Thursday 30 August 2012

Drivers with hats

There is a kind of driver that I call a Sunday Driver. They take a little spin in the country - not necessarily on a Sunday (and not necessarily in the country, come to that) - and hold all the rest of us up. They usually wear hats.

Let me explain. I have a theory that drivers have a speed centre around the crown of their heads, and that a hat (the best is a trilby) depresses the speed centre and causes the driver to drive - Very. Slowly. Indeed. Like. This. Holding up all the traffic beind them. These drivers don't use their wing mirrors, so have no idea that they are interfering in everyone else's plans.

I also hate tail-gaters, but enough of this for today. It's been a tiresome day, what with Sunday drivers and tail-gaters (and a lot of driving), and I'm now going to go away and read a relaxing book.

And eat chocolate.

Tuesday 28 August 2012

Technobabble, my granny, and button B

It's my generation, of course, though that shouldn't be an excuse.

Take yesterday. HTML, right? You know what it means, I don't. But I need to. So I Google it. And surprise surprise - the explanation for things technical is so shrouded in more things technical, that I am no wiser. It is like those old safety curtains at the theatre. A screen comes down and on it is written these chilling words. YOU WILL NOT UNDERSTAND THIS.I am frustrated, and very cross with myself. And the screen.

Why can't someone somewhere explain these things. Very. Simply. In. Words. Of. One. Syllable? For people like me?

And then I thought of my granny. Years ago, I tried to get her to use a phone box. Easy. Just put your money in, then press button A if there's a reply, or button B to get your money back. What could be easier?

"Oh no!" said Granny, backing away as from the phone box as though it were some man-eating wild beast "I could never do that!"

At the time, I didn't understand. I do, now. After a lifetime of change, Buttons A and B were a challenge too much. She had had enough.

So have I.

Sorry, Granny. I wish I'd been more understanding at the time.

(PS if anyone understands HTML and can use simple, plain English, please tell me where I can find them.)

Sunday 26 August 2012

Magpie 132

She said, "this will do,
And it's got a nice view.
But it's big, and, well, bijou it ain't."
He corrected her grammar
And said (with his stammer),
"It just needs some p-p-p-paint."

(The best I could do after a week of visitors. Thanks once again to Tess at Magpie Tales for the picture.)

Saturday 25 August 2012

I don't want to see Prince Harry's bottom

Am I the only person to be terribly bored by this whole subject? Is there really nothing better to preoccupy the purveyors of news and newspapers? The Times has devoted double spreads three days running (and several articles) to the subject, but today, it pompously tells us that while it doesn't choose to print Those Photos, it thinks other papers are entitled to, since they are freely available on the internet. What it doesn't seem to see is that people who see them on the internet choose to see them; presumably, they search them out. If readers see them in the paper, they have no choice (unless they buy The Sun deliberately).

As for bottoms - and other bits - as a nurse, a mother of sons, a wife, I know what they look like. Yes, they differ. A bit. But THEY ARE NOT INTERESTING, even if they are Prince Harry's (I haven't seen the photos, but I don't suppose he is very different from anyone else).

That's it. I'll shut up now.

Thursday 23 August 2012

Why the menopause?

Yet another "scientific study" has come up with the this ridiculous exlanation for the menopause: (in summary) it's there so that there are plenty of grannies to look after the new generation, rather than carry on breeding themselves.

No no NO! It's perfectly obvious to me why women reach a manopuase; if fertility continued into old age, who would look after all those babies? Given that it takes about 18 years to see them to maturity, we need those extra post-menopause years to see them out of the nest. Also, as any grandmother will tell you, we are TOO TIRED to go on producing babies for ever. Some of us want to travel, write books, paint picture, climb Everest. This is OUR TURN. The kids will have theirs. OK?

This argument presupposes that men, whose fertility persists interminably, are incapable of seeing those same babies out of the nest. Well, let's face it; in some cases (not all, but some) it could just be right.

I do wish these scientists would stop wasting years of "research" on these silly projects, and just ask us. It would save so much time.

Monday 20 August 2012

All the world loves a lover?

No, it doesn't. All the world may be pleased that the lovers have found each other, and that they're happy, but I doubt very much whether we love them.

