Current Release

Current Release
Saved by the Viking Warrior

Friday, September 04, 2015

Aviva Tour of Britain prep for 10 Sept



All around the village --  red and yellow painted bicycles have appeared. At  first it was a bit disconcerting, particularly the one at the entrance to the village, chained to a signpost. But it rapidly all became clear -- it is in celebration of the Aviva Tour of Britain which is passing through the village on 10 September. The red and gold are the colours of the Northumberland flag.
On Church Street, the lampposts are festooned with banners and the bunting is up. Further up the North Bank someone who was big into cycling in his youth has painted his front gate red and gold.
And the bicycles are everywhere.
My eldest who is up visiting from Cambridge was not so impressed with the bicycles as he is used to seeing them chained to every possible post there. Personally I think they look cheerful.
On the day, people are supposed to decorate their house etc.
It is a nice idea but I think we will just go out and cheer the racers on. This section is part of the King  of the Mountain timed stretch. And I know how hard it can be to climb the North Bank. The Collies however will be staying inside. I suspect they will be annoyed that they were not consulted about people congregating outside their house and garden.
I suspect most of the visitors will be down in the village. The church is running a pop up cafe (when did they stop being called a coffee morning?) serving teas, coffees and cakes.
The road will be closed for two hours and people living on the route have to ensure their cars are off the road.
 My eldest who experienced the Tour de France last year in Cambridge says that the cyclists flash past and it is all over in a matter of minutes.
Still it will be fun and it is not very often that something like this comes past the front gate.
Afterwards, people will be allowed to cycle up the North Bank without fear of cars for about an hour. (I always see lots of people pushing their bikes when they reach us)
Fingers crossed for a fine day.
It is being shown live on ITV4 in the UK with a highlight edition at 8 pm every day, plus it is also being shown around the world in a number of countries (including in the US)

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Life Lessons from being an author

Recently I had a conversation with my eldest who is about to start writing his PhD thesis. He said -- people have said it is impossible to write 80k before Christmas.
I had to bite my tongue. Although I write in a different genre than he does, I know it if it is August, and you have done all your research, it is indeed possible to write 80k of a first draft. You have to be determined, disciplined and have the desire to get it done. You also have to persevere. You need to be focused.
But then I am a woman who once wrote 80k in 3 weeks because I had a deadline and had thrown out the previous storyline as being unworkable. Actually I have done it twice. Luckily once I got over a hurdle, the words did flow and it became oddly enjoyable (but not something I'd really care to repeat)
My job is writing. My current manuscript is 112k (give or take). Over the years, I have learnt that I can write 5k every so often but my brain implodes if I try to do it on a regular basis. I am far better somewhere between 1.5k -3k. It means when I go back and edit, I don't have to change as much.
It also means that I am less sympathetic when my children be moan writing several thousand words.
It is about the discipline of getting the words down.
I am confident that my eldest will achieve his goal. He has the skill to do it and really less than 1k a day when it is your main task should be achievable. But the ability to be ruthlessly focused has be maintained.

And there is my daughter who had a mini meltdown about her Masters dissertation. I know next to nothing about karst hydrology. But I was able to draw on my experiences of brain storming with various over the years and what worked for me. Generally making considering noises and allowing me to find the logical solution works. I found that if certain editors had too much input early on, I went into editor-pleasing mode and often the story didn't work as well as I'd hoped.
And I now understand why sometimes editors -- say oh just get me something, even if the author knows it will be rubbish. The act of getting the words on paper and sending things off (plus writing and rewriting a synopsis) can really help.
It was great to use a skill that I didn't know I have. And I am thankful for all the editors who talked me back from various ledges.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

The current Cultural Iconoclasm

What is happening to Palmyra makes my soul ache. It is a place I had always wanted to visit (once the situation calmed down). My husband went years ago when he did an overland expedition in the mid 1970s. It all seems so senseless as what have the stones done to the so-called Islamic State.
I had a short conversation with an archaeologist friend and he had said -- we have been here before. Think about the Reformation for instance. The destruction of monasteries. Or going further back, when Christianity really took hold and various pagan temples were destroyed. Think the Library of Alexandria's destruction.
And I thought. Sometimes history can really hold up a dark mirror to today.
 And then there is the monastery of St Catherine's in the Sinai which I visited a few years ago. Its library has been the source of many books, books and icons which survived the Byzantine iconoclasm by sheer virtue of its remoteness. It is now surrounded by fundamentalist Islamists. \i fear it won't survive.
This is not something new and only Islamic. But rather a peculiar madness which infects people, particularly people of a fundamentalist religious bent. A fury. And while it is happening, it destroys everything in its path.It becomes a whirlwind. And hopefully after a few years, it blows itself out but society is changed forever.  From the dissolution of the monasteries to the Restoration when knowledge and reason were once to the forefront took over a hundred years though. A blip in humanity but generations of humans.
I don't know the answer. Wholesale cultural destruction is never right.  All I know is that I still weep for  the Library of Alexandria and all the knowledge which was destroyed there. I now weep for Palmyra.

