Wednesday 11 October 2023

Miriam Hastings Guest Author discusses her latest book

  

Today I would like to welcome Miriam Hastings to my blog. I have just finished reading her powerful novel 'The Dowager’s Dream'.

Welcome Miriam. I noticed that your book is dedicated to your great great grandmother Margaret McKenzie.  Do you have any information about her life and if so did any of her experiences inform the book?

 

Were any of your ancestors directly or indirectly affected by the clearances do you know?


Author Miriam Hastings

started researching the highland clearances a long while ago when I spent a lot of time up on the north coast. I visited the clearance museum at Farr several times and they helped me look into my own MacKenzie ancestors. I can’t be sure how accurate it is, but they think the family were evicted from their croft in the early 19th century. It seems that Margaret, my great, great grandmother, came to London in search of work, probably with her parents. Sadly, she died young of tuberculosis in 1872, leaving her husband James Killick and three children. Charlotte was 7, my great-grandfather Albert was 5, and his sister Florence was 4. 

James  (like all the Killicks) had been a costermonger in Clerkenwell, but he went to pieces after her death and ended up in prison for child neglect while the three children were put in the workhouse. Then Charlotte went to live with James’ widowed mother (also Charlotte), while Albert and Florence were admitted to the London School for Destitute Children - which probably saved their lives since their sister died when she was about 11 (either with her grandmother or back in the workhouse) and their father died of tuberculosis in the workhouse. 

It was all very sad and Dickensian!

Most of my ancestors were Welsh but I did have other Scottish ancestors, the Pattersons, but they were from the lowlands, probably from Glasgow - I don’t know much about them yet.

 

 

Thank you. Yes, it’s often surprising and frequently very tragic what genealogy can turn up.  I'm also intrigued by your other dedication to Elizabeth MacKay who saw the the mermaid. Is this a well-known story told in the Highlands? Did you do a lot of research for this and is this why you chose Mackay to be the surname of Kirsty? 

 

I became interested in the highland clearances after I discovered a strange and fascinating letter written by the daughter of the Minister at Reay, Elizabeth MacKay, describing a mermaid she saw in Sandside Bay in January 1809. She wrote the letter to the Dowager at Sandside who sent it on to her friend Sir James at Thurso, he in turn sent it to a journalist who published it in a newspaper. I discovered it in an old, 19th century encyclopaedia of animals for children. It had a section on fabulous beasts at the end, including mermaids, and it published Elizabeth MacKay’s letter. I wanted to know why a minister’s daughter might have seen a mermaid then - what was going on in the country around her at that time? 


It was then I first began to read about the clearances.


Thank you, and readers will see the influences in the novel. Was there also documentary evidence of the Mackays seeing faeries or was this something you added to the story of the MacKay clan with your delicious imagination?

 

The MacKay clan have always had a reputation in the highlands for second sight and for being friends with the fairies. Kirsty’s mother and grandmother are MacKays but her father is a MacDonald.

 

The characters all seem very vivid, did you base any of them on real people?

 

 I didn’t consciously base any of the characters on real people except the Patty-cat who was closely based on a cat, Petya, I rescued when I was an anxious and unhappy teenager. Most of the time she was far more gentle than Patty-cat in the novel, but she hated raised voices just as much and behaved just like the Patty-cat, patting people on the arm or the lips if they got angry. When I was 16, she once chased my mother out of the room because she thought she was making me cry!


Petya - the original 'Patty-cat'

 

I thought she had to be based on a real feline! The setting is all so vivid too - it sounds as if you know these places intimately. Did you know them personally from ever having lived there or from regular visits or holidays? How long did it take you to research it?

 

 

Originally I wanted to write a non-fiction book about the lives of women in Sutherland during the clearances but it was really difficult to find out about them - even their names! So in the end I decided to write a novel about them instead. This means that altogether I spent many years researching the clearances in different parts of the highlands and islands, but especially in Sutherland.


While I was doing the research we spent a lot of time up on the north coast. Usually we would rent a cottage in Reay although once we stayed in Strathnaver (the valley I based Strath Kerrow upon). I love it up there, it’s very special to me, but I’m too disabled to go so far now.

