Saturday 26 October 2013

Don't Do Anything Rash

A challenging week at Hedges Towers. I mentioned in my previous post how BH's absence had triggered a whole raft of small problems. The situation ongoes. On Saturday night, after a lovely day in London with DD, I developed a very extreme allergic reaction to something I ate and came out in huge itchy red blotches. In deference to the presence of small children, family pets and the fact that you might be eating breakfast, I shall not post a picture.

Suffice it to say that last time I had this, it was traceable to a new soap. This time, who knows. The night wore on, the itchy patches formed, re-formed, itched and wondered round various parts of my body like unwelcome visitors who had outstayed their welcome but refuse to depart. At 3 am, I ran out of E45 cream and decided that I was probably going to spend the rest of my life in a small jam jar on the mantelpiece. Such are the thoughts that strike in the desperate and itchy small hours.

A visit to the internet informed me that these extreme allergic incidents can be exacerbated by stress - which is logical, and I could see how that worked, but it is very difficult NOT to be stressed when you are lying awake, resisting the urge to scratch. Other symptoms developed over the next few days. The dizzy spells and blinding headache that accompanied them were possibly attributable to a brain tumour, I decided, further evidence that self-diagnosing on the internet in the middle of the night is also not a good idea. Several days of misery passed. At one point, I had visions of BH returning to find a small dehydrated heap at the bottom of the stairs. Thankfully I have now recovered, and the PINK SOFA has withdrawn its offer of being buried with me in case I fancied a sit-down in the afterlife. We march on.

As does Badgergate, which is taking an interesting turn. Regular readers will know that one of our local Tory councillors recently made the unfortunate remark to me in public that if there were any badgers on the allotment land the council has earmarked for development, he'd go and personally put down cyanide. Subsequently, another of his colleagues tried to 'buy' my compliance in a council meeting by saying that if I'd be more ''co-operative'' in my ''attitude'' he'd make sure the development would be ''sustainable'. Enough already, so I decided to out both men in the local press.

Councillor A - he of the badger-poisoning persuasion, immediately wrote to refute my remarks, declaring that he loved wildlife, but added the rather telling rider that: 'If I did use the word cyanide in the context of badgers, it was purely a connotation, not in any way versed as a threat.' (Quote). Hmm. Upon such small statements do whole career empires topple. One is reminded of Clinton's elliptical:  'I did not have sex with that woman'.

I am baffled though: given the laws of libel, why on earth would I deliberately misquote someone in a letter to a newspaper? How stupid do they think I am? So a further letter of clarification wings its way, reiterating the validity of my original letter. Which may draw forth other correspondents on both sides with further reflections. Meanwhile the council has refused to comply with my latest FOI request to find out what they are up to behind the scenes. Go figure.

I am currently up for Blogger of the Year: If you would like to vote for me (or any of the other bloggers) please go to:

Saturday 19 October 2013

To DIY or not to DIY, that is the question.

New book, & ebook.. new cover... see below

A troubling week at Hedges Towers. BH departed for his annual Italian Jaunt, upon which 3 fence panels instantly fell down, I mislaid my mobile and house keys and the car developed a 'no-don't-just-turn-up-the-music-sort-it noise under the bonnet. I believe this stare of affairs is called Sod's Law and I'm guessing that things are not going to get any better until he returns. Teeth are being gritted and loins girded in anticipation.

Added to this, the elderly cat (18 years old) continues to decline into furry senescence and needs copious care. I am putting up with the constant demands for attention, broken nights, having to spend a fortune on the only cat food he will now eat and letting him sleep under the radiator in the hope that when I am old and in my dotage, someone will do the same for me.

Meanwhile with publication day drawing closer, I have been asked by several people why I decided to go with a commercial publisher as opposed to self-publishing my book, as I did previously with Jigsaw Pieces Two reasons: firstly, it is all too easy nowadays to write a book, cobble together a cover and upload the finished product to Amazon (actually, it darn well isn't .. as you can read here:). Advances in technology have opened up enormous opportunities for self-publishing that were never there when I started writing books, and that is a good thing.

However, inevitably there is a lot of dross out there and it lets the side down. Poorly produced books with typos, badly designed covers, sold at rock bottom prices is not the way I want to go. Despite the many ''Hey, I produced a book for virtually nothing'' blogs, the writers of the best self-published books have usually used beta readers, then paid out for professional editing, proofreading and cover designing. Hats off to them. It is hard work and not cheap and having done it once, I'm not keen to do it again.

