There comes a time when everyone has to stand up and be counted. Isn’t that what they say? Never mind the people who decry you and try to make you sit down, baying for your blood because you aren’t thinking along the same lines as them. In fact, that is the very time when you are supposed to say Damn them and all their connections, one has to say what is right, in my eyes.
It is a brave person who does that. They literally these days are putting themselves up to be shot down. So who but a brave fool would dare to do it.
This is what the bullies are counting on. The bullies are those who stand on the sidelines and shout. The ones who have an easy answer to everything except when they are asked to put themselves in that position. And then they come crying for support: we didn’t know how difficult it was. Are we expected to do all this by ourselves, just the few of us? What happened to all the money that was there to pay for it? Why we remember in times past, such fun, such glorious fun.

Those were in the easy times, the times when everyone stuck together, worked hard for the common weald. Now, everyone is out for themselves and call those who still hold those values as archaic flops. Hadn’t they seen that times have moved on? No one does that any more. No one except for the few. Everyone else has other ideas , balloons to launch, strings to pull, butterflies to chase. All of which are valid. Who dares to say they are not?

Supportive, of course we’re supportive- just not of you. You don’t count. You are better off not existing. We loved you in the beginning. We fawned over you, delighting in your very being. We were so proud to know you, to give you aid, to pat you on the head. But that was long ago. We have moved on to new treasures.

And just to prove how little we care and how much we love calling whatever your efforts are to support us, derisory, we are going to withdraw what little support we do give you. But make no mistake- we will do it so loud that no one else will want to support you either.

It used to be, when someone was sick or down on their luck , that people would rally round and offer what they could- a casserole, a loaf of bread, soap, washing the clothes of the kids. A few even offered money. Not everyone did. There were always those who stood on their doorsteps, arms akimbo, smoking, saying They’re no better than they should be, dirty lot, got it coming, I reckon. And they turned their backs.

Until it happened to them. Who was there to help them? Usually the very ones they despised. But in most case, it was too late. They had allowed something precious to slip away. And then they cried.
It wasn’t milk that could be mopped up, it wasn’t bones that could mend in time. It was trust that had been finally broken forever.


We often do more harm than good when we try to bolster someone’s ego.
People are generally sympathetic and caring. We recognise a fragile ego and try to support it by looking for compliments to give. So we say things to soothe rather than bruise.
How many times have we watched Simon Cowell dismiss someone who obviously to our ears cannot sing, only to have them scream back at him: ‘what do you know?’ and storm off? We have watched other people subjugate themselves to physical pain and suffering only to be told that they were rubbish at it and they shouldn’t have bothered. In astonishment, we heard them declare that the judges were wrong. In their heads, what they were doing was not only good but better than a lot of people around them.
They were supported by friends and family who were trying to be kind, not wanting them to confront the fact that they sucked at what they were doing.
It does not help.
These people continue in their deluded ideas of themselves and inflict upon the world the products of their delusions. And then expect us to be encouraging and supporting as usual. But the products are dire.
How can they not know?
They don’t know because they have been the recipients of others trying to find gentle ways of telling them they are rubbish without hurting their feelings.
So they go through life believing they are what they are not and the belief becomes ingrained. It becomes a central core of what they are.
This is all well and good. Many people go on through life with this mistaken idea of themselves and it does no harm. They don’t hear the sniggers and the snide comments and the complete bafflement of those not in the circle of supporters. They are bolstered from themselves by well meaning people who form barrier between the perceived reality and actuality. No one wants to be the person who tears down the barrier, because in other ways the deluded one is good, kind, thoughtful of others. It is just in this one area. And what gives us the right to deprive them of such joy they get from thinking they are good at what they are not?
The trouble comes when the deluded one is confronted with incontrovertible proof of the delusion. Imminent collapse of the ego! Years have been wasted. Why had no one said earlier? The embarrassment of having inflicted themselves on their friend, colleagues and strangers comes crashing through with the impact of a tsunami. The internal structures of the psyche has been shown to be built over quicksand.
There is no way out. The horror of the years when they thought what they were doing was good but actually was wet bladderwrack squelching and stinking in the sun, clouded by flies, cannot be contained.
The realisation that the critics were right, the friends wrong is immense. It rips through the curtain of self worth. It makes one doubt everything else. If they are genuinely good in another field, it doesn’t matter. In fact it colours that too. How can they believe anyone any more?
We do so much harm when trying to do good.
The idea that a person is better off believing they can do stuff when they patently can’t, is dangerous. We are putting lives at risk here.
More damage is done to a fragile ego by giving them a delusion that can be shattered many years down the line than by the sharp incision at the initial point of contact.
By all means be gentle and direct them into other areas, but please, no more telling them they are good at something when they aren’t. You are condemning them to years of striving in the wrong direction and ultimate embarrassment. It is your ego you are trying to salve with platitudes. You are the one who is trying to be the good person here. You are the superior one deciding the fate of the deluded person. What can it do?
Wars have been fought for less.

