Thursday, 15 December 2011

Facing the Fear

No I'm not talking about the fear of not being published,or the fear of being too successful (ha ha - as if), this is a real life fear.  It's ...... the dentist!

I used to be absolutely terrified of the dentist - which backfired because I refused to go for so long that when I did I had real problems.  I go on a regular basis now and was delighted when, a few weeks ago, I went for my six monthly check up and didn't need any work at all.  It was great to be able to make an appointment for 2012!

A week later one of my back teeth crumbled.  Just crumbled. On a mince pie.  Ironically it was the softest, crumbliest, yummiest mince pie I've ever eaten, and no, maker of said mince pie - I'm not blaming you or your culinery skills - it was just the tooth. (Recipe for best mince pie ever is on the Good Food website btw)

Well, when I say tooth, actually I mean filling, because most of the tooth was just filling.  A few years ago it had been pinned to keep the filling in place, but obviously it was time for it to go to the big allluminium place in the sky.

So last week, I was back in the chair for a temporary to tide me over until today. 

I wasn't looking forward today I can tell you. I may have overcome my fear but I knew this was going to be a biggy. And it was.  2 hours worth (OK I'm exaggerating, my dentist was running half an hour late).  Now my face feels like its done ten rounds in the boxing ring and my jaw just aches.  Can't wait for the anaesthetic to wear off.

And tonight I'm supposed to be going for a Christmas meal with my book club.  I'll have the soup please!

Fingers crossed this filling stays in!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011


It seems that children where I live have lost the ability to walk. It’s true!

Even though it’s a village school, a lot of children travel to school by car – they may only live around the corner, but they can’t walk too far – obviously!  If it’s raining they might get wet, if it’s windy they’ll get cold – bless ‘em.

The result is a nightmare of traffic congestion, usually enhanced by really bad drivers, I hasten to add, and parking rage. I kid you not.

So, for those who have chosen not to go by car, what do they do? Ask their charming offspring to walk? Oh no, no, no.  Because children can’t walk, can they?  No, they scoot. 

There’s one narrow pavement on the road up to the school.  It’s full of people, and now it’s full of maniac children, trying to go as fast as they can, with no sense of direction or consideration for others.  I have lost count of the number of times I’ve had a scooter wheel in the back of my leg, or had to jump out of the way before being run over. By a child.  And then the long suffering parents, have to carry the scooters home, once their children have been safely (or not so safely) delivered to school.  (Serves ‘em right). 

Let them walk! I say, but no one’s listening. Especially not one woman I saw the other day, who parked her car a few metres from the school gate, let her children out and then opened the boot to get the scooters out.  Metres, I repeat metres!  Make them walk!  What is the hope for the future I wonder?

Grumpy old woman signing off now.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Customer Service

In a post in November I wrote about how much companies put pressure on us poor, feeble consumers to buy.  But have you noticed that a lot of companies, while quite happy to take our money, aren’t quite as amenable when things go wrong?

In the past I have taken out extended warranties when I have purchased electronic goods – especially for the children – and this has helped to lesson the burden on replacement.  My oldest son cracked the screen of his DS and it was replaced and last year my youngest son’s DS also broke.  As DS’s had been discontinued, we were given a full refund of the purchase and put it towards a DSI. 

At that point I was keen to take out a new protection on the DSI but was horrified that the cost of this was nearly half the cost of the gadget itself. Youngest son was promptly told to look after it because there was no more where that came from.

What is annoying is when things go wrong through no fault of your own (grumpy old woman coming on – things aren't made like they used to be) and you get the reaction that you must have done something wrong.   I really hate it when that happens.

The other week my Kindle screen froze.  This has happened before, so I knew what to do.   Slide across the refresh switch and hold for twenty seconds and the Kindle reboots.  So I did and the screen went completely blank.   I did it again. Nothing.  After several repeated attempts I still had a blank screen.  Although I thought it was fully charged I plugged it into the mains but still nothing.

With a horrible feeling of foreboding I emailed the helpline at Amazon and received an automated email to say that my query would be dealt with within 12 hours.  To be honest I was quite pleased with this. When making enquiries complaints by email before, the timescale has been anything from 3 – 7 days.

Within an hour a response came advising me to call on the freephone number which I promptly did.  A lovely American lady answered (at which point I was rather glad that it was a freephone number). She advised me to slide across the refresh switch and hold it while she took my details. After about 1 minute (not 20 secs) she told me to let go and lo and behold the Kindle rebooted itself.

I felt a bit foolish but the lady was very nice.  So thank you Amazon for proving to me that good customer service is not a thing of the past. 

And if your Kindle freezes and 20 secs doesn’t do the trick.  Try holding the refresh switch down for a lot longer. You never know it might work for you too.

Friday, 2 December 2011

Happiness is a ticked off list - or not in my case

Yesterday, I took my last day of holiday from work and decided to go Christmas shopping.  I went to the Trafford Centre in Manchester with a friend and hoped to get the majority of the shopping done in one day.    Spot the note of false optimism?

By lunchtime I had bought three items which didn’t bode well.  On the plus side, I found loads of things which I could have bought myself (books included) but resisted the temptation – gives self a pat on the back.

