Sunday, July 31, 2005

Long Time No Mountain

Today, I am a physical wreck. The walk was wonderful, was very restoring, but now every square inch of my body hurts.

You see, I've been walking mountains since I could walk at all. My body remembers how much I USED to be able to do. But forgets that I am woefully unfit.

So I tend to go a *smidge* beyond a sensible level of exertion.

At least I was sensible and didn't run the descent. Okay, so that sensible-ness was induced by a slight fall, and I wasn't entirely sure my bashed knee was up to it*, but we'll draw a veil over that part.

I'll get myself together and post some pictures later today.

When my fingertips stop aching.

But, oh, I did enjoy myself!

*I am SUCH a drama queen...

Friday, July 29, 2005


Feeling a little blue, so tomorrow I'm going to walk from here, to here, here, here and finally here.

I'll let you know how I get on.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

All Hail the Taxman

I think I'm in love with my taxman.

At 8:50am this morning I hand delivered the file to the tax office. I went off and had a celebratory breakfast.

At 10:00am I returned to the office.

At 10:20am I received a call from my taxman pointing out a couple of small errors, telling me how much I owe, and what I'll have to do next.

How fab is that???

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Agony and the Ecstacy

The Ecstacy because I've finished assembling the documents and spreadsheet for the tax enquiry (oh frabjous day!). With that no longer hanging over me, I can get back to the actual writing part of writing.

As a part of the proof of expenses I've had to compile, I've also had to supply evidence of submissions. And we know what that means, ladies and gents.

Rejection letters.

This wouldn't be a big problem if we were talking about form rejections. For once in my life I wish I had form rejections to show... But no. No, no, no. These are detailed rejection letters.

Yes folks, my lovely taxman, as well as deriving amusement from my abysmal attempts at maths, will be collapsing with mirth at the contents of my 2003-2004 rejections.

Oh, the shame. Oh, the Agony...

He will be wiping tears of laughter after reading such gems as:

"... felt that at this stage the plotting and characterisation are still too problematic." Well, as long as the rest of the book's okay. I mean, what's a little plotting and characterisation between friends?

"... what exactly is the Agency? Is it good, or evil?" If the reader can't tell if your villain is villainous or superfluous, you're in deep doo-doo.

"There is a little too much implausible globe-trotting." What? I can't send them to Hawaii on honeymoon, either?

"The biggest problem is [the hero]" Oops.

"... his character is too morally ambiguous..." Okay, you got me on that one. Guilty as charged. I LIKE him morally ambiguous...

"... the story is poorly organised..." Hey! That's cool! So is my tax return!

"... one particularly heavy-handed scene..." Ouch. Just... ouch.

"... which doesn't quite make sense anyway...." *whimper*

"... the love scenes are quite good, although a bit too chatty." Hang on a sec, I need a moment to let the humiliation of that sentence really sink in.

... ... ...

... ... ...


There ya go.

Actually I think too chatty may actually be an understatement. In one scene there's nothing but dialogue.

"...(especially the scene where he deflowers her)." Yeah, that's the one. So sue me. I wrote a virgin heroine. There were mitigating circumstances, I swear.

"... and there is one (unintentionally, I presume) funny scene..." Nope. That was intentional. Pass me that razor, will you? You don't mind if I bleed all over your desk?

"... but it needs some work first." You don't say.

"... if you would prefer to submit a different story..." Is anyone else getting the subtext, "because I'd rather gouge my eyes out with my stapler than read this again ?

It's beauties like those that I've begged the taxman not to read too closely. He will of course. I'll get them back with coffee stains on from where he's passed them round the staff room, wheezing with laughter.

I hope YOU won't hold these against me, either! I can only say to you what I have said to the taxman. "... I have definitely improved."

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hold knives carefully by the handle

Husband and I have an odd habit of verbal fencing, a kind of insulting banter that strangers find very worrying.

I constantly have to remind him that people don't know you're joking, dear... Once in the supermarket queue I was spitting at him, he was railing at me in mock outrage, and then we looked at the cashier. Who was white.

It took quite a while to persuade her that we weren't about to commit violence on each other.

One of our common rejoinders in the kitchen is "I'm holding a knife, you know!"

Today's offering was along the lines of:

"You're in the way."

"No, YOU'RE in the way."

"No. You're in the way."

"I'm holding a knife!"

"Well I'm holding a tea towel!"

"My knife is sharper!"

"Yeah, well my tea towel's damper!"

*both collapse into giggles*

I'm not sure I have anything profound to say about this - I just find it funny.

Oh, and my most treasured endearment comes from our frequent late-night exchange:

"I love you."

