Bugs, Busting and Bug-Busting

Hah. A January post that’s not about resolutions. Never fear – that one is on its way…


Bugs of all kinds have been a theme in the last few weeks. In December a stomach bug tore through the village, leaving everyone feeling distinctly unfestive. Despite one of my beloved preschoolers throwing up quite spectacularly on my shoes, I thought I’d avoided The Bug (having sprayed everything in a 5 metre radius and disinfected my shoes). But no. It hit me the Sunday night and Monday before Christmas, and I still didn’t feel great on the day – so snacking and boozing were very limited and happened more at New Year.

Since Christmas, my laptop has puffed smoke and made a strange popping noise as a dodgy USB port died, my F key stopped working (fixed by Techie Husband. What would I do without him?), my K key is behaving oddly and the printer has suddenly decided to sleep whenever it wants to, and won’t wake up on anyone else’s terms. Useful, not.

Laptop and Stethoscope
One bug-bear (theme stretch alert) is my need for somewhere proper to write – somewhere that’s not dark, poky or a constant reminder of housework I could be doing, and doesn’t involve being unable to pull back curtains because my desk and its hutch are in the way (i.e. the corner of our bedroom). Somewhere I can have my paraphernalia handy, and not have to pack everything up and move it. Short-term, I think I’ll be moving back to the spare bedroom again (which is tiny, so don’t come and stay, anyone – because once I’m in there with my big desk, you won’t fit.) Long-term, Techie Husband and I have decided the answer is a garage conversion, which will hopefully happen in the summer. I’ll keep you updated with the Great Garage Project, but Step 1 is finding somewhere to house all the garden furniture and equipment it contains, so a shed arrives next weekend. I’ll take pictures but  I can guarantee it won’t look like this… .. more’s the pity.



Well, more busted really. The hand I damaged in the Cheese Sauce of Doom incident hasn’t really improved, much as the GP predicted. Currently debating whether to go and get a second opinion on the ‘nothing to be done, come back when it’s a claw’ diagnosis. It limits writing longhand and, shock horror, peeling potatoes (which was completely impossible at first) is doable but very awkward and slow. The loss of sensitivity in the thumb and poor grip means I drop things more often and have to bend down all the time, so it’s no surprise that my hiatus hernia has been playing up again. These things don’t get me down as much as frustrate me. I just want to GET ON!! 😀


I’m afraid that’s the unglamorous subject of my health column this month, as one of the three annual Bug-Busting Days falls on January 31st. Bug-Busting Day: Say Goodbye to Head Lice may well be in a local magazine near you, so if you have school-age children or work with them, have a read – unfortunately you’re a sitting-duck (but don’t need to be a lice-ridden one, if you follow my tips!).

Bug-busting Day

At the moment this is the only thing  of mine published in print this month, I think. And that’s all I’ve got time for, folks, because self, Techie Husband, Arty Daughter and Constructo Boy are off to a birthday party. Arty Daughter’s best friend (K the Cat)’s mum has a Significant Birthday. For a real step back in time, I’ll end with a photo of K the Cat and Arty Daughter in their Cosplay gear – nearly 4 years ago now, at the Spring London MCM Expo in 2011.

Arty Daughter (right) and K the Cat.
Arty Daughter (right) and K the Cat.

They’ve grown up a lot since then…

Before We Say Goodbye To Christmas…

Before we say goodbye to Christmas, I thought I’d (somewhat belatedly) share one of my favourite projects this year – researching the Christmas Truce of 1914. The resulting article was my most syndicated yet, and appeared in more than 15 different magazines, which I was very chuffed with!

Christmas Truce Harpenden NowI particularly liked this layout used in Harpenden Now magazine, because I thought the image of soldiers used behind the text was very effective. The layout below is from The CM21 Connection, who seem to have bought the full length version rather than the edited one.

Christmas Truce The CM21 Connection






Christmas Truce handy mag
The Handy Mag designers used some charming Christmas imagery to illustrate the article, shown here on the left. I like the snowy background effect.

When researching the article I used many letter excerpts, including some from letters written by Henry Williamson – yes, the same man who went on to write Tarka the Otter, a book that made me cry when I first read it around age ten. If you would like to read letters from this period, I can heartily recommend the amazing Christmas Truce website, “borne out of research conducted by Alan Cleaver and Lesley Park in 1999 for a booklet on the Christmas Truce called ‘Plum Puddings For All'”.  Alan and Lesley became “aware of the vast resource lying dormant in newspaper archives: original personal letters from participants describing what happened and the effect it had on them”. Alan, Lesley and other volunteers have since made it their task to seek out and transcribe these records, and it’s a stunning resource, so do visit.

Several magazines had obviously noticed the emphasis on personal letter excerpts and the mention of carols sung by both sides, and chose to to illustrate Christmas Truce the article with letters or German music scores, as Community Spotlight did (see right). The photos used were very touching too and provide proof that it wasn’t all swept under the carpet; the Christmas Truce events were reported in the UK just days later, with letters and photos appearing in national newspapers. While there was some disapproval in the higher ranks, it wasn’t the national disgrace it’s sometimes made out to have been.

If the experiences of WW1 soldiers interests you then there are dozens of books to read, but some I’ve dipped into recently are The Soldier’s War  and The Quick and the Dead by Richard Van Emden, and also Mud, Blood and Poppycock by Gordon Corrigan. Corrigan’s book raised a few hackles when published due to his determination to bust what he saw as some of the most troublesome and persistent WW1 myths.

