Tag Archives: journal prompts

Journal prompt: my worst holiday


Ah, young love. Makes you do all sort of wild and crazy things.

Such as, say, agreeing with your boyfriend that camping sounds like a wonderful idea for a few days despite the fact that:

  • you have really bad hay fever and sleeping in the great outdoors is likely to cause your face to explode with snot
  • you have your period, so access to showers is going to be really important and any ideas he has about sexy fun in the great outdoors are going to be nixed quite firmly.
  • you don’t leave home early enough to get to the campsite before dark, so you have to put the tent up by torchlight
  • he doesn’t let you help put the tent up, because he’s got his arse in his hand about leaving too late (totally all his fault)
  • because he’s the one that chooses the campsite and puts the tent up, he doesn’t notice that he chooses to do so in a ditch.


We were fine for the first night, because all I wanted to do was sleep. It started to rain on the second day. That isn’t unusual in Wales, where we actually export water to the rest of the UK because we have so much falling on us, usually during the summer. We drove around for a while, saw some sights, came back to the campsite, ate in a local restaurant and went to bed.

I wake up early the next morning to see my gym bag, containing all of my clean clothes and the copy of the book I was reading, floating across the inside of the tent. It was a large tent, made for six, so there was plenty of space for my bag to lazily drift across.

Boyfriend was woken and is tersely appraised of the situation. He immediately blames himself for the entire situation. I privately agree wholeheartedly, but remain dutifully non-judgmental as I wade to dry land in full view of other campers who remain safe, if not completely dry, in their own tents on slightly higher land. I sit in the car, dressed in some of his spare clothes, as he battles with both the rising water level and the uncooperative tent. We drive home mostly in silence, punctuated by brief cheery outbursts by me, trying hard to Put A Brave Face On.

I’ve never been camping since. Five star hotels have evolved for a reason, you know.

Journal prompt: I admit it: I enjoy…



I admit it: I enjoy watching those pimple-popping videos on Youtube. Blackheads are my favourites to watch being extracted, little solid dark worms of yuk being pushed out of some poor soul’s skin. I’m not too keen on anything bloody, but my tolerance for pus had increased sevenfold since I stumbled on these videos ages ago.

Thanks to these videos I can tell the difference between blackheads and dilated pores of Winer, epidermoid cysts and ganglion cysts and why it’s important to make sure that you’ve got all of the cyst wall out of the incision you’ve made.

I prefer it when people have gone to a doctor to be seen to, especially cheerful ones like Dr Sandra Lee, as you know they’re being dealt with hygienically and with sense. On the other hand, I must admit to a certain level of amusement at the videos pf people being gleefully pounced on by friends and family members at parties, on the beach and even in bars and having their spots and cysts squeezed.

I’ve always liked squeezing my spots. I was lucky enough to avoid acne as a teen, but I did (and still do) have greasy skin and blackheads were an integral part of my teen years. I rarely  got a chance to let loose at my face, however, as both my parents are pimple poppers par excellence and they took every opportunity to squish and squeeze my face free of spots. I have a mole in my hairline that my mother often mistook for a blackhead, and I spent many a happy hour of my childhood darting away from her probing fingers as I yelled “Mole! It’s my mole!” as she chased me around the living room table.

Ah, memories.

If you’re a happy popper like me, check out popthatzits.com. The commenters can be very annoying – they’re all armchair doctors who know everything about cysts, of course – but you get the best videos there. For blackhead videos, look for Dr Vikram’s posts. For cyst pops, try the lovely Dr Lee.

Enjoy, pimple poppers! If you spot (hah!) a good video, let me know in the comments!

Journal prompt: Are there any artistic movements you particularly enjoy?

Mariana 1851 by Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896
Mariana 1851 Sir John Everett Millais, Bt 1829-1896 


I suppose it’s not very fashionable to say this, but I really like the Pre-Raphaelites. Not the men themselves, you understand; they seem to have been quite a callous bunch, all told, especially towards their models.

I like works of art I can understand. I don’t want to try and find meaning in a red dot on a white background. I don’t know that that’s supposed to be. I don’t know what the artist is trying to say. With the Pre-Raphaelites there will always be little details in the background that will have allegorical significance that passes me by, but on the whole when I look at the painting, I understand what is happening.

