Tuesday, 29 November 2016

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!

AGES since I last blogged!

Christmas is beginning to loom large - part of the reason I'm not blogging so frequently - and I've had a massive helping of Christmassy things over the last week, which I thought I'd share.

First, it was the Community Christmas Tree Festival in the town's Parish Church, All Saints and Holy Trinity. I had help with our church tree this year, and between myself and Liv, we took on a music and craft theme to look forward to the Nanpantan Festival which happens next year.

There were a few other trees that caught my eye - here are a few of them;

British Heart Foundation - Rainbow Hearts

A hairdresser's tree. Don't think it was REAL hair...

Tatted Angels - last year it was snowflakes

The War Memorial Poppy Trees

The Rainbows Hospice tree

Then it was off to Germany for the weekend. Without the children. Which was a whole new level of nervyness for me - the first time they'd been left home alone, even though grandparents were on call just up the road...

Anyway, the reason for the trip was that every year, with our very good friends, we cook a Christmas meal together and dress up in DJ's and posh frocks. It's a tradition that - we think - has been running for thirty years, with only a couple of years off in all that time. Our friends in Germany more often than not come over to England, but this year we travelled to them instead.

While there, we visited a genuine German Christmas market - small and intimate, in streets between pastel-coloured beamed buildings twinkling with lights under the eaves. There was Gluwein and wurst and gingerbread, Advent wreaths and baubles and Christmas candles. And a minecraft-style Nativity scene inside a giant snow globe. The photos are a bit blurry as I forgot the camera - Mr Squidge took these on his phone as the light was fading.

The biggest Advent calendar I've EVER seen...

And here's the whole gang - though I think you can only see the top of Nicola's head, cos she was taking a photo too!

One thing I hadn't realised in Germany is how important Advent wreaths - or Adventkranz - are. I know what an Advent wreath IS - we have one in church, and light a new candle on the four Sundays before Christmas, with a special one lit on Christmas Day.

In Germany, most homes have an AdventKranz too. Apparently they were a way of bringing evergreen into the house in advance of Christmas Eve, which is traditionally when the Christmas tree is decorated. Nicola had made two:

White and silver, to complement the antique glass baubles

Glass birds with feather and fibre tails. This wreath is about two feet across!

I like this idea so much, I think I will make an Adventkranz for Chateau Squidge later this week, because our tree never goes up until a week before Christmas and it would be nice to have something Christmassy (apart from cards and wrapping paper!) before then...

Stars play a big part in the Advent preparations too. Very popular are paper star lampshades for inside and out.

All set for dinner...

Although our hosts had prepared and cooked everything, Mr Squidge couldn't resist stirring the gravy...

One other difference this year - apart from being in Germany for our Christmas meal - was our dress code; black tie, posh frock and Christmas slipper socks! 

Look closely and you'll spot the sequins!

The weekend was finished off by a walk through the forest behind the house on Sunday morning, to see the view over Darmstadt and visit an alpine hut for frikadellen before flying home to the Squidgelings.

Somehow, this was the best meal ever. Thinking about it afterwards, I wondered if it was due in part to the fact that it wasn't JUST an evening meal with our friends. It was a whole weekend, with time to talk and relax and leave all the 'normal' stuff behind at home. We've all got some wonderful memories from a very special forty-eight hours.

Next year, I think we'll be back in Blighty. I'll offer to host it here, assuming we manage to get our new kitchen in by then...

Thursday, 17 November 2016


So the Scribbles have been a little quiet in the last two weeks as I've been recovering from the chest infection.

Thank goodness, I'm feeling a lot better; this week I've managed to get through the week without a mid-afternoon nap and I've even had music on and managed to have enough breath in me to sing along. Cold air still makes me cough, and there's a very slight ache in my ribs left over, but I think we can safely say I'm pretty much there.

So - back to blogging! And the subject today is...collaboration.

One of the things that popped up on my facebook feed was a link to That Thorn Guy's blog. In case you haven't read him yet, Mark Lawrence IS That Thorn Guy, although That Thorn Guy's blog is more information about Mark and his writing than his own blog, per se. (I became a fan of Mark's writing after reading Prince of Thorns, the first book in the Broken Empire Trilogy, on a whim, and I love the way he interacts with readers and his fans.)

