Friday, 29 June 2012

A small town is a place where there's no place to go where you shouldn't

Burt Bacharach said this. I have nothing to add. I live in a small town. Or rather, I live in a small village about two miles from a small town. That town is Uckfield.

I like, sometimes, living near a small town. Small towns make me laugh. I was driving into Uckfield yesterday and there was a local newspaper billboard proclaiming: PEACOCKS GO ON RAMPAGE!

Yeah, scary! It's not always funny, though. A few years ago, the headline was something like 'YOBS VANDALISE TOWN! FLOWERPOTS ARE OVERTURNED!'

Scary too, really scary. I don't know how we sleep peacefully in our beds. More scary, the comment from our local councillor. "It's like living on the Gaza Strip."

Sometimes, I despair...
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The moaning of life!

That Seth Godin again. I'm sure he has some sort of extra-sensory perception connection to my brain...

His last blog post, yet again, was a knife plunged right to the heart of my self-doubt about putting myself and my work out there.

"What's on your list?

"I have kids at home, I don't have a manager, I need to pay off student debt, my boss never lets me, I'm really busy because of soccer RSI hurts when I type, I don't have a degree, I have a degree and can't waste it, I'm not good at that, I tried it before but it didn't work, I've never tried it before...I've been too long at this job, they won't listen to me, I'm going to retire soon, I'm too young, I'll never learn, it's too risky..."

We all have a list. Most of the things on it may in fact be legitimate reasons for no.

I guess the self-marketing question is, "how often do you remind yourself of what's on the list?"

If the first thing you do when considering an opportunity is consult the list, the list is the most important thing in your life, isn't it?"

 Aaaaaargh! What's on MY list today?

I have visitors coming for the weekend, must go shopping, the car needs an MOT and tax disc, I haven't heard from that children's literary agent so there's no point in sending anything off, I have too much corporate stuff to do to get on with the screenplay, I got crushed by a horse so I'm not sleeping too well ...and ...and ...and ...

THEN, I heard John Bishop on Desert Island Discs. What a lovely, genuinely humble man! He was sales director at a pharmaceutical company before he took a leap of faith to follow his dream to be a stand-up comedian.

This is what he said. "There would have been a little bit of a light inside of me that would've been growing dimmer and dimmer and I didn't want to get to 50 and say 'you know what I could have been,' so I thought I'd rather give it a go and fail than be a successful moaner.'

Yeah, Caroline...

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Thursday, 28 June 2012

Thou seest how sloth wastes the sluggish body, as water is corrupted unless it moves.

Sluggish: my word of the day, because that's how I feel, and so, evidently, did Ovid.

Sluggish: not as in pertaining to being a slimy mollusc, but as in slow-moving or inactive, lacking energy and alertness. Blame it on our tropical climate. Golly gosh - the forecast today is for a high of 26 degrees with 66% humidity. (Don't laugh, people who live in the Amazon basin)

The weatherman said today would be muggy

(not as in pertaining to a mug - the English language is so complicated)

Imagine my delight when I realised I'd booked a riding lesson with Poppy. Imagine Poppy's delight. She and I were crawling round the school, probably slower than slugs, bathed not in slime but in sweat.

Poppy suddenly went very well when Tessa brought out a brand new vivid purple lunge whip. It was never used at all - but Poppy noticed it out of the corner of her eye and that was enough. She's not stupid, my Poppy.

Sluggishness be gone!

Now all I need is for Tessa to come home with me and stand behind me at my desk with the lunge whip so I can notice it too.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

England and America are two countries separated by a common language.

You speak the truth, George Bernard Shaw.

I've just spent a good twenty minutes (actually, a BAD twenty minutes) on the phone waiting for a customer-service representative from my website package provider to pick up...

For some reason, bearing in mind it's a British company, all the sickeningly patronising recorded messages were in 'American.'

After the seventeenth time of hearing THIS...(cue sappy background music)

 "Because of the personal attention given to every caller you may experience a brief delay. Please remain on the line and a representative will assist you momentarily."


Because, you see, in MY language to do something momentarily is to do it for a very brief while - FOR A MOMENT. It doesn't mean IN a brief while.


Additionally, to me 'a moment' DOES NOT MEAN 23 MINUTES!

Got it?

A slight touch of phone rage, Mrs. Coxon?

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Tuesday, 26 June 2012

My spelling is Wobbly.

 'It's good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places,' said Winnie the Pooh.

My spelling is NOT wobbly, however. I'm mortified if I read a blogpost I've written or a screenplay or an article and find a spelling mistake in it later. Sometimes I beat myself with birch twigs and wear a brown paper bag over my head for several hours.

