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!

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

JILLY GETS A CERTIFICATE!!!!

Did I tell you I had been accepted by the BBC as an official judge for this year's BBC 500 Words competition?  This annual competition invites children to send in a story in 500 words or less and these are then distributed to a team of judges to mark.  I was sent around 14 in the 7 to 11 age group to read and mark and I had the best time doing so.  And then last week, after the competition closed, I received a Certificate from the BBC acknowledging my help.  I am so used to handing certificates out that it was quite a shock to receive one myself and I was really chuffed!  Another string to my bow!

I have - over the last couple of weeks - been on an intense training course with the care company I will be working for.  It has been fun and I have met some lovely people already.  But some of it - particularly the section on policies and legislation were really heavy going.  I have now got one afternoon of training left then I will be able to go out and meet my clients.  I have stipulated I can work all day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and Friday morning at a push.  And the good thing is that my Mondays and weekends remain completely free.  This is the work/life balance I was looking for and I know it is going to be hugely beneficial to Steve and I because our weekends are so precious.  We are always out somewhere, doing something -on Mothering Sunday we went to Greenwich Market and the weekend just gone saw us exploring Leatherhead, Epsom and Cheam. Some of these areas are so pretty and quaint - and we still have the Downs, Belmont Common, Box Hill, Kingston and who knows where else to visit!

We are away over Easter.  That will be our third Easter running and this year we are heading for Suffolk on Maundy Thursday, getting back on Bank Holiday Monday so really looking forward to that.  

Have a great Easter everyone.  Catch up soon.

Monday, 27 March 2017

SPECIAL APPEAL ...

I am pulling all the stops out for the members of Addiscombe Young Writers.  I can hardly believe that this little group for 6 to 11 year olds who love to write has fared so well in the five years since it began!  But it has and it just seems to get bigger and better.  Last Saturday's session saw twenty youngsters turn up!

I don't know how many people read this blog but I am appealing today for any writers of children's books and poetry to contact me if they are prepared to pen a small message to the Young Writers as we celebrate our fifth birthday.  The children voted for a party which will take place in July and one of the things I want to do, is present them with a folder full of inspirational congrats from successful writers.  I have already had a good response and Writing Magazine kindly published an appeal in their April issue - and I am also going to put something on Linked In.

These youngsters have unbelievable depths of talent and enthusiasm, have had their work published and exhibited and won certificates and awards for all their hard work.  Please put the word out to any of your contacts and come back to me, either via this blog, or their blog (addiscombeyoungwriters.blogspot.co.uk) and I will contact you by return and let you know how to send your signed greetings.

I really appreciate your help.

Monday, 20 March 2017

Say Cheese ...

Well you'll be pleased to hear that my mood has lifted.  I am so lucky that I don't get morose very often, but when I do, it feels as if all the strength and every ounce of joy has gone out of me and that is just so exhausting - which does not help at all, of course.  I pinpointed my recovery to the day of the Photo Shoot at my parents-in-law's place down in Kent.  My parents-in-law are completely gorgeous and I have always been so lucky to get on as well with them as I do.  Now in their mid 80's, and very settled in their little bungalow, they have everything they need and buying Christmas Presents for them just gets harder every year, so, for last Christmas, Steve and me, our two girls and our sons-in-law, jointly bought a Family Photo Shoot.  It was just the most fun!  My mother-in-law - bless her - was a bit bemused by it all and my father-in-law found it quite difficult to ensure six over excited 2 to 11 year olds did not wreck the precious ornaments - but the actual photos were a lot of fun.  We had every combination - them with Steve, them with their granddaughters, their grandaughters' husbands, their great grand-chuldren, me and Steve together, each great grandchild alone, together, with them, with their parents....it just went on.  The end results were fabulous - we got our download last week and the family ones especially, with all of us crammed together in their tiny sitting room, are truly a joy to behold.

Things also have improved job-wise for me.  I have been offered a part time position with a home-care company where their carers visit people in their own homes to help out, provide company or chaperone on outings and I think I am going to love it.  It means a major adaptation for Steve and I as my salary won't be what it was.  But on the plus side it means I will be doing something I enjoy and still have time to write!!!!  So what I don't earn in salary, I should be able to make with the writing and any related talks that come along!  It can't get much better than that - at least until the next Great Commission comes in.

And the crowning glory was having our youngest grandson all to ourselves last weekend.  He is an absolute angel - very lively, already developing a sense of humour and furthermore, he loves his Granny and Grandad - what more can one ask?