Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 8

The final excerpt of Chapter One for Coffee and Roses... see below for exciting details about what's coming soon!

When McBee woke again, the room was filled with daylight. The heavy curtains that had been drawn over the windows the previous night had been pulled back, revealing large, circular portholes and confirming that this was, indeed, a boat. McBee felt a little woozy from his long sleep, but better – so much so, that he found he was able to swing his legs to the side of the bed and stand up, albeit very shakily. Suddenly remembering that his clothes had been soaked from his plunge into the river, he looked down - and was surprised to discover he was now wearing wide blue slacks and an old white collarless linen shirt. Moving carefully across the dark wooden floor, which was strewn with faded rainbow-coloured rag rugs, McBee slowly made his way towards the small open doors leading to the deck, heading in the direction of the sound of Old Sid’s voice, which was humming another sea shanty somewhere nearby.

‘Hey diddle-i, idle-i-o, three busty girls and away we go, hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm.. Ah! There you are, lad! I see you’re up and movin’ eh?’ Sid grinned, coiling up a length of thick rope.
McBee smiled, ‘It would seem so, Sid.’
‘So, what do you think of me barge then, eh?’ asked Sid.

McBee looked around at the old vessel. Though she was faded and had admittedly seen better days, she was still a fine specimen of an estuary barge. Her deck was dark wood, with tarpaulin-covered cargo boxes roped into the middle. From the centre of the deck a tall mast rose, with washed-out flapping red sails tied loosely to it. Towards the bow of the boat was a further covered cabin, its small windscreen looking out to the horizon with the river stretching away as far as the eye could see. McBee took a breath of air – it was so much fresher here out on the river than it ever was in the city. The air was cold and stung his lungs, but it felt good. ‘She’s wonderful,’ he breathed.
‘That she is, son, that she is. Cocoa?’ asked Sid, offering a steaming white enamel mug.
McBee grasped it and drank the sweet, gloopy liquid, enjoying its velvetiness as it slid luxuriously down his throat. ‘By the way, I never told you my name,’ he said, after he had swallowed. ‘I’m Heston McBee. But most people call me McBee.’
Sid extended his big, dark-tanned, bony hand and shook McBee’s hand firmly. ‘Pleased to meet you, matey,’ he grinned. ‘So, ‘ere’s a new day for you – where’ll you be headin’ now? Not home, I would’ve thought?’
McBee shook his head, ‘No,’ he said, purposefully, ‘Not home.’ Then – largely because he couldn’t think of anything else to say, but fortuitously, as it turned out – he asked, ‘Where are you going?’
Old Sid appeared a little taken aback by the question, lifting a white bushy eyebrow as his swarthy wrinkled features crinkled into a smile, ‘I? Well, I’s be ‘eadin’ that a’way,’ he answered, gesturing in the direction of the blue horizon, where the spraygulls were flying like miniscule white V’s across the sky. ‘The old girl’s a sea-goin’ vessel, see? I’s be plannin’ on takin’ ‘er to the ocean. She don’t get to see it often, see, so I’m takin’ her back to remind ‘er of where she came from, if you get my meaning?’

The ocean – just the mere sound of the word in McBee’s mind made his heart skip. It promised high adventure, wildly beautiful scenery and breathtaking power… ‘Can I come with you?’ he breathed, almost without realising he’d spoken the words out loud.
Old Sid looked at him for a moment, his expression a mixture of surprise and puzzlement. He lifted his blue peaked cap to scratch the wiry white clump of hair on his head. ‘Well, I… I don’t see why not, lad. I mean, there’s plenty of room aboard old Polly-Jo for a scrap like you, I’d say.’
McBee felt a rush of excitement coursing through his veins, making his head giddy. ‘Thank you so much, Sid!’ he exclaimed, ‘It’s just I… I can’t stay here and I’ve never seen the ocean.’
Old Sid looked shocked. ‘Never seen the ocean, lad? Well blow me over with a gust of wind! You city folks don’t know what you’re missin’! Right, that settles it, then, lad. You’re coming with me and old Polly-Jo to see the sea!’

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Liked what you read? Like to read more? Watch this space for news on The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life, including an exciting new Podcast coming next year!

Friday, November 30, 2007

I did it! I did it!

I did it! I am, officially, a Winner of NaNoWriMo 2007 and my novel is complete!

This has been the most amazing, frustrating, white-knuckle rollercoastering month of my life... I have learned so much about myself as a writer and I think I may have finally found my voice with my writing. It's confrimed to me that I can write and not only that, I can write something half-decent, too.

So, The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life by Miranda Dickinson is complete - what happens now is anyone's guess!

Thank you for your lovely comments... do you want to read any more? Message me if you do.

I only bloomin' well did it! Woo-hoo!

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 7

McBee closed his aching eyes and heaved a huge sigh. He tried to get a hold of his mutinous feelings which, at present, were running round in circles inside him, like a crazed bunch of lab rats too delirious to know which direction to head in after someone had released them from their cage. He attempted rounding them up and getting them to account for their current status – with little success – finally resorting to let them dash around for a bit until they’d calmed down sufficiently to be able to hold a constructive conversation with him.

In many ways, he found himself glad to be alive after all. He had the potential for many more years to live – the prospect of which both intrigued and scared the hell out of him. He was still a young-ish man, he reasoned; he had never really known anything other than being a journalist; never married, never ‘settled down’ – whatever that meant. He couldn’t remember the last time he had laughed, been in love, or taken a holiday. All his days had consisted of, year after weary year, was The Oktaban Times – deadlines, leads, exclusives, reports… Indeed, he realised now that he had spent over twenty years of his life writing about other people’s lives, instead of experiencing a life of his own. The paper alone had been his family, his wife, his mistress, his Master – but had never allowed him to be himself.

