17 December 2010

Heh heh, hair

 Beloved baby brother has just been given a kitten for Christmas by his wife. He is smitten with his itty bitty kitty.

Of course, it occurs to me that after years of enduring, and occasionally complaining about, the dog hair that is a permanent fixture in Rosieland, he's going to have pet hair to vacuum up himself.

It would be unfair of me to give an evil laugh, right?

10 December 2010

Introducing Rosie Lane

My tutor is a very scary woman. Her positivity drags you along in her wake and makes you dream dreams you thought you'd shut away in a box under your bed as 'things that would be wonderful but aren't going to happen in this lifetime'. My box had a ribbon round it. It was pretty and closed and I was in a nice cosy comfort zone where I didn't have anything to measure up to.

But no longer, because I signed up to study with Hurricane Cathy. The upshot is that I now have a pen name after years of vacillating. The first Rosie Lane short story will debut at Agilitynet soon.

20 November 2010

This is a recorded announcement

My tutor read the first 7,500 words of the story that I started for my creative writing course and delicately suggested (translated: you will do it, I do not accept that you can't) I complete the novel in time to submit to a competition in the middle of December. The only good thing about this is that I know millions of NaNoWriteMo gluttons for punishment are suffering too. I would be delighted with a target of 50K. Try 80K.

Since this, frankly terrifying, target leaves me precious little time for eating and sleeping, let alone blogging, housework or childcare, I will provide a song to listen to in the interim.

Big Bad Handsome Man by Imelda May

I'll be back around before Christmas if I survive.

05 November 2010

Eh? What was that?

Image by Yaron Jeroen van Oostrom

Today is not a good day in Rosaland.

The Old Git has always given freely of his professional expertise to help me in my work. He is a gift to the consultant who works in a profession allied to the building trade: A builder willing to answer any technical question, no matter how stupid, who will take you to sites to show you installations and develop your technical expertise before you are let loose on the paying public, and who will tell you all the little sneaky cost-cutting tricks builders get up to that might explain the problem you are trying to troubleshoot for someone.

When he never heard the oven timer going at home, I started wondering why. When he couldn't hear the background jungle sounds I was playing on my internet radio to keep me company while I wrote, I got worried. The Old Git is not really that old; only 47. It was time to pay him back for everything he has done for me professionally.

I hauled him into my audiometry lab for a hearing test this morning, and established that he has noise induced hearing loss.

This is a very unpleasant discovery. Hearing lost through noise damage will not come back, it is gone for good.

Now the Old Git is more careful with his health and safety than most self employed builders who have to arrange their own health monitoring. He owns a pair of high spec. ear defenders and wears them whenever he thinks he is around very loud noise.  The problem was, the Old Git didn't think his noise exposure was significant because he already couldn't hear how loud it really was. I played him an example of the highest level of noise you should be exposed to without ear defenders, and it wasn't that loud to him.

Existing hearing damage, whether it comes from occupational noise exposure or an Ipod turned up too loud, means that you cannot trust your ears to tell you that they are being damaged.

"I know not to play it too loud" doesn't work if you can't hear how loud it is.
I know from experience that most self employed builders don't want to hear about protecting their long term health, especially when a test will cost them money and they don't have any option but to stay in the trade, but really, truly, if you have a family member in the building trade, *make* them go and get a hearing test before it is too late.

And if you are in the south east of England and need a hearing test from someone who understands the building trade, I can help with that.

27 October 2010

Ending Alice is out

Photo by kind permission of http://www.freefoto.com/

Ending Alice is now out at the Science in my Fiction blog and will be available in an anthology in the future. Please check out their site. Lots of interesting thoughts about the reality of science and how it fits into fiction. As the owner of a good natured but over-strong and rather silly dog, the post about keeping the giant mammals of the past today tickled my funny bone. Boy can I see how that one would work. Sunday mornings in the park would never be the same again.

22 October 2010

Oh son? A word?

There is no picture to accompany this post. The reasons will become apparent shortly.

The Boy is in trouble when I get home.

I use my own camera when I need to take photographs at work because it's easy to use. That being the case, the last time I needed to take it out on a job, I downloaded all the holiday photos already on it and dumped them in a folder on my work computer so that I could put them on a memory stick later and take them home. I forgot about them until today.

ROSA: It is lunchtime. It is cold out. I know, I will read blogs at my desk while I eat this sandwich.
ROSA: Maybe my blog could stand a new post too.

