I hope you’re keeping well. My god, has it been that long since I last wrote anything on this blog of mine?! Well, I’ve been up to lots – but also up to nothing. It’s a weird one.
Writing & Illustration
One thing I have been doing is practising my drawing a lot on my beautiful Wacom Tablet. In fact I’ve become so smitten with digital art that I’ve actually decided to buy a brand new iPad Pro and an Apple Pencil after our house move. I desperately wanted to buy it right now, but I’m conscious that we may have some unexpected bills or costs that we didn’t factor into our calculations when we move house. So, being a good little budding-artist, I’ve decided the ipad pro will be a little gift to myself once we’ve settled in.
One thing I very much regret is giving up on my art – well, given up on taking it seriously, anyway. I chose writing, which has been great and I’ve ended up in a job I love (after years of side-moves and dead-ends of course), but becoming an actual author was always my big pipe dream. Frankly, that just doesn’t look likely – it seems to me that if you’re not famous, or if you’re not connected or already deep into self-promotion (and successful at it), then you’re not likely to get plucked from the ether. Even then, publishing looks like a difficult world for an author to survive in. I do worry for the future of publishing – where are all the working class writers, making it big, without any other sellable attributes? Where’s the pure talent? Where’s the diversity? I’m not seeing it – I’m only seeing good old-fashioned mass-marketing. Call me cynical, but maybe that’s all it ever was?
Anyway, my other love was always art in all its forms, and I’m determined to ignite this again. I’ve even considered doing a Masters in illustration, but I’m not sure I’d have the time, even distance-learning. Still, I’m considering it.
Getting back to literature: one genre that I’m glad to see still thriving is the medical memoirs sector. Sue Black has written another memoir due out in September called “Written in Bone”,which I was soooo excited to see. If her first book “All that Remains” is anything to go by, this will be a thrilling read and another creepy-yet-oddly-touching glimpse into the life of a forensic anthropologist. Do go and read “All That Remains” by Sue Black – you will leave those pages feeling educated, intrigued, and a little spooked.
I was thrilled to see that These Are the Hands anthology has so far raised over £11,000 for NHS Charities Together! There was talk of some animated films – I’d love to see one of mine made into an animated film. I’ve yet to fill in the consent forms!
One thing I have become aware of during lockdown is that I’m suffering from general anxiety. I contacted my doctor requesting a sleep study, because sleep apnoea runs in my family and I’d been symptomatic – or at least, I’d thought I was, and after asking a few questions of my family members, they suggested I’d best get it looked at. For months and months I’ve been having intrusive thoughts (usually fears surrounding my family and their wellbeing), and I’ve been waking up in the morning with my heart beating rapidly and completely consumed by fear, or a sense of doom. It’s a horrible feeling and it takes me hours to calm down from it completely – some days, it doesn’t seem to go completely. I described this to my doctor and wondered if perhaps I was choking in my sleep, or stopping breathing. However, she said that this did not resemble sleep apnoea, but rather anxiety. I’m not surprised – Up until 2019, I’d had a traumatic few years and I’d weaned myself off medication successfully. It stands to reason that my traumatic experiences left an imprint, and that imprint – as is so often the case – was anxiety.
Working during lockdown has been going okay, although I miss the security of the office and the feeling of leaving my work behind at the end of the day. We’re slowly working towards a full return to the office on a phased basis, trying for one day a week, then two, then three, etc. My problem is public transport, as I’m still not driving – I don’t much fancy sitting on a bus for an hour in a face mask. Actually, that brings me to my next update!
We’ve fallen in love with a gorgeous house right near my workplace. After a slight snag with a buyer pulling out, we managed to find another one – and with the stamp duty being taken away, that’s freed up loads more money for us to decorate, which is fantastic. I feel very sorry for those hoping for a 10% mortgage, though – they are the ones who will not benefit from the halting of the stamp duty, because they can’t get a mortgage lower than a 25% deposit in the first place. This is the very reason our first buyer pulled out. So essentially, first-time-buyers are still being screwed over, despite having between 30-50k to put down as a deposit! That’s a stonking amount of money.
Alas, apparently, this still isn’t enough, and now they’ll have to wait years to be in a position to buy again. It isn’t fair at all. The only reason I’m able to move is because my partner bought his first house young – it gained value, and when he bought a new home, that one gained value too. Buying young is unfortunately always the answer, and yet it’s difficult for most when they’re just starting out. I’ve been putting away £1,000 a month for over a year to save my contribution – I was only able to do this because I live with my family and pay them a modest housekeeping. The rest of my money goes on travel and general living/work costs. If I was renting, I’d only be saving about a quarter of that if I was lucky.
