Where have all the helpful geeks gone? And a new reason to judge me on my viewing habits.

Where have all the helpful geeks gone? And a new reason to judge me on my viewing habits.

I don’t understand the choices my computer keeps offering me. The more updates it has, the slower it gets. Surely, they should improve its performance? I still miss being in halls of residence with people who knew about this stuff and importantly, would help me for free.

We started watching Motherland last night on BBC iPlayer. Everything resonated- the spurious temporary traffic lights on the school run; the child throwing up seconds before other children arrive for a party; the phone call about a child’s forgotten swimming things (parent to teacher on phone- “Just a question- did you try my husband?”and eventually,”You and I both know he’s going to end up sitting at the side!”); envying other women with parents round the corner, ever-present husbands and childcare sewn up for all but one Thursday afternoon a month, and so on and so on. (Husband to wife over phone: “remember when you drop one of those balls I’ll be here to pick it up and hand it to you so you can keep juggling!”)

Apologies to the BBC for the paraphrasing, but you have commissioned something brilliant. I wish I’d written it.

Fantasy: (while having perfectly balanced and secure children) to be part of a comedy team that develops fabulous characters and nails a section of life like that.







End-of-term parenting decisions and Zadie Smith-related despair.

I don’t have any deadlines at the moment. I am grateful (in a slightly anxious way), as life has become about deciding which of the children would forgive me most easily for missing a concert/ end of term celebration/ play/ rock climbing session.

About Zadie Smith and Maggie O’Farrell. The reader in me luxuriates in cleverly written books like This Must Be the Place and Swing Time (I’m only halfway through that one, but I assume the rest is as good!)  The writer despairs. How do they do it?

And about editing my novel. I won’t meet my CampNanowrimo goal, but I have chipped away at it most days. So that’s something. I hope to produce a thing of beauty in the end. At the moment, it’s a big mess.

…Like our home. The one thing my life is not about at the moment is housework, though it almost certainly should be. I’m not honest enough to post pictures. There isn’t a corner I don’t mind you seeing, and my phone is refusing to transfer photos. So this is a (boring but appropriate) re-post.20170202_135117-1







Season of sharpened pencils and mellow productivity

Season of sharpened pencils and mellow productivity

Decades after leaving school, September is still my favourite time of year. It means crisp air, clean skies, oversized uniform and the intention my homework will always be beautifully presented and handed in on time.

As Tom Hanks says in You’ve Got Mail: “Don’t you just love New York in the fall? It makes me want to buy school supplies.” It’s Autumn in Bournemouth and I want to learn something new.

Last week, I told an editor to say no if I ever offered her any of my own photos. It might be my phone. I suspect it’s me. My pictures seem little better than they were when I was first given a camera at ten. And so I avoid taking them, and the ones I do are impressionistic.

old photographer at work

But yesterday, I downloaded a book on Kindle- Photography for Writers. In an hour, it demystified frightening terms like shutter speed and pixel, and inspired my September challenge – to take a photo a day for a month and see if I improve.



Beatrix Potter: sheep-farming scientist and author.

Beatrix Potter: sheep-farming scientist and author.

My article on Beatrix Potter’s Lake District is published today in Britain Magazine.

Controlled by her mother, constricted by Victorian expectations of women, she worried she’d never find anything useful to do.

But she was allowed to draw and paint. In doing so, she saw differences in closely related fungi others didn’t find until the 1940s. Eventually, she produced a scientific paper for the respected Linnean society, speculating about the germination of fungal spores. As a woman amateur, she was easily dismissed, but years later proved right.

With the proceeds of her books, she bought Hilltop Farm in the Lake District. Her energies turned to farming and conservation, and she became a passionate champion of the early National Trust. At 47, she married her solicitor, William Heelis. With his help she bought up farms vulnerable to ruin or development. When she died in 1943, she left the NT over 4,000 acres of land and 14 farms, still working and tenanted today.  No one knows what the Lake District would look like without her.





Being nosy over coffee

Being nosy over coffee

I’m writing an article on the Bournemouth Marathon Festival, which involves a few interviews. My husband says I’m just drinking coffee for a living, but he’s forgetting the nosy questions I get to ask.

My first interview was on Thursday, with the festival’s founder. Everyone likes Martin, but still, I was nervous about covering ground, asking the right things in the time we had, and not losing my place.

In the end, it turned out to be far more organic than I was expecting, a conversation rather than a verbal questionnaire. I had time to organise myself beforehand- sort of. He’s given other interviews and written many articles himself, so he knew the kind of information I wanted. As a participant and part of the race crew all three years, I’d thought of myself as a bit of a BMF expert, but many things he said surprised me. For instance, I knew it had a Bronze IAAF award. I didn’t realise only three other UK marathons (including London) share this honour.

And then today, after parkrun, I spoke to friends Steve and Carole, for whom the festival has been a family affair. With one interview down, I was slightly more sure of what I was doing.  They too told me most things unprompted and were far too interesting for my word count. Their personal experience as runners and fundraisers, will really add to the piece, but I had to scribble fast. My writing, never easy to read, has becoming increasingly illegible over the last couple of days. I typed the notes out immediately I arrived home, before I lost the ability to guess what they said.


Notes from a talent showcase

Notes from a talent showcase

I went to watch a singer-songwriter friend perform at a talent showcase yesterday. It was fascinating and inspiring, particularly as someone who would like to be ‘discovered’ in their own medium.

The first thing to be admired was the courage with which everybody was putting themselves out there. There was only one girl who was professional.  But the other five were being brave, and if they achieved nothing else, getting experience performing.

Andrew was first on stage. I don’t think it’s just because I know him that I enjoyed his performance most. I think it’s because he’d written his own (good) songs. He was doing something original, with influences from the Jam and the Cure.

Sometimes it’s hard to see what makes success as a writer. Yesterday, the difference between professional and amateur seemed pretty clear. If the professional vocalist made a slip, I’m not musical enough to notice. At least one other girl had an equally beautiful tone, but she hit a few wrong notes, and seemed less confident. The difference seemed to be training and practice.

Finally, I was struck by the generosity of the woman running the event. The company is a PR agency, but they weren’t charging people to perform or to attend. At the end of each act she sat with them to give them feedback and suggest ideas to further their career. She seemed equally generous with everyone, regardless of the likelihood they’d develop into paying clients.

As I say, I came away inspired.