Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Got a virus

Me that is. Not the computer. I hope.

Started the day off feeling fairly OK, just a hint of a cold on the way. I decided to go to the office to do some voluntary work catch-up as that is one of my targets for the month that I haven't done too well on.

I got in fairly early and the office was quiet, so it looked promising, but by the time I'd taken messages off the voice mail, made a call and had a chat about support groups with someone from another group working in the same centre, time was already getting on. Then one of my colleagues came in and I needed to do something with her. By that time I was starting to feel lightheaded so I decided to cut my losses as I had to go to Tesco anyway. After all I am not paid for this work and sometimes frankly it seems more hassle than it is worth.

I thought I would feel better once I had arrived home and had some late lunch, but to be honest I don't. I tried to write a bit more of the novel but my fingers weren't working too well on the keyboard.

I give up for today.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Taking responsibility

So Shilpa Shetty won Celebrity Big Brother and from the little I watched, it was a well deserved win. Her dignity stood out against behaviour of some of the others, who hopefully will have learnt something from the experience. If nothing else perhaps they will come to understand that their thoughts, words and actions can have huge impact on others and they have to take responsibility for that. It will be interesting to see where the careers of Jade, Danielle and Jo go from here, but I suspect Shilpa will do well.

I finally stopped procrastinating today and sent off my entry to the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year competition. No big prizes to be won, but hey, I'd written over 1000 words anyway, so editing that and knocking out a concise synopsis was not too hard. Having done that, hopefully I will now be able to get my brain into gear to carry on writing the rest!

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Another reason I love the web

Sadly I don't get out as much as I would like to for a variety of reasons, some of which are probably obvious to returning readers. ( Yes, there are some. I'm amazed.) I still see and talk to my friends of course, but the internet has opened so many other opportunities, the chance to get to know people all over the country, indeed all over the world, who have similar interests and concerns.

There is a lot of information out there for budding writers as well as online forums, some of which are listed in my links. But if you happen to be the parent of a child with any sort of special needs living in the UK, could I point you towards Special Kids in the UK which has a wonderful community feel and a members only forum where parents can vent. I have been a member of this parent-led group since its early days as a Yahoo group and have watched it grow into a national charity offering so much more than just information and a forum to its members. A safe haven, a family, the chance to meet others in person, the chance to just be yourself with other who understand. A support group which, unlike many, is UK based and understands the ins and outs of the UK health and education systems. Long live parent power!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The internet

I love the internet. When I was younger I loved libraries and really wanted to be a librarian, but in the end didn't go down that route. But being online is as good as having access to many libraries at once, as well as shopping malls of course. I love the way that one website or blog can lead to another to another and along the way you can make fascinating discoveries.

I'll give you an example. I am currently reading a book called 'Something Beginning With' by Sarah Salway. I had never heard of either the book or the author until I recently saw it mentioned in a post on Trashionista and thought it sounded interesting. I went online to purchase it. After I started reading, I was browsing on dovegreyreader's blog and saw a link to a blog by Sarah Salway,which I found contains lots of great writers prompts.

So from one small mention on Trashionista, I have discovered a book I am really enjoying, a writer new to me and a fascinating blog. I have also just ordered a book of short stories by the same author as I am currently trying to master that form myself. All because of the internet.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Virginia Woolf

I've always known that I shared my birthday with the Scottish poet Burns. But today, thanks to dovegreyreader, I have discovered that I also share it with Virginia Woolf, who was born 125 years ago. I really must tackle that large volume of the works of Virginia Woolf which I bought last year, as well as her writer's diary. I have to confess to having read very little by her and what I have tried I have not found particularly easy, but I'm going to take a fresh look and perhaps do so with the help of Susan Hill's 'Woolf for Dummies' blog posts.

But that can wait, I'm off to have some birthday cake!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The joys of parenting

Sometimes, as a parent, you have to take a leap of faith. The first time you leave your child at nursery or school and the guilt as you help to hold them down to be anaesthetized for surgery, are days which will be etched in your memory for all the wrong reasons.

For me today is one of those days, because it snowed last night. Not a lot...about an inch of snow, if that, had settled this morning. But I hate having to put my autistic, learning disabled, nonverbal son on to the school bus in this weather. I worry all day about not only his journey there but also the journey back this evening. Yes, I know that sounds feeble...he has to travel just 12 miles, through two London boroughs, largely on busy roads. But anyone who remembers how snow brought chaos to London in 2003 (was it really that long ago?!) will understand why.

