Sunday, December 20, 2015

Bah, Humbug! Why Christmas is not for me.

We have been accused of being miserable and tight-fisted because -
We do not stuff our faces with a special Christmas dinner. (We have a special dinner together every evening. A good meal with a glass of red wine.)
We do not give each other Christmas gifts. (We buy each other gifts whenever we see anything we think the other will love.)
We do not give Christmas gifts to others. (We buy gifts for friends when we see anything we think they will love.)
We do not give to any of the Christmas charities. (We try to help others whenever we see they need help.)
We do not deck the halls with hunks of holly (no, not holly – that’s free.) - expensive yet tawdry silver and gold, cheap tat, made in poor countries and sold here for a fortune. (Our house is decorated with flowers, shells, berries… natural things that look lovely whatever time of year it happens to be.)

“Christmas time is here by golly: disapproval would be folly. 
Deck the halls with hunks of holly, fill the cup and don’t say when. 
Kill the turkeys, ducks and chickens, mix the punch, drag out the Dickens. 
Even though the prospect sickens – brother, here we go again.”  Tom Lehrer

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Spots and splits

The problem with Google is you can find out all sorts of things. That should be good. Yes? 
No. Not when it comes to health.
Googling health problems can be dangerous, especially for hypochondriacs or those with no sense of humour. (I don’t think either apply to me.)
So I had a white spot on my tongue. I brushed my tongue and gargled with a well-known antiseptic product. The spot remained. I turned to Google and was given two options. Cancer or syphilis.
I chose syphilis as being the lesser evil (and being impossible). Then I forgot about the white spot and guess what? It’s disappeared without any help, anti-biotics or surgery.
This week I noticed a couple of toenails had vertical ridges on them. In fact my little toenail had split into two so I turned to Google and what choices did it give? B12 vitamin deficiency or the ageing process.

I’m off to buy some B12. 

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Birth of a writer - the final episode

Off I went to my second AGM ready to volunteer to be Folio Editor. Was I in for a surprise. Roy Plumb, then President, announced he was moving to West Wales. Gladys and Harold had given up coming to meetings, due to ill health. Ken Travis no longer wanted to be Secretary. Instead of coping with the wayward folio I suddenly had the responsibility of the entire Circle handed to me.
            Membership was dwindling. The old members were dying. I started the idea of planting a tree in memory of each one. There must be a sizeable wood somewhere. The Circle wasn’t attracting any new members. Once the last of the Old brigade had gone, I was left with five. Drastic action was called for. I scrapped the secret ballot together with the clock and most of the antiquated rules and started dragging the group into the second half of the 20th century. I advertised in Libraries, newspapers, bookshops. I devised a printed programme, organised speakers and story competitions in which the local winners all got a year’s free membership, whether they wanted it or not. That’s how John Mayall (Rik’s Dad) arrived. That was a good day. Another was when Angela Lanyon turned up to see what we were like because the local Arts Council had told her we were useless but she wanted to decide for herself. Slowly we grew, we got stronger. We did bigger things. A Golden Jubilee anthology, short story competitions and bi-annual conferences.
            I’ve forgotten many of the hundreds of writers and would-be writers who attended meetings over the twenty years of me being secretary. They came and went but we had a good ‘core’ membership – people I could rely on.
I’ll never forget The Old Brigade but, of course, there were others too.
            There was Ken Kewn who wrote his Western, Massingham, in the cellar because it was the only place he could get away from the wife. Or Val who, when she read, always made me want to sit back and put my feet up because we all knew we were in for a treat, or David, the roofing specialist who wrote about insulation and paint for a trade magazine and gave one piece the title of Coat On A Hot Tin Roof. He also happened to be our only member ever published in Potato Monthly.
            I’ll never forget sharing a few bottles of bubbly with the group when my first book came out, or the friends who turned up at Waterstones, for the book signing of my second, when I didn’t do the signing because I was the ghost-writer, and we nearly got thrown out of the Crocodile Cafe afterwards because we were being so lively.

            I learned so much, made a lot of friends, had a lot of fun and, hopefully, passed on lessons to new members, but the time was right to leave. The group needed new ideas and, after two decades of leading them, it really was time to go. 

