Archive for the Uncategorized Category

Happy Christmas from the Tortoise Loft

Posted in Christmas, Family and Friends, Storytelling, Uncategorized, Writing on December 19, 2010 by suetortoise

Enough pictures of snow, I can see all the snow I want outside the window. Here’s a story instead of a card. One for reading aloud. And my good wishes for a very happy Christmas season to all who hear it:

This story was beautifully read by Allan Price on the programme Genevieve Tudor’s Sunday Folk (BBC Radio Shropshire, BBC Radio Hereford & Worcester and BBC Radio Stoke), on Boxing Day evening, 2010.  

The Antisanta


Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, Santa Claus… Call him what you will, he is older than those names; older than the religion of the Christ Child; older, even, than the pagan faiths that gave us the high feast of Yule. The protector of children in mid-winter, that cruellest and most dangerous time of year: the time of the gnawing hunger and killing cold, the time of darkness and of famished wild beasts, grown desperate by that same hunger and cold. Continue reading


Watch This Space….

Posted in out and about, Photography, Uncategorized on October 24, 2010 by suetortoise

I have finally finished uploading my photos from Australia, so I’ll be posting the first installment of my holiday report very soon. There has been good reason for the delay – I had to find another job and I also had some artwork to do for a deadline. New job found, artwork sent off, and the writing of the holiday report is already underway.

Strings attached

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on February 8, 2010 by suetortoise

Small guitar
When I was a child, I wanted to play the piano. My father was a fairly good pianist (he also played the accordion in a morris side when I was very small) and I was encouraged to take piano lessons as soon as my hands were big enough to manage the keys. I kept trying, I kept getting a little way and no further. The lessons continued for years, but despite all the encouragement I could wish for, all my genuine desire to play, all the practice that I put in and all that the music-teachers could do for me, I was unable to master the instrument. I would get reasonably fluent with one piece of music, and then have to start again, from scratch, with the next one. It was utterly, utterly frustrating. Everyone assumed that I simply wasn’t trying or didn’t really want to get anywhere – phrases which I heard in many classes at school: sport, dancing, anything involving much writing. I was told these things so often that I assumed that they were true and that I really must be lazy.

By the time I’d been in secondary school for a few years, I was starting to see some patterns in the things I couldn’t do. (Spotting patterns and grasping systems is something I’ve always been good at.) I could tell that I wasn’t ever going to win with the piano, but I had some hopes for being able to do a bit better with a guitar. It was less ‘two-handed’. I’d recently managed crochet although I’d totally failed with knitting, and I felt that the difference between the guitar and the piano was rather similar. My parents didn’t want to waste money on a guitar, thinking that I’d give up on it soon after I got it. So I borrowed a ukulele from my best friend’s brother, and struck a deal with Mum and Dad: if I could manage to get a few tunes out of it before my birthday, they’d buy me a guitar as a present. I did, they did, and the nylon-strung, student-size guitar became a huge part of my life and a good friend for the next thirty years.

Now, I don’t want you imagining that I was ever much of a guitarist. I was not. I quite soon hit a plateau and stayed there, but I was happy. Meanwhile I’d finally been allowed to give up those endless frustrating piano lessons. Oh the relief! And I’d also proved something important to myself about my odd limitations, even if I didn’t understand what caused them. Whatever it was, I was sure that it wasn’t ‘just laziness’ or a lack of interest.

When I got to the age for driving lessons, soon afterwards, I didn’t even bother to start learning. I already knew that I’d be in for more tears and frustration and could never drive without the same constant, intense concentration I needed for writing. I would never be safe in traffic: a distraction would render me helpless. People nagged me about not driving, too, especially after the family moved to the country, away from frequent buses and trains, but I wasn’t going to waste money finding out something I was already convinced of.

For some reason (possibly not unrelated to buying a word processor – which turned writing from a slow, painful chore into a newly discovered joy), I stopped playing the guitar regularly in the late Eighties. And twelve years ago I realised how rarely I’d touched the strings since then, realised that there were enough other things in my life now: things that I could do better, could even do well, and gave the battered old thing to a charity shop. End of guitar playing. End of an era.

Except that, recently, I’ve too often felt the lack of something to strum when I’m thinking about tunes, or I have wanted a bit of backing when I’ve been sitting here singing to myself. (Be glad it is just singing to myself – my singing is even worse than my guitar playing. But it makes me feel good to sing, and I live with songs and tunes constantly twirling around in my head, wanting out.) So last weekend I gazed into the window of the nearest music shop and saw something calling out to me. A tiny guitar, a guitar so small that it looks more like an overfed ukulele, but with the proper number of strings. So small that it is almost too small for my fingers, but not quite. So small that it has a quiet voice, a good thing for a flat in a shared block with poor sound insulation. So small that its price tag was within my reach. The last kitten in the rock shop, it looked at me, I looked at it, and I knew that it would follow me home.

