Category Archives: Taking stock

Kangana: Light after dark

kanganapbcoverjp

A month ago, I was starting to pace up and down.  Book number five was lined up to go live. My fifth book in four years, there was a lot of anticipation hanging in the air. There was fear, anxiety, but also some level of excitement too.

Of all the books, Kangana makes me smile, and I am only just starting to figure out why.

Kagana is my ray of sunshine, rainbow book. A book that signals a change in me, my mind-set and subsequently my writing mojo.

It marks the end of what has felt a jumbled up, chaotic time. A time during which my life has gone through all sorts; there’s been growth, development, sadness, joy, not to mention lots of interesting adventures. The last five years have been wonderfully formative, giving rise to five very different books. Five. I still don’t know how that happened.

Previously, I have noted that writing about gardening was some of a multi-layered metaphor; this blog, has evolved and grown from the seeds of an idea and continues to do. Writing two gardening books, was much about my growth and development as much as it was about my allotment.

To this day, I cannot tell you why I made the leap into writing fiction, writing stories that couldn’t be more removed from roses, mud and raspberries. I remember the moment when; mid morning, tapping my pen-a green biro-against lined paper. I had an idea.

The genesis of Fragments came from grief, bereavement; it is not an easy, soft, all is rosy book. Fragments is a whirling tornado of emotions, humanity, tears and pain. Don’t get me wrong. In the same way that every grey cloud has a silver lining, so does Fragments.

Fragments is  a book about getting up again having fallen down; about dusting yourself off and moving on. It is a book about finding strength, even when don’t think you have any. This is a book that shook me sideways, and at a time when I was feeling broken; this was my way of finding out my depths and layers.

When Fragments went live, I remember feeling wounded. I’d written this book, eighty something thousand words, and it hurt. I had this massive great big hole, as though something had been wrenched out of me. Absolute internal pain, and it throbbed. I remember feeling as though I had been kicked in the stomach.

What the flip was a girl to do?

Well, she waited four weeks and decided to go find the Peace Novella series.

You’ve heard a lot about RTP-that’s Retreating To Peace. I feel bad writing this,  but Devan Coultrie was definitely a band-aid. A sticky plaster to fix into place what ever Fragments had done.

RTP is a romance, yes; a contemporary romance. It’s not fluffy though, Devan and I both had dents. So we both fixed them, together. I rebelled, I wasn’t willingly going to write a fluffy romance. I still couldn’t find it in my soul to do so.  I remember asking my fellow Peace writers to read it, but wincing in anticipation.

I’ve never been so scared to let anyone look at my work. (Team Farmah never get a look in, honest) I sat there, with the handwritten manuscript pressed to my chest. I didn’t want anyone to read my romance novella and then beat me with it. I struggled with the concept that all romance novellas were full of bow-chick-wow-wow that defied the laws of Physics. Full of bodice ripping country squires and doe-eyed damsels.

But I took stock, received positive feedback. I prized the manuscript from my chest, and did a really funny happy dance. The ladies of the Peace Novella series , picked me off the floor to dust me off. I stood up, held my head high.

Then I bit the bloody bullet.

Off went RTP, released into the ether and unto the masses.

There was something very nice, warm and fuzzy about having written RTP. Devan Coultrie was a lovely, faith-restoring band-aid, and I am most certainly not done with him.

The ladies of Peace, were sent to my universe for a reason.

Anyways.

I took the summer off, decided that I was I need of a break. Both Fragments and RTP had changed my head space, and now there was a scope for sunshine after the rain.

Taking a walk to Sarehole mill with my sister, I let the greenery of Middle earth talk to me. That was August. I went home, wrote three thousand words, then put my notebook away. I was not in the mood to do any more writing.

Autumn and winter passed. I got busy, and there were too many things happening for me to be creative. One Saturday, I sat with my soft pastels and decide to make rainbows. Three were created in varying configurations. Rainbows had been very much on my mind, especially with counselling therapy. I even had a set of oil paints and tried to paint one with the EMS as a reference.  In my mind, rainbows demonstrate the power of the universe. Light after dark, hopefulness. The way that light bends with water to give the different wavelengths. It makes great scientific sense, but its wonderfully magic.

Putting aside the pastel creations. I went looking for my notebook. I looked at the three thousand words and knew that one character from Fragments was my next venture.

