What are you reading at the moment?

What are you reading at the moment?

This, with variations, is a common question on social media. I suppose it’s due to the extra time some people are finding they have to read, during lockdown, working at home with no commute, etc.

The trouble is, I never know quite what to say. I usually have at least three books ‘on the go’ and sometimes more.

Let’s start upstairs.

The bathroom (with toilet) is dedicated as a rule to the week’s print magazines – at least New Statesman and New Scientist, with an occasional Private Eye (not at the moment because we’re random buyers and there’s a lockdown) or National Geographic (passed on by a friend and similarly absent). If those run out I have a carefully selected book: it must be something I can dip into and out of in between magazines. Not fiction, then. Mostly, books of art, poetry, etc. or perhaps things like Culpepper’s Herbal, or Harry Potter: A History of Magic (British Museum), a Dictionary of English Place Names. I’m sure you get the picture. I just finished The Making of the English Landscape and have given it five stars.

The bedroom has something non fiction but that nevertheless needs longer and more concentrated reading times. I don’t often read lying in bed – I find it uncomfortable and my glasses don’t quite cope – but I’ll sit propped up or on the edge. Currently I’m reading a fairly scholarly book about myth and gender. You’ll get a brief review eventually.

Downstairs next.

In the kitchen I often have two books. One will be recipes I have already read but need to re-read, finding and noting the ones I might actually follow rather than just enjoying in the abstract. The other might be fiction or non-fiction, in paperback. Something I can pick up while I’m waiting for things to cook, or take out into the yard with a cup of coffee. It should be something that can stand being abandoned when the potatoes boil or when the phone rings and I have to rush in. At the moment I’m alternating between Jamie Oliver’s Veg and Bernadine Evaristo’s Girl, Woman, Other. Both fascinating (both Christmas presents 2019) and I mustn’t let the pans boil dry. That happened with my previous kitchen book, Narrow Dog to Carcassonne.

Then there’s the lounge book which might be the one you’re asking about… It will almost certainly be fiction and equally almost certainly on my e-reader (though last week I had a Seanan McGuire urban fantasy paperback). It will stay in the lounge unless I’m going out (not likely just now) in which case it’s easy to slip into my bag if I remember. If I remember the book I will probably remember my mobile phone, and vice versa. I tend to ring the changes in my e-books. I like fantasy, crime, sci fi, mm romance, general romance, and some historical novels. If I find something that combines two or more of these, I’m really happy. Today I’m reading You Let Me In – a chiller that I’ve borrowed from the Amazon Prime Library. It’s very well written but I haven’t got far yet. I also keep dipping into an e-book about baking, written by one of those GBBO stars. I don’t really like reference books on e-readers because I worry about finding things again. I know there are bookmarks but somehow I’m not good at those till it’s too late. I just finished Keira Andrews’ Semper Fi which was a lovely mm historical novel. And I abandoned City of Brass even though it came highly recommended. It was another Amazon Library book so I had no qualms about giving up.

So there you have my reading habits. I should also say that I keep crosswords, sudoku and logic puzzles in the kitchen, bathroom and car, just in case…

And yes, I read the ingredients on sauce bottles, cereal packets, etc. In case you wondered.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Since most of you will be at home rather than at the pub…

 

 

SLÁINTE!

 

An Irish proverb quiz for St. Patrick’s Day.
Here are the first parts of five popular Irish sayings; you have to complete them.

 

1. The older the fiddle…
2. May your home always be too small to hold…
3. You’ll never plough a field by…
4. May misfortune follow you the rest of your life, and…
5. If you’re enough lucky to be Irish…

*************************************************************

Answers (don’t cheat):

 

 

 

 

(I only got one right – number 4)

…and… I also offered for Fandom Trumps Hate.

https://fth2020offerings.dreamwidth.org

will take you to the main site of the organisation.

