Category Archives: Braving Madness

One Stitch at a Time

This week, thanks to my mum, I’ve been indulging in a bit of quilting. I enjoy quilting but recently I’ve struggled to find the energy to get on with a quilt I started for my eldest daughter over a year ago. My mum came over this week and kindly made me a little box up of all the quilting essentials; reels of cotton, thimbles, pins and scissors. She dug through my quilting fabric stash and cut out little pieces so that I could just collapse in an evening and pick up a bit of sewing.

And I’d forgotton how much I enjoy quilting. I really do. It somehow feels so well… historical. Like each stitch ties me closer to all my quilting ancestors. I’m not putting it very well, but whenever I sit down to doing some handsewing I can’t help thinking of how long people have been doing the same thing.

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Here are all the blocks I’ve done so far on Ellie’s quilt.
The row of snails are my favourite.

My mum taught me to quilt, although I tend to actually quilt in a more relaxed (read lazy or haphazard) way without the complications of freezer papers, rotary cutters and rulers, but most importantly she taught me to appreciate quilts and the effort that goes into them. I still have the first quilt she made me, a quilt that each day my children either make a den with, or pretend to go to sleep under, and I often curl up under in an evening.

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This is one of my many quilts that my mum has sewn for me. This one is an album quilt and contains things that have been important to me along with quilting, from tailors dummies, planets (from when I worked in the space industry), shoes and teacups.

Writing wise, I am still scribbling away despite the bags under my eyes through lack of sleep. Here’s a snippet from Braving Madness, fabric orientated…

She unfastened the cord of the reticule Wilkins had given her; a bag left behind by some unknown woman, a whimsical concoction of pale blue silk, printed with blushing roses and edged in peach ribbon.

She should have kept her own sturdy bag, taupe never showed stains when travelling. This was also far too small; there had barely been enough room for her notebook. Obviously fashionable ladies thought nothing of function when they were selecting their frivolous trimmings, a fact that didn’t promise well for the spare clothes Wilkins had packed.


Losing my Chauffeur

My chauffeur driven days are coming to an end. The twins are now six weeks old (doesn’t time fly!) so I am now officially classed as safe to drive. I’m not entirely certain that any sleep-deprived-mother with four small children/babies strapped in the back is ever really safe to drive but I’m a willing to give it a shot. Any moaning from the rear seats and I just turn the music up, right? 🙂

But it is an end of an era. What with having these last six weeks and about 7 weeks before then when I was too damn big to fit behind the wheel, I’ve been chauffeured about by either my husband or my dad forever. And I must say, it’s been rather nice, quite like the lady of the manor. Admittedly the seats aren’t upholstered in velvet, are always forward facing, and no hot bricks have been placed under my feet but I have just climbed on board (at various points in time this has constituted a task of monumental proportions), pointed the way and snuggled down to watch the world go by.
But as of monday, I, yes little old me, am responsible for the nursery trips again. I am responsible for getting two six week olds, a two year old and a four year old, in and out of the car, into the pram, to the nursery and back home again, TWICE a day. Gosh. I’m not up to getting the big pram in and out of the car yet, so I’m stuck with a double buggy, which means I will be holding two little people’s hands while pushing said pram. Fun fun fun.

I’m sure it will be fine. What can go wrong after all? Anyway best get on with my day considering it is getting on and I am sat in my dressing gown eating cereal out of the box with only vague thoughts about getting a shower…

Here’s a snippet from this week. I’m still rewriting Braving Madness and this is from the first chapter…

Even at the edge of awakening, the nightmare refused to release its hold. All of Edward’s doubts and fears multiplied in the darkness of his mind until the terror grew beyond reason. Gaunt to the point of cadaverous, with skin like paper, his late father’s form swam before Edward’s eyes, only to be crowded by the familiar faces of the Carrington estate. From the defenceless newly born to their weary elders, each pair of eyes looked to him for security, confident he wouldn’t shirk his responsibility; that no gentleman would put aside every rule instilled into him from the cradle through his own fears for the future.

