Jo’s Lovely Blog Hop

My writing friend, Liv Thomas, who with her co-author recently had a top ten Kindle bestseller with Beneath an Irish Sky, under their pen name of Isabella Connor, has invited me to take part in the Lovely Blog Hop, in which writers talk about some of the things that shaped their life and writing.

At the end of the post, I’ve linked two other writing friends, this time from the Write Romantics, who will tell you about themselves. It’s also a great way to discover blogs you might not have known about…

Sam and JojpgFirst Memory

My first memories are all linked to a house we moved to when I was three years old, as I don’t remember the house we lived in before at all, and many of them to my older sister of two years – Sam. We were typical sisters, who bickered a lot but also played together. Although, being older, she would pick on me a bit and gang up with the girl next door to make me eat mud! My now wild, Russell Brand-esque hair was more desirable back when I was a toddler, and it was all cherubic curls, which everyone raved over… until, one day, when my mum was on the phone and Sam decided to give me a rather drastic home hair cut! Despite all of this, one of my earliest memories is, aged three, standing with my face pressed up against the yellow metal gate at the end of our path, waiting for my sister to come back from her first day at primary school. She might have driven me mad at times, but I still missed her when she wasn’t there. Here’s the two of us a few years later, rocking that late 70s look!

Books

We’ve done this before on the blog, admittedly, but I’ve always loved reading and tried writing my SS100079first novel at aged seven. My favourite way to spend a Sunday as a teenager was to lie on my bed with my back pressed up against a warm radiator, reading until Sunday had slipped into Monday. My teenage writing heroine was probably Jilly Cooper and, for lots of girls my age, reading Riders was a rite of passage. Although I loved Sue Townsend just as much, but for very different reasons, and still hook up with Adrian Mole every time I really need cheering up. These days, I love writers who can combine humour and emotional storylines – like Julie Cohen and Jo Jo Moyes – and, having finally given in to a Kindle and found out I love it, there’s more reason than ever to read into the wee small hours.

Libraries

I can vividly remember going to the library every week with my mum as a child and loving the Baby bounce and rhymechildren’s section and the huge range – as it had seemed back then – of books to choose from. I even wanted to be a librarian for a bit and having my own date stamp seemed such a wonderful prospect! Later on, as mum myself, I took both my children to ‘Baby Bounce and Rhyme’ at the local library to help introduce them to stories, poetry and books in general. Both of them now enjoy reading and Harry has raced through all the Dick King-Smith books and is now on to Michael Morpurgo, so maybe, just maybe, those early sessions in the library paid off.

What’s Your Passion?

Apart from writing and my family, I’d say it’s got to be travel. It doesn’t matter if it’s the UK or SS101819overseas, but I’m not happy unless I’ve got at least three trips booked to look forward to.   I’ve just spent two weeks in the Welsh mountains and we’re off to Holland in June, and Spain the month after that. Apart from England, America and Scotland are my favourite places to visit. Probably the most exotic place I’ve been is the Venezuelan jungle, where we went piranha fishing and had to wear socks on our hands at night to keep the bugs at bay! That particular setting is bound to feature in a novel one of these days.

Learning

This is a tricky one… As a university lecturer, I am usually a complete advocate of learning. However,Snape I am currently half way through a Masters degree and finding the workload hard going, combined with work, writing and family life. However, it’s worth it to wear the hat at the end of it all, that’s what I tell myself. When I got my first degree, my friend and I kept our caps and gowns all day, just so we could prance around Canterbury dressed like that. Back then, my hair was black and I was into makeup that was far too pale for my olive complexion, so I looked not unlike Alan Rickman as Professor Snape!

Writing

I love writing. I sometimes don’t enjoy all the stuff that goes with it, particularly the marketing side ofauthor 2 things that come with being a published writer. However, there’s nothing better than creating a universe of your own to escape to. You can go anywhere in the world, try out any job and spend hours on Pinterest just dreaming about who your next hero’s going to be… bliss!

Well, that’s me! Thanks again to Liv Thomas for nominating me. I’ve enjoyed writing my Lovely Blog Hop.

Below are the links to two blogs from writers I know you’ll find interesting and, who, as fellow Write Romantics, I can’t wait to read more about:

Sharon Booth will be posting her blog on Friday 1st May.

Jessica Redland will be posting her blog on Wednesday 6th May.

 

Wednesday Wondering – These are a few of our favourite (Christmas) things

It’s only fifteen sleeps till Santa and, in a whirr of shopping, decorating and parties, I can pretty much guarantee that this two-week period will whizz by.

Christmassy Elephant

Christmassy Elephant

Have you got your tree up? I like to put ours up the first weekend in December and, as 1st December was a Monday this year, I managed to just sneak it into November. I have a 7-year-old daughter and we were going to see Singalong Frozen on the Saturday morning so my excuse was that we’d be in a Christmassy mood and putting the tree up would be a nice thing to do that afternoon to continue the Christmassy theme. Those who’ve watched Frozen will know it has absolutely nothing to do with Christmas but hubby seemed to have forgotten that! To be fair to him, he didn’t put up much of an objection. I think he’s happy to let me go for it that weekend providing his only involvement is getting the tree and ornaments out of the loft. That suits me; wouldn’t want him messing with my artistry 😉

Collectible Gund Bear

Collectible Gund Bear

Do you go for a theme on your tree or do you have an eclectic mix? As a child, I remember our tree being a mix of different-coloured glass baubles and decorations that my older brother and I had made at school. We had lots of tinsel and lights and the lounge and through-dining room would be decorated with those gold/silver/coloured decorations which folded away flat but pulled out to create a very posh-looking streamer. Balloons adorned the corner of the room and I remember hilarity playing ballooning-ton with my brother and dad, and also lots of giggles when the inevitable one long balloon and two round balloon combinations were pinned up.

