Friday, 13 June 2014

Elephant Spotted!

There's been quite a conundrum going on down here in 'Tales', despite the complete apathy shown by teenage sons-the-elder-and-younger.  How, I kept pondering, was I ever going to catch a glimpse of an Elephant Hawk Moth hatched from the remarkable caterpillars which, you might remember, chomped their way around the garden last year.

As you know, I wasn't sure I'd ever be able to distinguish one large moth from another from under the cloak of darkness, should I go ferreting out at dusk, and moth traps just seemed a bit too involved and possible cruel.

The problem was solved by the flimsy greenhouse tent I've erected for growing tomatoes - although the local snail population appear to view it as some sort of luxury hotel complete with fine dining.  There have been fledgling sparrows trapped inside it, but the other morning I could make out something small and colourful.  My heart leapt.  Could it be?  Could it?

I teetered down the gravel path trying to avoid being tripped by both dog-of-small-brain and the tubby tabby, equally disgruntled I'd obviously forgotten their breakfast.  And yes, it was!  There in the greenhouse was this stunningly beautiful cerise and sage coloured moth.  Son-the-elder was somewhat unamused, when I dragged him out of bed to come and take a look at it, but I'm sure he'll thank me one day!!!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Running Resolve

So it’s happened.  It turns out there really does come a time in a lardy-bottomed writer’s life when one has to face the fact that spending a lot of time sat on one’s derriere crafting words of wisdom while scoffing fistfuls of biscuits does not a slim-line make.  No matter if you’ve spent a hitherto jammy life as a skinny Minnie, debauchery catches up in the end.  ‘So what?’ a slimmer friend shrugged while I was lamenting my middle-aged spread. ‘Just buy bigger clothes’.

That’s not happening.  One, I’m too much of a scrooge to buy new clothes when there’s plenty of wear left in the ones I already have, and two I don’t like this (whispers) muffin-top (eeeerugh) splurging from their restraints.  Desperate times call for desperate measures.

There was a pair of running shoes lurking in the cupboard under the stairs, bought and never used once the glow of enthusiasm dimmed like the memory of the London Olympics. (I have a shocking memory)  I put them on, found the faded tracksuit bottoms, another relic of earlier ‘keepfit’ notions, from the bottom of the drawer, downloaded a training app (run! walk! run! great job!) and an album perpetuating to be ‘100 greatest running tracks’.  Fired up, I hit the pavements, ahem, running.  And promptly remembered

1. I hate running.
2. I hate getting hot and sweaty and out of breath, and most of all
3. I hate bumping into people I know while I’m running, hot, sweaty and out of breath, and clad in ridiculous sportswear.

It is you!  Hi Sam, didn’t recognise you dressed like that.
I didn’t know you were a runner.
What are you doing, training for the London Marathon (sniggers)
Never had you down for a keep-fit fanatic (hahahahaha)

How embarrassing.

And there’s no respite at home.  In between lots of guffawing about ‘jogging mamas’, the name we used to give a couple of school run mums who’d turn up at the school gate in full day-glo-lycra glory, Son-the-elder reckons I’m going to turn into some sort of muscle-bound colossus.  Apparently this is a hysterically funny joke if you’re a teenager; personally I don’t get it.

Anyway, running resolve aside, I had a lovely day yesterday with the half-term teenagers 'chez papa'.  I dug, weeded and planted until late into the evening, a perfect day complete with 'al-fresco' wine, birds cheeping, bees buzzing.  It was still perfect until I woke this morning, tried to move, and realised everything hurts.  Everything, from the neck down .  I’ve pulled muscles I didn’t even know I had.  So despite today being a run day, no run today.  Ah, resolve.  I can see it sliding away from me like a ship launching down the slipway of good intentions gone bad.  Still, the garden looks nice.  And these biscuits are rather good.  And I could probably do with some new jeans……

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Messy, Beautiful

Okay, confession time.  I'm sure I must have said this before, but I am with messiest, most disorganised person I've ever met.  It's true.  If there was an equivalent of the Turner or Booker prize for being messy and disorganised, no one else would bother entering - I would win every year.  Sometimes, though admittedly not very often, I'll get tired of losing stuff, (bills) forgetting stuff, (other bills) and having the kitchen engulfed by mountains of paperwork. (yes - bills again)  When that happens, I'll have a huge purge on my clutter and bad habits, but it's a bit like a butterfly trying to get out of closed window, fluttering away but never succeeding. Try as hard as I like, it doesn't take long for my slovenly ways to reappear.  Leopards, spots, and all that.

