Wednesday, July 27, 2011

I've been interviewed

Well, sort of. Scottish author Bill Kirton devised a seriously wacky questionnaire over at his blog and together with a few other writers I sent him my replies. He's posted the results today and if you potter along you can find out all sorts of unexpected things about me, including why I would paint Mel Gibson blue and whether I'd like to be immortal or not!

See my answers here. Hopefully they'll make you giggle as much as I was while I was writing them.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Air Show

The Windermere Air Festival, to be precise. It'ss been going for a few years now and seems to be getting steadily bigger and better, with two days of air displays over the lake, fun fair, stalls and various other events. Last year the Saturday was rained off (you simply can't fly aircraft down steep valleys in rain, mist and cloud - it's too dangerous) and we were distracted by our neighbour's burst boiler. This year there were no last-minute disasters and the sun shone pretty much all afternoon, meaning every plane that was scheduled turned up and performed.

And it was amazing watching them. We had a series of grandstand viewpoints - first sat right on the lake shore at Bowness (getting mugged by the swans), then on the pier with a cup of tea, and lastly by the railings at the boat yard. All three places had a clear view of the skies and we watched as aerobatics teams, jets and the Battle of Britain memorial flight (Lancaster, Spitfire and Hurricane) climbed, looped and zoomed right above our heads.

After three hours we'd seen most of what we wanted so headed for home and put our feet up. Half an hour later there was a tremendous roar and we dashed to the windows to find that the Vulcan bomber had turned up. I say 'the' rather than 'a' because out of all the ones built in the 1950s, only one remains in an airworthy condition. It's based in Leicestershire and had flown across country to Cumbria to give us all a stunning display as it soared and swooped right over the lake. We've seen it at ground level before but never in the air and you really get no idea of their scale until you see one filling the sky. They are, quite simply, huge, and very, very loud. People were lining the streets, heads craning heavenwards, to see what was going on. And I managed to get a photo of it out of our bedroom window.

There's another day of displays today including the Red Arrows so I'll probably be waxing lyrical about those tomorrow. In the meantime, here are a couple of pics. I didn't have full zoom on so the planes look rather small, but it gives a good indication of scale.

They have specially trained swans in Bowness. One distracts you and another steals your sandwiches while you're not looking. I'm serious.

There were more boats out on the lake than usual. This is a nice shot of the fells through some of the masts.

The RV8tors display team in action over Bowness Bay.

The Vulcan bomber. Very difficult to photograph since it was travelling very fast, but I did my best.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Flash Fiction Friday

The other day Tom Pluck, a new moderator at the Flash Fiction Friday site, wrote to invite me to take part. I'd been vaguely aware of the site before, and of various writers having blog posts titled 'flash fiction Friday' on the relevant day, but I'd never really taken the time to explore. This time I did, and found that it's a resource site providing inspiration for writers, with some fascinating prompts. Some sites give you a title to work to, or a set number of words to include, or a first or last line. Flash Fiction Friday does all that and more, with a range of prompts that change every week.

I was flattered to be invited but not entirely sure I'd have time to write anything. Then I saw this week's prompt - a wonderful photograph of an old man on a subway train. He had such an air of 'otherness', of apartness from the normal, conventional run of the human rat race, that it set my brain whirring. I'd intended to write one story, but in the end 'Samuel' took over and rail-roaded the whole thing in a completely different direction, and A Walk in the Park was born. I'm still rather proud of the result (even though he should take the credit, not me), and you can read the whole story on my website.

I hope you enjoy it, and so does 'Samuel'. ;) And if you'd like to see the photo that inspired me, here it is:

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Talking of cats... uncle has entered one of his brood into a contest run by Purina, the cat food people. I thought the prize might be free cat food for life but apparently it's rather more amazing than that - my uncle thinks it might be a diamond necklace. Whether that's for him or the cat is anyone's guess.

Anyway, if you'd like to see a picture of Ptolemy (Tolly for short), read his biography, and vote for him, please go here.

Please note, if you click the vote button nothing much seems to happen but the vote has actually registered.

On behalf of my uncle (and Tolly) - thank you for voting!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Summer bestseller (or not)

I've been popping in and out of the BestWestern blog like a tiddlywink the last couple of weeks, trying to find out if I'd won their recent Summer Bestseller contest. (You remember the story about the cat...)

Finally yesterday I spotted that they'd announced the winning story... in the comments section of the post containing the winning story. It hardly counts as the most high visibility announcement ever; in fact if they'd buried it any deeper it would have been in danger of meeting the earth's core. But still, announce they did - and mackerel or no mackerel, my pussy-cat didn't make the grade.

Ah well, BestWestern seem to run writing contests on a regular basis so there's always hope for next time. In the meantime, you can read the winning story here. The twist is rather good.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Weekend break

We've just got back from a weekend away, staying with my uncle on the Isle of Wight. We'd been supposed to go last year but had to put it off twice, once because we discovered the flood in our Windermere house and once because Dave had to work. It was lovely to finally get the chance to see everyone again (my uncle, his wife-who-shall-not-be-called-auntie, my cousin and her long-term partner, and five cats).

We caught up on all the news, got treated to several very nice meals out, and mostly took refuge in the house since the weather was shocking. On the Saturday we walked down to the sea front at Ventnor, where the waves were crashing against the sea wall. Whilst we stood there the sun came out and bathed everything in a wonderful stormy aquamarine light and I reached for my camera... only to realise I'd left it in our bedroom...

Sunday was drier but only in relative terms so we pottered round an antiques fair in a local village hall and (of course) just had to buy a pretty silver filigree bracelet and a pair of miniature Staffordshire dogs. I'd like to collect the latter but Dave thinks they're sinister and wouldn't let me fill the house with them. Shame as I think they're cute!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The dreaded apostrophe... wreaking havoc again. This morning I found the following on the BBC website, of all places, in an article about a dual-gender butterfly (yes, really).

"[The butterfly] is already middle-aged at three and a half week's old."

If even the BBC can't grasp the basic use of apostrophes, then the rest of us have absolutely no hope! And no wonder I saw this sign on a chalk-board outside a local restaurant a few weeks back:

"Special offer


Pizza's £3.50

Pasta's £3.50"

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sunday stroll

We're in the Lake District for a few days and yesterday looked like being a stunner. Not wanting to waste it indoors we set off early for Coniston, hoping to beat the crowds and walk. Normally we'd head off into the fells - Coppermines Valley, Levers Water, Walna Scar - but I'm on some temporary medication which is sapping my energy so for once we kept to the lower ground, and chose a walk to the lake shore.

This was much more interesting than you might think; not only was the scenery beautiful but it took us right past the front door of Coniston Hall, a fifteenth century manor house right on the lake shore that's owned by the National Trust. Apparently they refurbished the place a few years back and it's now the booking office and shop for the neighbouring camp site, but it still looks dark, gloomy and atmospheric.

Once through the camp site (less scenic...) we could get right down to the water's edge, skim stones and paddle our aching feet.

It might not have been quite as energetic as our usual walks but it was still a lovely change from the urban environment we see too much of. Here are a few pics to show you what I mean.

The village contouring the lower slopes of Coniston Old Man (the fell in the background, not some dodgy local character!)

A slightly spooky shot of Coniston Hall. The round chimneys are a local giveaway of the age of the building.

The farm next door, complete with goats, chickens... and a peacock.

A view back through the trees to the craggy Yewdale Fells.