Inspiring Rooms, A Writers’ Circle, and the Open University Again

Hi people! Well, after my good intentions to get back to blogging after my holiday, I discovered that it’s very hard to concentrate when your house is a building site. But – the Great Kitchen Renovation is done! Complete! Finito! Thank f*** for that. (Pardon my French.) It looks fantastic, and together it and I have already produced a lavish Scottish-themed dinner for me, hubby, and two German friends who were visiting last week. You should see how much wine food I can fit in my new fridge!

Pic courtesy of

Pic courtesy of

The ground floor of the house is now resplendent in a colour scheme of reds and creams, although Frodo Cat is trying to add more cream by spreading his fur far and wide. Now that downstairs is back to normal, I have finally been able to tidy the office (which has had half the downstairs furniture in it up until now). This is in readiness for much writing, especially as I have taken on two new ‘things’, as follows:

A few weeks ago I attended my first meeting of the Falkirk Writers’ Circle. I enjoyed it very much and have been going weekly ever since. I received a lovely welcome in week 1, and said so at the end of the meeting. When I turned up for week 2, several members expressed delight, as apparently people often turn up for the first time, enthuse about how much they’ve enjoyed themselves, and then never return. I guess no-one wants to say, ‘Oh dear, I don’t think this is for me after all’, or whatever. Maybe it’s the prospect of reading their own work aloud? Who knows. Anyway, I loved it and I loved week 2, which was indeed a ‘Read Your Own Work’ week. Such a great variety of pieces! Poetry: rhyming, not rhyming, and written in Scots. Chapters of novels. Memoirs. Flash fiction. Short stories. I think I’m going to be in good company, and encouraged to write more and improve my writing, which is great. I’ve already been inspired by two guests, Janet Paisley and Alan Bissett, who spoke about poetry and prose respectively, and gave us writing exercises to do. The Circle has a packed programme of events, so whatever you write there’s something to interest you.

Pic courtesy of

Pic courtesy of

Aaand…I decided a few months ago to bite the bullet and go for my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing with the Open University. Some of you may remember I did their Level 2 Creative Writing course last year, and that will count towards the degree. I have to fill in the gap, as it were, of Level 1 courses this year and next. So this week I start a course on The Arts Past and Present, which has literature, but also painting, sculpture, film…I think it will be interesting, and hopefully my studies last year will stand me in good stead, as I already know how the OU website works, how to submit work, and how to take part in online tutorials and chats. Now that my preferred writing and study space is sorted, I’m raring to go!

Of course, there is a tiny spanner in the works: the OU tutorials are on the same evening as the Writers’ Circle! Aargh! They’re not every week though, so I’ll attend the first one, introduce myself, meet my tutor…and then see how many I actually go to. If the Writers’ Circle is doing something particularly good that night, I think they’ll win. ;)

This might be me soon...

This might be me soon…

Phew! That’s all my news, I think. Feel free to bombard me with yours in the comments. I’m bound to have missed some things over the last few weeks.

(Oh, and don’t think you’ve escaped my Istanbul photos. They, and a blog post, will be on their way soon… :D )

9/11, and my visit to the World Trade Center Memorial

This post was originally published on 11th September 2013, after I had visited New York, and the Memorial, for the first time.
For those who’ve joined me since then, here it is again, in remembrance of those who died.


Today arrived, and a post that I’d been thinking about for a while more or less demanded to be written.

On my recent visit to New York, hubby and I went to the World Trade Center Memorial. I have a confession to make here. It wasn’t on my ‘to-do’ list. I don’t mean that I DIDN’T want to visit; it was just that hubby was far more keen than I was. So off we went.

I’m glad we did. It was one of the most moving places I’ve ever been to. It was also a strange experience. Let me try to explain why.

The Memorial is right in the midst of what is still a construction site. Cranes rise all around, the surrounding streets are dusty, there are hoardings everyhere. It’s a veritable maze to get to the entrance. Mad New York traffic passes by on all sides. But…once you are in there, it seems silent. Visitors are speaking quietly. The waterfalls that have been created in the footprints of the old towers roar a little, but not enough to drown out NYC, surely? And yet – it is wonderfully peaceful. No outside noise seems to get in.

