#NABLOPOMO 2020: #wegardenbecause

There was an article, about the rise of female allotment holders. There was an exploration, across gender lines, as to why more women are taking up allotment plots in the time of COVID, as well as how there are fewer men on allotments.

I’ve read it a few times, in order to process my own thoughts and feelings.

Needless to say, there are thoughts and feelings.

I remember when I first got an allotment. I was told to give it up.

I didn’t. I refused to.

I’ve had mostly a positive experience. I was adopted, supported and encouraged my all of the allotment neighbours. Advice as given, solicited, absorbed; at no point were there any denigrating comments about women on the allotments. The allotment sight, is a welcoming place. There is genuine camaraderie; with no distinction made in relation to gender. I have more often than not, talked to the older stalwarts to gain insight.

Stalwarts, who have been men and women. There was no gender-based monopoly.

So seeing that article, ticked me off.

I’ve yet to have off-spring, so there’s no empty nest-ism. I don’t garden, due to a lack of progeny. If and when the off-spring arrive, they’ll no doubt know where a tomato comes from.

There were a whole host of assumptions, stereotypes, socio-economic, gender-politic bits that I was questioning my own identity! I channelled into reflecting why I have an allotment, why do I garden?

Gardening, and indeed allotmenteering, has occurred in parallel to training to be a person-centred counsellor. The Carl Rogers story about potatoes, for instance, is very important to me. I started off, carrying out pseudo-scientific experiments; to see what happened when a seed was sown. This continued, with physical exercise, an impact upon mental health and to alleviate stress and anxiety. There a many more reasons.

Without my allotment, I wouldn’t have written two gardening books. I am most certainly not an insta-star! We live in world that now has social media within it’s fabric. I mean, I’m writing a blog post….

…I did start with a book though, I’m a book worm. I used it, in tandem with connecting with the gardening community. A community not only here in the Sceptred Isle of The United Kingdom, but also far beyond.

Allotments have become relevant, over the last few years. Least of all because of COVID. There has been movement, in wanting to reduce carbon foot prints, in wanting to know to where food comes from; in wanting to grown your own, to eat well. There’s a whole amalgam as to why there is an change in allotment holders. Least of all, that the older, more season-ed gentleman has dug up his last parsnip due to natural causes. A younger generation, will no doubt enter the fray. I daresay, that there are men on allotments, and the lens through which we see them, is different compared to what is the traditional view of an allotment holder. We start to question, who is on the allotment, for purpose, and a whole other judgemental debate that really isn’t necessary.

I can garden, because I can. Because I enjoy it. Not because of socio-economic, gender-politic factors. I garden as I feel potential, creativity and enjoyment; it has a lovely impact upon my mental health.

As I said. That article. It ticked me off.

#NABLOPOMO2020 ONE WEEK TO GO

There is one week to go, before book number eight goes live on Kindle. The paperback is already out online at Amazon.

Book number eight.

Five years ago, when I first thought about writing and publishing, I didn’t think I’d get as a far as writing eight. This year, was meant to be a break. However, with lockdown, with working from home. Book Eight was conjured up as a means of getting through it all.

Behind the Scenes is a beast of a book; four hundred pages.

The first part, sees the reader enter the world of my characters when they aren’t in the books. Their real life, if you like. The second, involves stories set in and inspired by Birmingham. The third, is a Gorbind Phalla Novelette. It’s a smorgasbord, if you like, of stories that I might not have otherwise written.

Right, I might go watch some telly, knit some socks.

#NABLOPOMO2020: iNVOKING tHE MUSE


Restless and unrestrained, The Muse, is ready to go; he takes me by the hand. Softly, he whispers into my ear. His words make my heart race and my mind whir.

“Are you brave?” He asks, wearing the Devil’s smile. “Or just plain reckless?”

“Courageous,” I reply. “Now bring me my pens. We have work to do.”

(Gonna need a new calendar)

Yesterday, in a fit of pique I gathered up my notebooks. I re-arranged my desk to group the works in progress to see all of what was in the pipeline. What has been in the pipeline for years. There are seven different notebooks, each with a different story. All of which I plan to write, get through at some point. I don’t ever, throw anything away. I even found a plan for another Devan Coultrie book. That, however, doesn’t feel very immediate. It’s not calling to me as much as the stack of notebooks are.

