Mixed few days, nothing exciting. Talked to my 96 year old grandmother today about work, what to do in the future if my novel doesn't go on to make some money. She answered with her usual pin-point accuracy: "You know quite a lot of different things, about quite a lot of different stuff. But none of it's much use really is it? You know, in terms of getting a good job."

Anyway, views from the last two days, from or around home:


The day begins at 0445 - first i have breakfast, then go out biking with Anja&Milton for twenty minutes to get us all moving. I love biking with them in the mornings, it's the perfect way for us all to wake up. They run free and we bike through and around an orchard that we've discovered. After biking then we rush home, have half an hour of 'book work' which normally means emailing someone, then i'm off to work, late as always. But on the good days, i'll get a view like this on the way:

Before being surrounded for the next 8-12 hours (depending on which shift i'm working) with a view like this:

 

So when i whine about being surrounded by bottles, i'm not kidding. They're everywhere, moving and rattling and getting stuck on the conveyer belts. It's funny. When i was growing up, I used to see clips on the news of people working on production lines in factories and i'd think, 'imagine doing that. You'd go crazy doing that all day.' Well, now i'm doing it. And i was right. Sort of. Because some days it's so hard, both mentally and physically, especially the 11 or 12 hour shifts. The monotony is incredible. The repetition of the job can be crushing. I'm in awe of the guys who have worked here for 15-20 years. I have moments of almost every shift where i think about sabotaging a part of the machine so that it won't work anymore. 

Fact of the day: at the part of the factory where i work, we make squash/ cordial, and for that alone we use an average of 66 tonnes of sugar per day. They use Tate and Lyle from England, which means over 300 tonnes a week needs to be brought over from England. It's a crazy, unsustainable world. 

Anyway, the great thing about the work is that it's not exactly the kind of job you take home with you. So i step out the door, forget about the whole thing, and re-enter the real world. My world. I rush home, grab food, and we're back out to play, in a landscape like this...

After training and playing with A&M, i tend to get home later than expected, somehow stay busy dreaming about book stuff until about 2230 or 2300, then jump into bed, ready to do it all again. Everyday at the moment is like this. It's a world of contrasts, between the beauty of where i'm living, and the sterility of where i'm working. 

My favourite little ferry, making its way across the fjord. No special effects, just beautiful light on a beautiful day:

 

Sleep is calling for me. I was going to write more, but i can't now, because I can see it, in the corner beside my bed. One last sip of my tea and i'm going to go and join it. I can't wait. I'm going to sleep like a pig. Is there anything better than collapsing into bed when you're tired?

The speed with which animals heal is just remarkable. After just three weeks, Anja's wounds have healed and she's back to normal - the scars on her sides have almost disappeared already. The fur is the only thing that has not yet grown back completely, but it soom will and the weird/ strange/ funny thing is that it will stop growing when it reaches the exact same length that it was before it was shaved off. Why is that? How does it know exactly when to stop growing? What is different between animals and humans that our hair keeps growing until we cut it, but fur has a 'memory'?! 

Anyway, here she is looking beautiful once more:

Lots of times, it's the small things that can make my day. A nice smile from someone that i don't really know but would like to know. A door held open. A knowing look from someone else who's bored at work. A wag of a tail that instantly reminds me to stop thinking and just be happy. They're the kind of little moments that turn my day around. Anyway, today, the little thing that turned my day was at about 1030 this morning. I was tired and still not feeling my best. I looked at my phone, trying to work out if i should check my book sale this week. It's always a tricky decision to make. It's great if sales are looking good...but rubbish if i check and find my ranking is sliding down...Today i checked, and bingo! Sales are going up, slowly. A smile crept up onto my face and stayed there all day. It's a weird feeling - being stuck in the factory, bottles flying passed me, checking on the machine i'm in charge of, surrounded by noise and distractions, then suddenly, via my phone, i get a link to the outside world, and i can find out how my book is doing in its new life. For a long time, we lived the same life, doing the same things each day. But now i go to the factory every day, whereas it's out on its own in the big wide world trying to make a name for itself. Strange. Good-strange.

