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Showing posts from 2008

Aims and Arm

How did that happen? It’s New Year’s Eve already! We’re whizzing round the house preparing for the arrival of our dear friends, Jill and Martin who are staying with us for a few days, but there’s time for a quick look back at the year and to think about what I hope to do next year.

I’ve reached the end of year with immense relief that, personally, we’ve avoided anything too unpleasant, though we’ve had enough tough years not to take anything for granted. I’m still a bit worried for Lily and Russ and hope that they will be secure in the home they love and I’m sad for Ma who is mourning the loss of her brother and sister. But, on the whole, life’s been good and there’s lots to be grateful for.

We’ve been to some interesting gigs this year – the standout moment for me was seeing Radiohead, which was sublime, and we’ve got some events lined up for early in the new year. Quite envious of Stepson Two who is going to see Bob Dylan, though not quite so jealous of Lily and Rose who are off …

Relief, Rellies and Recommendations

‘I’m going to be baby Jesus for Christmas,’ says Lily, tearfully. Lily and Russ were looking forwards to their first Christmas together in their rented flat but an official letter suggests this might not be possible. It seems that their landlord is in arrears with his mortgage and the flat has been repossessed. To add to their woes there is no trace of the bond into which their deposit for the flat was allegedly paid which means they are the best part of a grand down on the deal and will have to scrape together more money for another deposit if they have to move in a hurry.

You can say I’m biased but Lily is truly one of the kindest and most thoughtful people I know. Lily sees the invisible people; the cleaners, the porters, the security men, the people some folks don’t see. No one deserves to be homeless at Christmas but the thought of Lily suffering makes me incandescent with rage and frustration – there is almost nothing we can do. After a very worrying few days a fresh letter…

Hospital Thoughts and Away

‘I’m Michelle’, says the kindly nurse with a warm smile, before taking my blood pressure. I’ve come armed for lots of waiting around especially as I’m twenty minutes early for my pre-op assessment but Michelle summons me before my bum hits the seat. Despite having low blood pressure, being half an inch taller than I thought and weighing a bit less than I expected (I don’t weigh myself – I have a pair of shorts which tell me what to do, if they fit, I’m fine, if they’re tight I eat less) I am found to be in rude health.
‘Just a couple of forms now’ says Michelle, leading me to an office. ‘I’ll just lock the door.’
‘We’ll just do a couple of swabs to make sure you’re not carrying any bugs. Nose, throat and groin.’
Checking for bugs is fine by me, especially since Tom needed emergency surgery and was horribly ill after contracting MRSA during a routine op, but groin? Actually it’s all very dignified and not at all embarrassing, just a quick dab at the knicker line and we’re done. M…

Writing Babies

I’m pregnant again! About twenty weeks, I think - I can even feel the baby moving! But, before my grown-up children faint or anyone starts knitting booties, I should explain that it’s only my subconscious mind at work. Every time I start to feel excited about a new writing project my nights are filled with vivid dreams about various stages of pregnancy. By the time I’d finished the rewrite of ‘Fighting the Tide’ I’d even given birth to twins!

The other recurring dream I have is one that crops up when I’m trying to find a solution to a plot problem. In that case I suddenly come across a secret room in my house which was hidden to me before but which is crammed with all kinds of treasures. It’s quite a difficult dream as the room is usually hard to access and frightening to enter but when I wake up I’m always in the right frame of mind to find the answer to what’s bugging me.

All this frantic nocturnal activity has been sparked off by me making a start on my OU short story. It’s un…

Looking Up

‘Come and see this,’ says Tom.
It’s too cold to stand outside so we’re standing in the dark by the radiator, looking through the open window. Jupiter is pinned against a sapphire blue sky above the black shadows of the Preseli and a shred of grey cloud drops away to reveal the pale gold of a crescent moon.
‘Any minute now.’
And then it happens. Venus emerges, dazzling as a diamond, from behind the moon and it’s breathtaking to watch. No one’s about, except for us, and I feel extraordinarily privileged to have witnessed this astronomical delight. It’s a dramatic and beautiful start to the last month of the year.

