Next! Environmental Health …

I didn’t get very much done yesterday.

To be honest I was a bit narked about the phone company but, give them their due, in the middle of the afternoon I suddenly started to get a rash of text messages through, which suggested they’d fixed the fault. But it also suggested it wasn’t a planned outage at all but an unexpected one. If this is the case, they need to properly brief their customer service team.

I made a start on my study work and wrote for my allotted time, but then I had a visitor (and here is his “ace” on this particular blog!) and I never got back to work after he went. All of the regular daily stuff was done but I didn’t even make over the doorstep, not even to take the dog. It was too blooming cold and I was too blooming idle.

This morning I’ve had the environmental health here about the water in my lounge.

Yorkshire Water have completed their investigations and can find nothing to cause it. So EH are going to test one of the rainwater downpipes that’s sunk beneath the footpath to see if there’s a break or a blockage causing storm water to spread underground and come out at the first possible opening.

They’ll make sure there’s no blockage first, then they’ll put some dye down and take it from there.

There’s still lots of stuff to do today, but again I’ve done all of the daily chores. However, the weekend is almost here and I’ve got that Friday feeling because for the first time in ages I’m going out tomorrow night and I’m spoiled for choice where to go. I might go out to say happy birthday to a friend, or I may do a tour. I’ll see how I feel.

If the weather’s going to stay crispy and frosty, I also want to do a proper walk. The recent mud up to the knees has been putting me off going anywhere. Sausage dogs are quite close to the ground and apart from Rufus getting a wet and mucky undercarriage, there are also the health issues that go with a low-slung chest cavity.

Have a great weekend – I can’t believe it’s December tomorrow already …

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Grumpy old woman (rant alert)

I forgot to post yesterday. I got a bit carried away catching up on short story submissions. I’d let them slip and as I’m now collating Twee Tales Two I need as many as possible to earn their living before they’re immortalised forever.

The word counter widgets are still unavailable today, but Twee Tales Two is currently standing at 10,139 words (with a target of 20,000 words max), Back to Basics is still at 6,053 words (with an initial target of 10,000 words) and Tales From Baggins Bottom Best Bits Book One is at 11,167 words (with an initial target of 30,000 words).

I now have 55 submissions “out there” with various magazines all over the world. Twenty-nine of those went yesterday. I also had a quick look at the latest jobs, entered my daily competitions and walked the dog.

That’s quite a busy day and I still have lots to do on the two books.

I don’t have any pressing deadlines at the moment and this is making me faff slightly. I need to get back on track with the schedule, starting the day with my two hours of writing/study time. I still have a collection of short stories to finish proof-reading and a book to edit.

I am, however, managing the daily Yoga. I received a message last Wednesday, 21 November, that my book had been dispatched and would be with me on 6 December … (pause a moment while we all work that out …) but it actually arrived just two days later on the Friday.

There’s a morning workout in there that only takes ten minutes or so, and that’s what I’ve been doing before breakfast, since Saturday morning. Already it’s working – remarkably well, actually – and within about another week I’ll be adding the next ten-minute workout to it.

It makes such a difference being able to walk around normally and not feel any pain, to be able to stand up from a seated position and not have to hobble for the first few feet, to be able to bend over and tie my shoelaces without having to sit down or crouch. And all this in less than a week. I’m delighted with progress so far.

Of course, for every positive in the Cosmos there’s sometimes a negative, and here comes that rant …

THREE network (mobile phone) is apparently down in my area for maintenance today … but they didn’t think to mention it to anyone as it’s only one day … and nor did they think to reimburse anyone for any network rental for that day as they’re upgrading and improving the service and it’s only for one day. Apparently.

(Imagine me saying this in a controlled and rational manner …)

So anyone in the middle of a phone conversation at 9am today was unceremoniously cut off. No apology, no explanation, no re-connection until tomorrow. Supposing, of course, that it comes back on tomorrow. We’ve had sub-standard service since they allegedly improved the network in the summer. Can’t wait for the latest round of improvements …

They said it’s not usual for them to offer compensation under these circumstances, but I beg to differ. I am paying, monthly, for a service, and they knew that this service would be unavailable today yet they were still charging me for it.  AND I had to pay for the phone call via my landline to report the problem  only to find out they were aware of it. Their automated message on the paid-for support phone number didn’t even mention it.

(Prepare for slight escalation …)

They thought it would be okay because I could use another mobile phone, because, of course, we all have spare phones aside from our existing phones in these times of financial hardship, don’t we?

And then they thought I could just pop a different sim card into my phone, because, of course, we all have spare sim cards lying around with loads of unused call and internet time already loaded onto them.

