Sunday, 31 May 2015

When the memory goes...

My father-in-law has Alzheimers; last Friday, he moved into a residential home.

We've just spent the afternoon piecing together photos in clip frames, hoping that they might trigger some memories for him.

On the one hand, it's wonderful to be able to go through all the old pics. Nanna, FIL's mum, wrote on the back of nearly every photo she possessed, (some of which go right back to the turn of the 20th century) so we can tell who's who and what year - most of the time.

On the other hand, it's pretty heartbreaking to know that FIL might not recognise too many of the faces we've picked in the not-too-distant future. He does seem to remember the distant past better than the more recent stuff at the moment, so we live in hope for a while longer...

We're trying to group photos in the different frames so that there's one from FIL's childhood for example, one from his first marriage (to Mr Squidge's mum), one for each of his sons and their families, and another from his time with his second (current) wife. And we're making a map of who's who in the frames, so staff at the home and visitors can perhaps use the information to initiate conversations.

We've also been researching easy-to-use music players, as FIL used to love singing and has been a member of several different musical theatre and singing groups over the years. A few weeks ago, he burst into word-perfect song when a CD of Pirates of Penzance was playing. So we're planning to develop a playlist of music from the musicals too - a sort of personalised sing-a-long, if you like.

It's a difficult time for Mr Squidge, not helped by the fact that FIL lives in Yorkshire - a good two and a half hour drive each way from here. I think he feels pretty helpless - it's not like he can pop in every few days to see how things are. I think the photo collating is allowing him to feel like he's doing something - anything - to help keep his dad his dad a little longer.

It's a sad and horrible thing to deal with, but we're not alone in dealing with this kind of situation.

So...I'm going to finish this post by sending digital hugs to any of you reading who are in the same boat and caring for someone with dementia, whatever stage it's reached.


Saturday, 30 May 2015


In the twenty years since we've been in our house, our garden has undergone some changes. The biggest was just after T was born - a friend who is also a landscape gardener helped us to revamp the rather boring, straight-pathed and plain-grassed area into something with a bit more movement in it and a stone patio, so the kids could play out even when the grass was wet.

When it was first done, it looked amazing. After nearly fourteen years, it's in need of some TLC.

Thing is, I love my garden. I just don't like gardening.

I like being outdoors - preferably reading a good book in the shade or soaking up a few rays. I really envy people with lovely gardens. I know you have to put the effort in, but gardening just doesn't float my boat. I don't think I have any shade of green in my fingers at all. I do not like being outdoors if it means I'm getting scratched or stung or prickled by various weeds when I try to pull them out. It's so demoralising to spend several hours weeding a border, only to see that the next time it rains, up the weeds pop again.

Mr Squidge keeps saying it looks lovely - really full borders. Thing is, I know what they're full of...

Perennial forget-me-not. You just can't get the roots out. The other year, I hoed all the tops off, hoping that would weaken the roots. Did it heck! I have a forest of the damn things behind the climbing frame this year...

Brambles. These I don't mind so much, as wild blackberries are always so full of flavour and we make a rather lovely blackberry wine with them. However, I don't want them everywhere.

Stingers. Sneaky little... You can guarantee they'll find the only bit of unprotected skin to leave their mark.

Bindweed. Just...ugh.

Grass. Not the lawn sort - the feathery kind that grows in-between everything and you can't get the roots out.


I do try. I dig and fork and pull and tug, but never seem to make an impression. Perhaps I just need to accept there'll be a certain amount of wildness in my garden and enjoy it anyway...

Lilac and apple blossom at the end of my garden...

Monday, 25 May 2015

Challenge me! (May 2015)

It's a while since I've done one of these, but I feel the need for something to write other than the WIP.

Maybe it's because it's holiday time here in the UK and I'm feeling frivolous? (Homemade blackberry wine will do that to a person, y'know)

Maybe it's because I face the prospect of a bit more painting in the dining room before the new carpet arrives on Thursday (with all the upheaval and room-clearing that entails) and I'm trying to have something nice for when that's all over?

Maybe it's just because I don't have much to share with you about what I've been doing - other than working on the WIP, entertaining family over the weekend and sewing up the rainbow cardi I've now finished... (pics will follow)

Anyway, here's how it works.

