Out of Reach

Space and time are great levellers.

I arrived back recently from my visit to Winchester Writers Festival.  A focused, intense festival for all kinds of writers. Stepping through, what seemingly on the outside appeared like a normal pub door was as enchanting as entering the wardrobe onto the world of Narnia.  In this case, it was a magical, creative realm of authors, poets, journalists, and like me hopeful wannabes. The shutting of the door closing contact on the real world.

The weekend was as varied as the choices on the pub menu and took place on Winchester University campus. I attended workshops; the architecture of storytelling, the power of point of views.  I listened to the role of agents, how to submit to an agent, how to self-publish, the role of the indie publisher.   Saturday morning found me enchanted and beguiled by the energy and charisma of Lemn Sissay, as he quoted his poetry and led us through a whirlwind glimpse of his world.   Later I was encouraged, enthused and enamoured by the beautiful Helen Fields, who was me only a few years ago, but now selling her books the world over.

The first evening, along with fish and chips I was given the news I needed a pitch.   I know all about elevator pitches in the business world; but I was in a magical world of make believe, pitches had not even crossed my mind. Here was my first hurdle; to reveal my story to others.

Overnight I wrote a few words and the next morning tried it out on my breakfast companions.  They wanted to know more so I elaborated bringing tears to their eyes, and mine, as I explained the complexities and themes running through Memories.   Had I not just achieved what I wanted more than riches or fame but to bring emotion to my readers.   The problem; I was telling, not them reading.

It finally came to my time, I left the comfort of the classroom and made my way to the designated room.    I considered fleeing through the open gates as I walked past, but small tiny steps pushed in the opposite direction.  Slowly I dragged heavy legs, my twisting tummy and spinning head up step by ever increasing step.  I gave my name and lined up with fellow nervous wannabe authors, clutching my cover letter, my synopsis, my first chapters, waiting for the appointed moment.  Eerily silent, bar the shuffle of papers; lost was the camaraderie of only a few moments ago; as time ticked on.    It arrived too quickly; I was ushered reluctantly into the darkened room.  Unsure if I was the quarry or the hunter I sought out my first agent, she was camped at the far back of the room and welcomed me with a broad smile.

We chatted amiably, she liked the story, she complemented my cover letter and my newly learned pitch.   She wanted it developed to show a different point of view, to be a bit spikier in the first page.   It was a timely story and I must get the changes done and send it out.  It needed to go straight into her top “read straight away” tray.

Time was up and new authors lurked in the wings waiting for their 15-minute slot of destiny.  I walked slowly away, breathing in the words she had said and wondering if the negative ones I expected had been lost in the change over time.  She had liked it, that was what she said, it was a good story, but it was too long.

Over the weekend, three other agents agreed it was too long.  I questioned the fourth as to what was the correct length as I’d had 4 different figures.    85-95,000 would be fine.   But why, what was wrong with my 112000-word count?   Foreign rights, she explained. An agent is looking at the package, would this sell to the foreign markets where there is a cost implication over 100,000 words.  They are also looking at film potential, or TV.   I relaxed almost hysterical like.  Bemused, she asked if that was ok. I assured her this was only my first steps and I was looking to see if it was good enough to send out, I hadn’t even considered a possibility beyond the next step.

Four agents, four different but all positive reactions, they all said it should be sent out to agents with different points of view, different voices and maybe shorter snappier sentences although that particular agent admitted that might be difficult as it was not my style.

Fate, Karma, or just good luck found me enrolled on Sunday on the Points of View work shop with the totally engaging Lorna Ferguson.  By lunch time my mind was clearer; I knew what I had done wrong with Memories, it needed to all be written in the first person with different people leading each chapter.  After lunch came the session on third person up close and personal or further away.  Would multiple 3rd person work?

The weekend was over before I knew it.   Strong friendships were forged from the intensity and creative passion of the weekend.  It’s funny how opening the covers of your story can suddenly find you revealing deep and personal truths about where you identify to complete strangers.  As they reveal inner emotions laid bare in their writing.

Riding high on a cloud of euphoria, creativity and hope I drove out across the threshold of creativity and back to my world.   Head churning with plans, re-writes, cuts and amendments, I flew through a few days of elation and optimism and then crashed landed back in reality.   Four re-writes, four different opinions, not to mention losing possibly 30,000 of my painstakingly crafted wording.  Suddenly the next step was too high to climb.  I did not want to think about the story any more.   The drawer loomed wide and welcoming; back inside Memories was filed and shut away for another time.

Bringing myself even to look at pen, paper or screen was too raw.   Thankfully having built up a career of having to write other people’s blogs and championing my previous courses I had a jobs list of blogs and articles to finish off.  I was at least writing if not in the genre I wished.   I found it difficult even to think about my own writing.

I met someone this week who just happened to mention casually that her partner was a publisher.  My antennae instantly alert, I asked what kind of books he published as I was a writer.

“Oh, everyone says that, you have no idea what writing a real book involves.”

It was my colleague who bristled with annoyance, ‘but Tiggy is a writer, she’s written a book and is looking for a publisher”

The girl looked at me with that look of ‘yeah you say that; but’.

“I have just returned from Winchester Literary Festival where I was meeting a few agents.”

She conceded if not particularly graciously.

Memories was out of the drawer, moments after she left and I am planning the one, not necessarily re-write but edit to get it to how I think it should be read.  Thanks to my friend Bridget Holding helping me focus the aim of my story. I have run a simple table of my characters and their aims, to decipher which person and by whose point of view it works best in.

Next morning, I wrote a piece of flash fiction to get the writing juices flowing again.

The step is still as big as ever, but just maybe I have the tools to start the climb.  Within weeks I know I will return to my inspirational bubble as I attend Swanwick; the place I feel so at home.   That feeling at Winchester of my ‘audience’ emotionally affected is the feeling I want for all my stories.

Am I nearly there yet or is it still just out of reach?


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A job by any other name

I am a writer.

At what point does that claim become true?

I was at a meeting this week and the discussion was around an article that needed to be written for the local press.   Someone turned to me and said “you’re the writer aren’t you?”

