Literary guinea pigs! Blog post revisited :-)

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Dear all,

This blog post is all about the value of readers. It goes without saying (although I’m going to say it anyway) that when you’re a writer your thing of value is your readers, especially if they go on to do that bit extra and leave a review. But this blog isn’t about those types of readers it is about the ones you put your trust in before your work is placed on the bookshelves (whether that be virtual or physical). This blog post is all about the types of readers I refer to as literary guinea pigs.

So what is a literary guinea pig?

No they don’t squeak although they do sometimes tweet. They don’t fill their cheeks with food for later, although they do fill their heads with ideas and suggestions for your work. They don’t live in cages, although they are so important you could be forgiven for wishing they did. (You’d always know where they were then and they couldn’t go booking holidays without your say so). Are they cute? I have to say mine are and the fantastic thing of all is that they all have their own personalities, attitudes, opinions and styles. A diverse group of literary guinea pigs ensures you are getting a well rounded picture of how your book might be accepted by others. I call them literary guinea pigs (and please be aware that none are harmed in the process) but you may have heard them being referred to as readers, proof readers, beta-readers, editors, friends…perhaps if you have an alternative you could let me know.

So why have them?

Are you suggesting we get rid of these people? 🙂 I think that’s against the law but I will definitely do some research…yep it’s against the law, they’re here to stay. And thank goodness they are!

Upon writing my very first novel I was scared of letting anybody else read it. Reading your own work is very important, I mean if you don’t want to then why would anybody else, let alone part with their hard earned money for a copy? Eventually I plucked up the courage and passed my work on to someone else and they really enjoyed it. I passed it to another and they enjoyed it too. Before long I had a nice group of people who were all willing and happy to read my work, all people I trust to talk about the novel without giving away all the twists and turns and to be honest and open with me about what works and what doesn’t.

There is nothing as valuable as a fresh eye.  

It was fascinating to see what people picked up on, things that I hadn’t even noticed, even after reading it SO many times. In Poker Face I had one of the main character’s names wrong on the final page of the final chapter! Imagine that! I’d managed to miss it every single time I’d read it and that’s because my brain read what I had intended it to read and not what I had actually said. That is where literary guinea pigs come in very handy.

Patience is a virtue – keep your readers happy

I don’t mean clean their car every morning before work or serenade outside their office window I mean give them some space. When you have a group of people willing to read your work don’t be too eager. Be patient and use each one in turn, use them wisely. Find out who is free first (what things might be coming up that might get in the way of someone’s ability to read sooner rather than later?) and decide in what order you are going to use them. Give your work or creativity to your first reader and then LEAVE THEM ALONE! (Easier said than done) If they provide feedback on their progress voluntarily then be happy to leave it at that, they are working through and they don’t need you to pester them. Some readers go quiet for what feels like an eternity and, in those cases, it’s seems only fair to check in and make sure you haven’t bored them to death. Usually things have cropped up but you’ve got to expect delays, waiting is all part of the business – unfortunately!

Taking it all on board –v- throwing some of it back into the sea

I tell you this having discovered it the hard way myself. Once your first reader has finished arrange a time to meet up (if it has to be by email because of distance then arrange a time you can have a conversation like that so things can be clarified and discussed). The process needs to be open and informal and you, as a writer, need to keep an open mind. If your reader has ideas over your plot or characters then go away and really think it through before you make any changes. In my very first novel I took on board the advice of everyone and made changes accordingly. I did this because I wasn’t at all confident about my abilities as a writer. What I ended up with was a story that had changed so much I didn’t know what to do with it. I’m still working on how to put it back together again. All feedback will be valid, some will make things work better and some will need to be considered, appreciated and then declined. It is up to you as a writer to make that decision. It’s your work so be confident and bold in your choices. Once you have gone through and made the appropriate amendments and alterations then pass to your next reader and repeat the process (It’s like washing your hair).

The proof is in the guinea pig pudding – Yuck!

If you use your readers in this way then you will get the best out of them. I have seven literary guinea pigs and I know by the time my book hits the shelves it has been filtered by a total of eight different pairs of eyes (to include mine) and it has been read by me over ten times. Amazingly mistakes still seem to get through, but imagine how many more there would be if that process hadn’t happened. It would be like a piece of my homework from my school days! (Look at me pretending I did homework!)