As I write the snow is melting away from the roads and pavements, but I won't be able to relax until the bus arrives back this evening. Then of course the roads may be perilously icy tomorrow morning, if the weather forecast is correct. Why can't this country deal with snow and ice as they do in Europe and North America?

P.S. He didn't get to school until 9.30am (should have been 9.00am) but was home at normal time, with the bus driver and escort looking much happier than they did this morning!

Monday, January 22, 2007

This and that

I've been sitting in front of my computer all day but have achieved very little. Perhaps it is because I feel cold, despite the heating being on. Perhaps it is because one of the kids had me up at 3.30am and I didn't sleep well after that. Perhaps I have just reached a temporary block in my writing...

Well I have done something. I have researched an alternative educational venue for Son 1 when he is well enough to return to the fray. I have had a nice hot bath to try to relax. I have sent a few emails and made a purchase on eBay. I have committed a bit more about my main characters and plot structure onto paper rather than relying on it all being in my head. I have started to research an important part of the plot further, I have decided at what point of the book the pivotal scenes should fall and I have even increased my wordcount by 0.2%!

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, I have edited the first 1000 words yet again and polished my synopsis as I intend to enter the Daily Telegraph Novel in a Year competition.

But I haven't finished the ironing...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

A difficult weekend

Son 1 continued his two steps forward then a big one backwards rate of progress, with a major setback yesterday. He is OK and I won't to go into detail, but it is a shame that his therapist is away until Friday.

Spent yesterday in town replenishing my makeup bag and hair products using the vouchers currently being offered in Boots. I spend one voucher then get another! Well even an old bag like me can go for girly things sometimes...

TV watching today... the Jade Goody racism story of course, but also the beached cargo ship because Sidmouth is an area we know well. It is also craft day on one of the shopping channels which I watched while ironing...I love crafts but just wish I had more time to be creative, so I watch to get ideas rather than spend money.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The sandwich generation

I suppose I am in danger of becoming a member of what is often called the sandwich generation, those who are caught in the middle having to care for both their own children and ageing parents. Not that my own parents need care yet, but if and when that does happen they are 200 miles away. In the meantime mother-in-law, who cares for an almost 90 year old second husband with severe health problems, is herself developing fast progressing Alzheimers and lives on the south coast.

Then of course both my own children require a lot of care at the moment and Son 2, who is severely autistic, will for the rest of his life. So perhaps it is not surprising that our thoughts have been turning to future possible care needs. I am very tempted to get on my soapbox about carers' issues and the failings of the care system in general, but this is really not meant to be a political blog. Instead I will just point you towards a few facts and reports and leave them to speak for themselves.

Read this and this and then consider the rate of carers allowance paid by the government and the requirements and restrictions imposed on its receipt.

Carers really are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

It must be the weather.....

I had lots of plans today to be busy and do some Good Deeds for my voluntary charity work (in other words spend a day trying to catch up with financial records in the office). But then the last piece of info needed for my tax return arrived in the post this morning and once I had looked at the storm outside I decided I would be better off to stay in and finally stop procrastinating over the form. So another one of my January targets has been met.

I have had one eye on the TV news about the Channel 4 Celebrity Big Brother racism row. I have only seen about 5 minutes of the series so I couldn't possibly comment on whether it is racism, class differences or just plain girly bitchiness and ignorance. It all leaves a very nasty taste in the mouth though, even for those of us not watching the series. I'm sure many bloggers and commentators will have their say, as Jane Henry and Danuta Keen already have.

My novel word count is creeping VERY slowly upwards, but I'm glad I didn't join in the novel race, I would feel very inadequate alongside the likes of Kate Harrison!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A busy day

A voluntary work committee meeting last night at the home of an Indian friend who fed us all with delicious chickpea masala, rice and naan bread. We didn't get down to the formal business until half way through the evening so it was late when I got home. She even gave me some yummy curry and rice to bring back which Son 2 has enjoyed this evening.

