Monday, July 9, 2012

Martha meets Tilly

For me an historic moment, yesterday, when I handed my gorgeous granddaughter her own signed copy of the book I have dedicated to her.

We took the whole family, that's her Mum and two older brothers, Thomas and Dylan, out to lunch at a local rustic pub.

The intriguing red object on the left of the picture is a gleaming Aga, which is part of the decor in the pub's family room!

Dylan tells me he's heavily into Enid Blyton at the moment. I told him I was the first generation to read that prolific lady's oh-so-readable books, my favourite being 'The Magic Faraway Tree'. Despite having been vilified by educationalists over the years, Enid Blyton hasn't gone away: I see
significant quantities of her titles in our local bookshop and library. Every generation of 8 and 9 year olds discovers her and she'll probably never go out of print. I assume she's also now well kindled!

I just have one further observation - also by way of being a confession. 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle' was written for all those kids who just want to sit down with a cracking good read such as those Blyton delivered, and if I can satisfy them, I shall die a happy woman.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


The waiting is over. Tilly Twinkle has been launched into the competitive world of children's books; she's flying solo.

I hope her adventures will be read and enjoyed by hundreds, dare one hope thousands, of little girls, although little boys might find them exciting too. For the present there is the perfect happy ending, although the future of some of my characters has been left uncertain.

So the tantalising question now facing me is: should I embark upon a sequel in which I can satisfactorily tie up all the loose ends? It's a daunting prospect, I don't mind admitting. I don't write to order nor to a prescribed daily timetable and Tilly took the best part of six years to complete, and a further six years to re-write, edit, and edit again before she emerged in her current incarnation.

That's not to say I haven't been thinking about a possible sequel. I have and there is a working title, although I'm not going to reveal it at this stage. I've even managed nearly 500 words of the first chapter! But, set beside the length of 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle', that means I've got approximate another 27,000 to write. I think I need to go and lie down in a darkened room!

© MWD 2012

Wednesday, May 9, 2012


It's an old cliché, I know, but sometimes clichés are the only comfortable, tried and tested, way of describing your feelings. Thus it was, at 10.30 a.m French time today, I felt a surge of excitement as my shaking fingers opened the package from England, just delivered by our friendly facteur. It's postmarked 3 May so has taken nearly a week to get here, but that's France for you: a country where 'snail mail' takes on a whole new dimension. Not only has there been a presidential election in the last week, yesterday was yet another Bank Holiday (1945 Armistice Day) and La Poste, along with the rest of the country, needs little excuse for a day off. We've had two Bank Holidays since the start of the month, both falling on a Tuesday. When that happens, large numbers of French people indulge in a practice known as 'faire le pont' - taking the intervening day off (in this case Monday) thus making a bridge between the weekend and the holiday. There'll be another one next week on 17 May (Ascension Day) and you can bet your life Friday will bridge again.

And the package that was so exciting? At last, my first sight of The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle as a Proper Printed Book. Back to clichés, but it has been a long journey, over 12 years, since Tilly was conceived to this moment. We've no way of telling if her story will catch the imagination of the reading public but I would like to think her adventures are only just beginning.

MWD © 2012

Thursday, April 12, 2012


We're just back from a relaxing holiday, during which I had
the opportunity to consult a copy of the latest larger OED. I think it's the
same version Susie Dent uses on Countdown. (Ah, I've revealed another guilty
secret, haven't I?)

The spelling of 'crystallized' is definitively given WITH
THE Z. The alternative 'crystallised' is only shown as an afterthought in

I feel totally vindicated!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012


Here it is - the design for the front cover of the book! Subject to a couple of changes and possibly a different background colour, this is how Tilly Twinkle will face the world before too long.

The artist is a young lady I have known since she was a baby. Her name is Victoria Somers and we first met her, her parents and two older sisters back in our Moody sailing days (1983 - 1993). They also had a Moody and we got to know them during one lazy summer cruising the Channel Islands and north coast of Brittany. Our two boys immediately hit it off with Nicola and Rebecca, but Vicky was still a baby.

