Sunday, 16 October 2016

I have moved!

I've decided that my relationship with blogger was just not working and so (having taken my blogs out to dinner and explained that it's me, not them) we've amicably parted ways.

From now on I'll be sharing all my posts in one place - - and I do hope you'll come and visit!

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Today is National Poetry Day ...

and, thanks to the power of technology, in an hour the first of twelve of my favourite poems – all of which you’ll eventually be able to find via my #kizziadoesnationalpoetryday tag – will appear on my tumblr, twitter and facebook without me physically doing anything. The other eleven remain waiting patiently in the queue for their star turn, and will appear each subsequent hour until the day is over.
This post, too, is coming to you via queue because I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to have a break at the right time. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t comment on it. I’ll be checking back once I get home and I’d love to have some poetry chit-chat!
Anyway, enough of me marvelling at the sheer brilliance of technology (which I’ve used before but never with purpose), it’s National Poetry Day, let’s talk about poems!
When I was very small one of my most favouritest of things was to climb into Mum’s bed first thing in the morning and have poems read to me from the book that lived in her bedside drawer. I can’t remember what it was called but the cover was sky blue and there was a drawing of a carousel on the front. I also can’t recall all the poems that were in there, but there are some that have remained incredibly vivid and I can still hear Mum reading them to me now. This is the one that I recall most often:
Bobby Shaftoe
Bobby Shaftoe’s gone to sea,
Silver buckles on his knee;
He’ll come back and marry me,
Bonny Bobby Shaftoe.
Bobbu Shaftoe’s tall and slim,
He’s always dressed so neat and trim,
The lassies they all keek at him,
Bonny Bobbie Shaftoe.
Bobby Shaftoe’s bright and fair,
Combing down his yellow hair;
He’s my ain for ever mair,
Bonny Bobby Shaftoe.
I’m not entirely sure why this particular poem is the one that has stuck so firmly in my mind, other than that Mum would sing it rather than simply recite it, but it has. I only have to think of it and I’m back in that bed, snuggled cosily under the duvet in Mum’s arms, drifting away with the rhythms and rhymes.
Poetry is magic beyond words. No other written medium can so completely bewitch your mood and befuddle your senses*. Poetry paints pictures not only with the meanings of the words and phrases used to build it, but with its beat, its stanzas, and even how the poet has laid it out on the page. Poetry is hard to do well, but in both creating and consuming, it brings a light to your soul that no other experience can compare with. Or at least, that is how I feel about it.
If you’re going to any Poetry Society events today I hope you have a wonderful time, and if you’re sharing your own favourite poems on twitter or tumblr, feel free to tag me because I’d love to share!
*Harry Potter fans will recognise that this is a mangling of a comment Snape made to Harry’s class during their first ever potions lesson. I may not like the man but he did have a way with words ;)

Thursday, 29 September 2016

National Poetry Day is next week!

Next Thursday - October 6th - is National Poetry day in the UK and the theme is Messages.

Because I like joining in with celebrations related to words, I’m setting up a queue on my tumblr to post a different poem every hour between 12am and midnight of National Poetry day (so that’s 12 poems in all) and they will be links from my twitter and facebook. Some of them will be tied to the Messages theme, some will simply be favourites of mine that I want to share.

The three poetry books I'm currently reading, all from my local library!
The UK Poetry Society (@poetrysociety) is hosting a lot of different projects and events, and all the information about what they’re doing can be found here - - and the twitter hashtag for all Poetry Day chat and event sharing is #NationalPoetryDay. I hope lots of you will also join in and share the poems that you love and that have shaped your lives.

And now, because I can’t talk about poetry without actually including a poem, this is one I loved as a child and was reminded about just last week, when it appeared in the latest book I received from @PrudenceCrow in my monthly vintage book subscription box.

A Tree Song by Rudyard Kipling

Of all the trees that grow so fair,
Old England to adorn,
Greater are none beneath the Sun,
Than Oak, and Ash, and Thorn.

Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs,
(All of a Midsummer morn!)
Surely we sing no little thing,
In Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Oak of the Clay lived many a day,
Or ever Aeneas began.
Ash of the Loam was a lady at home,
When Brut was an outlaw man.

Thorn of the Down saw New Troy Town 
(From which was London born);
Witness hereby the ancient-ry
Of Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Yew that is old in churchyard-mould,
He breedeth a mighty bow.
Alder for shoes do wise men choose,
And beech for cups also.

But when ye have killed, and your bowl is spilled,
And your shoes are clean outworn,
Back ye must speed for all that ye need,
To Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Ellum she hateth mankind, and waiteth
Till every gust be laid,
To drop a limb on the head of him
That anyway trusts her shade:

But whether a lad be sober or sad,
Or mellow with ale from the horn,
He will take no wrong when he lieth along
'Neath Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Oh, do not tell the Priest our plight,
Or he would call it a sin;
But--we have been out in the woods all night,
A-conjuring Summer in!

