Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winning -ish

I'm winning - sort of.

The Christmas cards and UK presents have been posted, and the turkey's been ordered. The house is a little tidier, and the decorations are up.

There's still plenty to do, but I did get out last night for a little fun. Manifold had a concert, and all three of us went. Our son got sleepy after only three songs, so I had to leave then, but boy did I enjoy those three songs.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Flu

Ugh!

I think I might have caught it at the funeral.

I still haven't got the Christmas cards in the post, but I've just got to go to bed.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

More delays

A neighbour died. So I spent half the morning down at the chapel of rest, and half the afternoon at the funeral. I don't regret spending my time that way in the least, since I was some use to the widow, but it means that I'm just starting the stuff I had planned to do on Friday.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Stink!

It rained hard, and the cats' toilet on the balcony got soaked.

So they peed in the kitchen, right in the corner. Which did not smell good, obviously.

And then my husband had to go and mend the telescope this morning, so I was on my own with it.

Simply shoving a mop into the offending corner didn't do much good, so I dragged the table out of the way, shifted the stuff that goes under the corner bench and the vase of flowers on top of it, and then dragged out the corner bench itself. Then I could get the mop in there properly, and it helped - some.

Since it's such a pain to get the bench out, I hadn't done it for ages, and there was a lovely collection of cobwebs behind there. Of course it was only common sense to sort them out while I could get at it all. Ditto the dust rats round the cables for the hi-fi.

But the smell still hadn't gone, and one of the bench's feet was an ominous damp shade.

So I emptied the storage space under the seats, tipped the bench on end, and set about the stain with hot water and bleach, followed by cleaning the inside of the storage space, which had collected breadcrumbs and cobwebs.

As I was waiting for it to dry, I had a lovely view of the greasy mark on the wall just above the bench height. I knew exactly where to find the paint, and the furniture was already shifted out of the way, wasn't it? So I changed into my oldest clothes, and dug out the paint and paintbrush, took the pictures off the wall and painted all the marks that wouldn't come off with hot soapy water.

Of course the dirtiest place was round the light switch, and it would have been daft to leave it mucky when I'd got that far. But that meant shifting the CD shelves, with all the loose CDs on top.

At that point the phone rang. Did I want to join a family party for lunch?

It sounded a heck of a lot more fun than what I was doing, but I couldn't abandon the job half way, and I certainly couldn't go anywhere without a shower, not the way I smelled.

The room was still a bit whiffy, so I attacked the foot of the bench with a fresh lot of hot soapy water and bleach while the wall dried. Then I cleaned the pictures and hung them back on the walls. Put the bench back, with all the things inside it and under it, cleaning each bit as it went back.

And dammit, there was still a smell. So I took all the stuff out again, and managed to slide a shallow dish under the offending stinky foot and fill it with bleach.

Wouldn't you know it, my husband came home at that point. If I didn't know him better, I'd have thought he'd timed it on purpose, except that he couldn't have known that I'd just finished.

I was about to get a much-needed shower, when my son disappeared into the bathroom. I waited, hoping it was only me smelling, not the blasted bench. The kitchen was still too messy to cook in, even though I was starving.

And when I finally got into the shower, I go rid of the smell. So I went to the party and ate at 4pm, feeling like Cinderella escaping the ugly sisters.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

NOT a place I've been before

The Nordic Optical Telescope
In all my 11 years of working at the Roque as a software engineer, I never visited the Nordic Optical Telescope. We used to joke that it was NOT one of ours. And in two years of tour guiding up there, I never went in either. It was NOT on my programme.

But now I'm writing an e-book about the observatory, and it's NOT a good idea to write about things without seeing them for myself. So I asked nicely, and they said yes, Friday afternoon. They even provided me with two very good looking guides.

It was a rush fitting it on between collecting my son from school and taking him to the hairdresser's, but it was an experience NOT to be missed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cheek!


Someone's started a website about Puntagorda, for tourists. Great idea.

He's publicising it by putting photos on google maps. Great idea.

He's using one of MY photos, served from MY website (so I pay for the bandwidth) and he hasn't given a picture credit, so most people would get the impression that it's his photo. Not so great.

Cheeky sod.

So I added a little text at the bottom of the photo. Now his map is publicising MY website.

Friday, November 06, 2009

A sale!

I was getting as thirsty as the ancient mariner for some writing success.

With throats unslaked, with black lips baked,
We could nor laugh nor wail ;
Through utter drought all dumb we stood !
I bit my arm, I sucked the blood,
And cried, A sale! a sale!

I sold my story "Screamcatcher" to "Untied Shoelaces of the Mind", and I'll be in the debut issue some time next month. So that's me happy.

My son isn't so happy. We finally got a disk for his Xbox, but he's banned from computer games mid-week so he had to wait until today to try it. And the Xbox got the dreaded "Red Ring of Death". It's almost certainly a coincidence, since Xboxes do tend to die, but it's extremely frustrating for him.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

30,000 readers coming my way.

Robert M Blevins, one of the editors of Escape Velocity magazine, has put my story "Scream Quietly" up on his column at Newsvine, which gets about 30,000 visitors a month. You can read the story, leave comments, and vote on it (please!)

http://adventurebooks.newsvine.com/_news/2009/11/01/3449936-from-the-files-of-escape-velocity-scream-quietly-by-sheila-crosby-part-1-of-2-

Monday, November 02, 2009

Pepper Lantern


I've been a bit too busy for comfort lately (nothing new!), so I
asked my son how much he wanted me to carve a pumpkin, on a scale of 1
to 10.

He said, "Three".

So I carved a green pepper instead, which was quick and therefore a lot more fun.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

A 6,000€ fine isn't funny

My friends in Franceses thought they'd done all the paperwork necessary to register their house purchase when we dropped the papers off at the Land Registry months ago.

But on Thursday they got a letter in Spanish legalese, saying something about missing documents and "a fine of between 60 and 6000 Euros".

This was not good for their blood pressure.

So they scanned it and emailed it to me. And I couldn't really understand it either, but one of the missing documents seemed to be something to do with inheritance. Well, the man they bought the house from had had trouble sorting out the paperwork to prove that he'd inherited the house, and that therefore it was his to sell. And we had ten working days to sort this out. That's not long, given the working pace of most offices here.

My husband had the great idea of consulting his brother. Yup, it was the paper to prove the seller really had inherited the house. This left me wondering why on earth my friends were being threatened with a fine. Surely if the house sale wasn't legal, they were the victims? But the important point was that the notary ought to have a copy.

So we arranged to meet in Los Llanos next morning, to see the notary.

I could see no real reason why we'd have a problem, but I've always found that getting snotty works best if you look the part, so I dressed far more formally than normal, just in case snottiness should be required. I was aiming to look like a lawyer, but when I checked myself in the mirror, I looked more like a waitress. Oh well, better than looking like a slob.

For once, we didn't have to queue when we got to the notary. And yes, that was the paperwork we needed, and yes, we could have a copy. "I'll just find out the price for you."

I started to protest. Why should my friends have to pay, when clearly this wasn't their responsibility?

Well, it wasn't the notary's responsibility either. It was the seller's, and he wasn't here. Nine euros, please.

Nine euros wasn't worth a row. We paid up and got the magic piece of paper, and took it to the Land Registry in Santa Cruz, who said it all looked fine, "...for the moment."

So we really hope that the next letter they get will say that it's all sorted, but we're not opening the champagne yet.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009


John T Unger makes gorgeous firebowls. Since each one is hand made, they're not cheap, but I can well understand why people lash out on one.

I first came across John and his work via this article (which I heartily recommend for anyone facing any kind of crisis, and especially for any kind of artist.

But now John has another serious problem to overcome. Someone else is making remarkably similar firebowls, and - get this - is suing John to overturn his copyright in order to carry on. John says, "By suing me first, Wittrig has created a situation where a default judgment will be entered in his favor unless I am able to finance a full defense in court."


And as John says, "These issues affect artists, bloggers, journalists, freelancers, designers and pretty much everyone who makes their living through creative, original work." So John's having a sale of his art work to finance his defense. So if you fancy a bargin, check out http://www.johntunger.com/legal-defense-fund.html#at . Prices start at $1.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lynch Mobs

Nick Griffin, the head of the near-Nazi BNP, plans to complain to the BBC that he faced a "lynch mob" on the programme "Question Time."

Certainly the audience were hostile. One told him, "You want me to leave this country. Where do you expect me to go? I was born here and I love this country. I bet if we had a whip round, we'd have no trouble getting your airfare out of the country. Why don't you go to the South pole? You'll like it there: it's all white."