“Yes” I said without even thinking. Wrong day, wrong hat, wrong group! I am now commissioned to write two articles for a local paper on two different groups.  The question was not completely out of the blue.  I had just had an article about the history of this group in a recent issue of the paper, for which they had just been lauding the editorial and had all been extremely complimentary to my efforts.

Maybe it is because my children are growing up too fast and writing is my new baby.   After all No 1 Son is working in an estate agents, all tweed jacket, gilets and corduroy trousers talking property management portfolios and looking for the right investment to move out and start his building empire.

Middle Son has now been in his own rented flat for nearly a year.  He shares with a friend and has just lost his chef job when the restaurant closed.  He is freelancing till a new local job becomes available and earning enough to pay  his rent and bills with minimal help from bank of mum and dad.  He also tells me not working all hours and actually seeing his bed occasionally is a fantastic novelty.  Not sure his money will support a long term relationship with his long forgotten bed.

Mini Son is independent from the confines of his mother running him here, there and everywhere.   Where did that time go?  He walks to and from school and makes his own way to football practice.  He is one of the posse of 15 year old hoodies that wander up and down the high street menacingly with kebabs and chips, most weekends right underneath his brother’s flat.

Sexy Sporty Dad has just finished the Tour of Wessex cycle race, not for a place but to fill his free time.  With careful planning and meticulous execution he manages to find some kind of lycra clad event most weeks. Occasionally, a run or swim might be added to the weekend’s exertion.

Maybe my time is here.  The time to claim back who I am and who I want to be.  My priorities, I have become aware are changing and despite my job becoming more demanding so I am more determined to make writing part of my life.

I have managed to incorporate into my day job; writing blogs for other people, creating posts for their social media.  I recently found myself ghost writing one client’s monthly article for a magazine while he was on holiday.  To be fair, most months, sees a close collaboration from us both, but writing it all in his style and voice was my challenge.  I find now I have obviously picked up two more unpaid articles to write.

Writing covers a wide spectrum for me and where I want to be is in fiction, made up stories, imagined habitats, lots of poetic licence and an audience of open minds.

On that point, I have just finished my latest edit on Memories which has taken some time. I have learned a new and hopefully valuable craft through this  intense process.  I approached this edit in a fresh new way, working through the chapters, adding emotions and sensory description.   I then repeated the process grounding my reader to place and time within the story. I have revamped the first and last chapters, adding pace and spice, leaving the reader hanging and I have developed both my protagonist’s point of view and the oxymoronic relationship with her antagonist.

I have in fact rewritten the novel, doubled the word count and answered I hope all the questions but, kept the underpinned story as emotional and contemporary as ever. So ….

Does that make me a writer?

Early this year I decided that this was going to be my year and I was going to do something with my own writing, I was going to let it emerge from the deep drawers it has been wallowing in over the years.   So far I have sent off two stories for a competition, although not expecting to win, the act of finishing and submitting on time was a huge hurdle I have managed to clamber over.   I have booked myself a place at Winchester Writer’s Festival which is looming fast on the horizon, filling me with fear, dread and excitement.  In preparation I have submitted my first chapters, plus both cover letter and synopsis of Memories, to not just one agent but four.

Again the expectation may not be high but the experience will be invaluable.  It will set me on a fresh new road and direction to where I want to go.

Reactions have been supportive despite two people giving me the similar comment “well finally you are going to make a lot of money, as opposed to just talking about writing”.

Is being a writer all about money?

Yes I want to win the competitions, but the prizes are far more desirable than any monetary benefit I would receive.  Recognition, appreciation, self-belief are all part of the winning combination along with the confidence to keep trying.

Yes I want that book deal for the same reasons as above but the reality is I am writing for me and for the reader not for the money.  If I never have a book published will I stop writing?  No!   If they reject me will I hide under a bush and never charge up my laptop again?  No!   If they say I should change this or that or go about submitting another way or even self-publish will I get in my car and keep driving never to return?  No!  I hope I dust off the comments, file them carefully in the learning part of my brain rather than emotional and follow their suggestions.

When I learnt to ride a horse, I was taught that before you can call yourself a rider you have to fall off 7 times.  My 7th fall was a momentous celebration, the tears of humiliation, and pain gone before I even touched the ground.   I had done it, now I could and for ever more call myself a rider.  The nearest I get to a horse these days is watching the Grand National on TV but I am a rider; I passed through that rite of passage.

Rejections are part and parcel of a writer’s world.  I hope the magic number is still 7, as I have submitted to; 4 agents and 2 competitions.  I may only need to send one of the 3 stories almost ready for a Womag and I could qualify in one fell swoop, enough at least to call myself a writer.

For a group of business contacts  it was a revelation to some round the table, and myself in particular that I did admit to being a writer. I did however confirm there was no imminent deadline for their articles as I find the immediacy of journalism totally unachievable in my world.

Whatever job title I give myself, I can say I am fulfilling at least one of my resolutions for 2017.



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First and Last

“The room still smelt of sex and sweat.”

It was such a great first line, but despite that fabulous start the rest of the story didn’t deliver.  I have rewritten it time and time again, with different protagonists, different themes and different endings but the narrative just doesn’t work.  Regrettably I think this will be binned in favour of a more suitable, banal first line that suits the tale.

It started as an exercise at my writing group; we had to begin a story, one to be sent to a competition. It came to my turn to read my work out; I offered my opening line but didn’t get to finish due to the astonishing and most unexpected effect on my listeners.   Only a moment elapsed before the words sunk in, then a ripple of laughter followed by wows and oohs completely drowned out my timid reading,  I stopped and when calm was restored to the room the general consensus was to hear what happened next.  Unfortunately on the night in question there was even less than there is now.

The reaction of my writing group is the reaction I, and I suspect every other writer wants, readers who pick up their work to have,  that need to go on and find out what is happening.

I attended another writing workshop later in the week, this one is more focused on feedback and we present our previously written 1000 words for scrutiny and advice.   The comments are always positive but open up weaknesses, misunderstandings and sometimes grammatical errors.    I struggle with critiquing others work, especially as they all write so much better than I do; some of them are successful writers and authors and they are asking me for advice.  But we all need beta readers who can be objective and point out things whatever status we have reached.  The paying public will be first to criticise our book and not buy it.  I feel I still have more to learn in the subtle craft of critiquing but am studying how the others comment and compliment and also use previous feedback in their redrafts.

