Oh What a Bad Blogger?

I’m being a bad blogger again.  I missed last week and, the way things are going, I’m going to miss this week as well, and, in seven days’ time, I’m going on holiday to Tenerife for a week.  So, here goes.  I’m exhausted, having just cleared out the garage today, and, as I’m typing, my cat is standing on my lap, pummeling it.  And the television is on; one and only husband has to watch The News.

So, have I been posting loads of book reviews on my other blog, Dear Reader?  No, I need to write about three reviews, one for Instant Apostle (which I will do tomorrow, honestly) and a couple for books I read a few weeks ago (whoops!)

Afternoon Tea at The Belmont Hotel, Leicester
Afternoon Tea at The Belmont Hotel, Leicester

Yesterday, I went to Leicester, to see some friends from school, many of whom I hadn’t seen for a very long time.  It was absolutely amazing to see them.  We picked up as if the intervening years hadn’t happened.  Who would have thought us lot of tearaways,  our school uniform skirts bunched up under our school belts and school hats folded into four, rim cut off and mutilated in every conceivable way, would be eating anything so ladylike as afternoon tea?  But we did, and it was very nice.  Afterwards, having put flowers on my parents’ grave, I wandered into town and took a look at the Clock Tower, and Leicester Market.  Years ago (not telling you how many), I sourced the material for my wedding dress in Leicester Market, from a stall called ‘Geoff the Pirate’.  £10, it cost.

Clock Tower, Leicester
Clock Tower, Leicester

I have been doing some writing over the last couple of weeks.  I even managed to write on the train up to Leicester and back.  I’m getting good at writing on trains.  I  don’t seem to be distracted by endless announcements, although other people’s conversations are more difficult to cut out.  I’ve been plodding away at The Novel.  Editing is such hard work.  Getting anything down, as per the Nano philosophy, is the easy bit.  Putting it right – no reps, punctuation correct, using the right phrase, the one that says just what you want it to, making sure you involve all the senses – all this is much harder… but, just when you think you’re there,  you think of an alternative – and much better –  way of writing the scene.  Next day, when you look at the alternative scene again, you see how that could be improved by editing… and so on.

The problem is I don’t seem to be able to see the minutiae until I start  what is really proofreading; this is all upside down, I know.  I should be getting the big picture right and then cross ts and dot is.  I’m sure that a proper writer would be able envisage his/her story much better and save himself/herself time.  Next time, I will do it differently.  (Says she.)

Now, I’m logging off.  I’m exhausted.


Holding That Thought (Thoughts)

I’m writing this as Florida is being ravaged by Hurricane Irma.  It’s hovering outside Naples, a  beautiful seaside resort, with a wide and sandy beach, lined with old fashioned clinker-built houses, with raised verandas, seemingly straight out of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ (although I know TKAM is set in Alabama).  I visited Naples in 2008.  I (and my neighbours opposite, who have a holiday home there) are waiting for it to reach Sarasota, where I stayed with in 2008, with our wonderful friends, A and S, who are (thank God) safe and in north London.  I remember sitting outside with them, in late October, at a cafe in Sarasota, drinking gallons and gallons of black coffee from a metal jug.  The atmosphere was so relaxed and peaceful.


Galveston, Texas
Galveston, where the buildings are on stilts, to protect against hurricanes and tsunamis.

I feel as if I’ve been through this emotional process all before, a few weeks ago, when Hurricane Neville swept through Texas.   In 2011, we stayed in Houston with our friends B and C and we heard all about their daughter, J, who was, at that time, at college in Louisana.  Sadly, C has since passed away, and J has returned home.  A fortnight ago I was following J’s Facebook feed, as she described how the water swept up their road in Houston, up the sidewalk, creeping up the garden… but never inside the

San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas, which was too far west to be damaged by Hurricane Neville.

house.  I noted the many prayers – as this is Bible Belt – and the urgent calls for anyone who has a boat to come and help.  Is it coincidence that the film ‘Dunkirk’ has just been released?    Amazingly J found time to respond to our many (well-meant but probably irksome) emails, assuring us that THIS IS TEXAS.  WE LOOK AFTER OUR OWN.  And then she went on to tell us about some football star who had raised several million dollars in hours.  Hold those thoughts.