Rosa thinks for a while.

ROSA: Posts are hard. Posts are work. Maybe I'll just add some pictures along the bottom instead. I have photos on this computer.

Rosa looks at the holiday pictures in the personal folder on her work computer.

SON OF ROSA AND FRIEND: Hey, did you ever wonder what happened when you left the camera unattended in the tent and went for a massage? Observe these photographs of our bare bottoms.
ROSA: This is my WORK COMPUTER! I am so fired.
SON OF ROSA: And here are some photographs of my winkle.
ROSA: Never mind fired, I am going to prison.

The Boy is in sooo much trouble when I get home.

18 October 2010

Siren Song is out

Image by kind permission of Mark du Toit   http://www.marktoon.co.uk/blobs.htm

Siren Song was published today at Every Day Fiction. It's an interesting one because the stories can be voted on by readers. They can also comment, which is always a nail biting experience for me. I tend to spend my life with my hands over my eyes whimpering, "Like me like me please like me." Yes, I've heard all about this constructive-feedback-helping-you-to-grow-as-a-writer thing and it sounds eminently sensible on paper. However, in all things approval related the emotional part of my brain has a death grip on the steering wheel. The logical part of my brain is keen to see what strangers think of the story and doesn't want my friends dropping in to give it a 5/5 in the name of support. The emotional side reserves the right to torture me about what people might think, and whisper that it has been at least five minutes since I checked for new comments.

At what age do we finally manage to jettison our insecurities and be whole people? And since that day is not yet for me, does anyone know how many calories there are in a set of fingernails?

04 October 2010

And there's more...

Image by kind permission of Mark du Toit   http://www.marktoon.co.uk/blobs.htm

I am a very happy bunny this week. I received another story acceptance, from Every Day Fiction for a 500 word flash story called Siren Song, and a request out of the blue for a bio to go with my little ten minute practice pieces at Thinking Ten. It seems they are thinking of using one of them to use in their published collection.

At this rate I'm going to have to drop the idea that I write just to entertain friends and family and produce some new material for submission to outside markets.  I also have to decide whether to revive and submit the three or so I have left in storage or retire them gracefully. I would quite like to find homes for the shorties. The chapter story is going into the 'what the heck were you thinking' file as too depressing and showing disturbing early signs of Mary Suedom. Sorry, folks, if you were waiting for the long threatened Shadow Puppets prequel. Morwen is headed for the round circular file as part of my self-education and improvement programme. Since my right index finger is now aching on a daily basis and I plan to cut my mouse-using time right back to the essentials, surfing the web daily while I delude myself that I'm about to start the next chapter is not an option. Time to move on.

Moving on is very much a core theme of my life at the moment. The Old Git and I have been working hard at home for the last couple of months. He is decorating like a madman and building us a new kitchen, while I remove years of clutter from corners and cupboards. It feels good to get rid of the heaps of stuff that were crowding us and were never going to be used again.

Thing is, I'm in chuck-happy mode and the fanfiction is starting to feel like part of the clutter. I will soon delete the fanfiction pages, or at minimum break the link from this blog. The best thing would be to bookmark the stories at Perfectly Plum vault 2 if you want to keep reading them. I had a world of fun and made a lot of friends writing the stories so I don't plan to delete them altogether, but there won't be any more.

19 September 2010

Ending Alice has a home

Image by kind permission of Mark du Toit   http://www.marktoon.co.uk/blobs.htm

The last few weeks have been long and tortuous, a series of horrible deadlines and urgent requests jockeying for position. It has almost been a flashback to the old environmental health officer days of having a stack of work on your desk, in order of urgency, that you reshuffle continuously as phone calls come in that change the priorities.

In this job, fortunately, it's four projects instead of forty, and the phone calls tend to be more businesslike and less hysterical. Did I ever mention I've never regretted leaving public service? I really haven't.

Nonetheless, it has been a hairy few weeks where I repay my employer for the way they don't object to my normal, rather erratic schedule that twists and turns to handle things domestic and small boy related.

It figures, then, that The Boy had to fall off his friend's bike on Wednesday evening and sprain his ankle. His left ankle and foot puffed up and he has lost two days of school so far, which were covered by The Old Git and a friend. We spent all yesterday evening in casualty when our GP practice wouldn't strap it and sent us off to get it x-rayed in case it was broken (it isn't). It's hard work giving 66 lb's of not-so-small boy a piggyback everywhere.

