These last three weeks have been incredibly busy. First, the first batch of Elfin Diaries arrived from the printer at least three weeks earlier than I’d expected, while I was still trying to unravel the structural mess that is the Astrological Association website and before I’d got the Elfin Diaries site sorted with new e-commerce software and a new design.
Then, I went down with a tooth abscess. The previous bouts of tooth pain I’d had before mild compared to this time. After a weekend of increasing pain I was was in a bad way by Monday, desperate enough to see a dentist. Came home with painkillers, antibiotics and instructions to return next month for extractions, fillings and drillings. Oh well. Was ill for a couple more days, occupying the sofa for much of the time. But now fully recovered.
Anyway, managed to get the diaries website up and running in record time, sent out hundreds of newsletters and am now busy dealing with orders. And still trying to sort out the AA site…
Sigh. So I’d best get on with it.

Clouds over Yorkshire

Clouds over Yorkshire

So we went to a weekend camp in Yorkshire. Not the usual Oakleaf one, a smaller invitation-only camp. I had a better time than I thought I would. The weather was better than it might have been, only a few heavy showers for a day and half, quite a lot of sunshine the rest of the time. And I got to see some old faces and have a natter or three.
On the Sunday, we took an impromptu trip to Thirsk – we’d originally gone to Bedale to treat ourselves to a Chinese takeaway, found the place wouldn’t be open for another half-hour and said “OK, how are we going to pass the time?” And I decided I’d like to see the town where I’d lived for four years back in the late 70s/early 80s (and where we’d met…)
So off we went. And when we got there, I actually couldn’t recognise the place; the town centre seemed so much bigger – surely the street hadn’t been anything like that wide? And the layout was totally unfamiliar. There were a few buildings that I remembered – the library seemed to have been turned into a dance studio, the old Ritz cinema was tattier but still a cinema, the vet’s surgery (where my daughter had once taken a poorly hamster) was now the James Herriott Visitor Attraction, the laundrette where I’d taken my washing every Sunday morning was now a clothes shop…
We decided to go and look at the house where I had lived, on a council estate that had been on the edge of the town. Once I’d spotted the vets surgery- oops, the Visitor Attraction, I knew where I was; the road leading to the council estate was first left at the top of the street. Except that when we got to the top of the street, what had been a big open green space with the council estate tucked behind it, simply wasn’t there any more. Instead, there was just houses – lots of them. We drove hopefully down a side-road and got lost in the maze of little streets and cul-de-sacs. There was no sign of the older houses that I remembered. We were hungry; once we got back onto the main road, we decided to give up the search and go find a Chinese (we found the the Hung Moey in the Market Place; it has a decent vegetarian menu and serves enormous portions).
Well, they say you can’t ever go back. They may be right.
This morning I fired up Google Earth, found my old house and was able to take a good look at it on Street View. The little front garden is now concreted over – goodbye to the buddleia that I’d planted by the door – and the council has finally got around to properly fencing in the back garden so that local kids can no longer take a shortcut across what had once been my veg patch. But otherwise it looked pretty much the same on the outside; though no doubt the purple hallway and rainbow-coloured bedrooms have been redecorated with inoffensive flowered wallpaper…

Managed to get the 2013 Elfin Diary finished at last and zipped off to the printers. I feel quite proud of myself for having done nearly all nearly all of it myself; only the Chinese astrology article was by somebody else. Now I have to get on with the Astrological Association site; after that, the new design for the Elfin Diaries site, then marketing and selling the 2013 Diary; inbetween all that updating the badly neglected Oakleaf Circle site…
So I’m going to be very busy. Just as I’ve developed terrible toothache….

Wow – haven’t posted anything here for nearly two months. Best get writing then.
Like I said before, the month before Xmas was madness here, with Elfin Diary orders coming in all the time. Now the rush is over, I can sit back and analyse the mistakes. The print bill was more than I anticipated – that was my error, I hadn’t clarified things. Not a big problem – I’ve covered all my costs and even made a small profit, but I’m going to have to raise prices. Having been thrown into the deep end and knowing nothing about pricing, I simply used the same prices that Caro had been using for at least three or four years.
Of course, I have to be careful with raising prices, especially in these times – put them up too much and people won’t be able to afford them, keep them low and I’ll be left out of pocket. So, at the moment, it’s a bit of a guessing game.
Another mistake I made was to think I could sell all the Diaries myself. It now turns out that Caro had supplied shops all over the country – I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told “I’ve always bought my Diary in XYZ shop, but they don’t have any this year”. But of course, without her list of shops I had no idea. This time, it will be different; I’m compiling a list of New Age shops and will be leafleting them all come August.
A smaller mistake was not noting the date of posting on each order form; a number of Diaries went AWOL in the post and weakly telling people “Er, I’m sure I posted it sometime last week…” isn’t good business. So a cheap date-stamper will be on this year’s shopping list.
Finally, this year the 2013 Diaries will be ready for sale in September! (Won’t they, John? :D)

