Saturday, October 31, 2009


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Work With A Capital W

Only yesterday I was thinking that, should no other project fall out of the sky, I’d go back to being even more skint than I already am and, lo and behold, here is the answer to my worries and my little faith, if I can call it such: as I was sitting glassy-eyed and preoccupied, cradling the Starbee I managed to buy with the last £ 2 in my purse, a flurry of emails flash up on screen and a string of attachments reveal plays, pictures, short stories, essays and another book to work on. I am, again, saved.

This time though, we are not just talking about two books to edit; there are plays to formalise in style, essays with references to sort out, images to identify and another book that has been described as ‘the most miserable hellish experience ever’. But, surely, it can’t be worse than what I was doing two weeks ago, right? Apparently, yes, and I should perhaps consider myself flattered by the publisher’s belief that he will not feel so awful at the thought of tackling it again once I have intervened. This guy has some great expectations and I’d be damned if I disappoint him.

This unexpected, but prayed for, avalanche of work (paid work, dare I say it) has left me ever so slightly dazed, almost unable to figure out the path ahead. And let’s be clear on this one, I am racking up so many requests and things to be looked into that quite some plotting out will have to be involved. I resist the term plan because, although I am a planner by nature and birth (an anal Virgo), planning doesn’t go hand-in-hand with creative individuals. I am not over-stating when I tell you that 50,000 words of my PhD (that is, three quarters of it) were written off the cuff, not really knowing what I wanted to say, why or indeed how I was going to say it.

The outstanding thing is that three-quarters of this PhD were written in one-tenth of the time since the my registration so... that’s quite telling. By contrast, while working in ‘management’, whatever that is, we spent all of our time planning what we would do and doing very little of what was on the plan. Once I was asked to draft a plan on how to update the revised plan in order to get back in line with the original plan. Do you know how that one ended? With the client getting pissed off and scrapping the project, quelle surprise. That’s why I like to plan the very bare minimum and then I prefer to get on with it.

Much else lies ahead. The course I’ve been taking is spear-heading towards completion, many ideas have originated and two are already hatching as I type. I’ve met a great group of people that are not just friends but actual important resources and that I am sure will help me in the process of formalisation of those ideas I speak of. It all takes time and now I need to re-group, mentally but especially emotionally, and figure out what ground-work is necessary. But I’ll tell you what I really need to come to terms with: being finally able to work by myself and for myself. I’ve wanted this for a very long time and now that it is happening, and now that the work I am doing is intellectually rewarding and is what I always wanted to do, I am so fucking drained I almost do not feel like celebrating. But that has got to change because from now on I am going to be happy.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Today has been One Of Those Days. You start off all vibrant and on top of things, ticking items off the list, humming to yourself that the best way is the focused way and then... And then something as insignificant as £ 1.64 places itself between you and your feeling, if not happy, at least serene and everything changes. £ 1.64 is the amount of money in my bank account today. It wouldn’t be too bad if I knew that a nice, fat salary (or even an ugly, thin one) would materialise itself on Friday but you know what my situation is like, I now get paid by project, and not that much at that, and so I live on the proverbial shoestring. Why am I telling you this? Am I fishing for empathy? No. Actually, this is a post about editing, not about the state of my bank account.

Like so: the first book I proof-read was dire. And I mean FUCKING DIRE. In fact, I did not proof-read it, I edited it. No problem with that, right? Absolutely no problem, as I know what I am doing. However, a few days after I sent it forth to prosper, I started thinking about the general editor of this book, someone I do not know personally but whom I know is a full-time academic and who, crucially my friends, had already edited the book. Did he really? Why could I possibly have found stuff such as I might have caught the figure of a clown when I jerked off my mental recapitulations in it then?

