Thursday 31 May 2012

A bit of Italy in Wales...

...and can we still say, "I'm a name not a number"?

I've been to Wales many times but this week was the first time I ever visited the village of Portmeirion. It's an Italian village nestling in a Welsh cliffside. It was created by Clough Williams-Ellis, who called it his 'tribute to the atmosphere of the Mediterranean'.

It's the most unusual place I have ever been to. Each turn of a corner produces yet another unexpected piece of architecture, like this strange statue suspended over our heads:

And this tiny archway overlooking the estuary:

And as for these two suspicious looking characters... well, the least said...!

And before you ask, no we didn't see any large balls floating onto the beach and yes I am a name not a number... although I must say that our lives are dominated by numbers far more now than they ever were when The Prisoner was filmed on location in Portmeirion in the 1960s. The tax people have long known us by our National Insurance number and these days most people have lots of password numbers and bank card pin numbers, then there's our driving licence number and our passport number, our mobile phone number... Hmmm... The Prisoner might not have been all that far out after all. 

Do you ever feel as if today's 'technological powers that be' treat us like numbers rather than names?

[Apologies to any young visitors who don't remember The Prisoner. You can see what I'm talking about on the Portmeirion website here.]

Monday 28 May 2012

Did you say "When Dreams Come True?" Gulp!!

Today is the launch day for Rebecca Emin’s book, When dreams come true 

Rebecca tweeted last month asking if any of us would like to post up a blog about our dreams to celebrate today's launch.

"What a brilliant idea!" I tweeted back and I know I'm not the only one. There's a whole list of us and you can visit other people's dream blogs via Rebecca's blog at Ramblings of a Rusty Writer or at her Facebook Page where there will be give-aways and all sorts of exciting book launch events. 

So I sat down to write my dreams-come-true blog and that was when the full realisation of the title hit me. Would I really want my dreams to come true? No thanks! *shudders*

For those of you who know me well, it will come as no surprise to learn that I often have disturbing dreams. Mum used to put it down to my lively imagination. I can still remember some of those dreams from when I was a little girl... far too vividly for my liking. There was one in particular where a fire engine was chasing me along our street and down the entry [narrow passage] between our house and next door. I still twitch when I see a fire engine, even after all these years, and I do hope that that dream never comes true.

And please, please don’t let my current recurring dream ever come true! It’s the same thing night after night. A drone plane is seeking me out. It has orders to kill me. It appears over the tops of tall buildings. I’m running but can’t get away and as it starts firing at me I wake up. 
*wipes damp palms down t-shirt*

If I were Freud I'd understand these dreams. I'd interpret their meanings and even learn something about myself but I’m not. Any interpretations anybody?... No?... Oh well, in the meantime do visit Rebecca’s blog, or better still, buy her fabulous new book When Dreams Come True. You can download it now by clicking on this Smashwords link and here is the blurb:
Charlie is happiest when biking with Max and Toby, or watching films with Allie. But when Charlie reaches year nine (age 13), everything begins to change. As her friends develop new interests, Charlie's dreams become more frequent and vivid, and a family crisis tears her away from her friends. How will Charlie react when old family secrets are revealed? Will her life change completely when some of her dreams start to come true?

Thursday 24 May 2012

Do you take your teddy to bed?

There was a study carried out recently that said that one in six adults take their cuddly toys to bed with them. I'm not one of those one-in-six  [unless you want to include Mr A in the cuddly toy category!] so it must be you? No? So who are these teddy huggers then? Not that it's any business of mine.

Apparently the study was carried out by the QVC TV Shopping Channel. I can't help wondering who they asked. They didn't ask me. I'm never asked about any of the myriad of surveys that appear in the newspapers. They report on anything from whether you have milk delivered to your house to whether you were breast fed as a baby, but I was never one of those people who were asked, never, ever. I think I can feel an attack of deprivation coming on. *places back of hand on forehead*

To return to the teddy huggers, why would anyone want to know if I take a cuddly toy to bed with me? I certainly do have a favourite teddy. In fact, I have three favourite teddies.

I even took one on holiday with me and Mr A once, just for a joke you understand. His name is Teddy Tumpkins and he enjoyed the holiday immensely...
Teddy Tumpkins
...but he doesn't come to bed with me and even if he did, what difference would it make to anyone, especially to the people at the QVC TV Shopping Channel? And I wonder how much the study cost? And who paid for it?

OK! OK! I'm finished ranting now. *climbs down off very large soap box*

Monday 21 May 2012

Practice makes perfect

This is my first ever blog post generated by my new iPad so if there are any problems please blame Apple and not me. [Mr A says I'm grumpy when I have new things. I suspect it's that 'control freak' syndrome. It won't do what I tell it to do!]  I've even used the iPad to take and insert photos so while I experiment and learn, here are some photos of Mr A's vegetable garden. The photos aren't brilliant but I hope to get better at it. Practice makes perfect.