When Old Sid brought the bowl of steaming broth over to him, McBee found he was just about able to lift his body into an upright seated position. Sid folded up an old bearskin coat and propped it behind McBee’s back as a makeshift pillow. The smouldering broth was lumpy and tasted faintly fishy, but it was something to eat and McBee was surprised to discover how ravenously hungry he was. As he ate, he could feel his body warming and his strength beginning to return.
After he had eaten, he slept - a deep, heavy slumber with few dreams, simply shadowy images moving indeterminably through his subconscious mind.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Coming soon... McBee's epic journey begins in earnest...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 6

He found he was lying in a warm, dimly-lit room, on what felt like a bed of straw, covered with a rough grey wool blanket. He tried to lift his head but found it impossible; every part of him ached and what little strength he had seemed only sufficient to allow him to move his eyes. As his vision gradually sharpened, he could see an old man hunched over a small stove in the far right corner of the room, in what passed for a tiny kitchen area. The old man was busily stirring a black iron pot, which was perched precariously on a small gas ring and wobbled over with a bump with every stir. The old man was humming a raspy, cracked tune as he worked, occasionally singing the odd lyric here and there.
‘…young girl called Rosie Lee… hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… longer legs than a hmm-hmm-heee, hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… shot a hmmm with a hmm-hmm gun, hmmm, hmmm, hmm-hmm, hmm-hmm… and flashed her hmm for a hmm-hmm hmmm… with a hey and a ho and a big nonny… hmm, hmm, hmm-hmm hmm-hee..’ he took a big breath, ‘Grrreat big hmms and a bag of plums, hmm, hmm…’

McBee began to cough again and Old Sid stopped his humming and stirring to look over.
‘You’re awake then, eh boy?’ he observed, leaving the spoon in the pot and shuffling slowly over to where McBee lay.
McBee struggled to find his voice. ‘How did I…?’
‘Get ‘ere?’ offered Old Sid, ‘I dragged you out the river, that’s ‘ow you got ‘ere, matey.’
‘You? You got me out?’ asked McBee, observing the old man’s wiry frame.
‘Arr, so I did. I ‘auled you out by myself and brought you ‘ome to my barge. That’s where you is right now, by the by.’
McBee tried to smile at the old man. ‘Thank you,’ he said weakly.
‘No need to thank me, son,’ Old Sid smiled, ‘Twas nothing, really. Nearly gave this old sea dog a ‘eart attack, mind. Shocked the ‘ell out of me, you did.’
‘Ah, my jump…’ McBee felt a wave of nauseous embarrassment flood up within him.

As if sensing McBee’s feelings, Old Sid shook his head and patted McBee’s hand. ‘Twasn’t the jump, boy,’ he said, ‘I’s used to jumpers. Bit of a side-line of business for me, jumpers- if you gets what I mean?’
McBee didn’t, staring blankly at Old Sid.
‘Well,’ Sid explained, ‘I’s a ferryman, see? And I works yonder part of the river under the bridge. That’s my livin’, right? Not much of one, truth be told, but a livin’ nonetheless. I comes from a long line of ferrymen and my family’s always worked that stretch – even before the bridge went up. But since they built that bridge, there’s been a steady flow, if you’ll pardon my pun, of folks what want to end it, see? Jumpers, we call ‘em round ‘ere. Anyways, they tend to land in my patch, if you like, and I’s a great believer in the ‘finders, keepers’ theory of life, if you get my meaning? That City Authority pays ‘andsomely for bodies retrieved from the river. Saves ‘em doin’ it, I s’pose, don’t it? So if I gets a jumper, I gets a fair bit of cash on the quiet, see? I likes to think it’s a chance to give yon poor buggers a reason for jumpin’ – kind of like them ‘elping someone to live after they die, see?’
‘Umm...’ McBee’s head was swimming slightly.
‘So when I saw you comin’ out the sky, so to speak, I says to myself, ‘Sid,’ I says, ‘Yon poor bugger there’ll bring you that outboard motor you’ve been ‘ankering after’ So, there I was, waitin’ for your corpse to come up floatin’ – no offence, like – but, blow me, if you don’t come up alive! Couldn’t believe my eyes I couldn’t! I’s been draggin’ yon corpses out of that river for the best part of twenty years and I’s never seen one come up alive!’
‘Well, I must say it surprised me,’ said McBee, as the reality of his reality began to strike home.
‘I’ll bet it did,’ Sid nodded, ‘I’ll bet you was there, thinkin’ you was ‘eaded for some great glowin’ Nirvana, and bugger you if you didn’t find yourself back in the land of the livin’. Twas a bit of a bummer, I shouldn’t wonder.’
‘I’m… I don’t know,’ replied McBee, and promptly burst into tears.

