Thursday, 30 December 2010
This is a short posting as I'm in a rush now. We're going out to see some friends for mulled wine and mince pies.
Normal blog service will be resumed as soon as possible.
Thursday, 16 December 2010
I suppose it's a bit late for me to be wondering about this now. Why didn't I think about 'The Market' before I started writing it? Well, I did. I felt I was writing for adults but through the eyes of a teenager. Was I naive?
Tuesday, 23 November 2010
It makes me wonder how many other things I've been held back from attempting in the past with thinking 'I can't do it. I'm simply not the kind of person who can do...' I suppose that's not a bad thing if it's informed by a heavy dose of realistic self-awareness. I mean, if I'd had the confidence to get up onto a stage and sing, it doesn't mean I should have done that. I really can't sing a note in tune. X-factor here I come - I think not! But, singing apart, perhaps there's a lot of things that maybe, just maybe, I could have done. If only I'd realised that years ago!
Tuesday, 26 October 2010
But . . . I got curious. Was I missing out on something? I found some really helpful postings about Twitter in Nicola Morgan's blog archive. I printed out her instructions on how to get started - purely out of interest of course. Well, I suppose I could open an account just to try it, couldn't I? That was it. Hooked.
I'm just lurking there now. I'm not going to start spending too much time up that tree. I'm going to be, oh, so sensible. Until I have made satisfactory progress with my novel you won't hear a tweet out of me. And I'll wait until I've halved my 'To Do' list. Only then will I deserve to give myself a tweet (okay, that last joke is badly in need of a 'corn' plaster).
Saturday, 16 October 2010
As usual, the Ilkley Literature Festival has been full of sparkling events. I was thrilled to be able to participate this year. We had our event last night at the Ilkley Playhouse, ‘we’ being myself and the Leeds Survivors Poetry Group. I did a talk and readings from ‘The Dark Threads’ for the first half of the session, and then five members of the poetry group read out two of their poems in turn. Ian my husband was, as always, a brilliant support and I love him lots. He sat at the back of the theatre, manning the bookstall.
My book is obviously about a difficult and painful time in my life. What happened to me, and to many others, was wrong. I wanted to write a serious book with a serious message, and I believe I have done. However, without downplaying this, it seemed appropriate on this occasion to focus mainly on humour and hope. Most of the extracts I chose showed the courage and strengths of the patients I used to know, many of whom had a great sense of humour despite the often immense difficulties in their lives.
I must have changed a lot because I didn’t feel scared to death as I stood on the stage behind a lectern with a microphone. I’m not used to a microphone and it was interesting to do my parrot impersonation into it (not good for my throat though – think I need a Strepsil).
Here’s an extract from ‘The Dark Threads’ in fondest memory of Popsy:
Even the hospital parrot had a sense of humour. In part of the grounds surrounding the hospital there was a small aviary which housed, among other birds, Popsy the parrot whose party piece was to say ‘O be joyful’ to the watching groups of depressed patients.
‘O be joyful,’ Popsy said as Georgina stuck her face near the mesh to get a closer look.
‘Don’t you “O be joyful” me,’ Georgina said crossly.
‘O be joyful. O be joyful. O be joyful,’ the parrot squawked, running backwards and forwards along its perch.
‘You horrible creature. I’ll wring your neck if you don’t shut up,’ Georgina said, sounding as if she meant it, but then she turned to me with a smile. ‘Oh, listen to me arguing with a bloody parrot. I’m so miserable and bad-tempered today, I don’t know what to do.’
‘What to do? What to do? O be joyful,’ the parrot suggested.
Sunday, 10 October 2010
The following day Professor Phil Thomas, one of the founders of Critical Psychiatry, came to Bradford University to do a presentation, and I was invited to that. I couldn't find anything to argue with him about. He was lovely. After the session I plucked up courage to give him one of my book promo cards. He said he'll get it. I hope he does.
Next thing coming up on the book front is this Friday when, along with some members of the Leeds Survivors Poetry Group, I'll be doing a reading at the Ilkley Literature Festival.