In my opinion, Nick Griffin was rude first. He told the immigrants to get out before the audience member told him to get out.

Far more to the point, What Nick Griffin faced was purely verbal. Nick Griffin supports the KKK. Which means he supports lynch mobs. Real ones. Ones that murder on the flimsiest of evidence, and set light to the victim, often before he´s dead. People who do this


to a 14-year-old, just for whistling at a white girl in a shop.

He was called Emmett Till.

Nick Griffin faced a crowd of people disagreeing strenuously with him. NOT a lynch mob.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Loony Scumbags and Free Speech

For anyone who's managed not to hear, the British National Party) got two seats in the European parliament. This means, under pre-existing BBC rules, that their leader got to be on the popular political debate programme, "Question Time."

This has caused quite a row. The BNP are extremely unpopular with most people because they're as near as dammit, the Nazi party. They don't allow non-white members, and they want to encourage all non-whites to leave the country, even if they were born in the UK.

So some people feel very strongly that they shouldn't be allowed in national TV, because it legitimises them.

I disagree.

Firstly, the freedom to make non-controversial comments doesn't amount to much. Free speech isn't free unless it includes the right to be moronic, offensive and loony. There's no practical way to shut up the Nazis without also gagging the visionaries.

I used to be an extremist, you know. I said long and loud that women should be allowed to do any job they were capable of doing, and get paid the same as a man doing the same job. Back in the 1970s, this made me unpopular.

Secondly, banning things makes them attractive. I've seen at least two films just because someone in authority tried to stop me. ("The Life of Brian" and "The War Game".) I'd never have bothered otherwise.

Thirdly, and most importantly, I think we need to hear what he has to say. I'm 99.9% certain that he's a loony scumbag. After all, this is a man who thinks you can judge a person's worth by the shape of their toe-nails - sorry, the colour of their skin. It's the same amount of DNA either way. So that's what he'll look like on TV - a loony scumbag. That should lose him far more votes that banning him.

And if by some amazing chance he isn't as bad as I think, we need to know that, too. I've been known to be wrong before.

So stick him on TV, and let's see what he's made of.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Too much housework


Dismantling the old sofas, with the new ones in the background.

I spent Monday morning feeling tired and seasick. I'm not sure how much was down to having fun so much fun on El Hierro, how much was trying to work on the computer on the boat (it's like reading in a car - big mistake) and how much was a mild lurgy. But I didn't get much done, even though it was obvious that the boys hadn't exactly spent the weekend cleaning the house. In fact we went backwards, because the dishwasher broke. Lucky me, my husband managed to fix it. But by the time I realised that it had covered all the dishes in dirty, soapy water, they were mixed in with the other things in the cupboard, so the only sensible thing was to wash the whole lot again. I got one load done on Monday evening.

I was having sofas delivered on Tuesday morning. So I tidied up the living room and pulled the old sofas to one side to make space. Of course it was only common sense to mop at least the free bit of floor while it was free.

I had to move some of the junk out of the hallway so there'd be space to move the sofas in. Of course it was only common sense to mop that bit of floor, too.

Meanwhile, I was running the dishwasher pretty much continuously. It took another three loads to get everything clean. And naturally, it was only common sense to clean each shelf and drawer while it was empty.

Plus two loads of laundry.

Plus, I was going to teach, so I had to clean the kitchen. That included mopping the floor because it was embarrassing.

My friends from Franceses came for lunch, and managed to get the wooden frames from the old sofas into the van, once they'd taken the feet off. The wood will probably be reincarnated as kitchen doors.

Then I taught for two hours.

As you might imagine, I was well knackered after that lot. Which is when I made the wonderful discovery that one of the new sofas is long enough to lie down on and stretch out.

Bliss!


Loading the old sofa frames into the van.

Monday, October 12, 2009

El Hierro again


Panchita, my friend's neighbour


My trip to El Hierro was great. I didn't feel a bit sick on the way there. Lugging my stuff around Gomera coming and going was hard work, but San Sebastian is a nice little town, and I got quite a bit of work done on my laptop. More importantly, once I got to El Hierro, I had a great time with my friend.

It was too brief of course, but we talked, and went shoping in Valverde, and talked, and went to a charming little seaside place called Pozo de las Calcosas, and talked, and ate bacon sarnies, and talked, and met a local kitten and her humans, and talked, and drank a bit too much and talked, and found a viewpoint called "La Fuente" and talked, and didn't sleep quite enough.

It seemed like about five minutes before I was back in the port, catching the ferry to La Gomera again. I tried out the Wi-fi on the boat, and it was pretty good - it glitched once or twice, but what do you expect, floating in the middle of nowhere? But I had to stop pretty fast, because it was like reading a book in a moving car - I felt sick pretty fast, pills or no pills.
Ah well.

San Sebastian was nice enough on the way back. I had a muddle in the pension where I ate. I asked to see the menu, but then dishes started appearing. They thought I meant the day's set menu! Actually I did very well: starter salad, paella, a beer and a coffee, all for 8€. Nothing pretentious and everything tasty. If I have another stopover on Gomera, I'll go back. I just wish I could remember the name of the place to recommend it to you.

The sea was a bit rougher for the last leg, and I stupidly tried to use the computer again. I felt dreadful for most of the way home. And I've gone all feeling mildly seasick all morning, plus very tired.

But my goodness, I'm glad I went.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Hard travel

I've been wanting to visit my friend on El Hierro for a while. Now that my son's recovered from his fight with the pavement and there's a long weekend coming up, I thought it was a good time to go. My friend has Friday's free, so I hoped to fly out on Friday morning, come back Monday afternoon.

So on Monday, my husband asked for Friday off.

They finally said, "Yes" on Thursday morning, by which time the flights to El Hierro were pretty much full. The earliest I could arrive was Saturday afternoon, and latest I could leave was Sunday morning at 8:30. Not worth going.

So now I'm booked on the ferry. I leave 6 am Friday (ouch!) for La Gomera. I've got a five hour stopover (with all my luggage) and I get to Estaca on El Hierro at 3 pm. At least I get to stay until 3pm on Sunday. There's another 3 hour stopover in La Gomera again, and I'll finally get back to La Palma around 11pm. It's not ideal, but I get to see my friend for 48 hours.

I must go and buy travel sickness pills.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

General Franco

I've been doing a little research into the Franco years, as background for a possible novel.

It was worse than I expected.

I knew divorce was forbidden under Franco, and that a woman who ran away from a violent husband would be brought back by the police, who, like as not, would tell the husband to give her a good hiding to teach her not to run off again. I wasn't a bit surprised to hear that abortion was illegal, but so were contraceptives. And you had no right to refuse sex.

"Women could not become judges, or testify in trial. They could not become university professors. Their affairs and economy had to be managed by their father or by their husbands. Until the 1970s a woman could not have a bank account without a co-sign by her father or husband."

You know what? Women were arguably better off under Saddam Hussein! At least women were legally people in Iraq. It's even possible (but not likely) that Franco killed more civilians.

Franco and his party killed 150,000-200,000 civilians and PoWs during the war, and maybe 200,000 were killed after the war. (The red side --the elected government-- killed "38,000 to 110,000, with most estimates closer to the former.") Saddam Hussein killed between 300,000 civilians in his repression, and about 1.4 million in his wars.

Of course it doesn't really matter who was worse: they were both revolting people. I'm so very, very glad I live in a western democracy.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Fun busy


I've been rushed off my feet and enjoying it.

Yesterday I had some rubbish to take to the recycle point in Puntallana, so I visited a local museum while I was there. Casa Lujan is an 18th century house, restored to show how well-to-do people lived between about 1920 and 1960, and it's very good. My husband burst out layghing when he saw this photo, because I used to have similar hair and glasses. In fact, I also used to have a reconditioned, treadle sewing machine much like this. Between taking lots of photos, and chatting with the staff (including a local artist called Rosa Vidal) the morning zipped past. It was already noon when I got home, and I had to produce lunch and scrub the kitchen ready for a visit that afternoon. Then I took my son to the riding stables, only to find that the kids' activity was cancelled for the day. Then it was yoga, which was a real killer, followed by dinner and collapsing in a heap.

This morning I took the cat to the vet, updated the La Palma blog (with an entry about Casa Lujan), scrubbed the fly shit off the kitchen light fitting, filed my complaint with eBay, updated the Ruido website, cooked lunch, taught a friend English for an hour, and edited the photos of the Ruido fiesta.