They lay before me like a string of pearls, penina, pearl in Hebrew. They are all pearls, women who have managed to keep their life going when the world tilts suddenly. It is funny how we rely on such women to be the ballast for our ship, the steadiness needed to enable others to carry on. Yet we spend so little time thinking about them. In most cases these women are unknown, their deeds are unreported, not because they don’t matter, but because we take it for granted that they will step up and be counted and then who could count the host of women? They are beyond number. So only a few are remembered, to stand for the many. We honour the many through them, we remember the nameless through the named. Thank you for your stories.

The mist curls up from the furze and hovers over the road, sheep munch placidly along the verge, undisturbed by the vehicles rolling past. A horse extends his nose, sniffing, seeking the choicest grass, damp from the earlier mizzle. A lone figure walks across the moor. It too, picks its way carefully avoiding the many tin traps, the holes where the slightest twist could see an end to an ankle.
As the mists swirls around and about the faint glimmer from a flashlight bouncing back off the diffused white wall shows that the figure has not come up here on the moor unprepared. It is no stranger to the surroundings. The intermittent traffic has no thrall for the walker. The yellowed light is kept on its straight line, veering only where the bumps and tumps of the old workings have thrown up obstacles in the way.
From her window, Freya watches. She has spent many lonely days and nights looking out over the moor. She believes she knows its secrets as well as any other. She has names for the horses, for a couple of the more adventurous sheep. She even names the regular cars and lorries that speed dangerously on the murky twisty road. She knows the ramblers and the dog walkers. She can set her watch by the routines some of them adhere to. It passes the time for her. It relieves her of the necessity to think. She sits in the gloom, a warm blanket across her lap and a pashmina around her shoulders. Her tea is in a thermos jug made fresh in the morning and holding enough to see her through to the time when pressure from her bladder causes her to move. These November days are a blur, seen hazily through a prism at the wrong angle- a brief rainbow of delight bent around the endless greyness of the sky and the moor.
Freya widens her bleary eyes at the sight of the figure. Somehow she has missed its appearance onto the moor. She was unaware of a car turning at the white stones and crunching over the misshapen gravel until it stopped, safe in one of the less muddy hollows. She blinks. The mist whirls, forming and reforming around the outline of the figure of the walker. She strains to catch the glow that marks its presence. It continues, oblivious to her scrutiny, focussed only on what it needs to do, where it needs to go. Freya catches her breath.
Her hand reaches for her cup on the side table. There is still some lukewarm orange liquid in the bottom. Freya gulps, needing the reassurance of the familiar as her gaze locks onto the figure. She steals a brief moment to search for the car but dares not linger too long in case she loses sight of her target. There is nothing to be seen. She can’t be sure in the eddies of the mist as it rises and thickens in places sheer before, that there is nothing there, yet in her heart she believes it so.
The walker moves ever onwards, unwavering in its determination. Freya knows in one blinding instant of certainty where it is headed. Like a lover who has encountered the one who makes her complete again for one single minute before moving on and out of her life, all the world is there in her eyes, all the yearning of life lived and unlived, all the hunger of passion unquenched, all the desire of things undone. Tears scald unchecked down her cheeks.
Memories return of their own volition. Farewells break her heart once more, the touch of a hand remembered, the sigh of a beloved voice. Freya shakes as she tries to stand. The wraps, so necessary for immobility, hamper her now. She struggles to release herself whilst keeping her watch on the walker. Cries of impatience surge to her lips as the material tangles around her body. Stumbling she knocks the side table and the jug of tea teeters before settling back. Freya realises she is grateful for its recovery. In one part of her mind she recognises there is an afterwards where she would not be happy to clear up detritus of her ungainly scramble to the window.
Urgent hands, beseeching the cold panes to allow her more access to the scene before her, shake and tap on the glass. She presses harder until her whole body is limned by the condensation. Her mouth stretches to sound a warning, shriek her newfound wisdom to the one who moves one step at a time across the moor. Her fingers flutter in white and purple, unheard, unseen by the one whom she wants to recall to her side.
The day darkens further. The mist disappears as quickly as it rose. Freya stands, cabined, cribbed and confined to the room, to the glass, to the scene. Her body slumps, her wires cut. The window now holds her up. She stares once more into the gloom. No light is visible, no walker discerned. It has vanished from view.
Freya turns and holds a shaking hand out, reaching for the comfort of her chair. Her mouth, in its silent oh, her eyes wide, she does not see the heap of cloth at her feet. She stumbles and falls to her knees. Her head bangs against the edge of her chair and she weeps. Not silent, her shoulders heave with gut wrenching sobs that come from deep within. She cries with the sorrow of the bereaved, the lost and forever lonely. She falls asleep, there on her knees, mourning what November has stolen from her.
Awaking, she pushes her hair back from her face and carefully regains her feet. Freya picks up the blanket and pashmina, tidying them on her chair. She takes the jug into the tiny kitchen and leaves it there whilst she goes to wash her face. The kettle clicks. She pours a shot of whisky into a mug, adds honey and lemon and then the hot water. She takes the hot toddy into her bedroom. She undresses unhurriedly, her fingers sure, unflappable. The radio is turned on to words, she doesn’t need to listen to music, too many memories and she is too tired for more. Freya climbs into bed and curls her cold hands around the still hot mug, she wishes November over.

