Friday, December 27, 2013

The best laid plans

There I was on Christmas Eve, all set to add a post wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and happy New Year.  And found my keyboard had died.  It was working just fine the previous day, but there wasn't so much as a spark.  It's a wireless thing so we assumed it needed new batteries, found out how to get inside and fitted those.  Nothing happened.  We tried hitting the 'reconnect' button on the keyboard and the connector.  Nothing happened.  We tried rebooting.  Nothing happened.  We jumped up and down on the keyboard.  Nothing... well, you get the picture.

By that stage we simply didn't have time to rush out and buy a new one, and of course all the shops are closed on Christmas Day.  So I dug out an elderly netbook and thought I'd manage on that.  Wrong!  It's loaded with Windows XP and an old version of Internet Explorer, which Google in its wisdom no longer recognises.  I tried logging onto my blogger account. Nothing happened.  I loaded Firefox instead and tried again.  Nothing happened.  Finally, I've given in and loaded Chrome, which I already hate but which has at least given me access to my own blinking account.  So here I am, only two days late, to say 'Happy Christmas'.  Hope it was a good one.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Another one bites the dust...

Sad news in yesterday's Westmorland Gazette - the Henry Roberts bookshop in Kendal is closing its doors for the last time in January. 

The reasons given: the shop can no longer compete with either the internet, or cheap books in supermarkets, and has been running at a loss for some time.  I'd noticed that lately it was operating more as a discount store than what you might call a 'proper' bookshop, but the news is still quite a shock.  And apparently the branch in Hawkshead has already gone.  I didn't notice last time we visited the village, but I'm really sad about that.  I can remember buying books in that shop years ago, and I liked it, dammit.

I don't know what can be done about this issue, short of begging people to support their local book shops.  Yes, they can be a pound or two more expensive than the supermarkets, but they have a vastly wider choice of books than the 'top ten bestsellers plus the latest celebrity cookbook' offered by most branches of Tesco and Sainsburys.  And the staff are often deeply enthusiastic about their stock and can suggest books, order books, talk about books - which you'd never get from Amazon.

But progress is progress, I guess, even if it takes out familiar landmarks and much-loved stores in the process.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Another good review...

...of the Shapeshifters anthology can be found here.

Unlike some reviews, which follow the well-worn formula of the book's blurb plus three lines on 'why I liked/didn't like it', this one sounds as though the reviewer had read - and quite possibly enjoyed - every word.  It's always nice to see one of my stories described as a 'gem' and the other stories get glowing write-ups as well.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Milder and settled, eh?

We're fed up with Xmas shopping so on Saturday we treated ourselves to a day out and drove over to Keswick.

Big mistake.

The weather was much worse to the north of the fells; it was windy, speckling with sleet and *bitterly* cold. We shivered our way round the market, which had some really nice things, but it was too cold to linger over them so we shot into a café to thaw out over a cuppa. When we came out, the speckles had turned to heavy sleet and the wind had got up even more. (So much for the forecast of 'milder and settled'. Ha.)

We trudged round the rest of the town centre but we weren't really dressed for the conditions and by that time I was the colour of woad. So we got back in the car and came home.  Naturally, the sleet followed us, and it was too cold, dark and generally miserable to go anywhere else.  So we spent the rest of the day doing Christmas cards and the first of the wrapping. Oh joy.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Wild weather

The predicted first winter storm hit us in the wee small hours yesterday, and howled and shrieked and shook the house for about seven or eight hours.  It was deeply unpleasant while it lasted but both I and the house came through unscathed.  Thank goodness for 120 year old slate cottages, is what I say.  They built them to last back then!  The worst 'damage' we've suffered is the loss of a lid off one of our recycling crates, which shot off up the road at half the speed of sound.  I searched, later, once the wind had died down a bit, but there's no sign of it.  I expect it's in Hull by now.  And Dave couldn't get home last night because the trains right across the country were screwed - two hour delays as far as the Midlands, and no trains at all anywhere north of Preston.

But it could all have been much, much worse.

Monday, December 02, 2013

The drums, the drums

This weekend seems to have revolved around drumming of one sort or another.

On Friday evening we strolled down to the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness for a performance by British taiko drumming group Mugenkyo.  We've seen them twice before, once at an open air event in Leicestershire and once at a concert in Solihull, and been bowled over, and this was no exception. 

The theatre is absolutely tiny, but all the more intimate for that; it only seats about 500 people and in order to get from the entrance door to the seats you have to walk across the performance area.  In this case, that meant walking straight past the drums, and being able to see and even touch them close up.   And this seems to have set the tone for the entire performance.  In Solihull it was much more formal.  Here, the group alternated the drum pieces with chat; fascinating historical information about the instruments, the music and taiko in general; and even a bit of slapstick.  The last thing you expect is for one of the drummers to appear on stage strumming 'When I'm Cleaning Windows' on a banjo, for instance.  It was all great fun and added to our appreciation of their skill on their chosen instruments.

On Saturday afternoon we made our way to Windermere station for the start of the Christmas lights switch-on ceremony.  Because the town is only small (okay, tiny) we half expected this to be a bit of a damp squib, with half a dozen kids and somebody's dog along for the ride.  In fact, it was amazing.  The lights themselves aren't the most elaborate, but that doesn't matter.  What was so lovely was the level of support, and the sheer warm-hearted enjoyment brought by everyone there. 

The event began with a procession of at least a couple of thousand people (including us!) which wound its way down through the streets behind a fire engine decorated with tinsel, a couple of real reindeer, Santa on his sled, and a marching carnival drum band.  Yes, those drums again.  In the town centre we all stopped while Santa made a speech (sadly inaudible), then there was a count-down and the lights popped on.  After that, the procession carried on along the back streets to the local park, where another few thousand people had already gathered, and we were treated to a short but surprisingly good free firework display.

We'd been promising ourselves we'd go to the event for the last 3 or 4 years but never made it.  This year, we're delighted we made the effort.  It may be a small town, the lights may only be bulbs on bits of string, but this is the most Christmas spirit I've seen in years.