As soon as we got back from the hospital on Friday night I carried on downloading data from noise analysers, and Saturday and this morning were spent writing reports and creating computer noise models.

With all this going on (why yes, I would like some cheese with my whine), It feels like karma to get an acceptance for a short story in the midst of it. Crossed Genres are starting up a new magazine called Science in my Fiction, and Ending Alice by yours truly is going into the inaugural edition. The really exciting thing for me is that I am getting paid at semi-pro rate. I have received a token payment for one of my stories but up until now nerves have kept me to the free markets. Add to that a lovely personal rejection from SNM Horror magazine that loved Letters to Mother but asked me to resubmit it for a month with a different theme and this feels like a huge step up, and a great position to be in for the start of my creative writing course in a couple of weeks.

So, consider me tired but happy. I've stepped up to all my challenges and life feels pretty good.

I still have to take The Old Git and The Boy out for dinner next weekend to say sorry though. It seems that there may have been a certain amount of snarling along the way. I can't think why.

22 August 2010

A Darwinian question

A Darwinian question currently exercises my mind. It is turning over in my head as I sit in my car for five stolen minutes before I re-enter a fray that has me *this* far from snapping.

What is the evolutionary purpose of PMS? In a species which relies on vesting massive amounts of long term care to ensure the survival of offspring, and therefore genes, why gift the women with the potential for unprovoked anger which combines with existing parental irritation to create a murderous, young-eating rage? I don't get it.

On the plus side, the Old Git saw it coming and took over before I terminated our shared genetic heritage with extreme prejudice.

My reluctance to start the engine and drive back into the campsite where our tent is pitched brings to mind my mother's comments when I told her we were going camping as a family for the first time.

"I'm really happy that you have such wonderful memories of camping as a child," she said, "but speaking mother to mother, don't do it. Just don't."

Too late, I realise what she meant. I suspect there isn't a mother out there who wouldn't be tempted to smother squabbling offspring using a damp sleeping bag as rain beats down on her canvas prison.

11 August 2010

Fun with physics

Son of Rosa is now officially eight and growing up fast. I am enjoying the small increases in freedom ("You're a big boy now, so you can get your own breakfast"), although it comes at a price ("Why is there weetabix and milk all over the floor?").

Birthdays always seem to be a voyage of discovery in Rosaland. Last year I discovered that a bouncy castle party for 25 seven year olds is a whole different ball game to a bouncy castle party for 25 five year olds. Seven year olds are adventurous. They want to go higher and faster. My nerves were still jangling two weeks later. That was the year we terminated proper parties in favour of outings. Since Son of Rosa had copped an accidental headbutt on one of the inflatables and had the mother of all nosebleeds on his birthday, he didn't object.

The year before we learned not to even bother buying pizza with vegetables on it for a party of six year olds. Forget healthy eating and just don't. On the plus side, the dogs were thrilled with all the leftovers.

This year's learning curve had more of a physics flavour to it, courtesy of Aerial Extreme in Milton Keynes.

ROSA: Yes, the one in front wearing the yellow tee-shirt.
ATTENDANT: Oh, the dramatic one.

Indeed. The one shrieking as he hung on to a rope bridge further up the course. Son of Rosa is a bit of a ham.

The course was straightforward enough, though, once he got over the urge to scream at everything. The physics lesson came when we did the big jump. The big jump is a 14 metre drop from a high platform wearing a harness. Faced with five nervous but eager boys, I wasn't about to chicken out; I couldn't afford to scare them and spoil their fun, plus I wasn't about to be left behind by a bunch of kids (and yes, this attitude has got me into a few hair-raising situations over the years).

Like a mother duck on a river bank, I watched them jump off one by one and float down to the ground. As Son of Rosa got near the bottom, his voice floated back up to the platform, "Awesome!" closely followed by: "Can I do it again?"

Then it was Mummy's turn. A turn where I discovered that mummies who weigh three times as much as their sons reach the ground a bit quicker than them. The word we're looking for here is 'plummet'.

They are building an even higher drop soon, called Goliath. Son of Rosa wants to do it.

Son of Rosa is on his own.

