Frustration!

Ah, the Internet. Computers. Connectivity and rapid fire updates. All great…all not available in my little universe recently. Yahoo, WTF is up with your connectivity? My mail service is shocking – to the point where I am abandoning ship and embracing Gmail. Then there are the dear folks at Apple….lets not get into that, suffice it to say that my MacBook (considered obsolete by the brains that be) is chugging along apace again, which makes me happy.

Nemi aptly demonstrating my wrath at technology!

Nemi aptly demonstrating my wrath at technology!

So! Call this a general purpose post, it certainly will meander. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, mostly rather enjoyable. I’ve reinstated my writing fingers, albeit with pen and ink – keyboards are so passe! Seriously, I’ve been museum mooching, workshop attending, tea slurping, corner skulking, Great War imagining (Zeppelins, oh my!), story success celebrating…and so forth. My Aunty gave me this picture of my Great Grandma, Jane Anne (and my namesake), working as a munitionette during the first world war.

My Great Grandmother, Jane Anne

My Great Grandmother, Jane Anne (bottom, middle)

There’s been some good flash fiction come from these various sessions that have now all been written up and cast into the ethernet (from my new email address!), from which they may become part of a short fiction booklet for my local museum network. I spent time at Segedunum Roman Fort (get the bloody heating on!), Newcastle Discovery Museum (where I randomly met a lovely nun from Whitby), and my favourite, Newcastle University’s Hatton Gallery for the Screaming Steel exhibition. There I had a religious moment in front of Wilfred Owen’s handwritten draft of Anthem for Doomed Youth, with annotations by Siegfried Sassoon. I am not ashamed to say this exhibition – focusing on shell shock and the horrors of war for both sides of the conflict – made me very emotional, and I had to take a seat by the window to just reflect on exactly what it was I was observing.

Owen's Anthem for Doomed Youth in draft, annotations by Sassoon

Owen’s Anthem for Doomed Youth in draft, annotations by Sassoon

This was one of the most memorable war poems we were taught at school, and has stayed with me over the years. ‘What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?’ still haunts me. I’m back to visit it again next month on another writing session, using the material at the exhibition as prompts. I may need cake afterwards!

Finally, the wonderful memorial Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red at the Tower of London came to an end recently, and I am please to know that my memorial poppy is being packed and despatched as I type. For me, it’s a memorial to the great uncle lost aged 17 in the war. My short story Private 48169 has been shortlisted for a prize in Story Tyne next week, and was written in memory of Private Michael Maughan Renwick who was lost on the 11th April 1918. I feel blessed to be able to remember his name, and tell his story.

A happier post next time, I promise. There’s been a great big outpouring of nostalgia amongst me and mine of Facebook and some of the photos of our youth are frankly quite staggering, so prepare for the nostalgia blast!

Red & Black Day 4: Habitat Interlude

Wow! Day 4 already. This time last week I didn’t even know I would be taking part in Victorian Kitty’s Red & Black week – and it’s been a blast.

My allergies are much better today, though I had an unfortunate skin incident after that last post – the moisturiser I’ve used for years turned my face into one angry boiled freckle.  It’s calming down now, but on balance I’ve decided to make this a post that reflects my habitat (particularly my new working environment) as there was a surprising amount of red & black in the mix when I opened my eyes.

Firstly, my desk. A gift from Him Underfoot, it’s a practical thing which I also find beautiful, though I admit I am hiding it’s beauty under a bushel (well, check cloth!) because I am so paranoid of damaging the surface.

Shirkers paradise

Shirkers paradise

Yup, that is a Tardis next to my printer! The chair was a back lane find many years ago, and reclines, making it the most wonderful reading spot.  That is not necessarily conducive to my writing!

Inspiration Corner

Inspiration Corner

I keep several books on my desk to use as writing prompts if I get a little stuck. This Complete Tales of Edgar Allan Poe is a beautiful book which I bought alongside The Night Circus when I won £100 of book tokens with a short story. I don’t usually buy either new or hard back books as they are expensive, so these were an absolute treat. The Night Circus is also the best debut novel I have ever read, a beautifully woven magical realism homage to the circus. Everything within the circus is in shades of monochrome, except for the vibrant red of one girl’s hair. The design of the book follows this pattern and it is one of those books that is just a joy to hold. Lurking at the top is my H.P. Lovecraft collection , a gift from Him Underfoot.  The Poe & the Lovecraft are my go-to inspiration – I often read a short story in them, pick out the themes, and then rework them in my own way to get me writing. It’s produced some interesting results.

I also have an love of beautiful notebooks as I often write long hand – particularly for first draft short stories or to flesh characters out. These 2 are Moleskines, and honestly, I could bankrupt myself buying these objects of desire.  One is the Targaryen notebooks, taken from their Game of Thrones series and this one travels about with me and has visited most coffee shops in Newcastle! The second is a newbie, destined for my Scotland retreat next month and is taken from the Hobbit.  Inside there are various beautifully scripted passages from the book.

Here be Dragons!

Here be Dragons!

I would be lost without endless cups of Earl Grey tea, and for that pleasure I have this cute little teapot my mum bought me, and my Penguin Classic mug to keep me company.

Earl Grey: sustaining bad prose daily

Earl Grey: sustaining bad prose daily

And let’s be honest – my study is never normally this tidy!  Swivel the camera round and it turns into a student bedsit, complete with Him Underfoot’s cyber wig which for some inexplicable reason now lives on my shelves:

Amazed the floor hasn't caved in...

Amazed the floor hasn’t caved in…

Finally, when I returned from walking Miss Sally today I noticed the first of my oriental poppies has flowered.  Whilst everyone else’s gardens have the orange variety, mine are a beautiful blood red and a joy to behold:

Poppy Beautiful

Poppy Beautiful

See you tomorrow, for an outfit post, yay!