Something About Me

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In every day life, John Jackson, a former Ship's Captain now retired. He still retains an avid interest in the Hash House Harriers, Rugby, Food, Romantic Fiction, Philately, etc etc etc.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yes, where did the last two weeks go?

We have the house!! Just for once everything went absolutely brilliantly; we arrived in York and met Pat & John, our oldest friends (42 years and counting), plus their kids, Angela and Clare, plus a whole host of youngsters AND India Lily 

On the way in, we had a call from the estate agents to say the keys could be released. After catching up (12 of us) over lunch, we shot through to Haxby and took over the house. AND – its great. Its bigger than we thought, although there's lots of work to do. We don't expect to move in until Easter(ish) BUT we have our house! Note to self: its 600 m from the pub!

Oh, and it was just 5 weeks (Yes - FIVE WEEKS) from making the offer to exchanging contracts. Anyone who needs a good solicitor - call me.

Reviewing romantic fiction! In a moment of madness I volunteered earlier in the year to review some romantic fiction for the RNA for their awards Much to my surprise, the offer was accepted, and out of the blue, just over a month ago I got a phone call from the lady who coordinates all their reviews. Actually, by this time, I had given up any prospects of being selected. I was even more surprised when she asked me to read and review five books before the end of the month. I mean, it wasn't as if I had anything else on my plate, like buying a new house, or whatever!

The books (all paperbacks) arrived VERY promptly, and with them came some excellent advice to reviewers. Its not just reading the book and saying you liked it or not. There are a whole range various facets for the different genres that the RNA want your opinion on. It may well be that, as a male reader, they wanted me to be “in the fold”.

One of the odder things about the process is that, if I was going to do it properly, I felt I couldn't look up the authors on Amazon, or look up any existing reviews, or check out the authors on Google, Facebook or Twitter. Even now, I can't post any reviews myself (not until the results are announced next year). Luckily, I didn't know any of the authors by name or reputation already.

For the record, of the five books, 3 were very good, 1 was a good read but not really eligible in its class, and one was dire.

Oh, and, at the end of the day – its only MY opinion. The one I didn't enjoy, I just wont review – because, after all, its only my opinion.

Would I do it again?? Bring it on! (although a bit more notice next year would be good)

Strictly continues to entertain - apart from Bruce and Tess (don't get me started!). Now its getting good. My forecast for the final? Susannah, Sophie and Natalie. On a side-track, Vinthent Simone has gone off to the jungle, where some of the insects in the bushtucker trials are actually bigger than he is!! I don't think he'll do too well (sadly)

So next week we have DD2 to stay – its her Christmas week. We expect to spoil her. We have to show her and DD1 the new house, too. After that its the Christmas party season. I'll be joining friends in London for theirs, then over to Brussels for theirs.(and the Brussels Xmas market, chocolate, etc.)

Have we finished our Christmas shopping yet? I'm feeling quite smug.

All comments welcome, of course.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sort of New House-Owners

More Random Jottings!!!

We have bought a House!! Actually, we have had our offer accepted on a 3 bed bungalow in a village just north of York. Why York? Well, its mainly flat, and we need that – both officially being disabled, we have friends there, we like the city a LOT, and we could get a good “bang for our buck” for what we got for our house on the Isle of Man. Did I mention the pubs?? The Brigantes is a good start. 

So now we wait. Everything is in the hands of the solicitors. Fortunately, we are under no time pressure to move, and indeed, wouldn't move until next Spring anyway. My Mum is still clinging to life (just) up the road from us here in a care home. Unfortunately, all she wants is not to wake up tomorrow. For any of you out there who also have elderly family, our hearts go out to you. As a friend of mine in a similar situation was told “You can't bring back your Dad, her sight or her youth. You have done all you can.“ Frustrating, though, and guilt-inducing.

Mind you – with the house, its not just the waiting – its also the form-filling. Our solicitors are very good – I used to play rugby with the head of the firm. That, though doesn't diminish the amount of times you've got to produce a current passport or similar, AND proof of address, AND proof you have the funds legally. Just more stuff to wade through. Still, the end results should be worth it.

