This morning, for example, I’ve been staring at a list of topics and events I need to write up while they’re still fresh in my mind, including recent writers’ festivals that I’ve attended and some social occasions. I know that another day will go by before I manage to make a start on them thanks to some pressing deadlines for some paid freelance work. Continue reading “What To Do When There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day”→
Last month, the law of unintended consequences dictated that I should acquire a new car. Dropping in to a local garage to chivvy progress on my dad’s car’s MOT, I found myself wandering around its used car lot and falling in love at first sight with a Fiat Panda. If only actual pandas had the same impact on each other, there’d be a lot more pandas in this world.
For some time, I’d been meaning to replace my aging Ford Ka. It had a lot in common with the proverbial spade that the old man claims was his grandfather’s before him – except the handle and the metal part have each been replaced several times.
Sublime & Ridiculous
Although I loved my Ford Ka, I’d been constantly irritated by its name. I could never decide whether to pronounce it to rhyme with “car” or as the initials K A. The only redeeming feature was the suffix “Sublime”, in honour of its leather seats and air-conditioning.
In the same way that you get “Friday afternoon cars”, haphazardly assembled by demob-happy workers, the Ford Ka brand name must be a Friday afternoon marketing job. It’s about as sensible as Mr Kipling launching a new product called “Kayke”, hard to differentiate from the rest of his exceedingly good cakes. (He hasn’t done this yet, by the way – but, Mr Kipling, if you’re reading this, please don’t go there.)
But what’s not to love about a car named after an iconic and lovable animal? Not to mention its endless potential for jokes.
“There’s a panda in my front garden,” I’m able to say to anyone gullible enough to listen to me speculating as to whether Waitrose stocks bamboo. Or “I’m thinking of taking my panda to the zoo at the weekend.” You get the picture.
Faster than a Speeding Panda
Other cars named after animals are usually associated with speed: Jaguar, Cougar, Impala. Even a beetle moves fast in relation to its size. Pandas are famously inert, as our visit to Edinburgh Zoo two summers ago hammered home: the crowd jumped the first time Tian Tian moved.
Optimistically, the Zoo has installed a “panda cam” so you can watch live action footage around the clock. Most of the time, there’s not much difference between the video and the still photo at the top of the webpage. If it’s action you’re after, click on “penguin cam” or “squirrel monkey cam”. It must have been a close call in Fiat’s marketing department one Friday between the Fiat Panda and the Fiat Sloth.
Still, it could have been worse: I could have opted for a Vauxhall Nova, which may sound fine and shiny-new till you drive to Spain, when it morphs into the Vauxhall Doesn’t Go. Which is where I came in with my Ford Ka.
(As the BBC likes to say, in the interests of fairness, other makes of car and cake are available.)
Well, did you miss me? Did you notice I’ve been offline for a bit? Probably not – if you’ve got any sense, you’ll have spent a lot of time offline over Christmas too.
But I have to say I’m greeting the first working week of the New Year with renewed energy and enthusiasm, after spending as much time as possible away from my computer during my daughter’s two-week break from school.
When I furtively dipped back into the internet now and again during the holiday fortnight, it was effectively under cover – I’d set up an out-of-office message to cover my two email accounts: the online equivalent of dark glasses.
In fact, if I hadn’t been part of Helen Hollick’s fabulous Christmas Party Blog Hop, I’d have spend even less time online. Reading the other participants’ fascinating posts was the main reason that I sneaked back to my computer at all.
Why Christmas Isn’t Over Yet…
What do you mean, you didn’t read the 25 fabulous articles on the blog hop, on different aspects of Christmas traditions and with plenty of festive fiction samples to enjoy?
Fear not, there’s still time to catch them with a clear conscience, because, as I’ve just discovered, Christmas isn’t actually over just yet. I’m not talking about waiting for Twelfth Night (today, 5th January, according to some people, or tomorrow, 6th, for others, including me). The vicar’s letter in the new Hawkesbury Parish News states that the festive season doesn’t officially conclude until Candlemas on 2nd February. Now there’s the excuse Laura was looking for to keep the Christmas tree up for a little longer.
In the meantime, I’m back in the room – and I’ve just been blogging about the benefits of going offline on the advice blog of Alliance of Independent Authors. You can read that post here, if you’re interested: Don’t Let the Internet (Tail) Wag the Author (Dog)
What’s the longest you can bear to stay offline – or indeed online?
Do you have a top tip to share on avoiding internet burnout?
Feel free to join the conversation via the comment box below!
(This post about taking time out to relax was originally published in the November 2014 Hawkesbury Parish News)
“Unstructured time” is the new buzz phrase that suddenly seems to be everywhere. Psychologists are now recommending that to be healthier and happier, we should cut ourselves some slack and spend less time in organised activities. Resting and relaxing allows our minds, spirits and energy levels to be restored and renewed – but in our busy age, there’s a myth that if you’re not busy, you’re wasting your time.
I’m certainly guilty of falling for that myth. And with a constantly packed schedule myself, I’m conscious that my daughter (11) is heading in the same direction, with at least one extra-curricular activity every day. We love all our hobbies and don’t want to give them up, but sometimes we feel under siege from them.
This is why I’m happy to let my daughter free-range, so to speak, whenever there’s the opportunity to just relax and play, and it would do me good to follow suit. Adults have just as much to gain from being idle.The restorative power of pottering about should not be underestimated. Whenever I have an enforced period of inactivity due to illness, I always notice afterwards that I’m filled with energy and ideas.
My biggest challenge is simply to make myself do nothing. My obsession with filling my diary drives my husband to despair. Whenever a gap appears, I rush to schedule an outing or appointment.
So following the latest news report that we’d all be healthier and happier for some unstructured down-time, I’m determined to be busy doing nothing now and again. I hope it’s not cheating if I schedule that in my diary.