This is Mariana, by Millais. When I first saw this painting in a book, in my teens, I didn’t know that Mariana was a character in Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure, pining for her lost love. I didn’t know that Millais displayed this painting with a quotation from a Tennyson poem next to it. I saw my own story in it – a young woman standing up from her work, stretching her back to work the aches out and looking plaintively out a window. As I was someone who was revising for exams at the time, and spent long amounts of time bending over a desk and wishing I was anywhere else, I felt a little kinship with the woman in the picture.

I had William Holman-Hunt’s Lady of Shalott on my wall at university. I loved the colours and the wild abandon of her hair. God only knows what she was doing with that massive embroidery loop, but you can see the mirror being crack’d, and Lancelot moseying by outside, unaware that the Lady’s life is now forfeit after she snuck a glance at him out of her tower. lady.jpg

In modern tumblr-talk, I suppose the Pre-Raphaelites are ‘problematic’ to like today. They tended to portray women as weak and feeble, pining for love or the loss of it. The artists themselves behaved terribly to their wives, mistresses and models, who often held all three positions at some point in their lives.

I like the pretty paintings, though. I understand what the artist was trying to say, mostly. I adore the red hair so popular with the artists and have spent most of my life since the age of twelve dying mine to look like it. There’s always something going on in the paintings, something new to catch you eye. They’re not at all modern and not at all sympathetic to modern women’s experiences of the world, but I do like them.

Journal prompt: tell us about your pets!


I think that anybody owned by a cat has suffered this kind of fate every time you have to round up the buggers and take them to the vet, but this is so reminiscent of the struggle I have with Alfred The Great that I had to post this very funny video. Please check out more of this amazing illustrator’s work, in both video and book form, You won’t be disappointed!

My cat is Alfred The Great, a large, neutered male grey tabby cat of indeterminate age and volatile disposition. Alfred isn’t my cat, technically; his owner, who rescued him from a semi-feral life after he’d been injured, has moved out of the country to work in the Middle East. She needed somebody to look after him temporarily – a week, possibly two – while two of her friends finalised the sale of their new house and they could adopt him.

That was three years ago.

Once Alfred had settled into the house, enjoying free run of all the rooms (none of the doors shut properly) and establishing his ownership of the garden (by biffing next door’s dog on the nose and chasing her back over the fence), it was just easier to leave him here.

It’s safe to say that Alfred has mellowed since moving to my humble abode, although as he will still bite you for no apparent reason, pounce on you when you’re carrying plates and glasses and take on two other cats at the same time in a vicious fight, it’s safe to say that he isn’t a nice cat. If I hadn’t let him stay with me, he’d have had to go to a shelter, which would have been terrible for him as he hates other cats with a passion. He also would have been very unlikely to have been re-homed, due to his lack of interest in playing nice with humans. I certainly wouldn’t trust him around small children.

He was never an indoor cat, we think. From when he was born until when he appeared in my friend’s garden, limping and in pain, he had to fend for himself. He’s not really used to humans, and how to play with us. When he bites and scratches he is trying to play, I think; he just draws blood and leaves scars. My furniture and wallpaper bear the brunt of his claws, although in the spring and summer he’s happy to be outside in the garden most of the day, patrolling his territory and failing absolutely to catch birds, butterflies or rodents. I was told that he brought down a seagull once. I’m very glad that he doesn’t love me enough to present me with one of those!

He does love me, in his way. For the first year he’d not get very close to me at all, but now he’ll sit very close to me on the sofa. Not in my lap, however; Alfred the Great is most definitely not a lap cat, and he’ll fight anyone that thinks otherwise. He is, however, a secret snuggler, and has taken to getting into bed with me at about five am for a cuddle. Only in the summer, though, when a large, furry hot water bottle is the very last thing you want. To do that in winter would be unthinkable!

His owner called him Alfie, I lengthened it to Alfred the Great, after my favourite Saxon king. It also suits his ego, which has him strutting around the place as if he owns it!


True to form, just after looking up at me with those adorable yellow eyes, he bit my hand. This is the cat that literally bites the hand that feeds him, folks, mostly because he knows that the hand is attached to a soft hearted idiot who loves him anyway.