And we bring you news by word of mouth-
Good news for cattle and corn-
Now is the Sun come up from the South,
With Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

Sing Oak, and Ash, and Thorn, good sirs
(All of a Midsummer morn):
England shall bide till Judgment Tide,
By Oak, and Ash, and Thorn!

I haven’t had a look to see if there is a tune that goes with this, or was written for it. If you know of one, please let me know!

Saturday, 17 September 2016

September Monthly Musings

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noted that no musings made an appearance for August. This was due to a combination of the vicious, unassailable headache, and exhaustion from keeping going in spite of said headache. Basically August was a wash out, as far as me having any form of social life or doing anything more than a bit of light reading, and although annoying I can’t do anything other than accept that and move on.

We’re now half way through September and although the combination of pills, working switching the light above my desk off, and working from home in the middle of each week seems to have beaten the headache into submission for 90% of the time, I’ve managed to catch a cold that will not go away and thus I’m grumpy as heck and still feel as if I’m running on empty.

Thus this is a very short musing.  But not an insignificant one.

Because a short story of mine has been accepted into an anthology! I’m not able to share any more details that that at the moment and sadly I don’t know exact date for publishing yet but be assured that the moment I do, I will be sharing it with you all. Because once that book is out I will be a published author and that small step along the path to being a published novelist is a huge step in bolstering my confidence. Now all I need to do is find the energy to turn a pile of notes and half formed ideas into a sensible essay and I may be able to say I have two things published in anthologies by the end of 2017.

In less positive news, I’m very aware that my attempt to write and share a post about WWI for each month of the war has faltered, and I am now two months behind. Instead of berating myself, I’m going to work on September’s post and get that up and then try to fill in the gaps once I’m feeling properly myself again.

There’s also been a dearth of reviews from me, since I’ve not been well enough for a theatre trip for months. This, will, I hope be rectified in the near future since the RSC have got cinecasts of Cymbeline and The Tempest coming up in the next five weeks and I’m intending to go to, and review, both if I’m feeling well enough. I’m also quite excited about the cinema releases of Doctor Strange at the end of October, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them in the middle of November, and Moana in December and I’ll be trying to do a post on each of those well.

I’ve also been fiddling with some flash fiction and short pieces of creative non-fiction and they may make an appearance on the blog if I can ever get comfortable with them. One piece that I have already shared was inspired by the Woodland Trust promoting the Tree Charter and asking everyone to add their voices to the Charter’s creation by sharing just what Tree’s mean to them. You can find my piece here, along with a link to the Tree Charter website in case you fancy adding your own thoughts to the mix.

And finally, it’s the bit you’ve all been waiting for:

(dictated by Dog, transcribed by She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader)

Since you were deprived of the gloriousness that is me for a whole month because She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader was very under the weather, I am going to make up for it by sharing very many pictures with you. This should sate your need for visual beauty and sustain you until October, when She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader has promised to take some extra special pictures of yours truly.

What your transcriber has not told Dog is that she’s going to attempt to dress her for Halloween. This may be the best idea your transcriber has had all year, or it may be a sign that she’s finally lost it. Only time will tell.

As well as ministering most solicitously to She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader whilst she has been suffering with pains in her head, I have continued to patrol the boarders assiduously and whilst The Warning BarkTM has had to be modified to stop She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader crying in pain every time I deploy it, I am pleased to report that this has not affected its effectiveness. Suffice to say neither the Squirrels nor that obsequies ball of fluff that should not be suffered to live have managed to encroach even an inch into my domain.

Your transcriber would like it to be known that watching Dog trying to bark quietly reduced her to tears of mirth and she wishes fervently she had recorded it. She has no idea if Dog genuinely understands about the headaches but apart from lowering the volume (when informing Squirrels, Crows, the fluffy thing in the garden at the back and leaves that have the temerity to fall from the trees that this is her garden and she will not tolerate interlopers) Dog has also been extra cuddly and administering Doggie kisses whenever an inch of your transcriber’s skin is available. Whilst this is sweet, your transcriber is starting to get dry skin on hands, ankles and elbows from all the extra washing!

I also wish it to be known that is only 48 sleeps until my birthday is upon us (4th November). I thought I should mention this in case any of my devoted followers were thinking about buying me gifts. Whilst the thought is most appreciated, I must be honest and say that She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader ensures that I want for nothing and I would not like you to waste your hard earned cash on little old me.

Your transcriber is in no doubt that the purchase of gifts for Dog had never crossed any of your minds but would add that if you do have a bit of spare cash, or any old blankets or cushions lying about, both she and Dog would think you were even more utterly brilliant than we already do if you donated them to your local Dog Rescue.

And now for the pictures. All of me on various walks and asleep in various places. All of them showing just how beautiful I am.

Your transcriber does not disagree with that assessment, but then your transcriber is highly biased.

