Blog, Creative Writing

Happy Christmas Holidays!

From the moment I started school, Friday became my favourite day of the week. It was the same for twenty years, until I gave up  office life.  I’m now self-employed and working from home at something I love, so pretty much every day is a holiday.

I never set an alarm. That doesn’t matter as I wake at around 5am anyway (it’s all those years of keeping poultry and pigs). As long as Alex gets his regular walks, the day is my own—although 9,999 times out of a thousand I choose to work. That’s because I enjoy writing so much I can’t stop, although I’ll let you into a secret. Sometimes it’s really hard to get down to work! 

For a while I’ll be writing something other than assignments.

This year, I’ve put my publishing career on hold. New projects are keeping me so busy, I’ve rediscovered the joy of looking forward to Friday! My next book, a non-fiction title called Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol is going to be released by Pen and Sword Books on 28th February 2019 (you can either order your copy in advance with 20% off by clicking here,  or on the link above), so I’ll be busy with that, but most of my time is taken up with working for my Masters degree at the University of Gloucestershire. You can find out more about that here.

I knew going back to a life of lectures and assignments after so long away from learning would be hard. Studying part-time means I only have to attend university two or three times a week, but it’s amazing how preparation, commuting and background reading eat into my time. Goodness only knows how full-time students manage, especially as most of them do part-time paid jobs to help with their bills.

Today is not only a Friday, it’s the last day of term. One of our lecturers is treating us to mince pies, so that’s another reason to celebrate. While I’ll be very glad to get home tonight, I’m a glutton for commuting punishment. I’ll be driving back to the university tomorrow to pick up Son Number One, who’s at the University of Gloucestershire too but studying on a different campus and living in halls. He’s coming home for Christmas, so it’s a happy time all round.

Whatever you’re doing this weekend, keep warm. It’s freezing here already, and there are rumours of sleet on high ground tomorrow. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas! 

May your days be merry and bright…
Blog, books, Bristol

Books: Reading, New, and Free!

I’ve been so busy with my university course (you can find out more about that here) I’ve barely had a chance to read anything apart from text books since the summer. I’ve borrowed so many books on Thomas Hardy, H.E.Bates and more from Gloucestershire University’s library I’ll have to transport them back in shifts!

With two assessments due in this week, I’ve sadly neglected this blog, but from today things are going to change. Term ends on Friday this week, so I’m hoping to have lots of time for tinkering with this site. If you can think of any improvements, please let me know.

This week began with some great news. At long last I have a publication date for my non-fiction book,  Struggle and Suffrage—Women’s Lives in Bristol. It’ll be released on 28th February 2019. That feels like a lifetime away, but it’s only just over eleven weeks.

Here’s the blurb…

It’s freezing, pitch black, and silent- apart from the sound of rats under the bed your wheezing children share. Snow has blown in under the door overnight. Fetching all the water you need from the communal well will be a slippery job today. If your husband gives you some money, your family can eat. If not, hard luck. You’ll all have to go hungry. Welcome to the life of a Victorian woman living in one of Bristol’s riverside tenements.

I’ve had a go at creating an Amazon link, so you can buy with one click. Here it is—please let me know if it works for you!

 

Blog, Writing

Talking About Writing and Books…

…was the perfect way to spend my first week at the University of Gloucestershire.

It’s been brilliant. I’ve been lucky with the weather, too. Walking from the car park to my workshops rather than taking the campus bus means I can bracket my lectures with  exercise. Life doesn’t get much better than this!

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Pic from Pixabay

On my first day I picked up some ripe horse chestnuts and hazelnuts that had fallen from street trees on my route. I’ve planted them at Tottering Towers, as a souvenir.

Later, when I got to the campus, I was able to show a passing Design fresher the way to her tutorial room. She was impressed. I didn’t tell her I’d originally found her room while I was hunting for my own.

When I signed up for this course, I was pleased to hear there were lots of other mature students. I didn’t realise at the time that Further Education is a universe where anyone who has taken a gap year straight after graduating is termed “mature”. There are one or two students here who might be older than me, but in general I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb.  To paraphrase James Goldman’s Lion in Winter, I’ve got a decade [or two] on the tutors!

It’s the work that matters. All the staff are great, and my fellow students are a lot of fun.  We each have to produce a workshop piece within the next 36 hours, to be picked apart at the next session. I’ve got a feeling posts on here might become even more sporadic than usual…

Good luck to everyone who is starting at a new place of learning this month. Here’s a suitable soundtrack.*** In exchange for being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Breslau, Johannes Brahms was asked to compose something suitably grand. He responded by weaving together several student drinking songs  to create his Academic Overture.*** The bit that everybody knows starts at 8:50. It’s the theme used by Marvin Hatley in his music for the Laurel and Hardy film “A Chump at Oxford”****, which was one of my late father’s favourites. I know exactly how he’d paraphrase that title today!

