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

Wednesday 19 December 2012

A bit of a departure

Pewter casting - not something I thought would be a very accessible craft, but by chance during the excellent NEOS event (North East Open Studios), I came upon a lovely but bored-looking girl sitting at a table in the sunshine with a selection of odd white shapes in front of her. I wanted to know if some exhibits were for sale; she didn't know; I asked her what she was there for (more polite than it sounds, honestly!), and she explained that if I wanted to I could have a go at pewter casting. I did, and it was such good fun that in November I went to the Scottish Sculpture Workshop in Lumsden, Aberdeenshire, to have another go.

The funny white shapes were lumps of cuttlefish bone, just the things you pop into a bird's cage for them to hone their beaks on. The lumps are sawn in half, revealing two almost smooth but subtly patterned surfaces, so easy to carve that you can press a fingernail or a ring into the bone. Carve the shape you want to make, pop in a channel for the metal and a couple of vents for escaping air, and then tape the two halves back together. Then the fun begins (though this is the bit for which I took a back seat! I did spend a happy day dressed in fetching green Sparrows overalls made for someone much larger than me, but the protective leather look is not for me - I'm clumsy enough as it is). This is green sand (no, really), which is sand mixed

with, er, oil, I think, making it clumpy. The taped-up cuttlefish bone is set into the sand which stops the liquid pewter running out.
Then the pewter is popped into a crucible in the centre of a small portable furnace (never knew there could be such a thing!), and a gas flame is made to flow round between the crucible and the furnace walls.

Not a cold job: it was hot when I first saw this in the bright sunlight at NEOS, but at Lumsden, with the forge's wall-sized double doors wide open to the blanched winter countryside, it was still toasty. Not long until the pewter is melted - it has a low melting point, which makes all this possible: a hotter molten metal would burn the bone and wreck the moulds.
In goes the pewter - or unicorn's blood - and then we wait, not long, for it to cool and harden. And then you open the moulds, just a bit too early so there's a bit of 'ooh! ouch!'. It's so easy that I was carried away and made seven little pewter thingies, but these are the two I like best: the tree because the mould looks just as good as the pewter (and we had to fight for this one and do it twice as the mould leaked the first time), and the sycamore seed because I just about managed to match the two halves of the mould and it is patterned on both sides.

So you can see how I'm spending my time when I should be writing! (and it's not improving my photography skills, sadly ...).

Here's the website for the Scottish Sculpture Workshop - lots of great things going on there!

Fellowship with Demons is nearly 1/5 typed and edited, despite Christmas card making and writing, mincemeat brewing, watching Skyfall and The Hobbit (I know, not the book, but still wonderful), and doing the pantomime and Nativity play and bird-ordering and wrapping. This year I remembered to make double quantities of marzipan, thank goodness, but haven't iced the cake yet. Oh, well - days to go yet, aren't there? Aren't there??

Friday 2 November 2012

Seasonal scramble

 This is what the garden looked like a couple of weeks ago - definitely a late-summer look, still a little warmth in the sunlight, greenery, blackberries, all those late summery things. Then we get this!
Winter sneaked in on autumn before autumn was quite ready to go out - trees against the snow were shocked yellow and gold, caught half-undressed as winter came through the door. All gone now, again, of course, but we managed a snowman - about three feet tall, but mostly because it was on a two foot high table ...!

Right, well, despite the fact I'm holding down three concurrent jobs this week I've managed to finish reading the next book, and it's not quite as bad as I remembered it! It is now called Fellowship with Demons (a bit of a change from Kith and Kin!) and I've just about started typing it. No publication date yet, and no cover design! Thanks for the recent lovely reviews for the first four - you're very kind people! Now, back to work.

Thursday 18 October 2012

Salmagundi Special!

A Splendid Salmagundi is now out on Amazon! This was not painless - most of yesterday and possibly the day before were spent by the contributors endlessly pressing the Refresh button on Amazon and updating each other every five minutes on the progress - or lack of it - and indulging in horrendous and quite unnecessary vegetable puns! However, the end result seems to be worth it - once I can, on my dodgy temporary BT connexion, get it to download ... Tell your friends, and buy this unique concoction!

                                                      (waiting for Amazon to upload ...)

Monday 24 September 2012

Rosehips and Salmagundi

Child labour is a marvellous thing. With a bit of help I have some pots of rosehip jelly and some pots of blackberry jam, and two happy children not particularly badly scratched or muddy! Of course in the Second World War children were indeed paid to collect rosehips to provide Vitamin C to a population missing its citrus fruit. It's a bit of a dilemma, though - the big rosehips are quicker to top and tail but not as tasty, while the small ones are better but fiddly.
An odd fruit, really.

