Saturday, 30 November 2013

Stories for Homes - the Paperback!

The button has been pressed - the paper version of Stories for Homes is ready to purchase!

If you're in the US, buy it direct from CreateSpace and even more of the profit goes to help make a difference via Shelter, a UK charity, for those experiencing homelessness or housing difficulties. If you're in the UK, you might have to wait a week till it's listed on Amazon...THEN you can snap up your copies! (As of 2nd December - it's listed on Amazon too)

*whispers* And it's just in time for Christmas!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Writing - and illness...

Over the last few days, I've been feeling somewhat under the weather; my son kindly passed on his cold. So I've been a bit lethargic, to say the least.

It's meant a couple of days off from housework. Feeling very guilty about that. Honest.

Instead, I've just been sitting on the sofa with the laptop.

Which has meant that Ani's story has grown by about 3500 words and has finally hit the 10K mark. I know, I know - nothing compared to NaNoWriMo, but it's all going in the write (ha! pun intended) direction.

I've also finalised the website design, if I can pluck up enough courage to publish it...

I didn't wait to be ill to write, of course! It just seems strange that a mentally productive time can come when the body is physically unable. You'd expect your brain to want to shut down a bit too, but perhaps that depends on exactly what you're suffering from?

Several of my writer friends have experienced - are still experiencing, in some cases - debilitating illness. Yet in spite of the limitations this places on their lifestyles, they continue to produce prolific and interesting work that stands out from the crowd, writing from the heart.

After just a couple of days feeling crook myself, with a few thousand words to show for it, I take my hat off to these inspirational folk.

Love and respect, guys.

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Flying the flag

I didn't mean to post again so soon, but here's a link to what I've been up to recently...something creative that isn't writing!

Our church's Advent Project is an Advent Calendar of flags, which will see a new flag displayed somewhere in our Parish every day in the run-up to Christmas...the blog will post pictures every day, and there will be a map to show where they can be seen in situ.

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

A Test of Time....

Yet another short story collection published by Vanessa Wester, on behalf of the short stories group! I don't know how she does it...

Called A Test of Time, the book has stories written by both published and previously unpublished authors on the theme of 'past, present and future'. It's a great collection for children who are mature readers - as well as adults who like something a bit sci-fi/time travel/futuristic.

I got a sneaky advance read of the collection just before publication when I was asked to proof-read; I have to say - and it's not just because I've got a story in it - I reckon these collections keep getting better and better. I'd even go so far as to say I think the contents of this one make it the best yet. (But I do recognise that I'm biased!)

The charity being supported this time is Foodbank on the Isle of Wight where Vanessa lives - they provide emergency food for families in crisis; a very worthy cause.

The book is available in paperback, for Kindle, and on Smashwords for a variety of e-readers - check out the Stories for All blog for details of where to purchase.

Monday, 25 November 2013

When you can't get a book out of your head...

As a bit of fun, I had a look at this link to the 2003 BBC Big Read survey, where over three quarters of a million votes were received from the British public to find the nation's best-loved novel of all time. It's ten years out of date, sure - and there are many more novels that could feature if you redid the survey tomorrow - but I was surprised at scoring only 39 out of 100, in spite of being a well-recognised bookworm.

It made me think about some of the books which had the biggest impact and stayed with me in my life.

I first read King of the Copper Mountains by Paul Beigel when I was at junior school. It seemed a hefty tome - I must've read it two or three times. It's a story of stories, beautifully illustrated throughout and it stayed in my head for many, many years. Just a couple of years ago, I rediscovered it - one of the children I was helping with their reading had a new version, complete with illustrations. I think I actually snatched it out of his hands in my eagerness to check that it really was the book I remembered...and the same day, I ordered a copy. It was a much shorter book than I remembered, but the magic in the pages was still there...

