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Sunshine Days

15 May

I know my blog can sometimes read like a misery memoir, so here are my cheerier reflections. I am just back from a long weekend spent in  Woodstock Lodge with 5 of my dearest friends, celebrating a significant birthday (which we will pretend is 40, but isn’t)IMG-20180512-WA0037 We got together as our eldest kids are all the same age (and went to school together), and now we are living through their second year at university.

The sun shone, and while we were on the Clyde Coast, we could have easily been on Lake Garda. Sunshine, prosecco,  hot tub, the works. And we talked, and we talked, telling stories, entertaining ones, heartbreaking ones, inconsequential ones. What struck me today, as I recover from the booze, is that even though we meet regularly, and talk, it is only when you have real time to speak and listen that you form deeper connections. I feel as though I understand my friends so much better from hearing more about their past, and their plans and dreams for the future (especially when our lottery wins cover more than the weekend’s food shopping).

So, it’s back to reality now: the shopping and the washing done, the house pulled back together, tomorrow the creative stuff starts again.



The Wedding Party

4 Mar

The Wedding Party

She’d been to these parties before, when a bride wants another wear out of her wedding dress. ‘It’ll be fun,’ Stacy said. ‘All the girls from the office are coming. Another chance to feel really special, eh Christine?’

It was also a chance to have a snide look at your friends’ weight gain; the not- yet-revealed pregnancies; the workmates who would have to make excuses because their dress came out of the hire shop, or the man they called their husband wasn’t really.

Christine had no such worries: at forty she had accumulated three traditional white frocks and two less formal ones – one from the beach wedding with Javier, (who turned out to be gay); and a grey suit from the Registry Office with James, who believed that everything should be functional (he was a bag of laughs).

Stacy’s party definitely called for white, but no amount of SlimFasting would get her into the dress she wore when she married Andy. She was so tiny then, withered away to almost nothing. Three kids later, and a hell of a lot of comfort eating and she was in a plus size for Ali. He said he liked something to hold onto, but it turned out he wasn’t great at holding onto anything.

So those two were out. All that was left was her first dress. The one that made her mum cry when she tried it on. The one that made the girls in the bridal shop rush with a veil and shoes to pop on, and even an artificial bouquet that she could hold in front of her, so she could get the full impression in the mirror.

She lifted it off the hanger, and slipped it on again. After the years of a yo-yoing waistline, it just about fitted. She circled the gold band on her finger; the one Euan had given her twenty years before. The one she had refused to remove for Javier and Ali and Andy and James. The one she had kept faithful with throughout all the subsequent failures.

Maybe if she wore this dress to Stacy’s party she would stand out among the other brides. Maybe Euan would realise what a mistake he had made. And Stacy would regret inviting her new husband’s ex-wife to her stupid wedding party.

This piece was inspired by a prompt at Creative Writing Ink

Postcards in the Attic

1 Dec

When I was younger I collected postcards, and as a result when people were having a clear-out (usually after a death), they would pass me any postcards they found. I knew I had them, I knew there were treasures there, I just kept putting off looking through them. Today, as a precursor to doing some writing, I pulled them out, and they didn’t disappoint. I haven’t reached the Majorca of the early 80s – flamenco dancers with real skirts, but I have, rather handily, found a bundle from Switzerland, Germany and Austria from the 1950s – the era of my current writing project.

Selection of the Collection

Selection of the Collection

Bizarre postcard of Ronnie and Nancy Reagan with their heads swapped, and a cheery one of a V2 flying bomb – wish you were here?

One of the photos has inspired a chain of thought already, and others are helping with the general vibe. Glad I finally opened the box.

After the Beep

4 Nov

After the Beep

He goes to the phone box every day – 20ps in his pocket; the number he used to know by heart, on a scrap of paper.

Some days no one answers, on others a voice gives racing tips. Fewer times now there is the offer of a job – something local, nothing that requires speed.

The walk takes longer each day, the occasional stumble; the rare fall. He had a phone put in in the 70s, has the latest smart technology in his inside pocket, but each day he varies his route to the last phone box, hoping that before he dies, the voice on the end of the line will reveal where the loot is buried.


