So, Where Were We?

Great Britain, Skye, Portree
Great Britain, Skye, Portree (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sorry to have been away so long. It’s a month since my last post and it’s been a busy time. However, I’m determined to get back in my blogging stride once more.

I thought that I’d combine the usual themes of the first two Tuesdays in the month, namely – a roundup of island life and a bit of rant and a rave.

The biggest news is that last month our daughter, her husband, their daughter and the cat relocated to the island and are living with us until they get a place of their own here. We’ve all settled into a routine and are managing to live comfortably together. It’s such a wonderful blessing to have at least some of our family so close.

London Olympics 2012
London Olympics 2012 (Photo credit: Andrea Vascellari)

School stopped for the summer holidays at the end of June and the last couple of weeks of term at our primary school were incredibly busy. We had the closing ceremony for our very own Olympics, we had the final mile of our marathon in a month for children, parents and teachers, and we had our Olympics musical and our annual prize-giving. Pupils, parents and staff were certainly giving it their all right up until the last day. I love my teaching job but oh I do love the holidays as well!

English: Castle of Edinburgh
English: Castle of Edinburgh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But there was no immediate rest. On the day school stopped me and the husband packed up and drove the three hundred miles to Edinburgh for a week of socialising and shopping.

My city break got off to a fab start on the Saturday morning. I went to a talk at Edinburgh Central Library by author, Sara Sheridan. I’ve reviewed some of Sara’s books here on the blog – two of her historical ones – ‘The Secret Mandarin’ and ‘Secret of the Sands’ and her latest novel, ‘Brighton Belle’ – her first venture in crime writing. Sara is an author that I greatly admire and I was delighted that her talk coincided with my visit to the capital. I was also delighted that Sara invited me to meet her for a coffee before her talk. She’s a lovely lady and her talk on her writing career and on her plans for an eleven book series for Mirabelle Bevan aka Brighton Belle was fascinating and informative.

The week continued with an extended family gathering of my husband’s clan – a rare occurrence where almost everyone was in the same place at the same time and a great chance for a catch up. We continued to be sociable for the rest of the week and had several lunches and dinners with various old friends. I also spent some time at the big, city shops.

This was my first retail therapy session in nine months – so I made the most of it. One of my purchases was a brand new crash helmet. It’s a flip-up, white number and will serve me well on my up and coming ‘granny rides pillion’ escapades – of which more later.

Prometheus Trailer2 - Pilot Seated
Prometheus Trailer2 – Pilot Seated (Photo credit: Filmstalker)

We also made it to the cinema. We saw Prometheus – the Alien prequel – jaw-dropping special effects made up for a slight lack of characterisation and a thin plot. And we were tickled pink to see the opening scenes that were shot on Skye. Our island was even mentioned in the story – apparently Skye was visited by an alien race 35000 years ago and this is evidenced by cave paintings on the island. What a hoot!

It was a good week in most respects and definitely deserving of a rave review – but I’m afraid there’s a bit of a rant too. Edinburgh is my home town. It holds a special place in my heart. I love it. But – oh dear – it’s in a very bad way. The city centre has been completely wrecked by a botched and ridiculous attempt to install a tram system. The project is years behind the original timetable and millions of pounds over budget. The route has been drastically reduced from that which was first intended and will be of little practical use if and when it ever gets up and running. Edinburgh already has an excellent bus service – one of the best in the UK – so there’s really no need for trams. The heart has been ripped out of what was a most beautiful city. Roads are closed and traffic endlessly diverted, businesses are ruined as customers and clients can’t get access, tourists are baffled and locals bewildered. Crossing the city is like being in a circle of hell. I was left feeling very sad by Edinburgh’s plight.

