Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Book Cook

Having recently finished The Gene Pool, I've just begun to cook a new character and plot.

Karen Townsend would be known as Kaz by her friends.
If she had any.
A woman with a tragic past gradually revealed in a series of flashbacks, Karen finds it difficult to engage with other people.
Her vivid Virtual Life is a lot more interesting.
But when a sinister stalker makes the terrifying leap from cyberspace into Real Life Karen has to decide how hard she's prepared to fight to stay alive.

I haven't started writing Karen's story yet, but she's moved in and I'm getting to know her.

Watch this space ...

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Debi and her Dad. Part 14

Dad's lost 3 sticks.
Actually, that's not strictly accurate.
He's lost 3 sticks several times, but until recently either Big Bro or myself was able to track them down.

I think he takes one out with him, then when he's at the tills in the supermarket he leans the stick against the counter and walks off without it.
(You'd think someone would notice, wouldn't you ...?)
Sub-consciously he probably doesn't accept he really needs it.
OTOH, he knows he's frail and is really scared of falling again.

Anyway, in spite of labeling the last one with his address, that one too has now disappeared without trace.

I had a stick myself, dating back to when I had a series of operations on my knee 25 yrs ago, so I took that one round to him yesterday.
It felt very strange carrying it across London.
It didn't fit into my bag, so I alternated holding it in front of me like a banner with hanging it over my shoulder.
Even so, I found it hard not to limp.

I've taped another 'Please return to ...' label on it with his address and my mobile no and left it with him.

I kept it for 25 yrs.
What do you reckon is the likelihood of him hanging onto it for 25 days?

Saturday, April 26, 2008

We're wheely lucky

Where would we be without friends?
Certainly not any place I'd like to be ...

I was really sad recently when good buddy N (who I've known for nearly 25 yrs through all our ups and downs) returned to Jamaica to live.
I'm so delighted for her, but it goes without saying that I miss her.
She's one of those wonderful people who's always there for you and she has a knack of sorting things out just at the point you thought they couldn't possibly be sorted.

When we came back from Cornwall last week, there was a message on the answer machine from her.
'Hi,' came her familiar tones. 'Only me. Just phoning to see how you are. I'll call again soon.'

And a couple of days later she did.
I told her the sorry tale of Helga's demise.
'We're selling our old Mondeo,' she said. 'It's outside N&D's place in Addington. P reg, MOT to Oct, tax to end of August. £150.'

So this morning we set off on 2 long bus rides.
And came back in our new car!!!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Follow the Leader

I sometimes think I give more bloggy attention to First Born than to Little Guy.

So ...

... LG has been involved with a programme at school called Young Sport Leaders.
Following some intensive training, they have been working with the other children in the playground, organising activities like circus skills, speed stacking, football training etc.

This week's school newsletter included this:

'Six of these children demonstrated 'exceptional leadership skills' during their training and will soon be taken to Grangewaters Outdoor Education Centre to further develop their abilities.'

And LG was one of them.
(I have no idea where he learned to be so bossy!)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

No fears for the future of film

Remember I told you about the film First Born and his friends made with Cineclub?

Well, they've done it again.

Yesterday, together with films by 10 other school Cineclubs, their latest production was screened at the National Film Theatre on the South Bank.

Their first film, Retribution at School, was a dark depiction of bullying, violence and death.

This time they decided to go more upbeat with a 'mockumentary' of the making of their previous film.
The Making of Retribution is the result.
(If you haven't already done so, I suggest watching the original film first.)

Having edited over 2 hrs of footage into a 5 min film, I think they've come up with a production Ricky Gervais would wholeheartedly approve of.

The overall standard of all 11 films was very high indeed.
The graduates, all aged between 11 & 15, are now qualified to teach film-making skills to others.

The future of the British film industry is bright!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

DIY has never been easier

See this post from Danuta Kean re self-publishing.
It may be from her archives but it's still relevant.

Take heart - it may be harder than ever to get that elusive deal, but it's also true that there have never been so many other ways of getting your words out there.

Just watch out for pirates ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

I promised you visuals

There we were.
And here they are:

The go-karts and the daisies

The boys climbing the walls

The crowded beach

The chilled out twosome

Alas poor Helga. Gone but not forgotten

Going on anon

Anonymity's a weird 'un, isn't it?

Seems to me there are 3 types: the good, the bad and the irritating.

The Good.
There are some very good reasons why some people want/need to preserve their anonymity.
Girl With a One Track Mind, for example, who originally set up her blog with the sole intention of writing frankly - and anonymously - about sex.
When she was outed there were huge and hideous implications for every other area of her life as well as that of her family and friends.
Or Zinnia Cyclamen, who writes with such wit, wisdom and warmth re being a humanist funeral celebrant.
Her beautifully written posts give a unique insight into how the grieving process affects different people, but it's obvious she cannot risk any of those involved being identified.
Or the lovely person who donated anonymously to G's fundraising for SOS Africa.
If you're reading this, thank you!

