Thursday, 18 December 2014

The Kitchen Saga Continues

I’m getting rather tired of rearranging furniture.  It started with emptying the kitchen in preparation for the new one.  I disassembled the kitchen table so it would fit through the door and reassembled it temporarily in the lounge, the fridge was moved into the dining room and I emptied all the cupboards into boxes and stashed them wherever I could find room.  Except none of it turned out as temporary as it was supposed too.  The kitchen refit dragged on for weeks as I encountered problem after problem and delay after delay, but I persevered, what else could I do? 

While I waited for the decorator to fit me into his busy schedule I decided this would be a good time to move all the pots and pans out of their boxes and find a home in the lovely new cupboards and have a clear out of the utility room as well.  A major spring clean ensued.  I lost count of the trips I made to the charity shop to donate items I had accumulated over the years, and countless plastic bottles and tubs emerged from their hiding places and made their way to the recycling bin.

Then I hit another snag… the radiators weren’t working properly.  On inspection the gas supplier came to the conclusion that they needed flushing out.  It was only a two day job, but they needed access to every radiator to change the valves as well.  I went through the house moving furniture and ornaments out of the way of the radiators.  The lounge and dining room, still cluttered with stray items from the kitchen, proved tricky but I managed it.  Of course once the heating was fixed, I had to then put it all back again…

Exasperating I wasn’t done yet though…  I discovered a crack in the new granite worktop.  Seriously a crack!  This stuff is supposed to be tough and hard wearing and it’s cracked already.  Needless to say I’m not impressed.  The company came and inspected and agreed to replace it, so guess what…?  All those nicely packed cupboards of pots and pans needed to be emptied again.

After a few weeks delay, as the initial replacement apparently cracked during cutting and so the company had to source another piece to work with, it finally arrived.  To my surprise, and immense relief the old worktop slid out relatively easily without disrupting the up stand, splash back or tiles, phew!  The new piece was slid in and our smiles faded… it was cracked in exactly the same place.

The fitters and I stared at it in disbelief, all that work and it was still wrong.  A phone call to the company resulted in a promise that they would put it right, which is great but still means I’ll have to go through all of this yet again.  The guys left, somewhat deflated, I cleaned the cupboards and refilled them once more, frustrated to discover that I couldn’t quite remember how it had all come out and even more frustrated by the knowledge that I will be doing this yet again when a replacement is ready.

Everything’s on hold now while I wait to hear back from the company, not that I want the new worktop just now anyway, I’d actually quite like to put my Christmas tree and decorations up and am therefore taking a well-earned break from emptying cupboards and moving furniture.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Kitchen Chaos

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, my kitchen has for the last eight weeks been undergoing a bit of a face lift.  Yes, I did say eight weeks.  No, my kitchen really isn’t that big, or the refurbishment that drastic.  So why did it take eight weeks?  To be honest I still haven’t quite figured that one out, but the bad news is, it’s not finished yet.

It had seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Of course having the kitchen out of action for any length of time was going to be inconvenient, but it would only be for two weeks…. Or at least that’s what the designer claimed. 

It started off alright.  The fitter turned up bright and early one Monday to rip out the old appliances, break apart the old cupboards and completely fill the skip, which was so attractively sitting on my lawn.  So far so good.

Then the electrics had to be rewired.  I know it’s all for my own safety, and the sensible side of me is completely on board with this.  However, the impatient and cost saving side of me can’t help but have the nagging doubt of, is it really necessary?  Common sense fortunately does however prevail, usually, so the rewiring went ahead, not that I actually really had a say in the matter. 

The next snag was when the sink arrived.  Seriously, I’m supposed to actually wash up in that?  It was so small I’m not even sure my frying pan would fit in it.  Perhaps it would have looked bigger when it was installed, but thankfully I didn’t get that far.  A larger, more practically sink was ordered.  The only downside was, they had to wait for the part.

Never mind right?  Onwards and upwards as the saying goes.  So I’d have to put up with no sink for a little longer, I could cope with that.  Of course that also meant they couldn’t fit the worktop, but still it wasn’t the end of the world.  I focused on the exciting fact that the next day my appliances would be delivered.