That character was Gorbind; a bit part character that had a sliver in a chapter. You could literally blink and miss him.  As with Devan Coultrie, Gorbind was borne out of a lack of Indian romance books. This continues to annoy me, so perhaps I can do something about it.

I was writing yet another romance.

Romance.

Kangana was now being forged;  I had a chapter list, a sequence of events and also a playlist.  I had  also more than once visited Birmingham’s Museum and Art gallery, where seeing the Lucifer sculpture and Rosetti’s Porsepine fueled my imagination further.

For the next ten months, my poor parents heard Dr.Zeus’ Kagna-two versions-, Hallelujah-three different versions of that-, Eric Clapton’s ‘Layla, not to mention Cyndi Lauper’s ‘At last’ on loop. This made a huge change from Jolene, two thirds of Adele’s back catalogue and all of Maroon 5’s as used in RTP and Fragments. I do have to say though; for some daft reason, halleleujah has occured for all three fiction books.

Kangana has made me laugh, it has made me smirk. It has also made me think of Gianluigi Buffon in a whole new light.

Why?

Well, most of my main characters have faces as I write them. Gorbind was the esteemed Mr. Buffon. Devan Coultrie, was Aidan turner. In Fragments, Jamie Dornan inspired Christopher and Adelphi. One day, all the rest will have faces. Albert Finney, is Grandad Albie.

Kangana is a lighter book. It does have its dark bits. All rainbows do. Kangana is a book that marks a change; it’s a book that marks a movement forward into a different direction.

No idea what that direction is. There is a stack of writing projects sat on my desk.

Two have been pulled out for development. The one, is labelled Hades. Yes, him of the underworld. The other is identified as Aurelia and involves vampires.

That is all I have for now. I have no further details as my mojo is at rest until Spring. That doesn’t mean that I won’t be planning and gleaning the universe for inspiration in the mean time.

All in all, this means a break from intense hot-housing and slowing down to regenerate. For now, I am going to bask in a rainbow and colour my soul.

Go grab your copies, try to do the same.

 

 

Petal’s books: Plant pot tales-Happy Birthday!

 

Three years ago on this very day, Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment was released unto the ether. I had written and published my first book.

After a summer of rough ideas, and having said to my youngest sister, that I would write a book; I actually did it.

Plant pot tales was and is an extension of this blog. I used this blog to record all the lessons learned and experiences had. To put them into book was the next step. I had been encouraged by the success of Rob Smith on The Allotment Challenge, I was also invited by Michael Perry the illustrious Mr.Plantgeek to guest write some blog posts. The whole creative process was something of a swirling tornado.

This week, after two years of all sorts, I am trying to go back to the plot. Go back to the plot that this whole gardening and writing process came from. This post, the book anniversary, the return is therefore extremely poignant.

Plant pot tales was borne out of passion, creativity, out of doing something that makes me really happy; doing something with which I truly have a very meaningful relationship. The plot, gardening, writing have all become a big part of who I am, how I see myself and in turn how others see me. Plant pot tales was the keystone to the genesis of Petal’s Potted Preserve as an entity, identity and as umbrella for all things me.

It may not be perfect, but I am very proud of Plant pot tales. I put my heart, soul and green fingers into it, and tried to the best job I knew how to at the time. This was a book that allowed me to enter into the world of indie and self publishing. This, was the start of an interesting and evolving journey. A journey of creativity, self-discovery; a journey of exploring the universe and what I might be capable of.

That yellow book has a lot to answer for!

I learned valuable lessons with plant pot tales. These lessons were about both gardening and writing/publishing. I really wouldn’t change Plant Pot Tales for the world, it is a reminder of where I started and how far my journey has gone so far.

For me, this is not a traditional gardening book. I’ve not written a book about having a perfect garden, but a book that that reflects upon mistakes and uses them as learning experiences. I didn’t want to write a book that took on the mantle of an expert and passed judgement. My process is to continue learning and making judgements can be down right hurtful. Plant pot tales is about potential and positivity; about how having the seeds of an idea can lead to something truly epic.

As Plant Pot Tales turns three, I hope that it finds new readers. I hope that people come back to it, having already invested. I hope that this book continues to be useful and earns its place out there.

It was the first book, and I’m not done yet.