A few weeks after the Ilkley festival, I've been invited to be Guest Speaker at the AGM of a Mental Health Advocacy Group. I'm delighted that over a year after 'The Dark Threads' was published I'm still getting spin offs. I do hope that at least in some small way I'm helping to right some wrongs by speaking out.
But I must-must-must get on with writing my novel.
Friday, 8 October 2010
Anyway, to get me going with my blog again, I decided to just sign in and, well, get going. I'm tapping away on the keyboard just letting my rambling thoughts pour onto the page. This isn't the way to make riveting reading, I know, but at least it's getting me going again. I don't want this blog to degenerate into the character of the Tony Hancock's sketch who tried to keep a diary and said things like 'Today I had a boiled egg for breakfast'. But, on the other hand, if I just wait for pearls of wisdom before I write anything, I might as well clock off and go to bed.
The room has just filled with the sound of barking dogs (my new doorbell tone) so I'd better see what's up. I might just have been about to write something wonderful. But, like Coleridge getting interrupted by the 'man from Porlock', the world will never know. I'll be back soon.
Saturday, 14 August 2010
I must do something about keeping fit since I gave up my gym membership over a year ago. Nah, I don't need to pay gym fees to get fit, I told myself. I can do it myself for free. Well, that idea hasn't worked out for lazy bones me. I realise now that it was the paying that gave me the incentive to go.
I should go for a walk. No, I can't with my bunion.
I should go swimming. No, it might trigger off my recurring ear infection.
I should buy a treadmill or exercise bike. No, I've nowhere to put one.
I should get one of those what d'ya call it, a wii? No, I've heard they're no good for keeping fit.
I should rejoin the gym. No, I can't afford it.
I should stop making excuses and get off my backside. No, I can't. I've got lots of writing to catch up on today . . .
Monday, 12 July 2010
Also in October I'll be joining with the Leeds Survivor Poetry group to put on an event at the Ilkley Literature Festival. Sounds like October will be an exciting month for me.
I'm still going to the Speakers Club and tonight I'll be doing a humorous talk on video. The practice I get there increases my confidence no end. I've progressed from dreading the meetings to enjoying them!
At last our new conservatory is ready. I've been spending the last couple of evenings in it sipping G & Ts and watching the changing colours of the sky (better than watching telly!). Next plan is to have a few friends round for a Conservatory Warming Party.
Well, I think that's just about all my news for the moment. My novel-in-progress is inching along. I've been re-reading 'Crow Lake' by Mary Lawson and wishing I could write like that.
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
I've been contacting universities all over the UK, trying to convince course leaders that my book is just what their students on mental health courses need. Actually I'm sounding a bit flippant now, but this isn't just about my book. I do honestly believe that students in training to become mental health professionals would benefit from an understanding of how it feels to be on the receiving end of treatment. They have enough dry and stuffy textbooks to read, written by professional experts who have the theories. The perspectives and 'lived through' experiences of both current and former patients are often missing, and much needed. Fortunately, it seems that nowadays some course leaders fully agree. I'm delighted at the positive responses I've received so far.
But it's all very time consuming. My novel is taking a back seat again, though hopefully not for too long.
Thursday, 17 June 2010
I've been working on my novel but it's been a case of two steps forward and two steps back. I write a chapter, feel pleased with it and then the next day I read it again and I'm not. My recycling bin is full of discarded pages of my manuscript.
We had our 26th wedding anniversary on Tuesday. What did we do to celebrate? Well, we had a plate of chips in Morrison's (romantic, eh?) and then we trailed around trying to choose furniture for our spanking new (almost ready) conservatory. We came home feeling tired, shared a bottle of wine - and went to sleep.
This, as you will have gathered, is a disjointed blog posting where I jump from one unconnected subject to another. Blame the hay fever (or is it the Beconase?) for my butterfly mind.
Friday, 21 May 2010
By the way, if anyone who's interested missed it, BBC4 are repeating it on Tuesday 25th May at 11.30pm.