2013-05-17 08.53.18This is my other mode of transport. My ‘big guns’ pram. You can just feel the burn, can’t you.

More and more nappies…

As you can imagine my life at the minute mainly consists of adjusting to having an extra couple of mouths to feed and bums to wipe. It feels rather odd to be responsible for quite so many little people especially when I ended up being incapable of very much at all (other than waddling) for the last two months of my pregnancy. Four, four years and under. What was I thinking????2013-05-07 17.12.00

 

(Yeah the school run is going to be a piece of piss...)

But I am enjoying it, and surprisingly, even with twins, the new additions are fitting well into our everyday routines. My older two love the babies and help out when they can. All of which means that I am actually getting on with other things. This morning I was even thinking about putting the second coat of paint on the dining room walls. Obviously this was just a fleeting thought though and I have no intention of actually hunting out a brush. But the thought is a good step in the right direction.

The garden has also been calling out for attention, with some rather cheeky buttercups deciding to take over the middle of my flower beds. Considering I haven’t gardened in about six months, I am surprising there hasn’t been a complete takeover by the dreaded weeds. So this weekend, weather permitting, I am hoping to get out there and show them who is boss. I also with an eye to the approaching summer holidays, I have plans of building a climbing frame for the girls. Alright, I have plans for supervising the building of a climbing frame for the girls. 😉 See, I’m trying to have realistic aims. I will need to move a few plants to make space and I think that is probably about my level. I shalln’t be digging out the power tools just yet…

Anyway, I have actually managed to get some writing done this week so here is a snippet to share. This is from Braving Madness and is in Edward’s POV. This is a new start to the story and forms part of Betty and Edward’s first meeting.

The dream shattered and he jerked awake into darkness.

His face lay shrouded and with fragments of the nightmare splintering his common sense, he clawed at the fabric with frantic fingers, the heat from his own breath reflecting back at him with a suffocating closeness. He flung the object to the side and he gulped in clear, fresh air like a drowning man.

Fresh air?

He blinked his eyes open into a pearl grey sky, the view unfettered by glass or window frames. Recumbent as he was, on a surface hard enough to be a park bench, the whole hemisphere of the heavens were open to him, skeletal trees on the horizons grasping upwards with desperate gnarled branches while ink smudged clouds tore along the backdrop like breaking water, turbulent and heavy with the threat of rain, their undersides glowing a fiery red as if they had were escaping from the depths of hell itself.


And then there were six!

Finally, the twins are here. They arrived two and half weeks ago, full term and each a healthy six and half pounds.

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James William is on the left, and his sister Lily Ann is on the right. Colour coordinated by dummies but they do actually look quite different, so I’ve yet to have revert to checking nappies for who is who. (Although I did confuse the health visitor by putting James in pink and Lily in blue, she just gave me a look like I was mad. What can I say? I dressed them at night and to be honest fashion wasn’t rated anywhere nearly so high as trying to get some sleep.)

As you might have guessed my writing has somewhat fallen along the wayside these last couple of months. First through lack of sleep, my immense proportions and difficulty in balancing the laptop anywhere I could actually reach, and lately due to only getting a few hours of sleep each night. But happily things are starting to settle down and I am currently only up for a couple of hours each night so the creative juices have started to flow (makes a change from milk being everywhere. You would not believe how much milk I am having to produce to feed two hungry babies! I’ve had to dig out my over-the-shoulder-boulder-holder-bras.) So far I’ve managed to write about 700 words. Not a huge amount but it is a start. I’m working on a new beginning to Braving Madness as although I’m pleased with the second half of the book, the first half still needs a fair bit of work, so I’m giving myself license to play with it for the next few weeks.

Oh and just in case you fancy a laugh, this is how big I got just before going into the hospital…

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Finished

I don’t normally write posts about writing.

I figure I waffle on enough about writing to family and friends that I don’t really have any reason to bore you guys about it. Instead I waffle on about a range of other sometimes boring topics. But today I feel like I have sufficient reason to bend my own rules.

