Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A good day

I went out last night to see Cahalen Morrison and Eli West. They popped in to town to do a house concert on their way to the Celtic Connections festival (listen out for them on Mark Radcliffe's Radio 2 show). They were fabulous, but I'm not usually out on a Monday evening so (a) I did NOT want to get up this morning and (b) I had to watch Broadchurch on catchup while I had my breakfast. Don't judge me; I just didn't want anyone to spoil it for me.

I made up for the slow start though. I've sent off a story, an article proposal and a reader's letter, I've taught one yoga class and prepared another for this evening. Probably be asleep by 9pm.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Just a quick celebration today. 

From the latest newsletter from the Incense Man, I learn that today is National Pie Day in the USA and the holiday of Bounty Day on Pitcairn Island. Well, now, there's a thing. (Might not be true - I haven't checked.

Closer to home, I'm celebrating:
  • Having managed to keep my head down and work really hard all week
  • The generosity of one of my students who has given me a new yoga bag
  • The generosity of the Facebook community who responded with lots of advice when I posed a question
Celebrate the Small Things. To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is put your name on the linky list on Lexa's Blog, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life.  This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit) 

Thursday, 22 January 2015

A Gothic classic


The Wounded Philoctetes by Nikolaj Abraham Abildgaard, 1775, now in the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen, is used as the front cover for the Penguin Classics edition of the novel Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
Last September, I went to see Frankenstein performed by local theatre company C&D Productions.  It was an excellent night out, not least because I knew several people in the cast. Until then, my only experience of this story had been through some creaky old films, and although I knew there was much more to it than a scary monster lumbering about groaning, I didn't know the full story.  Having seen it performed, I asked for the book for my birthday.

Then I saw a couple of TV programmes about the novel, one as part of BBC4's season The Secret Life of Books, and another about the goings on at Byron's Villa Diodati in 1816. Stranded by bad weather, a challenge is laid down by Byron for his guests - among them Mary (then Godwin) and her lover Shelley - to write a ghost story. Frankenstein was Mary's tale. I am finally reading the book and it's an astonishing piece of work, especially given that Mary was only 18 when she wrote it. I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

The cover image of the edition I have is shown above. Is it just me or is there something rather strange about the shape of the spine? Is the lumbar region rather stiff-looking? There's nothing else for it: I shall have to hire a hunk and try to reproduce the pose.

Monday, 19 January 2015

My allotment challenge

I still have a few veg in the freezer from last year's harvest (mostly beans), as well as spuds and onions in storage. We are also still digging up leeks and Jerusalem (f)artichokes from the allotment plot. Nevertheless the new season's planting has begun and yesterday the garlic went in. Actually, it's a bit late, because folklore says it should be planted on the Shortest Day and gathered on the Longest Day. However, folklore also says you should watch the weather, not the calendar.

Lest you be tempted to sign up for your own plot as part of your New Year New Me campaign, let me share a few home truths with you. A standard 10-pole plot is a lot of work. Never mind what they say on the dire TV show The Big Allotment Challenge, it's not about having pea pods of uniform length or being able to weave a hat out of geraniums. It's about sticking at it in all weathers, digging, hoeing, strimming, tilling and weeding on your hands and knees; scratting around for free scraps of carpet and wood offcuts to make paths and barriers; mud; tenacious brambles and vicious nettles; the roof felt blowing off your shed; edging panels falling over; slugs and ants; birds and rabbits pinching your seedlings; and, if there are chickens on the site, rats - sometimes half-eaten rats. Still want a plot?

It's also about unwanted human visitors who sit in your shed smoking weed and drinking Stella and who leave their debris behind and occasionally work off with something; and people on the adjacent footpath who lob their empty bottles and crisp packets over the fence; and, most annoying of all, folk on neighbouring plots who don't keep their patch under control.

Now the good news. It's about getting back to basics and feeling close to nature; camaraderie, sharing knowledge and learning from your neighbours; the satisfaction of seeing something grow from a seed the size of a speck of dust into a sturdy eight-foot plant; and the rewards of tasty veg grown without chemicals, a full freezer and pots of homemade jams and pickles.

Saturday, 17 January 2015

Sorry I'm late

I know I'm a day late with my celebrations, but yesterday went by in a blur. I taught an extra yoga class (covering for a friend who has a broken leg after a close encounter with a Rottweiler),  juggled some copy, taught my own class, saw to some domestic duties - oh, and bought a car.

