Friday 30 March 2012

Open letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Mr. Cameron

Might I respectfully request that you advise people against panic buying/stockpiling my novels?

Yours etc....

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Lucky (?) seven...

Thanks to Rosemary for tagging me with this challenge (is it a challenge? Not sure what else to call it). Sadly, my WIP hasn't reached page 77, so with no other cheating, this is page 7; the first 7 or so lines. The setting is an old people's home, where some premature deaths are about to take place. Edith is one of the residents; Betsy, her poor beleaguered daughter:

"Since she supplemented the meagre diet with snacks of biscuits and chocolate, and took no exercise whatsoever beyond that which was required to convey her from one room to another, Edith grew steadily heavier and less mobile, until she had to have recourse to a walking frame.
'So handy,' said Edith, scraping her way along the carpeted corridors. 'And you can hang your things from it.'
'It didn't have to come to this,' Betsy told her sternly. 'You've got a perfectly good pair of legs, if only you'd make a bit more effort.'"

I'm supposed to pass this on to 7 other writers, but I think most of the writing bloggers I know have already done it. If anyone reading this would like to help themselves to a nomination, please do (and please let me know), and apologies to anyone I may have missed.

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Great news - healthier biscuits!

You will be relieved and delighted to know that the humble (if dull) digestive biscuit has now been made even more dull and even more humble. And HEALTHIER! For Macvities, in their wisdom (and concern for our welfare. Aaaah. Bless) have reduced the saturated fat in these biscuits. (What saturated fat? You may well ask. I didn't know, either. But there it is.)

So now you can reach for a digestive* to have with your coffee with a clear conscience. Phew! I don't know about you, but that's certainly a weight off my mind (and my hips, and my thighs, and...).

It's so reassuring to know that we're being looked after, isn't it? And to think my granny used to feed me on bread and dripping...

*I've alway wondered about the name "digestive". Why, exactly?

Monday 26 March 2012

Magpie 110

I want to choose my best side
As I'm going out tonight.
If I sit on his left side
He'll be looking at my right.
But if I settle opposite
(And if the lights are dim)
I can sit back and enjoy my meal
And leave the choice to him.

(With thanks to Tess at Magie Tales for the photo)

Friday 23 March 2012

Horse diaries

Well, this beautiful spring day, Titch and I saw a lot of dead things. A dead crow, a dead sheep, a dead rabbit. You find this kind of thing hereabouts, but they alarm Titch no end.

Titch: OMG! More dead things! It's an epidemic!

Me: No, it's the coutryside. Stuff happens in the countryside.

Titch: Well, what about that thing in the road?

Me: What thing in the road?

Titch: That red and white striped thing.

Me: Oh, that was just a traffic cone. Someone had knocked it over.

Titch: Looked dead to me.

I tried to explain about things that are usually alive (sheep) and things that aren't (traffic cones), but Titch wasn't having any of it. To him, anything lying motionless on its side - whether it be a cone, a lamp post, a wheelie bin (especially a wheelie bin) - is dead. And whatever killed it, might be coming after him. He has a kind of Me Next mentality. So I thought I'd entertain him with the story of the dead lamb.

This happened some years ago, when I was out riding (different horse), and we came across a lamb that had drowned in a water trough. I found the farmer, and told him of his loss. I expected - what, exactly? Not grief. That would have been over the top, but perhaps an element of disappointment, maybe tinged with sadness for the unnecessary passing of something so young; even a passing regret for the loss of future revenue? But not a bit of it. A slow smile spread over the farmer's face. "He did well to get in there, didn't he?" he said proudly, and went about his business.

Titch thought this was very hearltess, and for once, I had to agree with him.

Thursday 22 March 2012


Having had awful problems with my blog, I'm just testing it out with a photo of three of my children. You don't have to admire them or anything - it was the first picture that came to hand. No comments required!
I know I've been banging on about conditions on Texas Death Row, but tonight on Chanel Four at 10 pm there are interviews with inmates, and I thought those of my followers who have shown interest might be interested in watching it. As I've said before, most people in this country have no idea about the appalling conditions in which inmates are kept, and this programme might help us all to understand better. Several are currently scheduled to be executed in the next few months.

