Mandy's Musings

Mandy's Musings

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Hay Day

Yes, I know you normally say heyday, but if you read on you'll understand.

On the 4th of June 2010 I attended the Hay-on Wye Guardian Literary Festival. I had my first short-story in print published in Gentle Footprints by Bridge House publishing.This charity anthology was created to raise funds and awareness for the Born Free Foundation. There is a foreword by Virginia McKenna OBE and a new story was written especially for it by Richard Adams author of Watership Down.

When I found out my story was to be included back in January I was over the moon! When I later discovered that we would be launched at Hay-on Wye I couldn't believe it! Then I was told the authors would get to meet Virginia McKenna...well you can imagine what I thought.

All of us were asked if we wanted to read an extract and I volunteered without hesitation. What possessed me I will never know.Debz from Bridge house said we may not get a chance as it was a tight schedule, and not to get our hopes up too much.

The 4th of June was absolutely perfect, there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We drove over from Bristol in the morning and my tummy was full of elephants doing cartwheels when my husband Brian and I arrived at The Swan to meet the rest of the authors and Virginia.


I needn't have worried as everyone was really lovely and Virginia was great. She signed my copy and asked me to sign hers! She chatted to me for some time and really put me at ease. Gill James from Bridge House asked if I was still up for reading an extract of my story. Paul Blezard who was interviewing Virginia said that there was just enough time for three of us to read for just under two minutes. I said 'Yep no problem', then she told me there was likely to be about a thousand people in the audience!

I was a bit nervous obviously, but to be honest I was calmer than I had a right to be. I reasoned that I would never have that chance again and should take all I could from that wonderful experience.

We had to go back stage and there were lots of sound people and such running about. Paul Blezard back ask who wanted to be first up and I volunteered again! He said that after he'd interviewed Virginia for a while, she'd then read her foreword and then he'd call my name and I should go up and straight to the lectern.

I was OK until the last few minutes waiting in the wings, then the elephants came back cartwheeling and dancing for all they were worth. My heart was actually trying to escape my rib cage when I heard my name, but up I went.

Thankfully the lights were so bright I couldn't actually see anyone in the audience and I just got on with it. The nerves went as soon as I opened my mouth. Everyone
said how well I did and was very proud of myself I don't mind saying.

Later we went to the book signing and a few people asked for my autograph on their copies! I couldn't believe it really, me being asked for my autograph for crying out loud. It was so exciting. A few said they had enjoyed my reading too - I was on cloud 9!

The whole day was so fantastic I didn't want it to end. It had to unfortunately, but I will always have brilliant memories to look back on.

I hope I get chance to do something like that again sometime. As a writer it made me feel like I had achieved so much. It also encouraged me to keep plugging away at my goal to become a published novelist one day.

You never know... stranger things have happened :)

Friday, 10 September 2010

War Babies


My dad is going to be 82 in December, and my mum 83 this month. No great rarity these days you may say and you'd be right.




People now are living well into their 90s and beyond, often free of serious illness too.

But when you stop to think about it, it's pretty incredible really that people like my parents are still muddling through.

I mean just think about their childhood.They were 11 and twelve respectively in 1939 when war broke out. The year after saw Dunkirk, The Battle of Britain and the first Blitz.

They both lived in Sheffield which was hit pretty badly during the Blitz as it was a large industrial city. Both sets of grandparents decided against evacuation, so as a result my mum and dad lived through the worst of it.

I'm not sure children of today (and indeed adults)could conceive of what it must have been like for them. Their education was interrupted as schools were bombed and they had to have lessons in different houses each day.Sleep was disrupted nightly as the banshee wail of the sirens called them to the shelter, or cellar. Mum says it was awful particularly in winter when you'd just got warm in bed and then had to get up in the freezing cold.

My dad moved house in the Blitz and the day after, his old house was completely flattened. Another time he and his friends were playing in the old bombed out buildings and they pulled a curtain aside in a doorway. Looking back at them was a dead man, eyes open, but with lots of tiny blood vessels patterning his face. He had been killed by the blast.

My mum knew a lady who lived down her street who had lustrous auburn hair. That was how they identified her after an air raid. Her lovely hair was practically all that was left of her.

They never had counselling, they were expected to just get on with it. Counselling didn't exist back then, well not for the likes of my parents anyhow.

Dad gets a bit nervous now when he drives, but he is still able and competent. His car needed to go into the garage the other day, and it was in an area of Bristol which was unfamiliar to him. He followed in his car behind my husband in our car. As I watched him drive away with grim determination on his face, I had to admire him.

When he was a kid there was no space exploration, very little air travel, no Internet in fact no computers, microwaves, TV (well only for a few)and all the things we take for granted now. The roads were also much emptier and less complicated to negotiate.

The impact of war on his formative years and on thousands like him, coupled with the rapid expansion of technology and the speed of life now makes my experience pretty tame. In comparison to the lives of the war babies, mine has been a charmed existence.

Of course I realise I have seen great changes too and that everything is relative. When and if I get to be an octogenarian things will have raced on again.

One thing that will mark my old age out from my dad's is I had a much better start. When I was 11 I didn't go to bed wondering if I'd wake up the next day, or live in fear of a Nazi invasion. I think that sometimes people just forget just how horrific it must have been living through it all.

