Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Ever-spinning Wheels

Hurray! Tom has sold a painting! The lovely Martin, of Apple Gallery in Goldaming, phones with the good news. When we’ve finished dancing around the kitchen, Tom looks slightly crestfallen, ‘I like that painting,’ he says, before cheering up at the thought that he can now buy himself a new a bit of framing kit. I’m thrilled; I always think Tom deserves wider recognition so I love it when someone else acknowledges his talent, though it is an odd feeling when paintings disappear. I always hope they’ve gone to a good home where they’ll be cherished... and admired by the new owners’ friends who will rush out and buy more.

The next day we set off in Lester-the Fiesta to rescue The Red Car, our Berlingo, which has been slowly nursed back to health by Dai-the-Garage. Dai can’t bring himself to say the words out loud when we ask how much it’s all cost, he just pushes the bill across the desk at us with a muttered apology. Sheesh! That wipes out the sale of Tom’s painting and another one besides. Ah, well, it was nice to enjoy the feeling of having some spare cash in the system while it lasted.

Tom’s brother and family stayed with us for half term and on Thursday we walked up to the lake at Craig Cau at Cadair Idris where we stopped and had a picnic. Tom and I have walked up here lots of times and there’s always something special about being in the mountains, but on Thursday I felt particularly connected to the landscape. I’m not especially strong on describing the beauties of nature, as I’m more of a ‘people’ rather than ‘place’ person, but I just felt very peaceful that day.

When we got home there was a message from my cousin to ring him, and when I did he told me, very gently, that my Uncle Sid, had died. It seemed Uncle Sid just couldn’t bear being alive without my Auntie Joanie. Tom and I had visited him in the residential home he’d moved to shortly after Auntie Joanie died. It was a good home, he was well-cared for, but you didn’t need to be a genius to see that his heart was broken. I have lots of memories of Uncle Sid, but I’ll always remember him at family parties (of which there were many) looking round the room with pride and appreciation saying, ‘We’ve got bloody good-looking women in our family!’
Goodbye, Uncle Sid, give my love to Auntie Joanie and Dad when you see them.

And finally...
I finished my poetry TMA, hurray! A few of us met up in Cardiff last Saturday (thanks, Alex, for organising it) and it really helped to read some work out loud to each other. I’ve really enjoyed this course and learned so much through it, but there’s only ten weeks left. Where’s the time gone?

Blink and you’ll miss it. None of us can say what lies ahead, but I am very grateful for what I have here and now. On St David’s Day, Tom and I celebrate ten years of marriage. Thank you, Tom. Always.

The painting, now sold, is ‘Late Light – Preseli’ by Tom Tomos.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

My Mojo and Other Animals

I think I’ve found my mojo again, which is nice, isn’t it? It’s always a worry when you lose it, in case you can’t find it again, like a hamster disappearing under the floorboards. I remember cleaning out my hamster once (and it could only have been the once because normally I’d plead insanity or a year’s supply of homework when the cage got a bit whiffy until Dad caved in and did it), anyway, I thought I’d put the hamster in its playpod thingy, but when I turned round it was crouched next to me, watching me and I had to risk several fingers trying to catch it again.

My friend, Susan’s, hamster staged a much more spectacular escape (but then it would because Susan led the technicolour, soundaround version of my life). Whereas my hamster was so dull I can’t even remember what it was called, Susan had a gorgeous, creamy-orange bundle of fluffy loveliness called Peachy. Because Peachy was so cute, Susan couldn’t bear to parted from her and when the family went to Longleat, Peachy went too, which was all fine and dandy until half-way round the lion enclosure when they realised Peachy’s cage was empty. Fortunately Peachy wasn’t snarfed up by a lion, although Susan’s family nearly got eaten when Susan tried to make them get out the car to look for her.

Susan and I were friends mainly because we walked to school together. I lived in a then deeply unfashionable Victorian semi and Susan’s family had a swanky new house on the swish estate up the road, leaving me with a nagging suspicion that Susan was leading a far more glamorous life than me. One day, when I had only just stopped drawing pictures of myself on horseback, winning rosettes at gymkhanas, Susan and I were crossing the road on the way to school and, as she turned her head, I saw the biggest lovebite I have ever seen on Susan's butter-wouldn't-melt neck – confirmation of Susan’s secret, sophisticated life. Mind you, I did get my own back a few weeks later when Susan developed a massive cold sore and I told her it was probably the first sign of syphilis from her lovebite, causing the poor girl many sleepless nights.

Anyway, the mojo’s returned because my training for the Llanelli half-marathon is going really well at the moment (famous last words). After a slow start it’s all fallen into place. Last Sunday I had one of those magic long runs when the weather was perfect, I felt good, switched off and flew round. That’ll probably mean that I’ll be utterly crap in a couple of week’s time. Hotel H is busy this week so not a huge amount to report on the writing front except that I’ve now got 22 lines of poetry for my next TMA. Only another 18 to go.

