Friday Flash Fiction – Inner Monologue

I look out of the window, wondering what it would be like to live an ordinary life. As the coach leaves the town I catch tantalising glimpses of other people’s lives, hanging out the washing, hoisting up the sheets to flap like sails. A young woman pushes her baby buggy purposefully, several Sainsbury’s bags hanging from the handle. Presumably she has a home to go to and an identity, she is a mother. I’ve always felt as if I exist on the outskirts of real life, I can’t imagine myself doing the things other people take for granted; actually knowing what job I want to do, getting married or making a positive decision not to get married, having a baby.

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I pop another chewy fruit in my mouth as we speed up on the motorway, definitely the last one, I’ve nearly eaten the whole bag and I’m beginning to feel sick. I only chose them to avoid chocolate. Cows are meandering across the motorway bridge, followed by a young man who does not realise how lucky he is to know what he is; a farmer bound to the fields and twice daily milking. Would my life have been different if I had been born to the rural life? I feel in my bones that is where I belong, in tune with the seasons, in harmony with the earth.

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The coach is slowing down, we could be anywhere, motorway service areas all look the same. Not much chance of any exciting or meaningful experiences happening here. My imagination starts working, my other life where all sorts of events can take place.  At the counter, in front of me in the queue, will be a rugged looking man with sensitive eyes. I will instantly know that he is troubled. The motorway restaurant being crowded he motions me to sit at his table. He will intuitively know that I am a woman who will understand him. Because of his work, unspecified, there have been no serious relationships, although he has a deep physical and spiritual need for a kindred spirit – me.

The coach brakes to a halt, I blink back to mundane reality and wonder if I am unique in running a parallel universe for myself. I follow the other passengers slowly off the coach, I must be the youngest on board, 22 years old last week. I step off trying to look interesting; an intriguing background, I am on a journey of some import…

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I sit alone at a table reading the paper. What am I doing here? I enjoyed my week’s stay with Great Uncle Stan and Great Aunt Ellie and fell in love with the Cornish countryside. But they hadn’t seen me since I was six and indulged me as if I was twelve; it will be a relief to get to my next destination. I’m living nowhere in particular, seeing as much of the country as possible on a strict budget. Christine’s family will put me up for a few days, she is my only friend left from infant school days; we will have deep discussions about our futures, but talking won’t make a future for me.

Isn’t it terrible.

I look up, startled, to see an old lady easing herself into the chair opposite, her tray shakily descending towards the table.

Isn’t it terrible the prices in here, you don’t even get the milk in a jug. I’m exhausted, been to visit the grandchildren. I expect you’ve been gallivanting around the countryside, make the most of it while you’re young, you don’t want to settle down too soon.

No chance of that I think, but I just smile.

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Other Families

Teenagers always think other people’s families are more interesting than their own, but Marjorie’s family really were. Marjorie was my best friend in second and third year high school in Perth, Western Australia. In first year Janice had been my best friend, mainly because neither of us knew anybody else on the first day; I was new in the country, she was new in the area. But Janice was a bit boring, confirmed by the fact that she wanted to do shorthand and typing and sidestepped to the commercial course. Our ways parted.

Marjorie was much more fun and for the next two years leading up to our Junior Exams we must have driven the teachers mad with our incessant giggling and occasional pranks. Our English teacher was driven to comment in front of the whole class

Do you two want to ruin your whole lives?

In time, it turned out that Marjorie had a photographic memory and had no need to pay any attention in class to sail through her exams.

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But back to the beginning and the first time I cycled round to Marjorie’s house. Her parents were Dutch and had brought her to Australia as a baby; I don’t think being Dutch had any relevance to the way their home was run, though to me it seemed more exotic than being English or Australian. I was fascinated by the way they pronounced Marjorie and to this day I think of the name with that accent and love the way the Dutch speak.

