, I've seen them at their chirpy chirpy thing, perched on the fence -  if big fat cat ever builds a ladder they are in such trouble...).  None of it too offensive, taken singly, in reasonable doses at a civilised time in the morning.  But when you're lying there in that warm, dozy half-sleep state wondering whether you can turn over and catch a few more hours, smelling the night-onions wafting up and knowing that no-one can see your morning-hair, then the last thing you need to hear is that first, ominous, twit.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Bits and bobs and interesting things (mostly about me, but this IS my blog...)

Right.  First things firstly.  My short story 'Just like a cat' is printed in this month's copy of 'Your Cat' magazine.  You should dash out and buy it immediately, you can't miss it, it has a picture of a cat on the front.  And inside.  Lots of pictures of cats, and my story. And other things too, of course, all cat-related, plus a really lovely picture of me and my cat.  I tried to send them a picture of me with an elephant, but apparently Your Cat is a bit of a giveaway, cats are de rigueur.  So there.

Next up.  I have been awarded a Versatile Blogger Award by the lovely and fragrant Janice Horton. It looks like this -

Now, apparently this means I have to tell you seven things you don't already know about me.  And, given the near-constant stream of drivel that pours out of my mouth at all hours of the day and night, there surely can't be many things left to tell you.  So I shall rake around and try to come up with some little titbits of information that may surprise, delight and enthrall you.  Hmmm.  Let me see.  I don't suppose telling you about my Cat story counts, does it?  No?  Bugger.
  Oh, hang on, I've got one.

1.  I can eat Marshmallows.  I don't just mean physically, anyone with a mouth and the ability to breathe whilst attempting to swallow something the size of a small bolster can do this, I can eat Marshmallows by the packetful, and not suffer any toxic sugar reactions at all.  I don't even feel slightly sick.  Nope.  Can't do Mars Bars, yuk, but Marshmallows - no probs.

Hmmm.  Something else.  Interesting and personal.  Oooh. Here's one.

2.  I cannot stand lupins.  They are creepy.  Hollyhocks and delphiniums are nearly as bad, but not quite as terrifying as lupins.

Oh, come on, don't tell me they don't make you shudder, just a little...

3.  I once raised a Pipistrelle bat by keeping it down my bra.  It didn't want to be raised there, it was hoping for fresh air, open spaces and the ability for a little recreational old-lady-scaring, but it didn't have a say in the matter.  Bats can't talk.

4.  (I'm getting into this now.)  I have Psychic Navigational Abilities.  This means I don't need a map, or GPS, I just point myself towards the end of my route and travel there without getting lost.  All right, sometimes it takes me a few days to actually arrive, and I'm often a little damper than I like when I get there, and mountains can be quite hard to get over when you're driving Peter Sallis, but nevertheless, I still get to my intended destination.

5.  I am the fourth BeeGee.  Yep.  Can't sing, can't dance (that's why they keep me hidden), but I do look fantastic in very tight white trousers, and I can do the squeaky voice like no-one's business.  Ah ah ah ah, stayin' alive.  Believe me now?

6. I've got a story in this month's Your Cat magazine.  Oh.  I've done that one, have I?  Ummm.  Sssssshh, thinking.....  I've never been to Swindon.  There, how's that?  I am going to Swindon, but bearing in mind that I shall be travelling using Psychic Navigational techniques perfected by myself over years of training, I may be able to continue in my inadvertant non-visitation of Swindon for some time. I'm sure there are many other places, equally lovely and friendly, that I haven't been to either, but for now Swindon will have to do.
I honestly don't think I'm missing much, by the looks of it.

7.  I find potatoes very boring.  Urgh, totally dull, as a foodstuff and I have it on good authority that they make rubbish stand-up comedians too.  Would you want to be stuck at a party with nothing but a King Edward's for company?  Well, there you go then, I rest my case...  Rice and pasta are pretty nearly as bad, but potatoes really take the biscuit in the bland mouth fluff department.  Sorry.

