Archive | November 2007

Writing

I think you write much better when you are emotional. I was emotional yesterday and wrote a poem (very bad one) that made Julie and Emily cry. We shared a bottle of wine last night in my kitchen while the men sat watching “Trainspotting” in the lounge – uggggh. Julie bought me some beautiful flowers. We cried because we missed mum so much. Poor Julie lost her own mum (Jean) only 13 weeks before losing my mum. How cruel is that?

Yesterday I wrote another short story (hence the above assumption) and I’ve just put it in the post. That’s three in total I’ve sent out now. One each to Woman’s Weekly, My Weekly and The People’s Friend. It wasn’t a morbid story though. It was based on Little Boys and Torches, one of my previous blogs, and the lovely Lynne thought it might sell as a short story after reading my blog. So I took her advice.

I finished editing my book yesterday, too. I’ve got three readers so I shall need lots of printer ink!

H is my first reader. She is 3o, single and an avid reader of women’s fiction and a very good friend. She is so kind – the type of woman who NEVER has a bad word to say about anyone. I was worried she wouldn’t want to criticise my work – but she’s promised me she will – she really wants to read it – over Christmas preferably!

M is H’s mum and 55, so is in my own age bracket. I don’t know her very well so she won’t worry about hurting my feelings if she thinks it’s crap! She will be totally impartial, hopefully.

T is my oldest friend and 70 (she’d kill me for giving her age) She is also a demon with spelling, punctuation etc. She will be my fiercest critic, I think. She reads widely – fiction and non-fiction, and is the most proficient walking dictionary of useless information I have ever met. She is also painfully and brutally honest. (“If you get that book published, you’ll have to go for elocution lessons and lose the Northamptonshire accent!” was a comment made the other day. Bless her.)

Auntie Barbara wants to read it too. But I’ve reserved Auntie Barbara for the second draft – she’s too close, being my surrogate mum.

Another one of my good friends is a man. A. We’ve known each other for years and years and,tragically, he is disabled after a car accident nearly five years ago so has lots of time to sit reading. (Yes – it is entirely possible for males and females to have a platonic relationship – we are living proof!) He wants to read it but is very brainy. Methinks he will think it complete and utter tosh, so I don’t want him to read it.

I am very jelly-like and apprehensive. I didn’t know what genre Twisted Garlands fell into but I think it comes into a Family Saga category aimed at 30 years plus women. Like I said before, it’s a bit like planning to walk round Tescos naked. To be honest I feel a bit of a twit for even daring to think that I could write a full-length novel and hope my readers don’t laugh themselves into an early grave at my “twisted” plot (hence the title “Twisted” Garlands.) I also hope people don’t think I am a psychiatric case!

Ho hum! Wish me luck. I know I’ll need it. I am not expecting to get published, but my first personal target is producing a readable, hopefully enjoyable, second draft for Auntie Barbara to read.

Going to start second novel now. It’s one I started in the 1980’s. I don’t know how many words it is because it was typed on a typewriter: 103 pages of usable text in double spacing, so I suppose that’s about 25K words. I was intrigued by the storyline because I haven’t a clue where I was going with it all those years ago. It hasn’t got a title, but it’s not even remotely like Twisted Garlands. In fact, reading the m/s through so far, it feels like someone else has written it. I suppose they have! That someone else was me 25 years ago!

If I was reading it for someone else I would have to say that the storyline doesn’t flow too well. Dialogue is thin on the ground in places and lots of it is in the bad old passive tense. However, it’s got some vivid descriptions that really conjure up a picture in the mind and some paragraphs that I just hope that I didn’t copy from anywhere!

Margaret Rose Beasley


Tomorrow it is one year to the day since I lost my lovely mum. Take it from me, she was one in a million. Here is a picture of her. This lovely smile says it all. This is how she looked when we walked in for our traditional Tuesday lunchtime dinner. Work never got in the way of Tuesday lunchtimes – it was sacrosanct. “Book me a Tuesday lunchtime meeting at your peril!” I used to say. “I go to my mum’s on a Tuesday lunchtime.” Of course, I used to see her nearly every day, but Tuesdays? Well that was our special time. Just for Julie and me. We were pampered – spoiled so rotten we didn’t want to go back to work in the afternoon. On some occasions we didn’t – when I took flexitime and Julie had a day off. Those such afternoons are the stuff that diamond and pearl memories are made of, but we didn’t do anything special – just stayed round mum’s and lolled about like we were teenagers and talked about nothing in particular.

