Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A is for Adoption

There's been soooo much on the television in the UK about adoption these last few months, it's driving me nuts. It's as though all of a sudden all of the taboos have been lifted about being born a bastard unwanted child (I speak for myself here) and now every man, woman, and their dog want to chat about it - or rather make a tv documentary about it.

Of course as first, like last year when Kate Adie did her Nobody's Child series, I was interested (but had of course already read the book the minute it was released for sale). But then I had already read lots and lots of books on adoption because I wanted to know how other people felt about it.

Were other people as disturbed about the whole thing as I was? Whenever I spoke to people who said they were also adopted I would ask them about tracing, and they would inevitably say, "Oh no! I don't need to do that! I love my parents!" And then they would look at me, affronted, and I would feel like a naughty child, BAD child, for even having the thought in passing. The thought of, Who am I?

I love my parents. I have had a wonderful upbringing and would not change a single thing because all roads have led to here and here is a good place to be. (I have to say all this because a lot of folks think that if you need to trace your birth family it is because of a lack in your adopted family, and for me this is not/was not the case).

I did trace my birth family. I used to visit the pages of the Canadian High Commission on a regular basis once I had the Internet, and in person when I lived in London, and one day there was an announcement that said the law had changed, that adoptees could now have their original birth certificates. Oh My. Send off $50 and wait. Oh My.

So I did. I fully believed that the name would be enough. I fully believed that no name would come, that I did not really come from anywhere, that I had no background. But an envelope did arrive, and there was a name on it. My name. Oh my!

And of course the name was not enough! It took only three days on the Internet to find a family a tree with her name on in. Three days. And from that we found a phone number and eventually we got my granny. Oh my giddy aunt!

The hardest part of all of this was explaining to my parents that I hadn't done this to hurt them, but that I had a deep seated need to know where I came from, and who I was. It opened up a dialogue that they had always allowed but that I had never felt comfortable with. I still don't feel comfortable with it, even now, when my birth grandmother and aunts have been over and met them. When I have been 'home' to Canada and met the blood relatives I grew up thinking I never had.

Adoption is a roller coaster of emotions. I was listening to a Radio 4 programme the other day in which two adoptees discussed the tracing of their birth families, and one of them said that he spent his life protecting everyone - protecting his family's feelings, and his birth family's feelings, and yet he, as adoptee, was ever in the middle and no one protected his feelings. At least that is the gist of what he said. And it is true. That is how it felt for me.

Tracing wasn't the easy option but it was easier than not tracing. I now have people on the planet who look like me - wow! - and whilst I don't belong 100% to either my adopted family or my birth family, I do belong to both of them. Inside yet outside. On the fence. Betwixt. Like I'm neither Canadian nor British, but yet I am both.

So there we go. An atheist and adopted?! Definitely on my way to hell in a handcart eh!

Questions welcome!

Monday, 30 July 2007

I'm Out!

You may have noticed there is a huge red letter 'A' on my side-bar. It stands for Atheist. I never really thought about announcing my atheism before, and I suppose it may attract a few pissed off God squaddies, but currently re-reading Richard Dawkins' book, The God Delusion and realised that we atheists never actually stand up for atheism. Hmm. Why is that I wonder?

What has brought all this on? I hear you ask. Well, yet another person has fallen into the pit of religious despair. I don't even particularly like this person, and don't care much for his soul, BUT, I'd rather some pant swinging, hand clapping, bus driving brigade left it alone all the same! He emailed his ex-wife to tell her he'd found God. Oh Christ. And another one bites the dust. They have special envoys who visit mental hospitals, disturbed war veterans, the homeless, the terminally ill, the divorced (although you'd think they'd be too busy celebrating their new found freedom?), and most worryingly of all, schools. So that's all those folks who are thinking nice and clearly then, eh. Aargh! Leave our kids alone!

I used to be a theist, in the form of a Roman Catholic child who went to mass once a week, and wanted to be a nun. It was my mother's fault. She made me! I made my first holy communion, and attended confession, although I must admit to making up sins for the latter because I was frightened of the priest. No sins meant LIAR and LIAR meant lots and lots of shouting and Our Fathers. But when I went to the Priest and I asked about the slight anomalies in the opening chapter of the bible and was sent packing with a rather loud, How dare you question the Lord your God?!, I thought to myself, "You have no answers, do you?" So when it came to being 'confirmed' in my convent run secondary school, I told the nuns to take a running jump, and got into all sorts of trouble. But I didn't care.

I later discovered Buddhism and Science. I became a Pantheist. Something was there. Nature, notions of Gaia, spirituality, all that. I learned not to discuss religion, because like politics, it started rows. Although it is good for comedy. Take The Now Show on Radio 4 last week, for example, asking for the religious to kindly stop blowing up our planet in the name of a God who does not exist. "And when the letters come," said Marcus Brigstocke, "And they will come..." I dread to think how many letters they got for pointing out that drawing silly cartoons is not a direct assault on your religion, and that just because you were persecuted (okay, very badly true) does not give you the right to become offensive little tits en masse. They attacked all the religions equally, which is good. No favourites.

A joke for you.

