time flies when you're being a mum

21 Oct, 2020

3 years ago today I woke with the most brutal hangover. I had had SO much fun the night before with some lovely friends (@debs @Laura @jo) but in my wisdom had drunk a whole bottle of tequila. To myself. It was my drink of the moment because it was “low calorie”…not at THAT quantity!

Sober

I had no idea when I woke up that I was about to embark on a t-total lifestyle. I was sick of feeling like shit, having THAT conversation in my head about when to drink, how much, who with, etc. So I decided I’d give it a whirl.

I’d read an article called Are You Afraid to Quit Drinking and it had been percolating around my brain. I desperately didn’t want to drink and yet stopping felt like the hardest thing in the world… 
My friends would reject me, I’d be boring and never go out…what do people who don’t drink DO anyway?

But I had to try. Over the course of the week I read This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, I slept a lot and the song “I feel free” went around my head as I slowly started to see the light. I AM free.

I missed my first 2 soberversaries, busy being preggers or looking after a small child, so this is the first year I’ve acknowledged it.

It’s not all been a walk in the park – it took a good 18 months to not feel self-conscious. And new scenarios (being single for example) often make me question the choice but generally I don’t think about booze. 

I do things like go to bed on time, and get up early so I can write. I have written a WHOLE kids book (40k words). And kids I don’t know have actually read it and told me THEY LIKE IT!!!!! I would never have done that if I was still drinking. I’m also really into yoga and connect with people properly (rather than assessing their party-going potential and then ditching if I don’t think it’s good enough…)

So this year I wanted to give myself a wee high five because it has been the hardest and best thing I have ever done for myself.

Lots of you have messaged me about drinking in the past, so I want you to know that I’m here if you want to talk. Whether you stop or not, I’m happy to talk about it!

Cheers!! (mine’s a fizzy water, thanks!)

3 years sober

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Weird links

08 Jan, 2020

After I wrote the start of Frog Boy (a girl finds some frogspawn and one turns into a boy and whisks her out of the bathroom window on a magical carpet of tiny frogs – you can read about the start and ideas here), nothing happened for a while… I had no more ideas and I didn’t know what happened next. Until I ran into friends, Richard and Yvonne, at our local village pub and we got talking about Bobby Shafto.

Bobby Shaftoe - staff notation

They told me all about their recent visit Shafto Crags, which is just up the road from us, and their unsuccessful hunt to find the cave. Their friend had drawn what looked like a pirates map, to show them where Shafto cave was but they couldn’t find it.

I had heard of Bobby Shafto because he’s featured in a popular nursery rhyme in the North East but I had no idea he was from around here. Nor what the story behind the song was, which they also enlightened me on (it was a very useful conversation!). This is the nursery rhyme…

“Bobby Shafto went to sea,

Silver Buckles on his knee

He’ll come back and marry me

Bonny Bobby Shafto.

 

“Bobby Shafto’s bright and fair

Combing down his yellow hair

He’s my love forever-more

Bonny Bobby Shafto.”

The legend behind the song was that it was about a woman called, Bridgette Belasyse, heiress of Brancepeth Castle in Durham. However, Bobby didn’t come back and marry her. He married someone called Anne Duncombe and Bridgette died of a broken heart.

During the conversation I realised that was where Frog Boy was going with the girl – to sea, and that the whole thing was wrapped in telling this story.

Shafto by Sir Joshua Reynolds

I’ve trawled the internet since to try and work out who Bobby Shafto was, when he was alive and what the story really is but it’s hard to actually pinpoint which Bobby Shafto the song is referring to (although this is probably closest courtesy of Mike Rendell) . Bobby was a given family name (along with John), so both his grandfather, his cousin, his son and his grandson are all Bobbies! And they all seem to be MPs who used the song for their campaigns.

There’s also links to Ireland.

Some people don’t think the Bobby from the song was from around here but there are definitely links to Bavington Hall, which again is not far from where I live (although not actually next to Shafto Crags), which was taken by the crown during the Jacobite raising of 1715 (that’s Bonnie Prince Charlie stuff). The Shafto’s were given it back not long after (by the person who bought it from the crown) and the family had it until the 1990’s when they finally sold it! I want to go and stay in the holiday cottages there.

Anyway, regardless of the actual story, and who Bobby was, I’ve made an executive decision about when MY Bobby was alive (1730-1797) and using artistic licence to make up my own story, inspired by all this… so things like the family home is in a different location and I’ve purposefully not been to Shafto Crags yet (it might ruin/alter my imagined crags).

If the tadpoles were the seed ideas for my Frog Boy story, Bobby Shafto and Shafto Crags and cave are some sort of massive egg that’s hatched and turned the story into quite a different beast altogether! I’m really enjoying it.

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Weirdly, I have since discovered that the guy who built our house, William Dixon, was one of the first people to document the Bobby Shafto tune in the 1700s for the Northumbrian pipes. And, my Christmas Pudding tea cosy (recently put away until next year), is from a market held every year at Brancepeth Castle. It’s kismet.

