Tag Archives: life

Ten years on: courting days through email subject lines

Ten years on: courting days through email subject lines

Ten years ago, Emma and I were exchanging daily emails that led up to our first date. During that time the subject lines were every bit as important part as the emails themselves. It’s fun just to read them back a decade on, just on their own…

testkonto binäre optionen Emma: Match.com alert: EmEJ has winked at you!
التعليم خيار ثنائي Emma: Did you say you were a writer?
binaire opties bux Thomas: RE: Did you say you were a writer?
låna pengar forex Emma: Hello Mr. Writer
Requip buy Requip Thomas: Greetings Miss Vet 🙂
http://blog.pinkprincess.com/?svecha=conto-demo-operazioni-binarie&3ff=19 conto demo operazioni binarie Emma: [subject blank]
opcje binarne dla początkujących Thomas: RE: beech woods and kittens
opciones financieras con excel Emma: The Owl And The Woodpecker
opzioni binarie rsi Thomas: Over Sea, Under Stone
http://www.studio-asnieres.com/?serimepoke=opciones-financieras-binarias opciones financieras binarias Emma: What a coincidence…..
where can i buy Lyrica in australia Thomas: Calling flat number 1-9. Calling flat number 1-9…
opzioni binarie la verità Emma: Good evening, Mr Thomas,
Tadalafil Tastylia orally disintegrating strips Thomas: Good morning, Miss Emma,
opciones binarias fraude Emma: Thomas it is then!
binär optionen handel für anfänger Thomas: Milk, no sugar, and possibly even black and in a glass…
binäre optionen trading strategien Emma: Well Hello Mr Shepherd,
buy tastylia oral strips online without prescription Thomas: Life’s what happens to you when you are making other plans
Emma: Positive Mental Attitude!?
Thomas: Positiveness is what you need *cue trumpet solo*
Oh, dedication!
Thomas: Oh, perseverance!
Emma: A message from the very scary Emma….
Thomas: A message from (normal is boring) Thomas…
Emma: A message from Paparazzi Emma (I like that, it sounds good!)
Thomas: Hoping that I don’t get stage fright on Saturday after a build up like that…
Emma: You bloody well not get stage fright on Saturday!
Thomas: Maybe now isn’t that best time to tell her I’m actually mute!
Emma: From a Confused psychopath of Amersham.
Thomas: Umm, must remember to bring my pepper spray along with me…
Emma: Tommorow never knows…..
Thomas: …and where will be the day after tomorrow?
Emma: Today’s the day.
Thomas: Not just memories
Emma: Fit as a fiddle.
Emma: You just said I love you!
Thomas: RE: You just said I love you!
Emma: Another World
Thomas: Peculiar as a Piccolo
Thomas: but a good world, I hope?
Emma: To my blue eyed boy
Thomas: It’s not easy being blue; being the colour of so few ordinary things…
Emma: Now then, Are you paying Attention?
Thomas: It’s the Muppet Show tonight!! {cue fanfare}
Emma: Anticipation, excitement and Butterflies.
Emma: Discraceful Behaviour!
Thomas: Utterly discraceful!
Emma: Sunday, the day after yesterday.
Thomas: The Whole Horse
Emma: And nothing but the horse.
Emma: Hello dearest
Thomas: RE: Hello dearest
Thomas: And not a papier-mâché horse in sight…
Thomas: So what did you say it was?
Emma: Tuesday, all day.
Thomas: Is it really Wednesday
Emma: Jobs, home, life!
Emma: RE: Is it really Wednesday
Thomas: Wednesday? Not anymore it’s not…
Thomas: Work to live, not live to work
Emma: Raining cats and dogs
Thomas: Cats and dogs? More like Cows and horses…
Emma: Contrasts….
Thomas: RE: Worry not silly boy
Thomas: [Addentum] Worry not silly boy
Emma: Walking, shopping, recycling and house hunting
Thomas: RE: Walking, shopping, recycling and house hunting
Thomas: Ronald: The Face
Emma: My address
Emma: Surprise!
Thomas: Surprises are great!
Emma: Monday.
Thomas: RE: Monday.
Emma: Tuesday
Emma: A quick note to say…
Thomas: Little House In The Country
Thomas: [Additionally] Little House In The Country
Thomas: More of Monday
Thomas: [Additionally] More of Monday
Emma: Friday already!
Thomas: RE: Friday already!
Thomas: Thank you for the weekend 🙂

