Monday, 10 November 2014

Moving House

I mentioned in an earlier post that my parents moved house at the end of September.

It really was a momentous occasion as they have lived there for the last 46 years.

I left home when I was 18 and moved from student accommodation to a variety of flat / house shares until I bought my own house.

At that point I was “off” men and had decided to be an independent woman living alone with my cat.  Of course as soon as I made that decision, I met my husband.

Later he moved in with me. I was married from that house and brought both my babies home to it.  But when our second boy was born we felt that we had outgrown the house and moved into our current one.

Because I have moved so many times, I don’t get too attached to houses, but the one constant in my life has always been my parents’ house.

Me, my brother and sister-in-law went to help them move and said our final goodbyes.

I took a special moment to say goodbye to my old bedroom.  A tiny box room where I spent my teenage years, dreaming of my future.

My parents have moved to a bungalow which will suit them much better for the next stage of their lives.  It needs a lot of work doing to it but the house has a lovely atmosphere and I’m sure they’ll be happy there.

Now I just need to remember which house they are living in and not end up at the old house whenever I go to visit.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Sunbed Wars

Being on holiday, having nothing to do all day makes the little things seem so important – and, yes, I am talking about sunbeds here. 

Personally, just something that is comfortable suits me but my sun-seeking husband likes to achieve maximum sunlight potential.  The resort we were staying in last week only seemed to get the sun on one side of the pool so every morning it was a dash to get those towels out, even having to resort to setting the alarm.  Sheer madness!  On several mornings one of the pool attendants decided to exert his control and refused to allow anyone to put towels down until 8am.

Each family’s designated sunbed acquirer (in our case my husband) stood pacing, holding their bundle of towels until on the dot of eight, were all released and then marched en-mass to their favoured spot.    Wondering what was happening on the first morning this happened, I stepped out to see what going on and was greeted by the sight of holiday makers looking as if they were marching off to war. 

It was certainly a sight to behold – and I bet the hotel staff were laughing their socks off – but hell hath no fury like a sun seeker banished to the shade.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Exercising the Writing Muscle

I’m not a big fan of exercise but sometimes I force myself to do it out of sheer necessity.  Mostly I try to find excuses or rather find other things to do as a means to avoid it.  To my shame, I feel as though I have been doing the same thing with my writing recently.  Is it sheer madness that the very thing I say I love to do, I find 101 excuses not to?

I’ve just been away for a week in the sun and lovely it was too.  As a family, we don’t tend to do highbrow or exotic holidays.  My husband is busiest at work during the summer so whilst everyone else is jetting off to luxurious destinations, I’m usually pet sitting and wondering how to juggle work with entertaining the boys during the long summer break.

So by October half term we are more than ready to get away.  Destinations are fairly limited; we don’t want to travel too far as we only have a week but we do want it to be hot. We usually plump for one of the Canary Islands as the weather there is pretty much guaranteed.

My husband loves the sun.  He rarely sits down at home but give him sunshine and he does a pretty good impression of being comatose.  The boys of course need to be occupied so instead of going exclusive we go cattle market (sorry, slip of the tongue there, I meant to say all-inclusive).

Now, all-inclusive I think, is a bit of a mixed blessing, especially at half-term.  It’s crowded, noisy and there’s usually a fight for the sunbeds each morning – more of that another time.  But the facilities are great for the boys. They have plenty to do, make lots of new friends in a relatively safe environment, eat what they want when they want, and only sulk when we insist on taking them for a walk.

So that’s the other half and the kids taken care of which leaves me plenty of time to read and write.  It’s the closest I get to a writing retreat without abandoning everyone (oh what bliss that would be!)

And yet at the beginning of the holiday I struggled to think of anything to write.  Life has been so hectic that I haven’t had the time or the headspace recently.  But before I came away I emailed some of my ideas files and half written stories to my kindle and I forced myself to write.  Just a little, but I set myself a goal of 500 words a day.  Not a great deal, I know, but it was achievable and as soon as I got into the habit, the writing and ideas started to flow.  As well as finishing some stories which had been languishing in a folder on my computer for too long, I made a list of projects to complete post-holiday, read some writing reference books and even toyed with an idea for a new novel. 

