Not the SMBC thing (I hope). Nope. I finally finished my paid work. And I don't know what to do with myself. Usually there is more work arriving before the last work has finished and that's great because it keeps me feeling (financially) secure, but it's nearly August and I've been winding down for the summer. I've got a job next week and a job the second week of August and spaces are available for anyone who wants to stop me blowing my entire fortune on a month at the Fringe (~20 tickets already purchased at huge expense) but right now I have no reports to write, no legislation to research, no courses to prepare, no nothing. I could do housework (it's been a hard year and a half), but I alphabetised a third of my books last weekend and I want to keep something fun to do. I could start preparing for my CEnv interview but they reckon it'll be at least 3 months. I could, I could, I don't know what to do.
On the other hand, it's going to rain all day tomorrow so I can stay in and do some marketing. And perhaps pick another lot of raspberries right now and drop them into my jar of vodka.
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Monday, June 10, 2013
At the end of March my contract with Ecus came to an end. When I decided to become independent I agreed to continue to work as a contractor for the company until they had replaced my wonderful ex-boss, Alison Fanshawe. I signed up for a year and that year is now long gone. I am still doing some work for those clients who specifically ask for me (bless them!) and I am still acting as Ecus' Training Manager. No new work will come from that direction though, and so I really need to start promoting myself and my services. The obvious first step was a website. Doug Spencer is hosting it for me and the beta, made using Sandvox, can be found at HunterEnv.co.uk
Having spent the last six years writing either environmental legal registers and environmental legal compliance reports for my various clients in between writing short bullet points on Keynote slides for training presentations I'm not sure I have my marketing writing style up to scratch but I'll be working on it over the next few weeks. Have a look.
Monday, December 31, 2012
I bought this book new in 1991, read it a couple of times then lent it out to anyone who was interested. Somewhere along the line it didn’t come back and I added it on to my list to re-buy when I saw it (along with Shockwave Rider, The Dispossessed and Ender’s Game). When Amazon came along I looked for it on there. I don’t know when it had gone out of print but it wasn’t even mentioned and for a long time it wasn’t in the secondhand section either. And then, joy! Not only was it available but there were a number of copies.
Monday, October 29, 2012
Jim Mowatt asked me to write a short piece for the special ZZ9 zine to be distributed at Novacon. Unfortunately I have a report to write. Urgently. While considering the dilemma I contemplated my procrastination options:
