Friday, 31 October 2014

Word of the Week

Time flying again and before I knew it Friday was here; Word of the Week time!

I'm being a bit predictable today and the word is ...

Of course there's nothing screams 'Autumn!' like changing the clocks.  The extra hour in bed is just a joy; waking up at the usual time then remembering that you don't have to stir for another hour - bliss!

Walking down to Abingdon I'm noticing more leaves falling, a slightly damp feeling in the air and that rotting leaf smell which sounds yuk but is really rather pleasant.

Yesterday I walked t the folly in Abingdon's Abbey Gardens with OH.  It was a work project for him and I thought it would be nice to go too.  I'm often aware how living in a place blinds you to its glories - it's all ordinary and familiar, you just stop seeing things.  So it was lovely to pop down to the folly and enjoy it. 

Not an autumn shot I know but I forgot to take my camera!
The added bonus, for me at least, was all the squirrels!  There were so many of them, running up and down the tree branches, squabbling and most wonderful of all sitting under the trees nibbling fruits and nuts from the trees.  If I stood very still and quiet I could get quite close to them.  I love squirrels, I love the fluid way they move, the ease with which they run up and down the trees and the way their tails flow behind them like furry trains.

Maybe the Word of the Week should have been squirrels!

The Prompt - My Favourite Season

#ThePrompt has got me thinking about seasons.  Rather apt as we move seamlessly into autumn.  It's tempting to wander down the 'season of mists and mellow fruitfulness' route but let's see if I can avoid getting stuck in a Romantic cul-de-dac.

Keeping It Seasonal.

Thinking about the seasons makes me think about my childhood.  Winters were snowier, springs were warmer and full of bluebells, summers were sunnier and much longer and autumns were crisper with tons of conkers.

I grew up in a large city so the seasonal changes were less vital to me.  Yes, the weather changed but mostly things plodded on as usual.  It took a severe weather event to impact upon our lives - snow rarely closed our school in the way a more rural school may have been.  Rain just meant get an umbrella out, it didn't cause flooding that devastated lives and homes.

That's not to say that I was unaware of the passing seasons.  We celebrated the coming of autumn with Harvest Festival, summer meant Sports Day.  But my childhood memories that are season-specific are summer memories.  Sunbathing in the park instead of revising for A levels; family holidays in caravans around the South West; sitting in a deckchair listening to the Test commentary on the radio with Dad; leaning over the bridge to wave to the train drivers; making a den in the garden; eating lunch on the lawn; white ankle socks and sandals; paddling in the park (just don't mention the broken glass incident).

But wait, I hear you say, The Prompt was about the favourite season, not just the one with most memories.  But, I reply, my favourite season has changed! When I was young it was summer - the lovely long sunny days away from school, spending hours out and about.  Now I'm older I love autumn; the cooling temperatures mean I can put more layers on (I'm always happier covered up!); the cool weather fashion of scarves, hats, gloves and woollies; the welcoming warmth of a mug of hot chocolate; soup for lunch; golden leaves fluttering down on my walk to the shops; the extra hour in bed when we change the clocks (why can't we do that every month/week?) 

So hurrah for autumn! Here's to the woollies and the warmth, feeling cosy wrapped up in wool, coming over all John Keats every time I walk under a tree!  

Friday, 24 October 2014

Word of the Week

#WOTW time again and can you believe I almost forgot?!?

This week has been all about

I've been 'commissioned' to write a SOW on An Inspector Calls and this has been taking up most of my time this week.  I admit to the occasional lapse but I've been rather good and have got plenty done.  The deadline is next week so with about half of the writing done I should be ok.

Small steps ... progress ... Good lord I almost sound positive!

Friday, 17 October 2014


#ThePrompt - Joy

I started off by looking 'joy' up in the dictionary - great happiness or a person or thing that causes happiness.  This didn't fill me with inspiration so I just decided to 'go with the flow' so let's see what happens ...


The clock crept slowly, oh so slowly towards 3 o'clock.  It had been 5 minutes to 3 for about 10 minutes; then 3 minutes to 3 for 15 minutes; the final minute had so far taken 3 hours and showed no signs of ending.

The noise in the room reached yet another crescendo and she looked up from her desk, peering over her glasses until it went quiet.  With a sigh she closed her book, clipped the top on her pen and stood up.

