Saturday, 30 June 2007


I've just been to Costco. Cor! Big shop/warehousy place.
The bad news: I've spent the entire month's shopping budget in there. :(
The good news: I've bought shed loads for our money. :)
The bad news: The kids will eat all the goodies in a day and be very sick. :(
The good news: There'll be none left to disrupt my diet. :)
The bad news: There's no room in the kitchen for all the crap I've bought. :(
The good news: I won't have to go shopping for, like, ever! :)
The bad news: Hubby nearly had a heart attack when he saw the bill. :(
The good news: We have enough mixed herbs to last us for the rest of our married life!

Oh, and I've written 100 words. Hurray. It's a start!

Thursday, 28 June 2007

It's been a funny old day.

Had a meeting with my PhD supervisor and she said she'd like to see the whole novel, the finished first draft, by October this year. All 100,000 words. So that was hilarious.

The she said I have to do more conference papers. Hee hee. I laughed so hard I nearly wet my pants, I can tell you!

Then I had a meeting for Study Skills and Subject. With sandwiches. And coffee. And that was side-splitting.

And then I taught for 2 hours. Which wasn't funny at all. (Actually they did some great work. So no jokes there, then.)

What else? Oh yes. The weather is crap. And it's June.

But - wanna read something funny? Read this, and then I'll stop with the second life. Really I will!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Second life First Life

I love this!

It's Chilli in Second Life!

Just had to tell you about my brave friend who has ventured into Second Life. I was kind of hoping she would so that I could have a peep over her shoulder.


Scary place.

So you start off, it appears, with a pair of blue jeans and a white t-shirt. Freakily, her avatar actually looked like her!

And then you go off and see things. You can walk, or fly. Flying cool, except that it takes a bit of practice to land. Chilli went splat a few times! Hee hee. Sorry Chilli! It was funny though!

And you can make loads of money pole dancing apparently, without your jeans and t-shirt, only we didn't try to figure that one out. There are boundaries you know, even in a virtual, etherly kind of existence. Anyway, we did visit a skate park, and a pet shop that sold cats (lots of cats for some reason - maybe they're easy to make?) and what looked like dinosaurs. We also found a riding school, only the instruction to 'sit' only made her avatar sit in the middle of the horse, so that it was a blonde head with two arms, and 4 horse legs and a horse head - which was funny - briefly. Ever so briefly. And again - not a bloody soul around to help. Obviously virtual horse-riding is not as easy as you'd think it should be. It was also very expensive at up to 1,000 Linden Dollars a time. I have no idea what the exchange rate is though!

Chilli did get to meet some nice people in the morning apparently, but they'd all buggered off by the time I arrived (in an over her shoulder sense obviously). Typical. It all looked a tad deserted by then, and the few 'people' we did see, didn't want to chat. So just like a real town then, eh.

I dunno. I'm still freaked by the whole idea. The place. And the fact that when you see folks trotting about, they're real folks, who can see you in real time. Argh! Freaked out - you will be!

Second Life has had its first proper millionaire though - as in someone made enough Linden Dollars to sell for $1,000,000 US... like... real ones! And another couple met in some virtual park, and then got married in... like... the real world!

Is it me, or is this just way too complicated?!!!

More... an update...
I said in my comments that I thought there were some serious applications for Second Life and a quick Google-fest brought up the following (for the interested out there):

Harvard Law School are offering Law Courses in the real world AND the virtual world.

Courses are available for educators in Second Life. How to land neatly, and beyond, presumably!

Making a Living in Second Life might be the answer to all our problems!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Canter Canter Canter

I can canter!

Well, the horse can canter.

BUT I can steer the horse while it is cantering!

How wonderful am I?!

*Huge Silly Grins*

Sunday, 24 June 2007

In Search of Adam - Reading as a Writer

Yesterday I read the rest ofIn Search of Adam, by Caroline Smailes. I say the rest of because I was up to chapter 3. I was up to chapter 3 and as a reader I was reeling. As I read on I realised that I couldn't put the book down - couldn't leave Jude in that awful, harrowing place. No siree. It is a novel with a very definite keep reading me factor. Despite the nature of the material. But it isn't my intention to to review the novel from a reader's perspective here - far greater souls have already done that effectively, efficiently, and most eloquently.


