Sunday, 13 April 2014

Strong, Please, Two Lumps. I'll Try the Other Attachments Later...

Not a lot of cord on it. Imagine how close you'd have to sit to the wall!

This has been the busiest and most stressful weekend I've had for a long time.  A bit of retail therapy was called for.

This was on sale at the antiques market in town yesterday.

Can you tell what it is?

I'm gonna tell you in a second...

I bet you can't stand the tension...


Oh, all right then.

Well my confuddled readers, what we have there is an Edwardian vibrator. OH spotted what it was. I'm not sure the person selling it even realised, as after we had a giggle with him about it, he started parading it round the other stall holders to show them. It was quite late in the day too. Well, let's face it, not the sexiest of toys is it? It looks more like an electric sander than a source of sublime pleasure. Mind, both sorts of implement involve a bit of DIY.

You can ooh it if you B&Q it?
Wickes: it's got our body fluids on it?

Should you be interested in purchasing your very own antique lady pleasurer (for the pleasuring of antique ladies, p'raps?), it comes with numerous attachments with different materials and textures, and has two settings of 'weak' and 'strong'. There's also 'off', but God knows why you'd need that. And given its antiquity, and that dodgy cord, I can only imagine it still has the power to shock.

We bought something else.
Frugalistas, please look away now, because to cheer me up, OH took me to the cinema. Full price. 3D!!! Was he mad? I can only assume the sight of a hundred-odd year old stimulator had excited him beyond sense. Anyway, we went to see Captain America 2: the Winter Soldier.

For a while, it looked like we would have the cinema to ourselves. Having chosen seats towards the back, OH was a bit dissatisfied with his choice and suggested we move forward two rows. Then, just before the film was about to start, in came another couple. 

Would you believe it? They'd only bought tickets for the seats we'd moved to.

They were fine, "No, don't worry, we'll sit here. No, tell you what, we'll move to the VIP seats, why not?"

And so they moved, and they giggled, and they chatted through the final trailer. They were funny, and we laughed with them. And then the film started. And they didn't shut up. And they were up and down, fetching more snacks, and missing crucial plot points that they had to discuss. In fact it as commentary the entire way through the film. They were very disappointed with the totally logical character development of Bucky.

And because we'd sat in their seats we didn't dare say a thing.

Talk about karma!

But then they left before the post trailer extra bit. So they missed all that.

Karma bit you back in the butt. Ha!

Thursday, 3 April 2014

What I did Instead of Going to Wales

So this weekend I could have gone to Sci fi Weekender in North Wales.  Some of my friends did and had a jolly good time.

I spent Friday night helping a friend celebrate their birthday.  My helpfulness extended beyond the point where he had actually gone home, so my Parkrun time on Saturday morning was a shocking 33 minutes.

But it was a nice day and all, so I went to town to do a bit of protesting.  As you do.

 The council intends to bring cars back to Abington Street.   It's going to mess up access, damage the local cafes who have had their open air licenses revoked and generally make being in town less pleasant.  Also they will have to borrow money for the conversion. Not cheap. So this chalkupy protest was brought about to show the council that people are opposed to these plans.  I added my contribution,  but to be honest couldn't hang about too long: I'm an editor and some of the spelling was making me twitch.

So I went to the library - and joy, one of the BSFA shortlisted books I'd not read yet was in.  Halfway through that one now.

On Sunday, I decided to make the most of the gorgeous spring weather and headed out with OH for an epic bike ride.  I saw at least five different types of butterfly,  and the air floated with the first scatterings of blossom.  Wild pansies in the hedgerows.  What season is this?

Our ride took us to Brampton Halt. The steam trains were going up and down the track and we waved enthusiastically at the passengers and driver.

Honestly, they were smiling...
 I decided to treat OH to a wee drinkie at the local. Which was a bit pricey. I contented myself with reading the BBQ menu, which is apparently "the most unique." I've heard the food is nice, though.

