Yesterday was my regular writing group that I run. I was a bit disappointed because only two ladies came – though this had led to me deciding to change venues and return to running the groups around my own table. My business name is Barefoot At The Kitchen Table so running it at home is probably where it is meant to be.
So I decided to make the most of the area around the centre I’ve been using and the lovely weather and sent my ladies outside to gather ideas for a poem along the lines of how I write poems. Note my PDF on this.
They went outside to get some notes and then I worried that they would get bored. Above are photos of my ladies engrossed in their writing and note taking. They came in reluctantly. They had enjoyed their 10-15 mins that they had had outside listening and looking. Mindfulness?? Maybe!
They both said how much they had needed this and then thank me. It gave me such joy to know that I had been instrumental in helping them have a lovely afternoon. It also reminded me why I run these groups. It isn’t to make loads of money but it is to encourage others to enjoy writing as I do and connect with each other and themselves.
Here is what I wrote from the afternoon too – dedicated to my two lovely writing ladies, Dot and Vivien. And also to those who usually come but didn’t make it.
Clinging, creeping ivy wraps round fence and post and thoughts
Trying to drag all down with the help of self-conscious chatter.
Yet the dappled leaves illuminate the lady writers
We’ve just been away on a week’s holiday up in Scotland which is why I haven’t posted for a bit. It was lovely to hang out together, walk, talk, eat, drink and just be. One day my husband went off up a mountain and the dog and I stayed back at the cottage, did a couple of little walks and I wrote. The reason for going away this last week was that it was my birthday.
Birthdays are great times of remembering, of noticing the changes, of connecting. Last year on my birthday we were sat on a more touristy beach in mid-Wales watching jet skiers buzzing about and listening to children asking for ice creams. This year we were sat on top of a hill looking out to sea. It was peaceful but I’m sure when the castle was built there it saw its fair share of noise and mayhem. And then two years ago we were trapped in our house on lockdown enjoying the back garden and quiet of our town as next to nothing was driving about. How things have changed in these last couple of years. Now our town is back to its normal noisy self.
It got me to reflecting on seasons. So for now this castle of the Isle of Kerrera is a peaceful walkers destination, but once it was the site of a major battle towards the end of the Jacobite wars. But even before then it would have been a home not just of a nuclear family but to the entourage that goes with castles.
We also visited Hadrian’s Wall which is now a peaceful deserted haven for walkers, but I do wonder what it was like 2000 years ago when it was filled with Roman soldiers defending the borders of the empire.
So from looking back on 3 years of birthdays to 600 years of Scottish history to nearly 2000 years to the Roman Empire it got me to thinking how we hold so tightly to the now as being the full reality.
And I know in mindfulness we are encouraged to be in the present and not to worry about the past or the future, but sometimes I think it helps to know that this present we stand in is not how it always has been or how it will always be.
There was much talk about yesterday – 9th May – Europe Day – which marked not only the end of the Second World War but also Schumman’s speech which led to the founding of the European Union. The world has not stood still over the last 75+ years. And as we see war in Europe again with the Russian invasion I think it would help to see that, awful though this is, it is just a phase that history is going through and hold it lightly. Who knows what things will look like in a year, in two, in ten, in twenty, in a hundred?
I’m sure those standing guard on Hadrian’s Wall or in the castle on the Isle of Kerrera when it was being besieged would ever have imagined their land being a place of tranquility but it is. I’m sure at the time they prayed for peace and now it has come.
So let us pray for peace in our world and know that one day it will come.
There have been a few ups and downs clouding my outlook and stopping me looking forward to my holiday. One of them, which might sound trivial, is these prompts from Everyday words. As I have said before they are so full and there is so much to think about that I have been doing them slowly. But they are now filling up my inbox and my “get it done” nature is struggling with them all. So I decided to take a new tack and am doing the ones that are most recent. So today I have done today’s prompt even though I still haven’t done Day 10’s. Coming from this approach has stopped me feeling so overwhelmed. I am learning too that sometimes life in general overwhelms me and I have to find a way out.
Preparing for a holiday can overwhelm me. I feel like there are so many things to get done – packing, sorting and preparing things for the animals that are either staying [the cat] or coming with us [the dog]. I feel like I need the house clean and tidy and all the washing done. Some of that comes from wanting to be kind to my future-returning-from-holiday-self, but it does make me panic a bit. This morning I was really pleased when my husband hugged me and thanked me for doing the washing so that there would be clean clothes for the holiday. It is probably from those words that the inspiration for this poem comes from.