Old Sid took an awkward step back, wringing his hands together, slightly embarrassed at the sobbing wreck of humanity lying before him. ‘Now, now come on, lad, it can’t be that bad, can it? I mean, yes, you wanted to end it all, like, but someone somewhere ‘ad other ideas, see? I don’t know a vast deal about Gods and stuff, but what I see is this: you flew from yonder bridge into that river and you survived – that’s a miracle s’far as I’s concerned, son. So maybe you’s got yourself a Second Chance. You can do anythin’ you wants to. Go anywhere your ‘eart desires, see? There’s not many a soul gets that type of opportunity, lad, I can tell you. Now, I’s made you some broth. I’ll get you some, you can ‘ave somethin’ to eat and you’ll feel better.’
‘Thank you – um…’
‘Sid. Sid the Old Salt they calls me round ‘ere. But Sid will do just fine.’ Old Sid smiled, patted McBee on the shoulder and returned to the stove.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What's next for McBee? Find out soon...

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 5

When Heston McBee began his working life, he was a young man of nineteen, full of ambition and optimism. Fresh from finishing his Diploma of Letters at the Dianor Academy, McBee was invited to attend an interview at The Oktaban Times by a man who he had inadvertently met in Periphy Park one day. McBee was not one who naturally believed in good fortune, yet he would always say that the unlikely way in which he obtained his first job could only be attributed to ‘someone somewhere being pleased with me.’ During a late lunch-break from Gytha’s Diner – one of three jobs he had maintained to pay his way through college – McBee had decided to make the most of the brave April sunshine and head to the park at the city’s centre. After eating his sandwich, McBee pulled out the faded grey leather notebook in which he kept all his scraps of prose, poetry, sketches and scripts. Unbeknownst to him, a tall man in a sharp suit and dark trilby worn low over his eyes was closely observing McBee’s every move, from a park bench nearby. After a few minutes of studying the young man writing fervently, the tall man in the trilby folded up his newspaper, tucked it under his arm and strolled casually over.
‘Afternoon,’ he said, tipping his hat respectfully.

McBee jumped and looked up, squinting as he shielded his eyes from the sun. ‘Afternoon,’ he replied.
‘I hope you don’t mind the impertinence,’ said the trilby man in a velvet-smooth, well-spoken voice, ‘but I’ve been watching you for a while and I was wondering what you were writing about.’
McBee hesitated for a moment then decided to trust the stranger stood before him. ‘I was just writing about today,’ he said, ‘you know - being in Periphy Park on an April lunchtime and things like that.’
The trilby man smiled a wry smile, ‘And do you do this often, young man?’
McBee wasn’t altogether impressed with the man’s tone, but replied politely, ‘All the time. I try to write every day. It doesn’t matter what I write about – it can be observational, poetic, satirical, romantic – just as long as I write something, that’s all that counts.’
The trilby man smiled again, this time much warmer, ‘Ah, I see. So, you’re a writer?’
‘Yes, sir,’ said McBee, ‘Or, at least, I will be soon.’
‘Have you been secured by a publication?’ asked the trilby man.
‘No, not yet.’
The trilby man gestured towards McBee’s precious notebook. ‘May I?’

Young McBee hesitated – after all, as his writing tutor Mr Lubowicz often said, ‘one’s writing is like one’s firstborn child – to present it for critique is as to present a part of yourself for verdict’ – yet there was something uncommonly comforting about the trilby man’s manner, so, hands trembling, he handed over his notebook.

The trilby man was silent for what seemed like several forevers as he slowly perused the contents of the journal. McBee scanned his face for any sign of emotion, but found none; which only increased his anxiety. Eventually, the man closed the book, handed it back to McBee and then extended his hand to the young writer.
‘Charlton Cavendish,’ he announced, ‘I am Chief Scout for The Oktaban Times – do you know the publication?’
McBee caught his breath, ‘Do I know it?’ he stammered, ‘It’s only the finest newspaper in the whole of the country – let alone this city!’ Then, remembering his manners, he added, ‘Heston – Heston McBee.’
Charlton Cavendish shook his hand, ‘Well, well, Heston McBee, I think you are a good writer. And, with my help, you will become a great writer.’

True to his word, Charlton Cavendish became McBee’s mentor, securing him his first reporter’s post at the paper and working closely with him for the next twelve years. Until, that is, he mysteriously disappeared one morning and never returned.

Cavendish’s disappearance sparked a chain of events in McBee’s life that cast a brooding shadow over everything, ultimately leading to his jump from the motorway bridge. Robbed of his closest ally, greatest friend and most trusted confidant, McBee slowly lost the confidence, hope and ambition that had so characterised the bright-eyed young man writing prose in the sunlit park, many years ago...

McBee gasped and opened his eyes. Coughing violently, he struggled for a moment to wrench enough air into his lungs to breathe again. As the convulsions in his chest subsided, he blinked away the resulting tears from his eyes and slowly began to focus on his surroundings.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens next? Find out in the next exciting episode!

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 4

Old Sid watched and waited.

Around him the sky was beginning to redden as the autumnal evening set in. Flocks of guillegulls rose noisily from the marshes at the edge of the city through which the river flowed, their tiny flapping bodies moving in mesmerising, constantly changing formations like giant undulating black-speckled waves in the sky.

The ferryman had witnessed this spectacle many times, yet even today he still felt a twinge of awe in his aged heart at this natural twilight extravaganza. He lifted his gaze to watch the birds and was temporarily transported back to a time, many years ago, bathed in the warm rosy hue of precious memories –he was a small boy of around eight years old, sitting on the prow of his grandfather’s barge with his bare feet dangling over the edge, while his faithful terrier Tujic sat at his side, barking at the birds flocking across the blood-orange sky. Just as he had done then, he did now - watching the shapes changing above his head for some time, he noted each metamorphosis out loud:
‘…diamond, square, ripples, oblong, cloud, wobbly blob, another squ…’

He was suddenly interrupted by a bubbling sound to the left of his boat and, on turning his head to investigate, was amazed to see McBee’s body – shortly followed by a battered brown suitcase – emerging from the river. It was pale and covered in slimy green weed, but definitely – unmistakably – alive.
‘Bugger me,’ the ferryman exclaimed, plunging the punt into the water and hauling his boat over to the floating body. Mustering all the strength he could summon, the old man grabbed McBee’s arms and hauled his bedraggled frame unceremoniously into the boat.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Will McBee survive? Find out soon!

