All is not lost

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I lost a notebook. One with the beginning of a new story in it. There were also notes of descriptions, notes for two other stories, some practical stuff.

It’s my own fault, I put it down and forgot to pick it up again. But it’s not been handed in to lost property and is likely gone forever. I can probably reconstruct, or create anew, the story. It’s been in my head long enough for me to have a shape there. But one of the others? I had an inspiration and started scribbling. I can’t even remember what I wrote. It was out of my mind, down my arm and through the pen so fast that it didn’t stick to even one lonely brain cell. That one’s gone and I’m in mourning for it.

I was in London for the day. I finally got to the point where I could submit my tax reference number application to the IRS and went down to visit them. I reckoned if I’d made any mistakes it was better to know at that point, rather than after posting it to the US and waiting a while. And they copy your documents for free, while getting an apostille copy would cost money. It went quickly and easily and the staff were as nice as they are on the phone. In two months I should have the number.

So, very pleased with my day so far, I headed to the British Museum. I’ve not been there in many years and I was looking forward to having a look inside again. It’s big, so you have to pick which bit you’re going to look at, and I went for the part about Europe through the ages

People look at you strangely when you’re barefoot, I don’t know why. Maybe because plump, middle-aged women don’t usually wander museums without their shoes. But my foot hurt, and when I took off my shoe to have a look found out I’d rubbed a huge blister on top of the joint where my big toe meets my foot. Not only that, but I’d rubbed the top off the blister. No wonder it hurt. So I wandered the tiled rooms without my shoes and really appreciated how cool the metal gratings in the floor were.

I had my notebook in my hand because I had ideas for a character in one of my stories who’s studying to be an archaeologist. So when I went to the toilet at the end of my visit, I put it down. On a ledge above and behind the toilet, while my bag went on the floor. Silly me. I walked out of the cubicle with bag and coat, but minus notebook. I discovered the loss when I was on the coach home, half an hour into my journey and a couple of hours after the museum had closed.

There was a panicked search through every bit of my bag, which didn’t take long because it didn’t have much in it. When visiting the American Embassy you can’t take any electronics with you, not even a mobile phone, and you have to take a relatively small bag. Then the trying to work out where I’d left it and lighting on the only possibility. Finally the, rather foolish, “I should have” this and “I should have” that. Yes, I should have put it in my bag, or put my bag next to it on the ledge. But I didn’t. So “should have” is a nonsensical thing to say to yourself.

I did it anyway.

But. The loss of a notebook isn’t the end of the world. I can recreate a version of the story that had been around long enough to remember. I will have other ideas. In the meantime, I’m in mourning for a cheap notebook that was probably picked up by a cleaner and put in the rubbish.

See you round
Kristen xx

I’m so Excited

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Wow, quite a lot’s happened in the past month. (For me, that is).

On the health front, the doctor’s given me tablets for the high blood pressure. The good news is that, after only two weeks, my blood pressure’s dropped significantly. I’m also working on getting more active. The place I work is about a mile from home, up an incredibly steep hill. My plan is to work up to walking home from work a couple of times a week (successful, yay me!) and walking to work a couple of times a week (still in progress, that one). I’ve also been for an eye test and will have new glasses in a couple of weeks. I’ll have to put off a couple (or more) bills, but without my eyes I can’t work, so I’ve got to have the glasses. (£400 a pair because I need varifocals instead of single vision lenses. Ouch!) My eyes have changed quite a bit and it will be nice to be able to see things without squinting again.

My passport—that one I was making all the fuss about—came. From sending the application to it landing on my doormat was only two and a half weeks. I wanted to put lots of exclamation marks, but am mindful of Terry Pratchett’s contention in one of his books that multiple exclamation marks are a clear sign of a deranged mind and thought I ought to pretend, for a little longer at least, that I’m perfectly normal. Whatever that means.

Anyway. I had to apply as if it were the first passport I’d ever had, the last one I had being so long ago that it didn’t count. I therefore expected it to take the advertised six to eight weeks. I also thought I’d have to go in for an interview with the passport office. But no. Not at all. After all my fussing and worrying and ranting, it was the easiest thing in the world.

