Blog, books, Writing

“Heritage: New Writing VIII’—The Launch!

Last night was the launch of the University of Gloucestershire’s annual anthology of poetry and prose. Held in the stunning surroundings of Francis Close Hall’s Chapel, a huge audience listened to extracts from the book.

Here’s the cover: the map of the world is made up entirely of fingerprints

The launch was held in November to coincide with the university’s graduation ceremony, which was held the day before. This meant that graduates travelling from overseas could make the most of their trip—their presentation on Thursday before Friday’s evening of fiction and fun (and a weekend at leisure in Cheltenham, as they say).

This anthology was made possible by generous funding by the Creative Writing Department of the university, and kept on track by self-styled (for anthology-creating purposes only!) Capitalist Pig Dr. Mike Johnstone.

At the heart of the Heritage project was its content. We appealed to students, alumni and anyone who has worked at, or for, the university now or in the past. Around a hundred and fifty submissions arrived from all over the world. The standard was so high, choosing which to include was almost impossible. Luckily our team of editors, Carlie Chabot, Rich Kemp, Carole May, Hayley Saunders and Maria Stadnicka was up to the task and did a great job. Those contributors whose work couldn’t be included have the satisfaction of knowing they were in good company. The standard of writing was extremely high. That means there are plenty of writers linked to the University of Gloucestershire with something ready to submit when the 2020 anthology opens for business, in a few months’ time.

Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire

The artwork and design of the whole Heritage project was worked on by Sam de Weerd, Hayley Porri, Hayley Saunders, Shannon Storm (who also produced the promotional material), and Jacob Luke while Chris Davies, Sam, Carole, Hayley Porri, Shannon, and Ross Turner handled the marketing. The copy editing was down to Jacob Luke and Ross, while I did the proof reading and Rich acted as consultant to the whole project.

My co-managing director, Chris Davies, made a magnificent compère last night. He kept the evening running smoothly, and the audience loved him. As well as working with the Art and Design team and creating the cover of Heritage, Shannon created a stunning visual presentation to accompany the readings. She also gave a great vote of thanks at the end to the tutors who have made such an impression on us all.

It was a wonderful evening, and paperback copies of Heritage: New Writing VIII sold well. The anthology will be available on Amazon soon—I’ll let you know when it goes live.

Heritage will make a great Christmas present, so get your orders in as soon as you can!

Blog, research, Women's Lives

This Writing Life…How Clean Was My Valley?

I love watching washing dance on a clothesline, like it’s doing in the photo above (by Jill Wellington, via Pixabay). There hasn’t been much chance of that this week. The weather forecast said showery. That turned out to mean torrential downpours lasting for hours, with burst of sunshine. The dry spells tempted me to peg everything out, but they never lasted. Then it was a mad dash to pull everything off the line and get it back into the house.

My latest university project involves the effects on women’s lives of automation during the twentieth century. I’m collecting memories of washing-day from the times before everyone had an automatic machine.

It was the late nineteen-nineties before I bought a washing machine. I’d been using the handy service wash system at my local launderette. I could drop the dirty clothes off in the morning, and pick it up all clean, dry and neatly folded on my way home from work.

That was lovely, although loading and unloading our own washing machine is hardly a chore. It’s not as though we have to scrub each item individually, before rinsing and wringing as in days of yore. I also get a lot of pleasure from watching a line full of washing dance in the sunshine. Getting a load of wet washing dry when it’s raining is a lot less enjoyable!

Do you have any memories of wash day?

Blog

Writing for Pleasure, Reading for Fun…

I haven’t been online much lately as I’ve been busy sorting out my modules for the next semester. This time last year I’d finished my first week at university as a mature student, and couldn’t wait to start the next one! All the worries I had about going back into education after so many years working alone evaporated during my first lecture. I’ve had so much fun over the past twelve months, I’d recommend university to everyone!

Francis Close Hall, Cheltenham

When I decided to study for Gloucestershire University’s MA in Creative and Critical Writing, I decided to put my writing career on hold. I’m only a part-time student, but that takes up an amazing amount of my time. Beyond blogging, the only writing I do these days is for assignments and assessments. I’m so glad I’m not trying to write for publication at the same time!

There’s a lot of background reading to be done for each module. I’m a slow reader. That doesn’t help—neither does the fact I need some time to call my own. There’s my family to enjoy, pets to look after, wild birds to feed and a garden to wrangle.

This week I’ve also been getting ready to speak at the Bristol and Avon Family History Society’s annual fair about my latest release, Struggle and Suffrage in Bristol. Their fair is being held at the British Aerospace Welfare Association in Filton. That’s not far from Rolls-Royce Aero, where I worked for a while. It’ll be great to go back after so long away, but I’ve heard that the buildings where I was based have been knocked down, and the site redeveloped.

That’s a shame, but maybe some of the people I used to work with at Development Accounts (Dev Accs) or the Technical Publications (Tech Pubs) library (or even Sun Life Assurance?) are still around? If so, why not drop in to BAWA this Saturday, 28th September. The Family History Society are really friendly and helpful. If you’ve ever thought about trying to trace your family tree, The Bristol and Avon Family History Fair would be a good place to start. It runs from 10am to 4pm, and I’m on at 10:30am.

See you there?

Blog, Summer

New Semester, New Start…

I hope you’ve had a great summer. September is a lovely month here in the country. The days are still long enough to enjoy any good weather. The nesting season is over, so the garden and wood is full of youngsters finding their way about. Some of them are still at the fluff-ball stage. It’s cute to watch the new generation of blue tits and long tailed tits discovering how to use the bird-feeders.

