screech owl

This journal

This LJ blog now contains mostly ramblings on life, the world and everything.  I aim to post five times a fortnight.

My fics can be found here The Small Hobbit on AO3 and currently major on Sherlock (BBC), Sherlock Holmes (ACD canon) and Lewis (TV).  My other popular fandoms include Spooks (MI5) and Robin Hood (BBC).


One thing I've been looking forward to now that I have more time available is to do more crafting.  To that end, when Lovecrafts (I website I use for patterns and purchases) promoted a free embroidery stitchalong I thought I'd have a go.  The only thing I bought was cheap fabric, the threads etc were left over from previous cross stitch kits.  It was an interesting, and time-consuming project - I learnt a lot, was pleased with what I achieved, although can see there's room for improvement, which hopefully will come when/if I have more practice.

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Goals for 21/22

Amazingly it's time for me to set my new goals for 2021/22, which has taken more thought than some years (this year's report will be later this month).

Firstly, at the end of March I took early retirement, so it seemed reasonable that one of my goals would relate to that.  I may write more about my plans another time, but at this stage those are not specifically goal related.  However, over the last few months I have been making a long list of things which need doing, things which could usefully be done, and crafts which I have available and which I hadn't got round to.  So:
Goal No 1: To achieve everything on my To Do list as it currently stands.
Which isn't to say that other things won't appear that equally need doing, but they will go on a new list.  Theoretically this should be mostly achievable by the end of August so I may need to update it at that point.  But let's be reasonable.

As with my physical To Be Read pile, I have an audiobook to be read 'pile'.  Which needs tackling.  Therefore:
Goal No 2: To listen to everything currently on my To Be Listened To list (by the end of April 22)
Yes, no doubt there will be new additions, but I have written down the current 10 books (some of them are long) and will work my way through them.  After all, I bought them for a reason!

Lastly, I'm thinking it would be quite interesting to make a more thoughtful entry to this blog once a month, as well as maybe changing my posting frequency a bit.  Up until February I was posting 5 times a fortnight, I've now tweaked it to 11+ times a month (except for February, which remains at 10).  I'd be very happy to receive comments, suggestions for what I could blog about, either as a one-off or as a series.  Yes, there will still be posts on the Brownies.  I shall also do a monthly writing summary, because I find that helpful, plus a crafting one and I intend doing one on media consumption, which will combine my book reviews (making them monthly), audiobooks and FutureLearn and other courses.  And, once we begin to be able to go places again, I shall be posting photos.
Goal No 3: To update and continue my blog posting


First Lines Meme

Various people have tried this, so I thought I'd have a go.  List the first lines of your last 20 stories.  See if there is any pattern.  Choose your favourite opening line. 

Shortly after Hopkins had departed, I looked out of the window and groaned.  Beresford & Drake (ACD Holmes) [Chap 3, which is where I picked up the WiP.]

"Dolly, are you up to a little walk before dinner?” Miss Marple asked.  Miss Marple's News

Adam Carter was driving back towards London, at the conclusion of a job, and discussing the probable fall out with Ros, who was in the passenger seat.  Smoke in the Mirror (Spooks)

He stood on the railway station platform.   No Going Back  (Hobbit AU)

"Hi," Adam Carter said, as Lucas North came in through the front door.  A Long Day in a Long Week (Spooks)

People used to ask Audrey why she had stayed friends with Addie, when there were so many easier people to be friends with.  We Don't Hold Hands (A Kind of Spark - Elle McNicoll)

“Come on,” Adam said, “it’s a beautiful day, we’re going for a walk!”  Snippets of Love (Spooks) [Chap 3 - this is a collection of ficlets, not one complete fic]

“Sheep!” Michael said.  For Reasons Thad Don't Need Exploring At This Junction (Staged)

“Get your snout out!” Adam said, tapping the werewolf on the muzzle.  Lucas' Birthday Cake (Spooks Werewolf AU)

