Beach Hut Boost!

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Our pale, blue haven “Forget-me-Not” 399 Eastcliff, Walton-on-the-Naze

I am greeting this blog like a long-lost friend at a reunion this evening: I have reason to celebrate, but it also feels a bit odd and like my past has possibly come to bite me on the bum.

It has been a really long time since my last post on Beach Hut Blogger – as many of you know – I began The Happy Hire Company as a result of the musings and deliberations on this blog page, you could say one made way for the other and then the new brain-child took over.  Much like with siblings, The Happy Hire Company grew and stole all of the attention, whilst, like a jealous older-child, this blog sulked in the corner for a while.

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Really not sure about the new addition…

Indeed, The Happy Hire Company has soaked up all of my beach hut thought-time and left nothing over for this little page.

I confess, I also began to shy away from sharing thoughts about life in general as it can feel a bit odd and lead to a stunting of ‘real-life’ conversations.  Nothing throws a spanner in quite like, “yeah I read it in your blog.” Whistles. I did also FEEL like a bit of a spanner at times, things I shared one day would make me cringe the next. We don’t stay the same, we grow and change and written word has an unforgiving permanence. Much like Facebook, once you have the bastard thing, there’s no getting rid of what you’ve put out there, even if you delete it, it comes back and remembers it ALL!

Anyway, the long and the short of it is: blogging’s a bit weird, narcissistic and unnatural at times  – but I hadn’t fully given up on why I first started it…

I wanted to write.  I lost the urge to write on the blog for a catharsis, as I found time to launch myself into writing fiction, for real, and privately.  There is a deliciousness to writing without anyone to read it, judge or criticise or simply ‘not get it.’ I can be free and explorative and enjoy (slightly wanky statement alert) the art of it all. The purpose, eventually, when I am bold enough, will be to send it to a proper literary agent and publisher-type person. Right now, I am back to waffling on this blog – but for very good reason!

WE made the shortlist for the Top 10 beach huts of the year 2017! Our little Forget-Me-Not, that started this, has made the shortlist! It is a national competition by Towergate Insurance in conjunction with The Sunday Times  -and I am really proud to have made the cut as there are so many beautiful beach huts around, with owners that have fantastic stories.

The stories are the first thing I skip to, whilst you might think it’s the bunting and bric-brac that catches my attention, it’s the people in the huts that fascinate me.

People buy beach huts for lots of reasons.  Rest assured these are not for the faint- hearted.  They are expensive and make no logical sense at all!  They are essentially over-priced sheds located in the place most likely on the globe to erode a shed.  They need maintenance EVERY year almost, and are effectively grown-up Wendy Houses!  So, for someone to part with hard-earned cash for this slightly-bonkers purchase there has to be a special reason. Plus, some have been in families for generations and this tells a story in itself.

Our story is documented in this blog in one of my early posts.  It is also briefly outlined in the competiton link.

Let me tell you some of the story that hasn’t been told.

Nobody can prepare you for a baby, and definitely not two, now, we had a beautiful first year with my gorgeous Grace…

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Feeling very fortunate…

– but I did not expect to be in surgery, twice, with a very small baby.  Grace was born requiring plastic surgery on her hands and feet under general anaesthetic, so they could remodel them to fit her shoes and for her to be able to grab and handle objects as she grew.  Nobody would ever know to look at her beautiful hands and feet now that a small team of plastic surgeons had sculpted those perfect little bones at just a few months old.

Any parent who has left their crying child with an anaesthetist and done that bleakest of walks back to the ward will tell you that it is a devastating feeling that you never truly recover from.  Now, Grace had relatively minor surgery compared with the life-saving surgeries performed on a daily basis by our completely amazing NHS and believe me when I say I am grateful daily – indeed many people around us don’t even know she had surgery as I have never desired to make more of it than it was.  But.  When I look back on those first blog posts and think of the time we bought that beach hut, after her first year with us, I can see a correlation that I can only see now that I am having this reunion and like a picture on a jigsaw puzzle, it can only be viewed once the pieces start to fit together and it is formed.