You, dear reader of the Scribbles, paste three items in the comments section below. Please make them reasonably clean - I reserve the right to delete any that are too rude. I will then turn over the combos to Family Squidge to pick just one combo...and I will write a piece of flash which includes those three items.

If you want to see what I've done with three things in the past, check out the following - A Sixpence, Shells and ChampagneArnie's Aerial Adventure and The Ride to Heaven Retirement Ranch -  all 'challenge me' fiction pieces.

You have until the 31st May to post your items, and I'll endeavour to post a short piece by June 14th.

Get posting!

Friday, 22 May 2015

Twenty-two years ago today...

I have a confession. Mr Squidge and I are very bad at marking our wedding anniversaries. I think the premise was set when he forgot it - after the first year. And I always have to stop and think whether it's the 23rd of 1992 or 22nd of 1993: it's the latter.

We rarely buy cards, and don't bother with presents. We work on the theory that if we can't show we love each other the rest of the year, why make a big deal of just one day in our marriage? But that's just us - and on the occasions where cards and presents have been involved, it's rather lovely.

So, twenty two years. Long time.

There was a rainbow theme to the day, even though my dress had an oyster and shell-pink bodice, my sister (bridesmaid) was in deep rose pink, and both our bouquets had pink flowers.

Rainbow balloons outside the house

There were rainbows on the cake, although it didn't look quite how I'd imagined it would. It was traditional that my Grandma made all our wedding cakes - proper fruit cake, not a sponge in sight - and we kept a layer for J's christening cake. (It still tasted as good six years later.) The mistake occurred because I wrote instructions for the decorator that I would like a rainbow down the cake (ie red and orange on the top, green and yellow in the middle and blue and purple on the bottom) but if it didn't look right, please could I have a mix of rainbow colours on each tier.

I ended up with both...

Spot the mistake...

We had a white Morris Minor convertible as our wedding car. Mr Squidge had owned a Moggy Traveller since his second year at uni, (it's still on the road now!) but it wasn't in very good nick at the time. So we trawled the pages of the Morris Minor Owners magazine to find someone close to us who was willing to let us borrow their car (and themselves as the chauffeur!) for the afternoon. I now have a silver Moggy on my charm bracelet to mark our wedding...

Morris Minors featured a lot. The priest who married us gave a wonderful sermon about marriage, based on them; he also owned a Moggy, albeit a rather clapped out black (or navy blue) one. He admitted to the congregation that he had ditched his pre-prepared sermon and instead, made a comparison between the two vehicles - said that's what marriage is like; it needs constant maintenance to keep it looking good. 

Mum and H setting off for church

I remember it rained just before I was due to drive off with Dad. He was so cross, because it meant we'd have to have the top up. Fortunately it was just a shower, and Dad got to ride up the hill to church in the Moggy with the top down, looking like a cat that'd got the cream. And my veil stayed on too, which had been a bit of a concern...

And here we are. Don't we look young? Hard to believe we looked like this - I'm now grey and Mr Squidge is somewhat grizzled - but we were so happy. Still are.

Mr and Mrs Squidge, 22nd May 1993

Looks perfect, doesn't it? But as Revd Day said on the Big Day itself, marriage takes work.

It's not all kisses and roses. It's putting the bins out and washing socks and mowing lawns and sacrificing a lot when you grow from two to a family. It's supporting each other when times are tough or when you have a mad-cap idea, like...oooh...I dunno... putting up a wind turbine or self-publishing a book, perhaps? It's about disagreements and finding a way beyond them. It's about respect and love and saying sorry. Most importantly, I think it's about helping each other to be the best you can be.

Happy Anniversary, Mr Squidge.
8, 3, 1 x

Monday, 18 May 2015

Moving in roughly the right direction...

A bit of an update on all things writing...

The 100 days of writing challenge.

I'm on 28 days of writing, 6 days missed. The ratio is improving all the time - I'm finding a natural pattern is emerging of 5 or 6 days writing, and one not. But as a technique, it's certainly helping to keep me focused on the WIP.

