Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for December, 2011

Nativity Tidings

celebrating the birth of a very special babyOnce upon a time in a land far far away a young man found himself travelling miles from home with his pregnant fiancée to a town heaving with visitors.   The emperor had decided to count his wealth and check that all his subjects were paying enough dues.  Our young couple arrived tired and hungry having travelled many days to reach there.  The young girl scared and heavy with child, wanted to lie down and rest but there was nowhere left for them to rent.   Joseph, for that was his name, knocked on every hotel asking for a bed but they were all full.

Finally a pub landlord taking pity on this young couple, allowed them to use a rickety draughty barn behind the pub.   It was dry and warmish; there were animals already in there, but they could at least rest.   Gratefully they moved in and settled themselves in for a long night.

As Joseph slept, his fiancée Mary gently woke him to tell him the baby was coming.   He padded around the little stable, not sure what to do as his beautiful bride to be cried out with pain, fear and emotion.   He held her hand, wiped her brow and watched as she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy.      The landlord had managed to dig out an old sheet for them to sleep on and Joseph carefully wrapped the baby in it laying him in the animals’ food trough.

He gently caressed Mary’s shoulder; she soothed the baby’s tears.  A group of cold tired shepherds came in from the hills around the town.  They had received the heads up about a baby’s birth and had come to see what the fuss was for themselves.

It took twelve days for Joseph to register his name along with Mary and their new born son; and for Mary to feel like travelling again.  The night before they left was a clear starry night and they were disturbed again by three surprisingly rich men travelling to find a baby.  A bewildered Joseph welcomed them into his humble stable as they offered their precious gifts to this tiny tot.

The next day they all left and lived happily ever after.

Well it didn’t quite end like that did it?  Apologies as well for having adapted this story slightly.

A story we all know so well, woven into the very fabric of our lives.   Many people the world over will 2000 years later still; be celebrating the birth of that tiny infant so many years ago.   They will be giving and receiving expensive gifts in remembrance of the gifts given by those wise men.   They will eat drink and make merry in celebration of that baby lying in the manager from where animals ate their food.  There will be a prolonged season of good will towards others, sending of cards, going out for drinks, the works party.

Will we remember that tiny child who came to save the world, with every card we get, each drink we raise to the heavens? That swaddling babe grew up instead of happy ever after; his distraught, alone and tormented mother stood and watched him die on the cross like a common criminal deserted by his followers and friends.

In a solitary strike against commercialism I gave up sending Christmas cards some years ago.  I would find myself traipsing through shops looking for cards with a semblance of religious meaning; and found them increasingly rare.   I am glad to note that charity cards are making a comeback; many with nativity scenes on them.   I also resent the cost of the stamp when there were charities struggling to help really needy people.   I, like many friends I now realise, have for the past few years donated a sum of money to a charity instead of the sending the traditional cards.   This year my charity will be the Dorset Air Ambulance who are often called to the rugby club or the school fields where there is accessible space to land.  Thankfully not all the time is it a rugby or school injury but the ambulance is the quickest route to hospital for anyone sick or injured in our town.

I don’t have a problem with other people sending cards, although my mother was complaining it had cost her nearly £50 in stamps to send her cards this Christmas.   With her generation it seems to be a way of keeping in touch although each year brings a spate of more sad news, as someone has passed on during the year.    News we may have kept up with on facebook or twitter, if her generation were more technically adept.

There is a flurry of consumerism that becomes more and more fanatical at this time of year.  The news tells us we are in a recession, many people are out of work and struggling but the adverts are still full on with suggestions to tempt which they know will succeed because we cannot bear the thought of someone not having what they want.

Children have switched on to Christmas in a big way.   They watch the adverts; they comb through the Argos catalogue, and add all kinds of items to the shopping basket at Amazon.  The list of things they have to have from Father Christmas is two A4 sides long.  The same Father Christmas that they no longer believe in but would be horrified if he passed over the house on Christmas Eve and forgot to leave a stocking and present for them.