 

I was recovering from a deep wound of my baby being handled and injected and medicated and left by me, albeit I did it for her own good, and we have had a very easy time compared to many, but I know why I bought that hut, why,  as it says in that blurb for the competition that I may have, in part, ‘struggled to settle into family life.’  I know why it took me a really long time to settle my soul and feel an inner peace I had previously known.  I needed a beach hut to escape to because it was a place that I could gather myself and reflect and be as near to the sea as I could possibly get.  The healing, restorative, cleansing sea.  I wrote of waves crashing and peace dripping in my first blog posts.  I now look back and can see what I was seeking and can gladly can say I found it.  But not at a beach hut.  The beach hut helped. It was a boost. Truly though, nothing actually heals pain externally of ourselves. No car, house, holiday, book or guru would work.  I had and still do try and find answers outside of myself and this doesn’t work.  It may temporarily  – but it doesn’t really.  The answer, as the oh-so-wise ‘Moana of Disney’ says, is inside me – and I realised that ‘still, small voice’ was just a bit louder by the sea that’s all.

Now,  I know, I can access that still, small voice anywhere I want and I can access peace in any circumstances… N.B except the school-run and when the kids argue, as they are the last bastions of hell as all mothers know.

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No problem with these jazz hands – and feet!

As for the reunion.  Well, it’s felt quite nice.  Remembering the boost the beach hut gave us, how far we’ve come as a little family -and for me as an individual -how one little, blue beach hut and a tentative blog, gave rise to a new career- of sorts – and an income- of sorts -but most importantly finding what makes my heart actually sing, which is what I set out to do and have found, though this will most likely come back and bite me on the bum at the next reunion.

We really shouldn’t leave it so long!!

 

You can vote for our beach hut to win the competition and – if I do -I get to meet that smooth operator, Phil Spencer, from Location, Location,Location, so please nominate us by clicking this link below and voting for ‘Forget-me-Not’ beach hut Eastcliff Walton-on-the-Naze…

https://www.towergateinsurance.co.uk/home-and-property-insurance/beach-hut-of-the-year 

 

 

 

Inspiration

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The beauty hurts my eyes.

‘Inspiration’ is the word of the day.  Where do we get it? Why do we get it? What is it exactly?  How do I get more of it!? I got back to blogging this weekend, mainly because I saw these -above…

Beach huts in Bournemouth – recently decorated in Cath Kidston’s beautiful prints.  I’m in love. Yes, it is an advertising stunt, yes, it is to shamelessly promote the brand, but, it just cannot be denied- they are so, so bleedin’ pretty, look at those perky rows of eye-catching colours and prints!!

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The cloud print is AMAZING for a hut.

Seriously, I held my breath when I saw them. Why though? I ask myself.  I am a rational person (sort of) stirred by real-world events and important issues, nevertheless, a tiny wee nearly came out when I saw these huts- and a squeal formed at the back of my throat somewhere low and primal-as primal as anyone can be about polka-dots and florals anyway.

Excitement (of the wee inducing, squealing kind) is born of love and passion for things.  I love beach huts (as is clear) but they are inspirational in a way I can’t fully explain-unhelpful- from she who writes said blog.  Others things inspire in this (not fully explainable) way: old-fashioned/timeless photographs; new wool; a brand new book; a very old book; all things VWCampervan; vintage style (in the best sense of the word- not keen on the slightly depressing items that just smell a bit).

I am in good company.  We all get the nudge, heart-flutter, lift, sigh, intake of breath, urge to run out and create/do something in some form or another.  It’s a great place to be, on the verge of producing something, having just been inspired.  It’s a legal-high and I believe it’s totally a spiritual thing .  I used to ignore the things that made me feel this way, now I stop and give them more credit than simply being preferences.

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Oh you blue, beauty you. Sigh.

… I don’t know about you but I also get really inspired by ‘before and afters’.  Don’t you love it when you see an image on those DIY adverts of a dingy room -and then after – a light, fresh, airy oasis?! I love the improvement, the freshness of it all. Ever since I can remember I have been obsessed with transformations like this. To witness someone become the best they can be, watch an underdog achieve and have their turn to shine, these are powerful.

The downside is, I am, therefore, very frustrated by slow progress, I like transformations to be quick, complete and dramatic! My hut looks like this inside right now…

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A shed by the sea.

