Sunday 29 January 2012

The eyes say it all

This hut was my mum’s home after she was made homeless in the 1953 flood. I think her eyes look so sad. That’s her father (Pop) with the pipe and her mother, my grandmother who I never met, sitting next to him. I don’t know who the little girl is, but I think the little boy is my mum’s cousin’s son.

My parents had lived with my sister in one of the houses in the street that faces the camera in the picture below. At the time my sister was 6, ill and needed urgent medical attention. My mum was faced with a choice – keep her little girl with her and hope for rescue, or pass her out of the upstairs window to soldiers in an already full boat.

She handed my sister over. She told me it was one of the most difficult things she ever had to do and the sight of her blanket wrapped child being taken away broke her heart.

She also didn’t know if her parents who lived nearby were safe. Her brother had been round earlier to warn them that a high tide was coming and to move everything upstairs. And she said when the water hit, it was like a tidal wave, smashing the front door in and gushing into the house.

Eventually they were rescued and taken by raft to dry land. They were then moved to a transit camp which was to be their home for several months and which they shared with several other families. The family doctor found them and let my mum know her daughter was recovering in hospital.

It wasn’t the first time they’d found themselves homeless. They lived in London during the Blitz and their home there was destroyed.

At the time of the flood most people were insured with one or other of two different insurance companies. One company paid out to those who lost homes and possessions – the other company said it was an act of God and paid out nothing. You can probably guess which one my parents were – or were not as it turned out – insured with.

When they were allowed back to their homes to salvage what they could, they found my sister’s piggy bank had been smashed, the pennies taken from inside. All my mum’s treasured books were ruined and many precious photographs destroyed.

What photographs and documents we do have from before 1953 are damaged and still caked in mud. My dad salvaged his mother's birthday book in which she'd written poems in memory of her cousins who died in WWI and her first baby who died. It is very damaged, but very precious.

The 31st January will be the 59th anniversary of the flood.

What makes the picture even more poignant is that my grandmother died less than two years later and it may well be the last photograph ever taken of her.

When you look back at the things your parents and grandparents lived through – things still in living memory – well it makes you realise how lucky you are really doesn’t it?

Saturday 28 January 2012

500 Word Comp for Kids!

Last year Chris Evans launched a writing competition for kids on BBC Radio 2. It attracted 30,000 entries. Isn’t that great?

It’s happening again this year and he’ll be announcing it on Monday. Details here. There will also be video clips from the judges with tips, so bookmark that page for the youngsters!

Stories have to be a maximum of 500 words and the top 50 will be invited along to the Hay Festival in June.

Tuesday 24 January 2012

Talking of Old Photos...

A few years ago I found my old camera and it still had a film in it. I must have discarded it when a new camera came along – how cruel!

Not holding out much hope, I had the film developed. These are a couple of photos from that film taken at a heavy horse centre which may have been in Dedham, but honestly it was so long ago I can’t remember.

I’m the one in the dreadful blue jumpsuit. It was made of quite thick corduroy and – no honestly, it’s true – I wasn’t that plump, it was thick fabric! I was quite a slim thing in those days. I think I was about 16 or 17.

I like the way something has caught my sister's attention and she is unaware the photo is being taken.

I’m sure the sky wasn’t really that colour, but that is the only real sign of the film deteriorating.

The horses, of course, were lovely!

Monday 23 January 2012

Sweet Stuff

Thanks to Patsy and Carol (fellow sweetie pies) for awarding me the Sweet Blogger Award.

Now I have to think of seven things about me – hm, what to say? What can I say about me that I haven’t already bored you to tears with?

Maybe as the award picture is of something rather delicious looking, I should make it foody.

1. My favourite dinner is a roast with all the trimmings, but no meat and strictly veggie gravy.

2. My favourite dessert is – well how long have you got? Can’t make up my mind between chocolate pud and custard, lemon cheesecake, Tiramisu or fresh fruit salad and then of course there’s trifle and apple cake so let’s just say for no. 2, I love desserts.