Now I have something to aim for and I just need to keep up the momentum now that I’m back (even if I am drowning under washing and ironing).

So I’ve learnt that writing is like exercise, the more you do it the easier it gets.  I wonder if I’ll be fit by Christmas? 

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

I'm Back - Even Though I Haven't Been Anywhere

I can’t believe it’s over a month since my last blog post.  How can that be? And how can it already be the middle of October when it seems like only yesterday we were celebrating the New Year?

I had hoped that after the disruption of the summer holidays I would be able to get back into some kind of writing routine but alas life, as ever, has conspired against me.

I want to be able to get into a good writing routine but a number of life events, work and family commitments have seemed to get in the way.

Since January I have been working three days a week for a local charity fitting my freelance work, which is unpredictable, around it.  Paid work obviously has to come before my writing desires and so my “hobby” gets shoved to the bottom of the list.

September and October have also been challenging with family commitments several birthdays, sleepovers, appointments and the inevitable football.  My youngest had trials for a county team which added to the grey hairs but sadly he didn’t get in – maybe next time.

And finally there has been a house move – not mine, thankfully, but my parents.  They’ve lived in their old house for a very long time (they moved in when I was six weeks old) and as they are both in their 70’s it was all hands on deck.

So time for writing has been a bit sketchy. It’s so frustrating as I constantly feel as though I’m battling against what I have to do against what I want to do.

I’m amazed sometimes when I hear / read interviews with other authors how they hold down full time jobs, homes and families and yet they also find the time to write prolifically.  It can be done, I know it can, I just need to be more disciplined!

On Monday I found out that my part-time job is being reduced from three days to two.  I’ve worked really hard for the organisation, often putting in extra unpaid hour because I want to do a good job.  I know money is an issue but as my Manager (who is lovely) has requested to reduce her hours by the same amount, I thought I might have a chance of holding on to mine.  A letter slapped on my desk informing me that from January my hours will be reduced felt as though my commitment is simply not appreciated.

I’m a big believer that every negative has a positive and so I have decided from now on I will work set hours, I will go into the office, do what I can and then leave.  I won’t be working flexible hours to suit them and I certainly won’t be doing any unpaid work.  So the positive is that I don’t feel as though I owe them anything.  The other plus is that I have a few months’ notice. Obviously I will try to build up my freelance work to make up the shortfall but more importantly I want to concentrate on trying to do what I want to do most of all – and that is to make some money from writing.

We are going on holiday to Gran Canaria a week tomorrow, so I’m going to make sure I concentrate my mind, and fill my notebook while I’m away. And then when I get back, despite the fact that preparation for the dastardly C word will undoubtedly take up a lot of my time, I’m determined that  the next two months of this year will be my most production ever.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Here's Another One

It might be a bit late to be reviewing a summer read but I really loved the following book and wanted to spread the word.  It is:

The Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

Set in a remote part of Cornwall (largely unspoilt by the tourist trade).  I felt as though I was enjoying my own sojourn by the sea as I smelt the salt in the air, listened to the waves crashing against the harbour wall and saw the light from the lighthouse flashing past my bedroom window.  Perfect for anyone who has not been away or even if you want to be reminded of salty sea air.

The main character, Polly, has lost everything; her business, her flat, her boyfriend and has been declared bankrupt.  The only place she can afford to rent is an almost uninhabitable flat above a disused bakery. 

Polly cuts herself off from her family and friends and starts her life again.  With her skill for baking helping her to make friends, she also finds a new career.  But all does not go smoothly for Polly as she tries to get back on her feet and find a new happiness.

This is a light, easy read but the characters and the setting were so likeable that I didn’t want to put I down. As ever, with Jenny’s books, though it also made me quite hungry.  The thought of all that freshly baked bread did nothing for my diet!

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Book Review Time

As I've been doing a lot more reading that writing recently, I thought it was time for a book review, so here goes.

The Silent Tide – Rachel Hore

This is Rachel’s sixth book and was published in September 2013.  So far I’ve read them all and loved each one.  The Silent Tide is no exception. 

