Felicitatious Laptopian Lagitude is Not Instantiated

I’ve gone all Latinate this morning because I am not a happy bunny.  What I don’t like is people who say they’re going to come around and pick up your laptop and then don’t show up.  And when said person arranges to come at the slightly inconvenient hour of 8.30 (presumably on their way to work) and you finish your yoga early so as to be ready and then they don’t show up which means you keep looking out of the window and can’t settle to work because you’re thinking, when would be a reasonable time to give up on them and go to the next person? – that’s what I call a waste of my time.

There’s no excuse for this.  So you get held up?  Message me.  Traffic jam, unexpected caller, plumbing disaster, car breakdown?  Just let me know.  Fair enough, if you or a close relative has been taken to hospital, I’ll let you off.  But otherwise…

Anyway I give this guy till 10 am, which I think is quite generous, then I go to the next person on the list.  The next person was also the previous person who didn’t get back to me in time but then messaged after I’d offered it on.  I said I’d get back to her if this guy was a no-show.  She said fine, I got back to her.  Voicemail.  I texted instead saying get back to me asap; and now we wait.  I’ll give them both till midday and then it will go to yet another person.

To be fair I rarely have this problem in Loughborough as mostly people turn up when they say they will; but it can drive you crazy.  In any case I really hate waiting for people, not because I’m impatient (though I may be) but because – and I hesitate to sound like a headmistress here – lateness is a discourtesy to others.  I once got into a rage with some people who failed to meet me in Madrid after I’d told them how important it was to me: turned out I’d got the wrong day.  Red face.  So now I try to be reasonable – because otherwise I’ll end up doing what other people on Freecycle do and post a rather testy message saying NO TIME-WASTERS or SERIOUS OFFERS ONLY.

Of course the definition of lateness varies with the situation.  If I’m sitting in a pub or a restaurant I don’t mind fifteen minutes or so, though it would be nice to know you’re on your way.  If there’s a group of us I probably won’t mind if you’re half an hour late.  But if we’re going to see a film and we miss the beginning then I’d probably get a bit annoyed.  Lateness is a variable, not a constant.

But flexibility in terms of time is something OH will never understand.  In typical all-or-nothing fashion he maintains that if you’re not on time – and that means bang on time – you’re late.  Two minutes is a miss, and a miss is as good as a mile: I’ve had to persuade him to enter a restaurant rather than turning round and going home, because we’re five minutes late – so in the frankly terrifying world of OH you might as well not bother because the people we’re meeting will have gone home.

I’ve just had a message from the no-show saying they meant 8.30 this evening.  So now I feel frustrated AND sheepish.  Bah!

I am not a happy sheep.

Kirk out




Sofa Not So Good

You wouldn’t think it would be so hard to get rid of a sofa.  Like any responsible citizen when we acquired our new sofa (from British Heart Foundation) our first thought was to donate the old one back to them.  Did they want it?  Yes, so long as the fire label was there.  It was.  Well, the men came, they saw and they spotted a couple of ink stains we had completely forgotten about, and they said no thanks.

The next port of call was freecycle.  I took a lovely photo:


which unaccountably posted upside-down and refused to be righted, I described it lovingly and sent it out into Charnwood to seek its fortune.  I eagerly checked my inbox for the next few days – nothing.  * Sigh *  The world – or at least Loughborough and its environs – does not want our sofa.  What next?  A search of the council website threw up Sue Ryder: I emailed them to arrange collection and this morning got a message asking me to call.  I called.  You wouldn’t think calling a charity about a sofa would be like phoning the Universal Credit helpline, but I was put on hold while a succession of annoying and repetitive messages played.  I was number two in the queue.  Five minutes later I was still number two in the queue.  Bollocks to it: I hung up and called back a while later, at which point I was number five in the queue.  I gave up and emailed them.

If Sue Ryder also turn their noses up at the ink stains we will go to Sofa.  They will almost certainly take it but we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks.  *Sigh*  Why is it so hard to do the right thing?  I could have just taken it to the tip and had done with it.  Ah, but then could I live with myself?

The new sofa’s good though.  Here it is proudly displayed in the shop:


Kirk out

I Love Rejections….

Oh to be on Facebook, now that OH is here!  This is a conversation we had just now about a new pair of glasses:

OH:  Just now I thought my glasses weren’t right, but it was only my eyes doing their thing.

