Featured

The Misspending of youth

Our dances weren’t quite this hectic

 

In this post, Val Chapman is sharing her thoughts on the changing world of school and aspects of life the young encounter now. Things that passed us by when we were of that age. A lovely thoughtful piece thank you, Val.

 

I was looking at a photograph of my neighbours’ grandson dressed up ready to go to his ‘School Prom’.

When did this become a ‘thing’?

We were lucky to get the occasional disco. It was always in the school hall though, no fancy hotel or stately home for us. I dare say the idea was the same, dressing ‘up to the nines’, one or two of us having a sneaky drink or cigarette before the teachers found out. Not me obviously, I was a real goody goody. Well, mostly…….

It felt quite anarchic, dancing in the school hall without it being ‘The Gay Gordons’, or ‘Dashing White Sergeant’!

I was born in 1957, so by the time my school discos came along, platform shoes and miniskirts were the order of the day.

That suited me fine though, I was a size 10-12, about 5’8″, and most of my height was in my legs!

Oh, how the mighty have fallen……….., and no, I’m not just talking about boobs here, my bum is definitely nearer the ground than it used to be.

See, that’s the thing though, isn’t it? ‘You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,’ to quote Joni Mitchel, a favourite from back in the day. I was a bit of a hippy, so she was right up my street.

Then again, my musical tastes varied hugely. I would happily dance around to Mott the Hoople, Cream, Bread, T. Rex, Free, Stevie Wonder. Diversity doesn’t come close. Maybe I was just trying to find “my” band, but the truth is I just enjoyed being with my friends and didn’t have any particular favourite.

Anyway, back to the Prom.

It seems to me, that this idea has spread here from ‘over the pond’. It appears that we do pick up on more than a few American ideas.

Take Halloween for example.

Have you seen the stuff in the shops for Halloween from about August?

It will be taking over from Christmas soon! And as for the ‘trick or treat’ idea.

To my mind, it’s just getting money, or sweets by extortion. ‘Give me the goodies, or else’. I may be a killjoy, but I don’t want my children or grandchildren thinking this is a respectable way to behave.

Oh dear, I’m sounding more and more like my parents.

If you need me I’ll be in the kitchen, doing ‘the funky chicken’ to something ridiculous.

 

Featured

Another way of seeing things

Writing
Dedicated writing

Wendy’s interesting perspective, it really is another way of seeing things.

Val’s piece about Plagiarism probably touched a nerve with most of us. We do not write in isolation, somehow screened from the real world and its influence.

When I first learned to write, aged about four, I traced the shape of letters that had been designed by someone else; A, B, C and D were not my invention.

Within a year or so, I was putting those shapes together to write my first words: C-A-T and D-O-G. Again, there was nothing original here.

It is just a myth that we writers produce anything original. We are not the proverbial chimps sitting at a keyboard and likely to produce a masterpiece if we are given enough time.

The secret of good writing and, perhaps more importantly, staying out of trouble, is to be inspired, influenced, led by others, but to build our own framework on which to hang these snippets.

An analogy might be that we see leaves blowing in the wind and scoop them up, then drape them on a branch where they form an interesting and unique pattern. We don’t uproot whole trees.

With this in mind, I would like to tell you about my latest collection of leaves.

I have been unable to drive for the last three months and have relied on public transport. The conversations that I have overheard have been an eye-opener of some magnitude. You wouldn’t believe what goes on in the Fens.

So, if you have been travelling in East Anglia, over the last few weeks, you might want to see if you can spot a few words from that lengthy discussion you were having on the bus.

“Well, it was only this morning I was saying to my ‘usband………’

Wendy Fletcher

 

Featured

The Mother I Never Knew

We are a diverse group of writers shaped by our experiences, this is another autobiographical piece from one of our U3A writing group members. Tessa writes about her mother, the mother she never had a chance to know.

Tessa's Mum
Tessa’s mother

My mother died at the age of 31. She had been a young bride, an abused wife, a mother of four, a WAAF, a lover of some, a prisoner, and at the end, a consumptive. I never knew my mother; I was three and a half when she died but her life had an enormous impact on her four surviving children. The consequences for us all were huge. The expression most used about my mother when I was growing up was “spirited”.

 

My mother was born on October 6th 1917 in Limerick, southern Ireland. She was christened Teresa although when it suited her she could and did, change her name. She was the eldest child of six children. A seventh child died in infancy. My grandfather was with the Royal Engineers based in Ireland at the time of my mother’s birth. My grandmother helped her mother at a guest house near the camp. My grandparents had a long and happy marriage mainly because my grandfather agreed on everything with my grandmother. There was one exception to this however, my mother. Despite her many failings, and indiscretions, my mother was without doubt my grandfather’s favourite child, something that would be tested many times.