And that is all for September from both of us, so we hope you have a lovely rest of month and a glorious autumn (or spring if you are reading in the southern hemisphere) altogether.

Merrily, merrily and onward we go!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

When I cannot see the Wood for the Trees ...

... I go for a walk in the woods. 

I am lucky enough to live five minutes’ walk away from a large expanse of wooded nature reserve that teems with life - plant, animal and bird – and offers me an escape whenever I need one.  Disappearing between the trunks of oak, ash, beech and rowan and following the winding paths made by the wood’s denizens has always been a sure-fire way to clear my head of muddle and confusion. I have yet to set foot in a wood that has not held a sense of peace and in allowing myself to join with that space, I find the inner peace I need to deal with whatever had got me into a tizzy in the first place.

I have my favourite trees, old friends whom I greet by name and who allow me to sit in their branches or at their roots and rest for a while, their calmness being absorbed into me through the connection of bark against skin. The buzzards who nest in the tops of the tallest trees give me a wide berth, as do the squirrels who mistrust my faithful canine companion, but the robins, sparrows, blackbirds and various species of tits happily zip around me as long as I remain still and quiet. Even the magpies who nest in what I think is the oldest oak in the wood are happy to come and chatter to me as I pass by.

Trees do not care what clothes I wear, what I do for a living, what my relationship status is. They ask nothing of me but that I tread carefully and leave their home as I have found it. They accept me as I am and in return, I do what I can to preserve them as they need to be preserved. I cannot imagine a world without trees. Or rather, I do not want to, because it would be hollow, empty, desolate place.

~ - ~

The writing of this was prompted by the Tree Charter website's call for stories, anecdotes and thoughts about trees from anyone in the UK. They will be using what is submitted to create the Charter for Trees, Woods and People. Their website says the following on what that actually means:

The articles, or chapters, of the Charter for Trees, Woods and People, will be based upon the stories you share with us about how trees improve your life. The tree charter will set out people’s rights to these benefits and will remind us of the responsibilities we need to undertake to ensure that trees are protected and recognised in the future.

During 2017 carved ‘story poles’ will be installed across the UK. These poles will be a lasting reminder of the charter and the importance of trees in our lives. Stories can be carved into and written on these poles, helping to spread and continue the legacy of the tree charter.

The tree charter will launch on the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, which was signed in 1217. This charter aimed to protect the rights of the people to access the Royal Forests.

My story is now up on their blog here and if you live in the UK and would like to share your own story about trees, you can do so here.

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Monthly Musings – July 2016 – The Tale of the Headache and Other Stories

The Tale of the Headache

There once was a woman whose head ached continually and filled her waking hours with constant pain. Most of the time it was a dull, nebulous pain that could be worked through if she was concentrating but sometimes it was spiky and jagged and tore at her thoughts until she could not speak simple sentences and sometimes it morphed into a full blow migraine that confined her to a darkened room until it passed of its own accord.

Such an existence was not a pleasant and the woman tried everything in her power to get rid of her ailment; she drank lots of water each day, took walks in the fresh air, ate plenty of fruit and vegetables, and tried every pill her local pharmacist could offer. But nothing helped.

Finally, once all other options had been exhausted, the woman visited her doctor. He couldn’t tell her what was wrong either but gave her some different pills that he assured her would make the pain go away. That night she took the dose he had prescribed her then lay quite still in her bed, fingers crossed in a silent prayer, until sleep overcame her.

When she awoke she found that the headache had receded. She could still feel it at the edges of her brain but it was such a small ache that it was completely ignorable. Yet the joy she should have felt did not materialise. In fact she couldn’t feel much at all. It was such an effort to even get out of bed and go downstairs for breakfast that she wasn’t sure how she was going to make it through the day.

At work she struggled to concentrate and every task seemed to take twice as long to complete. She forced herself through the working day, feeling her headache return as the effects of the pill ebbed out of her system, but finally she completed her last job of the day and was able to go home. Once there she collapsed into her comfy chair, opened her computer and started typing. And this is what she wrote.

So that was my unfortunately-not-a-fairy-tale about what’s been going on with me in the past month and what happened on Friday. I’m hoping that my body will adjust to the ultra-strong painkillers and I won’t feel like a completely zombiefied every morning for the next six weeks until I’ve finished the course I’ve been prescribed. I would also like to know the root cause of this but I suspect it is simply the last eighteen months of stress and worry catching up with me, especially since there’s still so much going on at work at the moment.

But that’s enough about me. The Other Stories, or rather Other Story, is much more interesting 


As a black Labrador of mature years, I am not built to withstand the warmer extremes of the British climate and suffer greatly when there are occurrences of such distressing weather. My suffering, however, has been lessened by the assiduousness of She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader, who has been brushing me most carefully twice a day and has ensured that my coat is as light as it can possibly be. If it weren’t for the fact that She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader insists on doing this whilst I am eating and will keep brushing my pantaloons when they absolutely do not need to be rushed at all, I would be more grateful.