Clearly written by a fantasy writer... I mean, look at those capitalized nouns. And adjectives...
We decided to cycle on to the Brixworth Country Park. OH was ogling some bikes in the bike shop when a couple of our friends turned up, and they rode back with us along the gruelling Merry Tom Way, or as I call it Miserable Bastard Tom Way. It's all hills, holes and gravel. Nasty!

I didn't half ache after, but I felt dead proud of myself. That was about 14 miles in all. I want to get a bit more active, and cycling helps me to see some cool stuff nearby without splashing the cash.

On Monday, I treated OH to a night out at the flicks. Yet again we took advantage of the free movie night at one of the local bars, The Picturedrome. Anchorman 2 is not as bad as everyone says it is... honest. Okay... a lot of the same points of humour are massively over-laboured. But I love Brick Tamland. And lamp. I love lamp. I LOVE LAMP!

We are saving the pennies to go to another convention, but the pennies only come gradually. Having missed the super cheap flights that we saw last month, it is now making much more sense to take the train. Just 2 trains, 5 hours, easy. To make it as cheap as possible, we have bought the Two Together card, which will save us 1/3 off train travel all over the UK for a year. There's also an offer on the Gourmet society that we can use, which I might look into.

A word of advice... if you are looking to get the Two Together card yourself, don't do what I did and go to the station. You can order it online, load up any digital photo of yourself you like (so, it can be a nice one, taken for free, not a horrid photobooth one) so long as you are facing the camera, and for a short while you can get £3 discount too.

However, I also used Quidco to get 3% cashback. So what I didn't manage to save on buying online, I'll get back.

Planning ahead, I've made a note of where the supermarkets are for supplies, and got a list of all the pubs where we can use our CAMRA discount sorted. I'm a bit disappointed that the local Parkrun seems to be a taxi ride away, so I'm probably not going to be a Parkrun tourist this time.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The never ending knitting. ah ahaaah ah ah aaah ah ah aaaaah!

Hello once again,  my dwindling faithful readership.

Some good news since I last wrote.  We now have wifi at home!  So I may be able to update slightly more frequently - schedule permitting of course.

And of course,  it hasn't been.  So I am still writing this on the bus.

The month has been chockablock with preparation for Eastercon,  editing and the like,  about which you can read more about on the 'What's New' section of my fairly recently revamped website

Over the past two weeks I have made a couple of trips to London. Once for the Clarke Award shortlist party and once to interview my guests Gaie Sebold and Paul Kincaid for the BSFA open evening.  All jolly good fun. With frugal hat on I made use of a £16 voucher bought for £ 8,  Network Railcard and Quidco cash back to make these journeys as cheap as possible.

With unfrugal hat on, I decided to shell out for a Weight Watchers subscription.  My Fitness Pal is ace, and totally free,  but the psychological advantage of having paid for my journey back to fitness means I am concentrating on it a bit more.

I have also taken advantage of free delivery and ten quid off to stockpile some Filling and Healthy foodstuffs. Feeling much better about myself already,  just a week into it. If I manage to dip below 10 stone by May I am promising myself sewing lessons.

Craft wise, I am knitting against the aging process!

...what I mean is I am making a present for a baby and the child is already 2 months old. It's like the Paula Abdul of knitting projects as I knit 2 rows forward and then undo a row back.

I've also been making nice jewellery cards such as the one below.

Right,  about to run out of signal. Eek!

Monday, 10 March 2014

My Hugely Busy Life

Hello!  Humongous apologies to anyone who was hoping this would be a nice long post after a break of over a month. I kept putting a post off until I had more time,  but there just hasn't been any.

Plus,  my home wifi is knackered,  so if I fire the Internet up it is for work stuff.

