Making Dreams a Reality

They say that if you want to be a writer then you need a blog to showcase your writing skills. Well, i thought about starting up a new blog, just for that and then i thought, hey! Wait a minute! I already have one, quite a nice one actually with funky flowers and calming colours. Why not resurrect that one from the dying ethers in which it currently lies?

So here we are, a third of the way through my first year of a Masters of Arts in Creative Writing course with the Open University and i have never written so much in so short a time. I have also never received so much critique about my writing ability in so short a time either, but i am happy to report that it has largely been good and, strangely, people seem to like what i write and the way in which i write it. Maybe i am onto a winner here? Ha, only time can really tell on this one, but i’m willing to keep on trying.

I’m not saying that everything i have written is good, some of them are imminently forgettable as the exercises they are planned to be. Just an exercise in writing to a specific prompt or using a specific technique, some of which gel with the writer and some of which are, frankly, just not my cup of tea.

One that has stuck in my memory though is the following exercise where the brief was to write around 500 words using colloquialisms and language of your home town or Country. Now, i am Cornish, and very proud to be so. I absolutely loved coming up with this one, i hope you enjoy it too.

Bleddy Emmets!

‘Tis no good,’ Jess said as she slammed the pastry down onto the floured board, ‘I’m gettin’ sum teasy with these bleddy emmets down ‘ere all the time with their bleddy upcountry ways.’ She pointed towards the bowlful of peeled potatoes that were sat on the table, ‘Pass us them teddy’s over will ‘e maid?’

Amy did as she was bid, ‘here you go Gran. You really shouldn’t let them get to you, you know.’

‘Aye, I naw’s that, but they really get me goat and they ain’t gotta bleddy clue wasson ‘alf the time.’

Jess had finished rolling out the pastry and was deftly turning a large potato in one hand whilst chipping small bitesize chunks off with a knife in the other and placing them in a line in the middle of the pastry.

‘I don’t know how you do that without cutting yourself. ‘Amy said, trying to deflect her Grandmothers temper.

‘Tis easy tis, jus’ like drivin’ down the bleddy lane is. I thought she were gonna start squallin’ when she had to reverse up the ‘ill. Turmits next me ‘ansome.’

‘It’s swede Gran, turnips are white and these are yellow,’ Amy smiled.

‘I’ll give e swede! They’m all turmits to me. Beef and onion from that bowl there next.’

Amy watched as her gran flipped the outside of the pastry over the filling and quickly crimped the edges together in a fingers over thumb movement before placing it onto an opened butter wrapper and putting it into the oven.

‘You know, we do have greaseproof paper these days. You don’t have to save all your butter wrappers anymore,’ Amy chided.

‘I’ll give e bleddy greaseproof paper an all! When you’ve bin makin’ pasty’s longer’un me then you ken tell us about bleddy greaseproof paper! Aye, you’m a booty you are.’ She laughed, shaking her head at her grand daughter.

‘Fancy a cuppa tea Gran?’

‘Aye, me cups over there. Jus’ top’un up. When this pasty comes out, I’ll wrap’un up an e can take un to work for yer crib later.’

‘Thanks Gran, You’re the best. My mates are well jealous of my pasties on my break.’

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50 things to do before I hit 50!

May 31st 2016. 83 weeks to go.

intersting 2

With the realisation that my 50th birthday is only 83 weeks away, or 19 months, or 1 year and 7 months. Whichever way you look at it, it still sounds scary, I have decided to take this blog on a slightly different route. It is still about being happy, achieving positive results, but it is also about my own journey into my 50th decade by embarking on a 50 things to do before I’m 50 challenge.

I have numerous foibles and anxieties which I really should have grown out of by now and I think that by doing some of the challenges that I have set myself then I may, just a bit, take a step on the road of eradicating them.

I have set myself quite realistic goals taking into account that I do not have a bottomless pit of money – one does still have the mortgage to pay on just my wage at the end of the day – and I am the proud owner of a slightly dodgy back which rules out things like bungee jumping and skydiving. I would rather like to get to the age of 51 both walking and alive…

I have also based a few of them around some current life goals such as doing a Master’s degree (which won’t be completed by the time of my 50th birthday, but it will be started as I am enrolled on the Open University’s Masters in Creative Writing starting October 2016).

