Category Archives: Pondering

some thoughts on politics

Despite the storm in UK politics recently, I’ve held back from sharing my views on the blog and social media. I’m not quite sure why – last year I was pretty emotionally open about it all on here. I made it clear I was pro-remain and vehemently anti-Trump and believe me, my silence this time round hasn’t meant any lack of political passion this year either.poppy field

So I’ll be honest with you now – I was nothing short of THRILLED that Labour won more seats in the election last week. I feel it’s a huge step towards a more compassionate society – one where everyone matters and where vital services like the NHS are protected. I also think it’s a huge slap in the face to Theresa May’s hard Brexit and the way she was pursuing it and, as someone who values togetherness and collaboration, I think that is a very good thing.

I love all the talk about the youth standing up to be counted, the thought that our population is more engaged and politically active and the belief that the hate-soaked tabloids are losing their power over the electorate. That last thought alone is enough to make me dance in the streets. There is much in all of this to celebrate.

But, man alive, what about this proposed Tory coalition with the DUP?!!!! Their party is sickeningly homophobic, denies climate change, wants to teach creationism as scientific fact, reintroduce the death penalty and is not only anti- abortion but wants to criminalise any one who offers or seeks advice about it. It beggars belief. And even though I can’t honestly see any of these beliefs radically impacting on policy (I have more faith in our Conservative MP’s than to think they would back-track on gay marriage or our right to choose etc – I hope I’m right on that) I think to allow the balance of power to lie with the DUP gives such abhorrent views a dangerous legitimacy.

I also understand there are grave concerns in Northern Ireland about how this could unsettle the peace process there. I can’t pretend to have much of an understanding in this area (although I’ve been doing a bit of reading this weekend) but I’ve heard this alliance called dangerous and irresponsible. There are rumblings in the Conservative party’s own ranks let alone in wider parliament.

Personally, I’d question the extent to which a minority Tory government propped up by the DUP could be genuinely representative of the views of the British people. I may be a lefty myself but I’ve spoken to Conservative voting friends over the weekend and they’re appalled by the DUP’s views too. All told, the coalition feels desperate and unsafe. To many it doesn’t even feel legitimate.

So where does that leave us? What’s going to happen next? Will we have a new Prime Minister by the end of the week? A date for another general election by the end of the month? An entirely new government by the end of the year? Who knows?!

Anyway, I thought I would share this drawing I did. It’s about sticking together to face whatever life throws at you. Braving the storm no matter what. I think we’re going to need to.

storm image for blog

it’s a spring thing

yellow flowersDo you find your creativity fluctuates with the seasons? We’ve had gorgeous weather here in Northumberland these past few days and, in response, I’ve felt a tug from the creative part of my brain the likes of which I haven’t felt in months. An awakening, a stretching and an unfurling of sorts. A throwing aside of winter wrappings.

Sitting in the garden this weekend, bathed in the sun’s rays, stories suddenly started running through my head. Well, story fragments at least – they need building on before they become fully-fledged ideas but still…stories, poetry and creative words have alluded me for months. It’s good to feel they might be on their way back.

Of course, I haven’t had an entirely creativity-free winter: far from it. I’ve been focussing a lot on my illustration course and on some very exciting commissions… but even those, under the weight of winter, felt a bit of a slog. No, not a slog – I love drawing – but sunshine, bursting buds and birdsong (oooh, right now I can even hear a wood pigeon!) just make things feel lighter don’t they? The fun stuff feels more fun and the hard stuff feels more achievable.

I’m going to go off into the sunshine with my sketch pad now. I’ll blog again soon, though. I thought I might share some of my drawings here. Some work from my course, perhaps, and from another project I’m working on.

In fact, tell you what, I’ll leave you with an illustration that was part of my last assignment. It’s a very old limerick by an unknown author. I originally drew ‘Nan’ as a rather traditional, long-skirted figure running across Nantucket, then I thought, nah – if you’re going to steal a bucket of cash on an island you’d definitely escape on a jet ski!nantucket limerick illustration

onwards!

track“February! Great to see you! Thank God you’re here – did you not hear me calling you last week?And the week before? I could have done with your intervention really…

See, some bad shit went down last month, I’m afraid. I know, I know, you heard the same about January last year, but seriously, my dear February, seriously, that was nothing compared to what this January threw at us. And me. Yes, personally, nationally and internationally it wasn’t a good month.