It’s basically an American thing but as so much of the hate-speech on social media is generated in America and then goes world-wide I feel it’s a good cause to support. I’d be more than happy to support a similar movement in Europe but so far as I know, there isn’t one!
My creator page is:

https://fth2020offerings.dreamwidth.org/205038.html

And yes, I say between 5-10k but if a prompt really interests me I’m likely to write more, even a lot more! So length is negotiable!

I would also like to mention a friend’s page:

https://fth2020offerings.dreamwidth.org/214071.html

is MistressKat’s page. She’s a brilliant writer (you might remember my rave review of Vlarian Oath). (Totally off topic, last night she managed to fine tune this site of mine to remove an unwanted tag and re-establish my icon for commenting elsewhere. I ought to contribute to something somewhere for that alone but instead, I made dinner…)

As with the Australian site, go browse, and if anything appeals to you (not just our offers) bid!

Fandom For Australia

I write, and I write fanfiction, so when I heard about Fandom For Australia it made sense to sign up. I have a lot of friends in Australia and have been distressed by the recent fires. I’ve donated to a couple of charities and a couple of sponsored events but wanted to do more.

https://fandomforoz.livejournal.com is running a fic auction to benefit Australian charities for the relief of various issues arising from the fires.

I haven’t done this kind of fic auction before, but I’ve made a ‘creator page’ and I’m hoping for bids for me to write a fanfic. And that means, of course, that I’m hoping one of you will bid!

Any of my fandoms would be fine – you can get a full list by looking at my AO3 dashboard https://archiveofourown.org/users/moth2fic and clicking on ‘Expand Fandoms List’. But I’ve mentioned my ‘main’ fandoms.
I’ve promised at least 1000 words but knowing myself, any story is likely to be longer than that. So if you’d like me to write in a particular fandom or even to a specific prompt, bid for my services!
There was a viewing period, which I’ve managed to miss, but bidding starts today and my creator page is:
https://ffoz-offerings.livejournal.com/41619.html

If none of my offerings appeal, you might find others that do! Anything that raises money for the cause is welcome!

Happy Valentine’s Day 2020

It’s almost Valentine’s Day and I intended to write a story for you. However, the plot bunny grew to stupid proportions and necessitated quite a bit of research so will not be ready for publication for some time. By the time I realised that, it was getting too late to write anything else. So, as I was about to add pdf versions of some of my work to my free fiction page I decided that would have to be my Valentine gift to you this year. People who have been following my posts for some time will be familiar with the works but at least can now download to read at their convenience and on any device. So I’ll post now for the sake of my Australian friends. Click on the free stuff tab and download anything you want to read, re-read or share! Enjoy!

Marketing: a plea for advice

A New Year’s Resolution you are invited to help me keep.

It’s still January (isn’t it?) – and anyway, I had lots of reviews to post.

I’ve been thinking really hard about marketing. I usually do, at this time of year, just before making some kind of New Year Resolution. It never really works, but at least it means I spend a little time considering the options and the various things I could do. So this yeajorar’s resolution was simply to work harder at marketing…

I ought to start by saying that when I began to write novels and novellas for publication, I very quickly abandoned any publishers other than myself. I found I was too much of a control freak to cope with editors, sales teams, etc. That doesn’t mean I don’t use editors – I do, but I’ve chosen them because I like their work, not because somebody else has imposed them on me. Then, having settled for self-publishing, I made the one resolution (in June, not at New Year) I have actually so far kept. As I began the process in 2012 I’m quite pleased with myself.

What’s this amazing resolution? Not to spend any money whatsoever on my work other than the obvious cost of having a laptop, an internet connection and programs such as Word and Photoshop. Things I would want anyway. Oh – and some money on Skype which was the cheapest way to communicate with the US tax people and get a foreign exemption. My editors (more than one) are people for whom I edit in turn, or repay in other non-monetary ways. And yes, at least one is a professional editor. I make my own covers. I do my own formatting. I seek advice from other writers on FB or WordPress. I read the advice given by Smashwords and Amazon. I follow bloggers like David Gaughran for his inestimable advice.