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Rise of Dark Ages for TV

The Dark Ages aka the Anglo Saxon period/The Vikings/ per-Norman Conquest is experiencing a revival in the popular conscience. There are no fewer than 3 major television dramas currently set to explode on the small screen in the coming months.
First is The Last Kingdom, an adaptation of Bernard Cornwell's best selling series.  Cornwell was of course responsible for Sharpe. The Last kingdom stars Alexander Dreymon and follows the first book of the current 8 book series. It is due to be shown on BBC2 in October and starts on BBC America on 10 October. It is produced by the same people who did Downton, so I am expecting a quality production.  This the  trailer:

Then there is Beowolf: Return to the Shieldlands for ITV which is due to premiere in January 2016. multi award winning actor William Hurt (Humans, Kiss of the Spider Woman), acclaimed actress Joanne Whalley (Wolf Hall, Jamaica Inn), Ed Speleers (Downton Abbey), David Harewood (Homeland, Blood Diamond), Ian Puleston- Davies (Coronation Street), Lolita Chakrabarti (My Mad Fat Diary, The Casual Vacancy), Elliott Cowan (Cilla, Da Vinci’s Demons), Ellora Torchia (Indian Summers), Gisli Orn Gardarsson (Spooks and Spirits), Susan Aderin (The Last Detective), Kirsty Oswald (Ripper Street), Laura Donnelly (Outlander), Edward Hogg (Indian Summers), Alex Price (Father Brown), Jack Rowan (Silent Witness) and Itoya Osagiede (Okora: The Prelude).
Kieran Bew Beowolf:Return of the Shieldlands
This is a retelling  of the Beowolf Story complete with dragons. It stars Kieran Bew as Beowolf but boasts of such actors as
You can read more about the cast here.
In short ITV are spending a bob or two on it. It is currently filming in the North East until early October.
Then there is the  14th century epic The Bastard Executioner about the Marcher lords and the Anglo-Welsh borders for FX Networks. This the trailer for  that series:

Of course there has already been Vikings.
And then  there is  Game of Thrones which operates in a quasi- Dark Ages world.
So why now?
Among other things, the Dark Ages was the last time Northern Europe experienced the ravages of a barbarian horde. Historical fiction does hold a dark mirror up to society and by examining the Dark Ages, it is possible to examine what happened when there was a clash of civilizations. Also we are now in a post-Christian world. It is therefore  to look at the Dark Ages from beyond the prism of Christianity brought civilization. It is possible for pagans, if you will, to be good. And then there is the stirring of the break up of the United Kingdom. The Dark Ages is when the Four Nations were formed. Understanding the reasons for the formation and what went before is something people are curious about. And besides, it is a chance for a rollicking good adventure.

My fingers are crossed that others continue to realise the potential for this time period. I am currently hard at work on my Anglo Saxon queen trilogy and am hoping that it will be well received once it is published. Until the tenth/eleventh century, women welded power in a way that has not been appreciated. Elfrida's reforms of the church, in particular her insistence on the seclusion of nuns contributed to a decrease in political power for women.

Anyway, I am excited to see the television and therefore  popular public conscience is turning towards the Dark Ages. It is ironic that  ten years ago Publisher's Weekly published a piece saying that they thought Vikings were a time period that would never return.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Scoring a win

Yesterday, I managed to sort out my father in law getting into respite care. As a carer, I am entitled to a week's holiday a year.  I contacted Social Services a while ago and we have now jumped through the requisite hoops and it is a go!
My father in law continues to get frailer. He has given up on his daily walks, preferring instead to tend his flower pots. He times his tending so that the postman is due to arrive and often has a few seconds of chat. It is a shame  because when he used to go out for his walks, he would encounter other people. And although I have offered to take him to various meetings etc, he always refuses. Once I had arranged everything so he could go to the Retired Men's Club but he apparently sat up most of the night worrying so that ended that.  Going to a care home will force him to interact. I do worry about him becoming a shut in and mostly only talking to me! But you can't force people.
And he had to be gently guided to admit that yes he does need help. He sometimes forgets the little practical things that are done for him -- such as his towel being put pout every morning, his clothes being washed, his meals prepared etc etc. So the man from  the SS and I went through it and we detailed everything. It was the first time I heard my fil admit that he knew  he couldn't cope with his old house and had no idea what to do. Last year when it was being sold, I was treated to the *I just don't want to sell* speech many times. It had to be sold to fund my mil's care and my fil can't live on his own.
I made the point that it is only respite care. He is coming back. The SS get v nervous as they often think it is code for  -- we want him in a care home permanently.   But after doing all the hopes, the answer is yes, he can go for respite.
Anyway, it feels like a victory. And I felt that someone was on my side for a bit.
And my daughter will be looking after the house and animals -- recovering from her dissertation.

Central Spain beckons in a few weeks time.