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Seeds of a story

06 Jan, 2020

I was looking through an old note book the other day, while moving some books, and found a series of 3 sketches from a few years ago when I wanted to learn to draw. They were a tadpole, a tadpole with back legs and a froglet. I had copied them out of a ‘how to draw’ book so they’re nothing amazing but at the time, I really liked them and that was the catalyst for starting Frog Boy. It was just a few ideas seeds to begin with but after I listened to The Secret, I started to believe I could write a story and so it turned into a bigger seed which I finally planted.

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I had forgotten all about that until I found the little drawings. I thought I had started FB because I had found some frogspawn with Reuben and my mum and we brought a little home to watch them hatch (then took them back to where we found them). That was definitely part of it; when I thought ‘wouldn’t it be funny if a tadpole turned into a boy?’.

It wasn’t the very start but it was when I finally put pen to paper.

So, I wrote about a girl who lived in a house, a lot like ours, and went down to some crags, a lot like the ones near us, and brought back some frogspawn to watch hatch.

One of them turns into a frog boy.

It was sweet and innocent even though he does whisk her out of the window on a magic carpet of tiny frogs.

Apart from that particular chapter where the tadpole turns into a boy, most of the story has morphed into something else entirely and is focused around the Bobby Shafto nursery rhyme.

I’ve also noticed that ideas are much easier to come by than I first thought was possibly. I pick up on little ideas all the time now.

I used to think writing a story and coming up with ideas would be really hard. And it is because even with ideas you still have to sit and do the work.

But the ideas themselves seem to be all around.

I’ve come up with at least 2 more book ideas from just chatting with people.

I can’t have had my ideas receptor up before now!

 

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04 Jan, 2020

Over the last 3 evenings we’ve been watching the last 3 Harry Potter movies. Mike and Reuben had not seen them (or read the books), so we’ve really been enjoying doing that as a family. Bloody love HP – I read all the books when I was in my early 20s and had caught up by the publication of the Deathly Hallows. Loved the stories and it’s all hugely inspiring. The only trouble for me is that I’ve got a bit of comparisonitus!

Little digs keep popping into my head like:

‘My book will never be as good as HP.’

‘People are going to laugh at me.’

‘This is all pointless.’

Etc. you get the gist. Sometimes it’s not even words it’s more a feeling, a feeling of the pointlessness of it all. Why even try?! Steven Pressfield talks about this in his books and calls it Resistance (with a capital R)*.

Thankfully, I’ve done enough on my book now to not give up, however painful it feels at times and however much it feels like I’m trying to get blood out of a stone. I have to show the feelings and mean words who’s boss and keep ploughing on regardless.

  1. I think it’s perfectly acceptable to know and accept my book will not be as good as the most successful children’s books ever written, but that doesn’t mean it will be bad. Comparison is bad but a little competitive spirit is good – it keeps you striving to do the best you can.
  2. People may well laugh at me. They might even be doing so now. It doesn’t matter. I’m having a go and putting myself out there. And that is all you can ask of yourself.
  3. And life is as pointless or point-ful (not a word but you know what I mean!) as you choose to make it. I’m choosing point-ful!

Whatever happens I’m going to finish Frog Boy and I’m going to learn a lot in the process: how to write a book; the history of northumberland; hell, I was even learning about Faberge Eggs the other day; and, most of all, myself.

And, something I’ve already learnt about myself is that I am happiest when I make time everyday to write. Confidence grows when you do the thing that scares you, even if it’s just a little bit everyday.

 

* The Artist Journey and Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t are both great books I’ve enjoyed by Steven Pressfield. I’ve listened to them both twice!

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03 Jan, 2020

I’ve got out of the habit of reading so this year I want to be more consistent and keep track with a reading list.

With my current interests, the things I’m going to be reading are focused on either writing, children’s literature, research related to the book I’m writing (Frog Boy) or general get your act together books… here’s the 4 books I’d like to read this month.

 

  1. Plain Words – this was recommended to me years ago, when I told a local book shop owner (Helen from Forum in Corbridge) that I was interested in writing. I’ve finally cracked it open and it’s looking… a little complicated! I always had a fear of writing and English in general, the same way some people have a Maths fear, because I didn’t do so well at GCSE. I think I might end up being ok at it once I’ve learnt the rules properly. So, it’s time to dispel a few old beliefs and getting learning.
  2. Mr Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder, by Lawrence Weschler – this was listed as one of the best nonfiction books of the last 25 years (as per this list) and I happened to have bought it 2 years ago because there is a cabinet of curiosities in Frog Boy, so I thought it would be fun for research purposes to finally read it.
  3. The Christmasaurus and the Winter Witch, by Tom Fletcher – admittedly I’ve been reading this with Reuben over Christmas because we loved the first one. Still, I want to finish it and it’s good research!
  4. Drop the Ball, by Tiffany Dufu – this was from an Austin Kleon book list that tickled my fancy because it used the words ‘florist at work and life’ but now I’ve studied it more it seems to be about equality at home, which I feel like I already have. Still I’m sure there will be a few nuggets.

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