A Lovely Surprise!

p184689_b_h9_ahI miss Sex And The City. This unsolicited thought surprised me one day last week as I went about my daily routine. I realised its absence had left a void in my life that has yet to be filled. I missed its style, its glamour, its quirkiness. I missed the exploration of the relationship nuances between men and women, women and women, and men and men. Its sharp and sassy writing, full of humorous observations, was always uplifting, even after numerous repeats. But what I missed most was the four female characters who could be charming and irritating, paradoxically, in equal measure: Carrie and her neurotic ruminations; Samantha and her, often, gauche impropriety; Miranda, steely in her determination to try and control every aspect of her environment, and Charlotte with her innate ability to don rose-tinted glasses in an attempt to paper over the cracks of her life. And then, with a backdrop of sky scrapers standing tall and proud is the city of New York — a fifth character, if you like — bohemian and vibrant. I’m sure all of us can identify some facet of our own personality within this collection of character traits. Continue reading

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Walking Back to Happiness

Those of you who return regularly to read my blog — and bless you for that — must, by

national-walking-monthnow, be thinking that I’ve:

  1. Been abducted by aliens and as a result of the mandatory memory wipe have no idea of the time lapse between posts.
  2. Changed my name to Tica Conde and emigrated to Peru to avoid an unpaid catalogue bill from 1978.
  3. Fallen down a well without access to a mobile phone or possession of a GPS locator and had to wait until an unsuspecting dog walker stumbled across it, needing a drink for his thirsty hound.

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Hook-a-duck

Catch a duckJust over a week ago — Good Friday, to be exact — we visited another National Trust site, accompanied by our grandson, Ben. Amongst the attractions was a makeshift fair, one stall of which was the hook-a-duck. Ben, being seven, immediately lobbied us to try this out.

Now correct me if I’m wrong, but somewhere in my distant past when I were a lass and gerrin’ up at five in’t mornin’ to light fire for me da before he went off t’werk — okay, that might be a slight exaggeration; I’m not quite that old, yet — hook-a-duck possessed an element of skill that made the effort seem worthwhile. The plastic birds would bob about on a pool of water at enough of a distance so as not to make the exercise seem too easy, and in order to connect hook with said duck, a degree of fine motor dexterity was necessitated. Even then, if all went swimmingly (like the pun?), you weren’t guaranteed a prize. Chance played an all important part in the equation because you couldn’t be sure you’d hooked a winner until the underside of the duck was revealed. Continue reading

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Spring is in the building!

SpringSunday was, officially, the first day of spring, and what a lovely way to start the season. The sun had decided to put in an appearance for a change, instead of shirking off and  cowering behind a bland and depressing cloud-laden sky, so it wasn’t necessary to go out wearing enough clothing to take part in an Arctic expedition.

Taking advantage of the increasingly warmer weather, my husband and I (gone all majestic again) decided upon a visit to Dunham Massey last Thursday — a National Trust site that’s only about forty minutes drive away from our home. As members, we qualified for free entry to the house and gardens. (The house doesn’t open on Thursdays, so a repeat trip will be necessary to view that.)  It was glorious, with a deer park contained within acres of land sprawled out as far as the eye could see, and as we walked among the thousands of seasonal flowers dotting the landscape of the wooded gardens, the atmosphere was imbued with a sense of hope.

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Dark on the Mountain

Dark-on-the-Mountain-front-cover-final-small-e1439282415788by Henry Mitchell

Dark On The Mountain, by Henry Mitchell, is a collection of short stories from Alfie Dog Fiction and the latest I’ve chosen to review as a member of their Reader Panel.

There are twelve stories in total, written with a strong authorial voice, and by the end of the book, the reader has been introduced to characters whose quirky, charismatic, unpleasant and often dangerous nature allow an insight into a different world. This danger is again echoed in the fictional locations that are created from an amalgamation of areas from the north and south of America, with its untamed forests and majestic backdrop of the Appalachian Mountains. It is the latter that provides the linchpin to hold this collection together and give the book its title. Continue reading

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Love doesn’t have to be soft and fluffy

Dog sleepingValentine’s Day is almost upon us again, as is evident by a sea of red in the shops: red hearts, red flowers, red balloons; it’s like an explosion in a blood bank.

We’ve decided not to bother sending cards to each other this year; we try to show our mutual appreciation all year long. This week it came in the form of a new pillow from my husband. Not very romantic, you may think. But, at nearly £85 — and not even gold-platedgeisha or diamond encrusted — it was more expensive than any Valentine’s gift we’d usually buy each other. The exorbitant cost is because it’s a Tempur pillow that moulds to the shape of your head and neck to provide maximum support; something ordinary pillows fail to do. But is it effective, though? The neck pain has lessened, although my lower back pain persists, but this Takamakura leaves me thinking: stick my head into a vat of black dye, fashion my hair into a fancy chignon, and call me Geisha. It’s like sleeping on a brick! Continue reading

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No diversions, please!