 

 

I remember you having a short story published about a mermaid in an ice house. Did you have an idea then that you'd like to incorporate her into a longer  story?

 

The first version of a novel I wrote about the clearances was a lot longer and great deal bleaker (it is a very bleak story, of course), it also covered a much longer period of time in real terms, with a harsher end so I think it was a more difficult and challenging novel to read. For a couple of years I had a literary agent who was very enthusiastic about it but he couldn’t find a publisher, then he left the company he had been working for to set up one of his own. At that point he only wanted authors who were selling really well so he ditched me! Not an unusual story, I know. So I gave up at that point. 


After a while I wrote the short story, Mermaid on Ice, which was published by Fairlight, and when I first showed it to my friend, the writer Wendy Brandmark, she commented that it read like the beginning of a novel which encouraged me to start again. The Dowager’s Dream is totally different to the first novel I wrote and far more imaginative and fictional but it is still based upon the true history of the highland clearances. I allowed myself more licence to create and more freedom than I had in the first novel and I think it has benefited from that. I took out the real names of characters, e.g. William Patterson, who was originally based upon the ruthless land agent and factor who really existed. I also took out the real names of places and replaced them with names that were similar but not identical. I thoroughly enjoyed writing the book so I hope people will enjoy reading it.

 

 

Are you working on anything else and if so would you like to tell us more?

 

 

I have just finished a novella (my first, just 31,000 words long) about a poverty-stricken and neglected area in Spain, based upon the two areas that I know well and where we have spent a lot of time.

 

We shall all look forward to that very much, Miriam. I know I shall. Many thanks for being a guest on my blog. 

 

The Dowager's Dream


To find out more about The Dowager’s Dream and where it can be purchased, please follow the links below. You can also find out more about Miriam’s books at her website and social media links (below).


 Links where The Dowager’s Dream can be purchased:  

https://www.feedaread.com/books/The-Dowagers-Dream-9781803027999.aspx  (paperback)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B0C43QJCHG/ref=sr_1_1  (both paperback and on kindle)

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-dowagers-dream-miriam-hastings/1143479149  (paperback)

Links to website:

www.miriamhastings.com

Social media links:

facebook author page: www.facebook.com/MiriamHastings.author/

twitter: @MimHastings

instagram: @miriam.hastings3

 

 

Wednesday 6 September 2023

My review of The Dowagers Dream by Miriam Hastings

This excellent and compelling novel about the Highland Clearances is narrated through the viewpoints of both Mary and Kirsty. Kirsty is housekeeper at the 'manse' and servant to Mary's father, the brusque minister.


The novel opens with the sighting of a mermaid in the remote community near Thurso in the Highlands of Scotland. Mary sees it too and the Highlanders view the vision of a mermaid as portentous.


The largely absent Laird at the Bighouse— also in a longstanding feud with his mother, the Dowager—has arranged for new plans for the estate and no longer wants the crofters to grow crops as they have for generations but instead wants to turn the land over to sheep farming with 'cheviots' and English shepherds to oversee it. He 'wants to bring a more modern and profitable way of life up here...to encourage a more educated and civilised culture among the residents.’. The villagers are worried about their homes and livelihoods.The prophecy of the Great White Sheep soon becomes a reality and the mermaid sighting haunts the Dowager at the Bighouse.


The Dowager, the Minister and the threatened Highlanders pull together and we see a surprise feistiness of the Dowager when her folk are threatened with eviction, in spite of their different lot in life. She aligns with them more than the outsiders who want to take over. What follows is a growing threat of violence between the English 'southerners' and the Highlanders, building to a harrowing climax.




The story is threaded through with ancient mythology of the Mermaid and the faery folk as they interact with the vivid and complex characters that sparkle off the page in what is probably Hastings' finest novel (and she's already set a high bar with the others).


