Christmas market

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Quakers’ Bottom (Picture: Ian Wordsworth)

Well, that was a weekend-and-a-half – and we had it as a holiday too.

We started on Friday with a trip out to the Christmas market in Matlock, which was very well-organised and laid out, and parking was free after 2pm too, as it is throughout December in the town on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. And, of course, the dog was welcome too.

We bought a small box of fudge for me and a ginger beer plant for the poet, and he nipped to one of the local shops to get us something to eat.

I had a fancy for Whitby scampi & chips, which was available inside the market at £6 for 7 pieces, plus extra for chips. At the local chip shop, scampi and chips cost only £2-odd! The poet had fish and chips and the dog helped us eat it all.

We chose a car park halfway between Matlock Bath and Matlock town and a had a nice, easy walk down and back. There are photographs, but they’re not on the computer yet, so for now we have another one from the Quakers’ Bottom walk last week.

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When we got home, we took the cat to the vet (again). She was only there a few weeks ago needing an emergency operation to close up a mysterious hole that had appeared in her side, and now she had a lump at the base of the scar.

The vet wasn’t very worried about it, though, and stuck a needle in to drain most of it. She thought it must be a reaction to the internal stitches and said it would probably go away on its own but we were to monitor it into the new year.

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The poet really wasn’t feeling very well on Friday either, but he didn’t want me to miss out on the Christmas market and he wanted some fresh air. But on Saturday morning when he woke up he was so ill that he cancelled Saturday night’s gig. I’ve known him to be very poorly and still not cancel a gig, but when he lost his voice as well, he didn’t really have a choice.

We managed to find another band to take their place Saturday night, and then we had a bit of an idle day and evening, and the same on Sunday. But yesterday, as he had another day off work booked, we went to Meadowhall to do the Christmas shopping and he did really well.

We had to keep going back to the car to drop things off and we did stop to have something to eat too – and book our table for mad Friday next week. And when we got home he was ready to drop as well. But we got all but about 2 gifts (apart from each other’s), including something for each of the pets, so we were very content with that.

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All over the weekend we had a bit of a Harry Potter-fest. I’ve read the first book, watched the first 2 films, and played the first 3 or 4 games on Xbox, although I may have abandoned the 4th one as it was quite hard. He’s never seen any of them, or read any of them. So when I saw that the box set was available on Sky Movies for free, I talked him into watching at least the first one … and we ended up watching all but the last one so far.

We won’t be able to catch up with that one tonight as we’re going over to his parents in Doncaster to keep his dad company while his mum goes out for her annual Christmas meal with some of her colleagues. We’ll watch the last one tomorrow night, I think.

The poet still isn’t feeling great and could have done with not going to work this morning. But at least we’ll just be sat indoors this evening.

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I’ve had a busy morning so far but don’t seem to have achieved much.

Saying that, I’ve pitched for 3 new jobs already and have another 10 to consider, I’ve done some pro-bono email work and I’ve done the daily competitions. I’ve also had a bit of an email-fest as I forgot to turn on my out-of-office auto-reply and had a few messages I needed to at least respond to.

I also cleaned some parts of the bird table – one of the feeders and 2 trays. They need a good jetwash and some disinfectant throwing at them, but at least it’s cleaner now than it was so I don’t have to worry about the birds catching any nasty germs.

All I have left to do today, now, is some editing. I have 2 books in I want to finish before breaking up at the end of next week.

Glass of bubbly, anyone?

NaNo-2015-Winner-Badge-Large-SquareWell, I did it.

I tried my first official NaNoWriMo in 2012, and failed. I tried again in 2014, and failed. And I tried again in 2015 – and won!

This isn’t just a NaNo victory either. This is the first full-length story I’ve actually finished since … 1996!

So what was different this year?

Well, for a start, I have a very supportive husband who wanted nothing more than for me to start writing again. Properly. And he was happy for me to concentrate on this one project for one month just so I could get it done. Granted, he wouldn’t have minded if I’d managed some other work too, and I did do some paid work. But, basically, not having to worry about where our next meal was coming from was a huge help. And, of course, his belief in me.

The second thing that happened was Scrivener, which helped me immensely in the planning stages of this particular story. I really am a planner and I love gadgetry too, but I was always loathe to spend money on writing software when I have a perfectly adequate word processing program. However, when I saw it on a very special offer, I went for it. And the organisation and the ability to move things around so easily really did help, along with the inbuilt facility to track the words as you write per session as well as per manuscript. This meant I didn’t have to keep stopping to count how many words I’d done.

And finally, I did have a story planned out from start to finish. Yes, the story did deviate from the plan. Yes, I did miss things out. And yes, I did add extra things in. I also changed my mind as I went along. But having an idea for at least 1,667 words per day for 30 days and using the index card system in Scrivener kept me going, even when I could have quite happily taken a day (or three) off.

So several things have helped this year, but I’m making a big deal of it because of the 20-year writing drought as well (apart from short material and anthologies).

Of course, there’s much more hard work to come, but I love the editing and polishing part and find it much easier than the actual original composition. I’ll leave it to cool for a while first, though, shall I? 🙂

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We did manage to get out over the weekend. I was on over-the-counter drugs for the trapped nerve in my neck, and while I avoided driving Friday night, we did go on a very short walk not far from where we live. Pictures will hopefully follow later in the week, but it was a very wet, very squally day, and we don’t know how they look until we blow them up on the big screen.

We went to a place called Quakers’ Bottom (do you see a theme here?) and did a walk that was only ¾ of a mile. But it took us 55 minutes because it was so wet, slippery and treacherous underfoot. At one point we had to let the dog off his lead just so he didn’t pull me over.

We found a lovely little hamlet and learned a little of its history and we could have continued on with the 1-mile walk or the 1½-mile walk, but we decided on the shorter version with the weather conditions as they were. We can always go back again and give it another go when conditions have improved.

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On Saturday night, Monkey Dust had a gig in Doncaster. They’d already found out via the grapevine that another band was playing before them, but that they’d still be on at 9:30pm. By the time I got there, on the train, at 9:15pm, the other band had only just gone on. And at 10:05pm, they were still up there!

Monkey Dust didn’t get on until about 10:20pm, so they only did one set and played through until 11:45pm. That’s quite a long set, but at least it’s just the one. The bar was quite busy, but there were several televisions placed around the room that showed what was happening on stage. For some strange reason, the poet’s black trousers look white in the picture below …

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We got home quite late so had a very late start the next day to see my parents in Birmingham. We didn’t get there until 2pm and it was a horrible drive down. The squally weather was relentless and the high winds, standing water and spray from lorries slowed us right down. I didn’t do any driving, but the poet did and he was very stressed by the time we got there.

Because of the weather, we didn’t want to stay too late, so it was quite a short visit in the end. The weather was a little better coming back but it was gone 6pm and very dark when we did.

monkey dust black and whiteHe’d left a piece of pork slow-cooking while we were out and he made the rest of our Sunday dinner for 7:30pm. But we could have done with an extra day this weekend.

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We now have 2 short weeks on the trot, then we break up in 3 weeks for Christmas. I have a lot to do before then.