Friday, 18 December 2015

Nearly there: time to celebrate

Next Friday will, of course, be Christmas Day, but for now I have more practical matters to celebrate.
First off, did you get a fabulous sunrise today? As part of my drive to power through my to-do list, I have been getting up early this week, that is to say, before the sun, so I was at my desk for the view shown in this pic.
Second, I've wrangled a lot of words this week. As well as teaching five yoga classes and two one-to-one sessions, I've written 2,000 words on llamas and started a follow-up article, and finished the subbing/proofing of my two monthly magazine jobs.
Third, it's girls' night tonight. All round to Elaine's house for food and gossip.
Fourth - and this is actually the biggest celebration - Tim Peake is safely installed on the ISS.
Have a good weekend, folks.
Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Prizes and awards

Husband came home from work on Friday clutching a bottle of champagne and a certificate that he had been given to commemorate 10 years in his current job. Then yesterday he brought home a case of beer and a gift voucher by way of Christmas bonus from his immediate boss. What will it be today, I wonder?

I've had a little prize, too. Earlier in the year, I did an online course on forensic anthropology via FutureLearn. The focus was a police investigation based on a story created by Val McDermid. (Read more here.) Anyhoo, as well as labelling bones and using facial reconstruction software, one of the options was a competition to design a cover for the short story. I nearly didn't enter because art isn't really my thing, but I was tempted by the prize of a signed copy of Val's latest book. So, with a bit of judicious cutting and pasting (literally scissors and glue), I created something. To my astonishment I was runner-up! My book has arrived and has gone straight to the top of my reading pile. I've just got to finish Monstrous Regiment before the weekend, so I can read the complete Narnia over Christmas and then Splinter the Silence here I come.

Friday, 4 December 2015

This Friday's small celebrations

Just a quick place-holding post today.

It's been another frantic week, but today things have calmed down, so I've been catching up on a few admin jobs and tried to restore some semblance of order to the house. I'm not going out tonight, but instead plan to plonk myself on the sofa and not move until bedtime.

... and relax.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.


Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Best of both worlds

The scene is set. Photo courtesy of Ruth Stanway Woodings
I have written before about my friend Rachel's latest venture, a bookshop called Not Just Words that also doubles as an arts venue. It is housed in a fabulous development called The Yards, tucked away in a corner of Kettering that used to be the site of the old fire station.

Anyway, last night I held a meditation session in the shop, thus combining two of my main passions. About 20 people turned up with open minds and good hearts to explore some breathing practices, visualisations, relaxation and meditation, surrounded by lovely books, musical instruments and various pieces of decorative ephemera. It was grand, although I say so myself, and it looks as though this might become a regular feature.

There are also plans for some writing gatherings in the same space and I'm looking forward to getting involved with them, too. There must be lots of business premises up and down the land that would be suitable venues for readings and workshops: all those shops with an upstairs room just crying out for use in the evenings. Is there anything near you?

Friday, 27 November 2015

Celebrating new friends

I feel as though I haven't paused for breath this week, because it's all been a bit full on. Nevertheless, I'm happy to take a break now to celebrate the small things.

I met some lovely new people last night when I ventured out to a different ukulele group. I'd met the host before, but only in passing and she turned out to be a wonderful lady: full of life and interested in everything and everyone. She welcomed us into her home with tea and cake, so I knew it was going to be a good evening. Among the new friends I made was a woman who not only makes medieval clothes, but also wields a longbow. As if that wasn't interesting enough, she has been the women's longbow distance world record holder! Another was a family support officer, specialising in children with ADHD. Honestly, you never know who's around the corner.

Elsewhere, I'm celebrating the safe return of number one son from (yet another) stag weekend in  Amsterdam and the triumph of number two son's performance with his music-teacher colleagues at the grand switch-on of Kettering's Christmas lights. 

There's also been sadness, though, with the funeral on Monday of an old school friend. I was acutely aware on Tuesday that while it was business as usual for me, for his wife, who I've also known since school, things will never be the same. So as last week, I celebrating my simple life. 

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

It's curtains!

I've had a bit of a triumph on the Domestic Goddess front in that I've actually managed to turn up a pair of curtains. I know! Who'd have thunk it.

This is the sort of task that many of you will be able to do in your sleep, and I have many crafty friends who can whittle things out of wood and renovate chairs, knit and sew, and perform all manner of tricks with glitter  and bits of card. The handicraft gene seems to have skipped a generation, because while my mother can happily whip up a cushion-cover, I struggle to thread a needle.