The book I have been working on for the last EIGHTEEN months is finally finished. Well, the first draft at least. I was beginning to think it would never happen. Admittedly I did somewhat slow the pace down by throwing the whole thing in the bin at 60,000 words but finally it is finished at a whopping 110500 words. In fact about 15,000 words longer than I wanted it to be.

But it is done. Printed out, (with steadily fading ink) and bound in a folder just a teeny bit too small for it so the pages all keep falling out. An unfortunate circumstance considering I forgot to put page numbers on. Oops. So now I am in editing mode, chiefly with my red pen handy for cutting that odd 15,000 words.

And I get to start a new story. Lovely lovely lovely. I’m 1500 words into ‘Held in the balance’ and I am loving it already.

So chocolate cake at the ready, here is a snippet from the epilogue to kick start the celebrations.

“I think now would be a good idea to take that constitutional walk of yours,” Edward said in a hushed undertone to wife. Considering the impressive lung capacity of their new grandson and the frequency he felt compelled to use them to their full extent, Edward could have bellowed the words to Betty and the rest of the company would have been none the wiser.

Leaving his son-in-law with his arms full of squalling baby and a comic look of dismay on his face, the pair of them crept from the overheated room even as the formidable nurse clad in a heavily starched uniform strode towards the infant with her arms outstretched and a disapproving look on her face.

Arm in arm, they hurried down the corridor like naughty children escaped from the nursery, gathering cloaks and shawls as they went from a sympathetic footman. Outside dusk was already approaching and the long shadows of grand oaks stretched out onto the lawn in front of Carrington house, and fiery leaves tumbled and swirled along the gravelled path and crunched beneath Betty’s sturdy boots.

Twenty years and he still hadn’t persuaded her into the lures of dainty footwear despite numerous pricey gifts, all outrageously boxed items with lengths of silk ribbons and mounds of the finest tissue paper. Not that he’d spent twenty years continually concerned about her feet; nine boisterous children and now an equally boisterous grandchild had a habit of forcing all but the most urgent matters from a man’s mind.


Off to Nursery

My little girl started nursery this week. I’ve been so nervous about it despite telling myself over and over that it will be good for her and she’ll really enjoy it. Those reassurances did nothing to stop my tummy turning into a swirling whirling mess.

And of course, she was absolutely fine. True, they did need to prise her off me when I left and she might have been crying and screaming ‘noooooooooo, mummy I need you’, and then apparently hid under a table crying for an hour. But when Nancy and I went to pick her up she was bubbling over with all the exciting things she’d done and played with. Even the fact she’d cried under the table. And on her second day, she raced off with barely a backwards glance.

So my life is changing again, no more just doing what we want, when we want. Now I need to join the masses and do the merry little commute to school twice a day and wait with all the other parents, rain, wind and shine, as all the little people come out looking ever so cute in their oversized uniforms.

On the upside, I do get to come home and put my littlest one down for her nap and then well, I can have a nap as well. I’d almost forgotten what naps are like. I definitely recommend them.

Now not surprisingly, I’ve struggled to find a link to a nursery in my WIP so I’ve had to go for a weak sleeping link. Never mind, I still like this little exchange. Betty and Edward are standing outside the entrance to a public house about to enter and Edward is in a mood for seduction.

“I only meant that this isn’t the kind of place where you should be seen without a maid.”  Despite his outward concern for proprieties, his fingers didn’t stop their caress on the smooth skin of her wrist, neither did he move his gaze, instead he drank in the details of her face until they burned into his mind and he would be able to see her with his eyes shut.

He probably would have anyway when he tried to sleep. When it came to getting a sound night’s rest, he just knew she would be worse than eating cheese before bed time. 

Betty stared back at him without blinking. “What are those men likely to do? Try and kiss me senseless? I would imagine they would be more than happy to leave that to you.”

If only.

“Besides my makeshift maid is already here,” Betty said, blissfully unaware of his thoughts, “And anyway, I’ve stayed in coaching inns before. This hardly seems a den of iniquity.”