So my celebrations are:
  • Two good legs
  • Lots of work to do
  • Freedom to manage my own time
  • Loan agreements
Celebrate the Small Things. To be part of this blog hop, all you have to do is put your name on the linky list on Lexa's Blog, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week.  It can be about writing or family or school or general life.  This is the funnest and easiest blog hop ever! (Originated by VikLit)

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

What's your job title?

My working life?
On the phone to the car insurance company:
Insurance elf: What's your husband's job title?
Me: Production supervisor.
Elf: That's not on my list. I'll call him Production Manager.
Me: Fine. I'll tell him he's been promoted.
Elf: And what is the nature of the business?
Me: He works for a company producing flavoured coatings for food.
Elf: Shall I put food company?
Me: If you like.
Elf: And what's your job title?
Me: I have two jobs, but the principcal one is book editor.
Elf: That's not on my list. Shall I put bookmaker?
Me: Not really the same thing. What else have you got?
Elf: Book binder?
Me: No.
Elf: How about publisher?
Me: OK, close enough.
Elf: And what is the nature of the business?
Me: I edit books. 
Elf: OK, I'll put publishing. What is your second job?
Me: Yoga teacher.
Elf: That's not on my list. Is it a sport?
Me, bristling slightly now: No. Have you got a 'Health and wellbeing' section?
Elf: Not as such. Tell you what, I'll put you down as a health care worker.
Me, with a sigh: Whatever you think is best.
Elf: And what is the nature of the business?
Me: I'm a yoga teacher - take a guess.
Elf, after a pause: Oh, I see. Got It. And you want your son on the policy, too? What is his job title?
Me, fighting the urge to say drummer in a rock band: Music teacher.
Elf: Ooh, I've got that on my list! And what is the nature of the business?

Needless to say, I have gone elsewhere for my policy.

Saturday, 10 January 2015


Plans for spending Saturday morning replacing the light fitting in the kitchen have been scuppered on two accounts. First, it is so ridiculously dark today that without the light on we can't see to, er, replace the light. Second, the instructions that came with the light are sadly lacking: by which I mean there aren't any. The 'Instruction Manual' is but a single sheet of badly folded A4 paper the inside of which is completely blank. OK, Plan B.

I've finished reading Harold Fry, so what should I go for next? I have a shortlist of three. There is The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, but perhaps I should have a break from Rachel Joyce; there is Frankenstein, which I was given for my birthday in October but that I have yet to tackle; there is also Val McDermid's re-imagining of Northanger Abbey, but do I need to reread Jane Austen first? What say you?

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Feed the birds - but it's more than tuppence a bag

I seem to have joined the RSPB, and I'm not quite sure how it happened.

Yesterday was one of those hurtling around kind of days, during which I did some word-wrangling and also taught three yoga classes. The problem with teaching morning, afternoon and evening is that it makes it difficult to find time for a proper meal, so by the time I reached Morrisons to pick up a few bits and pieces it is possible that I was feeling a little lightheaded.

Anyway, just inside the door were a couple of people trying to recruit new members to the RSPB. When their opening line is 'Do you like nature?', it makes it hard to say no. I have a limited budget for charitable donations and usually stick to those supporting humans - not that I don't like animals, of course, but finding a cure for cancer is more important to me than supporting, say, the Cats Protection League. The trouble is, this argument doesn't stand up when you consider that if we don't look after our environment the rest of it doesn't matter a hoot, so to speak. The RSPB isn't just about birds, I now know; it's about 'giving nature a home' and all that that entails. What's not to like?

Anyway, weak with hunger and beguiled by the handsome young man who gently outlined the charity's ethos and who was so persuasive, I seem to have signed up. I walked away clutching a temporary membership card and a picture of a hedgehog.

Monday, 5 January 2015

How many days to the General Election?

Highlight of the day (so far) has been listening to Jeremy Vine trying to talk to a caller about Ed Miliband's Doorstep Challenge. The caller was hard of hearing and had her radio on full blast in the background so she could hear JV, but of course this generated massive feedback. He managed to persuade her to turn it down, then he turned something up in the studio and shouted down the line to her. It was hilarious, but didn't add much to the debate. I wonder if my local candidates will call round for a chat? I won't hold my breath.

I've had two weeks off from my yoga teaching and feel re-energised - which is just as well, because I'm covering three extra classes this week for a friend who was involved in a collision with a Rottweiler. A classic case of 'blame the owner, not the animal', I think, from what my friend told me. This means my plan to write all day today has been amended, but my ideas will keep. (Did I tell you I have an article in the current issue of Picture Postcard Monthly?)

By the way, we've finished the Christmas jigsaw; check out the skeleton wearing a scarf! I need to find out more about Edward Gorey, just as soon as I've finished reading The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I came late to this party, but what a book.