Friday, 11 November 2011

How to body build a blog …

Sometimes, I find it a real challenge thinking about a topic for a blog post. Do you? Maybe if I was better organised I could sit down and write a batch (collection?) of posts so that I could feed them into my blog over the course of days and weeks. But I’m not! This system would make me a more organised blogger (I imagine) but would it lose the spontaneity of the writing moment? Would it kill the creativity?

Like many writers there are times when I come up against the inevitable ‘bloggers block’. Some of you may identify with my dilemma. Symptoms are easily recognisable – blank page, endless screen staring, one or two trips to the kitchen to make yet another cup of tea and the endless reading of blogging buddies’ blogs. (Yes, it was a mouthful writing it too!) Well, today is one of those days. I’ve spent time this afternoon ‘blog dipping’ and I stopped by Inkpots and Quills where my blogging buddy Ann shared a writing dilemma of her own – unfinished projects. Ahh, every writer has them. I enjoyed reading how Ann is going to great lengths to remedy the situation and how her postie (with the rippling biceps) is going to great lengths to ensure she has all the writing material she needs. Writing need not be a lonesome pursuit. I hadn’t really given much thought to all the help and assistance ‘knowingly and unknowingly’ given to the writing process. All I can say is that posties delivering numerous books to writers in pursuit of ‘better writing’ should be given generous Christmas tips! I’ve yet to see any writer dedicate a novel ‘To my wonderful postie’. I wonder if Ann’s postie is a reader of her blog. It did make me chuckle thinking about whether or not her postie had considered making book deliveries part of his daily workout.

Having recently rejoined the gym, I can appreciate how book lifting could be incorporated into the body building programme. Who knows it could one day become an Olympic Sport? Stranger things have happened.

But I digress, maybe today is one of those days where inspiration for blogging will not come, so I’ll leave it for another day. However, do stop by Inkpots and Quills and say hello.

By the way, what is the collective noun for a batch of blogs?

Saturday, 29 October 2011

It's life but ...

photo courtesy of  Lee Friedlander and Magpie Tales 

Okay, now what?

Dunno … it’s not quite what I was expecting. I thought it would be somewhere more upmarket.


I thought it would be more … more luxurious.

Luxurious? Don’t be fooled by the posh address. This is it, the place where ‘working late at the office again’ happens.

You sure?


Well are you going in or what?

What if she’s there?

You don’t have to say who you are.

I couldn’t lie.

I’m not suggesting that you do.

Will you wait here?

Sure, but the traffic cop may move me on.

I won’t be long.

Alright, I’ll drive around the block.

I’ll be as quick as I can.

Don’t worry take the time you need. He won’t be back for some time.

You sure?

Sure, I’m sure. Haven’t you forgotten something?

Thanks … don’t know why he can’t pick up his laundry like everyone else!

Thursday, 27 October 2011

The letter I wish I'd written

Last week our local library organised an evening event and invited us book lovers and writers along to listen to three new authors. For the princely sum of £4 a great evening was had by all. Lots of people turned up. There were several book clubs, people from neighbouring libraries and people like me an avid reader and collector of books. Who knows maybe one day I’ll have my own library! The Man does despair at times about the ever increasing ‘I’ll get round to reading that one day’ collection, but I will. One of my friends confessed recently that he has to sneak books into the house for fear of upsetting his wife about his ever increasing book collection. He does release a few books into the wild and to charity shops. However, he often returns home with one or two books that hurl themselves at him from the bookshelves! Strange that, isn’t it? I do love books; a girl can never have too many books or chocolate!

Anyway, back to the book evening, a fun event with glasses of wine, homemade cakes, book quizzes, author interviews and stories. I really enjoyed the evening and I was delighted with the ‘goodie bag’ which contained not one but three new books!

I particularly enjoyed reading a delightful publication from the Booktrust charity called ‘The Letter I wish I'd written,' – A selection of entries from the Bookbite writing competition. The competition ran in the spring of 2010 and encouraged older writers to write about life experiences and letters they wished they had written about said experiences. They were indeed 'Letters from the heart’.  As a keen letter writer, I found the letters in this publication inspiring, thought provoking, amusing and occasionally sad. I encourage you to stop by and read a few.  In light of my previous post about letter writing, I think this would make a good writing project for the long autumnal evenings.

If there was a letter you wish you’d written, what might it say?

Monday, 17 October 2011

The breathings of a heart

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.
~William Wordsworth

What happens when an art dies or disappears or quite simply becomes redundant? Whilst I have no serious objection to the speed, efficiency and mastery of email, text and tweeting I must confess that my preferred method of communication is good old fashioned letter writing. There’s something about the sound of a letter dropping on the door mat. It sounds more  pleasing than the 'ping' of a message in the ‘inbox’. Don’t you agree?

