Saturday, 26 October 2013

British history in a series of ghost stories

Well, I never thought I'd learn so much from writing ghost stories! I think I've discovered where my history teacher went wrong at school. The more I research tales of various haunted locations, the more I learn about British history, the monarchy, and the horrible circumstances under which some people died. I've started to develop a greater appreciation of British history, and connect events that never held much interest for me before.

In order to reveal why the restless spirits of royals and aristocrats roam stately homes and castles across the UK, I've had to delve into the past, learn their stories and tell their tales.

I've learnt about the murder of the Princes at the Tower, the Wars of the Roses, Henry VI dying in the Tower and Richard III. I've got a better grasp of Henry VIII's wives and the life of Queen Victoria. As I research apparent hauntings in old buildings across the UK, I get a better appreciation of British history, and I wonder if this approach might have captured my attention better at school!

So next time you think British history is boring, or ghost stories are silly and frivolous, remember me, and my haunting approach to connecting events in history. Perhaps it'll help you see ghost stories in a whole new light! Or perhaps, it's a way to make British history more interesting for your children. But do take care and don't give them nightmares!

Monday, 21 October 2013

My caravan dispute

When a neighbour keeps a canal boat on his front lawn, does he really have any right to object to my caravan? This seems like double standards!

We are in dispute, and to be fair, the deeds say that neither one of us is allowed a 'house on wheels' or caravan on our drive. However, the thing that gets my goat is that the neighbours are arguing that this house-boat on a trailer, complete with bedroom, kitchen, bathroom, and modern conveniences, is not a 'house on wheels'.

Our caravan, which is less than half the size however, is indisputibly a caravan, therefore, we are told to fork out a small fortune for storage, and drive it miles away, so that their sensitive eyes are not offended. While apparently the boat is fine.

Now call me paranoid, but I'm feeling a bit picked on. I could park a double decker bus across the lawn and apparently that would be fine as there is no mention of double decker buses in the deeds. Up the other end of town, no-one is allowed to have a TV aerial (according to their deeds) but they all ignore this.

The trouble is, being a writer, I'm at home all day, getting disapproving, evil, looks from moany neighbours! Only one has actually complained, but I am assured they all object - and the dirty looks, pointing, and exaggerated inspections of the van, suggest this is true. I feel like moving my writing desk to the back of the house so I can't see them all!

We offered to cover it up, build a fence around it, chuck camoflage netting over the top... the list goes on, but nothing is acceptable except its disappearance.

The caravan is clean, tidy, and smaller than a transit van, which would also, apparently, be completely fine. We are now looking into renting the parking space to a VERY UGLY LORRY. :-) So if you have a very ugly lorry, tractor, boat, double decker bus, or other unattractive vehicle, that would fit the 4.3m space available, please apply here. Very reasonable rates to help pay for caravan storage!

Does anyone else have stupid deeds or hypocritical neighbours that take the edge off their writing day? :-(

Monday, 14 October 2013

Get out there and seize opportunities

For me, the dream was always writing. I have never been much good at anything else - it's why I ended up pursuing a career in corporate communications. It was the closest 'proper job' I could get to actually being a writer. But it doesn't come close to freelance writing on topics you enjoy.

I'll admit that once I'd escaped from the constraints of living with my parents, things like mortgage commitments got in the way. Self-employment in a high-risk occupation seemed perilous. Then just over four years ago, I had a short-lived job that changed my life. The experience opened my eyes and gave me confidence. The job was a disaster - but the outcome was a dream come true.

After that experience, I knew I could write better than some other professionals that I'd met in the field. I had bags of initiative and the first thing I did was to throw out the rule book. I built a career from nothing, with no contacts - just sheer tenacity, determination, and a sometimes annoying refusal to go away!

So the moral of the story, is to get out there, be proactive, and seize opportunities! Are you pushing open doors and creating opportunities or are you tapping away at your computer, blogging perhaps, and hoping to be 'discovered' one day?

My book, Freelance Writing on Health, Food and Gardens, tells the story of how I broke into freelance writing and made a good living from it within a few years - and how you can too. If you're interested in hearing more, do subscribe to my blog, follow me on social media, and grab yourself a copy of the book!