Dear Mrs Last


I finished reading the collection of your diary entries last night. When I finally closed the book, I had one of those pauses, where you lay silently and absorb everything you have just read. Mrs Last, I salute you.

I can admit now that at times, your constant fretting irritated me. But this is coming from a reader with no prior experience of war. Once your situation truly sunk in, two world wars within your lifetime, I could appreciate why you were always so anxious. Of course, I was also reading with the gift of hindsight. When you were writing to Mass Observation, you have no idea about the eventual outcome.

The pages of your book made me laugh and cry in equal measure. I was delighted with the cookery advice you share and the meals you made for your family. But most importantly, you made me think. Some of the social concepts you noted in your diary were yet to be named, but you were still fully aware of them. I cheered when you recognised when you finally acknowledge that you were not your husband’s slave! I think you would be an extremely engaging person to talk to and you have earned your seat at my fantasy dinner party, alongside Buddy Holly and Enid Blyton.

Thank you Mrs Last. Thank you for providing a human reaction to the era I have studied. You have helped me to understand the reasoning for attitudes at the time. You endured so much and I for one am glad to see your legacy in print.



Ah me . . .

I was so hoping I wouldn’t have to type out any quick “fly-by” posts, just to keep up with the NaBloPoMo challenge. But alas, here we are.

1) I have spent most of the day with a new short story, in which I question whether looking at the 1950’s with rose-tinted glasses is a good thing or not. The character of Betty Hart (or Rachel Hartley as the case might be) is blossoming beautifully.

2) Gallivanting around your room wearing a headband does constitute as exercise, I promise.

3) I’m going to make dinner now, a different take on cottage pie. That will make a much more coherent post tomorrow.

Better switch off now before an imagined school matron tells me off for breaking curfew! Gosh, I’m definitely in story-writing mode today . . .

Lucky Stars

I’m refusing to succumb to “Fresher’s flu”. I’m no Fresher. I haven’t been to a single Student Union event, although I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much. I did my time, dancing on that dance floor. I’m twenty one now, a grown up don’t you know. My dry, scratchy throat just needs soup to comfort it. I’m sneezing due to the shift to cooler temperatures. This headache is because I’m run down after a hectic fortnight returning to University. It’s certainly been manic. But I love every single second of it.

Nothing affects me like writing. It occupies all possible time and space. My room is filled with notebooks and reading books. My head is filled with settings and characters. I think I’m very lucky to be able to say, hand on heart, I adore my degree. The tutors are vastly knowledgeable and friendly to boot. I learn so much every time they speak. We discuss the Sims and other computer games. I did my homework this week on how chocolate is made. I am actively encouraged to sit around and day dream in order to generate new ideas. What’s not to love?

Well, it is an awful lot of hard work. There is always reading to be done, and being forced to read specific texts does sap a certain amount of enjoyment from it. There is also a presence of expectation in every classroom. You are sitting amongst pupils who have the same dreams as you. Only a certain number of these dreams will come true. You listen to tutors who have been published many times over, and you can’t help but wonder, “Am I good enough?”

But as one of my favourite tutors said this week, “we all deserve to be writers!” Since being given the gift of time, I’m feeling confident about all of my modules for this year. I feel ready to succeed. This achievement does not come lightly. At present, a social life seems a small sacrifice for setting up the foundations of my future career. My family and the chap remain of the utmost importance, naturally. But if I do disappear from time to time (read: Monday’s nonexistent post), you can be sure I’ll be buried in a story. Stories of a queen and a teleport. Stories of witches and precious stones. The story of the Rambling Man. Oops, I’ve said too much.

Fitting in to stand out

I left domesticity behind this morning, with my second batch of laundry purring in the machine and my changed sheets growling in the dryer. I was on the run from the noise of laundry day. I had no need for a coat this morning, but the distinct chill did make my glad for the company of my scarf. I plodded along to my destination slowly, my mind already starting to drift into another realm.

