Thursday 30 June 2011

Think positive

I've had a bad week so far, but there's always someone worse off (somehow, that doesn't always help, but I'm trying it out anyway).

Wednesday 29 June 2011

Orange mist

Well, I thought I'd like to upgrade my mobile. Not due, I know, but I'm prepared to pay. But it seems I can't discuss this with a real human being.

Orange are a phone company, right? Phones enable people to speak to one another. Right? Wrong. Press this, press that, listen to the strangled tones of the recorded Orange lady (what exactly IS wrong with her throat?). So I went on line. Filled in a form, including my problem, all my details (phone numbers, address, eye colour. That kind of thing), and pinged it off. Thank you, said Orange. Now we have your details, you can phone us. And it will cost you over £1.50 per minute. More if you phone from your mobile.

More if you phone from your mobile? That's right. Even though I'm a loyal customer, and the reception is abysmal? Yep.

It's a win-win, isn't it? For Orange.

I shall now go and bang my head against a brick wall. Hard.

Tuesday 28 June 2011

Elderly people that play ping pong on horseback

I'm still doing the stats experiment. "In love with a hosre that plays ping pong" has done nicely in the ratings, and since "beware of elderly people" also appears to be a favourite, I thought I'd let the elderly people have a game too. Why not?

Of course, I should be working on my nice new plot, which has Agent's enthusiastic approval (I suspect partly to get me off her back. I know I'm a nightmare client). But I will get down to that later. I will, I will...

And Aliya, (if you're there), get back to your vegetables and leave my ideas alone. Heaven knows, I don't have that many.

Sunday 26 June 2011

Hats (continued)

The hat was wonderful. I just loved wearing it. But I no longer envy people (like royalty) who have to wear them all the time. As we travelled very carefully to the wedding in my daughter's car, daughter (sporting a black feathery number, which looked a bit like a dead bird, but nonetheless managed to look glamorous*), we both reflected that people in hats need specially high cars (with huge doorways) to accomodate them. Also, I always forget that kissing under a hat can be difficult. And there was a lot of kissing. It's like having someone come into your tent through too narrow an opening. Awkward, with issues about personal space. That's probably why the queen sticks to shaking hands.

*My daughter always looks glamorous. But I get to wear her cast-off clothes.

Thursday 23 June 2011

In love with a horse that plays ping pong

I must get over this stats thing, but while I was away, my stats soared, and the day before we got back from our (over-publicised) hols, there were 142 hits. It's like getting 142 "we called but you were out" notes, when you think you've told your litte world you won't be in.

But "I love horses - buy my books!" is already high on the ratings for this week, so here we go again. (And apologies to Aliya for borrowing her ping pong. I just want to see whether her and my most-visited posts work in tandem.)

(And yes. I have got better things to do. I'm just not getting down to them.)

Wednesday 22 June 2011

Hat heaven

I've blogged about hats before. I love hats, especially big, extravagant ones, but there are rarely opoprtunities to wear them. I wasn't invited to The Wedding, never go to Ascot - in fact I don't really seem to move in hat-wearing circles. But on Saturday, a much-loved niece and goddaughter is getting married, and I shall wear a hat.

In Devizes, we are lucky enough to have hat heaven; a wonderful, deceptively small, mysterious, beamed cave, where J hires out hats. She has over 2000, many of them displayed round the room in a rainbow of colours, so the choice is huge. She is always kind and helpful, asks to inspect your outfit before producing a hat, adds little bits and bobs to the hat to match, and will make up a little feathery corsage if you want one. Nothing is too much trouble.

So yesterday, off I set to choose a hat. J brought out several, including one which loooked exactly like one of those frilly floppy lettuces (with a lettuce bag to match), but I finally settled on a huge lime green one with an enormous bow, and I'm thrilled with it. As I was about to leave, J, who is probably past retirement age and very glamorous, received some post.

"Oh, good!" she exclamed, on examining its contents. "My Glastonbury tickets have arrived!"

