Gunsmoke Express is on the tracks

I was surprised and pleased this morning to recive a letter with not only the acceptance for Gunsmoke Express (I was expecting an email - which arrived later) but the contracts.

Gunsmoke Express is the fourth book about Sheriff Lawson and my 18th western title overall. I still have to add a page on The Sins Of Motherlode to my website but I've made a start.

Maybe I'll be lazy and have takeaway tonight, to celebrate.

Need a reversing sensor on the chair

I turfed Tycho off my computer chair so I could sit at the computer. He stalked off to get some food. A couple of minutes later he was right behind my chair, apparently playing with one of the castor wheels. He wasn't making any noise, so I ignored him, apart from a mental note not to roll the chair backwards without checking where he was.

A minute or so later, he was still there, restless but quiet. It's an odd place for him to be, so I spun the chair without moving it, to take a close look. Turned out the long fluff at the end of his tail was trapped beneath the wheel. It can't have hurt him, since he didn't say anything (and he's let me know when I've trodden on his tail). I must have been within an inch of the bones at the tip of his tail. I moved the chair and he wandered off, no harm done, fortunately.

I guess computer chairs are the modern day equivalent of the old saying: "As nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs".
range rover

Up, down, sliding around.

We've had a couple of bouts of snow in the last two months. Nothing here to get very excited about, but enough to make things interesting when you aprk your car on the side of a road just where the hill gets steep. It's a known danger that drivers may lose control just at this section of road and skid into parked cars. It happened about five years ago to the B-Max, right outside number 97. Fortunately my neighbours saw it, and got information from the woman who'd hit my car (which she was genuinely sorry about), so my claim went through smoothly.

This means that if snow seems likely, residents in this stretch of road will keep a close eye on the weather, and prepare to move their cars further down to where it's less steep.

Well, I was at home one evening, there had been light snow around teatime but it didn't look like it was going to settle. Around 10:00, I realized I could here student laughing and messing around outside. Not too unusual, as they pass, but this carried on for a few minutes. I looked out, and sure enough, they were playing in the snow, which was falling steadily and settling. My car was already completely covered. It was parked a little uphill from the house, putting in line for anyone who was foolish enough to try coming down the crescent and lost control, quite apart from the usual danger of anyone sliding on the main road. I didn't fancy the idea of having to clear snow off it before I could move it, as it's quite a stretch for me, but I had a bright idea. I got bundled up and went out, and sure enough the students were happy to give me a hand. Tall lads obligingly cleared snow off the car and one went to the grit bin on the corner with his shovel-sledge and collected grit to scatter under the front wheels. It was all done quickly and with little effort on my part, and I moved the car to a safer spot, while the students went back to sledging and snowballing.

Last Sunday we had more snow, but I moved my car in good time. I was just settling down soon after getting back from games, when I heard a car struggling on the hill outside. I looked, and sure enough there was a car stranded, which had started sliding and almost ended up hitting a skip. There were two young men looking at the car, seemingly with no idea about what to do. I bundled up well and went out with my bucket. They were a pair of  Arabic-speaking lads, who had never driven in snow before. They both spoke English well enough, but 'grit bin' wasn't part of their vocabulary. By pointing and explaining, I got through and one of them took the bucket and went to fill it. Neither was dressed for messing about in the snow - they were wearing leisure clothes and had no hats, scarves or gloves. After some trial and shoving, and liberal applications of grit abour the road, they managed to turn the car and departed back down the road, with grateful thanks. Hopefully, next time it snows, they prepare themselves better before setting out in the car.

For the Love of Queueing convention

Last Saturday was a new adventure: I was off to the For The Love of Sci-Fi con in Manchester, and I was travelling by train with the wheelchair for the first time. I booked assistance at the stations for both trips. I was good and early at Sheffield station, and waited a little while by the information desk, on one of the nice chairs provided, and chatted to the other people who were waiting. A nice lady took me over to platform 8 via the goods lifts and service footbridge, which was a little unexpected, but meant we had plenty of room and no fellow passengers in the way. It turned out to be just as well I had my chair, as the train was jam-packed. My chair was parked in the wheelchair bay and I had somewhere to sit, while the aisles and ends were filled with standing passengers. I never saw a ticket inspector: I think they'd given up hope of getting through.

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Altogether, it was a tiring day, and frequently frustrating, but overall worthwhile. It was also good to have tried a train journey with the wheelchair. It went fine, and as I usually find, people are generally kind and helpful.


