January Resolution Update

January 6th Chichester Canal

I am Lancashire girl who is familiar with our counties three C’s, coal, cotton and canals. Canal walks bring back memories of my father, Sundays visiting the cemetery and then walking the picturesque Bridgewater Canal.  My friend Raymond and I loved the Wigan Pier to Arley Hall and Wigan’s flight of 23 locks to Top Lock. 

Chichester Canal

My husband and I parked near the centre of Chichester and followed the canal towpath, we hoped to get to the marina. Soon I suspected that this wasn’t a ‘working canal’ and a little research proved I was right. Still a great walk that would be perfect for our older dog.

One of the highlights was spotting a heron. And I’m excited to find another spot where water voles hang out too. The coots were plentiful and surprisingly brave and loud.

We didn’t get to the marina, hubby pointed out that we only had two hours free parking, but already made an improvement on last week’s 5k walk and moved up to 6k.

Km: 6

Miles: 3.73

January 11th Highgate Cemetery

Highgate Cemetery has been on my bucket list for a long time, and I wasn’t disappointed. Best of all I will have to go back, preferably with my sketchbook, because the tour of the West Cemetery was fully booked.

We got the tube to Archway (NOT HIGHGATE) and then caught the 271 bus, which it turns out we only needed for two stops. But since it was all uphill, my feelings of embarrassment quickly left. We got off the bus at Whittington Hospital and walked to St Joseph’s Church. Then we cut through Waterlow Park, past the duck ponds to the Swain’s Lane exit.

“A Dude that really knew where his towel was”

There is a small £4 entry fee, and we stepped into the impressive Victorian tombs and gravestones. Many with an abundance of stone ivy and angels. My main reason for the visit was to see sci-fi author Douglas Adams, but of course, I had to stop by the glowering bearded bust of Karl Marx. The cemetery was smaller than I had thought. We picked a cold day with grey skies, and we could hear the crows and the leafless branches of the trees tapping each other.

We walked back down Highgate hill and took a quick picture of Dick Whittington’s cat, but I was disappointed by the not quite 4k. So, we decided to stop at Camden Town on the way home.

Km: 3.9

Miles: 2.74


January 11th Camden Town

Camden Town Market

I haven’t been to Camden’s markets since the 1990s and my goodness it’s changed. I offered to bring my daughter here for her upcoming 18th birthday, but she seems a bit lukewarm about the idea, so hubby and I made a stop.

We picked up on that unique vibe the moment we left the tube station. By now it was already 3 pm, so we didn’t have much time. However, we still looked at the eclectic market stalls, had a quick stroll by Regent’s Canal and sampled the Chinese cuisine in the Asian quarter.

It was a little sad that we didn’t bother to find a live music bar and stay a little later, but that’s life with kids! I had a coffee and a cake, plus a sit down on the tube between the walks so not sure if I can combine the total to six?

Km: 3.9

Miles: 2.7



January Resolution

Something strange happened in 2019.  I did not sign up for or complete NaNoWriMo. I started but didn’t complete Inktober.  Being someone who enjoys these sorts of challenges and rarely doesn’t achieve a goal, it was a weird experience to just be chill about it.  I don’t want to go back to the way I was feeling in the autumn of last year, but I do want to take something positive away from the experience. I want to hang on to that bit of chill about deadlines.

Instead of a New Year resolution, I have a vague idea of setting myself twelve monthly challenges.  With the unique approach of not being overly critical if I don’t complete them.

January challenge – explore more.

I walk or run most days. It’s delightful to not only have garden birds feeding on my hand; I also have a few swans and a robin waiting for breakfast every morning on my walks. I must be a soft touch when it comes to local wildlife. I love it. But I also see this as a sign that I need to shake up the routes. This, in itself, will be a challenge.

My daughter and I have signed up to the ‘Race at your Pace’ 35 mile challenge. I’m aware that over thirty-one days, 35 miles isn’t a lot. I will still be completing my daily walks and talking Watson out. But I am hoping to use these miles to find new walks and maybe some hidden gems. My husband has given me wellie boots for my birthday, and some maps for Christmas and I’m hoping to use this as a way to kick start my blogging and maybe vlogging.

