Sunday, 4 December 2011

My Top 10 Works of Fiction

Dinner at a friend’s house last night resulted in (amongst other things) the question, ‘What is your top 10 list of fiction?’ I struggled in the immediate moments post question, ‘Just what were my top 10?’ I resorted to the good old ‘I need time to think’ ploy and duly woke up this morning and rattled off my top 10. Sleep is very good for the brain, severely under-rated, and 9 hours after my head hit the pillow I was fresh and thinking clearly.
So here it is, my fiction top 10 (in no particular order). I have cheated a little (or have I?) by including an anthology and a ‘complete works’. One of the criteria for making the top 10 is that these are works that I can revisit time and time again.
The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald
I like the characterisation and the thwarted love story. But more than that I like the portrayal of the America of the 1920s – bootlegging, excess, the jazz age – and ultimately the corruption of the American Dream.  You can read it with all its nuances or purely as a love story – it does its work on more than one level.
Murder on the Orient Express, Agatha Christie
Excellent! Since when did all those with a motive all carry out the murder? Original, suspenseful and, as always with Christie, good characterisation. I did own all Christie’s works but sold them when I moved to Spain (couldn’t afford yet another storage container, it broke my heart). I like a good murder mystery that you can rip through in an afternoon and there are none better than Christie.
Tess of the D’Ubervilles, Thomas Hardy
I was introduced to Thomas Hardy’s written work through ‘The Return of the Native’ for my A level English Lit. Surprisingly it did not put me off but that may have been because I had seen Tess and Madding Crowd as TV adaptations when younger and liked the stories. I admire the way in which Hardy portrays his heroines with compassion, highlighting the Victorian hypocrisy of sexual mores. Hardy is also sympathetic to the rural way of life and how it is transformed by the on-going industrialisation. Particularly in ‘Tess’ it is the effect of the new social elite with their money from industry on the ‘old families’ and Hardy’s assertion that to be of  old stock is far from desirable that strikes a chord. Little wonder his works caused a stir in his lifetime.
Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
Gothic; Horror; a commentary on the pursuit of knowledge, social acceptance of non-conformity, birth and death, sublime nature and much more besides. I have never been so glad that I was able to read the book and to dismiss all previously seen appalling filmic interpretations from my mind. This book has more levels to it than can ever be expressed in film. From the moment the creature was ‘born’ I felt empathy and sympathy for it. To my mind Victor Frankenstein is one of the greatest literary villains ever created.  I LOVE this book.
Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
More Gothic. More passionate love. The dark moors of Yorkshire, coldness and cruelty mixed with the fiery passion makes this a book that stirs your very soul. I first read it when I was a teenager full of angst, permanently clothed in black and with unrequited love meeting me on every street corner. The book still strikes a chord in me (I have a gothic, romantic soul no matter what colour my clothes are) and I can feel the intensity of Cathy and Heathcliff’s passion.
The Complete Works of Oscar Wilde
What can you say about Wilde that has not already been said? The wit, the acute observation of society and some of the most memorable lines in literature; be it plays, short stories or ‘Dorian Gray’ there is skill in these writings. Apart from ‘The Happy Prince’, which makes me cry every time, the works of Wilde put a smile on my face. His is laugh out loud humour that will get you funny looks on the train – but who cares, it is superb.
The Turn of the Screw, Henry James
Yes, more horror with a touch of Gothic. I read this work as part of my A level English Lit dissertation which I titled, ‘Psychological Horror as a Literary Genre’. I wish I still had that paper; it had the makings of a bloody good piece of literary analysis. That aside, this story gripped me. I could not make up my mind as to where the horror emanated from for ages; it kept me on my toes and who is to say that my interpretation is correct. It is the story’s very ambiguity that makes it such a cracking read.
The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Stories, Edgar Allan Poe
Mm, my English Lit A level has a lot to answer for. These stories were also part of my dissertation, particularly ‘House of Usher’ and ‘The Pit and the Pendulum.’ Poe combined the gothic horror literature, such as the House of Usher and ‘Ligeia,’ with the detective fiction genre in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue’ and ‘The Purloined Letter.’ These are two of my favourite genres as can be quite clearly seen from my list but Poe stands above the rabble. I think that Poe’s work as a literary critic was invaluable in helping him create the characterisation, plots and to use the language most appropriate for each of the genres in which he wrote. You can tell that he took time to make sure that the words and imagery he used conjured up the desired effect.
Crime and Punishment, Fyodor Dostoyevsky
‘Ah those Russians’ to quote Boney M. Only one of them made it into the top 10 but what a book. Murder, philosophical arguments as to the ability, and even right, to commit murder, wrapped up in the story of an impoverished, conflicted student. Little wonder as a student I was drawn to it.  Even better that as a slightly maturer being I am able to revisit and delve more deeply into the philosophical arguments within it. Every reading makes me consider the arguments differently; it is like reading a new book each time.
 The Life of Pi, Yann Martel
This is a departure from the other nine in the list; I’ve only just noticed now I’ve come to write about it. Interpretations of the same event, I had to read the book again to see what clues I had missed in the first reading. I still enjoyed it on the second reading, and the third. It’s the carnivorous island that haunts me. If a book remains within your mind (in a positive sense) for some time after reading then it definitely has something. I’m still not entirely sure what that something is with Pi, but it has it.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Distracted by a voice

