A Tale of One Duckling…


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(c) Classroom Clipart

After Thursday’s Road Rage incident, it was nice to see a retweeted post this morning showing some kind people in the US of A rescuing a mummy duck’s babies after they fell down a drain. Went some way to restoring my (slightly dented) faith in humanity!

It reminded me, too, that my husband and I carried out a similar rescue in Midhurst, Sussex, in the summer of 1990. We’d taken my old Mini Clubman out for a spin and decided to stop off for a meal before making our way home.

AUSTIN MINI CLUBMAN ORANGE
   Classic Mini Clubman   (not mine  -it was never that shiny!)  with thanks to Pinterest

We arrived in the car park and noticed a crowd of people gathered around a drain (the picture below isn’t the actual drain (in fact this one is from Vancouver, but it’s very similar) and joined the throng to see what was going on.  It seemed that a mummy duck had been leading her kiddies back to the river Rother (you try saying that in a hurry) which runs through the town, and one of her ducklings

UK STREET DRAINS

had fallen through the grating and was now sitting miserably on the bottom, calling for his/her mummy.  Various discussions ensued, which ran along the lines of ringing the RSPCA to see if they could send someone out, ringing the council to see if they could send someone out (to open the drain cover) and so on. Because there was quite a big crowd and it all seemed to be in hand, with people donating a handkerchief and shoelaces to improvise a sling, we went off and got something to eat. When we got back about an hour or so later, it was late in the afternoon and we were surprised to see that the crowd had dispersed but that one chap was still there, with the duckling in his hand!  He said he didn’t know quite what to do – he lived in North London and had to get going, so hubby told him we didn’t live too far away so we’d take the duckling and see if we could reunite him/her with his/her family.

Because this was way before people routinely carried mobile phones, no-one had known the local RSPCA number, but we thought if we couldn’t find the duck family we could hopefully drop it off at a local RSPCA or veterinary practice in our local area.

By that time the mother duck had long given up on her stray child and had waddled off towards the river with the rest of her brood. I suppose when you have half a dozen babies you have to consider the family as a whole – ‘the needs of the many’ and all that!  We decided to follow the path down to the river and see if we could find the Mother Duck and her family.

We were younger and fitter in those days (!) so what looks like quite a long walk on the map didn’t take too long. We found the river, and after following it along for a little while, found a duck family.  The duckling tweeted but there was no response from the mother duck. Wrong family! We walked a bit further and found another family  – the duckling heard them and tweeted loudly; again no response.  ‘We’re going to end up taking him home with us!’ my hubby worried.  Then we found another family – ‘our’ duckling started tweeting loudly again. This mother duck stopped paddling and quacked back – we’d found the right family at last! Hubby went as close to the water’s edge as he dare, and as soon as he opened his fingers, the duckling tumbled out of his hand and down into the water, then started paddling. He was quickly rounded up by his mother, who seemed to be telling him off, then away they went. Our good deed for the day!

Below you can see the car park (on the right, near the bus station) where the duckling fell into the drain, and somewhere between the right angle of the river near the Cowdray ruins and Midhurst Castle is where we finally caught up with Mrs Duck.

Thanks to my hubby’s prodigious memory, I’ve been able to tell our little rescue story with reasonable accuracy. I often wonder if the other people (those who donated a handkerchief and their shoelaces) remember their part in the rescue. It would be lovely if any of them were to see this and realise that all was well in the end!

Thanks for reading!

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Midhurst – site of the 1990 Duck Rescue! with thanks to Google Maps

Are you a WASPI woman? Do you know what it means?


I very rarely (make that almost never) post about anything political.  I see it all going on around me on social media – tweets, Facebook posts, and the like, and I hold my virtual tongue, because (a) I don’t consider myself that well informed and (b) rightly or wrongly feel that I don’t have time to get up to speed with most of it. I don’t want to get embroiled in an argument where I don’t have all the facts, or as importantly, an understanding of the facts.

I’ve made an exception for WASPI (Women Against State Pension Inequality) because I understand one important thing about it: I will have to work until I am 66 years and 8 months old before I can claim my state pension. Given that I have a chronic disease (for which a life insurance company penalized me when my husband and I first took out a mortgage in 1990 because (in the words of the agent) ‘statistics show that you may not live as long’) well,  I have to wonder if I will make it. Fingers crossed, I will – but I wonder how many women born in the 1950’s won’t?

