Word of the Week – Loquacious

WOTW Loquacious

This is my word of the week; it’s plain and simple; it doesn’t have multiple applications; there is no need for interpretation; it just means what it means; you don’t have to write for ages to describe how and where to use it.

There is one simple reason to explain why I came up with this as my word of the week: I have finally introduced a new character into the first draft of my novel and now my main protagonist has someone to talk to. The first few chapters have been very short on dialogue (I’ll have to have to fix that later) and that has suited me because generally I enjoy writing great swathes of description about inner thoughts and feelings, postponing action and dialogue for as long as possible. However, I experienced a palpable sense of relief last night when I could finally write a whole bit where two people were talking to one another.

They talked about sausages, probably because I was coming down with a cold and when I have a cold I just want to eat and eat and eat. Clearly food is on my mind even when I am supposedly hard at work practising my craft. In fact, now I come to think of it, there are a lot of biscuits so far in this novel. Hmmm, don’t write and diet?

I hope you have a loquacious week and remember: if no-one is listening to you it is the universe’s way of telling you that you are not talking quite enough!

I packed my bag and in it I put…

Pack my bag

Today being the first Saturday in the month, I went off to Norwich Castle Museum to my writing class. I thought before I set off that it might be fun to take a photo showing what I pack in my bag when I’m off to class, so here it is.

Bag: Knomo “Antwerp” cross-body bag

Contents from top left moving clockwise:

  • Woollen fingerless mitts — similar available from my Etsy shop
  • House and bicycle keys on lanyard
  • Wool felt beret
  • Cath Kidston small leather purse
  • Wizzard little tool for repairing glasses
  • Mark and Fold A6 stitched notebook printed up with monthly diary
  • Mark and Fold A5 linen-cover stitched notebook
  • Cath Kidston glasses case
  • Pappersbruk top-bound spiral notepad
  • DIY tinted lipbalm
  • Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen in Rose Cuivre finish
  • Swizzels Parma Violet sweets
  • Avon Encanto hand cream
  • Envelope containing Waterstones gift cards

In our class today we studied objects in the current exhibition Viking: Rediscover the Legend. By the end of the class I had written the following poem,

This supple leather had, in previous days,
Cradled the calloused foot of Ivar’s father
As he traveled the familiar paths of a city
Many miles, many years, from home.
Each morning Ivar watched as the shoe
Was drawn with barely audible creaks
Onto the foot it had sworn to protect,
And the bone of a long-dead sheep
Passed through a loop of hide
To join foot and shoe in solemn matrimony.
It went thus each day, until one day
Foot and shoe did not return
And Ivar, in his grief,
Walked the path in his father’s stead.

I have to say I am loving my monthly get-together with other local writers and the chance to focus on things that I wouldn’t perhaps be drawn to on my own.


How was your Saturday?


 

Word of the Week – Accomplish

01-04-19 Accomplish

Looking forwards as we start a new week and a new month, my chosen Word of the Week “Accomplish” is an exhortation to set goals and strive to achieve something. To set oneself a challenge, to determine a course. It is wise, in setting goals, to accept that we can still accomplish something even if we do not ultimately reach our target. Sometimes it is enough that we accomplish the understanding that a certain thing is not for us, we do not find it important enough within our life, we do not enjoy it as much as we thought we would, or even that this is simply not the time for us to get the best value from that particular activity.

As well as looking forward, we can apply this word to the month just past, using “accomplish” to celebrate what we have done.

I set myself the challenge for March 2019 to do some creative writing every single day and I am proud with myself for meeting this challenge. It took a slightly different direction from the one I originally envisaged, and in the final analysis I wrote for 25 days on the first draft of my novel, adding 16,730 words to it which averages out to 669 per day. That is amazing progress. Now, not all of those words were freshly-minted during the month because I took some pieces that I had written previously and imported them into my novel. That was part of the evolution of the novel which has become more solid and cohesive in my mind as I have been working on it daily. That being said, it is still a successful contribution given the original context of my challenge: “to work on the creative writing”, not to write a set number of new words in the time period.

