2018 in 9 chapters


2018 is singing a triumphant closing number and 2019 is poised to make its entrance so what better to do today than reflect on some key themes from the year? You might want to make yourself a cuppa before you head into this – it’s going to feel like you’ve been reading for a whole year before you get to the end!

Chapter 1 – the ignominy of scriptwriters

I’m going to start with Kojak, but I promise I will bang on a lot less about this subject in the New Year (maybe!). Today I want to talk about how cruel script-writers can be. Since July, I have sat through four series of this excellent show from the 1970s and in almost every episode, Detective Bobby Crocker has crossed a busy New York road. Every time he crosses a road, he does it perfectly – he looks in both directions before he crosses, he carries on looking both ways as he crosses, if a car approaches, he calmly and politely alerts the driver by holding up his hand, if a car stops he generously raises a hand in acknowledgement and thanks. I am not kidding, every time I cross a road now, I think about Bobby Crocker and his road-crossing technique!

I therefore consider it a betrayal that, in Series 5, the scriptwriters decided that he should get knocked over by a car whilst crossing the road! This scene could have been done with any other detective in Manhattan South and been utterly understandable. But no, they had to choose Crocker!

(It’s okay, he only banged up his elbow and lived to fight another day, but that’s not the point.)

Chapter 2 – knitting

So, on to the serious stuff. At the end of 2017, when my knitting spirit was slightly under par, I decided to set myself the goal of knitting one garment and three pairs of socks for each of the four seasons, with the year divided at December 21st 2017; March 20th 2018; June 21st 2018; September 23rd 2018 and ending on December 20th 2018. I actually knitted three garments (the chunky sweater, sleeveless top, and maroon superwash sweater) plus two pairs of socks (both in Mr B Yarns – “Where the Wild Things Are” and “An Inspector Calls” colourways). I am not downhearted because that’s an improvement on the previous couple of years. Also, I am only counting my personal knitting – it would be a lot more impressive if I added in stock I’ve knitted for my Etsy shop, and the Christmas gift jumper.

The most important thing is that I love and wear the items I’ve knitted this year, so I consider it good, solid progress. What I am taking forward into the new year is a renewed commitment to work on the project/s I have on the needles every day, rather than to revert to my normal ‘boom or bust’ nature. A tiny bit of progress every day is the best way to go, and I find if I pick up something intending to only knit a couple of rows I will probably still be there at the end of an hour thinking ‘just one more row’. This is especially true of the Gaudi caridgan I am currently working on.

I do like the idea of dividing the year into the four seasons and I will continue with that for the coming year, just in a more organic, less goal-driven way.

Chapter 3 – reading

I haven’t read as much in 2018 as I intended to, although I have read more than I did in the previous few years so, again, there’s been a bit of progress.

The reads I have recorded were:-
Frenchman’s Creek” Daphne du Maurier – re-reading of an old favourite
Eight Girls Taking Pictures” Whitney Otta – gift from my daughter and a thoroughly fascinating book
Hypothermia” Arnaldur Indridason – Skandi-noir crime-thriller passed on to me by my daughter
The Great Gatsby” F Scott Fitzgerald – another re-read; another old favourite

For Christmas this year I received four books as gifts, so these will be my initial reads going forward:-
Little Miss Christmas” Roger Hargreaves – read this as soon as I unwrapped it on Christmas morning
Iceling” Sasha Stephenson – science fiction, really keen to read this as soon as I’ve finished the Murakami
Killing Commendatore” Haruki Murakami – new book; my favourite author; lovely dustcover, but simply stunning covers underneath it; started reading this on Christmas Day
Uncommon Type” Tom Hanks – I’ve seen so many snippets about this since it was published and I’ve been thinking about getting it, so great to receive it as a gift, and keen to read after I’ve read the others

As with the knitting, I am finding with reading that if I do a little each day I achieve more than if I think I will spend a big block of time reading something.

Chapter 4 – creative writing

Back in the early part of summer I put in a lot of work on my creative writing and I hit 10,000 words on the first draft of what I like to refer to as my novel. Then I stopped. I had good reasons for stopping, not to do with lack of enthusiasm for the project, just that my attention was needed elsewhere. Towards the end of the year I’ve been thinking seriously about short fiction pieces, and looking at Medium as a platform to get some of my writing past the draft stage on into an arena where it stands a chance of being read. I intend to write more about this in the next couple of weeks as I firm up my plans.

