About Me

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On the bright side of the road
Lover of the written word, always writing and dreaming of that coveted book deal.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Lucky the rescued swallow


Just look what Lovely Daughter brought home from the stables last week.  Poor ‘Lucky’ had fallen from his nest which was at least 30 feet high and was found lying quietly on the ground.  One of the girls working at the stables got to him before the cat did and thought:  ‘I wonder what to do with him?  I know, I’ll give him to LD – she’ll know what to do.’
Yes, LD is completely gaga over animals and is a regular Doctor Doolittle.  She understands them, gets on their wavelength and communicates in a way I’ve never seen before.  People ask her to look at their naughty horses and LD shows the owners how to see things from their horse’s perspective and counsels them on how to get along.  She has an amazing bond with her own horse who was a complete nightmare when she first got him but will now do anything for her.
So if anyone could save Lucky, it would be LD.  Naturally Lucky came to our house and was immediately placed in LD’s room in a temporary home made of hamster bedding with a little cuddly toy for warmth and companionship.  LD did lots of research on the internet, purchased food and proceeded to feed the tiny creature hourly. 


At first Lucky hardly moved and had to be coaxed to eat but he soon started to recognise that humans meant food and would open his beak and chirp in that birdy sort of way.  We were enchanted and started to make plans for the next phase of his development.  He had started to move around a little and for now was secure, but we would have to rig something else up to keep him safe.

But sadly, after just sixty hours since falling from his nest, Lucky died.  We had been so hopeful for him – he had been a feisty little thing and with his guts and LD’s care we felt sure he would grow and in time be released back into the wild.

LD buried him in the back garden, along with our other deceased family pets (‘rescue’ rabbits and guinea pigs).  LD was sad but she knew that she had done her best and although Lucky’s end was far from being lucky, he’d had the best chance possible.

 

 

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

An old biddy in a bind

A flat tyre on the way to work…..what’s a girl to do?  I cruised in a ladylike way to a halt but unfortunately I stopped at the junction of a mini roundabout – the place most likely to:

  1. Bring me complete attention,
  2. Stop traffic.

Thankfully it’s not a terribly busy place, just a little junction in a small village.  But the local commuters don’t like any kind of congestion – they have to deal with enough of it when they get on to the M25 or M11 so they certainly don’t tolerate the local kind.  Especially when they stare into the fishbowl into which I was sitting rather red faced and awkward-looking, and realise it’s not a young damsel in distress but an old biddy in a bind.  So, ungallantly, each one slowed, stopped, had a good look and then drove away.

I was only two miles from home and I wondered if I should call Lovely Hubby or the breakdown service.  I chose LH – he wouldn’t have left for work yet and he could tell me what I should do.  He’s my protector, my safe harbour in a storm and as far as cars go, the Wise One.  If he said I should phone the breakdown people, then I would, no problem.   But in true Superhero style he said: ‘Hang on!  I’ll come on my way to work.  Stay put!’  (You can see why I call him Lovely Hubby.)

Fed up with being the star of the Fishbowl Show, I decided I would leave the car.  But I was stopped mid-reach for my handbag by a tapping on the window.  Instead of the hard faced ones so far, this face belonged to a lovely gentleman, perhaps only a few years older than me, smiling in a friendly way from under his crash helmet.  Was someone coming to help me?  I nodded, yes, unable to speak as I was so surprised by his concern.  He said he could change the wheel if I liked, which was wonderful.  But luckily I regained my voice to let him know that Lovely Hubby was on his way and I was fine thank you very much and thank you so, so much for stopping, you really are most kind.  With a wink and a wave he sped away.

Feeling heartened, I got out of the car and stood a few feet away under a tree, hoping that I didn’t look too conspicuous.  The commuters continued to drive up, stop, stare and often they would look around for the owner.  I would smile which seemed to confuse or irritate them, I’m not sure which because no-one smiled back and they all just drove away.