You can't help but root for Kirsty's feistiness, torn as she between the loyalty to her extended family and the people she serves: Mary and her father, and the Dowager. The Dowager herself is a strident and complex character, in spite of her lineage. The shabbiness of the Bighouse brings to mind the common adage about the aristocracy having more in common with the workers than the middle classes. The Minister too is an intriguing character and best placed to be respected by all: he has a powerful position in the community but still bound by the Laird and doing what he believes to be right. He is also interested in the new scientific findings of the time which sit comfortably with his religious beliefs. He often comes across as gruff and harsh but underneath we get glimpses of a gentler side and a tolerance for the understandably mutinous Kirsty, and the manse cats. Even William Patterson, the English land agent employed by the Laird, has one or two saving graces. Other major and minor players who make a lasting impression are Kirsty's cousin Ruth Gunn as well as the more unworldly ones like Meena and, of course, the Mermaid. A special mention too has to go the manse cats, especially Patience Griselda or Patty-cat who puts a paw over the minister's mouth or pats an arm with her paw when she's disturbed by shouting or raised voices!


As well as evocative descriptions of the setting, the narration has enough phrases and colloquialisms to remind us where we are. Phrases like 'starnels' for starlings and 'glaikit limmer' for 'a foolish loose woman or scoundrel' (I had to look these words up) demonstrate Hastings has researched this thoroughly or has family knowledge. (I noticed the dedications at the beginning of book includes the surnames of both main characters ).


Like Hilary Mantel and other acclaimed writers, Hastings brings her historical characters and environment vividly to the present as if they're right there in the room with you. This is done seemlessly and artfully and is a unique skill that few people can pull off. No rose-tinted glasses here. Just real people with timeless wishes, hopes, fears, dreams and passions. Just enough dialect to 'hear' their voices. I learned so much about this overlooked and important period of history. The story and the characters will stay with me.


I can't recommend this book enough and hope to be interviewing the author more about The Dowagers Dream soon.


You can buy a paperback copy here: Feed A Reed

Or an eCopy here: Amazon.uk

More about the author and her work can be found here: Miriam Hastings website


Friday 16 December 2022

Last blog of the year - review of 2022

Welcome to my last blog of the year in which I look at my goals fulfilled and new year goals or aims for next year outlined!

Last year I hoped to make more progress with my memoirs, finish my Pet Peeves blog series and improve my poetry. I have progressed quite a bit with my memoirs but still a long way to go. I tentatively entered it into a memoirs competition but was disappointed not to get anywhere. I'm very used to getting rejections and I got another one in the same week regarding a novel that was much more polished (in fact it's self-published). But I'm new to memoirs and it felt a bit like returning to the old days when I first started sending out my first novel (or a new one). 

On the positive side, I did invest in a new cover for Savage To Savvy designed by Jessica Bell waiting to be revealed. I look forward to seeing if having a professionally designed cover will make a difference. I also finished my Pet Peeves series of blogs. I've not honed my poetry skills to any noticeable degree but I did complete a series of 'month poems' and since July have been putting them onto a backdrop and posting on Instagram. 

This year I’ve also had a couple of flash fiction pieces and one Image-Word piece in the online publication 'Ink Sweat & Tears'. Flash fiction suits me as it has much in common with poetry and also as it's short I can complete a piece relatively quickly!  It also breaks up the very long memoirs at the other end of the writing spectrum. More of both, I hope, in the coming year.


https://inksweatandtears.co.uk/kate-rigby/

Talking of spectrum, one of the most momentous things this year was being diagnosed with autism and ADHD. I did mention about pursuing it in last year's end of the year blog, little thinking that I'd get a diagnosis. In fact, my sister and I were diagnosed at the same time - both in our sixties - and it's made complete sense of our lives! As a result I have begun a new blog called 'authistic'  I hope to do many more next year.

https://authisticwords.blogspot.com/2022/11/on-autism-and-being-author.html


I mentioned ME/CFS in my end of year blog last year and am proud to have partaken in one of the largest studies of its kind in the UK called decodeME which got underway in September. It feels good to have this debilitating condition being taken seriously at last and to contribute to research in this way. Even more uncanny was the discovery - through my pursuit of the autism assessment -  just how similar ME sensory overload and autism burnout are. Many people have both conditions as well as Fibromyalgia which I also have. I'd never heard of autism burnout until this year. 