Friday, August 28, 2015

4 Years of the Tracy Anderson Method

I started doing the Tracy Anderson Method on 25 August 2011. First her bootcamp and then her metamorphosis.  Currently, I am redoing her continuity, having completed Y3. I didn't go on to  4.1 because I didn't want more weight on my back and many people said that it was just plain tough. I have enough dvds.  While Tracy would like all her clients to graduate to her Streaming, I have issues with it.I know it works for many people but I want to re-do.
I have the dvds and I want to see what is going happen. I figure my body won't remember the moves.

I have completed 1.2 which is where I started with my re-do.  Meta is v beginning and 1.1 is advanced beginner but I had memories of 1.2 being hard.
And so it proved. L3 with is its same side collasping plank  has probably the hardest plank of all continuity.There were bits I didn't remember at all. However, I was able to do all the exercises from day one. I added weights because I am used to wearing ankle weights now. On the two levels where TA wears the lighter weights, I wore my heavier ones. I am sweating far more and my form is far better. I find I do ache.
And I am now doing 1.3 with the ball. Level 1 is in some ways an easy level BUT it is also a subtle level and I find I have to concentrate to make sure my leg is turned in the right direction etc. It does make a difference.
There is a myth that TAM has constantly new moves all the time. It has variations and the sequencing is never the same (the sequencing is hugely important).  1.2 has many of the same moves that I encountered in Y2 and Y3.  The shock and ow level & for example is the first time you meet many of the moves which will be common place in 2.3 and up to Y3. I can do the moves so I can now really concentrate on the fine detail, rather than on clinging on my fingers nails for the first four - six days and then improving by the 10th.
Am I changing still? This is hard to say -- I am in menopause. My metabolism went south suddenly last winter. What has helped increase it has been going  back to drinking a pot of green tea (4-5 cups) and taking the tomato juice twice a day. Things seem to be getting under control but I can no longer eat what I want when I want and trust TAM to keep my weight down. Bad habits had developed.
And fueled by the low level anxiety, I began to eat. There are reason why I am grateful for the tomato juice.
So at the moment, I have banished all snacks and really scaled back on the portion sizes. I have started drinking the green tea again. Thus far my tinnitus doesn't seem to be returning (I had given up on all caffeine to control the ringing in my ears). This seems to be getting my metabolism moving again.
 After a bout with cellulitis at the beginning of the month, I have started rebounding. Rebounding is supposed to be excellent for the lymph system. I have a compromised lymph system which manifest itself as lymphoedema on my left arm. This was the first time I had cellulitis since I discovered the problem/condition. So after a course of strong antibiotics (I managed to avoid the hospital by the skin of my teeth) I am taking a course of probiotics, increasing my magnesium and calcium intake and generally taking care of my arm better.

I started TAM for very shallow reasons -- I wanted to lose weight and I have kept the vast majority of the weight off. I continue doing it as it makes me feel good. I like exercising -- the stress relief is immense. And yes I like looking good in my clothes but I am never going to be perfect. I had 3 children and am 51 for goodness sake. Why would I want to look like a 23 year old model? I like how I look.

Personally because I am enjoying the re-do, I don't see any need to pay more money for the streaming (even though I know  lots of women find it amazing). We shall have to see what I think once I get further into my redo.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Life of an outsider

Caught on the inside, looking out
I realised that come 5 September I will have lived in the UK permanently for 27 years, basically all of my adult life. My memories of the US are stuck back in the Reagan era, pre-internet. Yes I have visited family and friends since moving over here but I haven't live there. I have lived in the North East. And yet every so often, someone says to me -- you are not from around here.
My accent is somewhere over the mid Atlantic, so I don't sound like a Geordie or even posh Northumbrian. To someone who isn't British, I sound British. To someone who is, they can hear the American. In that sense, I am not from around here, but the statement still galls.
I have lived in this house for 19 years. Small saplings have grown into trees. I had all my grown children at the local hospital when it still had a functioning maternity ward. I can even remember when they had a pediatric  ward.  I can even remember the Hexham Mart and when where Tescos at Hexham is now was just a small nursery (we still have the green plastic watering can I bought there). My children were all locally educated.
And yet, when people say things like you are not from around here, I nod my head and inwardly cringe. Because deep in my heart  I worry...maybe I don't belong. This is nonsense of course. I do. And to be fair, I have had friends who were from Devon who have had the same treatment -- of you are not from the North East. Some people are just insularly rude.
But I am American. I have just the one passport. I still celebrate American holidays and love lots about America -- even if at the moment I have no intention of going back there to live. I am part of the 8 million migrants who now reside in the UK. I am here legally. My husband and I jumped through many hoops 27 years ago to get me my visa and right to reside here permanently. I do believe migration should be managed and have little time  for illegal migration. I like to think I made and continue to make a contribution to the local area.
Maybe I just like the life of an outsider. I am not sure but what I am sure of  is that I am not going apologise for it any more.