Last winter, i drove my car off the road in the snow and got stuck in a field. Something similar seems to happen most winters - but this time it wasn't my fault. Really. A car pulled out in front of me and i had the option of either going straight into the back of it, or swerving into the field. So I swerved into the field. It was incredibly cold and the snow was very fine, so nothing got damaged, but we did get very stuck. So there we are, me and Anja sitting on the front seats, looking at each other like fools. What to do? Firstly, get annoyed at the driver of the other car who had driven off without even noticing us. But then something else happened. Over the course of the next one and a half hours, car after car stopped on the roadside and asked us if we needed help. At first i just said no thanks, i've called for the breakdown truck (which i had), but then as time went on and it still didn't arrive, i began to accept people's attempts to help. Two people broke their tow ropes trying to drag us out, another went to get her dad to see if we could use his tractor, and at one point an old lady of about 80 stopped in her little Ford Fiesta to see if she could help. In the end a friend came by and went to get a friend of her's with a tractor.

Anyway, what i slowly realised was that we all have a choice. I could look at the negatives - me and Anja were stuck in a field because of someone's bad driving, or we could look at the positives - about 80% of people stopped that day to see if they could help. Spending the afternoon in the field reminded me tha most people people are really, really nice. I might not want to become best friends with them all, but that doesn't mean they're not good people. I can honestly say it was worth sitting there feeling cold and stupid to realise that.

Ok, time to shut up.

A perfect view on the way back from training: 

Ok, so i'm not properly ill and probably not dying just yet, but i feel...i don't know, certainly less than my normal 8 out of 10. Sore throat, thumping headache, tired, achy body = no training now for last three days. Bad for Anja&Milton too. They lie on the sofa and stare at me, bored. Anja is healing fast and no longer has three holes in her. The stiches are out and she's ready to begin swimming again. Yeah, yeah, soon. Patience.

Anyway, a couple of aspirin and i'm sure things will improve soon. It's hot outside too these days...and when it's hot and sticky like this, i'm reminded of the cold beauty of days like this (february, -24*C):

As incredible and amazing as Anja and Milton are, they're not as incredible as the Naked Mole Rats that live in eastern and southern Africa. There are almost too many strange and wonderful things about them to list, but some of the best are:

+ they're the only mammal to live in a colony structure - identical to that of hive insects like bees (1 female queen who mates with a small number of furtile males, whilst the rest are simply sterile worker-moles!)

+ they can run backwards as fast as forwards

+ they can manipulate their long, incisor teeth individually, much like chopsticks

+ they appear to be impervious to pain and are not affected by any forms of cancer

+ and they live to the remarkable age of 30 years old - longer even than chimpanzees!

 

Anja continues to make good progress. She's remarkably accepting of her wounds and the fact that for now she can't come training with us or do anything fun, and i think there's a lesson in there for me if i'm not too stupid to learn it. She doesn't grumble about what she can't do, or how today is worse than yesterday, she just gets on with what she can manage. She doesn't overthink things. Just enjoys the bits she can for now...especially her food...and waits for it to get better. With that in mind i've tried to do the same with my book stuff, and just make the progress that i can. It's frustrating not having the time i'd like for it right now, but there we are. Slow and small progress is still better than no progress, right? Adverts are starting to come out for it this week, which in itself is pretty exciting. And i saw that another lovely review got posted recently - by someone who managed to sum up The Spark in a far better way than i could have - "...the romance in this book is not just between the characters, but with life itself." Wow, wish i could have put it so neatly. There are so many clever people in the world. Inspiring, clever people. They're all around us, if we remember to look. 

Tired now, can't wait to sleep. 

Photo above is from yesterday evening on the drive back from training. Beautiful. 

My bed is calling.

But first, i promised Anja i'd add some photos of her looking regal and unaffected by her new wounds:

Grandmother: What do you mean you've got book-work to do this evening? I thought you finished with that thing months ago?

Me: I finished with writing it and producing it, but now i have to work on trying to market and sell it. And that takes time. Tonight i have to write and update my blog, for example.

Grandmother: What is a blog? I've heard of that before.

Me: It's...it's kind of like a diary, but instead you put it up on the internet so that other people can read it too.

Grandmother: Why would you want people to read your diary?

Me: Book-people say that authors need to have a website and a blog these days, so that people can follow what they do-

Grandmother: I've never heard of such a thing. I've been reading books for ninety years and never wondered what the author gets up to. It's their book that's interesting, not them.  

Me: [pause] Well...book-people think it helps attract readers, people who might then read my book, tell other people about it...

Grandmother: Sounds like a load of rubbish to me. Who are these book-people? I would have thought you'd got better things to be doing with you time?

Me: [silence] 

Grandmother: Well then.

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