Monday, 28 December 2009

A Gift from Pop on Blog Takeover Day

My friends call me Frank, but to my family I am known as Pop. If you’ve ever read one of my granddaughter’s stories and it has featured a very tall, slim, dignified gentleman with high cheekbones and blue eyes, chances are you’re reading about me.

I was born in 1895 and I had three sisters and five brothers. My father was killed in Rotterdam in 1908 when he fell into the dry dock. Some say he was drunk. Some were probably right.

Until then he worked for the GER on the Amsterdam as a fireman. But enough about him, this is about me and I’m much more interesting. If I could I would add a twinkle and a wink to that sentence, but I’ve been dead for nearly thirty years and I haven’t yet got to grips with this new technology.

The year my father died my mother emigrated to Canada taking me with her. Just me. We left from Liverpool and lived for a while in Canada before moving down to North Dakota and finally settling back in Manitoba. My mother worked as an exhibition cook. She was tricked into marrying a man who used to beat me and probably her too.

But this isn’t about her or him, it’s about me. Twinkle, wink.

Eventually my younger brother joined us. He made the trip to Canada alone. He was 11.

We weren’t the only immigrants living in Sifton, Manitoba. There were a lot of Ukrainians there too which brings me to my New Year gift to you. A simple recipe, but more of that later.

My younger brother and I joined the Canadian Army and returned to Europe. When it was all over we went home to Canada. Our step father died soon after our return and we brought our mother back to England the same year.

I ended up working as a chief cook on the boats – steamships they were then, where we often had stars like Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester on the passenger list.

I had permission to wear a specially made chef’s hat. Instead of the tall one which was the issue, I had to have a shorter one made as the tall ones used to get knocked off my head by the galley ceiling and no one wanted my hat in their soup.

And I was one of the first people to be given Penicillin. It saved my life and then many years later, damn near killed me when I became allergic to it.

I never used a recipe in my life, but I have tried to recreate a family favourite here for you that I made every Christmas (as well as the mince pies and sausage rolls) until my daughter took over.

This was of course in the days before mum could go to Iceland and party food came in boxes. We’d have roast chicken with my own version of sausage meat stuffing for lunch on Christmas and Boxing Day and at tea time we’d have cold chicken, cold stuffing, sausage rolls and Russian Salad.

I know that most people refer to a potato salad as Russian Salad, but I never have. Potatoes belong in potato salads. No room for spuds in my Russian Salad I’m afraid.

There is nothing like cold meat turned pink with beetroot juice and the clean crisp flavour of celery as a delicious antidote to all the traditional heavy Christmas food.

So here it is. My Russian salad. Still made by my granddaughter to this day – but she doesn’t eat meat so she has her quiche turned pink, which isn’t the same at all to my mind.

First you need a bunch of celery. Dirty if you can get it. But wash it of course. You don’t want to eat the dirt. Chop it into small pieces and put in a bowl.

Beetroot, freshly cooked if you can bear to spend the time (and leave some stem on to stop it leaking that wonderful red juice all over your saucepan). Use a jar if you must. Chop it into small pieces and mix it with the celery.

Add a chopped onion. Small, big, medium – whatever your taste. Pour on some vinegar – again to taste. And that’s it!

Quantities? As much or as little as you like. It’ll keep in the fridge for a good few days.

It’s perfect with cold meat. Ay? Oh the owner of this blog says it’s perfect with quiche too. Tuh!

Lessons and Takeover Day

It doesn’t matter how many times you look at the Weather Channel or Metcheck or the Met Office website or even the BBC weather – you cannot make the snow and ice melt. Also it should be noted when they all give different forecasts, it is not an option to choose the one you want.

If the M25 is blocked and the tailbacks extend for forty miles, checking the status of it on Keep Moving or the Highways Agency website or even the BBC travel site every two minutes will not make all the traffic magically disappear.

Endlessly checking your emails will not bring an acceptance into your inbox however much you want it to.

Looking at your bank balance three times a day on the internet will not make it get bigger.

Looking at your bum in the mirror three times a day will not make it get smaller.

Standing with the freezer lid up and staring at the contents until your eyeballs freeze will not make a loaf of bread magically appear.

Playing endless games of Bubble Spinner on Facebook will not lead to enlightenment.

Keeping the empty tub of Hotel Chocolat Kirsch Cherries to sniff will not remind you not to make such a pig of yourself, it will simply make you want to eat more.

Watch out for another Blog Takeover Day on January 1st 2010. More info on Sally's blog here.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Happy Christmas One and All

This year I took my first tentative step into Blogland, worried that I’d be making a complete idiot of myself and wondering what on earth I’d find to blog about, but now I feel as if I’ve been here forever.

Hey, whoever threw that rotten tomato and yelled out “Feels like it to me too,” can go and sit on the thinking chair (that’s what they call the naughty chair at school).

I’ve got to know so many nice (no apologies for using that word) people in Blogland and I have to say it’s been lovely.

I’d been lurking around for a while too scared to dip my toe in and comment on so many wonderful blogs – you know that saying, how does it go? “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and remove all doubt.” That’s me that is!

Why did I worry? No one yet has said “Bugger off and don’t sully my blog with your vacuous comments again,” or “Call yourself a writer? Not one word of that made sense.”

Anyway, to get to the point I wish you all a very happy Christmas and if anyone out there is lurking wondering whether to dip in a toe and make a comment or ask a question or just say hello, please do, you’ll be more than welcome.

Have fun my dearios xxx

Friday, 18 December 2009

Tis the Season . . .

Love them or loathe them it is the season for the Round Robin. I gave up reading them years ago and they head straight for the shredder unread. I have neither the time nor the will to read them.

Personally I would rather read a couple of personal lines scribbled on a Christmas card.

My daughter has written one this year. I've changed the names to protect the innocent, but have decided to reproduce it here.

So with thanks to Lisa Johnson . . .

January - a new niece was born, and Boris turned 4 years of age! We were entering month 4 of an endless bout of sickness which lasted another 2 months! We got through it by singing songs and hitting each other with holly leaves.

February - Valentines Day arrived along with a diamond ring from Dad for Mum, it was so perfect and un-flawed that we have had to put it in a vault and visit it at weekends. We all celebrated by singing and hitting ourselves with holly leaves.

March - Boris completed his A-level Maths. Next year he is going for French and History of Art! We rewarded him by allowing him to sing to us and hit us with holly leaves.

April - Spring sprung and we went to Disneyland Florida with our annual passes on our private jet, we stayed in the queen’s villa, which has a hot tub, and is actually situated in the middle of Disneyland. Mickey Mouse invited us for dinner and served us with white chocolate cakes and mint toothpaste on crackers. We were a bit surprised that he was drunk and we had to leave quickly. We hid ourselves under some holly leaves and sang to ourselves quietly to comfort ourselves.

May - Eugenie starred in her own play, she wrote the script and all the music and was mentioned in most of the major London newspapers - she met God and Jesus and they signed her t-shirt. We gave them some holly leaves and sang to them.

June - We were so wrapped up in ourselves we barely noticed that summer was upon us! We spent a lot of time outside singing loudly much to the delight of all who live near us. We cooked nasty food on the bbq, and Eugenie turned 2. We sang to her and hit her with holly leaves.

July & August we took a tour of Mars and stopped off at the moon on the way home, we got a real feel for 'life in space' and wonder how we ever got on before we went there. There were no holly leaves to hit ourselves with and our singing got lost as there was no atmosphere.

September - Boris started at university, he adores it! He spends most of his time reciting the dictionary (his favourite book!) and he recently drew plans up for a new luxury home for us! He has made so many little friends and he hits them with holly leaves and teaches them to sing.

October - Dad was released from his duty at the local charity 'cash for the under-privileged' he has spent 65 hours a week for the last 20 years doing good works and looking down on the needy and stupid. So he has now joined a barbershop quartet and sings with them while wearing holly leaves as a buttonhole.

November - Boris has excelled at his music lessons, and has passed grade 57 recorder with angel wings, but only managed a distinction for piano at grade 33.

December - we are getting ready for our Christmas celebrations, we shall be singing locally, dancing through the streets, visiting the needy and baking them some delicious pies and things because the needy love pastry. Mum will be cooking her famous 7 meat Christmas dinner and Dad will be descending on earth from above on a golden cloud. Rainbows usually fly from our arseholes at this time of year because we are so bloody wonderful - so if you see a rainbow at this time of year, chances are you will find an arsehole at the end of it!