"I love you, too. Now bugger off."

The Evil Bean

Why do I never learn? I shouldn't drink coffee.

But we have a guest, and it seems a good idea to put coffee on after dinner.

No Anna. Just... No.

I'm still hyper at midnight. Husband announces he's turning his lamp off (mine's not working at the moment) and I put down one of Suzanne's books and lie there in the darkness, figdetting.

I'm writing three books in my head simultaneously. The Frenchman one, the one with the twenty-year old who's been married three times and the one with the research librarian and the cop.

That one's new. I never write cops. Too much research. *baleful look*

Eventually, in the dark watches of the night, I fall asleep, heart still beating unnaturally fast.

In the morning, I'm convinced the Puke Beast of Fouliss 26 has made its intergalactic home in my mouth. Half an hour of wookie impressions and guzzling a litre of water might might get me back to normal.

God Save me from the Evil Bean.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mummy's Here!!!

May be a little scarce in the next few days, as my lovely mother is visiting.


Mummy!!! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's a hard life, but someone's got to live it

Today I made a made escape from work to go here:-

Ways of making editing palateable... Posted by Picasa

Looking out over a landscaped plantsman's garden, the scent of hazelnut latte and sweet peas mixing pleasantly with the faint taste of summer fruit tart lingering on the tongue....

I thought I'd also show you another favourite spot - my swimming spot:-

It's deeper than it looks Posted by Picasa

And just to prove that I actually do write there, too:-

I also write... Posted by Picasa

Now you can go ahead and hate me.


Things I Did

So I DID encourage the fussy-hunter cat to eat something more, and I DID drink a diet coke. I DID read another Betty Neels, report on my last three months' activity and plump the sofa cushions, but I did NOT guilt, obsess, stress or panic.

And I DID write that one page syn for Run Among Thorns, which was actually quite exciting. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Things Not To Do

You know what I need to do right now?

Let’s start with what I don’t need to do.

I don’t need to start spread sheeting the expenses evidence for the tax enquiry
I don’t need to watch Alien versus Predator for the third time, The Incredibles for the fifth time or the Princess Bride for the sixth time (I know, I know, I was a late comer to the PB – I’m trying to catch up)
I don’t need to take the elastic out of that skirt, hem those two t-shirts, and Lord, do I NOT need to iron that linen skirt
I don’t need to write that one page synopsis for Run Among Thorns (Okay, so I do, but that is beyond tedious)
I don’t need to call the plasterer for the second time
I don’t need to call the plumber for the third time
I don’t need to dust the furniture, plump up the sofa cushions, tidy up the computer room, wash cat blankets or mop floors
I don’t need to read a seventh Betty Neels in four days
I don’t need to bake scones, make pasta, cook a curry or defrost the freezer
I don’t need to force-feed our annorexic hunter-cat (don’t worry, I’m exaggerating – she just forgets to eat when the world is so full of shrews to kill)
I don’t need to mount an archaeological exploration into the strata of magazines under the coffee table
I don’t need to edit the company magazine, report on my last three months’ activity or file my last six months’ activity
I don’t need to stress, guilt, obsess or panic
I don’t need another Diet Coke

So what do I need to do?

I need to write.

Ah well. Sometime soon. Maybe.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

You can call me Al

I haven't decided how to start this post. I could start by saying, always hire an accountant. I could say, I've always been bad at maths and terrified of numbers or last year I did my tax return when I was rather ill and muddle-headed.

Are we getting a picture?

The Inland Revenue got the picture.

Yesterday I received a letter from the aforementioned gods of tax announcing that they were going to conduct an enquiry into last year's tax return.

Immediately I a) panicked (my reaction of choice this week) and b) started hunting out my expenses info and spreadsheet. Within five minutes I'd spotted a HUGE error I'd made. Which essentially meant I got more money out of the taxman than I was entitled to.

Oh Dear God, No.

The well written, formal letter informed me that the office was open at 8.30am. I was on the phone at 8.32am. (I paused to blow my nose).

If you're ever in this situation (although you won't be, because no-one is as crap at numbers and consumately stupid as I am) remember to try phoning the tax office when you have finished crying. I think I scared him. Certainly he was very helpful.

Actually, before all you commenters get your teeth into the taxman, I ought to say I've always found them very friendly and helpful. My most cherished conversation with them began, "Look, this is a really stupid question..." "Don't be daft!"

Thankfully some good friends talked me down from my high flights of terror and I'm no longer convinced I'm about to be arrested for fraud. But I now have the unenviable position of putting all my evidence of expenses together. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to trace your subscription payment to RWA???