The plan today, was start on on writing project, that needs to be done by next summer. A contribution for an anthology, that can be up to ten thousand words. I have a plan, a process that I fancy testing out. Only for The Muse to sulk today, having grinned at me yesterday, like a crazy thing. I may give it a bash today. Though the The Muse does feel as though it is hungover. Understandable, as it’s been a busy year for writing.

I had planned to sit at my desk all today. To close the door, have my head phones and write as much as I could. Then I woke up, tired and bleary eyed. I have some recharging to do, I think. I probably shouldn’t push myself to create when The Muse isn’t feeling the best. I know that there are things to write, to conjure and create. But the conditions and contributing variables don’t feel write today. One of the many reasons I choose not to do Nanowrimo, is that it doesn’t feel right to work so intensely in a short period of time. As disciplined as I can be, about writing, I don’t think I’d cope with such a gruelling regime. I like having relatively unfettered, mostly organic process of writing. That’s why there are so many different notebooks; why there are often post-it’s stuck into them as I think of something to add or construct.

What I’m inclined to do, is sit here at my desk. Leaf longingly through the leaves of the notebooks, to try and enter the zone. To see what stirs The Muse. To pick up my pens, if moved to do so. I don’t really like deadlines, even when I have self-imposed ones. However, I do like to be disciplined when it comes to writing. I get really very frustrated when not able to conjure up figments of my imagination. I might have a bullet point, in a plan, to meet, and then have nothing floating across my mind.

To think, I missed a blog post yesterday, and want to make up for it today!

#NABLOPOMO2020: journies

I was thinking, about what I wanted to write about today. I wasn’t too sure to be honest, but then this particular image bounced around my brain.

This, is what I believe to be a Maple tree. I encountered it, two years ago, whilst on a visit to Glastonbury Abbey. I stood before it, transfixed and mesmerised for a good twenty minutes. It exuded magic, that was the only explanation I had at the time.

The Red Maple, was magic, it had held my attention and if felt important. I took the photo, I kept it close. I even had it printed onto a canvas.

If ever I had a private practice, a private counselling practice with a room of my own. This would hang on the wall.

Two years ago, the prospect of having my own private counselling practice was embryonic. I had a long way to go, before it might come off. In fact that adventure to Glastonbury, was my first get away having finished my training.

Fast forward a little bit. I completed the course, I qualified. I was deemed as being proficient. Having volunteered in agencies for sometime and accruing a diverse range of experiemce, I set up my own practice.

That Red Maple, would give it’s name to the practice. Red Maple Counselling was born.

I am a Person-Centred counsellor. I started this journey eight years ago, with a level 2 qualification at night school. I already had an undergraduate degree in Human Psychology, as well as a teaching qualification and QTS. This, couldn’t have been a more different direction as I moved through Level 3 and eventually on to a level 4. That last phase, still at night school, was over two years and also involved clinical practice. The whole process, broke me, bruised me, to make a better me. It is by far, one of the best things I have ever done. Now, I most certainly have one of the best jobs in the world. There is really something quite magic about it.

There’s an overlap, with the Rogerian theory I was learning and the cultivation of the allotment. This has cropped up many times so far upon my journey.

Now, I have my practice. I still have the canvas, but I am yet to have my own, ‘own’ room. The canvas will eventually hang on the wall. For now, it reminds me of how far I have come, how far I have to go, and the journey itself.

Trust the process. Enjoy the journey.

#nablopomo2020 lockdown pt2

Here we go again.

Tomorrow, England goes into lockdown for the second time. A necessary action, I believe as the NHS faces a combination of COVID and winter pressures.

The memory, of that friday before the first lockdown is still there. I feel it very keenly; the meeting on the college campus. The horrible, heavy dread in the air. I was supposed to teach the next day; classes were to go straight on line. Even my counselling practice had to change and go to online/telephone.