We had a lovely lunch and launched ourselves back into the fray.  The rest of the afternoon was slightly more successful but I still went home with more presents still to buy than I had ticked off the list.

The trouble was, everything seemed so expensive. There’s a lot of overpriced rubbish which seems to crawl out of the woodwork at this time of year. And I’m not falling for it. Cheap rubbish I can stomach but not rubbish which requires a second mortgage.

So this weekend, it’s off to the outlet village where I hope I will fare better.  But I did spend a very nice day with a friend so all was not lost.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Quality Time

Last weekend was a busy one. To be honest, most of my weekends are but it’s usually a case of trying to cram a week’s worth of chores into two days. This was different.

First of all my ten year old was off to cub camp on Friday night (indoors not outdoors thankfully).  He is the most confident, outgoing child I have ever met.   He amazes me sometimes because he is the exact opposite of his worrywart mother.  Needless to say he left me without a backwards glance, whereas I fretted over whether he would be warm enough, have enough to eat, whether he had the right clothes.  I knew of course that I would spend the weekend missing him and that he would come back full of the joys of a good time.  I did and so did he.  But he was a very tired little boy who did want a cuddle from his mum which was comforting.

It wasn’t the only parent-child event of the weekend as I went on my own little jaunt with my mum, her sister and my brother’s wife.  I love my mum (it goes without saying) and these days I feel I can tell her most things (I was a secretive teenager and young woman) but recently, well for a long time actually, we haven’t spent much quality time together.   I left home when I was 18 to live in London and only came back for brief visits over the next 9 years.   And then I had my boys and life post-children has been more about them than it has about us.

But it was my mum’s 70th birthday at the beginning of October and, as I am becoming ever more conscious of the passage of time, I decided that we needed some girl- time. My mum loves musicals but doesn’t get to go very often (my dad hates them).  She used to go with her sister (who, as I was growing up was like a second mum to me) but they haven’t been for a while.   And to make the party complete there’s my brother’s wife. She loves music and theatre but like my dad, my brother is not a fan.  So I looked around and booked tickets to see Calendar Girls which was on at the Liverpool Empire and I thought it would be just the thing for a girl’s day out.

I’d booked matinee tickets as I thought that would be nicer than travelling on a dark winter’s night and my S-I-L picked up my mum and my auntie and brought them to Chester (they live around Wilmslow) and then we got on the train to Liverpool. The theatre is just around the corner from the station which was ideal.  We pre-ordered interval drinks and took our seats, which were at the front of a new section in the stalls so we had plenty of leg room – Row J if you ever need it for future reference.

And as for the show, well, what can I say, it was brilliant!  The cast included Lynda Bellingham, Jan Harvey, Rula Lenska, Jennifer Ellison, Debbie Chazen, Ruth Madoc, Joe McGann and Bruno Langley (Todd in Corrie).  They were all brilliant and in places I was crying with laughter.  It was wonderful to hear my mum and auntie (who is eighty next year) giggling away like school girls – a real tonic.

Afterwards we admired the Christmas lights and went for a chinese, then it was back on the train home. 

I really enjoyed myself and spending time with the women who have made me into the woman I am today was a real treat. Its made me determined to organise more time together – time is precious after all. In the busy world we live in its often difficult to make the time for ourselves but last weekend has taught me how important it really is.

Take care everyone.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Too Much Clutter

Adverts are everywhere, exhorting the values of the next must have gadget. Items which will revolutionise our lives and make us wonder how you we lived without them.   Methods of payment are all too easy too – just one click and it will be on its way. So is it any wonder that we live in a “must have” society?

One of my resolutions this year was to de-clutter my house.   Well, I started but I have nowhere near finished, and over the year have probably accumulated more clutter than I have managed to dump / recycle / give away to charity.

I’m not a shoe or a handbag fiend (although on recent review of these items I do seem to have rather a lot) but my major shopping weaknesses are books and notebooks.   This year I have made a demonstrable effort curtail my notebook habit and despite the odd slip have been moderately successful.   I’ve even tried to resist the temptation to pick up a paperback (or two) whenever I’m doing the weekly food shop or happen to stray into The Works.  I still look but I try not to touch. So I should be feeling moderately pleased with myself.  But I fear that this is just an exercise in self-delusion.  

Despite diligent attention, the “to be read” pile has not depleted, in fact, it’s beginning to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and I’m expecting an imminent avalanche.  How come?  Well, it’s partly thanks to lots of lovely family and friends who know how much I love to read and who insist on lending recommended books to me – yes I do love them, but please can you just hang on to them for a while to give me a chance to catch up?  It’s also due to the fact that my husband bought me a Kindle for my birthday.

The aim of the Kindle was to reduce the amount of books entering the house.  This has clearly failed. (Do you want to know what my guilty secret is?  I’ve started storing the overflow of  books in an empty filing cabinet at work – ssh! Don’t tell hubby.)

I do love my kindle, but it is incredibly easy to download books without the physical reminder to dog my day-to-day life.  So not only is my house full to overflowing (as well as my desk) but my head is too.  As if my to do list for family and writing wasn’t long enough, the reading one has gone ever so slightly viral too.

It has got to STOP!

So, one of my resolutions for next year as well as decluttering my house, is to stop buying any more books until I’ve read at least half of the ones which currently reside chez moi.

