Tag Archives: journal prompts

Teacher’s Pet – 31 days of writing prompts!

Tell us about a teacher who had a real impact on your life, either for the better or the worse. How is your life different today because of him or her?

Mrs Knight was my history teacher for four years, retiring halfway through my A-level. Gutted didn’t describe it – I idolised that woman. She was an older lady, whose eyeliner was as sharp as her mind. She gave me homework in Year 9 to read one newspaper or watch one BBC news broadcast a day, a homework that I still complete religiously.

She taught me history, but more important than facts or figures about World War Two or the Industrial Revolution is that she taught me to think critically about information that was presented to me as fact. She showed me how to link events that happened fifty years ago to current events and how to look at both sides of an argument. Although she kept her own political views strictly personal, she encouraged me to have opinions on national issues and taught us how to debate with those that disagreed with me. She was fiercely clever and demanded the best from me at all times, but had a great deal of empathy for when I struggled. She took us to Normandy to show us the D-Day landing beaches and the cemeteries of the soldiers there to help us develop a real sense of what happened there, and, incidentally, kick-started my fascination with medieval history by taking us around the Bayeux Tapestry.

She was funny, she was witty, she was scathing about those that deserved it and she taught me far more than the National Curriculum asked her to. I owe my degree to that woman – she made me love studying history.

 

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She would have loved this cartoon. It sums up her lessons pretty well!

Out of your reach – 31 days of writing prompts!

Was there a toy or thing you always wanted as a child, during the holidays or on your birthday, but never received? Tell us about it.

mr-frosty

Oh my word, the great Mr Frosty Disappointment of 1984 – present day!

I was a really lucky child. I always had great Christmas and birthday presents. the best one ever was my very own desk – a wooden desk and chair suitable for a child, with inkwell and sloping lid that raised, just like old fashioned desks. The chair seat opened up too, and I was in heaven playing school with it, even though I went to school five days a week anyway!

Once a nerd, always a nerd.

However, no matter how many times I asked for it, there was always one present I never got: a Mr Frosty ice crunchie maker. Looking back now, I completely understand why my mother said no – the mess this thing would have made would be insane! You put ice cubes in the top, turned the handle to crunch them up and poured them into little cups, where you squirted them with flavouring which, no doubt, was packed full of E-numbers.

I yearned for this. I begged for this. It was the top item on my Christmas list every year until my teens, but it was to no avail. I never got a Mr Frosty.

I wasn’t alone in this – a quick survey of my friends reveals that most of them wanted the toy, but none of them got it. Our mothers were too smart to fall for the begging, it seems.

One of my oldest friends felt the sting of this, so one Christmas I scoured eBay for a vintage 1980s Mr Frosty. The look on her face was priceless when she opened it! Of course, she has two daughters and is ruing the day I ever gave it to her now that they demand to make ice crunchies on the living room rug, but that’s not important…

Anxiety – 31 days of writing prompts!

Write about a noise — or even a silence — that won’t go away.

 

This is a really difficult one for me to write, because when I’m anxious about something it’s not usually a noise that makes me feel upset.

I think the closest thing I can think of for this prompt happened on the Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday in 2002, when my grandfather passed away. There had been no indication that he was ill – he’d had heart trouble in the past, but there hadn’t been any signs of the heart attack that killed him that night. He was in his favourite chair, reading his newspaper when my grandmother left the room. When she returned, he had died. She rang my father in a panic, and he and my mother rushed to the house. My father attempted CPR, but it was no good. He was gone.

I had waited at home – I was in that awkward in-between phase when I was working full time but hadn’t saved enough for a house deposit yet – and eventually my mother rang to tell me that she was staying the night at my grandmother’s house and my father was returning home. I was to look after him, she urged.

I had no idea what to say to him. He wasn’t crying, but he wasn’t talking either. I tried to say the things that I thought you had to say, but you couldn’t exactly call it a conversation. It lapsed into silence. I stayed as long as I could with him, but in the end of the pressure of that silence was too much and I caved. I went upstairs to bed and left him to sit in silence downstairs. We’re not overly-demonstrative in my family – love is shown in gestures rather than in words. I didn’t have the words that night, and I didn’t have a gesture either. All I had was silence.

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Learning styles – 31 days of writing prompts!

