Berries, Storms and a Happy New Year

Storm clouds over Skye

The season’s changing – the weather is distinctly autumnal. According to the BBC, autumn will be late this year – I beg to differ. This year summer never really got started in Skye  and I think we’ve missed that particular window. The dark is deep enough now for the stars to be visible again and Venus  is shining brightly once more in the eastern night sky – as the planet that’s first up and last to bed, it’s both the evening and morning ‘star’. There have been berries on the rowan trees in the garden for several weeks now – much earlier than normal.

Rowan berries

And of course school’s now back. There’s also a severe weather warning in place for the Hebrides  this evening and overnight. All ferry sailings are cancelled as a force eight blows out in the Minches and gusts of up to 70mph are expected. The wind is roaring down the chimneys and the rain is battering at the windows. The lights are flickering and I hope the power stays on – at least long enough for me to finish this post. We expect this sort of weather in the winter –  but in August??

For me the start of a new school year always emphasises that summer’s over. As a teacher my life is marked out in school terms – so I’m always very aware of the passing of the year and it’s seasons. August is my New Year – more so than January. It’s been a hectic first week back – lots of meetings and planning and preparation. I’ve made my new year resolutions to stay on top of the paper work and not to get stressed – we’ll see.

 It’s been good to catch up with colleagues and exchange holiday stories. It’s also been great to see the children again. They all seem to have grown and are pleased to be on the next rung of the primary school ladder. The children in the Primary One class have settled in already and are so sparky and enthusiastic – real bright wee buttons. At the other end of the school, the new Primary Sevens are very pleased and proud to be the top dogs and they all appear just that bit more mature than they did in June. And it seems strange without our ‘graduated’ – last years Primary Sevens who’re now at high school. There’s a real buzz and energy about the place as my 33rd – OMG! – year in teaching gets underway.

Every class has a new teacher – so there’s a lot of ‘getting to know you’ stuff going on. As a learning support teacher, I work with children from Primary One to Primary Seven in both the English and Gaelic streams of the school – so I have a good overview of the pupils and am called on as the ‘continuity’ person as teachers and new classes get acquainted. we also have a new curriculum to get acquainted with – Scotland now has a ‘Curriculum for Excellence‘ – I don’t know what that means we had before – and it remains to be seen just how excellent this new one is. Our schools are facing a lot of changes so it’s probably fitting that the new year begins with a whirlwind…

Literal desks and metaphorical treadmills

So that’s it. Six weeks of summer holidays from school are over. I go back to work tomorrow. I will swap my writing desk for my classroom one and my wonderful Pro-Form exercise treadmill for one of a more metaphorical nature.

 It’s been a refreshing break and I’ve devoted a lot of the time to writing – and not just for the blog. And because bad weather and the dreaded West Highland midge have kept me indoors on lots of days, I’ve also been pounding the treadmill  in order to rest the brain and give the heart a bit of a workout.

I took a bit of a break from the novel – things had got a bit stuck and I needed to let the sub-conscious mull it all over. And while that was happening I went in for two competitions which required me to write short stories and a couple of bits of flash (very short) fiction.

One of the competitions was run by Spokenink – an audio book/story website to which I subscribe. I put in a couple of stories and heard today that I’m on the long list of 28. The short list of 10 will be announced in a couple of weeks. There were apparently hundreds of entries so I’m feeling well chuffed. Overall prize is publication and sale of the story in audio format on the website. I’ll keep readers posted…

Meanwhile back at the novel – this week I went back over all my notes and what was written so far and got the whole thing storyboarded and the key scenes written down on cards – this should help with the ‘flow’. I also did the synopsis (version 1 out of probably 500),. I found doing a synopsis a long and painful process –so difficult. But it’s done and it was worth the effort. I’m now raring to go again and know where I’m heading – I hope!

As for school – it’ll be good to be back – good to see colleagues and all the children – I do miss them. BUT of course there will be less time for writing. However  I have my plan and I WILL stick to it and the first draft of the novel should be done by Christmas. And there’s my contributions to the e-zine, Words with Jam, and my blog posts. It’s a treadmill – but it’s good fun and in spite of appearances, I think I’m actually getting somewhere.