Attempting to make it as a writer

Archive for April, 2012

Waste Not : Want Not

I am sorry to admit that my writing; which I would list as my number one passion has had to take a very definite back seat at the moment.   I promise this is not an on-going state of affairs but there are only so many productive hours in each day.

There is an old adage that if you want something done – give it to a busy person.  I find there is a lot of truth in that comment.  A busy person will just fit it in to their busy schedule and complete it with no fuss and no fanfare.

I believe I would come under that category of a busy person but sometimes I would like to concentrate on one thing.  I suppose that is what NANOWRIMO gives me; one month to write the bare bones of the next book.   I have to admit to; a certain selfishness during November when my only thoughts are the story, uploading and getting my succeed certificate.  In my mind I live the story, the characters, the plots and the development.  I am sure if Freud analysed my writing he could tell where I went on which day to produce the different chapters of the book.

Currently my overworked mind is taking up with my latest project.   For several years I have been heavily involved with No 1 Son’s rugby team who will finish youth rugby this weekend, those still committed to the game and with the talent will continue into Colts. A very different set up and not reliant on ley volunteers who organise rather than coach.  I will be giving up my role as Youth Chair and my role as Mini Administrator and letting others take the tasks forward.

Naturally this will leave a huge gap in my life or so I thought.   I could, now knuckle down and work on my books.   It would be a great time to take “Memories” onwards and try seriously to get it published.    I would like to do something with “Scrum Down”, after all it is a story about an U16s season with a group of rugby players.  By the time I get round to publishing it No 1 Son will be playing for the VETs.

Life never goes as planned.   I am about to launch a community magazine.  Not just about to; it is well on its way and I have spent weeks trying to find advertisers willing to give me a chance.  I am not a salesperson, I may be good at many things, not that I can think of any off hand, but selling and cold calling is not one of the attributes I list on my CV.   I am however passionate about the community need for the magazine, supported by the very favourable reception that I have had locally.

So the magazine I am launching has plenty of articles and editorials and a few confirmed advertisers.   I really believe in the power of local enterprise.   There are lots of small businesses in every community who struggle against the giants in their trade but need an avenue to tell people they exist.   I hope that I will provide the conduit they need to increase their business and in return they will support my business.

There is always a slightly selfish angle to all new ventures and I am no different to anyone else.  My altruistic motives may be intrinsically good but until I am a well-known multi best-selling author I have to be realistic.   Once I am established I hope to be able to publish a story or a diary each month in the magazine to get my name and my writing out into the public domain.  Maybe then with the publication of my books or even the next NANO book I may already have a local following keen to read some of my work.

I remain steadfast in my commitment to my writing but do not always enjoy the luxury of dedicating enough time to it.  As most of you know I am a member of a fantastic writing group.   This group is supportive, encouraging and critical, in a developmental way.   Each month, we meet, we write and we are set homework, although not always easy I do try to have a go.  We try different genres, different styles, and different tones. It stretches my writing in ways I would never otherwise have had the confidence to try.   I no longer have long periods of writers of block as there is always homework to start, finish or edit.   I tend never to go for the conventional story but try to have a twist in my tales.  These develop as the story turns rather than I go out and look for a surprise.  I wonder what Freud would make of some of my twists and turns.

I now have multitudinous fragments of writing that one day I hope to come back to.  A piece of writing is never wasted.   Memories developed from a short story.  The remit for a competition was a children’s short story about a little girl afraid of the dark.  It had to be inspiring to other children and help them overcome their fears.  I believed I could be a great children’s writer, after all I had children, I worked with children and I appear to be in tune with children.  I didn’t get anywhere with the competition but it was one of my very early attempts at writing short stories.  The story and theme played on my mind and I wondered; what if there was an underlying reason for this irrational fear?  What if they took her seriously and investigated the fear and find out some darkened past?

The story still rolled around my mind for barren months with no avenue to develop.

I sat down on 1 November 2010, yet another brainwave from the writing group, with no idea what to write a novel about. My mind turning somersaults with different words, phrases and scenarios. Fear of the dark, triggers, irrational reactions, and emerging past all vying to be written.  Suddenly Memories tumbled into a story.  All those what-ifs developed plausible answers and other new what-ifs found their way on to the pages.  That was the easy bit, now we are at a far more difficult stage waiting to be sent to a publisher.

It is a lesson to remember; whatever we do or learn it is never wasted.

Here’s to my next chapter that it will bring new readers into my world of writing.  Maybe this November will bring a fictional thriller about the secret life of a magazine owner.