Merry Christmas - our lives are better than yours!!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Pony Rescues - Urgent

Have just had an email concerning the urgent rehoming of ponies. I'll copy it below just in case anyone out there can help.


VERY URGENT- 30 UK Ponies in danger of slaughter- needing rescue placements or homes asap

DEADLINE- before 19th December- otherwise they will be slaughtered for meat!!!!

SWAP team UK have received an emergency appeal tonight for 30 lovely Ponies in danger of slaughter in the UK. We are asking all our supporters for help with this very special appeal, please see below.

Shy Lowen Horse and Pony sanctuary in Merseyside (UK) have a short window of opportunity to get these ponies into homes or into sanctuarys before they are slaughtered, they have until the 19th December to do this.

The ponies are unhandled. Please help all you can to save these precious lives by reading the appeal below, including full contact details and their website, you can also make a donation on the link below, their charity number is-1122891.

Homechecks will be done on those kind individuals offering a forever or temporary home. All rescues please help with this appeal. Bernadette at the sanctuary can be contacted at telephone - 07960 230548

Any rescue centres that kindly offer help please meet the following criteria

On 5th December over 100 Welsh Mountain ponies ranging from this years foals to 2 year olds were auctioned at Conway, N Wales. 67 of the ponies were not sold and originally an agreement was made by the breeder to sell them at £3 each to the meatman. They were to be collected on Monday 7th December. The Meatman didn't turn up and we have a short window of opportunity to get these ponies into homes or into sanctuarys. There are currently 30 who have not got anywhere to go and the farmer has extended the time we have to place them to 19th December.

The ponies are subject to a deposition order and have to be microchipped for passporting at a cost of £15.00 each before we can move them.
What we need is homes or placements (even if this is temporary) for the ponies, help with transport and funds to cover the microchipping, gelding and passporting.

If you can help please call 07960 230548 Bernadette Langfield at Shy Lowen Horse and Pony Sanctuary

If you'd like to make an online donation towards this rescue please do so on this link

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Roving Eyes

You know how it is. You get a title in mind and feel you have to write something for it.

That’s how it is with the roving eyes.

I was told by an English teacher at school never to use the word nice as it is a lazy word and I should look for a suitable alternative. I believe she was the same one who told me never to write “All of a sudden” but to use “Suddenly.”

These days if I want to use the word nice, I have to grit my teeth and force myself, but there are times when nice fits. For years I carefully edited Nice from my work and as for All of a sudden, it didn’t get a look in.

Oh and I was told “and then” no no no!

But I noticed other people using these words and phrases and gradually I allowed them to creep in to my writing.

I happen to like the word nice. So there Miss!

Which brings me to roving eyes.

The book I have just finished reading was full of eyes flying around like tennis balls. They were landing on cartons, flying to the door, falling on carpets, dropping on letters; those eyes were all over the place.

It was written by a popular and well respected writer and it was a damn good story, but those eyes plopping round all over the show bothered me. It’s something I never even noticed until Stephen King pointed it out and now I try very hard not to have any of those roving eyes wandering round in my work.

So the point of this blog? Well I think what I’m trying to say is do your own thing, get your own style and write what feels right.

There was no Christmas play for Lachlan. He came home from school on Tuesday looking dreadful and he’s not been at all well. Now his little sister is ill too.

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Money Well Spent

In the post yesterday I had a reminder from Writers' Forum that my subscription has now ended. Will I be renewing it? Is it cold at the South Pole?

I was going to say the latest issue is a particularly good one, but then I could say that about every issue. There’s an interview with Cally Taylor by Helen Hunt and we see Glynis Scrivens in her (gorgeous) writing place.

I was going to go through the magazine piece by piece, but it’s all so good. Olivia Ryan’s article about using a pseudonym, Sally’s competition pages, a new Book Deal or Bust, Lynda Lewis’s terrific column. And I haven’t even read everything in it yet.

And Della has a new Toolshed, this time one for people trying to make the transition from short stories to novels. This is particularly relevant to me because it’s something I find very difficult. Fifteen, maybe even ten years ago, I could rattle off hundreds of short stories and at least two novels a year.

Not that the novels were ever publishable. I was too keen to get onto the next project and wasn’t interested in polishing and refining my work. All I wanted was to get it all out of my system and onto the page so that I could move on.

Anyway back to the here and now, I do exactly what Della says in her Toolshed. I get to a certain point, usually about 30,000 words and I run out of steam. I think I may have said before that my problem is that I can’t shut the inner editor out and get on with it. So I would renew my subscription just to read Della’s new series, that’s without all the other great stuff in there.

So that’s one lot of money that will be well spent.

My other buy last week was a couple of coats for Indy and Tilly. I’ve often considered buying them coats and with all the rain we’ve had lately my mind has been made up.

Tilly couldn’t care less about getting wet if she’s going for a walk. Ask her to nip out in the garden in the rain for a wee and it’s another matter. But Indy looks the picture of misery. His shoulders hunch, his nose droops and he plods along as if he’s on his way to the gallows.

It goes back to him almost dying as a pup when he used to be icy cold all the time. He can’t stand being cold. So raincoats have been bought.

I spent hours trawling the internet for something suitable. They agreed they wouldn’t suit tartan and they pulled faces when I suggested anything high-vis and shook their heads when I found one with a hood.

Then I found these. They fit perfectly, were inexpensive and they’re lightly padded, but should keep the wind out and the worst of the rain – and they have chest guards and neat little turn up collars too.

They have high vis strips and are washable. They tried them on and when I showed these pictures to my friend, she suggested the captions that I have used here. Actually those captions could have been applied to me when the post arrived and I saw the big brown envelopes on the mat.

Six rejections. Hey ho. But like Indy & Tilly in the last photo - I'm smiling inside, really I am.

It’s raining and cold so the new coats will get their first outing today.




Friday, 4 December 2009

I'm Still Here!

And why wouldn’t I be I hear you ask? Where else would I be if not here?

Well, lost in the shadowy darkness actually.

Nothing to do with writing really, but something interesting has been happening to me. I’ve been getting messages . . . from the other side. Cue Twilight Zone music.

I belong to various survey and points gathering things on the web and I was offered 200 points if I’d register with a visionary medium. So I registered. Where’s the harm? I thought. What do I have to lose? What the hey?

So let’s begin by saying I brought this upon myself. But perhaps there are people out there, desperately worried and unhappy people (rather than greedy for points people like myself) who will respond to an invitation for a free reading out of desperation.

The emails began to arrive. Guess what – this woman is my best friend. She has dreams about me. She works All Night Long on my charts.

At first the emails promised me wealth and riches and £70 – all I had to do was pay her some money. Then she offered me £80 . . . then £90.

I decided to unsubscribe myself. Blow the points. I could do without them anyway.

Still the emails kept coming.

And when offering me wealth and riches didn’t work she wrote to tell me that I was under psychic attack. Surely I must have noticed my luck had been going from bad to worse lately? Well yes, but isn’t that happening to everyone at the moment what with the recession and all?

Still I wouldn’t pay her to save me. So offering me money had failed, scaring me had failed what next? Three lucky dates – I would get large amounts of money paid into my bank on three dates, but only if I knew the secrets . . . which of course this woman who cares so much about me would tell me . . . when I paid her.

Three or four emails came with the dates and still I wouldn’t pay.

On Tuesday morning I got the most disturbing one so far. Something Very Dangerous was going to happen to me in three days. I’ve got the evil eye upon me. I’m being victimised and what’s more, this evil eye business could cancel out the good fortune that she’d promised me earlier. Eeek!

In her dreams I was calling out for help and she reached out and tried to save me, but I slipped from her grasp. Well at least she tried. What a wonderful woman.

She’s going to perform a magic ritual for me because if she doesn’t I may lose out on the chance of winning one of the biggest jackpots ever. And all I have to do is pay her £19, yes you heard it folks, £19 instead of the usual £139. Bargain!

The amount has been dropping steadily. But as she cares so much about me will she eventually offer her services for free?

The thing is I am naturally paranoid. I do feel victimised. And yes my dears there are times when I feel that the evil eye is upon me, but don’t we all feel like that sometimes?

Okay I can laugh about it. I know about evil eyes and how they work and if you are in to such things then you know that it brings more harm on the sender than the receiver.

