Thursday, September 18, 2014

If at first you don't succeed ...

Have now printed out the first 50 pages of novel 2, a synopsis and cover letter to try another publisher - most agents accept email submissions these days but this is a small Welsh old school publisher.

Am I mad? Is it worth wasting the postage? One more try. I say that every time ...

I have been doing what writers do i.e. procrastinate. I've tidied my desk and even sorted through the old leaflets and assorted paraphernalia on the noticeboard. So now I'm all ready and have the tidy space to enable me to concentrate on writing.

Except I think I might have a shower now. So far today I've managed to avoid it in spite of getting a healthy glow during circuit training. I waited so long for my body to cool down before showering that it wasn't worth doing it before going swimming. And then when I came home I meant to shower but somehow ended up cleaning the bottom of the oven. (Not something I ordinarily do but the burned-on layer was getting beyond belief.)

Ooh, perhaps I'll eat some strawberries first.

I was browsing through some blogs listed by bloggers I visit: there are some jolly intelligent bloggers out there, some of whom specialise. But I didn't come across one I liked enough to re-visit.  I lost several blogs off my list when I changed the template and I do feel though that I need to widen my circle.

I wonder if specialisation is the way ahead. Possibly but not for me with my butterfly brain.

Why blogging is better for you than running

Trying to recover from circuit training this morning. As we were an odd number I had to double up on the boxing. Expect grumbles about aching shoulders any time soon. Last week it was my buttocks. Sitting was agony; climbing stairs was agony; actually most things were agony for several days.

And I didn't notice a noticeable improvement in my running today even though I put on athlete's foot cream last night. Maybe I should have put it on my feet instead of my nose. My nose is already an expert runner.

So ... anyway, yesterday was hairdresser day. I no longer resemble a badger, or possibly I do but not an aged one. Husband collected me afterwards and suggested, as I'd missed lunch, that we go home via Verdi's and ice cream. He is such a thoughtful man.

Also possibly psychic as I found yet another rejection awaiting me on my return home.

If I were bashing my head against a wall there would come a point when my brain would make me pass out and I'd have to stop. It's a shame that doesn't work when it comes to submitting novels to agents. Or maybe it does. Eventually I gave up with This Time Next Year; maybe I should cut out more pain and go straight to self-publishing novel 3.

The thing with that is that there is no outsider choosing to publish it because he or she thinks it's good enough. It's relying only on my own belief thus decreasing credibility. Plus the publisher has all the marketing and promoting tools to sell it whereas I, try as I might, have limited scope.

Ho hum.

But today I read an interesting article via Robyn's Facebook page about the value of writing. According to the report it gives strong mental and physical health benefits.
"When people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health," Pennebaker, the author of the report, writes. "They go to the doctor less. They have changes in immune function." 

Why? Pennebaker believes this act of expressive writing allows people to take a step back and evaluate their lives. Instead of obsessing unhealthily over an event, they can focus on moving forward. By doing so, stress levels go down and health correspondingly goes up. 

The article also says that even blogging is good for you.
One study found that blogging might trigger dopamine release, similar to the effect from running or listening to music.

You mean I needn't have gone circuit training this morning?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Learning to lead

It's a hard job this leading malarkey.

Last week Sean asked if I'd be in Zac's on Tuesday and if I could lead as he was away. I said I could and then he grinned and said, 'It's that part about loving your enemies.'
'Oh thank you very much!'

So I prepared and was quite pleased with the ideas and questions I'd come up with. Preparing always helps me to understand better so I like that bit. It's the actual leading the discussion that causes my problems.

With a lot of vulnerable and damaged people in Zac's it's no surprise that the idea of loving your enemies is a hard one to stomach. Even for reasonably undamaged people it's tricky. I had come to the conclusion that what's needed is the willingness to take the first step, even if that's just to say to God, 'I want to want to forgive and love,' and that repetition isn't a typing error. We might not yet have arrived at that place where we want to stop hating and we may need help to get past that before we can even begin to think about loving. But it's an openness to the idea that I think God wants to see in us.

But for some - or at least one - last night it was a case of, 'Well, I can't do that. I live in the real world.' And it was this attitude, repeatedly expressed and with added mumblings to a neighbour when not holding the floor, that exasperated me and made me 'shout' (speak loudly and crossly) and have to take a deep breath. 

I thought, 'That's it. That person's going to be mad at me now and probably won't come again and it'll be my fault.' But fortunately I don't think my outburst was noticed by the person at whom it was directed - I am so loudly and explosively aggressive! - who was fine with me at the end.

How Sean manages to sit calmly and listen and respond gently and appropriately is an example for me. One I need to practise following. But I fear it will take an awful lot of practice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Scottish devolution and my nose

I woke in the night and my nose was whistling. It kept saying (or so it sounded), 'Vote yes, vote yes.'

For goodness sake, I'm not even Scottish. And if I were I wouldn't be told what to do by my nose. Large though it is.

Welsh mams and their babies

I didn't want to mention it until I was really really really sure it was going to happen. It's been a possibility for a number of years but it was beginning to seem like more of an impossibility.