I have what is laughingly called a needlework box that contains a colourful tangle of bias binding and other bits and pieces I have no recollection of buying; but the only items I usually reach for when something needs mending are Copydex and a stapler - and yes, this includes fixing clothes. I might, if pushed, manage to manipulate a strip of Wundaweb, but there really has to be lots of luck and a following wind.

However, now that the external renovations on our house are complete, for now, we're turning our attention to the inside, beginning with our bedroom. Since my husband was kind enough to put up a new curtain rail, I thought the least I could do was to wash the curtains. Unfortunately, they shrank. Fortunately, the friend who originally turned them up for me had left a generous hem for just such occasions.

With much grinding of teeth and puncturing of fingertips, I managed it. True, I did stitch the material to the living-room carpet at one point (always my work surface of choice), but then again, I once stapled an early-years reading book to the classroom floor when I was a parent helper at my son's infant school.

Anyway, they're up, they're level and they meet in the middle. Good times. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Time to celebrate

Has there ever been a better week to celebrate the small things? So much of what is going on in the world at the moment is just too big. I don't understand it and I certainly can't do anything about it. Therefore I'm going to focus on improving things in my corner. Perhaps if we all do that, the little patches of goodness will join up.

So today, in very general terms and in no particular order , I'm celebrating family and friends, music and books, having a home with central heating and enough to eat, health and relative wealth, and just leading an ordinary, uneventful life.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Hooters and tooters!

Every social group or society has its own rules of engagement, which can make it seem rather odd to the outsider. At a jazz concert, for instance, the audience is expected to clap after each solo, mid-song, and the performer will give a modest nod in acknowledgement.

I mention this because we had another extraordinary evening at Kettering Arts Centre yesterday at which we were introduced to brass band etiquette. We went to see Boobs & Brass, an all-female ensemble that was founded here in Kettering 10 years ago. It is a scratch band: that is to say, its members rehearse separately and only come together for performances. They have raised in the region of £175,000 for charity, predominantly for research into breast cancer.

Now, brass bands aren't really our thing. Apart from having watched the fabulous film Brassed Off many times, our only other brushes with the genre have been seeing The Unthanks with the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band, and catching the tail end of the Raunds Temperance Band's set at a local music festival. We only went last night because we wanted to support the Arts Centre (tickets hadn't been selling well) and because it was for a good cause. Actually, there was a decent-sized audience, but how many of these were related to the band members I wouldn't like to say.

Anyway, back to the etiquette. We began with the national anthem, which took us by surprise. Then through the evening we discovered it is apparently quite normal to have an exposition on each piece that is played. This meant that we saw quite a lot of the redoubtable compere, and interesting though it was, I'd rather have had a couple more tunes and read about the music in the programme.

There is, of course, much fun to be had with the name of the band. Its website says that some magazines have been unable to promote them because of the word 'Boobs'. We managed to come with some alternatives - and I'm sure you can think of more: Tits and Trombones is almost too easy; Menopause and Mouthpieces; Vaginas and Valves; Fannies and Flugelhorns;  Dames and Drums; Uteruses and Euphoniums; and one very rude one involving cornets.

It was a surprisingly entertaining evening. I can't help but wonder what Victoria Wood would have made of it.

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Coming back to the surface

Whitstable in the mist
It's been a while, I know. Did you miss me? Probably not. I know how busy  you all are. Anyway, I'm back and if not normal service then at least some service has been resumed.
Actually, I haven't really been anywhere, apart from a couple of days in Canterbury at the end of October for a bit of a birthday break. I've just been really busy trying to earn a living. I've picked up a couple of interesting jobs, one editing copy and the other teaching a private yoga class. All good stuff, but it's taking me a while to adjust my schedule to fit everything in and still keep an eye on home life. There have been a couple of days when the fridge has been empty because I forgot to check if we needed supplies.

Added to this, the builders, who were just getting going when I last posted, are still here, although the end is in sight. Tarick and Lewis (for it is they) have been brilliant, but they've been here. It's hard to concentrate on anything when there is a young man outside my home-office window throwing gravel at the walls.

We've had a skip outside the house for three weeks now, due to an administrative misunderstanding (it should have gone back last week: don't ask!). Needless to say, some random items have appeared in it that have nothing to do with us. The latest additions are a door and a toilet. If someone had knocked on the door and asked if they could avail themselves of the skip - which we hired at no small expense, I might add - I would have said yes, except to cardboard. There's no excuse for dumping cardboard, because the council collect it. To sneak stuff in under the cover of darkness, though: well, I ask you!

