Friday, 31 December 2010

Lost Characters, 2010

The last blog of 2010. Welcome to a new follower, Jan vB. an Amsterdam blogger, working in ICT finance, happy to be father and husband. On his interesting blog you will find his take on soul, spirituality and events from his personal life. Find his blog here.

Last night (30th) my small group of friends from my psychic circle 'cleared' a house belonging to a friend who was having some difficulties with 'things happening' in her house that were unexplained and occasionally a bit scary. We were able to help her and after about an hour and a half's work, we managed to get rid of whatever it was that was troubling her and today she reported one of the calmest nights she'd had for a while. Good deed done.

Losing Anyone of course is particularly sad but faces that we lose that we are used to in the public eye: actors, prominent people and those that work for the public good are sometimes almost friends, fixtures, traditions, even institutions (take Morecambe and Wise (for UK readers) for example).

Looking ahead and living for now is really important for us to succeed and for our own mental and physical welfare, but I thought I’d look back, just for a few moments to mention just a handful of people who’ve passed away this year that I thought had something special about them. There are many who fit into this category, so I’m sorry if I miss someone who you were particularly interested in or whose presence you enjoyed.

These are in no particular order and the first is Sir Norman Wisdom who died in October aged at the great age of 95. I knew someone who knew him from his home on the Isle of Man and he was just as pleasant and generous as his public life persona until dementia started to take hold, a surprisingly long time ago. He brought joy to millions over a long period of time and he will be missed as a supreme entertainer with his unique style of slapstick comedy. His duet with Joyce Grenfell on the record Narcissus is hilarious.

I suppose when you’ve made over 120 films, it must have been hard for American actor Tony Curtis to have hidden his light under a bushel, not that he was ever afraid of publicity. This talented actor and artist will best be remembered by me for his superb character in ‘Some Like it Hot’ with Jack Lemon and Marilyn Munroe and for the playboy in the TV series ‘The Persuaders’ with Roger Moore. He took more serious roles, particularly when he was younger and he was a very good actor in his earlier days.

Other great actors to leave us this year were Jean Simmons, Lynn Redgrave, smooth guy Simon MacCorkindale and Hollywood hard man, cult actor Dennis Hopper.

BBC Journalist Brian Hanrahan was another extraordinarily talented man who died aged only 61 and will always be famous for his description, under censorship of the 1982 Falklands conflict and British warplanes: "I'm not allowed to say how many planes joined the raid, but I counted them all out and I counted them all back. Their pilots were unhurt, cheerful and jubilant, giving thumbs-up signs." He received plaudits from, among others, former Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbchev.

Wombles (of Wimbledon Common) creator Elizabeth Beresford, Pink Panther creator Blake Edwards, larger than life politician Sir Cyril Smith, controversial snooker player Alex Higgins, the always under-rated sports commentator Harry Carpenter, Hull man and actor Ian Carmichael who I have written about before but I leave the last two paragraphs for particular favourites.

The first is Canadian born actor Leslie Nielson probably best known for his disastrously inept detective Frank Drebin in the Naked Gun series of pictures. Here was a serious actor, a leading man who stumbled across the Airplane movie, played his comedy straight (a golden rule) and never looked back. A great entertainer who never insulted his audience and took delight in having a laugh at the expense of his own characters.

The last, is the indomitable and supreme comedic character actor Lionel Jeffries – a film hero of mine. His height of mastery was playing alongside such actors as Peter Sellers in a series of Ealing style comedies, mainly in black and white as well as being father to Caractacus Potts in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. Self effacing, gentle and hugely likeable, it’s difficult to imagine who can replace this type of actor today.

Chat soon


Thanks to Wikipedia for Lionel Jefferies picture.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Mobile Phone Drowns

As always on these auspicious occasions, I welcome a new follower ‘A Woman of No Importance’ from Hope in Derbyshire. I wish you many happy visits ma’am. By coincidence, I spent a week when I was 11 on a school trip to Hope in Derbyshire where we stayed at a youth hostel for a very memorable and enjoyable holiday, my first away from my parents. This blogger describes herself as “Blogger, fictional heroine, fledgling psychotherapist, trying author, slattern, sloth and demi-mondaine Twitterer! I enjoy crying into strawberry beer and helping old ladies reach stuff off the top shelves in supermarkets... I'm the Queen of All Chaos.” Her informative and entertaining blog can be found by clicking here.