Petal’s books: A retrospective review

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As the release date for the fifth book approaches, I am in something of a reflective mood. I am trying to consider, think back upon how things have moved on since I first decided to sow seeds, to write a blog and then make the move to writing books. All of which, comes under the umbrella of this blog, of Petal’s Potted Preserve as an entity.

All of the books can trace their lineage to this blog; writing here about the allotment is what inspired me to dip into another medium. I wanted to transfer what I was doing here to another way of recording, sharing and communicating.  Sharing was the key aspect; how far could my relationship with my allotment go, who might it reach, who might it help, might they learn from it?

I am and always will be a bookworm; there is something purely magic about a book. I feel that is true for most books. Be it fiction, non-fiction, be it a textbook; there is a beauty within it.

The mere thought of a library, makes me smile. I have yet to be part of one, but a girl can dream, yes?

A lot has happened since the yellow book went public. The yellow book; playing with plant pots, turns three in two days. I’ll post about that later.

Since plant pot tales was published, my job has changed. There have been two significant bereavements, I’ve trained to be a counsellor, and there has been an epic, really close family wedding. My life has been a constantly developing, evolving process and experience. All of which has meant I’ve dipped in and out of maintaining my allotment whilst also writing.

As parallel processes, gardening and writing both involve sowing a seed, crafting and nurturing, whilst exposing your soul whilst putting your heart into something that believe in. There is a lot vulnerability too, in going out on a limb. I don’t think I have tried to follow the rules on my allotment. I didn’t write a traditional gardening book; none, of my books are traditional.

Plant pot tales, is very much an extension of the blog. I have yet to identify the voice I use in that book. Read it out aloud, and you may just hear my paved-over Birmingham accent. It is me having a chat, telling you what I have recorded in the blog. There are recipes that carry the scent from Mama F’s kitchen. The book is a living experience, organic; it quite literally is the seeds of an idea.  It is also imperfect. A baptism, of not knowing what to do, how to do it and learning as I went along. Least of all in a gardening sense. This was my entry into the world of Indie Publishing. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

I took a punt writing it, putting it out there. In having a conversation with my youngest sister, declaring that I would write an e-book about my allotment, see what happens as I had nothing to lose; I took a huge leap of faith, and couldn’t tell you if it was brave or stupid. I don’t know if I had courage. I just did it, and did my best whilst in the heady, green-fingered throes of determination.

I wouldn’t have done it differently, I wouldn’t turn back the clock. Plant pot tales was the first. It was the herald, the pre-cursor to an interesting journey.

It was six months before the arrival of the next one. I simply couldn’t sit still; there was still something in the tank, and it wanted out. The allotment had been abundant, there were courgettes all over the shop. I’d also starting making jams, jellies and spirit infusions. These were documented on the blog, but still needed to travel. I’d caught the bug, I wanted to write again.

And so the green book came to life.

After which, things become a little blurry.

There was a gap of nothingness from April til December.

From January 2016, I was locked into something altogether surreal, The blue-coloured book didn’t arrive until March 2017 but I was writing over the year. This was a furious state of productivity; I had to write, get things out, get them onto paper in black and white. There been two very close bereavements, a lot of unsettled-ness and I was embarking in Counselling training. Loss, bereavement, grief, the circles of life were crashing and colliding.

That book was Fragments. Book number three, my first foray into fiction.

There’s a lot of pain in that book; there is joy too, it’s not entirely bleak. I saw smudges of hope and light when writing, that echoes in the pages of the book. This was never going to be a happy, fluffy book. This is a book that seeps with the human condition. It is my attempt, I guess, to grapple with something that we as humans avoid. We avoid talking about grief, bereavement; the end of life.

Here I was, making it public.

As with it’s two predecessors, the book also has power. The power to reach readers, to be a part of their process, inform and assimilate into how they experience the world around them. I like to think, that people read my work and take something from it. One of friends and colleagues made a comment. “Punam, you must have had an interesting life to write a book like that.” I took that as a compliment, and continue to make life interesting.

With Fragments out, I must have sat still for all of two weeks. Fragments had been a year of working hard, and for it to be over; there was a loss. There was a pain, a detachment from something that I had become invested in, something that had more or less governed each and every waking moment. I had an emptiness at having spilled my guts out. It physically hurt to have Fragments out there; as though it had been hoiked out from the depths of my soul. I had made something really important.