On the other hand, I was standing looking dolefully out of the window when the scrap metal man drove past, did a double take and reversed back to our skip. Through hand signals we agreed he could have a rummage, and he managed to retrieve a double buggy, an iron, something computerish and a box of goodness-knows-what that looked heavy and seemed to delight him - none of which had been donated by us.

We came home from Canterbury via Whitstable, which I'd never been to before, and as you can see from the photo it was very misty-murky - all very Dickens. A promising prompt for a short story, perhaps?

Monday, 12 October 2015

Happy Monday!

My day started well when one of my yoga students gave me a plant she had grown from seeds she brought back from Monet's garden. Wasn't that kind of her? Then one of my editorial clients told me I was awesome, which was nice, too.

A look at my finances has led me to the conclusion that I need to work smarter. I always seem to be busy, and yet my earnings aren't high enough. I'm not on the breadline, the house is safe and we never go hungry; but a bit more of a cushion would be nice. As I write this, a builder is unloading some equipment in my garden with a view to fixing some structural deficits. We seem to have cured the leak, but as always with old houses, one problem solved reveals at least one more than needs attention. (Cue husband, mumbling something about a moneypit.)

My writer friends will no doubt have received the latest missive from 'Writers & Artists', which includes a link to an article by Melanie Sumner called 'Who will buy your book?' Actually, it's about  why people won't buy your book: maybe they don't understand how the book world works, perhaps they're broke, or maybe they just don't like it...

I'd better take note. Then I'd better work smarter and get another book finished.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Celebrating small things

What's worth celebrating in your world today? Here's my two penn'orth.

My little brother came to stay last weekend and came with us to see Sean Hughes, who was very funny. He (my brother, not Sean) brought me some flowers, which are still going strong, and a bottle of wine, which has gone.

I have finally finished an article that has been sitting in my in-tray for quite a while. I don't know why I procrastinated, because once I sat down and wrote the darn thing it came together quite well. Fingers crossed that the editor thinks so.

We're off to a celebratory barn dance tomorrow to mark the 25th wedding anniversary of our friends Rosie and Robin. Take your partners...

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Ending the week with a smile

Well, with the help of a fairly substantial number of digestive biscuits I have survived the week. It was touch and go at a couple of classes, when I thought my voice was going to give up  - and why do I always want to cough when I've just settled my students into their relaxation? - but it didn't. I even made it to ukulele practice, for a very squeaky rendition of 'It's Five O'clock Somewhere'. Do you know the song? I was amazed how many people didn't.

I've managed to keep on top of the word-related work, too, which fortunately has been quiet this week. On the other hand, that means earnings have also been down, and I've had to have a lock replaced and a leaky roof fixed. Next job is to tart up the living room where the rain poured in, and after that the rendering on the whole house needs sorting.

A couple of things have made me smile, however. First, I have generously passed on my germs to my husband who is so muddle-headed with cold that he was out of the front door yesterday before he realised he was still wearing his slippers. Second, I spotted a nice bit of shelf-stacking in Morrisons. Whoever thought it was a good idea to put a tower of wine at the end of the nappy display should get a medal.
Emergency childcare essentials

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Bless me!

Despite my mantra of 'It's only a cold', I feel pretty rubbish at the moment - a situation not improved by people telling me that 'yoga teachers are never ill'. I'm coughing and sneezing all over the place. No, really, I'm fine. It's nothing that gallon or two of honey and lemon won't fix.

Anyway, sitting feeling sorry for myself yesterday evening, I turned to the i-Player for comfort and chose Cider With Rosie. Is it me and my mucus-addled brain or is it a bit dull? I've not read the book (shame on me), so perhaps I'm basing my assessment on the Beeb's interpretation, but nothing seemed to happen and the young Laurie was extremely irritating. Was he a simpleton in the book? I stuck it out to the end, but only because I couldn't be bothered to switch it off.

Just because something is considered a classic doesn't necessarily mean that it is. Harrumph.

Thursday, 24 September 2015


My article on buying a woodburning stove is in the October issue of Smallholder. That's it on the cover: 'Winter warmers'. My journey into this publication was fairly straightforward. I was introduced to it by a fellow freelance who already contributes on a regular basis, so I approached the editor with a couple of ideas. Thanks to luck and a following wind - and, it must be said, a bit of badgering - there I am.

