Category Archives: Blogs

No more wardrobing

I’m guessing Son’s had it with working in wardrobes.

Personally I liked – or rather, I preferred – to have my [holiday] desk in a wardrobe than not to have one at all. Although I will admit to moving to the dining table more these days, so maybe my wardrobe days are over.

Office

When it came to serious writing some months ago, Son clearly didn’t want to sit tight, so to speak, so he sourced a leftover, cobwebby desk and carried into a ‘free’ space. I suspect he just wanted to sit next to the cardboard fish on the wall. Not everyone has them.

Temporary office

After all, if he was that fond of ex-wardrobes, he could have stayed at home and sat in his own closet office.

The office

And now, he’s finally some place where he can build a proper workspace, even if it doesn’t look so promising yet.

Office-to-be

Maybe I should get him a fish.

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Pleasing people

Aunt Scarborough was back in town over the weekend. She came with her daughter Alloa, and we ‘all’ went to have a look at a building site, before having afternoon tea. As you do.

Over tea Alloa thanked me much more profusely than there was a need for, for the book Please Mr Panda, which was one of the books I sent along when Scarborough moved away from here a couple of years ago. I’ve enjoyed other Steve Antony books, but never got round to reviewing the panda one. I was merely glad to be able to pass it on.

Steve Antony, Please Mr Panda

Alloa has several grandchildren, so I reckoned someone would be the right age for the various books. It seems her youngest grandchild, aged three, absolutely loves Mr Panda. It sounded like it’s the kind of book we’ve probably all known, where a child reads the same book over and over again.

It appears he was so keen that he even dressed up as Panda for [I think] World Book Day. And the lucky young man, being the great grandchild of a woman who knits doughnuts, even had the doughnuts to complete his dressing-up.

All this makes me very happy.

Learning to write?

To be honest, I have always wondered if you can really go to classes to learn how to write a book. A real book, that someone would want to publish, and others would want to read. Somehow the snob in me says that if you’re any good, then you just sit down and write and out comes a masterpiece. Rather like concert pianists, who sat down in front of a piano and…

Hang on. They didn’t. They quite possibly had a piano teacher. Maybe struggled a little even, before greatness struck.

So while I did initially wonder if taking a year out to learn how to write a children’s book at some university or other, was actually time well spent, I have come to the conclusion that it is. Far too many authors, whose books I have enjoyed, have done those courses, for it to be a fluke. Perhaps they would have done well regardless, but I’m sure the classes helped.

‘MA Creative Writing-speak’ was a new concept to me when it appeared in Julie Myerson’s review of debut author Sharlene Teo’s novel in the Guardian. She didn’t like it much, I think. And she seemingly doesn’t care for authors who have taken writing classes. Except, I understand that she teaches writing. For the Guardian.

Most of us learned to write at school, and not necessarily from a teacher who was terribly good at it. But we did learn, and some have gone on to be quite marvellous at it. I’ll repeat what I used to preach at Offspring; any way that we learn something is a good way.

But on the whole I’d rather that my surgeon went to medical school before she does anything to me. None of this feeling inspired and deciding to have a go to see what it’s like.

Or you could just be famous. That usually helps with the writing skills.

Quite moving

Today the Resident IT Consultant and his witch will rest. It’s not as well-earned a rest as I’d hoped for, because we were pretty useless ‘helping’ Son and Dodo move yesterday. I had visualised myself being tremendously helpful, but despite failing at that, I still managed to get quite tired.

I had hoped that there would be no bed-related problems, such as having to throw it across the fence from the neighbouring garden. Instead of any tossing, there was nothing. It wouldn’t even go up the stairs.

So the Resident IT Consultant and Dodo went off to that Swedish shop for an emergency bed, while I unpacked the kitchen boxes and Son stashed the contents in all the new cupboards where no one will find anything from now on.

The book boxes are another kettle of fish. The books came. The Billys stayed behind.

Charged

But at least there were removal men doing the lifting and carrying. The above photo illustrates how the world has changed; no tea needed to keep them going, but a hasty iPhone feeding with borrowed charger is what you do in this day and age.

Sea view

When my tired knees made it up to the top floor, I could see for myself that they have indeed a sea view from the bedroom window. Well, a Forth view, which is just as good. (I walked up. I didn’t crawl on my knees, or anything.)

They fed us well. The vegan wrap for lunch was really good, as was the South Indian dinner delivered to the new door, and polished off with chai in Moomin mugs.