I think I've earned a cup of tea, don't you? And then it'll be time to do some of my own writing.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Solar-powered Water Heater


Some time ago we decided to go for it and get a solar-powered water heater. The financial planning wasn't much more than a wet finger in the air, but we think it'll pay for itself in about 5 years, and it should last for 10.

So we ordered it. Or at least we thought we ordered it, but there was some sort of mix-up, and the firm that sells it were waiting for our go-ahead, while we were waiting for them to call and say it had arrived. And once that was sorted, we had to wait for delivery, of course. And when it did finally arrive, both the firm's cranes had mechanical problems. And then we had a lot on our plate and couldn't take delivery for a while. We started to feel jinxed. And then the crane driver had to have emergency compassionate leave, which restored our sense of proportion in a hurry.

And yesterday we finally took delivery.

Of course now it's sat up on the roof until we can get it connected. We are now taking bets as to how long that will take.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The not-so-elite X box

Remember the Xbox 360 elite on e-Bay and couldn't use because it arrived during a power cut? The e-Bay advert said it was "unused, with intercooler and present". As soon as the power came back on, I emailed the seller to ask about the present. He said it's that you can download games from the Internet instead of buying them. That's a present?

The official X box site says that the elite comes with a 120Gb drive, but when we bought a game and switched it on, the Xbox said it had no drive. Nope, it's not an internal drive damaged in transit, there is no hard drive, so you can't save games. The seller says his advert never mentioned a drive.

What do other people think? Is it just me, or is it like selling a car with no engine and then saying, "But I never said it included an engine!"?

Now the seller's threatening to complain to e-Bay if I don't give him a positive vote.

It's 1 am, and I'm too angry to sleep.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Candlelight

Well my son's pretty much healed up. His main problems now are:
  1. The nasty scrape on his elbow is slow to heal.
  2. Major back-to-school-itis, and
  3. Frustration.
The frustration is because he spent all his birthday money and savings on an Xbox 360 on e-Bay, and it took over a week to arrive. And when it finally got here, we had a power cut. The whole island was blacked out for over 5 hours. We had salad for lunch and I got a replacement cannister for the little camping stove, ready to cook dinner. And then I went off to my yoga class.

And when I got home, all the lights were on. But there was no game for the Xbox: the "surprise" included was that you could down load games from the internet onto the hard drive we haven't got.

And then the lights went off again, this time just our half of the village. I suspect that whatever happened at the island's power station left them with insufficient power for the whole island, so they had rolling power cuts. Anyway, I cooked dinner on the camping stove by candlelight, and it was at least edible. And I got all nostalgic about the miners' strike when I was a kid.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Meeting the Devil


On Saturday night I went to the fiesta in San Miguel, a little village in Breña Alta. It starts off like most fiestas, but the devil appears after midnight, only to be scared off by a cross of fireworks.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ouch!

My son set off on his scooter for his friend's house in the next village, and I settled in for a peaceful afternoon's writing.

After just ten minutes, the phone rang. It was my son's friend. He'd fallen off his scooter, and could I come and fetch him please?

The hill between the two villages is really steep, so although I was hoping he'd just need a hug, I was a bit worried.

It turned out that I was right to worry, too. He'd been cleaned up a bit, but he obviously needed stitches, so off we went to the local hospital.

Thank goodness, we didn't have to wait. They weren't all that busy, and with him being a kid, they waved us straight in.

And we knew the nurse! She's a friend of my nieces', and she was very kind.

So they injected general anaesthetic round the gouge in his elbow and stitched it up. Then they did the same with the smaller gouge in his chin. Then they cleaned up all the grazes on the other elbow, his hands and his knees. Of course that all took time, and he was over the worst of the shock by the time it was all cleaned and bandaged. Then he went off for X-rays, just in case.

The doctor was almost certain that he hadn't broken anything, but apparently it's really had to be completely sure with kids. They have a tendency towards almost invisible hairline fractures, she said. So they strapped up his right arm, just in case.

Then we had to hang around a bit for his discharge papers.

Then we had to hang around a bit to make an appointment for him to see the traumatologist on Friday.

Then we were all hungry and thirsty.

And once I'd got him home, I had to dash out to the supermarket in search of food that could be eaten with only one hand. And then I had to cook it - Herreñan cheese and egg soup actually, and it tasted rather good, though I say it myself. There's something very comforting about a good soup, and we all needed a bit of comfort.

So you can guess how much writing I got after that lot.

Friday, September 11, 2009

La Zarza

Rock carvings at La Zarza, Garafia, La Palma

The summer's nearly over, and I haven't been out much at all. Worse, I haven't dragged my son away from his video games nearly as much as I planned. So I persuaded my friends in Franceses to come out to see the archaeological site at La Zarza and La Zarzita, in Garafía.

Well, I think it's beautiful. In some ways it reminded me of the Garoé on El Hierro: the same feeling of sacred nature.

My son disagreed. As far as he was concerned, it was just an unwelcome interruption. Fresh air and culture - bleh!

But he did like it when we went back to Franceses, because he got to play on their X-box.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Colds and birthdays

I've been too busy to blog again.

The boring part was the heavy cold coming back - so I took it easy for a couple of days to get rid of it.

The fun part was my son's 13th birthday. Yup, we have a teenager. But in spite of all the dire predictions, he hasn't turned into a werewolf. He's still a nice kid and mostly polite.

We held his party at the local swimming pool. Wouldn't you know it, that was the day when my head was really stuffed with cotton wool. I was so busy thinking, "DON'T FORGET THE CAKE!" that I forgot my son's swimming costume, so we had a mad, last-minute dash to fetch it. But it all went reasonable well.

And I spent Sunday collapsed in a little heap.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Unlucky for some

I've sent out 13 submissions in August, which is a record.

Now some peeple will tell you that 13 is an unlucky number, but I've noticed that the more submissions I send off, the luckier I get. In fact, on average I get one sale for every ten submissions.

August isn't quite over yet. Maybe 14 submissions would be even luckier.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Snot

I have a head cold, and so does my son. 'Snot much fun.

On the other hand, I've been a good girl and sent off five submissions in one day. They're all flash fiction, so they won't make me rich, but at least I've done something about my writing career.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Bleh!

I've felt lethargic for a couple of days now. It's a real effort to even do five minutes yoga in the mornings (instead of the usual 10 minutes). I don't want to clean the house (no surprise there) or write (unusual) or anything much.

I can't even be bothered to blog any more.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The rest of the holiday

The holiday carried on being great. My niece got good A level results, so we went out and celebrated with a delicious Indian meal. Then we had a day's shopping in Norwich, followed by a delicious Chinese buffet (an early birthday party for my son). Then we had a yummy barbecue in my brother's garden and an even yummier traditional Sunday dinner. All the above were washed down by slightly too much alcohol, which was also great fun.

And then we had the long drive home, followed by an uneventful flight.

Only I seem to have left my waistline behind in the UK.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


We went off into Aldeburgh with my brother and family yesterday. Gorgeous fish and chips on the sea front, and a nice stroll down to the statue and back. Then home for afternoon tea, with a mean lemon drizzle cake.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yay! We're in England


I finally managed to organise our trip back to the UK to see my brother and family. The plan was to fly on Monday 17th.

The website was down, so I booked over the phone. When the promised confirmation email didn't arrive, I got twitchy and phoned up Thomson. It's a busy time of year, so I was kept on hold for ages - and this was an international call. When I finally got through, the pleasant young man said that, yes, I was booked all right, and they'd send me an email, but meanwhile here was my booking reference which was all I'd need to check in.

The confirmation email still didn't arrive, but it didn't seem worth another long international call. We just went to the airport on Monday evening.

That was the first we heard that there was a problem with the flight.

The Thomson plane had left the UK very late, due to a problem with one of the runways at Manchester, so the crew ran out working hours and had to spend the night on La Palma.

That sort of stuff happens, and it clearly wasn't Thomson's fault, but I did wonder why they bothered taking a contact phone number and email when they didn't tell us this sort of thing.

Anyway, we had to book in, but keep our suitcases. So we queued, and I gave the booking reference, and they had my husband's name wrong.

Luckily the checkin clerk has known us both for years, and he managed to sort it out. But this is why I wanted a confirmation email - to check for this sort of thing good and early.

Then Thomson put us all up in the Taburiente in Cancajos, which is very nice.

We arrived at the room, and couldn't get the lights to turn on. I was in something of a hurry to find the loo, so I went exploring in the dark. I walked through a dark doorway and
BLAM!
the dark doorway turned out to be a full-length mirror. I felt really stupid.

I also got a lovely bump on my forehead. But then I found the loo and did what I had to do. And then I went down to reception and told them about the power cut in our room.

