Poetry is for sharing; The Washing Line

It’s my very strong belief that poetry and prose is for sharing. Once written, it should be shared so others can take pleasure in it or perhaps receive a degree of relief in knowing others have felt the same emotions or had the same experiences. This sudden declaration comes after receiving an email from a friend, asking permission to read my poem out loud to her mother who suffers from dementia. She believes this poem would make her smile.

Concerned about copyright, she sought permission and asked if she could also read the poem out loud for another group she attends, who have members of retirement age.

This made me think. To protect our rights to “maybe one day” be published, we cling to copyrights and legal protection – but surely this is all going too far? What happened to sharing tales around the fireside for pure enjoyment? I’m saddened to think we have moved that far away from those days…. here is the poem requested, feel free to read / delete / critique to your heart’s content.

The Washing Line

 

Down dark cobbled back streets, clothes lines stretched

across cohorts of back yards, on Washing Day.

Regiments of white bed sheets hoisted high

flapping like flags,  in threatening skies

supported by proud,

immoveable clothes props.

Garments not daring to fly loose,

straddled by dolly pegs

forced down hard.

 

Above boiling bleach buckets,

malevolent steam swirled, silently seething,

polluting the air with pungent peroxide.

The back door was wedged open, windows wide,

but still its clammy fingers clung to high corners.

 

Seized shirts submerged in the twin tub

were dragged out of the simmering broth

by oversized wooden tongs, grinning

toothless crocodiles.

 

A solitary circular spinner flipped its lid

with brutal force, revealing a gaping hole

that gobbled up garments,

before firing it’s jet engine

at the press of an oversized button.

A bright warning label spelled danger but,

I was more afraid of grandma.

So I did as I was bid

and stayed two full steps back,

watching a steady stream of captives

being fed into the rollers of the mangle,

pulled out prostrate, straight jacketed,

lobotomised on the other side.

 

Winched up on a maiden, by rope and pulley

squealing like a stuck pig, screaming in protest;

corsets and bloomers were discreetly dried.

Ponderous drops dripped

onto the oilcloth floor beneath

missing expectant open mouthed buckets.

 

Hugging the gas fire, a burdened clothes horse

promised more than it could deliver.

A metal mesh fireguard, kept long after toddler years,

lent its flat roof to dry despondent socks.

 

From picture rail gallows, lifeless forms hung

closing in on the living,

One by one they were gathered,

folded and locked away in the airing cupboard

guarded by a gurgling old boiler in his

pillar-box red padded jacket.

 

Paroled for ironing; creases were pressed out

and forcibly pressed in.

Under a hellish red hot iron

wet handkerchiefs hissed and spat.

The board creaked and groaned,

along with grandma as she held her back.

 

Finally, the ordeal was over.

Clothes were locked into looming tall boys

with the turn of a tiny brass key.

 

The line stretches through time

from dolly tub to auto scrub.

My laundry is gently taken

from a silent washer,

that soaks and spins on demand,

conditioned smooth and wrinkle free

without need of an army of machines,

lightly clipped by brightly coloured pegs.

Still, I discreetly throw my underwear

into the dryer and smile

“What would the neighbours say?”

 

Mine is an easy load.  My line marks the ages

of my babies as their clothes grow.

Our tired old favourite t-shirts

out of shape and faded,

hang comfortably together, blowing in the wind.

Billowing white sheets release

their bouquet of jasmine and lily.

The sun warms my face,

the breeze caresses my skin

like the palm of a hand against my cheek,

or a kiss on the forehead from grandma.

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How do I love you …

As you leave my side after 17 years of working together, I dedicate this blog to you, Phil Tongue of PZ Cussons, and here is why;

How do I love Phil let me count the ways… I could talk about his unending generosity and the work he does for charities, I could talk about his dedication, how he describes himself as a stick of Blackpool rock – cut Phil in half and you’ll see PZ Cussons written through and through, I could talk of his kindness to every living person and creature, of how in helping 2 American ladies over the Giant’s Causeway, he hospitalised himself. I could talk about his love for Northern Soul, his master bakery in the kitchen or the endless cruises around the world … but I’m going to talk more specifically, more personally;

We met in 2001 when I needed help settling into my desk. Phil’s was the friendly face, at once courteous and polite – incredibly helpful and friendly.

Through the years he was my go to IT person, I always knew I’d be met by a smile and instant response, he made my IT issues go away…. Something that would continue for another 17 years.

