Tag Archives: journal prompts

What’s the strangest thing you’ve experienced this year? – 31 days of writing prompts!

Odd things happen around me and to me far too often for me to register them as strange; once, in university, a friend said to me “Our lives are far more like an episode of Spaced than Sex In The City, aren’t they?” and then her housemate burst into the kitchen, sang the theme tune to Quincey and left again, without talking.

So yes, very much like Spaced.  I don’t think that this is a bad thing at all.

I think that the strangest thing that I’ve paid to experience this year has been the Shrinking Violet body wrap I indulged in a few days ago. My local beauty salon has been offering them for a while, but at £60 a pop, I had steered clear. However, there was a half price sale on, and I had received some royalty money, so I decided to indulge myself.

I was shown into the room where their massage lady has previously worked some very tricky knots out of my back. This time there was no plinky-plonky music but there was a veritable wall of heat. The wrap works in a hot room, so they had fired up their heaters and let rip! I was left alone to strip down to my bra and knickers, whereupon some very lovely smelling cool gel was smoothed into bits of my body that I wouldn’t normally show somebody until at least the third date.

Then the woman broke out the wrap, which I am sure is a very sophisticated plastic inch-loss system, but looks for all the world like a giant roll of cling film you’d buy from Costco and take ten years to use.  I was wrapped fairly tightly in it, and then helped to lie back on the massage bed with a few nervous warnings about sweating being very normal and to drink the water she had put next to my head on a little trolley. With a promise to check in on me, she left the room to attend to other clients.

I tried to read for a bit, but holding my iPad above my head was a bit difficult, so I fired up a podcast to listen to. The next thing I knew, I was woken up by the nice salon lady telling me it had been an hour and that I  really should drink the water.

I had zonked right out! Apparently it’s quite common, and I can see why. The heat was quite oppressive, and if you’re a bit tired after the festive season it would be enough to send you to sleep.

She unwrapped me, measured me and noted my new measurements before making me drink another glass of water. I wasn’t to shower for at least 12 hours, 24 if I could help it. That was hard, because I like to wash my hair every morning and going without that made me feel grotty the next day. Smaller by several inches, but grotty!

Now, there’s a bit of a debate online about the validity of these wraps. What happens is that the company claims the gel essentially liquefies some of the fat cells and your body excretes them in urine. You’re encouraged to drink a lot of fluids before and after the wrap, and stick to a healthy diet and exercise plan between wraps. You won’t lose weight with the wraps, but they do claim that you lose inches.

The sceptic in me wonders if you’re just sweating out all the water you’ve drunk during the day, but there was something very relaxing about being smothered in gel, wrapped up firmly and left to slowly bake for an hour.

I did lose inches from my body – half an inch from my waist and my  hips, two and a half inches off my arms and an inch off my thighs. This was maintained overnight, and when I measured myself the next day I had lost another half-inch off all of those measurements.

Now, I’m a big girl, so any tightening up of my body would have been difficult to see compared to someone a lot smaller, but I can’t argue with the results. I ate three meals on the day of the wrap, and three meals the next day. I didn’t starve myself by any stretch of the imagination. I can’t imagine that the company would be allowed to make claims that couldn’t be supported, so I have to grudgingly admit that there might be something to these wraps, for short-term losses anyway. No amount of wraps will make a fat person thin – that takes a healthy diet and a sensible amount of exercise.

It was a very strange experience – who would voluntarily turn themselves into some kind of weird microwave meal? But the massage and the nap were nice, and I did lose some inches. I’m not sure if I’d do it again, but it was an interesting way to kick start my weight loss campaign for 2017!


A favourite book – 31 days of writing prompts!

Blue Heaven, by Joe Keenan!

I have a million and one favourite books, but this is one that I come back to when I need a pick-me-up. It’s hysterically funny, incredibly witty and speaks to me, somehow, which is strange when you think that it’s about the trials and tribulations of a gay Broadway writer who gets pulled into his old friend’s scheme to marry into the mafia for the wedding presents.