By the way, typos are not spelling mistakes but the result of clumsy fingers, nothing to do with not knowing how to spell. I allow myself the occasional tyop.

Peter and I very rarely argue.No. We engage in dialectical discourse...

...except, that is, when we go out for a meal and there are spelling mistakes on the menu.

'Yes, Peter, I KNOW the food is delicious, but to me spelling 'canelloni' 'canalonie' and 'galette' 'gallet' just shows lack of attention to detail, a willingness to settle for sloppy standards.'

'So, Caroline, you are saying that if Einstein had made a few spelling mistakes in his Theory of Relativity that would completely negate his genius?'

I wasn't saying that, actually...

Peter is quite difficult to engage in dialectical discourse sometimes.

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Monday, 25 June 2012

Half the joy of life is in little things taken on the run...

 but let us keep our hearts young and our eyes open that nothing worth our while shall escape us.

My thought for the day, about little things being important - well, actually, not MY thought, but Victor Cherbuliez's - that extraordinarily well-known French novelist of the nineteenth century that you've never heard of. (I speak for myself, of course)  I'm embarrassed, he has no fewer than 554 references on Amazon.

He is described as a 'voluminous and successful writer of fiction.' (Victor Cherbuliez was voluminous? Poor fellow.)

See? That absurd thought was another little thing that gave me joy.

The little things thought came to me this morning as I opened my In-Box to find a message from 'Anonymous.' That always makes my heart sink. A poison pen e-mail? 
No. It was a perfectly charming post from someone who had read my blogpost Izzy, Wizzy, let's get busy, dated January 13th, and shared exactly my childhood experiences about stamping to a Noddy song!

Little things please little minds? How very DARE you!

This is what I think (along with Robert Brault, American tenor): 'Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realise they were big things.'

Thank you Anonymous, whoever you are.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Panic ain't better than pretending not to feel so.

Toba Beta, Indonesian author, said this. [I love the title of his (pending?) book of quotes - Master of Stupidity.]

Today, I'm NOT pretending not to feel so.

 Yes, panic. When I give myself time to think about it, there's slight panic rising inside about finishing my feature length screenplay by the end of August...That seems quite a long time away, you might think, but to me it's looming scarily and time appears to be moving faster forward than it should do.

Sometimes not writing is procrastination on my part, I know it is. At the moment, honestly, it's lack of time. I say that and then I think - lack of time? I could spend less time with the horses, I could spend less time writing this blog, I could spend less time reviewing other people's writing, I could spend less time sleeping...or eating...or remembering to breathe...

But June's been busy, July looks like it'll be even busier and as for August...

When I've finished a long day copy-writing - and there have been many such days lately, which is excellent for the bank balance - my mind is like a wrung-out dishcloth. Then I saw this image, posted by a great writing friend, Chris Messineo, creator of the very excellent website.

Yup, that's absolutely right.

Bother and damn!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars and Caroline's belief that she's still young!

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! It can't be true...

David Bowie's album, Ziggy Stardust is FORTY YEARS OLD.

This was the formative album of my teenage years when I was what would now be called an Emo, wearing a black midi-coat and long black boots, summer and winter, and full of angst and writing poetry and staring out of my bedroom window soulfully for boyfriends who never arrived and picking up the phone to check it was still working because I couldn't believe it hadn't rung and keeping a secret diary which I then burnt...

You get the picture? Something like that minus the pointy ears.

Ziggy Stardust was THE album of 1972 - well, mine, anyway. I still have it. I can remember every one of the lyrics. It's still brilliant. Now, horrifically, it's possible to buy The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars Fortieth Anniversay Edition (digitally remastered)

Here's your treat for the day:

Sometimes, I feel VERY old.
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Friday, 22 June 2012

Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!

It isn't fit for humans now, There isn't grass to graze a cow. Swarm over, Death!

 Surely a bit harsh, Mr. Betjeman?

Please, friendly bombs, avoid falling on Slough today because I have two meetings there.

I'm sure there are lovely bits to Slough which can be seen from one of the zillions of planes that pass over it so quietly on the flightpath to Heathrow.

Look! Here's the bus station!

I know I'm being totally unfair to be so damning, never having properly visited the place.

The Slough of Despond
I think perhaps if it changed its name it would stand a better chance...

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Nothing divides one so much as thought.

Oh yes, R.H. Blyth, you have me there, haiku writer, dear departed devotee of Japanese culture.

