Tag Archives: Stockport Express

Cold Calling An Author Can Sometimes Pay Off

24 Apr

DSCN1147

I once acted out of character and it paid off.

Let me explain: I am quite shy.  No, really.

It is easy to be gregarious on (I was going to say ‘paper’ but I guess technically it’s) plastic; much harder in real life when the person you are talking to is not behind a monitor six thousand miles away going ‘Huh? Wazzsheonabout?’ but standing right in front of you, rictus grin plastered on face, thinking, ‘Huh? Wazzsheonabout?’

I’m rubbish at cold calling; at asking strangers for something.  I once had a job as a Carpet Cleaning Saleswoman (it was the early Eighties; I wasn’t a person then). I had to go door-to-door to tell people that they needed me because their carpets were dirty.  All for an alleged weekly wage of £75.

I was so bad at cold calling and made so few sales (ten-day total sales: zero), they put me on commission at the end of the first week (it was the early Eighties; I had no rights that I knew of, being eighteen and stupid).  In one month I earned a grand total of £9.

If they had only asked me to write to the customers, it might have been a different story.  As this one is turning out to be, because it’s about my writing group.  No, really.

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I saw an article in our local paper about a local writer who had just published her third book –  actually, it was her second book, although she has written her third book; the reporter got it wrong – may his rugs remain forever filthy – despite the author sending him the details in cold hard ether.  Fortunately, I didn’t know that at the time, or this might have been a different story (not really, but repetition is a good comedy device and I’m feeling facetious today, even a little lightheaded, not having blogged at you for five days).

I read in the Stockport Express that author Allie Cresswell had not only published her third book [not], but she lived in Stockport and had a website.  I moseyed on over to her website by way of dinner, dessert, crisps and a bar of chocolate, and thought she looked friendly enough, so I girded up my now ample loins and popped off an email.

That’s the bit that was out of character – I cold called an author.  Yo!  I said, I belong to Stockport Writers.  We have no money; will you come and talk to us for free?

Yes, she replied; I’d love to.  I’m pretty sure my charm and erudition won her over.

Emails were exchanged; details were organised (please run the whole session, however you like, but don’t arrive before eleven because the Art Gallery won’t let us in until then because of insurance issues, I think); cake purchased in honour of our guest.  The great day arrived…

DSCN1153All joking aside, it was a great day.   Warm and friendly, Allie told us a bit about herself (passing off the sloppy journalist’s carelessness as just one of those things…so magnanimous*), her writing background and her career. Then she read from one of her books – we enjoyed it so much, we asked for more.  After a break for tea and cake (these loins won’t amplify themselves, you know), Allie set us a writing exercise, which had everyone interested and animated.  To keep things fresh, we do rotate the chair each month, as in, a different person chairs each month’s meeting; we don’t sit in swivel chairs and circulate stationarily (the gallery staff keep those chairs to themselves; we can’t complain because they let us use the space for free).  To have someone entirely new set the prompt made us all a little giddy, and produced some wonderful freewriting.

*If I appear to be losing it a little here, it’s because I am.  Remember my magnum opus (I Went To London To Be On Telly And Get Free Stuff)?  It might have turned out all right in the end, but that sloppy – and somewhat vindictive – journalism has made me over-sensitive.  Besides, that Stockport Express journalist didn’t publicise our guest speaker like I asked him to in my second – and last – out of character cold calling email.  May his rugs remain forever filthy.

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Allie brought some of her books and I felt, having strong-armed her into coming along, that I ought to buy at least one of the novels, but I didn’t have enough money on me.   Fortunately, she sells them for Kindle, and I was able to buy two for less than the price of one hard copy.   Even more of a bargain, the Amazon account is hooked up to the Hub’s credit card and not mine so, technically, I got them for nothing.  And I had cake!  What a great day.  Our guest also got a booking, from one of our writers who attends another group, so it was a win-win situation.

Now I come to the reason why I haven’t blogged for five days: I started one of the books, Relative Strangers.  As a pretty woman might say, big mistake; huge. You should see the state of my house – I’ve done no housework because all I wanted to do was read; and the dogs aren’t talking to me.

relative strangers book cover small

The book explores the dynamics of family life by gathering together one extended family in a large house for one week.

