A Walk in the Woods to the Lake

Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend (she lives alone and is as paranoid as I am about avoiding the virus, so we reckoned it was okay to walk a couple of feet apart in the wide open spaces). We went the back way to the lake adjoining our local manor house (which you can see in the distance on the photo with the sheep). It was a very hot day and we encountered only a handful of people, all of whom kept their distance. My friend is more athletic than me (she runs an hour or so every day or walks for more than that), and after walking in the heat for about 4 hours, I was about ready to be medevac’d out of there! But it was lovely, such beautiful countryside, and I’m so happy to be able to do this. Afterwards, a takeaway pizza and a bottle of wine, looking out over the sea.

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A Walk on 25th March 2020

When I turn left out of my front door, I go to the beach, the sea, the cliff path. When I turn right, I go to the end of the road and find myself in greenery. Here’s what I saw on my walk today.

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Here is a WWII pill box, which was a guard post from which weapons could be fired. We have these all along the coast, and they were put there in case of German invasion. Now it’s all overgrown, of course.

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Another nice day – here is a huge crow. There are loads of them around Cromer, indeed the local flag has 3 crows on it.

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Hello, Horse! He lives on the land belonging to Cromer Hall, as you can see, which is the seat of the local landed gentry.

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Here is Cromer Hall. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle stayed here, and heard the local legend of the huge, ghostly black dog that is said to roam the local coastline. It was the inspiration for his Hound of the Baskervilles. Oscar Wilde also stayed in Cromer and it was where he wrote ‘A Woman of No Importance’.

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A Walk on 23rd March 2020

Today I went for what my sister and I call ‘the Virginia Woolf walk’, i.e. to the lighthouse! It was a lovely day, and people are keeping away from others, as you can see. I was very glad to get outside. To slightly misquote the hymn, ‘where every prospect pleases, and only man is vile’.

And now back to ‘a room of one’s own’!

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How to find a good proofreader (and avoid the bad ones!)

I am often followed on Twitter by editors, proofreaders, and companies that offer these services. Sometimes I follow them back, sometimes I don’t, depending on the individual profile.

Today I was followed by a company whose bio claims they offer the ‘best online editing and proofreading services’. Their tweets seemed to be answering many interesting questions, and they quoted what looked like erudite articles. I clicked on their website, which also looked smart and well-produced. Next, I went to their ‘Services’ tab and read a small section selected at random―and guess what? I found at least 7 errors. Yes, that’s right, 7. I didn’t read any further.

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Would you like to see what I found?

My remarks are in bold in brackets:

‘Proofreading aims to correct all errors in grammar, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript. If you wish to see whether the final version of your document contains any minor errors, you need a proofreading service, no (they mean ‘not’) an editing service.

Editing necessitate (an ‘s’ is needed here) more of an extra effort from an editor than does a proofreading service.

Editing will mostly make some fundamental changes to improve the standard of the academic writing of the document. As a consequence of this fact, editors will sometimes re-write (‘rewrite’ needs no hyphen) some parts of your document. This is especially important, since an editing service aims to guarantee that the purposes of the document are met.

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Editing services will also check whether the document has any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation mistakes to make sure the document is error-free. Thus, an editor will correct all errors in in (repetition of the word ‘in’) grammar, typography, punctuation, syntax, and spelling in a manuscript. 

In this sense, and (they mean ‘an’) editing service covers the proofreading service as well. However, strictly speaking, proofreading of your document is the last stage before it is delivered to you. Therefore, even if the editor has corrected many of the errors that a proofreader would correct, the document must still pass through this last stage—proofreading. Whether your document is a dissertation or a masters (should be ‘master’s’) thesis or a term document or business document, to make it shine, we mostly advice (should be ‘advise’) our clients to opt for the editing service instead of the mere proofreading.’

Leaving aside the occasional superfluous or missing definite and indefinite articles, and tautology, this is hardly a good advertisement for their services!

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So – how do you find a proofreader, when there are so many to choose from on social media, and you really want to feel comfortable about paying money to someone you don’t know?

