Archive | February 2008

Wot a Week That Was!

Whew! Glad it’s Friday. Lots of blogging time next week, though.

Last night was full Council. It’s the most formal of all Council meetings and tends to last a couple of hours at least – last night it was 2 and a half hours. The Committee Administrator (traditionally the Democratic Services Manager – which is what I is) sits rather grandly on the raised dias, alongside the Mayor, the Deputy Mayor, The Chief Executive MBE and the Head of Democratic and Legal Services (my boss) and the Mayor’s Chaplain, who says prayers at the start of the meeting.

Picture it – the Council Chamber with sensitive sound system and shiny wooden panelled walls, 36 councillors, about 40 members of the public, three Deputy Chief Executives and around a dozen senior officers all staring expectedly at the raised dias where moi sits rather grandly (not forgetting name badge – see previous post). We had two journalists there too – because it was the meeting where the Council Tax was set.

Do you all remember when your mum used to say “have you got your hanky?” whenever you went anywhere important, or left in the morning? Well it’s taken me nearly fifty years to realise it’s actually quite good advice!

I went into the meeting without a sniffle or even a hint of a cold. After about half an hour my eyes started pricking and someone turned a tap on inside my head. I didn’t have a tissue, or a hanky, or even a jumper with long sleeves.

I kept sniffing to keep the runny nose at bay. After two not very ladylike sniffs, picked up by sound system, I got a dirty look from the Chief Executive MBE. I then tried to pinch my nose so it didn’t run and got a funny look from the Mayor’s Chaplain, who was sitting beside me. After a few seconds he sniffed his armpit, pretending to wipe his brow with the back of his hand.

The pressure was building behind my pinched nose. Then, horror of horrors, they took a vote.

I let go of my nose and it dripped on my minute book. There was an ill-disguised snigger from one of the Deputy Chief Executives who is actually quite human and funny. He caught my eye and grinned as he delved in his pocket, looking for a tissue for me.

I wiped my nose on the back of my hand and counted the votes with the other hand.

My boss threw me an exasperated frown which spoke volumes. (He denied it this morning.)

I had a black jumper on with three-quarter length sleeves. I had an idea. If I pulled one sleeve down my arm far enough I could surreptitiously wipe my nose on the sleeve. I know this sounds disgusting but I was desperate. I’d pulled the sleeve down in readiness, but hadn’t actually wiped my nose on it, when Cliff, the Mayor’s driver caught my eye. He was standing at the door, on duty. He raised his eyebrows and pointed to his shoulder. I looked at my shoulder. Oh No! There it was in all it’s glory – a bright purple bra-strap, made even more vivid by the pale skin on my shoulder. Where I’d pulled my sleeve down it had also delectably exposed my shoulder.

I decided I’d just have to sniff at a strategic place, such as when councillors laughed or raised their voices. This usually happens quite a lot at Council meetings. It didn’t last night. I knew I’d just got to sniff, so I tried to do it quietly – I honestly did. The thing was there was so much runny snot in my nose it made me choke – very loudly into the microphone.

Another black look from my boss followed by a deadly one from Chief Executive MBE.

I whispered to the Chaplain. “Have you got a tissue I could borrow?” He shook his head sympathetically.

I sniffed and dripped and choked all through the meeting. I made a quick getaway at the end and shot upstairs to my office where I had a pack of tissues in my drawer.

Cliff came to find me this morning. “Your purple bra-strap gave me quite a turn,” he said. And half of Kettering, I thought!

Note to self: always take tissues to meetings from now on.

(I now have a poorly cold)

Absence Note

Please may I be excused from blogging until Friday? I am suffering from toomuchworkitis this week because two of my colleagues have rung in and croaked at a dragon (me) saying they are much to ill to be at work and would only spread the lurgy anyway.

To top it all it’s Council week – one of the important ones where the budget and Council Tax get set – and Big White One (MBE) barks out comments left right and centre to the humble minions and we all have to run around like headless chickens, falling at his feet with every whim and command.

Please God, don’t let me forget to put my name badge on for the meeting, or horror of horrors, print out the list of questions with the wrong shade of maroon for the logo – or else I fear that poor Annie will be no more, having been hung, drawn and quartered by the Big White One in the Manor House Gardens.

(I will try to do my homework for Cloud Line, though)

Speak to you all at the weekend.