Work is going well. I have a few commercial and private editing commissions on the go. I was hoping for a bit of time to write as well,  so grabbing that when I can. This includes some stand up material that I was able to try out at my first gig for a while on Friday night for a charity night in Silverstone.  That was a remarkably pleasant evening.  I shan't be able to commit to a decent number of gigs just yet,  so staying under the radar for now with a few open spots and not trying to push too hard. That said,  if anyone has a spot for me,  do let me know.

Comedy-wise I have also been bouncing again for Robin Ince and have been lucky enough to get onto the guest list for Helen Keen's new series of It is Rocket Science. These were brilliant shows and I will expand on what they were like in later posts.

Also I had free tickets to see A Tale of Two Cities at the theatre last week,  which was awesome.

Writing-wise I also have a story coming out in Newcon Press' s Noir anthology... I will post pics of the cover soon.

Scratting fans, I believe I have scratted just over 30p since last mention.

I do have some thrift book reviews coming up, and craft pics,  so will hopefully be back to normal service soon.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Giant Steps Are What You Take

Frugal fun

I am still chockablock with work,  and have only a few minutes to get my words down while on the bus. But I did take a break to do a couple of nice things in the last week.

The Moon Field

Last Thursday I went to a lovely free book reading for the launch of local author Judith Allnat's new book The Moon Field.
We learned about how family stories had inspired this tale of two working class lads who ended up volunteering to fight in the First World War. It is set against the picturesque and tranquil surroundings of Keswick, contrasted with the horror and destruction of Flanders. Can't wait to read it. There was wine and nibbles too.

Why not subscribe to your local library blog to see what interesting things they are putting on?

Not Now,  Chewie

It being the Chinese New Year (horse!), of course I spent a little bit of time with my family for story readings with my nephew and munching of new year cake (yum,  thanks,  Annie! )

However,  on Friday I went to a New Year party at my friend Zoe's house.  Her boyfriend is Mexican but lives in China so it seemed appropriate to celebrate... with a science fiction theme??? Yes. So OH and I dressed as rough interpretations of the Tom Baker Doctor Who and Bennie Summerfield (using our actual clothes) and joined Fliss, a couple of Neos, stormtroopers,  dragons, Alien, Predator, a Dalek, Arthur Dent a character from City of Bones,  Poison Ivy and Jon Pertwee. We played pass the parcel and Death Star piñata. They made that. Isn't it brilliant!


Last week's 'found money' 10p. Diminishing returns methinks...

Things that make you go grr

Other bloggers have mentioned stuff that's not terribly helpful for those looking for the frugal way. I cite the BBC's Food and Drink.  Their 'budget' show had a great piece by Arabella Weir on how families might well choose biscuits over apples if down to their last 30p, but lovely Tom Kerridge and lovely Michel Roux junior were just a tad out of touch. Tom's recipe for lamb with mash and salsa  verde might well have costed down to £2 per portion but I suspect that capers, anchovies and fresh herbs are not store cupboard staples for the majority.  And where can you buy just 2 shallots? MRJ's recipe for souffle was even more badly thought out than that... costing a pudding at £2 per head hardly makes it budget.  And he used  vanilla pod... pod!

Yummy food for sure,  but could have done better.  I mean,  if you can buy a frozen gateau for £2, why spend hours making a pudding for £8?

Still love the show.  And OH tickled me by saying,  "I married Tom Kerridge.  Only the smaller version." Yeah,  never mind that he's also bald and a man. There's a compliment in there somewhere.

Oh, and I got quoted in The Guardian last week announcing the BSFA Award nominations.  Which was nice.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

The Long Haul


Apologies, dear reader, for my absence. Life suddenly got very hectic. I have been doing so much work in the evenings I've not had time for my blog. Neither have I had a lot of heart as some of our financial plans were thwarted by unforeseen circumstances. Dur du-duuur! I see this blog as being about positivity, and need to be in a chipper frame of mind to write that way, hence I didn't write. However, plans are adjusted following our disappointment, so the mood lighting of this scene is a tad warmer and accompanied by some soft jazz. Chill... everything's gonna work out just fine...

