Friday, 28 August 2009

Short break...

Tomorrow is my mother's birthday (I don't use this date as a password anywhere so I feel safe revealing it!) and I am off to Canterbury to spend some time with her; hopefully chilling out, relaxing and doing similarly easeful and peaceful things. That's Canterbury Cathedral in the picture, by the way, since I don't have any electronic pictures of Mum's beautiful garden or her rather ordinary house.

Work has been rather hectic this week, so I am tired and a little tense. Then yesterday evening, when I tried to switch on the laptop to do some writing, it had hiccoughs and wouldn't turn on. Aargh, more tension straightaway. Every time so far that this has happenend it has been fine again a few days later, so I have total faith in it. Yes, I do. Total faith.

In an illogical panic reaction ("Total faith" I said, hmmm) I am now carrying the floppy discs of "Gabriel Yeats", "Ramundi's sisters" and "Fortitude" around in my handbag, as I feel they are somehow more safe with me. I am taking a bundle of good old-fashioned file paper down to Kent too, so I can go on writing the normal way.

Hoping for decent weather and the chance to take a picnic to the coast a couple of times... I've packed a sketchbook and my watercolours too. Really looking forward to a break from work.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

And a couple of cool dreams...

Someone just told me they dreamed last night that they had garlic growing out of their arm. I like that - I could eat myself all day (sorry, that sounds really kinky). My dream last night was less edible, or edible in a different way (hmm, shading towards the kinky again here). I was an officer in the Metropolitan Police and had been assigned to the Royal Protection Squad; I was looking after Princess Anne's grandchildren. They were lovely, luckily. But they were being pursued by a terrorist who could take the form of a lion - so I was sent lion hunting with Zachary Quinto. I am not into blood sports, so I will interpret this as being about the need to recover my inner power. With Zachary Quinto.

I love dreams.

I also love the day-dream/long-term-plan type of dream. The novels, published and selling, being read and enjoyed. The art works, framed and exhibited, selling and being enjoyed. The house and garden, my own, instead of rented and falling to bits because the landlord has no money for renovations. The Café and Vegetarian Bistro with attached bookshop, small press, gallery and artists' studios, set in a small botanical garden on the island of Thassos (on the east coast between Alikí and Paradeissos, to be precise). My Favourite Baritone giving a private recital at my wedding, to someone talented, interesting, intelligent, articulate, presentable, solvent, and of course crackers about me. And singing "Oh, Du, mein Holder Abendstern" forty years later at my funeral... Slight problem with this last, in that Favourite Baritone is six years older than me, so he will be a very old gentleman indeed if I get another forty-odd years after the wedding to the as-yet-hypothetical, hopefully wonderful (even maybe hothothot) future partner.

Ah, but still - a girl can dream.

Fascinating article.

Good old New Scientist...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

I hasten to add...

...It is Purple Prose I am (trying to be) anti - not purple the colour. Glorious colour, purple. Wonderful. And lilac and violet and burgundy and all...


One of those odd post-pub things...

My right foot hurts. It's puffy, tender, and just starting to turn faintly purple under the tan. In a couple more days I think there's going to be a socking great bruise there. At some point on Saturday night, someone or something must have landed on my foot - on the scale from "gentle bump" to "horse trod on me" this is shaping up to be close to the horse end of the spectrum. A sheep, perhaps.

I have absolutely no recollection of what it was. A sheep, perhaps? In Ealing on a Saturday night, anything is possible...

I've been trying to get a nice picture of a bruised foot off the internet to paste here, but bizarrely everyone who has posted pictures of their feet with bruises has made them not-public-copy-able. Weird. One of the Press team made some suggestions but none of them had pictures of bruised feet. Oh, life is a weird place sometimes.

Spent yesterday evening going back through the first half of "Ramundi's Sisters" doing rewrites and trying to excise purple. After getting some very useful feedback from one or two people I am now on a mission to try and see my writing as if I were someone else and not me; not to feel precious about my purple but to see it coolly and chop it out when it serves no purpose (ie, a lot of the time).