Think about it. That couple eating each other's faces off on the street corner. Do we love them? Of course we don't. The other day, we were out having a pizza, and the couple at the next table were obviously deeply in lurve. So much so, that when he went to the loo, their farewells verged on the ridiculous, and upon his return he was greeted like an oil rig worker who'd been toiling away in the stormy North Sea for six months. So bad was the situation that I was tempted to go over to them and say: "OK, guys. So you love each other. That's great. Now please take yourselves off home to bed, and get it out of your system, because you're putting me off my Fiorentina (with extra spinach).

(I'm afraid I'm still being a grumpy cow.)

Sunday 19 August 2012

Magpie 131


"Oh where have you got to, my dear?"
Shouted Bill, "it's so foggy down here.
I told you that boat
Was unlikely to float,
And I fear you've gone over the weir."

Cried his wife, "don't you fret abut me.
I'm just popping down to the sea.
And if I'm still alive
I'll be home around five,
And I'll bring back fresh herrings for tea."

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

Saturday 18 August 2012

Another moan about exclamation marks

We've recently received postcards from grandchildren, all full of exclamation marks, and yet again, I WISH kids were taught in school how to use these poor, overworked punctuation marks.

I've posted about them before, but their over-use is such a shame. In "funny" greetings cards, they ruin any humour, and anywhere else, you only ever need ONE! (This was an exclamation.) They seem to proliferate in Christmas round robins ("we've moved house three times this year!!" "Jenny failed her A levels!!!" "I'm leaving Quentin after sixty-three years of marriage!!!!")

Is this a new thing? I recently saw a post by someone who wrote that he had a shelf full of books on how to write, and there were almost as many exclamation marks as there were words. I love punctuation, especially the semi-colon (another story). None of it is particularly complicated. So why is the poor exclamation mark so badly abused?

PS I do think it's fine to add them in comments boxes, as in "thank you for the comment!" because they add meaning. Which is, of course, what they are for.

(End of grumble)

Wednesday 15 August 2012


Co-blogger Fran has posted some brilliant variations on Mary Had a Little Lamb. You can see them here.

With apologies to her (I hope you don't mind, Fran?), these gave me the idea for a competition. The task: to re-write any well-known nursery rhyme, making it modern/witty/PC/non-PC - whatever takes your fancy. The prize? Immense cudos, and a pretty tea towel (sorry I can't run to anything better at the moment, but it's the taking part that counts). I know there are some brilliant poets out there, so come on. Have a go!

Do you need cheering up? Look no further

Today is not a good day. I am still recovering from That Accident, and am at the bad-tempered nasty stage. I got soaked through to my knickers riding in torrential rain this morning (Titch had said it would rain. I said it woulnd't), am having a horrible time trying to cope with a new moblile (I do NOT want apps and widgets and smidgets and whatsits; I JUST WANT TO MAKE PHONE CALLS, TEXT, AND TAKE THE ODD PHOTO.Ok?), have had trouble changing a light bulb (yes, really) and am not doing well with the WIP.

But all is not lost. I have rediscovered Gerard Hoffnung's marvellous speech to the Oxford Union in the 1950s. This multi-talented man - consummate artist, cartoonist, musician and speaker - died at the tragically young age of 34. If you haven't heard this, please do. It'll take a few minuntes, but is a masterpiece of wit and timing. It certainly cheered me up. You can listen to it here I advise you skip the first 9 minutes, and get on to the bricklayer's tale, which ends at 16 minutes (the rest doesn't matter so much).

Monday 13 August 2012

From bruise to balloon...

In the aftermath of The Bruise (thank you. Still sore, but I don't talk about it. Much), I've been persuaded by my family to invest (ha!) in an inflatable riding jacket. The idea (apart from making the rider look ridiculous), is that this vest is attached to the saddle, and when the rider - er - disembarks, the jacket inflates in a tenth of a second to make him/her look like the above illustration. Sexy, eh?

I wore it for the first time today. Titch, having been very rude about it (a lot of "WTFs?" and "OMGs!") decided that since I was now (theoretically) well-buffered, he could behave as badly as he liked. Which he proceeded to do. He danced in the road, ran away from a Landrover he's known for years, spooked at invisible things in hedges, and generally behaved like a prat.

"Are you going to write about all the amusing things I said?" he asked, as we arrived home (he likes to be quoted on this blog).