Friday, 7 May 2010
Last week I was happily browsing facebook when I suddenly looked at the clock and thought, 'Erm, shouldn't I be somewhere at this time today? Work!' To be fair, I do work irregular days and hours, doing different shifts to cover for staff leave. But, forgetting to go to work! Oh dear, that's a new one even for me. I had to get off my backside and rush off out, to arrive late at work, full of apologies, with some feeble (though true) excuse of forgetting what shift I was on.
Yesterday I was half-way to a group meeting at a health centre where I was booked to do a talk/reading when I realised I'd forgotten to bring the book I was supposed to be reading from ('The Dark Threads', of course). I had to rush back home to get it.
And now, after reading a really scary article by Blake Morrison in The Guardian about writers quoting from pop songs - click here to see it - I'm frantically looking through my book to check that I remembered to take out before publication all the lines from songs I'd quoted. If I've forgotten to remove some of them, it's too late now. Fortunately I haven't come across any forgotten ones so far - I realised in time that I needed to remove them, though I hadn't realised quite how steep the price of leaving them in would have been.
Wednesday, 28 April 2010
This is the lull before the storm. From tomorrow onwards for I don't know how long, there'll be workmen all over the place. We're having lots of jobs done on the house, not least fitting a conservatory. I can't wait until it's all finished. I don't like the thought of all the upheaval, and I'm untidy enough without anything adding to the chaos.
I was delighted to see four copies of The Dark Threads in Waterstones, Leeds. The time before when I looked, there was only one, so (yipee!) they must have decided to order some more, which (double yipee!) must mean my books have been selling. The woman standing next to me pulled it off the shelf to read the blurb, and I managed (just) to resist the temptation to tug at her sleeve and say, 'Hey, you must buy that. It's a really good book.'
I'm also thrilled to see a super-dooper review, which you can read here.
And so to bed...
Tuesday, 20 April 2010
It was lovely to meet new people and also to see again some of those I met last year. There was a table to display our books. We weren't allowed to sell our books, but I 'exchanged' mine with Carol Fenlon for her novel 'Consider the Lilies'.
I started reading Carol's novel last night and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I've nearly finished it as I couldn't put it down to get to sleep. The themes are multi-layered, but, basically, it's about a girl's feral childhood in 1960s Lancashire and her friend's search for the missing homeless adult she becomes. As it says on the blurb, this 'powerful and thought-provoking debut novel uses unique language and devices to challenge perceptions of homelessness, identity and exclusion in modern society.' It's poignant, beautifully written, and well worth a read. I'm off to get back to it now.
Friday, 16 April 2010
Well, on the writing front, I've been working hard on my novel and aim to have it ready to send out to agents soon. I've also been writing articles for magazines and journals. Just had one published (though I wrote this one ages ago) in the Healthcare, Counselling and Psychotherapy Journal (HCPJ).
On the book-promotion front for 'The Dark Threads' I'm continuing to give talks (though not many, I must admit), and I'm plodding on at the Speakers Club towards my Certificate, which tickles me a bit because public speaking is (or used to be) about as un-me as you could get! I've been participating in a project with the Huddersfield University who are putting on an exhibition which starts at the Thackray Medical Museum in a couple of weeks. I'm about to make an exhibition of myself. Watch this space.
Other stuff: we're going to have a conservatory built onto the back of the house. I have dreams of sitting there sipping G & Ts and watching the sunsets. However, first there is the alarming level of disruption to put up with. We need the boiler moving, the gas meter moving, and various other building work before they can start erecting it. We're also about to have a hole made in the living room wall to fit a gas fire and other disrupting jobs done. Perhaps I'll escape to a cafe to escape all the muck, dust, noise and chaos. There, I can sit happily and write (like J K Rowling).
I'm going to the Authors North Spring Meeting of the Society of Authors on Saturday, which is in Chester this year. I'm looking forward to that.
My plans for the weeks ahead are to continue to get my novel finished, get back to writing my blog - and, oh, yes, just have a good time, as I hope anyone who might happen to read this is doing.
Monday, 8 March 2010
In the early-seventies Ian was living on a kibbutz on the Sea of Galilee and he decided to return to the UK. He didn't know whereabouts in the UK to choose so he closed his eyes and stuck a pin in a map. Leeds it was - and me he met. (It's a good job the pin didn't land in the middle of the North Sea!).