What a woman. What hats. What a place. Oh, boy!

Tuesday 21 June 2011

I love horses - buy my books!

As I think I've mentioned before, I'm fascinated by blog statistics. These, rather oddly, are my most-visited posts:
1. In love with a horse
2. Beware of elderly people
3. A - the first post (of the blogging A to Z challenge)
4. The relief of not being a crime writer
5. Passed! (that was the car and its MOT)

I can understand the horse one (see picture of my horse refusing to get out of bed). But are that many people afraid of elderly people? Relieved at not being crime writers? All rather bewildering. But obviously the way to sell my books is to do it via a horse post. So here goes...

Sunday 19 June 2011

Sunday in the pub

Today in the pub, I had one of those surreal conversations with a woman I know (slightly).

Woman: We've got a very noisy kettle. When it's boiling, we can't hear the radio.
Me: Can't you - er - turn the radio up?
Woman (with a sigh): Oh, we just have to live with it. When you you've travelled around as much as we have, you learn to put up with these things.


Friday 17 June 2011

Cruise - Part 2

Firstly, thanks everyone for all the good wishes, and I'm sorry I didn't have time to reply to (some of) you before I went.

Now. The cruise. Hmmm.

As you can see from the pic, John had a very happy time. We both did. The service was amazing, and everything on the boat incredibly posh. Croatia was beautiful, our room (sorry. Suite) was palatial, we were waited on hand and foot. But while I loved a lot of it, I kept feeling like an imposter; as though sooner or later, a small tug would approach from the shore with a loud hailer, telling us that it had all been a mistake and we must get off and come home NOW.

The good bits:
The food - marvellous. Special mention - the cream teas. Every day.
The drink - ditto. Special mention the bloody marys.
The weather - sun all the time.
The views - breathtaking.
The staff - delightful. Special mention Andre, who remembered both our names and our addiction to cream teas.

The not so good bits:
Being asked, very casually, whether we had a swimming pool at home ( no-one's ever asked me that before).
The HUGE woman in a thong bikini covered with tattoos (the woman, not the bikini). I wanted to take a pic of her, but couldn't without her seeing me.
Not having enough of the right kind of clothes. My old tee shirts - Tesco, circa 2005 - didn't look quite right on deck.
Not being allowed to swim off the boat.
Feeling fat and unhealthy now. We've just had beans on toast to bring us back to earth.

So - general conclusion: the jury's out. Watch this space.

But it's lovely to be home again.

PS (Aliya) no quoits, I'm afraid. But there was a kind of golf thing (we didn't do it).

Thursday 9 June 2011

A cruise kind of person?

We are going on a cruise. Tomorrow.

It's quite a posh cruise (we haven't had a holiday for 3 years, so there's holiday money to be spent. Or that's what we tell ourselves). The boat is a small one, and it's dauntingly impressive. We're going from Venice to Venice, which sounds like a waste of time, but we're calling in on bits of Croatia on the way. And bits of Italy.

But I feel like an imposter. I never had myself down as a cruise kind of person (this was John's idea), and I've no idea what to wear (I live in jeans. People don't cruise in they?) or even how to behave. I've got stacks of tee shirts and stuff piled up on the bed, and I'm now in a state of paralytic panic.

But never mind. We have books, and the boat (ship?) has a library open 24 hours a day, so maybe it's my kind of thing after all. And we don't have the dinner-at-the-captain's-table thing, nor do we have to watch girls arm in arm doing that scissor thing with their legs to music in the evenings, which is what I thought always happened on cruises. And if the worst happens, I'm quite a strong swimmer.

I'll tell you all about it when I get back next week. If I Think positive.

Wednesday 8 June 2011

Hits for hair

I'm sure everyone's blogs get far more hits than the visitors own up to, but, fascinatingly, since I posted about hair and baldness, my visitors' numbers have doubled. How odd is that?

So if you want to attract publicity, hair is obviously where it's at. It can't all be because of Wayne's new hair, can it?

