Sunday, July 23, 2017

Making pretty things

Over the years I have enjoyed making small pieces of jewellery for myself and for friends. I have loads of pieces now, and I can't possibly wear as many as I make and though giving them away is what I usually do, I've decided to try selling a few via the web.

So - wish me luck! And if you get a chance, visit my webshop. I'd also appreciate ideas and feedback, of all the commercial undertakings I've ventured into, selling jewellery is not one I've done before.

Now to try and add a buy button!  I think it's worked...

You can visit the full shop on Facebook at: Carolyn's Jewellery

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Four wounds and a bruise

From the end of March I started to have pains – pains like nothing I had experienced before (yes, worse than childbirth).  My whole guts felt like someone had put a steel band around the inside and was slowly turning a handle and increasing the pressure and the pain.  The first time it happened I thought I had eaten something bad – the attack lasted about three hours and eventually I fell asleep, exhausted.  Thinking that was it, I was more than perturbed when it happened again – at work – and I had to lie down in the Finance office whilst my colleagues stepped over me until the attack passed.  Only an hour this time though, so not too bad.  But it happened again and again, and along with the pain came the vomiting  – the night of one attack that started at around 8pm had me still being sick at 3am.  Exhausting!

Cows - because you don't want to see this post illustrated!
It kept happening and during one attack at a training session at work a kind colleague drove me to the doctor, and waited with me until I was seen before taking me home.  I have to say I was delighted with the diagnosis!  Gall stones. Yes – horrible little lumps of solidified crud that build up in your gall bladder. Usually triggered by eating, when one of the stones decides to take a trip down the ducts, you end up with that excruciating, un-relievable pain. The doctor put me forward for a speedy gall bladder removal much to my delight.  I was happy to be diagnosed because I knew the solution – laparoscopic cholecystectomy.  It was a procedure I could also spell without looking up because I’d written a patient brochure all about it when I worked at the hospital back in the early 2000s. 

Given how ill I was and how much it was interfering with work and my eating (not the best way to lose weight, but a good few pounds departed as I became almost frightened to eat), a speedy operation date was welcome. Then came the call – the operation was cancelled. The distress and upset in my voice were not ignored though, and instead of a date a month later, my operation was brought forward to that week.

A call on the Monday, a pre-admission appointment on the Wednesday, and the procedure on the Friday.  One of my operation wounds is rather larger than anticipated as I think there were a lot of stones to come out – must have been a bit of a tug with that bag of marbles in my tum!

So this post is to say thank you – to the wonderful GP for diagnosis and referral, to the fantastic NHS for getting me into the system and offering me the choice of speedy consultation dates, and the efficient team at the Pinehill Hospital who managed to get me my operation quickly and looked after me so well during my overnight stay.  My lovely friend Chris spent the week with me afterwards, cooking and caring for me whilst my brain was addled and my body not functioning properly.  And more friends and family have visited, helped me with shopping and checked on me to make sure I am OK.  One more week of rest, and then I’ll be back on form and independent as ever.

I’m not good as asking for help, but I have needed it and my friends, family and colleagues have been wonderful.  And the cat - he's been keeping me company a lot. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Time management

"I need more time!" Well, more time doesn’t exist, what I need to do is manage my time better.  For example, I love writing yet haven’t been to Writers’ Circle in a few months and haven’t blogged in ages either!

So why am I so busy?  Could it be the fact my new job is time consuming, and also highly absorbing?  Well, yes (see here!) But then I still have other hours in the day.  Train journeys, for example. 

Last week I got on the train to home from King's Cross and had just opened my computer up ready to draft something, when a man sat opposite me.  As luck would have it, he was a friend of mine who - up until the previous week - I hadn't seen in about 18 months.  Twice in one week, sort of happens that way doesn't it?
Caroline's pigs

We got chatting and he told me about his day - a 'scenario planning' session on an imagined Ebola outbreak in a war zone - fascinating stuff.  I also shared my day's event with him - a data protection conference! I think I got the better end of the deal.

So no blog written that day, but what about all the other days, evenings, etc?  Oh I have plenty of excuses... I am still managing to play bowls occasionally, still managing to visit the occasional storytelling session (this one at the British Museum), and visit friends who have animals!  But all of this leaves me little time to think, and I need to think to write.

My job means I spend a lot of time in the car, and during that time I come up with lots of ideas, but writing and driving don't mix.

A card from Sarah
Finally, I also have evenings (sometimes days) when I can't do a thing because my gall stones have decided to play havoc with my innards.  Well, some potential then for writing because at some point I will have to have a laparoscopic cholecystectomy (so glad I learned to spell that back in 2000), which will mean no driving and no gadding about for a while I'm sure.