Chapter 5 – weight and health

I think in 2018 the most beneficial thing I have done is change my diet, lose weight, and become more active. It took a big change in my lifestyle to prompt me to do this; I had been unhappy with my weight and generally feeling lumpy and unfit for a long while, but I was stuck in a rut of spending too much time on work I didn’t particularly enjoy and not enough time on creative things that I would enjoy, then compensating myself by over-eating.

Now I am two stone lighter than I was; I have eaten well, though not to excess, over Christmas without either gaining or losing any weight; and I feel a hundred times better about myself than I have for a long while. The trick (for me, at least) is to recognise what your particular downfall is and then just apply yourself to correcting it. For me, it’s snacking – I never have been one for eating huge meals, but will happily graze on sweetery until the cows come home. Forcing myself into a routine of eating three meals a day and not snacking in between has been the key as far as eating goes, and I think if I maintain this then I have a good chance of establishing a weight that I am happy with and can maintain.

That is one side of the equation. The second, equally important thing for weight loss is EXERCISE. I don’t think you can lose weight just by changing your eating (input); you also have to address your exercise (output). I initially committed to doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and quite quickly upped this to an hour a day. About 50% of the exercise I do is walking because it’s the thing I enjoy and I can easily do and I find it beats cycling into a cocked hat for general fitness.

The other 50% is down to that blue plastic step! No, it isn’t pretty; no, it isn’t exciting; but, boy, does it work! I don’t use it for fancy workouts; I don’t follow some wonderful programme – I literally just step on and off it for 30 minutes. Sometimes I listen to music whilst I’m doing it (Dusty Springfield is great!); sometimes I watch TV (The Professionals; Alias Smith & Jones); I just make sure I do at least one session a day – two if it’s rubbish weather or there’s some other reason I don’t want to go out for a walk.

The third element in my fitness triumvirate is the Apple Activity App (and it’s only the Apple Exercise App because I choose to live within the Apple ecosystem as opposed to the alternatives). I use this to keep me accountable for exercise and general movement. It tracks three things:-
Move – I keep this target purposely low; it’s currently set to making sure I burn 360 calories per day and most days I will double this, every so often I will triple it. ‘Move’ is hard to define as I notice I get a higher ‘score’ if I sit and knit than I do if I actually go out and walk, but you take it as it comes, really. The app also tots up your Move streak and at the moment I have met my Move target for 110 consecutive days.
Exercise – I have this set to 30 minutes per day; again, I usually achieve more than this. Both timed workout sessions and general exercise count in this one, although you have to go for a brisk walk rather than a general amble for it to be deemed exercise.
Stand – This is always set to a minimum of 12 hours ‘standing’ per day – which means that you have got off your chair and moved around for a minimum of a minute in each of those 12 hours. It’s a good one because it is surprisingly easy to remain relatively motionless for huge stretches of time, and on this one sitting knitting doesn’t count as ‘standing’ – you do actually have to get up and walk about.

Using this app has shown me that I am very motivated by achieving targets, no matter if they are completely arbitrary and even if I don’t really understand what constitutes a particular achievement. Give me a big, shiny, virtual medal and I’ll obey you!

Chapter 6 – stationery

My love of stationery has continued to thrive in 2018 and I have been lucky enough to be able to use my fountain pens and lovely notebooks even more as I have gone through the year. In February I took part in InCoWriMo for the second year and totally sucked at it! I will do it again in 2019 and I’m determined to succeed in sending out 28 letters this time. I’ve corresponded with some lovely and interesting people doing this challenge and it is well worth it.

I didn’t increase my store of fountain pens during the year, and I don’t have any intention of doing so in 2019. I did receive two lovely new bottles of ink as Christmas gifts. These are from Lamy’s new Crystal ink range and they are both simply gorgeous. I feel rather ho-hum about Lamy’s standard inks so wasn’t sure if this higher-end range would inspire me, but I am very impressed with the initial try-out. Although they aren’t huge bottles (30ml compared to 75ml in a bottle from Graf von Faber-Castell), this keeps the price at a point where you can comfortably put it on a gift list. (I am a normal person some of the time and I can completely understand that people who don’t use fountain pens might baulk at shelling out £23-£29 for a bottle of ink from lines like Graf von Faber-Castell and Pilot Iroshizuku.)

I am still a sucker for a pretty, or simple but incredibly well-made, notebook. In fact, I choose my handbags based on how easily I can fit an A5 notebook and pen into it. On that front, I received a further very thoughtful gift at Christmas, a leather case to carry three pens which is proving to be such a good item to take in and out of your bag.

