>Today is a recovery day. I’m not used to going out on a school night and even though I moved my alternate Thursday off this week to today, it’s still knocked it out of me. Isn’t it funny how we get set into time patterns regardless of how much sleep we get or how much time we take off?

Last night we raised over £1,000 for Help for Heroes at my member club. We had some fun and a nice time, but even though we left before the end, I still didn’t get to bed until late. So today I had a nice lie in and I’m ready to go again.

Main job today is to get the gig list done for February. I’d like to get that finished before the 1st of the month this time, and if I get my head down today I should do it. I also have an article that needs to be submitted to a competition by Sunday at the latest, by email. I’ll not manage everything on my massive to do list for January, but I have done a lot of it and much of what’s left will move to February and be prioritised.

It’s nice and sunny so I may go for a stroll around the village. I need to get a bit of shopping in too. Tonight is an evening in front of the telly and a decent soak in the bath – I was so rushed last night I only managed a quick dip (another downside of going out on a school night), so I’ll relish getting lost for an hour this evening.

Also, I think I need chocolate. Will rectify that pronto.

>On a roll

>Another short story went off yesterday, and another 6 competitions were entered. Everything is being meticulously recorded, receipts are being saved, it’s possible I really am “back”.

There are a few more links in the side bar, Media Guardian, Media Week, UK Press Gazette, and so on, I’ve been watching the job boards. I’ve been doing some catch up and getting my admin sorted. I even bought small denomination postage stamps to put in my stamp holder so I have no excuse for not sending anything out when the post office is closed (I have various stamps in there but needed lots of penny and two-penny stamps to make them up to the current correct postal rates). I picked up another 4 magazines so that’s 6 this week, 2 of which are writing magazines. The others are potential markets that I know are actively looking for material.

Of course, uncertainty at work may have quite a lot to do with all of this, and this flurry of activity could have been prompted by the news of more job cuts. We know nothing in our department, though. I’m hoping that’s good news. Well, for me. And my boss, obviously. But it’s getting me going on the freelance front and rather than spend, spend, spend whatever comes in I’m going to stockpile it – and I know I can do that when I put my mind to it, it’s what I did when I left my husband. I stockpiled money into an “escape fund”. Now it’s going to be a “parachute fund”.

And if I don’t need it? I’ll get a new telly. And new central heating. And go on a nice holiday. And think of buying a new car. But for now, it’s a parachute fund.

I’ve started work on the February gig list. That’ll likely wear me out for a day or so. Tonight we have a big charity gig, Help for Heroes, at my member club. I’m looking forward to that.


>Yesterday I finally submitted, for the first time in AGES, 2 short stories and an article.


I’m really quite pleased about this. I also was able to update my entire record of submissions so I know where I am with everything. The tick list is looking Very Good and very green.

At lunch time I went for a walk and picked up 2 magazines for market study that also look quite interesting to me too. Those are the best jobs, the ones for markets that I’m actually interested in and read anyway. I wanted to collect the latest magazine for one of the submissions (the article), but this week’s can’t be out yet as I tried 2 different newsagents. There’s a new editor there and we used to submit to the features editor. They’re having a real shake-up over there, though, so as I couldn’t get the magazine, I called the office instead. And now we submit direct to the new editor. It’s a good job I checked.

After all of that I was feeling quite weary.

My right index finger seems to be having a touch of mouse-button-RSI and I seem to be cultivating a ganglion on my left wrist – very attractive (not). (Mine’s on the top of the wrist.) Perhaps I’m falling apart, or perhaps I need a nice holiday in a health spa or somewhere stress-free. Hark at her – a brilliant year so far and she’s mentioning the stress-word.

It is hard work, though, all of this good stuff. :o)

Plan for today, more of the same.

>Brake shoes

>The brakes hurt. I knew there was something wrong with them. I was a shoe down and a ratchet mechanism being erratic and temperamental. I also got the price roughly right. But it still hurt.

The library was good. Freezing cold and with nothing to make visitors want to stay – I had to go and sit in a cafe if I wanted a hot drink, and if I wanted the toilet I had to go outside and use the public toilets in an adjoining building – but I got an article outlined, a short story edited, further methods of attack (submissions procedure) identified, a bit of diary work done, and I picked up a new book I couldn’t get last time I was there.

I also surreptitiously scoffed a turkey sub while loitering between the book stacks, and secretly munched a caramel doughnut while browsing the notices in the porch/vestibule. (They don’t allow eating or drinking in the library.)