And then they thought I could just ask a work colleague if I could use their phone for the day … bearing in mind I work from home, and alone, and everyone has a mobile phone so that they can give it to someone else for the day …

And THEN they suggested I TRAVEL to a DIFFERENT area where the network was still active and work from THERE for the day …

WHAT’S THE POINT IN HAVING A MOBILE PHONE IF YOU HAVE TO TRAVEL SOMEWHERE ELSE TO USE IT?

(And breathe.)

So that compensation that they never give under such circumstances … It’s amazing what the word “ombudsman” can do …

However, while I am getting increasingly short-tempered, intolerant and impatient in my grumpy old age, I am nevertheless without mobile phone for today.

Y’all have a good one, now.

Easing back in

I had a lovely, long, leisurely weekend.

Because the blog is fast approaching 2,000 posts (not there yet, mind) I thought it might be nice to mark the occasion with a competition or a giveaway. But aside from Night Crawler or Twee Tales, I don’t have anything else much to give away.

So I thought I’d trawl through the archives and maybe collate all of the writerly posts together in one place. And that’s what I did on Saturday … or I started to. By the end of Saturday I’d only reached the end of March 2005, it was taking quite a long time, and I was starting to suspect it would be quite a hefty tome, or a big job at least.

So I decided to do just the first year and, if that went down well, I’d do however many more for however many more posts I have with any substance. Before long I realised I might have enough material for one on travel bits too, but I shelved that idea for now.

While I was thinking about it, I also considered Twee Tales Two. It looks as though I have about six stories already for that with another two drafted. I only need twelve. I can be sending the existing six or eight off to earn their keep while I work on the remaining four.

I also thought about putting together a 2013 calendar of some of my favourite photographs (of my own), and I created two. They both have the same pictures inside, but one has a larger cover and no spiral middle, and the other is smaller with the spirals.

Because the blog collection was clearly going to take a long time – and I also need to go through to edit and design the layout correctly too, for both paperback and ebook (I don’t think I’ll make a hardback until I have an omnibus) (hark at her – an omnibus!) – I thought I might offer one of the calendars instead as a prize. But with shipping, tax and massive production costs the price of that would be just too prohibitive for me at the moment. So sorry about that, folks.

I’ve put together four collections of photographs, but this first one is a mixed collections of scenic, wildlife and abstract. The small one is available here for £10.99 (apx $18) plus tax plus p&p; the large one is available here for £15.99 ($26) plus tax plus p&p. Both are in the UK format, starting Monday and with the UK holidays; both have previews available on Lulu.

This is how expensive these calendars are to make: I will make 80p for each one sold ($1), less tax. The rest is production costs. But at least take a look, I think they’re quite nice.

On Sunday I went to visit the parents and they wore Rufus out and he wore them out. I got stuck in flood traffic on the way down, and stuck in accident traffic on the way back. I was shattered by the time I got home – and I got home to find my living room flooded again. But at least I can see where it’s coming from now, with the new mat well in. I hope the matting doesn’t stain forever …

Yesterday, in case anybody didn’t notice, was my day off. I had quite a lazy start, but then I ended up faffing with the calendars and the new book. I did finalise both calendars, but the book is only as far as April … I also installed some new software, or upgraded, and have been familiarising myself with the changes.

Busy, but leisurely.

There’s a new word meter in the sidebar for the project, but if you can’t see it I think it’ll be because Writertopia is struggling beneath the NaNoWriMo pressure, as it’s the end of the month.

Today has been mostly spent designing the cover. I think we’re about twelve posts away from the magical 2,000 and I have to get it collated, edited, designed, submitted, ordered, proof-read and any corrections made so that it’s ready to go off when the competition ends.

I also have the next Big Job to start and another small job to finish, I have my study to do, and I need to get some shopping as I didn’t do that at the weekend. I also have to walk the dog. And I have to do all the daily stuff too …

Right, I’d best step away from the computer and go do some work!

A pat on the back

I’m giving myself an appreciative pat on the back for this week.

Ranting and whinges aside, I’ve churned out 2 Big Jobs, edited almost 1,000 pages, written over 7,000 words, written or studied for 2 hours every day, picked up another Big Job, and ticked off all but one chore from the list (and that was washing up!), and there’s still today to go.

Yesterday, once the daily stuff was done, I worked the whole time. I took a break to battle the gales and take Rufus for his jabs. We were blown all the way there and he thought it was the BEST thing EVER, and tons better than that horrible bonfire night 2 weeks ago. When we arrived at the vet, he dragged me across the road and in through the door, laffing his head off, wagging his tail. And the only time he blinked was when he had his fingernails clipped.

