An end and a new beginning

As regular readers will know, I have a penchant for starting new blogs. Much to my astonishment, Lorna’s Tearoom Delights is nearing its fourth anniversary and it feels to me like the right time to let it retire gracefully.

When I started this blog I had no idea how big a part the delightful assistants would play in its evolution, nor did I imagine that four years down the line I would be fully occupied in the role of cook-housekeeper, chauffeur, carer and small tyrant to my aging parents.

In light of the fact that the delightful assistants are such a big part of my life, and that tearooms have taken something of a back seat, I have created a proper platform for the stars of the show and they now have a blog devoted to their shenanigans. If you’d like to keep abreast of their toings and froings you can follow them on this blog from now on:

www.delightfulassistants.wordpress.com

Who knows what they’ll get up to on those pages but there will, undoubtedly, be the odd tearoom visit and perhaps a few tastings of various sorts.

Thank you to everyone who has followed or popped into this blog over the years. I’ve met lots of truly smashing people through blogging and I hope to continue those friendships for many years to come.

small ones in Grange-over-Sands

Intrepid assistants bravely striding out into the unknown (actually, on their way to a cafe in the genteel Cumbrian town of Grange-over-Sands).

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Lorna’s Pics

I don’t know if there’s a medical term to describe the condition an individual develops when they feel compelled to keep starting new blogs, but if there is it should probably go on my medical notes.

My newest blog is called Lorna’s Pics. I aim to post a daily photograph with a paragraph of text (around 100 words, similar to the length of this post). So far I’ve managed to post every day (I only started it yesterday).

If you’re ever bored and needing something to look at and read for a few moments, please do pop by.

Thank you very much.

Five fun facts

I recently started another blog, called Five Fun Facts.

I hope it won’t be too short-lived a project, and so far there are only two posts, but I quite like the format.

If you’d care to have a look at it you can find it here (and if you’re particularly keen to mug up on random general knowledge you can follow the blog by clicking on the menu button).

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Find out a little about this fine fellow on fivefunfacts.wordpress.com.

Word association story (no.1)

About three weeks ago, after publishing my word association post, I began to write a story with the intention of including all 17 words kindly supplied by people in the comments section.

I initially envisaged the story being reasonably short, perhaps no more than 1000 words. It is currently well over 6000 words long with two of the contributed words not yet incorporated. A few days ago I got to the stage where I felt a bit stuck with it and couldn’t think how to move on.

Feeling frustrated by this lack of progress I decided this afternoon to sit down and bash out a new story, determined to write as short a story as I could using all 17 words.

The story below is what I’ve come up with, at a relatively svelte 723 words, and the 17 words are highlighted in bold. If I ever manage to finish the other one (hopefully in a slightly shorter form) I’ll stick it in another post.

Thanks to everyone who contributed to this little project.

—-

Throughout my childhood our house was home to what you might call a miniature zoo. My father was a naturalist and a soft touch for any stray animal that came our way. Through his work he made frequent trips to exotic locations, often bringing back small animals he deemed in need of rescue. The house became a sanctuary for a wide variety of creatures, many of whom took up residence in the kitchen and conservatory.

We lived in a small village, more of a hamlet really, which contained about a dozen houses, a church and an old, unused, mill. The vicar was a fellow animal lover and kept several sheep, as well as two dogs and a cat. One day, during a walk in the local hills on a stormy March morning, he found a tiny fox cub, alone in the grass. It had apparently been abandoned by its mother and had a tear in one ear and dried blood on its back. The vicar took off his coat, wrapped the cub up in it and brought it to our house. Father was away at the time, paddling a boat up the Amazon, but Mother welcomed the cub into the menagerie. We had a litter of puppies at the time and the fox cub soon became friends with them, sleeping in a basket in a corner of the kitchen. I remember giving it a floppy doll as a gift. It was one of two similar dolls I had, named Betty and Hettie. It was Hettie I gave up for the fox cub (Betty was my favourite toy and I don’t think any sick animal would have induced me to part with her).

Another time while Father was away a very undernourished little dog arrived at the back door. Its bones were horribly visible through its skin and it had the saddest eyes I had ever seen. It was very nervous of people and for several days it would only take food when Mother put a bowl at the bottom of the doorstep and went away. Eventually it grew to trust us and became Mother’s special pet. She called it Oliver, because it was a ragged little orphan. ‘It’s scandalous, the way some people treat dogs,’ she told me. ‘Absolutely heart breaking. Thank goodness he found his way to us.’ Animals were always finding their way to us, the house was a magnet for waifs and strays.

On one occasion, when Father returned from one of his trips abroad, he brought back a glass container with two shiny green blobs stuck to the inside. I didn’t pay much attention to the blobs, until one day I noticed that they’d turned black. I told Father and he came to have a look. He was very excited about the change and told me to keep watching to see what would happen. The next morning the black things had turned clear and there were patterns and colours inside. Father got more excited than ever and said we needed to keep a close watch on them. In no time at all the clear shapes had miraculously turned into beautiful butterflies, their wings about three inches long. I wanted to hold one but Father said they were very fragile and I needed to wait and see if one would land on me. I sat very still and my patience finally paid off. One butterfly flew up and landed on my sleeve. It had orange and yellow wings with black veins running through them. I was so taken with the butterflies that Father decided to build a butterfly house in the garden. He accumulated all sorts of exotic plants and butterflies to fill the building with. The butterfly house ignited a passion in me that was to last a lifetime.

