I’ve skipped a couple of posts…it happens. Especially when you live with a Gump, a bitchy dog, and you’re trying to write books every possible waking hour of the day. Sorry! For some of you it has cut down your bathroom reading, so I apologise! Speaking of bathrooms, I wish I didn’t have to sit down to pee. A few weeks ago I made a pit stop before leaving the house to run to the store. I forgot my phone was in the back pocket of my shorts. I assumed the position and heard a splash…it was not Mother Nature calling, it was my iPhone taking a swim………great.
I hope everyone had a good Mother’s Day and Father’s Day?
Well, it is that special time of year, when the Gumpmeister’s main purpose for living has switched from THE EXPANSE (sci-fi show) and watching THE BIG LEBOWSKI for the one-hundredth time, to obsessing about squidgy little red balls, and I am not talking about Gump’s anatomy (you guys have filthy minds) – It is summertime in Oklahoma, and currently, the tomato rules in our house and yard.
Here is the chronological order of the spring into summer, the past few weeks in the tomato life of Gump.
- Lovingly plant your seed (this is not a romance novel, so I do mean it literally)
- Care and fuss for said seed (more than you do current spouse)
- Nurture until plants sprouts and are large enough to handle, then re-pot, label and feed at least 100 plants
- Gently carry them outside. Place them under trees to acclimate them to the weather while they grow taller and stronger
- Talk to the plants, being nicer to them than you are to your long-suffering wife
- Worry about them when you are not at home
- Freak out when the dog goes anywhere near them
- Fry forty plants in the bright spring sun, due to placing under aforementioned trees which were still bare and therefore provided no shade whatsoever – Wowza
- Survive ensuing depression and guilt for being a tomato plant mass-murderer
- Sulk, whine and finally get yourself
- Prepare the garden (after much faffing about) and finally put the damn plants in the ground
- Look at them every day with pride, weed around them but not your wife’s flowers
- Spend ridiculous amounts of money at Atwood’s to put weird chemicals on plants
I hate bloody tomatoes.
Oh – and let’s not forget spinach…Gump grew a bunch of it this year and ate it with everything…omelettes, sandwiches, ice cream (just kidding on the ice cream, though he would probably give it a go.) I never told him when it was stuck in his teeth though…that’s what you get when you don’t plant potatoes for your wife….ever!
On Saturday, April the 17th, I spent most of the morning bawling my eyes out as I watched Prince Phillip, The Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral. I’ve lived in the states for a long time, but my heart and soul will always be British. Watching the traditional processions, the military, the family, I was so moved by the simplicity, yet the sophistication of it all. I was also saddened as the end of an era begins. My dad was a musician, and he played at the Queen’s coronation in 1953 in Westminster Abbey. I suppose I always connected him with QUeen Elizabeth because of that. Now, seeing a senior member of the royal family pass away, is a reminder to me of those I have lost in my own family, that generation we so looked up to. Those brave souls who lived and fought through world wars. They were made of strong stuff, and had a character and depth to them that we don’t often find now. It’s like finishing your favourite book, the sense of sorrow at never experiencing something so impressionable again. RIP Prince Phillip, and thank you for your service.
On a lighter and nail-biting note, my second book came out, May 18th on Amazon. It’s weird having a second book. I actually feel like an author! It’s also bloody nerve-racking because I am terrified everyone will hate it, or be disappointed. I don’t want to let anybody down. It’s been pretty frantic for me, covers/edits and more edits. But it is exciting, and there is that part of me that feels tremendous satisfaction in knowing I have finally found my place. It has taken me six decades to get here, and I am almost too knackered (exhausted) to work this hard mentally, but I love that I have a real purpose. For the first time, I am doing something I want to do because of a passion, not a paycheck. There is something pretty wonderful about that.
I got Covid shot #2 – I was nervous I would have side effects, but thankfully, I did not. I am so relieved to have it done and dusted. Although I still observe many precautions, I feel much better about the risk of going out and being around others. It has been great seeing people again. My son and his wife came to visit with my granddogs, and it was good to engage with someone other than Gump! The fact my kid has become a grill master makes the visit even nicer. No one ever cooks for me, so it was a real treat not to have to eat my cooking for a change. My son also makes enough food to feed an army. In addition, my daughter-in-law is a professional baker. She can produce a pie, or beignets, or some decadent dessert with whatever I have in the cabinets. It is so nice to be spoiled. I love it!