 

My mother enjoyed the freedom of the large encampment and in particular the dances. She loved the dances. Actually my grandfather forbade her to go to them and her younger sister was supposed to ensure she was at home on the dance nights. But my mother always managed to sneak out and stand by the door of the dance hall. She was rarely caught and frequently managed a dance.

 

My mother and the family moved to England and to Welwyn Garden City sometime around 1932. She would have been about 15. In 1938 aged just twenty, and three months pregnant she married. She gave birth that year to twin girls. I cannot say if this was an unhappy marriage from the start. I do know from things I have learned as an adult that her husband was a violent man whose drinking would frequently result in abuse, both verbal and physical towards my mother. In 1940 she gave birth to a boy. With her husband away in the army I think my mother; young as she was must have found life very tough and lonely. She must have yearned for the freedom her sisters enjoyed, as they were yet to marry.

 

That freedom came with the soldiers on leave, looking for relief from the fighting. In Welwyn Garden City at that time was a large pub with an even larger ballroom. Dances were held several times a week. My mother would frequently leave the children in their cots, with glass bottle feeders and a roaring fire in the grate, and go dancing. It was reckless but it’s hard for me to condemn her. I have some sympathy for a young woman in uncertain times wanting to have some fun. It was usually left to my grandmother to respond when the neighbours heard the children crying in the house.

 

Sometime in 1942 my mother left her three children in the care of her husband’s sister and joined the WAAF band as a girl drummer based in Chivenham in Devon.  How she was able to do this, with a family left at home I don’t know but I imagine during war time anything is possible. My mother’s life must have changed dramatically. She was in uniform; she had many friends, though most seemed to be men. She came home on leave with stories of the great time she was having. My grandmother kept in touch with the children but at some point, and I am unclear as to when, my mother’s husband placed the twins in to an orphanage, and the boy he gave to friends who later adopted him. During this time my mother changed her forename and linked it with her married surname, gave her status as single and dropped her age by five years. She had a number of affairs judging by the number of young Americans in particular, who came to my grandmother’s house asking for her.

 

In July 1944 at The Parish church of Emmanuel, Compton Gifford near Plymouth she married a 22 year old Leading Airman in the RAF.  He was one of triplets, and was known to my family. Of course my mother was still married. On the front page of the Western Evening Herald dated Monday July 24th is a picture of the happy couple with a guard of honour of airmen and women. Had my mother lost her mind? The wedding certificate states that she was a spinster, aged 22 and single. She had to alter her father’s name to bring it in line with her own and gave his employment as a Company Sergeant Major in the Royal Corps of Signals. I’m sure my grandfather would have been tickled pink by that.

 

Whatever happiness she may have felt at this time, was soon dispelled. Her real husband was told of the marriage and informed the police. On leave, and visiting home she realised the game was up and went on the run. She appears to have been AWOL for at least 8 or 9 months during which time she must have had a relationship with someone as I was born in December 1945.  Whether my mother gave herself up or was caught I don’t know. Where she was during that time is also unknown. But at sometime during the summer of 1945 she faced trial for bigamy at the Old Bailey. My grandparents both attended the trial which, with the journey alone must have been quite a trial for them as well. She was sentenced to nine months imprisonment deferred until after I was born. By the beginning of January 1946 my mother’s sentence began at Holloway Prison. My mother never saw me again.

 

She left prison sometime in late 1946. I’m not sure exactly when or whether she had time off for good behaviour. But whilst in prison she contracted tuberculosis. Meanwhile I was in hospital suffering from septicaemia. Because of my mother’s illness I had an extended stay in hospital and didn’t leave until she died in May 1949.

 

The twins stayed in an orphanage until they were 16. Their lives were severely blighted by that experience and neither of them lived happily. The boy was adopted by people who were unkind and at times cruel. I met him for the first time a few years ago and we keep in touch. As for me, well my life has had many tragic moments and times I would rather forget. Most of my childhood is blocked from my memory, and that which I can remember I would rather not. As to my father, who knows? My mother did of course and asked my grandmother if she wanted to know. But she said no.

Tessa Thomson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Featured

Meeting Penfriends

Gwen Bunting is a recent recruit to the Wordsmiths. This is her fascinating account of her sixty odd year friendship with a friend in Holland.