Well the day started well; I got out of bed okay, navigated through the bathroom, kitchen, urban roads through the fog and to work and from then on – it went downhill.

The Christmas tree lights in the office don’t work and the canteen only offered all day breakfasts so no decent dinner. I volunteered before Christmas to help a colleague clean the two fridges in the little kitchen we have for making hot drinks and microwaving meals. Just after the meagre lunch of quiche, bacon and mushrooms, Tammy cleaned the shelves and trays and I scrubbed the insides of the fridges which in the main were fairly disgusting after people who had spilt milk had not cleaned up after them. Sundry items of mouldy food and out of date milk were thrown away – gently!

Tammy provided me with a bucket of hot water and disinfectant which I started to scrub away with. Only, as I bent down to plunge the cloth into the water, my mobile phone slipped out of my shirt breast pocket and PLOP! It disappeared into (admittedly clean and hot) water. Despite it being fished out in about three seconds flat, it died on me.

I’ve been drying it out on a hot radiator and getting as much water out of the accessible nooks and crannies, but it is now doing stupid things and the display is hardly readable through mist hidden behind the screen.

The hardest thing has been trying to extract my contact lists – nightmare! Ah well it’ll be alright on the night.

Never mind – the fridges are now spotless!

One of the treats of this time of year is the roasted chestnut and unlike the Christmas song, they are done in a hot oven (220 degrees) for 20 minutes rather than on an open fire. When I was a kid, however, the chestnuts were roasted on a shovel under the dog grate upon which sat the roaring coal fire, probably only taking five minutes in that massive heat. Black fingernails from peeling the brittle skin and burning fingers revealing the nut inside is still a pain in the neck – but the taste is worth it.

Chestnuts can be bought at our Hull Fair in an October – a few nuts in a small cone for a couple of quid – not good value for money, but a sort of tradition. The picture above shows a serving for three by the way – not all for me!

The weather by the way is relatively balmy at an incredible 5 degrees plus today, but the thaw and moisture in the air has bought all day and all night fogs.

Chat soon


Monday, 27 December 2010

The First Post-Christmas Salad

It's alright for some...

All the turkey has gone, the last of which we had with a salad (the first of LOTS of salads) but there are still chocolates, nuts and savouries left to nibble on. Still, there are some consolations to being stuffed through food, England are stuffing Australia in the fourth Ashes test in Melbourne. I’ve been staying up until the early hours watching play until lunch time.

It’s time to be a little more profound. There’s a vexed question that’s been baffling mankind for centuries: Are zebra’s white horses with black stripes or black horses with white stripes?

Well, scientists have apparently come up with the answer. New evidence suggests now that the animals are in fact black with white stripes. I just thought you ought to know. Zebra is a translation of ‘wild ass,’ and exclusively an African animal, there are many varieties apparently.

Less profound is the weather which reached the dizzying heights of plus two degrees today with some light wet snow and sleet which means, thankfully, the snow is on its way out, no doubt for the time being at least.

However the eastern seaboard of the USA has now had their dumping of snow causing travel chaos and disappointing retailers who may well miss out on important post Christmas sales. Even southern states of Georgia and South Carolina have been affected with their first white Christmas in over 100 years. With winds reported up to 62 miles per hour, blizzards have brought misery to many.

Still at least there’s a happy ending for Moroccan born grandfather Mohammed Bellazrak who got lost in the snow in Wiltshire (UK) after dropping his wife off at an airport. He was eventually stopped by police in Oxfordshire after going missing for three days when his registration plate was recognised by cameras. According to the BBC News Online service, “Analysis from number-plate recognition systems showed he had driven around various towns in Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxfordshire and on the M4.

“Mr Bellazrak had no mobile phone with him, and he told newspaper reporters that his sat-nav was not working.” Lucky man, he’s none the worse for his ordeal.

I don’t normally watch much television, but with not a lot else to do and being so cold and icy out, I’ve managed a few hours in front of the box. Television hasn’t been too bad, some reasonable choice if you have satellite, but no real highlights for me. I got three books for Christmas, Simon Pegg’s autobiography ‘Nerd do Well’, Michael Caine’s autobiography ‘The Elephant to Hollywood’ and Tim Vines ‘The Biggest Ever’ joke book.