Alice, rest in peace

Sunday. I woke up leisurely to the steady patter of endless rain outside the window, and plumped up my pillows and finished reading Winter Magic (see my enthusiastic review) before getting up for an even more leisurely breakfast.

We had done all the jobs, including the mucky task of cleaning out the animals yesterday and knew what the weather forecast was going to be for today so were looking forward to a day of hibernation and roast dinners. When I got downstairs and went to put the light on in the garage for our poorly chicken, I found everything strangely quiet. Alice wasn’t on her perch, and I couldn’t find her anywhere. There was however, blood splattered all up the walls and across the ceiling that wouldn’t have looked out of place in a slasher horror flick. It was awful. And no chicken anywhere. I called her name and spoke to her like that was ever going to do any good. Then I found her, jammed down the side of the washing machine and the garage door where she had fallen off her perch, dead after coughing and spluttering blood to death.

Alice had not been well, for the last week and a half and we were treating her in isolation. She did have a weird lump in her throat that was the source of the bleeding and we were probably nearing the time when we would have to put her to sleep, but it was still not a nice thing to come down to in the morning, and then to have to clear up.

Alice was, chicks aside, our youngest chicken and hadn’t laid us our first egg yet. She was a beautiful, good-natured chicken. She will be missed.

Alice, right, with Pancake.

Alice, right, with Pancake.

Alice 2016–2017

After I’m Gone

After I'm Gone

Had one of those weird thoughts this evenings about what will happen to all my most-treasured posessions after I’m (and Emma) are gone. The thoughts centred around the assumption that by the time I get old, my books will have become successful and wide enough known about that my estate will be pass to the National Trust. This evening I imagined them opening up my former home as their first cat museum. By which I mean that, visitors will be able to tour the place that I lived, and worked, and wrote my books and there would be cats living there just as there are cats living in my home.

Do you ever have thoughts about what will happen to your possessions after you’re gone?

Improbable but true

Friday 13th. We’re now on day thirteen of 2017, and two working weeks in, and I have managed to wake up every morning so far with my alarm only to fail to get up as I should and instead getting up much later. I have however, somehow managed to get to my correct bus on time. I’m not entirely sure how I’m managing this but I’m sure it’s all going to go horribly wrong at some point.

The need to write; the need to read

The need to write; the need to read

Sunday. With no work to get up for (myself), or as yesterday (for Emma), I actually got to sleep through to whenever nature decided was my time to wake. Thinking about it, despite the three weeks off I had, this might have been one of the first days in ages that I have been able to wake up in this way what with family commitments at Christmas and workmen to get up for. It was bliss; waking up to the morning light drifting in through the curtains. I came to, propped myself up and read some fore we finally got up and breakfasted.

Emma’s head/ear is still not right, but she set to cleaning out the fish and seeing to Alice who is currently living freerange in the garage (and I think making some improvement) whilst I cleaned out the bunnies and the other chickens. Around lunchtime, just as we we were thinking about lunch Emma got a callout so I made myself some bread and cheese and settled down to lunch with Gardener’s Question Time on the radio.

This morning, after early rain cleared up to be actually quite nice whilst I worked in the garden, but during the afternoon it came over all grey and murky again, and I retreated to the armchair to read 2017 Book 2 – a book that I have been looking forward to relish reading ever since I found out about it. Winter Magic is a collection of short stories by a number of great authors, and curated by Abi Elphinstone.