Chapter 7 – being a fan

A huge part of this year for me has been about being a fan, primarily of Blake’s 7, but also of Dr. Who, Kojak, Alias Smith and Jones, and the hundred other little flames I keep burning across the years. Being a fan brings me so much pleasure and it is a joy that I share with my grandson which is even better than experiencing it alone.

This year was a happy one as we went about celebrating 40 years since the first showing of Blake’s 7, and we pushed the boat out with a weekend convention where I met loads of lovely people: fans, crew and cast members. I am still smiling with pleasure every time I think about it. It was sad, too, as the inimitable Jacqueline “Servalan” Pearce passed away; a tiny, but larger than life lady who leaves behind the most marvellous memories with all who met her, however fleetingly.

I know it has also been a tough year for Ian Kubiak who organises the Cygnus Alpha conventions and I just want to ackowledge how much poorer my life would be if I had not stumbled upon his web page in 2016 and reignited my love of Blake’s 7. Ian, his family and all who help out at the conventions have earned a very special place in my affections.

Chapter 8 – word of the year

I am not keen on New Year’s Resolutions, but for a few years now I have chosen a ‘word of the year’ to give me something to focus on. These have been “Return” (2016); “Flexibility (2017); “Home” (2018). Whilst I didn’t really manage to be terribly flexible in any way at all during 2017, I think keeping home in mind through 2018 helped me a lot and it was very successful. I have always been very much a homebody – it is where I feel happy and free to be creative. For me, there is nothing better than shutting the door and knowing that nothing needs to intrude unless I will it. Except, of course, for those lovely people I don’t actually know who like to spread joy by phoning me from foreign climes to suggest that my broadband will be disconnected unless I give them control of my computer.

For 2019 I have chosen “Establish” as my word of the year and this is to help me focus on getting things onto a firm footing through 2019 whilst trying to be more the person I want to be and less the person that convention suggests I should be. I am looking forward to seeing how this works through the upcoming year.

Chapter 9 – visitors on WordPress

I have loved writing my blog this past few months, but I think even more than the writing, I enjoy seeing all the countries where visitors have logged in to view my posts. In 2018 these have been (from lowest number of visits to highest number):

Switzerland – Thailand – Philippines – Netherlands – Austria – Japan – United Arab Emirates – New Zealand – Ukraine – France – Portugal – Egypt – Russia – Croatia – Indonesia – Sweden – Hong Kong – Finland – China – South Africa – Australia – Romania – India – Ireland – Germany – Canada – United States – United Kingdom.

So, if you are the person who visited from Switzerland today and read my Quote of the Week from Bob Dylan, thank you, I hope you enjoyed your trip. And, of course, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has come to look at my tiny plot on the internet and has enjoyed what they have read here.


Whew, this is a mammoth blog entry. I would like to end it by wishing everyone all the best for the coming year.

Propser 2019
“Live long and prosper.”



Quote of the week – He had a sort of look

Norwich street
The city I call home

Here’s a random shot of a Norwich alley to accompany a random quote; they only go together in so much as I took the photo yesterday and was reading the poem this morning in the bath.

Tomorrow I will start my December reading of a book of poems called “Christmas Please” and the next four weeks will be devoted to Christmas or winter quotes. I thought today I would keep it fun and appeal to the inner six-year-old in each of us. From A A Milne’s “Now We Are Six”, part of the poem “Forgiven” – Christopher Robin’s nanny has accidentally opened the matchbox wherein Alexander Beetle was living and Alexander cannot be found…

We went to all the places which a beetle might be near,
And we made the sort of noises which a beetle likes to hear,
And I saw a kind of something, and I gave a sort of shout:
“A beetle-house and Alexander Beetle coming out!”
It was Alexander Beetle, I’m as certain as can be,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought it must be Me,
And he had a sort of look as if he thought he ought to say:
“I’m very very sorry that I tried to run away.”

Are you still six? Do you own A A Milne’s poetry books? If not, why not?


40 years a Blake’s 7 fan

Model of the Liberator – love of my life!

This time last week I was on my way to London for a weekend convention devoted to the 40th anniversary of Blake’s 7 – Terry Nation’s dystopian sci-fi series which ran from 1978 to 1981. It was a fantastic weekend; I had such a good time; and now I am home and finally calming down from all the excitement I wanted to write a bit about what being a fan means to me.