What I needed to do at that point, was to heal. I needed to mend. I needed to stretch my writing muscles.

I needed a giggle. Something to feel me with a light, maybe switch it on, help me extend. Something that felt hopeful and carried light.

Along came the Peace Novella series. I had nothing to lose, a lot to gain.

Creating Devan Coultrie was a huge, experimental shot in the dark. I was amongst seasoned writers, well established in the world of romance. Romance, a whole genre that I really didn’t know a lot about; a whole genre, congested with stories and with it’s own rules and regulations.

I struggled with the idea of a happily ever after. Thankfully, a happy for now would work. I struggled with there being few characters of Indian-ascent in romance novellas. I struggled with colliding and combining British and Indian traits. I was throwing all sorts at this book, and not knowing where all the chips would land was beyond unnerving.  I still can’t tell you how I did it. How I managed to write a piece of romantic fiction.

So much so, I wrote another.

I wrote book five. This, is me having another go.

By the 3rd of September, I will have self-published 5 books. Each one has my name on it. I always look at the covers, a bit surprised to see my name.

To have published one, was exhilarating. Two, helped me find a sense of purpose. Three, was a call from the universe, an attempt to put myself together; see my scars, dents and appreciate what makes me who I am. Four, was an experiment.

No idea what Five is, just yet.

When I know, so will you.

Taking stock

 

For the first time in what feels like forever, I went to the allotment. I decided to delay today’s writing session and take a walk to the plot.

There were lots of currants to be harvested. I didn’t want to let them rot, feed the birds or just go to waste.

Truth be told, I needed to go get grounded. Life has been very busy, and there is no let up yet. The rest of 2018 is scheduled to be busy still until at least September-ish.

The allotment has been on pause for a long time, and going there today hammered home how badly it has all fallen down. I could have got lost in the weeds, everything is very over grown, brambles are very much in charge.

It does sadden me, that I can no longer see the raised beds and that the whole thing is over grown. Especially, as it’s take years to get it how it was wanted. What I didn’t bank on was life getting in the way. There’s been a training course and strange working hours; not to mention writing as well. It’s nine years since I first started sowing seeds, and I do feel that I’ve come a long way.

It’s painful really, knowing that the plot has been neglected.  Painful, as to how overwhelming it feels to get it back into shape. I’m not sure where to start or how for that matter. I know it won’t be immediate, so plan to take a good, long look at things at the end of summer.

Being told but allotment secretary that you are probably going to get a letter is not fun! I definitely don’t want that. It’s a horrible sword of Damocles hanging over your head, and I really don’t want that letter. I’ve just seen him, and it’s rather changed my mood. It’s a horrible feeling being told that your plot is the worst that is has been, that it’s in need of being tidied up. It is a judgement, after all and maintenance of standards; that I understand. I do have a responsibility to look after my plot and ensure that it is productive. I have felt this for a long time actually, and it’s almost as though I am beating myself up about it. Gardening has never been about that for me, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling as though I am letting people and myself down. I will probably sulk for a bit anyway. It does hurt, and it’s never nice to get negative feedback. In it’s current state, the plot is not something to be shared, enjoyed or celebrated.

As life settles down, I will need to take stock and start hacking away at the overgrown allotment. That’s probably the only way that I am going to win against the brambles. I just can’t do it yet. This probably feels huge as I try to juggle bits and pieces.  I need to get the headspace and life events sorted before I can return to the plot.

All in all, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. I want to return to the plot when I can, when I have the time and energy. It is not something that I want to abandon. That would be awful, and I can’t bring myself to do that.

 

 

I like football #WeAreFemaleFans

 

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I like football a lot. However, in the last two weeks something really important has become really apparent.

Despite the upsurge in Women’s football after the World cup and increased coverage of Women’s games, women liking the sport is still something of a sticky wicket.

Two articles have caught my attention. The most recent this morning and both from the BBC.

The  first discusses how the in-progress World Cup has notes of Sexualisation. The second, talks about Female Fans.

My reaction to the first, was very much a gut reaction. In my day job, I teach feminism, I work with female students who have unequal access to areas where their male counterparts get a free pass. Football is actually a big part of my teaching. It get shoe-horned into every bit of Psychology, Sociology and Business that I can.