Gwen and Lilian
Gwen seated Lilian on the sun lounger

I have been writing to Lilian Boogaard in Holland since we were thirteen-year-old schoolgirls it wasn’t until we were both aged twenty that we first met, this was in 1963.

 

I flew from Heathrow whilst waiting to board a KLM flight to Schipol Amsterdam thinking back to when I was younger. Standing then in the Queens Building as a young child with my mother, watching the aircraft land and take off. I made up my mind whilst watching the planes that one day I would fly from Heathrow myself.

 

It took me all year to save up for the trip. The flight was about £16 but hard to come by when you only earned a third of that amount weekly and had to pay your board at home.

 

The day duly arrived and my dear brothers drove me to Heathrow overnight. Having my passport and Guilders for my big adventure. They left me at the departure gate and I was on my own. A big step for me, but I moved on to the correct area and boarded the flight which lasted about an hour.

 

Landing in Schipol I followed the signs making my way through passport control answering their questions. We were not in the common market then. I was duly stamped and moved through, collecting my case from the carousel.  Walking through into the open area looking for Lilian. No one was there. I cannot remember how long I sat waiting. She had been given all the flight details but she was nowhere to be seen.  Eventually, they arrived and we drove off to Loenen a small village about 30min drive from Amsterdam. Their English was stilted and my knowledge of Dutch much the same.

 

We went into Lilian’s mother’s house a tobacconists shop with the most wonderful smell of cigars, the Dutch are big cigar smokers. When we sat down to have a cup of tea they were surprised when I put milk into mine. This is called baby-tea they drink theirs weak and black. The other comment was that I did not speak like the Queen, I said very few of us do.

 

I stayed a week with my friend we lived with her brother and sister in law, who was pregnant. The things I remember and hold dear are my first taste of plain yoghurt which I still do not like; the delicious cakes I bought at the baker’s next door and visiting a windmill in the village.

Gwen and Marijke
Marijke seated and Gwen

 

I was able to help make a dress for Marijke my friends sister-in-law. Her baby was to be named Michael and they wanted the English spelling.

Michael
Michael Lilian’s nephew

 

Other reminisces are eating chips with mayonnaise instead of vinegar.  My friend’s father was in the Dutch Resistance, but he never spoke about the war. The family stuffed four gold Dutch gilders inside a toy dog belonging to my friend’s brother. He was told never to let anyone have his toy. The dog was to go everywhere with him. These gilders were later retrieved and made into pendants. I was so envious of these necklaces, knowing the history attached to them.

Lilian’s father worked on farms inseminating cows, this was hard to explain in English. We accompanied him on several visits, him donning long plastic gloves. He jokingly asked me if I would like to shake hands.  This was my first chance to wear clogs, they used them on the farm. Happy memories.

I visited again the following year and taught Michael to walk I am told.

Henk and Lilian
Henk, Lilian and chips with mayonaise

Sadly my friend suffers from severe arthritis, causing her to retire from work early. She had been a physiotherapist with the largest clinic in Amsterdam. Lilian lives with Henk who is a doctor. They have no children, but I am pleased that after all these years we are still in touch.

Lilian and Gwen
Lilian with Gwen more recently

 

In the last two years, I have visited again, being taken out on the boat along with the family and Michael who was there to steer the boat. more than fifty years later, happy memories.

Michael and Marijke
Michael and Marijke

 

Gwen Bunting

Featured

All my own work.

Plaigarism

Val Chapman tackles the issue of plagiarism in this post, raising issues and giving us her thoughts

……They accused me of plagiarism. Their words, not mine……..

 

I do sometimes wonder if I should include certain quotes in my stories. Obviously, I do not want anyone to think I have knowingly ‘stolen’ someone else’s work, passing it off as my own.

I have a little book where I write snippets of conversation I overhear, perhaps an interesting sentence or story I may read in a magazine. I look through this from time to time, looking for inspiration.

Sometimes it helps, mostly it does not.

But because these little prompts are ‘second hand’, should I use them at all?

I do wonder at times what constitutes plagiarism?

I think ‘knowingly’ is the keyword.

Surely we have all, at some point, used words from another body of work we have remembered and used in our own efforts, either consciously or unconsciously?

I assume that to be classed as ‘plagiarism’, it refers to a whole piece of work and not a few words or sentences here and there. Let’s face it, if it referred to ANYTHING then we wouldn’t be able to write at all!

So I’ll just continue along, in blissful ignorance and hope I don’t incur the wrath of someone with far more talent than me.

 

Val Chapman

Featured

I Love Writing Because…

Writing 2This piece is by Val Fish one of our talented Wordsmiths.