Cheers for reading guys & I hope you all find yourselves some special literary guinea pigs too, if you haven’t done so already.

 

Jess 🙂 x

PS it’s actually good fun reading for others, I love it, so if you haven’t done it before perhaps try offering your services. Indie authors should work together; there is much to learn and much to share. Sharing is caring!

Writing is healing. Blog post revisited.

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Nearly a yeat ago this month I had to say goodbye to my bestest furry friend and this post is dedicated to him (Alfie) and how writing can help a little with the healing process.

 

Dear all,

OK so it’s been soooo long since I did a blog post (well actually that’s a lie, I did do a blog post but I kept posting it up and then deleting it because I wasn’t happy with it). I have seriously struggled for inspiration recently but this morning it suddenly dawned on me, that can be said for everything I do at the moment. Once I’d realised this I then realised that the issue I’m struggling with is loss and, as a result, I myself am feeling lost. Perhaps this post won’t be funny (as they are meant to be) but I’m hoping that getting some things off my chest might help me to move on, might liberate how I feel inside and in turn liberate my mind too.

I have been getting on with things as usual. I am currently beta reading for three people and that is soon to become four. I am almost finished editing my romance which deals with teenage relationship abuse. Poker Face 2 is currently being read by the first of my seven wonderful readers, whose insight and feedback is crucial and priceless. The housework is getting done, the yummy meals are being prepared and we are visiting friends, family and play areas as it’s Easter. However, although I am doing all of these things, I am not doing any of these things with my usual vigour. Outside I look and sound fine (don’t want to seem full of myself by saying great) but inside I’ve shut down a bit and I can feel the difference.

I think the issue is that recently I had to have my dog put to sleep and because he is/was a dog and not a human I don’t feel my feelings are quite justified. I wouldn’t class myself as a big pet person or dog lover. I like them but I don’t have to have one. I’ve been fortunate enough in life that although I’ve nearly lost people and I have lost people in a physical sense (as opposed to a permanent sense) I have only witnessed death once and it wasn’t a member of my family. I struggled terribly at that time but other than this very sad loss I’ve only ever lost pets. When I was in my late teens we had to have my first dog put to sleep. We’d had him since I was five and I really struggled. Now I’ve had to have Alfie, my German Shepherd/husky, put to sleep and I’m feeling it…big time!

I keep thinking I’ve spotted him in the garden like the horrible deed never happened and I pause momentarily as I walk into the hallway expecting to have to climb over him to get up the stairs. I’ve even heard what sounds like him slumping down onto the floor in the middle of the night or tapping across the paving slabs in the garden. I miss him and not just because he was a pet but because of what he represented. He was safety, a substitute for having a physically stronger person in the house and he was perfect for cuddling when I was sad or lonely. I now have a husband and two children and I am definitely not alone, or in danger, but I really feel like I’m a man down, and it’s scary. Someone asked me if I would get another dog but I think I’d rather get an alarm. When an alarm dies I can replace the batteries and it will be good to go for another few years.

I have used writing on many occasions to say exactly what I want to say without boring, shocking or offending anyone. I can use whatever words I want, I can be incoherent, messy and I can still write even when I’m crying – have you ever tried to do that while talking? My point exactly! Writing breaks down barriers that might otherwise stand in the way of expressing yourself. Sometimes, if your secrets are really dark or you know that the feeling will pass, then there is one other thing you can do with the written word that you can’t do with a friendly shoulder or obliging ear – you can kill them, literally! After offloading onto paper you don’t have to worry about later retracting what you’ve said, the possibility of accidental leakage or a friend that never dares to come back round because you’ve scared the life out of them. You can take the reams of paper and burn them – ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that – and then you’re free and safe to move on.

My hope is that by writing this post I will free myself of the things I am feeling (burden you guys with it instead) and allow my creativity to flow. Maybe I will even find things funny again and be able to share them with you. At this point I would also like to say that although this post is about my furry friend, on the day in question it was the human variety that was there to offer support. When I decided after they had taken Alfie away that I wanted him back to be buried in the garden my friend Heather said “Yeah I can’t see why not. Ring and ask them what they think.” My husband who I thought might say, “No way! Have you seen the size of him, Jess?” actually gave me a cuddle and said “Let’s go and see if there’s a place big enough for him.” With all three of us pulling together we had a huge hole dug up to my husband’s waist, we had collected him, lay him to rest, picked flowers, filled the hole and still had time to clear up, wash our hands and get our stories straight about death (and the meaning of death) in time to collect the children at 3.20. We then had to break the sad news to them.