She had two Australian born brothers, Johnnie and Steve, indistinguishable with their blonde crew cuts. Their house was the only one in the street with a boat and three geese in the front garden. I don’t think the boat ever made it to the Swan River, let alone Fremantle Harbour or the Indian Ocean.

The geese made good guards; somehow I made it to the front door. Inside, the house was dark; that was not unusual, most of the Australian houses were kept in Venetian blinded gloom, shielded from the glaring sun.

Marjorie’s house was SHC, State Housing Commission. It was years before I realised some Australians were very resentful that migrants were housed ahead of them.

We headed for the bedroom to inspect her pop pin ups and she opened her wardrobe to reveal more pictures on the inside of the door. Sitting on a pile of clothes on the shelf was a packet of spaghetti; kept safe from her brothers who liked to eat it raw. When we went back to the lounge her brother was sitting on the settee eating dry cornflakes from a large green bucket. The visit was also more adventurous as her mother was out at work, a novel concept for me.

When my new friend came round to my house for the first time Mum offered her a cool drink and Marjorie said Oh, isn’t your fridge clean.

Ever after Mum wondered what their family fridge was like; empty probably. Her mother only cooked a proper meal on Sundays, when they always had steak, another reason for disapproval by my mother.

Marjorie was the first person I knew who worried about being fat and filled up with bottles of Coke to avoid hunger pangs. In our house meals were regular as clockwork and always delicious. Coca Cola never darkened our fridge, nor did I have any money to buy it from the corner shop near Marjorie’s house.

My novel Quarter Acre Block is not autobiographical, but is inspired by our family’s experience of emigrating to Australia. You can read more about that time at my website.

https://www.ccsidewriter.co.uk/chapter-six-fiction-focus/

Read about the time leading up to our family’s departure to Australia in a previous blog.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/quarter-acre-blog/

 

10 ways to go green this summer [Infographic]

Green Blog of the week. Ten simple tips, how many of these can you do? Which tip is the hardest to follow. Tell us your successes and your amusing green attempts.

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Don’t think that one person can’t make a difference? If everybody thought like that nothing would ever get done. Protecting and preserving the environment is everybody’s responsibility and everything that we do or buy or consume has an impact on it, whether that’s positive or negative. By making some small changes, with minimal added effort, you can transform your lifestyle and make big difference to your impact on the environment.

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Silly Saturday – Happy House Hunting

Handy guide to Estateagentspeak

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Copy (2) of P1050070Riverside dwelling.P1040958

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Sea views.

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Not overlooked.

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Roof Garden.

P1040415                                 Gated Community.

P1040407Elegant mid terrace house.

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Handy for local restaurants.

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Mobile Home.

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Buy Off Plan – exciting new development.

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Great potential.

 

 

 

Friday Flash Fiction – Dreadlocks and the Four Bears

Delia answered the phone promptly, it was her agent.

I’ve got you a star role, back to the cinema.

Initial excitement was followed by disappointment.

You won’t have to leave London, it’s a voice over.

It still rankled with Delia that she had been passed over for Marigold Hotel.

‘Advertisements?’

No, no CGI.

‘A spy film?’

No computer generated image, like Toy Story, Paddington Bear…

Delia wondered how much worse it could get. ‘A children’s film?’

Nothing wrong with that, all the stars do them now.

‘Who else is doing it?’

Tamara James.

‘Who?’

You know, she sent that Twitter and hasn’t worked since.

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On Thursday Delia turned up at what her agent called a bijou studio. She had not dared ask any more details, she could not afford to turn it down, but the young strangely attired young man who greeted her was friendly, enthusiastic and solicitous.

‘First one here, great, now how much do you know about the film?’

‘Nothing, I like surprises, this is just a bit of fun for me, I do like to support up and coming talent.’

‘…and we are very honoured to have you on board. Basically we’re going back to basics, a classic tale not yet retold, want to get in before Disney; Goldilocks and The Three Bears.’

