Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Kinky Boot Cllective

Just in case anyone out there is wondering where The Kinky Boot Collective has gone, I decided to take it down. The other blogger, Jules, has been unable to commit to keeping it going and I was struggling to keep it up along with my own blog, Shedward. Therefore I took the sad to decision to delete it. The good news is that I saved all my content from the KBC and have imported it to Shedward so if there’s something you were interested in, or were halfway through reading, fear not, it’s all here.

Check out my blog, Shedward, and all will become clear

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Posted by on September 24, 2012 in Uncategorized


On Being Inspired

A few years ago, whilst walking beside the river with my sister, I said, ‘I’ve had enough of moving around.  I think I could just stay here and put down some roots.’ Within a year I’d moved to Yorkshire – for love. Ah well, we all make mistakes.

I’m back now, though. And I finally made it to the local Literary Festival. Previously, I’ve either come to visit after it had finished or travelled back to Yorkshire before it started. I always managed to just miss it, but now, I’m a resident and this time I actually attended.

A couple of the writers I’d seen before at university but they’d be worth seeing again. And I would have seen them had I taken notice of the date and realised that the festival started on Friday. OK, so I missed a bit but Saturday saw me being thrown out of my sister’s car and told to go and enjoy myself. And I did. With my notebook and pen I sat in a marquee eating lunch and listening to a gypsy swing band. Around me eddied the well to do, middle class, retired folk that populate this area. Received pronunciation ebbed and flowed under the music and I tried to avoid eye contact with the band’s singer lest she saw my notebook and mistook me for the local press.

I couldn’t see any poverty-stricken, wannabe writers among the crowd who, like me, were unable to afford a second, exorbitantly priced, cup of coffee so I beat a retreat and left my table to the elderly couple who were eyeing up the empty chairs next to me. Out in the sunshine I amused myself by trying to divine who among the passersby might readers and who might be writers. A couple of middle-aged men with man bags intrigued me. Were there notebooks or reporter’s pads hiding in those bags? Sadly, I never found out but never mind, I was in a writerly place. I had bought a ticket to see a well-known author discuss her latest novel. All I had to do was breathe in and I would absorb literary inspiration.

I walked home to my village. Sister, kids and dog had gone to visit a friend and I was under no time pressure. Strolling along the beach to were our river meets the sea, I left the festival goers behind me and thought about the author I’d seen, about how she had entertained and inspired me, and about how every café in town was full. Coffee-less I turned up the river path and headed home. I got about ten yards when a park bench lured me to sit and dig out my notebook again. At last, my head was clear enough for me to commit to paper the opening lines of the short story I’ve built in my mind. Ignoring the walkers that eyed me curiously as they passed, I gazed at the view then began to write.

An Inspiring Sight

With my first two paragraphs down I moved on nodding and smiling at dog walkers and hikers and refreshing my soul in the green, in the bird song, in the light dancing on the water. By the time I got halfway home I was ready to stop again and scribble some more. This time, I sat longer. People passed and looked over at the middle-aged woman sitting on the fallen tree but none approached and that suited me fine. I was in my office and I was busy.

Beats a Desk and Chair

My new sense of tranquility came home with me. It followed me up the hill and right into the house where all was quiet. Everyone was out. There was no T.V or radio playing, no dog bouncing up and down like Zebedee on speed. Only the cats greeted me, and they did so silently. I hung my bag on its hook, tossed my notebook on my bed. I’d finished writing for now. My brain had received input, my heart was filled up – it was time to come back to the practical world. In the kitchen, I brought out the potato peeler. A nice veggie shepherd’s pie seemed like a good way to welcome the family when they came home.


Posted by on September 23, 2012 in Struggling Writers


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Pins and Needles

A couple of days ago I gave myself a talking to. As you might guess, writing was uppermost in this tirade. All I have managed since finishing my dissertation is what you see before you – my blog. I have sent out about four stories and I plan to send more but I haven’t created anything new. This is not good.

Anyway, an idea was rolling around in the back of my head and, as I lay me down to sleep, I mulled it over. Hours passed, the church clock ding-donged the time (at five past the hour. That clock needs winding …) and my story idea refused to germinate. It was too weak, I needed to leave it in a darkened room in my mind until I could find a way to graft it on to another idea and strengthen it. Frustrated, I fell asleep.

The following night I cracked open the door of the darkened room. No joy. Maybe it’s a stupid idea anyway! I huffed into bed, turned off the light, pressed my sulky face to the pillow and— aha! New ideas. Two new ideas for a short story.

I haven’t started writing yet but I’m feeling a mix of anticipation and anxiety. It’s similar to the feeling you get when a limb comes back to life after being asleep.

Eeeeeeeeeeee! Maybe my inner storyteller is waking up.

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Posted by on September 22, 2012 in Struggling Writers


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It’s All In The Wrist Action

‘Hard-a-port, hard-a-starboard, d’you know where you’re going, Lol?’

Many years ago, when I was 2nd Mate of the M.V Greenpeace two of my crewmates would burst into the wheelhouse with this question every lunchtime. They’d grab the ship’s wheel spin it back and forth while spewing mickey-taking questions and one-liners at me until they went back to work twenty minutes later. I laughed so much that tears blinded me – not an advantage when you’re keeping a lookout – but it was the high point of my afternoon watches.

I should point out that the ship was on auto-pilot then so turning the wheel made no difference to her course. Just as well, or we’d have carved an interesting zig-zag across the oceans and terrified any other shipping (shipping that was already alarmed by an elderly green tug with rainbows painted on it).