Even though the PDF says one thing I am renaming it “Simple Things“. So the prompt comes from my friend Victoria Field’s poem ‘Dandelions’ which can be found in her new book A Speech of Birds. and Sarah’s suggestion of taking the line “Dandelions speak dandelion…. write about what they might say to each other”
My dog walk this morning was filled very much with the simple things of a dog enjoying being on a walk, of the sea and these lovely plants that grow on edge of the shore, of chatting with fellow dog walkers and a friend giving some wise advise. In my preparations for my holiday I need to keep the simple things in focus and not get all ‘Marthaed” and do what doesn’t need to be done.
I was really surprised yesterday at the writing group I was running that the two ladies who were there had never picked wild garlic and so never cooked with it. I then told a dog walking friend this and she had also never picked and eaten wild garlic. Her and I are now off to do that later this week. But it got me thinking of how many things I take for granted and think everyone can do them.
But it also clouds ones view of things. I know I would not be great at helping people who struggle with money because I have always been great at budgeting and of making money stretch. I am not 100% sure how I do it but I just do. So for someone to say they just cannot budget would leave me confused. But also I cannot map read. No matter how many times my husband shows me how to do it, and he is patient, I just can’t seem to get my head round it. I still am amazed that the sea is at the top of the map here. We live of the North Wales coast so for many of you that will be obvious but to me – Nope!
Too often when we talk about things, whether it is how we budget, what we eat, or try to share our faith, we come from the place of what we know. So for instance faith-wise we know what we know about God – and that can be different for each person – but we talk about it from what we have experienced, how it manifests to us, and then get frustrated with others from that point. This with the ladies at my writing group has helped me to see this. They are both over 60 and to me everyone has picked garlic.
With the Christian youth group I’m privileged to co-run I have started to ask the young people questions based on the liturgies and phrases they use about God, about their faith, about the out-workings of it all. When you say “I believe in God the Father” what do you mean by that? Because I am a writer I get them to write it down. Also I think there is space to say things in writing that you might not say out loud.
So for me from these ladies and that they had made it past 60 having never picked or cooked with wild garlic I am hopefully learning that my experiences of the world are mine and have shaped how I do and see things but not everyone has experienced, done or see what I have or in the same way I have. So instead of presuming I will start asking and wondering and learning and finding out.
Perhaps if we all started listening, learning and asking questions rather than presuming and going our way then there would be less fear, less anxiety and less fighting and wars?
I like this picture because it is a bit smudged. I took it on Friday when I was out on a long walk, which culminated in coffee and a bacon buttie, with my dog, getting away, getting some headspace and pondering the poem I had started whilst I was working in the pub the day before. The prompt came from Sarah’s Everyday Words prompt for Tuesday 5th. So as you can see I am a long way behind.
I have gone in a totally different direction to the prompt, which as I have said before is not a bad thing. A prompt is to prompt one to write something not to hold one in chains as to what to write. But it also got me thinking about God and the Bible and of how both those can be used not to prompt us to explore but to hold us in chains. How often do we get told that the Bible means X and if we don’t agree when we are wrong? How often do we hear someone’s interpretation and then worry what is wrong with us because we don’t agree?
I very much think that God allowed the Bible, and many other religious texts, to be written as springboards to get us thinking, so see what direction we would head off in. I do not believe there is a right and wrong in interpreting God’s word however it comes it us. I do believe that the base line for it is the commandment that Jesus told us – to love God with everything we have and to love others as ourselves – which is why I would disagree with any war, genocide, abuse, control, etc that is done allegedly “in the name of God”. But with that as our base line then we go onwards and outwards and explore from there.
So as well as creating this little poem that I’ll share with you from Sarah’s prompt I have also had chance to explore God. Again it is amazing what one little carefully thought out prompt can lead.
So remember – no right, no wrong – no write, no wrong 🙂
It is also why I’ve just put this prompt up alone because of the “more” I wanted to talk about. But also that the prompt for 6th April has even more meat in it and I’ve been chewing that over all weekend!!!
“Best laid plans of mice and men” or “make a plan so God can have a laugh” are very much what life feels like at the moment. So I made this plan and didn’t just ask Sarah of Everyday Words permission to post from her prompts daily but also blogged that I would. But I had also put those feelers out to get some part time work that was not writing.
Well firstly I did not realise that Sarah’s prompts would be so rich and so full of meat that I needed to spend time digesting them before I wrote anything, and then had to ponder what I wrote afterwards before sharing it. But also work has got in the way.
So this week I’ve run a writing group on Tuesday afternoon and then worked 6 hours Wednesday afternoon and am working 6 hours this afternoon. But also I have been pushing for creative practitioner freelancing work and had a meeting with the local mayor on Tuesday – in the pub which was a lovely way to have a meeting. The excuse was “supporting local businesses” which is the best excuse ever. Anyway from that there is something coming. Then a couple of other feelers I sent out are proving maybe not fruitful but possible. And I’d also done a great course with Writers&Artists and one of the follow ups was to have the novel idea we’d started on looked out. Well Natalie Young was so supportive of the idea that I want to run with it. She also said to commit to writing 1000 words per day.
