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A Pleasant Valley Sunday

OK maybe not as pleasant as the one the Monkees sang about.  It’s grey, damp and raining – rubbish weather really but when you stand at our back bedroom window and look out over the valley you realise the weather is only part of what’s going on .  Farleigh Woods above the valley are now almost leafless,while in the village below there are a huge array of gold, copper and yellow trees.  When the sun is out it looks  quite spectacular (as above), but there’s no sun today and when I see the smoke from the chimneys of the quarrymens’ cottages which line the hillside road up to Monkton Farleigh village, I think of closing the curtains against this awful grey day, the cozy comfort of a  log fire and toasting crumpets for tea.  Ah well, enough of the romantic view of village life!  It is lovely though and even in this, the 21st century,  there is still an essence of the way things were when I grew up as a child in rural Wiltshire.

Now this week – well as far as my latest book is concerned I’m looking at 12,000 words completed on the current work in progress.  And I’m ahead of schedule, given the time I set aside for writing.  This was because on Tuesday I had a particularly good day when everything just flowed onto the screen.  They are rare days so have to make the most of them when they come round!

Main complaint of the week – cyclists on the pavement in town behaving like Bradley Wiggins – am just waiting to be knocked down by one!  What I don’t understand is that they use pavements because they’re concerned about being knocked down by cars then they behave like two-wheeled hooligans.  Seems the poor old pedestrian is very much at the bottom of the food chain here!

And what would life be without a moan about the buses?  Where I wait to catch my connection home we’re inundated with Uni buses.  If you’re a student they arrive probably at 2 minute intervals.  Three companies serve the 2 unis.  Student travel if they buy a season ticket can cost less than £1 a day.  It’s a fabulous service. Ordinary passengers at my stop, however, have the luxury of a bus every 20 minutes.  The uni buses, which includes bendy buses, take up 2/3rds of the stretch of pavement allocated for bus stops.  When I catch the bus home, three normal services have to pick up from one stop because there is no room – crazy and totally wrong but there you are that’s First Bus for you – a totally rubbish company!  Two of the three services are run by a rival company and something tells me that this situation has been created deliberately to make life difficult for them.  But instead what happens is if they can’t get in to the bay to pick up they simply stop in the road and hold all the traffic up – so all First end up doing is creating huge traffic jams and bad tempered motorists!

Friday at work went well but on leaving it was downhill all the way.  My bus from the hospital was 15 minutes late (First again) then when I got to the bus station I realised I had to pick up a repeat prescription from Boots.  The pharmacist checked but couldn’t find anything for me.  By the time he’d phoned the surgery and established they had sent it to Boots in the village instead of Southgate, I’d missed my connection home.  So I waited twenty minutes, got on the 6.40 and tried to relax.  It was Friday night after all, a glass of wine beckoned.  I was starting to chill, I could cope with anything, after all I was within fifteen minutes of home.  What else could happen?   We picked up in the High Street as usual and were just through the bus gate (something which earns the council a lot of money in fines from unsuspecting motorists who don’t realise it’s buses only in the left hand lane once they’ve passed the High Street) when this enormous woman in grey jog bottoms and a coat the size of an aircraft hangar stepped out into the road and stopped the bus.  With her was a small thin boy.  The driver stopped reluctantly and as he took her fare tried to explain to her where she should really have been standing.  The woman was not happy with this a bit of an argument started.  While this was going on the small boy (around 8) came up the bus and sat next to me.  Once his mother had finished telling bus driver what was what she too came up the bus and despite the fact there were other seats (including one opposite me) she decided (with a bum the size of a small country) to squash into our seat.  She literally perched herself on the edge of the seat, feet in the aisle and pushed.  This poor child beside me protested loudly, telling her that there wasn’t enough room but she argued with him (she seemed very good at that) and persisted until she had very effectively got a ledge for her enormous bum to sit on.  I can’t say I was comfortable but I didn’t want to argue either after having seen her in action with the driver.  I feared she would rear up and suffocate both the boy and me if I kicked up so sat quietly, the boy’s head almost in my lap as the bus continued its journey.  Thankfully she only rode two stops before getting up and like a ship in full sail making her way down to the front of the bus.  Her son sort of unfolded himself like a flatpack cardboard box  in a way which told me this just might be something that regularly happens to him.  ‘Sorry’ he mumbled a quick apology and then ran down the bus to join her.  Eventually I reached home, the walk from bus to front door calmed me and once that Friday night glass of wine was in my hand I was in a totally ‘who cares anyway’ mood.