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 3

A ferryman punting slowly across the calm river below the motorway bridge was the only witness to the falling figure, arms flailing and macintosh billowing, as it plummeted without a sound into the waiting water’s shadowy depths. Sid the Old Salt (as he was known in these parts) lifted a white bushy eyebrow in a quizzical manner, stopped punting and waited, leaning his ancient bony frame against the blackened punting pole, whilst keeping his tiny black eyes fixed to the place where the body had been swallowed.

Far above him, the aftermath of McBee’s Final Straw continued, albeit a distant, indeterminable concoction of smoke and clamour now.

McBee, meanwhile, was finding the whole experience a lot more comforting than you may imagine. As soon as his feet had left the bridge’s edge, he had felt an overwhelming sense of calm pervade his entire being – the cold air rushing up and around his body removed the smell of burning from his nostrils as he fell in what felt like a dreamlike, slow-motion descent. Suddenly, he had time to think – acres of mind-space unexpectedly available for him to wander through.

It’s funny, he mused as he fell, that doing something so drastic and potentially deadly to oneself could provide such a clear perspective on one’s life. He looked across his downward-bound body and noticed the battered brown briefcase still gripped in his hand. How strange that I brought this with me, he thought to himself, watching the case swinging happily from its handle. It had been a present from his mother, more than twenty years ago, on his very first day at The Oktaban Times.
‘You’re a professional now,’ beamed Mrs McBee, straightening McBee’s tie and standing back to admire her son, ‘And professionals should always look the part. There. A proper journalist if ever I saw one.’

The thought of his mother brought a sharp, unexpected stab at his heart and McBee screwed his eyes up, focusing on the forces pulling his body downwards to try to numb the pain at his core. Soon, the cool calm returned and he found himself almost enjoying the experience. He opened his eyes – and gasped as the water hit him, engulfing his body in dark, inky blackness, icy daggers attacking him from every side. Struggling to break his momentum, he violently jerked his body round till his head was pointing towards the dim light dancing at the river’s surface. But his eyes were failing as his body began to succumb to the water’s freezing numbness and the light was retreating further and further away from his outstretched hand. Comforted by a deathly sense of surrender, McBee closed his eyes and gave in.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens next? Will Old Sid save McBee? You'll have to wait for the next exciting episode!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 2

McBee screeched to a halt in the middle lane of the busy G46 – the majestic seven-lane thoroughfare snaking out of the city - sending cars spiralling off in all directions to avoid him. He sat, motionless, a white-hot anger searing through his veins, oblivious to the blaring horns and curses of the approaching drivers.
I have been cut up by a woman with furry dice, he repeated, a manic mantra under his breath as blood pumped wildly at his temples. All the many years of feeling undervalued, the relentless daily grind of his existence and the building sense of disappointment in a life that had once promised so much yet never delivered, suddenly descended as one huge, crushing weight on McBee’s weary frame.
Stunned by its claustrophobic severity, he struggled to catch his breath, grasping frantically at the driver’s side door. Finally locating the small silver handle, he pulled at it with all his might – which took considerable strength, as every movement now appeared to require a gargantuan effort to perform. The car door swung open and McBee grabbed his suitcase from the passenger seat, bolting from the stranded car with all the speed he could muster.
Maybe it was the utter idiocy of the situation; maybe it was the result of too many emotions swept under the carpet for too long – we shall never know. Even McBee himself, in later years, couldn’t exactly explain what it was that made this particular offence so different from all the others he’d encountered in his life.
Whatever the reason, the fact is that this event was officially The Last Straw for McBee - and came to be known as such.
As McBee fled across the lanes of skidding, swerving and colliding vehicles - that were fast becoming steaming, screaming dog-piles of metal and skin, blood and bone - all he could focus on through the brooding purple-grey haze bubbling across his vision was the wall at the edge of the carriageway – and the streak of dark silver water, hundreds of feet below the road, stretching out towards the grey horizon.
Unable to think any longer, he moved towards the wall as if propelled by an overpowering, unearthly force. Beset by the pounding of his heart in his ears, combining with the growing sounds of confusion, fear and pain behind him and the taste of burning rubber and flesh catching at the back of his throat, McBee’s mounting, terrifying panic pushed him – quite literally – over the edge.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Is this the end for McBee? Find out in the next exciting episode...!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

The Mystical Wombat's Guide to Life - excerpt 1

Chapter One:
‘To Fall At The Beginning Is To Start Again’
Book of Wom, saying 101

It begins with McBee. Or rather, it begins with what happened to him.

They say that the last straw is often the most insignificant thing; in McBee’s case this was most definitely true. The over-fed, arrogant lady driving her small pink automobile, with its ridiculous orange furry dice bobbling about in the windscreen, would probably be very surprised to learn that she was responsible for triggering the most catastrophic, cataclysmic day of someone’s life.

But she was. Or, more precisely, her furry dice were.