Today has been strangely frustrating, with lots of things to do and all sorts of arrangements going slightly wrong. Yet another visit to the dentists, the ordinary one this time not superdentist, for my regular appointment with the hygienist. I really like my dental hygienist, we always have a good gossip before during and after the scrape and polish, as she has a boy the same age as Son 1.

Another voluntary meeting early this afternoon about funding opportunities and the complexities of working with local government and the NHS. I had to leave early as Son 1 had a therapy appointment at 3pm. Got home to find Hubby already back (he had been on a business trip) so I wasn't really needed and then the therapist forgot to come anyway and phoned with a grovelling apology just before clocking off time. Ho hum.

Have written a small amount more on the novel and will try to get back to it later this evening if I can.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

London bombers who failed

The trial of the 21/7 bombing suspects, which started in London this week, has reminded me to draw your attention to the blog by Rachel from North London which I have recently added to my links.

I first came across Rachel North's writing in the immediate aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in 2005, when her moving and measured blog descriptions of the experience of being a victim of the bombers were picked up by the BBC web news and for me became a 'must read'. Then I read her piece in the Sunday Times. I only found this newer blog quite recently when searching for something else. Attracted by the title, as in all my years in London I have only lived north of the river, I found it was by the same writer. I will be interested to see what she ultimately has to say about the current legal proceedings once they have finished.

Although nobody I know was actually a physical victim of the 7/7 bombings, most Londoners know of at least one person who was in the vicinity and could so easily have been caught up in it all (in my case two... a friend and a neighbour) and the psychological effects were felt by everyone. Hubby works not too far from Kings Cross, though rarely travels by tube, and that day I received phone calls from both an estranged family member and an old friend who had himself been bereaved six months earlier, just to check he was not involved. Meanwhile I was watching it all unfold on the TV news, the terror attack that we had anticipated since 9/11 had finally arrived and for a few hours the city was incapacitated. To know that had things gone differently it could all have happened again on 21/7 is chilling.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Tax return blues

Since I am technically still a Chartered Accountant you wouldn't think a fairly straightforward tax return should hold too many fears for me. But I hate doing it and yes, on at least one occasion I have made a mistake in calculating my tax. True to form I have left it to the very last minute and then spent the morning chasing my bank for info, downloading extra sections of the return from the internet and thinking about what else I might have forgotten. Tomorrow I shall have to rush into town to get some building society books updated and then when the bank info arrives maybe I can do force myself to fill the form in. Oh what joy!

Haven't had time to write any more of the novel over the weekend though I did edit what I have done so far. I think I am the sort of writer who writes sections then likes to edit, rather than rushing straight through a first draft. Once I get writing the words and ideas can flow very well some days but on others I'm more in the mood for nitpicking and fiddling with my text. I suspect that comes from having very much enjoyed translation work when I studied languages at university.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Chick lit in The Times

For years we have read the Times every day, a compromise on marriage between an occasional Guardian reader (me) and a die hard Thatcherite (him, though he has since recovered). The books section, to be honest, tends to be rather dry and I prefer the Review section of the Guardian.

Imagine my surprise when I opened it up this morning and found a two page spread on how to write chick lit, with quotes from writers and a substantial excerpt from 'See Jane Write', the very book I picked up from the Oxfam shop on Tuesday!

To be fair, I am still not intending to write chick lit, I'm much more interested in fiction for a slightly older market ( hen lit perhaps?), but I do think you can pick up tips from all sorts of these 'how to' books as you find your way towards establishing your own voice and themes. At the end of the day I don't think the 'rules' for good writing really change, it is just the way that they are applied in any particular genre and of course the skill of the writer.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Magazine stories

Browsing through magazines in Tesco this morning I noticed that Good Housekeeping had an 8 page fiction special, so I put it in my trolley. After packing my shopping away at home, I sat down to read it over lunch and found a short story by Maggie O'Farrell, who you may remember is one of my favourite authors. An unusual and moving story about an intense emotional experience, written in the second person. It appears that the magazine is bringing back the monthly short story, though apparently only commissioned pieces. I seem to remember that they also used to have an annual short story competition so I wonder if that will be resurrected too?