Since having my own tree, I’ve liked to go for coloured themes. My favourite colour is purple but colour trends in the shops seem to come and go. In the very first year that I had my own home and own tree (1997), there wasn’t a single purple bauble to be found so I went for blue and gold. Typically, the next year there was a purple explosion so I had to take advantage and get a stack of purple baubles and decorations. I didn’t like purple and gold together, though, so I needed some silver ones. Obviously! I still have all of these but the collection has grown somewhat. Hubby had a load of gold and purple decorations when we met, and we’ve acquired shocking pink, green and autumnal shades (browns and oranges) since. We have a small tree in the bay window of our dining room which is at the front of the house and therefore on display and I vary the colour combination on this. It’s blue and silver this year. In the lounge (at the back of the house) is our main tree and I’ve gone for red for the past few years. I developed a fondness for red and cream material decorations a few years ago and, over a two-year period, I kept purchasing them until I hit a point where there’s barely enough branches on the tree for them all! Hearts, birds, even elephants (not exactly Christmassy yet somehow look it).

Pudgy Santa

Pudgy Santa

Most of my decorations are ones that have a colour-theme and were purchased because I like them rather than them having a meaning as such but there are a few that are extra special. I have a gorgeous intricate Gund miniature jointed teddy bear. She was one of a series of six that I sold when I had my teddy bear shop. They were very expensive (£19.99) but sold to collectors rather than as a casual tree decoration. For some reason, this one wasn’t very popular but I love her because she reminds me of Christmas in the shop.

Boofle Collection

Boofle Collection

I adorn the room with a stack of Christmas cuddlies too. I have a snowman collection that I love and the really pudgy Santa was also a shop item. He’s so soft. I stocked a few cuddly Santas and I have no idea why the others sold but this one didn’t as he was far nicer. Probably didn’t sell because he was destined to come home with me! The other cuddlies that are particularly special are my Boofle collection, brought for me by hubby and/or daughter over the past few years. Even though he’s not a bear, I absolutely love Boofle and the related characters.

As you’ve probably guessed from this spiel, my question to the Write Romantics this month was:

What’s your favourite Christmas decoration and why?

I’ve already told you mine so here’s what some of the others had to say:

Jackie says …

image1The Christmas decoration I wanted to show you appears to have disappeared which is a shame because I’ve had it since I was a child. My mum tells a story that we children were given a choice as to whether we wanted a cake or to choose a Christmas decoration each. All of us (five altogether) apart from my elder sister Heather, chose a decoration. She chose a sugar bun but, of course, once she’d eaten it wished she had her own decoration and wailed and hid behind the sofa as we each hung our bauble on the tree.image2

But anyway, my plastic, spiky Christmas man is gone, so I’ll have to say, this funny lady always makes me smile as does this podgy Nativity set, mostly because they all look so perplexed as if they have no idea what is going on.

Happy Christmas everyone.

Rachael says …

IMG_3272-editedOver the years, my Christmas tree has been adorned with a multitude of children’s school and homemade decorations, which I’ve loved and treasured. As the children got older and less inclined to glitter and glue moments, I bought a few new decorations for the tree each year.

I love the golden bells and the little wooden train I bought a few years ago. I haven’t put the tree up yet, so they may have to move over and make way for something else!

Sharon says …

images (11)When I was little, my mum and dad didn’t like to put the Christmas tree up too early, so we were nearly always last in my little group of friends to have all the decorations up.

We had a real tree, and it was an exciting time when I’d get home from school to find the tree in the garden ready to go in the living room, and Mum and Dad rummaging around in the loft gathering up all the baubles and trimmings.

In those days, we had paper trimmings that draped round the walls. Looking back they were pretty basic but at the time we loved them and thought they were beautiful!

images (10)Decorating the tree was a big deal. My mum was in charge, and my dad’s only real job seemed to be testing the lights. Invariably they weren’t working and he’d have to go through each bulb, checking to see which one had blown.

There was always a cry of delight when we came to our favourite ornament. Mr Snowman was a bright, shiny blue bauble with a white moustache stuck to him and a pair of googly eyes and a glittery hat. I don’t know why we called him Mr Snowman because he didn’t look like a snowman at all, but that’s what we called him and the moment he was lifted from the box to hang on the tree was the moment it felt that Christmas had really arrived. Sadly he was broken many years ago and no other ornament ever took his place.