So now I can apply for that American tax reference number. I’ve filled in my form, got a copy of the contract from the publisher, got my shiny new passport and I’ll be off to the American Embassy in London just before Easter. This sounds like a bit of overkill, no? Well, not really. It’s just that there’s an office of the IRS there and so I can submit my application in person and they’ll do a certified copy of the documentation there. Now I’ve got it, I don’t want to send the original passport off to Texas in case it gets lost in transit, and why pay through the nose for a lawyer to do the fancy type of certified copy needed when the IRS will do it for free? As a bonus I get to visit an Embassy for the first time in my life. What’s not to like?

What else has happened? I booked my trip to London; only £18.00 return fare and I even go down by train. Yay for Megabus. When I’ve done with the IRS I’ll have the afternoon free to do something fun, like an art gallery or a museum.

I’ve started getting emails from the publisher. It’s suddenly become very real. And really exciting all over again. There was a message from the department that writes the blurb, that bit that’s used to try and interest you in reading a book. They wanted me to complete a form collecting information that will help them do that. Not long after I’d done that, to the best of my ability, I got a message from the art department, asking for information they could use to start working on a cover. It’s coming home to me that this is actually happening. Sometime this summer there’s going to be a book out there with my name on. A short book, admittedly. But. A book. By me. Excuse me while I squeee again. (I’ve had a personality transplant in the last three or four years. I would never have squeee’d before, I just wasn’t brought up that way.)

And in the past week an email arrived from the person who’ll be the senior editor setting out an approximate timetable for what’s coming next. Oh my. It will be exciting and agonising all at the same time. For the first time someone else will have read it, and they’ll have comments. Probably lots of them. Soon.

Squeee. Bounce. Squeee.

Progress :-)

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My passport application’s signed and sent off, so it’s just a matter of waiting for them to contact me now.  They’ll undoubtedly want to call me in for interview, to check I match my photo and can answer questions that only the person completing the form could answer.  I’m not expecting any problems, so it’s just a matter of trying to possess my soul in patience for the duration.  What it does mean is that in six to eight weeks I’ll be able to sort out the application for an American tax reference number.  Hey, you never know, I might actually get all this sorted out!  Back at the beginning I wasn’t sure I could do it, there were so many obstacles.

In the meantime—I got a job.  Temporary, for twelve months, and part time, but it’s a job.  Something I’ve not had for a while.  It’s nice to have enough money to start paying bills again.  Even better, I like it where I am, they’re good people to work with and the work’s interesting and varied.  So—life’s looking up.  🙂

Well, apart from the blood pressure.  Apparently it’s high, very high.  I went to the doctor’s for a routine screening appointment and the nurse took my blood pressure while I was there.  She was really pleased to hear I’d also booked an appointment with the doctor the following week about something else, so I could have it done again.  And she wanted me to have a series of blood tests.  So my past week has been

  • Friday—work, then screening appointment with the nurse
  • Saturday—go to post office to have my passport application checked and sent off (spend rest of the day in Starbucks)
  • Monday—work, then go to hospital to have blood drawn for tests
  • Tuesday—work, then see doctor, have blood pressure checked again, find out most of my blood tests came back normal,get more tests ordered
  • Wednesday—early morning, go to the doctor’s to hand in a…er…personal sample and go to work; afternoon, go to hospital for ECG screening; go to bus station to get a new bus pass; get a phone call to come to the doctor’s to have an ambulatory blood pressure monitor fitted
  • Thursday—get odd looks at work as the blood pressure monitor goes off every half hour (it makes a noise and my shirt sleeve inflates)
  • Friday—early morning go to the doctor’s to hand in the blood pressure monitor and go to work

That’s a seriously busy week for me. But I’m thankful for one thing.  Living in the UK, all this healthcare is free at the point of delivery, paid for through income tax.  No worrying about insurance or my bank balance.  And I’m a firm believer that it’s better to know about these things and get them treated than to live in ignorance of a potentially life-threatening condition.  Luckily I live somewhere that’s an option.

Bye for now
Kristen  xx

Grrrrrr!

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OK. So I have the passport application form. I can even fill a lot of it in. But they want my parents’ details as well. I’m 50 for pity’s sake. Whyyyyyyyyy?

I don’t want my mother to know I’m applying for a passport. I don’t want to ask her for either her birth certificate (which may no longer exist) or a passport number (which I’m pretty sure she doesn’t have). She’d want to know why. And she’d push. And push. And push. Until I gave in.

