Category Archives: Books

The Tracks of my Tears

In which The Author has come unstuck in time again

Last Wednesday I wrote about some young lads in a rock band, who were clearly stuck in time (in the late 1980s or so). Since then, we’ve had a full moon and an extra day in the calendar, both of which seem to have had very peculiar effects on Time.
I decided to treat myself to the current Concise Oxford Dictionary last week. I was going to to buy it in Cardiff, when I was there for the Plaid Cymru manifesto launch a fortnight ago. But it’s a bit bulky to carry about, and I also wanted another book which Waterstones don’t stock. Chris G. assured me that the warehouse had plenty of the second book, and offered to order it in for me. But I told him it made sense to order them together online and save on the postage costs. Free p&p online; nearly three quid p&p from the shop; eight quid on the train to collect it in person. You do the maths!
I placed the order on 23 February, and it was confirmed almost immediately, with an estimated delivery time of ‘5-7 days’. That meant (in theory) that I could look forward to my books arriving early this week.
Anyway, on Saturday morning I was feeling pretty unwell. I’d come away from Thursday’s karaoke early. I had a sore throat which meant my grip on the tunes was more precarious than usual. On Friday I was full of cold, which was threatening to go to my chest. I had a duvet day, and didn’t leave the house except to grab some fish and chips from the Hot Pot. I didn’t feel much better on Saturday, so when someone knocked the door just after ten o’clock I figured it couldn’t be anything important. I stayed in bed instead.
Needless to say, it was the postman trying to deliver a parcel. I knew I couldn’t possibly be the books I’d ordered, so I thought maybe Gollancz had sent me another proof without any prior warning. That was why, on Monday morning, I was at the sorting office in Aberaman, having narrowly avoided the Brain-Dead Bints I told you about last time.
The item waiting for me turned out to be the books I’d ordered from Waterstones. 5-7 days had suddenly turned into 3-4.
I mention this only because Waterstones emailed me last night, at 1819, to tell me that ‘the item(s) has been shipped and should be with you soon’. They’d also included the tracking reference for my parcel. Just for fun, I’ve been on the Royal Mail website this morning, and this is what I found:
Screenshot from 2016-03-03 10:11:35
As the late great Sir Terry Wogan would have said, Is it me?