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Potato Pie

This came about after I had spent a couple of weeks in and out of hospital so had loads of potatoes left over that the rest of the family didn’t need having lived off pasta and takeaways.

Potatoes mashed with butter and milk
Bacon lardons  optional
Onion finely chopped
Mixed herbs
Cheese – cheddar

I boiled up the potatoes until they were very soft then mashed them really well with loads of butter and quite a lot of milk.  

In the meantime I had fried the bacon lardons and onions in a touch of butter then added the mixed herbs.

I then added a good teaspoon of marmite to the potato mix.  It needs to colour it but not overpower the potato.  Nobody should be able to realise what was added especially marmite haters such as my husband.  Mix in really well, this just adds a wonderful depth to the taste. 

I added the bacon mix at this point and mixed it all well.

Then add plenty of grated cheese –  I always use cheddar as I have plenty but you could use red Leicester which would give great colour, or a vegetarian alternative.

Then arrange in a baking dish.

A good layer of spinach makes this a meal in itself.  Add the potato mix as a complete layer.  If you have a small deep dish you could do spinach, potato, spinach, potato.  Then top it with another good covering of grated cheese.

This is now ready to pop into a hot oven 30 minutes before you are ready to serve.

A great filling warming dish, you could serve another vegetable or a salad with it.  I served with a bowl of baked beans that I had added a teaspoon of curry powder to.  I made enough for five but one child didn’t eat with us that night.  It all disappeared.

Enjoy and let me know how you try yours.


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Overcome the Obstacles

I met and got talking to a really inspiring woman yesterday.

I liked Mary-Anne as soon as I met her, we appeared quite similar.  She had children slightly older than mine but not much.  As often happens we started a conversation about our children, their struggles and comparisons.  The conversation easily moved on and we had a lot of laughs.  There were five of us in the conversation and we each had something to comment on.

It was as we congratulated ourselves on surviving to the end of the day, we joked that we needed the proverbial large glass of wine, giggled about the size of our glass and how often on facebook we added the comment about putting our feet up with glass in hand.

Mary-Anne said suddenly “you shouldn’t really say that to a dry alcoholic”

Well talk about a show stopping line.

Drying Out

She had to explain then.  You can’t interrupt the discussion with a statement like that and expect to get away with it.   She explained; a dry alcoholic because she had not touched a drink for 16years, she even remembered the date in July alcohol last passed her lips.   Then the story came pouring out.

Her mother had been an alcoholic, so by 14 she was buying and drinking herself with no real obstacles in her way.     She continued needing alcohol through her teens and into her twenties when she got married and remarkably had three children.   She had managed through will power to ease up on the juice during her pregnancies.  One of her children born with a tumour needed life-saving surgery at only two weeks old.  She relied on alcohol to get her through this time despite incorrectly blaming the tumour on her drinking.

After her third child was born, her husband became abusive and violent and she continued drinking to survive.  It was her mother who made her realise the severity of her drinking and the fact she was about to lose her children.  That proved to be her catalyst; she has not touched a drop since.

As I sat and listened to her tale of trials and tribulations in admiration I began to realise that although I think I have it hard sometimes; my achievements and well deserved they may be came from a great starting point in comparison.

Today I ran into an old friend I hadn’t seen in ages.  Her son had been moved to a private school in the area and he has now got into the prestigious Winchester College.  She was telling me how well he was doing and at just 11; already loving classical music and art.  He is a little boy who will go far and has had a fantastic start in life.

Not everyone has that opportunity and for those that do, they owe it to themselves to make the most of the opportunities life throws at them.  The rest of us should not feel cast by the way side. Yes we have to work at it but a tough start in life should not limit our achievements.  In fact the harder we have to rise the sweeter the taste of the successes when they come.

I have been a proud observer on the rugby sidelines as I have watched No 1 Son’s team develop and put their potentially high spirited jinks to a much better use, they’ve found an outlet for aggression and emotion that could so easily be directed elsewhere.  Not that every rugby player is a potential thug.  On the contrary every rugby player is a fantastically brave sportsman who comits wholeheartedly to their physicality and passion.  Sport has been the saving of many people who may well have fallen off the accepted pathways to adulthood.

I have seen children from difficult homes rise above their emotions and overcome their concerns to achieve great sporting triumphs on the track and in team games.   I have seen youngsters ostracised and pushed out of their peer groups go on and cultivate creativity and incredible inventiveness.

I am confident now that I can achieve anything in this world; I will get my books published if that is what I want.  I just need to build up my confidence to accept the rejections so that when that acceptance comes through, I will be ready for it.

