Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Water, water...

Have you drunk enough water today? We're supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day, and it's easy enough to turn on the tap and fill a glass. Or we can pop down the supermarket and buy any one of dozens of bottles of spring water, from the cheap and cheerful to the distinctly high-class.

Drinking good, clean water helps your body work better, it improves your hair, complexion, digestion, mood, concentration, hormone production, energy levels and can help weight loss.

Drinking bad water kills you.

Over a billion people in the world have to drink water that might kill them.

As you probably know, I love water - I love the taste, touch, smell and feel of it. I love it falling from the sky, soaking the earth, running merrily in rivers and mirroring the sky in lakes. So when a colleague told me she was walking up Knock Fell in support of Water Aid I was very happy to sponsor her.

I thought maybe you would be, too.

Sam Bramwell's Sponsorship Page

Thank you.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gone, but not forgotten

Me, that is. I hope.


Just wanted to pop in and say I'm having a bit of a brain freeze at the moment, am running shy from things online, but I am here, and I'll be back soon.

I am, however, making excellent use of my freed-up time. Today I cooked a roast beef dinner with eight different types of vegetables. The roasted parsnips and carrots with rosemary was a hit, as was the kohl rabi gratinated with herbs and breadcrumbs.

I also emptied the compost bin. Oh, the glamour.

I'm ashamed to say I actually enjoy sorting out the compost. There's something deeply satisfying about dedicating your physical strength and mental agility to serving a natural process like decomposition. Sprinkle a little of this, mix in a little of that. Is it damp enough? Dry enough? Warm enough?

Leaf of tea and shell of egg... rind of lime and coffee dregs... *eldritch cackle*

It's like alchemy.

Or necromancy.

Sadly, I think composting has most in common with train spotting. Because finding some charred grasses in your compost heap and excitedly telling Husband that you've achieved Hot Composting is right up there with videoing the 9:28 to Oxenholme.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Monday was a damp day, raining on and off. Just enough water to lie in the puddles and not wet the crown of the road. I had an appointment in Cockermouth, so I turned off onto the Tallentire road at Arkleby, just past the Hall where the band of smugglers' women attacked the customs men sometime in the 18th century.

Incidentally, the customs men had to abandon their recaptured cargo and go for reinforcements. Which leaves me wondering if the smugglers had gone home earlier, sheepish and sniffing, saying, "Darling, the customs men took our rum back," and the wives went, "The RUM is GONE?" and went out to get it back. I mean, when the smugglers got into a fight, they sent for the WOMEN to back them up? Who you gonna call.... ball busters.


Tallentire road.

I came round a bend and into a slight dip where a row of cottages sit between trees up against the road.... and nearly ran into a flock of chickens.

There's a little braking doing on, and I can see that three chickens are scattering right and one's going left, accompanied by a couple of chicks - not the yellow fluffy stage, but the scraggly mini-chicken stage. I'm going to miss them all, no problem.

And the last chick turns back.

He double takes, right there in the road in front of me, looking at something on the tarmac, and you can almost see him saying, "Ooooh! A Worm!!!" as he doubles back to peck at the ground.

My foot is now welded to the brake, and I stop (no skidding, either, thankyouverymuch) in the middle of the road, with the chick almost out of view, dead centre in the middle of the road.

At which point he turns back, and the look of gastronomic satisfaction is wiped from his little chicken face as he comically remembers why he was crossing the road in the first place.

Because there was a big car going to kill you, you idiot.

He does the flapping wings, dancing on the spot thing for a moment, then dives for the roadside.

I'm left thinking, was it worth it?

Chicken Little was running for his life, but was effectively distracted from flight by a delecacy. Run Away! Run Away! Run Away! Oooh! A Worm!!! Greed outranked survival.

Now, we could just say he was stupid. He's a chicken, after all.

But I started thinking about when we, and when characters, let one of the Seven Deadly Sins become the most important thing in a moment, if not in our lives.