Journal prompt: my last kiss

It was a goodbye kiss, although you probably thought it was a goodbye for now kiss, that there would be more in the future.

I knew differently.

This was a kiss goodbye to your inattention, your lies and your lack of care about my feelings. It was a kiss goodbye to waiting anxiously for you to text me, to remember that I existed. It was a kiss goodbye to the only person who wants and desires me, true, but it was also a kiss goodbye to the pain that your leaving causes me every time you walk out the door.

I wonder how long it will take you to realise it?

I knew it was coming from the first.

kiss goodbye.jpg

Journal prompt: a letter to the author of your favourite book

Dear Sir Terry,

I have so much to thank you for, which I’m sure would have embarrassed you if I’d ever told you so when you were alive. You seemed very humble and self-deprecating in your interviews, but it’s a real regret of mine that I never wrote that fan letter to tell you so.

I started reading your books because of my father, who had found you first and thought I’d appreciate your humour. I started with Witches Abroad, which introduced me to my personal heroine, Granny Weatherwax. I devoured every volume that my local library had of yours, and then started to buy them for myself when I kept wanting to re-read them. You can see from my bookshelves when I started earning a better Saturday job wage, as I started buying hardbacks instead of paperbacks!  The witch novels have always been my favourites, followed by the novels centred around the Ankh Morpork City Watch and the wizards of the Unseen University.

I think the reason why I love your books is because you wrote about people that I knew. Oh, they might be witches or wizards or Ephebian philosophers in their barrels, but I knew them. I recognised them as my family, my teachers, my friends and myself. You made your characters so human and realistic, even the ones that are orangutans and Wonder Dogs. You made me look critically at how I thought – you taught me about Second Thoughts and the secret of boffo, ideas that still guide my judgments and actions today. You made me laugh with your outrageous puns and sly references to the real world.

You exposed hypocrisy in governments and institutions but you were never cruel to the undeserving. You respected the Sam Vimeses of the world, who battle against their demons every day, and the Granny Weatherwaxes, who do the job that is in front of them, no matter what the personal cost. You were on the side of the little guy, when few often are.

When I needed a good laugh, I could rely on you. When I needed a place to retreat to from the harshness of the world, I could rely on you. You were more than my favourite author. You were a teacher, a guide and a friend. You didn’t ask to be, and I’m not sure you wanted to be, but you were, all the same. I don’t think I could have got through my teen years without my copy of Lords and Ladies. At a time when I was suffering from the stress of parental expectation and my own highly critical inner voice, Granny was going through the same thing. The price of being the best is having to be the best, every day, with all the expectations that went with it.  I got that. It spoke to me. It still does. Granny survived that pressure, so I did. You were the first person to be able to give words to the feelings that I had banging around my brain and I am so intensely grateful for that gift.

I met you once, although I didn’t get the chance to tell you all this. I’m not sure that I could have put it into words then. You were kind, and smiled and chatted as you signed my copy of Hogfather, the latest release. I heard you give advice to some amateur actresses who were putting on a Discworld play, and I’ve practically memorised what you said to them. I can’t remember what we talked about. Shock at actually meeting my hero, I suppose.

You’re gone now, and the fact that I’m crying as I’m typing this only goes to show that you mean so much more to me than I can explain. You went far too soon and I’m bloody angry about the books that we’ll never get to read and the jokes we’ll never laugh at. My loss is nothing compared to that of your family, of course, but you are mourned and missed by millions. You should know that. You should know how much you were loved. Everyone should know how much they are loved.

Thank you for everything you’ve given me, and keep giving me. Your books are a constant source of joy for me.You’ll always have a special place in my heart, and on my bedside table.


All my love and grateful thanks,






Journal prompt: are you fussy about your book and music organisation?


I like to listen to music, but these days all my music has been imported into iTunes, so my actual CDs are in a few dusty cases under the desk in the office room. I tend to buy my music digitally these days, so all organisation is done by the computer. Not that I listen very much nowadays, come to think about it; I can’t listen to music with lyrics when I write as I get distracted, so I either don’t bother, or listen to classical music on Spotify. I listen to podcasts when I’m doing the washing up or cleaning the house, as I find that more interesting than just music.