I have no doubt that there are people out there who will be getting these worrying emails and reaching for their credit cards and I think that’s sad. I would suggest that if you are worried by something like this and tempted to pay the fee to be saved – don’t.

If you’ve the money to spare, give it to charity instead, give it to the homeless guy sitting on the corner, buy some food for the cat’s home – at least then your money will do some good and who knows, your gesture may bring you good karma.

I looked up this so called medium on Google and the first link was to a complaints site. And what do you know? Someone had posted up an email from her which was identical to one of those she sent me and what’s more . . . several people said they’d had the same one and worryingly, a lot of people have been frightened into paying up.

I think it’s despicable.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Reading Out Loud and Runny Noses

I sometimes read my stories out loud to myself and if you can get a rhythm going so much the better. Anything wrong jars and it’s easier to spot typos. I amuse myself by doing it in different accents and I have no idea where they come from because I certainly don’t write them with any accent in mind.

It’s been a strange, unhealthy and rather unhappy week what with one thing and another, but things could be a lot worse.

On the up side, it looks as if I’ll be able to see Lachlan in his Christmas play in two weeks time which I’m looking forward to so much. He’s got lines to learn and he’s a bit nervous.

And it’s got me thinking about the Carol services we used to have.

The first one I can remember was at infant school. I had to read a piece out. It included a line something like, “And they came with haste, and found Mary and Joseph and the baby lying in a manger.”

When I was reading it out to the headmistress beforehand she tapped the page and asked what was wrong with that line. I said I didn’t know. I was five and scared (she was a very scary woman).

After a lot of exasperated huffing and puffing and with eyes a-bulging she said it read as if they’d found the whole family in the manger. It was probably my first real English lesson and I have never forgotten it.

Nor can I ever think of the nativity without imagining the whole family stuffed in a straw filled feeding trough with silly grins on their faces.

Later, at primary school, we’d troop down to the church for our Carol service. One year I was in a pageant – I can’t remember what my costume was, but I think we had to dress up as people from different countries.

My mum made my outfit and at the church we were put into pairs and we were to walk down the aisle holding hands with our partners.

The boy I had been partnered with – I can’t even remember who it was – had a runny nose.

All I can say in my defence is that I was very young, seven at the most.

I said I didn’t want to do it. I couldn’t do it and I absolutely refused to hold his hand – I was terrified that dangly drip would fall and land on me. Everyone was very understanding about my apparent stage fright, but most understanding of all was the boy with the runny nose.

He was so sweet. I do remember his kindness and the concern in his eyes as much as his runny nose. He asked me why I didn’t want to do it. I have never forgotten how I felt when he asked me that question.

I just knew I couldn’t tell him the real reason and hurt his feelings, so I said I was scared. And so that year I didn’t take part in the pageant and just after I’d been sent to sit in a pew, the teacher asked him if he’d got a hanky and she got him to blow his nose.

Without the drip I saw him for what he was, a nice, kind boy and now he was holding someone else’s hand.

I could only watch miserably as the colourful parade went down the aisle without me.

And the moral of this story is . . . well there isn’t one. I was just waffling as usual.

The worst part about this week is that one of my daughter’s cats has gone missing. He hasn’t been home for three days and it’s not like him. He likes his home comforts and usually sleeps on her bed at night. All we can do is wait and hope.

Monday, 23 November 2009

Fun With Indiana Jones

Isn’t it always the way, you take leave from your computer for a while and when you come back there are about a million blog posts to catch up on and another million emails in the inbox.

Isn’t it great news that Woman’s Weekly are going to be publishing ten fiction specials next year instead of eight?

What have I been doing to keep me away from my beloved? (My computer that is, I took the other beloved with me) I have been mostly playing Lego Indiana Jones on the X Box - great game (well for a 4 year old and his granny anyway), lots of fun. I love it that the little Lego Indiana guy occasionally takes time out to throw the woman over his knee and give her a snog. It tickles Lachlan to bits.

And the five in a bed squish brought back such happy memories of when my own kids were small and used to jump in bed with us in the middle of the night or “Time for breakfast” as they used to put it.

Plus I have got my hands on an unputdownable book. I bought ten Jeffrey Deaver books for £9.99 from the Book People. I’d never read any of his, but his reviews on Amazon are good so I thought I’d take a chance. I’m so glad I did. A quid a book – what a bargain.

At the moment I’m reading A Maiden’s Grave and forcing myself to stay awake at night so I can read a little bit longer. Great book. Loads of tension and terrific characters. It’s one of those books you end up desperate to finish, but know you’ll feel sorry when you do because it was such a great read.

When my daughter and her husband went to London, they were going to go by train, but what with replacement buses the journey would have taken four hours. We live seventy miles from London and usually without delays the journey takes about ninety minutes by train – then you have to add on however long it takes you to get where you’re going within London.

So they drove in, got to their hotel in the centre of London within ninety minutes and even counting the cost of petrol, parking etc. they saved £30.

They had such a great time, enjoyed seeing Julian Clary again and he brought his lovely dogs on stage at the end. But I think I had just as much fun back home with Indiana Jones.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Oh Nothing Really

Sorry about this – just let me brush away the tumbleweeds and move some of these cobwebs. Ah, there you are.

I don’t know what’s happened to this blog of late, but you may have noticed the wind whistling through the gaps and the occasional creak of footsteps outside.

So many people are working hard on NaNo and I don’t even have that excuse, but I have been very busy doing other things not even remotely related to writing.

And then there’s Christmas. I’ve just about got my head round it. Christmas never used to be this stressful. I blame the blokes.

What do you want you ask. Oh, nothing really they say. What about slippers? Nah, I’ve got slippers coming out of my ears. After shave? The other half’s got that covered (that’s son/son in law speak for “I know you, you’ll get me something that smells like a cross between moth balls and Werther’s Originals”).

Clothes? The look of horror is enough to kill that idea. Then there’s the Beloved. What do you want? Oh, nothing really.

What about the girls? The grown up ones that is. They’re a bit easier. Plenty of stuff out there that smells nice, looks pretty and sparkles.

Anyway, I have bitten the bullet and got a few bits and pieces of Oh Nothing Really and now you can be sure they’ll be beating a path to my door, “You know you asked what I wanted for Christmas, well I’d really like . . .”

So when you hear that I’ve been done for grievous bodily damage with a 10 metre roll of red shiny penguin wrapping paper you’ll know the reason why. (Note I have the heftiest roll of paper put to one side in premeditated readiness).

This weekend I am staying over at my daughter’s to baby/dog/cat/snail sit while she goes off to London to see the lovely Julian again (Jealous – me? Of course I am) with her newly moustachioed husband.

As well as being NaNo, this month is also Movember – supporting prostate cancer research. My son in law is doing his bit, growing his Mo to help a Bro.

There you have it, a lot of Oh Nothing Really.

What would I like? I'd like this day back - ooh a long time ago - my youngest and our lovely Sweep having fun in the snow.

It seems like only yesterday. I wish it was - I've gone all teary thinking about it. So yes, that's what I'd like - the turning back of the clock just for a day or two.

I suppose a time machine would be out of the question . . .

Friday, 13 November 2009

Darcy Update

A while ago I posted about search and rescue dog, Darcy who was in quarantine after working in Indonesia following the earthquake - despite having had all her necessary inoculations.

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn has agreed to let her out of quarantine for the remaining five months of her sentence on condition that she is kept penned. She’ll be back at her base in Colchester with the Essex Fire Service and will be allowed to work with her handler, John Ball.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Young Fiction Writer of the Year

I’ve been reading some of the winning entries of this competition in December's Fiction Feast and – wow, I’ve had my socks knocked off.

I haven’t read them all yet, mainly because the last one I read was so powerful and moving that I wanted to savour it and let it sink in before I read more, but all those I have read have been stunning.

What a lot of talent there is out there.

Congratulations to all the winners and I am sure Anthony Horowitz is absolutely right when he says we could be hearing a lot more from some of these names in the future.

I certainly hope so.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Back to Work

I have often tinkered with the idea of joining in with NaNoWriMo because it sounds such a lot of fun – and a great idea to just let yourself go with the flow, but once again I’ve chickened out.

Considering I only managed to cough up 6 extra words on one of my Big Projects in all of October and actually lost over 1000 from another I don’t think I would have done very well anyway.

