Friday 27 October 2017

More haste less speed is a pain in Uranus

I don't know whether Mars is in Uranus this week but I'm slowly learning, after minor pratfalls, that rushing to get things done does not pay off. And it leads to a pain in Uranus.

I have edited a once-long chapter in my ms, 'The Keys to Heaven', and cut it by at least at third.The pace is better but in the cutting I neglected the finer things like making page one make sense. In trying to get my editing done before we go away for Richard's birthday I've been rushing at it. Writing won't cope with a race - it shows on the page. I have learned to slow down... It's not worth making errors which then have to be undone - costing more in time and producing poor quality copy.

Similarly I turned a ten-minute repotting job into a two-hour slog this morning. All I had to do was remove a weakling African violet, scrape old compost and leaves from it, put it in specialist species compost, water it, arrrgh..., and place it near the window. So what went wrong with such a simple task?

On my pre-holiday  list of tasks I'd itemised putting garden chairs away, finish painting tubs and switch off the water to the outside tap. We did all that by 11:00 this morning. Hence I decided, with no outside water, to repot my violet in the downstairs wet room. All was going well, although I should have put newspaper down to gather the crumbs of waste compost, until I watered the new, gritty absorbent compost. I didn't realise my new pot had a very large drainage hole in it. As soon as I watered it the compost ran out of the rather large hole and straight into the sink. What a mess! I placed two crocks in the bottom of the pot, yes... should have done that anyway, and completed the job. The plant was looking good but the sink was full of soil, it wouldn't drain and there were spent soil granules on every surface.

Trying to plunge the sink made even more chaos. The suction sent sprays of muddy water around the walls, on the floor, over the lavatory, behind the radiator and everywhere you could think of. And still the water wouldn't drain. I moved everything out of the wet room, tried to tidy, knocked bottles of bleach over and created pandemonium. That bloody African violet was on its last legs and will likely die, and I had a sink which was blocked with perlite and mud.

Richard tried to rescue the situation but he had no better luck than me... It delayed him doing what he needed to do by more than a couple of hours as he had to go to our hardware shop for drain unblocker. What a fool I'd been! Meanwhile, with muddy hands, I had to use another sink to clean up so I could hang out the whiter-than-white washing. It was a lovely, sunny morning.

When Richard returned he had to switch the outside tap back on and uncoil the ready-for-winter hose, push it through our wet room window and, as the hardware store suggested, try to shift the soil by hosing it away. Sink unblocker wouldn't work.

After another hour baling mud out of said wasbasin it was finally free. Water went down the plughole once more. Good old Richard and good old hardware store.

More haste less speed has never been truer than this week. I've been trying to hurry things along so that we can go away for a few days. I've made a mess with my writing, sprayed the downstairs loo with soil and switched the water supply to the outside tap on and off about four times.

My list for today was: put garden chairs away, switch off outside tap, paint outside tubs, repot violet,  iron for our holiday and continue editing - all by 11:00 am this morning. It's almost 4 pm and I have achieved 3 of the above.  I shall now sit quietly and collect my thoughts. Rushing has achieved very little... The sun is shining. If I hadn't packed away the garden chairs I could have sat outside and soaked up some rays... Clearly I need a few days away.🌞

Friday 6 October 2017

Return to Sender

For over a year I have been using our local deposit point - in that way, when we are expecting deliveries, we don't have to stay in all day, we just collect them from the deposit point at our convenience.
So confident was I that the system was working perfectly I ordered three items, to be delivered to the deposit point, for my husband's birthday. I made the order three weeks ago and, no, the items have still not arrived.

For something new to wear, from a specialist 1950s jive shop, I ordered a replacement dress for one I've ripped, but of which I'm fond. That was for Richard's birthday too and was ordered well over three weeks ago. The delivery was taken to our deposit point but was refused, ie someone wouldn't sign for it, and my lovely Audrey Hepburn dresses were returned to sender. I'm now doing what I was trying to avoid ... waiting in for five days in case there's a delivery at our home...

Another order of M&S underwear and jewellery should have been delivered this week. I chose to have it delivered as there was no delivery charge. But, yep, you guessed it, I ordered it over three weeks ago, hoping to be able to wear said items by now, but not only was despatch delayed by two weeks this package was also refused at our delivery point. ( Someone new or someone very  busy was on the desk and had, erroneously, sent the items back. ) My new bras have been returned to sender. I asked M& S if my returned lacy, underwired-in-almond bras could be taken to our nearest store for click-and-collect. It took 24 hours to get the very personal and polite reply but there was no mechanism for that process and I would be refunded. I therefore have to re-order everything. I am going into town today and could simply go in to the shop but I was trying to save time ... I wanted to concentrate on my novel's final edits rather than choosing bras from a vast array of styles, colours and fit.

