Wednesday, 31 December 2014

The last day of the year

It's traditional to look back over the last year on New Year's Eve - to revisit the highs and lows of the previous twelve months.

For some of you reading this post, 2014 will have been a year you'd rather forget. My wish for you is that 2015 will be a less painful time and that there will be glimmers of light in the darkness you're currently experiencing.

Others will be reading this feeling rather chuffed at all they've achieved, bouyed up by celebrations held with family and friends to mark momentous life moments.

Me? Well, I'm not going to look back. Not for long, anyway. There have been some wonderful moments and there have been some not so good moments, but on balance - I'd say it was a pretty good year.

What the turn of the year gives is an opportunity to change things that lay within my power to change. And for that reason, I'm going to look forward, not back - because there is something rather big I want to change. About myself.

I've decided I spend too much time procrastinating. Since I gave up working about eighteen months ago, I don't have a particular routine. I tend to do what I want, when I want, (within the bounds of family and school and housework etc) which isn't always very helpful; it's too easy to put off 'til tomorrow (or the day after, or the day after that) something that needs/ought to be done.

So in 2015, I'm going to make a real effort to do the things I keep saying I'll do but don't. I'm going to set myself targets for publication of Granny Rainbow 2 and StarMark. I'm going to write new material, come what may. I'm also going to ensure that my hall, stairs and landing get decorated after the insulation work we're planning is completed; redecorate my dining room once the stove is fitted; ensure we get a family holiday in the summer and meet up with friends and family I've not seen for ages, because you never know what's around the corner.

Above all, I'm going to push myself to keep DOING...not just let things happen.

There may be trouble ahead...who knows? But in the meantime, I'm going to do my best to enjoy 2015 so that I don't get to the end of it saying 'Where's the time gone?'

So as the old year dies and the new one leaps up, full of promise, I'm not going to wish you 'Happy New Year'. Instead, I'm going to wish you 'Hope, Health and Love.'

Because when you've got those, you can face anything that 2015 throws at you.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

And the words are back...

It's been busy this last month. It always is in December, with the usual Christmassy stuff to organise, church services to attend, family gatherings (which included a wedding the day after it snowed here!) and as an added extra this year, overseeing 3 blogs for an overlap of two or three weeks as well as Mr Squidge recovering from a minor op. (Incidentally, I hope that you've all had wonderful Christmasses and Father Christmas bought you everything you wanted. I got a proper Babycham glass and a rainbow hat! Which has got to be seen to be believed...and might form the basis of another blog post!)

Anyway, in all that time, I've not written a thing.

(Do Christmas cards count? I think not...)

It's not as if I've not tried; I've been struggling with a particular story challenge I'm part of at the moment - I had an idea, but it just wouldn't work right. Yesterday, there was a bit of a light bulb moment. I ditched my original idea and came at it from a different angle, used a different main character and bingo! Had a plot, an MC, a secondary character and I could still include the memory and item AND object I needed as set down in the rules...

Today, I started to write said story. It goes something like this:-

I stifled a yawn, flicked lint from my jacket, and turned to Rickam. "How many more?" I murmured.

That's as far as I got before the first interruption. *sigh* And I've not managed to write anything else since.

We drive to Yorkshire tomorrow to visit family, so there's at least three hours in the car I can use to add a bit more...

Fingers crossed.

At least the words are back.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

An Incredible Birth

BBC The Nativity

Wishing you all a blessed Christmas,

love from 
Squidge x

Thursday, 18 December 2014

The tree is up!

I know it's nearly Christmas when the tree comes in.

I'm one of those folk who like a real tree - a 'proper' fir tree, with sticky sap and prickly needles and the most gorgeous smell. We're lucky that we have a Christmas tree plantation a few miles out of town, and for many years now we've toddled along, walked round a muddy field and chosen the tree we want to take home. We've never cut the trees - always dig them up and stick them in a bucket of soil, about a week to a week-and-a-half before Christmas.

This year, we had to have a bit of help. Mr Squidge is on light duties after an op, so the man at the plantation had to do the digging for me, and in exchange for his dinner a friend came round to help get the tree into the bucket.

It was all I could do then to stop T rushing in and decorating it straightaway. I managed to persuade him to eat dinner first, but as soon as he'd swallowed the last mouthful...