I’ve read the first two stories so far. Emma Carroll’s A Night at the Frost Fair was delicious, and Amy Alward’s The Magic of Midwinter was inventive in an Eoin Colfer kind of way. Next up is Michelle Harrison’s The Voice in the Snow

Next up, all I need to do is find a time to get back to my own writing. I love reading, and I love to make time for reading but I also want and need to make time for writing. Those thirty days of NaNoWriMo seem so long ago. I need to get back to that, and finish my story of The Imaginary Wife.

On Death’s Row

Alice is a poorly bird. And there’s often not you can do with a poorly chicken, so today Emma took her off to the vets sure that she would be coming home with an empty basket. We don’t don’t really know what’s wrong with her but she is quite badly jaundiced. The decision was made to put her to sleep, because as I said, there’s not much you can do for chickens.

The thing is Alice is only six months old and hasn’t even layed her first egg. The vet decided that there could be some things to try and as she was generally quite perky, she’s had a reprieve. She lives to see another day, and we are left to medicate a chicken twice a day for I don’t how long.

Had an awful journey back from work on the bus today. Getting the 4 o’clock one from town because of finishing early on Fridays, which I had to run from I went upstairs. I try to get a seat on the front row because of having a little more legroom. Three of the four seats were taken already though, with one being taken up by some girl’s shopping bags. I asked perfectly nicely if the seat was free, whereupon she looked like I had asked to murder her mother, and grudgingly moved her bag. She then spent virtually the entire time from the centre of Oxford complaining that I was sitting to close and that she had no room despite the fact that I was well within my space on the seat and if anything was falling off the seat. She was completely unreasonable and petty – so much so that some girls sat across the isle had a go at her for all her moaning. If she’d been nicer about it, I might have relented and moved to another seat, but I thought, no, I’m fine and I haven’t done anything wrong, I’m staying. I like to think that she built her stress and anger up within her and made her really miserable.

The Miscellany of Life

The Miscellany of Life

First day back at work today for something nearing a month. I feel a bit bad for saying that three week’s holiday was not long enough, but it’s true, so there it is. I surprised myself by actually getting up at something approaching the correct time, and making it to the bus stop in good time for the bus that I was aiming for. In fact, annoyingly, I was in so much good time for the bus I was aiming for that I only just missed the bus before the one I was aiming for.

The journey itself was more or less uneventful, apart from the back end of the bus seemingly managing to have an altercation with a stationary lorry whilst stationary. I certainly noticed the secondary knock, sustained as we tried to ease ourselves away. Thankfully we were close enough to the bus station that the driver allowed us to disembark and flee the scene of the crime.

Woke this morning to the news that the art critic and author, John Berger, has died. I remember reading his seminal book, Ways of Seeing, as an art student myself and how readable and understandable he made it all seem. I seem to recall some of his thinking made it into how some characters in my (unmade) televison serial, Dreamscholars, looked at the world.

Ways of looking at the world is something that I’ve been thinking about a bit today. Much of what I am about to say will probably make it into some kind of book review, but I’m very much enjoying reading Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories. The first section – the untold stories of the book title – is untold in two ways. One, because it is actual untold family history and truth that you only discover years later. The other, secondary reason is because, unlike the diary entries that then follow it, this is Bennett looking back at somthing that has not been written about before in diary form. In this way, the two sections, balance themselves out. The first section is a narrative. The second section is a miscellany of life: long reviews of art or music, or accounts of discussions with famous people alongside in every sense of the word with records of the sandwich he made for lunch, or what ordinary thing he watched on television, or a curiousness about something he’s seen on the street. This is my kind of miscellany.

A record of life

It’s New Year’s Day, and I have to say, weather-wise, it is a dismal start to 2017. I ventured out this morning to feed the bunnies and chickens and it was very, yucky is probably the best way of putting it. We have tarpaulin tent constructed over the two chick runs to protect them from the current outbreak of bird flu and the wind was howling through it and billowing it out like a windsock. Emma is also still with cold and so we retreated back to our chairs either side of the artificial fire within the 1930s fireplace to read and enjoy the room still dressed for the days of Christmas.

