Giving Up Guilt For Lent


Guilt-Free McD

So it’s pancake day already. Not entirely sure how that happened. I’ve just been for a swim and realised it’s only the third time this year and we’re two months through already.

The heady world of work appears to have been short-lived. Having had a completely unproductive week last week checking my email every ten minutes hoping for the next project, this week I’ve had to rediscover self-motivation. Funny how it can be lost in a couple of fortnights of someone else’s schedule.

It helps that I’m solo parenting this week, so having to be extra organised and switched on. Also the children ask me what I’ve done while they’re at school and I can’t keep shrugging and saying ‘slept’.

But it’s hard now I’ve tasted ‘earning money’. It’s hard not to feel guilty sitting down to watch Brave while knitting (albeit knitting things I hope one day to sell). It’s hard not to feel guilty taking the dog for only a short walk (because rain) or sitting in McD after my swim when I could have lunch for free at home.

But equally I’ve just resurfaced from the one week a month when my medication falters, as it comes up again hormones, and I have to fight the black thoughts. A week when tall buildings and deep rivers look inviting.

Today I feel joy in life again, after a week of, ‘Tell me, what’s the point?’ And, despite some horrific stories on my FB feed that have left me sick and sad, I’m aiming for content today.

My kids asked me about Lent as I made pancakes this morning. I explained about giving things up. They immediately suggested that wine and chocolate should be on my list. How well they know me. But I generally turn to those things to fill the hole in my soul when life seems stupid and pointless, or when I feel like a terrible wife, mother, writer, person. Which is often. Being unable to give them up makes me feel weak and pathetic and guilty that I’m not a better human being.

So this Lent I’m giving up guilt. Or I’m going to try anyway. It’s harder to judge whether you’ve slipped, compared with finding a glass of Pinot Grigio in your hand or scoffing down a big fat bar of dairy milk. But Lent’s about the effort right?


Things I’ve learnt from being a part-time working parent (forgive me, you probably all know this already!)

  1. It is possible to live in ten times more filth than you ever believed you could
  2. Laundry breeds like gremlins in a bath
  3. A husband can locate clean socks on top of the tumble dryer if needed
  4. Children cannot locate clean socks anywhere
  5. A husband can make dinner (heat pizza) if required
  6. Dogs still need walking when you’re busy, or they misbehave
  7. Guinea pigs poo a lot. It doesn’t stop when you’re busy
  8. Kids can survive being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  9. Kids mostly ignore being told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’ and will take it as permission to do a full song and dance routine when you’re trying to look up the plural of piranha
  10. Half term passes much less painfully if the kids are frequently told, ‘be quiet, go away, Mummy’s working’
  11. Coffee is not a food group, but it comes a close second
  12. A working coffee machine is essential. Make sure a new stove-top espresso maker is on order from Amazon
  13. If you go to bed exhausted at 8pm you will be woken up at midnight by husband and dog snoring and will lie awake for three hours
  14. 5.30am feels really really early when you were awake half the night
  15. Ironing doesn’t go away if you ignore it
  16. ‘Please’ and ‘thank you’ give you energy. Not hearing it makes you tired
  17. You can miss vegetables
  18. You can miss exercise
  19. You can miss boredom
  20. Getting paid is really satisfying
  21. Knowing you’ve done a good job feels good
  22. The saying ‘a change is as good as a rest’ is complete rubbish
  23. Eye strain sucks
  24. You can forget how to spell
  25. You can have to look up whether ‘hers’ takes a possessive apostrophe
  26. Working in bed is really cool and surprisingly productive
  27. It’s easy to take an accidental power-nap when you work in bed
  28. It’s nice telling people you work for a living
  29. Editing helps you understand what makes good writing
  30. You will edit everything you read forever


Ideas and Interviews: 2013 365 Challenge #73

Old meets New in the City

Old meets New in the City

Sometimes you have to get out your comfort zone to realise how comfortable it is. I actually missed the kids today, even though I enjoyed my London adventure.

I also felt like I was on some kind of research mission for a character not yet born. Not Claire, Helen, Lucy, Annalie or Rebecca.

Someone new.

Someone who, like me, tries to return to work after being at home with the kids for years and finds it all a bit different to what she remembers.

A comedy, definitely.

There will be an incident where she goes into Pret a Manger to buy tea and a sandwich, forgets to say ‘dine in’ and is too embarrassed to confess. She’ll end up heading out into the winter’s day instead of eating her avacado, crayfish and rocket bloomer snug in the warm cafe. She may wander the City streets surrounded by suits, carrying a cup of tea she’s dying to drink, desperately seeking a bench. In the snow. With her hands red-raw and freezing.

She may squat in the lee of a building next to the sneaky smokers, drain her cup of tea in one long gulp while feeling as self-conscious as a pink hippo, then head for Costa. She might go to the Ladies to scoff half a sandwich before buying a second cup of tea, then sit with the other half of the sandwich in her bag calling out to her rumbling tummy.