I had a meeting to go to yesterday evening; it was with much trepidation that I left the kids to the task of decorating the tree. Knowing how quickly the novelty usually wears off, I wondered whether I'd come back to half a job done...but I wasn't disappointed. It was pretty much finished by the time I got back. There were only a few things left to put on, which I did, all the while resisting the urge to rearrange...

What do you reckon?

Monday, 15 December 2014

A new carol for Christmas...

Remember my recent poetry post? And that I said I sometimes put new words to old hymns and carols? Well, here's a carol I wrote back in 2011; it's being sung at church - on Christmas Day - for the first time ever! 

If you don't know the tune for the original, Jesus is Lord, follow this link... (though I'd sing it a bit quicker!) If you like my carol and would like to use it in your church, please just drop me a line to let me know. All I ask is that you credit me with the words. 

Jesus is born! (Tune ‘Jesus is Lord’ by David J Mansell)

Jesus is born! We see him in the manger
Babe’s precious head
Laid in a bed
Of wood and straw
Jesus is born!
With song we now declare it
God’s gift of love for all
To bridge heaven and earth
Jesus is born! Jesus is born!
Sing joyful alleluias for Jesus is born.

Jesus is born!
The first ‘noel’ is sounded
Heaven is rent
With angels sent
To shepherds poor
Jesus is born!
‘Go now and see the baby
Glory to God in heaven
And peace to you all’
Jesus is born! Jesus is born!
Sing joyful alleluias for Jesus is born.

Jesus is born!
Celestial news confirms it
Up in the sky
Star way up high
Tells of the birth
Jesus is born!
Three kings leave all to follow
Bringing their precious gifts
to the new baby king
Jesus is born! Jesus is born!
Sing joyful alleluias for Jesus is born.

Jesus is born!
And still God tries to reach us
Calling afresh
To men of flesh
To come to him
Jesus is born!
God’s love forgives us freely
Taking away our tears
And then setting us free
Jesus is born! Jesus is born!
Sing joyful alleluias for Jesus is born.

Katherine Hetzel 2011

The Nativity, BBC 2010

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Maybe I CAN write poetry...

I've always loved rhyming words. There's something musical about them if they're done right, and I have hung on to many of the children's picture books from when they were little because the combinations of words and pictures were my favourite bedtime books to read to them. Dr Seuss, Allan and Janet Ahlberg, Julia Donaldson...always such fun to share.

I love writing rhymes myself. I seem to have a bit of a knack for it - though it doesn't always come out brilliantly - and somehow, the mechanics of writing in rhyme feels like 'proper' poetry to me. In fact, the only time I've ever won a writing competition (and fifty quid!) was with a limerick :

A young lady who felt fashion keenly
Tried on a new-fangled bikini.
With two bits of string,
Some cloth and a ring,
The thing would've baffled Houdini!

I've also written new words to old hymns and's the chorus and first verse of a carol*, to the tune 'All Things Bright and Beautiful':

Once upon a starry night
Two thousand years ago
Shone a star especially bright
To show the way to go.

Three wise men saw it gleaming
And knew what it foretold
A Saviour come among us
As prophets told of old...

I don't really understand the rest of what's classified as poetry. I remember reading one poem in English Lit, years ago...written by Spike Milligan I think, about abortion. Put me off for life. It didn't rhyme, the subject (to a pretty naive 15 year old) was alien, and I just didn't like it. Same with other forms. I know a Haiku has a syllable pattern, but it doesn't rhyme. I looked through my daughter's GCSE poetry selection and shuddered, 'cos I didn't understand what made it poetry.

So I thought I couldn't write it. Until last week. NIBS had a Winter Warmer Poetry Workshop for their last meeting of the year, led by chaplain and published poet, Frances Ballantyne. Our focus was Christmas, and Frances shared some poetry with us before encouraging us to try our hand at a couple of exercises. One was simply to take a line from a carol and write two more after it. Another was to take a date (the eating sort, not the calendar sort!), a nut or a satsuma as one of the essentials of Christmas to inspire us. Look at a Christmas card picture, and write new words to replace the impersonal 'Seasons greetings' printed inside. All simple, fairly easy, and not a syllabic pattern in sight. (Is syllabic a real word, I wonder?)

Anyway, I found it enlightening and had my confidence boosted. So much so, I'm going to share some of what I wrote with you.

