A great weekend

A few sharks we saw at the National Sea Life Centre in Birmingham:

sealife3

And a nice turtle:

sealife51

 

We had a lovely afternoon there on Saturday (25 April). It’s a brilliant and fascinating place. I’d had no idea there were so many species of sea creature in the world. Some of the fish were such beautiful and vivid colours, they barely look real. I found looking at them really rather relaxing and hypnotic.

There were seahorses, turtles, frogs, lobsters, crabs, electric eels, jellyfish, stingrays, sharks, otters, starfish, a great big fat bastard octopus and every kind of fish you can imagine. The jellyfish were probably my favourites, though. They move up and down like bizarre blue mushrooms. Perhaps I could adopt one!

On Saturday evening we went to see the brilliant Dancing on Ice at the NIA. Nine celebs competed: Ray Quinn (who won), Kyran Bracken (who I voted for), Jessica Taylor, Zoe Salmon, Suzanne Shaw, Chris Fountain, Roxanne Pallett, Melinda Messenger and Todd Carty (for comedy value), with their respective professional partners.

Andi Peters was presenting, and the judges were Ruthie Henshall, Nicky Slater, Karen Barber, Robin Cousins and guest judge Joanne Malin from Radio WM.

Torvill and Dean were there too, of course, and they gave an electrifying performance of their legendary Bolero.

Then yesterday Nath and I undertook another epic bike ride, this time 18 miles along the Manifold Way in the Peak District. Like the nearby Tissington Trail (along which we cycled a torturous 23 miles a couple of weeks ago), it is a virtually flat route. We found it a tad more interesting than Tissington, however. The route is slightly less straight and there is a bit more to see.

So, in all, a highly enjoyable and productive weekend.

I wish I could write

At the risk of sounding like Orville, bemoaning his inability to ‘flyyy right up to the skyyy,’ I am struggling with my latest novel The Four Matthews.  I read published works by well-known authors and can’t help but be envious.

Some good news is that I have now been paid for my contribution to My Weekly!!  No news yet on when TV Spa-Dom will appear in the magazine, but the money is in my bank account and that should, I know, serve as a reminder that somebody at least likes my work and I am therefore ‘not that bad’ after all.  It ought to spur me on.

I do wonder whether short stories are more my forte than novels.  Writing a novel can be the most thankless slog – especially when my ‘reward’ is for it to be torn apart by some stuffy critic – but then again there are stories I have to get out of my system that just stick around and bug me if they remain unwritten.

After my awful experience with Gap Year last year, I intend to ‘please myself’ a bit more with The Four Matthews: have some fun with it, be a bit self-indulgent, ultimately have it bound so it looks like a book and friends and family at least can read it, but not bother any so-called literary advisers with the manuscript as they would no doubt make me feel I deserved to die for wasting their time.

My aim is to persevere with The Four Matthews, but once a month along the way take a break for a few days to write a short story which I will then contribute to a magazine.  I don’t know how known my name will became once I have been published in this periodical.  My Weekly at any rate may take notice of future contributions, now that they have me on their books as an established ‘supplier.’

Barton Marina

I would highly recommend a visit to Barton Marina in Barton under Needwood, Staffs.

barton2

It is in a beautiful setting, which was yesterday enhanced by the gorgeous weather.  There are boats moored there – obviously – plus a coffee shop, a large pub called the Waterfront, a Thai restaurant and a collection of charming gift shops and boutiques.

Beginning a journey

I have written two paragraphs of Chapter 1 of The Four Matthews.  I feel pathetically proud of that achievement.

Want to read them?  Bear in mind this comes immediately after the Wikipedia entry, e-mail and brochure extract I’ve already posted on here.

Monday had a definite ‘first day of the rest of my life’ feel to it. The spring sun flooding my room seemed auspicious; the sensation of being bathed in it on that B&B candlewick couldn’t help but uplift me.

The three computer printouts I’d been rereading surrounded me like islands. I’d be barricading my bedroom door at Julian Crowfoot’s place on Saturday, just in case he lapsed into infamous habits – especially since Cadbury’s recently re-launched the Wispa.

You’re hooked, aren’t you? Go on, admit it!!