Written partly in the present day and also post WWII, The Silent Tide follows Emily, an editor in a London publishing house who is commissioned to work on a biography of  Hugh Morton, a great British Novelist, first published in the late 1940’s.  There is a mystery surrounding the first wife of Hugh Morton (Isabel) a young ambitious women who began her career editing Hugh’s first novel. It’s a mystery that Hugh’s second wife and his biographer seem keen to overlook. 

Information which is being secretly passed to Emily though proves that there is someone out there who wants Isabel’s story to be told. 

The novel is told from Isabel’s point of view.  Gradually we are drawn into her story as she struggles to forge a career for herself, meets the man of her dreams and then is expected to give up on all her ambitions to become a typical 1950’s housewife and mother.

As we are drawn into Isabel’s story, so is Emily, who is also struggling with her own relationships. 

The storylines in both the past and present kept me turning the pages and I found this book both compelling and satisfying.  Rachel Hore pens a story with such a sense of place and time that you can’t help but become involved in the story.  Fans of Kate Morton will love this book.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Back To School

Not only was yesterday back to school for the boys but for me too as I attended a course in Manchester.

Unfortunately it wasn’t a writing course, that would have been much more fun, but was a fundraising course for work.

It was an early start, leaving the house at 7.30, and making sure that both the boys were up and ready for school before I left, and a bit of shock to the system.  But it was a lovely day, typical that the weather has turned so warm and dry now that school is back.

I had a lovely hour on the train reading and writing, a rare bit of peace with no interruptions from email and technology.  I love train journeys, they are like being in your own special bubble.

The course itself was very intense, lasting from 9.30 – 4.30 and by the end of it I felt as though my brain was in complete overload.  I’m just not used to studying so hard anymore and I felt complete sympathy for the boys being in school all day, I’d forgotten how tough it can be.

I met some lovely people though and even one who only lives round the corner from me so I hope that we will keep in touch and be able to help each other in our jobs.  A small world hey?

By the time I got home it was gone 6, and my husband took us all to the pub for tea.  A lovely end to a long, hard day.

Monday, 1 September 2014

A New Year!

One more day and then I can breathe a sigh of relief because the kids are going back to school on Wednesday – yeh!

Part of me is sad that the summer has passed and the weather is already turning distinctly autumnal.  The nights are drawing in and we will soon be shivering by our fires and getting up in the dark – yeuck!

But I find the summers really difficult to cope with, with full on work and juggling childcare and seemingly little time for writing. 

Admittedly it is getting easier now that the boys are older but they are definitely ready to get back to routine – I can tell because the decibel levels of the squabbling have definitely increased recently.

I’ve always thought of September as the new year – probably because I’ve spent years working in an academic environment.  But even when I was younger I looked forward to the new challenges of learning and that doesn’t seem to change even now.

I’ve been mulling round the idea of writing some articles for a while now but I don’t seem to have the confidence to move forward with this and so I have decided to sign up for Writing Magazine's  online Article Writing and Journalism course. 

I hope that this will give me a kick up the whatsit and get me writing and submitting again.  I’m also determined to be a better blogger from this month onwards as well.

Watch this space.

Monday, 4 August 2014

One Hundred Years Ago

I could hardly let this day go by without making reference to the sacrifice that so many men and women made for this country as a result of World War I.

No one had experienced a war like it, and at the beginning, I doubt that most people really understood the reason we had been pulled into the conflict.

As with many wars a seemingly small incident can lead to many other countries becoming involved - especially if they are looking for an excuse to exert dominance over others.

I find it so sad that that initial single death caused the death of so many millions - on both sides of the war.  

World War I was to be the war to end all wars, sadly two decades later we were at war again and have remained in some kind of conflict ever since.  It seems that the leaders of our countries have learnt nothing by these sacrifices.  But that's another debate.

To concentrate on this anniversary I wanted to post a poem which to me sums up the pointless of such hostilities.

When I studied my O Levels (yes so many years ago) we studied Wilfred Owen.  His words struck a chord with me that remains today.  And saddest of all, the words from such an intelligent man were cut short in the very last days of the war.