In April, we got the awful news that a friend of ours had died. He was in his sixties, and we were both shocked and saddened. As we are vaccinated, we decided to go to his funeral. People wore masks and maintained their distance. But as you would expect, it was a time of great sorrow, yet mixed with the pleasure of mingling with old friends as together, we remembered the person who had passed away. Sombre, yet a celebration of his life. After the service, after speaking with the entire family, after going into a reception room to ‘mingle’, after meeting strangers and chatting, as we literally left the building to go home, Gump looked at me and said, “You’ve got a glob of white stuff stuck in the front of your hair.” Shocked, I raised my hand and sure enough, right smack in the front of my hair was something that felt gooey, and suspiciously like hair conditioner which I must have neglected to rinse out prior to the funeral. Immediately, I thought of the movie, “There’s Something About Mary.” And for those of you who have seen that movie, you will know of what I speak…..and you will also know why I was absolutely mortified to have looked that way the entire time, without Gump letting me know. No wonder some of the guys looked happy to see me and gave Gump a congratulatory slap on the back…….. And there was I thinking it was just because they were happy to see him!
So, who’s going on vacation this year? It seems like the USA is waking up from hibernation, and everyone is beginning to get out a bit more. We have all been so deprived of company and activities, right? It is heart-warming to hear some of the folk I’ve spoken to have a new ‘take’ on their normal lives. The pandemic has certainly inspired us to appreciate everything a little more than we did before. I have learned that valuable lesson too, except I’ve discovered I rather enjoy isolating. I don’t miss making tons of commitments to do things I don’t really have time to do. This break has allowed me to focus more on myself and being productive. I’m not sure I can keep that up if I start being social again! I do think my time alone has manifested itself into my being a grumpy old lady. But WTH – I’m okay with it.
Scout the wonder dog continues to surprise us with her intelligence and also her ability to be an utter bitch, literally and figuratively. She has Gump completely trained to do anything she wants (even without giving him treats) and whenever she puts this into action, she gives me the side-eye, like she’s saying “Watch how easy it is to make him do this.” I have tried to tell Gump what she is up to, but to no avail. He just calls her ‘pumpkin’. I gag, and then watch them bond over a frisbee. Like I said earlier, thank god I have writing in my life…
Our trips to the dog park have decreased dramatically due to Scout’s awful manners when encountering other dogs. This is one area where my dog and I are very alike. Scout, like me when I was single, is okay with the odd male that crosses her path having a quick sniff of her bits and bobs. They get a dirty look on the second sniff. On sniff #3, her face gets all Dracula and the fangs are out as she lunges for their snouts trying to trim their whiskers – no matter the size of the dog. The other dog owners glare at me to convey their silent disapproval of my bringing a forty-pound whisker trimming machine into the park. Scout isn’t particularly nice to the people either, but she’ll greet a soccer ball like a long lost relative. Gump reckons it’s the breed. They don’t care about other dogs or people-just their pack. I think he’s partly right, but mostly I think it is that she really is a bitch, the coolest daughter I never had.
In addition to our grumpy dog, we have loads of hawks in the yard this year. There have always been tons around here, but this season we have a nest close by, and so they are more visible and pretty loud. I have amassed a huge collection of their feathers which I often find in the grass, and they have such beautiful markings. Unfortunately, I sometimes find the feathers of what was probably their dinner as well. Here is one of the gang. I took this through my office window while working. I am calling him Harry. The possums are also active, the turtles too, and yesterday there was even a deer in the back yard. I’m turning into Doctor bloody Doolittle. Sometimes I feel like I am a long, long way from London.
Mowing is full-on here, along with the annual complaints by Gump about my skillset, shearing water hoses and generally knocking things about. I’m quite Formula One on my mower. With all our trees, it is somewhat dizzying at times, spinning around like a top. Scout, the bitchy wonder dog, is terrified of the mower. She must get it from Gump who also runs the other way whenever the mower comes out of the shed too. Except I think I know his motives. He is an artful dodger and no mistake!