They said that the key card had to be kept in it's little pouch by the door to make the lights work.

We went back up and tried it. It worked. Good system. you don't lose the card, and they don't have to pay for lights burning in an empty room. But it left me feeling stupid again.

We also had a really annoying whine in there, which seemed to be coming from the smoke alarm. So on our way down for dinner, we mentioned this to reception. Maybe it was the low battery alarm?

Dinner was a great buffet, and much, much better than cooking myself. By the time we'd finished, we were pretty tired. So we stopped by at reception to ask if there was any news about the noise in our room, rather than going up to check and possibly having to come down again.

They said the maintenence guy would meet us at the room.

He did. He's noticed the noise himself when he was making up the third bed, and it seemed to be coming from one of the suitcases.

I checked. so it did. So I opened the suitcase and found that my alarm clock had got into a funny state, presumably from a odd combination of buttons being pressed. Turning the alarm off made no difference. I had to take the battery out to make it stop.

So I felt stupid for the third time in as many hours.

I set the alarm, had a shower, and we went to bed. As usual when I've got a plane to catch, I didn't sleep too well.

It was a rude shock when I woke up at 7:35, especially since I thought I'd set the alarm for 6:50. We had just twenty-five minutes to get to reception to check out. Obviously breakfast was a lost cause.

We ran around throwing stuff into suitcases, and made it downstairs for 7:50. Yippee, no checkout queue. So we checked out and had time for breakfast after all.

This was a good thing because the breakfast was another great buffet.

We were bussed to the airport at 8:30 on Tuesday. We finally flew at
11:30 and arrived at Manchester before 4pm. Then we collected the
hire car, just in time for the Manchester rush hour.

So we stopped for dinner in a pub that looked pretty good. It was good, and cheap, and we had a great conversation with a couple that were thinking of moving to Portugal, and wanted to hear my experiences of emigrating to Spain. You know how sometimes you just click with people?

We set off on a road across the Pennines towards Sheffield that looked
good on the map, but was very slow. And then there were vast
quantities of roadworks on the M1. We finally arrived at my brother's
house at 2 am!

Friday, August 14, 2009

Tiddles

Yesterday I went to see my friends in Franceses for lunch.

On the way there I decided that if other people can give names to their cars, I can have a pet name for my laptop. So it's called Tiddles. And yes, Tiddles came to Franceses, too.

(So what do you expect of a woman who talks to imaginary hamsters?)

We had a great chat and a delicious lunch, and another great chat. We had a good laugh at the American republican who claimed that "Steven Hawking wouldn't have stood a chance if he'd been born in Britain," which is a pretty odd thing to say of a man who was born in Britain (Oxford) and has lived there all his life.

And then we went to see the big craft fair at Barlovento. I got a couple of Christmas presents, plus cheese and jam and a decoration for the living room.

It wa a great day, but I was pretty tired when I got home.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A new toy

Yippee! I've spent some of my money from translation on a new mini-laptop. I'm not sure it's big enough to be allowed out on its own at 25 x16x3 cm / 10"x6"x1" It's small enough to fit in a big handbag (a purse on the other side of the pond). It'll take me a while to get used to it, but I'm hoping it'll boost my productivity. Certainly it'll be going with me to the UK next week.

I'll be spending time installing stuff, especially since it's a flavour of Linux I haven't come across before. But for 85€ cheaper, and more reliable software, I don't mind piddling about a bit, looking for extensions to open office and GIMP.

I think this is the start of a beautiful friendship.

Friday, August 07, 2009

What's a Few Tentacles Between Friends?










UKUSA


Volume 2 of Cthulhu Unbound is now on sale, featuring my story "What's a Few Tentacles Between Friends?"

I was about ready for some good news after the fire.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Tired and relieved


Car workshop, Los Canarios, Fuencaliente

The fire's under control at long last.

The La Palma blog's been going crazy with traffic, as people tried to find out what was happening here. So I started to feel a bit like a lighthouse-keeper -- you know, responsible -- and on Monday I went out for another look at the fire.

The road was open and I got to Fuencaliente. It's in better shape than I expected, although some houses are completely burnt out, even though the house next door is frequently fine. I think it must be the result of the strong gusts coming from every direction, early on Saturday morning.

I stopped at the petrol station and had an ice-cream, while I thought about lighthouse-keepers and ghouls, and wondered which I was.

And I saw a lizard scampering among the ashes. Goodness knows how it survived, but it cheered me up.

I headed for the Princess Hotel, to check it looked OK, but it was getting late. I was hungry, I knew my son would be hungry, so I settled for seeing it from a distance, and set off home by a different route.

BBC Radio 5 Live phoned me, to ask about the fire. They'd got my details via the photos I'd sent to the BBC website. So I told them what I knew, and they said they might want to interview me live at about 6 pm.

I said, "Great" and carried on home. I was quite prepared for them to cancel if something else came up.

At Tigalate, I had to detour because the road was still closed. And the fire was still burning, although it was much, much smaller. I took some photos of the helicopters dumping water on it.



When I got home I cooked, ate, and updated the La Palma blog yet again. Then I warned my son about the probably phone interview, and made sure that I'd been to the loo and had water handy, and my son was ready to intercept any potentially noisy arrivals.

And yes, I wound up live on national radio. It was all a bit of a blur, but late, when I found it at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00lxsgy (I'm 1 hour and 41 minutes into into the programme) I felt I hadn't done too badly at all.

Altogether I wrote 9 updates to the La Palma blog in three days, and now that I've stopped, I feel really tired. And surprise, surprise, I'm rather behind with the domestic stuff.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Fire!



I finished the dratted translation on Friday lunchtime, and went to pick up my son. He'd had a good time, although he was rather sunburned and keen to get home.

I scarcely had time to get the washing machine on before I heard that my niece was over from Tenerife, and she'd brought my great nephew with her. So tired or not, I went to the family party, where I found that little Joel was tireder than me, but still adorable.

And on Saturday, I woke to the news that La Palma was on fire. We had the wind off the Sahara, meaning the weather was hot, dry and windy, and some absolute genius at a village fiesta set of fireworks anyway. The fire started at 11 pm at Tigalate, on the boarder between Fuencaliente and Mazo. In the early hours, about 4,000 people had to be evacuated. It's not clear how many homes have burned down. I've heard both "a dozen" and "dozens".

So I spent most of Saturday morning glued to the local news, and never got the shopping done. The weather continued really hot. Up on the ridge where the fire was worst, it was 40ºC (that's 104ºF) with gusts of wind up to 70 km/h (43 mph) coming from every which way. It was so bad that they had to pull the ground fire fighters back and just rely on the planes.

I wrote a post on the La Palma blog about it.

Then my friend arrived from El Hierro on Saturday lunchtime. We had lunch and chatted and had a siesta and chatted and watched more news, so I updated the blog, and chatted until bed time. Then I saw a friend had photos of the fire, so I updated the blog again. I might not have bothered if I'd only been getting the usual traffic, but I got five times as much as usual.

In the morning it was a bit cooler, thank goodness, and we were glued to the news again, until I updated the blog. After my friend left, I went to see how close I could get to the fire. Yup, I took these photos myself. I put them on the blog and emailed a couple to the BBC. Then they phoned me up asking for details. I might be on the news in the UK tonight. I also got an email from channel four, saying they'd found the blog and could they interview me by phone for the news? Unfortunately the email was quite old when I got it, so I think I missed my chance there. Mind you, I think they'd have preferred someone whose house was in danger, and I felt quite safe.

And now it's much cooler, and the sky's cloudy with no sign of the huge plume of smoke, and I'm begining to hope they've got it all under control, at last.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Peace, less-than-perfect peace

Well, I dropped my son off at summer camp yesterday afternoon. Since I only had 800 words of the current translation left, I was looking forward to some "me time" -- sort of. I intended to finally sew the curtains for the living room, so we could watch TV or play video games without having the rigmarole of covering up the windows with whatever's available. (The TV is opposite a big picture window.)

And then disaster struck.

I translated the 800 words and sent them off this morning, and got ready to do the happy dance.

But I got a reply, "What about the privacy policy?"

So I hunted through the old e-mails, and yes, there was one file (out of 79 files) that I'd somehow missed. So I have another 1,900 words to go, which will take pretty much all my time until my son gets back.

Drat!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Sneezing taps

Gosh what a long time since I updated this blog! Since I probably can't catch up, I'll just carry on from now.

Yesterday the council cut off the water all day, to connect new pipes to the existing system. At least they told us well in advance, saying it would last 8 am to 8 pm.