I have been so busy editing Memories that the evening came round a little too suddenly for me.  I could not decide what I wanted feedback on.   1000 words from the chapter I was working on seemed a little random and I wasn’t sure what detail I needed comment on in isolation.  So many Irish names and complex characters to pre-explain; not to mention the history would take up my allotted 15 minutes before I even got to read my piece.  I opted to rifle through my binned drawer and pulled out a short story I had written many years before and never had the nerve to send.

Unexpectedly, it sparked a positive discussion, but  my listeners were all agreed on one thing it needed finishing off.  I had opened a lot of threads and where as I thought it was finished leaving the reader to decide where it goes, my listeners wanted more guidance to close the story for them.    The story was rife with internal angst, past drama and I thought future hope, which others saw too.  One person, however saw a very dark, sinister thread weaving its way to a sad and brutal end.   Another writer actually pointed out with a bit of creativity it could be sent to the very publication, I had in mind when writing it.   I wriggled, and glowed from the inside with the excitement of maybe not being so far off the original mark and the magazine might yet be receiving a copy sometime soonish if I overcome my nerve.

If I have learnt anything this week it is the importance of my first and last lines.  I think back to the drawing board or rather computer keyboard is called for. I now have a new story for the competition still looking for that hooking first line,  and I have another that needs finishing with a cracking last line not to mention a fresh look at memories opening and closing lines.

“…. you then killed her.  I so hate you!”


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Bah Humbug

dsc_0001It was maybe the best Christmas ever, certainly, if I don’t count the curry we had a few years ago when renting a cottage for the week, it was the best Christmas dinner I have had for a long time.

Don’t get me wrong I don’t mind Turkey and trimmings but I do feel it is overrated these days and as our pallets become more adventurous there are other tastes to celebrate.  I attended 6 Christmas meals through work, the advantage or by the end disadvantage, of working alone but being included in networking, and client get togethers.  I pointedly ordered anything but turkey from the menus and had some very wonderful meals.

Sadly, a long time ago now I lost my Christmas spirit and am not quite sure how or why or even if I really want it back.

The Christmases of my childhood were magical. The tree, locally sourced and dug still smelling of pine, was put up in the hallway. So tall it climbed, up through the stairwell to reach the uppermost floors where the star shone out from its tip. Twinkling lights illuminating the shadowy stairs as we made our way up to bed.

No matter how poor we were, there were presents for all, many homemade or shared with siblings but they arrived under the tree each Christmas morning.  I had spent weeks if not months saving pennies to buy materials for making odd shaped toys for the children, cringe worthy  paper poetry books, thankfully long lost for the adults.  The annual battle to fit the turkey in the oven, my uncle always brought this as part of his contribution along with all kinds of alcoholic bottles.  Being single he challenged himself to donate the biggest bird he could find. There were chocolates and if you were clever no real constraints on how many you could eat. It was one of the few times snacks appeared in our household, nuts, olives, anchovies and occasionally crisps, oh and those tiny silverkin onions, that I don’t see today.

We ventured out once over the festivities to go to Midnight or more often early morning mass leaving my father to cook the Christmas breakfast for our return,  getting up was never a problem for us in those days.    People came to us for the annual Boxing Day drinks party and as teenagers we experimented with many a concoction of what now seems; rather mild cocktails mixed surreptitiously and drunk secretly.  For a few days, I, who used helping as an escape to academia found willing sibling hands at every turn keen to wash, dry, cook or lay up just to move things on.

Things changed.  I stopped sending Christmas cards some years ago, when  I could not find religious ones and the cost of posting exceeded my meagre Christmas spends, but even then I managed to budget for a small donation to a deserving charity.  This year it is the air ambulance’s turn; being involved in rugby I have seen this arrive at the club a few times over the years, not to mention it attending accidents involving friends children.

I see the Christmas lists, watch the adverts and note the wishes of children wanting the latest expensive gadget or must have. I can remember asking the wider family if they have any ideas for presents and being sent a list of items from the Argos catalogue, cost, colour page all included.  All overpriced for what I could afford to spend on my own children let alone those of someone else.   As they grow their tastes and expectations have increased and there is no way I can equal, so I don’t; not anymore.  I send money, tokens or vouchers to be put towards whatever they choose.  With a new generation of babies starting to appear on the wider scene buying baby toys brings back a bit of that lost magic.

Christmastime to me was once the season of goodwill.  That meant the enjoyment came from the giving and in my own quiet rebellious way I am now doing just that.

I am dsc_0043involved in the Charity Christmas meal.  I have spent about 6 weeks attending meetings and asking the local community for help with, the cooking, serving out, the venue, the food, and presents.  People have been so generous not only with their time but their money.

I was told before Christmas I was being selfish doing this.

“Why?” was my astonished answer to that.

Because I was stealing my children’s Christmas and they would never know the fun and excitement of a proper Christmas like the ones we used to do when they were tiny.

Mini Son has to take part in an award for school part of which involves 15 hours of community service in some form or another.  Spacing it out over the past few weeks he has attended the meetings with me and was there on Christmas Eve helping decorate the hall and tree.  After opening his very full stocking from Father Christmas and a hearty breakfast he joined me at the hall and worked all day as a fantastic runner, washer upper, and now is having a well-earned rest playing with all his new toys and gadgets while his classmates try and find things to help in the community.   This is the second year he has helped and he is already talking about next year.

No 1 Son who now at 21 may come and go as he pleases, for the third year in a row arrived shortly before the guests and spent a few hours chatting to them, helping them to get food, help them open their presents and generally flirting with old ladies who absolutely loved him.    There is no pressure for him to be there and if he wishes to join us next year he is so welcome.  My suspicion is he will.