Tom and I have been to some strange places at odd times to look up at the sky. Next year it will be ten years since we sailed with Lily and Rose across to France in our old wooden boat, Veryan, to watch the total eclipse. Cherbourg harbour wasn’t exactly an intimate setting but the effect on the crowd was just as dramatic when the sun disappeared. Looking back, I can’t belie…

Great Expectations

‘So,’ says the guy with guitar cutting such a lonely figure on the stage, ‘are you here to see John Martyn?’ Tempting though it is to shout, ‘No, mate, we’re waiting for Guns N’ Roses. Where are they?’ or ‘Well, we didn’t stump up the best part of fifty quid to see you!’ I manage to restrain myself. It’s tough being the support act and even tougher if you’ve been busking in an underpass just moments before being thrust on stage and told to keep the audience amused. Oh, okay, I’ve no evidence for that but it certainly how it sounds, nevertheless I manage to applaud politely when the poor man winds up his set to everyone’s relief.

I’ve been looking forwards to this evening but I’m a bit apprehensive too; some of these songs are going to stir up memories of people no longer in my life, like Kay who disappeared after university never to be seen again. With thoughts of the past reverberating in my head, it’s a shock when a huge fat man in a wheelchair comes on stage and I have to recon…

Beginning, End, Middle.

On Monday evening I did a quick check of my email and saw the message I’d been waiting for sitting in my inbox. I immediately went all butterfingered and almost sent it winging into space instead of opening it. Keep calm, Chris, don’t get your hopes up, it’s probably bad news… but it wasn’t. Tom was outside in the studio, putting the final touches to a frame.
‘The publishers want to see the rest of the book!’
Much hugging, jumping around, another look at the email just to make sure I hadn’t been seeing things and a glass of wine. Then the phone rang.

It’s strange how hearing my cousin’s voice didn’t ring any alarm bells. But then Auntie Joanie had been doing so well and most of the recent news had been positive. I suppose I’d started to think that she would just go on despite being so terribly ill. And it was such a shock to hear that she wasn’t there any more. The end had come quite suddenly and had happened just at the moment Tom and I had been celebrating. Life gives, life tak…

Writing In My Head

Ever since Tom and I took the loo to bits trying to find one of my contact lenses I’ve had ‘Buy new specs’ on my ‘To Do’ list. The thing is my prescription is so chunky is it doesn’t matter how nice the frame is or how far the lenses have been slimmed down, I still look like Nick Robinson (‘though, hopefully, with more hair) once the glasses are made up. Anyway, I’ve done the sensible thing and the pair I collected yesterday have, once again, lost something in translation. I quite like them but the combination of retro frame and very beady lenses makes me feel as if I should be sporting a gentleman’s Fair Isles waistcoat and striking a pose on the front of a knitting pattern. I’m thinking about taking up pipe-smoking too, just to complete the look. Although I’m not exactly sure what you do with a pipe (from what I remember as a little girl, folks seem to spend most of their time trying to light them) I’d welcome a touch of the zen-like calm that seems to go with the whole ritual,…

What's Hot and What's Not at Hotel H...

Three days and counting. In the meantime here’s a quick guide to the measure of things at Hotel H this week:-

Going Up:
1. Weetabix – the new prunes
2. Aleshia Dixon
3. Fluffy jumpers
4. Welsh water – the new Crème de la Mer
5. Flog it! (not to be confused with 5 below)
6. Escape to the Country – just don’t do it for real
7. Babies
8. Christmas-size packs of cashew nuts

Going Down:
1. Prunes – movers and shakers now out of favour
2. Camilla – what does she think she looks like?
3. Jo Brand
4. Katherine Jenkins
5. sex/violence/language/other
6. Silence – what is the point of it when you can squeak your slippers?
7. Salad – indigestible
8. The Planet - severe run on heating oil accelarates climate change

Ah, well. That’s me on page one of the naughty book then.

Now What?

Eleven months and 13.1 miles after waking up on one of those birthdays requiring a towering inferno of candles on the cake and deciding to run a half marathon, I crossed the ‘finish’ line and stopped. Someone draped me in a space blanket, someone else gave me a medal, a third person handed me a goodie bag and then, in the middle of that noise and excitement, I was suddenly quite overcome. I thought of Dad, who hadn’t been there to see me, and Tom and Lily, somewhere in the crowd, who were and got a bit emotional. By the time Lily found me (they’d lost track of me once I was wrapped in foil and looked like a drumstick, like everyone else!) I was a gibbering heap which set Lily off too.
‘Never, ever let me do that ever again!’ I blubbed.
‘No, all right, Mum,’ said Lily, texting Tom to say where we were.
Once Lily had fished out my free sample of energy drink and got it down me I started to cheer up a bit. I felt even better once I’d had a soak in Lily’s bath with some of her Champney…