I also worked on other pieces over 8 days, adding 16,870 words. Now this was definitely more a case of importing and typing up pieces written previously. However, it means that I now have most of my creative writing within the Scrivener software on my computer, making it much more accessible and seamless to work with.

The big thing to come out of this month for me is that I am loving writing, really engrossed with the story I am crafting, and I am going to make the effort to carry on writing every day even though March is now over.


Do you set yourself goals/challenges/targets? How do you feel if you achieve, or fail to achieve them?


 

Prescience

Not a quote of the week, but a word of the week:

Prescience (noun) – foreknowledge/foresight

I’ve been working hard on my knitting through the week and I am getting very close to completing the knitting part.

15-03-19 knit
The Wheatfields sleeveless pullover

I am very pleased with how this is looking. I plan to finish it with a simple crochet neckband and armbands to neaten up the edges. I still love the cream wool and I can imagine it knit up as a cricket jumper, the kind I wanted pretty much all through the 1980s. It would also be ideal for some of Marion Foales’ old 1980s patterns.

I thought I was having a day of procrastination yesterday as I spent far too much time sorting out old files on my computer’s external hard drive. Mainly it involved getting rid of innumerable duplicates/triplicates/infini-plicates! It was only when I sat down to do my creative writing later on in the evening that I realised how useful some of those unearthed items were. I came across some old snippets of writing from 2006 and the style I had used to write them entirely suited a couple of the characters in my novel.

Back in 2006 I wrote the following:

But you know these observations about these things I own and how I use them, they are all part of the back-story of me and when I create characters I need them to have this kind of back-story. Understanding how a person interacts with their possessions is incredibly useful for a writer. Or for one who is simply interested in human character.

Well, there I was, thirteen years later, using those observations to provide the back-story for a character in my novel. Now if that isn’t prescient, then I don’t know what is!


Have you had any experience of a thing that has taken a long time to reach fruition? I’d love to hear.

I remember my mum planting a rowan tree in our garden when I was a young girl and all the years when she watched it fail to put forth any kind of perceptible growth. I recall how it suddenly spurted with life the year she decided it was going to be dug up and scrapped if it didn’t make an effort before the autumn. Things can be like that.


 

Stories for a spring sky

13-03-19 Spring sky
A delightful spring-looking sky

The days are most definitely getting longer here in Norfolk and we are having our fair share of bright days, although accompanied by most cyclists’ least favourite conditions – wet and windy. All in all it is behaving pretty much exactly as you’d expect for a British March. It is the weather that makes me homesick for York, although I have never lived there, only visited.

Having wrapped up InCoWriMo (International Correspondence Writing Month) at the end of February, I set myself the challenge of working on my creative writing every day during March. I am happy to report that, like my knitting, I am very happy with the progress I am making.

To start the month, I intended to take part in a 21-day writing challenge by Write Your Journey. It seemed to me a great idea to receive a writing prompt each day so I could flex my creative writing muscles, but this turned out to be the wrong challenge for me. I should probably have investigated the website more fully before signing up for the prompts, as I would have realised that it was geared towards meditating and exploring yourself rather than about writing stories. I completed the first few days, but I began to struggle when I got to the one that required me to listen to a guided meditation accompanied by a meditation bowl prior to starting to write. This isn’t my taste, although I’d love to hear from you if you’ve tried it and enjoyed it or found it helpful. Writing in my journal provides me with as much navel-gazing as I require on a daily basis, and if I’m facing anything particularly thorny I tend to turn to the I Ching which I use as a random way to explore problems from new viewpoints.

When I got to this point in the challenge I decided to abandon it and work on more fictional items. Then, if I was going to be writing fiction, why spend the month writing short pieces each day based on prompts at all? Enter (actually, re-enter) my novel.