Me:  What thing?

OH:  In bed at night I close one eye when I use the tablet and I think it’s messing with my Nucleus of Edinger-Westphal.

Me:  I think I went there once on holiday.

OH:  I’ve mentioned it before.  I want to know the peak sensitivity wavelength for rod cells.

Me:  Sure; who doesn’t?

That’s the sort of dialogue I usually put on Facebook but now I’m off Facebook for good, or at least until it improves beyond recognition.  In theory I could log in and put up my dialogue and log out again – but would that really be the end of it?  Wouldn’t I go back an a couple of hours to see who’s ‘liked’ or commented?  Wouldn’t I respond to some of those comments?  Wouldn’t those commenters respond to my responses?  Wouldn’t I do a bit of scrolling in between?  And then boom! before you know it, you’re back on Facebook.

Nope: amusing and geeky dialogues will have to remain on this blog.  Anyway, back to today’s topic of rejections.  I had one just this morning as it happens; a poetry collection I’d entered for a competition which wasn’t shortlisted.  The first reaction is like a thump in the chest; the feeling that, as Pooh bear puts it: ‘A Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite different when it gets out into the open and has other people looking at it’ – or, to translate that into author-speak, you sweat and polish and rub and grind to make your work the best it can be, send it out into the world to seek its fortune and back it comes, rubber-stamped with the words NO THANKS in large unfriendly letters.

Actually today’s rejection was terribly nice and appreciative but it doesn’t matter how much they sugar-coat it, a rejection is a rejection.

So what do you make of it?  I go through a process each time which is not unlike the stages of grief.  First, there’s pain.  There’s no avoiding this and sometimes it hurts a lot, especially if you had a lot invested in the work; but it does get easier with time.  The second stage can be anger, though I’ve managed to bypass this as the urge to write to the publishers telling them where to get off is not one that should be indulged.  So we blow past anger and land on wondering.  Why?  Why didn’t they want to publish my work?  Are they blind?  You rarely get a clue as to why your work has been rejected and being so much in the dark can lead to stage three: paranoia.  Am I really as good as I think?  Should I give this up?  Am I ever going to get anywhere?  Will anyone ever appreciate me?  This stage is not very productive and, like anger, should not be indulged for long: I got a few words of encouragement from OH once he got back from visiting the Islets of Langerhans or wherever he went – and in time the feelings fade.  So those are the stages of rejection-grief, after which you’re ready to pick up your mouse and carry on.

The good news is that the cycle shortens each time: having seen the rejection email twenty minutes ago I’m already into phase four, a process which used to take weeks.  Phase four is What Now? where you’re able to consider more dispassionately what your next move should be.  For me there’s only one answer to this question and that is to carry on working and make it better.  Don’t go back to the rejected work just yet; put it on one side, and focus on something else to send off.

So, in conclusion (and here’s where I get all upbeat and American) I love rejections because without them I’d never have tried harder.  I’d never have rewritten things and made them better.  It’s probably not an overstatement to say that without rejections I’d never have fulfilled my potential (not that I have, yet; I’m still in the process.)  So in the end that’s what I take from it: those poems will be honed and improved until they are the best they can be and then they will be published.  So there.

Kirk out

Visualise Your Way to a Better Life

I’ve been doing a bit of the old self-help lately, dipping in to Paul McKenna’s books and using his hypnosis CD, and I’ve found the exercises very useful.  I’ve long been convinced by the power of visualisation to change your reality (I’ll give you some examples in a minute) but these exercises go further, using the techniques of Neuro-Linguistic Programming to help neutralise negative thoughts and emotions.  I’m not exactly clear what NLP is but according to this site it’s about finding a better way to communicate with your subconscious in order to get what you want.  Sounds good to me.

This entirely accords with the practice of yoga visualisation and affirmation.  In yoga you change your thoughts by cultivating more positive ones; not by suppressing or denying the negative but simply by focussing more and more on the positive.  As McKenna says, ‘You always get more of what you focus on.’  That is why people who focus on the negative all the time are never happy: even when good things happen they are still focussing on the down-side (much like the news media.)  In yoga we also use affirmations to cultivate positive thoughts and experiences.  It is very important when creating an affirmation, to avoid negative words.  So for example, instead of saying ‘I don’t smoke’ or even ‘I am a non-smoker’ you would substitute ‘I am free from smoking.’  Come to think of it, advertisers do the same thing: whoever came up with the suffix –free must be rolling in it.