 

*Goldman, James The Lion in Winter, AVCO Embassy Pictures, Oct 1968. They’re teaching me how to cite and reference, but as always it’s the technology of application that defeats me. Anybody know how to add footnotes in blogs? 😉

** Brahms, Johannes, Academic Overture, Prom 1: First Night of the Proms 15.07.2011, 7.30pm, Royal Albert Hall, posted on YouTube by 2013brb87 on Feb 15th, 2015. [Retrieved 22nd September 2018]

*** John Suchet, 9am-1pm Weekdays, Classic FM, Recently. What do you mean? Of course it’s a reference!

****Hal Roach Studios, A Chump at Oxford, 1939. My referencing definitely needs more work… 🙁

Blog, Writing

If I’d Known Higher Education Was Going To Be Like This…

e51fd-mp900439527…I’d have signed up a long time ago.

Everything I know about popular culture could be written on the back of a Viagogo guarantee, while leaving room for a Game of Thrones synopsis from start to finish of the series. Never have I ever seen an episode of Made in Chelsea, Gogglebox, or I’m A Celebrity (the fact they have to tell their audience they are celebrities puts me right off that last one, for a start). Only last week, I discovered Honey Boo-Boo wasn’t an over-sweetened breakfast cereal. Most of you will have forgotten her, in the time it’s taken me to discover the child.

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Francis Close Hall, University of Gloucestershire (Pic: Wikimedia Commons)

Then last Tuesday Dr Martin Randall spoke at an induction evening for the course I’ve enrolled on at the University of Gloucestershire. While choosing my modules I’d steered well away from his Popular Culture course, but his presentation was inspiring. When he played a video from YouTube, I was almost converted to his cause.

Of course I had heard of the singer involved. Years ago, dear old Jackie magazine used to advertise bedding and pillowcases decorated with “Little” Michael Jackson’s face. I even recognised the tune. As a teen, I assumed Billie Jean was some weird offering to a tennis icon, and blanked out the lyrics. Now I know better. 

Dr Randall explained the background to Jackson’s appearance at Tamla Motown’s 25th Anniversary bash, which was fascinating. This film marks the seminal point when Michael Jackson changed popular culture forever, apparently. I can’t comment on that. Learning that Jackson had to be persuaded to perform at this event, and catching occasional glimpses of something behind his eyes, I’m inclined toward an additional view.  Perhaps it’s also the point where Michael Jackson the person became Michael Jackson the product, manipulated by money men. All you who crave celebrity, beware. 

Whatever, Jackson went out on stage that night—and this happened: 

I usually whistle Mozart while walking in the woods with Alex. It frightens the wild boar away (especially that bit from The Magic Flute, ho,ho). After Dr Randall’s presentation on Tuesday evening, the febrile, staccato Billie Jean was an ear-worm which lasted throughout my Wednesday morning. Any whistling was out of the question—but I had a lot more to think about than wild boar that day, anyway.

Blog, Romantic Novelists' Association

Romance, Cake and Tea…

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Dancers—with world-famous Betty’s in the background!)

…what more could anyone want?

Last weekend DD and I went to the RNA’s York Tea. We got to the city on Friday, a day early. That gave us time to do some shopping and sightseeing. DD did a lot of her archaeological training with the York Archeological Trust, so we enjoy the sites as well as the sights!

On Saturday morning the city was extra busy, with teams of traditional dancers from all over the country parading and displaying in the rainy streets.

I managed to get some Christmas shopping done. It’s far too early to think about that, of course, but my excuse is that I live a  long way from the shops, so I grab any chance to pick up presents when I see them. DD did even better than I did. She found a dress she liked better than the one she’d brought with her to wear at the party!

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A really warm welcome!

The RNA York tea was held at the Merchant Taylors’ Hall, a medieval guildhall. It’s very grand, filled with beams, stained glass and coats of arms. The building itself is so close to York’s ancient city walls, you can look up through the high side windows and see people walking along the ramparts.

I had a lovely time putting faces to online names, and catching up with friends I hadn’t seen since the RNA conference in July. I don’t need to worry about DD on these occasions as there are always plenty of historically-minded people around. Her speciality is Neanderthal culture, which is about as far removed from the Regency ton as you can get, although on Saturday afternoon everyone seemed to get on very well!

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This was one of several beautiful cake stands on our table

We were served a traditional English afternoon tea in front of a wonderful and fragrant log fire. It was the  perfect antidote to the grey skies outside.  There were sandwiches in several varieties, scones with cream and jam, fresh strawberries, slices of cake and individual tartlets filed with fresh fruit and cream. An unexpected treat was the arrival of individual cones of pretend newspaper, each holding a small piece of fish in batter and a large chip! It was all delicious. A glass of prosecco each, with endless tea and coffee refills added the perfect touch.

Jean Fullerton’s great speech inspired us all to speak up for the cause of Romance writing. Our genre is usually rubbished in the media by people too lazy to find out the truth behind the art and craft.

I was so convinced by Jean’s argument, it almost made me wish my next book was going to be a romance, rather than a work of non-fiction!