Sunday 28 September 2014

Combing the Beach

I’ve taken to picking things up off the beach (who am I kidding – I’ve always picked stuff up off the beach).

I found this stone which has some interesting stripes, but when I got it home and it dried out, it looked like any old rock.

So my husband varnished it and now it sits on the windowsill and when the sun is shining, the rock appears to shine from within. The photos don't really do it justice.

The other day we spotted this. At almost 6cms across, it is the biggest limpet shell I’ve ever seen, although they can grow about 1cm bigger than that.

We used to call them Witches Hats when I was a child and they weren’t as common as cockles, mussels, winkles, clams, razor shells, oysters, whelks and slipper limpets. I’ve always thought they were unusual and special.

Turns out they’re Common Limpets (Patella Vulgata – which makes them sound like a rude kneecap).

But they are special! They cling to rocks with a force of 75lbs per square foot. They clamp down when the tide goes out and can slow down their metabolism in order to survive until the tide comes back in.

How much they eat defines the shape of their shell. This one would have been a hungry limpet which spent most of its time under water seeing plenty of wave action. Well fed ones in quieter waters have flatter shells.

For the first year of their lives, they are neither one thing nor the other, then they often become males. After a few years about a third will turn into females.

They stop our seashores being overrun with weed and they can live for around twenty years.

Fascinating little things. But they’re still witches hats.

Talking about fascinating, how about the little fairy doors amongst the lovely photos at Jaunts Around Ireland? There are a couple of places on our lovely old oak tree where a little door might look rather twee. You can probably see where I’m thinking of in this photo… of Dusty!

Friday 26 September 2014


For this weekend, from now until Monday 29th September, my book of short stories, The Mother of the Bride & Other Stories, is free to download on Kindle from Amazon and Amazon UK.

I have had toothache for the past couple of weeks and I don’t have to tell anyone how that drags you down. I finally got up the courage to see the dentist yesterday. It wasn’t possible to pinpoint exactly where all the pain is coming from, so she’s hoping it was the small cavity she found which she has put a temporary filling in.

If that was the problem, it should settle down – I hope it does because it hurts more than ever today! I’m going back in two weeks for the proper filling to be done and if it hasn’t settled down, she’ll investigate further.

Miserable as it is, I know people have far worse problems, so I’m going to man-up and stop feeling sorry for myself! 

I was going to catch up on my reading, but Harley had other ideas.

Our last day out in the summer holidays was to the Suffolk Punch Trust at Hollesley, east of Woodbridge. We wanted to go somewhere quiet as we were winding down ready for school to start on the Thursday and also Imogen had had a nasty fall and hurt her elbow. I made her a sling with one of my scarves.

We enjoyed meeting the gentle giants.

Harley loves Paul O’Grady – or maybe it’s the dogs. Not a dry eye in the house when that programme is on (she looked away from the screen as I took the photos, but she had been watching).

I caught Dusty and Harley hiding away plotting how to get into the cupboard where I keep the Dreamies. I asked them what they were up to and they said, "Nothing!" but those faces tell a different story!

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Where Stories Come From

Sometimes stories arrive as a gift. This is how my story, Amazing!, in the Woman’s Weekly Fiction Special (Oct 14), came to be written.

A couple of months ago, Noah was playing in the garden with his water gun and chatting to me as I worked in the kitchen.

I heard a cat mew.

“Is that Harley?” I asked.

“No, it’s Tiger.”

I did a little “Aren’t kids funny” kind of smile and went outside.

Tiger is Noah’s cat. Of course it couldn’t possibly be him. He’s just over a year old, has never been to my house and besides, it’s a twenty minute walk from my house to theirs with a very busy main road and lots of smaller roads in between.

The beautiful tabby cat on the fence mewed a greeting as I went over.

“Well hello,” I said. “You’re a friendly boy aren't you?”

I stroked the cat. “He looks very much like Tiger,” I said. “Identical in fact.”

“It IS Tiger,” said Noah.

Well blow me, what a coincidence. He was wearing the same collar and as my eyes fixed on the heart shaped name-tag – identical to Tiger’s, I saw his name. And still my logical mind wouldn’t allow me to believe it.

“Well look at that, he’s called Tiger too.” Then the name tag swung round and I saw the address.

Talk about panic! Even though he was clearly going nowhere, I grabbed him and rushed round like something possessed, yelling for help while Dusty ran round after me and Noah carried on nonchalantly squirting his water gun.

I took him inside while husband and eldest son looked doubtfully at the cat I had kidnapped.

“Are you SURE it’s Tiger?”

“Yes, 100%.”

“Did you check his name tag?”

Honestly, did they think I was stupid?! But I’d been just as unbelieving a few minutes before, so I couldn’t blame them.

I texted my daughter at work to let her know and she phoned me and told me that Tiger had been missing for three days. She hadn’t told me because she knew I’d worry.

How did he find his way to our house? We have no idea, but thank goodness he did. I took one photo of him after I brought him indoors. He looks quite unperturbed doesn’t he? He really couldn't understand what all the fuss was about.

He is an extraordinary cat. He’ll leap into your arms from the floor and wrap his paws round your neck before kissing your face all over. He has a heart condition which has resulted in him being slightly smaller than other cats, but he has a huge personality and he is the most gentle, sweet natured cat you could ever wish to meet. I love him to bits.

I knew I had to get a story from this experience and so I built Amazing! round it. The story isn’t about a remarkable cat, but a woman who has amazing things happening all around her. But the story was gifted to me by a remarkable cat.

You can build a story around almost anything. It doesn’t have to be something amazing or unusual. You’ll know when there is a story there because you’ll feel it. I saw something yesterday, something quite ordinary (a young woman with a buggy), but I know there is a story to be told. I’m just letting it fester at the moment. I’m a great believer in letting your subconscious do some of the work for you and I know eventually a character will appear in my mind and it will be her story I will tell.