Here is a poem I wrote just after she died. Fifty-two lonely Tuesdays. She wanted me to try and get my work published for over 35 years. So here you are mum. It’s total crap. It’s got cliches; it’s poetry and I can’t do poetry very well; and everyone will be cringing. It’s everything that it shouldn’t be and it would send a professional running for the nearest hills, but I’m publishing on my blog – for you.

Tuesday Stew and Sanctuary

A gentle lady, kind, loving and wise.
A lovely big smile, with twinkling eyes
Greeted us, as we walked through the door
To a house filled with love, and Kit-Kats galore.

“Can you stay for a little while?”
She would enquire with a beaming smile.
“I haven’t seen anyone else all day”
As she served our dinner on a familiar tray.

Stew, dumplings, gravy and mushy peas
Balanced precariously on our knees.
With apple pie and custard for desert
We ate so much our stomachs hurt!

“Where’s your ironing”, she would reprimand.
We’d look up, feeling quite alarmed.
She loved to iron, tackling huge great mounds
In the afternoons, whilst watching Countdown.

“We’ve done some this morning, we would reply
Biting our lips at the little white lie.
“We’ll bring you the rest, so that you can do it
But only if you’re sure you’re up to it!”

“Please let me help you”, she would then say
“I need to be needed every day.
What is the point of my existence
If I can’t help my family?” (she was very persistent).

“Don’t wash up, just leave it to me,
Let’s sit and talk while we drink our tea.
I love to see you: you know I do,
I love to cook you your favourite stew.”

Now you are gone, mum, we feel quite bereft.
An empty, cold house is all that is left
But we smile when we reflect on your legacies –
Priceless memories, Mum, for us and our families.

We miss you so much Mum, now that you’re gone
But in us, your daughters, you will live on.
We’ ll become grandmothers, just like you
And cook our daughters their Tuesday stew.

Annie Ireson
11th December 2006

The Rat

One of my lovely Labradors sometimes wants to go out in the middle of the night. It’s usually me who has to get up to let him out.

2.40 am saw this morning saw me traipsing about in the dark in my dressing gown that is in dire need of a wash. I didn’t put any lights on because lights-on mean playtime to this particular Lab.

I opened the back door and waited for him, shivering. It was bloody cold last night. I heard a rustle behind me in the utility room and looked round. There was a rat scurrying across the floor. I screeched, leapt outside and shut the back door, thus locking in the offending rodent. I stood there for about ten minutes wondering what to do. The landing light came on in the house next door and I saw the curtains twitch as I hid in the garden. Then I had a sudden thought. What if there are more rats lurking under the shed? Looking around I spotted a dark object about six feet away and whispered “fetch” to Zak, who thought I was mad. (When I checked this morning it turned out to be a furry pheasant soggy dog toy.)

I braced myself to go back into the utility room and shoved Zak in ahead of me. He stood there, tail thumping noisily on the washing machine. It was no good, I knew I had to put the light on. I sat on the worktop which is piled high with ironing that needs doing (needed to get my feet off the floor, see) and poked at the light switch with a feather duster. My heart was hammering as a large dead leaf sat majestically on the mat by the sink. Well – it did look a bit like a rat!

Backing up your work

Please, please everyone back up your work. I had a scare this morning when pc asked for a Windows XP password – completely out of the blue. The password hint said “red” I spent two hours with a dictionary putting in everything that began with “red”. I knew it was not a password we had ever put in, because the entire family uses the same password for everything.

Close to tears I woke up technoson, who thankfully fixed it in five minutes. I was so relieved I was a bit rash and gave him twenty quid!

All I could think of was my book – I didn’t care about anything else. I had backed the first draft on a memory stick, but all my precious editing over the past five weeks or so would have been lost.

Breakfast in Tescos

Thanks to glorious flexitime I have Friday off.

He-who-works-when-it-suits-him and I went to Tescos this morning and decided to have a late breakfast/early lunch before embarking on the weekly shop. The lady on the till was obviously having a bad day. There was a notice on the drinks machines:

“All Drink Machien dos no vork”

Now, when something tickles me, it tickles me and there is no shutting me up. Giggling, I whispered to my hubby with a fake foreign accent – “all drink ma-ch-i-en doss no veeerk”.

The lady on the till must have had the ears of a labrador listening for the sound of his lead. She was also in dire need of customer care training. When I got to the till I was still laughing.

“It’s not funny, you know. I’m supposed to leave off at half eleven and its twenty to twelve now. I have to keep boiling a kettle.”

“I was laughing at the notice.” I explained, biting my lip trying not to laugh too much. She came round to the other side of the counter and peered at the notice in question.

