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.