Note Number 69…Writing Conference Weekend…New Friends… New Inspiration…

Well, like the old saying about waiting for buses I don’t blog for ages now two come in less than a week, and there might be another on the way!

From Thursday 11th until Monday 15th July I became a student again…well kind of…I went to Lancaster University for the Romantic Novelists Association Conference. A long, long drive, but it was worth it I think. It was full-on, with workshops, lectures and one-to-one appointments with industry specialists. I met a publisher, agent and an editor. All three had different ideas about my novel, but the agent and editor showed enough enthusiasm for me to keep at it! Significant changes will be made over the next few months, and I feel inspired to continue with the story but make some massive cuts and re-writes. I have decided that the protagonist in my novel is a bit weak. She’s one dimensional and lacking in spirit. I’m going to give her a makeover and make her more exciting, someone that the reader will get right behind and will on to achieve her goals.

My room and the view (if I leant right out of the window) 

A great deal of food and wine was consumed, new acquaintances made, and old ones rekindled. I had a great time, although I came home exhausted. I slept in student accommodation, which was fine, but the single bed with springs and a thin mattress left much to be desired. Although everything was modern and it was an ensuite room, (one of about 8) with a shared kitchen, I could understand why some students feel a bit isolated when they first go to university. Thrown together with others they don’t know, and some may not have been away from home before. I said this to a few people who didn’t agree, but then on BBC Radio 4, just the other day, I listened to two students talking about how difficult it can be making friends at Uni. Many students hideaway and chat on Facebook, Twitter Instagram etc., to friends they’ve left behind. You can listen here 

Like I said, I made some new friends, one of them has an uncanny resemblance to me! Or is it just the hair? We’re all hoping to meet up at other writing events or just socially during the year. We sat together at the Gala Dinner. Wonderful.

ladies copy

My new friends from left, Suzanne, Louise, Me, Helen (my lookalike) and Jan.

Great to meet up with you lovely ladies…see you soon I hope! 

Note Number 66. . . A Quick update of Some Good Things that are Happening. . .

 

students

1.    BREAKING NEWS!

I have accepted an unconditional place at Exeter University to do an MA in Creative Writing beginning September 2019. I know it’s going to be a lot of hard work but I am so excited. I’m hoping it will take my writing to another level and I’m fully prepared and committed to putting in the effort needed to be successful. It will, of course mean, that The Man may have to produce a few meals and take the dog out for a walk now and I’m sure my organisational skills will be tested to the limit.  I have never ‘attended’ university. For my BA in Dance Education I worked on line with the Royal Academy of Dance and then went to Durham University to recieve my certificate, (the course was validated by Durham). I’m looking forward to being on campus and suspect that I won’t be the only mature student there. I’m not planning on going to Fresher’s Week, although at least one of my children thinks I should go and even suggested an outfit.

Freshers Outfit

Thanks Joe! 

I’m going to give regular updates on my MA as I go along to let you all know how I get on from month to month. I hope I won’t be too tired and you won’t find it too boring.

images copy

 

2.   RNA – Romantic Novelists’s Association

I have, at long last, sent in a complete manuscript of my novel for appraisal by this organisation of which I am on the New Writers’ Scheme. I’m not expecting great things, I know there is plenty wrong with it (a soggy middle for a start) but it is a wonderful feeling to have written 84,000 words and finish the story that I have been working on for some years.

 

my awesome book

 

 

Note Number 64. . .I’ve Done It. . .

Lopesan Villa Del Conde – Day and Night

A long time since I wrote any blog but I haven’t been idle. Apart from a holiday between Christmas and New Year in Cornwall at St Michael’s Hotel Falmouth where the food and facilities were great but the staff and running  of the place left a little bit to be desired. Wouldn’t put me off going again though, but, I just don’t like being called ‘dear’ by the hotel reception staff. We did a quick trip to Gran Canaria in February to stay at the Lopesan Villa Del Conde. Both places were memorable in their own way, but the sun in Meloneras has to be the winner.

Walking the Coastal Path and Cream Tea at St Michael’s Resort

The Man did plenty of  cycling while  we were in Gran Canaria and I did plenty  of lazing about and sunning myself – I did do some writing, which leads me on to the next bit of news.

the end

I have finished the first draft of my novel! *drum roll* It’s only taken about four years! I am aware, that now the hard work really starts with editing., I do feel a great sense of achievement having been able to write the word, THE END. I’m going to a novel-writing retreat from 9-12 March, a bit late you might think but no,  there are people on there who have already written and published one or more books and I think the weekend will help me to move quickly onto the next phase.