"No," I told him, "You don't deserve any more publicity."

But he did get a carrot. Just the one.

Sunday 12 August 2012

Magpie 130

They take poor Sue (our latest Mag)
And tie her in a paper bag.
"Get out of that!" they cry, "you have
No map, no knife, and no satnav."
Says she, "no problem. I've a plan.
Get out of this? Of course I can!
The solution is quite simple. It's
A brain, a shell, and knife-sharp tits."

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

Saturday 11 August 2012

The horse diaries

Did you see those horses in the individual dressage (Olympics) a couple of days ago? They were absolutely amazing. Titch, however, does not agree.

Titch: You want me to WHAT?
Me: Dance. To music.
Titch: Horses don't dance, and they don't like music.
Me: Those ones did.
Titch: They were faking it.
Me; Couldn't we just have a little try? Just a little sideways bounce, without the music?
Titch: You have a very short memory. I did a little sidways bounce just the other day, and you fell off.
Me: That's a bit below the belt. Beside, I wasn't expecting it!
Titch: Neither was I. That deer just shot out in front of me.
Me: Titch, that was not a dance. You spooked. Not funny, not clever, and very, very painful.
Titch: Well, I did come back to find you.
Me: True. But we're getting away from the subject. Now about the dancing. Couldn't we just -
Titch: Got any carrots?

I give up. No Olympics for us, then. Another ambition bites the dust. Damn.

Friday 10 August 2012

"What I ate yesterday."

It's a regular article in our newpaper suppplement. They take someone well-know (whom I've never hear of), and ask them what they ate yesterday. How dull is that? These people are Important and Busy, so they "snatch" a bit of sushi or a smoothie (why do I hate that word?), eat lots of vegetables and salad, and dine somewhere posh in the evening. Between whiles, they dash about going to meetings and/or being filmed.

So I shall bore you with what I ate yesterday (not, as it happens, a good day to choose, but no matter).

Breakfast: Fruit and Fibre. I bought this by mistake, and it's horrible (sorry, Kellogs). But my expectations of breakfast are mercifully low.

Lunch: a cheese and tomato roll. And an orange (I eat a lot of oranges).

Dinner: a ready meal. I am not proud of this, and do it rarely. He had a huge curry. I had a small shepherd's pie. Normally, I make stuff, but was having my toenails painted blue (long story) so didn't have time to cook. Another orange.

Later on: an apple. And chocolate. Oh, and wine.

At this stage in the article, a dietician comments. I have no dietitian, and want no criticial assessment of my eating habits. I know what I'm doing wrong, and am too old to care.

Now. What did you eat yesterday? (No cheating, please. I am not a dietician, so you have nothing to fear.)

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Going anywhere nice for your holidays?

Isn't that a stupid question? What are you supposed to say? "No. This year we decided to go somewhere really nasty"?

This is, of course, hairdresser-speak. Safe, but dull. And, as I said, stupid.

But my hairdresser and I always end up talking about sex. I've no idea why. It doesn't start out that way. It's an all-roads-lead-to kind of thing. We aren't flirting. He's about the same age as my son. It's just the way it is. We also talk about fast cars and what we'd do if we won the lottery, but it invariably ends with sex.

At this point, all around us, scissors and voices are dropped so that everyone else can listen in, and they all stop talking about the nice places where they're going on holiday, which has to be a good thing. So really, we're doing them all a favour.

What do you talk about when you're having your hair cut (bald readers need not reply)?

Tuesday 7 August 2012

How do you decide which blogs to follow?

This follows on from my last post on blogging. I'd be really interested to know what makes people decide to follow a particular blog. There are an awful lot of them, from the brilliant/funny/inspiring to the weird and the downright mad (I've just happened upon one of the latter, and can honestly say I have no idea what the blogger is writing about). It's impossible to be a "follower" of every blog that takes the eye, but the ones I choose are:

Not too long. Very lengthy posts take a lot of time to read, and while they may be good to dip into, it's hard on a regular basis.

Funny. Entertaining. Light relief.

Literary. About books and writing, especially writing (this for obvious reasons).

Zany. I love eccentric people (a certain layabout cowboy springs to mind)

Varied. Blogs that concentrate on a single topic can be tedious.

Horsey (Titch likes to feel involved).