Friday 12 September 2014


I was thrilled to get a mention on Jo Derrick’s blog Jo Derrick Fiction along with Wendy Clarke. Wendy has been extremely successful since she started writing two years ago. 

Anyone involved in writing is almost certainly familiar with Jo's name. Jo was the publisher/editor of literary magazines, Quality Women's Fiction and The Yellow Room and is someone I've always admired and respected very much.

On the subject of writing for magazines, the People’s Friend fiction editor, Shirley Blair has written another blog about writing for the Friend. You can read it here.

I have a new assistant. He sits at the other writer’s desk which is next to mine and tells me what to write about.

And here’s a picture of me hard at work… oh wait... it's Harley, my muse!

Dusty with his best friend Poppy who he loves so much! He's nearly as big as her now.

And today he wore the dog drying coat that his dad won for him from Dfordog. It’s amazing! So quick and easy to put on after he’s been for a swim. It’s a little big for him at the moment, but he hasn’t finished growing yet – I hope!

I have just popped back to say that Lynne Hackles is the Writer in Residence over at Creative Frontiers. Lynne knows more about the nuts and bolts of writing than just about anyone I know and I'm sure you'll find her daily posts interesting and helpful!

Saturday 6 September 2014

Just Call Me Popeye!

When I was little, I used to think Popeye was based on my dad. Not because he smoked a pipe or talked in a funny voice or was in love with Olive Oyl because my dad was nothing like that. But Popeye was a sailor and he had a tattoo of an anchor – just like my dad – in fact my dad had dozens. He was a walking work of art.

He was also incredibly strong and didn’t need to eat spinach to make it so.

So yesterday I was out with Dusty when I saw a mozzie on my upper arm. I brushed it away quickly and almost immediately started to itch. It wasn’t just in that spot either. By the time I got to the beach (about three minutes later) the itching in my arm was driving me crazy.

The bite on the front of my arm was about as big as a penny.  I got my husband to check the back of my arm and the two there were bigger – see, crafty little devils were hiding out of sight. Another on my elbow wasn’t quite as bad.

By lunchtime I had biceps and triceps any self-respecting body builder would be proud of, even if they are red hot and glowing. In fact, if you turned Popeye’s arms round so the bulgy bit was at the top… that’s me that is. Then there is my extra large elbow…

Once, when I was small, I saw lots of little fish swimming round in the water butt. So I scooped a load up in a jam jar and took them in to show my dad. It was the only time in my life I ever saw him scared. He told me to get them outside and NEVER bring them in again.

So off I went, muttering about them only being little fishies and there was no need for him to be so GRUMPY about it.

They weren’t little fish of course. They were mosquito larvae. And my dad had almost died of malaria when he was in the RN. Not only that, he had the kind of malaria that can – and did – recur.

I’m not as scared of them as my dad was, but I am scared of the bites.

On a lighter note, here’s Dusty having a bit of a swim this morning. Very hard to throw a ball, hold on to leads etc and take photos. Didn’t get the ball out as far as normal, but you can see he no longer goes in for the Jacques Cousteau thing. If he can’t see the ball, he waits for it to appear on the surface of the water – I am very glad to say.

And while I’m here – just a quick mention of The People’s Friend who are looking for young romances. More details from Shirley, their lovely Fiction Ed, here

Tuesday 2 September 2014

September Giggle Blog

September - boo! Back to school - double boo.

Okay, now I've got that out of the way, here are my giggles for this month.

In recent weeks, a few hand grenades have washed up on the beach here. Live ones of course. Probably from a WWII wreck breaking up in the harbour.

The latest one was picked up by a woman, thinking it was a stone which she was going to throw for her dog. She realised what it was pretty quickly and put it carefully back in the sand and called for help.

We were discussing this as we walked along the beach, telling the kids they should be careful about what they picked up.

On the way home, my eldest grandson (who had obviously been thinking about it) sighed and said…

You can’t go to the beach these days without having grenades flung in your face.

And here’s another. I recently got a new phone which I love, mainly because I understand it and it understands me and we get along just fine.

Until I decided to delete the photos stored on there. I used to do this with my old phone as memory was a bit of a problem for it. Every so often I’d just clear everything out.

So I sat one evening and deleted as I watched telly. Delete, delete, delete.

“Why on earth are photos from my blog on here?” I said as I pressed delete for the hundredth time. “And more than one copy at that. Ridiculous.” Delete, delete, delete. “Even the covers of my books are on here!” Delete, delete, delete.

It was when I noticed that I still had over a thousand photos on the phone that I decided to give it a rest. How on earth I had so many photos when my old phone only had 50 at most at any one time, was a mystery.

Then one night I was happily watching Holby City when my husband, who keeps his back to the telly when I watch anything that might contain blood, said, “All your blog photos have gone.”

Well they certainly had on his computer. Even the pictures of my books down the side. I checked on my phone. Gone from there too.

You know that feeling you get when you realise you’ve done something stupid? When if you don’t laugh you’ll cry? Well that, only I wasn’t quite up to laughing.

My heart sank. It would take days to find all the photos on my computer and put them back on the blog. And how would I know which ones I needed to fill the gaps?

I seriously considered just deleting my blog and having done with it. I felt so disheartened.

What I didn’t know (until I looked it up) was that Google+ saves all my photos from everywhere online and that’s where I’d deleted them from. Lucky for me, there is an undelete button, so it only took me a few minutes to undo the damage I’d done.

Then I laughed. Then I did. Relief!

Poppy says, Arf arf, too late Dusty – I got here first! Girls rule!