Just about to get my pen connecting with the paper in a positive manner when I was distracted by a link to my goddaughter's promotional page. Her singing voice belies her actual age of 16. Really rather good, have a listen, and if you are having a party on the Costa del Sol book her for your live act (see link below).

Nicky Lister

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I did it!

Snow-capped Maroma
Just over a year ago I gave myself the opportunity to write the travelogue I had planned for ten years. I packed up my belongings, sold my house (for not much money due to the economic downturn) and headed for the hills. Well, the mountains of Axarquia in Spain to be exact. With Maroma, in all her glory, standing over me I eventually knuckled down and wrote, edited, rewrote, edited and proofed my book. Next, I tried to get an agent and/or publisher to be interested in me and my work - what a demoralising pursuit that was.

I purchased the 2011 Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, read all the pertinent articles within and made a shortlist of appropriate agents/publishers. One by one I approached them, having carried out thorough research on the agent and their existing client list, the genre in which my non-fiction book falls and doing my damndest to make the author sound interesting. And one by one the rejections came back. Some came back so quickly I doubt they read very much, if any, of the documents attached. Obviously I minded that I was dismissed so out of hand, but on top of it was the time taken to put together my submissions. There was not one submisson the same as another. Changes in page formatting, the information they requested, and of course the relevant research for that agent.

I was feeeling insecure about my work and resorted to selling my talents for paltry sums writing internet articles.

That was the low point, but I pulled myself from self-inflicted gloom and decided that self-publishing was the way to go.  I looked closely at the advertisements in my writing magazine and selected a few of the so-called vanity publishers to approach. What few people realise is that the vanity publishers will not publish any old thing; they too have standards. I was not rejected by any of the vanity publishers! Only one provided the reader feedback promised and I was tremendously uplifted by what I read:
             "lovely little nuggets of writing nestle in amongst the vivid pictures the author paints"
             "the author has a lovely turn of phrase...her prose sings off the page"
             "beautifully written"
Buoyed by this, I took a good time considering spending a minimum of £5,000 to get my book published. That was nearly 6 months of my meagre living allowance. I decided against it.

I was still reading my writing magazine each month; within were articles on how agents and publishers were only taking on new authors who were either referred by a published author or who had attended one of their writing courses. Their books were full and they were applying very strong acceptance criteria. I put my feelers out - no-one I knew had publishing contacts. However, I was not to be deterred and decided on the DIY route and plumped for, also advertised in my magazine.

What I needed now was a cover for the book. A professional look to envelop my writing. Once again the magzine came to the rescue as I read an article about Helen Hollick, a historical fiction author. In the article she praised her cover designer Cathy Helms at Avalon Graphics for her wonderful work as Helen relaunched her back catalogue.

Cathy was, I should say is, brilliant. From my vague mumblings as to how I thought the cover should look, Cathy produced a marvellous design which encapuslates the tale within. I will be working with Cathy on the subsequent instalments of the City Chronicles trilogy. I am looking forward to their coming to fruition.

Having finished the book and waiting for the proof to arrive, I moved to the marketing element. Now I know why the vanity-publishers charge so much. Marketing takes up an inordinate amount of time and does not always deliver (we shall see how well I have managed soon!). I have designed posters, postacrds, pens, calendars and sent press releases to all and sundry. Next I have to organise book signings, pitches at markets and other events. I shall be seen the length and breadth of the Costa del Sol selling my wares clothed in my City Chronicles t-shirt.

