Sunday 28 August 2011

What's it like to be five?

I suspect most people can remember being five but can you remember what it felt like to be five? I don’t mean what TV programmes you watched or which school you went to. I mean your emotions and reactions as you saw those cartoon cats or Dr Who’s daleks. The programmes may have changed but the emotions are still the same.

Even if you remember the emotions, it’s not always easy to put them into words. I can remember watching the grey and white flower opening up on the TV screen at the beginning of ‘Watch with Mother’ but how can I describe the feeling in simple terms? It was a mixture of excitement at the anticipation of a familiar programme and the exclusivity that this programme was being screened just for me. There may have been more emotions going on inside me. I can’t remember.

And I’m really not sure how I would describe my emotions on my first day at school. The other children were confident, comfortable in their environment, or so I thought. I was scared to step on each strange section of floor in case it sucked me in and ate me up and I cried until I made myself sick. It was probably a way to try and get Mum to come back for me. I’m not sure. One thing I do know is that I was a real pain!

So what’s brought on this latest bout of introspection? I treated myself to the 'Children’s Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2012'. The last one I bought was the 2005 edition. This new one is much thicker. Excellent, I thought, that means there’ll be more publishers waiting for my manuscripts. Wrong! There are more articles about writing for children though and it was an article by Anne Fine that got me thinking.

Anne fine in ‘Writing Books to Read Aloud’ says that a child has to care about the character in a story so we must make sure that we give the character thoughts and emotions that young children will recognise. Her example is, rather than saying what a shame it is that it’s raining, show the water dripping down the child’s neck. It’s the old adage of ‘show don’t tell’ but does it go far enough to touch those real emotions, the disappointment when rain has stopped a longed-for activity?

Another article by Geraldine McCaughrean called ‘Writing for a Variety of Ages’ tells us that she embarks on a picture book as she would poetry rather than prose, “pouring on the word play and euphonious vocabulary, making the most of the aural splendour of words.”    [aural splendour... I like that. I must try and use it in conversation today!]

I can do word play. I can even do euphonious vocabulary, but I’m still not sure about the feelings. Does the English language have enough child-accessible words to accurately describe those childhood emotions?

How would you put into words the way it felt to have a story read to you at night?

Or the emotions you experienced during your first funfair ride?
Or is there another childhood emotion that you could share in words?


Thursday 25 August 2011


I love cooking main meals. Didn’t I share a favourite chicken supper dish with you recently? And didn’t you say how delicious it was when you tried it out? But there’s a magic spell people use when they bake cakes and I don’t know the words. I’ve tried many times and yesterday, because I don’t give up easily, I tried again. I baked a jam sponge cake.

I do get myself into a bit of a state when I bake but I managed to hold it together. I even remembered to sieve the flour!! I measured things out and I whisked like a crazy thing [well you have to get lots of air into it, don’t you?] I watched through the oven door as it started to rise. I even allowed myself to get a little excited.

When I took it out of the oven it looked a bit knobbly, even biscuit-like in places. No matter, I thought. I bet it’ll taste delicious. I used half a jar of ‘high quality’ strawberry jam, sandwiched it together, sprinkled it with icing sugar, put all the dirty utensils into the sticky mixing bowl, filled the bowl with water and stood back to admire my cake but...

...I stepped back into water. There was water was pouring from the work surface. Where was it coming from? I called for Mr A. [It’s what I always do in times of crisis!] He helped me to mop the water but then he held up the plastic mixing bowl. There was a shattered, splintered hole in its side. We searched for the broken pieces but it was no good. They weren’t there and we both knew that there was only one place they could be.

I couldn’t do it myself. I got Mr A. to throw my beautiful, knobbly cake into the dustbin and I went to the corner shop and bought some biscuits instead. I may try to bake another cake, but not for a while, not until I get over this one... and I even remembered to sieve the flour!!


Monday 22 August 2011

I Love Campaigns

I’ve joined a blog campaign.

Not another one!

Yes, I am a bit of a one for joining things, aren’t I.

You’ll be telling me next that it’s good for your health or something.

Well it’s funny you should say that. I did blog a few months ago about research which shows that people who join groups live longer.

No! How does that work then?

I’m not sure but I enjoy joining groups and if it’s good for me, well... *shrugs shoulders*

Point taken! So, tell me more about this blog campaign.