This seemed like a really good day to visit my friends in Franceses. So off we went, and admired their new patio and kitchen floor, and had a good chat and a nice lunch.

We stopped off in Santa Cruz on our way home for some shopping and a snack. My son has to learn the map of Europe, so I bought a jigsaw and I'll stick a map to the back. Hopefully that will be more fun (and therefore more memorable) than just staring at the book.

Now I thought that "8 am - 8 pm" meant "We think we'll finish by about 5pm, but we're saying 8 pm to cover our rear ends." I've done that sort of thing as a software engineer more times than I can count. So when we got home at 6 pm I really hoped we'd have water.

Nope. I was very glad we'd filled buckets the night before and put them beside the toilets. (Thanks for the reminder, Helen). I was also glad we had bottled water to drink and cook dinner with.

It was almost 9 pm when the water finally came on. And then it was dirty (I should have seen that coming!) Besides, the pipes are full of air pockets.

This morning the water's clean, but the air pockets are still there, so the taps are still sneezing. You have to be really careful what you put underneath, or the room gets sprayed.

And boy does the house look like I was out all day yesterday.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Home, Sweet Home


Well, we made it back on Tuesday night, and I still haven't caught my breath yet.

On Sunday we took the boys to see the Garoé, the beautiful old tree which used to be sacred to the people who lived on El Hierro before the Spanish conquest. Last time I saw it in the mist. This time it was hot sun, so we could see the view, including La Palma in the distance, and it was beautiful in a completely different way.

On Monday we had dinner at the restaurant at La Peña, which has great food and a fantastic view.

And on Tuesday we came home. Not via Gomera, as planned, but via Tenerife. The Ferry company changed the schedule to suit the other 400-odd people on the boat. We got home at the same time as originally planned, but we spent more time on the boat and less ashore. No biggie.

Of course I came home to a zillion unanswered emails, a dirty house, and dirty laundry. Plus my son's camp to organise, and my husband's birthday present to buy.

But at least I had a proper break first.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Bajada

I was determined to get up and photograph the procession leaving Isora at 7 am, so I slept really badly. But I did it, and I think the photos will be nice when I've had chance to correct the exposure.

They only have three musical instruments: rather high-pitched flutes, castanets and big, deep drums. When I heard Herreñan music on the telly, I didn't like it at all, because it was far too shrill. I hadn't appreciated that my TV wasn't reproducing the low notes. In real life, the glorious WHUMP! from the big drums balances the flutes perfectly, and you want to dance.

And they do dance. They have people dancing all the way, in shifts. The costumes and dance steps are a little reminiscent of English morris dancers.

It was still dark to begin with, and half light when they danced away up a steep lane out of the village. I was only walking, and I couldn't keep up. Mind you, as Carlos says, they've been practising for months, and most of them probably do physical work anyway. I was on a high when we got back to the house.

We planned to get up on the ridge at 4pm to meet the main procession at 4:45. In the event, we were a bit late leaving. Luckily we found a suitable pista to park quite easily. Unluckily, we still had at least 2 km to go, up a very steep, dusty track, and it was very hot. We weren't going to make it.

And then a family came by in a pickup, and the driver yelled, “Cruz de la Mareta?” So we climbed up into the open back, and had a bouncy ride to exactly where we wanted to go. Of course we thanked him profusely.

It was shady up there in the woods, which felt good after the very hot sun. Better (for us, not the dancers) we found a spot where we were perhaps 5 feet above the path, in the shade, but the road was sunny. Great for photos, if not for the dancers.)

And the procession came through early. We'd never have made it without that lift. As it was, my husband got some good video and I got some nice photos. and then I started to follow the procession, leaving my camera bag behind. Thank goodness my husband was more awake than I was! He grabbed it for me, and we went about 100 yards up the road, where they were handing over the statue of the virgin from one village to another. I got more photos, but my husband couldn't work a video camera, since he was carrying my handbag, camera bag and the water.

Once that was over, it was time to go back down to the car. None of us were looking forward to the long, dusty walk, even if it was all downhill. but my husband went and talked to a guy with another pick up, and yup, we got a lift back to the car.

So it all worked out very well indeed - no thanks to my organising whatsoever.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

The Juniper trees


We spent most of yesterday chatting and being lazy. Today we went around the west of the island to see the Hemitage of the Virgin of the Kings and the juniper forest. I've wanted to see it for some time, but you have to drive down a dirt track. Since my friend knows nothing about fixing cars, and can't possibly afford to replace hers, she´s understandably reluctant to go off road. Today we went in my car, and found that the track´s in much better condition that I could have reasonably hoped. And at long last, I found the famous tree that´s on a million postcards, T shirts and mugs. This made me very happy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

On El Hierro

Well, we're on holiday in El Hierro again.

The last week was mad. I enjoyed the fiesta in Puerto Naos. I cooked a giant biscuit as a thankyou for my son's teacher, and we collected his marks. He's passed everything except Geography and History (one subject) so I have to spend an hour most days teaching him. (To be fair to him, most kids seemed to have failed it, so the problem is clearly not just him.)

And then I had to register him for high school next year. I was amazed, because he's already in that school. But I still had to get 4 photos of him, make a bank transfer, fill in four separate forms, and include photocopies of his health card, his ID card, my ID card and his father's ID card. How likelyis it that he's changed parents since last year?

The good bit is that I got him a place reserved for a summer camp at the end of July, and they´ll let me sort out the paperwork after this holiday.

And then I had to pack. And repot several plants which needed it (urgent because otherwise they bneed water every day, and clearly I´m not there to do it). And catch up a bit with the laundry. And my sister-in-law's mother died, so I had to make time for her - far more important than making sure we had toothbrushes on holiday. And I got an attack of flat batteries. So I didn´t get the translation finished after all.

The journey went quite smoothly though. We enjoyed our 4-hour stop-over in Gomera. But the ferry from Gomera to El Hierro was absolutely packed, and it was nice to arrive.

It was great to see my friend here. And one way and another, I'm looking forward to chilling out for a bit.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Procession



I went back to El Paso to see the procession of the Sacred Heart. It meant going right past the site of Saturday's accident, but it had to be done sooner or later. And I got a lot of nice photos, some of which are on the blog about La Palma

And my son's finished school for the summer. We don't get his report until Thursday - fingers crossed.

At 8 pm last night the silly kid remembered he had homework which had to be done if he was going to pass Spanish language, and it turned out to be a lot of it. Well, there were no more classes, and it didn't matter if he was sleepy today. So we let him stay up working until 11 pm. By that time, he'd pretty much slowed to a stop, so he went to bed. And I got up at 5:30 am (ow!) and made him a milky coffee, and called him at 6 am. To my astonishment, he woke up promptly, got up, and got to work. He just had time to finish and have breakfast before school.

And he left his homework behind. After all that!

So I went chasing after him in the car. Yup, I caught up with him, just before the school gates.

Apparently the teacher said it was very messy, not done quite right, and late, but she'd give him 50% which he thinks is enough to pass the subject.

Phew!

And tonight I'm off to Puerto Naos to photograph another fiesta. This time it's bonfires and a witches dance for St John's night.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

A traffic accident

Last night was the concert for Ruido issue 10. I had a siesta, and woke up a bit late, so I was late leaving for El Paso. That meant I went up the twisty road as fast as I felt was safe.

And a dark Berlingo passed me doing about 20 km/h more than me. "Idiot!" I thought.

Almost immediately after that, the two cars in front of me braked hard and switched on their emergency lights. We all pulled over.

Just the other side of the tight, left-hand bend, the same Berlingo had crashed into the cutting wall on the right. Obviously it had tried to take the corner too fast.

So I dumped the contents of my handbag onto the passenger seat, and grabbed my phone. But when I looked up, someone from the car in front was already talking into his mobile, giving directions. So I grabbed the red triangle out of the boot and started off down the road with it. It was certainly needed, because everybody had to brake quite hard when they saw it.

Then I ran back to the Berlingo. The driver was about 19, unhurt and cool as a cucumber. His passenger - on the side that had slammed into the cutting wall - was unconcious. I went to check her airway, breathing and pulse (as I learned from first aid courses at the observatory) but she already had a professional nurse with her, thank goodness.

The injured girl half woke up, and we started breathing again. Then she complained that she couldn't move her toes. Oh shit!

But by the time the ambulance had arrived, she'd fallen unconcious again. Double shit! As far as I remember, that usually means bleeding inside the skull.

And the driver still looked really relaxed about it all. Far more relaxed than the bystanders. Maybe it hadn't sunk in, I don't know.