You see plenty of lust in romance novels. But Lust? As in, a deadly sin? Not so much. You see more Anger, and Pride, I think.

Gluttony? Now that's one I haven't seen all that often. I have to wonder what edge it would add to a villain, and whether this is a flaw a hero or heroine could never carry off.

The German chick in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade reaches back for the Grail cup, not for Grain Mustard. It's a golden coin that causes all the trouble in Pirates of the Caribbean, not a chocolate one.

After all, I can't imagine any of my characters choosing food over life.

Can you?

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Another Detour

I know, I know. This is supposed to be deadly sins. But I just noticed Julie tagged me, so I need to do that first.

And I want to.

Of course, her answer to these questions are full of references to literary giants, and mine may well reference the Adventures of Tintin and the Garfield books, but hey, I'm game.

And Herge is a literary giant, anyway.

1. One book that changed my life: One? ONE??? Lots of books change my life. I can't help feeling that's kind of the point. I'm going to finish typing this and then remember all the books I SHOULD have put here... hmm... We'll go with Georgette Heyer and Devil's Cub, which started my lifelong fascination with the flawed hero.

2. One book I have read more than once: All of the books I own. But probably "Madam Will You Talk" by the goddess-like Mary Stewart.

3. One book I would want on a desert island: The Morgaine Chronicles by C J Cherryh. There were several years after I first read these that I didn't actually own them. They were miserable years. Then Sela rescued me and found them in an import store. THANK YOU SELA. An almost inhuman heroine driven to do unspeakable things for a universal greater good, an outcast hero her slave and follower, and an impossible, broken and yet beautiful love.

4. One book that made me laugh: Do you know how rare it is for a book to actually make me laugh aloud? I think the obvious candidate is Beth's Lasso the Moon. Julie's books always make me laugh, too.

5. One book that made me cry: Oh please. If a book doesn't make me cry, I must have been dead when I read it. Let's go for I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith.

6. One book I wish I’d written: The Temptation of Sean MacNeill by Virginia Kantra. Or anything by Mary Stewart. I tried Great Expectations on Julie's advice, but I can't get into Dickens.

7. One book I wish had never been written: Do you know, I can't think of one?

8. One book I am currently reading: Currently it's Rusalka by C J Cherryh. Fantasy take on a Russian folk tale and ghost story. Fabulous.

9. One book I have been meaning to read: The current Harry Potter. Is that The Half-Blood Prince? But I don't want to read the book before the movie - that way I love the movie, and then pick up so much more when I read.

EDIT - It's the Order of the Pheonix that I'm waiting to see and then read. I'm so up on popular culture, you know.


No, not the movie. Which, incidentally, still gives me occasional nightmares. It was the Sloth one that did it. Yeesh.

No, we're not talking severed heads and force-fed spaghetti. We're talking the Deadlies - Seven Deadly Sins. In no particular order:-


You see, I was inspired by a third part to write a series of posts about the Big Ones, so watch this space for more.

The third party crossed my path on Monday, when I took an unexpected detour down a road I haven't driven in ages. It was a complete fluke I took that road at that time, and

The third party's single-minded pursuit of its goal in the face of danger set an idea blooming in my head, so I will be rambling incoherently on the subject this week. I may even find something to say of relevance to writing.

You never know.

But who, I hear you cry, who was the third party? What mighty creature reached into your writer's soul and demanded you write about these strong, fundamental, human themes?

It was a small chicken.