At first, I was confused by the sheer number of characters but I soon worked out who was married to whom and had which children and which in-laws and which rooms and cars and grievances and grudges.  The book is packed with incident and was a really interesting and fun read, but not fun in the way – I hope – this post is fun.  It was a fascinating exploration of relationships: the characters, for the most part, were neither good nor bad, but human, with foibles and faults like we all have.

The ending surprised me.  And that’s all I’ll say, because I don’t want to give anything away.  If you like surprises, don’t read the blurb on the website because it tells you in which direction the ending heads.

There were more typos than I usually approve of but I let them pass because I enjoyed the book so much.  I only mention them because I want this to be a balanced critique.  Definitely recommended.  You can trust me; it’s not like I’m a journalist (sorry, Kateshreswdaytheexception).

You can find Allie’s website here; and her books on Amazon here; and here. They are available on Amazon.com as well as the UK site.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post because you may not get another for at least the next five days: I have her other book to read.

 

I Was Accidentally On Telly

8 Mar
Why is it that the vast majority of sycamores ...

Why is it that the vast majority of sycamores cannot grasp even the most basic economic principles? (Photo credit: one percent for the planet)

Many years ago, that was; I’m not referring to my most recent appearance, in the audience of the first leaders’ debate during the 2010 General Election campaign: blink and you missed me.

I was reminded of my week on telly by yesterday’s prompt about a surreal experience.  It’s quite a long story so go and have your wee first.

I’m a big fan of saving the planet.  I’m in favour of breathable air, water for all and not buying a new thing until the old thing dies, is dismantled and the parts used for shelves, dusters and magazine holders.  My tea caddies are old coffee jars, so I practise what I preach.

In 2001 Stockport council sent out questionnaires asking what residents did in the way of being green.  I told them.  In detail.

Reserved: Hybrid vehicles only

Reserved: Hybrid vehicles only (Photo credit: kevin dooley)

A couple of months later they contacted me and asked if our family would be willing to take part in their upcoming Cleaner, Greener campaign.  ‘Sure,’ I said.  We were interviewed and photographed for a brochure and invited to the campaign’s launch at the art gallery in January 2002.  I wore a dressy frock purchased in a charity shop for £3; the boys wore hand-me-downs and the Hub a favourite old jacket. We looked very smart when we were presented as Stockport’s Greenest Family.

I was interviewed for Radio Manchester or something like that.  I’ll be honest, I was flattered but incoherent.  When the producer asked what kind of thing I do to save the planet, I babbled on about washing on cold and folding wet washing and only ironing one side, but not necessarily in that order and interspersed with more than the necessary number of ums, ahs and ers.  I can still see her resigned smile and hear the click of the delete button as I turned away.

Material Wealth. Fear of Loss

Material Wealth. Fear of Loss (Photo credit: HikingArtist.com)

There was a small article in the Stockport Express and that, I thought, was that.  We’d had the fun of a cultural night out at the art gallery.  So cultural, I thought the refreshments were a modern art display until the guests attacked them. We ate our fill, drank expensive swill (Cleaner, Greener but not Cheaper, Cheaper) went home and thought nothing more of it.  

Until the day the phone rang and I had a moment of entelechy.

You know what?  This is such a long story, I think I’ll leave it there for now. More tomorrow!

*

Yesterday’s word was, of course dacnomania:  an obsession with killing, often by biting.  That explains my Twilight fixation.

Sandra Bullock Has A Sex-Change And Retires To Norfolk

27 Nov
The Rolling Stones discography

The Rolling Stones discography (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Time For Bed, Grandad

The Rolling Stones breached their curfew this week.  Playing at the O2 Arena, according to The Telegraph:

...the quartet, all aged in their 60s and 70s, were half an hour late starting, which meant the concert did not finish until just after 11pm [and] their set ran 40 minutes over a strict curfew.

Quite how strict the curfew was is debatable, given they ran a not insubstantial forty minutes over.

Fans, already annoyed by touts selling tickets at £3000 each – and who showed their displeasure by not purchasing them, leaving empty seats in the arena – were furious that the Stones’ final set omitted I Can’t Get No Satisfaction. Imagine their dissatisfaction, then, when many were left stranded because the tube line they needed to use to get home closed at 11:45pm.

