Thursday, 7 September 2017

A Quick Reflection

2017 has been a funny old year so far.  At least it has for me.  I have been up one minute, down the next, full of ideas and enthusiam one day, completely apathetic the next. Most of the time I don't know if I am coming or going so how can I expect anyone else to?  One thing I have done is get back into the habit of writing regularly, whether it is my travel journal, my diary, a blog post, an article on Linked-In or a poem/story to mark a special occasion for someone else.  I have actually written quite a lot of poems this year, which is good.

There has been a lot going on in the background.  I have a book for children at a publishing company in New York (I would love to find a publisher or agent in New York - it is the publishing capital of the world!), and I have been seeking a publisher for my book about running a Young Writer group. The Young Writer group's 5th anniversary was celebrated and our first session back after the summer break looms large and exciting this Saturday (9th).  I am chuffed I got the new newsletter done in time, as well as the worksheets and an exciting appendage which I will go into more a bit later. I am in talks with a large company about producing a book with them but that one, I am afraid, at this point in time, is shrouded in secrecy.  I am just happy it is there hovering in the background in its rainbow mist - and when the time is right, I will let everyone know the details. So you see, I have not been idle.

There's been a lot going with friends and family as well. My friend Paul was ordained as a minister, my neice got married, we have two christenings coming up, Steve and I had our brilliant joint birthday do in July.  It has been somewhat manic, rather like a roller coaster ride.  And do you know what?  I wouldn't change a thing.

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Technology - Who'd Have It ...?

So what is going on with Gmail?  Thought I'd ask this question since it keeps telling me on my smartphone that "Gmail has stopped working".  No explanation.  No reason.  Just "stopped working". Why?  Is it off sick?  Has it gone on strike?  Is it in a supervision with its manager or on holiday somewhere?  At least when someone is out of the office when one emails them, one normally gets an out-of-office message saying when the recipient is likely to be available again.  When Gmail stops, there is no such reassurance...

I am having severe doubts about the whole technologia issue lately.  Does the fact so many people are using a search engine or online/email service at the same time send the computer brain behind it into a downward spiral like a clockwork toy winding down?  Or is it all down to human error?  It is surprising how often I hear that "the computer has crashed" or "the tills have gone down".  Surely the whole point of technology is to make things (and people) more efficient?  Surely the idea is that it speeds communication up, not slows it down!

I quite often hanker for the old days when human beings were in control.  They may think they are in control in 2017, but they're definitely not.  Before I left the Day Job in the office, I can remember an afternoon when we were all sent home because the system failed.  That was fine at the time.  But then we all had to work twice as hard the next day to catch up with everything so it didn't really help at all. If a business has to come to a complete halt because the system has gone down, how is that more efficient?  At least in the not too distant past, if one person failed to show up for work because they were off sick and there were deadlines to meet, the rest of the team just got on with it.  If an office had to close for any reason out of the usual, the team would all rally round and help one another to get back on top, often generating a sense of comraderie.  All that seems to have gone now.  It is every man, woman or machine for themself and to hell with the rest.

I don't know.  Maybe I really was born in the wrong age?  If your quill stopped writing in Dickens' time, you just dipped it back in the ink.  Bliss!

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Way To Go Jodie!!!

I must tell you I was thrilled to bits when it was announced that Jodie Whittaker is going to be the new Doctor Who; especially since I was only saying two blogs ago that it is time the doctor regenerated as a female!  I don't know much about Jodie although I am obviously familiar with her presence but looking at her, I am convinced she will do this role great justice.

It is such a shame that the so-called die-hards are saying they'll be boycotting the show; especially in the 21st cntury when women have greater presence than ever before in most walks of life.  What does it matter if the Doctor is male or female as long as the show remains interesting, exciting and tells a great story?  Would Star Wars have been the same without Princess Leia?  Or the Alien films without Ripley?  Personally I can't wait to see Jodie become the new President of the World and I await her first appearance with bated breath.  Way to go, Jodie.  Way to go!

And now, as Monty Python used to say, for something completely different.  I was in the Crystal Palace Triangle the other day with my brother Paul who is visiting from Denmark.  For those not in the know, the Crystal Palace Triangle forms the heart of the Crystal Palace area and consists of a number of antique shops and the best flea-market in the South East.  This veritable Aladdin's Cave has everything you can imagine (and then some) and my brother - who is an accomplished artist and crafter - was smitten from the moment we walked in.  Steve and I have often been there and you will be surprised what we have found.  But amongst the treasures that caught my eye the other day were a number of old photograph albums - and I mean old.  They reminded me that I have some already stashed at home and today I got them out for another look and spotted something I had missed before.

