29/10/2017

Life struck again then, as it has a habit of doing. It started when Grumpy Husband had to go to Toronto for work. On his return, he was taken seriously ill, though he had been unwell for weeks before he went – with a virus that had floored him and a tooth infection that he needed two lots of antibiotics to get rid of.

After his flight home, he walked through the front door,  looking terrible and tired, went to bed with suspected jetlag and slept for a couple of hours. By the time I got back home, in the evening, he was struggling to breathe, a struggle that worsened through the night.

He dozed on and off taking my Ventolin almost hourly to get through, and called the doctor at eight a.m.  (as soon as possible). An appointment was made for ten which he attended by car. The doc sent him straight to the hossie with a suspected pulmonary embolism. They admitted him though he tried to discharge himself, then after  days of tests,  treatments, fall-outs with consultants (husband was still grumpy despite brush with death and first consultant was an imperious dolt) he was diagnosed with heart failure and pneumonia and he may or may not have had a pulmonary embolism.

As luck would have it, all this happened at half term and so was easy to manage logistically and lovely step daughter came to stay. He’s home now but things will be different from now on as we will have to learn a new ‘normal’  geared to make husband more healthy because his heart will never go back to what it was.

Have decided to make this an opportunity not a threat and have removed all his cigars and packets of full fat butter. He was fortunate to be given a chance to change I reckon, some people have a massive heart attack with no forewarning. At least we have been warned. Its back to school tomorrow and I think we’re good to go brave new world wise, and a whole new chapter is about to unfold.

Studying wise I’m two weeks behind and am likely to lag another week as hubby cannot drive for several weeks as part of his rehabilitation. Have organised an extension for my next project though so am hoping that will be okay.

Since I last wrote I’ve had a piece of CNF published in Salome Magazine (cover below) under the pseudonym Jane Kermode. It was a TMA from last year and I’m glad its found such a wIssue+3+Cover_Final_150dpionderful home. (Salome is my new fave litzine). Here’s the link  https://www.salomelit.com/salom-issue-3-october/ but you have to pay for a submission – you can’t read it for free. They’re dead good and pay writers fifty quid a pop.

I’ve also got a story in ‘One’ an anthology from Ellipsis Litzine – here’s the link http://www.ellipsiszine.com/one/ which again is not free. I’ll post a copy of the cover when the complimentary issue comes. Can’t wait to read it!

I’ve also got a story in the Flash Festival Anthology which will be ready in time for Chrimbo and I’ve got two teeny tales on the longlist for Ink Tear’s Annual Flash Fiction Competition. Here the link to them –  http://www.inktears.com/news-b/2017/10/25/longlist-for-flash-fiction-contest-2017

That’s about it. Off to take George to work now and make a very healthy dinner.

 

 

 

13/9/2017

I’m back in the hobbit house for a couple of hours only, but had to blog because today is a day of new beginnings. The OU site for year two of the MA went live today and its my Dad’s 80th birthday though we’re not having the party till a week Saturday.

Also very excitingly,  I took both boys to school/college together this morning for the first time since reception, as they’re both now at sixth forms in Cambridge (different ones) but they’re both on the same bus route which is something to celebrate when you live in the middle of no-where like we do.

It’s also my mum-in-law’s 82nd birthday and we’re gathering friends and family early this evening for a meal and trip to the cinema which will be nice way for her to start her 83rd year.

Also, the internet is working properly, not a day too soon as we are all so dependant on it for our studies and work.

Also I do my first tutorial next week, teaching beginners flash fiction to adults at The Ivo. The head of Adult Learning has sent me handbooks to read, and lesson planners to fill in which I will work on tomorrow, so another completely new start.

The weather has come out in sympathy with all these nativities. Last night there were howling winds lashing the fen at the front of our cottage as the first storm of the autumn earned its name – Aileen. I don’t know why storms have the names they do, other than its alphabetical and alternates gender. If I were a storm, I’d want be called something more suggestive of power and motion, like Aurora or Artemis or Atom.

