Book on the Way

There’s a strange lull period just before self-publication of a self-published book. I’ve finished writing the book, designed the cover and sent it all off to the printers. (It takes a few weeks for the physical books to arrive.) I’ve got limited edition production runs to arrange for items in the goody bags. But apart from those, I’m in a kind of writing limbo.

I don’t want to work on another writing project, as I’ll have to pour all my energy into this one again when the books arrive. And a few weeks isn’t long enough to finish anything. And frankly, I’m tired after the last few weeks of frenetic writing.

Yes, I’m working on various writerly events I’ve got lined up in the next few months. So far, I have a couple of guest blogging spots, a reading for International Women’s Day and two workshops:

Saturday 15th February, Running a Taster session for the Women’s Arts Association in Barry. Gonna be lots of fun and very lively for all levels of writers. The bad news is it’s £4 a ticket.  The good news is that my books will be available at a discount 😉 and I’m promised that there will be cake. 
Details here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1416150005295798/?fref=ts

I’m also running a Writing Workshop at Steampunk at the Seaside, Camber Sands in March. Details of that one will follow when I know what’s happening.

Meanwhile I’m catching up on a backlog of non-book admin that’s been building up and taking orders for the new book. I’m offering an option of a small goody bag with a few extras, as my goody bags proved so popular with Chrystal Heart. (You can pre-order here: http://www.freewebstore.org/Jay-Walker-Writing if you’re interested.)

Promo Pack JAW

I might even have a bit of time to relax. Hmm, what’s on my knitting needles at the moment…?

Knit Orange

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Feeling Good Alone

January: a dark month to be alone.

You’re stuck in the house – haven’t left it for days. The last conversation you had was with that weird guy who tried to sell you a dodgy-looking Blu-Ray last week and you’ve started talking to the house plant. And that’s been dead for years.

Whether through illness, career choice, retirement, a baby, personal circumstances or something else, you may find yourself entirely on your own for days on end – even months. But we are gregarious animals, we need to be part of the herd. So how does a solitary human cope on their own?

Many writers spend the working day on their own, a lot of people with chronic illness barely leave their home and an increasing number of single people have little reason to leave an empty house. There are many of us living alone with no real interaction with the outside world – and that number looks likely to increase.

I’m luckier than many stay-at-homers, I have my Hubby to keep me sane. Or is it conversations with the cats? Anyhow, my disability makes it hard to leave the house and go somewhere, while my writing work keeps me chained to my computer. But I’ve found a few little tricks to stop me going stir-crazy.

Don’t be Alone All Day

For a long time, I used to make a point of getting out of the house and having a conversation with someone – even if it was only the person making me a coffee. But between worsening health and the closure of my nearest café, that isn’t realistic any more. But there are still options. There are friends I can call – or they may call me. I have some good friends I can connect with online – real friends, not just social media contacts. One way or another, I can interact with another human being.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, there are organisations who will listen if someone is desperate, but they aren’t much help if you’re just feeling a little lonely. The internet is a great resource, with chat rooms and social media, free phone calls to be made and a worldwide community where someone is always online. Many of my social media contacts are also friends, but you can’t beat the face-to-face conversation for making you feel human.

There’s a lot to be said for shopping from home. Whether it’s the postman ringing your doorbell with a parcel from an online retailer or a uniformed man bringing a week’s shopping from a supermarket – it’s human contact and that’s a bonus that comes with the free delivery service offered by many retailers.

If you can get out of the house, take a walk when the dog-walking brigade are out, visit a café, a church or your local library. Many clubs are free – it doesn’t have to cost anything to socialise.

Love Yourself

Not leaving the house isn’t an excuse not to make yourself respectable. Many stay-at-homers report living in their pyjamas, not bothering with personal hygiene and generally letting things slip because no-one’s going to see them. I don’t agree – you will see yourself. Aren’t you worth getting dressed for? Is your life so busy you don’t have time to wash and dress?

Yes, I have days when I’m officially “ill”, worse than just the usual disability problems. And I’ll spend a day or three in bed when I need to – not dressing, even not brushing out my hair. But as soon as I feel that bit better, I behave as if I’m going back to “work” – as myself. Someone who has a bath, gets dressed and wouldn’t have to apologise if the doorbell rings and there’s a hunky young man come to deliver a parcel.

I go further. And these are some of the things that make me feel human when I’m on my own all day. I wear perfume every day, just for myself. It’s a luxury, but it doesn’t cost much for the number of days’ wear in each bottle. Sometimes I wear a necklace or a pair of earrings, just because I can. I’m not one for makeup even when I go out, but if I was…

Or for the blokes – why not shave each morning? Or keep the facial hair trimmed, as you prefer? Assume you’re going to open your door and see someone so fanciable you’d regret not having made an effort.