It’s written by Joe Keenan, who wrote some of Frasier’s best episodes and has been hailed as a new Wodehouse. I love Wodehouse, and I can see the comparison. Instead of Jeeves, the hapless Phillip Cavanaugh has his writing partner Claire, who is responsible for trying to extricate Phillip from his friend’s Gilbert’s ridiculous plans to fleece the mafia out of hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of wedding presents. Gilbert, you see is the sort of person that manages to create havoc wherever he goes. As Phillip says,

“Fate, and fate alone may place the banana peel in his path, but it is Gilbert who will every time make certain that at the moment of rendezvous he’s carrying a tray laden with Baccarat crystal which he has, in order to impress a date, borrowed without the permission or knowledge of its owner, and which he’d been hoping to return in secret.”

It’s fantastic, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It has an equally amazing sequel, Putting On The Ritz, and a less than spectacular follow up, Lucky Star. I’ve only read that once, but I read the first two many time a year. They’re just that funny!


Which Hogwarts house are you? – 31 days of writing prompts!

Oh, the big question! As a die-hard Harry Potter nerd, this is something that I’ve spent far too long thinking about.

Everybody says Gryffindor, right? After all, that’s presented to us as the “best” house, as Harry, Hermione and Ron are all Gryffindors. Neville Longbottom, my favourite Potter character, is a Gryffindor and shows that bravery comes in different forms.

The thing is, though, that if I were a teenager, and surrounded by other teenager Gryffindors for any length of time, I think I’d go mental. Yes, they’re brave and noble, but let’s face it, apart from the notable exception of Hermione they’re not exactly…well…smart. They’re the sort of people who blindly charge into things, knowing that it’s the right thing to do, without stopping to think about whether it’s the smart thing to do. Think about all the times Harry and Ron could have killed themselves – the flying car, the frozen lake, the attack on the Department of Mysteries – and think about why they didn’t!  The car’s magic protected them from crashing, and the acromantulas! Harry’s urge to get the sword in the lake would have killed him had Ron not been there to fish him out. Harry’s blind desire to protect Sirius, no matter how well-intentioned, was used against him, resulting in the death of Sirius, a near-death experience for Ron and the destruction of the prophecy.

Quite frankly, I think the books should have been called Hermione Granger And The Two Idiots She Dragged Through Six Years Of Formal Education!

Anyway, I’m not that brave. I haven’t had my ears pierced yet despite years of wanting to do it. The thought of it freaks me out!

Hufflepuffs are fantastic. Everybody should have a Hufflepuff or five in their lives. Newt Scamander was a Hufflepuff! I wouldn’t have had a problem being Sorted into Hufflepuff because if they’re anything like Helga Hufflepuff, they’re accepting and kind.

The thing is, I know that I’m incredibly judgmental, and I don’t think that’s a very Hufflepuff trait. In fact, I know that I can be downright sneaky and duplicitous, which are very Slytherin characteristics. I couldn’t – I wouldn’t – go all-out Death Eater like so many of them seemed to do, but I’m not as good as a Hufflepuff. I’m just not.

I have always tested well, and I do pride myself on my intelligence. Of all the houses, I think it’s most likely that the Sorting Hat would have put eleven year old me into Ravenclaw. The thought of solving a riddle to get into Ravenclaw Tower actually makes me quite nerdily excited!

The thing is, the point that Rowling makes in the books, especially by the end, is that pupils shouldn’t be sorted into Houses so rigidly. People are more than just brave, or clever, or kind, or sly. I know from many years of experience how teenagers change as they grow, and how their personalities are developed. Is it any wonder that Slytherins turn out badly if they’re only allowed to socialise with other teens with the same personality traits? That Ravenclaws become obsessive about studying?  I don’t think that anybody is purely one House or another – look at Hermione, who should really have been a shoe-in for Ravenclaw but was bumped to Gryffindor instead, or Neville, who has Hufflepuff stamped all over him but again, was put in Gryffindor. Look at Harry, who could have so easily ended up in Slytherin.

So, perhaps I should be a hybrid. A Slytherclaw, perhaps. Sneaky, but too smart to get caught doing it? Sounds about right…



Three things you do well -31 days of journal prompts!