Unfortunately some old people today are shoved away into underfunded and under staffed hospitals and homes, and seen as useless unproductive members of society.
Well I'd like to take my hat off to the war babies and those who fought too.

I can't begin to know what they went through, and I'm eternally thankful that I never had to know.

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

A Blog a Day

I have not blogged for three whole days and am thoroughly ashamed
of myself:(

When I started a week and a half ago I was determined to do a blog a day.
Why a blog a day? Because it keeps the apple away. Hang on...no that's not right is it? It seems like my brain is becoming addled weak and feeble as I type.




It's my own fault really for being lazy and bloggless. To blog is to be healthy, alert and sharp witted. Not to blog is ...er...what was I saying just then?
Oh dear, I really am getting in a muddle. Just wait a minute, there's someone knocking on the door.

Turned out to be a door to door blogger selling the blogger's bible. I thought I'd better buy it. Now let's see what's contained therein.

Oh, well, that's not so bad then. I've just looked at the rules of blogging section and found that it isn't vital to blog every day, but only when you have something interesting to say. Thank goodness, I don't feel nearly so bad now.

If you are still reading...that'll larn ya! Ha!

No really, I'm grateful to you for taking an interest. I hope too that you have internalised the moral of this particular blog.

If you have, then please let me know what it is;)

Yours esoterically, and possibly hysterically,

M xx

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Last Man Syndrome


As long as I can remember I have always kicked against doing anything I didn't want to do. I hate having to be at a certain place at a certain time and feeling trapped once I am there.

When I was a kid, I'd always be the last one walking through the school gates, my school bag dragging behind me along with my bottom lip.
When I'd left school I used to get a lift in to work with my brother and his girlfriend. I'd always be the 'last man' out of bed and into the car. It wasn't as if I hated school or my job as a hairdresser, it was just the having to do it there and then. Mind you thinking about it I did hate school.

Later when I went back into education to get A levels and a degree it wasn't so bad. It was my choice, so I guess that was why I didn't resent it.
I went into teaching for 14 years and 'last man syndrome' crept back pretty quickly.

I kind of liked it for the first five years or so, because teaching is not as soul destroying as some jobs. I worked in a factory for a while packing drill bits so I do know what I'm talking about.

Then the old nagging started. A little voice in my head would say stuff like 'Bloody school bells, my life is governed by bells!' or stuff like, 'You have only got one life and you're spending it in the same building day after day, year after year...'

Lucky for me I was able to pack it all in for 18 months. I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming a full-time writer and it was brilliant. Last man syndrome was banished and I felt in control of my life, well as much as anyone can be on a shoe string budget. Bells, clocks and deadlines were a thing of the past.

I had to bite the bullet and return to the chalk face in January and boy did that hurt.The students are nice, and so are the part-time hours, but the last man syndrome is alive and kicking once more. I need to do some work for Monday tomorrow but I expect I'll find a few diversions until I can put it off no longer.I wish I could just accept having to go out to work like thousands of others have to.

I don't expect I'll ever get used to being made to do something I don't want to though.
The alarm clock will wake me early on Monday, and later I expect I'll be the last in at the school gate, my bag dragging behind me... along with my bottom lip.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Ignorance is Bliss

#Friday Flash
Barry was really glad that nobody was around when his head exploded.
They’d been telling him all his life that he thought about everything too much, and that no good would ever come of it.

Ever since he was a little boy he’d asked the obligatory questions about why the world was round, the sky blue and such, but he’d never been satisfied with the answers.
Immediately upon hearing them he’d say ‘but why wasn’t it designed to be square or triangular even?’ and ‘yes but what exactly makes it blue?’

His parents imagined that when he grew up he’d grow out of it. Their imagination was way off beam. They watched helplessly as Barry became a solitary young man, Gollumesque from always skulking indoors hidden from sunlight.
He poured over mountains of books and became glued to his computer in his tireless quest for answers.

Barry realised that others thought he was a geek, a freak, a weirdo. One day he’d show them. He’d find out the meaning of life, the origin of the universe, and everything that the most eminent scientists of today were still puzzling over. He’d be hailed the greatest brain in history and everyone would worship at his altar.

It would have happened too if he’d not ignored his instincts.

An hour ago Barry was on the brink of discovering who made God. The question that everyone has heard at one time or another, ‘if God made the universe, who made God?’ was almost at his fingertips. He then had a very bad feeling sweep over him like an angel of death.
Every fibre of his being said leave this alone Barry, walk away Barry, this secret is meant to remain just that for all eternity. If you expose it you may not be around to tell the tale.
Did he listen? Did he hell.

Under his arm was a piece of paper. Evidence that would rock the world once he reached the Royal Society buildings.

Now look at him. Here he was, a human version of Humpty Dumpty, the shell of his egg head spiralling skyward, fragmenting and expanding - speeding into the stratosphere and the distant universe beyond.

His last thought was ‘I wonder why the guy with the long white beard looks so pissed off.”

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Happy September

Lots of people on Facebook voted for for my story, so really happy about the support. One or two commented that they really enjoyed it too.

Just got an email from the site to say I have been commended for having the most votes in 24hrs! So hopefully that can only help!So September has kicked off well in that respect.

I'm off to finish a piece of flash fiction now about a man who's head explodes because he thinks too much.

See you soon.