I know my books are as good as I and my editors can make them in terms of language, story development, formatting, etc. Technically, I don’t think I need to change anything.

I also know that because my works cross more than one genre they will appeal to fewer readers than straightforward romance, crime or fantasy will. They are, perhaps, less sexually explicit than many romance books which may also affect sales. On the other hand they are definitely not YA material though some young adults might well enjoy them.

I do find it hard to write adequate blurbs and choose appropriate tags, and this is probably the area where 2020’s resolution will end up initially.

I’m happy with my covers. I personally dislike covers that feature stock pictures of models (sometimes the same one on various different books) – pictures that often don’t tie in with the descriptions of the character inside, or my vision of them, and pictures that in many cases are simply unappealing. I prefer covers that give a glimpse of the kind of world the reader will enter, so I end up not using figures on my covers at all. I find working with graphics programs (and my own photos) quite therapeutic, so sometimes I start creating a cover even before a book is finished. I’m aware that romance novels are supposed to have those stock figures. I’m also aware that stock figures sell copies.

Then there’s pricing. I’ve tried various price levels and have used Smashwords’ sale (when some of my books were free), given coupons for freebies or discounts to people I know or to people who might leave reviews. I don’t think I’m getting it right.

I’ve looked at other authors’ pricing and also at my own buying habits.

I am really reluctant to pay much for the first book by an author I have not tried before unless I am getting recommendations from a lot of people I trust and who I know share my tastes. So maybe I ought to be pricing the first in each series lower? I am also reluctant to pay much more than $3.99 for any e-book – the publishing costs are far lower than for print books and even when I know and like the author anything more than that price usually has to be in a series I’m following and also be a full length novel. But I have actually stopped following some series because of the high prices (e.g. Rivers of London). And yes, I check the length of books before buying; I’m not keen on paying anything for a standalone short story, however good.

I have noticed that anything under $3 tends to be novella length at best, so maybe I’m selling my series short? I personally tend to avoid short stories unless they’re in a collection (I do have a vaguely limited budget) and it’s possible potential purchasers see my prices as indicating reduced content, especially since my first two publications were novellas.

I currently have the following books available with, as they insist, the same price on Amazon and Smashwords.

Series: The Skilled Investigators (fantasy, elf detectives, female heroine, intelligent dragon, sub plot of mm romance)

 The Scroll
 The Market
 The Crown
 The Lantern
 The Road

All full length novels (between 60k and 80k words) and all currently priced at $2.99. The final volume in the series, The River, is finished (currently with betas) and I hope to publish it early in the New Year. Before Easter, anyway.

Series: Living Fae (‘urban’ fantasy with fae living in Cheshire, UK, plus unicorns, with both mm and mf romance)

 Growing Up Fae
 Tales From Tara
 Flying Free
 On The Edge

Again, all at $2.99 and again, all full length. These overlap to some extent but need to be read in sequence to make sense.

Once both my two series are completed, I have wondered about creating box sets and altering the price – maybe make the individual books dearer but give heavy discounts on the box sets. I could probably then justify doing some kind of relaunch. Thoughts?

Novellas: stand-alone stories which are longer than short stories

 The Lord of Shalott (an mm take on Arthurian legend)
 Silkskin and the Forest Dwellers (an mm version of Snow White set in mediaeval Great Zimbabwe)
 Silver Chains (contemporary mm romance)

The first two are currently $1.99 and the last is $0.99 – it got a lot of downloads when it was free in the Smashwords sale. That hasn’t generated any actual sales and whilst I’m happy with the story it doesn’t really showcase my usual style.

Collections of short stories:

 Three Legends (mm retelling of legends)
 Beating Hearts (five fantasy and sci fi stories)

Both currently $1.99

I published a short Christmas story in December making it free until at least the end of January – maybe till Valentine’s Day. Once I’ve sorted out some formatting I might price it at $0.99 or I might just leave it free. I wrote at leisure but published in haste, so the technical bits need tweaking!

