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Northern Rail (***rant alert***)

charlatans

The poet (in the hat) with our friends Sam and Steve at Tramlines (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Tramlines 2015 started on Friday evening in Sheffield, and we had tickets for the whole weekend. We jumped on a train in Dodworth and in just half an hour, and for just £11.60 (apx $18) for both of us return, we were there.

We thought that was excellent value, especially when you take into account the price of petrol and parking, and – of course – vehicular wear and tear. And we wondered why so many people complain about the price of rail fares …

We went to City Hall to collect our wristbands, and it was actually quite hilarious. It wasn’t very busy yet at all, but the organisers still had us walking in in single file, queuing at the right desk, and then exiting via a different door … all 2 of us …

Most of the roads around the festival stages were closed, and quite rightly too, but we were able to get a taxi to the main stage area and pick up 2 of our friends on the way. We’d only gone to see The Charlatans, and they were excellent – my very first time. I recognised the lead singer, Tim Burgess, and when I said to the poet, “That’s the only one I know,” he thought I was being funny … I didn’t realise one of their famous songs was The Only One I Know

It was great to see Sam and Steve, and the rain stopped before we were all drenched, but we had to dash to catch our train back and we had no idea how to get to the station. We were eventually directed to the nearest tram stop and got back to the station in time for a Burger King supper too.

The next day we wanted to see more of our friends, Bang Bang Romeo. The bass player is the son of the bass player in Monkey Dust and the poet has pretty much watched him grow up. This time, however, we were very disappointed with the trains … so here’s that …

*** rant ***

On a Saturday there is one train per hour going from Huddersfield to Sheffield stopping at all of the stations, which is fair enough if people aren’t using them. However, everyone knew there was a major festival happening in Sheffield. Everyone, it seems, except for Northern Rail. Did they put on extra trains for this huge event? No. Did they add extra carriages to the existing trains? No. And I’d like to know why.

Hundreds of people bought their tickets in advance to attend the festival. We had to. They sold out very quickly. And this is a city centre event with lots of venues and outdoor arenas, not just one venue.

We got on the train at an unmanned station, which means that we won’t get arrested for not buying our ticket at the station. There are lots of unmanned stations between Huddersfield and Sheffield. That means lots of passengers get on the trains and buy their tickets from the conductors.

Because there was only one train per hour stopping at these unmanned stations, and because no one thought to add any extra carriages to existing trains already going that way, the 2 coaches were rammed.

They were so rammed, hundreds of passengers didn’t manage to get on – loss of potential revenue #1.

They were so rammed, the conductors couldn’t get through to sell tickets to those hundreds of passengers who had managed to get on – loss of potential revenue #2.

There were no ticket staff installed at any of the usually-unmanned stations – loss of potential revenue #3.

There are no ticket barriers at Sheffield Station – loss of potential revenue #4.

And those who did buy rail tickets in advance and then didn’t get on their train will be reclaiming their fares – redemption of revenue.

Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (no really, I’m not), but even I can see where Northern Rail passed up an amazing opportunity to earn (and keep) money. So many passengers would have got through on those trains completely free of charge. And because no one was policing it, they’ll get away with it too.

If they didn’t have the staff, they could have hired temporary staff. If they didn’t have the rolling stock (excellent excuse usually rolled out), they could have hired temporary stock.

Not only did Northern Rail lose revenue themselves, they also lost Sheffield city centre and the Tramlines festival all of that custom from those who didn’t make it. Not to mention disappointed fans who couldn’t get there in time to see their favourite bands.

The festival itself was excellent, very well organised, very well laid out, very well catered, very well attended. It was a joy to join in. So why didn’t Northern Rail (and others) cash in on that success?

*** end of rant ***

Bang Bang Romeo sounded, looked and were great – the best we’ve ever seen them. We were also able to watch another band straight after them, who we didn’t know, and we had another few hours with Sam and Steve before they headed back to Nottinghamshire. We were close enough to walk back to the station this time and were half an hour early for our train …

*** rant #2 ***

So there we sat, on the designated platform (1b), where our 16:36 train was “on time”. There were 3 other trains at this platform in the time we waited, but they were all previously late trains. At 16:30 we were told over the tannoy that the next train to arrive at platform 1b was, indeed, the 16:36 to Huddersfield …

… only it wasn’t. It was the delayed 16:something-or-other to Doncaster.