A man dies and arrives in heaven. The bloke at the gate shows him around. He points to various crowds of people. "That's the Hindus over there," he says, "and the Protestants there. The Muslims are that group there and the Jews are just to the left a bit." Eventually they reach a massive brick wall. "What's that?" asks the man. "Oh, the *Catholics are behind there. They think they're the only ones here."

* replace with any/every/all religious faiths and it still works.

You see there is a whole new movement that talks about Intelligent Design. This movement is very dangerous. It tries to undo centuries of learning and scientific investigation, argues with Darwin, makes ridiculous claims that sound quite clever on the surface. It frightens me that there are places in this world where one human being will kill another human being over a theological dispute that has no physical evidence or scientific proof. That one human being will murder another human being in the name of a God who is supposed to preach love. Love?! Are they taking the piss?!

In some schools in this world you cannot talk about Big Bang Theory, or Evolution. I have upset students in the past with my discussion of the evolution of the vocal tract from primates through to early hominids. I've had massive rows with people in chat rooms because they cannot cope with the idea that we are undoubtedly descended from apes (let alone the fact that we go back far enough and we're all bacteria... but then, hey, some people still are).

I am sorry if this offends the religious of you out there. If you are so convinced of your faith, and you need it, because hey, accepting mortality and all that, accepting we only get one shot at it, is a bit scary, well I apologise. But read the Dawkins' book and at least see the other side of the argument. As Penn (of Penn and Teller) says, "If this book doesn't change the world, we're all screwed!" At least have a look at Chapter one.

So there you go. I don't believe in God. I'm not even gonna hedge my bets 'just in case'. I am an atheist. Now go pray for my soul if you must, but I'd really rather you didn't bother!

Sunday, 29 July 2007

Harry Potter - all gone :(

I am feeling better because the tablets are working - hurrah! And hubby and childers are on their way home to me - bigger hurrah!!! House is cleaner than clean, washing is washed, and dinner is cooked... and I actually really truly dearly miss them! Christ. I must be iller than I at first thought!

And I finished Harry Potter No.7. And I read the reviews (yesterday's Guardian and today's Sunday Times). Hmm. The Guardian is complaining about poor writing and inconsistencies of plot, whilst the Sunday Times is full of praise and admiration. I am apt to sit on my fence and agree with both. Sort of.

Okay - so the writing is not exactly Dickens, or Joyce, or Byatt. In short - it isn't literary as such - but it is Literature. The story moves along at a cracking pace and I don't care if some sentences make my literary critic want to grind to a prescriptive halt because the child in me wants to read on, read on, read on. I cared soooo much about the characters, about Harry, and Hermione, and Ron. (And everyone else too!) And Snape. What a relief (I knew it all along - I hoped so!). And there were deaths, and battles, and excitement. I cried a bit (but did not feel compulsed to phone the Samaritans), and laughed at some rather good jokes - I love the Weasley Twins. In fact I love the Weasleys. I want to be Mrs Weasley!

For all the complaints against Joanna Rowling, none can dispute the fact that her creation has captured the hearts so many children (and er, ahem, grown ups). I couldn't get through Lord of the Rings past book 2, and have ground to a halt halfway through Philip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy (Sorry Philip). But the Potter books? I read the first five in one week before my PGCE, and read the last two over these three days past.

So what of the children who grew up with this series of books? One of them wrote in the Sunday Times today, that now Harry has grown up, they'll have to as well, but that isn't true at all. You can read them over and over again. Revisit your childhood whenever you please, and return to it with your own children if you have them.

Potter (Rowling) got the kids reading, and that is all that matters. The Potter books revere books - are full of other texts. So let he/she/it who is without grammatical error, who has never told instead of shown, or used a slightly unnecessary speech tag, or spliced with a comma two perfectly good sentences... you get my drift here... well let them cast the first editorial blow. Me? I'm keeping shtum, mate. I likes Harry Potter I does.

I am sad that the book is finished, but not because of how it ended. Rowling didn't desert her young/growing/old readers in the end. She gave us the ending we expected, wanted, dreamed of. Just as the Times reviewer said - Thank you JK Rowling. Thank you!

I suppose I'll have to get on with my novel now. But it is forming in my mind. Albeit slowly. It is about character isn't it? Nothing more and nothing less. To help the reader (who wants to really) to fall in love with the characters and care about them so much that they care what happens to them (enough to keep reading). Like little Anna, in Mister God, This is Anna, who I still see in my mind's eye as plain as when I read the novel over 20 years ago. Like Pooh Bear, and Alice. Like Bilbo (I did enjoy The Hobbit). Like Pip and his Great Expectations, or Cathy and her Wuthering Heights. The Giant in Elizabeth McCracken's The Giant's House (I cried for him too), or like every last one of Toni Morrison's Beloved. Character. It's all about character. And yes, Caroline, your dear Jude. She joins them all!

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Sshhhh! I'm reading Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows...

And it's really rather good!

Which is a silver lining really because otherwise I'm feeling quite crap. The hearty pain thingy is still with me, meaning that instead of camping with hubby and kids I am here with Harry Bloody Potter and a packet of pain killing anti-inflammatorywhatsits. Waiting to see what the X-ray they took at the hospital yesterday says.