All in all I am proud of my achievement. I have followed my dream and written and published my book. I am newly inspired and working on my second book which I hope will be an even better product. There is always room for improvement. Lessons from past experiences and any feedback from readers will be heeded.

So, in just over a year I have achieved my aim and become a bona fide author. It feels and sounds good!

City Chronicles: A Tale of Nine Cities is available as a pdf e-book or printed paperback from

Monday, 26 September 2011

A Walk in the Countryside (Un paseo por el Campo)

Walking. Something I am going to be doing a lot more of in the coming months, partly because the intense heat of summer has dissipated along with the heat haze that gave everything the impression of being a mirage, but in the main because my car has had an awful diagnosis – terminal engine trouble. I shall of course be seeking a second opinion but for the time being I shall use it as infrequently as I can to prolong its shelf life.
To this end I hitched a lift to the village with a friend. The lift entailed going via another’s stables to muck out the stables of a rather elegant horse and beautiful pony.  The pony, Blossom, has only got one eye but is a dear little thing with gorgeous colouring; her stable-mate, Gretyl, is an altogether different creature with hindquarters that would put many of those ‘bootylicious’ popstars to shame. Manure shovelled, horses groomed and turned out, I was dropped off at the village.
Knowing I was to be carrying all my shopping home in my backpack I resolved to only buy the necessary items. So it was that I purchased a 2 litre bottle of Coke (with an extra 200ml free), two bread rolls and some Serrano ham. It was only ten o’clock and the post is not ready for collection until 11.30, so I plonked myself, with book, in the chiringuito for a café con leche. I was delighted to find that my Amazon delivery was waiting for me behind the bar, having been doing the rounds for some three weeks; luckily only one standard paperback book.  By the time my second coffee had been consumed it was time for the post and I wandered out only to find that there was no postal service – either that or the times have been changed and the campo drums have been beating downwind from me.
Walking in the mountains is deceptive. As I left the village the start of my track was a giant’s leap away from me on the other side of the relatively narrow valley. After the umpteenth twist of the road that snaked across the head of the valley, the track seemed little closer. Every motorist who passed waved (this is not the equivalent of the A40 I should add), and I politely raised my hand in response. I suppose I know them, perhaps from the queue at the post van, but a face out of context is just a face to me so I do not know who they were. Finally I was at the end of my track. From there I know it is just over 3km to the house – the journey I have to make when I want to get rid of my rubbish at the basura.
The campo is so quiet that sounds that would normally go unnoticed are magnified. I could hear the clicking of the electricity supply from the pylons and wires that marched much of the way with me, and the rustling of tiny, and not so tiny, lizards in the shrubs at the side of the track. The occasional call of birds that swoop along the valley created by the mountain streams and the barking of a dog as I approached its domain, were interlopers into my dreamlike state as I put one foot in front of the other.
Walking also allowed me to notice and investigate the small things that are normally shrouded in a cloud of dust as I drive along the track.  A not insignificant hole had opened up, overnight, on the track and its presence was marked by half a brick and a couple of large stones to divert vehicles and walkers and prevent them incurring damage. It is a deep hole, as if someone had bored it in hope of oil, water or a river of gold and situated where it is it maybe the harbinger of greater erosion on this part of the track. If indeed the track should make its way down the valley’s side from that point then the track will become impassable for all but the narrowest of vehicles.  At intervals along the track, nestling in the dust are pale green acorns sitting in their cups, food for the wild boar that have returned to these lower grounds and a further indication that autumn is indeed here.
On the rise of land just before the pig farm I could see my house crouching in its little dip to the side of the track. It looked a good distance away, but in fact is a mere five minutes jaunt. Passing the empty sheep and goat pens on my left my nostrils and brain registered the pungent (but I find pleasurable) odour of recent occupation. There was neither sight nor sound of the animals, not even the faintest jingle of bells from the necks so I have to assume that they have moved to another part of the campo in search of the increasingly rare grazing.  
The creaking of the bolt on my gates started my dogs barking, so the campo version of a burglar alarm is still working, and I gratefully removed my backpack from a warmed body. It had been a pleasurable way to spend an hour, and good for me too. Unless it is raining I think Shanks’ pony may become my preferred method of transport during the autumn and winter months.
Campo Burglar Alarm

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Publication imminent!