Most children will have taken part or at least watched some form of nativity play these last weeks.  Many of them will be humming carols and Christmas songs as they go about their daily toil of chilling out, now the term has finished.   There will be a spate of Christmassy films on the TV for them to watch.  A few will attend midnight mass with all its cheer and Christmassy music, and will the priest be giving out chocolates to all the children in the congregation again this year.  Can No 1 Son and Middle Son still claim to be children in order to get the chocolate?

How many people will stop and really think about the real Christmas?  Who will go and wish the lonely old man next door a happy Christmas.  Who will remember those who have lost loved ones in this run up to the festive season, when the grief is still raw and normal life cannot return?  Which carols will be sung with true meaning remembering the story they tell and not just mouthing the words?   Somewhere in our hearts let us show goodwill to others and help someone out over the Christmas period without the expectation of reward.  Each carol we sing out with enthusiasm and excitement; allow it to strike a chord as we remember the tiny baby born in a stable with the cows and sheep looking on.

I wish all my readers a happy and peaceful Christmas.  I trust my new year will be filled with exciting happy events for me to tell you all about and that my children continue to grow and do well at whatever they choose.  I hope your new year will be filled with love, health and prosperity.

Wishing you all a very joyful Christmas.  Thank you for reading, subscribing and commenting on the blog.



New Celebration

It was only five minutes ago I was waddling around rushing to complete my Christmas shopping way too early, for me at any rate.   We went out on the Saturday in Sexy Sporty Dad’s little spitfire and traversed the countryside finally finding what I was looking for in the town only miles from where we were living. It was a pair of leather driving gloves for my brother.

As we reached home a friend rung to say her digs had been burgled and she didn’t know how to change the lock.  Selflessly as ever Sexy Sporty Dad got back into the spitfire and we drove back to town.

That night, 10 glorious days before he was due No 1 Son made his debut onto the world’s stage.  Well not quite that night; 2 days of hard labour for his mother.  At least he wasn’t 10 days late and arrive on Christmas day as people had warned me, first babies had a habit of doing.

Beautiful Bouncing Boy

I remember in minute detail, the movements of that day and week 16 years ago, as yet again we find ourselves celebrating the events of that weekend.  That tiny little thing, who would only open one eye at a time to peer round taking this new wondrous world in, is now taller than me, plays rugby, is about to finish school, he thinks and is; he informs me allowed to buy a lottery ticket.

I have been buying them since before he was born and my numbers are still waiting to come up, so if he can do better; then give it a try but remember whose £1 it was first.

Buying birthday presents for 16-year-old boys is not an easy task; the moped he was desperate for had been consigned to another list, if not the bin.  Thankfully he has listened to my comments about tax, insurance and petrol.  Persuaded against the moped, by his safety conscious mother he asked for a SLR camera.

A learning curve in camera lingo ensued as I trawled the internet for a suitable present.  I found one on Amazon that matched all our requirements except the price band. If we gave him a joint birthday and Christmas present, a practice I have avoided for 16 years, we could nearly justify the cost.

The new Canon EOS has been launched and this company were selling off their old style, said the blurb.  We would never afford the new one but could stretch for this one, it had all that a 16-year-old boy would need including interchangeable lenses that he could buy more of as he understood the camera better and earned his own money.

We bought and paid for the camera, sat back with smiles upon our faces pleased that we had sorted his present in such good time.

The camera duly arrived in a box I could only just manage to carry sideways through the door of the post office.   We hid it with all the excitement and trepidation of a toddler waiting for Christmas, until all was quiet in the house and we were able slowly to open the package.  Inside was a Nikon camera case.   Not what we were expecting.  We looked at each other, surely we had bought Canon.  Delving further inside the case was a Canon EOS carefully wrapped in bubble wrap and a lens also wrapped in bubble wrap.  No leads, no instructions, no memory card to get him started.     We were holding; not new, but a second-hand camera.