Today Kuura turned 1 year old. She is a charming little cat and I love having her around. She loves a good snuggle, sometimes settling on a lap, but she also likes to curl up in the crook of my arm when I'm watching telly. She only settles down after she's paraded back and forth across you a few times, climbed up your chest and pushed her face into yours.

She's a determined soul; she goes where she wants with little regard for where others are going. Kuura and Tycho were both running down the stairs the other day, Tycho happily minding his own business. Kuura caught up with Tycho and switched from the right to the left, to take a more direct route across the turn. She dashed across suddenly, right across Tycho's path and so close she almost touched his nose, and hurtled down the last few steps. Tycho came to a sudden halt as she flashed past right in front, and was left standing still on the step, wondering what had just happened.
  She doesn't pay much attention to where I'm going either, and hasn't figured out that humans can suddenly reverse from standing still. I don't think I've ever collided with a cat as much as with her. I don't even have to be moving. The other day I was sitting in my armchair, with my legs crossed. Iella ran towards me, with Kuura play-chasing. Iella swerved and went to one side of my chair. Kuura ran face-first into the sole of my foot.

She won't grow as big as the others, but it's not for lack of trying. To say she's enthusiastic about her food is an understatement. I think she may have a black hole for a stomach. She always gets fed first. It doesn't matter which bowl I put down first; her head will be the first one in it. Once she's cleared her bowl, she'll be seeing what's in the others. I don't think I've offered her anything she won't eat yet - stuff you'd expect a cat to eat, anyway. Tycho, for example, doesn't like prawns but Kuura does. I have to watch out if I have a cup of tea on the table by my chair, because she will poke her face into it. I'm pretty certain she hasn't managed to sample it yet, but she's interested in it. Life is never dull with her around.

8 legged eeks

It seems to be that time of year already.

Last Friday morning I wandered to the bathroom in my dressing gown to visit the loo. While sitting there, I felt the belt of my dressing gown tickling the calf of my right leg. Having finished, I stood up, refastened the dressing gown, and looked down at the persistant tickle to see an unexpected brown shape on my bare leg. I shot sideways, shaking my leg. When I turned to look, there was a huge spider sitting on the mat in front of the loo. Yes, that's what had been tickling on my leg.

I didn't feel up to tackling a large spider in nothing but a dressing gown, so I called for the cats. Kuura was lurking at the top of the stairs, but by the time I pursuaded her to come down and take a look, the spider had vanished, somewhere around the back of the loo. Needless to say, I was rather cautious about using the loo for a couple of days afterwards.

Last night I was in my armchair, half- watching the telly, when I noticed something moving across the middle of the living room carpet. Yep, another socking great spider and heading my way. If it had been going in the other direction, I might have left it alone, but I didn't want it coming near me, especially after the last incident,  but I didn't feel much like trying to catch it and put it out myself. Kuura and Tycho was both nearby, so I tried to attract their attention to it.
  Kuura same to see what I wanted, as I pointed to it with the TV remote. The spider sensibly hunkered down, and Kuura merely looked at the remote. I cautiously prodded the spider with the remote, making it move a little way. Tycho had arrived and sat down, The spider vanished under his fluff. Tycho didn't notice and Kuura hadn't seen it move. I had to get Tycho to move, and Kuura finally spotted the spider. She patted it curiously. The spider moved a little, she patted it again and this was repeated a couple of times, the spider looking a little more dented after each pat. Tycho came over to see what was happening.
   He took one look, put a paw firmly on the spider and then ate it, as Kuura watched her new toy disappear into his mouth.

There's something very satisfying about watching a carefully bred, triple-barreled (Twinkletoes Lilac Teasel, in Tycho's case) aristocrat eating bugs and spiders. Underneath it all, they're still cats.

The girls are back in town

Yesterday I got the welcome news from my publisher that my latest western has been accepted. My 17th title will be The Sins Of Motherlode.

It's a follow-up to Two-Gun Trouble, and features some familiar faces. There's Jonah Durrell, the handsome bounty hunter, who again gets involved with Miss Jenny and the girls at her house of ill-repute, especially Miss Erica, Miss Sandy and Miss Megan. This time a new visitor to town is Hulton F Robinson, the tall newspaperman who appeared in Cullen's Quest.

There's the usual mix of humour, drama and action. I'm pleased with the story - I enjoyed the interaction between Robinson and Durrell - and I'm delighted it will be shared in print.
range rover

Home, comfortable home.