I’ve had a love of words and stories since my school days; my primary school report said ‘Valerie has a good imagination’, and a fantastic English teacher at grammar school was a great inspiration to me. English Language was one of only two subjects I was any good at (the other being French).

I was a big Blue Peter fan in my youth, every year I would get the annual as a Christmas present and was lucky enough to win two Blue Peter badges in their competitions.

As I grew older, I entered the world of consumer competitions, having to complete slogans that usually started something like ‘I shop at XYZ because’, in 12 words or less.

I won hundreds of prizes over the years, little and large, among them a few holidays; my biggest successes were the much sought after prize car; a Mini Metro, and a conservatory worth a massive ten thousand pounds.   One of my prizes of least value, but providing much amusement, was a frozen chicken, worth a measly £1.50 at the time. The winners had to go to the store to collect their prize, and we were photographed all holding our chickens aloft.  I did feel rather silly and particularly self-conscious as I was eight months pregnant at the time.

I could go on and on about the wondrous things that I won, but that’s another story to be told.

Although of course, the prizes were great, for me it was more the composing of the slogans that brought me pleasure. Trying to be witty in so few words and to stand out from the hundreds of others was a challenge I’d always relish. Maybe that’s why these days my forte is flash fiction.

As this type of competition began to die out, it seemed a natural progression to turn to creative writing.

So these days my words are somewhat longer, no big prizes to be won; in most cases, it’s simply seeing my efforts posted online, which gives me just as much pleasure

 

I couldn’t imagine not writing; it’s good therapy for me, all my cares and woes are temporarily forgotten. And an added bonus, it keeps those grey cells ticking over, much needed at my age. I like to think I’ll l be writing as long as I’ve still got my faculties, however long that may be.

 

Featured

Inspiration

Sunrise 25 11 15
Sunrise

This piece is by Tessa Thomson, a member of our group who’s poetry is truly outstanding.

 

Inspiration  (noun; the act of inspiring; stimulation by a divinity; a genius, idea or a passion).

A writer finds inspiration everywhere. Putting it down on paper is the difficulty. Sometimes I hear a phrase, maybe a couple of people chatting will say something I can use, or just being out in the garden can give inspiration for a piece of work.

Usually, inspiration comes during waking hours at night. That’s when I remember that I forgot to put the notebook and pen back beside the bed. But then a friend recently said she was frightened of being sent by the well-meaning family into a nursing home. Inspiration!

I’m frightened did I hear you say, of being all alone

Of being sent so far away to someone else’s home

To some grand house to sit around with others of your age

Like gilded birds of paradise inside a gilded cage

 

Recently I was watching my husband working in the garden, getting it ready for winter. Inspiration!

 

I’ve cleared all the leaves from the garden,

I’ve planted some bulbs in the beds.

I’ve rescued the tenderest flowers,

And cut off the dead flowering heads.

 

Our own memories probably provide the best inspiration but can sometimes provide the saddest.

My own poems can be very dark, but they are my stories. In the end, whether it’s a story or a poem, how it’s told and how it touches the individual is what makes good writing. Inspiration is the starting point; it’s what happens next that takes the reader beyond the imagination.

Recently someone wrote in a thank you note to me “our shared love of your daughter will ensure we meet again very soon”. Whilst I found the sentiment unsettling it did provide inspiration.

 

You say you seek a shared love with someone I hold dear

But how can that be possible; the obstacles are clear

The love I have is borne of pain; of risk and much besides

Of waking nights; of memories; of tears, I always hide.

 

My love is tough and gentle too but never harsh to bear

It’s that which gives such grace and joy and content to my heir

By this great love, her life is traced from childhood up to now

But you would seek to feel that love; to harness it somehow.

 

As Samuel Johnson remarked in 1799

 

What is written without effort is in general read without pleasure

 

Tessa Thomson

Featured

Writing

writing
Putting pen to paper

 

This post is from one of our writing group members. We have all been asked to give our thoughts on writing. We all approach writing in different ways and we are publishing these pieces ad hoc over time.

These are Teresa’s thoughts on the subject.

Writing has never come easily to me. However, possessing a vivid imagination and a peculiar sense of humour ensures a diverse source of subject material is readily available.

Being given a topic to write about focuses my mind and channels my enthusiasm. The Whittlesey Wordsmiths have encouraged and  supported my return to writing.

They could do the same for you.

Teresa Gilbertson

 

 

Whittlesey Wordsmiths will be at the EnGage in the Morning February meeting at the library Monday February 18th at 10.30am free tickets available at the desk

Featured

SPELING

teacher
Read carefully and take note

Does anyone else get as irritated by bad spelling as I do?

