Monday, 31 October 2011

I've got a great ambition to die of exhaustion rather than boredom.

Thus said Thomas Carlyle - Victorian Scottish satirist, essayist historian and teacher.

Look at this picture of him:

If ever someone looked bored it's this perhaps that's why he said what he did.

I DO agree with him in general but if you'd said that to me last night when I was on bended knees after my day at the Tower of London, I might have punched you on the nose. No, perhaps not - I hadn't sufficient energy left.

Only intravenous Chardonnay, when I finally crawled into the house, got me through. (Note to Alcoholics Anonymous: That was a joke. Honestly.)

The thing about working to the point of exhaustion is that after a good night's sleep I woke this morning feeling grrrrrrrrrrrreat. Fulfilled and energised. Satisfied. I suppose you can add relieved to this little list because I was worried about the day beforehand.

I'm rarely bored but if I've spent a day poodling about achieving nothing then I might still be exausted but without the benefit of feeling good about it all.

Another note: I happen to love Coldplay but this made me laugh.

Well, can't stop - another exciting day lies ahead of me...

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Off with her head!

Today, I've been sent to the Tower of London...

For treason?

No - for work...

Who gets to work at the Tower of London? Well, me. I'm hoping I won't get my head chopped off for some misdemeanour but I WILL be running around like a...

 ...headless chicken.

I'm representing the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at a special First World War re-enactment day and it's forecast there will be over two thousand visitors.

Do you think they'd notice if, at some point, I took a nap in the king's bed?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.

Albert Camus said this.

I LOVE autumn. I love it even more when it isn't called fall. Fall is one of the (very few) Americanisms that annoys me. I don't know why - perhaps it's because the word autumn has pleasant associations so I don't want it to be replaced by another. Fall sounds so abrupt.

Poppy, my mare, matches autumn. A colour-coordinated horse she was today. She likes to be stylish.

This morning, we had the most glorious ride on Ashdown Forest. (Poppy enjoyed it so much that she put in the biggest galloping buck I've ever sat, just out of sheer exuberance. How could I be cross? I managed to stay on. I was still alive, wasn't I?)

No more words - just pictures.

Season of mists...

...and blazing glory

....all the time watched by sheep

I must be one of the luckiest people in the world to live here.

Friday, 28 October 2011

O, she will sing the savageness out of a bear!

Desdemona will, according to Othello. According to Shakespeare.

Kate Rusby will, according to me.

We went to see her in concert last night at Tunbridge Wells and it was just the most uplifting experience.

It's hard to explain to someone who doesn't know what a broad Yorkshire accent sounds like - she's from Barnsley - but she has one. Here, for your edification, if edification should be needed, is a phrase in that dialect:  

Ah-cud eet a scabby donkey 'tween tu Bre't-Vans.

Translation: I could eat a scabby donkey between two bread vans...that is to say, I'm very hungry. (For some strange reason I am unable to find a picture to illustrate that!)

That, pretty much, is how Kate Rusby speaks and I could listen to her all day. The thing is, that when she sings, she has a voice like an angel, as pure and as clear as any voice I've ever heard, which is somehow unexpected when you've just heard her talking.

Here's a link to my favourite song of hers, just for you:

Underneath The Stars

Kate Rusby is generous, too. A year or so ago, I was creating a DVD for the Commonwealth War Graves Commission about a young lad in the Second World War who lied about his age so he could enlist in the army and was killed shortly after the Normandy landings, aged 16.

I asked Kate if I could use one of her songs for the soundtrack - an English folk song. 'Of course!' was the immediate answer - none of this 'maybe, but it will have to be licensed and it will cost you X hundred pounds for 30 seconds and you can only use it in the UK and only for 5 years.'

So my soft spot for Kate Rusby is even softer.

Here's a link to that song:

The Unquiet Grave

I'd love to be able to make such a difference to the world with my work.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Nature is, by and large, to be found out of doors...

...a location where...there are never enough comfortable chairs.

I like Fran Lebowitz's wit, I'm sure she'd be gratified to learn, but I don't for a single second share her feelings about The Great Outdoors.

Here she is again:

“Now, nature, as I am only too aware, has her enthusiasts, but on the whole, I am not to be counted among them. To put it bluntly, I am not the type who wants to go back to the land; I am the type who wants to go back to the hotel.”

