Showing posts from 2007

Kimono Arms, Koko, Clocks and Christmas

Wednesday 12 December
What’s the point of staying at home for Christmas when we still have to hurtle down the M4 to drop off a load of presents anyway? Yes we’re heading south for another round of driving too much, eating too much and not sleeping enough. Ho hum! On the way we stop at a retail outlet at for some last minute presents (who is Last Minute and why does he get so many presents?). Tom, who has been on at me for ages to buy some wet weather gear for the boat, spots a bargain in Helly Hansen and I lob out the best part of forty quid for a deeply unsexy bib and braces number. ‘Well, that’s my Christmas outfit sorted,’ I tell the guy on the counter who has clearly heard it all before and cannot even raise a fake smile. Then it’s onwards to Epsom, a flying visit to Mum, a flying visit to my lovely friend Jill and finally to Worthing to stay with Mil and Dil.

Thursday 13 December
Still dealing with the after effects of eating Mil’s meat pudding at 10 o’clock at night, I fend off the…

That Friday Feeling

Hello chums and chumettes! Snailsbeachshepherdess was good enough to ask how my book/shoulder/Ma are going and since I’m in a Friday night sort of mood and, having fought my way round Haverfordwest to attempt some Christmas shopping (bah!), it’s clear that I’m not going to get any novel writing done today so here’s a quick update instead.

We are off to hit the town tonight with Tracy and Jeremy next door – I just hope the town doesn’t hit me back. Jeremy is keen for us to ‘Get a few early ones in’ before we eat -‘nuff said. I’ve splashed out a whole £7 on a top from New Look for the occasion and have been listening to Dave Gahan’s latest album ‘Hour Glass’ … I love his voice, he always sounds as if he’s going to break down the door and do unspeakable things to you. Only hope I’m not entertaining Mil and Dil if he pounds up my drive (ooh-er!).

Yes, well, back to the update. There have been moments when I’ve felt like taking Pipany’s advice (get drunk, stay drunk) but I really am getting …

The End Is Nigh

Hmm, you see that word counter on the right? Some of you might also notice that the amount I’ve written doesn’t seem to have changed very much and that the total I’m aiming for has gone down a bit too. Now let me say straightaway that any comments such as ‘What’s changed’ or ‘What have you been doing all this time?’ will go straight into that little bin symbol! There has been much wrestling behind the scenes and plenty of gnashing of teeth.

Rewriting ‘Fighting the Tide’ has proved to be another steep learning curve; you don’t have the intense thrill of the first draft to entice you on and you have all of the self-doubt and inner critic to hold you back. The only way forward, as I’ve belatedly discovered, is to write through it. Yep, you apply your bum to the seat, you open your laptop and you write. You write even when the inner critic is telling you, ‘That’s pants, that is!’ because, hey, some of what you’ve written might not be pants – how do you know until you’ve written it?

I ca…

Time Out

Thanks for taking the time to read 'Home Thoughts Weekly'. With a book to finish and my mum needing help to move house next week I've decided that something's got to give. I want to deliver a 'What's Next?' book not a 'So What?' book so I'm taking some time out for the next few weeks to give 'Fighting the Tide' my best shot.

Best wishes,

Farewell Veryan, Bonjour La Reve!

Some of you may recall a certain froideur descended on Hotel H earlier this year when Tom decided it was time to buy a new boat. After weeks of being constantly worn down I finally agreed – on certain conditions – one of which was to sell Veryan, our old wooden boat. Well, the photo on the left shows her leaving Cardigan with Norman, her new and delighted owner who, with the intention of restoring her to her former glory, has entered her for the Milford Seafair 2008 classic boats craft event. I have to say after years of having a love/hate relationship with Veryan I waved the old girl off with fond memories of the good times aboard; being so sick I wet my knickers, nearly getting us mown down in the shipping lanes crossing the Channel, strip washing in a bucket, that sort of thing.

Despite her age Veryan always turned a few heads being a very pretty boat but her deep keel and her inability to take the ground – ie stand on her own two feet without water – make her difficult to sail in t…

Clocks Again!