You know, I picked this journal post idea because I thought it would be easy, but now that I sit down to do it, I’m having trouble gathering my thoughts! Writing journal posts really shouldn’t be part of the list, obviously.

Alright. Three things.

Number one – logic puzzles. Not so much the ones where there are two guards, and one will always tell you the truth, and the other one will always lie, and you have to pick a door, etc, but the ones that are printed in a grid and you have to put ticks and crosses next to the right answers. I love those! I started doing them when I was seven or eight on holiday in Spain, next to the pool. My father could see that I was bored, and started me off on the really easy ones at the start of the magazine.

Not to brag or anything, but I haven’t come across one of those that I couldn’t complete and I always do them in pen, not pencil, that’s how confident I am!


Number two – baking. I’m not great at decorating cakes, but I bake a mean sponge! Actually, I bake a light, golden sponge that is moist and delicious, but you get the general idea. I love puttering about in the kitchen, trying new recipes. My go-to recipe is from The Hummingbird Bakery’s first book, but my favourite cake to make for someone’s birthday is Nigella Lawson’s Boston Creme Pie sponge cake. The trick is to get the consistency of the creme patisserie right and to do that you can’t refrigerate it once it’s cooked. It has to cool naturally, which is why making the cake takes such a long time!


Number three – writing. I feel a bit self-congratulatory saying that, but what the hell. I’m a published author with royalties and fans! I must be pretty good for that to happen. I get some really lovely reviews that always make me feel better about myself when I read them. The fanfiction that’s still hanging about the internet has over one hundred thousand hits, and nobody knows that I wrote that, so I must have some talent. I’m constantly reading some really talented authors, though, so I’m always comparing myself to them and I don’t come out favourably!




Languages – 31 days of writing prompts!

I have never been so jealous in my life as when a friend casually mentioned that she had been allowed to drop a PE lesson in school so she could learn Latin.

I would have given up far more than a PE lesson for that, let me tell you! Sadly, my comprehensive school didn’t run to a Latin teacher and I had to make do with German and Welsh instead. I liked learning languages – I was good at them, because I could see the patterns in the way sentences were constructed. Also, there’s a snobbery value with the subject, and I’ve always been a bit of an academic snob.

Latin would have been incredibly useful for me; I had to read a lot of history books for my degree, and often they were written by academics who assumed that all of their students would be able to understand the Latin they casually dropped into their work. When it came to primary sources, Latin is pretty vital for a medievalist. As monks were pretty much the only literate people around then, and therefore the only people writing anything down, Latin was the lingua franca. A monk in Ireland could correspond with a monk in Germany, for example, using Latin as their common language.

As I studied medieval history a lot, French would have been useful too, but again, I only had GCSE German. Not very helpful, and not at all as sexy as French.

Latin has been a dead spoken language for centuries, but it was used to record important events for hundreds of years, and it can be seen on the side of buildings and on monuments all over Britain. As we have a lot of Latin loan words, through the affect of French on the English language after 1066, I can often work out the gist of whatever the inscription is. I’d like to be able to read it properly, though, and not have to cart my Latin-English dictionary with me whenever I go somewhere suitable ancient!



Second chances – 31 days of journal prompts!

Do you think that everybody deserves a second chance?

No, actually, I don’t think they do.

I think that most people deserve a second chance, absolutely. None of us are perfect, and we all make mistakes that we regret. I know I have. It doesn’t do to be absolutist about things – thereby leads the way to fundamentalism, I think. We need to be kind to others and give them a chance to make their mistakes right. It’s not always easy to do, and requires us to deal with unpleasant emotions in ourselves which makes it difficult to have a generous enough heart to offer people a second chance.