Thirty two expectant faces turned towards her.  Eager faces, hanging on her every word.  The power she had; power over these lives.  Whatever she said next would make or break their weekend.  She smoothed the wrinkles out of her skirt, removed her glasses and coughed to get their attention.

The minute hand finally reached 3 o'clock.  She breathed in deeply.  Here came her moment of joy.

"Class dismissed.  See you all on Monday."

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Wedding Anniversary

Today is my wedding anniversary - 32 years and counting!

I was thinking about my wedding day last night as I lay in bed.  How nervous I felt; how disorganised the morning felt (too many people in the house and nowhere to get away from them); how quiet it all went when everyone left me and my Dad alone before setting off for the church; how stiff with lacquer my hair was!  The whole day seemed to pass in a blur but somewhere in the house is a legal document that proves we did it - that and some rather dodgy 1980s photos!  When I look at those I'm amazed at how young we both were back then and I get a little teary over the folk who are no longer with us.  Sentimental old thing, me!

So today I remember a younger version of myself who was sick with nerves, a bit excited but had no idea what this journey would be like.  Oh and lots of love to the other half who is obviously a saint for putting up with me for all these years! 

Friday, 10 October 2014

Word of the Week

Oh hello Friday & Word of the Week. You've come round again rather quickly.  For once I've not struggled to think what I should choose as my word.

This week has been one of achievement for me.  Not earth shattering achievements it's true but ones which have made me feel happy. Life has been fairly stagnant for me over recent months and this has made me feel low.  Not depressed-low but not my usual self.  I've doubted that I have  anything more to contribute to life and this has knocked my self-esteem, never the healthiest but better than it was at the start of the week.
After several months of silence I've heard from the website I have written for in the past and there is a chance to do some more writing for them.  This makes me happy as I can exercise my writing muscles and use some of my brain.  It will also give some structure to my time as I can schedule time to write and work again.  I'm terrible at procrastinating and letting time fritter away so the chance to have some structure to my days will be good for me.
After thinking about it for months I finally got my sewing machine out.  It was hard work, the blooming thing weighs a ton! I started small using Love at First Stitch by Tilly Walnes.  I cut out and sewed a head band.  I know, it's not high fashion but it was so good to do some sewing after many years.  It was good to start small as I needed to get the hang of the machine again - she's a bit of a temperamental old bird (like her owner!)     
I've recently started going to spin classes at the gym after a break from them.  Yesterday I took a different class to my usual one and it was hard!  Twenty minutes in and I was suffering.  A little voice in my head said 'Get of the bike and go straight to the shower, this is too hard'  But I gritted my teeth and carried on.  I got to the end of the class, dripping sweat and knackered but boy, did I feel a sense of achievement!
So this week I had some achievements.  I feel really great about them and I'm happy to celebrate them here.  For a change I feel positive that I will achieve more next week and am looking forward to what it will bring. 
Feeling positive?  Who is this person and where has the old pessimist gone?

The Mistakes We Make

The Prompt 38 from @mumturnedmom has really set me thinking.  I'm sure this is the point of doing these things but sometimes I get introspective to the point of paralysis!  Several ideas ran amok through my brain but I think I've banished the unhelpful thoughts and come up with something I feel mostly happy with.

Voices. I'm hearing voices.  Don't worry, I've not gone doolally, well no more than usual.  I'm pondering mistakes as a topic and I'm hearing voices from my past.  All the people, well meaning I'm sure, telling me what I should do. 

School days.  Advice on what qualifications to take.  You didn't do well in History so don't do it at A level.  Do Geography instead.  You're not very good at French, try Biology.  I was rubbish at A level Biology - no O level Chemistry so much of it was gobbledygook. I have little interest in Geography but my mates seem to be having fun in A level History.  I should have listened to myself rather than those advisers.

College days.  Leaving after 4 happy years to what?  Deep desire to work in theatre.  All the work seemed to be in London.  Don't move to London; it's too big, too busy, too uncertain.  So I go home, apply for jobs I don't want and end up working for the council.  I should have listened to myself rather than those naysayers.

Teaching.  A job I loved at a school I loved.  One bully ruined my career.  I listened to advice.  If you're unhappy you should leave.  Life is too short to stay where you're unhappy.  So I left.  I've never really settled anywhere since, flitting from job to job trying to find my place.  I regret listening to those advisers so much.  I should have listened to myself.