Anyhoo, when I took the boys to the station this morning, the village was already a hive of activity with a brace of tree surgeons picking up dead branches that had fallen in the night. The track outside our cottage is thin and there’s no room for car’s to pass, so a mis-placed branch is a proper hazard. IMG_0347

She’s blowing right now, is Aileen, but only bending the trees because their dead wood has been blown away. They’re pretty noisy though, close to them as I am in the hobbit house, but its an exciting noise, full of promise not danger, a sort of herald of new thing a-blowing in.  It wont be long till the noise changes from autumnal rustling that sounds like  waves breaking, to dry tap-taps of naked branches from wintery trees like the ones above.

I know this academic year will bring challenges. I know we’ll probably cry as much as  laugh, and, if the start at one of the sixth forms is anything to go by, we’re going to have to combat institutional laziness and unsatisfactory systems, but even that will be a learning experience that will teach us something.

Of yes…and on the writing front have made many submissions and had a weird flash published at Occulum. Here’s the link https://occulum.net/2017/09/05/spin-by-jan-I’mkaneen/

I feel like the wind blown trees sound, full of life and ready to get cracking.

25/8/2017

It was a big day in our house yesterday. The moment had finally arrived. Results day for Harry’s GCSEs (well everybody’s GCSEs).

School had sent an e-mail a couple of weeks ago, saying they would email the results at 6 am. Harry had been to a party the night before but I told him I’d get him up early in case the internet went down (again) and we had to do a dash to school to get paper copies (they won’t tell you over the phone).

I woke at six but waited till half past just in case there was a delay, then went to Harry’s room. He was in very  deep sleep then all bleary-eyed when I woke him. He couldn’t remember his password to log into the pupils portal. He didn’t get to sleep until 4, he said. He’d been lying  awake feeling something like a cross between the night before Christmas and being told that someone has died.

He finally managed to tap in the right email and password but only after three, half -asleep attempts

The writing was way too small for my old lady’s eyes, but I could see the A star for biology.

‘What does it say for maths?’ I asked.

‘Eight.’ he said still not smiling yet.

‘Are you sure its not a six?’ I said.

‘Let me have another look,’ he said, moving the laptop closer.

I squinted. ‘No,’ I said. ‘I think it is an eight.’

Its an eight Mum,’ he said, his face starting to break into a massive smile.

And it was.

The full results were: A stars in Maths, Biology, Chemistry, Physics and English LangIMG_0758uage. A’s in History, Geography, and English Lit, and a B in German. The boy had done it! Got the grades he needed for Hills.

He’s gone to Reading Festival now with his mates who all got what they needed, too.

I am so very proud of him and I hope he’s partying like its 1999, or at least that he did last night. This is a new start for both of us. No more long school drives, no more six o clock starts. He can be independent and get the guided bus there and back again, to the best state Sixth Form College in the County. The picture above is one I took last year at La Sagrada Famila, in Barcelona. The light was so intense, shining through the stained glass windows into the vast dark space. It looked almost tangible, like running water, leaking into intense puddles on the floor. It made me well up because it was so beautiful. That’s why I’ve put it on here. The feeling I felt when Harry realised his success was similar.

Anyhoo…on the writing front, I found a home for the weirdo spider story – a new E-zine called Occulum. I’ll post a link when its published (first week of September). Also I’m to be interviewed by Uprising Review as part of my prize for winning Zero Flash this month. I’ll post that link too when its done. I also entered a wee flash into Ad Hoc.

 

 

 

15/8/2017

Just read my last post and sadly I didn’t get the story submitted to Molotov Cocktail because my connectivity went off for about the thousandth time in two weeks.
We’ve had no end of internet problems and BT have been absolutely useless.

