January 10thBone-chillingly cold in the park this morning with Flossie. As usual, other dogs bounded and gambolled with one another, owners looking on indulgently, poo bags at the ready. Rapture at the little darlings, many of whom sported natty knitted woolly coats – Wilfred, Daisy, Frankie. Ever the maverick, Flossie, (coatless), preferred to snuffle among the leaves and pee copiously everywhere. Other dog owners look on in the same way that parents at the school gates do, doubtless thinking, ‘Poor social skills, outsider. Born loser. Glad mine’s a good mixer.’ Flossie offers snarling parting shot to small spaniel who attempts to engage her in game of chase.
I grimace apologetically to the owner who then informs me that Flossie has ‘gone’ over by the swing and offers me a bag. I assure her that I am well provided and produce Tesco carrier. Small spaniel then joins group of boisterous and well-integrated dogs, giving Flossie a wide berth.
Am reminded strongly of my own schooldays.
Next time I'll be interviewing Cardiff Thriller writer Robert Darke about life, writing, and motorcycles (no, not this last one - I'd be out of my depth!)
Contrary to all those pre-Christmas ads, this week is nothing of the sort. Apparently, this week is acknowledged as the most depressing week of the year; post-Christmas slump, not the end of the month, broken New Year's resolutions, cold and grey.
To help you get through it, take a look at Diary of An Almost Baby Boomer's Stella Hart. She too was suffering from January blues when her exam scripts arrived and she began her marking.
First batches of exam scripts arrive, delivered by surly Parcel Force driver who thrusts the slippery packages at me, unceremoniously. He did not return my cheery smile. Little to smile about contained within. Yet more evidence of youthful illiteracy, I expect. ‘Would of’, absent or ubiquitous apostrophe, text-speak in abundance among the scrawled pages. Still mustn’t focus on the negative. There will be good stuff as well – the odd nugget, the piece of writing that lifts the heart or moves me almost unbearably. As I slit open the packets, phone rings. A cold caller has slipped under the radar and a barely comprehensible Asian voice launches into her script which I stop mid-syllable and ask who she is and why she is ringing me uninvited. She says (I think) ‘Microsoft’, ‘Computer’, and I tell her she is a liar and put the phone down. Pete says I’m hard on cold callers, remembering his call centre days full of targets and being judged on how good you are at conning innocent people on the other end of the line.
Count and sort scripts into do-able piles. Take few random peeks at the Open Writing section. The signs are not good from the small sample: comma-splicing abounds, capital letters in short supply, paragraphs noticeably absent. This is going to be a long three weeks.
If you’re a diary lover like me, you’ll be enjoying Radio 4’s Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years. If you’d like to read my take on this time of the year from Diary of an Almost Baby Boomer, you can see what my fictional alter-ego, Stella Hart has to say. January January 5th There’s something quite melancholy about taking down the Christmas decorations, even for a Christmasphobe like me. With all the sparkly nonsense stored back up in the attic, the place looks sad and dusty and I feel a pang for the last few days of the tin of Quality Street and The March of the Penguins in the afternoon. That was the day that Richie came round and he fell asleep during the film. I made us cheese on toast for tea. I suppose that’s how it could have been all the time if we’d stayed together, and that would have been bearable, even pleasant. By this stage in his life he surely would have stopped bedding his students and smoking pot - which he seems to have done at last (he hasn’t completely lost his sense of dignity). I read a blog the other day that said that the 50-75-year age group was the second most likely to need treating for STDs. Apparently, co-living and ‘care facilities’ (it was an American blog) are hotbeds of geriatric nooky, with 50% of men over sixty and 46% of women claiming to be sexually active. I told the girls at Book Group. They said I’d made it up, but when I denied it, their reactions were interesting: Julia: Oh well, that’s America for you. Moira (she’s a rum one, Moira): I’m surprised it’s only 46% of women. Sarah: Figures would be lower for married couples. Lou: Define ‘sexually active’. So the halls are undecked once more and the only resolution made is not to make any resolutions.