Friday 26 August 2011

Off to Corsica. Probably...

Photos of Hotel Les Roches Rouges, Piana
This photo of Hotel Les Roches Rouges is courtesy of TripAdvisor

This is the holiday we missed two years ago and again last year, and this year, we're really hoping to make it at last.

We both love Corsica, and have been many times (self-catering), but I always dreamed of staying in this beautiful hotel. It isn't posh - more "shabby chic" - but the views are quite staggering (see second photo. we had dinner there once). There is no air-conditioning or anything fancy like that (and the temp at the moment is in the 90s), but to wake up to that view had been a dream of ours.

We're off on Sunday at 6.10am (ugh) for a week.

Provided today's gastric flu-y thing (mine) doesn't last, and cause us to cancel for the third time...


Observing my small step-grandaughter lying on the ground kicking and screaming (I forget the exact reason. There probably wasn't one), I finally realised why toddlers do it like that. By lying down, they free up all four limbs to thrash about and make maximum impact. (Having weathered countless tantrums from my four children, seven grandchildren and seven step-grandchildren, I should probably have worked this out years ago.)

Next time I'm seriously annoyed, I think I just might try it myself.

Thursday 25 August 2011

Saying it with flowers

My much-loved aunt and godmother died a couple of weeks ago, and the family's request was for immediate family flowers only, but donations to a particular charity would be welcome.

I know I'm probably in a minority, but I always think this is very sad. Flowers are the last thing I can give to (for) my aunt, and a charitable donation just isn't the same. Like everyone else, we give donations to charity, but on this occasion I want to give something just for her; something that shows what she meant to me; and a donation to charity simply isn't the same. Many people think that flowers are a waste of money on these occasions, but if it's my money, and if I want to "waste" it, then surely it's up to me?

When my husband died 19 years ago, we had masses of flowers. His grave was entirely obscured by all the flowers people sent, and I found them both beautiful and comforting. When my mother died, once again, we had flowers, and because she was being cremated, family and friends took the flowers home with them afterwards. On both occasions, there was the opportunity for donations to charity instead, if people wished, but it's interesting how many people really wanted to give flowers. It's the last thing people can do for the person who had died, and it seems a shame to deny them that opportunity.

My aunt's immediate family have been very understanding, and I'm allowed to send flowers for her. And when it comes to my turn, I want lots!

Wednesday 24 August 2011

But someone else is much richer...

I read an article (I seem to be doing a lot of this at the moment) about nannies to the super-rich. It was quite incredible. Often working for foreign billionaires living in London and abroad, they get paid from about £1000 per week, net, and of course their flat, their food and their car (at the very least) are thrown in.
One family apparently has three children, each with a nanny of his or her own, and each nanny gets paid £1500 per week. Another family has a house for the parents, and a separate house for the nanny and the children (I must confess that there were times when I wished my children lived in another continent, never mind another house, but those moments were relatively fleeting).

Three questions occurred to me:
1. What on earth does this kind of childhood do to the child?
2. Am I too old to be a nanny to the super-rich?
3. If not, when can I start?

We're rich!

That cruise we went on...? Well, apparently we're rich. Ok, so it was a kind of luxury cruise (our reward to ourselves for no holiday for three years), but actually, our shameful secret is that we're not rich. We were imposters all along.

But hey! Never mind. The cruise company thinks we are, for it seems that we now belong to an exclusive "club", and have just received our copy of the club magazine*. And guess what. It's full of posh watches and the kind of jewellery that is so expensive that they are coy about mentioning the price, presumably secure in the knowledge that people like us will buy it anway, because what's a few thousand pounds here or there among friends?

But maybe we are rich, because we're going to Corsica on Sunday...

*I wonder whether it takes short stories? I'm happy to throw in the odd Rolex if they pay me enough. It could go towards the next cruise.

(The watch in the picture is only just over £36,000. I can give you the details.)