“What’s so funny about that – the drinks machines are not working. It’s not funny, I can tell you. I can do without that on top of everything else, what with people wanting fried eggs all the time when we’re short-staffed.”

By this time other people in the queue were laughing too.

She rung up our breakfasts on the till and my husband asked for two coffees. She jabbed at the till with a frustrated forefinger before hopping off her stool to make them.

“Oh bugger it!” She tutted and puffed behind the counter. “I’ve only got enough water in the kettle for one.”

She made one mug of coffee and said to everyone else in the queue, “you’ll all have to wait, I’ve only got one pair of hands.”

She put the cup of coffee on my tray. Helpful Hubby said sympathetically “it’s OK, I’ll go without”.

“YOU WILL NOT.” Her voice raised an octave. “I’VE RUNG IT UP NOW. GO AND SIT DOWN AND I’LL BRING IT OVER.”

Hubby dutifully did as he was told, tail between his legs. I was still laughing when she came over to slam his coffee down.

“What’s wrong with the notice?” she demanded as she glared at me.

“Err.. I think machine is spelled wrong.” I did feel just a bit sorry for her – her stress levels had obviously gone through the roof.

“How do you spell it then?”

I wrote on a piece of paper MACHINE.

My giggling fit started all over again as we left. She had crossed out ‘machien’ and written ‘machine’ above it.

The Yellow Balloon

This story is true, although unbelievable.

My mother died on Friday, 1st December last year. I am going to cut to the last few days because I think that is what she would want.

Her terrible illness side-stepped all attempts at chemotherapy and finally claimed her life only fifteen weeks after she first became ill. Thanks to the wonderful staff at Cransley Hospice she had a relatively comfortable and pain-free last few days.

My son, Garry, is an electrician and the week before she died he was in charge of putting the lights on the “tree of lights” which is sponsored by Cransley Hospice. Mum was a patient. On the Wednesday he went to see grandma at the hospice and told her he had put the lights on the tree that day, ready for the big switch on on 9th December. Grandma told him to look at the one at the top of the tree and think of her.

Later the same day, my daughter went to see her grandma. They talked about the afterlife and Emily held her grandma’s hand as she asked her to let her know, somehow, that she was safe and happy with Grandad when she passed over. Mum promised Emily that if she could, she would. That day was Mum’s last day of consciousness. She asked me to make sure that Tyler, her great-grandson, didn’t forget her and to remind him when he grew up that she taught him to say “oh-oh”.

The weather on the evening of Sunday, 9th December, the switch-on, was atrocious. It was the day before Mum’s funeral. The rain pelted down in great sheets and we all felt sorry for the Salvation Army band, who played Christmas Carols to a small crowd of people who had gathered for the switch-on. There were only a few children there, which was a shame because the organisers had brought balloons, which they filled from a helium canister, for them to hold and let go as the lights were switched on. Only about twenty balloons were released by the children.

My grandson didn’t go, because of the awful weather and his young age.

As the lights were switched on our family huddled under a canopy of umbrellas. The balloons drifted up into the torrential cold rain and my sister-in-law said “oh, what a shame – you can only see the yellow ones because of the awful weather.”

There were only four yellow balloons amongst those released. They were very distinctive, with shiny ribbon and printed with a tree of lights logo.

The next day was mum’s funeral. When she arrived home after the funeral, my daughter let her dogs out. There, in the centre of her back lawn, was a deflated yellow balloon with a Tree of Lights logo. My daughter lives about three miles from the site of the balloon release.

When she showed her husband the balloon the tears were rolling down her cheeks with happiness. Tyler seeing his mum crying, said, “Oh-oh”.

This story, very special to our family, is why I know my mum is still around, looking after us all, as she did in life.

Children Reading by Six

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think this is really dangerous and will put unnecessary stress on children who are much too young to have to worry about such things. Children learn at different speeds and what a child can or can’t do at six has nothing to do with eventual achievement.

With the benefit of hindsight I would advise any mother of a child who is not reading well at six not to worry. Give kids the right type of secure childhood where they can be a child and not a mini adult and they will achieve their potential at their own pace and on their own terms.

The only thing I told my children was that we expected them to do their very best to get 5 GCSE’s at Grade C or above, including English, Maths and Science. Anything else would be a bonus.

Daughter – who is now a teacher – got a Grade D in Maths. She had to re-take it to get in Uni, but honestly, what did it matter in the end in the grand scheme of things? Incidentally, she was about eight before she could read out loud fluently.