  • Ask for recommendations from writers with whom you’ve interacted, and who seem to be people of sound judgement
  • Contact the proofreaders and ask if they will correct a short sample free of charge, so that you can see how they work, and if you like it. Any proofreader worth their salt will do this
  • Ask for references – these should be from people whom you can actually contact, not just random quotes (such as ‘Very pleased’ – A. Smith, Birmingham)!
  • If you’re considering whether or not to employ a particular proofreader, you could always look at the ‘Look Inside’ pages of a book they’ve worked on, on Amazon. It’ll give you an idea of what they do

One last point – I recently worked with a client who had self-published her book, after running it through Grammarly. She then received quite a few reviews saying that there were many punctuation and grammar errors. So she ran it through Grammarly again, checking for (her words) ‘run-on sentences, punctuation, spelling errors’. Result – more negative reviews. She decided to give the book to me for proofreading. I made over 1,000 corrections. I would not recommend that anyone rely on Grammarly!

Happy writing!

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A String of Christmases

Throughout my life, I’ve almost always been with my parents at Christmas time.

In common with many people, I spent all the Christmases of my childhood with my family. When I was at university, I always came back home to see them. And then when I was living in London in my twenties, and my mum and dad separated for a few years, I would be with my mother at Christmas, and my dad and siblings would come around too.

When my parents were in their 60s and 70s (having long since reconciled) they had what Mum once described as the best time of their marriage. Christmas 1990 was particularly memorable for them because they were in Australia with my aunt and cousins―alas, I was in London with a viral infection, laid low for 3 weeks.  My ex-husband made Christmas dinner for himself and his friend, and I couldn’t eat a thing.

A couple of times I spent Christmas somewhere more exotic than dull December in England– once with a boyfriend in Corsica, and in 2007 I spent a freezing 3 days with a friend in Prague; I haven’t been as cold before or since, but we found a terrific bar which played Aerosmith and where they served amazingly cheap brandy!

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Everything changed for our family in 2008, when my mother developed Alzheimer’s―this was the beginning of 4 very difficult years for my dad; it’s not easy to suddenly become a carer when you are in your eighties. I went to see them every Christmas, but as far as Mum was concerned it might have been midsummer; her perception of time and place was one of the first things to go. Life is almost always very tense when you live with a person who has Alzheimer’s because their moods can vary between aggressive, frightened, argumentative and even violent, and you can’t always reassure and calm them.

In 2012 Mum went into a nursing home, the delightful Westgate House  which we chose with great care. For the next 5 years I would always go and spend Christmas with my dad – unlike my siblings, I wasn’t married and had no children, so it was easy for me to do so. We’d visit Mum, but of course she didn’t understand it was Christmas Day.

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I loved those quiet Christmases with Dad―up early to go to Communion at the lovely local church, home to open a few presents and telephone relatives, lunch, visit Mum, then Christmas dinner that we’d planned earlier, usually ordered and collected from Waitrose or M&S. Then an evening of Morecambe and Wise, or possibly Inspector George Gently or Last of the Summer Wine.

Dad’s idea of pushing the boat out was to buy a large bar of Green & Black’s chocolate to share over 5 days; my parents, having been teenagers in WWII, still had the attitude that one mustn’t be self-indulgent―I’m the only person I know who habitually lost weight over Christmas! There was something I loved about the safety and predictability of it all, and I told Dad that, as long as he was still around, I would always spend Christmas with him.  Now and again, I would think about how lovely it would be to go away somewhere, to a really nice hotel, maybe even abroad; I asked Dad if he’d like to go away for Christmas, because he loved hotels, but he said he didn’t like to leave Mum, even though he knew it was all the same to her, and she was well looked after.

In September 2017, Dad died suddenly. 2 years later, I still feel an enormous hole in my life, and I miss him terribly. Exactly 18 months later, Mum died peacefully in her care home. I had visited her there for the 2 Christmases before, and last December she recognised me and gave me the most wonderful smile, which is one of my most treasured memories.

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And now, of course, I can travel anywhere in the world the fancy takes me for Christmas – apart from the one place I really want to be.

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Me and my family 1994