I got into horror when I was a teenager - James Herbert's The Rats frightened me silly. I can't remember much about the story, except that it made my stomach clench every time the rats attacked...and that the sequel was even worse. There's one scene I remember, set in the underground in London - but I really wish I could forget it. (I read Terry Pratchett's Amazing Maurice novel as an adult; the rat king made all the memories and fear come flooding back...)

I wasn't into horror very long.

In the sixth form, I found a book with my name on it - literally! Katherine, by Anya Seton. The only reason I picked it up was because my spelling of Katherine was somewhat unusual among my peers (I knew lots of girls with the same name, but they were always spelt with a 'K' and an 'a' or a 'C' and and 'e'...not a 'K' and an 'e'.) Fortunately, I loved the story as well.

Discworld - I didn't discover Discworld novels until I was married. I don't think there's a bad one among them. Nuff said.

And the last one that stays with me is Peepo, by the Ahlbergs. 'Here's a little baby, one, two, three...' If I read that book once, I read it a million times to my children. It has lovely detailed pictures, beautiful rhythm, and always made me feel like I was singing the words rather than reading them. We had to buy it as a board version because the paperback got so tatty.

I'm sure there are others I could have picked, but these are the ones that jumped out at me this morning.

Is there a novel you read that impacted on you? Why? Drop it in the comments - you never know, it might be one we've shared.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

More about Pixar - and how it can help your writing

A while ago, I blogged about Julie Cohen's session at the York Festival of Writing about using Pixar films to help story structure.

Today, on Facebook, a friend shared this link to more Pixar wisdom on storytelling.

The 'rules' are well worth looking at. As anyone who's watched Wall-E, Up, Cars, Monsters Inc, Finding Nemo, knows (I could go on, there are loads more) they are brilliant visual stories, full of action, (Cars?) get you all emotional (the opening of Up?) and get us rooting for the characters (Wall-E and Eeee-Va).

Everything our writing should have in fact... It's worked for Pixar - will it work for me and you?

Don't know - but I'm off to memorize them all!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Granny Rainbow's ISBN Number


Granny has an ISBN number! A real, live, kosher ISBN number! Yesterday, I added it to the formatted document that is my master copy of Granny. It's there, in black and white - a unique number that will be linked to the publisher and me and Granny for ever...

Then I had a bit of a moment; somehow, that 13 digit number made it even more real that I am actually doing this - publishing a book full of my writing and Laura's pictures.

And of course after that, the doubts started creeping in. What the heck am I doing? Are the stories really good enough? What if Granny falls flat on her face and I'm left with 499 copies of a book I can't sell? (I'm ordering 500...I'll let you know if that was a rash decision later).

I'm sure lots of writers - including the big names in the business - experience the same wobbles when it gets close to publication. I know that if I give in to the wobble, it'll eat away at my confidence, take away the joy when I write and make me lose sight of the real reason I got into writing; to give children something they enjoy reading.

 I can't afford to let that happen.

I have to have faith in this book - and in myself. There are too many amazing people who've been on this writing journey with me so far; I'd feel I was letting all of them down if I didn't keep trying to make a go of this writing lark. And of course I'd be letting myself down by quitting.

Those who think they can't - are often right.

So I'm going to take that ISBN number and run with it - see where it takes me. I could end up a mile along the road or I might only be a few fumbling footsteps from where I started - but I'm not going to be going backwards.

Which can't be anything but good.

Sunday, 17 November 2013

Working on a website

A website? What the heck?!

Don't panic - I know you pop in here to catch up with me and see what I've been up to and that's not going to change! Squidge's Scribbles will remain the blog of Katherine Hetzel, author, for the foreseeable future.

But I've been wondering whether to create a website as well - to act as both a direct selling platform AND be somewhere that children (assuming they like my stories and want more!) can drop by...