In terms of what do I record as 'writing', well, I'm still flitting between playing in my notebook and physically typing up the story. Either counts. I'm not really referring back to the notebook much though, which some might see as a bit of a waste of time and effort; why bother writing all that stuff in longhand if you're not going to use it?

But I AM using it. The process means I have images and phrases and scenes that are now quite firmly cemented in my head. So what if they don't come out on the computer ('proper') version word-for-word? In those 28 days I've managed to get four chapters pretty well drafted, though they are rough and will need editing of course.

Be interesting to see how I can continue to write this weekend, as we have family staying with us. I may have to sneak off for half an hour a day to get my WIP-fix...


We are now officially in that 'author-must-be-patient-before-everything-happens-at-once' stage. I do know that there are discussions being had round about now on the subject of blurb and covers, so I hope to have some news to share with you soon.

It's all very exciting, but there's still a little bit of me that's thinking, 'is it really going to happen?' I know it is, of course, but it's a very different process to organising the publishing yourself, like I have with the two Granny Rainbow books. Speaking of which...

More Granny Rainbow.

Authors; don't let anyone tell you the second book is easier and will be a success because you did well with the first and got good feedback; sales of More Granny Rainbow are disappointingly slow at the moment.

Now I'm not one who relies on sales numbers to get a measure of any 'success' - but I had hoped that people who enjoyed the first book would be pleased to see the publication of a second. And then buy it. Either my publicity's not working so well, or there's just no interest in a second.

We shall see. Maybe this time sales are going to be slow and steady?

I'm not going to worry about it too much. I've plenty to do, especially trying to write the WIP while sitting on my hands waiting for StarMark! Onwards and upwards...

Friday, 15 May 2015

Library volunteering

I spent today in the school library.

I volunteer there most Friday afternoons, adding books to the computerised system, stickybackplasticking (don't care if that's not a real word - it should be) covers, sorting the Dewey numbers...that kind of thing.

I'm really lucky to be working with the grandma of a couple of the students, who also happens to be a retired librarian. This lady is a godsend. Not only can she tell me - without looking in an index - what number any non-fiction book should be (to three decimal places!), she has taught me so much.

Like; when listing an author, and it looks like they have two surnames - Lynne Reid Banks springs to mind as we've had a bit of fun with her - you list under the second name, ie B, unless it's hyphenated like Dick King-Smith, who's a K.

And how 'space' - the planets, stars, moon - falls in the orange 300 section, but 'space travel' is in...ooh, can't remember! Green 500's or red 600's?

But you get my gist. She's a fount of knowledge and together, we have achieved so much more than I could have on my own. I tended to look at all the numbers and freeze. If I was feeling really yukky about it, I'd concentrate on the fiction, 'cos I liked that more.

We sorted through the fiction today - took out the duplicate copies of books that had been used for guided reading years ago, took out the water marked and torn copies that could not be salvaged, made sure we only had three sets of Narnia books...that kind of thing. We also added two physical shelves to give the books breathing room and be able to shelve everything that the kids have out on loan when the books are recalled at the end of term.

We also put away non-fiction that wasn't in the right place. It felt a bit like painting the Forth Bridge; we're constantly renumbering the non-fiction shelves.

I much prefer ficiton - those books only need a letter. And the alphabet's much easier to keep in order than the numbers... Is that my natural tendency to prefer all things letter-y coming through, I wonder?

Anyway, it was good to get done what we did today. Next week, I reckon we'll have to sort out the 900's...

Monday, 11 May 2015

Musical stories

I love music almost as much as I love words.

This morning, I was ironing to the accompaniment of Plan B's 'The Defamation of Strickland Banks'. If you don't know this album, it tells the story of a man wrongly imprisoned for rape and what happens to him inside prison. It's a strong theme, but fabulous music.

I started thinking about how much I like story-music - and decided to share some of my favourites with you.

My first exposure to story-music happened very early on; when I was seven, or possibly eight, I went to see Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the theatre. For my birthday, I was bought the LP of the musical soundtrack. I loved how the story of Joseph was told through song. I still prefer that original version to the modern one (sorry, Sir Andrew) and had the LP put onto CD a few years ago so I could continue to sing the 'proper' version. I suppose every musical tells a story, but there are very few that have no spoken words at all - Jesus Christ Superstar, perhaps? Not as much fun to sing along to though.

