Book giveaway

nightcrawler largeprintI get a lot of hits on this blog every day, and often on days when I haven’t posted anything.

But the number of comments has dwindled significantly to maybe 3 a week if I’m lucky. (And big thanks to all of those who do say something.) So either I’m doing something wrong, or people just aren’t interested in blogs any more.

To those of you who are still interested, I have a book giveaway. It’s a large print edition of Night Crawler.

All you have to do is comment below and answer these three questions:

  1. Where you know me from (online or in real life)
  2. Where you’re based in the world
  3. What you want to see (or don’t want to see) on this blog

All three questions must be answered in order to qualify for the draw, which will take place on my birthday on 9 March 2015.

Thanks for joining in and good luck. ūüôā

Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival 2015

IMG_1662
This was the sound hub. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We finally made it to the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival. It’s only taken me 9¬†years to get there, the poet only 2. It’s a festival started in the 1980s, bringing to life a very old tale¬†of smugglers and how they tried to evade capture. You can read all about it by following¬†the link.

We had a very busy weekend starting with finishing work early on Friday to go and collect the poet’s new car. There were almost fisticuffs on the forecourt when we realised they’d forgotten something, but the car’s booked in on Thursday to have that remedied.

IMG_1672
Diane looking slightly started outside the media tent. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

After collecting the car, we came home via the supermarket. The fruit and veg boxes were delivered at about 12 noon, so we were able to buy food to complement what came in those.

On Saturday we had a bit of a lazy start, but then headed over to Slaithwaite (pronounced Slauwit) via Dewsbury. It’s the poet’s birthday this coming Thursday and, amongst other things, ¬†I’d promised him a new walking coat. We came away from the outdoor shop with new walking trousers for me too, a collapsible water bowl for the dog, and a slab of Kendal mint cake – white.

IMG_1672a
Ian looking pinched by the cold – and it really was very cold. (Picture: Diane Parkin)

When we arrived at Slaithwaite we were very lucky to park in our usual spot – this is the third time we’ve been to the town, but only the first time to the festival. We were able to eat our picnic before going down to see what was going on.

By the time the procession started, the town was rammed. We found a very nice spot right next to the canal, and the media tent, and a waste bin … And we had a very good view of both the start of the procession and the end. We were also well-placed for the actual moonraking. It was very, very cold, though. Next time we’ll be wearing our thermal underwear!

IMG_1689
The women of the village and the gnomes raking the moon out of the canal. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Rufus wasn’t entirely happy. There were so many people and only a few took any notice of him! He also felt the cold too. He’s not a dog to wear a dog coat, but he’s small enough for us to pick up and hug to us, although he does get quite heavy.

We stayed to watch the raking of the moon, one of the bands and the start of the procession of lanterns. But then we headed home via Golcar and Huddersfield, just to miss the traffic in and around Slaithwaite.

IMG_1711
The procession of “landmark” lanterns for the 2015 festival. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Saturday night was a late evening (by the time we got home) in front of the telly, and Sunday it was off to see my parents in Birmingham. We had another lazy evening in front of the telly.

Today, after work, we’re off to say happy first birthday to the poet’s grand-daughter, and that will give us chance to see his parents too, and his daughter.

Meanwhile, I’m quite busy shifting a big edit that finally arrived last week, filling in paperwork for the wedding, and uploading and editing photographs from the weekend. I also have the next module of the writing course to read, and the next assignment to write. And there are 2 short stories awaiting proofreading so they can go off on their merry way.

Enjoy the colourful pictures. There are more to see if you’re on our Facebook.

IMG_1658
One of the bands, all pretty and bright. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Raking the moon (and a mini rant)

IMG_1559
More of the skating mallards on Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

We feel very privileged to live where we do, and¬†we’re very happy to pay for that privilege – and pay well. As with everything else in the history of this blog, I’ve used nicknames of people or places in my life¬†to maintain some¬†privacy. I’m generally very open, but not when it concerns others whose blog this isn’t,¬†unless¬†I’ve already asked their permission. And I’m the same on Facebook, on Twitter, on LinkedIn, the lot.

This is why we call the lake at the end of our lane¬†“Wormy’s Lake”. It’s a privately owned lake that Leeds &¬†District¬†Amalgamated Society of Anglers owns the angling rights to, and the poet has a Leeds & District ASA fishing licence that entitles him to fish there – along with about 2 or 3 other anglers on a busy day.¬†But the actual lake is private property and has trespassing warnings all over it. They don’t even hold matches there. And it’s a bit too close to where we actually live for me to be revealing any map co-ordinates to the world and his wife. Oh yes, and we call it “our lane” because it’s the lane where we live. Isn’t that normal?