Today I got back from a short visit to Mum in Norfolk. I haven't seen her since Dad's funeral, last November. I would have gone early in the New Year, but she fell over on Xmas eve and broke her hip, so was in hospital for a month or so. I did book train tickets to go down early in April, but I'd had another relapse and just wasn't feeling well enough, so I had to cancel and give myself enough time to recover properly.

She's muddling along OK., although I think she's lost some weight, I keep reminding her to eat at least one proper meal a day which she does, although not very large portions. Not that she needs much, as she spends most of her time in her chair watching telly, reading the morning paper and doing her puzzle books. My two brothers both visit: one lives a few streets away and the other is a couple of hours away, but has just retired and comes down about once a fortnight. She has a couple of friends who take her out for a cuppa now and again and she shuffles to her hairdressers once a week for a shampoo and set. Luckily there's a large Morrison's nearby, where my brother's wife and son both work. Mum lost her licence due to eye problems this year so sister in law has use of her car now.

The house was too hot as usual, even after I turned the central heating off. Also, the only remotely comfortable chair is Dad's old recliner and I don't like to stay in that for much longer than it takes to watch an ordinary movie. Most of the time I'm moving from one kind of discomfort to another and it's too hot to be capable of anything much other than reading, browsing the internet or watching tv, and the only tv now is Mum's, so it's up too loud (she's mostly deaf) and has subtitles. And for some reason she likes the colour set to bright, so everyone has lurid complexions. Maybe it's because she doesn't bother wearing her glasses often and can see things better with lurid colours. She doesn't see dirt and crumbs very well, so I always do some cleaning when I visit. She doesn't seem to notice that either, but I feel better, knowing things are cleaner and that random mouldy things in the fridge have been thrown out. (Mum says she's sure it was salad in that plastic container, but I swear they used to be figs. It was hard to tell.)

She kept saying how much she liked having company in the house, even though we spent move ot the time in separate rooms. Her big telly has USB ports, so I plugged in the flash drive I'd brought, and we viewed the rather random collection of photos on it. I also had a chat with my brother, Geoff when he phoned, carefully timing his call so it didn't clash with Coronation Street. I must email him and ask him to check the fridge for dubious substances when he calls.

Catching the train home got more exciting than usual this morning. As Mum can't fetch me from the station now, I called Station Taxis as I was approaching Wymondham on Monday afternoon,. The local taxi firms tend to be small scale and they couldn't send anyone for till nearly an hour after I reached the station. A second firm said much the same, so it was third time lucky. With this in mind, I called another firm last night to prebook a taxi for this morning at 11:30. I wasn't worried when they were a couple of minutes late, but did worry when it got to five minutes late. The train was a 11:52. I called them: the husband had written the address wrong (something that sounded similar). Wife had gone to pick up, no one waiting, couldn't call me back as didn't have a number until I called them. Wife showed up, apologized, and promised we'd make it.
   The station really isn't far away, but you still have to cross the bridge to reach the opposite platform for trains out of Norfolk. We made it to the station by about 11:47. I was told to set off while Mrs Taxi picked up my heavy rucksack and carried it over the bridge and down onto the platform for me. We got there with a couple of minutes to spare. My attempt to pay was waved off and she departed to get back to the taxi that was more or less abandoned in the car park, rather than actually parked. A close call, but all's well that ends well.


Today (Wed) I got a call from Stacy, who was sorting out the insurance at the vets. She had sent information to the insurers last Monday as she'd said, but she'd done it online and not all the necessary info they wanted was included. I think she's not being doing the job long and is still learning the system. Anyway, she sent the info in the way they wanted eventually and Tesco Insurance have agreed to cover treatment. I got an apology for the delay. Now I need to coordinate with Gary and re-schedule the trip to Derby.

Other good news this morning was a decision on the new Fair Rent being set for my flat. This time the agents had asked for an increase of about £40/month, which is roughly what the last increase was just over two years ago. I didn't bother challenging it, but did some maths which suggested to me that the likely amount would be less. There's a complicated formula for working out increases in Fair Rents, which has something to do with local values, the difference in the Retail Price Index between the last increase and the current date, and taking away the number you first thought of. The Rent Officer has settled on an increase of about £30/month, which is fine by me. Now I need to get a letter from the agents confirming the amount, and I can go notfiy the council of the change. For some reason, the Fair Rent office were so enthusiastic about their letter that they sent me two complete duplicates of all the information, in two separate letters at the same time.