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Is it just me?

I appear to have posted a blank post yesterday. And Blogger has gone all weird. Is anyone else having problems, or is it just me? My PC is having no truck with it at all, and my iPad isn't that keen either. Big frustrated sigh...

Monday 19 March 2012

Magpie 109

To say love makes the world go round
Is vague and unspecific.
It's giant cogs beneath the ground -
Now THAT is scientific!

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales_

Thursday 15 March 2012

A happy photo to cheer up a bad year

As some of those who know me personally will know, this year has been pretty horrible so far, with the timely - even overdue - death of someone who had suffered for too long, and the untimely loss of one who hadn't even been born.

So I thought I'd post this photo, because it cheers me up. It is my youngest son and my youngest grandson (his nephew) taking a stroll together. It was taken last week-end, (and in case you wonder, Youngest Son nearly always dresses like that, even in the depths of winter).

Wednesday 14 March 2012

A bargain for your Kindle!

Times are hard, competition is fierce, so I am delighted that I have finally persuaded my publisher to reduce the Kindle price of my two novels, Dead Ernest and The Birds, the Bees and Other Secrets.

At £2.50 each they're a bargain....aren't they? That's less than a pint of beer in our local pub, and guaranteed to last longer! And if you don't enjoy them I promise to buy you that pint next time you're in Wiltshire (okay. Orange juice, then, if you're driving).

Tuesday 13 March 2012

Playing My Little Pony

Ghastly, isn't it? Titch was appalled when I showed it to him. "Purple! With WINGS! Are you out of your mind?" Yes. I probably am. But the whole My Little Pony thing is what drives a lot of horsey women.

Not the toy, of course, but the whole brushing and polishing and dressing up thing. It's why girls outnumber boys in the "I want a pony" stakes. We just love doing things to our horses.

So while with my daughter-in-law, it's shoe shops, and my daughter, clothes, with me, it's tack shops. Horsey Heaven. The smell of leather, the shiny new bits(I don't need a new bit. I've got one), the glossy bridles, the lovely colourful rugs, which stay lovely and colourful for just as long as it takes their new wearers to get out into a field and roll in the mud (ie about ten minutes); they are like magnets.

This week, I went to get a new back protector; dull, but sensible. They hadn't one that fitted, so I bought a beautiful new head collar; black and red, to go with Titch's colouring. I didn't need it - I have several dirty old ones, that do the job perfectly - but I wanted it. I really wanted it. With a shiny black rope to match.

I was quite excited when I put it on Titch to try it out, but it didn't fit (it had looked small, but I'd been assured that it was the right size).
"Serves you right," said Titch, as I struggled to get it off again. "Think of all the carrots you could have bought with that money!"

He's right, of course. For once. But what he doesn't know is that I shall have to go back to Horsey Heaven to change it. What a shame. And who knows what I may find there?

There may even be a pair of wings in just the right size...

Monday 12 March 2012

Magie 108

A twitcher in his leafy hide
Saw wildfowl lesser, spotted, pied.
But one day, this glad cry was heard:
Oh boy! That's what I CALL a bird!”

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the photo)

Saturday 10 March 2012

A letter from Death Row

At last my new correspondent has repied to my letters (my last one decided he no longer wished to write). This is the man on Texas Death Row, and he is obviously creative and intelligent. He paints and writes, and would like to compose music, but isn't allowed an instrument to play on. His letter is bleak and hopeless Here is an extract:

"Everyone needs a friend. Being condemned to die. Being told by a jury that my life is so worthless that I must be wiped from existence has been at the front of my mind. To have it compounded by people who write* but don't let me be human to let me experience love, desire, indignation, sorrow, the full spectrum of emotions - well it doesn't make sense. I live and dream. I am here and I'll listen. All I ask for is a chance."