 Yeah.  What you see is what you get.  Yawn.

Now I understand that I must pass this award on to seven other bloggers of my immediate acquaintance.  So, here goes...

Of course, all of these people hate me...

Kate Johnson
Frank Tuttle
Elizabeth Currie
Lucie Wheeler
Debs Carr
Stephanie Cage
Fanciful Alice

Best of luck, chaps....

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Writing. Almost like a real job, except no one sees you doing it...

SCENE - an author's office.

The author himself is typing away.  'Bond entered the room.  The lovely young girl was astride the...'
"Ian!  Eeeeeeeyyyyuuuuunnnn!"
Wearily the author goes to the door and calls down the stairs to his lady wife.  "Yes, dear?"
"I'm off then.  Don't forget to put the bins out."
"No, dear."
"Oh, and this carpet could do with the hoover run over it."
 "Yes, dear."  He goes back to his typewriter, pauses a moment, then begins typing.  "...astride the chair, hands cuffed behind her..."
This time he doesn't go to the door.  He merely calls out.  "Yes, dear?"
"Could you put the oven on at twelve?  The Pratchetts are coming for dinner and I thought we'd have duck."
"Yes, dear."
"Oh, and don't forget the bins, will you?  There's plastic bottles all over the conservatory."
"No, dear."
The door closes and there is a pause of some seconds.  Long enough for him to turn his chair back to his desk.
There is a knock at the front door.
"Morning, Mr Fleming!  Lovely day. Would you mind taking in this parcel for Number Eleven?  Think they've popped out."
"I suppose so."
 Ian places the parcel on the table in the hall, signs for it, and closes the front door.  Wearily he treads his way back up the stairs and settles himself at his desk.  'cuffed behind her.  Doctor X had his rifle trained on her..'
The telephone rings.
"Mr Fleming?  Could you come and pick up Alicia, please?  She says she feels sick and her teacher says she's looking very peaky."
A sigh.  "I'll be there in ten minutes."
The front door bangs.  "Dad!  Daaaaad!"
"Yes, Simon?  I thought you were at Henry's all day."
"Yeah.  Was.  Came back to pick up me trainers.  Can you run us over to Sebastian's?  We're at band practice tonight and his dad says we can use the garage."
"Just a minute.  I have to pick up your sister first."
"Ohhhh, daaaaaad!"
There is another knock at the front door.  "Good morning!  Can you spare us five minutes?  We're doing a survey on the different types of pipecleaner that people use..."
"Sorry, I'm a little bit busy."
"DAD!  It's school on the phone, Alicia's been sick all over the infants again, can you bring a change of clothes for her?"
"Just a minute."
Ian Fleming climbs the stairs and enters his office.  He stares at his typewriter for a moment, before pulling the half-used sheet of paper off the platen and throwing it into the bin.  He replaces it with a clean sheet and starts to type.

'See Spot run.  Run, Spot, run.  See the dog run.'


Sigh.  I bet Terry Pratchett doesn't have to put up with it. Plus, in other news, I have been awarded a 'Versatile Blogger Award' which means I have to tell you things about me that you don't already know.  That is for next week.... so you might want to have a notepad beside you.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Lost in a good book?

Bear with me.  In a few weeks I'm off to the Fforde Fiesta!  No, not dear Peter Sallis (who continues to go very well, thank you for asking, and if that sentence baffles you then where were you last week?), but the Jasper Fforde Convention, which will be held in the environs of Swindon.  I don't know why Swindon has environs.*  I'm not even sure what they are - aren't they those arrow shaped things that you get on the road?  Anyway, I'm going there, because I llluuuuurve, in a totally perverted and entirely unfamilyfriendly way, Jasper's 'Thursday Next' books.  And if you don't know what they are...well, I'm sorry, there's no hope for you.
This is one.  Yes, there are mammoths in it.  And dodos.  Try to keep up...