Do you think when you’re finished here you could perhaps have a little word in the ear of January 2018? We’d like thirty-one days of loveliness please – world harmony, kittens, that sort of thing.

Impossible? Oh ok, just a few weeks of semi-loveliness…

Too much to ask? Ok, I’d settle for some garden-variety mundanity. Nothing at all showy just the sort of month that doesn’t leave me gazing at the news in horror or at social media with my head in my hands… can you do that?

Yes? Good. We’re all set then.

Ok, I’ve finished talking to February now ;)

It’s been nearly a month since my last post and, yes, it was a bad month but – imaginary conversations aside – the arrival of February has given me pause to reflect and find some good things to focus on. Like the fact that I’ve completed another assignment for my illustration course and am now working on a whole new module. And, even better, I’ve just finished another illustration commission – a book cover this time – which is very exciting! I’m also planning to design a website for my illustration soon which is a project I’m looking forward to. AND there’s this business idea I’ve been working on which both my friend and I are keen to get our teeth into.

And then, while I was eyeball deep in January, an email plopped into my inbox  (I didn’t even spot it until February had arrived) saying I was one of Feedspot’s ‘Top 20 Creative Writing Blogs And Websites on the Web. Chuck Wendig is in the list – Chuck Wendig! I love his blog so much! To be in the same list is… well, a bit baffling if I’m honest but just amazingly fabulous at the same time. I really have loved how – through the #WhatImWriting linky – this blog has become a little hive of writerly connection… or that’s how I like to think of it anyway! Good stuff.

Of course, ‘What I’m Writing’ itself is something that makes me very happy indeed. The community of writers is wonderful and the mutual support has made a difference, I think, to all of us over the past few years. I have realised though that it’s time for some (only some!) changes in this area. Having had time to think since my new year post, I’ve decided to stop running the linky. It’s been going for well over two years and during that time masses of different writers from different countries have linked up hundreds (and hundreds) of posts. I’ve loved it all but I’m finding myself continually more stretched time-wise to the point where it’s not viable to run it any more.

BUT (and here’s the crucial bit) the most important aspect of the linky for me has always been the community – to create and nurture one was the original and vital aim and, on that count, ‘What I’m Writing’ has far exceeded my hopes. And our community is still very much thriving and will continue to do so. We have a Facebook group where we share posts and ponderings and we continue to organise meet ups too for those who fancy it. I’ll be updating the linky page soon to explain things more clearly but basically, if you’re a writer at any stage of your career – published, unpublished, wondering if you dare pursue your dream, or already jumping in with both feet – you’re welcome to join us. Drop me an email and I can add you to the group. It’s a place of friendship and support – just what the doctor ordered at the moment!

So, this was really just me touching base because it felt weird not to blog for so long… and also to let you know things are ok in Writing Bubble land. January may have been awful (and I think this year has more to throw at us yet) but there’s lots to look forward to as well. I’m determined to pour energy into writing and drawing and family and friends in order to squeeze every drop of happiness out of 2017.

Let’s do this.

Writing Bubble

art and the broken heart

sunset-skyI just watched Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech. It’s fantastic. The way she exposed the awfulness of the US president-elect’s behaviour without even mentioning his name…

But what struck a chord most was her final sentence where she quoted something the late Carrie Fisher said to her:

“Take your broken heart, make it into art.”

I love that. It totally sums up where I am at the moment. So much bad stuff happened last year – horrible stuff, sad stuff, stuff that we know is going to cause problems for years to come.  It broke my heart. It broke many people’s hearts.

But it’s made me resolve to throw my passion and my energy more into the people I love and into art – in all its forms. I want to write and draw and illustrate. I want to learn and explore new creative skills. I want to experience art created by other people, to read and watch and see and feel and listen and devour art in all its glorious forms.

“Take your broken heart. Make it into art.”