*I'm not sure whom he's referring to here.

He has been abandoned by family and friends, even his twin brother. He has no access to news or newpapers, and has no idea what's going on in the world. He is totally isolated, and it seems that the system offers not a shred of chance for any kind of redemption. His life is an ongoing punishment until he suffers the ultimate one (Texas executes inmates at a frightening rate; two already in the last month).

Friday 9 March 2012

"Over fifty"

Yep, that's me. Over fifty, and then some. And when you get to be my age, you get sent, among other things, offers of life insurance, health insurance, advance funeral arrangments/payment, and horrible, horrible clothes.

I received a catalogue of the latter this morning.

There are bras like twin buckets and knickers like small baths; there are awful crimplene trousers and knee-length skirts; clumpy shoes (because we older folk might fall over if we walk in anything glamorous), things in awful bridesmaid colours (lemon, aqua, get the idea) and - joy of joys - lots of elasticated waists.

Now, I have a waist. Not, it must be admitted, the "tiny waist" of the romantic heroine (after four babies, I don't expect one), but I go in in the middle, and out again at the hips, and I call it a waist. I like to have belts and zips and buttons. I wear hipster jeans. I DO NOT NEED AN ELASTICATED WAIST. Neither, I suspect, do lots of my contemporaries.

To add insult to injury, the women modelling these revolting clothes all look suspiciously young (presumably because they couldn't get any older women to do the job. We've got more sense).

So please, please, please will clothing manufacturers start treating us like ordinary, normal women, with taste and a little vanity (still) and, above all, a SHAPE?

Thursday 8 March 2012


It's not that I can't manage digital technology; it's that I am the wrong generation. When something complicated confronts me on, say, the computer, there is this huge barrier lowered like the old theatre safety curtains, and on it is printed, in large letters: YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE TO DO THIS. SMALL CHILDREN CAN, BUT NOT, REPEAT NOT, YOU. BECAUSE ARE TOO STUPID.

I remember years ago trying to persuade my grandmother to use a phone box. Just a receiver, and button A and button B. Simple. But no. Not simple at all. Brought up at a time when there were no cars or phones, Granny had come a long way, but that was as far as she was prepared to go. Button A and button B were far too complicated. She wasn't going near them, thank you very much. What was the world coming to?

Now, at last, I know how she felt. She was feeling exactly the same as I do when people talk about servers and widgets. I DON'T UNDERSTAND. I get stuck. I get frustrated. And I feel like a total idiot.

Fortunately, I have a very patient husband, technical wizards for sons, and some very helpful blogging friend ( step forward, Jinksy and Dr. FTSE). But will I ever be able to go,it alone?

I think of Granny, trembling outside the telephone box, rigid with fear.

I don't hold out a lot of hope.

Wednesday 7 March 2012

Things I have learnt in the past week

1. That an iPad held at approx waist-height then dropped edge-first onto a bare foot can cause considerable pain.
2. That having a flu kind of virus can make the patient (me) very bad-tempered in the aftermath.
3. That it take three people to change the new light bulbs in our kitchen. John, to discover how difficult it it; me, to try ( and fail) to show him how it should be done; finally, clever Dave from next door to show us both how it should be done, and do it.
4. That if you lose the only key to your (my) very elderly Ford Ka and are stranded some miles from home, it takes a little man four hours to arrive and make a new one.
5. That said key costs more than the value of the car. £160, no less.
6. That things don't necessarily come in threes.

Tuesday 6 March 2012

I; love? punctuation!

Good punctuation, that is. But it would seem that there are still a great many people who have no idea how to go beyond the basics.

One of the most successful non-fiction books of recent years was Lynne Truss's Eats, Shoots and Leaves. But while this rode high among the bestsellers for weeks (and was a most entertaining read), I have a feeling that she was probably preaching to the converted, for incorrect use of puntuation seems to be on the increase.

