Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Why don't I look on the outside like I feel on the inside?

Copyright unknown
The Bookcave Limited launch on Saturday went really well; lots of people came along and quite a few bought books. I really hope this early success continues into the New Year and beyond. I did my readings and to my relief people laughed in all the right places. One person said he enjoyed my artistry!

However, I was horrified when I saw the photos. I didn't realise I looked so like The Big Bang Theory's Amy Farrah Fowler (pictured). A makeover is needed.

My next public appearance is with my ukulele group this afternoon when we play in an assisted living home. I shall hide behind the tinsel when the photographer comes round.

Friday, 7 December 2018

Retirement: a six-month review

Real ale in the making
When Mr Thorley retired at the end of May, we decided we would give it six months and then review - by which I mean have a discussion about what each of us is doing that annoys the other. In the event, I couldn't wait that long before pointing out a few things, but by and large it's not been too bad. This is only my opinion, of course. For all I know, Mr T has spent weeks quietly seething, but has decided not to make a fuss.

Certainly there have been a few sticky moments - let's not dwell on the Vegetable Biryani incident, for example - and many a time the air has been filled with the stench of burning martyr. On the plus side, the allotment could win prizes and the homebrewing is coming on a treat. The house has never been tidier or the freezer better stocked. We've both put on weight, but this is a small price to pay.

We've also had lots of trips out, even though I'm still working. The joy of freelancing is that I can timeshift and if I fancy a Friday afternoon off I can take it, even if that means catching up during what we used to call the weekend.

There are still adjustments to be made. I need to stop harrumphing when he is 'sitting about'; he needs to stop hovering around me when I'm working. On the whole, however, it's all good. I shall let him stay a bit longer.

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Another booking!

The lovely bookshop, Bookcave Limted, that opened in Kettering recently has moved to bigger premises in the next town, Wellingborough. As part of its grand opening celebrations this Saturday, I've been asked to read from my book Nine Lives, which the shop has been selling. Two of my poet friends Chuck the Poet and Kezzabelle will be there, too, so it should be a fun do.

Isn't it good to see an independent outlet doing well? If you happen to be in the area at 11-ish on Saturday, please come and say hello.

Thursday, 29 November 2018

Have faith?

There's a bit of a to-do in town at the moment, because one of the pubs has renamed its upstairs function room as The Buddha Bar. I have friends who are practising Buddhists and they are very upset about this. Can you imagine The Jesus Joint, Mohammed's Movie House, Krishna's Cafe? There is, of course, Mecca Bingo, but how would you feel about the Nazareth Nitespot?

Whether the pub intended to cause offence I can't possibly know, but certainly it's brought it some publicity. Am I offended? To be honest, I'm not sure. I mean, I can see that it's at best a bit tasteless and thoughtless; but is it my place to be offended on someone else's behalf? If I don't speak against it, am I implicitly supporting it, or expressing neutrality?

It's all a bit of a minefield. I'd be interested in your thoughts.

Monday, 26 November 2018

Concrete mixer

Image: morguefile.com
I am indebted to my mum for the inspiration for today's short post.

Her latest writing-group challenge is to write a poem in the shape of the subject - for example, something about a cat in the shape of a cat. A quick Google search revealed hundreds of very clever examples of what I now know is called concrete poetry. (I won't post any here, out of respect for copyright, but they're easily found.)

I rather like the idea of fusing words and images in this way, and I'm looking forward to seeing what she comes up with.

Are any of you practised in this form?

Wednesday, 21 November 2018

Goodness me, look at the time!

I don't know where the time has gone since my last post. Did you miss me? Although this blog is a way to keep my hand in when it comes to writing and of course it's lovely to connect with you folk out there, sometimes it has to take a back seat because real work comes along.

It's funny how often just when I'm on the verge of packing it all in and getting a proper job, things pick up: and that's what's happened in the last few weeks. People I haven't worked for in ages have resurfaced, and my regular clients seem to have perked up, too.

Not only that but I've also been commissioned to write a book! I can't tell you what it is, because I'm ghosting it for someone. That means my name won't be on it, of course, but I'm hoping I might get a mention in the acknowledgements. It's going to be hard work, I know, but I've made a promising start.