That. Just, that.

New year, new something.

sunset-2016It’s 2017! Happy New year!

I like to start each year with a reflective blog post looking back at the year that was, and thinking about the promise that the new year holds. I spent hours yesterday writing such a post. It was hard to write because it was really honest – a kind of ‘I can’t gloss over 2016′ type exploration. Last year brought us some harsh realties and taught us some difficult lessons and I think it’s important to address that in order to find a way forward. I really don’t think there’s a scenic route – we have to go into difficult territory to really move on with hope.

Then I was all ‘oh no, that’s too intense, I need to write about the good stuff that happened in 2016!’ Because there really was some good stuff, most of which, for me, revolved around creativity and around the people I love… of which there were substantially more at the end of the year than at the start – how lovely is that? :) That post took a while to write too.

So then it was really late at night and I had these two posts, neither of which were even finished, and I realised that all the time I’d meant to spend on my illustration course that day had been used up on blog posts that weren’t even ready to be published. And I thought of all the stuff I needed to do the next day and I felt this jolt of anxiety that I didn’t have time for that either (and some of it is really flipping important too). And I realised that right there was my new year message to myself. Something has to give… and it has to be my blog.

I blogged less in the latter part of last year – cut back massively in fact – but running my linky meant I still wrote two posts a week and did a fair bit of reading and commenting. I’m fond of my blog and I love, love, love my writing community but I do not have enough time to dedicate to blogging and hosting a weekly linky any more.

One message that really came through to me loud and clear amidst all the horrible stuff last year was the importance of art, in all its forms. I wrote here about its ability to build understanding and unite us, to lift the spirit and to help fight the demons. I truly believe it’s more important than we might ever imagine so, in trying to figure out a way forward for myself this year, it’s become obvious to me that art, alongside friends and family are where it’s at. That means my priority is going to be my illustration course and setting up an artistic project with a friend. Hopefully some creative writing too. I don’t want to stop blogging altogether but I can’t keep up the pace I have been.

I haven’t figured out what to do about my linky yet. I’m hoping to find a co-host to remove the weekly pressure, but, quite honestly, I’m not even sure a fortnightly post isn’t too much. Part of the problem is I’m a really slow writer but it’s the headspace that blogging takes up as much as anything. I need to not be thinking about what I might blog about and how many blogs I need to read and how much commenting I have to do. Time is so tight!

So that’s about it. The boys are back at school today and I have a to do list reaching over the hills and far away. Enough blogging for now.

Happy 2017 everyone.

a wonderful weekend

what-im-writing-meet-up

Some of my wonderful #WhatImWriting friends.

You know the sort of weekend that’s so good that regardless what Monday throws at you, you keep smiling all day long? I’ve just had one of those. And I don’t mean just smiling a little bit either, I mean like, huge cheshire cat grins often accompanied by little chuckles at random moments and even the odd guffaw (when passers-by least expect it). Oh yes, I’m talking a properly stonking good weekend.

It began with a plan of military precision involving leaving my eldest son with my husband up in Northumberland on Friday and my younger two with my parents in Yorkshire on Saturday and then leaping on a train all by myself (that is BY MYSELF, alone, no kids, on a train, on my own and did I say I was by myself?) and going down to London. I got there at 12.56 (a not entirely pointless detail) and immediately went to meet up with some of my wonderful #WhatImWriting gang.

And what a meet up it was! There were eight of us. We met for lunch. Lunch went on for eight hours. It was awesome: I can honestly say these women are soul food to me – proper, hearty, ‘eat as much as you like and you wont ever get sick because it’s too tasty’ soul-food. They are all intelligent and creative and strong and brave and brilliant and beautiful and being in their company made my spirits soar.

It also made me *rather* drunk. Oh yes. The sort of drunk where you text your husband from the loo to tell him how much you love him and how much you love everyone and then you realise later that what you sent looks more like ‘I higglibley fulsip ve’ than the message you were really aiming for but never mind because he knew what you meant. The best kind of drunk, then.