Dulce et decorum est proppatria mori translates as "It is sweet and honourable to die for the fatherland". Owen ironically shows through a gas attack that there is nothing sweet and honourable about this kind of death at all.

Dulce et Decorum Est

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks, 
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge, 
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs 
And towards our distant rest began to trudge. 
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots 
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind; 
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots 
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling, 
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time; 
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling, 
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime . . . 
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light, 
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning. 
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight, 
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning. 
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace 
Behind the wagon that we flung him in, 
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face, 
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin; 
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood 
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs, 
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud  
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, 
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest 
To children ardent for some desperate glory, 
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est 
Pro patria mori.

I think he says it all.

Monday, 28 July 2014

Updating The Classics

When I was studying A Level English Literature, Emma was one of our set texts. Our lecturer raved about Jane Austen’s prose, but for the life of me I didn’t get it.  Although I was an avid reader, I remember spending half term forcing myself to read a set number of chapters each day, just so I could get to the end of it.

Of course, with the benefit of age and experience, I can now agree with my lecturer regarding the quality of her writing.

Of all her novels, Sense and Sensibility is my favourite and a few years ago I toyed with the idea of updating the plot into a modern setting.

So much has been written about Pride and Prejudice that I thought the lesser-known Sense & Sensibility might be suitable gap in the market.  I didn’t get any further than my initial musings though and then I heard that The Austen Project had commissioned well-known writers to pen their own modern versions 

Joanna Trollope was asked to re-write Sense and Sensibility and whilst I was a little miffed that my own version would be null and void – if I’d ever got round to writing it that is – I couldn’t think of a better person to write it.

I received a copy for Christmas and decided to re-read the original before I began to read the new version.

And now I’ve read them both and I have to say, frankly, I was disappointed.

Joanna Trollope’s version is easy to read and is well-written, and at first I was fascinated by how she had transformed the plot of old into a modern day setting.  But as the story progressed I began to get rather frustrated with the characters themselves.

In Jane Austen’s day, unless they had an independent fortune, women really only had one option and that was to marry well.  If they could both marry well and be in love then that was the ideal outcome, but being in love definitely wasn’t a pre-requisite to marriage for many. And really, the men weren’t much better off. If they too didn’t have their own fortune or living, they would have to marry for money.  And then if they did have money they had to choose someone who would be fitting for their status.

But I don’t feel that a plotline based on this premise can be believably translated into the modern day.  In Joanna Trollope’s version, I found myself wanting to shout at the young single women to go out and get a job, and for the men whose relatives manipulated them by the threat of disinheritance, I wanted to shout for them to grow a backbone and follow their hearts.

So for me, unfortunately, this version of Sense and Sensibility didn’t really work.  I’m glad Joanna Trollope did it though because I think she did a much better job than I could ever have done

Val McDermid’s version of Northanger Abbey was published at the end of March and Curtis Sittenfield will be rewriting Pride and Prejudice, due out this autumn.

Despite my disappointment with the first book in the series, I would still be interested to read the rest, particularly Val McDermid’s version. Part of me still wonders though if you can’t actually better the originals. 

Has anyone else read these two, if so I’d be interested to hear what you think. 

Old or new?  What works best for you?

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Let the Holidays Commence

Not mine I might add, but the children’s.  It’s a short summer break this year – only 5½ weeks, ha ha!

And when most people might be looking forward to lazier days without the school run, my quandary is how to work and to keep the boys entertained for so long.

As a family we don’t take holidays during the summer as my husband is usually snowed under with work.  He is currently working 7 days a week and next week will be working about 15 hours a day, so he can hardly be expected to take his share of the child care, and there’s certainly no long lazy days on the beach to look forward to.

Thankfully as my boys love football, they go to a football school from Monday – Thursday for 4 weeks of the holiday, and I can cover most of my work while they are there and do the rest from home, so most of the time is covered.  I’ve decided that Fridays will be a time when the three of us will have a day out so at least we’ll get away from four walls.  I want us to have some fun time together as well as going on some visits which will be of educational interest for them.  (I haven’t actually mentioned the educational to them yet – ha ha!)