1. I must just check my work email
2. I need a mug of tea
3. Did I clean my teeth? I’ll just pop up and do that now
4. Look at the state of the carpet – I’ll feel more comfortable if I vac it (I know I don’t usually care but…)
5. Perhaps I should set the training days for next year
6. Before I do that I need to put bank holidays in my diary
7. And school holidays – mustn’t clash with those
8. I’d better call Gareth to check he’s happy with the dates
9. Now I’ve got Safari open I’ll just check my Yahoo! Account
10. Hurricane in Jamaica, selling virginity for $780,000 – I’ll have a quick look. It might come up in conversation
11. It won’t take long to check my demon account
12. And my gmail
13. Both of them
14. And perhaps I’d better check my demon account on line – odd things haven’t been coming through
15. I’d better finish the Humber Energy audit report and send it now it’s been proofed
16. I’ll just do the purl row of my knitting so I’m ready to increase on the next row
17. But what if I forget it’s an increase row? I’ll do the increase knit row
18. Time for another mug of tea
19. I’ll do the dishes while I’m in the kitchen
20. I’d better set an alarm for my meeting with Jess this afternoon
21. I’ll sort my expenses for September
22. And check the thesaurus for synonyms for procrastinate
23. Is ‘synonym’ the right word? I’ll check my dictionary
24. I’ll have a quick look at my ‘To Do’ list. Maybe spend ten minutes tweaking the order.
25. I’ll just give Darren a quick call – doesn’t do to forget the marketing
26. And email Edward James about Novacon
27. And Dave Hicks
28. Oops. Time for a pee. All that tea
29. I’ll clean the sink while I’m here
30. I should move the books from the chair back onto the shelves
31. And at least put the ‘A’s in order
32. And the ‘B’s
33. Whilst I’m up I’d best put the wine bottle in the recycling bin
34. And put the bin out – I know the collection’s not until Monday but I don’t want to miss it
35. There’s a helicoptor!
36. I haven’t watered this plant for ages, poor thing
37. Time to pop down to see Jess
38. Whilst I’m here I’ll wander down Sharrow Vale and pick up a loaf of bread
39. I wonder whether they’ve got any nice fruit at Sharrow Marrow
40. Just before I start the report I must make a mug of tea
41. Maybe I’ll write Jim’s piece
42. I’ll check his email again
Cripes! It’s only supposed to be a hundred words. It could take me days to edit it down. And bloody hell! The deadline was three days ago…
I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.
Saturday, September 15, 2012
This week Jeph Jacques, he of the wonderful Questionable Content, found that he couldn’t draw his usual Thursday cartoon because of a deep and debilitating depression. He notes that this often happens to him at the changing of the seasons. I find myself wondering at this. I find season change deeply delightful.
Summer comes anyway. The garden (such as it is) is growing and I can move into sleeveless t-shirts and lose the quilt. And the lovely soft grey rains of summer are simply delicious. Not this year of course. Long term dreary deluge gets wearing after a while. And the swifts! Shrieking and diving through the deep canyons of our terrace-lined streets, amazingly distant crescents skimming the high sky.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
So I’ve been working long hours and trying to fit life in around it. I’m just mildly concerned that I’m forgetting everything that has happened because I haven’t had time to reflect. A wander though my work diary reminds me of all sorts of wonderful things that we have done.
In March I had almost a week of work in the south, delivering two Waste Awareness courses to a construction company (Vinci plc) in London, doing a legal audit for Canon UK in Reigate and fitting in a sales meeting in Harrow. As these things spanned a weekend we took the opportunity to visit the wonderful Reeds. Ian, who is a very generous chap, introduced me to his friend Jilly Reed a long time ago. We’d love to see more of her but as she no longer comes to conventions and as Moat’s Tye is a long way for us the meetings are rare, and treasured all the more for that. Jilly puts me in mind of a splendid head girl from any of the books I read as a young teen; the terrifically enthusiastic and effortlessly ethical girl that we all tried to emulate and had tremendously passionate crushes on. Sigh. Chris, Ian points out, would have been an ideal District Commissioner from the days of empire, sitting on the veranda dispensing justice and gin. I adore them both. Through the haze of days passed I remember being mercilessly pampered, wined and dined, and long periods relaxing on the sofa in front of the fire chatting late into the evening. I’d like to live like this more often.
The next journey away from home was much less relaxing, the trip to Eastercon. Ian had found us a deal with the Sheraton, two hotels away from the Radisson, where we were on the club floor. Sally had a sofa bed and so the cost was lower than I feared especially as it was possible to get by on the food from the Club Lounge and the two hours worth of free drinks in the evening. The wine was surprisingly palatable for the price.
As Christina Lake and Doug Bell were running the fan programme all three of us were on prog. I enjoyed this part of the con immensely. We were also performing in one of Ian’s fannish musicals, ‘Oliver with a Twist’. As always with these things, the month leading up to the show was saturated with oliver. We wandered over to Julia and Doug’s to read through and pick up suggestions, Ian iterated and reiterated songs and jokes, rewriting feverishly, we prowled the aisles of Poundland looking for props and costumes, Ian dealt with Tech and marshalled cast, averting disaster and, at the con itself, publicised the thing relentlessly.
Much of the rewriting was caused by the change of venue. We were expecting to put on a little show in the fanroom and found we were actually scheduled for the main hall on the Sunday evening. Horrors! Ian’s little fannish production would have meant nothing to the wider con attendees and so a whole new show had to be constructed with minimal in-jokes but the same number of bad puns.