When I got back home I did the electronic edits on the story, typed up the 3rd draft of another article, and prepared this story plus 2 others for submission. And I read for a bit.

Today I’m back in work for a 3 day week, Tue – Thu. This is because I’m out Thursday night at a charity gig and I’d quite like a lie in the next day.

At least the brakes feel safer on the car now, although they have prepared me for a new ratchet mechanism in case that fails again.

>Reasons to be cheerful

>Obviously I’ve been floating around a bit since last week’s giddy news. But I may have finally come down, although a top week was topped with a top weekend too. The purchase order arrived at the end of the week for the next WotWots job as well (aka confidential job #2).

On Friday night I finally made it out to my first gig since before the snow. I went to my member club, collected my club book, and watched one of my favourite bands, Rock Legacy, blow the house down with one of their best ever performances (in my humble opinion). It was great to catch up with so many friends that I’d not seen for ages, some not even this year yet. And I got to dance … my neck is still a bit sore from headbanging.

On Saturday I got through loads and loads of chores – well, laundry mostly. I didn’t get any ironing done, and the shopping – a big one – was done Thursday evening. So I was able to read and potter and do that writerly thing, think.

Sunday was really nice. I had chocolate delivered to the doorstep, was sent lots of nice messages, and got dragged out to another gig (kicking and screaming, you understand) to see another of my favourite bands in a fresh new venue. Heavy Load were stunningly superb and lots of fun, and the pub made me want to go back. So I will. I got greeted by one of the biggest, bestest bear hugs ever. I can’t remember the last time I got lifted into the air – I must be losing weight (more on that in a bit). I had pop bought for me and when I returned the favour, I got Stellas for 2 band members on the house – I have no idea how I did that, but apparently one of the bar staff has a bit of a thing about one of the guitarists …

When I put one of my favourite pairs of jeans on on Friday, instead of struggling to do up the buttons, I needed to find a belt. So on Saturday I weighed myself … and I’ve lost 5lb this year. For someone my size I think that’s a reasonable amount in 4 weeks. My BMI had already started to come down, so I’ll check that this coming weekend.

This morning I dropped my car into the garage to have the brakes looked at. As it’s not far from one of the slightly bigger libraries, I decided to pack a writing bag and work there for a few hours. I’m currently using one of their computers, so I don’t have much longer. I have all of my current writing projects with me except for the books.

>And the good news is …

>At approximately 6:15pm yesterday my hot water came back on. The central heating promptly switched off but after another struggle, all was fixed. I’m going to need a whole new central heating system at some point, but right now all is well.

Confidential job #1 has finally gone off to the customer for approval and should be published at the beginning of February. We all worked quite hard on this one, it was a new product anyway so nothing to base this one on, new to the publisher and they wanted to get it right, and very new to me. I had quite the learning curve but I did enjoy it and I know I’ll be as chuffed as ever with the finished product. I’m assured it looks “really good”. Once it’s published I’m hoping I can blab about it so everyone can dash out and buy one. (And my ed just said that I could.)

But the even betterer news is … there’s a confidential job #2 on the way now, which is the first natural follow-on from this one (summer to its spring). Re-ee-sult! And the best thing is, this one (these 2) came to me, I didn’t have to go hunting for them.

It’s about time the news turned good and stayed good.

There’s the possibility of confidential job #3 too, a different project this time, and then maybe we’ll have a winter version of #1/#2. If this keeps up I won’t have to try so hard to get that much more extra work, and now my budget finally seems to have settled down … well, let’s just hope this bubble doesn’t burst just yet – I’m not going to get too complacent too soon, especially after what was rattling down the grapevine at work yesterday.

I’ve sent my invoice off now, but next time I’m to send it as soon as I’ve delivered, regardless of any amendments.

If you don’t mind indulging me, I’d just like to allow myself a teensy weensy …



>We’ve been on snow alert all week for today … but it hasn’t quite reached us. (Phew!)

I couldn’t get my car booked in at the garage until Monday. I described the fault and they think it’s just my rear brakes that have gone. I’ve been advised to drive very carefully (as if I do anything else), so to avoid emergency stops (it would fail), and leave it in gear so it doesn’t roll when parked (yup, do that too). Driving home last night, my brakes seemed to be back. I parked without the handbrake on overnight and it started fine this morning and had rear brakes on the drive in to work. But they’re still not right and they still need checking.

