Saturday, 22 November 2014

the weather, Wood End Gallery, the Old Forge Tea Room, Christmas, O2 tennis, and the woes of the Labour Party.

I love the way us Brits talk about the weather all the time but I guess that's because it so varied and occasionally surprises us. I met a lady a couple of years ago who was born and brought up in Durban, South Africa. She'd recently moved here and was astonished at how varied the weather and had learnt to talk about it like a native. She recounted her previous life in Durban where apart from a few days each year the sun would rise without fail and everyone knew exactly how the weather was going to be - hot and sunny. Boring? Yes a bit, but I do miss the big yellow thing in the sky when all we've got is the autumn drizzle.
The photography exhibition at the Alfred East is now all packed away and another selection of art work is up on the walls so I'm busy organising the next adventure. I've restocked the wall at The Old Forge tea room in Cranford with some of the left over pictures. Thanks to Rob and his team who have supported me since the beginning. As well as gazing at the pictures on his wall you can always tuck into his lovely grub - all at very decent prices and served with a smile. Have a look at the tea room website here. I've found a new venue for pictures and went yesterday to meet Angela who has recently opened the Wood End Gallery in Pertenall, near Kimbolton. She kindly accepted two prints of mine to put alongside some lovely art work and crafts from local artists. Have look at her website here. The two prints appear below with one of my Christmas card images. I've had the cards printed ready for sale in the next few days.

Apart from the little short story up on Amazon Kindle (The Game) the writing has taken a back seat for the last couple of months so running up to Christmas I intend to work hard on re-kindling my poetry scribblings. I've been spurred on by a couple of books I bought recently -The Rattle Bag edited by Seamus Heaney and Ted Hughes and Poetry Notebook by Clive James. The first is a large collection of poetry identified as favourites of the two editors, themselves well known poets, and the second is a bit of a memoir of poetry by the lovely Australian critic. As many a creative writing tutor will tell you 'you can't write if you don't read!' So pencils and post-its at the ready.
Middle life came to play a couple of weeks ago when I ventured to the big smoke to watch tennis at the O2. Younger son made his way up to London from Canterbury to watch the tennis with me and later we met up with older son and went out for dinner as a threesome. Both boys enjoyed showing their old mother how to get about in the city as she might not have managed it without them. I had a great day - watched the world number one strutting his stuff on a tennis court and being entertained by my favourite two young men on the planet.
Christmas is coming in case you didn't know - I love all the fuss and bother, cooking and eating with friends and family, can't wait.
Well done Emily Thornbury for showing us all what she really thinks of normal people. Poor old Ed now really does have his work cut out to prove that he and the rest of his party have respect for the voting public, especially the ones they need to convince to vote for them.

So until we meet again, have a good couple of weeks x

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

TriAngles again, photographic vs computer skills and WW1

Its been a busy month, but a nice one with lots of socialising which has kept me busy and happy. But the past four weeks have also been full of photography, writing and middle life which has been great. Our TriAngles Photography exhibition has been going well with the lovely comments from people, both friends and strangers (which is always good) still coming in. Last day of viewing is this Saturday so then it will be a case of picking up the unsold pictures and paying the gallery bill. So I wanted to say a big thank you first to my two photography team mates, Val and Sue, for their encouragement and support through the whole process, and to all those who gave such lovely feedback and of course thank you to those who bought pictures from me. Its been an interesting experience which has given me a lot of confidence and expertise which will be good for the future if I ever do something like this again. A writing friend of mine, Julia Thorley, 'interviewed' me about the exhibition for her blog, if you're interested to know more click here to have a look.

Talking of photos, my other half and me visited Wisely near Guildford, the home of the Royal Horticultural Society, for their 'Taste of Autumn' show a couple of weeks ago and a grand time was had by both of us, it was lovely. The RHS run the Photographer of the Year Competition and the winning photographs were on display within the gardens. All of the pictures were good, some were stunning, and the ones I really liked were the  close-ups of flowers and creatures which I found mesmerising. But... one or two of them in the little blurb at the bottom of the picture made it clear that the image was a mixture of two or sometimes three different photographs bought together under the clever magic of photographic software. I'm not sure about this. Surely in a 'photography' competition it should be about the strength of the photographic skill, not computer know-how. I certainly use my computer to perfect the images I've taken but this normally amounts to a crop or two, contrast adjustment to enhance texture and the painting out of the odd something that you didn't notice as you closed the shutter. Am I being picky? What do you think??