I have finally reached a decision: self-publication via Lulu. This is the cheapest way to get published. It offers Print on Demand (POD) and I will be releasing it as an e-book as well.

The e-book decision was a difficult one to take but I need to get myself out there and if it means accepting the electronic form of the book, so be it. It will be cheaper for readers to purchase BUT, just think you will not have me on your bookshelf if you choose that route.

Of course, you could buy both versions!!!!

I am currently working on the cover design, which equates to 'I have given my ideas to someone who can do these things'. As soon as that is achieved I push the button.

And once I have pushed the button I will be shamelessly self-promoting. Stand by your beds!

And on that note I must return to my marketing plan and knuckle down. Writing the book was the easy part, now I have to sell it.

Chin chin

Thursday, 21 July 2011


I have found myself subconsciously adopting the Spanish trait of how and where to acquire a pitch on the beach, namely as close to the tideline as possible without endangering your towel. What I am yet to do, to complete my Spanish beach transformation, is to purchase a low level deckchair and a parasol, seemingly de rigeur equipment for beach trips.
Despite my best attempt at cultural integration I have yet to perfect the art of front-line pitching. I considered myself to be at the forefront but was dismayed to discover, with the arrival of ladies even more curvaceous than myself, to have left more than enough room for another line. My view of the tranquil sea stretching out towards Africa was blighted by a multi-coloured parasol, lime green chair and Picasso style beach towel. To add to my chagrin the ladies in question, following a rapido telephone conversation, then undertook that very Spanish of activities – promenading along the beach – for some considerable time. So, view ruined and they’re not there to enjoy what I can’t.
The women did at least promenade in the time honoured manner unlike some chap, athletic of leg and sporting an unusual titfer, who promenaded backwards. Slowing down only occasionally to glance over his shoulder, he passed along the beach like a film on rewind.
The beach was a colourful spectacle from one side of the bay to the other. A ribbon of psychedelic mushrooms lining the first thirty feet of beach petered out to a few puce mushrooms in front of each of the chiringuitos. And squatted beneath the verisimilitude of fungi was the full array of Spanish life – grandmothers of girth, slender señoritas, cute children of various shades and sizes and the occasional hombre, there either as a pressurised father or as a toned member of a herd of young bucks.
By three o’clock it was as if truffle hunters had passed over the playa and plucked the best. The ground was denuded as one by one families retired for lunch. My view of the Mediterranean was restored, punctuated by colourful commas of windsurfers, as I picked up pen and paper and started to write.
(Apologies for the lack of photo but I was too busy watching to remember to photograph!)

Thursday, 7 July 2011

The Plot Thickens

…well I wish it would; like a consommé it is a little on the thin side.
My writing habits have become like my reading habits – not content with one book or genre at a time I have several books on the go. When history and travel take my fancy I work on the second of my travel memoirs, ‘A Little Bit of Italy’ which, surprisingly enough relates to my travels around northern and central Italy. But when romance is on the menu then I turn to my novel – and this is where I have my concerns regarding plot.
Never having written a novel I am unsure as to whether I have all the right ingredients and in the right measures, to create an effective and readable book. I have, therefore, undertaken a couple of free creative writing courses and purchased a rather good book on how to write fiction (which is currently being decorated with my notes) to  provide me with a)learning on these matters and b)  some degree of reassurance.
I am pleased to say that as far as characterisation goes I think I’ve cracked it. I know just about everything there is to know about my hero or heroine, from the food and drink they do and do not like, their favourite colours and which childhood diseases they had contracted. My setting is known (it is a real place)and I frequently return to it to write descriptive pieces and soak up the atmosphere – the very essence of the city is becoming known to me. It is the plot that is causing the concern (as well as the potential sex scenes – I’ll come to that later). A good romance needs conflict – hero and heroine need to overcome obstacles to realise the happy ending. I have conflict, but is it enough? Have I created sufficient obstacles (bearing in mind that I don’t want it to descend to a ‘It’s a Knockout’ type farce)? So the writing, per se, is on hold as I go back through the outline and chapter plan and make necessary adjustments.
As for the sex scenes, well that is another kettle of fish altogether. I do not want my first literary acknowledgement to be the winner of the Literary Review’s annual ‘Bad Sex in Fiction Award’, though as Brendan Behan once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary’. So, I need to practise.  I shall start by writing about kisses  - that is after all where it all starts – and build up from there, follow the natural course of events, disengage the puritan part of my brain (yes, there is one!), and set forth on a voyage of sexual discovery through the power of my pen. I’m coming over all coy at the thought of it. Who said they’d prefer a cup of tea to sex?
Got to go…the kettle’s just boiled…