What’s your learning style? Do you prefer learning in a group and in an interactive setting? Or one-on-one? Do you retain information best through lectures, or visuals, or simply by reading books?

This is an interesting question, because I had to actually sit down and think about this carefully. I have different learning styles for different activities, I think!

When it comes to academic learning, I’m very much an old-school type: individual learning, from lectures and books, with notes taken by me then re-written afterwards to consolidate everything I’ve learned. Pictures are nice, but not necessary. Maps are more important, especially when dealing with areas of the world I’m not familiar with. This is how I learned during my degree, which I’m very grateful for. I hate working in groups because it never goes well – there’s always someone who never pulls their weight, there’s somebody who just doesn’t understand the information and underperforms and there’s usually a bossy know-it-all determined to be in charge of everything and throws a hissy fit if someone deviates from their planning.

As I’m usually the hissy fit throwing, bossy know-it-all, I prefer to avoid group work. It’s just easier for everybody concerned, and it has the added bonus of me retaining friends and avoiding having heavy items thrown at my head. Win-win!

When it comes to doing something practical – assembling flat pack furniture, knitting, checking the oil and water in my car’s engine – I can’t just rely on reading written instructions. I need to watch YouTube videos, instructional DVDs or have someone physically demonstrate the correct actions for me to work it out. I like the helpful pictures on the IKEA leaflets with the little man putting the bookshelf together, while my mother is baffled by them. She can jump straight in and work it out from looking at the pieces, while I need the images to help me visualise the finished product.

 

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Fifteen minutes- 31 days of writing prompts!

You have 15 minutes to address the whole world live (on television or radio — choose your format). What would you say?

I haven’t said much about the latest American election on my social media pages. Partly because I’m mindful that not all my readers will agree with my political views, and partly because I feel that as I’m not an American citizen I shouldn’t be criticising anybody.

However, I do think that if I could reach the whole of the world, I would have to talk about the truly terrifying rise of the extreme right wing in many countries in the world. I’d have to talk about how the media are being used to terrify the populace into believing lies by rich, white men who want to damage democracy in order to line their own pockets. I’d have to talk about how schools aren’t being allowed to teach critical thinking, which results in people not being able to see the scare mongering thundercunts who are using them to elect idiots into positions of power in order to carry out the agenda of smarter, shadier figures. I’d talk about the rise of vicious attacks on people of colour, of people who look different because of their dress or religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

I wouldn’t just talk about the hypocrisy of people who claim to follow a certain religion and then blatantly disregard the main tenets – I’d shout it from the bloody rooftops. I’d force people to listen to the stories of people who’ve been betrayed by their own governments and forced to leave their homes because they’ve been bombed, gassed and tortured. I’d make them watch the retrieval of the dead bodies of children that have washed up on the shore as their parents fled in terror from religious fanatics and corrupt leaders.

I’d want people to wake up and see what’s in front of them and realise that everybody can do something to change it.

We can support charities that will support the refugees. We can call and write to our representatives to let them know how we feel about the issues. We can support those individuals brave enough to speak up against injustice. We can challenge those around us who repeat the lies that they’ve been told. We can educate our children about the truth of our world. We can obstruct those who try to make the world worse, not better.  We can refuse to accept the shit that is being forced down our throats by a biased media and seek out those who report the real stories.

I’d want to tell people that the world is going to hell in a handbasket, but there is a chance to save it, if we’re just willing to work together and not let our differences divide us.

 

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Textures – 31 days of writing prompts!

Textures are everywhere: The rough edges of a stone wall. The smooth innocence of a baby’s cheek. The sense of touch brings back memories for us. What texture is particularly evocative to you?

This is one of my earliest memories, I think. We were living in our second house – I was too young to remember the first house we lived in. I assume we moved because my brother was on the way. There are photos of him as a newborn there in the second house, so I would have been about two and a half then. We moved when I was six, so this has to have happened between the ages of two and a half and six.

I remember being on the sofa, cuddled up with my mother. I had my hand in her hair, and I would let the silky blonde strands fall through my fingers. I remember spending such a long time stroking it because it was so soft and pretty. Maybe I was jealous of the attention that a new baby needs from its mother and this was my way of getting time with her, or maybe it was just a nice cuddle on the couch. I think several memories are blurring together, but I know that the feeling of her hair in my fingers made me happy. It was really soft and silky, like my hair is now. Sometimes I catch myself stroking my own hair when I’m thinking about something – old habits die hard!