Like most of us I've been reading and viewing the WW1 centenary commemorations with interest and emotion. So many lives being lost and the stories that surround them being hard to bear sometimes. I wrote a poem a few months ago and was pleased to be told that its being published in an anthology entitled 'In Flanders Fields' by forwardpoetry, an online poetry publisher who goes onto publishing physical anthologies which can be purchased. I've written out my poem below - hope you like it.

A letter from Passchendaele
We had the hot summer at Ypres,
which sweltered leaving us dampened
and close.
Wrapped in your English wool khaki
chafing every hold, me with black
Belgian hair, and eyes of green.
No language yet, just looks and touch
with delicate steps learning Flemish
by the day, and love in the night.
With the race to the sea you were gone,
leaving promises carved strong in my mind
with the rain, and the rain, and the rain.
The worst for thirty years, making mud and slime
mix with blood and salt water, and in the fading
light each day the demons come and settle
their wings on my heart, speaking stories
of mustard gas, bayonets, bullets and mud drownings.
I worried how I would find you if you fell.
In December you walked through my yard weeping,
with a look of fear never to be spoken of again
as we travelled together through the next fifty years.

I follow Stephen Fry on twitter and he used the word 'clickbait' the other day in one of his tweets as a term for  something that encourages us to click on a link to find out more - brilliant and funny!

And finally my latest short story 'The Game' is at last born, and is on Amazon Kindle sitting pretty besides the other two stories I put up there earlier in the year. Its cheap and would fit into a tea-break, for those of you who fancy a look at it - hope you enjoy and hope there aren't any spelling mistakes!!

Have a good couple of weeks x

Friday, 10 October 2014

TriAngles Exhibition, Edwin Smith, gay marriage and a seaside by-election

The waiting, the work and the stress is over - the TriAngles Exhibition is up and running. For those who don't know, this is a exhibition of photography by me and two friends - Val Sibley and Sue Feetham - and its on until 8th November at the Alfred East Art Gallery in Kettering. Their have been lots of lovely feedback from close friends who came to the preview last Saturday which is great and a couple of sales which is fabulous. Waiting to see what 'joe bloggs' thinks of it over the next 4 weeks. Here's a glimpse of a couple of the pictures....

 My pictures tend to be of ordinary things with a bit of good texture and a bit of interesting light which hopefully makes them interesting and attractive. But I'm always drawn to the work of photographers who take pictures of real life in all its forms and came across Edwin Smith the other day on the BBC news website - he died in 1971 but there is an exhibition of his work happening at the moment in one of the London Galleries. Take a look using the link here. His atmospheric monochrome images record urban life in the 40s and 50s and I'd love to reproduce something like that. I feel the urge to get out there and see what I come up with, I know I haven't got the grainy atmosphere of the 50s to play with but I might have a go,watch this space.

A couple of interesting things in the news...........
The Supreme Court in the USA has at last decided to reject the seven pending appeals to ban gay marriage. Apparently it's decision surprised many but was welcomed by millions, including me. How can such a modern country still have such outdated views, this is 2014 you know!

And on this very morning we have our first UKIP member of parliament down in Clacton. Just a by-election protest vote? If it is then its a big one. Will UKIP now have to explain their policies in a lot more detail instead of shouting about how terrible this country is - I hope so, it will make some interesting reading and viewing, especially in May next year. Can't wait.

Hope you all have a good couple of weeks x

Saturday, 20 September 2014

A month off, siesta time, getting ready for the exhibition and Scottish referendum news

Its been a while so I thought I'd put pen to paper. I'm not sure I've been busy with large important things but time seems to have passed doing lots of small stuff. A friend of mine blogs about 'celebrating the small things' which always seems to be worthwhile, see her blog here
We've just come back from a week's holiday in Spain, which was a lovely rest. Amongst lots of sitting around reading, drinking and eating we had a trip out to the beautiful city of Seville where we visited the Alcazar Palace, originally a Moorish fort and then the home of Spain's Kings and Queens until Madrid took over as the capital. A delicious building full of ornate tile work and lovely Mudejar architecture which gives it a lovely middle eastern feel. A few of my pics of the place are below.

The writing has taken a bit of a back seat as I've been finalising images ready for my exhibition with two fellow photographers at the Alfred East Gallery in Kettering. Just need to finish off the final 4 pictures, label them all, make 50 greetings cards and get 100 postcards printed. So a busy week ahead. The exhibition runs from 4th October to 8th November, see the gallery website for opening times here. Here's hoping for a few sales, wish me luck.

So the Scottish people have had their say, and they said 'no' to independence, and Alex Salmond has hung up his political boots. I think the referendum result was probably the right one for all concerned. What it will do though, over the next year or so, is unsettle all our feelings about our regional identity in all four parts of the kingdom and all our regions. It will make for an interesting general election next year as the main parties set out to satisfy all of us all of the time in that regard - best of luck to them with that one!