Ah, bless! They're all grown up now. Stepson two is second from right.

A Week in the Life of Mrs Hyde

Thursday 4 October
Ten grisly prunes, black and syrupy, glower at me across the breakfast table, where they nestle threateningly on a bed of All Bran. Mil’s Inherited Digestive Condition, which relies heavily on dairy and chocolate has come back to bite her with an eye-wateringly high cholesterol reading and something that Mil refers to as a ‘sore tum’, so poor Mil has been forced to swap all things creamy and chocolaty for a low-fat, high fibre diet. Alas, Mil’s Inherited Digestive Condition stubbornly rejects our healthy puds, such as stewed apple, but she has taken to tinned and dried fruits in a big way. A very big way. Tom and I both recognise that she’s trying but it’s not quite going in the right direction. ‘Where will it all end?’ says Tom, shaking his head. One thing is certain: and the answer, as Bob Dylan would say, is blowin’ in the wind.

It’s my Rose’s birthday today. She’s out in the big wide world enjoying her first ‘proper’ job but on this day, I miss her. I make a tenta…

Clocks News


No Escape In the Country

Ah, the benefits of a university education! No, not the UEA degree nor the language course at Heidelberg but the summer job working as a chambermaid in a posh hotel in Norwich which has enabled me to make beds in a flash and clean bathrooms like a demon.

We had a great time with our friends Jan and Roger. If you are looking for professional guests I heartily recommend this lovely couple who come laden with goodies, are very easy-going and leave whilst everyone’s still laughing. (Members of the Ace Gang if you are reading this, no, I’m not going to recommend you as professional guests because someone might decide to keep you and then where would I be?).

We are now deep into Mil and Dil mode. In the interests of marital harmony I have had to keep Mrs Hyde well away from the keyboard. Suffice it to say that two days into an eight-day visit and my smile is already wearing a little thin as the panel assembles for another rousing game of Life Before Chris.

Anyway, there is really only on…

New South Wales to Old North Wales

I had an unexpected visitor last Friday evening. It was my Uncle Bill fresh from Australia via West Wittering. Armed with a mental map consisting of two dots representing Auntie Vera’s house in Sussex and mine in Wales joined by a wiggly line, he’d found his way after seven hours on the road, asking everyone after the Severn Bridge if they knew where I lived and having been piloted the final stretch of the journey by a good Samaritan from Cardigan.

‘I’m not stopping,’ he insisted weakly, ‘I’ve got to get to Porthmadog tonight.’ As Tom said afterwards, what else was there to be done? Imagine if I’d driven for miles to his home in Australia, exhausted and with only the most tenuous grip on where I was going, only to be told, ‘Yeah, good luck with that, pal. Best you get off now, nice to see you!’

Uncle Bill is eighty-one. His quest, we discovered, once we’d fed him and given him a fortifying tot of rum, was to find the naval training base where he had started a journey that had changed th…

Proceed With Care

The Blogosphere is heaving with writers many of whom are aching to be novelists. A few days ago, over at Purple Coo, I was asked a couple of questions about making submissions. This may possibly have raised a few eyebrows as I’m not exactly bursting with novels but I have plenty of writing experience and a few cautionary tales which may help anyone about to embark on this path.

1. It helps if you can write.
I’ve spent most of my working life as a professional writer. That hasn’t always been my job title, of course, which has been Research Officer or Local Government Officer (of various descriptions) but writing has always been essential to the job description. I’ve written research papers, policy notes, briefing papers and press releases and if you want someone to turn your hesitant speech or venomous rows into concise elegant prose, well, it ain’t me, babe, because I don’t do that anymore.

In addition I’ve been placed in national essay and poetry competitions, I’ve been published in mag…

Picture This

8 September: 7.30am
Popping into Jeremy and Tracy next door to watch the opening game of the rugby world cup was possibly not the best idea in the world before today’s Welsh ‘Rustbuster’ day. Especially since large amounts of curry and wine were involved. Fortunately my sensible head prevailed so I’m not feeling too fuzzy but ‘Dw i’n nerfus yn iawn!’. In view of the fact I’ve completed two intensive weeks of Welsh learning I’ve decided to go up a level from September and today’s one day course is a chance for me to see if I can talk the talk.