So the plan of posting an Everyday Words prompt each day has had to go by the by for now. But today, even though it is the 7th April, I do have prompts from 3rd and 4th ready to share.
The prompt from the 3rd came from a recipe by Olia Hercules, a Ukranian cook and writer, using foraged food. One of the prompts was to think of a time when you went foraging but instead it reminded me of a home school trip with my kids in a field of wild garlic. Here is it – Foraging
Then the one for the 4th April I wrote yesterday whilst I was working. I had an hour where I was totally alone in the pub and because it was my first full shift I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. So I clicked up the link, which I had been pondering for a while. The prompt was to look at one of the last phrases which was “stupid with smiles” and to write from there. Well this is what I got. It is a bit raw and rough but I like it – Stupid With Smiles.
When will the next get posted? Well I’m hoping over the weekend but … tomorrow I’m catching up with a friend and have to catch up with housework, Saturday I’m attending a workshop and always come back with loads of poem ideas, and also I have a blog buzzing in my head around a Godspace post from earlier in the week so …. Now I know to hold my plans lightly I am saying that hopefully soon but you could be reading April prompts well into June the way this is going.
These prompts from Sarah of Everyday Words are so wonderfully thought out and well worth the £1 per day I am spending on them. She has really thought this through. I’ve tried other prompts before but they have seemed dull in comparison.
For one who would have thought of suggesting that one gather all those poems one likes into one special place – making one’s own anthology!!! I always love it when someone suggests something that is so obvious but does it in a way you don’t feel daft for not having thought of it first.
So here is my work from 1st April. It was looking at poem but one of the prompts was to think about the author of this poem which led me to writing about “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping” and of what could happen when our false pride gets in the way. “Anon of Canadian Good Housekeeping“
Then Saturday 2nd April’s prompt came from a poem by Clare Best called Drive time for Freddie, about how far the school run with her son was if they just kept going. It caused me to have a couple of days pondering my twice daily dog walks and how far they were in total. I think in lockdown my daughter and I worked out the dog and I dig 1200-1500 miles a year. So that gets us to roughly Australia. Here’s the piece about it – Walk Eat Repeat – not poem, not prose but could almost be described as prose poetry, maybe.
Now to get on and do yesterday’s and today’s. Though as I’ve learned with the 2nd’s prompt, it took time to percolate and see where it was going.
I’ve just written an email to some people in my writing group about another member of our group telling them how ill she is and how fast she has deteriorated. It has been therapeutic to me to put all that in words to them but has left me going “life isn’t fair”. Here is a lady who was intelligent, articulate, neat, tidy, organised, independent, one of those women one wants to be when one gets to late 70s/early 80s. Yet over the last few months she has lost weight, lost confidence, lost her independence, now needs her daughter living with her, is refusing to wear clean clothes and even has lost power in her voice. The medical profession doesn’t know if it is physical or mental – my thoughts are probably both – but all they are doing is throwing pills at her because they really do not know what else to do.
I shared the email with a friend and this is what she said –
I think the first thing is positioning ourselves before God with honesty and gratitude then change follows….I remember praising God very intensely a couple of years ago when I was depressed, and became closer to Him/Her than ever before.
Response from a friend that I shared the email with
So my thoughts are when I feel life isn’t fair I need to move into being open and honest with God and then being grateful for God, for the things within the situation, then just praising God for being God not for what is going on, then waiting on God/the Universe to wrap me up and hold me through it all.
Stories about these Ukrainians are not unique. In most places where there are really awful things going on – war, persecution, hunger, poverty, sickness – many, many Christians turn to praising and being honest with God and then they themselves change within that situation.
All I can say is that if they can in their situations then I can in mine – with my friend, with my fears, with everything – I am going to praise God
I am not sure why anyone would need a “National Love Your Pet Day”. For me loving my pets is what I do 24/7. They bring me such joy and laughter and such love. I am not sure who else I would go out the house for at 7.30am on a wet and blustery day apart from my dog who needs a walk, and is always keen to go round the park where he can beg treats from other dog owners.
My cat does yoga with me in the mornings but also loves to come under the covers at night and sleep with her cold nose on my leg. Sometimes with claws extended.
We tease my son that he only married the person he did because she had a dog who took to him. She does have many other lovely qualities but I’m sure the dog drew him in first of all. I have adopted her dog as one of my own when they come to visit.