The hyperhidrosis carries on much as before but there may even turn out to be a neurological link between this and the above conditions.  I'd love for this to improve substantially next year. It's such a blight on my life.


I resolved to continue with singing this year and am so pleased that Gathering Hearts continues most Wednesdays on Zoom with the wonderful Tembre who moved from Ireland to Portugal in the summer. The wonder of Zoom is you can host it from anywhere. The We May Sing community also continues which is another Zoom monthly session where Tembre invites other singers who share and teach their lovely songs alongside her. I hope that continues to nurture and sustain me next year.



I did want to progress with more of the genealogy on the Jewish side but it’s taken a bit of a backburner this year.  Hopefully I'll do some more next year.


Well,  that's it for now except to wish everyone happy festivities and a happy, healthy and fulfilling new year. I think it's needed after the tough year so many people have had. 






Thursday 26 May 2022

Author Interview - Chantelle Atkins & Sim Alec Sansford and their latest book!

Today I'm really thrilled to have Chantelle Atkins back on my blog who has just co-authored a book with fellow author, Sim Alec Sansford. I had the pleasure of interviewing them about their latest book: Fortune's Well, Part One, which has just been released.

Book blurb:

In the town of Fortune’s Well a dangerous storm is brewing, and two unsuspecting teenagers are standing right at the heart of it.

 

For JJ Carson, life has not been easy. His father is dead, his mother arrested for the murder, and he has been forced to live on the farm with his alcoholic uncle, Henry. 


Just when things could not get any worse, JJ discovers his living situation is not the only thing that makes him different from the other kids. A dark, swirling mist has made itself at home inside him and it is slowly changing him from the inside out. 

 

Enter Darcie Duffield. Beautiful, popular, and incredibly misunderstood.


Darcie is sick of the status quo and wants to make a difference. After a chance meeting with a strange boy at the river she becomes tangled in a web of lies and deceit stretching back generations, as she tries to help save him from the darkness lurking within. 

 

Why is this happening?

 

Where has it come from?

 

And why is Darcie the only one who can see it?



Cover design by Luke Fielding

Tell readers about your new book. I hear it's part of a trilogy.

 

Chantelle: It is the first in the trilogy, yes. It’s a story about two lonely, misunderstood teens who discover they have special abilities, and that the town they live in (Fortune’s Well) is not all it seems either!

 

Sim: The book, and in fact, the entire trilogy has been so much fun to write. The story honestly took on a life of its own. I can’t say we planned for three books from the start, but it just grew and grew, and I’m still not sure we’ve seen the end of it yet in terms of the universe we’ve created.

 

I understand the two of you wrote the book together, each doing different chapters. How did that come about?

 

Chantelle: It was Sim’s idea to write together, and he already had the concept in place before we started. It just seemed natural to devise a character each and tell the story in first person narrative, from alternating points of view.

 

Sim: As Chantelle says, it seemed right for each of us to have our own characters to reflect our own perspectives of this world. The process was so organic.

 

What inspired the idea for the book? 

 

Chantelle: I’ll let Sim answer that as it was all his idea!

 

Sim: At the time I came up with the idea, there was a lot floating around on social media about mental health. I had this sudden thought about creating a story where something negative (anxiety, depression, bullying, addiction etc.) could lead to something beautiful (magic, friendship, adventure). From there the idea grew, I imagined a young boy covered by a thick, dark mist, only he could use it for good. There were various other ideas too. I shared them with Chantelle and asked if she was willing to co-write. I was delighted when she said “yes!”

 

What did you learn about yourselves from writing jointly? 

 

Chantelle: Mostly just that it is possible! I’ve never written with another author before and didn’t think I would ever want to. I knew of a few authors who did write this way and I just couldn’t understand how it worked! Now that I know, I will definitely be working with Sim again.