Middle Son, I feel sorriest for.  Three years ago he wanted to be involved and spent the whole day helping, having made the ‘still talked about today’ shortbread at his garden centre work for guests.   Last year he was angry that having to work all day at the pub where he cooked prevented him being involved at all. This year it turns out he had to work again, a downside of being a chef.  However he and his team offered to cook the turkey, roast potatoes, parsnips, carrots, sprouts and gallons of gravy.    They even brought it to us before getting on with their own service.   He was probably more involved than the rest of us.  I managed by pure accident to run into him as I loaded my car just as he walked back to his home where his friends were waiting , so wished him a happy Christmas before I came home. The briefest of encounters but enough to allay any worries about him being lonely. He was joining us on Boxing Day.

I arrived home, my mouth watered as the rich aroma of Italian enveloped me.  Sexy, Sporty Dad handed me a large glass of wine and a bowl of steaming lasagne, garlic bread and salad on the side.  He had been on a long guilt free cycle ride before arriving back with time to create the meal, yet another thing to add to his repertoire of cooking successes.  Every mouthful tasted succulent, the pasta cooked to challenge our local Italian restaurant and the cheese sauce dripped through every forkful bringing the tastebuds to a level I rarely reach these days.  Maybe because I had no part in it, maybe because it was not the long laborious roast with heavy vegetables or just maybe it was the wine that accompanied it but it was one of the best Christmas dinners I have had.

dsc_0075We sat down in front of Doctor Who, Mini Son handed out presents, of which there were still plenty and nobody felt hard done by.  The TV played in the background, the chocolates disappeared surprisingly quickly, a couple more glasses of wine and liqueurs were consumed.  It was warm, very festive and the day resonated with goodwill.

I think I may have found my Christmas spirit; underneath all that commercialism people want to help, they are happy to give generously. Maybe they just need to know what is happening. Friends who’ve known what I do, asked to be part of it this year, others who are tied up with family helped on the other days.   What each took away is a sense of inner peace and contentment that all the presents, food and drink can never quite match.

I may be selfish in that I held out for what I felt was right; but I know that there are people in the local community who had a better Christmas because of my selfishness and I do not feel my own children suffered in any way.  Maybe they benefited in some small way by contributing.

Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and that the New Year brings health, happiness and helpfulness.



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Sprinkling the Magic -Story Snippet

This was a piece I was asked to write for a workshop. It was all a bit rushed but tries to capture the spooky season with a slightly different take.

It was a large full moon that lit the starless sky. The world was aslumber, as was Serena although her ears were on full alert. They had been for a few days now. Tonight was different though, just as the clock began to count down towards the 3am bewitching hour, a howl broke the silence of the night. One might have guessed it to be a wolf far away crying for its mate, but the call wakened Serena in a second.

She looked over at her husband, he was fast asleep and a kiss would keep him so. She slid from the bed,down through the door and was away in just moments, gliding over the gate, along the road and across the fields. As she got nearer the stones more dark shadows emerged, women from every direction cloaked in the blackness of the night, some still travelled by broomstick and others appeared unexpectedly throwing Serena off course slightly. One day, she thought, I will be able to just appear.

The stones themselves rose high into the night sky, full of history from the coven. Tonight they were lit from within, with arcs of light reaching up to touch the moon. It was a signal when the light arcs met and only occurred every 13 years, but every witch was attuned to its light source and the interim monthly changes that surged their powers.

The wolf, silhouetted against the stones, ceased his calling and metamorphosed back into the loyal servant of King Oberon, his sharp face watching the approaching crowd, long ears listening for any threat. The King’s other fairies were flitting through the crowds taking cloaks and serving butterfly milk. Serena handed over her heavy black cloak to them, took her drink and shook her long golden hair free. Her gown, layer upon layer of invisible, weightless, sheer silver gossamer, radiated the light from the surrounding stones. Friends sought her out and there was an excited aura of expectation.

Oberon appeared, relaxed and beautiful with the exquisite Tatiana by his side. It was strange, Serena thought how the world assumed Oberon to be the King of the Fairies whilst he was, in reality; King of all other worldly creatures, including both types of witch. Tonight’s gathering of white witches would send out powers of good and benevolence into the world but, there would be another night like this when all would be in darkness with the obscure, blood red moon high in the night sky and black witches would yield to Oberon’s darker commands.

Serena had attended a black witch gathering in her early days not knowing where she belonged and not understanding the differences. She now understood goodness was ingrained in her heart and she could never cross that line even if she wanted to.  She knew many women though who chose the darker side, that she called friends and even family.  She also noted for a few years now, there were fewer white witches being accepted at the annual augeration ceremony, what this meant was not for mere witches to worry about.

“Friends,” Oberon finally called the gathering to order. “We are gathered here tonight as there is a menace attacking our humanoids and frightening their little children including our own young witches.   With the onset of Halloween fortnight we must be vigilant this year and destroy  these creatures before the humanoids become aware of other worldly creatures sharing their space.” His voice roared but each witch heard it as a tinkle of soft bells as it implanted its message on their hearts.

“Oh Great King how will we recognise these evil beings?”

“They are easy to spot by their oversized feet, although beware they are deceptively fast when put to the test. They wear large, brightly coloured trousers, held in place with coloured braces. They have bow ties that spin round and spray water and their grotesque faces are white with sad tears and big red noses. Do not be fooled by these foul fellows, they are out to steal souls and when afraid the humanoid becomes vulnerable.”

“And how should we defeat them Great Oberon?”

“Fairy dust will destroy them and return the earth to calm. Bow down my magic coven and receive the fairy dust in bounteous quantities. Use it well and wisely doing good throughout this land.”

From Oberon’s open arms came a shower of stars, every colour of the rainbow plus a 100 more shades and tones, filling the air. Each witch blazed as the dust settled upon her and her radiance burnt a hole in the sky around them. Fairies flitted back into the gathering with cloaks and brooms, the meeting was over. Oberon and Tatiana were nowhere to be seen.

Serena threw her cloak around her shimmering body and extinguished her sparkle. She watched as the remaining fairy dust filled the sky with stars, little pots of emergency dust to be used when needed.

The journey home was quicker, almost instantaneous with her replenished power. She floated upstairs and climbed into bed silently. As she unkissed her husband, he began to stir again. Tonight he will have dreamed of fairies and witches and magic, but will be too embarrassed to speak of it, even to her. How she loved being married to a humanoid or man as he called himself.

