Saturday, 26 May 2018

A Special Anniversary

Mr Squidge and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary earlier this week - our Silver Wedding.

I wrote about our wedding a little bit three years ago, when I was struck by the passage of time. Somehow, having reached twenty five years, it seems like a Very Significant Point has been reached. Still not a reason to splurge on pressies - though I did buy Mr Squidge some silver infinity cuff links. I have my ring - the one I made in my silversmithing classes - which I asked the curate at church to bless, and I'm now wearing that.

Instead, to mark the day, we decided we'd spend some time together. We visited Calke Abbey, our local National Trust house. It used to be called 'The house that time forgot', and has been kept pretty much as it was found when it was donated to the NT back in the 1980's, to represent the decline of many of the grand country houses. It's unusual in that everything in the property pretty much was there at the handing over - everything from a state bed, given as a wedding present in the 1700's and never used, to a room full of broken chairs and peeling wallpaper.

The grounds are lovely, too - the cow parsley was almost as tall as me, and the lawns were full of buttercups, pink clover, faded cowslips and others I couldn't identify.

Gorgeous wisteria in the kitchen garden

Shame - my sparkly silver shoes don't show up!

The path through the cow parsley

Later we went out for a lovely meal in the evening at the Thai Grand. I don't usually take photos of my food, but the vegetable rose on the mixed platter of starters deserved one!

The only sore point - literally - of the evening was that after rejecting a good half dozen outfits and finally deciding on a dress (as one does, sometimes), I couldn't wear the shoes I usually wear with the dress, because we were walking into town and they had four inch heels. Then I spotted my twenty five year old wedding shoes and tried them on. They'll do, I thought. Still fit, feel fine.

Except by the time we got to the restaurant, I had some very bad torn blisters on my heels. And the very bottom of the shoe heels had dropped off! We assumed the glue had gone brittle with time and somewhere along our route are two little bits of plastic...

But going back to the wedding, it was strange to look through the official photo album again. There are many in those photos who are no longer with us. There are children who have grown up. Heads which have turned a lot greyer - including my own. But equally there are a lot of family and friends still with us - and seeing the joy on their faces as they celebrated with us on our big day made me smile all over again. In fact, I remember my cheeks aching the day after, from smiling so much...

I had a look at the flowers in my bouquet, too - lots of orchids... I remember really wanting lily of the valley, but it was too late in the season.

We started to think about what we've achieved in the last twenty five years. Two kids are probably the biggest thing, though putting up Bob, our windmill, and being published come a close second - they're our other 'babies'! We've enjoyed holidays where we've been skiing, sunbathing, and sailing. (Not all at the same time, I hasten to add!) We've worked on our house and garden to turn them into a home. We've celebrated milestones for ourselves and others.

Wears you out, thinking about it all. I wonder what'll be in store over the next - God-willing - twenty five years?

Wednesday, 16 May 2018


What is it about the sun in the UK that makes everything feel so much better?

We've had a glorious recent Bank Holiday - a bit different to two years ago, when Mr Squidge insisted on a Bank Holiday Barbeque and ended up cooking under a gazebo in the pouring rain, while the thunder rumbled overhead... This year, we barbied with friends in the field we part-own, in blazing sunshine.

I love to feel the heat of the sun on my skin - it gets a certain 'holiday smell', have you noticed that? - but I am more careful nowadays than I used to be. Lots of high factor suntan lotion, or sit in the shade...but that makes writing - especially typing on a laptop - difficult because you get so much glare.

Not this year... I've been sitting on a bean bag, typing away in the garden room, with the doors wide open. It's been blissful.

Taken on not such a sunny day, but you get the gist...?

There's a blackbird who's laid claim to our garden. He sits up in the neighbour's silver birch tree, singing his heart out. If you listen carefully, you can hear him singing '1,2,3 - Rapido!' (Anyone else remember the TV show? Or am I just showing my age?)

I've been able to watch the blue and great tits picking insects off the ivy, and have been lucky enough to see a pair of bullfinches - the male with his bright pink-red chest - and a thrush. The pigeons strut round the lawn like they own the place, and Timmy, our cat, crouches next to me and 'wa-ows' at them. Add the collared doves, which nest in the holly tree over the road from our house, who sit on the roof and coodle-coo for hours...

Most of the spring flowers are over and the summer ones not yet out, but the lilac tree, supposed to be a miniature but about 8 feet tall now, was full of flower and kept wafting its beautiful scent over me as I wrote, so heady and sweet. It's now going over, and my lawn is covered in purple petals.

Distancing myself from the house (and all the jobs I know are waiting there for me), being able to enjoy my garden while staying safe from the sun AND still being able to write - productively; I'm about 10K into a new novel - is wonderful. I consider myself very lucky.

Now all I need to do is find a CD player that works, and I can have music to write to, too. Although sometimes, Squidgeling T pops down, bags another bean bag and plays his guitar, so maybe I've already got what I need...