 False Starts

2020 will be devoted to The Virgin and the Unicorn, which is written but needs a lot of work. It’s a full length novel, a regency-style fantasy with an arranged royal marriage plus sentient unicorns and a lot of culture clash which is one of my favourite themes. I suppose going by my current pricing it would be $2.99 but I have a feeling I’m getting that wrong.

I’ve tried ‘advertising’ on FB, not only on my own page but also on various groups. Some writer friends have been nice enough to ‘interview’ me, and reblog my posts. I admit to getting confused about where and when to ‘promote’ my books and possibly not doing enough research. That’s definitely part of the resolution!

Meanwhile, I’m not making many sales. Not none, but not many. Not enough, in fact, to make up for the nightmare this time every year of having to deal with the Inland Revenue (see https://jaymountney.wordpress.com/2020/01/09/its-that-time-of-year-again-tax-returns/). So obviously I need to reconsider various aspects of marketing. I’d seriously welcome comments and advice from all and sundry. You could comment here or find me on FB and message me. Or you could email me at harlequinandyarrow@gmail.com

I’d really welcome advice from strangers who happen to be following this blog as well as from people I already know!

By the way, I do have two other resolutions:

 healthier eating for the whole family and paying extra attention to environmental concerns (especially with regard to packaging).
 actually using the jewellery and accessories I have/buy/receive instead of hoarding them, dragon-style. Dragons are, I think, for fiction rather than the dressing-table.

It’s that time of year again… (tax returns)

Tearing my hair out. I dedicated today to doing my tax returns. I earn so little it annoys me anyway, but I (a) pay tax on my work pension so have to declare other earnings and (b) need the US foreigner tax exemption so have to be part of the system. I did, going by past experience, expect to spend the whole day. It looks as if tomorrow is spoken for, too.

1. Get messages from HMRC about tax self assessment being due.

2. After previous years, put off doing anything till the due date is looming.

3. Attempt to sign in using Government Gateway details (which have worked in the past) and find Government Gateway has closed but I can use the details to sign in to their new system.

4. But they want to verify it’s me.

5. So they send an email and I authenticate my email address.

6. They ask for my passport number. I don’t keep my passport in the lounge (who does?) so this involves a trip upstairs. Anyway, fill in the number as requested.

7. Now they want to send me an access code but do it using my old mobile phone number which no longer works. I changed my number early last year.

8. I can change my preferences and give them a new number – which means signing in again. Change preferences to include updated phone number. (And no, I can’t use the landline because they use an automated number which our Call Guardian won’t accept and I can’t white list their automated number because they won’t give it to me till I’m completely signed in.)

9. New mobile number accepted.

10. They send a code. This means going to the other end of the house. We get internet at one end of our long narrow old stone cottage and mobile coverage at the other. Not their fault, but still.

11. Back at the computer with code. Sign in.

12. At this point they tell me I’m signed into the wrong account but won’t explain.

13. Try things like clicking on continue, hoping to find a new form to fill in.

14. Just keeps going to a loop with ‘wrong account’ message.

15. Email them and they get back to me to say will deal with problem in the next two days.

16. Another email saying they’ve removed my security preferences. I think they mean the change of phone number but still, panic ensues.

17. In the process of trying to open these emails, my gmail crashes.

18. Try to reload gmail and Chrome crashes.

19. Try to reload Chrome and laptop crashes. Well, it could be coincidence but I wasn’t doing anything else…

20. All restarted. Try again with similar results including a new text code (back on my travels) and the same wrong account message. I simply don’t have another account.

21. Try phoning. Permanently engaged, except when they aren’t but aren’t answering.

22. Try their online help forum but you have to be logged into your account to access it.

23. Note that my attempts so far get me to a page which has all my details – full name, d.o.b., address, email, National Insurance number, passport number, etc. so they know exactly who I am…

24. Note that all their offers of help relate to help filling in the form. I only want access to the form which I can deal with quite happily if I can ever get it.

25. Reflect that most people only access this site once a year when their tax is due and it’s insane for them to keep changing the way things are done. Intend, if I ever get through to the phone helpline, to ask for a printed assessment form. Will let you know but it may be some time. Give up for today.