Create Something

I know my books aren’t great literature, my knitting isn’t going to win any fashion awards and I’ll never be a Celebrity Chef. But people appreciate my writing, my jumpers and the food I make – people including myself! The feeling I get from baking a loaf of bread is completely disproportionate to the small effort that goes into it. Even doing a craft I’m useless at is fun (I can’t draw for toffee, but my notebooks are littered with sketches of machines / clothes / maps I’d be embarrassed to show anyone!) One of the benefits of giving up work is having time to make stuff and I only wish I had more time to create in my life!

Look After Yourself

Cooking for one is such a hassle. It takes so long to prepare food. It’s easier and cheaper to eat ready meals that will poison me. Or nothing at all. I mean, I don’t have time to peel veg!

Wanna bet?

There are myths in the media about how difficult it is to eat properly. How expensive fresh veg is – and that there are no greengrocers anywhere. Programmes on telly give the impression only celebrity chefs can prepare food that’s fit to eat – so buy their latest book and drool over glossy photos of five-star cuisine while you stuff your face with greasy takeaway food full of salt and sugar.

Or buy some good old-fashioned veg from a supermarket and cook it for yourself. It doesn’t have to be exciting or exotic – it doesn’t take much effort to wash a carrot. And if your experiments don’t always work, is it really a disaster? It’s probably edible – and you’ll do better next time.

Endorphins are Your Friends

Big word – tiny chemicals. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones generated by your body. They are the way your body is programmed to reward you when you do something right. From the happy feeling when you eat a good meal to the warm afterglow in the bedroom, we should all take time to get a little of this legal and safe “high”.

Yes, even stay-at-homers have sex drives.

Research shows your body will produce endorphins when you eat a good meal, meet someone you fancy or go shopping. But also when you meditate, exercise, talk to someone or make something. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

The Little Things

One of the greatest perils of the stay-at-home life is the blandness of daily existence. Don’t let yourself be shut in like a cockroach in a tiny cupboard. Open the curtains and look out at the world. If you’re down – have a good cry. Get it out of your system and step back into the world. Treat your life like a job – something you have to make an effort for.

Because YOU’re worth it.

If you really can’t cope with being alone, there are many organisations to help. On a really bad day, there are always The Samaritans on 085457 90 90 90 (UK) for anonymous, non-judgemental listening.

Happy New Jumper 2014

Remember all that wool I brought back from Iceland in November. (The country, not the freezer shop.) Well, here’s the first jumper.

Jumper Selfie 140106

And here’s a close up of the yoke pattern.

Jumper Details 140106

Apologies for the poor photography – I’m not very good at this selfie business.

While I’m apologising, I should also say sorry for neglecting this blog. Life has been far too busy and I’m afraid blogging about it wasn’t a priority. I’ll try and post more regularly this year.

So just a quick entry for now – ‘cos I know folks will want to see the jumper as soon as poss.

And I’ll write more in a few days.

Blwyddyn Newydd Dda (that’s Happy New Year for non-Welsh speakers).

Trip-End Tuesday 13-11-19

The snow is thawing! It came to visit for a few days – to give us a chance to see how beautiful Iceland is in its white coat. This morning, everywhere is black rock and brown vegetation, with only the occasional streak of white highlight to make the point.

Still no aurora last night. This winter may be the highest sun-activity season for many years, but we seem to have picked a low patch. A shame, but we’ve still had a great time.

One final breakfast of freshly-baked waffles with lashings of syrup (but no ginger beer), squeeze everything into the suitcase and heck the bag full of knitting wool isn’t likely to explode on the plane. (We brought this bag in the suitcase, just in case!) Leave the booze we didn’t finish for the hotel staff to enjoy. Pile everything into the car one last time and checkout.

MK Waffle Stack

I chatted about knitting with the staff behind the Reception desk while Martin checked the tickets before our bill was printed out. An interesting difference- in the UK, Hotel bills are usually designed to be vague, listing just “meals” rather than details. Our bill in Iceland is detailed, clear – and accurate. There are no hidden charges – and we’ve already been informed that we are not expected to tip anyone here. Refreshing, really!

We drive out onto a black road, tarmac chewed up at the outside edge where snowploughs dug in to break up the ice. Our tyres are studded with metal – as is every vehicle here and it’s clear that the country has a policy of replacing roads as they become undriveable and expecting drivers to be prepared for freezing conditions. We haven’t seen any gritting or salting a road and less evidence of drivers having lost control than we would at home. Even the tourists seem to cope well with the conditions – given the right vehicles and rules. And most drivers in the UK don’t even have a set of winter tyres. We could learn a lot!

Mountains Clouds

Our flight isn’t until this afternoon, so we head into Reykjavik one last time and park in a different area – I think Martin’s afraid I’d buy more wool if he took me anywhere near the yarn shop. And we can’t cram any more into the luggage!

Instead we check out a few tourist shops (decent quality tat, but still tat) and take photos of a Viking boat on a roof, a really cute fountain and an open square with excellent wheelchair access – which was obviously part of the original design, not just added later when someone complained. This is a civilised country!