Okay. Here I am in Grwp 3 and I can already see from the pages they’re looking at in their course notes that they are way ahead of me. Even worse a couple of the students should be in the group above but have come down to this one for a spot of revision. Great.

I’m trying to tell myself that it doesn’t matter if I’m the class dunce when The One walks in. Yep, there’s always one person I dread working with. In this case, he’s like Oliver R…

If the Lights Grow Dim

Little Brown Dog (and, by the way, if you haven’t read her blogs you are missing a treat) has asked me to reveal the twelve scents and sounds which would still reach me when everything else has failed. They are:

1. Freshly sawn wood. Forever associated with my dad who was a carpenter. If this doesn’t revive me than at least I’ll know Dad’s waiting to show me the way.

2. Talisker. Peat, wood smoke, phenols and memories of a golden October holiday with Tom, Lily and Rose. A few drops of this wee dram wafted under my nose and I’d be a happy woman.

3. Rose and Lily making each other laugh.

4. The warm, clean smell of my husband when he gives me a hug.

5. My mum saying the prayer she used to recite to us before we went to sleep. Not for religious reasons but as a talisman against fear.

6. Crushed basil leaves. We always have a pot by the kitchen window.

7. The smell of autumn mornings – the dying of the year and new terms and new beginnings.

8. John Martyn singing ‘One World’.

9. Putty. That linsee…

Application, Talent or Luck?

Friday 31 August: The Right Place
Back at her Dad’s in the south east the heat’s been on for Rose to find a job ASAP. After an interview and near miss at Penguin, Rose needed something in the pipeline fast. She tried three local employment agencies hoping to do some temping. The first agency entered her for a bulk recruitment day for short term work at an insurance company, the second agency refused to register her (‘Just’ a graduate) and the third, ‘Reed’ asked her what she was hoping to do in the long run.
‘Well, I’d like to go into publishing,’ said Rose, ‘but I know that’s a tall order round here.’
As it happened that particular branch of Reed recruit for an international company which has a publishing arm. Looking at Rose’s details, the recruitment agent thought she be just the kind of person the organisation liked. He emailed Rose’s CV straight to the company; she had a phone interview the same day and was invited for a second interview yesterday. This morning she rang to say …

Silver Linings

Sorry about the muffled protests in the background: it’s Mrs Hyde. I’ve had to restrain her and keep her away from the keyboard. It’s always the same when we’ve had visitors; she has terrible urges to be indiscreet and it’s the only way I can control her.

Worries about family and nagging pain have made me feel out of kilter with the world but I’m trying not to let the black cloud overwhelm me so here, instead, are three things which have made me feel better this week: -

My dear friend, Jill, has sent me a lovely book called ‘Quotable Dogs’ by Milly Brown. I particularly like this one by Agatha Christie:

‘Dogs are wise. They crawl away into a quiet corner and lick their wounds and do not rejoin the world until they are whole once more.’

Hmm, on that basis I might have to become a recluse.

We had an unexpected visit from Mr and Mrs Parents-of-Tracy-Next-Door bearing gifts. Some of you may recall that Tracy’s dad was taken ill a few weeks ago when the couple were looking after the house …

On the Hard Shoulder

Friday 17 August. Frozen Stiff
For a couple of months now I haven’t been raise my left arm, say, to spray my armpit with deodorant, or reach behind my back, say, to undo my bra without seeing stars. What to do? Other allowing my BO and nunga-nungas fly free. I’ve worked out that I’ve got a frozen shoulder and that there’s not much to be done about it but, after a bad night, the pain is so severe that I am forced to take myself to the doctor’s.

