What is Art?

If you look with an artist’s eye you can see beauty in many places. Here in Pebbleditch we are spoiled, we don’t need to search far to find wonderful pictures. We have an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the doorstep, where we can view forests, hills, wildlife, wild flowers and butterflies and even a windmill. In cities one has to look harder to find beauty but just study the faces, stare at hidden corners or the bark of a plane tree. There is colour and vibrancy wherever you look.

Today, while walking the dog on an unseasonably balmy late afternoon, I came across a series of works of art. I know nothing of the artist, perhaps there is more than one, but I couldn’t resist taking this series of shots. I call them still life with a turd in a bag, numbers 1 to 8. I think they’re sweet, especially the little bunny ones.

The most amazing thing about this artist is that he managed to show all these pieces on a path about half a mile long. What a remarkable show. It must have taken days to produce all these.







Turd white Turd blackTurd reclining Turd in thistles Turd with bunny ears Turd with bunny ears againPerky turd Swan-like turd




































Good summer for growing tomatoes

Recently my friend Chastity went on holiday leaving me once again in charge of the cat and the watering of her vegetables and flowers.

What a fantastic crop they had. The summer has been so good I was able to take many tomatoes home with me and there were still loads left for their return.

I, on the other hand, have managed this.

failed green tomato

Update on the writing – or not.

Today is Saturday, it’s 10.30 am. My sister, the Speaking Clock, is due to arrive in about two hours and I need to hoover, dust and steam clean the chairs (don’t ask’. I know it sounds sad.)

After I had written my last post (raises bugle) and eaten a sensible lunch, I realised that I hadn’t taken my mobile off ‘silent’. I picked it up. Two missed calls from a writer friend. I called her back.

‘Hi Lil,’ she said and waited.

‘Hi WritingFriend’ I replied.

More silence. I tried again. ‘I think you called me, I’m returning your call.’

‘We were just wondering where you were.’

‘Oh God! It’s today isn’t it?’

A chuckle. ‘Yes, OtherWriter and I are in the Firecrest and we’re quite hungry.

Me, mortified, and full of food, ‘I’m so sorry. I could come down (20 minute drive) but I’ve already eaten. You’d better go ahead without me.’

I am such an idiot.

Have I written anything since my last entry here? A mournful ‘No’.

Another day another few words written

Be Careful to make time to write the novel

I’m on the Five and Two Diet. For those skinny people among you I should probably explain that this is a way of eating that involves limiting ones calories to five hundred on two non-consecutive days per week. During the rest of the week one should eat sensibly (Oh yeah; right.) Yesterday was, for me, one of those starvation days. Breakfast consisted of one Ryvita spread with two Laughing Cow Light ‘triangles’ and lunch was the same but accompanied by a mug of Bovril. You can imagine dear reader, how, on my arrival home from work, I was looking forward to a Weight Watcher’s ready meal with a plateful of broccoli. The time was only 3.30pm so I must kill two or more hours before I could decently eat.

Mavis had offered to help at her school’s open evening so I volunteered to drive her there and wait a full three hours until she emerged again. The three hours would be spent writing, hopefully in a quiet corner of the school.

I thought she said she needed to be at school at six something but, sadly, my head was in my writing when she told me the details.

Whizz was busy so I decided to walk the dog without him, then I would cook some pasta for Mavis and eat my ready meal – I could already taste it. Following our meal, Mavis and I would head off to school, I with my laptop and a flask of coffee, Mavis with shiny shoes and a clean school uniform.

On my return from my poodle – well Labrador-cross really – round the field, I lit the gas under a pan of water, watched it come to the boil and threw in some pasta.

At this point Mavis burst in saying, ‘We need to leave.’

‘We’ve got a while yet,’ replied I, casually.

‘No, we have to be there at 5.45.’

My dinner!

My grotty dog walking clothes!

But mainly: My dinner!

I stuck the ready meal into the microwave and then tipped the contents of the tray into a Klip and Klop box with some reheated broccoli. Mavis danced round me saying ‘Quick.’ and ‘Hurry.’ But there was no way I was sitting in a cold car for three hours with no food inside me.

Laptop into bag, scruffy garden shoes onto feet, coat to hide blobby dog sweater and we were finally off.

‘Will we make it before 6?’ Mavis was anxious.

I looked at my watch, it was 5.30. ‘Oh yes. The traffic will all be coming towards us out of Duckchester.’ I was more reassuring than I felt.

When we reached the end of the dual carriageway there was, of course, a queue of traffic, which we joined.

‘When will we get there?’

‘I’m not sure lovey, it depends on the traffic.’ We were crawling at about five miles per hour.

‘I want to know.’

‘What will be will be, Mavis. I’m doing my best.’

Mavis began to berate me. ‘It’s your fault. You shouldn’t have done the food.’

‘I was hungry.’

‘You could have bought something later.’

‘Look, I’m sorry, OK? I’m doing my best and there’s nothing more I can do.’

At two minutes to six I dropped her off in front of the school entrance. Phew!

I parked the car and consumed my lukewarm dinner, wishing I’d had time to make the flask of coffee. Oh well.

I wrote for two hours, cold, cramped and thirsty. In that time I increased my 71,809 words to 72,126 a net total of 317 words if my maths is correct (go on, I know you want to check it). The usual adding and taking away of words held me up – a prevarication to postpone actually writing more plot.