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Writing Fear

I call myself a writer and my own experiences should nurture my writing. Remembering to capture the physicality of emotion is not always a priority but over the last 24 hours I have suffered a full spectrum of fearful senses.

It began when the whistle blew.

What now? That was the most perfectly placed kick, well I thought and so did those round me.

He‘d had the ball and the huge thugs from the opposing team were thundering towards him. He had his best friend out on the wing, the telepathy between them finely tuned. He would kick the ball, Stuart would run as fast as he could, catch it and take it over the line adding 5 more points to the home scoreboard.

It started well, he kicked, the ball arced beautifully up and the supporters lifted their heads to watch and follow as the ball almost in slow motion came flawlessly down toward Stuart’s welcoming arms.

So much can happen in a split second.

A rush of heady pride filled my heart and I felt heat swell against my ribcage almost threatening to burst through as I watched No 1 Son’s kick land safely and precisely.

Why then did the referee blow his whistle, no one was offside, No 1 Son was playing his coveted position of No 10 and the kick was in. Stuart like all the supporters was furious. Why stop the game?

Glancing back to see if I could catch his expression and offer my sympathies I could not see Number 1 Son. Where he kicked from there was a body on the floor. In the corner of my eye I can see the team physio running on to the pitch. Where was he, green shirts standing around but none wearing his Number 10?

Fear, that’s what this feeling is, I search the pitch. The ref is telling off one of the opposing thugs and by the gesticulating he is not happy.

Can everyone hear my heart, it beats so loudly, my stomach has pinched so tight I feel sick. It could have been 5 minutes on pitch but it felt an eternity before the tableau on the far side of the pitch helped him stand. He could not support his weight and went down again, a friend already hobbling having been taken out earlier in the game came and assisted him to hobble off the pitch. I breathed.

A late tackle!

At least he was not unconscious. But it was not Number 1 Son’s head I was concerned about or even his life now he was up; it was his future most certainly as a rugby player, his as yet, only true love. He was holding his hip.

As followers of my blog will know well; Number 1 Son’s hips and I have been on a long and very painful journey. How can you feel hot and cold at the same time? I was seething with a red hot anger that someone had hurt him, I was physically shaking with no control over it, the slow creeping cold of concern growing up from deep within my core dousing the heat and I found I was gasping each time I remembered to allow myself to breath.

Instinctively I wanted to run across the pitch thump the thug and pick up my 20 year old baby in my arms and rush him to the hospital to be checked over.

I refrained and went through an overwhelming excess of emotions in just a fleeting moment.

I was hot, my muscles were taut and ready to throw a punch at my son’s attacker. My safety did not register on my emotional scale. How dare the opposition tackle my boy, even if it was a game. He had tackled late and that is not allowed for a very good reason; it is unsafe.

Finally Number 1 Son made it round to the bench. He was unhappy and it was his hip that was hurting. Did he want me to take him to hospital?

Not at the moment; the glare told me, in front of the team’s pretty physio and his team mates and coaches. His face told me the other story, but I knew here and now I wasn’t going to win. I no longer felt that I was going to be sick but my stomach was bruised with the wringing it had been given. My heart was still beating fast but maybe not as loud, it too ached with bruising. With each breath though still came a silent prayer that he would be alright.

He played no more of the match and was helped by team mates to join in the end of game tunnel of clapping where both teams clap the other through. Far more gallant than I felt towards the opposing team who had effectively removed 4 from the game and possibly future ones, and injured and bloodied many more still struggling off the pitch. He then joined his team in the changing room whilst I waited in the bar for his arrival, only allowing myself reassurance when he arrived walking, albeit a little awkwardly, unaided with pint in hand.

It was only the morning after when I was out jogging, very slowly. As dawn rises so much later these days I leave the house in darkness and head for the main road where the street lights remain on through the night. I was on my way home and had turned off the main road to come through the lower part of the estate, I know the road and route very well even if I could see very little. It was quiet, very quiet and suddenly I was shocked by the hushed sound of another pair of footsteps contrasting with mine.

I could see nothing and my heart missed at least one beat; I felt it could be more. I took a deep breath and I could feel my hairs stand on the back of my neck cat like. We were in touching distance before I could make his shape out. I felt every nerve in my body tighten in readiness, for what I did not know but the fleeting thought of sprint went through my mind.

He was taller than me and his face hidden in darkness, his head with a hoody, his dark close fitting trousers and his trainers only really visible now. He was so close as we passed on the pavement I could hear his breathing, not hard or fast, his arm brushed mine fleetingly.
I pulled back without thinking and my pace quickened without any conscious input from me. My hands had formed fists and I flexed them to check my only weapons, my nails were prepared. Back to the middle of the empty road and I kept the faster rhythm going. I know someone living here, and here and here just in case. Of what?

Here was I clothed in dark hoody, black leggings and trainers breathing fast and furious and so ready for flight if it was needed. Fear cloaking me and preparing me to fight I was still breathing fast and I was alert to every tiny sound, every nuance of movement.

My potential attacker disappeared as quickly as he had appeared probably on his way to his own day and routine and I suspect he didn’t even register he had passed me. One thing I am sure, my presence will not have caused the reactions in him, his caused to me.

In less than 24 hours I had experienced the two very different extremes of fear and this week those moments of fear will come in very useful as I edit Memories. I need to remember those intense non cognisant responses and use them in my own writing.

An update on No 1 Son, he is walking slightly better and hobbling around. He will not be playing for a week or two but I suspect he will be back as soon as he can.


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I returned to my favourite week of the year; Swanwick.

The trepidation never dissipates and the fear still accompanied me up the long driveway. Was I good enough? Who would remember me? Why was I pretending to be a writer? Despite doubts vying for my attention, this year was different, it felt different, and I was different. The butterfly was emerging. Maybe no longer deceiving myself and them this year; I felt like a writer.

It was going to be another adventure that much was sure. Adventures don’t always need to be the unknown as I knew the drill, I knew where I was going and I knew some of those who would be there but I also know there would be new friends to make, new experiences and learning to do.