Other news is Brexit? No, I’m not going to talk about that except to say that I’m waiting until after the 29th March before I begin to put the dog through any unnecessary blood tests for a planned holiday in France in September.

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Not Sure Jpeg wants to travel in the car to France…she’s ten years old now  

I’ve been to London to visit the Discover –  Children’s Story Centre and can recommend it to all you people out there with children or grandchildren who have a love of books or even if you’re not book obsessed it’s a wonderful day out with imaginative play  areas inside and out. The day we were there featured a story-time of The Tiger Who Came to Tea, by Judith Kerr. A lovely story (even if a little dated). We went with a child of two and a half and a five-year old and both were entertained admirably. There was a fabulous area containing several child size ‘sets’ of stories about  Mog the Forgetful Cat, also by Judith Carr. We had trouble dragging the children away from there, so many little rooms to play  in and props to  play with.  The centre also has a cafe and a book/toy shop and plenty of toilets placed on every floor!

tiger

Bridport has not let us down this winter with so many films, plays, comedy nights etc., it’s impossible  to keep up. This week the Electric Palace has hosted a Mike Leigh Film Festival and The Man and I went to see Secrets and Lies. Brilliant film with some superb acting from Brenda Blethyn and Timothy Spall. Afterwards there was a Q&A session with Mike Leigh and Andrew Dickson (the musical composer). It was wonderful to hear them speak about film making and collaboration between composer and director. The music for Secrets and Lies is so good that you hardly notice it – which is how it should be. A member of the audience asked Mike Leigh how he chose his actors and he said that first and foremost they had  to be character actors and intelligent. He didn’t want anybody with a big ego. I loved watching the film but it made me feel a tad regretful. If I had my time again I would definitely have worked harder at my acting career. Maybe go to drama school, RADA if they’d have me. Oh, how I would absolutely love to be in a Mike Leigh film. *sigh*

Secrets and Lies…try and find it online or on a DVD such a brilliant film.

Can’t believe it’s nearly the end of February and March is looking very busy already. Must fit in more time to write my blog – I’m sure I have tons more to tell you but  hey, the sun is shining and it’s time for a cuppa!

cup of tea

 

Note Number 63. . . A Cowboy Story for Christmas.

christmasboot

Wayne Hollis Jackson was driving along the old Eagle Trail on his way back from the range. He was still a good fifteen mile away from home and the snow was hitting the windscreen of the truck like a hail of Lux soap flakes. The Jackson’s had always been cowboys, but he was sure glad not to be riding a horse in this weather. After a hard day, he was looking forward to getting back to a warm fire, and a fine bit of good Texan tucker that his momma would have ready for him at the house. His watch read six-thirty, and he had reckoned to be back before seven, but with the worsening weather, he began to doubt getting home at all.

A while later he was passing the McVale place, squinting to see where he was headed, he could just make out Mary-Lou McVale standing by the side of their station wagon flagging him down. He pulled over as close as he could, drew his hat down over his eyes and gathered his sheepskin coat around his body, opened the truck door and ran to Mary -Lou putting his arm around her.

‘What’s up Mrs McVale?’ he said.

The words came tumbling out, a torrent of panic.

‘The pick-up’s broke, the baby’s coming, the phone lines are down, there’s no mobile signal and Joe’s away working on the rigs. He was getting here for Christmas, but I think that ain’t possible now. The baby’s not due for another three weeks but the contractions are coming fast. I don’t see how I’m gonna make it to the hospital. Rightly I should have had my mother here but like I said, the baby’s not due for another three weeks.’

‘Well mam, I’ve delivered a fair few calves in my time, can’t see it’ll be that much different. Let’s get you inside, out of this blizzard.’

‘Won’t your mamma be worrying ’bout you?’

‘Guess she will but there’s nothing I can do ’bout that now. Anyways, she’ll likely think I’ve stayed up at the bunkhouse what with this weather and all.’

‘There’s some stew on the stove if you need a bite to eat.’

‘Why, that’s a mighty good idea, I could be here some time.’

For the next five hours Mary-Lou paced around the living room of the one storey house, moaning and groaning and Wayne comforted her between contractions. He tried to stay relaxed and not let on how nervous he felt about the imminent birth.

‘Do you think, with it being Christmas Eve an’ all, you might have a boy?’ he asked.

‘What, you mean, like a second coming?’ Mary-Lou kinda spat the words out.

‘I was just saying.’

‘I think it’s here,’ yelled Mary-Lou before dropping onto all fours and bellowing.

Wayne manoeuvred her onto the couch.

At just gone midnight, a beautiful little baby girl bawled her way into the world.

‘Oh my,’ said Wayne, ‘a new beginning. Aint that something? What are you gonna call her?’