In the footprint of each tower sits a waterfall and reflecting pool. The pools are each nearly an acre in size, and the waterfalls that cascade into them are the largest manmade ones in North America. We walked right round both pools, where the names of everyone who died in the 2001 and 1993 attacks are carved into bronze panels. Memorial Plaza itself is covered with beautiful swamp white oak trees. And rising majestically beside all this: the new towers. One World Trade Center, once it’s 408-foot-tall spire is complete, will be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere.

(If you want to know more about the Memorial, click here).

I said moving, yet strange. I couldn’t imagine, as I stood there, what it must have been like that day, or afterwards. I didn’t know anyone who died in the attacks, or in London in 2005, or Boston this year. This is not a comment piece on the state of the world, the rights and wrongs of the West’s relationship with the Middle East, or anything like that. I just wanted to describe my visit, and how it made me feel.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a lump in my throat, for the huge loss of life. I also felt proud to belong to a people who could pull together in the aftermath: to rescue people, rebuild lives, and build something new – in every sense. Why is it that humankind can do such terrible things, and yet have the courage and compassion people showed that day, and every day? I guess if someone had the answer to that, these things would no longer happen.

As I craned my neck to gaze up at the new towers, they seemed like a defiant phoenix rising from the ashes. You achieved nothing, they seemed to say. Except for stupid, senseless loss of life. We are still here. We remember our dead. We build something more beautiful where destruction was.

The 9/11 Memorial is one of the most inspiring places I’ve been to.

This post is dedicated to all those who have lost their lives in terror attacks around the world.


The Sirens Call – Issue #22 – Supernatural Horror

I’m a busy bee just now! I’m so pleased to feature in the fantastic FREE ezine The Sirens Call this month. Check out my twisted tale on page 4, along with lots of other great horror stories, features and artwork.

(For my short story, I had another little play with a local legend, but in a more sinister and gruesome way…)

The Witches Craig, pic by Karen Soutar

No Extra Words Podcast Features My Story ‘The House’

I was delighted to be asked by Kris of ‘No Extra Words’ if I would allow my story ‘The House’ to feature on this flash fiction podcast. Of course I would! Check it out here.

Thanks you, Kris, for your lovely words about my story and my writing. In answer to your question: yes, you totally did the story justice! I loved hearing you read it. Even my hubby stopped decorating and singing along to rock music to come and have a listen. ;)

If you would like to read the original for yourself, click here.

Pic courtesy of

Pic courtesy of

Turkish Delight

Hello folks! I’m back (somewhat reluctantly) from my holiday in Turkey. I have returned with:

A tan

3 pairs of new shoes

Mosquito bites

Lots of photos (collective groan)

Although it was mainly a lazy holiday, we ventured out on a Land Rover trip through the Taurus mountains, a speedboat trip round Fethiye bay, and – we got to Istanbul! Yay! I will do a separate post on the latter with more photos (extra loud collective groan). We also partied quite a bit (I blame making friends with younger couples while we were there), and even found a drag show to rival Blackpool’s Funny Girls.

Our resort was the lovely Green Forest Hotel in Hisaronu. Not too big, although big enough to have an atmosphere in the evening, and NO KIDS! Sorry mums-and-dads-who-are-my-friends, but once your own screaming weans have flown the nest you can’t be bothered with anyone else’s. Yes, it was an adults only resort and it was GREAT!

Hotel Green Forest with the Father Mountain in the background

Hotel Green Forest with the Father Mountain in the background

On our Land Rover trip, we explored the nearby mountain range and had lunch at a fish farm. We also had massive water fights with the other 4x4s, the village kids and anyone else who happened to be passing. Good way to keep cool in the heat. On the cultural side, we saw the ancient Lycian tombs carved into the mountains at Tlos.

Our speedboat trip was amazing – never been on a boat like it. They were originally made for marine commandos and rescue teams. Damn thing could turn on a hair – as our mad captain and his nephew demonstrated! After whizzing around Fethiye bay, we stopped for a refreshing swim. If anyone’s going to the Fethiye area, I can heartily recommend this trip!

True to our theatrical selves, hubby and I got fabulous and went to see a drag show – well, 2 drag shows actually. The cast of Talk Of The Town in Hisaronu have 2 different shows, so we had to see them both! A nice touch was that the ‘girls’ transformed themselves back to the boys at the end of the show. They were gorgeous either way!