We almost met a few years earlier than we did. I answered an advert in the paper for a bedsit to let in a large house, not knowing that my future husband was living in the bedsit next door. I came along to view it. However, I decided instead to get a bedsit nearer a main road as I didn't fancy walking home alone at nights down a long, dark, lonely road. It was the time of the Yorkshire Ripper, and I couldn't afford taxis.
Anyway, what's all this to do with writing, you might ask. After all, this blog is supposed to be something to do with writing. Well, certainly in writing fiction we have to decide whether or not chance encounters seem realistic enough to include. Often not, I suppose, as life is definitely stranger than fiction (although Charlotte Bronte got away with some whopping coincidences). We do have to keep asking 'What if?' when writing, and this is a good basis for letting our imagination soar.
I don't do much forward planning before starting to write a novel. Maybe I should, but I don't. In my novel-in-progress I'm about to have a young woman closing her eyes and sticking a pin in a map to decide where to live. Now I wonder where the pin will land and what adventures will it lead her into?
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
I've now got to list five fascinating things about myself. Well, here goes:
(1) I have just got my freedom bus pass, having reached my Big Birthday.
(2) I'm finding it hard to believe that I have just got my freedom bus pass, having reached my Big Birthday.
(3) I was happy when my husband cooked me a lovely meal yesterday.
(4) I was not happy to find a caterpillar in above meal.
(5) I love writing, reading, chocolate and my husband (not necessarily in that order).
And now I'm supposed to pass the award to five bloggers who deserve to receive it. There are lots of deserving bloggers out there. I'm spoilt for choice. I'll have to give this more thought later.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
At one time that might have been just a normal evening for us, but a 'normal' evening has become something quite different - for which I blame computers. In our living room we have a desk in the corner on which is 'my' computer. Ian has a lap-top. Often we're sitting at our computers only a few feet from each other, doing our own thing, and we might as well be in a room on our own. Sometimes we both happen to notice we're on facebook at the same time (you know that 'chat' thingy in the bottom right-hand corner that tells you who else is online). We have even used the facebook instant messaging service to say 'Hello!' to each other (I kid you not) from across the room. Well, this sort of thing has just got to stop. At least for tonight.
How did you spend Valentine's Day?
Saturday, 23 January 2010
At the first supermarket a fraught mother with a child in a buggy was standing by the machine, yelling at the sales person. It had taken her money. Where was her photo? The assistant explained that her money would be refunded.
'But that's no help,' the young woman yelled (she had to yell to make herself heard above the first noisy wail of her child). 'I need a passport photo.' She glared at the machine. 'I've come all the way here especially to get one.'
'I'm sorry. I'll put up an 'Out of Order' notice and phone for a service engineer.'
'When will he come?'
'I don't know. Probably some time within the next few days.'
'A fat lot of good that is!'
'We'll refund your money.'
'But I need a photo now. What are you going to do about it?'
I felt sorry for the assistant. After all, it wasn't her fault.
'I'm sorry but there's nothing else I can do. I can't fix the machine.'
'But I need a photo.' The woman looked ready to stamp her feet and compete with her child in a temper tantrum. 'Now!'.
'Now!' squealed the child in the same irate tone as her mother.
I decided to leave.
Another supermarket. Another machine. The first person in the queue, a pretty teenager, looked pleased with herself as she slipped her photos into her bag. I'm old enough to remember when the photos took about six minutes or more to arrive and ages to dry. Nowadays they arrive in seconds and are dry immediately. Well, that's some progress. My turn now.
I rotated the seat to adjust the height, but no matter how much I swivelled, it remained too low. I don't know why. It's not as if I'm a particularly small person. Not to worry. If I sat up straight and craned my neck a bit I could manage. My four pounds clunked down the slot. 'Take care to make sure your head is inside the oval frame,' a robotic voice warned me. 'Look straight ahead. Keep still. Do not smile. Keep your lips together. I repeat, do NOT smile'. I do as I am told. Here we go. Nothing happened, except some funny whirring noises. I waited. Has it done? Yes, I think so. 'If you are happy with your photo, press the green button.' I peered at the image to check my head was inside the oval. The rest I wasn't bothered about. It would do.