One of the albums has around 24 photos in it of cricketers.  I knew they were there but upon examining them today I saw some had names written on them and I have been researching them all evening, names like J W Hearne, F E Woolley and G E C Wood.  What a discovery!  They all played for England and I think they took part in the 1925 Test Series!  Really!  Now you may not be interested in cricket but I totally love it,  In fact Steve and I were at the Beckenham Cricket Ground a couple of weeks back watching the Kent Spitfires beat Essex in the T20 Blast!  And, for the more romantic amongst you, cricket is also what brought Steve and I together.  But that's another story.  Anyway I was so excited when I realised what these old photos were that I have sent an email to the MCC Library.  They might like to see them; you never know.  So anyhow that is tonight's exciting news (exciting for me anyway).

Do have a bit going on with the Writing but I promise to update on that next time.  Right now - I'm off for some chocolate .... bye ...

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

What A Month!!!

I am but definitely not making excuses for the fact that it has almost been another month since my last post.  Oh - okay - I am making excuses but they are all perfectly legit and honest ones. Truly!

In the first place there was the joint birthday party to mark milestone birthdays for Steve and me.  It was held at a large local hotel and there would be a photographer, a silhouette artist, a DJ and some quiz sheets and all that had to be organised; not to mention the baloons, the approproate serviettes, the box for cards to be put in, the cake.  Also to contend with were the errors the large local hotel made in the run up to the party and the fact that when we reached the venue the tables had been set out for a sit-down meal like at a wedding rather than the buffet we'd ordered.  I will give the large local hotel their due though, they did their damndest to make it up to Steve and I on the night; not least by upgrading our room to "the best in the house" which was more a small flatlet with a sitting room, a toilet, a shower, a jacuzzi bath and swans on the queen size bed made out of pure white towels and sprinkled with rose petals.  Bless 'em.

We almost cancelled on the Friday night because of all the problems but we talked ourselves out of it. We knew we had guests booking into the hotel from York and Lincolnshire so it wouldn't have been fair on them to turn up and find it like a morg, devoid of music and laughter.

In the end we were mighty glad we didn't because WHAT a NIGHT it turned out to be!  We had around 130 people turn up and the evening just went like a dream.. The DJ was brilliant, the silhouette artist a massive hit, the quizzes hugely successful.  Everyone had a great time, there were kids running around having a ball, loads of dancing.  It was brilliant!    In the week or so afterwards, we were literally flooded with thank-you cards, texts, emails and whatsapps from people who'd really had a good time.

And the excuses don't end there.  My Young Writers had their fifth anniversary celebration at the library the following Saturday and that turned out to be a big event too, with the Deputy Mayor giving a speech, local author Ciaran Murtagh offering words of inspiration and me reading out messages to the Young Writers from the likes of Children's Laureate Lauren Child, writer Michael Morpurgo, the presenters of Blue Peter and children's playwright David Wood.

I know you will forgive me, oh so silent readers.  It is not often our lives resemble a merry-go-round.

And next time I promise a Writing update too.  Lots happening there ...

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

And Talking of Time Slips ...

I have just spent fifty minutes with the President of the World.  Those in the know will nod because in all probability, they have too.  Those not so in the know will know The President of the World by another name; The Doctor.  Yes, all those Whovians- today is the day I pay tribute to Doctor Who.

I vaguely remember seeing William Hartnell in this role back in the year dot.  I am not sure how young I actually was but I do know that for weeks I'd stomp about chanting "I am a Darek" because I couldn't say Dalek, so I must have been pretty young.  In those halcyon days, Doctor Who was in black and white and had a half hour slot around 5pm on a Saturday.  I have seen a lot of monsters - some quite convincing, those early ones not so - and I can remember being enthralled by the adventures of the strange little man in the tailed jacket and check trousers.  I doubt if I understood half of what was going on but I do thank it for introducing me to the world of Sci-Fi.

Over the years, rather like James Bond (another favourite, is there no hope for me), the Doctor has been morphed many times. More times than I thought actually but in the TV series, I can think of these, Patrick Troughton, John Pertwee (who grew up to become Worzel Gummidge), Tom Baker, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Sylvester McCoy, Paul McGann, Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and Peter Capaldi.  Maybe I was growing up at the time but I remember losing interest after Peter Davidson and rekindling interest from Christopher Eccleston onwards and I have been an ardent fan ever since.

But it has changed.  It has evolved.  These days, the episodes run to fifty minutes and come on at 8pm on Saturdays - long after I'd have been in bed first time round.  So when did it stop being a children's adventure series and become pure escapism for adults - with, one has to admit, some quite adult themes running through its orange veins?  

Even this far down the line though, I have a certain fondness for it.  My favourite baddies over the years have included the Daleks (of course), the Cybermen, the Angels of Death and the evil mannequins that smashed their ways through shop windows and went on the rampage, all the more terrifying for their completely expressionless plastic faces.   There has of course also been an army of sidekicks along the way. Does anyone remember Frazer Hines as Jamie or Wendy Padbury as Zoe? Then there was the adorable K9, the Brigadier and of course Bessie the Edwardian car who was the Doctor's main form of transport when the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimension In Space) went AWOL (Absent With-Out Leave) for a couple of seasons.