My hackles were raised full mast; how dare people pass a camera over anyone, yes anyone, and comment on their appearance. This happens every day, regardless of it being a footballing fiesta. This goes back to good old fashioned gender politics and socialisation. This is a manifestation of social norms and cultural practices that belong in the dark ages. Funny, since football has been around since then. The views about Women and football do rather belong in the cave ages.

I was incensed, about the comments made about female pundits and commentators. They, like their male counterparts, have skills, knowledge and understanding, practical awareness of the game.

They, know the same offside rule, as a male pundit would.

They too have played football.

Yet, they really don’t know their stuff?

The mind boggles.

Mansplaining has raised it’s ugly head. A concept that is surreal but frightening. Something can’t be true, valid or acceptable if someone with ovaries says the same. Have an XY set of chromosome is the kicker. One day, I do hope someone says “I did just flippin’ well tell you.”

The second article is far more striking for me. Here we have everyday women, of all shapes, sizes, colours, creeds, orientations; women, who have more than just a passing interest in football.

These women are just like me. That is what I think is important.

Two weeks ago, I filled in the work football sweepstake for the group stages. Handed over my quid, sat at the table in the staff room. Found my pen; I systematically went through the fixtures. What do I know about France, their turbulent history? The Spanish have sacked their coach, will this reflect in a disjointed team movement. Where are Portugal? Will Iceland trip people up? Hold on, Argentina, Uruguay, will they play samba football or something. No way, no how will the Germans have an early bath.

I took this very seriously!

My footballing education started with Euro 96, it has it’s uses.

So much so.

When the results were being ‘analysed’:

“Punam, you might actually be winning. You’re quite close really….”

(I didn’t win. But I did try. Due to some strange football during the latter half of the group stages, I got kiboshed. The teacher in me wanted to know the final tally, and tutted loudly.)

What all the fluky results, I might have gone into a full scale monologue about how squad formations with empirical statements and historical evidence. (“Right, you’re a defender on the back foot. If you have a great big massive, stocky striker headed towards you, powered by a midfield engine with a full scale attack. You have two options; get pummelled or move out the way. I wouldn’t get in Maradona’s way, would you?”)

“Punam, I have never heard a lady analyse football so well.”

I may have shaken my head, walked off with that second one.

On the other hand:

“Punam, it’s really refreshing to hear a woman speak about football like you do.”

(Lovely. That, we like. That, was genuine, accepting and really encouraging.)

Raising three daughters, Pops has never ever refused us football. Youngest sister was actually a nifty player when a teenager, and Dad would talk tactics with her all the time. The only time I ever asked him what he meant, I had no idea what a heavy pitch was.

(There’s too much water, and they should have cut the grass….)

My key point, is that gender has never been in issue. As a family, we all enjoy football. Mum spends a week complaining about the noise, and by semi-final time she’s picked the opposite team to everyone else.

I will continue to talk a good game; I can’t play for toffee.

With the knockout stages looming, I need to go find a cushion behind which I can watch penalties.

Might even go find my England shirt…

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

redwellingtons

 

And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

plot2018

Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.

Let’s start again #gdnbloggers

shakespeare
shakespeare 2000

 

I think my allotment and I are broken, and I’d quite like to fix both.

I couldn’t tell you the last time that I took a walk down and did something. So much so, that my soul feels a bit less colourful and very much frayed at the edges. As I countdown to the end of February, I am feeling this quite a bit.  Over the last eight weeks, thoughts of the allotment have been shadows at the back of my mind. The allotment has been a spectre, hanging in my awareness as something that I need to make a return to; something that has been a big part of me, who I am and what I do over the last five years.

It is a sorry confession, but the relationship between my allotment and I has lapsed some what. We have become estranged, as life makes demands on the time we spend with each other.

2018, wasn’t a good year for the plot and I. It was a very busy year, as I managed working, training and writing. Writing was a big focus, and I spent less time outside. I spent a lot of time inside, writing and displacing the allotment. There were a lot of plates spinning with lots of different demands. Working part time and being a trainee counsellor has proven to be a challenging combination. I enjoy doing both, but have forgotten to look after myself in the process. In January last year, my poly tunnel was damaged by winter storms and it was basically downhill from there. My life became a tempest of tornadoes, and the plot didn’t get the attention it deserved and needed.