Back onto the website I could not find the complete advert but under my recent transactions the description definitely says condition: new.  To me I understand new to mean unused, in the original packaging together with instruction manual and guarantee.

Sexy Sporty Dad had found a delivery note.   It said this is a nearly new item and the lenses are very new and fabulous.

Tremendous Tackling Teenager

A very strongly worded email was sent via the Amazon web site to the seller and to Amazon themselves who replied within a few hours, apologising that one of their market sellers had upset me.   Could I allow her 3 days, then if I was not happy they would file a claim.

We are now awaiting the outcome of the claim.  The seller did send a very curt reply after Amazon had filed the claim against her; stating that had it been a new camera we would have had to pay more but it was with regret she had sold it at that prix.   No refund would be given as the lenses had hardly been used.

No 1 Son had to make do with a few rushed pressies I was able to pick up at the supermarket to celebrate.   He is now of the age where he can understand what is happening and he has picked out a camera he quite likes when the claim comes through.  I am fairly confident we will win as Amazon have agreed with us that new means what I understand it to mean; unused.  Also if they lost me as a customer I expect the whole e-commerce market would collapse into an irrecoverable recession.

Now that the birthday is out-of-the-way we will be permitted to begin preparing for the Christmas festivities.   We will be looking for a Christmas tree this weekend, a new one not previously used.


Ps  Amazon have settled the claim in full including postage costs before the date they promised and the money has already gone back onto the credit card, which was lucky as my car needed work to the brakes in order to pass its MOT.  With the weather threatening and some long journeys looming over Christmas my brakes needed to be safe.

No 1 Son has not been forgotten; I have already ordered him a bridge style camera for him to use and learn on, including memory card and case.  I am not sure my feedback will be quite as fantastic as the photos we are expecting from No 1 Son




Achieving the Goal

Tiggy inspired by team members

You join me a week after the end of NANOWRIMO and forgive me if I am a little self congratulatorythis week, but I did manage to complete the mammoth challenge I had laid out for myself and wrote  50,816 words in just 30 days.  I finally uploaded my words for verification and felt a huge weight lift from my shoulders; especially as the weekend before I had only uploaded 26,000 words. I had hand written more but did not know if I had written an achievable amount or if I would be too far behind.

I know if you cast your eye over any local paper you will see hundreds of challenges being completed; treks to outer Mongolian jungles, cycling from John-o-Groats to Lands End even jumping from an aeroplane, they are all personal challenges driven on by a desire to succeed.  My personal choice may have been less physical, just words and not something my boys will admit to, but it was my challenge and I feel suitably smug now that I again have the choice to get up early in the morning, or leave the late night typing to another time.

There were hurdles along the way and unexpected calls on my very precious time which sometimes I may not have given quite as generously as normal.    I still had a house to run, three growing children needing food and water and a husband requiring guidance and tending.    I have another job that required my presence, not to mention the time I already give to the children’s rugby club.

Nothing is possible without support and I couldn’t have done this without it, keeping me going particular when the task seemed just a little too overwhelming.  Some people may not have taken on board quite how daunting the task was;  “yeah I always think I might write a book, it’s not that difficult you just need time” a close friend told me as she went on to tell me how her daughter was and why she was cross with her ex husband this time.  One friend shrugged her shoulders and said “oh well I must introduce you to someone, she’s a real writer.”  I am not quite sure what defines a real writer but I am working hard to qualify.     Most people were far more complimentary about my attempts even if they thought I may have overstepped the insanity line.

Scrum Down (working title), starts on a rugby pitch with a team of under 16s players.  It looks behind the obvious game and battles on the pitch at the private lives and what makes them tick.   I learnt more about the scary transition young lads are making as they bumble blindly into adulthood.   I think I realise the difficulties they have; to rise to the expectations of their families, their teachers and the outside world.