I can’t come away from Writers’ Holiday at Caerleon ( or C’Leon as we Newportonians say) without doing something. Perhaps a couple of somethings. So here is a top tip from the week.
Top tip 1: If you have a problem to solve think about it before you go to sleep. Your unconscious may very well solve it for you.
Top tip 2: this follows on from top tip one. Have a notebook and pen by your bed that you can write down the answer as soon as you have it. Don’t wait for the morning or it will disappear and then you’ll have to do the thinking and sleeping bit all over again. Get used to writing in large untidy lines in the dark, I would.
I took a large piece of wallpaper from the roll left conveniently behind by the previous owner and not moved from its place in the wardrobe by me. I measured my bedroom wall widthways with it and cut a strip off. I had planned to stick it on the wall opposite my bed. It kept falling off. You have to imagine the antics here, stretching oneself from one end of a wall to the other trying to stick wallpaper up sideways. I tried using stickers to hold it- pretty ones, not so pretty ones, ones I wanted to get rid of. Nothing worked. Don’t tell me masking tape- I couldn’t find any. My roll of that is most probably in the car and it’s pouring.
So I put it on the bed and wrote my narrative arc on it in purple. I like purple. Then I thought, well, I can use this over again and went to find the post it notes that I was sure we had. I found the fluorescent pink notepads that have a sticky line at the back and decided I’ll use those. I plotted out the main scenes and stuck them on. A thin purple line with large pink notelets on it. The roll has rolled. It now lies at the bottom of my bed sulking. I may try green next time when I add in the extra scenes.
I am pleased though, despite all this I have reached my target of one chapter completed. This rewrite round.

It was up with the larks this morning. Now all I have to do is seed clues throughout this piece to help you find the answer to the question of whether I enjoyed it.
We were determined to get as much as possible out of our tutor, Janet Laurence. We made her turn up fifteen minutes early and come back another fifteen minutes early from coffee and she then stayed another fifteen minutes after we’d finished. Many thanks, Janet.
It was that kind of ending. None of us wanted to leave Caerleon and Writers’ Holiday. If it hadn’t been for the beds and the showers we would have stayed there for a lot longer. I am now used to showering in the dark as the light and fan regularly went out after two minutes.
I have returned armed with books (what else on a writing course?), tools, inspiration, determination and new friends.
Thanks are due to Ann and Gerry Hobbs who run the Writers’ Holidays. Their warmth welcomed us and sustained us through to the goodbyes.

Hello Campers! We’re all a little bit bleary eyed this morning because we spent so long with the boys from the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir in the bar, last night.
My course this half of the week is on Crime Writing and we are taught by the very elegant Janet Laurence. This group is getting really stuck into modus operandi , types of murder, reasons why and we can all recall one from true life or point someone else to a book about it. We have sorted out our victims, perps and suspects or Unsubs. This morning we discovered the body/bodies in odd places and they were very odd. I won’t give away anyone’s ideas or when their book comes out, you’ll all be saying, I’ve read that before, it’s been done to death. We are so committed we are meeting earlier than scheduled tomorrow- did you see what I did there? Actually, insanity wasn’t on the list…yet.
The talk in the afternoon was a joint one by husband and wife, Stephen Wade and Kate Walker. They had kindly stepped in to the breach when a speaker had to pull out. Stephen is a poet and has been a writer in residence in prisons. Kate is a famous Romance novelist and is giving the course on contemporary romance. Can you guess who had the most questions?
Caerleon suffered a heat wave today. So after a lovely circular talk by Trisha Ashley, we spent the evening in the garden instead of being indoors at the Poetry Slam. Sacrilege, I know. The Poetry Slam is still going on as I write this and I am going to bed. Last morning tomorrow. Goodnight campers, sweet dreams.