Within an hour I have seen my GP twice and been for an x-ray – there’s efficient for you. Have also, to my surprise, cried twice during this process, once when my GP asked when the pain was worst and once when the very gentle radiographer offered, without being asked, to undo my bra for me! The good news is that there is no sign of osteo-arthritis but, given the lamentable state of my Mum’s back, I’m being referred for a bone density scan too. In the meantime I am despatched with a truckload of extra-strong painkillers.

I feel slightly shocked …

Noses To Grindstones

Friday 10 August: In the Basement
Spare a thought for Lily who has been down in the emergency room taking phone calls all week from farmers concerned about foot and mouth. Lily works for the Welsh Assembly Government and has volunteered to help see that callers get the information they need. So don’t shoot the messenger, folks, she’s doing her best! Actually Lily’s had some previous experience of dealing with all sorts of queries from the public when, after graduating, she did a stint working for BT and dealt with drunks phoning up to see what day is was (and then arguing back!) and lonely old people who wanted someone to talk to (what a comment on our society).

Sunday 12 August: On the Road
Stepson Two is putting the final touches to Clock’s debut album. In the meantime the band’s third tour has been announced, there are twenty-eight tour dates covering venues over much of the country. (see: ) Only those of you on far-flung islands will be excused. Do see them if you …

High Speed Blog Approaching!

Friday 3 August:
Rose has been taking a well-deserved break after finals and graduation. The real world is calling but we’ve taken some time out together. Yesterday we raced off to Theatr Mwldan to beat the rush of people flooding in to see Harry Potter. Yes, there must have been, ooh, nearly a dozen of us in there. We’ve armed ourselves with a bag of sweets each from the Pick ‘n Mix so I have a brilliant time watching the film and scoffing Snowies, Dolly Mixtures, black and orange Jelly Babies and Shrimps.

Today we’re off to the Cardigan Island Coastal Farm Park just down the road, well worth a visit if you’re in this part of the world. We spend two and half hours wandering through beautiful scenery feeding very eager animals and, best of all, watching the seals. Both Rose and Lily loved farms when they were little so the visit brings back lots of happy memories. When we return the Foot and Mouth outbreak has been announced on the news. Not such happy memories.

Saturday 4 Aug…

Triumph and Troubles

Thursday 26 July: Rose’s Graduation

‘Oh, look at you lot. You’ve clearly had much better weather up there than we have,’ says Lily from beneath her umbrella as we load her bags into the car. She grumbles a bit on hearing that Rose and I owe our golden limbs to a tin and complains that we are making her look like White Leg Winnie in comparison. Once on to the motorway there are more serious considerations; it’s pouring with rain and the visibility is appalling. Thank goodness we have allowed plenty of time to get to Southampton.

Heroic Tom gets us there with time to spare so that Rose can do the necessary before her ceremony. Rose collects her gown and I fill up with tears then we head over to the Nuffield Theatre where the conferment of degrees will take place. Rose’s Dad, Stepmum and little Stepbrother turn up and pretend they haven’t seen us until I go over and break the ice. Rose’s Dad and I are shuffle off to take our seats whilst the others find a hall with a live link to t…

From Aberystwyth With Love

Monday 16 – Friday 20 July: Welsh ‘At a Gallop’
It’s strange how people who should know better revert to classroom stereotypes even in adult education. You get the show-off, the shy one, the clown and the one who resents being there, probably because her employer is paying for her to be there, so acts up as much as possible. Quickly clocking the woman on the other side of the room as ‘looking a bit miserable’ I took a seat a safe distance away and was relieved to be joined by a very jolly young girl who was my partner for the initial session.

There’s a lot of working with a partner or in a small group on the Cwrs Carlam, which is, indeed, Welsh at a gallop. The tutor gives you the nuts and bolts of a chunk of grammar, which you and a partner then put into practise through a series of short exercises. The trick, I’ve found, is to try to suspend your embarrassment and just wade in.

A good tutor will make you work with everyone and before long I found myself paired with the ‘miserable’ woma…

Cwrs Carlam

Home Thoughts is off to Aberystwyth on an intensive Welsh course and will return on Wednesday 25 July.

Hwyl fawr!