The Manufacturing Standards Department had their ups and downs, people joining, people leaving, managers coming, managers going. One Friday I heard that a new person would be joining and told that I would be very happy about it. I was intrigued – who would I find sat next to me on Monday?

I was greeted by a smiling face, Phil was beaming back at me … and so it continued for 11 years.

The ups and downs of the department now actually transformed into physical ups and downs… I had just lost 2 and a half stones on Slimmers World, and joined a gym…  Phil arrived and soon lost 7 stones on SW and when we moved over to new offices at Aviator Way he asked me to show him the equipment in the gym…

Shortly after, I fell pregnant and my weight soared – Phil continued to work out and shrink.

When I returned from Mat leave Phil asked me to help him set up Uncle Phil’s bakery…. My weight soared… Phil continued to work out and shrink.

Our little team absorbed every challenge that PZC threw at it – the keepers of data integrity, we created all NPD SKUs, absorbed new brands, created new 3rd Parties, spread our networking wider globally each year. Throughout it all Phil and I formed a dynamic little team – the word “agile” doesn’t even begin to do justice for how we’ve ridden the waves over the years.

I would figure out ways of working, Phil would provide the systems support to back up every move, suggestion and recommendation. If I needed data – Phil knew how to extract it and manipulate it with hocus pocus and black magic.

We were Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson, usually just figuring out “what the hell was going on“,  and at times I think we can admit to being the hecklers Statler and Waldorf from the Muppet Show – you have to be as old as us to understand that, so apologies to the Millennials

At times pressure would build and we had our strains – that beautiful smile and accommodating service that I loved from Phil’s IT days – I now wanted to drag out of him so he would stop saying “yes” to everyone, … I even created a new ID badge that said “Spartacus” to remind him now and again to “just say no”…his agreeable nature was increasing our workload and making me fray at the edges..but then..when I did start to come undone… Phil would be there to say the code word… if I was in a discussion that perhaps was becoming a little heated… Phil would walk over touch my arm and say “ Is it time for a cup of tea?” and I knew immediately I’d become too loud and bolshy and needed to reign it in. And that illustrates our relationship; we’ve grown so close over the years, we can read each other like books.

Speaking of books, when I decided to start writing, Phil was my number one supporter, when I began poetry and had to overcome nerves for an open mic session, he was there saying “knock ‘em dead” .. so it was an absolute pleasure when Phil asked me to help him write his own poetry.  We took on the Napowrimo challenge last year, writing a poem a day for the whole of April… Phil joined in and when I stopped, he continued. He has published a poem a day ever since – without fail, so the odes he emailed out on Mondays to support his baking aren’t the only form of poetry he writes, he has his own blog and Twitter Page– oh yes, us oldies can keep up with you Millennials on some levels.

It’s a huge wrench to say goodbye on a business level to my sidekick and partner. Phil’s taught me that friendship isn’t the big things it’s a million little things and I’d like to thank Phil for every one of them.

Phil is..

The pen to my paper

The key to my board

The sugar to my spice

The butter to my toast

The Yin to my Yang

The Northern of my Soul

The Wallace to My Gromit

The rock to my roll

The guns to my roses

The ink in my tattoo

The Wingardium to my Leviosa

The rhythm to my blues

The peach to my pear

My umbrella on a rainy day

The music to my ears

The smile on my face….

 

For all of which, Phil, I’d like to thank you.

You can find out more about Uncle Phil and read his poetry, on his own blog page here

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We interrupt this blog to give you…. #Napowrimo 2018 #1 Threadbare

I’m falling behind rapidly on Napowrimo 2018… which may be a small mercy to my blog readers… however, onwards and upwards… here we go on the catch up…

My first poem of April was inspired by Write Out Loud Stockport’s prompt “Threads”. Although completely unrelated to #napowrimo’s prompts, it’s a chance to get something down on paper and make a start;

Threadbare

biscuit tin photos

Each family member spins a yarn.

Tales told over years are

embellished with brass buttons and ribbon strands.

Sepia memories kept in a Jubilee biscuit tin

are brought out and closely studied

with moist eyes.

 

buttons and ribbons

Though charity shop clothes were worn

until the cuffs frayed,

troubles were patched at the elbows

and spare buttons found, amongst the treasure

in the old treacle tin,

which sat next to bundled knitting needles

best china

 

and china cups, saved for best ”

in case the Queen should come”.

 

 

 

grandma sewing

 

A thimble was all that was needed to protect

the seamstress, until the day she laid down

her work and found rest;

leaving her children and theirs, to pick up

the thread and embroider their own stories,

to pick up the shears and cut their own cloth,

each stitch a priceless and unique addition.