You see, Mr Jagger – there’s a reason for the curfew.

But not to worry: in true British fashion,

It was left to a busker outside the local tube station to reprise I Can’t Get No Satisfaction as concert-goers made their way home.

*

Bus, Earlham Rd. Norwich

Bus, Earlham Rd. Norwich (Photo credit: mira66) Not my story, but what a great picture!

*

Meanwhile, Over In Norfolk

Ms Bullock, real name Alfred Throop, has been up to her old tricks again, driving speeding buses.  The Telegraph reports:

Alfred Throop, 67, was on the number 58 bus in Northfields, Leicester, on Thursday when the driver fell unconsious [sic] and the bus began to swerve.

Realising what had happened, Throop grabbed the wheel and steered the bus to the side of the road where it collided with metal railings at a pedestrian crossing.

With true British understatement, hero Mr Throop remarked:

“I noticed the bus going from side to side on the road and thought ‘there’s something wrong here’.”

*

English: A square of bricks I just love a well...

Up against a brick wall (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

*

One For Alien Hippy‘s Mr Locoman

Mel Thorley of Stockport is having some trouble selling his house.  The Stockport Express reports that Mel’s perfect house [has] a spiral staircase, triple-glazing, two garages and six off-road parking spacesIt’s a great garden for sunbathing, the neighbours are great and it’s a good price.

There’s just one small problem: potential buyers tend to be put off by one little thing.  The paper describes it as:

…four railway engines parked on the back lawnwhich each weigh five tons.

British house buyers – picky, picky, picky.

It’s Time To Give Up Food

27 Sep

Two news items this week.

all but my 3rd finger from left has a growth

From The Telegraph:

A human finger found inside a fish in Idaho was traced to a man who lost four fingers in an accident months before.

A fisherman cleaning a trout found a severed finger inside and gave it to the police, who traced it, via the fingerprint, to Hans Galassi, 31, who lost it (along with the other three) while wakeboarding.

“The sheriff called me and told me he had a strange story to tell me,” Mr Galassi said [...] “I was like: Let me guess, they found my fingers in a fish.”

I wonder if he sulked when only one finger was found?  It would give new meaning to the term trout pout.

Apparently, he declined the finger’s return.  

Sheriff’s Detective Sgt. Gary Johnston said the agency will keep the digit for a few weeks in case he changes his mind.

From our very own Stockport Express:

A horrified mum bit into a supermarket sandwich – and discovered she had eaten a chunk of a ‘hairy creature’ inside.

Katie Crabtree, 31, was shocked to discover what she believes was a small, dead rodent in her pre-packaged sandwich bought from Tesco at Portwood.

Euggh!  

Here’s a photograph:

Be honest: would you eat that?  Me neither; that bacon looks congealed.

I always avoid pre-packed sandwiches; I’m not keen on mayonnaise cardboard with a side serving of plastic (mouse optional).

On the subject of disgusting things in food, my family have a meal time saying:

I’ve got the hair.

My hair is so long now that, despite tying it back and covering it with a cap when I cook, some always escapes and makes its way onto a plate (oddly, never mine; it is not homing hair).  The family have got so used to it, no food is ever wasted.

If I find anything besides malt or chocolate in a Malteser, I’m going on a diet.  I’ll only eat one box a day.  Just to be safe.

UPDATE:

Accident or design?

Today’s quote when this post published:

Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.

Isaac Asimov

Dangerous Thief On The Loose In Stockport

4 Jan

A danger to himself, that is: some idiot thought it would be a good idea to steal an alligator from a pet shop.  The insane burglar also took snakes and lizards, including pythons and a seven-foot yellow anaconda.   

An American alligator's foot

Image via Wikipedia

 The shop owner, Paul Williamson, advised that the alligator was not

the biggest animal in the world, but they can do a lot of damage.  They’re very powerful, very strong and they’ve obviously got huge teeth, so if they bite, the next place for you go to is hospital.        Read it here.

Thanks for the warning: if a stray alligator crunched through me on the way to the post office I might not have had the sense to call an ambulance; you know how distracted I get.

Mr Williamson said that two tortoises were also stolen, but they ‘were relatively harmless.’

You couldn’t make it up.