Anyway, we well and truly put the world to rights and then just to top it off, straight afterwards I went out for a meal with one of my friends from my university days who I don’t get to see nearly often enough. And he came and met me where we were having our epic lunch (The Parcel Yard at Kings Cross – this isn’t remotely a sponsored post but we had such a good time there, they deserve a mention) which somehow made it even more lovely because it was like a bit of my history (18 years of friendship and counting) intersecting with a much more recent part of my life. Not quite sure why that felt so lovely but it did.

And, AND just to top it off even more than it was already topped off, the next day I had brunch/lunch with one of my very oldest, bestest friends (39 years of friendship and counting – we met before I was born… ) by the end of which my spirits were in the stratosphere and my heart was bursting all over the place with love.

I then caught the 12.56 train (see – I like a bit of symmetry) back to Yorkshire, picked up my younger two boys (who’d had a brilliant time with my parents) and drove back home to Northumberland in time to babble joyfully and semi-coherently at my husband, find out that his time with our eldest boy was ‘pure joy’ (I shed a little tear at that description) and then collapse into bed to dream of… well, we decided that what happens in The Parcel Yard stays in The Parcel Yard so I couldn’t possibly divulge any more…

xxx

Writing Bubble

art and healing

sheep-at-sunriseSo, phew, how are we all doing then? What’s that you say? Am I still enraged, horrified and saddened? I know, I know, my recent posts have been fairly emotionally-outpoury and heavy haven’t they?

Well…

In answer to your question – yes and no. Yes, because that’s my honest and human reaction to what’s going on in the world at the moment… and no, because if I stayed permanently in that state I’d lose the plot. I’ve actually had some lovely times recently: mornings and afternoons and lunches and dinners and drinks with friends that have fed my soul and given me a huge boost in the happiness stakes. If there’s one big positive to come out of this awful year it’s been those friendships that have grown and strengthened in the face of everything or simply remained resolutely fantastic. They’re better than the cosiest, warmest, fluffiest blanket in front of the crackliest, brightest, toastiest fire with the biggest, crumbliest most delicious plate of mince pies, my friends are. And all the chocolate in the world – they’re better than that too.

So yes, as I write this, I’m feeling calmer than I’ve felt in weeks.

But I have been thinking about those feelings of outrage and horror and the proper place for them. Because I don’t think such feelings can be dismissed – not when they are legitimate and not when people’s rights, freedoms and even lives are at risk (or worse). However, they’re also not something that should be used to further negativity or hate or violence – I think they need to be used to combat those things. Channelled in the right way, I think horror and outrage can be powerful and positive.

I’ve read loads of articles recently about positive actions that can be taken by people feeling shocked or sad or powerless. There are many different options, whether its volunteering or donating or speaking out or up for others or peacefully protesting or being a friend – the list goes on. And I think we each need to pick the course of action that works for us – the action that will heal us and hopefully help others.

For me, I’ve decided that the way forward is art. I read a blog post earlier this year by Chuck Wendig called ‘It is art that will help us survive‘ (read it as long as you don’t mind sweariness). In it he talks about how art – in its many forms – can soothe and heal but also excite and agitate, how it can help us understand ourselves and each other. How art can lift us up and, by sharing it, lift others up too. And how it can bond people across all sorts of personal and political and cultural divides. So, while it might seem a bit, I dunno, ‘fluffy’ in these troubled times, it just isn’t.

An artist friend and I had a big chat about this the other night and we’ve come up with a plan. It’s about creating art and sharing art and hopefully creating opportunities for others to do so too. It’s about being able to respond to events that upset us in ways that create empathy and promote feelings of togetherness and hope. And it’s also (if all goes to plan) about helping causes close to our hearts: making sense of the world while having a genuine positive impact.

It’s only a little idea – it’s not flashy or bold. But I think – we both think – it can make a difference. That it can channel outrage into healing.

And that’s just what we need right now.

Writing Bubble

searching for hope

sunset-through-treesThis blog was never supposed to be a place to talk about politics. “I’m not a political person” I used to state and, “anyway, I don’t want to discuss this stuff in public” so, “I’ll keep things light-hearted on the blog… nothing remotely controversial.”