 

 

 

 

Why do I believe in Vision Boards?

First let me explain what a vision board is and does;

A vision board is one of the most simple but effective tools to use to help focus on your goals. It can also be used in conjunction with the Law of Attraction which attracts those things that you love into your life.

vision board blog

In practical terms it couldn’t be easier, you gather images, photographs, prints or pictures from magazines which make you smile and make you feel happy. You add them to a noticeboard, creating a collage of happiness. It’s completely unique to you and reflects what brings you joy.

Display your board in a place that you can look at daily, ideally morning and night, and you have an instant mood lifter to start your day and a prompt to be grateful for what makes you happy at the end of the day.

If you add images that reflect or represent your goals, it serves as a daily reminder of what you intend to achieve. The visual format has a high impact and keeps the image at the front of your mind so when opportunities arise; you are already in the right state of mind to take advantage of them.

I started my own vision board about 8 years ago, when I read the book “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne.  The book introduced me to The Law of Attraction and how thoughts attract things into your life. The theory is that your thoughts are sent out on a frequency that attracts similar things into your life. You act like a magnet. What you focus on most appears in your life. Your thoughts become things.

The beauty of a vision board is you don’t have to believe in the Law of Attraction, you can use your board in a practical sense to keep your goals fresh in your mind. To organise your thoughts and be clear on what you want in your life. However, if you choose to practice the techniques of the Law of Attraction, you can optimise your board by attracting things into your life a lot quicker, achieve your goals quicker and spot opportunities and be ready to exploit them.

So why do I believe so fervently? 8 years ago I was in a marriage which had long since ran its course.  I felt I was drifting aimlessly through life and even when I achieved goals at work or lost weight and bought the latest fashions, I wasn’t excited about it as I should be. I’d lost my spark, my joy.

After starting my board I began to remember what made me happy. When I saw an image of something I used to love I’d put it on the board. Over time I had a full board of things that made me smile. A board with a few aims, like read more, get into the fresh air more, join a yoga class etc. The more I represented the life I wanted, the more it contrasted with my actual life.  The contrasts became very strong and obvious. I had to make a change.

joy

 

The board reminded me of my authentic self. It wasn’t long after that I left my marriage. Happily I can look back and say it was the right decision and what followed next was more than I had dreamed of. I moved house, began a new relationship, had my second child and started a brand new life. My new partner was supportive of my dreams and encouraged me to go after them. I started writing, sent off a manuscript to a publisher and am now the author of a Children’s Picture Book. I visit schools and hold assemblies, I’m invited to National Trust Park events, I’ve even taken part in open mic poetry sessions and led workshops on spell making for Harry Potter days. In the process I’ve met some wonderful people and made some amazing friends. I don’t feel carried along by the tide, my confidence has soared and I take full accountability of everything I do, the good choices and the not so good.

I have no doubt at all that the vision board played a huge role in my transformation. I started with small goals, like a picture of a yoga class, children smiling, holiday pictures. I had images on there saying “I’m a writer” “I am officially published” “meet the author” and I’ve met many over the last year. I put images on there of sunny days on the beach, and walks in the countryside, friends laughing, each time they happen. Is it just that I choose to go out and find them, probably, but I don’t sit in my couch waiting as the world passes by. It works, it works for me. When you know something like that, you just can’t keep it to yourself. I want to shout it from the rooftops, I want to give pins and blu tack to everyone and say stick pictures on a board – only they think I’m a crazy lady when I do, so instead, I run workshops to spread the word. If you live in Cheshire and can make it, come along and find out for yourself. Otherwise Google, research, read The Secret, find a workshop in your town. This is an opportunity right now for you… what are you going to do about it?

My next workshop is at The Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery Saturday 24th March 2-4pm Tickets available through the following Eventbrite link

Workshop booking

or message me via my Facebook Page Nicola Hulme Author

Happy visioning!

 

 

How Portia The Pear Found Her Publisher

A friend I met at a writing workshop, asked me recently, how I became published after writing my book. This is a question I’m asked frequently and if this interests you, put the kettle on, get comfortable and I’ll tell you the story of… Portia The Pear. I have to tell you the whole story, because there is an element of luck, fate, or maybe serendipity to this, or perhaps I was ready and willing when the opportunity arose? I’ll let you decide.