I am having to strongly resist getting discouraged. It is inevitable that things take time.  I want to get to so many things and so many days just don’t contain the hours, or at least the non-comatosed ones.  I also haven’t been myself lately either and I find my mood dictates how creative I can be.  I didn’t know this until I started this blog.  I just couldn’t find the ideas, inspiration or motivation.  The verve needed to write, even a humble blog post, is something that has to just be there.  I needed to find my inspiration and daily life was getting in the way, by that, I mean the grind of life, the dull things, like paying bills.

Nothing kills inspiration like the words, ‘direct-debit’.

Then there’s the more corrosive stuff like thinking negatively, becoming stuck in a way of thinking. ‘Inspiration’ comes along to invite you out of whatever mud you are stuck in.  It is the creative’s best-friend and it cannot be engineered.

Inspiration works on your soul in the form of a random attack. Suddenly, something makes your heart leap, or fascinates you, or just grabs you by the collar and jerks you towards it.

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‘Almond Blossom’ – Van Gogh

Years ago, I visited the Van Gogh gallery in Amsterdam and understood for the first time what all the fuss was about, his life, his story and his paintings grabbed me.  I was so, so moved, how he had been plagued with mental illness, when this was so misunderstood (still is) and produced paintings that spoke so loudly of beauty.

On the same trip, we toured Italy, and to be honest I almost became de-sensitised to the works of art that surrounded me.  In Italy, you can be standing on an ancient, work of art and be waiting for a bus.  We walked through endless corridors at the Vatican museum and began to switch off.  Then we came to the Sistine Chapel.  We were told that Michelangelo was almost blind while painting the ceiling – caused by spending so much time elevated inches from the dust above him. He was also being forced to work on it. He had run away many times, but having been commissioned to complete the work, he was made to continue. I couldn’t imagine where he found the ability to create something so exquisitely beautiful in those conditions. Perhaps he just poured his torment into the work like Van Gogh and so many others.sistine-chapel_1

It isn’t just visual art, books do this. Most of us can remember a book that grabbed us and left its mark.  For me, it was ‘To kill a Mockingbird’, I was very young and I was left humbled by the courage of Atticus Finch and outraged at the injustices in the world, new to my innocent self. I wasn’t the same after reading it.  There have been many examples since. Harper Lee, however, found it very difficult to write and suffered great personal trials whilst writing and afterwards. Maybe we need some angst –  it is the typical portrayal of the artist isn’t it?

So, it may be that I need to write even when I feel like burying my head.  Crack on, to push through the mood barrier.

It may be necessary then to seek inspiration like a medicine for those times when I don’t feel up to pursuing anything much at all.  A great song, a great book, or in my case today I simply came across these beach huts and it inspired me to get back to the hut and to my writing and to finish what I have started.

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Should they have done away with Dick and Fannie?

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So, I am reading ‘The Magic Faraway Tree’ by Enid Blyton to my little boy- well, the first one in the series- ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and he loves it. It’s great, old-fashioned fun and he’s as hooked as I was when I read it as a child. It has allowed me to happily revisit this childhood favourite, but it’s funny how it changes when I read it through, my now adult, eyes…there is new danger… reading of children who wander around the woods all day long, alone for hours, unaccompanied and taking huge risks, that I cared nothing for as a girl, in fact, the lack of adult supervision was thrilling then and i’m sure it’s part of what my son delights in now.  He’s wiser than I was, he’s dubious about the authenticity of magic: brownies, pixies and fairy-folk are less plausible for him.  I was far more hopeful (gullible).  Then there’s the names…I have to admit i’m torn here.  Do I read him the old ones or the new versions?

In case you’re not aware, Enid Blyton’s texts had characters named Jo, Bessie and Fannie; their cousin Dick comes to stay later. The publishers, in their wisdom, have brought out newer versions.  Joe, Beth, Frannie and Rick.  Yes, I kid you not. Rick.  I felt this was a poor alternative and a bit laughable really, if they were going to change them, they should have just departed fully from the originals- as the rhyming alternative only seems more farcical.

I admit, I was vaguely aware of the double meaning of some of the names as a girl and thought it odd that the author used them, but it certainly didn’t bother me for long, and I became engrossed in the adventures of these children and desperate to know what would happen to them next.  Indeed, the names became meaningless to me.  As Shakespeare so famously questioned, through his heroine, Juliet, ‘what’s in a name?’