Your transcriber would like you all to know that if the brushing is not completed whilst Dog is eating, it is only possible to brush Dog’s head and shoulders due to her dancing about like a loon, sitting down every time she so much as thinks her tail might be brushed, and the street has to listen to her grumbling loudly the whole time (and the word grumbling here is being used to mean  growling loudly, in a tone that suggests she’s about to disembowel everyone in the vicinity). It should also be noted that Dog’s “pantaloons” (the hair around her bottom) always need brushing because they seem to be the main hair collection point on her body and she should just put her big girl pants on and stop whining about it. Your transcriber also remains amazed that despite the twice daily brushing Dog has continued to shed at an alarming rate. The amount of hair that has been gathered via brush and vacuum seems to be enough to make several new Labradors.

 She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader informs me that I should be dictating this instalment for you all in the form of a story and I am more than happy to comply.

Of Fur and Fortitude

Once upon a time there was a Labrador whose tongue was as slick as blood, whose nose was as cold as snow, and whose fur was as black as ebony. She was the most sleek and beautiful Labrador in all the Kingdom and was adored by all who knew her for her sweet and loving nature. She lived in house that contained all she required for a peaceful existence; a big fluffy bed, a never-ending supply of food, a lovely dish full of cool water, many toys to amuse her during the day and a servant who attended to her every whim.

Every day her servant would take her for a walk in the woods surrounding the cottage so that she could meet all her admirers and keep up with the gossip of the kingdom: just where the marauding squirrels were said to be planning their next attack from, exactly what the Doberman down at number 29 had been doing with the miniature poodle at number 4, and precisely what next door’s cat had dragged in most recently.  Most vexingly there were also rabbits that needed chasing – purely for exercise of course, blood sports are so last-century – magpies that needed scolding, and miles of trees that needed greeting and sniffing and watering.

For many years she was the happiest Labrador in the Kingdom, as well as being the most adored, and she couldn’t imagine anything that might disturb her well-ordered life. But change comes to all things, as surely as night follows day and thus one morning she was awakened not by her servant coming to serve her breakfast but a noise that had not been heard in her environs before. It was not a strange noise - on the contrary, she knew it at once for the bark of another dog – but it was shrill and annoying and disturbing her slumber, coming as it was from so close to her main border. However, as befits a gracious, elegant Labrador who is beloved of all who know her, she chose to assume that this interloper was unaware of the sort of Kingdom it had arrived in (never mind that it was perilously close to straying into her territory) and would immediate cease its incessant yapping once she had appraised it of the situation. So she rose from her bed, went outside and, as politely as she knew how, explained the situation.

At once she realised that she might as well not have bothered, for the horrible little animal did not even cease its outpourings to greet her in a civilised manner, and disregarded her claim to the area in words that she would not even use to a fox. And so began the Border Dispute of the Century, wherein all manners were abandoned, all decorum lost, and all sleep broken.

She fought tirelessly, forsaking all other pursuits in order to protect her territory and the reputation of the Kingdom she loved. No tone of bark was left untried, no blade of grass unturned, and no twig un-chewed in her search for the one thing that would send this appalling pretender running with its tail between its legs and its mouth finally shut.

Weeks turned into months, months into years and still she fought, knowing in her heart of hearts that she was in the right and that to back down was to offer victory to a usurper of dubious morals. She was tired though and wished for some advantage, some well-spring of power that would aid her in her extremity and allow her win the fight once and for all.

And that was when she found it. A golden ring, with strange words carved into it, which called to her with a voice that promised all she wanted and more, with such compelling promises she could almost taste the victory. It was just lying there, offered to her freely, and the Labrador was sorely tempted to take it in her mouth and claim its power for her own. Yet she knew that the ring would corrupt her, turn her soul to ash and twist her to its own nefarious ends. And so she spurned the gift, remained Dog and knew that when her time came she would diminish and go into the West …

And your transcriber must step in at this point to prevent Dog breaching the copyright on Tolkien’s works and providing you all with a rather odd retelling of the Lord of the Rings.

Dog is most vexated that a mere transcriber of her words dared to interrupt her thrilling tale before its conclusion. Dog would do well remember that referring to someone as a servant is bound to have consequences and to thank her lucky stars that the only thing that’s being stopped is her story. However your transcriber does not wish you to finish this post unsatisfied and so offers several pictures of Dog, in various poses of grace and beauty, in order to assuage any upset the curtailing of the story may have caused:

Beautiful both awake and asleep

Unrepentant chowing of cardboard - but she did clear it all up!