P.S. My two short stories are having a free week on Amazon Kindle. Have a look at 'Answers from Ghosts' and 'Letter to Barbara' and download them for free!

Saturday, 9 August 2014

garden update, short stories, strawberry jam and Baroness Warsi

The garden is blooming with all the sunshine and rain.  Spent the morning digging up potatoes ready for storing and they look ok, a few mice nibbles but not a bad crop and the onions have been sunning themselves for the last couple of weeks. Courgettes cropping nicely and the beetroot is ready.  A couple of exciting projects are coming to fruition - the raised beds are finished and the ground has been prepared for the poly tunnel coming next week, a few photos included beside. We just need to batten down the hatches in readiness for the remnants of Hurricane Bertha predicted for tomorrow!

Does anyone out there read short stories or are we all too busy reading novels?  I love short stories and have just bought my second Alice Monro collection.  She's a Canadian lady in her 80s who writes stories about normal life, which may sound boring. But because of her skill with character creation and settings she transports you to the places where these stories are being played out and you end up living alongside these people. Lovely. I like writing in a similar style but with nowhere near the same level of skill, and this week I've sent off a selection of my short stories and poems to a few literary agents with a hope that someone out there can see a little bit of Alice in me, I wish, we'll see.

The problem of growing all this produce is that something has to be done with it as I've said before. Twelve jars of strawberry jam now accompany the redcurrant jelly in the cupboard. I made the jam the other afternoon while watching a couple of episodes of 'The Honourable Woman' on the old i-player. It felt really odd to be watching something as dramatic and violent in the middle of a sunny afternoon while making jam. But the jam turned out ok and the drama was very good.

Hats off to Baroness Warsi for resigning from the government because she felt that David and the gang were not protesting loudly enough about the level of violence being showered upon Palestinians in Gaza. A thousand dead, one third of them children and town after town destroyed. Well done Sayeeda. Someone pointed out the other day that Britain manufactures the arms used by the Israelis, and our Disasters Emergency Committee has set up an appeal for money so that the people of Gaza can be helped. What a mad world we live in.


Thursday, 24 July 2014

Literary attempts, beetroot and redcurrant jelly, sunshine and bad news days

Its been too long - the blog kept appearing on lists but didn't get done! But I'm having a day of getting through my current list before I add anything to it. So here goes!

Failed miserably in getting work out to agents. This always happens initially because once I start to look at my little archive of stories they don't seem good enough, its funny how you have to be in the right mood to approach these sorts of tasks. Hoping for better next week, but am a little side-tracked by my entry to the Costa Short Story Competition which closes for entries in 7 days time.  I've had a snippet of a story languishing on the computer for some time that I've now taken by the scruff of the neck and completely revamped with more characters and more plot and lots more words. I'm happy with it but now the polishing begins, thesaurus and Fowler's Modern at the ready. Wish me luck.

My neighbour's wedding was a treat to behold, white horses and carriage started the day and smart sports cars ended it with lots of colour and bollywood dancing in between.  There are photographs but must get some permissions first before sharing.

The beetroot is lovely and I've perfected a great relish recipe - so close friends beware a jar or two may well be on offer soon - when I find a day to commit to the work - but it can't be long because the baby beets are ready.  Time will be taken up this evening with the yearly ritual of making redcurrant jelly.  The currants are lovely this year, must have been the spring rain and all this sunshine.  The juice is ready and the pots are being washed at this very moment by my better half.

The sunshine here continues which is great, but watering the veg and our new plants takes time and effort.  I'm trying to turn it into a fitness regime - walking fast holding two full watering cans must do something to your waistline, so here's hoping.

Work on pictures for my October exhibition is going to plan, just need the last four to the printers and then eight onto the framer.  A couple of my last choices are below.....

I always try to include some national news here each time - but most of the big stories at the moment are making me sad and angry - the conflict in Gaza and Iraq and the shooting down of the airliner in Ukraine for example. Why does man (and I mean man specifically  - I'm a mild feminist) choose the aggression route to solve problems. I can imagine how hard it is to carry generations' worth of hatred for another tribe, religion, race whatever it is. But I have a theory that in cultures where women lack any real power there is often quick calls to fight rather than calls to discuss and resolve. I'm with Ban Ki Moon and his call to the Israelis and Palestinians "Stop fighting and start talking". Easier said than done Ban Ki.