10348230_677260322391210_3363303826154990053_nThis year I’ve purchased a new decoration for our tree as a momento of the amazing year I’ve had. I spotted it in a shop last week and it’s a little red felt hare. As the pub in my fictional village is called The Hare and Moon, and the blog I launched is The Moongazing Hare, it felt very special to me to buy it, this year of all years, so I think it will become a treasured family favourite for the tree in years to come. He is already pretty special to me! J

Deirdre says …

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf there’s one thing we have in super-abundance in this house, in the loft to be precise, it’s Christmas decorations, mainly things for the tree. How we’ve ended up with so many I’ve no idea; they just seem to have arrived. We vary the theme from year to year – blue and silver, red and gold, pinks and purples, throw-it-all-on-and-hope-for-the-best – but whichever phase we’re in, three items come out every year without fail.

There’s a dear little wooden stocking which my son Chris made in CDT at school when he was eleven, with a hole drilled for the string to go, and a wooden parcel to go with it. They’re meant to be tree decorations but as the parcel never made it to the hole stage we stand them on a shelf instead.  Chris is nearly 40 now…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen my younger son, Luke, became old enough to go Christmas shopping on his own, he bought me a china robin. It’s not out of the top drawer, quality-wise (I think it came from the pound shop) and as robins go it looks somewhat underfed, but he chose it especially for me and I love it. It’s not strictly a Christmas decoration but you don’t want robins hanging about all year, do you, so out it comes at Christmas to be stood up with the stocking and the parcel.

The boys don’t ‘get’ sentiment. They think I’m potty to keep hold of these things year after year but I’ll never be able to bring myself to throw them out, and besides it wouldn’t be Christmas without them.

Helen R says …

When I moved to Australia back in 2000 I had all my Christmas decorations shipped over. My family thought it odd – why didn’t I just buy them in Melbourne? For me, Christmas decorations are so special every time they are unwrapped at the start of the festive season. It’s so exciting to see all those delicate ornaments or the decorations made or given by family and friends that I will use to decorate the tree.

FullSizeRenderWe are still waiting for our shipping to arrive in the UK from Australia so I don’t think I’ll get all my decorations in time this year unfortunately. Perhaps an oversight on my part and I should’ve sent a box sooner, but never mind…inside that box will be some real favourites of mine. I remember the first Christmas in my little house in Norwich and I bought a Santa on Skis which makes me smile every year. Then there are the decorations that my girls made at kindergarten and then school…some with their photos aged three and four which are so cute.

My Christmas tree never looks like a designer, colour coded tree straight from a catalogue, but to me Christmas is about the personal touch and the many ornaments that I’ve collected over the years make it really magical.

Last week I bought three new decorations for my collection…their significance every year will be that they were the first decorations we bought for our home in Bath 🙂

Over to you … We’d love to hear your memories of Christmas. What baubles or decorations did you love then and which do you love now?

Merry Christmas everyone!

Jessica xx

Wednesday Wondering – Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Back to School We Go!

Schools went back last month and anyone with school-aged children or relatives will hopefully find that they’ve settled nicely into the new term and are probably already counting down the weeks (maybe even days) till half term.

My question to The Write Romantics this month is therefore school related:
 School days: love or hate? What are your fondest and/or worst memories of school?

For me personally, school days were mixed. I have vivid memories of certain parts of primary school: bad moments such as throwing up all over the carpet in reception class before the older kids came in for singing practice, constantly being told off and made to stand in the corner of the room in top infants, being asked to sing Abba’s ‘Super Trouper’ in a class talent show while my friends danced to it then completely blanking on the words and sobbing my eyes out (we won; sympathy vote!), and the boy over the road pinching my hat on a winter’s walk home and making me cry. I also have positive memories like winning a pencil case in the school raffle, building a fort on the playing fields in heavy snow, being fascinated by The Plague and The Great Fire of London, and acting in a school play about The Palace of Versailles. I’d probably say that infants wasn’t good and juniors was.

P1050711My comprehensive days weren’t good at all although I did have a small group of very good friends, some of whom I’m still good friends with although we don’t live close so thank goodness for Facebook. I enjoyed the variety of subjects, especially when we got to pick our options, but I hated the other kids 😦 I was bullied. I was the fat kid (although looking back at photos, I wasn’t really that fat which makes me so mad because it’s been a life-long issue for me thanks to those school days) and I was bright. We were streamed so I got bullied by students in the lower streams for being in one of the top sets and bullied by everyone else for my weight. A nasty rumour went round school about me too which wasn’t true but it haunted me for three years and made my life hell. I couldn’t wait to leave. (The picture is my form in 5th Year. I’m front right. As you can see, I’m far from fat but I believed I was enormous).

College was OK. I went to a technical college to study a BTEC instead of sixth form to do A Levels. I loved the subject, I didn’t love the commute to another town, and I was a bit lonely as none of my friends went there and I felt a bit left out when I’d hear about their exciting time at sixth form. If I could do it all again, though, I’d still do the same thing.

P1050712University was mixed too. My first year was pretty good. I could just about do the subjects and I made a few friends but it all fell apart in my second year. I couldn’t do some of the compulsory subjects so had to spend hours pouring over books trying to understand the basics. I’d also made the mistake of staying in Halls with a close friend but he got in with a clique who rejected me because I spent so much time studying and all my friends who’d moved out had moved on with their lives and didn’t need me. I’ve never felt so surrounded by people yet so incredibly alone. Thankfully I had a year out and it was the making of me. I loved my job, had two great house-mates (pictured either side of me in my graduation photo) and a great social life with the other sponsored students and graduate trainees. I returned to uni with a fresh approach to learning and friendships and I had an amazing time. I just wish I’d known at the start of uni what I’d known in my final year as things could have been very different.