I am interested in this novel from a Writer's Perspective; as a first time novelist, struggling to tell my story, whose central protagonist is, like Jude, struggling to speak to those around her. Now there is an ancient Zen Buddhist adage that goes like this;

When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

So here 's what Caroline's novel has taught me;

  • That I should be braver. I should be brave enough to tell the truth and not worry that it might be upsetting. Readers, if they care, if we can make them/help them/allow them to care, will accompany the protagonist on their journey, however painful it may be at times.
  • Readers will read on through their pain, will follow the journey through to journey's end, BUT we must give them hope when they get there. Caroline's novel offers hope to the reader in a most original and refreshing way - but I mustn't spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't read it yet!
  • It is okay to break the rules. Break them all. Sentence structure. Grammar. Layout. My novel is dealing with language and translation, mistranslations and communication. I have had to experiment with the portrayal of language acquisition. ISoA tells me to be free to play. Incidentally, so did Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night - another lovely book that everyone should read.
  • Endings can be beginnings. Also see Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale (1985)
  • Make the reader fall in love with the protagonist. Somehow. But how????
  • Allow the reader access into someone else's world. Let them experience another way of being.
  • It is okay to blur the boundaries between fact and fiction - and for me this is the key point. No one has to know which bits are mine (real) and which bits are Ella's (fiction). Like Jeanette Winterson said somewhere, Art is all lies anyway. The moment we write the truth down it becomes a fiction, and in being a fiction there lies the truth of it!
  • We must love and adore language whether it is as simple as Jude's at the outset of her story, or as complex and rich as Angela Carter's Bloody Chamber.

That's all from me on this rainy, grey, dull Sunday morning, while everyone else is at Glastonbury (the festival I've never made it to yet). If you haven't read In Search of Adam, I think you should. As a reader. As a writer. As a human being.

Saturday, 23 June 2007

all in a mess

I have spent today looking through the 30K I've written so far and come to realise that because I have this annoying habit of 'leap frogging' - that is fixing stuff as I go - I now have 7,000 words of almost finished, edited material (or 3 chapters) and


So now I don't quite know what to do...

Am going to have to rearrange and reread and rewrite. Lots of reing to do. And then there's a conference paper thingy to finish, and marking to do, and, and, and, not having a panic attack.
I am in 2 minds. One Two.
Just keep going. start again - you know you want to
Don't edit or fix. fix it - it's all crap - rewrite
That's it. I've had enough. I'm leaving them both to it. I'm off to watch some mind numbing telly for a bit.

Friday, 22 June 2007

Oh God It's Friday again already and I'm late for Coffee

Oh No!

It's Friday again!

And Friday is the day that we - the Novel Racers - update our word counts"

And call in to Kate's Blog and post on our progress, and generally keep in touch.

Except I'm late.


And I have a 7 year old in my ear talking about her 10m swimming certificate, of which she is quite rightfully, very proud. But. I can't think straight. So I'm sending her to bed so that I can. Think.

Here is my Writing update.

  • I've completed 2 chapters/short stories and entered them in a competition. pleased about this - made a deadline at last!
  • I've written half of one conference paper on Writer's Block.nervous about this - don't wanna look an eejit in front of the wonderful and clever people, like Jackie Kay, and Al Kennedy, and Patricia Duncker...
  • I've posted on our new home page -Novel Racers am just soooo organised
  • I've booked a week in Spain to research my novel in the autumn.Hmm. We love this development!

  • Other than that - still feeling blocked and unworthy of holding a pen. But it will pass.

    One hopes.

    Tuesday, 19 June 2007

    Embarrassing Moments Meme

    Here's a meme for ya... what are your top 5 most embarrassing moments?

    Here's mine - just for a laugh you understand. There are loads more but some things just shouldn't be posted!

    1. When I was 19 I was sitting cross-legged on the floor at a party - dimly lit, guitars playing and all that. It was a select crowd of sophisticates, and I really fancied the bloke next to me. He told a joke and I did the whole throw your head forward in laughter thing - it probably wasn't that funny - but I smacked my eye-brow on the open mouth of a wine bottle so hard the room went black for a bit. Determined not to look a total tit I sat up and tried to pretend that nothing had happened. After a few minutes Mr handsome looked over at me and said, "Do you know you're bleeding all over the carpet?"