Hmm. Did I mention I can't stand hospitals?! (Not that anyone loves them, mind. I don't suppose anyone exactly thinks, "Whoohoo! Need a chest X-ray! Fantastic. I can't wait to sit in the waiting room so I can count the fluff balls gathering on the floor beneath the disinfectant hand gel, or try to work out what the brownish reddish spatter on the wall next to the chair is...)
The worst thing is that the X-ray man had the film in his hands when he said, "You'll find out in 7 to 10 days, from your GP." Why not NOW?! Why not tell me right away if I've got something mega nasty.... I might not have 7 to 10 days. Oh God. *Deep breath* Bloody hypochondriac!

So here. Alone. Miserably feeling sorry for self. Humph!

Feeling guilty for not having wanted to go camping in first place, because now I'd give anything to be with them all. Boo Hoo!

Am I making you cry yet?!

*Stomps off to finish Harry Bleedin' Potter. Did I mention it's really rather good?!

Thursday, 26 July 2007

Summer, SplashWorld, Sick sick sick

It's going to be a fantastic summer - I can feel it in my bones. Every last one of them, but especially those in my lower back, and rib cage.

So. Last week it was the Fastrack Graduation on the Friday, and the Conference on the Saturday. Both went well, but what I didn't tell you was that on the Friday night I had some interesting chest pains. A vice like grip around my rib cage forced me to the floor in a cold sweat and as I ripped off my frock and bra, gasping for air, all I could think of was the bloody conference paper and how I would be delivering it, heart attack or not. I sat at the bottom of the stairs panting and refusing to let my husband call an ambulance because the pain was subsiding, and heart attacks don't subside. Do they?

Of course it wasn't a heart attack (or a panic attack which was hubby's idea de jour), but some bloody virus that has all the symptoms of a heart attack without the death bit - pain down left arm, tightening chest, more pain, shallow breathing. The works really. The doctor, on Monday morning - yes I know I waited until Monday morning, but I only went because my mother frog marched me there. I wasn't going to go at all. If I'm going to die at 37 I'd rather just get on with it rather than have some doctor issue me with 6 weeks to live - so the doctor did all his bits and bobs and announced I've got Tietze's Disease. Christ, I thought. Six weeks to live! Shit. But it turns out it isn't life threatening and isn't half as bad as it sounds. Plus you can say, "It's really getting on my tit," and mean it. *Phew. For the interested among you, 30% of people who turn up in Casualty with a heart attack have this (aka costachondritis OR inflammation of the cartilage around the ribs and sternum). Nice.

So Tuesday it was Gymnatics Fun Day. Basically that meant from 9am till 3.30pm in the gym with loads of excited kids flinging themselves around on various bit of apparatus, and me stood there clutching my left breast in agony, looking a bit pervy I'm sure! And my lower back which is feeling a bit tight at the moment. Christ. I went home and let everyone down. Again. So much for a guilt free summer.

Wednesday was better. I took the kids to Splashworld. We went in a party of 15 people so didn't have to queue. We got *sneaked* around the back so that people wouldn't get upset. Hmm. It was good fun though. We went on a rubber ring water slide first. The seven year old could be heard shrieking all the way down behind me as I hurtled along the bright yellow piping on white foaming water. Ahead of her. Powerless. I watched someone else's kid catapult out of their rubber ring in the distance and my heart (aching and all) sank. I managed to get trapped in a slow bit and waited for her to catch up. The tube spat her out, crimson faced, teeth glaring. Good times! The tube slides were great fun despite the 15-20 min wait, but after no time at all, some git announced that all the orange bands had to leave. Two hours? Is that all you get?!

Today I've been tidying little one's room. Hell! Do you have a small child - well the 6-8 bracket? Do yours have a tidy room? Do they store bits of old food behind bookshelves and singleton socks in with the colouring pens? Do they put clothes away by burying them in the cuddly toy pile?! Good lord. I even enlisted Chilli's help but we were forced to retreat to the safety of the kitchen to drink copious amounts of tea.

I've done most of it and been to the tip twice. Only the 'art stuff' remains (as in pens, paper, stickers etc., all over the floor) so am typing this to the dulcet tones of OI YOU! and Tell her MUM!!! as the teenager attempts to help the little one finish the job off.

One wonders what joys await us tomorrow as we watch the rain falling on the trampoline. Not so much global warming as a British Monsoon Season, eh!

Monday, 23 July 2007

Best Blog? Who will it be?!!!

This looks very interesting. A call for nominations for the best blogs in five categories:

1. Political blog
2. Personal blog
3. Arts and Culture blog
4. Best new blog
5. And a new category recognising the best creative writing on a blog.

Oooh! How exciting! I have a few ideas for who I want to nominate! Now I wish I'd made mine a bit more specific and less sprawling! Hindsight's a beautiful thing and all that...

And blog writers have to be within reasonable commuting distance of Manchester (which I am - not that that's a hint or anything!)

So. Off you go then and nominate someone!

Caroline's going to be doing a reading at the festival too so well worth a looksee methinks.

The Short Story Conference...

... went very well.

I managed to deliver my first conference paper without making a total eejit of myself.

I read clearly and it fit snugly into the 20 minutes allotted meaning the umpteen rehearsals were worth it.