Trixie Franklin looked critically at the outfits hanging up in Lucille Anderson’s wardrobe.  Yellow (Call the Midwife)

When Adam came into the bedroom, he found Lucas curled up in a tight ball.  Chocolate Biscuits (Spooks)

“Hudson’s Modelling Agency …  Could you repeat that, please?  …  A little slower … Hudson's Modelling Agency (BBC Sherlock AU)

"Excellent," Claudius said, looking up from the letter he was reading.  From Elsinore to Verona (And Back Again) (Hamlet/Romeo & Juliet AU)

"I haven't seen Stanley for a while,” John Watson commented.  Adventure in Rotherhithe (BBC Sherlock)

It was a few days after Esme and Inspector Hopkins had been forced to run from some attackers, that at about 11 o’clock in the morning, Esme heard someone knocking at the front door.  The House on St James Street (ACD Holmes) [Chap 5, which is where I picked up the WiP]

Tigger was waiting for Rabbit to come home from visiting various of his friends and relations, and wondering what to do, when he noticed the mirror was flashing.  Tigger Holmes and the Case of the Shrunken Prince (Winnie-the-Pooh Tigger Holmes 'verse)

"Regency outfits for all three of us, in less than a week,” Aemelia Vole said.  Buttons and Bows (ACD Holmes, MMI 'verse)

"Are there any other ideas for stalls we could add to our sale?” Shelagh Turner asked.  The Button Stall (Call the Midwife)

Adam Carter lay in his bed and tried to sleep.  Snippets from Werewolf Life. (Spooks WerewolfAU) [Chap 14, most recent ficlet/drabble]

Val Dyer collapsed gratefully onto the kitchen chair, a cup of tea in one hand, a chocolate biscuit in the other.  Trouble at Baldwin Flats (Call the Midwife)

Half of these begin with some form of dialogue, and of the rest, most launch directly into the story.  And 16 introduce one, and sometimes two, of the main protagonists of the story.  Which, given that few of them are very long is hardly surprising.  Yes, this is what I would have expected.

My favourite line has to be: “Get your snout out!” Adam said, tapping the werewolf on the muzzle.


The Friday Five: Spring Holidays

From [community profile] thefridayfive but a week late:

1) What spring holiday(s) do you celebrate?

2) How do you celebrate it?

We share chocolate and I will go to church.

3) How was your celebration different in 2020 and/or 2021?
Last year churches weren't open, so I wrote a short virtual service which was sent to our Family Praise members.  This temporary monthly virtual service is still going strong, and again I've written something which has gone out, although we are now able to meet.

4) What special foods do you make or acquire for your spring holiday?
Simnel cakes (see icon), although this year SM made them.  We always make three - one for us, one went in the post to our daughter, and we'll take one with us when we go to see our son and granddaughter tomorrow (daughter-in-law will be at work, she's a nurse).  Plus Easter eggs - this year everyone's getting small eggs with knitted egg cosies.  The daughter sent money for me to buy eggs for everyone, so we'll have those.

5) Is there special music for your spring holiday?
The church will have certain hymns, although no singing is allowed.  Last Sunday (Palm Sunday) we handed out the musical instruments and rattled our way through the hymn with tambourines, castanets and similar.  And there are the classic big pieces, like Handel's Messiah and Bach's St Matthew Passion.


Book Review Year 7 No 3

Well, so much for my year of not buying books.  I could say this is the library's fault, because the five books I had on my reservation list at the beginning of March were still there at the end.  But that's only partly true.