Saturday 20 August 2011

Book reviews

I never fail to be surprised at the books the papers choose to review, especially when there is so little space allowed for book reviews. In today's Times, there's a review of a thousand-page first novel (first published nearly a year ago), reviewed by someone who really didn't enjoy it.

This poses several questions:

1.Why this particular first novel?
2.Why (when there are so many to choose from) pick such a long one, when reviewers are (presumably) pressed for time?
3.Why wait a year to review it?
4.Why publish a bad review at all? I can understand if it had been a novel by a well-known author; but a writer no-one's heard of? I would be thoughtful about starting on any novel of this length; I certainly wouldn't risk it after this particular review (it also has one two-star review on Amazon).

Do I have a personal axe to grind? Moi? I'm surprised it even entered your mind.

Thursday 18 August 2011

A small act of vandalism

A few nights ago, someone entered my eldest son's garden and shed and punctured all the tyres of the family's bikes (just before they take them with them on their holiday), and cut the cord of the lawnmower. A relatively trivial incident, I know, especially in the light of of the tragic outcomes of some of the rioting, but... WHY?

My son and his wife are gentle, caring people, both doctors. I wonder what the perpetrator(s) would say if they were not seen on time when they need medical attention? They would probably talk about their "rights".


Tuesday 16 August 2011

My left ear sticks out...

...and my right eyebrow is wobbly, there's a faint scar on my nose where I fell off a swing when I was about five, and the rest of my face is slowly, inexorably, travelling south.

Of course, I have known all this for some time (the ear, my mother assured me, was because I used to stick my hand behind it when I was tired. I think she was just being kind), and most of the time none of it bothers me. I just don't look. But I've spent the afternoon at the hairdresser's, compelled to look at myself in the mirror for two hour (I was having my highlights done. You thought it was natural? How kind. But it isn't. Hasn't been for years. In fact, for so long that I've no longer any idea what colour my hair is supposed to be).

This is the downside of the hairdresser's; the having to look at myself. I had a book, of course, but Colin (hairdresser) and I talk, so it would be rude to read all the time. We always end up talking about sex - I've no idea why - but we also always discuss cars (Colin loves cars. I do not) and what we would do if we won the lottery (Colin: buy fast cars and yachts. Me: dither).

(Actually, Colin did win a prize in the last Euromillions draw. £2.90. But he's promised to go on cutting my hair.)

Monday 15 August 2011

Horse diaries

Not only has he been lame (better now) but he also had colic yesterday. They wanted to get the vet, but I said, wait. He does this, and then by the time the vet comes, he says, "tummy ache? What tummy ache? It wasn't me" (I think he's trying to avoid that thing where the vet sticks his entire arm up...well, you get the picture). And afterwards, there's a huge bill to pay.

So off we set today, in the sunshine. Lovely fields of golden stubble; everything fine. Two children's bikes on the verge caused an OMG moment (we galloped noisily away down the road to escape them), and a tent in a garden, ditto. And wheelie bins.

And a deer.

Me: Now, don't be silly. We know about deer. And they're much smaller than you. And look - that one's actually running away from you.
Titch: But it's leaping up and down! Why's it leaping up and down?
Me: It's a deer thing. It's what deer do.
Titch: I don't leap up and down!
Me: No. Because you're not a deer. Besides, you certainly do leap up and down. What about those bikes and that tent?
Titch: That was different. Besides, I've not been very well.

All in all, he seems a whole lot better.

Saturday 13 August 2011

Wanted - writers of bad fiction

As many may know, the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest is held every year in several cateogries. All you have to do is write a seriously bad opening sentence to a novel. As a taster, here's this year's winner in the Romance catogory:

As the dark and mysterious stranger approached, Angela bit her lip anxiously, hoping with every nerve, cell, and fiber of her being that this would be the one man who would understand — who would take her away from all this — and who would not just squeeze her boob and make a loud honking noise, as all the others had.

Ali Kawashima

It's a thought, isn't it? For those of us who may have given up hope of winning prizes for good fiction-writing, here's the perfect opportunity. You get quite a lot of publicity, too.