English: The Cuillin Hills from the Ord to Tok...
English: The Cuillin Hills from the Ord to Tokavaig road In fine weather, some of the best views on the whole of Skye of the Cuillin can be seen around here. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was very glad to get back to our stunningly beautiful island. Unlike the rest of the UK, the Hebridean islands have had only a couple of days rain in almost eleven weeks. Locals and tourists are enjoying a very pleasant summer. The hedgerows are brimming with tall, ox-eye daisies and purple flowering clover. Sheep are being gathered in to be shorn. Porpoises, dolphins and whales have all been spotted in inshore waters. The tourist season is in full swing – there are cruise ship passengers, bikers, campers, caravanners, climbers, cyclists, B&B guests, self-caterers and walkers – the island attracts all sorts. It’s great to see it showing itself off to best advantage – with no mist and rain. And as I write this at ten o’clock in the evening it’s still light outside – marvellous.

At the moment – when not being distracted by my gorgeous wee granddaughter – I’m catching up with all the aspects of my non-school life, including both writing and non-writing projects. The husband and I hope to do a couple of motorcycling trips – including a jaunt to the Western Isles. We also have a few local walking trips in mind.

Rainbow Cave arch in the Galilee, Israel.
Rainbow Cave arch in the Galilee, Israel. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

And in ten days time I’m off to Israel for a week. This will be my third trip to the country. I’m going to visit an old school friend who is an Israeli. We’ve kept in touch and see each other about once a decade. It’s my turn to go there. It’s an amazing, beguiling, complex and at times baffling and infuriating place – and is well worth a visit. My friend lives in Haifa on the Mediterranean coast so it will be hot. But we plan to escape to the relative coolness of the Galilee for a couple of days. I can’t wait to see her and to catch up properly – face-to-face.

So watch this space at the end of the month for a report on my trip.

In the mean time there will be a book review post on the late Tom Lubbock’s incredible book ‘Until Further Notice I am Alive’ and a guest post by Karen Cole on ghost-writing.

And I reckon that’s enough to be going on with.

So, for now, tioraidh!

Out Like A Frisky Lamb

And so March is coming to an end and it seems set to live up to its old reputation for coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb. In common with most of the rest of the United Kingdom our little island has been having the most gorgeous weather for the last week. Apparently the Hebrides were hotter than the Balearics at the weekend. Daffodils are out in their hosts and my walk to work is scented by the coconut waft of yellow gorse flowers from the hedgerows and verges.

We’re trying not to get too comfortable without our vests and our cardis though. April often sees a fall of ‘lambing snow’ – but for now we’re soaking up the full spectrum light and giving the central heating a rest.

As for my end of month round up of my March reading and writing – well – it was tough but I’ve now got properly back into the writing groove. My second novel is back on track and I aim to have the first draft complete by mid July. Then after a bit of a break I intend to get on with the rewriting and redrafting of my novel for children.

I’ve always found that listening to music helps me get in the writing zone. All three of my books are associated with particular playlists. And playing the ‘Novel 2’ tunes definitely retuned my brain to the correct writing frequency.

My current read is the book I received as a Mothers’ Day present. It’s Mary Quant’s autobiography. I dropped heavy hints about it – i.e. said to the husband that I’d like it and to tell the kids if they asked for ideas of what to give me.

I’m a child of the sixties so Mary Quant – fashion designer, trendsetter and  feminist was a role model, heroine and figurehead for lassies of my vintage. I’m whizzing through the book. Quant is no great writer, and the book might annoy some by being a bit haphazard in its organisation and a mite repetitive here and there, but i find that to be part of its charm. There’s no airbrushing or ghost-writing. It’s honest and I’m gripped by it. It’s really like sitting down and having a right good blether – or rather, listening to anecdote after anecdote – in no particular order – but all lively, interesting and full of insight. It shows Quant’s take on her life as a wife, mother and woman as well as a grounded and highly successful businesswoman. The book is an original and refreshingly female take on an amazing era. The hardback is available now and the paperback (cover above) will be out in September.

So the first quarter of 2012 is almost gone. I began the year with a new motto – ‘NOW’ – 2012 is to be, for me a year of ‘Carpe Diem’, of less procrastination, of feeling the fear and doing stuff anyway… And so far I’m doing not a bad job of sticking to it. My main focus is on the ‘now’ – only the odd glance backwards – and no worrying about futures that only exist in my over-anxious brain.