The Christmas Essential.

There was no satsuma in my stocking.
I got my shiny penny, a plastic whistle,
Chocolate coins and some weird flavoured lip balm -
but no satsuma in my stocking.
A notebook. A tiny star to hang on my tree...
but no satsuma in my stocking.
Is there a satsuma shortage?
Did Father Christmas forget?
I know I always sneak it back onto the fruitbowl
'cos I much prefer grapes...
But this Christmas
There was no satsuma in my stocking.

Whether it's good poetry or not, I have no idea. It comes from my own experiences of Christmas, the place Frances said her poetry comes from, flavoured with heart, life and faith. Maybe I'll share some faith poetry with day. For now, I'll stick to the satsuma.

* If you'd like the rest of the words to the carol, or to see others I've written, just drop me a line - I'm happy for you to sing them in your own church, providing I'm credited.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Happy Birthday, Stories for Homes!

*comes in, proudly carrying a huge cake with one ginormous candle, aflame on the top of it*

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you! 
Happy Birthday, dear Stories for Homes!
Happy Birthday to you!

*takes a deep breath and - *

Well, it's not strictly speaking the book's birthday - but it is a whole year since we published it!

And in case you missed what went on before - the book blast, the official launch, the Ivy House readings and Andover - then let me tell you all about it!

The brainchild of Sally Swingewood and Debi Alper, SfH is an anthology of short stories and poems on the theme of 'home', published to support the charity Shelter and to raise awareness of the homelessness situation in London and beyond. There are 63 short stories and poems, wrapped in a beautiful cover and every single bit of it - writing, design, editing, publicity - was done by volunteers who gave of their time and talent to produce this bestseller.


And it's still selling. Still raising funds for Shelter, because there is still as much need for homes as there was this time last year - if not more.

So to celebrate one year on, we've been posting snippets of the stories on the SfH website - look in the 'News' page and you'll find loads, including one from my story, Homeland - and if you like what you read, please, buy a copy. For yourself. For your Dad. For your Great Aunt Bertha who's always got her nose stuck in a book. Every penny of the royalties goes direct to Shelter.

You won't be disappointed - and you WILL make a difference!

*blows out the candle*

Now go, spread the word. Tweet it, Share it, yell it from your roof! Today!

Monday, 8 December 2014

A Christmas Book...or two...or three!

Don't know about you, but I love getting a good book at Christmas.

In fact, as a kid, my mum used to hide the book(s) under the rest of the presents, 'cos she knew that as soon as I opened it, I'd start reading and leave everything else. I'm still a bit like that... This year, for the first time in my life, I have a to-be-read pile, although it's only two or three books high! That will keep me going through the Christmas holiday, but there's still two or three I'd like to find under the tree...

You might, if you've been reading the Scribbles for a while, remember I posted about the first book in the series? Goth Girl and the Ghost of a Mouse. Actually, as I write this, I realise I've not actually ever read the story! I just opened the pages and drank in the pictures...

Anyway, where was I? Today, I saw that there's a new Goth Girl book. Goth Girl the sequel...Goth Girl and the Fete Worse than Death. I know that it'll be just as beautifully illustrated as the last one, and who knows? I might even read the story this time.

So that's going straight on my Christmas book list. 

I might also add Terry Pratchett's Dragons at Crumbling Castle, a selection of short stories for children.

I also fancy reading The Miniaturist, by Jessie Burton - it sounds fascinating.

What about you? If you could ask for a book this Christmas, which would you choose? I might let you choose a couple if you're a real bookworm - just don't make it a whole libraries worth, or Father Christmas's sleigh won't get into the air...

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

A quiet time on the Scribbles (but only for a wee while)

It's going to be quieter than usual on the Scribbles over the next couple of weeks... Reason being, I'm currently writing not one, not two - but THREE blogs! Add to that the fact that Mr Squidge has just had a minor op so I'm playing nurse, and the fact that there's a lurgy lurking - neither T or myself are feeling on top form at present.

Anyway - back to blogs.

I'm revisiting the Stories for Homes blog as the first anniversary of publication of the book fast approaches. I'll be posting snippets of some of the stories as well as reports from Shelter over the next week and a half, leading up to a Twitterfest on the 13th December. You can find out all about it here, at the SfH site.

