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?

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

For Want Of A Nail ....

Remember that old adage for want of a nail, a shoe was lost, for want of a shoe a horse was lost, for want of a horse the battle was lost - and all for the want of a horse shoe nail...?  The only reason I ask is because today my life feels a bit like that horse shoe nail.  Maybe I am just out of sorts today? But because I don't know if anyone ever reads this or really gives a damn, I will tell you, in complete honesty, that the old dark shadow depression is back for the first time in ages.  I don't know why I was born or what purpose my life holds - and I question it almost every day. Pathetic isn't it?

I wouldn't mind if I had a reason for feeling like this.  I have a lovely husband, two beautiful girls, two lovely sons-in-law and seven gorgeous grandchildren (Andrew, Harry, Olivia, Jack, Issac, Sophie and Oscar).  I also have five great-nephews (Harry, another Oscar, Joey, Bobby and Freddie) and two great-nieces ( Mila and Ivy) and another great-niece/nephew on the way.  I live in this lovely little house with its latticed windows and am getting more writing done than I have in an age.  So what is the matter with me?  I even just got back from a lovely weekend away with Steve in Weymouth AND we have our lovely joint birthday party coming up in July, with the Venue, DJ and Photographer already booked - as well as a sweet little extra which I will mention again nearer the time.  Plus the Young Writers continue to thrive and grow and I am still being asked to do talks elsewhere.

I don't think it is because I am between jobs.  At least I am getting considered for interviews now which is an improvement on a month ago.  I know I have a great deal to offer and I know the right job will turn up as and when.  In the meantime I should be making the most of these precious moments and most of the time I am.  But Why ?  Who is it for and does it really matter anyway?

When I was young I had this morbid idea that I would die before I reached the aged of 35.  Don't ask me where it came from, it was just something I accepted.  So to be getting to 60 this year is a Massive achievement and I have lived a life well-lived.

But as I wallow in this pathetic, idiotic, self-inflicted mood, the one question I keep asking myself is What's It All For?

Answer on a postcard please ...

Friday, 10 February 2017

The Epic Awakes ...

Remember The Epic?  I went on about it for weeks - about how quickly it was growing, how new characters kept introducing themselves, how the story - or rather stories - kept developing themselves.  I think I got to something ridiculous like 50,000 words before I put it on the backburner, where, I am ashamed to admit, it has been ever since.  In fact, it has been there so long it is a wonder it isn't frazzled!  But this morning I reached for the folder again and now I am looking at it as if it may be something akin to Pandora's Box.  So, as I write, let me go through the contents.  Wish me luck, I am reaching for the folder now ...

Hmm - a red Silvine Exercise Book bearing the title "The TRACKLANDS Project". Lots of notes.  A poem - the Tracklands decree that begins If you're mouse, you can't friend cat.  If you're cat you will know that. Chiefs are always there to guide, so always serve the Chiefs with pride ...   A booklet entitled "Green Croydon - Discover Your Local Wildlife". Two A5 notebooks. One containing 16 chapters and several pages of notes.  One containing fifteen chapters and a couple of dozen empty pages.  Character names keep jumping out at me - Tamininka, Red, Speck, Elvira, Mono, Raja ...

All this begs the question - Why?  Or lots of questions - like why did I start it?  Why didn't I finish it? Where was I going with it?  And of course What Am I Going To Do With It Now?  I started this book on 14th May 2013 (I have nearly always recorded a start date on my work - even something as small as haiku) and I know I was in a creative frenzy with it for at least six months so why I came to a screaming halt I have no idea.  Maybe Life just got in the way.  Or maybe I was just busy getting My Writer ready for publication - and building the Young Writer group.  Whatever the reason now seems as good a time as any to see if I can revive it - breathe life back into it.  I know that at least one of the characters has been held in a dark dungeon for almost four years now, so maybe it is time I rescued him?  Anyway we shall see...

Slight change of subject, I am doing a talk this afternoon at the Chatterbooks group at Ashburton Library.  I was invited to be a guest speaker by the group leader some months ago so one thing I do need to do this morning is come up with a leaflet I can hand out about  Addiscombe Young Writers. Chatterbooks is a club for similarly aged children with an interest in books and I am actually quite chuffed I have been asked!  I have already devised a work sheet and sent it over so it will be interesting to see if I can tempt anymore AYW members!

What else have I been doing?  I am considering trying my hand at Copywriting.  This is something I have been thinking about for ages and in fact realised today that I have actually done it previously without even realising I was doing it, so I think it is definitely worth a try.  And I am still looking for a part time job that will bring in a regular income.  Mostly I am just so happy to be at home. spending quality time with Steve, getting lots of writing done .... It is after all what I was born to do!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

I Have A Dream ....

I decided yesterday that now was the right time to register at the Jobcentre.  I haven't had to do this in a decade but in that short time, the whole thing has changed!  Then I remember walking into the Jobcentre, finding it a hive of activity, having a look at the vacancies on display, talking to an advisor (then finding a job without her help a week or two later).  The Jobcentre now looks more like an internet cafe.  There are computers and a few staff.  But no job-boards, no vacancies on display. Fortunately I had signed up to their online jobsite a few days earlier so I am checking that at least three times a day - but no nibbles yet.  In a way, I think this is a better system.  In the old days it was an altogether humiliating experience with mainly illiterate staff who thought you owed them a living and treated you with complete disdain.  In fact I once pulled one Jobcentre up about the spelling and grammatical errors appearing with such regularity on their vacancies board, even offering to proofread them - but they wouldn't have it!  The guy I spoke to yesterday was really nice, very helpful and he actually made me feel important, so all credit to the new style Jobcentre and their attitude.