So: one or two examples from my own life where visualisations have helped me.  Before Christmas I was thinking of getting OH a radio.  OH is notoriously difficult to buy presents for: unless you go for something related to drinking coffee (and those options were exhausted long ago) you’re pretty much stumped.  Last year I got what I thought was an interesting couple of books which have languished unread on the bedside table.  But this year a radio was the clear choice: the one in the kitchen, being smothered in cooking oil and penetrated by steam, had ceased to provide anything like a clear signal and besides, I had seen the perfect thing in an electronics shop up the road: a great radio with the added righteous glow of supporting a local shop.  Just one problem: the radio cost £80 and I only had £30.

Not to worry: McKenna to the rescue!  For I had acquired his book by this time and was already practising the NLP exercises, so I set about visualising the radio.  There were times when doubts would kick in and I would think about getting a cheaper one, but I had my heart set on that radio and so I oriented all my thoughts towards it too.  Christmas was getting closer, but I wouldn’t give up.  Then, with only three days to go, we got some Christmas money in lieu of presents.  Was it enough for the radio?  Hell, yes!  Did I bomb down to the shop and get it?  Hell yes.  And is it a success?  It really is.

Of course the other side to all this is appreciating what you have when you have it, but I’ve already blogged about that here.

I can’t tell you what my current visualisations are aimed at but it’s big.  Really big.  Because as Thoreau says, you should build your castles in the air where they belong; then you build the foundations under them.

Kirk out

Treadmills, Victorian Punishments

In the course of my novel writing I had reason to look up Victorian prison punishments (just because I’m using one as a metaphor) and was once again reminded of the horrors of these dark satanic gaols.  But then I got to wondering whether they might be an improvement on their predecessors because, however forbidding the buildings and however self-righteously punitive the punishments, there was at least an attempt to deter and rehabilitate rather than merely to inflict pain.  Then again the sheer bureaucratic vindictiveness of a treadmill which is horribly hard work but produces nothing, or a handle which has to be turned a certain number of times a day to no purpose (and which can be tightened at will by the guards; hence the name ‘screws’) give the lie to that theory.

We’re all in a prison of some kind; and at the weekend I went to see the classic ’80’s film 9 to 5.  I hadn’t seen this when it came out and I was struck by how much things had changed, both for the better and also very much for the worse.  Three women work in the office of a corrupt and misogynistic boss: one a recent divorcee (Jane Fonda), one happily married but blonde and busty (Dolly Parton) and one a highly efficient single mother who really should be running the place (Lily Tomlin).  After a series of insults, power grabs, unwanted sexual advances and hourly put-downs, the women get together and decide to change things.  Rather than merely getting drunk and fantasising about it (though they do that too) they take action.  When one of them accidentally poisons the boss by putting rat poison in his coffee they kidnap him from the hospital and tie him up in his own home, holding him hostage while they take over the office.  Of course it unravels in the end but everything turns out for the best.  It’s a great feel-good movie and very funny.  So what’s changed?

Well, the acceptability of sexual harrassment has changed (though perhaps not its prevalence, where some men think they can get away with it).  The position of women has changed.  We now have laws about equal pay; there are more women in positions of power, and so on.  So far so good.  What’s not so good is the way people treat each other: in spite of the boss’s contempt for his female subordinates everyone was far more polite than we are nowadays.  And there was more time: back then the idea of nine-to-five was the epitome of slavery but nowadays people are doing ten or twelve-hour days and answering emails in their sleep.  Not so good.

So my question is this: is it inevitable that when some things get better other things will get worse?

Two of the three actors turn up decades later in the excellent Grace and Frankie.  I absolutely love this series and there’s so much to say about it that it’ll have to wait for its own blog post: suffice it to say that it’s a comedy of old age, a sort of geriatric Friends.  One of the creators of that classic series, Marta Kaufmann, is involved in this story of two octogenarian women whose husbands have been conducting a gay love-affair for decades and who have recently come out and set up house as a couple.  Thrown together by circumstances, Grace and Frankie rub along and fall out as often as you’d expect a work-driven WASP and an aged hippy to fall out.  The series is broad-based and while Grace and Frankie are the centre, we also follow the story of the two husbands (equally diverse but far more compatible) and the grown-up children.  There’s a lot of comedy about ageing which is neither patronising nor in denial and it’s worth seeing for the San Francisco beach house location alone, so if you have Netflix I urge you to watch it now.