04 August 2010

The Scream is out

It's available to read in the August edition of Static Movement. The picture above was taken by my niece, DarkPhoenix15, specifically to go with the story. She's studying photography at college so I commissioned her to produce a photograph to use with the story on my website. Got to love those talented nieces to pieces.

23 July 2010

Scream has a home

Static Movement has accepted The Scream for its August issue, which has me jumping up and down with glee. I'm back on the horse. Now to brush the rust off the armour and think about submitting some new material.

Image by kind permission of http://www.foxtrotters.tripod.com/

18 July 2010

Back on the horse

After a long, long break I'm writing and submitting again. I'm having fun, although that will probably change when I get my first rejection back. I plan to start with the flash stories and ignore the full length projects that buried me last time. That way lies despair and blank pages that laugh at me and my pencil until we both sag like chocolate teapots.

The owners of the magazine that folded before The Scream saw the light of day have released it, so I'm starting there.

Wish me luck.

19 June 2010

Permission to comment?

A friend recently asked a question on her blog about why people look down on romance. I planned to give my opinion as a comment on her blog but, as sometimes happens with me, it turned into a long ramble that really needed its own space.

So, permission requested to (affectionately) state an alternative position, complete with weak analogies and personal preferences.

I think a disclaimer is called for here before I begin. Everybody should be allowed to read what they enjoy without judgement. Bottom line: peeps is peeps and there are no wrong answers. However, that said, I have my opinions.

First of all, I put my hand on my heart and state that I'm a genre person. After a long period reading sci-fi and fantasy, where I started to feel I'd already read the same story several times whenever I picked up something new, I branched out into chick-lit comedies, mysteries and thrillers and enjoyed them. In the same vein I tried to branch out into romance and literary fiction. With both I found myself unsatisfied.

In the case of the literary fiction I couldn't quite believe that I'd got to the end and still nothing had happened. I felt like I'd wasted x hundred pages waiting for them to get interesting and they never did. After a few experiences like that I shrugged my shoulders and moved on, having decided that clearly it went over my head and I would just stick with the populist stuff.

I was more surprised that I couldn't enjoy romances. In most of the books I had read in other genres, the romance and human interaction was what made the book for me. Yes, I wanted to know whether they saved the world or found the killer, but whether they got together was equally, if not more important to me. So why couldn't I enjoy a book where the getting together was the main theme and not the side plot?

The best way I can put it is to compare it to food. To me, eggs on hot buttered toast is delicious comfort food; one of those magic combinations. In an ill-considered flirtation with the South Beach diet a few years ago I tried to give up the toast and just eat the eggs. Within a week I was ready to kill someone if I saw another egg without bread. It just lacked everything that made the combination so appealing.

Romance is my egg; it just doesn't work on its own. That is not to say that it is impossible for me to enjoy a romance, ever, but I need more. Give me suspense, some action and adventure, or mystery, and I'll lap it up. Snuggle that romance up with a comedy, the way Jennifer Crusie does, and I'll beg for more. Combine it with fantasy or sci-fi? Well first of all, you'll have to be a superb writer because they are uneasy bedfellows. A bad sci-fi romance can set a new definition for bad, but do it well and I'll worship you. I have yet to see it, so if somebody can point me in the right direction that would be wonderful. Paranormal romance isn't it. That's just romance with added fangs, fur or ectoplasm (delete as necessary).

It occurs to me as I scribble that perhaps our problem is the labels. Why do stories have to be one thing or the other? Why does so much romance lack other content to make it interesting? I'd like to read more stories that challenge genre and open my reading experience up.

And just because snark is my nature and I can only suppress it for so long, I will say that good romance is my egg waiting for bread. In my dabbling in the genre I have read some terrible ones where both hero and heroine failed my 'do you want to push them both under a bus' test with honours. Please protect me from sappiness, plotless potboilers and TSTL (too stupid to live) protagonists, because even bread can't save some things.

16 June 2010

Thought you'd quit writing, huh?

Alas, not fiction, but an article about LED lighting to submit to a trade journal.

The moral of the story is never let your boss know you write as a hobby. It will come back to haunt you in unexpected ways.

31 May 2010

Coming soon to an island near you

Treasure Tim is back!

Nobody knows where he's been, but now he has stubble and a wicked smile as he digs his way across the archipelago fighting angry natives and ravenous crocodiles.

Will his supply of Splish last out? What is he thinking about as he grinds his hips next to his conquered chests?