As the recipient of the occasional letter, I do enjoy the chance to stop, pour a cup of tea and savour a good gossipy letter telling of family events and occasions. It’s a joy to hear from an old college friend getting in touch after several years. Even the old fashioned courtesy note of thanks for a birthday present from a nephew or niece comes as a pleasant surprise instead of a texted ‘thanks’ or indeed acknowledgement at all in the days of instant communication. Sometimes I think we are so busy being busy with life that we don’t take time to record any of it and share it. What if we did? What difference might that make? What relationships and friendships might grow as a result of this? What might be recorded for futures generations through pen and ink? Will our communication systems of today hold interest and intrigue for our readers of tomorrow?

On a recent visit to family in Canada, we shared a letter written many years ago from a grandfather to his son. I don’t suppose when grandfather wrote it he thought that this particular letter would be read by grand children long after he had gone. As several of the grand children had been born after grandfather died it was lovely to have some insight into this member of the family they did not have the opportunity to meet. His letter, an extremely well written and detailed missive not only told something of the day but also of the man himself. He wrote about his thoughts and observations of life and his good wishes for his family too. His letter prompted much discussion over dinner about grandfather, grandmother and the events of the day. His letter, no doubt had taken time and effort to write. It had been written by a generation who would never experience email and speedy communication. But in writing this letter and sending it to his son and being retained by the family, the next generation were able to learn something more about family. Questions were asked and a few gaps in family history were filled.

This month I’m launching a campaign to bring back the art of letter writing using pen and ink … very old fashioned I know, but I think it will be good practice for my letter writing. I encourage you to do the same. Set yourself a target to write least 3 letters this month. Let me know how it goes. Who knows what may come about as a result of this little project for the autumn months.

Monday, 10 October 2011

What's for breakfast?

Winter is coming...yes I appreciate that the autumnal days have just started but winter will follow sooner than you know. I can tell … not from the turning of green leaves to gold and brown but the change in the kitchen. Our kitchen. You see this morning launches the breakfast porridge pot in our household. Winter is on its way and it’s porridge for breakfast. Well its hardly a freezing cold day here in our neck of the woods … a little chill in the air perhaps and a little requirement for a more substantial breakfast. So porridge it is!

I have to say that I do enjoy porridge for breakfast, with a little cream (just a little) and even a teaspoon of sugar, much to the dismay of the Man a serious porridge maker of Scotland. However I have learned this weekend that the art of porridge making has taken on a more adventurous role in the culinary field. Tuning into the radio yesterday I learned all about The 18th Annual Golden Spurtle World Porridge Making Championship which took place yesterday in Carrbridge, Scotland. As well as the traditional recipe for this good wholesome breakfast there is now an array of speciality porridges to try. Check out the recipes from the winners John and Neal on the Golden Spurtle website. Photos courtesy of the official Golden Spurtle website. I do wonder what Goldilocks and the three bears would have made of all this.

And did you know that today is - World Porridge Day.

Monday, 3 October 2011

How does your washing blow?

I’ve been 'blog dipping' again. Well the truth is I was seeking something to encourage and inspire me to write today. Sometimes when I haven’t blogged for a few days …well it’s an effort to start again. What to write about? What to say? Shall I begin with an inspirational quote? What about a photographic prompt or two? What have I heard or seen worth sharing? This ‘blank page, brain numb’ dilemma usually prompts me to have another look at the blogs I follow and enjoy.

Today I’ve stopped by cousin-in-law’s blog, The Red Shoes. I invite you to join me. Sarah shares a beautiful picture of a Monday morning wash. Something simple, something ordinary and something we all recognise, not unless of course, a weekly trip to the launderette denies such an a ordinary activity like hanging out the washing.   I can almost hear the autumnal breeze blowing those bright white clothes on the line. I can almost smell the freshness of the washing blowing in the breeze. And the sunshine, ahh … the sunshine. Hurrah for good old fashioned washing lines. I agree with Sarah, the washday experience is not quite the same with one of those whirly things.

Do stop by and have a look at Sarah’s artwork, I’m sure she won’t mind one little bit.

Happy Monday and may the autumn breeze blow all your washing dry!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

How stressful is your holiday drive?

It’s September already!  Yes well I appreciate that it has been for several days now.  The Man and I have just returned from holiday – three weeks in Canada this summer.  It was the end of our summer and the start of the Canadian Fall and evident by the drop in temperature and a beautiful colour change in foliage from green to red.  It would have been lovely to stay and see more but time to return to the UK.

Our little rental car travelled a total of 2500 kilometres through the province of Ontario and thanks to Nellie the Navigator (the sat nav!) we managed to find family and places without too much stress and we were still on speaking terms when we got there!  I wonder if ‘still speaking’ is sold as a benefit of car navigation systems. Despite my initial reservations about using such a device, I do think Nellie helped a lot.  Like us, she did get a little frustrated when thrown off her planned route by unexpected road works -‘re-calculating! …re-calculating’ she cried in her Darlek like tone!  As former chief navigator, my role was somewhat redundant this year but I can live with that.  I was more than happy to follow the map anyway and enjoy the drive into new towns and places stress free.   