(For anyone who notices these things, yes, that’s the same frog/toad. He/she comes in handy.)

I don’t often say anything about my life…

…my tastes in books, music, etc. yes. Daily events and feelings? Not so much. It takes me a while to be convinced anyone might be interested, and by the time I’ve decided they might, life has usually moved on. However, a group I’m active in on Dreamwidth gave an interesting prompt and for once I felt inspired. Feel free to grab the idea and run with it – either for your own life or for some kind of ongoing action in my story. (And yes, it’s all real, very real, too real.)

Prompt: Write Your Life! No, really! Write the opening segment of a TV show based on your life right now. It can be a comedy, a drama, a dramedy, reality TV, horror, whatever fits your circumstances. You can keep it drabble-sized, write a pitch for your show, or maybe do an arty title card. You can write yourself, an original character, or drop fandom characters into your life. However you approach this, the important thing is to have fun with it!

From Sunshine to Shadow.
(An ongoing soap opera.)

When the story begins the heroine has an idyllic lifestyle with two homes, one in UK and one in Portugal. Much of her treasured antique furniture is en route for the Portuguese house though some is still in storage. The UK house, now sparsely furnished but habitable, needs work before it can be sold.

A wildfire destroys the Portuguese house and most of her personal belongings including all her books, CDs, DVDs, inherited heirlooms and gifts received for birthdays, Christmases, anniversaries, etc. for her entire life. There is survivor guilt because she was not there and so many of her friends were. Some of them lost their houses, too.

The stored furniture returns and fills the UK house with extra ‘stuff’ which needs culling, and far too many boxes which can’t be unpacked because there is no access to anywhere to put the contents. A sideboard arrives and is filled, then other arrivals mean the sideboard is no longer accessible. The contents might just as well have gone up in smoke. The planned IKEA kitchen (and appliances) for Portugal now form a massive ‘island’ in the centre of the UK kitchen. (See the illustration…)

The heroine now feels like a rat in a maze – or in a scrapyard full of junk. (Just as weeds are flowers in the wrong place, junk is belongings in the wrong place…). There is no room to celebrate the holidays or anniversaries or entertain friends. Christmas dinner can’t easily be cooked because of the navigational hazards. She is considering a chicken with minimal trimmings. There is no space anywhere for a tree. Cards could theoretically be strung from the beams in the lounge but boxes prevent these being reached. She has come to the conclusion that any gifts or desires are just asking for future disaster and has deleted her wish list. Anything that might replace lost items is just seen as adding insult to injury; replacements create flashbacks, and besides, the items could turn up in the boxes. Who knows?

The scrap heap (or whatever you want to call it) has built up over the two years since the fire, as the heroine’s husband has gradually brought things ‘home’. The only silver lining is that the insurance company paid out in full. This underlines the truth of the saying that money can’t buy happiness.

Meanwhile, there is ongoing drama related to a possible poltergeist in the seventeenth century UK house. Suspicions have been around for years but recently, whatever is going on has expanded. Missing in action so far: a wooden letter opener, a charging cable for a Kindle (fortunately she has two), one of a favourite pair of earrings, two Christmas cards for relatives abroad (not yet addressed so nobody posted them) and, perhaps more worryingly, a very heavy sharp cooking knife. The vacuum cleaner hose was blocked by a small plastic dinosaur that nobody remembers ever having seen.

On another faintly paranormal note, the heroine has become aware that appointments with both her hairdresser and her dentist are always, but always, accompanied by appalling weather. No other appointments or arrangements are ever affected – the weather varies as it usually does in UK.

From the sublime to the more-than-ridiculous. Will she ever find out what’s in the boxes? Will she ever be able to use the kitchen safely again? Who (or what) has the knife? Can we predict the weather next Monday? Follow this slowly unfolding drama to find out.

A ‘mememe’ meme grabbed from a friend.