Yep, the next day the appliances were delivered.  Sadly they weren’t my appliances.  Or at least not the ones I had ordered.  I walked into the kitchen, just as the fitter had proudly installed the oven.  “Doesn’t it look great?” he asked.  Er, yes but not as great as the one I wanted would have looked.

A somewhat fraught phone call later he had confirmed that I was right (told you so) and the oven was not the one I ordered.  With that, we decided it was best to check the rest of the appliances.  Guess what, the dishwasher was wrong too.  By the end of the day the fitter left me with one working appliance… the extractor fan. 

Now don’t get me wrong, it’s a very nice extractor fan, and I really appreciated that it worked, but it really wasn’t all that much help to me.  I mean an extractor fan’s sole purpose in life is to extract the steam when you cook (well, that and have a pretty little light as well).  When you have no hob on which to actually do any cooking, it makes a working extractor fan a little superfluous.  Fortunately my trusty microwave stepped in to the rescue.  What would I do without microwave meals?

So a week passed with no progress while I waited, I would like to say patiently but let’s be honest it was definitely impatiently, for the new sink and the new appliances to arrive.  The company was kind enough to lend me a temporary oven in the meantime, so my microwave was given a reprieve.  Or was that me that was given a reprieve from microwave meals?

Finally, the correct appliances were fitted, (after they had been inspected by me just to make sure), and then the sink was installed.  Still no plumbing in place, but washing up’s overrated anyway. 
Then the guys came to measure up for the worktop.  It arrived the following week, by which point I was beginning to get excited.  To be fair, I’d been quite excited when the whole thing started, I mean the prospect of having a kitchen that worked instead of one where nothing did, was quite appealing. 

My old dishwasher had been purely ornamental for at least a year, and the oven, obviously jealous of the dishwasher’s lazy days, was trying its hardest to achieve the same goal.  The ignition on the hobs was the first to go.  But it wasn’t smart enough to outwit me and a box of matches. 

It was persistent though, and decided that the oven itself didn’t want to light either.  Technically a box of matches can resolve that too, however it wasn’t so easy.   Cooking dinner each night became a ritual of crawling on the floor, lighting a match, struggling to reach the back of the oven without getting burned when it did light, then clambering back up and shutting the door, which was also trying my patience by refusing to shut unless it was slammed.  Unfortunately this was then often followed by cursing, as the breeze from slamming the door blew the oven out and I had to start the whole process all over again. 

Needless to say a new kitchen with working appliances was very tempting.  However, given all the problems I was encountering, I was beginning to think that temperamental appliances were better than none.  But as the worktop was finally fitted and the new appliances were installed, optimism was restored.

That was three weeks ago now.  So why isn’t my kitchen finished?  Well, simple answer, timing.  The delays threw out my carefully timetabled plan for getting things done.  The decorator filled my slot with other appointments as I wasn’t ready.  That delayed the flooring.  Then I had inspiration and decided I wanted tiles around part of the kitchen, yes I know I should have thought of that earlier, but it’s a woman’s prerogative to change her mind.

Next issue, my decorator doesn’t do tiling.  The hunt for a tiler began.  Or was it a race?  Anyway, I found one, who had a space in his diary a couple of weeks later.  Perfect.  So now I have tiles. 

The decorator is scheduled to come this month, with the guy fitting the new blind and the flooring fitters following up closely behind.  If all goes according to plan, I should have a completed kitchen before Christmas.  I’m really looking forward to it, maybe then I’ll remember why I ever thought this was a good idea.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

First Drafts

I was following Elizabeth Little’s #AuthorChat on twitter tonight and it got me thinking about the way that I write my novels.  Elizabeth, like any sane person, types her first drafts and then edits in hardcopy.  Totally logical.  I’m therefore slightly concerned that I have completely the opposite approach, which bizarrely, until I read her posts, had never even struck me as being slightly crazy. 

I tend to handwrite my first drafts, more or less in full, in a notepad.  Well I say a notepad, however even with my tiniest writing, I can’t actually cram a full length novel into a single notepad.  Because I also have a habit of thinking of extra dialogue or inserting new chapters into sections that I have already written, I end up inserting pages with lots of asterisks and highlighting to help me decipher it all later.  This means that my notepad is usually full of loose pages, inserted in seemingly random places, all held together by a large elastic band.