The route to another assignment has been rather more strange. I mentioned on Friday that a new job was in the offing. Well, I got it. I knew it was a good sign when the editor I was meeting suggested going to an independent coffee shop, where he bought me a fabulous pistachio-cream-filled pastry. It turns out that he had discovered my contact details in a rather odd way. He had Googled a few relevant keywords and was scrolling down looking for suitable links in the results, when he spotted a Kettering phone number. Following the link took him to my entry on - and I can't believe I'm typing this - the Sun Online! I can't begin to guess how I ended up there, but I did, and he found me, and I'm glad he did.

There is a warning there, I'm sure, about being aware that anything online is fair game. We can never be sure where what we write or post will end up. Conspiracy theories abound, and perhaps not without cause. A friend is in the process of helping her son with the legal ramifications of signing a new lease on what will be his first post-student flat. Needless to say the landlord wants a guarantor for the rent, since the son is in his first job. No problem, said my friend. Of course she will vouch for her son. The estate agent has now passed her details to a referencing agent who wants to check that she is 'good for it', as they say: to which end she has filled in a 10-page online document that would give any potential identity thief an easy journey to her life. Part of this process is for her to get a reference for herself, which is where I come in. I'm not sure why they think my say-so is any more reliable than my friend's. Perhaps they intend to ask someone to vouch for me. This one could run and run.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Wedding bells!

We have a proper celebration this weekend, as we're off to a wedding. Our friend's daughter is getting married, so I'm dusting off my posh frock and preparing to shed soppy tears.
Other, smaller celebrations are that my eyes are as they were two years ago, so I don't need new glasses; I have a reader's letter in next week's My Weekly; a potential new editing job has presented itself to me; and it's comedy club night tomorrow.

Not a bad week, all in all.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Definitely not another fine mess

If you live in or near Musselburgh, Croydon, Stroud, Maidenhead, Porlock, Guildford, Banbury, Thame, London, Leeds or Richmond, may I suggest you check out the touring one-man show by Jeffrey Holland that is coming your way? He was at Kettering Arts Centre on Saturday night with: '...And this is my friend Mr Laurel', a one-act play by him and Gail Louw. The publicity leaflet tells you what you need to know:

'Set in the bedroom of a sick Oliver Hardy, the show takes place during Laurel's visit to the dying man. Recounting their past success as the comedy double act Laurel and Hardy, this is a humorous and touching look at one of the great cinematic partnerships of the last century.'

You don't need to know much about the lives of Laurel and Hardy or to be a fan of their work to enjoy this play. In the second half of the show on Saturday, Jeffrey Holland (as himself) told us anecdotes and answered questions from the audience. He was generous in his praise of his co-writer and said that her excellent ear for dialogue is one of the reasons for the success of the play. (He took it to Edinburgh in 2012 and again this year.) For aspiring writers like me, it was a real lesson in how it should be done. Pop along if you get the chance. details are here.

On other matters, my post on Friday has raised several enquiries as to what a gong bath is. All is explained on my other blog: Yoga? Here's what I'm thinking.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Friday celebrations

Welcome to the Friday bloghop. Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog.
I'm celebrating (in no particular order):
  • that one of my students gave me a bar of chocolate this afternoon
  • that the person who signalled one way and then turned the other didn't clatter into me
  • that we had a lovely family meal this evening
  • that I'm going to a gong bath tomorrow
Have a good weekend, folks. 

Sunday, 6 September 2015

I'm a patron of the arts...
... or at least I would be, if I could afford it. I rather like the idea of taking a penniless sculptor under my wing and nurturing his talent. *Sigh*

Sorry: where was I? Oh, yes. Art. There is a splendid event going on in our county at the moment called Northants Open Studio Trails, which continues until the last few days of September. It is an opportunity to visit artists in the wild in their studios to see the creative process in action and to talk to the talented folk about their inspiration and their work. Many of these studios are in their homes, and some are in rooms and sheds that have been cleared out and converted for the duration of the exhibition. There are painters, photographers, jewellery-makers, carvers, knitters, patchworkers: name a creative technique and there's someone in Northamptonshire doing it.

I am in awe of anyone who can create with their hands. I can barely draw a straight line with a ruler, and my idea of handicrafts begins and ends with some carefully applied PVA and perhaps a stapler. One such talent is my friend Elaine, who is not only a fantastic photographer, but also a talented and prize-winning author. A group of us went to see her open studio event in her space that she is sharing with a couple of crafty types.

