Attempting to make it as a writer

Letting Go!

No 1 Son wants to buy a car!

To be honest No 1 Son wants more than a car, he wants his independence and adulthood.  We have spent the last 20 years cosseting him in cotton wool, and shielding him from the harsh realities of the real world.  Now he wants to take his own route to maturity.  So how long do we need to keep battling to protect our precious offspring, when they are so keen to join the imagined greener grass?

When he was little he would sit at the window watching the bigger boys and girls having fun outside in the road, we lived at the end of a cul-de-sac.    He yearned to go out and play with them, he begged me to open the door and let him escape, he would wander round through our garden to the back gate in the hope someone had forgotten to slip the out of reach bolt across.  I stuck to my resolution that whilst I did not have the time to sit and watch him he remained firmly where he was …..Safe.

He did not miss out, as when I did have the time, and I found plenty of time to avoid the housework, shopping and other hum drum chores so  we spent hours at the nearby park, or out walking the country lanes where he made friends with local dogs who would come and bark, and run away as we came past, or the young horse kept in a field who would prance over and then run off kicking and jumping and showing off as youngsters do.   I also have a series of now redundant video (in light of DVDs) of each Sunday morning as the children grew up, making friends and playing with the older children outside the house, where I could be there keeping an eye on them.

I lost the battle when Middle Son came along with his disregard for barriers, constraints and safety;  he would climb the back gate.   He learnt very quickly to stand on a pile of wobbling uneven books on the window ledge and open the window before slipping out.    He taught his older brother how to quietly take a chair to the front door and open the catch, move the chair just enough to escape through the gap.   He then taught him to make their way to the park by themselves.    The sound of silence in the house even now alerts me to mischief.

So I can hear you say, let the boy have the car.

It is not him having a car I object to, but he is only 19 and he wants to buy a Masda MX5.   I want him to buy a Sherman tank so that if anyone hits him I have more faith in him being safe.   What protection does a soft top MX5 have from other drivers?  I rely on my years of experience to get me out of scrapes; he is still building his experience base and confidence in his ability to drive safely, he has not realised yet it is the other driver I am concerned about.

I know, now he is older he watches me drive a Mercedes SLK convertible, in which I love being out and about on the few summer days we have; top down, sun beating and radio blaring.  When I met Sexy Sporty Dad in our twenties he was driving a spitfire.  It came with a hard top for the winter, twice a year we would lift that delicately  off or on, to replace it with the summer soft top.   I see No 1 Son’s friends come and go in their MX5s, so ‘keeping up with the Jones’ plays a large part of where his desire has come from.  So why should we deny him this.


I know I will not stop him, I also know that the car is only the first independent step he will take away from us. We will be looking at houses with him before long and then there might be girlfriends more welcome in his home than us.  I hope he will not leave it once a week to contact us and we see more of him than that.  When the children were younger we spent so much time altogether, now he wants to find his own feet and experience his own learning path.

He has just asked us to go and look at a car; bottle green with tan interior and several miles away, although the one he really wants is 138 miles away, black and very sleek.  I can see a few miles being added to my clock before finding the right one. I need to gem up on the technical details for Masda so I don’t look like a dizzy blond knowing nothing.  I admit to a frisson of excitement at the thought of test driving different cars with the wind in my hair and the growing tension waiting for collection day even if it is not mine and the opportunity to drive it may not come very often.  I also admire his taste in cars, which must come from his parents.

I also know that just nipping at the heels is Middle Son, who has yet to learn to drive but will be seeking speed, status and stimulus from his first car.  He will see his older brother racing round the local lanes, and will wish to emulate his freedom.  I am not sure I am quite ready to let Middle Son  have his liberty to grow up just yet, not until he has kerbed his disregard for safety.


Well it is an odd world where I, who wish to write find time very difficult to claim.  I have my three or four jobs however you wish to define them.  I find I am working at very odd hours to fit them all in but it is my writing that suffers, probably as that is the one that I do for love rather than pay.  I need to work on changing that.

It is ironic however that although I have writing of my own to do; I am now working with others to produce articles for industry magazines and editing and proofreading a blog for others.  Is this the way forward?  Take a look at  a Lad from Featherstone.

I still have a story to finish to send off to a magazine, before they change the guidelines again and it is no longer suitable.  I have a half finished article to finish and find a market for;  the planned market, I have decided will not be looking for my style of writing so I need to find somewhere else.   Memories still needs that final edit and rewrite,  I am part way through.  Each night as I collapse with exhaustion, a shiver of guilt runs through me knowing that I should be editing, and I promise that tomorrow will be different…..