Delia laughed. ‘I know it’s only a voice over, but I think my voice may be a little too mature for Goldilocks.’

He joined in the laughter. ‘Brunhilda… the brown bear, not the Valkyrie; you will be magnificent as Mother Bear.’

The smile froze on Delia’s face. ‘Who is playing Father Bear?’

‘There is no father bear, we have to reflect the modern family.’

‘I don’t understand, there have to be three bears.’

‘Yes, Big Mama Bear, that’s you, Mama Bear and Baby Bear.’

‘Very funny and how did they manage to produce baby bear?’

‘AID.’

‘I thought this was a children’s film, now you’re telling me the family has aids?’

‘No, artificial insemination by donor, Big Mama’s egg, Polo, the only gay Polar Bear in the Arctic, was the sperm donor and Pandora, Mama Bear, was the surrogate mother.’

‘Polar bears in the wood, this gets more and more bizarre.’

‘We have to show diversity.’

‘So what is Pandora?’

‘A Panda of course.’

‘Pandas are not real bears.’

‘I know, but we can’t be seen to be prejudiced. Pandora escaped from the zoo, it wasn’t working out with her husband, this was her only chance of becoming a mother.’

‘So what is the cub, a Teddy Bear?’

‘I love your sense of humour; I’ll show you the first rushes on the lap top.’

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Despite her reservations, Delia found herself taken by the lively colourful characters. ‘It is rather lovely, someone must be good at drawing. How sweet, a coffee coloured cub who’s afraid of the water and refuses to learn to fish. What’s happening now?’

‘The family have gone down to the lake in the woods, where Polo has lived since being ostracized by the Arctic community. Every Sunday they invite him back for breakfast, the access visit to see his son.’

‘Leaving the porridge to cool off?’

‘Vegie Kedgeree actually.’

Delia was getting into the spirit of the film. ‘Can I see what’s going on back at the cabin? …who on earth is that?’

‘We could hardly have the stereotype young blonde girl, that is Dannie Dreadlocks, she’s left home because her parents won’t take her to the gender reassignment clinic. We have to make sure the film is inclusive of the GLBT community.’

‘What has any of this to do with sandwiches?’

‘Sandwiches? Oh, you’re so funny Delia, you mean BLT, bacon lettuce and tomato. I’m talking about gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender.’

‘I think you are making this film too inclusive, can’t you just have a nice story?’

‘It will be, most of this stuff is back story, only the parents will understand. Let’s skip to the next scene, we’ve already added the sound track.’

Delia watched as the androgynous Dannie Dreadlocks skipped up the wooden stairs inside the cosy cabin, complaining in a strong Glaswegian accent that they should have gone to Ikea. In the first room she found a tiny wooden bed and sat down, but it snapped in half. In the big room she found the enormous four poster bed that Big Mama and Mama shared. At that moment a huge shadow filled the room and Dannie turned to see Big Mama blocking the doorway. The frame froze on the lap top screen.

‘Oh, what happens next?’

‘We haven’t written that part yet, we thought we’d let you all go down the Mike Leigh route and make up the script.’

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Saints and Sinners

If you enjoy anything that is free you have probably been to a free lunchtime concert. I have been to them in all sorts of places; theatres, town halls, cathedrals. Cathedrals are particularly good for accidentally enjoying free entertainment if you come upon a rehearsal. Even wrong notes sound great when pounded out on the pipe organ in a beautiful cathedral, the organist hidden from view up in the organ loft. Many cathedrals invite you to ‘make a donation’ or just charge you to go in; these historic buildings are expensive to care for. Exactly how this happens varies.

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At Lincoln Cathedral you can walk in, stand at the back and take in the view. To go any further you have to pay. One day while visiting relatives in Lincoln we were walking back to their house and decided to pop in to the cathedral. We were greeted with singing that sounded familiar from the past. The Swingle Singers, are they still alive? We saw them at the London Palladium in Something  BC ( Before Children ). Yes indeed and they were rehearsing for a concert that evening, we stood at the back and listened. Another time at Lincoln Cathedral we popped in and came across Mark Elder conducting Tchaikovsky with the Halle Orchestra, in rehearsal for that evening’s concert. The relatives wondered why we took so long to get back to their house.