Painting is ‘Craig Cau and the Lake’ (where we are heading tomorrow) by Tom Tomos

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Up, Running and,er, Winning!

‘Take it easy and writers.... write!’That was the advice from fellow blogger and Novel Racer, Lisa Ratcliffe in her final blog. Lisa’s posts shone with a zest and a love for life even when she was so terribly ill. I’ve thought about Lisa a lot this week, and the family she left behind. In one of her last posts she wondered how many books she might have written if she’d ‘let it fly rather than immediately believing it to be crap and binning it’. It certainly struck a chord with me. So, I’ve got on with it; FTT is back out in the world and I’ve been getting on with some OU work. Letting fly with poetry has been very hard and I’m still circling warily round my next assignment but here’s a piece I wrote for a tutorial based on a photograph of a mother showing her daughter how to knit. The rules were that only two adjectives were allowed and no more than 30 minutes to be spent writing it (ok, I ran over on that by five minutes as it was so hard to let myself go in the time.)

Casting On
A lightning flash of silver needles
pierce the cloud of wool.
Twisting the mist into a waterfall,
she glimpses another storm warning
on her daughter’s face.

Small hands paddle,
scoop up net and needles, slippery as
mackerels in the basket of her lap
where stitches fall.
Knit one, purl one. Together they catch them.

It’s not brilliant but it did show me that you can put something together in 30 mins – now all I have to do is write the assignment. Gulp!

And sometimes when you let fly... it works!
Honno Welsh Women’s Press recently ran a competition to tell a ‘Coming of Age’ story in one sentence. I went for a run this morning and when I got in I checked the Honno site but couldn’t see my name in the ‘highly commended’ – that was because I was the winner!! Yay!
There is a currently a typo on the site which Honno are going to fix tomorrow, so there’s an ‘a’ where an ‘I’ should be... but if you want to take a look...
it's here.

Today's painting is 'Dinas and Carn Ingli from the sea' (a view I know a little too well!) by Tom Tomos.

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Me, Cheryl, Music and Art

A fragile and flickering little flame has been lighting my dark for the best part of ten weeks now. Ever since a real live editor asked to see the full script of ‘Fighting the Tide’ I’ve dared to hope that this time it was really going to happen. FTT’s got pretty close before, considering it hasn’t been spread very widely, so I know it’s got something going for it. And, indeed, the email that popped up on Friday seemed to confirm this; ‘…polished writing…wonderful characters…a talent for dialogue…very real location’ etc, and then ‘not the right time to take this book on.’ What?

What seemed to have tipped the balance was the length of the book and one subplot too many ie the additions suggested by an agent to turn a simple love story into something ‘bigger and darker’! Well, that’s what I could tell myself but I suppose the truth is that I’m aiming at an already overcrowded market where being polished isn’t sufficient – you need an ‘X’ factor. And that’s exactly what Girls Aloud singer and X Factor judge Cheryl Cole has because she’s reportedly landed a multi-million pound deal to write a series of chick-lit novel for Harper Collins. I could chuck my toys around and moan that it isn’t fair but which of us is going to sell the most books here? Who’s going to be the most valuable asset to their publisher? Ah, well, I shall keep doing what I love, which is writing, and hope that one day, my fragile, flickering little flame will burn brightly.

After the bad news on Friday I was forced to lift my head off the Pillow of Despondency because it was time to deliver the second half of a present to Tom; a trip to Theatr Mwldan to see Bellowhead. I can’t think of a simple way to describe Bellowhead; they fill the stage with musicians, they fill the theatre with a hugely enthusiatic audience (I did note a terrible outbreak of male pony-tails, hairy jumpers, flowing crushed velvet and ethnic earrings) and then they blast you with all kinds of amazing interpretations of folk songs. I know it sounds like Hell On A Stick but they are such terrific performers, it works! Again, as with the Poozies, I’d never play this music to myself, but live music, especially when it’s played with such gusto, is always worth experiencing.

When you can download any track you like at the click of a mouse it’s easy to get desensitized to the magic of music. Going out, being part of something unique, feeling the sheer unpredictability of a live performance is something you’ll always remember. At the end of November I went to see John Martyn; it was unsettling, uncomfortable but spliced with moments that were intensely moving. And when his death was announced last Thursday, I was so glad that I’d had the chance to see him again.

And finally…For those of you who make such lovely comments about Tom’s work, he’s started exhibiting online at alltradeart. If any of you feel inclined to have a look, do please vote for your favourite – it doesn’t cost anything and it would just be interesting to see what you think. Thank you.

The painting is 'July Sunset - Mwnt' by Tom Tomos