I’ve enjoyed sitting this afternoon just reading Pegg’s book which is both entertaining and a testament to his memory of his very formative childhood. This sci-fi nut tells a very interesting story although sometimes you feel he’s a bit over analytical about what has influenced his career as an entertainer.

One more day off tomorrow (Tuesday) before a short three day return to work. I hope you’ve had a good holiday so far if you have been fortunate enough to have it away from work.

Chat soon


Friday, 24 December 2010

...Time to Dance

The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged, it’s time to dance. No more work for four days, time to relax and enjoy time with the family. It’s Christmas Eve afternoon with a cold snowy landscape in the East Riding of Yorkshire.

I sit writing this with a small dish of mixed peanuts, a cup of tea and a couple of Euro-Millions lottery tickets freshly purchased from the newsagents (who are open Christmas Day from 10 am to 2 pm – the newsagent told me he does a roaring trade in batteries and people topping up!)

I guess Christmas is not too difficult for me these days; my wife doesn’t celebrate Christmas so I only buy gifts for my boys and parents. They know what they want so I don’t have to go hunting. Christmas décor is simple, the meal straightforward, and we’ll play card games and board games on Christmas Day evening and have a giggle - no television. A few drinks and some nibbles in convivial company will help to pass a pleasant day.

Washington Irving, an 18th/19th century American author famous for writing the short stories ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow’ and ‘Rip Van Winkle’ once said of Christmas, “Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”

I had an interesting chat with a colleague today in the corridor about a perceptible changing face of Christmas, the cost of it, what it means to people, the difficult times and the influence of their being less money about in the economy now and particularly next year. People donate to charity instead of sending cards for example and we have a generation of schoolchildren who are now more aware of what Christmas is really celebrating.

My thoughts very much are with people whose life is not as straightforward as mine is. It is brought to us in stark reality when friends post on Facebook that relatives and children are not well; then there’s the Homeless (for those who don’t have a real choice) who are struggling with life and the weather, the bereaved both recently and those whose beloved passed at Christmas time, those in abusive relationships, the vulnerable, the lonely and the ill.

Some work on Christmas Day because they have no choice, some volunteers work because they want to and feel the need to – well done to you. Some will still be caring for others as they do every other day of the year - thank you to you.

To all readers of my blog, be you a regular or an itinerant browser, whether you are a Christian or not, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope that this time at Christmas is full of compassion, hope and love and that the forthcoming New Year of 2011 is a safe, successful, happy and a prosperous year for you.

Chat soon


Monday, 20 December 2010

Hoary Day

Heads Lane Hessle, East Yorkshire 3.40 pm today, 20 December 2010. Typical of the hoar frost across the county today

Everybody is talking about the weather and although there are other things in the news, why not - it's an extraordinary event in most of our lives. Serious news stories sometimes don't touch us directly and we may take fleeting notice and move on, but no matter who you are, the extreme cold weather affects our ability to get out of the house, get to work, get to the shops, keep warm, and all the costs both monetary and personal that comes with it.

The temperature in East Yorkshire today has not risen above minus 5 degrees Celsius where I've been and there is the most beautiful hoar frost around and although I tried to capture it and the lovely full moon that's rising, I haven't done it justice. In fact on the way home today there was a magnificent sunset, so I thought I'd get myself to the Humber Bridge to get a view across the river, but when I got there - the fog had come down and I couldn't see a thing.

I don't remember much about 1963 and the bad weather we had; I remember still having a pile of snow that was once a snowman in the back garden still there in May. Someone wrote in the paper today 'It's nice for a couple of days - looks great - but I'm fed up with it now!' I'm not sure I echo those sentiments exactly albeit people would say that it's selfish to be enjoying it while so many are suffering.

Humber Bridge and the Humber Lifeboat Station shrouded in freezing fog, 3.30 pm today, 20th December 2010.

I guess the one thing I will remember about the winter thus far and that's the number of people who have lost their guttering to tons of snow on their roofs. The old wooden guttering of yesteryear (that I remember my dad tarring out each summer to stop them from rotting) would have coped better than the plastic ones we have today.

We can complain about the councils, the footpaths, the trains, the motorways, the car parks but at the end of the day why don't we just face up to the fact that we don't cope with bad weather and just be more relaxed about it - our pace of life is so fast these days that we have to be there yesterday. Let's face it, until the Government realise that the economy is being damaged to the tune of billions of pounds, only then they'll decide not to decimate this particular public service and spend some money on additional grit and lorries and some of these small machines for footpaths but more important, the staff to use them!