The second blog is entirely new and will run just throughout Advent; The Advent Star. My church has organised an illuminated Advent Star to travel around the parish, and we're posting starry thoughts and pics of the star on its journey, as well as encouraging folk who aren't able to host the star to put a little starlight into their own Advent preparations. Check out this post for some starry craft ideas.

And then I've got the Scribbles...It's likely that a lot of posts will link you to SfH or the Advent Star, but I daresay there will be the odd thing writingwise or creativewise that I'll not be able to resist sharing with you all. I'm still knitting Christmas balls, for example...

Just keep popping back to see what I've been up to...

Catch you later, love Squidge x

Monday, 1 December 2014

Advent...the waiting begins

It almost feels too early to put up anything Christmassy yet... but there's one thing that always goes up on the 1st December. I'm talking Advent calendars. There are two in the Squidge house, counting down to the 25th December.

One is a traditional card one with doors, stuck up in the hall. The idea is that the kids will remember to open the door when they pick up their rucsacs and head out to school. The other is a fabric hanging I made for J's first Christmas. The card one looks much better in the early days of Advent - as you open the doors, you destroy the big picture. The hand-stitched one has fabric pictures hung on button 'baubles' and always looks better as time goes by and it fills up. Mind you, all I can think of as that happens is how much I still have to do before the big day...accompanied by the cry of 'It's got to be done before Christmas!'

As a Christian, I try to take time to reflect on what this season means - waiting for the Christ Child to come again. It's a story that, for me, never gets old in the retelling - but modern life, media expectations, social pressure and - god forbid - sometimes an unexpected spanner in the works, do their best to cover the story in tinsel and turkey and worries. Consequently, I don't always manage to make time to reflect.

This year though, I need to pay Advent a bit more attention; we (my church) are sending an Advent Star around the Parish. And guess who's organised it? Uh-huh. Y'see, the three wise men originally went on a journey and followed the star, but this year, it's the star that's travelling, being passed between homes and community groups throughout December and ending up at church in time for Christmas Eve and our celebrations of Christmas.

Our star in its first home visit yesterday evening - 'cos remember,
the church's official Advent started yesterday.

To accompany our Advent Star, we're writing a special blog with starry-themed reflections and prayers for each day. If, like me, you struggle to make much time for thinking about Advent, but still fancy a daily snippet of Adventness, then why not follow the blog? You can find it here, at

Unlike the star or the wise men, you won't need to go anywhere - but you'll maybe be a few steps further on in your own Advent journey.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Black (and blue) Friday

There's going to be quite a few people who are black and blue after Black Friday.

There are reports of violence in stores across the UK - people fighting each other to get their hands on what appears to be a superb deal. Folk on facebook have posted pictures of hands reaching desperately for TVs - and under that is a picture of hands reaching desperately for food aid. Ridiculous amounts of money have been spent and credit cards have no doubt been maxed to their limits.

And all in aid of what? Twenty quid off a coffee maker you'd probably never have bought otherwise? A couple of hundred pounds off an even bigger TV, because the 48" screen you've already got just isn't big enough? If you really want a big screen, go to the cinema.

There's only so much stuff you need. After that, it's all nice-to-have, not need-to-have. Are you buying because you need it, or you want it? There's a subtle difference.

I'm all for a bargain - but as I was told many years ago, it's only a bargain if you really need it.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014


Harry Secombe as Mr Bumble (Oliver Twist 1968)

Bumble? No disrespect to Dickens, but it's better than some of the things I could've said...

Why the language? Well, I set aside some time today to flesh out the idea I'd had for my 'Kansas' story - to be submitted to a writing comp over on the cloud.

Except I've run smack right up to a brick wall. I can't make the idea work.

The concept around which I want to build this particular story is quite simple: a method of recording life events. However, the story will therefore cover too long a time period - I'd have to include loads of flashbacks or rely on an unreliable narrator to get the events across. And my gut reaction says the latter wouldn't be a nice story, I can feel it in my bones. I can't see any way round having huge jumps in time or a shed load of recalled backstory. More worryingly, I can't get the 'lost' bit in either, which is pretty essential because it's the flippin' theme.

I spent my precious time this morning filling about 6 pages of A4 with scribbles that are going nowhere and I'm sitting here writing a blog post instead of trying to iron it all out.

