A-Z Challenge – Polocrosse

A-Z Challenge – Polocrosse

Polocrosse is sometimes, accurately but a little unfairly, called poor man’s polo.  The field is quarter the size of a polo field, so you can play with only one horse – in fact at tournaments you are only allowed one horse – and instead of a hard and potentially lethal ball being hammered along at terrifying speeds, it is played with a soft spongy ball which is flicked from stick to stick.  The sticks themselves are netted, slightly like lacrosse sticks, hence the name.

There are only three players to a section (two sections to a team), and the game is played in 8 minute chukkas as it is in polo.  The main difference is that the 4 polo players making up a team change horses every chukka, whereas polocrosse sections  play alternate chukkas, so can  rest between.  It isn’t as fast as polo, simply because there isn’t as much ground to cover, but we insist that it is far more skilled.

It is also the most fun you can have on a horse, and I’ve been riding since I could first close my chubby fists around a hank of mane.  Gymkhana, pony club, show-jumping, dressage, cross country, drag hunting, been there, loved that, but nothing matches the champagne high of a fast game of polocrosse when the ball smacks into your net, your horse swivels smoothly and gallops towards the far goal, the crowd is shrieking hysterically and coming up at a hard gallop is your scorer, calling for the ball …

Well of course there are the times youpolocrosse cartoon 002 dropped the catch, or fumbled the pass, or your knees have been crushed to a throbbing paste by constant impact after the third game of the tournament.  The dust is blinding, or it is raining, or freezing, the other team is just so much better that you never get to touch the ball – that’s all forgotten in the lure of the next tournament.

I was lucky to learn the game on a horse that took to it like a duck to water.  He wasn’t very fast, but he was fearless and threw his whole heart into the game, watching the ball with an eagle eye, throwing himself so enthusiastically into the pushes, shoulder to shoulder, that if the other horse had stepped away he would have fallen over.  More than once he braked in the galloping melee and turned back in the clouds of dust, the only one to notice the ball had fallen to the ground.  He’d drop his shoulder as I leaned in for the pickup and if I missed, his ears would snap back against his head in irritation at my absolute uselessness.  Humbly apologizing to your horse as well as your team is very depressing, I learned to pick the ball up. We started with a minus 2 handicap and he got me to a plus 2 before he retired (extremely reluctantly) at the age of 20. The new horse pushed my handicap higher and we went on to represent  Gauteng  three times at the National Championships but when I remember polocrosse now, or look at the trophies forever prominent on my shelves, it is those early days I remember, and the fun.   Such fun.

(The drawing is a cheeky adaptation of a Nicholas Courtney polo cartoon) (apologies to NC)

A-Z Challenge – One Two Buckle My Shoe

I’m subdued. I’ve been wrangling on LinkedIn with a stubborn and opinionated published author who says all ebooks are rubbish and the relentless marketing of them is offensive and while I’ve been arguing re general ebook success stories  and not at all tooting my own tiny horn, I’m now faced with putting out today’s blog and it’s just that – a toot, a plug, yet another offensive marketing irritation. Still. Busy busy busy, don’t have time to prepare another blog so move along folks, nothing to see here.   This is the A to Z challenge and I have to find an O.

This was the book that started out being about octogenarians (check out the Mother entry) and has been rewritten, gee, about twenty times?  Feels like, anyway.  I’ve reached the point where I have read it now more often than I’ve read Pride & Prejudice, and Jane Austen I’m not.  But the reviews on Amazon.co.uk have been okay, and if enough people like it, and look out for the next, he can – in the local parlance – awa and bile his heid.  Pick a windae, mate, yer leavin.  (I do love Scots, it is the most heavenly language when you want to be rude to someone)

Long story short – an unpopular resident at a retirement village gets murdered, but not before phoning the police to say she wants to report a murder.  Whodunit?  And that of course is the whole point.  It’s a whodunit.  Police never turn down inside information and in this particular case they’ve got Sergeant Kirsty Cameron’s slightly eccentric aunt right on the spot.  It’s the foundation book for the series so it lays a bit of groundwork, and feedback has been good.  It’s a holiday read, novella length, (40K words) and you will love it and become addicted to my breezy style.