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Artist unknown

prompt from Magpie
“I can’t”
“What do you mean, you can’t?  Just paint over it.”
“But then it’s gone … forever.”
“I know … I know… you’re right.”
“You were so angry, I remember.”
“The wall was hardly dry …it took me a whole day to paint!”
“Such a hot summer day, I recall.”
“You made lemonade.  With real lemons”
“Then that long silence of mischief.”
“And that thick black marker pen.”
“A story of its own in that childish scrawl
“And that look of pride and achievement.”
“Remember those smiling dimples?”
“And her chest so puffed with pride.”
“Let’s leave it for now.”
“Too painful?”
“Too soon”.
From the distance the smiling dimples smiled

Monday, 1 August 2011

What changes are you making today?

You have a clean slate every day you wake up. You have a chance every single morning to make that change and be the person you want to be. You just have to decide to do it. Decide today's the day. Say it; This is going to be my day.
~Brendon Burchard 

This is my inspirational quote for the day. My days usually start with an inspirational quote.  Sometimes it hits the spot.  You know that feeling when it ‘speaks’ to you, not literally of course but there’s a message there, just for you.

Today as I work through my Monday start of the week list, this quote got me thinking about all sorts of things.  I thought about work and recent changes in my work, about changes in my life and about changes in me.  Already today’s plans have changed with one phone call.  This was a call to cancel an already planned meeting.  That has freed up two whole hours.  I could be annoyed but I’m not.  So what to do or change instead of having a meeting?  Well as I’ve been rather remiss about updating my blog and doing some creative writing.  I’m changing my schedule to accommodate that, hence the blog update.  I may even use some of the time to tick off something on my procrastination list, which seems to be changing as I write. It is interesting to note that I’m more drawn to writing!

What difference will that make to the world?  Well perhaps not a huge difference to the world but a couple of changes to me and my world. 

Have a good week and may all your changes be for the best!

Sunday, 24 July 2011


I’ve got a new friend.  His name is Herman … different I know.  We became friends last weekend through my mum-in-law.  She has known Herman for several days now.  In fact I would go as far as to say that she has become quite fond of him.  I could tell by the affectionate tone she used when she spoke about him.  We met for the first time in her kitchen.

Initially I was a little reticent about becoming friends with Herman.  You see Herman’s different …very different from any of my other friends and he requires a different type friendship, if you get my meaning.  Well, I wasn’t sure if I could give the commitment to be a friend of Herman’s.  It was the responsibility and commitment on my part I was worried about.  She warned that he needed feeding on a regular basis and looking after.  I am a caring person but did wonder with my hectic lifestyle if I’d be able to manage the responsibility.  However, not one to shun a challenge, I agreed to look after Herman.  I can still see the visible signs of relief on my mum -in-law’s face. I sensed that she had grown quite fond of Herman but it was now time to let him go and she wished to ensure that he would go to a good home.  So that was how he came to live with me.

I’ve looked after him for ten days now and whilst he’s been no bother I’ve had to pull myself away from the busyness of life to feed and tend him.  Today I too have had to decide with whom I should share him.  It wasn’t easy and I had become quite attached to him. The instructions from my mum-in-law were quite specific.  He had to be shared with four of my friends. As a daughter-in-law, I had been one of her selected friends.

Now the big question was which of my friends could be entrusted with the continuing care of Herman?  Who was responsible enough to look after him?  Who would ensure that he was spoon fed regularly?  Who would provide the TLC required?  After a process of elimination, I selected the favourite four who I believed would care for Herman like one of their own.

A little part of Herman has remained with me and the rest …well now in the capable hands of my friends.  I shall miss him, but who am I to stand in the way of friendship and sharing.  Also, I believe that a little fun never hurt anyone.

Did I mention that Herman is a … Friendship Cake?

 …. Oh and the end result … delicious!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

The Family Tree

A picture prompt from Magpie Tales

‘Go on then, pick it up.  You can’t deny knowing me.  Yes, I am she, the same she that walked out and abandoned you when you were only three years old. I hoped you wouldn’t be old enough to remember.  It was never my intention to abandon you, merely to escape, find a better life and come back and make things better for both of us.  I hoped that you would be taken care of in a way that I could never hope to do.  I left you in trust, in care with the person I loved and trusted all my life.  I couldn’t stay, I just couldn’t.  But you were too young to know that.  You were too young to understand.  It was all so suffocating, the place, the people and the small town gossip.  But how could I explain that you a three year old with no knowing of how the world worked and weaved outside those white lacy curtains in the drawing room. 

Even today my heart saddens as I recall those strained afternoon teas with the high brow ladies of rich men in the city.  I remember their meek and mild powered faces with spiteful tones and unkind words gushing forth.  I was never really accepted as one of them, merely tolerated because of my marriage to your father.  He was after all a man of great wealth and means.  However, even a man of great wealth and means does not always hold a marriage together.  It takes more, much more.  Maybe you understand that now.  Maybe now that you are older and have found me you understand.

Perhaps even I am not worthy of this bargain price tag of $1.99.  Perhaps the pain of abandonment remains festering within your heart.  Why would you choose to display this picture on your mantelpiece? Why after all this time would you include me in your family tree?   Why would you want to replace my battered picture, the one you’ve always carried in your wallet?  Only you have the answers to these questions, my son. Only you know the reason.’ 

