Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The empty nest

Squidgeling T's about to head off to uni, so Mr Squidge and I are faced with the prospect of being on our own for the first time in 20 years.

It's a weird thing to be thinking about. On the one hand, of course we want the Squidgelings to go off and be independent and follow their chosen paths of study and career choices. It's awesome that they feel confident enough and have the ability to do that.

On the other hand, the Squidgelings have been a big part of our lives for a long time - time during which we've all changed and grown, including Mr Squidge and me.

We need to find out who we are as a couple, now. A couple with grown up kids, who can go on holiday on their own (though I can't stop feeling guilty about that one - I might have to work myself up to a real 'holiday' with weekends away first!), who don't have to worry too much about working around other people's events in the diary, and who can eat a much wider range of foods!

It'll take time. I have a sense of us needing to re-connect with each other, to re-discover what we like to do together and then actually get on and do it. We can put ourselves first without feeling selfish or guilty...

Well, up to a point.

The cat's still living at home.




Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Book Launch - Tilda of Merjan

The date is set...

On Thursday 17th October, I'll be in The Old Curiosity Bookshop and Tea Room, Hathern, for a Meet-the-Author-cum-Book-Launch!



The date we've picked is in half term, but as some schools in Leicestershire are not having their half term until the following week, I may have to think about a second event the following week... Depends on how things go!

The lovely Tina has agreed to host me for the entire day, and we're hoping that folk will book into one of two sessions (10am-12pm and 2pm-4pm) where I'll read from Tilda of Merjan, talk a little bit about Tilda's journey into print, answer questions, AND I'll bring along some of my favourite writing prompts for folk to have a go at if they want to. Between 12pm and 2pm, we're hoping others might be able to pop in for a sandwich and pick up a signed copy...

(You might also want to take a look at some of the other books on sale in the shop - there are lots to choose from!)

Due to space, we're asking people to book into the sessions beforehand, but everyone who pops in to see me on the day will have a chance to win a copy of Tilda that I will embellish - a bit like I did with Granny Rainbow for a previous Red Nose Day auction...

Stick the date in your diary, spread the word, and I shall look forward to seeing a few people on the day, and launching Tilda - the first book of my first series of novels - into the wild.

PS. You can buy the ebook direct from the publisher.

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

Tilda of Merjan




It's official - we have a cover for the first of Tilda's stories! Publication due in September, so keep your eyes peeled for pre-order buttons...



Friday, 9 August 2019

Charnwood 2019




I've been to camp again recently, with 5,500 campers from the worldwide family of Scouts and Guides. It's the ninth camp of this sort I've attended (only the eighth I've camped at.)

(You can find out about my long association with Charnwood International Scout and Guide camps hereand what I did in the 2016 camp, here. And if you want to see a more general history, check out the Charnwood website too.)

The site was HUGE - the biggest yet, as you can see from this aerial photo. Look closely - you might see the wind turbine. Not Bib Bob, I hasten to add - probably a distant relative though!

Main sub camps to the right and bottom, staff subcamp to the left,
main arena with the biggest marquees! 

Those two marquees? Breathing Space.

I was part of the Breathing Space team, who were tasked with providing a quiet and faith space for campers, run along similar lines to the Channel Your Thoughts tent of 2016. The success of CYT meant that this time round, our presence was advertised and promoted well before the camp began. We also ended up with more space; in 2016, we were in one large marquee. This time, we were spread across two marquees, both individually about three to four times the size of the 2016 one. And again, we were in the central area, available to anyone.

Our Breathing Space logo...in 3D. Provided a great photo opportunity...

...and our distinctive team neckers, complete with
Breathing Space Challenge Badge

We had three zones across our marquees: Sshhh, Haven, and Reflection. Sshhh provided quiet, mostly self-run activities such as colouring, Lego, puzzles, games, a few crafts which changed daily, a small library of books and Beano comics, and a stitched banner. It also housed our friendship postbox and the Worry Monster!

Haven was an area of the second marquee which had some similar quiet activities for campers who either needed a smaller space and fewer people to feel comfortable, or who needed someone to talk to if things got too much for them. And Reflection was the rest of the same marquee, which housed our team 'office', a large area for specific faith services, thought for the day sessions, and on site trainings, as well as a private prayer space. It worked really well to separate the areas, not least because we didn't have to reorganise the tent at any point.

Well, not until Tuesday, but I'll get to that in a moment.