Don’t get me wrong here, I freely admit to having to use help to check my spelling frequently.

The thing that bugs me though is, if I can do it, why don’t lots of other people?

I know I’m not the only one who sometimes needs help, and indeed there is plenty of help out there (thank you Alexa)

I have been looking at a lot of adverts online recently, where people try to sell things they no longer have a need for, or have made and want to sell on, and have been so frustrated, disappointed, and frankly quite angry about basic, relatively easy words which have been spelt incorrectly.

If people are unsure about how to spell something, why don’t they find out? Especially if you are putting it in the public domain. I’m not talking about a shopping list here.

It just strikes me as being lazy, and to be perfectly honest, If you can’t be bothered, I really don’t want to buy whatever it is you are selling, thank you very much!

I have been known to walk past a greengrocer’s shop to go to the nearest supermarket because the sign in the grocer’s window read ‘Collies 80p’.

And no, they weren’t selling dogs.

Talking of dogs, it was a website selling dogs that I was most recently annoyed by. The number of people who can’t spell ‘miniature’, ‘puppies’ or even the name of the breed they are selling was, in my opinion, shocking.

Someone was selling their shih-tzu, and yes, they did spell it the way they obviously say it, sh## zhu.

Anyway, rant over. I try to be forgiving, but sometimes, just sometimes, I despair of people’s lazy attitude towards English. Well, the spelling of it anyway. Apostrophes and grammar can wait for another day.

And don’t get me started on some cafe menus……………

 

 

Val Chapman

Featured

Please give me a Prompt!

Statue at St Pancras Station
Statue at St Pancras Station What is their story?

 

My biggest problem is what to write in the first place. Given a free rein, told to ‘Write what I like’ and I’m lost, the page as blank as my mind.

I have tried the notebook / people watching/ eavesdropping ideas with varying results.

I travel fairly regularly by train and two incidents spring to mind.

My first encounter was, sitting across the aisle from me, a girl with long flaming red hair, she was so striking, I enjoyed conjuring up a character profile for her, and this developed into ‘The Girl Across the Aisle’

I once had the pleasure or misfortune; I’m not quite sure which, to be sitting opposite another girl on a train, on her mobile phone discussing who was going to donate their kidney to her, which she was in desperate need of. Believe me, I got every gory detail. She was either oblivious to me sitting there, or more than likely just didn’t care ( It seems to be the norm nowadays that people are happy to have what I would call private conversations in public, for all and sundry to hear).  My story; ‘The Girl with the Kidney’ is still waiting to be written.

Fortunately in my local U3A Creative Writing group, at the end of each meeting we are given that month’s homework. Even with that much needed prompt; I struggle for ages before coming up with something half worth developing. While my fellow wordsmiths are posting their valiant efforts, the deadline getting nearer and nearer, still nothing.

And then finally ‘Eureka’; more often than not, at three in the morning when my brain has been unable to switch off.

The funny thing is once I’ve started, that’s it, I simply can’t stop, frantically scribbling, editing, re-editing, never quite one hundred per cent satisfied which what I’ve done.

But in the end I have to let it go. My finger hovers over the ‘Send’ key before making that final decision to let it go.

And then spend the next few hours worrying about what everybody’s going to think of it!

 

Valerie Fish

Featured

Tribute to Edward Storey, a Fenland Hero

Portait of Edward Storey
Edward Storey 28 February 1930 – Sunday 18 November 2018

I would like to pay tribute to Edward Storey, a fellow Whittlesey resident and writer. I am sure many of our followers will be familiar with his books which brought recognition to our Fenland area, capturing the very essence of our history and culture.

I first contacted Edward over ten years ago when I started to write my own autobiography and continued to correspond regularly with him until this September when his health was beginning to fail. During those years he gave me so much support and guidance, encouraging me to develop and expand my writing. This gave me the confidence to set up the Whittlesey U3A Creative Writing Group which has evolved into the Whittlesey Wordsmiths. Last month we published our first book and I had signed and wrapped a copy for Edward before I heard news of his death.

I would like to express gratitude for his inspiration; to Edward, A Fenland legend, who made our dreams a possibility and then a reality.