I got to catch up with James Friel who came to do a workshop when I was an undergraduate (which I enjoyed immensely), and Jenny Newman who writes a wonderful series on novel writing in Mslexia and is always most pleasant and lovely to catch up with. It was a busy day with lots of wonderful speakers, not least Sarah Salway who read out a wonderfully funny and poignant story at the end of the conference. Also reading at the end were Alan Wall and David Evans, oh... and Nicholas Royle too!

So it was a lovely blend of the academic and the artistic, of theory and of practice, not to mention lunch and lots of tea breaks.

The full programme can be found here. I can't wait until the next one, and have been bitten by the 'giving a paper' bug too! Hmmm. Looking out for calls for papers methinks!

Sunday, 22 July 2007

travel sick

Caroline's recent post brought back some memories of travelling with travel sick children...

- the little'un throwing up in her car seat - filling it up in fact - when she was 3, on the motorway to Mt Blanc and nowhere to stop in the summer heat. After two hours of stewing in it we managed to pull off the motorway and found ourselves on some kind of industrial estate. We had no babywipes, no towels, nothing. We ended up trying to rinse her and the chair with half a litre of Perrier.

- last Easter - carrier bag no'1 - little one (then 6) threw up in the car from house to airport. I cleaned her up and changed her.
carrier bag no' 2 - Caught the plane. Large one (then 13) threw up and missed the bag. She covered the floor and her seat and herself 10 minutes into the flight causing the little one to join in. I was in the middle thanking god I hadn't had breakfast. People were heaving in front and behind. Cursing us. All the way to Geneva we went a huge orange bin bag in front of each of my darling children. It was lovely! When we landed and got the luggage, they got changed and cleaned up.
carrier bag no'3 - They then threw up in the car all the way up to the Alps, and another set of clothing got ruined.

When I first met my husband, he took me and my big one across Hardknott Pass to Wasdale. It's bad enough going on a first date with a four year old, but even better when the 4 year old throws up all over the van just as the Wasdale Head comes into view. He slammed the breaks on and the vomit went all the way up into the footwell. I was sooooo embarrassed!

I get travel sick too. My parents dealt with it by driving me across Canada from Vancouver Island to Quebec, and then putting me on a boat for just over a week to sail to England, to Southampton. And then driving up North... And we went on lots of driving holidays too so that the family photo album is filled with pics of me as a child, greenish grey and looking like death after yet another jaunt up a mountain in the car. Wind swept and battered from hanging out the car window like one of Larson's dogs.

Despite all of this I still love travelling. Well, I love the arriving anyway!

Friday, 20 July 2007

Harry Potter and The Upset Children...

This is utterly ridiculous!

Finished It! Phew!

Hurray. I have just finished writing my Conference Paper. At 00.29. Am very tired but very pleased and it comes in at 18 1/2 minutes! Brilliant. Marvellous. And I read it to my husband. And he said it was very good!

I might even get some sleep tonight now!

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Welcome home Peugeot!

From http://bblmedia.com/women_drivers.html

Not funny, but then, yes - funny!!!

My little car's been poorly sick and needed a new clutch so off she went to the momo doctors. (Why she's a she I've no idea?) In her place they gave us a bright red Hyundai summatorother, which was fine, except it was an automatic and I'd never driven one of those before! What larks! Hubby took me out under cover of darkness in it and instructed me to "sit on my left foot"!? Bloody good job he did! I felt as though half of my body had been tied up and was struggling to break free - my foot wanted a clutch very badly and my left hand was desperately trying to accept the fact that all it had to do was hold the wheel.

So I put the stick shifty thing into R to back out of the drive and took my foot off the break and - - - - - it MOVED!!! All by itself! How weird is that!? And in P it went forwards all by itself!

But then comes stopping. How horrid it is to have to fight off the belief that the car's gonna stall if you don't depress the clutch! Except there's no clutch.

Soon got used to it, but not a fan I'm afraid, so I took hubby's beast instead and let him enjoy the automatic! Not great getting hateful looks on the school run in a massive 4 x 4 though, although people don't seem to mind as much if I get out wearing my jodhpurs!

I took the red thing to get petrol last night, and parked it next to the pump. As you do. Only the petrol cap was on the other side so had to get back in, work out the shifty stick thing, and turn it around. Done. Only when I tried to open the petrol cap I realised it had no lock. And pushing it revealed no release mechanism. I looked inside the car. On the door panel. By the shifty thing. Nada. After 10 minutes of this I got back out of the car and went to the man in the booth to explain that the reason I was driving away was because I couldn't figure out how to open the petrol cap... and he said, "Did you look under the seat?" Under the seat?! Why would I look under the seat?! I went back and had a look under the seat and there it was - a huge knob with a huge pic of a petrol pump on it. Sheesh. I am soooo stupid!

So welcome home to my baby blue tiny 1.4 car, that won't get me filthy looks for bing very ungreen, and has a petrol cap that opens with a sensible mechanism called a KEY!

Monday, 16 July 2007

100th Post!

This is my 100th post. How exciting is that!

And all I wanted to say was that during my research for this conference paper - the one I haven't finished yet and have to deliver on Saturday... OMG! I came across this post. And failing that there's The Writer's Block.