January this year offered a new start and the potential to get things going. I still have a busy life; my week is jam packed with my weekends being the windows for R&R. The windows are not big, so I do need to make the most of them, use them effectively. What I need to do, is to remember how the plot is and was a big part of that R&R. Getting my hands dirty, the exercise and the impact of it all on mental health, feels like a distant memory. A memory that as mentioned before, is a shadow.

Only the shadow is morphing. It is morphing into a fuzzy-faced gremlin. A gremlin that is poking me to take a walk down to the plot.

I need to make the time, the space, to go back to the plot.  I am tired of chaos, tired of things going up, down and pear-shaped. Tired of not being able to pause and colour my soul.  I need to reconnect with my plot, remember why I enjoy it and how it is has helped me the woman that I am. It’s funny,  but the growth and nurturing aspects of having an allotment have actually been a big part of personal therapy.

So I have come to some conclusions.

There are no plans to publish any writing. I am still writing, but I am not pushing to be in print this year. I need to step away from the kitchen table, and use it only for writing coursework. Coursework still needs to be done, with training not due to finish before the Autumn. Writing is officially on a slow-burning back hob.

Don’t worry about produce and preserves. Tidy up, create a blank slate. The plot has evolved over the years and at 200sqm, it is massive. Start again. Get the infrastructure, raised beds and things cleared. Cover the fallow area. Go back to basics.

Don’t rush. Take your time. I have come too far, the plot has come too far to be abandoned. It would break my heart to walk away from that patch of land, and I have thought about it. I have thought about it a lot over the last few weeks. (Okay, there’s a running joke that if I ever got married, it would end. Even that fills me with dread.) It might not look like it, but I have nurtured that plot and the plot has in turn nurtured me. This is not a relationship that I wish to end. It is not done yet.

Not all seeds need to be sown, you’ll get there. I had sown chilli seeds. There were three seedlings, and now I only have one. I did plan to sow some tomatoes at some point. Something is telling me to hold off.

Something is telling me to go back to the beginning.

Let people talk. Let them look at me and the plot, tut and shake their heads as the plot looks a bit forlorn. Yeah, it peeves me off and makes me feel about three inches high. But Rome wasn’t built in a day, and that was a Empire that had welly despite the harbingers. I remember the flowers, the fruit and the sheer joy that the plot has given me. I’ll get there again, and in spite of the pity, the huffs and the puffs.

I started GYO and allotmenteering as life was going wonky. The here and now is a similar wonky. So a return to the early days, is somewhat logical.

This is not going to be easy. I have an idea as to how physically demanding it will be. There will have to be time made-with the laws of physics-at the weekends. I am isolating weekends, with not all of Sunday being School-work Sunday. I do feel that it is possible and realise that there might be challenges.

The deal is this.

Let’s start again.

 

My two pence #Timetotalk

Imagine.

You’ve not slept well; you’ve tossed and turned, the alarm goes off but you smack it very quickly. You get up, think about breakfast and the day you have ahead. The lessons are planned, you’ve taken your time doing so. You can do your job, you’ve been doing it ages, and you’re not that bad at it.

Only there is as spikey knot forming in your gut, your heart is racing and you’ve been walking around like Quasimodo as your body’s stress response gnarls at your back and shoulders. Sometimes it hurts to breath, but you are stubborn and soldier on. You want to eat, you have to eat; yet your appetite has disappared, and nothing quite hits the spot.

You feel sick, anxious and things just keep coming. It takes a supreme effort to take a deep breath, put one foot in front of the other, to get out the door and onto the road. No idea how you will get through the day, but lots of tea will help.

All the time, you think about this being done, that being done; not wanting to ask for help, not knowing who to ask, and things aren’t just grey, but black, brown and swirly. There are very few rays of sunshine, fleeting ones at that. When you get sunshine, you hold onto it, prize every single drop.

I now know when my smile begins to fade, I can recognise the quasimodo contortion that comes from tense muscles and being unable to breath as it hurts. I know the difference between my sloping walk and my purposeful James Bond swagger.  I have slowly but surely, figured out my stress response and how anxiety can impact upon me. I refuse to let it all hold me down. There are rainbows to chase.

My allotment has helped, as has writing. Then there is the whole trained listener and trainee counselor thing too. Jigsaw pieces that over time, have started to fall together and helped me better understand my own mental health and that of others. There is just something about standing on the plot, drinking a cuppa as I smell the roses. The allotment has nurtured me, as much as I have nurtured it. I write, as it is a creative outlet; there is therapy too, to sit alongside all of this. It takes time, all of it, but I have found support, found the things that give my life colour to reduce strands of grey.