Son-in-law has got a new job in Swansea and that means that Daughter and family will be coming home!

Literally home. Until they sell their house in Devon and buy another they'll be living with us. And Younger Son and Nuora will also be living with us for a month or so when they come back from Malaysia. So from there being 2 adults, 1 dog and 2 fish living in our house there will be 6 adults, 2 children, 2 dogs, 1 cat and 2 fish living in our house! It's a good job we have a large house.

I'm a Welsh mam; I'm delighted my babies are coming home. I'm sure there'll be some tensions but we're family; we'll manage.

Happy days.

And in readiness for those happy days I've finally been spurred on to make a start on de-cluttering, mainly to make extra cupboard and drawer space. I am trying to be ruthless but when I came across this I had to stop.
It's Harvey's old collar. I know there's no point or reason to keep it but I'm still resisting putting it in the bin. I've left it outside, in the hope, I think, that it will mysteriously disappear - or that Husband will bin it.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Big Brother is watching you

Some people have a death wish; I appear to have a stupidity wish.

In between prison and the outside world is a room I like to call purgatory. When you arrive at prison you are first let into this room (and locked in) before someone comes from the other side to (unlock you and) take you in.

So, this little room has recently been refurbished and where there used to be lockers are now empty plastic-covered noticeboards. Waiting in there this morning I glanced around at the changes and my eyes happened upon the inevitable security cameras. 'Do not do anything stupid,' I said to myself. 'They are watching you.'

A stupidity wish. It seems that no sooner did I tell myself to behave normally than I spotted the mirror effect of the plastic-covered noticeboards. The distorting mirror effect, like you see at fairgrounds. Like the song of the sirens it drew me in and I began moving this way and that to see what peculiar shapes I could create.
I was just contemplating whether I could pull off the Harry Worth effect ...
when I heard the door being unlocked. The arrival of the chaplain saved me from myself.

Friday, September 12, 2014

George and the jellyfish

After Wednesday's hike out to the Worm we took it easy yesterday with a stroll down to Tor Bay. In the shelter of the cliffs it was lovely and warm but there was a cool breeze coming off the sea, which was a long way out, meaning that by the time you got there you were pretty chilled in a not good way. But we did have a dip in the sea. A very very quick dip, just to say we'd done it.

One thing we learned: don't take George with you if you fancy a bit of relaxing sun-bathing. Honestly he was worse than a child. If he wasn't digging a hole under you and covering you in sand he was woofing, demanding that someone get up, pick up his stone and go and throw it in a deep pool so he could have fun getting it out again. We kept throwing it further and further in and he kept getting quicker and quicker at getting it out.

And today we discovered another thing we shouldn't attempt with George: walk the Millennium Coastal Park at Llanelli. Not because of anything George did this time but because most of it is aimed at cyclists and dogs are supposed to be kept on leads. 

We tried an alternative route across the sand - that proved to be very slippery mud.

But we did get a wave from a friendly train driver. (The train line runs next to the beach in places.)

I'd been looking forward to going to the Millennium Coastal Park but we found it to be the sort of place you wouldn't want to go to twice. It's probably wonderful for cyclists but a bit boring and, as I said, not good for dogs.

We parked near the 'iconic' Discovery Centre - you can just see it by my shoulder in the now obligatory selfie - and began our walk on Llanelli beach. You didn't know Llanelli had a beach? Apparently it's been a well-kept secret known only to the locals, and, quite frankly, the locals can keep it.

When the famous Stradey Park rugby ground closed down one of its goalposts was saved and has been erected in the coastal park complete with a lifesize cut-out of Llanelli's famous son, Phil Bennett, beating an All Black, in one of the small Welsh team's famous victories over the New Zealanders.

I'm demonstrating my rugby skills and providing support as you can see.

It's been a lovely week. We've taken advantage of the glorious weather and George has walked his little socks off. I have fully embraced retirement and life is pretty good.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Another first for me!

Today we walked out to the end of the Worm. It took us one and a half hours to get out there and one hour to get back. From the base of the cliff that is. Add another 20-30 minutes on each way for climbing back up the hill and walking to and from the car park. No wonder we're all - George included - ready for bed.

You have to time your visit carefully as the headland is cut off at high tide and it's further and trickier than you might expect. Well, really there's only one tricky bit that is between the first and second headlands. On the way out we scrambled up and down sharp rocks made slippery by the hundreds of boots that have tramped over them no doubt. George really struggled in places and occasionally husband had to give him a bunk up and once we had to find an alternative way. Mostly though he acts as though he has mountain goat blood.
On the way back we took the flatter - and seaweedy - route. 
I'm not certain but I think this might be raw laverbread.
Every now and again George decided he had to retrieve a stone from the bottom of a rock pool and bring it with him. 

One of the highlights, apart from actually being on the Worm after all these years, was seeing seals sunbathing on the rocks.
The view to the end from the first headland. As you may imagine the scariest bit was crossing over that 'bridge', a narrow rocky passageway, in the wind. I had to pretend I was Indiana Jones.