Its going to be difficult but I’m determined to do it. Might just slip in a visit or two to library if I find the temptation overwhelming.

What are your obsessions / guilty secrets?

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Where Does The Time Go?

Is it just me or is the Time Elf on the rob again?   I just don’t know what has happened to November – or the rest of the year for that matter.   I’m having a bit of a dilemma because I’m now facing the fact that I can deny the C thing no longer. It’s something to do with school nativities, Christmas fairs, football and cubs’ Christmas parties etc etc. And that’s without the thought of shopping, card writing, and who’s coming to stay for the big day? (Bit of familial negotiation going on there too!)

With two boys who are very active, the only day of the week where I usually don’t have to be the after school taxi service is on a Thursday, but at the moment I have at least two things going on each day. Also the letters and texts from school asking for a donation for this, that and the other is just about driving me insane (as well as very poor).  If you see someone fighting for breath, trying to get out from under a mound of paper – that will be me!

And of course all of this trying to remember what I’m supposed to be doing next, isn’t exactly conducive to writing. My mind is doing an impression of the Easter Bunny. (Yes, that will be here before we know it too. At least it might bring some better weather with it.)

The other day I read an article featuring a mainstream author.  He said that when he’s in the throes of writing a book he writes constantly, blocking out the rest of the world and all the menial stuff it contains.

Now, I don’t mean to be sexist but yes it was a man. How many women writers do you know who could do that? (Sorry guys). At least it’s made my mind up about what I want for Christmas.  I want a wife.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Holiday Reads

I haven't reviewed any books recently so today I thought I'd review two of the best books I read on my recent holiday.  They are:

A Weekend with Mr Darcy – Victoria Connelly

From the moment I started to read this book I was hooked.  I loved the two female characters, Dr Katherine Roberts and the younger Robyn, and wanted each of them to find true love.  
At times I did find their reactions to the situations they found themselves in a little frustrating but overall, it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the book.
I loved being plunged into the world of Austen mania and have been inspired to re-read her novels, and all things regency.  A perfect holiday read.


Want to Know A Secret? – Sue Moorcroft

I read Starting Over a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to reading this novel.   What can I say?  I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

I loved the main character – Diane – and really felt for her as she gradually finds out how much her husband has betrayed her.  At first she thinks he has been having an affair but the truth is so much worse than that.

The characters are drawn brilliantly. Her husband is such a manipulating, controlling and convincing liar – boo, hiss.
Diane, though, is a strong woman and the story charts how she deals with the fallout from her husband’s helicopter crash (pardon the pun) and how she becomes even stronger as a result.

I loved every minute of this book and can’t wait to read All That Mullarkey.

And now its back to the "To Be Read" pile.


Monday, 7 November 2011

It's Beginning To Feel Alot Like Winter

This time last week I was lying on a sun lounger soaking up the rays in Lanzarote. Today I had to defrost the car before I could drive to work.  It’s a bit of a culture shock and the thought of the long winter ahead is just a little depressing.  I’m also suffering with early darkness since the clocks went back and have rediscovered that I hate driving in the dark.  It really makes me want to hibernate until the spring.

I must admit though it was wonderful to get away at half term and it definitely recharged the batteries. As we didn’t get away in the summer, and on our holiday in May it rained most of the time, it felt much deserved.  The boys had three inset days tagged onto the half term so we didn’t even have to take them out of school which was even better.

We went to Playa Blanca to Flamingo Beach, a First Choice holiday village and I must admit the facilities were fabulous (the food was pretty good too which means I have come home with a serious intention to diet).   The entertainments team were brilliant, and whilst I’m not big on group fun, the boys loved it. As they were entertained, I got on with some reading and writing, which for me is the best kind of holiday.

Before I went away I was feeling a bit jaded about my writing and couldn’t seem to get anything finished. Without the usual distractions though I drafted some new stories and came back feeling much more confident.  I’ve also made a list of things I want to write for the rest of the year which appeals to the OCD side of my nature.  You know what they say, “Nothing beats the satisfaction of a ticked off list” and for me it really helps to set myself targets.

Talking of targets, its November and time for NaNoWriMo.  This year, I didn’t want to start on a big new project as I’ve got lots of editing to do. I must admit though that I’m missing it.  So I’ve decided to set myself a mini NaNoWriMo.   My aim is to write 500 words a day.  It’s a really good exercise because it makes me write even when I don’t want to and even if I don’t do anything else, knowing I have achieved that small target makes me feel good about myself.   So far I have written 1½ new stories and whilst they are a very rough first draft, at least they are there.  They are both stories which have been on my ideas list for a very long time so it feels like a small achievement.  The aim for the rest of the year is to get as many short stories out there as possible, and who knows, one or two may even hit the target.  One can only dream!

Hoping that the dark nights and cold mornings aren't getting you down too much!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

A Slow Month

October has been a bit of a slow month writing-wise.  It’s been busy everywhere else with family birthdays and families in general.

I mentioned a few weeks ago that my mum was 70 and we’d planned a bit of a birthday meal with all the rest of the family including her brothers and sister and my own brother who is currently living in Spain.