    2. I once climbed over a barbed wire fence, and being the independent (stupid) sort, told the people I was with that I didn't need any help. Five minutes later I had successfully hung myself through the skin on my arm, and my arm-pit. It took 3 people to lift me off, and I have a lovely 3 inch scar to remind me of the occasion. I was 26. You are never too old to do stupid things!

    3. When I started riding last September I thought horses and ponies were all kindly creatures who were strokable and huggable in every way. Then I got bitten on the arm, and most embarrassingly, found myself howling like a baby in front of the entire yard. I am a bit more savvy these days.

    4. In Spain - asking the pharmacist for a tube of Canasten and being asked in front of a shop full of people if my vagina was itchy - complete with actions just in case I'd misunderstood the Spanish!

    5. And finally, as a teenager, going swimming with a large group of people - mainly boys - and diving off the high diving board at one end of the complex. No problems there. I walked back to the shallow end of the other pool after the dive, past the baby pool, past the deep end of the main pool, and all the way along to my friends. I wondered why everyone was looking at me, but took no notice. It was only when I jumped into the three foot end of the pool that one of the lads came up to me and said, "Do you know your right tit is hanging out?" And it was!!!

    Other stupidities and ditzy moments include... thumping an ex-colleague (who thought I was a total tit anyway) by accident when over excited... stabbing myself in the eye with a finger nail when again, over animated, and talking to a cousin (who also thinks I'm a total tit)... and asking Ms M who she was 5 times in a row!

    So if you are reading this, and you have a sense of humour, consider yourself tagged!

    Sunday, 17 June 2007

    8 years today

    Playing Catch the Bride's Maid

    It is our 8th wedding anniversary today. I can't believe it has come around so fast... it only seems like yesterday that this photo was taken. I was 15 weeks pregnant but you couldn't tell because I had an extra large frock and a big bouquet!

    It was a great wedding, as anyone who was there will attest to, and people were still drinking Belgian beer at the reception until 8am the following morning! In fact, the guests drank the pub dry - not sure if what says about us really!
    As for married life, we've done a lot in 8 years both separately and as individuals. I've been a total pain in the arse with all my studies and writerly/artistic tendencies, and hubby has been nothing less than a god send. Of course I'd never tell him that!

    8 years eh! Well bloody hell! Who'd have thought it! "Here's to the next 8," my husband said this morning. Well, yes indeed. I can't wait!

    Oh, and it was Father's Day too!

    Saturday, 16 June 2007

    Favicon thingy for JJ

    JJ asked me how to do the favicon thingy and it's so long since I did it I couldn't remember! But here's how...

    Basically the steps are: Make A Favicon

    A Favicon is a little image that lives up in the URL address bar of your browser, and when you save a site address as a favourite, your favicon shows up. (FAVourite ICON)

    Mine looked like this before shrinking:

    1. Choose an image. This needs to be made very small and saved as an .ico file so you'll need an image editor such as Irfan View. It's a free program and I love it.

    You can also use an icon generator. Blog University (see below) has some links for these.

    Your image needs to be around 18 pixels by 18 pixels, and best saved as Favicon.ico

    2. Next you need to upload it to an image server. I use Ripway. It's free.

    3. Then you have to add it into your blog template. Log into Blogger. Go to Template, then Edit HTML. Read through the HTML code and find the first tag.

    4. Now we are going to put in some HTML code that contains a link to your image wherever it is being hosted, so in my case, that's Ripway.

    Between the <head>and</head> tags (on a new line so it's easier to find in the future) put the following code:

    <link rel="shortcut icon" href="" />
    <link rel="icon" href="" />
    Replace "" with the URL of your image host where you have your ico file stored. Blog U says, "The favicon will now appear in most browsers address bar and bookmarks," and it worked for me!

    Luckily I bookmarked the site that explains all. Go to Blog U for more info, and many thanks to them for showing me how to do this! JJ - Hope to see your favicon soon!