What a day! There aren’t enough superlatives to give it.
My group doing The Novel- taking it deeper, moving it on with Jane Pollard had our last session. We recapped everything we learned and then split into two teams. We had half an hour to come up with a skeleton of a novel from a picture stimulus and choice of four themes.
I have to say, we were a tiny bit sceptical- just a weeny bit. How can that be done? We were not allowed dialogue or description but we had to have character with depth, fears, passion and courage, crises, internal and external tensions and more and a viable plot line.
We did it! Both sets of us. We amazed ourselves. Thank you , Jane. We now have a skeleton that we can work with for any novel. Brilliant! Just what you want to come away with from a Writers’ Holiday.
I moved on to my next choice of course. This will develop over the coming days so hold that thought for a while. It was enough that we succeeded where we did.
We went on the trip to St Fagan’s, National Museum of Life. If you haven’t been, go. They have added new houses and streets. I spent a long time chatting to the cobbler, Geraint, who makes bespoke clogs. I asked how long it took him to make one shoe. He replied that he never makes one shoe always a pair. You can imagine the rest.
Then it was traffic jam all the way back in time for the Cwmbach Male Voice Choir who charmed us completely and sounded so magnificent. There were around 60 of them in concert, the night before they go to Brittany to represent Wales in the Celtic Festival in L’Orient. All I can say is, look out Brittany. These men are wonderful -so sweet, so powerful; glorious. After the concert, they came and sat in the bar with us and sang. For another two hours! Superb! Absolutely joyous. We sat on the baritone table and the twinkle in their eyes sounded in their voices.
And so to bed, without having done my homework for tomorrow- but that as they say, is another day.

Another hard morning’s work with Jane Pollard. I will pin a notice above my computer when I get home in blood: GO DEEPER. My head was bursting with so many ideas that as I walked down the Roman Way into town this afternoon, I was really in 11th Century Spain, not Roman Wales. I have found that I need a little bit of space between the input and the output to mull things through and ponder. My character was walking down the barracks with me, pointing out the latrines and the ovens even before I got there. Naturally I had to check her facts with the one information board, conveniently placed near the latrines. Wouldn’t you know it? She was right.
This means of course that when she speaks to me now, I will have to listen and write it down. I have to confess, I have been listening but not writing it down. My head has been nodding, saying, that’s really interesting, I should make a note of that and then I’ve moved on to the next thing that takes my interest, like sleep.
A change is in order, don’t you think? Instead of my morning pages and extremely intermittent dream journal- seldom kept, I have to institute a new regime, until she decides to leave me again.

The rain held off, you’ll be glad to know. It started spitting on the way back up the hill after the pub crawl. We crawled round two pubs- one with a huge rabbit called Guinness, which was more like a Were- Rabbit. One minute he wasn’t there. The next he appeared and then made ever decreasing circles nearer and nearer us. It was more worrying when he suddenly appeared behind us, close enough to step on and didn’t move. As we stood up to go, he disappeared again- spooky. We moved on to the other pub- the Hanbury Arms where Tennyson composed the Idylls of the King. The pub is right on the banks of the Usk, but as it was dark, we couldn’t care less about the view. We took over the back room until time was called. They serve Brains SA among others.
We needed the drink, honest. We had done such hard work… really. The evening lecture had us halishing for something. Elizabeth Hawksley had called her talk Purple passion : making love on a tiger skin. She read bits of three different novels from the early 1900s ending with The Sheik and yes it was made into a film in 1921 with Rudolph Valentino. Be still my beating heart. It was all over thrills, trembles and passion. So we were in definite need of sustenance of one kind or another.
I’d a really productive morning with Jane Pollard working on moving the novel deeper. She is a hard worker herself and gives very generously to her students. Now I know what I need to do to correct my novel, all that’s left is to rewrite it- again. But I also have the plot outline for another one- wonderful, where did it come from? My partner and I were literally bouncing ideas off each other and then Jane added that extra something- how does she do that?
We spent the afternoon walking round Caerleon’s Roman Baths which are a joy to behold- literally. They are stunning and they’re free! The Museum was also great- I loved the barrack room and the garden. We had a closer look at the amphitheatre than yesterday, going right inside, imagining the tall wooden walls surrounding the central area. Not lions, I think, maybe bulls but they’d have to be little ones or there’d not be much room to escape a charge. Perhaps the little white bull? What do you think?
Tea, I cried, I need tea! Before seeing how we can create a website in under an hour. We saw it done and go live.
So all in all a good day, Roll on tomorrow. Oops, have I done my homework? Better get to it.

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