Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Birthday blogging...

Oh fuck - I'm forty!
It happened on Sunday. My husband took me away to Burgh Island for the weekend. A tagline for the hotel said I would be "Transported back to the thirties." But I reached forty anyway.
Luckily I was distracted from this age-based calamity by having a wonderful - wonderful - time!

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Race week

There's been something or other going on at the racecourse this week.There have been giant blimps floating about in the sky - and the constant buzz of helicopters carrying the rich and famous to and fro.
All the shops and pubs are decorated with green balloons or streamers and shouty banners "WE SERVE GUINNESS!" "RACE WEEK BREAKFASTS HERE!" "GET YOUR RACING POST!"
Florists and garden centres are bursting with shamrocks and heather (sorry, LUCKY shamrocks and heather!) Even the charity shop windows are displaying grimy old binoculars and battered biographies of retired jockeys.
Apart from all the shamrock green, there's an awful lot of pink about. And its the men's trousers that I'm talking about here. They are dirty raspberry, sun-faded strawberry or coral coloured - and they're being teamed with candy-pink and mauve shirts - eek! And the hats! Why do race-going men wear such mad hats?

The women aren't exempt by any means. This week they've been tottering about the pavements and cafes in those high-heeled shoes that seem to have an extra two or three inches of sole on the bottom. These women are in actual pain - at ten o'clock in the morning! And they distract attention from their pained facial expressions by wearing a fascinators upon their heads. Fascinating!

All the young people of Cheltenham will have skipped school this week - first, to go and hang around the train station to see if they can spot any famous people arriving; then, to go off to their temporary jobs in bars, restaurants and cafes (for the ginormous easy-come-easy-go tips!)
Older Cheltonians will either rent out their houses to a bunch of drunken Irishmen and go ski-ing on the proceeds, or simply hunker down and attempt to avoid the town centre, the pubs and the horrendously unmoving traffic for a week.
In the chemist's on Tuesday, I was sorting through a selection of nail polishes, when one of those men in a big hat and pink trousers came in rubbing his hands against the cold and said, "Have you got a hot tip for today, my lovely?" to the old lady behind the counter.
"Always warm the pot before you put the tea in," she advised him solemnly.

It's impossible not to be aware of the buzz, though, and this year (as every year) I shall find myself saying to someone, "You know, I really must go to the races sometime..."
Anyway - in case you're interested - the news from 'Nam is that Kauto Star didn't win. He was pulled up. But everyone clapped and cheered him anyway. So there you are.
I really must go and watch it next year!

It's Mother's Day today, so I'm having a lie-in. My nine year old brought me - not just breakfast in bed, but an actual breakfast menu first. How's that for service?

Briosh? I didn't know he was even aware of briosh! And I'm not at all sure that we have any in the breadbin. To be on the safe side I opted for coffee and a sausage sandwich.
My five year old bought me a chocolate heart and a card with a kitten on - which he considers to be a great joke since I'm not at all fond of cats. Especially the two that live with us.

Later on, husband has promised to provide Chinese food - and there is a homemade Victoria sponge cake for tea. I am a happy mother!

Friday, 9 March 2012

Spring days and apple muffins

The evenings are getting lighter, the mornings are misty and there's been lots of bright spring sunshine in the afternoons.
I've been out walking with my friend HH and her annoying little dog, Billy.

We looked at the view and talked about what we are writing at the moment. I'm having a go at some historical chapters and loving the research and all the references to carriages, breeches and ballgowns. She is editing sweepingly - changing entire settings and killing off important characters. Although I love these conversations and they always inspire me to go home and write more, I can't quite shake off the feeling that what we're actually doing is pretending to be real writers - just as six year old girls pretend (quite solemnly) to be princesses.
I wonder if we'd enjoy it so much if we actually had agents and earned money from it. I suspect there would be a lot less gazing at the view and a lot more complaining about the pressure of deadlines, writers' block and tiny royalties. God - that sounds even better!

There are lots more signs of spring in the garden now.
Here comes the Magnolia Stellata - it's a dwarf Magnolia with petals that look like torn ribbons. I also have a Magnolia Grandiflora which is an evergreen with flowers that look like teacups!
Cute Rosemary
Pieris - Valley Valentine!
Bright pink Camellia

I love garden statuary - this is my splendid lion's head complete with creeping ivy!

Look - I also have a dragon!

This is Magnolia Soulangeana - it's a big tree with flowers that come out before the leaves, then seem to be floating - like airborne water-lilies. (Yes I have got a thing about magnolias - well, I am nearly forty!)

 Apart from the hill-walking, it's been a busy week filled with tedious and expensive appointments, which I've had to fit my writing around. An hour at the doctors, three at the hairdressers and another three at the dentists. I feel like I've been in for my MOT - and had to have a lot of work done (probably because I'm nearly forty!)
To cheer myself up I made apple spice muffins with 250g plain flour, 3tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 tsp mixed spice, 2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg, 1 pinch ginger & cloves, 100g sugar, 1 egg, 150ml milk, 85g melted butter, 85g raisins and 3 chopped apples - all mixed together.

Wordcount is around 58,000 - and I've e-mailed copies of it out to the other members of my writing group so they can give me some feedback - it's hard to judge my own work now it's become such a huge chunk of writing. I know they'll say lots of kind things, but it's still horribly nerve-racking because they're all genuinely good writers!