All those of you who are going for it - good luck and keep those fingers flying over the keyboards.

I’ve had my granddaughter from away to stay again since Thursday, hence the absence from the computer. There is nothing to compare with sitting up in bed on a Sunday morning having a cuddle and watching Spongebob on the telly after sending down to room service (Grandad) for a cuppa.

It’s been a lovely week – we took both two year olds to the park and to feed the ducks on Friday. One of the ducks flew over the fence and joined us, then jumped back in the pond for a bath which the girls thought was great.

On Saturday we went to my daughter’s for a Halloween party – she’d made up a bowl of treats for the Trick or Treaters with dyed black cooked spaghetti in amongst the bags of sweets so the kids had to delve in – it felt horrible, but they loved it.

There seems to be an unwritten rule around here that if you have a pumpkin outside your house you welcome Trick or Treaters and they don’t tend to bother people who don’t.

Last Tuesday we got up to find Tilly couldn’t open her right eye. So off we went to the vet’s. We were in there for twenty minutes while her eye was examined. First he looked in her eye with a light very close up like the optician does.

She was so good for all this. She is such a nervous dog and she was shaking like a leaf, but she put up with it all. Then he put drops in to numb her eye before he checked all round under her lids for foreign objects – thankfully finding none. This was followed by drops of dye. We looked at her eye with the light and he showed me where she’d poked a hole in her cornea – again!

This isn’t the first time she’s done it and she also suffered an eye injury from a cat scratch when she was a pup (before she came to us). But spaniels being spaniels like to get their noses into bushes and undergrowth. Her pupil had gone into spasm and she must have been in considerable pain so he put drops in to relax the pupil and we came home with painkillers, antibiotic drops and drops to keep her eye moist.

Richard asked if his work experience lass could come in and observe and I said of course she could - she was a lovely girl and made a big fuss of Tilly.

Reminded me of the time when I was in hospital, supposed to be in isolation when a woman came in with about a dozen students. She told me that I wouldn’t mind them all having a look and when I looked a bit uncertain she told me this was a teaching hospital after all and proceeded to undo my bandages. She had them all gawping at me – without another word to me. Then she put the bandages back on – I ended up looking like something out of a Mummy movie with bandages dripping down round my neck – and left without so much as a goodbye.

The sister came in minutes later having seen the woman and her entourage leaving the unit and was furious. She said the woman had no right to come in with her students, hadn’t asked her permission (because she wouldn’t have given it) and wanted to know if she’d asked mine. “Er, not really,” I admitted. She re-did my bandages and went off to raise hell.

Next time I need medical treatment, I’m going to see the vet!

On Saturday Tilly had her follow up and the eye is healing and looking much better. At least now her pupil is back to normal she doesn’t look like a canine version of Mad Eye Moody any more. A couple more days and should be all done with the drops.

I did start to panic about the fact that I cancelled my pet insurance but the fees this time didn’t even come up to the excess on my former policy so – so far so good.

And large bags of Maltesers have instructions on how to reseal the bag . . . am I missing something here? I mean who in the world opens a bag of Maltesers and needs to reseal it?

The Lovely Blog Award

I’ve been away for a few days – well not away away, but away from the computer and I came back to a wonderful surprise – I’ve won The Lovely Blog Award.

Thank you Sue – I’ve never been awarded anything in my life before and I am so chuffed and made up I’m sat here with tears in me eyes!

Now I can award the Lovely Blog Award to someone and it has been so hard deciding who is should be because there are so many lovely blogs out there.

The rules are
1) Accept the award and post a link back to the awarding person – in this case
2) Pass the award on
3) Notify the award winner

After thinking long and hard I have decided to give it to Olivia Ryan (Sheila Norton) for her lovely blog Olivia’s Oracle here at which was one of the first blogs I followed. Sheila writes lovely books and smashing stories and her blog is always a joy to read.

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Ideal Home for Writer

Or a Reflexologist – or maybe a writer who is also a Reflexologist or is married to one or . . . maybe you’re just someone looking for peace and quiet and a beautiful house to go with it.

May I direct you here

This is the house belonging to Lynne Hackles in the lovely Welsh countryside overlooking the Cych Valley. It comes complete with the option of taking over the reflexology business – along with 200 clients.

And if that hasn’t convinced you I have a three letter word for you AGA! And what about this – craftsman built bookshelves. Are you drooling yet?

Go on – have a look!

Here is a picture of the front garden to whet your appetite.

Wednesday, 21 October 2009

Free Darcy

Darcy is a fire service rescue dog who was taken to Indonesia to help in the search for people after the recent earthquake.

She has been inoculated and has a pet passport, but because Indonesia is not part of the scheme, the law decrees that she must be kept in quarantine kennels.

The fire service is campaigning for her release and there is a petition on the No. 10 site asking for search and rescue dogs to be exempt from the quarantine laws.

If anyone would like to sign the petition, the link is here

Monday, 19 October 2009

Old Books

For me Herbert Van Thal’s name was synonymous with horror stories, but as well as an anthologist he was a publisher, agent and biographer. I just had to see his name on the front cover of a book and I’d get a tingle in my spine.

I’ve always had a love affair with ghost and horror stories – for as long as I can remember and as a teenager I used to get through the numbered Pan books of horror stories like nobody’s business.

Anyone remember those? Edited by Herbert Van Thal. Goodness knows how many – I think there were 24 and I must have read most if not all of them. They had delightfully gruesome covers and I’m pretty sure that when I put the books down at night, I put them face down in case I should wake up and scare myself even more stupid than I already was.

I hung on to them for years – my kids can remember the covers vividly – I can’t think why.

I first read the story of the Elephant Man in those books. And stories by Rosemary Timperley, Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, H P Lovecraft, L P Hartley, C S Forester, Bram Stoker, W W Jacobs – I could go on and on and probably on some more.

I’m pretty sure I read The Gift of the Magi by O’Henry in one of them. It is one of my all time favourites.

I would read any book of horror stories I could get my paws on, not just the Van Thal ones. I wish I hadn’t parted with them when I had one of my massive book clearances.

I may have to visit and treat myself.

Most of those offered for sale are fair or have slight scuffing or show signs of wear and tear. My Pan books were very creased and battered through much handling. My copy of To Kill a Mockingbird is like that – the cover falls off when I pick it up.

But isn’t that the sign of a much loved book? One that has been read and read and obviously enjoyed? The best kind.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Here’s a sneak preview of the cover of Spooked, the new Bridge House Anthology due out next month.

I’m so excited about having a story in there. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with ghost stories but I’ll write more about that in a future post.

It is a dream come true for me.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Stuck For A Subject

Couldn’t think what to blog about this week.

The new bed and the agonies I went through before it arrived thinking it would be too high for the dogs? Nah, who wants to hear about my sleepless nights worrying about dogs with broken legs? My own fault for not understanding the dimensions of the bed. I thought it was going to be 90 cm high. Enough said.

The two boxes of floppy discs discovered under the old bed containing over a thousand short stories and several novels? Nah, who cares and how is it relevant?

The parents/grandparents at the school gate . . . probably best not go there in case I am sued/beaten up.

The school teacher that died recently who has left a gaping hole? He was a man who loved teaching and when he taught my daughter godknowshowmany years after I used to go to his youth club, he still remembered me. My youngest son went along to his Saturday sports club. I never knew him forget a face or a name to go with it. He was one in a million, a truly lovely human being.

The fact that this time five years ago my first grandchild was six months in the womb and now there is a fifth on the way as well as two step grandsons? It makes my head spin.

Or maybe – writing related – about how I picked up a copy of Yours magazine and was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked it and how one woman’s amazing story in there has inspired me to think again about an old old dream I had.

But none of these things are particularly interesting and so I decided not to blog about them.

Except the floppy discs under the bed – well maybe. In the days when I was writing two or more novels a year as well as the short stories I must have been suffering some kind of cranial diarrhoea. It seems that practically every idea that went through my head ended up being written down.

My trouble back then – no editing skills. The novels are rough and far from ready. These days my trouble is I can’t get the editor out of my head and while I’ve got rid of the cranial diarrhoea I’ve managed to become creatively constipated.

So the ideas still come thick and fast, but I spend so long working on each one, writing and rewriting and then rewriting some more, a lot of the ideas are lost.

It has been a somewhat hectic week – the girls are getting along well together. The two year old is enjoying mothering the 8 month old and mealtimes are . . . interesting and a lot of fun for the dogs.

