Wednesday, 28 May 2008

I’ve been a bit of a nervous wreck these last few days, and slightly distracted. It’s been a time of sleepless nights and silly punctuation mistakes.

And now? Well, I’m so excited I can hardly type. In fact -- my hands are shaking! Today, my solicitor confirmed that we have exchange of contracts on the sale of my haunted house and the purchase of what will be my apartment in the sky!!

Because this is the third time, in the last nine months, that I’ve tried to move, I decided to tell very few people about it. (I had begun to wonder if the ghosts were not allowing me to move.) But, in a surprise turn of events, the people who wanted to buy my house earlier this year, then pulled out just before we were due to exchange contracts, realised that global financial Armageddon was not as imminent as they thought. And several weeks later, decided they still wanted to buy this house.

The apartment in the sky was still on the market (phew!), so we started the process, again. But I was cautious. I’d been so disappointed when it all fell through that, until we exchanged contracts, I couldn’t allow myself to believe it was happening. The downside of this is that I’ve made little to no preparations for the move.

But it is happening! And I’m moving on Wednesday the fourth of June!!! :)

Friday, 23 May 2008

I expected the crystal-ball reading to be accurate and true

I don’t like to get political. I really, really don’t. But. What’s the world coming to when laws are being passed against fortune-tellers? Was this a hot issue? Were you running into people every other day, complaining that their tealeaf reading had not come true, that they'd been mislead, or cheated?

New Consumer Protection Regulations, which implement an EU directive on unfair commercial practices (yawn…), target fortune-tellers, faith healers, spiritualists or mediums, and double-glazing salespeople.

Replacement windows are a tangible product; you expect to get what you pay for, and not be forced into the purchase.

But fortune-tellers will now have to tell their clients: “This service is for entertainment only and not experimentally proven.” Which removes all the mystery and fun -- and leaves me wondering why anyone would pay for a reading.

The ‘entertainment’ itself is tied in with the idea that what we hear might be true. It is enticing because we’re not sure. If the reading starts with a disclaimer, then the snippets the fortune-teller does get right, will, instead of increasing our excitement, be perceived as a piece of guesswork. And that's boring!

I don’t see any harm in fortune telling. I have never heard of anyone who crossed a gypsy’s palm with silver, then made a life decision, or a financial investment, based on what was seen in the crystal ball. But perhaps they do, and in sufficient numbers to require a change in the law.

It seems more that the bureaucrats aim to wipe the world down with a clean, damp cloth. Then smooth out the creases to achieve a bland, homogenized whole.

But I must protest: Freedom for fortune-tellers!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008


From last Friday until this morning, my high-speed Internet connection was travelling at a snail’s pace. Which I calculate as seven-times slower than dial-up!

According to my ISP, there were no problems with the service. So I assume this must have been another manifestation of life in a haunted house.

I moved here in August 2006. And the first ghost I saw was a little girl, about 8-years-old, peering at me through the wrought iron gate of the walled garden. That first summer and autumn, I saw her several times. She always took a quick peek at me from exactly the same spot. She had short, mousy-blonde hair and wore a red sweater. I liked her, and was quite happy that she enjoyed playing in my secret garden.

I’d lived here for about two months, when I awoke one night to see what I thought was my maternal grandmother standing in my bedroom. She wore a dark-beige cardigan and jeans, and her wooden walking stick looked freshly polished. Just like the little girl, she looked straight at me.

But my grandmother NEVER wore jeans. She wore a dress and hat until the day she died. (I have her mink hat in a cupboard in my office.)

Though I wasn’t particularly interested in the history of the house, it has been thrust upon me. The old man who delivers the free local newspaper lived here until the mid 1970s.

One day, a late-middle-aged man was jogging along the pavement, and stopped me as I headed towards the car. He told me he was born in this house, in what is now my bedroom. He told me about the number of deaths of men from this street, and the impression that made on his uncle, who, as a child, lived here during the First World War. At one point, only two of the sixty houses did not have a black ribbon on the door.

He told me about the family who lived next door, and how his grandmother helped nurse their children before the youngest daughter died of TB. The land that is now my walled garden was part of a communal clothes-drying area … where the little girl loved to play.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Quiet Village

I tend to be prematurely over-enthusiastic about the arrival of summer. So I was horrified when I woke up this morning feeling cold. After a handful of sunny days, I had completely forgotten it’s only mid May and therefore, technically, spring. Luckily, the sunshine returned mid morning, and all is well. :)

Good news, considering I’ve already found my summer soundtrack: Silent Movie by Quiet Village.

On hearing the opening track for the first time, you could be forgiven for expecting something cheesy. It's the type of album to listen to in its entirety -- though I already have my favourite tracks, and imagine some will receive plenty of airplay.