Over to the others …

Harriet says …

I was a painfully shy child, and as an only child who had never mixed with more than two or three other children at a time, school was far more traumatic than it should have been, especially at the start.  Things didn’t improve much as time went on.  I remember crossing the junior school playground with my mother one afternoon when all the others had gone – why we were still there I don’t know – and the headmistress, a tyrant if ever there was one, came over and spoke to my mother.  She then spoke to me, and I froze.  I couldn’t move, I couldn’t speak, and no matter how much Mum urged me to say something, anything, I just couldn’t. I got a telling-off for it, but that was my mother all over.  She was embarrassed I suppose.

Being the way I was, I was desperate to melt into the background and be the same as everyone else.  When it came to reading lessons, I could already read fluently and had been able to since before I started school but when it was my turn to read I would stumble over a few words on purpose so that I didn’t appear different from the others.  And another daft thing, for some reason I had trouble identifying my own possessions and when a scarf which had been found in the playground was held up in front of the class, I didn’t recognise it.  It was only when I went to put my coat on later that I realised it was missing, then had to confess, red-faced, to my teacher face that it was indeed my scarf.

I was lucky enough to go to an old-style grammar school where the teachers were dedicated and passionate about their subjects, and I still recall vividly many of the actual lessons.  I remember our English teacher, Miss Egan, leaping in her lace-ups from one side of the dais to the other to demonstrate parts of a sentence; the smelly Biology lesson when we, pointlessly, dissected a herring; the fruit salad I made in Domestic Science using plain tap water as I hadn’t been listening when we were told to boil it with sugar.  I remember it all, which goes to show what a wonderful education we had.  None of us appreciated that at the time, of course.

The highlight of my entire schooldays has to be meeting my three friends, Val, Angie and Marion, in the second year of grammar school.  They were my soul-mates, my saviours, the sisters I never had, and we’re still friends now.  Last time we were together, we realised it was fifty years since we left school.  Fifty! We toasted the occasion with a bottle of Prosecco on top of the wine we’d already had.  Any excuse!

 

Jackie says …

The lesson I liked most in school was art. it was not because I was any good at art, in fact I am embarissingly bad at it, I can only do Noddy cars and seahorses. But our art teacher, Mrs James, was really cool and loved her art so much that she painted her own canvass’s when she was teaching us, leaving us mostly to our own devices. The art shed was at the bottom of the school garden and this particular summer, we were shoo-ed out every lesson so Mrs James could paint and smoke in peace ( she really did smoke in class!) We spent the art lesson’s practising levitation, Ouija (we had to huddle in Mr Mountford, the handyman’s shed, as it was dark) and fainting. Levitation scared the hell out us because it appeared to work, Ouija board scared the hell out of us because we didn’t know my friend Helen was pushing the glass to write BANSHEE. We didn’t know what a banshee was, so it must have been a real banshee writing it! Fainting (you know, where you breathe deeply for 20 and then stick your thumb in your mouth and blow hard) actually did work and scared the hell out of us because we kept thinking we were going to die. It was the best summer ever and we were really sad when Mrs James suddenly left, mid term, never to be seen again.

 

Helen R says …

I’m one of those people who loved their school days. I didn’t love every subject – maths and science were enemies – but I loved being there in that environment with friends.

I’ve overheard so many mums talking about results for this and results for that and perhaps I should be more worried about the academic side of my girls’ schooling, but for me, the last thing I say in the morning when I drop them at the gate is ‘have lots of fun’ and the first thing I say at pickup is ‘did you have a good day?’

High school was the most fun I think…I valued the independence of walking to and from school each day, meeting friends afterwards, the whole future ahead of us. My only regret is that I didn’t pursue writing earlier, but then again, without the business degree I wouldn’t have made the choices that have ultimately led me to the life I lead today, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way.

downloadAlys says …

Because I’ve always been a bit of a girly swot I generally loved school. I went to a very old fashioned all girls grammar school in York.  The school was in a large Victorian house with lovely grounds and pretty much entirely staffed by total eccentrics.  There was a geography teacher who had toy bunny rabbits that she talked about as if they were real. If she was cross with you she’d say, ‘Pinky bites’ referring to her rabbit called Pinky. There was a male teacher, who had unfortunately lost a leg to Polio, and who was banned from teaching Latin after he threw the board rubber at a girl and it hit her. Allegedly she chucked it straight back!  However, we was still allowed to teach history which must have made him less irritable because he never threw the board rubber in any of my lessons.

photo (2)In many ways it was an education from a much earlier time. I was taught Latin (which I was terrible at and really hated), to play tennis (also very badly) on the grass courts in the grounds and treated as a ‘young lady’.  The lack of boys meant that only the fast girls (and I definitely wasn’t one of them) had boyfriends.

I’ve had an idea recently for a book that would use all of this wonderful material but I think I’ll have to tone some of it down because people probably wouldn’t believe it really happened. It was a huge influence on me because, for all its faults, it had an ethos that women could achieve anything they put their minds to.  To remind me of that the mug that they gave me when I left still stands on my desk.