By the way, in case you were wondering, my public speaking engagements back in October went well. Since then, I've also done my first WI presentation, which was great fun. I spoke a bit about my writing and read a couple of my short stories (one from Nine Lives and a piece from Stripped-back Yoga), but the meat of the session was getting them all to write something.

This week's public appearance is playing my uke tomorrow night for a community gathering. Never a dull moment!

Friday, 26 October 2018

Talking the talk

I still get nervous before public speaking, which is a completely different beast from standing up and teaching. However, I'm working at it and actually quite enjoy it once I get going.

Tonight, I'm co-presenter at the Fellowship of Professional and Amateur Artists for an evening of readings and discussion on feminist writing. This will be low key and the audience will be made up mostly of people I've met before, so it should be fine. Tomorrow, I'm running a short workshop at the Moulton Literary Festival on bringing fictional characters to life. This is much more daunting, because it is rather an unknown quantity. Tickets are being sold on the door for the whole day, so there is no way of knowing who will turn up and what their expectations will be. Exciting! I've done my prep and packed my boxes, so bring it on!

By coincidence, as I sat down to write this post one landed from my blogworld friend Sally Jenkins, who has some useful things to share about 'Speaking about writing'. Why not pop over and see what she has to say? 

Wednesday, 24 October 2018

I've got the music in me

After my rather gloomy post on Sunday, here is something happy.

Do you listen to Planet Rock? One of the best things about my little Ford Fiasco is that it has a DAB radio, so now I can listen to this mighty station when I'm out and about. Every evening at 6pm, they have a Rock Block, where a listener chooses the music - and yesterday that listener was me. The deal is you fill in a form online with your 20 top tunes and they pick a selection to play. Of course, if I were to compile another list I'd choose a completely different mix.

This is what they played from my choices:
  • Bad Reputation - Thin Lizzy
  • Because the Night - Patti Smith
  • Long Live Rock 'n' Roll - Rainbow
  • Closer to the Heart - Rush
  • Bad Company - Bad Company
  • Only Women Bleed - Alice Cooper
  • Burlesque - Family
  • Faith Healer - Sensational Alex Harvey Band
  • Stay with Me - The Faces
  • Collide - Black Country Communion
  • I Only Lie When I Love You - Royal Blood
This is what they left out:
  • Dancing the Night Away - The Motors
  • We Are the Road Crew - Motorhead
  • Angel Witch - Angel Witch
  • No Laughing in Heaven - Gillan
  • Come With Me Now - Kongos
  • Dance of Death - Iron Maiden
  • Bad Things - Jace Everett
  • War Pigs - Black Sabbath
  • Aint Talking Bout Love - Van Halen
What do you reckon?

Sunday, 21 October 2018

In the midst of life

Image copyright unknown
Mr T and I went to a free talk at the Alfred East Art Gallery on Friday: 'Treasure in Northamptonshire', all about the archaeological finds from this neck of the woods and the Portable Antiquities Scheme.  It was only a hour, but we both came away intrigued by what might be underneath our town.

It was a warm day, the room was a bit stuffy and the lights were dimmed so we could see the screen properly. We weren't surprised, then, when an elderly lady a couple of rows in front of us appeared to nod off about halfway through. She leaned on the shoulder of the woman to her left,  who pushed her back over to the right, where she rested on the shoulder of a man. This couple were definitely with the old lady, perhaps her son and daughter-in-law.

Anyway, the old lady slumped right down in her seat and the man tried to rouse her by shaking her arm. Then he put his hand around the back of her neck and hoicked her upright, rather like a cat might gather up a kitten. The lady stayed in place for a few seconds, but then slumped back on to his shoulder. This made us smile at first; but then we started to wonder if perhaps something was amiss - and yet neither of the 'chaperones' seemed unduly concerned and kept their attention on the speaker.

It was only at the end, when the lights came back on, that it became clear the lady was not asleep. At best she had passed out. (Mr T assures me she was still breathing, but I'm not convinced.) Very discreetly, gallery staff asked us to clear the room as the lady was moved to the floor. As we left, an ambulance could be heard on its way.

