Friday, 31 August 2018

My MA Experience

I have just had a most amazing two years. My only regret is that it's over.

It was 2016. I needed my mum's advice. For the millionth time, I wished she was still with me. I went to see Sonia, one of her old friends. I told her,
'I need advice from my mum.' (She understood.) 'I'm thinking of enrolling for an MA in Creative Writing at Leicester University. Is it the right thing to do? It's such a lot of money. I'll be the oldest in the group. What if the work piles up? What if it's too much for me? I've left it too late to go back to studying, haven't I?'
Sonia's response was swift, 'Do it', she said, 'And enjoy it.' And so I did it and I enjoyed it. I kept her updated on each assignment and I thanked her time and again for her advice. Sadly, she recently died, but I'll always be grateful for her encouragement.

So, what have I been up to over the last two years? With the support and guidance of an excellent group of tutors, I've developed my writing skills, experimented with words, discovered different ways of expressing myself on the page, spent hours in the library, drunk gallons of coffee and I've even had one or two drinks at the local pub. I now have a file full of material including a memoir, a play and an array of poetry - some of it ekphrastic, my words illustrating the paintings of a talented artist from a Polish shtetl, and one poem (as I've already mentioned several times) winner of the Leicester University G. S. Fraser poetry prize. I now have lots of material that I can rework for submission, lots of new ideas that I plan to develop, but I wish I could do it all over again.

If anyone reading this is thinking of enrolling for this type of a course, then my advice to you is the same as Sonia's was to me, 'Do it'. It's not cheap but then you get what you pay for - and now I'd best get back to the dissertation, my final piece of work to be submitted. It's written. I just need to give it a final check through, get it printed and bound and then I shall submit it and I might even have a small alcoholic drink to celebrate - just a small one, mind you!

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

The Winner

I'm taking a break from working on my dissertation because I have received some exciting news from Leicester University. Sorry for sounding like a bit of a show-off but I can't wait to tell everybody.

My poem 'Fresh Canvas' has won 1st prize in the 2018 G. S. Fraser Poetry Competition

Once I'd stopped jumping up and down and checking that I'd read the email correctly, I looked on the Poetry Foundation website to find out a bit more about G. S. Fraser. He was born George Sutherland Fraser in 1914 in Glasgow. He served in the British Army in the Second World War and then went on to teach at Leicester University. He was particularly known for his lyrical poetry. I hope my poem, 'Fresh Canvas', serves his memory well.

During this two-year MA in Creative Writing Course I have become increasingly drawn to poetry writing but, just to make life even harder for myself, I decided not to write poetry for my dissertation but to write a stage play. It's based on events in London in 1935 so - yes - I'm also having to research the history. When I emerge from this mammoth exercise, I will be back here with my regular blogs but for now I'm going to return to my world of actors, lighting and stage directions.

Have a good summer and please don't think about me working away here for one single moment!

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

2,500 Books Have Been Sold

We have now sold 2,500 copies 
of The Children's Book of Richard III. 

Not only that, but we have now gone into paperback. It's all very exciting.

Me giving a school talk
about Richard III
Me being the Witch of Daneshill
from the book
Me handing you a book

The book is selling steadily at the Richard III Visitors' Centre, the Bosworth Battlefield Shop and at the various Leicester Museum Shops. If you don't have access to one of those outlets and you'd like to buy a copy - they make excellent presents - you can email the publisher, Lynn Moore at or you can email me at

I don't usually drink champagne but as this is a special occasion - and as it's a virtual bottle of champagne anyway - I shall raise a glass and drink a toast.

Here's to the next 2,500 copies...

An MA Update: I have just submitted my final assignment and now only have the dissertation to write. The final deadline is September so I'm working hard at it. Did I mention that I'm writing a stage play for my dissertation? I've never written one of those before... why make life easy when it can be this hard?!

Sunday, 1 April 2018

This is Facebook at its VERY best...

A visiting cat has been terrorising not only our two cats, but me as well. I have called it Killer Cat. I've tried shooing it off in the usual way, clapping my hands and barking loudly - maybe a tad unconventional but it normally works. Instead of running off, Killer Cat hissed and went on the attack. I retreated inside.

My next attempt to send Killer Cat running was with a long-handled cobweb brush. It made short shrift of this, viciously ripping the feathery end off it and then going for the handle. I retreated inside.

As a last resort - and this always works with normal cats - I wielded the bowl of cold water. KC shook the water off and came at me with teeth bared. I retreated inside.

I peered through the cat flap window to see if it had gone, only to see its grimacing face peering back at me. As the lock is broken on the cat flap, I pulled the kitchen bin across it. That seemed to deter it for the time being, but the next day it was back again.