Reykjavik Ramp

And so to the airport, back to normality. We check-in and find the travel company have booked seats for us at the rear of the plane this time. The staff do what they can, but can only bring us a few rows forward. So I’m forced to hobble most of the length of the plane to reach our seats. Then the plan is half an hour late taking off. Yup, this is reality. The pilot makes up for the delay, but doesn’t have a miraculous solution to the seating problem.

It’s been a great break. Iceland is stunningly beautiful and we’d love to go back again to see more of this unique Island.

Happy Hour

Reykjavik and Shopping 13-11-16

Life in Iceland is rumoured to be expensive. Truth is – it depends what you’re buying. So we breakfasted on waffles and syrup (I could get to like this place), and set off for Reykjavik, intent on spending money.

The landscape had been transformed overnight from the moon-lava landscape we’d driven though to gentle white hummocks piled like newly-washed bedding in a very cold airing cupboard. Barren austerity to pristine fluffiness in one night’s snow.

Snow Road

And that’s quite enough purple prose.

We parked easily – for a capital city, Reykjavik seems to have lots of space for cars and we found a space just off one of the crossroads in the centre. Choosing a direction we walked up towards a piece of architecture that’s divided opinion throughout Iceland. It’s a concrete church called Halgrimskirkja. Piccie below. Decide for yourself, but we both loved it. The statue is Leif Eriksson, the Viking explorer.

Halgrimskirkja Leif

We wandered about, checking out a few interesting-looking stores and wound our way back to the junction where we’d left the car. Crossing to the opposite corner, I rolled into a store that displayed lots of hats and fur-lined gloves. I could only get a short way inside and Martin went down the few stairs to check the rest of the store. He came back with the words,

“They’ve got wool!”

Martin has a theory that I instinctively find the knitting shop in any
town or city on the planet. Someday he’ll be proved wrong.

So he carried the wheelchair down the stairs while I scrambled after in an unladylike manner.

The staff were completely unphazed by my rather undignified entrance and keen to help, proud of their stock of local yarns and English-language Icelandic patterns. Oh, the wool! Great range of colours and weights – and a fraction of the price I’d pay at home. Apologies to anyone who doesn’t share this obsession. But this is my artist’s palette.

Not to mention that I was spending time with members of the International Sisterhood again. They admired Martin’s jumper and we talked knitting and the benefits of Icelandic wool.

So I bought some:

Icelandic Wool

Looking for a loo, we fell into a brasserie and stayed for a lunch of reindeer pate and smoked trout. (Not on the same plate!) And Skyr – an Icelandic delicacy that tastes like the illegitimate child of yoghurt and curd cheese. Served with blueberries.

Back to the hotel with our souvenirs of Reykjavik – and the wool.
The nights begin early up here.

Moonrise at Ranga

We checked our room number on for aurora alerts, but had another undisturbed night. Still no Northern Lights.

Travelling to Iceland 13-11-15

Airlines don’t make it easy for travellers who use wheelchairs. This was the first time I’d flown in years and I admit to some trepidation.

For once, the journey was uneventful – in a good way. I packed my knitting into our case – always traumatic for me to be separated from my needles, but the airlines won’t allow me to carry such dangerous weapons in my hand baggage. We checked the case in and went through passport control.

As usual, I was frisked (well, there’s not much point taking a wheelchair through a metal detector). The nice lady seemed quite interested in my heavy knitted jacket and asked me,

“Do you need your jumper?” in a Spanish-sounding accent. I must have looked puzzled so she tried again.

“Neet your jumper?” whilst making the international sign for handknitting. Now I got it.

“Knit my jumper? Yes I did,” I replied with a huge smile. “You knit, too?”

She grinned back at me.

The International Sisterhood of Knitters gets everywhere. I could not hold a conversation with this lady, but we knew we were Sisters under the skin. Or jumpers, at least!

We bought a couple of small bottles of spirits in Duty Free, knowing that alcohol was not available as readily and was reputed to be expensive in Iceland. We also bought some sharing bags of chocolates because, well, why not?

I’d been reserved seats near the front of the plane, not too far to hobble on crutches, and enjoyed the three-hour flight. We saw a nice rainbow ring around the sun – the photo doesn’t do it justice, I’m afraid.

Rainbow Aura Plane

And I took the obligatory photos from the plane as we came in over the island. I don’t know the name of this peak, but I christened it “The Lonely Mountain” for obvious reasons. Tolkien would have approved!

Lonely Mountain

Disembarking was painless, with my wheelchair waiting for me and the airport staff very helpful in getting me through their system.

It took Martin some time to sort out the paperwork for our hire car, but the registration number was a prime, which we took to be a good sign. We loaded up and were on our way to the hotel. We were staying a couple of hours from Reykjavik, in fact a long way from anywhere. The hotel is situated where there’s no chance of light pollution to spoil any view of the fabled Aurora Borealis. They also offer a wake-up service in case of any display and we checked our room number on their list. This room number was another prime and we had a good view of the sky to the North, which would be the most likely viewing angle for any auroral display.

Quick meal from Room Service and an early night. Tomorrow, the adventure begins!