I stepped outside the booth, and almost immediately my four identical photos dropped out of the slot. OMG! How had I missed what I would look like before pressing that green button? It wasn't just that my non-smile made me look a miserable sod, I could have lived with that. But one eye was half-open, the other almost closed. I looked like I'd dropped down from another planet. To say I looked drunk, dopey and totally gormless would be an understatement.
Ian, who'd been buying a paper, came and stood beside me. 'Let's have a look,' he said.
'I'll have to do it again,' I said.
'Don't talk daft. We can't throw money away. It'll do. Let's have a look.'
I showed him.
He collapsed into a fit of uncontrollable laughter that made his eyes stream.
People were staring at us. I went back inside the booth and hid behind the curtain.
The next set of photos were better (well, believe me, they simply had to be). I look a bit pop-eyed on them because I was taking care to keep my eyes wide open, but at least they're passable.
'I'll shred these as soon as I get home,' I said, staring in dismay at the first lot.
Ian snatched them from my hand. 'No, we can't waste money. I'll use them to make funny greetings cards.'
'Don't you dare. Give them back to me.'
'Now!' I said, sounding like the fraught mother in the first store.
I still haven't got them back.
Wednesday, 13 January 2010
I've got five more talks lined up over the coming weeks at various locations: library, health centre, community centre, and (wait for it) a church fellowship group have invited me to talk. I know I'm not going to be paid a huge fee or sell shed loads of books at any of these talks, but it's well worth it for me, if only in terms of self-development. Before all this, I was too shy to speak much in front of an audience of more than one! Now I'm actually enjoying public speaking!!! (Well, if I keep saying this, it will make it come true).
I must say though that I'm getting fed up of talking about myself. It's good to talk about different things at my speakers club. I was all set to get up on my soapbox to do my zoo talk last week (about the wrongs of zoos) but it's been postponed due to the weather. Still lots of snow and ice here. Brrrr! I'm off now to make a big pan of soup (vegan of course).
Saturday, 9 January 2010
Well, this year it's different. I'm sending them packing. Nobody will get a chance to say to me, 'But I thought you said you were going to...' The only resolution I've made this year is I WILL NOT MAKE ANY NEW YEAR RESOLUTIONS.
I should have said that years ago. When I was eleven I wrote my New Year Resolution on a card and decorated it with coloured crayons all the way round the edges. In big fancy lettering in the middle of my drawings of balloons, stars and, yes, golden trumpets, I wrote (no doubt at a time of intense feelings of guilt) 'I WILL NOT BE CHEEKY TO MY MOTHER'. How embarrassing when I lent my Bunty Annual to my friend next door, forgetting I'd used this card as a bookmark. How even more embarrassing when my friend's mother came round and gave it to my mother. And how damn infuriating when the next time I shouted at my mother, she reminded me of these words and waved the blasted card in my face.
But, no, I still didn't learn. Worse, much worse, was to come. A few years later, I wrote out my good intention for each day of the week on scraps of paper. I folded up the pieces of paper, put them into an envelope, meaning to pick out one each day and try to live up to it. I promptly forgot about them. When I went back to school, after being off sick, I handed the teacher a letter from my mother to explain my absence. Guess which envelope she'd put her letter in? Imagine the rate of my cringe factor when, in front of the whole class, the teacher picked out each of my notes and read them out one by one, to the amused delight of my classmates.
Anyway, back to the present. I've learnt something about myself. I'm better at writing on post-it notes and making out long 'To Do' lists than actually getting things done. That's why this year I'm not going to plan, prepare and trumpet about what I'm going to do. I'll just quietly get on with it.
Wednesday, 6 January 2010
I've just found out that the Look North 'Inside Out' programme (Yorks and Lincs) containing my interview will be on Monday 18th January at 7.3opm. It's given in the Radio Times as Monday 11th January, but they've changed it to do a programme about the recent snowfall.
*Photo taken by Mark Davis (copyright).