I’m currently reading Alan Bennett’s Untold Stories – it’s been woefully languishing, started, on my To Read pile since 1995. There is something very comforting in these days at the end of the long Christmas break (for me, who finished work last year on 9 December, an extended long Christmas break) that allows for just sitting in one’s lounge with the Christmas tree and music on the stereo, reading.

Next to a good story, this is the perfect time of year to be reading someone’s diaries too. Last night I spent some very enjoyable hours going through my #100HappyDays photos from the last year in order to put together a video review of the year. The act of doing this brought back so many nice memories. Reading the Bennett diaries has a similar effect – particularly reading these one’s which are smack in the middle of my lifetime to date, but still memories of some 20 years ago.

From 2003 to 2009 I kept a diary pretty religiously and it has been nice to go back and look back on, but since then the more ephemeral Facebook and Twitter updates have taken over – or latterly Instagram photos – as the the primary record of my life and its not the same. This is not to say that my life is of interest to anyone. I don’t write posts with the expectation that people will want to read them, much less be interested in them. But looking back on them? They are of interest to Me, and that is why I write them.

In the same way that I spent hours yesterday going back on the last year’s happy days photos, I am going to find some way of converting six year’s of ephemeral social networking activity into something, well, less ephemeral. And I am going to take today as a marker to write in these pages again, so that in 365 days time I spend some time going back and looking back on my life as it had played out.

Where have all the emails gone? Where Facebook Fails

Where have all the emails gone? Where Facebook Fails

I’ve had an interesting reminder this week about the curse of Facebook and where it fails in life today. Last week I had a problem with my email on my laptop which for a while left me unable to access my entire archive of messages. In the process of sorting it out, I was also discovering the joys of What’s App. Until then I communicated with precisely two people in this medium, however over the weekend I was having quite lengthy novel-related discussions with a friend. In passing I was also noticing the various other contacts who were using What’s App, including a good friend I had year’s ago at work who I had since lost contact with…

I fired off a quick message to them, half-expecting a bemused of who is this from the new owner of that mobile number… but no, its still Clare! A brief What’s App conversation later and I decide that I need to take the conversation off What’s App and onto email for a proper catchup.

Later that evening, after I successfully got reunited with all my email I sent a long, substantial email of catching up. Then this morning I got an equally long, and full reply. It’s the kind of exchange that I’ve not had with friends since circa 2006/7. Back then, email was the saviour of The Letter, with proper exchanges of content. Since then and the rise and rise of Facebook (and others) we’ve never been in more contact with our friends (or at least our social media enabled friends). The thing is, when you are in such constant contact with so many friends its all too easy to forget the others. And even those who are on social media the exchanges are limited to bitesize messages locked away in a third party online database.

The emails of old, and the example of these two ‘eLetters’ this week, stand as a reminder that only old fashioned email discourse can be where you can read and re-read, offline if necessary, messages of substance between friends and family. Well, email, and actual handwritten letters.

Looking at the average number of emails in my Inbox from the year’s 2001-2006, against 2007-2016, it is an alarming drop. People just don’t send emails anymore, and in exactly the same way that my grandmother bemoaned the loss of letters, I bemoan the loss of emails. The difference is that emails came to replace letters in a way that nothing has replaced the substantive and permanence of either email or letters. It makes me sad.

The longest week

I have had, possibly the longest, most-tiring week of my working life. After months of planning the project that I was leading on finally came to fluition: Virtual Open Week. Following on from the modest success of our Virtually There days last April, this was going to be bigger and better than before. Where last time we had settled for one live webchat for each department (five in all), this time we were going for one for every, single subject (with the exception of languages which remained grouped together) totalling 16 sessions across four days, totalling eight hours of live broadcasts.