When I entered this competition the first time, I had such a clear concept for the story and everything fell into place nicely. The second time, I struggled with where I'd chosen to set the story and ended up writing what was essentially fan-fic. This third comp seems even harder again. Am I having a crisis of confidence? Maybe it's the theme not floating my boat? Or maybe my original concept is just pants...

I could keep writing and hope there's a nugget in the mire somewhere to pull me in the right direction, but I keep getting to a certain point and can't see where to take it from there on. The picture in my head isn't complete - it's a jigsaw that's missing a corner piece, a red flower and a couple of bits of sky.

Maybe inspiration will strike and everything will suddenly click.

I can but hope... in the meantime, BUMBLE!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Christmas Tree Festival

Today's post is going to be unashamedly Christmassy and full of photos!

We started at Bunny village (yes, really - it's called Bunny!) Christmas Fair. It was inside the church where half the nave was given over to a fabulous array of stalls and the other half to tables and chairs for folks to have refreshments. We went because J is part of a string quartet formed as an offshoot of the Loughborough Schools Area Orchestra - they were playing for about half an hour over lunch.

Then we went to the Community Christmas Tree Festival in All Saint's Church, Loughborough. There were 100 trees listed in the programme from a wide variety of community groups and businesses. The Guide and Scout movements were well represented, as were choirs, local schools and other faith groups. Politicians, the Council, the University, U3A, support and craft groups all had trees too. It's an event that opens your eyes to the various groups and official bodies that play a role in our community, including several that I was completely unaware of.

Anyway, here are a few of my favourite trees...

The NIBS (Nanpantan Improving Body of Scribblers) Tree - tiny book covers, pens and notebooks. There were a couple of other book-ish groups represented; one had book covers and scrolls of words, the other had focused on places in the world as their notice said 'Read a book - see the world!'

My church's tree - with over 50 handmade stars
created by members of the congregation.

The Wicked Brewery, Hathern

From L to R: Co-op Funeral Directors (they wear top hats, so the tree is decorated in top hats and candy canes), a Brownie group (toilet roll squirrels in the tree, hedgehogs and badgers at the bottom) and a tree full of owls - think that was a Brownie group again.

Celebrating 100 years of Ladybird Books

A Ladder tree..

Recycling and upside-down...

1st L'boro Scouts - T is a scout, J helps out as an Explorer.
It's an upside-down camp tree.

The lovely Delice Deli tree - remember I held Granny's launch there?

A tree full of spoons...knitted, pottery, wire, or straight out of the cutlery
drawer but decorated with wool, ribbons and beads.
Created by the High School.
Another Scout tree - the top half is tent pegs, painted in the different group colours
and with the names of the members written on them. There are a few more still
to be added so that everyone is represented...

This tree was awesome - I think it was a nature group. All the decorations were made from sycamore seeds (the stars) or melon seeds (the red flowers).

Snowflakes - all made of tatting by the Charnwood Tatters.
The Tree of Remembrance.

See where the coloured tags start on the Remembrance Tree, about half-way down? Every single one contains at least one name, of someone who has died but is remembered by a visitor to the festival...

There were so many other trees I could've included, but this blog post would have been far too long if I had! Best to go and experience it for yourself - the festival runs 'til tomorrow, 5pm.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Starting something new...

The More Granny Rainbow stories are in the bag, ready for publication early next year.

StarMark is finished and could well be published late next year.

Rurik is finished and...well, he's finished. Just not sure what to do with him. Yet.

So that means I can start a couple of new writing projects.

The first is a small competition running over on the cloud - peer judged - and I'm playing with a few ideas for it at the minute; there's a wrinkle in my plot I can't iron out. So that's kind of simmering away in the background. It'll be a short story, so I'm looking at producing around 2,600 words before 17th January... Easy-peezy., actually. But I've done it before and know I'll manage something credible by the deadline.

Once I've done that, I can start something BIGGER. The only problem there is that I haven't got a sound enough idea to begin a new full-length novel. I keep looking at the planned outlines of two possibilities and can't see either story in its entirety.

Do I grasp the nettle and begin anyway? Trust to my instincts that the story will reveal itself as I work through it? Am I brave enough to do that? My instincts have been right in the past - maybe they'll lead me in the right direction again. And if I do, should I hand write the first draft? It's pretty daunting to think of writing 60,000 words by hand, but I have found recently that things seem to gel better when I hand write them first.