 

Sim: I learned the importance of patience and taking the time to create something. It is so easy to get excited about an idea and just go for it. I’m very much a “pantser” when it comes to writing whereas Chantelle is more of a planner. I feel like her influence helped me a lot with my own solo projects. Having someone else work with you causes you to stay disciplined.

 

What was the most difficult part of the book or the joint writing process?

 

Chantelle: Probably for me it was the way we wrote it in Facebook messenger – as in we swapped ideas back and forth that way. Normally, I plan a book to a certain extent first, get the characters right, start writing and then have a notebook/planner running alongside the novel to refer to and add to. We kept meaning to organize it like that but it just didn’t happen. Instead, we swapped chapters back and forth and discussed ideas and plotlines in messages. This worked though! The tricky bit was having to scroll or search back through messages to find plot ideas we’d had and forgotten!

 

Sim: I think I agree with Chantelle on that. It seemed to work really well to just let the ideas flow via messenger, but at the same time the story grew so big and there is so much history and lore that by the time we got to writing book three and had to backtrack or find a certain piece of information, it was difficult.

 

What was the most enjoyable part?

 

Chantelle:I think the energy of it. It was really addictive. We wrote three books in 11 months! They just flew back and forth and we really kept the momentum going. It was a lot of fun. I really looked forward to every chapter I wrote and got so excited every time one of Sim’s arrived in my email!

 

Sim: The best part of this experience was getting to be a writer AND a reader. Although we’d share ideas back and forth, sometimes the story and characters did take control and I never knew what to expect from Chantelle. It was so much fun! That excitement helped inspire me to respond with my own chapter to see where Chantelle would take the story next.

 

Did the characters come first or the idea for the story? Who came up with the idea?

 

Chantelle: It was Sim’s idea, and we build the characters after that. I got a strong idea quite early on for my character and I think Sim did too. They just grew from there until we were quite in love with both of them!


Sim: I completely agree. The idea came first but the characters didn’t hang about at all. One thing I did want for my character, Darcie, was for her to be the polar opposite of JJ in terms of background. Unlike him, she still has both parents in her life. She is also rich and popular. But, despite their differences they still have this fantastic connection. While JJ is alone and bullied (by Darcie’s friend group), she too feels awkward and out of place having moved from America and always having to be perceived as the “perfect” daughter.

 

Who came up with the title for your book?

 

Chantelle: I can’t actually remember! We changed our minds quite a few times, I remember that. There were other ideas too. In the end, the town it's set in became a bigger part of the story than we had originally anticipated so it made sense to name the series after that, and then come up with sub-titles relevant to each individual book.

 

Sim: The original title idea was “A Jar Full of Empty” which was this bizarre paradox that came to me along with the idea of including mental health in the story. The jar full of emptiness being a metaphor for how the kids were feeling. I pitched the name of the town as Fortune’s Well, after a place I used to travel through years ago. Every time I saw the name of the stop on the bus I used to think about how mysterious and magical it sounded.

 

Did you each stick with your own characters or were they interchangeable between you both?

 

Chantelle:We stuck with them but obviously we had to get to grips with writing the other characters in our chapters too. That was nerve wracking to start with, but I think because they took on such a life of their own, we were soon easily able to write scenes with the other person’s character in.

 

Sim: The other interesting thing about characters, is all the minor characters we introduced and how they grew into key players. For example, Chantelle first introduced the character of Jared Wheeler in chapter one as a school bully. I’m not sure if she planned for him to be anything more than part of that one scene, but I took him in my chapter and expanded his story—He’s then became one of the main antagonists in the book.

 

Have you plans to write any books together in future?

 

Chantelle: Yes! I had an idea for a short story recently and it appears in my recent collection, The Old Friend – A Collection of Tales and Poems, as The Black Van. Before I knew it, I had a novel idea, possibly a series idea, for a YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic story and I asked Sim if when the time was right, he would consider writing it alongside me in the same way and he said yes!

 

Sim: How could I say no? This series has been so much fun to write, I can’t wait to see what else we can create. Alongside Chantelle’s idea we have also discussed various sequels and prequels for Fortune’s Well. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

 

Which of the characters do you relate to the most and why?