It’s a lovely sunny day out right now but I daren’t go out walking. My ankle has been bothering me for weeks – Doc G says it’s probably a strained ligament, and he’s probably right (it started when I bought a new pair of boots) but it doesn’t seem to be getting any better; everytime I stop taking my daily dose of paracetamol the aching and twinging comes back. So I’m pretty much stuck indoors for the time being. Luckily the weather has been pretty awful most days. Good job, I suppose, as I have to get the 2013 D finished before May.

So, best to stop procrastinating, and get on with it!

Too busy posting stuff to post stuff on here!

Getting the Elfin  Diaries out!

Getting the Elfin Diaries out!

The first batch of Elfin Diaries finally arrived at Elfin HQ last Wednesday, and I’ve been busy packing them up and dispatching them. Being able to print the postage online is a great time-saver – I can simply print out the labels and hand the packages to the postie, instead of trekking off to the village with them.
That’s providing I manage to catch the postie on his way around the houses. This morning, I turned my back for just a minute and he was here and gone! The car is in for some minor repairs, so I had to load up the shopping trolley and practice my trekking.
Still got loads of orders to fulfill, but I’m having to wait for more Diaries to be delivered, sometime next week. Oh well…..

Been busy, busy busy. The Elfin Diary is still at the printers – should get it next week, hopefully. In the meantime, I’ve been using all those addressed envelopes I was given at Caroline’s house to send out order forms – nearly 600 of them. So far, I’ve had over 100 orders, most of them on the order forms; that’s reckoned to be a pretty good rate of return from a mass mailout. I wish I had the Diaries to send out to all these customers!
Still, that’s lots of money coming in. I’m going to need it to pay the printing bill and cover all the other expenses; postage alone has cost me over £200 and I’ve not posted out any Diaries yet. I’ve worked out that I’ll need to sell at least 500 Diaries before I start making a profit. Still, it early days – people aren’t looking to buy diaries just yet, and I’ve got an ad going into a local freebie magazine that’s distributed all over the county. And I intend to buy some Google Adwords as soon as the diaries arrive from the printers, to get more people to the website. So I reckon I can do it.
Then, of course, I have to get started on the 2013 Diary!

I’m feeling generally better, sleeping better, less tachycardia attacks. Its probably from having work to do all day – I no longer sit around getting bored and restless and fretting.
And now it’s almost the Equinox – autumn already. The leaves on the trees aren’t turning colour yet, except for the ash – that always seems to the the first. But it’s getting chilly enough to warrant putting another blanket on the bed. And then the days will shorten, night will come earlier and leave later. All these seasons – I’ve seen so many. How many more to go, I wonder?

I just had a long convo with the printers – the Diary will be with them in a week. I just have to write the Sky at Night stuff, proof the whole lot and we’re off!
It’s hard to believe that I’m doing all this, by myself. Of course, I still have to market and sell the Diary, but that’s falling into place as well. I have the email addresses of about 250 of last year’s Elfin Diary customers (the ones who ordered via the website shop), so I can start off with a mass email out to them. After that, if I can find the dosh for the stamps, I can start posting out flyers to some of the other past customers.
Fortunately, I won’t have to find the money for the envelopes. Caroline’s system of keeping customer details was to write their names and addresses onto C5 envelopes that were then filed away in boxes. She had no truck with computerised records at all; she didn’t even print out address labels. Consequently, I have around 400 of these hand-addressed envelopes, neatly filed in alphabetical order. Unless I want to bring on RSI by typing all of them into the computer, I’ll have to just use the envelopes for sending out sales flyers and potentially lose all those name and address details.
Caroline, why did you have to be such a technophobe?

There’s still a couple of loose ends. For instance, I’m still waiting for the paperwork that will let me transfer ownership of the domain name. The hosting will come to an end in only five weeks’ time, so that’s getting rather urgent. I do have a Plan B – I’ve bought and can use that if needs be. However, that will lose all the Google-goodness that the original domain name has acquired over seven or eight years – which is why it’s strictly Plan B.
And I have no records of the shops that stocked the Diary, nor of any of her suppliers. If the bloke who printed her T-shirts hadn’t contacted me, I’d probably not have bothered with printing Elfin T-shirts; and I’m still trying to find the wholesaler for the incense that she sold.

