Sunday, 28 September 2008

It's been fun...



We sold our wonderful 2000E roadster yesterday for a more sensible Type R. We've had enormous fun in it over the last five years but it's immobiliser system has developed a serious glitch - it keeps immobilising us!

It did in in Cornwall this year, and did it again on Friday. This time we were only a few miles from home, but when we finally got it to the Honda garage, dh decided he would never trust it again...so in a day or two we shall have a new car.

No writing done for a couple of days. We had old friends over on Saturday night, and for us that means a rushed regime of housecleaning as well as preparing food for eight. Since I'm not the world's most accomplished chef, this means hard work and concentration - I'm far too likely to wander off and leave things to burn. There always seems to be something more interesting to do...

My mind is really caught up with the Undone line story I started a couple of days ago. I like it, and it could be expanded later into a full size novel. There are so many things going on at the moment - kitchen, car, and I still haven't got my Sony e-reader totally connected up. But my mind is simmering the story and come tomorrow - aw, then I'll have to go to the library and buy groceries! I need a housekeeper!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Kitchen exhaustion

I'm exhausted. Since our walk at Kielder last Friday, we've decided to revamp our kitchen. First of all dh checked out the internet, then we did a recce in town on Monday. That took us over to North Shields, twenty miles away in the search for replacement doors for kitchen fittings. We're not keen on a total revamp, but do wish to replace our under the counter oven with an eye level one. Ditto for the fridge. Six or seven visits later, we realised we were not going ot be able to order new doors in mahogany as they are no longer made. (Preservation of hardwoods, of which I thoroughly approve)
Melamine is now the thing!
But - horrid thought - trendy people are ripping out actual wood kitchens and replacing them with plastic imitations. Argh!
Tuesday I had a check up for my deficient thyroid and then straight off on a further quest to order carcases (or housing, if you prefer that term) to take the new oven and fridge. Wednesday I think we stayed at home, and I wrote 2500 words of what might (if it works out) prove to be an entry for the new HM&B Undone line. Then today we were off to pick up dh's new spectacles and to order the new double oven and fridge. In checking out the opposition we found a cooker hood/extraction unit we liked, and ordered that too. Our "new" kitchen will be part mahogany, already in situ, and part new black panels and cooker hood. The oven is Hotpoint, the one with the ice-glass front. I love it's elegance.

I bought a Sony-E reader! Correction. My dh has paid half as my birthday and Christmas present in advance. He can now relax for the rest of the year! I have yet to deal with charging it up, and loading whatever is on the CD but exciting times are ahead.
As a result of all this activity - not to mention the shocking amount of money we've laid out at a time when money seems to be going down the drain thanks to greedy-for-bonus-whizzkids, we are tired beyond belief tonight. Reaction is setting in....
But it is nothing a bottle of good red wine won't cure. We have a super weekend lined up, with guests on Saturday and the Singapore Grand Prix!

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Far After Gold

This morning I discovered courtesy of colleague Anne Whitfield that my book Far After Gold is listed on the Historical Novel Society list of forthcoming books for February 2009 - check here
It is an exciting feeling! The book is undergoing copy-editing at the moment, and soon I will get the results. I'm not sure what to expect. Will huge changes be required, or only a little gentle tweaking? I really should start thinking of PR. What I need is a Press Pack, but it sounds much too grand for me! Still, I'd better do something about it.

The short blurb says : the heartening love story of a 10th-century Christian girl from the Hebrides kidnapped and sold as a slave to a pagan Viking




Saturday, 20 September 2008

Kielder and salmon


We had a fine day yesterday so we muffled up, put the hood down and went off in the Honda to Kielder for the day. Wonderful to get fresh air at last. We've had so many days with the horrible heavy cloudiness that gives me a headache - something to do with atmospheric pressure, I believe - but this really blew the cobwebs away.

We stopped first the Tower Knowe complex and spent time in the exhibition space learning about how and why the dam was built, how the water is piped down to the three rivers of the north east - the Tyne, Wear and the Tees. The reservoir is very full, about the fullest I've ever scene. Right at the far end of the exhibits (or first, depending which way you go in!) was a collection of replica jewellery found on the site. Pictish knotwork, animal motifs, and goldwork not so far removed from the styles found at Sutton Hoo. Proof of how long the site has been occupied.

We drove to Kielder Castle, parked up and had a picnic lunch, then went off to find the Salmon Hatchery. The castle, once the Duke of Northumberland's hunting lodge, is now a visitor and information centre with a gift shop, art gallery and restaurant. The building itself is fun to explore. Loads and loads of things for kids to see, touch, hear and learn about wildlife and the environment.

Same for the Hatchery. We peered into the outdoor pool where, so the legend stated, 10,000 salmon lived. We couldn't see one, but then they are at the tiny stage, no longer than a thumb joint, and hide all day long in mesh designed to replicate the nooks and crannies available in a stream. Information galore on the king of fish for the uninitiated. Oh, and the freshwater mussels.