For posterity shall record that, a little after 3.15pm on a grey, drizzly Thursday afternoon somewhere in mid-October - shortly after nearly running McBee off the road with an ill-judged overtaking manoeuvre - the sight of this lady’s victoriously swinging fluffy window adornments, now in front, tipped him over the edge. And McBee, to coin a phrase, Finally Lost The Plot.

At any other time, he may have laughed at the scenario; but, as it was, this one, seemingly insignificant happening was the final element in a long, long chain of events – and McBee’s life changed irrevocably from that point on.

It seems ironic that a man who, for twenty-five years, had successfully carved a career out of lambasting the human race’s aptitude for pettiness, should be ultimately unhinged by two preposterously naff cubes hanging from a rear view mirror. But this is how it was.

© Miranda Dickinson 2007

What happens to McBee? Find out tomorrow!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

I must be MAD!

I'm writing a novel in a month...

It's all part of National Novel Writing Month - visit to see what it's all about. the idea is that between 1st and 30th November, you write a 50,000 word novel. That's it - just commit to writing 50,000 words down and see what happens! The prize is proving to yourself that you can really do it - and maybe even produce a half-decent read in the process... So, I thought, why not?

You can visit my profile by pasting the following into your web browser: and you can also see how many words I've written!

Starting from tomorrow, I'm going to be posting excerpts from my novel The Mystical Wombat's Guide To Life here at Coffee and Roses , so you can have a read and let me know what you think!

It's been less than a week and already I've passed the 11,000 word mark! What's really good about this whole crazy idea is that you don't spend hours editing (which, I confess, is an occupational hazard for me) - you just write, and write, and write until it's done. And, surprisingly, I like what's appearing as I scribble... It's very different to anything I've written before, but I'm actually loving what my demented mind is conjouring up.

Anyway, enough of the wittering, I have a novel to write! :o)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Random Poetry Corner


Ode to the Traffic Cone (aka Colin)

Today, I woke up feeling blue
And stayed that way till nearly 2
When suddenly, outside my home
Appeared a little plastic cone
Called Colin

Don't ask me how I knew his name
Nor seek from whence my new friend came
For all I know is: he is here
And my sad thoughts have disappeared
Thanks, Colin!

Colin, I care not if you
Once lived on the M42
And, with your brothers, caused me pain
When roadworks made me late again
No, Colin -

For all that matters now is you;
O plastic friend of cheery hue,
My loneliness brought to an end
By my bright, happy orange friend:
My Colin!
© Miranda Dickinson 2007

Remember, kids: A cone is for life; not just for Wednesdays...

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Procrastination and the art of being a complete Wuss...

OK. Here's a conundrum for you...

When you've been waiting for ages for something to happen, then something actually does, why is it that you suddenly become reticent about going for it?!

It's something that's bugged me this week. I've experienced it before, but still it never ceases to stump me. I seem to wait for ages, desperately longing, hoping and praying for something to happen - and then, just when light begins to appear at the end of the tunnel, my nerve goes.

So, it's time to stand up and admit the awful truth:

...takes a deep breath...

My name is Miranda and I am a Wuss.

The support group, who are gathered around me, smile supportively and applaud my confession. "It's the first step," my Counsellor assures me, "Well done, honey."

I feel better for that. I do, really.

So, how to move on?

I always manage to overcome the Wuss-urge (that looks wrong, sorry) in the end, but for a few days there I struggle with the temptation to walk quietly away from the sparkly new opportunity before me, whistling nonchalantly, before fleeing back to the safe confines of my duvet... (Aha! The Killer Duvets strike again! It's a worldwide conspiracy!)

Editor's Note: For those readers now completely confused and seriously questioning the sanity of this blogger, please see the previous post on Comfy Duvets of Doooom (August 7th, 2007) for details of the Duvet Conspiracy Theory. Thank you.

I think the simple answer is this: Just get on with it, silly! No amount of hiding or being scared is going to move me any further forward. I have asked for this opportunity, now this is where the hard work begins. You don't just become the person in your dreams; it takes hard work and commitment.

Too often, I waste time dreaming about how great life will be when I arrive at my dream - all the hard work done, all the obstacles overcome, all the pressure off. Somehow, I never find myself daydreaming about late nights working or setbacks! Dreams are what you make them - they are a reward for working really hard, not a luxury free gift with minimum effort. And even if you could obtain your heart's desires as easily as going to the shops, would they really mean anything? The things I am most proud of in my life - the things I count as my successes and that give me the most joy - are the things I have had to work hardest to achieve, taking the biggest risks over and investing the most time in. I have to remind myself of this every time I feel like retreating under the duvet till it all goes away.

Right now, I have an opportunity which could be a real breakthrough. It scares the living jellybeans out of me and right now I'd like to walk away whistling... But if I don't grab it, taking the risk of it being another dead end, I'll never know, will I?

Right, better get busy then...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Lake District pics - part one

As promised, here are a few of the stunning photos that the lovely Bob took on our holiday in the Lake District.

We climbed up Silver How (at the back of our cottage), early one morning, through thick fog. When we were nearly at the top, we emerged out of the clouds to see this amazing sight...

It really was breathtaking, watching the clouds rolling like waves into the valley as the sun came up.

On the footpath by Aira Force, near Ullswater, I turned back and saw this view - I quickly grabbed Bob and told him to take a photo. He now calls me his Location Manager !

And here's the photographer himself (I took this one - arty, I know!)

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The hills (well, the mountains) are alive...