The journey up was clear and smooth and so much easier with friend and fellow writer Marianne doing the navigating.
No matter how many times I drive up the majestic curve of the drive to the house at the top, the tummy flutters, the tangible taste of fear teases the taste buds and the worry that no-one will remember me, ride roughshod over my consciousness. Every inch of that drive is filled with an amalgam of conflicting emotions competing for attention.

Stepping out of the car to receive my key was long enough to allay the worst fears. As I re-entered my bubble of inspiration, already I was buzzing, someone hugged me and said welcome back we must catch up later. I was home; home in my community of like-minded friends, in my step out of reality and in the one place I could be me – a writer.

A brilliant first night that involved meeting up with old friends spanning the last four years, some who I have seen every year others that have returned just this time.

The inspirational speaker John Lamont sowed the first seeds of my belief.

“Visualise what you want, see that book cover, smell it, lick it, taste it. How do you feel as you hold it in your hand? How do you feel watching someone turn the pages of your book and smile or wipe a tear from their eyes as they immerse themselves in the story?

Come back to the now and go and achieve your goals”

I felt good, I felt so excited. The week could only get better.

I awoke with a great hunger on Sunday morning that could not be satiated with a cup of tea and biscuit. This hunger went deeper into the psyche and needed more than food to fill the senses.

I set off to explore journalism with the enthusiastic, energetic and engaging Simon Hall, BBC News correspondent for the South West, so his credentials seemed certain. I was not looking for a career path change but the immediacy and tight deadlines could only enhance my writing. The same disciplines and of course the techniques would serve me well in my day job where press releases and magazine editing are monthly tasks. Seeing opportunities and running towards the danger could not only be lucrative (if I remember my camera phone) but augment my descriptive narrative.

Not a conventional teacher Simon soon had the group in the palm of his hand determined to impress and when he threw out the first challenge I was compelled to not only complete the task but in the quiet intimacy of the Vinery where he had moved the class I read my first piece out. Shaking scared and stuttering my way through the piece I was overawed by the response. They liked it, for the life of me now I cannot remember what I had read out but it was liked not just by Simon but others in the class made an effort to congratulate me and comment after the class. There was just one more challenge laid down that first day.

“We will be producing a newspaper at the end of the week so go out and find stories”

My week could only get better as I joined Fiona Samuel for her Eats, Shoots and Leaves course. A title that explained exactly the topic. I admit that my writing is not perfect but I do try to get the basics right although the modern use of the Oxford comma may take a little while for me to get my head round. It was also Fiona who led me to my first story for the Swanwick Standard.

My next hurdle was the flash fiction, a fast hour of ideas and stimulus that left me determined I could do this. The idea inbued, infused and implanted my mind over the next few days; probably not the fast immediacy of journalism but the story developed until I felt able to pen it and pop it into the competition box. Never before has my adage “its not the winning its the taking part” been so relevant, as I entered against a stunning array of other worthy writers. The competitiveness within me obviously could not remain dormant for long and a flutter of disappointment rippled through me as another name was called for a deservedly first prize. I was, however more than content to have been in the competition with some quality writers.

The week progressed with the wonderful speaker Kathryn Aalto, who I am so inspired by, talking about her book. Normally I buy so many books at Swanwick from the speakers and tutors but this is one of the rare occasions when I already had her book The Natural World of Winnie the Pooh treasured in the bookcase at home so declined yet another copy. But it was her words Persistence and Positive Mental Attitude that took my week forward. “I really can do this!”

Building my confidence, I later joined Bridget Holding to learn how to eat an elephant. She had been my tutor earlier this year on my Historical Fiction course. Her words endorsed my learning from the earlier course and reminded me she had been impressed enough with my writing to feature me on her own website Wild Words. I remembered how the course had built my confidence when my fellow students commented on my words and when Bridget had been so complimentary.

Further challenges and obstacles leapt across my path but the underlying message “I can” was the theme of my week and as the week drew to a close and the chrysalis of Swanwick magic began to break open around me I found myself reading more work out and submitting not just my first item but 3 articles for the Swanwick Standard which was published on the last day.

The reaction to 3 simple stories and not even fiction was the icing on my tea-time Swanwick cake. “Was that your story? I loved the stories in the Standard! Well done great work.” Does it matter if the platitudes were truthful or not, not in the least; the fact that people sort me out, the quiet dull moth in the corner to allow my wings to unfold into a blaze of colour and confidence was what mattered.

The last night pantomime crystallised my own journey of doubt vs success. I know it will not be easy and doubt will still be omnipresent but have I launched my fluttering flight into the future? I am on my way to overcoming doubt, I may not quite be ready to run away with success but I know she is “just behind me” with a helping hand to guide me on my way.

Suddenly the bubble was burst and the butterfly departed but not before a fresh round of farewells and promises to keep in touch, to continue what was learned on the courses and a promise to send Memories out.

The week had been full of firsts particularly overcoming the biggest hurdle of my writing career so far; reading my work aloud. I had never been able to do that; so what gave me the confidence to open my mouth in a room full of some very professional writers and read my humble offerings out. It had seemed so easy, surrounded by passionate, persuasive and persistent writers but back out of my larva of literacy and learning and in the real world can I sustain that determination and enthusiasm.

I have taken the plunge and following a wonderful breakfast discussion sent Memories out again to a beta reader from Swanwick. A real test of my faith in my story, although it has been read by a few people this lovely lady is a writer and someone I look up to so I hope her critique is not too harsh.

Simon Hall has now published the Swanwick Standard online, check out the three Tiggy Hayes articles and not forgetting the fabulous ones others have written. Shall I stick to the day job?

I finish with the twitter exchange as his words are at the heart of my determination that this Swanwick was different…
Screenshot 2016-08-21 08.18.09

Screenshot 2016-08-21 08.18.37 (2)

And in answer to Simon’s comment I did send off an article using all I had learned from his course to our local weekly news magazine and I had a reply.
Screenshot 2016-08-21 09.19.23 (2)


Previous posts about my emergence from anonymity to today through Swanwick.
Whats in a Name Aug

Commercial Potential Aug 13

To Become or Not To Become Sep 13

Stirred and Shaken Aug 14

Back to School Aug 15

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Hidden Support

As individuals we all go through diverse and unique experiences which collide together to create the characters we become, totally distinctive and unlike any other being. Leaving us feeling solitary and solo. Sometimes it is in the most crowded of places that you feel so alone and isolated. I was told something this weekend which had a deep effect on me.