There are two things about Blake’s 7 which have kept me hooked for 40 years. Looking at the show itself, its huge appeal was and is that it is massively character-driven. There was no budget for spectacular special effects, models were built in peoples’ garages out of anything they had lying around, such as the infamous 2-hairdryers spaceship.


Instead of loads of explosions, monsters, and epic space battles, this show had intelligent (and sometimes not so intelligent) scripts, the characters grew with the series, they became our family, our friends, the people we hung out with on a weekly basis. We rooted for the good guys, but we loved the bad guys equally well. These were not disposable villains, they were their own strong characters with their own motivation. Just as Blake and his crew made sense, the Federation also made sense and I’m sure just as many fans would choose to be the arch-villainess Servalan or her sidekick Travis as would wish to emulate the worthy rebels Blake or Cally. However, the point is we knew them all, we loved them all.

We also relished being fans of show called Blake’s 7 in which there were never 7 crew members (you had to count the two computers in to make up the numbers), and from which Blake himself disappeared entirely after the first two seasons – delightfully perverse.

It helped, as a female fan, that the leading ‘romantic’ male – Avon – was played by the utterly delectable Paul Darrow – in black leather; every sardonic line uttered impeccably through cruel but kissable lips in a voice that slid into the ears like liquid chocolate glides down your throat. I’ve got the audio-book of him reading his autobiography and, still, after all these years, that voice! In the series, he would kiss the girls, then he would thump them or kill them, and then he would turn away and never look back. We couldn’t get enough of him! At the convention we gave a huge round of applause to the costume designer who first put him in the black leather.

For the later two seasons, as cast members left, some new faces joined the crew. Guess what? We loved them too! We embraced them, their characters grew, the show continued to be character-driven. The end of the third season was very hard on me as the gorgeous ship, the Liberator, died; for the ship and its computer were characters in their own right and, no, there has never been, nor will there ever be, a ship so beautiful. Through the fourth season the stories slid inevitably down to a final shoot-out with Avon in full Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid mode, surrounded by Federation guards, raising his weapon to take one last soul with him….

At the end, the bad guys endured and the good guys were blown away – the emperor of all perverse storylines.

For me, that was it for a while. The show was over, we didn’t have video tapes or regular repeats, although I have a novel by Trevor Hoyle based on the series and perhaps that dates back to the earliest days.

All of which brings me to the second strand that leads to fandom of such enduring proportions – the time and the place. When Blake’s 7 started, I was 18 years old, I was working with people who understood the sci-fi genre and with whom I could happily discuss each episode after it aired. If the characters in the series were friends and family, part of that feeling came from discussing them with real friends and family. By the time the final episode aired, I was 21 and I had a 4-month-old baby. The four years that the series ran were the years when I matured and worked out pretty much who I was; and part of who I was turned out to be a sci-fi geek.

I think everyone who becomes a fan – whether it is of a particular band, a TV series, a film franchise, comic books – retains one thing and that is a sense of childlike wonder. The object of the fandom is keyed into that like a genetic code and no matter how long elapses, hearing a tune or revisiting a story immediately releases the wonder and you are once again as you were when you first encountered the object of your passion. Yet, over time you accrete new experiences to add on to the original bedrock of your fandom and so your relationship with the object grows ever more complex; a pearl growing larger day by day, year by year.

For me, after a lull, the next proper resurgence came in the 1990s. Once again, I was working with people who were themselves into the sci-fi genre, who understood what that meant. There were monthly Blakes 7 publications that I bought at the newsagent on my way to work. The whole series was released on VHS and suddenly it was possible to relive the stories. My babe-in-arms had grown into a young lady, I was able to attend a convention (Who’s 7 1996 – a combination Dr Who and Blake’s 7 effort), I had my coffee every day at work in a Blake’s 7 mug! Myself and two of my best friends had Blake’s 7 evenings where we watched our way through the entire series and when I think of being a fan now, that is all part of what I think about. From this era, I have books and magazines, a copy of Paul Darrow’s fiction book “A Terrible Aspect” signed by Paul (Avon), Gareth Thomas (Blake) and Martin Bower (designer of the Liberator teleport bracelets).

Time moved on, people moved on, and ultimately I found myself working in companies where no-one cared for sci-fi and other things took precedence. Even then, though, Blake’s 7 remained near and dear to my heart; the transition took place from video to DVD and I dutifully collected all four seasons on DVD, as you do. My Season 1 DVD came with a tiny model Liberator and the cover was signed by Gareth Thomas – Blake himself. Then there was the internet, allowing all of us fans to geek to our hearts’ content.