The police arrived and filmed the accident scene. The ambulance took the poor girl away. The police moved the van and the traffic started moving again. I had to wait until almost last to collect my triangle. Well, it gave me time to calm down. Sort of.

So I fanally arrived at the Ruido fiesta very late, to find that the fiesta was late, too. I felt like downing several large G&Ts, but that wasn't an option, since I had to drive home in a couple of hours. I settled for one beer.

I think what did me the most good was taking photos. El Paso's fiesta for Our Lady of Fatima is similar to the Corpus Christi celebrations in Mazo and San Jose, and they were setting up the archways and carpets, ready for tomorrow's procession.

I hope I can find out what happened the the girl.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Too many fiestas



Ouf! Three fiestas in four days. Corpus Christi in Mazo (on Thursday) and San Jose (today) and the big livestock fair and fiesta in San Antonio del Monte yesterday. I managed to take my camera to all of them, and to fit in translation, housework and taking a sick cat to the vet, too. Yesterday, I even came home via Tijarafe and got a photo of the baroque altarpiece there. The guidebook was right. It's amazing. It's also huge.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Wanna be a Writer?



I've just finished enjoying "Wannabe a Writer?" by Jane Wenham-Jones.

Most books on writing give the same (good) advice. Like go very easy on the adverbs; pick a better verb in the first place. And, show, don't tell. In other words, don't say, "John was cruel." Say, "As John opened the door, he found a half-starved kitten meowing outside. He kicked it."

This book is different. It give no advice on the craft of writing. It's all about the writing life. It has sections on Writer's Block, Writer's Can't Be Arsed (rather timely, to be honest), the serious medical condition of Writer's Bottom, and Bloody Computers. (That bit goes, "Take back-ups. Definitely take back-ups. You really need back-ups. Watch what you're doing with that mug of tea and your keyboard. Don't forget the backups.")

It also advises keeping several "Get Well Soon" cards inthe living room. That way, any unexpected visitors will assume that you've been too ill to keep the place clean and tidy. Genius!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Still translating

I haven't posted lately, because pretty much all I've been doing is translating, and translating and translating.

It's not just the quantity of translating. It's stuff about church architecture, full of technical stuff like "a balcony supported by six cantilever beams with turned-wood balustrade". I've learnt the Spanish technical term for the central third of a tie beam roof. And then there's the job-titles of the people involved: military governors, church building inspectors and trustees. Not to mention the names of the patron saints. I've known the Spanish for St Peter and St Joseph for years, but St. Blaise and
Saint Maurus Abbot took a bit of research.

Mind you, I did get out to Las Nieves for an hour on Thursday to take some photos.

It'll be nice when I can get back to writing fiction.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I Make This Stuff Up

Lately, my life's felt like all work andno play. Even the blogs feel like work. Worse, even the little fiction writing I've done has felt like work. So I've started a just-for-fun fiction blog at i-make-this-stuff-up.blogspot.com. It won't earn a thing, if only because there isn't a logical advertising niche to go with it. That doesn't matter. In fact it's almost the point. I write what I like, when I like, without thinking of cash at all. If I feel like being kidnapped by aliens, fine.

The result is predictable. Once I don't have to write, I want to. Once I stop thinking about the quality, it's actually quite good.

Typical.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Be Prepared!

Mass for the virgin of la Punta, la palma

Last night I went to La Punta in Tijarafe, to get some photos of the fiesta. It's not a big fiesta but I've been going cross-eyed with the current translation, and I really, really needed a break in my routine. Besides, in 18 years of living on La Palma, I'd never been to La Punta.

Since the procession was going to be quite late, I made sure I had the big flash gun (affectionately known as "The Tactical Nuke") with its external battery nicely charged up. It will take standard AA batteries, but it draws a lot of power. That soon drains the batteries, so that it can take 10 seconds to recharge, which means you miss shots.

So off I went, straight after yoga. When I got there, I phoned my husband, and the mobile's battery went flat, mid-conversation. Silly me, I should have charged it. Not so hot for an ex-girl guide. I'm supposed to Be Prepared, you know?

La Punta's a pretty little place. I found the church, no bother. The mass was still going on, and the crowd spilling out onto the patio. This meant I had plenty of time to assemble camera, Tactical Nuke, and softener attachment. I tested it out on a nearby tree - all fine and dandy.

Then I turned the flash off while I took a couple photos of the mass, because that flash is very intrusive. These photos were also fine and dandy.

Then the procession started, and I took two photos with the flash.

And the camera battery died.

Well the Nuke will run off AA batteries in a pinch, but the camera won't. So I found a handy wall to stand the camera bag on, and I hunted inside it for the spare battery. And hunted. And hunted. And swore.

My mobile has a camera, but that had a flat battery too, remember?

But all was not lost. By sheer dumb luck, I still had my son's compact camera in my handbag. Just 6 Mpixels instead of 10, far less control of the tricky lighting, and an annoying lag between pressing the shutter and taking the photo, but enormously better than nothing.

I got it out, took two photos, and its batteries died too.

At which point I thanked my lucky stars that I had spare batteries in the camera bag. By then, someone was making speech, so I didn't even miss anything more while I changed the batteries over.

Then they had fireworks, and I sighed for the big camera, but I got something.

And then I got hungry, and the smell of fried pork was delicious. And I realised that I had about 27 cents on me.

Of course a hamlet that size didn't have a money machine. I had to go into Tijarafe village, ten minutes drive each way. Still, it made the sandwich all the tastier when I finally got it.

By then it was 11pm, and I had an hour's drive to get home. So I missed most of the fiesta, because they were barely warming up. But yes, it broke the routine rather nicely.

OK, for next time I will need: spare charged camera battery, flash and charged flash battery, AA batteries, spare SD card, money, charged up mobile.

And brain.
Fireworks

Friday, May 08, 2009

Yeuch!

This week my friends in Franceses had a plague of flies. Today I've got a plague of spam. Over 1,500 message trying to sell me Tamiflu.

Presumably other people are getting this. Look, if you're thinking of buying from these people, allow me to point out that they've almost certainly paid for your email address with a stolen credit card and invaded lots and lots of computers with viruses to do the actual mass mailing. Do you really think they'll give you what you pay for? Or do you think they'll sell your credit card details to the highest bidder?

Monday, May 04, 2009

Fiesta de la Cruz



I love Fiesta de la Cruz, when they decorate the roadside crosses. Even though I really had no time for anything except translating and housework, I went out on Sunday night to see at least a few crosses, and this morning I took my son to Santa Cruz to see more. To my delight, there were lots of mayos again.

More photos and details on the blog about La Palma.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Functional neuroimaging

The human brain uses up about 20% of the calories we eat. Some kids of Functional neuroimaging scans light up areas of the brain with a higher metabolic rate, which shows which parts of the brain are currently in use.

This translating and poof-reading makes me tired, and I'm sure the
language areas are lighting up like Christmas trees, and metabolising like mad.

So translating twisted Spanish burns calories.

Therefore I can go and eat some chocolate.

Yup, that's logical.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


It's getting mad around here again. There I was, doing yoga every morning, critiquing my friend's novel, writing fiction, and doing a bit of translating, a bit of housework and so on, feeling I was getting on with stuff rather well. Then the deadline for the translation job moved forward from September to June 8th.

Oops! So now it's full steam ahead on the translation, but it's a particularly tiring one. So I translate, then take a "break" and do housework, and translate again, and have another "break", and try to fit a bit of something else around that.

But at least I got to Los Sauces to see the procession on Monday evening. Even then, I had to miss yoga, and then I had to leave before the loa (a little concert, in honour of the Virgin), because I had an appointment in Santa Cruz.

And this afternoon I have to take my son to the dentist, then horse-riding (if we get out of the dentist's in time) and then yoga at 6 pm. Which means I'd better organise dinner before we got to the dentist.

How did I ever have time to work?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Power cuts.

Yesterday I saw a notice, announcing that parts of the village would have a power cut this morning, but I couldn't make out whether it included our house or not.

So this morning I made sure to have the computer turned off and the kettle boiled by half past eight. And the power stayed on.

So now I'm really enjoying living in a house with electricity.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Writing

Lately I've been writing slowly, but almost every day. Although it would help if the fiction writing was all on the same story. Sometimes I work on the second episode of Agent Hammer, sometimes I do a bit of a new story about El Hierro, and today I worked on the rewrite of "Hell Raiser". It went down pretty well at the critique group. Even better the critiques largely agree, so I know what to do.

The blog about El Hierro now has a total of 4 posts. For someone with no time, that's not too bad.

