Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Blogger mystery

Well, I just added some links to the sidebar, and I have not the foggiest clue why they are listed in double spacing. Not the foggiest. I may email blogger about this.

Let me tell you a story...

I've been going through my fiction writing tonight, sorting the things that I have published, the unpublished but finished things, and the works in progress. This doesn't take long as mine is not an extensive output, mainly because when it comes to writing I have the attention span of a goldfish with ADHD and the willpower of George Best at a free bar staffed only by blonde models.

I came across something that I wrote for a publication called Fusing Horizons. There is a section called Fusing Atoms, for stories under 150 words. Well, I wasn't quite sure how anybody could manage that, but I had a go, given the example that they had on their website, and I came up with something.

They didn't publish it, although I got a very encouraging email saying that he liked it, but that the last line was a bit too much like a punchline, and to try again. Maybe I will. But there are very few markets for a 128 word story, so I thought I might just as well publish it here. A sweet little 128 word tale called:


I saw you looking at my hand.

An industrial accident. Well...not quite. I hated my job. A dull, noisy production line, the smell of half-cooked meat clinging to me. Dogs would follow me home. I'd always wanted to work for myself, but lacked the funds to set up in business.

It was easier to pluck up the courage than I thought. A couple of lunchtime pints steadied my nerves. Steadied my hands, you could say.

The mincer was never the safest of machines. More blood than I expected, but less pain. The factory settled out of court, and I was able to pursue other interests. Nine digits are enough for my needs. What do I do now? Well, I have a finger in several pies...

Monday, June 27, 2005

Strange blue sandwich filling

Just been making our sandwiches for tomorrow, and thought I would post my recipe for hummus. Yes, I know there are a few ways to spell it, but I'm sticking with this, OK? You do need a liquidiser, though. Take:

4 tablespoons of olive oil. Any oil will do but if you use the extra virgin stuff you got as a Christmas present you won't be able to leave it around the kitchen to impress your friends.

The juice of 1 lemon. Not those horrible plastic lemon things filled with juice. A proper lemon, please.

2 tins of drained chickpeas. You could soak dried chickpeas overnight but then you could just get a life instead.

3/4 teaspoon of salt. Never skimp on the salt. Yes I know it's unhealthy but if you skimp on the salt it won't taste nice, so you'll be disappointed with your sandwich and decide that you should just go join your colleagues having pie and chips and lager at the pub, and that's not healthy either, is it?

1 fresh green chilli. A red one will do if you don't have a green one. A dried one will do if necessary. Or even a splash of chilli sauce. Hey, why be fussy?

A 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, paprika and turmeric. Although it will still be OK if you don't have any of these, really.

2 cloves of garlic. A snack and a way of preventing Michael Howard coming to dinner, all in one. I make this quite often and he's not come to dinner once. QED.

A bunch of fresh parsley. This is ideal, but the recipe is still fine without it (I didn't use any tonight), and we're trying to create a last minute sandwich filling from stuff you have in your fridge; unless you're Nigella Lawson, you probably don't have fresh parsley in your fridge, so don't stress about it.

Whizz the food processor until it is smooth. The hummus, that is, not the food processor, which of necessity has sharp bits and cannot, therefore, by definition be smooth.

Put it between any two pieces of bread you fancy, but make sure the hummus is at least 1/2 inch thick. This goes for most sandwich fillings. Except marmite.

Scoff at work the next day. Unless you are really hungry and can't be bothered making dinner after all that, in which case you can just sit down in front of an old re-run of Casualty on UK Gold and scoff the lot, and go to the pub for pie and chips and lager tomorrow.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Strange news on Thursday.

This week I came across a really interesting piece from The Independent. I love mysteries and disappearances, and I was intrigued to find this.

I've never heard any of Shelagh McDonald's work, but from what I can gather from various websites she worked with some people who worked with Nick Drake, who I love, and she is sometimes compared to him.

There are a couple of websites here and here dedicated to finding out what happened to Shelagh. Apparently, she still doesn't collect her royalties.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Room 101

And my theme this time is... useless information in diaries.