Needless to say I was very relieved when LH arrived, deftly changed the wheel and set me back on my way to work.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

I'm having a Rebecca de Winter moment

The arrival of spring has turned my head to flowers.  Walking the dog brings pure pleasure as I breathe in the fresh, warm air, feast on people’s gardens brimming with colour and discover wild flowers growing in the hedgerows, woods and fields.  It’s a beautiful time of year and I would love a garden large enough to grow hundreds of flowers so that I may cut some to bring inside and arrange in vases around the house (I would need a large house, too!).  I imagine myself as Rebecca de Winter strolling around the garden wearing a straw boater and a pretty frock, a basket in the crook of my arm and a pair of gilded scissors in my lace-gloved hand.  Ah, the romance of it all.

But if I had a garden large enough to grow a plentiful supply of flowers for my imaginary numerous vases, what would I grow?  Most flowers look beautiful outside but it’s quite a different matter when you bring them in.

I’ve tried to love lilies and though I admire their elegance and beauty, they’re not for me.  They smell great but knock a ripe stamen and a puff of orangey-brown pollen explodes leaving a yucky stain that’s impossible to remove.  Experience has taught me to place the vase in a difficult to reach corner or upon a high shelf – somewhere completely out of the way where the pollen can’t reach me.  If it were possible to erect an electric shield, I would do so: anything to keep those little orangey devils in a state of containment.  But there’s still the end of life disposal (the lilies, that is) and I can guarantee that just approaching the vase galvanises the pollen into action and with a last-ditch effort they will try to stain whatever they can:  bookshelf, carpet, my crisp, white blouse……..

I’ve read that if you cut the stamen head off before it becomes ripe, you don’t get the pollen.  But isn’t that rather a lot of effort to take over some cut flowers?  To be honest, the trouble with lilies is that they’re a bit overblown and high maintenance: they’re the supermodels of the flower world.  Beautiful to look at and gorgeously, heavily scented but they need to be handled with kid gloves or else they’ll soon turn on you and mark you for life!

Carnations are always a popular choice but for me they don’t do a lot.  I suppose the best that can be said of them is that they last a long time when cut.  They try, absolutely they try with their frills and their frothy, delicate colours.  They make a dependable buttonhole and a good filler in a bouquet but a bunch of them stuck in a vase is all froth and no flavour – a bit like an overpriced cup of coffee.  Disappointing. 

I am quite partial to a gerbera but sadly I don’t think they’d grow in an Essex garden.  They’re very pretty and come in a huge array of colours.  But to be honest, they do have a drawback (besides the fact that I can’t grow them): their stems are slightly alarming.  No real leaves to speak of and very weird, bendy stalks that make the flower-heads look a bit off-balance.  The flowers bloom boldly and shout:  ‘Look at me!’ and that’s where the problem lies.  The whole effect is a bit artificial and shouts of exhibitionism.  Exhibitionists are often very interesting at first glance but when you look a bit closer, delve a bit deeper, they can be quite alarming.  I mean, you wouldn’t want one perched on the sideboard in your sitting room, would you?

Daffodils are jolly.  No two ways about it and they’re very nearly perfect.  They bravely stand against cold March winds, rain and snow and their tenacity is astounding.  Or is it stupidity that makes them shoot up so early in the year?  They colourfully open themselves up to you – a lovely yellow smiling face that greets and welcomes with no regard at all for their own comfort or survival.  The ‘pleaser’ of the flower world, much like our greyhound – wants to please but completely clueless.

And so to my perfect flower.  The tulip.  Yes, I know I could’ve chosen from many other flowers and the tulip isn’t particularly sophisticated but what can I say, I love ‘em!
Their pale green stems are beautifully blanketed by thick, matching green, tall leaves.  A support system that is quietly understated and confident in its ability.  It knows its job – it’s there to support the beautiful flower-head formed of simply shaped, waxy petals forming a perfect cup that delicately unfurls.  The tulip is a lady, a favourite old aunt: demure and sweet.  It holds itself perfectly, not shouty and loud but with a quiet subtlety that is charming.  Even the way it sheds its petals is graceful, the head gently releasing them one by one to float slowly to a resting place at the foot of the vase.  I can’t think of a bad word to say about the tulip.  It’s perfect.