We opened on the Saturday afternoon as campers were arriving on site, and were pleased to see leaders bringing the young people who they thought might need us to the tent straightaway to orient them and introduce team members so there was a familiar face when they next popped in. Our 'triage' approach worked well too - we were able to identify campers who might need a little more TLC than others and direct them to Haven rather than Sshhh.

And then it started raining. Now, rain on camp isn't usually a problem, but it came down in buckets. The campsite quickly became extremely muddy or was under water in several places, and some sub camps were left fighting to keep liquid mud from running through their sites.

Standing water...

...which turned into slurry as thousands of folk
all walked the same way to their activities

It rained on Sunday, too, and camp conditions deteriorated so much, I sent Mr Squidge to a well known camping store to buy welly boots, as it turned out that my walking boots were not in the least bit waterproof.

Not very clear, but my very muddy and wet boots,
just before I got into my sleeping bag!

(He was ready and waiting when the shop opened on Monday morning - they only had large sizes left as there'd been something of a run on wellies because some international groups had arrived without suitable footwear. Fortunately the lovely shop assistant rummaged round the back and found a pair of size 4 pink wellies so Mr Squidge snapped them up and brought them over to me. Dry feet! A luxury!)

Monday, the sun shone. It began to dry out some areas of the site, but sub camps were still pretty bad. Friends who were camping with their units were cooking while standing ankle deep in water. I saw photos of others scraping the worst of the liquid mud up with baking trays to try to keep it from entering food prep areas.

I hadn't seen camp conditions like this since Charnwood 80, which started muddy and then dried out.

That wasn't to be the case this time. It began to rain again. And it kept on raining. We didn't realise at the time that Leicestershire was having a month's worth of rain in two days. Hay had already been put down on Sunday in the worst places to try to mop up water. Now it was bark chippings in the car parks to prevent vehicles getting stuck, and trenches being dug to try to re-route running water. Some groups went home with wet gear that night to dry off and come back the next day...

And then on Tuesday night, after relentless rain all day, we got the order to strip out our marquees to provide communal dry sleeping space for campers who were flooded out of their tents. And still the rain kept coming down...

We woke on Wednesday morning to the news that camp was going to have to close early. The conditions were simply too bad. To my knowledge, it's the first time an international camp in this country has had to close in this way due to weather conditions. It was very, very sad - but the best decision under the circumstances.

The Breathing Space team were asked to stay on. We were working just in one marquee now - the other had people sleeping in it - and we couldn't provide all that we had planned to. But we kept the space open for those who needed us and what we were still able to offer under challenging circumstances. And we stayed until Friday lunchtime, one of the few tents continuing to offer activities for campers - particularly some of the international visitors - who couldn't leave on the Thursday.

In some respects, it was the hardest camp I have ever been on. Even without the weather, we were busy from the moment we opened our marquees at 8.30am to the moment we shut them up, around 10pm (later if someone still needed us.) We had a lunch hour so we could eat, and we protected our evening meal times as far as we could, but other than that we never stopped. And we waded - literally waded - through mud, in the dark, back to our sleeping tents (which stayed standing and mainly dry, despite the awful weather).

In other ways, it was the best camp I've ever been on. Everyone pulled together. The longest shift we heard about (Facilities and H&W were literally working non-stop) was 26 hours, as folk battled to keep the site working, and the spirit of Guiding and Scouting - the 'do your best, have courage in all difficulties' - was very much in evidence. The young folk still had a brilliant time. Breathing Space was enjoyed and appreciated by those who needed us. And I had the privilege of working in an amazing team who supported each other just as much as they supported anxious or tired campers.

I met some incredibly inspiring young people, and was blessed to witness several moments of deep spirituality within the services and inter faith sessions I helped to provide.

I was in the camp newspaper twice, (!) and met many international campers I probably wouldn't have met if I'd been a guider-in-charge looking after a unit.

The Taiwanese scouts were a lovely bunch

Very proud of our interfaith prayer space  - it was used several times.

Yes, I was tired, and muddy, and sad when I got home, but on balance, it was a brilliant camp. Here are a few more photos - with thanks to fellow team members for letting me share their pics, because I took so few of my own.

Image may contain: sky and outdoor
What camp looked like in a rare sunny moment, with all the flags flying

Image may contain: indoor
Our psychedelic colouring wall after it got dripped on!

Big Knit hats. You might spot my pencil, a couple of
funky chickens, and my frog's eyes...
My 'haul' of badges; now need to sew them onto my camp blanket!

And the next one? Due in 2023. We're already thinking about it...

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

The Big Knit

I've been knitting...