January 1st Stansted Park Estate

I woke up and couldn’t resist going to the sea, plus my terrier is getting older and prefers the shorter walks. So, the water birds still got their breakfast.

Stansted Park Estate

And then I parked at Stansted Park and explored a new bridleway. There are many footpaths and bridleways across the Stansted Park Estate and at some point, during January I would like to tackle the circular Monarch’s Way walking route. We were greeted by a chicken, and past sheep and horses and into the trees. I like to walk in the winter, not so many insects, the tracks are quieter, and you can see the animal footprints in the mud. Also, it was nice to see the bird nests and clusters of mistletoe. Unfortunately, the bridle path crossed two main roads which meant empty fruit shoot bottles and litter. Still, the weather was dry and pleasant, and the moss was bright green.

Best of all, New Year’s Day lunch was sandwiches in front of the fire when I got home.

Km: 7

Miles: 4.5

2nd of January – Southsea Hitting the first brick wall

Woke up late. And bizarrely, slightly freaked out to receive an unexpected group chat call from friends while still in pjs. It’s made me realise that I never phone anyone anymore, I always text. We have realised that finding somewhere new to walk isn’t that easy, you google and see the haziest directions to the nearest parking spot.

So, me and eldest daughter decided to ‘just get in the car and go somewhere.’

Immediately, the oil light started flashing, which added to my anxiety, so we parked up on Southsea beach. I don’t go to Southsea often mainly because I’m not too confident when it comes to parking in Portsmouth. But today the roads were clear, the car parks empty.

Fountains at Southsea

Walking along the seaside front in winter always reminds me of Stephen King’s description of Maine when the tourists leave. The sky was grey, the shingle beach bright orange, you could hear the crash of the waves. Apart from a few dog walkers and mothers of young children, there was a deserted feel to the promenade.  I am so glad we stumbled here. The breeze was just strong enough to blow the cobwebs away.

I had to phone my husband to bring oil, so we decided to do a short lap. A couple of circuits of canoe lake, South Pier and then onto the D day museum. Not precisely a ‘new’ walk, but a reminder of an underused resource. Plus, a lesson learnt, it’s best to decide where we are planning to walk the evening before… 

Km: 5

Miles: 3.10

5th January 2020 Emsworth – Westbourne – Emsworth.

I was tempted to wait for a better day, sky grey and drizzle that brings back memories of my mother saying it was the kind of rain that ‘really gets you wet!’ I’ve never been sure what kind of rain is dry.

One of my favourite circuits is Langstone to Emsworth. I think the Emsworth mill pond is so beautiful, but today after parking in South Street I turned my back on the water and headed to Westborne.

The link of the route I took can be found here:

I won’t lie, walking along streets lined with houses and school meant I was disappointed by the route. However, soon we passed St John the Baptist, an extremely pretty church complete with an avenue of yew trees. And then crossed the bridge over the Ems.

Rebuilt Lumley Mill

I was surprised when we found Lumley Mill. I think my northern roots gives me strong preconceptions about what a mill should look like! Lumley Mill is a large white painted building with magnificent windows, which absolutely did not look how I expected it too, and I was disappointed. The original mill was destroyed by fire at the beginning of the 20th century.  But once we walked along the footpath we saw a few hidden treasures, a cascade of water, crystal clear streams and a loud chorus of bird song.

Although it is too early in the season, I kept my eyes peeled for signs of water vole activity while walking alongside the streams that flank Brook Meadow. I wasn’t surprised to see no signs of water vole life or hear the distinctive plop as they jump in the water, but I may try again in April and May.

I believe that Brook Meadow is full of wildflowers come spring and I’m looking forward to exploring again. Quite proud to just extend my walking routes a little.

Km: 5.6

Miles: 3


A Year in the Life of my Arts Council Grant

Still in shock from being accepted I had to wind down work commitments. I gave notice to the Harbour School, and other tutoring commitments. Nervous and excited I have my first meeting with my mentor Philippa Francis. Feedback from tutors and agents pointed out that plotting was my nemesis so with that in mind I made a reading list:
Structuring your Novel: Essential Keys for Writing an Outstanding Story K.M.Weiland
Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success K.M.Weiland
Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story K.M.Weiland
Plot and Structure James Scott Bell
Outline Your Novel Scott King
Having already contacted school to see if there would be any interest in creative writing courses for children for the application it was a matter of sending emails out to let them know that I had been successful and arranging dates for the workshops.