I can only hope, eh?

One Two Buckle My Shoe – http://viewBook.at/B00AVQDKXC

A-Z challenge – N is for No Regrets

Through a lucky set of circumstances I found myself, last October, without a job and with a lump sum in cash that would support me for up to a year, if I was carefuI.  Decision time – leap back into the job market immediately?  Or give myself six months to do everything I had wistfully put aside as dreams that could never be realised – a ‘no regrets’ sabbatical?

Out came the dreams. Too late for some, that was inevitable.  Some were totally unrealistic, and a few  turned out to be less fun in reality than they were in potential.   Seven months down the line,  I’ve picked up four new clients and a blogging contract, published two books, half-written the third, and taken in a dog which is ruling me with a paw of iron.  I now know that I will never be a stand-up comedian and that I don’t after all want to do desktop publishing.  It doesn’t seem much to show for six months where never a day has passed when I haven’t learned at least two new things.

Should I have done it – of course not.  Would I advise anyone to give up their day job – of course not.  Any regrets?  Of course not!


A-Z challenge – M is for mother, and muse

My indomitable mother stubbornly clung to independence until her early eighties when an illness scare made her finally feel vulnerable. She sold her house to move into a retirement village in Johannesburg which – to her surprise – she loved.  Always gregarious, she had lived quietly and alone for too long and blossomed in the village.  Sadly the illness was more serious than anyone had realised and she died early in 2008.  Everyone copes with things in their own way – I wrote a private book giving her a proper shot at her new l2010-12-28 16.52.20ife.  The story supplied a generic female friend, a lovely big Scottish flirt safely behind a zimmer, a bitchy gay man from her own opera background for fun (she adored gay men, and they her) and, as a friendship accelerator, a couple of murders to solve.   It was soothing for me to place her somewhere she could be telling her hilarious stories and enjoying herself – well, forever.

About a year later I re-read the book and liked it enough (I’m a great fan of my own work) to re-work it a bit and send it to my agent for her opinion.  She suggested a script instead – make it a bit more Rosemary & Thyme, she said – but as I knew nothing about scriptwriting I shelved it again.  In 2012 – as part of my No Regrets sabbatical – I wrote a version in which the friend is the protagonist and all the characters twenty years younger, and moved it to Scotland, the home of her heart, and where I myself now live.  I published on Kindle on 1st January 2013 – one New Year resolution swiftly completed – and found, as all writers do, that publishing isn’t the end of the journey, just the beginning.  The learning curve since then has pretty much looped the loop and continues to do so.

I have no idea how many writers write for specific readers. I have a few volunteer readers (a cheer for our long-suffering readers) and find it really helps my perspective to edit it ready for them – one gets a bit lost in plot, have I been clear? One gets enthusiastic about current references, have I included some of those?  And so on. First reader, in my head, is my mother, and I have before now blushed and amended something after suddenly realising what her pithy input would have been.

If that has you wondering when I’m going to be locked up, forget I ever said it. Slightly bizarre family project it may be, but I enjoy it very much.

A-Z challenge – L is for lionesses

My A-Z autobiography … Lions – and life in Africa – the photos are from a public domain website.

The ocheetah cubnly thing I really clearly remember about this day – I was four – was that  I got to hold a tame cheetah cub and have been hopelessly addicted to cheetahs ever since, but the story has been told so often, and by so many different family friends, I re-tell it with confidence.

This was a wonderful, and special, day out at a private game park – special, because the park had been given two young lionesses which would be ceremoniously released into the park after the guests had enjoyed a braai (what the rest of you might call a barbecue).

The lionesses were admired through the fence of their pen, the cheetah cub was detached from me with some difficulty, and the dozen guests were taken for a viewing drive in open land-rovers.  A spectacular buffet, with fires already dying down to hot coals ready for the braai, greeted us on our return.  The spot was well chosen, in clear veld out in the open miles from anywhere so as to have the best possible view for the highlight of the day.