I learned later that the lady's husband has died a couple of months ago, so she probably wasn't at her best anyway. I wondered about the conversation that might have taken place before she set off on what might well have been her last trip out. Did she want to go to the talk? Did she feel unwell at home, but didn't want to say for fear of upsetting her well-meaning family? Did she realise she was drifting while she sat listening to the talk?

What really bothers me, though, is why the man didn't realise that she wasn't just asleep.

Saturday, 13 October 2018

Pipe mania

I have always thought it's better to be married to a man who can cook than one who can mend things. For his part, Mr Thorley has long reconciled himself to the fact that my idea of sewing is less needle and thread and more Copydex and staples. We don't do much DIY, preferring instead to GSI (get someone in).

This week, we have called on the services of our plumber, Justin, who over the years has helped us out of many a damp hole. He is what you might call a Diamond Geezer, a man who works with great intensity and enthusiasm and the most extraordinary attention to detail. I don't know where he gets his energy, because he's as thin as one of the drainpipes he has manoeuvred into  place outside our kitchen window, and from what he tells us about his work-hard-play-hard life he can’t have time to sleep. He bounces in and gets straight to business: no chat and no pre-work cuppa. We have recommended him to several friends and he has never let down either them or us. 

Having fixed the problems at the front of the house, he moved to the back and I watched in awe from my office window as he worked miracles with our guttering. Everyone needs a Justin in their life.

Thursday, 4 October 2018

Pulling myself together

My mood is much improved this week, thanks in no small part to some major-league pruning and tidying in the garden. Basically, we've been editing the long border that runs from the pond to the shed and it looks much better. There's nothing like a physical labour in the sun to raise the spirits.

Work is picking up, too. Today I've edited an article about Russian military aircraft, finished a piece on a tourist destination in Staffordshire, taught a yoga class and noticed that I get a mention in Writing Magazine as judge of the H E Bates short story competition. Have you started on your entry yet? You have until 3 December to get your entries in. I'm in the current issue of Spectrum, too (the magazine for members of the British Wheel of Yoga).

Elsewhere, nerves are building ahead of the charity concert on Saturday, raising money for Cransley Hospice and Headway East Northants. My nails are filed short, my ukulele is tuned and I'm ready to rock!

Thursday, 27 September 2018

I have sinned

Of the seven deadly sins, the one I succumb to most often is envy. (What did you think I was going to confess? Shame on you!)

I've decided that's what's wrong with me this week. I'm envious of my husband for having escaped into retirement, even though it was me who encouraged him to give up work; I'm envious of friends who have more money than me, more freedom, bigger houses, better clothes, whiter teeth; and I'm envious of writers who have achieved more success than me and at an earlier age. In short, I have a bad case of Poor Me Syndrome. This is, of course, ridiculous. I am healthy, I'm surrounded by loving family and friends, I have no mortgage and I earn a decent living doing things I enjoy. I should be ashamed of myself - and I am.

I've been looking back over my last two years' accounts; while my earnings have remained roughly the same, the amount of my own writing seems to have gone down, notwithstanding that I've published two books in the last 12 months. This presumably means I've been editing more of other people's work, which is what pays the bills, but it seems a retrograde step.

Today, then, I've entered a couple of competitions. I also popped into Sainsbury's to buy the new issue of Om Yoga & Lifestyle magazine, where I was pleased to see that Stripped-back Yoga gets a mention on the books page. It's not all bad, then.

Monday, 24 September 2018

Hitting the snooze button

Does anyone else need a deadline to be motivated? Both the monthly magazines I work for went to press last week, so this is my quiet week in which I usually get busy with my own stuff. Unfortunately, it's just not happening.

I've had a bit of a cold, which has left me feeling rather lethargic. I just can't seem to get going on anything new and thumbing through my WIP folder has made me feel guilty about my apathy, rather than stimulating the creative juices.

Apparently there's a full moon tonight (technically, it's 3.52 tomorrow morning), so perhaps that will bring some inspiration.