The gas engineer didn’t manage to fix my boiler last night. He had to order the part and it’s coming today, so he called me instead. This morning, I had hot water …

Yesterday I caught up with the weekly magazine competitions and managed to enter 13 online, plus about another half dozen once I got online that related to TV programmes. Two deadlines were yesterday, which was lucky. I only picked up one magazine with the provisions. Maybe if I nip out today for another walk, I’ll pick up another. This week’s main task (outside of the day job) is to send at least one filler or reader’s letter to at least each magazine I pick up. I can hear Lynne Hackles telling me to ask myself what I can provide for each page I turn. The second edition of her book is due out in June, I believe.

Mini rant alert
There is a coffee machine in the area next to my office. It’s really unreliable. However, there is a message clearly on the front: “Any problems with this machine please contact Reception.”

Yesterday I went to the machine to get a cup of hot chocolate, and there were around 6 or 7 cups abandoned, still with dirty looking water inside. I dispensed my hot chocolate, and also got a cup of dirty looking water, so I thought I’d check to see if any of the 6 or 7 people that had abandoned theirs had bothered to contact Reception regarding said fault. They hadn’t. Can you believe the laziness of some folk?

The place they have to report it to (Reception) is feet away – right next to the kitchen where they can get rid of said dirty looking water down drain and put ex cups in the waste paper bin. And then they complain that the machine never works. WELL, REPORT IT WHEN IT DOESN’T SO THEY CAN FIX IT.

Crystal balls just aren’t what they were.


>Whoo, we don’t half have a bit of a fog at the moment here at Sleepy Hollow. It came down over Death Highway on my way in and has got thicker and thicker. Now I can’t even see that lovely old Victorian house, hardly. Very atmospheric.

Yesterday was mostly a day of thought. I did get some work done, but I also spent an hour or so lying on the small settee listening to a CD of a rain storm. I sorted a lot of stuff out in my head and am feeling positive again about the coming year – not that I was feeling negative, I just needed to tidy up what was going on in there.

Today has so far been a bad news/good news day. The bad news is: I think the brakes have gone on my car – as if I don’t have enough things breaking down on me just now. I have to get them looked at, it’s essential. But I could have really, really, really done without it. The good news is: we get a bonus in January – wahey! Not a huge amount, but every little helps.

From January’s wage I also start to put a bit away for this, a bit away for that, covering things like home & garden, books & DVDs, pet care, car maintenance, clothes, and holidays & leisure. This should ensure I at least have money squirrelled somewhere the next time things start to go wrong.

Today I finally crack open my last tenner of the month – I’ve stretched it over 3 weeks so far … I need to get stuff like bread, milk, bacon, but I also want to pick up a couple of magazines I can send fillers to.

At teatime today a near neighbour will hopefully fix my hot water. He thinks it may be the diaphragm or the micro switch, either of which would be affordable. The lovely man, bless him, also said he’d wait for payment, as it’s not pay day until Monday – but he said he’d pinch my milk every day until I did pay him … that’s how close he is and there was me forgetting I had a heating engineer virtually on my doorstep.

It’s a 4-day week at work this week, then next week’s 3-day week is going to be Tue, Wed, Thu instead of Tue, Wed, Fri, as I’m out Thursday night.


>I think the last of our white stuff has gone now – and the dirty grey stuff left behind. We’ve had plenty of rain, slightly warmer temperatures, and today we have glorious winter sunshine.

I had a bit of a mixed weekend, company on Friday, which was lovely, stayed in on Saturday, then unexpected company on Sunday. I wanted to go out Saturday night but really couldn’t afford it, so stayed in front of the telly instead. I got loads of washing and drying done over the weekend, plus a bit of ironing, and I baked too. If I hadn’t had so much company for so long, I’d have got a load of writing done too, but I ain’t knocking it – or not all of it.

Today I’ve finally succumbed and called a heating engineer to look at my hot water. I currently have a badly running gutter, but with no hot water for a week and a half, I was wondering where my priorities should be. I’d lined up a roofer to fix the gutter, but he’s not been down due to workload and weather. I’m not sure how much longer I can put up with boiling pans of water – it takes 4 pans and 3 kettles to get a half decent bath, and then there’s limescale left behind. I think I need to get my hot water back on tap – I’m not getting any at all now.

So I arranged for an engineer that lives in the next road to pop in on his way home tonight. And I’m dreading it. If it needs a new pcb, it’s going to cost £200 – £300. If it needs a new boiler, it’s going to cost £600 – £1,000. There are grants available at the moment of £400, but only if your existing boiler is below a certain energy level – I think it needs to be a G, and I’m sure mine isn’t a G.

EDIT: I just checked, and typically, my boiler does not qualify for the new scrappage scheme in England. (1:45pm)

I want to get some writing done today too.