Rachael says …

img002-croppedLove them or hate them, school days are the best days of your life, or so we are told. For me my primary school days weren’t much fun. My family moved every couple of years and this meant new schools and new friends. But my secondary school days, or high school as it’s now known, were much better. I still have contact with friends from school, despite having moved away from the area and my ‘best friend’ visits each summer with her family. It’s wonderful to be able to just pick up with her as if we saw each other just the other day instead of months ago.

One of my favourite memories was hanging out in the school corridors, chatting and catching up with friends. I loved English lessons, because they were in the school library and I could spend time surrounded by books. I also loved science and home economics, which today probably go under a different name. I hated, with a vengeance, sports. Why would anyone want to go out in the cold and wet, armed with a stick and whack a ball around? As you can tell, hockey was my least favourite sport, closely followed by cross-country.

Jay says …

then and nowDid I love or hate my school days… Well, I suppose it was a game of two halves.  I loved primary school and really only have good memories of that, apart perhaps from Nitty Nora the flea explorer… In my last year there, I had the most marvellous teacher, Mrs Muldoon and a wonderful best friend Claire, with whom I’m still in touch.  I remember doing a puppet show, I was the fairy godmother, and we made the puppets ourselves from paper mache, string and scraps of fabric.  Through my rose-coloured spectacles, the puppets looked incredible and the show was a triumph – although I’m sure the reality was somewhat different!

Secondary school I wasn’t a big fan of.  I went to an extremely competitive all girls’ grammar and I was in no way enough of a high flier to stand out.  That said, I made some more great friends, including one of my now best friends, Sarah.  Here’s a photograph of us then and now.  We used to get the train in together and got up to all sorts, including strong arming John Cleese for an autograph and, on another occasion, almost getting arrested by the railway police – until we bribed them with Maltesers!

Sharon (in her first official WW as a Write Romantic) says …

I loved school! Well, mostly. Primary school was lots of fun. We were mostly taught in ancient white prefabs with huge old boilers in the middle of the classroom. When it was particularly cold we would pull up our chairs and gather round the boiler to keep warm while the teacher read to us. Sometimes, on very wet days, bits of sodden clothing would be draped on the fireguard to dry! I doubt that would be allowed these days and I believe the prefabs have been pulled down which is a shame. The central part of the school was a newish, brick-built, one storey high building. This housed the hall where we’d have our daily assemblies and perform our plays and carol concerts. There were other classrooms in this part, too, with big french windows that opened out on to a lovely garden. In warm weather the windows would be wide open and I used to daydream, gazing at the rose bushes and the cherry blossom trees and making up stories in my head when I was supposed to be doing sums.

Every week we had a spelling competition and we each had to ask another pupil a word that they had to spell correctly. If they spelt it incorrectly they were eliminated. One week a brainy boy decided to test me and asked me to spell miscellaneous. As the whole class gasped, I thought, is he mad? I remember my lovely teacher smiling and nodding at me encouragingly and saying, “Go on, Sharon!” So I did. I still remember the relief when I got it right! We had a lovely library at the end of the building which was where I discovered pony books. We also had a year of various fund-raising activities to raise enough money to build a swimming pool in the grounds, which we did. A local news reporter from the Calendar television programme came to open it because he was engaged to one of our teachers.

I remember the autumn being really exciting. We’d go outside and collect fallen leaves and conkers to make displays for the classroom, and of course there was all the fun of Hallowe’en to look forward to. Christmas at primary school was fantastic. We’d decorate the classrooms, make a postbox for everyone to bring cards and presents for their friends, file into the hall each morning where the usual hymns would be replaced with those fantastic carols. The fourth-year juniors (the eldest ones) would perform a Christmas play each year and when it was our turn we did an interesting one written by one of the teachers which combined Oliver Twist with A Christmas Carol. I remember rushing home from school in the dark, having stayed late for rehearsals, walking along the banks of a drain as a short cut, mindful of the parts that had crumbled away and all too aware of the scurrying sound of rats. I definitely wouldn’t want my kids coming home from school in those circumstances!

Lower High school wasn’t much fun, except they had the most fantastic library, stacked to the rafters with pony books. From the second floor science lab I had a fabulous view of ponies grazing in the fields, so that got me through. Upper High School was great. It was built in the grounds of a grand old house.  I loved that building. It had once belonged to an important man in the area who had actually survived the Titanic disaster, and I used to love walking into that huge hallway, climbing those stairs, my hands trailing along the bannisters and sweeping up to the landing where – you’ve guessed it – the school library was now situated! I used to sit in that library looking out over the grounds that was now a school playing field and imagine the people who’d once lived there.  We weren’t allowed in the main house much. It was the base for the staff mostly, housing the staff room, offices and headmaster’s room. Only a maths room and a library were for our use so I only got to go in there occasionally but it was always worth the wait. I was a bit disappointed to find the library didn’t have any pony books, though. I started to look for other things to read and, remembering the name of one of my mum’s favourite authors, I selected The Dwelling Place by Catherine Cookson. I was soon hooked! I did try Barbara Cartland but couldn’t get to grips with her heroines who were always gasping and swooning.