I would therefore like to dedicate this post to friends; past, present and future. To Heather for being there and allowing us to collect a huge beast in the back of her car. To my husband, Rob, for whom it would never have been possible if he hadn’t been prepared to get his hands dirty (as well as his shoes, jeans and top) and to Alfie for being the best damn guard dog a girl could ever wish for. Cheers guys, for everything.

Take care from me. Jess 🙂 x

 

 

 

 

Choose your weapon! Pen or laptop? Blog post revisited :-)

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This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

 

From Wix dated 18th march 2012:-

 

Dear all,

I’ve been doing a bit of reviewing and blog research and I’ve discovered that my favourite type of blog is one that ticks the ‘not too long’ box, the ‘witty’ box and sometimes even the ‘informative’ box. I’m not too fussy about the informative bit because, although I am always happy to come away thinking ‘Wow I didn’t know that!’ I wouldn’t be too disappointed if I hadn’t. Taking a critical look at my own work I have decided that my blogs are way too long and, from now on, they shall be short and sweet…I can do short and sweet, you’ll see.

The main thing I wanted to achieve with my blog was to make people smile. So when something happens in my life that amuses me I lock it in the memory bank for a comical post. Today I am lucky for I have just the thing.

“What is it? What is it?” I hear you cry.

“Stop shouting out it’s rude!” I reply. Ha ha just kidding, you can shout all you like…heck I do!

So you may already know, if you follow me on Twitter, that my husband is running a marathon for the charity REACHOUT PLUS (also on Twitter & always happy to receive new followers). He’s been practising his socks off, starting small with a couple of laps of the block. Now he’s looking at a 17 mile stint at the weekend. Phew makes me tired just thinking about it! Well the other day he hurt his foot running & decided that his trainers were letting him down (workman, tools, I know what you’re thinking 🙂 ) so we went to Milton Keynes where they have a shop dedicated to running! Yes, I know! I never knew there was such a thing but apparently it’s really popular!

As we entered the first thing I noticed was the sea of colourful lycra, the second was the price of the trainers (£100 + would you believe) and the third thing (and I’m not quite sure why this was the last thing I noticed, given that it was the most shocking) people were actually running around the shop with their new trainers on and their trouser legs rolled up! I stopped and looked at my husband with a smirk on my face.

“Please tell me you are not going to do that!”

“No!” he exclaimed. “I just want a pair of reasonably priced trainers and then we can get to Costa for a coffee.”

Sensible I thought so I proceeded to let him guide me to the counter, stopping en-route to point out the price of some of the footwear.

“I mean, really, do they need to be this expensive?” I asked.

“They provide cushion, support, stability and balance,” he informed me, reading it right off the label.

“Right, yeah, stability and balance,” I agreed…under my breath. “So what did we do before stability and balance then?”

He responded by leading me to the counter in silence where we were confronted with…wait for it…a waiting list! We put his name down and then browsed. He showed me the high energy sweets, that looked like something out of Jack and the Beanstalk, and he explained that they were pure sugar. The kids immediately started asking if they could have a pack each.

“NO!” we both shouted in horror. Imagine that!

“But isn’t it kind of…cheating?” I dared to ask Mr S-C. He looked around the shop like I was nuts before whispering.

“Jess, these people are really into this stuff so don’t go offending them because, one, it’s rude and…and…two, they will catch!” Oh how we laughed. A day out with us is an absolute scream let me tell you!

When it eventually got to our turn, the shoes came off, the socks came off, the trouser legs got rolled up, the trainers got tried on…then the cheaper trainers got tried on…and then there was the dilemma. Do we go for the cheapest or the next price up? There’s £30 riding (or should I say ‘running’) in the balance. The cheaper is the less garish of the two, being plain white, while the other is gold and green! The white ones look thinner and hence might accommodate his feet less sympathetically and this leads to only one other crucial point…yes, you’re getting there…he did what he promised me he wouldn’t do. The only reason I was still standing by his side in this unfamiliar place was because he promised me he wouldn’t do it, yet, before I could reach out and stop him he was off! RUNING ROUND THE SHOP!