Lunch with Daddy

Lunch with Daddy

She’ll feel nervous to be back in London again and be slightly bemused by the new buildings. The fact that they’ve completely rebuilt Kings Cross will leave her flumoxed. She’ll get lost trying to find her platform with only minutes to catch the train home and really want to stop and take a picture when she spots Platform 9 3/4 as she runs for the escalator. She’ll resist and board the train as the doors close with a hiss, praying it’s the right one.

She’ll sit on the train home feeling like a real person for the first time in years, tapping away at her laptop and watching as the weather changes from blizzard to sunshine to blizzard again every few miles. She’ll wonder how the kids got on with Daddy and look at the picture he sent of them having lunch at Tesco.

Maybe she’ll call home and hear that they’re all snuggled on the sofa watching Peter Pan, having had a brilliant day at the park, and feel that maybe they didn’t miss her much at all. Until her daughter says “Miss you Mummy” and makes her all choked up and grateful.

She’ll sit, watching the world whiz by out the window, feeling the blissful space and distance away from the family home and feel torn between wanting to be a Mummy and wanting to be a normal functioning productive wage-earning adult again.

That might all happen in my next book. 😉


Claire felt a sharp sting as a hand slapped her on the bum, followed by a loud guffawed as she squealed in surprise.

“Come on love, they’ll be waiting for us at the bus.”

Claire felt a strong desire to kick downwards and boot the source of the taunting voice on the noise. Taking a deep breath she conquered the impulse and poured her anger into her voice. “Get your hands off me. I’m stuck.” She tried to turn and glare at the offensive man trying to shove her through solid rock but she couldn’t move her head more than a few inches. Actually I’m quite glad he made me cross, it gives me something else to think about other than coffins and closed spaces and what they’re going to do if I really am stuck. Her mouth felt dry and she could feel her heartbeat begin to quicken as the sensation of immobility seeped through her consciousness.

“You’re not stuck love, you just need to wiggle those hips. Too many pies is it?”

“I am not fat. How dare you?” Claire wrenched herself forward until her shoulders were free. The sound of tearing cloth filled the tight space.

“Nah you’re not fat love, you’ve got a nice arse. Got you moving though, didn’t it?” He sniggered as he nimbly clambered through the rock behind her.

Now I know why they call it weaselling. Not only do you have to have the agility of a rat in a drainpipe, the instructors are all weasels too.

“You’re lucky none of the teachers can hear you talking like that.” Claire spat the words over her shoulder as she wriggled through the crevice towards the chink of daylight at the end.

“No chance of that, they’re miles ahead. You know you’re being shown up by a bunch of kids?”

“They’re smaller than me; of course they can get through. Besides, kids are bendier.”

“What about the teachers, they all whisked through quick enough.”

He chuckled and Claire could hear the goad in his voice. She thought about retaliating that most teachers were skinny because everyone knew they were a day away from a nervous breakdown, never mind being poor as church mice, whatever that meant. She decided the trek leader wasn’t worth her ire and concentrated instead on getting through the narrow fissure in the rock without losing any more skin. Her hands were raw and she could feel a graze on her cheek from when she slipped and fell against the rock at the beginning, much to the amusement of the gaggle of brats in her group.

“Why did you want to come with a bunch of kids anyway?”

The trek instructor seemed to read her mind. Claire thought about telling the truth: that she’d been double-dared by her boss’s PA to go weaseling and had discovered the only way to go was to join a school party. Sod that. Makes me sound like a right muppet. As she dug her chipped nails into the crumbling rock, trying to pull herself forward before she got slapped on the bum again, a nasty idea popped into Claire’s mind.

“I’m an undercover journalist, investigating malpractice by tour guides and trek leaders. You know, inappropriate behaviour, hazardous practices, unsafe equipment.”

She giggled quietly as she heard Pete the trek guide suck air through his teeth at her words.

“You knew I was mucking about, like, when I slapped you and said you had a nice bottom? You won’t report me? I need this job. I’d never do that to one of the children.”

He sounded genuinely concerned and Claire felt a stab of guilt. She let him sweat a moment longer then, with as much reassurance as she could put in her voice while wedged in a tight crevice, said “don’t be silly. I was winding you up. I am a writer but not a journalist. I have a blog and I’m meant to do loads of outdoor stuff to please my boss.”

There was a pause and Claire wondered if Pete would be offended or see the funny side. She suspected he wasn’t sure how to react either and felt a bit sick at the thought of being cruel. It was below the belt I guess.

“I am sorry. You pissed me off that’s all.”

“That’s okay. I deserved it. I shouldn’t have wound you up. It was just nice to have a bit of a laugh. You have to be so careful around the youngsters.”

“I don’t know how you do it.” Claire pulled herself through the gap and crawled out onto a ledge, glad to be able to stand vertically for the first time in half an hour. She squinted her eyes against the sudden brightness and tried to see how far ahead the school party were. She wasn’t in a hurry to catch up. “Just spending the morning on the bus with them was enough.”

“Ah they’re alright. All full of lip and nonsense at this age. Give me ten-year-olds to teenagers any day.”

Ten, fifteen, five? They’re all the same. You can keep the lot of them with my blessing.