Folks. We need never suffer from Writer's Block again! jejeje!

And today I avoided writing anything by spending 2 hours in a field with a horse called Jim. And picking his poo up for him so that his field will be nice and tidy. And he didn't run over me, or kick me, or bite me, or anything horrid at all. In fact he was very sweet. I gave him a nice brush all over, and he even let me pick his feet out (progress there since the other day!). He was so sweet I think I'll go and see him again. In his field!

And then I will write. Loads. Honest.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Sunday Morning and...

... I'm listening to Russell Brand on BBC Radio 2's listen again thingy and it is most excellent, except it makes me start talking very sillily and in a pseudo cockney accent. Don't worry. It wears off after a whiley while!

Righto - what else... these site meter things. Hmmm. I've got Statcounter which tells me lots of interesting things like how many people stop by each day, and how long you hang around for (though not who is who obviously!). I also have a Technorati account, and that serves to tell me that my blog is ranked 182,641 out of hopefully a bigger number than 182,641, and that I have an authority of 34, whatever that means?! I also have 1 fan. Boo Hoo! Just 1? More recently I got Feedburner and that tells me what people have searched for to arrive at my ickle bloggiewog (Stop it Russell!).

So this is what you've been searching for:

"Embarrassing Stories"

My life is full of these. Yup.

"Pitt Rivers Museum in Novel"

Ah. Sorry. I did do a piece on Pitt Rivers but didn't put it in a novel.

"Favicon How"

So glad that's been useful to someone out there!

"Maktub Andalucia"

This means that some poor Spanish person has turned up thinking they're going to find a Spanish language site, only to find tons of English. It also means that people are searching for Maktub Andalucia and that's utterly wonderful because they are utterly wonderful!

Si no habla Vd Ingles y quiere Vd hablar conmigo en Español, por favor, algo mejor mandame un email y responderé a la pregunta si puedo!

"Lisa Ratcliffe"

Found me!

"Bleeding Moon Poem"

Beg your pardon?!

"Smeaton terrorism comparison us die"

Does this person speak English as a first language?

"Alan Halsey"

You'll be wanting Rob Sheppard's pages methinks.

"Vagina discomfort from riding horses"

I'm sure I never said that! I would never use such a word on my blog - it's just not that kind of blog, dear!


Horses (I did warn ya!)

*Saying of the week: Green on Green = Black and Blue*

It's been an interesting week.

On Tuesday I went to meet a friend's horse - well he belongs to her teenage daughter. He is not a school horse, and I'm a baby beginner, so there's work to be done here, for both of us. He is a big bargy boy who wanted to use me as a scratching post, and I'm a bit nervous which he can sense. Hmm. I think we'll just have to get to know each other slowly, and I'll let you know how we get on. So far I've had a little ride around the manege which was okay once he'd stopped freaking out about having someone new on his back. Singing works. Singing saves lives!

On Friday I had a group lesson with Toucheé and he was, as I'd been warned, very difficult with other horses, but towards the end of the 45 mins he started listening to me and I got a real buzz from that. For anyone who thinks riding is just a case of sitting there, kicking 'it' to go, and yanking the reins to make 'it' stop, please think again. I have calf muscles like tree trunks already and it's far more complicated than learning to drive a car ever was!

Going Natural

Now sadly, I'm a bit wary on the ground since that pony bit me last year and I'm confused by the amount of conflicting advice. I don't want to die at the hands (or hooves) of a pissed off pony, or through my own lack of handling ability, but at the same time, I keep thinking there's gotta be more to working with horses than shoving a bit in their mouths and whacking 'em with a whip. So I've been watching and researching Natural Horsemanship. This is what I've discovered so far.

Savvy is the key word here. I couldn't believe my eyes when I first saw these two with their horses. You can watch them on Horse & Country TV. They play their Parelli Games and teach people how to get the best out of their horses based on 'Love, Language, and Leadership'. They use American and English Saddlery, as well as bare-back and bridle-free. If I ever get a horse I'll try to learn these techniques - carefully!

Klaus Ferdinand Hempfling

Natural Horse Meditation. This guy's DVD is well impressive. The critics tell us we'll get ourselves killed trying to emulate this guy and they're probably right, but we can still learn an awful lot just by watching. He goes out walking with his horse as though it is a dog - running and playing. Total trust. A proper relationship. This would be something to dream of with a horse of my own but I think you'd need someone to teach you.

Nevzorov Haute Ecole

This is the ultimate in horse/human relationships. The photos on the website are exquisite but can't be reproduced here due to copyright so you'll need to pop over to the site to see. Choose ENG for the English version. I'm in love! Nevzorov has written a book called The Horse Crucified and Risen. He is against all forms of horse abuse and has the most wonderful working relationship with horses I have ever seen.

Here's a taster of his work.

Want to see more?!

The first few minutes are disturbing but they are meant to be. It's well worth it to keep watching!