I know that my children will also achieve whatever they want if they only put their minds to it.  I know what they have yet to realise, that it will take a lot of hard effort and determination on their part but Mary-Anne filled me with hope for my own children and that of many others.  The world is there for us to make the best of it and the opportunities will present themselves, when they do it is for us to seize them and make the best.

My new friend has three fantastic children and her own business.  She looks great, so confident and positive, how could anyone guess her problematic start in life.  I hope that I too can inspire people in some small way with what I accomplish; that in itself will be an achievement.


Check out some of Tiggy’s recipes at


Tip of the Week – Nigella Seeds

Nigella Seeds are a common ingredient particularly in indian cuisine.  

 They are not always easy to find if you  call them Nigella Seeds.
The seeds themselves come from an old cottage garden plant the Nigella Damascena  also known as love-in-the-mist or devil-in-the-bush.  Harvested and then dried they are sold as Kalonji or Black Onion Seeds.

They taste like a combination of onion, pepper and oregano.  They also have a slightly bitter mustard after taste but added to curries and pulses they are said to be good for many digestive ailments.

check out my other comments on Tiggy Hayes

Cupboard Turkey

This came about by accident, one day being organised I had got out some thin turkey fillets to defrost and then slice up into a sauce.   As it was the middle of the holidays and we spent most of the day out we ended up eating out and the forgotten defrosted fillets sat forlornly in the sink waiting for cooking. 
I cooked them in the tomatoes that night.  The following day I added the rest of the ingredients and we ate them.  If I was planning the meal I would do it all in the one day.

Turkey fillets
Tinned tomatoes with herbs (you can add a few extra mixed herbs)
Peppers sliced and pre-roasted
Buttery mashed potato

Cook the fillets in the tinned tomatoes.  

Add the peppers or anything else in the fridge you want to use up, broccoli, spinach, chopped carrots.  You could even add sweetcorn or peas at this point.

I had some old double cream that needed using up so covered the dish with this.

Some mashed potato made with loads of butter and really mashed up well spread over the top and scored with a fork.

Into the hot oven for a good 20 minutes to half an hour until the potato is deep golden and the filling is bubbling. 

I had added a dash of water to the fillets as the tomatoes had dried out a little overnight.  This meant they were still incredibly moist. You wouldn’t need this if you were doing it all in one day.

This dish went down surprisingly well for a grab what’s in the cupboard meal.  Some meals are obviously hits as this one was but not all mine are so popular.

Give it a try and see what you think, be sure to let me know how you get on, what else could we add to develop it?   Do you have any store cupboard meals?



Check out my other blog at Tiggy Hayes

Founded Friendships

I spent two nights in Treliske Hospital over the Easter weekend.  The trip was not prearranged and most certainly was not as enjoyable as the fantastic weekend I had meticulously planned.    We had managed to drive all the way down to Newquay on Easter Saturday and booked into what looked like a really great hotel.   The weekend was looking so promising.

Two hours later I called NHS direct and was instructed to go straight to A&E.  That was the last I saw of the hotel.

The episode, although not what I would have wished for did however remind me how transient relationships can be.   There was not a lot of interaction from the doctors themselves but the nursing staff, were the epitome of caring and listening.

It really does not matter how many times you go to hospital, and we worked out that I have been in every major hospital in the south west barring one, in some capacity or other, student nurse, patient or parent.  I am not keen to visit the last one in any capacity.  You never grow out of that scary sensation, the terrifying trepidation, the fearful foreboding just because you reach adulthood, and can comprehend that fundamentally each hospital is the same.

Nurses do a wonderful job of leading you gently step by step through your stay.  Each day and overnight you are assigned one angel to care for you and she (sometimes he) will comfort your emotional outbursts, tend your wounds, administer your medicines along with tlc and nurturing.  She will stop and chat breaking the monotony of the day with tales of her home life and your home.  Suddenly this complete stranger becomes your new best friend.  You divulge information you would not even tell your own friends or family.

My angel was Heidi who went well beyond the bounds of nursing care to make the place less frightening and more bearable.  She told me about her family, how she is working extra shifts to pay for her son to go skiing with the school and also how her children believed her story of Easter being delayed one day; so she could spend the day with them.   I told her how come we were supposed to be on holiday and how it had been a surprise for Sexy Sporty Dad and No 1 Son who had been staying down in Cornwall on rugby tour.  We sat and talked about fears many of which are unfounded but in the depths of those surroundings seemed huge and insurmountable.     Heidi finally had to go off duty and went home; I felt lost again and lonely.

