Monday, 29 August 2016


A summer afternoon in Northamptonshire
I'm taking Wednesday off to go to Staffordshire to visit friends and family, so I shall treat that as my Bank Holiday and I'm working today. Writing a blog post counts as work, right?

Over the weekend, we braved the weather and went to the nearby village of Woodford for its regular late-August music festival, called WoodfordStock. Over two days, lots of local musicians gather in the pub garden to make merry and raise funds for Cransley Hospice. It rained, of course, it always does; but the crowds turned up as usual because (a) we all love Carol, who organises everything; (b) we all know someone who has benefited from the superb palliative care the hospice provides; and (c) we love the beer, burgers, cake and sideshows that go alongside the music.

So we stood there and tried to ignore the capillary action of trouser leg on wet grass and the trickle of water making its way inexorably down the back of the neck. This year, proceedings were almost brought to a halt by the most extraordinary sky - my picture doesn't really do it justice - with rolling cloud formations that looked more like a seascape. No one would have been surprised if a giant hand had reached down and lifted us up.

We didn't stay to the end. We had to go home to dry off, before heading out to see son Joe and his band playing in town - mercifully indoors - as part of another festival, called Ctr Alt-Fest Delete. As usual, Ivory Yardsale played a blinder and a good time was had by all. You can't beat loud music is a sweaty pub.

As at Woodford, there was a 'What the...?' moment, with the appearance of a dapper man wearing a white coat and carrying a basket of seafood for sale. Suddenly we were back in the 1960s. Even under normal circumstances there is nothing on this earth that could induce to me to eat a prawn; but an ambient cockle? That's really going too far.

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Weekend roundup

Sunny Staithes already seems a long time ago
I've only been back at work for a week and it's as though I've never been away. All my freelance work was sitting there waiting for me - which will be nice when payday comes around, but was something of a shock to the system. Even so, I still managed a couple of coffee/lunch dates, so it's not all been nose to the grindstone and shoulder to the wheel.

I also dropped into the Weaving Words writers' group. I can't often make this, because they meet on Wednesdays when I'm usually teaching yoga. It was nice to see Kezzabelle and the gang. We sat in her garden until it went dark, wrapped up in blankets and illuminated by candles and lanterns: all very bo-ho!  We began with a prompt -  'camping', 'strong women' and 'encouraging words' - and it always amazes me how varied the results are when we come to read them out.

Also on the writing front, I made it to the shortlist of the Words With Jam First Page Competition, but didn't win.  Oh well, back to the drawing board. Congratulations to the winner, Annnie Walmsley, and there were a few names I recognised on the shortlist, too, so well done us!

This writing lark is clearly in my blood. My mum has recovered from her recent malaise and has a little something in the local paper's letters page. She has also heard from the Daily Telegraph that one of her contributions to its letters page will be used in its next book. Honestly, there's not stopping her!

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Staring at the sun

I've had a lovely couple of weeks off, mooching and walking and eating and sleeping and, of course, reading. I sat and read Stephen King's On Writing in a whole day, which was bliss. Another of the books I've seen off was lent to me by one of my yoga students. We have parents of a certain age and were musing about life, the universe and everything - and death. The book is Staring at the sun: overcoming the dread of death by Irvin D Yalom. No, don't click away! It's one of the most optimistic books I've read for ages. So anyway, in amongst the  philosophising and coping strategies, there were a couple of snippets that I thought might be of interest to my writing friends: 

'Montaigne suggested that a writing studio have a good view of a cemetery in order to sharpen one’s thinking.' I once had some crystal therapy (don't judge me) in a room that overlooked a churchyard. The lady giving the treatment loved the view. Make of that what you will.

‘Indeed, the desire to be of value to others is largely what keeps me pecking away at my keyboard long past the standard time for retirement.’  Pecking away: isn't that a lovely image?

‘The act of writing itself feels like a renewal. I love the act of creation from the first glimmering of an idea to the final manuscript. I find the sheer mechanics to be a source of pleasure. I love the carpentry of the writing process: finding the perfect word, sanding and burnishing rough sentences, tinkering with the tick-tocks of phrase and sentence cadence.’  Stephen King says something similar. Again, a lovely image, don't you think? 

The other thing that struck me as an editor is that Yalom twice refers to the subtitle of his book as 'overcoming the terror of death', a word he deliberately chose in favour of anxiety. I wonder if his publisher changed it to dread without asking him.