Monday, 10 September 2018

Bacon or eggs?*

I went to my first BNI meeting last week. I was invited because the group is seeking a copy-writer. BNI (Business Network International) is a business and professional referral organisation that allows only one representative from each profession to join any of its 'chapters'. The sole purpose of every BNI chapter is to generate more business for its members. It's a sound idea and I know several people who have found it beneficial, but while they made me welcome and sat patiently through my permitted 60-second presentation, I shan't be joining. It's not for me, thanks.

The organisation's stated philosophy is 'Givers Gain'. Again, a sound idea and one that I try to embrace. If I join something I like to get involved. This sometimes leads to me 'doing a Julia', as my son so eloquently puts it. Not only do I join in, but I also have a tendency to try to take over. Once a control freak...

Anyhoo, also last week I answered the rallying cry from one of the music groups I'm involved in for members to step up and help organise our forthcoming concert. Out of a possible pool of 40-plus people, there were 10 of us - and that included the two hosts, one partner who isn't a member but was there to support her man, and another person who isn't going to be in the show.

Is it me, or is that a bit sad?

*When it comes to a cooked breakfast, a pig really commits to the project, while a hen makes a small donation. What do you do? (I bring the vegetarian sausage.)

Monday, 3 September 2018

Fancy winning £500?

Details have been announced of this year's H E Bates short story competition. Submissions of stories of up to 2,000 words are invited by the closing date of 3rd December. Top prize is £500. Further details are on the competition website here, where you will also see that Head Judge is yours truly.

Good luck to everyone who enters.

Friday, 31 August 2018

That which no longer serves

I want to be here
I've been suffering from a touch of post-holiday blues this week. My plan to hit the ground running and be a creative dynamo came to nothing. Let's face it, I've been a bit mardy. There were a couple of incidents that didn't help my mood.

1. I learned that two people who were going to be buying copies of Stripped-back Yoga won't be doing so, because a well-meaning friend has lent them her copy. This I interpreted as 'We didn't think your book was worth buying.'

2. I had someone cover one of my yoga classes last week and of course I asked my students how they got on. 'Oh, it was brilliant; we really enjoyed it,' became 'She was much better than you' in my miserable state of my mind. Honestly, I'm my own worst enemy sometimes.

However, I've rallied (aka pulled myself together) and I'm finishing the working week in relatively good spirits. It's not been all bad, of course. The theme of this week's yoga has been: Breathe in what you need; breathe out anything that is no longer serving you.' I've followed my own advice and unsubscribed from a lot of online dross. I've also decided not to update my other blog, Yoga? Here's what I'm thinking, at least for the time being. I can see from the stats that people are reading it, but rarely is anyone moved to leave a comment. I can only assume they are not served by it.

It's September tomorrow. Time for a fresh start.

Tuesday, 28 August 2018

Doing the Lambeth Walk (Oi!)


The audience is yet to arrive
Show programmes, then and now
In 1984, my family went to the Leicester Haymarket Theatre to see Me And My Girl. This was the revised production based on Stephen Fry's revision of the original book and ahead of its transfer to the Adelphi in London's glittering West End. It was a wonderful evening and we all came home singing.

As part of our recent trip to Cornwall - well, actually the main reason for the visit - Mr Thorley and I went to the fabulous Minack Theatre (right)  to see The Mitre Players' production of this same musical. It may have lacked the tap-dancing prowess of Robert Lindsay and Emma Thompson who played the leads Bill Snibson and Sally Smith in the Leicester version, but Paul Grace and Megan Brown did a great job in the roles. Once again, we came home singing.

We stayed a few miles inland in St Buryan, home to John Le Carre (which I didn't realise until we got home). It might only have been a week away, but I feel refreshed - and have come back with a notebook full of scribbled ideas for stories.

Friday, 17 August 2018

Here's looking at you, kid.

Not without cause do my family call me Little Miss Clumsy. Having distinguished myself with an inelegant trouser moment last week, I managed to get toothpaste in my eye yesterday. I can't tell you how much this hurt! It's still a bit tender today. We are supposed to be sharing the driving tomorrow; Mr T is understandably nervous, although I must point out that I have never written off a car. I'll say no more.