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Birth of a Writer Part Two

Gladys, the secretary, added my name to The Clock. Everyone's name was on the clock and Gladys had supreme control. If the finger pointed to your name, it was your turn to read. After you’d finished, Gladys moved the finger to the next name and so on, unless you had offended her, in which case the finger slipped. It managed to whizz past Doreen’s name for nearly two years because of some minor upset between these two ladies.
            I remember Edmund who struggled with his creative talent, reducing the Circle to tears of laughter at one meeting, and at the next, turning up unshaven, scruffy and half-starved. And there was Graham, the treasurer, who wrote about nature and died while out horse-riding on the Malvern Hills. 
            These were The Old Ones, all intellectuals, all with something to say, all willing to help a new-comer. I listened in awe, to their work, their achievements and their advice. It was Roy Plumb who most inspired me. He would comment on my stories, giving advice and telling me he could see how much I loved words.
            They are all dead now.
            At the second meeting the finger reached my name. The piece I read was called, Coming Out. It was autobiographical, about me coming out of the closet and admitting that I wanted to be a writer. Written in the present tense, I told them how I couldn’t breathe for fear, how I had to undo the waistband of my skirt so that I wouldn’t faint, how knowing there were a couple of English teachers there was making matters worse. They laughed. It took a long time before I was able to read aloud without shaking, but the group supported and encouraged me - after all, I was the new baby in their midst.

            By the time my second AGM came around I wanted to offer my services as Folio Editor. The Folio was always an awkward project. It was a collection of members’ work, with empty pages interleaved ready for written comments from the others. Back in the early days of the group they had sent the folio out to people such as Vita-Sackville West and George Bernard Shaw who had actually commented on each piece of work. The Folio could be kept by a reader for up to three days - in reality this often stretched into weeks - and then it was to be handed on, or posted, to the next on the list. As some past members who had moved away from the area still contributed, the folio could travel hundreds of miles before everyone had added their bit and the critiques were given out. The last I heard of it was back in 1985, when it was lost somewhere near Woodstock. 

Episode three (final) same place, same time, next week.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Birth of a writer

When very young and new to writing I joined a writing group. I had to audition for a place in it. ‘Send in a piece of original work,’ said the secretary, Ken, in his letter. He didn’t have a phone. Later I was to discover he didn’t have running water either. One of the kindest men I’ve ever met, he became a close friend, right until his death. Ken lived, with his artist wife, in a tiny cottage, with a water pump in the front garden and a chemical toilet in a shed at the back.  Chocolate biscuits were a treat for this couple who lived so frugally, and I never visited without taking a box with me.
            My piece of original work was read at a meeting and a secret ballot held. Ken later informed me that I had been accepted as a new member and, a few weeks later, I attended my first ever meeting.
            We sat in rows facing the front where Gladys sat at a desk, flanked by Ken and her husband, Harold. Harold Bradley was a respected poet and former headmaster.
Edgar Billingham was there with his wife, Sybil. Edgar had won awards for his poetry, in the days when awards meant something. He was also the writer of the radio series which filled the slot later taken by Mrs Dale’s Diary. He was a teacher and used to set the boys in his class some work and while they did it, he would work on another episode of his radio ‘soap’.
            One of those boys was Roy Plumb. He’d joined the group as a seventeen year old but was asked to leave as Lady Chatterley’s Lover was to be discussed and the conversation would have been too advanced for such a youngster. Roy returned when he was 21, wrote several novels and had forty-plus stories read on the BBC’s Radio 4 Morning Story slot.
            Rosemary Bazely, an elderly lady, wrote poetry, producing an anthology each year which was published by Orbis and broadcast on the World Service. As she aged her talent expanded. She died in her late eighties, with a pen in her hand.
            And then there was Philip. Our very own Quentin Crisp. Philip, I was informed by Gladys, henna-ed his hair all through the war. As Gladys had red hair at the time I think she was jealous because Philip managed to acquire the henna she so desperately wanted. Philip had long fingernails, was sometimes seen wearing a crocheted shawl or a large Panama hat. A total eccentric who presented me with a collection of his love poems.
 ‘What do you think of them?’ asked Gladys.
‘They’re beautiful,’ I told her, and meant it. ‘They’re all written for boys, you know,’ was her reply.