Hello, hello?
Hello new follower, Bruce! Welcome.  I promise it's not always this chaotic round here. 

I am a Horror Writer. Welcome to my Darkplace...
Author... Dreamweaver...

What a couple of weeks I have had!  Over in writer/editor/science fiction land I have been working like crazy. A short  story has been finished and sent to my editor for publication a little later this year,  and I have been busy with BSFA Award stuff too. They will be announced next week. Editorial work has been taking up most of my time, though. I'm currently working on a memoir for a private commission at the moment which is very intensive, but the old East End character of the writer's voice shines through, so I'm thrilled to be helping with what will be a lovely and unique family heirloom. 

Over on the Northampton Science Fiction Writers Group blog, co-Chairman Ian Whates has summarised everything we've been up to in 2013. It already looks like this year is going to be even busier. Except I'm not getting married again. Apart from that, really, really busy.

One thing OH and I are getting up to this year is script-writing with comedian Tom Young, the purposes of which I will keep shush for now. Very excited about this project though. A clue... it's pretty geeky.

If Your Name's Not on the List, You Might Still Be Able to Get In, I'll Just Check...

I have also been bouncing again.  This time for Robin Ince, who this time came to NN with Jo Neary (who I performed with in the old Fishmarket a couple of years back),  George Egg and Grace Petrie. What a marvellous night! Robin was doing his Dirty Book Club - like the Bad Book Club, only more sexah.  My verdict: very, very funny - all of them. I  love Grace Petrie's songs, too; I have been listening to her for a while.  Also, I got to try maple bacon as cooked by George Egg. Egg does bacon pancakes very well. This might sound like I was so impressed with the acts I ended up staying for breakfast,  oo-er, but it was an act thing and I don't want to describe it in detail,  as you may very well go and see him do it,  which you should. 

Robin Ince: dressing like he means it.
I've Seen Bigger...

I have also been complaining. I'd like to say my complaints were always as successful as this one. You know about Mars' recent health-drive to save us calories? Well, they've improved the recipe and downsized their chocolate bars. Very worthy, and I can't argue with that. But I did take exception to paying for a load of air.
But I got an apology from them - their cutting machines had cut my bar too short they reckoned. And a sweet £2 voucher. Get in!

Scratting About
I also gained 25p in 'Found money' this week for my Sealed Pot Challenge. I put a quid's leftover change in 20p pieces into OH's much depleted Doctor Who DVD collection, and earned my first Quidco cashback. 69p. Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!
I Appear to Have Gone Bananas

 So, I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger.  What did I do with the rest of the bananas? 

Well,  I made chutney.  So you can breathe now.  Right after you've stopped spluttering.  Banana chutney? Yes indeed.  Very lush it is too. 

*Imagine here a picture of the actual chutney I haven't taken yet*

We're talking 8s and 9s here

 I used: 5 overripe bananas
1 wrinkly Golden Delicious
8 pitted chopped dates
1 red chilli (this was a yellow sticker buy)
3 really small onions from a  savers bag - one medium one would be equivalent
pinch salt
250ml white wine vinegar
100g soft brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground ginger

Really was as simple as frying the onions and spices, adding the fruit and vinegar, then the sugar, bubbling it away for a bit, then storing it in jars as you would jam. I sterilised my jars first, and added a greaseproof disc to the top of the chutney. This stops the metal tainting the chutney. Then, to properly seal, I boiled the closed jars in some water for a few minutes. A great way of using up fruit that's no good for eating as fruit anymore.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

How Not to Be a Right 'Nana.