Take a look at my cooking blog –  not technical just practical easy meals for a working mother with discerning tastes to cater for.  Teatime Treats with Tiggy.




Parental Pick-up

changing timesIt is not often these days I do the school run but I had to this week and I now realise how far my life has changed.

For 13 years I had children in primary school and although there were many configurations of shared delivery and collection to the schools involved I spent many of those years meeting lively excitable children tumbling from the classroom.   I like most other parents chatted amiably to the others stood in the cold and wet or occasionally glorious sunshine.   The British weather was always a sure fire starting point of conversation.

The playground pick up was a propagating ground for the foundations of lifelong friendships.  Inevitably we grouped around a particular door, or pathway where the year group exploded from at the end of the day.    Also inevitably despite the teachers insisting on parent punctuality, this did not reach as far as the inside of the classroom.

Often, and I should know having been both on the receiving end of this hand of help and having covered for other mothers.   A parent would wait at a younger siblings exit point leaving another to gather an older child from their escape route.   These small gestures of help extended beyond the action itself and sowed the seeds of friendship which were to last long beyond primary school.

Gossip was rife amongst the gatherers who having exhausted the British weather needed other stimuli to satiate their craving for conversation and inclusion.   People were happy to voice their opinions loudly but were also the first to rally round in a crisis.    It was a real treat to be able to help out someone in trouble.  It gave kudos and invited the gossip mongers to clamour like moths around a flame to hear her latest updates.   The helper became the focus with their accessibility and calm remoteness to convey the drama rather than the ragged emotions.

As children reached out to make new friends, they attended birthday parties or sports fixtures outside the protected environment of the school gate confine.   This led to the shared lift culture, giving friends of the children lifts to the said events.  It was reciprocal often one take, one collect but a coffee and cake or biscuits were always on the table at drop off.     Coffee led to longer stops and soon wine or beer as the events reached into evening.  Families got together until finally the children did their own things while the parents all mixed in little cliques of firm familiarity.   The children grew up and went onto top school but the foundations of the friendships formed by the parents flourished.

I went to pick Mini Son up from school this week queueing just to drive up the road even before finding a small space to park the car.   Remaining in the warm car as the hail hurtled earthwards outside dropping large boulders of iced sleet on the windscreen, the radio presenter entertained me with anecdotes, melodies and interviews.  Mini Son in true brotherly solidarity with the older two managed to be the last child to leave the school premises.

As I waited patiently in the cocoon of the car; my thoughts were drawn to the older children erupting from classes in a lava flow of dispersion, wearing nothing but tight skinnies, very mini mini- skirts which may have been large belts and flimsy t-shirts.  Gushing past me into the battered ghosts of once glorious cars which were revved and goaded in ear piercing gear screeching kangaroo jumps; I realised these were once the same children I stood waiting with their parents at the gates of the primary school.  They had shed their cute childish coyness, emerging as confident, self-assured, independent car driving teenagers.

Times they are a changing!


Although I struggle with finding time to write, I am still editing previous work.  I have two stories ready to send to a magazine, one is now as ready as I will ever get it, the other needs more editing – reads ok but way over the word limit so I need to get the knife and hash it about or maybe re-write.  I was challenged to write a piece for competition.  The challenge was not so much in the writing as in the short time I was given to complete it.   I managed it and sent off the piece,  I know it will not come anywhere as it will be up against some big names but to me the act of completing and sending off was the hurdle I successfully overcame.

Memories takes forever to edit as this has to go low down on the to-do pile but the edit is chugging along.  Some major re-writing will follow to hopfully bring it’s appeal to a much wider audiance.  Would love to have this with an agent before my annual inspirational pilgrimage to Swanwick this year, but no promises!

Enjoy the read and let me know how your lives are changing.


Leaving Home

How I came to be stood on Andover train station on a Saturday afternoon nearing the end of November waving inwardly to a disappearing train as realisation hit, is  a different story altogether.  Suffice to say rail engineering works had disrupted the normal timetable and a personal trip to Oxford for a meal led me via Andover.

We arrived at the station and realised we had just missed the train to London, but we had a complicated list of ticket related purchases to organise so the lack of pressure was not unwelcome.   Finally sorted with tickets we made our way to the platform.   A warming cup of tea was essential and a few moments to catch up on all the last 19 years’ worth of chit chat although I was unaware really of the whole significance of the conversation.