I live far enough away from my mother that she’s not part of my every day life, and that’s how I like it. She takes over. It’s not that she’s a bad person, she’s not. I know, academically at least, that it’s being done out of love. But it’s my life, damn it, and I want to live it my way. Which is a bit laid back, a bit laissez-faire, a bit, well, drifting. And it drives her to do things for me. Because I know it’s meant well I still can’t bring myself to say, even at my age, “will you just stop?”. One time she came to stay I came home from work to find she’d repainted my living room. I hadn’t thought about redecorating, hadn’t planned to, didn’t particularly want to. But she’d just gone and done it. What are you going to say in that situation? The only thing you can, because she wants to do something good for you. You say “Thank you”.

She wouldn’t understand about the writing. Not so much writing per se, but what I write. She’s of a certain generation, and moreover lives in a part of the world that’s about 50 years behind the rest of the UK. I’m pretty certain she would have the belief that a lot of non-writers seem to have, that I can choose what I write. As any writer will tell you, the story chooses you, not the other way round. Because she’s a loving and supporting parent, she would want to read what I write. But she definitely doesn’t like writing about gay men and their lives. She read a book by an author who was coming to speak at their local library and it contained gay characters and, from the sound of it, a sex scene of some description. She was most disapproving. Her comment was something along the lines of “I don’t mind them all going round infecting each other, but I don’t want to know what they do with each other”. No, I didn’t challenge her. I was in her house, and I was visiting for her 70th birthday. And, frankly, I didn’t know what to say. But it was a supremely uncomfortable moment.

So. I’ve done a very sneaky thing and ordered an official copy of her birth certificate from the General Registrar’s Office. She need never know. (I feel guilty for the deception, because she and my father brought me up properly.)

On a more positive note, I’ve had an idea about someone who might be able to countersign the form. I’m going to email someone I worked with for 5 years, until just under 2 years ago, and ask if they’d be willing. They have the right kind of background, the right qualifications, they’d recognise me, they’ve known me for long enough. I hope they’ll be willing.

And it was soooo good to get that off my chest!

See you round.
Kristen. xx

One of those unavoidable things

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It was Benjamin Franklin who said that

… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes

My current problem is with the latter of these. Because my publisher is based in the USA, I need to register with the US Inland Revenue Service. This isn’t a complicated process, but I’ve hit a snag. They need certain documents with my form applying for a tax reference number. Documents I don’t have. I can provide the proof of nationality (my birth certificate). It’s the proof of identity that’s causing a problem. In the UK we don’t have a national ID card, so the identity document has to be either a passport or a driving licence, both of which have your photograph on.

And there’s my problem. I never learnt to drive, so no driving licence. I don’t ever go anywhere much at all, and never abroad. So no passport either. Getting a passport’s really hard. In fact, I think it would be easier if I were an immigrant. You have to get the application signed by someone within a limited range of “respectable” backgrounds, who can confirm they have known you for a certain amount of time. As a virtual recluse, I don’t know many people at all, never mind people from the fancy backgrounds our government considers reputable. According to the guidance.

Countersignatories must work in (or be retired from) a recognised profession or be ‘a person of good standing in their community’

Why a journalist or a banker (two of the professions listed) should be considered more trustworthy than the chaps who come to take away the rubbish each week I’m unsure. But there you are.

So I thought I’d look into how you get a provisional driving licence, in the hope it wouldn’t be as difficult to get hold of. This is the one you have to have when learning to drive. Nope. The countersignatory requirements are pretty much the same. So I’ll try for the passport, it lasts longer.

I’ll let you know in my next post how I get on. I’ll get there, I’m sure. Just when is the question.

Hello and Welcome

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Well, this isn’t going to be big, or clever.  It’s not even going to be all that frequent.  Why set up a blog then?

Well, you see, I wrote a story.  More than one, actually, but this one I thought might be worth sharing.  So I took my courage in my hands and submitted it to a publisher.

They said yes!

This means that sometime in Summer 2014 I’ll be able to call myself a published author.  Me, who five years ago hadn’t ever thought of writing.

I’m excited, but also nervous, because now I’ll have to face the dreaded editing process.  And what if nobody else likes it?

I guess I’m going to find out.

See you later

Kristen xx