This went on for several days. My cats were becoming ever more anxious. I ordered a cat flap with a chip-recognition facility but that didn't solve the problem of what do to with Killer Cat in the garden. Thanks to Daughter a solution, of sorts, was close...

Daughter suggested I take a photograph when it next visits and post it up on Facebook. Yesterday it reappeared, hissing and teeth-baring as usual. I took a photo and posted it on our local Community Facebook page. For a start I just got a few likes. Then this morning someone suggested that it might be Cedric, a cat who lives a few streets away from me. She posted up a Facebook comment from Cedric's owner, posted up last year when the cat had gone 'walk-abouts'. It included a contact phone number.

I have just finished chatting on the phone to Cedric's Mummy. Yes, it is Cedric but she was shocked because at home he's 'as soft as butter'. We talked about strategies and I assured her I would be in touch again if/when Cedric revisits.

I still can't believe that within 24 hours I have found out who the cat is and spoken to its owner. This is Facebook working at its impressive best. Isn't it a shame that something so potentially useful can also cause such harm.

Cedric aka Killer Cat

p.s. Don't want to speak too soon but I think I've just about fought off that evil flu virus. It's been a long winter!

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

The non-desirous virus

Never mind the 'Beast from the East' (the name given to a recent cold snap in the UK). I have been, and still am, suffering from the 'non-desirous virus' or you could call it the 'flu that just grew' or to put it another way an evil attack of flu virus that has confined me to quarters for three weeks. This is week four and I'm still struggling with a cough and a great reduction in my usual energy levels. I haven't been for a swim for over four weeks and I really miss it!

So there is no new news to tell. I can talk about the comparative merits or otherwise of paracetamol as opposed to Lemsip. I can talk about the problems of wanting a hot water bottle to stop the shivers but at the same time breaking out into clammy fever-fuelled sweats... but I won't (whoops, I just did!)

Thank goodness for Messenger. My family have kept me company with chats and photos. Daughter has recently adopted ferrets. She now has three. I don't know much about ferrets but they seem to be good company and excellent entertainment. My Messenger page is full of ferret photos and videos of them tumbling over each other.

Beyond that, life has faded into pale. It's frightening how quickly I seem to have lost touch with events outside these four walls. I keep thinking of the last few years of Mum's life when she couldn't get out on her own and she kept saying that life outside was fading. I didn't understand. I hope I was suitably sympathetic.

So now I shall muster up some energy and start painting in the colours to bring my world back to life again...if only I can stay awake long enough.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

A School Topic on Richard III

Yesterday I got a message via The Children's Book of Richard III's Facebook page from a teacher. She wanted to buy one of my books. I was delighted to hear from her. She's a local teacher and her class is doing a topic on Richard III. I have offered to visit her school. I told her that I don't charge for school visits. All I ask is for the school and/or its pupils to buy a few books from me to cover my costs.

So far, so good. Now here's the down side:

The teacher told me in her message that a well known online book-selling website says there are no books available, only second-hand ones. They are wrong. There are books available. This is not the first time this has happened. So I shall endeavour to circumnavigate that well known site and let you all know that we have books available at The Reading Shop. If you click on the link you can buy a book and it will be sent to you by the very same person who would have packed and posted it to you had you gone to that other site.

This blog post is also a reminder that I am still available to give talks in schools 
in return for a few book purchases. This is me in action:

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Leicester Castle

On this day, 3rd February in 1399, John of Gaunt died in Leicester Castle.

Leicester Castle has a fascinating history but so has John of Gaunt. I could write pages about both but I shall limit myself to something a tad more snappy - five facts about John of Gaunt and five facts about Leicester Castle:

Five Facts about John of Gaunt

Part of a portrait from c.1593
probably modelled on his tomb effigy.
1.  Leicester Castle was his favourite residence and the place where he died.

2.  He was the son of Edward III, brother of the Black Prince, Uncle to Richard II and Father of Henry IV.

3.  Born in 1340, he was an attractive man and well known as a womaniser.

4.  He was not popular with the people and during the Peasants Revolt of 1381 they set fire to his London Savoy Palace residence.

5.  Just before his death his son, Henry Bolingbroke, was banished from the country and the trauma may have contributed to his death.

Five Facts about Leicester Castle

1.  It was first built as a motte and bailey castle in 1068.

2.  The Great Hall, built some time in the1100s, had an impressive timber-beamed structure and was used until recently as Leicester's Crown Court.

3.  England's Parliament met in the Great Hall in 1349, 1414 and 1425.

4.  Gun holes, punched into the castle's walls during the Civil War when Parliamentarian Leicester was under siege, can still be seen today.

5.  John of Gaunt's cellar, a popular feature of the castle, is most likely the remains of an old stone kitchen.

Entrance archway