And today I’m off to visit my other two year old girl who lives away but speaks to me on the phone and says “Love you Meema,” and makes me cry. Makes me want to build a big comfy nest and gather them all in under my wings which is kind of weird because I don’t even like children!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Writing Competitions - Do You Dare?

I’ve thought long and hard about posting this. I’m not keen on ruffling feathers, but I’ve put this by several people who feel as I do so here goes.

Generally speaking writers are a supportive bunch.

But occasionally writers can be a writer’s worst enemy.

How so?

Well I’ve been doing a bit of lurking again and there’s a lot of knocking of people goes on through the medium of the internet. No one is immune.

Successful, popular novelists are tongue (or keyboard) lashed for not being literary. Literary writers are sneered at for not being popular. I have no problem with that. We are all entitled to our points of view.

When I am looking at books on Amazon for example I value the opinions of other readers, good and bad.

Unless I can say something good, I tend to keep my opinions to myself, but I’m going to stick my neck out today about something that really bothers me.

Of course successful, published writers want their work to be enjoyed and I reckon even people like J K Rowling feel it when people slag their writing off – but they can look at what they’ve done and know that it doesn’t matter that some people don’t like their books, but hey that’s life. They don’t have to prove anything – they are successful.

Now I know very well that a forum is a place for open discussion and message boards are for messages, but all too often people are driven or excluded from such places because their opinions don’t fit in with the current ruling clique. But that’s not what I want to talk about.

What concerns me is the criticism of competition winners.

I’ve only been in for a couple of writing competitions – one was to write a novel, the other was the Bridport (yes I know, I had delusions of talent!) and I know how scary it is to send in an entry.

For a good many people it requires a lot of courage to submit work. I know a number of very good writers who simply will not send anything off. You know who you are and if you’re reading this, I really wish you’d do it.

But let’s get back to our competition entrant.

Here you have someone who loves to write. They enter competitions with a shred of hope and the expectation of disappointment, or maybe they are supremely confident who knows, but for the sake of argument let’s assume this is someone who lacks confidence and is wary about entering their work.

They read books and magazines about writing and visit several of the many forums and discussion boards online where others can be so encouraging and supportive – which generally speaking they are.

They work hard on a story, polish it to a gleaming shine, sweat blood over it and hesitate before posting it off only to hear it land at the bottom of the post box just as they think of something that would have made that opening line so much better.

They go home, gnaw their fingernails to bloody stumps, hit the bottle and . . . oh sorry I’m exaggerating here.

But here’s something that could happen. They win.

The judges have seen something in the work that appeals.

Our writer is over the moon, they start to believe in themselves and then . . . up pops a message somewhere saying the judges were wrong. How could they choose something that had spelling errors or a clumsy paragraph or didn’t have a very satisfactory ending?

Others join in, maybe just one or two but they end up swarming round the winning story like flies round a corpse. To me this is a form of cyber bullying. They pick holes and find fault and our winning writer trips over these comments and a budding talent is squashed.

Sometimes they name the person they think has won unfairly. The owner of one winning name in particular must have savagely burning ears.

And now I’m not exaggerating. I know we have to develop thick skins as writers, but truthfully speaking mine is still pretty thin and if I was new to all this and saw my first published piece being torn to shreds I may well give up or at least put writing aside for a few years.

Some people will shrug off this kind of criticism as sour grapes, but some won’t and that is what worries me. I know that if you offer your work for public consumption then you have to be prepared for feedback, but if it must be done then shouldn’t it be constructive particularly in the case of people in the infancy of their craft?

Rather than being mean spirited and critical of competition winners, why can’t they look for the positives that made the story a winner in the first place?

The kind of criticism I’ve been reading doesn’t really reflect on the competition winner and it may bring the critics a small glimmer of satisfaction that their forum friends have jumped on their bandwagon, but looking at it as an observer the only ones who look bad are the ones doing the complaining.

And the only one being hurt is the competition winner.

So if you are a competition winner or a runner up or you’ve had your first story published in an anthology or a magazine and someone out here in the ether has made some spiteful comment, then please ignore it.

Your work has touched the people that matter.

That’s what counts.

So do you dare enter writing competitions? Yes you do – go for it and if you win then good for you, hold your head up high, be proud of yourself and keep writing.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Are You a Writer?

At my eye test last year my optician asked my occupation. Usually I tell people, “I work from home,” and leave it at that unless they want more then I say, “You know, computer work,” and I swiftly change the subject. But I took a deep breath and told her the truth.

“That’s great,” she said. “What do you write?”

We had quite a conversation about it and I could have hugged her.

I thought how different this was to when an optician asked me my occupation 25 years ago.

“I’m a writer,” I said. I had several published stories, a serial and a couple of meetings with editors under my belt by then and I felt confident enough to admit what I did and thought it might be relevant to my eye test.

He laughed. “No my dear, you may think you’re a writer, but you’re not.”

I didn’t argue with him. Presumably I wasn’t old enough to be a writer – or perhaps not posh enough or clever enough. He waffled on about why I wasn’t a writer and I felt too humiliated to tell him why I thought I was.

I retreated back into my shell and made my next check up appointment with a different optician.

So what is a writer?

To my mind if you write, you are a writer.

My mum was a knitter. Actually she was a serial knitter. If you saw a pattern in a magazine and asked if she could make it up for you, her whole face would light up and you wouldn’t see her for dust as she rushed off to the wool shop.

When I was a child, the local wool shop would ask her to knit things for them to sell and she once supplied just about everyone on my dad’s boat with woolly hats (and quite a few with sweaters). I made the bobbles for the hats. She was never satisfied with anything less than perfection whether she was knitting a delicate shawl for a baby or a chunky Arran sweater for a seaman.

My Gran-in-law was a knitter. You know the pictures of the made-up garments on knitting patterns? She used to knit those for Patons.

I used to knit. Nothing fancy you understand, a ribbed jumper for my husband, a dress for my daughter, easy stuff. The last thing I knitted was a coat for Tilly. I’m not a knitter now – well unless I am really in the mood and I do find it very therapeutic – but I used to be a knitter.

I know a lady who calls herself a knitter and the stuff she produces would make a spider faint. Dropped stitches, mistakes, holes, wavy hems when they should be straight – but is she any less of a knitter just because she can’t do it very well and no one would ever pay her for her work or ask her to make something special? She works hard at it, she produces something – she is a knitter.

As I see it, if you are writing and producing something you are a writer. I don’t see that on Monday you are not a writer because you haven’t been published, but on Tuesday when you land the three book deal with a publisher you are suddenly transformed into a writer.

Writers write, knitters knit, cooks cook. Some do it well, some don’t. The fact that they do it at all, do it to the best of their ability and work hard at it, well I think that earns them the right to call themselves a writer don’t you?

Hey I managed to write a whole post without mentioning spiders . . . doh! No I didn't.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Going Quietly Round the Bend

Thought some of you might like to download a free book “The Career Novelist” by literary agent Donald Maass. Find it here

Haven’t had time this week for much more than a quick browse through, but read a piece that really struck a chord. It is under the subheading “The Dark Side” where he talks about blocks and how he rewrote the opening of a novel over and over and how it was “depressing and destructive”.

I look at the progress of my novel. 30,000 words. It’s been 30,000 words for months. And what am I doing about it? I am rewriting the opening over and over and yes, it is depressing and destructive. What am I going to do about it? I’m not sure.

The other two books, slow and steady progress there.

And I’ve found two disc boxes stuffed with back ups including at least two more novels. Are they corrupted? And if not will I be able to retrieve the data? Who knows? Does it really matter?

We’ve a skip on the drive, a half demolished shed in the garden and there are about a million spiders tramping towards my house carrying all manner of luggage looking for a new place to live – and I haven’t been to the woods for conkers yet – help!

Got a photo of one in the bath the other morning. Not a close up macro shot, but one taken from a distance with maximum zoom. My trusty sidekick removed it for me with the words, “Poor old thing has only got seven legs.”

For the past week I’ve dipped into my draft blogs file and I’ve been working on one, adding bits, removing bits and generally rearranging words.

This morning I thought I should just get on and post it. Then I realised I already had a week ago.

Going quietly round the bend, yes that would be me.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Onwards and Forwards

Anyone who knows me will know that I rarely venture into the garage for eight legged reasons.