Very excited about the new Goodreads UK Kindle Forum's joint opus, A Splendid Salmagundi, due out soon. A Goodreads Gallimaufrey was the first in this (I hope lengthy) series, a mixture of poetry, short stories and recipes from members of the forum, whether published authors or not. This time I've managed to be organised and have submitted a couple of short stories - not really my field but fun to try from time to time! Anyway, it's going to be a really good read despite my efforts, so buy, buy, buy! And thanks to all those who have the patience to put it all together!

Friday 14 September 2012

The smell of autumn is in the air - a lovely season. Curlews are stitching their way between the straw bales in the fields, the leaves are contemplating turning, and it's blowing a gale. Thanks to the wind I had to tack along the seafront on the bike today, but managed to avoid hitting the stoat that slid out of the grassy bank just in front of me and pottered across between busy commuter traffic to the other side of the road. The first peas have finally appeared on the allotment (we're eating our weight in broad beans and tatties), the first students have appeared around the university, and at last I can pull out some winter woollies. I am not a summer person!

I have changed the cover on Service of the Heir this week as my kindly graphic designer went to Edinburgh and took some photographs in Greyfriars Kirkyard, where Murray's father is buried in the course of the book. There were so many good photographs it was hard to know which to pick! I've never been that happy with the cover so this is a vast improvement. Of course, it's not quite the same as the cover of a book in a bookshop, where people might easily be drawn across the room by a good cover - Amazon and Smashwords don't exactly lay all the ebooks out for you to take your pick based on appearances! But I'm waiting to hear if Waterstone's is interested in stocking hard copies of Death in a Scarlet Gown, so appearances are becoming more relevant, perhaps.

Advertising is expensive! I've just been on a site called Bookriot and it claimed to have simple, easy to pay advertising. Well, yes, they do: and I thought $11 was quite reasonable for 1,000 views of your advert. Appparently, however, they don't sell advertising in such small batches: when I went to check out I discovered I would be paying $1,100! Needless to say I backed off fast - an innocent abroad, definitely! But I need to do something to improve North American sales - I wonder what?

Friday 31 August 2012

Georgian Plastic

I've recently been on a couple of high-speed trips to Dublin (no, not hen parties, don't press that charge at my door) and found these charming little animals outside the Natural History Museum.

Anyone with any affection for Edinburgh and a soul this side of beatification will envy Dublin its deliciously smooth-running tram system (just don't say the word 'tram' in Edinburgh at present, certainly not with a smile on your face), but that aside, Dublin is a city which reached its zenith in Georgian times and is therefore packed with beautiful Georgian architecture, grand but well-proportioned, with broad streets and open squares. Here's a link to the very active Irish Georgian Society, who also try to protect the many lovely Georgian country houses which have survived the many depredations of the last hundred years.


However, I'm not sure what they might have to say about the doorways that someone pointed out to me. Dublin is very and rightly proud of its quality and variety of Georgian doorways with their furniture, but the ones below are on an old hospital in the process of being refurbished. They are sticky-backed plastic! an industrial version of that stuff with which we were encouraged to cover our school books. The whole pattern of moulding, lion's head knocker, and even the accumulated inner city dust under the lintel, is all printed on. Each is a different colour and has a different number: on the purple one below, you'll see the printed handle to one side, but the actual handle poking through a specially-cut hole through the edge of the printed letterbox!

Monday 27 August 2012

Technological Advances!

Let's have a bash at this link, though, eh? http://www.nts.org.uk/Property/Haddo-House/. Try that!

Meanwhile, Number Two Cat contemplates the extension of his kingdom.

Keeping a Bee

Well, lots done this last couple of weeks, but none of it to do much with poor old Murray. I bottled a demijohn of wine I made in April 2011 and am rather pleased: normally wine making is a summer job, both to gather the fruits and to have enough warmth to bring on fermentation, but I had just defrosted the freezer and removed various small tubs of blackcurrants, elderberries and other similar bits and bobs and we had some fine weather, so I decided to give it a go. The result is rather like cold mulled wine - distinctly spicy, very fruity and a bit sweet, but not too much.