Saturday, 11 June 2011

What do you need to be a domestic goddess?

Sometimes it can be difficult to get back on the writing track when one gets caught up in the hustle and bustle of life and living.  Sometimes the creative writing spaces becomes full with additional work schedules, visits to school, doing the laundry, trips to the dentist, the doctor and candlestick maker.  Life as a domestic goddess is not an easy one.  So where and how does one kick start the creative process again? Thankfully inspiration comes from two friends this week, both very creative ladies.

Sewing has never been one of my talents as a domestic goddess.  My domestic science teacher Mrs P would definitely vouch for that if she were around today.  I would like to state for the record that her grey hair (possibly stress induced by my particular class) had nothing to do with my unfinished sewing assignments.  No-one was happier to learn about the invention of velcro more than me!  I was very inspired however when I attended my friend Pat's creative class.  They make all sorts of things there and she has her own website called  MadebyPIN so that you can be creative at home.  Do stop by and have a look.    

Baking is another talent in the armoury of the domestic goddess.  I recall vague words from Mrs P, something about Victoria sponges, shortcrust, puff and choux pastry.  I distinctly remember the sampling stage but have no recall of the baking stage at all.  Strange that.  Thankfully my friend Di at The Bluebell Cafe, a great maker of cakes and all things delightful too, shares great recipes for banana cake and cinnamon cake.  Again worth a visit for some mouth watering treats.

Thank you ladies, how inspirational you have been.  Well that leaves a little time now to do something a little creative before my next blog post.  Now where did I leave that needle and thread?             

Monday, 30 May 2011

Troubles of a troubadour.

Picture prompt from Willow at Magpie Tales

These 'fifty something' birthday soirees are always a challenge.  Methinks, do I sing of love, romance and faraway places? Do I speak of a warm, bright and sunshine day where lovers wander in springtime meadows and see only each other in love?  I know my noble friend hath tired of the Lady Anne and seeks a more youthful companion to console and flatter his ego in his declining years although he denies that to be so. 

Whilst I play for time and inspiration, I find myself plucking a melancholy tune and note the sadness in the face of Lady Anne.  Once, she was the love and light of my master’s fond embrace and ardent attention.  Once she laughed, cajoled and flattered the ego of every man and unknowingly broke the heart of my dearest friend Sebastian.  He sits at the banquet table in the quiet hope that perhaps her attentions may once again fall upon him.  For him, it would be an honour and he vows that he would love her with all his heart.  He doth not favour the scoundrel ways of the pompous and haughty Malvelo.   

To sing and speak the truth of this love would indeed make for an engaging evening but might haste the final performance of the troubadour.  From a melancholy tune to a happier note the lute sings of this celebratory occasion and the birthday boy, Malvelo.   

Monday, 2 May 2011

Smoldering looks

Another prompt from Tess over at Magpie Tales

“Yeah, you go right ahead Joseph.  Go on.  I’ll manage.  We’ll get by … somehow”.

“But Ruth you know I’m doing it for us, all of us”.

“All of us, when did you figure that one out?  Was that before or after SHE declared that she just ‘had to have you’ to look after her precious estate?  Was that before or after she smiled that sweet demure smile in church, the one she thought I didn’t notice?”

Her mimicking of Connie Cunningham’s soft accent was most effective.  Joseph noted.

“Ruth she was only being civil.  Come on that didn’t mean anything.  You must believe that”.

“Don’t take me for a fool Joseph.  I saw that way you smiled back and how uncomfortable you were when you realised that I had noted that little moment of tenderness between you.”

“For goodness sake Ruth, there’s nothing between us.  An offer of work, that’s all!  We need the money.  I haven’t worked for months and with recent forest fires it could be some time before work comes my way again.  You know that”.  

He walked out and slammed the door behind him.

The noise woke the baby.  He cried.

Ruth picked him up to soothe him.  He snuggled against her chest into the clean gingham apron.  The smell of fresh home baking seemed somehow to placate him.  Tuesday - pies made with great creativity, lots of pastry and meagre scraps of meat in gravy, enough to last a day or two she hoped.  Heaven knows where the next meal would come from.  He did need that job and she knew that deep down.  Shouldn’t she consider herself fortunate to have a man like Joseph who did want to look after his family?  A part of her felt afraid.  What if the wealthy Connie Cunningham did entice Joseph away from her and leave her and the brood here abandoned in the charred and smoldering forest? What would become of them? 

She recalled an earlier time when she too smiled at a certain Joseph Wainwright in church and he smiled back.  Five babies later and a home with a farm were beginning to take its toll.  She was so tired.  Somehow the excitement of living miles out of town had waned and rarely seeing anyone for days reinforced the loneliness she felt.  But her duty was here with the family, she knew that.  At least Joseph could escape for a day or two if only to work the land and tend the roses on the neighbouring Cunningham estate.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Breakfast at Suburbia

Breakfast  courtesy of Magpie Tales this week
Happy Easter!

"Breakfast? You must be joking. You know I never eat breakfast", she said.