Releasing her hand, he knocked his beaver hat into a rakish angle. He couldn’t help himself; it was too good an opportunity. “That’s because I have yet to enter the premises.”


A very lazy Tuesday…

I’m afraid I’m going to cheat again this week. I have a stonking headache and when I’ve got a headache the ability to write completely deserts me. So instead of me rambling on about what’s gone on in my week, I’m just going to post a double length snippet.

Below is an extract from Braving Madness where Edward has just confessed to having attended sixteen seasons.

“Would you believe I was looking for a wife?” Or more accurately looking for girls suitable to be his wife and then neatly avoiding them.

“For sixteen years?” Her delicate eyebrows nearly rose off her face. “Does it take that long to find a wife?”

“I told you before; it’s not an easy to find the right bride.” And since his father had died, the right bride mattered. He’d had no intention of marrying someone he could hurt.

“Most girls are expected to make a match by the end of their first season.”

“Are you saying that I’m ‘on the shelf’?”

A smile danced over Betty’s face. “That or you’ve been paying attendance to the wrong type of ladies.”

“And what do you mean by that?”

Despite the colour flaring in her cheeks, Betty lifted her chin defiantly, nothing like the insipid mice that swarmed the fashionable ballrooms in gowns of pale silk. “Merely that if a lady already has a husband she is unlikely to be looking for another.”

Edward managed to swallow his laugh. “I think that depends very much on the health of the first husband and the bank balance of the next intended victim.”

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Images as Windows into the Past

This week has been a bit of a photography week for me. I go through phases with taking photos. Sometimes all you can really be bothered with is a snapshot, nothing fancy, no poses, usually awful light, but hopefully you capture the instance, first steps or your little ones wearing a bucket on their head. Other times I get it right. I think about the composition, about the lighting and I take a zillion photos and just one will be perfect.

But when I look back over my albums, I don’t really mind which style the photo was taken in. I imagine other people prefer the pretty pictures but at the end of the day if my little girls are in shot then the magic is there and my memory of that moment is strengthened.

And it got me thinking about how much I rely on photos to bolster my memories and what it would be like not to have them. After all relatively speaking photography hasn’t been around that long and for a reasonable portion of that, photos would have been very formal occasions.

These two photos are of my relations on the day of their engagement. They had gone for a picture together but the photographer was shocked by the idea (or could see an opportunity for making more money) of an unmarried couple having their photograph taken together. See I come from a scandalous background.

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But before photography was about, people would have had to rely on a painting or drawing to capture a loved one’s image. And if you’ve ever tried to draw a picture of someone you will know how difficult this can be. Our brains are programmed/designed to recognise faces. Just one tiny mistake and we can spot it. So if you wanted a good likeness you would have had to pay good money and most people aren’t going to do that very often. So you might end up with only a handful of decent images of a person over their lifetime.

I took a dozen photos of my girls yesterday. I can’t imagine being restricted like that.

But then again, one of the strongest mental images I have of my first born daughter is in the operating theatre where she was born. And there were no cameras there, so I know for sure I’m not confusing the original memory with the subsequent memories of frozen moments on film. And somehow knowing that makes that very special moment even more special.

The snippet below captures a moment between Edward and his prospective father-in-law Lord Lumley, Earl of Scarborough along with a painting of his late wife.

“Betty?” The Earl snorted into his drink sending ripples across the surface. Not enough to spill any though. “Name’s Elizabeth, named her after her mother. Always thought it was a beautiful name. She should be proud to have a name like that.”

Finally those two words back on the bridge made sense. Not Elizabeth. Not her mother. “I think Betty suits her. And perhaps she doesn’t care for the daily reminder of her mother, of your combined loss.”

“Reminder?” Incredulity raised the Earl’s eyebrows, disbelief brightening his tired eyes. Clearly, he was in no need of reminders, to forget was unthinkable. He lifted his arm, his glass already empty, and pointed at the painting above the mantelpiece. “That’s my wife up there. Betty’s the spitting image of her.”

