Thursday, 30 April 2009

How much time can I spend...

...creating interesting images with my scanner and Photoshop? Quite a bit actually...
It's the lazy person's creativity as it doesn't require paintbrushes and a clear table; a mere messy desk and some electronic equipment will suffice. Following on my magical theme, we have a fairy from a picture I found, sat upon a tulip photo taken from my garden (all grown/created by yours truly) amid a backdrop of 'fiddled about with' wrapping paper that caught my eye in a cornucopia of a shop in Warwick. For wrapping paper read 'stationery' - yes, the obsession continues! In fact, I am eagerly awaiting delivery of my first batch of notecards from the printers. Yes, I stopped nattering on about it and actually created something to rival the best from Paperchase. Hallmark had better watch out...
The strange image at the bottom is actually a piece of thread from which I was inspired to well, just create. To be fair, it wasn't exactly the thread but the thing it was attached to which prompted another rush to Hobbycraft. I bought the most delightful little handmade tags from this amazing artist I discovered one day while browsing on ebay. She also has a store on Etsy. For the uninitiated, Etsy is a little like stepping into the fantasy 'other world'. It is food for the soul and sustenance to the imagination. I spend many an evening lost there in dreams of silken fabrics, vibrant textile, soft watercolours, sparkling jewels and scented summer evenings. I have a dream list in one of my beautiful notebooks of things I may one day sell there myself (if I ever tear myself away from this blog!). I even have an entire section of favourites devoted to Etsy 'shops'. For yes, dear readers, Etsy is in fact that most girlie of things - a collection of hundreds of shops devoted to selling handmade items and incredible artworks. Regrettably, dwindling finances mean I have made few purchases... but I dream and take inspiration.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Yes, it probably could

I'm back to attempting to plot my fantasy novel again; I'm just struggling to fit it in with all the other creative urges and, it has to be said, the day job rather gets in the way! I am fascinated by the enduring power of magic. If so many have written about it for so long, have conjured up worlds inhabited by elves, dragons, witches, warlocks, dwarves and powerful beings. If imaginations build parallel universes that cross the passages of time then either they were once true or we bring them to life with our longing. Why do we yearn for the mystical and mysterious? What is missing from our lives that we believe magic can fill the gap? If you were confronted by a fairy floating around your bed in the middle of the night offering to take you on an enchanted journey riding on the back of a dragon to an unknown world, would you go?

Monday, 27 April 2009

Could it be magic?

"And above all watch, with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.~ Roald Dahl ~

I found this inspirational quote when I was least expecting it too, though perhaps it was not so unlikely that I would boing from creative blog to creative blog and find it gracing someone's page.

She also has this one:
"There is no use trying" said Alice, "One can't believe impossible things." "I dare say you haven't had much practice" said the Queen. "When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast!"~Lewis Carrol~

I love this sentiment, and why not? We do it all the time without realising. Think about last time you plugged in your ipod and scrolled through the 8,000 odd tracks on it, listening to one or two along the way. You don't seriously think that they're all really on that tiny device do you? And how does a digital camera work? Yeah, it's magic all right.

We all believe in magic, just some of us more than others...

Sunday, 26 April 2009

And the winner is...

Simply take one old Tupperware rectangular container, one son and one competitive Mum. Hand child-sized trowel to small boy and instruct to dig in earth and lightly fill the base of the box (see the joy on child's face at this instruction!). Watch while soil flies in every direction, brush out of hair and think about fetching the broom later. Next, demonstrate how to carefully remove small flowering alpine from plastic pot - by gently turning the plant upside down and softly squeezing the container. Bite back the urge to cringe and hope that flowers feel no pain as the poor thing flies across the patio. Place both plants carefully and neatly inside your soil-filled container. Lift up the one that has fallen over.

Retrieve cress that has been growing on windowsill in ramekins, shaking off the excess seeds that failed to germinate after being slightly excessively packed in. Your next demonstration should reveal how a little concentration and light finger work can safely transport cress from birthplace to new home or... just grab it in your fist and hope for the best. With cress strategically placed to offer feng shui balance, direct son to fill in the gaps with polished white stones. "Why?" Because it makes it look attractive. "Why?" Because I said so.

Place one of the glass ramekins inside the container and then spend half an hour looking for the pretty green stones you bought from a candle shop about 10 years ago and used once. Ask son to place a 'few' in the base of the ramekin. Remove excess then request that the 'pond' is carefully filled with water (using the hosepipe not recommended). Place some dried mango in pond to masquerade as goldfish.