I have a guitar again. In the meantime I’ve learnt a new word. The word is ‘dyspraxia’. I first heard it a couple of years ago. If I had any suspicions that I had really been that lazy child who wouldn’t do anything that she wasn’t interested in, if I had still harboured any lingering thoughts that maybe I just didn’t try hard enough to learn tasks, the new word wiped them away. I already knew the way I differed by then, I clearly recognised my inability to automate tasks that most people find easy, but I had never had a simple name for the difference, never had a name to use to explain it to others. Learning the word ‘dyspraxia’ was another moment of sudden and very deep relief.

Reading this back, I hope I haven’t made you think that I am angry about not having my dyspraxia spotted when I was young. (It still rankles a little: the evidence seems clear to me now, and I wonder if my school teachers were not too eager to help because I was so often ahead of the rest of the class in those things that didn’t involve writing or other coordination tasks.) I can’t help wondering what turns my life would have taken had I been given some help – or at least some understanding. But there are no counterfactuals in this life. The person I am now is a product of all that I have been through, good and bad. I like being me, so how can I complain about how I got here? Besides, I’ve had to find my own ways to do things, often found ways to do them quite well. I might never have tried so hard if I’d known that I couldn’t be expected to do them. (I even managed to knit, slowly, when I worked out a method based on the German way of holding the yarn. I’m wearing one of my hand-knitted jumpers as I write this.)

Here I am with sore fingertips again, gradually recalling all those chords left unplayed for over a decade, getting the old red song book out from under the bed (an ancient, battered notebook which lost its red cover in the sixties), working my way through things left unsung for many’s the year (perhaps wisely in some cases) and smiling. Oh yeah!

In-Between Days

Posted in Uncategorized on December 31, 2009 by suetortoise

This is a strange time of year. Christmas is over, the New Year not started, and I’m finding it hard to summon up the energy to do anything much. (I’m also worrying about a friend who is having a major operation this week, and wondering how soon I’ll hear how it went.)

The weather’s not been conducive to doing things. Cold and damp. But I had a very pleasant day in Welshpool yesterday, lunching with friends, eating very nice trout with roasted vegetables, and playing Jenga while the rain poured down.

I guess I will be back in the usual weekly routine all too soon. It’s back to work on Monday. But for now I feel up in the air and unsettled.

Christmas Greetings

Posted in Uncategorized on December 23, 2009 by suetortoise

Greetings 2009

Time to put this one up, I think. Picture is based on one of the windows at Shrewsbury RC Cathedral on Town Walls. The greeting and good wishes are for you all, whether you celebrate Christmas, Yule, Martian Glimfrogga or some other midwinter festival (or mid-summer festival for the Antipodes, of course). Have a good one! I’ll be offline for a few days, but I’ll be back before the end of the year.

Shining Gently

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on December 15, 2009 by suetortoise

My Christmas Tree 2009

The Christmas tree went up today. I’ve had this one for ten years, since my first Christmas in the Tortoise Loft.

It’s been a while

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2009 by suetortoise

Sorry, I meant to write again before this.

Novacon was a pleasant convention. Fairly low-key, as most recent Novacons have been, but none the worse for that. The new hotel proved friendly and eager to please – they seemed a little bemused at first, but they soon got used to us. And we’re welcome back there next year. I sold enough stuff in the Art Show to cover my train fair and most of the food bill, so that was okay. (The food was good.) And I enjoyed some good talks and panels, caught up with old friends, and met some new folk. Which is why I went. That’s the good bit.

I didn’t get my nose outside the hotel once I’d arrived, as the weather was so grim – rain, more rain, with showers for a change now and then. Perhaps it’s not surprising that a head cold followed me home. With all the Worse Things about, I feel strangely proud to have succumbed to a perfectly ordinary English winter cold. Mind you, it’s been necessary to keep explaining that it’s just a cold. People look at you as if you should be locked up if you happen to cough or sneeze within ten foot of them, even if you turn away and you catch it in a tissue.

When not sneezing, I’ve been spending too much time watching the rain again. The camera hasn’t had an outing for a fortnight. I’m getting tired of getting soaked when going to work or nipping to the shops, and bored with listening to the wind slamming against my windows. Please can we have some settled sunshine for a bit, to dry things out? At least Shrewsbury hasn’t had the catastrophic flooding that Cumbria and other parts of the country have had to put up with. But this grey damp is depressing me. I want to have something more upbeat to write about than rain and sneezes.

