The craziest of train journeys; a wonderful day with librarians and a short lived but highly productive afternoon at the SCBWI writer’s retreat…
Monday: My day on Notes From the Slushpile, my post was written earlier but I need to be on hand to reply to comments and tweet the post. It’s a bank holiday but that makes no difference when you work for yourself – an office day, catching up on farm invoicing, crate transfers, pensions admin, vat returns – but it’s a writing day too and I hit my 500 words a day target and a little bit.
Tuesday: Another office day but I get distracted by the ridiculous changes to the junior school curriculum and current SATS. I post about it on my author facebook page:
I don’t know much about teaching and there have been times when I wish I had better grammar. I still don’t know what a subjunctive clause is but I can operate an apostrophe without embarrassing myself ( thanks to Philip Ardagh) . I scored 40% on this test
The post was seen by over 5000 people and an astonishing number also took the test – not one of them got 100%. thanks to Jo Nadin the whole debate was picked up by TES.
I spent way too much time being cross about it all and not enough time writing – ironically spent a couple of hours doing pre-GSCE English essay practise with my son , managed to get to belly dance class.
Wednesday: Spent 5 hours getting my hair colour done. I take my laptop – this is five pure, uninterrupted hours of writing. Get masses done because people are watching and I feel guilty if I’m not producing words.
Go to fencing training on my own, boy child has PE revision after school. Fab 1-2-1 session, tried out new arm pad and it seems to prevent stab holes in my arm. Result.
It’s so warm, definitely a floaty Cabbages and Roses dress day.
Swan about the field walking Diesal (dog) and Widget (cat), pretending I’m Tess Durbyfield (fictional character). Then to London for Faye Bird’s book launch!
Fire at Vauxhall makes Waterloo trains look a bit dodgy to decide to go from Chichester which means using Southern Rail – always risky. Leave early in case there are problems, train is delayed but I still have time for book shopping and tea and cake and Cog Heart, Peter Bunzl’s book to be published in September – it’s SO GOOD. Nearly make myself late reading it.
Fly in, have wonderful happy Usborne family reunion – make Peter, Faye and Sarah Alexander ( The Art of Not Breathing – another Usborne gem!) sign all the books, hug everyone then flit off because of train situation and because I want to see Boy Child before he goes to bed…
8.02 is cancelled.
8.32 is delayed. No other information is given.
Waiting waiting, waiting – two lovely, young women come and tell me they “Like My style” ( floaty dress wins the day) . Train delay suddenly not such a problem, we have a lovely chat about books – they are fab.
8.50 train arrives at platform 19. I need to be in front 4 coaches because the train divides at Horsham. Speed down the platform, get on board as strange, indecipherable announcement is made. Passenger on train says, this isn’t the Southampton train anymore, you need to get the one on Platform 18. Really? I hop off, panicking it’ll go without me, eventually find guard who says, “Yes, they moved it.”
Great. Race back up the platform and back down platform 18. Get on front 4 coaches. There is an announcement. “This train will run fast to Horsham from Clapham Junction.”
They have cancelled all stops in between to make up time but Chichester is after Horsham so I am FINE. I sit down.
Man opposite opens his can of beer. He has already had quite a few beers.
He says, “I’m going to Redhill.”
I say, “I don’t think we’re stopping at Redhill.”
Mistake. I have engaged in conversation. Will I never learn? The last time I did this it nearly ended up in a fight.
“I know, ” says the man, getting up and coming to sit with me, “I don’t mind.”
My heart sinks. I want to finish Cog Heart!
“It’s alright, I won’t bother you for long, I’m getting off at Redhill.”
Where we aren’t stopping.
I resign myself to the conversation I am now going to have. He’s actually quite interesting, and he gets off at Clapham Junction so I can read my book all the way to Horsham. Only a girl gets on and sits next to me. She is clearly tired out. She’s been travelling all day, she’s come from Devon. The train moves off. An announcement is made, after we leave the station,
“Just to remind all passengers we are running fast to Horsham, this train will not stop until Horsham.”
The girl next to me sits up sharply, “But I need East Croydon!”. Then she sinks back in her chair and laughs. “Well, I can’t do anything about it now!”
What a wonderful example she sets.
The guard comes through to check we are all in the right portion of the train for when it divides at Horsham. He shakes his head in sympathy with the girl who now has to go all the way to Horsham and then hope for a train back again. I share my dried mango with her, it’s the least I can do.
We arrive at Horsham. I say goodbye to East Croydon Girl. An announcement is made.
” We are sorry but passengers in the rear of the train will have to disembark as we have no driver. There will be a replacement bus service to Bognor Regis.”
In my carriage there’s a subdued collective sigh, a mixture of relief that it’s not us, and pity for the rear coach who’ll be going no where fast. And then we realise that we aren’t going anywhere either. Someone gets up to investigate. The rear coach passengers are refusing to get off. One man is hanging on to the door so they can’t uncouple the trains. The police are called. Finally we are off again. One more stop and I’ll be home. Surely nothing else can go wrong.
We arrive at Barnham. We stop at Barnham. We stay at Barnham. By this stage I am laughing at the insanity of it all. A passenger comes in and says to me, “I heard you say you’re going to Chichester, we have to get off and get the train on the next platform.”
“Really?” I say, following him , why hasn’t the guard made an announcement?”
The guard is nearby and near apopleptic, “I’m just about to do it OK?!!!”
I get on the other train. Miraculously we get to Chichester with no further mishaps, and, even more miraculously, we are mostly chuckling and feeling very, very sorry for the people who work for Southern Rail and have to deal with the fact their management aren’t managing and they are hamperingly short staffed.
I get home too late to see Boy Child before he goes to bed and still have to prepare for my event on Friday.
Friday: To Winchester for an amazing day with CILIP Youth Library Group South East – masses of authors and librarians talking about books – I am in HEAVEN.
A little late to fencing club but a good evening apart from my back playing up. My own fault, sacrificing Pilates for running – bad idea.
Saturday: Spend the day cleaning and gardening – squeeze in a bit of writing and then nip to the farm shop. It’s beautiful weather so the farm camp are having a barbecue. Beloved and Boy Child have gone Mountain Biking, I load up the fire pit so we can eat outside when they get back. I have brief moment of peace to read Lisa Heathfield’s wonderful book “Seed.” Bliss.
Sunday: Get up early to prep dinner and get some farm work done before gate-crashing lunch at The SCBWI Writer’s retreat. It’s wonderful to catch up with old pals including Teri Terry, Tanya Tay and Philippa Francis – and to meet some new ones – they are full of how brilliant Melvin Burgess has been as their weekend lecturer; how insightful and helpful Rachel Mann and Felicity Trew have been. After lunch we write – I produce 1300 words in an hour – amazing for me. I’m reluctant to leave but I do so with compliments about More of Me from Lucy Van Smit buzzing through my brain.
Home in time to cook dinner, go through Boy Child’s practise English questions and have a lovely long chat with Daughter, studying hard for her finals.
All is well.