So wrap up warm... stay in and enjoy some home entertainment and if you are lucky, some company.

Not a very good picture, I couldn't get it sharp enough hand held, but the large, orange full moon rising about 4.00 pm today 20th December 2010.

Why is Christmas Day like a day at the office? Because you do all the work and the fat guy in the suit gets all the credit.

Chat soon


Thursday, 16 December 2010

What a Card

It's been a busy old time in the last week with evenings out, some for work, some for leisure, some for pleasure leaving not a lot of time for me to sit and relax. The Christmas cards are arriving thick and fast from friends and relatives, some whom I haven't seen for donkey's years, but with whom friendship is never the less still valuable.

My youngest son is back from University for the Christmas break - welcome home. He has his budgies to take to the vets to get their nails clipped and the Christmas tree to put up tomorrow. I just wonder how the cats will cope with it? (Or rather, how we'll cope with them not coping with it!)

I wondered when a card popped through the post from the Royal Mail saying I had to pick up this letter from the sorting office what was so valuable that they couldn't deliver it when no-one was in.

Needless to say, my good friend will get a ribbing that I had to pay £1.19 because of the peculiar size of the envelope, I had to pay extra because he hadn't paid enough - for his Christmas card stamp. It was lovely to hear from him and his dear wife.

I thought I'd look up the history of Christmas cards and was not surprised that it's western society and in Asia that cards are sent, even by those who are not Christians. Surprisingly however, the tradition only goes back to 1843 when the first commercial Christmas card was commissioned by Sir Henry Cole in London, and courtesy of Wikipedia - here it is:

This was illustrated by John Callcott Horsley and they printed over 2,000 cards selling at one shilling each (today - 5 pence). At auction in 2001, one of these cards fetched over £22,000.

Ironically, the card drew some controversy for showing a child drinking wine and some of the early English cards depicted fairies and flowers depicting the oncoming Spring rather than a celebration of Christianity and the birth of Christ.

Although I haven't got any statistics for the UK, in the USA, in 2005, it is estimated that 1.9 billion cards were sent! There is a decline in sending cards as e-cards are becoming more popular.

I've copied this paragraph from the Wikipedia site which illustrates how important recycling cards is in the UK.

"All recycled cards help raise money to plant more trees. In the 12 years that the Woodland Trust Christmas Card Recycling Scheme has been running, more than 600 million cards have been recycled. This has enabled the Woodland Trust to plant more than 141,000 trees, save over 12,000 tonnes of paper from landfill and stop over 16,000 tonnes of CO2 from going into the atmosphere – the equivalent to taking more than 5,000 cars off the road for a year."

Well, there's an incentive for us to recycle paper and cards.

The snow is flirting with us, a few flakes today and now a bitterly cold northerly wind and ice and frost. No snow for us until Saturday and this time the west of the country, who escaped the previous snow will now get their share.

Next week I'll be dusting off my copy of the Christmas Carol by Dickens that I've read every year (without missing a year) for the last 35 odd years at this time of the year finishing it off usually on Christmas Eve. Apparently a famous BBC Radio breakfast presenter does the same - copy-cat!

Keep warm and safe wherever you are in this wonderful world of ours.

Chat soon


Thursday, 9 December 2010

Christmas Office Party

Tonight - I've been to the theatre to see Christmas Office Party by John Godber at the Hull Truck Theatre. It might be worth knowing a little of the history of the theatre, something of which Hull is very proud.

The Hull Truck Theatre was born back in 1971 when a man called Mike Bradwell set up his own theatre company because he couldn't find employment. He moved to Hull and their first play was in 1972. In 1983 they moved to their own theatre in Spring Street in Hull (opposite the mortuary - nice!) and John Godber joined as their artistic director.

Godber's written many good and well renown plays one of which I have seen tonight, Christmas Office Party. In 2009 they moved to their new premises in Ferensway in Hull - a lovely and intimate theatre auditorium with three sides of the stage surrounded by the audience.

Apart from some dizzy bitch walking in front of the stage (not actually on it, but she may have just as well been) to get out in clumpy shoes about 5 minutes before the end, this was a great fun play well received by a switched on and responsive audience.