In case you are not up to speed on what WASPI is all about, in a nutshell it is this:

UK women born in the 1950’s were originally told that they would be able to claim their state pension at age 60. Starting in 1995, successive governments have increased the state pension age (the age at which you can claim the pension you have been paying into since you started work) so that now, the majority of women born in the 1950’s will not be able to claim their pension -which in many cases means they cannot retire from work because they will have no income- until they are 66 or 67 years old.  In my case, at today’s pension rate it means that I will have been deprived of approximately £41,397.00, or £6,203.00 per year, by the time I retire at 66 years and 8 months of age. My mother lived until the age of 77 (being born in 1930 she was able to claim her pension from age 60). Granted she was a smoker and had other health issues I don’t (to my knowledge!) have, but if I don’t make it beyond 77 the state will have made a nice little saving… and I will have worked for half a century in return for ten years’ pension. Hmmm, something feels wrong there.

The issue is not so much that this has happened (and I can see how, with the increasing age of the population and the dwindling pension pot – more people living longer, less money to go around – I dread to think at what age my son, who is now 24, will be able to retire if he is reliant on state pension), but that many women were not told about it, and so had no opportunity to make arrangements to prepare for the shortfall. Women like me have written to the DWP as part of the WASPI campaign, and have received standard replies which basically say ‘actually, we did send letters, and it was publicized‘. I did not get a letter, nor did many women I know; it seems to have been very hit-and-miss. And publishing details on the relevant government website or in newspapers will not (and clearly did not) reach everyone.

I gradually became aware of the pension age increase over a number of years, but not in a way that suggested to me I needed to do something about it if I wanted to retire at 60 – to be honest, it pretty much went over my head until I started writing books and got involved with social media – way too late for me to make any meaningful financial adjustment. Was I horrified? Yes.

I haven’t yet worked out what I am going to do – work on until I can claim my pension, or stop work and hope to survive on my husband’s pensions until I come of pension age.

It is, of course, too late to lock the stable door for many of us – the pension horse has long disappeared over yonder horizon. Perhaps we should have ‘paid more attention’ – but that isn’t really the point, is it? Governments have a duty of care, and as I see it, they have failed thousands of women in my situation by not communicating the true situation in a responsible manner.  Perhaps the DWP should have enlisted a well-known poster boy:

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(with apologies to Uncle Sam)

Well, perhaps not. But something that was ‘in your face’ was clearly needed.

Are you a female born in the  UK during the 1950’s? Did you know about the increase in your pension age, and if so, when did you find out? Have you been able to make adequate provision? How do you feel about the situation?

If you’d like more information, please go to the WASPI website: WASPI

                                                             ♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦

Political rant over. Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible…

Elaine

 

So You Want to be a Writer?


I’m re-blogging this invigorating and inspirational post by Hugh Howey – which was drawn to my attention by Ricardo over at Reedsy – simply because it IS so invigorating and inspiring. It looks as if comments are closed on the original post, but feel free to comment and discuss here…

 

So You Want to be a Writer….    

Wasn’t that a great post? Don’t you feel inspired? I know I do – thank you, Hugh!  Here’s how I have – or plan to- follow Hugh’s advice, and my thoughts:

Hugh advises that if you want to be a writer, these are ten rules to follow:

1) Make a long-term plan.   I’ll confess to you now, that I don’t have a long-term plan as such; it’s more like a list of things I’d like to do, but in no particular order. Like:

  • write my first novel – tick.
  • write and publish a short story collection – tick. (I did that first)
  • write something for film or television – I’m working on that.

So I’ll be working on the long-term plan. But mostly it will involve writing, and more writing. And then more writing. Books, short stories, scripts, blogs…

2) Reading.

  • I do this all the time. I devour books, always have done. I go through phases of reading different genres, but mainly: thriller/police procedural/detective mysteries, science-fiction, contemporary romance. Years ago I read a shed-load of Catherine Cookson, and dozens and dozens of natural history  and autobiographical works.  The one thing I have a problem with is ‘How To’ text-books…

3) Practice.

  • I do this all the time, too. Sometimes in my head, or in the form of emails, letters, blog posts, and pages and pages of dialogue, scenes that come to me out of the blue without a story attached… I have thousands of documents on my portable hard-drive, some of which I may not have looked at in years. I came across one the other day that I literally couldn’t remember writing at first…

4) Daydream.