Someone has not only felt the need to go out of their way to find out where we live (when all they had to do was ask, as others have done privately), but they’ve also gone to the liberty of trying to tell others where we live too. This is all very odd to us¬†and, actually, smacks of either stalking or sour grapes – and many people we’ve told agree. We made a very conscious decision to move to where we live now, for many, many reasons that are not really anyone else’s business. And – actually – we made sure we got it. We’re also very proud that we did get it. We’ve had a pretty nasty slog to get here and we’re bloody pleased that we did. If that makes us smug, then so be it.

We will continue to enjoy our new surroundings and I will continue to bore folk with tales and pictures of our surroundings. If anyone doesn’t like it, they¬†know what to do – or what not to do. DON’T come here; DON’T¬†watch; DO press the hide or delete button. But reveal our private details to anyone and we WILL take it further.

*** end of mini rant ***

We’ve had another very busy week with the poet away in Germany for most of it. Then yesterday he was “over the hill” in Manchester again, and this morning he’s on his way to Sheffield. This afternoon we go to pick up his new car, which we spent a couple of hours last Saturday deliberating over. And this evening, we’ll do the shopping.

There’s a busy weekend on the horizon too. Tomorrow it’s the Slaithwaite Moonraking Festival. I have been going to this biennial¬†event so many times since I found out about it and tomorrow – I hope – we’re going to finally make it.¬†On Sunday we’re off to Birmingham to see my parents, and Monday we’re off to Doncaster to see the poet’s parents and his daughter, and to celebrate his grand-daughter’s first birthday.

Our fruit and veg boxes are due today. They weren’t there when we got up this morning, but I think they were early last time because of the snow. When we do the shopping, we’ll buy stuff to complement what we get. And that means we may also squeeze in a trip to a farm shop over the weekend.

Workwise, I have to get my head down now as I have some very pressing deadlines all coming in at once and one of them is a very big job.

What are you up to this weekend?

Scout Dike in winter

IMG_1582
Picture: Ian Wordsworth

I love Scout Dike. It’s one of my favourite “get away” places. It’s peaceful and beautiful while still being functional. And it’s less than 10 minutes from our house.

The poet is still learning how to use his new camera, so we decided to allocate some time yesterday to this, and to breaking in his new boots, and, of course, to get us out and walking again. It’s been a while.

IMG_1587
Mallards. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

To walk around the whole reservoir can take just 25 – 30 minutes. Less time for faster walkers.

We were stopping to pause, take in the view, keep our dog away from other dogs (he’s lovely, but he wants to play with all of them and they don’t all want to play with him and they could fall out), and take pictures.¬†So we were there for at least an hour, possibly more. It was damp, chilly and grey, but refreshing anyway.

IMG_1596
Picture: Ian Wordsworth

It makes a nice change to see the water level so high, although the pictures of the actual reservoir have been used on Facebook only (if you’re on there with us).

There are 25 good pictures and I’m aware that too many pictures on the blog slows down the rendering for some readers who only have dial-up or very slow broadband. That’s why there are only 6 here.

IMG_1612
Silver birch bark. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Because he’s playing with his new camera, learning how to use it, and wanting to make the most of its full potential, he’s being a bit arty too. He took pictures of bark, of tangled branches, of winter gorse and heather, of the nearest wind turbine, of ducks, of engine rooms and pump houses. Everything and anything. He used his zoom, he used the wide-angle. He took landscape pictures, he took close-up pictures, he took ordinary pictures.

It’s a shame the weather was so grey, but it was better than what we thought it would be. The day started quite foggy and we didn’t think he’d be able to take any pictures. But the rain held off and it wasn’t windy.

He had to put gloves on as it was a little chilly, but they’re good gloves he can still grip with and take pictures. If he struggles, then we might have to get him some fingerless gloves instead.

IMG_1619
Me with His Lordship. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

He took a few of me and the dog too. In this picture, every time the dog looked at the camera, I was looking at the dog; every time I looked at the camera, the dog was looking anywhere else. This was the best he caught with us both looking at the camera. ūüôā

In another picture, which is actually quite a good one of the dog, there was a rather unsightly green fence alongside us and he didn’t like that in the pictures very much. Facebook friends can see that one on there too.

But he didn’t want me taking any of him. This time. I shall have to start taking my small Panasonic again, so we have some quick snaps to look at as well.¬†He’s not usually so shy, although some of this may be to do with the fact it’s his new camera and he hasn’t got the hang of it yet.

IMG_1594
His Lordship. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

And, of course, the dog came too. And, of course, he had the best time ever.

