Archive | September 2012

Saturday, 29th September

Saturday, 29th September

Keyword for the day: Charlie

This is Charlie impersonating his Uncle Nick on the PlayStation. It was taken yesterday in my house when we got back from town by an amused Christie, Nicky’s fiancee.

Most Saturdays, I look after Charlie, my youngest grandson.  At just two years-old he speaks pretty well, and some of the things he says are so funny.  He is obsessed with all sorts of vehicles and, when we are in my car on the way to town each week, he gives a running commentary on everything he sees.

This was how it went on the route into town yesterday: ‘Bus,’ he said confidently, as we turned into Barton Road and one went past.  ‘Van … bike … motor bike …grandma buggy …stinky lorry …  park ….choo choo train!’ 

‘Go Granny, go!’ he shrieked when the traffic lights turned green at Wicksteed Park. We turned into Windmill Avenue, and he started singing a very distinct Baa, baa, black sheep’ as we went past a man walking a white poodle. ‘Stop,’ he said suddenly at a pelican crossing. My right foot twitched – I nearly did as he instructed, but the lights were still on green!

At the end of Windmill Avenue he pointed out of the window. ‘That way, Granny,’ he said, pointing correctly down Stamford Road. We reached the junction with Wellington Street, a narrow street of Victorian terraced houses, with speed bumps every few yards. In this crazy town it is the only way to access the multi-story car park in the centre, unless you use another litre of petrol getting into town from Barton Seagrave!

We eased past a builders’ white pick-up truck, parked diagonally across the road. ‘Diddy wagon!’

‘What, Charlie?’ I said, thinking I hadn’t heard right.  I looked briefly at him over my shoulder as he screwed his head around in his car seat to get a better look. ‘Diddy wagon,’ he said with a smug conviction at having identified a new form of transport.

In Kettering, loud men with gravelly voices bellowing out ‘rag bone’ regularly tour the streets in pick-up trucks laden with junk. If you want to get rid of a broken washing machine or old fridge, just leave it out on your drive with a note on it for the gypsies. It will be taken away within the hour!

I wonder what he is going to come out with next? At the moment, he is just copying everything anyone says.  I think we are going to have to be very careful what we say when around our Charlie in future.

 

Friday, 28th September

28th September

Keyword for the day: Technology

I have my new IPhone 5 at long last.  I synced it, transferred all my contacts, registered my new nano sim card and waited … and waited ….All day it said: ‘No service’ on both my old and new phones. To be fair, Orange did say it would take between one and 24 hours for the new sim card to be switched on.  I was so impatient – I checked my new phone every few minutes all day to see if it had fired up. It finally sparked into life at six o’clock this evening.

I am a bit of a junkie for new technology.  I could have upgraded my IPhone 3GS six months ago, but wanted to wait until the new model came out. Holding the sleek and ultra-light new gadget in the palm of my hand, I thought back to my first mobile phone – I think I got it in 1995. It was an analogue model and all it did was make phone calls and send text messages. The screen was green and the text was black. I can’t remember the model, but I know not many other people in my circle of friends and acquaintances had one.

Way back in 1972, Rob had a conversation with my grandad, who was an engineer.  He held up a box of Swan matches and said to Grandad, ‘one day people will be able to speak to each other all over the world on a phone only this big.’  To which my grandad replied, ‘not in my lifetime, lad, and probably not in yours, either.’

Anyway, this is the extent of gadgets available to a technology junkie just 40 years ago:

  • A hand held Texas Instrument calculator. These cost an absolute fortune, as I recall.
  • An eight-track car stereo player. We did have one of these and a David Bowie cassette. Ziggy Stardust rocked in our little red Morris 1100 car, which was always breaking down.
  • A digital watch (you were really cool if you had one of these, which I did – a man’s black one)
  • A Polaroid Camera. We didn’t have one of these, but my parents in-law did. I hated it. I didn’t like having my photograph taken in those days, due to a distinct lack of hair, which is another story altogether!
  • A Fidelity Transistor Radio in a wooden case (this is exactly the model Rob bought me. We both had one.)
  • A reel to reel tape recorder. We have still got this up in the roof. We get it out periodically and laugh our heads of at at 17 year-old Rob singing ‘Hold your Head Up’ in a very drunken state.
  • A record player – or better still, a music centre – in your living room. We didn’t have a music centre until 1975. Mum and dad had a radiogram in the front room which played records.
  • A black and white portable TV in your bedroom.