Monday, 24 August 2009

A good read; a good Saturday night; a good evening for walking

By a long and convoluted route I have just discovered this
A link to the website of one of my favourite recipe books. Whatever your opinion of Mennonites or of the West trying to consume less of the world's resources, the "More-with-less" cookbook is a fascinating compendium of mouthwateringness from the American Mennonite and Pennsylvania Dutch communities. And the recipes work. I thought it was out of print, but it seems I could not be more wrong. Hurrah!

Had an interesting saturday; I went out with K., who was struggling to get over N., again, after the two of them getting back together and splitting up twice more since mid-June. We had a picnic, were asked to hide our wine by a very friendly police officer (Haven Green is a "controlled drinking area"; I didn't know that. Did you know that? K. didn't either), went on after that to a noisy pub where some blokes tried to pick us up, then on to another noisy pub where different blokes tried to pick us up and we danced a lot as they had a disco, finally at midnight I put K. on a bus home, me tipsy, she very, very drunk, and did Beyoncé impressions on the pavement in order to set her off laughing as the bus drew away. My Beyoncé impression is truly appalling; I have my uses, and maybe making people laugh (when they are very drunk) is one of them.

Having crept into philosophical mode with regard to the loss of my bicycle, I'm now going to creep all the way home on foot. Luckily it's a fine, sunny evening, and I do enjoy walking too...

Friday, 21 August 2009

Of love, and loss; devastated on Friday.

I’ve been gradually getting over a profound sense of shock and grief, mingled with considerable self-disgust for my part in the problem, since yesterday evening. Sometime between 6.30 and 6.50 my bicycle was stolen, from the cycle racks outside Chiswick Sainsburys.

The shop staff were very nice about it, but utterly unable to do anything to help. The police have also been very nice, and very sympathetic, but are also unable to do anything more than take my details and add me to the statistics.

The misery of losing my preferred method of transport, my beloved Big Baby, is compounded by the fact that my bike insurance had run out at the beginning of the month, while I was lying in bed with a temperature of 101, and I had not yet got round to renewing it. So I was uninsured. My contents insurance doesn’t cover larger valuable items outside the home as the bike was the only larger valuable item I had (indeed was probably my only really valuable possession) and it already had its own insurance. At least, it did have, until August the first.

I feel a complete idiot, but there is nothing I can do that undoes the fact that I took a risk because I wasn’t thinking what I was doing, and I lost out. The bike was locked, but as bicycle theft becomes more and more common bike thieves become more and more skilful at cutting a chain while looking totally innocent. I parked and locked it, and someone cut it loose and waltzed off with it. Over. Done. Gone.

I am bikeless, and gutted.

It was my late father’s bike, which he left to me, and was the only thing of his that I have apart from a couple of cds of Handel oratorios (which I don’t listen to much as neither of them is “Messiah” and I’m not a huge Handel fan otherwise, truth to tell), and this adds a bitter extra twist. He would have been stunned, and then disgusted, that I could do something so stupid, though he could not have said anything worse than the things I said to myself yesterday evening as I trailed home, crying hysterically, across Bedford Park.

I loved that bike. Not just because it was Dad’s; indeed, in a way almost in spite of that. My father was a big bloke, and his bicycle was a large-frame model, basically far too big for me (and at five foot nine I am no mouseling) and of course it was a gents’ bike, with a high and hefty cross bar. It took a bit of getting used-to. It was too tall, the seat was too high and the wrong shape, the handle bars were always at the wrong angle despite every attempt at precision adjustment. It gave me saddle sores and a crick in the neck if I rode any great distance. I was always teetering on the verge of losing my balance if I needed to put a foot down at traffic lights; and if I were tired, or wearing a skirt, getting off could be an effort and required an extension of which Sylvie Guillem would not have been ashamed. Yet I felt like one of King Arthur’s Knights, mounted up there, riding high above the rest of the cycling world.

My mother has promised to lend me the money to replace it, though any replacement will be of a more humble and workaday ilk than Big Baby. Dad always threw money at any new project, and his decision the year before he died to take up cycling was no exception. I’d never have spent over a grand on a bike and its accoutrements. But it’s gone, gone, gone…

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

About to go forth and try not to make a fool of myself...

