Friday, 30 April 2010

#4 Dear Lovely Blue Top that I bought yesterday

Dear Lovely Blue Top that I bought yesterday,

It has felt really nice wearing you today. You are such a gorgeous blue and I like the little crocheted bits that remind me of lace doilies. You fit me just right, so it has made me feel extra special, especially because you were a treat for finishing a very hard piece of work this week, and also you've taken my mind away from annoying things like bloody high street banks and internet scams. Hurray to you for being in the shop when I only popped in for five minutes before my appointment, hurray for being lovely, and for feeling so beautiful against my skin,

A x

Thursday, 29 April 2010

#3 Dear Spring Rolls

Dear Spring Rolls

I should perhaps have taken a sandwich to work today, but I want to express my gratitude that you were going spare, and tasted so delicious, just when I needed a bite to eat. I have to confess that perhaps eating 6 of you was a little greedy, but you were just so delicious (if a little bit soggy) and I couldn't resist dipping you in that lovely sweet sauce and then licking it off my fingers. You felt like a naughty treat, cheers for being there just when I needed you,


Wednesday, 28 April 2010

#2 Dear Ornamental Quince

Dear Ornamental Quince,

growing by surprise around my pond, you are so gorgeous, I love your orange flowers, and when I came down to the allotment today, it was lovely to see flowers here there everywhere, pushing out from behind all the weeds. I did an hour pulling out weeds, just so I could see you better, and the day's tiredness and stress just disappeared, Yea, I love you little Quince flowers, you've brightened my day

A xx

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

#1 Dear Migraines...

Dear Migraines,

I really don't like you, but thank you for telling me that I need to slow down, live a less stressful life, and look after myself. These are important things and I forget sometimes to do them when I'm busy and working too hard. I know you are just trying to give me a message, and I wil try hard to be a better listener,

A x

Dear Everybody....

I recently finished reading this STUNNING book.

written by this very talented man.

It's not often I am wordless when it comes to describing a book, but all I can say is how I loved it. I thought it was one of the most beautiful, quirky, sad novels I have ever read.

You can watch a film previewing the book here.

Inspired by Dear Everybody..

and also the wonderful blog Thx Thx Thx of which I am a ardent fan

the one hundred days to make me a better person project, I followed one or two people as they carried out their hundred days challenge, especially this inspiring lady, who did all kinds of creative things including a lot of beautiul cutting up of books

and now this other very inspiring lady is taking a photo of something that makes her happy everyday for 100 days.

So, these things have all helped me decide. I'm going to write a little letter or note or list of gratitudes every day for the next 100 days, and I might post them here. It will help me appreciate NOW more, and be grateful for the little things in my life, and also to focus on the positives (because I feel I need to practice all of these things...)

Sunday, 25 April 2010

RIP... Alan Sillitoe

I was very sad to read just now that Alan Sillitoe has died.

A brilliant writer, writing what I would consider to be some of the greatest English novels of the twentieth century.

When I was on my creative writing MA, my tutor directed to me to his novels, feeling that I would relate to them, learn from them, that some of what I wanted to achieve was explored in his novels. I read The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner first and was gripped, first by his use of language, the way he uses 'voice' and depicts local vernacular, and spoken voice within his narratives. Second for the structure, I loved the three part structure, each exploring a different aspect of Colin, his family and life in Nottingham, his time in Borstal, and then his running. Thirdly, the story, which captures achingly difficult, sad aspects of life, in a down to earth, gritty way. Real, I would describe it as. I know when his novels were adapted for film, they were described as 'kitchen sink', I'm not sure whether that could be used to described his novels, but certainly there is something grimly everyday about them. This, for me is what is so overwhelmingly good about them, he captures something that elsewhere might seem boring or mundane, but transforms it into something poignant, imbued with meaning, affecting.

I couldn't get enough of that novel, still my favourite I think. I suppose it's the English version of 'Catcher in the Rye', very different, but for me equal to it.

Saturday Night, Sunday morning as well. Bloody hell, does this novel say so much to me, capture what could so easily be missed. I don't know whether Nottingham can be described as 'the north', probably more like the midlands, but for me, it helped me to identify my place in a literary world, my northernness, how I didn't have to be intellectual in my writing, or clever, that just writing in my voice, with my ideas and environments, my way of seeing the world is enough, in fact more than enough. I could write about tough stuff, grim environments, in an ordinary way, and it could be poetic. Almost as though reading his work, made me understand more of who I was as a writer, or affirmed perhaps who I am.

I'm not sure whether his work might seem old-fashioned now, I don't think so. It captures a specific era I think, beautifully, a culture, a social class. It made me feel YES, I can do this.

So I guess you could say he was an influence, that until reading about his death, perhaps I didn't realise fully. He will certainly be remembered for his writing, and my thoughts go out to his family and friends.

