Not Shakespeare

Not exactly Shakespeare, is it?’


Don’t know what C.P.Snow would think.’


I, the aspiring writer, sat before my critics. My parents had just read my first published article with bemusement and a great dollop of pride. Their comments, however, were not unjust. Shakespeare it most certainly wasn’t. At random, sections of the article related to ‘pot bellied men in loos’ and there were references to cowpats. Camping. This is to what I was referring, and I don’t think the Great Bard knew much about that.

Mother smiled.

The Editor liked it, and that’s what matters.’

A lump gathered in my throat and my chin wobbled.

But you didn’t?’

Yes, they did, but – as they so rightly put it – it wasn’t Shakespeare.

It doesn’t matter how often folk tell you that it’s the editor plus reading public that count and it really doesn’t matter what your nearest and dearest think. They’re no experts (well, probably not). It does matter. To you, anyway. Whatever, I had my cheque in my grubby mitt and I could officially call myself A Writer.

That wasn’t my first and last hit. My next success was a year’s stint of articles in my local rag, anecdotes upon local subjects such as the cinema, cycling, the steam railway, the drying up of our stream, to name but a few. After a year, however, I dried up. There was so much local stuff I felt I could dredge up, and I stopped supplying work. Some years on, now more experienced and wiser, in retrospect I could have carried on endlessly, but then, a mere child in this business, I didn’t. All was not lost, however. I did supply voluntarily to newsletters and wrote Angry From Altons (my Hampshire abode) to the local papers ( I wasn’t as bad as a bloke called Bill who wrote angries on a weekly basis - his ulcers must have been jinormous). I continued submitting work to publications and received enough rejection slips to paper the smallest room, but also heaps of praise. I’ll never give up, she said, flexing her muscles.

But I wanted dosh, not praise. I wanted to write. I could write. I would write. It’s like writing a novel, which I have been doing for centuries. I always advise would-be Alan Titchmarshes (I haven’t quoted you-know-who because everyone else does….and Alan is our local celebrity) not to write a novel unless they really, really mean it. And I really, really do mean it. Surprisingly, I still enjoy it and still get kicks out of reading what I hope are good portions and uncovering researched facts that work with my story, although it’s still a beginning, a muddle and an end (another famous author’s quote, not mine, unfortunately.) If ever the thing got published – as it appears to be a one-off, it most certainly won’t be mainstream – I should think I’ll be dead by then. The story is raunchy and contains rude bits and blood, so I’m not certain I want to be around when/if it gets read. ‘Cor – Gran seemed so innocent.’

This has all sent me up the creek periodically, along with my artistic aspirations. Then I’ve read a dreadful/brilliant article or novel or seen some art and known I can do equally well/better. So I take up the tools of creation and plough on womanfully.

Writing can be bloody frustrating but it’s cheap if you discount the price of SAEs in your snail mail enquiries – it’s cheaper still if you email, which is done more and more these days - and if you don’t indulge in a word processor, which most writers do now. It’s rare not to. All you used to need, starting out, was pen, paper, preferably a typewriter and a brain. Not to mention determination. These days chuck the heavy-as-a-tank Remington or even the light-as-a-feather electric and replace with computer. If you can cope with all that, a floor covered in screwed up trilogies and rejection slips, whether you use a computer or not, you’re halfway there.

Oh, it helps if you can tpye.


Raunch on a Ranch...The Tale of a Novel

Everyone’s got a book in them. Apparently. Well, I’ve written mine. Nearly. ‘A beginning, a muddle and very definitely The End’ – as quoted by author and poet Philip Larkin, although he didn’t add ‘very definitely’. That’s mine.

Thirty plus very odd years ago I teetered upon the end of school. 1969. Man had set foot on the moon and Butch Cassidy and pard the Sundance Kid were packing iron in the cinemas. My fascination for the moon landing was almost on par with that of the film, but that western played havoc with my flourishing imagination and has intruded on my night and daydreams ever since, revitalising my wild west passion and my previously non-vocalised feminist ravings about the wilder women of the west. Many years later, sporting gun and fringes, I emulated those women much to the embarrassment of my kids when young and embarrassable (Samantha still is) and the glee of the neighbours, but back in the sixties my hobby had yet to find it’s niche, and the influence of that film burrowed into my vulnerable, creative left pink blob of a brain, and there it remains.

I was a girl on the brink of womanhood with a multitude of wondrous thoughts and dreams, and the germ of a plot emerged. Robert Redford was transformed into a devastating fair-haired woman who accomplished daring and devilish western actions and adopted masculine positions. A story developed in my head, slowly and surely, during my days and nights . My brand new heroine became entangled in every traditional western action imaginable, revealing her lightning gun and efficient punch.