It's making sense of all the notes and scribblings out afterwards that really worries me...

Being realistic as things start to get busy before Christmas - and this year with the added complication of health issues for family members which means at least one will definitely be out of action from the beginning of December for a few weeks - I'm not going to get much writing done before the New Year. Ah well, gives me plenty of time for mulling ideas over...

Or maybe I ought to mull some wine instead. It might make the decision easier, even if it doesn't help the writing! What d'you reckon?

Monday, 17 November 2014

Christmas comes early...

There are carols and Christmas songs being played in the shops. Decorations are up and in some cities, the lights are already on. The TV ads have started. I've had to hoover glitter out of my carpet too, 'cos the fab paper I found with glittery reindeers on it sheds like billyo!

Very pretty - but the glitter gets EVERYWHERE!

In some respects, I really dislike the fact that Christmas comes earlier and earlier every year.

But I do find I have to start prepping around mid-November. Coming from Loughborough, there's a psychological thing that once the Fair's been, it's time to think Christmas. As the last ride packed up and moved on late Saturday night, I know I ought to be knuckling down to the serious business of cards and presents and decorations.

Except there's often a lot of church-related Christmas stuff around this time too, which means my own plans need to go on hold for a while.

To begin with, there's a Community Christmas Tree Festival at All Saints Church in the town centre. I 'volunteered' my own church to do a tree - and NIBS, the writing group. The church one's organised - remember the stars I wrote about? All packed and ready to go up tomorrow. The NIBS one features tiny laminated book covers, pens and mini-notebooks. Maybe I'll blog about them later in the week, when I can go down to see the other 100+ trees on display.

Some of last year's trees...

We're at the stage of putting together our Christmas Crib and Carol services for church. I've put together an outline of the Crib Service, based around an idea that NIBS helped to write, and I've got to learn my part for a sketch I'm in at the first carol service. That's the disadvantage of a small church building - we have to have two carol services and two Crib Services to get everyone in! I've also got to make an Advent star - it will be travelling around our parish in December and end up in church on the 24th, just in time for the Crib Service and Christmas Eve communion...

And then there are the flowers. Mum and I have to get the ideas for decorating church finalised so we can order flowers in good time - and then decorate church in time for the last Sunday before Christmas. I'm also doing a mini 'Ready, Steady Flowers' Demo at a Christmas Coffee Morning...5 flower arrangements against the clock which will then be raffled off. I know what I'm doing - just got to order those flowers too.

Here's one of the Ready Steady Flower ideas...

Notice I haven't even mentioned cards, presents, or Christmas menus yet?

So how are your Christmas plans coming on? Is everything wrapped and on its way to the North Pole for Father Christmas to deliver? Or are you burying your head and saving it all for Christmas Eve?

Dunno about you, but I already feel a bit fa-la-la-la-laaa, la-la-la-laaa...

Wednesday, 12 November 2014


November sees a flurry of writing activity as writers the world over sign up for NaNoWriMo - or National Novel Writing Month. The idea is that during November, you knuckle under and write every day - at the end of that time, you'll have at least a 50,000 word novel completed. A lot of my writing friend are taking part and I'm cheering them on from the sidelines as their word counts creep or leap in the right direction - up!

It doesn't suit everyone as a way to work. Chuck Wendig, whilst being adamant that writers need to write to succeed (which is obvious really, but you'd be amazed at how many of us say we're writers but faff about on Facebook or blog or paint bathrooms to avoid getting proper words down sometimes...), admits that such a structured, pressured way of working might not be for everyone. Quite frankly, I wasn't sure I'd have the self-discipline...

Anyway, this year, if you're a regular reader of the scribbles, you'll have seen I've been struggling to know what to do with the two complete novels I've written. Neither of them have that something special to make them stand out. Add to that a major flaw in how I structure my stories, which became apparent after the York Festival of Writing, and I reached a point where I had to decide whether to fix the flaw or start work on something brand-spanking new where the flaw would not appear. 'Cos now I know about it, it'll never appear again, right? Hmm...