The Bad.
You all know them.
They lurk in the blogosphere seemingly for the sole purpose of spreading poison.
They hide behind a cloak of anonymity with pseudonyms and avatars.
Never mind that some people who have to comment anonymously because they don't have a blog of their own, but still take the trouble to identify themselves (*waves at the chicken*) this lot hide in the shadows and spit vitriol in a way that presumably they would never dare to do if they could be identified.

The Irritating.
Sorry - but this has to include those people who have sent back their reply slips saying they will be coming to FB's barmitzvah but haven't completed the 'name' bit - so I don't know if I need to cater for 2 people or a family of 6! Bah ...

Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't veto the vote

Dictionary definition of democracy:
government by the people or their elected representatives;
control of any organisation by its members; a political or social unit governed ultimately by all its members;
the practice or spirit of social equality;
a social condition of classlessness and equality;
the common people esp as a political force.

The inescapable conclusion (for me anyway) is that putting a mark on a piece of paper every few years is a piss poor sorry and narrow interpretation of 'democracy'.

I've long been of the opinion that if voting changed anything, it would be made illegal.
But there are times when I think it's vital to exercise this minimal right to be heard.
The local and London elections on 1st May (oh the irony ...) are a case in point.

The British National Party are contesting seats in 23 councils.
If they achieve 5% of the vote, they will be awarded their first seat in the London Assembly.

Searchlight have launched a campaign, Hope Not Hate, advising people to vote for any of the other parties in order to minimise the fascist share of the vote.
Operation Black Vote are urging the same as are the Jewish community with their campaign Your Voice or Theirs.

Just in case you need any persuasion re what the BNP stand for, here's a selection of quotes.

Nick Griffin. BNP leader:
  • 'Yes, Adolf went a bit too far. His legacy is the biggest problem that the British nationalist movement has to deal with. It just creates a bad image.'
  • 'At 13, I read Mein Kampf, making notes in the margins ... The chapter I enjoyed most was the one on propaganda and organisation, there are some really useful ideas there.'
  • 'I am well aware that the orthodox opinion is that 6 million Jews were gassed and cremated or turned into lampshades. Orthodox opinion also once held that the Earth is flat ... I have reached the conclusion that the 'extermination' tale is a mixture of Allied wartime propaganda, extremely profitable lie and latter witch-hysteria ... It's well known that the chimneys from the gas chambers at Aushwitz are fake, built after the war ended.'
Richard Barnbrook, BNP candidate for mayor:
  • 'Immigration has caused this (his diagnosis with TB). I am angry that I have picked up this junk. This disease should not have come into this country.'
Nick Erickson, BNP London Regional Organiser (believed to be associated with Sir John Bull blog - no link for, obvious reasons - from which the following quote comes):
  • 'I've never really understood why so many men have allowed themselves to be brainwashed by the feminazi myth machine into believing that rape is such a serious crime. Rape is simply sex, so rape cannot be such a terrible physical ordeal. To suggest that rape ... is a serious crime is like suggesting force feeding a woman chocolate cake is a heinous offence.'

If you want to vote but can't decide who for, this website might help you make up your mind.
(Thanks to Mr Bloggy for the email heads up.)

Friday, April 18, 2008

And so farewell, faithful friend

Yes, we had a wonderful break.
Thanks for asking.

The spring sun shone.
The air was sweet, the beach golden ...
chilly evenings warmed by driftwood fires.
We were staying in an ancient stone cottage in an unspoiled setting.
First Born and Little Guy had their own rooms for the first time EVER in their lives.

We sped rickety go-karts down daisy-smothered slopes and explored nooks and crannies, secret spaces, woods, winding paths and rugged coasts.

And we had visits from the Magical Minx.

But then on the way home, just outside Okehampton on the A30 about 1/3 of the way into our journey and still 2oo miles from home, Helga - our faithful, trusty and much-loved D-reg Volvo Estate who had carried us on so many adventures together - sighed ... and died.

The AA man (we worship at your heroic feet, oh saintly smiley knight in shiny shades) arrived within half an hour.
'Cam belt,' he said. '£50 job. 90% of the time the car will be fine once the belt's changed.'
'And the other 10%?'
'It will have buggered your engine ...'

Hero tows us to garage.
'I'd say 95% likely to be fine,' said the cheery mechanic.

You've guessed, haven't you?
The odds seemed good, but Helga was not destined to leave Dartmoor, scene of so many sweet and happy romps over the last few years.

We ran through the options, none of them good.
A call to our mechanic in London confirmed the worst.
'She's scrap,' he said.
Which piece of news resulted in a payment to the garage of £96.35.

We unloaded Helga, bid her a fond farewell, and stuffed our luggage into a cab, balancing the surfboards on our heads.
Cab to Exeter = £40.
More unloading - this time into a hire car = £136.
(Though FB & LG were very excited to be traveling in such a posh car with a working radio etc.)