My books though – they are organised to within an inch of their lives. Firstly, they’re organised by genre. Detective fiction in the front of the living room, science fiction and fantasy in the back, next to the bookshelves with classics in the canon of English Literature on one side and historical non-fiction and biographies on the other. On the bookshelves next to the bathroom are my non fiction reference books, with a few collections of cartoons in the bathroom itself for some light toilet reading. Upstairs in the office room are my bookshelves with professional books for my day job, my collection of children’s books and a bookshelf of romantic fiction. Inside each bookshelf, the genre is organised alphabetically by author, and then by publication date if the author has more than one book in my collection.

Obsessive? Perhaps. But I can always find any book I’m looking for in my house!


Journal prompt: have you ever watched The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Heathers? Beetlejuice? Pulp Fiction?



Yes, of course, I think so and no.

I never got the whole Rocky Horror thing. My friends got into it, back in Sixth Form, and maybe its because I never saw it live. I saw the film version and…well, underwhelmed is the best way to put it, really. Some of the songs are catchy, but if there’s a plot to the thing, I missed it. It’s a really a cult film, and you’re either in the cult or you’re not.

Heathers, though, that was I film I enjoyed. It’s so dark! No matter how bad my teen years were, they weren’t as bad as Veronica Sawyer’s. I think that teen me was more interested in a young Christian Slater than the deeper message of the film, but I couldn’t help but love the cutting dialogue and the daring darkness of the film. Not many teen movies show bullying, date rape and murder in what can arguably be called a comedy.

I think I saw Beetlejuice at one point, but I really don’t remember anything except his suit. Either the film made no impression on me whatsoever, or I only ever saw a clip of it. I’m not exactly running to change that, though.

Pulp Fiction is one film that I think that I should see, because I’ve seen so many parodies of if, but it’s a Tarentino film and I’ve never seen a Tarentino film I’ve liked. Too bloody, too much violence. I think I’ll pass.

Journal prompts: do you like keeping your room messy or clean?


It’s not so much that I like  to keep my bedroom messy, it’s just that I’m a tired, lazy slob who only tidies it once a week. I keep my living room and kitchen looking tidy because those are the rooms that visitors see, but unless I’m having an overnight guest, my bedroom is usually a tip!

I do have a clothes hamper, but I also have dreams of achieving the netballing success so cruelly denied me in my youth. There was a reason I was always put in defensive positions, and it’s not just my height! So, although clothes get thrown in the general direction of the hamper, they don’t always land in there. Not on the first throw. Or the second.

I don’t have an official bin in the bedroom, for reasons I really don’t understand. Instead I have a large plastic bag that I put the usual detritus in – empty water bottles, chocolate bar wrappers, used cotton buds, that sort of thing. When it gets full, I ignore it for a while and continue to stuff crap into it until it’s impossible to close before I take it downstairs and put it in the kitchen bin.

My wardrobe needs replacing, as it’s both too small and has a broken door. My chest of drawers is old and scarred. The mirror is propped precariously against the wall, rather than hanging from it. The only tidy thing in there is the bed, which usually has a cat sleeping aggressively in the middle of it.

On a Friday, though, I blitz it, dusting and sweeping everywhere. Clothes are taken to the washing machine, bedside tables are tidied and half-empty water glasses are washed. Everything smells of Pledge. It’s beautiful.

Then the cat gets back on the bed again, and the whole cycle begins again!

Journal prompts: do you like stationery?


Do I like stationery? No.

I love it!

Journals, folders, washi tape, fineliners, marker pens, colouring pencils, stamps, post-its, sticky labels, diaries – I buy them all the time, more often than I should, just because I can’t bear to leave them behind in the shop! Some of them are so nice, I can’t bear to use them!

I just bought a brand new journal for my bullet journaling, just because it has dotted pages like the cool kids on Instagram have. I wasn’t going to buy any washi tape, and now I have thirty rolls on order from Hong Kong. I spent twenty pounds on new pens last week because I walked past a stationer’s and couldn’t resist a buy two get one free offer.

I have notebooks and lever arch files, dividers and cardboard wallets stacked all over the house. I have no self control at the best of times, but sales and paydays, especially in combination, are lethal.

Today my penguin washi tape arrived, and it was glorious!