Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Dogs, bullies and gardens

After a long, and upsetting battle with Leeds City Council, I now have a dog boarding licence for this address.
I haven’t said anything about this until now as I wanted to get it resolved first.
Basically, I have two separate garden areas (thee if you include the driveway, four if you include the front garden!). One is on a busy main road, the other (I have a corner property) is in a very quiet cul de sac.
When they came to inspect the house and garden they objected to the first garden as there were some gaps in the hedge. I explained that dogs would only be allowed into that part under constant supervision (absolutely true by the way) , but this wasn’t good enough, so I said OK, then  I won’t let dogs into it at all, as they could use the other garden. They didn’t want to know. Instead they insisted I close all the gaps in the hedge in case a dog from outside might come crashing through (it would have to be a gymnast, all the gaps are at least three feet up) ) or people might throw rubbish through into my garden which dogs might eat.
I was told I couldn’t have a licence until the work had been done. I felt bullied. I was upset that at no time, did the dogs’ care come into it. I could hurt or shout at them, neglect and ignore them, or not play with them or take them for walks and that’s all fine, so long as they don’t get injured and the council gets sued. That’s what it was all about, the possibility of them getting taken to court. The fact that I’ve cut down and only have three clients, didn’t matter, nor did the fact that I planned to stop at the end of the year.
The old me would have laid down and been walked over. The new me wrote a letter, basically saying that they were bullies, that my second garden was perfect for dogs, that I didn’t like being accused of lying (in that they didn’t believe I would keep dogs out of the other part of the garden) and that I felt they were bullying me. I pointed out that I suffer from depression, and that I felt the story might be of interest to a magazine, or even TV.
Amazingly they had a change of heart. I now have a licence so Louis can come and stay with me, legally. I had Pip to stay while this was going on. To make sure I wasn’t prosecuted (yes, that’s what they threatened if I boarded without a licence) I didn’t cash her owners’ cheque, and gave it back to them.  
I feel very relieved, both because I am now ‘legal’ again, but mostly because I didn’t back down. I’ve had a problem with confrontation all my life so this felt bigger than I can adequately explain.  Sadly,  I’ve had to cancel Raffy’s booking. I did that as soon as this all blew up. He has to ‘go’ on grass, so I wouldn’t have been able to keep him out of the ‘dangerous garden’. Of course, the licence doesn’t say that only one part of the garden is OK so you have to wonder what all the fuss was about.
I hate bullies, don’t you?

Monday, 29 July 2013

More sale to The People's Friend

I am so hungry right now.
I put on weight recently thanks to having no kitchen which meant dining out and ready meals. Being depressed also increases my intake of ice cream.  I wanted to get back to a weight I feel comfortable with in time for Swanwick so I’ve been using the 5 2 diet where you only eat 500 calories two days a week, and whatever you like on the other days. It’s not for everyone, but for me, it works. I KNOW that after a week of the diet I will have lost a pound or two. It puts me in control.
This morning I skipped breakfast for two reasons – the diet, and my six month dentist check up. I’ve had a morbid fear/terror/aversion to dentists for years and I dread going. It’s easier now than it was, but I still get into a state. I was meant to go in June but simply couldn’t face it. Happily I have another all clear so can forget about teeth for another six months.
I’m doing a short course at Swanwick in just under two weeks, looking at writing for women’s magazines. One session is focussing on The People’s Friend to whom I’ve been selling lots of stories recently. Today I sold two more, PLUS the fiction editor has given me some tips to pass on to people (I’ll  be putting them on here after Swanwick!). Those sales, plus having been in the magazine for four weeks running, have given me a real boost. You know what they say, those that can, do. Those that can’t, teach. Well I can AND I teach.
It’s been a funny week in many ways. Flash floods filled both my water butts in no time flat. I saw a wonderful red site, soaring overhead, riding the thermals, then a perfect specimen of a peacock butterfly. Right now the rain’s pouring down again, and I can hear thunder, so might be as well to sign off.
Tonight, last manuscript evening for this session at Leeds Writers Circle. 7.30 start. Carriageworks, Millennium Square.
Now I really do need to eat something…

Thursday, 25 July 2013

Looking for happy faces in the crowd and working, hard

Swanwick is just over two weeks away and I still have the course and workshop to plan.  I have a vague plan, but not much else but I know it will come together, once I start to think about it. Right now, I have other things on my mind.
I’ve discovered, and yes, I know it’s been a long time coming, that if I’m busy, then it’s much easier to cope with the lack of people and the loneliness.  Basically, busy means no time to brood. Yesterday, I worked and worked and worked. I worked on three old stories and send two to the People’s Friend and one to Fiction  Feast. I finished a new story that I first had the idea for at least six years ago, and another one that I started on my recent trip to Scarborough.
After  that, I answered some queries from Writers Bureau pupils and then a blue bag arrived with more assignments to mark. I have 48 hours to turn these round but rather than risk being late, I’d rather get stuck in. So I did those too.
I squeezed in a gardening break during which I pruned another couple of out of control bushes. Then I went back to rewriting stories. I ended the day by looking at coach and train times for my various outings (NAWG and Newark) then sat down to read the first few entries for the Fosseway writers competition.   I stopped when it became too dark to read, about half nine.
At the moment, my stories are coming out OK. Not great, not wonderful, just OK. I’m hoping that at least some of them will sell as that will give me the confidence boost I need to get back into writing fiction properly again. I miss it plus it would be nice to have some more cash coming in then maybe I can actually take the big step of spending some on a holiday!
Swanwick is NOT a holiday, more’s the pity. I’ve made up my mind that next year, I’ll either go and not do any teaching, or, dare I say it, I might even not go at all. It all depends, I guess, on how it goes this time.
I’m back on the 5 2 diet. Yesterday was a not-fast day  which meant that I overindulged just a tiny bit, so today I’m back on 500 calories. Why I love this diet is that you only have to think about calories for two days out of seven. Also, it works. I’ve already shifted the half stone I put on while my kitchen was being done (pub and microwave meals aren’t conducive to weight loss).
I’m also visiting a site http://baldwinlab.mcgill.ca/labmaterials/materials_BBC.html I found after watching a Horizon programme. You have to try to find one smiling face amongst lots of miserable ones. I am so BAD at this, it’s laughable, but I think I’m getting better…
As to my state of mind, it’s not great. If I stop to think, I cry. So the solution is simple, don’t stop to think. Providing I can keep going and with all the work I could be doing (three half written novels, a new guide for writers, etc etc) there’s no reason for me to actually run out of work. That said, it would be nice to have something else to do – fun or chats with friends spring to mind, but you can’t have everything, can you?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

