Thursday, 29 July 2010


I have been thrown into the world of work, and I have noticed that Being in this world is no different to Being in the world of home. In fact the world of work has rather imposed itself on my home. Maybe I've invited it.

Change is afoot at the Family Paintball Site: husband originally started it with a friend. They set up a limited company, became directors, and set about directing things. A change of circumstance for friend meant he needed to ease himself away from the business a little so he sold ten percent of his shares to another friend who works as a marshal for us. Now a further change for him has seen him take the decision to resign as a director and sell another twenty per to us. This will be a good thing for us if the place ever makes any money. Currently husband is the only director but we have the paperwork for second friend and me to be added to the list.

What this means for me is: I will take charge of the 'books' (sadly they don't have rhythmic syntax or obvious narrative), and do a lot of this:

The paint in paintballs is oily and gets on everything, so we use microfibre cloths to wipe down guns and masks during and after play. Someone has to launder them,

and these snoods, which have padding to protect your head from flying paintballs and their content.

And the armoured gloves which protect hands.

We give customers overalls to wear to protect their own clothing. Our washing machine can't cope with them so they go to a laundry. However, they tend to get torn, guess who fixes.

We also have padded tabards: more protection for customers, more sewing for me.

Another thing I do is check all written material for readability. The confirmation of booking form has just been subjected to my will, the website will be my next victim.

My job seems to be to keep things clean and tidy, and to keep playing customers safe by ensuring they don't remove their masks whilst guns are 'live.' Thirty years of housewifery hasn't been for nothing. Husband is director of managing, Ben is going to be director of operations and fun, I wanted to be director of interesting things but it looks like, whatever I call myself, I'm going to be director of mothering.

Job number two (or is that three, or four?): I've been getting ready for tonight's women's group:

We need tablecloths for the café area so have each been asked to bring one along, of course I didn't have a clean one.

This job has given me lots of fun things to do and think about. I have: photocopied some short stories and typed up some poems to take along as examples for the ladies to look at; gathered a pile of colourful postcards, some artifacts and my writing journals to give them some examples of how I generate inspiration in myself (it's unfortunate, but not having access to the minds of other writers I can't show how they do it); written stuff on index cards; worked out a plan for a short semi-formal workshop and, what I think could be the piéce de resistance:

Alesa suggested magnetic poetry and I just happened to have some gathering dust on a shelf along with a magnetic blackboard lurking in the attic.

This will, I hope, act as a variation on the index card theme: I'll remove my paltry effort and provide a starter line then invite everyone to add another line. Hopefully by the end of the evening we'll have a 'women's group' poem.

Thanks for all your suggestions and tips, those I don't get a chance to use tonight will get aired at a later date, hopefully.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Old Parts

I took this weekend off from the paintball site to meet three Australian cousins: two firsts and a second. They are here because second (daughter of one of the firsts) is doing a PhD in astro-physics at Oxford, so her mother and aunt have come over to see her and meet us. They have been staying with another cousin near Oxford; he held a huge meet the whole family party earlier in the month but I didn't go because I had no money for the petrol. Luckily they wanted to see the Lake District, and we have another cousin who lives in Manchester, so we met up there on Saturday.

My sister, who lives even further north than me, and her husband came too. They got the train to a station from which I could pick them up, and off we drove. Thank goodness they were with me, when we got lost she was able to phone for directions.

It was lovely to be back in cousin J's house again, it had been her parent's before so I had spent many a sunny summer week there as a child. Her husband is an antique dealer who likes to paint things green, and bring home interesting things.

The shed door-stop.

Elements of other past lives merge with ours.

On Saturday evening Oxford cousin took Aussie cousins to a hotel on Lake Windermere, we stayed with Manchester cousin but arranged to meet for Sunday lunch in Bowness on our way back up to Scotland. Blimey it was busy!

It's changed since I was last there, too. I remember it being pretty but full of shops that sold stuff I wouldn't be seen dead with, and rancid fat cafés. Like any tourist spot it still has those but it also has shops that sell things like this:

(it's made out of a old boat and if I'd had two hundred and seventy nine quid and space in my car I'd have bought it for the garden, minus the shells),


and we were able to find somewhere non-rancid for lunch:

This morning I was distracted by a link on another blog to a wordle site, and spent far too long choosing colour and shape. Maybe I could justify the time spent by finding a way to use it at Thursday's workshop. I tried to put it on my sidebar but couldn't see how, so had to put it here. I couldn't work out how to save it to my computer either. Any tips would be gratefully received.