Anyway, that’s my little update. Keep safe, keep well, and keep on keeping-on. It’s all any of us can do right now.
Welcome back to my blog!
My god, do you realise we’ve been on this lock-down for several months now? Since March? I cannot believe it myself – have I really been working at home for that long?
Yesterday I got to see one of my colleagues (and friends!) for the first time in all that time, and we just picked up where we left off. I complained to her about my problems and she sat at her desk laughing it off with me and offering sage advice. I’ve missed that a lot. We were 2 metres apart of course – the office is taped up and desks moved to force us to keep apart, even if we’re just popping in.
On the house-moving front, we hit a predictable snag – our buyers had to pull out. I was prepared for this, so I didn’t get upset – I’ve been remarkably and uncharacteristically good lately at not exploding into tears when inevitable bad things happen. I don’t know if my personal traumas have toughened me up or if it just comes with age. Perhaps they’re the same thing?
Anyway, one lovely development is that in one of the groups I frequent on Facebook (Cottagegoth – I know, it’s perfect. A mixture of all things Cottagey, gothy, and witchy – Imagine if Stevie Nicks and Andrew Eldritch had a baby. We’re an eclectic bunch!) a thread was created for those who wanted a pen-pal! Now, I’ve always longed for someone to write to and never actually went about getting a pen-pal. Luckily, this group is full of like-minded people who all love the idea of sending actual, physical letters to one another, just like in the Bronté days. My pen-pal lives on a farm in Texas! How cool is that? I can’t compare to that excitement, but hopefully she’ll enjoy hearing from a tea-loving-English-girl who lives in a rickety old seaside town. I’ve written my first letter and included a photo of me, plus a few links to my blog and insta (though I’m not much of a poser – you should see the astonishingly beautiful photoshoots people do of themselves now-days. Actually, I’m sure you have). I’m hoping to include a postcard of Southend-on-Sea too, so she can get an idea of where I am and what it’s like, of course.
On the writing-front, I’ve actually got two novels on submission! One is a completed children’s novel, which I’ve only sent to 5 agents so far and will be sending to others, and the other is a romantic gothic YA – only the first 16,000 words. The latter is actually for a mentorship programme run by a literary agency in the UK, offering representation to an author they see great promise in, but who needs a little help guiding their book along. As I had a finished book and a work in progress, I decided I had nothing to lose in submitting my plans and chapters of the work in progress. Of course, as always, I don’t expect to get anywhere – but I’m giving myself a fair chance by trying anyway.
In the meantime, I’ve taken a break from novels and been working on some poetry. Did you know that poetry doesn’t sell to agents? Well, yes, of course you did – but that’s because poetry is meant for sharing, and it’s hard to sell poetry books to a publisher. Only the biggest and best poets get their works published with the ‘Big Five’ and that’s because they’re so renowned. This isn’t including the new wave of “Insta poets”, of course – these are people who had an enormous platform and they did make whopping amounts of money off their poetry and got on the NYT bestsellers lists. That’s rare of course – most average poets, even moderately successful ones, don’t see their work make particular bank – not in and of itself, anyway. People who have press appeal and become famous can of course sell anything, and there are some very famous modern poets like John Cooper-Clarke, Simon Armitage, Jackie Kay, etc. Some of the world’s most beloved historical writers and artists (in fact most of them actually) were not rich or famous while alive. It’s just that their work lasted longer than they did.
Anyway, because of the fact that new poetry rarely sells to the big agents and publishers, one thing a lot of poets do is create chapbooks as a way of sharing at poetry readings or even selling their work. Chapbooks tend to be no more than 20-30 pages and are self-published and usually self-printed and bound, which makes them wonderful little oddities and works of limited-edition art. Chapbooks are usually confined to a small print-run, which is hand-numbered, to make them extra special. I think that’s a beautiful way to get to know someone, certainly – to buy or receive a small collection of their poems, all printed and bound by their own hands.