Cousin Cat and I met up for a rare family party. Due to life and geographical distances it is not often we get together, other than weddings but increasingly at funerals. This was a fun opportunity to recap, remember and ruminate on how we have all changed and grown up over the intervening years. We explored our mutual struggles with being working mothers and bringing up our children, we swapped stories of emotion, trauma and triumphs. we giggled at the gruesome, the guidance and the rebellion.

It was her husband who came over and joined us as we cried with laughter and asked us what was so funny. Cousin Cat commented “did you know Middle Son was run over, knocked unconscious and suffered a fractured skull?”

together-235128The bewilderment on his face as he said, “that’s hardly funny” sent us both into further gales of laughter. How could he understand that we were not actually laughing at the incident but at how Middle Son had overcome this hurdle and now as a grown man was about to depart the family nest and build adventures of his own. Not to mention; his emotionally sapped parents who have suffered with all his ups and downs and even now were about to release some of the home reins.

It reminded me of another moment of emotion that Number 1 Son probably will never understand; when at 14 he was told he would not be able to play rugby due to injury for a whole season. To a young teenager a whole season or year as it effectively was, might seem like the rest of his life. To a world weary mother who had spent a week researching on the internet and was terrified the doctor was going to say he would never play again,“one season” were the sweetest words I think I have ever heard. Now a 20 year old he has spent his first season playing in the first team and taking part in cup matches when work allowed.

The morning after the party I was reminded of the 1992 Olympics and Derek Redmond. I cannot hope to convey the emotion of the moment, the true grit, bravery and sheer courage he showed to finish that race after his hamstring snapped in such dramatic fashion. Derek slowed but did not stop, he hobbled on determined to reach the finish. Such blatant agony etched on his face, felt by every onlooker as they willed him on with each excruciating step. Suddenly from the stands a man broke through and pushed off the security guards to run across the track with the words “I am here son!”

Leaning heavily on his father’s shoulders the pair staggered and stumbled across the line. The video of the event is widely available but I must warn you, tissues are a must.

Of course with the Olympics just round the corner, there will be so many stories of battles and brawls to reach this pinnacle of perfection. We will learn of the determination and sacrifices that have been made and the huge cost in emotion and hard work to have overcome the hurdles so far.

Happiness is often tinged with sadness. I have a deep belief that success comes through the striving, conquering and defeating of setbacks. Achievement comes from tragedy to deliver a deeper intense emotional high. Without the adversities in life, we would never enjoy the bittersweet taste of accomplishment.

hold-544519How I would love life to be a rose-tinted smooth un-traumatic journey but it isn’t like that and it’s the bumps and bruises that build us into the people we are together with the unseen posts of support that hold and guide us along that unforgiving road.

Sexy Sporty Dad and I went to Paris last weekend to watch the “Tour de France” final. We had a wonderful view from le Place de la Concorde at the base of the Champs Elysees. I was surprised when my hero Chris Froome who had led the race for 3 weeks was not out in front leading the pack where I expected him to be. He was dropping further and further back till on the last lap he had made his way to the back. Amazingly so was the rest of his team; the same team who had fought so hard through rain, sun, mountains and sprints to keep him in the lead. That same team, who now in front of me linked their arms across the wide expanse of the Champs Elysees, with the Arc de Triumph as back drop. Chris may have won the tour but the whole team crossed the line as one. It is a moment I will remember forever. It had been a team effort to get him to victory and he now acknowledged their support and sacrifice in that simple gesture.

I don’t actually remember who won the 400m in the Barcelona 1992 Olympics although it will be well documented. Somewhere there will be a richly deserved gold medal proudly displayed in someone’s front room. But somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I keep an image of two men struggling over the finish line together.

Enjoy the next few weeks of determination, there will be emotion, there will be tears and there will be disappointments as well as successes. The amazing stories that will be told of overcoming adversity especially when the Paralympics follow on; will all include the essential element support. Naturally I want England to win all the gold medals but the inspirational tales that will be told of many of the athletes will be the memories that remain.

Having laughed till we cried not only about my children and struggles Cousin Cat and I talked of her own family with the different worries and concerns her children caused as they grew to adulthood. As we parted at the end of a lovely evening Cousin Cat whispered in my ear “remember you are not alone and what doesn’t break you actually makes you who you are.”

Simple words that mean a lot!

I am counting the days till I go off to Swanwick again this year and immerse myself in my bubble of writing, inspiration and support. Although Memories waits Swanwick matchingfor the send off to an agent, I have been kept busy writing small bits of content for work and the web. What to pack, to remember to take with me, to leave behind. And what style nails will I choose for this year’s school?


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Out of Control

Isn’t it funny how sometimes no matter what you do and what carefully laid plans you may have spent hours formalising; life just throws curve balls so fast you cannot return them all.

And this time what a curve ball.

Out / leave / Brexit.

I don’t think the full impact has really hit home and only now is the reality starting to hit with yet new crises hitting the government daily. Unfortunately in a week since the referendum result, Don’t get me wrong I campaigned for people to go out and vote but I have been shocked at the reaction of those that did vote to leave and are already regretting the decision; but they won. Where are their celebrations? Particularly I have been amazed to hear how many people say “I only voted to make a stand; we didn’t expect to win”.

Have we all lost any modicum of intelligence, our sense of reason, our view of democracy; if you vote for something in this country at least while we are a democracy, you may win and that means you have to deal with the consequences of your actions.

I cannot believe the deep dividing damage this referendum has done. Families have been split with partners not able to talk about it, children unable to agree with parents and grandparents. I know of one friend whose elderly gran now will have nothing to do with her or her son. I hope they can be reconciled sooner rather than later. Husband and wife friends who can hardly talk to each other, if only for their children’s sake I hope they speak soon.

The damage will not heal for a long long time to come. It could be generations before the memory of why we don’t talk to that side of the family eases enough to rebuild. And all this was played out before any stubby little pencil was lifted on the day. I don’t for one minute think that had the result been to remain the division would be any less, the rift was already ruptured.