            I sat, at that first meeting, surrounded by talent and eccentricity, and felt completely out of my depth. 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pssst! Don't tell my brother.

Another entry from my school diary. I bet the teacher laughed when she read about us getting a bit of peace when my little brother went to a party. (She gave me a star.)That model village ended up being the church and one house and then I lost interest. After all 1/6d was a lot of money.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Ten Random Thoughts

1.  Were fireworks being given away free at food-banks? It seemed that the biggest firework displays came from the poorest areas. (The same goes for houses nauseatingly decorated with millions of Xmas lights.)

2.  It must be time for me to get my S.A.D. lamp out after having a week of dark days.

3.  I love my calendar. Glynis Scrivens, my cyber-sister, sends me a calendar from Australia each year. It means I get to look at pictures of sun-baked beaches when it’s cold, miserable weather here.

4. So, for July and August why don’t we put snow scenes on our calendars and keep our sunny days for November through to February?

5.  I am a true and loyal friend. I will help anyone if it is possible for me to do so but make the mistake of thinking you can walk all over me and you should be afraid. Very afraid.

6.  I thought up a good programme for television. A follow-up to Homes Under the Hammer where people buy up houses, do them up and rent them out. How about one where the cameras return 12 months later and see what the tenants have turned these immaculate homes into? The Tenants From Hell. Then I saw there’s already a show about this.

7.  I don’t want to do dark magic but I so want someone to get their come-uppance. I am tempted.

8.  Making good plans. We are going to sell both houses, move somewhere with no mortgage, buy a motorhome and travel again.

9.  Why are my hands aching just from thinking about Sally Bridgewater who achieved her target of 50,010 words, written in 24 hours yesterday? She typed at a speed of 2000 words per hour and it’s me who is aching.

10.  Talking of Random Thoughts, I sent out a proposal for a series of six articles about random things writers can do to find ideas. The series begins in the next (January) issue of Writing Magazine.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Gifts for readers and writers. A blow becomes an opportunity.

When this Librarian was laid off, he used the opportunity to start the business he'd always wanted to run.

When Dan Metcalf learned he would be made redundant from his role in public libraries, he used the opportunity to plough all his time into creating Word Nerd Games, a product development company with a literary bias. His first product, a playing card deck that celebrates the library promotion campaigns of yesteryear, is now live on Kickstarter until the 13th November. (

Dan, from Crediton in Devon (UK), trained as a librarian and spent over ten years working in libraries around the south west of the country. When Coalition Government cuts forced a reorganisation at his council, he knew he might not make it through the new round of interviews. “The cuts were brutal,” says Dan, 35. “I had been threatened with redundancy three times before and had clung on to my job, but I knew that this time I might not stay.” He received his redundancy letter on Christmas Eve, 2014.

“I knew then that I had to make the leap away from libraries and set up on my own,” says Dan. “I enrolled with the local Business Support Service, got advice from my local government and began to devour all the books and podcasts I could find to start to build my business.”

“I knew what I wanted to do. I had always sketched and designed little games and puzzles and I wanted to take this further. I had planned to use Word Nerd Games as a way to license toy and game ideas to companies, but when I had the idea for the Library Lover's Playing Cards, it seemed so personal that I wanted to try and do it myself.”

The card deck reproduces vintage images from the 1920s to 50s, which were used to promote libraries and reading. The Kickstarter will raise money for the first print run.

“It's funny, I think being made redundant was the best thing to happen to me. I love being my own boss and making money my own way. I just want to keep producing ideas time after time! I'm still fond of libraries, as the card deck shows. I use my local one regularly to work from and most of the business books I read come from there.”

“I was lucky, really,” says Dan. “Being laid off could be my ticket to riches!”