On the way back I dropped into the post office, although I missed the postman, and picked up a few essential provisions – telly book, chocolate, that kind of thing.

Back home I finished work, chilled in front of the telly for an hour, and then flopped into bed exhausted but happy.

This morning I slept in … Oh well …

The study thing is working. I’m not starting work until my 2 hours are done. I’ve been telling myself that if I went to college for those 2 hours, work would just have to wait until I got home. And it’s working. I’m even getting up earlier and starting earlier just to get it done – well, apart from today … But it’s working.

I’m having a couple of hours on the computer while my eyes wake up, checking emails and Facebook, surfing the jobs boards, entering the daily competitions, writing the blog. Tea break. Then 2 hours study. Lunch break. Then work for the rest of the day – with another tea break and a dog walk thrown in for good measure. And I’m finishing in time for tea.

Why doesn’t it work that way when it’s just plain writing?

Today, then, I still have the daily comps to enter and I want to email the report I typed up yesterday for the Big Job I returned to the owner so he has it ahead of the typescript, as I missed the postman. Then it’s study, and then I have a collection of short stories to proof-read for fast-becoming-fave-private-client, if that’s allowed. The favourite part, not the proof-reading part.

I have nothing planned for the weekend other than shopping, more study (yes, I’m doing it *every* day), baking, dog walking, household chores, and visiting humans (on Sunday). And on Monday, it’s a (Diane) Do(es) Diddle(y Squat) Day, a Do Diddle Day. That means no plans, no phone calls (other than emergencies), no work, no internet, no hassle.

Have a great weekend.

A bee in my bonnet (more ranting)

I’ve got a right bee in my bonnet about Bretton Country Park and their recent car park charge increase.

They *did* reply to me, by the end of Tuesday, but to be honest it looked like a cut and paste of the information available on the website attempting to justify the increase in March from £5 ($8), which was already expensive, to £7.50 (apx $12) for 2 hours or more.

For example, they say: This fee does cover all three car parks (well, whoopy-do), the visitor centre (whether I want to visit it or not) and the Park Lane lower entrance car park (wherever that is, and obviously not one of the “all three” car parks already covered).

So I say: Well, I could visit the whole of Clovelly in North Devon, a lovely little picturesque village perched on a hillside in the affluent south-west for £6.50 ($10). Or I could park all day in the seaside town of Cleethorpes for between FREE and £5 . Both are traditional and popular holiday destinations that could justify higher charges if they wished, both often get packed (as opposed to the almost-empty car park at Bretton on Sunday), and both are whole towns/villages. And let’s face it (and with apologies to my West Yorkshire chums), who goes on holiday to Wakey?

They say: The new charges were introduced with a tiered payment option (wait for it …) and a much needed card payment facility (ah, so is this what we’re actually paying for – the card processing admin charges and installation of the new system?). They found visitors increasingly wanted to use cards even with the £5 rate as they did not have change.

I say: The so-called tiered option is £2.50 ($4) for up to 1 hour; £5 for 1 – 2 hours; and £7.50 for 2 hours or more. Wow, I love those “tiers”.  I must admit, I don’t carry £5 in change either – surely a screaming pointer that they were charging too much in the first place without putting the fees up. And how many dog walkers take their bank and credit cards with them?

They say: For £65 a  year ($103) I can become a friend of Yorkshire Sculpture Park and enjoy free parking.

I say: I can join English Heritage for £47 a year ($75) or the National Trust for £40 a year ($64) and enjoy “free parking”, and more, all over the country. And £65 a year is hardly free now, is it?

They say: They have to raise £2m ($3.2m) in order to run the centre and maintain the 500-acre site and provide the exhibitions and the education and community work they do on top of the £1.5m ($2.4m) they already receive in funding.

I say: My heart bleeds, they are so impoverished. How about charging the exhibitors, the community and  whoever they educate for the services they provide instead of the visiting, easy-target motorist?

They say: They know this represents great value for money given the changing exhibition programme and 500 acres of parkland to explore as they continue to avoid an admission charge.

I say: All day parking at Worsbrough Mill and Country Park in Barnsley is true value for money at £3 ($5), and they have a working mill, living history demonstrations, a farm, a canal, a reservoir, and a weir to visit too. FREE all day parking at Langsett Reservoir near Sheffield is true value for money, and they have a visitor centre too, and proper big water. FREE all day parking at Scout Dyke in Penistone is true value for money.

And only those who live in Bretton or who can get there on a single bus can truly avoid an admission charge. Charging £7.50 for 2 hours or more parking is NOT free admission.