The tentative thrill of embarking on a new story, of setting out on a journey (yes, I know that word is overused in this X Factor era), is always exciting.

I am enjoying the restful Easter break, getting stuck into some writing but still having time to go for walks, watch DVDs of cheesy 80s sitcoms, see friends and family and get chores done.  Oh, how I wish every weekend could be four days long.

The Four Matthews

I have uploaded the introduction to my current novel The Four Matthews in the ‘Novel intros’ section.  This new book of mine will centre around a group of disparate individuals who take a week’s walking holiday along the (fictitious, of course) Four Matthews route in central England.

I’ve done it as a ‘pre-chapter,’ so to speak, which I’ve divided into three sections.  Firstly we have the Wikipedia entry of seedy TV cook Julian Crowfoot (any resemblance to real-life celeb chefs is purely coincidental).  Then an e-mail to Naomi Ball, my heroine and narrator, from her slimy soon-to-be-ex-boss Adrian Raybould.  The third piece is an extract from the brochure of Best Foot Forward, which organises the walking breaks.

These pieces may be apparently random, but you will spot the connections between them.  Do feel free to leave comments if you so wish!!

Tissington Trial

I am still rather saddle-sore following our 23(!)-mile bike ride along the Tissington Trail yesterday!  We arrived in Ashbourne at 10:30 and went to Hartington and back – a distance of 11½ miles each way – ouch!! We had a cup of tea at Hartington then turned back.  It was a sunny day, but a bit cooler than I thought it was going to be and on our return route we had the wind against us so it was really quite breezy.

I was in serious pain by the end.  My legs were fine, but my neck and bum were so numb.  I was almost in tears.  The last couple of miles were like torture.  But then when we’d finished and I experienced the blessed relief of tearing my sore fanny from the saddle, I felt brilliant about myself.  It was like the euphoric, self-righteous feeling I get at the end of one of my Peak District treks.

Last time we were up there, when we stayed for a weekend nearly a year ago, we went from Tissington to Hartington, which was ‘only’ 16 miles in total so we did really well.

I slept for nine beautiful hours last night.

TV Cream to The Four Matthews

I’m feeling a bit nostalgic, and have been feasting on this witty and brilliantly researched website: http://tv.cream.org/

If, like me, you harbour an obsession with retro telly, you’ll find it an absolute treat.  Warning, though: it is highly addictive.  It brings back so many incredible memories of long forgotten (often with good reason) TV shows.  Love it!

I have also been attempting to make inroads into my fourth novel, The Four Matthews.  Progress is somewhat stop-start, though.  I really need to knuckle down.  Being a Published Writer, as I am now entitled to call myself since the My Weekly acceptance, ought to give me confidence and impetus, but I never get complacent.

Duty Free

For some reason I’m in the mood for ordering a load of obscure ITV sitcom DVDs off Amazon, then having a marathon session watching Duty Free or Watching all day with a huge bag of kettle chips next to me.

Yes, that would be a terribly slobby thing to do – I lead a busy life, though, and sometimes it’s tempting to just take some lazy time out!

Saayyy yoooo…

Hubby and I saw the marvellous Lionel Richie in concert at the NEC last night.  It was just him, no support act, and he was on stage for two hours with an energetic performance of solo and Commodores hits.  He clearly commands a lot of love from an audience.

Starting with the Commodores ballad Easy, he delivered classic slowies like Hello (yeah, cheesy song but I love it), Say You Say Me (an anthemic highlight), Endless Love (with the ladies in the crowd singing the Diana Ross part) Stuck on You, Three Times a Lady and Ballerina Girl and funkier hits like All Night Long, Dancing on the Ceiling, You Are My Destiny and Brick House.

Some distracting audience ‘entertainment’ came early on when a trio of catfighting girls were forcibly ejected by the stewards!  And there was me thinking Lionel fans were gentle people!

Despite this morning being afflicted by Not Had Enough Sleep After A Concert Syndrome, I am beginning my British Summer Time fitness campaign by walking to and from work.  I have only just finished limping around like Herr Flick following Saturday’s Peak District yonp, so here’s hoping I won’t seize up altogether.  Wish me luck…