Hello folks, I have a confession to make. My camera has not been out of the house for well over two months. Time has just flown and the past few months have passed in a blur of appointments, professional visitors like physiotherapists, occupational therapists and workmen. Simply no time for photography. I’m pinching a bit of me time to write this as I don’t want to lose touch entirely with my blogging world.
One thing I do have now is a smartphone. Yes, I’m being dragged into the modern age, but mainly I don’t use it as a smartphone but simply as my old mobile phone, but with one difference. It has a camera, and quite a decent one at that. Not exactly sure what I’m doing so far, but have taken one or two.
This is Tarka wondering what she should eat from the garden next!
One of the reasons I bought this phone is that our photography group has closed for now, but our leader has said he may start up a new course later using smartphones, and since I needed a new model, it seemed the ideal time to invest.
I hope to catch up a little with reading your various posts, but it will be slow progress. In the meantime, keep up the good work you all do with your blogs when life allows.
This is a little late, but I wish you all a Happy New Year. Let’s hope this year will see more peace on the earth, and less suffering.
A new year, and a new laptop for me. The old one had been misbehaving for some time; it was sometimes taking over 20 minutes just to open one email, so it has been frustrating. Just before Christmas it crash-dumped on me. I’m not sure what that means, but it looked serious, and I had great difficulty restarting it. The time had come, I decided, to buy a new one. It’s not a very expensive state-of-the-art model, but it works for me, and the difference in speed is amazing. It seems that the more you pay, the faster the model, but this is not too bad at all.
I’ve been encouraged now to start writing again, and even do more research into small articles which I’ve been wanting to write. I know I can use a library, but it’s not always convenient and when time is short, the computer at home is a great asset.
Time has been short so far this year anyway, with many appointments for us both, mainly medical but not entirely. January is passing in a flash.
Tarka continues to be very adorable at home, and I think she is a little better with other dogs when she’s out walking on the lead, but not to be trusted with them when she’s off the lead. We’ve had a couple of incidents, which shook me up at the time, as I know what it’s like if there is confrontation. My last dog, poor Gizmo, was half-killed by a dog attack on our nearby recreation ground, and I dread that Tarka would cause real damage to another animal. I just need to be vigilant and continue with her training.
Due to a lack of time, I’ve not been taking any photos recently, so have inserted a couple from a year or so ago, to cheer up the weather at this time of year. The snowdrop always offers hope for a good spring.
Whether you write fact or fiction, there is invariably some research to do. I find it much too easy to be side-tracked. When researching, there are many alleys to tempt me. Some of them are a complete waste of time – blind alleys – others can lead to new work. In most cases they are interesting.
For example, while delving into facts about a small town in Devon, I came across a list of notable figures who had a connection with the town, however slight.Some were born there, others educated in the town, while some had died there. A link led me to a modern-day author who lives in the town, among other people of interest. That was as far as I went that day.
However, the very next day I was in our local library and my eye was caught by a book which had recently been returned. It was by that very same author, a man I’d not heard of before my interest in the town. Naturally I had to borrow that book. As I’ve only just started reading it, I’ve yet to discover if this will lead me to further points of interest. What I will say though is that, having read only six pages so far, the story opens in an area of Hampshire where I once lived. I just love these coincidences.
As for the original article I’d wanted to write, it has yet to be started. There are just too many alleys to explore.
When I learn of the problems other people have or have had in their lives, I’m humbled. I realise how lucky I am. My worries are as nothing compared to many unfortunates.
Nevertheless, we did not have a good start to 2016, so we’re starting again!
The letter which arrived for me from the hospital at the end of December did make my blood run cold. I have to admit I was scared, more so because it was unexpected. I’d had a CT scan for my ongoing thyroid problems and thought no more of it as I have a follow-up with the consultant in April. The news on that was fairly good, but the scan had shown a change in my pancreas – a lesion. While the doctors thought it may not be significant, I was concerned as a cousin of mine had died from pancreatic cancer when she was younger than I am now. That disease is hard to diagnose too.
Trying to sort this out was impossible until the surgery opened in the New Year, but I have to say our local surgery acted promptly in referring me and taking blood tests. The radiologists had suggested a special scan, an endoscopic ultrasound.
However, the first appointment to see the relevant consultant could not take place until March, so with the help of a mutual society in funding me, I decided to ‘go private’. Even this was not straightforward, as after several false starts, I discovered there is only one consultant in the whole are who can perform this test, whether on the NHS or private.
I managed to have an appointment with him quite quickly and he tried to reassure me that it quite possibly was not cancer, but he couldn’t be sure without the test. I went ahead with the request, but still had to wait several long weeks. If it was necessary and safe to do so, the consultant would perform a fine needle aspiration through the wall of the stomach to the pancreas, a procedure not without a few risks. If it looked like cancer, he would not be able to do it due to the position of the lesion; it could spread cancer cells, so he would not take that risk.