I started writing my novel in May 2018, got over the 10,000 word-mark of my first draft then life went a bit kablooey and I didn’t look at it again until the end of February. When I talk about my novel, I tend to do so in a self-deprecating way: I say it wryly, I put inverted commas around it and I don’t acknowledge to many other people that it is, in fact, supposed to be a proper novel and that I am writing it. I feel that it seems presumptuous of me to write a novel whereas writing little stories is perfectly okay. Even in my writing group, we all say we write short stories, none of us admit we are working on a novel. Perhaps I am the only one; perhaps we all are, but we aren’t ready to say so.

Earlier this year, with the novel resting, I wrote some scraps of a story that has been fizzing around in my head like balls in a pinball game and that is entirely for my own consumption. When I decided to go back and work on my novel, I re-read some of my earlier character descriptions and it hit me that my little personal story, if tweaked, would make an excellent tale of what happened in the youth of one of the characters and how she had led the rest of her life in the reflected glory of it. So my first action was to import that text into my novel and I have been rewriting it to suit my character for the past few days. To say this has been enjoyable is an understatement. I have loved it and why not? I always love writing.

I currently do my creative writing on my MacBook laptop computer using a writing application called Scrivener by Literature and Latte. This is an all-singing, all-dancing piece of software and I am willing to admit that I find it very complex, not to mention intimidating. Actually, since buying it last year I have often just used Apple’s built-in word processor, Pages, for creative writing because my needs don’t justify Scrivener’s complexity. However, I do like to use it and, as with any software, you can use it to any level of expertise you choose so it is in this software that my novel resides. The way I see it, a solid month of working on my novel in Scrivener will be part of the learning process, not just an exercise in creative writing.

There are, of course, a number of writing packages out there for the Mac user including Ulysses, which often wins ‘top app’ awards in the media and IA Writer, another very popular choice. Ulysses and IA Writer both hang their hats on providing a simple, distraction-free interface for writing, Scrivener by default has multiple elements open but you can choose to go into a single, clean screen for writing. Personally, I like to have other reference items around the edges. Scrivener and IA Writer are both traditional desktop applications, in that you buy a license and then pay to upgrade when new versions are released. I used Ulysses for a while until they adopted a subscription payment model which I don’t like. I understand it because it provides a predictable income stream and the company can release micro-updates as many times as they like. I’m just old-school when it comes to owning rather than renting my software.

One of the great things about software created specifically for writers is that it usually provides you with easy to reference word counts and you can set goals for the whole work or for a number of words per session. I like that, although every day I am writing away full tilt and suddenly the computer gives out this chime and I almost fall off my chair with shock!

The first draft of the novel now stands at 15,930 words. I wonder if I can hit 20,000 by the end of the month.


I hope you’ve enjoyed this little wander into the realm of writerly matters. Are you doing anything a little out of the usual this March?


 

Landscapes, wheatfields

03-03-19 Writer

Last Saturday was my second trip to the Castle Writers’ group at Norwich Castle Museum and this time we covered the topic of landscape and how the setting can act like another character within your writing. This is a concept that I will have to work on because logic dictates that the landscape needs people to react with or, at the very least, a character to observe it. However powerful the elements are, they are only dramatic in terms of the effect they exert on a person or an object which we care about. That’s how it seems to me, but like I say, I need to work on it.

The other thing I am working on at the moment is a sleeveless pullover, a transitional piece to extend the life of winter dresses and blouses into the spring weather. Here it is so far:-

06-03-19 WIP
Fields of Wheat

I am absolutely loving working in my favourite Shetland yarn (J C Rennie Supersoft Shetland) which I am holding as a double-strand to work at approximately DK gauge. I am also enamoured of this particular shade. It is such a good, clotted-cream colour, neutral but uplifting. The lace pattern reminds me of wheatsheaves, thus I am thinking of this garment as Fields of Wheat. It is destined to go into my Etsy shop, worst luck, as part of me wishes I was knitting this for myself. I am knitting a small size, but I intend to make it available in a medium and large as well. The design will feature a v-neck and the back will be in stocking stitch.

