Monday, 27 April 2009

Angry and apathetic

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. I've really not been in the right frame of mind. I've been feeling either angry or apathetic. Neither of which inspires me to write anything worth reading. I have written a little of the novel rewrite though. (Probably shouldn't have!) I managed a few pre-work sessions last week, which makes me feel a little redeemed. But somehow the evenings have just dissolved into a morass of moroseness or rage (and chocolate). Same old same old.

On the upside, however, I was given a lovely gift today. A lasagna, by a neighbour I've only just met, who knew I was embarking on hell-week and doomed for microwave frozen meals every night. It's one of the nicest things anyone has done for me in a long time.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Shiny

Our main topic of conversation at brunch today was something I can't mention yet, but suffice to say that one of us is having a shiny 2009 and champagne was required.

Other than that, we talked a little about publishing, at which point I was again harassed about submitting my unfinished ms (I am resigned to a monthly harassment), and we also talked about our cats (not an uncommon topic!). There was also rather a lengthy discussion about how ace Buffy and Angel are.

This is one helluva writing group I'm in, but I think I'm letting the side down somewhat. More on the celebrations later. Meanwhile, it's back to the grindstone for me.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Barging down the Rhine


One of the greatest characters of my German holiday was the mighty Rhine river, which flows from Switzerland, through Germany, past Bonn and Cologne, and through the Netherlands to the North Sea. My sister and her family are lucky enough to live 5 mins walk from the river, so I spent much of my trip walking up and down its banks, or crossing via car ferry. And then on our last day, we took a cruise along it upriver to a gorgeous old town called Linz.

One of the main things that struck me about the river was the volume of barge traffic travelling up and down it. Whether transporting mounds of bulk coal, pipes filled with oil, or stacks of containers, the traffic was unceasing. The car ferries frequently had to wait for a couple of barges to pass before they could make the next trip across. It really highlighted how important the Rhine still is as a working river.

It's therefore little wonder that cruising along the Rhine, or visiting castles in the Rhine valley, are two of the iconic things to do as a traveller in Germany. We didn't get to many of the castles unfortunately, and had to wait until our last weekend for the cruise season to start, but at least we had a small taste. And in the meantime there were always the river banks, with endless paths along both sides, to explore.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

In Kinsella mode

I think I might have to write a short post about Sophie Kinsella, British author of 'chick lit' novels that are very funny and light-hearted and fabulous for time out. My experience of chick lit is limited -- I think I have only read Helen Fielding, including of course the wonderful Olivia Joules and the overactive imagination.

But this post is about Sophie Kinsella, who has written many more novels than HF, thereby providing far more opportunity for obsessing.

Initially, I was listening to her novels as audio books, starting with the first 3 in the 'Shopaholic' series, followed by The Undomestic Goddess. I enjoyed all immensely, despite being frustrated by her Becky Bloomwood character (being a little less intelligent than my favoured heroines). Samantha in The Undomestic Goddess is definitely more intelligent, although foolish in a different way. I'm not sure why Kinsella has her heroines act so foolishly, but it certainly leads to some amusing scenarios. All four novels were great in audio mode, providing great incentive for the walk to work.

Most recently I actually lashed out and bought her latest novel, Remember Me. And once again I thoroughly enjoyed it, this time as ideal holiday reading. In fact, I devoured it in two days. It has been so long since I have done that -- completely immersed myself in a novel, read on the train, read until the early hours of the morning, slouched around and read in the evenings etc., that I feel all warm and fuzzy just thinking about it. Just what the doctor ordered. Remember Me is light and devourable and funny . . . and sadly over.

So I will now declare myself a Kinsella fan. It's not literature, or weighty, or 'worthy'; but it IS well plotted, competantly written, entertaining, and not completely lacking in substance. If I can write something half as well received by my intended audience, I will be ecstatic.

Monday, 6 April 2009

Not quite getting there

I've been away two weeks now, and still no writing. I don't think it's going to happen somehow. I've been busy and yet not busy, but the kids really do take it out of you! I've been able to snatch an hour or two on my computer here and there, but it's all I can do to keep up with email and the occasional blog-post. On top of this, there is a work story I'm supposed to be writing while I'm away . . . I tackled it last Sunday, but haven't given it much thought since. If I take any time out to write, I guess it has to be that. (Yes, I know I'm on leave, but the days I spend writing this story will not be counted as leave, and my life will be much less stressful if I get it done before I go back to work!) I am going to have to find time to finish it in the next week. I think a few sessions of a few hours ought to do it. Meanwhile, I shall just have to be content with thinking about my novel and getting geared up for a major intensive on my return home. But then again, who knows?

Friday, 3 April 2009

A taste of Netherland


I am very pleased that I managed to fit in a two-day jaunt into the Netherlands to visit Hayley in Rotterdam. I took a train over from Bonn on Tuesday morning and arrived in Rotterdam at around 2pm. Then I grabbed a tourist map and ventured out on a route-marked walking tour of the city, which proved excellent -- it was signposted and very easy to follow. The map was also colour-coded with descriptions of the different sections of the city, which gave perspective to the areas I walked through. So I wandered through shopping precincts, parklands, the old shopping quarter, and took the lift up the Eurotower for a great view of the city.

Dinner in Rotterdam
I met Hayley at 'the cube houses' after she finished work, and spent a lovely evening out to dinner. Rotterdam is modern and has a very cosmopolitan feel. I felt very comfortable there, and it's no wonder Hayley isn't coming home!

Breakfast in Delft
Wednesday morning, I took the train with Hayley to nearby Delft (where she works and used to live) and she guided me around the main sights of the town, before we sat down to breakfast. I hadn't expected to visit Delft, but I am really glad I did. It's a gorgeous traditional town, and I feel here I glimpsed something of 'old Holland'. (photo)

Lunch in Amsterdam
I then went onto Amsterdam and spent the afternoon trawling the streets and soaking up the atmosphere. Unfortunately the tourist map I had wasn't as good as the Rotterdam one, so I drifted largely without purpose, unsure of which parts I should walk through. Despite this, however, I had a lovely afternoon, and made the search for poffertjes my primary goal. It seems poffertjes aren't as prevalent in the cities as one might expect. However, I did find one of around three places that serve them (according to the proprietor) so I was happy in the end. I wouldn't have been happy to visit the Netherlands without having authentic Dutch poffertjes! Amsterdam is also much more tourist-oriented than both Rotterdam and Delft. I heard English being spoken everywhere (and not with European accents).

I caught the train out of Amsterdam at around 4:30 and was back in Bonn by 8pm. It was a great couple of days. I find it hard to believe how different Nederland and Germany are, given their proximity, but they are very different.