In the meantime, here's some ramblings (above), and some pictures. I will make time in my schedule to write, because without a Tardis, I'm not going to make any more hours in the day.

Watch this space, and let's see if I really can get better at time management.

Photos: (C) Carolyn Causton.  Gallstone artwork (C) Sarah Hockey.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Famous last lines

At Royston Writers’ Circle last night we had a fun exercise – to write a story that ended in a famous last line.  Harder than it sounds! Starting off is easy, but finding your way to that last line… well it provided some entertaining stories from the nine members present.  A lost dementia patient, a delightful vision of aging, to a sci fi adventure as man lands on a new distant planet … that’s what I love about RWC. Always plenty of variety.

The line we chose to finish with was from Margaret Attwood’s “Cat’s Eye”.  Here’s my story – but I must add the caveat that as you don’t know where you are going when you start writing (usually). After reading out the story to the others (we all read out if we want to), I changed the main character’s name on the group’s recommendation.  I called him Greg, but from here on, it’s Grug!  Written in half an hour, here it is, warts and all, unedited.

A thousand years away one day

Grug was a Shagi. That meant he was bottom of the social pile. He was pushed brutally out of the was by a Casquer.  Their powerful arms, impressive of course, but even so a Casquer would have been no match for a Shagi in a good fight.  Nonetheless Grug gave way, allowing the higher status female to move down the narrow tunnel ahead of him.  He grunted a brief dissatisfaction and immediately she turned to glare at him.  He dropped his head low, avoiding her gaze, and avoiding a fight that he could win – but dare not.

Grug was young and inexperienced and it showed. But he was also growing angry as he grew up.  There’s nothing like learning your place to learn that you don’t like it.  Grug had asked his elders why they must always acquiesce to the Casquers, and they always said “They are the keepers of light. Without them we are in darkness and lost”.  A bitter litany.

It had always been so amongst the tunnel people.  If you had a light, you had power.  But this confused Grug, who like most Shagi could navigate well enough without light.  He was also more curious than many of his peers, and indeed his betters. The fish, the spiders, the other creatures that shared their world, they did not even have eyes! They did not flock to the light or the warmth of the Casquers’ lanterns.

It is as if, Grug thought, we should know light better than we do. All of us, not just those high born.  Grug had learned to keep these questions to himself though. Overheard comments had earned him punishment rotas in the deep pits. He didn’t mind the dark, but he hated the cold water and the multitude of bones – stark reminders of the Hypocaust Wars.  

Once the Casquer has gone, Grug took a rock and threw it with all his might against the wall. His frustration must have given him greater strength than he knew, for a cascading rumble and a rock fall ensued.  And then, something new appeared.

The Casquer and her lantern had gone – no other Casquers were about, no one but him. And yet… and yet he knew his world had just changed.  The air tasted different and it moved strangely against him – like his mother’s hand ruffling his hair. He stared hard. The shape of the rocks and the path were clear. The moving air drew him closer to where the rocks had fallen and, he realised, they revealed a new tunnel.

This new tunnel was huge – so big he could not see the sides, so big he could not see the roof. But he knew there must be a high roof as he could see light – a myriad of small lights not harvested by the Casquers.  It was a strange sight - and it moved him.  Hi heart quickened, excitedly.  This dim, distant miracle might lift him up very high indeed.
“It’s old light, and there’s not much of it, but it’s enough to see by.”

Critique away! This story is very naive and there’s plenty of opportunities to improve, but I thought I would share what we do for fun once a month at Royston Writers’ Circle

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Ghost writing

No, not writing for someone else, so that they can claim authorship under your talent, but the writing of things ghostly.

My friend today posted a ghost picture on Facebook she took  in broad daylight - and it's a ghostly shape indeed.  Ghost? Maybe, maybe not. Depends on your definition of what a ghost actually is.  I've just put one of my stories into YouTube to share - there is a CD of my short ghost stories available (contact me and I can sell you one - can't give 'em away, sorry), and this is one story from this collection.

I enjoyed putting visuals to the story, but it's really for listening to, not watching. But why did I write a few ghost stories? Because, like my friend on Facebook today, I've been aware of the presence what we call ghosts in my own life. And they do say write what you know.

The Resident is actually based on a true story - we lived with a ghost for around 20 years. Many popular ghost stories are scary - the poltergeist that destroys or disrupts, the ghost that reenacts, or the ones that simply scare you witless. But I think there are probably far more benign ghosts out there like ours that don't give you a horrible fright. They are just there, not doing any harm, but certainly giving you the occasional start.

What are ghosts? I'm open to any interpretation you like - from Stone Tape Theory to good old fashioned spirits. Oh, and of course a good healthy dose of human imagination, visual distortion (a great one for the 'grey ladies')  and indeed pranksterism (I know that isn't a word, but it fits).

