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Sunday, 22 April 2012

Of Internet Loss, Not Getting To Edinburgh, Poorly Child, Wounded Cat and Two High Spots

I just wanted to say a huge sorry for being so absent this last couple of weeks. We have lost our Broadband connection, having asked for an upgrade. BT agreed to try to improve our service when we found the Internet was slowing down a lot in the evenings. The day they carried out the upgrade, we lost the connection completely. I have spent hundreds of hours on the phone waiting in queues or talking to engineers who all say they haven't a clue what to do and will elevate our case to the next team. We have been elevated so much I feel as if I'm perched on Everest waiting for the next call/visit. It has still not been resolved, but my husband has found a way of giving us a bit of Internet with a mobile Broadband stick. We can't do big downloads or watch videos, but we can at last catch up a bit.
While this has been going on, our kitten has been spayed (and is recovering well). One of our adult cats has been wounded by a bite of some sort, as well as developing a dreadful infection in his eye (he is on the mend, but requires dozens of different tablets and creams). So I have been ricocheting between the BT people and the vet's surgery.
My middle daughter fell ill with headaches and dizziness during this time and we went to the doctor for appointments and blood tests as well as to the optician for eye-sight checks. (She has low blood-pressure and her eyes are travelling in opposite directions, so she needs glasses with a prism in the lens.)
I was hoping to travel to Edinburgh on Monday. having been invited to an awards ceremony. I had a story shortlisted in the Scottish Association of Writers' competition. As you can already imagine, I wasn't very well placed to be travelling from Gloucestershire to Edinburgh at this particular time, so had to let them know I wouldn't be able to come. They were so lovely and understanding. They sent me an email the next day (I hadn't mentioned we had no Internet), but luckily my husband checked my inbox for me while he was at work and was able to let me know I came second in the competition. And the lovely judge read out my story too. So that was a welcome and unexpected high spot in an otherwise trying time. I was really pleased and the people I was eventually able to email back when my husband's android phone allowed us a bit of temporary Internet were so sweet. 
There was a coincidence too. My story was called The Biology Lesson and featured a biology teacher, perhaps not surprisingly. One of the other entrants, incredibly, had once taught a girl called Joanna Campbell, who went on to become a biology teacher. 
So, apologies for not being able to keep up with all your lovely blog posts, but hopefully next week will be calmer and there will be some Internet too. I didn't realise how much I depended on it. I only use it for blogging and emails and news. I don't use Facebook any more. But I do look up various pieces of information for research, particularly for my novel. 
The good news is that while I was waiting for men to call or stroking cats with large patches of shaved fur, I was able to read the whole of Frances Garrood's wonderful book Dead Ernest. I loved it so much and couldn't put it down. So that was the other high spot of my week. Thank you, Frances, for keeping me so well entertained.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Sunshine On A Cloudy Day

Joanne Fox, or the lovely Harvey, to be precise, has kindly sent me the Sunshine Award, so many thanks to them both and here are the six things that make me happy:

1) Rain. I love teeming rain and strong wind. I enjoy a good storm whipping the world up beyond my window. I realise I'm enjoying this perilous weather from the comfort of my own home. However, I don't mind being caught up in it for the joy of coming in to dry off and warm up. I like the smell of damp clothes steaming and the hot cup of tea that restores me. My mother always worries about damp. She is a fanatic about keeping it at bay. It's a foe that waits around corners with its foot out to trip her up. She wouldn't let me lie on our lawn - in 1976 of all summers - in case the grass was damp and I developed rheumatism.

2) The three very different smiles of my three daughters. One smile reveals an entire soul. Another is open to a thousand interpretations. The third is often shy, but can erupt like a volcano of infectious sparkling joy.

3) William Trevor's short stories. If I were marooned on a desert island, I would take this collection with me and be perfectly content for some considerable time. He breaks some of the rules about writing, but it simply doesn't matter.

4) Our cats. I love their aloof and indignant nature, the way they rule our home and get away with it. I enjoy their fur brushing against my legs and the way the chubby one settles in my lap and forces me to stroke his cheeks and the back of his neck, keeping me in the chair for ages even when I was just about to get up. They remind me of how important it is to stop and stare, especially when I watch them gazing out of the window.

5) On a topical note, I love researching the sixties for my novel. It brings back so many happy memories of my childhood. I must be careful not to overload the writing with too much detail. It's hard to resist throwing in a chain-belt here and a pale lipstick there. However, I'm sure these fashions have made a comeback. I seem to wear lots of sixties-inspired things. Or have I left that wardrobe clear-out a tad too long?

6) It has to be writing! I love it with a passion that I don't need to explain to all you lovely writers who know exactly how much happiness it brings us all. Especially those moments when the pieces of a story tumble into place and you want to shout it from the rooftops.

If I could add a seventh, it would have to be Walnut Whips, but only the plain chocolate kind. Very hard to track down.

Thank you Joanne and Harvey. I feel very happy just thinking about these things.