Humiliation finally over, but only because I walked out on him and took the kids to Costa by myself, he finally settled for the more expensive pair, but the purchase was a difficult one. We don’t tend to go in for flash, expensive, material type stuff. We often buy second hand and our cars are very old (like 15 previous owners type old). The fixtures, fittings and contents of our house are not necessarily bottom of the range but they aren’t flashy or expensive and we only have them if they’ve earned their place.

We discussed on the way home how much of this stuff is really necessary and how much is just catering for a public that will part with cash for the next best thing, the more superior, the one that offers the highest performance? Does having high performance trainers make you a better runner than the person with low performance trainers and, if there is a difference, can that really be attributed to the person in them or just the equipment they are able to afford? I ran for my senior school from the age of eleven in the district and county cross country championships and I often came first. However, we were poor and I had the most awful trainers you could imagine. Mine were torn, the sole was coming away and I didn’t even bother to do them up most of the time, just slipped my feet in and away I went. What I did have was the determination to complete the course because I’d been asked to do so by my teachers, who I knew expected big things from me on the running pitch (if nowhere else). I also had the stamina to keep on going even when I could feel blisters on my feet and my lungs were ready to explode. It also got me out of the more academic subjects and I would have done just about anything to avoid those!

I know many people out there are into their running and I still like to run too, though not competitively. The last thing I want to do is offend anyone, which is why I then moved my attention closer to home. I’m not afraid to look at myself and ask the same questions. I have written numerous novels, sci-fi, fantasy, thriller, romance, children’s, young adult and crossover and I am currently working on new material, but I can’t write in pen. My tool of choice, when it comes to writing, is my beloved laptop. One of my writing friends has to write on paper first and then she transfers it all to screen but I’ve tried this and it doesn’t work for me. It’s time consuming. Also I like to develop my stories as I write and if a new idea comes to me I like to be able to scroll back a few chapters and slot it in. This cannot be done so easily when you write by hand, without having to start again of course.

It is quite shocking to think that once upon a time people were only able to write by hand and they wrote great huge novels, fantastically punctuated and grammatically sound all without the benefit of the laptop. Later came the type writer. Hundreds of pages of material were typed again and again without spell check and format options, that can alter a whole document in seconds. So am I less of a writer for needing such tools in order to perform and would I have ever written one book let alone twenty something without my trusty electrical friend? I’d like to think I would, but the weaknesses I am able to cover up with technology would be seriously exposed. I doubt very much whether my work would have been as successful as it has been so far without my trusty laptop. My handwriting is terrible for a start, as an embarrassing incident over the word ‘flick’ knives once illustrated!

Is all of this modern day technology about offering you an alternative way of doing the things that you could do without, while providing a little more comfort? Running and writing without fab trainers or clever laptops shows endurance, dedication and a willingness to put up with pain and sometimes injury for the sake of our goals. Does it make you any less of a runner or writer? Well, no, not really. You still run and write and you still do it well but it certainly makes you a different sort of a runner and writer. It makes you a modern one. I do take my hat off to those that were able to achieve what we as athletes or writers achieve today but without the mod cons. Technology has created the opportunity for more people to take part both casually and competitively in the things that they want to do and that’s fantastic news as far as I’m concerned. Personally I’d be lost (and most probably unpublished)  without my laptop!

Oh pants this was meant to be short and sweet…Ohhhhh…I’ll start short blogs next week!

Cheers guys. With love from me. Jess x 🙂

Motivation and the final destination :-)

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Don’t worry it’s not about people being ticked off in horrendously gory accidents because they’ve witnessed Death’s Plan! 

I think it is important to always keep in mind your motivation for writing (or if you don’t write whatever else it is that you do). What drives you? That being said, I also think it’s important to strike a balance. Don’t just look at where you’re going, or hope to go, but keep an eye on where you’ve been also. Just like they teach in driving (but don’t spend too long doing it because it’s dangerous) it’s good practice to glance in your rear view mirror every now and then…and not just to check your lipstick or your teeth.