If Gump had his way, our yard would look like a National Park. There would be no weed-eating done anywhere. We would not mow (he doesn’t anyway) and Gump would plant clover instead of grass. This lackadaisical outlook of his is also noticeable in his choice of clothing. Gump only wears grey. Grey shirts, grey sweatshirts, grey socks, grey hair, grey moustache, grey beard. We (his family) have desperately tried to bring colour into his (and our) lives, all to no avail. He has loosened up enough to wear something with (God forbid) a word or an emblem on it, but that has taken me twelve years to accomplish. But this week, Gump went a little cray cray. I bought him some socks, and unable to find the grey ones he usually wears, I brought home…wait for it….dark grey and black socks with the brand name on them. By the look on his face, you would have thought they were tantamount to him wearing a g-string on the outside of his pants. This is typical Gump behaviour. Panic, unwillingness to change, and being a stick-in the mud. Finally, he reluctantly put them on after many threats from yours truly, and then begrudgingly started wearing them. After a couple of days, he even commented on how comfy they were….. I have noticed he now picks them to wear over the old grey ones. Let me remind you, people, I am talking about socks…when you are a Gumpmeister, CHANGE ain’t your middle name!
This past month we have taken two road trips, one to Missouri and the other to Colorado. Astonishingly, we are still married. This comes as some surprise because watching Gump drive is somewhat taxing. whenever we have a road trip, I always get the first shift. This is so Gump can wake up slowly and remember what day of the week it is, his full name and where we are actually going and why. At this point, usually, an hour or two into the journey, he starts worrying about my driving over the speed limit, and how much distance I am leaving between us and the car in front, especially when it is a car that’s hogging the passing lane UNDER the speed limit. Then, after said worrying and a baby nap, a sandwich, a cup of coffee and giving up trying to find an NPR radio station, he takes over….this is good, as I am ready for a break until I realize that all the good time I have made by staying at a fast speed disappears the moment he clicks on his seat belt. The cruise control is set at ‘old man/Sunday driver speed’, and I sit chewing through my bottom lip as yet another semi passes us by. Even Scout catches my eye with an “I could jog faster than this geezer drives” look on her face.
I usually last about fifteen minutes (two miles at his speed), and after yet another recognizable vehicle I passed twenty miles earlier whizzes past, I explode. Gump is always astounded by my criticism. Although he does agree with me when I point out a few issues. When Gump has a thought, his foot comes off the pedal….when Gump speaks, his foot comes off the pedal. Now people, if you are only going an hour down the road, this may not an issue (okay, it still is with me) but when you have 700 miles to drive, and a bitchy dog on the back seat, it drives me ballistic. Therefore, I tend to do more of the driving, just so we can get there in this century, which gets rather tiring. Wait….maybe Gump is smarter than I thought….
The Missouri trip was, sadly, to a funeral, (no hair conditioner this time). But it was a 5-hour trip there and another 5 back in one day. The person whose service we attended was worth any drive to pay our respects. This gentleman had been ill, and he was no longer young, but it was still very sad to see him go. The funeral was held in a small rural community and conducted outside. It was a nice service, and afterwards, we went to the family home to spend time with the family.
When we got home that night we were quite weary but so glad we made the trip. We took showers, got ready for bed, and then I started itching, and then the dog did as well. Ticks…ugh, from being outside in the grass. Gump de-ticked us both and all was well……until the next morning. More itching, and in places you really don’t want to scratch! “Chiggers,” said Doc Gump. Good God! What awful little monsters! I had five on me and Gump had a couple. Itch? I never knew the meaning of the word until they landed under my skin…OMG…..and to think, there was bug spray in the car the whole time and it didn’t even dawn on me to use it. Three days of scratching…..I won’t make that mistake again!
Back to books……..I plan to release my third book “The Secret of Pendragon Island” sometime in August/September, which is the third and last in my ‘Secret’ set. I have just completed my fourth story, set in Africa, in Kenya, where I used to live as a child. I’m currently doing research for my next story, which is set in India. At some point in time, I have to start thinking about the marketing aspect of authoring, because there are a lot of books out there, and somehow I have to get everyone’s attention. So, a HUGE thanks to all of you who have read my books, reviewed them, recommended them and said kind things to me about them. I continue to learn with each project, and hopefully improve as I go along the way. But it is all of you who have kept me going, and my desire to share stories with everyone. You are the best!
I hope you are all keeping well and staying cool in our already toasty weather. For those of you transitioning back into the workplace, keep yourselves safe. For those of you who never got to stay home, thank you for keeping us going! You are much appreciated.
If you are off on your summer travels, please be safe and have fun too! If you see us on the road and Gump is driving, give me a compassionate wave as you pass us by!