And so we sat and waited patiently for that one to clear, and when it did, at the same time that another announcement came over the tannoy, we saw our train … at another platform. At precisely 16:36 we were told that the train now leaving platform 2b was the 16:36 to Huddersfield … and we had to get up the stairs, over the track and down the other side before the doors closed.

Fortunately we weren’t the only ones and the conductor had the decency to make sure there was no one else over on platform 1b. But oh, what a shambles! And our next train wasn’t for another hour.

To say we were disappointed with Northern Rail by the end of the weekend is an understatement, and now maybe we know why there are so many complaints.

*** end of rant #2 ***

We didn’t make it ourselves to the Sunday. We wanted to see Buzzcocks and more of our friends, The Kavaliers (the drummer is the son of the drummer in Monkey Dust … do you see a theme here?). But heavy rain – and the difficulty of getting there on a Sunday, if Saturday was anything to go by – put us off.

Instead we had a trip to Meadowhall where we replaced a silver chain of the poet’s and some sleepers of mine. Then we were home to a pork casserole with parsley dumplings for tea (made in the slow cooker by himself) (and the dumplings – his first ever) (and our own parsley from the garden!), and an evening in front of the telly.

This week, at work, I’ve knocked one of my daily “tasks” on the head – the daily competitions (again). I’ve not won anything for ages, and that half hour I’d sooner spend writing or reading or something else now I’m so busy with work. I still have plenty to be going on with, with several short stories to edit, another technical paper, and 2 books.

I think I have a pretty normal, straightforward week ahead.

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Water lily

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Water lily, RSPB Old Moor (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

What a week! I don’t feel as if we’ve stopped – and we still haven’t. There’s more yet to come.

On Wednesday I worked right up to teatime editing a book that had already been paid for (although I hadn’t yet touched the money). Then it was a mad dash out to catch draw-time on a fishing match.

It wasn’t such a successful evening as before, the poet is still familiarising himself with the fishery and I didn’t start anything that can be completed other than 800-odd words of notes and writing exercises. There were also only about 5 anglers there.

On our way home we turned into our lane and were very privileged to see a roe deer and a fawn disappearing over the walls on either side (Mum went one way, offspring went the other). We walked back down after parking up to see if they were reunited, but there was no sign of them. It was lovely to see, though, and a total surprise.

Yesterday was a very busy day. The poet was in Tipton and I was in Birmingham and when we headed back together, it took us nearly 4 hours to get home. And then we had another mad dash to get the poet to band practice. Three of the 4 band members were late last night, and the drummer was on the phone when we got there making sure he had the right night.

I went off to do the shopping, then we got back and had hotdogs for supper.

Today I’m still very, very busy. I have 5 short stories to edit and a technical paper – all by the end of the day. And in the middle of it all I have a dentist appointment. (Boo!) Then it’s going to be another rushed tea as we’re off out to Sheffield to another music festival this evening, followed by 2 more days over the course of the weekend.

So, just a shorty today. Even though I keep getting distracted by a new (free) book cover creation package I’ve discovered.

The water lily was another of the pictures I “ordered” the other week. Isn’t it pretty? :-)

What’re you up to this weekend?

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Diary of a scaredy cat, 22 July 2015

41VHVPCW88L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Writing companion of the week
HOW TO WRITE CRIME NOVELS by Isobel Lambot is a very old book that I still refer to today, and still keep on my bookshelf. This picture is a scanned image of the one on my shelf and you can see how the cover is creased in the red part.

I used to adore these writers’ guides by Allison & Busby and you can still get some today. They’re all no nonsense guides in short, easy-to-read chunks. This one included 3 appendices at the end (2 of which will be clearly out of date now but are at least a place to start): How to kill your victim; How the British police operate; The legal system in England and Wales.

This book was by my side in 1996 as I planned and wrote NIGHT CRAWLER. I memorised most of it and still use aspects of it when writing today, and if I need a quick reminder, I just dip into the pages.

Because it’s not available on “look inside”, here are the contents:

Foreword
Acknowledgements
Reading List
1. Introduction to Crime Writing
2. Ideas and Theme
3. The Crime
4. The Characters
5. The Setting
6. The Plot Narrative
7. Planning the Book
8. Writing the Book
9. Business Matters
Appendices I, II and III (as listed above)

You can still get used copies of this book from Amazon. Let me know if you do.

