Friday, May 30, 2014

JuNoWriMo 2014 begins in two days


Right, so I finished half of my current WIP during Camp NaNoWriMo – now I’m going to use JuNoWriMo to get the rest of it finished. I know this is kind of a backwards, defeating the purpose kind of way of going about these challenges. However, I am terrible at setting my own deadlines and with a whole community spurring me on, I know I have deliberate, achievable goals for each day.

The currently project is another NA thriller, like the most recent one I’m editing. I’m dying to get back to my YA/MG book projects though, but I need to have this silly first draft done. At least my CP can help me with this one too. I used an outline this time and everything!

Also, I’ve made myself a little author page at:

I’d be intimidated about having such a long name for a domain, but there are lots of writers with Suzanne or Schultz (spelled more than one way for each) that I may as well just stick with the simplest option.

Steve’s birthday is this weekend, so we’re planning on a nice, quiet celebration at home. He’s on work duty so we can’t go far, plus we just got back from our bank holiday visit to visit our fellow Picks down by Liverpool, so we’re good for travel for a few weeks.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Note to Parking Services

Parking in the U.K. 


I was wondering if you could tell me if there are any parking restrictions on My Road. I live in the flats at My Court and I have seen the sign by our garages that say "Strictly No Parking" but there are no indications that the street has restrictions.

Since we have the allotments directly across from the block of flats, there will sometimes be a lot of extra cars at the end of the road where we live. With the extra cars and the cars owned by people in the flats, it is sometimes very hard to find a place since the street is a dead end. Many times I come back from picking my husband up from his work late (7:30 - 9:00 PM or so) and the only convenient place for us to park in on the sidewalk down the street from the flats.

I am asking about this because on a Saturday, the 24th of May, during this last bank holiday weekend, I had an elderly lady come up to my flat around noon telling me that I shouldn't park there. She told me that all the people who live in the houses down the street are "very, very sick" and they can't get to their cars if my car is parked on the sidewalk. She mentioned something about needing to have room for emergency vehicles as well, so I'm wondering if there is a care home, or a restricted area on our road that would make my car be in a handicapped area.

The woman, whom I had never seen before, claimed that she had contacted the council about my car being on the empty sidewalk, and that she had spoken to me before and left notes on my car about my parking. I've never received any kind of note or notice, so I'm wondering if the woman has just confused me with someone else. I do not know what house this woman lives in and I do not recall her name, so I'm not sure if other people have parked down there as well and she's assuming it's always me because I happened to be parked there on the day she happened to be out of her house.

The area she is referring to is a usually empty sidewalk alongside a hedge. There are no gates or entryways anywhere near where my car was parked and the houses beyond the hedge cannot even be seen from the sidewalk. I told the woman that I parked on that empty sidewalk at the far end because I could clearly see it was out of the other neighbours’ way. (My car was the last in the row of parked cars on the sidewalk. It is not near the front of a house, gate, or drive of any kind.) My car was not very close to the car in front either (I make sure of this so I can get out easier myself in the mornings) so I honestly don't understand what the issue is. I've had my car for over a year now and I've done as the other neighbours have by parking on the street where it is convenient. Obviously on a bank holiday the street is much more busy than others and I had left after 10AM on that Saturday morning to take my husband to work and back at noon - the empty sidewalk way at the end of the street is many times the only convenient place to park.

The woman said she wanted me to park on the other side of the lamppost behind where my car was just so I would leave the sidewalk clear. She said it was not for her to be able to park her car there, but because she couldn't get into her car if it wasn't clear - this is what I don't understand. If the neighbours are very sick and cannot get out of the house, as she was telling me, I can only assume she isn't driving herself and caregivers have to keep that area open. The lamppost she was talking about is on the very end of the corner and there is a long driveway to a house right there.  I have never parked there because it's close to a junction and I've seen delivery trucks needing to turn around in there due to the heavy congestion on our street.

So if you could please let me know if there is any reason I shouldn't be parking on the empty sidewalk across from the houses and the flats, please let me know. I let the lady know that if I had known it was a handicapped area I would not have parked there but, again, no one had ever said anything to me about that issue. I'm quite worried now that if I need to park on the street again, as I usually do, I will be in a violation of some sort.

On a side note, the woman also claimed that a lady in our block of flats uses a key to scratch up cars on that side of the street where I'm parked. The lady claimed she's notified the police about it as well, but I have no idea if this is true or if it's some kind of tactic to intimidate or scare me into not parking down there.

Anyway, thank you for your help. I appreciate your time.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Do not park in England

Church yard

Holy crap.

So for the third time in the one year I’ve been driving in the UK, I’ve had someone of an older age tell me where I can and cannot park my car.

We live on a short, dead end street that has allotments (rented out gardens) attached. The street is full all the time, and since I’m not the best of drivers or parkers in the world, I try to just stay the heck away from the other cars.