I was lucky enough to commandeer the largest sofa in my local Starbucks, tucked away inside the big Sainsbury’s. My Grande Skinny Hazelnut Latte (capital-letter-worthy) stood handsomely before me, a real day-off treat. My pen was poised as I opened my mind, ready to see what ideas would wander through today.

It sounds awfully pretentious to admit that I like writing in coffee shops, but I do. I enjoy the sense of anonymity in a bustling atmosphere. I get to contemplate each new thought whilst taking a sip of coffee. I am left alone to write and I feel like this is when I write quality stuff. I think part of me likes the intellectual allure of being confident enough to write in public. Or at least seeming to be. For me at least, the lack of confidence in my own work leads me to the coffee shop in the first place.

When I try to write at home, I feel pressure. I flit from room to room, trying to find the perfect position, a faux attempt at a relaxed state. I hate trying to write when I feel like I’m being forced to. When I’m at home, I feel like I have to write x amount, or the day is wasted. The glimpses of my beloved bookshelf don’t help the situation. The wondrous work of others drowns my endeavours to join them. I feel dwarfed, like I will never squeeze into the limited space left. Why bother trying?

The negativity doesn’t follow me to the coffee shop. It’s just me and my story. I am pleasantly distracted by passersby, not deterred by them. It’s easier to day dream in a public place, with no other activities vying for your attention. Just a black biro and a blue notebook. I’m an old fashioned girl so everything is handwritten before the laptop is even considered. My blogs posts get the same treatment. Notebooks allow you to jump across a range of ideas, creating wacky spider diagrams as you go. The ink stains on my fingers feel like proof of my miniscule achievements. I may be sitting in a suburban coffee shop, but my mind is travelling miles.

As for the story, I had another glorious epiphany today, just as my coffee was turning to dregs. I now understand the reason why my villain is just so. His motivations and goals clicked and everything is beginning to shine through the preliminary fog. My character was able to talk to me because my mind was free of domestic clutter that exudes when I try and write at home. I’m comfortable with embracing a cliché if it means creating an original story.

Ying and Yang

Today has been a perfect amalgamation of the two areas of my life.

I was on campus at 10am this morning to take part in a group session to discuss the ECP. The Extended Creative Project is the biggest part of my University degree, the big one, the one students all over the country pull their hair out over. Yup, it’s a big deal.

But the meeting this morning was very helpful concerning guidelines and advice. It’s a student-led project, so the more hours I put in, the more marks I shall get. It’s comforting in a way to know that it’s all on my shoulders. My own hard work should reap rewards. I was lucky enough to be allocated my first choice tutor, Judy Waite. She is a talented author who has several published works for children of all ages. Judy is the type of teacher who explains things in a very understandable manner. I find some creative writing tutors expand on their point more than is necessary. Treasure comes out of Judy’s mouth whenever she talks about writing for children, and I feverishly scribbled everything I could in my notebook this morning.

In our individual meeting later on, Judy was very positive about my proposed story. That was a huge confidence boost. I showed her the notebooks and art folders I had worked on ever since I was eleven years old. This is the story that has grown with me and the reason I chose to do this course at University. The story means a lot to me and I am determined to do it justice. I have a lot of hard grafting ahead, but I am looking forward to the adventure. I left the office beaming with the anticipation of the finished article.

After the writer inside of me was set upon an exciting new path, I came home to attend domestic matters. The laundry is complete; washed, tumbled and put away. I went grocery shopping and snared some bargains – more on Friday! And I spent the afternoon batch cooking an almost obscene amount of banana cakes/muffins. The chap had bananas that he said were destined for the bin. I rescued the brown blighters, mashed them up and popped them straight into cake batter. It’s a real heap of cakes – 27 to be exact. My part of the freezer drawer is well stocked and my cake tin is full to the brim. And that makes me smile too.


It’s always bound to be a good day when I immerse myself in things that I enjoy. This morning, my head was swimming with runaway queens and dashing pirate captains. This afternoon, daydreams of baking and an upcoming beef stew took hold. It’s lovely when life correlates so perfectly.

May I present Miss Martha . . .