Here's hoping for better news next time I put pen to paper, thanks for reading this blog...
Elaine x

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Post-holiday blues, Brazilian football, Wimbledon and phone hacking

Well a good time was had by all in Brittany, despite the only mediocre weather.  Eurocamp was just as we remembered, simple but value for money. The campsite at Beg-Miel was right next to a lovely beach, giving us scope for long walks with good coffee at each end, and a nature park complete with otters. Lounging by the pool, eating pizza from the takeaway a bit of tennis and watching world cup football in the bar made up the rest of the time. Bliss. Brittany Ferries also need a mention, great crossings both ways, a lovely new ship and really nice staff - thank you.

Back to work with the scary task of polishing my best stories ready to be packaged off to some unsuspecting literary agents - I have a list of anyone remotely interested in short stories on who's desk they will be landing.  Scary because of the fear of the rejection letter (tends to a be an email these days if you're lucky, or mostly no response at all - the poor dears are so busy with submissions they have very little time to correspond in any depth if at all), but it has to be done, how else would you know about your chances unless you put it out there.

I've grown beetroot!! Dead chuffed with the lovely row of bushy leaves and growing beets underneath.  The plan is to make beetroot relish and do some pickling - sorry but it is the sort of thing I get excited about these days!

The coming weekend looks busy. We've been invited to our neighbours' daughter's wedding. They are Sikh so we're really looking forward the occasion, with all its colourful dressing up.

Not sure what I think about the new laws which will allow the security services and government to look at data about who we are calling and contacting. Is this what's known as 'phone hacking'? Things getting rushed through often go a bit awry shortly after when challenges are made.  However I have nothing to hide on my phone and computer and want to know that the security services are keeping an eye on the baddies, but also understand the civil liberties issue, so not sure about this one.

I'm not surprised Brazil are out of the world cup because their football lacked any of the skill shown in the past, but 7:1 was a bit of a shock.  Its interesting watching sports tournaments when your team or favourite player gets knocked out and you're watching as a neutral - a bit of passion is lost. 
I missed the second week of Wimbledon (which was a bit of error on my part - I booked the holiday) and once I learnt that my lovely Andy was out my interest waned. However was treated to a masterful show of tennis on Sunday - thank you Djokovic and Federer for a great 5-setter.

Thanks to all the readers of my blog, hope you're finding it interesting and would love to hear more of you comments.
Elaine x

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

World cup exit, photo exhibition, Channel 4 news and Iraq

Ah well, the fat lady is singing and the boys are coming home on this sad day for England football fans.  Actually the sad / frustrating day was last week against Uruguay, but that's another story.  My better half spurred us on by saying not to worry because we've got the European Championships to look forward to in two years time ..... oh bliss, more venting of spleens and commiserations.
Life does go on despite the horrible thoughts that we are terrible at football - we are also terrible at cricket at the moment according to Aggers on Radio 5 this morning.

We're preparing to invade France - just the four of us into Southern Brittany. Clothes are washed, lists written and cases are out of the loft.  The travel sickness tabs have been purchased for the Plymouth - Roscoff sailing - non of us are good sailors.  Really looking forward to a week in the sun lying next to a pool and the sea.

More preparations have been made for the upcoming photo exhibition in October at the Alfred East Gallery.  I've had the first six of the proposed fourteen pictures printed and mounted and I'm really pleased with the big ones. They're sitting in the lounge at the moment - they look so lovely I'm tempted to buy them - the idea is that someone else buys them, here's hoping.

Looking back at the news this week makes uncomfortable viewing, listening and reading especially where the middle east is concerned.  I like watching Channel 4 news, and love Jon Snow (I met him once and have his autograph) and I felt immense pride last night watching journalists in the Channel 4 newsroom and Jon Snow protested in silence with black tape over their mouths about the jailing of Al Jazeera journalists in Egypt for reporting the news.

View image on Twitter

The other bad news for the middle east is Iraq - who is going / able to save this country?  Religion certainly won't.

I've failed in my quest to perfect another short story for Kindle - ran out of time, but the other two are still up there. Why do I imagine the internet to be in the sky when its in a big building in a field somewhere - does anyone else do that?  For those of you who don't know about them here are the links to the stories - Answers from Ghosts and Letter to Barbara.

Elaine x

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Twitter, more gardening and a bit of sports news..

Well as promised the gardening took over during the last two weeks.  Most of the blank bits of border in the back garden are now planted up with a few shrubs and loads of annuals - they still look small but I've got every hope that by the end of the month the ground will be covered, I hope so because I hate weeding. My better half is the fruit and veg grower but this year I'm trying to make my mark by joining in with the growing of beetroot, lettuce and courgettes.  The beetroot and courgettes are doing really well, but the lettuce have stopped growing for some reason - I'll have to ask the head gardener what to do with them - he's bound to know the answer. I've noticed that once you've sown or planted something one becomes incredibly protective of it and interested in how its doing - checking on 'me offsprings' (and I don't mean the boys) several times a day is not unusual.

