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.

Sunday 9 August 2009

Blog Takeover Day

Next Tuesday, 11th August is Sally Quilford's birthday and to mark the occasion Sally has suggested that we bloggers let someone else take over our blogs for the day.

Details here

My dogs have been fighting amongst themselves as to who gets to sit in the hot seat on Tuesday and I've even been approached by the pigeon who sits on the TV aerial opposite (he's sat up there now waving at me!).

I can imagine come Tuesday a stampede of dogs, cats, ghosts, spiders, historical figures, hysterical figures and all sorts pounding their way to computers all over the country to have their say!

I can't wait!

Thursday 6 August 2009

One About Writing!

I feel a tad guilty looking back over my posts. I meant to make this blog about writing, but it rarely seems to go that way.

So here’s a writerly post to make up for it!

Writers’ Holidays! I’ve always fancied going on one and the one that appeals most is the Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon.

You can read about it on Lynne Hackles’ blog and Simon Whaley’s blog

Wednesday 5 August 2009

Rude Woman - Nice Man!

Oh she was – very. We took the kids to the zoo – I dislike zoos. So why go? I don't know what possessed me to be honest!

The railway last week was so much nicer.

Today there were too many people, too many children smelling of sick, too many people, too many wasps, too many people . . .

I don’t do crowds at the best of times.

The rude woman? Ah, well we queued up to go on a little train ride. It was running continuously and only took about 5 minutes for the ride. Anyway, this grandmother tried to push in between me and my husband – unsuccessfully I might add. Sometimes it is advantageous to have a bum the size of a small car.

I counted the seats on the train and there was plenty of room for the grandmother to get on as well as us and the kids in front of us. But when the little gate was opened – my god, talk about a one woman stampede! She shoved her grandchildren through the gate having elbowed us out of the way and yelled at us over her shoulder “It’s all right I’m with them!”

I’m still trying to figure that one out. It’s all right to push in if you’re shoving kids in front of you?

I soon realised why she pushed in front. She wanted seats at the front end of the little train. We had to go in seats in the last carriage which was stopped next to a small fence. There was about two inches between the train and the little fence. Okay, more than two inches, but not a lot of room even if you didn’t have a bum the size of a small car.

My backpack chose the moment that I was climbing on to self destruct, but we made it.

When we got off, I noticed that Rude Woman had an even bigger behind than mine. I can only assume that was why she had such an urgent need to push in.

Now I’ll tell you something nice that happened. You can buy food for the part of the zoo where there are ponies and goats and so on – not that I could find where to buy it! It was probably cunningly disguised behind two thousand people heavily engaged in the popular pastime of wasp swatting.

Two year old Imogen adores horses. I held her up so she could stroke a pony. A man in a Guinness polo shirt came and stood beside us and fed the pony, then he offered some of the food to Imogen. She held out her little hand and the pony was so gentle. He then gave me the rest of the food in his cup for her. Wasn’t that nice? Lovely man, lovely pony!

I can’t help wishing we’d gone to the beach though!

Sunday 2 August 2009

Too Much is Not Enough

How many of us have listened in to other people’s conversations? All of us I suspect.

I remember sitting in the hospital car park while my husband went in for tests. I was too much of a wimp to go in with him because it was too soon after my mum had died there.

It was a pleasant day and I had the window open and my notebook at the ready waiting for inspiration to strike, when manna from heaven came floating in the window.

The man in the car next to me was on his mobile phone. I have his conversation (up to a certain point) written exactly word for word somewhere if only I knew where to find it.

He was having a row with his wife. Something about putting the dog in kennels while they went on holiday. It transpired that the time he had booked off for their holiday wasn’t the same as the date she’d booked and of course it was all her fault!

I even got some of her side of it as he frequently repeated what she said with sneering disbelief.

The row got more and more heated and there I was with one ear hanging out of the window (I have very big ears) writing every word down . . .

Then it went quiet.

I looked up, pen poised and I’m sure I gave him an impatient look that said, “Go on . . .” Maybe I even said it. Who knows? He glared at me and his window slid up. That is the certain point where I was forcibly ejected from the conversation.

He carried on ranting with the occasional furtive glance in my direction – and then he moved his car to another space. He wasn’t using the hospital – just their car park. I think he’d pulled in there for the sole purpose of shouting at his wife.

That is the moment I realised that I had an obsession. Looking back I think it was a terrible thing to do, but then again . . . the way he spoke to his wife was what was terrible. I may have been making notes, but I was also cheering her on and silently urging her to take the holiday he'd left her to arrange and leave him behind.

I haven’t used any of that conversation. It was too much which meant for my purposes it was not enough. A snippet overheard, an intriguing sentence, a strange question – I find my stories there. But I'm sure I've used him a few times - arrogant, spoiling for a fight, ready to blame anyone but himself when things go wrong.

Or have I got him wrong? Was he overworked and tired? No, that's hindsight talking. I was there, I heard him and my impression wasn't of someone overworked and tired. And perhaps there is a story there, or more than one. Hm, perhaps I should be writing that instead of blog-a-logging . . .