Thursday 29 March 2012

Appearing here from Sunday: an A to Z of Nostalgia

Don't miss out on the memories!

This Sunday will be April 1st, better known amongst pranksters as April Fools’ Day, but I’m not going to be playing any April Fool tricks, except maybe on myself! On Sunday I will be taking part in the A to Z blog challenge. I’ll be posting up a blog every day of April [with Saturdays off for a well deserved rest] and each one will refer to a different letter of the alphabet. Last year I blogged an A to Z of Leicester and you can read the whole thing here.

This year’s topic is going to be nostalgia with memories from the 1950s and 1960s. This means that half of you will be able to join me in a ‘do you remember when...’ fest and the other half will have a history lesson, although it will be an enjoyable history lesson because each of my posts will consist of the following: 

There’ll be a smell to get you in the mood because smells are well known for reminding you of the past.

I’ll be telling you about some of my memories because when you get to my age there are so many clogging up the brain that you need to pass them on to make room for more. [I know it doesn’t really work like that but it is good to share memories.]

There’ll be a list of TV and radio programmes, remembering that in the 1950s people listened to the radio as most of us didn’t have television. I know! No TV! It hardly bears thinking about!

I’ll also include a list of names, mostly people from the music and entertainment world. When I was young I was obsessed with lists of singers, pop stars, groups and I’ve never really grown out of it.

Finally there’ll be a piece of music from one of the singers in the names list and that’s it... 

oh no... 

It’s not quite it because then you’ll say, 

          “Oh gosh! I'd forgotten that!” and you’ll post a comment below to tell me what you’d forgotten or, better still, to tell me some additional memories that I’d forgotten.

So see you every day next week... and the week after... and the week after... and... oh dear, what have I signed myself up for again!?

Monday 26 March 2012

Is Kindle another Betamax?

Some notes on epublishing

When people talk about epublishing it makes me think of the old Betamax video system that battled with VHS and lost. I suspect there will be many ‘Betamaxes’ in the epublishing world while the new technology finds its way. We need to keep up with developments so, last week, I went along to the Leicester Writers’ Club to listen to an epublishing discussion.

Chris Meade spoke passionately about the need to explore this new technology rather than just post up old style books on ereaders. He showed us some exciting children’s story apps being developed for ipads and his work on if:book further explores digital opportunities with literature. A recent project involved David Almond working with groups of school children in conjunction with if:book writers to create instant ebooks. He explains it much better himself at his website, Book Futures.

The author, Amanda Grange, is making use of ereaders to upload her backlist. She uses Amazon’s software for Kindle and assured us that it’s easy once you know how [isn’t everything!] What she likes about Kindle is that you can get up to 70% of the royalties. The downside, of course, is that you have to publicise it yourself.

Stephen Baker, from EBooks by Design, specialises in converting into eformat those books that need a bit more design, ones that have pictures, charts, tables, specialist fonts, the sort of things that Kindle can’t handle. His rates seem reasonable too. You can find him at EBooks by Design.

John Martin, from Leicester libraries, spoke about elibrary books. I was amused that they self-destruct* after three weeks but saddened by the refusal of Amazon to allow Kindle books to be included. This means that at the moment estocks are limited but library services are ‘in discussions’ with Amazon and have a determination to keep up with all the latest technological advances which is excellent news.
*OK, so they don't actually self-destruct but they do disappear off your ereader on the due date.

I came away from the evening with a tingle of anticipation for the future. The way forward with ereaders still exists in the minds of boffins but it’s going to be developed and soon and I’ve no idea in what way. How exciting is that!

Friday 23 March 2012

Around the Next Corner

I know that this poem relies on a well trodden cliché but I wrote it last week during one of my more pensive moments and thought I'd like to share it with you.

The road reaches out to a far distant line.
There are times when I wish it would end.
I’m tired of walking. I can’t see the point,
Then I see up ahead there’s a bend.

I’ve come upon many a bend in the past.
I’ve quickened my pace, upped my game.
I’ve taken the corner with brightening eyes
Til I see it’s just more of the same.

This bend up ahead might be different from those.
This one seems to glint in the sun.
I’m walking with purpose. I’ve quickened my pace
Because this one might just be the one.