Surely, an editor would have at least flagged that abomination as a bit of an odd sentence, right? I am asking you now: what do you think it means? Let me say that again: I might have caught the figure of a clown when I jerked off my mental recapitulations. Because I don’t know what it means. I couldn’t even figure it out by the convoluted context either (and I spare you the context, for the rest of the page is itself stomach-churning). It makes no sense. Yet the general editor of that stuff thought it was ok. I’ll tell you more, he also thinks that regrettable and regretful are interchangeable. He doesn’t know the difference between incidence and incident. He scatters commas over the page as pigeons shit over everything that moves and doesn’t move. But he is a lecturer in English, let’s be clear on this one, and a general editor of the stuff I had to edit with a pick and an axe.

While I was chipping away at these 214 pages, I did not think much of it. Sure, I was shaking my head in disbelief as I had never known a ‘writer’ capable to use four different tenses within a two-and-a-half line sentence, but even less likely did I think an editor capable to read that sentence, nod in approval and move on. It’s shocking and even more shocking (and pernicious, as an erudite friend of mine says) is knowing that this person is a lecturer in English. Oh my God, Jesus, Mary and all the saints.

I told you already that I know of lecturers that consistently (and that’s key my friends, consistently, for it indicates ingrained belief) mix up palette with palate with pallet. I think that only an idiot could do so but I also wouldn’t be likely to rant about it if that person were a plumber or a builder or a footballer. When it’s a senior lecturer in English that makes the mistake over and over and over and over and over... well, I lose the will to live. The same senior lecturer also uses it’s and its interchangeably. Others I’ve had the misfortune to come across do not know the difference between a semi-colon and a colon or between use and usage or license and licence.

Some say that native speakers are usually sloppy, but this is an excuse that holds about as much water as 'Hitler hated the Jews because they killed Jesus'. If native speakers were always sloppy, then a native speaker that knows grammar and uses it well would be a freak occurrance. Luckily, this isn't the case, as there are as many competent native speakers as there are incompetent ones.

I, in any case, and allow me to blow my own trumpet for a second here, can recognise conceits, hyperbatons, hyperboles, paratactic vs. hypotactic constructions; fables, fabliaux, fabula, fabulation, fancy and fantasy (and there I’ve just given you some alliterative examples too). But all of this is normal in my book. I’ve got a PhD for God's sake, I would expect no less. Yet, here I am correcting a lecturer in English and general editor that doesn’t know the difference between commas and full-stops, irrelevance and irreverent, kinesis and kinectic, nose and ass. Shite like this by the fucking truckload my friends. And here I am, with £ 1.64 in the bank. There you go.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hooked Up

A few weeks ago I started a crochet blanket. Not that I can afford enough wool for a blanket, but the reality is that I bought the materials over a year ago and then toyed with them for many months. Projects often work out like this; they have to go through a period of gestation that is completely incomprehensible to people whose idea of ‘creating’ is confined to following one of Nigella’s recipes, or reading Genesis from the Bible. Now the gestation is over and the blanket is coming along nicely.

I was at it all weekend and managed to add a very respectable three inches to it, which is a lot, really, if you consider that I started with twenty-seven little chains and I now have three hundred. It takes me ages to do one row. As the clocks went back last night and we stayed holed up both yesterday and today, autumn and light closing in outside, it seemed only natural to speed along with hook and yarn and tea and sweeties. I have also made a start on the second book I need to work on. This is in vastly better shape and, dare I say it, gripping stuff too. In fact, I am as hooked on that as I am on the blankie.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Blooming Mahvellous

Can you guess what this is? Not the jar of lemon curd, the thing on top?

You can't? Well, it is Blooming Tea by QuinTEAssential. Brew for a few minutes and then fish out the beautiful flower that has blossomed in the hot water!

I came across QuinTEAssential teas a few months back, trailing through the Alderley Edge farmers' market. I spotted little jars of tea blends, a smart-looking logo and... I followed, like the proverbial moth to the flame. I am so glad I did, because I hit it off with Bernadine right away. She really knows and loves tea, is very enthusiastic, has great interpersonal skills and her gourmet teas are right high up there with the best of them, such as Mariage Frères, Kusmi, Ladurée and Fortnum and Mason. In fact, the tea I am showing you here is one of the rarest teas around as the leaves are hand-rolled and stitched together as you can see for some on show on Fortnum's page.

