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Sunday, 29 September 2013

In which I am stressed by the failure of domestic appliances.

This has not been a good month here.  Now, I don't wish to burden you with my woes, but since you are already here and I've locked the doors, I'm going to, anyway, and you needn't think that you're getting your hands on my Hobnobs unless you maintain a suitably sympathetic silence, with occasional nods of empathy. After that, we'll see, but I warn you that the biscuit tin lid is rigged with explosives, so don't try sneaking a hand in unless you want to be sponging custard creams out of your ears all night, all right?

My car needs a new clutch
My washing machine is broken beyond repair
My hoover's revolutionary Powered Head has inexplicably lost its power and I now have to hoover a dog-haired carpet with an upholstery brush..

Who sniggered?  I heard someone snigger there! I demand that you all assume a solemn expression, this is important, as you will soon discover when you try to sit down and disappear in a cloud of dog-fluff...

the Big Car needs taxing and new tyres (also MOT and something called a 'timing belt', but since I don't know what that is I shall just nod and smile whenever it is mentioned)
I owe the Council Tax people, on top of everything else I am paying them, a mysterious £50. I don't know what it's for, I just got a letter telling me I owed it. So I rang them up, and they don't seem to know what it's for either, but they were able to assure me that, oh yes, I quite definitely owed it to them. For... you know... reasons.
Tax returns.  No, nothing specific regarding those tax returns just... they exist, and I have to do them. That's quite enough for someone who lives in World of Chaos (it's like World of Leather but it moves around more) since it involves piling up bits of paper.
This is what my brain looks like from the inside.

What it should be like. Apparently.
So, as you will see, I have an extended period of screaming to be getting on with. This may delay me, somewhat, from actually doing anything that needs doing, but I find screaming so therapeutic, don't you? Besides which, it keeps people from getting their hands on your chocolate wafers - it takes a very brave person to tackle someone who keeps yelling "Things! So many THINGS!" while shaking a mop head and brandishing a packet of paper clips.

So if you see me during the next few weeks, just pat me kindly on the shoulder or, for those who wisely don't want to get that close, just hold out some chocolate. On the end of a stick. Probably, to be safe, a very long stick...

Oh look. Now someone's detonated the bourbons...

Sunday, 22 September 2013

It doesn't matter what age they learn to talk. Honestly.

And today I return another child to University.  One has already gone, another is yet to leave, so I thought this was the ideal place to have a quick word about children...

I've several friends at the moment with young children. And by 'young' I mean still falling over, being sick and weeing everywhere - which I realise can also describe me after a hard night on the orange juice, but these particular ones have ages in single digits. The children, I mean, not the parents, because that would be odd.  And, almost without exception, they feel that their child is somehow 'behind' on something.  Those whose little ones can confidently recite pi to fourteen decimal places, are worried that their child isn't yet running confidently downstairs with a pig under each arm.  Those whose children are currently entering their ninth marathon are worried about that lisp when their child pronounces on the subject of 'absolute existentialism'.  Those parents who aren't worried about either of these things are particularly fretful that their offspring has a tendency to remove all its clothing in Tesco, and run down the offal aisle.

As I have raised five children past the 'naked offal-running' stage, through the lisping inability to do a jigsaw puzzle without wetting themselves and up to the ability to dress themselves in clothes that don't frighten horses, I feel qualified to tell all those parents not to worry.

Honestly. Seriously, don't worry.  I despaired too that my children would never learn to use the toilet/never learn to speak in a language that didn't consider 'Onint' to mean Elephant/never be able to walk confidently up and down stairs without dropping to their bottom and shuffling... and yet... one of them is a father himself, three are at University, and one is performing advanced singing and dancing in front of many people.  One of them called a pigeon a 'pim', one used to pronounce swan with a peculiar nasal 's' that sounded like pfhwan, and one got ridiculously excited by dinosaurs and knew practically every single type (including Baryonyx) by name by the age of three.  All now functioning normally in society (well, if you count training to be accountants to be normal, which I don't, but your mileage may vary) and able to pull their own trousers up and put socks on the right way round.
Two accountants, one writer, and a working father of one. I know, hard to believe, isn't it?  Just goes to show that you should never despair...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Okay, I'm going to make this quick know, reasons.  I'm a day late, because I was at Booqfest in Northampton this weekend and it was brilliant as ever,  I basically ligged about, chatted to people and was a bit 'fangirl' over Joe Lidster again. Yes, just like last year.  I was surprised, frankly, that he actually spoke to me at all, rather than calling the police and gesturing wildly with the end of the table leg he was using to restrain me from flinging samples of my writing at him.  Anyway.  This year I arrived too late for the cupcakes (something I am still sulking about), but had an enjoyable time anyway.  And then today I went to work, from which I have just returned, and am therefore tired, cross and somewhat de-energised.