(Back in the Am Dram days, Mr Squidge used to act as stage crew - he had to dress up as a Roman soldier for Superstar and was on stage more often than me (crowd member)).

The Planet Suite by Holst was the next one I remember. I used to do my homework to it. I loved how the character of the different planets came through in the music. (I will admit to pretending to be Mars, God of War, and dancing around the bedroom when I should have been doing my maths...)

War of the Worlds... a brilliant book in its own right, but something else when Jeff Wayne mixed readings from the book with music to tell of the Martians' attack on Earth. The Red Weed music is so eerie...

I have a pirated cassette tape of 1984, by the Eurythmics. They wrote the score for a film of the same name, but it was never used. I'd read the book not long before I heard the tape, so I understood the references to Doubleplusgood at the time; I don't recall much of the details of the book now. Unfortunately the tape's not in such good nick either, so I can't play it often.

More recently, I've been impressed by Muse (my favourite band after the Eurythmics!) for their storytelling prowess. Resistance is based - again - around 1984, and I don't think there's a single one of their albums which doesn't have an over-riding theme and a story, if you're prepared to look for it. Showbiz has one, The Second Law does, and Drones certainly does.

I also admire Roger Jones, a christian composer who has written Christmas-themed musicals which we've performed at church. While Shepherds Watched tells the Nativity from the point of view of the shepherds, while Stargazers focuses on the Wise Men. I have been known to sing along to them in July...just because.

And if I had to pick one other band who tell stories in every song they write, it would have to be Madness. Only as I've got older have I really begun to listen to the lyrics and hear the story and poetry behind the music. It adds a whole new dimension to my childhood memories of songs like Baggy Trousers.

So it's not just words that tell stories - music does too. I wonder if you've got any favourites of your own? Drop them in the comments if you have - I'd be interested to see what floats your story-music boat.

Friday, 8 May 2015

The excitement of a new story

I've got a new story on the go. I'm working on it as part of my 100 days of writing

At the moment the story is a very ugly, fragmented thing because I keep chopping and changing scenes, rethinking what my characters are like and what they are going to do to affect the storyline.

And I'm loving it.

My baddie is coming through strongest as a character at the moment...I seem to be drawn to characters with a nasty side more easily for some reason. He's got a shiny veneer but there are hidden depths and desires to him. My main character is beginning to show herself to be feisty and impetuous and brave...but I can't 'see' her yet. In fact, I've no idea what either of them looks like.

Y'see, in the past, I've often looked for images first when dealing with characters - found a picture that is similar to how I've imagined them looking. (For example, a certain character in StarMark was based a lot on Richard Armitage's Guy of Gisborne character in the BBC series Robin Hood...)

*Squidge swoons*

With this new story, I've not jumped straight into finding visuals. Instead, the act of handwriting into a notebook, the constant playing with ideas, the note making and question asking seems to have embedded the character's character traits in my head and in the story - all before I have a visual impression. It's a different way to approach the project, but it seems to be paying off in terms of getting to know my characters more quickly.

What interests me most in all of this process though, is how my approach to writing has changed in the last few years. Of course you improve the more you write, especially if you have taken on board comments and critiques and actively seek to become a better author. I just wouldn't have expected to have pushed the visual aspect away so quickly when I've relied on it so heavily in the past. Does it mean that I'm better at getting into character, at capturing them in words? I hope so.

I think there are other factors at play as well though. I've learnt that I need to take my time, to embed the storyline in my head before I start writing the story proper. It doesn't mean I've turned into a planner; I'm still very much a pantser at heart, working with my gut and following where something feels right and leaving it when it feels wrong.

I've also learned that I absolutely have to drive the story through my character's actions; just yesterday evening, I asked the rest of the Squidges which of two scenarios they preferred. A character who is asked to deliver an item, or the same character who steals said item to try to deliver it themselves. Guess which one got the vote...

All I know is that this is the most character driven story I have attempted and it seems to be flying.

Fingers crossed I can see this one through to the end.