I thought you’d never ask. I am now officially a Platform-Building Campaigner. 
Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes... is in charge. She says and I quote
“The Campaign is a way to link those of us in the writing community together with the aim of helping to build our online platforms.
The Twitter tag is #writecampaign and there are chat groups to join and activities to keep us on our toes. There’s still time to join up. Just call in at Racheal’s blog.

I might well do that but I still don't get all this 'joining groups is good for your health' malarkey.

As it happens, I had a go at Googling that today and I found 'Our Community' who have been running a campaign called ‘Join in Join up’. Their research has shown that, and once again, I quote: 
“joining a community group can significantly improve people's wellbeing, and reduce the chance of ill-health.
Hang on. If I join loads of groups will it increase my life expectancy accordingly? 

I can't say for sure but I reckon it’s worth a try! In fact, this month, as well as joining Rachael's Campaigner group, I’m planning to sign up to our local U3A (University of the Third Age) and see if they’ve got room in their Drawing and Painting class. 

What group are you going to join this month? 
Or do you already belong to loads of groups?


Sunday 21 August 2011

Pyjamas and toothbrush...

...but where’s the bed?

I’m going to the SCBWI Conference in November. SCBWI stands for The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators. I’ve never been to one of their events before. Their annual conference is held in Winchester, quite a distance from Leicester and I’m such a reluctant traveller but two friends from my writing critique group are going and I wasn’t about to be left out.

We booked our places. We even chose the sessions we wanted to attend [I’m going for Picture Book writing] and we thought we were sorted. Wrong!

Two days later a kind writing friend pointed out that the conference doesn’t include accommodation... but... I assumed... *sigh* I volunteered to book us into a nearby Bed and Breakfast.

There are a lot of B & Bs in Winchester and they all said the same thing.

“We can do any other weekend but that weekend’s fully booked.”

‘Any other weekend’ was not an option.

Mr A. gallantly offered us free use of his tent. He was once a boy scout [many years ago] and he still has an old tent in the loft. He really believes that one day I’ll go on a camping holiday with him and his tent... 

...Dream on, Mr A!

Having disregarded the tent and exhausted my list of B & Bs I contacted the Winchester Tourist Information. Had I tried local pubs? I’m just a bit girly and local pubs can be just a bit scary but they suggested a ‘nice’ one. I rang the pub and snapped up their last two rooms.

So if any of you are planning to go to the SCBWI Conference and you haven’t yet booked your accommodation we have a perfectly adequate tent in our loft that you are very welcome to borrow.

I’m now having a recurring nightmare. Three of us in a car with pyjamas, toothbrushes and nowhere to sleep! Aaagh!!! 
...oh yes, and I promise to blog about the conference when I get back.


Wednesday 17 August 2011

Three Free Frog Facts

Try saying that after a glass of wine!

I was talking to my sister on the phone the other morning when I noticed two large eyes blinking out at me from the corner of the room.

            “Please help me,” the eyes were saying. “I don’t like it in here.”

Fact No. 1 Cats like to catch frogs at this time of the year. Mabel and Charlie bring them into the house without apparently harming them physically... although goodness knows what damage they do to the frog’s mental state of health!

Being a wimp I screamed and Mr A came to the rescue. He scooped up the frog and carried it gently into the garden. He returned with slimy hands and I yelled,

“Don’t lick your fingers!”

Fact No. 2  Frogs give off a poisonous slime when they get hot. The slime causes hallucinations and can be lethal in large doses. It does explain why princesses keep seeing handsome princes every time they kiss a frog but I wouldn’t recommend it as an alternative to Internet dating!

Mr A was only too pleased to return the frog to the garden as they love eating slugs [that was an extra frog fact thrown in for good luck!] but the frog didn’t hang around long enough for us to check if it was a boy or a girl frog.

Fact No. 3  Frogs have ears just behind their eyes. Boy frogs’ ears are as big as their eyes. Girl frogs’ ears are smaller than their eyes. It could be that girl frogs got fed up of listening to those amorous fellers with their extremely loud croaking calls and evolved smaller ears... or it could just be one of those strange facts of nature. 
Frogs are so cute... as long as I don’t have to pick them up!