But, that’s all teething troubles – I will have a Diary to sell!

Just been out doing some weeding in the garden. The rose is flowering, the scent is heavenly. And I was pleased to see that the honeysuckle is about to flower. Two years ago, I cut it right down to the ground – it was just too wild and overgrown. It started growing back last year, but sulked then and wouldn’t produce any flowers.
It was Caroline who told me how to prune and train honeysuckle – I’m now training this one over a frame and it will look magnificent in another couple of years.

Her funeral is on Friday – naturally I’ll be there.

And now I have the Elfin Diary, as was her wish. I’m busy finishing the 2012 edition. It’s a couple of months behind and we have no real idea yet of how we’ll get it printed. But the wheels are slowly turning….

I sent a mass email out to all her customers that I had an email address for; nobody else seemed to be thinking of informing them, so I did it myself. I set up a Facebook memorial page also. The responses have been touching. She evidently touched many people though her Diary and newsletters. And I have a duty to carry that on.
It’s a bit intimidating – the Diary appeals to the New Age crowd, the people who believe in ghosts, the afterlife, angels, aliens arriving on UFOs, all that carp. Once I was a believer, like them. But I left all that behind years ago – so much of it is anti-reason, anti-science, anti-logic. However, here I am, pitched right back into it and faced with a very fine line to tread. Well, now I am the editor, so I shall decide what goes in the Diary….

Red Squirrel

Red squirrel caught on my neighbours' bird table

Yes, I snapped this little fellow yesterday, happily nicking the nuts from my neighbours’ bird table. I was able to get up to within four feet of him; he was watching me, but didn’t seen concerned. Since I didn’t want to waste time faffing with arperture and shutter speed, I had the camera on automatic settings and zoom. So yes, it’s a decent picture, but it’s all down to the camera, not me.
However, taking such a good shot cheered me up after the mess that was Tuesday. I won’t go into details, except that my marvellous (non-) communications skills really put me in the spotlight! So I’m retreating back into my cubbyhole and sticking to what I know I do well (which doesn’t include writing nicey-nice diplomatic emails…)

Caroline is still gravely ill – the news is not good; she’s no longer able to talk and she’s unlikely to be coming home. There’s not a lot I can do from 200 miles away. I’ve said my goodbyes to her.
Although I had to cancel my Lancashire trip and the likelihood of getting the Diary paperwork now seem remote (thanks to the aforementioned terrific communication skills), me and B are getting on with our plans to publish the Elfin Diary. So life goes on, ever changing….

Health-wise, I’m better, thanks to Doc G increasing my levothyroxine dose. I’ve got more energy and I’m sleeping better. I still get tired after walking to and from the village, but it’s now just normal tiredness that’s swiftly dealt with by a sit-down and a cup of tea. Not the oh-god-i’m-aching-all-over-and-can’t-move tiredness that I was getting before. And I’ve not had any more tachycardia attacks – the ones I was having were obviously a temporary reaction to the new dose. B is a whole lot better as well – he’s nearly back to normal fitness. Oh, and we’ve got a new car!

So, things seem to be looking up at last. And of course, it’s summer, though it doesn’t look a lot like it at the moment – we’ve had rain almost every day for weeks. There’s almost no darkness at night now, the Sun is doing it’s usual northern midsummer thing of spending all night skimming just below the horizon instead of setting properly; next week is Full Moon, so there won’t be a lot of difference at all between day and night then.
How many times have I seen this happening? Too many times to count. I’m getting old…..

I’ve been trying out the new dosage that Doc G has prescribed. Haven’t got the new pills yet, but I’ve cut one of my 100mcg tablets into four and taking the extra each evening. Have tried it for two days and although I felt much better on the first day, I’ve been getting more tachycardia attacks and general irregular heartbeat and racing heart episodes. Last night was especially bad for that, so today I’m knackered again. Sigh.
Botheration. Back to ye olde drawing board, methinks…

On other matters, I’ve arranged to go down to Lancashire on Wednesday to see Caroline and sort the Elfin Diary stuff i have to take back. She wants me to carry it on. I’m already doing almost all the work for it anyway (bar the marketing and selling) so the only big change there will be is that I get all the profits. There will of course be some changes in the appearance of the Diary – every year I’ve longed to make my own changes, but Caroline was insistent on keeping things exactly the same year after year. “My customers like it that way!” she would always tell me brooking no argument.

So, on with wurk…..