    Silences and Writers Block

    "Literary History and the present are dark with silences: some the silences for years by our acknowledged great; some silences hidden; some ceasing to publish after one work appears; some never coming to book form at all.
    "These are not natural silences, that necessary time for renewal, lying fallow, gestation, in the natural cycle of creation. The silences I speak of here are unnatural; the unnatural thwarting of what struggles to come into being, but cannot. In the old, the obvious parallels: when the seed strikes stone; the soil will not sustain; the spring is false; the time is drought or blight or infestation; the frost comes premature."
    Tillie Olsen in Silences

    And so I sit here, contemplating my own silences. Not the silences that mean I can't write anything, but the silences that prevent me from writing my novel, or that try to, at least; the nagging doubts that pick at my work with what can only be described as a very poor attitude; the lack of time and other commitments such as teaching, that sap my energy and leave me struggling to work late into the night; the self imposed distractions such as this blog, or the checking of endless email accounts; the words that flow so freely through my mind once my head has hit the pillow and yet flutter away just out of reach the moment I try to pin them down on the page. As though they are frightened of the light. And I have to ask myself, what am I frightened of? Of telling the truth? Of lying? Of getting it wrong? Or of getting it right?

    The questions I return to readily is this; Why do I write at all if it is such a burden, a difficulty, a torture? Non-writing friends ask me why I even bother? But I think it is time to forget about answering that question because I write because I was born to write. Simple as that. If I write total crap, if the prose is stilted and lousy, then that is awful, dreadful, but I am condemned to spend my life producing it and then trying to make it better. I have no more a choice in whether to write or not, than I had of being born a female. And I wrote in the closet for years, until very recently in fact. Some people hide the fact that they drink, or raid the fridge at midnight. I hid the fact that I wrote everything down. Compulsively.

    So - back to silences, and the reasons for these silences. Time is one of them. Virginia Woolf wrote about this. This need for space and time. This Room of One's Own. And I am blessed because I do have a room of my own to write in. But time is precious and difficult to come by.

    Time. Time spent (willingly) with my children and my husband, and to feel guilty if I am writing. Time spent working; marking, planning, preparing, teaching. Tillie Olsen writes that she did not publish a book until she was 50, that "The years when I should have been writing, my hands and being were at other (inescapable) tasks into which most of my life went." (p.38) She talks about discontinuity as a "pattern still imposed upon women", and this makes me feel better because it is damned difficult to chase away the demons, to stare at the screen or page until something begins to emerge... tentatively, hesitantly... only to be called away to find a pair of socks, or cook the evening meal, or collect children from school, or to spy from the corner of my eye a batch of essays that needed marking yesterday.

    But I am in good company. Katherine Mansfield wrote of her frustrations in the early days of her relationship with John Middleton Murray: they both wanted to be writers and yet she is running around keeping house while he works on his prose.(p.16) Franz Kafka speaks of writing late into the night because he is working in an insurance company. He speaks of long silences and breaks, saying "When I begin to write after such a long interval, I draw the words as if out of the empty air. If I capture one, then I have just this one alone, and all the toil must begin anew." (1912 Journal entry). Kafka also suffers from a lack of confidence also, writing in 1914; "Yesterday for the first time in months, an indisputable ability to do good work. And yet wrote only the first page. Again I realise that everything written down bit by bit rather than all at once in the course of the larger part is inferior, and that the circumstances of my life condemn me to this inferiority." (p.15) You see - the discontinuity principle is at work here. I feel this strongly every day. No chance to immerse fully, at length, to write until the writing is spent.

    And so begin my thoughts on writers block for the conference paper. I wish the novel were as easy to write, that the muse would be so giving of itself for fiction, for the writing that truly matters and yet struggles so much to become.

    I hope the rest of the novel racers are having an easier time of it because I would not wish the insecurities I feel in my own work on anyone!


    As if to prove the point for interruptions, and discontinuities, my eldest has just come home and trotted into my office to tell me all about her evening with her friends... so much for the wonderful train of thought I'd been having!

    Friday, 15 June 2007

    Launched! In Search of Adam by Caroline Smailes

    Caroline Smailes

    Not the best pic but then I'm not the best photographer!