I've been playing on Wix and have come up with something reasonably basic that I like. It's not live yet and certainly won't be until I run it past a few more folk who know a lot more about websites than me! (Talk about a steep learning curve - I thought setting up the blog was complicated at first, but if you'd seen me trying to insert a picture onto a web page that didn't keep cropping whenever I tried to resize it... )

I've done my research - looked at lots of children's author websites and the sort of thing they offer to the browser. 'Course some of them are all-singing, all dancing and have animated pictures and games and music and everything else that I wouldn't have a clue how to add. My website's going to be a bit simple by comparison - like this blog.

And me.

So far, I've planned pages on bio, books, news and contact details - and a link to this blog of course. But I'm also wondering whether to offer samples of stories, competitions, author visits...

Thing is - do I really need it? Is a website just another thing to take up my writing time when I could (probably) add similar things to my blog? The only real advantage I can see at the moment is that as my name becomes more familiar as an author, it would be easier to find ME on the world wide web; 'Squidge's Scribbles' probably isn't the first thing you'd think of if you wanted to search out the books and writing of Katherine Hetzel.

What do you reckon? Is it worth the extra effort to advertise myself that bit more? Or should I continue to build a platform from the Scribbles?

I'd be interested to know what you think...

Friday, 15 November 2013

Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!

Today is Children in Need Day in the UK.

Lots of folk get involved, and the schools are usually the first to sign up for the fun.

This year, my children can pay to go to school either in their PJ's or dressed as a hero/superhero. T is in Y8, J in Y10. As you might expect, there's a certain teenage reluctance to be seen in pyjamas, (unless it's a onesie) and there's definitely no street cred attached to dressing as Einstein (J) or the man who invented LEGO (T).

What did they go as then? Can you guess from the pictures?!

Hint : Zoom! Zoom! Zoom!
Hint : No-one can touch her...
And just to prove that even artificial
grey looks good!

Amazing what you can do when you raid your own wardrobe, the dressing up box (yes, I still have one!) and a needle and thread!

Thursday, 14 November 2013

All the fun of the Fair!

The Fair's in town

It's been held in November since Henry III granted it a Charter in 1228 - I think the Mayor still has to read the decree from the Town Hall balcony to declare it open. And it's quite a rare thing, our Fair, because it's one of the few still held within the town centre (in spite of various attempts to move it to the outskirts in recent years.)

Everything is crammed into the town centre - you can see the showmen in the couple of days before, sizing up exactly where the rides will go and working out exactly how close 'Atmosfear' can get to Primark before your feet hit the walls when you're riding it...

It's three days and four nights of bright lights, loud music, thrills and spills, mouthwatering well as dirt, uneven pavements, crowds and sometimes, trouble.

It's very much a love-hate thing for the folks who live here.

I have to say; I love it! I'm not a big fan of the rides particularly - my limit is the Dodgems and Twister, but I love the atmosphere and have to walk through at least once a year.

As a child, we'd go down as a family on the Thursday night, because Dad collected football coupons on Fridays and by Saturday, the prices had gone up. As a teenager, I'd go with friends and later on with Mr Squidge and our friends in the Quorn mob. (That's not as bad as it sounds - honest! The lads just all came from a village of that name...) I even came back from uni on Fair Weekends - you just couldn't miss it. When our children arrived, we went back to riding the train and the mini-waltzers - allowing just three rides each, so they had to choose carefully.

This year is the first time both J and T will both be going with friends and we're allowed to wander round on our tod again. Via the pub.

I'll think of you while I'm eating my candyfloss...

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A shortage of stories

I'm part of the short stories group run by Vanessa Wester, which produces collections of short stories on a variety of themes in aid of charity. There have been four so far (have a look here for details of the three I'm in) and the most popular one to date is, I believe, Reading is Magic, written for children.

We'd like to produce another collection for children; our current theme is 'past, present and future', so there's plenty of opportunity for time travellers and historical figures, ghosts of the past and robots of the future...

Only problem is - we don't have enough stories.

We currently have four - we reckon we need at least eight to make it a viable project. Last time, we had a baker's dozen...