'What do we live for, but to make sport for our neighbours and laugh at them in our turn?' Mr. Bennett in Pride and Prejudice may well have had us and our neighbour in mind. I suspect we give her great amusement with our various eccentricities and downright foolishness, but in turn she has on two separate occasions dropped hedgehogs over our wall. I hasten to explain there was no malice in this: she knows we would like one in our little walled garden, and she was protecting her over-inquisitive dog from the hedgehog. Her charity to the hedgehog is less easy to prove, as she slipped them over the wall on a shovel. The first vanished without our ever making its acquaintance: whether it crawled under a hedge and died or whether it took one look at the garden and decided to try its luck with the dog, I don't know. Hedgehogs are unexpectedly good climbers. The second, she explained, looked a bit sickly, but we met it last night and it is, in fact, braw, a sturdy, healthy-looking specimen. I hope it eats the slugs, and not either the frogs we've introduced to the pond or the worms in the wormery. We're waiting to see which cat comes in first with a spiked nose and a shocked expression, but perhaps I'm underestimating the street wisdom of both cats.

What with all this, and returning from Allotment Major with three large and heavy bags of veg, I'm thinking of writing a book called 'Keeping a Bee: Aspirations to Crofting in a City Allotment'. The allusion is, of course, to that famous line by Chic Murray, allegedly stolen from Punch: Chic Murray was staying in one of those notorious theatre tour guest houses, and when the landlady presented him with a minuscule pot of honey for his morning toast, he is supposed to have exclaimed 'Ah! I see you keep a bee!'.

The swallows are gathering on the telegraph wires already: I was surrounded by them and their peeping the other night as I stood at a village bus stop waiting for a bus that never appeared. A distinctly wistful experience (halleluiah, however, for the little pub across the road that cooked me haddock and chips and provided a loo!).

Saturday 11 August 2012

Rainbow Chard

Glorious rainbow chard! A brassica so colourful even small children will eat it. This and onions from Allotment Major yesterday in beautiful sunshine. The paths are full of weeds but I was there to do some communal weeding, mulching between our young windbreak trees before they vanish forever in the docks. Red kites circled over the woodland and a yellowhammer sang at us from the telegraph wire, and there were wild raspberries shining like sweet rubies on the walk back. A lovely morning.

Not much happening with Book Five yet, which has the unsatisfactory title 'Kith and Kin'. I've never liked it and it's going to have to be changed. I read part of Chapter One before other duties and pleasures descended: I have to finish my country job, and complete preparation for teaching this term, before I can start thinking about it properly. Meanwhile it's nice to know that Amazon are promoting my books thoroughly - I had an email from them yesterday recommending them to me!

Tuesday 7 August 2012

Semi success

I refuse to let this beat me! I've been back and forth losing pictures and mangling links but I've reverted to a simple template again and shall control my ambitions till I can sort it out. Below there is a link to the National Trust for Scotland's Georgian House in Edinburgh, which is a great place to go and think about Murray. There is supposed also to be a link to another of their Georgian properties, Haddo House in Aberdeenshire (mostly William Adam but with additions), but who knows where that link has gone?

New worms for the wormery - the old ones suffered in the cold. I can't help feeling it's a bit odd to have an envelope of worms popped through your letterbox.

Monday 6 August 2012

Modest travels

These lovely waterlilies are terribly photogenic - I've taken loads of pictures while staying with family. I can see why Monet found them so compulsive - I found myself hanging over the pond as the sun came out each morning, while below the tadpoles waited, murmuring 'Just a little further, that's right, you'll be fine ...' The tadpoles in this particular pond are so well fed they never bother changing into frogs, they just keep growing. Hope my young friend in Afghanistan recognises this reminder of home!

I'm hoping to make this blog a bit more elaborate in the next few weeks as I work out which buttons to press, though the allotments are calling me in the fine weather. Teaching preparation is nearly complete (I think - it never really turns out that way when the students start arriving, though), we have some new animals in the house much to the entertainment of the cats, the garden is smelling of roses and dianthus and really needs to be inhaled each morning for maximum benefit, and there is a spider the size of a tea saucer in the kitchen. A sparrow flew in the other day and I was scared the spider would get it! Sparrow safely rescued, spider frustrated, cats bewildered.

Now, hyperlinks - what are they, and why?

Saturday 30 June 2012

Fourth book just out!

Well, it's working its way through the mysteries of Kindle uploading, anyway. Thank goodness - and thanks to my ever-patient graphic designer who turns my scribbled pictures into covers! And to all of you who buy the books and write lovely reviews (gosh, this is starting to sound like an Oscar speech). Anyway, I hope you all enjoy 'An Abandoned Woman'.