It was all a bit hush hush and the secret keeping a bit stressful.  It all went OK on the weekend though and she had a lovely time.  We bought her laptop. She’s never owned a computer of her own before so this was a bit of a thrill for her. She’s really gone for it and is now online.  There’ll be no stopping her once she starts!  She’s had a few lessons off me and my other brother, but I’m sure there’ll be a lot more.

My niece was 10 last week too, so we went up again last weekend.  It’s lovely to see all the family so much, but when you’re working all week, it does take a big chunk out of your time.  I seem to spend my life in constant catch up with housework and clothes and making sure the kids are where they are supposed to be at the right times.  There never seems to be much time in the evenings to write and even if I do I’m usually exhausted.

I’ve been trying to concentrate on short stories at the moment and am part of a wonderful on-line writing group called Fiction Addiction.  Their feedback is invaluable in improving my writing but I’m currently trying to re-write a story they critiqued and I’m getting myself in knots over it. I can’t figure out if it’s better or worse.  That’s the thing isn’t it? Your writing can only get better if you do question it but when you do you just end up thinking its rubbish.

I’ve re-read my critique from the RNA for my novel too and now that I have some distance I can see that the criticisms are spot on.  The problem now is how to fix it.  And that’s the hard part and the reason why I’m not making any progress this month.  I just can’t see the wood from the trees.

I’m off now to go and get an axe – I think I need to do a bit of clearance work!

Thursday, 6 October 2011

A Very Frustrating Day

Technology is a wonderful thing – but only when it works.  When it doesn’t it can be very, very trying.

Stupidly I transferred a lot of my work from my netbook onto a memory stick when we went on holiday as I had downloaded a load of dvd’s.  When we got back I didn’t bother putting it back on as I work from different computers and it was much easier just to use the memory stick than to continually move stuff back and forth between the computers – I have little memory myself and get easily confused! 

At the back of my mind I kept telling myself to back up all my work in case I lost the stick but never got round to it.   You know what’s coming next don’t you?

I’ve been working on my husband’s accounts recently – only behind by about 6 months so decided to do it in the dining room, so I could watch / listen to the X Factor.   I’ve worked hard this week on that and amazingly am almost up to date.   But when I was at work yesterday I decided to look at something on my usb in my lunch hour.  Put it this way, I didn’t eat much when I found that the memory was completely empty of files. 

I wracked my brains trying to figure out when I’d last done a back up, how much recent stuff I had printed off and what I was going to lose.  I wasn’t a happy bunny at all and constantly kicked myself all afternoon for not backing up properly.  It doesn’t matter how many horror stories I hear, or even the fact the hard drive on our main computer crashed before now, I still don’t seem to have learnt my lesson.  

Lesson now sunk in – BACK UP! BACK UP! BACK UP!

When I got home I decided to do a test and to my immense relief, it worked on my net book and all my files were there.  I was so happy!   I have now copied all files back onto my netbook as well as on to another memory stick just in case. There must be something wrong with the connection though because it memory stick wouldn’t work on the kids’ laptop either.  Think I will throw it in the bin now!

So sometimes technology is a wonderful thing and sometimes… well there’s just too much of it isn’t there?  In our house we just have too many gadgets and now my son has bought an I-pod touch with his birthday money.  Unfortunately I’m the only one in our house who even has a vague idea of technology so it’s up to me to set them up and deal with any problems when it all goes wrong.  Last night I was trying to set up the Ipod, help son with his homework, drop youngest son off at a class and pick him up an hour later, clean the house, cook the tea and put the ironing away.  Needless to say I didn’t get much of anything done. A very frustrating day indeed.

Anyway, whinge over, normal service to be resumed.  I just can’t wait until the boys get older and can deal with the techno stuff!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Well, it’s been a busy few weeks with birthdays aplenty.   Son’s birthday sleepover went without physical mishap so that was good.  On the negative side it was very, very LOUD.  Well, I suppose it’s what you would expect with five 9 / 10 year olds a 7 year old and a 6 year old.  But I’d forgotten just how loud boys can be when they’re en-mass.

Only three slept over other in addition to my two, but I am still struggling to figure out where the “sleep” in sleepover is.   I naively thought that it would be fun for them all to sleep in one room – a downstairs bedroom.  Well, it was fun for them but not for me.   In the end I had to split them up and then stand sentry on the door to prevent one individual from sneaking back downstairs again.   Then at 2.15am three of them woke me up with their noise and I got very cross.  It didn’t make me feel like a very nice person but it had to be done as four of them had football matches the next morning.   I won’t be doing it again in a hurry – or ever if I can help it!   One at a time from now on.

On the Saturday I visited my family and then on Sunday afternoon we took some of son’s friends and his cousin to Crocky Trail.   This is a brilliant place, but as I hadn’t been before I didn’t really know what to expect.   You have to admire farmers in this day and age who do something unusual with their land to bring in some extra income.   The place is full of slides and apparatus for the kids to play on. A particular favourite was Titanic where the slide rose up and then started to vibrate and the kids had to try and stop themselves from falling down.

There is also a trail with swings at various intervals, rope bridges and all sorts of fun obstacles.  As a child my grandfather owned a farm and it really took me back to when we used to sling a rope from a tree to swing on, or roam across the fields.  Kids don’t get enough of that these days.

