Friday, 31 October 2008

Trick or Treat?

Photograph by Ralph Eugene Meatyard

It’s been an eventful week. What with the blogaversary on Tuesday, Halloween today, and Wednesday and Thursday spent in legal dispute. I wish I could say more about that, but I can’t...

What I will say is that my solicitor is quite an inspiring character. The case was challenging and the time frame tight. There was a wonderful moment when this ordinarily composed, curly haired man with highly polished shoes, slammed down the phone at the end of a call to someone on our side, put his head in his hands, and said, “Sweet Jesus! We need a plan.” Then he bit his nails as his eyes flashed left and right.

I love the way people act when under pressure or thinking out loud.

My side emerged in victory. Thank heavens! And I feel very pleased but peculiarly drained. Most appropriate for Halloween. Though this evening, I really can’t write for toffee.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Hip-Hip, Hooray!

Overnight at Thistletonthwaite Castle is one year old today!

Which means... I have been blogging for a year.

And... (here comes a cliché) what a wonderful year it’s been!

When I first started this blog, I felt a little bit self-conscious and shy. But now, as I sit here looking out at a pink and hyacinth sky, I wonder why, oh why?

With blogging, as with most things in life, it is best to relax and be yourself. Some write about rules for blogging, what you should and should not do. But I think the beauty of blogs is that each is as individual as its owner. And, like owning a dog, we closely resemble our blogs or vice-versa. ;)

I had a phase when I felt guilty about blogging taking time away from writing. Then, I had a phase when I found it difficult to post regularly because of my work and wondered if I could keep on blogging. I am now through those phases -- and don’t imagine I will ever stop writing a blog.

Mainly because ... I have met many wonderful people with equally wonderful blogs!

Thank you for reading mine. :)

Sunday, 26 October 2008

A Country Weekend

One of the things I love about living in Cumbria is the dramatically changeable weather. At its most exciting, the conditions are extreme. When that is combined with the county’s patchy mobile phone reception, you can be in for an adventurous time!

This weekend the weather in the Lake District has been truly severe, making national and international news after the Original Mountain Marathon went ahead despite forecasts for continued high winds and heavy rain -- in an area that had already experienced localised flooding. The two-day race was abandoned at midday yesterday, leaving competitors scattered along the various routes. Some of the 2,500 runners found shelter in places such as Honister Slate Mine, a local school, and farms. But the majority spent the night in the mountains, and were unaccounted for until today. You can read all about it (and see some great footage) here.

I was out in the countryside yesterday, enjoying the thrill of driving through big puddles and pouring rain. But even I stopped short of heading down Honister Pass (one of my favourite roads for driving). Watch the dramatic scenery, and OMM competitors battling the wind and rain:

ETA: I have now watched this video several times and it’s not quite so dramatic as it seemed. Note to Special Effects: More rain! ;)

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Let Us Spray

I have a love/hate relationship with the fashion industry, and I usually keep that side of my life apart from this blog and apart from my writing. But. Sometimes a fashion house presents a true wonder, a product that is genuinely new and completely inspiring.

Wode by Boudicca is the first fragrance from the house of Boudicca, and the first ever visible fragrance. (I find the concept incredibly exciting.) Combining sight and smell, the fragrance is cobalt blue and packaged in a silver spray can. The blue dye disappears in just a few minutes and -- fear not -- clothes are not ruined.

"Wode, the revolutionary Art Fragrance from BOUDICCA, explores further the myth around Queen Boudicca (aka Boadicea). Legend has it she and her tribe wore a cobalt blue war “paint” on their skin that gave them a ferocious and mythical look when advancing into battle. When finally defeated by the Romans, Queen Boadicea killed herself by swallowing hemlock, an extract of which is included in Wode."

Guess what I want for Christmas!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Stream of Consciousness

It is only October. And in the last two days I have sneezed a million times, used three boxes of tissues, and replaced tea and coffee with Lemsip Max. My head feels heavy, thick, and dull. My creative synapses are under siege.

Which leads to this question: Is a boring blog post better than no post at all?

A question that sounds like Carrie Bradshaw wrote it!

And now she’s got hold of my laptop!

Whenever I write a sentence that echoes a well-known writer it never rings with the resonance of Colette, Flaubert, Amélie Nothomb, or Markus Zusak. In fact, I’d prefer to channel anyone but Carrie Bradshaw -- because she is a fictional character and not a real writer at all.

Conclusion: I am doomed. ;)

Monday, 13 October 2008

How do you wake up from a nightmare if you’re not asleep?