Don't worry if you find yourself staring blankly at slightly boring looking miniature garden. To find creative inspiration, simply head off exploring to see what leaps out and attacks you. In looking for 'life' hit upon something that's been dead for millions of years yet beloved to all small boys.

Install selection of scary dinosaurs strategically around primeval swamp, but primarily gathered around waterhole.

Wait a further 6 days for the day of the school fĂȘte and the miniature garden competition.

By around day 4, you may find that the cress is now taller than the tyrannosaurus, so carefully insert more polished pebbles beneath dinosaur feet (giving them a health & safety briefing to avoid sprained ankles on slippery surfaces). Remove mouldy mango and refresh water.

Transport carefully to school and dutifully attend school fĂȘte.

Glow with pride as son picks up first prize in the Under 8s miniature garden competition!

Try not to be too disappointed that 'Dragonslayer' didn't win too!

Friday, 24 April 2009

Mars, venus and all that...

Question: Do all women love to shop and all men like to take things apart and put them back together again?
Answers written on a rock to the usual address...

Teleport is like it is

Excitement builds as I anticipate throwing myself into a new writing challenge. I won't deny that getting to grips with the likes of spectrum and earth stations is going to be easy, but then where would be the fun in an easy life?

Had a meeting today with one of the directors who talked about being happy with a 'small' improvement in communication. "No, no, no", says I - we go for the enormosaurus increase in engagement, we aim to both surprise and delight, we create a communicating company with the right messages flowing seamlessly across the organisation. Small improvement indeed...pfft.

I'm a firm believer in the removal of corporate spin in internal communication. I treat employees like thinking human beings - they know when they're being lied to, or only given half the story (they've seen enough politicians demonstrate the technique after all darling!). If I do this well, I'll gain trust and that means more attention paid to my outputs which leads inevitably to a greatly engaged workforce - well, that's the theory anyway.

I'll soon have them whipped into shape. I'll be out there like the corporate newshound I am, sniffing out the stories in amongst the technobabble that is gradually making sense (apparently, despite what Scottie would have you believe, you can't 'teleport' people, which is a damn shame). The task is many-fold but primarily it's essential that everyone understands what the business is trying to achieve, how it intends to get there, how their role fits in and, essentially, 'what's in it for them'. After all, it's the people that make everything happen - without them you don't have a business. So, I ask: Who are the people? What do they think? How do they react? Perhaps communication is as basic as satisfying that question every toddler asks repeatedly as they try to fathom the world out - Why?
  • Why are we doing this?
  • Why aren't we making enough money?
  • Why is this good for me?
  • Why should I bother?
The role of the internal communicator is also great in finding out just what is going on... what do people know? What happened to this team to make that happen? In my view, there's always something interesting and useful to talk about - you just have to go out there and find it and then, most importantly, share it. I want to enrich the organisation with what it doesn't know it knows! Knowledge should be flying across the company faster than a radio wave (these can be dangerous if you get too close for a long period of time which is a health & safety issue for engineers).

I have to go now, I'm worried I'm turning into a techie nerd...

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

What's it all for?

As stated, this blog is about me becoming a writer. I will detail my journalistic exploits, my verrryy-sloooow-toooooo-progressss-novelll and have a good old time writing posts in here. But it's something else too... a conversation starter! I know you're reading this, I can see you there you know. So how about a comment or two? Of course, it's partly my fault that my conversation is a little one-sided (apart from my sister and a fellow stationery lover who I accosted when they were least expecting it). What is missing in my missives is a call to action - a question like... what do you think? Not just about my blog but about my musings - what's your view on Gok for example? By the way I bet Torres and his chums were cursing the football schedules last night. That's two Tuesdays in a row they've had to go to work at the same time Gok is on! I'm going to shoot off on a tangent now, mainly because I am very tired and my mind is all over the place. Let's talk football. Why is it that when I sit down to watch a match with my boyfriend, inevitably it proves to be a dull run around by 22 over-paid grown men failing to get the ball in the back of the net, then when I'm watching Gok (and don't have SkySports anyway) what happens? I'll tell you what... 8 goals and 2 in the last couple of minutes. Now that's what I call a football match. Boyfriend, aka Arsenal obsessive, kindly filled me in on many of the goals by phone update (which was very entertaining as, every time he called, Liverpool equalised) and then, I have to confess, in very small type, I did actually put on SkySports News to catch the final moments and see the goal replays ... Well... what can I say? A closet Gooners fan!
Right, 6 minutes until the Apprentice starts. I am allowing myself an hour's slob on the sofa and an early night. So, if my some miracle you are still managing to follow this - how about joining in with a bit of writing of your own?