(Boy George prefers a 'nice cup of tea to sex')

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Murderous Rampage

I’ve been on a killing spree…and I have absolutely no remorse. My living room was transformed from a place of quiet repose to the scene of a massacre. Bodies lay discarded, empty husks on the terracotta tiles. Each tile resembled a giant Garibaldi biscuit.
Flies! I hate them, detest them, loathe them (refer to the Thesaurus and keep substituting words – they are all relevant). Unfortunately with campo living comes flies, and they are numerous. It is not only me that is irritated by them, the dogs are too. Jake, so placid, merely twitches to disturb them from his body; Charlie on the other hand is like a dog possessed. He snaps at the air, turns in circles to avoid them and pleads with those sweet brown eyes of his for me to obliterate them. I am only too happy to oblige.
I have decorated the pages of various magazines with fly innards and already smashed to smithereens one fly swat; I can see the current fly swat having an equally abbreviated life. Dead Fly – like a big full stop; the end. Only there is no end; there is a queue of the blighters outside the front door; a second wave of aerial onslaught. I even send up clouds of gas to choke them but the only creatures to be driven away are me and the dogs. It is a blitzkrieg.
So I am afraid I have no choice but to apply the most robust solution to these uninvited guests. I am going to continue with my murderous activities with no abatement.
May my swat remain sturdy and true!!

Weapon of Mass Destruction (Campo Style)

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Departure of the Mantid

I liberated the Praying Mantid from the curtain which had singularly failed in its duty, that being to prevent insect intrusion, and set it on the floor of the verendah. Placing myself not too far from it in order to indulge in some much needed reading, I watched as it arrived at a place about six feet in front of my face.

The Mantid lowered its ungainly body to the verendah floor and proceeded to clean each of its feet in turn, bringing its long threadlike limbs forward to its alien-shaped head. Two tiles in front of it a grasshopper arrived and remained stationery – was it aware of the potential danger represented by the proximity of the Mantid?

The Mantid crouched down and with movements reminiscent of a cat, cleaned its face and front legs. A sparrow landed on the verendah step and surveyed the scene, the presence of human and dog sufficient to deter it from snatching a mid-morning snack. The Mantid looked tired, after all it had clung to the curtain all night, and lowered itself to the floor, a bizarre looking twig. The grasshopper remained still as the Mantid fidgeted, raising itself from a prone position onto its bristled front legs before returning again to prone, its head resting on the ground seemingly too heavy for its long, slender neck.

As the heat of the day built and the air shimmered creating a hazy light through which the crags of the mountain took on an ethereal presence – constant but ever-changing – the dog rose and stepped into a cooler area, front paws narrowly missing the resting Mantid.  Sensing danger the Mantid rose onto its hind legs, and front legs held in prayer stepped out of harm’s way before slumping once again onto the cool terracotta tiles.  The grasshopper retreated a further four tiles, resting beneath the laundry that was gently swaying in the light, warm breeze.

Then with a sudden burst of energy the Mantid raised itself, took two steps forward and took to the air, transformed from ungainly to aerodynamic, its wings whirring as it sought sanctuary in the wild grasses and flowers of the scrubland I refer to as a garden.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Torre del Mar