In writing terms where you have been is probably a strong factor in the desire you have to write, to share your story in whatever form that might be; fiction, fact, poetry, blog. I shall take my personal circumstances and use them to illustrate my point (I won’t get all weepy and melancholy, I promise). Apart from liberating me from my thoughts and feelings, my motivation for writing is to achieve better, to show people I can do something of value. I want to show that the uneducated girl that left school with nothing but two GCSE’s did have something to offer after all (huh imagine that if you can!) My big dream is that, with some hard work and commitment, I will one day attract an agent and publisher who will open doors to new and exciting opportunities for me and my novels. I hope that (before I grow old) I will be able to look back and see that I have really achieved.

It is possible to spend too much time looking back. If you do this you never progress and you sit like water in a rock pool. You are unable to foster and nurture new things because the environment (that is your mind) becomes too hostile for anything to thrive. It is also possible to spend so much time fantasising over what the future could hold (if only one of those blasted agents would say yes for a change, for example) that your life boils down to living for the next batch of rejection letters and taking them hard when they arrive. Suddenly they are the be-all and end-all. If all hopes and dreams pivot on that one momentous thing (a book deal) then nothing else matters and that’s quite sad really.

I am guilty of getting caught up in both, blaming past experiences for my lack of confidence, my fear of almost everything (other than staying indoors) and my dogged attempts at achieving what I know in my heart to be one of the most difficult things to attain. I do this so I can cruelly remind myself ‘I told you so. What were you thinking?’ But, to be fair, I could write the most fantastic novels in the world but if they don’t sit well with on an agent’s list it’s unlikely they will take it on. Anything short of a miracle (or nasty friction burn to the wrist) is going to make them change their minds.

I do regularly try to remind myself that if I look back over what I have done  and I dispose of the blinkers (installed shortly after discovering a passion for writing) I am able to see so much more. Success isn’t just about moving from A to B on the most direct route, it’s about learning to appreciate the value of the longer and more scenic one. This longer route detours whether we like it or not but it teaches us a lot about ourselves – our limits, our challenges and our ability to overcome obstacles. What mountains did you climb to get to where you are today? For some, achievement is about getting out of bed in the morning (and I’ve been there), for others it’s about making it through the day without a drink (I haven’t yet been there). Many find themselves desperately trying to attain enough calories to function while others are trying not to succumb to temptation. Confronting personal issues is an achievement in itself, sod the book deal! If you glance in the rear view mirror from time to time and find that you’ve overcome some pretty big hurdles then these should be recognised and congratulated too.

I think it’s important to have a plan. Pencil your enormous goal up ahead but consider what you have faced and might need to face to get there. Mark those things too because they deserve to be celebrated. Pin your plan to the wall (or maybe use blue tack, your plan your choice – though if you’re renting maybe just lean it up against the wall to protect your damage deposit). Now take a step back and admire the itinerary that will lead you to your final destination.

Thanks for reading guys & take care.

Jess 🙂 x

Write about what you know. Blog post revisited :-)

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This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

 

Dear friends, slightly lost internet surfers & fellow writers,

I am often asked how I came up with some of the ideas for Poker Face, what made me put pen to paper (or indeed fingers to keys) and why. In brief I’d discovered a new writing tool, one that really worked for me and my ideas, and this is what Blog 11 is all about.

Ruby Palmer’s dangerous and rocky life with the mafia starts after she walks into a lawyer’s firm on her last day of school. Though she’s still awaiting the results of her exams she knows full well they are going to be terrible. She’s had more important things to worry about, like avoiding the painful beatings dished out by her abusive dad and fighting off Matthew Dean’s relentless advances. It’s funny because when I first started writing I read all the advice ‘Write, write, write’ and ‘Read, read, read,’ and ‘Write about what you know.’ I was already writing and reading but I struggled on the ‘Write about what you know,’ score. In my mind, in a nutshell (not that my mind is a nutshell) that advice only really worked if you were a maths professor and you wanted to write curriculum based books. Or you were an expert horse rider and you wanted to publish a book entitled ‘Caring for your foal.’ I was already writing stories, I’d written a sci-fi, a fantasy and a romance, but I was still struggling. I wanted the confidence that I was sure must come with knowing you were an ‘expert’ in your field.