I am quite embarrassed to admit that although I live in the beautiful county of Cornwall, I have visited so little of the places beyond my local area. It is time to change this, St Michaels Mount is sitting quite high on my list of 10 places to go that I have never gone to before (number 3). It may be surprising to note that I have only put that I want to have a short story published? This would be because I have already had poetry published and I regularly have non-fiction in the form of theatre reviews placed into the public domain. Whilst it is always an ego boost to see them, it would be churlish of me to set a challenge for something I have already achieved…same goes for ‘have a tattoo…’

As for number 33….I have to put one totally unlikely thing to do in there don’t I? We all know that that one will never happen!

So, below is my list.

Some are already set in motion but none are achieved. If any of my friends or family wish to accompany me on any of them, then please get in touch. For my family? There may even be a few ideas for Christmas presents in here…you are always saying that I am a nightmare to buy something for….

  1. Make stuff from my fabric stash – use the good stuff!
  2. Go to the Zoo.
  3. Visit 10 places in Cornwall that I have never been to before.
  4. Finish writing one of the novels I have started.
  5. Do a Master’s degree.
  6. Take a holiday.
  7. Go to an opera.
  8. Catch up with old friends.
  9. Make 50 items for charity.
  10. Clear out the workshop.
  11. Drive somewhere far away – and don’t freak out!
  12. Go on a zipline.
  13. Do 50 random acts of kindness.
  14. Write down regrets – burn them.
  15. Try 50 new recipes.
  16. Have a picnic in the park.
  17. Go to a yoga or meditation class.
  18. Have professional photos done.
  19. Write my will.
  20. Have a professional massage.
  21. Do something I’m scared of.
  22. Go geocaching.
  23. Have a short story published.
  24. Be a tourist at home.
  25. Spend a day watching movies and eating my favourite foods – sod the diet!
  26. Have a caricature of myself done.
  27. Spend a day at the beach.
  28. Learn a musical instrument.
  29. Put together a family cookbook.
  30. Make and give out some happy pebbles to strangers.
  31. Take a boat ride.
  32. Write a gratitude list.
  33. Go on a date.
  34. Keep my blog up to date.
  35. Finish my UFP’s!
  36. Dress up for the day with no reason.
  37. Make a posh dress.
  38. Visit 5 childhood haunts.
  39. Go on a rollercoaster.
  40. Visit a museum.
  41. Visit an art gallery.
  42. Take a class in something new.
  43. Research family tree.
  44. Do something spontaneous.
  45. Go to a craft show.
  46. Go on a writing retreat.
  47. Go glamping.
  48. Eat something I’ve never tried before.
  49. Handwrite a letter to someone that is unexpected.
  50. Stop worrying about the future and live in the now.

And of course,

Most of all,

Be happy, today is always awesome. x

Facing our own mortality

prince-purple-rain

 

Today has seen the death of yet another Superstar music Icon. Prince was only 57 and as the news broke this afternoon I felt myself transported back to my teenage years of the 80’s, dancing to When Doves Cry, Raspberry Beret and, of course, Purple Rain in our own iconic beachside Discotheque ‘Gossips.’ However, he is not the only one to have passed away recently, yesterday we also lost Victoria Wood, a comedienne in an absolute league of her own and one who never failed to have you rolling in the aisles with her quirky music and unique, comedic take on the average human with their own quirks and foibles. More icons from my 80’s life that have also passed are Glenn Frey, Natalie Cole, Paul Daniels, Percy Sledge, Maurice White, Sir Terry Wogan and of course, David Bowie. In fact, I have just read a list of 35 celebrities of the stage and screen who have lost their lives in the first few months of this year.

I am struck with wondering just why does the news of their passing hit us so hard? After all, it is not as if we ever met them. It is not as if we ever will. They are never likely to sit at our dining tables, regaling us all with their tales of life on the road. They are never going to relieve you of your parental taxi duties so that you can relax in a nice warm bath with a chilled glass of Prosecco – yeah, i’ve no idea what that is like either – and they are never going to be there when you are down and need a hug. Or are they?

Don’t we always revert to somewhere we find comfort when we are feeling sad? When we need a hug and need to feel safe and secure? Don’t we look for the music of our youth, when life wasn’t complicated and when we were happy and free to do what we pleased? Isn’t it just those unreachable icons who sustained our youthful dreams and were always there for us when we needed them? They never told us off, they never screamed or shouted, slammed doors as they walked away. They were our saviours. And they were immortal. They didn’t die.