It's all rather funny, really, but I only started laughing when I got home from a meeting and was met at the door by Husband, with a schoolboy grin on his face, trying not to laugh.

"Can I call you Al Capone?"

"No you cannot call me Al Capone!"

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Things Not To Eat In The Car...

... If you want to a) keep it clean and b) keep yourself clean.

1) Anything with flaky pastry

2) Juicy ripe nectarines

3) Melted Reese's Peanut Butter Cups

Mistake. Just... mistake.

Monday, July 11, 2005

A Fridge Too Far... I wish

Engage Colossal Understatement Mode

I don't cope well with heat.

Cancel Mode

My max comfort level temperature is 28C. That's about 82F to you Americans out there. If I have to do anything remotely strenuous (like breathing) that comes down to 25C.

Today I managed to choose to make a long car journey during the hottest part of a very hot day. My car has no a/c, so it's a choice betweeen having the windows up and melting, (remember they put people in jail for doing this to dogs) or having the windows down and drying out faster than a tomato in the hot Italian sun. The shrivelling and wrinkling effects are much the same, too.

I did make it home by dint of frequent stops and drubbling water over my head while in the fast lane at 80mph. Since this probably constitutes "Driving Without Due Care And Attention" I don't recommend it.

Probably my only sensible choice today (besides braking early for that jam - good call) was to buy convenience food for dinner.

No way. No WAY was I standing over a hob/oven/BBQ tonight.

There have been a number of lessons from this experience.

1) Do not shop for cars in a British Winter. You will convince yourself that you don't need a/c. Thanks to Climate Change, this is now Not True.

2) I will be seen in public in my bulge-hugging comfy sweats if the temperature exceeds 30C.

3) I won't care about sweat patches... ditto

4) A standard, underwired bra from Marks and Spencer is capable of holding ten times its own weight in perspiration.

5) My requirement for food while driving in heat peaks at six meals a day.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

We're okay

In light of events in London, I thought I'd post to let you know that I, Julie Cohen and Biddy are fine, and well clear.

It's times like this that I remember how lucky I am in my friends - the rallying round, passing of messages, reassuring of mutual friends is just wonderful.


Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Normal service will resume...

...sometime after Tuesday next week.

I'm off to visit friends, and thence to the RNA Conference.


I'll tell you all about it next week.

(Yes, Beth, ginger wine is alcholic. Thank goodness!)

Sunday, July 03, 2005


We used to spend a lot of money on fly spray about this time of year. We live backed onto a farm, and this is bluebottle season - those single-minded little blue-black bullets that ricochet around the house.

But I haven't laid my hand on a fly spray canister yet this year. Why? Because we have Minnie. And Minnie is turning out the be the most efficient feline fly killer in existence.

So far today she's had at least five. And those are just the ones I've witnessed.

She's doing a sterling job. And it's environmentally friendly, too.


Since it's taken me four hours in an atmosphere of dread to psyche myself up to open the WIP today, I should probably chuck the whole writing pantomime.

I won't though. I'm nothing if not a glutton for punishment.


But now I do have the WIP open, I have a couple of tasks to ease myself into it, a large glass of ginger-wine-and-lemonade and The Prodigy on mediaplayer.

I'll let you know if it helps.


And if you thought from the title that this post was going to be rude, go and slap yourself on the wrist.... ;-)

Time is Relative...

[written Saturday]

Have you ever noticed how the weekend seems enormous when you're trying to get there, and then way, waaaay too short when you're in it?

On Thursday, the weekend seemed this vast, blissful, all-encompassing space. On Friday I knew I'd have Two Whole Days to get things done in, and snatch some R&R.

It is now 3pm. I am writing this in a rather nice lunch restaurant, having realised that the blurring of my eyes and inability to choose between Thai Green Curry and Thai Red Curry in Sainsbury's was probably a blood sugar issue. Whoops.

So I am pausing to refuel and reflect.

Mostly I'm reflecting on the fact that it's 3pm on Saturday, and I've hardly got anything done yet. I'm getting a little anxious.

I shall probably feel better when I get the hanging baskets planted up. They're at least a month overdue, and the plants I bought for them - deep maroon pelargonium 'Tomcat'; white bacopa; white surfinas, veined with mauve - are staging a triffid-attack on my living room windowsill. I can't stand cruelty to plants...

I have, at least, done the shopping. For this, I earn brownie points. If I can the hanging baskets done and do Writing Related Tasks 1 and 2, then I can write all day tomorrow and stop worrying.

But how did the weekend get so short?

[Update. Hanging baskets became the Task From Hell. I had to be rescued by Husband with tea and whisky macs. Still anxious.]