...with the sound of me!!

I've just got back from a totally fantastic holiday in the gorgeous Lake District (so apologies for the small delay in optimistic scribbling!)

If you've never been, you have to go... Not only is it the place that inspired Wordsworth, Ruskin, Beatrix Potter and Arthur Ransome to write (amongst others), but it also boasts some of the most breathtakingly stunning scenery anywhere in the world.

The Lake District (or Cumbria, to give it its county name), is absolutely the best place for a weary optimist to recharge... You can't fail to be inspired with so much magestic beauty all around you (and I'm not just talking about Bob...)

We stayed in the Langdale Valley, in the tiny village of Chapel Stile (near Elterwater) - an excellent base for a holiday with loads of wonderful places nearby.

What you need to know about my family and the Lakes is that, for every year of my childhood, we headed here for our family holiday. And it usually rained. Constantly! Despite that, we always managed to have truly magical weeks there - and we still revisit many of our childhood holiday haunts. This holiday was no different - except that we had brilliant weather :o)

I went with my parents, sister and brother-in-law - and the lovely Bob came with us, too! (Our first holiday together - another milestone!) As it was Bob's first visit to Cumbria, my Dad was in his element - so the childhood haunts were even more on the agenda than usual.

We visited the pretty little village of Hawkshead and had great cake from The Minstrels Gallery tearoom (which has gone uber-upmarket since I was little - Orange Pekoe Tea now, fnar, fnar...) I have to say, however, that this tearoom won the prize for most over-the-top presentation of an afternoon tea - a silver cake stand with three plates: scone on one, tiny butter pat and cream sample on next and miniscule jam portion on top... Talk about over-presentation...

On every Dickinson Family holiday, a trip on the big boats on Windermere is a must - but you have to pick the coldest, windiest day of your week to travel and you have - repeat, have - to sit on the open top deck, huddled up against the elements. No sitting in the comfy, warm coffee deck, oh no. Warmth is for wimps... So, true to form, we picked the coldest, dullest day and sat, like true Brits, snuggled up watching the seagulls battling against the cross-winds and trying to eat fudge with frozen lips! We travelled from Ambleside to Bowness on the 'Tern' and the return journey on the 'Swan' (my favourite one, so I was mightily chuffed.)

We also visited Wastwater (recently voted 'Britain's Favourite View' in an ITV1 survey - hence the crowds there). It's the deepest lake in England and overlooked by Scafell Pike, England's tallest mountain, so the views are amazing, with the scree slopes from the mountains falling right into the lake.

Grasmere was as pretty a town as ever - and as full of rude, arrogant Brits as usual, as a lot of the posh hotels are nearby (one particularly pampered pooch decided to wee up Bob's leg and its owner didn't even seem concerned!)

We climbed up by Aira Force near Ullswater and Stock Ghyll Falls behind Ambleside - both beautiful river walks with impressive waterfalls.

We also visited Tarn Hows (amazing man-made lake high in the hills), Coniston (pretty little market town on the shores of the lake where Donald Campbell's water speed record was set) and tackled the edge-of-your-seat-thrilling rides over the Hard Knott and Wrynose passes (just don't look down..)

Our favourite cafe was a stone's throw from our cottage in Chapel Stile - Brambles Cafe (above the Co-op) was absolutely the best place for breakfast... and the cakes looked amazing, too. The staff were so friendly and the views stunning - if you get a chance to visit, you have to check it out!

I'll post some photos next time... Until then, if I've whetted your appetite, check out the places I visited on the Lake Distict website at:

and have a look at Brambles Cafe by clicking this link or pasting it into your browser:¶m1=taste¶m2=C24¶m3=ja¶m4=ja&venue=5027858

Only trouble is, I want to be back there right now...

Friday, August 24, 2007

I made the semi-finals!

Well, I think I almost made it...

I just got my results for the UK Songwriting Competition and it appears I made the semi-finals! 5,000 people entered this year and my entry, Man Behind The Smile, was in the top 23%... Not bad for a warbler from the glorious Black Country, eh?!

Being the eternal optimist that I am, I will of course ignore the fact that my song is, actually, FAB - and a million times better than the 6 out of 10 score I got... Instead, I will be quite chuffed that A: I entered in the first place; and B: I actually did quite well!

To hear the song, visit my website at or go to my profile at

I think I will allow myself a very small helping of smugness... Yay!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Monks, Mead and Medieval Merriment

Well, I just got back from my very first proper journalist job!!

I was reporting on Tapestry Goes West - a completely crazy medieval-themed rock festival in South Wales. You can read my report at:

Bob came with me and took some great photos, most of which didn't make it to the final report. So here they are for your viewing pleasure... Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Comfy duvets of doooom...

Life is full of eternal conundrums.

Like, for instance, why is it that your hair always looks fabulous on the day you've booked a haircut? Or how come every time you park your car (or return to your parked car), there's someone trying to get into or get out of the space next to you? Or why is it that you always end up with an odd sock when you've done your washing?

Well, I thought of another one this morning... Why is it that your bed is sooo comfy when you wake up in the morning, even when you've had the worst night's sleep the night before? No matter how much you've tossed and turned during the night, desperate to get to sleep; no matter how lumpy your bed has felt or how heavy your duvet has been - when you wake up and it's time to jump into the day ahead, suddenly your bed becomes a safe, warm, cocoon and your duvet light as a cloud around you...

