Tuesday 29 November 2011

NaNoWriMo No More

I reached 57078 words today, decided that was the end of my novel and submitted all 40 chapters. I suppose it will disappear into the ether now.

It’s called ‘The Sweets and the Bitters of Love’ (thank you, Lord Byron) and it ended up being a romance, which was quite a surprise to me.
What can I take up now to avoid the housework??

I still can’t work out how the NaNo site made it 57238 words, though.

Another thought – shouldn’t it be InNoWriMo – International Novel Writing Month? Last time I looked UK wasn’t part of the USA where NNWM originated ;-)

Monday 28 November 2011

Help for Heroes rugby match

The Heroes Rugby Challenge  is taking place at Twickenham on Saturday 3rd December in aid of the charity 'Help for Heroes.' 

Tickets are being offered at two for one, a great deal and for a very good cause. The atmosphere will be electric as a Southern Hemisphere XV takes on a Northern Hemisphere XV. More information can be found here

Sunday 27 November 2011

The tenth family birthday of the year – Gareth

Gareth was born ‘at home’ i.e.: not in hospital in 1969. When the midwife delivered him (though I suppose I did the delivering!!) she declared, “He’ll be a six-footer” and so he is, six foot three in his stockinged feet.

He was a quick developer like his older sister and was toddling at ten months old. There was very little baby language, Gareth preferring to wait until he had the words, and later, sentences, correct in his head before he delivered them.

He was a bright and inquisitive boy and retained information like a sponge. He was always a gentle soul and as he grew bigger and more noticeable so he adjusted his demeanour, never wishing to worry little old ladies or small children. At school he was known as ‘Rambo’ and younger boys who worried about being bullied would go quietly to him and tell him their troubles and Gareth would sort them out. We knew nothing of this until after Gareth had left school. He has never been one to blow his own trumpet.

He was a superb swimmer and played rugby at club level. He has always been grateful for the opportunities he had to develop his swimming. We felt it was important that he was physically challenged so that he learnt to coordinate his limbs which can often be a problem for tall boys. He was good at judo, though too tall, and good also at karate.

One of my abiding memories is of seeing him taking his little sister to school, walking hand in hand with her, twelve years his junior, he so tall, she so small. Now the age difference means nothing. They love and appreciate each other. His older sisters, one either side of him, love and respect him too, as he does them.
He is the loving husband of a woman I regard as my fourth daughter and a kind and caring father to their three children. He works too hard, like his father before him, and we all worry about that, but he loves and is loved by all his family.
Happy Birthday, Gareth - even though you try and fail to make us forget your birthdays, we don’t.  We love you.

Saturday 26 November 2011

ABC Wednesday S is for . . .

Salvia has purple or white flowers from June to October and is a magnet for bees and butterflies. It is a member of the largest class of plants in the mint family (Lamiaceaea) It is commonly called sage but not all varieties can be used in cooking. Some will make you hallucinate!
Scabious ‘Butterfly Blue Beauty’ is highly attractive to butterflies and bees. It is a perennial that will form clumps. One flower remains on it despite a couple of frosts! It looks rather more ragged than these, though.
Senecio Serpens or Klienia is also a clump forming perennial belonging to the family Asteraceae. It is native to South Africa and is a succulent that requires little water - therefore it prospers in dry conditions. Its foliage is grey-green – some describe it as blue - and it produces small white flowers in the summer. It is easily propagated from cuttings - or breakings - as we discovered accidentally.
Squirrels Sciurus carolinensis)  of the grey variety were introduced to UK from North America in the late 19th/early 20th century and have displaced our smaller native red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) They are able to eat a wider variety of food including acorns which they can digest but the reds cannot. They are entertaining acrobats and noisy when annoyed when they make a loud chittering noise which continues for several minutes. They are inveterate thieves and are adept at accessing bird feeders. I love seeing them race around the trunks of trees, up and down and around and around and am quite happy to feed them. We have some of the sleekest squirrels in Berkshire!
Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) are also welcome in our garden. From the milk chocolate coloured young to the glossy adults they are noisy, quarrelsome, social birds and always fun to watch. We've never seen a murmuration of starlings like this below.

Syringa usually known as Lilac belongs to the olive family (Oleaceae) it is native from south-eastern Europe to eastern Asia. It is well-adapted to cultivation in temperate climates. Colours range from white through pink and lilac to deep purple. They can be small – around 6’,  or tall – around 32’.
Sunflower seed head
 . . . and of course we have spiders and slugs and snails . . .
Click here for more Ssssssss

Tuesday 22 November 2011

NaNoWri Mo update

Just in case you’re interested (hee, hee!) I’m still banging out the words. The story is changing sentence by sentence and, as someone else said, the padding is spectacular!! I might even achieve 50,000 words by the end of November. I’m on 33,000 at present so a little behind the word count.