So, it was as a card-carrying Nature Enthusiast, that I settled down in front of the television last night to watch the first episode of BBC's Frozen Planet 

 Absolutely stunning. I was completely entranced. It was for the beauty of the polar landscape that I wrote The Melting - a screenplay that's a sort of sequel to The Snow Queen. (Steven Spielberg apply here.)

However, there were times when I had to run out of the room. I simply CANNOT watch animals killing other animals. Yes, I KNOW it's the way of things, only natural, the circle of life...and death, but I can't watch it.

Awwww sweet! A cute sea-lion and a penguin. No, NOT sweet. The sea-lion is HUNGRY. He chases the penguin because he wants to eat it. Yes, it was comical to see the pair of them floundering about on land but oh, the shout of triumph I gave when the penguin escaped from the sea-lion's jaws and swam off into the ocean.

 Amazing - the cooperative behaviour of killer whales who hunt together, intentionally creating huge waves that either wash the seal off the ice or break the ice into smaller pieces...

But I couldn't watch it. Or if I DID watch it at all it was through the narrow slits between my fingers, clamped firmly over my eyes.

It's not just the polar ice cap that's melting. It's my heart.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

A panda walks into a café...or, how punctuation is Very Important

My very own version of 'Eats, shoots and leaves' happened yesterday - funnily enough, when I was looking for my quotation for today's blog. But first...

I assumed that everyone knows 'Eats, shoots and leaves' and then I thought...perhaps everyone doesn't? Not everyone is like me and a bit of a stickler about correct punctuation. A bit of a stickler is actually a bit of a euphemism.

(PLEASE don't be a bore and go through all my blogs looking for punctuation mistakes. I'm SURE there are plenty. The difference is, I CARE.)

Here's the story that led Lynne Truss to write...

A panda walks into a cafe. He orders a sandwich, eats it, then draws a gun and fires two shots in the air.

"Why?" asks the confused waiter, as the panda makes towards the exit. The panda produces a badly punctuated wildlife manual and tosses it over his shoulder.
"I'm a panda," he says, at the door. "Look it up."

The waiter turns to the relevant entry and, sure enough, finds an explanation.

"Panda. Large black-and-white bear-like mammal, native to China. Eats, shoots and leaves."

See, the misplaced comma that completely changes the meaning of the last sentence...

My search for a relevant quotation for today was on the subject of relief. Relief that I've finally come to the end of a huge project and relief that my earache is at last, fingers crossed, touch wood, beginning to go away. I hope.
So, I came across THIS quotation by American actress, Lily Tomlin:

"For fast acting relief, try slowing down." 

I looked at it and I puzzled. Why does Lily Tomlin want relief from acting? Doesn't she like her job?  And fast relief too! She must be desperate.

THEN I realised...there was a missing hyphen.

Now THAT'S a quote that I can relate to. Where would we be without punctuation?

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

“Sometimes the most urgent thing you can possibly do is take a complete rest”

An Ashleigh Brilliant quote. Whoever is called Ashleigh Brilliant? Well, apparently SHE is and I'm obviously not alone in doubting that someone who writes aphorisms for a living could genuinely be called that because in the introduction to her website she says 'Yes, that IS my real name.' Humble apologies, Ashleigh Brilliant.

Anyway - I'm thinking about having a rest.

Today, REALLY might be the last day that I'll be compiling and submitting content for the Forever India website. Then all there is to do is sit back and wait to check it on the UAT server...

I had to use Google to find out what exactly a UAT server is. I like to sprinkle my conversations with technical terms just so I appear to know what I'm talking about, just so I don't come across as a complete Luddite.

Oh, here's a picture of my new laptop...

Anyway, a UAT server is...a User Acceptance Testing server, by the way. So now I know. And so do you, if you didn't already.

And then I'm going to rest. I was told today I looked washed out, as pale as a ghost.

But don't you know...?

No, I don't believe it either.

So...I'm going to have a rest...when I haven't got anything else that needs doing, which could be...sometime never.

Monday, 24 October 2011

"The human brain is like a railroad freight car -- guaranteed to have a certain capacity but often running empty."

My brain...not running empty...but certainly not reaching its full capacity.

 As usual, my brain contains butterflies.

See, I start out thinking about trains and end up writing about brains. Trains and brains. Easy to confuse. I hope I won't have too much difficulty when catching the 13.39 from Buxted Station later today, though.