The sun was high in the early spring, pale blue sky. It was too early in the year for the deeper, richer Mediterranean blue enjoyed by so many in the summer months. The sunlight glistened on the aqua sea, silver slivers sparkling on the rising swell of the tiny waves whipped up by the spring breeze. The tiny white horses rode along the coastline as tide and wind directed them from west to east along the balcony of Europe. Chugging along on the backs of the white horses a fisherman’s boat, its dull green hull contrasting with the sparkling blue sea dancing with light, passed on its way to the port. Nets stowed the men relaxed and gazed idly over the side at the sea-bed below, distorted through the prisms of water and light the crabs and small silver fish as a Picasso masterpiece – a giant claw on a stunted body, a discombobulated fish, its fins, tail and head out of proportion to its scaled body. The window of the white cabin sat proud in the centre of the boat reflected the sunlight preventing a glimpse of the pilot within. The singular became a parade as one after the other the little boats headed for their moorings, their flags, caught in the sea-breeze rippling from the stern.
In contrast the blue and white boats dotted along the beach were firmly anchored in the sand. Their hulls filled with the ground down remains of ancient marine life and topped with burning wood and charcoal they provided the funeral pyres for the fishermen’s cargo. Facing associated restaurants the burning embers crisped the skin of the sacrificial fish and released a taste of coastal fayre into the air where it mingled momentarily with the salt from the sea before being dispersed by the growing wind. A little oasis had been created alongside one of the boats; a patch of grass on the beach hosted a gaggle of palm trees whose fronds rustled and creaked as they danced to the rhythm set by Zephyrus.
Menus and serviette holders were scattered, ungainly ballerinas pirouetting across the wide Paseo Maritimo as Zephyrus increased the tempo. The brown veined white marbled tiles interspersed with red and black diamonds played host to a staccato of footsteps and the spinning of bicycle wheels as the people passed on their exercise regimes.  The steps of the promenaders continued at their own gentle pace as feet clad in trainers, sandals and moccasins made their way there and back. The bicycle wheels turned at a sedate pace, the powering pedals turned in a lackadaisical manner – five gentle rotations, pause and glide, five gentle rotations, pause and glide – a gentile mechanical waltz. Along the paseo, rising up from a green canopy of foliage, a slender white tower climbed heavenward.  Its sleek lines disturbed by the double balconies sat below the blue capped beacon, the torre del mar surveyed the coastline.  In the foliage below parrots, their light green plumage camouflaging them, squawked and squabbled amongst themselves before flashing along the paseo, just above head height – avian speed freaks. Their comparatively drab cousins hopped amongst the restaurant tables in search of accidental food droppings or deliberate offerings to satiate their cravings. Their dark, beady eyes darted as they sought out tid-bits and the whereabouts of the competition. When beaks were full they retired to the trees and flower-beds to dine on their gains.
There was little to fear from the gardening ‘chain gang’ for the tiny sparrows as they sought refuge from competitors to eat in peace. The three municipal workers clad in their luminous green and yellow suits with grey reflective strips hacked lethargically at the ground with their implements. A system of two working, one resting appeared to be in place and much consternation, projected through shouting at one another, arose when all three took up their tools at the same time.  Swiftly rectified the implement was removed from the ground by one labourer in order for him to strike a pose of well-earned respite from his toils. Pattern resumed, each in turn leaned nonchalantly and sipped from their bottle of water after a minute’s limited exertion. For all the seeming lack of effort the beds were weed-free.
The wind continued to grow in strength as it blew along the paseo and white clouds began to form, like puffs of candy floss, against the blue sky. The sand was warm, not scorching underfoot, the fine granular texture of sand not yet achieved in uniformity. Sharp, coarse shards of shell pricked the soles of the feet. One cloud grew apace and shortly covered the sun forcing those more accustomed to the Spanish climate to reach for an additional layer. The hardy few that had braved the beach began to retreat carrying sombrillas and towels, dusting their feet free of sand as they reached the threshold of the paseo. Camareros hovered by their tables hoping to entice the retreating parties to the refuge of their establishments.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Time does fly