When we got home my face felt quite wind-blasted and I was, apparently, quite flushed. The open air will have done us all some good.

We decided that as it’s so close we really ought to go along more often. We’re going to aim at 4 times a year at least.

For tea, he used up the last of the vegetables from our organic box delivery a week ago last Friday and made us a pork and cider casserole, which we enjoyed with bread he’d left cooking while we were out. So a hale and hearty day was,overall, had by all.

Enjoy the pictures. ūüôā

Our lane in February

IMG_1544
Our lane. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Last weekend we went for our first walk of the year down our¬†lane. It’s usually flooded but has been quite snowy, slushy and icy more recently. This was a lovely spring-like day with the sun shining in a blue sky.

There’s a working farm down here, a 17th century manor house with farm buildings (one of which is ours), a pair of houses that are semi-detached, and a bungalow at the end of it.

IMG_1546
Snowdrops. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The first thing we saw were the snowdrops. These are the first we’ve seen this year, but then, we haven’t been out much and they may have been there a month already.

There are some old chinese lanterns along here too, but they’re long past their best. We also think they may have been dumped there by man as they don’t tend to grow naturally in the English countryside … do they?

IMG_1548
Holly. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

All of the berries have gone from the holly, but it’s still looking quite splendid. This lines the lane all the way down to the end, and probably beyond. It’s a beautiful deep green, very lush, and a great place for the woodland birds to hide in as we walk past.

The poet’s learning how to use his camera at the moment and I think he achieved the desired effect with this picture. He’s getting quite good at blurring the background now.

IMG_1558
Mallards skating on Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

The main purpose of the walk on this occasion, apart from to blow away the winter cobwebs, was for him to assess the lake, to see if it’s ready for fishing yet. Unfortunately it was still very much iced over, with these ducks paddling on the top.

There weren’t many birds on the water and he says the fish won’t be biting much either. So he’s filed the data away for another time.

IMG_1555a
Lord Rufus loving his walk around Wormy’s Lake. (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

They’ve started some clearance and we’re not sure if that’s so the people who live in the bungalow can see the water, or whether they’re maintaining it for when it can be fished.¬†Because there were no anglers, however, we were able to let the dog off his lead. And he had a proper bostin time, running along, exploring the undergrowth, and even coming back when we called him. He’s getting a lot better.

We won’t be walking along the lane this weekend. Tomorrow we’re going to look at a new car for the poet as his is up for renewal, we’ll drop in on his parents while we’re over there, and tomorrow night he has a gig in Doncaster.

Because of that we’re going out for our Valentine’s Day meal tonight. We’re going Italian. Then on Sunday we’re off for a bit more of a walk to break in his new boots and for him to try out his camera some more.

What are you up to this weekend? Hope it’s a goodun. ūüôā

In our veg box this week

fruit boxOn Friday we had our first fruit n veg box delivery. All the produce in these boxes is organic, fresh, in season, and local where able. Our delivery was waiting for us on our doorstep when we got up. I think that’s excellent service. (We’d told them we live on a farm so the doorstep would be perfectly safe if we were out. It was nice of them not to wake us.)

In the fruit box we had bananas, kiwi fruit, a pineapple, oranges and apples. So far we’ve managed a banana each and 2 apples. It’s all slightly under-ripe, so none of it will go off before we have chance to use it. (Apart from the apples, which are British and therefore out of storage.)

veg boxIn the veg box we had potatoes, carrots, parsnips, swede, savoy cabbage, chard, avocados and portabello mushrooms. We’re saving the roots, tubers and avocados, as they’ll keep. But we used the chard in a quiche at the weekend and in a stir-fry. Quite a few of our Facebook friends helped out with suggestions for the chard. Some of the cabbage went into the stir-fry too, as well as 2 of the mushrooms.

On the whole we were very impressed with both the contents and the service, and when we worked out how much the produce would have cost us in the supermarket, when you also take delivery into consideration (and lack of food miles, etc), we think we were actually quids in. Our next boxes come a week on Friday.

Saturday was a busy day for us. We headed down to Birmingham fairly early on because the poet had to be back for the band’s first gig of the year in Doncaster. And he had to be there for 6:30pm. So we did a couple of things for Mom and Dad, headed back, had a quick tea, and off he went. I followed 90 minutes later on the train. After setting up, he came to collect me from the station at the other end. It was a private party so there was food on – pie, chips and mushy peas! Very working-men’s-club. I was very disappointed that the cake wasn’t cut – and there were 2 birthday cakes so they could have spared a slice. But it was a nice gig, and we picked my car up from the station on our way past.