3. I only ever made Christmas puddings once. It was back in the day and I put them on to boil and forgot about them. They were in plastic pudding basins. The saucepans boiled dry, the pudding basins melted, saucepans got ruined and from then on Mrs Peek’s fine puds were considered an investment.

4. I used to make my mum huge gateaux for her birthday and smother them in fruit, cream and nuts and put a candle on the top. One year we got her a candle that played happy birthday, but it wouldn’t shut up so we hid it in a drawer and it still wouldn’t stop. It had to go in the bin in the end. You could still hear it gamely playing away as the bin man hurled it into the back of the truck - well no you couldn't really, but the bin man might have heard it. For the purposes of this post, I'll assume he did and then couldn't get the tune out of his head for the rest of the day. In fact it was his birthday and he thought everyone had forgotten and so the singing candle put a smile on his face.

5. I miss my mum’s cooking more than I can say, specially her roast dinners.

6. My grandad used to pickle onions and fill huge sweet-shop jars with them. I used to go to the chippy with my friends and we’d all buy a bag of chips, then I’d dish out Pop’s pickles to everyone. I did not do this many times before I was forbidden to touch the pickled onions. I have never tasted pickled onions as good as Pop’s.

7. I love tutti frutti ice cream and can’t find it anywhere. Sob.

Now to pass it on (you’ll have to do the drum roll) :

Lydia’s Log


Living Between the Lines

Novel Moments

Romance Writer in Waiting

Ten Lives and Second Chances

Wanna be a Writer

Friday 20 January 2012

Something New, Something Old

Frances has set up a new blog. It’s called Real Nurse Campaign and I think you’ll find what she has to say very interesting.

That’s the new thing.

With this post I’ve done what I sometimes do when writing – found the title first. Now I’ve got to think of something old – and a clip round the ear to that person who said that would be me!

So I’ve had a look through the photos in my computer archive (oo get her) and I was going to put up an old black & white photo, but then I came across this.

I took this photo with my Kodak Instamatic camera (isn't it sad about Kodak filing for bankruptcy?). I was about 9 I think and the camera had been a birthday present. My pocket money would only run to the occasional film (I think it cost 12/6 to develop 12 black and white photos, but I could be wrong) and in those days black and white film was cheaper. Then I must have come into money because I bought a colour film which I’m pretty sure had 24 exposures and this was one of the photos I took with it.

The dog standing on the roundabout is Nikki. I have very few photos of him and this picture is the best one, but it was lost for about 40 years and I had often wondered about it. When you’ve taken so few photos you never forget your favourite ones.

My mum kept all the cards ever sent to her. She liked the ones that came in boxes with padded fronts and lots of meaningful verses. Quite a long time after she died, I went through them all and when I opened a Mother’s Day card from me, I’d included the photo of Nikki as a gift to her. And there it had been all those years. You can imagine how I felt when I rediscovered it.

He was a beautiful dog. He died after eating rat poison (someone it seems thought it was okay to put rat poison around their precious beach hut - we never did find out who) aged only 6.

I have wonderful memories of him. I’m sure I’ve blogged about him – I certainly have a long post written in my blog archive in Word (oo get her again) but I can’t find it on here, so maybe it was one of the many I wrote in draft and never published.

What I did find whilst trawling through was a blog post entitled Something Old, Something New – I’m really going to have to start putting more thought into titles!

Wednesday 18 January 2012

Your face...

On the cover of Stephen King’s latest book, The Wind Through The Keyhole.

Go to the Facebook page, here, upload your photo before 23rd January and you’re in with a chance.

And if the idea of that doesn’t grab you, how about one lucky entrant winning his entire Hodder backlist? Swoon. Oh, but what am I on about – I already have all his published books – but what a prize for those that haven’t!