So do you write for children? Could you offer a story to support a good cause? If you are interested, please consider joining us. We can provide some limited help with editing - though we are not professionals - and all we expect in return (if your story is chosen for publication) is that you help to promote both the finished book and the charity it supports. Please note that not all the stories we are offered will be suitable for inclusion, but we do try to use as many as we are able. It's a good way to get your name and work in print - and helps others as a bonus.

If you want to find out more, please take a look at the short story group page and if you have a story (or two) you'd like to offer, mail Vanessa directly.

Alternatively, drop me a line via the comments here if you have questions that aren't answered on the site.

Thank you,

Katherine x

Monday, 11 November 2013

Lest we forget...11.11.13

Lost at Sea.

No cross, no grave, to mark the place
where a plane sank in the sea
taking Seargeant Gooch down with it
on that day in ’43.

He was my Grandma’s brother -
(christened Daniel, known as Jim)
- an RAF air gunner.
Did he think it would be him
who would manage to cheat death
and carry on ‘til conflict’s end?
Did he hope to dodge the gunfire
and a coffin, like his friends?
They only found the pilot:
just one body, washed to shore,
but all the others disappeared
and Jim was just one more.
No cross, no grave for him –
only a poppy, once a year
in the corner of a photoframe,
the picture still so dear.

With Grandma’s death, the ritual ends…
Jim’s memory fades away.

Yet maybe not, for here it is
for you to read today.

Sergeant Daniel Last Gooch, aka Jim

As a child, I remember wondering who the young man was in the photo on top of the cabinet, but Grandma never spoke of him. And every November, the poppy would appear. I wrote this poem last year, when my uncle told me what happened...

RAF Sergeant Daniel Last Gooch was based with 100 squadron at RAF Grimsby. His plane, a Lancaster, ED599 and radio sign HW-S, went down over the sea after flying between Bordeaux and Cherbourg on the 4 March 1943. No trace of the plane was ever found, though the pilot’s body was recovered some 30 miles away and buried in France. It is assumed that the crew went down with the plane.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Finding your Voice - and finding mine...

A few days ago, I posted about having lost my voice.

There must've been something in the air that day - a writer friend, having seen three blogs all on the same subject, recommended the book Finding your Voice, by Les Edgerton.

I decided to buy the book. I read it, cover to cover. And boy, did I learn a lot.

This post isn't a book review though - I stuck that on Amazon. Instead, I wanted to share what a difference Les's view of voice has made to my own. I now understand why my own natural voice has turned 'beige' - the sort of technically brilliant, please-everybody stuff that lacks soul; the kind of writing that 'lacks sparkle...isn't commercially viable...isn't strong enough'. Sound familiar? I've certainly heard those phrases more than once before...

Anyway, one of the exercises in the book is to rewrite something you've already written, but only when you think you've begun to recognise your own, unique voice. I'd like to show you the difference it made to mine, using snippets from the first chapter of a new WIP. See what you think of the changes...

