Tuesday, January 29, 2008


I've spent the last two days immersed in linguistic jargon for my new Open University course.

Now I knew when I signed up for this course that it was going to be a challenge, because it is third year course and I am new to both English language studies and linguistics. But I am not the only student in that position and I do at least have a former academic background in modern languages and European literature.

Anyway, although it seemed daunting at first read, when I came to write up some notes this evening it all started to make some sense. Which is encouraging. I want to now start on next week's work, as I need to get ahead before half term, but the coming two days are going to be busy and I really need to actually do some writing!

Three notable things:

1. Course content details are up for the new level three creative writing course at the OU.

2. Receiving a late birthday card with a picture I love and have pinned on the board above my desk.

3. Doing a much needed backup of all my photos, music and files onto an external hard drive this morning.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A meme

So, I have been tagged by lovely Crystal Jigsaw for a meme about household tips. If only she knew, I am the worst person to ask...

1. Don't have an child whose favourite hobby is tearing up Argos catalogues. You would be amazed how much dust that causes.

2. Keep a good supply of wet wipes in the house. They serve a multitude of purposes. As does antibacterial spray, especially when you have a child with autism.

3. Try to train the male members of the household to share the chores. If you succeed, please tell me how.

4. Always keep several get well cards on the mantle... so if unexpected guests arrive, they will think you've been sick and unable to clean. (Thanks to Lynne D from the Open University for passing on that one...)

5. If all else fails hire a cleaner. Wish I could afford to...

I'm not going to tag anyone else for this one, but if you have the urge to do it, feel free!

Three notable things:

1. I'm gradually equipping my new desk with pin board, post-it notes, pens and pencils etc. My Virginia Woolf mug has pride of place, of course, used as a penpot so it doesn't get damaged in the washing up. I'll try to take a picture when I am all organised.

2. Yesterday I bought a new top which I intend to wear to the launch party for Your Messages on Thursday. But, knowing me, I will probably have a crisis of indecision at the last minute and go in something old...

3. Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. You can read the story of an elderly concentration camp survivor here. What an amazing woman. It is so important that we are never allowed to forget.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Chocolate cake

It has been a day of cake and presents here today. Best of all, I now have my new writing desk for the spare bedroom, which Hubby has kindly made, though the chair is still to be sorted out. This has been made more complicated by the fact that son 1 started to put it together without reading the instructions first...

Three notable things:

1. The three of us went out to lunch together, a rare occurrence, and son 1 paid. We must have done something right as parents...

2. My new OU course starts officially tomorrow. I think it is going to be challenging, but hopefully interesting.

3. The lovely Novel Racers have been discussing writerly wobbles today. We all have them, don't we?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


I received a package in the post this morning. A copy of 'For One More Day' by Mitch Albom. I have no idea where it came from...it was invoiced free of charge and marked email, so I guess I must have entered an online giveaway, but I have forgotten doing so. Still I am never one to refuse a free book, so it has joined the 'to be read' pile.

I have been asked to read one of my pieces at the launch party for the Your Messages anthology next week. That is both exciting and scary at the same time, but I am so looking forward to the evening.

Three notable things:

1. Heath Ledger is dead. I don't want to speculate on that news, but it is a tragic loss.

2. My play assignment was sent off into cyberspace yesterday (online submission to the OU). I was just glad to see it go.

3. I opened the books for my next course last night. I must be mad...

Monday, January 21, 2008


I have been struggling with my Open University playwriting course. Mainly I think bcause I have no real interest in writing for the stage or screen, I am doing the course partly as preparation for a more advanced course later in the year and partly to notch up some more points towards a(nother) degree.

The final assignment is due in on Friday. I worked out ages ago what I wanted to write about but was having trouble committing it to paper. Plays are fiddly because you have to get the layout and length right and for those of us less skilled in using Word it can be a trial. So on Saturday afternoon I took my A4 notebook into town and sat in a very busy Starbucks with a coffee. I managed to draft the rest of my short play.

Today I have typed it up and done some of the other parts of the assignment. I should hopefully be able to get it all finished tomorrow, then put it away until Thursday, do any last minute editing and send the damned thing on its way. Hooray.