The Kickstarter for the Library Lover's Playing Cards is live until 13th November 2015 at

More info can be found at and

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Promotion pack for Sally Bridgewater’s Newbie to Novelist challenge


You may be familiar with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) - the great global gathering each November where people attempt to write 50,000 words of their book. Well this year I, Sally Bridgewater, am going even further.
The ‘Newbie to Novelist’ challenge
Here’s what I am aiming to do:
·         The 7th November ‘Wordathon’: write 50,000 words in a DAY. That's over 2,000 words an hour, for 24 hours.
·         During Novemberfinish my whole first draft (maybe 100,000 words or more).
Why am I putting myself through this? To raise money for a great cause, that's why, and help NaNoWriMo bring the joy of writing to disadvantaged people. I am aiming to raise $1,667 - 1,667 is a special number because it is the daily wordcount goal that all 'WriMos' have to achieve in order to reach 50,000 words in 30 days.
I am also aiming to invite as many people as I can into my life to follow the whole process of becoming a novel-finisher. Here’s a short introduction to me: I am Sally, a music theory tutor and the coordinator for the Writing Magazine’s creative writing courses and competitions (both of which I highly recommend, by the way). I like playing with my dog and supporting my boyfriend by being Chief Groupie for his band The Red Levels (also highly recommended!).
Follow my progress by visiting my various web-spaces below. Any view or comment will give me vital encouragement in this ambitious (some might say ludicrous) trial of words.

The big ones

·         My website.
·         My sponsorship page.

Behind-the-Scenes extras (beware: here there be spoilers!)

·         LIVE: See my planning and plotting notes.
·         LIVE: Read the first draft as I write it.
·         Read my blog for more about the process of writing a novel.
·         My Snapchat name: Salstar24

Get involved

·         Use the hashtag #new2nov to talk about this challenge!
·         Sign up for my email list.
·         Like my Facebook page.
·         Follow me on Twitter.
·         My (little-used) Tumblr.

Support me with your spare cash

If you have already donated to my sponsorship page and you are still feeling generous, then thank you!

·         Become one of my regular Patrons on Patreon and donate a few dollars each time I create something.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is this woman Stark NaNo Mad?

For Sally Bridgewater NaNoWriMo starts and ends on Saturday 7th November. I asked Sally if NaNo wasn’t enough of a huge challenge without her deciding to go the whole hog and get it done and dusted in a day instead of a month. Naturally, the big question is WHY? Over to you, Sally.
Um… I think partly the answer is just ‘Because I can.’ (Or at least I can try.) I have always been attracted to ambitious challenges, which is why I fell in love with the NaNoWriMo community in the first place. This will be my third year doing NaNoWriMo and I want to make it big. When I heard that other people had successfully achieved writing 50,000 words in a day I couldn’t resist.
The other reason for it is that I want to (finally!) finish a first draft for a novel. I have wanted to be a writer ever since my parents started reading me bed-time stories, but for one reason or another I have procrastinated and put other things first. Even though I have been writing on and off since graduating two years ago, I have not yet got to ‘The End’ of a novel-length story. So before I had thought about doing the #50Kinaday challenge I had already decided that this year I wanted my NaNoWriMo goal to be to finish a whole manuscript, and not just 50,000 words towards it. Doing the 50,000 words in a day seemed like a neat way to get a large chunk of the story written while also making it into a ‘thing’ I could share with other people (and hopefully raise some money for charity too).

What plans have you made beforehand?

I have been planning and planning! And somehow I have still not started plotting the novel itself – hmm… But I have been getting busy trying to reach out to others for help, make myself a website as a base of operations, and figure out ways to launch the ‘Newbie to Novelist challenge’ to get people interested in following along.
I have become a bit obsessed about the logistical details of writing 50,000 words in a day. I keep calculating words per minute and then trying to figure out how I can structure the day (like how long will there be available to take a nap?). At the moment I am keeping it simple: I want to write 1,050 words every 25 minutes (a speed I can manage pretty consistently), alternating with 5 minute breaks, [1] for the whole 24 hours. It should work…

Are you in any form of training for this marathon?
I am attempting to avoid the sniffles and colds that seem to be trampling through my circles of friends and acquaintances at the moment. I am doing my best to make sleep a priority, although I often fail at that one. I have tried a couple of back-to-back ‘work marathon’ days where I have kept doing 25/5 minute bursts of work for about 10 hours’ at a time. And I have been doing some speed-typing in my private online journal at The good thing about entries on this site is that it is a pure ‘brain-dump’ which no-one is ever going to read, so you are writing for the sake of writing. It is very liberating and great for clearing your head and your mood – I’d urge everyone to give it a try. J
[1] Some may recognise this as the Pomodoro Technique. It helps that I am in an online tournament with a few of my friends where we count the number of pomodoros we have achieved throughout the whole week to see who wins the productivity crown.