Wandering to the ward kitchen I instantly made another friend, whose name I am ashamed to admit I forget.  After the initial meeting you do not really use each other’s names.   I do know all about her husband Jay, sons Dave and Josh and her daughter Sarah at home, she knows all about my children and the rugby tour.   We chatted about the weather, where we could find butter for toast and how come we were both there over bank holiday.  Returning to the ward I discovered she was camped across the room from me.  We spent several hours passing time and chatting about anything that came to mind.  The doctor came over to her, pulled the curtains round for privacy then with loud voice asked intimate questions.  She decamped and again I was left waiting.

Remembering other visits to hospitals where you make close friendships with the other parents or patients and swear to keep in touch.  As soon as you return home there is so much going on that time and life get in the way and suddenly you realise you didn’t keep in touch.

Life’s relationships are all like passing ships.  When I look back through my address book and see all the lost friends who I was sure would be there forever but have floated out of my life like driftwood.  Social media brings old friends coasting back in contact; can you ever go back to the intensity of that former life.   It would be great to hear from some of my teenage gangs, their lives and mine have taken such differing paths, could we ever recapture the friendship that was so founded on our loves and lives back then.

Forging Strong Bonds

My mother rang her best friend this week to wish her a happy birthday.  They had both arrived at boarding school aged 9 in the far reaches of Wales and forged a lasting friendship during those war years away from their homes and families.   71 years later and much water under their bridges their friendship is as strong as ever and their memories although a bit erratic now span years of ups and downs.


Looking around my friends now, I have such hopes of the foundations of this time being strong enough to last a lifetime.  I am sure there will be other fleeting friends and foes coming and going through my life but I hope the friends I gather along the way will stay true even as our paths part and times change.  As my children who have led me through my latest friendships move on I hope I stay firm and keep the strong bonds formed now for ever.

Here is to friendship may it be drawn-out, durable and dependable.


Check out the Cupboard Turkey I threw together with

Back to Black

Haven’t we had the most amazing February and March weather? Rummaging through the back of the wardrobe I dug out last year’s summer clothes and squeezed into my old three quarters.  They seem to have shrunk considerably from having been hidden in the back of a cupboard.

I know how we English like to chat about the weather; after all it is a great icebreaker. While the weather constantly changes we too have a continual flow of comments to make about it.  As a nation we are a fickle lot, never really happy; about being so cold, asking ourselves why does it never stop raining?   Now it’s too hot.

We have been treated to some very diverse unseasonal weather over the last few weeks.  Particularly this week, where some parts of the country are digging their way out of the snow; elsewhere some of us still bask under the record breaking hot sun.  Or have we?  Looking back over our climate patterns it appears to show some of the worst weather appears when we least expect it.

As I write this, I am reminded of the wonderful Vicar of Dibley sketch where they discuss the Great Flood, no no no no it was the great wind.   They move on to discuss the great snow which killed off Gladis, or was that in the great frost of 54 maybe it was the twins who froze to death in the great freeze of 48.  The sketch sums up our fascination with the climate and gives us specific dates on which to hang our memorable reference points.

In the past we have had certain years where the weather has been front page news.  The winter of 1962 -3; snow blizzards swept across Britain on Boxing Day covering the country in a thick blanket of snow up to 20 inches in some places.  It continued to snow until the beginning of March when the land began to defrost.  I am just too young to actually remember anything about that time.  I know my heavily pregnant mother returned to Hampshire from Devon; a week after my father had returned to work after the Christmas break.  Her father, not smitten by young love or a pregnant brain was concerned enough to insist he went with her.   Her sister followed behind in convoy;  they slushed and slipped for seven whole hours before finally reaching home.   Grandfather not only stayed and met his granddaughter 5 days later, he ended up staying till March before he was able to travel back home.

In 1976, however I do remember the heat, those awful stand pipes which I never thought we would see again.   I remember the forest fires and the jumpy images on the telly as the cameraman moved around filming the footage.     I can remember the fields and lawns all being parched and browning in the scorching sun.   I also remember that I was in Spain that summer where the heat had been so extreme they had monsoon type flooding.  I arrived home to find my family and friends executing an extraordinary series of ritualistic movements that turned out to be called a rain dance in the garden.  As this spectacle greeted my arrival the heavens opened and we were deluged, I was revered as having brought the rain from Spain. Back at school I was the only girl, not only in my class but in the whole convent school to return without a deep golden tan.  My skin having spent three weeks covered up and indoors was pasty and white and remained so until the following summer.

Sandwiching these two extremes was August 1952 in Lynmouth, on the North Devon coast where following a prolonged dry spell the whole of the exe valley became waterlogged when it started to rain.  The area drained into twin rivers East and West Lyn which subsequently flooded the village of Lynmouth destroying property and killing 34 people.  Lynmouth has of course been rebuilt with monuments standing testimony to the sad events of that night.