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

A digital delight

It's not often that you're pleasantly surprised by something that comes out of the corridors of power, but today I was somewhat shocked to discover that Government bods are employing people that can actually write in plain English! While browsing the recently published report on Digital Britain (don't worry, I haven't turned into a total geek - it was for work, honest!), I was suddenly struck by the simple fact that I understood it and, what is more, was actually enjoying reading it. Maybe I am cruelly stereotyping, but let's face it we all expect turgid text that makes little sense to anyone without a PhD in gobbledygook. Instead, I was presented with plain English, friendly and conversational in tone and immediately engaging to the reader. OK, I admit I stuck with the short executive summary rather than the full 86 pages of detail, but give me a break... I've only been in the digital broadcasting industry a week...

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Ooh I've been getting all creative...

Wasn't today just beautiful? It felt so great to be alive and out in the spring sunshine with life bursting forth all around. I spent most of the day in Milton Keynes which has beauty everywhere if you just look - from hidden public gardens, to blossom-weighed trees and an abundance of green everywhere. Admittedly, it wasn't quite as attractive as the tiny village of Shalstone which we also visited which felt like peace personified but it was none the less inspiring.

My garden is likewise full of the joys of the season and I captured some of its splendour on camera with the intention of letting go in Photoshop. Hours of fun later and I've built a complete portfolio of potential stationery items - Paperchase watch out. The pleasure I feel from simple creativity is actually uplifting and I feel a real high. Sounds silly perhaps? My only worry is that tomorrow I have to go to work and get creative about satellites and spectrum to a highly educated audience of which I fear I am currently the lowest denominator. Am I up for the challenge? Ha! Of course I am!!

Piano man

I woke both myself and my boyfriend up last night singing the opening bars to 'Piano Man'. Apparently I was in tune too, which is pretty unusual. I put this bizarre nocturnal activity down to watching too much Britain's got Talent. Not really my kind of show normally but my sister phoned me last week and said I just had to watch some frumpy lady in a gold dress, a Greek Riverdance and the coolest teenagers in North London and, like the rest of the world with access to YouTube, got hooked. Clearly my subconscious wishes to join these stars in the making or maybe it's just another burst of general creativity waiting to get out! Personally I'm hoping for the latter... I've never been that keen on going on Oprah.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Who's that new girl?

Well, I have been slack with the posts this week. Blame the new job syndrome. I am just not used to getting up with the birds and driving half way across the country before 9am. Shall I tell you all about it?

Well firstly, I work at a place called Wireless House which sounds terribly modern. However, I have found it strangely disappointing and something of a contradiction in terms as, since I've arrived, I've had nothing but trouble with wires - either not plugged in, unpluggable or not electronically connected. Then, once you are up and running you discover that the only wireless hotspots in the building are in the canteen and reception. Add to this the startling discovery that some mobile phone networks don't get a signal here without climbing onto the roof and you start wondering if the 'wireless' refers back to those old-fangled radio things you used to listen to the Top 40 to back in your youth!

Despite this confusion, I am settling in and making new friends. I've been left on my own a bit and, to counteract the lack of someone to talk to, plus the need to quickly build a new network, I was tempted to wander up to random people and introduce myself. Whilst I would actually be quite happy to perform this sociable exercise - being a gregarious soul - I have from past experience discovered that the unsuspecting colleague can be a little un-nerved when greeted by a cheerily smiling stranger and subjected to what they perceive as interrogation (but I prefer to call simple curiosity) about their levels of engagement with their employer. It may be wiser to break them into my approach a little more gently.

Warwick itself (for that is where I am based) is really delightful. It's like stepping back in time. The office (with no wires) is just a cannonball's throw from the castle, so if I fancy a spot of jousting at lunchtime I shall be sorted. The walk into town is a brisk, but picturesque 20 minutes, taking in a cowslip-strewn footpath, above-mentioned very impressive castle, river (with boats for hire), parks bursting with spring blooms and picture postcard historical buildings. It boasts a number of extremely interesting looking (and no doubt expensive) boutiques and giftshops and even a deli - very upmarket with ne'er a chav in sight!
Indeed, while walking into town this lunchtime, I struck up a conversation with some ducks loitering by the footpath (it is a little-known fact that I speak 'water-fowl' - though I have been called quackers a few times!). Typical with most of their species though, they were only interested in talking about food and expressed a preference for M&S multi-seeded break should I wish to feed them on the way back. Clearly a better class of bird than their Sunblest-favouring Northampton cousins.
Tune into the wireless again soon friends and find out what happens when I visit the Earth Station and Teleport - do you think I'll meet Darth Vader or maybe Mr Spock?