You can probably learn a lot about someone from their tastes in books, art, music, films, etc.

My favourite author/book

I have to go with Lord of the Rings. I have read it multiple times and I still return to it. I wouldn’t say Tolkien is the best author I’ve read. (I don’t, for instance, enjoy the style of The Silmarillion.) But the book is fabulous. The films try hard and I enjoyed them but they pale in comparison. If I had to pick an author I’d probably choose Georgette Heyer – shades of Austen plus subtext with lots of humour as well.

The Book I’m reading.

Culpeper’s Herbal. It’s a re-read. I lost my copy in the Portuguese fire and have repurchased, this time a copy with modern updates/annotations. I’ve used the book for reference when writing my fae saga and I love all the ways it sends my mind down lots of untrodden pathways. I was interested to note that JKR in an interview said she had three copies. Other than that I’m reading this week’s New Statesman, and enjoying the short stories in the Rainbow Advent Calendar.

The book I wish I’d written

I think Stephen King’s Dark Tower Series. Whenever I read King I feel as if I’ve attended a writing master class, and I really liked the series plus the way it merged genres: adventure, romance, urban legends, quasi-sci fi, horror. Every word counts and the style, especially in the later volumes (he wrote it over a long period) is flawless.

The book I couldn’t finish.

I usually plough through to the end (with some skimming), especially if a book is popular, to see what the fuss is about. I tend to abandon badly written romance and crime. I think I’ll have to mention The Silmarillion – see my first answer! I got totally bogged down and bored. Same with Don Quixote and The Great Gatsby.

The book I’m ashamed I haven’t read

Not actually ashamed since it was a deliberate choice, but I haven’t read Ulysses. I’ve seen excerpts and that was enough. I definitely avoid anything that might be ‘stream of consciousness’ even though I gather it is currently fashionable again.

My favourite play

Torn between Midsummer Night’s Dream and Vivat Regina.

My favourite film

Torn again. The Third Man or The Fifth Element? If I had to pick for a Desert Island I’d have to toss a coin.

The box set I’m hooked on

Game of Thrones. I wasn’t able to watch it as it aired but I am up to date on the books. My copy of Season 8 (the final one) arrived this morning and I have so far been able to avoid spoilers – since the book series is not yet complete I have no idea who wins the game or whether winter simply draws play to a close. Why it took about six months for the DVDs to be available I have no idea.

My favourite TV series

Spiral, or Engrenages to give it its correct French title. Long running French cop show with all kinds of extra delights involving lawyers, French culture, and a look at modern policing issues. Before that, I might have said Spooks, for the same reasons. But I think I’m enjoying the French series more, partly because the actors, who are superb, are unfamiliar to me so I’m both hooked and fascinated.

My favourite piece of music

When I remember to vote in Classic FM’s annual lovefest, I always choose Bruch’s violin concerto. The first time I heard it I was on my way to work and stopped the car (and was late) in order to hear the end and then find out what it was.

The last movie that made me cry

Probably I, Daniel Blake.

The lyric I wish I’d written

More Like the Movies – Dr Hook

The poem/song that saved me

Not sure I ever needed saving… but I’ve always felt an affinity with Robert Frost’s short poem In Neglect:

They leave us so to the way we took,
As two in whom them were proved mistaken,
That we sit sometimes in the wayside nook,
With michievous, vagrant, seraphic look,
And try if we cannot feel forsaken.

He’s one of my favourite poets anyway.

The music that cheers me up.

It depends on my mood. If I really need to laugh, Flanders and Swan, or The Wurzels. Or Captain Beaky, though I lost my CD in Portugal and it’s no longer available. If I want to feel optimistic, perhaps any Chopin other than the Études which have some rather sombre pieces. His other work takes me to happy places – a visit to his house (now a gorgeous museum) in Poland, and learning to play some of the waltzes.

If I could own one painting, it would be

Hmm. I love all sorts of paintings in art galleries. Not so much in my own house which is ‘difficult’ with lots of oak beams and uneven nooks and crannies. Perhaps a fairy painting by Brian Froud or Amy Brown. It would have to be small if I was going to hang it anywhere. Other than those, I like the female pre-Raphaelites a lot.

