Fit Again & Working

Back to office work for a few weeks, while I wait for all my cunning plans to come to fruition. I’ll be working part time for a charity, which will be a nice change from the mausoleum-like bowels of the Eye Hospital.

Actually, this feels like a triumph of sorts; for the two weeks, I’ve had Labyrinthitis, and infection of the inner ear system which leaves one falling over and lurching alarmingly just while walking in a straight line on a level surface. Because just maintaining an even, upright stance is so tiring that it leaves little capacity for thought, or even memory – the simplest tasks require too much thought, while I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve forgotten where I’ve just put down something that I held in my hand.

Walking down the steep hill at the top of our road on Saturday to walk Alice in the field was the toughest thing I’ve had to do in quite some time.

But I did it, and I’m fit to work. And yesterday, as abruptly as the condition  came on, it  seems to have righted itself – I’ve completely regained my balance.  Huzzah! (And I never thought I’d say that about the prospect of going to work…)

• June 13th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Last Week

Illustration by John Tenniel

Why I’ve been “a bit quiet” lately (because, according to several –unconnected– people, I have been….). 

To celebrate my finishing the academic year, Kate and I took a couple of days off last week — we went to Dorset  and spent a couple of days down beside the sea. On Thursday Kate went to the Royal Bath & West (Agricultural) Show and returned clutching plants for the garden, while I manned the fort – or in this case, the in-law’s garden.

And it was our 23rd wedding anniversary as well on Saturday (anyone know what wedding that is, if silver’s 25?) on Saturday. I got Kate the usual – chocolates, CD (Goldfrapp’s Supernature,  ‘ cause she likes a good toon) and a book – David Sedaris’ Me Talk Pretty One Day. Kate said as I opened mine, “I’ve only got one thing for you this year.”

Only one thing: Only a November 1939 first edition of The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll ! I wondered why she was quizzing me about what he wrote about a week before. In passing I’d mentioned that I’d never read ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ – something I put right in the sunshine on Saturday afternoon.

It was a low key anniversary, but sometimes they’re the best sort. And it’s nice to know that we can still surprise each other -occasionally- even after a quarter of a century….

• June 6th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Final Stats on Hours Worked

The final stats for the academic year 2010-11…

Awaaaaay back at the beginning of December, I blogged about keeping a track of how many hours I worked each day and on each subject; the four modules that I was taking , plus general reading, blogging, networking and most importantly, writing. And ‘others,’ which I think is pretty much self-explanatory.

I worked a grand total of sixteen hundred and fifty hours a week; over the thirty weeks of the academic year (inluding holidays) I’ve worked fifty-five hours a week. February was my busiest month, working sixty-one hours a week. But tiredness is as much a cumulative result of working long hours and sleep debt….

In terms of work split, I did about one hundred and sixty hours each on Writers Workshop and Feature Journalism, and about one hundred eighty on Film and Genre. But Genre has yielded three short stories and two novel outlines, so it was worth it.

 I spent just over two hundred hours writing fiction that wasn’t involved with uni, and two hundred and five reading (but not for class). Another one hundred and eighty on networking – going to cons, and on social networks, and about one hundred and ninety hours each on blogging and reviewing, and on Others.

On the positive side, it meant that nothing ended up being neglected. On the downside, I’ve found it hard not to note the time this morning, despite it only ever being an eight-month experiment…

So that was my year (well, eight months of it, anyway) – what did you do in yours?

• June 1st, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0


Regular readers will know that we gained not only a blackbird and his mate nesting outside our back door at the beginning of May, but their four chicks as well. Three of them survived to leave the nest, but unfortunately they dropped into the garden next door, which is separated from ours by a high brick wall.

Nonetheless, two of them have survived and have  returned and started foraging on their own (one of them is pictured here – not very blackbird like is he? But they only develop the black colouring when they’ve moulted and assumed adult plumage).

As well as blackbird fledglings, I also startled a young starling that was lurking amid the pots on Saturday, and we also have a juvenile sparrow who missed Kate’s head by bare inches. It seems to me as if more and more the garden is starting to resemble an avian crèche!

• May 23rd, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Blackbird Update

It’s going to be a relatively short blog today. I’ve finally finished the last assignment for uni; I spent 45 hours last week –out of a 64 hour total– working on that damned essay, but now I’ve finished it, I’m finding it hard to start anything else.

So I’m going to keep the rest of today’s blog to the now weekly update on our feathered lodgers. Last week the kids left the nest, to take their chances in next door’s garden. Yesterday we saw one of them for the first time since they left, sitting in our apple tree (so he’s learned to fly, even if it’s only short distances).

It’s good to see him. Hopefully, we’ll see more of them.

• May 15th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Empty Nest

I posted last Monday about the blackbirds nesting just outside our kitchen. apart from the one casualty -the brood shrank from four to three chicks- the family Skanky have clearly been prospering, because this morning two of the three surviving chicks had fledged.

That left the one solitary survivor in the nest, and just before we took Alice for her daily constitutional, he too had left the nest. (You can just about make out Junior lurking in the thick cover of the honeysuckle in the lower right side of the photo)

By the time we had returned, he too had dropped to the ground.

Sadly, he’d gone next door like his two siblings, and the high walls mean that we won’t get to see them any longer. It would have been nice to have had them in our undergrowth, as had happened in prevous years, but the main thing is that they prosper. If all goes well, we may see them as they get older and learn to fly.