Wordle: Beulah O'Donahue

Update: I managed it all by myself, see sidebar.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

The Interview

Mid last week I was in the garden potting up lemon-grass when Stevie came out clutching the phone:

"It's Beulah O'Donahue from community learning for you."

"Beulah O'Donahue from community learning?"

"Yes, Beulah O'Donahue from community learning."


"Do you think I'm making it up?"

My mind raced: what had I done to community learning?


Turned out that a survey of this town disclosed a desire for creative writing classes amongst the population, and my name had been mooted as a possible tutor: "Would you be interested in facilitating classes?"


So yesterday I met with Beulah and her boss, Anne (I've changed their names so as not to upset anyone), and had the most fun I've had in the company of complete strangers ever.

So much fun I didn't actually get anything concrete. I have no idea when they want the classes to start, or for how long a term, or possible numbers of students. I don't know where they might be held, how often, or for how long each one might last. I do know that getting paid is tricky but it will happen. I may have to go on a course, two days, to become a council approved tutor. The other option is I could invoice them for my services but they would have to get quotes from others like me in the area.

The other thing I know is that they run a monthly women's group in which they "have a variety of free, hands-on, creative workshops for [women] to enjoy" (I got this from the poster). Judging by the poster there will be a potter and a jewelery maker, and I know there will be someone who makes gorgeous bags because it is she who passed on my name. The next one is next week and I have now been invited to set up a workshop myself. This doesn't pay, but any expenses will be covered which is fine by me. Tonight there is a meeting in which we will discuss what we plan to do. Hurrah!

At the last women's group they did have a creative writing stand, a last minute conception, on which they put a huge roll of paper for people to write something on. I have that roll on my table now, it's brilliant.

There isn't much on it but what there is is funny and rather sad. I reckon my best option is to expand on that idea. So I was thinking of buying a pack of blank postcards some of which I'd leave blank, but on others write the first line of a novel, short story or poem and invite attendees to write something of their own. They could choose which sort, or even both. What do you think?

I also thought I'd take some visual stimuli: art postcards spring to mind, and my journals which are packed full of newspaper and magazine clippings, quotes, photographs, random thoughts and sketches. All writing related, nothing personal.

And, of course, some actual poems and short stories for them to read. They did this last time too and I have those here. They are all related to the home, but I thought I'd extend that theme a bit this time.

So, do you think that's a plan? I've never done anything like this before, I've taught creative writing to school kids, but I've never been an attraction at a fair.

Any ideas you might like to share with me, please do, and if anyone can provide any first lines for the postcards, or suggest short stories or poems to show, that would be great.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

A Bucket of Puke

Like a Roman at a banquet, I binge: art, ideas, chit-chat, libraries, lit mags, graffiti, windows. Delicious things keep finding their way to my plate and I can't help biting. I've over indulged, again, it's too late for an aperitif, I must stick my fingers down my throat and then go and lie down somewhere dark and quiet.

Watch out for the diced carrot:

Currently trying to learn spread-sheet (an odd language), and I have an interview on Wednesday, must prepare, oh god...

Saturday, 10 July 2010


I am generally pretty organised, I like to know the exact location of everything I might need during the course of the day, week, year even, so that I don't have to waste time searching. When cooking I can stick my hand in the spice cupboard and without looking pick out the cayenne pepper, cumin seeds, or whatever, because I know exactly, by feel, where it is.

Same with books: they are shelved alphabetically by author and I can go to the exact shelf on which all the Cs are without opening my eyes and grab Angela Carter's book of Fairytales should I need to. So imagine my horror when, having left it as late as I dare, I went to the S shelf on Thursday night to grab Muriel Spark's The Ballad of Peckham Rye, to reread it for the lecture I am to do on Tuesday, and found it not there.

Thus ensued the exact thing I try always to avoid: every bag was searched, couches were upended, papers scattered: no book. I remembered the difficulty of obtaining a copy last year, none of the bookshops had it and I had to buy it from a secondhand dealer on Amazon. I don't have time for Amazon now!

Yesterday it struck me that I might have lent it to Rhona (best friend, lives the other side of Glasgow) so phoned her. She was trying to get the kids, as they squealed in the background, organised for a trip to deep sea world, but, yes, she found it. She would post it immediately, special delivery.

So it has arrived. And I have learnt not to leave such things to the last minute ever again.

On another note: Lulu has inspired me, with her wonderful diagrams, to try one of my own. A new way to document the days and brighten the pages of my diary. Here is my first effort:

Thursday, 8 July 2010


Graduations are always rather like weddings: everyone is cheery and pleased to be there, the dress code is archaic, and there is a set format that hasn't really altered for hundreds of years. To add to this feeling the ceremony at my university campus takes place at the Crichton Memorial Church which, according to the chap who sat next to me, was modelled on Hereford Cathedral.