Yes, if I were Rebecca de Winter, I would grow tulips and spend sunny afternoons picking blooms to bring inside to fill my many vases.  Of course, besides the huge garden and large house, I’d also have to speak to Mother Nature and see if she could arrange for tulips to bloom all year round………or perhaps I should choose roses in the summer?  Chrysanthemums in the autumn?  And in the winter?


Maybe I need to think this through.  Does anyone have any suggestions?

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Time for scratching the creative itch

Social media is a wonderful thing.  I love Facebook to keep in touch with family and friends and Twitter for those I call my ‘Pen Pals’.  There is no doubt that some people use Twitter to unashamedly promote their work but most of the people I follow are in it to have fun, be helpful or to try and make the world a better place.

Sometimes people will offer advice on the writing process or publishing industry (traditional or indie) and I try to read as much as I can to improve the way I write and to be prepared for the all-important submission (whenever, if ever, I reach that point).

A couple of weeks ago a tweet by @ellisshuman piqued my interest:  I have a family, I have a job, but I need to create!  ‘How I Found Time to Write in My Busy Schedule’.

I have a family, I have a job and I need to create!  All three are essential pulls on my time and when friends ask me how my book is coming along, I find myself making excuses for not having the time, ie spending time at a work (a must) and spending time with my family (a pleasure).  Why is ‘family time’ often considered to be non-productive and therefore non-essential?

It’s family time that makes everything okay – it centres and grounds me and allows me to fly……it provides a stable foundation for carrying out the day job and a sanctuary from the sometimes harsh world outside.  Family time allows me to be me which provides the gateway to creativity.

But recently a lack of time has been a bar to creativity.

Thankfully, I read Ellis Shuman’s blog post where he shares just one single tip on how he fits writing into his daily schedule while still doing everything else he has, and wants, to do.

He leaves for work an hour early, goes to a coffee shop and writes.

Simple.

With my equilibrium teetering, I decided to try Ellis’s simple advice; what did I have to lose?

And so for the last two weeks I’ve been leaving for work an hour early and what a difference it has made to my day!  Traffic is lighter and the journey is very calm and relaxed.  Once parked at work I go straight to a coffee shop or find a secluded place in the canteen and I write for an hour.  I find the journey helps to focus my mind so when I sit down to write, that hour a day is incredibly productive.  I have no time to sit and dilly dally or let procrastination take over.  This is my time.  I have left home an hour early to do this, and I treasure it.

An hour a day isn’t much, but it provides a constant, steady flow of work.  The plan is to add longer chunks of time at weekends, if time allows.  And if there isn’t any time for writing at weekends because there’s a family barbecue or shopping trip?  That’s okay, I can enjoy myself knowing that I have time set aside each weekday to be creative.

So thank you, Ellis Shuman – I no longer feel guilty about wanting to spend time with my family and I have found a way to scratch that creative itch!


Sunday, 30 March 2014

We're only hu-mum

It's Mother's Day!  A day to celebrate our mums and the lovely things they do for us.  How they selflessly toil to get our shirts white and our shoes gleaming.  A cooked meal on the table, a shoulder to cry on and good advice when we need it.

Aah – advice.  That seems to be a bit of an issue at the moment.  According to an article in in The Guardian yesterday, often mothers feel they have the right to talk to their daughters in rather a frank way.  It’s all for their own good, of course, but daughters simply don’t like it.

As both the mum of a daughter and the daughter of a mum, I can see how feelings get hurt.  Mums generally just want the best for their daughters, they’re not usually out to cause emotional pain and anguish (at least not in my experience).  And daughters are pretty much the same, just a younger version with a younger view.

Maybe it’s because I’m not very thick-skinned, but I try to think before making personal comments to my daughter.  In fact, I usually try to avoid making negative comments to her and focus on the positive…..and there are many positively delightful things about my daughter which of course makes it very easy.  Yes, she is going to do things or wear things I don’t approve of…..I’m her mother!  But do I need to tell her?  I don’t think so.  I think the mother-daughter relationship should be nurtured just like any other relationship and I want to be someone she can trust and someone she knows won’t hurt her.