We are lucky enough to live a stone’s throw from what I consider to be one of the best zoo’s in the country.  We’ve had membership there since the boys have been little but recently we haven’t been going very often, so yesterday we decided to make the most of our membership.

My youngest has decided that he wants to see every animal in the zoo this summer, so we may have to do a few visits.  Yesterday it was baking so we did the bottom section of zoo, my youngest marking them off on the list as we went (do you think he has developed my penchant for lists?) and then had lunch in the cafĂ©.  The good thing is that we also get discount on food and drinks with our membership so it’s win-win.

As ever I had to take photos of my favourite animals. 



We called it a day mid-afternoon – we were just too hot and weary to walk any further, but we all agreed that a good day was had by all.

Today was a day of housework and gardening and tomorrow I’ve said I’m going to get the bikes out and make sure that they are all in working order.  It’s something I may live to regret.

Oh and here is one of the animals at home, having a considerably easier day then we had.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Catch Up

I can't believe that its already the middle of July and I haven't managed to post a single blog this month.

I just don't know where the time goes these days and its not because I've been writing. Working, yes, but not writing.

I am, though, trying to slot in the odd few minutes of editing whenever I get a chance. I'm currently working my way through a novel I sent to the RNA New Writers Scheme two years ago, but its a long, slow process.

Its the novel that I have done the most work on and its been in the pipeline for more years than I care to think about, but even so it has still  needed a lot of editing this time around.  My writing group have been looking at it too and giving me some valuable feedback (as ever) so I'm pleased about that.  So far they are enjoying it and say that they are disappointed that they can't read on when they get to the end of each section.  (Can't be all bad then).  I'm hoping to send them the final installment soon, so I'm keen to hear what they think of the finished story.  

Then its back to the drawing board and reworking the first three chapters so I can knock it into shape to send out to agents.  I'm looking forward to having it in a format that I feel happy enough to send out, but no doubt will have to steel myself to receive the inevitable rejections.

Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained as they say, and at least it will feel like I've achieved something, even if it does come bouncing right back to me.

Hope you are all being a little bit more productive than I am this summer.  


Saturday, 21 June 2014

The 5:2 Diet

Whilst I was in Ireland I made some decisions about my life, the first of which is that I need to lose some weight.

Back in the day I was a slim young thing but now I am neither.  Two children started the landslide but over the last ten years I have certainly added to it.  The thought of going on a diet though fills me with dread.  All that constant self-denial just makes me want to go out and buy a bag of chips!

A friend of mine started on the 5:2 diet last year and has lost a lot of weight, and more importantly has kept it off too.  But the thought of fasting severely put me off.

So when I came across Kate Harrison’s The 5:2 Diet Book I decided that I would read it and see what I thought. I put that off too for a while but when I did read it, I only got half way through before I decided to give it a go.

On two days a week you “fast”.  Now fortunately it’s not a real fast in the water only sense of the word but your calorie intake is restricted to around 500 calories for women and 600 for men.  The exact amount can depend on your BMI, but to save doing any complicated calculations, I stick to 500.

I’m now in my third week and so far it is going OK.  I’ve lost a couple of pounds (hard to tell exactly how much as I didn’t have any scales at the beginning but I already feel healthier and a bit slimmer, even though I’ve only just started.

At first I found the fast days really hard but already I’m beginning to get used to them.  It helps to have a plan and to know exactly what you are going to eat before the day.  The days I have chosen to fast are Mondays and Wednesdays because I am in work those days and don’t have access to my kitchen for the majority of the day.

I drink either black coffee, water or fruit teas throughout the day. I don’t have breakfast but have Ryvita with cottage cheese, cucumber and cherry tomatoes for lunch and grilled chicken or salmon baked in lemon juice with either salad or vegetables roasted in one-cal spray for dinner.  At about 9pm I treat myself to a cup of tea before bedtime.  I do usually go to bed quite early on fast days and read because it removes the temptation of evening snacking. They aren’t exactly a barrel of laughs but I do get a huge sense of accomplishment at the end of each of them and even better is the thought that I don’t have to do it the next day.