The bane of my life this year is that my diary does not have a map of London Underground. Now I admit that this may partly be my fault. Perhaps, in view of my habit of waiting until the third week of January to choose my diary from the dump basket in front of the cut price stationers nearby, pausing only to make sure that the colour is something close to black, I might have a more rewarding diary experience if I chose a little more carefully. But what happens in the first three weeks of January? Not even Burn's Night.

But look at what your diary tells you:

Epiphany. OK, I suppose it's useful to be told that you're an utter slob if you leave your crimbo decorations up after this date, but if you haven't got fed up with the endlessly moulting tree that started shedding its needles the moment that you got it home by now, or you're still wondering whether those chocolate decorations aren't a little unhealthy after sitting next to your fire for a month, then you're probably beyond the help of a mere diary, and probably need those two dragons from How Clean Is Your House?

Septagesima. The third Sunday before Lent. Now, my Christian convictions were left at junior school, but I do wonder whether the needs of Christian diary users might just be served by telling them when Lent is.

Sexagesima. The second Sunday before Lent. See above

Quinquagesima. Now you're being silly...

The equinoxes. Now I understand that it's interesting to know that on certain dates the length of the hours of darkness and light are exactly the same, just as it is useful to know when the longest and shortest days are.

In fact, to all Wiccans and Pagans, or Druids, Blessed Be, on this Summer Solstice night. It's an important date. Let's face it, if you arrived at Stonehenge at 4.58am on June 23rd to chant/bang your bongos/float around in a white robe, you'd have a rather lonely, but strangely picturesque tiime. But it's not of immediate importance for most diary users.

And why do we always have a page on traditional wedding anniversary presents? I appreciate that after the twenty fifth it's nice to get silver; pearl; coral; ruby; sapphire; gold; emerald; and diamond, at five year intervals. But it's pretty crap before that, isn't it?

The first year is paper. Well, you could try money, or theatre tickets, I suppose. Then cotton; leather; flowers; wooden; candy; copper; bronze; pottery; and, for that wonderful tenth anniversary, tin. Well put out the flags. If I had been married for ten years and I got given something made of tin, I doubt it would last for eleven (steel). Although I suppose that if I could string it out for twelve I might get silk.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Doctor Who

The Scotsman and I watched Doctor Who tonight. We have been very impressed by the new series. When I was 16 my first serious boyfriend was completely into Doctor Who, but it was never a passion I could share. It was a very good early evening television serial, but then so was Crossroads, for a certain audience, and I never got the urge to go to conventions or build an excessive collection of memorabilia. For Doctor who, I mean, not Crossroads. Although I never got the urge for Crossroads events and memorabilia either; all rumours that I have Benny's original hat are evil and false!

I mean, I think Frasier is great, but I would never actually go to an event built around the series, with a cardboard mock up of Cafe Nervosa, and the chance to buy an autograph from somebody who was in a couple of episodes.

What struck me tonight was that the leader of the Daleks was a clear reference to H P Lovecraft's Cthulhu monster, a many tentacled being with a single eye who regarded himself as God. There is a site here giving details of the author, but I can't find the actual story "Call of Cthulhu" on the web. On this site it says that the story, published in 1926, is still under copyright; I didn't realise that something created in 1926 would still be under copyright, but apparently this is so. All power to you if you can find somewhere on the net to get this for free, which the rather draconian warnings on the site would suggest is the case. Actually he died in 1937, which, under British law, which I have just checked, means his stuff will be able to be published on the net for free from 2007, 70 years after his death.

I think this is a rather unfair version of copyright. Surely it should be from the date of publication only? If you write a novel at the age of 20 in 2006, for example, and die in the same year after a freak accident involving an electric toothbrush, a camel, and some prescription drugs, then copyright ends in 2076. If you write a novel in 2006 at the age of 20, and die at 90 in 2076, then copyright ends in 2146.

Anyway, have drunk lots of wine, so I'm possibly not very logical.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

A story about a crime this week. As you may know, I work in Teddington. On May 18th, there was a fight between two gangs of youths, one from Teddington, and one from Twickenham. A young lad called John Roust was hit over the head with a wooden plank and of his injuries on June 9th.