So, naturally, I want to make one of my own! I decided to work on poems about my journey through diagnosis, surgery, and my time in hospital, encapsulating those thoughts and feelings into a small chapbook. I’m still working on it now, but I plan to illustrate, format and print it myself. The lovely thing about chapbooks is you can use creative licence; they are what you make them, and they are a little piece of you. So far my chapbook has about 14 poems and is under the working title “We Found a Shadow“. I can’t decide whether the subtitle should be ‘Poems from a hospital bed’ or ‘Poems about my tumour’, though both are totally accurate.
Naturally, research means I need to buy a load of chapbooks! These are all from Analog Submission Press, whom I discovered on Instagram. They publish small, limited runs of beautiful chapbooks from all sorts of poets, and each can be purchased for the humble price of £4.00.
How can you say no to that? A piece of art that you can enjoy and read over and over for just £4.00!
I had a look through their collection like a kid in a candy shop and settled on the four above, having only their beautiful covers to go by. I’ve read three of them so far, and I’m really impressed. Chapbooks are less about writing technically-clever or technically-masterful-arty-farty-poems of the kind you often find in literary presses, but more about conveying a sense of the writer themselves. It’s one “hot stink” of the writer, as Ted Hughes would put it (The Thought Fox).
Chapbook poetry collections are supposed to tell a story or convey a particular time, emotion, or thing the author was distracted with at the time of writing – they should be poems on a theme, even if that theme is the poet themselves. They shouldn’t be a random assortment of the poet’s favourite pieces. Some of the poems amongst this lot are fantastic, funny – and some of course are hit and miss – but they build up parts of an overall tapestry. I definitely do have a feel for the poets in ways you couldn’t create in a Twitter feed or a Facebook post. I’ve got a little piece of them and best of all, it’s from a limited run! I find that very exciting.
Do you collect chapbooks? Ever made one of your own? I’d be very interested to hear from you, so get in touch.
That’s me for now folks – see you next week!
I bring you lovely news! My poetry will be appearing in The Medusa Project, an anthology celebrating women, edited by Juliette van der Molen and Megha Sood. The call for submissions was launched on International Women’s Day.
Ages ago, I submitted a poem I wrote one evening in my scribbles-book called ‘The Wild Women’.
The poem is based on a little daydream I had about what it would look like if there existed a strange planet where wild women grew on trees and inhabited their own world, where they were free to be strong, capable, hairy, and scary, like bears. I had images of women biting into wriggling salmon and cracking open beehives and little ones wrestling and biting like puppies. I imagined women catching each other and helping one another grow. It was a pretty funny daydream, but it was a place I felt awesome and free in. It was a strange utopia. I wrote this down exactly as it came to me, in a series of images, painting a picture of this amazing land.
I was inspired after reading The Posh Mums Are Boxing in the Square, an award-winning poem of a writer re-imagining his mother before she succumbed to illness, giving her another fighting chance where, this time, she wins. I enjoyed the experimental nature of the poem and it encouraged me to try something a little different – but just as empowering – of my own.
I can’t wait to see the other entrants for The Medusa Project, and I especially cannot wait to share the anthology with you all!
So there we are, some good news.
Join the LIVE poetry reading event for These Are the Hands on Zoom, Thursday 21 May 2020 at 7.30 p.m. Link to join: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85820383728?pwd=U1lmUUFEUlp1d3pvMmhUUGtSa0dwdz09
244 people have already signed up to watch, which is amazing.
I personally hadn’t planned to be involved in the live reading, but I did participate in the recorded reading. The recordings of these fantastic poems will be used to further promote the anthology (raising funds for NHS Charities Together and the battle against Covid19) and also serve as a keepsake for those of us involved.
Last Thursday (21 May 2020) I read my poem, ‘Only the Cleaner’, in the recorded session. I had the privilege to listen to all the other poems too, and I can tell you now that hearing them live from the poets themselves adds a wealth of meaning to the poetry that cannot be felt in print. Some of the poems I recalled from the anthology but struggled to remember are now imprinted in my mind in the beautiful voices of the writers. One that springs to mind is ‘The Gondoliers’, a poem in dedication to the hospital porters who move the beds between wards. That was an amazing image and the passion in Anna Bosanquet made it an unforgettable experience.
Hearing the poems from NHS workers themselves brought tears to my eyes on many an occasion throughout the recording. If you want to be involved, you should absolutely attend the live reading this Thursday.