But Treasure Tim is not the only thing that has changed. Treasure Isla has arrived and has her own tropical islands to conquer. Will Treasure Tim find her and her tiny corner of paradise? Are the Treasure Islands big enough to hold two treasure hunters, or is the only question whether her hammock is? And can he overcome the treasure madness of chancer Burt Savage?

Two sets of stubble, one beach babe and a heap of treasures to find. Who will win Isla's hammock rights and who will end up as long pig?

Coming soon to a facebook page near you.

06 May 2010

You called it what?

The Old Git is a whiz at plumbing, electrics and getting under site manager's skins while managing to never do anything they can punish him for. He is often the most irritating man on any given building site; convinced that he knows better than anybody else and not slow to tell them. The most irritating thing of all is that he's usually right when challenged, and it would take more reading time to prove him wrong than anybody has to spend.

What a shame his talents don't extend to spelling and emails.

I had to interrupt the hour before school when everything is rushed to show him how to attach an invoice to an email.  While he was searching for the email, I spotted an invoice titled 'Vaginia' in his work folder.

He refused to tell me what Virginia thought when she received her invoice. He also claimed that my horrified laughter was putting him off finding his document.

Still, at least it was sent months ago. The time for angry phone calls is probably past. Maybe he gave her a paper copy and she never saw the document title.

I really, really hope so.

01 May 2010

The great British general election

I know somebody has to run the country, but it feels like looking into a tub of rats and having to decide which one you're going to put down your trousers.

And judging from his blog, my brother in law feels similar about it.

25 April 2010

Domesticity is overrated

Dinner tonight was two promotional miniboxes of Cheerios and Nesquik, served together with milk in a pyrex mixing bowl and followed by a couple of bananas. Something of a low point in meal planning and preparation but tasty and remarkably satisfying. The Boy was a willing accomplice. We discussed it and agreed that the bananas made it acceptable overall. I'll try to be more grownup tomorrow.

18 April 2010


... when the dog wants to play fetch with the water balloon bomb toy you're trying out for the first time.

16 April 2010

Liking the 11th Doctor

Sometimes I get to watch Doctor Who. Not on television, my word no, because idiots put it on at times that seven year olds are still awake. Seven year olds that get scared. Seven year olds that get scared and have nightmares. Seven year olds that can only sleep after nightmares when they are in Mummy's bed. Seven year olds that can only sleep after nightmares when they are in Mummy's bed with a big handful of her hair to pull and twist and....

I guess mummies have their own versions of nightmares.

But, in a move that makes me forgive the BBC and accept that they are not, in fact, idiots, the BBC give me a chance to download the episodes and watch them on my computer with their I-player. It's a big moment in the world of Doctor Who because the Tenth Doctor just exited and a new actor took over to be the Eleventh Doctor.

(For those that have been tragically deprived of the Doctor Who experience, he's a time travelling alien that can regenerate into a new body. Everything you ever needed to know and probably a lot more that you didn't here.)

I was a very big fan of the Tenth Doctor, as played by David Tennant, and when he announced that he was leaving the role I was disappointed. The new actor, Matt Smith, was so young, I just couldn't see him pulling it off.

Wrong, Rosa. Very, very wrong. He is fantastic. His first episode was fantastic. I will be downloading many more episodes to watch in the dead of night when scaredy seven year olds are sleeping.

In their own beds.

The Eleventh Hour
(I think you have to be in the UK to download it though)

13 April 2010

You know you've led a sheltered life when...

... you need to keep Urban Dictionary open in a separate window to cross reference and translate the Fairy Song from Legend of Neil. I discovered Legend of Neil when I was casting my vote for The Guild in this year's Audience Choice category at the Streamies. Cracked me up.

Oh, and I should definitely place a parental advisory warning on the Legend of Neil link. Probably both.

07 April 2010

When a whisper doesn't get it done

I'm getting rather irritated with Soft Whispers magazine. They accepted a short story, The Scream, months ago with a publication date of January 2010. Start ups being the precarious thing they are, I was disappointed but not surprised when they folded before January and it didn't make publication.

I was pleased on their behalf when they re-launched as a poetry blog with occasional themed fiction anthologies, but they have yet to respond to my polite emails asking about the stories they had already accepted. All I really want is confirmation that they are releasing The Scream so that I can do something else with it. Whether that would be submitting it elsewhere or just posting it on my website I haven't decided, but I don't want to risk breaching a contract.