Betty’s likeness stared back at him. She stood at the base of a sweeping staircase, her hand gracing the newel post, her head turned back as if someone had called her name. Sunlight caught the same auburn hair, the shimmering strands pulled back from her face, twisted into a Grecian knot. A single coil draped over one bare shoulder, the skin the same innocent porcelain, the skilful artistry managing to capture the inviting softness.  

“I want to marry her.” He breathed the words without thinking. So much for presenting a good front, he was practically salivating at the poor man’s dead wife.


A Romantic Getaway Complete with Small Children…

 

 

Last week was my ninth wedding anniversary. Nine long years. Am I allowed to say long? Nine years, feels like longer. My granddad used to say that every year to my grandmother and they were married for over 60 years, so that can’t be a bad sign.

As a reward to reaching an anniversary of such epic proportions, by today’s standards at least, we decided to go away for a romantic weekend. To Cleethorpes. With my two little girls.

For those of you who don’t recognise the name as the popular haunts of lover’s getaways, Cleethorpes is a family seaside resort on the east coast of England, high on sand, ice-cream and chips, low on peace and quiet.

I think we would have managed a bit better if Nancy hadn’t managed to climb out of her cot. She’s never done it before, but obviously she sensed her company would really be appreciated every few minutes, and that in the absence of crooning ballads, she should do her best by screaming her head off at every available opportunity.

Oh well.

A good time was had by all. Sandcastles were made and stomped on by eager feet, ice-creams were eaten with abandonment, and enough chips were scoffed that by Sunday evening no-one could actually face eating another meal.

In the extract below, Betty and Edward show they have a much more intimate evening ahead of them.

Edward’s gaze dropped deliberately, sweeping downwards before lifting to meet hers again. “Of course not; rakes are rarely shocked or overexcited.”

There was a trace of a quiver in his cheek muscles, so faint she nearly missed it, but it had definitely been a quiver. He was keeping himself under tight control. She lowered her gaze a couple of inches, following the hard line of his jaw. If only she could slip her fingers against the snowy folds of his cravat, feel the heat of his skin and know if the beat of his pulse was accelerating as rapidly as hers.

She deliberately looked down the length of his body, copying Edward’s own recent behaviour; past the draping lines of his great cloak, from one coat button to the next, the pale horn a burnished bronze in the warm firelight until she reached his unmentionables.

She shouldn’t be staring. No real lady would. But if he could look then why shouldn’t she? She remembered the quiver in his cheek. Brazen and confident, she was the one in control.  

She looked back up. He was watching her. Chestnut strands threaded his iris, whispering of the warmth of an autumn sunset.

“Then the evidence of my own eyes, Lord Carrington, proves you are quite definitely not a rake.”

Edward choked.


Physics and Star Dust

I have a Masters in Physics. Not everyone can say that. Few people want to. Physics tends to be one of those dreaded subjects, right up there with English Grammar and Mental Arithmetic, or if you were a geek like me, Physical Education (or PE for all those Brits out there). Announcing you like Physics is the same as telling the world you have a highly infectious skin disease.

But I can’t say Physics has ever intimidated me. Physics is just a way of describing how the world works.

Or trying to at the very least.

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From sub-atomic particles to the rules governing the macroscopic universe, there is a beautiful simplicity even if it doesn’t always seem that way. The language is elegant. It can be made to yield incredible results and be understood across the world.

In the extract below, Betty shows even when she’s feeling miserable there is still a little bit of scientist lurking beneath.

Betty sat on the terrace ledge and stared at the stars. Behind her, the ballroom still heaved with bodies despite the hour being past one.

The sky loomed overhead. The Great Bear lazily circled the North Star, the belt of Orion dipping below the bank of trees, all the same stars that had watched over her father’s house.

A few days ago she’d found reassurance beneath their gaze but since she’d met Edward… Her body clenched as the image of him flashed in her mind, whirling in the waltz, his coat soft against her cheek, the steady beat of his heart beneath.

She blinked into the darkness. No comfort to find now, only a vast emptiness.