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Yay! Welcome to the Spellbindingly Fun Blog Party!





A celebrity, whose name I cannot possibly divulge, contacted me recently, having read about Janice’s Spellbindingly Fun Blog Party.

 ‘Are you getting involved?’ they asked.  When I confirmed I was they wanted to know the details of my spell.  ‘And what are you going to wish for?’ they wanted to know. ‘A lottery win?  A beautiful piece of jewellery?  For your books to become best sellers?’

I had to think then.  What exactly did I want?  All the options – and Kit Domino had done her take on them earlier – seemed so many, too many.  In fact, the more I thought about it, the more I realised how tough the decision was going to be.

‘If you can’t think of anything, you could weave a spell for me.’ My new best friend whispered suggestively in my ear. ‘There is something I really want more than anything – that’s if you can’t think of anything for yourself, of course.’

Therefore my spell is not for me, it’s for a nameless someone.  In fact, after thinking about it, it’s a wish that could be echoed by many others who are currently in the same situation as my new best friend.  So being the kind of person I am and wanting to be fair I think I should cast if for all of them and let fate decide…


A small bottle of Dragons Tears

One large Moonstone

Northern Lights

One Spider’s Web from Bruce’s Cave

Small bag of Thistledown

Silver Spoon

The spell:                                                  

 Crush the moonstone in a small onyx bowl and mix with half of the bottle of Dragon’s Tears.  Sprinkle the Thistledown over the mixture.  Take the Spider’s web and lay gently over the top of the bowl.  Leave for two hours to marinate.  Add the remaining Dragon’s Tears and stir with the Silver Spoon. Decorate with the Three Rose Petals and leave under the Northern Lights for two days.  Drink on the morning of the third day, face the rising sun and repeat this verse:-



Light bringer of the new day

Cast your golden rays my way

Gift of darkness, gift of light

Give me powers of second sight

I desire not riches or romancing

Just make me the winner of Strictly Come Dancing!





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How Quickly Can I Write a Post?

Once more it’s been Collision Sunday.  So little time, so much to do!  Since returning from my mid-week break I seem to have been playing catch up with my writing taking a back seat.  So this afternoon I thought after I’d sorted out e-mails, replied to Facebook and Twitter, written two reviews and my weekend post and put two items on E-bay I’d be able to settle down to writing.  But that hasn’t happened.  Oh no, it’s now 8.10 and with everything else now sorted I’ve just started this blog.  At 9.00 I’m going down for my weekly episode of Downton Abbey so that’s the deadline, like it or not!

So what’s my week been like?  Well pretty good actually.  It was really strange not to have to go to work until Friday.  Although when I actually got home I wished that I had booked that day  off too as Thursday evening we were due to go to a concert in town and I really needed to get an early night.  I’m up at 6 when I have a working day so really need my eight hours.  Anyway concert was good, came out at 10.30 and home by 11.  Work Friday went well.  We have a handover book where we note down everything that we’ve both done or are in the process of doing which needs picking up and finishing.  It’s an essential communication tool for the job, otherwise things would just drop through the void in a case of ‘I thought you’d done that – Me, no I thought it was you.’  Thankfully there were only a couple of ‘Could you do’s… in the book and which just left the other regular things, like setting up meetings and diary and leave checks for next week.  So not as bad as I thought it would be.