I found that this morning. It seemed to take an age for me to finally go to sleep last night. Yet this morning, when my alarm performed its loud, unwelcome fanfare, my bed was simply the most blissful, cosy place in the whole world. I knew I needed to jump out of bed and get ready for work, yet every atom in me was clinging to the nice, warm duvet, like a stubborn child who won't let her mum take her favourite teddy bear when it's muddy and needs a good wash.

Don't get me wrong; I love mornings. Once I'm up, that is. But that bit between waking up (all snuggly and warm) and actually lifting myself out of bed, is a real toughie!

I wonder if, somewhere in the world, there is a secret society of Bed and Duvet Manufacturers, who are in clandestine cahoots with an Anti-Capitalist cell... Their main aim is to disrupt the global economy, challenging businesses and international corporations with their subtle, cynical schemes.

"We will conquer them, my brothers, one comfy bed at a time!"

They quietly design their weapons - beds, duvets and pillows that take on an unearthly snuggliness as soon as the daylight hits them, rendering their owners helpless against their cosy charms. Unwilling to get out of bed, the hapless occupants remain, lost in comfort, missing their train or bus or forgetting the drive into work. Slowly but surely, offices and businesses, airports and factories all grind to a halt, as their workforce disappears - thus causing massive companies and industries across the world to collapse...

Hmm. I think my lack of sleep is showing now!

Monday, July 30, 2007

My Dad's Famous!

My Dad is a Star...

It's Official.

Here he is! ----->

And I don't just mean he's a star because he's the Best Dad in the Whole Wide World (not that I'm biased in any way, of course!) As well as being the Dickinson family knight in shining armour - my sister and I call him 'Sir GallaDad' - he is also a TV and Film Star! He's worked with A-listers, on prime-time TV shows and now on two feature films... He is a Supporting Artist (don't call them 'extras'!) and has been appearing on national and international screens for the past four years.

Most recent appearances have included: Life on Mars (series 2, episode 1 - Dad is the body on the double-decker bus!), Crimewatch (Dad was the guy who got attacked with a skewer - eeuuww), Blue Murder (Dad was in the episode featuring Tom Bell, as a family member claiming they killed someone - he was wearing a green fleece!), Doctors (lots of episodes) and Casualty (quite a few appearances in the waiting room)...

He was a passer-by in The Libertine, with Johnny Depp, and has most recently worked on the upcoming film version of Philippa Gregory's The Other Boleyn Girl - with Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson and Eric Bana - as a nobleman at the Boleyn family table!

What is so wonderful about this for me is that he deserves it all so much. Dad worked for 40 years in a job he really didn't like and wasn't valued in, just because he was determined to provide for his family. He got 'given' early retirement at the age of 56 and felt like he'd been dumped by the company. My sister and I never wanted for anything - even when often it was a struggle for Dad and Mum to do all the things they wanted for their family. Dad was always content to carry on being undervalued and ignored at work, just as long as we were all cared for, fed and clothed. And every situation my family faced was always approached with my parents' trademark sense of humour, fun and creativity.

Dad has been involved in amateur dramatics for over 40 years - in fact, my earliest memories are of him and Mum learning lines, going to rehearsals and performing in plays. And Dad is a KILLER on stage... Somehow, when he has lines to say and an audience in front of him, my unassuming Dad becomes this amazing acting phenomenon. He has timing to die for and an expressive style that wins audiences at every single performance. He comes alive when he's on the stage and he's always loved being able to "get up there and sock it to 'em.."

So, when he got the opportunity to work as a Film and TV extra, he cautiously accepted. And he hasn't looked back since!

One funny thing about Dad is that he rarely knows who his co-stars are - he'll get home from a day's filming and say, "Do you know who Natalie Portman is?" or "I'm working with this guy and I'm sure I know him from somewhere - do you know Jonny Vegas?" One time, he worked with Jonathan Wilkes' mum (Robbie Williams' mate) and had a great chat with her about "Robert"!!

Dad has a blog, where you can read all about his exploits in the TV and film industry - as well as other really funny stories about his life. You can see it by pasting the following into your browser:

Trust me, it's well worth a visit!

So, next time you watch a TV programme or a movie, watch out - you might just see my Dad!

Friday, July 27, 2007

High Heels in the DIY store

Yesterday after work, I went out shopping with my lovely boyfriend, Bob. He's just moved into his new house - which is all very exciting - so we are still getting extra little bits and bobs (no pun intended!) for his home.

One of the things on the list was an extension lead for Bob's bedroom, so he can watch TV in bed (oh, the decadence!). Which meant a trip into B and Q - a cavernous warehouse full of DIY stuff and a place where many non-DIYers fear to tread (me included...)

It's easy to get unnerved in this Temple of All Things Manual. The aisles are seemingly never-ending, there appears to be no logic to the order in which items are arranged and, with all the paths almost identical, you quickly lose your sense of direction... I'm not proud to admit it, but I've had more than one panic attack in B and Q stores. My ex-husband used it as a form of torture sometimes, I swear - he'd instruct me to find something and would go careering off in the opposite direction, leaving me alone, disoriented and lost in a sea of DIY products. And woe betide me if I came back empty-handed...

There are shop assistants in B and Q. But they are strange, disconnected - almost ethereal - beings. They walk around in bright orange aprons, marching purposefully towards unspecific destinations, avoiding eye contact with any poor, unfortunate lost person, to ensure they are not distracted from their mission. In any other shop, someone in a uniform walking round the store usually means they're willing to help you. But not in B and Q. Oh no. Ask an orange-aproned temple guard a question there and it's like the whole warehouse falls silent in shock... A million eyes zoom in on you. A wisp of loft insulation blows along one of the aisles. Somewhere, way in the back of the store, a doorbell tolls. The answer you wil receive will be curt and icy-cold, a hand waived dismissively in a general direction, before the assistant hurries away - leaving you alone to face the unbridled scorn of B and Q's learned customers...