I really enjoy knitting a nice, simple lace pattern and this one has proven to be quite easy to get the hang of. It has a 12-row repeat which is just right to do in one sitting, meaning I get a pleasing feeling of progress each time I work on the top. Even so, I am looking forward to getting the front finished because I just love a good expanse of stocking stitch.


I hope you are enjoying your current projects, whatever field they may be in. Do you have a work in progress that is making you smile?


 

When one notebook closes…

01-03-19 back page
The very last page of my old notebook – where I doodle intestines apparently!

You know the old saying that goes “When one door closes, another opens”, well I’ve had that experience with my general notebook. Having finished a journal and started a new one earlier in the week, I am finally on the last page of my current Mark and Fold A5 notebook. I’ve been using this for my general notes for the past eleven months and I have already mentioned the possibility of moving into an exercise “rough book” format. Well, good old Mark and Fold have come to my rescue as their quarterly subscription box arrived today and inside was a like-for-like replacement for my existing notebook. Yipee!

I thought you might be interested in a little pictorial ‘unboxing’ so you can see how the subscription looks as I unwrap it. I have always been really pleased with it. As well as the notebook, this quarter I received two Thank You cards and a gift voucher to use in their online shop.

Unfortunately, this marks (not to mention folds!) the end of my subscription and the cash isn’t there to renew it at the present time, but I can honestly say the past two years using their products have been a joy and I wholeheartedly recommend them to anyone who loves high-quality stationery with a minimal design.

So, to the unboxing.

Friday is usually my Quote of the Week day and I haven’t got one to hand, so I will just include the snippet I wrote in my notebook on 17th September 2018 and call that a quote:

Me? I think we’re all born with broken hearts, and life itself is just an exercise in damage limitation.

Not the cheeriest bit of creative writing in the universe, but it worked in the context I was thinking of at the time.


I hope your week has been good, or at least is almost over. Have you come to the end of anything and started something fresh? Any doors opening or closing?


 

A weekend in review

Continuing with my slightly tardy theme, today I’m going to write about the various elements of my weekend.

On Saturday I went to a meeting of the Castle Writers Group at the Castle Museum, Norwich. This is a monthly meet-up that has been going on for many months now, but this is the first month that I have steeled myself and booked to join in. Now I regret not doing it sooner because it was brilliant. We spent two and a half hours exporing character including picking a face to write about – I chose the gentleman in the beret in the photos above; he has really gripped me. I waver between whether he is quite military, or bohemian. Either way, I adore him.

The meeting was quite structured and I really enjoyed the format. It was very much geared towards getting us thinking about a specific element of our creative writing and provided much food for thought and practice before the next meeting.

The desk in the photo montage is on display in the museum and it represents a typical curator’s desk. It is one of the pieces I always go and look at whenever I visit the museum because I find it very inspiring.

In the evening I had a meal at Yo! Sushi with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson. It was a really enjoyable meal with good food and good company. The food going round on conveyor belts is guaranteed to entertain young and old alike. When we left the restaurant Norwich was having one of its very few wintery showers. We have only had one real snow shower this winter and even then it didn’t linger, otherwise just a few sharp frosts and a couple of bouts of sleet.

On Sunday morning I sat and finished reading Haruki Murakami’s latest novel, Killing Commendatore, a thoroughly enjoyable read. It is a reasonably long novel at around 680 pages of medium-sized text and I didn’t exactly speed through it, although I did read for longer periods from about halfway through. Murakami’s works are usually told from the point of view of a single character and this is no exception. Our hero is an artist, in the process of divorcing from his wife and settling into a house owned by the father of his friend and agent, Masahiko Amada, after spending the winter on an extended road trip. Masahiko’s father is Tomohiko Amada, a renowned artist who has worked in the Japanese tradition since he returned to Japan just before the second world war. He is suffering from dementia and is living out his final days in a nursing home. Three things happen which combine to catapault our leading man into an increasingly surreal landscape, and which also act as a catalyst for his personal art. He discovers an unknown painting by Tomohiko Amada, he makes the acquaintance of a man who lives on the opposite side of the valley – the strangely charismatic and possibly dangerous Menshiki, and he discovers a pit in the garden of Amada’s house. From these three events, all manner of inexplicable tendrils branch out; some things are resolved by the end of the novel, but by no means all of the questions asked get answered.