Number 1 Son had announced earlier that week that he had enjoyed being up on the boat in London so much that he was going to return this week.    I had persuaded him to delay the trip by a day a couple of times but this time he was serious.  He had negotiated a deal to allow him to stay on the boat for a bit longer, now with packed bag, phone, wallet and probably a few nerves we were sat waiting for a train.

“You do know this is me leaving home?” he informed me “I will only be coming back for visits from now on”

Dismissing the point of the comment I concerned myself with clean underwear, toothbrush, and enough money to buy food.   He had his phone, he had his laptop; I persisted with the importance to call, email, message me in the mornings and evenings just so we knew he was ok.  After all he would be on a cold wet dock with ice and damp a very real threat, no one to notice if he was ok or not.  Deaf ears come to mind.

As the minutes ticked by the tea turned cold in unison with the lead forming in my heart.  He was 18 and about to take a huge step out of our lives and into his own independent future and I could not hold him back.

The announcer informed the sparsely peopled station that the train would arrive in a few moments. Flapping around with all the good motherly advice I could think of to impart to an 18 year old going to find fame and fortune in London.   I knew I had done it at his age but I seemed so much more grown up in those days!

I reeled off a list of where to find temping agencies, suggestions on what searches he could use on the internet, reminded him of all the local jobs he should apply for as he dutifully listened only to file in the ‘delete later’ compartment of his brain.

It was so quick when it came, a flurry of activity as the train whooshed into the station, doors open, a shimmying and pushing as people got off and got on, doors closed and whoosh the train was gone.  And with it my son, my first born, my first to leave the family home, and with him a whole new chapter of his life opened as a huge chapter of mine irreversibly closed.

It took me some while before I stopped staring into the distance imagining I could just see the speck of train through the damp mist forming in my eyes as I squinted.  Slowly, feeling as if part of me had left on the train, I retraced my steps towards the car; empty and lost I continued on my journey.

My efforts to remain cheerful focused on the fact No 1 Son had a 19th birthday the following weekend and was coming back to party with us and friends over a long celebratory weekend so I knew his leaving home was short-lived.  Two weeks after that he would be home again for Christmas, it is a long time since I had yearned for the festive season to arrive so quickly.

He did arrive home for his birthday with the news that he had a job in a bar in the centre of London starting the following week.  Before leaving again he did attend two local job interviews that had come up while he was away.  Careful weighing up and ignoring all the solid advice of his parents as to the security and future of the jobs and how his room was waiting for him to move back in again; all fell into the delete later brain cell.

I found myself 10 days later, again waving to the back of a London bound train with part of my heart aboard it.  Sexy Sporty Dad and I may be incredibly proud of his actions and independence but we are wishing for Christmas to hurry up and bring him safely home. Brave and independent he may be but he also seems completely unable to communicate that he is safe and well.  Although my spy network picks up hints that he seems to be enjoying working and meeting people and the odd phone call home reiterates he is alive and surviving.

With all the technology and gizmos available to us these days I am hoping the miles between are minimised and I can imagine him just upstairs or still out with friends.  Hopefully now that he is becoming a grown up his communications when he does contact us will be far more meaningful than the teenage grunts we have been used to over the past few years.







Evoking Memories

Once upon a long time ago I lived for a while in London.   I am not sure if every large city is like it but there was a particular vitality to the place especially after dark.

I remember the day I arrived; wet behind the ears, fresh from the deepest depths of the Devon countryside.  A fervent member of the Young Farmer movement; having found them the closest beings to inhabit my remote youthful existence, this urban world was totally alien to me. I knew plenty about butter making, pitching in during haymaking and the thrill then loss of baby lambs, but a world full of loud, fast always open buzz was non-existent on my radar.   I took my first intrepid steps into the metropolis of the capital with a heart seized in terror at  the unknown.

I was lucky I was cossetted by the trappings and security of an affluent household in Hampstead where I joined the family as a live in nanny.  With my basic needs provided for I was able to embrace London life to the full.

Late nights and early mornings became the norm, mixing with rich, famous and notorious celebrities as they came and went became the accepted pattern for my new exciting life.  I managed to shed the country bumpkin skin away emerging as a young party animal.  I attended premieres, I partied with the most sparkling in stars, I acquired tickets to all the prestigious events and I loved every moment.  The lights shone and the day never ended just merged to the next.

I would go home to my family still deep within the countryside and not be able to party or buy a kebab on the way home. The only light in the world after midnight would be the stars or the moon or a distant barn heralding a soon to be new little life; but it had lost it’s fun and wonder for me.  I yearned for the hub bub of the town, I needed the noise and smells and I craved the vivacity vibrancy and vivaciousness only offered by the diversity of a busy city.   I had to get back to get my fix of the fun and frivolity that had become my life.