Not for myself, but for the Big Knit , a charity appeal whereby knitters make small hats to fit the tops of innocent smoothie bottles. Every hat knitted raises 25p for Age UK, .

I bought 20 20g balls of cotton from my local wool shop (the wonderful Knotty Knits and Kreative Krafts)  and looked up a load of patterns on the net.

Ummm...they're a bit addictive.

It takes about half an hour to make and sew up a basic hat. A bit longer if you're doing more of a novelty one, especially if you have to make legs or sew on eyes or make tails. Most of the patterns have come from the internet, having simply searched 'big knit patterns'.

I've knitted loads...





It's all in a good cause.

Saturday, 20 July 2019

Birthdays, Guitars, and Cake.

Can't quite believe it, but Squidgeling T is eighteen this weekend. Where did all those years go?

One minute there's a little cheeky chappie toddling along, the next, there's a strapping six footer - a strapping six footer who is the bassist of a local rock band.

One of his guitars (yes, he has multiple - apparently you can never have too many guitars) was made by Mr Squidge. Squidgeling T had been eyeing up Dingwall 5-string basses, but the prices were well out of his league at somewhere around £3K-£5K. Having made a guitar for his GCSE though, T asked his dad to help him make a Dingwall-inspired one. Mr Squidge ended up doing most of the practical stuff, but T had definite ideas about what it would look like and was instrumental (hah! see what I did there?) in the design.

The guitar was finished earlier this year, and it looks amazing. You can't see it on these pics, but the head of the guitar is coloured to match the body in purple and blue.





Now on his ACTUAL birthday, T will be performing, gigging with Rawkus Redz in Leicester - a charity gig in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust - so how else could I have decorated his 18th birthday cake, other than with a guitar.

And not just any old guitar, but THE guitar...


Happy Birthday, Squidgeling T xx

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Sparky

You'll probably know if you read the Scribbles that Family Squidge are working hard to help the environment. We're big recyclers, have solar panels on our house, save water for the garden, and own a wind turbine.

Recently, we took the next step; we bought an electric car.

Mr Squidge did a lot of research. And I mean A LOT. One obvious issue with electric cars is their range - you have to work hard at planning longer (ie 100+ mile) journeys to allow sufficient time to recharge the batteries. For a long time we ummed and ahhed as to whether to go for it now, or wait until vehicle range increased. But as I pointed out, most of our journeys are short (<50 miles) so we'd get there and back in one battery's worth of 'juice'. And isn't it better to do something now, rather than wait?

Depending on the car we might have chosen, there would have been up to an eighteen month wait on delivery anyway, so Mr Squidge looked at secondhand. Then he discovered the range extender.

Now, hybrid cars are a mix of petrol engine and battery power, but some electric cars have a range extender which - although it requires a small amount of petrol to work - does gice you a few extra miles if the battery's running low.

So we went on a test drive. For those who are interested, it was a BMW i3 with a range extender. (As far as I'm concerned, it's a car, has four wheels and it goes.) It was fairly easy to drive, even though I've never driven an automatic before. We were pretty certain that was the model we wanted, especially as it was very easy for both of us to drive without too many major adjustments to seat positions etc (6'3" vs 5'0" can make it a real faff before you actually drive anywhere).

The hunt was on. Mr Squidge found one in Stockport - and one in Edinburgh. The Stockport one was grey, the Edinburgh one, blue. Electric blue.



He liked the blue.



After a lot of negotiating, he bought the blue one.

Granted, I liked the blue more than the grey, but I did question the sense in flying to Edinburgh, (not so environmentally friendly), stopping overnight, then picking up a new car first thing and driving back home the next day, factoring in stops to recharge on the way.

But that's what he did. And so we took possession of Sparky.

I love driving it - it's really satisfying to be able to charge it via our own solar panels and by the very nature of how you drive. (The only downside was that the day after it arrived, I managed to smash one of the wing mirrors as I backed into the drive. Mr Squidge has since moved the gatepost and given us an extra 10" of manoeuvering room...)

We're still not entirely environmentally friendly in the car department; we decided to keep the diesel estate for the moment. Come September, both Squidgelings will be at uni, and the extra space will be useful to cart student clobber up and down the various motorways, although we have proven we can do a day's trip to Bristol with a charging stop quite comfortably. The insurance companies also won't insure Squidgeling T to drive Sparky until he is 19 and had at least a year of post-driving-test experience, so keeping the Astra means that at least he can get himself to gigs and rehearsals under his own steam. But in the long run, who knows...

Feels good to be going greener...