Aber, Cardiff, Tenby, Aber

Friday 10 October
Tom’s reached the end of this year’s OU course which means he sitting in a church hall in Aberystwyth taking a music exam. I’m only on Week 3 of mine so I’ve found a quiet spot in the Arts Centre where I can alternate periods of quiet study with drinking coffee and people watching. The boundaries become a bit blurred however when my peaceful place becomes powerfully attractive to every noisy nuisance in the centre. A couple of school-girls flop beside me and do a running commentary of everyone they’re texting, a bearded man plonks his briefcase on the table the other side of me and shuffles all his paperwork self-importantly and, to cap it all, a class of pubescent dance class pupils turn up and start flinging themselves all over the floor in front of me. It’s like berludy Fame Academy here! I give up and meet Tom for a post exam debriefing. It all sounds fine to me so fingers crossed.

Saturday 11 October
Down to Cardiff for my first day school. Good to put faces …

An Award from Debs

Look! Isn’t this nice? Lovely Debs gave it to me. Actually it’s half Tom’s because Debs likes his paintings so much. Thank you from both of us, Debs.

The winners of this award have to answer the following in one word per question. Tom’s on the phone arranging for Mil and Dil to come down (nooo, don’t say anything Chris) so I’ll do the answers myself. Okay…
1. Where is your cell phone? Handbag.
2. Where is your significant other? Negotiating.
3. Your hair color? Depends.
4. Your mother? Surrey.
5. Your father? Jewelry box (oops, that’s two words. Will explain another time.)
6. Your favorite thing? Family.
7. Your dream last night? Decorating.
8. Your dream/goal? Happiness.
9. The room you're in? Study.
10. Your hobby? Running.
11. Your fear? Illness.
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Bestselling.
13. Where were you last night? Bed.
14. What you're not? Teenager.
15. One of your wish-list items? Mac.
16. Where you grew up? Surrey.
17. The last thing you did? Breathe.
18. What are you…

Haiku and Half Marathons

Haiku for Our Times
A Plumber

Composing a verse
in seventeen syllables
sends me round the bend.

Stock markets falling
faster than the Autumn leaves.
Call Robert Peston.

Friday 3 October
Yes, this week for the sake of freeing up our writing, we are mainly writing haiku. Again it’s a bit out my comfort zone, not a form I’d usually try and to be honest (and no disrespect to those highly respected writers of haiku who make such an art of it) it all feels a bit like being told to doodle when you’re hoping to learn how to paint like Michelangelo. Still, one of the aims of starting this course is to stretch myself and try new fields and I’m certainly doing that.

Sunday 5 October
There is a gale of epic proportions going on outside my window and it’s pouring down with rain. I’m planning to do a half marathon course today but with weather like that I might as well sit in comfort and draw inspiration from the ‘Great North Run’ instead. With in minutes I’m blubbing; Bill Bryson is saying how proud he…

Creaking, Cardiff, Cruising and Classes

Friday 26 September
Lalalaaa! After the hurly burly of the creaky bed in France I am enjoying the deep peace and a deep sleep in my own bed. Still fast asleep I have a lovely stretch and something in my neck goes bang and wakes me up. Aargh! Despite all the running my back is a bit dodgy and my neck still plays up from time to time after a whiplash injury. I reach for strong painkillers and wish I hadn’t broken myself

Saturday 17 September
Tom’s doing his last OU seminar before his exam so I get to play with my lovely Lily for a couple of hours. Her partner, Russ, gets millions of Brownie points for chauffeuring us around. What a star! Lily and I are very excited because we’re hoping Rose has won the Euro Millions since she has promised to share her winnings with us. Rose has told us that she’s going to buy Lily a pug and someone to do the unpleasant bits for her and I’m going to get my rescue greyhound and an annexe to keep it in since Tom is not a dog fan. Apparently I also h…

Stuff Happens. The End.

Shellfish Tale

Reflections on a Normandy Beach
By A Plumber

Who would be a little cockle
Hiding on a beach,
Where furtive fingers hunt you down
And pluck you like a peach?

Perhaps you’d be a razor clam
Waiting for the tide?
‘Til someone tugs you from your hole
and takes you for a ride!

They rake the sands
They dig with forks
They rip the mussels off their stalks
And when you think you’re safe – oh f*ck it!
You’re rudely flung into a bucket.

Monday 15 September
I insist that we visit the Cathedrale Notre Dame at Coutances and very fine it is too. Beautiful slender stone towers and spires, gorgeous medieval stained glass and the most amazing and awe-inspiring lantern. We have a wander round Coutances and enjoy the window boxes and floral displays before following the coast road back. A stop to enjoy the view proves that not only is the sun shining but it’s hot as well so we go home, change and spend the rest of the day on the beach. Lovely.