I grant you, names, nouns, words, lexis, whatever you want to term all these things we utter-they are ‘signifiers’ of other things- and so are very important. The editors of Enid Blyton’s stories clearly believe that it matters enough to edit them out -but I take issue with some changes. The change from ‘Bessie’ to ‘Beth’ is said to be because they felt ‘Bessie’ too old-fashioned and ‘Dame Slap’ has become ‘Dame Snap’, as corporal punishment has been edited out of the books entirely, in addition, some of the sexism in the original books has been omitted.  Surely this is going a bit far?  I mean they showed little foresight in changing ‘Bessie’ to ‘Beth’ for a start, as ‘Bessie’ and many other ‘old-fashioned’ names have made a fierce comeback recently.  Registers are being loaded up with Arthurs, Alfreds, Betsys and Florences.  I mean, yes, I see that it is harder when said names become aligned with genitalia- and this isn’t desirable for a child’s book on the whole is it? But, i’m fully prepared for the fact that language will change in my lifetime and that even my humble moniker could become synonymous with someones’ nether regions eventually -as regrettable as that may be. I’m fully accepting that people may blush at the thought of an ‘Anita’ and I asked my husband how he’d feel if his name morphed into a rude word, and he wasn’t particularly bothered, saying he knew a Dick at uni and he got on fine.  I didn’t ask anymore.

It is unfortunate when times change and words take on new, unfavourable meanings- but surely we shouldn’t change the names and words of a much-loved author just because they are outdated?  These pieces of work reflect the history and cultural norms of the time in which they were written. They are a snapshot.  Our kids are going to read many texts throughout their school careers written in ‘outdated’ English and- particularly under the present government- many by old, white, british, men before the 20th century and so will undoubtedly be met with various examples of gender discrimination and many words and names that reflect the time in which they were written.  I know as an English teacher this is all part of the learning – to give them this insight into the way the authors wrote and lived ‘then’.  What next?  Are we going to edit Shakespeare’s insults out of all his plays because they offend or distract?  Is Macbeth too Scottish?  Are we going to take the sexism out of the social commentaries of Bronte or Austen?  It would be an editing and censorship nightmare. There are loads of Fannies in Austen.

Language can offend people it’s true- but I struggle with this a bit.  I acknowledge that words can be hurtful, damaging or cruel and I don’t comply with the notion that we’ve become too politically correct, I don’t think we can ever be too politically correct, in the true sense of the term. It is absolutely right that we should be respectful of peoples’ race, religion and gender and mind carefully how we refer to them.  At times though, words are also just that.  They can be made into crosswords, puns and anagrams. They are playful, silly and interesting and don’t need to be taken too seriously.

It’s a difficult thing when we put our adult perceptions on books meant for children, it warps it.  I mean, give kids credit, they may laugh, snigger and guffaw at first, especially on lines like, ‘Dick gets up to mischief’,  but honestly, I remember wading through those wonderful stories oblivious to anything but the wonder of Moonface’s slippery-slip and Silky’s pop biscuits. No double meanings there I might add.  I was truly enchanted by the fairy-folk; lands at the top of the tree; gripped by the danger and desperate for the next chapter.

There’s a film coming out.  Maybe they knew this would not translate as well to the screen and they may well be right, we don’t want to distract from the stories, but I think editing of any author is a contentious issue.  Where do we draw the line?

I’m reading the old editions to my son, mainly because we had those copies in the house and, being five, he is beautifully innocent and has no idea as to the connotations of those names.  I don’t feel an edit is required for us, although this might come back to bite me one day when he exclaims, ‘Dick!’ to the poor teacher seeking a character’s name suggestion from the class and gets a royal telling off or he might be scarred for life by my reading him a story of a very greedy Fannie… but I can’t see it.  Honestly, they are just names, and whilst we wriggle and squirm and become uncomfortable at the sheer mention of them, it was Enid Blyton’s wonderful imagination that was the heart of those stories and it is timeless. I am sure she wouldn’t mind them changing her characters’ names if it meant more children would enjoy her stories but I should also imagine she’d think it was quite silly.

The sexism…well that’s trickier.  I mean, it is grating when Jo is told to do boys’ work in the garden and the girls do some ‘easier’ jobs for their mother, but, once again we are merely reminded of a less enlightened time and surely this is a springboard for discussion with our children?  I’ll balance it out for my kids at some point with some cool, graphic novel about female ninjas i’m sure.  I don’t want to damage young minds or offend, but I think facing these language idiosyncrasies head-on is more favourable to a cover-up job.  I seem to recall that the Nazis heavily edited books that didn’t comply with their philosophies.