I had a major crush on the English teacher at the Upper School. He was always so complimentary and encouraging about my work and I just fell for him big time. I even wrote a poem for him once and persuaded my friends to give it to him. He was very kind and patient with me and I’ve never forgotten that. He really made me believe in my writing ability so I have a lot to thank him for! For a short time we had a school newspaper, and I volunteered to help out. I ended up writing most of the articles, helping to print it out, harassing other kids for their contributions, making up the shortfall when they didn’t bother, coming up with ideas for the next issue and then traipsing round the classrooms selling as many issues as I could to uninterested fellow pupils. Needless to say it didn’t survive long. Ah well. Happy days..

What about you? We’d love you to join in and tell us all about your school days. Did you love them or hate them? What memories have lingered with you for life?

Jessica xx

Wednesday Wondering – The Write Romantics go Right Romantic

73604_10151973538894073_399844746_nIt’s my wedding anniversary this month. I’ll be celebrating nine years with my husband Mark on 24th September. Can’t believe that long has passed already. One of the things that couples do in the approach to their wedding is pick a song for their first dance. For Mark and me, this was quite a challenge because (a) he’s not into music like me and (b) he doesn’t dance so was adamant we weren’t going to even have a first dance. I decided to let it go because it was “our” day and not just my day but I think he got pressure from both sides of the family and caved. So we were back to the dilemma of choosing a song. I had a couple of songs in mind: Amazed by Lonestar and From This Moment On by Shania Twain. He didn’t really like either of them. He does like Shania Twain and there was another song of hers he suggested (can’t remember what it was now) but it didn’t do it for me. So we were back to the start again.

I have no idea where it came from but we eventually settled on Savage Garden. We both really like the song “Truly, Madly, Deeply” but felt that the words for I Knew I Loved You were so much more appropriate. Mark always says it was love at first sight for him. It took me until our second date. We were both in our 30s when we met and felt like we’d been waiting for each other all this time. But we were greedy because we didn’t settle there; we introduced a second one that was a bit more up-beat and would get the guests into the mood for the disco, so we also had the wonderful late Freddie Mercury with I Was Born To Love You. Gosh, I love that song. It’s very much the same sentiment of Savage Garden’s track but in a slightly more up-beat delivery.

My question to the Write Romantics this month was:

What is your favourite love song and why?

I then asked them to think about:

Was it the lyrics, the tune, the singer/group or a combination of any/all of those that drew you in? Perhaps this was the song you chose for the first dance on your wedding or something that helped you get through a break-up. Pretty much any angle you want to come at it, talk to us about love songs. You’re welcome to give more than one.

I’ve loved reading the responses and hope you’ll enjoy them too. In case you aren’t familiar with any of the tunes, we’ve provided You Tube links to them by clicking on the song titles.

Jessica xx

 

Picture 483 Jay says …

My favourite love song is Van Morrison’s Have I Told You Lately? It just has a beautiful sentiment – ‘Fill my heart with gladness, take away my sadness, ease my troubles that’s what you do.’  He’s got such a great voice too, gravelly and real, meaning that it doesn’t come across as the least bit cheesy.   I didn’t have it for my wedding song, as we didn’t actually have one because we travelled to and from the Archbishops Palace by boat with all our guests and then had a slap-up lunch by the river before heading off on honeymoon.  However, we are now at ten years and thinking about having a blessing with just us and the four children and I would definitely have the song included in there somewhere.  It even gets a mention in my first novel – so look out for it there if my editor doesn’t cut it!  If you aren’t familiar with it, watch the video from 1989 on You Tube, I highly recommend it.

 

Harriet says …

When I began to think about the songs that have meant something special to me, one sprang to mind immediately. It has nothing to do with weddings or anything like that but rather it’s to do with growing up and becoming aware for the very first time of the feelings a song can evoke. I was ten when Perry Como hit the charts in 1957 with Catch a Falling Star. It was on the ‘wireless’ all the time and all the girls in my class at primary school thought it was wonderful. We spent every play-time waltzing around the playground, arm in arm, singing the song and going all dreamy over Perry. He was 46 at the time, hardly a teen idol, but we only had a vague idea of what he looked like anyway so we didn’t care. It was his butter-smooth voice we fell for, not the man himself. I only have to hear the first line and I’m back in that playground, and all the sights and sounds of that stage of my life come flooding back. Happy days!

A year later, the Everly Brothers released All I Have to Do is Dream, another song that made a great impression on me.  t accompanied me everywhere I went and gave me that indefinable sensation of being happy and sad at the same time. ‘Cathy’s Clown’ followed, the Everlys again. Hearing it now triggers another vivid memory. My cousin was down from London for the summer holiday and we were at a beach café just along the coast from Brighton. It had a jukebox and we played ‘Cathy’s Clown’ over and over until our money ran out. We wore paper nylon petticoats under our dresses and they crackled as we swayed in time to the music. We felt very grown-up, and very serious about the whole business of love and pop songs. The You Tube clip shows them singing both songs.

 

Alys says …

My favourite love song is quite a sad one but then as I like folk music that’s probably not a great surprise. When I started thinking about it I realised I couldn’t think of many happy love songs in folk.  My favourite is She Moved Through The Fair which is beautifully sung here by Cara Dillon.