Inevitably I grew up, met and married Sexy Sporty Dad and we had our children who grew and developed in their own special way.

This week I was offered tickets to an Arsenal match at their home ground.  My first hit of nostalgia; I had given up being a supporter or any football since the children had been born.   Rugby had dominated our need for fanaticism over recent years and there was little time to remember that before children I supported the team as well as other sports.

No 1 Son was staying and working on a boat docked in St Katherine’s Dock and I was invited to spend the weekend with him.   Mini Son is the only avid footie fan in our family and despite his possibly paternal passion for Man U, it seemed sensible to take him as they were Arsenal’s opposition.

Stepping off the train at Waterloo I was hit by a familiar excitement in my stomach.   The noise was rising, there was a distinct smell of fresh food blended with diesel and the close proximity of perfume as we queued to go through the barrier.

A walk along the embankment dodging pedestrians, runners, bus queues I gave a sporadic history lesson as sites came to view and remembered stories of old ran through my mind. Music and laughter drifted across the Thames as we walked.  Street sellers called to us enticing us closer to try their wares.  People of all nationalities brushed past us, gabbling away in their native tongue as I tried to identify and inform my young son.

We didn’t reach St Katherine’s Dock by foot, the distance prooving just too far.  Standing by the road Mini Son waved and hailed his first London cab. It was not far to go but by then the relief of having a seat was welcome, it also served as a slight reminder of the years that had passed by since I would jog along the embankment for fun!   We reached the boat and a very welcome cup of tea, tour and tutoring to get on and off the craft, through the barriers and where the slightly more stable roomy pontoon toilets and showers were situated.

It was time then to take the tube.   Hanging on for dear life to a reluctant twelve year old as we hopped on and off trains, cut through from tube line to tube line and joined and ever increasing heaving mass of bodies, singing anthems, cheering and moving inevitably towards the stadium.  If I ever imagined I might not find the way; I had forgotten my own mantra; “to follow the crowd”.   The swelling crowd moved methodically through the mechanical motions towards the bright, loud alluring ground.

It was sad that probably my only opportunity to see the team I once supported so avidly lost to one of their greatest rivals but for my young son, his first ever footie match was quite a spectacle to behold.   We were of course in the home team stands and a very contained little boy cheered inwardly as each goal against us was shot.

At the end of the match and amidst a fairly hostile and emotional crowd we moved momentarily closer to the tube as the thousands of fans poured along the streets towards the station.   Finally hanging closely onto Mini Son with No 1 Son leading the way we made our way through the underground to where we were meeting friends for a meal.

This was the night life I remembered, a brightly lit, noisy esplanade spilling over with restaurants, wine bars and nightclubs.   Different cultural aromas emanating from each kitchen tantalising the taste buds as people thronged past.   We were headed for a little Indian place our friends knew well but when we arrived it was no longer there.   Not lost for choice we opted for the Turkish place next door.

A mezze of different authentic dishes were placed on our table.  We tasted, tried and tested tiny morsels and larger bites of unpronounceable delicacies.  We drank house wine and finished off with more delicious sweeteners leaving the area still fully alive and thriving despite the later or by now early hours of the morning.  Before grabbing a cab we ran into a 24 hour supermarket to pick up the essentials like milk and cereal for the morning.

I fell asleep on a bustle of clashing dreams, colours vibrant and strong, noise chasing through my mind, my nose wrinkling at the memory of the mass of varying menus and the hustle of being part of a throng.  It was a nostalgic pull to my past.

We woke, the rain poured, the light was dull and it was cold.  I clambered off the boat inelegantly and showered in the block.  There was no way back but through the torrential rain and to scramble back over the rail to the warmth of the deck below.

DSC_0048I had planned to take Mini Son to the Tower of London, I wanted to see the remains of the powerful poppy exhibition remembering the fallen from history  and he had just finished studying the princes in the tower, at school.  We did go but the short walk across to the entrance drowned our spirits with the monotonous drip drip drip of rain.   Through two layers of coat and hoody the water seeped chilling the bone.  We followed a few other brave souls round through the ancient historical rooms unable to feel anything but cold and damp.  By the time we reached the room the little princes were kept; all remaining empathy had been diluted and washed away and we returned finally deflated to the deluged docks.

Deferring plans to visit the science museum we headed back to Waterloo and took a long winded journey home avoiding engineering works before Mini Son alighted from the train and exploded with all the enclosed excitement into his father’s waiting arms:

“We won, we beat them.  Man U won the match!”

