Life is never perfect – July

Last post ended with, ‘Life is never perfect …..living ‘in the meantime’ and enjoying what we can is the way forward.’ Since then, I have written my monthly blog but haven’t posted. Why? Because, until today, I wasn’t sure of what to leave in and what to keep out. My blog is about writing, my henfriends and me. There has been a lot going on with me and to leave it out of my blog feels like a big chunk of my life and how it affects my writing. It has take a while, but I’m going to admit to being ill. Feeling fit and fine but being bloody ill is annoying!

This month I had to have a lumpectomy for breast cancer. I found the lump last month, thought it would be nothing and got a shock – a massive shock! It has been action stations since then with a quick trip into hospital for the lumpectomy and a determined recovery so I can get to France at the end of the month.

Looking back, Lumpectomy day was more memorable than it should have been. The hospital is just 10 miles away and I was a day patient so it was meant to be a speedy trip in and out.  As I was in theatre the skies went black and the heavens opened and OH got the jitters – what sort of omen was this? -I was blissfully oblivious as the rains fell and we had the worst flash flooding of the year.

I left hospital at teatime and we set off for the half hour drive home. We would have been better with an ark! Every road we tried to take was closed through floods or gridlocked with diverted traffic. We were well and truly stuck and with plenty of water outside but no water inside to take my painkillers. We saw ambulances that were unable to move so, other than calling for a helicopter, (OH was frantically thinking of options!)we had to sit it out.

At 22.00, I was in need of the codeine I’d been given but my mouth was like sandpaper. Ever resourceful, I found a plastic lid and held it out of the window and then found a murray mint in the glove compartment. With a few drops of rainwater and the mint, I could swallow the 30 mg of bliss that left me in a peaceful snooze as OH finally found his way home by 5 minutes to midnight.

We got off lightly. Our house was flood free. The school uphill was flooded and closed for the rest of term, the houses downhill had carpet and furniture floating out of them but, by a lucky drainage quirk, we were totally dry!

After that, my recovery has been quick, I’ve done all of the exercises to pass physio and I have been given the green light to go to the cottage that we’ve rented in the beautiful countryside around Sarlat, France next month. Can’t wait – Life isn’t perfect but it’s good!

Enjoying a cuppa and unaware of the journey ahead.    The school at the top of our road

A cuppa then home        The school at the end of our street

Message to Student Self

Wine and sunshine

Last week I met up with one of my oldest friends. She had travelled from Texas for a wedding and we managed an overnight stay in Edinburgh to catch up with one another and enjoy a night on the town. As students together in Manchester, we shared lots of wild, happy times and quite a few miserable ones too. We now live thousands of miles apart, but the friends from my teens are the ones who still know me best.

Viv came from Belfast and I was a Geordie girl; we became friends when another student showed herself to be a bully. She should never have tried to take the two of us on!

Viv was discussing how our student selves would marvel that we could now stay in a luxury hotel, take taxis, eat whatever we wanted and drink good wine without counting our small change. Back in student days we were always broke but we were always out and about, somehow!

So would our student selves have listened if we could have told them -Yes, you ARE both thin!  Chrissie, you will always have a larger top half than bottom half but others would love to have your ‘curvy’ look. Viv, your hair will always have a natural curl and you will never get much past five foot but petite is attractive too. The two of you are intelligent and will have great careers. You’ll both marry and have wonderful children. You’re husbands will be OK too. You will both meet up in years to come and wonder what you saw in some of the ‘true loves’ that you lost sleep over.

Well we couldn’t know all this and wouldn’t have believed it then, but we do appreciate life now and so we enjoyed spending our cash, having a few drinks, wearing comfy shoes and collapsing into fresh linen BEFORE midnight. Scottish breakfast was good too!

Life is never perfect.We both have problems and sadness in our lives right now and we are still supporting each other and sharing tears, but we do know that living ‘in the meantime’ and enjoying what we can is the way forward.

Here’s to our lasting friendship!

Where was May?

Jarvis enjoys his holiday

What happened to May? What happened to the weather? My Grandma used to tell me ‘never cast a clout till May is out’ and this has been one of those years of wellies,woollies and brollies one day and sun loungers in the garden the next.