Editing
Last week I picked up 2 new clients. One wanted me to proofread her technical article, the other wanted me to edit several short stories and novels – one was short-term, the other was long-term. I started work for both of these clients last week and already have repeat work from the technical one.

On Friday I was sent 4 new books by an existing client and have already completed the manual edit on one of those, the one he already prepaid me for. I’ll do the electronic edits on that today.

I have so much work in again that I’m not trawling for new jobs at the moment.

CATCH THE RAINBOW
This book has been going great guns just recently and yesterday I completed the 1st draft of “Act 1″. I’m glad this part is over as I’ve started it so many times but never really got this far. I also feel as if it’s helped me write my way into the book.

I’m itching to get going on “Act 2″, which seems to have seen a shift of focus onto a different character in the scene-by-scene outline I’m redrafting as I go along.

Short writing work
I tend to do the short writing work at the moment while the poet’s fishing or at odd moments where I can’t get my teeth into anything big. As I’ve been very busy recently, and as we’ve not been fishing, I’ve not done much work here. However, the poet did suggest going fishing this evening after work … but that was when he thought the weather would be fine. It’s currently drizzling here so may not happen just yet.

Word count challenge – July
I’m 15 days into a 23-day working month and am already on 17,324 words of 23,000 – which according to the sidebar is about 75%. (This may change by the time you read this.) At a rate of 1,000 words per writing day, I should be at 15,000 words. That means I’m a little bit ahead, which is great news. I’m very happy with that.

Work in progress
Today, then, I have the electronic edits on that book to complete so I can send it back to the client. Then I have a selection of short stories to print off and hard-copy edit. If I can, I’d also like to squeeze in some study time – although I’m still awaiting the updated version of the fiction writing course I was promised. I might also have a go at the first scene of the second “act” in CATCH THE RAINBOW. And this evening, if we do go fishing, I’ll be thinking short stories/articles.

Tomorrow I’m in Birmingham visiting the parents, so I might take something easy I can do if necessary. I’ve ensured all of my Kindle-reading devices and apps have the same “current reading” content and are fully synchronised.

Friday will be mostly writing work, but I have errands Friday afternoon, and we’re busy all weekend in Sheffield.

I haven’t done next week’s diary yet – that’s a Thursday job, so I might do that today too, as I’m not here tomorrow.

What’s in your WiP this week?

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Festival weekend

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Two faces of the poet – Wormy (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

I know I say this a lot, but we really did have a very busy weekend – and there’s another one on its way this coming weekend too.

On Thursday evening we nipped over to see the poet’s dad as it was his 80th birthday. He’d said he didn’t want anything, so we bought him a fuchsia for the garden. He’d not had it 5 minutes before he was deciding where to put it, so we think we made a good choice.

On Friday evening, at teatime, we had a mad dash over to Harrogate for the 2015 Crime Writing Festival. We were attending an event called “Yorkshire Pride” and thought a panel would be discussing crime novels in and about Yorkshire or by Yorkshire folk.

We didn’t expect to meet Peter Robinson (creator of DCI Banks) or Lee Child (creator of Jack Reacher). We thought they’d just be discussing their work. But they were there and afterwards I was able to have a book signed by Peter Robinson and the poet accosted Lee Child outside and got him to sign another. (Mr Child was supposed to be signing books the following day as he had another event he needed to be at.)

After the event we had a wander around town and decided to have tea in an American-style steakhouse. That was very nice.

Saturday morning we were back in Harrogate and struggling to park, but arrived just in time for the annual “New Blood”, chaired, as ever, by Val McDermid, who signed another book for us. (We’re turning into Val McDermid groupies!)

Because we’d left the dog on his own while we were in Harrogate, we had to hurry back. So we grabbed a sandwich and headed off. The poet wanted to go fishing that evening, but when we got home he discovered that the annual Fish-o-Mania was live on telly and he was having trouble tearing himself away. So we decided to watch that – or he watched it and I caught up on some reading.