Allotments full of weeds only just under control - too much wet, warm weather. I've taken a middle-sized decision to drop one teaching job next term and do more writing (and indeed housework, I suppose!), but it hasn't quite sunk in yet so the stress levels are still a bit high. Eventually I'll tidy that bit of my mind away till the next time it's needed. In the mean time the other teaching post needs some work done before August, and the next book is calling me ... The knitting, however, is currently slightly more resistable, for some reason! But there's decorating to do, and tidying to do, and other work taking up two days a week. Oh, well - better get on!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Publication in sight!

That's it, the text is typed and proofread and put into one document and then the formatting, which always goes a bit iffy at that point, has been checked and corrected again. The cover is drafted, though no doubt there will be discussions over it (I like it, but another idea has been suggested which I might try, too) and I'm quite pleased with my efforts to draw donkeys ...

There is a tent in the garden. This is not a problem, as such. It's a new tent, and I, being an old Girl Guide, am used to the type where you pace out the angles of the guy lines and raise the tent poles in one large and glorious movement (followed, at one memorable camp near Hastings, by a large and total collapse as the rotted dolly pegs fell to pieces). This tent I removed from its bag, then I turned to read the instructions and was roundly walloped in the back as it put itself up - upside down, as it happens. The reason it is still there, however, is that putting itself down seems to be beyond it, and is a problem roughly similar to folding a road map up in the way it is meant to go - oh, yes, I suppose we're supposed to use some app on our phones to find our way round these days, not nice foldy map things.I wonder if there's an app for teaching tents how to fold themselves up?

Ah, well.

Sunday 27 May 2012

Too hot to think

Not designed for tropical weather, which is one reason I live in the north east of Scotland. Therefore I feel slightly hard done by when the weather is glorious, though this time we've been cold and damp for so long I admit even I took some delight in the hot sunshine! And though everything is so far behind the allotments are mostly planted and the seedlings, which were threatening to take over, are finally off the kitchen windowsill and out fending for themselves. The tadpoles appear to be luring snails into their new pond with all the aplomb of Cornish wreckers, so they're fine. The worms seem to have given up the ghost in the cold snap but have been partially replaced - might have to get some more. The next novel is 80% typed and 70% proof read, but the cover is still in embryo - teaching has now stopped for the summer (yippee!!) so there are a few days a week when I have, in theory, a little time to type (as well as rewriting stuff for next term and catching up on exciting things like, oh, housework).
I've taken on some work where I have four long country bus journeys a week, a great opportunity for bird watching, as it happens. Though I'm often travel-sick on buses, the speed of the drivers on this route encourages me to think I'll be dead in a ditch before I get the chance to feel nauseous, which is always encouraging!

Thursday 29 March 2012

A lovely day

Thanks, everyone - I've made it to 78 in the top 100 of Amazon's historical fiction! My word.

And the bus arrived at the bus stop just as I did - maybe it's going to be a good day!

Thursday 22 March 2012

Am I a proper writer now?

Flicking through my Amazon dashboard, I find I have sold my first three books in Italy. Does this make me a proper international author?! And if so, what's wrong with France, Germany and Spain?

Tuesday 20 March 2012

Spring definitely here!

What a rash thing to say. But the seed potatoes have arrived and I now have to divvy them up and distribute them around our compost bins - which are used as storage on our little plots - for the various other plotters who've ordered them. Another plotter is, I hope, doing onion sets.

Two excellent weekends, one down in Edinburgh again partly dog-walking, partly visiting the newly-refurbished museum in Chambers Street. This time I brought home a litre lemonade bottle full of D's good mixed berry wine (I've finally bottled my over-active coffee and elderflower wines, and took them a bottle of the coffee), two large handfuls of potent wild garlic and half of a large and elderly bracket fungus, found on the ground in an almost fossilised condition. Absolutely no research achieved, but the wild garlic pesto is brilliant. The next weekend in glorious sunshine I dug over Allotment Minor and spent most of the rest of the day helping to plant a variety of community fruit trees in our local park - apples, plums, cherries and amelanchier. May they thrive! The weekend also involved a ceilidh including the lethal helicopter dance, but as far as I know no ambulances were required this time ...

Yesterday I took my students for a walk to see a couple of things round the university - they were so excited! Ten minutes fresh air and that has made their lecture. Anything to break the monotony, clearly. Today I sang to one of my classes - this was perhaps a step too far.