Also, they didn’t grow old. When did David Bowie get to be 69? There’s no way he’s 69 we all cried as his news broke. In our minds, he is still Ziggy Stardust, singing about floating around the sky in a tin can. And Paul Daniels? He was 77! We are all still angry at him shacking up with that starlet, hussy assistant of his, despite them being together with her never leaving his side and defying all of us doubters for the last 28 years. 28 years? No way! The thing we all find when we hear of any of our favourite, or not so favourite but equally as known, celebrities passing over is that it brings us up sharp to the realisation that if they can suddenly grow old and die, then so can we. Suddenly, we think back to those happy, carefree nights dancing to our heroes at the disco on the beach, the cold, rainy evenings watching sketch shows on tv and we realise that they were quite a long time ago. Our stars have moved on and if it can happen to them, it will also happen to us.

With that in mind we need to learn to let go more and enjoy the hand we are dealt. Nothing is given to us, all of it is worked for. Those celebrities didn’t just wake up one morning and miraculously find themselves as front page news with salaries to match. They saw an opportunity, worked to perfect their skills and fought their way to the top of their chosen profession. Ok, so Prince and David Bowie were born with those phenomenal voices, but they still had to work to get themselves into the position that the public could hear them. They still had to work to control those voices, learn how to pitch them so that they could alternately make us either soar to the highest plane or crash into floods of tears. We need to use our own gifts, hone and perfect them, take the criticism and shape our talents into a form that gives us pleasure. We need to stop living on planet dreamland and realise that we are only here for a finite amount of time and in that time we should be happy, with whatever it throws at us.

As Prince has told us:

I never meant to cause you any sorrow

I never meant to cause you any pain

I only wanted one time to see you laughing

I only want to see you laughing in the purple rain.

 

Today I am alive. Today I am grabbing my bucket list and delving inside to see what I can tick off.

Despite the sadness pouring from my Facebook page, that makes today an awesome day.

Make sure yours is too.

Anita.x

Behind the Mask

mask

I guess we all wear several masks, we all have multiple personalities that we reveal to others at various times in our lives. Whether it is our professional work persona; our happy-go-lucky family persona or our hide away in the back of a really dark cupboard when our heart is breaking persona, we have all seen them, and we all hide them away.

I consider myself to be quite shy and an introvert. I am more than happy in my own company and can usually be found hiding away in my little part of Cornwall creating something. This can be through the written word, playing with pieces of fabric or wool or messing about in the kitchen or the garden. The art of creation makes me happy, the giving away of those creations also has this effect, even more so when I am allowed to witness the pleasure one of my creations has given to its recipient. For instance, we have just finished our evening meal and on biting into his first mouthful of roast potatoes, my youngest son said,

‘Mum, these spuds are awesome, how did you do them?’

My reply?

‘That would be my secret.’

One has to keep a little bit of mystery, if I told him how to cook them then they wouldn’t be Mum’s special spuds anymore would they!

So our evening meal was a success – the slow cooked lamb steaks in my special gravy was also devoured with relish – but I can be quite big-headed here and say that I am actually, quite a good cook. At other times though, for us creative types, when our creations are put out to general approval you can quite often find our hearts in our mouths and our breathing short and rapid as we wait to hear the final verdict.

‘Is it good? Or is it bad?’ We think to ourselves. ‘Oh it’s bad isn’t it.They hate it. It has to be the most rubbish bit of utter tripe I have ever done. Why on earth did I decide to do that?’

And these thoughts continue to whirl around inside our heads until we are finally told what we need to hear. Approval. The all encompassing human need to be liked and loved by those around us. The feeling that we are needed and that without us, then we would be missed. I guess that would explain my secret recipe for the spuds…..

For the introverted creative this need can be excruciating. We know that we can do this stuff, but to get a knock back can be taken to heart so much more and can be instrumental in us holding back and not pushing open the doors that others appear to fling open with outright glee. This week however, I stuck a toe through a little gap and sent a tentative email to see if I could, possibly, if they didn’t mind too much, apply for a Masters in creative/professional writing at two universities. I quoted my qualifications and writing achievements to date and was delighted to receive back, within 24 hours, a request for my portfolio and my application from my first choice course. That initial exhilaration has now passed though, as the realisation has dawned that THEY WANT TO SEE MY WORK! Oh my goodness, they want to see my work! What on earth have I done that is anywhere near good enough for them to like anything that I write?

But then I take a step back, I remember passing two (yes two) degrees through the Open University whilst raising three sons single handed, caring for sick and disabled parents and working at the same time to keep a roof over our heads. I remember that I am one of only six theatre reviewers for the biggest theatre in Cornwall and within this role I have had a one-to-one critique session with The Guardian’s theatre critic Mark Fisher…and he liked my work….I remember that I have as much right to do what I wish with my life as does the loudest person who refuses to have their words silenced.