My excitement at having invented such an intriguing character was overwhelming. A female western protagonist who takes on any traditional hero and flips them over her shoulder with ease and embraces every western scenario with fire. I love it. The story I wanted to read. But back then I had yet to capture the whole passionate saga on paper. My dreams involved disconnected portions of derring-do and devil-may-care, wherein my heroine thumped and was thumped back. Used her lightening draw. Was endlessly shot but survived. Rode like a madwoman. Became embroiled in womanly love and passion. I found it extraordinarily exciting. My heart thumped hard and I knew I had to write it.

To my utter discomfiture, however, another embarrassing (to me at any rate) facet emerged. It’s not for the eyes of those of a tender disposition. ‘Don’t worry what your mother thinks,’ they say. Too right. Sensitive raunchy bits which I wouldn’t read to my granny or yours. Ye Gods! I tried to change it but my creative imagination refused to co-operate. My creativity was producing over-the-topness which I couldn’t prevent and the story was growing more electrifying by the second.

I thought and dreamt it continuously, drawing hundreds of illustrations of my heroine, by now the charismatic, beautiful, female version of Robert Redford. Self-consciousness ruled me. Husband knew I was creating all this in my head, was aware of my drawings. I didn’t want him to see them. What if he thought me strange if I went into torrid detail? But I couldn’t keep it from him. He was Husband. He had to know. Finally I plucked up the courage to reveal The Plot and drawings. He inspected all while I hid beneath a pillow next door. He then pronounced to his cringing, blushing spouse that my heroine looked sexy and the story sounded intriguing. For goodness’ sake, he said, write the darn thing! I smothered him in relieved, grateful kisses and vowed to get on with The Story. Amazing what a few well chosen words can do.

I penned some paragraphs. I changed some of it. I went to art college, had children and typed it with one hand on a manual typewriter, the other cradling and feeding a baby. I changed it. (The story -- not the baby.) I retyped it on an electric typewriter. We acquired a word processor (all this happened in hotches and potches over the years) and I began revising it and realised how frighteningly humungous it was. My younger child began secondary school, at which point a real desire to see my originally day-dreamt story reach its finality in book form really took hold and I got down to the nitty-gritty business of research -- which happens as I write -- and further revision. All during school hours. I now see the length of it. Monumental. So is the task of plot-gathering, continuity, pace, grammar…

I’m lucky. I don’t have deadlines and a living to make. However, self -discipline rules. Back in those days, kids at school, down to work by nine o’clock. Lunchtime. Finish at three o’clock. I was good like that. Nowadays we’re retired (yes, alright, I’m still writing the darn thing…but it is an epic) and I continue re-editing and research at night. On my laptop using memory sticks. How times change.

I couldn’t bring myself to show it to anyone. I knew I wasn’t alone in this, yet it had to be revealed to all and sundry at some point, otherwise what is the point? I mean, when one sees what has been written before and sells, what has one to worry about? Plus I am no hard-nosed saleswoman. Therefore the tale had barely seen the light with the very odd exception of the occasional publisher I’d written to – I didn’t know them from Eve and they didn’t know me so it didn’t matter (incidentally, one of them loved the idea, calling it ‘sensational’! Whoopee!) and one or two honoured pals who seemed to love the small portions I’d deemed to show them. But -- as those in the know say -- pals, parents and partners don’t (sadly) count. Writing groups didn’t cater to my needs back then. After all, could you see it? Surrounded by open- jawed poetry and romance lovers while I recount a particularly raunchy section concerning hot hanky-panky. Only one thing for it, I muttered at the time -- finish the ruddy thing and send three chapters and brief synopsis to an agent, even if it takes ‘till I’m fifty. (Only two years to go, back then.)

Ten years later. Progress report: Hey – guess what? I’m sixty this year! Once upon a time I joked that I would finish it before I was sixty. Hadeha. Never mind. I’m still actually enjoying it. It still excites me, so that must be saying something. With the advent of e-mails I’m sending portions to various folk and getting responses – critiques and great comments. Are they being polite? Don’t be polite – be honest! Whatever, it’s such a relief to get it out there. And with the advent of e-publishing as well, I have no excuse not to do something with it. I have written The End many times. One day I will write The End and mean it. Goodness me, what a thought.

                                                           THE END




Tandem in Amsterdam


Bicycles rule in Amsterdam

Please get out of the way!

Faced with a bevy of bicycles,

You'll be sorry for the rest of the day.


I've been to the city at least five times,

twice went with Husband as well.

We hired a tandem and peddled quite hard,

He was in charge of the bell.


We swooped over bridges and alongside canals,

Remember they drive on the right.

We entered the traffic with hearts in our mouths,

We must really have looked quite a sight.


Leaning hard to the right and then to the left,

We careered throughout the town.

Pedalling around the tourist spots

Alongside canals up and down.


We stopped for a while and dismounted somehow,

and drank coffee by the canal,

then we remounted and off we went,

And flew along as a finalle.


When it was over we returned our machine,

puffing and panting like mad.

What fun we had had going like the wind,

It was over but we felt quite glad.


It was hard work and tandem is tricky

when you've never cycled abroad,

But bicycling in Amsterdam town

I sure felt we deserved an applaud!