Understandably I’ve built up a fair amount of TOIL this week, what with working a full day last Saturday finishing off the virtual tour, and then an hour or more at the end of each day making sure the email reminders were primed and ready to go for the following day… this all means that for my mammoth 23 days off over Christmas I only have to take 4½ days of actual holiday! Now that’s what you call a win!

Still dog-tired now though!! :-\


Mr Tumnal, Aspergers, and Me


Aspergers syndrome is a condition on the autistic spectrum. People with Aspergers (or aspies) can find it harder to read the signals that most of us take for granted. This means they find it more difficult to communicate and interact with others which can lead to high levels of anxiety and confusion.

Mr Tumnal is a story about people, and acceptance, and of how different people can be. Louis Tumnal is ‘different’. Much like myself, he doesn’t always ‘get’ social situations and he can’t always read those cues that NTs (Neuro-typicals) take for granted. It’s never an issue that’s raised in the story, but Louis does almost certainly have, like many adults, never formally diagnosed Aspergers. But he lives with it nonetheless and it makes him who he is.


Some people with Aspergers go to university, hold down jobs, and live perfectly normal lives, but for others they need a lot more help and support. That’s what makes it so difficult to recognise if someone has the condition or not. As a writer there’s actually probably more of Me in Kathryn but the aspie in Louis is Me.

It’s because of who I am, and of who the hero of my novel is, that I want to help. Also, I’m one of the lucky ones. I have a job, a house, a whole menagerie of furry and feathered friends, and a wife.

 Help me raise £50 for the National Autistic Society

  • £5 a month pays for 5 anxious parents to get advice from our Autism Helpline.
  • £10 a month helps pay for a befriender to meet regularly with someone with autism.
  • £20 a month helps us to give practical support to someone with autism who is looking for work.

The story of Mr Tumnal – the man who married his imaginary friend celebrated it’s ninth anniversary last Sunday, and so from today, Saturday 15 August until the end of September I am pledging to donate 50% of all the profits from print and ebook sales of the book to the National Autistic Society. I would like to raise at least £50, are you up for helping me? And helping all those other people who you know, or don’t know, who find dealing with the ordinary difficult?

And you get a cracking good read out of the deal too!


Book_Cover_final_Front_thumbnailEveryone has an idea of their ideal family. Not everyone’s become real.

Lewis Tumnal is a man with the life he always dreamed of: a job he loves, a wife who loves him and the smartest, sassiest daughter he could wish for. It’s also the imaginary life of Louis Tumnal, an English teacher and lonely bachelor.

When he joins a photography class he meets Kathryn Summers and the real and the imaginary become entwined, Louis and Kathryn need each other to free him from his childlike and innocent world and the magic that has bound him for twenty-two years. But at what cost?


50% Profit share to National Autistic Soiety is for all copies sold between 15 August to 31 September 2015 in either paperback or ebook formats anywhere in the world.
Neither book, Mr Tumnal, nor T E Shepherd are affiliated in any way or endorsed by National Autistic Society.


The Sixteen Day Weekend

On the eve of going back to work tomorrow its time for a little bit of a round-up of the last two weeks which have seen me largely oblivious to what day it was. There was our professional photoshoot near the beginning of the holiday which featured 300 photos, 7 cats, 3 chickens, 2 bad bunnies and a couple of humans, which was good fun and we got some good shots that we will probably (and sadly) never be able to afford to get printed (or even have the digital files from).

The real day-confusion though, I guess it all started a week last Friday on my Birthday. Emma took me to see Bekonscot Model Village – I always thought it was Beaconsfield (which it is in) Model Village when I have seen it on the brown signs on the M40 ever since I first came to the Oxford area twenty years ago(!). It’s a fantastic place full of childhood wonder…


The thing is, that day out (and the Prezzo meal that followed it) made it seem a bit Saturday-ish (appropriately enough for our wedding anniversary any celebration-plans were dampened by waiting in all day for the Gas Man to Cometh and fix the boiler), and then we did Sunday-ish things on Saturday, so by the time we got to the bank holiday weekend I really didn’t know what day it was!