I learned how to put a poll on a blog, and added one to the blog about La Palma, asking people what they wanted to see more of. Now I knew fine well that most people wouldn't vote, but this blog gets an average of 120 visits per day, so I thought I'd get maybe 10 votes a day. I was completely underwhelmed by the response - one vote in the first 24 hours. Oh well. Perhaps there'll be more later.

I've been critiquing a friend's novel. It's longer than I expected, and therefore taking up more time than I expected, but I'm thoroughly enjoying it.

I really ought to send off some submissions. Nothing's going to sell just sitting on my hard drive.

The other thing I'm pleased about is that I've been doing a little yoga every morning. Just 10-15 minutes, but I've kept it up for 2 weeks and I can feel the difference.

A morning well spent.

My friends in Garafía saw a notice saying the Town Hall were accepting applications for grants to improve rural houses.

Boy were they interested! I phoned up for them, and it sounded like they might well qualify, so I asked for, and got, a list of documents they'd need. Then on Thursday I set off with Helen to the Town Hall.

It looks like they'll be eligible, so they have to get the application in by May 15th, they'll hear whether they qualify by September, and for how much (up to 50%). Then they have a year to do the work. When it's finished, they show the receipts to the Town Hall and get a cheque. So they might just get their indoor toilet a lot sooner. They might even get a bath, at long last.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Olive Branch


I had a row with friends (with faults on both sides, of course) and somehow I managed to give the impression that I was annoyed with them in general, rather than annoyed about one thing.

So they came to my house with the nearest they could get to an olive branch. Yup, that's a tin of olives on the end.

Even if I'd been really mad, that was irrisistable. So all is sweetness and light again, thank goodness.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Great Photos, shame about the comments

I just discovered http://photosthatchangedtheworld.com/, which features memorable news photos. Some of them I remember seeing before. Some are very upsetting, but all are worth seeing.

I hadn't heard of Emmett Till before. As a 14-year-old he went from Chicago to visit relatives in Mississippi, and while he was there he whistled at a shop girl.

He was black. She was white. This was 1955.

Three days later, two men took him away in the middle of the night and tortured him to death. The police found them, but the jury (all white from the defendants' home town) found them not guilty, although in 1956 they confessed to a magazine.

It's a disgusting story, but the really disgusting thing is the comments. Some people haven't changed, although the percentage of people like that has.

Being proud of winning the Nobel Peace Prize, I can understand. being proud of making really good scones, I can understand. Being proud of a genetic predisposition to sunburn and skin cancer, I find very, very strange.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This is crazy!

I must be MAD! Stark raving bonkers! Thick as four short planks. At least 64k short of a megabyte. Nuttier than a whole warehouse of fruitcakes. But then what would you expect from someone who has conversations with imaginary, genetically-modified hamsters?

I've started a blog on El Hierro at http://elhierro.sheilacrosby.com/. This is ridiculous, because I have absolutely no time at all to update it. Mind you, I'm not promising to update it. Ever.

On the other hand, I love the place, and there's practically no competition at all. I found a blog about it, started in 2006, without a single post.

One thing I've been planning for a while is to put some real work into the blog about La Palma, and today I registered it with Technorati.

According to pro-blogger .com:
Adsense Revenue = Traffic Levels + High Paying Ads + Relevant Ads + Optimally Positioned and Designed Ads

This sounds like common sense. Given that the subject of the ads is fixed, and I'm already getting relevant ads, I want to increase my traffic and improve the ad design and placement. If I do a little every day, then soon I should be able to retire right?

Well, maybe I'll be able to buy a pizza at least.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good things come in Threes

Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine are hanging onto my story for round three of their selection process. Of course this doesn't guarantee that they'll buy it, but as far as it goes, it's very encouraging.

My story "Thrice upon a Time" has been accepted by Afterburn SF for their December 2009 issue, and "Designer Genes" is now up at Alien Skin.

I'd better do some more writing, or I'll have nothing to sell.

El Hierro again

The famous Garoe in El Hierro
The Garoe

I've lost my passport.

I had it about ten days ago, because I checked the expiry date. But as I headed for the ferry port on Sunday afternoon (to visit my friend on El Hierro) it was nowhere to be found. I phoned the police, who said that I could travel on my residencia. So I heaved a sigh of relief and went to the port.

But at the ferry check in, they said you could travel on the older residencias (credit-card sized with a photo) but not the new ones (A4, no photo, nicknamed "the green monster"). In the end they let me on the ferry, but as a non-resident, and I had to pay double. Still, that was only an extra 12€, so I wasn't too bothered.

I had a great time with my friend. The spring flowers are blooming, I finally saw the famous Garoe, I took some photos of Ruben Armiche working on his huge statue of "Homenaje a la Bajada". It's something he calls "re-use art", because it's made of things like old washing machines covered by chicken wire, sacks, and finally cement. He plans to finish it in time for the big festival in July (the bajada, hence the name), so I hope to see it then. We had a delicious dinner at the viewpoint at La Peña, too. Once again, I wondered about starting a blog about El Hiero, but I really don't have time.

All too soon it was time to come home. I was worried that I might have trouble without the passport, so we went to the airport early, in case the check in staff needed to phone their boss or something.

Thank goodness we did. You can't fly without a passport. I had to go to the Civil Guard and formally report the loss. They gave me a piece of paper to show at the airport along with the green monster, and I got home all right.

Of course, I found the house grubby, the laundry baskets overflowing, and my son's friend wanting to stay the night, but it was worth it.

The statue of Neptune in El Hierro, by Ruben Amiche
The Statue "Homenaje a la Bajada, by Ruben Amiche

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Mummy's Curse

Cover for Flash Fiction Online

My story, The Mummy's Curse, is up at Flash Fiction Online. It even got a special cover for April Fool's Day, although I believe that's coming down today.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

So far, so good

Yup, I like being unemployed. The blog index is tidied up and linked to, the door's ready to varnish tomorrow, I've submitted five stories, blogged, and best of all, I've written 300 words of the next Agent Hammer adventure. I just hope I can keep the momentum going.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Unemployed at last!

My temporary contract doesn't officially finish until the end of the month - Tuesday - but I have two days holiday owing, so I'm free at last! Free to write all day (apart from shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry, tidying up...)

It's going to be great, at least until the end of the month when my pay check doesn't arrive. But lucky me, I have a husband with a good job, and the house is paid for.

Over the weekend, I produced a subject index for my blog about La Palma, and submitted a story. This morning I'm blogging, sanding down doors ready for varnish, and submitting more stories. Plus some housework, inevitably.

In other news, my husband worked out a way to get the Berlingo repaired for our friends in Franceses. This is a long story, but it started when a rock fell onto the road and leaped at their radiator yelling, "Banzai!" Since this was absolutely not their fault, they should get compensation to pay for the repairs eventually. Meanwhile, there's a cash-flow problem, and we were begining to think that the Berlingo would have to stand out in the rain for perhaps four years, getting slowly rusty.

As I say, my husband thought up a workaround. And last night I dreamt of a dog-sized Berlingo jumping around his lap, being petted. "Good van. Good van."

Obviously I haven't been getting any saner lately, which isn't going to surprise anybody.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Eek!

On Tuesdays, my friend Helen arrives in time to produce lunch for my son and look after him until I get home from work. Most days I organise their lunch before I leave, although Helen's pretty good at finishing off something half-done, or improvising from scratch.

So this morning I phoned her. "Your lunch is the big pan of chicken stew in the fridge. Do NOT taste the small pan on top of the stove. It's ecological aphid-spray."

Not that she'd have needed hospital or anything - that's rather the point of an ecological insecticide. She'd just have been screaming and foaming at the mouth, since it's mostly chilies and soap.

I've just squirted the aphids. Does it work? I'll let you know tomorrow.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Calima

Satellite shot of Saharan dust blowing over the Canary Islands

After an colder-than-average winter, the temperatures here have shot up. This happens whenever the trade winds give way to calima - a hot, dry wind and dust blowing from the Sahara. We used to get it only in summer, but for the last few years it's been happening earlier in the year.

Actually, it's really nice at this time of year. Suddenly it's warm enough to sit on the beach, even if you haven't just flown in from northern Europe. Whereas in summer, it's frankly too hot. Anything over about 35ºC, and I start to melt.

Monday, March 16, 2009

I'm in Print Again!


Escape Velocity Issue 4 is out, and it includes my story "Zuggy Zu and the Humans" along with nine others, an interview with Stefan Arngrim from the Irwin Allen TV series Land of the Giants and photo features on 'Flight of the Phoenix - The University of Arizona Goes to Mars' and many historical photos from the infamous NASA 'G.R.I.N' files. I'm really looking forward to my contributor's copy.