I was brought up with an eclectic collection of pets and, after leaving home whenever I could I would get some animal or other. Once my children came along we had various pets and we also would dog sit for other people when we lived in rented accommodation that said “No dogs”. We worked on the principle that the dogs were only visiting not staying permanently. I’m hoping that my old landlords are not reading this now 🙂
In fact when I married my husband the children and I worked on how to get him to have pets. Believe it or not he had never ever owned a pet. Then he got us and soon we got him to allow us to carry on with the dog sitting job we used to do. Then my son started work experience at the local pet rescue centre and we got the cat. That was 12 years ago. Then came chickens, a rabbit and then 10 years ago the dog. We are down to just the cat and dog now.
Pets give such pleasure and such joy. I can “hide” behind my dog when I go somewhere new. A lot of the times when I start on a new project or have to network with someone new I will bring the dog with me. He is cute and a real icebreaker. He’s small enough to fit anywhere, well behaved and very responsive to other people.
Just last week I took him on a 4 hour train journey to visit my daughter. He was amazing. You couldn’t do that with a cat or with a hamster. Though when we moved up here we did have cat on our laps in the car because she screams when put in a cat basket. So she was bought a velvet harness, the lead of which was looped round the passenger seat belt and she rode the whole of the six hour journey on the lap of whoever was not driving. At times she would look backward to the dog on the back seat squashed around boxes and give him one of those looks to say “just look at me”. Cats believe they are superior to any other creature.
I told the tale in Day of the Dead, of how Renly helped us laugh through our grief. In fact I’ve got a few pieces I’ve written about my dog. He does crop up quite often.
I am writing a short story in which I have just had to edit out the fact that she had a dog because it didn’t quite work, but it was very hard to then write about someone walking without a dog. My dog very much features in the centre of my life.
I believe God lets us have pets to encourage us to love one and other and to experience unconditional love in such an unexpected way. Dogs very much unconditional, cats maybe not so much! But also gives us something to love, to care for, and to experience loss with. The worst thing about pets is that we will out live them. I think pets help us learn the transient nature of life and also of how to seize the moment, enjoy the moment, live in the moment. For pets they do live in the NOW. It is good for us to learn that too.
So maybe for National Love Your Pet day I will learn more to live in the moment and accept that life is short, relationships transient, and to enjoy it as it comes.
The Bridport Prize newsletter today asks people to send in their thoughts on “what it’s really like to be a writer”. So I thought I would make my thoughts public on here.
I hope that must of us will put down something different. And I think that is when we have achieved what it means to be “a writer”. To stop comparing ourselves with others and be the writer we are meant to be. Also for me to be a writer means so much more than – to be a published writer!
I’ve just read Stephen King’s “On Writing” and he says that one has to write 1000 words a day, but I am no Stephen King. My writing day also contains walking the dog, housework, cooking, shopping, supporting friends, looking for freelance work, planning and advertising writing groups. So I have more going on in my day than Stephen King.
I know of some writers who work outside the house full time, have a family and yet still are amazing and complete a book and get published. I am not like that. I get easily distracted by the shiny things – an email to answer, a WhatsApp from my kids or from a friend, a website I want to explore. I think if I’d been at school now they would have labeled me as ADD. I cannot sit and look at the keyboard waiting for a thought to transpire into a word/words/story. I flit off and check out Wordle or Solitaire or emails!
But on a walk, just me and dog, or in my car or led in bed the words come. Most times I cannot write them down, especially not when driving. But I trust that I will remember what I am meant to remember and will find the time to write it down when I do. I know one of the greats, but can’t remember who, said re-waxed the stairs in the huge house he lived in whilst writing one of his best known books. Wish I could remember who that was!
I am part of a group called The Write Place who meet in person in Frome but also meet on Zoom and just write. I knew them when I lived near Frome but not that I am over 250 miles away I connect via Zoom. Just we say a quick hello but then just get on and do the stuff. That does help but my nature is that, once I cannot think of anything to write I still get distracted. So good though it is for me it still cannot keep me staring at the screen waiting for that word to come.
But I love to write. I would say I’ve always written. I’ve always been a writer. I write to explore what I am thinking, to record an event, when something makes me laugh or cry or I feel passionate about. All these blog post are things I want to share with others. For me writing is a way to share my thoughts with others. I feel that if it’s written down then it has been a true thought.
I love to encourage others to write, which is why I run writing groups in my area under the name Barefoot At The Kitchen Table – barefooted so that one is connected with the land and the kitchen table because it is always where the best conversations happen. I could probably do more writing if I didn’t do this but I so love this. And I would say running these groups is also part of what makes me a writer.
So for me “to be a writer” means that I must write. And write I do though do get “confused” between what counts as writing. Take this morning for example – I was up at 6.30, wrote a plan for a short story I’m working for homework for a course I’m on, did 2 pages of “Morning pages“, then got dressed, walked the dog, read emails, had breakfast, wrote up the notes for my story, sorted the website I use for my writing groups and then am writing this. All writing and all part of me exploring me through my words but very little of it will be published but that is ok.
Being a writer means being ok with being me and who I am.