Will there be someone, or a team of someones, with you on the actual day?
Ooo, if I had a whole team, just imagine! I could have a media manager updating Twitter, a caterer on hand to feed me as I type… But I will have all the support I need in my boyfriend, Francis. (And I suppose some moral support from my dog Lilo.) He has resigned himself to taking care of all the chores and of me for the day. I am relying on him coming up with food now and again and cheering me on. If I had time I would attend my local NaNoWriMo Write-In group that afternoon, but I think I literally won’t be able to take the time off to travel into town and back.

How much caffeine do you reckon you’ll be ingesting?
Funnily enough, I don’t drink coffee at all, and I have never really experimented with energy drinks. But if I got through multiple consecutive all-nighters at university without coffee for my dissertation then I can probably survive this too. Plus tea and chocolate are both good sources of caffeine, right?

Will you be taking rests, comfort breaks?
‘Believe in the Break’ has become my motto lately. Like I said above, I am planning on having five minutes off every half an hour. I have discovered this can be really effective, although of course five minutes is over almost before it’s begun. I expect it will take me three breaks to eat a meal, one to have a micro-nap, one to check Twitter, etc.

Typing or dictating?
Typing. As a kid I got really frustrated trying to learn how to do it, but now I am grateful my mum and dad insisted I learnt to touch-type. I have heard that dictation software is very good nowadays, but I think it is a different skill altogether to get good at using it, and I haven’t spent over a decade practising. So for me to get words on a page it feels more natural to type, and I think when I’m really going I can nearly type as fast as I can speak. (Especially considering you have to speak the punctuation as well!)
I am looking into a program called ‘Phrase Express’ though, which can be programmed to autocorrect anything you like into a longer word – I will load it up with my characters’ names so that I only need to type a letter each time instead of a word, and maybe do the same for common words like ‘said’. Every key-stroke counts!

Expecting RSI afterwards?
Yes – although I really hope not! I might invest in a new keyboard with slightly lower keys to lessen the strain on my fingers, so if you know of a (cheap!) good one please let me know. I type quite heavily anyway though, so I don’t know how much difference it will make.
Actually you have reminded me that I need to go and buy this ‘muscle heat’ cream that my friend introduced to me during final exams at university. We were doing two lots of three-hour hand-written exams a day, for three days in a row. When you rubbed this stuff onto your forearms and fingers you could feel it sinking into the skin and your hand de-seizing up, it was wonderful. I am hoping taking these precautions and resting for a day or two afterwards might save me from full-on injury.

And what about your bottom? Are you doing anything to prevent the writer’s equivalent of bed sores?
Ah well, I have thought of that. I have rigged up a rough-and-ready standing desk from a couple of laundry crates and have been trying it out over the last couple of days. It is tiring on the feet and the small of the back, but I think getting some comfy trainers will give me more support. And if I’ve got used to using the standing desk by the 7th November it might really help, as it has been proven to be much better for your posture than sitting. Maybe if I alternate between the two…?

What is your highest expectation from this insane exercise?
Let’s see, my highest one – I suppose in my wildest dreams I imagine all sorts of positive outcomes, like exceeding my $1,667 fundraising goal by several hundred dollars, and going a little bit viral on the day (within my immediate networks, anyway). But what I would really like a lot is if doing this whole challenge gives me new connections who are interested in my work over the long-term – an audience, basically. That would actually potentially change my life, because it would make the career I want to pursue more possible. Mainly though my purpose for doing this is to write my first novel, and I will be very happy if I manage that, especially if I end up with something usable to work on getting edited and published somehow.

How long do you propose to spend editing those 50,000 words?
Oh, months and months, probably. J I am sure these words will be bad, but in the spirit of NaNoWriMo I am trying not to care. At least I won’t have time to think very much, and surely doing that much in a day will build up some nice momentum. Who knows, maybe getting into the flow will unlock deposits of talent hitherto unsuspected? Certainly I think it is healthy to keep the inner editor under close guard now and then and just have some fun. It is more difficult to be unselfconscious though when I am planning on sharing my first draft as I write it.