Tripping down memory lane and sharing the places with my children brought back the fun and excitement of visiting London but the welcome smell of my husband’s home-made meal and a large cuppa reminded me of where I really want to be; tucked up at home watching the telly with my family.  Nostalgia just isn’t what it used be, it has its place tied up with memories and emotion but not necessarily a tug to go back.





Jump Start

It started with the inevitable call and I knew; if Number 1 son was calling it was not to say he loved me or how was I, and most definitely not to offer to do the shopping in order to cook the tea.   Although technically I was working I was between jobs. I had just finished one and was driving towards the other who also had a crisis.

I answered the phone, on my hands free and was not disappointed.

There was a problem.

His car would not start and they could not get the jump leads to help.  What they expected me to do I did not know but I brought the calm voice of reason and had the lads push me in his car into a parking space.   I discovered on this tiny journey, the extent of his car’s complete lethargy; the power assisted steering was not working and it took all my strength to pull the car into a space.  I touched the brakes and realised as I limped past the painted line that there was no power to the brakes either. Panic as the car continued forward had me jumping on the footbrake and hauling the hand version on at the same time.

Vacating the driver’s seat with the alacrity and speed of someone sitting in a pool of iced water I carefully locked his door.   As if anyone else was going to try and jump start it before stealing it!

With an authoritive and commanding air I walked into the shop and found the manager explaining the situation and I would be sorting it out but may take longer than the allotted 90 minutes I was permitted to park.

Returning to the car I was unsure of the next step;  do I call the AA, do I call the garage direct and get them to collect it or do I just toss the keys into the skip being used in the car park for some building works and walk away.

No 1 Son now seriously delayed in his daily plans was agitated and keen to get off but was stranded and stroppy having not had a good week with the car.    He did agree to drop me at home so I could collect my fun weekend car and then he was gone.

By the time my thoughts returned to the car crisis that evening Sexy Sporty Dad was home and we drove down in his new, as in we had owned for a matter of weeks, executive car.   No 1 Son’s car had not moved, and we set about positioning the new car to start it with the leads.    Bravely digging under a deposit of teenage debris and malodorous discarded gym wear I desperately searched the car for the leads.

The jump leads were not in the car; that at least was as evident, as the fact we were not going to get it to start.

Sexy Sporty Dad offered me the chance to tow or be towed.  Thankfully a jolting reminder and a still stiff arm from having to pull the steering wheel into position assured me that I did not want to be in the towed car.  If anyone was going to drive into the back of his brand new car it was going to be him not me.

Digging deep into the recesses of his mind he tied several remembered sailing knots before settling on the one that would suffice and we hitched the two cars together.

Slowly, slowly, slowly I pulled away, a heart wrenching clunk and tug as the rope tightened and I felt the resistance from the car behind.  It began to pull and through my mirror I could see my husband’s face but more importantly his hand gestures.   Two cars in tandem moved onto the high street and headed for home.

Watching the road, the heavy early evening traffic and aware of the load I was towing it took a while to realise he wanted me to turn off the road.  He was signalling for me to take the next road up a hill to the school.  The no through road!

Bewildered I obeyed, and following his instructions through the mirror I hauled the car up the hill and pulled off into the school where he directed me to stop.  I slowed carefully as he braked in unison.  Glad of the respite but aware of the journey still to go I breathed, possibly for the first time since we had started out.

He had the idea that before we venture down the most precarious part of the trip; down the steep hill to traffic lights, he wanted to have a go at jump starting the engine.  We disconnected and set him at the entrance to the school and waited.

Apart from school times nobody used the road except to reach the leisure centre and it must have been changeover time for the various courses as there was a steady flow of cars coming up the hill followed by a steady flow going down the hill.  I waited to direct him on to the road, he might be lucky enough to get a little push as he passed but I was not running down the road pushing the car; those days are way beyond me now.

The gap arrived and with it my arm gestured wildly to go go go.   The car free wheeled out of the school gates, onto the road and off down the hill.   I ran, or rather strolled back to the waiting car wishing the other to start.   I turned the car round and headed myself back through the school gates.

Once back on the road I could see the car at the bottom of the hill.  He was already out of it and setting the tow rope back in position by the time I reached him.

Knowing the route to come I felt sick with terror;  it was a main road, cars, kids, bikes all rushing around.  We needed to descend the hill down to traffic lights that always switch to red, regardless of anyone wanting to come on to the road or cross.   He had unusable brakes and I was so closely in front driving his precious new car.  Admittedly it was a miracle at all for me to be permitted to drive it.  I focused on that thought for a moment.