"But I've made it especially for you, eggs, bacon, the lot. A surprise!", he said.

He had and the evidence of this magnificent feast littered the kitchen worktops. She cringed when she saw the remnants of an egg that hadn't quite made it into the frying pan cooking itself slowly on the heat of the stove.

But she didn't care now. She knew she wouldn't be here to clean it off and tidy it up later.

"You did remember to book the day off work? he asked enthusiastically? "I've got something special planned. I think you'll like it".

"Yes, yes I did", she answered.

Her mind drifted back to last night. What had she been thinking of? Why had she had so much to drink? It was the red wine, she knew she shouldn't drink that last glass but she did and it was then that she decided. By the end of the evening her mind had been made up. She couldn't do it any more. She couldn't pretend to be happy. She wanted to be free. Free to be herself, free to be her own person, free to hear her own voice, not the voices of her husband, her children, her family. It was all getting too much. She needed space, some time for herself. She was beginning to feel like Toby's hamster in the cage, running on that wheel, getting faster and faster and going ... nowhere. She knew she just needed to get off that wheel and lie down in a cool meadow in the peace and quiet for a day or two. She needed to collect her thoughts, to collect whatever remained of herself before life had smothered her in this domestic drudgery. Sure, she had a beautiful home, a loving husband and three reasonably behaved kids but there was nothing for her any more. She was wife, mum, sister and daughter. But who else? She so wanted to be someone else right now. She so wanted to be somewhere else right now. But where? Where would she go? What would she do? She hadn't worked since they married and that was ten years ago. Was she brave enough to go? Could she be herself somewhere else? Could she make it on her own? She knew it would be a lonely journey. She knew she had to do it. It was now or never.

If only he didn't love her so much, it would be so much easier.

"Come on, hurry up, you've got a long journey ahead of you", he smiled. 

He was so right, as always. 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

How long does it take to finish something you're not working on?

daffodils by me!

“It’s amazing how long it takes to finish something you are not working on”.
R D Clyde

I know it’s been some time since I’ve blogged. 
A whole month has gone by. 
I suppose you thought I’d gone, disappeared or emigrated?
I didn’t do any of the above.
Perhaps you didn’t even notice but I did.
I quietly reprimanded myself up for not writing regularly.
Who am I to flatter myself by thinking that I’d be missed?
I wasn’t, was I?
The world goes on even in the stillness of the night.
Even in the absence of blogging. 
No excuses.
I simply got distracted, not by anything exciting.
Probably just lots of trivial stuff but it seemed to consume my blogging time.
Oh and I was so full of good intentions too.
I planned to write more and often.
But sometimes plans have a habit of becoming unplanned.
I thought I might inspire you with a beautiful poem I’d written.
But I realised that the only poem I’d written was still in my head.
It hadn’t made it to the page.
Maybe I’ll write it another day?
And now … well now it’s a challenge to get back into the writing rhythm.
Perhaps a little music might kick start the creative process?
I did consider restarting with a wonderful quotation from someone motivational and inspirational but there are so many to choose from,
I could be here some time.
I’ve got the makings of a story in draft.
But not had time to draft the ending yet.   
Think I’ll post this evening anyway
In the hope that tomorrow brings fresh thinking and creativity by the bucket load! 

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Violets are blue

A little tale To celebrate St Patrick's Day -  prompted by Tess  over at  Magpie Tales  
Happy St Patrick's Day one and all!    

“Flowers?  For me?” 

She sat upright in her hospital bed.  The fall had shaken her badly and she wasn’t sure if she had broken her hip.  It was painful, she was sure of that.  At eighty two she didn’t need this and dreaded all the hassle and inconvenience this would bring to her ever so busy daughter.  Violet, who now referred to herself simply as V!  Ms V Mc Cann was a true career woman, whatever that meant.  Violet wasn’t exactly a name that could be taken seriously climbing the career ladder she had told her mother once.  Violet wasn’t the name that captured the passion, zeal and drive she used to smash through the glass ceiling to get to the top in the dog-eat-dog world of advertising.  V Mc Cann was not afraid to knock anyone down who stood in her way.  She had more or less said so when she last visited her mother.  As a daughter and a successful business woman, she was so busy in her high executive world that she no longer had the time to visit her mother in the best money could afford nursing home.

“You sure you’ve got the right person?” she asked a little nervously.

“Your name is Mrs Mena Mc Cann, isn’t it?” smiled the boy from the flower shop.

“Well yes, yes it is, but no one ever sends me flowers.  Well not for a very long time anyway” she replied

“Well they do today, Mena.  Today’s your day, African violets especially for you”. 

“Thanks, son.  They’re lovely.  But who are they from?” 

“No message.  ‘Just to deliver them to Mrs Mena Mc Cann’ he said.  He paid and then he was gone.

“He?” she asked in a bemused voice.

“He said something about it being a long time ago and that you would remember the violets, the special day and the works outing to the Altnalee Races.”