Talking of the real offspring -  they are together tonight with a few other mates down in the capital to watch a little game of footy planned for later, we are of course talking about the World Cup and England's first game. Readers of this blog will know that we are football fans and so have to go through this obligatory torture every 4 years, which has ended literally in tears for both us and players (remember Gazzer) every time since 1966.  So here we go again and it will be great!

I've joined Twitter ........ @damsoncake, yes damsoncake (which part of my brain that came from I'll never know)......and I'm following some of the people everyone does e.g. Stephen Fry and Jon Snow and I'm enjoying it so far, but as most people warn - boy could it take up your whole day, may need to ration myself.

Writing and photography has gone a little quiet at the moment because of the garden but I'm determined to have another short story on kindle before I go on holiday in two weeks time and I'm taking a big writing pad with me to France to hand-write some ideas to come back with - who knows, if it rains all week then there might be enough in it for the novel!!

George Bush Snr celebrated his 90th birthday with a tandem parachute jump - what plans have you got for your 90th?

Elaine x


Saturday, 31 May 2014

Gardening, the next writing comp and summer hols

Exciting news!!  Its stopped raining.  The problem with rain and grass is that whilst its raining you can't cut it and whilst its raining at this time of year it grows very fast.  All you can do is watch it grow and imagine the effort that's going to be needed when the rain stops.  That day came yesterday, so on went the wellies and out came the mower.  The good thing is that once the grass is cut no matter how many weeds there are in the borders the garden all of a sudden looks a hundred times better.  We still have lots of empty beds to fill with plants; some of the background shrubs have now been purchased and we have lots of previously rescued herbaceous stuff to bring down from the field so this weekend with its promise of dry weather involves lots of garden activity.  Wellies, yoga stretches (thanks to Julia Thorley) and ibuprofen at the ready.

The Alfred East Open 14 Exhibition draws to a close today, and I'm chuffed with the comments received about the photo I entered, thanks to those who gave me the comments x.  The next big thing on the photography agenda is the personal exhibition planned at the gallery for October when two photography friends and I have hired the long gallery at the AE for a month long exhibition.  So now all there is to do is create 14 beautiful images, get them mounted and ready for hanging, think about a preview evening, arrange advertising etc etc ....  Oh and raid the piggy banks in order to pay for it all.  The idea of these exhibitions is to sell something, selling enough to pay the expenses would be great because I really do enjoy the process - so here's hoping!  Here's a preview of one of the 14 ....... its a view from Neist Point on Skye looking out to the Outer Hebrides, if you look close enough you can see a couple of people standing 1,000 feet up on the cliff - its not me, don't worry.

On the writing front things have come down a little since my foray into the literary world at the Ruth Rendell event last week, and thankfully my aching feet from walking the streets of London have returned to normal.  But on Thursday with some gusto I decided at the last minute to enter a flash fiction piece, a short story and a poem to the Bridport Prize. This competition is international and has become one of the big ones with its winners ranking among the famous.  The judges this year include the poet Liz Lochhead whose work I really like - so again here's hoping!
For those interested my two short stories (Answers from Ghosts and Letter to Barbara) already on Kindle are on offer and free to download for the next few days.

The pack from Eurocamp came yesterday!  We're off to Brittany at the end of the month for week.  The two of us plus our two 6' 4" offspring in a caravan, hopefully in the sunshine.  The thing that keeps making me smile is the rule that men are not allowed to wear shorts-type swimwear going down the slides into the pools, so the speedos have to be found. The menfolk have been warned.
In the past we've always done the Dover - Calais crossing and then the long drive across, this year we're going Plymouth - Roscoff overnight - tips for an overnight ferry crossing would be welcome.