Friday, 23 April 2010


Hurray for fridays.

Hurray to a whole week without a migraine.

Hurray for having 50 readers. Hello 50th reader!

Hurray for the man who asked me to the pictures on Tuesday and then took me for food and shared lovely chat with me. Thank you, I really enjoyed myself.

Hurray for the friend who cycled down to my allotment to say hi last sunday. It brightened my day and made me really grin.

Hurray for Sufjan Stevens and Elliot Smith and Bon Iver who have all provided me with lovely songs to listen to this week, even though my lovely cat chewed another pair of my earphones.

Hurray for cheap earphones from amazon delivered to my door.

Hurray for Adam Marek's brilliant collection of short stories, Instruction Manual for Swallowing, which I have been reading each night, a story at a time. I think your writing is really weird and brilliant and so unique I have no idea what is going to happen next.

Hurray for my lovely cute cat who gives me love everyday, and is now lying exhausted on the end of the bed after a day of adventures.

Hurray for my kind friends, especially the one who met me for dinner tonight and didn't complain when I realised I had left my purse at home.

Hurray for being inspired by the same friends overwhelming goodness and the way he makes peoples lives brighter all around him by being 'real' and giving 100% and making them feel there is someone believing in them.

Hurray for light evenings where I can actually do things rather than feel the need to hibernate.


Sunday, 18 April 2010

almost organic

It's been a tough week. I won't go into the details, but getting to the end of the week was a struggle, and my body has been saying 'time for a change, time for a change'.

I have consoled myself with my little seedlings which are coming along a treat. Some of my cabbages got munched by slugs, so I have resorted to slug pellets. I am in every other way organic, but bloody slugs are a law unto themselves, and eat everything in their path, and I didn't know any other way to stop them.

I figure that being almost organic is good enough. I'm only growing for me, so I'm happy with that. And I actually want to eat my own cabbages so need to keep the little blighters away. Although I have to say, one slug bought it yesterday and it was a bit messy. If anyone has any other ideas that are less gruesome for keeping slugs away, then please let me know.

I wonder whether I am going to face the same battles with other pests.

Here's where I am up to...

My netting is now covering cabbages to keep the birds away...

Potatoes in the ground... beetroot, parsnips (already starting to grow), chinese cabbage, summer cabbage.

The cold frame is bursting with seedlings, some ready to plant out...

This photo was two weeks ago actually, so it has come on loads...

I have sweetpeas and nasturtiums ready to plant out today, I'm going to grow them up a little wigwam of bamboo. Courgette, squash, sweetcorn, tomatoes, leeks, sunflowers are all growing, and I'm waiting on purple sprouting brocolli and french beans.

Yesterday I planted coriander seedlings given to me. I'm building a herb garden in old tyres, which is looking totally scruffy now, but I have a vision, and it will look amazing... I need to sow all my herb seeds soon... (photo soon)

And still more digging to do... If anyone with muscles wants to help me dig out a really deep rooted blackcurrant bush (that's more like a tree), then let me know. If anyone wants to donate me a lounger or a deck chair so I can sit on allotment and read my book, then please do, cos I'm sitting on a little tree stump, which is a bit uncomfortable... If anyone has any old tat that might be useful on an allotment (spare bricks, paving stones, plastic bottles, buckets, those huge bags that builders use to carry sand) then let me know, anything considered...

This blog is becoming more like an allotment blog, so I promise to write about books and writing next time....

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Annie has been busy busy reviewing

Well, a little while ago I realised I had 12 books that I had promised reviews for. Bearing in mind I work full-time, have a life, and don't get paid for reviewing, I felt as though I had over-promised myself, and that even though I LOVE getting books for free, reading and reviewing, I needed to cut back.

So, a little while later, I have reviewed reviewed reviewed and only have two books left with reviews promised. How good am I. (Pats own back).

In actual fact, I've loved most of the books I've reviewed, and it has brought many new writers into my life, and it's been brilliant to have the chance to recommend them to other people.

And now, I want to get down to zero, so I can get MORE books to review, but perhaps this time, only one or two at a time, and not let them build up TUT TUT.

This was the latest book I read and reviewed...

Brilliant second novel from Megan Taylor, which I highly recommend. You can read my review of The Dawning at Bookmunch and I also had the pleasure of being able to ask questions in this special Megan Taylor interview: An extra intimacy. Have a read and leave us comments, it be good to hear what you think.

Soon, I can start to read some of the MANY books on my shelves that I have bought over past few years, and have been saving until I really need them. Books I was so excited about, but wanted to find the right time to read... or didn't have the time to read... or that have just sat there looking pretty for a long long time. It feels very exciting...

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Don't Cry...

Click here for my latest book review...