That clunk and tug told me we were engaged and I pulled back to the high street, and then to the roundabout onto the main road.  It was still busy, and although he gestured through our mirror communicator, I could see what was coming on to the roundabout he could not.  I needed to be sure I could engage, ease and enter the traffic flow with both cars before I launched.

A clearing in traffic, a deep breath; it may have to last all the way home and I pulled, clunk and tug and we were off again.   With my hazards flashing madly, nobody could read my directional plans so thankfully people kept back, or went wide to nip past.  We reached the brow, not just the hill it was the sudden stop at the lights that would prove to be the challenge.

We were over I kept the speed low, we descended the hill slowly.  I realised I could smell burning through the open window.  Should I stop and how can I indicate that to the car behind.  Realisation it was not my car that was burning it was the brakes of the towed car.   I continued one eye on my mirror expecting guidance.  We reached the lights glowering red at me.  Touching my brakes gently to flash brake lights behind, I touched again and again as we slowed even more.  We had not even stopped when with a wink of wit the lights began their sequence of amber to green. I kept going.

Back onto the flat, the burning smell eased slightly and I could feel the pull behind, one more set of  lights before we turned off; they were on the flat.   It is funny how I had never really thought about the contours of the route to town before.  We reached the lights and came to a stop, now in the home neighbourhood, people came out to wave, children laughing at the car being towed.  A break in oncoming traffic allowed me to pull forward;  the lights changed.  I was already committed and in so doing the car behind was also committed.  A now familiar pull, clunk and tug and we were headed for home, kerplunk over the slow-down humps in the road, and a slowing to turn into our narrow road.   We squeezed past the cars parked on both sides and came to a welcome halt outside the house.

Leaping from the car I succumbed slightly to push the other to the side and then graciouslessly left hubby to park his car while I put the kettle on for a much needed strong tea.   The phone was ringing as I got inside.

No 1 Son replying to my earlier irate message left on his phone about the jump leads.

“I didn’t want to leave them in case they were stolen so I put them in your car”

“and where is my car now?”

“I have it with me, I am about 20 miles away and will be back in the morning”

At least I wasn’t driving the old car,  the brakes albeit worn are still intact, a new battery  will be on the weekend’s shopping list. And a strong cup of tea does wonders for the nerves.






Stirred and Shaken

swanwick 2014I cannot believe how quickly a year has gone by.  As the weekend neared, the excitement laced with large drops of trepidation intoxicated my every movement.  It was never about not holidaying with the family, but rather more joining my other family; my very special Swanwick family.

A year on and I was still a fraudster in some eyes particularly those of my  children, who cannot understand how I could legitimately join a writers school,having not had my novel published.   The few magazine articles I had sold were at most luck; at least an embarrassment so they could not count towards my job title WRITER.  Let’s face it, my children had not seen sight of any profits from my articles. Why would they?  My promise to myself was to put them towards my next Swanwick trip and so I had.

It was my eyes and my feelings that counted.  I was returning to Swanwick School of Writers, and I could not wait.

The journey proved longer this year, being held up in a traffic jam and on my own for the whole trip.   Excitement escalating with each excruciatingly slow mile. Was I nearly there yet?

Again (2013 Swanwick) I paused at the entrance, savouring the cocktail of emotions that coursed through my being.  I admit a certain fear and apprehension as I drove up the drive; would they remember me, would it be the same if I was not a white badger, nobody was going to offer guidance or assistance.   Maybe my followers and friends from last year will have realised in the intervening months just how flimsy my writing career is.

It was strangely reassuring to arrive at my room and realise I had stayed in this one last time.  A small task of individualising my name card reminded me that I was back in the world of writers, authors and poets with learning and fun to be had for a whole six days.   Taking a large gulp of self-assurance I made my way to the bar where I found welcoming arms and hugs from old and soon to be new friends.

So began my very special week of workshops, speakers, competition, laughter and welcome. (Swanwick 2013 part 2)

I began with David Hough’s Novel Editing.  He poured out sound advice, breaking it down into bite size re-edits.  In a nutshell; read it for me – is it what I wanted to read.  Read it from my main characters point of view – does she see things she shouldn’t or know things she hasn’t been party to yet?  Read it from my reader’s point of view – does it entertain them?

Then comes the grammar and spelling edits; this could be where I might fall down.  Back to the drawing board with Memories I realise now that  I am further back than I thought –  I may get away with missing step 1 as I am pretty sure it has all the bits in I wanted to add.