Last Friday also happened to be  Ted’s Big Day out – the hospital’s version of ‘Children in Need/Comic Relief’ which occurs every year in mid-October to raise funds for special projects or state-of-the-art equipment. Run by the Forever Friends Charity which operates within the hospital, currently we have a £5 million target to reach for a new cancer centre.  Every year the fund-raising day is themed.  This year is was Fluorescent Friday which turned out all sorts of interesting outfits including garish pink or yellow ties and matching socks, ra-ra skirts, flowers in the hair and of course, the good old standby high visibility safety vest.  The whole community get involved including businesses and schools and a whole lot of money is raised.

Oops! It’s now 8.55 and I haven’t finished so will return tomorrow!

It’s 10.00 on Monday morning and am back in front of the screen.  Need to wrap this up then put two items on e-bay (which didn’t get done yesterday) then maybe, just maybe some writing before I have to leave for town and lunch with my good friend Roz who is over here from Australia for her sister’s birthday.  I haven’t seen her for a year but we keep in touch and she’s settled in so well (a very gregarious lady!)  and is really enjoying life ‘Down Under’.  We used to meet up once a month and have lunch in this Chinese Restaurant, always the window seat and I really missed that after she’d gone.  But communication being what it is we haven’t lost touch, e-mails and photos have continued our friendship.  She’s become a grandmother since settling there (both her son and daughter were already living out there) and little George is now a very big part of her life.

Ah well, think it’s time to sort out my e-bay items and then, another thought, I’ve a reunion to organise with some guys I used to work with.  An annual event which has got slightly pushed to one side because of writing.  But hang on, writing isn’t the problem is it, as currently I’m having trouble organising time for it – it’s all the other stuff in between.  Something tells me I really need to get a PA!

Catch you next week!


PS There’s no time to get back on the ms before I leave – ah shucks!  Whatever happenes I’ll just have to make sure I keep this evening free and I’m holding myself to that!

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Well it was supposed to be Sunday but…

Last night I sat down and wrote my usual Sunday post.  Unfortunately it somehow got lost.  Yes it just upped and disappeared.  Now that is so frustrating!  I had that happen to me with my old computer which had no automatic save on Word.  I’d spend hours writing, only to have the message ‘Microsoft has encountered a problem and needs to close’ appear with the helpful addition of ‘any work you may have been doing may be lost’. Maybe?  The screen was locked, it wasn’t maybe, it was very very definite!  It was as if some nasty gremlin had been spying on me, waiting for the moment when I’d completed several more pages of my book, before deciding to totally wreck my day.  In a moment two hours of work disappeared completely from the screen.   As soon as that happened I knew my computer’s days were numbered, that I needed a more reliable machine.  I guess I’ve become really complascent with my new all singing all dancing PC and on reflection think the fault was probably mine (end of a busy day, fingers too quick on the keyboard, rushing to get it done etc) and there were no gremlins lurking.  After an initial ‘Oh No’ I decided to take the philosopical route about the whole thing.  After all, losing a blog post wasn’t half as bad as losing an afternoon’s work on my manuscript.

So what was I writing about?  Well to kick off the post I was reflecting on how keeping e-mails down took up so much of my time.  The problem primarily  exists because of Facebook and Twitter, without them my e-mails are quite manageable.  However, if I go a day without looking at them I can guarantee I’ll have seventy plus nestling in my In Box waiting to be responded to.  Many of them aren’t direct messages to me but those that do have to have a response.  There is no easy way out of this and as  I’m going away this week know I  will have three days’ worth when I get back – a scary prospect!  I likened myself to King Canute trying to keep the sea back, it’s an impossible task but on reflection I guess it’s a necessary one as I’m a writer and need to keep in touch with everyone, and my writing friends do outnumber the social ones.

