Thursday, 31 December 2015

The turning of the year

I'm not one for celebrating New Year as such; it's an artificial deadline with a lot of hype surrounding it. I've only ever felt a significant New Year when we reached the millenium; I had a five-month old baby at that time, and it all seemed Very Important. (Was probably still the baby hormones...)

What're we doing this New Year's Eve then? We've got some friends coming for tea who may stay into the evening, but whether or not I stay up to see midnight is another matter. (If T and J have their way, I won't get a choice. I think I've forgotten what it was like to feel the excitement of staying up until midnight as a teenager. Nowadays, I'd prefer to be in bed.)

Mind you, I can understand why people lay so much emphasis on the new year. I've seen others experience some really tough times over the last twelve months - of course they're looking forward with hope for better things to come. Equally, I can understand those who may be fearful of the future, worried about circumstances beyond their control and the situations they might find themselves in.

And of course, there are Resolutions. Why it has to be tied to the new year, I've no idea - any resolutions I've ever tried to keep in the past have, I'm sure, been harder to stick to in January, when it's cold and dark and everyone's feeling the downer that inevitably follows after the excitement of Christmas. And mine are always so unrealistic; the only one I managed to keep was when my resolution was to get the bathroom painted, years before the kids were born.

2015 was OK. Nothing majorly bad happened. Several really good things occurred. Long-term plans came to fruition with the house. On balance, it's a good one.

2016... Well, I think it'll be the year I have to be brave. For several reasons:

1. I will be travelling on my own to a country that is so far out of my comfort zone, you wouldn't believe.

2. There may be medical intervention regarding a health issue, but we won't know for a little while yet.

3. StarMark will be available for anyone in the world to purchase - and then review - on Amazon. That's really scary.

4. I will have to begin another novel and the thought of that blank page...

There's no way of knowing how things will turn out, of course. There will, no doubt, be some very good things that happen in 2016 - and some not so good things too. You can't expect everything to go your way all the time, but the trick seems to be to keep going, whatever the year throws at you.

So I suppose that's my wish for myself at this turning point of the year; for strength to deal with whatever difficulties arise, and time to recognise and make the most of any good stuff. My wish for you - that you have what you need over the next twelve months.

See you in 2016!

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Chri - $%*"$%&*!!!

Things are getting well and truly Christmassy at Maison Squidge. The tree went up last Wednesday, we had flower arranging and carol services and Angel Delight sketches at church, I bought the last of the presents AND I even braved a trip to Morrisons today for the food shop.

(Incidentally - the busiest time of the year for our local store is apparently between 11am and 2pm on the 23rd December. Guess when we were there. *sigh* But I have to say that the spirit of Christmas was alive and well; the lady in the queue behind me kindly helped me to unload my trolley onto the checkout belt so I could whizz to the other end to start packing... Just a small gesture from her, but hugely appreciated on my part.)

The Angel Delight sketch was great fun - although I hold my hands up and admit that I was the only one to fluff their lines. Twice. The sketch was written by a member of our church congregation, Graham, who directs a faith-based theatre group here in Loughborough, called Grain. There were three angels; we had wings. And haloes, even though someone kindly told me afterwards I didn't really need one. I think they were talking about the silver hair, not my angelic demeanour!

Anyway, back to the Christmas Tree, the subject of this Christmas Eve blog.

We always plant the tree in a bucket and keep it well watered. Yesterday morning, I watered it...which might have been the reason why, yesterday evening, just after some friends had arrived for a flying visit, it toppled over! It's happened only once before, when the cat jumped up onto the windowsill behind the tree. This time, no-one touched it. As T put it "The tree has killed some of our baubles!"

We lost three, that's all - glass ones that shattered most spectacularly - and we filled a tray with the bits and pieces that fell off but weren't damaged.

Between us, we made sure the tree was secure and started to redecorate...only to have the flippin' thing tip again! Fortunately I was in the room and near it, so it didn't go very far, but Mr Squidge rushed in and sorted it all out. There's no way it's going to fall over again; we are probably the only household whose tree has indoor guy ropes attached to a bottle jack and is braced with a huge block of wood...

It's a pain when things like this happen - we want Christmas to be perfect in every respect, but it hardly ever achieves that because we live in a broken world and we are human.

Even the very first Christmas was far from perfect.

Four of the decorations I had to replace after the tree-falling incident were felt stars I'd made last year...and they sum up perfectly what I find in my Christian faith which helps me to deal with whatever life throws my way, whether it's something relatively minor in the scheme of things like a few broken decorations, or something more life changing, like a bereavement.

They also represent my wish for you - the readers of the Scribbles - too; whatever life may have thrown at you and yours in recent times, may you find Love, Joy, Hope and Peace during this festive season and into 2016.

With love, from Squidge xxx

Saturday, 19 December 2015

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas...

Not blogged for a week - blame it on the usual pre-Christmas *stuff*, plus a funeral and lots of social events (not many of them mine, I hasten to add...but I do a good impression of a taxi driver for the family!)