Wendy Fletcher

 

This is a link to Edward Storey’s Biography on Wikipedia

Edward Storey Biography Wikipedia

The Photograph was copied from a post on the  Poetry in Presteigne website.

http://www.poetryinpresteigne.org/?m=201608

 

 

Featured

Switching on the imagination

Sunrise in the fens with windturbines
A spectacular Fenland Sunrise One of the most beautiful sunrises I have witnessed

 

Reading is a means of switching on the imagination. The pictures drawn in the mind, the voices heard and the drama that unfolds can be as real to a reader as anything encountered in life. In many ways it is a better reality, one that is acceptable on the reader’s terms, limited by what they want to take out of it or see within it.

As writers we grope around for the switch that lights the imagination of our readers. The words though must first paint pictures in our own minds, we are after all the first reader. Hopefully these pictures will be seen in  the mind’s eye of our readers. We know they  will see different pictures to ours, pictures on their terms. The voices too they hear will have different accents to the ones in our hearing, although the words are the same. As long as it paints that picture, produces that voice and above all else entertains we will have thrown that switch.

Phil

Featured

Hot off the press, our latest release

Where the Wild Winds Blow

9781916481701

Whittlesey Wordsmiths are proud to announce the publication and launch of their new book Where the Wild Winds Blow.

It is an eclectic collection of poetry and prose, outstandingly well written and superbly entertaining.

Where the Wild Winds Blow, can be bought through Amazon either in print or as an E-book  If you are local to Whittlesey and would rather buy the book directly from the Wordsmiths please click on the “Where the Wild Winds Blow local orders” link to order.

Click here for local orders Where the Wild Winds Blow local orders

Our first editions are arriving on the 22 October.

Click here for Amazon orders Amazon orders

Or contact Wendy by email wendyfletcherwriting@gmail.com

Featured

The love of words.

Reflections in water of reeds and a duck
Reflections

This post is by Tessa a wonderful poet and a member of our Whittlesey Wordsmiths writing group, look out for her work it is outstanding.

I love words. I love how they sound most of all. I was born too soon for children’s stories on tapes but when my daughter came along we would sit in bed with an ear piece each and listen to books read mostly by actors. I love the timbre of the words. How different they sound depending on who is reading them.  Some stories I prefer to have read by the author, some not. I love how single phrases said by different people can have a different inference. “I need you now”; can sound demanding, romantic or just plain whiney depending on who is saying it.

Most of all I love words that rhyme. Poems are my favourite thing. Writing them sometimes seems trivial because the words come easily. But then I can get stuck on a single word and change several lines and make new rhymes.

The spoken word only becomes harsh to me when spoken not in an accent but irreverently. English is glorious when spoken well. I hate slang, I hate don’t, didn’t, whatever. I hate “did yourself know that” Who are these people who think it is fine to change the English language.

My grandmother always said you could tell the quality of a person by the shoes on their feet and the words in their head. My grandmother knew a thing or two.

Tessa Thomson

Featured

Summer, the sun screens and writing

We have two posts on this subject:

Cathy wrote about screens and sunshine Wendy followed up with her thoughts on the same subject.

Off-Screen Editing

I’ve read advice never to start a story by describing the weather, but it’s what I notice first when I get up. Perhaps it’s because of where I live, in the UK: we can’t rely on the sun waiting around till we’re free to enjoy it. Before retirement I mourned for every sunny day when I had to work. The weather was certain to deteriorate for the weekends.

Retired, I have the freedom to spend every sunny day outside, but my laptop isn’t garden-friendly.

It’s the screen that won’t co-operate. Sitting in shade, adjusting screen brightness, giving the cursor a trail and making it bigger… nothing makes computing alfresco easy. My solution this year has been to edit off-screen. There are advantages to taking my red pen outside.

Most notably, I’ve taken more time over it, in order to spend as long as possible in the fresh air without feeling guilty. I’m not rushing through the final scenes because I’m fed up with editing this story for the fourth (fifth, sixth, seventh…) time.

I print on single-sided scrap to save trees, and manage with single spaced printouts, but to save even more paper, you can send your work to your Kindle, if you have one, by emailing the file to your Kindle email address with convert as your email title. It is possible to make editing notes on your Kindle version, but I still prefer editing onto paper.

Nevertheless, reading from the Kindle seems to throw up different errors compared to reading from a printout, or a word processor. I also read aloud sometimes, if there’s no-one within hearing range, to listen how the writing sounds. (When reading my story to the writing group, I’ve found that making notes on the fly tends to interrupt

the flow.)

Typing up my hard-copy edits only seems like half a job – the thinking’s already been done. Sometimes I’ll change my mind again and revert to the original, but that happens anyway, and it’s quicker when ‘reverting’ means ‘not changing’.

I plan to continue the off-screen edits when the sun finally flies south for the winter.

 

How do other writers cope with the lure of the sun in the few weeks Britain calls summer?