Before Les:
In three days time, they’ll tattoo me...
            The thought set Ani’s limbs trembling and she drew her cloak closer. The sun had not long risen above the dunes and there was little heat in it yet; that’s what caused the shiver, she told herself.
            Not the thought of any pain.
            Shifting position, Ani heard only the faint hiss of disturbed sand in the heavy silence of the desert. A movement at the edge of her vision showed another early riser - a brown mottled lizard, emerging from his burrow an arm’s length away.
            It was pure impulse that made her pick up a stone and throw it at the reptile. There was a moment’s satisfaction when, with a flick of tail and a spurt of sand, the lizard disappeared. But then Ani realised exactly what she’d done, and glanced over her shoulder, checking that no-one else had seen.
            Alone again, she hugged her knees and stared into the empty desert.
            Why did she have to be tattooed? It was so… so… unnecessary! There hadn’t been a Listener for thousands of years – there were plenty of oases now, enough for everyone who still chose to live in the desert. But because Baba always stuck to the old ways of the desert, instead of opening his mind - like Uncle Niyall - to some of the ways of the people who lived beyond the sand, Ani had no choice. Bitter frustration sent hot tears coursing down her cheeks.
            When her name was called, Ani didn’t answer. Everyone knew where to find her; under the twisted date tree at the very edge of the oasis, where she was free to dream. And, Ani thought when the caller came into view, it wouldn’t hurt Tulisa to walk off a few of the dates she’d been so keen to consume yesterday evening.
            “You’re to come straight away,” Tulisa gasped, when finally she drew close. “Mommi wants you.”
            Ani considered ignoring the order. But the woman who had filled her mother’s place eleven years ago had a heavy hand, and she had no wish to feel it again today.
            “Did you hear me?”
            “I heard.” With deliberate slowness, Ani rose to her feet and made a show of brushing the sand from her dress while studying her half-sister from the corner of her eye.
            The two girls couldn’t have looked more different. Tulisa was short and round: Ani, a good head taller and slim as a palm tree. Not for the first time, Ani wished she had Tulisa’s golden skin and brown hair, instead of skin the colour of roasted coffee beans and hair the colour of a moonless sky. The girls shared just one physical characteristic – their father’s pale blue eyes. Other than that, they looked just like their respective mothers.

After Les:
In three day’s time I’d be tattooed with a lizard on the left side of my neck.
            I didn’t want it to happen. I might have been too young to say no to the piercing, a year ago, but I wasn’t going to give in so easily this time. They couldn’t force me - I’d run away, go and live in the city. Problem was, Baba could – force me, I mean.
            I started to shake. From cold, of course, nothing else.
            Well, that’s what I tried to tell myself. It was because the sun hadn’t been up long and there wasn’t much heat in it yet. I pulled my cloak tighter, disturbing the sand underneath me and making it hiss in the silence.
            What was that? A movement – just a lizard, emerging from his burrow. Daresay he was going to take advantage of the early sun.
            Damn him.
            I picked up a stone and threw it. Ha! Almost!
            I felt a warm glow inside as, with a flick of his tail and a spurt of sand, the reptile disappeared. The glow suddenly froze over as I realised - someone might have seen. A quick glance over my shoulder was all it took to reassure myself I was still alone. I didn’t fancy a beating…
            The sun rose higher, doing little to lift my black mood. It just wasn’t fair! All this fuss, just because centuries ago, we’d had need of a Listener to save us. We were perfectly able to look after ourselves now – well, those of us who still had to live in the desert, anyway.
            I really wished Baba would try the city – Uncle Niyall had. He’d come back with such tales, Baba had nearly had a fit. There was no way he’d go against our traditions. That’s why I already had a great big hole in my ear. Tears of frustration prickled my eyes and spilled down my cheeks.
            “Ani! Ani, where are you?”
            I scrubbed my cheeks dry. They’d sent Tulisa to fetch me. Suppose that was better than Baba. Everyone knew where to find me when I went missing – under the twisted date tree. 
            As she got closer, I could hear Tulisa cursing under her breath. She hated having to fetch me – hated the long walk to the edge of our oasis. At least it walked off a few of the dates she’d stuffed herself with last night.  
            “You’re to come straight away,” Tulisa said when she reached me. “Mommi wants you.”
            For a split second, I thought about ignoring the order. But Hesta had a heavy hand, and I didn’t want to feel it again today. And anyway, Hesta was not my Mommi. She just happened to be my father’s wife.
            “Did you hear me?”
            “I heard you.” Taking my time, I stood up and brushed the sand from my clothes. 