Friday 12 August 2011

Retail therapy (by Phoebe, aged ten)

Phoebe (granddaughter; see photo) and I were discussing the joys of retail therapy yesterday. and Phoebe, already a seasoned shopper, put it in a nutshell. It went something like this:

"You just want to buy something. You don't know what it is, and you probably don't even want it at all, but you just want to go shopping it. You know?"

Oh yes, Phoebe. I know only too well. And that's why my wardrobe (No. Not my spring or autumn wardrobe. Just the thing in the bedroom, with doors, and hangers) is full of dreadful mistakes.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

"Planning your autumn wardrobe"

"It is hard to start thinking about your autumn wardrobe when it's still summer" says the Times today. My anwswer to this would be: in that case, don't. But then I don't have an autumn wardrobe. Or, come to that, a spring wardrobe. I have winter clothes (jeans, shirts and sweaters) and summer clothes (ditto, but tee shirts if the weather's warm). Oh - and occasionally skirts. I see no point in having spring and autumn clothes, since the rest do the job well eneough, and I quite simply can't be bothered.

But in case you are (bothered), apparently this season (ha) "jackets, cardigans and bags must be outsized". Why? I've no idea. This bewildering advice was accompanied by a picture of a woman carrying what looked more like a sizeable overnight bag than a handbag; room for a lot more than money and tissues and keys and old train tickets and a library book and sundry receipts and half a Polo mint and the interesting stone your (grand)son gave you get the picture.

But if you do want advice in assembling your autumn wardrobe, you (possibly) read it here first.

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Car crash revisited

Well, I thought I'd heard the last of the car accident. Small crash, no-one hurt, all in the hands of the insurers. Unpleasant, and I felt very bad about the woman (who was very shaken) and her car (which was damaged), but having done all I could (John dissuaded me from sending her flowers) I put it behind me. Or so I thought.

But today - lo! A letter from a solicitor. The woman wants damages for: shock, head pain, shoulder pain, chest pain and whiplash. She has had to take time off work.


When I last saw her, she was shaken, but fine. When I phoned her that evening to make sure she was ok, she was on her way (driving) back to Devon (a long journey), having visited Avebury and Stonehenge in Wiltshire with friends, as planned; quite a long day, even without injuries.

I feel furious. Maybe - just maybe - she really has developed all these symptoms (no actual injuries, and of course no-one can prove or disprove pain). But I have a feeling that someone suggested that she could capitalise on the accident and make a nice bit of money - she might even have worked it out for herself - and one of those no-win-no-fee solicitors has kindly offered to make sure she succeeds.

Would I do the same? I very much hope that I would not.

But I'm glad I never sent those flowers.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Beware of elderly people, horses, knickers and naturists

I'm still intrigued by my blog stats. In Love with a Horse is still by far the favourite, but Beware of Elderly People is in danger of being overtaken by both Knickers and Naturists (ts ts - actually, these were two subjects I chose in desperation to fit into the A-Z challenge). Now, Proof is a top favourite for this week. What are people expecting? Do they think I'm running a covert distillery?
How disappointing, then, to find that's it's only a photo of me, struggling up a mountain.

Aliya has found that ping pong pulls the visitors in. Does anyone have any other magnetic tags? What do your readers like? I'd love to know.

Saturday 6 August 2011

Angela Merkel makes merry among the mountains

John (who is a news fanatic) came across this gem today on the internet:

Across Europe, other prime ministers and presidents came under pressure to return to their desks as the crisis escalated. Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, has been criticised for being on mountain walking holiday in Italy, where she dined on yak carpaccio with Reinhold Messner, the Tyrolean mountaineer.

Naughty Frau Merkel consuming esoteric delights with her merry Tyrolean companion... You couldn't make it up, could you?

Friday 5 August 2011

Free publicity?