The ship I’m on now doesn’t have an auto-pilot, she has sailors to steer her – and me. I’ve sailed as Chief Officer on this fine vessel several times over the years but, this time, I’m Additional Chief Officer. In other words, a spare part. I fill in the gaps where there isn’t enough Captain or regular Chief Officer to go around. One of my functions is Quartermaster. When the ship is coming alongside a pier/quay, I take over the wheel so that the sailor can go and get his ropes ready for mooring operations etc. I’ve done this a lot in the last couple of years and as we can go alongside more than half a dozen times a day, I get a lot of practice. And I’ve got the biceps to prove it.

All qualified deck department sailors, from deck hands to Captain, must have a Steering Certificate to prove that they can do the job. Steering a ship is utterly unlike steering a car, and there are strict rules about it. When the officer of the watch (Captain or a Mate) gives a helm order, the helmsman (or helmsperson) must repeat it back. When the ship is on the course, the sailor must say so. For example, if the ship is on a compass course, the Captain might say, ‘Steer two-seven-zero.’ The helmsman will answer, ‘ two-seven-zero.’ And then when he’s brought the ship onto the course, he’ll again say ‘ two-seven-zero.’ All very clear and precise, isn’t it?

Now picture the scene, a small ship full of passengers is heading in towards a pier on the Bristol Channel. Out on the wing of the bridge, the Captain is gauging the vessel’s angle of approach and controlling her speed via shiny brass engine room telegraphs. In the bridge, I’m keeping the ship on course and listening for further helm orders shouted to me from outside.

‘Starboard ten,’ the Captain calls.

‘Starboard ten,’ I reply and turn the wheel until ten degrees of rudder angle shows on the indicator. ‘Starboard ten,’ I repeat when I’m there.

‘Thank you. Can you see that blue lorry on the quay?’

I peer over the bow at the land. ‘Yes,’ I answer.

‘Good oh. Steer for that, then. Unless it starts moving.’

‘Aye, aye. Steer for the blue lorry unless it moves.’

Interestingly, there is a bloody great mast in front of the bridge windows. This means that when you’re steering for a fixed point ashore (a church, a light or a blue lorry), you can’t actually see it because it’s hidden by the mast. This ship likes to hug the wind. If the wind is coming across from starboard, she’ll constantly fall off course to starboard and you can see whatever you’re aiming at appearing from behind the mast to port. You can’t take your eyes off the mast, and where the mast is pointing, for a second. As soon as any part of the blue lorry becomes visible to port, you have to whack on some port wheel to counteract the swing. How much wheel and how long you keep it on for depends on several factors – wind, tide, speed of the ship. It is really difficult to explain. It becomes instinctive, the how, when and how much of steering. Perhaps it is all in the wrist action.

As we get closer to the quay, the helm orders get bigger.

‘Port ten,’ is ordered. I swing the wheel over. The ship begins creeping to port. The swing speeds up, the rudder angle is still ten degrees to port and then I’ll hear, ‘Midships and steady.’ Hah! Not only have I got to take off the ten degrees of port but I have to spin over to ten or fifteen or maybe even twenty degrees of starboard rudder to stop the swing. And you can guarantee that, just as I get to starboard twenty, I’ll hear, ‘Hard-a-port.’ This ship is no lightweight, she is heavy to steer. Believe me when I tell you it’s a full body workout!

I did get told off recently. We were coming in to a pier one evening and the Captain said, ‘steady on that funny-shaped tree where the hill goes like that,’ he waved his hand to indicate the dip in the hillside. I spun the wheel to bring the ship round.

‘Oi,’ said my Captain. ‘You’re supposed to repeat it back to me.’

‘Sorry,’ I laughed. ‘Steady on the funny-shaped tree where the hill goes like that.’ I waved my hand to indicate the dip in the hillside. The Captain couldn’t see, he had his back to me but he seemed satisfied.

Last year the BBC’s One Show came to film our ship. In the days leading up to that event, a bigwig from the office was aboard. He spent a lot of time in the bridge and hung around while we were bringing the vessel into and out of port. Unfortunately for him, that was also the time we’d recently watched the Cruel Sea.

‘I say Number One,’ the Captain would ask. ‘Do you see that bally great chimney over there?’

‘Yes, sir,’ I’d reply in my best clipped wartime accent. ‘The bally great chimney on the port bow?’

‘That’s the one. Steady on that.’

‘Steady on the bally great chimney. You do know there are survivors in the water over there don’t you, sir.’

‘Yes, Number One, but there’s a ruddy U-boat underneath ’em.’

‘Aye, aye Captain. I’m steady on the chimney now, sir. God help the poor chaps in the water …’

‘You won’t talk like this when they’re filming, will you?’ The bigwig broke into our seafaring fantasy with a look of horror on his face. ‘Please don’t talk like this when the BBC come aboard. Please?’

No sense of humour some people. Still, we didn’t keep it up when the cameras where around, we didn’t want to face charges of brining paddle-steaming into disrepute. But the minute the film crew left …


Posted by on September 17, 2012 in Shedward Seawards


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Coming Back to Life

It’s been so long since I managed more than a shopping list that I’m surprised I’m able to string more than two words together. But, here I am, late at night reaching out into the blog-o-sphere via the ouija board of my laptop. My inner writer isn’t dead after all! And, what’s more, I submitted two stories yesterday. They aren’t new pieces, I wrote one about seven years ago and the other two years ago but it was so nice to have something that fitted with what the magazine was looking for. Normally I look at their call for submissions and think ‘Pants, I’ve got nothing suitable.’
The magazine in question (no, I’m not saying which one – I’m not tempting fate …) is a quarterly and so there’s plenty of time to put something down on paper but you’d be surprised at how long it takes to write and then polish work before it’s ready to send out. And even then, I might think it’s ready to see the light of day but not everyone agrees. Still, it’s all part of the process. I’d better get on and bump up the word count on my fledgling novel while I wait for the rejections to come in.


Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Struggling Writers


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