I sat and contemplated, as I often do, and it suddenly occurred to me that I am an expert in something. I am an expert in being me! Though that might not be something everyone else wants to learn how to be (at least I hope they don’t because that could get quite scary!) I discovered that I can talk about what I know of the experiences I have had. I am an expert at coping with an unusual childhood. I am an expert at leaving school with no qualifications. I am an expert at walking into a job anyway. I am an expert at handling a boss with a tendency to declare the colour of my underwear to clients. I am an expert in recognising and getting out of said unhealthy administrative posts. I am an expert at understanding the property ladder and getting my feet on the slippery rungs. I am an expert in showing people that it is possible to leave school with nothing and later obtain a degree. I am also an expert at being a mother and a wife. There are so many things that I can do, that I have experienced, and they all entitle me to write in a realistic and honest voice. I found while writing Poker Face that I do have something I can share; life’s experiences. I might still be fairly young but I’ve been through a lot and, more importantly, lived to tell the tale.

On Ruby’s last day of school I understand the sheer overwhelming panic she is feeling about her future and lack of prospects. I never bothered at school. I spent my lessons singing the theme tune to Only Fools and Horses and laughing about the kinky sounding words and all the sexy ways you could say them in French. I didn’t revise for my exams and I didn’t complete my coursework, so it was no surprise that my exams were going to be awful. Even so, I was gutted on the last day that I hadn’t done more. Suddenly the day we had all been dreaming of had arrived. Even though throwing eggs and flour and defacing our school uniforms was great fun, it didn’t stop me feeling like I’d messed up big time! My friends were going on to sixth form or college or had jobs lined up. They had made plans for the future and all they had to do now was enjoy the summer and wait for those exam results they had worked so hard for. I, on the other hand, knew I was going to fail, though I was pleasantly surprised when I got an ‘A’ in drama and a ‘C’ in English Literature. How you ask? In truth, I really don’t know, perhaps a natural flare for pretending and analysing. That makes sense seen as I’d spent my adolescence doing just that, pretending I didn’t care and analysing why, if I could convince everyone else, I couldn’t fool myself into believing that too.

In some of the scenes in my book I have been able to take personal experiences and apply them to situations I haven’t experienced. For example, in a scene where someone gets shot, I did a little research and applied that to an experience that I deemed to be the next best thing (childbirth!) With the second book in the series I have used experiences where I have had little control, experiences that have accompanied high levels of fear and attached those to some of the ‘way out there’ nightmares I’ve suffered over the years.

So if you are a writer, perhaps starting out and not quite sure what you want to say or, indeed, what you are ‘qualified’ to say then try some reflection. No don’t go checking yourself out in the mirror! Save that for when you’re famous 🙂 Take the advice and information you find out there laterally not literally. I personally struggled for quite a while, feeling like I had no justification for writing the things I was writing. I couldn’t say I was a librarian or a school teacher and I couldn’t boast a degree in English either. I didn’t have famous friends and I hadn’t had anything published before, not even a short story. But when it finally clicked I realised that actually you don’t have to have any of those things (although I’m pretty sure all of them would help!) What you need is to be creative with what you do have, whether that’s qualified knowledge, personal experience or both. Fear is fear whether that’s fear of the dentist or a real life encounter with an armed robber. Love works the same way. All encounters are real, all are valid.

Being creative with our talents and abilities is nothing new. It’s something we’ve had to work on to cope with a struggling economy, a market that has squeezed jobs and demanded more from applicants. There are fewer jobs out there so you can either accept that you’re going to be unemployed for a while or you can take your skills and talents and transpose them, make them fit. Take that square brick and hammer it until it passes through the round hole! As far as I’m concerned, the same can be said for writing. Take a good look at what you have done, where you have been, what you have experienced and how you experienced it and then do exactly what the advice tells you, pick up your pen, adjust your keyboard and then ‘Write what you know.’ Hope it helps!

Take care from me guys, Jess 🙂

A beautiful sight, we’re happy tonight, walking in a winter wonderland! Blog post revisited :-)

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This post is revisited from my old blog Lock Stock & Barrel. I am migrating (one blog post at a time) over to WordPress because apparently it’s pretty cool…and I agree!

 

Wix blog post dated 6th February 2012:-

 

Dear reader!