The place I feel happiest.

My mood tends to depend on the company I’m in rather than the location. This is a hard question. Maybe in our garden in summer, especially at twilight, with that indigo sky, bats, and stars.

My guiltiest cultural pleasure

Buying too many e-books. I’m usually over-budget and nobody knows but me because they’re all hidden on my Kindle.

I’m having a fantasy dinner party. I’ll invite these artists and authors.

I only enjoy small dinner parties with people I already know and like so this is another hard one. And authors or artists whose work I like are not necessarily people I’d get on with or want to cook for. I’m going to go with people I do actually know: Fiona Glass (writer), Kat Soini (poet), Stevie Carroll (writer), Beth Richardson (artist), Bruce McGregor (actor). I think they’d get on well and the conversation would be stimulating.

…and I’ll put on this music

The Best of Queen, The Best of The Rolling Stones, and The Best of Sting.

The play/film that I’m looking forward to

I haven’t watched Peterloo yet but it’s on my Amazon Prime watchlist. Since I live on the outskirts of Manchester it’s something I’m really interested in.

The play/film I walked out of

I’ve never walked out of a theatre or cinema unless I’ve had to catch a last bus or train. I can switch off films on TV or my laptop and frequently do. The last one was Master and Commander. I was looking forward to it because I’d enjoyed some of the books, but I couldn’t be bothered with all the sea scenes.

The dam that didn’t break.

(This is a photo taken from a television account of the affair.)

The eyes of UK, and probably of much of the world, have been on Whaley Bridge where the dam on Toddbrook Reservoir threatened to collapse. If it had, the town would have been washed away, not just flooded.

Our eyes have been totally glued to the news. Whaley Bridge lies only a few miles from our house, and we have friends there. In fact, during the near-disaster we were looking after some dogs for friends who live in Whaley Bridge but were on holiday in Brazil. Their house, like those of others we know, was perfectly safe, being uphill of the reservoir, but they were watching the news from Brazil, and watching our FB posts with my husband’s photographs which charted some of the events.

Whilst there was total panic (or so it seemed) about what might happen downstream in the valley of the River Goyt if the dam broke, we weren’t personally threatened as our house is well above any potential flood level. However, we were very much affected by the entire affair. Roads were closed – sometimes arbitrarily, we all thought – and we had difficulty accessing the garage that looks after our cars. Bus routes were diverted, the Manchester-Sheffield rail line that goes through Whaley Bridge was closed, and you can imagine the knock-on effects on the whole area. Traffic chaos, rumours, and a lot of disbelief.

We had always known the dam was there, of course. But whoever allowed people to develop the little town on Whaley Bridge below it must, we thought, have been convinced it was all safe. Even now, with the reservoir empty and all danger averted, it seems foolhardy to drive along the main street, but it really is necessary at times! (For example, returning the dogs to their family…)

We have since seen short video footage of various local roads including some of the ones up in the hills; they were turned into rivers and will be needing repair for some time to come.

The reservoir was built by the Victorians and was intended to feed into the lock system for the local canals. We know a couple of people with narrow boats who were affected by the lock closures. Admittedly this aspect of things was ‘trivial’ in that it only affected leisure activities but it still added to the general regional disruption.

Obviously the people of Whaley Bridge who were evacuated were the ones who suffered most, and our hearts went out to them while we watched the weather forecast and hoped against hope that the reservoir would be emptied before further downpours. We had some sympathy for some people who refused to leave – apparently there was confusion about their animals and whether they could also be evacuated.

The army, police, fire service and lots of volunteers did a wonderful job, and in the end, the disaster didn’t happen. That was a matter of luck. Panorama (BBC) is currently filming interviews for a programme with a focus on Whaley Bridge but looking at a lot of UK reservoirs and dams. Let’s hope we don’t get any repeats of this summer’s events!