Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Growing vegetables in your car and other forms of procrastination

Why is it as soon as I have an approaching deadline I begin to find other pressing tasks to do? These same pressing tasks never get done when I’ve plenty of time and nothing better to do, no instead I wait until the new term is beginning and I have classes which I need to plan and prepare for. In a few short days I will be back at work and teaching an entirely new set of students. I’m looking forward to this because I like my job and often there are some really interesting people taking my classes. You would have thought then that I’d be working hard to come up with some thought provoking, entertaining, enquiring lesson plans and doing lots of background reading to re-familiarise myself with the set texts. And that’s not to mention the marking I need to get done for another group of students.

I found this list I wrote months ago about procrastination because I don’t change. Back in September I wrote:-

Actually I feel like having a little nap right now and so far today I have…

weeded the garden [Don’t know why I bothered, it’s full of weeds again now and we’re in April]

fed the chickens

cleaned up the bird table

baked three angel’s food cakes [they tasted HORRIBLE – don’t bother making them again – and they don’t freeze well]

done three loads of washing [see Weeding]

watched part of a David Bowie interview

browsed through videos on

looked at Facebook

checked my email about ten times

looked at how to grow 100lbs of potatoes in a 4x4ft square – I almost forgot to add the ft to 4x4 – now that would be interesting – how to grow potatoes in a 4x4. Would the 4x4 have to be a static wreck somewhere? Or could you do this will continuing to use the car as your family vehicle? Potatoes probably wouldn’t be the best thing to grow as they need to be cooked once dug up. Tomatoes would be better but they require quite a bit of water and unless you managed to rig up some sort of diversion from the windscreen wiper fluid or the radiator it could be tricky.

See what I mean? That was another five minutes or so just pondering how growing veg in your car would work.


And now in April I’m really pondering the car as greenhouse thing. Interesting.

Add an extra ten minutes for looking on Google Images for a Greenhouse car and then another minute or two wondering how long it would take me to draw a cartoon and then upload it to the laptop.


You know the best advice for combating procrastination? Do the thing you hate doing first. Get it out of the way. Just do it. Then you can play all you like.

*Blows raspberry at screen*

Thursday, 8 April 2010


Just a quick post to let you know that I’ve moved….I won’t be posting to this blog anymore, instead I’ll be over at

Why? Well, I began this blog four years ago and my life has changed considerably since then. Add to that the problems I was having signing into this blog and it makes sense to start afresh.

So please join me over at the new blog!

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

How not to get published

With all the chaos of the past couple of weeks I’ve neglected to blog about the wonderful new issue of Open Wide Magazine. Why am I mentioning it? Because some weeks ago I became their new Fiction Editor. This has been a great pleasure for me – I get to read sixty or so submitted manuscripts and then choose from them around ten or eleven which I then put forward to the editorial team who make their final decision of five or six to appear in the next issue.


Sort of….It’s great for me to be able to read a huge variety of writing and not have to mark it. There are some frustrations about being the Fiction Editor though because I want to find great writing and put it forward for publication. So why do I turn down nine out of ten submissions?

1. You haven’t followed the submission guidelines.

We ask that submissions are in a Word document, set in Courier, text size 12 and double-spaced. These aren’t unusual requirements – universities as well as publishers expect manuscripts to be text size 12 and double-spaced. Why? Because it makes your piece easy to read. We like Courier, other magazines and journals like other fonts. All a matter of taste but again done for a good reason – all the submissions look the same and I can concentrate on the writing.

2. You haven’t followed the submission guidelines.

Sorry, but this is such an important one that it needs to be repeated. When I received my first stack of manuscripts I started off really well – I gave each and every one equal attention. Then I realised that if I read the ones where the writer hasn’t cared enough to follow the submission guidelines for our magazine then I’m giving them my time over all those other writers who have cared. And I want to publish writers who care enough about their own writing because I care about theirs.