Look, it didn’t need its own blog post after all!

Kirk out

I Love Deadlines

I know this is not a phrase you hear from many writers but I love deadlines – and not merely for the whooshing noise they make which so entertained Douglas Adams.  I love deadlines because they focus me.  If I have years and years to complete a project I do not, as some sensible folk do, plan it out, break down the work into chunks and do a certain amount per month.  I suspect that isn’t how most writers work either; to judge by the jokes on the subject, a two-year project would consist of eighteen months procrastination, five months fiddling and one month pure panic.  I, on the other hand, need an incentive to get me going and a deadline provides that incentive.  If the end of a project is two years away I’m likely to get bored, but give me a deadline in two months and I’m on it, even if I have no chance of getting finished within that time.  It’s a little like the crisis inducer in The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy which brings on a crisis to sharpen your wits when needed.  So what I need is basically a Deadline Inducer to bring on a deadline and sharpen my desire to work: some button I can press which makes a voice in my head say, ‘the deadline’s next Monday!  This has to be in by next Monday!  You need to complete this by the 4th!’ and so on.  Come to think of it, Douglas Adams should have had one of those…

Having said that, the deadline for the radio play has whooshed by without my play being submitted as it became increasingly obvious that the thing was mushrooming and could not be wrestled into shape any time soon.  On the other hand I have sent one short story, three pieces of flash fiction and three poems to various magazines well within their respective deadlines.  So brownie points to me.

Where do I go to get brownie points?

Kirk out


The Joy of Tax

I’ve been putting it off quite long enough.  That reminder in my phone calendar to ‘do tax return’ has been lurking for weeks and has begun to assume a plaintive air: if I leave it any longer it will become positively admonitory – and take it from me, the last thing you want to see every morning is an Admonitory Reminder.  Having got the desktop computer up and running (like OH in the mornings – yes, still pounding the streets at 6 am) I’d run out of excuses.  Log on I must, and the sooner the better, just in case I run into any problems, since the prospect of phoning the helpline on 31st January does not appeal.

At this time of year I always think of Bernard Black making a jacket out of his receipts:

I know how he feels.

It’s not that in principle I object to paying tax.  As a fully-signed-up Labour Party member I am utterly seized of the need to pay what is due so that we can have proper public services.  No, it’s not that; in fact I’d be hard put to say what actually does bother me about this process – all I know is that a sense of dread and doom and an unwillingness to embark on it is matched by the knowledge that I must do it Or Else; and these two fight it out until, some time in late January, I actually do it.  Then once it’s done there’s a feeling of euphoria which lasts several days – but somehow I always forget this when January comes a-knocking again.

Anyway, with that box ticked I can get on with the rest of my year, warmed by a righteous glow and without the need to talk to any Jehovah’s Witnesses…

Kirk out

Back on the Box

Sadly I’ve given up on the other laptop now.  We considered taking it for repair again but it seemed like throwing good money after bad, so out came the desktop which has been languishing in a corner since we moved here, for lack of a desk to put it on top of.  Well, I now have a desk of sorts and having run out of other options we decided to give it a try.  Sometimes – to paraphrase Sherlock Holmes – when you’ve run out of possibilities whatever remains, however impossible, must be the way to go.

It was like doing a Rubik’s cube.  A space just wide enough between the bed and the ottoman now houses the CPU while the monitor and peripherals perch on what I am pleased to call my desk.  Everything worked.  Joy.  A dongle was swiftly purchased and inserted into the proper orifice and here I am blogging on the desktop.  Actually it was a pleasure to use it: I felt bad about seeing it languish for so long.

I spent the rest of the day trying not to think about Brexit.  I don’t know whether to feel glad or not about the government’s defeat; on the one hand anything that might get rid of them is to be welcomed but on the other, the appalling mess that was unleashed in 2016 is no nearer being resolved.  May seems to soldier on regardless in a sort of deep denial, passing landmark after landmark which in normal circumstances would see Prime Ministers resign, determined just to plough on like someone driving at sixty miles an hour along a road which will shortly be plunging into a ravine.  There are service stations and rest rooms, there are escape roads and ambulance crews but she ignores them all.  I simply cannot understand what goes on in her mind.