Topping the sandwich was of course the fateful night exactly 52 years later in August 2004.  We probably all remember when the quaint Cornish town of Boscastle was destroyed overnight in an appalling flood which swept down through the town miraculously not claiming any lives but causing a lot of damage.  Our memories will be enhanced by the capture on film of the dramatic events as they unfolded before our eyes.  I have been to Boscastle since the rebuilding of the town to see the dedicated display, depicting before, after and during.

Iconic Abbey

The extremes did not stop in Cornwall.  Latterly we had the summer of 2007 when flooding across the midriff of Britain caused so much damage and misery.  The iconic picture of Tewkesbury Abbey; surrounded by water detailing the extent of devastation, is still ingrained in my and many others memory.   We were party to this disaster watching it unfold daily as the helicopter circled round and round over the once rolling lands of middle Britain.  I am sure there will be many people who still retain the memory not only of the flood but the emotion as they saw their homes ravaged by the torrent of water.

All these floods took place during the summer months following periods of particularly dry spells when the sudden rainfall waterlogs the ground with its ferocious intensity.    Should we be crises stocking up with the sand bags now just in case there is a shortage.  Or will the 12 inches of snow covering Northern Britain saturate the ground enough, for our crops to grow big and strong rather than drown in a mass of melted mire.

I have sadly reverted back to black.  My brightly coloured summer floaty tops have again been replaced by black leggings and heavy top.  I will refrain from casting them back into the cupboard however just in case a rise in temperature returns allowing me to slip my weighty woolly off to reveal summer colours bursting out from underneath.


I was given my first commission the other day.   I was asked to write a press release about a friend’s rugby playing son who has been picked to represent England Independent Schools in Italy over the Easter holidays.   Naturally I leapt at the opportunity and to my delight and theirs it was published in both the papers I have sent it to.

I am in a quandary however about what to do with the first book “memories”.  I need to address the accuracy of the points highlighted but my reader cannot remember which they were.  She is going to reread for me.  Do I wait for her to come back or do I bite the next bullet and send it out again and who to this time.   I am tempted to send it to an agent but not sure I am ready for the rejection just yet.



Check out my special family Cauliflower Cheese with

Cauliflower Cheese

Sometimes I like to serve something healthy and nearly vegetarian. 
Totally vegetarian dishes in a house full of growing athletic boys creates a feeling of  scarcity and hard done by.
I find bacon lardons or pancetta a fabulous addition to many dishes which otherwise could be vegetarian.  If you do not eat meat please leave out.
My husband and I had served cauliflower cheese as a side dish at our wedding because we both really like it and we had both chosen it on our first meal date.  Seventeen years later and he still loves my version of this simple dish adapted to allow it to be the star of the show. 
Bacon lardons / pancetta
Cauliflower /Broccoli  broken into spears
Spinach – I had a bag of baby spinach leaves in the fridge.
Tomatoes – I used small Vine cherry tomatoes and sliced them
Butter  / Milk  /  Flour
Mature tasting cheese – I used cheddar – grated
Bread – 2 slices  crumbed – a good use of crusts if you have some that will not be used
Firstly fry your bacon lardons using a tiny bit of butter if required until crispy.
Add butter, milk, flour and half the cheese to make a cheese sauce with the bacon in it.
Meanwhile  boil some water and put cauliflower in for a few minutes until just beginning to  soften.  Remove, leave to drain then add the broccoli spears to the water for a couple of minutes only.   Both these vegetables need some crunch left in them.  
Lay the spinach in the bottom or the dish.
Add cauliflower and broccoli to the dish and cover with the cheese sauce.
Top the dish with the sliced tomatoes.
I crumb my bread slices and then add the grated cheese to the mixed crumbs – this mixes them really well together.  Sprinkle liberally over the tomatoes.
Cook on high in the oven till the cheese sauce is bubbling and the breadcrumbs have turned golden brown. 
Serve with fresh crusty bread or in this instant I served garlic bread. 
It goes down a treat and if in the unlikely event there is any left over makes a great lunch dish the following day.
Everyone will have their own method of making this dish from pre-cooking the vegetables to how to create the perfect cheese sauce.  How do you serve yours?   As a main dish or as a side, do you add broccoli or spinach or do you keep it true to the name?   We think the garlic bread compliments the meal really well but what would you like to serve with alongside the dish?
If you enjoyed this meal, check out my mumerings and comments on life by reading Tiggy Hayes.

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