We too have experienced flooding, in our village in Essex, several times over.  The day of the Referendum in June 2016 was a case in point.  My husband tried to ring the Election Office to say that we might not make it to the polling station (we were both working as poll staff), but he got no reply as – guess what?  – the Election Office was also flooded.  (We did get there btw.)  In previous years I have waded through the surging river in what was hitherto our road.  Other neighbours (not the ones with the house in Florida) with whom we had had any contact for years, knocked on our door, walked into our garage and (as I was alone in the house) moved our mower on to wood blocks so it didn’t get waterlogged.   I then walked further up the road and, seeing that other houses were indeed flooded, offered to put anyone up who needed it.  Another neighbour, remembering that we used to offer bed and breakfast, sniggered and asked me how much I would charge.  I walked away feeling very hurt.  Hold these thoughts also!

Further back, we’ve known hurricanes.  Remember 1987?  We lived in Surrey back then.  We went to bed that night, thinking it was a bit windy.  In the small hours, I looked down our garden, to the two stout (and I mean really stout, with trunks as thick as a man) oak trees bending over like pipe straws.  (Amazingly, they returned to their normal posture afterwards and I continued to fasten my washing line to them.)  My husband noticed that his car boot was open and that his library of sheet music (which he used when he played the organ, worth probably about £1000) was blowing about in the ‘breeze’.  He rushed outside in his pyjamas to rescue it, pinning down ancient, dog-eared pages with one hand as he attempted to pick up others.  He didn’t lose any of it.  We debated whether to wake our four-year-old daughter, sleeping upstairs in her attic-conversion room – we didn’t and she was ok, but I think we should’ve done.  The following morning, I got her up as usual, dressed her in her uniform and drove her to school; she was one of only four children to arrive in her class.  Many of the roads in Surrey were blocked by falling branches and whole spinneys and woods were flattened.  Hold that thought also!

We writers need our resources.  We need to hold on to our memories, not just what happened (which will get recorded in the history books and in Wikpedia), but what we were thinking and doing at the time.  If you can’t use it in your writing, someone else will.

Insecure Writers’ Support Group – Surprising Myself

Insecure Writing Support Group badge
IWSG badge

Tomorrow is Insecure Writers’ Support Group day, but I’m writing this early because tomorrow (Wednesday) I’m travelling to London, to the Albert Hall, to hear/see the Proms.  They’re playing Shostakovitch’s Symphony number 11.  Very exciting.

The summer has not been a good time for writing.  Not enough time.  Too many other things to do, nice things like a holiday to Ireland – and Proms.  Now the evenings are drawing in and the light in the mornings, shining brightly through our windows only last week, has suddenly become dull, and I’m switching on the lights before making breakfast.  The summer is over.  Like many, I think of the year as beginning in September, because that’s when the academic year begins.

I have got very cross with myself for not doing any writing during the summer, especially as I’m not teaching.  It’s been very difficult gathering up the threads of my novel every time when writing sessions are so far apart.  However, I surprised myself last week by doing just that and carrying out some really useful editing.  Note to self:  must stop wanting to alter (improve?) the action in the beginning chapters.

View of Himilayas from Shimla, India.
View of Himilayas from Shimla, India.

Last February, I truly surprised myself by writing a poem, in common metre (6, 8, 6,8) for reading aloud, to pre-school children, all about dinosaurs.  I’ve always convinced myself that I can’t do children’s and I can’t do poetry.  Given the topic The Sea by my writing group, I scribbled the lines of my poem whilst on holiday in Shimla (in the very north of India), on those tiny scraps of notepaper provided in hotel bedrooms, singing to myself Amazing Grace (which, according to Wikipedia, is in common metre).  There, Sudbury Writing Group, I did it for you.