My recent return to the fan fold came about in February 2016 when I was discussing my Blake’s 7 fandom with my grandson and I decided to look into which year the Who’s 7 convention took place. The first thing that came up was a link to the page for Cygnus Alpha 2, due to take place in April of that year. With a few tickets left for sale, I took no time at all for consideration and booked myself a place. Through that, I found out about Big Finish who produce excellent audio books and dramas using original cast members and new talent. Now, with three Cygnus Alpha conventions under my belt and a little group of friends who I’ve met through these, I know that, for me, Blake’s 7 is a once and always love.

So, 40 years a fan…. and counting!

Last weekend I had the honour of meeting Roger Murray Leach who designed and partly built the original Liberator ship for the series. I was able to tell him how important the ship was to me, that the first shot of the Liberator in the series had me hooked for life. So here, in writing, my huge thanks to him and to everyone who makes being a Blake’s 7 fan such a joy.


Knitting (in) circles

Circular cowl
Knitting on a circular needle – not my favourite

I thought I would break with recent tradition and grace the page with a photograph of a piece of knitting, and not a moment too soon I hear you say if you’ve been following this blog thinking it was about knitting.

Thus far, I have knit a number of nice woolly cowls to stock this Etsy shop that is lurking on the horizon, but I have knit them all flat and joined them into a circle by working a seam. I have made them that way because that is how I like to knit and the first rule of trying to earn money from a skill is to avoid doing something you hate. Each time I have completed a cowl I have asked myself whether it would have been more correct to knit it in the round, and the answer I have given myself is maybe, perhaps, but I don’t know, and I don’t like working in the round, and it’s not like you can’t actually achieve the same end result working the piece flat and then seaming it. You see – even when I’m talking to myself I find it hard to just give a straight answer.

This week, however, I have been discussing the progress of my projects with a knitting friend who is very strongly in the “use a circular needle for everything” camp and it has prompted me to try one project using a circular needle so I can compare it in terms of speed of knitting, quality of finished object and (ultimately) preference of buyers. Also, most importantly, can I get myself over the hurdle of the flappy cord that joins the two needles and from which the work hangs? For it is this, gentle reader, which annoys me most about the circular needle. This, and the fact you can’t use your forearms, elbows and torso to support, or control, the needles and fabric whilst you are working. It is a very different experience knitting when your work is held on two solid, straight rods compared to when it is suspended from a thin, flexible line.

So there is knitting in circles and this is where I am with it. I am also interested today in the “knitting circle” which might be a group that actually meets or just the people you know with whom you share the hobby of knitting. We like to think we are Musketeers, all for one and one for all; that the shared interest is a marvellous basis for friendship, but sometimes the criticism of your circle is harder to brush off than the criticism of the wider world. In the knitting community we pay a lot of lip service to the fact that there is room for all the various ways of doing knitting, nothing is right and nothing is wrong. Yet I find myself unable to escape the feeling that some things, to borrow a theme from George Orwell’s “Animal Farm”, are more right than others. The use of circular needles is one of the instances where the consensus is strongly orientated in one direction and if your preference lies in the other direction you find yourself being quite defensive. Whilst I can argue the case for seams in a garment providing a structure which is helpful in a knitted fabric, I am less able to argue the case in something like socks, gloves, or my cowls.

Something I regularly read is the Positivity Blog by Henrik Edberg. When he talks about self-confidence, he often touches on the fact that whilst we may take comments people make to heart, they aren’t really all that bothered about us and the things we do, they just move on. We might spend an inordinate amount of time pondering a conversation, re-playing it, trying to think what we could have said to put our point across better, but they won’t even remember the conversation ten minutes after it has ended. In Edberg’s philosophy, if we remind ourselves of this we can save ourselves a deal of anguish.

I would like that to be true.

Yet what if the barbs that sting us really are barbs? If the person who looks at you askance and says “Oh, you’ve knit these flat have you?” is criticising rather than simply observing? What if the people who predominantly knit their sweaters “in the round” (as a series of tubes) really believe that this is a better or more authentic or, yes, superior way of working? That, no matter how much they coat the pill with sugar, they still mean that you are doing something wrong?

I suppose if this is the case, then the best that can happen is that we accept that friendship isn’t about always being in agreement and some of the most rewarding friendships are the ones that challenge us, and in challenging us help us to define our own attitudes.