I hate the camera and the camera hates me.

Hate – it’s such a strong word and not one to be used lightly but even as a young child I hated posing for photographs and as I’ve grown older that relationship has barely imp2014-07-14 10.09.19roved. This isn’t helped by my resting bitch face but as well as that my soft, round, delicate features are no match for that strong camera lens.Oh how I wish for a gigantic hooter or a sharp jawline to give my face some definition. So you can definitely cross that selfie stick off my Christmas wish list. That’s why you will NOT see my face plastered all over these posts but you might see the flowers from my garden. Me and the camera are just not, nor ever will be best friends. I thank the stars that I am not a teenager today trout pouting for all I’m worth – even a trout pout would not make my face camera worthy.

Joking aside, what I really, really hate at this moment in time is claiming benefits. Not the actual claiming of money that is owed back to me for the amount of taxes I have paid into the system for such a situation as this when I am in desperate need of help but the way that it gives other people the right to judge me. The person who reads those pathetic newspapers and categorises me as one of those single mothers on the dole with a flat screen tv, smoking twenty cigarettes a day, living off takeaways and down the pub every weekend. (I wish) But especially the person who works in the benefit office for looking me up and down as though I am something they have trodden in, for de-humanising me and turning me into a number, for treating me as though I have turned up outside your house with my begging bowl in hand asking for your own personal money. What you fail to remember is that I have paid into the system and the money that you hand out is money owing to me. But maybe it isn’t hate in their eyes when they see me approaching but only fear; the fear that they too might lose their job, their home, their husband, their family and one day they would become me.

To end on a less depressing note I will talk about love, the other side of the coin to hate. Apart from the obvious love for my children what I love most is the few people, young and old, I have met upon returning to this town who haven’t judged me. They don’t care that my expensive crowns were replaced with awful yellow free NHS ones (how I long for a set of nice teeth) and they choose not to mention them; they don’t care that my phone is more of an eye phone (for my eyes only) than an iphone; they don’t care that my car is rusting at the sides and all I ask is it still gets me from a to b; they don’t care that I haven’t bought myself  any new clothes in the last five years and they don’t care that I could do with losing a few pounds in weight. These are the ones who can almost spot a glimpse of the real me lurking under this exterior; the real me that will one day be free; the real me that thanks them for taking the time to say hello and not judging me or condemning me.

Never too old to study, never too young to succeed.

I like to write almost every single day. I strongly believe that to be successful you have to put in the hard work, the slog, the grind. You have to wbunker diaryork through the pain of another grey day when you just don’t feel like it, or the words don’t come or the blank page on the computer screen glares at you with its brilliant white intensity. Even if I only write few hundred words it’s enough to keep the ball rolling. However, my writing has had to take a seat on the back burner to make room for the Bunker Diary, a truly disturbing but fascinating read. It is my end of module assignment for my Children’s Literature course and I have to analysis this book and work out how it fits into the history of children’s books. So every waking, and sleeping moment is filled with this intense script. To be honest I would much rather be a writer than a critic as analysis is not my strong point. Writing comes from the soul, it is part of you, a small piece of your heart but to criticise and analyse you have to approach a book with a cold, stark detachment. I’m still not sure that every writer puts in as much subtle thought as analysts give them credit for or maybe it is just that writing comes from our unconscious psyche and digs deep into something primal and soulful. Anyway, a few more weeks of reading other people’s work and then I can get back to my own.

I think the instinct to succeed is implanted at a very early age and there are few children who do not respond to success and praise. My young daughter has finally passed her 10 metres swimming badge after months of tryingsuccess and her tenacity in not just throwing in the towel and saying she can’t do it made me as proud as finally seeing her eyes light up the whole world when she realised actually she could do it and do it well. Swimming for my children is a luxury that I can’t really afford but like any parent out there you make sacrifices for your children so they can have the best that you can offer them. This doesn’t make me special or unique it just makes me a mother. My children are my inspiration; they are not the reason I write. I write because after all these years I have finally realised that I AM a writer. They are the reason that I want to suceed.

Small mindedness

I don’t know if being small minded goes hand in hand with living in a small town or maybe it is just me that notices it more now that I am away from the big city.