This is somewhat different, it certainly feels different. A case of, I’ve done this before, but here we go again. Teaching is hybridised for the time being. The Counselling Practice, is COVID Compliant and continues.

My other focus, is creativity. You’ve already seen the socks and leg warmers. That is definitely going to continue. I’ve been thinking, ever since the Prime Minister made his announcement-as mad as it was-about my writing projects. I do have a stack of them.

The first lockdown was spent writing, and I daresay it helped managed my stress levels, a sense of being, amongst other things. I felt a very keen sense of loss, in not being able to go out, visit the BMAG or other creative places. I did manage to go the BMAG actually, to refresh and reabsorb energy for The Muse.

So, the writing projects; I have a few.

For one, I don’t need any more notebooks. In the first lockdown, I bought a pile, knowing that I had ideas that need to decanted. I sorted out all the stories, to be then tackle them. No more notebooks needed, at all. I am therefore, now faced with works to do. I had been wondering how I was going to get to them all. Generally, I will stare at them, pick up and open the one that calls to me. I also have to be in the mood to be carried away.

There is a vague plan. I have contribution to an anthology to write, in the first instance. It can be up to ten thousands words, and be inspired by Birmingham. I have a plan, a list of ideas actually that I plan to through for that.

Then, there are four, five, six other notebooks. Each with a story, that has been planned out in bullet points. Some are quite detailed. There are specific chapters. Others, have a general plan, that can be fleshed out as required. I used to write on a whim, just see where my imagination wanted to go. That was great, and for the most part it worked. Now, I bullet-point/plan, when the ideas come and use them as checkpoints. A sort of mesh, I guess, to then fill out. At least then, I don’t forget what I want to do. As such, there are post-its everywhere too. Bits and pieces that have come to me, that I’d like to integrate. You can never have enough post-it’s, I guess and I never throw anything away. Just in case.

All that is required, is my pens and my inks. I should just get on with them.

Some of them, have been sat on my desk for two years, gathering dust. I need to stare at them intently, to see what calls to me.

So, on the eve of lockdown part two, I have ordered some more ink. A new fountain pen too. Rest assured, I still have my Parker Sonnets. Nothing will ever replace them, and I will be heart broken if anything were to happen to them.

(I’ll never forget that first moment of using one in The Pen Shop. A proper Ollivander moment, with Fantasia playing, I kid you not. It was just the right one, the best fit, and I felt in love immediately.)

This is the current selection. I have a definite bias, when it comes to colours of ink. I have gone through two bottles of imperial purple, two of deep magenta, I think. Ordering more, I guess is more than preparation for writing projects. I even flushed out a few fountain pens last week, as I had used them a great deal and they had become clogged up.

I didn’t have time to prepare the last time. I didn’t even think, that writing was a way of enduring. It sort of just happened. Alas, I enjoyed it, it was useful. It was also meaningful. In a slightly different way, I guess, to baking Banana Bread.

I made bread, a few times. But then I gave up. It didn’t particularly give me a zing, in the same way that writing did and does.

There will be writing this weekend. I’m not doing NANOWRIMO. That has never really called to me. There is no way, no how, that I could that over a month; if only to write a first draft. My writing process is languid, in that I don’t particularly like those contained, very short deadlines. If I have six months, a year, that feels more plausible.

Alas, here we go again.

#nablopomo2020 inky tools

Writing a blog post, is very different from writing on paper. On paper, with pen and ink.

And I do like my pens. I have a few. I currently have seven of them. All Parkers at that. Three, are Sonnets, the others are IM. I waited a long time to splurdge, to invest in these. I did so, as they are really important to me; important as part of my writing process.

I’m not a big fan of sitting down at a laptop and typing away in the flow of a story. I much rather prefer sitting down with the pens and a notebook. I find that a far more organic, more soulful experience. This does mean however, that end up with inky fingers. I use fountain pen ink and in a variety of different colours. Not that this makes my spidery handwriting any more legible; probably makes it a great deal worse, to be honest.

Yet, the days of writing with a scratchy biro are over. For me, at least.