Despite its rather dishevelled appearance, my notepad however is actually amazingly well organised.  To everyone else it may look completely illegible and worn, but to me it makes complete sense.  Well, apart from the odd word here or there that I can’t read when I come to type it up, I guess that’s the price I pay for scribbling in my notepad at 2am in torch light.

I have a rough chapter guide at the front of the book, in pencil so it can be amended.  Frequently.  Each new chapter is tagged and numbered with a sticky tab, which can be renumbered later when I change the order of the novel again.  I have a list of character names, ages and relationships at the back of the book.  To be honest that one’s a necessity, given I struggle to even remember the names of real people.

When I get chance, I periodically have a session at my computer and start typing it up, expanding it with new ideas or leaving out the parts that seemed to make sense at the time but are actually just bad.  Then when the whole thing has been typed, I go back to the beginning and start reading, editing as I go.

As Elizabeth pointed out, surely this must make my hand ache.  She’s right, it does, if I stick at it too long, although the length of time I can write for has increased since I started.  The other thing to bear in mind is that I write whenever I have the opportunity, be it at my desk before work, sitting in the cafĂ©, on the bus, in a waiting room, or even sitting on a bench outside a shopping centre before it opens.  Some of these places aren’t so great for pulling out my heavy old laptop and typing, by the time it’s started up it would be time to pack up, so a little notebook and pen is just easier and quicker.  So I guess my hand will simply have to muddle through, for now at least. 

Monday, 20 October 2014


When I leave the house each morning, I check that the taps are turned off, the radio and kettle are unplugged and the oven, which hasn’t even been used since the night before, is still turned off.  And then I check it all again.  My colleagues roll their eyes each evening when I double back as I am leaving the office, to check that I really did lock my desk drawer.  My friends smile as I check my car really did lock, when I press the remote control.  And my family… well they don’t pass judgement.  They can’t really, given that they are just as bad as me.

Writing is another of my obsessions.  However, unlike double or triple checking a door, this is one that few people know about.  It’s actually quite easy to hide it from people, because so few people even know about my passion for writing to begin with.  They have no idea that I carry around a little notepad in my bag, ready for the moment that the perfect line of dialogue or song lyric should just happen to pop into my head.   They are blissfully unaware of how I scramble for my torch in the middle of the night, so I can scribble down a new idea for a story. 

Despite my frantic scribbling though, I thought that my obsession was actually not that bad.  I had it completely under control.  I was just jotting down ideas so that I could put them out of my head and forget them, without them constantly nagging at me, determined not to be ignored.  But then, with one single decision, everything changed.

I decided to write a book.  To be fair, it seemed like a completely harmless, albeit potentially insane idea, at the time.  Who knew that that one decision would open the flood gates that had held back the ideas from taking over my life?  Definitely not me. 

The notebook I carry in my bag has doubled in size, and is usually not alone.  The accountant in me is determined to ensure that even my creativity is neatly organised.  Or perhaps that counts as another obsession?  This means that each new novel I start has its own notepad.  Each notepad is filled with sticky tabs, and highlighting, to ensure that I know exactly where in the story my latest scribbles will fall.   Then periodically, I type these notes into my laptop and watch in fascination as my book grows.

When I started writing my first novel, my work was focused solely on one notepad.  Then another idea struck me and a second book sprang to life.  I tried not to let myself get waylaid with working on this new story, allowing myself to only jot down key ideas, so I didn’t lose focus on my first.  But then the first novel was complete.  While I waited on the edge of my seat for feedback from those who I had chosen to share it with (not that they knew at that point that it was mine), I needed a distraction.  The second novel became my focus.  Yet once again, other stories vied for my attention.  In fact, the more I wrote, the more stories called to me.   Like small children in need of attention, they impatiently demanded my time.

I dread to think what my friends and colleagues would say if they knew just how obsessed with writing I have become.  I imagine there would be lots of raised eyebrows and shaking heads.  The thing is, even that wouldn’t stop me.  Or more accurately, it couldn’t stop me.  The only thing that will stop me from writing now is if my ideas suddenly dry up.  Given how much I love what I’m doing though, I really hope that doesn’t happen.