On our 'grand tour', we also went to our town's permanent art gallery and into a bar, where they had several works for us to consider as we sipped our margaritas. We also went to a heritage centre in a nearby village, which has gallery space upstairs. I was all set to put a few coppers in their collecting tin when one of my friends spotted something rather shocking. There was a rack of greetings cards boldly labelled as 'hand-made', and there amongst them were some of those cards that are given away by the British Red Cross when they send out their appeals for money - like the one pictured here, which was sent to me. They were on sale at 50p a time. Is it just me, or is this a bit off?

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Reading aloud

East Farndon Church
I went for a walk along the Jurassic Way on Saturday, which was lovely - apart from it being my turn to be stung this week. It really hurt, but fortunately we were on our way to the pub, where the landlord was happy to soak a napkin in vinegar as a good old-fashioned antidote.

One of my actor friends uses his daily walk to practise his lines, declaiming loudly to the birds and bees and no doubt bemusing any passers-by. When I first moved to London I joined a drama group as a way of making new friends, but I was never comfortable on stage, and I'm envious of those people who have a natural ease as performers. My mum has it, but I don't seem to have inherited it.

In reply to a comment left on the 'Under the Fable' blog, author Andy Gibney tells me that reading in public is easy: 'You just have to have faith in yourself and your words.' That's all there is to it, apparently. I've written some monologues that one day I'd like to share with the world, but for now they lie filed away.

What are your experiences of performing at spoken word events?

Friday, 28 August 2015

Ah - a long weekend beckons

It has been an uneventful week, other than the usual mix of work and wotnot. I've done quite a bit of word-wrangling and teaching, and managed to fit in a couple of urban walks, too.

Chief celebration, however, is that we have a new neighbour at the allotment - and from the start he's made on his digging I'd say he's going to be a welcome addition to our community. His plot has been untended for several months, so it's lovely to see the weeds coming down and the soil being turned.

This wilderness is disappearing
We have a few music events on locally over the next couple of days, included one that is being organised by number two son, so I think we shall be sitting back with a pint and letting the entertainers do their thing.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

'They've found a body.'

Just a quick post for you.
Some of you will know that I'm a big fan of FutureLearn's free online courses. Well, I've just had an email about a course starting on 7 September: 'Identifying the Dead: Forensic Science and Human Identification', which promises the chance to uncover a grave, examine remains (virtually, of course!) and reveal the victim’s identity and, better still, it's linked to a new Val McDermid story. Details are here.

You're welcome.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Let's hear it for . . .

... chance meetings, reflexology, homemade chips, bookshops and deadlines met.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Monday, 17 August 2015


Last weekend, my poor husband came a cropper while we were picking plums. He is allergic to wasp stings - not in an anaphylaxis, rush-to-the-hospital kind of way, but sufficiently such that the area around any sting will inflate and go a funny colour. He is supposed to carry Piriton or some such with him at all times, but, well, you know what men are like.
A walk on the wild side
And so it was that, when reaching up into the tree for a particularly juicy fruit, one of the little blighters flew up his sleeve and stung him slightly right of centre. Fellow allotment holders were amused to see him rip off his shirt and hop around declaiming loudly. It wasn't fatal, but he did go up a cup size for a couple of days.

This weekend's mishap came when we were out walking and taking some pictures for an ongoing book project. We were following a marked footpath that took us through some stables and I was intrigued by what looked like a roundabout for horses. Naturally, t'other half knew what it was: a sort of equestrian treadmill. He leaned in for a closer and in doing so touched the electric fence. Cue more leaping and shouting, though mercifully he kept his clothes on this time.

He is going off on a golfing holiday shortly, but to be honest I'm not sure if he's safe out on his own.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Have you got that Friday feeling?

Another week has gone past without my having found the time to post anything between CTST contributions: sorry. I am surrounded by people with lots of good things to celebrate: exam results for some, new ventures for others, and I wish them well. My own celebrations are, as usual, more modest:
  • Yet more bounty from the allotment; the plums have been dealt with - the wasps are welcome to whatever fruit is left on the trees
  • I have finished a commissioned article ahead of time
  • I've been out to lunch twice this week, and have a family dinner with my 'boys' to look forward to later this evening
Have a lovely weekend, folks, summer lightning notwithstanding. 

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Friday, 7 August 2015

Anything small to celebrate today?