I do hate having loose ends, and The Scream is loose and waving at me. I might have to stop whispering and start shouting.

31 March 2010

To tweet or not to tweet

I'm flirting with the idea of a twitter account to go with this blog. My last encounter with twitter didn't last long because I was worried that people might read my tweets and think, "Who is this idiot and why on earth would we employ her?" Got to at least pretend to be a professional.

I realised the problem when a colleague friended me on facebook, and a few weeks later my feed informed me that he was a fan of rough sex. Kind of hard to see someone the same way after that. That and having my boss, in-laws and teenage nieces and nephews on my friends list rather puts me off posting any silliness myself.

It makes me sore tempted to do some Rosa tweets, or at least post some one liners here now and then. Who knows, I might even start writing again.

Yeah, maybe not.

27 March 2010

New layout

Blogger just updated their templates and I decided a change would be nice, since I know no code and rely on others to do it for me. I rather like this one.

Cute moment at about midnight last night. While I was standing in the hallway watching, the Boy got out of bed still largely asleep, picked up a fleece blanket and tried several times to put his arms into non-existent sleeves. I took it off him and put him back into bed, and he went back to sleep without ever properly waking up in the first place. He didn't remember a thing about it this morning.

Say it how it is

From The Boy this morning, after The Old Git left with our youngest dog surgically attached to him as usual:

"If Daddy went to heaven, Buddy would be flying after him shouting, 'Wait for me!'"

15 March 2010

Lost for words

I enjoyed a rare sight last week: The Old Git lost for words. It doesn't happen often so it's something to be savoured, especially when something nice has caused it.

Actually, cancel that. Make it a unique sight. I've never seen it before.

He has been working to get a new restaurant set up in Chalfont St. Peter, Hertfordshire for the last few months. As usual, he went in to do one job, the heating, and turned into Mr. Fixit, the man who can think around corners and fix everybody's problems. Unusually, though, he didn't do that many late nights. Just one to keep some machines working and another on standby before the engineers could get there. We've seen more of him at home than usual.

When it was all set up and the place was running, he took the family there because he wanted us to see it. We went on a midweek night because we had a seven year old with us, all dressed to kill in his smart suit and tie that we got for a wedding last year.

A quick note here on the subject of fussy eaters. I had never thought of tapas as a solution to eating out with children, but it surely worked. Little portions of lots of things:

Look, we got you some frittata to try. You don't like it that much? Okay, no problem, try these ham croquettes. They're nice, aren't they? Yes, very nice. Ah, is anyone else going to get to try the ham croquettes? No, that's fine, you can eat them all if you like them that much.

Actually, the frittata was excellent, and the fish croquettes were even better than the ham ones, but it's all good; if he liked them as much I wouldn't have gotten any. Homemade lemon sorbet to die for too. And the Boy did a very good job of being grownup in a grownup's restaurant. No bedlam or glares from the adult diners.

After a lovely dinner The Old Git went to pay the bill and they wouldn't give it to him. Instead they gave him a thank you card from the owners and all the staff.

He was speechless. I think there might even have been a lump in his throat.

Yep, even tradesmen have feelings. A thought to take away with you. We would have been happy to pay the bill, but that thank you gesture was worth five times the cost of the meal.

Go try the food at El Boncena. They're nice people, and they deserve to be a success.

11 March 2010

The end of winter

Picture from freefoto.com

It's spring. We have snowdrops and crocuses, and afternoon sunshine.

It seems strangely fitting that Teddy spent the coldest winter for decades sleeping on my bed and dining on pate, fresh liver and any other delicacies I could think of for him, then went to sleep on the first day of spring, after a gentle walk in the first true sunshine of the year and one more tub of ardennes pate.

He was my Winter King, and he left spring in his wake.

02 March 2010

Goodnight Ted

Sleep well.

22 February 2010

You know you want to do it

Photographs from thisisphotobomb.com

When I finally get around to writing, I find myself fascinated with the primal parts of human nature; the parts of us we can't control. Fear, lust, desire for power, parental love, photobomb.

Yep, photobomb.

A deep, primitive desire, a base urge that screams into your hindbrain the moment you see a camera pointing at you by accident.