NaNoWriMo seemed like a good opportunity to start a different project. I'd had an idea...a shadow of a new novel that I had actually planned out to make sure that flamin' flaw was not going to be there. NaNoWriMo might give me the impetus I needed to get stuck in. Problem was, I still wanted very much to self-pub one of my already completed novels next year - probably just a small print run and a digital version - see how it would be received by readers. I still love the story, you see, can't let it go...

As a compromise, I decided to adopt NaNoEdMo - National Novel Editing Month. I would work every day on that flaw as best I could, so the book would be ready to publish after Granny Rainbow 2.

And I've done it.

I'm now in the processing of listening to Dragon read it all back to me - and there's nothing like an inhuman digital voice putting the wrong emphasis on a sentence, or struggling with words it doesn't recognise because I've written an accent, to focus the mind on what you've written! Hopefully, I'll get the final chapters listened to before the weekend and then...

Then, it's going to a publisher who has seen a sample of the novel and asked to see the full MS. It's only a nibble, and might not come to anything, but there's hope. And even if it goes no further, I will publish it myself next year as planned - so I win either way!

After that, it'll be JaNewNoStar - January New Novel Start! Wish me luck.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014


The commemoration of the centenary of the beginning of the First World War has been marked in numerous ways this year.

Since 1921, poppies have been a central theme in remembrance. There's a great summary of the history of the poppy for remembrance here. They are not, however, without controversy. Some prefer not to wear them, because it shows an apparent favouritism for one particular charity. Others baulk at the idea of 'celebrating' the lives of soldiers who, while fighting to protect a particular way of life, killed many thousands - even millions - in the process. Some prefer to adopt a white poppy instead of red, as a sign of peace...

But in spite of all this, the poppy remains. And this year particularly, we have seen it used in numerous ways.

The poppy hijab

On buses and trains...

The Every Man statue in Trafalgar Square

And there are others...far too many to mention here.

Who cannot fail to be moved by the sea of blood-red flowers that have been planted in the moat around the Tower of London?

The images are overwhelming - I'm not sure I'd be able to handle seeing the installation for real. 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' contains nearly 900,000 individual blooms, each representing  a British or colonial life lost - in just one conflict. I wonder, if we could see the toll of present conflicts in such a visual way, would our world leaders be keener to pursue more peaceful avenues? Especially if they included civilian casualties...

The Sea of Blood has inspired several displays in my home town. The local bead shop, Bojangle Beads, has made ribbon and felt poppies; their window features a display of the brooches they'd made, although you could buy a kit to make one of three different poppies yourself. For every sale, a donation was made to the Royal British Legion - over £600 has been raised raised.

In the Centre for Faith and Spirituality in Loughborough University, chaplain Jo Leatherland created a display from old, dismantled wreaths that had been removed from the university Garden of Remembrance.

And in my church there was a display, similar to this, last Sunday, which featured the names of the men of Nanpantan who fought and died. This particular arrangement was created in September, to coincide with the centenary of the actual start of the First World War.

Three white poppies to represent both the Trinity,
 and the promise of eternal life

Loughborough's Remembrance Parade was held in Queen's Park, where after the two minutes silence, crowds of onlookers were showered with poppy petals from the top of the Carillon.

Will I be wearing a poppy today? Yes. Not because it glorifies current conflicts as some have suggested. Not even because it's a sign of appreciation for those who lost their lives fighting to give me the life I enjoy today.

To me, it symbolises the blood of all who lose their lives in conflict - not just soldiers - and the continuing need for peace in our world. If we don't look back, how can we build a better future?

Monday, 10 November 2014

Bathroom Blues 2

Remember last month, I was having Bathroom Blues? We've had a few more problems since then...

Once the bricks had been tied together, things went smoothly...until we unwrapped the shower. It came part-assembled, so we'd checked the glass was intact with our plumber, but hadn't taken every bit of cardboard off the frame, thinking it was more likely to get scratched/dented if we unwrapped it.

The frame was bent. I mean SERIOUSLY bent. With a dent so deep in the top, it had split the metal. We arranged a replacement to be delivered (after a bit of haggling with the supplier). Our plumber moved on to fitting the sink - which leaked.

One quick phonecall later, and a new sink was arranged, to arrive with the replacement shower.

Both turned up a few days later: shower mercifully undented, and fitted without problem. The second sink was fitted - and leaked. In exactly the same place as before.