How are we all doing? Keeping up the resolutions? Good, good...
I have to say I am feeling pretty proud of myself so far...  firstly, I did the very first Parkrun of the year even though it was tipping it down with rain!! As a 'well done' I was allowed entry to a competition to win a place at the Virgin London Marathon. Maybe I'll do a marathon this year then? Or not... Oh Cripes; hope I don't actually win...
Then when I got in, I noticed OH had accidentally opened a letter for me from the bank. Apparently I'd gone over my overdraft limit and they were going to charge me £10. TEN SQUID! I was livid!
I have signed up for a text alert so I get notification if I am nearing my limit within £50 or so. I can then go into my account online and pay in money to my account before 3.30pm to make sure I don't get charged. On the day in question I got the alert because I was close to the limit. So I went online, made sure I wasn't actually over, and then checked again at various points through the day. So I knew darn well I hadn't been.
Most people would just shrug their shoulders and eat more chocolate at such news. But I work hard to earn every tenner and I'm not going to put up with a charge like that. I mean a tenner - that's a round!
I decided to call in at the bank in person and sort it out. If you are ever going to do this, you must remember the golden rules of (cuts both ways) customer service:
  • Remember the person serving you is a human being; never be aggressive or rude. Keep your eyes friendly, your voice calm.
  • Use phrases like, I understand why you have to say that, but; I appreciate your position on that particular issue, however. Basically, soften up before you say 'but'.
  • They do have to be a gatekeeper and say no, but be persistent. And persistence shouldn't become aggressively persistent. If you reach an impasse, pause before going back to an earlier point.
  • A good way of getting them to understand where you are coming from is to ask questions. "If these transactions were done overnight, shouldn't I have seen them on my statement in the day?"
  • Don't argue about anything you know you are wrong about - you will trip up. They've seen it all and can spot chancers a mile off.
  • Remember to say thank you - a lot. Thank them for checking the facts again, looking things up for you, and thank them after they have helped.
And, dear reader, you will be pleased to know after a bit of persistence, I got my money back. And then the same person was an absolute lovely and helped me bag up my post-Christmas piggy bank change so I could bank it.
It's worth noting that when you sign up to an overdraft facility it's at the bank's discretion. But they look at the long-term benefits of letting you have access to services like that (because they can make more money) and as long as you don't become a credit risk or a bit of a banking lemon, it does them more good to keep you on side. Hence, going into my branch  - often - works for me.
And then I ate the chocolate anyway.
So, week 1 of 2014 and I'm making the most of what I can get, which this week was bananas. I picked up a bag of 15 for 19p. Some of them were still good eaters, but there were a couple turning very brown, some black. This is the state people think chuck/banana cake, but we wanted to do something a bit different. I had a special request from OH, who doesn't really do breakfast, but wanted some energy bars to help fuel morning exercise. I adapted this recipe from one in an old, old Weightwatchers book to do the business:
Banana Energy Bars
Yes, they're full of sugar, so have limited claim to actually being 'healthy'. But they are full of all natural ingredients and you get slow release energy from the oats as well as fast release from the sugar.
Ingredients and facts:
  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C, Gas mark 4. Line and grease your tray (about 17 x 25cm - I used a lasagna dish).
  • In a saucepan, slowly melt together the 100g spread, 50g sugar and 50g honey. When it's all melted, set aside to cool down a bit.
  • Sift 100g self-raising flour and a pinch of salt in a bowl, add the 125g oats, 50g sunflower seeds and 40g chopped dates.
  • Mash the bananas together, mix in beaten egg. Add this to the flour mixture.
  • Stir in the syrupy mixture.
  • Pour into the baking tray/lasagna dish/whatever you have, and bake for 25 minutes or so. It should be firm to the touch and golden brown.

  • Let it cool for a bit, then cut into 10 bars.

Of course, this didn't use many of the  bananas... tomorrow I will let you know what I did with the rest. Nothing rude... just another recipe thing.
In the meantime, listen to a creepy story read by creepy old me. It's live now on Pseudopod. I read The Violin Family by James Douglas, which won second place in the Escape Artist Forum's Flash Fiction Contest 2013.