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Five items – 31 days of journal prompts!

A classic question, revisited: what are the five items you must have on a deserted island?

Right, how am I to take this? Seriously, or not?

If I’m really and truly stuck on a deserted, inhospitable island, then I’d need a water sterilising kit, fire lighters, a first aid kit stocked with antibiotics, antihistamines and a lot of Immodium, a fully charged satellite phone and a sharp knife of some kind.

I know, relentlessly practical, but I don’t want to die there!

If I’m being a little less practical, I’d take Bear Grylls, a boat stocked with food, water and fuel, an electrical generator, my laptop and a big bottle of sunscreen so I can relax, write my next book and snack as a survival expert pilots the boat away to safety.

If the desert island comes complete with a luxury villa with a swimming pool, supermarket food delivery, wi-fi, electricity and indoor plumbing, then I would bring my Kindle so I could get started on making a dent in my reading list. I’d bring an inflatable pool lounger so I can bob up and down on the gentle waves while catching a tan. I’d have to bring Alfred the Great so he could lounge on the terrace and chase the butterflies. My laptop would have to come with me, of course! Think of the writing I could do! Finally, I’d have to bring a giant bag of Percy Pigs, my favourite sweets!

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Sink or swim – 31 days of writing prompts!

Tell us about a time when you were left on your own, to fend for yourself in an overwhelming situation — on the job, at home, at school. What was the outcome?

When I came home from university after my first year, I had a much longer summer break than I was used to. There was no student grant to cover any expenses during the summer, although I was living with my parents, I still needed some walking around money. I’ve never had pocket money – an allowance – from my parents. As soon as I hit twelve I started working as a Saturday girl for my aunt in her hairdressing salon. I babysat when I was older, and when I was sixteen I started working in a clothes shop on the weekend to make more money than my aunt could pay me. Asking my parents for money just wasn’t something I was used to, so it was natural for me to look for a job for the summer.

I lived in a town on the coast, so there would always be work during the tourist season in cafes, pubs or fish and chip shops but I really didn’t fancy dealing with the public that much. I really hated working in the clothes shop as I don’t really care that much about fashion, but the thought of being in a smelly pub (no smoking ban then!) or around messy food was worse.

I ended up seeing an advertisement in the window of a charity shop in the main shopping street. It was for the lowest paid member of staff possible – I think the title was part time junior assistant – but I reasoned that if I had to work in a shop, at least I was helping to raise funds for a charity. The British Heart Foundation does a lot of excellent work helping to research and develop cures for heart conditions and supporting families of those who suffer.

It wasn’t a bad job, as they went; they let me control the book cupboard, which when I got there nearly killed me with an avalanche of donations that came shooting out! I threw away every Jeffery Archer on general principle, but soon learned that donations of Mills and Boon books were one of our best sellers! Lots of grey haired grannies slyly sliding the racier ones across the counter and furtively hiding them in their shopping bags.

I also had to open the donation bags and sort the clothes into three piles: red, which were the quality items; green, which were the cheaper items and finally the unsalable items, which we re-bagged and sold to a rag merchant per kilo. I then had to hang the items and steam clean them, which got rid of any creases and killed anything that might have been lurking there. The hardest part of the job was lugging at least 200 items of clothing a day down from the sorting room upstairs and onto the shop floor. The stairs were steep and awkward to manoeuvre with trailing garments, which were heavy.

I then had to rotate the stock – each item’s sales ticket was dated, so anything past a certain date had to be removed from the shop floor, put in bags and sent off to another store to try and sell there. The same went for the bric a brac – the plates, statuettes, vases etc. that people want to get rid of but can’t bear to just throw away.

The donation van would call a few times a week, and we’d have to unload it and carry everything up those blasted stairs, just to sort it, price it and carry it back downstairs again. I’d do a shift on the shop floor when we didn’t have any volunteers to do it: working the till, cleaning the shop, changing the window display to reflect the colour order from head office, vacuuming and at the end of the day, getting the ancient till to produce a report and cashing up.

I was kept busy, as you could tell, but it was a job and it kept me from being bored. I didn’t have to bother my parents for money and it made me feel independent.