If you would like to read my article, you can find it here on page 52 of the digital version of Yes magazine – if you’re interested in vision correction, my article on that is in the same magazine on page 36!

What Do The National Lottery & Diabetes Have in Common?

I’m not keen on November. It doesn’t tend to be a great month for me generally – no idea why! – and all the darkness and dampness don’t help either. But it was nice to go to a firework display without freezing to death, so score a point for that one Nov 2014.

I didn’t write about fireworks for November though; I wrote about diabetes and the National Lottery (not in the same article).  These weren’t random choices. It so happened that the 14th was World Diabetes Day and the 20th birthday of the National Lottery.

I can’t find any handy online clippings of the National Lottery article, but it was a short collection of quirky facts. Did you know, for instance, that  strictly speaking the first National Lottery was held in 1567? It was organised to fund Elizabeth I’s shipbuilding programme and offered a first prize of £5000, but the winner only received part of the prize in money; the rest was in ‘plate’. However much you hope to win in our modern lottery, you might want to avoid picking number 20, as it has made the fewest appearances in the draw.


My article on diabetes appeared in Yes Mag, Potters Bar Eye, The Villager and Town Life (Henlow edition), The Local Directory (Apsley & Beaconsfield editions), Malmesbury Connections, The Bournville Pages, Now (various editions),  In and Around magazine (various editions), the Bearsden & Milngavie Directory and the Berrylands Companion.


Looking forward to December because I’ve already seen some great clippings! 🙂



In print: Tea and Coffee – the Good,The Bad and The Ugly

Whatever else I produce, every month I have a health article published. I write a long version and produce a shorter version too, because it’s syndicated on and some publications prefer a shorter version. They always appear in publications from the Discover Magazine group, but they end up all over the place. I rarely know where, and never get a decent clipping unless I’m published in my local magazine, The Villager and Town Life (which seems to have stopped happening since I’d mentioned to them that they always spell my name wrong. I’m sure it’s just coincidence. Or perhaps it was me asking if I was free to use the article of mine they’d had for three years, meant to be the first in a regular series of historical articles…).

Sometimes a search of the internet will let me see where my literary babies end up.

Villager Henlow Oct14 coverThe Villager Biggleswade Oct 14 coverIronically this month I have been published in The Villager, but in two Bedfordshire editions (loving the covers).


And I’ve also been published in Berrylands Companion, multiple editions of Discover Magazine, Thatcham Connections and others including these…

In & Around Iver Oct 2014OneStopLocal Mansfield Oct 14 coverIn & Around Ruislip Oct 14 cover
tea & coffee 1

So it’s all good. The only aggravating thing was that the article was meant to be called ‘Tea and Coffee: The Good, the Bad and The Ugly Truths’ – see what I did there? – but it was edited to Tea and Coffee: The Good and The Bad’, which, being no longer funny, was a really weak title I’d never have used; it made the ‘truth’ paragraphs read a little strangely too. I could have come up with a better alternative title if I’d known they didn’t like the ugly!

But that’s publishing for you 🙂


I Dabbled in a Drabble

Yes, I dabbled in a drabble. That is, a teensy tiny story. And it was fun.

One of my fellow #100kwords100days members, Gerald Hornsby, mentioned an anthology that was looking for sci-fi and fantasy stories just 100 words long. As I had a bit of time on my hands that day and submissions were about to close, I had a go.

It’s amazing how much editing you can do on a 100 word story, which is ironic (you’ll see why in a minute). But I sent off my drabble, entitled Valhalla, and hey presto! it was accepted into 100 Worlds: Lightning-Quick SF and Fantasy Tales . I got the ebook for free but didn’t get a chance to look at it – anyway I fancied the paperback, which arrived today.

And after all that editing – I find that they’ve replaced a painstakingly positioned semi-colon with a comma,  changing the whole feel of the sentence. Oh, it’s a hard life…

2 Great Books, 2 Good Causes

I’m not quite sure how I’ve left it so long to announce that THE PAPERBACK OF 100 STORIES FOR QUEENSLAND IS OUT!

100 Stories for Queensland

The paperback is available from Amazon for £9.99, or you can order it from Waterstones (although strangely, not online there yet – they are only listing marketplace copies). The ebook is available from here for A$4.99.

Just in case it escaped your attention, one of those 100 stories is mine – Pop. But far more importantly, all the profits go to the Queensland Premier’s Disaster Relief Appeal. Grim stories were banned, and although I haven’t had the time to read them all myself yet, I can tell you that, like me, fellow writers Sally Quilford, Simon Whaley and Catherine Miller contributed light-hearted tales. So if you need a smile over your cup of coffee, this will be just your…er…cup of tea.

And now on to plug another good cause and the work of a friend – not writing this time, but photography. The very gorgeous book Quoted Moments is out now, with beautiful photography and inspiring quotes that help you appreciate the important things in life. All profits go to the Irish Cancer Society, and you can buy a copy here for just €15+ p&p, or from stockists in Ireland. One of the contributors is talented prize-winning photographer Val Robus.

I’ve still not heard if my contribution to the New Sun Rising anthology has passed muster – I do know that the publishers have had enough subs to fill four books, so competition is tough! More on that (whether I’m in it or not!) when I hear firmer details.