Mena Mc Cann recalled that trip to the races on St Patrick’s Day many years ago.  It was the tradition back then to celebrate the holiday by going to the local race meeting.  The factory was closed, picnics were organised and everyone went to the races. She recalled the parading of horses before the races, the wearing of bright racing colours by the jockeys and the well dressed owners in the enclosure ring.

She met a boy called Jack there. He had several winners that day and he generously shared his winnings with Mena and the girls. He had given Mena violets and made a date to see her the following week but for some unknown reason never turned up.  But that was over sixty years ago!

Mena turned to the delivery boy to ask him more about the little pot of violets.  But he had gone.

She cleared a space on the locker beside her bed for the beautiful African violets and noted the single shamrock in the pot.  Maybe it was best to simply enjoy the gift and keep her curiosity for another day.           

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Magpie Tale 55 – Pancakes and Lemons

An intriguing photo from Tess over at MAGPIE TALES this week prompted this story.

“Look, all I said was, I can’t stand lemons!”
 “Are you sure that’s all you said?”
 “So what’s with the bloody fork then?
 “You sure it’s blood and not paint?”
 “I’m sure and the knife, it’s missing.  Where’s the knife?”
 “You don’t think …?”
 “No, she wouldn’t, would she?”
 “You sure that’s all you said, you can’t stand lemons?”
 “I may have mentioned the outfit.”
 “What outfit?”
 “The Carmen Miranda outfit, you know the one where she wears bananas, pineapples and lemons on her head.  Honestly, she’s such a prima donna and    no sense of humour.”
 “Don’t be so tough, she probably spent ages on that.  She’s really making the effort to get involved this year.”
 “Come on, if you think for one minute that I’m dressing up like that for a sponsored pancake race, you’ve got another think coming!” 
 “But it’s for a good cause.  Harry’s going as Count Dracula.”
 (A pained voice screams in the distance) “AGGGGHHHHHH! Stupid woman, I was only joking about the lemons!”
 “Who said that?”
 “It’s coming from the stationary cupboard.”
 “Oh dear, sounds like Count Dracula.  Looks like he’s wearing a knife in his leg! You know he’s really squeamish, can’t stand the sight of blood”
 “Pity that means our team is one man down for the pancake race this year!”

Sunday, 27 February 2011

I am a Stylish Blogger!

I'm so pleased ... (big smile ...idiotic grin from ear to ear).  I have received a Stylish Blogger Award from Ann over at Inkpots n'Quills.  Now there's a first! ... for me, not Ann!  It was a lovely surprise when I checked in to update my blog.  However, by the time I stopped by and read several of the other Stylish Bloggers ... well it was time to retire for the evening and save my ramblings .. I mean ... writings for another day.   Now the award does come with some instructions.  As a receiver of this prestigious award I need to share seven things about myself and pass on the award to three more bloggers.   I'm going to let this special award sit on my mantelpiece for a day or two before I pass it on ... this has made my day!  Thank you.

Seven things about me
  1. I love writing and enjoy blogging.
  2. I dislike clothes shopping but can spend ages in a book store, a charity shop, anywhere that sells books and cards.  Have been known to get lost there too!
  3. A long time ago I made an LP (yes, you've read correctly! ... a very long time ago).  Actually it was part of a fund raising event.  And no it wasn't a worldwide success nor did it make me rich and famous.  But I do remember we had a lot of fun doing it and we raised lots of money too!  Emmm ...wonder if that electric blue jumpsuit would still fit?  Oh I was so trendy back then.
  4. I love going to the theatre and would happily go every week if I could afford to do so.
  5. My heart place is a cottage in Co Donegal, Ireland with a real peat fire that smells wonderful especially on  cold autumnal days.  Peace, tranquillity, a good book and lots of white wine thinking.
  6. I admire people who can make beautiful storytelling patchwork quilts ... never was the star of Mrs P's needlework class at school but have learned to be very creative with paper clips and Velcro.  I think, as a past pupil, I may have made her proud  ...well maybe just a little  ...
  7. I'm a hoarder and love to keep mementoes  ... a nightmare when it comes to moving!  My husband will vouch for that.  Thankfully we don't move often.

And now ....(roll on the drums)  ... I would like to pass this award to

  1. Betty over at Bossy Betty
  2. Tess at Willow Manor
  3. Niamh at Words A Day
Have a good week one and all.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Stitched Up

The Man has been trying out his new camera lens this weekend. I attended a writing workshop and met some lovely people there. This picture captured my imagination for a story.

She stood across the street staring at the window. She knew it would fit perfectly. She just knew it. She had painstakingly sewed every single stitch of that dress under the watchful eye of Madame Fontaine. Madame ensured that all her dressmakers were needlewomen of the highest calibre. Years of training in the fashion houses of Paris meant that when Madame came to London, her expectations were so high that only the best seamstresses were employed in her workrooms. Kitty Delamere worked in Madame’s rooms in Windsor and was one of her finest needlewomen.

“Go on, try it on Kitty, we won’t tell,” shouted Daisy.

“I couldn’t. What if Madame came in?” said Kitty.

“Go on, I dare you, Kitty. We’ll watch out for Madame,” cajoled Esther from across the workroom table.