‘Well, I don’t rightly fancy Waynette, but maybe Holly would be nice, a bit like your middle name? And it is Christmas day after all.’

Wayne stared at the little baby.

‘Imagine,’ he sighed, ‘if Jesus had been born a girl, the world might have been a whole different place.’

cowboy stork

This story was originally created from a prompt set as homework for a writing group that I have just joined, Story Traders, in Bridport. We had to take a character or two from a Christmas Carol or Song and write a story putting them in a modern setting. I chose the Cowboy Carol, which I love and I think my kids loved it too. If you don’t know it, you can listen to a version of it here. 

Note Number 58…Grammar and All That…Innit?

Grammar-owl_2

Everyone says that these days, English grammar is slipping. I would agree, although sometimes it’s a matter of evolution. Language is a form of human communication – a living thing. It changes with time, age and usage. BUT, there are some things that grate a little and others that grate enormously.

Today we have lots of text speech.

— thank u 4 the w/e

— LOL

— CUL8r

We now have a myriad of #s This week I had to look up what #OOTD meant after my daughter had posted it on Instagram. Answers on a postcard, please!

We older folk get frustrated with what we consider to be the deterioration of both written and spoken English. I expect I’m opening up a can of worms but I have a few pet hates. Here they are:-

Should of...(or would of, or could of) instead of should have etc.,

I was sat (which is apparently okay but I would always write or say, I was sitting. It’s a conditional conjugation I think. Now, I’m no grammar expert but it just feels right and looks right to me.

I wish I was…I prefer, I wish I were, which is correct, but little used.

Up until… is wrong. It should be until, or up to. 

their; their; there. Commonly misused.

Listening to BBC Radio 4 this week an interviewee kept saying, ‘it’s sort of... ‘ it is the most annoying phrase and she repeated it several times.  My late husband (not to be confused with The Man who is still with us), used to say, ‘It either is, or it isn’t, it cannot be sort of.’

The Man, does not like tautological statements. . . Reverting back; Pretty unique; dry desert; adequate enough. 

I am quite sure that many people reading this will have their own opinions as to what is right or wrong. I am also sure that there will be plenty of others wishing to correct or disagree with me. Carry on — I like a good discussion.

PS #OOTD  stands for Outfit Of The Day

grammar

Note Number 41…Sober October and more…

nawineLining up the non-alcoholic wines…they’re not bad. Not too sweet. The two on the right I bought from Waitrose and the one on the left from the Co-op (yet to be tested)

I spent from the end of September until Saturday 4th November without a drop of alcohol. When you tell people this the first thing they ask is, ‘do you feel any better for it?’ The honest answer is that I’m not sure, because I think the autumn weather (wet and windy), and preparing myself for the clock change at the end of October…do not bode well for me. I like warm sunshine and dry fields and whilst I love sitting by the fire in the dark evenings, reading a book and watching a film on the telly I find myself feeling ‘wintry’ as in not inspired to do very much but hibernate. Is that a good way to feel? I think not. Something has to be done about it.

woodburner

I love the wood burning stove…a necessity for hibernating. 

Get out and about, visit Bridport, attend some writing workshops, go to the library, walk the dog and don’t succumb to the winter blues. So that’s what I’m planning and have already implemented as far as I can.

First workshop attended was at Waterstones, in Dorchester. Organised by the Dorset Writers’ Network and led by Rosanna Ley. A group of twelve writers of varying experience, spent two hours listening, creating and having fun on the subject of ‘Sense of Place’. Making sure that your writing gets a true picture of where your story is set and bringing reality to the internal and external scenes that you write. I came away feeling inspired and keen to get on with at least one of my half-written novels, so that has to be good. I began reading through a manuscript this morning…or should I say trudging…think I need to make some drastic changes! Open book with glasses

We are members of the Bridport Film Society (in fact I’m on the committee, not wanting to boast or anything) so every other Tuesday from now until March we can go and see an International film at the Bridport Arts Centre. This week is is Julietta ‘an exquisite study of a mother-daughter relationship tested though trying times…’ Sounds interesting eh? It’s a Spanish film with subtitles. I know some people hate subtitles but I love them because I love watching foreign films and I hate it when they’re dubbed.