So far I have resisted the temptation to over indulge on the unrestricted days.  I think because on the fast days you are so aware of your calorie intake and it also makes you less hungry but I probably do need to resist the temptation to celebrate the day and have that extra glass of wine.  If I also try and up my exercise levels I might actually achieve my aim.

Now that I’ve started I’m determined to reach my goal and I’m looking forward to meet the slimmer, healthier me.  

So thank you Kate for encouraging me through your book to go for my goal.  The power of words hey?

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

It's Still All About Football!

As you can imagine football is currently on the TV in our house on a continuous loop and if I want to watch anything these days I’m relegated to the dining room.

I have so far failed to generate much enthusiasm for the World Cup.  Perhaps I am all footballed out from a season of watching the boys play.  Or perhaps it’s because the England team failed to ignite any enthusiasm in the friendly games in the run up to it all kicking off. (Is that treason?  Will I soon hear a knock at the door and be taken away to have my head chopped off?)

I usually only watch the England games during the first round but on Saturday night I fell asleep half way through – I do blame that on the lateness of the hour though and the fact that I had been to a barbeque and had partaken in a few glasses of wine!

On Thursday we will all be watching the game in our local village club. It’s a great atmosphere for all the family and if the football proves too dire I can always have a chat with my friends (as long as we are not shushed by the men).  I am hoping it will be edge of our seats stuff and that we get the right result – well you can live in hope can’t you?

The other week we had our own football celebrations to mark the end of the season for the boys.  They each received a trophy and my youngest also received one for the most improved player in his team.  It fair brought a tear to my eye.

On Sunday we have an all-day tournament to attend (joy!), so you see my cup runneth over with football.  What it is to be the only female in a male dominated household!

Monday, 2 June 2014

May Meltdown

May is usually a month I enjoy, mainly because the weather becomes warmer and it is the month of my birthday, but this May has been a difficult one and I can't say I'm sorry to see the back of it.
It has been successful work-wise in that as well as working three days a week, I have also taken on some audio transcription work which is helping ever so slightly to fill the much depleted coffers. The only problem with it is that I never know when the work is going to come in and because it needs  a quick turn around, I have felt like I am constantly primed to work, checking my emails and often working at weekends and late into the night.  Also time which I may have set aside for writing is instantly eroded if work comes in, because you can't turn down paid work.
Technology has also conspired against us too. For the first half the month my husband's van, which is essential for his own work was off the road, which meant juggling transport and trips to the garage, and then my laptop went haywire and also needed some emergency treatment.
During that time my mum was in hospital for a week with a problem with her gallstones, which was very worrying.  She seems to be OK now but is waiting for a date when she will have surgery to have her gallbladder removed which, hopefully, after her recuperation will solve her current problems.
Disappointingly, my son's team didn't make it to the final.  We endured a nail-biting semi final which went to extra time and then penalties and they lost by 1 goal.  This was incredibly distressing for my youngest as goalkeeper, but also for us, watching him bravely standing in front of the goal knowing that all his team's hopes rested on his performance.  He did brilliantly though, even though he took some convincing initially as he thought he had let them all down. 
So with all this hassle and worry, I wasn't particularly looking forward to my birthday.  But my boys, bless them, pulled out all the stops and I had a wonderful day, probably one of my most enjoyable birthdays ever.
My joy was brought abruptly to a halt though, when one of our friends died in the early hours of the morning after my birthday.  It was a shock to say the least, but especially so because he took his own life.  I still can't get my head round it and wonder what burden was so great that he thought his family would be better off without him. 
 A week later and we were due to go to Ireland to visit family for half term.  When we learned that the funeral would be held while we were away we seriously debated whether or not to cancel the whole thing.
But in the end we went and I managed to move our bookings around so that we came back on Wednesday and not Friday and on Thursday we attended the funeral.
I admit that I was dreading it but it actually turned out to be a lovely service despite everything and was attended by around 350 people.  The church was packed to the rafters but it was so sad that his life had touched so many people and yet not one of us had been able to do anything to help him through his own dark times.  We spent the day alternately celebrating the good times we had shared with him and despairing over the way his life had ended.
So what with all that has been going on, I can honestly say that I have barely written a word in all this time.  The stress and worry has just not been conducive to creativity.  But I am not going to berate myself.  I have survived this month and that in itself I consider to be some achievement.
Going away has given me some time to think and a bit of perspective though.  Life can be short, whether we want it to be or not, and I'm even more determined to make time for my writing.  The demands on my time may be great but writing is important to me. One thing this month has taught me is that you never know what is around the corner. Life is precious and I don't want to waste it by not doing something which I really love. Now, I just need to find some time!
Hope your month has been better than mine, and I hope that June is an improvement too! 