Of course, the good times didn’t last long. The assistant manager, who often turned up to work reeking of alcohol, quit after a few weeks and while another person was being looked for, I took over her duties. Before they could find a new assistant manager, the actual manager quit too! That left the shop with an average of two volunteers a day, which is really not enough, and me. The volunteers could sort through the bags, but only paid staff could price items. The volunteers could work the till, but only paid staff could cash out, do the books and bank the money.

Safe to say, I was in a panic! However, the area manager begged me to hold the fort for a week until they could hire a new manager and get her trained, and then hire an assistant manager and get her trained!

So, for one week only, a nineteen year old was left in charge of the branch and was responsible for everything related to the running of the shop. It could have been a major disaster, but everything went smoothly enough. I couldn’t clear 200 items a day, though, which the training manager who arrived with the new hire got a bit sniffy about when they finally arrived. By that point, though, I was fed up of the job and so I told her exactly how little help I’d had and how if I hadn’t taken on the responsibility, the branch would have been forced to close for a week, losing the charity their revenue. Perhaps I was a little short with her, but I’d had a pretty stressful week for someone whose only responsibility before that was getting her essays in on time!

I couldn’t have hated the job that much because I was asked to come back the next summer, where I was sent out as a roving manager around the South Wales branches to give paid staff a day off if they didn’t have the full compliment of paid workers there. I coped with a leak in the roof in one branch, and a full electrical failure in another!

It was very much a sink or swim experience, and I like to think that I swam!

 

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Now you see me – 31 days of writing prompts!

You have a secret superpower: the ability to appear and disappear at will. When and where will you use this new superpower?

My first idea is a life of crime – robbing banks and expensive shops – but when push comes to shove I don’t think I could do it! It is tempting, though – how many times have you stood in a line at the bank and thought idly about the locked vault somewhere in its depths? Watching the niffler in Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them at work only tempts me!

I wouldn’t be able to go through with it, though. It’s wrong. The thrill is in the thinking about it!

What I know I would do though, is use my powers for a lesser sort of evil. Whenever I was travelling across country on the train, I’d sneak into first class and sit there instead of in the seat I’d paid for in the normal carriage!

I know, I know. Sad, isn’t it? I just don’t think I’d be a very good criminal!

 

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Hear no evil – 31 days of writing prompts!

I’m already a day late, but to kick start me getting used to blogging again I’m going to do a 31 days of writing prompts challenge! For December 1st, the prompt was “Hear no evil – Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.”

Isn’t it odd that something popped into my mind straight away?

For this, we’ll go back to the halycon days of my childhood. It was actually a lovely childhood. My parents were (and still very much are) loving and supportive and although we weren’t the richest family around, we had a roof over our heads, food in our stomachs and clothes on our backs. Both of my parents worked hard to give us everything we wanted and I’m very grateful for their love.

We always went abroad on holidays, mainly because of my mother who really loves travelling. We couldn’t always afford fancy places, but we were in another country, which was what mattered. To be honest, as a kid, I couldn’t have cared less that we were camping or in a self catering apartment – being abroad was fun!

We were in Spain, I remember that, and it must have been in early May because my father’s birthday falls then. I can’t quite remember exactly what happened that night, but I do remember being in a big double bed with my younger brother – something neither of us liked, despite the novelty of sleeping in a double bed! It was dark in the room, and very warm. I don’t know if I was awake the whole time, or if my parents arguing woke me up, but I remember my father sounding very angry. He was trying to contain his anger, but it leaked out of the edges of his voice, and he used the worst swear word my young self knew. He just wanted a good night out on his birthday, that’s what I remember him saying, and my mother was crying and trying to explain something.

I can count the number of times I can remember my parents arguing in front of my on the fingers of one hand, and I still have fingers left over. Each time it was because my father lost his temper about something, a nasty trait I recognise in myself. I work very hard to not take my temper out on people that don’t deserve it because I remember how upset my mother sounded that night. Please don’t think badly of my father – every couple argues, usually about silly things. My parents didn’t let it affect their holiday and I don’t remember any other unpleasant moments.

The next day it was as if it hadn’t happened, but I remember it because it was the first time my father showed that he could be bad tempered, snappish and mean. I love my father so very much, but that was an eye opening moment.

 

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