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Last week was Christchurch’s Music Festival. The Priory is the parish church with the longest nave in England, larger than many cathedrals and is over nine hundred years old; a beautiful place for music of all sorts and there are concerts all year round. I managed to get to three very different lunchtime concerts, the Bournemouth University Big Band, a  lone tenor and two organists; described as Four hands, Four Feet and Four Thousand Pipes. The Priory was packed and of course they do like you to put some money in the plate on the way out. There were ticketed evening concerts as well.

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The Priory has regular organ lunchtime concerts all year round and it was these that inspired my short story ‘Saints and Sinners’. What would happen if the resident organist was jealous of the guest organist, if the priest in charge was so protective of his historic church and its music that he would do anything to protect its reputation? Hambourne is a delightful riverside town and Hamboune Abbey is its treasure. Father Jonathon’s love of his church and music left no room for marriage or a partner of any sort.

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In  the free concerts I have been to no disasters have occurred beyond someone’s phone going off during the quiet movement, or rather strange people wandering around looking lost. But at Hambourne Abbey something very dark happens, in ancient churches, who knows what happened in the past? What restless spirits inhabit the organ loft?

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At weekly writers’ group I found myself writing more stories about Hambourne and the people that live there; separate stories, but with a link. I didn’t want them to become a novella instead I included them as The Hambourne Chronicles in my second collection of short stories. I was going to call the collection Saints and Sinners until I discovered how many other books on Amazon had the same title, so it became Hallows and Heretics. There are five chronicles in amongst twenty four tales that take you through the year.

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You can download Hallows and Heretics on Amazon Kindle for £1.48 or buy the paperback for £5.99.

$us 2.01 $us 7.29 from amazon.com

 

Hungarian Calamity [Part 3]

Will Grace and her husband ever leave the Budapest Ibis, will the van get repaired? Find out here in Part Three of Hungarian calamity..

Anecdotage

 Last week’s episode saw Grace and Husband lodged [eventually] in the Budapest Ibis hotel, leaving their trusty home-on-wheels outside ‘Schiller Fiat’ at the mercy of the repair shop.

Szentendre is a small, arty town on the picturesque part of the Danube known as the Bend. We arrived there in our newly-repaired van late on Friday afternoon, ignorant of the fact that a big festival  of culture was scheduled for the weekend.

We’d been reprieved. After saying the repair would take one week Schiller Fiat pulled out their Hungarian finger and mended it next day. I couldn’t escape the feeling that some pressure had been applied by the insurer-after all they’d have needed to keep us in the Ibis for the week.

We happened upon the Szentendre site, spotting a sign on the roadside. But it was a welcome haven after the trials of Budapest; quiet, with only one, Dutch motorhome…

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Friday Flash Fiction – Novel

‘Are you alright Laura, you look worried.’

‘Oh Jason, I wasnt expecting you. Yes I’m okay, just having a genre crisis. She doesn’t know whether she’s writing Orange Booker or chic lit. I don’t know whether to talk about my tortured past or shopping.’

Jason massaged her shoulders. ‘I know the feeling; am I the romantic lead or the hapless victim in a darkly comic thriller? We just have to go with the flow.’

A sharp rap on the door broke into their thoughts. Jason opened the door and a man of about forty, with a crumpled suit and close cropped hair, marched in uninvited.

‘Sergeant Jenkins, CID; am I addressing Mr. Jason Wood?’

‘Yes’ replied Jason curtly.

‘Do you own a vehicle?’

‘No.’

The sergeant frowned. ‘That’s one line of enquiry gone. Do you recognise the man in this photo?’

‘Yes.’