The thing is, I think that there some mistakes that are so big, so hurtful, that to offer somebody a second chance is to open yourself up to a world of heartache. I was listening to a true crime podcast recently, and one of the hosts said that the best predictor of future behaviour is past behaviour and I think that there’s a lot of truth in that. There has been a certain gentleman in my life who did not behave as I wished he had. I decided to part company from him, and duly deleted him from my life. Months later, on my birthday, a large and expensive bouquet of flowers appeared with an apology for his behaviour. I was reluctant to get back in contact again, but I have him the benefit of the doubt, especially as I told him in great detail how hurtful I had found his behaviour before. Lo and behold, a few months later, I had to make the decision to move on once more.

Not only was I hurt by his behaviour – again – but I was angry with myself. I knew he had behaved like this before, and I was stupid enough to assume that he would change just because he said he would. I felt like an idiot.

Now, he wasn’t at all violent or anything like that: I would never accept a man back into my life if he harmed me physically. Yet I was willing to do so, albeit a little reluctantly, when he harmed me emotionally because I’ve picked up this message from somewhere that women are supposed to forgive men when they behave like a total dick, that having a man in your life is better than not having one, even when he’s completely unreliable.

No more. No more second chances for that.


Favourite Christmas presents – 31 days of journal prompts!

You know, the older I get, the more I understand the adage of it being better to give than receive. I really get a kick out of watching the faces of the people I give presents to when they love what they’re unwrapping. Kids are the best – they don’t fake their reactions. I gave a three year old a Power Ranger doll this year and you’d think I’d given her the moon. She liked it almost as much as the little blue handbag that my Mum had been given free with purchase in India when she bought me a scarf. I’d added it to her presents as an afterthought – I couldn’t use it – but to her it was even better than the Ben and Holly pyjamas and the pink Power Ranger doll, and she loved those a lot.

I’m not religious, so the Christian holiday celebrating the birth of the Messiah has never particularly resonated with me. Oh, I was part of Nativity plays when I was younger (always the narrator, because I was the one who could pronounce Bethlehem), and I was chosen to read from the Bible in school carol concerts when I was older (I could project my voice to the back of the big Victorian church my schoool used for their concerts), but I’ve never believed the story of the birth of Jesus. I do like the idea of being kind to people, helping them and giving gifts, so I do get into the Christmas spirit. I know that Christmas is about family and friends, and celebrating being together.

But I do like presents!



I’ve been very lucky this year and received many fantastic presents from my nearest and dearest, but there is something about the little blue box that makes me heart beat a little bit faster!


Five things to do less often – 31 days of journal prompts!

Wow, this is horribly easy to do!

  1. Take-aways.   I really do like to cook, and I know how important it is to eat healthily, but somehow I end up ordering a takeaway far too often. They’re unhealthy, expensive and there’s a limited menu. I definitely need to eat fewer of them.
  2. Procrastinate when writing. It seems that I’m willing to do anything to be an author except actually sit down and write a book. I need to set myself a realistic writing schedule and stick to it.
  3. Laze on the couch. Not only have I worn a Homer Simpson-esque arse groove in my sofa, my back is beginning to ache from the awkward position I lay in.
  4. Drink Diet Coke. I only drink caffeine free Diet Coke as I am a wuss, and one can after 6pm keeps me awake all night. However, this fizzy brown water is expensive and does nothing good for me. I need to drink more water and less Diet Coke!
  5. Buy Post-It notes. I have so many different kinds of these! Looking about my desk right now, I can count seven different styles and those are just the ones still in their packaging. I have another five that are opened and half-used. I have enough Post-Its to last me for the rest of my natural life. I do not need any more. I will tell myself that the next time I’m in a stationery shop and I find myself lurking in the Post-It aisle…



A trip I want to take – 31 days of writing prompts!

I admit, I am a lucky girl – a quick scan of my jewellery box will reveal a lovely silver cuff bracelet from Tiffany & Co, as well as a silver pendant. My Christmas present to myself this year is a silver ring with the world’s tiniest diamond – the only Tiffany diamond I’m likely to get!

However, all these pieces were bought via eBay (don’t worry, they’re genuine, I checked!). I’ve never stepped foot into any of their shops personally. I’d love to go there and get the full experience!

There is a chance I might get up to London in February, and I don’t yet have any Tiffany earrings. A small pair of silver studs won’t cost that much, will they?