And thus we reach the end of this months musings. Dog and I hope you all have a lovely August.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Monthly Musings: June 2016

A lot can change in a month. This is especially true when that month includes a retreat that gives you the head-space and time to really look at your life and decide what you want to keep, what you think has outlived its usefulness, and what you want to bring in fresh. Which means there are lot of changes ahead of me in the next twelve to eighteen months. I’m not going to share all my decisions on here – my private life is, after all, private – but I will talk about the ones that affect my presence on my blog and on social media and my writing, since that is primarily how I know you all.

I cannot overstate how much I enjoyed having a period of time where I was beholden to no one but myself. Three weeks where I had no plans, no deadlines, nothing required of me by any outside forces. The only requirement I gave myself for the time was to face the areas of my past that I’d been repressing and allow myself to feel whatever that made me feel. I spent the days walking, meditating, drawing tarot cards on the situations I was trying to work through, and reading stacks of books about all sorts of different things (but with a significant amount of Celtic Spirituality). It was a genuine release for me and hadn’t realise just how exhausted and worn down I was, both by the things I’d try to repress and the treadmill my life had become.

It took less than a week for my spark to return to me, the pages of my journal filling up with notes in handwriting that, without the stress and time pressure, was once again legible, firm, and true. I wrote almost 46,000 words by hand in those three weeks and my love of writing, of creating, of making something new from things already known, re-blossomed. I was reminded of why I had started writing in the first place, and what had inspired me to start on the original fiction that was pushed aside in favour of writing fan fiction. Whilst there is absolutely nothing wrong with fan fiction at all - I’m a huge believer in both writing it and reading it - the immediacy of a (mostly) positive response from those kind enough to read and leave comments on each offering had seduced me completely, luring me away from all my original creations.

That immediacy is one of the wonderful thing about fan fiction, the bond between the author and the readers, friendships created and fostered on the back of stories about the books, shows and films we share a love for. It’s also, for me at least, its downfall. And that is for the simple reason that my personal wish to make those I care about happy meant that I started to try and produce the stories I thought everyone wanted to read, rather than create the ones I wanted to write. When you spend your days working in a high pressure, inherently reactive environment  trying to spend your evening attempting to create something that your that your heart isn’t truly in … well let’s just say it’s the opposite of relaxing.

The sense of relief when I cut loose the last few WIPs from my AO3 profile at the start of the year - the lifting of the sense that I just wasn’t good enough because I couldn’t complete the projects that I’d taken on because I thought I should, rather than because I was desperate to share them - just confirmed that I’d been treading the wrong path for a while. So now I have managed to coax a spark of creativity back into my life and with it kindled a tiny flame of writing mojo I’m going to guard it carefully, feed it with the fuel of imagination and the freedom to writing anything that takes my fancy, and protecting it from winds of fear and rains self-doubt that sharing it with others sometimes creates and which could extinguish it in a moment.

And that is a rather lyrical way of saying that I won’t be creating any more fan-fiction for the foreseeable future. Instead I’m going to work on my original stuff. I may post some of what I create on here in the fullness of time but nothing I’m working on is being written with the intent of sharing it. The stories I want to tell are my stories and they need my characters in order to be told in just the right way. I want to work with the world I have carried around in my head for years, build on it, extend it, and let the characters I feel like I know as well as I know myself shape it. I want them to grow and learn and become under my hands, just for me.

Which sounds somewhat selfish, written down like that, but in all honesty I do not care. Writing is supposed to be an escape, a pleasure, a way of renewing myself from the stresses of the daily grind. I am writing for me, first and foremost, telling the tales I want to read. If, once they’re told, I think they might be something other people might like too then that is when I’ll look to share them … after I’ve given them a damn good polish up first!

The other thing my retreat showed me was just how much more time I have, and how much less distressed I am at the state of the world, when I’m not using social media, which I realise will be a surprise to absolutely no one. I would the first person to defend social media and its use – it has brought me friends, new interests, new perspectives and information that I would not have seen otherwise, and means that when I’m feeling a bit low and a bit isolated, I can reach out and find someone to talk to. It’s absolutely brilliant in all those respects. But all good things have a downside and the sense that you’ll miss something if you’re not monitoring it 24/7, the fact that it offers opportunities for strangers to metaphorically batter you over the head if you’ve said something they don’t agree with, and the way it can become an echo chamber, reinforcing your own views and limiting your outlook if you’re not careful all combine to make it something that needs to be viewed with a healthy measure of common sense and caution as well. You need to know your own limits where the internet is concerned. And to that end, I’ve made some decisions about mine.

I’m not going to become a hermit, I’m not going to stop posting on my blog, or tweeting, or sharing things on facebook and tumblr; I’m not going to disappear off the face of the virtual earth. I’m going to keep musing on a monthly basis and I’m going to try and get back in the habit of posting short reviews of the theatre and films I watch and the books I read and also going back to having chats with people on LJ and tumblr and catching up on what everyone has been doing whilst I’ve been studying. 