Sunday morning we were up-and-at-’em again because the poet’s band, Monkey Dust, were playing at the Wheel of Light charity festival. This was supposed to be at another venue, but less than 2 weeks before the event, the venue pulled out, which was a bit of a disaster. However, while the organiser was on the phone cancelling the bands, Castleford Panthers ARLFC sent a text to say they’d hold it.

Unfortunately the organisers didn’t get as much time as they’d like to promote it (although Diane’s Gig List did their bit to help!), and it wasn’t as attended as it could be. They were also a bit disappointed, to say the least, when they discovered the original venue that pulled out had staged another event instead – on the same day. But the bands had a good time, lots of fun was had, and more friendships forged. Pictures (by Ian and Diane Wordsworth) can be found here on Facebook.

Castleford Panthers have offered to hold the event again next year, so the organisers are going to make more of a day of it and have already started to ask bands.

So that was our weekend. Oh yes, and Rufus came with us yesterday too …

wormy 2

Two faces of the poet – Ian (Picture: Diane Wordsworth)

Today sees the start of quite a busy period for me. Do you remember that Cosmic ordering I did the other week? Well, don’t anyone try to tell me it doesn’t work.

Last week I did a small job for a new client and already she is offering me repeat work. I also won a regular gig off another new client. And an existing client sent me 4 new jobs on Friday – and paid for the first one in advance. This on top of the work I already have in. I won’t be trawling for new work again any time soon.

I also have writing work to do, as ever, but not so much admin work this week. I have Thursday off, though. The poet is working in Tipton that day so I’m visiting the parents. We couldn’t see them this coming weekend as we have another 3-day festival to go to in Sheffield.

How was your weekend?

5

Diary of a scaredy cat, 16 July 2015

93a7e73c72064f96c0e46bcdcd2d8e85I fell off the radar yesterday but am back on the wagon today, but this is why the diary’s a day late this week.

Writing companion of the week
For anyone looking to expand into writing work on, and found on, the internet, HOW TO BECOME A FREELANCE WRITER: THE COMPLETE GUIDE TO MAKING MONEY FROM HOME AS ONLINE FREELANCE WRITER, by Andrew Ardmore, is the book for you. (And don’t ya just love those snappy, zippy titles?)

This books starts at the beginning of writing online and works through several online job boards, how to set up a profile, how to get work, how to pitch for work, and how to keep getting work.

With the merger between Elance and Upwork well under way, the book is a teensy-weensy bit out of date now, although the author does mention the merger. My advice, though, if you were thinking of joining Elance is to just skip it now and go straight to Upwork. This will get you used to the interface and how they work, which is still slightly different to Elance.

There are other platforms available too, and each will find a niche of their own that suits. They’re all mentioned in the book too, and ways to find more.

CATCH THE RAINBOW
This has been romping along just lately with me writing an average of more than 1,000 words every working day (apart from yesterday). Last week I added 2 new characters to the character lists as they appeared in the story, and I also changed the names of 3 of the main characters.

I found my KELLY’S DIRECTORY OF BIRMINGHAM & SUBURBS, 1973 – 74 CD, which was ace, but which kept me distracted for several hours while I checked my memory hadn’t failed and places were still where I thought they were in 1974.

Fiction writing course
I sat down to work on my fiction writing course last Wednesday afternoon but there were just too many mistakes and inconsistencies for the OCD. When I was referred, for the third time, to a module that isn’t even included in this course (and I mean 3 separate modules, not the same one 3 times), I’m afraid I saw red and fired off an email to the school.

The school responded 2 days later, probably to give me chance to cool off. They thanked me for my email (very gracious of them), said they were sorry for all the errors, but that the short courses had all been revamped and would I like a new version. I said yes please, and thanked them for the reply.

I don’t know what I was expecting really, although I did offer to let them have my proofreading rates … But this is good enough for now. I shall see what the new material looks like and, no doubt, let them know.

The basic course material can be found in any number of how-to-write books available anywhere. What I enrolled on the course for was as an incentive for me to crack on with my own writing rather than editing other people’s (and here I was editing their course material), but also the up-to-date feedback and impartial advice. So I’ll stick with it for now.

Short writing work
We went fishing again on Friday and I managed to finish the short story I started the last time we went. This has given me a 2,000-word story (or just under) in a genre I’d not considered before for short stories.