What about you? And how do you feel when you gain or lose followers? Honest answers, please!

Monday 6 August 2012

Magpie 129


"You're looking so lovely tonight.
Your cheeks glowing pink in the light.
The food and the wine
Are, quite simply, divine.
You're my love, you're my life, my delight."

I might as well be on my own.
You've spent the whole night on your phone.
I couldn't eat dinner
Though I've never been thinner.
Since I met you, I've lost half a stone."

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

Saturday 4 August 2012

Why do you blog?

I'd really like to know. Because there are an awful lot of us at it, and we probably all have different reasons.

I blog because:

I am writing, but don't having to worry about whether anyone likes what I've written ( although of course it's nice if they do)

I can tell myself it's work. After all, I'm a writer, and I'm writing, so that's work, right?

I am getting away from the WIP, which like all my WIPs is much better in my head than when it lands on paper. Something seems to go wrong in transit.

(Currently) my terrible injuries make concentration difficult

(Currently again) I'm awaiting my agent's verdict on the first part of the aforementioned (I love that word) WIP, and there's no point in my carrying on until I get her verdict.

I enjoy reading other people's blogs, and like to join in as well.

I am a terrible procrastinator, and blogging is a writing procrastinator's best friend (well, wine and chocolate are good, too).

Looking at this pathetic list of reaons, I feel rather ashamed. There doesn't seem to be a single good one among them. Oh dear.

Please tell me why you blog. It just might help.

Friday 3 August 2012

Pooh, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger have had a bath...

...and are sitting in the kitchen, drying out.

As any parent will know, when the kids leave home, the also leave Stuff. Old clothes, videos, university notes, papers, tin trophies they won as school all gets left behind in The Nest, while they set up nice, new, clutter-free homes of their own. Well, I have had enough. In my convalescent state, I am restless, and want to sort things out and chuck things away. So. Out with the Stuff.

Barney (if you see this) I have washed Pooh and friends, and they await collection. As does that clutter in the cupboard and an entire bookshelf of nasty violent teen films and tattered paperbacks.

Joe, another cupboard is full of your old DJ stuff, and a lot of old football shirts, and much else besides. When I open that cupboard, an avalanche of stuff tumbles from a great height and threatens to bury me alive. We are short of storage space, and I need your cupboard.

To the other two: you left home so long ago that your stuff has finally evaporated, so this doesn't apply to you.

Meanwhile, Pooh et al are nearly dry (Roo nearly went the way of all socks and got lost in the wash, but mercifully reappeared). And, as I said, are waiting for you, Barney.

So am I.

Thursday 2 August 2012

Good writing - how much does it matter?

Obviously, to many people, not much. To them perhaps the story is all (or nearly all), and that's what matters. And that's fair enough. After all, writers are trying to give readers what they want, not competing in a competition for the best syntax or grammar. But...

I mind desperately. For me, the writing must never get in the way of the the story. It must flow smoothly, almost unobtrusively, so that events and images are built up seamlessly in the reader's imagination, with no unnecessary intereference.

If I come across bad, or obtrusive writing, it's as though the fabric of the narrative has been snagged on an obstacle; my involvement in the story is held up, while I wonder why the author used that odd phrase, or that strange piece of description.

Some examples from a novel I've just read:

A frown invaded his features. Why not simply, "he frowned"?
He heard the breath of her grin leave her mouth (????)
The girl...leered at him, her head doddering on its axis like a nodding dog (WHAT?)
Someone turning off a computer message silenced it with an emphatic digit (turned it off?)

In the same novel, characters don't just "say" things; they snarl, spit, growl, sneer and scowl their words. Why? Shouldn't what they say speak - literally - for itself?

Maeve Binchy, who sadly died this week, and who told wonderful stories in simple prose, believed this kind of thing was quite unncessary. So do I.

What do you think?

Wednesday 1 August 2012

Drum roll......the Bruise!

Last Tuesday, I fell off my horse.
He's tall, so I fell with some force.
The size of the bruise
Made the ten o'clock news.
Will I ride him again? Yes, of course.

I know, I know. You don't really want to see it. But it's selfish to keep this kind of thing to oneself, isn't it? And I'm still very sore. And like so many invalids, attention-seeking.

PS I prefer peaches to grapes.