The same is true of my garden.  Every spring I promise myself I'm not going to let it get into a state this year.  My neighbours have stunning ornamental gardens, the sort of thing you see in magazines.  While I like to assure them I'm performing a great service by accommodating the local weeds, they eye the riot of horsetail and willow-weed, and shudder.  My garden is a mess.  As within, so without - in every sense of the expression.

So it came as a surprise last night to stumble across a pile of photographs I'd forgotten to upload last year, and wow! Yes, weeds might have the upper hand, but this is a beautiful garden teeming with wildlife.
Can you see the two wild rabbits on the path plus our (now deceased) chicken Tikka?

The vegetable plot (albeit rather overgrown)
This is an Elephant Hawk Month caterpillar. There were so many in the garden last year - apparently Willow-weed is their favourite food. The biggest ones were literally the size and thickness of my middle finger. I've never seen the actual moths in real life. Apparently they emerge around May, and I'm hoping to spot one. They are light brown with fuchsia wings, although I'm betting it'll be hard to tell in at dusk when the moths are about.

I rescued this grasshopper from drowning in the birdbath.

Horsetail, couch grass and bog rush. We've toad rush too - what a lovely combination - and there's a bit of chamomile and wild geranium in there too just for good measure.  Yes, my neighbours really love living next door to me!!

Common green bottle fly just chillin' on the sweet peas.

Flight of a bumblebee!

Messy, beautiful, and definitely not a show-garden!

A splurge of poppies.

I sneaked this one in because I love the contrast between the gravel path and this peacock butterfly.

At least these guys appreciate the rampant Buddleia.

I'm really impressed by just how colourful the garden looks in the pictures.  The photos have made me rethink how I feel about not being neat, tidy and in control of the weeds.  In fact I wonder if photographing the mess indoors and not looking at it for a long time might have the same effect.  Now there I could be on to something, but somehow I rather much doubt it!

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Hannah The Hired Hyundai

I was listening to an article on the radio the other day discussing the latest fundraising idea for these cash-strapped times: hiring out your car.  Yes, once we took in lodgers, then we started renting out our drives, now we can hire out our cars.  Sounds great, but the ensuing discussion concluded that as people treat hire cars very badly, trashing the gearbox in particular, it's a very bad idea.  I sat cringing. Not that anyone would want to borrow the 'Tales-mobile' with its ankle deep detritus of half-eaten chips, Christmas tree needles and ancient receipts, but when it comes to the treatment of hire cars, guilty as charged mi'lud.  Ahem.

You see, last week the Tales-mobile came off worse after an argument with a particularly belligerent pothole.  Turning up the radio didn't drown out the metallic grinding sound coming from the front wheels, so it was off to the garage with my funky green golf.  Now, a country gal can't live without her wheels, so I hired a car.

Son-the-elder took one look and christened it 'Hannah the hired Hyundai' in an attempt to make the silvery grey car sound more exciting than it looked.  I took one look at its pristine paintwork, immaculate interior and minuscule mileage, and promptly handed over extra insurance money.  I drove home like a mouse creeping through a cat jamboree, apologising to the car every time we hit an unavoidable puddle, and going to great lengths to avoid potholes.  I was being so careful - so far, so good.

But, and this is a huge 'but' - the Tales-mobile boasts an automatic gearbox, and Hannah the hired Hyundai was most definitely, squareishly manual.  And yes, while I surprised myself at how easily I made the transition from automatic to manual, there were some real howlers.

I stalled it more times than I care to admit.  Hitting speed along the dual carriageway, it was some miles until I realised that screaming sound wasn't a particularly unusual backing track on the radio,
but what happens if you hit 60 in second gear.  "Is it meant to do that?" son-the-elder vocalised both boys' concerns as it broke Olympic long jump records, kangarooing up the drive as I tried to start it having forgotten I'd left it in gear.

I gave my most charming smile as the man at the hire garage asked if I'd had any problems.  "No, not at all," I breezed.  What I meant was I'd probably caused all sort of damage, but no way I was going to admit to it.