I am happy to report a surge in motivation since my last post. I’ve accomplished a lot today on one of my assignments and I’m determined to have a complete, 2500 word draft finished by today. I wondered if you might like to read the opening and tell me what you think. It’s a day in the life of a modern woman looking back at her life, with fairytale/folklore influences. I would love to read your comments.


There was an old woman who lived in a shack by the seashore.


            She lived alone, blissfully happy in her solitude. When Martha Browning moved in to the bungalow by the sea, the first things to go were the clocks. Martha rose with the sun and slept in the moonlight, sometimes daring to extend her daylight hours by candles. The mirrors she was once devoted to were also shunned. Martha knew she was “portly” as her mother used to say, she could hold handfuls of flesh at various points around her body. The naughtiness of the rebellion always made Martha grin. Every day, she curled her arms around her own sizeable waist and tightened them. This daily affirmation reminded Martha of how lucky she is to be alone.       

            She awoke one morning from her nest of blankets and pillows. The skies were grey and the sea, like a stubborn sibling, resolutely matched it. Martha smiled as she rubbed her eyes. Grey was her favourite colour. She would never be disturbed on a grey day. She padded from her sleeping den to the bathroom, a miniscule room that could only cope with a basin and a toilet. But at least the running water was a luxury available to her in this house. There once was a time where Little Martha had to potter to an outside lavatory and find her way back using a length of string. Martha had aged several decades since then.

            Martha was inclined to wash her hair in the sea, but only when she felt the need to, not this morning. There was no one within miles to berate Martha for having dirty hair. It was a blessing. She washed using the basin, soap and her hands. When Martha splashed her face with cool water, her fingertips lingered on the crevices around her eyes and mouth. She brushed her hair, pulling it in front of her gaze to see ever-increasing strands of silver. Sometimes, Martha wanted to see herself fully in a mirror, a mirror on the wall. But she quickly banished such cruelty from her mind and went in search of breakfast.

            The third and final room of Martha’s humble house was her sanctuary. Although it led to the Outside, Martha still felt comforted by everything she held dear in this room. There was a tiny kitchen area in the corner where Martha would use her rudimentary cooking equipment to bake the day away. Bookshelves squeezed themselves against the remaining walls, some of their inhabitants spilling over into piles of books on every available surface. Martha spent most hours of the day in her cosy paradise, especially during the off-season. She would read for days and her knowledge garnered from books was vast. Nobody bothered to send electricity all the way up here, so Martha was not chained to the black box like others she used to know.

            Firing up the gas stove to make porridge was an intrinsic part of Martha’s morning. She kept her perishables in an inherited dresser from her mother. The milk was still good so into a pan it went whilst Martha went to fetch the oats. The cupboard was fruitless. Each one she opened had the same empty space, occupied only by a pepper mill and a bag of dried herbs. The garden could offer no treasure whilst in the stranglehold of Winter. Martha felt glum. She liked the grey, but didn’t want to be in contact with it. Martha had never enjoyed grocery shopping.


A suffering artist? No.

I have two creative piece due in on the second week of May. I know what I’m writing for both of them, they both have clear direction and strong preliminary characters. But I can’t seem to sit myself down for long enough to actually work on them.

            I wonder if it’s because the deadline is too far in the distance. Because it’s not looming over my shoulder, I can forget about its presence from time to time. But that is not a productive mindset. I made that mistake before Christmas, allowing the pressure of deadlines to swamp me. One of the key things I’ve learnt in second year is how hard work truly pays off in stories. Chipping away at the mountain makes it a lot easier to climb.

            I also wonder if I’m too fussy about my writing conditions. I like to have as long as possible, a whole day preferably, to working on something. I have a habit of “pretending to be a writer” in order to focus. Do you do that? It’s where you picture your favourite writer and imagine what they do when they sit down to write and you try to emulate it. I think of Candace Bushnell at a huge desk with a tall glass of fancy coffee, so I sit down at our dining room table with a large mug of tea. I think seeing yourself as a writer is a real confidence boost.