Autumn Colour

Posted in Uncategorized on October 27, 2009 by suetortoise

Queenswood, red and white
I went to Queenswood Arboretum in Herefordshire on Sunday. An outing with the Shropshire Community group on Flickr. A bit damp in the morning, with one or two showers, but by the afternoon there were long spells of lovely sunshine.
Queenswood, green glade
About a dozen of us went wandering around in the woods, met up for lunch and then carried on taking pictures and enjoying the gorgeous colours until the light started to fade. A superb day. I’m gradually uploading the pictures to this Queenswood set on Flickr.

By Appointment

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on October 19, 2009 by suetortoise

Firstly the good news – my half-a-job has resumed again. So although I am still seriously looking for something else (this temporary one is not really enough hours), I am off the dole. Which is very good news.

Last week, I turned my two storage heaters on, as I needed some background heat in the flat. Nothing happened. I have been here ten years and the heaters have worked perfectly every year until now, so I can’t really believe they’ve both suddenly popped their clogs at the same time. There seems no obvious sign of malfunction, no switches tripped on the consumer unit, they just don’t work.

After giving them a couple of nights’ trial at various settings, just in case, I called the housing association’s repair line on Thursday and booked an appointment for for the electrician to come and look at them this morning, Monday 19th. I even got a letter confirming the appointment.

This morning comes. I make sure I’m up and dresed in good time. I wait – but no electricians appear. At eleven, I rang the repair line because I needed to leave at twelve to get to work.

“Oh,” says the lady on the customer service desk, “They rescheduled the appointment for Friday last week, and they called but couldn’t gain admittance.”

“I was at work on Friday. The appointment was was for this morning, it’s on the letter. Nobody contacted me to tell me it was being changed.”

“Yes, but they rescheduled the appointment without telling you.”

Er, now isn’t it the very nature of an appointment that it is a time agreed by both of the parties involved? Apparently not in the eyes of the housing association and their tame repair company. I think what they did was just call here on Friday on the offchance – fair enough if they were working in the area – but to then cancel the original, scheduled appointment (and not even tell me about it)… It’s a little thick!

The upshot is that I still have no heat in my storage heaters. We have made another appointment forthem to call tomorrow afternoon. I hope they keep this one.

And if they don’t turn up, the Estate Manager for the flats is coming to see me on Thursday morning (about another matter altogether), and will be asked, very firmely, to Do Something.

Provided, of course, that she also turns up when expected!

Update, 20th Oct:

The electrician turned up — two hours before the scheduled time, but I was at home. The fault is not the heaters, which are in perfect working order. It’s the timer in the electricity meter, he says, and that isn’t something he’s allowed to touch. (The electricity meter is only a couple of years old.) Next: a phonecall to npower… They will come to sort it out on Monday the 2nd of November. The earliest they can do. Brrrrr!

Ten Years After

Posted in Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 by suetortoise

Ten years ago, I moved into the Celestial Tortoise Loft, my housing-association flat here in Shrewsbury town centre. (You won’t find that name on the map, but that’s my name for this attic appartment under a mansard roof.) I’d had the keys for a couple of weeks by then: moving things in, cleaning the place up, but 6th October 1999 was the first night that I slept under my very own (rented) roof.

After fifteen years of living in furnished rooms in other people’s houses, the delights of having a bathroom and kitchen all to myself and my own living room made me giddy with joy. I’d lie on the floor and just stare up at the high ceiling and all the space, just marvelling at it all.

After ten years, the Tortoise Loft is still wonderful. Oh yes, there have been problems now and then, but the feelgood factor is still there. And now it is home, with room for my books and craft materials and all my other clutter, comfortably liveable, familiar, my retreat in bad times, my anchor-point in good.

Rainy morning, Castle Street

That’s the view from my bedroom window at 6:45 this morning. Wet streets, hardly anyone around. I am so lucky to be here.

The last few weeks have been rather mixed. My ‘half-a-job’ of 18 hours a week came to a sudden end, and I am unemployed again. So I’ve been doing the merry rounds of the Jobcentre, the various employment agencies. It’s very bleak out there. I hope I can find something before too long. I hate filling out application forms, interviews, the stress of it all.

Meanwhile I have been using some of my unexpected free time to start on a big it’s-not-exactly-spring-is-it? clean of the flat. Long overdue sorting out of boxes of papers and bits and pieces. Things shoved in boxes from when I started to become too ill to deal with them, a couple of years ago, overfilled cupboards, general chaos.

I’ve made a huge improvement here aleady. I’m no longer worried about people seeing the state of the Tortoise Loft. Yesterday I had two friends here for lunch, followed by a walk around the town. We ended up sitting in the warm sunshine on the terrace at Theatre Severn, watching the motes of light dancing  on the river and thinking how good it was to be able to sit outside in October.

And now, with the rain lashing the windows on a dark, chilly evening, I am here at the computer thinking how nice it is to sit here inside, in my own space which is personal, private and yet connected by the internet to the whole world. Wonderful times. Here’s to the future.