The statistic, is that one in four of us, will experience some form of poor mental health. There are further numbers about the difference in male and female health. These aren’t just numbers, these are frightening numbers.

Then there the social and cultural stigma. In some communities, the South Asian community being one of the, mental health is a taboo, swept under the carpet and talked about in hushed tones. This rather annoys me, angers me, that Mental health is not supported in a similar vein to physical health. Annoys me, that we have such negative, perjorative attitudes with blaming and shaming. It angers me, that there is a veil of both silence and ignorance.

Time to talk is making an effort to help turn this tide, there is also Head together. There needs to be further action, an increased awareness of Mental Health concerns. This is not a one-da job, this is going to take time. What we need is an impetus, a movement, of people talking, supporting one another and coming together with a common aim.

Mental health is difficult to put into a box, we all experiene it differently. It’s not easy to talk about, and makes people uncomfortable.

For futher information on the campaign.

 

Forays into Fiction

In 2017, I made my first foray into fiction. Having written two non-fiction books about my allotment, this was something of a challenge in being very different. In all honesty, I really enjoyed writing both of the allotment books; there was a huge learning curve that really did open my eyes. I have learned lessons with each book, and hopefully continue to do so as things progress. No one book is perfect, and there is always someone who will offer you feedback to that effect. The broad plethora of writing out there, would suggest that you are never going to please everyone. Start with pleasing yourself, see what happens.

allthreebooks

That said, seeing and hearing people enjoy the allotment books is a wonderful experience. It is validation, yes. That something I have produced is out there, that it is being engaged with, and there is value to it.

There is a wonderfully romantic notion, that writing is easy; that writers of any description, do nothing but lounge around navel-gazing, smoking cigarettes, drinking tea and occasionally put pen to paper. I can tell you now; that is not the case, that could not be further from the the truth. I don’t smoke, navel-gazing does my head in, but I do like back to back cups of tea.

Then there is the idea of why write?

Well, why not?

There is just something about a pen, a notebook, a day dream and marrying it all together. All that day dreaming is of no use in the depths of my cerebellum; if released from there, it might actually have some use, some one might benefit from it in some shape or form.

I’ve been writing since I was fourteen, and on anything I could get my hands on with rather curly handwriting. Nineteen years later I still have the loose leaves somewhere, and I look back them with lovely, rose tinted glasses. Some of the stuff is in my opinion, altogether strange; however, I wouldn’t change it, I wrote it and for reasons only known to the universe. I still write Star Trek fan fiction; it was and is an wonderful immersion experience. Anyone who tells you that fan fiction doesn’t count as literature, could do with a broader scope on their bookshelf.

 

fragments

In previous posts, I have explored why I wrote ‘Fragments’. I wrote it because of family bereavements, because loss(in  many different forms, not just death) had become a big part of my world and I was trying to make sense of it. Compared to the allotment books, it is bigger, beefier and quite literally not so rosey. Don’t get me wrong, there are happy endings in there; I couldn’t bring myself to write abject, bleak, misery. What I wrote about was being human, or in the very least, trying to understand being a human and the relationships that we form. I’ll be honest with you. There are some parts of ‘Fragments’  that actually make me cry, and I wrote those bits! I can’t read them-I did, when crafting it, I had to force myself to do so-there are others, which make me smile, and I’m glad to have written as not many others might have.

With 2018, I am making my second foray into fiction. I have also broken my own self-imposed rule of not having human beings on the cover; so far, we’ve had insects and pastel art. This next foray, is continued diversification and into contemporary romance. It is actually rosy, unlike ‘Fragments’ so it does have some sunshine like the allotment books. Again, there has been learning; there has been further, very instrumental development and growth.

Over the last three months, I have posted bits and pieces about ‘Retreating to Peace’. I wanted to share the excitement that has been a big part of this project and how much that means to me.  Hopefully, you will have seen the teasers and things.

Yes, this is different. To gardening, to grief. Proper diversification, and then some.

Yes, you read it correctly; contemporary romance.

Romance as a whole, is huge! It is a big slice of the literature pie, the indie publishing pie as well.