I had already made commitments with Portsmouth Council to participate in the annual Bookfest  so I was pleased to run a few events during February and March. Being interviewed for Solent TV was nerve wrecking and fun, and meant that a few creatives got in touch to ask me how to put in their own submissions to the Arts Council.
One of my favourite spoken word events of the year is Valentine’s Day Massacre, and I was performing along side some of my favourite artists at the Square Tower.

With the help of my mentor – the plotting had started!

One of the highlights of the grant was being able to go on a writers’ retreat and research mission to Cornwall. For seven days, my husband made me breakfast and I sat in my pjs and wrote from 7 am until 10 am. We then went out and explored the locations I needed for my novel, I took photos, made notes. Then back to the Airbnb for our evening meal, also made by hubby and got more words down. The lack of a proper TV, no internet and WiFi and a break from work and household duties meant my word count broke all records.

A month of self-discipline I love spoken word events and a new team had got together to arrange more spoken word events, none other than Christine Lawrence, Amanda Garrie, Jackie Green and Richard Peirce formed T’Articulation. Lots more events, but I knew I had to be focused on the novels and be careful not to sign up to everything. However, one performance at the Canvas Café couldn’t hurt! And I have to say it was a fun event, there is something exciting about performing in a station.
More plotting and refining drafts.

To a back drop of my darling daughters working so hard on their GCSE’s and A Levels we were buying a house, we got news the seller pulled out a few days before we were expected to fill up the removal van which was a massive financial hit. Luckily, my husband and I have had many worse disasters in our marriage and were able to take it was obviously not meant to be attitude. Still this was the month I started running creative writing courses for Young Carers in school. Problems at home paled in comparison. I think I was more concerned with my girls being disappointed. I was now in a good writing routine and plodding on with meetings with my mentor, writing and starting to edit.
May is also one of my busy storytelling months, and my girls who usually come along to help with the craft activities were doing their up most to keep up with a lot of academic work. Tiredness was creeping in.

Editing month.
A few years ago, I had been lucky enough to attend a macro editing course by Sarah Grant: time to get out the notes. I developed a revision process that helped me dissect and rebuild my manuscript and I studied the overall plot and subplots and reviewed the novel character by character. I want to stress that at this point I am still not obsessing about spelling and punctuation. I had a few spoken word events for June as well as my creative writing lessons for young carers. I was excited to be performing in Holmes Fest, the creative baby of Matt Wingett, because I felt comfortable doing as I had previously taken part in the event in previous years. However, being asked to be a guest speaker at the Winchester writing conference filled me with fear. I had strange, nerve-wracking dreams about standing up and being naked from the waist down; imposter syndrome at the idea of standing up alongside speaker with outstanding pedigrees made me quake in my boots. Memories of being told that no one likes a clever woman and, strangely, a yearning to go back to my working class roots, to eat chips, pie and gravy and drink hot vimto made me consider cancelling the event. However, things that you dread are rarely as bad as you expect and I was proud to speak at such a prestigious venue.

It was now coming to the end of my writing workshops with young carers and it was extremely hard to say good bye. My daughters finished their exams, tired and exhausted as washed up sailors, it was time for our family holiday to Florida. Of course, during our magical time at Harry Potter World, Universal, we got news that if we wanted the second house we had to complete immediately. Many hurried phone calls from theme parks later, we had completed on a house but where unable to pick up the keys for another 9 days. Since we had to arrive home from Florida, arrange removal vans, gut and decorate the new property so it was fit for us to move into, I decided not to unpack or wash the dirty holiday clothes and left them in the suitcases till we moved. Husband working away, and with the help of a retired decorator called George, me and my two daughters did the impossible. We cleared house and garden, packed and was ready to move for the day after the Super Moon. I new that I was unable to work on my novel but I did not want to break the writing every day habit. I had been on a day plotting workshop with author Jo Franklin and replotted a young reader that I had previously already written a version of prior. That month I am very pleased that I still managed to write 250 words a day. However, I am not proud of the amount of calories I consumed; the first two weeks were in Florida with an American diet and Voodoo Doughnuts, the second two weeks consisted of mainly sandwiches and take out.