Something like this certainly gives a focus to a weekend, looming terrifyingly, rushing towards one like a juggernaut, performed in a complete funk and then gone, leaving us slightly deflated and relieved that things had not been worse. The usual post show examination of reviews and tweets was rather overshadowed by John Meaney’s performance at the BSFA awards and the gender parity row (of which more in the next Journey Planet). I hadn’t realised that the whole thing was going out live on UStream. I’d have gone on a diet. Well, no, I wouldn’t, but I’d have held my belly in more.
The very next weekend we had Julia’s hen party. She refused to wear the L-plates and silly veil and none of us were allowed to wear ‘Hen Party on Tour’ tshirts. What we did was go to Brown’s for cocktails and then to the Showroom where Julia had hired a cinema to show Ladyhawk. Oh the wonder! Whilst we were doing this in a very civilised manner Doug was crawling around the many pubs of Sheffield, tweeting his progress. Ian, not a beer drinker, became on honourary hen for the film. Of course he’s as lovely as Rutger Hauer. Ian and I abandoned the party as they trooped off for a curry and then for late night drinks at Julia’s.
We had a prior appointment with the Everly Pregnant Brothers at the City Hall.
I’m fairly new to the Everlys. My introduction was at last year’s street party where a bit of them performed for us. Richard lived on our road at the time and had his arm twisted mercilessly until he agreed to perform. There are lots of examples of their fine work on YouTube. You should look at it. They are a very localised phenomenon, selling out in Sheffield almost as soon as tickets go on sale. We had failed to get tickets to a concert earlier in the year and had arranged to go with my sister Sue and her chap, Robin, to see them in Leeds but the gig was cancelled due to lack of sales. This evening, in Sheffield, they had sold out the Irwin Mitchell Hall, a 2000 seat venue. The show was amazing, electric and at the end we wandered away dazed, singing ‘No Oven No Pie!’
Lots of work followed, nights away in Travelodges and Premier Inns, so unlike my stay in Harrow at the Grim’s Dyke Hotel, former home of WS Gilbert, but other than a picture of the satyr holding up the marble fireplace in the main hall I’m not going to mention this fine place again (though if you are in the area you should definitely stay there).
The next big event was, of course, the wedding of Julia Daly to Douglas Spencer at the Hilton Hotel, Sheffield. What can I say? Unlike one of Ian’s plays this day had been powering towards us for years, it seems. Julia looked fabulous in her lovely red dress, the setting was good and the cakes were amazing. It was very like a one day SF convention with a single programme stream, a number of normal people wondering what was going on and the same old fans in the bar. A huge thank you to Julia, Doug and, of course, Julia’s Dad, for a day to remember. Many photos were taken. Ian's are here (see parrot). Fran Dowd's are here (see cake). I’ve since asked the happy couple what they are going to do now the event is in the past and they haven’t given me a totally believable answer. Doug says he’s cleaning the house.
My last big event was our holiday in France. A Pete Atkin concert was organised in St Germain En Laye and, of course, we had to attend. As I say, Ian is very generous and one of the things he has shared with me is his musical enthusiasms. I’m not sure whether I am most grateful for Pete Atkin or Justin Currie. Justin has a sublime voice, good tunes and excellent lyrics, Pete has a fairly average voice, amazing tunes and Clive James lyrics.
The concert was performed in a room in the lovely chateau but before that we had to get there (East Midlands Trains, Eurostar & RER), book into our very pleasant hotel and go to a garden party at Oliver’s jolly nice house. It was sunny and hot and quite delightful because of the surrounding greenery and fresh breeze. And the rather nice wine. There was a quiz which I utterly failed at. I have no idea what songs are on what albums and the singles were way before my time. Everything is on iTunes and plays randomly. I couldn’t tell you what the B side of Beware of the Beautiful Stranger is. Never mind. There were enough people sitting in the shade under the trees who could so embarrassment was avoided, not that Pete could answer all the questions when asked to give a final judgement.
The concert was, as always, great, worth the distance travelled and in a delightful setting. The room was rather hot and Pete struggled to keep the guitar in tune but the songs never fail to inspire and there were some new ones to make us hope for a further CD release in the not too far distant future. Ian put a set list up but it will mean little to most people reading this. You should just go listen to at least one song. He’s on YouTube. And then buy all his CDs.