I, of course, do not work for the NHS any longer and haven’t for years. In fact in one of my poems I’ve implied I worked there in 2010, but in fact it must have been more like 2011 or 2012 (or spread across both). Maths was never my strong point! I was working as bank staff at Southend University Hospital during my final year of university and it is to this day the most rewarding role I ever had. I have so many memories of my experiences while working there, like the sun rising over the houses and the lights just blinking on. It coloured my career path, leading me to explore work in social care, and eventually my work in charities and nonprofits. My work with IA sees me often communicating with doctors, surgeons, and stoma care nurses from all across the NHS – so I didn’t leave completely.
One thing I’ve learned is that I can absolutely read poetry under scary circumstances! When all this began, I was so nervous that I had even planned to skip the book launch – absolutely unthinkable now! I was asked to speak on the radio (which got cancelled because of covid-19 incidentally, as did the book launch) and I remember fretting over that. Now-days, while I’d be nervous, I think I’d value the opportunity so much more.
Connecting the voices of the artists with the work is so very important, as I discovered when I listened to all these beautiful contributions.
You can buy your copy of These Are the Hands here.
Until next time!
Happy Wednesday in isolation!
I hope you aren’t fretting too much. It’s difficult not to. The BBC News will be the death of me, if anything – the constant death toll updates and news of famous musicians passing at scarily young ages makes me genuinely terrified for my parents; my dad in particular, who has asthma.
Of course, I’m supposed to be in St Bart’s hospital today having interventional radiology to attempt to fix a problem with my right kidney and some of the veins feeding into it. At the time of writing, I’m still scheduled to have the op – but I don’t much fancy going into a hospital which could be (for all I know) riddled with covid-19. I am tempted to cancel it myself, but equally, I may not get this opportunity for another year if I do. It’s a difficult call to make, especially when they seem to be happy for me to continue to have the procedure.
In the meantime, I’ve just returned from Bristol (I was there when the lockdown happened) after a lovely week working at home with my partner. I’m now at home with my family, awaiting my operation – and tomorrow is my mum’s birthday, which will include whatever I could buy at Asda, of all places! (Of course, shopping 2 metres apart). Are birthday cakes essential? I would say yes.
I’ve been keeping busy with my own creative projects. Some of these opportunities are personal, and others have passed (such as These Are the Hands and Interconnected for example), but the Dickens one may be of interest to you if you enjoy character-building, and the deadline is not until June.
These Are the Hands
I received 3 x copies of the extremely important NHS poetry anthology, These are the Hands, which feature 2 of my poems. The launches and events associated with this beautiful piece of work celebrating NHS workers (which could not be more poignant now) had to be cancelled because of the virus, but we can still do a lot of sharing online. The proceeds were all going to NHS Charities Together, but I’ve since seen that the proceeds will be going directly towards the fight against Covid-19.
That means that by purchasing a copy or pre-ordering (the stock ran out already!) from the new stocks, you will be directly donating towards the fight against Covid-19. The poetry is just an amazing bonus, once again showcasing the power and the drive of our NHS workers on the frontlines.
It’s a beautiful anthology, truly, and some of the poems (from cleaners to surgeons, from admins to speach and language therapists) brought tears to my eyes. Actually, a lot of them did.
Buy a copy here and donate to the fight against Covid-19.
I’m in the early stages of writing a children’s novel! Recently I’ve reignited my passion for children’s books and I’ve been reading some amazing classics, with many more still to go. It’s been a long time since I wrote novels and I can’t say I ever saw any success with them years ago, but it feels like the time is right to explore the ideas I’ve had bubbling away.
Naturally I can’t say much about it (I’m only on chapter 6!) but it is based a little on children I’ve read about (both fiction and non-fiction) and from my own experiences. The story centres around a friendship between two little girls at Great Ormond Street Hospital. The themes include death, happiness, friendship, and the fear of moving on after illness. How do children deal with these difficult aspects of their childhood, when they should only have to care about playtime?
Throughout this crisis, I have been thinking about the kids on long-term stays in hospital. What’s the world like for them? Did they have to take extra-precautions on the wards, or are they so ill ordinarily that this is just another Tuesday to them?
Interconnected – BBC Writers Room
I sat down and drafted something that I haven’t even attempted since University about 9 or 10 years ago (and it’s frightening that it’s been that long): I wrote a short screenplay!
I saw an advert from the BBC Writers Room inviting writers to come up with a 10 minute long short film about connecting with others across digital platforms during a lockdown. This could be set in the present or in the future and could include only a couple of characters. You can see the call here, although the deadline has passed: https://www.bbc.co.uk/writersroom/opportunities/interconnected
My story was about a little girl bringing her dysfunctional (and shut-in) family together by watching her neighbour’s live video demonstration of pancake-making.
