Saturday, 23 January 2010


You know those automatic photo booths that spew out passport-type photos? Has anyone managed to get a photo they're happy with from them? And is the whole experience of using one frazzle-free?

At the first supermarket a fraught mother with a child in a buggy was standing by the machine, yelling at the sales person. It had taken her money. Where was her photo? The assistant explained that her money would be refunded.
'But that's no help,' the young woman yelled (she had to yell to make herself heard above the first noisy wail of her child). 'I need a passport photo.' She glared at the machine. 'I've come all the way here especially to get one.'
'I'm sorry. I'll put up an 'Out of Order' notice and phone for a service engineer.'
'When will he come?'
'I don't know. Probably some time within the next few days.'
'A fat lot of good that is!'
'We'll refund your money.'
'But I need a photo now. What are you going to do about it?'
I felt sorry for the assistant. After all, it wasn't her fault.
'I'm sorry but there's nothing else I can do. I can't fix the machine.'
'But I need a photo.' The woman looked ready to stamp her feet and compete with her child in a temper tantrum. 'Now!'.
'Now!' squealed the child in the same irate tone as her mother.
I decided to leave.

Another supermarket. Another machine. The first person in the queue, a pretty teenager, looked pleased with herself as she slipped her photos into her bag. I'm old enough to remember when the photos took about six minutes or more to arrive and ages to dry. Nowadays they arrive in seconds and are dry immediately. Well, that's some progress. My turn now.

I rotated the seat to adjust the height, but no matter how much I swivelled, it remained too low. I don't know why. It's not as if I'm a particularly small person. Not to worry. If I sat up straight and craned my neck a bit I could manage. My four pounds clunked down the slot. 'Take care to make sure your head is inside the oval frame,' a robotic voice warned me. 'Look straight ahead. Keep still. Do not smile. Keep your lips together. I repeat, do NOT smile'. I do as I am told. Here we go. Nothing happened, except some funny whirring noises. I waited. Has it done? Yes, I think so. 'If you are happy with your photo, press the green button.' I peered at the image to check my head was inside the oval. The rest I wasn't bothered about. It would do.

I stepped outside the booth, and almost immediately my four identical photos dropped out of the slot. OMG! How had I missed what I would look like before pressing that green button? It wasn't just that my non-smile made me look a miserable sod, I could have lived with that. But one eye was half-open, the other almost closed. I looked like I'd dropped down from another planet. To say I looked drunk, dopey and totally gormless would be an understatement.

Ian, who'd been buying a paper, came and stood beside me. 'Let's have a look,' he said.
'I'll have to do it again,' I said.
'Don't talk daft. We can't throw money away. It'll do. Let's have a look.'
I showed him.
He collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable laughter that made his eyes stream.
People were staring at us. I went back inside the booth and hid behind the curtain.

The next set of photos were better (well, believe me, they simply had to be). I look a bit pop-eyed on them because I was taking care to keep my eyes wide open, but at least they're passable.
'I'll shred these as soon as I get home,' I said, staring in dismay at the first lot.
Ian snatched them from my hand. 'No, we can't waste money. I'll use them to make funny greetings cards.'
'Don't you dare. Give them back to me.'
He grinned.
'Now!' I said, sounding like the fraught mother in the first store.

I still haven't got them back.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Still trying

I wish getting national publicity for The Dark Threads was as easy as what getting local interest has proved to be. Of course it is not. But the sparklers are still alight at least for regional publicity. This Saturday I'm being interviewed for BBC Radio Leeds 'Saturday Breakfast Show' at around 7am (Eeek! I hope my alarm works!). They say they'll link this with my appearance on Monday's 'Inside Out' TV programme (BBC1).

I've got five more talks lined up over the coming weeks at various locations: library, health centre, community centre, and (wait for it) a church fellowship group have invited me to talk. I know I'm not going to be paid a huge fee or sell shed loads of books at any of these talks, but it's well worth it for me, if only in terms of self-development. Before all this, I was too shy to speak much in front of an audience of more than one! Now I'm actually enjoying public speaking!!! (Well, if I keep saying this, it will make it come true).

I must say though that I'm getting fed up of talking about myself. It's good to talk about different things at my speakers club. I was all set to get up on my soapbox to do my zoo talk last week (about the wrongs of zoos) but it's been postponed due to the weather. Still lots of snow and ice here. Brrrr! I'm off now to make a big pan of soup (vegan of course).

Saturday, 9 January 2010

New Year Resolutions

Here they are, the same old resolutions, poking out to taunt me. Write every day. Finish novel. Enter Mslexia short story competition. Renew gym membership. And then all the 'Thou Shalt Nots'. Don't let blogging, facebooking, browsing on internet, erode writing time. Eat less, cut down on chocolate, drink less wine, and don't waste time watching EastEnders.

Well, this year it's different. I'm sending them packing. Nobody will get a chance to say to me, 'But I thought you said you were going to...' The only resolution I've made this year is I WILL NOT MAKE ANY NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS.

I should have said that years ago. When I was eleven I wrote my New Year Resolution on a card and decorated it with coloured crayons all the way round the edges. In big fancy lettering in the middle of my drawings of balloons, stars and, yes, golden trumpets, I wrote (no doubt at a time of intense feelings of guilt) 'I WILL NOT BE CHEEKY TO MY MOTHER'. How embarrassing when I lent my Bunty Annual to my friend next door, forgetting I'd used this card as a bookmark. How even more embarrassing when my friend's mother came round and gave it to my mother. And how damn infuriating when the next time I shouted at my mother, she reminded me of these words and waved the blasted card in my face.

But, no, I still didn't learn. Worse, much worse, was to come. A few years later, I wrote out my good intention for each day of the week on scraps of paper. I folded up the pieces of paper, put them into an envelope, meaning to pick out one each day and try to live up to it. I promptly forgot about them. When I went back to school, after being off sick, I handed the teacher a letter from my mother to explain my absence. Guess which envelope she'd put her letter in? Imagine the rate of my cringe factor when, in front of the whole class, the teacher picked out each of my notes and read them out one by one, to the amused delight of my classmates.

Anyway, back to the present. I've learnt something about myself. I'm better at writing on post-it notes and making out long 'To Do' lists than actually getting things done. That's why this year I'm not going to plan, prepare and trumpet about what I'm going to do. I'll just quietly get on with it.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

One Last Dance?

This photo * of me in the ballroom at the former High Royds Hospital was supposed to go with my post of 9th December 'Forty Years On'. Unfortunately, despite how long I've been using a computer, I couldn't figure out how to put it on in that post. Each time I tried, it kept appearing in the wrong place, ie. on top of the photo I'd put at the beginning of my posting. Other bloggers manage to put more than one photo in different parts of a posting, so why I'm not capable of doing that, I do not know.

I've just found out that the Look North 'Inside Out' programme (Yorks and Lincs) containing my interview will be on Monday 18th January at 7.3opm. It's given in the Radio Times as Monday 11th January, but they've changed it to do a programme about the recent snowfall.

*Photo taken by Mark Davis (copyright).