Result for me personally? The second one was written with very few edits - almost off-the-cuff, it felt so...comfortable. And I also discovered that I write pretty natural dialogue - what my characters said needed hardly any changes at all in the rewrite. I'm sure there is more I could do to 'improve' the piece further (I've already received several suggestions - thankfully, none was 'start over'!!) but what was SO different about this second version is that it wasn't hard work. I simply told the story in the way I'd have told it to my kids.

In MY voice.

It was a lightbulb moment. Heck - it was a whole DIY lighting department moment, complete with chandeliers!

So, if anyone's struggling with voice, I'd really recommend Les's book. Read, digest, and make sure you do the exercises - they WILL make a world of difference. I'm off now, to rewrite chapter 2...

Friday, 8 November 2013

When a book is a beautiful thing...

Yesterday, I bought a book.

Woop-de-doo, you say. So what?

It wasn't even Raising Steam, the latest offering from Discworld and Sir Terry Pratchett, even though yesterday was publication day; it was Goth Girl, by Chris Riddell.

(If you are a regular reader, you will know I love Chris's illustrations - indeed, he was the influence behind Granny Rainbow's pictures.)

I've got a problem with this book though - I daren't open it! It's, quite simply, too beautiful.

You wuss, Katherine! I can hear you yelling at me. Get the book open - read the flippin' story! Stop being daft!

Just let me describe this book, and see if you can understand why I can't...

The cover is midnight black, royal purple, silver (actual silver foil!) and white. It's a hardback - weighty and solid. The edges of the pages are coloured metallic royal purple. You open the cover, and the inside leaf is all silver and black skulls...

See the light, glinting on the silver?!

Then you get to the story itself. On the first page - even before the words appear - is a full page illustration. Thereafter, pictures are dotted through the book, the text wrapped round them like a hug. (In fact, as I flicked through, there were very few double spreads that didn't have artwork... think I only spotted one.) The story ends on the last page with a full page picture again, then there are more silver skulls - and a mini-book in it's own little holder inside the back cover; an exquisitely drawn comic-cum-poem about one of the characters.

It feels like handling not just a book - but a work of art.

I have read the first few pages - very carefully, so I didn't leave a mark on them - but have decided I must read it only when I'm alone. Mainly because I can't help laughing, or reading bits out loud and sharing the pictures with my bemused family.

Mr Riddell, sir - I take my hat off to you. This book is an object of great beauty, and you might have just become my second favourite author of all time.

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Calling all self-published authors! What size was your initial print run?

I'm at the point in self-publishing Granny Rainbow where I need to decide how many copies I ask the printer to run off initially.

Depending on the print method and quantity, the price per book varies significantly (as you might expect). At the moment, I have a price for 100, 250 and 500 units.

Initially, I looked at 100 units. But I got twitchy because it meant I had to bump the cover price up to make sure I had enough for the shopkeeper's cut. (I'm already working on a couple of contacts in the 'shop' department) There's something psychologically awful about breaking into a tenner and asking £6 for what is essentially a small book of seven short stories.

If I go for 500 units, I am going quite a bit over the budget I set myself for outlay but the cost per book is significantly reduced. A very attractive proposition, but I am struggling to get my head around exactly how much space 500 books of 100 pages each will take up; the WHOLE of my spare bedroom? Just a corner of the dining room? Every available surface throughout the house for years - until I sell them all or have a ginormous bonfire 'cos I can't stand the sight of them any longer?

Am I being completely unrealistic, expecting to sell 500 copies?! I know it'll depend on the type of book, it's audience and probably a million other factors too, but...

If you self-published printed material, how many did you plump for in that first print run?

Monday, 4 November 2013

I've lost my voice...

No, I don't mean I've got some horrible lurgy! I'm talking about 'voice' - that indefinable something that appears in what a writer writes.

In the past, I've been accused of being 'too nice'...of not being 'thrilling' enough...of not having 'commercial sparkle'. Last Friday, I received another rejection for Rurik; 'fluent and professional, but the voice was not strong enough to draw me in.'