I’m not entirely sure I got the brief right, but I had fun regardless and I love submitting things for consideration. I never thought I’d get into the NHS anthology, but I chanced my arm and I got in – with not just one but two poems. It shows you should always give things a go, if for nothing but the experience – you never know where it might lead.
Could Self-Isolation Find the Dickens in You?
This is an exciting opportunity to submit a 300-word character description in the style of Charles Dickens! The prize is a “certificate” (of what I’m not sure) and a professional cartoonist interpretation of your character. I’ll be coming up with something to submit for this because it just sounds too exciting to pass up, and I am a fan of Charles Dickens. In fact, I only recently finished reading Oliver Twist, which was absolutely thrilling.
If you fancy writing a bit of a Dickensian character profile, then you can find out more about the competition here.
I hope the above gives you some opportunity for escapism, or inspires you to get writing. After all, you only need your laptop or a notebook and pen and you’re away. Writing is the most inexpensive hobby I can think of, actually – no wonder some of the poorest people in this world went on to become our greatest writers, and continue to do so today.
I’ve been playing around with graphic design and more specifically cute mug designs as a hobby lately. Mostly just for myself, but hey – you never know where these things lead! My latest creation is a ‘darkwave microwave’, because I love me some cheese. I’ve also been working on a cute bat design and even a Marc Almond design, just ’cause why not? I’m very happy with how my darkwave microwave turned out – have a look for yourself!
Please stay safe, stay healthy, and stay indoors.
Well, we never saw this coming for 2020, did we? A global pandemic that put our most vulnerable people in critical danger and left us all in turmoil.
You may or may not know that I work in comms for a wonderful national charity to do with gastrointestinal health.
Just today I was in a conference call, excitedly discussing hashtag campaigns and possibilities with our PR manager and our social media managers, when it hit me that we were dancing merrily around some pretty serious stuff here. How could we start a #justoneholidaytip when travel has been halted? How could we start a #travelingwithmystoma campaign if people weren’t boarding planes to sunny locations?
Our discussions pretty quickly changed to buddying schemes, encouraging our members to look after their old and more vulnerable friends in their local groups. We came up with campaigns about staying indoors, getting exercise at home, or how patients can make the most of their garden or window-box. Conversations soon meandered once more to mental health campaigns and how to deal with anxiety in such uncertain times.
Just today, only 3 of us were working in the office. By 10.00am we were down to just 2, when one of our staff decided it was too risky to come in to work. I’ve been feeling unwell myself for a few days, though I don’t believe I’m symptomatic of coronavirus. Still, I did attempt to buy a thermometer and found that the pharmacies in my area had all run out.
I have a surgery booked at St Bart’s Hospital, London, for April 1 – this will no doubt be cancelled. I have tickets booked for Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds at the O2, and Shortparis at The Lanes in Bristol. My parents are supposed to be going to Amsterdam next month. All will probably be cancelled or delayed.
My boyfriend and I are in the midst of selling his house and buying a new one together. We may end up having to cancel the open-house viewings and put all this on hold, depending on whether we have to go into proper lockdown. Living hundreds of miles apart, it’s already tough to get to each other.
These measures are necessary but it really, really sucks.
My thoughts are with the sick, vulnerable, and older people who are most at risk during this terrible outbreak. A flu virus that spreads on this scale and is said to be twice as deadly as ordinary flu can be fatal to people with compromised health, and I can only imagine their families are terrified. My dad has asthma and that’s enough to put a knot in my belly.
I wish everybody the best of health and I hope and pray that this terrible virus disappears soon.
So how has this affected me and the arts? Well, the exciting book launch for the phenomenal NHS anthology These Are the Hands had to be cancelled or postponed until further notice. I was nervous about attending this, but now that it’s been cancelled, I realise how much I was looking forward to being part of such an enormous achievement and the celebration of the work we’d done together.
The book is still being released and can be purchased on 21 March and can be pre-ordered now online. The anthology will be available on Amazon, and in all book stores including Waterstones and even your local indie bookshop. The poems inside are absolutely beautiful and include contributions from some famous poets, including Michael Rosen, of course, who provided the foreword and was to be attending the event.
Lemn Sissay MBE is also a contributing poet, and he was also filmed reading some key poems from the anthology, which will be released after the launch. (A little birdy told me that he read one of my poems, but I will wait and see! The thought of that is far too exciting).