I wish them luck, I really do. But, to be honest, in the current economic climate I can’t see them surviving for much longer charging that kind of money. Once again, human greed will out.

They say: Raising our car parking charges was a tough decision …

I say: No sweat. It’s made my decision about returning, or not, very easy.

My achey, breaky back

Thanks for all the lovely messages yesterday, on here, on FB and via email. In the end I had a blooming good day. It started at 7am and by 10am I’d done all of the online daily chores – blog, daily comps, job boards. This gave me a full 2 hours to indulge myself in my course book and already there’s a massive difference.

I started the new Back to Basics thing on Monday and managed to write 506 words. Yesterday I wrote 1,221 words and 2 haikus. I was so pleased with this output that I started a new word counter in the side bar. So far, after only 2 days, I’ve totalled 1,727 words. That’s more than one NaNo day. So far.

I’m not one for writing exercises for exercise sake. I like an exercise to earn its keep and possibly be worth something one day. Any exercises that don’t fulfil this want are glanced over and given scant attention – such as the haikus and other poems or the description of a leaf, for example.

Once I got going on the creative ones, though, I was thinking ooh, this would make a nice character or what a cracking sub-plot this would be. It reminded me of how prolific I used to be when I was writing stories that *I* wanted to write rather than for the market. I’d churn out thousands and thousands of words and then find a magazine that might suit the story. If the story didn’t suit any market 100%, at least I had something to tweak.

So that’s what I’m doing again. Some of the stories are feeling a bit dark, though, so I may look for anthologies or competitions for those.

When I was up in the loft a few weeks ago I stumbled upon an archive box filled with stationery, and inside that box were several multi-packs of Winnie the Pooh exercise books. I love notebooks, I love Paperchase notebooks. But the OCD loves a nice clean book to start work in … and I have so many suffering from the same ailment as everything else (started but not finished) that the exercise books are ideal.

They’re only 30 pages, so not as much of a waste as if I started a full, A5, perfect bound notebook, and I have lots of clean ones to start to keep the OCD happy if this Back to Basics thing also falls by the wayside. I’m averaging 200 words per page, though, so should easily and quickly fill the books with 6,000 words each the way I’m currently going.

So far, though, I’m enjoying myself again and not beating myself up so much.

For the rest of the day, after the usual daily stuff and my 2 hours of me-time, I finished editing a book and got that uploaded and invoiced (hurrah!).

Following yesterday’s early start, I slept in this morning, so I’m about an hour behind. I’m determined to do my 2 hours writing/study first though, although I do do the online stuff first as that’s better while my eyes wake up. This means I’ve already done the daily comps, checked the job boards, updated the gig list and – shortly – written the blog.

The rest of my work today will be downstairs on the comfy seats. That’s where I like to do my reading/study/longhand writing and it’s where I’ll be proof-reading the next book.

Yesterday I picked the dog up and felt my back go. He’s quite low down on the floor and I was in the wrong position to pick up a quite heavy dog. He’s afraid of heights, so if I want him to come downstairs, I have to carry him as my staircase is too steep for his short legs and long body. It’s good to send him UPSTAIRS! if he’s playing up because he can get there but he can’t get back, and he now understands UPSTAIRS!  as a discipline.

But my back went. It didn’t pop and it didn’t crack, both of which I assumed was good. I could still lie down, sit down, stand and walk, but the transitional bits in between or the leaning down to switch on a plug socket or something were agony. It meant a short walk for him last night to the letterbox, and it meant me panicking that I’d have this problem for a few days.

This morning, after a good sleep (did I mention I slept in?) in a warm bed in the same position my back’s fine, and even the arthritis is easier today, and it’s pouring with rain so I thought it might be more achey than usual. I can’t wait for my Yoga book to come. My back is obviously in desperate need of some strengthening.

Right, there’s another tick in the diary and another 840 words or so in the log (not the B2B log but the daily log). I’d best mosey on down to the comfy seats and do some work.

Back to basics (whinge alert)

Please indulge me for a moment whilst I wallow in some very nice feedback:

“Diane brought the experience to this project we were seeking. We requested a professional, timely proofread, and she delivered 110%. Her extensive knowledge of publishing is obvious with the engaging comments that she provides. If you are fortunate enough to have the chance to work with Diane, then do it.”

What a fantastic start to the day, and at a time when the crows of doubt aren’t just circling overhead but swooping in for the kill.

