The trouble with working from home…

work-from-homeAnd so it begins…

6.45am : “Okay, so the plan today is to work on my edits, otherwise this book is never going to get published. But first I need to get the boys up…”

A couple of hours later…

“Right, that’s the boys off to school, now I just need to tidy up and load the dishwasher.”

Some time later…

“The cat’s used her litter tray – I best empty that. Oh, and whilst I’m at it, I need to empty the bin too.”

Some time later…

“The guinea pig really needs cleaning out and if I don’t do it, no one will. I guess it would be best to do it whilst I’m already out here.”

Some time later…

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“The tinsel that my son has destroyed looks more like my carpet than the actual carpet. I need to hoover downstairs at least.”

Some time later…

“That’s the washing machine beeping. Better put the load in the dryer otherwise I’ll forget.”

Some time later…

“I need a cup of tea. I can make one to take upstairs with me for work.”

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Some time later…

“Great, I’m upstairs but I can’t believe the pig sty my son lives in. I could just close the door but ugh…no, I can’t. I’m going to have to tidy it.”

Some time later…

“Now my cuppa is cold. I need to make a fresh one.”

Some time later…

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“Finally! Waiting for the computer to start up but hold on…who put the clocks forward? Where the heck did the morning go?”

 

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The sound of silence : why noise is bad for you

effectsofnoiseI have a confession.

I struggle to cope with noise.

Don’t get me wrong, I did the whole nightclub/pub thing and even played musical instruments in orchestras but, over recent years, I have found it increasingly difficult to cope with ‘prolonged’ noise. I also find places where there is a cacophony of noise difficult too.

When I am in a noisy environment I can literally feel my blood pressure rising – it’s like a kind of panic almost – and the need to escape the noise is overwhelming. I often dream of being on an isolated island with just the cat for company (!) which until I read this article I figured it was all a part of me getting old – apparently not – yet I am not sure if the article has made me feel better or worse about my situation.

The article (How noise can make you fat, stressed and more likely to have a stroke…) featured in the Daily Mail online (31/10/16) quotes from the World Health Organisation:

“…noise pollution is one of the most pressing threats to public health, second only to air pollution, and responsible for a range of conditions from stress and sleep problems to heart disease and strokes — it can even make us fat.”

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Evidently our bodies respond to noise by triggering the ‘fight or flight’ instinct. Our body will begin to produce several stress hormones and, if the noise is prolonged, eventually our bodies will start to produce cortisol which is a stress hormone that can negatively affect health. The article states several risks from this such as increased blood pressure, risk of stroke, irritable bowel syndrome, headaches and sleep problems.

I must admit that although I knew I was stressed by noise, I had no idea that it could pose a risk to my health but I guess it follows that if I am stressed then my blood pressure will rise and I know that’s not a good thing.

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Image courtesy of digital art via freedigitalphotos.net

In my personal circumstances it is impossible to live without noise. My youngest son is severely autistic (amongst other conditions) and to him, noise is a stimuli. He makes as much noise as is humanly possible for as long as possible, which I know has not helped my situation.

Clearly there is little that I can do to stop the noise created by my son, however, the article does suggest simple changes such as achieving a period of ‘quiet time’ each day – even ten minutes can be beneficial, it says. There was one other basic piece of advice which I have followed too, one which again I had given absolutely no thought to. I have changed the notification tone on my phone and tablet. I had a rather adorable old-fashioned ‘choo choo’ noise selected for email notifications, however, it was quite loud. Now I have changed this to a small ‘tweet’ sound, a bit like that of a bird, which, given my desire to be out in the wilds, is actually much more preferable.

For me it was an interesting read, not least because it means that I do genuinely have a reason for struggling with my tolerance to noise which has nothing to do with getting old. I know of some writers who cannot write unless they are accompanied by the radio or their favourite music but I am not one of those. I have realised that I really need my ‘quiet time’ and my ‘tweet tweet’ noise to keep my stress levels lowered and, if I can do this then I won’t be stifling my creativity – another potential side effect of too much exposure to noise.

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My only regret is that it is no longer the 1980’s because if it was, I could get away with wearing pink, fluffy ear muffs… sigh…

What about you? Can any of you relate to my struggle with noise?