I wonder what my grandad would have made of the IPhone 5?  What extraordinary leaps have been made in technology since 1972.

Thursday, 27th September

Thursday, 27th September

Keywords for the day: The Scarlet Pimpernel

Fred Terry in the Scarlet Pimpernel

One of the most colourful characters in literature has to be Sir Percy Blakeney, The Scarlet Pimpernel, created by Baroness Orczy. Nowadays, the term is used more broadly to describe a person who is daring, mysterious, or evasive.

“We seek him here, we seek him there,
Those Frenchies seek him everywhere.
Is he in heaven?—Is he in hell?
That demned, elusive Pimpernel.”

Last week, I was the Scarlet Pimpernel. Okay … okay … I can hear you all laughing.  Me? Daring, mysterious and evasive? You have got to be joking,” I can hear all the mutterings across cyberspace. Well, I can now reveal that, last week, I very secretly replicated this website/blog and stowed it away in a private place. One adjective that does describe me  appropriately is intuitive. You see, before I signed a contract to publish The White Cuckoo, and handed over my precious Blogspot blog into the hands of a domain controlled by others who used WordPress, I just had a feeling that I needed a safe, secret WordPress haven, and so I made sure I had a blank canvass for ‘Annieye’ and copied just one post onto it.

At the beginning of last week, I just knew that an unseen hand was going to slither and snake its way through the airwaves and pull the plug on my website/blog if I didn’t act like the elusive, bold and daring Scarlet Pimpernel. The sense of urgency was overpowering and I could have cried and stamped my feet with frustration when, on Thursday evening last week, I had to unexpectedly cover The Rural Forum meeting at work, thus stealing away the precious minutes ticking away before all the posts and pages I had painstakingly created might disappear.

Today, after another superhero, Captain Black, had checked it out thoroughly for me, to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently left any bits of old code buried inside it’s ‘brain’, I could finally breathe again. The Captain even paid me a compliment: he reckoned that for someone who isn’t a technie, I hadn’t done a bad job.

(I now have my hands around my head, trying to squeeze it back into its normal size!)

Wednesday, 26th September

Wednesday, 26th September

Keywords for the Day: BOOK COVER!

I have had a busy day today.  This morning I was in Melton Mowbray for a meeting at East Midlands Councils, then home for a quick sandwich and cup of tea before rushing back to work. Tonight I had full Council, which was … shall I say … one of the more memorable meetings in my career, given that I was on the point of grinning most of the way through it.

Everyone I met today has been asking me about progress with my novel. People were saying ‘not long now’ and ‘I can’t wait to buy it’.  At the meeting tonight, several councillors said they wanted to buy copies for Christmas presents, which is most encouraging. I didn’t go into the whole sorry tale of how The White Cuckoo nearly got flushed down the loo forever last week. Instead, I thought I would try the sneaky and stealthy approach, hoping that when it is published, people won’t be able to see the join between publisher-published and self-published by I-V-S family enterprises.

I was not intentionally sneaky and stealthy, but I needed to avoid some difficult questions, so I am afraid I chickened out and didn’t mention that I no longer had a publishing contract.

Anyway, when I got home I fired up my laptop to discover my whizz-kid comic-book cover designers have magicked me a book cover which is AWESOME.  It’s only a rough draft as yet, and the white cuckoo is a black crow  in the process of being added to the image but I love it. Hopefully I shall be able to put it up on Facebook and on this blog very soon.

There is nothing like the thrill of seeing your first book cover.  One special writing friend has already seen it and suggested I change the title to The Black Crow.

Chapter 9: The Families

The families featured in The White Cuckoo are very ordinary.  They are all hard-working, typical families of our indigenous population in village communities the heart of Northamptonshire. Of course, I am very much aware that I am not being very politically correct in only portraying good, decent families in my book – but hang on a minute – it is MY book and I can write what I like, and include characters and families I think my readers can relate to and would like to be associated with in real life.  The White Cuckoo is a good, clean book. You will not find (bad) swear words within its pages: if you are looking for my characters to be ‘doms’ or ‘subs’ and squeeze their less-than-perfect bodies into skin-tight black leather, clad with studded dog collars draped with menacing chains, and then go on to have rough sex eight times in 24 hours, then you might as well write your review of The White Cuckoo now.

Here is a brief synopsis of the main families featured in The White Cuckoo.