9 hours after we set out, we arrived home - tired, hungry, car-less and in debt.

Big smelly stinky bummer.
(Pix to follow - I have other fish to fry right now.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Lucky Us

Following the confirmation that G wouldn't be able to run the marathon this year, we were dreading being in London on the day.
So how lucky are we?
A dear friend has offered us use of their holiday cottage and we're going away for a few days.

Away from the marathon mania, pollution, stress, phones, emails ...

A time to concentrate on simple pleasures - wood fires, sea air, long walks ...

... and barmitzvah cramming.
(8 weeks and counting ...)

Take care and see you soon.

PS Don't forget - G's sponsorship for SOS Africa had been carried over to the North Downs 30k in June.
Thanks for your support.

Extreme Mutton Moment

I have my own style and mostly don't care too much about what other people make of it.
It doesn't worry me if I see someone else wearing the same thing.

So there I was yesterday, making an extremely rare foray down Oxford Street.

And walking towards me among the heaving crowds, I spotted a little girl aged about 5 ...
... wearing the same top as me.

Debi and her Dad. Part 13

Dear Mr Alper,

Unfortunately we have had to cancel your follow up appointment.

We will contact you shortly with a new appointment date.

Grrr. Gimme strength ....

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Debi and her Dad. Part 12

Dad's got new gnashers!

I can't begin to tell you how much of a saga this has been ...

But as a taster: I finally managed to cancel the 3 follow-up appointments that I was told were not necessary but were arranged for him anyway.
2 of them were at the same time on the same date - but at different hospitals.
(And - to keep to the theme of '3s' - I had to contact a 3rd hospital to arrange the cancellation after 3 days of abortive phone calls had got me precisely nowhere...)

Still, as the dentist said, Dad's got his smile back now.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Mystery Women - what a site!

Mystery Women have a fab new re-jigged site.

The aim of the group is to raise the awareness and profile of female crime writers and provide a forum for the discussion of crime fiction by enthusiastic crime fiction addicts.

It also furnishes a lively friendly atmosphere in which authors and readers can meet and exchange ideas. If you are interested in Crime Fiction then Mystery Women has lots of interesting information for you on events, reviews and interviews.

And I'm not just saying the site's fab because it includes this lovely review of Trading Tatiana ...

Six Little Words

Could you sum yourself up in 6 words?

The title of Not Quite What I Was Planning is hard to match.
The book evolved from an initiative by online mag, Smith, who asked readers for submissions and received over 500 a day, some funny and some sad.

Howzabout these:

Everyone who loved me is dead.
Birth, childhood, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence, adolescence.
Cursed with cancer, blessed with friends.
I still make coffee for two.
Business school? Bah! Pop music? Hurrah.

And here are mine:

Loves chocolate but can't handle alcohol.
Grumpy in morning but gets better.
Likes to dance and writes books.
Eats, drinks, smokes, rants, organises, scribbles.

And yours?

Happy Springmas

Ah, April ...

Tree branches bending under the heavy weight of blossom.

Tree branches bending under the heavy weight of snow.

Simultaneously ...

Friday, April 04, 2008

We can change the world

The pressure on China urging for justice in Tibet is beginning to pay off.

You did that!
And you and you and you - and all the other 1.5 million people who signed the petition and joined the demonstrations around the world.

This is what Avaaz have to say about you:
Together, we've built an unprecedented wave of global pressure. The Avaaz petition is one of the biggest and fastest-growing global online petitions on any topic in history; since it launched on March 18, it has been signed by 100,000 people per day--an average of more than 4,000 per hour, day and night.

It seems that the Chinese leaders are beginning to waver, so it's vital to keep the pressure on and to urge our own government to do likewise.

You can send a message to your own heads of state here.

On Sunday, the Olympic torch will be passing through London.

Finally, some more words from Avaaz to help you sleep at night:
We're privileged to be alive at a time when people anywhere can reach out and support people everywhere--instantly.
If we have the power to make things better, we have a responsibility to act.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

A change to the running order

We knew it was increasingly unlikely that G would be fit to run the marathon this year.

He ran on the belt at the gym earlier this week and again today and after a few miles his ankle protested.

Though there has been improvement, his osteopath has confirmed out feeling that it would be crazy to run 26 miles on 13th April.

But all is not lost!
He's applied to run in the North Downs 30k in June and we're holding sponsorship for SOS Africa over 'til then.

Click here if you'd like to donate.

Huge thanks to those people who have continued to sponsor him even though they knew he was unlikely to run. You make it all worthwhile ...

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Things you don't expect to hear ...

I love my writers' group and all the clever, funny, wise, warm and talented people I've met through it.

So there we were today at the coffee caucus.
I was talking about First Born's struggle to learn his barmitzvah portion in Hebrew.

'I once had to learn an entire opera in Hungarian,' said Rupert.
'I found the best way was to learn it backwards ...'