I had a really busy day yesterday. My Sundays are usually leisurely and quiet but this was a sort of payback for spending most of Saturday in town shopping and having lunch with one of my best friends.  I tend to do this on occasions without thinking about the consequences of pressures the next day.  And this time round it meant Sunday would be cleaning, ironing, cooking, answering e-mails, writing my blog, providing a 250 word piece for my writing group’s Birthday and also a post for their website.  Piece of cake I convinced myself and then found I didn’t actually get in front of the PC until 8pm with only an hour before one of my favourite programmes started.  Well, sometimes things are heaven-sent.  I sorted the e-mails fairly quickly (I’d looked at some of them while the lunch was cooking); the 250 word piece just materialised out of nowhere and with a few tweaks was completed.  The piece for the website was 2/3rds done and again was completed with ease.  Then for the blog.  I was a few sentence in when I got a phone call.  That lasted 15 precious minutes but it was from a friend who has just come over from Oz for a month and wanted just a little chat and a date when we could meet for lunch.  It was so good to hear from her that I decided the time lost was worth it.  Off I went on the blog again and before I knew where I was it was 8.50.  Then just as I went to save, a Paul Daniels moment – it was there, then it wasn’t.  Witchcraft?  Sleight of hand?  All I know is that suddenly I was looking at an empty screen.  If I’d taken myself back to my old computer days  I would have been totally heartbroken, but hey! having experienced some pretty angry moments with that old computer when I’d lost valuable manuscript time, I knew in the great scheme of things a blog was nothing, it could be rewritten and I’ve done it haven’t I?  And here it is, a day late but pretty much the same content, so no problem!

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I’m not a natural blogger, but envy those who seem to come up with interesting posts at the drop of a hat.  So I’ve been thinking all week of what to write this weekend (I’ve decided to make Sunday evening my blog night).  The general to and fro of daily life can throw up some amusing moments but not, I decided, enough to warrant discussion.  No tonight I’m going to talk about music.

Like my writing colleague Nicky Wells, I’m incredibly influenced by music when I write.  I have quite a wide taste but melodic rock is a particular favourite.  I have a huge collection of downloaded tracks on my PC which are played as I write.  I’ve even sorted out playlists for the books I’ve written so far.  This worked out especially well for the Behind Blue Eyes trilogy.  Some of the action takes place at a club called The Mill, owned by Matt’s father Tad Benedict, a retired fifties singer turned entrepreneur who owns clubs and hotels.  I based this on the Keel Club in Bathampton (an old mill on the river just east of Bath) which was very big in the sixties and at its height in popularity had a waiting list for membership.  It was one of the ‘in’ places with a mixture of live bands and DJs.  A man called Keith Johnson was the mastermind behind this; someone ahead of his time who seemed instinctively to know what sort of entertainment young people wanted.  Writing the trilogy pulled me right back into that time and, of course, the clothes and the music.  The opening number which kicks off every evening at The Mill is The Kinks ‘End of the Day’ which I felt was a track which fitted perfectly as the opening lines are ‘Baby I feel good, from the moment I arrive.  Feel good from morning to the end of the day.’

There are references in the trilogy to Motown, the Small Faces, the Moody Blues (I was a huge fan of theirs and absolute adored the gorgeous Justin Hayward) and many of the other big names of that period.  When I got to book three which ended in 1973, one track, the Ghost of You and Me, which I discovered on a BBMak album from the ’90s became not only a key piece of music, it also ended up as the title.

My current book Between Today and Yesterday has seen a move away from written references to music tracks, with the exception of Phil Collins’ Against All Odds which was a very essential song  However, there was still a  need to put together a huge playlist to get me into the mood for writing the many different scenes.

I’m now in the process of writing book 5, The Other Side of Morning.  This title is a twist on the Scottish Band Del Amitri’s track This Side of the Morning.  Again, in this book  I’ve moved away from direct references to music tracks. And the music on my playlistsnow  comes from ’80s rock bands such as Asia, Bad English and Dare (the latter’s influences are more melodic and Celtic and the singer Darren Wharton’s voice amazing).

It’s a personal thing of course, unique to the way I write but I’m glad that my long-term love of music has been able to become part of the creative writing process.

As I’m unable to post videos on this blog, I’m downloading to Facebook instead – just a taster!

Catch you next week!