Our apartment complex is at the very end by the allotments and we have a tarmac area in front of our little storage garages, but our useless overseers (the ones who blame us if we tell them the pipes are broken, or the gate lock is busted, etc.) have a “Strictly No Parking” sign above the garages. (Though I see people parking there sometimes, but I’ll guarantee the overseers jump on their case about it because that’s how they roll.)

Anyway, so around Christmas last year, late on Saturday night, the street was jammed packed with cars and visitors’ cars, so I had to park in front of one of the houses toward the end of the road. I left it there Sunday, and on Monday saw that I had a note saying, “Don’t park your car here. I find it annoying.” *rolls eyes*

I eventually saw the people who lived in the house and it was a very elderly couple and the woman can barely walk so, yeah, fair enough, it’s easier for them to park a car close to the house (even though they have a driveway they don’t use, I might add.)

So, today I get someone buzzing at the entryway (over and over, like they can’t figure out how to get in the building.)

This older lady at my front door goes, “Hi, we’ve spoken before?”

Me, “No.”

“Yes, I’ve left notes on your car. We have a problem.”

“I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.”

“I left a note on your car in a zip loc back. It’s a black car.”

(There are 10 black cars outside) “Nope, not seen a note like that. I got one at Christmas…”

“Oh that’s Mary, she’s 80. Now, everyone who lives in these houses is very sick and we can’t get to our cars…”

“I parked my car on the very end away from everyone else. It’s a public street.”

“Oh, it is, yes, but no one else parks there, you park by my car and I can’t get to it. You should park on the other side of the light post, or up here by the hedge.”

Okay, let me explain this. I purposely park where it is not in front of a house or a gate or stairs or any kind of driveway. People park all over there place here, wherever it’s convenient. Sometimes I can park closer, sometimes I can’t. Steve has to get his bike out, then the groceries when we come home. Now, the only places to park are the ones by the allotments where there’s some big drop of a hill and a ton of overgrown trees so either the brambles with scratch the car (or Steve), and the seagulls and pigeons do massive pooh all over the place. I’ve had gross stuff on the car enough times to not park there.

Anyway, so this woman was all about how she’d called the council on me, and how she’d been to the apartment block a bunch of times (no clue about any of this.) She said the council told her that they couldn’t do anything and they’d been out to see my scandalous parking job, and blah blah blah.

I apologized and told her if I had any clue, I would have moved it. But, as Steve said, people besides me park down there all the freaking time. It’s just that I do it more than others, I guess.

Anyway, then she went on to tell me that someone in our apartment complex has been keying cars down by that side of the street and she and her husband have “tailed” her and called the cops on her.

Okay, first of all how do these people know this? They must just be sitting at home, waiting to see something to complain about. Also, everyone in our apartment complex is my age or older. No one would give a crap about cars all the way down at the end of the street. If she was insinuating that it was me, I have no freaking idea. I told her I’m either at school or in the house – I have no idea what anyone does around here.

Anyway, so that’s the new development in “Life in The U.K.” Even if you pay thousands of dollars for a car, people will tell you what you should do with your own property. Even when I parked at the school the first time a few weeks ago, some old lady came outside, telling me I couldn’t park in front of her house (Which is 10 steps from the school and the school has about as many parking spaces in the lot for teachers.)

So this has been three times in a year that someone didn’t like where I parking on a public street.

But, this is how we roll in The Shire, I guess. Glad it’s bank holiday weekend and we’ll be out of this neighbourhood for a while. Sheesh.

Oh yeah, by the way, the neighbour (a lady I’d never seen before, I might add) knew that I take the bus sometimes. Creepy.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Remember the semicolons!

Secret Garden.

If you want to be humiliated, and told you’re not as good at the one thing you know you’re good at, then come to England and take one of their assessment tests. You’ll feel lower than dirt by the time you’re finished, I guarantee.

Per my whole reboot into the teaching world, my Teaching Assistant tutor (lecturer/instructor) said that the bare minimum qualifications to have a job at a school is to have your TA certificate, and be a Level 2 in Maths and English.

In the U.S., of course, we don’t care about anything we did in high school once we’ve left. A high school diploma is equivalent to GCSE tests that students do here when they’re in Secondary School. This all falls under the umbrella of Level 2.

According to the chart, a Bachelor’s is a Level 6, and a Master’s is a Level 7. I have all these qualifications, but apparently this does not matter. A Head Teacher would want to see in writing, from a local establishment, from a recent assessment, than I am a Level 2. So I went to the Civic Centre to take my assessment and get my certificate.

First off, my math is atrocious, especially since I don’t know the metric system. They gave me a scale for kilograms and I could not for the life of me figure out how to read it. There were 20 notches between full kilos, rather than 10. I tried to logically reason it out, guessed on three questions out of six, and got two of the easy ones right.

I was given a Level 1 workbook to take home and have someone look it over for me next week. Fine. I can totally accept that. Steve’s been helping me with the metric because I have no clue what I’m doing. I need to know this stuff to help the kids at school. I am 100% okay with working on math workbooks. They aren’t fun, but I get it.