Monday, 13 April 2009

The emphasis of this blog has shifted slightly from my original aspirations. It was supposed to be detailing my ambitions and successes in my drive to become a professional writer. Instead, it has turned into an outlet for me to experiment with writing about a wide variety of topics - a place to capture my creative flow and give it some study. One thing I do know, and this is probably evident from the number of posts (as well as numerous 'work in progress' ideas scribbled on any writable surface and dotted around my desk...), I'm really loving writing it! I hope that you're getting some enjoyment from reading it too.

Liverpool and Chelsea vs Gok - let battle for the remote commence...

Next week, I shall be entering the world of broadcasting in my new contract as Internal Communications Manager for Arqiva, so I may just get this question answered for me. While scanning the TV listings for next week, I was most amused to discover the ultimate televisual clash on Tuesday evening - for, at the very same time as Liverpool play Chelsea in the Champions League second leg quarter finals on ITV1, so does the legend that is Gok (no surname required, every woman in the country knows who he is) begin his new fashion show on Channel 4. How the planners at Channel 4 must have chuckled when they scheduled this one, imagine the sadistic grins as they envisaged the wars breaking out in front of TVs across the nation. It's almost a shame that we have catch up TV, Sky plus and DVD recorders these days... Yes, that's right - it'll be the football that gets watched later boys...

PS - Come on you reds!

Saturday, 11 April 2009

How to get dinner cooked for you

So, here is the promised attempt at food journalism, although the way I ramble sometimes who knows what you will end up with by the end of the post.

If you read my blog regularly, you'll be aware I have been known to wax lyrical about Masterchef and Heston's crazy feasts. Inspiration struck to recreate at home some of the flavour (pun intended!) of these cookery shows as part of an evening's entertainment for friends. I pondered boiling a pig in the bath, disguising potatoes as rocks and deep frying garden pests but rooted instead for the toughest cookery challenge of them all - the Masterchef invention test! Well, dear readers, what a cunning wheeze this was. Why go to all the trouble of cooking a meal for your friends when you can get them to do it for you in the comfort of your own home. Simply fill a basket with tasty ingredients at your local supermarket (or deli if you are posh and live in a town that actually has one), allow your friends open access to your store cupboards and kitchen utensils and let battle to commence. Ideally, with hindsight, I could have installed a few extra hob rings as there was a spot of wrestling stove-side but on the whole the evening was a great success. Top tip for the basket buyers out there - remember to buy things that actually might go well together (e.g. avoiding combinations like steak and custard); don't pick anything that takes too long to cook, make sure you actually have some useful content in your store cupboards (out of date packet soup and four grains of rice at the bottom of the packet is not going to be much use nor inspiration) and provide some suitable ambience. Alcohol naturally springs to mind here but you might also like to consider some musical accompaniment or other 'entertainment' depending on your tastes! When the fight for time at the cooker has been won, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your and, more importantly, your friends' labours. The evening was actually tremendous fun, rather tasty and, despite Rachel's protestations that she couldn't actually cook,* we enjoyed a feast fit for a Blumenthal and very sociable it was too.
If it wasn't so late at night (why do I always end up writing these so close to midnight?) I would add a menu of the evening's Tapas delights, but I need my beauty sleep. Watch this space for an update soon!

* Note to self: next time ask for Home Economics 'O' levels as prerequisite

Friday, 10 April 2009

The best kebab?

Is there a chain of kebab restaurants called the 'Best Kebab' or is just the name of choice for the doner chef? The reason for this somewhat left-field question is that yesterday, while in the vicinity of Old Street, London, I saw no less than two such establishments. Now, not wishing to cast aspersions on the quality of offering, somehow I do doubt that these are indeed the best kebab restaurants in London or indeed the known Universe. And let's face it, they can't both be the best can they? Perhaps that title resides with the Best Kebab in Kilburn High Road where I went once on a date (boy, do I know how to pick them!). OK, it was the end of a date, that time in the wee small hours when after a belly full of merlot and vodka and with legs aching from dancing, the idea of a [best] kebab seems so 'perfect' and so you put aside thoughts of romantic ambiance and settle for greasy formica instead. This was nonetheless hardly the perfect end to the evening I had been hoping for, particularly as said 'date', a certain Andy, decided to invite the cab driver to join us for our supper - cabbie then proceeded to take a joint out of a battered tin in his pocket and explain that this wasn't his first smoke of the evening (yes, he had apparently just driven us all the way from the West End while stoned out of his mind*).