My favourite punctuation mark has to be the much-neglected semi-colon. That delicate little pause, not quite a full stop, can lend elegance to writing. But I doubt whether most schoolchildren have even heard of it.

And my least favourite? Oh, it has to be the exclamation mark; worse even than the ubiquitous apostrophe. The exclamation mark is beginning to lose all its meaning; it is used for stress, to emphasise a "joke" (thus removing any humour that might have remained), and in twos and threes for...what? "We went to the beach!" "And brought a picnic!!" (So?)

Christmas round robins are full of exclamation marks. In some, every holiday, achievement, house move etc. is accompanied by an exclamation mark. Why? I have no idea. I can understand why someone's less than brilliant offspring achieving an A in physics might deserve an exclamation mark (suprise!), but otherwise, please leave it out. And (to pre-empt complaints), if I place an exclamation mark after the acknowledgement of a comment on a post, it's because it really is an exclamation, or to show that I'm not taking myself too seriously! (You see?)

Sunday 4 March 2012

Magpie 107

An optician of diminutive size
Used a ladder to reach people's eyes.
But because he kept falling
He abandoned his calling
And went off the be a chiropodist instead.

(With thanks to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture - which I've finally managed to download!)

Saturday 3 March 2012

A rant about the (ab)use of words

This had been an exceptionally awful week, so I feel it's ok to write a really grumpy post. Here are a few of my least favourite expressions/grammatical errors:

1. "Passed away". No no NO. People don't pass away when they stop living; they don't "pass" anything. They DIE. That's what they do. Die.
2 "Sat", as in "I was sat" (unless someone really did pick me up and sit me there). "Sitting" is the word, right? Sitting. Not difficult (I have blogged about this before, and so have others, but it is infuriating). This mistake is (shockingly) used by, among others, many newsreaders, journalists and novelists.
3. "I was, like," for "I said". Where on EARTH did that come from? It uses up more words, too, so you can't say it's lazy.
4. "Vulnerable". This is a digression, because I'm talking about pronunciation here. No-one, but no-one, ever seems to pronounce the first L. Thus we have "vunerable", which just sounds sloppy.
5. First and third persons used instead of each other ("me and Kevin are digging the allotment" *; "he gave the elephant to my friend and I").
6. "Nanny" as a pet name for a grandmother. I know lovely people who opt to be called this, but to me, it sounds like a goat. Likewise, twee names for a grandmother, such as Mimsy or Flumpsy or anything else you care to think of.

I think those will do to be getting on with, and I hope no-one who knows me and who uses any of these expressions, will take offence. None is intended.

Now, which words/ expressions do you dislike most?

*I don't know anyone called Kevin, and I don't have an allotment. Neither, come to that, do I own an elephant. These are merely examples.

Thursday 1 March 2012

Of a successful author, adverbs and writing style

Graham Green apparently abhorred adverbs; I think they have their place if used sparingly. But I have just read a novel for the Amazon Vine programme that was so wildly over-written, peppered with superfluous adverbs and extraordinary expressions, that I gave up on it. The author is a very successful young writer, whose first novel was quite outstanding. Her second was less so ( my opinion) and this one is I think disastrous. How sad. Other reviewers seem to have felt the same. She has changed her style completely, and while I can understand her wanting to do this - after all, a change can be a good thing - I think this may be her downfall. Fortunately for her, her debut novel was so widely acclaimed that subsequent novels may well prosper on the back of its success. But it seems such a terrible shame.

To return to the adverbs, almost every verb or sentence of speech is qualified by an adverb, and ways in which people speak include huffily, wolfishly, gruffly, patiently ( it is a character called Patience who speaks patiently, which sounds even odder) and, most strange of all, pinkly. For me, good writing is unobtrusive. It conjures up an image or story without drawing attention to the words used. This kind of writing, however, is so distracting as to be almost unbearable. I had been really looking forward to reading this book, but it turned out to be a big disappointment. I think I shall give the author's next novel a miss.