3. You haven’t looked at our magazine.

Now, we are interested in good writing – we’re the same as any other literary magazine in that respect. We look at any genre – this issue has some Sci-Fi in it alongside more traditional literary fiction. However, if you look at our previous issues you’ll find that we don’t tend to publish work that has content drawing upon themes of explicit violence or sex. Again, this is fairly standard stuff for literary magazines. There are magazines out there who do actively look for these types of writing. I would suggest to any writer that they read the magazines they wish to submit to – is it the sort of place you want your work to appear? Would your work look out of place here?

Okay, so you’ve checked out the magazine and you like what’s written there. You’ve read the submission guidelines and you’ve formatted your piece accordingly. Great, you’re halfway there – I’ll definitely be reading your writing. Now why am I likely to turn it down? This is where it begins to get to the very heart of your writing and what makes a good short story…..And that’s where I’ll leave this post for today.

For now I’d just suggest you go and read issue twenty-two of Open Wide Magazine and do let me know what you think!

Open Wide Magazine

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Saturday, 3 April 2010

Clawing back normal

This morning the boys have gone to their dad’s – they go every other weekend down to the farm. R got up this morning with a blood glucose level of 4.4 – low but not worryingly so. In fact this is the first time he’s dipped below 5 so we feel as if we’re finally getting to grips with the condition (I know – how ridiculous is that!). He ate a large breakfast – hot chocolate (Skinny Cow – no sugar! He needs sugar!), porridge (good), scrambled eggs with cheese, creme fraiche, smoked salmon and wholemeal toast (gourmet food! Ha!). He’s constantly hungry and things like the salmon and the eggs will fill him up, help him grow but not fill him with carbs and this morning he needed carbs.

He’s just ‘phoned me – blood glucose is 4.2. I’ve told him to go to a cafe and eat a muffin or a doughnut (I know it’ll make his BG spike, but we’re still getting hold of this…) after he’s had a swig of cola or some dextrose tablets or fruit pastelles. Yes, guess who forgot to hand their father a pack of Lucozade tablets and a Tracker bar before they left?

I’m panicking a little – this is R’s very first hypo and fortunately it’s really mild, but still I’m worried.

He’ll be fine, I’m sure he will.

He’s called again – taken dextrose, feels better. I’ve consulted The Book (‘Type 1 Diabetes in children, adolescents and young adults’ by Dr Ragnar Hanas), sent him further info about eating, feeling better shortly and how his blood glucose level should normalise within the next hour or so but both his father and brother will have to keep an eye on him. Information, education *is* the treatment and it works for all of us.

And thank god for mobile ‘phones.

Friday, 2 April 2010

New beginnings

The end of a very long winter has finally arrived. We’ve moved back into British Summer Time and the days smell of warm promise yet to arrive. Life has changed. We’re getting to grips with R’s Type 1 Diabetes – it’s not an easy path and we don’t have any choice about taking it. We’ve begun to find information in books and online about the condition in the hope that we can become experts so we can support R. Flexibility and pragmatism seem to help even when we (I) feel ready to cry with despair.

We’ll get through this – we have to. And even saying that seems ridiculous – we can’t ‘get through’ diabetes – there is no Promised Land on the other side where the condition no longer exists.

All cheery stuff!

Most of this hits in waves. Yesterday I met with a wonderful friend who has already been there and is dealing with her son and T1. We laughed and cried, she told me lots and lots of things which filled me with hope. I left her house buoyed up and ready to hit the local supermarket to pick up a huge bag of insulin, lancets, test strips, and lots of other day to day necessities for someone with T1. That’s when it hit – walking through Sainsburys surrounded by people who were stocking up for the Easter holiday, buying normal things like chocolate eggs, cakes and sugary puddings – all things that now R has to think about before he can eat them. Things that I take for granted – the only worry I have over eating a slice of chocolate cake is will it make me fat? I don’t have to think about upping an insulin dose because I’ll get a headache and feel ill if I don’t.