George phoned them dozens of time when we were away in the Highlands, to no avail, then Nick spend 8 hours going through the same loop with customer services which always ended in them testing the line and cutting him off. We live in the sticks with hardly any mobile connectivity so every time they disconnected his call, he had to go back round the loop. On the fourth attempt, he begged them not to do it but they said they had to, and it took him about half an hour going through the same story with someone else at the call centre to get back to the place where they’d just cut him off from. It was like Groundhog day, all over again. They wouldn’t have it that it was the line and sent us three new routers during this stage of the proceedings, and to make matters worse, they kept insinuating it was somehow our fault. BT broadband really do have terrible customer service. Their whole approach seems to be to avoid having to do anything,  other send routers out. The whole process seems geared up to fob you off – not to solve your problems, so you go away and give up.
Of course this is a ridiculous tactic with us, because every one in our house can’t exist in the real world, we all have to be wired in. Nick and I both work from home,  and we have two teenagers. How we ever managed before t-interwebs I do not know. Grumpy Husband, who at least had reason to be grumpy over all this, and who did his very, very best to sort it out, reckons we’ve become too dependant. Too dependent, I screeched – of course we’ve become too dependent, the interweb’s given us the whole of the world’s knowledge at out fingertips, allowed us to communicate with almost everyone in the known universe. Of course we’ve become too dependant. Why wouldn’t we have become too dependant?
After he’d calmed me down, he said he said he thought it was a fair point.
To cut a very long and upsetting story short, after two weeks, they agreed to send out an engineer who said it was our switch box which was from the fifties. It was slowing everything down and knocking everything out. It worked for about three days before we had a power cut and everything went tits again. We’ve decided to have a new line put it so we’ve got a belt and braces approach. I’m doing the final year of my on-line MA come October and I need robust connectivity for that, but at least we have a plan.
Anyhoo, as I said at the beginning, about 3000 words ago, I missed the Molotov Cocktail deadline. Despite this, when the list of the winners was out last night,  I still felt disappointed not to be on it. I know, I’m bonkers. I’m also in possession of a totally IMG_1468weirdo flash fiction about gender equality and fake news, on a planet of intelligent spiders, (it was the prompt) which I need to find a venue for. This could be tricky. Going to have a re-read of it today and see of I can find a different strange zine that might want to provide it with a home.

 

Above it a picture of a pine-marten. I took it when we were on our holibobs. Five of them visited every evening.  It was such a privilege to be able to see them, and from the comfort of our own (rented) front room. I thought it might be an antidote to the annoying broadband. I think I’ve probably moaned enough, and at least I’m currently connected, and can post this.

7/8/2017

Back in the Hobbit Hole today tapping out a story for Molotov Cocktail, for a wee flash comp whose theme is ‘worlds.’ Its one of my fav zines is Molotov Cocktail – follow the link here –https://themolotovcocktail.com/ to sample its specialness. I love it for its clever mix of retro darkness and the way the stories  illuminate the here and now by casting shadows from other bizarre worlds. Haven’t really got enough time to write owt good, but I love the prompt so much I’m dashing summat out anyhoo, and anyway, I’m feeling a bit cock-a-hoop because I won the monthly Flash comp at my other fav site, Zero Flash  – https://zeroflash.org/

My winning 300 word flash is really nasty, and the prize includes having the story performed, which I’m sooo excited about. I’ll post a link when its done.

In the real world, Harry came back from his trip to America looking really well apart from a swelling on his back, which is a rugby injury from the last match. I think he’s finding home a pale shadow of ordinariness after a fortnight in California. Its hard coming back to a house full of people who didn’t share your extraordinary experience. I know what it feels like when you try to make people know what you lived, but the words don’t capture it, they onIMG_1478ly reinforce how its all slipped into the past. First time for Harry all this, but he had a wonderful experience and he’s got Reading to look forward to…after the dreaded GCSE results…

A day after Harry got home, George and Paulina flew to Poland, so we all went out for a meal to celebrate being together for a day and also my distinction. Here’s a picture of the gorgeous quartet after they’d stuffed their faces. Right better go back to my strange scribblings for this comp, to see if its as weird as it was an hour ago and to edit it better.

 

23/7/2017

OU MA first year results were out last week, available a day early, and I’m very pleased to say that I got a distinction. This means that I now have a Post Grad Cert in Humanities and can say so after my name, which is pretty cool.