Short stories with Della Galton proved entertaining, challenging as she set the task of writing our opening paragraph and insightful with her simple plan; A character has a problem, which is resolved in an unexpected but in a satisfactory way.  The character is changed along the way.   With lots of tips and advice available to help craft my stories and make them marketable; we ended the week looking at short story markets.

Joining a workshop with Shirley Blair, the very lady who has the power to reject/ accept my stories, telling me to keep sending and her rejections are not personal.  With her mix of stringent guidelines spiked with pushing the boundaries she has thrown down the gauntlet to get a published story in People’s Friend.

Then the TV Detective himself arrived into my week.   The man who made me cry with laughter with his after dinner speaking- I will never think of otters again in the same light.  Simon Hall was dispensing in his first workshop about the media.  How to sell myself to become an item of newsworthiness even before the book has been published.

He drizzled into conversation facts like; agents check out web sites and look at tweets to gain insight into my personality and writing styles. He added to the brew suggestions like offer to write the article for the local paper and how to impassion that interview.

A short workshop earlier in the week on the luck and skill involved in forensics had left me wanting more.  Simon Hall again stirred the emotions of anticipation, fear and excitement with his rapid crime writing workshops. Mystery, suspense and keep your reader wanting was how he kept me enthralled.  Introducing the five Ps of writing a good novel: Premièring, place, people, plots and persistence.  Blending these five ingredients together should give me the recipe for a successful novel be it crime related or other genre.

There were other workshops, other inspirational speakers, the emotive and sometimes harrowing pictures that accompanied music, poems and letters in Remembering WW1.  The writer’s quiz that proved to me how wide and diverse this writing subject is and how little I know.   The poignancy of singing the final rendition of Auld Lang Syne as we promised not to forget each other amid tears and hugs of laughter.   No matter how many sessions I managed to attend there were many many others I could not make.

Before I knew it the week was over and I was waving off good friends and promising to keep in touch and see you next year.  Alone I gathered my belongings and packed the car.  Procrastinating long enough to take in the quiet and the gentle ripple of the lake I said my farewell vowing to return again.

So the magic of Swanwick (Swanwick 2013 part 3) lives on; as I drove down the long drive  the sudden strong sense of my own identity overwhelmed me.  I knew who I was and I knew where I was going.  The journey would be longer than I hoped but I had all the elements to quench the thirst to advance my writing career.  Icy trepidation diluted the fiery fervour as I realise  returning to real life will get in the way, work will inhibit both time and creativity as I head back to a world of people who do not understand but, I know I  am on the path and heading in the direction I want to be going.




All Inclusive

DSC_0347From the moment we touched down and probably before;  we were under the emphatic but subtle officialdom of the holiday company.  We stepped off the Magaluf Express straight into the pre-prescribed formulaic world of many a TV sitcom.

A final tussle with my controlling streak, do I follow the crowd or do I take command.  The battle was already fought and lost as I realised I had come on holiday to let others take the hassle from me.  Meekly I fell into line and sheep like followed; retaining only some small semblance of rebelliousness as I herded my family to fall in.

The doors of the airport opened onto an array of about 30 coaches mainly in groups of same colours relating to which tour operator you happened to be travelling with.  Which hotel we were booked into dictated which coach we were directed to.  The island was not really that big was it?  Added to the fact it was 2o’clock in the morning; local time, we were at the mercy of the tour company.

The sheer numbers involved were mind blowing.  We had travelled with one particular holiday company, although at the airport it was evident other companies were also collecting their parties.  Other planes full of holiday makers came in from Cardiff, Amsterdam and Manchester there may have been others.

The coaches filled with factory line precision; although left to our own devices, once aboard meant people sat wherever they could.  The family was split up, but conversation was the last thing on people’s minds at that time in the morning.  When the final flights had arrived and spat out their passengers and luggage, the coaches were full.  A convoy of them left the airport in an explosion of engine noise, skidding and screeching tyres; amid the back drop of a spectacular lightening show.

The young lads from  Majorca become coach drivers for the vast array of holiday companies taking over the island.  Their thrills comprise an unspoken competition and joy racing each other along the rudimentary roads they call motorway, with a coach filled with unsuspecting invaders.

Our destination hotel determined which coach we travelled on; but as the journey continued having driven for an hour or so (I didn’t think the island that big) the coach began dropping at different resorts pointing further and further from our destination, alternate hotels seemingly run by other well-known holiday conglomerates.  Doubt crept in; had we been directed to the wrong coach, was my Spanish that rusty that I had given misleading information; how many hotels can this island actually have.

