Ha! Look! I did a picture! (sort of)

\"patricia

This is me. Also I just learned how to post a picture – sort of. My computer guru showed me and explained it in non-computerese.

I remained calm and didn\’t listen to the frantic little mouse in the back of my mind saying \”What\’s that? what\’s that? why\’s he doing that… oh he clicked on it… Um.. what\’s that mean? Ohgodohgod, it\’s gonna crash any minute… eek! what\’s that?\”

I needed to see my computer guru anyway because I\’m planning to completely revamp my website. I am about to launch my new book of poetry \”The Poetry Diet.\”

It\’s being published by local West Country publishers Thingley Press and it looks great. You\’ll be able to buy it here from my website via Paypal, as well as from Thingley Press and Amazon, of course.

\”I believe that in today’s literary marketplace there is room for a book of mildly erotic poetry about chocolate, sex, food, bodies, food, dieting and chocolate. With recipes.\”

So I wrote one. \”The Poetry Diet.\”

Mrs Angry No More

Last night my Computer Said No. No, it didn\’t intend to let me edit an article I\’m writing – for some reason the Word file wouldn\’t open properly. No, it certainly wasn\’t going to allow me to go on line. No, it wasn\’t going to allow any kind of troubleshooting and no, it wasn\’t going to let me find out why it suddenly denied the existence of our wifi broadband. My #2 son was upstairs happily logged on, my lovely new lodgers were happily logged on, but according to my computer, the thing was Horrid and Yucky and Not Available.
***
It wanted me to Reset. This is what it always wants. There\’s no point in doing it because it makes no difference when the computer\’s in a mood like this. It\’s the same as a tantruming toddler shrieking \”Wanna wanna SWEETIE!\” Giving the child a sweetie will not stop the tantrum, but only put it on pause for the thirty seconds baba takes to eat the sweetie. After which it\’s 150 decibel business as usual.
***
And I remained calm. I did not go into Techno-triggered Meltdownitis. I did not swear at it, scream at it, cry or bang my head against any walls.
***
I\’ve always been quite good at dealing with toddler tantrums, which I actually find quite funny. This is partly because I vividly remember a tantrum I threw when I was about 3 years old: my mum put me in a pair of (then fashionable) tartan trews which I absolutely hated because they made my legs itchy. Unfortunately I didn\’t have the words to explain this and I still remember my whole little body feeling like it was going to explode with boiling fury and frustration as I threw myself on the bed and the floor and screamed and shrieked \”NO NO.\” I don\’t remember what happened next. I expect I survived the itchy legs.
***
So if the real thing doesn\’t faze me too much, why did I get so hysterical with my computer the last time It Said No.
***
I suddenly realised a few days afterwards that I was reacting as if the bloody computer was the stupid frustrating abitrary adult that was insisting on making me wear tartan trews and as if I was the three year old who couldn\’t explain – which is indeed how I feel when faced with the usual computerese you get in these situations.
***
Which is dumb. I\’m the adult. The computer is the toddler (only not as intelligent as most toddlers).
***
Enlightenment, even if embarassing because really I should have known that, is a wonderful thing. Yesterday when the Computer Said No, I switched it off and went to bed.

EVEN MORE BRILLIANT BOOKS

I can\’t keep up, I really can\’t. Every time I go near Waterstones, I come across more brilliant things to read.
***
My eyes look like boiled eggs in tomato sauce and I\’ve got a cracking headache because I spent the day reading \”The Social Animal\” by David Brooks – which deals with the astonishing powers of our unconscious mind and how best to make it work for us… Which sounds about as much fun as endoscopy, but is in fact quite unputdownable because he uses a lovely light witty touch in his writing and tells the story of two people while he\’s doing it.
***
Meanwhile what I ought to be doing is generating lists of people to send advance copies of my book. The Poetry Diet is about to be published by local micropublishers Thingley Press and as I\’m doing the marketing and publicity, I\’m having to do all the stuff that corporate publishers are supposed to do. Not that they really do it nowadays, unless you\’re their Book of the Month and they\’ve paid for a lot of prime spots in supermarkets.
***
So I\’ve got a lot to learn. Any suggestions?

LOL ABOUT THE EUROPEAN DEFAULT CRISIS?

