Archive | May 2013

Can’t Lose The Radar

Oh, the wonders of the modern age! I got through four novels while on holiday and didn’t turn a page of paper. I also had a whole library of music in my pocket and took about 160 photographs without using any film.

Being a caring kind of chap, I also bought my wife a Kindle Fire a couple of weeks before we went away and this too proved extremely useful. It’s ability to access the web meant we could check weather forecasts on a daily basis and (mostly) follow the sun as we travelled around.

So what, you may ask. Well, it all depends on your age. Being a decade or three older than some of you young web-dwellers, I remember days when all this was… well, science fiction!

peonyI took my first ‘gap’ year in 1997 (at the tender age of 31) back when ideas like the world wide web were still techno-babble to 90% of the population and the word email hadn’t entered the Oxford English Dictionary.

Carolyn and I went backpacking through Australasia and Asia and I remember lugging battered paperbacks and a very select collection of cassette tapes (remember them?) for playing in my Walkman. Once read, books were swapped along the way or bought and sold at stalls in backpacker hangouts. Buying a new tape was a major event – although inevitably it meant an old favourite (albeit played to death) would have to be ditched.

Internet cafes didn’t exist and we would go into the post offices in major cities to check if any friends or families had sent anything post restante for us to collect.

orchid01Life is certainly easier now. In the past I wouldn’t have dreamt of taking four novels on a 12-day holiday but with a Kindle it’s not an issue. I re-read War Of The Worlds (4*) and three new books The Delphi Agenda (3*), The Moghul (4*) and Me Again by Keith Cronin, which gets 5*s and a top recommendation. (Note to self: must post review soon).

We’re also in the process of hunting for a new house and while in Slovenia were busy checking out RightMove for possible new homes.

So, yes, life’s easier in many ways: access to reading material and music, being able to stay in touch with back home and access to all kinds of information. Is it a good change? Truth is, I’m still not sure. There’s part of me that still misses the romance and uncertainty of being out of touch, off the radar and forced to try things new and uncertain.

Anyway, that’s it for today. All observations and comments welcome. I need to get back to my White Rabbits – they’ve been a bit neglected lately.

PS. The flowers have no real relevance other than being ‘holiday snaps’ – I just like them.

Mountains, Rivers, Forests & Marauding Ducks

Slov01

Home again. Twelve nights in Slovenia seemed to go way too fast. Good holiday though and would really recommend Slovenia as a place to visit.

The country’s small enough to drive across in a day (on the motorway, not the back roads) and only has a population of about 2 million so there’s oodles of space.

slov02

If you love the outdoors it’s definitely a place to go – snow-capped mountains, wild forests, gushing Alpine streams etc. Also lots of thermal pools and water parks to play in.

Lake Bled (above) is the spot most tourists head for and the fairytale setting is special. But there are plenty of other beautiful places.

slov06slov03slov04

Apart from all the outdoor stuff, other good things about Slovenia include friendly people, some excellent beer and the best pizzas I’ve ever had.

Bad things are the incomprehensible language – my favourite town out of the ones we visited was called Ptuj. (Sadly we didn’t make it to the village of Fuckovci.)

And then there were the marauding ducks that tried to invade our camp site. Not sure if they were after our dinner or the wine.slov05

By The Way…

I know I said goodbye only a few minutes ago but I then came across this and had to share.

Who said brass band music wasn’t funky?!

It cuts off a bit short but the music is great. The original by The KLF was good but this is cool.

Signing Off… Briefly

It’s been a busy first few months of the year and – deserve it or not – I’m having a holiday. So there.

Thinking is officially suspended.

Thinking is officially suspended.

Tomorrow, me and the missus head off for a fortnight in sunny (hopefully) Slovenia. Not been there before but the guide books say it’s a bit like a small version of New Zealand. With the added advantage of being a lot closer.

Since coming back to the UK last September, life’s being getting steadily busier, even though we’ve been determined to stick to our flexible lifestyle and avoid rejoining the 9-5 grind. Being footloose and freelance definitely has advantages (freedom) and disadvantages (less money for one).

It does get confusing when people ask me what I do, though. The answer often depends on who’s asking and could be: author, English teacher or gardener. I also do a bit of writing for one of the local papers but I wouldn’t call myself a journalist (been there, done that, no desire to do it again).

I’ve also spent a fair few hours blogging and although that produces no income I do enjoy it. Normally, writing is a very solitary pursuit but blogging feels a bit more like a conversation. Pretty much a one-sided conversation but I do feel like I’m talking to you.

The blog has had nearly 2,000 views and around 800 visits so far this year. Plus there are now more than 200 of you lovely people who follow this blog. Wow! I do appreciate the follows.

One thing I really like about blogging is the total randomness of the audience. You might be another Brit reading this just up the road somewhere or you could be anywhere else in the world. You might be someone I’d bump into through another shared interest or you could inhabit a world that’s totally different to mine.

Another thing that I particularly like about blogging is that it’s writing. Okay, that might sound rather like stating the obvious but what I mean is that writing a blog post does involve some craft. Beginning, middle and end. Kind of like a story. Which is why it’s good practice for any writer. (Sometimes, writing a blog post is what I do when my current novel isn’t flowing or I’m just not in the mood for writing fiction.)

However, a problem with blogging is it that not only do the posts take time but it’s also – ideally – a two-way process. I want to read other people’s blogs and the trouble is there are so many out there. There are some people I’ve been following for a while but most weeks I discover someone new that I want to keep up to date with. Meaning even more posts to read!

Anyway, it’s time for a holiday. You get a holiday from my blog posts so you can go and read someone else’s thoughts!  Hopefully, I’ll come back from Slovenia mentally refreshed and full of ideas for my posts and enthusiasm for reading yours.

In the meantime, over and out… for now.

Too Many Distractions

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.

Chapel Porth beach - and the most sun that I saw in five days!

Chapel Porth beach – and the most sun that I saw in five days!

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.

primrose

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…

One of my favourite spring flowers - the wood anemone.

One of my favourite spring flowers – the wood anemone.