Let me give you two recent examples. I came across an old man in one of those pound shops that seem to have sprung up everywhere but are great for getting cheap odds and sods for the kids. I saw him initially from the back dressed in a linen blue suit, too smart for this small town. Or so I thought until he turned around and I saw the tattoo emblazoned across his bald head: a picture2014-02-04 10.44.01 of the union jack with 100% British tattooed underneath. I felt sick inside and he actually made me ashamed to be British. Some people might say that it is a generational thing, an attitude left over from an era to which he belonged yet the tattoo could only have been done since he had lost all of his hair and this sickening kind of attitude is one that he will pass down to his future generations. I worry that my children have to grow up here with their ‘foreign’ surname and that they will always be defined by their differences. Already my son tells me he doesn’t want to be ‘brown’when he starts to tan in the summer on the beach; I don’t know where this concern has come from but it definitely hasn’t come from me and although he is too young to know what racism means , the distinction is already there.

The second example is slightly different. My brother and his friend signed up to take part in the Rickshaw Run in India to raise money for charity. His friend is a young woman from Australia who left her three children behind as she is passionate about helping the rest of the world. As part of the journey they posted regular updates on Facebook showing their hair raising journey as they had to make their way from the north of India down to the coast, over 3000km in only 10 days on some of the hairiest roads I have ever seen.One of the earliest videos they included was of their first day when they got trapped in a dust storm which looked pretty scary. Upon my brother’s return I was chatting to him about his trip, in particular the sand storm,  when my mum piped up that his companion had a filthy mouth on her. My mum hadn’t even seen the video and had only heard about it from my older sister. Ok, so his companion had used the f**k word a couple of times but really, that wasn’t even worth a mention in my book. There was a young woman battling extreme conditions in India, not knowing if she might see her sons again and I think she might be forgiven for swearing. Like I say small mindedness, or maybe it’s just me.

Anyway, check out their adventure at http://www.theadventurists.com/  or  https://www.facebook.com/clampits?fref=ts

Fate and destiny

I can control my destiny, but not my fate. Destiny means there are opportunities to turn right or left, but fate is a one-way street. I believe we all have the choice as to whether we fulfil our destiny, but our fate is sealed.

Paulo Coelho
Fate and destiny go hand in hand but if our fate is sealed then surely our destiny should follow and not be subject to choice. Or is fate one of those fickle creatures that can convince you after the event that they knew that’s what was going to happen. I’m a great believer in fate but I don’t know why destiny had to get aboard the gravy train and make life so difficult for the journey ahead.