History of Haiku Volume 1

I leave my heart
to the sasanqua flower
on the day of this journey

Blyth's death poem, left behind when he finally succumbed to a brain tumour in 1964 

 Yesterday, I couldn't concentrate at all. I had so much work to do and a brain like a butterfly on speed.

Rather in the spirit of writing a blog about my poor time-management when I was battling against the clock with work deadlines, I spent time being distracted by looking for a program that might stop me being distracted!

In a typical human paradox I had been feeling I hadn't got the time to look at ways of saving time.

HOWEVER...success! Success in the form of Zen Writer - a free download from a company called Beenokle. (There's a donate button and I will be contributing, it's that good.)

Zen Writer fills your screen - I mean your ENTIRE screen - with a soothing picture... icons, no intrusive menus, no toolbars, no little thingies popping up to alert you to a new message or e-mail. Just your writing when you produce it. It comes with the option of calming New Age music on a loop.

It DID make a difference. I wrote a long article on zonal nursing (don't ask!) almost in one go and I didn't end up with a crashing headache either.

I know I'm fickle. I know I seize on new ideas then after a while they fizzle out of existence.

If I let this happen with Zen Writer - I'm more of an idiot than I thought.

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Welcome to my nightmare!

Hello, Alice Cooper fans everywhere. May I apologise in advance? This is NOT a blog about Alice Cooper and his eighth studio album .

Anyway, Alice Cooper DOES look quite nightmarish, even if he's a sweetie at heart, so it's not such an inappropriate image.

Back to my nightmare. The one to which I'm welcoming you.

I woke up with an awful feeling of terror and panic. I couldn't quite think straight. Wednesday? Dustbin day but I put the bin out last night. Did I leave the gas on? No, we only have electricity. Deadlines? None that I can't handle.

Then I remembered my nightmare.

Giant flying spiders? Pah! Mine was much worse.

Tessa and I let the horses into a field. They galloped off. At the end of the field was a cliff - a sheer drop onto the rocks and sea, hundreds of feet below. Alfie and Spot couldn't stop and plunged over the edge.

by Debbie Grayson Lincoln
 When I got there, I couldn't see Spot but there was Alfie's mangled body splayed out on the rocks, one leg sticking up in the air at an odd angle.

I can't tell you how devastated I felt.

Still, the relief that it was just a dream has made my day feel blessed and wonderful.Alfie got such a hug when I saw him safe and well chomping on grass, oblivious to his part in such a drama.

Alfred Hitchcock said 'Give them pleasure - the same pleasure they have when they wake up from a nightmare.'

I managed that for myself, without any help from anyone!


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Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What comes first, the compass or the clock?

"Before one can truly manage time (the clock), it is important to know where you are going, what your priorities and goals are, in which direction you are headed (the compass).

Where you are headed is more important than how fast you are going. Rather than always focusing on what's urgent, learn to focus on what is really important."

(Who said that? Nobody knows.)

Then there's another quote, this time from Donald Rumsfeld. “Control your time. If you're working off your in-box, you're working off the priorities of others."

Mea culpa, Donald. I'm trying to get my head round the dilemma, because I think that this is the lot of a busy copy-writer. Your client needs something done. Quickly. You do it. Quickly. You drop other things with longer deadlines.You play catch up.

 What I have done so far today:
  • Got up
  • Went to yard to feed and turn out/bring in the horses
  • Came home
  • Spent half an hour, when I could have been working, writing a blog about time management
Sometimes I wonder about myself.

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Monday, 18 June 2012

Changes are not predictable; but to deny them is to be an accomplice to one's own unnecessary vegetation

Gail Sheehy, American journalist and writer said this.

It made me laugh, the way it was phrased. I think I have semantic pragmatic disorder. 'One's own unnecessary vegetation' made me visualise surplus broccoli hair.

OH! She's talking about vegetating!

I have no intention of vegetating. The trouble is, we as human beings are very predictable in the way we operate. We're like robots. Press button A and you'll get result B.

For me, an example might be: 

Button A. I have a very long To Do List. 

To Do List
Image by Rachel Ashe
Predictable Result B: I flap around, get in my head about how I won't be able to do it all - therefore I can't work effectively. I get it all done eventually, probably, but I'm stressed out and exhausted.

So, YES, Gail Sheehy! Be prepared to make changes. Defy the predictable!

Today, I have a VERY long To Do List but I'm going to have fun with it. 
Maybe even change it.

With thanks to Ellie Fowler
Bet you I'll get a lot more work done. Bet you I won't be as tired at the end of the day.