Cathy Cade.

Summer and Technology

The incompatibility of summer and technology is an ongoing issue for all us would-be authors.

My solution is to be creative with my pen and paper at this time of year and save the typing for dark, winter nights.

I can wander along the beach, feet cooled by the surf, a notebook in my rucksack. There is always a handy rock where I can sit for a few minutes to jot down odd words that spring to mind or dally for longer if inspiration takes hold.

Come winter, I can stoke up the fire, huddle over the lap top and type from the notes, with the added advantage that I see it all now with fresh eyes. The ideas have had time to mature, making revision much less challenging and the whole experience more rewarding.

Wendy Fletcher

Featured

FROM READING TO WRITING

An inspiring view
An inspiring view

This post is by Val Chapman a member of Whittlesey Wordsmiths.

I enjoy a lot of different subjects to read about, but if I had to choose, my preference is for psychological thrillers or crime novels, often the gorier the better.
Why is it then, that I have never even attempted to write one?
I know “they” say “write about what you know”, but to my knowledge, I’ve never murdered anyone, and wouldn’t know how to get away with it or solve it if I had, so how could I write a “murder mystery”?
My musings are almost exclusively in the ‘light and fluffy’ section.
I tend to write as I speak, so nothing too taxing there then!
Oh, wait, that may be a clue to the answer to my question!
I’ve never been keen on hard work….
I do admire those people who are committed enough to their craft to travel the country, if not the world, researching, checking, and researching again to make sure any writings are as plausible, and as factually correct as possible.
Maybe it’s because I just write for my own amusement, so I don’t need it to be too accurate or truthful. I just like to have a beginning, a middle, and hopefully an end. I tend to prefer my stories to make the reader say “ahh” instead of “huh?” when they’ve finished reading.
And that’s often how I tend to plan.
Start at the end.
If I have an idea where the story will end, I can plot how to get there.
And I like to be given an idea to work on. (See? Get someone else to do the thinking, -hard work-)
Left to my own devices, I’m not sure I would ever have started this very enjoyable hobby I now have.
Which is why I’m very grateful to all of the members of Whittlesey Wordsmiths. With their encouragement, I’ve really had fun exploring my imagination a bit, and have even started writing a little differently at times. Now, I don’t always have to find the ending first. Sometimes I’m even brave enough to just jump in and see where it takes me.
I even occasionally prefer to write rather than read.
Who knows, I might even ramble on enough to write a whole book!
I just need an idea……………..

Featured

The hare that runs through the field of memory

It’s funny how memory and nostalgia work.

Sometimes these memories are the inspitation for writing we all tend to weave our memories and experiences into our work, whether consciously or not.

Normally I am fairly indifferent to entertainment at the U3A open meetings. Having joined the committee and a shortage of people during school holidays I found myself at a meeting I probably wouldn’t have normally attended. The two talented musicians Dave Bailey and Steve Gibbs, The Boatmen, entertained our audience with their own compositions together with covers of more well known numbers. A rendition of The Chain, a Fleetwood Mac number, was one I really enjoyed,  this song started the hare running through my memories.

During the sixties, whilst Peter Green was still with Fleetwood Mac, the band  performed at the Ramsey Gaiety, a dance hall, one Saturday night. Their very last number after several encores was “I Hear You Knocking But You Can’t Come In”. At that time this little Fenland town hosted some of the biggest music names of the sixties. I was able to see, amongst others The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Cliff Bennet and  Zoot Money all at the Gaiety . To my lasting regret I missed Geno Washington and the Ram Jam Band, the night they performed.

In Ramsey on a Saturday night, Great Whyte was filled with a long line of double decker buses parked from one end of the road to the other. These buses brought in young people from all over the Fenland Towns and villages. For many of us, in our teens, the sixties were a time of magic. The music and the sense of optimism was something that for many of us has never been repeated. On another occasion I remember hearing Martha and the Vandellas, “Jimmy Mack” for the first time, whilst I watched a line of short skirted, long legged girls on the floor of the Commemoration Hall in Huntingdon, dancing to it.

The news of Aretha Franklin’s death is just another reminder of the sound track that accompanied those best of times. It would be good to see some magic return, just some.

 

Philip

 

Featured

Inspiring Scenes

Inspired by a visit to the coast, I wrote the first few sentences of my novel on the beach. Then I formed characters who would play the major roles and started a file for each, noting details that I might wish to refer to later.

I imagined conversations that would take place throughout the novel and wrote these in some detail. They have formed the skeleton on which the story will hang.