And one of the major points in these books is - interbook travel.  Imagine!  If you could visit a book, talk to its supporting cast, look around the locations..well, I suppose we are going to get to look around Swindon, hence the whole environs thing, but imagine being able to visit Manderley?  Or actually poke around inside some of the cupboards in Northanger Abbey?

So today, for I am editing and shouldn't even be here... I am going to ask the question "which book would you most like to visit, and why?"  Because, quite frankly, it's about time we had a bit of class on this blog, and that I made you think about things entirely unrelated to rubber underwear, Peter Sallis and cake.  Oh, all right, you can think about cake for a bit, but you are absolutely FORBIDDEN from thinking about rubber underwear.  Is that clear?

So.  If I were at liberty to visit any book, which would I choose to wander through, criticising the curtains and annoying the dog?  Hmmm.  I've always fancied popping round to Wuthering Heights and giving them a piece of my mind, but fear that I'd leave the characters rather confused and liable to randomly taking up playing the tuba or talking about verruca remedies.  Or I could run barefoot through the entire collection of M R James ghost stories, shouting "It's behind you!", and causing the pages of Canon Alberic's Scrapbook to flap loose in the wind of my passing.

This would be a whole lot less atmospheric with me in it.  Wearing a teacosy and a crotcheted minidress and singing 'Who Let the Dogs Out' at the top of my voice. Or I might surface in Pride and Prejudice, crayoning all over Mr Darcy.  Librarians everywhere would be nervous wrecks.

So, I ask you this, before I am dragged back into the editing process by my fingernails.... which book would you visit? And how much damage do you think you could do before they came after you?

* Apparently I am thinking of chevrons.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Fiesta Resistance, or how I came to own a car that looks like Peter Sallis.

I've never wanted a Ford.  Well, apart from that time I was crossing the river and my boots fell off and one of them floated downstream and I had to walk home in my socks, I have to admit that a ford would have been damned useful on that occasion.  Or a bridge, a bridge would have been better, because I'm not sure that a small line of raised concrete would have been much use to me, other than to perforate my socks as I attempted to wade with dignity from the water, while my boots made sad little 'ploppy' noises as they submerged.  And there is little sadder than the sight of a rapidly sinking wellington when you're three miles from home and it's chilly underfoot.

If the boots had looked like this then I would have dived in after them, careless of my own safety.  But they didn't.  Which is why I let them go.  Better them than me.  Although, if they'd looked like this I would have gone down with them.

Where was I?  Oh, yes.  I've had to buy a new car.  There is a long and inevitably boring story behind why I need another car, suffice it to say that our family needs three cars.  Oh.  Well, I suppose the story isn't really that long then.  So, last week I went out on the hunt for a car.  Bear it in mind that I know about as much about cars as I do about orthopaedic surgery or lawn management.  And also try to keep in mind that, since I haven't won the lottery yet (despite Mystic Meg's perpetual pronouncements that 'Today is a Lucky Day',one of which I even received on the Day of the Boot Submergence) my car buying budget was on the infinitessimal side of pathetic.  And the only car I could find was an N reg Ford Fiesta.

I didn't want a Ford.  I mean, ideally I'd like a Bugatti.  Well, no, what I'd really like is a Lamborghini or a Maserati, but I can't reliably spell those on any forms I'd have to fill in, and besides, any of those Italian jobs just make me think of Jeremy Clarkson, because they are the sort of cars he's always showing off in, so, in an attempt to ward off having to think of Jeremy Clarkson, I decided to go for the Ford.

And now, for some bizarre reason, I think of Peter Sallis.  Peter Sallis, him from Last of the Summer Wine, the one who isn't dead.  The bloke who does the voice for Wallis and Grommit.  Yes.  Him.  As far as I know, he doesn't have anything to do with Ford Fiestas, apart from just maybe having owned one at some stage in his life, but maybe not even that.  I think it's something about the front end, it has this kind of 'nose' which reminds me of Peter Sallis's. 

This is him.  Go on, take a good look.

 Tell me you can't see the resemblance.  I won't believe you, you know.