Tuesday 16 September
Another run – really enjoyable with some…

Stuff Happens 2/3

Wednesday 10 September
Begin with a local and very small market at Hayes Pesnel. ‘Rubbish!’ sniffs Ma. An open church is more rewarding with wonderful contrasts between huge mosaics of biblical scenes and amazing modern abstract stained glass. The long roll of honour to the war dead shows the loss to this small town made even more poignant by a stained glass window dedicated to some of the deceased, their faces forever young.

In Avranches Ma buys postcards but the tabac doesn’t have enough stamps so I queue in the post office along with half of Avranches. My schoolgirl French is pushed to the limit when my neighbour in the queue strikes up a rather one-sided conversation with me. From there to the Scriptorial D’Avranches, home of the Mont St-Michel manuscripts and, more importantly so far as I’m concerned, an exhibition of work by Marc Chagall.

Far from being an appetiser for the main course, the manuscript themselves are dramatically displayed and utterly breathtaking. The sense …

Stuff Happens. What We Did On Our Hols. 1/3

Friday 5 September
Leaving aside the minor irritation that, due to an overcorrection at the salon, my hair colour is vintage Elvis, the holiday does not get off to a good start. The day before we are due to depart Ma, Tom and I go to visit Auntie Joanie hanging on in there despite being given only days to live. On our way we learn that Uncle Sid (he of the Cutty Sark fame, husband of Auntie Joanie) is himself very ill. Auntie Joanie is not looking too bad in the circumstances and we leave feeling quite reassured about her at least.

I’m just about to get out of the car to follow Ma into her flat when I get a call to say that my Uncle Billy in Australia has died. I rush in after Ma before she can pick up her answer phone messages and break the news to her. Ma folds up with grief but won’t cry and shrugs me off when I try to hug her. It’s her way of coping.

Saturday 6 September
2pm. Arrive Portsmouth in pouring rain. Normandy Express not due to board until 3pm but we are in pole po…

En Vacances

The pound is falling faster than you can say ‘Thanks, Chancellor!’ there are early warnings of gales in the Channel this weekend and I’m developing a cold. Yes, it can only mean one thing; we’re off on our hols!

We booked this break earlier in the year when Ma was staying with us. Ma adores France but the last time we were there was just after my dad died and it was a bittersweet time for us as we struggled to find our feet again. Our holiday is tinged with sadness once more as we depart with the knowledge that Ma’s beloved elder sister and now her brother, on the other side of the world, are both desperately ill.

It’s been a very sad and painful time, especially for Ma, but come rain, shine or recession I’m determined that the next couple of weeks will bring some light relief.

And finally…
My Ace Gang are having more than their fair share of woes, too. Here’s to you, my lovely girls, and treasured memories of laughter and sunshine to keep us going until we meet again.

On a Limb

In June last year my left shoulder started to ache. By July it was really beginning to play up and there were things I couldn’t do anymore. Like sleep. I like to curl up on my left side or lie on my back with my arms above my head but since it hurt like hell to lie on my left side and I could no longer raise my left arm above my head those options weren’t possible. In August I gave up and saw my GP who confirmed, as I suspected, that I had a frozen shoulder and prescribed hefty painkillers and a course of physio.

Since I’m quite good at taking care of myself I was pretty miffed to be struck down by something completely out the blue (yes, there are much worse things out there, I know) and it was especially frustrating that even after lots of hard work with Margot the Marvellous Physio that some movements weren’t coming back. Without an operation, Margot told me, I’d be looking at all kinds of problems one of which was muscle wastage. Looking at my nice new bingo wing I agreed to g…

Looking Ahead

Honestly! If it wasn’t so sad it would almost be funny. After visiting Auntie Joanie last week I really didn’t think she’d still be here, especially since the medics had warned the family to think in days rather than weeks, but it seems she’s perked up a bit! In the general hospital she was sinking fast but it seems that some tender loving care in a pleasant environment has definitely made life more bearable for her again. Perhaps all your good wishes, both here and sent to me privately and for which I thank you, have reached her somehow. Ultimately there will be no miracle recovery because the odds are so heavily stacked against her but it seems that Auntie Joanie isn’t ready to let go just yet.

