Baking Cakes For Winston Churchill

P1020327I’m sitting in the conservatory, watching the light fade into evening, looking out over the garden and it seems like the first time I’ve had chance to take a moment and relax for over a year.

It’s been horribly wet, a winter without frost, so the garden looks like I need to venture out and cut some mushy leaves back so the ground can dry. I hate to walk on the lawn at the moment. It compresses the ground so the water can’t drain and it turns into a mud bath. That’s an excuse.

Last summer came the attack of the badgers with their deep snuffle holes and latrines. An internet search told me that in drought they dig for worms and I need not worry. The digging looked beneficial. There was a lot of invading ground elder that needed pulling out. I don’t think badgers do that, but things looked better dug over by badgers.

However, the drought theory went out of the window because they came back last week. In the mud, I could trace their path through the hedge, so last weekend I blocked the gap with cuttings. So far so good.

But the reason I’m having this thoughtful moment to write a proper blog as defined by the proper bloggers who know, is because on Monday I finally managed to print a complete manuscript and synopsis of my new novel Baking Cakes for Winston Churchill for Cornerstones to edit. I started it on 12th Dec 2012, and I didn’t stop till Tuesday.

On the same day I set out to print the manuscript, I had to administer the reinstallation of a repaired gravestone. Don’t ask. Caroline’s parents’ gravestone was damaged by an over enthusiastic grass cutter a couple of years ago, and the clever man who carved it (Fergus) had to take it away and repair it.

Fergus asked me how my writing was going as he dug a six foot trench over the grave. Half an hour later I was still in a graveyard talking about my gripes regarding the publishing industry. I think Fergus may have been glad when I returned to the big printing session which I hadn’t been looking forward to.

Things hadn’t gone to plan. During the final stages of producing the manuscript, I accidentally updated the backup, but then went back to the original to edit pagination. Fortunately, at the last minute, as my finger hovered over the Print button, I thought I’d have a look to see if the last word I’d entered was there. The word was “lapsang”. Horrifyingly, it wasn’t there. But it was in the back up. What else had I missed?

So I had to do the pagination all over again in the backup version in case I lost more last minute changes to the backup. Then there was the printer problem. It had been many years since I last used the printer in earnest. So I obtained a quote from Cornerstones for printing at their end in case Samsung failed. I loaded 350 pages into the drawer. I pressed print. That familiar smell of ozone filled the room. It jammed.

Consequently, a monumental headstone of a headache developed and I started bumping into things. The freed printer whirred, and 350 pages later, the woman in the post office was asking me if I needed proof of posting, and I was saying pardon for the tenth time unable to concentrate on anything ever again.

It took all Tuesday and Wednesday to get over the headache. I sat on a sofa and watched a birdfeeder for hours. Each sleepy jolt freed the tension. It was bliss to feel that angst unknotting in my temples. All self-imposed of course. It could wait till next week, or the week after. I set my own deadline, but the longer I took, the more was likely to go to go wrong. Wheels would drop off plots.

cover5_edited-1So, now I wait five weeks, and 2014 should see the arrival of Baking Cakes for Winston Churchill. It’s a high concept tragic mainstream novel about sex, wartime propaganda, and revenge.

Alexis Aspinall is angry. Her career as a European Fund Manager at City financiers Conduit & Walsh has been systematically destroyed. When two-timing partner Paul Rafter became her boss, her bonus was slashed, male colleagues were promoted, and she was dumped in ‘emerging markets’.

Amidst this personal crisis, she arrives in the tiny hamlet of Temple Lucy, Dorset, to fulfil the wishes of her recently-deceased grandmother, Virginia Aspinall. Except that Temple Lucy is now a ghost village, occupied by the army since World War II, and out-of-bounds.

Undeterred, she trespasses into a live firing range where she meets Amberline Tyneham.

That’s the pitch.

So today, I tried to convert a birdfeeder savaged by a squirrel into a squirrel feeder, and I failed. Every feeder in the shops says “squirrel proof”. That’s what they say. I prefer to feed the squirrel rather than watch a furry shark tear sheet metal apart .

I saw plenty of plans on the internet involving a ten inch gherkin jar, but I don’t have one of those. I’m watching the last BBC Winterwatch this evening. Maybe they’ll have an idea for a squirrel feeder.

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