So who will be the next President of the World? Could The Doctor, rather like The Master who became Missi -  regenerate as a female?  I think Sandi Toksvig would do the role enormous
justice; what say you?

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Ooops - another Time Slip .....

I am totally mortified that I have not written a post on this blog for over a month.  I just don't know where May went.  I think I blinked and missed it!  Since the last post there has been two Young Writer sessions and I spent a week in Ilfracombe, North Devon with Steve.  I think, somewhere in the middle, I also went through some kind of personal crisis and I actually blame that for the time lapse. I am ok now, by the way, in case you wondered.  It wasn't any one thing at its root as opposed to a whole lot of things.  But it is funny how a week in a hotel, in a different location, helps to restore things and put them back into perspective.

We were staying at a hotel near a small bay.  During our week there we visited Clovelly - magical place.  I didn't even know it existed until a week ago!  It is a village built entirely into a steep cliff. No vehicles are allowed down its narrow cobbled main street.  Instead the locals get about on crudely made sledges constructed of wood and chicken wire.  The only way to access this enchanting place is via the visitor centre.  Once you are through that the only way is down. And down. And down.  It took us an hour and a bit to get from the top to the tiny little bay at the bottom.  We paused on the way  at a quaint crooked little pub for a cream tea lunch, visited a tiny chapel and the Charles Kingsley museum.  He lived in Clovelly as a child and it is believed that his inspiration for The Water Babies was drawn there.  Also on the way down is the donkey sanctuary.  Donkeys were once the only form of transport available there so they are much revered and well loved.  I have to admit that moving to Clovelly would likely as not be a logistical nightmare.  How would we, for example, transport our six foot king size bed down a steep incline less than thirty feet wide including the houses on either side!  There was also a kind of mysticism about the place that I cannot explain but I will say this - if you are ever in North Devon you must visit Clovelly; it is like something from a Daphne Du Maurier novel!  Or Walt Disney!

We also visited Lynton and Lynmouth, Combe Martin, Woolacombe and Barnstaple where we were taken on a short guided walk by the eccentric Tom who, dressed in his cape and tricorn hat, had the habit of shouting "Oh Yea" if he thought the attention of his captive audience was waning.  We had two boat trips out from Ilfracombe Harbour - presided over rather magnificently (and somewhat oddly) by Damien Hirst's 'Verity' sculpture which depicts a hugely pregnant lady holding a sword and set of liberty scales.  The boat trips were brilliant.  One was to bypass the Smuggler's Caves (smugglers are almost held in as much esteem as pirates these days) and the other was to try and catch a glimpse of some of the local wildlife. We did catch a glimpse of some frolicking porpoises and one rather curious bull seal who regarded us curiously for several moments from some distance away before deciding we were not interesting enough and diving back below the surf.- but a glimpse was all it was.  Still it was lovely being out in the open sea. But then I am a Cancer crab and anything to do with the sea utterly enthrals me.

There were lots of other highlights - the Tunnels Beaches, Watermouth Castle and lots of pretty little villages - but generally speaking I think the break did both Steve and I a lot of good.  We have visited different areas of Devon many times over the years but I really think North Devon is my personal favourite.  Not only is it completely beautiful - it has a healing element to it that is unique.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Who's Reading This ...?

I didn't realise until a few seconds ago that I have been keeping this blog for almost four years!  That is a lot of blogging, a lot of posting and heaps of writing.  I know people do read it.  I don't know how many and I am not particularly bothered - just a little curious.  To me - this blog is a Writing opportunity.  It has seen me through highs and lows, toothache, funerals, rejections and acceptances. It has seen me through good times and bad and once or twice a month it comes back and taps me on the shoulder, saying "Come on Jilly - Time to Blog".

Blogging is truly a 21st century phenomenon!  It gives everyone the chance to find their inner writer - whether they are writing about everyday life, holidays, exciting events, hobbies.  Being able to reach out to people in this way is a wonderful thing and something I am sure hundreds of writers of past eras would have made a lot of use of it also had the facility been there.  I would love to read a blog-post by Charles Dickens, Enid Blyton, Beatrix Potter, Agatha Christie or Charlotte Bronte, wouldn't you?  In order to see their work in print they had to wait months and often pay towards print and paper costs.  Even if only six people read my post today, that is six more people I hadn't reached out to yesterday.

Being a writer is a fickle thing.  Like Amateur Dramatics, it is largely done by people just for the sheer love of it.  Many put in hours and hours of work, reading, re-reading, re-writing what they have produced, showing it to loved ones - or maybe keeping it as their own little secret, rather like a locked diary.  It causes headaches and heartache but oh, that sense of joy and excitement - opening a new notebook and writing the opening words, writing The End and everything that goes in between those two crucial points, there is nothing that compares to that rush (although I guess footballers would say scoring goals does it for them, and actors would say winning a role does it for them) and nobody anywhere can strip you of that achievement.

So tonight I raise a glass to Blogging.  I don't know who is reading this - if you want to say hi, say hi, if not - I love you to bits anyway!