In my personal experience there have been incidents that are impossible to explain, even with all the options considered. But most of my stories are fiction - good old fashioned story telling designed to entertain and intrigue, rather than to scare. 

If you have five minutes to spare, do listen to The Resident. It's not the most polished piece of work, but even so I hope you find it entertaining.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Letter to my brother

Dear Phil

Well, 2017 – we are both another year older.  Time flies by too quickly.  My son is now quarter of a century old, and my daughter lives with her partner and his daughter. She's just told me she's going to Texas for a holiday with her company!  

I am separated and live with my son and his cat, and mother lives in sheltered accommodation.  She is going blind, but still as feisty as ever.  Alex will be moving out this year too, so it will just be me and the cat.

I can’t imagine what it would be like to catch up with you – a proper catch up.  I’ve tried to keep you up to date with important milestones, through this blog, but oh what a lot we would have to talk about if we met up again.

This has been a one way conversation, and that’s OK, I know it’s your choice. But I would like to know what you have been doing, your life, loves, what you enjoy and what you can’t stand. What do you think of the political situation, or do you even care?

You don’t choose family, you choose friends, but it was nice when we were younger when we were able to be both.

This is just a short letter, to say I am thinking of you and wish you well. And here's a recent photo of me in my garden, at my summer party. 

Thursday, December 15, 2016

RWC Does Christmas

Tonight we had the last Writers’ Circle meeting before Christmas. We planned our usual writing exercise for this time of year – a kind of writers’ ‘consequences’ – each person writing one paragraph of a single story.  With nine of us in the room, we decided on passing our paragraphs a maximum of five times.  But to add a bit more challenge, we were all given the same starting sentence, and had to include a different, randomly selected word each round.

So – nine writers – nine different styles, five different writers per story, each round just five minutes (seven for the last, time to wrap it up!).  Then they were all read out.  Steve laughed so much he could not see to read and passed his story to me. I started laughing so much I could barely read it either, especially when it came to the nose flying past the face after the carrot exploded.  Perhaps everyone can write down their stories, so we can share more. But in the meantime, here’s a summary that sort of tells you how RWC ‘do’ Christmas… 

On the 15th of December, thus wrote RWC…
Nine laughing writers
Several explosions
Six soft drinks (no alcohol needed!)
Five household chores
Four brutal murders
Three dead pets (we want to rename the group ‘The Dead Pets’ Society’)
Two prosthetic legs
One flying nose
And a mouse in a Christmas treeeeeeeee

Anyway, to give you an idea of how this mad exercise actually works, here’s the story that I started.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and the mouse was hiding. Fed up with being made to perform every night, he hid behind the Christmas tree and the star. He could hear his mother calling, “Alejandro!” but he ignored her and just hunkered down even further.  The tree was lit by small twinkling lights that annoyed him. Sometimes they were yellow like the sun, or red like fire, or green like the tree.  He liked the white ones a bit – they were calm and unpretentious.  “Alejandro!” he almost jumped out of his skin.

Scurrying up the tree, he wove his way through the decorations, swinging on the tinsel, bouncing off a soft, portly Santa and eventually arriving at the very top. He peeped out behind the star and chuckled at the freshly shed carpet of tree needles he had created. The lady of the house would grumble at how easily these trees shed nowadays when she came into the living room in the morning.  It was a very tall tree but it was nothing to a daredevil like Alejandro. He stood on his hind legs and surveyed the room.  

But this year for the first time, Alejandro lost his footing on the top branch and was in danger of falling. The only way he could save himself was to wrap his tail around the angel’s left foot.  What was more disconcerting was that he was now visible to the humans sitting around the cosy warm room drinking whisky and other drinks.

He was sitting sprawled in the chair, wearing the Christmas jumper depicting a jolly Santa laughing, hands on his belly.  “Oh look Mabel, that tree’s swaying.”
“Oh Mabel, that angel’s got a pet dog on a lead.”

“Oh my god, Mabel. MABEL! The dog is pulling the angel off the tree!”
There was an enormous crack, a tiny squeak and a loud scream. Santa’s belly could be seen no more, the human was beneath the fallen tree.  Alejandro ran.

Talk about complete chaos. When can we get the place tidied up? Think I’ll have a coffee just to see if it gives me a new lease of life. Do I hear singing in the distance; is it the church choir doing a bit of collecting for charity?

As you can see –  nonsense, but imagine nine of these mad stories, including everything from a Santa does 50 Shades to spooky child murderers, and you get just a small insight into why the Royston Writers Circle is a great place to learn, to write, and to have fun.