Saturday, 11 August 2018

Oh, I would like to be beside the seaside

You think you're tired?
July was such a busy month, what with workshops and spoken word events and book launches, not to mention day-to-day work stuff. I had hoped August was going to be a bit gentler, but here we are on the 11th already, and I feel I'm still playing catch-up. Not that I'm complaining; I hate it when I haven't got a deadline looming or a target in my sights.

Even so, I could do with a holiday. I've got one coming up soon, so don't feel too sorry for me. I'm trying to get four weeks' work done in three (because freelances never just disappear into the sunset), but at least it's quiet at home at the moment, because Mr Thorley has gone off on his golfing jolly with his chums. This has left me with the dubious honour of caring for the tropical fish and keeping on top of the allotment picking.

All of which means, I have little to report of any interest, except that on Wednesday I distinguished myself at dancetheatre rehearsal by ripping my trousers through over-enthusiasm in the warm-up routine. I tried to keep my back to the wall as much as possible, but in the end I gave up all attempts at modesty. Good job we're close friends.

Did I mention I need a holiday?

Sunday, 29 July 2018

If this is style, you can keep it

I don't why I put myself through it. I mean, I know the Sunday supplements are based on pure fantasy and, as the League of Gentlemen would tell me, 'There's nothing for you here.' The thing is, though, every now and then I have a lazy Sunday in prospect and find myself thinking that what I really need is a copy of The Sunday Times, with a crossword I have no hope of completing, several sections that go straight in the recycling basket (today's gem: The MBA List 2018) and the chance to be patronised by the fashion police.

Today, then, in spite of my better judgement, I browsed the glossy little add-on that is STYLE (note the block caps). Brace yourselves.

Page 7 has the STYLE Barometer, where I read that 'heating up' is Noisy Yoga: 'Forget candles and breathing, the next gen [sic] of yoga classes encourages whooping and vocalisations.'  Forget breathing? Really? My teeth start grinding.

Skipping quickly over the the double-page spread telling me what to wear with a jumpsuit, I arrive at a feature on 'THE NEW FITNESS TRENDS TO TRY NOW'. (More block caps.) The whole article is full of the most pungent BS, but two snippets take me from raised hackle status to full-on spitting with rage mode.
  • Under the subhead STRETCHING (seriously, enough with the caps), is this: 'If you don't get along with yoga, the chances are your muscles are tighter than they should be.'  Now, I'm no expert - oh,wait: yes, I am - but  surely that ought to read: If your muscles are tighter than they should be, you need to try yoga.
  • That is nothing, though, to the abomination that is Ganja Yoga. I kid you not. '... run by hatha yogi Dee Dussault, [Ganja Yoga] delivers a more meditative, less physical practice.' What the ...?  Apparently, you can get a one-to-one Skype session for about £45 an hour. 
 I bet you can.
 

Thursday, 26 July 2018

It's the end of the world as we know it!

Glorious sweetpeas*

'Thousands will die!'


This is one of the headlines on the BBC front page this morning, scaremongering on the back of stories about soaring temperatures. Oh, for goodness' sake!

OK, so this report is actually about what the future might hold, should heatwaves become a regular feature; but I'm sure you've seen the stories in the press about how dangerous all this weather is. Yes, I know it's very hot and I know we're all a bit sweaty and starting to flag, but honestly! What is it with the British? We're never happier than when we're miserable.

Obviously, some parts of the world are suffering because of the unusual weather and that's awful, but for most of us in the UK it's all just a bit bewildering. We don't have the right clothes or attitude for all this sun.  I know there are some who are at risk - the elderly, the very young and those with trouble breathing at the best of times, for instance - but shouldn't we be making the most of this lovely weather? Put on some sunscreen, buy a floppy hat, sit in the shade, strut with a parasol, but try to enjoy it while it's here, because it won't be long before we're scraping the ice off the windscreen and worrying about burst pipes and people slipping over in the high street.

On a pedantic note, may I take issue with the use of the word 'thanks' in this quote from the BBC story?
 'But all agree that future heatwaves will be hotter and more frequent thanks to carbon emissions.'  