Towards the end of June I submitted 5 short stories to 4 markets. Four have been acknowledged; 1 has been rejected. I currently have 7 short stories out there earning their keep. But no articles or fillers. I need to get on with those again.

Admin
It’s been a big week admin-wise for me as I’ve been doing my tax return. Two tax returns, actually. It took me half a day to go through the piles and piles of paperwork we’ve already accumulated in the new house, plus everything that has accumulated since last April too. Then it took a day for me to get everything into order and sort out my income and my expenses. Once that was done it took me 5 minutes to fill in the forms and send them off.

I was so fed up at the end of Monday that it had taken me so long, and I was in a very, very bad mood. I really, really need to schedule in “monthly accounts” at least once a month – probably on the first Friday of every month, as I do other admin and errands on a Friday afternoon anyway.

Anyway, they’ve both gone now, both of them early.

Editing
On Tuesday I surfed both Elance and Upwork (mentioned above) and I pitched for 5 jobs on Elance and 3 jobs on Upwork. Elance job #4 was won before I’d even finished submitting the pitch for Elance job #5. Another one came in that evening as won. I’ve lost one of the Upwork jobs already, and pitched for another this morning.

The job #4 I won on Tuesday needs to be in by the end of tomorrow, so I’ll get that one done today. I also have a book for lovely-already-boss to edit. He says he has another once this one is done. And I need to start the other job I won, which is a long-term job with regular work.

Word count challenge – July
If you see the word meter in the sidebar for this, you should see I’m doing quite well. The way I’m going, this target might be smashed this month, or at least met early.

Work in progress
I have a little bit of catching up to do from yesterday, but generally, my work for the next week looks a bit like this:

  • daily competitions
  • blog x 3
  • 2 hours writing work x 5
  • 2 hours editing work x 5
  • gig list admin x 2
  • 2 hours surfing job boards & pitching if applicable
  • crime writing festival at Harrogate x 2 talks (one Friday, one Saturday)
  • charity gig on Sunday
  • 2 hours study work

How’s your WiP looking?

10

Another new week

bullfinch

Bullfinch at RSPB Old Moor (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

On Friday our last fruit and veg boxes (for now) arrived, and we were determined to use it all up before it perished. We didn’t get much chance to do that Friday because we were going fishing after collecting my car and didn’t get back until gone 9pm. We both had a good session: he caught 65 fish (yes, really – he didn’t “keep-net” any but he did count them); and I wrote 1,094 words of the short story I started last time, ending up with a 1,972-word story.

On Saturday we were supposed to be going to a local music festival but decided to stay home. I read quite a bit and the poet did some good fishing prep work he’d been putting off and putting off but that really needed to be done at some point. Son #2 has decided to take up fishing again, now he’s home from London, and he’s after spare gear from his dad and his grandad.

Before we went out the poet prepared a Lancashire hotpot in the slow cooker, using meat from the supermarket, potatoes, carrots, onions and mushrooms from the veg box, and fresh chives and rosemary from our own garden! I think the “from our own garden” bit was by far the best bit, and, of course, the tastiest! We finished off the strawberry flan, which was made with partially set jelly in the end and worked very nicely, but failed to find a replacement flan sponge for the one I ruined anywhere.

Sunday was a trip to Birmingham to see my parents. We made very good time and had a nice couple of hours with them. On the way home we dropped off a birthday card at his parents’ house and had an hour with them too. I asked the mother-in-law if she had a sponge flan dish I could borrow, and she did – but she told me to keep it, although she wouldn’t mind her glass pie dish back we’d had for several months by now! :-D

When we got home, while the poet made a cheese, mushroom and courgette omelette (mushrooms and courgette from the veg box …), I made my first ever sponge flan. I also made 4 small jellies and kept ¼ pint for the glaze. I still had strawberry yoghurt with mine, but the poet doesn’t really like yoghurt so he’s pushing the boat out still with single cream. What a scrumptious tea!

And so another week ends and a new one begins and, once again, it’s a fairly busy one. I have the usual writing work scheduled in, the usual job-surfing work, the usual editing work, but I’m also doing the tax return this week. Then, at the end of the week, we’re off to Harrogate for two events (one Friday evening, one Saturday), for the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. And, on Sunday, the poet’s band is playing at a charity music festival.

What are you up to this week?