So, now it’s Thursday. I’ve updated my Linked In profile, Tweeted a bit and written this post. Ooh, I must go shopping, and clean the cooker and hoover the cat and dog – hairs up off the floors. But I will write some more of the novel so watch the word count grow. Deadline – First of March 2014

Writing a Novel

I’ve come out! I’ve decided to go public about the fact that I’m writing a novel and have been doing so for several years, trying to fit it it between the day job and the laundry.

I have no idea yet how the book will be received but I have high hopes that it will be the driver for more novels and a career in the written word. My ‘journey’ will be published in these pages for the benefit of anyone prepared to read and who may wish also to write.

I would never have thought I could write a novel; Not enough imagination, thought I. but perhaps that wasn’t it. Could it have been that I didn’t believe in myself?

My brother Simon Mendes da Costa is the trail blazer in our family. I get my confidence from Simon. He will achieve something and I, please believe me when I say that it’s not sibling rivalry, think, well if he can do it then I expect I can.

Simon was an Estate agent once, so was I

Simon was a computer programmer once, so was I

Simon is a playwright now. Watch this space

I’m not sure how long ago I thought of my plot. A few years? three or four I think. I don’t even know where the idea came from; it just popped into my head and I thought woah, that’s a great plot.

I ran it past Whiz and when I told him the punch line he laughed. He was actually surprised. I was actually surprised that he was actually surprised. His reaction gave me the confidence to start writing.

First I read a couple of books. One was The Craft of Novel Writing by Diane Doubtfire. I feel the need now to read it again but at the time, the most helpful thing was her suggestion to write the numbers 1 – 30 down the margin of a sheet of paper and annotate, briefly, the opening chapter against number 1 and the ending against number 30. Fill in a few of the intervening numbers and let the rest of the plot come during the writing process.

The other book I read was Novelist’s Boot Camp by Todd A. Stone. This one was an eye opener and helped me to understand the formulaic nature of ‘The Blockbuster’. However, a couple of points he made struck me as interesting: 1. Get to the end. Just plough on until you get there. 2. Make sure there’s an ‘and so’ to each thing you write, for example The man’s daughter disappears ‘and so‘ he goes to the police. The police tell him he needs to wait for 24 hours ‘and so‘ he decides to go looking on his own. Each thing that happens is the consequence of something else and leads to another consequence.

I’m sure there were more things imparted by these two authors but those are the ones that I carry with me.

To paraphrase an old joke: if I were starting my novel now, I wouldn’t start from there, but I had the beginning of the novel clearly in my head and so I wrote. About 10 – 20,000 words with hardly a pause. Oh, it was brilliant. The writing was clever and the story exciting.

I have hardly any of those first words left on my pages now. The first time I let a professional read the book she started explaining about showing and telling. This is the first lesson the would be writer must learn. Don’t tell about a bit of your story, show it i.e. write it as a scene rather than reporting it. This means that in many cases, flash backs are where the story starts, not as a flash back but as a beginning to the story. Of course that’s not always the case but it was the case in my novel and so I didn’t start here, I started there!

Writing a novel is, as the title of Dianne’s book tells us, a craft. A skill to be learned, and I am still learning.

Last year I took a class with Jan Morran Neil. In Jan’s classes I met other people, fellow writers. I am still in contact with many of them and we share our writing and help one another. It was a good way to get feedback on my writing and to hear the work of others in a supportive and constructive atmosphere.

After completing a year with Jan I decided to strike out a bit on my own. I still had a lot of words unwritten, even though I had, in some skeletal way, got to the last chapter. I started again at the beginning and found to my dismay that I was cutting out more than I was writing. It was like walking uphill in snow, you know, one step forward etc.

I joined Chiltern Writers, a local group, and met some very local, much more experienced, fellow writers.

Co-incidentally I went to Beaconlit, a literary festiva, here in my own village. I listened to crime writers S J Bolton, Alison Bruce and Elena Forbes, and a romantic fiction panel, comprising Kate Lace, Carole Matthews and Sue Moorcroft. It was very enlightening.

It was at Beaconlit that I met Belinda Hunt of Mardibooks. It turns out that we are distantly related and that I am also related to the Rothschild family. I wonder if I could tap them for a few quid! Anyway, Beaconlit is a cross between a conventional publisher and a vanity publisher. If they accept you onto their list, they proof read and edit for nothing but you must pay for your publishing. This sounds an expensive exercise but actually it’s a great deal and offers all the benefits of a writing course but on a one to one basis. What’s to lose?

Well, they accepted me, must have seen some potential in my writing, and now I have a deadline – 1st March.

I must now contend with the frustrations of family life while trying to write. Whereas before I was happy to spend an hour or two writing while waiting for Mavis to come out of an after-school activity, now I must try to squeeze in a bit of writing at every opportunity, hence: 1. I forgot to take Mavis to her Musical Theatre lesson last week, 2. I thought I had pre-paid for the half term but it turns out I hadn’t so the teacher had to remind me. 3. I am prone to circumnavigating roundabouts more than once on absent minded journeys but now I feel dizzy most of the time. 4. Mavis or Whizz will ask what we are having for dinner and my reply will often be ‘I haven’t a clue. Something will turn up.’ 5. Most of our knitwear has shrunk after erroneously passing through the tumble drier.

So, as I said, watch this space – for more Tales of the Unconnected.