Ah, well, meetings and visitors this week, lots of preparation and minutes and reports and things, not to mention the teaching (now halfway through, hoorah, and the last week of term, hoorah, hoorah!), but maybe next week in amongst the seed potatoes I'll get down to some typing. Working title at present: An Abandoned Woman (or The Abandoned Woman? Definite or indefinite? Decisions, decisions.

Friday 9 March 2012

Fizzing head

I can feel when the time is coming near to write something new. My blood seems to fizz, to sparkle, slowly at first, like a pot put on to boil, my head too starts to spin, to fill up, and shadows of stories flit past me, completely unrecognisable but completely thrilling. If I'm unlucky, it builds up and builds up and I just finish in a week with a headache, a night of strange dreams, a fit of depression and nothing whatever to show for it. But if I'm lucky, and focussed, and have the time to channel it at the right moment, into a new idea or into the development of something already thought of, then it can mean a week of excitement, scribbling at every opportunity, a breathless rush, and a new plot or a new episode or a new person is there, alive on the page, almost illegible in places with the sheer speed of writing but the best, the best feeling in your head that you can ever have.

Broad beans planted in the kitchen. Five percent of the next novel (whatever it's going to be called) typed. Allotments calling to me, seed potatoes ordered or chitting. Currants badly needing pruning, raspberries too. But a lecture to do in an hour ...

Friday 2 March 2012

Print on Demand!

A damp day after a few days of virtually June-like, shirt sleeves weather, but finally Death in a Scarlet Gown can be printed on demand! It's available from Amazon.com, not .co.uk, which seems a bit strange from my perspective but works for Amazon. Sales of the e-books continue to rise, thanks everyone! and thanks for the kind reviews for Death in a Scarlet Gown.

I've finished reading the next book - its original title was An Unkenspeckle Woman but someone has said in no uncertain terms that no-one's going to understand that! It's the Scots word for inconspicuous, not well known, and I rather like it. However, the title is now under debate. 'An Inconspicuous Woman' seems odd, somehow. The story is set in Fife, mostly around Letho, the village where Murray has his country home: there's a hot summer, an unwelcome visitor, a charming stranger, a swimming accident, a quarrel over a manse, some reflection on young women who fall from grace, and an architectural disaster - and of course a murder. Now to type it up.

But then there's teaching to do. I've just submitted my exam papers for the external examiner to examine (what they're best at), and have just been reminded that they need resit papers as well. Oh, blow. I struggled a bit to write them in the first place, and then lost a memory stick with the first version of one of them. However, I suspect that second time round won't be as bad now I have a good idea what I'm doing. And after all, I have - oh, five days? - to do them, along with a lengthy meeting tomorrow out of town, two more meetings on Sunday, and two days' teaching and a hospital appointment in between - no problem! Who needs sleep? (well, I do, and probably more than average!).

So having said that, I'd better get on!

Friday 17 February 2012


I'm in a borrowed office on a borrowed PC as my poor overworked laptop was declared dead yesterday after hopes that a new hard drive would be the answer. I now have a new (old) laptop but as yet can't attach it to the internet, so I'm feeling somewhat frustrated (and I don't even think I use the internet that much!). I've acquired another class to teach, following the unplanned descent of the stairs by a colleague (believe me, I wasnae there, I didnae do it), and haven't finished writing the lectures for the class I have, despite my best intentions. I came the heavy lecturer today, which I don't often, but the tutor before us in the classroom overran by five minutes, and five minutes before the end of my lecture a couple of dim-looking students wandered in, closed the door behind them and then stood looking vacant, and were then followed by three more. Apparently they couldn't tell the difference between their class and lecturer and ours. Sometimes I lose hope! Anyway, it was explained to them with heavy sarcasm how the clock worked and how they weren't supposed to come in until the big hand had passed the 12. One apologised, the rest just looked thicker than ever.

There's just one more step to having Death in a Scarlet Gown on CreateSpace - unfortunately for some reason I couldn't get the proofread document uploaded, so I'm hoping that perhaps the new laptop, when it's talking to the internet, might work better. Frustrating when the goal is in sight!

It's unseasonably warm, with daffodils sprouting and birds (notably the raucous oystercatchers) beginning the spring mating dances. Apparently it's going to turn cold again this weekend. Over the last couple of weeks I've looked out the window to find a dozen fieldfares staring in at me (slightly unnerving), seen a buzzard outside an urban school, been flown over by a flock of curlews, seen a black pheasant (I'm absolutely almost sure) and counted three dead badgers on one country road. Allotment Major has been secured, hoorah, for another year! and I've started making the mandatory sign for Allotment Minor. Soon it'll be digging time again ... or at least trying to burrow through the impacted earth of the old bowling green on which Allotment Minor is made.