Thursday, 7 May 2015

The Scribbles get their first award!

The Scribbles have been nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by Loretta Milan, of the Literary Lightbox! Thank you SO much Loretta - it's always good to know that folk enjoy visiting this little digital corner to see what I'm sharing, and to know that you think it's 'lovely' is...well...rather lovely!
The One Lovely Blog Award nomination is the award, if that makes sense - the nominations are chosen by fellow bloggers for newer or up-and-coming bloggers, the goal being to help give recognition and to also help the new blogger reach more viewers. It also recognizes blogs that are considered to be “lovely” by the fellow-blogger who chose them. 

So I have great pleasure in 'accepting' the award - which means I've got to follow a few rules. I have to;
1. Thank the person who nominated me (see above!)
2. Add the One Lovely Blog Award logo to my post and/or blog (ditto!)
3. Share seven facts about myself.
4. Nominate 15 bloggers I admire and inform them by commenting on their blog. 

Numbers 1 and 2 are done, 3 is coming up...but can I say up front that I have a problem with number 4? Because I don't follow that many blogs! So I have picked rather less than 15 (15! If I kept up with 15 blogs I'd never have time to write my own or work on my WIP!) but they are ones I like visiting because they are easy to read, easy on the eye (I'm having problems with varifocals and computer screens for some setups), and often have something to say that touches my soul. I hope you'll check them out for yourself.

Anyhoo - back to number 3. Consider this my acceptance speech, if you will. All About Me. Seven things you might not know...

1. When I was a child, family holidays were spent in North Wales. Same house, same town, same beaches every year - and we loved it! For many years, the holiday was timed for the week of my birthday in June (yes, you were allowed to take your children out of school in term time then. Didn't seem to do me any harm, but hey-ho). My abiding memory of those holidays is therefore having shop-bought Victoria sandwich cake (a real treat!) on the beach, on my birthday. 

2. I have been a cover girl. Admittedly, it could have been more glamorous; I was photographed working in an isolator during my pharmaceutical microbiologist days. And the magazine was one aimed at local businesses, but hey - beggars can't be choosers. (The same photo is also displayed in the Charnwood Museum...)

3. I have cycled the Alps on a tandem. Well, the foothills of the Alps. Mr Squidge sold the cycling holiday to me by emphasising they were foothills and wouldn't be too hilly; there was even a tunnel we could cycle through instead of going up and over the worst one. Which sounded fine until we realised that we had no lights, there was only a very narrow walkway through the tunnel (suspended about five feet above the road) and we were on the main trade route to Italy which meant that literally hundreds of artics were using the same tunnel. That day, we cycled 40 odd miles, of which I reckon at least twenty were either vertically up or vertically down the mountain - MOUNTAIN - that the tunnel went through, in 43 degree heat. Mr Squidge was not very popular that day.

4. I have worked as an egg pickler. This rather wonderful job (taken while waiting for my first lot of A level results) entailed mixing up baths full of vinegar (white or brown), counting 20 eggs into a glass jar (checking that the yolks weren't too close to the surface or the vinegar would eat through the white, making the yolk burst out which turned the vinegar cloudy), topping up the jar with said vinegar and screwing the lids on by hand. When my mum picked me up after work, she would drive with the windows open because the smell of vinegar clung...and to this day, I cannot eat salt and vinegar crisps.  

5. I have only ever played Dungeons and Dragons once in my life. I was at uni, and a friend made me a character - a tiny painted cheetah woman - to play with. I have to admit going to bed sometime around midnight while the lads played on...

6. I love an excuse to get dressed up. I don't mean posh frock - I'm talking fancy dress. There's something really weird yet wonderful about being able to put on a disguise and become something or someone different. I have been many things over the years...

Celebrating the 70's at my 40th

Am Dram days - old lady and tea lady

We're in the Money! West Side Story...

Yes, this really IS me.

7. I am a huge Muse fan. I love the theatricality of their music, the harmonies that are created, and the stories behind quite a few of their albums. They are my music of choice when writing - my muse is actually Muse!