So no, in case you were thinking hiring out your car is a good idea, it isn't.  You might get someone like me driving it.  She whom the garage ask without fail every time I ring them "what have you done this time?"  Some of us shouldn't be allowed to hire cars.  But don't tell anyone.  After all, a country gal needs her wheels.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Chicken Tikka and a Slice of Humble Pie

Our grand old lady, the last of our hens died a couple of weeks ago.  Chicken Tikka, despite being dubbed ‘the immortal chicken’ hopped off to the great scratching ground in the sky.  She was ten years old, and the feistiest old bird you could imagine.  She wasn’t afraid of anything.  Dog, cats, kids: they all received a ferocious peck if they got too close.  She used to stand on the grass and watch as I thundered towards her with the petrol mower.  You could imagine her spitting baccy as I approached; it was me and the mower who’d have to change course.

Son-the-elder was philosophical; she’d had a good life.  He asked if we’d be getting more hens, but when I mentioned the great mite disaster, he was disappointed but accepting of my declaration we were never keeping chickens again.  Not so son-the younger.

At first he was indignant.  “Why?”  He asked when I told him Tikka had died, followed by “can we get a new one?”  No way, I said.


He protested all evening.  “Why?  It’s not fair.  I want a new chicken  Chickens are cute.” (his current obsession is with all things ’cute’)

I was a rock in the face of this barrage, hard and unyielding. No, I said.  No more chickens.  No no no.

And to prove my point, I gave away the henhouse.  Yeah, I said to friends and neighbours, anyone who would listen, it’s free to a good home.  But I felt really sad the day it went, when I cleaned it out and rounded up all things chicken for its new owners.

You see, I miss Tikka.  I miss her strutting around.  I miss seeing her running down the garden to see if I’ve got food.  I miss hearing her coming in through the back door clucking for titbits.  I miss the host of wild birds, the pheasants, pigeons and magpies who used to visit the garden to pinch her food; even the sparrows seem to be shunning us now.  There is a yawning space where she used to live at the bottom of the garden.  And when I spent yesterday gardening, there was a chicken-shaped gap - no one scuffling around me looking for bugs and worms.

No more chickens, I said.  But I could kick myself now for being so adamant, so quick to give away the henhouse, so hasty to broadcast the end of my chicken-rearing days.  Because I can see I’m going to have to eat a large slice of humble pie.  I know I’m going to wind up getting more hens.  But there's one more thing I'm going to have to do besides save up for a new henhouse.

I'm going to have to find a way to stop son-the-younger thinking pester-power wins the day!

Not the best picture, but she was a gorgeous old bird.  And no, she hadn't just laid a football...

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Self Publishing - The Aftermath

It’s been a few days since I published my book, and I just thought I’d share a few observations with you now that I'm both older and wiser.  After all, there are tons of blogs out there telling you ‘how to’ do it, whereas I’m contemplating beginning my own series ‘how not to’.

Observation #1. Your non-writery friends will be delighted for you,

“Oh wow, you got a publishing deal!  Congratulations!  You must be so chuffed!  Well done!  Brilliant brilliant brilliant!”

whereas fellow writers snigger up their sleeves because they know full well you’d have never gone down this route if you’d been able to interest a proper publisher.  So

Observation #2.  You will feel like a total fraud.

Observation #3. You will see pound signs ringing up in your ex-spouse’s eyes because the only writers he knows are J.K. Rowling and Ian Rankin, so he’s calculating just how much maintenance you’re going be paying him once those royalties start gushing in.  You’ll decide not to enlighten him to postpone the inevitable having him point out your fraudulent status and decided lack of smarts.

Observation #4. You will wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic having just realised you forgot to include a title or a copyright page.  Furthermore, you will be unable to rectify this since those non-writery friends have already bought first copies ready to cash in when you finally morph into J.K. Rowling, so you have to face up to the fact that yes, when everyone receives their copies of a highly unprofessional looking book, they’re all going to know you are a. an utter fraud, and b. a total numpty for not ordering a preview copy because you thought you were clever and got it right just checking online.

Need I say more?

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Huge Announcement!!

I've done it at last!

My novel 'A Very Ordinary Madness' is available to read on Kindle right now! (and it's only a pound!)

"Ewan Davies is a talented musician, a teacher living near Cambridge.  But when the past he’s fought to keep a secret threatens his life, Ewan must choose whether to face his demons or lose everything he loves."

I will have a paperback version available just as soon as I stop floundering around in formatting issues.  Watch this space!

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