So, time to get out the wellies and forks!
Elaine x

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

London, short story comp success and bloody Shakespeare

Today I'll be mostly wearing soft slippers and drinking camomile tea (regards to the Fast Show).  Yesterday was a magical day in London attending a couple of exciting events with my better half and the boys and included hours of walking, as it always does, but this time  in ill-suited shoes. 
The two events kicked off with my luncheon date at the Ruth Rendell Short Story Awards in Kensington where I was awarded runner-up for my short story 'Race to the Shiny Trees'.  The competition is organised by a brilliant charity called Interact Reading (have a look at their website here), and the judging of the stories is done by the Baroness herself.  We got to meet her and lots of other interesting people from the charity and the literary world (only about 40 people in all but big and grand enough for me).  As well as winning the runner-up prize two other lovely things happened - firstly all three of the short-listed stories were read out loud by professional actors (you'll see why if you have a look at Interact's website) which was great to listen to, and secondly I met Nell Dunn, writer of the famous 'Up the Junction' back in the 1960s.  What a wonderfully gracious lady she is.
The afternoon was spent by the four of us walking our way around London, with stops for cream tea, and dinner later on, to eventually end up at the Globe Theatre to watch Titus Andronicus courtesy of our eldest who'd bought us standing tickets.  What an experience!  The Globe Theatre is amazing, you get a real feel of what it may have been like back in The Bard's day.  The actors were on a raised stage plus bits of the action took place among the standing audience which was great.  I'm not a fan of Shakespeare (I'm ready for the abuse - don't worry, lots of people over the years have tried to convince me of its cleverness), but I can admire the splendour of it all, and do enjoy reading and listening to selected passages. The story of Titus is full of murder and treachery, typical Shakespeare, but this one has lots, and I mean lots of murder.  The 'blood' was everywhere.  Well done Will, a great little short story!
Thanks family for a lovely and exhausting day out.  And thanks Ruth for liking my story.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Report from the Hebrides, photos, good and bad news

Well its official - I've fallen in love with Skye.  Its a magical place - lots of mountains and sea and lovely people.  We were really lucky with the weather - we caught the odd shower and grey cloud but enjoyed quite a bit of the big yellow thing.  It was still cool up there so the suntan extends only to face, hands and forearms - a bit of coverage was needed to protect from the breeze.  The only exception was the walk out to Neist Point and lighthouse where the sheer effort needed in the climb and the fear of the sheer drop bought on a bit of a glow, so for 15 minutes the sleeveless top was on show. 
The rest of the 10 days included great views of the Outer Hebrides, the pair of golden eagles, lots of tea and cake, and the two lovely B&Bs - The Rowans on Skye at Portnalong (a very special little place, use the link to see it), and Dunborrowdale at Portree. And a big thank you to my better half for the 1,500 miles of near perfect driving. The trip was book-ended with a overnight stay in Milngavie on the way up an overnight stay at New Lanark Mill (really interesting place, use the link to have a look) and a visit to the beautiful Harlow Carr gardens in Harrogate on the way back.
Many photos were taken as you may imagine - about 550 in all.  I have to add at this point that every one was taken on the manual setting on the camera - so lots of quick, and not so quick fiddling to achieve best exposure etc.  I got news that I'd been given a distinction grade for my City and Guilds in photography - so it would have been a bit of a cheat if I'd gone back to using auto!  A couple photos appear below, hope you like them .....



The youngest offspring has had an exciting weekend helping at City Sound Project music festival in Canterbury with one day spent as artist liaison - supporting the bands before and after appearances, it also got him invited to an after show party - lucky boy! 

Talking of exciting things ............... I was lucky enough to have one of my photo chosen to appear in the Alfred East Open 14 exhibition, its on until the end of May and includes some lovely pieces of art work - worth a look.
Also .............. I've been shortlisted for the Ruth Rendell short story award with two other writers.  Its a competition run by Interact Reading which I entered last October and had nearly forgotten about it until the phone call came a few weeks ago.  I'm off to London on May 21st to a lunch where the winner will be announced, and get to meet Ruth herself.  Excited?  Over the moon!

So April has been a good month overall, but for one thing.  I lost touch with a dear nursing friend, Ian, about ten years ago only to learn from someone recently that he is very poorly with cancer, and not long for this world.  I've exchanged a couple of emails with him and he seems to be as funny and talented as he ever was.  Many of my thoughts at the moment are with him and his partner and family.

Monday, 21 April 2014

Skye, end of the football season and PMQs

We're getting ready for our trip '...over the sea to Skye' as the boat song goes.  The tourist information says that the best way to approach Skye is by the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale on the southern edge, but the way most people go these days is via the bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh - we haven't decided yet which way to go.  Neither of us are good sailors so unless the sun is shining and the sea a millpond - there's a line in the boat song that says 'Loud the winds howl, loud the waves roar' - its probably going to be the bridge. 

Talking of weather, one of my favourite internet connections is to the BBC weather website which gives you local hour by hour predictions for weather for the next five days.  I love it.  I've used it this morning already because I've got the grass to cut and a football match to go to so its helped me decide when to get the mower out.  The football match is AFC Rushden and Diamonds vs Wellingborough Town, a real local derby because we share a ground between us down at London Road in Wellingborough, so you can't get more 'local' than that.  Its the last home game this year and we'll be there to thank AFC R&D for a great season and congratulate them for coming close to the top of the division in their first year.