It has been sometime since I updated my blog, and it took a gentle nudge from my friends at AngloInfo (my second blog) to remind me that I hadn’t posted anything since mid-January (apart from my ditty to the pig). I hadn’t realised it was so long. My excuse is reasonable…I have finished the manuscript for my book. Hurrah! A concerted effort has seen me complete it and polish the first three chapters; now it is time to send those crucial chapters and covering blurb to various agents and await the rejection letters!
The most trying bit has been writing the covering blurb – not so much about the book but about the author, me. It is a rather un-British-like trait (and I’ll use an Americanism here) to ‘big yourself up’, and whilst I want to say how fantastic Deborah Cater the author is, I may have under-sold myself. I sincerely hope not.
Whilst the final surge of writing was underway I did manage to leave the house for the daily dog walks and watch as winter moved into spring. For all my watchfulness I did not register the almond blossom fall from the trees, it probably just got blown off on one of the many windy nights that have occurred; in its place is the next season of almonds. Wrapped in their light green velvet jackets these little nuts are starting to take shape and on the ground around them orchids and varied mountain flowers are raising their colourful heads to the sun. It is truly a bountiful time of year and I have my eye on several areas where the wild fennel grows. As the dogs and I brush against it on our walks the faint smell of aniseed rises up to greet us. I am rather partial to fennel and I shall be harvesting a few bulbs (only sufficient for my needs I shall not be raping the land) for my salads when the time is right.
Hours sat at the table typing away has not helped with my posture and yesterday saw me at the osteopath for a little manipulation. Having come to the conclusion that I am a little off-kilter(!) I was bent, twisted and folded into all manner of positions like a piece of human origami. Despite the ignominy of having parts of your body uppermost that are normally not so, the relief as my kidney was put back in its rightful place and the sound of vertebrae clicking back into alignment was bliss. I am hoping that a few mental blockages will have been removed as well, we can but pray!
As part of my nod to religion (not a follower of organised religion per se, I adopt parts as I see fit) I have given up wine, bread and cheese for Lent. Following the words of the church leaders in the UK that you can have Sundays off from your chosen abstinence, I take the opportunity to indulge on those days. It does make it easier to stick to the whole period of Lent (bar the Sundays), but I am not entirely sure that that is the point! Either way, I would like to say I have felt/noticed a benefit, but not; instead all I do is wish the week away for Sunday to arrive again.
I shall make every effort not to be so tardy with my next post. As my next little writing project concerns a sheep I am going to be spending a few hours sheep-watching in order that I can observe and note accurately their traits and mannerisms (and yes that is a little anthropomorphic) The things I do for my trade!

Friday, 25 February 2011

Hello Senor Boar

I think the sun may have got to me. Not only have I penned a [Insert your own adjective] poem about today's events but I have even made a voice recording of the poem as well (for those who have missed my dulcet tones).

So without further ado, and no excuses except wine/sun/campo living, please find a poetical rendition of this morning's meeting with a stray pig who lives on an allotment somewhere in the campo.

Hello Senor Boar

“Hello,” said the boar, as he trotted before
The dog as they met on the road.
“I live here you know, with the veg, by the hoe
But I’ve come for a late morning stroll.”
“Oh,” said the hound as he sniffed the boar round
“I live here as well, just up there.”
And they stood quite still and peered up the hill
To the house, proud and white on the tor.

“So long,” said the hound and galloped on down
To his mistress and brother canine.
(His brother you see, was pulling for three
But prevented from acts by the leash)
“Drop by anytime, it’ll all be just fine,
We’re fenced in, you’ll not feel his teeth.”
And with friendship in place, they turned about face
And went off their own separate ways.

It was not long before a massive uproar
Could be heard from the house on the hill.
On closer inspection, the cause of infraction
Was deemed as arrival of pig.
He rootled around and snuffled the ground
In search of some goodies to eat.
Whilst one dog went mad, the other was glad
That his friend had come over to play.

As pictures were taken, pig remained quite unshaken
And continued to look for some grub.
His black and white bristles were raised as missiles
Of cabbage rained down all around.
But ignore them he did as he looked for what hid
Under rubbish cast down on the ground;
And with snort and a grunt, he continued his hunt
‘long the track as he trotted back home.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Under the Influenza