There's a letter in today's Times from the author Graham Swift, cleverly linking his latest novel (left) with yesterday's leading article. Now, I may have a small axe to grind - of course I have - because most of us cannot hope for our novels to be mentioned in the Times (this novel received a good review in the newspaper). But Swift's letter made only a tenuous point, and it seems to me that the Times has colluded in a piece of shameless self-advertising.

So what have I done? I've written to The Times, of course, mentioning that while I can find no link whatsoever between my novels and its leading articles, they are welcome to mention my name.

Well, it was worth a try...

Wednesday 3 August 2011

Short stories v novels

While taking a break from novel-writing (or more likely, not getting down to the next one), I've returned to short story writing. I used to love it. Short stories are compact, don't take too much time (a novel takes me about a year), and if they're rejected, well, it's not the end of the world.

But I can't regain the enthusiasm I once had. I've just received a nice-sized cheque for stories sold, and I ought to be grateful, but something's missing. Hacking things down in the garden this afternoon, I decided that, for me, the short story is like a one night stand, as opposed to a novel, which is a much deeper relationship. I can only speak for myself, and I'm in no way denigrating the art of the short story; heaven knows, it's getting harder and harder to write saleable short stories. But with a novel, you develop a relationship with your characters over a long period of time; you live with them, think about them, plan for them, look forward to getting back to them. A novel really does become a part of you.

Like the one night stand, the short story engenders a brief period of excitment and satisfaction (sometimes!). The novel is a marriage. And when I'm not writing one, how I miss it!


I have never known the derivation of the word listless (no. I haven't looked it up), but this morning, quite by chance, it suddenly came to me.

Since horse has been lame, my day has been thrown out of kilter. But another reason I'm being so inefficient is that I've stopped writing lists. Lists are wonderful - Aliya, for one, has blogged about them before - and they make me do things. Little things as well as big things. Like phoning the electrician or changing the sheets. On a list day, I write everything - and I mean everything - down, and then tick and cross them off when I've done them. I've even been known to write down something I've already done for the pleasure of ticking it off (we elderly people have to find out pleasures where we can).

So, today:

Phone electrician
De-coke shower head
Make big fuss at mobile phone shop (of which more when I've had a chance to calm down)
Put on some washing (I know. Boring. But ticking it off will be nice)
Prune messy jungle of plants growing over the fence
Write (I've been very bad about this recently. I blame the heat)
Post top back to sister (don't ask)
Phone daughter for daily chat

Well, that's a start, isn't it? My computer doesn't do ticks*, so no-one will ever know whether I managed to do all these things. Except me...

*Does anyone have a ticking computer?

Tuesday 2 August 2011


My son (Toby) and his boys, William and Freddy

Me, after lengthy scramble up Catbells (partly on hands and knees), hence the trudging look.

Just to prove we all did it! I'm not one for holiday photos (other people's) which can bore other people rigid, but I had to prove that I actually climbed!

Monday 1 August 2011

The third thing

After the smashed car and the lost wallet, now the lame horse. He was mucking around (which he's been told not to do) and got kicked. He says it's terribly, terribly sore, and he really can't go anywhere, though when we gave up and turned back after about 100 yards and made for home, he made a small but miraculous recovery. "I think I should just rest quietly," he said. "Plenty of food, but no work for a while. Ok?"

Not ok. He's just had a week off. Bloody animal.

So that's the third thing (I don't count the kiss). No more, please. I've only been home three days.

A funny thing happened...

...on my way down the lane yesterday. An elderly couple were coming towards me, and the woman came right up to me (her husband - perhaps wisely - kept out of the way).

Woman: You look lovely!
Me: Er - than you very much.
Woman: I really mean it.
Me: Well...thank you.

She then kissed me on the cheek, wished me "a lovely day", and went on her way.

I did not enjoy this on several levels. There were issues of personal space, for a start, and the way she fixed me with pleading eyes made me feel as though I was being love-bombed (or something very like it). Whatever it was about, it was a distinctly uncomfortable experience.

So if you kissed a total stranger (tallish, female, grey tee shirt) in Morris Lane Devizes yesterday, please, please don't do it again.