Isn't he fab?! And for those of you out there who are going to start shouting at me about traditional methods (horse people seem to be very shouty for some reason!) don't bother! I'm not stupid. I know I can't begin to do this stuff with school horses, or other people's, but I just want to show what is possible, what can be and to give myself something to aim for. I don't expect the horse to carry me, and am grateful when he does. Does that make me a naive fool? Given the choice between a horse who wants to play with you, and work with you in partnership, or an animal who has given up, lost his spirit because he knows the bit will pinch his mouth, and the whip will sting, I know which I would prefer!

And for the record, I don't like Monty Roberts. And I don't like his halter contraption either.

Rant over!

Saturday, 14 July 2007

working hard!

First sunny day in ages and what have I been doing? Working in my office! I've only been out to look at the blue sky for a few moments and then back to the grindstone. I hope you are suitably impressed!

The word count hasn't budged but the words have been getting moved around and rearranged so that I now know where I'm headed again. Perhaps the blockage was a case of letting it rest, like proving dough when you make bread - except the wordage hasn't risen... but it will!

Have also worked on my conference paper although admittedly, most of that has been in my head, and lots of reading. All in all a grand old day.

I've also started a new blog (which I have emailed everyone about!) called Hesitant Scribblings with some of my short stories on it. I thought I'd blogged about this but scrolling through I can't find it now - so I either imagined it, or just can't see straight after a day's editing and re-writing! What ho! Hope there's something there that catches your fancy but please feel free to comment even if you hate 'em! *Cor - aren't I brave! Shaking in little ole boots dontcha know!*

Tomorrow I'm gonna talk horses. Be warned!

Friday, 13 July 2007

Writer's Block - Your thoughts please!

There's a lot of conflicting advice around about writer's block, from the It's all in your head to the It's all in your head! I wondered what you all thought, especially as I'm to deliver a conference paper on this very subject next week at the annual Short Story Conference.

(Patricia Duncker was there last year, and Al Kennedy, but I was safe last year behind the bookstall...)

Here is what some people have had to say on the topic:

Ayn Rand calls it The Squirms [I like this expression]

Janet Burroway says, Writer's block is not so popular as it was a few years ago. I suspect people got sick of hearing or even talking about it - sometimes writers can be sensitive even to their own cliches. But she reminds us that W H Auden observed that the hardest part of writing in not knowing whether you are procrastinating or must wait for the words to come.

Richard Rhodes says, If you're afraid you can't write, the answer is to write. Every sentence you construct adds weight to the pan,


Toni Morrison says, When I sit down in order to write, sometimes it's there; sometimes it's not. But that doesn't bother me anymore. I tell my students there is such as thing as writer's block, and they should respect it. You shouldn't write through it. It's blocked because it ought to be blocked, because you haven't got it right now.

Hmmm. Who are we to believe? Perhaps each case is individual and unique - to the person, to the process, to the task at hand.

Thomas Mallon says, face the fact there is no such a thing


There bloody well is for me! And an entire conference paper depends on it!

Please - Your starter for 10 - Give me your thoughts. Do you get blocked? Is it a myth? How do you deal with it?

Thursday, 12 July 2007

faith restored

Thank you! To Me! *Blush*

Just when I was all fed up and feeling unappreciated...

Just when I thought, Why am I doing this?!

My lovely, lovely students brought me flowers!

And said kind things that made me want to cry!
I felt really worthwhile - like I made a difference...

Teaching is wonderful. I love teaching!

Tuesday, 10 July 2007

driving pet hates

I drive to work along country lanes that cut across lovely fields. There's a single track hump-backed bridge over a canal, and lots of fabulous snaking bends to curl around. I start my journey in one town and end it in another. It should be the loveliest drive ever, and sometimes, if there is no one else on the road, it is. But usually I have around 3 near misses each way.

So here's 5 things about driving that make me want to scream:

1. People who will not indicate. What do you think I am? Bloody Psychic? It's the little stick thing on the steering wheel and it takes but a millisecond to let me know where the hell you are going.

2. People who forget to cancel their indicators so that you think they are turning into the road you're turning out of, but then go straight on - and straight into you!

3. People who talk on their mobile phones even though we know it is not a great idea. My little one got run over by some idiot on a mobile phone (who was also drunk and on drugs - fair point) when she was 2. Every day some git in a white van will refuse to give way on a narrow road and will not even notice me in my tiny car because they're on their bloody phone!

4. Not giving way. What is that about? Is it too much to ask that you pull in when the parked cars are on YOUR side of the road?!

5. People who get all aggressive if you overtake them because they're doing 20 mph on an empty country lane - a straight one - in good weather with perfect ground conditions.

6. Meeting the bus on the narrow country lane on the snake bend.

And before you say anything - I have no problem with tractors and farm equipment cos it's their livelihood to be on those little roads spilling carrots and shit.

So - tell me - what do you hate about driving and/or drivers?! Do tell and we can all rant together!


Other than that, today has been a good day. A lovely day. I got lots of lovely things said to me from some of my students and got to ride a friend's horse but I'll tell you about that tomorrow - as well as a writing up date.

Till then. Hasta mañana!

Monday, 9 July 2007

Hard Rock Challenge

Some lunatics have decided to try to climb all 60 routes in Ken Wilson's book Hard Rock.