Mad World

Friday 6 July: James
James is Tom’s nephew. He has blonde hair and eyes like a summer sky; cornflower blue and fringed with sweeping black lashes. He’s a very observant boy who notices the slightest changes in anyone’s appearance. James has just turned thirteen and for his thirteenth birthday his local authority decided to withdraw the free transport that takes him to the school where he feels secure and happy on the basis that he is now perfectly capable of walking the three and half miles or catching a bus.

Fair enough, you might say, quite right that a child of his age should fend for himself. But unlike his older brother and sister, who are already making their own way in the world, James is a Peter Pan boy who, because of his considerable mental and physical disabilities, will always need someone to take care of him. To expect James, with his weakened left side and limited understanding, to make his own way to his special school beggars belief.

Well, perhaps, his mum could take…

Tumbling Dice

Or 'You Can’t Always Get What You Want but Sometimes You Get What You Need!'

Stepson Two
We finally track down Stepson Two and he’s tired. Bone weary in fact, and with another three weeks of recording ahead there are many hours of hard work to put in before the album is complete. Glastonbury was great, he said, Clocks were well received but they’re not in the luxury trailer league yet. It was a tent after the gig and the train back to London the next day. As the songwriter it’s Stepson Two who particularly feels the pressure to deliver but there’s a lot at stake for all of them. With a full release single due out in September, timed to fit in with the album demo, a tie-in with Orange (see for more details) there are exciting plans for the band but it also goes to show how much effort lies behind an ‘overnight’ success.

A very excited Rose is on the phone. She has a job interview! Hurray! Rose is determin…

Reasons To Be Cheerful

Un Peu has cruelly dragged me from the Sofa of Misery to tag me. Apparently I’ve got to write about five strategies which make me feel better. Right now a lavish publishing deal and lunch at L’Escargot would hit the spot nicely, so that’s two if anyone would like to make my day.

No, I do know what she means so I had a little ponder about it whilst myndying the siopa just now. I remember when my heart was broken for the very first time and Dad found me sobbing. He gave me a hug and said, ‘It’ll never hurt this much again, Miss Chris.’ Reader, he lied. But I can see why. A couple of minor dents and bruises help prepare you for the serious knocks that come everyone’s way. Stuff happens. That’s the cost of living if you like.

Okay, this is how I deal with the small stuff, this is different to living with the black dog who I’m also well acquainted with but we’ve got the measure of each other now. This is what Lily would call the ‘Cry me a river, build me a bridge and get over it’ stuf…

Lily, May, Rose, Lily

Thursday 21 June: By Any Other Name
The business of choosing names was made simple in Mum’s family; the girls were named after flowers, the boys were named after kings and the dogs – one at a time, thankfully – were all called ‘Prince’. Unfortunately there were a couple of hiccups when my grandfather went to register Mum’s birth. Probably because he’d been celebrating in the ‘Blenheim’ beforehand. ‘Lily’ and ‘May’ turned into Lilian May and, just to add an extra flourish, he landed Mum with the moniker, Doris, as a first name.

Well, I don’t know how Mum coped but I cringed for years every time I had to say what she was called. I mean, let’s face it; Doris has been in the deeply unfashionable drawer for so long it hasn’t even been revived by the young and trendy. Mum was the cook at a smart private school for years so we always got a flavour of what was in the ether. We were quite taken aback when a few Arthurs, my Dad’s name, trickled through but there was never a sniff of a Doris!


Closely Connected With Guilt

Thurs 15 June: Cut and Dyed
Years of trying to make a little money go a long way have resulted in me developing a personal style which makes the term ‘low maintenance’ seem excessively demanding but as The Great Boat Debate rages I decide that it’s no more Mrs Nice Guy for me. I’m b*ggered if I’m going to be the one making all the sacrifices!

Whilst I’d half thought I might wait until I’d heard about my book before getting my hair done it’s becoming clear that my prospective agent has left the country never to be seen again. So, since I’m also in danger of disappearing, not on a plane but under an unruly mane, I book myself in not just for a cut but for a colour as well.