I must say I wonder how people with jobs ever manage to keep pace . . .

Wednesday 16 November 2011

ABC Wednesday R is for Red Kite, Rosemary and Roses

Red Kite flying above our garden yesterday.

Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Rosemary is a bushy decorative evergreen herb. Its Latin name Rosmarinus officinalis means dew-of-the-sea, probably because rosemary usually grows well by the seashore. It is native to the Mediterranean and Asia but is hardy in temperate climates. It will withstand periods of drought and does not like living in soggy ground. 
In late spring it produces small orchid-like pretty lilac-blue flowers. Although it can reach six feet, it usually attains about three feet (0.9m)

It is a perennial requiring very little in the way of pruning and will live for twenty or more years. It is easily propagated from cuttings taken after flowering.

The narrow leaves, which resemble pine needles, can be used in a variety of dishes, working particularly well with roasted meats. Finely chopped, the leaves can be used to make rosemary butter, or to accompany garlic when roasting potatoes. The flowers can be used in salads or crystallised to make an attractive decoration to cakes.

In addition to its culinary function a handful or rosemary boiled in 16 ounces of water can be used to provide an antiseptic solution for cleaning kitchen and bathroom surfaces. When burned on an open fire or barbecue rosemary stems give a lovely scent to the air. A branch of rosemary freshens the air in the house and can be used as the basis for Christmas wreaths or other garlands.

Medicinally it is said to stimulate circulation and ease aching joints when applied externally in lotion. Research continues to the present.

From Wikipedia: Rosemary contains the antioxidants carnosic acid and rosmarinic acid,  and other bioactive compounds including camphor, caffeic acid, ursolic acid, betulinic acid, rosmaridiphenol, and rosmanol. Some of these may be useful in preventing or treating cancers, strokes and Alzheimer's Disease.

Rosemary was burned as incense in ancient Roman burial ceremonies. The association of rosemary with funerals continued into the middle ages when it was customary to lay branches of rosemary on the coffin. 

It is thrown into graves in Europe as a symbol of remembrance and is used particularly in Australia and New Zealand on ANZAC Day. 

Who could forget mad Ophelia in Shakespeare’s Hamlet saying, "There's rosemary, that's for remembrance." (Hamlet, iv. 5.)

Today a sprig of rosemary placed in a buttonhole is believed to bring good luck and improve memory. There seems to be some credence for this. A modern study showed that when the scent of rosemary was pumped into workspaces the people working there showed improved memory.

There is a legend about the blue colour of the flowers. It is said that when Mary and Joseph fled to Egypt with the baby Jesus, Mary was tired and spread her cloak on a rosemary with white flowers. Instantly the flowers changed to the blue of Mary’s cloak. The Spanish name for rosemary is romero, meaning pilgrim’s plant, and reflects the legend.
Legend has it that rosemary will never grow taller than an adult, around six feet (1.8m) nor live longer than the years of Christ’s life.

The last rose(s) of Summer are struggling to provide a final flourish of colour and scent. Barry took these photographs yesterday.

Tis the last rose of summer,
Left blooming alone,
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone.
No flow'r of her kindred
No rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes,
Or give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one,
To pine on the stem,
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them

Thus kindly I'll scatter
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow
When friendships decay;
And from love's shining circle
The gems drop away
When true hearts lie wither'd
And fond ones are flow'n
Oh! Who would inhabit
This bleak world alone? 

Click here for more Rs

Monday 14 November 2011

Just for fun!

Just for fun!

Susannah sent me this today . . . not to be taken too seriouslyJ

I'm still slogging at NaNoWriMo! The story gets more unbelievable with every word and as for continuity - forget it! However, the characters are taking over so that can't be too bad . . . I think!

I'm rather behind on the word count. Perhaps I should just copy out the alphabet a few times ;-)

Thursday 10 November 2011

SkyWatch Friday Late afternoon walk

A late afternoon walk turning to dusk gave us misty rose-tinted skies and a buttery full moon climbing the sky.
Click here for more wonderful skies.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