Then this year happened. Oh, didn’t it just. Didn’t. It. Just. And I am done setting myself rules about what I can and can’t write here. I’m emotional – a ‘big feelings’ person – I need to express myself and if I want to express it here then that’s fine. Nobody has to read it if they don’t want to. There’s just too much big stuff in my head right now and I need to write it out. Maybe writing will help.

So, this year, this steaming turd of a year, I’ve looked at the world around me, at horrible acts of violence committed by individuals and groups, and at awful decisions made by governments and voters and just thought, “What the f*ck is going on?!”

I’ve read masses of articles and opinion pieces and tried so hard to understand some of these events – like what would make the UK vote for Brexit or America vote for Trump. There are so many different voices, so many different opinions – not just ‘two sides to every story’ but a clamouring mass of them, tugging and screaming to be heard. It makes my head spin.

What I mostly see though, is that a lot of people are hurting and feel helpless and angry and scared. And that we seem to have lost our ability to understand views that differ from our own. We exist in our ‘echo chambers’ baffled or appalled by those outside of them, as the divisions between us get wider and wider – so wide we may as well be living in different realities.

I’ll make no bones about it – I think some terrible decisions have been made this year. I think they’re going to lead to great pain and hardship for many. And I hate that, I hate it.

But… there’s always got to be a ‘but’…

I’ve got to hope that we can get something positive from these decisions too, if we try hard enough. I want to believe that they can be a starting point for acknowledging the divisions that exist in our societies and and that they compel us try to bridge that divide so that in the future we are guided by hope and togetherness rather than hate and fear.

One of the great points of optimism in both the EU referendum and the US election results was that the youth voted overwhelmingly for what I’m going to call ‘togetherness’. Young people in the UK voted that Britain should stay in the European Union and young people in the US voted for Hillary Clinton, a democrat whose campaign was built on the idea of being ‘stronger together’.

Our future is right there, in those voters. And what we have now is a great big kick up the bum – a horrible, shocking, devastating kick up the bum, but a motivating one nonetheless – to start listening to each other properly. Not just listening to our friends or those who think similarly to us, but to those people whose actions and views we can’t understand at all. Working out how to listen could be a challenge. Making sure our governments and politicians listen to all of us, another one. Not to mention building understanding, and a society based on that. But we have to start doing something differently. Don’t you think?

Anyhow, I did a drawing. It’s about hope and love and respect. It’s about putting out the fires of hate and fear and re-building the future together. For all of us.

mending-the-broken-heart
If only it could be that simple.
But we’ve got to try.

Writing Bubble

when all the swears in the world aren’t enough

I drew this as I awaited the election results. I didn't hold out much hope.

I drew this as I awaited the election results. I know – it’s brutal. I didn’t hold out much hope.

If you read my post the other day then you can probably guess how I’m feeling in the wake of the US election. A racist, misogynistic, narcissistic sexual abuser has been elected to the highest office in the western world. It beggars belief.

And I’m exhausted. The outpouring of grief on my Facebook feed today has pretty much overwhelmed me. When so many people you love and care about are reeling in horror and pain it’s… well it’s just awful. Actually, ‘awful’ doesn’t cover it but words are failing me today.

And yet, as much as Facebook has overwhelmed me, it’s also given me hope – because there has been so much goodness on display there. So much solidarity. So many people reaching out to each other with understanding and love .

So although I can’t deny I’m feeling pretty wretched at the moment, I do know that all is not lost. The immediate future is more challenging but we’ll keep going. Things will turn around.

I’m running out of words so I’ll leave you with something I put on my personal Facebook feed earlier. This is our challenge now and we have to rise to it.

So, my friends, our task now is to make sure our kids know that racism is wrong, not only in the face of a hateful UK tabloid press but with an American President who is openly racist. We have to teach them that sexism is wrong even though the President of the USA is blatantly misogynistic. We have to show them that homophobia is wrong, insulting people with disabilities is wrong and that blaming things on minorities is wrong despite the soon to be ‘leader of the free world’ doing all these things without shame. And most of all we have to make it clear that despite the US President ‘grabbing’ women by the ‘pussy’, that sexual assault is always, always completely inexcusable (not to mention f*cking criminal). We have to show our next generation that – despite this morning’s awful message to the contrary – hate and fear can’t win over respect and love.