Strictly is turning out to be an excellent season!! Even without Vincent and Flavia. By happy accident they seem to have ended up with an engaging cast of slebs who all seem determined to try. Those who have been eliminated have hardly been controversial, and there are a few REALLY good dancers. Farewell this weekend to Julian McDonald.

In the world of Romantic Fiction, it seems my choice of friends is inspired – they all seem to be in the running the their particular world's version of the Oscars. I like the way they suddenly slip out their latest literary offerings without any fanfare. They are remarkably fecund in a literary sense as well.
This month I have read Talli Roland's Build A Man,Liz Harris's Art of Deception, Nigel Tranter's The Wisest Fool (an old favourite) and Desperate Remedies by Christina Courtenay (and that's only so far) All excellent. I'm in awe of their ability to edit, as well. I know from my own (non-fiction) writing that after getting all the words down, the last thing you want to do is to go through crossing them out.

My Hash House Harrier friends know I'm very involved organising a mammoth weekend of running and socialising(i.e. Hashing) over in Brussels next summer. It has proved remarkably popular, and we have over 2500 people coming from all over the world for it. I love Brussels – its a lovely city, and the beer and food are among the best in the world. Less than two months until my next trip over there – intelligently combining a committee meeting with the Brussels Manneke Piss H3's Christmas Party. For any of them reading this, its all going very well!!

And now – a word on Stamps!!! Yes, ANOTHER great thing to do when you don't have working legs. Actually, I just love them for their own sake. Perhaps better saved for al later blog - but believe me - you have NO IDEA how often South American countries changed their Presidents a hundred years ago. They truly did measure time in revolutions there. :)

What a madcap whirl my life is!!

More soon.


Some Blogs I read:

Paul Woodford, the best blog on Hashing!
Guido Fawkes – the sharpest political blog around
Anna Raccoon – always contentious
and several of my lady-writer friends sites and blogs – good reads all!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We're in the Money!!! - Well, not really.

At LAST – those three little words we have been longing to hear – Your House Sold!!! On Monday of this weekend after 2 years of trying we finally completed the sale of our house on the Isle of Man.
But – of course – one door closes and another opens wide – we now have to find somewhere to live in our dotage. Perhaps fortunately we have the classic case of my parents as an example of what NOT do do. Don't buy a cottage in a Cotswold village! Finding one and doing it up may have kept Mum out of Dad's hair for a couple of years, but after Dad died my non-driving Mum found herself stuck in a village where, then, the bus service consisted of a minibus running to Stratford on Avon once every Thursday on months with an “r” in the name. To get a taxi to the Doctor would cost her about £40.

So we are looking for a bungalow in York. Its mostly flat, we can just about afford one, and there is a great bus service in the areas we want to move to. Its fine now while I can drive, but looking ahead.........

Did I mention that York has about 300 pubs?? Mostly good ones. We'll probably check out a few while house-hunting next week.

On the Strictly front, its all kicked off with much aplomb. Actually not a bad line up at all. My tips: - First out, Vanessa Feltz or Tony Jacklin. Last 5? Rachel Riley, Abbey Clancey, Susannah Reid, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Patrick from Casualty. The new studio looks considerably bigger – probably because it is. We have applied for tickets for the Blackpool show (without any expectations)
Having Strictly back on the telly means we also get It Takes Two back as well. The evenings are a lot brighter on the box as the night draws in ever faster.

I've been chatting on Facebook and Twitter over the last couple of years with an expanding group of lady authors of the romantic kind. This started off tweeting over Strictly and sort of grew. Now you would think, in such a competitive field as modern romantic fiction that a large group of competing females was a recipe for a total bitch-fest – and you couldn't be more wrong!!! Actually, they all appear amazingly nice and supportive, and extremely chatty and friendly. Curiously, at their annual conferences and various get-togethers, they are rarely seen without a glass in their hands, so they'll fit right in with the rest of my friends. Yesterday I actually got round to meeting two of them. Pia and Sue are very much leading lights in the Romantic Novelists Association, and they gave an entertaining and informative talk at two of the Leicester Libraries of writing, both in general and from the romantic fiction point of view. Delightful ladies both. Well done Leicester Libraries for putting the lectures on.