So, today, 6th October, I await the delivery of my husband's birthday gifts. I asked our delivery point not to refuse them... and why had my items been refused? Because of some error. Dare I hope my husband's birthday gear will be here ready for his birthday ... at Hallowe'en? If so it will have been the longest shopping trip ever.🎁😑
Oh what a tangled web we weave when we try to proceed πŸ•Έ(without going out to the shops).
Let it be a lesson for me... Trying to save time has resulted in re-orders, not knowing where my items are and the inevitable waiting in for a parcel ( or 5). In most cases the shops are not in our town and I couldn't simply go in and make a purchase. Their stores are in Cornwall and that's five hours away.
It would have been quicker to have driven there and back... (But too exhausting.)

What to do in the future? Find another deposit point, or just stop buying things? ... It is a first-world problem. The dalai lama would simply laugh and have something philosophical to say about the way we make ourselves ill going to work to make money to buy things we don't really need.

Happy hallowe'enπŸŽƒ

Monday 2 October 2017

Are we behaving as if it's the 1930s?

My novel opens in 1918 on the day women, aged 30, finally got the 'married women's vote'. Ninety-nine years ago around 8 million women stood alongside men, in the polling booths. It took another ten years for universal suffrage to be extended to all in the UK. The 'Votes for Women'  movement was a grass-roots pressure group forcing the government's hand. Today, almost a century later,  we hear how votes for a referendum in Catalonia - for a declaration of independence from Spain - was banned by Spain's constitutional court. Police used force to try to block voting. As an interviewer on 'Today' stated Spain is a young democracy, having been ruled by Franco from pre-world war two until his death in 1975. In other words they are still learning how democracy works.

My father always said the USA is a young country, implying they are still learning how to run themselves whilst, apparently, being the most powerful nation in the world. When the USA went to the presidential polls last year, Donald Trump, at best 'a wild card' with his lack of  political experience, gained fewer votes than Hillary Clinton, a political heavy-weight, yet he was voted in as President.
This was described as a populist movement against the political elite.

In Britain we have had a referendum which asked us simply 'should the UK remain in the EU?'.
In another soi disant populist attack on our political status quo the vox populi was to leave the EU.

The situation in Spain, the USA and in the UK show democracy in action, struggling for birth or re-birth, but shifts in people's perception of who they want to represent them are taking place. In Germany Mrs Merkel has been voted in for a fourth term as Chancellor, but with neo-Nazis nipping at her heels. Her stability seems desirable but at a considerable cost if neo-Nazism is on the move.

My novel ends two weeks after Britain has declared war on Germany in 1939. Europe and the USA beat the Hitler dictatorship. The slump of 1929 sent shockwaves through western economies and people were poor, unemployment was very high and the lot of the common man - and woman - was desperately hard in the 1930s. Economic unrest can lead to civil unrest and war.

Do we have this level of civil unrest and poverty now, causing populist movements ie Trump's ascendancy and the UK referendum? It is said parts of Bristol, in the UK, are as poor as the dreadful days of the 1930s. But is this a localised pocket of poverty? Are children walking the streets barefoot as pictures from the 1930s reveal?

It seems one reason for the populist vote for Trump was a result of the American rust belt ... declining industry, joblessness, folk forced to move to find work. A reason for our UK referendum leading to Brexit was, similarly, joblessness, a belief that being in the EU meant Eastern Europeans were free to travel to the UK and take 'our jobs' and school places. Again joblessness or austerity have, possibly, created a gass roots movement leading to a protest against current politics and politicians. More voted in the UK ref than in any general election. Is this democracy at work? I would defend the right, of course, for people to have a referendum. If the people of Catalonia want a referendum it's easy for me to say they should have it. But what if London wanted a referendum to split from the rest of the UK, or Birmingham, or, as nearly happened, in Scotland's referendum, the Scots voted to leave the UK? We wouldn't want that level of independence and break up. Spain likely doesn't want Catalonia to leave it. Democracy is hard to achieve; it can lead to outcomes we don't all want.

Thus democracy is good if the results of a democratic vote go the way you want it to. I didn't vote for our Conservative government, I think its austerity policy has damaged thousands of our most vulnerable citizens and I certainly didn't vote for Brexit. However, since 2010, Britain has had a democratically elected Conservative government, which I don't like, but we aren't a dictatorship. Are the conditions across the USA and Europe as bad as the 1930s? Blaming East Europeans for our joblessness sounds familiar. Despite my dislike of Trump and our Conservative government we don't have neo-Nazis nipping at our heels like Chancellor Merkel in Germany. Aren't they the elements to watch? Trump, austerity Britain and our Conservatives will go. Democratically. But we know what damage was done in 1933 by Hitler and his Nazis.And we have just seen Attwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale' on UK TV.  Let's hope the conditions in the USA and Europe are not the same now as in the 1930s, nor Gilead. Let's hope further discontent can be avoided and no extremist force takes over in any of our democracies in the forseeable future. Perhaps we are all still learning how to be democratic, not just Spain. Let's hope upheavals in the land are small ones and not the seismic shifts of the 1930s. We don't want another 1939.