I am going to include one quote from the novel, simply because it made me laugh when I read it. It concerns Menshiki, who is a bit of a Gatsby-type figure, and who has cooked our hero an omelette.

The omelette wasn’t just pretty to look at – it was delicious.
“This omelette is perfection,” I said.
Menshiki laughed. “Not really. I’ve made better.”
What sort of omelette could that have been? One that sprouted wings and flew from Tokyo to Osaka in under two hours?

Also on Sunday, I made a batch of Date Slices – shown in my photo prior to cutting. Actually, I could so easily just have left it in one piece and gobbled my way through it, but I really made it for sharing. I love Date Slices and bake them to a recipe from Cranks, the wholefood restaurant.

Of course, Friday 1st February marked the beginning of the International Correspondence Writing Month and so I wrote letters on Saturday and Sunday. So far I have written and posted a letter a day, which is the object of the exercise. I hope this year I can make it through the whole month because last year I failed miserably. In fact, I got so far behind I just gave up.

The thing I didn’t do so much of is knitting, and I do find that if I get immersed in reading something the knitting tends to lag behind, and if I get immersed in my knitting the reading lags. I wonder if I am using the same part of my brain for both, so either ones satisfies the urges?

I hope you had a good weekend, and have been reading, writing, knitting, or doing other things entirely, but all to you own heart’s content.


 

2018 in 9 chapters

Prologue

2018 is singing a triumphant closing number and 2019 is poised to make its entrance so what better to do today than reflect on some key themes from the year? You might want to make yourself a cuppa before you head into this – it’s going to feel like you’ve been reading for a whole year before you get to the end!

Chapter 1 – the ignominy of scriptwriters

I’m going to start with Kojak, but I promise I will bang on a lot less about this subject in the New Year (maybe!). Today I want to talk about how cruel script-writers can be. Since July, I have sat through four series of this excellent show from the 1970s and in almost every episode, Detective Bobby Crocker has crossed a busy New York road. Every time he crosses a road, he does it perfectly – he looks in both directions before he crosses, he carries on looking both ways as he crosses, if a car approaches, he calmly and politely alerts the driver by holding up his hand, if a car stops he generously raises a hand in acknowledgement and thanks. I am not kidding, every time I cross a road now, I think about Bobby Crocker and his road-crossing technique!

I therefore consider it a betrayal that, in Series 5, the scriptwriters decided that he should get knocked over by a car whilst crossing the road! This scene could have been done with any other detective in Manhattan South and been utterly understandable. But no, they had to choose Crocker!

(It’s okay, he only banged up his elbow and lived to fight another day, but that’s not the point.)

Chapter 2 – knitting

So, on to the serious stuff. At the end of 2017, when my knitting spirit was slightly under par, I decided to set myself the goal of knitting one garment and three pairs of socks for each of the four seasons, with the year divided at December 21st 2017; March 20th 2018; June 21st 2018; September 23rd 2018 and ending on December 20th 2018. I actually knitted three garments (the chunky sweater, sleeveless top, and maroon superwash sweater) plus two pairs of socks (both in Mr B Yarns – “Where the Wild Things Are” and “An Inspector Calls” colourways). I am not downhearted because that’s an improvement on the previous couple of years. Also, I am only counting my personal knitting – it would be a lot more impressive if I added in stock I’ve knitted for my Etsy shop, and the Christmas gift jumper.

The most important thing is that I love and wear the items I’ve knitted this year, so I consider it good, solid progress. What I am taking forward into the new year is a renewed commitment to work on the project/s I have on the needles every day, rather than to revert to my normal ‘boom or bust’ nature. A tiny bit of progress every day is the best way to go, and I find if I pick up something intending to only knit a couple of rows I will probably still be there at the end of an hour thinking ‘just one more row’. This is especially true of the Gaudi caridgan I am currently working on.