You can buy it at http://stores.lulu.com/store.php?fAcctID=1727255

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

International Woman's Day


March 8th was International Woman's Day, and I was too busy to blog.

Worldwide, women do about 2/3 of the work, get 10% of the wages, and own 1% of the land.

Of course the places which treat women worst are precisely the ones that wouldn't dream of celebrating women´s day. Places where women get jailed, or even stoned, for having been raped. Places where their life is legally worth exactly half a man's life, or where they're never legally adults, and a widow has to get her son's written permission to travel.

Things have come a long way since I was told that getting a university degree in mechanical engineering was an excellent idea, because then I could get a really good job as secretary to an engineer. But even in Europe, women still get paid less than a man doing the same job, and still have to postpone or dump their careers to look after children or parents. Perhaps that's partly why so few politicians are women. Just look at any photo of the EU national leaders - one woman and twenty-six men.

Monday, March 02, 2009

A Wonderful Mystery

In the last ten days or so, at least five people have congratulated me on loosing so much weight. But according to the scales, I've actually gained half a kilo.

This is very nice, but very odd.

I can only think that either I've managed to swap some fat for muscle (muscle being denser) or that my posture's improved. Either way, it must be the extra exercise.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Returning my Sister's Face








My friend and talented fellow writer, Eugie Foster has a launch party today on Facebook and LiveJournal for her collection of short stories, "Returning my Sister's Face." She's part Chinese, and her stories are often set in the orient. More importantly, they tend to hang around in your subconscious long after you put the book down, which is probably why they've been into Greek, Hungarian, Polish, and French. She hasn't won any major awards yet, but it's only a matter of time. She's already been nominated for the British Fantasy, Bram Stoker, Southeastern Science Fiction, Parsec, and Pushcart Awards.

Definitely a name to watch.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gross dreams

Last night I dreamed I spat a huge slug out of my mouth.

That is positively the last time I go to bed without brushing my teeth!

But one of the advantages of being a writer is that sometimes I get paid for my nightmares.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Carnival


Yay! It's carnival, and I get sometime off for fun. (Actually I had to take time off work, because my son's off school, but I felt overdue for a break anyway.)

So the house is a little tidier, and I've finally sent off photos I promised to send weeks ago, and I've mended stuff that's been broken for over a month. And I got to see the kids' parade and the big Los Indianos parade (see the blog about La Palma.) On Thursday my friends come back from El Hierro, and they're taking my son to their house overnight so I can work Thursday and Friday. They're even bringing him back on Friday afternoon, and then we're all going to the sardine's funeral together.

That's right. Carnival ends with a funeral for a sardine. It's totally mad and I love it. (More details here.)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Surprise!

I set up Google alerts to let me know when my name appears on the web. Mostly I get to hear about other Sheila Crosbys, but occasionally I find reviews of my stories that I didn't know about, and just once, someone who'd reprinted a whole story, including the "Original fiction exclusive to Cosmos Online" bit at the top. (They took it down when I asked).

I was very surprised to find my name in an Indian newspaper, and even more surprised to find out that, yes, it's me. The columnist liked the comment I left on the Facebook group of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women. Since it's the only comment quoted, and goes right at the end where it's going to get noticed, I'm very flattered.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Knickers to them!

Pink Knickers Logo

On January 24th, a group of women were having a peaceful drink in a bar in Mangalore, and they were attacked by a group of 40 men for being "unIndian". See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7852837.stm. Big heroes NOT!

They're members of a group called Sri Ram Sena, who see themselves as self-appointed guardians, "preserving Indian culture and moral values." Their leader, Pramod Mutalik, said, "What my men did was right. The media is using this small incident to malign the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) government in the state."

He's entitled to his views, of course. He's not entitled to encourage thugs to beat up women. And he's threatening a repeat performance for couples on Valentine's day. (The Sri Ram Sena also have a bee in their bonnet about Valentine's day, because it's western.)

Something snapped. A group of Indian women organised a truly creative, non-violent protest. They formed a Facebook group of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women, and they're sending pink knickers to Mr. Muthalik on Valentine's day. I really hope someone gets a photo of his postbag.

http://thepinkchaddicampaign.blogspot.com/

If you want to join in, here's the postal address:
From: The Pink Chaddi Campaign,
To: Pramod Muthalik,
Sri Rama Sene Office
No. 11, Behind new bus stand,
Gokhul road,
Lakshmi park,
Hubli - Karnataka

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Coochi-coo!

Photo of cute baby
It's a good thing I love La Palma, because I get off the island once or twice a year. But last weekend was my great nephew's baptism, and we hadn't even seen him. So, although we absolutely didn't have the time, we went to Tenerife for the weekend.

Getting up at 4:30 am for the 6am ferry was a killer, but we had a great time. We stayed in a really nice hotel in Guimar (the Casona Santo Domingo I recommend it), saw family, saw the pyramids, and met the baby (isn't he gorgeous?). best of all, we actually had time to talk to each other.

Of course the catch is that we never did all the domestic stuff we usually do over a weekend. The laundry baskets are overflowing even though the sheets haven't been changed. The blogs haven't been updated. There is no home-made stew in the freezer.

It was worth it.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Yoga update

I can touch my toes for the first time for at least ten years. I never thought to take measurements when I started yoga, but I seem to remember I was at least 10 cm away from my toes.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A trip to Puntagorda



Yesterday I left my fellers and sneaked off to Puntagorda to photograph almond blossom. As usual, I felt as though I'd bunked off school. I've seen better years - I think the wind and rain got there before me. But for all that, it was still gorgeous.

I stayed until sunset. Living on the eastern side of the island means I get to enjoy a sunrise every day (provided I get up in time) but sunsets are a rare treat.

And then I had to drive home in the dark, but it was worth it.
Pine needles silhouetted against the sunset in Puntagorda, La Palma

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My First Sale of the Year

Hurrah! Alien Skin want to buy my story "Designer Genes" for their April/May 2009 Issue. It's only a flash piece, so it's not much money, but it's a great start to the year, especially since it's a magazine I really like.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

???

The first book I picked up at work this morning gave me a bit of a shock.

Book cover in Cyrillic

How was I supposed to classify that? Some years ago, I learned the Cyrillic alphabet (a long story), so I tried to sound it out. "Snekmro-phomo-memrucheskee camalog zvezd." No help there.

I tried looking inside.
Book title in Cyrillic

"Spektro-photo-metreecheskee catalog zvezd." Spectro-photometric Catalogue Something-or-other. OK, so catalogues go under "Table and Data Books" - 522.0212. So far so good. But putting it in the database was going to be slow going. I didn't have a Cyrillic keyboard. All I could think of was to use the word processor to "insert symbol" one letter at a time, and then cut and paste.

And then I tried the next page:
Book title in English
Duh!

I think tomorrow I might have a coffee before I start putting books in the database.

Monday, January 26, 2009

RTFM



Father Christmas was kind enough to bring me a new camera lens: slightly telephoto (just right for portraits), large maximum aperture (for shooting in low light, and for throwing the background out of focus), and macro capability (it'll focus so close that I can fill the frame with a postage stamp). By my standards it was a lot of money, and I've been disappointed that I've had so little time to play with it.

Without the temporary job, I'd have had plenty of time to play, but no money to buy it. Typical.

So when I went to Fuencaliente last week, to photograph the animals being blessed, I took it with me.

And it wouldn't work. Every time I tried, I got an error message "F--"

Which is about what I said. Thank goodness I had the two zoom lenses that came with the body.

The new lens wouldn't work at home either. I didn't have time to look for the manual just then, as I have to do most of the cleaning and cooking at weekends. And when I finally had time to look, I couldn't find it. I spent hours not finding it.

I began to get worried. If my shiny, new lens had broken, I had to get it back to the shop while it was still under guarantee. On the other hand, I wasn't used to it, and maybe I was doing something dumb. Definitely a time for the old software engineer's standby - RTFM: Read the Manual.

I didn't have time to look for the manual just then, as I have to do most of the cleaning and cooking at weekends. And when I finally had time to look, I couldn't find it. I spent hours not finding it.

Yesterday my husband had the brilliant idea of looking for the manual online. And this afternoon, I found it (at http://www.pentaximaging.com/files/manual/K10D_Manual.pdf
for anyone with the same problem)

And the lens is fine, thank goodness. That's the error message for when you're trying to use a silly aperture. I set to to automatic aperture, and took this photo of a Christmas tree bauble that doesn't seem to have made it back into storage yet.

Phew!