Moaning Minnies, Plum Jam and Short Stories

Considering I’ve been on summer hols for a few weeks, it seems like yesterday that I was wrapping up the school year once more. I know to those poor folks who don’t get to have nearly six weeks off (although I do know the US have a damned sight more, but I don’t resent it – much) are probably gritting their teeth in an agonised clamp, and will bite down even more when I write the next bit.

I wish my summer holiday was longer.

I know I should apologise for being a greedy git, but I won’t – although I will say I’m sorry for the ache in your jaw. In all my spoiled honesty, I admit that I don’t want to go back to the confines of a classroom.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, love teaching, but I don’t really love the politics that is now part and parcel of each decision made, and the admin that is nearly all what teaching has become. Pupils are clients, bums on seats means money in the struggling coffers, and all kids are seen through eyes tinged with pound signs. This leads to teachers being put upon to get results from students who can’t, or don’t want to, achieve, therefore forcing the next stage of school life. Ofsted. The most feared two syllables of a teacher’s vocabulary. The threat of this organisation turning up at the school gates like the cast from Reservoir Dogs hovers over a teacher’s head like a black cloud, darkening significantly with each choice or lesson plan drawn up. And then there are the other things – the escalating hours a teacher has to work, the scrutiny from senior leaders, the complete tip of work / life balance to be in the favour of the employer and not the employee…

What am I doing? Moaning, I guess. But that is NOT what I want to write about today. I can bang on about work and slip effortlessly into the ‘poor me’ role if I wanted to, but deep down I know I’d only be doing it because I am back at work next week and I am gutted. G.U.T.T. E.D. I want to lounge, be lazy, cut my grass and tickle my flowers, walk inches off my lads’ legs, have late nights and lie ins, watch pap on TV, read and read and read, do DIY, write bollocky blogs that no one will read, and I want to continue doing it until I am bored of it. At the moment that is not the case. How can I be bored when I have a tree full of plums that need my attention? – and that is not a euphemism. I have jam to make. Yes – I am of that age that making my own jam is classed as cool. I would’ve made cherry jam, but the fat bastard pigeons ate my plump red fruit again this year, and, once again, the neighbourhood knew about it.

And then there is the writing. Sigh. I love writing, but when I’m in school it seems to take a back seat to marking and lesson planning – not forgetting all the time I spend moaning about how busy I am and rattling on to any poor sap who will listen that a teacher’s day does not end at 3:30. I want to escape into worlds of my own making, have rendezvouses with characters I’ve given literary birth to, sit and stare at the space above my laptop until the right word comes along, feel the rush of my imagination leave my fingertips and appear on the blank white space of a word document. Is this too much to ask?

To my bank manager, yes. He tells me that work is the means to which my mortgage, and other bills, get paid every month, how my little furballs get treats, and how I can have a bit of freedom in the time off work has bestowed on me. So, like one of the seven dwarfs, it’s hie hoe, hie hoe, it’s off to work I go come Wednesday. (On a side note: would I be Grumpy? I think I have shown characteristics from all of them over the last few weeks, but I think Grumpy will be the one that lasts the longest. Just a hunch.)

But I have been writing. Two short stories are finished but not edited. Attic Space is a ghost story that I originally penned for the Ylva anthology but she came out too big. I’m undecided what to do with her, but she will get my attention again before long. One thing I need to say though is that Attic Space did not have one single F word throughout. Not one! It was a challenge I set myself and through her I realised how hard it was for me to write without being a potty mouth. But, I did it. Go me. F**k yeah!

Solomon's Temple on the walk up.

Solomon’s Temple on the walk up.

Storm, the second of my short stories, however, is completely different to my usual style as the humour is lacking and it is a lot darker than my customary offering. Storm completely captivated my attention but she was the kind of story that took me a lot longer to complete. She was only meant to be a short story but she ended up over 32,000 words. I will definitely be going back to her and give her the once, or twice, over. The reason for this is because I think this story has potential. To make things even better, I’ve not long visited the places mentioned in the short story – Grin Low and Upper Hulme in Derbyshire. Thankfully, I didn’t get the same treatment as my central character. I am considering developing the storyline, tightening things up a little. It makes it so much better when I can actually visualise the surroundings more clearly. It’d been a fair while since I’d visited these places, so seeing them again really gave me a boost, something I want to inject into the story.

Talking about the Peaks, Driving Me Mad will be on its way from Ylva soon. I seem to have had a burst of inspiration based on the Peak District in my writing, and would you believe it if I said that my Sat Nav did exactly what the story’s Sat Nav did to Rebecca Gibson? Yes. It sent me through Kirk Langley when I was supposed to be going in the

Top of Hen Cloud

Top of Hen Cloud

opposite direction. Thankfully, I did not end up staying the night with Annabel Howell. Firstly, it was broad daylight for me, and secondly, I ignored the Sat Nav and read the road signs. Once again, go me! Some of you may remember the story when I released it at the academy a while back. But, if you think that is the entire story you will have a surprise coming your way. The story has been developed significantly, adding another three times the content. So what was originally a short story is well over a 100,000 words. Hopefully you will like what I’ve done with it. I did. Do. Whatever.

I have recently started a new story and am undecided whether to continue writing that or go back to Storm. Maybe it will all be decided with the toss of a coin if I can find one that isn’t a supermarket trolley counter.

Man! Don’t I go on? If you have gotten this far, congratulations! You have my upmost respect. You are definitely dedicated, or really bored. But if you haven’t gotten this far … there is nothing I need to write as you won’t read this anyway … and I think I am on the verge of writing myself into a verbal cul de sac (not to mention that my foot has gone dead because I’ve been sitting on it).

So, with no more procrastinating, moaning, rambling, or lack of blood circulating around my right foot, I will bid you adieu. Hopefully it won’t be as long until I write next time, if work doesn’t try to get in the way of course. I will keep you updated about any future stories just in case you are interested.

Right. Time to get cracking on those plums! Wish me luck.

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