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A spooky premonition – and it’s not even Halloween…

night_owlMy husband works early shifts which means that he leaves the house when I am still in bed. Most mornings I wake up and mumble something that sounds a bit like ‘bye’ at him and then fall back to sleep again.

A few days ago the same thing happened as it does every morning and I woke up to mumble at him then watch his departing form. As he left the room on that particular day though, I had a sudden urge to tell him to remember to take his phones with him (he has two for work, don’t ask why) yet I was not awake enough to form the words. Knowing that he always takes his phones anyway I said nothing and went back to sleep.

Some time later it became apparent that he had indeed forgotten to take both of his phones and they were chirping away in the kitchen. As I went downstairs to retrieve them I was reminded of my premonition earlier and it kind of spooked me out. Never before or since that day have I had the urge to tell him something when he leaves for work, so why that day?

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This is not the first time that something like this has happened to me. A friend once told me that these happenings are God reminding you that he is with you, but I am not a firm believer in faith so I just don’t know. Maybe it’s a coincidence, one of those things that you just can’t explain, but maybe not. Maybe premonitions do really happen.

What do you think? Has anyone else had a similar experience?

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Writing and Music – Separated at birth

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

Prepare yourselves for a blond moment here…

Until recently, I didn’t really consider writing to be an art – for which I wholly blame my secondary school. Writing was part of English (language and literature) and the arts were comprised of Art, Music and Drama. Considering how long ago it was that I left school, however, I think I may be on somewhat shaky ground with that excuse. But back to the point of the blog post…

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of talking to someone who works in the music business and whose job involves in part, finding new artists and music. As we discussed the music publication process it suddenly hit me how similar music and writing are in that respect. As with writing, a musician looks for an agent or a publisher and, as with writing, the opportunities can be tough to find. The person I was talking to, for example, gets well over 150 e-mails per week from new artists and rarely does he manage to read any of them simply because there isn’t the time in his day. For him to pick out an e-mail and take notice, it has to be what he is looking for and regardless of how good the other submissions are, if they are not what he is seeking at the time, then they don’t get viewed.

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

The same could undoubtedly be said of editors, publishers and agents in the writing world which is why it is so important that any submissions we make to agents and publishers, stand out. We want our e-mail, our submission, to be the one that they read and if it’s not, our work may sadly never see the light of day.

Luck, we both agreed during our conversation, plays a huge part in both the music and writing industry. Of course as writers we need to produce a great novel/short story/article etc.. but we also need to be lucky. We need to be in the right place at the right time and unfortunately there is no formula that can help us to achieve that.

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Digitalart via freedigitalphotos.net

These are not the only similarities between writing and music. Whilst the life of a writer (and arguably a musician) can be lonely, both arts involve collaboration with others in order to achieve the end product. A musician may need to use, for example, writers, other musicians, producers and recording studios whilst a writer needs an editor, a cover designer, beta readers and colleagues willing to assist with promotion, to name a few. So, although, when we put pen to paper to create our story/article we work on our own, our finished product can never be achieved without collaboration with others.

It was truly enlightening to speak to someone at the other end of the process to me – albeit music rather than literature – and to understand that both industries are similar and both industries are incredibly tough. On the upside, I now understand that writing is just as much of an art as Art, Music and Drama – something which may be obvious to everyone else out there but was only a lightbulb moment for me a few short weeks ago.

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Success! I pureed the cat food…

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You would not believe that she is 19!

My most notable success of the last seven days has been… pureeing cat food. I kid you not.

My nineteen-year old cat decided that last week would be the week to cause me major stress and so she stopped eating. At all. After three days of buying every type of cat food known to man – and even cooking from fresh – I took her to the vets only to be told that her days are numbered which is something that I have known for a while. Her organs are slowly failing yet she is a fighter and is still bright and perky.

Knowing that she didn’t have long we decided to make her last days here as comfortable as possible. After watching her drinking well but still being unable to eat, I hit upon the idea of pureeing her food – much like you do for babies or the elderly. I figured if she could drink cat milk, then maybe she could drink her food.