The day goes thus: everyone congregates at the university's main building

before processing to the church

where we get called up one by one to be doffed on the head by the Principal,

have hoods whose colours symbolize our qualification placed over our shoulders,

and given one of these.

After the ceremony we are led back to the university by a piper (Stevie was lagging so didn't get a photo!) and arranged for a group photograph (current rector of the University of Glasgow is Charles Kennedy, seen here looking considerably less grumpy than he did during the ceremony),

after which we can resume normal activity.


Now I must read up on symbolism in the novel as I have to give a lecture on it (and ambiguity, which I'm more comfortable with) to access course students next week. Any of you got any brilliant examples, definitions or simple explanations that would enable me to keep some of my hair?

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Hello, Can Anyone Hear Me?!

When I got up this morning I was startled to find I hadn't already replied to the last lot of comments left on my last post. I was a bit tired when I got home last evening though, so it wasn't beyond the bounds of possibility that I became distracted and forgot to do so. No harm done. As I sipped my hot water (don't ask) I made my replies before dotting off to visit those new posts on my sidebar. When I got back a little later the reply comment I had left was not there. Odd, I thought, perhaps I did something wrong. I left another comment saying my last one had disappeared then noticed Scarlet had posted that her comments were vanishing, so I followed her link to the forum where she has started a thread about this problem. When I came back here that last comment I made had also gone. I went over to Titus where I had left a comment this morning and found it was now not there either. Who else have I visited this morning? I will have to check, and will have to remember to tick the email comments box in every blog I visit.

Has Blogger's Spam Bot come over all Hal?

On another note: it's my graduation tomorrow so I've been getting haircuts, filing my nails, and laundering all my black clothes: the dress code is either black or white – or a combination of the two – and I thought a white summer dress, of which there are many in the sales, would be a bit too Mary Pickford. I'm torn between my elegant French widow's pleat front skirt and my flippy 1920s (ish) one with bugle beads along the hem. Do you think bugle beads are a bit sparkly for day?

Update: I've asked Blogger for help here.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

No Artificial Flavourings

I must point you in the direction of Bob's (fruit of my womb) latest blog post. Watch the video, it's only three minutes you'll wish it were longer: the music!

Dashing off to work, we have a small birthday party at the family paintball site today. Yesterday we had the sixth form from Dumfries High School: what a lovely bunch of kids, honestly they were a joy.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

A Space Odyssey?

Do you remember that I posted a little while ago about a blogger who had had her blog removed without being informed this was to happen? Well, she got it back but all the comments she ever left on her own and other blogs have still not been restored, and worse, all the comments she leaves are removed within 24 hours!

Blogging is a dialogue, it's often the comments section that makes blogs so compelling. Without the conversation what will blogging be?

I hope this is a technical problem but questions on the help forum have garnered no answers from the Blogger team, the longer they are silent the more sinister this appears. And, actually, a glitch in the system that homes in on individuals randomly and silences them is far too dystopian to ignore. So a new campaign has been launched by Eroswings to try at least to provoke an answer from someone at Blogger/Google, and hopefully restore the comments of not just MJ but also another blogger, Leni, who is suffering the same fate.

Please pop over to Eros Den and follow his simple prompts to ask Blogger what on earth is going on. The more people who do this the more likely is the problem to be solved.

I requote his quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out --
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller (1892-1984)

This may seem, when there are such problems in the world as the Gulf oil fandango, like a very small thing. But without a voice a person is rendered impotent to deal with large or small. Today two voices have been silenced, how many will it be tomorrow?

It's time to make like the mushroom:

Mushrooms (Sylvia Plath)

Overnight, very
Whitely, discreetly,
Very quietly

Our toes, our noses
Take hold on the loam,
Acquire the air.

Nobody sees us,
Stops us, betrays us;
The small grains make room.

Soft fists insist on
Heaving the needles,
The leafy bedding,

Even the paving.
Our hammers, our rams,
Earless and eyeless,

Perfectly voiceless,
Widen the crannies,
Shoulder through holes. We

Diet on water,
On crumbs of shadow,
Bland-mannered, asking

Little or nothing.
So many of us!
So many of us!

We are shelves, we are
Tables, we are meek,
We are edible,

Nudgers and shovers
In spite of ourselves.
Our kind multiplies:

We shall by morning
Inherit the earth.
Our foot's in the door.
Thanks to: http://www.americanpoems.com/poets/sylviaplath/1415 for the poem