Therefore, with a deep breath, my head held high and the doubting Thomas monsters that live in my mind at least muffled for a while, I have been reviewing and rewriting some of my past work to put into a portfolio. I have also put together one piece for submission to a magazine and I will post it off tomorrow, who knows, I might even be brave enough to submit to a second….

Today I am wearing my professional, I can do this persona. Today I am a confident, fully put together, functioning individual. Who knows what I will be tomorrow, but I like living in today mode.

Today I am doing what makes me happy.

Oh, and the magic spud recipe?

Baby new potatoes, parboiled and then oven roasted in oil and liberally drenched in supermarket own brand roast potato seasoning and a few garlic granules. Quite simple, really tasty…and see how brave I can be to share it with you?

Make sure that your today is a happy day too.

Anita x

Please feel free to comment on anything that has touched you in this piece, and also to share it to others.

The Happy Day Project

Monday 4th April 2016

Age is just a number.

A random conversation this morning had me telling an anecdote about my Sons which also involved me saying that they were 22, 20 and 18. The surprised expression of my conversational ally was accompanied by a comment of ‘you don’t look old enough to have a son that age!’

Of course, we all just love it when we are told that we don’t look as old as our actual age but when I told her that I was, in fact, 48 she looked truly shocked, as I undoubtedly did when she then informed me that she was 79! Oh my goodness, never in a million years would I have said she was that age!

In a follow-up conversation with a colleague regarding this small interaction, I said that I am not precious about people knowing my age to which the colleague replied that I would change my mind when I got even older than I am now and this set me thinking.

Ok, I have an issue with people telling me what to do anyway, that is a given, and even more so when I am told what I should be thinking, but I have always believed that as there is only one way to stop ageing (and no, I don’t want to go down that road) then I have to be happy with what I have. I am proud of all…well, most…of the experiences that have filled every single one of the years that I have lived. Some have been good, a few have been bad, but they all make up the person I am today. I cannot be embarrassed about that person, despite her foibles and quirks, because how can I be embarrassed about the amount of time that this journey I am on has taken me? What gives me that right?

I actually consider myself to be quite lucky. I am fit(ish) and healthy(ish) with no long term medical conditions (the dodgy back doesn’t count here). I look around me and I see old school friends and people much younger than me who are determinedly battling debilitating illnesses and, in some cases, sadly losing those battles. I admire them the strength they show in the ever present wars they are waging against the odds. I’m not sure that I could be quite so stoical in the face of the same hardships, but I know that age is no determining factor in what they are facing. I’m also pretty darn sure that they are envious of my fit(ish) and healthy(ish) 48 years, 4 months and 2 days of life.

In today’s society we see many more opportunities available regardless of age and experience doesn’t happen overnight, we have to learn it and to learn things properly it always takes time. I still have dreams of personal achievements, I still have a bucket list of things I want to do and I am quite sure that my 79 year old conversationalist of this morning has those too.

So no, I won’t change my mind when I am even older, I will always be proud of whatever age I am lucky enough to attain and I recommend that you do too. Life is a gift and each new day that we see is a present just waiting for us to open and absorb its delights. So rip off that wrapping paper, stick the bow in your hair and celebrate each and every minute.

me new hair

And make sure that every day is a happy day.

The Happy Day Project Sunday 11th October 2015

I was lucky enough to be given a bag full of windfall pears during the week and as I am also lucky enough to have weekends off from work I decided to put them to good use today.

I do tend to be a creative but solitary soul and I am quite happy when I am on my own, at home, and making stuff. A little while ago I came across a recipe on my Facebook page for a one bowl apple cake which I have since made several times and it is always a hit…well, apart from with my middle son Michael who says he doesn’t like apples but will quite happily tuck into his great great Aunt’s apple pie….he reckons it is a different thing altogether….Admittedly, Aunty Fred’s apple pie is delicious….

But back to the apple cake. I figured that there can’t be that much difference, recipe wise, between an apple cake and a pear cake so just a quick substitution of the fruit content and I was off:

First, the recipe…

The original was in American terminology so I have, very kindly, translated it to UK measurements – ok, I had to for myself..what sort of measurement is a ‘cup’ anyway???