There WILL be a blog soon, though - because tomorrow, I'm going to be an angel.

(Stop sniggering at the back. Yes, I did mean YOU!)

In the meantime, have a look at the blog I wrote about the Christmas flowers we arranged today at church, because I'm off to choir practise!

See you soon...

Saturday, 12 December 2015

The Christmas Experience

My church has worked for some time now with the primary school in our parish, explaining something of what it means to be a Christian as part of the RE curriculum.

We've just done The Christmas Experience with Year 4.

The structure we use comes from the Diocese of Gloucester, specifically their Jumping Fish 'Experience' publication. (We've also used Experience Easter at the school).

The premise for the Christmas Experience is that through a number of different stations, the Christmas story is told, but the interactive element goes deeper than simply 'telling' the story.

We start with Preparation. The children are encouraged to share what kind of preparations are going on in their homes for Christmas - and told that one thing Christians do is prepare their hearts for the coming of Jesus, which often means saying sorry. As they wind shiny lametta strings around a fir cone, they're encouraged to think of something they need to say sorry for.

Then we move to the Announcement, set in Mary's kitchen. Mary was asked to do something she probably didn't want to, but she said yes to God - her response captured beautifully in the Magnificat - and here the children are encouraged to think about something they've been asked to do that was hard or they didn't want to do, and to ask for courage and strength to do it.

Promises looks at the Wise Men - that Jesus' birth was foretold and what the wise men brought as gifts; gold for a king, frankincense for a priest, and myrrh to anoint the dead. The children wrote down what they would bring to the baby Jesus, and the paper put into a gift box ready to leave at the manger.

Next is the Journey... It's 70 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, a long way to walk and even worse when you're heavily pregnant. The children were asked about journeys they've been on and encouraged to think about those who have nowhere to stay at the end of their journey - particularly poignant at the moment given the scale of the refugee crisis in Europe.

The Message looked at the shepherds and angels. The angels bore a message of peace, and as Christians we share the peace with each other during our services. Every child was given a gift tag with a picture of an angel on it, and on the back was written 'To ..... Wishing you peace at Christmas, from .....'. The tags could be taken home and given to someone the children felt needed peace.

And finally, bringing it all together - The Gift. Jesus is often called God's gift to the world, because He was the means by which God set right the relationship between God and man.

The children laid their promises at the manger, and then we listened to Annie Lennox singing 'In the Bleak Midwinter', emphasising the words of the final verse;

What can I give him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb.
If I were a wise man, I would do my part,
Yet what I have I give him -
Give my heart.

It always brings a lump to my throat, that bit, and as I was doing this last station it was a bit of a struggle to say what I needed to, but I did. (That's why I hate doing the 'deep and meaningful' bits of any service; talking about faith is hard, sometimes.)

The children seemed to get a lot out of the session and the teachers are always very complimentary of the team (a dozen of us altogether) who are prepared to go into school to run the event. In a society that is ever more secular, I think it's a good thing to explain my Christian faith to children - we can but hope that in years to come, teaching religious understanding and tolerance will help bring some of that peace that the angels spoke of, two thousand years ago.

God knows, the world needs it.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Feeling a bit...lost

My last post celebrated the fact that I'd finished Kingstone. Today's post is a little less celebratory in tone, but relates to the same novel.

The initial euphoria has worn off. I find myself at a loose end, feeling like I should be writing - wanting to write - but there's nothing left TO write. I ought to be thankful, really; I've completed what I set out to do and given myself one less thing to think about in the run-up to Christmas.

But I don't feel like that at all - it feels more like I've experienced a loss, that I've 'lost' Kingstone because I can't do anything else to it, (other than email it to beta-readers) and I don't want to do any of the things on my to-do list which I know I should be doing in its place...

It's weird. I don't remember feeling this way after completing StarMark or Rurik. Perhaps in their cases, when I first said 'finished', I wasn't. There was still lots of editing to do (still might be on StarMark!). In Kingstone's case, I feel it's been written much better, much earlier in the process and it really does feel 'finished'.

Do other authors have a time of - grief sounds wrong, belittling of real heart-wrenching loss - but it really does feel like a loss at this moment.

Am I the only author to feel this way at the completion of a long-term project?  

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Beta reader time...

I have just finished the third edit of King Stone.

*waves pompoms, cheers loudly, then slumps into exhaustion*

It's taken me a month - NaNoEdMo - but I am really pleased with the result. The novel has ended up just short of 50,000 words, which isn't bad for a children's novel. I daresay I could've padded it out a bit, but I'm not going to fiddle any more - for a while at least... The story is complete, and I'm happy with it.

Now, it's time for whole-novel-beta-reading by other people. *gulp* (And, perhaps, a celebratory snifter of ginger wine this evening because I've done what I set out to do and cleared the decks in time for the editing of StarMark!)

So, anyone fancy a read?