There is a reason for the shorter posts of late. Adhesive Capsulitis and/or IVF encroachment (that’s what my chiropractor has written on the note I have to give my doctor - I know Adhesive Capsulitis means frozen shoulder, but I've no idea what the other thing is). Whatever it is, it hurts and I can’t wave my arm about – not that I usually go round waving my arms about, but I couldn’t for instance send a semaphore message to the woman on the other side of the field as there are some letters I just couldn’t do – definitely couldn’t do an E or an F.

Maybe I’ll have to stick to Morse code.

Anyway don’t let me keep you – go and find a photo and I hope to see you on the jacket!

Sunday 15 January 2012

Win Book Tokens!

The Telegraph are running a competition to win £400 of book tokens (two runner up prizes of £50) here and while you are there why not nominate your favourite book shop and leave a comment to be in with the chance to win £25 of book tokens - you can do that here.

Saturday 14 January 2012

If you care...

About our countryside and how billions of pounds of our money - yes our money - is being spent, please go and read Gail's post at The Writing Bug and if you agree with what she says, please follow the link and sign the petition.

While I've got my soapbox out, did you know that the government is planning to cut payments made to authors through ALCS (The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society)? More details about that and what you can do at ALCS.

Tuesday 10 January 2012

Eve of Spring

How are you now that everything has settled down after the Christmas holiday? Doesn’t everywhere seem drab and dark now all the Christmas lights have gone? I left mine going till the very last minute and considered leaving some of the indoor lights up until spring, but then I thought they’d only gather dust so away they went.

I remember one year when my kids were small I refused to put the decorations up until they broke up from school. It was terrible. I never left it that late again. I had some romantic rosy vision of all the family getting together to put the decs up once we were “in” for Christmas. The reality was three unhappy children gazing miserably at the lights and trees in other windows as we walked to and from school.

This week I finally got my Christmas sewing machine out of its box. Ooh it’s pretty and quiet and so light. Until I actually had it on the table in front of me, I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed using a machine. It was all going very well until Indy stood on the foot pedal and I sewed myself to the tablecloth…

No I didn’t really. The machine wasn’t even turned on at the time and there wasn’t a tablecloth on the table anyway, nor did I have long sleeves. You can’t help it when you’re a writer, going off into the realms of what ifs can you?

Indy had a good Christmas. He had quite a pile of presents including a box of Dogteasers which look like Maltesers and it says on the box that they’re not harmful to children. He really likes them and doesn’t swallow them in one gulp like most things, but munches and crunches and rolls them round his mouth savouring every last crumb.

I did tell you about the time I was smacked for eating all the chocolates off the Christmas tree when I was a child didn’t I? Not smacked for doing it, but for lying about it and for being stupid enough to leave the empty wrappers behind. Then my mum saw our Boxer Zulu gently removing chocolates and unwrapping them. Now that one is true!

Anyway we’re well into January now and it seems old hat to still be talking about Christmas. We have spring to look forward to, light evenings, flowers and sunshine. The dawn chorus has already started tuning up – usually between 6 and 6.30am. No matter what winter throws at us now, the end is in sight!

Happy Eve of Spring!

Friday 6 January 2012

In conversation with... Diane Fordham

Ever thought about being imprisoned in your dreams? Well I hadn’t until I read Dream Keeper by Diane Fordham.

Diane is a successful short story writer, novelist and fellow blogger and I am thrilled that she has agreed to pop in to talk to us about her supernatural novel Dream Keeper and about writing in general. As you will see, Diane is passionate about writing and whether you are a published or unpublished author, I think you will find her answers inspiring.

How did you feel when your first short story was accepted and who heard about it first?

I persisted for a long time before that first short story acceptance arrived and when it did the rewards I felt within myself was a celebration in itself. At the time I lived with my husband, Ray and my children Amy and Jared were very young. I remember the kids jumping up and down and excitedly shouting, 'Good on ya Mum!'

Like me, I know you’re a fan of Stephen King and Dean Koontz. Do you have a favourite book?