The Hargreaves

Alan and Pippa Hargreaves had a very happy marriage until Pippa died of cancer, leaving Alan a widow at the age of 48. Despite the more-than-average age gap between them, they had created a secure and loving home for their precious only daughter, Tammy, the heroine.  They worked hard, even though money was tight and Pippa, despite having lived in luxury with her first husband, Tony Troutman, had knuckled down and worked full-time all her life to supplement the family income and give their daughter the best life chances she could possibly have.

The Troutmans

Tony Troutman is a man kicked mercilessly down the slippery slope of social decline, and throughout the book the reader learns of his misfortunes, which have left him alone with his only daughter, Marian, and a virtual recluse. He depends on her, and has lost all his social skills through tragic circumstances that have left him shuffling around the bare table of life, picking up scraps wherever he can. Marian, despite her outward success and cheerfulness, harbours a deep resentment about her lot in life.  She works long hours as a primary school teacher and is a pillar of the local community, a parish councillor and regular church-goer.

The Peppers

The most interesting family, I think, featuring in the novel. They are a family that has fragmented, having been blasted apart by a single moment of madness which resulted in ongoing bizarre behaviour by all of its members. Over a period of just one year, they have all made some terrible mistakes, said things to each other they bitterly regret and there are deep chasms that, if not bridged, will keep them forever leading their lives in parallel to each other into infinity.

The Staverleys

The White Cuckoo is set in two time periods: 1910 and the present day.  The Staverleys are one of the 1910 families and comprise of The Reverend Edward Staverley, his wife Hannah and their eight children. My inspiration for the Staverley family was the old film ‘Cheaper by the Dozen’, although I wanted its patriarch to be softer, more loving than controlling and a typical family man as well as a vicar.

The Thompsons

The other 1910 family featured in the novel are the Thompsons. Now – I can’t really tell you in advance about the Thompsons, as I would be giving away the entire plot of the novel.  All I can say is that as the story unfolds the reader will come to know and love them.

None of the families in The White Cuckoo are perfect: they have secrets, heartbreaking pasts, jealousies, arguments and sibling rivalries.  They squabble with each other and make up.  They say and do things they later regret, and their tables of life can either be laden with banquets, or covered with plates of stale, mouldy bread. There is one common theme, though, running through all the families in my book.

They all love each other, really!

I hope you are going to enjoy reading about them.

Tuesday, 25th September

Tuesday, 25th September

Keyword for the day: Seven

When I got to the madhouse (my daughter’s) this morning, I was met by a shouting son-in-law and a tearful grandson.  Despite it having taken him twenty minutes to put his socks on yesterday morning, he had apparently surpassed himself this morning and hadn’t put them on at all. Now that wouldn’t have mattered, had he (a) eaten his breakfast (b) cleaned his teeth and (c) found his book bag, coat and shoes – but he hadn’t.

‘It’s not fair,’ he sobbed, looking at me for sympathy. ‘Sophie gets everything done for her.’

‘Sophie’s only three years old,’ retaliated his dad. ‘For goodness sake, Tyler, you are seven years old. Surely you can remember to put your own socks on!’

On the way to school, we had a little chat and I told him that I could remember being seven and in trouble all the time.

‘But I do everything wrong, miss things out and forget things,’ he sniffed. ‘I’m always getting told off for it. I just can’t stop myself thinking about different things and then I forget what I’m doing.’

Hmm … not really much difference between Tyler and his granny then!

Monday, 24th September

Monday, 24th September

Keywords for the day: Shooting Stars

Tonight, the sky is almost clear in Kettering after a day of heavy rain and dark satanic mills skies. After an earlier conversation about shooting stars, my daughter rang me to tell me she had seen three meteors.  I went out into the garden and after a few minutes saw a shooting star split into three, brief starlets. My eldest son and husband then joined me and we saw an orangey-coloured streak across the sky as another meteor entered the earth’s atmosphere. I told my son he should make a wish.

As I stared into the heavens, trying to prioritise my own wishes, David Bowie began singing ‘Starman’ in my head.

There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’d like to come and meet us
But he thinks he’d blow our minds
There’s a starman waiting in the sky
He’s told us not to blow it
Cause he knows it’s all worthwhile

For a few seconds I was back in 1972, gazing out of my bedroom window into the night sky listening to David Bowie on my little black transistor radio.  What would I have wished for as a sixteen-year old searching for a shooting star?  I glanced at my son, and my eyes filled with tears of pride as I knew that he was one of 1972’s three most precious wishes.

So, what did I wish for tonight? Well … that would be telling, wouldn’t it?