I went with a number of colleagues for our social evening and this was the first time I'd seen a Godber play and the first time I've been to this lovely theatre, I was impressed on the whole. The art display of paintings in the foyer was not very good art and the atmosphere in the upper floor bar, one of my colleagues said, was like being on the London Underground waiting for a train. She was right. Other than that and the obscure location for the toilets, it was good.

The play, set in a Yorkshire city, "up north," as one character put it, had lots of fun, pathos, dramatic swings of mood and atmosphere and plenty of great characters. The set was good - the inside of a relatively modern office and lots of retro music from the 1990s which was enjoyable nostalgia.

There are no spoilers here, but this play is simply about an advertising company having a Christmas party at the premises after last year's Christmas bash at the pub ended with the police being called. This is a closer look at relationships and office politics, personal differences, professional disappointments and the need to win a £3 million pound contract for survival. All sounds complex? Not really, don't let the plot put you off, it's almost a sub plot. This is about people. Their desires, their private lives, their relationship with one another as workers and their personal home relationships all put into the mix, with both hilarious and sad consequences.

The characters are entirely believable and the office politics, (with their political correctness - or not - possibly more suited to the 1990s) soon gives way to the characters revealing a lot about themselves.

If you ever get chance to see this, please do so - it's fun and entertaining - albeit with a bit of bad language thrown in, but this is not gratuitous and is entirely in context.

I can't tell you who the actors were, I didn't buy a programme for a change, but they were all very good indeed.

Chat soon


Monday, 6 December 2010

Icy Times, Christmas Card Dilemma, Sainsburys Service

The cat - chasing the cursor, also making it difficult to type at the same time.

Those of you from outside the UK must be having a giggle at us and the way we cope with (or don't cope with) the snow. Day time temperatures today didn't rise above minus 5 degrees Celsius where I was and the car clock this morning at 7 am said 'minus 9.' Several weather records have been broken this last week.

The main urban roads here are passable with care and the minor estate roads are hopelessly dangerous. The local authorities never get round to the side roads because they have other priorities, i.e., strategic routes and bus routes. If you think it's bad now in the UK and think the councils have been poor (I think they've worked very hard), it's going to be even worse as councils prepare for up to a 25% cut in expenditure for the next four years.

We even had mail delivered on Sunday (5th December!) That's because our postie had fallen behind with his work have fallen (literally) several times and hurt his back, he decided to come out on Sunday morning to catch up - off his own bat. Well done him!

This wonderful Government will slash spending on clearing our roads, our public servants that operate the gritters will be reduced along with everyone else, there will be fewer nurses and doctors to mend the broken bones, fewer ambulances to take you to hospital in a timely way so if you think it will get any better after all the 'constructive criticism' our wonderful public give the public sector - blimey, you ain't seen nothing yet!

Tonight is my first attempt to start writing my Christmas cards, well to be accurate, at least printing out some fancy address labels. I have wondered whether or not I should put a note inside the cards to say that I'll donate the £60 it costs me in cards and stamps every year to a charity next year. I haven't decided yet. I've given myself three or four days to make my mind up. The dilemma I guess is that I like to receive cards from friends and relatives. I find it comforting that you are thought of, if only for a few seconds a year while they write the card.

It's my dad's 74th birthday tomorrow and I have committed sacrilege. I was in Sainsburys tonight and bought him a bottle of Scotch. As I was paying for my lottery tickets on my way out I dropped the bag with the Scotch in and it smashed on the floor. OMG. The smell of spirits pervaded the kiosk area and a golden liquid started spreading across the floor. I was hugely embarrassed. But not as embarrassed as I was surprised when I realised that they were going to replace the smashed bottle and the two boxes of chocolates that I had consequently ruined in the same bag - no charge! Well done Sainsburys!

To a valued colleague and wonderful person 'J,' an old friend who is having treatment for an illness right now - thinking of you and your family too - best wishes and positive thoughts coming your way.

Hope you all have a safe, warm and successful week!

Chat soon


Saturday, 4 December 2010

Night Crawler by Diane Parkin

It is my pleasure today to host 'Night Crawler', a debut novel by fellow blogger Diane Parkin on her blog tour.

It is Easter 1996, and a young homosexual junkie has been murdered. His boyfriend is arrested and charged. Marcie Craig, local DJ and good friend of the prime suspect, knows he didn’t do it and sets out to find out who did. Along the way Marcie is beaten up, another friend is murdered, and another is questioned until, in the end, Marcie’s own life is threatened.