‘His name would be…?’

‘I only know him by sight’ replied Jason, suddenly gasping as he felt a sharp pain in his head. He sat down and closed his eyes, trying to ward off the dizziness. Laura gently laid her hand on his arm.

‘Its okay, she just wiped that scene off the screen, you’ll feel better in a moment. Come on, we’ve got to get to the tube station.’

‘Why, where are we going?’

‘I don’t know,’ replied Laura ‘but she wants us out of the office.’

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Ten minutes later Jason and Laura were running down the escalator, squeezing past others less hurried. As they approached the archway into the tunnel they heard the rush of wind and squealing of brakes that heralded the arrival of another tube train.

‘Mind the doors.’

They were too late to push through the jostling crowd on the platform. Jason swore in frustration, but Laura pointed to the indicator board.

Circle Line 2 minutes

‘That will do, but I don’t know how she expects us to be there in ten minutes.’

‘That’s her problem, not ours’ Laura reassured him.

The couple squeezed onto the next train and stood pressed together near the door. Laura smelt the sweet scent of aftershave and sweat; she smiled to herself, she was going to enjoy this chapter. They clattered along and at each station it was a struggle to stay on the train as passengers pushed past getting on and off. At last Jason motioned to the door and grabbed her hand as they stumbled onto the platform. They surged with the crowd to the long escalator and finally arrived at the station exit, but as they stepped with relief out onto the street a familiar face appeared, Sergeant Jenkins.

‘Perhaps you would both care to accompany me to the police station.’

The couple hesitated, tempted to make a dash for it, but settled for playing it cool and followed the policeman to his office.

‘Don’t know why you two are so nervous, I just need your help; private detectives can be very useful.’

Jason and Laura looked at each other in surprise, but before they could protest he handed them a piece of paper and a set of car keys. Jason frowned as he read.

‘Cornwall? We’ll need a map book.’

‘Sat-nav in the car,’ replied Jenkins, ushering them out of the door ‘you’ve got my mobile number.’

‘What are we letting ourselves in for?’ exclaimed Lara as they got into the car.

‘I don’t know, but I’m up for it,’ Jason winked ‘perhaps a weekend in the country is just what we need to get to know each other better.’

The sat-nav voice was irritating, but the long journey was pleasant.

‘Strange,’ said Laura ‘I’d forgotten it was autumn.’

‘What happened to summer?’ replied her companion.

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As they drew up outside a little cottage the couple felt almost in a holiday mood. The key was under the pot and they looked around carefully as they entered.

‘What are we supposed to do now’ pondered Jason.

‘I remember’ smiled Laura putting her hands on his chest.

He wrapped his arms around her.

‘Oh Jason, I’m really warming to this scene, I’m glad we came here.’

She felt his hands ardently exploring her body and began to undo the buttons of his shirt. He slid his hands inside her blouse.

‘How far are we supposed to go?’ he murmured.

She did not answer, instead she closed her eyes and let her hands slide down further.

Suddenly Jason clasped her hands and pushed her gently away.

‘What’s the matter?’ she asked huskily.

‘I’m not sure, its too soon… I’m sorry, I think Im suffering from performance anxiety.’

Frustrated Lara turned away. ‘You’ll just have to fake it then, otherwise we’ll have to start the whole chapter over again.’

The tension was broken by the sound of the door being thrust open violently. A wild eyed scruffy man waved a pistol at them. They stood paralysed with fear.

‘You won’t get hurt if you just tell me where the stuff is’ said the stranger.

‘We don’t know anything,’ pleaded Jason ‘let her go, she hasn’t done anything wrong.’

The gunman turned his head as they heard the sound of tyres on gravel.

‘Put the gun down’ said Sergeant Jenkins, standing in the doorway, unarmed.

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The stranger pointed the pistol and fired. The policeman lay crumpled in the doorway as the gunman stepped over his body and escaped. Jason fumbled for his mobile, while Lara knelt in the spreading pool of blood. She tried to apply pressure to the gaping hole in his side.