Walking the dog has become something of a difficulty because of the muddy fields when it’s necessary to wear Wellington boots. These are hard to step out in and generally I end up with back ache at the end of even a half-hour walk. My decision is to put on the Wellies in the morning,  take the dog to the nearest field, let her run for 5k while I walk for 1.5k then bring her home. In the afternoon I will put on an ordinary pair of lightweight walking shoes, take to the roads and do another 3k. This is my plan but we all know about my plans and how they can change depending on my mood and the weather.

emily

My daughter striding out in the muddy fields last Saturday, complete with baby on her back! Oh to be young again….(she did get wet feet though) 

Going back to the alcohol thing, when I did drink that half glass of red wine on Saturday 4th November, it was Ciu Ciu Gotico (if you’re interested) which, usually I adore…I didn’t really enjoy it on this occasion so the other 5 bottles that I brought back from Italy will probably sit on the rack for some time to come. I have found a couple of reasonable alcohol free or de-alcoholised wines and I’m going to stick to them for a while. Although a gin and tonic does sound rather tempting at around 6pm in front of the wood burning stove while I contemplate my next day’s writing challenge.

Watch this space for some Christmas poetry come December or I might record them on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

 

 

Note Number 29…Amsterdam for some but Kenilworth and Manchester for me…

Leaving from Crewkerne…arrival in Amsterdam (photo  credit MoreAdventure )

The Man cycled from London to Amsterdam last week. Leaving Blackheath early on Thursday morning the 4th May and arriving in Amsterdam on the evening of Sunday the 7th May. Well done him. The route was London–Dover-Calais-Bruges-Rotterdam-Amsterdam. He said that whilst the route was pretty flat, the wind was against them and the weather not as good as they had hoped but he’s done it! Next trip is just a short hop on Sunday from Watchet to West Bay. Coast to Coast to raise money for the Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance – only 78 miles a snip for my man. Good on him I say.

While he was away, I spent a little bit of time in the garden putting in plants, weeding etc., and walking the dog.

Jpegfield

Loving the Meadows at the Moment

milkbottle

The sight of this milk in the delivery crate reminded me of being a young girl. In the winter the birds always used to peck through the metallic cap and enjoy the cream from the top of the milk!

 Friday, I took Jpeg to the kennels and took myself to Kenilworth in Warwickshire. A visit to my lovely ex-mother-in-law who is almost 92. It was great to see her still living independently albeit not as lively as she might have been in her younger days, she’s still got a marvellous sense of humour and makes the most of  things.  I hope, if I live to be in my 90s I will be as game as she is. She is full of memories, as are so many people her age and it’s a pleasure to listen to her reminisce.

Ma-inlaw

Good old Mother-in-Law, always a smile and a story to tell. 

While in Kenilworth I met up with a writing colleague for the first time. Jo Derrick. We had communicated up to this point, only on Facebook, messenger, twitter and email for at least two if not three years. Often, when you eventually meet up, it can be awkward, difficult or just plain wrong but not in this case. We had a fabulous evening and there was hardly a pause in the conversation. We covered a wide variety of topics and discovered who our ‘mutual’ writing friends were. Can’t wait to meet up again. The writing fraternity are a sharing caring lot – on the whole.

Jonme

Fun with Jo Derrick…looking forward to the next meeting…

For the weekend I drove on up to Manchester to visit friends we had made whilst living in Italy. During May, I have now seen almost everyone from our little town in Italy who lives in England! It was a busy time in Manchester. Walking, eating, drinking and talking.

Beautiful Countryside at Styal Mill Grounds – and I loved this vibrant pink Rhododendron.

On Sunday evening we had a barbecue and were joined by a young French friend of mine, who could not relax until the results of the French Election were announced. Thankfully, the election of Macron was a relief – so the whole table cheered and we drank a toast.

FRANCE-BASTILLE-DAY

Macron…Let’s see what happens next…

The conversation inevitably turned to political situation in the UK and I don’t mind telling you that I have no idea what will happen to this country on June 8th. I have never before been so unsure of my vote. I do not know to which party I want to pledge my vote. I’m pretty clear as to who I don’t want to vote for but the choice of the others does not fill me with too much inspiration either. I reckon, we, the public, are constantly fed a load of rubbish by the government and the main opposition and I, like many other people, want hear some solid facts, policies and sense. But it seems that is not the way things are done. I didn’t want to come out of the EU and now that article 50 has been triggered, as I understand it, we can’t stop the inevitable even if the public changed their minds and voted to stay in, should they be given the opportunity. I believe, we would have to re-negotiate joining…what a palaver. Between now and June the 8th I will read as much as I can but how much can you believe? And when will the different political parties stop knocking each other and start telling us what their own party plans are for this country and how they intend to fulfill any promises they might rashly make? That is the question.

Happy Days.

Collected The Man from St Pancras on Monday night having driven down from Manchester and after a brief stay in the big smoke we at last arrived back in Dorset. It’s good to travel but it’s oh so good to come home…

Garden

 

 

home

…and the dog agrees…