Taxing Reading

It’s that time of year when I have to dig out my bulging file of receipts, invoices and payments for the last 12 months and start getting them into some sort of order prior to filling in my tax return online.

One of my biggest expenses is that for newspapers, magazines and books. We read a lot. A huge lot. So much so, it is not considered a luxury but a necessity. Books, magazines and newspapers are an essential like bread, potatoes and Green and Black’s chocolate (preferably dark). Where would we be if we didn’t have something to read? bookcase

We get the Herald delivered every morning so that I can read it over breakfast. I must have something to read while eating my muesli. The tablet is no use as it ends up all sticky and doesn’t absorb the drips and if it does, it’s in trouble. No, it’s got to be the newspaper. I read it through, timing it so that I reach the last page just as I scrape the final grains from my plate. At elevenses, I turn to the puzzle page and try a variety including the sudoku (hard) and the kakuro. I don’t often solve them but that’s not the point. It’s the doing that counts!

Mondays are different. They’re Wee Stinker days. A fiendish crossword on the back page devised by Myops which requires all hands to the tablet and sites like one for filling in the blanks, Andy’s anagram page for the anagrams, and as a last resort when I’m absolutely stuck, Crossword Help forum‘s Wee Stinker page. Sometimes I manage to finish it but again that’s not the point. It’s my brain gym for the day.

On Saturdays, we buy two (yes two) bulky newspapers which keep us going for the rest of the week. A quick read through at the weekend and then the rest of the week for in-depth reading.

At least we can recycle old newspapers but it’s the books which are breeding fast in the house. As I said, they’re a necessity and like all readers find, it’s very hard to get rid of them. We did try kindles and we still use them for holiday reading. Much easier than trying to pack enough books for the whole time – we are quick readers – but just not the same. I don’t seem to remember having read a book when it’s on a kindle and have found that I’ve gone and bought a paperback copy of one that I already have read. Still, it has meant that there are less books to find storage for as one wardrobe is filling up fast!

And Michael J. Malone, your book’s in the wardrobe as it’s just been read! It will be promoted to a bookshelf once a space becomes available. The NHS may have bed-blocking, we have book-blocking.wardrobe

I don’t understand people who don’t read. Look at what they’re missing! And what do they do with all that spare time?

No, books, magazines and newspapers are a necessity. And a tax allowable expense, fortunately.


Boswell Book Festival and More Letterboxes!

We’ve just received our duty roster for the Boswell Book Festival. Being first time volunteers, we’ve to prove ourselves before being let loose on the big events but what we’re assigned to sounds lots of fun.

screenshotOn the Friday opening night we’re helping out when Nigel Havers is speaking. His blurb describes him as being able to ‘charm the knickers off a nun’! Should be a fascinating evening!

Saturday sees us at the Children’s Festival where there are all sorts of happenings. Not quite sure what we’ll end up being involved with but later we’re at the discussion with Richard Ingrams, Paul Tankard and James Knox. Fake news is bound to come up then!

A different experience on Sunday – we’re in the box office. We’ll need to sharpen our mental arithmetic though I’m sure modern technology will keep us right. And then to Professor Robert Crawford talking about his biography of TS Eliot. I read Eliot for the first time at university so I’m looking forward to this.

And in between, no doubt we’ll be able to be part of the audience at the many other events taking place. I just hope the weather is kind this year. It’s not always done so, but fingers crossed.

And the letterboxes? I’m nursing a sore hand from a very nasty, finger-eating letterbox. I was delivering the last of the leaflets and this one particular brass (and brassy, brass-necked and every other brassy epithet) took a particular dislike to me. Never mind, I’ll heal in plenty of time for the Festival. Hope to see loads of you there.

The New Website Is At Last Here!

Here it is! You can breath again. It took a bit of work (mainly by computer literate son – I suspect my mobile phone bill will have rocketed)


computer wizard and fiancee

but I’ve (well, we’ve) done it – I think, fingers crossed.