Well, no, not really. I've had another challenging week (Thanks, Parcelforce) and it's all been a bit glum. It's not as though anything bad has happened and I know that compared to many I lead a charmed life. I'm not waiting for my chance to walk through the Channel tunnel, for instance. I'll dig deep and see what I can come up with:
  • There's plenty of food coming home from the allotment
  • The gym where I teach on Tuesdays has taken to leaving us free cordial and water
  • The photo I bought at an exhibition last weekend has been delivered
Sorry, folks, will try harder next week.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Friday, 31 July 2015

TFI Friday

Well, we've made it to the end of another week, but it has been a challenge. Is it the Blue Moon, I wonder? Today, I'm celebrating:
  • I've just sent off the final instalment of a bumper proofreading job.
  • I have an article in the August issue of Picture Postcard Monthly ('What's new, pussycat?').
  • I've upgraded to Windows 10 without a hitch.
Have a good weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog 

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

There was a message waiting for me from Google when I came to my blog this morning:

'European Union laws require you to give European Union visitors information about cookies used on your blog. In many cases, these laws also require you to obtain consent. As a courtesy, we have added a notice on your blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies. You are responsible for confirming that this notice actually works for your blog and that it is displayed.'

I mention this because you might have seen a message at the top of this post asking you to consent to the use of cookies. Rest assured that I am not following your every move. I have no idea how to embed tracking software into my words - and I wouldn't even if I could.

Nice use of the phrase 'as a courtesy', don't you think? Thanks, Google.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Celebrating some small things

It's been three weeks since I posted a CTST and then it was very hot. Today I went to town in my boots, because it's chucked it down with rain all day and the temperature has dropped accordingly. Mind you, the rain is my first cause for celebration, because my poor allotment is starting to look a bit droopy.

Other things worthy of note today are:

* Having had my creative side prodded by the poetry challenge set by friend Tricia on Monday

* The launch tomorrow of my friend Rachel's bookshop venture 'Not Just Words', which opens with a fundraising day of music in aid of our local hospice

* My sensible mother (she knows why)

Have a good weekend, folks.

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Poetry: day four

Howitt Place
For day four of my poetry selection (see Monday's post) I'm going back to my childhood with 'The Spider and the Fly' by Mary Howitt. Most people will know the first verse, but perhaps not the rest of it. My childhood connection with this poem is that I grew up in a house called Howitt Place, which is where Mary once lived (when it was known as Botham House). As well as being an acclaimed writer and poet, Mary Howitt was also a keen promoter of children's literature (she translated Hans Andersen's fairy tales into English) and she was a social activist, speaking out for women's equality and the abolition of slavery.

‘Will you walk into my parlour?’ said the Spider to the Fly,
‘’Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy;
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I’ve a many curious things to shew when you are there.’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.’

‘I’m sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high;
Will you rest upon my little bed?’ said the Spider to the Fly.
‘There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I’ll snugly tuck you in!’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘for I’ve often heard it said,
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!’

Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, ‘Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I’ve always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that’s nice;
I’m sure you’re very welcome – will you please to take a slice?’
‘Oh no, no,’ said the little Fly, ‘kind Sir, that cannot be,
I’ve heard what’s in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!’

‘Sweet creature!’ said the Spider, ‘you’re witty and you’re wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I’ve a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you’ll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.’
‘I thank you, gentle sir,’ she said, ‘for what you’re pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I’ll call another day.’

The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again:
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
‘Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing;
Your robes are green and purple – there’s a crest upon your head;
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!’

Alas, alas! how very soon this silly little Fly,
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by;
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue –
Thinking only of her crested head – poor foolish thing! At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour – but she ne’er came out again!

And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne’er give heed:
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly.
The rear view of Howitt Place: that's me on the steps beneath a 1980s perm

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Poetry, please - day three

Malham Cove, copyright Clive Thorley
Simon Armitage's book Walking Home: travels with a troubadour on the Pennine Way is an account of his journey along this footpath, which he funds by performing poetry readings in odd places in return for donations. After a reading in Malham, he finds his audience have left him £86.96, two corn plasters and a leaflet explaining how to put someone in the recovery position.

The poem below is in Walking Home and also in  his collection Book of Matches. In the unlikely event that Mr Armitage reads this blog, I hope he will excuse my reproducing it here:

I feel I am at the end of my tether
and I don't want to go on any longer.
Not like those climbers on Malham Cove -
dipping backwards for their bags of powder,
reaching upwards for the next hairline fracture,
hauling themselves from my binoculars.

And without enlargement they take on the scale
of last night's stars in Malham Tarn,
inching upstream as the universe tilted, mirrored
till we burst their colours with a fistful of cinders.