Or can it...

Tuesday 7 June 2011

Wanted v unwanted hair

I've always rather envied men in the hair department. We women have the delicate problem of "unwanted" hair, whereas all of men's hair seems to be wanted; the more the better (in most cases).

But then, men go bald.

Some of them seem not to mind. A few years ago, my brother went totally bald in a matter of weeks (his hair came back later), and didn't seem to care a jot. He just wore hats. He said that since he couldn't see it, it didn't worry him. Sensible man.

But there is a growing trend (no pun intended) for the restoration of men's hair, the latest celebrity participant being Wayne Rooney. Now, if I were Rooney, I would just buy a a few magnificent hats and forget about it, but he's apparently had a hair transplant. This - according to my source - is a painful, lengthy and very expensive procedure, involving an eye-watering cost of around £2.50 per hair.

Years ago, I had a lovely young (male) client, who asked for counselling because he'd gone bald at an early age. We worked on his self-esteem, which was particularly low, and went we'd finished, he was no longer bothered by his baldness. It seems that it was what was on the inside of his head that was the problem, not the outside.

I'm sure this isn't always the case, but it's a thought. And it's a lot cheaper than that new head of hair.

Monday 6 June 2011

Thurber time

Aliya Whiteley has a wonderful anecdote ("surreal house invasion" on her blog Veggiebox*), and it put me in mind of James Thurber. I'm reproducing here my favourite Thurber story;

The Unicorn in the Garden

Once upon a sunny morning a man who sat in a breakfast nook looked up from his scrambled eggs to see a white unicorn with a golden horn quietly cropping the roses in the garden. The man went up to the bedroom where his wife was still asleep and woke her. "There's a unicorn in the garden," he said. "Eating roses." She opened one unfriendly eye and looked at him.

"The unicorn is a mythical beast," she said, and turned her back on him. The man walked slowly downstairs and out into the garden. The unicorn was still there; now he was browsing among the tulips. "Here, unicorn," said the man, and he pulled up a lily and gave it to him. The unicorn ate it gravely. With a high heart, because there was a unicorn in his garden, the man went upstairs and roused his wife again. "The unicorn," he said,"ate a lily." His wife sat up in bed and looked at him coldly. "You are a booby," she said, "and I am going to have you put in the booby-hatch."

The man, who had never liked the words "booby" and "booby-hatch," and who liked them even less on a shining morning when there was a unicorn in the garden, thought for a moment. "We'll see about that," he said. He walked over to the door. "He has a golden horn in the middle of his forehead," he told her. Then he went back to the garden to watch the unicorn; but the unicorn had gone away. The man sat down among the roses and went to sleep.

As soon as the husband had gone out of the house, the wife got up and dressed as fast as she could. She was very excited and there was a gloat in her eye. She telephoned the police and she telephoned a psychiatrist; she told them to hurry to her house and bring a strait-jacket. When the police and the psychiatrist arrived they sat down in chairs and looked at her, with great interest.

"My husband," she said, "saw a unicorn this morning." The police looked at the psychiatrist and the psychiatrist looked at the police. "He told me it ate a lily," she said. The psychiatrist looked at the police and the police looked at the psychiatrist. "He told me it had a golden horn in the middle of its forehead," she said. At a solemn signal from the psychiatrist, the police leaped from their chairs and seized the wife. They had a hard time subduing her, for she put up a terrific struggle, but they finally subdued her. Just as they got her into the strait-jacket, the husband came back into the house.

"Did you tell your wife you saw a unicorn?" asked the police. "Of course not," said the husband. "The unicorn is a mythical beast." "That's all I wanted to know," said the psychiatrist. "Take her away. I'm sorry, sir, but your wife is as crazy as a jaybird."

So they took her away, cursing and screaming, and shut her up in an institution. The husband lived happily ever after.

(*I'm afraid I haven't mastered the art of transferring links.)