In the event, when I had the test, on the 25th February, he could tell without using the needle test, that in fact there are two cysts on the pancreas, which he believes will not trouble me. No cancer! What a relief, and since then I’m recovering from the stress of the wait. After all, I should realise that I’m no youngster and anything can happen at any age, but I love being here and hope to stay for a few more years yet. My guardian angel has taken care of me once more.
At the end of that week, I had some good fortune with my writing as well, as if to say that life is on the up again. I received a small cheque from the Crystal Magazine as winner of the previous issue. Just what I needed to spur me on to try some more writing.
There’s nothing like a health scare to galvanise one into action. My office (cupboard under the stairs) has never been as clear as it is now. It’s not perfect even now, as I hoard so much, but boxes of magazines, which I had hoped would provide inspiration for writing, have now been thrown out. A lot of unfinished writing has been placed in a pile to be completed; some has been discarded as worthless. I’ve tried to organise my personal affairs so that in any sudden change of circumstances, my dear husband Mike would not have problems. He has several health problems anyway, and he’s not happy dealing with paperwork, so I’ve tried to simplify everything. Not a bad thing to do really and all because of a scare. I intend to continue with the task by clearing out unwanted clothes and other items. We don’t need as much as we seem to accumulate.
Now we’ve had a weekend break away in Exmouth, in sunny Devon, to clear the stress from our bodies, and make a fresh start. Photos are from that area. Happy New Year.
The road to publication is paved, not with gold, but with plenty of frustration and even more hard work.
The first magazine article for which I was paid, many years ago, was never actually published. The magazine folded, but paid me anyway. At least the fee was enough to pay my train fare to Germany to visit friends.
Along the road to now there have been some successes, and even more rejections. That’s the way it goes and part of the character we have to develop as writers is a thick skin. Rejection is not personal; what is written is not what the editor needs or wants at that time.
Then there are the editors who never let you know if they want your work. Even if you send the work by post and enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope, you hear nothing. The only thing to do is to send out more writing, so that you are not constantly watching for the postman. Eventually it may be a suitable period of time has elapsed and you are able to send a query to the first editor, but if you have plenty of submissions out there you won’t feel as anxious. (This would not apply if your submissions are full novel manuscripts, but does for articles, short stories and poems.)
Another frustration is when an editor replies to your submission, saying that he/she wants to retain the piece for further consideration. A year or so later, still nothing from them and you feel unable to send the same piece elsewhere. The only thing you can do with that is rewrite the piece if it’s an article, slanting it in a different manner aimed at another publication.
This last month I have had a poem published in a local publication – The Purbeck Gazette. (http://tinyurl.com/qfkxmvj) Unfortunately frustration has reared its head again as I’ve not seen it in print, only on the web. Normally we receive a copy delivered to our home, as does nearly every household. For the first time, nobody has seen one, and even the local library and tourist information office had so few copies that they were all gone before a lot of people were able to get to them. In the great scheme of things this is miniscule of course.
I have also had a short story published in the Crystal Magazine (www.christinecrystal.blogspot.com for details).
In spite of these frustrations, if we’re writers we carry on. For sure if you don’t write anything to send out, you will fail. Keep at it and your perseverance may pay off. Good luck and Merry Christmas to all. We wish for Peace and Harmony everywhere.
Our most recent project at the photography group was for the subject to be backlit. I know that sometimes we can achieve an interesting silhouette in this manner, but I wanted to do something different. I pulled out my reference book and looked for a photo project which would fit the bill. I found something like my attempt on the left. I’ve yet to receive feedback from the group as we’ve not had a meeting since June. We start again this coming week.
Since we now don’t have a dog to keep us at home all the time, which of course I have mixed feelings about, we are trying to get out and about a little. We feel as if we’ve been hibernating when this time of the year would be the time to consider doing just that. It was not just dear old Gizmo who kept us at home, although we couldn’t stay out for too long with him as he was so sick and there was nobody I would ask for help in his care. We have had a tough few years with my husband’s health too, with so many hospital appointments for tests, plus some for me. Thankfully he seems a little better now, or perhaps his medication is controlling things. In any event, we have had to try to put small steps out into the world for the moment. We had one night away in a hotel to start with, not too far away, but we were able to visit our niece and her little girl and then head off to the hotel. On our way home the next day we called into a National Trust property – Lytes Cary Manor, near Somerton in Somerset. The various gardens of this restored mediaval garden are lovely, and I particularly liked the Apostle garden with its topiary. Each small garden though has its own character, and is laid out as a different ‘room.’
Our one night away was a success and we felt able to tackle a couple of nights next. We had some work done on the house while we were away. To have stayed there would have been rather uncomfortable as we had to clear all the furniture from our lounge for two days while new flooring was laid. This involved one day when the men put some screed down. (I think that’s the term for it.) In any case it had to be left overnight and some of our furniture was in the kitchen, to which we had no access. Ideal to leave them to it we thought.