In the meantime, I am so enjoying rediscovering the writer within.  I have been invited to do a Creative Writing session next Friday afternoon for a group for 6 - 10 year olds called Chatterbooks which advocates all things literary.  I have also had lots of enquiries about the Young Writer group and one lady who approached me wants to highlight the initiative somehow and draw more attention to it.  So you know what?  I have a dream (as the late great Martin Luther King said). I want to pioneer Young Writer groups all over the country.  I have tried a number of publishers with the idea of a book outlining how to start a group like this, even offering to include the huge number of worksheets and certificates I have produced in the five years the group has been running, but for some reason nobody wants to know.  If their fear is that it is a somewhat limited market then I can reassure them all that it is actually a huge market.  Just think of the schools and childrens' libraries all over the country that could run a Young Writer group!  Not just schools and libraries either but youth centres, churches, after-school clubs ... the list is endless!  What I'd also like to do is set up an official award to be run annually or bi-annually that will give Young Writers everywhere the chance to show what they can do and try to earn a prestigious trophy and/or monetary reward .

Having said all that, and as deliciously heady as I find it,  I do know that things like this don't happen overnight.  I believe in the scheme a hundred and ten per cent.  Convincing other people to share that belief is another matter! So I shall hang on to it, nurture it, love it and believe in it forever.  And in the meantime I will write.  I will Write.  I Will Write ...

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

Time To Write ...

I am completely convinced that time moves at a different pace when you are not working.  I don't just mean for people like me who are between money-spinners.  I mean even if you are working but on sick leave - time just has a different quality to it.  Since leaving the Former Day Job, I have stuck pretty much to a routine.  I still get up early so I can have breakfast with Steve when he gets home from work (usually around 5.30 am).  Once he has gone up the Wooden Hill to Dreamland (as we used to say when we were kids), I load up the dishwasher, hang up the washing, sweep the floors, dust and have a general tidy around, just like I used to do when I was working.  I even still meet my coffee shop buddies at least once a week, usually around 7.30 at Nero's.  I try to avoid putting the TV on.  I do not want to become a Couch Potato.  So whilst I am not at a Day job, I go out most mornings looking for a Day job.

Yesterday, for example,  I went to Cheam Village.  Pretty little place; lovely old buildings, a few small independent local shops, nice atmosphere.  Then I went to North Cheam - and we will leave that there.  I looked in both places to see if there were any openings either in a Writing or not-quite-full-time capacity then had a coffee at Costa.  Whilst at Costa I added to a story I started a few days ago and wrote an entirely new story for a little girl who soon celebrates her fourth birthday.  I like doing that and often write personal stories for people I know - that was my second in a week! .  I even read a couple of chapters of the book I'd taken with me.  Then I decided to head home.  I looked at my watch.  It was 11.30 am.  So I had done all that in one morning!!!  That  is what I mean about time outside of the normal 9 - 5 routine being so different!  You can achieve a whole lot more!  You can get back to being yourself again.  You find hidden reserves of creative energy that had been mercilessly suppressed when your life revolved around getting to work on time, hitting targets, squeezing shopping into lunchtimes and generally being an employee.  This is a whole new ball game!

Of course, sitting in coffee shops, writing personalised stories and adding to something else, does not bring in the bacon.  But I have got two articles to write in the next day or two and I need to catch up on Young Writer stuff in time for the session on Saturday week.  I proofread a poem on Tuesday that is being published in an anthology in March.  And my eternal hunt for an agent has begun again in earnest.

This is my time.  I deserve this!


Wednesday, 4 January 2017

It's 2017 !!!!!!!!!!!!

Happy New Year to each and every one of you. I can hardly believe it is 2017 already!  Hope your festive season went well. Ours was brilliant and it was lovely to see people we don't see too often.

Well - it happened.  I am between jobs!  It was all very amicable and will give me some breathing space.  Fortunately several Creative Writing opportunities have come along - talk about perfect timing - which will be very handy as I look for another job.  It did feel a bit weird yesterday not to go back to work like so many others.  This morning I got up at the usual time, had breakfast with Steve before he went to bed after working last night, met my coffee shop buddies as usual and then spent the morning job-hunting.  I know something will turn up - even if its isn't full time.  I have signed up with several on-line recruitment companies. too.

My plan for 2017 - especially now I have a bit of time on my hands - is to write another book for children and to get myself signed up with an agent.  I have tried my entire life to get an agent and I will go through my new W & A Yearbook (courtesy the in-laws) looking for one and for any other new openings.  I deserve it now.  I have been writing for over fifty years!!!  When I think of how much I have had published over the years, plus the fact I have been a member of the Society of Authors for two decades or so, and all the courses and workshops I have run, talks I have done, competitions I have judged and commissions I have been presented with, and the huge success of the Young Writer group, I think now is my time!  Watch this space.

Wasn't it sad to lose Rick Parfitt, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and  Debbie Reynolds all in the space of four days!  What a shock!  We saw Quo at the O2 not four weeks ago - Rick was too ill to perform but Francis Rossi gave it his all.  To then find out we lost Rick on Christmas Eve - how sad is that?  But then, I think, 2016 was a very bad year for celebrity losses.  I seriously cannot think of any other year where we lost so many!

So as I sign off I wish you all the very best for 2017.  Believe in yourself and your dreams will come true!