Appraisal of my Baby

Picture the scene: it’s ten to five and I think I’ll just have a quick peep on my home e-mail inbox from my work pc. Shock. Horror. Panic. There’s an e-mail from Real Writers. It’s my appraisal for Twisted Garlands, which has been the cause of me checking my home e-mail from work every half-an-hour for the last two weeks!

I shut web-mail down quickly without opening the e-mail, switch off the computer, pick up my bag and coat and fly out of the office as if I’m being chased by the devil.

It takes me twelve, long minutes to drive home: the traffic’s backed up and I’m mightily impatient. It seems like at least an hour.

When I get home I’m hoping no-one’s there. No such luck. Technoson and hubby sit in the lounge watching a DVD of “Only Fools and Horses” and laughing their heads off.

I switch on the computer and go into the kitchen to make a cuppa. When I come back I sit down at the computer desk.

“Haven’t you had enough of bloody computers?” nearest and dearest says. “Give it a rest, for god’s sake!”

I take my cuppa to an armchair and sit down like a naughty schoolboy caught looking porn, pretending to watch, and laugh at, “Only Fools and Horses”. I want to look at the appraisal – and yet I don’t want to look at all.

Finally, I end up alone in the lounge and creep furtively over to the computer desk. I read the first sentence, remembering what Mercedes said about critiques always lulling you into a false sense of security with a positive opening statement.

“First of all, and possibly more important than you realise, congratulations on a near-flawless command of grammar and syntax.”

I hardly dare read on any further. OK, I think, turning my attention to a labrador’s head on my lap, looking up at me with huge brown eyes that are saying ‘scratch my ears, right now’, what she’s really saying is that I can string two words together text-book style but forget the creative bit.

I read on. It isn’t too bad. In fact when I get to the bit “you gave me such arcane details as hyphenated compound adjectives, correctly used semi-colons, and, joy-of-joys, properly placed commas” I begin to feel quite heady! Then I hit the second paragraph.

“I suspect you’re still at a fairly early stage with this work.”

Huh!! No I’m not! I’ve sculpted and painted; shown not told; extracted adverbs and too many adjectives; injected smells, light and shade, hot and cold, and even counted the number of words in a sentence to make sure it’s not more than fifty!

Oh dear. She still thinks it’s in the raw.

(We’ll skip the bits about the synopsis. It’s only a few words – I can mend that later. It’s bad, really bad.)

Then we really get into the appraisal. What Lynne is saying is so right. I can actually see that she’s right – I need to work on viewpoint and balancing the narrative. She makes some really positive comments about the bits I, too, feel I’ve written well – so as I read on I’m pleased that I’m getting such constructive feedback. The bits I feel are weak, she feels are weak too.

This is really OK, I’m thinking to myself. I give myself a little pep-talk as I read. This is what I needed and exactly what I wanted when I forked out the £50 for the appraisal. Then Lynne wonders if I haven’t already stopped reading and hurled the appraisal at the wall. No, I think. Why does she say that? After all, what she’s saying is true. She’s not trying to piss on my bonfire, just help me, a novice, to become a real writer.

Then I get to a lovely bit. I can see she really means it – about my inspiration and energy coming through in my writing. Then she says she was disappointed when the 10K works ended mid-scene because she wanted to know what came next. I want to give her a hug for being so nice.

The appraisal concludes with “I’m sure that, give or take the odd technical detail such as viewpoint, I’ve said nothing you weren’t already aware of at some level. Everything I’ve mentioned can be resolved; it’s all part of the process of becoming a writer”.

Then she says that I clearly know my market and can write engagingly for it.

Lynne – if you ever read this – you’re a star. Thank you for returning my baby to me as a toddler, having learned it’s manners!

Spending the kids inheritance

Been splashing out this week on interesting things rather than skips, concrete and timber.

At long, long last the extension is at the decorating and furnishing stage. Thirty-three years I’ve waited to have a nice house like wot other people have got. We were very nearly there when we were hit by the optimism bug and decided to build a double garage in place of the single one and then put two more bedrooms and an en-suite on top. Oh, and then, just for good measure, we extended the kitchen and built a utility room and downstairs loo on the back as an afterthought. What the hell possessed us? Our family was shrinking, for goodness sake, not growing! We needed a smaller house, not a bigger one.

