time flies when you're being a mum

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.


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.



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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It's a new decade!

02 Jan, 2020

I started this blog back in January 2012, 8 years of chattering away but if I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that I love a resolutions post. It’s now 2020, a new decade so I feel a goals post coming on.


My very first blog was basically list of goals; I was pregnant with our first child when I started Mums’ Days and I wanted to keep a record of that but also work towards a number of things before the big day came. I find it motivating to have something written down so I can keep track of my progress.

This blog has morphed many times since then; from pregnancy, to baby, to what do I do next type blog. For a while it was even an income stream and source of free stuff! But a consistent post has always been my latest goals.

Like this one or this or this! So, with that in mind (and since I’ve not written anything for AGES…) here are my goals for 2020.

2020 Goals

1. Finish Frog Boy (working title)

Back in November I had a bit of an existential crisis because I wasn’t doing anything creative and after a while that makes me feel sad. Since then I’ve made sure that I make time to write (I’ve been getting up at 5:15 every morning to journal and work on a kids’ book) and I’ve made as much progress in the last month and a half than I have since I started it back in 2016. My aim is to finish the first draft by the end of January.

2. Write another book

Everyone knows your first book is crap, so if I actually want to be any good, I’ll have to move straight onto the next book and write that one too. Fingers crossed by the end of 2020 I’ll have something that’s half decent and possibly publishable!

3. Work on my ‘Findability’

This is from Show Your Work, if you want to be found (in my case so my book/s can be published) you need to be findable!

Which is where this blog comes in. I haven’t blogged consistently for years as I no longer want to write about my kids. However, I still associate with Mums’ Days and feel close to the contents. I’ve always been truthful, and when I read a post back it feels like I’m reading my diary!  So, I now plan to use it to document my latest journey with book writing… another birth of sorts! It totally won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but that’s OK, the right people should hopefully find it and enjoy it.


I have a few other goals (as per the pic!) but those are the main ones. And as you’ll see, I’m a lover of daily habits – I don’t have loads of time, what with looking after a 13 month old baby full time, so it’s all about the routine for me.

“Establishing and keeping a routine can be even more important than having a lot of time.”

Austin Kleon, Steal Like an Artist

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