Monday, January 24, 2011
What a pleasant surprise Lanzarote was. I don't know why but I always assumed the place was on the coast of Spain. However, when Googling to find a holiday a couple of weeks ago, I discovered it was one of the Canary Islands and decided to give it a go.
It was a last minute booking but one we'll never regret. It turned out to be the best holiday of my life. The whole experience was chill-axing from start to finish. Our hotel, The Rubicon Palace was fantastic. I loved everything about it from The Piano bar, to the Disco bar to the Pool bar.
The Pool bar was great because we could have a long, leisurely lie in and make our way there at around 11.00 am for a breakfast of meat, cheese, rolls, fruit, yoghurt etc. Or if we had an earlier breakfast at the restaurant we could have a buffet-style lunch there. Part of the bar was boat shaped and the views absolutely stunning.
The weather was outstanding. A far cry from miserable, wet cold, Wales. In fact, that's one of the reasons I like going abroad at this time of the year. I tend to suffer from a mild form of SAD when the shorter days begin, so a holiday in January [when temperatures are sometimes as high as 26 deg, is fine with me!]
I was so chilled out, I even managed to finish my Paul O'Grady autobiography, The Devil Rides Out. I haven't been in a reading mood for ages, so that was great. A highly recommended read by the way and a follow up to, At My Mother's Knee. Very funny. I could tell he wrote it himself as I read it I could hear his voice in my head.
So, it's now back to Blighty and reality. A mound of dirty washing, slate grey skies and back to the daily grind. C'est la vie!
Friday, January 14, 2011
My favourite comic when I was a child was Bunty. It was published by the same folk who created The Beano and The Dandy: D.C. Thompson.
Bunty was in cartoon form and many of the stories were in serial format. One that was in it week after week was 'The Four Marys'. It was about four girls, surprisingly all called Mary, who went to a private school called, St. Elmos. If my memory is correct, three Marys were middle class, but one was a mere working class kid. They appeared to have a fantastic time - all jolly hockey sticks and midnight feasts. The headmistress was a stuck up snooty old crone who liked nothing better than to ruin their fun. But I could be wrong that memory might be of 'Pastry Face' the cookery teacher at my old school. Don't think she ever forgave me for once almost burning the cookery lab down! When she was judging our scones she picked one of mine off the plate, inspected it thoroughly, then dropped it back down again. "What's that? A rock cake!" she declared in front of the sniggering horde.
But I digress, back to Bunty...
On the back page of the comic was a cut out paper doll with various outfits. Party Bunty, Girl around Town Bunty, Holiday Bunty... She was a one dimensional, puritanical, virginal version of Barbie. Only a lot cheaper, in the nicest sense of the word, of course.
One story I remember well was about huge red balloons. Whoever bought one drifted up, up and away into the clouds, taken to another land far away. I loved that story and the concept, so much so, I ended up on top of the tip with my best friend and a bunch of balloons as we willed them to take us away. It didn't happen of course, but if it had, I might not be here typing this!
I loved Mondays as that was the day when me and my brother got home from school and there, in my gran's living room, on top of her sideboard next to the china dog, was a copy of Bunty for me and a copy of The Beano for my brother along with a bar of chocolate each. Bliss.
Sunday, January 09, 2011
I love Sunday. It's my favourite day of the week. It's rare to catch me trundling through Tesco or muddling my way amongst the masses in Mac Arthur Glen on that day of the week. At the moment I am propped up in bed watching the Omnibus edition of Hollyoaks whilst drinking a cup of coffee and quaffing a Cadbury's Creme egg.
Later I'll put the roast in the oven and peel the veg. We're having roast beef today with Yorkshires and all the trimmings. It's the one day of the week when I can get all the family sitting around the table. And I'm pleased to say that everyone else in the family seem to love coming for Sunday lunch. My daughter doesn't live at home anymore but she usually joins us with her boyfriend at least once a month.
To me, a Sunday is like a recharge day. A day when the stresses and strains of the daily grind are far away and out of sight. A time to reconnect with everyone. A bit like Christmas day I suppose but on a smaller scale.
Keep Sunday special I say!
Sunday, January 02, 2011
I just watched a TV programme where the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock, was interviewed. The programme looked quite old, well, I suppose it had to have been as he died in 1980. As a writer, I found a lot of the things he said fascinating. After all, I see my novels and short stories in my head too as if projected onto the big screen.
One thing he mentioned was how it was important to introduce the audience to a ticking time bomb and then go back to normality, as that way they will be on the edge of their seats. He also stressed that it was important that the bomb shouldn't go off at the end.
How very true. Readers need to feel suspense as if something could happen, even if it doesn't. I also think he's right in saying that 'the bomb shouldn't go off at the end', otherwise, the reader will feel cheated.
I also notice how he used some of his settings as characters in his movies. For instance, the large brooding Victorian house became just as sinister as Norman Bates ever was. That is a lesson we can learn as writers: to allow the mundane, the innocuous, everyday things in life to take on a life of their own.
Even Hitchcock's early silent movie  'The Lodger' was packed with suspense as an innocent man runs away from the baying mob, only to be caught up by his handcuffs on some wrought iron railings. The final scene reminiscent of the crucifixication of Christ.
His 1963 movie, 'The Birds' also made use of the fact that a creature that normally seems pretty innane could turn on man after years of use and abuse. As Hitchcock put it himself, "One should never mess around with nature."
Saturday, January 01, 2011
Well another year over and a new one just begun. And to put it quite bluntly, what have I done?
I looked on 2010 as a transitional year for me. The aim was to remain standing. I had been through two of the biggest changes in my life within a short period of time [less than 6 months apart]. One was the loss of a relationship which is now regained and even stronger [but at the time I thought it was all over], the other was leaving a job I loved, but for all the right reasons, I needed to leave.
Both issues were bereavements of sorts so I needed to grieve. I was fortunate to get a brand new job which I am enjoying, it's challenging and no two days are the same! I'm now employed as a support worker for a mental health charity. If you'd told me a couple of years ago I'd be in a different job working with new people I would never have believed it. It took me a while to settle in and get my 'sea legs' as it were after everything that had happened to me where I felt the rug had been pulled from beneath my feet, I needed to feel solid ground once more.
But do you know what, although I didn't appreciate those changes thrust upon me at the time, they have certainly been for the better. My relationship with my husband is stronger than it's ever been, my new job has shaken me out of a rut and given me new opportunities taking courses etc. For example I have recently passed a PTLLS course which means I can now tutor adults in life long learning.
So, maybe that old saying is true: If life hands you lemons, make lemonade!
I don't tend to make New Year's resolutions these days as I usually break them, so I set goals for myself instead. This year I'd like to write several short stories and submit them to magazines. I'd also like to carry on making lemonade as I've come to realise that change, even if it is thrust upon us, is usually for the best.
So what are your New Year's resolutions/goals?