DiversionsFor the past few weeks I’ve been concentrating my efforts on writing flash fiction and short stories, in preparation for submission to several competitions that are coming up. However, because I’ve been absorbed in this exercise, as well as at the planning stage of my novel, it has left me struggling to come up with ideas to post on this blog. Usually, when this occurs, I can access some dark recess of my brain and retrieve a subject matter worth writing about. This time, I found myself worrying that if I were to change horses midstream, it might throw me off track, and I’d struggle to pick up the reins again. (See what I did there … metaphor, allegory — oh, and cliché — all in one passing thought.) Continue reading

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Alan Rickman

Alan Rickman  3 14-Jan-2016 17-50-13 Page 1This morning I woke with a post fully formed in my mind, intending to publish it later today. This all changed, when I heard the devastating news that Alan Rickman had died.

Numerous tributes have already been paid to this incredible actor, remarking upon his distinctive voice, as well as his affability and generosity as a human being. I applaud and remember him for those things, too. Hamlet ticket 14-Jan-2016 17-51-58But, I also recall the thrill of seeing him perform live in Hamlet, alongside Geraldine McEwan, at St George’s Hall, Liverpool, back in 1992. Despite paying a cursory trip to the loo prior to the performance, the urge to go again struck me the instant the actors came on stage. Not wishing to miss a moment of my idol — and not able to leave because the exit doors were being used by the cast to enter the stage — I had to wait through Shakespeare’s longest play for the interval. My bladder was traumatised, but it was worth it. Then a few years later in 1996, whist on holiday in Scotland with a friend and our children, we learnt that Alan Rickman was directing the film The Winter Guest in nearby Pittenweem, Fife. I was overwhelmed with excitement at the opportunity to see him again, in the flesh. However, by the time we’d organised ourselves and arrived at the location the following day, the cast had packed up, leaving only a drift of artificial snow in their wake, which was probably for the best as I would have appeared a bumbling idiot, not knowing what to say to him had we met. My friend and I managed to sneak a look at the shooting schedule — left at a local shop — and set about writing a tongue-in-cheek letter to Alan, himself, enclosing a stamped-addressed envelope and requesting an autographed photograph. The obliging shopkeeper agreed to pass this on. Unfortunately, the crew packed up and relocated, unexpectedly, the next day. I hoped it had nothing to do with my note, although I wasn’t certain then whether it had been safely received. My friend’s nine-year-old son spent the rest of the holiday in search of ‘Aaron Mitchell’, having misheard his name as we talked about him. Nearly six months went by before an envelope with Letter from Al 14-Jan-2016 17-56-42familiar handwriting turned up on my mat, enclosing the requested photograph (shown in this post). That was nearly twenty years ago, and I often wonder whether he took my words in the spirit in which they were intended and had a good laugh in the pub that night. I certainly held court on the matter for some time afterwards, entertaining friends and family, who derived much amusement from the humour inspired by the event.

The relatively premature and recent deaths of Lemmy, David Bowie and Alan Rickman at the age of 69 years old (Lemmy made it to 70, by a few days) serve to remind us that no one knows what’s round the corner in life, so we should enjoy it and make the most of every day. RIP, to all! But, Alan Rickman will always hold a special place in my heart. He distracted and amused me as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves during a dark period in my life, then gave me hope of new beginnings with his sensitive portrayal of Jamie in the wonderful film Truly, Madly, Deeply. As my life was getting back on track after meeting my now husband, he was there again exhibiting his vulnerability and gullibility as Emma Thompson’s husband in Love Actually. Thank you for always being entertaining. I shall raise a glass in your honour, this evening.

 

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Up The Garden Path

Up The Garden PathPatsy Collins is renowned on the short story circuit as a master of her craft. I have read many of her offerings, over the years, and can honestly say, I’ve yet to read a bad one. This collection, published by Alfie Dog Fiction and entitled Up The Garden Path, is no exception. The stories are absorbing, entertaining and beautifully crafted. They deal with a variety of difficult subject matter including death, isolation, low self-esteem and insecurity, as well as the frustration of growing old, but invariably end with a message of hope.

Patsy demonstrates an extensive knowledge and love of gardening, which reverberates throughout her stories — hence the title — and is probably most evident in Flowers for Milly and The Garden, the latter of which has an unexpected and surprising twist to the tale.

If you’re a fan of the familiar style adopted by popular women’s magazines, you will love this collection and even if you’re not, you can’t help but admire the author’s expertise, within her chosen genre.

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A Time for Reflection

New Year's ResolutionsIt’s that time of year again when, if you’re a tad masochistic like myself, you choose to reflect upon the achievements — or lack thereof — that you’ve made over the past twelve months. (Give me a minute, I’m just donning my hair shirt and getting the cat o’ nine tails ready.)

Unfortunately, my achievements have been relatively few and far between this year, especially when compared to many of the other writer bloggers out there. Having said that, I do have a few successes to speak of — albeit minuscule — which I deem as a positive. There is no magical end goal in writing terms; every success is a goal in itself to be celebrated. And that’s what I’m going to continue to kid myself with. Continue reading

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