She's now a delightful young lady with a degree in graphic design and a job with a major firm in London. When her mother told me she had designed a children's book cover as part of her degree course, I realised we had found the ideal person to put a face - and body - to my fairy heroine. I am delighted with the result and hope it will boost Vicky's career as a freelance illustrator.

© MWD 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012


We're almost there. I've read and corrected the second proofs of 'The Adventures of Tilly Twinkle', my young friend, Vicky Somers, has produced some stunning designs for the front cover. The next stage will be a Proof Bound Copy. Wow!

I have just days to make any final corrections. So I still agonise - or should that be agonize - over the spelling of the word 'crystallized' as used to describe 'rose petals' in my first chapter.

Everywhere I look I see it spelt as 'crystallised' but still it rankles. It just looks wrong. My treasured, stuck together with masking tape, much-used copy of the Concise OED, awarded to my dear Dad as a prize circa 1930, defines the word as 'crystallize(d)', no alternatives. So when did the 's' supersede the 'z' ? And should I be worried?

I have decided to follow my heart, not my head. I'm an old-fashioned girl, and if the 'z' was good enough for my Dad's generation, it's good enough for me. As somebody once said - 'publish and be damned' !

MWD © 2012

Sunday, March 4, 2012


It's been a vintage week in Ambridge. Oh, didn't I mention that I am an Archers Addict? Well, now the secret is out.

First, there's the ongoing dilemma facing David and Ruth - should they get out of dairy farming altogether? They're losing money hand over slurry tank.

The mega dairy project promoted by Brian and the lovely Debbie at the meeting which ended last week's Friday episode is causing friction around the village and considerable opposition. Adam remains frosty and at odds with everyone except his partner, Ian.

But then, in the best soap tradition, on Tuesday poor old battered and beleaguered Tony has a heart attack in the middle of milking. It's obviously been brought on by the relentless pressure of his tactless and thoughtless son, Tom, who just happens to find him in the nick of time so an ambulance can be summoned.

The remaining episodes in this action-packed week show our characters at their best - reconciliations all round, everyone 'mucks in' at Bridge Farm to keep it running smoothly, and dear old Clarrie, whose irresponsible actions caused the E-coli outbreak which nearly closed the place down, is recruited back to work in the dairy while Pat, of course, has her hands full nursing Tony back to health.

If you're not a devotee of that 'everyday story of country folk' (how long is it since they dropped that description?) then the above will be meaningless. If you are, then we all agree, don't we, that no TV soap can touch 'The Archers'. No contrived exits, no complicated storylines, and certainly no pressure to compete with anything on the 'other' channel. Life goes on, sometimes at a leisurely pace, sometimes with a little drama thrown in, but always in a way which makes us believe that 'real' life exists in Ambridge.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How I Write: Confessions of a Procrastinator

Side-tracked? Moi? I could procrastinate for England.

Yet another morning wasted on all those seemingly essential tasks which get in the way of the real job in hand - WRITING. But I am smug, I am satisfied that at least one small corner of our loft now looks much, much, much tidier than it did this time last week. That wasn't a waste of time, was it?

And that jolly hour spent yesterday going through the recipe collection - and we are talking a serious pile here - seeking inspiration for a starter to impress Saturday's dinner guests. Not to mention the mouth-wateringly fun time spent repeating the exercise on the Internet.

I comfort myself in the knowledge that I am by no means alone in finding excuses for not tackling the serious business of writing in a more disciplined way. Successful, published authors of best-sellers have admitted as much. They'd rather do anything than sit in front of that computer screen or typewriter and earn their living.

Maybe that's my problem: I don't actually have to write to earn a living. I had a secretarial, not a journalistic training, so perhaps can be forgiven for my cavalier approach. I have, however, read enough about the serious business of writing and the complicated range of techniques it demands to want to continue with the challenge of some day, one day, being able to produce that perfect piece of prose.

English Vivace

A large part of what I call "writing time" is, in fact, "thinking time". Walking the dog; doing the ironing; peeling potatoes: they are all activities which do not require great intellectual skill. The brain can go into standby mode and let the imagination take over. Simply sitting and staring at a blank computer screen will not invoke my stubborn muse.