Here he is reading his own poem, titled ‘Making a Difference’.
Knowing that I played a part in this inspiring anthology makes me proud beyond belief. Please do buy a copy – all proceeds go towards NHS Charities Together.
With the strain on NHS services and the extra burden of the coronavirus outbreak, they could use every penny they get. Your purchase would be contributing towards the most important cause in the UK right now: our NHS.
In other poetry and writing-related news, I will once again be appearing at the amazing feminism-centric online magazine, Mookychick! Recently their non-fiction editor accepted my submission of an article about one of my favourite thriller novels/movies: Jaws by Peter Benchley/Steven Spielberg.
It’s a rambling piece about differences between the film and the novel, because I just had to tell the world how much I loved Jaws. Amity, as you know, means friendship.
When I know more about when that will be released, you’ll be the first to know, for I shall share it all here.
I also submitted my poem, entitled The Wild Women, for their amazing upcoming multi-arts anthology called The Medusa Project. Fingers crossed! This anthology will be released online as an ebook, free of charge, to share all the amazing work they’ve collected about, and by, women. Submissions are still open until early-mid April I believe, so please go ahead and send in your contributions!
Until next time, stay safe, well, and creative.
I wrote this a few months ago when I was reflecting on what an often harrowing time New Year’s Eve is; at least for me, like waiting for a storm to come.
I hope you like it.
Well! It seems I have more good news on the poetry front!
TWO of my poems will be appearing in an NHS anthology by Fair Acre Press, called ‘These Are the Hands’, with a foreword by Michael Rosen (up top!). This will be published widely in book shops around the UK and online, and all proceeds will be going to NHS Charities Together.
The book will be published in 2020, and I have been invited to the snazzy book launch at The Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in London. Eek!
I thought today’s blog post could be all about how I got involved:
I happened to be scrolling Twitter – which is a platform I never used until recently – when I found a post from The Bigger Picture, talking about an exciting anthology by the same editors and press who brought us the #MeToo anthology with the Jess Philips MP foreword, called ‘These Are the Hands’.
Well, I bloody-well know that poem, I thought – that’s Michael Rosen!
And yes, there he was – one of the judges for this new anthology competition. Regardless of the outcome, I absolutely knew I wanted to enter something – anything – just to be a part of things.
As it happens, the anthology called for people who were either currently working or had worked for the NHS for contribute poems – thus making up the body of the book, with NHS employees all working together for one common goal – just as they do in real life – with the caterers and cleaners being as crucial as the nurses and the consultants.
In my final year of uni and for some time after, I did in fact work as a Domestic Assistant at Southend University hospital – it’s still one of the most rewarding jobs I’ve ever done, and I loved it.
Let me tell you a bit about the poems
So during my lunch break at work, I got scribbling in my special notebook (the one with the butterflies) and came up with two very different poems.
One is a slightly-rhyming poem called ‘Only the Cleaner’, which focuses on the idle chit-chat and avoidance of the obvious when interacting with patients – the idea being that they could talk to me because, unlike anyone else, I wasn’t there to administer any scary treatment. I was just there to change the bins and chat and pretend they aren’t dying, which sometimes they were.
The other is a more serious piece called ‘In this Room’, which is about the time I cleaned The Butterfly Suite at Southend University hospital, which is a room where women go when they’re very sadly losing the baby. This poem takes you full-circle, describing how I tried to imagine the woman who had been in that room and what she was going through, only to be in her shoes 9 years later.
I can tell you, I was gobsmacked to find they wanted to use both – I’m surprised, but certainly not complaining!
Since my time working at the NHS, I have been a patient more times than I can count (seriously, I lost count of my hospital stays) and I have relied on them to save my life. I’ve also, sadly, relied on them to take care of another life I lost. These are difficult truths, but they are my truths, and I have the NHS and its wonderful staff to thank for the fact that I got through those times safely.
So that’s why I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this; not just because I’m a big fan of Michael Rosen (as a poet and as a person, honestly), but because I’m an enormous fan of the NHS. It needs to be protected at all costs. While surely one anthology can’t solve all its problems, this can go towards the solution in some small way – and besides, didn’t a certain young woman once say that ‘one book and one pen can change the world’?
I can’t wait to share the finished book with you all.