What happened to Maytime? Work, family, writing and the newly discovered tweeting has devoured it and I feel like I haven’t had a moment to breathe or blog! There has been fun, though!

We had a lucky day over the Jubilee weekend when the sun blazed down in the North East for the whole of an afternoon and others in the South seemed to get very wet. I sat in my red, white and blue in a friend’s garden where the champagne flowed and the sausages burned and we sang a catchy new song ‘stolen’ from a primary school celebration. ‘Here’s to the queen,the second longest reigning monarch the world has ever seen” seemed to have a couple of syllables too many! Was ‘second’ an afterthought? It will roll off the tongue much more easily when the queen becomes ‘the longest reigning’ so here’s to that happy event. It was a bit too catchy – the words have been in my head ever since!

We had a puppy as a house guest while my sister and family visited Iceland. It was the country  not the shop so they stayed a week and we got Jarvis the cocker spaniel. Sixteen weeks of energy and entertainment. He gave our two cats a new lease of life as they stalked and spied on his every move. Their interest and our sadness to see him go has brought us to the decision that a dog would be a lovely addition to the household and we are ‘looking’ Yay!

I’m definitely going to have a cocker spaniel in one of my novels. My current WIP features a delightful old cat.

Now what sort of dog should we go for and who can come up with a good name for the pup?

Readers all over the world!

Readers all over the world! Well, one in Canada, a couple elsewhere and the rest in the UK, but it’s a start.

I have had a busy week of writing and keeping to a deadline. This meant that the WIP had to take a back seat. Over the course of the week, I have been a news reporter, editor, publisher and subscriber. How? The job of producing a newsletter for an old pupils’ association  landed onto my laptop when I was late for an ‘ Old Eds’ meeting and couldn’t wriggle out of the task. This is the second time I’ve arrived a few minutes late to find out that I have been lucky enough to be ‘honoured’  with a role.

The first time I arrived  late, I was greeted with a round of applause and informed that I had been made vice-chair. This was painless because the vice chair didn’t have to do anything except show up. Showing up late has dangers but, earlier in the year, I was delayed yet again and walked in to a ripple of applause and ‘Oh, she’s here – our new editor!’  I found that, on this occasion,  my writing skills had been well exaggerated by old friends who remembered my eagerness to make contributions to the school magazine, ‘Avancez.’  On this fragile basis, the committee was totally confident that the continuity of the quarterly newsletter would be safe in my hands.

Is it just me who finds that, when I am late for something, I am more likely to agree to decisions made in my absence?  Now that I’m Vice Chair and Newsletter Editor for the association, I will never be late again; I don’t have time to take on another role! Guilty confession – when one of my closest friends was unable to attend, a few of us ‘volunteered’ her to be guest speaker at the next dinner. Maybe I got off lightly.

I did nothing about my new role for a couple of months and, with publishing day a week away, I had no contributions. Panic! A quick search of the internet and the local paper archives and a frantic ring around of old school friends brought in plenty of raw material and a rush to shape something up.  The week has been filled with writing all of the articles and deciding on the layout. I even had to do the back page full of sports news – not my forte. I have to admit that, yes, playing at newspapers has been fun, but I’ll be delegating sections in plenty of time for the next edition!  It took over four days to finish so I hope it is well read before it becomes a fire lighter or chip wrapping.

A few hundred copies have been posted all over the UK and abroad. I have readers! Now to transfer that skill to my fiction and get on with the WIP.

Does writing improve with sunshine?

The rock blaster stopped for the weekend. I walked across to chat to Bosszilla, the powerful woman in the yellow jacket with the stop and go road sign. She had been there every day directing the men at work and looked fierce. She turned out to be an absolutely charming lady and explained that they’’d pack up for the weekend and just needed a few hours on Monday to finish off. She was as true as her word and it took a while to get
used to silence this week.

I’ve had several sessions on the WIP. Yes, Really! In between sun, dips in the pool, some great and not so great books, wine and delicious tapas I have got to grips with it. I’ve worked on self-editing and some rewriting. I completed a self-editing course last month and it has   been invaluable in pointing me in the right direction at this stage of writing.