I never imagined that writing a book would have had such an impact on me and my life.  If I’d known in advance though, would that knowledge have stopped me from pursuing my dream?  Heck no.  If anything, it only makes me wish that I had done it year’s ago.  Just think of all the novels I could have written by now if I’d only embraced my creativity a little earlier.  But then, perhaps I wasn’t ready to do so before.  Perhaps, this was just the right time.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Creative Writing Class

I started a creative writing course this week.  Admittedly, I did't  participate a huge amount.  My writing has been a well kept secret for so long, I think it's going to take a while for me to get used to sharing my work.  But, it's a great group, excellent tutor and interesting class.

In fact, I was so full of new ideas the following day, that I've already written a new short story and that's just as a result of the first day of the course!

I'm looking forward to next week...

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Creativity restored...

My writing has been on hold recently, while real life intervened.  Much to my frustration.  While I battled work pressures and kitchen renovations, my creativity seemingly went on strike, as I literally fell into bed each night, completely exhausted and unable to find the energy to switch on my computer. 

Thankfully, balance has just about been restored though and I'm back at my keyboard, with renewed enthusiasm following my unscheduled absence.  I read through my partially written manuscript eagerly, feeling as though I was catching up with old friends.  My mind is already filled with adventures for them to embark on, to make up for my recent neglect.  My fingers will have to type fast in order to keep up with all the ideas in my head.  In fact, is that steam coming from my keyboard…

Monday, 1 September 2014

Exciting News

Well, last week was amazing, from being announced as a finalist in a short story competition at the start of the week, to finding out I had actually won!  I've been smiling ever since.

I can't say much here, but even more exciting news, is that my story will now be published as an e-book soon.  We're already talking cover designs, how incredibly exciting is that?

My colleagues, who know nothing about my writing, have probably reclassified their assessment of my sanity.  Before I was probably just considered slightly strange for constantly scribbling in a notebook every lunch hour, but now I'm probably considered completely insane for walking around with a ridiculous grin on my face all the time.  Fortunately however, I have resisted the urge to do an impromptu little gig in the middle of the office to express my sheer delight at recent events.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

UK Songwriting Contest

Yippee!  I’ve just heard that I’m a semi-finalist in the UK Songwriting Contest.  Can you tell I’m completely ecstatic at the news?  The final results won’t be announced until later this year, so I’ll be keeping my figures crossed until then.  In the meantime however… Yippee!

I’d actually turned my laptop on to do some work on my latest novel.  However strangely after reading the results my mind is drawing a complete blank when it comes to thinking of dialog.  In fact the only thing it seems to be able to come up with is, Yippee!   Given the character in my story has just discovered she’s the prime suspect in a murder investigation, that might not be quite the response for her to go with.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

It’s CIMA Results Day

All week my team have been on tender hooks, nervously awaiting their exam results.  Watching their anxious expressions and desperate attempts to distract themselves from wondering if they have passed or failed, brought back memories of waiting for my own exam results, a few years ago when I was training to become a professional accountant.

The lead up to any results day is never fun.  Of course when you pass, the elation and relief is undeniably wonderful, emphasised by the level of fear experienced beforehand.  The most memorable day for me was back in 2004, the day the results were announced I was on a family holiday. 

We were in the midst of a driving holiday around western Canada at the time.  We began our trip in Calgary, and headed through the Canadian Rockies, through Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper and Wells Gray Provincial Park, before heading on to Vancouver and Victoria.  It was an amazing trip (which I will post on my travel blog soon), but it wasn't exactly the most relaxing time for me, as I gazed at the stunning scenery, with fingers crossed that I had passed my exams.

The day the results actually came out, we had left Jasper and were staying at the Montana Hills Guest Ranch in Bridge Lake, BritishColumbia, not far from Wells Gray Provincial Park.  The owners were lovely and thankfully let me borrow their computer to check my email.  Well, I say me, but actually I was too nervous and sent my Dad and brother off with my password, while I hid in the cabin praying for good news. 

They came rushing back to the cabin, waving a print out in the air shouting, ‘You’ve passed! You’ve passed!’  I can’t tell you how relieved I was. 