One of my son’s best friends has his birthday the day following his, and as we are friends with the parents it was nice to be with other adults when supervising kids who are not your own.  We had a really good afternoon and a real giggle too.   The sun shone which was an added bonus.  I’ll post some pics next time if I get a chance to download them.

Last weekend was my mum’s 70th birthday and we went to visit with some of the family.  More about that next time though.

Friday, 23 September 2011


Not mine I hasten to add.  Today is my first born’s 10th birthday.  Ten years? Where did that go then?

It’s hard to reconcile the boy with the cheeky smile, dry sense of humour and an endearing sense of thoughtfulness with the tiny scrap of humanity who entered our lives all that time ago. 

As births go it was pretty awful. Three and a half days of labour followed by a caesarean section under general anaesthetic.  Needless to say I wasn’t too with it for those first few vital hours, and my husband was booted out and left to pace the corridors like an old fashioned father.  But he came out perfect in the end which was a blessing.   And he is still a blessing too – more than he’ll know until he has children of his own. 

I remember feeling so scared that this tiny human being was completely dependent on me for his every need. He was only just over six pounds with “legs that look like they should be hanging out of a nest”.  My husband’s words, not mine.    His legs haven’t improved much – they are still long and skinny but he runs like the wind now.  

It’s been a long run up to this birthday and the excitement levels have been fit to bust.  We’ve got three friends coming for a sleepover tonight, family tomorrow and then a trip to an outdoor activity centre on Sunday with more friends followed by pizza and cake.   I only hope that his birthday lives up to his expectations.  That’s the hard thing about kids’ birthdays; it’s up to you to deliver the perfect day / weekend.  No easy task but let’s hope I’m up to the job. Wish me luck!  

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Christmas is Coming!

It’s true.  The supermarkets are full of advent calendars and other Christmas goodies.

I nearly fell over when I saw them at the weekend.   I haven’t even fully recovered from the summer holidays yet.   Halloween seems ages away and yet it’s Christmas.

I thought that rows of school uniforms and Back to School signs in June long before the kids had even broken up from school was bad enough but this is a step too far.  I was glad though that they were playing Christmas music in store, that would have finished me off completely.

No wonder time seems to be passing even more quickly with each year.  It’s because we’re having Christmas in September!  Go away, I’m not ready yet!

Friday, 16 September 2011

Sadly Missed

I was dismayed to read in October's issue of Writing Magazine that Jean Saunders passed away in August.

Jean was a prolific writer, both of short stories and novels and wrote under several names including Rowena Summers, Rachel Moore, Jean Innes, Sally Blake and Jodi Nicol.

She was also a regular contributor to Writing Magazine as well as teaching creative writing courses.

Her advice through the magazine has been invaluable to me over the years and in 2005 I was fortunate to attend one of her weekend courses at the Writers' News House Party in Harrogate.

The weekend itself was blissful. At the time I had a very young family and to be able to indulge in a whole weekend of writing was a dream come true (still would be in fact).  I met so many lovely people including Deric Longden, a favourite author, who was guest speaker on the Saturday evening.

But the highlight was Jean herself.  I found her to be a wonderful, warm person who gave me so much insight into the world of writing for women's magazines.  She was a natural born teacher and inspired everyone of us in the room that weekend. 

When reading a piece of my writing out to the class I remember her asking, "Have you been published?" and when I admitted that I hadn't her answer was "Well, you should be."

Since then, whenever I have been in doubt about my ability, and there have been many times, those four words have inspired me to keep going.

So thank you Jean, wherever you are, you have been an inspiration to my writing life, and you will be sadly missed.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Ten Random Things

Hi all

Thanks to Teresa for the tag.  (Hope the link works). I don't think I've ever been tagged before so it's an honour.

So here goes - here are my ten random things:

1. I can't sing, dance or play a musical instrument so I'm banking on writing as "my special talent".

2. I believe in fate and that somewhere there is a masterplan for everyone (OCD kicking in again). But I am convinced that fate has played a part in keeping me away from a few potentially life threatening situations.

3. I love to cook but never find the time to experiment.

4. I am fascinated with history and have often wondered about reincarnation.  I would love to try out past life regression under hypnosis but am too chicken.

5.  I am completely hooked on Nescafe Mocha coffee sachets.

6. I have a tendancy to be a glass half empty type of person but am doing my best this year to see a glass half full.

7. My parents weren't exactly flush when  I was growing up and I'm grateful because it has taught me the value of money.  I would much rather save for something than to buy it on credit.

8.  This weekend my 12 year old niece had a sleeopover at my house.  I realised that I don't feel grown up enough to have sole responsiblity for someone who is as tall as me.

9.  I have always wanted to fly in a tiger moth aeroplane but like 4. above, I am far too chicken.

10.  I love blogland and all the people I have met here. 

Thanks Teresa for tagging me, I've enjoyed coming up with ten random things.

By the way "random" is the in word amongst my ten year old son and his friends at the moment. Everything is random!

Thursday, 8 September 2011

New Term, Fresh Start

September and the boys are back in school!

I’m sure they don’t view this with quite the optimism that I do (I know for a fact my eldest doesn’t) but I’ve always liked September.