Kitty had spent weeks stitching the intricate mother of pearl beading onto the bodice and around the neckline. She took great care not to snag the thread or pinprick the silk of this exquisite gown. She held the beautiful white wedding dress in her arms and gently caressed the softness of the material. What a fine gown for a beautiful lady, she thought.

Her thoughts drifted to her own impending wedding to her sweetheart Edward, a war photographer who had been posted to the front line. There had been no correspondence from him for weeks.

“Hurry up, Kitty. Try it on. Pretend that you’re the bride,” giggled Daisy, the youngest seamstress.

With a little help from the girls, Kitty Delamere carefully donned the wedding gown. She took great care not to allow the train of the dress to trail along the workroom floor. It fitted her perfectly, as if it had been made for her. It felt good, really good. She felt elegant and beautiful. She felt like a lady. She wished that Edward could see her. She knew she could never afford one of Madame’s fine gowns on a seamstress’s wage of four shillings a week.

“Oh Kitty, don’t you look a proper lady,” quipped an fascinated Daisy.

The door opened suddenly.

Madame’s tall and wiry frame filled the doorway.

She shrieked loudly in her flowing French accent, “Kitty Dela-meere, the dress, take it off this minute!”

The girls reeled back in horror. Kitty blushed furiously at being caught. She stepped out of the wedding gown and made her way to the office to endure the wrath of the outraged Madame.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Magpie Tales – Streets of gold

Photo from Tess over at Magpie Tales

"But … it’s not!”

“Not what?”

“Gold, you said the streets would be paved with gold and they aren’t!”

“Keep digging, you probably haven’t dug deep enough. Not enough blood, sweat and tears from you yet, young man.”

“But Da, my hands are blistered and my back is killing me. I didn’t imagine it would be as tough as this!”

“And how did you imagine it would be?”

“I thought the land of opportunity would be better, not so much of this physical work. I certainly didn’t expect us to be building the streets and working on the pavements. We could have stayed home if all we wanted to do was dig!”

“The trouble with you is you’ve never had to exert yourself too much. I blame myself for that, I’ve been too soft in my ways and your mother constantly making excuses for you has not done you any favours. But times are tough and now we need all the work we can get. We need to feed the family back home.”

Back home seemed a lifetime ago. Several months travelling in a coffin boat full of emigrants wasn’t the most thrilling journey to New York City. Malachy O Reardon and his son Jed had managed to secure the last two places when the ship sailed from Cork harbour in Ireland in the summer of 1847.

It had been a painful farewell at the harbour for them both. Saying good bye wasn’t easy. Neither of them knew if they would see the family again. But there was no choice now, no choice at all it seemed, staying in a country no longer able to feed its people didn’t count as a worthwhile choice. People were dying, the crop had failed. In order to survive and provide for his family of five, Malachy O Reardon had to go to America, had to be on that ship to New York City and had to earn a living to send money home. He took with him his eldest son Jed, only fifteen and much to learn about the harsh realities of life. Jed hadn’t been a strong travelling companion. Three weeks into the trip he suffered from ‘ship fever’. Malachy thought that he might not even make the journey to America and questioned his judgement about taking him; he was after all only a child. How would he explain to his wife that her son didn’t make it? But Jed survived despite the odds, the overcrowded cabins and the unsanitary conditions.

Malachy knew that the boy was missing his family and friends and the familiarity of ways back home. He was finding it hard to settle in the dark and overcrowded hostel which was usually full of older men who like themselves had travelled to find work. Many of them were homesick and resented being treated like second class citizens. They often resorted to heavy drinking and gambling to while away the time after work and lessen the pain of loneliness and despair in a foreign country. Many of the men had only managed to pay for a one way ticket, in the hope that life and work in the ‘land of opportunity’ would provide enough wealth and fortune to send for their families when they got established in the new country.

“Da, da, come over here. Look at this. Quickly, down here. Just below the spade. Can you see it?” shouted Jed.

“Shh ... lad, keep your voice down. You’ll have the whole gang here in a minute,” replied Malachy trying to contain the boy’s excitement.

Malachy walked across to where his son was working. He looked down at him in the big hole of dirt filling up with water. Piles of broken pavement heaped on either side of the growing cavity.

Jed O Reardon laughed and handed his father two small, dirty coins.

“You could be right Da; maybe the streets are paved with gold after all!”

Monday, 24 January 2011

Are you sitting comfortably …?

Did you know that Saturday 29 January to Saturday 5 February is National Storytelling Week? I didn’t! I’d never heard of National Storytelling Week until now. Apparently this is the 11th year of Annual National Storytelling. I learned about this eventful week through my local newspaper, which often tells tales about local shenanigans and goings on. Like most newspapers for the past few weeks there’s been a lot of gloom and doom stories, hard stories and stories which made me question whether or not I should continue buying the local paper! Some weeks it makes for a depressing read. In fact I found myself scanning the paper for good news stories, inspiring and uplifting tales but there weren’t many this week, except for news of this – National Storytelling Week. Now there’s a thing, I thought. I do love a good story and proceeded to check out what is on offer in and around my area.