My friend, Jane Stockdale, does a stunning version of this song.  I’ve heard her sing it more times than I can remember but it’s always moving and beautiful.  In my new book, Lughnasa, the heroine sings in folk sessions and plays the fiddle which is giving me a lovely chance to use songs to explore how she’s feeling.  In chapter two she sings She Moved Through The Fair because she was feeling very sad and it’s lyrics really fit her emotional state.

 

signingregisterHelen R says …

My favourite love song is a little different…it’s a classic piece, Pachelbel’s Canon. There is a youtube clip of a string quartet playing the tune…obviously not the same string quartet as we had though! I really wanted the tune at our wedding and I’d heard it in a movie that I’d watched. I had to attempt to hum the tune on the phone to my mum who is quite musical and after several attempts she said, “Ah, I know exactly what that is!”

I’d always loved the piece, I think particularly because it sounds so beautiful on string instruments. (I don’t think the cello ever sounded that beautiful when I played it back in Primary School!) A string quartet played Pachelbel’s Canon whilst we signed the wedding register. Unfortunately I didn’t really get to enjoy listening to it as I think I was still a bit dazed by the whole ceremony but whenever I hear the music now – in fact, as I write this post I’ve got the You-Tube clip playing in the background – it makes me smile as I remember our special day 🙂

I have attached a photo too, of myself and my husband signing the register 🙂

Jackie says …

Sweet Little Mystery by Wet Wet Wet. It was a good phase of my life. I had my own flat, my job was fun and friends were popping in and out all of the time. We’d laugh the night away, flirt, go to pubs and clubs drink rather more than was good for us and stay up far into the night- too long for a five thirty shift start. But we didn’t care, we were young enough to cope.

The Joshua tree by U2 And Everything but the Girl was always on my hi fi too, as I ironed my clothes for the night ahead, dancing to the music as I smoked far too many cigarettes and drank too much wine. But I was happy in my little world (although permanently broke) until my heart was broken and it all suddenly seemed very shallow and trite. But that story doesn’t belong in this little bubble of happy memories. I shall eradicate those memories or save them for a short story, where one day, I will make the rotter sees the error of his ways and beg me to take him back, which I will naturally refuse- won’t I- maybe, no- I’m sure I will…) Anyway, Marty Pellow was the singer of my dreams and will ever remain in my bank of happy memories and for that I thank him. ( and he was on one of my flights once too- jolly nice chap, although he took a handful of complimentary sweets instead of just one!)

 

Lynne says …

I’m gonna tell you about my fave romantic song, which is romantic in the sense of old Camelot and knights in shining armour. If it had a visual to go with it I’d choose something by the Pre-Raphaelites, who also loved that kind of thing. It’s is The Battle of Evermore by Led Zeppelin. Its all about the Queen of Light waiting in Avalon for a tyrant whose face is red. She’s waiting for the ‘beads of time…’ to pass, (I love that imagery,) and the apples turn from brown to black. The drums do in time shake the castle wall but eventually we ‘raise our bows and shoot straighter than before’

It works out fine in the end, cos the magic runes bring the balance back and the sun is shining.

It’s not just the music but Robert Plant’s crisp & clear vocals which are fab. They have something that sounds like madrigals and give it a really ancient yet also modern sound, and a story that is haunting and magical. It manages to combine intimacy with technical excellence, give it a whirl now, it’s groovy, as we used to say in the 70s!

I’ve never really understood why Lez Zepplin are classed as heavy metal when a lot of their work is tuneful and melodic. I’ve added a link to a live version. It’s only when I watched that that I realise that the ancient sound is partly created by an amazing guitar which looks like 3 different guitars all piled together! The live version is not quite the same as the studio version though, its faster for a start but do give both a listen.

 

Rachael says …

I really can’t name one favourite song, but I love listening to the lyrics of songs and the ones that stand out, do so because of their words. They evoke memories, sometimes sad, sometimes happy. The one song which takes me back, twenty one years to my wedding day, is Unchained Melody, which was having a revival after the film Ghost at that time.

I also love how songs can fill you with courage, so that you imagine all sorts of things are possible. This of one such song. What do you think?

 

We’d love to hear from you. Do our song choices evoke some wonderful memories for you? What are your favourite romantic songs, for whatever reason. There’s a comments button at the end of the tags below. Thank you xx

Romance? That’s so 1980s!

Sarah Lewis is our guest blogger this week. Sarah is a die-hard fan of 1980s culture and knows almost all there is to know about the decade when both hair and mobile phones were inordinately bigger, no-one had heard of the internet, let alone blogging, and a fairytale royal romance still looked like it might end in a happily ever after… Sarah runs a 1980s website and blog, which specialises in memorabilia and event planning, and she is just about to finish her first non-fiction book about the era, which will be ready for submission to publishers soon. So, without further ado, we’ll hand you over to Sarah for her take on romance, 1980s style:

Single for 15 years, and often the anti-heroine of my own romantic love story, I was somewhat amused to be asked to write a guest post for The Write Romantics blog. Never one to shirk a challenge, I decided to re-visit a time when, as a naïve teenager, I could still agree with Foreigner when they sang “I Want to Know What Love is”. Let me take you back to the Eighties, and some of the great romances of the decade.