If you look at my links, you’ll see my blog wizard,Jamie Evans, is there and  the Writer’s Workshop is listed. They have been a real support over the last year and I signed up for their six week self-editing course. The two tutors really knew how to engage with the group and teach the skills needed at several levels. They gave invaluable individual feedback each week and this was shared within the group. 

The group, a dozen new authors at the editing stage, are a talented and supportive bunch who are great at bouncing ideas back and forth. We are going to continue sharing and critiquing one another’s work. I feel that I’ve gained a great group of writing friends from this experience.

The tutors, Debi and Emma, have their own sites with a wealth of resources. I’ve added them to my favourite links, if you care to take a look.

I think that my novel is changing for the better,but I hope it’s not like the wine I’ve brought home in the past! The times I have carried a bottle of fantastic local plonk home to find that it tastes different in cloudy, rainy Newcastle. That doesn’t happen to writing does it?
Hope not!

Chrissie

Writer’s retreat

I’m on a two week break with the Mr.and the first draft of the WIP came too. the plan was to do some revisions on the terrace of the apartment we have rented up on the cliffs overlooking Mogan. No such luck!

The terrace is peaceful until 9a.m. and then a massive mechanical drill contraption starts hewing rocks out of the cliff and a drill breaks them up. They stop at 7 p.m. The workers have ear protection , but we don’t! The din is beyond being funny after an hour and so we head off out. I’m wrting this with pen and pad by the marina and will retreat to a cafe in a vibrant people-watching square square to use their wifi before lunch. We chose an apartment without it, so that we would be interne- free for a couple of weeks, but relapsing onceor twice for blogging and emails isnt’ too bad!

The self-edit has ground to a halt. My kindle has lots of must reads on it and the apartment has shelves of interesting books – whenever does that happen? Let’s just say that most of my time is being taken up with rest, retreat from noise pollution and reading. Must keep up to date with new books and escape the stress of the building site.

I finished reading the third of ‘The Hunger Games’ trilogy and feel relieved it is over. a real page turner, but all that first person. present tense action is exhausting!  I’m reading ‘Me Before You’ by Jo Jo Moyes on the kindle and ‘The Murder Wall’ in real book form. My eye is on Dawn French’s book on the bookshelf in the apartment. She is talented and funny and I want to see if that translates into a novel too.

I’m typing this on a screen I can’t see for sun so there may be typos, Im also drinking an aperitif. Hasta Luego!

Chrissie

This New Hen is up and running

It has been an exciting Easter weekend!  Yes, it was lovely to have all the chocolate and see the family, but my ‘New Hen’ blog has been the best present this year. It needs tidying up a bit and I need to find a better picture , My daughter envisages one of me looking intelligent in front of the bookcase or at my laptop, but at least I’ve moved into my blog.

My blogging life started  in Sainsbury’s of all places. I had a shopping list for the long weekend and swiftly by-passed the clothes bargain rail because I think that it isn’t good to buy your holiday clothes along with your salad stuff and Easter eggs. It was impossible to walk straight past the magazine stand though. I hovered and there it was, this one copy of ‘Writing Mag.’ I leafed through and wondered, how many aspiring writers shop in my branch of Sainers? Just in case there are lots, I dropped this solo copy in the trolley and pressed on with the holiday load up.  

 The technology special articles, by Paula Wynne and Rebecca Woodhead,  made it seem straightforward to start blogging. I wasn’t convinced straight away. Hmmm, I thought, set yourself up in an afternoon? It can’t be that easy. I mentioned this to my visiting stepson  and he confirmed that it really would be that straightforward. What’s more, he’d show me how.

We had this up and running in no time. Thanks Jamie, I mean you had it up and running and I watched and learned how to use the site.

So now I’m here and ready to write about the enjoyment, the challenges and the steep learning curve I’m going through while trying to finish my first novel. I’m hoping to meet henfriends who enjoy reading or writing women’s fiction and who want to share the ups and downs of writing.

Before I go, I’d better mention that I’m not being hired to ‘plug’ Sainsbury’s or Writing Mag but I rate both highly this weekend -great food and invaluable info.

What’s the luckiest thing that you’ve found in your local supermarket?

Thanks for visiting ! 

Chrissie