 

Chantelle: For me, I absolutely love JJ who I created but I relate to Darcie more to be honest, probably because she is a girl who has body image issues at the start of the series and that’s something that has followed me around in my life. But I do relate to how much of an anti-social loner JJ can be!

 

Sim: I agree with Chantelle here. I find both protagonists to be relatable for various reasons. I find JJ to be relatable because of his solitary nature, but Darcie has this strong desire to be herself and to be accepted for that honest version of herself which really resonates with me, and I’m sure many readers.

 

How much research did you need to do for your book? 

 

Chantelle: Not a lot to be honest as its paranormal/supernatural/superpowers we are writing about, so we could really just let our imaginations fly. We based the town on Dorchester where Sim grew up, so he was always sending me photos and maps of areas we were fictionalizing for the books.

 

Sim: Like Chantelle says, we were able to completely let our imaginations go. However, there was some research in terms of locations and some supernatural lore. The town is based on my hometown of Dorchester in Dorset, so some of the history is accurate to a certain extent, the rest of the details are dramatised for the story.

 

How long did it take you to write this book?

 

Chantelle: I think about three months for each one, roughly? I know it took 11 months to write all three.

 

Sim: That’s right! I think this book started around Christmas and was finished by March… Madness!

 

Is this a new genre for you?

 

Chantelle: For me, yes! I have never written anything about superpowers or ghosts before now! It’s actually made me want to write more in this genre and one of the WIP’s I am working on right now has some similar vibes, with magic, folklore, a weird little town and shapeshifters!

 

Sim: I absolutely love Young Adult Paranormal/Supernatural stories. Ghosts, Vampires, Angels, Demons. My current solo series, The Denver Falls Saga, is paranormal mystery. There’s just so much you can play with, and I enjoy the world building. I’m currently working on a regular Young Adult Mystery series though (void of magic!) and it’s been really interesting. I actually think it’s much more horrifying not being able to explain away evil acts with magic and instead having to get into the psyche of a regular person and why they would do these things.

 

Would you like to tell readers who may not be familiar with you work a bit about your books and which is your favourite?

 

Chantelle: Out of mine, my favourite is and will probably always be The Boy With The Thorn In His Side series. It was with me for so long, as I started writing it at aged 12, and I rewrote it again and again over the years. It got so big and complex and became a 5 book series, and I am currently working on a spin-off book for it!

 

Sim: For me, I have plenty of books to finish off and get to the publication stage, but short of a couple short stories/novellas, I only have one novel published currently. That being, Welcome to Denver Falls, the first book in the Denver Falls Saga. I think it will always be my favourite because it’s my first published novel. There’s plenty or mystery and paranormal elements, and even a bit of romance. It’s been described as “Twilight without the vampires” which I think is a great description. 

 

When it comes to Chantelle’s book, I love them all! But I highly recommend her Holds End trilogy, starting with A Song For Bill Robinson, I think it’s my favourite series ever! I’ll never stop recommending it.

 

 

Do you have a timetable for the publication of Parts 2 and 3 of the trilogy?

 

Chantelle: Not exactly, but I would imagine they will all come out in 2022.

 

Sim: Agreed. We have a rough schedule for when they’ll be released (possibly 2 month between each release), however, we are still making some last minute changes to book three… So, we’ll see!

 

Many thanks to Chantelle and Sim for this fascinating interview and insight into their writing partnership, and for daring to do it!  They have challenged all my own ideas that it can't really be done in fiction - they've proved it absolutely can.  The book sounds an intriguing read and I know Dorchester a bit, having lived in Bournemouth for many a year. I will leave you with an excerpt from Fortune's Well and links to Chantelle and Sim's social media links and of course, where you can buy the e-book. I believe that a paperback will be following.



Extract:

This can’t be happening…

It’s like a dream and it all happened so fast that I know I will be lying awake in bed all night trying to piece it back together again. Trying to relive it… I’m shaking hard. My eyes feel too wide and my skin too hot and when I look down at my fists, I swear I can still see the black swirls drifting around them.