I’ve still got plenty of bits and pieces to add but I can do that at my leisure. Now my main task is to publish my collection of stories for children, designed to encourage their imagination by drawing their own pictures for the book. Even the cover has been drawn by a young friend, Maisie, and very good it looks too.Rainbow 2 copy

And I must do some writing of my own. But whether it will be a short story or a travel article or a piece for children, I don’t know. That’s the exciting bit about being a writer. I sit at my computer and start what I think is an article and it turns into a short story or a poem or the beginnings of a novel.


An Orkney Saga

viewNo, I haven’t forgotten about the website. We’ve been travelling again, but this time much closer to home though almost as far away as you can go in Scotland – the Orkney Islands. In just over an hour, we’d left our world behind and flown into a land of seas and skies and roaring winds and the friendliest people you could wish to meet.

We were on an Orkney Archaeological Tour with our guide, Dave, who has so many degrees and interests, he is a walking encyclopaedia of all kinds of knowledge. And over five days, he informed, enlightened and taught us so much about the islands and their history, geology, geography and lifestyles that our heads were fair birlin’ as we say on the mainland!

The islands are covered in Neolithic sites and we soon became adept at picking out mounds yet to be excavated. We visited neolithic settlements, including of course, Skara Brae and chambered cairns where they laid the dead, although only a few bones had been found there

We scrambled into them through stone tunnels or down rickety iron ladders to cairns, some in which we could barely stand upright.


The way in – and out!

Maes Howe is perhaps the best known but is now so popular that we had to go in groups of 20 with an official guide. We much preferred the lesser known ones that Dave took us to, where there was no-one else around and the atmosphere was decidedly more creepy.

The Ring of Brodgar was also busy, there being a cruise ship in the harbour but it’s so large and impressive that there was plenty of scope for everyone. The day was cool with squally showers as we walked around them, grateful for the occasional shelter those massive stones provided from the wind.


Ring of Brodgar

The Vikings had also left their mark on Orkney, often in the shape of runes found scrawled inside Maes Howe and in their longhouses, the remains of which we saw at the Brough of Birsay.

I can’t not mention the magnificent St Magnus Cathedral or the remains of opulent palaces built in mediaeval times and moving forward through time, the Hackness Battery on Hoy and of course Scapa Flow with the Churchill Barriers and the Italian Chapel from the second World War,


The Italian Chapel

This is just a scamper through a great week but I must praise the food – local Aberdeen Angus beef and fish fresh from the waters around the islands, marvellous home baking in some of the most isolated cafes we’ve ever visited and great hearty soups to keep us going through the days.

And of course, there are plenty of settings for stories; a murder in an isolated cairn anyone? Or dastardly deeds in an Earl’s palace? Spies at Scapa Flow? And romance of course – sailors loving and leaving the womenfolk. In fact, we saw a grave in unhallowed ground where a young lass had taken her own life after being deserted by her lover. I’m going to be busy, I can see!




New Website Coming!



Peaceful scene to keep me calm and meditative while I do it.

I’ve been working on changing my blog to a website to replace the, frankly, very outdated one I presently have. It remains out of date because the CD I originally used to develop it has been corrupted and I couldn’t get in to update it.

And when I did get in with the help of a computer literate son, I found it was way beyond me, having forgotten what I did then and lost the instructions to boot!

But I haven’t found this new one easy either. I’ve had to contact various WordPress ‘happiness engineers’ (sounds like something out of Disney) to help and they have pointed me in various directions and shown me what I should do. The person who writes a step-by-step guide for idiots on WordPress websites will make a fortune.

Ok, I know there are a lot of you computer whiz kids out there who will be having a quiet snigger at my attempts (probably all under 20 years old though I know of one very savvy lady of mature years who could knock the lot of you into cyberspace and yes, Chris that’s you). For the rest of us ordinary computer punters it’s a case of getting help where and when we can.

All(!) that I now have to do is to take down the old website and transfer the new one over to that host (which happens to be the afore-mentioned son and he gives me it for free) so watch this space. Don’t hold your breath whatever you do, as I may be some time.

Hopefully, I’ll see you all there!