I LOVE my little station. It's the last stop but one on the Uckfield line and it's a single track railway, so we have to wait for a train to go up before another can go down.

And here's a picture of it in winter - early morning, January 2010

How lucky I am!

I live in a beautiful place, yet it only takes me one hour and ten minutes to get to London by train.

That's if it's not snowing (with 'the wrong sort of snow') Or there are leaves on the line. Or a signalling problem. Or staff shortages. Or...

There are three words that chill me to the bone when I'm travelling up to London.

'Replacement bus service.'

Don't get me started...

Sunday, 23 October 2011

I'm learning all the time. The tombstone will be my diploma.

While I have no immediate plans to die, I think what Eartha Kitt said is just perfect.

(Another woman. Another person without facial hair. Perhaps no hair at all? It all goes to show it's not a prerequisite of saying Intelligent Things.)

My job with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission involves so much research that every day is an adventure. (At school, I gave up the study of History the first moment I could) Is it a disadvantage not knowing about a subject before you write about it? I happen to think it's quite the reverse - although it means I probably have to work harder.

Your Latin lesson of the day (well, mine, at any rate): I know one thing, that I know nothing...or something like that.

So...I have no preconceptions; I have to understand things myself in order to be able to pass them on to others; and, happily for me, I'm constantly acquiring knowledge so my brain doesn't atrophy (although tell me that when I find my car keys in the fridge or I go upstairs to get something and by the time I'm there I've forgotten what it was!)

I have riding lessons every week. Pete's opinion - SURELY you must know how to ride by now? My opinion - I know that there will always be something to learn.

I've started my seminar about transforming my paradigm of success...

And NOW, I've registered on a writing course with Meg Rosoff. (Remember There is no dog )

It's called 'Finding Your Voice'..."Your 'voice' lies somewhere between your conscious and subconscious mind. Finding that place is a challenging exercise in self-confrontation."

Can't wait. I'm hoping she has a big bag of Magic Fairy Dust just for me.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

I cannot afford to waste my time making money.

Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz (1807 – 1873), who said this, was a Swiss palaeontologist, glaciologist, geologist and a prominent innovator in the study of the Earth's natural history. So there!

Not bad at drawing either. His thought has been my thought because, you see, I am a writer and therefore I am above such things as earning money. I do it for the ART...I do it because I HAVE TO...I do it because IT'S THERE...and all that tosh.

I'm lucky. Peter works full-time and earns a good salary so I don't actually have to worry overmuch about where the next pennies are coming from and can I afford to feed my starving children?

However, always lurking in the background are certain feelings.
  1. Guilt because I don't contribute that much to the family finances, even though I spend an awful lot of time writing
  2. Contempt for myself because I feel undervalued and I'm not doing anything about it
  3. Misery because if I DO spend money on a treat for myself, I don't really enjoy it because I don't feel I deserve it 
This past two weeks, I HAVE earned a load of money, for a change, by working as hard as two women and a dog and I have something to report:






It IS possible. I'm a happy writer.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Life is an endless struggle full of frustrations and challenges, but eventually you find a hair stylist you like.

Shallow? Moi?

Today, right at the end of the day, I have booked myself a hair appointment, with my lovely hairdresser, also called Caroline - she's the owner of Now in Uckfield High Street if you're interested (Should I get a discount for saying that?)

And here is Caroline, in living colour. It does look a bit as though she's using a light sabre on that girl's neck. All I can say is, she's never used one on me! Yet.

 This indulgence is a celebration, I hope, for finishing an arduous yet successful week of work. Some people might choose a night on the town - for me it's a haircut and colour.

Lots of bad hair days lately.
I think my hair is a mirror of my soul and at the moment it's messy and out of control.

So, later on my soul will be neatly trimmed yet still curly and will have purply-blue streaks. Unless I decide, on impulse, that something different might be fun.

My hair is the subject of  Audacious Comments - but I only have myself to blame.

In an e-mail from a colleague only the other day, leaving to start a new job: "It has been a pleasure witnessing the changes in your hair design - like the changing leaves on a tree!"

Then..on one famous occasion, I was hacking along the road on Poppy - wearing a riding hat, of course -  with purply curls flying. A woman stopped me and said 'LOVE the hair. Is it attached to the hat?'

''s attached to my head' was the best I could come up with by way of response.

I think I was insulted. Or flattered. One or the other.