But the English. Oh, the English! So, they gave me a recipe and asked questions, gave me a letter and told me to edit it, then said to write a letter to a local store. The task said to write to the manager and tell them you’re returning a pair of jeans that lost color when you washed them once. That was all that was in the directions.

There was only room for two paragraphs on the page, so I wrote a simple, effective letter that went through my “experience” and explained what happened. I even wrote, “Dear Manager” at the top, and signed it. I was wrong. So, so wrong.

When the examiner girl assessed it, she told me, “You’re going to have to write more complex sentences. You didn’t you any semicolons and you didn’t add an address.”

I pointed to the instructions, “Is that indicated in the instructions? None of those requirements are listed. If I’d known you wanted them, I would have done it. Plus, there’s no address given.”

“Oh, you’d just make it up!”


I was mortified. Here I am, a former middle, high, and college English teacher with a freaking Master’s Degree, and they’re telling me that I don’t use enough semicolons to be a Level 2 in English? A high school level writer? (Ironic, isn’t it?) (I’ve also wondered if the writing for a lower grade has changed my style too.)

Anyway, I was mortified.

So, I left with a workbook for Level 2 English that I have to bring back next week as well. Talk about humiliation. I just left the training room and sat on the couch in front of the Civic Centre for fifteen minutes, trying not to completely explode. I wanted to cry, just because I have never, ever, ever, ever been told I wasn’t good at English. It’s the only thing I am good at. But, apparently, that doesn’t matter.

This is why living here gets me so down - I can’t just get anything done. No matter what I try to do to play the game of getting a job or a qualification there’s some hurdle to go over. I had to do the Life in the U.K. Test twice, had to take my driver’s test three times after a year of lessons, and now I can’t even get a base-rate job at a school because they don’t think I use enough semicolons.

I totally didn’t feel like I was capable of writing any kind of book after that, that’s for sure.

But, alas, that’s how life is, I guess. I have to go along with silly rules and regulations, and there’s nothing else I can do about it. Last night I just realized that if this is my time to reboot my career, I’m going to just have to forget every degree I have from the States, and move on. None of it matter now, except to me, but job-wise, I’m a complete newbie and I have to start fresh as a person with no qualifications or education whatsoever.

Because I can’t let this get in the way of my writing. I only have one free day during the week now, and I have to make the most of my time. I have CP edits, and this Camp NaNoWriMo project to finish before I move into my next project.

England, you can’t get me down!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Saturday Catch Up

Evening at the Tyne.

It's been beautiful in the North East lately. Today is a sunny and inviting day, so we're planning on hitting the city and investigating The Late Shows. We went the year before last and it was lots of fun.

After being responsible adults who stay in after dark, it's nice to remember what the night life is like.

I have been to three Teaching Assistant classes and volunteered three days at the Primary School. I enjoy being there, out of the house, being productive, etc. and none of it is super tough. I'm glad to not have the lesson planning and the paper grading. I'm fine with not taking on all that responsibility, it just feels unchallenging. Oh well, this can maybe be a stepping stone into something else in the schools later.

But, again, the teacher stress isn't really appealing.

In writing news, I still haven't finished my Camp NaNoWriMo book. I've added to it here and there, but it's not finished. My CP has been helping me with the last novella I finished. Of course, I still have one big series to finish (have written bits of it for ages, so there's a ton of unorganised material waiting on me.) Also, I have a few other regular books to do and one I stopped working on when my other CP took a break from swapping work.

Finally, my back, thankfully, has been much better. The chiropractor said it's much more stable. I know the new computer chair and the walking has helped.

With that said, it's time to go out in the sunshine for a bike ride. Too bad my allergies have been acting up lately. It's unfortunate when the drugs and nose spray doesn't make things go away.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Beginning a teaching career again

Neat little street.

As of yesterday, I am officially a student Teaching Assistant. After sitting here for 3 and 1/2 years of not getting any kind of full-time work, and having no idea how to get into full time work without British qualifications, I’ve decided to just start over.

For the next year I will be volunteering at a Primary School two days a week, then attending class once a week. It’s frustrating to not be in charge of the classroom when I have some clue how things should go, but I know I don’t miss the stress of the grading and lesson planning. Also, by being a TA, I can see how class is conducted from a different standpoint. Since I’m working with small groups of kids, I can get a better idea of what the assignments do, and how kids deal with them.

All in all, I’m really glad I started this because I had never been through a teacher training course like this. In Florida they just threw you in a classroom and watched you sink. Plus, I’ve been in the house for a year. When I left the Primary school stint last June, I was was bored to death and wondered how I’d ever survive being at home every day. The, of course, I got use to it and was happy to get my writing done. Now that I’ve been out doing things, I forgot how much I miss being busy and useful.

At least now, I hope, I can brush off the days of school and get back into my writing. I have the introvert thing where I have to recover from socialisation before I can feel like myself again. It takes me a while to settle back into the Writing Time mode.

Steve’s also been home with a cold for two days, poor guy, so we’ve been in the house today as well. The weather had been sunny, rainy, and sunny again. Spring just can’t make up its mind.