Life’s rarely predictable. Just when you get used to a routine, everything seems to change and it’s all systems go on several fronts at once.
Back in 2007, when me and the wife gave up ‘normal’ life to go off and be teachers in Portugal, we rented out our house in Cornwall. Since returning to the UK last September, we’ve been renting a flat in Hampshire – roughly four hours drive away.
Didn’t take us long to realise that the only people profiting from this situation are the rental agents and the taxman. (Being self-employed, I have to declare my income from renting out my house – regardless of the fact that all it’s doing is paying my rent up here and if I lived in the house myself I’d be no better but would pay no tax!)
Also, we’ve got intention of returning to Cornwall in the near future – we’re much closer to family here and there’s a lot more work to be had. So, we’ve decided to sell our house and I took five days at the end of April to go down to Cornwall and do some painting and decorating before putting the house on the market.
I’d thought it might be a sad experience but we haven’t lived in the house for more than six years so the emotional attachment is long gone. Plus, having spent the entire time in Cornwall lost in either cloud or sea fog, my desire to linger wasn’t that strong.
I must have found a good estate agent (realtor), though, as within four days of the first viewing we got an offer of the asking price! (Who said the property market was in the doldrums?)
Of course, that means we’re now busy scouring property listings in the Bournemouth area wondering what to buy up here.
On top of that, spring has finally arrived. Big sighs of relief all round. However, apart from making life generally much more pleasant, it also means more work. Apart from being an English teacher and a writer, I’m also a gardener and, now that things are finally growing, my phone’s starting to ring with people wanting work done.
Good in many ways: more work equals more money and you can’t really beat getting paid to do something that you also do for pleasure.
Trouble is, I haven’t done any more work on White Rabbits for over a week and I’m getting so close to the end too!
It’s been a three-day weekend here but that hasn’t helped. I look out of the window, see the sunshine and the prospect of sitting down in front of a keyboard suddenly palls: which is why we spent today riding through the New Forest on our tandem, admiring spring flowers, trees bursting into life and just generally appreciating the strange feeling of warmth on our skins.
Things are unlikely to improve radically in the near future either. Next week I’ve got pretty much a full gardening schedule. Then we’re off on holiday to Slovenia for two weeks (I’m not complaining about that!) and when we come back I’ve got a six week teaching contract that, combined with keeping on top of the gardening work, is unlikely to leave me much free time.
Oh well, plenty of time for those plot lines and characters to ferment further…
Partly inspired by Maddie Cochere’s recent references to bacon on her blog, I’d like to sing the praises of one of civilisation’s other greatest inventions.
I could just stop there but being a writer it’s hard to stop me prattling on when inspiration strikes. So, first of all here’s my desk:
I sat down at my laptop an hour or so ago, not sure whether I was feeling inspired to write or not. Then I thought, hmm, I quite fancy something to drink.
In the cupboard I found the bottle of Boondoggle that I’d bought a couple of weeks ago. It’s a fruity, blonde beer that delivers a punchy citrus aroma and a well-balanced, moreish fruity taste. Well… that’s what it says on the label. More to the point it’s 5% alcohol and tastes damn fine to me.
I’m sure it’s also helped with the writing. I’ve just knocked out 750 words in less than an hour and almost got to the conclusion of the confrontation at the flower show between mad old Keziah Black and her snooty distant cousin Cynthia. (Coming soon in Church Of The White Rabbits.)
So. Beer – it’s good stuff. The big question now is which bottle’s next?
(Damn. Just realised – Carolyn now gets my blog posts. Now my wife’s going to know I’ve been sitting here drinking beer while she was out at her orchestra. Well… I did earn it, darling. I worked up quite a sweat shifting all those wheelbarrows of compost when I was gardening today!)
No, not my birthday but that of a classic song. Just found out via a friend on Facebook that Blue Monday by New Order is 30 years old today.
I’m not sure how to feel about it. I remember this song from school discos – I guess that should make me feel old but then I listen to it and am astonished by how clean and sharp this song still sounds.
Anyway, no more waffle. If you get the chance, turn the lights down low and feed this through the biggest sound system you’ve got until the floorboards thump with the bass:
Ah, well, enjoy. Time for me to stop procrastinating and get back to my writing!