Darcie is resting her head on my shoulder and suddenly that helps - suddenly her doing that gives me exactly what I need to think clearly. Jared was hurting her. He was going to attack her.

So, it’s not just me…

She’s shaking too. She must be in shock. I lift my arm slowly and stiffly and wrap it around her shoulder. The torchlight bounces around outside for a few more moments and then starts to drift away. The groundskeeper might be heading off, but Jared and his friends are all still out there.

‘I think we need to get out of here,’ I whisper. She lifts her head and stares at me, biting her lip, trying not to cry and I nod at her. ‘Darcie, right?’

She nods again. ‘And you’re-’

‘JJ.’

She smiles and wipes a stray hair from her face. ‘I think you just saved my life, JJ.’

‘Nah.’ I glance away before straightening up to check the window. ‘We gotta go.’

She gets to her feet nodding and I open the door slowly and glance out before committing to movement. I start to move when she stops me, grabbing my arm.

‘What was that stuff?’ she hisses, and in the darkness, I can see the whites of her eyes, the fear in them. I stare back at her and I want to tell her I don’t know, I didn’t see any stuff, but I can tell that she is not kidding.

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ I reply softly.

She nods as if this is enough for her and she follows me out of the building. For a moment, I’m lost. I don’t know what to do. I just beat Jared up. The other kids are still around. The black mist…it did something to me. It was like it was there when I needed it, but that can’t be possible, can it? Does all this mean Uncle Henry was right? I’m as crazy as my mother? I want Darcie to ask me again, to tell me what she saw so that I know I’m not losing my mind but not yet. We have to get out of here first.

 

Chantelle’s links:

 

www.chantelleatkins.com

 

facebook.com/chantelleatkinswriter

 

twitter.com/chanatkins

 

Instagram.com/chantelleatkinswriter

 

 

Sim’s links:

 

www.simalecsansford.com

 

facebook.com/simalecsansford

 

twitter.com/simsansford

 

Instagram.com/simeon_alec

 

 

Book link:

 

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09Z189QDC

 

mybook.to/HangmansRevenge

 

Other links:

 

https://books2read.com/u/bx1a7J

Friday 15 April 2022

Little Guide to Pet Peeves (Pt 9 - The Final Ragbag)

Well, I've now come to the final episode of something that was years in the planning. I began this 'little guide' for fun regarding some of my personal bĂȘte-noires and so with no further ado here it is!


Trousers that get wet at the bottom


I suppose another way of saying trousers that are too long or heels too flat. These are trousers you didn’t realise were scraping the pavements until, following a spell of damp weather, you discover you’ve got sodden hems flapping around your ankles. The wet patches can extend to the knees in some cases. Furthermore, on removal of said wet-bottomed trousers, you find the hems are also coming apart where a compound of recent rainfall and mucky gritty debris have found the weakest link and caused frayed holes.


Tetrabank

I’ve handed this job over to my sister now who is assiduous about cutting open cartons of used juice or milk and turning them upside down on the draining rack until they’ve dripped dry. But when I did this thankless chore I didn’t have the patience to do all that. Instead, I would attempt to rinse them out through the snipped off pouring slot and then simply chuck them in a carrier bag hanging on a door handle. Soon the bag would be bulging and the dreaded journey had to be made to the Tetrabank. Admittedly it was only a few hundred yards up the road, situated in the car park along with the other recyclable banks, but the worst bit about it was having to feed each individual carton into the (usually) overflowing maw of the Tetrabank. Thus half flattened cartons still dripping with watery juice would be boomeranged out at you. Like the other city of cartons were saying ‘no room at the bin’ (one of my sister's expressions).

Thankfully, our recycling crew now pick them up from our premises.

 

Child-proof lids.



Image courtesy of Pixabay


I get that they’re supposed to be child-proof. Nobody wants to be running their child to A & E because they swallowed some lethal poison, but making them adult-proof too? You’re supposed to somehow squeeze these two parts on the lid, press down on the lid and turn at the same time. This is guaranteed to cause a sore red hand at the very least, and blisters and cuts if you’re unlucky. That is, if you still have any mobility left in your wrist. This action is guaranteed to disturb your mental equilibrium so that you wished you’d never begun the operation. Sometimes the anger and frustration gives you the strength you need through sheer fury that you end up with spilt bleach all down your trousers, the smell of which will remain for the next twenty-four washes at least. 