Secondly, to be accepted by a commercial publisher is a sign that my work is of a certain standard. Very few writers are now being taken on by the ''big'' mainstream houses. You have to be young, connected to somebody, the possessor of a fabulously interesting/made up back story, or a celeb. Small commercial independents like Crooked Cat (my publisher) are now the first port of call for serious writers who find the big publishing doors slammed shut. The market is changing once more, as evidenced when Crooked Cat recently opened its doors for submissions and was totally taken aback by the inundation of manuscripts. They are in the business of making money, as are all independent publishers and they only take on a small percentage of the writers who apply. I am one of the lucky few.

With this in mind, I have uploaded the new cover(s) for you to see. It was created by Designer Dave, who is a friend, a professional graphic artist and designed the cover for Jigsaw Pieces. The full title of the new novel is Diamonds & Dust, A Victorian Murder Mystery and the book and ebook should be available on Amazon at the beginning of December, just in time for Christmas. The cover reminds me of contemporary newspaper headings, or theatrical posters which is appropriate to the plot, although I have also been told it is reminiscent of very early Penguin covers. It is quirky and different ... just like the story itself .. and, dare I say it, like the author of the story herself!

Friday 18 October 2013

Friday 11 October 2013

The Pink Sofa welcomes Paul Tobin, poet.

It's not often The PINK SOFA has a chance host such a talented and versatile writer, poet and photographer as Paul Tobin. He grew up in Widnes, but has lived in Somerset for 30 years. Paul has written poetry since he was 12, and thinks he's getting the hang of it now. He has published two volumes of poetry.
Paul has been Festival Poet at Purbeck Folk Festival (2011), the Accoustic Festival of Great Britain (2012) and Lechlade Festival (2013). He has also appeared at Wychwood, Bristol Folk Festival (2012) and Cock& Bull (2011). His blog, Magpie Bridge is always worth dropping in to. As The Pink Sofa is currently revising its first book of poetry: Upholstery Thoughts, it is agog to see how a professional does it.

''Every poem benefits from being revised and every poet worth their salt revises their work.  This is where the hard work comes in and where you develop your skill.
A little while ago, after I suspect a surfeit of apocalyptic reggae, I got to comparing the end of the academic year with the extinction of species - as you do. This is the poem I came up with:

Now the jig is up, the experiment nearly over, it’s time for the exam. Please answer the following questions as completely as you can. Your answers may be of interest to some future species or some extra-terrestrial life form, if they can be bothered to come so far to see the pig’s ear we’ve made of this place.

Was the trek out of Africa worth it?
Agriculture, what was that all about then, especially when the big supermarkets started stuffing both the farmers and the shoppers?
As a species why were we so good at murdering one another?
What was so brilliant about privatisation anyway?
If “war is the locomotive of history” how much of a twat was Trotsky, Mao or Stalin discuss? (NB if these names do not appal then insert one that does, there are enough of them to choose from).
Why did we let some of the world starve when the rest of us grew fat?
How does David Cameron sleep at night?
Why did we spend billions of pounds on Trident and why is it still pointed at Russia?
How much blood to the nearest pint is on Tony Blair’s hands?
What was the point of Boris Johnson?
As a species why do we believe in ideologies over common sense?
How hard did the present cabinet have to work to look so bloody smug?
Why was the Daily Express not sold as a comic?
Did you really believe the Tories when they said the NHS was safe in their hands?
Why are no city bankers in goal or at least destitute?
How could anyone have believed all that other shit the Tories told us?
Why did we go into Afghanistan without an exit strategy?
Nuclear power, who did you really expect to clean up all the crap?

As you can appreciate, in this draft it is rather a formless diatribe, not that this stopped me from reading it out at an awards evening for a local poetry competition when it was barely a day old (mind the gap between what I say and my own actions…). Even as I stood there full of righteous ire proclaiming for all I was worth. I realised that it was far to hectoring.
So what is wrong with this draft? It’s too long, it pounds the listener into submission (or boredom which is worse). It repeats itself- which is something to be avoided. In short it is far too pointy finger.
On the plus side I liked the rambling introduction to the questions. I wanted my northern voice to set the scene and so used one of my mother’s expressions.
Several months later it had slimmed down and I think is a better poem.