Anyway, on the blog at the moment is a collaborative story, written by eight authors with a few names you might recognise. As well as Mark, the list includes Miles Cameron, Sebastien de Castell, John Gwynne, Conn Iggulden, Jane Johnson, Peter Newman and Garth Nix. It's a great read - I laughed out loud in several places and loved the earthyness of it and the end twist - but it's also a competition. Basically, the reader has to identify which author wrote which section of the story. My own entry is a complete shot in the dark - as I noted in the comments, I'm not fussed about winning. It was enough of a prize to simply read the story!

But it reminded me of my own involvement with collaborative stories. There was one about the Spanish treasure hunters of Aztec gold, and another about vampires. Both totally NOT what I usually write about! I found them great fun though, because they brought together a variety of different styles of writing and were a real challenge. The end results were something quite unique that all the participants could take ownership of.

Collaborating on stories like this seems to work with any size of group - the smallest one I took part in had only four authors involved, the most: eight. The order of writers was decided up front, and we kept cycling round until the story came to a conclusion.

However, there were problems. First, you have to have a good way of contacting the next in line to let them know it's their turn. If they only answer email once a week, it slows things down. You have to keep the momentum going. As the story progresses, more characters and places and problems are introduced and there is a danger that instead of keeping the story focused, it becomes a sprawling beast with far too many people and places and things happening to tie together for a satisfactory conclusion. And you often need to re-read the story so far in its entirety, otherwise you get lots of rookie continuity errors!

It's also really tempting to plan what you want to happen next - but you do so at your peril, because there could be quite a few authors changing the direction of the story to something quite different before you get your next turn. It can (and did) cause friction sometimes when authors 'lost' their storyline. It makes it important for everyone to be clear from the beginning that the story is free to go in whatever direction each author chooses to take it. So you end up not being able to plan, which doesn't sit well with natural planners.

In fact, as I think about it, I'd love to do another collaboration. Anyone out there want to join me? I'll start it, pass it on and then if you send your piece back, I'll forward the story as it stands to the next person on the list, they add to it, send it back, I forward it... And then I'll blog the end result and the names of all the participants but as a list.

Are you up for it? If you are, message me your email on microscribbler@gmail.com and we'll get started... Happy Scribbling!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


I hate being ill. I mean properly ill, as opposed to a few sniffles or a day or two feeling a bit under the weather.

Four weeks ago, I had a virus. Four days of almost-flu, followed by feeling better but left with a cough.

The cough persisted. Sometimes, it was so bad I couldn't catch my breath and I was retching. Then it would ease off for hours and I thought it'd gone. Except it hadn't. It became an irritating dry tickly thing...and yet I knew there was no point going to the doctor's because coughs caused by viruses can take up to six weeks to disappear.

Except that things changed on Monday night; I got a pain in my back, assumed I'd pulled a muscle through coughing.

Tuesday, the pain had moved into the ribs on my left side, just at bra-level under my arm. As the day progressed, the pain got steadily worse. Every time I coughed, it was like someone was jabbing me with a sharp stick just below my left breast...and when I sneezed once? I nearly leapt off the sofa.

By this morning, the pain was unbearable. I left my bra off, because even the pressure of the elastic hurt my ribs. Movement caused a deep ache from the bottom of my ribs on the left hand side right up into my shoulder, and I had to hold myself tight every time I tried to cough.

Definitely not normal - so I made an appointment to see the doctor as a matter of urgency.

As I described my symptoms, and then had to pause to hold myself and cough, I saw her shake her head. "That does not sound good," she said.

The diagnosis? My lung was crackling...chest infection. Pneumonia was mentioned, in passing.

Treatment? Painkillers, Strong antibiotics for five days, a chest X-ray (still waiting to hear about that), and rest. Lots of rest. Follow up appointment in a week's time.

That's when I started bawling - poor doctor, she wasn't expecting that - because I felt so rough, and I knew I would have to let people down. Tonight, I should have been giving a talk to a group from church. Tomorrow, I should have been running a creative writing day for twenty Y6's. And sitting in that doctor's chair, I knew I would have to cancel both.

I know that folk will be understanding...I know I can rearrange...I know I have a responsibility to myself and my family to let myself take the time I need to recover. Even if it's 'just' a lung infection, rather than the 'pneumony'...

But it doesn't stop me hating being ill because I'm restricted in what I can do and am so stupidly tired by the simplest of tasks...

Ah well. Soon be fit as a fiddle again.

I hope.