What Am I Working On?

Since I’m Back – though I never actually decided to be Back, just slid into it – I may as well update you on what I’m doing at the moment. Right now, I’ve just sent a piece of flash fiction to Everyday Fiction; I have a soft spot for them because they published my first piece of work back in 2012 and I can tell you, the difference between being able to answer the ‘are you published?’ question with a ‘yes’ instead of a ‘not yet’ is massive.

Speaking of ‘are you published?’ I’ve reminded myself of ‘Withnail and I’:

- Are you published? - Oh, no.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, I’m also working on a short story collection. It’s going to be problematic finding somewhere to send it as outlets for this sort of thing are vanishingly small, but I’m finding it interesting to see some of the threads running through my work; the way in which some of the stories, sometimes written years apart, actually link up and have common themes.

At the end of last year I sent off a poetry collection to Salt publishing; I have yet to hear back from them about that but somehow I feel hopeful. I don’t know why, it’s a real long shot, but there it is. I’m also working on a novel which this time seems to be coming together a little better. I set myself to write a thousand words a day and I’m up to 35,000 already so I’m probably about 1/3 of the way through.

Things seem to be gelling a lot more this year, and I feel hopeful of a better future in terms of publication. The acceptance of ‘Smart House’ was a good start, so if you haven’t read it yet, follow the link in this morning’s post – and let me know what you think.

And if you haven’t seen ‘Withnail and I’ yet, do so immediately.

Kirk out

The Woman Who Almost Went to Bed for a Year

So there I am sitting in the cathedral and being mistaken for my sister as we both had the same hair (mine has grown purple since then) and wondering if I’d make it through the ordination. I wasn’t the one being ordained – though several people were apparently wondering if my sister had changed her mind and decided just to watch – so it shouldn’t have been much of an ordeal. But lately everything was an ordeal, even getting out of bed, and today I’d had not only to get out of bed but also drive for an hour along twisty country roads requiring split-second reflexes if a tractor should be coming the other way, find somewhere to park and discover where I was supposed to be sitting. Nothing was required of me for the next hour except to sit still and pay attention, but even that seemed a tall order. I didn’t know it then but I was on the borders of exhaustion, heading straight for Burnout Central.

What does burnout look like? And why was I burnt out? Let me count the reasons: I had problems at home, problems with work, money problems and a father-in-law who took up virtually all of my husband’s time so I couldn’t even talk about how exhausted I was. normally I’d have recharged the batteries with a holiday but the said money problems combined with lockdown meant that I hadn’t had a holiday for three years. I was completely drained, but every morning I heaved myself out of bed because the alternative (I felt) would be to stay there like Sue Townsend’s ‘Woman Who Went to Bed for a Year’ (https://www.goodreads.com/en/book/show/13160430) and I couldn’t allow myself to do that. I was going to be a successful writer; I must work every day or I’d be dead before I got there. So went the nagging voice in my head, morning after morning until the day came when I was physically incapable of getting out of bed.

I phoned the doctor, running the usual gauntlet of obstacles – finding the line engaged, getting the recorded message and hanging on – and on – until eventually I spoke to a GP. Joy! She was one of the good ones; dedicated, interested and thorough (I wonder where she is now.) I would have a range of blood tests; liver, kidneys, heart, lungs and thyroid function. I had a chest x-ray which was a saga in itself as the first one showed some false positives and I had to go back. ‘It’s your nipples,’ explained the nurse. ‘You’ll have to wear these.’ We both collapsed in giggles as she showed me how to tape curtain rings over the offending nipples: it gave me a laugh at least.

In this way two or three months went by. I was sleeping till ten or eleven in the morning; a dead, drowning sleep, dragging myself out of bed and spending most of the day sitting. I resisted watching TV but barely had the energy to do anything else. Walking to the bottom of the garden seemed a marathon: I felt I was drowning in fatigue. Going upstairs I had to climb two or three steps, then rest. It took me half an hour to eat a simple meal. I was putting on weight through lack of exercise, and one by one like failed lottery tickets my blood tests came back negative. This time the doctor called me:

‘Do you think the problem might be psychological?’

I reeled off my list of problems.

‘I’m surprised you’re still walking around,’ she said. ‘Do you think you’d benefit from some counselling?’

I thought I might, so she put me on the list and on that list I stayed. In the meantime I carried on plodding round the house, picking up books and putting them down and watching mindless TV which fell out of my brain the moment the credits rolled.

Of course I had to stop work. I write full time but now it was as much as I could do to write a couple of lines each day in my diary. I wound up the blog for ever and basically, I lounged. I lounged in the bedroom, I lounged in the sitting room; when it was warm enough I lounged in the garden and lamented all the weeding I had no energy to do. And I waited to reach the top of the list for counselling.

In the end I was able to access some funding and get private counselling, using someone recommended by a friend. My counsellor was brilliant and I made a lot of progress; I’ve made much more since, thanks to the techniques she gave me. I’ve learned to control negative thoughts and believe in myself more, and at the start of this year I felt more positive about being a successful writer than I have ever felt.

I started work again last September after a year off. My pattern of work is very different; I don’t push myself to do anything and I enjoy life more. When I tell people I’ve been off work for a year with burnout, most of them nod and sympathise. They know what that’s about.