    The launch at Waterstones was fabulous, and Caroline was great. Great at reading out her work. Great at making everyone feel appreciated for turning up even though it was her night. The people who did turn up were lovely, and it says a lot I think, when people attract other lovely people. I didn't get to stay as long as I would have liked due to trains departing but I had some lovely conversations in the pub afterwards, and am soooo glad I made the effort to get there.

    It was very weird meeting people from the world of blogging as I've never done that before - and probably won't again unless it's under similar circumstances! See JJ's posting for more on this!

    Strangest thing for me was to be in a room with people who then introduce themselves as "The High Priestess of Punk Chew Ation", and "The Archivist" - two lovely people I cornered and bored for most of the evening I think! Sorry guys! I also met Ms Melancholy, and proceeded to ask her no less than 5 times who she was and what blog she had! More apologies due I'm afraid. I met Writing in a Vacuum, and Stray - also lovely people and don't think I made too much of an idiot of myself there, though I did feel a bit of tit saying, "Hello, I'm Hesitant Scribe"!

    I took a few more pics but didn't want to put people's faces up online without asking so if you want them - email me and I'll send them on. I think JJ got the best one - of the cake though!!!

    So... who's next to launch then?!

    Off to mark the essays I was meant to mark last night!

    Wednesday, 13 June 2007

    Five Weeks of Not Smoking - Hurrah!

    I've reached the beginning of week 6 of not smoking! Feeling very pleased as haven't had any cravings to speak of, and have not put any weight on - *relief*. I've also been exercising like a lunatic and trying to get as fit as I used to be (which is nigh impossible given that I'm now approaching 40 and have no intentions of doing martial arts 7 days a week, weight training, and cycling. Instead I'm doing aqua aerobics which I love because...

    1. It's only 45 minutes so nice length of time rather than the 2 hours of hard training I used to do years ago.
    2. I think I'm the youngest one there - everyone else is on the retirement package - so I feel very young when I come out!
    3. You get to hide in the water so can work as hard as you like, or take it easy (you're only fooling yourself I know!)
    4. The water supports you so I haven't put my back out - like I did last time I wanted to "get fit" again!

    Anyway, work means I won't be able to go for a couple of weeks so will have to make sure I don't stuff my face and pile on the pounds.

    The smoking ban thing comes in on July 1st, and I keep hearing lots of people saying they're going to stop smoking on that day. I wish them luck. It can be done and it doesn't have to be a nightmare. Not only that but the house smells fresh, I can breathe after an hour's riding lesson, actually enjoy exercising again, and always have money in my purse!

    I've been here before though, so am not going to get all complacent. I'm pretending that I'm in the SA - smokers anonymous - and am treating myself like an addict forever. So NO, I can't have just one!

    Saturday, 9 June 2007

    Facebook Phenomena and Overconnected

    What a strange thing Facebook is. I can't decide if I like it or not yet, and an unforseen, and really bizarre situation has arisen: members of my adoptive family, family through marriage and birth family, are able to connect and interract. I'm not sure I can cope!

    I don't suppose this connectivity should be a problem but in my head I like to keep the two families in separate boxes (birth and adoptive that is). One of the weirdest experiences of my life was when my birth grandmother and two aunties came to visit me from Canada. We were all in my mum's house and I just kept looking from face to face across the table. I have never felt so uncomfortable and yet I'm not sure whose discomfort I was feeling; my own or what I imagined they should feel. I say 'should' because in the end, everyone looked perfectly at ease apart from me!

    Facebook is quite different from Myspace in many ways. There's a wall function that allows you to comment on people's pages (like Myspace) but you can also comment back on your own wall, or have 'wall-to-wall' conversations, which is rather neat. A bit like a public msn messenger... hmmm.

    Weird. All these forums for keeping in touch with people you already know. Are we past picking up the phone? A friend of mine recently said we must catch up soon, only she posted it on Myspace rather than sending me a text, or calling me up. Perhaps this is the future. Is it less personal, or just giving us access to loads more ways of connecting with people? And what about when we have on-line conversations with people, through blogs or Myspace, or Facebook, that we then never talk about when we meet up face to face?! Now that really is weird!

