Living in interesting times

Hello and welcome to a most crowded few weeks.  There is supposedly a Chinese curse – may you live in interesting times.  Well, this is certainly one of those interesting times for us.  Let me begin with the book news, on several fronts.  I “attended” the virtual meeting last week and along with half a dozen fellow authors spoke to the administrators and one of the directors of the publisher.  Despite everyone trying to untangle the mess the company is in, we were all left with a sense of unease.  

Impress, it seems, is no more – and in fact was dissolved several years ago.  We are now absorbed into one (or more!) of several imprints and/or companies under the umbrella name of “Untold Publishing”.  As one of these is now in liquidation we should get our rights back (hooray!).  But – there’s always a “but” – the titles were used fairly freely and have been interchangeable on paperwork. This means there’s no firm proof which “company” some books belong to.  So maybe we get some rights but not others, or all of some books, or none… Interesting times indeed.  I’m holding my nerve, submitting my contracts to the administrators and breathing a huge sigh of relief that I hold the film and TV rights for them all.

This whole debacle has taken a huge amount of energy, as has a ludicrous arm-wrestle with a bank in the UK.  This ongoing saga comes about as Jacqui tries to begin transferring some of an estate to the rightful recipients, all also in the UK.  As we are in Ireland this is all attempted by on-line banking and every time – EVERY TIME – “computer says no”.  Our account is locked, the transfer refused and we are told we can discuss it with a freephone number – except we can’t, from Ireland.  The delays trying to get through on the International line amounted to four hours last week and still I was cut off on each occasion.  Interesting maybe but incandescent with rage comes closer to how I feel at the moment.

Mabel at the window

It’s not all gloom and frustration however.  We’ve had a new visitor, a little black and white cat we call Mabel (she looks like a Mabel).  I was having breakfast when I spotted her jumping up onto the back wall with a young rat in her mouth.  Several minutes later she appeared at the window, peering in at me – thankfully without the rat this time.  She is a cute little thing and very welcome to call, especially if she helps keep the rats away.  We’ve seen very few this year, so hopefully the owl, the dogs, the pine marten and now Mabel will persuade them this is not a very welcoming place to nest.  Last year was a bit too interesting in that sense.

The mushrooms in the wood are still going strong and so Jacqui hunted around and found a mycologist (mushroom expert) nearby.  We were also hunting for someone to work on our computers – how we miss our friendly experts from Saltburn! – and located a young man called Daniel up towards Roscrea.  We set out with one old (very old) laptop and he’s fixing it, along with a general removal job of the ghastly Windows 10 from a small Lenovo.  He’s also repairing the lovely new ACER PC trashed by Mr Mobile when we first arrived. 

Pharmacy window promoting the ballooning festival

Birr itself is a lovely little town with a riverside walk, winding streets and a good array of shops.  Like most towns in Ireland it has a few chain stores, mainly supermarkets, but a plethora of local businesses.  Shops are smaller but very friendly and happy to give advice and help, even if you don’t ask for it.  They also support and advertise local events with some lovely window displays. People still ask if we live here, if we like it and occasionally why we moved.  I’ve noticed this last question is much rarer now however.  The staff in an organic food store suggested we contact “Wild Food Mary” about our mushrooms. Jacqui made a phone call we set a meeting for another trip to Birr last week.

Mary was an absolute fountain of information and help.  She examined our samples with great care and showed us a couple of tricks to help identify a dangerous fungus.  Using a range of books she showed us how they could be identified.  This was quite an alarming exercise as the majority of the pages had big red symbols saying “Danger” or “Poison”.  Our mushrooms almost certainly fall into these groups so we shouldn’t even put them in the compost.  There’s a plot line – killing someone through lettuce grown on compost from poison mushrooms.  Must make a note of that for a book.  

Gathered by an expert!

Mary is a noted local expert and we were so grateful for her time and expertise.  She showed us some of the mushrooms she’s gathered in the last few days, an amazing selection.  And, unlike ours, all good to eat. She has a website, “Wild Food Mary”, which is easily findable on your browser.

Frog in the grass
Well, at least it’s green

We’ve done another cut of the grass and the back begins to look almost like a lawn in places.  The frogs seem to like it however and we go very slowly round avoiding them.  They are only a few inches long but break cover and leap away. This means I spend a lot of time peering at the ground in front of me and stopping to let them escape.  It’s getting cooler now and we are eyeing our wood pile and getting ready for evenings in front of the fire.  I remember visits to Switzerland where houses up the mountains had one wall stacked with cut logs.  I always thought this looked a bit excessive but now I understand. Our wood pile looks like a lorry trailer parked in the wood.  It is a source of great security in these uncertain times, to be honest.

And finally to “Puppy Brain”.  We have now done a full proofing and is being typeset as I write.  Jacqui did a second reading, picking up the points I missed so it should be 99.9% error free.  I’m not going for 100% as there’s always one little typo that sneaks through.  I’ve been working on the metadata which is all the stuff for remote platforms and publicity. That’s going well and it should be good to go before Christmas.  I’ll let you all know when it is being launched and where you can get a copy if you wish.

So that’s us – mushrooms, wildlife, publishers and a new book.  We are living in interesting times indeed.

Thank you for reading and for all your comments and reactions. 

They are noticed and very much appreciated.  Keep well, until next time.