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.

 

 

3.7.2017

Am sitting on my sofa having had a mad morning dashing about, packing to go to Wales this afternoon. I’m going with my friend, Clarey who’s due to arrive about oneish. We’ve been meaning to go away for ten years or more, but have never had the opportunity due to family obligations, but now Harry has finished his GCSEs and school is out for summer, we can finally go.  I have this brief hiatus in which to blog, after a morning spent washing, ironing, shopping (to get things in for the family whilst I’m away), showering, shopping again (because I forgot the shampoo) and going to the cash point to make sure everyone has dosh for the gym and the guided bus whilst I’m away.

Its a bit of a watershed moment for me and Clarey as she has just passed her BA in archaeology and my kids have all officially left school. Feels like the end of an era and the start of a new phase, thus we have decided to mark the moment by climbing Snowdon and staying in Snowdonia for three sleeps. The weather looks good for tomorrow, not too hot, a bit of drizzle in the morning and clearing in the afternoon for a good chance of a clear view once we’re up there. We’re doing the longest but least inclined route (for the elderly) so hopefully we will be okay. Unfortunately, I have a cold but its not a bad one and should be much better by tomorrow.

Writing wise I have done little since I last blogged as life has been a hectic whirl, but I have had a story published in Flash Flood as part of National Flash Fiction day, had a short story published in Scribble, I was short listed and published in Brilliant Flash Fiction, and I came second in a local comp for Ely Writer’s day and won £25 and attendance at a champagne reception after the final concert of Ely’s Art Festival. I was given a cheque by the mayor of Ely and had a photo taken which I’ll put on here next blog. In the meantime, here’s a pic of me and Harry just before his prom. harrypromnI’ll also link the digitally published stories so they’ll be readable here.

Last weekend I went to the Flash Festival in Bath. It was a wonderful experience. I learned lots, met many of my Flash heroes and made a genuine connection with a sister student from my Masters Forum. Ali and I spent much of the two days together and I so enjoyed her company. I felt her to be a real kindred spirit, writing wise. The winners of the Bath Flash award were announced at the end, and included the wonderful Nod Ghosh, who’s story took my breath away. So many congrats to her. Her winning a prize was the icing on the cake of a thoroughly wonderful weekend.

I intend to blog much more in the month of July as I’m hoping to get more writing time once I get back from Wales. I have a couple of good ideas for flashes too. Right off to make Clarey’s sarnie. Might blog later from lightest, highest wales.

29.5.2017

Well that was a full on year of learning. The first year of my MA in Creative Writing at the OU has now come an end. The deadline for our EMA submissions was Thursday. I submitted a 4000 word short story called Mornings After the Night Before. A complete departure for me and a story I would never have attempted before the course started. Its written in the third person in alternating sections inside the heads of two protagonists as they go about their seemingly unconnected day. Its written in a Bolton accent both in terms of dialogue and the narrative voice. (The narrative voice is a sort of chameleon that takes on characteristics of the protagonist it sits next to.) The story is set in Bolton, Salford Quays and Manchester Victoria, at the actual station, which is such a strange co-incidence following the awful events of last week, when the concert at Manchester Arena was suicide bombed, killing 22 innocent people.

Despite the mind-numbing awfulness of this act, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more proud to be a Manc. The coming together of the community to show solidarity and mutual support in the face of the cruel losers who’ve managed to twist their minds into believing that there is anything other than horror and inhumanity in the killing and maiming of free spirits and children, has been extraordinary. ‘Dont Look Back in Anger’ by Oasis is something of a family anthem for us Kaneens. We sing it at gatherings – on birthdays, and at Christmas – when we get together to reminisce about long ago rows and distant holidays when we moaned more than joined in and drove the parents bonkers. Its all nostalgia and love now, because we’ve done what the song says. It moved me to tears to hear the crowds singing it too. There is such power in words and music. Tony Walsh, reading out his poem, ‘This is the Place’ to grieving crowds, had everyone held in a thick silence, full of sorrow and pride and determination. Never have I been more convinced of the need for word smithery, to tell our side of things, to win hearts and minds, to stop the madness.

19/4/2017

aquariumCame back from Barcelona yesterday where a fun time was mostly had by all. The hotel (Hotel 1898) is on Las Ramblas and is wonderful, a curious checkerboard of black and white marble in cool post-colonial splendour, with excellent customer service – friendly and prompt – efficient without being cap-doffing, and they do a killer mojito in the rooftop restaurant.

The footie was seriously weird. Barca are unbelievably good up front and unbelievably bad at the back. Being a lifetime Bolton Wanderers fan I couldn’t help but think Barca could do with a bit of help from Big Sam in that department, but as he’s working his particular Allerdycian magic at Crystal Palace at the mo, spose there’s no chance of that. Anyhoo we were perfectly positioned to see Messi score two fab goals and Barca hold onto a flimsy lead to win 3-2 in the end.

On day 2, we went to the Picasso museum and the teenagers were very well-behaved though I reckon the Las Meninas room stretched their engagement a wee bit. Grumpy husband curiously taken with it all though, and even bought himself a t-shirt.

We decided to go to the Aquarium on day 3 because we all wanted to see the axolotls, none of our party of four ever having seen an axolotl before. I just like saying axolotl, so went along with the plan. The aquarium was an amazing space full of strange and curious sea flora and fauna  – octopi, nautiluses, puffer fish and such like. We were in there for three hours and right at the end we realised there were penguins too and so dashed off to spend another half hour watching them. We’d just come outside the turn-styles with our shell-anklets and shark’s teeth souvenirs, when we realised we’d missed the axolotls entirely. Thus the axolotls must be revisited on another trip. The picture above is of us all at the aquarium. Grumpy husband is looking more uncomfy than grumpy in this photo. This was not because he was not enjoying himself its because we had to pay 5 euros for the photo.

Writing wise I’ve done nothing, nothing at all. Today I am back in the hobbit hole for one day only and intend editing a couple of stories ready for sending out into the world. My last Tutor Marked Assessment which I got back on Friday, scored my highest ever score (joint with a wee story from A215). That story came third in the 2016 Scribble short story comp so I think maybe I’ll enter the new story into a comp too. My tutor feedback was very helpful so I’m going to take all her advice and edit it now, and send it out this aftie and see what happens. Better crack on and stop blogging then.