In our new house and for the first time, I had my own writing space. Things could only get better. Alas, we have a small West Highland Terrier whose views towards squirrels would make Trump look like a humanitarian. He barked himself into such frenzies, that all the fur started falling from his front legs and chest. And when he ran up trees in pursuit of them only to slide down, he injured his back leg. When Watson is unhappy, no one in the household is happy. All public engagements grounded to a halt. The young carers group finished and the first drafts of my novel and young reader were also finished. I found myself distracted by unpacking boxes. I think the general tension of awaiting GCSE and A Level results did not ease the tension in the house. August didn’t quite bite me in the ass but it still bit. Unfortunately, I contracted Lymes disease but was lucky enough to have it confirmed and given 6 weeks antibiotics.

Youngest daughter was full steam ahead with her life plans and enrolled in the college of her choice, however, for my oldest daughter, late August and September was a time of transition and finding herself. She eventually settled on doing a degree in Pharmacy but living at home. With the young ones focused and engaged in their studies, more plotting for me and my second novel. I had hoped to go through and repeat the plotting strategy and repeat the plotting strategy beside my mentor but, unfortunately, she was coping with a family bereavement, which left me to plot alone. I went back over my rejection letter from an agent, the comments I got from my tutors at university, the notes I’d taken from my reading list, and plodded on. I had quite a lot of self-doubt at this moment but one of the benefits of being awarded an Arts Council grant is that, effectively, you’ve been paid to do this task. Without the grant, I think I would have started a different project at this point. But now I felt I had to sit down and get on with it. It was the agents party in London in September, and my husband and I took the opportunity to have a weekend away. It was good to reconnect and my confidence was increased by the fact that some agents remembered who I was and were encouraging about me sending them work.

Children storytelling commitments were coming in thick and fast as well as writing courses in the library. However, despite the fever and joint pain disappearing, I was struggling from what the doctors called brain fog. I was forced to make the decision to postpone all storytelling gigs til, the new year with the exception of the Gosport Tree Decorating Event, banking that I would be better by December. With the exception of one year, I had always performed at the Day of the Dead, a really fun spoken word event invented by Will Sutton. I struggled with the performance, although the feedback from friends was positive, I was forced to admit to myself that my short term memory wasn’t good enough to perform onstage: it was a bit of a blow. It also made me second guess the work I had done on my plotting sheets but, I couldn’t see any other option than carry on.

With my plotting grids and Nano, it was time to get on and write my first draft. One of the things I love about Nano, is it is all about the words and the pressure of editing is relieved. I hoped for a repeat of the kind of word counts I had achieved in March. I still had some creative writing courses to run but this was the month that I realised I hadn’t managed to kick the Lymes. I had productive days and not-so-productive days. However, one of the biggest changes I have made to my life over the last two years is being much kinder to myself. I wrote over 60,000 words in November. Unfortunately, when I copied them over to the NanoWriMo site, I copied and pasted it in twice, buggering up my beautiful graph which irritated me no end. Also my first draft was still not completed.

I eased into December taking great pleasure in the fact that this would be the first Christmas in a new house. And realised, my planned ending for the novel was not quite right anymore. Despite always advising my students to finish the first draft before going back, I printed it out and realised I would need to change the last 10,000 words. I needed long walks and plotting time by the sea. My creative writing classes finished on the 18th December. My last story telling event was on the 2nd December. I moseyed the end of the year by reflecting and writing in my journal. It has been a hell of a journey, a privilege to be granted this award which will end in March 2019. I have 1 completed YA novel that is in the process of being edited, a young reader ready for submission, and a second YA novel close to completion. I met some fabulous young carers, overcame my fears of public speaking in an academic setting and got the opportunity to visit the place I was writing about. Best of all, it is not over yet.Facebooktwitterpinterestlinkedin