Yes, that's right. My muse is Chicken Little.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The rain it raineth

We enjoyed our two days in Northumberland... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Back in May I posted about a visit to a famed antiquarian bookshop in Whitehaven - the fabulous Michael Moon's. Then the other day I was honoured (and embarassed - I think I called him an alien in the post...) by a comment from Mr Moon himself. Since the comment is lengthy, and definitely something special, I thought I'd share it below:-

Posted by bookman to Anna Lucia at 8/13/2006 05:04:59 PM
"I am visiting Edinburgh during the Festival, here for the purpose of looking after my daughter Fiona’s old cat Elso, whilst she has a well-earned week’s holiday in Ibiza. With her prior permission, I put on her computer to look out for old books on Cumbria. Specific ones on West Coast History and Topography which I can always use more of. Some published 30 years ago by myself, for which we still get occasional orders. Yes, when you start buying back books you originally published and sold in the days when I still had enough hair to run a comb through, you can say you are well established. Yes, do have a lap top, for letter writing and ticket writing - but umbilically speaking, I am not connected to the Web.

And what do you think? Whilst tapping in my wants details I came across a piece about my old bookshop in Whitehaven. Surprised I was - certainly and flattered definitely. Thank you Anna Lucia. Sadly only 100% of what you said, is true. Just joking.

It is a fact that the old bookshop in many large, even Cathedral Towns is a dying institution. Towns are redeveloped, rents become too high and the High Streets are filled with a raft of cloned branches of Spec Savers, Holiday Tour Operators and Mobile Phone Companies. Who says Talk is cheap?

Like multi channel TV, reading habits are changing. 50 years ago, when I was a boy I saved up my five shillings a week pocket money for many weeks to buy a set of Chamber’s Encyclopaedias costing just £4.00 When I finally got to the old bookshop with a bag of small change, it had been sold. Now Encyclopaedias s are dead in the water, with new style so-called minimalist homes ( for that read - too small) all the information you could possibly need, is at your finger tips on a small plastic disc, or taken off the web.

When all the lights go out and our electronic gismos fail. When Libraries have thrown out all their books onto skips at the behest of the accountants who now run our Area Authorities, we will need bookshops again. Now the public buys its books from grocers in pile ‘em high sell ‘em cheap supermarkets. When most of the staff who work in them are not legally old enough to operate a bacon-slicer, let alone answer questions - we are all in trouble. The family butchers – a dozen in every town - have all but gone. So too has the Ironmongers with its myriad of labelled wooden drawers and brass beam balance scales. Even the corner shop Family Grocer, who had a boy to deliver your weekly order on his bike. A shopkeeper who could bone and roll bacon, add up a list of groceries in his head and tell the difference between a Santa Clara Prune and a Vostizza Currant and give you a week’s credit, too. Gone! Time became our God and in the rush save it, and to find somewhere to park our cars too, we all began to shop all in one big place, doing all the work ourselves, running around like loons trying to get the better of a trolley with an attitude, whilst humming ‘Three wheels on my wagon’, and wondering why of all the ones you could have used, you had to pick this one. We just kept on `convenience shopping’ and left the specialists to their own fate.

There are now only 700 old bookshops left in the UK. Did you know that? The second- hand old bookshop has become one of the last places you can find, where the owner’s name is still painted over the window fascia - running his world in his own individual way, holding out against the encroaching sea of chrome and formica. Putting his style, stamp and quirky personality on his chosen profession. No one makes him do it. He does it because he wants to. Supermarkets, Charity Shops and WH Smith may be fine, but they don’t buy books back. That is what old bookshops do best. They are a rich source of rarely tapped information, which comes from long experience, specialist books of reference and a good and active memory. Not from a computer.

One day, the time may come when booksellers are paid by the local authorities to bring variety and serendipity back into town centres. But probably not in my lifetime.
As booksellers, we are in a way, keepers of the nation’s collective memory and we lose sight of that at our peril.

Michael Moon Antiquarian Bookseller Whitehaven Cumbria.
Finding new homes for old books since 1970.

Thanks for stopping by and for your interest.


Sunday, August 13, 2006

It is a far, far better thing...

Think of me today.

I'm cleaning the house.


The truth is, Husband does the majority of the hoovering. But 'doing the hoovering' is not the same as dusting, polishing, tidying, hoovering PROPERLY (ie, into the edges) and moving things around with a nice eye for interior design.