It's quiz night, again. I am going to eat some bread and hummous on a bench on the Green and then go and try to make myself useful on someone's team at the pub quiz at our local, The Botanist On Kew Green.

It's been an odd week so far. I come into work and chug through jobs, already taking it almost completely for granted that I feel normal and healthy again. Yesterday I had a stiff leg all day, which was peculiar and by the end of the day pretty damned irritating. If I could have remembered why, it might have been easier to cope with. It reminded me of Anke's friend's blog entry about "I'm a single leg" - & yes, I've made that mistake too!...

It's a glorious sunny afternoon, though, with a sky of immaculate bathroom-wall blue, so I'm going to get out of the office and into that sunshine for a wee bit, while it lasts.

Best of luck if you're on a different team in the quiz!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Closer to normal

I've now been back at work for two days. I can't claim to feel one-hundred-percent yet, but I am improving steadily. It's done me a lot of good to be around other people and to talk and interact again, after two weeks of being very quiet indeed. I'm pretty tired this evening, but I'm about to go home; and after tomorrow it's the weekend and I get to put my feet up for two days.

One bit of good news; I bought a bookcase a little while ago, and when I was still off sick but beginning to feel more active, I finally got my books into the new book shelf, clearing three of the remaining cardboard boxes left over from my move in March in the process. Of course, this exposed a bit more floor in need of cleaning, but one can't have everything. Not having my books stacked up in packing cases is nice, though.

Going home for an early supper and a peaceful evening, I hope. I wonder if channel five will be working properly? The guy-who-was-a-slob who moved out took the television and the freeview box (they did belong to him, I hasten to add), so we now have only a little, old, crackly portable tv with a cheap bent-wire indoor aerial, and reception on channels 3 and 5 is poor at best - curtains of grey mist descend at intervals, and the soundtrack is swallowed each time in wild hissing noises. If anyone has a decent television (?& freeview box?!?) they don't want, it would be welcomed eagerly in Flanders Road.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Normal service is (almost) resumed...

Today I made it as far as the internet café. I have had the dreaded swine flu, and unlike a lot of things one dreads, this merited a good deal of the alarm. It was VILE. I was in bed for five days straight, and too weak even to hold a book for the first four. Test Match Special kept me sane, just.

I'm now up and about and moderately mobile, though my legs turn rubbery after twenty minutes or so of walking (a few days ago it was "after five minutes", so the improvement is steady), and I'm beginning to get my life sorted out again. I've been signed off work until Wednesday as my GP believes in taking time to recuperate properly after this little bastard of a virus. I'm not going to say no; I think I could probably manage a day's work mentally by now, but as for physically, well, that would be doubtful.

It's been a full couple of weeks. While I lay in bed ill, two of the other lodgers in the house moved out. I had known they were going to, it wasn't a stelalthy move on their part to sneak off while I was incapacitated! The one I didn't like has gone I know-not whither, and good riddance (he was a slob). The one I got on well with has moved into a new flat with his very nice Orcadian girlfriend, aboout ten minutes walk away, and they are saying "Keep in touch, come round for tea", so I hope we'll stay in contact. A new guy has moved into one of the vacant rooms who turns out to be a bit of a human dynamo; new-broom-sweeps-clean, bang bang, let's get this sorted out and that dealt-with, are you okay with this, okay, whi-iiz, wheee... Hard to keep up with; but he cleans up after himself and talks to me instead of flouncing and glaring like his predecessor. So he is a good news guy.

The nice thing about being ill is getting better, no doubt about it (and please excuse the cliché). I'm intensely appreciative of things like food, fresh air, taking a shower, sitting in the garden looking at my petunias and dahlias, watching the kids play football in the park as I toddle to the shops. All those things one takes so completely for granted normally. I suppose that with time I will grow blasé about being able to get up, shower, put on some clothes and go downstairs to make breakfast without coming over faint and having to lie down; but at the moment, the simplest actions of ordinary life feel like the blessings they truly are.