The only disappointing part of the day was the tea and cake afterwards. The only cafe open is a little bistro that may very well do excellent home-made burgers but its cakes are mass produced.

Last time I had Victoria sponge. I never normally have sponge out because my home-made is too good! But this one looked nice so I thought I should break the habit of a lifetime; I shouldn't have. Today it was chocolate brownie. It was probably all right as shop brownies go but mine are much better. In a place like Rhossilli there just should be a marvellous little tea shop. Toilets are pretty manky too. The public ones that is not the ones in the cafe.

Before we made our way home I returned again to visit the tiny little church of St Mary the Virgin. On the wall inside is a plaque to local man Edgar Evans, who died in 1912 with Captain Scott on their return journey from the South Pole.
There's also a lovely window dedicated to the first bishop of Northern Nigeria.

Taking the plunge

Yesterday morning Husband said, 'Let's go for a swim in the sea this afternoon.'

We've not been in the sea in the UK for some time (in my case baptisms excepted). That's the problem with having your own swimming pool: you're disinclined to make the effort to join the heated throngs battling for car park spaces not to mention space on the sand. I spent the rest of the morning psyching myself up for what I was sure would be a chilling experience. Husband said, 'We don't have to; I just thought you might like to.'
'My younger self would never forgive me if I turned this down.'

As children, my friend, Maggi, and I would stay in the water until we were blue. 'A-a-a-en't you c-c-c-c-coming in?' I'd ask my mum and be shocked when she'd decline. Now I fully understand.

So it was with trepidation that we strolled down to Pobbles in the afternoon.
It wasn't too crowded and the water was so good we went in twice!

George couldn't quite see the point of going in the sea if you weren't chasing a stick but he grudgingly came with us.

Old Glanmor girls

It was a very lively group that greeted me at Sketty Methodist Church when I went to speak to them on Monday evening. First time back after the summer hols and they had lots to catch up on. Very jolly ladies who listened attentively, laughed in the right places and bought a number of books.

One woman who came in looked very familiar but I couldn't quite place her until, during her introduction, the chairman happened to mention that this woman's name was Janet. Instantly it clicked: Janet Evans from Glanmor Grammar School. I even remembered the road she'd lived in.

We haven't seen each other since we left school in 1971 but she hadn't changed at all, still had her lovely smiling face and gorgeous dimples. It took her a little longer to place me but then for her too everything clicked into place and she recalled all sorts of stuff. She'd been to a reunion a year or so ago - another one that I missed out on - and she was able to update a bit on some of the others. It always amazes me that I have only on the rarest of occasions seen anyone I was in either junior or senior school with. Okay, senior school took in girls from all across Swansea so maybe losing touch is understandable but our junior school was local and I'm still often in Mumbles yet there's only one person I ever see.

Anyway it was lovely to see Janet again. She took a photo of us on her camera and said she'd try and email it to me if she can manage to work out the technology - she's a technophobe. So watch this space.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

A Celibate Season

One of the wonderful things about getting older is that I no longer feel I have to finish books if I'm not enjoying them. I don't have the time left to waste! And libraries make it even easier as books are free!! Isn't that incredible? When I think about libraries I am so grateful.

But anyway, back to my recent choices. As you may have guessed the first one I didn't finish reading.
Sweet Desserts by Lucy Ellmann. 
Winner of the Guardian Fiction Prize, it's written in a style I didn't enjoy so gave up fairly quickly.

The Rise and Fall of the Queen of Suburbia by Sarah May.
I got to the end of this but after every few pages I considered giving up. I'm not sure why I didn't really. It's also called a black-hearted soap opera, and looks in details at the lives of the residents of one close in the 80s. Not one happy character, not even one who wants to be happy. A miserable ending to a miserable story. 

A Celibate Season by Carol Shields and Blanche Howard.
"An original collaboration between two award-winning writers," and as one is a poet I was a little unsure whether this might be too literary for me to read last thing at night. It wasn't; it was an absolute delight.
It's written in the form of letters between a husband, Chas, and wife, confusingly Jock for Joycelyn, when Jock, a lawyer, takes on a 9-month contract to work in Ottawa on a Royal commission on women and poverty while Chas, an unemployed architect, is left in Vancouver to play house-husband.
If I'd written this yesterday afternoon before I finished the book I'd have had nothing but praise for it; as it is I felt there was one bit at the end that didn't ring true, but, on the whole, I would have been happy for it to go on and on. (It's quite a short book.)
I was so involved that I found myself saying, 'Oh no, do you think you should say that?' at various times to one or both of the writers. 'That's going to be misinterpreted,' or 'that sounds a little demeaning.'
Highly recommended.

Also recommended is This is Life by Dan Rhodes. 
A young French art student in Paris finds herself in charge of a stranger's baby for a week while across the city a run-down cinema used for erotic films is being prepared to host an art exhibition that involves the naked artist living in public view for a period during which he collects every bit of, well, anything that comes out of his body. 
It sounds peculiar but again this book is a delight. Gay in the old sense and Parisian and light. If I think of Sweet Desserts it would be as a big grey cloud; This is Life is blue sky with occasional wisps of cotton wool clouds.