It seems that aside from the proof-reading and editing I’m failing to complete anything else I start – short stories I have such big ideas for and then never get the time to spend on them; articles, ditto; novels that run out of steam despite extensive, not so extensive and downright extensiveless planning; NaNoWriMo; a decent keep fit regime; and so on.

Sometimes, I feel as though I’ve forgotten how to write or that the successful writing I managed was a total fluke. Sometimes I feel as though I’ll never write again, or I’ll never complete a writing project again, so there’s no point in even starting a new writing project.

I think I’m managing the proof-reading and editing because it’s the day job, because it pays the bills (almost), because it’s mechanical rather than creative – although it does sometimes get quite creative anyway. But every piece of writing falls by the wayside.

On the keep fit front the back pain and arthritis has stopped a lot of it. I can’t walk for more than 5 miles before my left hip pops out, followed by my right knee, and then my left ankle. I can’t do my Yoga first thing in the morning because my back’s not bendy enough, and then when I am bendy I don’t always have the time or the energy to do it of an evening.

As far as writing is concerned, I don’t know whether to start again with very small items and work my way up. I don’t know whether to start again at the beginning and practise, practise, practise. I don’t know whether to just quit whingeing and get on with it. I don’t know whether to give up and call it a day, and just grow old gracefully.

And so, for a start, I’m going to try going back to the beginning, going back to basics. I’m getting up earlier, I’m working longer, there are more hours in my day. I have to give both of these, the writing and the keep fit, a chance.

After an extensive search I’m hoping I may have found a book of routines to help me with the Yoga and the back pain. As these workouts include a 10-minute morning stretch, I should start to feel a bit more bendy in the mornings. Hopefully these will work and I can build up to tagging them on to my existing Yoga DVD workouts (I graduated from the Wii, so that’s something).

I wanted a DVD to complement the ones I already have, but the reviews were so mixed I decided on a book instead, especially as it was half price. (I bought it from Amazon Marketplace and even with postage it was cheaper than buying it from Amazon.)

Now I just need some relaxation CDs to go with it …

Writing wise, I’m going back to school with this book I bought from the Open University a while ago. It’s been reprinted and updated since, but this is the one I’m using.

I’m also re-assessing what I want from my writing, and I’m alternating full-length projects so that I always have something longer to work on when I run out of steam on other projects. The sharp-eyed will notice that the sidebar has been adjusted to suit.

My NaNo time is reverting back to study time again and hopefully, eventually, writing time.

I have no idea whether or not this will work, but I have to start somewhere. I’m not the kind to just throw in the towel and give up at the first sign of bother.

What do you do to get back on track? How do you motivate yourself again? Do you take a shotgun to the crows or simply shoo them away? Answers in the usual place below, thank you. 🙂

Scandalous (mini rant alert)

On Saturday I did some baking, as promised to myself, and I made a dozen white chocolate chip cookies, a dozen queen cakes (fairy cakes), and a yellow trifle. Then, before it got too dark too quickly I took the dog on a full circuit of one of our local parks.

On Sunday we headed off to Bretton Country Park for a 4-mile 2-hour walk in the country. Last time I went I mistakenly parked in the Yorkshire Sculpture Park where the parking fee was £4 (apx $6), and I didn’t want to make the same mistake.

I almost missed the car park (again!) as it was almost empty. When I found a fees board, I wasn’t surprised it was empty and at first thought it must be a joke and that there was another fees board somewhere else. There wasn’t. This little known country park in the middle of nowhere was charging £7.50 for 2 hours or more. Seven – Pounds – Fifty – Pence. (Apx $12.)

I was absolutely disgusted and I didn’t stay. Instead I headed back to that old faithful of ours, Scout Dyke, where parking is free – although I went prepared to pay at least a couple of quid for parking. The problem with Scout Dyke is that it’s less than 2 miles all the way around – or I think it is as it only takes us about 45 minutes to do the full circuit. But it was too late for me to go anywhere else as I wanted to finish our walk before it got too dark, and I do love Scout Dyke.

I’ve fired off emails this morning to both Wakefield Council and the Yorkshire Sculpture Park expressing my shock and disgust (because YSP seems to be managing the country park these days). YSP has tried to justify the fees by saying they need to raise money to keep the place open. Well, charging prohibitive car parking fees is NOT going to get the visitors across the threshold.

So far neither have had the decency to reply. So much for customer services.

Why not charge a realistic car park fee and a modest entrance fee for those wishing to visit the museum? Or do they charge the exhibitors? The café is already over-priced, so visitors take a picnic – read the signs, you stupid people.

I certainly won’t be going again until the fees are more fair, and I wish these attractions would stop penalising motorists, without whom they’d have no visitors anyway.