Would you rather…


A guinea pig.  Apparently, if I was an animal I would be a guinea pig – according to my daughter.  This was apropos of nothing in particular; we hadn’t been talking about animals, no-one had set a challenge or posed a question: she just came out with it.  Admittedly I was crunching a piece of celery at the time and she did qualify her statement with the fact that guinea pigs like raw veg (and her cousin’s piggy particularly likes celery leaves), but even so: when you picture yourself as an animal – and who hasn’t? – doesn’t it tend to be something faster, sleeker; more, I don’t know, wild?  But no, a guinea pig.  Thanks.  

It brought to mind John Burningham’s classic, ‘Would you rather…?’  Would I rather be a guinea pig crunching celery or a gazelle munching grass or a camel chewing in the desert.  Would I rather that she thought of me as a gazelle or a guinea pig?  I can see a picture book character emerging from this!



Chalkface Challenge runner up!

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Thrilled to have been chosen as a runner up by the discerning children of Sparsholt Primary! Huge thanks to everyone involved.


Chalkface Challenge Submission: Hunting Fernando

Here it is, my submission for SCBWI’s wonderful Chalkface Challenge. How can you resist the opportunity for your potential readers – yes, real children – to read your work?  With thanks to Da Inbetweeners, the best critique group on the www.


Hunting Fernando

“Have you got them?”

“I’ve got them. Five packs.” Joel spread them out in his hand like cards. Actually they were cards but not with Kings and Jacks. No, these were Footie Faves Trading Cards. “Yes, I’m certain. Amongst this little lot will, without doubt, be the big one. Fernando himself.”

“He’d better be otherwise that’s another £2.50 down the drain,” said Fred. “Bringing the total to £57.”
“Thanks for the helpful reminder.”
“What’s going on here, children?” interrupted a jubilant voice. They looked up to see
Mr Hawksworthy hovering, his balding head glinting in the early morning sun. Joel quickly pocketed the crinkly packs but not fast enough for the beady eyes of the playground hawk. “Trading cards? They are banned at school, as you very well know. Hand them over.”
“But Sir, we…”
“No but’s. Hand them over now.” He stood back, the aroma of freshly sprayed pine deodorant wafting along his outstretched arm. Joel fished out the cards and surrendered them.
“Four packs: what a waste of money. Don’t let me see you with cards at school again, this is your last warning. IS THAT CLEAR?”
“Yes, Sir,” Joel and Fred chorused reluctantly. The bell rang and they trudged towards their classroom.

“You’re taking a bit of a risk aren’t you? Why didn’t you give him all five?” asked Fred.
“Risk is my middle name,” said Joel.
“Let’s open the pack then,” said Fred later, at Joel’s house. “Would you like the honour?” asked Joel.
“No, I’m crossing all my fingers.” Joel carefully ripped open the packet and gingerly pulled out the glossy photo cards,laying them out on the table.
“Right. Let’s see. 1: rubbish, 2: terrible, 3: boring. 4, 5, 6. There they all are…” “…and not one single rare or vaguely interesting card,” said Fred. “It’s just ridiculous!” Joel shouted, flinging the cards everywhere. “All that money
spent and still the collection isn’t complete. I bet no one has got the full set anywhere in the country…”
“..in Europe, in the World!” said Fred, circling his arms. “We have to do something about this.”
“OK, I’ll pick some more cards up on my way home,” said Fred.
“No. No more buying cards. The card companies are robbing us. We have to do
something so that kids like us don’t get sucked into buying more and more cards and never completing the set.”
“OK, OK; but one tiny, tiny thought? What on earth can we do?”
“What we need,” said Joel, “is, like, a website where you advertise what cards you want and what you’ll pay in other cards.”
“Excellent; a card swap site to track him down? It would be known in every playground at every school in the country.”
“Fred, we are going to get that last card. Someone out there must have Fernando and we’re going to find him even if we have to build the website ourselves.”


NaNoWriMo and PiBoldMo?  I am setting myself up for some crazy month.



Les mots du jour

Yes, it’s been a while since I blogged but this one’s been brewing for a while.  Or is it festering?

I love words but there are some which are currently so overused that I can stand it no longer.  Shields up for spleen venting.

Luxe – this is the faux leopard skin moment for ‘luxe’.  Is this a real word?  I checked.  It was not listed in the big name dictionaries but freedictionary.com gave a definition which actually warmed me to the word a little more: ‘the condition of being elegantly sumptuous’.  That’s better than just a truncated ‘deluxe’ which is what I was expecting.  Poetic, but still over used.

Curated – everything is ‘curated’ at the moment.  I can accept the verb for art exhibitions but for anything else I am extremely dubious. A magazine?  (Isn’t that edited rather than curated?) A wine list? A music festival?  A Marriott hotel turndown service?  (I am not joking)  It is being wantonly used in an attempt to sound intellectual.  Please stop.

Gotten – there is absolutely no excuse for using ‘gotten’ unless you are American.  Surely I don’t need to explain.

I’m feeling a bit better now so will quit there although I have to add that ‘Boxing Clever’ is one of my most hated headlines.  What does that even mean?  If you know, tell me!


Go-to:  why is this suddenly so popular?  People are being described as the ‘go-to person’ for whatever.  Is it different to being an expert?


So the days float through my eyes…

Went to the ‘David Bowie Is’ at the V&A this week: still feeling like I’m there.  Or wishing I was there.  Walking into parts of my earlier life surrounded by people doing the same with the soundtrack booming in my ears.  


 Lots of lyrics – hand written! – the promo videos straight out of my memory.  Some of the outfits actually sent a real shiver down my spine: particularly the pierrot one from Ashes to Ashes which is strange as it is way down my list of favourites.  Finding out about his influences and recognising just how influential he is.  So ahead of the curve.  And right at the end a massive room with footage from lots of live gigs (some of which I was at): moving around you could hear different screens and at one point Heroes at different places.  There was a huge crowd of people just sitting or standing around and watching, listening.  It was really hard to walk away.  Go see if you can.  Tilda Swinton’s opening speech sums it up:


Time may change me but you can’t trace time.



* title and end quotes from Changes


Next time I’m struggling with what I’m writing, taming the octopus (to paraphrase Anne Lamott in her brilliant ‘Bird by bird’), I am going to take the tube.  The most fascinating snippets of conversation drift by like airborne seeds and some get planted and germinate.  Overheard last week was a youngish guy talking to a female friend.  “At her last birthday party my grandmother went dressed as a banana.  It was a bit of a surprise but she likes to keep things interesting.  She said she just loves bananas and wasn’t sure when she would next get the opportunity to dress as one.  Her 80th party was fun too – she loves parties – the theme was ‘pearly gates’ and everyone dressed in white or as an angel.  She has such a great sense of humour.”

I just love this image of the banana granny and am determined to use it in a story somewhere.  So, if you’re blocked – catch a train.