When I left school I followed in Father’s footsteps, studying zoology at Cambridge University. I specialised in the study of butterflies and moths, publishing two books and numerous scientific papers on butterfly identification. I recently celebrated my 95th birthday, and am now more or less confined to a wheelchair. There are many things I can no longer do, but on a sunny summer’s day I can still sit out in the garden and watch the butterflies flitting from flower to flower. For me there is no greater pleasure on earth.

5 day challenge: the ravell’d sleeve (1)

After reading a post by fellow blogger, Darlene, about a 5 Day photo challenge, I felt inspired to have a shot at it.

The challenge involves posting a photo each day for five consecutive days and attaching a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, a poem or a short paragraph. Each day you’re supposed to nominate another blogger for the challenge, but rather than do that I’d like to use this post to invite anyone to join in if they fancy having a go.

I had various ideas about how I should select five photos for the challenge and eventually plumped for choosing a theme. We weren’t taught Shakespeare at school (a fact that outrages my dear mama to this day) but my parents attempt to plug the hole in my education by lobbing Shakespearean quotes at me from time to time. Much of it goes over my head but I do like what the bard had to say about sleep and how it ‘knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care’.

Sleeping is, to my mind, one of life’s great pleasures. I like to get into bed early, read for a while and then nod off for a good eight hours or more. I’m also not averse to the odd nap in the afternoon (or, if especially tired, before lunch).

When I was working in a dockyard in Dubai in 2010 it was often extremely hot. My work was mainly outside in a yard or inside a ship under construction which had no air conditioning. As often as possible, I took rest breaks in an air conditioned office on site to recover from the heat.

The dockyard offices weren’t the most salubrious of places but ours did contain a couple of handy benches. Whenever I thought I could get away with it I lay down, put a company t-shirt over my head and dozed off.

On the occasion in this photograph some kind soul threw a few more t-shirts on top of me by way of a blanket.

Knitting up the ravell'd sleeve (1): asleep on a bench in Dubai.

Knitting up the ravell’d sleeve (1): asleep on a bench in Dubai.

Word association

For most of this year I’ve been managing to write little bits of fiction on a regular basis. However, a couple of weeks ago I hit a mental block in the inspiration department.

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I was mulling over this lack of creativity when I had what appeared to be a brainwave. It may in fact be a very poor idea, but I thought I would try it out. My notion is to conduct a sort of word association experiment.

The idea is that I come up with a word that stimulates someone else to come up with another word. Then a third person comes up with a word that was inspired by the second person’s word, and so on in a chain of words. For example, if I say ‘lemon’, a second person might say ‘yellow’ and a third might say ‘buttercup’.

I thought if I started it all off with one word in a blog post, the first person to read the post might be inspired to enter their own associated word in the comments box. The second person would be inspired by the first commenter’s word, the third person would be inspired by the second commenter’s word, and so on.

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In a few days, when I’ve got a number of words to work with, I will attempt to write a short story using all the words that have been contributed, ideally perhaps in the order they were left on my blog. When I’ve written the story I’ll publish it as a blog post.

If you’re feeling kindly and would like to assist in unblocking my creativity, please join in with a commented word inspired by the previous commenter (unless you’re the first commenter, in which case see the next sentence).

The word I’ve picked to start it all off was plucked blindly from the dictionary and it is: house

Enter 2015

I was inspired the other day by reading a post by fellow blogger, Darlene Foster, about building on the success of 2014. (You can read it by clicking on her name.)

In the post she details the goals she set herself for 2014, and reports on how she got on with them.

Towards the end of December 2013,  I did a post about my resolutions for the coming year. My main aim was to keep a note of all the books I read throughout 2014.

I started a blog about it, which I made private after a while to take the pressure off having to write decent English, and I’m pleased to report that I managed to stick to my goal.

I was hoping for a minimum of 60 books, and by last night my final count was 66, with more than three times as many fiction as non fiction. I had imagined the split would be more equal, but since I’m attempting to get my own stories published, perhaps it’s advisable to spend more time immersed in fictional worlds.

On that topic, I entered a number of short story competitions last year, none of which I won. I also failed to get any stories published in magazines that I submitted to. I felt despondent at the time, but now that we’re starting a new year I’m putting all that behind me and cracking on with more writing, in the hope that one of these days I’ll produce something publishable.

When it comes to resolutions and, for that matter, daily ‘to-do’ lists, it’s helpful to throw in some easily achievable targets alongside the more challenging ones, which leads me to my other main goal for 2015.

As mentioned in a previous post, I’m aiming to consume at least 52 different chocolate confections throughout the year and write about them on one of my other blogs, Any Old Excuse. I’ve posted about a few already, as a sort of warm-up act.

Whatever your goals or ambitions for 2015, I wish you well with them and hope that the coming year is full of pleasant events that cheer and comfort you.

Happy new year!

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I’m looking forward to seeing some spring flowers, like these beauties outside the excellent Storehouse of Foulis near Dingwall (top tip for lunch if you’re ever in that neck of the woods needing refreshments).