Lexie Conyngham's Blog: writing, history and gardening.

Friday 30 September 2011

The Pied Piper strikes again

The one classroom I hadn't got to, partly because it wasn't on the original schedule, turned out to be masquerading as a lecture theatre but actually being a computing lab. Very high tech, meaning that you can't write on the white board, you have to switch it on and then find out how they've wired it before you can do anything with it. The class decided, for purposes of mutual security, I assume, to follow me round the building as I tried to solve the problem, watching in reverent silence as I negotiated with the receptionist for telephone time and rang my departmental secretary. Not my best lecture so far.

Today's distraction has been trying to take Number Two Cat to the vet for his check-up, only to find fifteen minutes before the appointment that the cat carrier was nowhere to be found, and Number Two Cat himself was watching me with detached interest from the roof of a distant shed.

Wild ceilidhing last night with inexperienced new postgraduates: hilarious but very dangerous. Amazingly, no blood had been shed before we left!

Honestly, I am trying to finish the book! If it's any consolation, I still haven't picked enough blackberries for either a pie or wine, either ...

Saturday 24 September 2011

Autumn, progressing as slowly as the book ...

The leaves outside are still faded green, but on the other hand the geese flying down to the Solway Firth are becoming more numerous. The days are starting dark and damp but finishing in a blaze of glory. I spent yesterday guiding three small children round the delightful Drum Castle and its woodland, and blackberrying - though those blackberries are no longer fit for human consumption, having been used more as warpaint than foodstuff. Who says Mel Gibson's 'Braveheart' is historically inaccurate?! But I hope to find something for a pie tomorrow! (and three small children would just fit nicely...)

The teaching and its related administrative and promotional and pastoral work have been overwhelming this week and will probably be so next week, too, but I'm striving to keep up at least 15 minutes editing and typing a day just to remind myself what is happening and keep a flow of thought going. I'm not a natural teacher - just fallen into this, really - but I do try my best. I took a long walk around the university the other day to find all the rooms I'm supposed to be teaching in, everything from a seventies slum to a mediaeval tower to a dodgy science basement with radiation warning signs on the doors. I think I should make sure my students have good maps! Oh, well, all part of life's rich soup ...

Friday 16 September 2011

Autumn approaches

The tree outside my study window is fading fast, and some of the horse chestnuts around are already turning copper and red. The evenings are definitely chillier and darker - I love it! Every change of season brings such delights.

Among them is not CreateSpace. I spent most of yesterday, or it felt like it, carefully formatting Death in a Scarlet Gown for the inside PDF, but lost all hope when I saw the complex instructions for the cover PDF. I'll conquer it soon, I feel almost sure. Then I unwisely clicked on a button which Amazon told me would tell me what to do to avoid paying 30% tax to America's remarkable IRS, and the small furry animals that inhabit my brain went into a bit of a tizzy.

Never mind: I carried on typing and editing Service of the Heir - over halfway now! - and remembered to book the chimney sweep who usually comes in August but I was on holiday and forgot. Quite how he will get into the house is another matter - we emptied our storage facility on Sunday and brought everything home, which may have been a mistake. Let's just say that running from one end of the house to the other would be less of a flat race, and more of a steeplechase. Service of the Heir is a great way to turn my back on the mess and pretend that I, too, have servants who can be trusted to tidy it all away ...

Friday 9 September 2011

Another week of not being able to write!

This week has been devoted to the paperwork for one of the courses I'm teaching - why are there always more urgent things to do than writing? In the meantime I fret about the plot of next book, principally because I can't actually look at it!

I dug up the Pink Fir Apples yesterday evening and they look great - one of them twisted itself round the root of a broad bean and is the very shape of a small bird perched on a stone. Where's That's Life when you need it? It was a beautiful evening: the swallows seem to have departed, having been extraordinarily noisy on the telegraph wires last week, but it was calm and mild and sunny up to sunset. In a neighbouring field are two little (relatively) Highland calves, which look as if they're wearing woolly trousers.

I also managed, in the briefly dry weather, to harvest a load of herbs from the garden and dry them in the oven. One hour at the lowest gas mark and they were perfect - and the house smelled fantastic! Much better than fresh coffee.

Still can't find the maps ...

Friday 2 September 2011

A search for maps

After a week of emergency knitting (that is, when you identify a pattern to knit for your sister-in-law's special birthday, have it clearly in  mind for months, but unaccountably neglect to buy wool and start knitting till the last possible minute), I have time to think about Murray again. In the mean time, while knitting on buses and doing the essential walking about the town, I've been spotting characters and making notes, thinking of phrases to use, sorting out plot problems in my head and then trying to find a notebook to write them into before the ideas float away.

The weather has been variable and a bit autumnal: more veg back from Allotment Major and leeks planted in Allotment Minor - I wonder how they'll do? The soil is rather dusty and I've used half a bag of growbag compost to try to help them out. The rosehip wine is now safely in the demijohn as it should be. I've spent the morning baking, much to the distress of Number One Cat, who likes me to settle in the study in the mornings so that he can keep an eye on me in comfort from the sofa bed. Number Two Cat has lost his rather nifty brown collar with pink spots, and now has an urban chic one instead - don't know where he puts them. When we lived in Sussex, the local cats used to suspend each other off gutters to rip off each other's collars - clearly a venerable tradition, and we had to replace six collars in four months (just for one cat).

I've carefully put away all my old maps of Georgian Edinburgh. I wonder where?