Sunday morning we were up very early … well, “very early” for us on a Sunday morning following a 2am finish the night before. Wentworth Garden Centre was hosting its regular monthly farmers’ market and we wanted to subsidise the fruit and veg boxes with meat and cheese, etc. This particular market is there the second Sunday of every month. I’ve been before, a few times, and I know if you don’t get there early they run out of stuff.

It was the poet’s first visit and we went armed with a single shopping bag. We got there for 10:30am and already a lot of the samples were all gone. There were about a dozen stands – honey, eggs, cheese, meat, water buffalo, venison, fish, chocolate, bread, cake, jewellery, soap. Some of them had travelled from as far away as Halifax and Harrogate; others had only come from Barnsley.

I was pleased to see the chocolatier still vending there. Melanie’s is a family run business from Cudworth in Barnsley. I’ve chatted to the owner, to her husband, and to one of their fathers before now, and they always have something interesting to say, such as chocolate shouldn’t be kept in the fridge as it loses its sheen. With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, the bulk of the stock was chocolate hearts with messages iced onto them. But we were happy with a slab of dark chocolate for him and a slab of white chocolate for me – I usually get chocolate buttons so the slab will make a nice change.

Another former favourite of mine is the water buffalo. Buffalo is lower in fat than beef and, to me, tastier than ostrich but not as rich as venison. They had steaks and sausages for sale and various burgers, but we plumped for regular bison burgers. From the regular meat stall we bought a Barnsley chop for him (it’s a double-sided chop)¬†and a lamb chop for me. We also bought chicken fillets, one of which went into yesterday’s stir-fry with the chard, mushrooms and cabbage.

Recently we watched Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast on telly, and we learned about pullet eggs. These are the first eggs a new laying chicken lays, and they’re often wasted or shipped to make powdered egg because they’re smaller than the medium and large eggs favoured by supermarkets. “They won’t have any here,” said the poet. “Oh yes we will,” replied one of the farmers. And, sure enough, they had loads. So we bought a half-dozen for the grand total of 50p!

We bought freshly baked sliced bread and a giant Swiss roll cake, rapeseed cooking oil with garlic (as rapeseed is grown prolifically by British farmers), and a concentrated hoisin sauce – the latter, again, for our stir-fry. We also bought cheese – from Coverdale and from Wensleydale. Good old Yorkshire produce.

When our shopping bag was full, we headed back to the car. We will probably return, but we think there may be other farmers’ markets on our own side of the M1 that we’d also like to try. It was less than 20 minutes drive away, though, so no reason why we shouldn’t go back.

It was nice to have a stroll around the stalls on a frosty, sunny morning. The fresh air did us so much good that when we got home we took the dog for a quick walk around Wormy’s Lake to see what the fishing might be like yet. (It isn’t, it’s still frozen.) And when we got home we baked 2 quiches (mushroom and chard, and quiche lorraine).

This week, then, it’s more or less back to normal, apart from a dental appointment for the poet this afternoon. I have a book to edit and 2 books to check author revisions against. But I also have a novel to start copy-typing – and a backup to do every Friday! Today I’m typing a draft of a short story too, so I’m still busy.

How was your weekend?

End of an era

DSCF0949
Before.

Just over 9¬†years ago, 9 years and 2 weeks to be precise, I walked out of the matrimonial home “with just the clothes on my back and the cat under my arm”. It was a Thursday night and I went to a hotel. (The cat was actually out, I went back for her the next day.) The next day a rental company I’d been in liaison with were able to get me into the house I’d chosen ahead of time, due to the circumstances. However, because it was early, they’d done no cleaning or clearing or anything.

There was a mountain of mail behind the front door, another mountain on the kitchen worktop, there was building rubble from renovation works left all over the place, and there were slimy snail trails on the carpets. I had no money, no furniture, and another mountain of debt. I sat down on the floor and wept.

curtains 003
After.

Within days I had it habitable – clean, tidy and some furniture. Within 6 months I’d bought it. And within a few years, and with the help of my lovely decorator/handyman, I had it how I wanted it.

The house turned out to be quite lovely – cosy, friendly, healing. And it became a bit of a bolthole for family and friends, and the poet too, as it happened. When people visited they never wanted to leave. And, according to legend, there are still some there – fallen down the back of the man-eating settee, disappeared forever in the cupboard-under-the-stairs, or just plain hidden in the basement (of which there isn’t one, by the way).

DSCF0505
Before.