    On the funnier side of things, Facebook asks you how you know people and then emails them for confirmation, and so is currently emailing my husband with a request that he confirm I am indeed his wife - he may well refuse but knows if he does I won't cook dinner or wash his socks for a month! I only have 11 friends! I need him!

    Thursday, 7 June 2007


    I jumped! Or rather the horse jumped, but I stayed on! Hurrah!

    Perception is a funny thing!

    Only a two foot high vertical but hey - it's a start. And it looked bloody enormous to me, so much so that I had butterflies and the horse must have felt it because on the first approach he said, "Nah, you ain't ready missus!" and ran out to the side! Third time lucky and over we went. It was lovely and smooth. Can't wait to go again and next time I'll try it without holding onto his mane!

    Tuesday, 5 June 2007

    back to work

    Oh dear - and I was having such a lovely week off! But back in now for 6 weeks full on teaching. So far it's all going swimmingly, as they say, but one does wonder when one will get one's novel written!

    My supervisor collared me in the corridor yesterday and suggested we meet. We only just met, thought I. Is your memory so short that you've forgotten my most recent tears and tantrums?! She says, this would be a more formal meeting. Ah! So no tears then, I guess. I'll probably need to show her some work too. Hmm. Now is the time to start taking one's own advice; don't let work pile up; do a little each day; don't procrastinate; stay off the Internet unless researching; avoid the TV thingy; do not listen to Radio 4 listen again!!! I've given some dates for the week after next so that I can type up the drivel I've been working on in the midnight hours!

    Just discovered that writing conference papers can be most beneficial. Some people, apparently, get all expenses paid to go off to foreign climes and deliver them! Bloody hell. If that isn't incentive I don't know what is! Best get thinking cap on.

    What time is it?! Heading towards 11pm. Just got a few more essays to mark to hand back tomorrow, so better go and do it, and then will produce a little more drivel and increase word count by a smidgen. Fab!

    Can't wait for Caroline's launch!

    Some pics because, well, brightens the old blog up a bit! I took horsey ones on my way to work this morning!

    Look who's been eating all my flowers!

    Poppy - and to think I nearly ripped it up thinking it was a nettle!

    On my way to work I see... this little grey

    That's all folks! Off to mark essays!


    4 weeks without smoking! Hurrah! Hurray! I have survived! I can breathe after an hour of riding!

    Saturday, 2 June 2007


    I had a riding lesson in a different place today, in an outdoor school. I was on a lovely horse - very sensitive to my aids and willing. He's also bigger than the horse I normally ride.

    All was going beautifully. I was luxuriating in being outside, riding in the sunshine with short sleeves (they seem a lot more relaxed in this school). Any way, about half way through the lesson, another horse is put out to pasture at the end of the school and starts rubbing itself along the fence. My horse doesn't seem too bothered by this and we trot by quite happily and onto a 20 metre circle (okay - oval!). As we come around again, the instructor asks me to give the horse by the fence a tap with my riding crop as I go past. I wasn't too sure about this, but thought I'd do as I was asked, but of course I made two fundamental errors!

    1. Instead of just walking on the approach to the other horse, I asked for trot.
    2. At the same time as asking for trot I put the crop into my outside hand and up - yes I know now - by his ears.

    It was quite awesome - the power of the spooked horse. Firstly we went up into the air, and then off into a sprint around the school. I lost one stirrup and still had the crop up by his ears as I clung to his mane. It then dawned on me that unless I got rid of the crop, we'd never stop, but didn't fancy letting go of the mane either. Eventually - I say eventually but it all happened in a split second - half way around the school, I managed to stay sitting firm, letting go of said mane, and throwing the offending crop to the ground. I could've tried putting it into my hands the correct way but I couldn't think too straight while hurtling around the arena.

    Poor horse! I will never do that again! But on the positive side...

    1. I didn't feel frightened at all.
    2. I didn't fall off.
    3. I brought him back to a steady canter, then trot, and finally to walk in only 3 circuits of the school!
    4. It was sooooo exciting! I love it! Even when they spook I love it. I think I must have a death wish, but no matter what anyone says - horses are never as scary as rock climbing!

    Now I'm off to soak in hot bath because my legs are aching!