One Bowl Apple/pear cake

2 Eggs

2 Heaped spoons cinnamon (although I prefer mixed spice)

275g sugar

120mls vegetable oil

6 medium apples/pears

2 teaspoons baking powder

300g self raising flour

  1. Preheat oven to 180
  2. In a large bowl mix the eggs, sugar, spices and oil. Peel and slice the apples/pears and mix straight into the bowl to prevent the fruit from turning brown
  3.   .Poldark          Poldark-2
  4. Mix together the baking powder and the flour and add to the ingredients in the bowl. Poldark-3            Poldark-5
  5. Pour mixture into a greased 9×13 or two 9 inch pans (I used two 1lb loaf tins)Poldark-6             Poldark-7
  6. And  ok, i cheated and used paper loaf tin liners…sometimes life is just too short ok?
  7. Bake for about an hour until a knife comes out of the mixture cleanly. Ideally, while this waiting time is happening you would now be having one of these…Poldark-10
  8. Unfortunately, I had to sort this lot…Poldark-9
  9. I guess we can’t have everything, but, at the end of the hour we do have this…Poldark-11

And that makes everything worthwhile. I recommend eating it warm with some runny cream.

Enjoy.

Today is always a good day. x

Anita. x

The Happy Day Project Weekly Roundup

I have realised that with my busy schedule it is not very feasible for me to be able to sit and write a blog post every day. If my world were perfect then i’m sure that I would be able to do this, but as we all know, nobody’s world is perfect.

This week has been quite up and down for me. As I said in my last post, my youngest son had been given a credited extra part in a popular TV drama. We knew when he got the part that he would be filming last Wednesday so I went into work hoping to be able to get that day off so that I could both take him there and watch the filming being done…as well as get a sneaky glance of Aidan Turner (Sssshhhh, yes, it is Poldark that he has got a part in). Unfortunately I could not be granted my wish as there were already too many people away. Gutted is an understatement. One of the biggest things to happen with my boys (and as a single parent for 15 years I have taken them everywhere, seen them do everything, generally been there to support and encourage) and I couldn’t be there. It wasn’t a problem getting him there as my eldest son drives and was at home anyway, but I just really, really wanted to be there – not just for Aidan Turner, honest! We didn’t know his casting call time until Tuesday and when it came through for 2pm I thought, maybe? Might just catch the tail end? So when my boss came to me at 3.30pm and told me to go home (this is an hour early, although I was owed time off in lieu of hours worked) I was definitely not going to argue. Drove home, picked up my eldest (he had dropped his brother off and driven home again-the shoot was only about 25 mins from home) and we hot footed it over there. We got to the designated beach by 4.15, his shooting started at about 5.30 and ended at around 7.30 when it was no longer light enough to do anything else. My son was cold and wet, at one point during the filming his temperature had dropped to 34 degrees and the crew did everything they could to get him warmed up. In between takes he was bundled up in silver cloaks, puff jackets, hot water bottles and blankets. He also had sole use of the ambulance that had its heating on full blast all the way through. Afterwards, when my eldest and I were back at the car we got to see him pulling up at the base camp in the ambulance and watched him get out. One of the main actors ran up to him, threw his arms around him and I could hear him say,

‘You did fantastic Mate, well done!’

as they headed off to where he could shower and change.

walking down beach

My son is the guy in the puffa jacket and joggers, staying as warm as possible before he got wet and cold. He is walking to his filming point with Ross, Demelza and Dwight Enys.

So that was both my intense low and my incredible high for this week. I think it is going to take quite a lot to beat it somehow. But, this is supposed to be about others smiling, so what I have I done to attempt to achieve this? Well, a quick synopsis is that I made an apple cake for a friend who gave me loads of apples and pears from her trees and gave it to her. She said it was delicious. I have learnt how to crochet flowers and put them onto some baby hats that I have donated to the children’s clothing bank.

Knit hats-8

Another friend mentioned that her grand daughter is mad about Minnie Mouse and It coincided with me having some Minnie Mouse headbands in the car that I had made. Cue, give her a random present for her gorgeous granddaughter. I will say here that she wasn’t aware that I had made these head bands, they are a new addition to my sewing stock.

Headband collage-2

I took a few photographs of another friend who wanted them of her favourite tree in the grounds of where we work – it is a beautiful tree… tree

I have also been quite busy behind the scenes preparing other surprises as well as being my general kindhearted, generous self, smiling, saying thank you and waiting patiently for people to walk through doors…I even managed not to get cross (well, outwardly) when a little darling was pushing her toy pushchair around the local shop, generally getting in the way and screaming when her mother wouldn’t let her have a yoghurt because she already had some at home…..

Now that takes an awful lot of kindness…..

This week has been an awesome week.

Anita. xx