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Monthly Archives: March 2011

autobiography, anyone?

I’ve been doing an online writing course with Exeter University. This week’s theme was autobiography (I’m looking forward to the poetry and screenwriting sections).

The exercise was to think of an early memory and write about that in a stream of conciousness to see where it took you. First draft only, to see where it went.

I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected to.

Here’s what I wrote:

‘Swimming and fish and chips on Friday nights’ was an hour-long ritual of disproportionate magic.

As the pool echoed shrilly with shrieks and splashes, I tried my first armband-free width with tentative seriousness, tummy supported by Mum’s hand (‘I took it away, it wasn’t even there! You did it on your own!’).

Then giggling hysteria as Dad, looming large and pulling wide-eyed monster faces, approached shark like, looking huge and silly at the same time.

Brother Paul in tiny black goggles, was older and already doing lengths – he had the 100 metre badge sewn into his trunks.

Afterwards, the tang of chlorine clung to our heavy clothes until we got inside the fish and chip shop and it was replaced by the smell of fat.

I chose battered sausages and chips every time.

I always went outside to look in the window of the tack shop next door: riding hats and rosettes and horse feed.

‘Come and look at the tack shop!’ I’d urge Paul. I couldn’t really understand his lack of enthusiasm.

‘You can go by yourself, if you want to look,’ said Mum.

I was the archetypal tiny Thelwell pony girl. Mum tells me they were skint in those days and sacrificed their bottle of whisky so I could have riding lessons. Which seems a shame given I was such a reticent rider. I was never going to canter happily, let alone shine in a red showing jumping blazer. It was the horses I liked, not sitting on them.

The whisky probably would have helped when Granny and Grandpa (Dad’s side) warned him off Mum because she was – gasp! – divorced and – oh, good lord! – had two children. They presented with him with evidence in the form of a neatly trimmed press cutting about a divorced women who’d murdered her new husband.

(I’ve got two dads but I never really knew the ‘real’ one – he left before I reached four. That’s another story. This is about the one who stayed, the one who brought me up.)

Unfortunately for my grandparents – well, fortunately really, since it all turned out right in the end and I have photos of my Grandpa doing the Tango with Mum after one too many gins to prove it – Dad defied the threats of ‘see that woman again or never darken our door and you can forget about any inheritance’ and ran up a huge phone bill quoting poetry down the phone to seduce his true love. The phone was engaged so long that Granny Spalding (we used geographical nomenclature to distinguish between the paternal and maternal grandparents) rushed round to Mum’s house worried she’d been murdered. She hadn’t so Gran just waved and shut the door behind her.

Like I said, it all turned out well in the end, although even now my Mum likes to pretend she was a virgin on her second wedding night. It sort of fits in with her view of the world.




500 words (or a few less)

My pledge to myself to write 500 words daily of my novel has- well, stalled a bit, what with the terrifying adventures of letting the cat out and getting lots of freelance work (hurrah!).
Not to mention the ongoing learning to ride saga… Kim was ‘let go’ – no idea why – but my naive assurance that with Karen and Fergus nothing could go wrong was brutally stamped on when I had my worst ever lesson (‘Don’t let him get away with it! Kick harder, you’re too gentle!’). Next week, I’m on Bertie, in an attempt to break the I-get-anxious-horse-plays-up-I-get-even-more-anxious cycle.

I was disappointed not to march on Saturday but we did our bit for Earth Hour in front of the fire with a couple of candles.

who’d have thought a cat could be so stressful

Pippin’s big day, the first time outside.

He loved it – raced into the next door neighbour’s garden (naturally), climbed a tree, got stuck, scrambled back down again, chased birds and is now back inside, cock of the walk, going completely mental and panting.

I, on the other hand, am having a lie down in a darkened room with a cold compress and won’t be letting him out again until next year. He was oblivious to the sudden burst of the neighbour’s chain saw, the oil delivery lorry’s reversing beep. My blood pressure rocketed.

I preferred it when he ran and hid under the stairs.

166 things

Richard Evans is walking 166 miles to protest against the cuts.

Since I can’t make it, I wonder if there are 166 things I could do to fight the shift from compassion to profit.

Hm, goes away to have a think…

World Poetry Day today

Since it’s World Poetry Day today and since the moon is the closest it’s been to the earth since 1993, here’s a poem by Roger  McGough:

Mrs Moon
Mrs Moon
sitting up in the sky
little old lady
with a ball of fading light
and silvery needles
knitting the night
Too lazy to right my own!!

First drafts

My granddad became fluent in German and French by a strategy of learning 10 old and 10 new words a day. Little and often.

I’m stealing his idea to get the first draft of a novel down on paper. 500 words, Monday to Friday, allows me to do my freelance work. And by mid November, I should have about 80,000 words to rewrite. Which’ll be the hard part.

But I’ll have something concrete accomplished.

Haiku Horses!


I’ve started a Haiku diary! Here’s today’s entry, after my riding lesson.

I try no stirrups.
Fergus grumbles and stumbles,
But I don’t fall off.

Yesterday was the more domestic:

Washing on the line
Dank and cold in the gloaming
Waits to be brought in

It’s addictive stuff. Thanks to my copy writer friend for inspiring me.

That’s not me in the photo, by the way (I wish…) It was taken at the Poplar Park Horse Trials on Sunday. (Husband says, ‘Bet they’ll get off.’ Ho ho).

Feeling the ground shake under my feet and listening to that rhythmic, heartbeat sound of galloping hooves was atavistic (that’s a word I had to look up recently and I think this is the right context…!)