However what I am going to do (now the referendum is almost done) is limit the time I spend wandering t’interwebs; you know, like when you were a child and your mum said you could only watch TV for a certain length of time each day. I’m going to try to only allow myself half an hour at lunch time and half an hour in the evening to catch up on social media and all that sort of stuff. To that end I’ve not switched any of my notifications back on since I returned from my retreat. I’m also going to introduce a “Social Media Sabbath” to my week and thus on Sundays I will be pretty much off grid (although I’ll still be text-able for those of you who have my number). Hopefully this will mean I can keep up with all you lovely people but prevent me from getting sucked into the arguments discussions and random scrolling that can eat so much precious time and yield little to no reward.

I shall also be continuing my work on the house and garden (with any luck this will not aided and abetted by any more things going wrong) and also giving my parents a hand with their house too. I’m expecting that to take up most of my weekends (those which aren’t already allocated to fun things) for the rest of the year. This isn’t going to help me save any money – DIY is really rather expensive – but it will mean that I have some peace of mind for the next few years and will hopefully ensure that I have a spare room that people can actually stay in without having to fight through boxes or getting nightmares from the WWI & Afghan conflict research that is currently plastered to the walls!

I have much to do in the next twelve months, much to write and much to look forward to. I just hope I haven’t disappointed any of you too much with the decisions I’ve made.

And now, last but never, ever, least …


As Madam is still recovering (rather slowly, but mostly because I think she’s enjoying the attention) from a sprained paw sustained last Monday, she is not feeling up to dictating her thoughts. Instead she has instructed me to provide a photographic record of her month, so that you may all benefit from her beauty and grace.

For the first part of the month, whilst I was away, she was looked after by my parents and then by my neighbour and was therefore spoil rotten and had friends to play with:

She also indulged in a spot of gardening as only she can:

But this is the most accurate representation of what she's been doing (yes, the snore-o-meter has been off the charts):


I suspect when she sees this she will regret not picking the photos herself!

PS – I know I’ve barely mentioned that the UK has a referendum today. I’ve voted (to remain in the EU) and I’ve been quite active on Twitter and Facebook in respect of the vote during the past week. Now all I can do is cross my fingers and hope that when I wake up tomorrow, we’re not cut adrift and at the mercy of Johnson and Farage.

PPS - I popped down to London the other week to see the Kenneth Brannagh Theatre Company's staging of Romeo and Juliet. It was wonderful and I have posted a small review here!

Saturday, 14 May 2016

May Monthly Musings Are Early!

And are also going to be very short because I leave for a three week retreat – no internet, no social media, just me, space to think, and some beautiful places to walk whilst thinking - tomorrow and as yet I have not packed a single scrap of clothing.

This month, well, all two weeks of it so far, has been one of house happenings. The requirement to replace the fence involved much painting in the hail and rain over the bank holiday weekend, but resulted in a beautiful back of the garden once it was completed.

However the piece de resistance occurred at the start of this week, and caused my days to be mostly filled with plumbers and panic (although not necessarily in that order). I arrived home on Monday night to find my smoke detector dripping alarmingly onto the hall carpet. Five minutes later, having run around the house turning off the water and failing to determine which of the bathrooms it was that had sprung the leak in the first place, I call Direct Line’s home emergency and they sent a plumber out to me that evening.

For those of you who follow me on twitter, the saga that followed is already known to you, so I’ll be brief; there was much to-ing and fro-ing of plumbers, there was an obsolete, badly fitted shower pump that needed replacing and there was Direct Line, who after their initial brilliance, became useless and their inability to communicate made my stress levels over the whole thing a thousand times worse. However all is now well, except for the still damp plaster and the modern art water stains that are covering my hall ceiling and I have received a fulsome apology from Direct Line’s customer service team, so the saga has ended on a good note

What I’m far more excited about is my retreat, which I’ve had booked for about six months and has been the shining beacon of hope when I was floundering the seas of study and stress. From midnight tonight I will be off the grid, unreachable except in the direst of emergencies. I'm hoping that taking this time away from the normal day-to-day grind will allow me to deal with several aspects of my past that are still haunting me and sucking some of the joy from my world, no matter how tightly I attempt to seal them in the bottom most cellar of my mind. I also intend to focus on where I want my life to go from here and what I need to do to make myself the best version of me I can be.

I will back on 7th June brimming, I hope, with positivity and a much more focused idea of my life’s path in the next few years.

And finally, as always, here are:

(dictated by Dog, transcribed by She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader) 

Well, my faithful followers, I’ve barely got the energy to dictate this to She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader thanks to how busy I’ve been; breaking in the new fence through assiduous border patrols was tiring enough and then, if you please, there were suddenly vast numbers of tradespeople, plumbers, and other individuals that had to be vetted via vigorous sniffing and repeated sounding of The Warning BarkTM.

Your transcriber, having just inhaled the gloriousness that is Lyndsay Faye’s Jane Steel, would happily paraphrase Dog as having said “Followers, I sniffed him”.