Moomin mug

And then we had to find a new way home, in the almost dark. It’ll take a bit of getting used to.

More George, and more Duffy

Great news on the crime front!

Today sees the publication of the fifth George McKenzie novel by Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge. It’s ‘only’ the ebook today, but don’t despair. On May 3rd we get the whole collected George on paper for the first time! I can’t tell you how much I am looking forward to that. Except I just did. Sort of.

Marnie Riches, The Girl Who Got Revenge

I imagine Marnie is equally pleased to see her first crime babies in actual print, after her Born Bad series which came last year.

I will get back to you when I’ve read about George’s revenge.

And on the Irish front, it seems we are to be rewarded with three more Duffy novels from Adrian McKinty. I had suspected the worst, but it would appear that Duffy didn’t sail into a permanent sunset after all. In fact, with news of three books, I will dare hope, and expect, that Sean Duffy lives through at least two and a half of them.

Adrian McKinty

So, plenty more Irish history for Duffy to solve crimes in, and no one could be happier than I am. Not sure how long a wait there will be, but it will be worth it.

Good news too for the Resident IT Consultant who has belatedly begun reading all six books. Don’t know what took him so long!

Geniuses

Well, isn’t that just fantastic?

Less than a year after I wrote about Sara Danius, permanent secretary to the Swedish Academy, she’s been forced out. I’m fairly certain her being a woman is not immaterial.

It’s so bad the King is planning on knocking some sense into the remaining members. Except, I’m fairly certain this is another instance when there are already too many ‘posh’ older men involved, and we don’t need another one, even if he is the boss of the so called geniuses of the academy. He’s also been in hot water, in the not too distant past.

As Jonas Gardell, who is someone very famous in Sweden, wrote in one newspaper, if it happens behind locked doors, it’s not going to be good. That’s true in more everyday circumstances, and I’m fairly certain he’s right. It was just we didn’t think about it before.

Klas Östergren i Edinburgh 2009

I somehow believed people, even when they are men, could be decent. The two academy members I’ve met have been. That’s one ordinary member – Klas Östergren – and one former permanent secretary – Peter Englund. And presumably I was right about them, as they were two of the three who resigned first. I was surprised when I read about that, but should have realised it was a sign worse was to come.

Peter Englund

In a year when women are standing up for their rights, it’s sort of interesting that in a country like Sweden, the establishment feels so established that they can ignore reports of rape and generally inappropriate sexual behaviour by people in and out of, but close to, the academy. That they can just get away with it.

It seems it’s one or two of the former permanent secretaries who can’t quite give up being boss, and who are of an age where they feel entitled, who are [mostly] behind all this. As Jonas Gardell wrote, they’ve won the battle, but they won’t win the war. I hope he is right.

And how can you have a member who passes on academy secrets, such as who’s about to get the next Nobel Prize for literature, to her husband? And if she didn’t do it, it appears the husband is tight with enough members that he could have heard it from any of them. He is the sex pest, apparently. As an exile I’d never heard of him, but it seems he runs a business financed by the academy, where he has access to women to pester.

I’m fairly certain that this will be a tough problem to solve, if it’s even possible. But I fail to grasp how this could have been the fault of the relatively new, and female, permanent secretary. My bet is on a few of the men. Perhaps kick them out in Sara’s place?

The problem being, of course, that you are supposed to die on your chair. You can’t resign or be fired. That’s why there are now too few members left.

Oink?

The very young witch found it terribly amusing that when the French count, they go eight-oink-ten. If you’re OK with a bilingual example not featuring any French at all, that is?

As native English-speaker Keith Moore, married to a Swede, discovered, Old McDonald is not only called Per Olsson, but his pigs go nöff-nöff. Or they do, if you are bringing your baby up to speak Swedish.

It’s tricky, this bilingual business.

I’m not all that sure I know what pigs sound like. They grunt, don’t they? Both nöff and oink are a little wrong. Luckily some animals sound much more like their European neighbours, and as long as we don’t get involved in actual spelling, a mjau is as good as a meow. Same with mu and moo, and [almost] vov and woof.

See, I’m bilingual in animal as well!

That same young witch happily repeated what others at school taught her, with no grammatical feel for what makes English correct, when they said ‘I buy pink sheet.’ This was a way of ‘speaking English’ while also covering three ‘Swedish’ toilet-based words.

But I continue to feel sorry for the French who go oink every so often.