I had rediscovered my passion for writing, and fell in love with the craft all over again. I’d also discovered a new level of proactivity, which I’ll discuss in a future blog. With this new energy, I sought out and found a local writing group, Stockport Writers who meet at The Hatworks once a month. I also joined a local poetry group, Write Out Loud, who meet at Stockport War Memorial Art Gallery once a month. With the support and encouragement I found discussing writing with like-minded people, my confidence grew and so did my level of passion for the subject.

With this confidence, and heightened awareness of all things literary, I spotted a postcard on a noticeboard at Bredbury Library. It advertised a writing group which met in Marple, every Thursday night called The Storytellers Place. I went along. I was cramming in as much writing, reading and group work as I could, enjoying every minute.

As any woman knows, you share everything with your hairdresser; it’s the law. At each appointment I was babbling on about the writing groups and how fascinating it was and how I wanted to write bedtime stories for children. It was at this point where the magic started to manifest. At one of my appointments my hairdresser gave me a leaflet from Tatton Park advertising their 100 years celebration of the work of Roald Dahl, saying “I saw this and thought of you”. As part of the events taking place, there was a creative writing workshop to be held, called “How To Write Like Roald Dahl”, run by a lady called Joy Winkler. It went on to describe how Joy was Cheshire’s Poet Laureate in 2015. A poet discussing children’s books, it sounded perfect for my master plan of writing a bedtime story. When I looked into the event in more detail I found it was affordable but would mean I needed to book a day’s holiday from work. Up until this time I had always booked days to be off with my children, covering school holidays. However, I was so intrigued, I book the day off and booked myself onto the course whilst feeling like a naughty school girl playing truant!

Roald_Dahls_Matilda

On the day, I drove over to Tatton Park in glorious sunshine, arriving for a 10.30 am start. I then spent the morning with the inspirational Joy Winkler as she taught the techniques for writing for children and exploring how Dahl created his fabulous characters. At lunch time we were sent into the kitchen gardens with the instruction of spending two hours developing characters and writing a story that unfolds in the gardens themselves.

 

The first sight to greet me, as I walked outside was a beautiful row of pear trees trained into perfect lines with the most sumptuous fruit hanging neatly from the branches. I had a closer look and saw each tree had a different “name” and most names were female. A very knobbly pear then caught my eye. It was all scrunched up and had dark freckly skin unlike the rest of the fruit. The shape and twists made it look like a sad face, and I knew immediately that this was my character. I sat quietly and wrote and two hours later read out my story to the group. It was well received and Joy suggested I submit it to a publisher because it had a strong voice. I hope you are paying attention because this is the part that truly is magic.

The very next day, an email popped up telling me that a Children’s Publisher was coming to The Storytellers Place to talk about Independent Book Publishing in the following week. I quickly “Googled” the publisher and found their submission guidelines. I checked that my story was in the format they wanted, a word document. I checked and re-checked it for spelling mistakes and grammar, then drafted a cover email, attached Portia and pressed send. All I had in mind at that point was to ask for some feedback and pointers on what could be improved.

Two gentlemen from Tiny Tree Children’s Book Publishers delivered a presentation to my writing group and nervously I hung behind to speak to them after everyone had left. I then told them I had cheekily submitted my book and asked if they could tell me what they thought. The reply was that they hadn’t read it yet, they had been very busy. “That’s a ‘no’ then” I thought. I went home dejectedly and had a sulky early night.

The very next day, an email popped up this time from the publishers, telling me they loved the book and asking if I could call to the office to discuss it with them. After bouncing around my office like Tigger, I replied and agreed to the meeting.

For what happened next you can read my blog “Feedback and re-writes” dated March 6th 2017 followed by “Validation and Illustration” dated March 13th 2017.

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So what do you think? My hairdresser told me of a writing workshop, where I wrote a story and was encouraged to submit it. A writers group introduced me to a publisher, who said “yes”. Was it luck, serendipity or fate? Or was it the amount of work learning the techniques in the months before, that meant I was ready with an almost finished piece of writing when an opportunity arose? I am unsure. I worked hard and put in long hours, but surely the email arriving the day after writing my story announcing a publisher was coming to me, suggests more powerful forces were in play, doesn’t it?

Fate or luck, one thing is certain, to be published you must have first written. As Joy Winkler emphasises “you must sit and write” and who knows where it will lead you, if you do? A great quote from Stephen King sums this up “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”

If anyone has any questions on creative writing, the process of being published or simply what to expect at writing groups, please ask. This is my passion and if I can help in anyway, I’d be glad to do so.

Good luck and happy writing.

magic quote

 

 

Portia The Pear – the book launch.