Another bit of the BBC website I like is the 'week in pictures' and the 'your pictures' page, use the link to have a look.  When I last looked it was showing some great photos of South Africa.

Talking of pictures ........... I've entered 3 photos into the Alfred East Open 14 - one of which appears here.  
Here's hoping that at least one of the judges likes one of the pictures and lets me in.

Looking back at the news this week it was great to hear that some of the female MPs don't bother going to Prime Minister's Questions in the commons because its a waste of time.  They've got better things to do than sitting watching a bunch of idiots shout, ball and show off at each other whilst saying nothing of any substance (my words, not theirs).  At one point in the news coverage of the issue John Bercow was seen on one recent occasion, reminding members of the house that there was a group of children in the gallery.  I presume they'd come to see how our wonderful democracy functions - I wonder what they thought of it all.

So here's hoping that the weather in the Hebrides is kind to us - yes I've looked at it on the BBC weather website and I'm not saying what it says - and we come back with tales of the Bonnie Prince and Flora MacDonald and some good pictures of one of Britain's most dramatic landscapes. 

P.S. For those interested there is another short fiction story of mine on Amazon Kindle, its called 'Letter to Barbara'............ a story of family life mixed with murder!

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

exhibitions, pub quizzes and Anja Niedringhaus

I entered 3 photos into the Alfred East Art Gallery Open Exhibition last year and was lucky enough to have one chosen to be part of the show.  Open 14 is upon us, so its now time to decide which ones to enter this year.   There is also a local village art show that I want to do in May and then in October along with two other photographers there is the month long exhibition at the Alfred East Gallery to plan for.  I've put aside this afternoon to look through my pictures and see what I've got already, and then look at any new ones I might want to try out.  The problem is always one of balancing time and finance; getting photos mounted and framed is costly in both effort and money, and all has to be done well in advance - the knack is then to sell something at a price that returns at least what it cost you to produce, let alone make a bit of profit.  Tricky, but fun.

Talking of enjoyable things ..... last evening was spent with old friends at a pub quiz at The Three Cranes, Cransley.  We answered 100 questions and managed to come 6th out of 13 teams.  We all have different talents when it comes to knowledge so putting heads together nearly always comes up with some sort of answer - with lots of laughter on the way.  Thanks girls for a good night out.

AP journalist Anja Niedringhaus who was killed in AfghanistanLooking back at the news this week it was sad to hear of the death of Anja Niedringhaus, the German photographer who was shot by an Afghan policeman.  She is quoted by the Guardian newspaper when describing conflict as saying 'two sides fighting for territory, for power, for ideologies. And in the middle is the population who is suffering'.  How true that is.  She'd experienced many conflicts and had become famous for taking photos which helped people realise what was going on at some of the world's 'darkest' moments.  So its sad to think that as someone who through her photography tried to give under-privileged people a voice, she was murdered.  Or maybe it was because of what she was doing that that man decided to take her life.  Who knows.

On a happier note, the sun is shining, birds are singing and weeds are growing so I really must out there and do some gardening!!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Holidays, old poetry and old friends

We have plans for the weekend, as the saying goes.  Off to London on Sunday to pick up oldest boy and then onto youngest boy in Canterbury for the day, and it happens to be you know what day so maybe a couple of treats in store for their old mother.  Then on Monday we bring the young one back for his Easter break from Uni.

Many moons ago I did an OU Creative Writing course through which I met two lovely people.  For several years after we met regularly at our local Waitrose cafe to encourage each other in our literary attempts.  One of the antics we got up to was our 'guerrilla poetry' where small poems were written, mostly about things on sale in the store, and then placed carefully onto shelves next to the appropriate products; all under the watchful eye of the in-store cameras (a sample sits below).  Daft I know but it gave us practice in our writing skills and great laughs along the way.  This week we met again after a break of about 18 months and it was great to see them, two of us still write and the other one thinks a lot about it but has little time to put pen to paper.  Spurred on by my recent 'success' in putting a short story on Amazon Kindle the other two have taken up the challenge, and the task we have set ourselves is to make at least £5 out of writing something before we meet again in June.  However, I've been told that in order to level the playing field I must publish something under a pseudonym so as not to take advantage of my 'world-wide known literary status', haha - does this sound fair?  I'm not sure, but the immediate problem I have is thinking up another name for myself - suggestions welcome.

Anti-Wrinkle Cream

Make me smooth,

Never mind the truth,

Take away the mirrors,

Bring on the youth,

Bring on the cream,

Lotion and potion,

Leave everyone else

Without a notion.