Sunday, October 18, 2015


A picture says a thousand words. Well, these certainly do. They are of our house - the one we rented out. The tenant knew we were visiting to check on the place. You'd have thought she could have thrown the duvet cover over the bed and picked up her dirty knickers from the floor. You're getting the before and after versions. You can see me in the bedroom mirror. I am crying.



Sunday, October 11, 2015

Three positive things

Huge in SanFran. Yes, that’s how I want you to think of me in future. Huge in SanFran. Why? Because my friend Sue Watson told me her friend, who happens to live in San Francisco, said she always reads my Novel Ideas column in Writing Magazine. And then Sue, whose latest book is Summer Flings and Dancing Dreams, described me as Huge in SanFran. Apologies for the repetition but it sounds so cool. Huge in SanFran.

If there is mist or fog about I always refer to it as heat haze. The sun will burn it away sometime later. This came about because of a family story. Just after WWII my grandfather bought his first car and promised to take the family to the sea – a long, long way from Kidderminster. My great-grandfather was looking forward to the trip but on the morning of the big day the family woke to thick fog. Not wanting the treat to be cancelled he announced that there was a heat haze and the sun would be out shortly so they all piled into the car. And you know what? He was right. By the time they were halfway to the coast the sun was out. Hence, I don’t believe in mist and fog. Only heat haze.

The LSO and I are facing some big problems. We’ll tackle them together and we’ll treat them like heat haze. Sometime soon they will dissolve and the sun will come shining through. It always does. 

PS To all those who have contacted me - The LSO is fine. Our problem is a tenant who hasn't cared for our house and its beautiful garden. She is now out and we have the big problem of putting it back to how it was before she moved in, and then selling it. Awkward, as it's three hours' drive away.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Lynne's Secret Diary (aged 9 years and 17 days)

This is the first page of my school diary. It was written in pencil and my mother, who kept it in a drawer for years – which is the reason it’s survived – has written over the pencil in ink on this particular page. The cover didn’t survive.

What this entry doesn’t say is that we all thought my cousin needed to go to dancing classes to lose some puppy fat. (We all thought means I overheard my mother and grandmother discussing this.) I wonder if that’s why the teacher gave her a long dress. In an effort to cover her up, perhaps? At least I didn’t attempt a picture of her. Kids can be so cruel.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Trainee HOM and HOW

On the 28th September, two years ago our daughter got married. Happy anniversary Leanne and Ken.
Obviously the LSO was in a quandary about his speech as father of the bride so he turned to me for help, along with George Evans’ book, How To Be A Happy Old Man. Here’s the result.

First of all I’d like to say how beautiful my daughter looks today. And how happy.
Next I’d like to say how beautiful … no that’s wrong… I’d like to welcome Ken to the family. And to welcome his family to today’s celebration.
Ken and Leanne, I hope you’ll both be very happy. Happy people last longer.
A while back Lynne bought me a book called How to be a happy old man and I’ve taken some advice from it to give to you, Ken.
Actually after being married to Lynne for 46 years I could have written the book myself.
First of all you need to know that to become a HOM - happy old man -  you need a HOW - happy old woman.  I’m a HOM and Lynne’s a HOW.
Like me, you’ll get older and realise how important a HOW can be.
The key is in a song – ‘I want to be happy but I can’t be happy ‘til I make you happy too’.
There are rules you need to remember for how to keep your HOW happy. The three rules are –
1.      NEVER WIN AN ARGUMENT. She’s always right, especially when she’s obviously not.
2.      IT’S ALWAYS YOUR FAULT. That goes for lost handbags, missing shoes, global warming and everything else. And
3.      NEVER FORGET BIRTHDAYS AND ANNIVERSARIES. Saying sorry can be very expensive.
Friends are the people whose faults you are prepared to put up with. You know they can’t be perfect. Only your HOW is perfect. Remind her of that often.
Always be useful.  It’ll make you feel better and give you a reason for living. Of course your HOW will need a lot of TLC and that’ll keep you busy and useful.
Ken, we know that one of the problems you have is sleep, or should that be waking up?
Tiredness can be caused by lack of sleep or trapped wind. They both have the same effect on your mind. Wind, whether it’s up or down, can be a problem for a HOM, but never for a HOW. They don’t do trapped wind. That’s why men are called old farts.