I’m grateful, too,
for the suggestions for my treadmill playlist. After some trial and error I have discovered that it’s hardcore that does it for me! How tragic is that!! The fast, insistent beat, which would drive me crazy in real life, is absolutely brilliant for keeping me up to pa…

'Ta ta, Ducks.'

‘Mum can’t talk anymore,’ my cousin tells me when I ring to see if I can visit Auntie Joanie, ‘so it can be quite tough. If there are a couple of you, you can have a conversation around her which she can follow.’

Auntie Joanie has now been moved to a small cottage hospital. Inside it’s clean and bright with views across a field. The atmosphere is calm and peaceful. The staff look up and smile when they see Ma and I’m glad that my aunt is in a place where someone’s taking notice of what’s going on.

I’ve thought about a few things I want to say but it all goes out the window when we turn the corner. Auntie Joanie is propped up in bed, supported by pillows. The general hospital, where she was previously, lost all her clothes so she is wearing a new cornflower blue nightdress which brings out the blue in her eyes. Her hair, which was once a rich gleaming auburn, frames her face in silver waves. From this angle you can’t see what radiotherapy has taken away but Ma bends over her big …

All We Have

As a firm believer that ‘today is all we have’, I try to squeeze the most out of every hour and tend not to dwell too much on the past but when my lovely Ace Gang came to stay recently we had the kind of weekend that memories are made of.

The five of us met at antenatal classes when the only thing we had in common was carrying a bump. Barriers quickly dropped as we exchanged horror stories about labour and new babies and we have continued to share, scare and care ever since. Some of my happiest and most hilarious memories are of our annual night out but out of this came a serious tradition of setting ourselves goals for the coming year. 2008 has already seen Ann climb Ben Nevis and Ju save enough to buy herself a much long-for cello so we don’t hang about!

With geographical distance between us our annual night out has been replaced by a get-together at Hotel H. This year’s visit coincided with the most glorious spell of sunshine here on the west Wales coast. We walked on the gold…

The Random Tag

Blossom has tagged me to share six random things about myself. After a completely cr*p week everything feels pretty random at the moment so, off the top of my head:-

1. I am a tad under 5’4’’ tall.

2. Yesterday my lovely daughters, Lily and Rose, sent me a surprise gift to cheer me up after ‘Fighting the Tide got rejected. A bouquet of roses and lisianthus arrived together with a copy of the latest Louise Rennison’s confessions of Georgia Nicholson, ‘Stop in the Name of Pants’. I may have work to do on the writing front but I am very fortunate to have such wonderful daughters.

In the same post a framed photo arrived that Rose and Si had taken during their stay with us. It shows Tom and me looking like Pooh and Piglet walking down the beach hand in hand, our backs to the camera and says a lot about us. My thanks to Si who thought of the idea and chose the frame – what a nice man!

3. In a couple of hours time I am off to sea again and I’m pretty apprehensive after our boat ‘ La Reve’ …

The Bad, The Good and The Sailors

The Bad
1. Mil has become one of those domestic accidents stats that get trotted out at the end of the year; the ones where slippers rear up to savage their wearers and trousers lay traps for the unwary. The ones that sound funny but end up in a trip to casualty, if not worse. Poor Mil woke up to see a spider on the ceiling, directly above her head and couldn’t go back to sleep knowing it was there. Rather than wake Dil in the next room, she trotted off to fetch a broom to coax it down herself. Now Mil is a fan of the Marshmallow Bed, very high and very squashy, so you know what happened, don’t you? One minute Mil was swatting a spider and the next she was on the floor, slammed up against the wall, wondering if she would ever walk again. Fortunately she doesn’t seem to have sustained any permanent damage, nor even, it seems, any broken bones but she’s terribly shaken and needs a lot of ‘‘phone’ support at the moment. We’ll have to see how she goes and hope her confidence returns…

Cancer 2020 Campaign

This is a photo of my lovely daughter, known to you as Lily, in her role as Ambassador for Cancer Research UK, meeting Constituency Assembly Member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Randerson.

Lily is one of 40 volunteer campaigners who have been recruited across Wales by the charity to seek improvements in cancer services and policy for Wales. Cancer Research UK’s Cancer 2020 Campaign calls for a Cancer Plan for Wales which would focus on prioritising cancer prevention, improving early presentation, detection and screening and the uniform provision of cancer treatment across the country.