Discussions with the supplier disclosed that this was a recognised quality issue for the model we'd chosen - so a third sink was despatched. And hooray! It's in - and doesn't leak!

Everything is now working as it should. We've still got bare boards until we finish painting, but the kids are enjoying using the new shower and - more importantly - I get my loft bathroom back! No wet towels on the wiping down after splashy teenagers...only two toothbrushes and toothpastes on the side of the sink...

But the new bathroom; the saga doesn't end there.

I decided to decorate it a bit 'funky', so we've had feature mosaic tiles in frosted glass and metal and I found a bathmat in a limey green and white zebra pattern. As a result, a couple of the smaller sections of wall are going to be the same limey green.

A trip to a well-known DIY warehouse, and I found the perfect match for the limey green - which isn't actually lime, according to the paint charts. I chose Kiwi Crush 3 on the Dulux mix-and-match (or should that be match-then-mix?) range. A sample was duly tested, given the seal of approval in artificial and natural light, and Mr Squidge was sent back to the DIY warehouse to purchase a big pot of said colour.


DIY store will not be stocking Dulux in the future - they've found a new supplier doing a mix-whatever-colour-you-want range. Fine, thought I. Mr Squidge had gone back the day after purchasing a tester, so they'd still have plenty, wouldn't they? Well, yes, they did, but not in matt emulsion. Endurance emulsion, but not matt. "Fine," said Mr Squidge. "Here's the code and colour - mix away." That was Saturday.

Today was my first chance to get the green on the walls. I checked the label - yep, Kiwi Crush 3, code matches the tester. Lovely jubbly. Roller at the ready, I took a screwdriver to the lid.

As soon as I lifted it up, my heart sank. There was no way on earth that I was looking at the same colour I'd brought home in the tester - it was far too blue. I don't mind admitting, I clutched at straws. Perhaps it hadn't been mixed properly? So I mixed it. Perhaps it was because it was a different base? So I put a brush-worth up on the wall next to the tester patch.

The one it should be is on the right...

There is no way that the colour on the left is the same. It's not my imagination, is it?

I'm waiting to hear from said DIY warehouse to see whether they have enough Dulux stuff to remix...or whether they'll refund my money.

And I've found another stockist of Dulux mix-it paint, just in case...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

A galaxy of stars

My church has committed to decorating a tree for a Community Christmas Tree Festival, to be held in All Saints Parish Church in the town centre later this month. Last year, I did it on my own - lots of shapes cut out of glittery funky foam to represent our music and flower festivals, held to celebrate 125 years of our little church in the woods.

This year, I wanted to make it a community affair, get more folk from the congregation involved. As usual, I have the idea(s), but I need other people to help make it/them a reality if I'm not to overburden myself in the creative department during what is a very busy time of the year for everybody! A friend stepped in to help, and we decided on a theme of stars.

Now, I love working in felt. There's something so tactile about it, plus the fact it doesn't need hemming 'cos it won't fray and - providing your scissors are sharp enough - you can pretty much cut out any shape you want. It's my fabric of choice for making Christmas stockings (that's another blog post, to be written by The Stocking Fairy) and small decorations - as proven by what you can find hanging on the end of the bed on Christmas Eve and on the Christmas tree in the Squidge household!

Anyway - felt was duly bought and cut out. The decorated fronts of the stars would be white, the backs would be coloured. Stars were handed out to folk who wanted to stitch/decorate at home, and I arranged an afternoon where others could come and have a social while they worked. I wanted bling and sparkle and twinkle...

All sorts of decorating goodies to choose from!

What was really nice was the enthusiasm with which the children threw themselves into the task. Granted, I had to sew the backs on about a dozen stars, but the kids still managed to stitch ladybird buttons and silk flowers on their stars, use stickers and blobs of glitter glue to make some lovely stars...
Hard at work

Sorting through the button box for something suitable...

Thought you said you couldn't sew...

As a result, I now have in my possession 49 stars - with more to come! Look!

Just a few of the finished stars

After the Christmas Tree Festival, the stars will return to St Mary's church...some will go back to their makers, but most will end up on our church Christmas Tree.

It's going to be a starry, starry night!

PS I enjoyed making the the 'word' stars so much, I'm thinking of making a love, joy, faith, hope, peace garland for over the fireplace. If I get a spare few minutes to make it, anyway!