After my clear out in here the other day my thoughts turned to the files out there and I sent my trusty sidekick on a mission to find said files.

He made several trips and the chair behind me sagged under the weight of at least two dozen folders, a box file, a ring binder and two of my dad’s old desk diaries.

My new shredder has been busy. It’s a huge improvement on the old one and doesn’t throw a wobbly if I put in more than three sheets or have it going for more than five minutes.

There are several correspondence files. I kept every acceptance (and a few helpful rejection letters) from the 1980s onwards. Most of them have been shredded, but I read through them first and I’ve kept a few of the special ones.

I found four novels. One about the English Civil War (kept that but shredded the two carbon copies and the original draft), a horror, a children’s book and some kind of saga I don’t even remember writing. There’s a letter from a publisher about a book I wrote for children with a fantastic title – if only I could find the book – or even remember what it was about.

There are the notes I made about Native Americans and their customs and the early settlers in America for a 120,000 word novel I wrote for a competition. Where the novel is, I have no idea.

My husband used to tell me never to chuck anything I wrote away and he used to hide the stuff I gave him to take to the tip. But there were things I got past him that he was unable to rescue. Silly me.

I’m not bothered about all the hundreds of short stories I’ve shredded, but I wish I’d kept the books. Ah well, never mind. There’s always something new to work on, new ideas, new inspiration.

Onwards and forwards and all that . . .

Buckle Ye Swashes!

Ahoy there me hearties!

Today it be Talk Like A Pirate Day and I’ve bin puttin in so much practice that I’ve developed a limp and me tongues got the cramp.

I be bloggin about a worryin new trend in the buccaneerin business.

It be known as compensation.

Aye, maties.

So what do ye do if ye gets ye injured in the course of ye duties in the sweet trade me buckos?

Well ye can forget hasty medical attention aboard ship. If the cook’s not up to his eyeballs in turtle stew ee’ll be givin ye a seein to.

If ee should survive the ministrations o’ t’ cook, ye can expect remuneration for t’ loss o’ ye body parts in t’ followin’ sums:

100 pieces of eight for an eye or a finger
400 pieces of eight for a port leg
500 pieces of eight for a port arm or starboard leg
600 pieces of eight for a starboard arm

As well as pieces of eight, ye can expect to have a prosthetic replacement part of the finest quality wood – or in fact any spare bit o plank we can find lyin around.

In addition t’ the above ye can have a job aboard ship swabbin t’ decks or dolin out t’ hard tack or loadin t’ six pounder.

Tis a licence for t’ bilge rats to skive if ye arsk me and ye wonder where it will all end.

Oo Cap’n, I got a splinter in me thumb, ‘ow many pieces of eight do I get? Oo Cap’n, I stubbed me toe on the fore boom, I’ll need a prosthetic toenail and twenty pieces of eight.

Tis a slippery slope I tell ee.

Afore ee know it ye’ll have landlubbers joinin ship in their droves, ‘acking orf their bits ‘n pieces and demandin pieces of eight and cushy jobs.

If ye want to know more about Talk Like A Pirate Day, visit Mad Cap’n Tom at his great grand website. This year they be hookin up with Marie Curie Cancer Care and they be hopin to be raisin plenty o’ booty for that fine cause

Ye can also visit Cap’n ‘Ackles, a direct descendent of the mighty Blackbeard

I’ll be shovin off now mateys, but I’ll be leavin you with this thought for t’ day. Where do pirates do their Christmarrrs shoppin?

Toys aaaaarrr us.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Writing and Non Writing

I love Writers’ Forum and have just finished reading this month’s issue.

I was going to write a full review of the magazine, but I’d be here all day. I tried just writing about the articles that particularly stood out for me and again, it would have taken me ages and I’m too lazy.

Apart from that I’ve got a thumping headache, the dogs need to be walked and my head is bursting with ideas which I must attend to before my head really does burst and I end up with a mess on my desk.

Perhaps the sudden burst of activity in my weary brain is thanks to Glynis Scrivens’ excellent article in WF about motivation.

And of course reading about writing is one thing, but you can’t beat getting on with it and doing it.

I decided to sort out some old paperwork this week. Well it took my mind off some troubling Official Business for a while.

I’ve shredded so much that the shredder appears to have gone to god – or gone on strike – or blown a gasket or something. I even had all the paperwork for a holiday from 2002 - and from when I changed bank accounts nine years ago. That was just the tip of a very large iceberg. No wonder the shredder protested.

And I’ve seen a lot of spiders.

Which reminds me.

Daddy long legs.

Where are they? I’ll tell you where they are, they’re still in their leather jackets in the grass waiting for it to rain. We haven’t had any significant rainfall here for weeks apart from a couple of very short sharp showers.

But when the rain comes – so will the invasion! Then you may just hear me scream.

Oh and the picture – it’s one I took yesterday of the Mystery Water Thing. The white blob is two swans. I’m still none the wiser.

Sunday, 6 September 2009


Picture the scene – romantic dinner for two, nice glass of Pinot Grigio clasped in my hot little hand and the conversation suddenly takes a sinister turn.

“You think that spider outside the bedroom was big – you didn’t see the one in our bedroom a couple of nights ago did you?”

“What spider?” Almost drops glass, but manages to cling on.

“It was on your side of the bed, just above the window. I’m amazed you didn’t see it.”

Wine starts to vibrate vigorously in glass. Tiny splashes land in my spinach and ricotta ravioli.

“Did you get rid of it?”

“Thought it best to leave it? More wine?”

Clutching at straws now. “Perhaps it was the same one that Indy caught. Perhaps it just looked smaller dead.”

“No it was much bigger and it was black. Tell you what it looked like – one of those that live in the funnel webs in the garage . . .”

Note here for anyone who hasn’t seen one of those tube web spiders – they are the vilest most menacing looking things and when you walk past, they sort of lunge at you! They do!

Maybe they are just ordinary house spiders, but I don't think so!

To me they look like Segestria Florentina. Believe me they sound a lot prettier than they look.

If they are what I think they are, they're big and they bite! They are the reason I will not go into our garage. I wouldn’t let Indy near one in case he got hurt!

Three o’clock this morning I was still wide awake reading my book and casting nervous glances around the room. Exotic tube web or ordinary old house spider - I no longer cared. I was convinced it was out to get me.

I wanted to open the window wider, but what if it was lurking in the folds of the curtains and fell on my head? I wanted to turn my pillow over, but what if it had come up the back of the bed and was sitting waiting to pounce?

“I don’t know what you’re worried about,” he said this morning as I dragged my weary self out of bed and examined the gigantic bags under my eyes. “How many times have you been attacked by a spider in your bed?”

Fair point dear husband, but tell me this. That bite you woke up with on your knee this morning . . . was it really a mozzie?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Day Off

It’s my wedding anniversary today.

This time 34 years ago I was taking my dog Cassie for a walk along the prom and explaining to him that I’d be leaving home, but I’d be coming back every day to take him for a walk.

I wish I could speak to that girl now. I think I’d give her a hug.

By Christmas we’d almost killed each other – twice, a friend had been murdered and we were woken up in the middle of the night with the news that my dad had died suddenly.

I wouldn’t say any of that made me grow up. I’d already done that after the events of a couple of years before, but it changed me, changed both of us I think.

I’d started to write a novel about flying saucers, tapping away on my typewriter while our hamster Hamlet whirled round on his wheel up in our attic flat. We’d got him one of those multi storey plastic affairs with tubes and private areas. He used to eat cornflakes with us at breakfast, holding them in his little paws and watching us with his bright eyes.

We didn’t intentionally try to kill each other. Our kitchen was on the landing and he’d cooked our dinner and left the frying pan (well we were teenagers!) on the hob – the still turned-on hob!

By the time we discovered it the landing was filled with smoke. No fire at that point, just a melted frying pan. If a fire had taken hold we would never have got out of the building.

I was reminded of this last week when he set fire to the oven gloves – he’s still the boy I married bless him.

So how did I almost kill him? I cooked a roast dinner and when I carved the chicken it was all pink and watery and raw. “Why can’t you just eat it?” I said, all offended. I thought if we covered it all up with gravy it wouldn’t matter.

I’d cooked successful roasts before – at home with my mum there to guide me. I knew nothing of salmonella and the dangers of undercooked chicken. But he did. He’d been hospitalised with salmonella as a child.