Now the jig is up, the experiment nearly over, it’s time for the exam. Please answer the following questions as completely as you can. Your answers may be of interest to some future species or some extra-terrestrial life form, if they can be bothered to come so far to see the pig’s ear we’ve made of this place.

The big trek out of Africa- was it worth the effort? Discuss.
Agriculture-what was all that about then? Pay particular attention to the supermarkets and how they set about stuffing both the consumer and the producer. Illustrate your answer with drawings of supermarkets burning.
Did you really believe the Tories when they said the NHS was safe in their hands? Answer yes or no.
To the nearest pint estimate how much blood is on Tony Blair’s hands.
State, to the nearest year, when you came to believe that we should pay for our own education, then comment on the fact that the people who told us we had to pay benefitted from free education themselves. Pay particular attention to their moral bankruptcy.
How long, in weeks, did it take the Tory government to look so bloody smug?
And finally, why did we allow them to get away with it for so long?

I think this version works better. What do you think?

I’d like to leave you with a couple of writing tips:

Always revise. Evaluate every word-does the poem still work if you remove it? If it does-leave it out.
Join a writing group, develop analytical skills.
Read you work aloud, it will sound different. Better still get someone else to read it then you can really hear how it sounds.
Read as much poetry as you can. Look at the structure of the poems you like, what makes them work?
Leave your poem alone for a couple of weeks-time will grant you a more critical eye.
Never be too in love with a specific line-remove it if it stops the poem working. You can always use it again somewhere else.
Lastly keep on writing.

Thank you.''

Paul's steampunk novel, The Jowler is available at:
His blog is at:
His Amazon Author page is at: 

Friday 4 October 2013

Those Little Moments

Who was it said they wished there was a stair lift that reached the top landing before you'd forgotten why you wanted to go up there in the first place? No, I don't know either, but the first three words of that sentence are currently proving to be rather a leitmotiv for my life. Do not get me wrong: I love being 64. The hair has never been redder, the attitude sassier or feistier and as for caring what the world and its partner thinks of me, I'm so waay ahead of Rhett Butler.

And yet, over and above all the feist and sass and damn, there are moments when stuff .... well ... somehow eludes me. A realization that was brought home vividly the other week as I stood outside a John Lewis store cursing because it was shut, and suddenly perceived the reason I couldn't get in was because I was pushing a door marked pull. Similarly, when I arrived back home minus the things I'd bought as I'd managed to mislay them somewhere between the counter where I paid for them and the homeward journey. And again the time I had a full-on public row with the Automated EE woman because I dropped my credit card while topping up the mobile on a moving bus and she didn't do ''hang on, just got to pick up the card''.

No, I am not going gaga, to use the medical terminology. Just getting a little .... what's the word I'm groping for? Yes, that. Like the other day I was waiting at the bus stop to catch the Luton bus, when I was actually supposed to be catching the St Albans bus which comes on the opposite side of the road and goes in the opposite direction. Fortunately remembered just as it turned the corner. Poor bus driver nearly had a heart attack as I dived in front of his wheels, arm outstretched.

Then there is the mobile phone. I put it down. Somewhere. The number of times I have had to ring it from the landline, having looked up the number beforehand because I can never...umm...thingy...what it is. Thank goodness it's only a cheapo Nokia, suitable for the technically challenged and easily replaceable if I ever flush it down the loo. Which is always a possibility. Gawd knows what might happen if I had one of those bendy i-Phone 6 things.

My best friend Elissa and I have these ... whatsits ... every time we go out together. Sometimes we find ourselves driving along somewhere without the slightest clue where we're supposed to be heading, though we knew when we started out. Or we can't find her silver Toyota in a multi-storey - though in our defence there are always so many silver Toyotas in multi-storeys, silver being the go-to colour for most modern cars that it isn't really our fault. We have been reduced to pacing the aisles clicking her key fob in the hope that the car will respond eventually.

It's infuriating, but there appears to be nothing I can do to prevent it happening. And it does seem to be happening with alarming frequency.Whatever it is. So there you are ...who are you again? Anyway, you'll have to excuse me now: I have an elsewhere to be. Or I will have, once
I can remember where it is.

SEE ALSO: Aldi Antics
                     Transports of Delight