I follow a line
from the base to the summit, waiting
for something to give, to lose its footing,
for signs of life on other planets.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Second poem of the day

'The dropping of the daylight in the West'*
Further to being nominated to cite my favourite poems (see yesterday's post), I choose 'My Last Duchess' by Robert Browning. I won't reproduce it here: it's on the long side and easily found if you have a mind to look.

This is another poem I was introduced to at school under the broad topic of 'poems about people', would you believe. It will be familiar to anyone with even a passing interest in poetry, and some might say it's rather a corny choice, but I really like it. I'm a sucker for a good monologue anyway, but this one is just so sinister. It gives me chills every time I read it:

I gave commands;
Then all smiles stopped together.

* Photo John Lindsay via

Monday, 20 July 2015

Poetry, please

My friend Tricia has nominated me on Face Book to name my favourite poems on four consecutive days, beginning today. This is quite a challenge for me, because poems are not my go-to art form, despite the best efforts of Mrs Morley, the teacher tasked with tutoring me in English Lit at senior school. It is, however, an appropriate challenge, not least because Tricia's husband Will is one of my son's godparents and they gave him The Walker Book of Poetry for Children as a gift to mark the occasion. Inside is inscribed a quote from one of the poems in the book, which  I choose as my favourite for today. It's by Walter de la Mare.

As long as I live
I shall always be
My Self - and no other,
Just me.

Like a tree -
Willow, elder,
Aspen, thorn,
Or cypress forlorn.

Like a flower,
For its hour - 

Primrose, or pink,
Or violet -
Sunned by the sun,
And with dewdrops wet.

Always just me.
Till the day come on
When I leave this body,
It's all then done,
And the spirit within it
Is gone.

Thumbing through this lovely book to find this poem, I was reminded of an occasion when my son was at primary school and he was asked to take his favourite poem into class. He chose one from the same book. It's called 'Oodles of Noodles' by Lucia and James L. Hymes, Jr:

I love noodles. Give me oodles.
Make a mound up to the sun.
Noodles are my favorite foodles.
I eat noodles by the ton.

It's daft, I know, but it earned him a star from his teacher.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Currant affairs

There is a part of me that wishes we hadn't been quite so efficient in our netting of the currant bushes at the allotment.

I like a fruit crumble as much as the next woman, but you can have too much of a good thing. There is an entire drawer in my freezer now filled with boxes of blackcurrants nestling in sugar, in anticipation of tarts and cheesecake; I have jars of jams and jellies lined up on my shelves; I have made cordial (which, incidentally, has given me an  insight into why Ribena is so expensive); and I am mid-way through making a vat of blackcurrant vinegar.  There is the gentle drip-drip-drip of the jelly bag in the front room and the bloop-bloop-bloop of wine fermenting under the stairs. Think of a way to process a currant and I've probably done it.

It looks as though the three or four pounds I still have in the colander will be the last for this year, however. I shall have cleared the fruity decks in time for the courgettes, which are already starting to make their presence felt.

Monday, 6 July 2015

A multi-faith day

Yesterday I went to our local Buddhist centre, the Nagarjuna Kadampa Meditation Centre, for its annual World Peace Fete. I have watched this event grow over the years and it is the most extraordinary thing, with short meditation sessions in the temple while outside there is a music tent, children's activities, fabulous food and loads of tempting stalls with crystals and incense as far as the eye - and nose - can see/sense. Naturally, I came away with a bundle of joss sticks and a singing bowl, but I resisted the lure of the paneer curry in anticipation of the second engagement of the day, of which more below. It was, as you might expect, a beautiful, tranquil way to while away a sunny day.

I've been to the centre many times for weekend and day courses, for evening meditations and wonderful meals. If you are anywhere near, I really recommend it. You don't have to be a Buddhist (I'm not).
Tearing myself away from the offer of a holistic massage, I went instead to St Michael & All Angels Church in Great Oakley, which is a tiny stone building in the grounds of the local manor estate. I was there to hear the Camerata Singers summer concert. This is the choir of which I was a member for a while and it was great to see some familiar faces. They sang an impressively varied programme on the loose theme of the Grand Tour, with guest appearances from an accordionist and a musical duo on violin and recorder. As always, the interval was enhanced by a choice of delicious cakes, hence my abstention earlier.

Then it was home for a tasty spaghetti carbonara and a session of putting the world to rights with number one son: all in all, a splendid day.