So, resolved not to be a language Nazi, and allowing common sense to prevail, I shall wistfully continue reading the beautiful stories of picnics and pixies with my son and enjoy the magic and charm of a bygone era.  Indeed, I must go, Dick just ran into Fannie in the woods. 😉

xxxxxxx xxxxxx xxxxxx

Slave or Master?

The definition of the word, ‘slave’: to be the property of another. Those into a bit of Etymology will be interested to know that this version comes from Medieval Latin: ‘sclavus’ and only later evolved to also mean ‘one who has lost power of resistance to some habit or vice’. We find the latter littered all over the place, as a loose expression for feeling so powerless to something that we become slavish to it, for example, you may hear: i’m a slave to TV; a slave to my iPhone; a slave to my job.

The definition of ‘master’: ‘a man who has people working for him, especially as servants or slaves’ / ‘a person who holds a further degree’.

I would say I have been slavish to a few things throughout my life but can see I have been slavish many times to my romantic ideals. I read Austen at too young an age, I watched musical epics-often, and on my degree, I loved the renaissance poetry and sonnets – and this brings with it an idealistic view of the world that can enslave me a bit- making me resistant to its cruel counterpart… reality.

Romantics do get challenged of course, often. You get tested when you visit a hospital, a grave or see the news and definitely when you have a child. My romanticism about writing has had to be challenged too, until recently…

As I expressed in my last blog, I’ve been a little disappointed about, what I perceived to be, X-Factor style parading of wannabe authors. I mean… an agent? It does sound soulless doesn’t it?!

You see, as a wannabe writer (plus romanticist) it’s obvious I would enjoy the notion of my manuscript being serendipitously happened upon by a chain-smoking publisher, with a spare half-hour on his hands, or fished out of a waste-paper bin by a keen clerk and held aloft with a -“You must read this! Here is the Oscar Wilde of our generation!”

The realist in me knows this is unlikely.

It is not only unlikely, but with an industry full of agents and the rarely used (if at all) slush pile, it is more of an impossibility nowadays. I think that’s why I dislike the agents and ‘Masters in Creative Writing’ routes to a glittering writing career. They render my sensibilities above dead in the water.

It’s the equivalent of hoping to meet your life partner through a magical chain of events that seem against all odds or match.com.

I’m not knocking match.com or any other dating site, I think they are a great idea and if I hadn’t found my husband when I did I certainly would have uploaded a fake photo of myself, but the thing is, when you’re really hung up on the happy accidents, destined meetings and divine signs – you get a bit flat when reality bites.

Then, I had a moment.

I was chewing over this writing lark, still tentatively, when I found myself serendipitously hearing a radio programme about this very thing. My husband had used the car and tuned the radio to 5 Live, a station I have never listened to, mainly because my two year-old refuses all radio noise in the car, in a most dominant fashion. Indeed, the tiny finger waves at me and a small voice threatens in a most unnerving tone, “turn-it-off-mummy”. Thus, I have been driving in relative silence over the last two years. Then yesterday afternoon, I jumped in the car for the dreaded school-run and said husband’s radio station came on, I vaguely noticed and listened half-heartedly to the dulcet tones, expecting my small charge to pipe up and then…we queued in traffic and I grew interested, very interested.

They were interviewing Emma Healey, a new writer, who had her first novel, ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ published, not just published, but they had fought over her manuscript. She had caused a publishing war. The broadcasters asked her various questions about the storyline, all of which were fascinating, her topic matter being dementia, but then, quite amazingly to me, they discussed the benefits of having an agent and whether a Masters in Creative Writing was necessary to her story or not. Now it’s not lost on me that this isn’t that groundbreaking, as radio journalism goes, but don’t forget I have a little dictator in the back and I was expecting a rude interruption any moment and had not tuned in deliberately on this particular day. Then I noticed my little one was sound asleep and it felt very…meant for me.