Three notable things:

1. The weather is just depressing. Isn't it?

2. I have just been perusing desks and office chairs on the Argos website, as now we are post-Christmas I can afford to order one for the spare bedroom and create my writing corner. Of course the desk I like best is not in stock, even though the catalogue only came out on Saturday.

3. Son 1 has once again started doing the teenage thing of staying up all night and trying to sleep all day. Thought we'd cured him of that one...

Friday, January 18, 2008

Heathrow miracle

Yesterday's crash landing at Heathrow Airport was a bit scary. Not just because it was a miracle that nobody was killed or badly hurt, but also because for me it was rather close to home.

According to tonight's reports, the aircraft's problems started about two miles from the airport. Now we live just ten miles away and even closer to an RAF airbase. Luckily we are not normally under the main Heathrow flight paths, though we do sometimes spot passenger jets above us. However the area between here and Heathrow is built up and largely residential and it would be the same in almost any direction from the airport. The potential for disaster was/is great.

It brought to my mind the experience of flying into Hong Kong twenty years ago and the airliner diving down between skyscrapers and apartment blocks to land on a runway jutting out into the harbour at Kai Tak airport. Spectacular and exhilarating, but no room for error. These pictures show it well!

Hong Kong now has a new airport, built on an island. Much safer.

Three notable things:

1. The skill of the pilots who brought that plane safely down yesterday.

2. Sorting out boring financial stuff. My tax return yesterday, the credit card bill today.

3. Maybe one day I will tell you our own Kai Tak story...but not today.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Alice Munro and the Golden Globes

After the non-event of the Golden Globes, I had to do some research on the film for which the wonderful Julie Christie won her award. She is an actress I have admired since seeing her as Bathsheba in Far from the Madding Crowd, which I studied at school.

Anyway I was interested to find out that Away from Her is based on the moving story The Bear Came over the Mountain by Alice Munro, who is one of my favourite short story writers.

Until I started studying creative writing I never read short stories. I picked up a copy of Alice Munro's collection, Runaway, and was immediately hooked by her ability to create short stories which tell a tale as complex as many novels. She has a wonderful ability to craft touching stories from mundane everyday life.

If you haven't read Munro yet, do. She only writes short stories and is rated one of the best at the art.

Three notable things:

1. Son 1's therapist is leaving next month. Another blow for him and I guess we may have a setback.

2. I have received my badges from Nice Caroline. I'm going to use them to accessorise my black handbag...

3. My mouth is no longer sore from yesterday's visit to the dentist.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


Here in the UK social care services are massively underfunded, resulting in huge reliance on informal carers, usually family members.

But when you read about the situation in some other countries, you start to realise how far we have come. It is not so many decades ago that, even here, parents of severely disabled children were encouraged to place them in large institutions at an early age and disabled people were considered ineducable. Nowadays there are many other options, including residential school or foster care, when parents do need help, but most are cared for at home and all receive a tailored education.

This article on caged beds in the Czech Republic is just too upsetting. I shan't be watching the TV news report tonight, because I can all too easily imagine how, in another time or place, it could have been son 2 in that situation. Instead we have a happy, loving and smart child who, despite all his challenges, is learning fast. He will always need care, of course, but that care must and will be respectful of his needs, not treat him like an animal.

Three notable things:

1. Dentist today. Again. I am suffering from a sore mouth and poverty.

2. I got wet walking to the dentist and wet again walking back...

3. I should have been doing Open University work this afternoon but didn't. Ho hum.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Back to the novel

I thought I would read through my work in progress this weekend, in readiness to start writing again tomorrow after a break for Christmas and sickness.

As I did so, I came to a realisation. The first person narrator I am using is not working, because it is placing too many restrictions on the way I can structure my story. I need to be able to bring in other viewpoints without resorting to the gimmicky use of diaries, letters and emails as I was intending.

I think it also gives my story slightly too much of a chick lit feel in the early chapters, when in fact the novel will be very much issue-led women's fiction, a novel to make the reader think and cry rather than laugh out loud, I hope.