Talk Of The Town also had some stupendous cocktails. ;)

Well, that’s an overview of my holiday. There was a lot of lying about on sun loungers too, of course. So we’re back refreshed and ready for the next challenge: the new kitchen goes in next week. Aarrgh! :D

Off In Search Of The Sun

Hisaronu bay, courtesy of

Hisaronu bay, courtesy of

Most Brits, or certainly Scots, will agree we’ve had a pants summer so far. To remedy this, and to get away from the building site that is our house for a while, long-suffering hubby and I are off in search of some sunshine.

In a week’s time we’re going to Turkey, to Hisaronu. We have a mountain view resort, pools to lounge by and cool off in, lots of beautiful sights to visit, and SUN! Sooo looking forward to it. I can catch up on my to-read list, as well. Also looking forward to having a Turkish bath again. We did this last time we visited Turkey and it’s refreshing, relaxing and leaves you all smooth and silky.

In spite of the chaos round here, we’re quite well-prepared. Just need to get currency, sort out clothes and do the packing. Oh, and make sure the house is stocked with cat food, so our kindly neighbour who feeds the little scamps while we’re away isn’t left short.

Therefore, I am signing off the blogsphere for a while. Brace yourselves for holiday snaps when I return. Also, lots of moaning about the final phase of our renovation project. Have fun while I’m gone – but no having wild parties in my empty house, now! :D

Normal Service Will Resume Shortly (Or Maybe Not…)

Writing this blog amid total chaos. In order to have a moan about the total chaos. Readers: do NOT go about organising your life like we do. By we, I mean me and long-suffering hubby, as he’s partly responsible for the chaos. Here’s what’s happening in this madhouse at the moment:

The whole downstairs has no floor. Well, of course it has a floor of sorts – we’re not levitating everywhere (how cool would that be?), or balancing on beams. We are living with chipboard flooring while we wait for a new laminate floor to be laid. The original (and admittedly crappy) flooring had to come up, along with the skirting boards, so that hubby could hide all our sound system cables and whatnot under the floor or in the walls. This is all so that it will look fabulously tidy once the whole downstairs-rejuvenation-project is completed. Meanwhile, we are walking on squeaky rough chipboard. Ugh.

Who else calls this a 'Dulux Dog'? ;)

Who else calls this a ‘Dulux Dog’? ;)

This project has also, understandably, resulted in some plastering. So there is plaster dust everywhere. No matter how long you leave it or how often you clean, that s**t just re-settles. Grr.

In the middle of this, we ordered new bedroom furniture. Then it seemed a shame to put that in our old tired bedroom, so we redecorated that as well! Aarrgh! At least that job is done, and the new bedroom looks fab. I just need to put pictures up.

Bedroom looking all pretty, unlike downstairs

Bedroom looking all pretty, unlike downstairs

In two weeks time, we go on holiday. Right in the middle of the project. Great planning! However, I do think the break will do us good. Due to the situation in Tunisia, our original destination, we had to change our holiday plans. Cue much stressing while we found a resort that had space within our time frame (hubby couldn’t change the time he had off work), and for roughly the same price.

Frodo Cat decided to become ill in the midst of all this. He had an infection, which was dealt with by antibiotics, but he disappeared for a whole day before I could get him to the vet. He never goes far or for long, so I was freaking out thinking that something had happened to him. I am pleased to report that after his course of antibiotics, he is back to his normal self. He didn’t eat for several days. Unheard of! ;)

Frodo Cat making the most of being sick and refusing to let Sam have the top bunk

Frodo Cat making the most of being sick and refusing to let Sam have the top bunk

And to cap it all, hubby’s car was hit by another on the way home from work a week ago. Everyone was all right, just a bit shaken. Apparently the other driver ‘didn’t see him’. Do not get me started. The poor car was taken away for repair yesterday, and should be back within the week. So hubby is having to get the bus to work, much to his great disgruntlement.

I know, I know…these are first world problems. We are lucky to have a house, which we can afford to redecorate, a car, and a holiday. And a cat. Actually, four cats. I’m just having a vent, mainly because in the midst of all this I’m struggling to get any writing done. Never mind. Roll on September and the completion of the work, where everything will look fabulous and life will be back to normal. Well. what passes for normal round here… :D