Night Crawler was originally a song recorded by Birmingham rockers Judas Priest and can be found on their 1990 Painkiller album. The novel is a story about someone that crawls around at night killing people to cover up his or her own secret. The story opens in April 1996 and runs for just a few months. It introduces Birmingham, the rock club and pub scene that once was there, and of course Marcie Craig.

Diane Parkin started writing short stories for magazines in 1985 when the writers’ group to which she belonged advised her not to waste her time and get a proper job. She went on to sell commissioned articles to magazines for many years. She qualified as a broadcast journalist with BBC Radio WM in 1997, took over one of the classes on the course the following year, and continued as a full time freelance photo-journalist for ten years altogether. She joined an international steel company in 2005 as editor of one of their in-house magazines.

Diane has also edited education trade magazines and journals, text books, non-fiction books, and photocopiable classroom resources, and has taught adults creative writing and computer literacy. More recently she has started to produce activity and sticker annuals for children aged 3 – 6.

Diane gives us a little more insight into the main character. Marcie Craig (real name Marcella) is a 32 year old female rock DJ that makes a perfectly adequate living from her first love, rock music. She lives in a caravan (trailer) in Meriden, a small town that lies between Birmingham and Coventry, England, on the A45 – although the caravan site (trailer park) is fictitious. She rides a Harley Davidson, drives a Jeep, and has a pet cat called Sylvester and two mice called Thomas and Jeremy. She is 5’ 7”, with long brown naturally curly hair, is quite physically attractive with an athletic body, but she’s a bit immature and can be sarcastic.

Diane explains how the novel came about. “I knew I wanted to write a mystery novel set in Birmingham but I didn’t know where to start. Everyone told me to write what I know but I didn’t think I knew enough about anything interesting. The only thing I did was work or go out to rock pubs and clubs, so I settled on the local music scene. I needed a protagonist and came up with an amalgamation of all the rock DJs I had ever known, then I made her a female and put her on a motorbike. Marcella was a favourite name and Craig was the professional surname of one of my DJ friends.

“The milieu gave me my scene of crime and it was easy enough to place a victim there, but I needed a reason for Marcie Craig to get involved, I needed her to care. So I had an old friend of hers falsely arrested and charged.

“I wrote copious character notes for all of the main players, I wrote a detailed chapter-by-chapter breakdown, I made timeline notes as I went along. I drew a map of the murder scene and I made a detailed timeline for the actual murder so I knew where everybody was.

“I wrote the first draft by hand, every day, making notes of things I didn’t know, and then I carried out my research interviews. The second draft was also in longhand but this took into account what I had learned. The first typo-free typed draft went out to my “experts” for checking, and all of my factual errors were corrected, most of the feedback was also incorporated. Then the second type-written draft was produced and the polishing process begun.

“I did two more handwritten drafts before the final print-ready version. Then years of submissions began.”

This is a self publish novel and for the uninitiated (like me) this is how self publishing helps budding authors get their book out there.

The book was completed by the end of 1996 and in 1997 it started to do the rounds. Diane hawked her manuscript around publishers and agents for more than ten years, building in many of the suggestions they made. While many were genuinely interested, the only company that offered to publish her book ran out of money. Spurred on by mostly positive feedback, Diane decided to have a go herself and “get it out there”.

Lulu is a print-on-demand self-publishing organisation that offers authors various levels of support. With so much editing experience, however, Diane decided to do everything herself. She did all of the editorial and technical work and even sourced her own artist for the cover. Lulu is available to anyone with Internet access and offers various distribution services and packages. Every book gets an ISBN.

Night Crawler by Diane Parkin was published on 12 November 2010 and is available from Lulu. It can currently be purchased in hardback or as a download.

Find Lulu at, buy the book at, and read more about Diane at

Night Crawler is Diane’s debut novel. She lives in a South Yorkshire pit village in England with her two cats.

The book arrived through my door on Thursday and can't wait to get to grips with the drama.

Chat soon


Friday, 3 December 2010

Batten the Hatches

I've decided to batten down the hatches and take cover this weekend. I've managed to get through shitty roads every day, cope with idiots who don't know how to drive in the snow (or don't care) and not have to dig myself out (just) of anywhere.

We don't need to venture abroad to the shops or look after relatives who are all nicely catered for. So perhaps apart from some drive clearing in the morning after tonight's predicted snow, the warm fire and a couple of good books await my undivided attention.