  • I probably shouldn’t admit to this, but driving to or from work is when this happens most. The hard part is remembering it until I get a chance to write it down. If I could set up my Bluetooth so that I could mutter into my mobile as I drive along, that would solve the problem…

5) Learn to fail.

  • I’m working on that!

6) Plot trumps prose.

  • I agree – if the writing is ‘pretty’ but the story doesn’t engage…. I work hard at that, too. I find it helps to study other stories, and ask myself if I would have written it differently, and if so, why?

7) Live fully and cheaply.

  • That’s a WiP!

8) Network.

  • Most of my networking to date has been online – because I can fit more in! It’s fun and you meet the most interesting people. You never know when you might be able to help them, or vice-versa.

9) Write Great Shit.

  • I can’t disagree with this – if you don’t engage your reader quickly, they likely won’t buy your book. Amazon’s ‘Look Inside’ feature is the opportunity to hook them. I always read the sample, and often know within the first paragraph or so if I am going to hit that magic ‘BUY’ button. If it’s a great premise, but the hook isn’t there… as Hugh says, pull out the stops to engage your reader, and do it as soon as possible, even if it means starting half-way through the story.  I had several beginnings for ‘The Methuselah Paradox’ – a department store fire, the moment my protagonist realises that he has caused a death… and a scene in which someone very close to him is has maybe days to live… in the end I went with a scene which shows us who he is in his workaday life, showing the reader who he is.  I’m not convinced I chose the right opening, as it happens… (see point 5.)    As Hugh says, just keep writing…

10) Find your voice.

  • Agree 100% with Hugh on this. Have I found my voice? Maybe not yet – sometimes I think I have, then I’ll find myself struggling again. I think it is really important to be telling the story you want to tell, and not what other people think it is -or should be- about. If you find yourself listening to other people’s versions of your WiP, I think it could be a sign that you haven’t nailed the story, or perhaps that you are telling the wrong one. Or perhaps it’s just that you don’t have the confidence yet… but when you do find your fingers struggling to keep up with your thoughts as you write, there is nothing quite like it!

 

 

I NEED A TIME MACHINE! (Or, “Not enough hours in the day!” – an Indie Author’s lament)


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Gif: clipartsheep.com

As a fan of science-fiction, I’ve often thought how useful a time machine would be for a writer. Just think: you could hop into your TARDIS (surely the most recognisable time machine since HG Wells’ comfy armchair) write five thousand words whilst hovering in no-time (a.k.a. ‘the void’ or the ‘time vortex’) and be back in time for tea without anyone even knowing that you’ve been away!

More to the point (of this blog entry, at least) is that you’d have time to catch up on all those ‘How To: write/find your audience/get an agent-slash-publishing deal’  etc. emails flooding into your InBox each day.

How do you (and this is a serious question) ever find time to read them all? Should you even try, when surely typing your query into Google will likely bring up links to all those blog entries anyway? And assuming, of course, that the author has entered the relevant tags into their post.

The answer is, I believe, that you can’t.  How many hours of writing time do we regularly sacrifice to reading blogs that just might give us a new insight and improve our writing/audience reach/chances of landing a publishing deal  (which may or may not be the  ultimate goal of every Indie Author – opinions vary) etc.?

This from someone (me) who regularly works their way through a groaning InBox, painstakingly un-subscribing to all those blogs/feeds that I subscribed to weeks/months ago, in the hope that they might help me to become a better/more successful writer. I regularly ignore my own advice and (perhaps) common sense, which tells me to find a few select blogs to follow and ignore the rest – flagging them as ‘spam’ if need be (which always feels like a horrible thing to do, because sometimes the author is another Indie like me, just trying to increase their Reach.)

“But,” I hear you cry, “I might miss something useful!”  This is true, you might.  But many blog sites have options to switch off email notifications altogether, or to consolidate them into a weekly digest.  Either of these options is probably preferable to having a daily flood of material you know you will never find the time to read, although the first option only works if you do remember to check the site every once in a while!

I would love to hear from other Indie Authors on the subject. How do you manage your reading/writing time, what criteria do you use for deciding which blogs to subscribe to, and do you read everything that comes into your mailbox?  I considered setting up an online survey – but since not everyone reading this will have time to take part, I decided that there probably wouldn’t be much point.

In parting, I should probably apologise for the time it may have taken you to read this, time you might otherwise have spent writing….

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from clipartpanda.com