 

book launch signing

Portia The Pear, my first Children’s Picture Book, was launched in September this year and is now on sale in bookshops, on Amazon and even in the gift shops at Tatton Park in Cheshire.

 

The launch party was an amazing event with more people attending than I ever imagined. Book sales were crazily high, I couldn’t move from the signing table. Children were busy sticking, painting, and creating at the craft tables. Those with more energy bounced on the bouncy castle and chased balloons. There was even a music maestro playing acoustic guitar in a quieter area for those who preferred to stay out of the mele.

book launch peopl

I can’t thank enough, the team of people who helped me to organise and manage the event. I had volunteers in the kitchen, help setting up the buffet, friends supervising the crafting and one dear friend even took charge of meeting and greeting. What a bunch of superstars. The day’s success was all down to their fantastic spirit of “all hands on deck” – angels every one!

book launch craft

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So here is a link to find my book, which makes a superb Christmas present for little ones. Book reviews can be found on Amazon, to see what people think so far.

amazon

To any budding authors out there, be ready to take part in marketing events organised by your publisher. My feet haven’t touched the ground since launch day. I’ve been as far south as Foyles in Chelmsford and I’m on my way north to Barrow-in-Furness next, with Apple Day Festivals in between and pit stops at libraries it takes a lot of energy to support your book, so be prepared!

book reading

I leave you with a link to the book and the publisher for more information …… did I say Portia makes a great stocking filler????

https://matthewjamespublishing.com/product/portia-pear-nicola-hulme/

christmas portia

 

 

From new girl to “writer”

A creative breakthrough at my local writing group; promotion from “new girl” status to “meeting chair” albeit for one session only (for now, but I can dream!)

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Is this validation that my writing and knowledge has reached a point worthy of sharing with other writers? If so, couldn’t be more thrilled!

Last year, I joined a writing group; Stockport Writers, based at the very beautiful Stockport Hatworks Museum. We meet once a month to write with various prompts to help stir the creative juices. 

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One of the charms of this writing group is it’s ever-changing attendee list. Some group members have been attending since the group first formed, others have joined over the past year; some new members are just beginning their writing journey.

Each writer has their own unique skill set, genre, preferred writing style. From the impact of short stories, to the challenge of a novel, everyone has their own path. Whether editor or poet, college student or student of life, who writes purely for the pleasure in doing so, all are welcome. It’s a magical mix.

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Each month, a writer leads the group through the session; from free-writing warm up, to a reading of last month’s homework (or any other piece) through to the use of prompts, followed by more readings, and finally the closing prompt or exercise to close.

When I was asked to step up to the role at next month’s meeting, I was honoured to do so. It’s an absolute privilege.

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Now all I need to do is come up with a plan of what topics we can cover. Errrrmmmmm…

Any ideas from fellow writers? 

I’ve just got back from meeting my publisher…

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I like to say that.

I will take every opportunity to say that.

I do not apologise for being ecstatic that I can say that!

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During a very civilised conversation over a cup of tea at the fabulous Cloudberry Cafe, Marple, my publisher and I

(oops! I did it again) discussed the upcoming marketing strategy for my new book. 

 

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I am so excited I may spontaneously combust – stand well back!

Talking for 2 hours about all things bookish, is an absolute pleasure. 

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Watch this space over the coming weeks for details.

My face is literally aching from smiling so much.  

I will be ordering my own book from Amazon because I can.

I will be ordering my book from Waterstones because I can. 

Ouch! My cheeks hurt.

I have illustrations!

Picture a lady who is old enough to know better, bouncing around like Tigger on his happiest and bounciest day. 

Picture the biggest smile on a child’s face.

Picture someone who can’t sit still and is yabbering on at speed and at a pitch only dogs can hear.

That’s me, right now, as I look at the illustrations created for my new children’s book. 

It’s every Christmas morning rolled into one. 

My baby now has a face, a colourful, beautiful face and I could kiss it – but that would be too weird.

b;og7

 

Remote Space

Napowrimo Challenge: Day 25

The Prompt:

Write a poem that explores a small, defined space – it could be your childhood bedroom, or the box where you keep old photos. It could be the inside of a coin purse or the recesses of an umbrella stand. Any space will do – so long as it is small, definite, and meaningful to you.

My Response:

 

Remote Space

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Warm sunbeams stream through the windows

bathing my room in golden light.                                             

Propped by plumped, puffy pillows.

Nested, I settle down to write.

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A peaceful retreat tucked away,

so sacred, secure and serene.

Escape from everyday melee,

to conjure, create and dream.