60 routes I hear you cry. So what?! Well... that equates to;

  • 22,000ft of climbing
  • 180 miles of walk ins
  • over 3000 miles of driving

Only 2 people have ever managed it and it took them 10 years. Our lovely lunatics are going to go for it in 5 weeks! The race is on!

(Personally I think they are mad - do you hear me, Rich Mayfield and Mark Stevenson? Mad you are - but very very brilliant!)

Not only that, but are they doing this for fame and glory? No!

Are they doing it for the hell of it? (Well maybe a bit, eh!) No!

They are doing it for those wonderful people at Mountain Rescue. You know those guys and gals, and dogs, who come get us when we go waltzing up big hills in Sandals thinking, "It's only Wales", or "What can possibly go wrong in Windemere?!"

Mountain Rescue are fab! We had an interesting time a couple of years ago when we got a garbled text message from two of our friends who got themselves a bit stuck. Up Ben Nevis. And these were experienced climbers with all the kit. Thanks to the level headed folk with even better kit, they got out of it alive - and with all their toes intact! See BBC news report here. Hubby even ended up on the telly to my horror - he didn't even tidy up the front room!

Anyway, I digress. Rich and Mark want to raise £30,000 and every penny adds up so you have a penny jar and you fancy passing it on, I'm sure they'd be grinning from ear to ear!

You can check out Mountain Rescue here and make a donation here.

The official website for the challenge is here.

You see - there's always something to do other than write!

Saturday, 7 July 2007

write and be damned - or at the very least - a bit fed up - Oh and Shopping!

Creativity. It can be such a slippery rascal. We speak in metaphors about muses. About ideas 'coming to us from elsewhere' like butterflies to be captured in our nets of ink, lest they should escape and become the muse of someone else. That's a nice thought. That ideas float by us all the time, and all we have to do is reach out and grab one, and pin it down beneath the glass for all the world to marvel at.


It takes me hours of sitting to get anywhere at all, and even then it is more like mining. I have to descend into the pits of despair and grapple in the darkness for as long as it takes to feel the sharp sting of something. I have to crawl along the narrow passage-ways of my own making, skinning my knees and ripping the flesh from my aching fingers as they tear at the rock face in search of a single gemstone.


Even when I find one (which I occasionally do), then it is so raw, so filthy that I have to then try to clean it up. Polish it. Cut it so that it catches the light just right. And taking great care not to smash it to smithereens by accident.

Writing is a bit hard methinks. I think Joseph Conrad puts it beautifully in one of his letters, reproduced here from Tillie Olsen's Silences.

I sit down religiously every morning, I sit down for eight hours, and the sitting down is all. In the course of that working day of eight hours I write three sentences which I will erase before leaving the table in despair. Sometimes it takes all of my resolution and power of self control to refrain from butting my head against the wall. After such crises of despair I doze for hours, still held conscious that there is that story that I am unable to write. Then I wake up, try again, and at last go to bed completely done up. So the days pass and nothing is done. At night I sleep. In the morning I get up with that horror of that powerlessness I must face through a day of vain efforts...

Conrad goes on about how the story haunts his every waking moment. That he can hear it narrated to him but he cannot get it down on paper. I get that a lot. It's like some cruel bloody creative joke - the kind of - here it is but bet you can't get it down in time! Conrad writes;

They [the ideas and words] creep about in my head and have got to be caught and tortured into some kind of shape.

So today I sat in front of the pc for a few hours watching the thoughts go by with respect to my novel. Eventually I was able to begin writing and got a few hundred words down. And then the teenager walked in and stood behind me. (Oh God I Hate That!). And read over my shoulder at which the ideas and the words fled like terrified mice. And then she said, "Please can I have a lift to X's house?" and that was that. Pinning down of words over for the day, because after the lift it was time to get the little one from Nan's house, so I gave up.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
So I went shopping with Chilli instead, and we bought lots of pants. Because pants are good.
We also got changed in the corridor outside of the changing rooms so that we could compare notes, and bottoms, as you do. We remember the days of the Communal Changing Room you see, when there was space to move about no matter how big your bum got!
Chilli also made cinnamon and apple muffins which were absolutely gorgeous - so scrumptious I ate three and am now much heavier. But happily so. Cinnamon is my favouritist flavour in the whole world!
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I just shared Conrad's thoughts on writing with my husband who now thinks I am mad. "It's not a very good advert for the job, is it?" he said. What could I say? I didn't choose writing, I said. Writing chose me.
If I cease blogging it's because he's called the men/women/people in white coats for me.
Still Smoke free :) *Smug - Very Smug!*

Friday, 6 July 2007

Friday YAY!

Tis Friday! In the world of normal this is a good thing, but in the world of the hourly paid/student/mother/housewife/wouldbenovelist it is not all it's cracked up to be because...

Friday is the day before Saturday

and Saturday


the day when I have to

wash the school uniforms do the shopping and the rest of the washing clean the house sort out the kids' homework sort out my own homework mark the assignments I collected today plan next week's teaching do the evaluations on this week's teaching and...


write a conference paper and read the books I need to read to write the conference paper and have the thoughts I need to have to write the conference paper and


and make hubby happy and children happy and


and there's only 2 More Fridays before Conference Oh NO!


Had an idea. I'm going to be talking about writer's block so...