Here I am, a minnow-a gardening one-in a big pond, with lots of established fishes.

I couldn’t tell you why I took this plunge. Only, that I wanted to keep writing after having finished ‘Fragments’. I must have taken one week, perhaps two, before stumbling across the Peace Novella Series.  This felt the right thing to do, the universe was sending me signals of some kind.

Plus, as with the other three books, what could I possibly have to lose?

There are some things, that as I was writing ‘Retreating to Peace’ were a big part of my awareness. Things, that have most likely shaped the production of it, and I haven’t really put them out there before.

First, I chose to write a male main character. He’s not that much older than me, he is taller though. Most people are to be honest. Plus, I didn’t want to write a swaggering Alpha Male who saves the universe whilst having a fragile ego broken by a heaving bosom.

Second, he’s of mixed heritage. I would not, do not wish to, label Devan Coultrie as a Person of Colour. That label sets my teeth on edge for a whole armada of reasons that I won’t go into here. I managed to shoe-horn Anglo, Indian and Scottish into development.

Third, not all romance is about rainbows and butterflies. I know, that seems an oxymoron, Thank goodness for Happy For Now.

Fourth, I spent my whole childhood watching Bollywood Movies. There are lots and lots of Bollywood/Indian cultural things mentioned in RTP. This is why, I took great pleasure in writing Devan’s Diwal story. Oh, and I have yet to find a would be Indian inspired romance. Trust me, I know who Meera Syal is as well as Anita Desai and Arundhati Roy. I may never scale their great heights, but a girl can dream, eh?

 

A time for reflection and renewal

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised that there has not been much by way of gardening go on. A bit ironic, I guess, when that is a primary function of the blog, the brand and all things Petal.

The last year has been different, compared to previous years. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have found it challenging to shoe horn lots and lots of things in to real life. There have been peaks and there have been troughs; sometimes, that is what you need. There have been many times where there has simply not been enough of me to go around,

I miss the allotment.

At this moment in time, I dread to think what state it is in, A major overhaul is needed, and this is something that I feel very keenly and it is very much part of my process. I have paid the rent of the coming year, and a potato order has been placed. What I need to do, is to go there and see what I can make a re-start on.

This does feel overwhelming; the plot is 200 square metres and over run with weeds and all sorts. There is disrepair, the poly tunnel is still in pieces.  I am loathe to see the tuts and shakes of the heads that might happen from other plot holders. I’ve never aimed for gold standard, I’ve always aimed for what makes me happy, and that is what I need to remember. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day; the allotment wasn’t developed in a day. It’s going to take more than a day to strip things back, and have a relatively blank canvas to work upon.

Over the last few weeks, I have had chillies on  my mind. More specifically, having compost to germinate seeds in during the Christmas holidays. Christmas isn’t that far away, and sowing chillies in the depths of winter is not as odd as it sounds.

There are no plans to give up the allotment. No plans to walk away. There are plans to reclaim it; to take walk down there with a cup of tea and just take a look. Assess, where I can go from here and how I can return to the passed glories if you like, of the allotment.

2018 promises to be an interesting year on all fronts. This means that I will need the allotment as my space even more. I have certainly missed it over the last year and have felt the impact of not being there.

There has been a physical and mental impact and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There truly is something about having fresh dirt beneath your fingernails. An important aspect of being a trainee counsellor and indeed part of the BACP ethical framework is self care. For years, my self care was the allotment. This has somewhat lapsed, so I am doubly minded to get things going again.

 

There is the allotment, knitting, colouring, preserving and pottering; all of the things that I once used and have lapsed with I would like to resume. There is also writing too. At the moment, I am looking at Petal’s cookbook. Looking at Petal’s cookbook is really important, as it’s all plot orientated and will help get things going again. Nurturing the book and nurturing the plot do feel as though they go hand in hand.  Talking of hands, I get to see which nail varnish is allotment proof.

I do need to re-vamp my seed collection; a major cull and over haul is needed. Some of my seeds have been knocking around since I first started and are no longer viable. Raised beds need looking at, and I want to look at putting raised beds across the whole plot. I know for a fact, that cultivating things there in open ground really doesn’t.

At this stage, this does all seem overwhelming. The arrival of autumn, the dark depths of winter will do that you, will do that to anyone. I will be taking a walk soon, and reclaiming the plot.