I do have favourite colours. I use the Diamine range of fountain pen inks, and the two colours that I seem to use the most are Deep Magenta and Imperial Purple. That said, I have used a fair bit of Sapphire Blue. I am currently in the process of window-shopping new additions to the ink box. Anything, but yellow, I think. There are a few shades of green in the ink box too.

I would be bereft, if anything happened to this pens. In the four-ish years that I have had them. I think that they have helped craft three novellas and two novels, There is a stack of other writing projects waiting in the wings. I remember, the panic I felt, when author Sir Phillip Pullman announced that he has mis-placed his pen. I was aghast. The pen, was however recovered.

There is a cliché, an adage. That the pen, is mightier than the sword. I like to think that is true; for me, my pens are my version of Excalibur. Words have a profound power, in all the forms that they take. The power to touch us within, to inspire, fire up courage. Sometimes, these words are nice; they are joyful and comforting. At other times, words can be pejorative, divisive and use to disarm and disable. As an author, this is a hard line to tread. To be responsible, whilst being creative.

Words, and therein the pens, have a power. It is up to me how to use it.

Then again. With great power, comes great responsibility.

#NABLOPOMO2020: Making pictures

The last few weeks have been very interesting when it comes to writing and being creative. I’m taking yet another risk, when it comes writing. More specifically, in relation to the Devan Coultrie Saga from the Peace Novella Series.

I have spent the last two weeks, writing and developing a screen play. A screen play, for a story called ‘Devan Coultrie is unwell’ from Postcards from Peace. A short story, is set to become a short film.

I am very fortunate, that the media company who supported me at the Peace Betrayed Book Launch in February is looking to film stories. These, are then going to be-fingers crossed-shown as part of the Tamworth Literature Festival in Spring next year.

Fingers crossed, indeed, and on many levels.

I’ve never written a screen play before. The last time that I wrote a script in any form, I was in year eight and we were studying Twelfth Night, I think. This, is a new skill set; I don’t think for one moment, that it is perfect. In fact, there is a massive learning curve. Being a geek, I’ve been looking at how to write a screen play, from the formatting to technical details. I am currently in the process of finding actors, before I look at locations and this does actually get off the ground.

It has always been a dream, to see my writing, and indeed figments of my imagination, on a screen of some kind. This opportunity therein, is rather special. There is some small chance, that this may come to fruition.

#NABLOPOMO2020: Knitting Projects

NABLOPMO, it’s been a while.

A month long blogging and writing experience, with daily posts. I’ve spent a lot of time over this year, handwriting two books. There have been bits and pieces on here, but not a great deal. So I thought, that I could write more for the blog, and in a more meaningful way.

So here goes.

As well as writing, I’ve been knitting during Lockdown. Of all the things, to acquire by way of skills, sock wasn’t something that I had considered. Socks and leg warmers.

I have so far, knitted eight pairs of socks. One for every month of lockdown. Each one, has been a labour of love. There have even been knitting injuries in getting a little carried away.

I was given a simple, straight forward pattern by a friend and colleague. For the most part, that’s the one I am following. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have a file, that it becoming increasingly bigger as I find other patterns to extend my repertoire.

That, and avoid seduction by the Sock Yarn Faerie. This, is somewhat difficult. It is all too easy, to be seduced by pretty yarn and the desire to make more socks. I have a stash, or should that be cache of yarn to work through. I am therefore, sitting on my hands. I’m trying to get my head around different stitch patterns too.

A new, more recent phenomenon, is leg warmers. I’ve made one set, using sock yarn. To be honest, they aint bad! As far as a hypothesis tests go, they are a success. They fit, they do their job and they were actually really straight forward to knit. Far more straight forward, compared to socks. Another set have been cast on, albeit with more appropriate wool.

I knit using circular needles, rather than double pointy things. The ones for the leg warmers are 5mm, with the sock needles being 2.25 and 2.5. It does take a while to knit a pair, and it’s a good thing that I’m not in a hurry to be honest. I’ve enjoyed it so far, and it’s a great mindfulness, stress-relieving activity. I must remember to take breaks though, as then there are knitting related injuries otherwise.

One month to go: Behind the Scenes

It’s a month til Diwali. A whole month, ti Behind the Scenes goes live on Kindles.