I'm collecting onion skin for dyeing again - I need loads but fortunately we rarely have an evening meal that doesn't involve an onion. I also have plans for retting nettles this summer for fibre - I want to make paper, anyway, but I'd really like to spin and weave or knit nettle fibre which is absolutely beautiful. I won't have time if I'm running back and forth here to use the internet!

Thursday 19 January 2012

The Proof Arriveth

Oh, my goodness, what a thrilling moment! Electronic books are all very well, but this is the moment I dreamed of, the moment when the actual, material, solid, paper-based paperback arrived through the door and I saw it in the flesh for the first time and touched it and opened it and there were my characters on actual printed pages ....

Excuse me a moment! I think it's all too much for me!

I have to go out shortly, but despite the fact it's been sitting by me on my desk all morning, I don't think I can leave it here - I have to take it with me!

Monday 16 January 2012

embedded in self-imposed depths ...

It's a beautiful if very chilly day and I'm writing lectures - four and a half done, seven and a half to go! I seem to have involved myself in slightly too many knitting projects at the moment and there's wool everywhere: there are three separate scarves, a pair of socks, a woolly hat for seafarers, a rug and a jacket, and then there's a crochet blanket and two woven wall hangings, one of which is not going as I had hoped. Most of the projects are just in their infancy, which means that actually finishing something, with all the boost to the morale that involves, is quite far off! I knitted a canary over Christmas and have the wool to knit a hen, and I have a dozen more projects I'd like to start. I normally try to restrict myself to six knitting projects at a time but somehow the needles ran away from me! More Fairisle might well be next on the list - but then there's that lovely Norwegian book, and the Australian patterns, and that semi-Aran one I downloaded from Etsy ... Some of the things I've done are for sale and some for gifts, but often I'm just tempted to keep the things myself (too many jerseys now) or they haven't quite gone as I'd planned and I'm forced to keep them myself. The sales are on and wool is irresistible, so selling some things has to happen so I can buy more wool. We have here a very good charity which collects craft stuff, sometimes used or half-used, for onward sale, and their wool is temptingly cheap and far too abundant. Oh, dear, life is too short!

Sales (of books) are going well this month: I think I'm benefitting from the post-Christmas 'Santa gave me a Kindle' rush still, which is lovely. Thanks to all of you who have bought any of the books! I'm still waiting for the proof copy of Death in a Scarlet Gown which appears to be making its own way here, possibly by raft, from America. Ironically, once it's checked I have to tell a friend in America who has sworn off electronic books for life, so I've to get her to print it on demand! There is no escape!

Plans for more visits to Edinburgh in the near future and perhaps Fife for more research. The fourth book is set in Fife, near Cupar (no doubt I'll find that Shirley McKay's is somewhere similar! It's quite alarming - I really hope she doesn't think I'm trying to copy her in some way. I wonder if we knew each other at St. Andrews? Her second book is, so far, terrific - but deals with the hero coming to terms with his father's death and consequences. Spooky, as I say.).

Best get back to the lectures while I can - it's going to be a horribly busy term!

Monday 9 January 2012

Happy New Year

A very happy New Year to all - ours was a quiet one as usual. Old age kicking in, or perhaps fumbling in in comfy slippers.

The new Sherlock (Steven Moffat's version) on the BBC is very good - clever and witty. Some weak endings, but I do like seeing poor old Watson getting a word in edgeways and the occasional revenge in this version.

Back to lecture writing for the new term though, as we abandoned the cats for the weekend to go dog-walking with N & D, Number One Cat feels that cat therapy is much more urgent. I have tentatively begun rereading the next Murray novel, as I think I said before, but have made no more progress over Christmas. Instead I've been scuttling through an Elizabeth George (I do enjoy her writing and I admire the clever way she manages to sound almost convincingly like a British author, though I still think her characters' names are sometimes a bit off) and am looking forward to P.D. James' Death Comes to Pemberley, as well as the second Shirley McKay Hew Cullan book, Fate and Fortune. Apparently her hero is off to Edinburgh in this one, with the first one set in St. Andrews - I'm feeling slightly spooked! It's all the stranger as hers, to me (I don't know when she wrote them but they came out recently), seem much newer than mine but are set two hundred odd years earlier. I wonder did we ever meet as students?

And speaking of students, back to the lectures. I wish I'd known, as an undergraduate, how much it means to the lecturer when a student in passing says thanks. I'd have said it much more often!