Many of the charity’s ambassadors are themselves cancer patients and survivors but Lily volunteered because of what had happened in our family. In her words:

‘When my grandfather developed pancreatic cancer in 2004 one of the few positives was that he was treated at a nearby hospital, the Royal Marsden, the first hospital in the world dedicated purely to treatment and research of cancer. Although there was …

The Beat Goes On

I never do it outside but love it in the gym.
The Libertines do it for me but Dirty Pretty Things don’t.
There’s a certain frisson that comes from Dave Gahan roaring ‘You can’t tell me that you don’t want it,’ as I tackle a 6% incline but it’s Razorlight and the lovely Johnny Borrell singing ‘Somewhere Else’ that really sets my pulse racing. I refer, of course, to my running playlist.

I’m a recent convert to running to music. Until now I’ve always run outside where I’m keenly aware of potential danger. Back in the days when I lived between a busy town and the Downs there was too much of a risk from commuters reversing out their drives without looking at one end and race horses and weirdos in the bushes at the other to contemplate wearing headphones. These days my route takes me through narrow winding country lanes where lone runners aren’t the first thing on drivers’ minds so it’s essential to keep a sharp ear open for traffic. Besides, the purist in me just likes to stay in tou…

Rooms For Reflection

Friday: West Wales.
With relatives in and out on hospital on both sides there are pressing reasons for a trip to the south. Mil and Dil are missing Tom but Mil isn’t up to travelling at the moment and Ma’s been sounding a bit wheezy on the phone so I’d like to make sure she’s all right too. A couple of phone calls later we’re collecting things together for an early start the next day.

Saturday: Epsom
We’re at my Auntie Joanie and Uncle Sid’s for a quick visit and it occurs to me that their modest living room is one of the constants in my life, a container of so many memories. I’ve ‘twisted’ here as a very little girl amongst a sea of adult legs at one family party, drank my first Snowball at another and spent years aching to be like my glamorous and sophisticated older cousins. It’s a merry, vibrant room with the satisfying patina of long, deeply entwined lives. There are small plastic tubs filled with dolly mixtures and liquorice allsorts and other little treats on one table, a hug…

Feeling Groovy

Saturday 14 June
Tom and I have now recovered from the Great Wormery Evacuation. My brain has managed to wipe out the memory of the terrible smell, so I no longer have to plug my nose with Vick to erase it, and the noxious fumes from the compost have died down sufficiently for us to be able to venture out into the garden again.

After all the excitement I find myself a bit fidgety. Whilst I am extremely happy not to be doing my previous job, I did used to enjoy walking through the town in my lunch break, watching all the faces, seeing what was new and absorbing different influences. It’s quite easy to settle in a groove here and sometimes you have to push yourself a bit to get out it. Tom has some paintings to collect from Art Matters in Tenby, which offers us the chance of an excursion, a gallery to view and a chance to catch up with the lovely Margaret and John who run it. Margaret shows me an autobiographical short story she has written which leads us into a discussion about the …

What Lies Beneath

Thank you for your concern about the dark clouds over Hotel H, they involve people who are very dear to me and that’s all I can say but your kindness is much appreciated.

As well as fears for others, we’ve been beset by general worries; slow progress on the boat engine has put Tom in the doldrums whilst I keep looking at the Great Green Monster in the garden, aka, the oil tank, wondering how much more of our budget it’s going to devour. With chores building up after our run of visitors I decided that sitting around worrying wasn’t doing me any good so I’d start tackling the backlog, beginning with the garden.

Inspired by Wizzard’s composting blog,( - why can't I get the script prompt to work?) I took the plunge and decided to get to grips with the wormery. Now a wormery is fine and dandy at the beginning; it arrives pristine and shiny with a little bag of bedding material and your very own compost worms. You simply put the lot together and …

Making Hay with Honno

'In Her Element', Honno's featured book for June.

May’s seen Hotel H heaving; we’ve had the Fat Boys (five days), Lily and Boyf (long weekend), Rose and New Man (Five days. Very nice, Rose. You can keep him. Yes, Lily, Rusty is lovely too) and Stepson One and Girlf (six days). It’s wonderful to see everyone but I was very glad to have the chance of an outing last week.

When I received an invitation from the lovely people at Honno asking me to join them at the Hay Festival to celebrate 21 years of publishing, I was thrilled but a bit apprehensive about my credentials for mixing with the hip and happening. As a Hay novice, the event was smaller than I’d anticipated, even, at first, a tad disappointing; I wandered round in a bit of daze worrying that I wasn’t ‘getting’ it. But once I’d parked myself on a bench to absorb the atmosphere I started to see beyond the clichés, the Boden catalogue families, and designer wellies, organic chocolate and worthy ice creams. Look a l…