I read a book on palmistry when I was in my early twenties as it was one of my passions then along with astronomy. One of the things I remember from this particular book was the position of the fate line; if it ended between the index and middle fingers this was an indication that the person who owned such a palm would be famous, apparently. The book however, didn’t specify what kind of fame and whether it was just plain old notoriety, b list celebrity or Nobel Prize winner. So, if one was to examine this from a scientific point of view it would be possible to scrutinize the palm of every famous person alive and discover identical fate lines. I haven’t met any famous people, well only Norman Wisdom on a cruise ship and he was playing table tennis at the time (very brilliantly as it goes) so I didn’t have a chance to inspect his hand, so, unfortunately I cannot verify whether this is a fool proof truth. Anyway, I have such a hand and as the years passed me by I would gaze at my fate line with such fondness and wonder when my fame would come. I moved to London, had a great career, no money worries, worked hard and played hard so this idea of fame and fate was simply a passing whimsy. In 2008 my life changed, and not for the better. My Portuguese husband had grown tired of the British summers so together with our young son who was born in November 2007 we decided to leave our cushy little life behind and move to the sunny Algarve where his mum and sister lived in a small, market village close to the fishing village of Fuzeta. This was far from the beaten tourist track and whilst plenty of British people could be heard round here they were mainly expats who had retired or their families visiting them for a free holiday. Unfortunately, for a girl who had grown accustomed to life in London it was a hard life to get used to particularly when my husband was out all day putting every penny of his savings into building his dream home. It didn’t take long for the wheels to fall off those dreams and within months we both missed the bustle and pace of the big city and horror of horrors it was too hot. However, the house still wasn’t finished, the world struggled under a financial crash that had an impact on so many lives including ours and to top it all of I became pregnant with my second child even though it was meant to be an impossibility. I returned to England with my son as I didn’t want to go into a Portuguese hospital but had burned my bridges in London so had to return to the North East of England where my family lived. I camped out in my mum’s house sharing a room with first one child and then two; I had no income and two young children to support and my husband, in my absence had decided that Portugal was a country of no opportunities, no future and no jobs so I should stay in England and then when he managed to sell his dream home he would follow us. Luckily for me I had savings from my London years as I was really going to need them. My mum was turning eighty and I knew I wouldn’t be able to rely on her for childcare so I decided to re-train as a teaching assistant knowing that it would be the perfect job to fit in around the children. I also began a degree course with the Open University but as if all of this wasn’t enough work for one person my old fate line came back to haunt me; night after night I would sit staring at it wondering how my life had gone so badly wrong when the fates all pointed in the opposite direction until it gradually dawned on me that I wasn’t going to fulfill my fate by sitting on my backside wondering about fame. I would actually have to do something significant, achieve something, create something to pull the strings of destiny back into alignment. It was then I went back to writing; it had always been a hobby of mine and I had lost count of the number of short stories and novels I had started while living in London and then tossed to one side as life was far too much fun but I had never attempted a children’s novel and that is where I began. Within six months I’d completed my first book, had a great title (or so I thought) sent it out there into the wide world of publishing and waited to be in demand and for the publishers and agents to fight over me like a pack of dogs with a bone. It didn’t take long for my bubble to burst as the rejection letters started to pour in and as I looked back at my hand the line of fate had moved ever so slightly away from the mid-point of my two fifate line handngers and started to veer towards the right. I had no idea what this signified as that palmistry book belonged to a previous life but I could feel my fate slipping through my fingers and I felt completely powerless to prevent it from happening. I finished my teaching assistant course, continued with my degree and by 2013 had found the three of us a small cottage to live in. The book, I had shoved out of the way in a drawer but the idea and the characters were still gnawing away at the back of my mind so I left them there to grow and fester. It took another year for me to finally get back into the creative swing of things. My daughter went into reception year so was at school for the whole day, I was still unable to find employment so had to suffer even more humiliation and embarrassment by having to claim benefits, and with all this time on my hands I decided that I had to try and turn all of the negatives into a big fat positive. I began writing again, basing my idea loosely on my original one but I’d lived with the characters for so long they were real to me and the words flowed with an ease I have never experienced before. I wrote practically every single day and occasionally I would read my work back and wonder how the ideas and writing had actually got there and I could feel my back tingling in anticipation as the story unfolded before me. More significantly, the fate line on my hand was on the move again and the more that I wrote the more it inched perceptibly ever closer to that magical midpoint between the two fingers. I started writing in September 2014 breaking off over the Christmas period when my daughter suffered an accident a few days after Christmas but before New Year’s Eve; this involved a midnight dash to hospital, eight stitches in surgery and long periods of waiting but she was so brave and calm that I promised her if she was well enough we could get the train into Newcastle on New Year’s Eve and go and watch the firework display down by the riverside. I hadn’t really though she would want to go but she insisted despite the big plaster across her nose and had a fabulous time. The next day I spotted a local newspaper and bought it for the photographs of the firework display it contained so that my daughter could take it in to school to show her class where she had been. As I read the newspaper I came across a few words in a column advertising a writing competition called the Northern Writers Awards; most competitions I had seen were for published books or for completed manuscripts but this one caught my eye as the prize money was for works in progress for new unpublished authors to help support them on their journey to becoming a writer. The second part of the prize was a trip to London designed to expose your work/ideas to publishers and agents and hopefully get a contract. I had never heard of this competition before or New Writing North who organised it and I could feel the wheels of destiny clanging into alignment and the line of fate slowly shifting into place. My fate was there on my hand ready to be sealed and was so tangible I could almost taste it. This was it; this was meant to be and within seconds of reading the article I had uploaded my required 5000 words then stuck my author hat firmly back on my head and continued writing my novel.

The winners of the Northern Writer’s Awards will be published in June; follow my journey to see if destiny is truly on my side.