            I find it extremely difficult to squeeze in an hour here or there. I don’t believe this gives me enough time to immerse myself in the story. Every one works in different ways, naturally, and it might even be beneficial to my writing to stray out of my comfort zone. But when you know how you work best, maybe mixing up the formula is detrimental. I like days filled with writing, so my day off on Monday has officially been allocated as a “Uni day”.

            A thought crossed my mind that I puzzled over for awhile – have I got writer’s block? I always thought The Block occurred during writing, where your pen freezes, the setting blurs around the edges and your characters turn to you and shrug their shoulders. I have a symptom of writer’s block, being unable to put ink on a page, but I don’t think that’s my affliction. I can see my stories panning out in my head, see all of the characters patiently sitting in the waiting room of unwritten ideas. I diagnose myself with an acute lack of motivation, to be cured with a large dose of time spent at my desk tomorrow and copious amounts of tea. Buck up Pen, get well soon.

The First Story

As we are fast approaching the Easter Holidays, I have been on full studying lock down. More storytelling, less domestic around these parts recently. I have two deadlines before our holidays start and have been manically typing on my laptop all day.

Writing is strange. I love it and know it to be my true calling in life. But I still have to gear myself up for it and force myself to sit down to scribble. I use the luring technique of copious amounts of tea.

But the slog has been successful and I have a draft that I’m more than happy with ready for the final session tomorrow. It’s for my Children’s Fiction module, my favourite one this year.


Care to take a peek?


Adam was supposed to be at football club. Aunty Elaine was very keen on sports, exercise and nutrition. It was just a shame she wasn’t that keen on Adam.

            He shuffled along the road, kicking his PE bag as he went. The club wasn’t meant to finish for another half an hour, so he had some precious time to himself. As he dawdled along, he tapped each beech tree in turn, a ritual he performed when he walked home from school. Adam lazily started kicking about a pebble, thinking up more excuses for why he didn’t go to football.

            The pebble spun off Adam’s boot and hit the metal gates with a loud twang. The stone lay forgotten as Adam stared up at the overbearing structure. They towered above him, the charcoal iron twisted into rows of curling claws. The pair of gates was bound by a thick padlock, hefty and strong. They could have been carved from black ice as Adam quickly withdrew his hand from the metal bar. Adam looked past the intimidating barrier and gawked at what it was guarding.

            The house stood alone. It had to have been at least three stories high, but was the type of mansion that could be hiding an attic and cellar too. But it was unlike any old houses Adam had seen on television dramas. This house had a spiralling turret on one side with bejewelled Indian domes on the other. The front of the house was a mish mash of exposed brick and cream stone.

            Adam walked down Greymear Street every day on his way home from school. There had never been a house in this spot before, just piles of rubble and “under construction” signs. Even at the start of the week, Adam remembered seeing a vague structure under a nest of scaffolding. The house had sprung up so quickly, but Adam failed to remember if he had ever seen any builders at the sight. It was hard to think back, Monday was so long ago.

            His desire to see more of the house led Adam to lean heavily on the gates. They surrendered to his touch and slowly opened. The padlock had vanished. Adam stepped inside, treading softly. He opened the gate wide with an echoing screech. Adam looked around to see if anyone had been disturbed, but there was no one to be seen. He kept a hand on the cool gates. Adam couldn’t afford to be late home, it wasn’t worth the nagging that he would receive from Aunty Elaine. But the house barely looked solid, he just had to check if the mirage was true. A closer look and then off home, no one would notice.

            Adam tiptoed up the sandy driveway, ready to bolt if he saw an angry foreman. But there was no trace of workmen anywhere, no forgotten jackets or lone machinery. As Adam got closer, he realised how tired the house looked. The floorboards were faded on the porch and the fence that surrounded it was desperately seeking a paintbrush. The lion head knocker in the middle of the huge front door was covered in dust. Adam turned once more to search for any owners, but it was still silent all around him. He noticed that the gates had sneakily shut themselves, securing the house once more.