I am still waiting to hear from My Weekly about the story I submitted. I am expecting another rejection but I do think that was the best story I have yet written and I hope I will eventually find a home for it. In the meantime I really ought to be trying to write some more. I have a clear psychological failing, which probably comes from lack of confidence in my own ability, meaning that I like to know the fate of my last piece of work (whether an academic essay or a piece of writing) before I can move on to the next. That is hardly the best way for a writer to work and as I am trying to take this writing game much more seriously now, I need to change my way of thinking, soon!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Essay writing again

Lots of paperwork today. I not only finished writing my OU essay but got it into the post, before I could start changing it too much! It's funny how some days I just can't get into academic mode but on other days the concepts flow easily. Just like any sort of writing I suppose. So, one of my targets for this month has been met. I also wote a few more words of the novel, but at the moment I am working a bit more on plannning and structure rather than actual prose.

Talking of writing, in the Oxfam bookshop I visited in the West End on Tuesday, I managed to pick up a copy of Stephen King's 'On Writing', which was recommended by many of my fellow OU writing students last year and also a copy of this. Oh and if you want more tuition from popular American authors, Kate Harrison recently drew attention on her blog to this year long workshop by Jennifer Crusie and Bob Mayer.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


So yesterday I went back to Harley Street to have my root canal work done by the specialist (who I have started referring to as superdentist). For those of you who may have missed the start of this story, it is here and here.

The consulting room is very high-tech and the equipment mainly computerised...and to think I had considered my regular dentist quite modern! Anyway, superdentist gave me a computer dosed anaesthetic, put in a prop to keep my mouth open and got ready to work. I did a bit of deep yoga breathing, watched some of the action on a tiny screen in front of me and nearly two hours later, when he asked me how it had been, all I could say was 'quite relaxing really....', even though I did feel a little lightheaded when I got up. Well any time away from the kids is relaxing, isn't it? It probably also helped that the tooth he was working on was already dead before he started!

Afterwards I wandered down to Oxford Street, via the Oxfam bookshop of course, where once again I found some interesting books. I went into Selfridges, which I hadn't visited for ages. I love that store, it is so much how the other half lives, with all the designer accessories and trendy cosmetic ranges which can be hard to find. It reminds me of when I used to work in the West End and would pop in there, if it was late night shopping, after having had a bad day.

Then, as my mouth was fully back to life, I went off to have a hot chocolate and a croissant before getting the tube home.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Trainers, rain and timewasting

Spent most of the day dealing with niggling domestic issues, like why did the repairman from Comet come to the house to mend a TV which we had already taken back to the store because it never worked?

Then there was the trainers saga. Son 2 is very fussy about shoes. He also destroys them on a regular basis. So we don't spend too much on them...trainers from Woolworths actually fit him well because they are usually wide, like his feet. This morning, while getting him ready for school I noticed a hole in the bottom of his trainers. He refused to wear his spare pair so had to go as he was. I asked Hubby to look in the Woolies by his office for a new pair. But it is incredibly hard to find velcro fastening trainers in size 4 and son 2 can't cope with laces due to his disability. No success. So I had to go out hunting myself in the rain. By a stroke of luck I found some, but they were in a store next to a charity shop and of course one thing led to another and I came home with even more books! By the time I had finished all my chores and shopping it was nearly time for Son 2 to return from school, so no essay writing, no novel writing, no tax return done....

Sunday, January 07, 2007

A quiet(ish) weekend

Just the usual really. Shopping, kids, too much time wasted on the internet, no time to write....

Friday, January 05, 2007

In the news

I'm not really a strongly political person and this certainly isn't a political blog, but from time to time something hits the news which really makes me think hard. The story of Ashley X is such an item.

One of my first thoughts was that I could imagine this as the plot of a future Jodi Picoult novel. I don't have first hand experience of caring for a child as severely disabled as Ashley, who her parents call 'pillow angel', but I do know the psychological and physical strain of having to look after a child who needs constant attention and this will actually be one of the central themes of the novel I am writing. As parents we all have to take difficult decisions and I would not wish to criticize the choices of any other family, as only they know how they have to live. But I am very much on the fence about this one.