So what have I learnt?  That I should listen to myself; that I'm the only one that can decide what's best for me; that however well meaning folk are they can't know what's best for me.  Some of the biggest mistakes I've made have been when I've put too much faith in what others have told me I should do. I'm one of those people who worry too much about what others think. I always try to please other people which has led me to agree to things I don't want to do because I'm afraid to say 'No' and risk upsetting them.  It's also led me to make some mistakes in my life that I regret.  They haven't all proved to be disastrous but my life would have taken different paths had I not listened to others and followed my heart.

 Am I too British to be selfish?  Everyone else before me; don't rock the boat; after you Claude, no after you Cecil.

Shame it took me this long to realise it!

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Sewing with Tilly & the Buttons

I never intended this blog to be a sewing or knitting blog - I'm no expert and also rather slow to complete projects so if I did make this a sewing or knitting blog then the posts would be few and far between.

However, after many months of procrastinating I finally dusted down the machine, wiped the rust of the hinges and set it up.  Now I'm not a techno-babe by any means but this is old school even by my standards.

This is my Mum's old machine, a Victor Deluxe according to the metal plates screwed to its incredible metal carcass.  This is one serious sewing machine.  It weighs a ton, a two hand and bend the knees to get it on the table job.  A good work out before you even start sewing!  I've 'misplaced' the instruction manual so had to thread it by trial and error - actually I was surprised how much I remembered.
I'd already cut out the Brigitte scarf pattern from Tilly and the Buttons excellent book ' Love at First Stitch' so all I had to do was pluck up the courage to start sewing.  So finally this afternoon I bit the bullet and pressed the foot pedal to become a sewer again.
And here it is, my first sewn 'garment' for about 15 years!
My camera phone isn't that good but it's a blue background, cats and keyboards print cotton.  I love it and even though I think I look like a twit in it, I intend to wear it loads.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Word of the Week

This week I've found it slightly easier to think of a word.  Maybe I'm getting better at it, maybe I'm starting to get into the vibe of summing things up.  So today I give you ...

I often feel helpless, especially when technology is concerned.  I'm starting to reach that time in my life when I don't understand things.  I watch the news on TV and I'm frightened by the way things are going.  I worry about things over which I have no control and turn them over and over in my mind.

I also feel that here are parts of my life that I am helpless to deal with, particularly around employment.  Many months of fruitless searching and I'm still gainfully unemployed.  I cannot do anything to help myself therefore I feel helpless.  It also means as far as looking after myself goes I'm dependent on others so again, helpless.

I'm trying to take an element of control - I'm hoping to start some more educational writing but again I have to wait for someone else to make a decision so I'm still helpless even when trying to 'help' myself!  Ironic or what?

Self help - I need to do it!  So here's to helping myself gain some control and feel in control.

The Prompt

I bumped into @mumturnedmom's prompt on her blog a few weeks ago, then lost the details, have now found them again and am finally joining in!  The fact that this weeks prompt was 'Books' was an added bonus.  As an English Literature graduate, English teacher and bibliophile I was instantly hooked and my brain began to whirl with ideas.

Naturally the first thought was a list of my favourite books.  Boring, predictable but it has to be done!
This is not really in 'like' order but Number One is my all time favourite book, ever.

1. Wuthering Heights - I first read this as an impressionable, hopelessly romantic teenager.  Although I've grown up and modified my requirements re the ideal man, my heart still beats a little faster when I think of Heathcliff.  I know, I know - he's a bit of a bastard but there's something undeniably romantic about the force of his love for Cathy.

2. Bleak House - this is a recent favourite.  I've always had a soft spot for Dickens dating back to my first encounter via Christmas Carol and Scrooge.  Bleak House has such wonderful characters - Esther Summerson, John Jarndyce, Harold Skimpole, Lady Dedlock - and the wonderful, scathing attack on the legal system which allows case to drag on over generations, sucking all the life and wealth from those caught up in its ever turning wheels.

3. Lord of the Rings trilogy - I've read this trilogy three times so far and I'm never disappointed.  Or as my son would have it, I've not yet outgrown my love of elves!

3. Being Dead - this is the  first Jim Crace who has become a favourite author (Harvest is awaiting my attention at the moment) Being Dead has an interesting narrative structure, working both forward and backward in time.  It is upsetting and unsettling in places but I still loved it.  Maybe a re-read soon.