A Manic sort of Day: 2013 365 Challenge #72

Mega Blocks Garages: a moment of calm

Mega Blocks Garages: a moment of calm

Phew. What a non-stop day.

It started at 7am when Dragon Wraiths went free on Kindle for my first promo day. There began a crazy 12 hours of tweeting, Facebook updates and madly checking my KDP Dashboard to see how many downloads I’ve managed. (124 as I write this).

It’s addictive, checking the KDP Dashboard every five minutes (125 now) and I can see why people have programs on their computer to disconnect the internet so they can get some real work done. Actually I was wondering today when I’ll ever get round to start/finishing a new manuscript. Between the daily blog, revising Baby Blues, and keeping up with Social Media stuff, there isn’t much time left to write.

I hope I haven’t overdone Twitter today. I do get frustrated by the clutter of promos in my Twitter Feed day in, day out. I know I follow a lot of self-published or new authors but there is often no actual human interaction and I don’t want to join that noise. That said, my increased Twitter activity is obviously paying off as I also reached 100 Twitter followers today. Not sure one of them would buy a book or retweet a comment – I think it’s mostly follow and be followed – but it’s a start and we all have to learn somehow.

Preparing for a possible return to Contracting

Preparing for a possible return to Contracting

Then came the next manic bit of the day: finding out I have an interview for a contract job tomorrow. I was really hoping they’d let hubbie take the contract but that hasn’t happened so I’m off to London.

I’m terrified.

Not of going to London, although it will be the first time in two years aside from a family trip to the Olympics. I used to go to Agency and Client meetings in the Big Smoke all the time when I worked for a living (said tongue in cheek of course!). Funny how four years at home with a couple of kids can erase all your confidence.

I know I can do this contract, whatever is involved (unless it’s databases: I hate databases) but the learning curve will be steep. I haven’t used Excel in two years except to keep track of Claire’s hostel visits and I haven’t put in a full working day in over a year. Thinking about concentrating for that length of time in a strange office with a new brief for a new company (my last contract was back at my old office) is making me feel more than a bit sick. But we’re in a recession and I can’t turn down work, especially not when I went cap-in-hand asking for it! So I will squeeze my post-pregnancy feet into my heels, and my post-pregnancy tum into my stretchy trousers and get on a train. Wish me luck! (Oh and if I get the contract there may be a few days a week when Claire will be ill in bed with the flu or reading a good book…. The contract is an hour’s drive away so there won’t be much writing time in the day!)

Talking of which, it’s bedtime and I’ve completely failed to write a Claire post after falling asleep on the sofa. Another favour from hubbie required to take kids in the morning then! Oops. Apologies if it’s a short one!

Morning Update: Was up most of the night because my brain was running a zillion miles an hour. I had 332 total downloads for my first promotion day. Wow! If only 1% read it that still means 3 strangers reading my book. Feels weird.


Claire ignored the twisting in her stomach and opened the email. How bad can it be? Then she remembered her leaving party and the things Julia had said. Okay, pretty bad. Then let’s get it over with at least.


Carl has asked me to collate a list of activities to inject some fun and humour into your blog. These are all near your current location in Castleton so you’ll have to pick the ones that are available. We suggest number five and/or six as they are activities more specific to the Peak District. If you can furnish me with your future itinerary I will find some other activities that have Carl’s approval.


1. Kayak and/or Canoe
2. Raft Building
3. Climbing/Abseiling
4. Mountain/Hill Walking
5. Weaseling
6. Caving
7. Orienteering
8. Rope Course
9. Search and Rescue
10. Archery

Future Itinerary? Does she think I’m planning that far ahead? Actually Julia probably plans her sick days. Claire thought about the list of hostels booked for her time with Sky. Oh I can at least look a bit organised, that will be nice. As long as she finds things I can do with a six-year-old girl. She remembered the kids on the Go Ape rope course and decided that Sky was probably more suited to adventure activities than she was. She scanned the list and laughed, relief flooding through her like caffeine.

What is Julia going on about? I’ve done half of these and the rest aren’t exactly High Adrenalin. I mean, Raft Building? I’m hardly going to get eaten by a crocodile or fall into shark-infested waters, however much she hopes I might. I guess her main desire is that I get wet and humiliate myself.

Checking Julia’s email again, Claire looked at the activities at number 5 and 6. Caving. I’ve been in the Blue John Cavern, isn’t that caving? And what the hell is Weaseling? Julia’s email had a link at the bottom to a website with more information. Knowing she would regret it Claire clicked on the link and scrolled down to Weaseling.

Weaseling is all about getting into a tight spot – and then getting out of it! This activity is very similar to rock scrambling, as the fun comes from low-level climbing. It’s also fairly similar to caving, with small, often dark spaces forming the perfect playground for intrepid weaselers, but it all takes place above ground level. Weaseling doesn’t require ropes as there are no big drops or climbs, so it’s great for younger children.

Great for younger children? Should be fairly easy then although I can’t say I’m that keen on the ‘dark spaces’ bit. With a sigh of resignation Claire followed the information and wrote down the phone number to book a day Weaseling.

I’ll remember this Julia, don’t think I won’t.