Do the bends in your road reveal more of the same or do some of them glint in the sun?

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Straight Answers... almost

I'm not well known for giving a straight answer. Mr A gets quite frustrated when my replies drift from the original topic. Maybe it's an age thing. But last week Rebecca Bradley, from Life in Clarity, tagged me. My tag request is to answer her eleven questions and then I have to pass the tag on. I've done my best to give straight answers but I'm afraid I couldn't stop myself from throwing in one or two assumptions so...
1) If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would you choose?
Assuming that, like on Desert Island Discs, I’m allowed to have the Bible as well, then I’ll choose an Anthology of Poetry. Any fully comprehensive one would do to keep my mind busy. Right now I’m reading The Seashell Anthology but it’s on my Kindle and I can’t let it fall open in a random way.

2) What is your favourite day of the week and why?
Saturday. That’s the day I chill out.

3) What would you find difficult to give up?
No brainer! Chocolate!

4) If you could visit any place in the world where would it be?
Assuming it doesn't have to be a first-time visit then Jerusalem. Last October's visit was too short.

5) If you could speak with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
My Mum. She died last April. Every time something happens I want to tell her about it and there are so many qurestions that I never asked her when she was alive.

6) eReader or physical book?
Physical book. My Kindle isn’t as easy to hold and, like I said above, you can’t dip into a Kindle book.

7) Why do you blog?
Initially it was to raise my profile as a writer but now I blog because I love all of you... and I love the opportunity to share good news... and I love the chance to have a good moan... and because I love it!

8) Where do you write?
Anywhere, everywhere but mostly at the dining room table, even though I do have a lovely study specially designed by Mr A.

9) If you could recommend one blog to follow, what would it be? 
Assuming that you’re already following my blog, and assuming that you’re interested in children’s Picture Books then I recommend you follow the Picture Book Den.

10) Savoury or sweet?
Both, consumed in alphabetical order.

11) What is your most treasured possession?
Assuming that I’m allowed to possess people, then it has to be my family. I love them more than anything in the world.

...and now to pass the tag on. I’d like to tag a newbie blogger, Alex Gutteridge. Alex at Alex Gutteridge Writes is a children’s writer, like myself. We have a lot in common but I’ll leave it to her to tell you more about herself because, Alex, your tag request is to write 7 interesting facts about you that we don’t already know. 

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Spam is getting me down

I suspect spam is getting us all down. There’s still a small amount of spam tumbling through our letter box, but not as much as there used to be and at least it keeps the recycling bag topped up so that's not so much of a problem. It’s the phone calls, tweets and emails that get me down because they're out of my control.

I may have blogged about telephone spam calls before so apologies if I’m repeating myself. [I’m not really turning into that dreaded elderly aunt who tells the same anecdotes each time you visit... am I?]

We get so many spam telephone calls that I have been known to blow my Acme Thunderer whistle down the line. I know it’s cruel and I know they’re only trying to earn a living but when the phone keeps ringing with INTERNATIONAL OUT OF THE AREA displayed, what’s a girl to do?

The official advice, when I reported the problem to BT, is to never answer, but last week my cousin was abroad and it might have been him so I answered. I didn’t recognise the voice so I said, ‘I don’t know you, do I?’ He responded with a string of expletives. I hung up. That really is no way to sell anything.

My Gmail account filters out email spam very effectively but I keep hearing of people who have had their emails hacked into so that all their contacts think they’re stranded in Spain with no money. This has just happened to a lovely blogging friend, Ann Best, who blogs at Ann Carbine Best's Blog. Hopefully no money was handed over by anyone but Ann now has the hassle of setting up a new email account and contacting people. Has this sort of scam ever worked? Is there anyone out there who would really send out money without further investigation? I suppose there must be or it wouldn’t keep happening.

I’m guessing that everyone on twitter has been followed by a sewer specialist after mentioning toilets... No? Just me then! Last week I tweeted about having a scale and polish and was followed by a dentist! I tweeted with my mouth closed for the rest of the day. Seriously though, what I find offensive are those spammers who expect me to fall for the line, ‘This photo of you made me laugh out loud’ with a link. I don’t click on those links as I was born many thousands of days ago and I always block and report them which is satisfying because they instantly drop off my timeline.