4. The Night Circus - I adored this book from the first page, I was mesmerised and enchanted, reluctant to put it down and distraught when it ended.  It is a soaring fantasy revolving around a magical circus which appears and disappears seemingly at will.  Fantastic things happen in the circus and I wanted to visit, to stay and to be a part of this wondrous world.  I hope Erin Morgenstern writes either a sequel (hard to see where she could go with it but, hey, it's magic!) or another book so I can enter a magical world again.

5. The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared - wow, what a title  How could I fail to love this?  A tale of a feisty old man who refuses to be defined by his extreme age and travels through some of the defining moments of the Twentieth Century.  A joy from start to finish.

So there you are, five of my favourite books.  There are many others that I love and have loved reading that I would recommend others to read but these are the five that I adore and will re-read.   

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Second installment of the story ...

So now is the time to release the second part of the story into the wide blue yonder.  No reactions so far but maybe this part will get some comments!

No!  This wouldn’t do.  Why did it have to be that way?  She was her own woman, after all; she didn’t have to become her mother if she didn’t want to … and she didn’t want to so much!

Ellie put her mug down and headed upstairs.  After a dusty search under the bed (why did she never move furniture and clean under it?) she found what she was looking for.  Under a pile of cards, letters and postcards was a small blue note book.  It had a large yellow smiley stuck on the cover and the corners were scuffed.  Down on side was a faded strip; too many years left on her sunny window sill tucked under a French-English dictionary.  She pulled it out and stroked the cover gently.  For a moment she was 15 again; feathered hair, kohled eyes, platform shoes and Oxford Bags.  Ellie’s fingers trembled as she opened it.

There, in her younger-self’s handwriting, was her name and address.  It had been many years since she’d been there and many more since she’d lived there.  A drawing of a flower on the inside cover, several hearts coloured red and purple and a rotten anagram of a boy’s name.  What had he looked like?  She couldn’t remember.  After several pages – most of which contained a boy’s name (not always the same boy!) she found what she was looking for – her life list.

When she was 15, Ellie and her friends had each written a list of what they were going to do with their lives.  They had vowed, very serious thing to vow, that when they were ‘really old, like, 25’ they’d meet up and check their lists.  Of course that hadn’t happened – they’d lost touch when several of them didn’t stay into Sixth Form.  New friendships had formed, they changed when University started and even Uni friends had drifted away eventually.  So the life list had never seen the light of day again.  Thirty five years was a long time to wait to find out if she’d got the life she’d always wanted!   

Ellie’s Life List – by Ellie Jordan, age 15.

  1. Get married to either David Cassidy or Donny Osmond.
  2. Go to university and get a degree in English.
  3. Become a poet.
  4. Squeeze into size 10 jeans.
  5. Dye hair red and get loads of curls.
  6. Go to Italy and snog an Italian boy.
  7. Learn to drive and buy a 2CV.
  8. Learn Italian.
  9. Learn to ski.
  10. Become famous.

‘Wow, Ellie thought, ‘That’s quite a list!  I’ve managed 1 and a half – went to University and married; not David or Donny but that was always a bit ambitious!’

These were the ambitions of a 15 year old girl with stars in her eyes; real life hadn’t turned out quite like the teenage fantasy but that was true of most teenage fantasies – wildly impractical.  Her actual life had turned out to be rather conventional – after University a dull job; marriage; kids; some lovely jobs and several more dull jobs; approaching retirement and death!

‘God I’m depressing myself!’ thought Ellie.  ‘Better pull myself together or I’ll be in the kitchen swilling paracetamol down with gin!’

The list had depressed her more than she would have believed – all that potential, all those dreams and what had happened?  She’d got caught up in the boring business of ‘life’.  True of most people, maybe, but not what she’d wanted for herself.  She’d been the first member of her family to take A levels and go to University; these were chances that others hadn’t had – had she made the most of them?

Ellie wondered what her 15 year old self would say if she could see how it had all panned out – no snogging of fit Italian boys, little poetry and certainly no size 10 jeans!  She had a vague memory of sitting on a friend’s bedroom floor and writing the list.  Whose bedroom had it been?  She didn’t remember.  Who was there?  Still she didn’t remember.  Something so important had been pushed out of her mind and it took a shock in a mirror to remind her that she had once had ambition.  Tears welled up in her eyes and she rushed to the toilet for some tissue.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The fledgling novel's first public outing!