So that’s it, that’s me up to date. I’m working on some short stories at the moment; before Christmas I sent off a poetry collection to a publisher and I’m 30,000 words into a novel. And who knows, I might even start writing blog posts again…

Kirk out

Synchronicity Again

I blog about this from time to time, when things coincide out of the blue when there is no reason why they should, and today’s synchronicity is about wasps. I’m subscribed to a site which sends me a poem every Friday (I used to get one every day but reading poetry takes concentration) and today’s was about wasps. It’s not the time of year for wasps, though what with global warming they do tend to hang around later than they did, so the poem was unexpected. It was a good poem, about helping wasps to escape the chimney where they’d been nesting and assist their passage to the outside world; the whole process being compared to The Great Escape.

Apart from that I thought no more of it. At least not until I read Beetleypete’s latest instalment in his short story. And guess what? In the very first paragraph wasps were mentioned.

What is going on here?

Kirk out

Paying Tribute

I don’t know if you’ve ever watched this particular webcam. I don’t like watching webcams in general: the ones overlooking an anonymous mass of people are ok but more intimate ones give me an uncomfortable feeling of voyeurism. I also worry about the amount of surveillance we are subjected to in our everyday lives; if I so much as walk 500 yards to the shops I may be caught on as many as half a dozen cameras. I don’t like it. (Mind you, when I’m watching one of those true crime stories and they lose the suspect I bang the table and ask, why don’t they have CCTV in that remote field? But that’s another story.)

Be that as it may, I don’t know if you’ve ever watched the feed from the camera overlooking Abbey Road – yes, the zebra crossing on the front of the Beatles album. It’s quite shocking. You might expect the odd group of people to reenact the album cover but in fact people do so roughly every 2-3 minutes. Since this involves stopping on the crossing for someone to take a picture – for without a picture the whole thing is worthless – it must be infuriating for the locals.

We seem to live in an age of tributes and re-enactments, where people gain some extra value or kudos for performing a famous act or reproducing someone else’s songs and there’s barely a famous band that doesn’t have a slew of tribute acts. Why? What do people get out of reproducing a spontaneous photo of four men crossing the road half a century ago? Have we lost the power to be spontaneously creative?

I think we should be told.

Kirk out

Wot No Chads?

I’ve been doing some thinking of late. I haven’t been blogging much and I’m wondering if it’s time to lay the blog down, as we say in Quaker circles. Has it served its purpose? What was that purpose? Am I losing my passion for writing it? Have I written all I can on the various subjects that this blog covers?

I’m not looking for a chorus of ‘oh, please don’t go!’ (though if you feel like it, don’t hold back). I just don’t want to fade away as so many blogs do. Anyway, I was reminded last night of something that really has faded away, ie the once ubiquitous chad. If you don’t know what a chad is, here’s an example.


And of course (wouldn’t you know it?) the word has utterly changed its meaning and now refers to an alpha male. Language is very confusing.

Kirk out

The Men From Where?

As I was trudging grumpily through the town wondering why my skin has seen fit to erupt in painful lesions, I was struck by an idea. I’ve got out of the habit of writing down ideas but I decided then and there, by the bandstand with its sad, damp, abandoned deckchairs, to get back into it. So I took out my notebook and wrote it down. I thought maybe it could be about my time at the yoga centre in Madrid, a sort of updated Oh Brother!

My skin (or some of it) has for reasons best known to itself decided to erupt in painful red spots around the nose and mouth. Fortunately this is the area covered by a face mask but I can’t wear one all the time so sometimes people are exposed to the unsightly view. I wouldn’t mind so much if it was sore and itchy without being disfiguring, or the other way round. So far I’ve tried steroid cream, calendula, tea tree and both coffee and honey face masks (ie face packs). For a while I thought the calendula was working but yesterday it flared up again so who knows. I may have to go to the doctor with it, which will not be straightforward.

Previous experience does not lead me to be hopeful; in my teens I had a similar skin condition all over my face. I saw a load of doctors and tried dozens of creams but to no avail. In the end it cleared up by itself.

And the sitcom title? The Men from the Monastery. Good, eh?

Kirk out

On The Twiddliness of Things

I was just wondering what to write about when my eye lit on a notebook with an Escher drawing on the front. Twiddliness! I thought. So that’s where I’ll begin. OH has a book called ‘Godel, Escher, Bach‘ which is on this very subject. Godel was a mathematician and there are similarities between him, Escher and Bach, all of them being inclined to turn things upside down, inside out and round and round. Bach can take a simple piece of music, play it a few times, turn it upside down and sideways and then chop it up; Escher does the same thing with images, producing optical illusions where fish turn into birds and staircases, like share prices, go up as well as down. I’m not sure what Godel does because I skipped the section on him (shame!) but there you are. Maybe if it wasn’t so hot I’d be able to say something more coherent on the subject…


Yesterday turned out to be not such a bad day in the end; after a depressing morning I went for a walk (always a good plan) and sat in my easy chair for the afternoon. I use my easy chair – in reality a garden chair because an armchair won’t fit in my study – for periods of reflective writing, or perhaps no writing at all, just staring at clouds and daydreaming. I don’t actually do enough of this – I suspect most of us don’t – and it’s very valuable. Just to sit and allow thoughts to emerge as they will – or not – is one of the best ways a writer can spend her/his time, provided that the rest of the time you actually get some work done. And lo! while I was sitting in reflection I decided to check my phone for emails and there sat my weekly update on freelance writing jobs. I subscribe to this just on the offchance even though most of the jobs are not suitable for me, and there I found a novel-writing competition. I sort of have a novel – well, I have one in development, and since they only required the first 5000 words I sent them off. If they’re interested they want another 5000 in September – which I have – and after that I’ll have to work pretty damn fast if they want the whole thing. But that’s how I rock.

So you see, twiddling your thumbs can be highly productive. The joys of twiddliness!

Kirk out