To what can we attribute this? TV violence, the breakdown of the family, poor parenting, the decline of religion? I bet The Daily Mail would have an answer. But this happened on May 18th 1710. You can read all about the Teddington Maypole riot at the Twickenham Museum site. The three accused got off because there wasn't really any firm evidence. It's a reminder of the fact that human nature is essentially the same throughout history, and that society isn't really any more violent than it used to be.

Oh, and if you want modern nastiness, there's this story about a spider.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Strange news early!

The staff at The Times are obviously participating in one of those old fashioned journalist competitions as to who can write the weirdest headline. How else can you explain Celebrity Hairdresser in Fracas Over Dead Seagull ? Let's face it, the hack involved will never again type that in their life, will they?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Other bloggers

As you will see from the side bar, I've added links to the wonderful Boob Pencil and Rockall Times. I was mulling over the people to whom I link, and looking at the relationships I have with them. Pia, from Tomorrow Could Be Boring, I know through a writers' group I attend. Hi Pia! I've also met Annie Mole from Going Underground once. Davy Wavy, who appears under the caption of my friend Hilary's brother, is the brother of somebody from the same writers' group. In fact, I think he may have come to one of the meetings. Or it may have been another brother of Hilary's, somehow he was gone by the time I got round to asking. Sarah Crabtree is also a member of the same group. I'm a member of The T Party and Richmond Writers' Circle, and I've been featured on The Rockall Times. And I've exchanged emails with Gert of Mad Musings before. This makes me think I should be a bit more adventurous with my linking, try a few links to different sites, like with people I don't know.

Unlike other bloggers, I don't have a problem with people asking for links in exchange for links from my site, although I don't like to put my email address on the site in case I get loads of spam. If you'd like a link, just leave a comment. Although, obviously I won't link to your site if it's crap. In which case you can leave an abusive comment which I can delete. But I've let slip my real name on here, so you can trace me to my address, stalk me and put together an ingenious murder plot involving a poisoned birthday cake, or something. Oh dear, guess you'll get a link then.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Rockall Times

Just a quick note to recommend this very funny piece on reality TV from The Rockall Times. Oh, you might also want to check out this little thing I had published on there a few months ago.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Strange news on Thursday (but a bit late)

Not much time for blogging at the moment, but I had to laugh at this ill advised outing. Well, it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. A bit busy today because I need to shop and cook for eight people who are arriving for late lunch tomorrow. Well, to be fair, two of them are very little. In the sense that they're under two, not just shorter than most people, or gnomes. Well, they are shorter than most people, obviously, which is just as well because they would be very scary toddlers otherwise. I'm going to make lots of cold chicken, a quiche, and a few salads, with lots of cheese and biscuits and slices of melon.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Orange Prize

The Orange Prize was announced last night. I'm always a bit dubious about women only magazines or competitions. I've also never attended any of the many women only writers' groups around London, as I just don't think I have anything in common with anybody simply because of gender. I could understand women in pursuits like firefighting and deep sea diving wanting their own little club, as there aren't very many of them, or perhaps Iranian women writers to want to join together, as they might feel excluded from the mainstream. But women writers in Britain, or America? Look around any bookshop. And if I think of the authors I enjoy, they are about evenly spread between the sexes.

Maybe it's because I've never been into female bonding. I was always bemused by the idea of a "girls' night out". Why wouldn't you want to include male friends as well? Perhaps it's because I enjoy crime, horror, and dark fiction, where the female writers certainly aren't girly. Anyway, it's always seemed an odd way to classify a writer, simply because they're female.

Even so, I was pleased to see that Lionel Shriver won with We Need To Talk About Kevin. Yes, she is a woman, she changed her name at 15 because she thought men had a better time. We can debate the merits of that for ages, but why, in God's name, Lionel?!! Or is it a trendy name in America?

WNTTAK is a disturbing novel which I read a couple of weeks ago. It is narrated by Kevin's mother, whose son is in prison having killed several people in a Columbine type massacre at his school. It explores whether Kevin's personality has been affected by the fact that his mother never liked him or bonded with him, in spite of her best intentions, or whether she never bonded with him because he was a disagreeable, psychopathic little s*d from day one. It's not a feel good book, but it's certainly one of the best I've read this year.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Room 101

OK, let's hope Alan isn't coincidentally planning on blogging about this.

And this week's candidate is... airline safety announcements.