No, really. Read Michael Lewis\’s book \”Boomerang,\” I promise it will make you laugh. What it\’s describing is so heartbreakingly crazy, there\’s no other sane reaction.
***
Read about the dickheads (I use the term deliberately) in Iceland who bought up everything with money they\’d loaned themselves. Smack your gob in horror at the lunacy in Ireland as everybody borrowed to build hideous houses nobody would ever buy.
***
Shake your head at the intransigence of the Greeks. Shake it again at the sad story of the trusting German banks that were taken for a massive ride by the sharks of Wall Street.
***
It\’s a true freakshow, topped by an epically surreal encounter with ex-California governator Arnold Schwarzenegger and the criminally irresponsible small town politics of La-la land.
***
Ay. We\’re a\’ doomed.

I TOLD YOU SO, FINANCIAL TIMES

I normally get the Financial Times Weekend paper – it has excellent coverage of the arts and books, it does very interesting profiles and proper journalism in its magazine. I started reading the FT in the autumn of 2007 because I felt they had more of a clue financially than the other broadsheet newspapers.
***
On 14th November 2008 I entered their competition to pick the Next Big Investment Idea. No, I didn\’t win (I think it was some guy with a shares scheme – and yes, I have tried but I couldn\’t find him).
***
Here\’s what I wrote in the hangover month of November 2008:
***
\”Future investments will have to be simple, real and ethical because, sadder and wiser now, nobody will touch anything else for twenty years.
I believe agricultural land will offer investments which will offer opportunities for increasing real value.
In the last two years of the property bubble, farmland had started to rise rapidly in value – at a rate of about 30% per year. Since the early 1990s farmland prices have increased by 130% – mainly due to City bonus bunnies looking for a refuge from inheritance tax – until they were approaching highs of £10,000 per acre. Since then farmland prices have dropped by about 2% and seem likely to return to pre-bubble levels of £5,000. They may well drop further as distressed bonus bunnies need to sell up quickly. This will be a tremendous opportunity because I believe the high commodity and oil prices that make local farmland valuable will inevitably return – and supplies are limited.
A fund should be set up to buy up cheap farmland. The land should then be improved, ideally by converting it to organic standards or by planting some form of
permaculture. Once the land is ready it should be leased to farmers to provide a regular income to pay to investors. Ultimately it should be sold to release a profit and more land purchased for improvement.
Importantly, investors will be able to visit “their” acres and see the improvements. This will make it possible to sell the investments into a very cynical market.\”
***
Lead article in the Financial Times House & Home section this week (Sat 15 Oct 2011)?
\”Movers and Acres. The value of farmland has doubled in recent years, triggering heady investment activity in rural real estate.\”
***
Well I was wrong about investors being \”sadder and wiser\”. I was, however, spectacularly right about the investment potential of farmland. Alas, as usual, I didn\’t have the money to back my prediction and so I can\’t point to my rolling acres bought on the cheap. That\’s what I wanted the prize money for.  
***
Can I have my £10,000 prize now please, FT? I\’ve just had another next big investment idea.

The Little Bastards are Back!

The publisher of my new book \”The Poetry Diet or Why Don\’t We All Just Wear Corsets?\” wasn\’t too happy about my posts on the subject of the War against Fleas. Tough.
***
I have to vent again. Because, despite paying a large sum of money to the vet for a guaranteed will-kill-em-all chemical treatment, the bastards are back. They are pinging around my bedroom and the cat is waking me at five in the morning so I can flea comb her immediately. She refuses to set paw on the carpet (which is clean, honest!) and so leaps from my piano stool to the windowsill using me as a convenient springboard.
***
But wait! Apparently there\’s an even more guaranteed (and expensive) other chemical out there called Advocate – which is sort of funny of you come from a legal background.
***
Leddiesengennelmen, we have been here before. With antibiotics, with louse-treatments, with pesticides. It is Darwin personified. If you wipe out 95% of a population with a poison or a disease, if it\’s a fast-breeding, short-generation insect, within about two years it will be happily munching the stuff down for breakfast.
***
Isn\’t there anybody out there finding out what eats fleas so we can introduce it into our houses? Surely something eats the larvae?
***
Or perhaps someone could go on Dragon\’s Den with my brilliant idea of a glue-covered flea-luring robocat?
***
Come on. Get inventing. We should know by now that you can\’t buck DNA.