I've heard it before in various guises, so it didn't surprise me. I'm not overly disappointed either - there are more agents to hear from who might have other things to say.

What it did start me wondering, was whether my 'voice' will EVER be strong enough for an agent. I know what 'voice' means - I can recognise it in others and often wish to goodness that I had something as distinctive - but I don't think it's something that can be manufactured. I recognise that I am, first and foremost, a storyteller, and I think I tell a good story.

Just not with a 'strong voice'.

I found this at Writing World, in a post about 'Finding your Voice as a Children's author':

'One thing that separates great authors from mediocre ones is that their writing appears effortless, even if it took tremendous work to achieve. A forced voice happens when authors try too hard to sound like a writer. I think the best voices appear when authors write as they speak. Has a story ever sounded profound and lyrical in your head, but lost something when you put it on paper? That's because in your head you're telling the story to yourself in your speaking voice, and when you write it down suddenly you're trying to be a writer. You go searching through the thesaurus for the perfect word, something you'd never use in normal conversation. You use three words of description, just because you can, rather than one word that really says everything you need to say. And suddenly in that process of writing down what's in your head, you've lost your voice. You've adapted the voice of someone else, or the voice you think your writing should have. So next time you write, try writing exactly what's in your head. If you type, try typing your writing exercise with your eyes closed, so you can't see the computer screen. Closing your eyes also helps you focus inward where the story is being conceived. Then you'll be guided by how the words sound and feel, and that's the closest thing to your true voice.'

So there you have it - I'm probably destined to be a mediocre author rather than a bestseller.

What do I do then, about my 'voice'?

1. Stick with it - this style and voice which IS mine at present - even though it doesn't suit the industry?
2. Be true to myself and put reader's opinions about my stories above the market's opinion, ignoring the issue of voice completely?
3. Stop worrying about whether a 'proper' publisher wants to publish my stories, because in this age of self-publishing it is (relatively) easy to publish myself?
4. Alter how I write?

I really don't know.

To those of you who've read my 'stuff' - can you see 'me' in every piece I write? Is there a recognisable 'Katherine Hetzel' element to my work?

If so, WHAT THE HECK IS IT? I'd love to know...

Saturday, 2 November 2013

100th blog post: Another reason to delay decorating...

So, we're still trying to fit the underfloor insulation.

I'm pleased to say that what we've already done under our dining room and hall HAS made a difference - the dining room used to have the radiator on max and still felt cold; not so now! In fact, the thermostat for the central heating has had to be tweaked up a little, 'cos the hall is so much warmer, the heating clicks off too soon to warm the bedrooms!


Whilst under the floor, Mr Squidge was alarmed to find what he thinks is damp in some of the floor joists. Fortunately, it's not a huge problem - and he's worked out how to address it. Phew.

However, having borrowed a damp meter from a friend to check the joists, he has since gone round the entire house, checking above the skirting boards.

Guess what?

We have a damp problem.

It's very localised, but it's bad and it needs sorting. Now, the last time we had the damp-proofing done was when we bought our house: twenty-one years ago. (Sods Law states that the guarantee was for twenty years, doesn't it?) Fortunately, as first-time buyers still living in our respective parents' houses, we weren't living there at the time - but I seem to remember being warned against staying in the house for a while to let the 'stuff' do its work. Then there was the replastering...waiting for the plaster to dry...redecorating...

The same problem areas, mid treatment 1992

Now we've got to go through it all again. With two kids, a cat, and a houseful of possessions. *sigh*

As often happens, one job leads to another. In this case, I can't get my hall, stairs and landing redecorated next year - as we'd hoped - until the damp is treated. But we can use the opportunity to apply insulating plasterboard to the low walls either side of the front door (where the damp problem is) and perhaps double-glaze the stained glass panels above...

See - I'm trying to put a positive spin on it. But it still feels like another step back in the plans to get our house sorted.

If my smile looks a little strained over the next few months, you know why.