Now I know this is all very well-meant. But is it necessary? When you get into a car, you don't get a recorded announcement telling you to put your seat belt on, and to steer clear of crazed-looking individuals in white vans. And yet, car accidents are much more common and survivable.

Now I'm not a particularly nervous flyer. I know it's much safer than driving, and every activity has it's risks; about 500 people a year die from falling down stairs. So I don't worry unduly. But I do believe that flying accidents are "all or nothing". If something happens, there is much less chance of surviving. So why all that safety palaver at the start of the flight?

I always smile when the flight crew get the life jackets out and start talking about what would happen "in the unlikely possibility of landing on water". Unlikely? I'll say it's unlikely! We're in a large, heavy metal object flying several thousand feet above the ocean. Now I'm no expert in physics, but if something goes wrong and we start hurtling towards the sea at hundreds of miles an hour, the only way we're going to "land on water" is if Jesus is in the cockpit and he wants to repeat that whole Sea of Galilee thing (is that where he walked on water, and is that the right number of Ls?).

Actually, The Scotsman and I usually buy a litre bottle of water to stop us getting dehydrated when we fly, so if the free booze has run out, Jesus might be quite handy there!

And what about that position that you're supposed to adopt when you're going to crash? The one where you put your head down towards your knees? I have two problems with this. The first is the obvious one, in that, if a metal cylinder travelling at great speed, loaded with huge amounts of highly flammable airline fuel, explodes or crashes into something, I'm unconvinced that having my head in a slightly different position will affect the outcome. Not a lot of help for the poor people heading towards The World Trade Centre, was it?

But apart from that, there's the general indignity of it. If the meal has already been served, then surely it means that you put your face in it? I don't know how I would feel if I were about to meet my maker. In a metaphorical, not necessarily Christian sense. Rather than nipping up to the cockpit to meet the theoretical Jesus pilot, unless the flight crew had run out of wine, in which case it might be worth a shot. But I'd rather that I didn't turn up to meet St Peter at The Pearly Gates wearing watery mashed potato and a disappointingly small piece of chicken on my face, whilst trying to dislodge a mini Toblerone from my nostril.

Or is the whole point of the safety drill to give the male flight crew (and we wouldn't want to stereotype male flight crew, honestly) a chance to practice some choreographed arm movements in advance of the staff Christmas disco version of YMCA?

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Strange news on Thursday

A story from India this week. We were very worried when the tsunami struck, as we love Thailand and India. We've been to both places twice, although not to the most affected areas. 18 months ago we went to Kerala, a wonderful place, where there were a few deaths in the extreme South, and some damage in a resort that we visited. We also had a 24 hour stop over in Sri Lanka on the way back. We didn't see much of Sri Lanka, as we were in a very Western hotel for much of the 24 hours. It had a private beach, which meant that the locals could only walk along the shoreline within a few feet of the sea, and couldn't venture further. I didn't like that.

In addition, we only had a few coins that we could use, and it seemed like a waste to change more, so we had to sip two lagers all evening. Now we're not alkies, this shouldn't have been a problem, apart from the fact that most of the other guests at the resort seemed to be English pensioners, and the hotel had a tape on a constant loop, full of music they thought might be appropriate. So we heard the same songs at least five times that night. Music to kill yourself to.

One of them was Tell Laura I Love Her. For those of you lucky enough not to be familiar with this mawkish fifties gem, this relates the tale of a chap who decides to pay for his wedding by entering a car race which results in his death. Not a quick death, mind. He's dying, and he knows that he's dying, but he's still perky enough to manage several high pitched choruses where he instructs the people around him in the message he wants relayed to his girlfriend on his demise. These are the real lyrics, by the way.

Another favourite was Old Shep, a cheerful ditty about the demise of a pet. I've used the word "demise" a lot in this post, haven't I? Anyway, this is about the death of a much loved dog. I was amazed, when looking at this website, to find out that this was an Elvis song. The many Elvis compilations seem to have glossed over this. I can understand why. am I the only person to find this unintentionally funny?

Anyway, as I was saying, my strange news on Thursday is this amazing news.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Is it just me......

Or am I the only person who actually likes the little Crazy Frog animated ringtone? Not that I'd pay £3 a week to download it, mind.