I wouldn’t dream of telling a friend, ‘Yes, your bum does look big in that,’ or ‘That skirt’s a bit too short for your chunky thighs,’ so why would I even think about saying it to my daughter?   (These are just examples and I really want to stress that none of my friends or my daughter have large derrieres or chunky thighs and wear skirts that are far too short!  And if they did, I wouldn’t even notice, let alone tell them!)

Now, if my daughter had an alcohol problem, used drugs or was in an abusive relationship, I would consider it my duty to step in and have that difficult conversation.  Being a mum isn’t all sunshine and roses, you know.

But when all’s said and done – it must be remembered that mums are human, too.  On Mother’s Day it’s all lovely sentiments and chocolates and flowers and I suppose some daughters feel let down by their mums because reality doesn’t come near to the Hallmark rosy view.  No-one can measure up to the Hallmark version – no-one.  We are all human and all make mistakes.  No matter how hard we try, we all say things that are unintentionally hurtful and sometimes we’re completely oblivious to the hurt we’ve caused.

Daughters do this to mums…..and mums do this to daughters, just like any other relationship.  It’s the long view that counts, the whole relationship and we shouldn’t dwell on the blips.

So today, I’m going to remember all the happy times with my mum and think how perfect she is.  And my daughter is so perfect in every way that I know she’ll do the same!


Today is a Hallmark sort of day – sunshine and flowers all the way.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Let's Talk About the Weather


I love the English weather and we English certainly like to talk about it.  One day rain and cold and the next sunshine or possibly snow:  sometimes it’s difficult to plan so flexibility is the key!

So often rain puts a damper on outdoor events and I remember one Easter we had snow flurries for our planned barbecue.  Valiantly we tried to keep the affair going by layering on warm clothes and huddling beneath umbrellas.  But eventually we were ‘snowed off’ and had to cook the food in the oven – the air temperature was just too cold!

Sometimes though, we get a lovely surprise.  This weekend, just the second one in March, has been beautifully filled with warm sunshine and deep blue, cloudless skies.  Our world is awakening with birds busy collecting debris to make their nests and bumble bees slowly buzzing around in the glorious sunshine.  I can hear children playing outside, the dog snoozes in a sunny spot in the garden and the smell of a barbecue is in the air.
Today feels like a Sunday in July and the washing hanging on the line seems to confirm it.  But a closer look reveals how far away we are from summer.  Brave spring flowers are doing their bit to cheer up the garden.  The camellia is budding and almost ready to bloom.  But the garden looks bare as shrubs and trees still need to fill out with their greenery – their skeletons bleak against the pseudo-summery sky.

It’s been a lovely summer-in-March sort of day – and the forecasters say it’s to last a bit longer.  But who knows?  The forecasters are often wrong as our weather is so changeable.  I’ve been grateful for today as, just like those around me, I’ve seized the moment by putting on summery clothes and taking to the outdoors.  My list of chores has been put away for cooler, gloomier days as I’m sure we’ll have many more before summer is here.

And although our weather’s unpredictable, one thing’s certain – it gives us something to talk about!

Monday, 3 February 2014

A Gentle Reprieve

Yesterday morning I awoke to the sound of bird song and watery sunlight warm on my face.  There was no sound of rain bashing against the window or wind gusting around the house, just the gentle chirping of birds in the stillness of a new day on the brink of blooming into something beautiful.

I hadn’t realised how much I’d missed this simple pleasure, floating in the sweet hinterland between sleep and wakefulness only vaguely aware of my surroundings.   The rain and wind have made it mentally difficult to rise, I’ve wanted to hibernate in my toasty bed and have remained as long as possible.  But yesterday I greeted the day with a lightness not felt for weeks and gladly got up, wanting to savour every moment of the glorious morning.