After all they are grownups; in some cultures they would have been welcomed into the adult world via some traditional and often weird initiation ceremony.   Here, in this country they are still children and particular as my study has shown me, boys, still wanting to run and have the freedom to play around.  Convention tells us they need to knuckle down and think about their futures and study subjects they just don’t get; they are still unsure of what they want, unready to take on the responsibilities of maturity.  Relationships are suddenly so fragile yet so intense.  Games they play have more consequences and can be more dangerous where alcohol and drugs are readily available.  The once playground battles of cowboys and Indians are played out on the wider scale with rival gangs often fighting for a cause they do not know;  play pistols and daggers replaced by knives and tension entrenched with a testosterone fuelled force they did not know existed.

Shakespeare first commented on this in Romeo and Juliette, exploring the feelings and unpredictability of teenagers.   Tybalt, I am convinced never really meant to kill Mercutio and likewise Romeo most certainly did not mean to kill Tybalt; he had just married Juliette, Tybalt’s cousin but in a heated moment it all goes too far and too wrong.

Sondheim and Bernstein updated the theme for their version of West Side Story where the same thread runs through their musical in a 1950’s era of Jets and Sharks.  You believe the union between Maria and Tony will bridge the disharmony on the streets; again it is the futile tragedy of Riff, Bernardo and Tony all dead that finally unites the Jets and Sharks.

Many other films; for example Grease and even the magical world of Harry Potter explores the tensions and rivalry as boys grow up, some with thankfully happier and more realistic endings than Romeo and Juliette.

I have tried in my novel to explore the inner workings of boys’ brains as they struggle with the conflictions and expectations they feel are expected just as hormones reach raging point and adulthood determines their expected loss of emotion and vulnerability.

It is very rough draft at the moment.  I am taking an enforced break from the pressure of deadlines but will go back to the story in time.   I already feel the need to change the end slightly and develop some of the characters and their families.    Memories1 is still waiting for me to brave out the publishing world so I would not hold my breath about Scrum Down being in print anytime soon.

Unfortunately I have missed the latest series of the choir, despite having been in love with Gareth Malone ever since he turned the troublesome school children around.  This time he picked on a group of military wives and has nurtured them into a 100 strong choir who sang at the Albert Hall for a Remembrance Day concert.

This particular project of his like the children at the school just hit a chord that I find hard to ignore.   The song has been written from the letters the wives sent to their beloved husbands while they served abroad.  I don’t want to ever take anything away from our brave brave soldiers fighting wars, who put their lives on the line every day for Queen and country.  Gareth, has however,  brought an awareness of the wonderful women they leave behind.

We only hear the bad press stories when a soldier is killed.  These woman wave their men off as they leave for war torn foreign places, as I wave Sexy Sporty Dad; then live in unbearable fear they may never see their loved one again.   They look after the homes and the children and carry on with their lives dreading the car coming to their door with bad news.   They welcome back their husbands, partners, fathers of their children and help them adjust to life back in a country thankfully not at war, often suffering if not from physical injury but the horrendous mental images that will never leave those men.

I have got behind the movement to get “Wherever you are” to No 1 for Christmas for two reasons; firstly I don’t care how brilliant, great, entertaining the winner of the X factor will be, I feel they do not have a right to take the No 1 spot.  So many artists produce great songs around this time and in recent years have not even been able to compete.

The second reason I will pre-order this record is that it is a long time since a song has moved me so much I actually want to buy a song.  The words mean so much and are written right from the soul.  You don’t have to wave your lover off to war to tell him “wherever you are; our hearts still beat as one.”

Please go to Amazon ( and play the video and I challenge you not to cry.  I have watched it several times now and I think my tears are starting earlier each time.   To quote Chris Evans “it is a song the world needs”.  If you feel strongly about anyone then dip into your pocket and buy it for them for Christmas.  Help Gareth and his wonderful choir to achieve their goal.



Memories1    written for NANOWRIMO last year and still being edited, waiting for me to overcome my fear and send it away.


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