I’m overworked, exhausted, my voice is hoarse and now She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader is disappearing off and leaving me for three whole weeks. It’s just too much for a dog to bear.

Your transcriber would like you to know that at this point, Dog stalked off to her bed in what would have been an epic sulk had she not fallen asleep a few seconds later and started snoring. I feel that Dog would probably not approve of me sharing photographic evidence of this sulk failure, so obviously I’m doing so!

Your transcriber also wishes to point out that Dog is not being abandoned heartlessly but is staying in her house with my parents for company. She will spoilt rotten and she knows it.

And on that note both Dog and I send our love to you all, and hope that the next three weeks bring you all nothing but joy and contentment! 

Thursday, 28 April 2016

April Monthy Musings: In Which I Rediscover My Green Fingers and Get Overexcited About Captain America

Tending the garden has always been something that I’ve enjoyed doing but of late it’s been one of the many things that has been put on the back burner whilst I tried to combine studying and working. Now that I’ve got my evenings and weekends back again I have felt the call of the shrubbery (Ni!) and the poor, over-grown, neglected boarders and I’ve begun making tentative attempts to spruce the space up again. I’ve started with a few pots and the indoor cultivation of some tomato plants and nasturtiums; I like to grow at least some of my own summer salad items as it makes me feel productive in the best way possible and pretty flowers always lift the spirits.

However this weekend I have a much bigger project to tackle. As you’re all aware, Dog keeps an assiduous, all-weather watch on the garden boarders, notifying me (and, in fact, the entire neighbourhood) if there are any incursions, infractions or other suspicious behaviours in their vicinity. What she apparently doesn’t investigate is the sturdiness or otherwise of the boarder itself. 

Which is a rather elaborate way of saying that my fence is not a happy fence. In fact it’s slowly becoming not a fence at all, an ex-fence if you will. The bottom five inches of each panel look less like wood than a piece of modern art that is intent on capturing the essence of Emmental; the look rather than the smell as far as I know, since I’ve not been sniffing my fence and I’m certain that Dog would have been chowing down happily on it if it had even the faintest whiff of cheese.

Thus I am now the proud owner of nine shiny new fence panels which require at least one good coat of protective fence paint on each side before they can be used to replace the poor, holey fence that has served so faithfully for years. You can have three guesses as to what I’m spending my Bank Holiday weekend doing and the first two don’t count! In that regard I’m crossing my fingers for sun (or at least that it doesn’t rain) and as I’ve chosen Cuprinol Duck’s back in Forest Green I have no doubt that my fingers will actually be green within five seconds of picking up a paint brush.

Before I start my weekend of DIY, though, I’m spending Friday night in the cinema watching Captain America: Civil War which I know is going to put me through the metaphorical wringer and leave me a dehydrated yet soggy mess because I can see and understand both sides point of view of the main plot point.  I was just about to post this and then I had a sudden panic that the next paragraph might be viewed as a spoiler. I don’t think I’m saying anything that isn’t obvious from the trailer but just in case, I’m turning the text white. If you don’t want to read it just keep scrolling, if you do, copy and paste into a word doc.

The segregating and monitoring of a group a people simply because of who they are is abhorrent - and Nazi-esque – and I can absolutely understand Cap’s reaction to being told to accept something that directly violated the concept of freedom he has always fought for. However in a world where we expect our governments, armed forces, police, and all other public serving bodies to adhere to a code of conduct and be monitored and checked in respect of what they’re doing whilst on the clock and held accountable for it*, I can also see why Iron-man feels that it is inevitable that the Avengers are going to need to make themselves accountable too. I also cannot see any easy way to reconcile the two view points and I know however the Russo brothers have chosen to play this out, some of my favourites are going to die, trust and friendship are going to be damaged and broken (possibly irreparably) and I am probably going to want to hit someone by the time the final credits roll.

*I realise that this not what happens a lot of the time, if it was then we wouldn’t keep hearing of appalling incidents in the US and elsewhere where POC are being shot and killed/seriously injured by police for behaving in a manner which only provokes a shrug and a hand wave from the same police when it’s white person doing it.

But in all honestly, regardless of my attempt at reasoned and logical thought about the argument at the centre of the film, it doesn’t make any difference to my allegiance. I will always be Team Cap. In fact I’ll be with Steve, and with Bucky, ‘til the end of the line.

And now, after that display of obsessional sentimentality, here is the part of the Musing you’ve all been waiting for:

(dictated by Dog, transcribed by She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader)

Whilst She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader has been neglecting her duty to share my deeds of daring do and beneficent wisdom with my faithful fans, I have not forgotten you. In fact I’ve been telling all the other dogs in the neighbourhood just how beloved I am. They’re all extremely jealous and are now claiming they have vast followings too. I have told them that their fleas do NOT count as followers. 

Your transcriber would like you all to note that she was wondering what all the evening woofing was about and is very happy to discover the cause as she can now threaten to withhold transcription services if Dog does not keep the volume down in future.