I’ll leave you with a picture I drew just before the EU referendum. I wish I could draw something new, something symbolic of hope, but I’m not quite there yet, so this’ll have to do.

#Loveisstrongerthanfear

Because love is stronger than fear, my friends, love is stronger than fear.

xxx

fear and anxiety

lightningSad and scared.

That’s how I’ve been feeling recently when I’ve looked at the world around me. 2016 has not been a good year. Actually, that’s an understatement: 2016 has felt like a terrible year. Sickening terrorist atrocities, a horribly divisive EU referendum, our British political system a mess, a rise in hate crime and a despicably vicious tabloid press that has sown lies and grown hatred. And bubbling along with a growing fervour, a US election that has shone a light on so much of what is wrong with the world.

I find it hard to write about Donald Trump. I find it hard to speak about him without my words getting tangled with rage. I can throw out words that describe who he is – that describe what he is: racist, misogynistic, narcissistic, a bully, a liar, an incompetent who is absolutely unfit even for the role of president of one of his (failed) companies let alone of the ‘free world’.

But those words… no matter how much truth they hold, seem weightless in the face of his march towards power.

A few weeks ago, after tapes of Trump boasting about ‘grabbing’ women, were released, ‘sexual abuser’ was added to that list of words to describe him. Sexual abuser. And his popularity dipped. But you know, pah, where’s the harm in a bit of sexual abuse? Thought no right-minded person ever… and yet, AND YET, after that dip, his popularity has grown again until he and Hillary Clinton are practically level in the polls.

I’m horrified. Just… horrified.

Like so many others, I reeled in the wake of those Trump tapes. Even more so as more women stepped forward to share how he had assaulted them too. And I felt sick to the stomach as he cast aside their accusations not with, “I would never do that because it is morally reprehensible” (I suppose he couldn’t really could he? as he’d already said it’s the sort of thing he did), or with, “I admit it and it was wrong and obviously I will remove myself as a candidate and accept a jail sentence for my crimes” but with “Look at her – I don’t think so”. Because, what? Sexual assault is something that only happens to women who look a certain way? As if sexual assault isn’t a diabolical and appalling act that no human being let alone presidential candidate should ever commit.

I read articles and stories by women around the world about how all this made them feel. How it awakened painful memories from their pasts, of how it reminded them of every abusive experience they’d ever had. Across the globe, women were united in grief and pain and fear and I knew, I KNEW:

THIS MAN CANNOT BE PRESIDENT.

Because of course he can’t. And yet, there he is. Republican candidate. Drawing ever closer in the polls to Hillary Clinton.

And you know what bothers me most? And why, despite not being a US citizen, I have such a passionate interest in the outcome of the election?

It’s not even that he isn’t fit for presidency – that he isn’t capable or worthy of dealing with the power and prestige that comes with the role (of course he isn’t. OF COURSE HE ISN’T.)

It’s not even the thought of what laws he might try to repeal or what hatred he will undoubtedly sow and the far-reaching consequences of that.

It’s not even the idea of him having his hands on the nuclear codes, though that makes my blood run cold –

It’s what it symbolises if he wins. It’s the message it sends our next generation.

That a racist, a misogynist, a narcissist,

a bully, a liar, an incompetent.

a sexual abuser.

can become President of America.

People have said not to worry. That Hillary Clinton will win. That a woman who is intelligent, competent and experienced, hardworking, dedicated and compassionate will prevail over… that.

And I’m trying to believe them. I’m trying not to worry.

Wednesday is going to dawn on a different world. Let it be a better one. Let it be one where little girls can think ‘maybe one day I can be president!’. Let it be one where it’s NOT ok to be a racist or a bully or a liar. Where we challenge misogyny rather than, too often, accepting it. And where our sons and daughters can aspire to be the best they can be in a society where – regardless of race, or sexuality, or ability or religion or gender – we are all equals.

I’ll be watching for the sunrise. And, despite my fear, I’m going to hope.

Writing Bubble