TECHNO-TRIGGERED MELTDOWNITIS

OK so I was screaming at my laptop for thwarting me at every turn. Unfortunately I scream very loudly and swear a lot. #1 son got upset by this and started doing that very unhelpful male thing of advising me to calm down which… well, how can I put this tactfully? Essentially it just added hi-octane jet fuel to the flames. Hysterical tears followed and a massive argument with #1 son, to whom I was very nasty.
***
Why?
***
I couldn\’t get at my emails.
***
Why?
***
Well, actually I\’d put in the wrong password. But then I got so furious and upset with the bloody uselessness of the instructions for changing your password that I became an incoherent screaming thingoid from the black lagoon. As my brain was overwhelmed with cortisol and adrenalin, I didn\’t realise it was my mistake in the first place.
***
Eventually #2 son managed to get me calmed down enough so I could realise what had happened. So I rang BT Broadband helplineand talked to a very helpful chap somewhere in India who sorted it out and gave me a new password. In the process he had to delete the password for this blog from my computer\’s memory and of course I\’d forgotten that too, which is why I haven\’t posted for a few days.
***
But at least I got at my emails and all was splendid. In the meantime I had probably frightened the living daylights out of our lovely new lodger – although the dog was noticeably undistressed and the cat was clearly just wondering if this would delay her supper any further.
***
I can cope with a screaming toddler. I can cope with a teenager who feeds pizza to the dog after being told not to and causes said dog to puke all over the living room carpet. I can cope with bureacrats and bailiffs and taxmen and even doctors\’ receptionists in a calm, polite, even good-humoured way.
***
So why does my computer send me completely loopy with rage?

BEE BRIEF

I finished it! Sitting in Costa coffee in the Truro Waterstones bookshop, crying my eyes out at the sad-but-happy ending of my new childrens\’ book \”One Bee\” and hoping nobody notices the lunatic in the corner dropping big teardrops and snot all over her paper. Why is writing so undignified?
***
I get so excited as the book zooms towards the end, building up speed in the last ten thousand words until my writing is appalling and I leave out chunks of sentence. I retype it into my computer after a bit of time to let it settle, by which time I\’ve forgotten what I\’ve written for some of it and have to rewrite those bits.
***
This system of handwriting the first draft isn\’t me being deliberately retro: I can write anywhere, on anything. It\’s just that doing the thing by hand works a kind of brief magic: you stick to the point much better because you\’re lazy and don\’t want to have to write anything that isn\’t essential. It\’s the perfect vaccination against word-processoriasis which causes books to swell up like the legs of somebody afflicted with elephantiasis. (By the way, don\’t click on the link unless you\’ve got a strong stomach.)
***
For a truly dreadful example of the literary version of this, by the way, read J K Rowling\’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Or indeed the whole of George R R Martin\’s A Feast for Crows which had me petering to a halt after being totally consumed by all the previous Game of Thrones books.
***
Mind you, the bee book – called \”One Bee\” – had a sort of natural limit on it, seeing that the main character is quite an old lady by the time she reaches the grand old age of 30 days.

HELSTON\’S HUMOROUS TANK TRAPS

Helston, Cornwall, is a pretty little town which is mainly famous for its Furry Day Dance  in May every year. The rest of the time it\’s fairly quiet and would probably like to attract more tourists.
***
Note to town council: this won\’t happen until you do something about the tank-traps on Coinagehall Street.
***
You see, in Cornwall the gutters tend to be quite heroic in proportions. I remember when we first moved to Cornwall, I looked at the street drains in Truro and thought \”Hm, I wonder why they\’re so big?\” Well, I found out why. It\’s because of the random monsoons we get here.
***
Helston has humorous ones. They\’re big, with a square ditch and deep enough that if you, say, accidentally back your car into one, the rear wheel is spinning out of contact with the ground. So the car can\’t drive back out again, even if you get lots of smoke coming off your tyres and helpful good Samaritan Helstonians trying to push you out of the tank trap and commenting that the same thing happened to someone the night before.
***
They\’re humorous because they\’re alongside designated half hour parking spaces with no indication at all that they exist – no signposts, no paint, not even a raised kerb – so if you don\’t know Helston and back into the space, say, you\’re really quite likely to go into one.
***
Ho ho ho.