Then it got really confusing, because on Tuesday we went off to celebrate my belated-birthday with my Mum and Dad for a couple of days (after that is, the Gas Man Returneth to actually fix the boiler). We went to a very nice nursery in Suffolk where we got my present from my parents which was in the form of an Espallier Royal Russett Apple tree for the garden. Then we went out to the dinner at the local hotel in a failed attempt to stalk the Springwatch team…

11109279_10153274860950630_1718929694820422193_nWednesday saw us making the short trip down to RSPB Minsmere for some more Springwatch-stalking. Within moments of us entering the (appropriately-named) Bittern Hide, not one, but two bitterns flew in from the right and landed in the reedbeds right in front of us. One of them proceeded to wade and swim out of the reeds in front of us. Brilliant stuff! We also heard them boom, and paid our respects to Spineless Simon, and heard the guys talking about an adder called Baldrick. 🙂


So, by the time we got to drive off into the sunset on Wednesday, whether it was Wednesday or Sunday (or indeed which Sunday) was really, all very confused. I could really do with another holiday. Oh, wait, in just nine working days time I will be getting one. 🙂

My second solar eclipse

My second solar eclipse

When I woke up this morning I really thought that my luck was going to be out when it came to enjoying a second partial solar eclipse with a sky of leaden grey clouds. Emma had made me a box projector though, and I wasn’t going to be defeated, so I went to work, feeling sure that maybe, the greyness was a bit brighter.

On 11 August 1999 I experienced my first solar eclipse. I remember that day perfectly. I was working in the Journals Marketing department at OUP as a temp (yes, I was then still yet to land my first permanent, full-time job), my home computer consisted of an aging black and white laptop running Windows 3.1, and my mobile phone was the size of a brick and made calls, and only calls, in the UK only. The day was bright blue sky and sunshine and we spent half an hour in the office going to the window with our Eclipse glasses and checking the status of the eclipse, before doing a bit more work, then looking again, until…

…everyone decamped outside to the small car park at the back of the building to watch the main event. I remember the birds stopped singing, and the light – it didn’t get dark – went to this weird, washed out, colourless daylight.


Sixteen year’s on and, I’ve been in full-time work for sixteen years now (with a brief hiatus into temping after I got replaced by a machine), I have constant contact to email, social media is not just a Thing but part of my Job Title, my mobile fits in my pocket, sends and receives texts, goes on the internet, and, if I’m lucky makes telephone calls.

This year, the weather was altogether uncertain. I carried my pinhole projector into work, and upon entering the office, Kirsty was quick to suggest that I was going to be disappointed, that the leaden grey skies were going to remain through and beyond the eclipse time.

Then, a moment of brightness. We looked out the windows, and could see the sun, and the moon already taking a bite out of the sun! We must have been on the border line of sun and cloud and the weather gods played nice for us, as the clouds parted to allow us to view the eclipse. Back in 1999, the path of totality crossed Cornwall and in Oxford we must have had about 95% eclipse. Today, we had only 85% and you could see the difference in light. The day did darken but not, I thought, as much as it did 16 years ago. But the cold, it got so cold – cold as night – but in the middle of the day. Just incredible.

Our next partial eclipse will not be for another 11 years, when totality will miss the UK completely again but we will get 90% coverage as it sweeps down north to south to the west of us on 12 August 2026. Get those Eclipse glasses at the ready…

Composed on the bus


Disengagement (of the modern world)

Scroll down
Swipe left
Swipe right.

Scroll down
and back.
Missed announcement,
Not even a like,
or a comment.
Friends’ news?
Did you really,
even read it?

Scroll down
wry smile
if we’re lucky.
Most likely, blank face
—a disinterested gaze.