This was meant to be a short post but as always I’ve gone on and on. All I was going to say was that I’m taking today off and we’re going out for a meal and a wander round!

I don’t remember crying much when Dad died. I was numb I suppose. I got on with sorting things out.

Some time in the days that followed I remember going to feed Hamlet and finding him dead in his cage and just falling apart, collapsing in floods of tears.

Once when I was about 7 I came home from school and my dad handed me my recorder and told me to play it as I walked into the front room. He’d rigged up strings all round and as I played a “snake” began to rise from the corner. Oh that’s a bit random isn’t it, but I was thrilled with it.

And I can never celebrate my anniversary without thinking about Dad.

Friday, 4 September 2009

The Fount Of All Knowledge

This week I have mostly been eating lettuce.

No I haven’t really. I’ve been off on my adventures. But I have been watching reruns of The Fast Show.

On Sunday it was Roxanna and Jordan’s joint birthday party in Halton – three hours, 25 kids, a soft play area and lots of lovely food!

Guess who almost got stuck climbing up into the soft play bit? Well I’m not telling you – it’s too embarrassing. It’s all right if you’re a child and can wriggle like a snake, but when you’re getting on a bit and parts of you that used to be bendable have become rigid, going up and at the same time backwards and up again and forward isn’t so easy.

Roxy and Imogen were like peas in a pod – well two girls in a toy car made for one - like Cagney and Lacey or Thelma and Louise as they sped up and down the hall a la the Flintstones. The girls did their own thing and why not?

Then there was the eventful night in the hotel . . . but you don’t want to hear about that.

We had another trip to Bressingham this week where Imogen managed five rides on the Carousel despite only being entitled to three. She’s two years old and she got chatting to a five year old boy on the next horse. By the time the ride finished she had his age, name, the day he’s starting school and the titles of his favourite books. About the only thing she didn’t get was his phone number.

Next week Lachlan starts school. That’s kind of been on my mind a lot lately. Seeing them all dressed up in their school uniforms for the first time is a Lump In The Throat moment. He gave me a twirl today and looked so smart and grown up that as well as the lump in my throat I had puddles in my glasses.

I have been otherwise amusing myself by lurking round a forum or two. Amazing what you learn.

A certain male writer who is regularly published in women’s magazines is really a woman! I will have to have words with him as he’s obviously been keeping something from me.

Just to clarify the above - the male writer in question is definitely a man! NOT a woman. I have no idea where the person who claimed otherwise got their information from, but they couldn't be more wrong! I just thought it was a good example of how people can state something as a fact and yet clearly not know the truth.

I wrote a whole list of untruths that I have uncovered, but then I thought to hell with it and deleted it all. Life’s too short to go round nit-picking. I’m sure people mean well when they put in their two-penneth worth.

This morning as I padded back and forth between bedroom, office and bathroom in my usual half asleep state, I paid little heed to the piece of fluff on the floor outside the bedroom door. I may even have trodden on it.

Then I was asked if I’d seen the deceased spider . . . noooo. With my glasses on I saw that the piece of fluff was in possession of eight hairy legs. It has Indy’s paw prints all over it (and quite a bit of his fur surrounding it – I’d guess it was a ferocious battle). I think that it was heading for the baby’s room and Indy took it upon himself to save her – Isabel may be able to crawl now, but she’s not got the speed to outrun a spider.

Usually “Spider” is enough to get him charging in to the rescue – even if you whisper the word for fear of letting the spider know you’re onto it. I don’t make a habit of killing spiders or encouraging Indy to kill them, but sometimes when they have you cornered in the bathroom, cowering in the shower, there’s no choice but to call for canine help.

If at all possible, I go for the large glass and piece of stiff card method of removal.

Tilly is terrified of spiders. She’s scared of most things. She fled from the room the other night because a moth had fluttered in and she went off to hide under the bed while Indy was leaping round like a thing possessed trying to catch it.

I took a photo of the spider using the macro function. Big mistake. When I put it up on the computer screen and it appeared so huge I nearly died of fright – you can see every hair on its legs. I can’t look at a picture of a spider without my skin crawling. So in order not to kill anyone who has made it this far and who may be similarly sensitive I will make the picture small when I add it to this post.

And please, please – if anyone out there thinks it is just an empty spider’s skin and the owner is now stamping about somewhere in my house bigger than ever with a brand new set of leathers – keep it to yourself!

I’ve been having disturbing and vivid dreams for the past week or so. Not all of them nasty I must say.

I also have my spell dish up and running! See here for instructions

In Other News (if you’re still here).

I am happy to announce that as I am in possession of a sturdy pair of chunky thighs (slap – wobble!) I am less likely to die of coronary disease than someone with the kind of slender pins I have always envied!

How many of you have had your tape measures out since the news was announced?

My husband is safe too. I thought he had skinny legs until I got my tape measure out which has led me to a conclusion. My legs are not fat, they are merely too short. If they were as long as his they would look fine.

In case you missed it you need to have thighs with a circumference of 60 cm to be safe from early death.

We have Professor Berit Heitmann to thank for this revelation! More power to her I say! I am sincerely hoping that she will later reveal that a double chin is a sign of great beauty and a large bottom an indicator of superior intelligence.

Well I can dream can’t I?

Wednesday, 26 August 2009


The purpose of this post is to direct you to an excellent post over at Olivia's Oracle about the truth about short stories - rejections and acceptances.

And I got another shot of a barge as it sailed past the Royal Hospital School at Holbrook on the River Stour this morning.

The sight of that somewhat made up for the amount of ginormous spiders occupying the hide - I wonder how many bird watchers they've eaten over the years . . .

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

An Inspiring Day

I nipped into Morrison’s to pick up stuff for a picnic as we were planning a day out and about and I hadn’t made a picnic of my own – lazy so and so!

We planned a trip to Shotley which was home to HMS Ganges. It sits with the River Orwell on one side and the River Stour on the other and looks out over Felixstowe, Harwich International Port, Harwich Dock and out to the North Sea.

Of my picnic my other half said, “Remind me next time we have a picnic not to let you choose it!”

So what exactly is wrong with Dairylea Dippers, Lunchables, mini cocktail sausages (with tomato sauce), babybels and mini Victoria sponge cakes? There was a good reason I didn’t buy sandwiches . . . there were two men and several children playing with the balls from a display right next to the sandwich fridge and I wasn’t about to risk life and limb for a couple of BLTs and an egg and cress!

I bought us a packet of six rolls and I said it would remind us of our school days if we had dry rolls stuffed with crisps.

Somehow they used to taste so much nicer in the old days!

We went to a play park in Bradfield, then to a picnic area on the river Stour at East Bergholt for what is now laughingly known as my picnic. This is near to Flatford, home of the Mill and Willy Lott’s cottage. It was lovely and peaceful – and empty!

From there we drove to Shotley. See this river? Same one as above. A river is a bit like a book isn’t it. Starts off small and kind of hopeful and ends up huge and busy and changed. Well I’m sorry, but I had to get something in here somewhere about writing didn’t I?

That’s Felixstowe to the left, Harwich Dock to the right and straight ahead to the North Sea.

Lachlan and I went for a walk round the marina and found a trail that skirts round the edge, lots of boats (what else?) and a little bit of beach where we made shell butterflies on the sand.

A couple of pictures of Felixstowe.

And I couldn’t resist this one – a Thames barge sailing past. I love those!

There’s a museum at the marina now – the HMS Ganges Museum, but they only open at weekends. Well I’m going to be away from home this weekend, but I hope to go back there sometime in the future.

I should include a picture of Shotley shouldn’t I? Stupidly I didn’t take many of Shotley – I was too busy pointing my camera at all the other bits!

No story ideas, but I do feel inspired!

We're going to have another picnic tomorrow. This time I shall mostly be making sandwiches!

My parents met at HMS Ganges during WWII. The place is somewhat special to me.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

One Thing and Another

Well if you’ve been on your toes you’ll have your Christmas stories written and submitted and be well into the New Year if not Valentine’s Day by now.

Okay that’s the writing bit out of the way.

In other news . . .

Himself put his back out trying to assemble the bargain child’s gazebo I bought and I gave myself (thank you Me) a thumping headache trying to blow up the inflatable pirate ship (and that was using a pump).

To add insult to his injury I told him I didn’t want the gazebo out anyway and dismantled it again. He’s been eyeing up the patio – I think he’s planning where he’s going to bury me.