Just over a year ago, the poet and I were in two minds about him moving in. But it turned out to be too small. We needed somewhere for the match fishing tackle, somewhere for the studio, somewhere for the office, somewhere for guests to stay, enough room for 2 cars. So I temporarily moved into his 3-bedroom 3-storey house while we looked for our first home together. Meanwhile, in April of last year, we put my house up for sale and rented it out over the summer.

In October the house sold, and in November we moved into our lovely 17th century cottage. We hoped to complete before Christmas, but there were problems at the buyer’s buyer’s end. Then we were completing last week but the plug was pulled at the last minute – again, due to the buyer’s buyer.

curtains 002
After.

Yesterday, the call finally came, and was confirmed yesterday evening. We complete today.

And so the time has come to say goodbye to a lovely little house that served a wonderful purpose. I hope the new owner finds as much happiness and peace of mind as I did.

Bye bye little house. Good luck. ūüôā

And then there were curtains

20150202_105527I had one request at the weekend, and it was for curtains in Abbey Road. My wish being his every command, ta-daa! We have curtains. You can’t see them very well in this picture because, well, Holly seems to be stealing all of the limelight. But they’re there and they came all the way from my last house in Solihull before moving to Yorkshire 11 years ago. The gig buddy adapted them to fit here as well as another matching pair in our spare bedroom. They’re cream and they’re embossed, and we even have some spare curtain left over.

There was a slight delay in putting these up because the pole had fallen down and we needed a slightly longer one anyway. They’ve been waiting to go up for weeks, and we also put one up on the landing that matches the living room curtains. That one needed the pole refixing too, but it’s also awkward in that it needed ladders to get to it.

And I got my curtains despite the poet not feeling very bright at all. We thought he had manflu, but it’s clear now that it’s an abscess under one of his teeth. We had to take my car to be serviced this morning and on the way back we nipped to the dentist to book him an emergency appointment. As luck would have it, one appointment had failed to turn up, so the poet saw the dentist straight away. He has antibiotics now and has to go back next week, probably to have another extraction. That’s 2 in almost as many months. He’s a braver soul than me.

On¬†Thursday I’d ordered a squirrel-proof nut feeder for the garden, a 4-perch seed feeder and some nuts. This was my first order with the Garden Bird & Wildlife Company and I didn’t pay for delivery. Friday afternoon, my delivery arrived – excellent service – and by teatime the birds were happily munching away without fear of having all their nuts stolen.

On Friday I took advantage of Amazon’s current 3-for-¬£10 offer and bought the next 3 Game of Thrones books. Because my order now came to ¬£10, I was also able to ask for free standard delivery. So I lumped in another book I wanted to buy that only came to ¬£9.35, on which I was loathe to pay delivery when I was only pennies away from the ¬£10 free delivery thing. And those books all arrived yesterday afternoon – and a Sunday to boot. Excellent service once again.

Also last week, I registered us for our first organic veg box delivery scheme and a few people warned us that the company I’d chosen can be inflexible on the box contents. The poet loves to cook and loves to be challenged, and I like to – where possible – use food when it’s in season. This is because it’s in abundance when it’s in season, it’s usually cheaper, and I believe that food has the necessary nutrients the body needs at the right time of the year.¬†So we weren’t going to be very pernickerty. However, he does have a celery allergy, so I fired off an email to see if we could have celery replaced whenever it’s due in the box. This morning they emailed back¬†to say this was fine and the celery would be replaced with “complimentary item” on our itemised list. Apart from that, we’re more than happy to trial whatever they send us whenever they send it. We’re having a medium veg box and a fruit box.

We were supposed to be going to Birmingham and Doncaster on Saturday, but both of those trips were postponed to next weekend. On Saturday we did nip out to get some anti-inflammatories and a few provisions, but the weekend was spent pretty much indoors. To keep himself busy he swapped over the double light switch at the bottom of the stairs because the wrong switches were connected to the wrong lights (he has had electrical training).

On Saturday night he made us a chicken carbonara for tea, and we had enough to freeze 2 individual portions too. Yesterday I¬†put a malted wheat loaf into the bread machine and he made beefburgers and meatballs. We had the beefburgers for tea with cheese and bread, but the meatballs went in the freezer for another time. But that’s as adventurous as we got.

Today, then, after a late start, I have draft 2 of a short story to write, I want to do a bit more to the ideas book, and then I start the next WW1 edit. We have to go back for my car at about 4:30pm, so that will cut the day short too so, for now, here’s another shot of Abbey Road …

office 01The picture on the right was taken a few weeks ago, just after the noticeboards went up. This is what’s at my back when I work. The big noticeboard is for work-related stuff, the smaller board is a memory board for both of us, and the 2 pictures have followed me from work – the top one from the National Grid and the bottom one from Corus/Tata.