We've both recovered from our holiday the cheese has all been eaten, and most of the wine put away for a while. Autumn is definitely with us, and its the jam and chutney season. Fortunately we have a crab apple tree a few hundred yards down the road, and as usual I took a brolly and my walking sick down to collect a few – in this case a bucket-full. We now have 9 pounds of crab-apple jelly adoring the larder.
We also have a litre of blackberry gin that will be ready for Christmas. Lovely.

More soon!


Some Blogs I read:

Paul Woodford, the best blog on Hashing!

Guido Fawkes – the sharpest political blog around

Anna Raccoon – always contentious

and several of my lady-writer friends sites and blogs – good reads all!

Friday, September 20, 2013

Big Skies, and an imminent Glitter Explosion

A first attempt at a general sort of blog, seeing as a lot of the people who interest me do this on a regular basis.

Big Skies. We are in South West France, in a tiny village called Touille, where you can look out from the verandah in our Gite and see the Pic du Midi at 54 miles away!! Today is our last day before heading home, and it has been one of the best Gite holidays we have ever had. Perhaps, because of that, the weather is spectacularly fine today; a few tufts of cumulus earlier, lots of vapour trails and sunshine.

Where we are is pretty well 60 miles south-south-west of Toulouse, right on the border between Haute Gironde and Ariege, and it has proved ideally placed for exploring. We've had a day at the seaside in Biarritz and Bayonne, we have climbed (in the car) the Col du Tourmalet, and several other passes, and have visited several charming and interesting small towns and markets. A lot of the buildings round here are sandstone-made, and some of the villages look remarkably like the Cotswolds, colour-wise

The local cheeses are outstanding – and there are so many of them, and the Madiran wine is a gorgeous gutsy red – we have enough to last us a good while, especially as this is likely to be the last gite holiday we take, for financial and health reasons. Next summer, its pension time, but for all my readers – I recommend this area!!

On the Glitter front, its the new season of Strictly, of course. The first for several years without Vincent and Flavia, but it still looks like a pretty good set of pros and slebs. Bruce Forsyth is still there, unfortunately. I remember him when he was good – oh, so long ago, in pantomime when I was about 12. They say the best sort of guest to have at a party is the guest who knows when to leave – something I try to be myself. It does seem to have passed Brucie by though. I do find it bizarre that everyone says that Strictly wouldn't be successful without him, yet its perfectly successful without him in about 100 other countries!

Of course, its only a matter of a few short weeks before we get deluged in the press with reports of romances, showmances and bromances. Personally, I'll stick with the dancing. I'll miss V&F though, who I've had the privilege of meeting, and seeing several times. We already have our tickets for their next production, Dance 'till Dawn, in its opening week in Bristol next year.

Twittering over Strictly is where I bumped into several of the lady writers I “know”. Fun, all of them. I've just finished and really enjoyed Liz Harris's A Bargain Struck, and am just getting into Talli Roland's Build A Man. I look forward to meeting all of you actually in the flesh, as it were, at some time in the not too distant future.

Various leg-related issues (lol) have kept me sedentary as various times over the last few years, and for a while, the Net was really the only way I could get “out of the house.” While P and I have always been Strictly fans, a few years ago we really got into it, and I started chatting to a few people in one of the popular chat sites (Digital Spy). Not knowing the language and codes for such things, I found myself roundly attacked and abused, but then adopted by a group of what turned out to be extremely nice females of all ages from 16 to 66. P and I have met up with several of them a few times now, and I still chat regularly to them. They keep me young!

More soon – hopefully reporting on a successful house sale.