I do like the idea of dividing the year into the four seasons and I will continue with that for the coming year, just in a more organic, less goal-driven way.

Chapter 3 – reading

I haven’t read as much in 2018 as I intended to, although I have read more than I did in the previous few years so, again, there’s been a bit of progress.

The reads I have recorded were:-
Frenchman’s Creek” Daphne du Maurier – re-reading of an old favourite
Eight Girls Taking Pictures” Whitney Otta – gift from my daughter and a thoroughly fascinating book
Hypothermia” Arnaldur Indridason – Skandi-noir crime-thriller passed on to me by my daughter
The Great Gatsby” F Scott Fitzgerald – another re-read; another old favourite

For Christmas this year I received four books as gifts, so these will be my initial reads going forward:-
Little Miss Christmas” Roger Hargreaves – read this as soon as I unwrapped it on Christmas morning
Iceling” Sasha Stephenson – science fiction, really keen to read this as soon as I’ve finished the Murakami
Killing Commendatore” Haruki Murakami – new book; my favourite author; lovely dustcover, but simply stunning covers underneath it; started reading this on Christmas Day
Uncommon Type” Tom Hanks – I’ve seen so many snippets about this since it was published and I’ve been thinking about getting it, so great to receive it as a gift, and keen to read after I’ve read the others

As with the knitting, I am finding with reading that if I do a little each day I achieve more than if I think I will spend a big block of time reading something.

Chapter 4 – creative writing

Back in the early part of summer I put in a lot of work on my creative writing and I hit 10,000 words on the first draft of what I like to refer to as my novel. Then I stopped. I had good reasons for stopping, not to do with lack of enthusiasm for the project, just that my attention was needed elsewhere. Towards the end of the year I’ve been thinking seriously about short fiction pieces, and looking at Medium as a platform to get some of my writing past the draft stage on into an arena where it stands a chance of being read. I intend to write more about this in the next couple of weeks as I firm up my plans.

Chapter 5 – weight and health

I think in 2018 the most beneficial thing I have done is change my diet, lose weight, and become more active. It took a big change in my lifestyle to prompt me to do this; I had been unhappy with my weight and generally feeling lumpy and unfit for a long while, but I was stuck in a rut of spending too much time on work I didn’t particularly enjoy and not enough time on creative things that I would enjoy, then compensating myself by over-eating.

Now I am two stone lighter than I was; I have eaten well, though not to excess, over Christmas without either gaining or losing any weight; and I feel a hundred times better about myself than I have for a long while. The trick (for me, at least) is to recognise what your particular downfall is and then just apply yourself to correcting it. For me, it’s snacking – I never have been one for eating huge meals, but will happily graze on sweetery until the cows come home. Forcing myself into a routine of eating three meals a day and not snacking in between has been the key as far as eating goes, and I think if I maintain this then I have a good chance of establishing a weight that I am happy with and can maintain.

That is one side of the equation. The second, equally important thing for weight loss is EXERCISE. I don’t think you can lose weight just by changing your eating (input); you also have to address your exercise (output). I initially committed to doing at least 30 minutes of exercise a day and quite quickly upped this to an hour a day. About 50% of the exercise I do is walking because it’s the thing I enjoy and I can easily do and I find it beats cycling into a cocked hat for general fitness.

The other 50% is down to that blue plastic step! No, it isn’t pretty; no, it isn’t exciting; but, boy, does it work! I don’t use it for fancy workouts; I don’t follow some wonderful programme – I literally just step on and off it for 30 minutes. Sometimes I listen to music whilst I’m doing it (Dusty Springfield is great!); sometimes I watch TV (The Professionals; Alias Smith & Jones); I just make sure I do at least one session a day – two if it’s rubbish weather or there’s some other reason I don’t want to go out for a walk.