There are so many I can't put my finger on one particular book, but Duma Key by Stephen King is a favourite of mine.

And what is it about those particular authors that you like?

I admire the way these authors keep you entertained right from the first page to the very last - that's got to say something.

Where do you write?

I write everywhere. My favourite place is the beach. I'm a notepad and pen girl which doesn't limit me to where I can write. I find writing in different places, especially outdoors inspires me in different ways; characters, scenery, dialogue and ideas. I type my notes on my laptop in my lounge room at a huge desk which I am quite fond of.

You write a great deal. Do you ever suffer with the dreaded Writer’s Block and if so, have you any tips on how to deal with it?

Writer's Block is easily solved - I go outside. Whether I'm walking along the beach or around the block someone or something inspires me. Even reading a batch of short stories or a novel will trigger something inside of me that will jog an idea to work with. I think the key to overcoming Writer's Block is not believing in it, or if you can't manage that put yourself somewhere different so you can experience different things.

I mean this in the nicest possible way, but the night I started to read Dream Keeper, I awoke from a nightmare (perhaps not surprisingly about an unsavoury character stalking my dreams) to find Indy staring at me, asking to be let out. I’m not kidding, I was scared to get out of bed for a while and when I finally went downstairs I was constantly looking over my shoulder. Did you have nightmares when you were writing the book and if so, were you tempted to give up?

I had already met Dream Keeper in my own nightmares and to be honest many of the scenes were from my own dreams, especially those tunnels. I was never tempted to give up because there were fears that I needed to work through and the novel helped me to do that.

The nightmares sound frightening, but writing about them was clearly cathartic. Have you ever had a dream which has then become a short story?

I certainly have. There have been a few. One in particular was quite bizarre. The dream was the beginning of a short story (in my mind I had no doubt of that) and the dream made me ask a lot of questions about this character and why she was where she was and where she was going. I typed that story out the next day and submitted it that afternoon. In the evening I checked my emails and the story was accepted. I have never had a story written, submitted and accepted so quickly... never! So bizarre.

That’s fantastic, Diane. Sometimes a short story can be a gift from your dreams. It’s happened to me too, but it has never resulted in so swift an acceptance. I have to ask as you are a short story writer and a novelist, which do you prefer writing?

Can I pick both? I like novels because of the intimacy you achieve with your characters. In a novel the characters become a part of you, the good and the bad. You are able to explore stories within stories which entwine with the main story. Basically for me, I get to keep my fictional world for longer. I like the challenge of writing short stories. To create a piece of fiction with a beginning, middle and end in a limited number of words is quite exciting for me. Also I enjoy the flexibility of short stories; one day I might be writing a ghost story and the next a twist story. Actually, I just love writing!

Your love of writing is obvious, but finally what is the one thing you wish someone had told you when you first started to write?

'Keep your note books Diane.'

That made me smile. I’d never thought about it before, but looking back I wish I’d kept my notebooks too. Thank you for visiting my blog, Diane. Those were great answers and your love of writing really shines through.

About the book:

Dream Keeper the king of eternal sleep is building his kingdom in the dream tunnels of human minds and he wants novelist, Tiana, to be his queen. People all over the world, including Tiana’s family are falling into comas and the only way Tiana can save her family from eternal sleep is to join Dream Keeper in his world.

Enter Senior Investigator Macarthur T Egan, but how can he stop someone who exists in dreams? Well you’ll have to read the book to find out!

About the Author:

Diane Fordham lives where the rainforests meet the sea on the mid-north coast of NSW in Australia doing what makes her happy – writing.

It is her dream to one day write something that changes the lives of people in an uplifting and positive way.

Writing is Diane’s passion, what brings out the best in her and she has had more than 50 short stories published and of course her novel, Dream Keeper.

You can read more about Diane over at Reading and Writing where she is Rosemary’s first Author Spotlight of the year.

Visit Diane at her blog here.

Dream Keeper is available through Diane’s website and at Amazon UK.