Sunday 14 August 2011

You are invited to a Tea Party

Location: The bottom of this blog post
Time: Now
Dress Code: Something flowery

What a lovely idea to have a blog award celebrating friendship. The Liebster Award has been given to me by my blogger friend Rebecca Bradley at Life in Clarity. Do pop along and visit her [but not until you’ve joined me in our tea party, of course.]

I don’t understand loners. I’m best as part of a group [even if I am a bit bossy]. Friends are the most important part of my life. When I say ‘friends’ I mean members of the family too. My best friends are my amazing kids, my long-suffering husband and my lovely sister.

And when I say ‘friends’ I don’t mean all those people on Facebook. I mean the ones who turn up when you’re in trouble, who phone when things are going wrong, who offer to do something... anything and who genuinely want to make you feel better.

Some of the people I’ve met through this blog have become friends and I know that quite a lot of my friends read this blog. I also know that you know how awful this last year has been. Last August Rod was seriously ill in hospital, last September my darling dog Josh died, in December Mum collapsed and this April Mum died. I’ve needed my friends more than I ever have done before. So, to say thank you for being there, I’m throwing a Jvirtual tea partyJ 

Friends who read blogs have no idea how exciting it is to get a new follower. It’s not the same as making a new friend but it shows that there’s someone out there who I’ve connected with and that’s important. So do please follow my blog before partaking of cake and a cuppa and then you might like to go and visit some of my blog friends, because I must now pass on the Liebster Award to six bloggers who, in the spirit of Rebecca’s wishes, have less than 250 followers.

So I award the Liebster Blog Award to:

Kathy McKendry at Imagine Today 

Pauline Barclay at Scribbles

Amy Sonnichsen at The Green Bathtub

Julie Kemp Pick at Empty Nest Insider 

And now...

It's party time!!!

    Do have a cup of tea.   

Sugar or sweeteners? 
 Or are you sweet enough? 
 *giggles at polite joke*

Help yourself to cake.

Anyone fancy jelly and ice cream?

Isn't the weather fabulous. We're lucky the rain's held off for our party. Are you going on holiday this year? Top up of tea? Thank you so much for coming along. I love parties... 

Tuesday 9 August 2011

Do you remember old-fashioned TV sets?

Dad was an electronic fanatic and so we had all the latest gadgets in our house long before they became commonplace. I can’t remember ever not having a television, although TV viewing in those days was very different to today. In the 1950s:

The BBC was the one and only station. The picture was in black and white and the screen was tiny.

Daily transmissions didn’t start until 5 pm but you had to turn the TV set on a good five minutes beforehand to let it ‘warm up’.

The Epilogue ended the day’s transmissions with a religious talk and then the picture disappeared in on itself leaving just a white dot in the middle of the screen that lasted long after you pulled out the plug.

Dad was always adjusting either the horizontal or the vertical line hold and sometimes both. The picture would scroll up and over the screen or it would skid round sideways.

There were often gaps in-between the programmes. It wasn’t as slick and professional as it is today. Whenever there was a bit of spare time they would have an Intermission. One of these was The Potter’s Wheel.

Our whole family would sit down together to watch programmes like Dixon of Dock Green. I saw an extract from an old episode not so long ago and it was painfully naive. We were so unsophisticated and easily pleased in those days.

How far back does your TV memory go?


Friday 5 August 2011

Planet Jupiter - some questions

Today Nasa is sending a rocket to Jupiter. Juno will do a quick circuit of Mars, back for a once around Earth to give it an extra boost, and then away. Amazing! Mind blowing!

It’s an impressive rocket by anyone’s standards. Once it’s on its way, all its power will come from the Sun and it’ll be travelling at 160,000 mph. Incredible!  Nigh-on unbelievable!

The down side is the cost... $1.1 billion! 
Yes that’s $1.1 billion!

So here are my questions:

1.  Do we really need to know what lurks beneath the clouds that shroud this gassy, mysterious planet?

2.  As a writer does this sort of exploration inspire your writing of other-planetary worlds or does it detract from the mystery?

3.  And is it just me or does $1.1 billion dollars sound like a lot of money to spend when there are so many financial problems in the world, so many people starving, so many communities struggling to survive, so many charities desperate for donations, so much still to be done here on Earth?

I felt I had to add a note here. This post has almost caused a domestic. Mr A has asked me to say that he thinks it is well worth every dollar as it’s furthering our knowledge of our world and the Universe. What do you think?

The inspiration for this blog was brought to you via Jenny Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday and the letter P.