Yep, honestly, I can't even muster up the enthusiasm to post a picture of kittens.  I've spent the last five hours rushing around a science department, been shopping, hung out the laundry and now wish to lie very still, gazing at the mysterious crack in the ceiling and going 'mmuuuuurrrrrr' quite a lot.  I also have to do some more work on 'I Don't Want to Talk About It', my current work in progress, which I am now wishing had a much shorter title.  I am about half way through presently, suffering from 'middle of the book' syndrome, and am restraining myself from eating loads of chocolate and pretending that I've got nothing to do except lie still and go 'mmmmuuuuuurrrrr'.  But I am aware that those of you who read this blog (you do, don't you?  I mean, you are out there? Because I do have a suspicion that it's really just me and a large chicken, and I'm beginning to suspect that the chicken might not be real either, so, you know, if you are out there I shall be amazingly reassured) want some form of entertainment from these words of wisdomish, so, in the spirit of entertaining some people, who may or may not be real, I'm going to dance.


Now I'm going to lie down and go 'mmmmmuuuuurrrr' some more. Come back next week. I might be feeling more enthusiastic by then.

What do you mean 'why is there a picture of Johnny Depp'? Seriously, I'm appalled that you even have to ask...

Sunday, 8 September 2013

How I had an attack of Chickens,gave up gardening and took up wildlife and wasps.

I used to like gardening.  There was something about being down there in the soil, stark naked and rolling around with a potato in each hand that told me I wasn't doing it quite right, but I was happy.  I had the sun on my buttocks, the wind in my groin and a smile on..well, I suppose it was my face, but I was quite often upside down, so it wasn't always easy to tell. And then, dear reader, I got Chickens, it was probably all that rolling around naked, people always told me I'd catch something. 

Subsquent to the Chicken Acquisition, and not unrelated to it, I discovered that there are few things more dispiriting in life than going out to your newly-planted herb garden, in which you have invested time, money, weedkiller and many hours of naked rolling, and finding nothing left but a patch of bare earth, three bits of pecked greenery and a lump of chicken pooh.

But, you know, chickens lay eggs. And gardens don't, although you can, with much hard work, whole days of weeding, hoeing, tying up, pegging down and covering with netting, persuade a garden to let you have not quite enough vegetables in one go to actually feed the family, thus necessitating having to go to the shop anyway to top up with frozen veg.  So I gave my garden over to the chickens.  And, by extension, the hedgehogs, rabbits, pheasants, deer, butterflies birds and wasps.  I mean, I could be out there now, carefully turning over soil in order to painstakingly plant something which the chickens will eat as soon as it sprouts, or will turn my newly dug soil into a dustbath.  But I'm not, I'm sitting here on my bed, in the sunshine, guilt free.
Here they are.  On my picnic table, on what used to be a lawn.
My garden is now 90% nettle and 10% bitey-things, with a 0.5% pondage variable, but that's fine.  The children have all grown out of wanting to dig random holes or have a tree swing, the dogs like mooching around in the undergrowth, the cats enjoy stalking the innocent wildlife that wanders through, and I... well, I gaze out over the half an acre of wilderness with they eye of a David Attenborough, and mutter about refuges and endangered species.  There's a patio to sit on, if necessary, and sufficient flat bits of grass to sunbathe (ah, yes, sorry, I forgot to mention the wasps' nests, but they're fine, leave them alone and they won't bother you...).  I save time and energy, which I can then invest in writing, which is a posh name for Googling, laughing at cute pictures of kittens and trying to formulate a message to Tony Robinson which won't breach the (fairly specific) terms of my injunction.  And I get views like this...

Which is nice.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

I host a Special Guest who has a competition for you! Lynda Renham launches her new book and tries to steal my HobNobs!

Today, I have a guest on the blog!  I know!  I actually managed to persuade someone to come in here!  I shovelled a clear path and laid a trail of cake, and then I stood at the door making those 'squeaky' noises that one makes to attract cats, and she came!  Obviously I immediately had to tie her to a chair to prevent sudden escapes or anything, and then I asked her some questions about her writing and books!