January in Essex has been wet and windy although, thankfully, not too cold.  We haven’t had the horrendous flooding and endless battering experienced by Somerset or Wales but the short days have usually been filled with gloomy skies and rain or the threat of it.

I don’t suffer from Seasonal  Affective Disorder nor do I have a general dislike for the rain or cold.  I’m lucky in that I enjoy the seasons and the joys each one brings.  And I can usually find the best in any weather:  a rainy Sunday can mean reading a book by the fire and snow usually entices me out for a walk in the woods.  But this January has been a tricky one with one storm following another and I suppose I’ve felt a little subdued and restless.  
Yesterday was such a treat.  The sky stayed blue for most of the day and the sun shone.  I couldn’t resist getting outside and Lovely Hubby and I happily took the dog for a walk.  The bitterly cold wind stung our faces and made our cheeks glow but it felt so good to be outside.  The fields were gloopily muddy but neither of us minded and the dog just ran and ran full of the joys this unexpected day had brought.


We saw snowdrops and crocus and buds starting to form on the bare trees.  The birds were busy, twittering in the hedgerows and we saw other people out with their dogs, too – our village was slowly coming out of hibernation.

Yesterday was wonderful.  A gentle reprieve from the rain and storms but we still have a long way to go till spring.  We’ll probably still get ice and snow and much more rain but I’ll carry the memory of yesterday with me through the weeks to come.


 

Sunday, 5 January 2014

A Broken New Year's Resolution


 
One of my favourite things about Christmas is books.  I can't decide which is best:  giving or receiving.
 

It’s lovely to receive a book you haven’t asked for.  Especially if the giver really knows you and gets it just right – a book you’d never thought of reading but thoroughly enjoy.

 
Choosing the perfect book for a friend can be challenging but so rewarding.  And you have the added joy of browsing the bookshop shelves and perhaps adding a couple of treats for yourself!
 

Before I started Christmas shopping this year I resolved to be strong and only buy gifts for people on my list, ie nothing for myself.  I was determined to stay on track and on budget (a New Year’s resolution made early).  Mostly I remained in control and resisted the urge to buy ‘little treats’ for me like a pretty nail polish that would perfectly match my party dress and dangly earrings that would really set it off…..yes, I admit that I did look but that’s as far as it went.  I was being sensible.  I had lived perfectly well without these things and I wouldn’t die if I didn’t have them – my reasoning was sound.  My resolve was strong.

 
With most of my shopping done, I set aside a lovely afternoon to visit my local bookshop to squirrel out perfect reads for some special people on my list.  I knew this would take me a while but far from being a chore I was thoroughly looking forward to it.  Bypassing the tables piled high with celebrity books I made my way through the harried shoppers looking for a quick fix for another present to cross off their list and I arrived calmly at my favourite part of the shop:  ‘fiction’.  Floor to ceiling shelves filled with the many imaginings of a multitude of authors.  I didn’t stop to wonder where to begin and I had no system for searching, I simply plucked out books at random and read a little.

 
Needless to say, it was some later when I eased myself back into the throng of shoppers who now looked even more panicky as closing time was near.  Happily I joined the queue, pleased with my selection for friends and just a little smug that I hadn’t relented and picked any for myself.
 

You may remember that I said ‘mostly I remained in control’.  Well, what happened next took me completely by surprise.  The friendly bookseller who often stops to chat saw me and made his way over.  Wishing me a merry Christmas (how sweet of him!) he then started to look through the books I was holding.  We had a little conservation (as we often do) about my choices and who they were for and then he picked a book from a nearby shelf and with a flourish said:  ‘And how about something for you?  You’ll love this book, I just know you will.’  Well, what could I say?  He has an impeccable taste in books and many times I have been guided by his recommendation.  So I thanked him heartily and wished him a very merry Christmas and before I knew it I had reached the checkout and left the shop smiling, with a sudden burning urge to get home and start reading this wonderful book.

 
So there you are, my New Year’s resolution broken before the year even started.  But boy, was it worth it!

 

And the book?  Mr Loverman by Bernadine Evaristo.

I would definitely recommend it!