The book:

Tiny excerpt:

I had just published a book that was like a little box with monsters inside it. I had spent five dreary years writing it in a tiny apartment with a sink and a stove against one wall and a mattress against the other, building the box and its inhabitants out of words that ran, stumbled, posed and pirouetted across cheap notepaper like a swarm of hornets was after them. I neglected my family. I forgot how to talk to people. I paced the room while feverish tinny songs poured from a transistor radio with a broken antenna and fantasized about the social identity that might be mine if the book were to succeed.

Brilliant. Short. Story. Collection. I. Totally. Loved. It.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

am I still a writer?

This questions struck me this morning, as I was emailing a friend, who is a writer. We swapped a story a while ago and have recently just exchanged some feedback, constructive thoughts on ways to improve it, a readers impressions. I realised that this story (my most recent) was written about eight months ago, perhaps longer. When I thought about it, I realised that I haven't written anything at all for about six months, and I haven't even tried writing, so it's not writer's block, it's more of a choice, more not wanting to write. And my writing blog is turning more into a gardening blog. So what's going on? Am I still a writer if I don't actually write?

Well. I read at a literature festival recently. I was a writer then, reading a short story that I wrote a few years ago. I still have a book. I still occasionally send work to publishers or magazines, trying my luck to see if they want to publish it. I applied for a writer in residence job (the short listing takes place this week, but I have an inkling that they won't think I am experienced enough). I get emails from people who seem to think I am a writer.

But, I'm not writing. So, agahhh how can I call myself a writer if I haven't put pen to paper in an age? And how long do you have to not write before I have to say, oh I used to be a writer, but I don't write anymore? Or is being a writer in your blood, do you always remain a writer even if you give it up for a while? Or do you have to be physically writing? Or making money from writing? Or being published? Or doing it full-time?

Ha. It's a tough one to think about isn't it.

I'm still not inspired to put pen to paper, because... well, I don't feel the need to right now, I have other priorities, I have some things to work out before I can write the things I really want to write, I've felt a bit shaken by disappointments recently, and the world is not repsonding well to the kinds of things I write, the publishing world, and of course there is sometimes self-doubt, like am I good enough?

But it's not because I have given up hope or got bored with it, or got stuck, or anything negative. I'm not upset about it, in fact it feels like I need this break, after a few years of pushing myself out there, trying really hard to get my writing published, network, discover myself as a writer, I felt a bit tired, and I decided that actually if you have to TRY so hard then maybe some of the enjoyment gets lost. And I want to rediscover writing (at some point) when it can be all joy, and none of the hassle that can surround it.

But, it is an interesting question. Am I still a writer~? Well I guess it depends on your definition.

Friday, 2 April 2010

rain and other stuff

Well, if the rain carries on I'm only going to see the inside of my shed

.. and not do very much digging this weekend. It's a bit wet and muddy.

I have done all kinds of jobs since my last allotment blog... planted parsnip seeds, planted my early potatoes (hoping they don't drown with this rain), dug over and got the soil miller onto my raised beds to get them ready for planting, dig a trench to catch rain and stop my neighbours weeds travelling onto my plot, and I've planted all kinds of seed in my cold frame

since I took this pic they have all started sprouting - cabbages, chinese cabbage, leeks, sunflowers, nasturtium, sweet peas, tomatoes.

My rhubarb is coming along a treat, and my blackcurrants and gooseberry bushes are full of leaves just starting to emerge from their buds... My onions and garlic are doing great, and my globe artichokes have tons of new leaves on.

So, it's all good. I'm loving it down there, as usual, and getting excited about what might grow. I mean, I have no effing idea what I'm doing. At all. I am doing the 'plant it and see' method of gardening, with some advice from books, and from other allotmenteers (although I have to say, the advice conflicts sometimes, so the best way is probably, make it up as going along and see what happens..)

It is my total escape at the moment. I hope to get down there tomorrow, Sunday and Monday, but we'll see what the weather does. I have to say the cosyness of my bed can seem more appealing than a cold, windy sometimes rain/sometimes hail day on the allotment.

Other than allotment, I was very excited to get an unexpected parcel of books yesterday. Four books of sudden fiction and prose poetry from White Pine Press, which look brilliant. I have written a review of one of their anthologies, which will appear in a month on two on The Short Review. So maybe that's why!

Also in the past week or two...had my haircut, had a cupboard and drawer clear out at home, worked bloody hard, had a couple of migraines grr, made banana flapjacks, made quiche, watched An Education - which was good, but I didn't think it was as brilliant as the reviews made out - been lazy, slept a lot, bitten my nails (bad bad bad), and been to ice cream parlour to bring back a huge tub of all my favourite flavours... sigh, life kind of keeps going with all its wonderfulness and shit bits and fun and grr and kindness and love and la la la. I think might get another five years older before I even blink and I won't even know what happened.