I am angry, a very deep down anger that makes me feel sick to the stomach. It is not so much the result which was always inevitable if not now then later. Had the very close vote been reversed the shock and resentment would have been just as visible and brutal but the other way round. I am angry by the hype and propaganda played by all sides in this bitter battle.

I am irate that such a life changing and key decision can be left to a simple yes/no, asked from us the ignorant. We are not the experts, we are not the holder of the purse strings of the country, we do not have the knowledge or involvement to make an informed decision this momentous and binding.

I feel betrayed not just by politicians who let’s face it; are only voted in if they have enough charisma to carry the populous with them, and are paid to win the debate however they see fit. I feel betrayed by the people around me, the everyday people who didn’t take this seriously; they preferred to be led by hype than to actually understand what they were about to vote on. The people who believed what was being said even as the hype escalated into the higher levels of fiction and fantasy, but could not be bothered to find out what it was all about.

I am being naïve really; who actually reads the small print before signing. Who actually asks what the contract wording actually means and who even knows what we have just left. Not many apparently as Google crashed the day after the referendum under the pressure of requests for “what is the EU”. It’s like signing up to a 24 month phone contract and then realising you have the wrong provider and you cannot get a signal without standing on the roof swinging from the aerial to speak to anyone. It is too late!

Maybe I am lucky, as I don’t have time to watch all the mud-slinging and the fancy propaganda that has followed this campaign around. I did, however write an article for publication explaining what it was all about and I believe it was a very balanced article; that was the feedback I had. What it enabled me to do was look at the small print, read the treaty, unpick the concessions and the reactions to us getting them and understand the process.

It was 1707 when Scotland and England became united, then in 1922 Ireland left the union, almost immediately Northern Ireland came back to form the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland shortened to the easier United Kingdom or UK.

After the Second World War a group of countries got together to adopt an economic and friendly co-operation with the basic concept; countries who trade together are less likely to go to war against each other. And the European Union was forged. Well that forging of foreign foes has been destroyed in one very close vote; the repercussions of which will ripple far beyond the shores of the UK.

I know there are certain rules and legislation that annoy the hell out of me; light bulbs why do they have to be so dark? When I am struggling to read; at that moment in time, I care little about the future of planet earth and global warming I care about the strain and effort on my eyes to see the small print. The same with the hoover and the kettle, when I need a cup of tea I need it now not later when the kettle has had time to think about warming up slowly. I of course cannot blame all these on just the EU as the UK, a major player, was very much instrumental in making these for ourselves as we were with every rule, initiative and decision made in Brussels. And what exactly is the point of metric?

I have my own fears and worries about the future. Sexy Sporty Dad and I are in a precarious age bracket and we both worry now our jobs could be at risk. He does not know how things will change for him but being in a relatively high position he will be in the early firing line if things cannot calm down. I work for small businesses who are just struggling to get over one recession that saw many go out of business, so I hope the few that did survive can weather this storm, because without them I have no work. Every cloud has a silver lining and I would have no excuse not to get my book ready and out.

I do hear there is a job available urgently and to be in place by September, checking my diary I seem to be pretty free.

Job Description:
To pick up the broken pieces of a battered nation, kiss it all better and guide it through the most precarious decision making, and choice of options available whilst stemming the flow of lifeblood and trying to save such major limbs as Scotland and Northern Ireland. To negotiate with the other children in the playground of Europe who have turned on this loudmouthed and biggest troublemaker and don’t want him back with his special needs and wants, so that he can at least have some corner of the continental concourse to make new friends.out of control

I hesitate what nation needs picking up and whether there is anything to salvage with all parties imploding in on themselves. Maybe now would be a time to start afresh and create the united rational party with the premise to make it a better world for our children.

So how to begin?

How about; a nice cup of tea and maybe a small slice of good old fashioned Victoria sponge.

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Damask Rose Cottage – Story Snippet

I have to confess; I really did not listen to my head at all.  When I saw the cottage; I fell in love there and then.

There was something about the Virginia creeper that crept obsessively over the front of the house framing small windows, shading the front door, cradling it from harm.   The way the sun fell to one side and the grotesque shadows played across the side garden, half the house stayed in the shade whereas the other was bathed in glorious contrasting light.

I still remember the feeling as I got out of the car.  The sweet citrus smell of the already flowering magnolia cloying my nostrils.  I peered through the arched gate and up the tiny broken path.  The house was so concealed that you could not see it till you stood on the path and then the whole house smiled its deceptive welcome.

Up until that point, I had hardly noticed being part of life.  The pain of thinking and particularly remembering was just too much to bear.  As I stepped through that arch, I had felt something. Was it fear? I was not aware at first, but the numbness was dulled. Butterflies flitted round my stomach, dancing a fast and furious salsa.  My heart was beating, and even I could hear the quickness of breath.  I realised at that moment that I was still alive.  I knew I owed it to Carl and Tiffany to try to rebuild my life.

“I’ll take it” I had told the bewildered agent there and then, with the smell of sea air brushing round me and the taste of salt on my tongue.  It had been a while since I could taste anything.  The gulls down on the beach were swooping high in the air screeching warnings loudly to each other as they soared closer over the cottage.

“but you need to look inside.” He was young, in his recently acquired jacket and particularly polished shoes.  “What about the quaint kitchen leading to the basement utility room and the beautifully appointed en-suite to the …”

“Its ok I will take it.  How long a lease will they allow me?  I definitely want it all summer do you think they will grant me a full year?” It was probably a bit rude of me to cut him off in his newly learned patter.

“I don’t know,”  he flitted through his sheaf of papers, leaning from one foot to the other “shall we go to the back garden, you just have to see the view and I need to show you where the cliff drops to the…..”

“It’s fine” I had told him.  My face even managed to crack a small smile.  Oh I remember the effort and the pain of doing so, but the effect had been a lightening inside me.  It was as if, that saying you know the one; ‘a weight was truly lifted that day from my shoulders’.

I could not understand what was happening.  What was important on that day, was that I could feel again and it was Damascus Rose Cottage that had opened my eyes or rather my heart.

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