Today I started writing again, after a hiatus of four weeks. During my time off, beside climbing Snowdon, spotting puffins and going to Aberystwyth; despite organising trips away for two sons to California and The Secret Garden Party, despite going to a wedding oop north and driving here there and everywhere, I’ve had several ideas for short stories. The one I started  writing today however, only occurred to me this morning. Worried that I’d forget some of the other ideas, in the writing of it, I also started new files for them all, so they each have a title.

I wrote for about five hours but made little progress. I’m not really match fit writing wise and need to get my eye in again I think. Also I usually just start writing without an idea in my head, to see what comes out. This time I know (ish) where I want the stories to end up, so its a wee bit different. I think tomorrow I’ll just keep writing until I have a very imperfect first draft of something finished, then do the same with all the other unwritten stories – that way, I should have many potential starting points for next year’s MA by the end of the week.

Oh yes, I should have mentioned that all this time to write has come from being on hols in Gairloch, in Scotland. Nick and I are boyless, and in wonderful seclusion – him forIMG_1453.JPG fishing – me for writing. Here’s a pic of the view I’m looking at from the sitting room window. The sound of the sea is all around me, hushing in waves. It soooo relaxing, I keep wanting to fall asleep. Maybe one of the reasons for lack of writing progress today is that its almost impossible not to stare out of the window. Maybe I should start a story set here so the staring will have purpose. Though today the sea is quite calm I keep imaging what it would be like in a storm. The gentle hushing that sounds like rest and relaxation, would become a hiss or a roar and the waves would crash on the sifting shingle. This place is two places I think, depending on the weather.

8/7/2017

Am back from a few days in Wales with my friend. We:

Climbed Snowdon, (which nearly killed me, but she is in the army reserves so kept me going despite my fat fifty-year-old hips.) Luckily it was blowing a hoolie with low lying grey cloud cover – or maybe we were just very high – and horizontal rain that fell in Mexican waves, so it wasn’t too hot.

Went puffin spotting from Beaumaris where we booked a high speed dinghy that got up to 54 miles per hour to take us to Puffin Island. The skipper was a real character who gave us a guided tour of the shoreline. His local tales were almost as tall as the mountain range which dominated the westerly horizon, and if I were to give him a nickname it would be Jackanory, but he was seriously entertaining. It was a perfect day really because we found the puffins which for me has been a lifetime search. I’ve had so many trips rained off, postponed, or attended but no puffins to be found, that I wasn’t really wasn’t expecting to see any, but on the 6th July 2017 finally, I did. Had a little tear in my eye as we went ashore with the speedwell blue sky and the thin clouds hanging over the mountains.

Went to Aberystwyth as I went to college there, and Clarey wanted to see my old haunts. It was an unusual weather day for Aber, sunny, calm and peaceful. My student memories recall raging seas and driving winds; grey summers and icy winters, but on this visit all was muted blues and hazy greens and the sea was a gentle friend lapping in and out like it had never wreaked havoc. We had a drink on the pier, played the arcade, Clarey had an ice-cream and got her fortune told by Zoltan the tacky automaton on the seafront. She paid a quid to be told she talks too much. Being a supernatural sceptic I was moved at the accuracy of this mind-reading feat, and will cock my snook less in future. We bought books in the bookshop then had paninis for lunch before heading home.

Today we are going to watch outside Shakespeare, which is put on every year at a local pub called The George by an amateur group of hobby thesps who are usually quite good. It rained last year which was okay because it was The Tempest. This year the forecast is for a hot sunny night and the play is Coriolanus.

Writing wise, I went to the writers day meeting in Ely last weekend, and came second in their short story prize. Here’s a pic of me getting my cheque from the Mayor, which was in the Ely Standard. I joined a writing club whilst I was there and am going on Monday, to see what its like. The day was actually very useful. I met two lovely writers and listened to some good talks which I will blog about on Monday, when Clarey’s gone home. Right, off to go swimming now – the over 40s session – hope its not too crowded.