Have a lovely day, folks - but be careful out there.

* In case you think I've been wasting water, let me assure you that my sweetpeas, pictured, continue to thrive because I've been emptying the washing-up bowl into their pot.


Sunday, 22 July 2018

Festival time

Every town in the land seems to be having a festival these days, and dear old Kettering is no exception. This year's KettFest was blessed with glorious weather (obviously), but could have done with a bit more publicity, and sooner. Nevertheless, a good time was had by all.

I played my part. I hosted a creative writing event in the town library at which people were invited to drop in and create a character based on the prompts I had provided. This was great fun and there were some lovely - and surprising - words written. Then I dashed around the corner to take part in a spoken word event, where I read out a story from Nine Lives and a short piece from Stripped-back Yoga. There were people taking part not just from the town, but also further afield, and organiser Kezzabelle (who took this pic of me) did a great job of coordinating it all.

My turn went down well, but I could definitely do with a bit more practice with a mic. Part of the  problem was that there was no monitor, so I couldn't hear myself through the PA, but the bigger problem was that I found it hard to stay close enough to the stand.

Anyone got any tips for me?

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

It's publication day!

It's finally arrived. Today is the day that Stripped-back Yoga is released into the wild. This evening, I'm having a launch event at Rushton Hall, which is one of the venues where I teach; then a week on Saturday I'm holding a one-off class at the place where I held my very first proper class. To say I'm excited is an understatement! My yoga friend Angela has just rung to reassure me it's all going to be all right and I must remember to breathe.

However, it's also a regular working day, and I have two classes to teach and an issue of Logistics & Transport Focus to proofread. Must dash.

About the book
Stripped-back Yoga is a collection of my thoughts about yoga to be dipped in and out of when you have a couple of minutes to spare. Some of the pieces are about practical aspects, but it's not a 'how to do yoga' book. Much of it is simply my opinion and observations, so I hope it will appeal to those who practise yoga and those who don't.

At £7.99, it will be available from my website www.juliathorley.com and from www.3ppublishing.co.uk/bookshop, as well as from Amazon's Kindle store.


Sunday, 8 July 2018

Schmoozing

'Schmooze: to chat in a friendly or intimate manner, especially at a social gathering'

Yes, that covers it; that's what I've been doing recently. I can't really call it networking, because that sounds very businesslike and professional, when what I've actually been doing is drinking wine with arty types at various locations around the county.

On Friday evening, for instance, I was at a book launch for Silencing Anna by Sadie Mitchell, a local author I met at a social evening run by the publisher who is handling my yoga book. (Get you, missus!) This is the first book by this author, but I'm sure it won't be the last, It's a disturbing psychological thriller - and if I tell you the blurb includes the killer line:
 'Only Anna knows the truth, but Anna cannot speak' 
I'm sure you'll want to rush out and buy a copy.

It was a lovely evening (gin van available, for those that way inclined), with a good turnout and lots of convivial chat and,  most importantly, a queue to pay for a copy of the book.

Silencing Anna is available from Amazon  or direct from the publisher.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

National Writing Day

Today is National Writing Day, a collaborative initiative between First Story and partner arts and literacy organisations across the UK. It is supported by Old Possum’s Practical Trust and Arts Council England.

I didn't hear about this until it was too late to get involved in any events (maybe next year?). However, there is some good stuff on the website - for example, under the 'Resources' tab there are ideas for students of all ages. There is also 'Write Away', which invites us to write freely for seven minutes from the prompt:

'I feel most free when I...'

OK? Off you go.

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Reflections on recent 'appearances'

While they're still fresh in my mind, here are my reflections on the 'writerly events' I mentioned on Sunday.

The bookstall at the garden centre taught me some valuable lessons:
  • I need to be more assertive when it comes to promoting my books
  • While it is always lovely to meet new people, you can waste an awful lot of time listening to someone drone on about their own ambitions when you know full well they have no intention of buying a book
I'm undecided whether this was a worthwhile use of my time. I did meet some interesting passers-by and all of us sold some books (and we made a donation to Marie Curie from our takings), but it was a very long afternoon. The jury is out.