We’ve had the paddling pool out and the water pistols. We’ve walked in the woods and over the fields. It’s been a nice, but busy week.

We went to Bressingham Steam and Gardens in Norfolk on Thursday – quite a long drive, but worth it if only for the rides on the Gallopers!

The kids really liked riding on the trains too – but weren’t so keen on the Dad’s Army exhibits (why would they be? Much as I love Dad’s Army, we only went in there because it was cool and out of the sun). Imogen said the exhibits were scary! Well she is only two!

The gardens looked gorgeous all lush and colourful, but small kids and gardens . . . they spotted a big yellow hose and decided it was a giant snake and they’d like to pick it up . . . so we ventured in and ventured out again pretty quickly.

There is something special about places like that – they’ve got a certain charm, perhaps it’s the people who work there who are so friendly and unhurried and willing to ruffle a little boy’s hair and wave to a happy little girl.

The visitors were a friendly bunch. Smiling faces everywhere! No push and shove. Even the wasps were friendly. I kid you not. They didn’t keep dive bombing us once they knew they weren’t welcome (I think it was me running round in circles flapping my hands in the air and screaming that gave them the hint) but just flew off without so much as an angry buzz.

The farmer has finished harvesting so the fields are all scratchy stubble. Indy loves it. Here’s a picture of him rolling about – not in anything dead, just enjoying the scratchiness of the stubble – and I swear he’s laughing.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

How Do You Eat Yours?

I was asked an interesting question yesterday. If I read something terrible does it inspire me to write – or is it good writing that presses my creative buttons?

The conversation came about because I was talking about the ten books I bought from The Book People for £9.99.

When I bought them I said that if I found two books among them that I enjoyed, I would consider it a good buy. All the authors are new to me and I hoped that I would strike gold.

Well I did!

Of the three I’ve read so far The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty was the gem I hoped to find among the ten. I liked the characters – even the ones I didn’t like if you know what I mean. They were well drawn; nicely rounded and very real and the story hooked me in from the very beginning.

The First Assistant by Clare Naylor and Mimi Hare was readable and enjoyable. Not my usual kind of thing I must admit, but I liked it.

The third of the ten – well I won’t say which it was or who wrote it because I’m not a critic and I’m certainly not going to sit here and slag off anyone who has made it through the minefield to publication. Just because I didn’t like it doesn’t mean it’s a bad book. We all like different things, one man’s meat and all that.

My husband and I have very different tastes in novels. Something I toss aside with an “Ugh, I can’t read any more of that,” he will pick up and read and enjoy. Likewise he’ll try to read something I’ve recommended and pull all kinds of my-god-what-was-she-thinking? faces before quietly slipping it into the pile for the charity shop – unread.

Now back to the third book – my husband asked me last night how I got on with it, so I admitted I didn’t. I gave up quite early on.

He said he was finding it hard going, but would keep reading to see if it picked up. I won’t do that. I’m the same with anything I read be it a short story, a novel or an article, if it doesn’t grab me pretty quickly, I give up and find something that does.

Which brings me to why I asked the question at the beginning. My son asked if reading a bad book makes me want to write something better?


The good book wins every time. Reading something I’m not enjoying crushes my creativity. It doesn’t make me want to write. It makes me not want to write.

So how do you eat yours? Are you inspired to write by a good book or a bad book? How long do you give a book before you give up? Or do you always finish what you start?

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

The Little Dog from Nowhere

I have a story in the September issue of Fiction Feast called The Little Dog From Nowhere.

I thought you might be interested to see the picture that inspired the story.

This picture was taken by the photographer from our local paper who was a family friend. He was there to take photographs of a car some people had driven down the boat ramp onto the beach.

They were warned not to, but chose to ignore the advice.

They drove onto the mud and the car got stuck!

I was off school recovering from chicken pox and I sat on the prom watching the tide come in around the car.

Years later when I was looking through my mum’s photos, I found this one and we all remarked on the likeness of the little dog that befriended me to our Tilly. It’s not a great likeness, but it gave me a shiver all the same.

Here is my own little Dog from Nowhere (except I know where she came from and where she’d been in the 8 months before she came to me). What I don’t know is what shaped her into the complicated little person she is – all I know is that I’m glad I have her.

Two Year Olds as Intelligent as Dogs? I Think Not!

I can’t believe Herself has let me loose on her precious computer. I’ve seen the looks she gives Himself if he tries to “help” her with matters computerly. She hovers at his shoulder wringing her hands and muttering, “My work . . . my work . . .”

Like the other day she thought the computer had caught a virus (laughs into paw). They treat these machines as if they’re human don’t they? A virus! She’ll be saying it’s got appendicitis next. And God help him when he takes the thing apart and starts tinkering.

Now let’s be honest, if something is going to go wrong with the computer then the worst case scenario is going to be if she loses her Favourites. She orders my food, my medication (I have a deadly disease), my chewy treats, my Frontline (not that I have fleas or ticks or any other parasites I’ll have you know) and miscellaneous other miscellany online.

My name is Indy by the way and I've been gagging to get on here and have my say! Gagging! Oh no, sorry, that was the chewy bone stuck in my throat . . . I'll get to the point in a minute - give me time!

I had ticks once. I’d been rolling about in something dead and delightfully smelly and a few days later I grew a crop of fat grey ticks all over my face. She rushed me off to the vet and he laughed and said they’d drop off when they’re full!

Full of what, that’s what I’d like to know.

I found a dead seal to roll in once. It was there on the marshes rotting away for weeks and weeks. You could smell it half a mile away and I always managed to slip away from Herself in the split second before she managed to grab me. I had more baths over those few weeks than I’d had in my life and I can’t for the life of me think why.

I hate baths.

At least I don’t roll in poo like Oakley.

Now that would be gross.

I used to eat grapes. They were my absolute favourite thing ever in the world – until Herself went and read somewhere that they’re poisonous to dogs. I’ve told her chocolate is poisonous to humans but she doesn’t believe me.

I got stung on the face by a bee once. I had a head like a hairy football. The vet laughed at me that time as well and asked me what I’d done.

I’ve got a new vet now. Well lots of new vets – I’ve met three at the new practice and I especially like the lady vet who got in my hospital cage with me and gave me a cuddle after my big operation last year.


It was in one of the Sunday papers that dogs are as intelligent as two year old children. Well excuse me, but I have known a number of two year olds and do they come when they’re called? Do they hell – they run off in the opposite direction as fast as their little legs will carry them.

Now me, I always come when I’m called. Except if I’ve seen something to roll in or another dog I fancy saying hello to.

They forgot to put Springer Spaniels on the most intelligent list. At least they didn’t put us on the most stupid list I suppose. That would have been truly insulting. Bad enough to be compared to a two year old human! I don’t hold with all this stereotyping anyway.

I mean take my sister. She can open baby gates while I stand back and watch, but who is the clever one? She does all the hard work. She’s good at opening doors as well and again I let her do it.

You see what I’m saying?

I’ve seen her nick things off the table – food and stuff – she even gets ON the table sometimes if someone forgets to push their chair back under. I always get as far away as possible from her when she does that. I want to be sure no one ever thinks I’m involved and if I eat the stuff she knocks on the floor for me – well I’m only trying to be helpful and tidying up aren’t I?

The bread roll in the kitchen the other day was a misunderstanding. I thought it had been left on the worktop for me. An easy mistake to make. Anyway it wasn’t just calling to me, it was shouting at me.

Then there was a wasp on the window and instead of leaping up there and murderising it like I would if it were anything else insecty, I stood on the chair and alerted Herself with tiny woofs. The canine equivalent of throat clearing. She then spent half an hour with a rolled up magazine chasing the wasp around before she finally lost it under her desk – the wasp that is. The magazine was in shreds by then.

I know better than to try and catch anything with stripes. I’m not stupid!

Herself knocked herself out cold once chasing a wasp round. She was trying to kill it with a tea towel . . .

I’ll give you a moment to think about that one while we ponder on the intelligence of dogs compared to human beings.

I might have been stung once, but I’ve never knocked myself out.

There have been a lot of “onces” in my life, but at least I have learned from my experiences, unlike some people.

Well that’s it from me with thanks to Sally Quilford for giving Herself the idea to hand over her blog for a day. Happy Birthday, Sally! I'm off to bed for a well earned rest.