Which is why Mr A is brilliant at gardening. During this last month he's planted out potatoes, peas, green beans, broad beans, celariac, mini sweetcorn and carrots which are under the white mesh. He spends a lot of time out there as you can see!


... so do the cats. They follow him down the garden and watch with mild interest. I think they're really waiting for the robin to appear. Our garden has produced two lots of robin babies this year and now there are blackbirds in the yew hedge. I do hope the cats behave. They've been very good so far... except for the live mouse that took up residence under the piano at the weekend having no doubt been brought in by one or both of the girls. Butter wouldn't melt!


Friday 18 May 2012

A reason for blogging

Some people blog to promote their writing and I’ve mentioned before that I wouldn’t have got the commission to write my Children’s History of Leicester had it not been for this blog.

Some people blog because they’ve got something to say and want to spread their words far and wide and you only have to check your stats to see how well blogs can do 'far and wide'. Here is a copy of my stats graph showing the location of this week's visitors:
United Kingdom – 264
United States – 203
Germany – 39
Russia – 36
Netherlands – 16
Canada – 13
France – 13
Australia – 8
South Africa – 5
Japan – 4

It’s pretty much the same each week, give or take a few countries, and I often wonder who these visitors are, why they came, and whether they found what they were looking for.

I did have a specific reason for setting up this blog and it wasn’t to promote my writing. It was to see if I could find others whose lives have been affected by Amyloidosis, by chemotherapy treatments and stem cell transplants. It’s not that we never meet other Amyloidosis sufferers. We go each year to the Amyloidosis Awareness Day run by Myeloma UK and Mr A has to have a two-day check-up twice a year at the specialist unit at London’s Royal Free Hospital so we get the chance to compare symptoms and treatments but I still feel the need to talk with others who understand when I ramble on about Lambda and Kappa Free Light Chains, Nephrotic Syndrome, Amyloid loads, not to mention all the drugs.

Mr A was diagnosed with Amyloidosis in 2008. I began my blog in 2009 and my first ever blog post says it all really. My blog writing style and presentation may have changed but unfortunately the Amyloidosis hasn’t. The levels were knocked back by the stem cell transplant in 2010 but we’re anxious that they’re starting to rise again. Maybe it’s a blip. Maybe things will stabilise once more but if anyone reading this is having similar experiences, we’d love to hear from you. Somehow, every now and then, it just helps to share the load.

... And that's my reason for blogging. What's yours?

Monday 14 May 2012

Tweeting with a Tortoise

People sometimes ask me why I "waste time" on Twitter. I wonder if those same people have ever "wasted time" chatting with a neighbour over the garden fence. Humans are social animals [most of us anyway!] and Twitter is the perfect tool to satisfy that sociability. As @RosalindAdam I can chat with anybody, anywhere at any time of day or night - bliss! These people might be writers, friends, locals, or someone living on the other side of the world. They might even not be people.

Take yesterday... I found myself leaning against the virtual fence passing the time with a tortoise. Now I have to admit that this was an accident. I didn’t at first realise that she was a tortoise but I started to have my suspicions and so I clicked on her profile and sure enough, there she was @LuLubelleTlocation The Garden.
My conversations are not always as frivolous. There are so many fascinating people out there that I couldn't possibly list them all but I've picked out a few to show you what I mean:

Late Night Advice:
During the A to Z challenge I often tweeted late at night with Anne at @cassam101 We ran similar nostalgia posts and towards the end we were starting to wilt.
      “Help! Can't think of nostalgic smell for Y? Mind gone blank!!” I tweeted at her one night.
      She tweeted straight back with "How about Yardley's Talc. My mum always used it."
     “You’re a star!" I tweeted. “I can go to sleep now.” 
We tweeted each other a quick "good night" and I turned off my phone. How else would I have got that support at almost midnight while sitting up in bed sipping my hot chocolate? Thanks Anne.

Coffee mornings:
If I've been bashing the computer keys all morning and it's about 11 am I know that on Twitter this is #elevensestime. I can share coffee, cake [the virtual kind so no calories!] and a quick catch up with Paul at @cyteen02 and all the other #elevensestime folk.

UK Contacts:
Not so long ago I was tweeting with @mariaAsmith, a local writer who I also know in 'real' life, about trying to find more UK writers on Twitter so we can exchange information about writing opportunities, competitions, conferences etc. We devised the #ukwriters hashtag and, thanks mainly to @mariaAsmith 's hard work it's now going strong.

Making friends:
It's not all about work. I've found out a bit of what it's like to be an expat living in Lanzarote from @paulinembarclay. I not only get regular weather reports from her [especially when it's steaming hot there and freezing cold here] but also lots of hairy licks [the virtual, non-doggy-breath variety!] from her lovely dogs.  

Mutual support:
I've celebrated people's publishing successes with them as well as providing a listening ear when they have concerns and problems and they've done the same for me. 

Friends at my fingertips:
I've caught up with old friends and got to know new ones without out-staying my welcome, running up phone bills or travelling to far-off lands.

So don't knock Twitter. It's one of the many positive outcomes to emerge from this new technological world of ours. Oh yes, there is one more positive use apparently...