Every year there’s one big baby who refuses to grow up. Buzzards nest in our wood, and from August onwards their latest brood are turfed out to make their own way in the world. There’s always one who hangs around its parents’ territory. It shrieks to be fed from first light until dusk. The cries ease off once it has learned to find food for itself. Some of them aren’t too quick on the uptake, so the racket can persist for weeks.

Getting down to work again…

It’ll be back to university for me soon. I’ve got two induction sessions next week. After that, I’ll be doing two modules before Christmas, my final two after Christmas and rounding off the 2019/2020 academic year by submitting my dissertation.

I can’t wait to get started. I’ve already bought a season ticket for the Dean Heritage Centre. It’s packed with artefacts and records that can help me in my work on the way small advances in technology had huge effects on the lives of ordinary people during the twentieth century.

One of the treats in store!

There’s one last holiday treat before I start running round the education track between lectures, workshops, archive and library. The York Chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association are holding their annual afternoon tea this Saturday. This started as a local event but they now kindly extend invitations to lovers of York. This year I’m taking my husband Martyn as my guest, to show him the city. Fingers crossed for good weather—it bucketed down with rain last time I went!

Blog, Dieting, Summer

Headspace Needed—For Food, Fantasy and Forward Planning…

This isn’t me…yet!

I’ve written before about trying out Paul McKenna’s I Can Make You Thin. I’ve been listening to its self-hypnosis CD to help me lose weight. It has been working almost too well. The CD runs for about half an hour, and is so relaxing I usually drop off to sleep.

The subliminal message must be sinking in, as I feel more positive about reaching my goal. I want to weigh 9 stone 12lb (that’s 138lb, or around 63kg) by the time the new university term begins. That’s on 23rd September—only six weeks from now!

I’ve lost six pounds already, but I still have nearly twelve pounds to go. Losing 2lb per week will be tough. I love my food. If I can stick to eating smaller portions than usual that will be fine. I’m working on the basis that there’s no such thing as a forbidden food, only forbidden amounts. Doing plenty of exercise to make sure I expend more calories than I take on board should help shift the extra weight.

The problem with that is I already spend a couple of hours each day walking Alex. Add on the forty minutes of running I do on the treadmill every other day, and that’s quite a chunk of my working week accounted for already. I still have to fit in doing the washing, cooking—not to mention eating and sleeping—as well as earning my living.

Good food is one of my hobbies. Writing is supposed to be my job, although as I scribble in my spare time, it’s a hobby too. Writing as a career has one big downside— I’m constantly searching for opportunities. Research and promotion take big bites out of my working time, too.

I’m already racking up between 12,000 and 17,000 steps each day on my pedometer. Much more legwork, and I’ll have to be resoled (I already have a spare tyre, thanks!). I decided to use a combination of the CD and the mindfulness and meditation app Headspace to double my chances of achieving my weight-loss goal.

After trying it out for a while (you can read about that here) I took the plunge and subscribed. That costs around £72 per year. It is a lot of money, but that fact acted on me as an incentive. I want to lose pounds in weight, not waste pounds in money! I’ve meditated with Headspace at least once a day for several weeks. It’s helpful that the app has varying lengths of meditation. If I can’t manage a twenty-minute session, I can squeeze in five-or-ten minutes, instead. There are also short animations and films, which are fun to watch as well as informative.

York RNA Tea, here I come…

When I’m trying to plan projects for my next year at university it’s tempting to spend hours each day sitting in front of my computer. That will lead to me putting on more weight, rather than taking it off.

To give myself an added incentive. I’ve booked my hotel and train tickets ready for the York chapter of the Romantic Novelists’ Association’s afternoon tea in September. I’ll need to have reached my target weight before sitting down to a wonderful spread like the one we had last year (the picture shows only one of several cake-stands delivered to our table!).

The McKenna CD at night gives me a good night’s sleep. Headspace’s Mindful Eating sessions in the morning is a lovely way to ease myself into each day. You’re talked through a ten-to twenty-minute session (you choose the length) of relaxation. It has encouraged me to think about my relationship with food. That may sound snowflakey, but as it seems to be working I’m not too bothered about that.

Any spare time I have now involves either losing myself in a fantasy inspired by Paul McKenna’s improving talks where losing my excess weight sees me beat my personal best time for running a mile. If I’m not doing that, I’m planning meals so I never become desperate enough to snack on something sugary.

It’s made me think hard about whether I actually want to eat something, or whether I’m simply bored (answer: get working instead!), feel in need of a treat (get out into the garden, away from the cake tins!) or thirsty. That last reason, suggested by Headspace, surprised me. To test it, the next time I had the urge to eat I drank a cup of tea instead. It worked. From now on, there’ll be more tea, and less food. More tea can also mean more exercise. While the kettle boils, I’ve got time to fit in a few lunges and squats!

Blackberries—perfect for summer puddings.

Looking back on my long and loving relationship with food reminded me of those endless, school holidays in summer. When it was too hot to work in the garden I’d take a book and hide in the shade of our big old Bramley apple tree. Its branches swung so close to the ground I could climb out of sight without much effort. I would lose myself in something like The Once and Future King or The Goshawk (both by T.H.White). Mealtimes were feasts of home-grown new potatoes, carrots, peas, beans or cabbage, with lamb chops, sausages, or bacon and egg on top. At this time of year, there were big bowls of stewed blackberry and apple with custard for pudding. It was all delicious, and we had to sit to the table until it was all finished. That was never a problem for me—but in those days I was still growing upwards, rather than outwards!

What’s your best memory of those long summer holidays?