Friday, 3 July 2015

Busy, busy, busy

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog  
Here are my celebrations for this Friday:
1. Aircon - I covered a yoga session in a gym this morning, and it was lovely to be able to work in a cool room.
2. The England women's football team, who really showed the men how it should be done.
3. Another busy week on the work front - which means I can't write any more today. Must dash!
Have a good weekend, folks.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

An English obsession

If, like me, you're older than you like to think you are, you might remember the summer of 1976, when the weather went a bit bonkers in Britain and for 12 consecutive days the temperature reached 32 Celsius somewhere in the country. It was the summer of the Great Drought.

Whitby's whale bone arch
This was the year in which I took my O-levels and after each one I came home and burned the associated school books. It never occurred to me that I might need them for a resit, and I certainly had no intention of taking A-levels. I hated school and I was off!

And off I went - all the way to Yorkshire, where my friend Steph and I worked in the West Bank Restaurant in Robin Hoods Bay, perched at the top of the village, for the whole summer. We lived in and worked all day, six days a week, with Saturdays off. Saturday was changeover day for visitors, so it was quiet. We would catch the bus into Whitby or Scarborough to spend our hard-earned money. Weekday evenings would be spent in the pub (we had no problem getting served: different times!), flirting with strangers (again, different times), and then we'd stagger back up the 1-in-4 hill home to bed.

A decade later, and with a new name
The restaurant was run by an American called Taylor, which at the time struck us as a very odd first name), and his wife Mickey, who was proper Yorkshire. She had been named after a racehorse, Mickey Finn, which had won the St Ledger. Just in case people thought this was an odd name for a girl, she had been given the second name of Stephanie. Given what some folk call their children these days, Mickey seems quite sane.

Eventually, the government decided something should be done about the weird weather and appointed Denis Howell as Minister of Drought. Sure enough, that solved the problem and three days later the heatwave ended in torrential rain and even hail in some places. Pity, really, because it was Bank Holiday Monday.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Last Friday of the month

It's the last Friday of the month, so that means invoice day. My first celebration today is that I've had a good June, so I'm sending out some chunky bills today.

Second, the yoga workshop I'm running with friend and fellow teacher Penny has already had a good response, which is encouraging.

Third, our ukulele group played a few songs to staff and service-users at the local branch of Headway, 'the charity that works to improve life after brain injury'. It went well and it was a real privilege to be involved.

Fourth, my central heating boiler has been passed fit for another year. Every time it's serviced, the engineer warns me it's on its last legs, but it looks like we're OK for a while yet.

Have a good weekend, folks. 

Celebrate the Small Things  is a blog hop. Visit Lexa's Blog for the rules, and then post every Friday about something you're grateful  for that week. Originated by VikLit) and co-hosted by L.G. Keltner @ Writing Off The Edge and Tonja Drecker @ Kidbits Blog

Monday, 22 June 2015

How to lose readers

I know, I know. If you're going to host a blog it's very important to keep posting regularly or your followers will lose interest and wander off to read the offerings of someone more consistent. Epic fail, then, on my part: nothing posted since 12 June and I missed last week's Celebrate the Small Things. Sorry. May I offer the following in mitigation?

I've done a lot of work, including covering some yoga classes at a local gym. More pleasing, on the entertainment front, I've been to see Ivory Yardsale in a Northampton pub; Jez Hellard and Scott Cook, Fabian Holland and Chris Wood (yes, the Chris Wood, folk legend) in the homes of friends; my friend Will in The Hook, the Arthur Miller play that has lain dormant for decades and has been revived for a world premiere run in Northampton; Robin Ince supported by Grace Petrie at the Kettering Arts Centre; and taken part in International Yoga Day celebrations.
Girl power
I went into town on Friday to watch the Women's Tour arrive at the end of stage 3, the longest and hilliest of the event. I know nothing about cycling, but thought I should go and see what it was all about, since it's quite a Big Thing for it to have come to Kettering. As usual, I was torn between taking decent photos and looking at the event IRL: I chose the latter, as a result of which I have lots of pics of half-wheels and blurry heads.

The other thing that has been taking up my time is helping my friend Rachel. She is opening a shop called 'Not Just Words', which will be a bookshop - but so much more. This is worth a whole blog post in its own right, and one will surely follow in due course. Suffice to say for now that a bunch of us have been running up and down stairs with boxes of glorious second books and, would you believe, shifting a piano on to the first floor of her building. There has been a great sense of community and we have enjoyed getting tired and dusty together. Watch this space.

There has, however, been some sadness, since local musician Stevie Poole has died. I didn't know him very well, but I'd seen him perform many times. He will be much missed in our circle.