We didn’t go too far this time either, but managed to get a bargain break in Bournemouth. We were very lucky with the late September sunshine, and the hotel had a swimming pool. We took advantage of this before breakfast each morning, a rare treat.
Bournemouth is a busy seaside resort, but also with plenty of shops and gardens. The old shopping arcades are particulary pretty. We enjoyed our break away and the new flooring looks good now we’re home and sorting things out.
Since we’ve been home, I’ve started writing again, albeit slowly. I’ve not had much time to do so recently, and have been struggling to get going, but have recently submitted two poems to different publications, plus this morning I’ve printed out a short story in preparation for submitting this. More of that in future posts.
This post has a tenuous link to my last post, in as much as it mentions Thomas Hardy. It has previously been published in Crystal Magazine, and is a true account.
When I was a child, my father used his spare time, of which there was not a lot, to paint with oils. He was a keen amateur artist, pursuing this as a hobby, not with any thoughts of monetary gain. The paintings adorned the walls of the various homes we had during those years. Some scenes were taken from post cards, including some I loved of lakes in Switzerland. They made me want to travel to the scenes portrayed. Others he painted in the Dorset countryside, and seaside. He had been a sailor, still was in so much as he was a Trinity House Pilot employed in bringing in ships to Poole Harbour safely, and taking them back out of the harbour when their loading or unloading there was complete. The sea or other water frequently became a part of his paintings.
Whenever he was painting, I became used to the aroma of the linseed oil and turpentine and grew to love the smells. I enjoyed watching him employ different brushes for the various types of work he was doing, and admired his skill.
During May to June 1959 he painted a scene which at the time was not familiar to me. In the foreground, grass and flowers border a river, churning along towards a bridge. On the opposite bank, trees, more flowers and grass, and behind a large house with prominent chimneys. The Manor at Woolbridge seems to draw you into the scene. After all these years, I don’t know whether he made a sketch or was able to sit in the meadow to paint on the spot. This painting took up residence finally in my mother’s dining room, in the home she lived in after my father’s death.
By this time I’d long left home, so only gave it a cursory glance on my frequent visits to my mother. Eventually she spent the last ten years of her life being cared for in a rest home, with her own home being rented out to pay her fees, and her belongings were put into storage. It was all very sad, but it was what she wanted for herself.
My husband Mike and I moved from where we’d lived for fourteen years, in Cornwall, to Spain during this period, and when we moved back to England after a couple of stressful years in Andalusia, (but that’s another story) had no idea where we would live, as property prices had shot up in those couple of years.
We looked at properties as far as Swindon, as they were cheaper there, but we knew we would prefer to live further south. We couldn’t afford to return to Cornwall. Prices there were exorbitant. We ended up living in Wool. Still the painting did not cross my mind.
When my mother died, my brother and I sorted through her belongings, deciding which items to keep and which to donate to charity shops. Several of my father’s paintings were among the effects, including that long-forgotten painting of Woolbridge Manor, the setting for part of the novel Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy.
We frequently walked our dogs, now reduced to one old boy who can’t walk the distance any more, to the Manor on Sunday mornings to look at the scene, painted years before by my father. The view has not really changed since those days. The water is sometimes calmer, sometimes rushing along. The flowers in the picture are not always there, depending on the season but the trees remain. The Manor house itself is easily recognisable by the chimneys alone. I feel as if I can walk straight into the painting. It means a lot to me now, more than it did when it was first painted, as it reminds me not only of the artist, my father, but of my mother and her homes. I can truly say that financial value, which it probably doesn’t have anyway, is not as important as the emotional value we give to some objects.
What a coincidence that we ended up living here. The painting has pride of place in our lounge.
Living as we do in the lovely county of Dorset, we have many reminders of Thomas Hardy. This year a new Visitors’ Centre has opened near the cottage where Hardy was born. It’s been built with the aid of Dorset County Council and the National Trust, plus a lottery grant.
The exterior is constructed from local trees; the interior is smart, although I had thought there would be a larger shop area. There are some items for tourists to buy, such as postcards, and jars of preserves.
What is good is an educational area, with charts and books to help children. Thomas Hardy loved the countryside around the cottage and noticed all the flora and fauna. He would have loved the fact that others could learn about the area, which provided backdrops for many of his novels and poems. We tend to think of him in terms of his writing, but he was also an accomplished artist.
The area around the centre has been improved, so that it’s possible now to walk through the woods to his cottage, good for the able-bodied, while those, like us, who are not so mobile can use the original lane up to the cottage. The whole area is a nature lover’s paradise, and great for people to walk their dogs.
In the summer, it’s wise to look out for adders, especially in the nearby woods.