Ashley's parents are adamant that they have done this to improve her future quality of life, but in doing so they have almost certainly improved their own too. Sadly the best interests of child and parents do not always coincide and I wonder what representation Ashley had in the decision making process towards invasive surgery and hormone treatment, ie was there an advocate arguing the other side of the case? There is also a niggly fear that this case is giving out a strong message that disabled children are cuter and more socially acceptable than disabled adults, but when Ashley is grown up will she still be treated like a child because of her size, and how will that affect her dignity in the eyes of others? Is her cognitive ability actually as low as has been suggested and how can they be sure? Could treatments of this nature be misused by others in the future? So many questions, no real answers.

Ashley's parents have a blog here and there are links to responses by other parents on India Knight's blog.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Essay writing

No fun novel writing today. Back to my Open University course on mental health and specifically the assessment due in next week. I have asked for and been granted an extension on account of my caring responsibilities over the school holiday but I do need to get it in the post next week, otherwise I will get behind.

My recent OU courses have all been creative writing, apart from a short one on computer research, and not really like studying at all. Its actually been 6 years (or is it 7 now?) since I did an academic course which required me to write an essay and I am finding it hard to get back into that mode. To make it worse this course actually has an exam at the end, something to look forward to in July, not.

Anyway, about half the essay is written and it is actually an interesting subject but I am already starting to wonder if I will stay the course ( sorry for the pun).....

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Back into the groove

Son 2 was back to school today and I was able to start to get back to normality ( or rather, to what passes for normality in this house). So after son 1's therapist had left I got my act together and headed for the shops.

First stop was the nearby 'village' suburb where there are SIX charity shops, including several that have good book sections. The pretext for going was actually to try to hunt down a video which son 2 destroyed last week and which didn't belong to us. But my book buying obsession got the better of me, yet again. Keris recommended Elizabeth Berg to me last week and I found a volume containing two of her works (Joy School and Until the Real Thing Comes Along). Two for the price of one can't be bad, especially as it only cost 99p. It will join my book mountain. Actually I probably have enough books here to keep me in reading matter until I die and I have no space left to shelve them , so they are cluttering the house stored in cardboard boxes. Ho hum.

Went on to Tesco, bumped into an old friend, called briefly into the children's centre where my voluntary work is based and then home. Even managed to write three hundred words more of the novel. It always takes me a day or two to get back into the routine when son 2 returns to school as his care is so full-on during holiday times.

Oh and we watched the last half hour or so of 'This Life +10' last night. We used to love the original series but somehow the sequel didn't work for us. Perhaps it would have seemed better if we had seen the whole thing, as we probably lost some of the nuances, but I was left with the feeling that it was a piece of its time which perhaps should have just been left with its cult status intact. Maybe it is just another sign that I am getting old. After all we also used to love 'Thirtysomething' back in the late 80's. That is currently being re-run on one of our cable channels and it looks sooo dated!!!

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Novel writing race

Kate Harrison and Lucy Diamond are organising a race to produce a first draft of a novel and inviting other bloggers to join in. I was very tempted to do so, but bearing in mind my other commitments and my stress levels right now I don't want to put myself under that sort of pressure. I will watch from the sidelines and cheer them all on.

However, I did think that to cheat and put a wordcount meter on my blog anyway might be a good idea, to motivate myself rather than be competitive. I have also set up another blog with a very brief synopsis and excerpts from the work so far. I'm not going public with it at the moment but if anyone does want to see it let me know via the comments. I will possibly post a link later when I have written a bit more!

Monday, January 01, 2007

New year, new organised me?

Happy New Year! I hope you are all partied out? We had a quiet one, at home, in keeping with our relaxing Christmas this year. We did manage to stay awake to midnight, however, by watching Jools Holland on TV (was Amy Winehouse on something??)

I have been thinking about New Year Resolutions and have decided not to make any this year. This is simply because every year I say very blithely that I will lose weight, give up chocolate, spend less, do more housework or something equally boring which I know I will have forgotten about by the end of January. Life also has a habit of getting in the way, big time, whenever I start on a new self-improvement plan.

This year I am just going to make a realistic monthly list of targets, which I hope will seem a little more manageable.

So here is my list for January, in order of urgency:

1. Write my Open University assignment ( due in on 10th but I have been granted an extension...)

2. Do my tax return

3. Get up to date on some of my voluntary work tasks, as I have fallen behind

4. Write some more of my fledgling novel ( or indeed write more of anything)

5. Tidy out my wardrobe and send unwanted stuff off to the charity shop.

I'll report back at the end of the month...