The first image that comes to mind at the mention of Eighties’ romances, is a young Lady Diana Spencer floating up the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, wearing the silk creation of David and Elizabeth Emmanuel. I was ten years old when Diana became the Princess of Wales, and had little trouble falling for the royal pair’s faux fairytale romance. Theirs was by no means the only farcical marriage of the decade. Who remembers Pete Burns’ marriage to his manager, Lynn, or Elton John’s four year marriage to Renate Blauel? Both bride and groom wore white, Elton’s ensemble being topped off with a lilac-trimmed straw boater. In an age of extravagance and excess, where money equated to happiness, and hedonism was positively condoned, we still struggled to believe that our idols were anything other than heterosexual, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. No wonder the likes of George Michael struggled to find love and happiness.

A less traditional wedding, and indeed relationship, which did endure was that of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates. The pair married in their Kentish Priory home in 1986, ten years after they first became a couple. The Boomtown Rats front man ditched his scruffy image for the day, wearing a morning suit and top hat. His peroxide blonde, nymphet bride wore a scarlet, silk, Victorian-inspired masterpiece by Jasper Conran. Paula’s dress left such an impression on me, that I wore a red velvet version of the design on my own wedding day, nine years later.

Wedding

Despite the Geldofs’ divorce in 1996, following Paula’s relationship with INXS singer Michael Hutchence, I believe their love for each other continued. What better proof of enduring love than when Bob adopted Hiraani Tiger Lily, Paula’s daughter by Hutchence, following her untimely death in September 2000?

If we look beyond the froth of silk and lace of the extravagant weddings of the decade, we can find the true romances and successful relationships of the time. A shared sense of humour is often credited as being the key to a successful long-term relationship. This would certainly appear to be so in the case of Lenny Henry and Dawn French, who, despite divorcing in 2010 after 25 years of marriage, remain on good terms. Dawn’s partner in comedy, Jennifer Saunders married fellow comedian Adrian Edmondson in 1985. They are still happily married, as are Billy Connolly and Pamela Stephenson, who married in 1989, having met 10 years previously. These couples show that laughter really may be the best medicine, when it comes to the health of a relationship.

Another element for a relationship’s survival past the Eighties appears to be dodging a brush with the ugly stick. Wham!’s Andrew Ridgeley and Banarama’s Keren Woodward, Simon and Yasmin Le Bon, and Martin and Shirley Kemp were all blessed with good looks, and all remain in the relationships they began in the Eighties. Unfortunately for me, this is also the case for my 80’s crush, Paul Young, who was recently quoted as saying he was more in love with his wife than ever. Paul met the beautiful Stacey during the filming of his video for “Come Back and Stay” in 1983. They married in 1987, a time when my life consisted of ‘O’ levels, TOTP and shopping in SNOB. Obviously, if I had been older, I may well have been in with a chance with Mr. Young!

So, until he decides that my home is where he wants to lay his hat, I shall continue to embrace singledom, and look on in wonder at the longevity of romances, once so common with our parents’ generation, now a modern phenomenon. Whatever your personal situation, it is worth remembering the wise words sung by Whitney Houston in 1986, when she covered George Benson’s classic love song: “Learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all”.

Find out more about Sarah and to take a journey back to the 1980s with her, check out the links below:

http://www.my-eighties.co.uk/
http://myeighties.wordpress.com/

Or on Twitter at:

@MyEighties

A moment in time

It can be fleeting, then gone. Or something so cherished, you will never let it go. What am I talking about? Memories.

Recently I went on holiday, to see relatives. Almost every stop on the underground had significance for me. It was amazing the thoughts and feelings that came back to me. At one point I felt a little sad, as I remembered what had been, but was no longer.

Writing is something we all love to do. Sometimes it can be painful, other times filled with joy. When that dreaded block rears its head, and there is nothing you can do! When the hands fly across the keyboard trying to keep up with everything that you know has to be written down. Still through it all we still keep on doing it.

The first memory I have of writing anything down, was when my rabbit died. It was a very sad time for me. I must have been about eight years old. The garden we had at the time was a large one. So we had one half for the rabbit, and the other for the dog. There was a large gate which separated them. Sadly one day the dog got into the rabbit’s side of the garden, let’s say it wasn’t a happy ending.

I was devastated. My lovely rabbit called Thumper had gone to the great bunny warren in the sky. The feeling was so painful, so I sat down and wrote it all down, the tears just fell as I began to put everything down on paper. After I had finished the sadness seemed to have lifted from me. It still hurt, but not as badly. As for my dog, I didn’t speak to him for a week. Then we made up. And he was a loving friend until he sadly passed away.

Next I started to write fairy tales. I remember my mum making up a title, and I had to write a story about it. The first one I wrote was about a white pearl that had been stolen by a witch. She had placed it in her garden, and it turned black. All the flowers in the world were dying.

I loved writing and still do today. When writing a novel we are in control. The characters we create can have powerful memories of their own, painful or otherwise. You decide who lives and who dies.

WOW! When you think about it our imagination is something special, we can create or destroy worlds with it. The beauty of it is that if we kill a character off, we can soon bring him or her back to life.

Can you remember the first time you put pen to paper?

On my journey page I talked about the first romance that I had ever read.

Is there a first novel that inspired you to want to write?

Memories can be powerful, they can hold you back from life, or move you forward. The good thing is we can choose to hold on to them or let them go.

Lorraine x