The Summer Before The War by Helen Simonson

This was a library book, and it took two months to read.  Although from the title the book should be about June and July 1914, in fact a good proportion of the book deals with the effects of the war.  Overall I was disappointed in it.  It's nearly 500 pages, and felt very much like a book which is desperate to include everything and bring lots of different strands together, when it would have been much better to have been more selective.  Also, for me it felt like the heroine had been transplanted from 2014 and didn't truly belong in 1914. [A3]

The Case of the Gilded Fly by Edmund Crispin

I have a feeling this was recommended to me, but am not sure.  It's the first of the Gervase Fen murder mysteries, set in Oxford in 1940.  Fen is annoying (deliberately so), but quite fun if taken in the right way.  Mrs Fen is excellent, a perfect counterweight, and I'd have happily seen more of her.  The plot is very cleverly constructed and quite convoluted.  I've now started to read through the rest of the series. [C3]

A Kind of Spark by Elle McNicoll

The first of my newly bought books.  This is a teen/YA book, which is Blackwell's Book of the Year.  It's about an autistic girl, written by an autistic writer.  I thought it excellent and would definitely recommend it.  The back cover describes it as 'a story about courage, friendship and what it means to be different', and I would completely agree.

Knitting Bones by Monica Ferris

Continuing through the needlecraft mysteries, I enjoyed this one.  It was slightly different and had some interesting strands. [D3]

Suicide Excepted by Cyril Hare

I've read all Hare books in the library, so am now buying them when I find them cheap.  And then, of course, reading them.  This is an early book and had me fooled until the end.  Lots of twists and turns which I enjoyed. 

Two-Way Murder by E C R Lorac

A new book from the British Library Crime Classics, which I'd pre-ordered.  The book had never been published before, and doesn't include Lorac's regular detective Inspector McDonald.  Lots of different posibilities, lots of strands woven together, some of them classic red herrings, some not.  I had a suspicion of whodunnit, but couldn't see howdunnit until the explanation was given.  My sort of book and I read it rapidly - not too rapidly as I wanted to enjoy it, but in less than a week.

Midnight at Malabar House by Vaseem Khan (audiobook)

I don't normally include audiobooks in my book reviews, but this was a book on my library 'to read' list, only they no longer had a copy (strange since the book was only published in 2019).  It's set in January 1950 in Bombay, with a female police inspector investigating the death of a British official employed by the Indian government.  I really enjoyed it as a look at the period, and the plot was convoluted and convincing.  I would much prefer to have read the book rather than listening to it, which is something I shall bear in mind for the future - there are books to read and books to listen to. [A4]

Holy Disorders by Edmund Crispin

The second Gervase Fen book.  I preferred Fen in this, and enjoyed the plot, which once more involved several strands, this time needing to be drawn together.  And the slightly off the wall characters seemed to work.

Untimely Death by Cyril Hare

The second Hare book I bought cheaply.  This is set in Dartmoor, and I enjoyed the atmosphere, the legal nature of the plot, and how it all worked out.

Smallbone Deceased by Michael Gilbert

This is the Shedunnit book of the month for April.  I read most of Michael Gilbert's books thirty plus years ago, and remembered really enjoying them, so I thought it would be worth rereading.  I didn't remember the plot - which was good because it meant I could enjoy it again - although certain snippets had stayed in my mind (not plot related at all).  I'm looking forward to next month's discussion.

[Letters/numbers refer to my reading lists for the year, and record how I'm progressing.  No B this month, because I reached B4 last month.]

And finally, my book bingo card:
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Writing - March 2021

Word count wise March has been a reasonable month, with 11.5K words - and having written a craft post yesterday I can see where much of the time I wasn't writing went.

Firstly, a couple of updates from previous months.  My HeroineBigBang fic Trouble at Baldwin Flats, which is Call the Midwife and [community profile] stageoffools The Foreboding Castle a Macbeth fic.

[community profile] whatif_au was about modelling this month, so I wrote Hudson's Modelling Agency in BBC Sherlock fandom.  And [community profile] story_works ran the Come Back challenge, for which I wrote 4.7K words about Thorin Oakenshield (The Hobbit) in a weekend, No Going Back

Other than that, it's been a case of various drabbles and ficlets.