Just did a quick mental calculation of when this story took place ... err about 14 years ago. I feel old ... Those were the days.. when I stayed up past midnight, before premiership footballers were born in the 1990s and long before I found it necessary to buy moisturisers that mention words like 'regenerist'.

The point of this blog was not really to critique kebab restaurants (don't worry, this isn't my long-promised food journalism piece), nor even to feel my nearly 40 (eek!) years. It was just an excuse to write something for the fun of writing! I'm off to sleep now, it's well past my bedtime.

* Young people, please note: - this is the reason why you should stand around in the cold waiting for a black cab and not accept lifts from dodgy blokes in beaten up, invariably beige, saloons.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Dragon Slayer

You might be forgiven for thinking that at last I am actually making some headway with my fantasy fiction. Well... there will be a dragon in it, which may or may not get slain but this has nothing to do with the title of this post. Dragon Slayer is the name attached to a mythical piece of armour carried by the legend that is St George. The front of the shield was embellished with precious jewels set deep into the silver plate. These shining adornments had been cut from the belly of the dragon-foe now depicted on the face of the silver shield. What you see depicted here is a true replica of the legendary defence used by the brave George to do battle with all that was un-holy and fearsome. It was with this very shield that the Saint rescued the Princess from certain death when her foolish villagers sent her as sacrifice when they needed water (when Northamptonshire had a poisoned waterhole last year, we went to Tesco which was a less drastic measure).

Truth is, this dragon actually represents my fall into 'competitive Mom-hood' as my five year old was sent home from school with a note inviting him to enter a competition to make a shield that even St George would be proud of. Well, I could have just given him a sheet of A4 paper and a couple of crayons but that's not the Wright way. I have to instill him in the creative urge! So, we sat and scrunched up tissue paper and got sticky with glue and created Dragon Slayer. He did help quite a bit - honest... even though he moaned that scunching up bits of paper was boring. Kids today eh?

Saturday, 4 April 2009

A spring in my step

Well, yes, I know that this blog is supposed to be about writing, but this is surely what I'm doing? N'est-ce pas? OK, so this post is writing about painting but it's still being creative which is my excuse. I was really struggling to settle to anything last night. I couldn't write fiction, I attempted but deleted a couple of blog posts, I couldn't paint. Then I gave myself a stern talking to. The trouble was I wanted everything to be perfect first go and after my initial attempt at painting a still life turned out merely 'reasonable', I allowed myself to think that I couldn't do it and with that frame of mind then sat down at the pc and assumed that the juice would just flow in words instead, but naturally it slowed down to a trickle. I had it appeared a touch of creative constipation (what a thought!). Eventually, after said stern talking to, I sat down again and approached the artwork from a different angle - one of merely enjoying the sensation of loaded paintbrush on paper, watching the colour and shape form. It didn't matter how it turned out, the point of the exercise was merely that I was doing it and enjoying it. In the end, I was quite chuffed. I have a habit of buying greetings cards that 'would be good to paint' and then they sit in a box for years waiting for that day! Well, the day had finally arrived for a photo of a tulip that was crying out for a watercolour interpretation. First attempt (bottom) was done quite carefully with a pencil sketch outline; second (middle) I just let the paintbrush lead me and kept the whole thing more fluid. Neither are perfect but I really enjoyed myself and took away a great sense of achievement, which considering how the evening had begun, was especially satisfying. Tonight I scanned them in and applied a poster edge filter on one (detail - top) so the fun continues!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Have you seen the date?

Yes, it is 2nd April and why, might you ask is this significant? Well, think about what is missing... There was no post yesterday. How on earth did I miss the opportunity to post a little 'prank' on April Fool's Day? What is wrong with me? Have I lost 'it'? I blame not being at work, the days have all merged into one such that I very rarely know what day of the week it is, let alone the actual date on the calendar. And so, I sit here sulking about a missed opportunity and think back to the glory years when I cancelled lunch in the canteen and invented edible beer bottles. Still, there's always next year...
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