My first task, before I go any further, is to try a rewrite of the first 10,000 words into a third person narrative so that I can compare the two versions. I have to be honest and say that it has been at the back of mind that my planned structure might not work in a full length novel. I need to get these basics right to be able to continue with enthusiasm.

Three notable things:

1. I read Ian McEwan's On Chesil Beach this weekend. I am still trying to make up my mind what I think about it, though overall I did enjoy it, I guess.

2. I'm already starting to roughly plan novel 2 in my mind and bought a book in a charity shop yesterday, which will help with research.

3. Son 2's Annual Review went very well on Friday (if you don't know what an Annual Review is, don't worry, just ignore this bit!) We are pushing to finally get OT formally included in his statement.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Feeling quiet

I'm feeling a little introspective today.

Yesterday I was told that someone I met a few times at the end of last year has died. I don't know the actual circumstances, but she was a young mother, so it is a tragedy.

Something like that makes you realise the transience of life.

Three notable things:

1. Jane Austen is apparently too ugly for a bookcover?

2. Do you need to read books to be clever? Son 1 would say no!

3. I emailed a poem to a competition yesterday, very much last minute as it was the closing date!

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The good and the bad...

Well, today's good news was that my lovely little car (jade-green metallic Nissan Micra, around 10 years old) has passed its MOT with no problem, apart from the fact that all four tyres are getting very close to the legal tread limit. Still, I do low mileage so they will probably be OK for a while and we can think about changing them at a time of year when we are feeling a little less poor.

The bad news is that my dentist subjected me to some intensive teeth cleaning and scraping this morning. He gave me an injection so it didn't hurt at the time, but my mouth is rather tender now. I've also spent the afternoon struggling with my Open University Writing Plays coursework, as the final assignment is looming. I know I'm far from the only person to be having difficulty getting into writing for the stage. I wonder why, when most of us will happily write fiction and poetry?

Three notable things:

1. Yahoo has identified the most strange and innovative British websites of 2007 and the list includes Free Rice, where lots of us have tested our vocabulary.

2. I read on Casdok's blog about the McCarron case in the USA, where a mother is on trial for suffocating her autistic daughter. I had not heard of this before. How very sad.

3. A BBC music poll has identified singer Adele as the hottest prospect for 2008. You can hear her here. I think I am going to like Adele.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Great writers

The Times has just featured a list of the 50 greatest British writers since 1945. I was quite surprised to find that I had read something by almost all the top ten, given that I have not formally studied English literature since I was sixteen.

So how many of them have you read and do you agree with the list?

Three notable things:

1. School was back today. Hooray!

2. I got last week's Open University assignment back, it was fine.

3. I started to pull together the info for my tax return today. Urgh.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Back again

Sorry about the blogging hiatus. A combination of illness, school holidays, Open University work deadlines and a sheer lack of inspiration were the cause. But I'm back now and in the last few days I've seen lots of news snippets worth talking about.

There was an interesting article by Blake Morrison in the Guardian yesterday, about how reading groups can help people with a wide range of illnesses and disabilities. I have long been aware of the potential of arts therapies, but this was further food for thought and fits in well with the holistic approach to health care. After all such therapy is already widely used - art therapy, music therapy, therapeutic creative writing for example - it is just a shame more can't be provided on the NHS. Bibliotherapy is such a great word too!

Three notable things:

1. Britney seems to have imploded. Again.

2. 27 teenagers were murdered in London last year. We are less than a week into 2008 and two have been killed. Thank goodness our Borough is statistically one of the safest, though I know the problem is not confined to London anyway. It is a worrying time to be a parent.

3. Is America ready for a black President and might women actually vote one in?

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year, new blog

Yes you are in the right place, I've just changed my template for 2008.

I'm not going mad but I wanted my blog to fit in better with the template of my website, either by colour or by mood. I think that this colour works, even though the template is more modern, it makes it seem more cohesive if clicking through from the website. I can't quite get the colours to match, but may take another look later.

Happy New Year to you all!

Three notable things:

1. I fell asleep last night. At 10pm. How embarrassing is that?

2. Son 1 has been feeling quite a lot better.

3. I have written an Open University assignment today!