Friday’s Fish …

In which The Author is less than happy

I haven’t spent a lot of time online in the past couple of weeks, in case you’ve been wondering. The good news is that, despite the best efforts of the town planners, the Cynon Valley Plaid Cymru gang all made it out of Cwmdare in one piece and were in the pub before 1.00. Result! as young people say these days.
I haven’t been too well since then, so I’ve been confined to the house a lot of the time. The stomach upsets which I’ve been experiencing for a few years have been getting more frequent and less predictable. Travelling far from the house (especially in an area with a dearth of public toilets) isn’t really an option.
The further good news is that we (my GP and I) are getting closer to finding out what the recurring problem with my digestive system is. A series of tests have eliminated the more serious concerns; it’s not inflammatory bowel disease, Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, or (the biggest fear when you’re my age) anything life threatening. For the time being, Drs Davies and Jones seem to think it’s probably IBS – irritable bowel syndrome. I’m taking a mixture of tablets to try and keep it in check, and I’m keeping a food diary to try and isolate some of the possible triggers.
And it’s food that’s brought me to Aberdare Library this afternoon, in a roundabout way. As it’s Friday, every Thereisnospoon pub has a special offer on fish and chips. This morning, after a couple of days with no real appetite, I felt a craving for fish and chips. I came into town with just one thing on my mind and headed straight to Thereisnospoon.
As it’s half term, it was already packed when I got there. I found a small table right by the entrance and put my jacket on the back of the chair, to make sure nobody else moved in while I was at the bar. Then I went to place my order. After nearly ten minutes of patient queueing and a pleasant chat with another customer, I was able to order my lunch. I took my drink and my receipt back to my table, connected to the wifi with my phone, and checked my emails while I waited for my order to arrive.
More people came in, and were lucky to grab the next table when the previous customers left. They spent some time perusing the menu – a mere formality which I was able to dispense with (and a good thing too, as there wasn’t a menu on my table to begin with) – and one of them went to place their order. A few minutes later the same one-crowd-out and one-crowd-in occurred opposite me. The main part of the pub was still filling up, too, and I spotted a few people I knew coming in. I could have gone and talked to them, but if I’d left my table unattended there was no telling where my lunch would have ended up.
I wasn’t really keeping track of the time, so I was quite surprised when the family who’d come in after me started tucking into their meals. I had a look at the receipt to check the time-stamp. I’d placed my order at 12.29. Surely the other people hadn’t come in much before one o’clock.
I didn’t say anything to the waitress, because (I assume) different meals take different preparation times. However, when the next lot of food arrived on the table opposite, I decided to post a sarcastic message on Facebook:
Waiter, I came in for breakfast and it’s now lunchtime. Could I please order supper?
(I can’t remember where I first came across that, but I’ve got a feeling it might have been in one of Robert Anton Wilson’s books. Wherever I’ve cribbed it from, it seemed highly appropriate for the occasion.)
After an hour and a half had elapsed, I decided to see if Thereisnospoon had a Twitter account. I was surprised to find that they did – but not especially surprised to find that it’s been pretty much dormant since 2014. Even so, I sent them a Tweet asking if waiting ninety minutes since ordering food was a new record. I used the hashtag #SlowFood16 for added sarcasm.
When the big hand was on six again, I decided it was time to refill my glass and also see what had happened to my meal. The barbint actually seemed quite put out that I’d dared to ask about the vanishing lunch. It was my fault, apparently, because I hadn’t thought to mention it earlier. I could have started an argument, but I really wasn’t in the mood. I could have asked for a refund (and then gone to the fish shop a couple of doors away) – but Goddess only knows how long that would have taken them to organise.
I sat back down and finally got my food at just before 2.50 p.m. Instead of garden peas, they’d served mushy peas (which I don’t especially like), and there was no tartare sauce. The waitress was very apologetic, and blamed (naturally) the computer. Well, of course we always blame the computers – they can’t defend themselves (not yet, anyway!)
Talking of computers: I got back from the Plaid Cymru election manifesto launch in Cardiff the other day to find a card through my door. Apparently there was a parcel waiting for me in my neighbours’ house. I wasn’t expecting anything from anyone, so I thought my speculative emails to the sister imprints within the Orion Group might have resulted in a new proof to work on.
I knocked my neighbours’ door, but they were out. I sent an email to my contact at Gollancz to ask him if he’d sent me anything on the spur of the moment. He pleaded innocence, so I was still none the wiser.
I managed to catch my neighbours at home yesterday evening. The parcel had originated at Littlehampton Book Services (I recognised the label straight away), so I got rather excited. Could it have been a copy of Gavin G. Smith’s latest book (the one I worked on last autumn), hot off the press?
No, it wasn’t. It was a small-format paperback of Steeple by Jon Wallace, the author of the book which I copy-edited before Xmas. I wouldn’t have minded, but Gollancz sent me a trade paperback copy before I even started the job. The smaller edition must have sat on back-order since then, and finally saw the light of day this week. Does anyone want a mint condition trade paperback copy of Steeple? Free to a good home.
I’m in Aberdare Library now, having eventually eaten my lunch. (I was toying with the idea of ordering a pudding, but as Thereisnospoon actually stop serving food at 11 p.m. I decided against it. There was no guarantee I’d have got it before stoptap.) I’m not using my own computer, though, because the bloody wifi seems to have knocked off for the weekend at least a couple of hours before everyone else does.
One of the songs I vaguely remember from my childhood was by The Scaffold. This Liverpool comedy/pop group, consisting of Roger McGough, John Gorman and Mike McGear (Paul McCartney’s brother), were regulars on TV when I was very young, and are probably best known for their Number 1 hit ‘Lily the Pink’. I think my deep admiration for Roger McGough (one of the two living poets I can actually listen to) dates from that period.
The song I’ve got in mind – the title of which escapes me – was a clever little ditty about the humdrum routine of 1960s/70s life. I can only remember fragments of it now. The first verse started with the words ‘Monday is washing day’ (which it always was in our house, too); I also think ‘Tuesday’s roast beef’; I do know for a fact that ‘Friday’s fish’ – and the refrain went, ‘Is everybody happy?’
I don’t really need to answer that, do I?