A walk along to the old viaduct where the railroad once ran and then out along the Bakethin shore. Had the place all to ourselves barring one man and his three dogs. But then there's plenty of room for the visitors to spread out and lose themselves. Lots of mountain bike riders around, zooming along the trails. All the way home with no need to put the hood up, and all that fresh air had us zonked out by eight thirty. Early to bed and fast asleep! Only regret? I forgot to take the camera. Never mind - there will be a next time. We didn't get to see any of the sculptures, or the observatory....
http://www.visitkielder.com/

Monday, 15 September 2008

Pigeons and workload

The youngster flew into our window and either hurt itself or lost its confidence in flying. The chick wandered about our garden all day and only perked up when mum flew in. Towards dusk mum flew off and the chick must have followed eventually, for s/he wasn't there next morning. Nor was there a body, or a suspicious pile of feathers to indicate that the local cats had been at work. Breathed a sigh of relief.
Today I must do some work. I need to get my decks cleared, for I know Far After Gold is being edited as I write, and it is only a matter of time before it wings its way back to me and demands attention. I need to send chapters of the Victorian to cps, do work on crits recevied on the Regency tale, and age the heroine of the Tudor adventure and still remember to unload the washer, do some ironing and feed us both.
Vacumming and dusting? Who does those nowadays? And the grocery shop is due tomorrow. We've had some disruption in the household the last few days, but I'm aware my work rate had slowed even before the disruption clicked in. A meeting of the RNA in Morpeth on Friday was good fun and informative, but stole another day. Then there was my long overdue hair appointment, and a round of health checks looms - argh! I must get organised!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Complications

I'm working hard with no time for blogs! I've got myself into a situation where I have 3 separate stories on the go, and I'm doging between them. Victorian, Regency and Tudor. Enough variety there for anyone, I think, but I'm not really progressing as fast as I should. Variety there may be, but 3 stories dilutes the concentration. For me, anyway.

Why am I doing this? Because two have been rejected and I see good stuff in them that I don't want to let go. So I'm tweaking.

Can tweaking ever be good? We'll see.

Tennis news this week - Nadal beaten by Murray, Murray beaten by Federer. Federer wins first major tournament this year, so that has to be good. Murray advances, may soon be number 4 in the world. Pity I can't warm to him. Nadal has to be tired after all he's done this year - reached Number 1 and got a gold in Beijing. It's almost tempting me to buy Sky Sports so I can watch the matches, but at £17 per month....£204 per year...way too much. I'll listen on Five Live.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Floods

After 48 hours of torrential rain, not only our back garden is flooded. This is the bridge at Corbridge
and this is the right hand extension of the bridge with

the debris marking the highest point of the flood which I imagine was after midnight last night.
Morpeth, on the River Wansbeck, was the worst hit with 1000 people flooded out between two and four am.
It must have been a worrying night for the house in the middle of the picture!

Standing on the same spot and swinging the camera to the left, and you can see the pools of standing water left behind when the river retreated to its proper banks. Normally in summer we would walk by the river's edge and look down five or six feet to the water. Not all the bridge arches would have water flowing through them and the poor trees now in the middle of the river would be standing proud on a long island. We found several drowned rabbits that cannot have moved fast enough last night - or they moved the wrong way.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Time, funerals and childhood



Funerals always bring home how brief a span we have in this world. My last remaining aunt died this week and we attended the funeral yesterday. Given another five weeks she would have made it to 99 years of age. Strange to think that the year she was born, we now think of as history. But she took life by the throat and embraced it. She held lots of parties and as one of her fourteen grandchildren said Oh boy did she love to party. Her youngest son and I were too young to join in, but I can remember he and I peeking over the bannister rail at some of them. They looked like fun. By the time I grew up, the time for parties had passed. They were all feeling their age, and the get togethers were less often and definitely less riotous. I felt cheated, somehow.
It is raining again. The forecast is for rain all weekend. It should be crisp and sunny and we could go hunting for blackberries and store them up in the freezer for blackberry pies on cold winter days...we still go brambling, as we did with our parents, but few do it now. We used to go nutting, too, but these days it is hard to find hazel trees that bear a ripened nut. Ah, nostalgia is setting in...
Better get to work.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Young heroines

This is one of my favourite houses. I've never been inside of course. It is privately owned, and at the east end of Corbridge. I believe I read somewhere that it was once a tavern. There's a small window, now closed off, that opened right on the roadside so ale could be handed out to gentlemen on horses. It may all be bunkum, but my imagination runs wild whenever I go by, and I do pretty often. Perhaps I'll set a story there one day.
The second half of Jane Eyre lacked the intensity of the first half - possibly lacked Toby Stephens. Pleasant but definitely not as gripping. But then, I always thought the intrusion of the St John characters into the story a little odd.
One submission wended its way home today - they liked it but will reject the story because the heroine seems too young. So, the dilemma is - shall I age her? Or leave her alone? I don't disagree with them; I wrote her as very young, knowing that marriages in Tudor times were contracted between very young people. But perhaps readers will not empathise with such a young heroine.
However, I have sent off another story to them that has a heroine who is all of twenty-six. Perhaps they'll take to her.