Game viewing is hot and thirsty work so the guests were crowded round the temporary bar but I, bored and a bit hungry, wandered over to investigate the buffet tables. It was at that point that the young lionesses, bored with waiting for their moment in the spotlight, escaped from the back of their pen and padded over tlionesseso join the party.  The guests promptly attempted to get behind the little bar, climb one of the few spindly thorn trees, sprint in the direction taken by the rangers in the land rovers, or cram themselves into the small catering truck which represented the only other refuge.  My mother looked round anxiously – to see me, on my own, completely unaware of the new arrivals, and raptly contemplating the desserts buffet.  She darted across, swung me up onto the buffet, climbed up herself,  grabbed a tray of raw steak and started flipping prime sirloins towards the advancing lionesses. Apparently they entered into the spirit of things with grateful enthusiasm and she had nearly emptied the tray by the time the hastily-summoned rangers hurried up to herd them away, now completely without ceremony, to their new lives. I had made nearly as many inroads on the chocolate eclairs and was completely unaware of any drama.

My father had to be helped down from a thorn tree, having painfully punctured his hands and thighs, and used to get quite irritated when she told the story, which, it has to be admitted, she did a lot. But then I told the elephant story of being abandoned on my honeymoon quite a lot, too. Just proves, girls do tend to marry their fathers.

A-Z challenge – K is for kindles

You may well ask what impact Kindles, relatively late arrivals in the decades of my life, could have on my alphabetical autobiography, and I’m glad you did.

I was given the massively thick Far Pavilions, by M M Kaye, when I was pregnant and although I enjoyed reading it, the bump (known as Trubshaw) objected strenuously to having the heavy book rested on his (we thought) head, and kicked furiously. No worries, I thought, I’ll take it into hospital. Not knowing, at that stage, that my arms would be like spaghetti and my ability to concentrate almost zero.  As a book that weighs nearly 5 pounds isn’t something you can carry in your handbag and dip into whenever you have a few minutes free, it was a goodish while before I finally finished it and for pure physical comfort I haven’t liked very heavy books since.

I resisted the idea of kindles from the start – the price, not being able to turn the pages, being left without something to read if the battery failed – until I epublished my first book.  I thought I’d be able to read it on my computer. Ha. I ended up buying a 2nd hand kindle on eBay.

That was only a couple of months ago, but I am now a fervent supporter.  Far Pavilions? Bring it on.  Harry Potter, pah,  I could carry the whole series in my handbag.  I AM carrying the whole Lucia series, and what a treat that is, now, if I suddenly find myself having to wait – for a friend, or at a railway station, or an airport – I have 15 books at least to dive into, from novellas for 2 hours distraction, up to a 10 hour marathon. I do, and always will, prefer printed books, but this is so much better an option than I had ever realised.

I’m now starting to replace some of my older books – the ones read so often they are falling apart – with kindle versions, and I love that I can increase the print size when I’m tired, or when the light isn’t great.  I keep an eye on the freebies, and 99c books as well, and often take a chance on them – in fact without spending more than a couple of quid at any one time, I’ve got a whole smorgasbord to try, and can replenish it while I’m on holiday, anywhere in the world.

So you could say that K for kindles also represents stubbornly-held prejudices which need re-examining, because I have no idea where else I’d be able to shoehorn those  into this alphabetical autobiography and I need to remind myself – often – that because I’ve believed something for a long time does not automatically mean I’m right.


A-Z Challenge – J is for Job hunting

I gave myself a 6 month paid break to follow my dreams, and I’ve captured a few and it has been lovely. I had hoped to build up enough of a portfolio to work from home but although that has gone well, and I do have some happy customers and the promise of referrals and more work, it hasn’t yet achieved living wage status, and can be maintained part time. I now have to go job hunting. Just the thought makes me practically tearful, which should make for some interesting interviews.

“So, why do you want to work here?”

“Actually” sniffs and wells up “I don’t, really”  *breaks down in sobs. Escorted gently but firmly from premises*

Anyone know of any jobs where snivelling and occasionally weeping isn’t a bar to success?