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Getting started on your first book

This week, I received an email from a lad called Josh. It said;

I am a 14-yr-old boy who wants to write his first book. How do I start my first book?

I replied with some advice, but thought that actually, this would make a good blog post. So for any other young folk out there who are thinking of writing a book and wondering where to start, here's my advice. 

(Remember though, it's only advice. What works for me might not work for you. Read the advice of other authors too, and be wary of applying advice as 'rules'.)

1. The best advice I can give is...start writing! A writer writes - simple as. So pick up that pen and start putting words on the page, and see where it takes you. Keep a notebook to jot ideas into; write short stories; write scenes, dialogue, descriptions; play with words. Use prompt sites to give you ideas if you're stuck. The more you write, the better your writing will become. 

One of my notebooks and a story that has yet to be finished...

2. Read. A lot. By reading you get to see how the best authors structure their stories, and equally, how those that aren't so good make mistakes. Don't just get to the end of the book and say 'that was great!' or 'That was awful!' Try and analyse what made it good or bad for you - and then try and use or avoid similar things in your own writing.

3. Be aware of how you approach your writing. Are you a planner? Do you need to know exactly what the story's about before you begin to write it? Or are you a pantser? You get a whiff of an idea and you're off, seeing where it takes you? Are you a mix of the two (I certainly am!) Do you like to write every day, or only when the muse strikes? What works for you won't necessarily be the same for someone else...and it might take you some time to figure out how you work best.  

4. Don't worry if your story isn't perfect to start with. Tell yourself it's the s****y first draft, it's you working it out for yourself. The 'proper' story comes later, when you're writing it for your reader. And don't be surprised if you end up editing it again and again and again... fuel of choice when editing

5. Make sure the writing is as good as you can make it, especially if you reach the point of wanting to submit it anywhere. Check spellings, grammar, punctuation, and presentation etc. Ask for help if you need it - and be prepared to accept it.

6. Don't give up. If you really want to be a writer, then you have to be prepared for some serious knocks - and each time you get knocked, you have to get up again and keep on trying. If you believe there's a story in you which you have to tell, make sure you tell it. Persistence pays off, as long as you are learning and improving.

There's probably a lot more I could add, but I think that will do for starters. Picking up that pen is the first step in capturing the story ideas that are in your head. Once you've done that, well...who knows where you'll end up?

Wednesday, 2 May 2018


Last weekend, we celebrated Mr Squidge's 50th birthday. He wanted a party. A Big Party.

So, we organised one. The caterers (Greens Catering Services) did us proud, with a great selection for a finger buffet. There was loads of food - probably because we catered for the number of people who said they were attending, but of course a few folk always drop out for various reasons so we were sent a few doggy bags home - and we're still eating honey and mustard glazed sausages...!

Just a few sarnies...

Sausages and samosas!

Quiche and cheese and chutney toasts
One of the funniest things about the buffet is that I'd bought loads of crisps, among them, bacon rashers (the Tesco equivalent of Frazzles). People remarked how long it was since they'd had Frazzles, and dived in!

The band was brilliant. (Superfuzz) I struggle a bit with live bands because they often seem too loud, but Superfuzz's set was pretty good. Couldn't fault their performance or the mix of songs. Some of Mr Squidge's uni friends came to the party - first time we'd seen Sparky, Jude and Cairnsy in about twenty years - and as soon as the band started, they got up and boogied! The famous 'Shoulder Shuffle' was in evidence - Mr Squidge's unique dance move. Squidgeling T also did a short set with his band, too - they were really good, considering that they've only ever done one open mic night together before.

And then there was The Cake.  Do you remember these?

These were the froggy cake pops Michelle made for the launch of More Granny Rainbow. Michelle is a talented cake maker, and so I asked if she would take on the challenge of a beer gravity cake for Mr Squidge. She now works in Barnett's, a small coffee shop in town; Chris makes the cakes and often Michelle decorates them. I am gutted to say that, in prepping this blog, I found I did not have a single photo of The Cake that I'd taken, so here's Michelle's photo of it;

How cool is that?! Mr Squidge loved it - and when we finally sliced it on his actual birthday (last Monday) it tasted every bit as good as it looked. Of course, the engineer was trying to work out all the mechanics...but I shan't give Michelle's secrets away!

Mr Squidge took this one as he was wrapping up half the cake to freeze

I didn't take many photos at all - I was too busy topping up the trays of food and boogie-ing, though I believe there is video footage of me and Mr Squidge dancing, thanks to the Squidgelings...

Family presents were opened on Sunday, before Squidgeling J returned to Bristol - we bought him a speedometer T-shirt (stuck at 50mph and with the mileage reading 019680!), some beer, and a hot air balloon ride; other presents and cards were saved 'til Monday, his actual birthday. I treated him to a pub lunch, a bottle of prosecco, and then some of his Round Table friends dropped by with a pillar drill (Mr Squidge is known as Mr Fixit in RT circles!), a brewing course and a driving experience at Silverstone.

I think it's safe to say I have one very happy 50 year old husband!