‘A few days ago we were woken up by the sound of the ground shaking. My house fell down and a lot of my things were lost but I am very lucky because I still have my family…’
Most of us take a lot for granted, whether that’s our health, the right to free speech or the fact that the buses run (mostly) on time.
We don’t expect helicopters to explode in the sky above us (Carpe Diem And All That), nor do we expect our homes to be destroyed by an unpredictable planet.
My last job in the world of PR (before retraining to be a teacher) was managing communications for a disaster relief charity called ShelterBox. It was a fascinating and challenging job. While I was there, the charity responded to everything from typhoons in the Philippines to conflict in Somalia, floods in Pakistan and hurricanes in the Caribbean.
In each case, ShelterBox sent emergency shelter and other aid to families who had lost their homes as a result of the various disasters. Back at base in Cornwall we heard all kinds of tragic stories and part of my job was to use that information to raise awareness of the charity’s work.
But one story that particularly touched my heart was about a deployment from before my time. It is the story of Siti Ayeesha, an eight-year-old girl from Java who lives through a powerful earthquake that wrecks her village and kills many of her friends.
Siti relates what happens in the video below and what makes it particularly moving for me is that it’s told in her words, voiced by an eight-year-old English girl:
This video has always inspired me. In many ways it was the motivation in 2010 when my wife and I undertook a 10,000-mile tandem bike ride to promote the work of ShelterBox. And when I published my second novel, The Vault, it was a factor in my decision that 50% of the royalties would go to the charity.
Over the last few weeks I’ve been working with an editor on a revised version of The Vault – and have just submitted it to the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. And I’ve decided that in the unlikely event I win any of the prize money on offer, I’m going to stick to giving half to ShelterBox.
So, there you are: I’ve made a public commitment. No backing out now!
Happy 2013 to all my fellow bloggers, writers and readers – may the coming year bring you health and happiness!
We were lucky today. After days of rain and miserable weather the sun came out to shine for New Year’s Day. Pictures below are from Castle Coombe, a small village in Wiltshire (near Bath).
It’s the season to share so I’m sending virtual mince pies/glasses of your favourite tipple/best wishes to everyone who’s read and enjoyed this blog over the past six months.
Whatever and wherever you celebrate I hope you enjoy both the next few days and the whole of 2013.
In the meantime, I’d like to share the most incredible bit of busking I’ve ever seen. Nothing to do with Christmas but it sure stirs the spirits:
Wish we had flash mobs like that in my town!
In the meantime, I’ve just iced the Christmas cake. Time to sit down with a mug of coffee and work on the next chapter of King’s Port Rock.
Wow! December is just such an exciting month. There’s the publication of Pagan’s Sphinx today, we’ve got The Hobbit coming out in less than two weeks, the end of the world just eight days later… and then Christmas?
According to the prophets of doom – and other assorted fruitcakes and ‘mystics’ – the world as we know it comes to a halt on 21st December.
That prediction is based on the Mayan ‘Long Count’ calendar, a complicated system of 394.3-year cycles.
The start date of the Long Count calendar is believed to be 11th August 3114 BC. This is the day on which the Mayans believe the gods erected three stones, lifting the sky off the sea and revealing the sun.
Unfortunately, because the sequences on which this calendar is based end on 21st December some people have interpreted this rather negatively as meaning… well… we’re all going to die!
But before you get all depressed, a word of reassurance. Those who’ve actually studied the calendars in detail, say the Mayans believed there had been previous cycles to the one we’re in now and there’s nothing to suggest there isn’t going to be another.
Plus, you’ve got to ask yourself, how much can you trust these Mayans anyway? After all, their civilisation collapsed in the 8th and 9th centuries AD and their cities were abandoned. Doesn’t sound to me like they knew everything.
But – just in case the world is going to end – my advice is: don’t worry. If the apocalypse is coming then it’s unlikely there’s nothing you or me can do about it so we might as well relax, smile and enjoy life (well, for the next 20 days anyway).
And to help take your mind off your worries, how about a bit of escapism? Pagan’s Sphinx comes out today. It’s the story of an archaeological expedition to North Africa in search of an ancient statue that might provide a link to the lost civilisation of Atlantis.
So, if you fancy an adventure in the African sun, involving some intrigue, a bit of romance, a few explosions and a very dead body then this might be just the thing.
And if the world doesn’t end, you can always count it at as early Christmas present!