Keeping tabs on me:
My daughter tells me that she only has to check my twitter account to find out what I've been up to each day! Hmmm! Must bear that in mind before I tweet in future!

Thursday 10 May 2012

What fun - a break from writing!

Last month was an exceptionally heavy writing month. I'd reached the point where my brain had gone fuggy so today I took a well deserved break from the coal type-face and went with Mr A to the Malvern Flower Show.

We admired show gardens:

We browsed and bought plants:

We were quite excited to see Monty Don with BBC cameramen and big booms:

We were even more excited to bump into my friend/critique partner/blogger Alex Gutteridge from Alex Gutteridge Writes:
Bad weather is only bad if you're not dressed for it. We were all well wrapped up.
[I took my hat off for the photo or you wouldn't have recognised me!]
Without a doubt the highlight of my day was buying a heron. [Thanks, Alex for encouraging me to get him!] He is now standing proud in our garden.

And now it's now time to get on with some work. I'm revisiting a number of picture books that have been languishing in my pending file for far too long. My outing has given me a few story ideas, some writing inspiration. What's more, I've got a feeling that a heron might well appear in my next manuscript because...
Y I am now in love with herons!Y

Monday 7 May 2012

Nostalgic A to Z Reflections

26 letters!  26 posts!  26 lots of nostalgic ruminations!
But now it's over and we've been asked to say how it was for us... 

Topic: I wouldn't do the A to Z without a strong topic. I loved my topic this year, 1950/60s nostalgia. It's filled me with long lost memories and I'm still reliving them! [Living in the past, some call it!]

VisitorsLike last year, I've made some lovely new blogging friends and I've increased my blog following [always a cause for great merriment!] I received lots of great comments and I loved that I had visitors competing with each other to provide memories that I’d forgotten.

Problems: There were so many bloggers taking part in the A to Z that I almost wore my keyboard out trying visit them. At one point it was all I could do to visit those who had commented on my blog, never mind popping in to see anyone else.

I found it difficult to visit those bloggers who had chosen to post a continuing story. If I missed one day I'd literally lost the plot! And there were still people who posted long pieces and, even though they looked interesting, I couldn't spare the time to read them.

Special Request: I love the way that the A to Z brings me into contact with a multitude of bloggers but there's something extra special about meeting bloggers who have the same interests and outlooks as myself. With 1719 people taking part this year it was a bit of a fluke if we came across those 'special' bloggers. Is there any way that we can add labels to our linky next year [next year! I'm talking about next year already!] to increase the odds of meeting those special bloggie people.

Over to you, the reader: The A to Z organisers also want to hear from anyone who visited during the challenge so please share your thoughts. Did you enjoy having a blog post a day to visit? Did you get fed up of all the A to Z posts flying through your blog reader? Did you feel neglected because your usual visitors didn't have the time to pop by? 

That marks the end of another A to Z. I'm already feeling nostalgic about it all. In fact, I'm almost starting to think about next year. And before I return to normal blogging let's raise a virtual glass to all of us who survived the A to Z, and that includes blog visitors as well as participants.

Friday 4 May 2012

Hog Bed and Breakfast

We've had another hog come to visit. Last month it was Phyllis the Groundhog who had arrived as part of her World Tour that Susanna Hill had organised. Yesterday it was quite a different little hog. Mr A was delighted.

"He's just what we need in the garden!" he said. "He'll eat all the slugs and snails before they can eat our hostas. Don't scare him off!"

So I went out and took his photograph...

...but I think he was a bit camera shy because he ran away. Sorry Mr A. Sorry hostas.

I may be some time... *last seen rummaging around in bushes looking for cute little hedgehog*

On Monday, 7th May I'll be joining the A to Z bloggers giving my feedback on the experience. Now let me see. What did I think of it? And while we're at it, what did YOU think of it?

Tuesday 1 May 2012

...and a Groundhog came to visit

Phew! What a month April was! *presses back of hand on forehead* A to Z blogs every day! All that nostalgia! I've really enjoyed the memories but, goodness, the schedule was gruelling, a two-week stint of flu, and right in the middle of it all I had an unusual visitor...

A groundhog came to stay!

Phyllis is a friendly little groundhog and she'd travelled all the way from the US to be with me. This was part of her world tour and to find out where else she's been click on the World Tour Badge. Having travelled so widely, Phyllis was very keen to see what Leicester was like so...
I took her for a drive round our lovely City...
We stopped at Victoria Park but I was surprised when she refused to go for a walk.
      "It's going to storm," she said. "We'd better go home."
Knowing Phyllis as well as I do, I believed her and sure enough, as soon as we got home...

To find out more about Phyllis and her uncanny weather-forecasting skills which come to light in her latest book April Fool, Phyllis! pop along to Susanna Leonard Hill's website. It's where Phyllis lives.

As for me, Phyllis has gone home, the A to Z is over and I'm going to get back to my work-in-progress. It's been badly neglected. I might even blog about it some time soon.