So, you can understand the considerable trepidation with which I approached the Mecca Of Handymen yesterday... Especially when I remembered that, as I had gone shopping straight after work, I was still wearing my gorgeous new kitten-heeled shoes from Monsoon with my office clothes. This was going to be a mighty challenge for my sparkly Optimism Gene (TM) - how was I going to blend effortlessly into the hushed, reverent shopping atmosphere when my every heel click would be heard echoing through the palatial hall?

But, do you know what? I actually found it amusing - and quite liberating, in fact - to click-clack proudly round the store. I kept thinking, "I am the only person in high heels in B and Q - that makes me unique!"

Sometimes, it's good to stand out. It's taken me a long time to learn this, after years of feeling crushing embarassment in various scenarios. Yesterday made me think that it can be fun to proclaim your difference to the world, instead of hiding away in shame.

The Eternal Optimist is back in da house!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hopes, dreams and a very grumpy PC...

So... I'm writing a novel, did I tell you?


Aha, well let me enlighten you then, dear Reader...

I started writing my book about 4 years ago. And what's strange is that it was all a bit of an accident, really. I was given, quite possibly, the oldest - and definitely grumpiest - PC in existence, by a good friend. It was so old that the hard-drive unit for it was HORIZONTAL and the monitor, whilst having a depth to rival a fridge, possessed the smallest screen you can imagine.

But, being the self-confessed Eternal Optimist that I am, I loved it as soon as it arrived. Because it was MINE.

I won't go into too much detail (way too depressing!) but, at the time my lovely-but-grouchy gadget arrived in my life, I was in the middle of an incredibly unhappy and painful marriage. Problems at home had more or less sapped the life out of me. I felt alone, uninspired and unable to be myself.

A very dear friend took me to one side and said I needed, "A good, old-fashioned dose of selfishness..." - which turned out to be a gem of advice that, quite literally, changed my life. What she meant was that I needed to find something that was just for me - and nobody else.

So, one rainy Saturday afternoon at my parents' house, I booted up The Grumpster and waited.

And waited...

And waited a bit more...

I got up, made a mug of coffee, helped myself to a biscuit, had a quick chat with my Mum and returned to check the progress of my 'new' machine...

...Five minutes later, the desktop page loaded.

This, I was to discover, was one of the many questionably endearing characteristics of my PC. But, you know, it was OK - it gave me the chance to do lots of other things while waiting for everything to load up.

I'm one of those people who attribute human characteristics to inanimate objects. I feel a compulsive need to apologise to the twenty teddy bears I'm leaving behind in the shop, when I've finally chosen one of their number for a gift. And it's the same with my PC - I couldn't bear the thought of trading him in for a much better model - after all, he'd served me - in a fashion - for a couple of years and, you know, once he got going, he wasn't too bad... It's like the kettle I had when I was married. The switch on it broke, so it turned itself off before it had properly boiled. So you had to hold the switch down until it had boiled - burning your fingers in the steam every time. But, still, I couldn't quite bring myself to part with it - it worked fine as long as you held the switch down, you know?

Anyway... Once my PC had loaded up, I began to write. Quite by accident, the 100 words or so that I originally typed suddenly started to grow, as if by themselves... Characters started to appear, whilst others I'd intended to be 'supporting cast members' developed into main players.

And I fell in love with writing...

Now, the book is about 2,000 words off completion... It needs some revisions (although I have been editing as I've gone along - I find this works best for me) -but it's nearly there. And it's good! So good, in fact, that it was one of the things that brought me and my lovely boyfriend Bob together.. But I'll tell you more about that another time.

So - I'm writing a book... Don't know if it will ever get published, but being the Optimist that I am, you just never know...

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Sometimes, I make Pollyanna look morose...

I'm an eternal optimist. I can't help it. And, it's not for want of trying, believe me.

I think I have an in-built Optimism Gene (TM). Somewhere, way back in the depths of my psyche, this little gene sits - probably in a really cosy chair with a nice cup of tea and a blanket over its knees... Then, whenever a situation arises that may cause me to doubt, despair or just plain give up, the little gene jumps into action. Sparkling like a twinkly star in a dark night, my Optimism Gene (TM) dashes round my subconscious mind, spreading its warm, happy glow, making everything feel safe and snuggly again.

Not that I don't occasionally get down and disheartened - sometimes I do (maybe when the O.G. is asleep or just far too snuggly for its own good). But it isn't long before my little happy gene snaps back into action and I'm all positive again.

Rain for 100 days? No worries, I can see a tiny patch of blue sky, so it can't last much longer. And even if it does, I love my big green anorak - and wellies are SO this season...

Unceremoniously dumped? Well, it's just making way for the next adonis who will arrive. Any moment now... Um..
*checks watch, whistles embarassedly*...
Well, even if there's a Handsome Prince Shortage (happens more often than you realise), I can get all those things done that you never get the chance to attend to when you have a "significant other". And I can have sole use of the remote control. Ooh, and I never have to worry about watching my cringingly-embarrassing DVD collection...

See? It's inescapable...

...But then, is that necessarily a BAD thing...?
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