So I began to lose it in Sainsburys. I didn’t burst into tears. Instead I attempted to make it all better because that’s what mothers do, right? So I bought a Wii – the Sports one. I reasoned that this would be ideal for R to play with alongside his brother particularly if his blood glucose is a bit high or he can’t get out to ride his bike or play rugby. This Wii would be ideal for all of us to have some family time and burn off a bit of energy while it rains outside. All good reasons for purchasing a new games system, but I made this decision in a spilt second with the real intention of making everyone feel better – the healthy carb free version of pigging out on chocolate when you’re feeling down. Well, healthy for the body, not for the bank account. And I saved the tears for back in the car with a boot full of meds and Wii boxes and games.

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Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Where did my ‘normal’ life go to?

On Monday one of my 12 year old twin sons was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Not a long story – he’d been thirsty over the last couple of weeks, getting up in the night to pee, nothing else. My dad has Type 2 so we tested R’s blood – more out of curiosity than any real suspicion of diabetes. The normal level of glucose in blood should be around 4-7mmol/l, R’s was 30. He should have been feeling ill; he felt fine.  We tested him over the weekend and he had 25 and 20. The confirmation came at the local GP’s surgery where we were told that we’d already diagnosed it ourselves so we’d better get to the local hospital quickly.

And here we are.

He should be out tomorrow. We’ve seen doctors, nurses, specialist nurses and consultants. We’ll go on seeing them for the foreseeable future.

Right now it feels as if I’m underwater breathing somehow, but underwater. Everyone else, the rest of the world, are on firm dry land and I can’t quite seem to get my footing. I want desperately for this to become just a small aspect of our lives and not the main focus but I fear for a while at least, it will overtake us.

We’re incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by the love and support of family and wonderful friends – not least of whom is Patricia who also has a son with Type 1 and keeps the Waving and Drowning Blog which I’ve often glanced at BD (Before Diabetes) but now I’m scouring for hints, tips and the road map out of here.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Getting out and about

At the weekend I was down at Bedgebury Pinetum – P was going mountain biking on one of their excellent trails there, I usually join him but this time I wanted to write.

I took the long trail around the Pinetum. It is littered with benches and stopping places for taking in the beauty of the trees and landscape. I sat under a particularly large tree and began writing this….


It’s getting warmer finally and there are narcissus bulbs coming up amongst the rare trees. A duck is calling in the distance and sounds almost like a dog. There’s a constant background noise of birdsong – I think I can make out a thrush’s song but I suspect I’m simply telling myself that’s what a thrush sings. I can hear a light-aircraft but the patchy grey and white clouds stop me from seeing what sounds like aerobatics going on overhead. I wonder what the birds make of that? I know from watching my geese when I was at the farm that they stop and look skywards at the planes – I always imagined that the look was one of longing. Perhaps they think we’re foolish – although I doubt that they realise we humans are in the planes – maybe they see them as large predatory birds.

And now I can hear a baby crying – sounds like a toddler throwing a tantrum – really demanding bellowing. The sound carries just like the duck’s call for a mate. The baby is probably tired, cold and hungry.

In this country it seems we’re never far from other people.

Now I’m getting cold. Time to move on; the eventual walk back. Tea and a slice of cake.


I had intended to write more after this and after I’d arrived at the Pinetum’s cafe – this was my warm up writing where I shift my brain over from left logical to right writerly. Even just typing these lines up has done the shift and now I feel sort of … dreamy I suppose. Unfortunately I’ve got a class to plan now so I’d better get back into the logical left and maybe write later. I do think though that as a writer it’s important to know how to make that mental shift (I just typed ‘shirt’ first – what is my subconscious trying to tell me?!) and how to make it quickly. Stephen King suggests that all writers should read for around four hours every day and write for two. Wonderful advice if you can afford that amount of time. I aim at an hour or so reading and the same writing – I say aim because with jobs and a family sometimes both my writing and reading feels the squeeze and that’s why I escape every so often to places like the Pinetum – when I reached the cafe I read for an hour.

So, what’s this post about?

1.Find ways to make time for writing and reading.

2.To write from ‘cold’ just listen and look around you.

3.I think Spring is finally here!