Saturday, 3 May 2014

Football Crazy

It’s getting to that time of year – the time when all the football leagues are coming to a dramatic climax.  But I’m not talking FA Cup, European Championships and the like, I’m talking about the Under 10’s local league, and the match I watched today certainly had more tension than a cup final, at least as far as I was concerned.

My youngest son’s team has been neck and neck on the leader board with one other team, and are currently at the top.  The top two teams from each division will compete in the semi-final next week, with the final taking place the following week at Chester Stadium.

Today, after much postponement, they played the team they have been in competition with all season.  Tensions were running high even before the match kicked off, but it was so evenly matched, with each team desperate to prove themselves, that each touch on the ball, each tackle had our hearts in our mouths. 

But especially me.  As my son plays in goal, I sometimes have to remind myself to breathe when the ball is in the goal area.  Today, luckily, he was on top form.  He made some absolutely brilliant saves, some which he literally hurled himself at. 

I have no idea where he gets his bravery from (or is it lunacy?) because I certainly wouldn’t be able to do what he does. 

In the event it was a nil-nil draw, which was a pretty good result.  Both teams played so hard that neither deserved to loose, and it was down to both goalies that nothing went into the net.

Next week the tension will be even higher.  The team have worked hard all year that it will be devastating to be knocked out at the final hurdle.  But then, if they get through will it be even worse.

My eldest son played in the final at Chester when he was the same age.  I remember it as one of the proudest, yet scariest moments of my life.  But then he wasn’t playing in goal, so if they do make it, I think I might just need a defibrillator on hand.

Oh what it is to be a football Mum!

Friday, 25 April 2014


At the moment my life is very unpredictable and I'm struggling to plan any writing time.  Or rather I plan it and then life happens to get in the way.

Now that I am working three days a week (which could soon become four), a large part of my daytime writing time has gone.  

My freelance work is also picking up, but it always comes in when I'm least expecting it.  I sit down at my computer with ideas brimming for a story, I have a quick check of my emails and low and behold there is work to be done.

I can't knock it though, at least I'm getting some work.

At the moment I'm doing some audio transcription.  Years ago when I was a secretary, my boss used to record onto a cassette, which then when into a player which had headphones and a foot pedal plugged into it.

My boss then was based in London, while I was based in Chester and every day he would dictate his letters and then post me the package containing a tape.  Initially this was in the days before email, so I used to type out the letters print them off and fax each letter down to him.  He would then make any amendments and fax them back.

Well how times have changed.  On the promise of receiving a regular amount of work, I purchased some software which converts files into audio. On receiving an email, I download the file, plug my iphone headphones into my laptop and I'm good to go.

I'm a pretty fast typist so I've been trying to do this without the use of a foot pedal.  It's do-able but a bit fiddly so I have given in and purchased a foot pedal.  I'll see if it any easier when I type my next report.

So, what with all that, I haven't managed to do much actual writing recently.  I have been editing a novel wot I wrote though. It's in its fourth draft now and I'm hoping with some final tweaks I'll feel ready to start sending it out to agents.  Its a long job though, with little light at the end of the tunnel, so I may just have to write a story to break it up a bit.