My better half and I are off over the sea to Skye at the end of April.  Its somewhere I've always wanted to visit - probably the Scottish genes in me.  We have one friend who describes her visit to Skye and the Western Isles as the worst holiday she's ever had and another who has been more than a few times and loves it.  So we'll see when our time comes, here's hoping for good weather and calm seas.
The other trip is a bit of a blast from the past.  All four of us are headed to Eurocamp in Brittany one more time in June.  We've had a few Eurocamp adventures with the boys over the years and after a request from the youngest one we are going for one last time.  How my two 6ft 4inch, adult offspring will fit into the caravan beds, and manage a holiday among a campsite full of toddlers is another matter!

The City and Guilds Level One in Photography comes to an end this evening with the handing in of the six photos that will determine my fate.  There's a sneak preview of two of them below..........

We went to a great yoga workshop last Sunday run by Julia Thorley and Penny Taylor.  It lasted for 3 hours, with intervals for tea and cake, and great fun was had by all.  Honestly, despite the sweaty red-faced appearance to the contrary in some of the poses.  Thanks Julia.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

latest news from the photo course, pics from the seaside, thoughts on Bob Crow and Tony Benn

Completed a satisfying evening of work yesterday on my poetry presentation and ended up boggled eyed at the end of it.  Looked through and printed off many of my poems from my newly organised computer file, see last post, and thumbed the poetry books from the bookshelf to find one's I liked from real poets which I can add in between mine.  I'm hoping this will improve the quality of the presentation - the members of the group I'm presenting to are well read - so I'm out to impress.  All thats left to do is get my poetry voice sorted and practise reading them out loud.

The photography City and Guilds is at week nine of ten, so we are concentrating on the final submission of six mounted photos complete with the technical information of how it was shot.  My theme is indeed to be 'seaside', with pics mostly taken from our trip to Cromer and the east coast a couple of weeks ago.  There's a couple of them below - your are allowed to give me a score out of ten for each one, this will probably be better than the one coming from my tutor.  Its funny how at some point when learning a new skill you feel less clear about things than you did before the start, here's hoping that my understanding of all things to do with shutter speed, aperture, depth of field and ISO come into focus by a week on Thursday!

This week saw the death of both Bob Crow and Tony Benn.  Two people from very different backgrounds who ended up very similar.  The Guardian yesterday asked the question raised in a couple of letters from readers - '.......who is left to defend working people'.

I've made contact again with a old friend, Karen Shapley, whose is a very talented ceramicist and textile artist, take a look at her blog here.....
......... we have one of her lovely jugs in our kitchen.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Filing poetry, photos from the east and to-do lists

I've realised that I need to get better at filing my writing on the computer in a way that allows me to find things when I need to.  I belong to a poetry group and have been invited to perform some of my poems at one of the groups meetings at the end of the month.  So the search for my poems on my computer began in earnest this morning.  I knew it was going to be difficult as over the years all of my poems have been polished, re-filed and wrongly filed at least twice which has led to much duplication.  Its taken two hours of clicking and dragging, but I've succeeded in producing a new file containing the latest versions of them all.  All I need to do now is look at them all, perhaps tweaking and polishing as I go, decide which ones I'm going to read out, print them all off ............ and then practise reading them out loud ........and then devise a new filing system and stick to it.  Wish me luck!  A little poem I'd forgotten all about appears below - hope you like it.

Summer Fayre

mad dogs and English folk muster to top up their sunburn,
the unplanned ice-creams tot up the weight watcher points,
the bouncy castles stir up the insides of full-bellied, shoe-less youngsters,
the weary tombolas re-distribute the unwanted Christmas gifts,
and teas are served with scones and jam and lack-lustre squirty cream
onto droopy paper plates.
the damp exhibition tent displays the art and craft of the local talent,
the polished produce of the hard worked vegetable plots gleam contently,
the beer tent heaves with red-cheeked men, and the odd loose woman,
fun will be had until the jazz band throws out its last lazy note,
and the laughter between friends old and new echoes out
into a summer moonlit sky.


We've returned from our 5 days on the east coast with slightly suntanned faces and white bodies, due to the cold but sunny weather.  We had a good look around the altered coastline caused by the storm surge in early December.  It looks like some of the beaches have been left to lick their wounds and accept their fate e.g. Happisburgh, and others like Cromer are undergoing massive re-structuring. 



Every week I write a to-do list but rarely tick off everything, this has resulted in many things making repeated appearances week after week.  So this week my challenge is to have nothing to take over into next week - wish me luck with this too!