I think I will give everyone a handout with NOTHING on it and say

this is what writer's block looks like

and look back at them for 20 minutes and show them this and say

this is how writer's block feels...

Thursday, 5 July 2007

things to do when not writing a novel

Hmm. A sprawly post today methinks. Of things to do when not writing - which of course I should be doing. And not this kind of writing obviously. Not blogging. Novelling.

  • Look up old friends on Myspace and failing that Google them.

Hmm. It is most disturbing to look up old friends for an email address only to find that they are now a tad famous and so will either not remember you, will remember you but won't be that bothered, or will blatantly deny all knowledge of ever having cracked eyes on you. I'll find out which iffing they ever email me back. Of course Eddie Izzard never has but then he is like, proper famous, so I'll let him off.

  • Email people you sort of know/have met recently with all the squalid little details of your life when all they asked was a little questions like, "So you play an instrument then?"

I like doing this. I know it's very naughty but just can't help myself. I'm getting better though. I edit it. No really, I do. And I was going to say I start from much later on in my life story, but thinking about it, that's a lie because I went from early childhood. Oops.

  • Read blogs.

Well we all do this, don't we.

  • Mark essays, and give feedback on class work.

Yesterday we had a debate about the smoking ban. It was a proper debate so we called it a Moot. I like that word. Moot. It feels nice in your mouth. Anyway, half the class was in support of the ban and the other half was against the ban.

To be honest the against the ban people didn't really have a leg to stand on because a) you can still smoke outside, and b) most smokers want to stop anyway don't they? I have now gone 8 weeks and 3 days without a cigarette and am pleased about the ban because it's helping me to stay off the ole fags. Selfish but true.

  • Watch the rain.

It is still pissing down. How is that so? Where the hell did summer go? Humph!

  • Drink tea and phone people.

Have done 2 hours of phone calls so far and it's only 10.42. AM. Is that good or what. Especially as have also sent 6 emails (some rather long ones - see above) and made 5 cups of tea. Have also checked MySpace, Facebook, Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, regular mail, and Work mail. I am a multi-tasking communications Queen!!

Have a lovely procrastinating, wet, peculiar and happy day!

Oh and write that novel! *Grins furiously like a wild woman on Absinthe swinging upside down from an oak tree bedecked in spring flowers*

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

4th July and all that Glasgae stuff

Isn't this a special date for some reason?! I think it must be super special because it even has its own website. Imagine that. A date with its own website!

I can't believe it's Wednesday already. Cripes! Where'd all those days get to?

Some funny stuff was sent to me in an email about the terrorist attacks in Glasgow - not that the attacks were funny... but just that a comparison between US reactions and Glasgae reactions are very funny!

So here ye are...

If Saturday's incident had happened in a US airport, compared to Glasgow Airport

Eyewitness accounts.

America: "Oh my God! There was a man on fire, he was running about, I just ran for my life...I thought I was going to die, he got so close to me"

Glasgow: "C*nt wis running aboot on fire, so a ran up n gave him a good boot, then decked him"

America: "I just want to get home, away from here...I just want to get home, I thought I was going to die"

Glasgow: "Am no leaving here till am oan a f*ckin' plane!"

America: "there was pandemonium, people were running in all directions, we didn't know what was happening ; I thought I was going to die"

Glasgow: "F*ck this, moan we'll get a pint in"

America: "We thought he was gonna blow us all up he had a gas canister, and was trying to get into his trunk, I thought we were going to die, I just ran for my life"

Glasgow: " A walked by the motor that wis on fire, and the dafty couldnae even open his boot, he wis in fire annaw so a ran up n gave him a good boot to the baws"

America: "I'm too traumatised even to speak, I thought I was going to die"

Glasgow: "here mate, gees 2 minutes till a phone ma auld dear, if am gonna be oan the telly a want her tae tape it"

And finally, two REAL quotes from an eye-witness - John Smeaton

John has just surpassed his interview on the National ITV news. ITV Interviewer asked: "What message do you have for the bombers"

John replied: ... "This is Glasgow we'll set aboot yae"

John was interviewed yesterday on CNN. CNN Interviewer asked: "How did you manage to restrain the terrorist?"

John replied: ... "Me and the other folk were just tryin to get the boot in and some other guy banjoed him"!

Mr Smeaton - Local Hero!

Many thanks for the perpetrator of that particular email!!!

I think I've fallen in love with Glasgow!


Apparently I'm a C-list Blogger!

C-List Blogger

Sunday, 1 July 2007


I used to hate Sundays. Sunday was the day that;

- i had to go to mass even though i didn't believe a word of it
- my parents fell asleep on the couch after Sunday lunch and snored!
- we had to visit ancient relatives who smelled funny and slobbered on your cheek
- i had to do finish my homework and prepare myself for another week of school

Now Sundays are much better!

- sometimes I go for a nice walk on the beach
- or I visit friends
- i get my marking and planning done for the week ahead
- i check the kids have done their homework
- still have to wash uniforms, clean house, and fret about how much I haven't written BUT will NEVER fall asleep on the couch after Sunday dinner and that's a promise!

And the eagle eyes amongst you will see that my word count has budged. Not a lot. But it has budged!