Yesterday, to get away from it all, I decided to go for a walk down the Greenway which runs through the city and starts near to where I live.  At the entrance to the Greenway (on a farm) is a new cafe, so after my walk I decided to test it out.  And there I sat, writing away with no interruptions from technology (or my husband).  What bliss.  The only down side was drowning out the noise from the rest of the people in the cafe and several very loud children.  Ah well you can't have it all.

Have a good weekend everyone.  

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Who's for Ice-Cream?

As ever with the school holidays, I'm juggling work and childcare.  But last Friday I took the day off work and spent some time with my boys.  All of them, as my husband took a rare half day holiday too.

It was blissful to wake up and not to have to marshal the troops to our various destinations on time.  Instead I pootled around in my PJ's and dressing gown - aahhh!

In the afternoon, we took a jaunt out in the car to nearby Nantwich to Snugburys, an ice-cream farm.  Not only do they service a fantastic variety of ice-cream, but every year they also build a massive statue in straw.

Last year it was a bear, and in the Olympic year, a huge Olympic ring with a cyclist on the top of it.  A few years ago it was a mere cat which was just brilliant.

This year it was a Dalek

It can be seen from miles around and took 700 man hours to build the steel girders and then pack with straw.

I love the sign directing people towards it.

The piglets were quite cute too.

But best of all was the ice-cream. Honeycomb's my favourite and I managed to bring home a tub of it too!  It's nestling in the freezer for when I really need it.

What's your favourite ice-cream?

Monday, 7 April 2014

Egg Gate

Last week's homework from school was to design and paint an egg.

I hate these arty homeworks because not one of us in this family has an arty bone in our bodies, so its always a bit of a trauma.

Unfortunately for us, we forgot all about it until Thursday morning, so I dashed to Hobbycraft to buy paints and things to stick on the egg should it all go pear-shaped.

Unsurprisingly, my youngest wanted to paint the Leeds logo on his egg (he's nothing if not predictable).  So we sketched out the logo on the egg and he began to paint.  But the paint wouldn't dry and it looked a mess.

We rubbed off the paint and searched out the felt tips, and this was marginally better. It was only the front of the egg though and it looked a bit sparse so we tried to stick on some football shapes I had bought.  Have you ever tried to glue things onto eggs?  The glue I had bought didn't work and even UHU didn't produced the required effect.

Fortunately my husband had some quick drying white paint so we painted the rest of the egg with that. Sometimes its useful to have a painter and decorator as a husband - even if he didn't have the right colours for the Leeds Badge.

This is the end result.

Lets just say it didn't win any prizes but at least he had something to take into school with him.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Book Review

I can't believe that its April already - this year is going even quicker than ever.

As I'm now bogged down in sorting out accounts for the end of the financial year, I thought that a book review would make more interesting reading than what I'm up to at the moment.

So here it is, The Light Between Oceans by M L Steadman

This is a story about a lighthouse keeper and his wife, based in Australia, and it was on a recent Richard & Judy Bookclub list.

Tom and his wife Izzy live a secluded life.  They only receive provisions by boat once every six months and are allowed home leave once every three years.  But despite this, initially, they are happy. Tom is a WWI survivor, and after the horrors of the war, he is content to live a peaceful, ordered life.  And Izzy is happy with Tom. A child would make her life perfect. But Izzy has a series of miscarriages which devastate her.  Then, one day, shortly after miscarrying late in her pregnancy, a boat washes up on the shore.  In the boat are a man and a baby.  The man is dead but the baby is alive.

What should Tom and Izzy do?  Should they report the incident and give the baby to the authorities, to be brought up in an institution if there are no other living relatives?  Or should they take a chance to create their own happiness? Their decision has devastating consequences, for both themselves and others.

This book is described as compelling, gripping and heartbreaking.  At the beginning though, I found it a bit slow.  It is beautifully written and the atmosphere is vivid, but I kept wondering where this story could go.  About half way into it though, everything changed, and from then on I didn’t want to put the book down. 

It is a story of love and loss, and what can happen when someone breaks your trust. 

I’m not one to abandon books when I’m half way through.  I’m always optimistic that they will improve.  Sometimes I’m disappointed but in this case I wasn’t. Definitely worth a read.