A-Z challenge – I is for Indaba Hotel

My A-Z autobiography – the Indaba Conference Centre    http://www.indabahotel.co.za/


This was quite definitely the most beautiful place I have ever worked, and possibly the most alarming boss I ever had, a fiery and demanding man who never smiled, or even looked pleased, and had been moved from a previous hotel because the entire staff went on strike insisting he be replaced.  When I joined the Indaba team, as his executive assistant, he had been Managing director for just over a year and the staff turnover had soared to over 300%.  No pressure, then.

Actually we got on fine. I enjoyed the job, relished the challenge, and was genuinely impressed by what he was achieving.  Under his impatient but brilliant direction, the Indaba went from a pretty country hotel to a superb international conference centre.   He was very hands on and never a detail escaped his eagle eye – he could run the kitchen, act as chef, run the accounts department, outsell any of the marketing people and he knew it, and they knew it. The very best you could hope for in the way of approval was for his semi-permanent scowl to lift slightly.

The more successful the hotel got, the more it was targeted by hopeful streetwalkers. They were far too afraid of him to venture inside the gates but there were more of them hanging around outside every day and despite his angry demands that security move them on, they were proving impossible to shift. It was, in his opinion, extremely bad PR for his wonderful hotel and finally he couldn’t bear it any more. In his tailored suit, silk shirt and immaculate tie he led a few nervous and deeply reluctant security guards on a mid-afternoon surprise sortie outside the gates. Security guards were one thing – the notoriously choleric MD shouting at them was quite another, and the crowd melted away in seconds.  I was in Reception (everyone who could find the faintest excuse to be there was in Reception) and saw his slightly ruffled but triumphant return from the gate.   He never smiled, but right then he did, for once, look grimly satisfied!

A-Z Challenge – H is for House and / or home

My A-Z autobiography … H is for House and home

Those annoying telesales calls, we all get them, trying to sell stuff – there’s always that moment when they ask ‘are you the home-owner?’

I lived at home until I was eighteen, moved in with a friend who owned a house until I married, and, well, one way and another, always lived in other people’s property until I moved to Scotland.  The property market was just starting to perk up but it was still going to be cheaper for me to buy than to rent, and I invested, very nervously, in a shabby ninety-year-old flat and spent  two years  fixing it up, one project at a time. After two years I sold it, for more than double what I had paid, and bought a very small house.  My very own house!

There’s a quote I read somewhere that middle age starts with the first mortgage.  Instead, I felt and feel quite extraordinarily grown up.  Me!  A home-owner!

Not that I admit that to telesalespeople, of course.

If you leave a comment, please include the link back to your blog, there are SO many blogs competing in this challenge I’m really struggling to get back to friendly readers.

A-Z challenge – G is for Grasshopper Lawns

My A-Z autobiography … G is for Grasshopper Lawns, and retirement

Grasshopper Lawns is a retirement village in Scotland that doesn’t actually exist but is now so much a part of my life that it is more real to me than many places that do.  I’m writing a series of whodunits based there and sometimes when I drive down that particular country road I’m briefly puzzled to see only a field of broccoli.

At one stage of my very chequered career I worked as a letting agent and had quite a few retirement villages on my books, as people would buy their forever home, then want it rented out until they were ready to move in themselves.  The options ranged from all-mod-con purpose-built apartment blocks in cities, to sprawling developments in the heart of the African veld, with tennis courts and swimming pools.  Retirement, I realized even back then, wasn’t going to be the end of the book.  It will be a whole new chapter.

As retiring is now a shimmer on my own horizon, and taking on more reality with every scurrying year, I’m starting to prepare for it – walking every day, trying to stick to a healthy diet, ensuring  I will leap into it with a sparkle in my eye and an athletic spring in my step.  I only wish I had a real Grasshopper Lawns (with perhaps slightly fewer murders) to move to.

My Grasshopper Lawn whodunit novellas are

One Two Buckle My Shoe – http://viewbook.at/B00AVQDKXC

Three Four Knock On My Door –http://viewbook.at/B00C4FE0TG

If you leave a comment, please include the link back to your blog, there are SO many blogs competing in this challenge I’m really struggling to get back to friendly readers.

In fact I’m going to add a blog about it!