I was sitting in a coffee shop in Knightsbridge today, steaming slightly and complating the meteorological misfortune that had governed my site visits all winter. My last three site surveys had gone: snow, sleet, thunderstorm, and I was stuck in a touristy part of London paying inflated prices for a lunch whose main purpose was to entitle me to get out of the rain for half an hour. Okay, the tea and tuna melt were to get me out of the rain. The almond croissant was down to sheer bad temper.

So I sat on my tall stool facing the window, expecting my pocket to get picked any minute and glaring at the sullen grey sky that London does so well as I shoved overpriced calories into my mouth disguised as flaky pastry. My attention roved around the crowds, playing 'spot the worker' among the tourists--you know them; the fast walking ones whose body language says, "I wouldn't dream of saying anything because that would be rude, but please be so kind as to read my thoughts and get the hell out of my way because I actually know where I'm going"--when I realised that a woman over the road was pointing a little white camera right at me.

My first thought was: is any London tourist's experience entitled to pictures of a tired, grouchy daylight consultant looking like a waterlogged hamster? My second was: she's not actually pointing it at me. I'm in it by accident. She's pointing it at her man, who's standing outside Costa Coffee under a union jack umbrella.

I don't know what made a picture of Costa Coffee with an umbrella so appealing, but whatever floated their boat. Much more rain and they would be floating down the Thames on it like Winnie the Pooh, but that was beside the point.

And it was at that moment, staring into a little white camera belonging to a stranger, that I realised photobomb occupies a place next to rage and lust and hunger. A building block of human nature. A basic need to respond.

They'll find out when they upload their photographs whether I gave into it or not.

31 January 2010

Advance reader copies and stories, oh my

Too much temptation this week.

1. I swore that we were getting no more dogs. We were going to let the numbers run down by not replacing them until we got to live normal lives free from noise, hair and poo bags.

Except my uncle, who owns the most delightful working cocker spaniel I have ever met, just texted me to say that he'd just seen her puppies on ultrasound and I could have one. Now what do I do?

2. I swore that I was done with fanfic. Original or nothing from now on.

Except that one of my favourite authors is running a competition for a copy of her latest arc, and I could enter a 500 word story using her characters for it. Her characters are complex and dark and one of them has been preying on my mind since I read Demon's Lexicon.

I am weak. Help me.

28 January 2010

On the subject of winning

When you have lived with someone for a while, you start to recognise recurring themes in the things they talk about. When you have lived with them for a long time those recurring themes start to shout at you so loud that the words become a kind of meaningless noise around the outside.

The Old Git is a competitive man. He knows it, I know it, anybody that spends more than an hour in his presence knows it. It is a sad fact of his life that he loves chess, draughts, scrabble, and any other board game that allows you to use strategy to destroy your opponent, but that he can't find anyone to play him. He has played a lot of people like me, who know the moves but just play for fun, but strangely enough, after enjoying a taste of the full on play-to-win meat grinder, we usually aren't in any rush to repeat the experience.

Frankly, I'd rather stick pins in my legs.

So, he doesn't have a steady supply of willing victims, and this disappoints him. Now I may not want to play him, and I may frequently want to stab him, but The Old Git's happiness does mean something to me, so I do sometimes try to find him a new victim, oops, I mean opponent.

I thought I had cracked it when some friends introduced me to lexulous on facebook. It's a variant of scrabble. Eight letters, different layout of scoring squares, but essentially the same game and you get to play other people that aren't on your friends list.

My simple little strand of Rosa logic went:

--> Playing strangers
--> Playing people who like to play a lot
--> People like The Old Git
--> people he can play
--> SCORE!

Problem solved, right?


Now we have a new problem.

He is playing. Oh my, is he playing. When my friends saw his active game list they said, "This dude is obsessed."

The Boy would concur. Most evenings he complains that Daddy is always playing lexulous. Some of that is jealousy, though; he wants to play too but facebook doesn't exactly have a junior section. He too has a competitive streak a mile wide.

And then we have the game talk. As with other obsessions that have come and gone, he wants to tell me about it. This is where those themes come in.

"I don't understand how the rankings work."
How is everybody going to know that I'm winning.

"This game allows nonsense words. No way is that a word."
The game is letting the other person cheat and stopping me from winning.

"I found out how the top ranking people stay up there. They delete any game in which they think they might get beaten."
They're using cheat tactics to stay up there. If they played fair I'd be winning.

"My opponent got 400 points and still lost. That's got to hurt."
Look at me winning. Am I not awesome?