Sunday 5 June 2011

Adventures with our satnav

I used to say I'd lost my sense of direction, but since one cannot lose that which one never had, this isn't quite accurate. I have no sense of direction. Period. So a satnav is a godsend. Until, that is, you become too dependent on it.

We set off yesterday to see a Son and his family. Son has been in his present house for about six months, and I have been there several times, but I still need the satnav, especially when it comes to getting through Guildford. So we plumbed in the postcode and away we went. The satnav said 114 miles, which was odd, because last time it was only about 80 miles, but no matter. Maybe it had discovered a Better Way. We also disregarded the fact that it argued about the route for the first ten minutes. It would settle down, and eventually, it did.

Some time later, I became worried. Surely we didn't have so far to go as that? Could we have entered the wrong postcode? We phoned Son to check. He gave us a totally different postcode, and I realised that the one I was following was the route to his last house. Near St.Albans. Nowhere near Guildford. Not even the same county. Oh silly me.

We pulled off the motorway to re-set the satnav. And it froze. We'd disregarded its instructions, we'd doubted its word, and now we were at a service station (and it doesn't do service stations). So it was going to sulk. We begged and we shouted at it. It continued to sulk. Eventually, we set it all over again, on a road it deigned to recognise, and it agreed to come back. But on its terms. We apologised, and it graciously consented to guide us through Guildford and deliver us to our destination.

But I feel very foolish. Guildford; St. Albans. Nowhere near each there, are they? Not even in the same county. Everyone knows that. Surely the penny should have dropped a little sooner...?

Oh dear.

Friday 3 June 2011

Waiting and felling trees

There are few things more diffiicult to deal with than waiting. It doesn't really matter what for; a train to depart (what else do you say when you've already said all your good-byes?), visitors (everything's ready, no time to read a book or do the crossword), another rejection slip, someone to fix the computer (you can't even use the internet) or, as today, a man to cut down a tree.

We only have one tree in our little courtyard, and I was proud of it (if you saw the size of the courtyard, you'd understand why) and it's dead. It had its annual haircut about a month ago, said (something like)"I'm just too old for this kind of abuse", and died. The sparrows and blackbirds sit in it and chitter, and two clematis grow up it (we have to maximise the potential of what space we have), and it provides some shade. And it's a tree. I shall miss it.

This post has changed from waiting to trees, but that's blogs. Steve (the tree man) is now halfway through, the place is a mess, and I daren't watch because of all the plants that are being flattened by falling branches (I always have the illogical feeling that if I'm not actually watching, bad things aren't happening. Examples include free range children, and our delightful but inexpert Eastern Eurpopean window cleaners).

So now I'm back to waiting. To see what everything looks like when Steve has done his thing. And whether I can bear it.

(The man in the picture isn't Steve, and the tree isn't our tree. But then you knew that.)

Thursday 2 June 2011

Publicising our novels

As many of us who have had books published quickly come to realise, publication is only the start. Now, the book has to sell.

Writers are, on the whole, modest people (at least, those I've come across have tended to be). We work alone, and emerge from our dark little corners on publication day, blinking like Mole in the Wind in the Willows, and realise suddenly that if we are to get our baby out there, and if it is to succeed, we have to do a whole lot more to help it on its way.

I am terribly bad at this; so bad, in fact, that I have been known to give a talk* but find myself unable to bring myself to sell copies of my book afterwards, although I've brought them with me. Sad, isn't it? I don't like being the centre of attention, and find it incredibly hard to say "I've written this brilliant book. BUY IT!"

So - what do other people do? Does anyone have any ideas about further publicity? I read in the Times today that there are authors paying agencies thousands of pounds to give bogus publicity; paying Twitter and Facebook users 24p a throw to pubicise their books; paying people to recommend their books on Amazon. For me, these are not avenues I wish to explore. But if anyone has any ethical ideas, please let me know, because I'm rapidly running out of ideas of my own!

*I do enjoy giving talks because I like meeting people. It's the selling bit that's my stumbling block.