For the last few years it’s been a bit of a relief to be honest. The summer holidays are my busiest time at work, which also coincides with my husband’s busiest time. Whereas he assumes the mantle of work as usual, I’m the one who has to organise childcare and work as well. It’s a bit of trauma but I always manage it somehow. It does annoy me slightly that whilst everyone is going on holiday or chilling out in their jim jams until lunchtime, I’m running round like a headless chicken. But hey ho, I’ll get my own back by going somewhere hot in February while everyone else is shivering in their boots.

But now it’s back to routine which, whilst including numerous after school activities and taxi service, at least allows me to plan my day better. And my routine.

September has always been more of a fresh start for me somehow than January. Perhaps it’s because it always used to signify the start of fresh learning and new opportunities. Working in the education sector now, that is doubly so. A typical writer I’m thrilled at the prospect of new notebooks, files and pencil cases. Yes, I know I’m sad but I bet a lot of you reading this have the same fetishes.

And so for a new masterplan which is:

For the rest of the year I intend concentrating on short stories, fillers, reader’s letters and possibly some articles. After spending the first half of the year on my novel I feel the need complete something which doesn’t take so much time. And of course the more stuff I get out there the closer the odds will be on getting my name in print. Not just that but at the moment I need some short term satisfaction with my writing.

I have received my critique back from the RNA. At first I was a bit dismayed by how swiftly it was returned to me. As I only submitted it at the beginning of August I had prepared myself for a long wait.

Sadly, it didn’t get a second reading but once I’d picked my spirits up off the floor I found that the critique was really useful. It’s highlighted the need for a lot more work on my script and whilst that’s disappointing, unfortunately I have to agree with the majority of the feedback.

But it's better to know than not. In saying that, I think I’ll put it in a draw for a while, gain some perspective and then get back to it with renewed vigour in a little while. So it's off to my short stories ideas file, and perhaps a new notebook to fill?
Happy autumn everyone.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Who Do You Think You Are?

I’m really enjoying the new series of Who Do You Think You Are? The line up is just great and so far the past lives which have been revealed have had me gripped.

There’s something about family history which really fascinates me, as it does a whole lot of other people. Its amazing to find out how the decisions made by people who are long since gone, have a direct impact on our lives today, sometimes even down to the fact that we are here at all. What about if your great, great grandfather hadn’t emigrated? Would the family line have died out? Or what if he hadn’t been caught stealing a chicken because the family were starving and transported to Oz to set up a whole new bunch of descendents?
Of course it helps when you’re a celebrity and you have a whole heap of historians searching for you, explaining to you the information they have found and showing you what impact it would have had on your ancestors’ lives. But perhaps that takes away the fun of becoming a private detective on your own life.

I’ve always considered myself very lucky and am very proud that I have my own family tree at my fingertips. It actually goes back to the time of William the Conqueror which is no mean feat by anyone’s standards. Unfortunately, I can take no credit for this whatsoever.

The original research was complied by George Ormerod who was a historian living in Cheshire in the Victorian era. He wrote a major account of the history of Cheshire in which my ancestors happened to be prominent.

It turns out that one of my ancestors helped to collect data which went into the Doomsday book and for his efforts was awarded the township of Mere, which lies just outside Knutsford in Cheshire. The family name has changed in its spelling over the centuries but originates from this place. Sadly the family hit hard times and were forced to sell up. They continued to be prominent in the area though which is why the line was traced by Ormerod. I remember years ago going to Chester library and opening up the huge book where the family tree and his findings were contained. The book now is too fragile to be handled and has been transcribed onto a CD which I managed to buy from the records office. Now I have the information at my fingertips. It’s not quite the same though.

Later a cousin of my dad’s took up the mantle and updated the family tree from where Ormerod left off, with my younger brother being one of the last entries. It needs to be updated now to include the next generation and this is something I hope to do when I have time.

It’s really good to have this information to hand, but really I think this is just a starting point. The births marriages and deaths are vital statistics, but they don’t tell you how these people lived their lives or what they were like. And that’s the bit that fascinates me. I would really like to find out more but sometimes I feel as though I have too much information. Where would I start? The beginning or the end? It’s not a complaint more of a conundrum. And as ever a question of time. One day soon maybe, I’ll unroll the scrolls of paper and really get stuck into my own history. You never know what I might find.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Summer Break

We’re not going on holiday this summer. We’ve already had two holidays this year so I’m trying my best not to be greedy. It’s hard though when all around you are downing tools and jetting off to distant lands. It’s even worse when they come back tanned and relaxed from a week or two of sheer indulgence while I’m here juggling work, childcare and home and feeling decidedly stressed.

To make us all feel as though we weren’t so left out, the weekend before last I booked us on a mini break. To Bromsgrove.

‘Bromsgrove!’ I hear you exclaim, ‘Why Bromsgrove?’

Well, for a start is not too far to travel but far enough away from home to feel as though you’ve had a break. Secondly I got a really good deal at the Hilton Bromsgrove; £60 a night bed and breakfast for a family of four and kids eat free in the restaurant at any time. Evening meal for the adults was moderately priced at three courses for £20. To top it all there were no family rooms left so we had two interconnecting rooms which meant the boys had a room to themselves complete with TV and bathroom. They were really chuffed! The staff at the hotel were lovely too, they couldn’t do enough to make our stay pleasant and there was a fantastic swimming pool with splash time so that the boys to really muck around. I can’t recommend it enough and will definitely go back.