The day after the gig we packed up and headed for Le Bourg Dun and the Harveys. These fine people picked us up from Dieppe station, fed us and put me to bed. I’d developed a sore throat and lost my voice for a few days the week before the holiday so we also spent some time tracking down French pharmacies over the week. Again, a lot of the holiday was spent with me sleeping. I’m hoping that sooner or later I will have enough time and energy to do justice to a holiday with John and Eve. Eve cooked wonderful meals, we drank beer sitting in the garden in the afternoons in the shade of the peach tree (I was allowed to hang up washing - a nice little job that kept me from feeling completely useless) and wine in the evenings over dinner and later in the sitting room as we chatted until I headed for an early bed. John and Ian talked computers and played with Garageband. Poor Eve!
Having recently sold their house in England they are finally able to look for another house in Normandy, maybe off the main road, and most mornings Eve spent some time looking at what was available. Both John and Eve had work to do so we had plenty of time to laze around, something for which I was very grateful.
They packed us up in the car on Friday and we all headed back for the ferry to Dover so that John could play a Jubilee gig and we could have the bank holiday weekend at my house, see Ruddigore at the Lyceum (not one of the standout operettas - and we were probably the youngest couple there) and Prometheus (goodish), Moonrise Kingdom (excellent) and Men in Black III (surprisingly good).
Ian went home on Wednesday morning and I managed to break a bone in my foot the same morning. I’ve got crutches!
And this weekend I, and my crutches, came up to visit Ian, mainly because we had tickets to see the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Radio Show in Glasgow. This was a delight with most of the original radio cast, a splendid band and Billy Boyd as The Book. This latter did not work so well. We wondered if he had ever heard the show and whether he had done a read though of the script. This was particularly jarring for Ian who knows the show by heart and, like a religious experience gone wrong, was jerked out of his blissful state with each mispronounced word. For me it was less problematic. I’ve listened to the show a fair number of times, watched it on TV and read the books but I don’t remember things. The guy playing Slartibartfast was excellent, an aging Arthur Dent was actually better, Trillian and Ford were the proper radio characters and Phil Pope was simply wonderful. However the star of the show, as always, was Marvin and his diodes. Oh Marvin! This is still such a wonderful show, undulled by time and repetition and at the end, when Douglas Adam’s picture was projected on the screen above the actors I felt tears in my eyes. Oh Douglas!
Saturday, May 12, 2012
I don’t read books as much as I used to. I think I might have mentioned this before. Ian and Julian have infected me with the need to read the internet until I’ve finished it. Ian knows he’s read it all when he resorts to DefenceTech. I’ve never reached the end.
This compulsion to finish things has affected me for years. In a strange way. Years ago, when I was a graduate trainee, they did a psych test on me which came up with the stunningly accurate insight that I do an excellent job until I have completed 95% of a project and then I abandon it and move on to the next new and interesting thing. That’s why I treasured my ex-colleague Catherine, a completer/finisher. Given that the very last thing I do on a project is send out the invoice, this could be a very bad thing for an independent consultant. These days I have a little spreadsheet whose boxes are coloured green when I have completed a project, when I have invoiced and, much more rarely at the moment, when I have been paid. Requiring enough money to live focuses one’s mind remarkably. Of course, being paid in advance short circuits this useful mechanism and, as I write this, the one outstanding project for April is one I was paid for in advance. Must finish that this weekend. Still, those don’t happen very often.
Anyway, I’ve meandered away from my point, which is that I like to finish reading a book. When I first went to a convention I shared a room with a German woman who stated that she always finished any book she started even if it was awful. I’m not that driven, but I feel a mild sense of failure when I don’t get to the end.