It does feel as though this piece of work has been simmering away for a long time. It has certainly been my focus during the pandemic. As such, I do feel as though it has been forged and developed through an altogether rather unsettling time.

Behind The Scenes is an eclectic piece of work. There are distinct universes that exist within this book. We have the fragments universe, which has so far yielded Fragments and Kangana. Then there is the convergence with the Peace Novella Series Universe.

Characters from these two different worlds come together in a way that we’ve not experienced before. There is also the apocalyptic Battle of Gravelly Hill Interchange. This is important. This is a book set in the city of Birmingham. England’s second city. As such, there is reference within the pages to local cultural and social places. All of which contribute to Birmingham’s Iconic Identity as the city of a thousand trades.

We also, allegedly, have more canals than Venice.

You can pre-order your kindle copy, by using the links below.

UK:https://amzn.to/3cDsjPM

US:https://www.amazon.com/Behind-Scenes-Punam…/dp/B08K863S5G

Canada: https://www.amazon.ca/Behind-Scenes-Punam…/dp/B08K863S5G

A book of two halves sits before you.

In the first half, what happens to the characters from the author’s novels when you aren’t reading them; what is the rest of their story? See what happens with Gorbind Phalla after the romance of Kangana. Devan Coultrie from Peace Novella Series has a life beyond making Montana Moonshine.

There are even a couple of new characters. Who is the mysterious Pencil-Sketch, and The Lady Aurelia is just dying to meet you.

In the second, meet the many different people who live in the City of Birmingham. A street preacher who yells his message, but one day disappears. Two strangers share a romantic encounter at The Kerryman Public house. What if there were spies in Birmingham, and what happens with the exhibits of the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery when the visitors aren’t there? There is even some romance in Medieval Birmingham with the Lady of the Manor.

These all culminate in the apocalyptic Battle of Gravelly Hill Interchange.

Colourful creativity: Knitting

You may recall that at the start of lockdown, I decided to start knitting. More specifically, I started to knit socks. Well, it’s been six months since we went into lockdown, and since then my knitting has somewhat escalated. I have knitted five pairs so far. With four pairs currently cast on. These are the ones that you see in the image above.

I like knitting; it’s really relaxing and therapeutic.

It is also somewhat addictive. I mean, how much yarn does one woman really need? I have found myself being seduced, quite regularly, by the Sock Yarn Faerie. For now, I have enough sock yarn. I have enough yarn, to keep me going for at least another six months. Seriously, not more sock yarn.

For now.

Knitting has been really important lately. As teaching and counselling get busy, I am reminded to take care of myself. To not push myself, so far, as to burn out. This has meant stopping all work at 6pm, to sit down and knit. To take the time to practice self-care and ground myself. As such, the projects you see above, are all now at the point where I have to start knitting the feet. I’ve also finished a book, so I have more brain space for these, and I think I need it. I need to socks to help get over that book, before I start writing another.

All being well, there will eventually be complete pairs.

I’m not that worried about odd striping to be honest. I quite like having odd socks. Not all of them are blue, either! I do have some bright red yarn, that reminds a bit of football socks to be played with.

I tend to knit very ‘plain’ socks. That is to say, stockinette stitch. More recently, I have been trying to find patterns for circular needles that are varied. I’m still teaching myself to read patterns, to visualise them so as to be able to execute them. Also, I have discovered leg warmers and wrist warmers as possible extensions to the knitting creativity.

I think leg warmers are next on my list to try for definite. I’ve got wool, some needles and the patterns to steer me in the right direction. The wrist warmers need some reflection. Not sure if I can use some of the sock-wool for those.

The needles that I use, are circular needles, rather than flat. These have been a revelation. I have tried knitting socks flat-right at the start of lockdown. This process does seem to be more effective, productive and more enjoyable. Most of what I have knitted, has been me-sized; socks for me. I did knit one pair of gentlemen’s sized 9’s as a gift for a family member. Mine don’t tend to take so long to knit! Those took about a month, in between bits of real life.

Was a useful learning experience. I now know how to make fella-sized socks; if ever I chose to repeat that experience.

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