Most of the time, it doesn't matter. I've never prioritised cleaning all that high (cleaning never threatens writing, for example), and untidiness bugs me more than dust and detritus.

But when friends and family come to stay, I clean thoroughly for two reasons - 1) I like them to be comfortable in my home, and clean is more relaxing than dirty and 2) It's a good reason to give the house a good clean and get on top of things.

Oh, and I dropped a tomato in the kitchen the other day, and when it finally stopped rolling and I picked it up, it had its own fur jacket.

I like to take that as a hint, you know?

Saturday, August 12, 2006


... where did that week go?

I really don't think anything interesting happened this week, would you believe it. I'm not sure I even thought very hard about anything.

Except Dangerous Lies. And babies. Mostly other people's.


Will strive to be more interesting next week.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Monday Musings on Tuesday

I didn't have much to say yesterday... actually, I'm not sure I have much to say today!

As an interesting exercise, I've tried to identify the top three things occupying my mind at the moment. I'm not sure if they're revealing, or just plain crazy. *rolling eyes*

1) Wanting a baby
A complete no-brainer, that one, eh? I had my first acupuncture session on Monday. They're right - it doesn't hurt at all. I'm now recording my basal body temperature so we can measure the effectiveness of the treatment, and feel a bit like a character in a baby-related sitcom... I tell you, give it another six months and I'll be dancing naked around standing stones.

2) Eating healthily.
You wouldn't think it could be this complicated. According to the diet recommended by the doctor all fats are the Devil Incarnate. According to another version of the same type of diet, all sugars are the Devil Incarnate. I'm trying to tread a careful path between the two, but it's taking an inordinate amount of brain power. I do, though, weigh less now than I have in about three years, so perhaps the brain effort is burning calories?

3) Oblivion
I hate to admit it, but I'm a PC gamer slut. I. Can't. Resist. Good. Games. And before you raise your eyes to heaven and wonder how I can waste my time, I hardly ever watch TV. I watch DVDs with Husband over dinner, and I watch movies late at night if I can't sleep. So when you're pinned to Lost or 24 or Corrie or whatever, that's my game time... k? The last time I actually tried to follow a series on TV it was Rome. I managed to watch about 50% of the episodes without having to work, or write, or cook, and now I'm thoroughly enjoying the DVDs. Octavian rules.


Truth is, I'm hardly ever playing Oblivion, either. Why? Because my computer is sadly defish... defici.... defich.... sadly crap. Oblivion only runs on Husband's computer. And it only runs on his at lowest spec.

Which means, heaven defend me, I've turned a computer game into a spectator sport. Yes, I sit beside Husband, with Pippi on my lap, while he slays Daedra, singes rats and assassinates elves. I gasp, cheer, and criticise his gameplay.

I am a back-seat gamer.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

If you love them, let them go

I’ve had a D’OH! moment.

I’ve been struggling with a scene, at the computer and in my head, for a week or two now. In the process of revision I’ve axed a secondary character – a clichéd and irrelevant secondary character, no less: I hang my head in shame – who was a plot device in the scene I’ve been wrestling with.

Unfortunately removing him left sentences and actions dangling, and I got completely hung up on trying to find a new reason for the heroine to utter a particular line. I’ve been back and forth in her motivation and goals, trying to see if I could bring something forward in the story. I’ve looked at his actions, trying to see if I could make give him some more self-awareness earlier in the story. I’ve been weaving both their arcs into different tapestries, desperately trying to fathom out what he could say that would make her react this way... until it finally clicked.

Under the influence of coffee and Rob Dougan, a combination that works every time – Every. Damn. Time. – I realised I don’t need to justify that line. I don’t need that line.

At all.


We’ve all heard of “kill your darlings” but it wasn’t even as if I was defending this line because I thought it was marvellous. It was just... there. It simply never occurred to me to let it go.

Is there any hope for me?