Holding forth
I have no such qualms about the talk I did at Towcester Library this afternoon. Certainly the audience was on the small side, since many of the library's regulars had chosen to celebrate Father's Day early. No matter. After a sticky start, I ended up with an audience of ten, which was fine. After all, they had no idea what to expect!

Milena, who had arranged the event, was the perfect host and made me feel very welcome. I should love to go back and do another talk, if she'll have me. I sold some books, made some useful contacts and discovered connections with people I didn't know before today. I'd definitely chalk this up as a success.

Sunday, 10 June 2018

Publication day is getting closer!

Here it is: the cover of my forthcoming book. What do you think? The painting was done by Malcom Parnell, who is an author as well as an artist. I'm so pleased with it. I shall try not to bombard you with nothing but marketing ploys in the coming weeks, but I am a bit excited, as this yoga book has been in the making for quite a while. This is the blurb: 

If you’re a fan of yoga with animals, this book might annoy you.
There’s a lot of yoga about these days. Most of it is wonderful; some of it is not. Long-time yoga teacher Julia Thorley has collected her thoughts on what she has learned on her mat. Some of the pieces are about practical aspects of yoga and others are a bit ranty, because there’s a lot about the modern yoga world that rubs her fur the wrong way. Her opinions are not always humble and may well make you cross, but some should raise a smile and might give you pause for thought.
Take a comfy seat – it doesn’t have to be in the Lotus position – and make up your own mind.

I've got a couple of writerly events this week. On Thursday, I'm sitting on a stall with other members of Northants Authors at a garden centre in Northampton (bet J K Rowling has never done that), where we shall talk to 'our public' and, it is to be hoped, sell some books. Then on Saturday, I'm guest speaker at Towcester Library, talking about writing and stuff.

Interesting times.


Tuesday, 29 May 2018

It's oh so quiet

My editorial clients must have decided to extend the Bank Holiday weekend by an extra day, because my email account and phone are quiet today. This is good, because it means I've been able to spend all morning writing. I'm working on a short story, but it's taken a rather depressing turn, so I'm having a break to post here and then I shall go for a quick walk round the block to lift my spirits.

My weekend went well. I went to a poetry group meeting on Friday evening. On Saturday, I played my ukulele at the grand opening of a bandstand-cum-covered seating area in the afternoon and then in the evening went to a performance of M R James stories in our local art gallery. On Sunday, I taught my creative writing workshop as planned. All good.

Yesterday, I pottered. This included taking a saw to my lilac tree. It's still standing, but it's letting in much more light than it was this time last week.

I usually teach yoga on a Tuesday evening at a local hotel and spa, but I've just had a message to say the electricity has gone off over the whole site, so I have an unexpected night off. I could go to Zumba, or I could watch King Lear, which I recorded last night so I could watch Car Share in real time. I'm such a culture vulture.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

We're in the money (not)

I have friends getting rich doing jobs they hate; I have other friends you live happily on next to nothing. Most of us, I suspect, are somewhere in between.

When I was at college, I worked in a cake shop every Saturday in the days when we had to add up in our heads and wrap crusty bread in tissue paper. (I am very old.) On Sundays I worked in a petrol station, which involved filling up customers' cars in the sub-zero temperatures of a Staffordshire winter. I used to get so cold it made my nose bleed. Then during the holidays I would also work in a factory, standing on a line packing biscuits. At least this was warm and we could eat as many custard creams as we wanted to, a novelty that wore off after a couple of days. I earned enough to keep me in eyeliner and concert tickets, but there were some very grim days amongst the good ones.

The latest newsletter from the ALCS includes a profile of author Peter May, who gives an honest account of how much he earns. He is a full-time writer and his annual income is - wait for it - £11,000. While the J K Rowlings of this world earn the big bucks, most of we jobbing wordsmiths are just bobbing along, poor but relatively happy.

Monday, 14 May 2018

Ow foot toe crate

I've just been sidetracked into listening to an episode of Tongue and Talk: the dialect poets on th'i-player. I'm supposed to be proofreading something about logistics, but when your mother sends you an intriguing email it would be rude not to follow it up.