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I promised a brilliant picture …

IMG_3135A

Dragonfly (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

… and I always try to keep my promises. :-) Isn’t this a beautiful shot? It was taken at RSPB Old Moor last weekend when we went on our photography safari. He has a picture of it in flight too, but that one’s a little bit more blurred.

I’ve had a good week. I’ve been very busy and I’ve got a lot of writing work done (have you seen the word meters in the sidebars?). But the best thing is, showing up actually works. (surprised face)

I made a bit of a decision a few weeks ago to do any writing work in the mornings and any editing work in the afternoons. I’m much more creative in the mornings and have more energy for it too. Most of the time I get to the writing early, and I’ve managed a fair amount of wordage each time. Sometimes, things happen, I get into administrative wrangles, and I might turn up to my writing late. Instead of skipping it, though, I’m still turning up at least. And I’m still doing the writing work first, even if it means pushing everything else along and working late. I’m doing the writing work first.

This is a major achievement for me as my own work has always taken second, third or fourth place and often been neglected entirely. So all those “nags” who bang on about showing up? Pay attention to them. They know what they’re talking about.

I’ve been a bit light on the editing side of things anyway, having only a couple of short works in the bag with a couple of longer ones not getting here yet. But I’ve also been in negotiation all week with 3 different clients (1 existing, 2 potential new) regarding several new jobs, all of which are going to be considerably bigger than the average gig I get, and one of which I really, really would like.

Does anyone remember the cosmic ordering that went on the other week? Well, it seems I’ve won not one job from one of these clients – one of the new clients –  but three. And job #1 consists of several little ones. The work should keep me busy for several weeks.

Now watch all the others come in as well … (said she hopefully).

My car had to go in for its MOT this morning. The MOT actually ran out in May, but with getting married and going on honeymoon and everything, for the first time ever I completely forgot about it. Needless to say, the car failed. But we’re going to get it through today and then look at either selling it or chopping it in for a new one before the next 12 months are up. It’s a bit of a nuisance in what’s already a 5-week month, but it’s worth more to us with the MOT than it is without.

This morning my housework-half-hour included making a strawberry flan. But we couldn’t get any Quick Jel™ from the supermarket. So I tried to use ordinary jelly for the glaze but the flan sponge soaked it up like a, well, sponge. Now I’m torn between letting the rest of the jelly set slightly before pouring it on, or making a fresh jelly glaze with less water. A friend has just this second told me on FB than she always uses regular jelly but with less water for flans, so maybe I’ll just try for that first.

We’ve cancelled our fruit and veg boxes after today as we’re not using all of the goods they send us while they’re still at their best, as we often go gallivanting in the summer months and are rarely home to cook with perishables. But we’re still going to look for fruit and veg that’s in season and that’s good for us (such as super-foods like sweet potatoes and blackcurrants) and start cooking from scratch again.

In the week the poet made a savoury mince using mince, peas and sweetcorn from the freezer and carrots, onions and mushrooms from our last box. And for the first time in ages, half of it went into the freezer to eat at another time. (Wormy’s savoury mince is legendary, by the way.) We’ll also choose when to buy courgettes, instead of having 4 sent at a time, and he’ll make just the one omelette rather than one a night.

As part of this cooking from scratch, and with seasonal berries, etc, I’m going to have a bash at fruit flans, fruit crumbles, summer puddings and steamed puddings, as well as mixing fruit with yoghurt or having it with meringue nests and yoghurt. I do the sweet stuff, he does the savoury stuff. So any suggestions of what to do with seasonal fruit other than what’s already mentioned will be gratefully received.

Once we pick the car up at the close of business today, I think we’re going fishing. This will give me a good few hours away from any distractions – apart from cows, chickens and ducks – to carry on with that short story I started last week. It’s been a while since I wrote a 2,000-word story, but I think this one is definitely heading that way.

Tomorrow we have another local music festival to go to, but I think it depends on the weather. Last year we had press passes but this year we have to pay. It’s for a good cause, though, so that’s why we’re still hoping to go.

On Sunday we’re off to Birmingham to see my parents. If it’s a nice day, and if we make good time, we may visit a National Trust property on the way home. We also want to go and see the poet’s parents as soon as we can as it’s his dad’s 80th birthday next week.

Have a great weekend.