I would like to say it’s a pretty sight, but it’s not. Watching a pouch of Whiskas whizz round a blender is not for the faint hearted, however, it worked. Slowly and surely she began to lap at the pureed food and yesterday saw her pretty much back to her old self. I appreciate that we are only buying her time but I feel proud that I have been able to give her that time and, as she is presently in no pain or discomfort and still enjoys rolling around in the sun, then I see no reason to end her life right now.

It’s a really tough decision and it’s only when you’re faced with losing them that you realise how big a part of your life they are – but she’s not ready to go yet. I’ll know when she is.

In the meantime, pureed cat food it is.

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I am not fit for human company…

traffic_signal_2Yesterday was not a good day. It started with me driving through a red light – at a junction where I am well aware that there is a red light. Thankfully there was no one else around and no major damage was done, but it was the first clue that something was definitely off.

A while later, accompanied by my parents, I went to one of the most beautiful canals in Wiltshire. At the small cafe I filled in the details on the form for car parking and we went off for our walk. Upon our return we visited the cafe once more and ordered some beverages at which time I looked at the car parking list once more. Out of habit, when I had filled in the form, I had also signed my name next to my Mum’s car when in fact that box was purely for the colour of the car. So, instead of writing ‘white’, I had signed my name. Not only that, my error had forced the person below me to do exactly the same which meant that the form no longer contained the colours of cars, just lots of signatures.

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Caen Hill Locks – view from the top

Okay, we did laugh about that but really? I am supposed to be an intelligent writer.

Finally, at the same cafe, I was accused of throwing a dirty look at a dog. Is that even possible? I admit, I did look at the dog, but purely because it was whimpering excitedly upon its owners return. The owner, however, interpreted this as a ‘dirty’ look and proceeded to moan about people being intolerant of dogs etc..etc..

Sigh.

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Caen Hill Locks – view from the bottom

By the end of the day I had decided it would be best if I no longer went out in public and am thus spending today in the company of my laptop only. Hopefully it won’t get upset at the looks that I give it.

In my defence, this week has been incredibly stressful and will continue to be so but yeah, if you see me anytime soon, I would turn the other way.

PS. Anyone else have a spider living in their car wing mirror?

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Stuck for inspiration? Try thinking about spaghetti hoops…

depositphotos_4767508-Spaghetti-Hoops-in-Tomato-SauceSpaghetti hoops.

Makes me think about a girl called Deirdre – or Dege as she preferred to be called.

We met at school when we were fifteen and became friends, purely because we were the two new girls.

Dege lived near the school, I did not so I cycled to her house every morning to change. Reminds me of the very first day when I forgot to do up my belt. I had a rather embarrassing length of tan leather belt dangling down my back and over the top of my new grey skirt.

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At lunchtimes we would go to her house – in the days when you were allowed to do that – and she would always have spaghetti hoops on toast. I ate my sandwiches. It became a kind of ritual.

After a few months our paths divided although we still sat next to each other in form class – opposite a girl called Kirsten who is to this day responsible for my one and only (non-family) nickname.

Dege became a cool kid. I did not.

Dege joined the trendies. I joined the music crew.

I used to hang out in the music rooms – in the days when you were allowed to do that. Dege hung out wherever cool kids hung out. I still have no idea where that was.

Dege listened to Prince. I did not.

I listened to Rick Astley (well, he’s cool-ish now..). Dege did not.

One day the school went into lockdown following the escape of a prisoner from Broadmoor hospital which was only a few miles away. We could only leave when our parents arrived. At fifteen it was both scary and exciting.

After a while I walked to school and stopped leaving my bike in Dege’s garage. We rarely saw each other outside of form class.

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That was over twenty-five years ago and I have no idea what Dege is doing now – nor do I really want to know. We were in each other’s lives for a time when we both needed to be – and then we moved on.

All of that from a tin of spaghetti hoops.

(For the record, I made spaghetti hoops on toast for lunch today. My eldest son didn’t want any as he had not long dragged himself out of bed for breakfast and my youngest flatly refused to eat it. The birds had a feast though.)

Ah, well. It was worth it for the memories.

Wonder if Dege still remembers spaghetti hoops at lunchtime….

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