Mum is a real poetry buff: she reads it, writes it and performs it, usually from memory, which always impresses me. It seems this gift extended to her Aunt Lucy, who Mum says was as deaf as a post but nonetheless partial to a little recitation.

One of her party pieces was a poem called 'Bowton's Yard', by Yorkshire born but Lancashire bred dialect poet Samuel Laycock (1826-93), 'Laureate of the Cotton Famine'. This gem was based on a real terrace in Stalybridge, where Laycock lived, called Bolton's Yard. It describes in turn the inhabitants of this row of houses and was, apparently, a huge influence on Tony Warren, creator of Coronation Street. It's not hard to see why. You can listen to it here.

I was brought up in Uttoxeter in Staffordshire (or, as we would say, Utcheter in Staffyshire) and still have a few dialect words in my vocabulary (nesh, mardy, two-double, plattin' em), but I haven't really got a Staffs accent - except when I get angry or have spent too long back home with the folks. If you want to know what it sounds like, say the title of this post. It means 'How to speak correctly.'

Ta-ra. Let thee sen art.



Tuesday, 8 May 2018

I'm running a workshop

Not a bad place to be working
I hope you all enjoyed the Bank Holiday weekend. Is it too soon to start planning for the next one?

I hope not, because I'm excited to confirm that on Sunday 27 May, as part of the Festival Books at Delapre Abbey in Northampton, I'm running a workshop on 'Creating Fictional Characters'. Now, I appreciate that not all of you live within spitting distance of the county, but if you did happen to be free it would be lovely to see some friendly faces looking back at me.

The site is worth a visit for its own sake. There has been an abbey there for over 900 years, but it fell into a sad state during the 1990s. Now the building and the beautiful grounds have been restored and it is a venue for all sorts of activities.

Tickets can be booked here.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

You can't un-hear things

This is something I overheard in a local coffee shop recently - and I really wish I hadn't. The speaker was a shabby woman, 59. I know, because she'd been talking about her next 'big birthday bash' at some length. She had her back to me, which was probably just as well, so she couldn't see my reaction.

'There was a woman in Asda yesterday: looked like she'd just got off the boat. Great big woman, wearing all the gear - big, flowery scarf around her massive hair, full-length robes.'

Pause. Slurp.

'Mind you, she could speak English. Some of them can, can't they? I expect she was well-do-do. Perhaps her family had saved up and got her educated.'

Pause. Slurp.

'Eh, sometimes you don't recognise England any more.'

Pause. Slurp. Bite of cake. New topic, without any sense of contradiction.

'My brother's been over from Oz. He's lived there nearly ten years now and he loves it. Says he wouldn't come back here for anything.'

I despair.




Friday, 20 April 2018

A writer's week

I'm struggling to come up with a cover image for my new  yoga book, so I went over to see the publisher for a bit of a chat. While I was there, it was pointed out to me that I'm in the May issue of Writing Magazine (pictured), which was a nice surprise. I'm part of the Subscriber Spotlight and I hadn't noticed!

I'm also in the spotlight locally, because our new bookshop has a display of local authors' books, including mine. I'm in the window with Alan Moore!

I'm just waiting for Radio 4 to invite me on and I'll have a hat trick!

How's your week been?

Monday, 16 April 2018

Nose to the Grindstone

Many of you will already know about Grindstone. For a while now, I've been entering writing comps on its site, because they are reasonably priced, they don't go on for ever and the results are posted promptly. Best of all, though, everyone who enters gets feedback on what they submitted. I've yet to be a winner, but I have received some very useful comments on my submissions.

I'm mentioning this because Grindstone has had a face lift and has a new website that makes it easier to enter competitions and promises to offer all sorts of other useful stuff for writers. If you're interested, you can find the site here.

I have a story that's been sitting around for a while that I'm going to refresh and enter into Grindstone's next comp. It's a tale I'm rather fond of, but as yet I haven't been able to find a home for it. I hope there's nothing fundamentally wrong with it - but no doubt the team at Grindstone will tell me if there is.

How old is too old for a story, do you think? When is it time to accept that it's never going to appear in print and simply let go of it?