With its eclectic influences, including Italian film soundtracks, BBC library music, disco edits, acid rock, vintage soul and easy listening, Silent Movie, while classified as electronica, is unique, and not easy to describe. The past that sounds like the future...? Perhaps it's more a slightly surreal dream...

And now for the geeky part:

Joel Martin and Matt Edwards, AKA Quiet Village, borrowed the name from an exotica masterpiece by Martin Denny.

In this clip from the late 1950s, Martin Denny and his group perform Quiet Village, al fresco; on the TV show Hawaii Calls.

Summer sounds. I hope you enjoy!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Stressed Seaweed

It is a hot summer’s day; there’s not a cloud in the sky. You, and your friends or family, make the decision to go to the beach.

As you run through the house, gathering flip-flops and towels and swimsuits, you imagine warm sand, blue-green water, a slight breeze.

You put on your sunglasses, get into a boiling hot car, and roll down the windows. Then you drive through sunny countryside, the wind in your hair. When you near the coast and smell the scent of the sea, your heart jumps with excitement.

Now the air is cooler, the sky less bright. But those clouds will quickly blow over! You roll up the windows. The weather is dull, but perhaps … the sunny spot is a mile along the coast.

The clouds are darker. You put on a jacket before stepping out of the car. Thank goodness you had the foresight to bring one! You walk along a path through the sand dunes, and look at the sea. “I’m freezing,” says one of your friends.

“Me, too,” says another. “I saw a café, two or three miles back. It looked like it might have views of the harbour.”

You’re a hundred yards from the car when a hailstorm starts. Your hair is wet and your legs are covered in goose bumps.

The café that might have views of the harbour looks empty and sad. You keep driving.

Ten miles from home you take off your jacket, then roll down the windows. The warm wind dries your hair. You, and your friends or family, spend the late afternoon sunbathing in your garden.

Why does this happen?

It is the fault of brown seaweed, otherwise known as kelp. Scientists believe stress among the plants can alter weather patterns.

On an overcast day kelp are comfortable when the tide goes out, as they stay damp until it comes in again. But on a bright day they dry, releasing iodide. The iodide rises, causing clouds to form overhead, sheltering the kelp from the unwelcome sunshine.


Never, ever, expect a sunny day at a beach where kelp is found in quantity.

Friday, 9 May 2008

A New Look

I’ve redecorated the blog!

And it’s S-T-R-E-T-C-H-Y…

The dark-blue background of the previous template fit well with the ‘overnight’ theme.

But summer is almost here; the days are brighter and the evenings lighter. So… inspired by yesterday’s shopping expedition (which was successful, apart from not finding the sandals of my dreams), it seemed time for a change of mood.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

And speaking of distractions…

I’ve discovered another fabulous way to waste time! God bless the Internet. And all praise to my guardian angel (who must have now deserted me) for keeping this off my radar for such a long time!

Which cornucopia of delights has taken an hour from my day? Meet the Author UK.

They have almost 1,500 video clips of authors talking about their books. The Sunday Times describes the site as “curiously addictive”. I’ll say.

To whittle the list down to something more manageable, I’ve decided not to watch clips of authors such as Rupert Everett and Emma Thomson. (Being an actor as well as an author gives an unfair advantage when speaking straight to camera. ;)) And if I rule out all memoir, non-fiction, and poetry too, there just might be time to view everything else!

I've already watched Zoë Sharp (because she lives in Cumbria), Roger Morris (because he blogs), Philip Pullman (because I have a crush on him), Santa Montefiore (because that’s such a great name),  Helen Cooper (because we attended the same school), Andy McNab (because he appears in silhouette) -- and there are hundreds more to see…!

But today, I must become un-distracted. Then get back to work. :)

Andy McNab on CNN

Friday, 2 May 2008


This week I’ve been busy writing, planning my next round of submissions to agents (must remember to keep submitting), and polishing a short story.

I have phases of focused productivity when nothing will stop me. I’m oblivious to distraction (including music blaring through the party walls). I can block out the world, and achieve in two days what might otherwise take a week!

Then I have phases when EVERYTHING is distracting (especially music blaring through the party walls).

It's a fantastic feeling to be calm and working well. But this level of productivity creates a benchmark, and I set targets based on continually achieving at a perfect pace. Then, when I falter, I’ve created the stick with which to beat my back, the reason to berate myself for failing.

But I predict: the slow-down will coincide with the release of Speed Racer, and I will venture out to the cinema for an evening of visual overload that will kick start my return to focused productivity.

I love the visual style of the Wachowski brothers' films. And Speed Racer looks amazing.

P.S. There’s a poltergeist in my office that keeps stealing my notes. This has happened twice in the last two days. On both occasions, I’ve placed an important note on the clutter-free part of my desk, only to find that when I need it -- it’s gone! And it does not turn up, even after search through the clutter!!