Bernadine is about to launch her website and has already sent me the catalogue which showcases her special blends of green, white, black, red, oolong and rooibos and with names as catchy as Three Gods of Fortune, Garden of Eden and Parisian Morning. I've already tried a few and they are all equally incredible, with heady, mouth-watering scents which, unlike many other teas, do not die out the moment you add hot water. These are fragrant and remain so throughout the brewing process. I hope she does really well as these are teas to rival Kusmi's spectacular Prince Vladimir and Mariage Frères' super classic Marco Polo.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

That Time Of Year...

...and I looooove it!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Another Year

This month has gone by with a swoosh. Perplexing really, as I went through such TRAUMA last week that should have ensured time would pass with the same speed of a clock of doom. But no, it hasn’t. I went through a work (or better, lack of work) - related crisis and within six hours, crash boom bang, there is a job materialised for me. I am booked on three publishing projects right now and getting paid for the first time in one year. I am still in shock, if truth be told, and the three days after my appointment as proofreader/editor of these works, depending on the state they are in, I couldn’t do much at all, as my nerves were shot to pieces and my mind was elsewhere. Not that I know where exactly. Maybe just taking time off.

Today I started the day with a triple-layered slice of chocolate cake, as it was Richie’s birthday. In fact, you can even spot him in the background of his slice, blue pj and ready to pounce on the cake and cup of tea. I didn’t go through the trouble of making the cake myself, as I normally do, because I just wanted to enjoy the choosing. I cannot say that anything off-the-shelf comes any close to what I make myself, not even when that something is from M&S, but this one was nice enough and will stick around for a few days, depending on how Rick wants to wing it. Cheers to Richie and to another year for him! He thinks I should do really well at my work so that he can retire soon and, really, who can blame him for thinking this way? When I received my latest pension statement, with a date thirty-five years into the future, I felt a bit queasy myself.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Pretty Girl

Monday, October 5, 2009

Pattering Of Not-So-Tiny Feet

I find feet perplexing and, generally, uninteresting. Is it because mine are ugly? I don’t know what it is, I just know that I don’t enjoy knowing that they even exist. And so it was with fear that I wielded the camera in the direction of my feet this week, as I am taking a course that had FEET as its first week’s task. I am sharing some of these snaps here today, my favourite one being the one with cobblestones taken at Dunham Massey today. I go so often and yet never take pics of anything below my waist. Lesson learnt I think... isn’t that ground really fetchy?

Thursday, October 1, 2009


When I built my little photo-mosaic yesterday, my trip to Oslo of a few years back bypassed me completely. It was only this morning, for no particular reason, that I found myself thinking of it, as I realised that I didn't include it in my little bird's eye view of places I've been to. And that's a shame because I remember this city as exceptionally white, blue, sunny and cool, how could I have possibly forgotten I've been there?

This sent me off on an over-drive of memories, thinking about how we tend to forget about people, places, events, unless we keep a record of them. I can assure you that the past two years or so are almost perfectly clear in my mind, and all because I vouched to keep a record of most things on here. And then I keep photographic records as well and receipt records and postcard records and lots of other records that will help me to remember, one day.

This is the reason why it is even more vital that I write a few lines today, as I have no image to post and I am seething over it. It was, and still is, the most fantastic autumnal day, with a near-clear blue sky, crinkling leaves underfoot and a cool breeze that signals the new season is well underway. I felt so at peace with myself today that my heart was jumping up and down in my chest with excitement, as if, I presume, it would do in case of winning the lottery perhaps. But no, I didn't win last night (I put a line in for real) and yet today was still a thrilling day spent in contemplation of where I am at and where I am going.

That's the clincher: where am I going? I don't know and I don't care. I realised not long ago that I resent this continuous forward-planning. I always used to forward-plan when I was younger and did it actually get me somewhere special? No, it didn't, and so now I've stopped doing it, I go with the flow, one day at a time. The post-PhD early days seemed weird. I think I was in mourning in some respects. Now I'm embracing the new and the unexpected and do you know something? When you expect nothing, you get loads.
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