We are all loving the white stuff at the moment and I’m not talking milk, or anything illegal either for that matter! Actually when I say ‘all’ I mean the kids mostly, me, not so much! Snow is a funny thing…if you’re mad. When you open the curtains in the morning or watch it silently settle late at night it’s wonderful, perfect, untouched. It’s a birthday cake patiently waiting for the grand presentation…right before being hacked to bits. Also snow is never as good close up as it is far away and to be fair, if I had a choice, I’d be getting as far away as possible right now.

This morning I noticed from the dual carriageway that the gently rolling countryside had turned from green to white. The farm houses had been topped with icing and the sheep, suddenly very well camouflaged, were pulling themselves along on their tummies with automatic machine guns flung across their backs as they took advantage of their new environment and dug their way to safety. Nobody has realised yet but, have no fear, I did hear that Quorn fillets are the new ‘lamb’ this Spring.

Closer to home the snow has turned from white to brown, from crisp to sludge, from beautiful to, well, a wet dirty mess that gets absolutely everywhere. But, as I say, the kids are still loving it. We drove to a village pub yesterday for a birthday meal and our car got pelted with snowballs but not by small children. The tall, dark hooded, ice brandishing figures were considerably older than five or six and a couple may even have been in their twenties. They had really good aims and very strong right swings, Play Station don’t half build their muscles up! Kidding I know they don’t spend all of their time on the Play Station…they divide and share it equally between snowball hurling and Xbox 🙂

No need to worry it seems we were not the only victims of snowball crime yesterday. We had not been singled out for having a rubbish car – relief – for when I turned on the radio this morning to take my children to school and pre-school I was quite amused to hear that the local police have been inundated with calls. As a result the police have now requested that people do not report being hit with snowballs unless deemed a real threat of antisocial behaviour. I am considering ringing them up and telling them I have a pretty menacing looking snowman in my back garden and he has been there (I’m assuming it’s a he) since Saturday morning. Isn’t that loitering with intent? He’s in my garden, isn’t that trespass? He is wearing a scarf that I never granted permission for him to wear, isn’t that TWOC (taken without owner’s consent)? He is also killing my grass, isn’t that criminal damage? And I mean, I don’t want to be picky or anything, but my phone just rang and the person didn’t speak. I think the snowman might also be harassing me and I want to know WHAT the police are going to do about it??? I pay my taxes I know my rights!

On a more serious note, one of the things I do not like about the snow is how taken off guard we find ourselves. When I heard we were getting snow a few days ago I kind of panicked, recalling how it was a few years ago after we heard the news of impending snow. We were living somewhere else at the time and our cars wouldn’t make it up the hill outside our house and onto the main road. The main road leading into the village was so lethal someone actually slid from the top of the hill to the bottom. There was no grit, deliveries couldn’t make it through, schools were closed, airports too and the pregnant woman a few doors down from us suddenly started looking bigger and her bump even lower! I was very scared we would have to perform a home birth, and I might not have enough towels! Fortunately this year has been different. The children have gone off to school and pre-school, our Avenue is like an ice rink but the main roads are perfectly fine and as far as I know the shops still have the essentials.

It’s funny because I wouldn’t describe myself as a spoilt person. We own not one but two small, crap cars. We own a beautiful semi-detached house that’s too small for us and the kids have to share a room. We don’t go to exotic places unless you class Tesco in another town as exotic and our television is only the size of a wall mounted laptop, much to the annoyance of one of my movie loving friends. So why then do I worry about losing contact with the outside world so much? I find myself wondering if we could get the car to the hospital should one of us have an accident at home, and how much longer the journey might take in the snow. I worry the pipes might freeze and we might not have any water. I even worry that we might get sick and run out of bleach! I know what you’re thinking, ‘Jess you covered water and bleach but what about food?’ Don’t worry I don’t eat much and I’ve cooked so many meals and frozen them that we should be good for a while…unless of course our neighrbours don’t have food, in which case I might have to recalculate…and amend my post…to include the stocking of beans, powered milk and soup.

Anyway, once again I shall be blaming my imagination for the issues I have over snow and go and hibernate in my bed until it’s melted and the weather has started to be much more civilised.

For now take care with the white stuff in whatever quantity or form you might be dealing and I hope the next post sees sunshine and an indication that Spring is on its way. Optimistic or what!

Take care from me, Jess x