Whether you stick to the rules or not, remember both of you, that happiness is a choice but it also needs working on.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Problem solved

So the LSO went to deepest Wales to see his reflexology clients and to where we still have a house and he gets a shock. The tenant who has rented our house for five years, and always promised to buy it, gives a month’s notice.
We had five days of worry. Houses don’t sell quickly in that area and, apparently, the place needs a lot of putting right before we could sell it.
And on the fifth day we get a phone call and problem solved. A young couple are looking for somewhere to rent. But we don’t want to rent it out so we’ve offered them a job as caretakers. We’ll go down and sort the house out, they move

in and take care of it until such time as it sells.
The photos were taken of the Welsh house five years ago. It will look like that again. But we have more work ahead of us and we are still putting the final touches to our house in Malvern which we’ve been doing up for the last two years. It hadn’t been touched since the 1960s/70s.

In case you’re thinking we’re rich, we are not. We are what is called Reluctant Landlords. We couldn’t sell the house and I was so homesick that we used it to buy a house back home.

Penrhiw House, Abercych, North Pembrokeshire. 
Detached and surrounded by gardens (the back garden is terraced). 
Upstairs : Large lounge 24 x 18ft (pictured) with 4 windows, two overlooking the Cych valley and one double bedroom, 12.4 x 9.6 and one single, 8.1 x 9.7.
Downstairs : Large kitchen, 23.3 x 10.9 with red AGA
large hallway 18.3 x 7.3 with open stairs, 
shower room, 
master bedroom, 16.8 x 10.2 with en-suite bathroom.
There's also a 4th bedroom/snug/dining room with patio doors off the kitchen. 10.8 x 8.5
All measurements in Old English. Lots of wooden floors and ceilings. Parquet flooring in hall and master bedroom. Double glazed. Oil fired central heating (no gas in West Wales). Under £200,000. Would cost double if it was in England. I wish we could pick it up and bring it here.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Pens don't count, do they?

At the beginning of this year I swore not to buy any new notebooks and you know how difficult that can be for a writer. So difficult that I have been avoiding shops which sell stationery. Until yesterday.
We (that’s the LSO who supervises shopping – that’s another story) visited Wilko’s because the LSO said we needed a new washing-up bowl. And there it was – not the bowl – an array of stationery and I resisted the notebooks. I did however buy a pack of those clear folders and a set of pens. Red and yellow and pink and green, orange and purple and blue. I’ve got a rainbow of pens. They’re those Inkjoy ones that have been advertised on telly. I couldn’t wait to get home and test them. Not a single one worked! ‘They’re useless,’ I wailed to the LSO so he took a look and, very carefully, flicked off a little protective cap on the tip of each pen. Oh, the joy of writing smoothly and easily with my new pens. In fact I wrote this by hand in purple ink before typing it on to my blog.

The LSO does the shopping because he reckons it costs half as much when I am not with him. That’s because he sticks to a list while I throw in lots of goodies which we, apparently, don’t need. I also tend to misbehave in supermarkets. e.g. I’ll toss a cauliflower over someone’s head and shout to the LSO to catch it. Behaving like this ensures I never have to go food shopping. 

Monday, September 07, 2015

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning

Saturday Night and Sunday Morning. Not the book or the film but the length of time I spent at the NAWG (National Association of Writers' Groups) Festival and how I wish it could have been longer. The festival takes place over a weekend at Warwick University and I was guest speaker at the Gala Dinner.

What is lovely about these writing events is getting to meet old friends and make new ones. It’s such an easy thing to do because, unlike ordinary get-togethers where you have to find like-minded people, everyone at a writing event has something in common to start with – writing. Whether they be professionals or beginners or anywhere in-between.

My talk was about my writing career – how it started with selling a reader’s letter and went on from there. The idea was to let everyone know that there are lots of opportunities out there and that writers who want to get on and make a career should never say no to any (legal) writing offer.

After the talk I had the pleasure and honour of handing out the prizes. Congratulations to all those prize winners. I know how tough the competition is because at the very first NAWG festival I was runner-up in the short story section.

Oh, and one final thing that’s important to nearly all writers – the food was excellent. (Even if I did have to look up pithivier and quenelle – the latter being, so Google informed me, French for suppository).  

And another Oh! Don't let writers' groups put you off. You can join even if you're not a member of a group. See for details.