We reached our final destination at 5 in the morning where a lone Spanish speaking hotel receptionist struggled to explain in broken English and mucho Spanish hand waving what had to be filled in on the form and where our rooms were amid the three hotel complex.   We were all tagged as our details were taken in a scene reminiscent of the futuristic dominance of many a sci fi film.   A feeling of big brother pervaded as the security guard secured the band around our willingly volunteered wrists.

We finally tumbled into bed just managing to take note of breakfast times and the time and place of our welcome meeting.

The well-orchestrated organisation of the hotel and its inhabitants now finely tuned to such a fine art that any one daring to step outside the pre-determined formula would be either ignored or I imagine removed before any calamitous consequences could arise.

All inclusive; we had decided this was the best way of travelling with three continually hungry growing boys.   We entered the dining room to a cacophony of noise and smells and colours.   The room was heaving with people, only one of three hotel dining rooms offering a huge assortment of differing foods.

Without time constraints and without anywhere to be it surely would have been rude not to try and sample a little of everything.   Buffet style stations dotted all around the room offering cereals, toast, yoghurt, fruit, bacon, English sausage and frankfurter.   Scrambled, fried or boiled along with pancake eggs.  Tables, laden with cheeses, cold hams and continental sausages offered a genuine smorgasbord in recognition to the many Scandinavian visitors.   Croissants, pain au chocolate and a vast plateau of pastries challenged the skill of any patisserie French chef.

Lunch was served just two hours later and dinner two hours after lunch was cleared away.   There were of course as many different themes as there were breakfast displays combining the adventurous with the fussy eater.  Tea and coffee was on tap for breakfast with fruit juices leading to beer, sangria and wine later on in the day.  So many choices proved too great, creating the need to test each and every dish.

There were moments of the day and late into the evening when maybe the restaurants were not open but drinks flowed freely.  All inclusive was just that, beer, sangria, cocktails, fanta and coke were available from mid morning through midnight with coffee and tea machines dotted round the complex where ever you might have need of yet more sustenance.  Snack bars served burger and chips and continual supplies of ice cream just in case you could not last till the next cornucopia of meals was served.

No holiday would be complete without a few excursions and to give you an opportunity to part with that well-earned holiday spending money you had taken with you.  We chose the boat trip aboard Costa’s Catamaran to a quiet bay where other boat excursions met us and we dived blissfully into the deep warm waters of the Mediterranean, kyacking and clambering and falling from the air filled lilo that floated behind the boat.   The crew turned their talents to cooking the BBQ served with the now habitual wine and beer.  The remnants of which, chicken, pork , sausage and pasta salad, when we could manage no more was thrown overboard to the suddenly shoaling fish, who had surrounded the boats.

We took the opportunity to join the beautiful Captain Scarlet in her fishnets and high heels in her quest along with Francis Drake, Barbosa and Blackbeard for their swashbuckling adventure to save their boat from the evil pirate Lafitte.  Food and drink supplied and consumed the lights went down and we were treated to a spectacular show of fire, gymnastics and high flying acrobatics.

Off course all holidays need an opportunity to spend any remaining money you may have taken and the opportunity to pass a cash point to withdraw a little bit more.  We joined the trip to the Inca market to barter for goods you would not look twice at home but had an allure that drew you in to spend spend and spend.

Keeping the holiday running to plan and all the holiday makers smiling are the cheery recognizable reps who assured us they were there to make our holiday as enjoyable as possible and they certainly were always available with a smile and and pre prescribed answer to any little niggle that may cross your mind.   They join in and deliver shows and performances to keep us entertained through the late evening with their almost in tune singing, dubious acting skills and hilarious comedy routines.

Behind the very visible reps was an army of locals who kept their heads down and made the whole place function.   Rarely did they stop, or even look up from their tasks but when you took the time to stop and say “gracias” they would greet you with a broad smile and even engage in pidgin discussion, my Spanish as rusty as their English.

With any good thing all too soon it has to end and with heavy heart we waved farewell to the hotel, to the dining room, to the on tap Sangria and the swimming pools and retraced our journey of only a week before.  Waking up in my own bed, my own things around me I pause to consider was it all just a wonderful dream.  My bank balance and the cases of washing proved otherwise and if I just close my eyes for a moment I can almost hear the noise, smell the sun tan lotion and feel the fullness of yet another meal.  Just for that moment I am still on holiday; I can still relax enough to forget the washing, the cooking, the shopping and enjoy for a moment longer letting someone else take control.

Wherever you are holidaying this summer enjoy the moment, too soon it is all over and just a memory.





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