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!

Saturday, 1 November 2014

A suitcase of memories

My in-laws have just downsized, and as a result, hubbie has been making regular trips to Yorkshire. Each time, he returns with 'stuff' - hoarded over the years because of a war-time mentality of 'it might come in handy' and 'waste not, want not'. Which is fine, and as a result of which we're now the proud owners of an Edwardian typewriter, a canteen of cutlery for 12 people (including two sets of carving knives and forks, soup ladles, and the letter from Pappa's work colleagues who gave it him on the occasion of his marriage), a hammock, a proper oil lantern - and now, a suitcase full of memories.

Nanna's husband was an avid photographer - you might remember a post I wrote some time ago? About the glass slide photographs from the 1920's and earlier? Well, unbeknown to us, Nanna had a collection of her own...

Her father died when she was very young, and we don't know much about him except that he worked on the White Star Line in Liverpool. No, he wasn't on the Titanic! I'd done a bit of rooting around for the family tree and found the Billsdon family, but there weren't many photos in the glass slides we'd already seen because, naturally, they were mainly of Pappa's family - the Hetzels.

Yesterday, we met the Billsdons. They'd been squirreled away in a suitcase - and Nanna had labelled pretty much everything.

There's a box of letters, written between the 40's and 50's, from Billie to Babs. (Babs was Nanna - I'm not sure yet whether Billie was Grandma Billsdon or Florrie, Nanna's mum. Guess I'll have to read them all to find out.)

There are packets of photographs, including a fabulous family portrait, taken around 1900, in which Grandma Billsdon is apparently knitting socks. "I'll just finish this row while you're setting up the camera..."

There is a Japanese photograph album, inlaid with mother of pearl and (we think) ivory, its pages covered in painted silk, which is full of Edwardian and Victorian photographs of both the Billsdons and Webbs (her mum's family). It also includes several photos of Thomas Grenville Billsdon, (known as Gren): Nanna's dad.

There are paintings and a sketchbook. I thought, at first glance, they were dated 1982. Closer inspection showed it was 1892 - could it be a lady's sketchbook, then? Every accomplished young lady needed to be an artist back then... Well, that's what I thought - until I found the portrait titled 'My dear wife', and the certificate awarding the status of 'Art Teacher' to one John H Billsdon.

It's like a time-capsule. Of course, there's more recent stuff too - newspaper clippings, holiday snaps albums, wedding pics, christenings of great-grandchildren. But it's the Victoriana and Edwardian stuff I'm fascinated by.

I reckon the family tree needs revisiting - and this time round, there's a branch where I'm going to be able to put faces to names and see everyone just a little more clearly.