Originally I’d thought being on holiday on results day was a terrible idea, but looking back now, the results made that holiday even more memorable.  I can honestly say that for most of my result days, I have no idea where I was, but that one and my family’s delighted faces as they shared the news and we celebrated, will remain in my heart forever.

What’s your most memorable results day?  I’d love to hear your stories…

Sunday, 6 July 2014

Book Review : White Boots by Noel Streatfeild

My favorite book as a child was White Boots by Noel Streatfeild.  Nine year old Harriet Johnson is advised to take up skating to aid her recovery from an illness that has left her thin and weak.  At the ice rink she is befriended by Lalla Moore, a young girl with figure skating in her blood.  Despite being from completely different classes, they form an unusual but undeniably strong friendship.  With Lallas' help, Harriet discovers that she actually posses the talent to become an exceptional skater herself, possibly even better than Lalla.  Revelations like that however, can put a strain on any friendship...

A few years ago I managed to track down a copy of this book and re-read it.  I discovered that despite the passing of time since I first read it, it had lost none of it's charm.  It's a heart warming tale that I love as much today, as I did all those years ago.

When I was a child, I was desperate to be like Harriet and take to the ice like she did.  The notion of gliding gracefully in beautiful skating dresses was enchanting.  The reality was, well somewhat different.  As a child I only skated once, when one of my friends had a birthday party at an ice rink.  I quickly discovered that being elegant and graceful was a whole lot harder than it looked, and clung to the side for most of the party.

Years later, as an adult I decided to give it another try.  I have never quite reached the level of talent that Harriet and Lalla possessed, but I did let go of the barrier... eventually.  But then, that's a whole other story...

All About Me

Hello.  I’m Elaina and I love to write.  Okay so you kind of expected me to say that, given this blog is mostly going to be about my writing (and books I love to read), nevertheless it’s still true.  I was the kid who was always making up stories and poems for fun.  Yep, not homework, just for fun.  However, strangely I chose a completely different career path, I’m an accountant (not really much call for creativity there).  Looking back now, I’m not sure why, possibly because writing for me was such fun it was engrained in my brain as being a hobby, not something serious.  I never stopped writing though.  I have note books filled with song lyrics, poems and story ideas.  Some I’m incredibly proud of, some, well we’ll just put those to the bottom of the pile shall we…

Last autumn I had a bit of a brain wave… potentially.  I decided that the story that had been running through my head for, well let’s just say a while, should be written down.  This revelation occurred to me in the middle of a sleepless night, which is quite fitting given this is when I also made up most of the story.  I’m a worrier.  When I can’t sleep I worry.  I think about something that happened the previous day, rehashing what I should have done differently, or worrying about the big meeting I have in the morning.  The end result of all my worrying is that not a lot of sleeping gets done and I’m tired and stressed come sunrise.  My solution is to daydream.  It’s not necessarily the most successful method of encouraging sleep, as I have a tendency to get so caught up in my daydreams that I can actually end up keeping myself awake, but on the plus side, I’m no longer stressed the next day.  Tired potentially, but not stressed and irritable.

After my middle of the night bolt of inspiration, at lunch the next day I pulled out my note book and carried on writing.  Somehow my middle of the night daydreaming sessions had now encroached into real life.  As that realisation struck me, I suddenly began to question the sanity of my brain wave.  I was writing a book.  Like a whole book.  Not just a song lyric or a short story, but a book.  Did I even have enough ideas to fill a book, no of course not, that just wasn’t realistic… was it?  I’m not sure if I was driven by the desire to prove myself right, or prove myself wrong, but I decided to jot down chapter ideas and see how many I’d get.  I wrote them down, rearranged them, counted them up and stared at them in disbelief.  Eighteen.  How on earth had I got ideas for eighteen chapters?  I hadn't even really thought about them, I’d just written down the ideas that were already floating around in my head.  Wow.  I was kind of amazed, and kind of concerned… just how many sleepless nights did I have anyway?

So that was it, suddenly my crazy idea didn’t seem quite so crazy.  Well no, it still seemed crazy, but now it seemed more achievable.  I picked up my pen and started writing again.  I discovered along the way, that doing so was completely and utterly addictive…