Saturday, 2 July 2016

Hope is an Invisible Frog

My resident holly blue butterfly.
It's been a long time since I posted anything here, I know. Life has done its thing, twisted things up and dropped them back down in different, broken positions, but it's my birthday in a couple of days - a brand new year of life - and I'm looking to the future with cautious hope.

I'm not usually known for being an optimist. The grumpy soul within me can squeeze the downside out of pretty much everything, but I like to think that, rather than spreading optimism everywhere willy-nilly, I save it all up to spend on a few good things.

Like invisible frogs.

This is my garden pond.

The pond jungle.
It has five resident goldfish, some stealthy sticklebacks, and a gang of water snails who patrol the edges like a surly security crew. Every year, I wait for frogs. Every spring I hope that any floating mass might just - maybe, yes, no? - be frogspawn, and in summer I convince myself that every odd moment of water was caused by an elusive, unseen amphibian. Each year, the pond remains stubbornly frog-free.

Maybe the pond will never attract froggy passers-by. Maybe next year won't be better than this one. Maybe the world will continue on its downward spiral of negativity...

But no. This year, I'm going to look for the positives, the good things, the bright lights. The pond is already home to some pretty cool things. I've seen yellow and black dragonflies, stickleback fry, and there's a hoverfly that's so friendly, it will perch on your hand. The local birds use it as a bathing pool, the fish are getting fatter, and there are ladybirds everywhere this year - tiny dots of red wandering among the green. There's even a blue butterfly that visits the flowers on sunny days.

I'll keep on waiting and searching for that invisible frog, and one day, maybe it will show up. But there's lots of interesting things to see out there in the meantime.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Comfy January

January often feels like the miserable month. The grey, drizzly month of boring food, unkept promises and general gloom. This year, I want to cheer January up a bit.

Let's give January a big comfy jumper. Let's make it the hot chocolate month. The scented candle month. The month of good books, cake and cosiness. January has been overlooked for too long. It stands next to flashy present-giving sparkly-light wearing December, which is a ridiculously hard act to follow, so let's show January some long overdue love.

Soon, winter will be in full frost, so be good to yourself. Have big puddings and huge mugs of tea. Wear over-sized woolly socks and warm hats. Snuggle up with your pets and let the fresh new year sink in.

Let's make grumpy January a happy month. No diets and daftness, just crisp morning walks and warm dark nights. Let January wrap you in a cuddle this year. You deserve it.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Happy Ted Day!

Today is Ted Day!

December 2nd marks three years since Ted the cat came in from the cold and claimed this house as his own. If you'd like to read Ted's story, I posted a short piece about him on my agent's website last year. You can read all about him here.

Happy Ted Day to all! And ear scritches to all our feline friends out there. I'd never had a cat before Ted came into my life. Now it's hard to imagine being without him.

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Leaves, Candles & Hot Chocolate

I love November. Autumn's getting into full swing, the madness of December is just a dot on the horizon, and it's time to get comfy.

November has everything I like. Foggy mornings? Check. Reasons to wear big jumpers and over-sized cardigans? Check. Dark nights, leafy paths, and big fluffy slipper boots? All of the above.

I'll admit, I'm a leaf kicker. If there's a pile of blown leaves on the path, I'll kick through them with glee. It's time for proper milky hot chocolate, warm apple cake, homemade biscuits that are lovingly misshapen. Putting coats on the dogs, watching your breath twist away on a cold evening's walk in the dark, seeing the garden relaxing into its yearly sleep.

The winter birds are already making an appearance. There's a noisy robin vying for territory against a flock of goldfinches, and new blackbirds with Scandinavian accents are settling in. I've seen huge Vs of geese honking overhead at twilight, and a flock of crows flew by a few days ago, heading east. The skies are clear enough to see the stars at night, the moon has a frosty corona, and the local bats haven't quite gone into hibernation yet. It's just wonderful.

If I could pick my favourite month of the year, it would be this one. So, here's to you, my cosy, cuddlesome November. You're magnificent.

Friday, 3 October 2014

Writing In The Wild

I'm a desk writer, a bed writer, a sitting on the sofa with the dogs writer. One thing I have never been is a cafe writer.

The idea of striding out into the wild with my laptop/notebook has never appealed, mainly because I'm a people watcher. Sit me in the middle of other people's comings and goings and I start guessing things about their life. Who is that woman in the bright pink coat? Who's she talking to on the phone? Why does she look sad? I start people-watching and never get anything done.

Today, I passed a local cafe and thought - maybe I'm missing out?

So, as an experiment, I went in, armed with a notebook, pen and story idea, and staked my claim on a table. The coffee was tasty, the ginger biscuits tooth-crackingly inedible, and I had a quiet corner to myself with only the clink of coffee cups and faint background chatter of two elderly couples to distract me.

Sometimes it takes a change in routine to blow cobwebs off the everyday. How can you discover something different if you don't give new things a try? Sitting there, out of my usual comfort zone, I brainstormed my next chapter and fleshed out a character biography (which may or may not have been inspired by a young woman I spotted, and the imagined life she would have if she lived in my story world). Yes, I still people-watched, but parts of those people imprinted themselves on the scenes I'm working on, and that can only be a good thing.

I won't be lugging my laptop out into the world anytime soon, but as a brainstorming location, maybe cafes aren't so bad after all.

It's a big world of inspiration out there and we're all explorers.
A notebook, pen and coffee is all we need.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

My Favourite Books of 2014 So Far

2014 has been a great reading year for me. After a mini-slump at the end of last year, I rediscovered my reading mojo and found some gems. So here - in no particular order - are my five favourite reads of 2014 so far.

1 - Going Postal - Terry Pratchett. A weird and wonderful ride. I hadn't read much of Terry Pratchett's work before this (just Good Omens, which is brilliant), but I'm glad I finally dunked my toe into Discworld. Any votes for which Discworld book I should read next?

2 - The Martian - Andy Weir. Reads like a film in book form. Once I'd finished it, I heard the film rights had been picked up and wasn't at all surprised. It's visual and suspenseful, and I do have a soft spot for space stories.

3 - The Maze Runner - James Dashner. Book 1 in a YA series, and I've already bought book 2. The grievers are terrifying.

4 - The Spook's Apprentice - Joseph Delaney. This series has all the ingredients I love: supernatural forces, peril, and a general creeping feeling of sinister intent. Great stuff.

5 - The Girl With All The Gifts - M.R.Carey. All right. I haven't actually finished this one yet, but it's already head and shoulders over some of my other reads this year. 200 pages in, it already earns a spot in my top five.

Station Eleven is next on my reading list. Will it be tough enough to wrestle one of these books from the top five? We shall see.

What have been your favourite reads this year?

Monday, 23 December 2013

Happy Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all!
I hope you're having a wonderful December.