There are, of course, some books that I want to fling away rather than put down and just neglect to pick up again. Angel of Death was one of these. It came free in a convention bag some time ago. It was the only book I took when I spent three days in Coventry last year. The blurb was good; the book itself was not. Something about an angel of death who used a mass murderer to effect the required deaths. The murderer cut off the hands and head of his victims and masturbated into the head. The angel fell in love with the woman detective investigating the murders. Blech! I felt no urge to finish this book even though the writing style was engaging. It’s somewhere in the bedroom awaiting disposal.
In these apocalyptic days, when Julian Headlong has stopped buying books (an obvious sign of the end times) I have decided that I can attempt to change my habits. This whole line of thought crystallised when I was reading the comments on a Suzanne Moore article about hoarding. The comments generally agreed that hoarding, whilst many of us have a tendency towards it, is not a good thing. Until, some way down the comments thread, Mrs Moose chimed in with, ‘But having lots of books is okay. Isn't it? I mean most of them (not all) are on shelves. And I don't have two copies of that many things. The children's books might come in useful if there are grandchildren. I'm sure I could make myself stop. I gave a book away to a charity shop once. I think. Yes, I'm sure I did....’ My thoughts exactly! But is this right? It made me think. I have some books that could be categorised as trashy that I’m almost certainly never going to get rid of. Ring of Fear by Anne McCaffrey comes to mind. I have some classics, lit and SF, which could certainly go; I’m never going to read them again. They might be landmark works of the genre but they’re just not that good and, with no interest in academia, why give them shelf space?
I hesitate though. I’ve regretted disposing of the Chalet School books, I’d quite like to have all my Cadfaels back. It seems that every time I get rid of something I need it the next day. Samuel Delaney’s Tides of Lust is a case in point. I was never going to finish reading it. The writing is gorgeous, the subject boring in both senses. I hid it among some less salacious books and took it to Oxfam. And then I found I wanted to quote from it in a fanzine article. I mentioned this and within days a new copy arrived from a friend in America. Sigh. I guess it’s a keeper, or at least, a returner. Maybe one day I’ll attempt to read it again.
Anyway, coming back to the point, I’m giving up the guilt. If I don’t finish a book I’m going to get rid of it. Sometimes. There are those that don’t get finished, not because of any flaw in the book but because of circumstances. I forget to take my current book when I go away and have to buy a new one that sets me off on a different train. Or a new Gail Carriger, Mike Carey or Tanya Huff book comes out and all other books fall by the wayside.
Recently I was reading Windhaven by George RR Martin and Lisa Tuttle. It’s a perfectly good SF with ‘hang gliders’ book and the characters are mildly interesting however I have premonitions of disaster and I don’t want to read about it. The characters are doing things that will lead to hurt and loneliness. I don’t want to follow them on that journey. John Dowd passed the opinion that if you are not going to read books because bad things happen to the characters you’ll miss many great reads. That’s as maybe. I’ve got enough where that isn’t going to happen. To read Windhaven I would have to spread it out over weeks, maybe months, picking it up again only when I have ceased to care about the characters and putting it down when I start to worry about them again. It might take years. It doesn’t even matter when the characters are vile. I worried about the angel of death in just the same way. I sometimes wonder if I embraced golden age SF because the characters were so cardboard that it didn’t set off my worry reaction. This may be linked with my distaste for the comedy of embarrassment and for watching people do stupid things. Whatever. There are so many books in the world and I have so little time to read them why struggle with something that is not worth it in the end.
It has occurred to me that there is a nuance here. Felix Castor does stupid things resulting in harm for himself and those he loves, and yet I read these books avidly. I think it is because I care deeply about Felix. The people in Windhaven, names already forgotten, and the angel, are not sufficiently large characters for me to need to know what happens to them. And I don’t want to know.
Anyway, back to the point. White Mars is going, despite being signed by Brian Aldiss, because there is too much of it that is dull. Windhaven is going. The Angel of Death is certainly going. It may even be that Gladiator at Law is going. I’ve reread it recently and I’m fairly sure I’ll never read it again. I will make the commitment to at least attempt to read the books before ditching them. Physical Metallurgy and the Design of Steels by Brian Pickering will probably be kept for sentimental reasons. And it’s a cracking good read. Oh yes, and it cost me £27 in 1981.