The third element in my fitness triumvirate is the Apple Activity App (and it’s only the Apple Exercise App because I choose to live within the Apple ecosystem as opposed to the alternatives). I use this to keep me accountable for exercise and general movement. It tracks three things:-
Move – I keep this target purposely low; it’s currently set to making sure I burn 360 calories per day and most days I will double this, every so often I will triple it. ‘Move’ is hard to define as I notice I get a higher ‘score’ if I sit and knit than I do if I actually go out and walk, but you take it as it comes, really. The app also tots up your Move streak and at the moment I have met my Move target for 110 consecutive days.
Exercise – I have this set to 30 minutes per day; again, I usually achieve more than this. Both timed workout sessions and general exercise count in this one, although you have to go for a brisk walk rather than a general amble for it to be deemed exercise.
Stand – This is always set to a minimum of 12 hours ‘standing’ per day – which means that you have got off your chair and moved around for a minimum of a minute in each of those 12 hours. It’s a good one because it is surprisingly easy to remain relatively motionless for huge stretches of time, and on this one sitting knitting doesn’t count as ‘standing’ – you do actually have to get up and walk about.

Using this app has shown me that I am very motivated by achieving targets, no matter if they are completely arbitrary and even if I don’t really understand what constitutes a particular achievement. Give me a big, shiny, virtual medal and I’ll obey you!

Chapter 6 – stationery

My love of stationery has continued to thrive in 2018 and I have been lucky enough to be able to use my fountain pens and lovely notebooks even more as I have gone through the year. In February I took part in InCoWriMo for the second year and totally sucked at it! I will do it again in 2019 and I’m determined to succeed in sending out 28 letters this time. I’ve corresponded with some lovely and interesting people doing this challenge and it is well worth it.

I didn’t increase my store of fountain pens during the year, and I don’t have any intention of doing so in 2019. I did receive two lovely new bottles of ink as Christmas gifts. These are from Lamy’s new Crystal ink range and they are both simply gorgeous. I feel rather ho-hum about Lamy’s standard inks so wasn’t sure if this higher-end range would inspire me, but I am very impressed with the initial try-out. Although they aren’t huge bottles (30ml compared to 75ml in a bottle from Graf von Faber-Castell), this keeps the price at a point where you can comfortably put it on a gift list. (I am a normal person some of the time and I can completely understand that people who don’t use fountain pens might baulk at shelling out £23-£29 for a bottle of ink from lines like Graf von Faber-Castell and Pilot Iroshizuku.)

I am still a sucker for a pretty, or simple but incredibly well-made, notebook. In fact, I choose my handbags based on how easily I can fit an A5 notebook and pen into it. On that front, I received a further very thoughtful gift at Christmas, a leather case to carry three pens which is proving to be such a good item to take in and out of your bag.

Chapter 7 – being a fan

A huge part of this year for me has been about being a fan, primarily of Blake’s 7, but also of Dr. Who, Kojak, Alias Smith and Jones, and the hundred other little flames I keep burning across the years. Being a fan brings me so much pleasure and it is a joy that I share with my grandson which is even better than experiencing it alone.

This year was a happy one as we went about celebrating 40 years since the first showing of Blake’s 7, and we pushed the boat out with a weekend convention where I met loads of lovely people: fans, crew and cast members. I am still smiling with pleasure every time I think about it. It was sad, too, as the inimitable Jacqueline “Servalan” Pearce passed away; a tiny, but larger than life lady who leaves behind the most marvellous memories with all who met her, however fleetingly.

I know it has also been a tough year for Ian Kubiak who organises the Cygnus Alpha conventions and I just want to ackowledge how much poorer my life would be if I had not stumbled upon his web page in 2016 and reignited my love of Blake’s 7. Ian, his family and all who help out at the conventions have earned a very special place in my affections.

Chapter 8 – word of the year

I am not keen on New Year’s Resolutions, but for a few years now I have chosen a ‘word of the year’ to give me something to focus on. These have been “Return” (2016); “Flexibility (2017); “Home” (2018). Whilst I didn’t really manage to be terribly flexible in any way at all during 2017, I think keeping home in mind through 2018 helped me a lot and it was very successful. I have always been very much a homebody – it is where I feel happy and free to be creative. For me, there is nothing better than shutting the door and knowing that nothing needs to intrude unless I will it. Except, of course, for those lovely people I don’t actually know who like to spread joy by phoning me from foreign climes to suggest that my broadband will be disconnected unless I give them control of my computer.