‘I’ve put you down for foils,’ the receptionist tells me.
‘Eh?’ Oh whatever, I don’t care anymore. Anything’s better than the way I look now. I abrogate any responsibility and leave it all to Llinos, my lovely hairdresser, to transform me whilst I have a great time drinking tea and reading all the gossip magazines. Bliss.…

A Few Local Difficulties

Thurs 7 June : About a Boat
Oh dear, there’s tension in the air chez nous. In this lovely weather with flat calm seas a young-at-heart man’s thoughts turn to sailing. Tom thinks of sleepy havens where we drop the hook and sip a few glasses of something cold. I’ll be writing very productively in my notebook and he’ll be pulling up a couple of fresh mackerel for lunch. All very civilised (unless of course you happen to be unlucky enough to be one of the very rare mackerels Tom actually manages to catch). Unfortunately I have a few bad memories to contend with before I reach this stage such as huge rolling seas and, on one occasion, being so sick that I wet my knickers as well. Charming.

There is also the very slight problem that our poor old wooden boat is laid up in a yard with serious injuries after being damaged in a severe storm. It’s a bit ironic really. We kept her at Fishguard harbour, which is considered very tricky in certain conditions, for years without a scratch but only a cou…

Stuck In A Moment

Tuesday 5 June: Leaving It Behind
It’s all right everyone, you can look again. The grief fest is over for another year so it’s time to draw a line under that for now and try to move on. Except I’m feeling a bit stuck after an unexpected attack from one of my visitors this week.

Now, gather round because I’m about to tell you a secret. Come right in, that’s it. Do you see that woman on the right? Yes her, piggy eyes and dodgy hair. Well, I’m afraid that’s not the real me. The thing is, if I posted a photo of what I actually looked like there’d be fly-buttons popping all over cyberspace and Suffolkmum would look, well frankly, rather ordinary.

Hmn. I can see that you’re not convinced. Hang on a minute whilst I adjust my slinky pencil skirt and make myself comfortable. Ah, that’s better! Oh wait, I’ll just kick off my very high and very pointy stiletto shoes too. These buttons will have to be done-up even if it means that no one gets the dubious benefit of my fake leopard-skin push-up bra.


Arthur Stovell, December 1930 to June 2005

My lovely Dad died two years ago today. Pancreatic cancer is a stealthy disease; by the time the symptoms appear it’s very difficult to treat. In Dad’s case it was a bright yellow ‘suntan’, severe jaundice of course, which took us to casualty. Dad bore his illness with immense courage and dignity. He always felt deeply sorry for anyone he perceived to be worse off than himself – usually manifested by him shaking his head sorrowfully and tutting, ‘Look at that poor bastard’ until the day I had to point out that he was the poor bastard since no one else in the ward was as ill as him. From the day of his diagnosis to his very last breath Dad led the way and showed me how to face the unimaginable. I consider myself very lucky and immensely privileged to have had him as a father.

The following verses were written after that first trip to casualty when I drew some comfort from noticing the physical similarities between us.

Familiar Landscape

Since this new journey may be your last,
we laugh abo…

Sons, Daughters, Sid and Shoes

Friday 25 May: Displacement Activity
Okay, I now know that ‘very shortly’ means more than a week so I’ve taken to pounding the country lanes running off the nervous tension. At this rate I’ll be able to run marathons with ease! Whilst running I notice a ‘flat’ – my shoes have exceeded their mileage and it’s beginning to show. If I don’t do something about a new pair I’ll injure myself. Part of the reason I’ve hung on is because I love my Ascis 1110s and the chances are they’ll have been updated which will mean getting used to a new model. Back home I trawl the net and find a pair for a truly bargainous price saving me a whopping thirty quid. The only difference I can spot is that the colour has been changed and I shall now be bringing bling to the countryside with Barbie-esque silver and pink. Next day delivery too. Marvellous.

Saturday 26 May: Glastonbury Update
Needless to say there is no word on the book and my shoes fail to arrive. Pah! Plus I have to clean the house from top to bott…