I listened to the rest in the car park and hung on every word, it finished just as I was due to get out of the car. Emma Healey told how a publisher had filled rooms with forget-me-nots and tinned peaches to woo her (images from her novel); the agent she had acquired on her M.A had been a great guide and a definite asset; the Masters was ‘hugely’ enjoyable- she COULDN’T have written the novel without it. I was enthralled. It was a very romantic story but it was very real -it was a perfect combination.

The thoughts whirred, I could do a Masters in Creative Writing, ooh I would like an agent and maybe one day I would feel the way Emma Healey felt about her first novel, anything but disappointed.

You can be a romantic and still have a head for practicalities, but up to now I  just didn’t apply this to writing-perhaps I didn’t want to, ‘when the student is ready the teacher appears’ my mum often says.  I looked up the origin of this quote and it is also quoted as: ‘when the seeker is ready the master appears’.  I had been playing around with the idea of the words master and slave for this post.  I think the universe is trying to tell me something.

So, perhaps it is possible to be slavish to romantic ideals and yet have a pragmatic approach at the same time – maybe I have been missing it – maybe I could be both a slave to romance and a master of words and write my masterpiece at the end of it! 🙂

xxx

If you’re interested in hearing the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey I ‘tried’ to link it below:

‘Radio 5 live’: to hear the podcast of the interview with Emma Healey… type this in to your search bar and hopefully you should see it listed for the next 30 days…
http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/extraedition

xxx

Exposed.

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I’m sure you can all think of an area of your life that you prefer to keep as hallowed, sacred ground.  You don’t want others trampling about and nosing through it, offering advice and worse still- judgement.  I’m sure some of these areas are private, guarded and sacrosanct to you.

I’m quite open about most things but there’s one area that I guard quite closely.  I have a deep longing to be a professional writer- even saying that makes me cringe- I have said too much already… But, it has to be said-because this year I am determined to step out there and write, out there in the sunshine! Without wanimageting to sound grandiose, i’ve lurked in the shadows long enough.  I’ve peeped at others’ blogs; poured over another’s short stories and rampaged through someone else’s novel. I now feel -in the words of the great Cindy Lauper (if they were her words!?)- that it’s time to show my true colours.

I’m going to go a step further… I am an English teacher.  Everyone loves to correct a teacher.  I mean can you think of anything more satisfying than knowing better than a teacher at school?  Well some people carry this on into adulthood.

“Spell supercalifradgilisticexpialidosious then” a grocer once ordered in a deep, mocking tone over my half-pound of cherries. Ha, in your face – just did ( alright I googled it)  Or, “bet you don’t teach grammar like they did when I was a kid”, a scoffing, middle-aged, man accused, over his pint of Hobgoblin at the pub I worked in to fund my social life- I mean-studies.

'How does one correct this?' 'Get yourself a girlfriend.'

So, you see, it isn’t easy to just pop a piece in the post to a publisher (especially without an agent-yawn) or post it on amazon for the kindle world to ignore.  I am truly setting myself up with this.  Indeed, every other category on this blog will feel like a breezy day in Brighton compared to logging on and uploading my own pieces of (sob) soul.

O.k I mock a little. I’m using humour to defend myself.  See its started, i’m defensive. Wait ’til the comments section starts pinging up on that stats page thingy and someone called Bill from: ‘blogginginmybath’, says, ‘that’s a bit shit love’.

Well Bill, (trying not to imagine him in the bath) , thank you for taking the time to comment but you see I can’t worry about you, or the grocer, or the punter at the pub, or the publishers or the (catching yawn) ruddy agents, because Bill…I have to write. If I don’t have a go at writing to an actual audience then how will I ever feel I lived this life to its fullest, richest and bravest potential – and Bill I don’t give one if that isn’t grammatically correct.  I hated David ‘sodding’ Crystal’s book anyway.

Now, one could argue that you do not need an audience to write, and this is true of course, but to share what you do is a natural progression of the creative.  It isn’t fame that most artists and writers seek- it is acceptance.  Though for some it is even simpler.

In the woimagerds of Sylvia Plath – “I write because there is a voice within me that will not be still.” You see, writing is cathartic.  It is an outlet for those dark thoughts and whimsical ideas we all nurse.

I already feel stronger.  One page of a blog and I am a little braver than when I started.  So, that, my friends is it.  From now on I am an open book, and that’s a metaphor Bill – way more interesting than grammar – so up your over-bathed bottom.

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