This post was inspired by a photo on Creative Writing Ink


Ice Queen

22 Apr

There’s more to her than meets the eye, there’s got to be. That cold exterior must have some hidden depths. Maybe when she leaves here she helps out at a soup kitchen, or a food bank. Maybe she rescues dogs, or half-squashed hedgehogs.

She can’t possibly be this shallow – only worried about face creams and this month’s healthy eating craze. Surely her well-educated brain has space for the plight of refugees or how to combat global warming.

I look across the desk at her. She’s been trying to make me cry all day. Throwing reports at me, asking for figures she knows she has banjaxed, commenting on how her sister would never leave the house without full make-up, let alone turn up at work with dried baby-sick to be scratched off a jacket, and she had twins.

I do not rise to her bait. I have worries and joys and pains and delights that she cannot even image as she sails her solitary course. But one day she will approach me from the wrong angle, and find that I have hidden depths, and there is a fire raging within my ice.



This piece of flash fiction was inspired by the photo prompt at Creative Writing Ink – their copyright.

Spark Joy

21 Jan

Unless you’ve been buried under a pile of old clothes, you’ll have seen the media frenzy surrounding Spark Joy by Marie Kondo – described as the Zen of tidying. Now, despite not having read it (although I did listen to an interview with Kondo on Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour), it does rather make my blood run a little cold.

I’m not going to slag a fellow writer about money and old rope – really, do we need to be told how to fold our clothes? But I am going to make a case for clutter.

Marie Kondo says if an item doesn’t give you joy when you look at it, you’ve to chuck it. Okay, so let’s say you’ve got a love letter from the first person who broke your heart, that might not spark joy, but that doesn’t stop you from pulling it out every now and again and re-reading and feeling – well, any number of emotions. Maybe there is some joy in the memories, or more likely anger, or hurt, but not enough that the letter is ripped up and thrown out. So it is kept, an item which does not spark joy, but which causes pain, but that’s okay because we’re grown-ups and we don’t have to be happy all of the time.


What about that bundle of newspapers you’ve let accumulate under the coffee table, or in a pile in the kitchen? They aren’t about to spark anything, unless you’re using them to light a fire, but wait, don’t throw them out, just yet. You’re a writer aren’t you, or a thinking person, or someone who has to act in the world? Maybe another flick through on a different day will lead you to notice an article you missed the first time around. Maybe there will be a phrase which will suddenly resonate. Maybe a photograph that will sow the seed of a new short story.

Now, don’t get me wrong, if you’re selling your house, you might not want your 200 penguins displayed – as the woman on Phil Spencer Secret Agent did (oh yes, I’ve been procrastinating/wasting time big style). You don’t want rotting food or dirty clothes lying about, but a bit of clutter, a bit of mess, that’s what makes us who we are, that’s what signals to our visitors where our priorities lie (writing poetry or picking up Lego?), it’s what tells those around us what we like, and what we don’t really care about.

I know that mess can become chronic, and I don’t want to turn up on The Hoarder Next Door, but if everything has a place, and everything is in it, where’s the chance encounter with a postcard you bought at the Art Gallery that has been lying in your inbox for a year, or the key that has no lock, and where’s the fun in that?

Bookshelf for 2016

15 Jan

Finally had a bit of time to rummage through the many bookcases in the house and pull together this year’s shelf of books to be read. Some of them have carried over from last year, although some of the unread were demoted. I finished Gyles Brandreth’s latest book Word Play yesterday – a good Christmas holidays book, and am carrying on with Jeffrey Eugenides ‘Marriage Plot’ – I really enjoyed Middlesex, so hope this one is as good. There will inevitably be books which will be read on the Nook including Americanah which I’ve to read for my book group, and additions to the plan, again depending on my book group list, but I did like my bookshelf last year enough to try again this year. I’ve set a GoodReads target of 24, but have 26 books here – some large, some small.

Reading Shelf for 2016

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