So I'd like you all to welcome....Lynda Renham, whose new book 'The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties' is available today on Kindle!

  Lynda, I've got a few questions for you, so that readers may be enlightened about you and your writings, if I may...

Oh.  Sorry.  I'll take off the gag and blindfold, that will make things easier...

I note that The Valentine Present and other diabolical liberties features a stammerer (as does my wip, incidentally, chaps).. would you say that stammering had any hand in your becoming a writer?

I had a stammer from the age six until nineteen. I still stammer a bit now when nervous or excited. You can imagine if I have anything urgent to tell Andrew it can sometimes take a while. I used humour as a way to deflect from my embarrassing stammer when I was young. I suppose in that way it set a humour course in my writing.

Lynda talks in italics.  Posh, eh?  I've only just learned to speak in sans-serif...

How do you come up with your, very funny, titles?

Andrew and I do a lot of brain storming. We throw out ridiculous titles like ‘Teacakes and Jam’? or ‘Croissants and knickers’ until we come up with something that sounds right. In fact,  ‘Pink Wellies and Flat Caps’ was initially ‘Pink Wellingtons and Flat Caps’ but our cover designer, when querying something, referred to it as ‘Pink Wellies’ A result! Sometimes it is called ‘Pink Willies’ - damn predictive text.

Oh, I dunno.  Seems reasonable to me.. Probably a good job the book isn't called 'Green Wellies and Flat Caps'....

 What is your view on scented candles?

Apart from giving me a headache and sending Bendy into a coma, I love them.

Bendy is Lynda's cat.  He's very lovely, but then, he is a cat...

 Your cover art fits your books so well, how do you arrive at the covers you use?

We found a superb artist by the name of Gracie Klummp. Her work is amazing. She always seems to know what we want and she reads extracts before starting work. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover but I believe the cover is very important.

You've always been a huge supporter of mine (for which, many thanks!), who do you consider your greatest help during times of strife?

You’re very welcome. I love your books, but let’s get back to me… My rock and greatest support is my husband Andrew. I never give him enough credit as he won’t allow it. But I’d be back in the gutter without him. I am his Eliza Doolittle (if you believe that, you’ll believe anything.

I now have visions of you, hunched over a rail yelling 'move your arse!', but, of course, you'd never be so coarse, Lynda, would you?  Oh, sorry, the gag again...tut...I just can't remember to leave that off, can I?

Who (and I admit this may be a leading question) is your favourite band?

Erm, erm… Let me think. Ah yes, it is the hugely successful indie rock band Willow Down.

Of course, of course...mmmm...Ben Davies.....

My latest novel, Hubble Bubble, is about a bunch of women who try to perform magic. If there was one piece of magic you could do, what would it be? 

Apart from bringing world peace and all that malarkey, it’s got to be to make chocolate calorie free.

I know you are a lover of yoghurt, and yoghurt-based substances, but what is your favourite flavour of ice-cream?

Mmmm, where do I start? Strawberries and cream.

Sadly misguided, because we all know it's anything with marshmallows and caramel in, but I shall let you have that one.

And finally - rhubard. Yes, or no?

Yes, yes, yes. I love rhubarb. Rhurbab yogurt, rhubarb crumble, rhubarb and custard. I’d have rhubarb tea if I could find it.

Good.  Good.  That's the right answer.  Stop wriggling, I'll let you go in a minute. First I want to tell people how they may participate in your competition, giveaways and general high fallutin' doings today..
Go over to Facebook, where the online launch is taking place, just here .  Like Lynda's Page, which will give you many more details about her books, and check out her website.All these places will give you maximum chance to win copies of The Valentine Present and Other Diabolical Liberties, Lynda herself will be there, just as soon as I've released her from the chair and made sure she's not running off with any of my Hobnobs or anything.  You can also, should you so desire pop Twitterwards,  where Lynda will be delighted to hear any tales you may have of liberties taken with your person.  I'm just off over there to mention those packets of Hobnobs I can see her stuffing in her pockets this very minute. Oy!  Stop it!

Oh, and there's a chance to win a copy of Hubble Bubble over at Lynda's blog too, so...pop on over, have a chat with us as we party and...she's doing it again, sorry I've got to go...