Well here we are, October 1st & as promised I'm putting up the first instalment of an unfinished novel I have lurking on the hard drive.  I'm not sure what to do with it - to finish or abandon, that is the question.

Read on, dear blog follower & let me know  what you think.

The Mirror

It all started when she decided to grow out her fringe.

Ellie was tired of the same old hairstyle; she’d lost count of how many years she’d worn her hair this way.  Time for a change!  A long conversation with her hairdresser later and she was growing the fringe out.  They also decided to leave her colour to grow out so they could change this at the same time.  This was fine to start with – just a longer fringe to deal with and some puffing of hair from her eyes.  Later, as the fringe grew longer, she tried in vain to tuck it behind her ears; there wasn’t enough hair to do that so it continued to flop in her eyes.

She bought some sparkly clips in an attempt to get it out of her eyes, where it was driving her mad.  However, she looked like a four-year-old who’s gripped their hair back in an attempt to look grown-up.  The hair flopped into her eyes for weeks, making her cross.

Eventually her hair was just long enough to secure with an Alice band.  She was stunned by her reflection – she couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen so much forehead!  She had no idea if it made her look silly, older or just shocked.  At least the years had been kind to her and there were no visible wrinkles.  Heaven knows what lurked under the skin!  A wrinkled soul perhaps?

Then one day the dreadful moment happened.  Ellie looked in the mirror to adjust her Alice band and saw her mother looking back at her.  Time stood still.  She stared and stared.  There was no doubt about it; she had morphed into her mother.  There was the hair parted in the middle and swept back; admittedly no waves in Ellie’s but the colour was identical.  A streak of grey across the side, a sprinkling of grey through the rest.  The nose was different – thankfully she’d got her father’s nose rather than the Miller beak.  Her lips were slightly fuller than her mother’s but as she stared at her reflection they were drawn slightly down, mirroring her mother’s pursed look of disapproval.  Her eyes looked tired, dark circles under them reminded her of those on mother’s face in the last months of her life.

There was no doubt – she was turning into her own mother.

Ellie staggered away from the mirror and slumped onto the stairs.  How the hell had that happened?  All her life she’d been desperate to look like anyone other than her mother; looking like your mother was a curse.  As a teenager she’d joked with her friends about how like their mothers they looked.  The worst thing anyone could say about you was that you looked like your mother – it was even worse than being a bad kisser or wearing last year’s fashion. 

Now it had happened - her mother had invaded her face!  The scary thing was she had no idea when it had started.  Was it a sudden transformation?  Or had it crept up on her slowly?  More to the point, why had no-one said anything?

There was no getting away from the fact that she was getting older.  The last birthday had been a zero one – the ones that people always said were ‘Big Birthdays’.  For Ellie it had been a number to keep quiet about.  Not that she lied about her age; she’d rather it never came up at all.  Some of her friends had got frozen at 45 – some more convincingly than others – but she was prepared to admit to 50 if she had to but was happier if people thought she was ‘in her 40s’.  Thankfully she looked younger than her age so the question of her actual age rarely came up – she’d smile coyly if someone asked and allow them to ‘guess’ she was a Forty-Something.

Ellie got up from the stairs and went into the kitchen.  Without thinking about it she filled the kettle and put it on to boil.  She went through the mechanics of making a mug of tea and wandered into the lounge.  She felt in a daze; the years really were passing faster and she was getting older, more like her mother (curses!)  Was she really on the verge of becoming an old woman?

Was that how she thought of her mother, as an old woman?  Memories came flooding back – her mother sitting on the beach under an umbrella; her mother wrapping herself up in an Aran cardigan; her mother insisting on a plate for a single biscuit. There were no memories of her mother behaving badly; having too much to drink; wearing unsuitable clothes; enjoying life. Did she seem like this to her children, a dull, boring old woman?         

As she sipped her tea, Ellie felt sad.  There was no getting away from it – she was getting older.  The number of years she had already lived was probably greater than the number left to her.  This was a sad thought.  She tried not to think about mortality if she could avoid it – even though she joked about her funeral plan!  So, there it was; life was slipping away, she was turning into her mother and she’d got old age, slippers and a bus pass to look forward to.
By the way, by the magic of technology I've scheduled this post - as it hits the blogosphere I'll be doing a spin class at the gym!  Who'd have thought, eh?