The problem is that, even on Twitter, as soon as one spammer has been hit on the head another pops up somewhere else. So until effective legislation can stop them, all we can do is follow the official advice:

  • Don’t answer
  • Ignore all contact
  • Don’t respond  in any way................ erm.............. sorry........... can't stand it......

                                ........... weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!! 
How do you cope with spam?

Friday 9 March 2012

I love the Alphabet

My Ladybird ABC book was one of my favourite books when I was small. I can still remember the picture on the U page. It was a brightly coloured umbrella and I used to think it was the most beautiful umbrella ever... and then this morning I Googled it. Apparently it was known as Uncle Mac’s ABC Book and... wow! Here it is...

*big sigh of nostalgia*

       aardvark......         bear......           cat...... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

I still love all things alphabetical, like alphabetical lists. At night when I can’t sleep I choose a topic and go through the alphabet with it. I rarely reach midway. It’s so reassuringly soporific.

So it will come as no surprise that I’m taking part in the A to Z Challenge again this year. I’ll be posting up every day during April [with Saturdays off for a breather]. My topic will be nostalgia, memories from the 1950s and 60s... [advance warning: there may be lots of sighs of nostaliga coming from me next month.]

Last year I restricted myself to 40 words exactly per post and I called them quadragintals. This year I’ll make things a little easier. I don’t think that this sort of a blogging challenge is the place for long in-depth articles so I'm going to try to be... 
thought provoking... yes!
profound... why not?
humorous... even better!
and brief... most definitely!
[Please note that this is only my opinion. Other A to Z Challengers may disagree.]

I’ve created a page [see green bar above] with last year’s A to Z of Leicester 2011 for anyone who didn’t follow me back then. All 26 posts are on the one page.

And if anyone fancies joining in with this year's challenge then there’s still time. Just pop along to the A to Z Challenge sign up page or click on the A to Z badge in the sidebar on this page.

Do you remember your ABC book from way back when?

Monday 5 March 2012

Generation... What's that about then?

Plus thoughts about Mum

When I was a child I found the concept of generation difficult to understand. I knew that older people were once young because they were always telling me so, but I didn’t believe that they really used to run round and play like I did. I wondered how you moved from one generation to the next and then when I reached my 50s and my Mum was approaching her 80s the full significance of generation hit me. Older generations die. This rarely happens in one go and so inevitably one member will be left after all the cousins, brothers and sisters have gone. Yesterday was the sort of day for thinking about this because it was my Mother’s Stone Setting and Memorial Service.

I’m typing this now with the sun streaming in through the window which is a bit annoying because yesterday it poured incessantly. We didn’t let the weather put a damper on things. This was our opportunity to celebrate Mum’s life. My sister sadly wasn’t well enough to be with us but other members of our family had travelled from all over the country. Some had arrived for the weekend. Others had driven through the rain from Manchester, from Devon, just for the day. I have a lovely family.

I have lovely friends too. They knew how anxious I was and several weeks ago they presented me with a fait accompli. They were ordering, preparing and serving all the food for a buffet lunch. So while they worked at our house we went to the cemetery. I unveiled the memorial stone and, after a short service in the Prayer House, I read a eulogy to Mum. It would have been easy to ask someone else to do it but I had been so close to Mum and I had things I wanted to say.

I wanted to tell the congregation about the four generations of family that mourned her. There’s only one family member remaining from Mum’s generation. There used to be so many of them. She told me recently how sad she was to be the last. It’s a lonely, and no doubt frightening, place to be.

I talked about my generation… although I didn’t mention that we will soon be that 'Oldest Generation'. I talked about the third layer of generation and how, just before Dad died in 1977 he wished that he could live to see his grandchildren grow. Mum was fortunate. She not only saw, she helped them grow. She did love her grandchildren.

As for the fourth generation, he’s not yet two and will sadly grow up with no memory of Great Grandma. My son brought him to see Mum two days before she died. The baby put his hand out to Mum. Mum put her hand out to the baby and they stayed like that for several long minutes. He may never remember it but I will never forget.

What does generation mean to you?