Another reason to stay was that close by were two places I had wanted to visit for a long time: Warwick Castle and Cadbury World.

Entry to both of these can be a bit pricey so I did a bit of sleuthing and found some online discounts and paid for the entry before we went. It does commit you to having to go on a particular day regardless of the weather, but it saves a fortune. Well worth the time and effort to find out in advance.

Here we were lucky again because the weather on Saturday while we were at the castle was fantastic and on Sunday we were mostly inside so it wasn’t that important that it had gone a bit grim.

This is the view as you go into the castle. I don’t know what it is about castles but I just love them. We often go to visit Beeston close by and even though it was a castle used for defence and was never actually lived in, you can almost feel the history seeping out of the bricks.

Fancy getting married? On our way out, we saw a wedding party coming out of the church and I bet the reception was being held here. How about that for a memorable setting?

Throughout the day there were lots of demonstrations to keep us entertained. Here’s the jousting:

And the rebels coming in by boat.

A view from inside the castle grounds:

And what better way to end the day than putting the kids in the stocks.

We were taken back in time and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

The boys were really looking forward to going to Cadbury World. I found it fascinating to see how chocolate was brought to this country and how a small family developed its manufacture to become such a well known brand. Not only were they ahead of their time in the manufacturing process but also in the way they treated their staff. Unusually for the time they thought that if the staff were treated well the owners would benefit too. So they built the workers a village with affordable, good quality housing and a social structure which would inspire loyalty. The cricket ground is still there today and the houses are still owned by the association to benefit people in the local area.

That part might have been a bit factual for the boys but they bore it well. They enjoyed tasting the samples and walking round the packaging factory and the smell was just to die for.

We also had a trip around the area where chocolates are hand crafted. I saw a pair of stilettos there, made completely out of milk chocolate, being decorated in white chocolate (sorry I couldn't get a pic). I would say that is the ultimate female combination – shoes and chocolate.

Also entertaining was the archive of TV adverts – they certainly brought back some memories.

Finally before our journey home we visited the shop and stocked up on cut price goodies.

And now begins the exercise regime!

Friday, 12 August 2011

Nothing Is Ever Wasted

I’ve rambled on quite a bit in this blog about “the novel” but I thought that I would blog today on how it came to life.

The novel is a contemporary romance set in central London in the world of catering and currently has a working title of Truly Scrumptious.

It began life many, many years ago (ouch more than I care to remember), when I first started out writing. Then it had a title of Kitchen Dreams. It was intended for Mills and Boon and in my enthusiasm I quickly dashed off three chapters and a synopsis and sent it winging on its way. Needless to say it landed right back on my doorstep in a scarily short space of time and the answer was of course a resounding no. I promptly consigned it to a drawer and although I have moved several times and the folder has moved with me, it has never been opened. Even now.

In 2009, watching the final of Masterchef I was inspired by a young woman who was a private chef working in London and so my heroine was reborn. Rather than meeting her hero solely through her present business though, I decided to give them a shared past and several problems to overcome from that past when they met up again.

At that point I was in the middle of writing something else and didn’t have the time to do anything with it. From time to time though, random thoughts would ignite and I’d scribble them down.

Last August I decided that I would like to take part in NaNoWriMo, the challenge to write 50,000 words in November, which I had completed the previous year and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to resurrect my book. To help me along with way I read two books – Love Writing: How to Make Money Writing Romantic or Erotic Fiction by Sue Moorcroft and See Jane Write: A Girl’s Guide to Writing Chick Lit by Sarah Mlynowskie & Farrin Jacobs. Both were invaluable in helping with the plotting process and by November I was ready.

If I have some idea of where I’m going I find it quite easy to get the words down on paper. I have a tendency to overwrite but I think that even if they aren’t the right words at least they are there. Having the November deadline forces you to keep going too, so by the end of November I had completed the requisite word count and pushed myself in December to have a rough first draft of 72,000 words.

To give myself another deadline, I joined the NWS with the RNA and after a break of a month began editing. As you will see from my last blog, the editing process was harder than the first part, but it has taught me a valuable lesson. I came across a jotting in my notebook today. I’m not sure where it came from so I apologise for not be able to attribute the quote but it sums up my recent experience perfectly: “Writing is a labour of love but editing is a love of labour”. Whoever said that was spot on.

It just goes to show though, that nothing is ever wasted, and even if I didn’t use the words from that very first novel, the idea was useful. One of these days I’m going to be very brave and dare myself to read that very first attempt. And when I’ve picked myself up off the floor (either from crying or laughing) I will probably throw it in the bin. It's served its purpose now after all.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

It's In The Bag!

Finally, I’ve finished editing the novel – well, at least for the time being anyway. The package is now in a large jiffy envelope and later today will be winging its way to the RNA’s New Writer’s scheme.

I feel released, like a great big boulder has been chipped off my shoulder. I will admit that the editing process has taken me rather longer than I had anticipated and at times, as each self-imposed deadline passed without a completed manuscript, I was beginning to wonder if I would even be finished by the end of August; the RNA’s final deadline. I also have to admit that it’s not the completely perfect manuscript I had envisaged it would be. But it’s the best I can do for now. I don’t expect miracles from this submission – I can’t imagine anyone snapping this novel up and giving me a three book deal, but I’m looking forward to receiving an expert’s opinion on it and at least see if I’m on the right track.