Thursday, August 03, 2006

They're cute, but...

Ten Reasons Having Kittens in the Backyard Is Not Such a Great Thing

1. They're not MY kittens.
2. It's off-putting to come into the kitchen and see a little black fluffy tail disappearing under the dishwasher.*
3. You can't have a BBQ. Well, you CAN. But mixing red hot coals and little half-blind blundering bodies is a recipe for disaster. I like grilled chicken not grilled kitten.
4. You spend weeks watering the plant pots with jugs and watering cans, because the hose is too indiscrimminate, and they all hide behind the pots...
5. Kittens in multiples of 1-5 are cute. Kittens in multiples of 6-9 are catastrophic.
6. One Mummy Kitty begs for food, the other one hisses at us. We're conflicted, man.
7. Weaning in human children involves pureed carrots and rusks. Weaning in cat children involves unidentifiable furred meat and dead rats (see earlier post).
8. Walking across a back yard filled with kittens scurrying for cover is like walking across a backyard filled with marbles, only with more potential for fatalities on both sides.
9. Poop. Nuff said.
10. All the above notwithstanding, I want to adopt them all, and feed them till they're plump and happy and make all their little sniffles go away and protect them from all harm and give them fluffy blankets and creamy milk and delicious, nutritious foods and brush them and love them and huggle them and....

Excuse me. There's a knock at the door. I think the Kitten-Related Madness Police are coming to take me away.


* Don't worry, it's out, and fine. We kept hearing squeals which we thought might be inside the house, but decided we were just paranoid. We weren't. Eventually we closed the kitchen door, opened the back door and watched Mummy Kitty and naughty kitten get reunited. It was either that or dismantle our new kitchen. Which I would have done, no question, no hesitation, that very night. But I'm very glad it came out of its own accord...

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Cor Gore!

I was greeted at the door by Husband, a rare enough occurence when he has a day off to spend and a computer to spend it with. With schoolboy glee he told me he'd cut his arm while assembling a set of metal shelves for the utility room. After a moment, I realised he was more geelful about the injury than the DIY.

Honestly. Men.

Since he'd taken a typical approach to dressing the wound (ie, bypassing the large, well-stocked first aid kit - "I didn't know where it was." "It was where I told you it was." - and rummaging around in drawers for a mismatch of old plasters) I immediately gathered some fresh dressings and took off the old ones, discovering that the wound (about an inch long, quarter of an inch deep) hadn't knit, and glanced up at Husband to tell him I'd need to buy him some closures.

I have never before seen my husband turn that particular shade of greenish yellow.

After persuading him to lie down as an alternative to passing out, I managed to sort out the cut, although I'm about to go out and buy additional first aid supplies to get us through anything short of major surgery...

He's fine, of course, and mildly chuffed he nearly passed out for the first time in his life. He's not even squeamish!

*rolling eyes*

Later, he told me that the farm cats who use our back yard as a kitten creche are attempting to wean their progeny onto solid food.

"Oh really? Is someone feeding them?"

"Not someONE."

"You mean the cats are bringing them something?"


"Wow, they're bringing them mice?"

"Um. no."



I frowned. "What, then?"


"There is a RAT in my BACKYARD?!"

"Don't worry, it's dead. Very dead."

He's not wrong, either. I'm now thinking of the kittens less in terms of cuteness, and more in terms of a furry school of piranha.

And Husband is going to clear up the remains, he's promised me. Because he's not squeamish, you know.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Water, water everywhere (except in the taps)

It's still raining.

Rushing down the road sides, gleaming on the fells, soaking into the parched ground. You forget, sometimes, all the noises associated with rainfall, from the patter on the ground to the gurgle in the downpipes.

And in a moment of supreme irony, the running water has gone off at work. The supplier, who spent a considerable time trying to tell us it's our fault, informed us that an engineer, "might get there today." There's something about flushing toilets with buckets that's not all that conducive to efficient working practices.