The snow today however, ignoring the negativ
es, has been nothing short of spectacular with Christmas card scenes everywhere and the car clock on the way home at 3 pm today showed it to be minus 5 degrees Celsius.

Cars are still covered in more than a foot of snow and all the main urban roads despite gritting and snow ploughing have packed ice on surfaces.

If you have seven minutes to spare (what else have you got to do this weekend?) enjoy this brilliant piece of film about the old fashioned way of getting trains through adverse weather conditions, from 1963. Remember British Rail?

promised I thought I'd post a picture of my two older kids and their cousin from next door, who, with a little help from brother in law next door, build a six foot igloo in the back garden yesterday afternoon.

It dawned on me that way back in 1988, 22 years ago, another igloo was bui
lt in the garden of my former home and although I can't find it, I have a picture of my older son playing in it. Nothing changes - they're all big daft kids - thank goodness!

Keep warm and safe this weekend and enjoy the views outside (preferably from your living room).

Chat soon


Thursday, 2 December 2010

'Snow Joke

How boring can this be, but the weather dominates our lives here in the UK at the moment. We're just not used to dealing with extremes of weather.

I spotted the lead picture first thing this morning (10.00 hours) out of my office window. There had been a brief thaw and the snow had started to move off the roof before refreezing. As a consequence, the icicles had moved inward making an interesting spectacle - horizontal icicles!

People are digging their cars and themselves away from their drives, car parks, kerb sides, interchanges and anywhere else cars can get stuck. It's great to see people walking. I saw a bus this afternoon pull into a bus stop to drop off and when I passed again ten minutes later, the driver and passengers were digging it out. Instead of staying on the road which was clear and stopping, the driver pulled into a foot of snow at the kerbside adjacent to the bus stop and got stuck!

The second shot was of the River Humber about 12.45 hours today (Thursday). You may see a similarity with my blog opening title photograph; it was taken from exactly the same place on St Andrew's Quay in Hull.

My goodness these birds are tough. Most of them live on chips thrown to them by customers from the local fast food outlet (I'm loving it!) who park up here to get the often spectacular views across the Humber.

My two older sons, their cousin from next door and my brother in law are building an igloo in my ba
ck garden! I'll post the picture when they've finished.

I do hope you are staying warm and safe.

Chat soon


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Keep Safe and Warm

Hello from a wintry, cold, white North Eastern England in the UK. This is the first time in their lives our young cats have experienced the snow. Curious, they dashed straight into it without thinking of course and sank up to their bellies which was a bit of a shock. Jill wasn't too fussed and found high ground on the back of the garden seat which had no snow. Jack however was a little more adventurous leaping from footprint to footprint that I had left.

Within a few minutes Jill had had enough and came in to watch procedings from the warmth of the house. Jack however thoroughly enjoyed the experience and stayed out for ages. Needless to say, they both spend the next hour asleep curled up in front of the fire!

Above is the view from my office window at daybreak this morning.

I kept my eye on the forecast as I always do but with extra interest. I've got up an hour and a half earlier than I normally do for the last three days (for me that's a big deal - I hate getting out of bed too early) and set off for work early hoping to get there for 7 am before the rush hour. The roads had been cleared and gritted and no-one else has been venturing out much at that time so I got to work really early and was equally home early too!

Lots of good people turned out for work - many walked (in some cases about four miles) others sat on buses for two hours, queued at bus stops, sat in rush hour traffic jams to get to work. Well done them for committment and dedication. A selected handful perhaps open the curtains, see the white stuff and roll over back to sleep. For goodness sake, at least people should make the effort and if they can't get off the drive, or off the estate, then that's fine, but at least try. The world goes on despite the snow.

My son drove from East Yorkshire to York to work as he does everyday and it took him three hours and today was the worst trip - he doesn't know how he got there, however others, including those who live in York didn't turn up! Makes me angry and I hope that at least they made the effort!

The garden looks the tidiest it's ever looked, mainly because all I can see is white - suits me - no leaves to pick up. Today the wind has arrived with a vengence so not only is it drifting out there, it's now colder than it's been all week with snow falling almost horizontally.

The late Sammy Cahn penned the lyrics:

Oh the weather outside is frightful,
But the fire is so delightful,
And since we've no place to go,
Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!

True bloody true!

Keep warm and safe

Chat soon