On that chilled note, I’m off on holiday on Saturday for a week. Yes – it’s the school holidays – yes again!  The husband and I are going to Ireland with the son and his lovely lass. And when we get back the daughter, her wonderful husband and our gorgeous wee granddaughter are coming to stay for a week. Totally gle mhath (very good)

Whatever your Spring festival of choice or conviction – Enjoy and be in the moment!

Tioraidh for now…

Time Out and a good use for the CSR…

On the cliffs at Flamborough

October Holidays

I’m a lucky girl. I get two weeks half-term break from school in October. This is my second week of leisure and I’m loving the time off.

For the first week me and the husband went to Yorkshire and stayed in a holiday cottage in the Wolds. We stayed in a wee place called Helperthorpe  just on the southern edge of the North Yorkshire Moors. Yorkshire is one of my favourite areas south of the border. It’s so refreshing to spend time in a totally different landscape from the one you’re used to. Yes, even a beautiful place like Skye just becomes normal when you live here.

York Castle - Clifford's Tower

We had trips to Filey, Scarborough, Whitby and Bridlington – all lovely old-fashioned seaside towns. We also went to Flamborough Head – spectacular but must have the grimmest public toilets in the universe! – and to the RSPB reserve at Bempton – where we saw a stoat in a crack on the cliff face as well as lots of seabirds. One of the highlights was a visit to York and a fish and chip lunch at Betty’s Tearooms – delicious! Husband was in his element visiting the steam railway at Goathland in the village where the TV series ‘Heartbeat’ was filmed.

Steam train at Goathland

And I loved the old advertisements on the station walls – see below –

Cigarette ad at the station

 

Ah -the good old days - when smoking was good for you!

It was the husband’s birthday while we were away and I took him out for a meal at the Bluebell Inn in Weaverthorpe – (within walking distance of the cottage we were staying in –what a novelty for us!). He says it was one of the best meals he’s ever had – I must say it was scrumptious – and we had a lovely waitress who made the evening feel really special. yes there’s a food theme running through this holiday!

The Bluebell Inn

Now we’re back home and I’m getting some writing done – both on the novel and on the blog. And after nice quality time with the husband, it’s good to also have quality time to write. Last term at school was so exhausting that the writing had all but stopped.

I’ve prepared lots of posts for the blog – to post over the coming weeks – you’ve been warned! And I’ve also begun to make – slow – progress with the novel once more.

I’m not a huge fan of winter – or at least of the 60 mile drive to school in the winter – but I do like the long dark evenings and wild weather if I’m indoors and can be at my desk writing – without feeling guilty about the neglected garden or that I should be out walking.

There’s already snow on the high ground and more migrating greylag geese join the natives on the croft fields each day – and the swifts have gone. The deer are back on lower ground and liable to jump out onto the road anytime, anywhere. The loch is grey and turbulent; the night sky –spectacular. Yes, it’s time to tether all outdoor objects that can’t be put under cover – the first winter gale can’t be far off. Time, too, to put the survival kit in the boot of the car – just in case the car (or I) break down on the moor – where there’s no mobile signal and few passing motorists.

And once school goes back the children will be full of Halloween, bonfire night and whisper it – Christmas.

Keep warm – burn a copy of the Comprehensive Spending Review!

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.

Withdrawal symptoms

Swans and cygnets in Hyde Park

I’ve just returned from holiday in London and Edinburgh – two great cities. I had lunch with two writer friends – separately – while I was away, and on both occasions we did talk writing for some of the time –  but no actual writing was done for two weeks – complete cold turkey. Well – almost. I did still find that the characters and plot of the work-in-progress popped into my head at least once a day. But I think it’s probably a good thing to step away from the word-processor once in a while and just let things brew away at the sub-conscious level.

And now I’m back and raring to get going again. There’s the novel to get on with of course, but I also have a few other projects to keep me at my desk. I’m planning to go in for two competitions – a piece of flash fiction and a short story required for these – and I have a children’s novel buzzing about in my head that I need to complete an outline for. So I better get on with it. Back soon with a progress report.