“A year,” he said. “Or perhaps eighteen months at the most.”

Huhh. Fibber. He knew it was going to take four years.

The extension gobbled up our money like a hungry lion. We ended up having to have a complete new roof – because the original roof was not quite gone, but would’ve been in the next few years. On a whim one boring Saturday afternoon we knocked out the downstairs cloakroom to make a bigger hall and moved the front door (yes – we had to have a new front door too!)

It disrupted the rest of the house and turned me into even more of a disinterested housewife than I was before. Why bother cleaning up, when you know it won’t make any difference whatsoever?

Dust. Ohmigod. The dust and muck. Garden? what’s that?

As I type, hubby is upstairs, decorating. Technoson moved into his new room yesterday. It’s very smart with a large squidgy cream leather sofa for him to lounge on while he watches his new tv on the wall. He doesn’t appreciate it, though. He wasn’t the slightest bit interested in choosing the wallpaper or new carpet. All he was interested in was the location of his Playstation. I caught him earlier this evening with blu-tac and posters just in time. His dad would have had an absolute fit if he’d stuck posters on the brand new wallpaper!

So – here we are, hubby and I, rattling around in this huge great house with just one son whose hardly ever here anyway and one doleful-eyed labrador (the other one moved out with Garry).

Anyway, yesterday I had the afternoon off work because I had an evening meeting. I went out and bought a lovely marble fireplace and new fire – oh and a new leather sofa and chairs for the living room. I don’t know whether our old sofa and chairs will last out till the middle of May, when we get the new ones.

I suspect not.

Writing Saturation Point

Had a busy writing day today. Two sets of minutes typed up and an old powerpoint presentation re-written to bring it in line with new legislation this morning. Then home for the afternoon when I re-wrote the Valentine story I posted on Cloud-line to make it into a short story. Just for fun.

Back to work at 5.00 for a 7.00 meeting, two hours of writing notes by hand for the record of decisions (which I have only 48 hours to publish – you might like to read it on the website on Monday – or there again ….. perhaps not!) and then got home at 9.10 pm to a lovely casserole I had put in the oven before I went back to work.

Heard a little gem at the meeting tonight which I shall definitely use somewhere. Hey … get this:-

“It’s like pushing an elephant in high heels up a steep hill.” I haven’t heard that before, but perhaps it’s an oldie – enlighten me if it is!

Needless to say, that little snippet won’t make the record of decisions, but it did make my scribbling pad hidden in the back of my minute book!

I do so love my job. Type, type, scribble, scribble, doodle, doodle.

But now I have reached writing saturation point today, so please excuse me my while I log off. I’ll look at all your blogs tomorrow lunchtime. Going to get a nice hot bath and go to bed with the Captain’s chapter of Bridge Across Forever, which I meant to do last night but fell asleep in the chair instead.

Loopy Lunchtime

I popped out to get a birthday card for a friend today. Five minutes walk into town, five minutes in the shop and five minutes back – leaving me the rest of my lunchtime to finish a short story I’d downloaded onto my dongle stick. Or so I thought!

In the card shop they had some very cheap 2008 calendars. £9.99 down to a quid. I bought two. Then, at the checkout, I bought some first class stamps.

It all came to £5.37.

“You’ve spent more than £5 so you can have one of those Valentine Cards free,” the lady said nodding towards some huge boxed cards in the window.

I wasn’t going to bother (having no-one who would appreciate a 2ft Valentine card – hubby would have doubled up laughing). Then I suddenly thought of technoson, skint and with expensive girlfriend.

I went over and chose one with “To my Girlfriend” on the front, hoping he hadn’t already bought one.

I thought nothing of it, but it quite put the the elderly shop assistant about! She was all of a fluster when she gave me my change and there were some raised eyebrows to her young assistant when I left the shop.

I got back into the office, wrote the birthday card, went to put a stamp on it …. and no stamps!

I put my coat back on and trecked back into town. The shop assistant remembered me, of course. She had forgotten to put my stamps in the bag with the birthday card and calendars.

I thought I had better explain:

“That’s a really good offer,” I said nodding towards the free cards. “I got one for my son’s girlfriend.”

I’m passing this onto Kev (alias Captain Black) because he’s a nice man and made sure I didn’t get lost in London.

I’m also passing it on to Hesitant Scribe, because she’s lovely and needs cheering up right now.