Well, at least I can attempt to discover what goes on in my mind…

Kirk out

And Finally, Cyril

Sometimes the universe hates me.  This is not just a perception of mine, nor is it connected to the fact that I definitely got out of bed the wrong side this morning: it is an actual fact.  The universe hates me and wants to thwart my every effort.  First, the laptop started playing up again and wouldn’t let me do the crossword (except in the sense of being cross about the words I couldn’t fill in.)  Then when I needed to edit a story and send it off, I couldn’t.  Nope, not one s

Here’s an example: you see the text below?  No?  No, neither do I because the effing laptop just deleted it!   Then before you can say ‘no deal Brexit’ (I’m trying so hard not to think about that) it decided I didn’t need to blog any more and closed the tab.  I swear to God…

OK.  Deep calming breaths because I may – just may – have learned something here.  I’ll get to that in a minute.  Meanwhile, pausing only to save this draft at the end of every sentence, I shall continue.  Where was I?  Oh yes, not one s-

Yes.  Not one s-entence, not one word, not a single apostrophe or hair on the head, would it let me change.  OK then, I’ll send it off as it is.  After a great deal of juggling and cursing I managed to copy and paste the text.  Whew.  But my ordeal was not over: first I had to confirm that ‘I am not a robot.’  Most sites are content to simply let you tick the box and confirm your humanity, not oh no – not this one.  It was one of those captcha things I absolutely dread.  You know the ones.  You’ve got eight or ten pictures of various indecipherable scenes and it asks you to ‘check’ (ie tick) all the ones with store fronts.  How the hell are you supposed to tell whether a bunch of blurry bricks constitute a store front?  I tried about six of these (I never get them right and it really annoys me) before finally realising that because it was one of those sites which rejects everything you’ve done until you get one small detail right, the problem was in fact with my ‘website’ address.  Most people are happy with lizardyoga.wordpress.com but not this one: they wanted the full complement of https’s and colons and backslashes.  Anyway the thing’s sent off now, albeit in very rough form.

But if there’s a silver lining here it’s this: I have a sneaking suspicion that sometimes my first thoughts are my best thoughts.  Sometimes I feel that in editing and re-editing I’m actually spoiling the original vision.  Certainly the few things I’ve done recently which were just off the top of my head seem to work quite well.  So that’s a bit of a puzzler, if it’s true.

Anyway, the thing I sent off today was a 500-word piece based on a cartoon.  It’s a prompt I get monthly from Visual Verse:


Kirk out

No L No L, No L, No L

I’ve been having a little bit of trouble with my ‘l’s lately.  My new laptop seems to have a bit of a speech defect and cannot pronounce that letter without going into spasm.  It’s been very inconvenient – I’ve had to resort to typing a 1 instead and then doing ‘find and replace.’  But now somehow, miraculously, the laptop seems to have healed itself, allowing me to speak to you using words with as many ‘l’s as I like.  I could even write in Welsh if I knew any Welsh.  Speaking of which, I had a weird crossword clue the other day which I thought might be Welsh.  It went ‘Suggestion: somewhere to go in all seasons.’  Sometimes the answer is contained within the clue, as in this one, lower down: ‘Accordingly caught by better goalkeeper,’ to which the answer was ‘ergo’, the letters of which are contained in ‘bettER GO alkeeper.’  Just as well as I was originally thinking the answer was a goalkeeper and I don’t know any.

So, I was wrestling with the letters of ‘Somewhere to go in all seasons’ and wondering whether for some reason it could be spelled backwards.  And I came up with Llaniog.  Hm, Llaniog: I wonder if that’s a real place?  It sounded familiar – and when I googled it I discovered it is the setting for Ivor the Engine.

You cannot imagine the sheer joy of being able to type Llaniog without your computer throwing a complete wobbly.  Fantastic.

In other news, I am deeply sad about Andy Murray’s impending retirement.  He is such a terrific player, has never had a tantrum or insulted anyone and has in his own understated way always stuck up for equality and fair play.  It’s not even as if he’s overdone things; he just had this injury which won’t quit, so now he has to.

So that’s today’s offering, I’m afraid.  A bit of a rag-bag with a smidgin of Welsh.  Still it’s better than having a word-processor which only works in Swedish.