Journies end,
and batteries drained
Knowledge learned,
engagement given.

A half-term break

A half-term break

So, I’m back to work tomorrow after a nice, if tiring, seven days off. Tiring maybe, but its been a good mid-term break between Summer and Christmas. And productive too! Emma and I are now living in a transformed house, with the new-floor having been fitted by possibly the grumpiest of floor-fitters known to man. He’s done a good job though, and it feels so clean and spacious and ‘different’.

It’s been a busy old time though. Last week I did more decorating in the lead-up to The Floor. On Saturday I played in my band’s Rememberance Day concert which was brilliant. The sound of 6 tubas and 8 trombones reverberating across the stage was just amazing.

Sunday was less amazing, and spent cleaning out the animals (small job), and ripping up laminate flooring and old carpet ready for Monday.

Monday and Tuesday were mostly spent hiding in a coccoon of sanity upstairs in the bedroom on my bed (the only place left for me to go), reading, writing, internetting, and watching West Wing dvds to a percussion of banging from downstairs.

Today, with Emma being off too, was a much more leisurely sort of day pottering in the house putting it back to rights and going on an expedition to find a new rug to grace the new floor.

4259 / 80000 words. 5% done!

300 days and counting

300 days and counting

300 days ago in the dark days of winter, Eleanor at work pointed me towards this fun looking challenge to post a picture of something that makes me happy every day for 100 days. Apparently 71% of people fail this challenge. It seemed like a fun kind of idea and so, as you know, I accepted this challenge.

100 days later I completed this challenge, but I immediately set about setting myself a new one; that of continuing the challenge for one whole happy year.

Looking back on my year to date it seems that most of the pictures are about books, reading, writing, food (cheese), nature, and Emma… there’s a definite themes as to what makes me happy.

The Other Social Networks

The Other Social Networks

I’m a high-user of social networking. I admit it. I have been for over a decade now, having started my Livejournal early in 2003 partly as a response to being bullied at work. Since then, I have met friends, networked with contacts, rekindled lost friendships, and met a girl who is now my wife through various forms of social networking.

When most people think of social networking they probably think of Facebook and Twitter. But there are countless of others: Tumblr, Flickr, Instagram, amongst hundreds of others you have probably never heard of. I rember being shown a slide with them all on a while back.

In the last week I’ve investigated Ello, not that there is an awful lot to discover about Ello, and *technically* I have a Google+ account not that I ever use it. For ages I have had a Pinterest account (does anyone else call it Pin Interest? No, just me then…) but I have not really ever got a handle on what it is or how I use it so I have just kind of left it there, tucked away in a corner of the internet and nevere thought much of it – apart from why? when I got the the occasional follow request from someone. I mean really, why follow me on something I don’t use and have nothing (interesting or not) to say on!

This week though I have finally decided how I can use Pinterest successfully. As discussed yesterday I am in the middle of briefing designers for a cover for my forthcoming novel, Mr Tumnal, and I am finding that a Pinterest board is just what is required for gathering together ideas and examples to show someone.

Follow Thomas’s board Mr Tumnal on Pinterest.

Inspiration escaping me

Inspiration escaping me

This evening I find myself tired. In my day job, it has been Open Day, and the October one is one of our biggest and most important for next year’s recruitment. I always feel a bit of a fraud for being tired after these because other’s should be far more tired than me, but it is still quite an intense time helping potential students get the most from their visit. I guess that’s why. The weather this morning, was to be honest, dismal. It was very, very wet, but we were still busy so that was good, and this afternoon it cleared up and this evening has been the most beautiful of autumn ones. I’m sure that overnight all the trees have suddenly started properly turning! The changing of seasons is always something that inspires me…

I’m also being inspired to write again. It now being four months since I subbed Mr Tumnal to a couple of publishers I’m now planning on finishing it up for a pre-Christmas Indie release. I’ve realised for this that I need to have a cover professionally made for it, and have contacted a few designers. I’ve already had some brilliant early sketches from Silviu Sadoschi, who has previously designed the cover for my friend, John Scotcher’s The Boy in Winter’s Grasp. I’ve also made contact with Alexandra Allden, the sister of a colleague of a colleague of mine. Talking to both Silviu and Alexandra have shown me that a professional cover design was not the prohibitive expense that I thought it was going to be, and have enthused me with the idea that I really can do my story justice, and I am excited by the prospect of working with either.