As I create the scenes which lead up to each of these conversations, I feel a sense of freedom to meander teasingly slowly or rush ahead, hopefully carrying my future readers with me.

After spending several years writing an autobiographical account of my childhood, I am savouring this opportunity to enjoy the liberation brought by writing fiction; the chance to just introduce another character,  explore a location that I have just invented, or introduce a twist that neither the characters or I saw coming.

I now have a beginning, an end and a lot of loose bits to tie up in the middle, so onwards to the beach.

Wendy Fletcher, Whittlesey Wordsmith

 

Featured

Preparation and tweaking

Whittlesey Buttercross
The Whittlesey Buttercross

Our book Where the Wild Winds Blow is in the garage having its final bit of tweaking. It is jacked up off the ground. Cathy and Wendy are wandering about underneath, attractively attired in nice white overalls with lead lights in their hands. Cathy pokes out rogue commas and semicolons with a very large screwdriver. Whilst Wendy has a big spanner in her hand tightening up any loose phrases or sentences dangling underneath. Very soon we will have the sleek new cover fitted and be ready for the off.

Stephen Oliver is making progress with his novel and anthologies, Stuart Roberts with his next book. Cathy Cade, Val Chapman and Val Fish have contributed to the 81 word challenge, I suspect other members have too but don’t know yet. Going on past form Val Fish has probably got entries in the limerick competition.

The Whittlesey Word Forge is ringing with the sound of writing being hammered into shape.

Featured

Writing

Bridge Street Cambridge a busy Saturday afternoon
Walking the route a character in my book uses. Bridge Street Cambridge.

Wendy has asked me to write a piece about our writing as a group.

At our last meeting Whittlesey Wordsmiths discussed writing, not just the generalities of it but how we each approached the task. In the past, two of our members explained their different working methods one was able to work while the television was on and manage with the distraction, another needed complete silence. Some members work best at night, others early in the morning.

Personally, I prefer relative quiet, either at home, early or late in the day, during the day at a library or even as yesterday in a pub. Breakfast at a Wetherspoons, a large empty table my small laptop/tablet computer with free coffee top-ups, while my car was at the garage.

We discussed also the acquiring of ideas, the overheard phrase or sentence, an ending to a story then filling in the events leading up to that finale. At least one of our number describes himself as Pantster, “flying by the seat of his pants”, writing down the thoughts as they form in his mind. Judging by his output it works very well for him. Within our group we are fortunate in having a diverse pool of talented writers. Our work in progress; “Where the Wild Winds Blow”, is nearing completion and showcases this talent.

Every one of us works differently. Each has their own way of finding inspiration, a method of working, marshalling thoughts as they are turned into the written word. My own stories are shown to me as a video played out in my mind, whilst I try valiantly to record the unfolding events. Later I return to rewind, stop, pause and touch up the pictures. Adding in the barely seen detail, amplifying the quiet words or thoughts of the actors. As the rough chapters increase to become what will hopefully be my novel, it has become essential to make a chronological plan. The events need to have a semblance of order. Cycle rides and walks help me add flesh to the bones of ideas and concepts. Clarifying and touching up the parts of the pictures that need it.

As my novel is set mainly in Cambridge, trips to the city have been necessary  to clarify memories, to fill in the gaps left unseen in maps and on Google. Walking the route a character takes in the plot, enables it to seen, as it appears to that character, a touching up of the detail in the video.

Philip Cumberland

https://fenlandphil.wordpress.com/

Featured

Review: Unleash your Dreams Going Beyond Goal Setting Stephen Oliver

The key to unlocking the potential to set your goals and work towards reaching them with the help of clear text and helpful diagrams. Stephen shares his experience and encourages the reader throughout this journey to success, a lesson for us all, Stephen.

Featured

Review: All Time Lowe Stuart Roberts

All Time Lowe written by Stuart Roberts Front cover of book
All Time Lowe Written by Stuart Roberts Front cover of book

Today I finished reading this book by group member, Stuart Roberts. I started reading it yesterday which gives you some idea of the ‘couldn’t put it down’ factor. The suspense grows throughout the story, around characters that are realistic and well rounded. An excellent read, Stuart

Featured

Whittlesey Wordsmiths

This is the post excerpt.

We are the Whittlesey Wordsmiths, a group of writers based in the Fenland market town of Whittlesey. The group was set up in February 2017 and now has eleven members. We are currently working on an anthology of short stories and poems, a collection of fact, fiction and fantasy. We are planning to publish the book in time for Christmas 2018. Updates as we progress with this, Wendy

IMG_2636