And now, to blogs... I'm nominating these for a One Lovely Blog Award because it's in them I find most of my inspiration, determination, good sense and creativity in abundance! 

busy mockingbird - satisfies my creative side no end!
terrible minds - Chuck Wendig's unique, no punches pulled, blog about writing and life.
Jody Klaire - one of the most inspirational authors I know, and someone I'm proud to call my friend.
The Random Ramblings - a wacky bunch of writers who write fabulous stories (keep an eye out, as there's going to be another anthology by them soon!)

So there you go. Thanks again to Loretta, and thank you for reading. The blog wouldn't be the same without you. x

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Update - Authors for Nepal

Just a quickie post - to say that the auction by Authors for Nepal has already hit £3000 in bids in its first 24 hours live! 

There are over 150 items on offer - like critiques from Polly Samson, Julia Churchill and Debi Alper, a skype session from Carole Matthews, books from a myriad of well-known and lesser known authors, the chance to have an author visit your school - even the chance to have a character in a book named after yourself!

Updates are being posted on the Authors for Nepal facebook page, and it's also trending on Twitter (#AuthorsforNepal)

Please, continue to spread the word, share widely, and check out what you might like to bid for. (Remember there are a couple of books in there about a lady called Granny Rainbow, written by someone you might recognise...) I'm off to bid for a critique session.

And if you needed a reminder of exactly WHY this auction is happening, just take a look at this post from First Steps Himalayas...

Thank you in advance for your generosity and for spreading the word.

Squidge x

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

100 days of writing

A writer friend of mine shared a technique recently that she'd used to power through the first draft of a novel.

It's a chart, with a box for every day of the year. The idea is, whenever she wrote a bit more of the novel, she coloured in a box; it's a physical way of seeing just how much you've progressed. And it worked - she's finished the first draft.

*pop of champagne corks and general celebrations*

I thought I'd give it a go. Being me, I didn't commit to 365 days. I went for 100... I'm not too good at the discipline thing y'see. That being the case, I made my 100 box chart and added another set of boxes underneath; the 'I've not written anything today' boxes. (I was hoping that a visual reminder of the days I was too busy/lazy/not in the mood to write, I'd be so ashamed of myself NOT making the time or putting the effort into writing, I'd force myself to get more done.)

I didn't start off too well. In the first week, I only wrote on four days. Then I cheated, and added a square when I wrote a blog post, which made me feel better. Well - it's writing. Not on the WIP, sure, but I'm still producing words.

I'm happy to say that I've done better since. There are only two blog posts recorded so far - the rest are all WIP work. The WIP is a very, VERY rough draft - handwritten and notebooked, with lots of comments in the margins - but it's growing. Whether it's a hundred words on a day, or several A4 pages full, it's growing. And every time I block out another square, I'm one day closer to my target. The ratio currently stands at 4:1 writing to non-writing days, and it seems to be keeping me focused. (Plus there's the added advantage of not losing where I am in the story, because I'm doing a little bit pretty much every day.)

The WIP story - er, not going to tell you about it yet. It's not nearly ready enough to share. But I'll be adding a few more hundred words to it later this afternoon.

Then it'll be another block shaded, which leaves only 83 boxes after today to hit my 100 days target...

Monday, 4 May 2015

Authors for Nepal

I shouldn't think anyone could remain unmoved by the devastation of last week's earthquakes in Nepal. So many deaths, so many injuries, so much history destroyed.

There has since been an outpouring of generosity following the DEC's launch of an appeal to raise funds to help alleviate the suffering of the Nepalese people.

Now there's another way to raise funds.

I'm proud to have donated signed copies of Granny Rainbow and More Granny Rainbow to the Authors for Nepal ebay auction. (You can read more about it here, at the Bookseller.) On the ebay site you will find literally hundreds of books and services donated by authors and editors from the UK. Some of the authors have written bestsellers... some (like me) are not so well known, but everyone who has donated is united by the desire to raise money for a good cause.

My books should be posted on-site soon - the posts are being added all the time and the auction goes live on the 5th May - but there are lots of goodies to look through already. And after my customised Red Nose Edition of Granny Rainbow raised a £30 top bid, I'm hopeful of raising a few quid.

So please, have a look at what's on offer and spread the word.

Thank you. xxx