Oh my, New Year’s Eve was messy! I was to be found, once again in Fuengirola with chums and a reason to party – and I did. The drive into Fuengirola was surreal. There were very few cars on the street and even fewer people walking; it was like a scene from a 1960s horror film. Zombies seemed imminent. The Christmas lights were attractive; each street with a different colour and style. We parked in the port and made our way to the pub which was scarily empty for 10.30 on New Year’s Eve. Spanish New Year was seen in with champagne and tequila and at some time around 2am I found myself in Lonnie Donnegan’s bar at the port. The bar is for all intents and purposes a working man’s club with karaoke and that was my downfall – literally! We made our way, one of the worst trios ever to don the stage, and started to give voice to Alice Cooper’s ‘Poison’. The crowd wanted more umph, so I gave it to them, getting down close and personal with the enthusiastic crowd – a bit too low in hindsight. I leant into the well-known pose of a rock star, bended knees, singing for all my worth into the mike, and then my good knee gave way and back I toppled into the Christmas tree. As I sat on the floor thinking how much that had hurt, my gallant co-stars kept the show going. Mortifying isn’t the word; but trooper that I am started to sing from my position prone on the stage. Thankfully, we are not talking a track the length of a Pink Floyd, Jethro Tull or Emerson, Lake and Palmer epic and before long I was back at the bar wondering how yet again I had found myself in the company of Jan, drunk in charge of a Karaoke mike. New Year’s Resolution 1: No more public Karaoke.
5am found me seeking the sanctuary of my bed. Due at the airport at 11am to pick up friends staying in Fuengirola I was surprisingly with it enough to remember to set the alarm. I awoke before the alarm and sat on the terrace and drank successive cups of tea in an effort to rehydrate. I obviously managed it well enough as I got to the airport and back without incident. Well, apart from ending up on the toll road instead of the motorway. As I drove over a bridge I looked down and realised that I was looking at the front of Jan’s apartment block – bugger. A trip to Calahonda, 2.40 in toll fees, a tour of Sitio de Calahonda and a trip back on the correct motorway was a relatively small price to pay for the fact that I had only had 4 ½ hours’ sleep.  The traffic on my way to the airport had been very light – and there was barely a soul to be seen outside of a vehicle.  By now it was about 12.30, the traffic was flowing more energetically and the first brave souls could be seen gingerly walking in the gentle sunshine of the New Year. Surprisingly there was life in the apartment upon my return – a stew was made for the evening meal and stuck in the oven for a long, slow cook. Dogs walked we repaired to the bar for the NY football. Quite obviously we were in no fit state for more alcohol, we didn’t even really want it – but we drank it. I will never know why. New Year’s Resolution 2: Don’t drink alcohol just because I’m in a bar.
January 2nd was as messy as New Year’s Eve, though thankfully I seemed to have avoided the microphone. I should have gone home that day, back to my mountain, the fresh air and my limited stores of alcohol… We hit Mijas village. I’d like to tell you more but I have little recollection, which is probably a good thing as I know I did some maniacal dancing at one point.  Suffice it to say that the following morning I was tired, run down and ready for mountain life and air again. Still, I had one last thing to do and that was to meet my friends in Fuengirola for a coffee.  God-daughter dropped off to meet her friend, I found the carousel and my friends and had coke (the drink) and a meal at the port looking towards the scene of my New Year’s Eve humiliation. I can dip into the archetypal ex-pat lifestyle of too much alcohol imbibed in English bars, but I am more than happy to jump back out and enjoy a slightly more sober existence. My friends and I discussed the pros and cons of life in Spain, they having lived here before, and the general consensus was you can only live the alcohol fuelled version of ex-pat life for so long before something will break. I left them enjoying the sunny day in Fuengirola, which in off-season is quite a nice place to be, and headed back to Sedella. My ability to live such a hedonistic lifestyle has quite clearly diminished over the years. I like my solitude, the countryside, OK and a few glasses of wine, but nothing on this scale anymore.  My immune system gave in to the influenza virus and by 7 o’clock that evening I was in bed with all the symptoms at once. If it had been for just one night I would have put it down to alcohol poisoning; but as Friday was the first day which saw me leave my bedroom, I think not. New Year’s Resolution 3: No more 3 day benders!
I am an appalling patient and make a far worse nurse. I therefore lay almost silently for two days as the worst of the virus hit me. The downside to living alone is not having anyone to call on to make your drinks or wipe your fevered brow. So, whenever the strength in me was sufficient I would shamble to the kitchen, make another hot water with lemon, honey and cloves (a good drink as it is still drinkable when cold) and to refill my hot water bottle. Hydration was key I told myself. And so even when my aching bones would only allow me to walk with the semblance of a ninety year-old with rickets, I made sure I had fluids. I was going to make ‘Be more tolerant when others are ill’ as my fourth NY resolution but I have decided against it. I may be a tough nurse but sometimes tough love is called for! (You can tell I’m getting better!)
I have now worn myself out – sad but true, and so it just leaves me to wish one and all a belated but heartfelt

Drink Problem! What drink problem?