Therefore, to give an honest answer to the question "How do I write?" I suppose I must sum it up as a collection of adverbs: spasmodically, occasionally, whimsically, reluctantly, erratically, lazily, chaotically, but I hope also passionately, sincerely and seriously. And above all, because when I have been able to put words together creatively, nothing beats the satisfaction of typing


© MWD 2011

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Living in France, we are constantly amused by the efforts of
restaurateurs to translate their menus into English. They employ so-called
'professeurs d'anglais' (teachers) to render their delicious dishes
irresistible for the visiting tourist. My list of howlers is open-ended but I
think my favourite so far was the dish described in French as 'gigot de lotte
panée' which came out as 'roast breaded leg of angler'. I won't labour the
semantics; suffice it to say that 'gigot' is the usual word for a roast leg of
lamb, but 'gigot de lotte' is so-called because of the resemblance in shape.
'Lotte' is, of course, monkfish in English but, alas, the clever 'professeur'
who'd supplied the translation only had a dictionary with American equivalents,
hence 'angler'.

Our tourist office in Le Lavandou has a splendid website
but, when we clicked on the English version we found that 'venant au Lavandou'
had been rendered as 'coming in Le Lavandou' instead of 'how to get there'. I
paid a discreet visit to the office and politely explained that their
translation undoubtedly had a double entendre connotation for most Brits
brought up on the Carry On films.

However, today we've unearthed another delight. Recommended
by a friend to a weather-forecasting site called Mété, we checked
on the predictions for the south of France for the next few days. Google
helpfully translates if you ask it nicely, so I reproduce below one sentence
from the original French forecast, followed by the Google version.

'Après une nuit calme, les gelées sont de retour dans le
Grand Sud.'

'After a quiet and starry night, the jellies are back in
the Deep South!'

Which only goes to prove, in my estimation, that no computer
technology will replace the intellectual capacity of the human brain. 'Gelées'
can, indeed, be translated as 'jellies' but it is, of course, also the usual words for 'frosts'.

© MWD 2012

Sunday, February 5, 2012


George Street Primary School was a typical Victorian red-brick institution. George Street itself was one of the old thoroughfares of historic Hemel Hempstead, a small Hertfordshire market town which is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The bottom end of the street passed under the arch of an ancient pub, the Kings' Arms, which boasted an outside galleried balcony overlooking the pub's backyard. Once through the arch and in the High Street, the old Town Hall faced you on the opposite side of the road, and behind that you could just catch a glimpse of the spire of St. Mary's Parish Church. An unusual piece of architecture, since the church's origins were Norman, built with the traditional square tower - the spire had been added at a later date.

The old historic High Street has mostly been preserved. The Town Hall is now used as a performance and arts venue, the old Market Square has become a car park, and the lower level of quaint shops and houses found fame as the location for 'Pie in the Sky'.

We lived at No 19 George Street: we had moved there from No 11, my parents' first home, when my paternal grandparents died and Dad inherited. It was a double-fronted detached house, set in a road of other, unremarkable houses, but its most attractive feature was that it was virtually
opposite the gates of George Street School. I am one of life's 'owls', early mornings do not agree with me, so on many a school day I would be seen making a quick dash across the (fortunately quiet) road and through the school gates as the bell rang!

Sixty years ago the school curriculum was centred firmly on the three Rs, with music, artistic expression, nature study and plenty of physical exercise thrown in for good measure. On fine summer afternoons, whole classes would be taken on 'nature walks', out into the countryside, which started at the top end of George Street. But my best memory is of those Friday afternoons when the class would settle back in the little wooden chairs and an inspired teacher read to us from great children's classics. Here it was I first became entranced by Tom and the Water Babies, both Alice books and many more. Miss Jarman brought Ratty, Mole, Toad and the rest alive for us; she was at all other times a strict disciplinarian, but with a book in her hands, she let
loose her hidden talent for acting and each character was given a distinctive voice.

And it was standing at assembly in the little school hall on the morning of 6th February 1952 that I and my schoolfellows learned of the death of George VI. When it came to singing the final hymn, I remember my neighbour urging me in a whisper: 'You mustn't sing, don't sing, the King has died!' The radio played solemn music all day. The State Funeral took place 9 days later, on my birthday.

© MWD 2012