ABC Wednesday Q is for Quercus and Quince

There was a flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) already in the garden when we bought this house, more than thirty years ago. It has survived rather than thrived, usually producing a few red flowers and three or four yellow fruits. I have never attempted to do anything with them since I don’t think it’s worth the effort to produce probably less than one egg cupful of quince jelly. The fruits are impossibly bitter, difficult to peel and take a long time to cook but aficionados declare them a rare treat. They can also be pickled.
View of oaks from our garden
There is an abundance of Quercus in this area. They are mostly English oaks (Quercus robur or Quercus pedunculata) producing acorns which nestle in cups at the ends of long stems. The pedunculate oak is a long-lived tree native to most of Europe. It commonly measures its life in centuries, the oldest two in UK, in the New Forest of Hampshire and in Lincolnshire, being around 1000 years old.
Fresh leaves in April
Oak supports more than 400 species of insects, more than any other British plant and is an important food source, in the form or acorns, for many small mammals and birds. 
Jays (Garrulus glandarius) were the principal propagators of this oak before the development of commercial planting. It is a hardwood tree grown for its long-lasting heartwood which is much in demand for interiors and furniture.
We often see squirrels racing round the trunks or leaping from branch to branch
The English oak is a national emblem, its importance originating in the oak tree in which the future Charles II hid during the English Civil War. From that time it was known as the Royal Oak. May 29th is Oak Apple Day or Royal Oak Day and was so named by Act of Parliament more than 350 years ago. You can read more about it here.
Two of our oaks being cut down on a very cold January day
‘The Royal Oak’ is one of the most popular names for English public houses and eight Royal Navy warships have been commissioned with the name Royal Oak. In Tudor times oak was the main construction material for warships and the Royal Navy’s official quick march is ‘Heart of Oak.’

Come, cheer up, my lads, 'tis to glory we steer,
To add something more to this wonderful year;
To honour we call you, as freemen not slaves,
For who are so free as the sons of the waves?


Heart of oak are our ships, jolly tars are our men,
we always are ready; Steady, boys, steady!
We'll fight and we'll conquer again and again

The oak is the commonest woodland tree in England but must grow for 70 to 80 years before it produces its first acorns.

Click here for more Qs

Wednesday 2 November 2011


In a moment of madness, after several restless days weeks thinking about it, I signed up for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) I had hoped it might spur me on to greater things writing something longer than six hundred words and prove that my attention span can sometimes exceed that of a fruit fly.

I have written reams in the past, mostly comprising a cast of hundreds with no plot – I like creating characters! Now I find myself in a situation sadly familiar to me wherein washing the bathroom floor holds more attraction than attempting to write approximately 1700 words a day for thirty days. Word count so far? Don’t be ridiculous!

So if my blog posts increase dramatically in number and my comments on your blogs are lengthier and perhaps even insightful (I live in hope rather than expectation!) you will understand why.

I was asked in what genre my novel should be placed. Genre? Sounds far too grand for me, so, not knowing where something akin to Aga Saga might fit, I put ‘other’ – covers a multitude of sins.

You may have noticed a plethora of clich├ęs in this post. There is a reason for this – I am trying to satisfy my need to use the handiest phrase before I settle in at the coalface. The other thing I must avoid, apart from too many uses of ‘that’, is adverbs ending in ‘ly’ or at least that’s what I understand from reading the advice of authors, publishers, editors. So my characters will simply ‘do’ or ‘be’ neither quickly, nor slowly, lovingly nor helplessly – it promises to be an arid experienceJ

Perhaps I should quit while I’m ahead – or even before I begin.
(Have you been counting platitudes? I make it ten . . . )

Oh, and don’t worry – I shall not be posting anything from my magnus opus *cough, cough* on my blog. You’ll just have to wait to read it in print. (That makes eleven – or even twelve!)


Tuesday 1 November 2011

ABC Wednesday P is for . . .

 . . . Pansies almost all the year round.
 . . . Petunias with their velvety petals. The palest colours have the strongest scent. To encourage continuous flowering in these summer annuals the dead heads should be removed. The sap is very sticky.
 . . . Pelargoniums come in a variety of reds from scarlet and crimson to peach and pink and white. They are grown as annuals in our temperate climate and are easily propagated from cuttings. Some people dislike the scent of geraniums – I think the strong pungent smell is wonderful. Pelargoniums are still flowering in our garden despite a light frost a week ago.
. . . Perennial geranium – otherwise known as cranesbills. There are one or two still hanging on.
 . . . Pinks (Dianthus) perennial sweet-scented flowers. There are very few flowers now.
 . . . the Pond in our garden supports much wild life including Pond skaters
 . . . the Endless Pool is a source of pleasure for all the family.
Pruning – our garden requires quite a lot of pruning. It’s our fault for planting so many shrubs. This year the arches were very overgrown and the flowers not as prolific. Those we had were about ten feet off the ground so we set to  pruning them.  Barry thought I was going to give them a trim but I had warned him I was going to cut them right back. I did this a few years ago and was rewarded with fresh growth and many flowers the following summer. The birds are a little despondent, having lost their shelter temporarily.
Hydrangea Petiolaris was hidden under Clematis 'Pille'.
Some of the prunings can be seen in a heap.
Click here to Peek at more Ps