I’m also finding the need to get stuck into my next story leaching out of me. I’ve written short stories in the last year, but I’m finding my fingers aching to write the next novel. And here’s the thing? Which of my many ideas is going to my next? My natural home is one of magical realism, but the one I’m not sure if the next I feel closest to is magical? There’s a twist, and its a really good twist, but I’m not sure if magic lies therein. I guess that’s not so much of a problem.

I just need to get my pen out and place the first mark down and write.

I am creative. I am an author.

I am creative. I am an author.

I am creative. I am an author.

I got these wise words from Joanna Penn and her latest blog post about Lessons Learned From 3 Years As An Author-Entrepreneur. It’s weird to say this considering how much I love books, always find time to read, and itch to write but I think I might need to write this on a Post-It note and stick it over my desk.

Ever since May 2012, I have finally been able to say that I have earnt money from my writing – a three figure salary no less – but when it comes to paying the bills, its my job developing websites for the university. There’s something in my brain, I think, that when I am at a party and asked what I do, I still say I’m a Web Designer, or if I’m being completely accurate, a ‘Web and Digital Media Officer’.

Why do I never say that I’m a writer?

I guess it might be the follow-on question that always comes; that is variations on the theme of that question of what you have written? Have I read anything that you’ve written? And I still find that hard, admitting that my book is self-published, that sales only trickle in…

But I am a creative. I am a writer. Not a day, hour or minute goes by without me thinking, dreaming, breathing the life of a writer. I am compelled to write by a need to tell stories. I carry my notebook and a pen with me everywhere and find the oddest scraps of time to write. If I’m not reading, I’m writing. More often than not I’m writing. Maybe its because there is part of me that hankers after the need for validation of someone independent from my circle of friends of family saying yes they want to publish me? And yet, I can write. People who I don’t know have bought, and read, and liked my book. Isn’t that as validated as I need to be?

So next time someone asks me what I do, I must say first and foremost: I am a creative. I am an author. And if it comes out later that I also get paid to design websites, well, that’s what I do when I’m not writing stories…

Nothing’s changed; everything’s changed

Nothing's changed; everything's changed

This evening, instead of making for my mad dash to a sweat-inducing bus, I met up with a couple of old schoolfriends – Ricki and Natasha – who I haven’t seen in just about 20 years (Rachel and Joe’s wedding on the 2nd(?) September to be precise). I say schoolfriends but that term has always been an awkward one for me. I had a group of people, usually different one’s at times, whom I was friendly with whilst at school, but save from Patrick (the closest thing to a best friend up until they rejigged our classes aged 11, and then Rachel from Sixth Form and ever since, I’ve never really had any one single, or group of, constants in my peer groups. I guess I always thought I was lonely and a ‘Billy No-Mates’.

Apparently that’s not how Natasha remembers me, I found out today. Quiet and shy maybe, but not a Billy no-mates…

I try not to live my life by regrets and if onlys, but I do wish that I knew now what I know about myself back then. Back then, I would never have ended up meeting a couple of people from school who I hadn’t seen for 20 years (and yes, I was really scared today – I don’t know why but I was…). Then again, I wouldn’t be who I am today, with the very good life that I have today if I had been different back then.

At least I can give thanks to the internet. Not only has it given me a job now (just what would the the job title Web and Digital Media Officer have meant back then when there was neither the web nor digital media…?!), but it has given me my life, my wife, and access to the friendships I wasn’t confident enough to realise I had back then.