I guess it could be worse. You should have seen him in his paintball phase. Imagine Rambo with a paintball gun. Now imagine him half the size and armed with a devious mind and an evil grin. It was The Old Git who proudly announced that he took out half a dozen people at one time firing up into the air so that the paintballs dropped down on them as they hid behind the barrier. Boy did they complain. He's also the one who worked out that you could rack up some serious points if you hid near the Quasar gun recharge point and shot all the people coming back with empty guns.

No, I don't play him, at anything. I'll just carry on running a victim procurement service. At the moment he's dragged himself away from his lexulous victims for a while to teach The Boy how to play chess.

I'm scared.

23 January 2010

In a nutshell

Some moments sum up the family dogs in a nutshell.

It is morning. I go downstairs, open the stairgate and let the dogs out. As they come back in they assume their positions.

Teddy goes upstairs, greets The Boy and takes up his position on the stairs to guard the family.

Buddy goes upstairs and surgically attaches himself to The Old Git.

Buzz stays downstairs on his own to keep an eye on the breakfast toast crusts.

12 January 2010

A tale of tales

Sit back and I will tell you a tale. A tale of a woman telling a tale of a woman who told tales. With musical accompaniment.

Once upon a time in her youth, Rosa discovered classical music, and discovered that she liked it. She liked the music of Rimsky-Korsakov very much indeed, and her favourite of all was Scheherezade.

Fortunately for Rosa, many other people also liked classical music and Scheherezade, and she listened to a radio station that played it for her and all the other people that listened.

When Rosa discovered she was pregnant, she was very happy. She played classical music in her car, and in her house, and on her computer. Nobody knows how much the bump heard as it travelled around with her, but it is an undisputable fact that Son of Rosa also liked classical music, and his favourite was Scheherezade.

It came to pass that one day, Rosa and Son of Rosa were on a long drive together. As they drove along the motorway, Scheherezade came on the radio and they turned it up and listened to it together. Son of Rosa was a very curious boy much given to asking questions, which Rosa did her best to answer, for she felt that being given answers to your questions in life is a Very Good Thing. And so Rosa and Son of Rosa found themselves discussing the tale of Scheherezade, and from there the tales of Sinbad the Sailor, and Aladdin, and Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, for these were tales she remembered from her youth.

Just like Rosa, Son of Rosa loved reading and tales even more than classical music, and he begged his mother to read to him the tale of Scheherezade, and from there the tales of Sinbad, and of Aladdin, and of Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. Rosa remembered that she had read the Tales from One Thousand Nights in her youth and promised that she would.

In fact, Rosa still even had the book from her youth, and when Son of Rosa asked, she found it and opened it to read to him at bedtime.

But the book was old, and things were not as Rosa remembered from her youth. She feared that she had made a terrible mistake when Son of Rosa asked what it meant that the Queen was found in the arms of a Negro slave, but she tried. She explained about the Bad Things that are slavery and racism, and why he should never use That Word. She explained that the Queen had been found kissing someone that was not her husband, and that this too was a Bad Thing. She feared that worse was to come, but she loved Son of Rosa very much and she had promised, so she continued with the story.

She read, and she read, until she came to the next page. When the next Queen and her slaves all took their clothes off and the Queen prepared to be unfaithful to her husband, Rosa closed the book with a snap and would read no more.

Son of Rosa was sad and asked why he might not hear the rest of the tale, and Rosa did confess to her son that the tale was Too Naughty For Children, and picked up the tale of the Fantastic Mr Fox instead, and Son of Rosa was happy.

Rosa suspects that, some day soon, Son of Rosa will find the Tales from One Thousand and One Nights in the bookcase and read it for himself. She knows that this is the way of children everywhere, and that it is as inevitable as Son of Rosa one day playing the collection of rap CDs with naughty words belonging to Husband of Rosa. She feels that, while Son of Rosa's life will be improved by contact with classic literature, her own life will be much improved by not knowing. And so she has returned it to the bookcase and not hidden it.


04 January 2010

Reasons to be cheerful, 1-2-3

  1. I'm going to America this June to meet some of my dearest friends, whom I happen to have never met before.
  2. I just got paid for a story for the first time.
  3. Best of all, I still have my dog. He's a fighter. Always has been, and he's not quitting now. Happy New Year, Teddy. Keep fighting.