This is the beauty of the New Writer’s Scheme. For £100 not only do you gain membership to a prestigious writing society but you also get feedback on a full novel, which I certainly think is value for money. I will be able to give a more knowledgeable account of this experience though once I have received the feedback of course. But for the time being I’m just glad to have achieved my aim and am looking forward to concentrating on other writing for a while.

It’s been a long hard slog but I got there in the end. Roll on the edits!

Friday, 1 July 2011

When Curiosity Nearly Killed The Cat

You may remember that back in November we acquired two kittens.

Well the kittens have grown and turned from cute little furry balls, into lean, mean, mouse and bird catching machines.

They are still a bit cute though.

One of them has always had a thing about climbing into things: bags, cupboards, washing machines and tumble driers.

We are quite used to listening to muffled mews and realising that he has snuck in somewhere when we haven't been looking.

But I've always been really careful about the washing machine and the tumble drier - well we've all heard the stories haven't we?

Last night I brought the washing in from the line and as it was still a bit damp decided to finish it off on a low heat in the tumble.

I must have only turned my back for a second but when I turned the drier on I thought that it was making a bit of a bumpy noise.  Perhaps the boys have left something in their pockets I thought turning away, it wouldn't be the first time. 

I walked out of the room but a few seconds later came back.  From what seemed like a long way away I heard muffled meows.

I looked at my husband and he looked at me and we both said, "No he couldn't be. Could he?"

Well he was.  Fortunately he'd only been in there for a few seconds but when I think about what could have happened my blood runs cold.  After a few minutes cuddling he seemed fine especially when he wolfed down some cat nip treats.  I just hope that teaches him a lesson but I'm defintely going to be super cautious in future.

One life down - eight to go.

Have a good weekend. Hope the sun shines wherever you are.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

The Bottom Line

The recession is a bit like a flood, its effect is long reaching, but only drop by drop do we realise how far it has permeated our day to day lives.

To me, this latest recession seems to have been going on forever and I wonder where it will end. My husband runs his own business in the construction industry and a few years ago things were very much touch and go. Fortunately he survived and bit by bit the business seems to be clawing its way back.

But as one area of industry turns a corner, another reaches its low point. I currently work in the tertiary education sector and due to finances and falling student numbers the course I run will be running its final academic year from September.

I’m one of the lucky ones. I have another full year’s employment but some of my colleagues aren’t so fortunate. Post graduate education is expensive and some of the people who have been hit hardest by this recession are the very people who would normally pay for their children to receive that education.

Times have changed and the college has to be a ruthless business if it is going to survive. So needs must and a lot of heads are gong to roll by the look of it.

I’ve been here before a long time ago and last time I survived. That time I had just bought a new house and was about to have my second child so the situation was far more scary. So this time it doesn’t fill me with quite so much dread and on the plus side, I have plenty of time to prepare myself anyway.

But what I do need to do is to change my lack of job into an opportunity to finally do what I want to do with my life; a chance to follow my dreams. Perhaps not an ideal time to be wanting to break out on my own but it may be the only chance I get.

I’ve got a year to prepare myself, which in itself is a gift. Now I just need to make the most of it.

Wish me luck!

PS - Sally, thanks for dropping by on my blog - I did try to reply to you but blogger isn't allowing me to leave any comments on my own blog at the moment - very strange!  Any clues anyone?
I’ve enjoyed my time in my job and have always considered myself to be a loyal and conscientious employee. Sadly though when it comes to the bottom line, I and many of my colleagues are just a payroll number - a liability which needs to be slashed.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Apologies For Absence

Two reasons for being a bad blogger:

1. Half term holiday in Majorca
2. I've being trying (trying being the operative word) to edit my novel so that I can send it in to the RNA before the deadline for the New Writers Scheme expires - OK so August sounds a long way away but I would like to get it in before then.

After our wonderful family holiday in February we decided to spend a week in the sun at half term.  In the past we have visited Majorca at this time of year and had fantastic holidays, so we decided to go back.  Alas, perhaps this year was a mistake.

Rain at the airport was the first sign that this was not going to be a sun filled event. 

The next five days of intermittent rain and constant overcast skies tested the patience of all involved somewhat, along with the noise, too many people in one venue, greed and rudeness of fellow holiday makers. I'm not exaggerating honest - but this holiday made the sit com Benidorm seem positively sophisticated.

Still, I'm trying to remember my New Year's resolution to be a glass half full kinda girl and at least it was a break, I wasn't at work, cleaning, cooking, washing or ironing (but I've done all that since I've been back) and it gave me plenty of time to think.

The most important thing I want to do this year is to complete the edit on my book so that I can send it off. 

So I came home with renewed vigour and focus and promptly rewrote the first five chapters of the novel.  Quite extensively in some cases.  So, now I'm happy with the opening chapters but I've changed so much that its had a knock on effect on the rest of the plot.  I know it needed it but to be honest, my head is now in tatters and I can't work out the rest of the plot. 

I will get there in the end, I know I will but at the moment I can't see the wood for the trees!

Hope your writing week is going better than mine.