While on the subject of awkward containers, those squeezy plastic toothpaste or tomato puree tubes come a close second. I'm sure you'll be familiar with the kind of battles you have to do - squeezing all you might  - while whatever mush it is remains stubbornly inside. You know it's in there too. But all you succeed in doing is relocating it to another section of the tube. Anything than the little exit nozzle! (Added February 2023).



Katie

...or any ‘ie’ suffix which infantilises a name. I appreciate that this may be peculiar to me and that if someone is christened Katy then that is their name. I also have no problem with shortenings of name that end in ‘ie’ or ‘y’ such as Jackie or Debbie or their male equivalents. But Katie isn’t a shortening. It’s adding an extra little appendage that doesn’t need to be there. At best it’s an attempt to sound chummy, but when anybody calls me Katie I get the heebie-jeebies. Katy sounds fine on anyone else but it’s just not me. It doesn’t sound fun, or chummy, but annoying and belittling.

 


Waiting




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Waiting. Waiting for anything. For taxis that are late or for phone calls which don’t happen. But worst of all, is waiting for medical appointments, for instance if the doctor or dentist is running half an hour late or longer. As I turn up early for appointments, that makes the wait even longer and even more stressful. So by the time I get to see the doctor or dentist I’m already in a state of heightened anxiety. But there is also a palpable relief that the waiting is over!


 

You’ll love this


No I won’t. Not now you’ve told me to! They tell you before you’ve had a chance to come at it fresh and untainted - whether a song or a programme or a book. You’ll Love This. Well, I might have, but not now you’ve told me I will. I'm cussed like that. I like to discover things for myself. I don’t like you making up my mind for me or compelling me to fulfil your expectations of me. That’s pressure! What if I don’t like it? What if I prove you wrong? If you’d only say ‘I think you’ll like this’, that’s an altogether different proposition. Those two words ‘I think’ helps us both. It gives you permission to be wrong and allows me flexibility and lets us both save face.


Wrong dates


This will sound very nerdy to some but I hate it when people put the wrong dates of songs on YouTube. Here's one that I once saw: O Lori by Alessi 1976. What? It was 1977 not 1976!  What's in a year you may ask? Well, quite a lot when you're 17 and those summers couldn't have been more different weather wise. 1976 was hot and dry; 1977 cool and damp, and When Alessi sang about riding a bicycle with you and chasing you through the meadow it evokes memories of that cool summer. Another one: Men Without Hats was 83 and not 82. I could go (and on) but for those of us with memories attached to songs (or other events) we don't just pinpoint the year, but the particular month of a year. Jeez, we could probably pin it down to the hour if we thought about it!


Changing duvet covers



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This surely has to belong in everyone’s. Grappling with a thing twice as wide as you and trying to fathom out where each of the four corners are inside of the wretched cover. You can always get someone to help you. But that can be double the trouble as you pinch the corner of your side’s bottom corner and swear blind you’ve got it right, stuffing the duvet into its designated corner to prove it – only to find that it’s somehow ended up in the top corner opposite or found its way out altogether! After half an hour of wrestling and swearing, if you’re lucky, the duvet will eventually take shape beneath the cover, albeit a lumpy one.  But if you can shake it out so that the duvet reaches all parts and you can punch down the lumps, you know you’re on the home straights.

NB: we've discovered duvet covers with three-sided, zips! Expensive but they make all the difference to this tedious task!

And that's it for now (although I will probably update from time to time, particularly the first one on lingo and expressions.) But I hope you've enjoyed the series and that some of it, at least, has resonated. Or perhaps brought about a completely different reaction which is equally fine! We are all very unique in our loves and hates but I've enjoyed engaging with those who've taken the trouble to read and added comments in the comments section. 

Happy Easter/springtime, one and all!