Christmas Is All Around Us

23 Dec
 

As the louche, has-been rock star Billy Mack in Love Actually reminds us, Christmas is all around us.  And nowhere is it more around us than in the news.  I read three sweet stories this morning, which I’m going to share.  As they say (many times) in the film, If you can’t …(fill in the sickly sentimental thing you need to justify doing)… at Christmas, when can you?  So, in that vein, if you can’t share sickly sentimental stories at Christmas, when can you?

The first was sent to me by PM at Every day I See A Cow (thank you): 

Tortured Cat in Christmas 2007

Image via Wikipedia

Merry Christmas Comes To One Family A Few Days Early

A child of seven lost her cat, called Merry Christmas, at Halloween.  She was found on Sunday.  Christmas at home was just what that family needed. 

I got that last line from the joke department of the Christmas Cracker factory.  It needs some work.  Where’s Pseu? 

*

Our own Stockport Express helped save the day for one little girl, by running an internet appeal:

Best present ever: Two-year-old Stockport girl reunited with her missing Teddy bear after internet appeal

If you’ve ever had a two-year-old lose a teddy, you’ll understand how wonderful this is.  If you haven’t, let me tell you about two-year-old Spud and his Ted-Ted-Teddy (that’s what he called it; I can’t believe he ever grew smart enough to get into a grammar school): Ted-Ted-Teddy went everywhere with Spud.  The trouble is, toddlers are easily distracted.  I can’t recall how many times we had to scour the house before bedtime, because Spud couldn’t – wouldn’t – sleep without his beloved teddy (about as big as my hand, which made him even more difficult to find), and had dropped him somewhere when playing; how many times I had to re-trace my steps when we had been out because Spud had seen a squirrel or a dog or a leaf and dropped Ted-Ted-Teddy in his enthusiasm to explore the exciting new world of vicious, smelly animals and mulch.

I hated that thing.

My sister-in-law had a moment of genius – she bought him another Ted-Ted-Teddy.  She had bestowed the first one upon him, so she thought it was the least she could do.  Problem solved. 

Much loved. (Much hated)

Problem doubled.  Spud now dropped two Ted-Ted-Teddies that had to be found.  I am ashamed to admit that it is entirely possible that for a while during my youngest son’s childhood, I hated my lovely sister-in-law.

The good news is, we always found him/them.  Usually, it was Tory Boy who found him/them.  Go Tory Boy!

A thought has just occurred to me: Tory Boy was always rewarded with love, praise and attention…could it have been Tory Boy, the foul fiend, who ‘lost’ him…?

Surely not.

Hmm.  Good job it’s Christmas, or it would be, Go, Tory Boy.

*

The third story is a tale of greed and post office inefficiency:

Dear Santa Letter sent 100 years ago found up chimney

Two Irish children wrote their Christmas letter in 1911 and sent it up the chimney to Father Christmas; it never arrived.  It was found this year.  Good thing, I say; you should see how much the greedy little beggars wanted:

“I want a baby doll and a waterproof with a hood and a pair of gloves and a toffee apple and a gold penny and a silver sixpence and a long toffee.”

*

The news here is that we are in for a mild Christmas.  No snow.  I’m not sorry.  It looks pretty until you’re lying on your back in it, having slipped on an icy patch and been concussed when your head hit a large, frozen dog turd.

Besides, I look like I’m having my own little snow party closer to home: I noticed this morning that the skin around my nose has cracked and flaked from the worst cold I’ve ever had, leaving me looking like a cocaine addict who can only get enough by burying my face in a bowl of the stuff. 

No pictures.  It’s not Christmas.

 

A Little Perspective

21 Dec

We are all sick with bad colds.  Did I say that all ready?  We are miserable and snotty and tired and grumpy.  Did I mention that, too? 

Stop feeling sorry for us and read this instead:

Now that’s magic: Stockport boy, 14, who lost fingers to meningitis amazes friends with card tricks.

'Magic' Dean Lahan at Stockport School<br /><br /><br />
      ” width=”460″ height=”306″ /></span></p>
<p style=Dean is the grandson of one my neighbours.  He lost most of his fingers and a leg to meningitis as a toddler.  He is forever in the Stockport Express, having raised funds for various charities. 

I bet he doesn’t let a common cold bug him.  He is a hero.

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