The title of this post is the tagline for The Machinist, and it is a very good question indeed.

Unlike Christian Bale’s character in the film, my insomnia didn’t last a year. Had it done so, I would probably be dead. And, not having seen the film, I don’t know what steps the character takes to cure it.

Insomnia is now buried in my past, though I sometimes have difficulty sleeping. But there’s a huge difference between lying awake for a few hours, turning the light back on, then reading another chapter before finally crashing out, and not actually sleeping at all. Well, except for maybe two or three hours one night in four.

By which point you have discovered that a warm bath wakes you up, lavender smells atrocious, alcohol gives you headaches, sleeping pills don’t work, a night-time walk is dangerous, and any work you attempt at 4am -- having been encouraged by people who wish they slept less -- the next day turns out to be rubbish.

And during those daytime days you look terrible, you loose co-ordination, your voice sounds awful, you drag yourself around like a mixed sack of coal and scrap metal, you forget things you should do and imagine things you don't have to do, as well as occasionally hallucinating.

All is beyond a struggle. The vacuum cleaner is so heavy you can’t even use it, and all you want is sleep. You are so TIRED. And each night, completely exhausted, you crash in to bed ... but DON’T SLEEP.

Then you discover there are devices especially designed for your condition that are categorically proven to work. You LOVE the auditory glory of nature, so you order, and anxiously await delivery of, a sound machine, more luxuriously known as a sound conditioner.

(Like a sleepless night, this post goes on and on.)

You plug it in at your bedside, and feel like an old person. There is nothing cool about this beige plastic thing. However, there are important choices to make. Will you sleep better to the sound of a lake lapping on the shore, waves crashing on a beach, a babbling brook, Niagara Falls, or cute little crickets accompanied by croaking frogs?

But lo, you are soon yanked from the lakeside as you recognise the pattern of the water lapping on the shore. The waterfall’s tap is shut off as it re-loops, just for a nanosecond -- but you know exactly when it’s coming. You are wide-awake, and doomed to a life of insomnia.

You rest your head on the pillow and listen to hours and hours of crickets and croaking frogs. The glass windows break. You are surrounded by tall grass, your feet slipping on slimy, frog-covered ground. You swipe cat-sized insects away from your face, slithering to escape a gigantic monster, ready to whip its tongue around your neck.

You wake up screaming. Oh, happy day! Nightmares are so much sweeter than no sleep at all.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Plus Fours

A shocking first: I flopped down on the sofa last night and was thoroughly transfixed by ... golf! (I never watch golf!) It was the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, played at St. Andrews, Kingsbarn, and Carnoustie.

The leisurely strides of the players, the lovely green greens, the occasional blue sky. The talk was of birdies, eagles, and even an albatross. It was so relaxing to watch.

And the landscaping reminded me of Tellytubbyland:

Samuel L. Jackson was one of a handful of celebrity competitors, and I learnt that with each new film contract, he insists on a schedule that allows him two rounds of golf per week. Good for you, I thought. Perhaps I should take up golf.

I usually walk out of a room if sport is on the TV. That goes especially for cricket and football, but no longer applies to golf... gorgeous golf. Unless it’s not late at night, and definitely NOT if I have anything else to do. I say this in the hope that last night was not the start of a strange, new addiction. Anything but be addicted to golf! Who am I? ;)

Monday, 6 October 2008

The Mischief Fights Cancer Raffle

"Win an editorial review of your full or partial manuscript, your children's picture book manuscript, your partial middle grade or YA novel, your query letter, or other fun prizes, all while fighting lymphoma!"

This is a little late, but there are still 24 hours before the close of Moonrat’s raffle. Tickets are for sale for a whole range of critiques by this fabulous New York editor.

The proceeds will help Moonrat’s 28-year-old friend who was recently diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma.

Please visit Editorial Ass or The Mischief Fights Cancer Raffle to find out more.

Hurry: This is not to be missed!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Perhaps it was all a dream...

No, it wasn't!

It sounds like a cliché, but I honestly don’t know where the last week has gone. As though I went to sleep on Sunday night, was transported to another realm, and then woke up back in my real life yesterday afternoon.

This was primarily caused by the global economic crisis rippling its way into my little corner of the business world.

Things have steadied, but even my most trusted crystal ball is struggling to provide a clear prediction of the situation beyond the next six months. (Which is slightly worrying, as a major part of my job is to predict future trends two years ahead!)

So... I have decided to embrace the fog and regard these as exciting times. :)