My border patrols are running very smoothly at the moment, with only minor squirrel incursions and a few near misses with The Ginger Tom from across the way.  Given that She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader has been encouraging all sorts of birds and other critters into the garden with free gifts of bread (none of which I was allowed to eat, which is frankly rude) I feel that this only highlights just how competently I handle my domain guarding duties.

Your transcriber feels you should all know that Dog mutters under her breath whenever she mentions The Ginger Tom (who does indeed deserve his capital letters) in a very good impersonation of Mutley. She can also do the Muttley snigger and often does when your transcriber does something worthy of being sniggered at for (like tripping over her own feet or forgetting what she is doing mid-job). Your transcriber would also like to point out that Dog broke several plant stems in her haste to hoover up the bread crumbs knocked of the bird table by overenthusiastic blackbirds so her claims to have not had any bread at all are erroneous and intended merely to garner your sympathy.

I’m not at all sure I approve of She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader’s renewed interest in my garden. I have just got all my shrubbery dens and behind-the-hedge paths exactly the way I like them and do not want her clacking about with those snippy things and ruining my cover for my Stealth AttacksTM on any type of garden invader. It really is most vexing.

Your transcriber - who is most certainly going to take her secateurs and hedge clippers to her shrubbery (Ni!) - wonders how Dog intends to facilitate attacks of any sort (never mind stealth ones) given that what she mostly does in her dens is sleep and these days she does not sleep without snoring, the noise of which makes most people think there is a jet squadron taking off nearby.

She-Who-Thinks-She-Is-Pack-Leader has promised to take me to Attingham Park for a lovely long walk very soon, which should allow her to take many beautiful photos of me. In the meantime, I have instructed her to pick the best of the ones she took in the garden last week for your viewing pleasure.

Take my best side, Mum!

Oh, wait, both my sides are best!

And on that note this Musing is at an end. Dog and I wish everyone in the UK a lovely bank holiday weekend and everyone who is everywhere else a lovely normal weekend!

PS Thank you to all the lovely people who left comments, love and encouragement on my last post. I know I’ve not replied to any of them but please know that I really appreciate each and every one! 

Friday, 15 April 2016

Terry Pratchett #speakhisname

Yesterday the Terry Pratchett Memorial Event was held at the Barbican in London. I wasn’t able to attend but did spend some of the evening thinking about how Sir Terry had affected my life. This is the result.

I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I read my first Discworld novel (thirteen seems to be a good estimate so we’ll go with that) but I can remember pretty much everything else about that momentous moment. I was in my bedroom, curled up on my bed and I can see, as clearly as if it was happening now, the cover of Equal Rites gleaming in the afternoon sun as I pulled it from my shelf. I read it in four hours - four gloriously mind-expanding hours - and then went bounding downstairs to ask if we could go to the library on Monday so I could get another one.

I became evident pretty quickly that these weren’t just books to read and move on from; re-reading was most definitely required and therefore owning them was essential. So my pocket money was repurposed for one use and one use only, my windowsill soon becoming a growing shrine to the wonder that Terry Pratchett’s wordsmithery instilled in my heart.

I wanted to be Granny Weatherwax, adored Rincewind and Luggage, and hero-worshipped Sam Vimes. I kept saving, kept buying, and I kept reading. Once I’d managed to get my hands on all the Discworld stories available at the time (Interesting Times had just come out at that point) and had read them all more times than was perhaps healthy in the space of a few months, I started trying to find out what the truth was in the many little inspirations and sly, sideways mentions of various events in the books.

My understandings of myths, folklore and legend expanded exponentially, as did my understanding of medieval Italian politics (to name but one of the many fascinating topics the Discworld touches upon). I also went looking for other things Terry had written and had Good Omens almost shoved into my hands by an extremely enthusiastic librarian (I’m sure Terry would have approved of her fervour). I’m now on my third copy of this most brilliant of novels and will be forever grateful to the librarian as it brought Neil Gaiman’s writing into my life as well.

I have gained so much from reading Terry’s work over the years and I’m still finding gifts in each and every page. I’ve discovered elements of history, invention, science, religion and ways of thinking that might otherwise have passed me by. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve boiled with anger and experienced pretty much every other emotion human possible. The Discworld has been a place of discovery and wonder, of comfort and safety, of acceptance, understanding and hope. It’s been there when I needed to escape the world, when I wanted one thing to be a bright spot in an otherwise awful day. It’s also been there when I wanted to make a good day even better. I cannot innumerate all that Terry and his works have taught me over the years but the most important thing - thanks to Granny Weatherwax and Sam Vimes - was that I learnt what sort of person I wanted to be.

I owe a huge debt to Pterry and I will never be able to repay that. But I can do this. I can #speakhisname and, along with all his other fans, ensure that his work and his legacy is not forgotten.

GNU Terry Pratchett – until next year!