‘Just hang in there. No that sounds like an American movie. Don’t try to talk, the ambulance will be here soon.’

‘Laura, where’s that piece of paper, the control room want to know where we are?’

She held the hand of the policeman as he struggled to speak.

‘Sergeant, we don’t even know your first name.’

‘I dont have one,’ he groaned ‘we never do in novels.’

‘Of course, I’m sorry, I should have realised.’

‘Jason, tell them to hurry, we haven’t got much time’ she pleaded as the sergeant closed his eyes.

She prayed someone would press SAVE before it was too late.

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Novel is one of the flash fiction tales in Someone Somewhere

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Room of One’s Own?

‘A woman must have money and a room of her own if she is to write fiction.’ A quote from Virginia Woolf at the beginning of ‘A Room of One’s Own’ which I have just finished reading, I have been dipping into it on my Kindle over a period of time. Virginia was invited to give a series of lectures on women and fiction in 1928 and they were published in 1929.

Of course we imagine the Bloomsbury Group had plenty of rooms and money, not to mention more time than ordinary folk and I can hear fellow writers of both sexes saying we would all like a room of our own and some money.

But looking back into the past with Virginia Woolf we would surely agree that the dominance of men in the field of literature was not due to the lack of talent among women, but absence of opportunity. Even Jane Austen did not have a room of her own, she never had a home of her own, just a kind rich brother. In the Jane Austen museum in Bath I saw an example of her tiny handwriting, small pieces of paper could be quickly hidden if someone came into the room. In the Chawton, Hampshire house, where Jane spent her final years and did her most productive writing, she did not allow the creaky door to be fixed because it acted as a warning that someone was about to enter the room. She always shared a bedroom with her sister. How peaceful the house was we cannot know for sure, but with a household of four ladies and a couple of servants, it should have been quiet and certainly she did not have to contend with toddlers running riot or teenage boys clumping up and down the stairs. One of Woolf’s other theories is that women became novelists rather than poets, because it takes more concentration to write a poem and women were more likely to be interrupted. Of course the great poets that have come down through history were usually well off men.

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But for Virginia Woolf, Jane Austen stands out because she writes about women’s lives, not about them as background to men’s lives. She wrote what she wanted to write. The Austen family lived through the Napoleonic Wars, but there is no mention of them. Soldiers are important only for young ladies to fall in love with or run away with.

Writing ninety years ago Wolfe lived in a world where everything had been changed by the Great War. Women now had the vote, they had been important in the workforce during the war and with the loss of so many men, motherhood and domestic bliss, or domestic confines were no longer an option for many women. There was still poverty and hardship, the welfare state was a long way off, but Woolf wanted women to take any opportunities for education and to write. What would she have made of the Twenty First Century?

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With her husband Leonard she founded the Hogarth Press in 1917, so she was able to publish her own books and certainly didn’t need to decide on a genre. She could never have imagined the internet and digital publishing, but she would surely have been impressed that so many women of all ages are writing, and writing whatever they want. But do we still need a room of our own and £500 a year to be able to write? Many of us didn’t start writing till after A Levels, our children’s A Levels; how many students come home for the university holidays to discover their bedroom has been turned into a sewing room or a computer room? Many writers don’t start till they have retired.

I wrote my first novel on a lap top on the dining table, progressed to a desk top computer in the corner of the bedroom, last year we rearranged the house; junior visitors now have to sleep on air beds, Cyberspouse has a computer room and I have a writer’s den; Virginia Woolf didn’t say a room of your own requires a visit to Ikea, but mine did.

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But if you have to write on a lap top curled up on the end of the sofa while the football is on television, you can still enter the digital room or the ethereal mansion where there is room for every writer. Is your blog a room of your own?

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Do you have a room of your own or can you forget your surroundings once you are in your characters’ heads?