It's funny really, me having quite outrageous hair, because in so many ways I'm painfully shy...

Bring on the psychologist.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Opposing views of being calm

Yesterday, work-wise, took a lot of handling - you know, one of those days when things out of my control had repercussions on MY work and generated a lot of unexpected extra stuff to do which put me badly behind schedule...

 I shall hereby award myself a few Brownie points for not going into complete meltdown. For sure, that doesn't help very much when you've got a lot to do.

It got me thinking about being calm in the face of chaos all around me.

This is what Michael Caine said (and not many people know that!): "Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath." like a duck?

Now, St. Francis de Sales:

"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."

(Oh, the happy days of a writer before the advent of word processors...perhaps I should slow down and use parchment and a quill pen?)

And me? For a time, I was a bit like the duck, only not calm on the surface. Later on, I managed a slight touch of St. Francis de Sales-ness, only I DID have to hurry. Sometimes you just DO have to hurry.

Striving to be calm has always been a bit of a paradox to me.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

"Regret is an appalling waste of energy, you can't build on it it's only good for wallowing in.”

I've begun to notice how many of my quotes are by men. Usually men with beards. Today's is by a woman. (I don't think she has a beard)

Nope. This is author Katherine Mansfield who looks spookily like me when I was younger.

Well, a bit, anyway.

More spooky still, and quite beside the point of this blog, is that when I was looking for the photo above, I came across another photo, of my mother and Auntie Maureen.

Yes, my mum is the one on the right. Gulp.

Back to the blog.

On Monday I had a dressage lesson, riding Alfie, with a real proper professional dressage personage. I had high hopes...undeterred, at first, by the fact that all the other horses looked like dressage horses, all fancy-pantsy,  and Alfie looked like...well, Alfie.
I didn't feel it went well (I'm told it did.) The teacher spent the whole time, it seemed to me, telling me to stop doing all the things I had devised, after two years of riding Alfie, that are the only things that make Alfie move off the spot. Consequently, he didn't move off the spot very much, except once when he did one of his 'I'll show you!' rocketing lurches at ninety miles an hour in the wrong direction.

So - I was full of regret, completely and utterly wallowing in it...Why am I not a better rider? Why couldn't Alfie just have behaved better, especially in front of an audience? Why don't I ride smart horses? Why did I put myself though that just to be humiliated?...

All that stuff... disgusting stuff. I was in tears afterwards, thoroughly exhausted with all those feelings of regret. Thoroughly worn down. I was in tears yesterday morning when I went back to the yard. I wanted sympathy...

In reality, if I had as much sense as I was born with, I could be thinking instead, 'Well, girl. There aren't many people who'd take on such challenging animals, and lavish all that care on them and keep going no matter what, and make so much progress with them, and have the courage to try new things - and would you really want to be on a horse that was so easy to ride and so well-trained it took no skill to do anything with him?'

My trouble is...I HAVEN'T as much sense as I was born with. Sometimes.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

I write like...someone with multiple personalities, apparently...

Yesterday, I came across this site. Forgive me if I'm late to the party since it was launched last year, but here it is:

The link is here - I'm sure you won't be able to resist racing straight over there. Not until you've read my blog...OF COURSE.

Anyway,  I Write Like is "a website created by Russian software programmer Dmitry Chestnykh, founder of software company Coding Robots. The site analyzes users' writing samples and, by looking for certain keywords, vocabulary, and style via a naive Bayes classifier, returns the name of a popular writer the sample most closely resembles."

Yeah, the good old naive Bayes classifier. Never be without one.

So...I put in my first sample  - an extract from my novel  Of Night And Light.

Fantastic! I write like Lewis Carroll. What more could a girl want? (A girl who writes fantasy stories for children set in a world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures.)

 Here's me visibly growing in stature at the very thought of it.

But, wait a of my characters is called Alice. I shall change the name of the character to Caroline. Now...I write like James Joyce. That to me is probably the ultimate accolade.

I could die happy now, but I have to go and spoil everything by putting in some other samples. Apparently, I also write like Chuck Palahniuk. (He wrote Fight Club) And sometimes I write like Arthur C Clarke (2001: A Space Odyssey) Notice - all of them are male...

What am I to learn from this?
  1. That the site I Write Like is possibly a load of nonsense (but fun)
  2. That, probably, the person I most write like is...Caroline Coxon

All ten of me.