One day at a time

The death of my mother has taken me a lot longer to come to terms with than I’d ever expected and I’m still not fully recovered. I’ve hardly written any short stories for the past eighteen months and have been relying on reworking of old stories to keep me going.
During my recent break in Scarborough I wrote four stories. I’ve been working on them slowly. The problem is they’re not ‘great’. I can always tell when I write a really good story. I get a special kind of feeling when the words really flow. I didn’t get that this time.  Writing them was hard work. That doesn’t mean they won’t sell. It means they probably won’t sell to Woman’s Weekly, the magazine I use as my benchmark. This morning I’ve been working on story number three and the good news is that it’s improving. All the little touches, the subtle turns of the plots are trickling back and maybe just maybe it will end up as one of my ‘good’ stories; one I can be proud of. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding i.e. will Woman’s Weekly buy it? I’m taking my time so that it will be as good as I can make it before taking that rather scary plunge.
I know that if I could get back into the story writing groove I’ve feel a whole lot better. When the words flow, and I know I’m writing well, that gives me a buzz and a buzz is something I really could use at the moment.  
My new garden is proving to be both a nightmare and a potential treasure. A nightmare because there’s still a lot of hard work to do, by which I mean digging up unwanted plants, moving others, making borders, removing a thorny edge and so on, some of which I’m having to pay a man to do as I simply don’t’ have the skills (or the muscles) but a treasure in that it’s already one of the best gardens I’ve ever had. I haven’t been able to plant much in the way of fruit and veg this year as I hadn’t organised the bed but I’ve still had a decent crop of raspberries and strawberries, and my tub of mange tout gives me a portion of peas every day. The blueberries are swelling too.  
Today I’m feeling a lot better. I’d love to say that I’ve turned the corner but I’ve thought that before, but even one day feeling positive is a start.
This afternoon, it’s East Leeds Writers. They meet at Seacroft Library (3.15, all welcome, Leeds LS14). I haven’t been for months! Today, even if it’s boiling outside (which it is), I’m going.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Scarbourgh was wonderful

Well there’s good news and bad news.
I went to Scarborough and had a lovely time. Met up with friends, celebrated my birthday ( a week late) with a wonderful meal at The Lanterna Restaurant with champagne all round. After that, we all went to the casino, my first time, and I won a few pounds playing Blackjack. The weather was perfect. Almost too hot but not quite. I also wrote some stories, and that’s the bad news. I’m not sure they’re up to scratch.  
I can tell when a story’s better than average. I can feel it in the energy, even as I write the first draft. These didn’t have that edge. Of course the proof will be in the pudding once I’ve typed, edited, and submitted them.
So now I have lots of work to do. Stories to type up, and two more that The People’s Friend have asked me to rewrite.  It’s funny but there was a time, not so long ago, when I’d convinced myself that I would never sell to that magazine. Now I do it all the time, in fact I have a story in the magazine this week, the following week AND the week after. As I was in there the week before too, that’s four in a row.  One big problem. I’ve been sending them old stories, that I’ve reworked and I’m starting to run out so someday, soon, I need to get back into the writing groove. Maybe I should try reading my own book!
First job on my list of things to do is go to the hairdresser. I look a fright. I was on The Chase last night. They repeated it and of course, they don’t tell you they’re going to do that, so it comes as something of a shock. It did convince me though that I need to have my  hair cut. It looks better that bit shorter.
Ah, something else. Last night I went to Ripon Writers for their annual get together, organised by Maggie Cobbett. From 7.30 to 10.30 people read out their work. There were people from York, Harrogate and other groups as well as 8 of us from Leeds.  I wish my Club did more social stuff but the members don’t seem to be that way inclined.
I would like once again to thank all the people who went out of their way to send cards for my birthday. I have to admit I’m still feeling very very down, but I’m working very hard NOT to feel like that by keeping busy, going out, etc. When I feel like giving up, it helps me so much to think of all the people out there who care about me, even though I’ve never met some of you.
I wanted to thank people individually but don’t have contact details for some of them so I’ll have to do it here – thank you Beryl, Anne Jeffery, Wendy Clarke, Caroline Storer, Sharon Whitehead and Sue Jones. If any of you are on Facebook ( I don’t use it often but it’s there), maybe we can be virtual friends if not flesh and blood ones.  If anyone wants my email address, they can use this one   kinghenryfan@yahoo.co.uk