Something you know a lot about – 31 days of writing prompts!

Pre and Post Norman English history, up until the Wars of The Roses.

I loved learning about history in school, but the earliest we ever studied was 1066 and the invasion of England by William the Conqueror, one of only three kings of England that have a sobriquet. (The other two are Alfred the Great, and Edward the Confessor, two pre-Norman kings.) I think that a lot of British people think that history started in 1066, because that’s such an important date and we never get taught about anything earlier. The syllabus of history exams is focused quite heavily on 20th Century events, with a side-trip to the Tudors for A-level students now.

When I got to university, I was randomly placed in a seminar group focusing on Anglo-Saxon and Norman history for the first semester, which was called The History of War. Lectures spanning from the Romans to the first Gulf War were offered; you could go to any of them you wanted, but you had to attend the ones that informed you about your seminar topics. I had intended on going to all of the lectures, but I stopped after the Anglo-Saxon ones. Well, they were on at 9am! Students shouldn’t have to cope with such an anti-social time of day!

I was really pleased to be placed in this group  – I wanted to learn about something new, and although I had the basics of 1066 in the back of my brain, I knew nothing about what had come before it: how Edward the Confessor was more Norman than English, and how the politicking of the noble Godwinson family had brought about a stale, childless marriage (seriously, George R R Martin clearly got a few character notes for Tywin and Cersei Lannister from Earl Godwin and his daughter Edith) that opened the door for a sly invitation for Duke William to take the throne after his death.

I had a vague idea that the death of Harold left the country without an English king, so William, who had trounced the English at Hastings, had nobody to compete with for the crown. Well, that was wrong. Chuck a rock about in October 1066 and you’d hit an English noble with a good claim to throne.

I learned that there were kings before Edward, that several of them were Norwegian, that many of them had the pre-fix Aethel before their name and the country was a patchwork of tribal areas that are still visible on the map of England today. I learned that the England that William conquered had a sophisticated system of laws and coinage, traded with countries all over the world and had a language that still provides us with some of our most basic words we use in English today. (No, not those words. Well, not just those words!)

I also found out that despite pre-Conquest England being as patriarchal as the post-Conquest country that denied Empress Matilda her rightful crown as Queen of England, it still produced women like Aethelflaed, who ruled most of what we today think of as the Midlands and helped her brothers and nephew stitch together all those patchwork petty kingdoms into one solid country of England.

I learned about monasteries and the Vikings, continental politics and the confusing but important genealogies that brought about the next few hundred years of fighting between England and France. I learned that the English Civil War we all know about between the Roundheads and the Cavaliers was actually at least the third civil war in Britain, the first being between the iron-willed Matilda and the little sneak Stephen. I wouldn’t want to be trapped in a lift with her, but by God, there was a woman who could have ruled a medieval country. Abseiling down castle towers and escaping from armed guards in a white cloak over snowy fields was the least of what she got up to!

I think the thing I learned the most was that we tend to have a very straight line idea about history – we know X happened, so it must have been because of Y. In reality, X happening was because Z didn’t happen, A died young and B was stuck in a bog in Mercia and missed the battle completely. History is layered with subtleties and we can’t trust the stories that we’re given. They were written by the victors, after all. The reason that I didn’t know much history pre-1066 is because the English lost the Battle of Hastings, and the Normans won. Their story became more important to the national story, and the men and women that provided a stable and thriving country for the Normans to plunder faded into the darkness.

So, I can tell you why Aethelred wasn’t actually Unready, and where the hell the Danelaw was. I know why the Bayeux Tapestry isn’t actually a) a tapestry, b)made in Bayeux or c) a trustworthy primary source for the era. I can tell you why Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king, was really pissed off with his brother Tostig and why the whole arrow in the eye thing isn’t really all it’s cracked up to be.

I can tell you, objectively, which of the Plantagenet kings was the best, and which should have taken a vow of chastity after the obligatory heir and spare were born. I know which king loved his wife the most and which had the most gruesome burial you could possible imagine.

None of this knowledge is remotely useful in real life, of course, but I’m awfully glad I learned it!