But I can’t help feeling a little lost, rather as any parents do when their kids (or grandkids) leave the nest.

• May 8th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Is It Just Me?

Everywhere I turn this morning, I seem to be confronted by bits of technology not working as they’re supposed to, or in many cases not working at all. I’m starting to wonder whether I have some mysterious aura that fritzes machinery and electronics.

We have BT Vision which -in theory- allows us to tape and watch TV programmes at a later date with a simple press of a button on the TV Guide. Except that a significant  proportion of said programmes cut out after 5 to 10 minutes and insist that the recording has completed. BT told us some weeks ago that it was known problem which had been resolved. Not on our set it hasn’t.

Yesterday I thought I was close to completing my last film assignment; I’d written the text, all that was left was to upload said text to Blogger and paste in the links. Er, except that Blogger keeps crashing my machine when I switch from HTML mode to standard mode; then last night it refused to preview beyond a certain point; then it simply refused to save. I suspect that the blog post has reached a certain permissable size, but that’s only a theory, and Blogger Help is as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Is anyone out there an expert on Blogger, by the way? If you, feel free to get in touch via but put ‘from the website’ in your header. I’d hate for the spam filter to chomp you up.

In the meantime, I shall have to break the blog post into three and hope that that doesn’t contravene the assignment isntructions, and it also calls for yet more links to be inserted. With breaking the original assignment into three equal-ish parts that isn’t going to be a short job — and it may turn out to be due to some other problem entirely.

Lastly, we recently switched to British Gas. We are obliged to provide a meter reading online. Guess what? That didn’t take, so they asked me to call in via an 0800 number. And when I did, I got a “sorry, there is a fault” on the line.

Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations, but rather than being more convenient and saving time, as the ads claim, it’s actually considerably less convenient, and has added probably an hour two to my working day in each of the last couple or three days. Seriously, is anyone else having this level of technology fail?

• May 7th, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Our New Lodger

Our house seems to have become a haven for wildlife. mainly because we’re the only people not chopping trees down in our immediate area. The birds especially appreciate the nesting opportunities.

In the early spring we had three blackbirds slugging it out for bragging rights in the garden. And by slugging it out, I mean exactly that — they’re territorial little buggers, and by the end of the spring one of the birds looked the worse for wear, having lost his tail.

But Skanky the Blackbird -as we christened him- is nothing if not resiliant. Before we went away we noticed that he had a mate. Mrs skanky didn’t seem to mind that he was tail-less.

When we got back from the week down in Dorset, we found that Skanky and Mrs Skanky had nested in the honeysuckle outside our kitchen. And they had four chicks who make a helluva racket. Unfortunately we can’t get a picture since the honeysuckle is too thick (we’ll have to have a word with the neighbours to ask them not to trim it back) but as you’ll see, we have one of Skanky in all his tail-less glory.

I’ve been strafed at least twice by low-flying birds hurtling around the corner to and from the nest before changing direction like boy racers rounding a corner (on two wheels) and on one occasion Skanky had to handbrake stop to not hurtle into my chest. Assuming the cats don’t wipe the chicks out, we could soon have six blackbirds -including fledgelings- causing mayhem right outside our back door.

But it’s nice to have them there, and shows how reliant on our garden vegetation wild birds are.

• May 2nd, 2011 • Posted in Uncategorized • Comments: 0

A Life Invisible

Walking the dog this morning was surprisingly pleasant, since we managed to duck in between the showers, and in between them the morning was more like March than February. The ground was decidedly boggy underfoot, but Kate didn’t mind, I was in wellies, and Alice has four wheel drive.

Most of the rest of the morning was spent fitting a new printer – not that there was anything wrong with the old one; it was a leaving present from Unilever, and it prints like a dream. The problem with it – as I’ve found– is that replacement cartridges cost £45 each, and there are four of them.  It was actually cheaper to buy a new printer than two new cartridges. But as always it seems, fitting a new printer, which I expected would take a few minutes turned into a two hour job.

I’ve had several people observe how quiet I’ve been this week, which seemed odd, considering I’ve been working like crazy – but I realized after i’d thought about that it’s been time-consuming stuff, like this which comprises a life all but invisible to those on-line, and finishing articles and stories for submission to magazines, which I can’t talk about too much about until I can actually announce a sale. So that’s invisible too.

But I hope to have a small announcement soon.

• February 5th, 2011 • Posted in General, Uncategorized • Comments: 0

Today’s Outing

As is usual when we have two or more clear days and nights, last night was much colder than the night before, so that, walking Alice through the fields again, the ground was noticeably harder than yesterday — no standing water today. You can probably see the hard frost on the ground in the photo here. If it stays like this, I might be able to provide a timeline of Alice’s walks!

And  the birdbath was rock solid (sigh; it seems like only yesterday that I was pouring kettle fulls of hot water on the ice to thaw it, while the birds watched from their various branches in the trees), so that once again I was reduced to pouring hot water on the ice so that the blackbirds and various finches wouldn’t get too parched.

But the upside is that we have another gloriously sunny day, so it’s all worth it. It seems  a shame to waste sunshine by sitting in a cinema to watch The King’s Speech, so we’ll go tonight, and use the day to its maximum potential.

• January 19th, 2011 • Posted in General, Uncategorized • Comments: 0