Something New - Month Eleven

I am enjoying the Imperial Lates run by Imperial College in London.  The theme a couple of weeks ago was the Sun, and again I joined the art interpretation evening.  There was a professor and a third year PhD student talking about research into the first stars and the craft was a mosaic, for which I used very small squares of cut up wrapping paper.  I call this Starburst.

Next month the theme is Wildlife.  I have registered.

Yesterday, we had our first Dare to Dabble by zoom, having been sent the materials in advance.  We were wet felting.  My first attempt, around a small plastic egg, wasn't very successful, but, if you squint, looks like a ladybird.  The mini eggs turned out rather better.


I have completed three FutureLearn courses:

Music Moves
by the University of Oslo, which covered the idea of people moving either deliberately or involuntarily to music, plus various ways of recording this.  I find it a difficult course, being quite technical, and the peer-assessed assignment was challenging - hardly surprising since this was at undergraduate level.  However, at the end of each week, although the course had been run before, there was a new video looking specifically at questions and thoughts which had been raised during the week, so it became rather more personal and relevant; two of the presenters wrapped up and social distancing outside in Oslo at the end of January gave an additional lift to the course.  (At the end of week 3 they were indoors as it had got even colder!)  The final Friday of the course they ran a zoom session which any participant could attend, so I went along and 'sat at the back of the class'.  There were about a dozen attending, many of whom were professionals or students of the subject, so it was good to get further insight.

What does it mean to be Human: An Introduction to the Humanities, by the University of Newcastle, Australia.  I had been thinking of taking this course for a while.  Because it is an introduction the intention was to look at how we interpret material available, and the necessity of being aware of bias, both ours and that of the authors of the original material.  What struck me most was how I am now much more aware of this original bias, and much less inclined to accept what I see as being truly reflective of events in the past.

Classic Detection Fiction
by the University of Newcastle, Australia.  This could have been very interesting as an introduction to the genre, but I felt it was a wasted opportunity.  The first week concentrated on Poe's 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' and yes, set the scene.  But the second two weeks concentrated only on Conan Doyle's 'A Study in Scarlet' and failed to even use the other Sherlock Holmes stories to back up the areas covered.

screech owl

Here Endeth Another Term

Two weeks ago the Brownies made slime - supervised by parents.  The results were predictably messy, but enjoyable.  They also did a quiz based on various tools, asking what they were called and what they could be used for.

Last week we didn't meet.  Doodles (the leader) was ill.  Peacock, a nurse, wasn't back from work.  And Flamingo's laptop had dug its heels in and refused to work.  So, since we have to have at least two leaders present for a zoom meeting, we had to cancel, which was sad, but unavoidable.  (It also proves we are in no position to go back to face-to-face with all the restrictions that would bring.)

This week I led an activity on how to know when a car is going to turn and other road codes for cars.  Which involved pretending to be driving a car, which they all enjoyed.  I followed on with how to be safe when crossing a road.  Doodles then took over and the Brownies looked at various items and said whether they were a need, or a want, and they had to estimate how much they cost.  Generally they had little idea about the latter, but were clear about things which they needed, eg school uniform, bread, milk and what they wanted eg chocolate (the leaders agreed afterwards that this was really a need!) and fizzy drinks.

Having completed all these activities, they have now earned their Brownie Live Smart badge.

In the past we have worked for Stage 3 badges (as Brownies they can do either Stage 2 or Stage 3), which provide a bit more of a challenge for the older girls (9-10 years) and we provide a bit more help to the younger ones (7+ years).  This time we went for the easier challenges, which gave the Brownies a chance just to relax and be slightly silly (in a regular meeting they wouldn't have wanted to pretend to be driving a car, last night they thought it was fun).

Last night one of the mothers (a single parent) messaged to say how grateful she was to the leaders for running Brownies, because for her daughter the Brownie meeting is the highlight of the week.  It makes it all worthwhile.