For 2019 I have chosen “Establish” as my word of the year and this is to help me focus on getting things onto a firm footing through 2019 whilst trying to be more the person I want to be and less the person that convention suggests I should be. I am looking forward to seeing how this works through the upcoming year.

Chapter 9 – visitors on WordPress

I have loved writing my blog this past few months, but I think even more than the writing, I enjoy seeing all the countries where visitors have logged in to view my posts. In 2018 these have been (from lowest number of visits to highest number):

Switzerland – Thailand – Philippines – Netherlands – Austria – Japan – United Arab Emirates – New Zealand – Ukraine – France – Portugal – Egypt – Russia – Croatia – Indonesia – Sweden – Hong Kong – Finland – China – South Africa – Australia – Romania – India – Ireland – Germany – Canada – United States – United Kingdom.

So, if you are the person who visited from Switzerland today and read my Quote of the Week from Bob Dylan, thank you, I hope you enjoyed your trip. And, of course, my heartfelt thanks to everyone who has come to look at my tiny plot on the internet and has enjoyed what they have read here.

Epilogue

Whew, this is a mammoth blog entry. I would like to end it by wishing everyone all the best for the coming year.

Propser 2019
“Live long and prosper.”

 

The notes that we write

Norwich Castle Museum
Glowing in the dying rays of a winter sun

This is Norwich Castle Museum, sitting on its mound just as it has since Norman times. Today, it looks down over Waterstones bookshop and Boots the Chemist; I dare say there was an apothecary nearby, even in the days when the castle was newly-built to house soldiers and minor aristocrats rather than paintings and stuffed Ibis.

A few years ago, I went to a creative writing session there called Writing The Curious. This was linked to an exhibition at the time based on the theme of the Curiosity Cabinet and it was a particularly enjoyable day.

Today, I have been looking back through the notebook I was using at the time of the workshop and I am struck by the abstract quality of creative writing ‘notes’, the threads that run through, and the randomness of disjointed ideas. For example, I have written a list:-

  1. The terrible night.
  2. The spaceship.
  3. John Dee’s mirror.
  4. Customer services.

I know the story that the first two items belong to, but I cannot now remember how John Dee’s mirror was going to connect into that piece. Nor, most importantly, how customer services was going to figure in there.

Another page records my thoughts about a group of items included in the exhibition:-

“A tiny glass forest of blue-star palms, 4″ x 3″, no larger.
A jelly of glass.
A glass sea-creature; Sputnik on Earth.
I like the stuff that is clever and pretty. Clever but not pretty is just a bit odd.
Some things only have a reason so long as they are being used.”

Some notes display my quirky sense of humour, for example my idea for:-

“Old-Time Music-Hall type song: “Where’s Me Kerfuffle Machine?”. Sung by a dreadful lothario with Brylcreem hair and orange pan-stick.”

I have a horrible feeling that I was probably waltzing round my flat singing this song at the time!

Then again, I quite like the sound of the following idea:-

“In the garden of an old manor-style house. Dawn. An orchestra playing snatches of classical music under an awning, warming up in a desultory fashion for a performance later. The sun/light starting to peek through. Then a sudden summer deluge and a rush to bring a miscellany of chairs under the canvas to keep dry.”

It sounds like the preparations for a splendid wedding at the home of a racing-horse trainer in deepest Newmarket.

How about this brief, stand-alone sentence as stark condemnation of a person:-

“He takes the shine off everything.”

The best place to finish for today is an item written only a quarter of the way through the notebook, entitled Epilogue:-

“After everything, on a distant planet in the first milky light of a sparkling new day, a newborn infant opens her eyes and gazes out, blank, awaiting adventures that cannot be written, only lived.”


I hope you have stuck with me through this post – I think it is quite self-indulgent, but this is the season of self-indulgence.