As a child I loved stories and still do as an adult (the grown up child with me!) My lovely Dad was one of the best story tellers in my time. Sadly he is no longer with us but I can still recall many of the tales he told, those of mystery and intrigue, those where everyone got a mention in the story by name and those well told ‘shaggy dog tales’ where even today I wonder if they were really true! His storytelling had the power to quieten and still the boisterous and lively child. He could entrance us as children with the goings on of his school days and later the harmless and playful pranks on mates when he worked in the building trade in his early days. His love and enjoyment of stories continued in his grandfather years and often as adults we would listen to him recounting the same tales to his grandchildren and despite invariably knowing the ending of the tale, we sat on engaged and listening anyway.

I wonder now if it was the story, his dulcet tones, the musicality of his words or quite simply the child within us wanting to be entertained that held us there hanging on his every word. Whatever it was, we loved it, young and old alike. For a few minutes he could transport us to a different time and place through the magic of storytelling.

So I’m off to check out some storytelling this week. What about you? Let me know if you come across any good tales in your travels. You may consider starting with the Society for Storytelling and their website is

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Magpie Tales – Skates On!

(Snow Trio from Magpie Tales)
'Blog hopping' is becoming a favourite hobby of mine and today I 'hopped' over to Magpie Tales, a great site for aspiring writers and poets. What a great idea for a blog. It provides an opportunity to challenge us aspiring writers. I've often stopped by, read and admired the writings here. Such talent! One day I'm going to have a go at writing a Magpie Tale .. one day ... when I'm brave enough! Today I felt brave and a little creative too and I've made my first contribution to Magpie Tales. Enjoy. (Hope I manage to get the links and photo right!)

“Come on, hurry up. For goodness sake, take the photograph Edward. If we stand here much longer we’ll freeze to death” shouted Ella.

Her friends Elisabeth and Kitty stood and grinned. They refrained from getting caught up in the good natured brother-sister banter. Kitty had always admired Edward. In fact it could be said that she was quite smitten by the young, handsome dark haired man with the camera. He had smiled at her, not once but twice when they met outside the library at Marchmand House.

“Just one more shot and we’re finished here” called Edward from behind the curtained camera. One day he would be a famous photographer with a studio in London. One day they would appreciate his fastidiousness and attention to detail as he worked.

“You need to get yourself a proper job,” his father had said over and over again. A photographer was a proper job as far as Edward was concerned.

His father had plans for him to work in the City, ‘a sensible career in banking or the stock market’. His plans hadn’t included Edward ‘wasting time on photography and spending endless hours developing pictures that no-one wanted to buy or admire’. But Edward Marchmand knew different. One day people would travel miles to see his great photographic exhibitions and leave in awe of the great photographer.

But today, he was keen to impress the shy and demure Kitty Delaware, his sister Ella’s friend. Kitty was staying for a few days at the Marchmand Estate. He wondered if it would be appropriate to invite himself along to join them skating. Perhaps that might appear too forward? Would it be considered rude and un-gentlemanly? Would there be opportunity to engage in conversation with the lovely Kitty before she left tomorrow?

“Here, I’ve brought your skates too” shouted Ella. “Come on, we’ll race you there.”

Kitty Delaware smiled and he smiled back.

Monday, 10 January 2011

What would you say to a Polyglot?

I’ve been blog hopping again and came across a great post written by Benny Lewis on the Zen Habits site, a site which I think you will enjoy, so do stop by. When I read Benny’s guest blog I was fascinated by several things he said, one of them being his passion for learning new languages. You see Benny is a ‘polyglot’. A what? I know it isn't a word prominent in my vocabulary so off I went to the ‘authorities on vocabularies and big words’ and discovered that a polyglot is someone dedicated to learning languages and has the ability to speak and write in several languages. Impressive!

My language abilities extend to great English in a Northern Irish accent, a reasonable grasp of French, enough to order a meal and find somewhere to stay, a inactive command of Irish (Gaelige) and half a dozen words in other languages that permit me to say hello, please, thank you and a glass of white wine! It’s often stood me in good stead when I’m travelling. Yes I am one of those people who often makes a fool of herself trying to come to terms with the local language. Well it’s all part of the travel experience, don’t you think? Our last trip to Prague (beautiful country) was a real challenge linguistically! However, I’m pleased to report that my sign language has come on leaps and bounds.

Anyway, back to Benny, the polyglot … great word … polyglot…one for dropping into conversation this week when you can’t think of anything to say. You know, when you hit one of those awkward silence moments – ‘Are you a polyglot?’ Although probably best to use with caution, well until you get comfortable with the sound of the word anyway. Benny is a keen traveller and professes some great ways to learn languages. Sounds like a fun way to learn and much more creative than the audio visual languages courses at a certain Grammar School all those years ago.

What new word have you discovered recently? How has it influenced your communication skills?

Have a good week and do let me know if you bump into any polyglots in your travels.

Blogs worth hopping over to;

Zen Habits

Benny Lewis