P.S If this teaches you nothing, let it teach you this: have a go at writing some poetry! I always thought I was hopeless at poetry but, in spite of that, I always enjoyed writing it – and that’s all that matters. Art should be for the enjoyment of art first and foremost and, you never know, you might get the bonus of seeing it out there one day!
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& other stories.
Welcome (back) to my blog! I put out new posts every Wednesday.
I thought I would lighten the mood a little with some crafts this week. I’m one of those very impatient people who loves to do crafts but doesn’t much fancy anything too taxing or time-consuming; not unless it’s something I intend to take up as a hobby.
If you’re like me and like to have a quick fix when it comes to popular new crafts, then you’ll like this one: a Christmas tree made out of a pine cone.
I told you I’d showcase my Mookychick poem to you, didn’t I?
Well here it is! I’m very proud to see it on the front page. I hope you enjoy my poem and, if you click my author profile, that you enjoy my photo too. I could’ve just used a photo of my face, but I thought ‘Nah – let’s use the one with the squirrel’.
But back to pine cone Christmas trees!
You must have seen these going around Facebook and the like. I’m sure people have been making these for years and years, but crafts go in fads and currently this one seems quite popular.
Not only do they look extremely cute and adorable and Christmassy, but they looked pretty easy to do – so I gave it a go.
And, like most things that look easy, this was actually a little more fiddly and time-consuming than I bargained for. If you want to make an impressive, intricate, painstakingly painted and detailed piece of art then you’ll need a good magnifying glass, tweezers, and a lot of time to dedicate to the ~ finesse ~ that you’ll ultimately want to achieve.
Or, you could be like me and just chuck something together, see what works, and have fun with it.
You can make these absolutely any way you want and with whatever decorations you want – that’s the cool part. You can make several of these and no two should look the same. You could make mini pine cone trees for all occasions!
Tools I used
Hot glue gun
1 x fabulous pine cone (try to find a tree shape – mine was a bit narrow)
Red meshy fabric stuff
Li’l baubles (I snipped them off a length of Christmas tree beads)
An angel for the top (a Christmas tree decoration cut in half)
First I washed any residue off my pine cone and dried it thoroughly. You might want to do this a day or two before you start crafting, because I think this has an effect on how well the glue sticks to it.
(If you are painting your pine cone, do this first before putting it on the base for obvious reasons!)
Next I got started on my base. I cut a small thick square of oasis and wrapped this with red crepe paper. I glued it down with superglue (this will stick more to you than anything else – beware!) in a parcel-fashion. After that I wrapped around my red mesh, which looked to me like a nice rustic touch to give it a bit of warmth, and glued that down too.
Now you have a base, you need to wire your cone. I used florist’s wire, but I would recommend a thicker piece of wire (maybe jewelry wire or copper wire), because mine bent and was too soft. I wired my cone by weaving or wrapping it around the spines at the base and forming four hooks of bent wire. I used these to stab into the base and keep the cone sturdy. The flexibility of the wire came in handy here because it allows you to make adjustments.
In the future, I would likely buy some mini plant pots to make a sturdier bed for the oasis, but this method works just fine.
You may find it hard to get the wire through your crepe paper or fabric, so think about that when you choose your materials. I personally just stabbed and prayed.
I wrapped some crepe paper around the base to hide the join, and hey-presto.
Now you have a cute base with your pine cone on top! It’s time to decorate.
I first began the dull and arduous process of superglueing each tiny bead onto each spine of my pine cone. Not only did I have to hold it firmly in place for ages, but the things were sticking to my fingers more than anything else.
I switched to my hot glue gun and oh baby, all that changed! The cooling of the glue once applied happens so quickly that you can start dotting on your beads here, there, and everywhere, and they’ll be set in 10 seconds. I very much recommend using a glue gun for speed and ease of use.
I turned my cone upside down to apply these, but ideally you would probably balance them on the tip of each spine. I could not be bothered with this – I’m all about the instant fun with these projects.
At this point you will realise how stringy the glue from a glue-gun can be, and it’ll look like you have cobwebs all over your tree. Never fear, for these come off easily – and if you were making a Halloween pine cone tree, these stringy bits could actually look really awesome.
Lastly, I cut a decorative angel in half and glued them to the top.
There we have it! A very simplistic pine cone Christmas tree. I think even the simplest designs look very sweet indeed and would make a great crafting project with your kids – just be very careful with the glue gun, because these get very hot.
With lots of time, effort, and imagination, you could make some incredible looking decorations out of pine cone Christmas trees.
I hope you enjoyed that.
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